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Missing Mod Madness: A Reviewing Roleplay Game

DeliriousAbsol

Call me Del
Sorry, I totally meant to post my preference! I got the okay for Delirious to explore Guiding Light for the weekly challenge =)
 

Starlight Aurate

Just a fallen star
" 'You're all humans, aren't you?' What kind of human wears a white fur coat 24/7 and turns into a seal when she's in the ocean?" Saoirse grumbled. "And questioning me on my religion--hasn't he read Mulieris Dignitatem? Or Theology of the Body? Or anything by Saint Pope JPII? Or even Humanae Vitae? Ugh."

She pushes her long black hair out of her face as she tosses a book aside. "Skimmed that one, but found nothing relating to the mods."

Astral Genealogy [Pokémon Fanfiction]

Turning aside, Saoirse picks up another book and rifles through it, pausing at a page.

"Hey, what's this? Is that Chopin? Sweet! He must have some pretty expensive instruments at his pla--whaaaa?'

In a moment, the selkie has fallen headfirst into the book, leaving no trace of her in the library.

My character, Saoirse, will be exploring Ills (one-shot; PG/K+).

Running total: 3
 
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Phoenixsong

you taste like fear
You had to go and make this look interesting, didn't you. You had to write up that whole thing and make me realize that it would be really amusing to participate in your silly game. You even went so far as to encourage me to review, you heartless and inconsiderate wretch. Well, blackguard, your foul deeds shall not go unpunished. You have been found guilty of the crime of Making Phoenixsong Expend Effort, and are hereby sentenced to having to track and juggle yet another frickin' character on top of this terrible, beautiful mess.

Name: Tolgo

Species: Elf

Personality: Lazy, snarky teenager. Capable of being polite when work/extenuating circumstances *cough* demand, but let's be honest, he's going to spend his whole time in the library wondering why he's stuck with all these talking pokémon (what even are some of them, what is that thing with the bird face and the dog legs oh god it's huge) and weirdos with the round ears and hoping none of them talk to him. He's an apothecary by trade and is actually reasonably interested in his work, but he very loudly pretends not to be if asked because he is a Snarky Teenager and having a job you enjoy is Not Cool. He only agreed to help find these "mods" because one of the other, more responsible characters wasn't going to accept his preferred alternative of sitting in the corner and refusing to participate.

Other Notes: Tolgo is an "arilkin", which basically means he is a humanoid with types, moves, etc.; specifically he is psychic (like all elves) and poison. His canine teeth are elongated and fang-like and capable of injecting venom, not that he's planning on biting anyone--if his face is close enough to you for him to bite, it's close enough for you to punch, and he would rather not be punched today, thank you. He has long, pointed ears like most stereotypical depictions of elves, but his are droopy, almost lop-eared. He has short, lightish-purple hair, light brown skin, and is dressed in whatever "medieval-ish vaguely Mediterranean-climate shopkeeper" looks like to you because I don't understand fashion I'm the best worldbuilder. I dunno, the climate's off, but maybe something like one of the rando Hylian NPCs from Breath of the Wild? Sure.

(If you want to bring the psychic powers into it, it would just be simple telekinesis, like lifting small objects. The move confusion, more or less. He is capable of limited telepathy, but telepathic communication with total strangers is difficult and is considered rude in Tolgo's culture, and anyway he's too busy whining about how he's not at home, resting his head on the shop counter and falling asleep to the dulcet tones of his mother's partner yelling at him for falling asleep, to care what any of these freaks are thinking right now.)

Will attempt to RP after the update, as I'm not sure how you want to introduce latecomers to the library. Actual reviews to follow shortish, hopefully!
 
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Umbramatic

The Ghost Lord
Polly plops yet another book down. "Some sci-fi shenanigans, accounted for!"

<SPAAAAAAAACE> said Dunsparce.

"Quiet you." said Polly.

------------

I reviewed Past Of The Future, Future Of The Past!

+1

Total: 5

(I believe this qualifies me for the fanart prize, but I'll be PMing Negrek about that.)
 

The Walrein

Well-Known Member
Well, I procrastinated, so no time to roleplay! I'm claiming the weekly challenge with my review of chapters 10-12 for Guiding Light, and an additional point for my review of Pokemon Life, for a total of 3 points so far.

I'd like Farfetch'd to explore The Defense of Rainbow Rocket HQ (A Story Without Mods in it), please! Sorry to choose a fic you've probably never read before, but it's only about 3000 words, and I really want to see what you do with it.
 

Phoenixsong

you taste like fear
Reviews:
The Legendarian Chronicles, Ch. 30
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Hands of Creation, Prologue

Total: 2
Running Total: 2

I don't know whether it's allowed (or necessary) to meet criteria for past challenges (i.e. the weapon), and if not that's fine, but if so... weapon? Pfft. Weapons are for people who are going to be in danger, which Tolgo is not, because when danger happens he does the smart thing and runs the hell away. Should danger persist in following him, however, there's always the apothecary ratcatcher paperweight and eighty-pound bundle of pure spite, Luta the umbreon. All he has to do is abandon Luta in the path of whatever's bothering him, and he's free to leave while the dangerous things are thwarted by Luta's withering glare, horrible yowling, unbridled hatred and general unwillingness to move from her spot or do anything she's told. Also, if he's lucky, maybe she'll just stay where she is and not come back home so he doesn't have to put up with her anymore.

(Alternatively, if a living creature would be unacceptable, there's always the apothecary's brand-new copy of 1,382 Additional Uses for Gloom Saliva, which weighs about a ton and might contain something... "useful" seems too strong a word, but perhaps entertaining.)

And if I'm too late to choose a weapon, Tolgo will be more than happy to just hide behind anyone who looks bigger and stronger than he is. That color-changey bird-dog-thing is big enough for him to ride, right? It's probably fast, it can carry him to safety.

As for which book to explore, well... it's a bit late to ask someone and expect a timely response, and it will probably be funnier if Tolgo is forced to interact with another person anyway, so just have him dragged into whichever existing story choice amuses you the most, or alongside whichever character seems the most fun to inflict upon him.

(Also, sorry if I wasn't clear, but his name is "Tolgo", not "Ganzia"; he gives his full name surname first, then given name. Silly of me not to specify, or just, y'know, not mention his surname because it's not relevant. I got excited, whoops.)
 
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RocketKnight66

404: Consistent Schedule not Found

canisaries

sometimes i get a deadache, yeah
Nother review! It's of the first chapter of Pokemon:Life. Sorry about being slow, been busy lately.

Also, I do qualify for the week 2 challenge as I reviewed Astral Genealogy which had 20+ chapters, but I don't have a preference on any story to send my girl to. Thanks!
 

Umbramatic

The Ghost Lord
Polly strides in with yet another book. "This one's about some high fantasy Pokemon-only setting, but it checks out."

~Like the protagonist, I also think Legendaries are overrated,~ said Metagross.

"We get it, we get it," said Polly, groaning.

-------

I reviewed Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Unequivocant!

+1

Total: 6
 

canisaries

sometimes i get a deadache, yeah

Negrek

Lost but Seeking
I totally forgot to post the new weekly challenge yesterday! But yes, Week 2 is over; on to Week 3! This week's challenge probably won't make a great deal of sense until the next story update is posted, but this will at least give you the chance to plan out or even make your reviews, and you can choose your challenge reward once you actually understand what's going on.

The story update is expected to be done tomorrow and will be posted either tomorrow or Thursday, if I finish too late on Wednesday to want to go find wi-fi. (Still don't have internet in my apartment, pray for me.)

Also, if you write a review that qualifies for a previous week's challenge, I'm going to say that you can choose to take that challenge's reward even though the week is over. For example, if you review a fanfic by an author you haven't reviewed before sometime this week, you can have your character pick up a weapon if you haven't already. Just note that a particular review can only be counted towards one challenge, even if it would fulfill more than one, and you can't retroactively count a review towards a challenge. E.g. if you reviewed "But..." earlier this month, you can't cite that review for this week's challenge--you'll need to review a different qualifying fanfic this week to claim this week's prize.

Without further ado, the Week 3 reviewing challenge!

Week Three Challenge: Make First Contact!

Stories throughout the fanfic library have been invaded by a strange, alien presence! Using your character's abilities, the characteristics of the story your character's found themself in, and any assets you might have (a weapon, say?), try to figure out what it is and what it wants! Will you attack? Attempt to talk? Or simply run away? To qualify for this challenge, review a fic that was posted in the last three months. For your convenience, I've put the qualifying fanfics under a spoiler below. There are nineteen of them, of a variety of genres and lengths, so hopefully you'll be able to find something that appeals!

 

Umbramatic

The Ghost Lord
Polly rushes in. "I've detected alien presence in one of the fics! It seems like a normal fic about wild Pokemon but keep on your guard."

~Hey!~ said Metagross. ~Mabye we shouldn't engage just yet?~

-------

I actually reviewed Pletora's Story before I even saw the new challenge, but hey, it qualifies! I'd like to use that for said challenge then.

+1

Total: 7

EDIT: Also reviewed The Curious and Shiny!

+1

Total: 8
 
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Starlight Aurate

Just a fallen star
"Ow."

The selkie stands up. She fell flat onto a wooden floor in the midst of a rather dimly-lit room. Two men stare at her in shock: both are clean-shaven, wearing out-of-date looking suits. Saoirse sees some instruments around the house, as well as a Skitty and Furfrou. Her heart plummets--she just read Ills, and these were all of the characters...

She shakes her head. She's in someone's house, and the least she can do is be polite and talk. But what language do these people speak? She only knows English and her native Gaeilge. More people speak English, but either way, it's a shot.

"Dia duit," she says. "Is mise Saoirse. Cad is ainm duit?"

She receives only blank stares. The two men mutter something to each other--a nasally, high-pitched language Saoirse vaguely recognizes.

Her attention diverts as the Skitty shoots red beams from its eyes--as if they're lasers! A ghost materializes out of thin air--it looks absolutely malevolent. There's no place in Tir na nOg for something like that. Saoirse grasps her Super Attack Pea in her fist. It's time to fight!

Pokemon:Life

Pokemon Bookcraft Collection: Mightyena from Bhreatain Bheag.

Running total: 5
 
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The Teller

King of Half-Truths
Just a quick reminder that if you'd like your character to appear in this week's update, you have about twenty-seven hours to get them in.
Octillery DeVillain will not be rushed by no one!

(For serious though, even though this review will be for week 3, if there's some rule that states that I still need to do one for week 2, or if it just works out better for the story for me to do a review for week 2, let me know. I was super busy and couldn't do one for that week, but I might be able to squeeze one in for next week. And now, for the continuing adventures of our anti-villain...I mean, hero!)

Octillery DeVillain did not want to admit that he got lost in the library for a week, and that's why no one's heard from him since. He did not want the true villain to know of his weakness and exploit it later. DeVillain, of course, heavily suspected that Farfetch'd of being the true mastermind. His act of being too paranoid and onto the villain's schemes was a bit too on the noise. DeVillain also considered that Cutiefly to be a prime suspect. No one would ever suspect the adorable little bug wielding a sharp object and communicating entirely through beeps and blips to be the true villain. That giant phallic space dragon thingy was obviously out of the question. If this was all just a game between gods and Pokemon (and men...and small human children), then it wouldn't be a very exciting one for a being such as he...it...they...whatever. DeVillain didn't have enough information on the others to make an informed opinion about them, due to being lost for a week. He finally came upon the center of the library, where the participants were starting to appear.

"Yes, it is I, Octillery DeVillain! I a-am back, from...checking the far reaches of this place! I've been to places no ordinary Pokemon could go through, the tiniest of places! I beheld a most troubling world, which I shall henceforth name The Defense Of Rainbow Rocket HQ (A Story Without Mods In It) [One-Shot]! No one shall dare enter such a world, lest they fall prey to a terrible fate such as the protagonist did!"

Octillery saw that they were still reading, which meant that the mods were still not found and the true villain still at large. He had not missed much, it seems.

(This puts my total points up to 2. I'll spend them later.)
 

Umbramatic

The Ghost Lord
Polly plops yet another book down. "Tackled another one. Aura Guardians are so irresponsible these days."

Metagross and Dunsparce look at each other but say nothing.

-------

Reviewed The Winter Solstice!

+1

Total: 9

I'm gonna do something special for the tenth review...

EDIT: And I did! Special initial review for Quest For The Legends complete!

+ 1

Total: 10

I think I claim my third prize now...
 
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Negrek

Lost but Seeking
Ordinarily there would be around twelve hours left for the weekly challenge and reviews, in general, for week three, but since obviously the weekly update isn't up yet, I'm going to extend the deadline by twenty-four hours, to midnight on Monday. The update itself will be along in a few hours. Sorry for the delay. Whatever you think of the content, I can at least guarantee that you won't be disappointed by the update's length. :p
 

Ambyssin

Winter can't come soon enough

Negrek

Lost but Seeking
AWRIGHT HERE WE GO. Sorry again for the delay, and I hope you enjoy the update nonetheless. As a reminder, I've moved the end of this week's review and weekly challenge period to tomorrow, which means you have just about twenty-six hours to get in your reviews and what you'd like for your challenge award, if applicable! I'll also be doing the point tallying and dishing out prizes tomorrow, then post the next--and last!--weekly challenge on Tuesday. I can't believe September's nearly over already!

--

Palkia settles in to read its chosen book, only vaguely aware of the people around it, making their selections, chattering with their friends, one by one disappearing to points unknown. With godly speed, the dragon takes The Quest for the Legends in, the pages fluttering audibly as it flies through the text, so fast that no mortal would be able to recognize more than a couple of words on each page. As it goes its awareness of the world falls away still further, the cramped bookshelves replaced by open air, strip ceiling lights fading into the warmth of real sunlight. To anyone watching, the dragon would appear to fade to misty pink before vanishing entirely into the heavy book.

Palkia finds itself floating above a dense forest, trees rolling on and on in all directions. The dragon's first inclination is to turn towards the small town it can see a ways off, a break in the rolling woodland. But there's movement down below, a couple of humans picking their way along. They stop, yes, and look up, as the shadow of the dragon falls over them, but it's not they who speak.

Palkia? What are you doing here?

"Oh, I'm not the Palkia you know," the dragon says cheerfully, completely unfazed by being addressed by telepathy out of nowhere. "Just passing through, looking for a some humans who've gone missing. Have you seen anyone strange around recently? There'd be three of them, probably looking a bit lost."

Strange, yes, but not humans. This isn't a good time for one of your pranks, Palkia.

"No? That's too bad. You haven't even seen my gun yet!" The dragon rakes the muzzle of its weapon across the humans, who immediately tense and reach for pokéballs. When the bubbles prove harmless, one of the humans simply seems miffed, poking at a couple of the bubbles that drift close, while the other laughs.

Yes, terribly amusing, the telepathic voice says with the long-suffering air of someone only now recognizing the difficulty of the conversation before them. Now, let's get back to why you're flying around out here instead of in the storage system.

"Who are you again?"

Chaletwo! Chaletwo, you--I told you about the War of the Legends. You know how important it is to stay in your pokéball! Especially now! It's going to happen soon, we can all feel it. You can feel how weak you've gotten. The War could happen... soon. It's going to be soon.

"You didn't tell me," Palkia says. "Never heard of a Chaletwo, either! But never mind, if the moderators aren't here, I'd better be moving along anyway.

No! Palkia, back in your pokéball!"

"Ah, Palkia!" someone calls from down the street. "Hadn't expected to find you here. Did Hoopa drop you off by accident, too?"

"A lucario? He's speaking human," one of the humans says, frowning. And indeed the person strolling so casually through the trees is a lucario, attracting strange looks both for his shining silver coat and the clothes that he wore over it. "Like Gyarados."

"I don't know, Gyarados isn't a completely different color," the other mutters as the lucario comes up to join them. "He's not shiny, is he?"

"Have we met?" Palkia asks the lucario as he comes up to stand next to the humans.

"Matheus Lucario, at your service," the lucario says, inclining his head in the faintest of bows. "Let's see, are you on this hunt for... moderators? I can't say I've seen anything promising around here.

"Yes! It's great fun, isn't it?"

Well, that's great. That's fantastic. I'm glad you're having a good time. Chaletwo says. But in case you've all forgotten, the War is imminent, and if you aren't back in your pokéball when it comes, you and every other legend is going to die.

"Oh, I wouldn't die," Palkia says breezily. One or another of my incarnations might cease to exist, but as long as the universe persists, so will I. In one form or another."

"Chaletwo," one of the humans says warningly, apparently having some idea of what the hidden legend is on the verge of saying.

Are we going to need to fight you? Chaletwo says, his mental voice twanging with nerves. It's wonderful that you can't die, but I personally have no intention of doing so, and if we need to return you to your pokéball by force, we will.

"Now, now, let's calm down," the lucario says. "We're all on the same side here, aren't we?"

"We are," one of the humans says. "Chaletwo's right, though. You have to be in a pokéball, Palkia. It isn't safe otherwise."

"Perhaps you could explain a bit more about this war?" the lucario asks. "I have to admit I'm curious."

Palkia already knows what I'm talking about, Chaletwo says waspishly. And at least it's acting like we could reason with it, unlike some of the legendaries we've been coming across recently.

"Oh?" the dragon asks, leaning down to better scrutinize the humans. It can tell Chaletwo's enclosed in some pocket space, not physically present at all, but his voice seems to come from more or less the humans' direction. "Have you met anyone unusual recently?"

You're not exactly the first duplicate legendary we've come across recently, Chaletwo says grimly. Though the others have been much less talkative. And... colorful.

--

Sai doesn't know what to think of the place he's read himself into, at first. At first it's hard to think at all, from sheer sensory overload. This is a city, and not a big old cemented one like Olivine, but one that moves, because somehow Sai's on a ship and all around him are ships, with no solid ground in sight. The streets shift under him, the ship-deck buildings bob and faintly tilt. It's the middle of the ocean, somehow, and here all these people are.

Sai fights the urge to run, to try and simply escape it all, to hopefully find somewhere quiet where he can have some time to think. As far as he can see there's nowhere here to run, just ocean, ocean on all sides, gray and surging up and down with a constant motion that makes various chains and pins and connectors that hold the ships together clank and creak. It's raining, and everything is slick. This doesn't appear to bother or even register with the people milling about, moving purposely on errands or simply standing around and chatting. They adjust their positions on yawing decks without apparent effort or notice, climb swinging rope bridges from one vessel to the next without comment or apparent fear.

It's not bad, in its way. Once he gets out of the main flow of traffic, Sai can stand and watch and not have anyone concern themselves with him. There are so many kinds of people here, in a whirlwind of foreign fashions, variations on unfamiliar themes. They seem to be short, as a rule, and though mostly colorful, their clothes are coarse and often have a salvaged air about them, suggesting that they've been pieced together out of previous, older garments, and these worn and repaired until they simply fell apart and were good for no more than scraps. Some things here are precious, perhaps, that aren't so much at home.

And the pokémon! No familiar Johto natives he sees here, and even those species he can identify he hardly recognizes. Like the humans, many of them seem a bit shrunken, or maybe it's Sai who's somehow grown in his transition to this place. They've changed in other ways, too, at times direly transformed, like the

Sai stands and watches with one hand on the hilt of his knife, thinking. How is he supposed to find the moderators here? They won't exactly stand out, except maybe they'll be a bit tall, in clothing that seems familiar. He came here, but will they even be here? Will he have to search the whole world for them? Not that there's any way he could do that. The journey he'd made was incredible as it was, and he'd had his pokémon to help.

"Lost, are you, laddie?"

Of course someone would have to notice him eventually. This someone's a swaggering type, her elaborate, many-layered clothing done up in various shades of blue. Blue, too, are the beads braided into her hair. A silver ring gleams from her nose, even brighter than her smile. It's not a smile Sai finds he trusts. "I get the sense you're not from around here," the woman says, without malice. "A runaway, perhaps? Hoping to make your fortune far from home."

"I'm looking for someone," Sai says. "Three people, actually."

"Oh? And you haven't found them here at the Mourn, have you?"

"Not yet. I'm still looking."

"Well, if you find yourself in need of a ship, or wanting a little adventure, there'd be a place for you aboard the Disreputable. We're looking to take on new hands. And if you can't find your friends here, you'll be needin' passage on to the next stop, won't you?"

Maybe not on anything named "disreputable," though. "Thanks. I'll let you know," Sai says.

"If it sweetens the deal for ya, we'll be sailing for a bit of adventure before we take the normal business," the woman goes on. "We're bound for the black. Could be a chance to make your name, eh, not one that comes along often. If what they say is true."

"What?"

"Oh, have you not heard?" She leans in close to Sai, and somehow smells more strongly of the sea than all the rain-drenched world around him. "They're saying there's black down in the deep. Black with watchin' eyes."

--

Canis isn't really sure what story she ought to pick, but fortunately a lot of other people have strong ideas. Within a couple of minutes the stack of options has dwindled considerably, other teams having grabbed their choice and run off with it before anyone else could. Canis picks through the remaining titles, looking for whatever might seem interesting.

"A story about pidgeot?" she says to herself, turning over a medium-sized book. "Looks like nobody's written anything in it in a while. But sure, why not?"

It feels a bit silly to be grabbing a random book and hoping to find the moderators lurking between the pages, even if it's a somewhat less random selection than simply grabbing a volume off the shelf. It feels sillier yet when Canis gets to reading and ultimately finds herself standing on the street in Violet City, on what appears to be an entirely normal day.

"So, what'm I supposed to do?" she mutters to herself, starting to stroll for want of anything better to do. "Go around asking people if they've seen some moderators? Or just anything weird?"

Unfortunately, Canis herself appears to be the weirdest thing happening in Violet City at the moment. She gets open stares and has to ward off a couple of young kids eager for pictures, babbling about how much they like her "costume." Evidently pokémon hybrids aren't common in this world.

On the plus side, if things are normal, her gun should work pretty well as a weapon. If she'd ended up in one of those stories about reality-eating gods or whatever, it probably wouldn't be much use. On the downside, well. How is she supposed to figure out where the action is?

Overhead, a bird screeched. Canis looked up to see a pidgeot sail past overhead, followed shortly by a second. Both had riders, though she couldn't make much of anything out from this distance. And following along behind them, just above head-height on the street, came a metagross bearing a woman in a deep blue jacket, one hand clamped on her likewise blue hat to keep it from flying off and the other clutching a tall staff.

Canis watched them go by with mild interest, but the woman notices her watching and leans out over the metagross' side. "Hey down there! You look like you're not from around here."

"I'm not, no," Canis says as the metagross pauses, begins to descend towards the street. She should have known. Why bother looking for the action when the action's just going to find you anyway.

"I thought so," the woman says cheerfully. She sticks a hand out, now close enough that Canis can reach out to shake it. "Polly Pteryx, Aura Guardian. And currently on the lookout for a bunch of missing moderators. You here for them, too?"

"Uh, yeah. And I'm Canis."

"Hop on up!" Polly shoves at the dunsparce next to her, who's peering over the edge of the metagross at Canis. "Make room, you." The dunsparce makes some kind of wheezy comment in reply, but it does slither back a bit to leave a space.

For a moment Canis considers saying no thank you, I'm fine by myself. What good would that do, though? Polly at least seems to know where she's going. Canis climbs up next to her, and the metagross rises smoothly up, then begins to accelerate after the pidgeot, who by now are nearly out of sight.

"So where are we going?" asks Canisaries.

"Well, Thunder and Lightning--those are the two pidgeot up there--they were out flying when they noticed something pretty weird. They say there's some sort of crack in reality or something, and weird things are coming through. Aliens, like."

"You can talk to pokémon?" Canis asks, deciding to leave aside the obvious alien-related questions aside for now.

"Yup," Polly says, inclining the staff she's holding. "It's an Aura Guardian thing. Although sometimes I wish I couldn't." She gives the dunsparce a significant look, and it grumbles something back in protest.

"Huh," Canis says. "So... aliens?"

"I guess we'll see what find," Polly says. "We've got a couple of gym leaders on the case if we need backup. That's Falkner and Janine up there on the pidgeot."

"And you think this has something to do with the moderators?"

"I honestly don't know, but I figure, alien invasion, we probably ought to do something about that, right?"

Canisaries nods slowly. "Aliens," she mutters, a hand going to the gun holstered at her belt. This thing had better not turn out to be useless after all.

--

In another universe, Mia's hunt for the moderators hasn't gone tremendously far, but she's in high spirits nonetheless. The nighttime forest resounds with screams and the roar of energy discharge, flashes of fire, electricity, pure light illuminating the scene in brief, off-color flashes. Mia charges through the trees, exhilarated and largely ignoring the chaos around her. She isn't concerned with the mundane pokémon battling in the forest around her, nor the humans, nor even the humans' guns. It's just a story. She can't die, at least not for real, and all the little people fighting and dying around her don't matter, not compared to the creatures hanging in the air high overhead.

Legendaries. Mia doesn't really recognize them, some big white bird and a smaller purple cat-thing. Legendaries are only fake stories, after all, nothing she ever bothered to pay attention to here. But here, in this story, they are real, and she can tell what they are just for the pressure they bring to the air, the way they drive back wave on wave of flying pokémon with attacks that Mia can hear detonate even down here on the ground.

It's the best thing. The night air is cold against Mia's face and in her lungs, bringing with it a scent of fresh blood that quickens her pulse and pushes her to greater speed as she slashes through undergrowth, leaping roots and ducking branches with eyes wide in the dark, running faster than she's ever run. Now and again some unwise pokémon or even unwiser human gets in her way, but a slash from her new katana, delivered at speed, is enough to dispatch any of them, turn them aside while she bolts past in pursuit of her prize.

Mia doesn't bother slowing, looking back to see how many of them fall, how many get up again. There's blood on her blades and she sees something blue through the trees up ahead, something that roars and rages and sends vicious gales whipping through the forest, water and ice and wind. Mia will fight that one first. Then she'll find some way to get up high, or bring the other two down to earth, and she'll fight them next.

Electricity crackles in her peripheral vision, the scent of ozone overpowering, and something yellow's running along beside her. A pikachu. It's yelling at her, maybe battle cries, maybe trying to talk somehow. Mia ignores it until it actually dashes out in front of her, stopping as if to bar her path, chattering and chirping out some complicated monologue.

Mia swipes at it without slowing, but it dodges, and then her vision goes white and pain breaks over her entire body, a burning that stops her, finally, so she trips, tangled in undergrowth. The blood she tastes is from her own nose, smeared across the rock her face landed on.

The pikachu's back. It stands just ahead while Mia thrashes, slicing her way upright with shredded bits of twig and leaf falling away on all sides. She lunges, and the pikachu dodges again, but this time she's ready, following through on her stroke, stepping aside just before the lightning can strike her. The pikachu's still making noise like it thinks it can talk, and Mia hangs back a moment, watching, learning how it moves. It stops again, watching back, and this time when she makes her attack she can see which way it's going to dodge, can swing her blade down to where it's going to be.

The pikachu manages to twist aside, somehow, still, and her slash only cuts across its side instead of cutting it in half. And when her blade connects there's more electricity, traveling up her arm, gripping her whole body. It doesn't hurt nearly so much this time, but it doesn't stop, and she falls again, clumsy, able to move in no more than abrupt, abortive jerks, her katana fallen and unreachable in the leaf litter beside her.

The pikachu stands over her a moment more, delivering some lecture or other, but then it's gone, off to fight someone else, presumably. Mia tries to roar, straining against paralysis. Their battle wasn't done! She can still fight! But she can't even rise.

The sounds of battle continue around her, though she can see next to nothing from her place on the ground, unable to turn her head. It takes some time for her to realize that the quality of the noise has changed, that it's become focused somewhere up ahead instead of seeming to come from all around. Gradually Mia finds herself able to make larger movements, actually sit up, though the freezing of her leg muscles prevents her from rising further. Even when her head feels stuck, her eyes are moving, ever searching for the pikachu. She's torn between her desire to fight a legendary and to have a rematch, to put that electric rat in its place. Or perhaps the pikachu itself was special somehow; it looked a bit different, at least, than the pictures she's seen.

In the end it's the pikachu that comes to her, or something like it, anyway. Mia's on her feet, taking shaky, impatient steps while she waits for the last of the paralysis to wear off. She hears the gentle pad of small feet behind her, that same chattery, high-pitched speech, but when she manages a burst of speed, spins and lashes out with an arm, her katana still uncertain in her hand, the thing she cuts through is not yellow at all, and the residue left on her blade is black and oily-looking.

Mia stands and sniffs at it, uncertain. It smells like nothing, not even something indescribable, but simply nothing, as though it wasn't there at all.

By her feet, the black pikachu-halves shudder, then quietly begin to grow back together.

--

Pyotr by this point is resigned to getting swept up in the madness unfolding around him, so much so that he can hardly muster surprise at finding himself in another new and fantastic place, a great city at night, misting rain turning the light from the gas lamps to a kind of underwater glow.

Unfortunately, it seems the cannon's accompanied him into this new world. The woman with the pea as well. Still, Pyotr finds himself feeling obscurely better than he was before. This place seems more familiar, somehow closer to home than the "modern world." The night here is darker, quieter, than the brimming electric-lit streets of his new home, and even how the people move is more familiar, whether strolling or hurrying, with none of the single-minded, self-absorbed concentration of people in the future.

"All right," Saoirse says, rubbing her hands together. "Let's see if we can find the moderators around here."

"And how do you propose to do that? There must be tens of thousands... hundreds of thousands of people in this city."

Saoirse shrugs. "God will guide our path. If they're here, we'll find them."

"And with the cannon, too? Perhaps it would be better for us to leave it here," Pyotr says hopefully.

"Oh, no, you can't leave the cannon! How could you even say something like that?"

"In that case, perhaps you would like to be the one to roll it." Without even trying Pyotr knows the uneven cobbled street, littered with rubbish and worse, is going to try his patience.

"That's all right, I have the Attack Pea if I get in trouble," Saoirse says breezily. "Hey, excuse me! Lady, uh, ma'am! Have you seen..."

With Saoirse trying to determine the mods' whereabouts by accosting random strangers, Pyotr's left alone to deal with the cannon. And indeed, it's hell to roll along the grimy, uneven street. Saoirse's getting away from him up ahead, and for whatever reasons the city's residents don't seem to keen on the man trying to roll a cannon down their street. If he's lucky, their discomfort won't escalate beyond unfriendly stares.

"This is ridiculous," Pyotr grumbles to himself, straightening up and brushing off his hands. He didn't even want the cannon in the first place. Why is he bothering to play along with this farce, anyway?

Meanwhile Saoirse is doing her best to bother a young man with a skitty tucked under one arm. The pokémon meows cheerfully at her, but its trainer seems at best annoyed.

"I'm late for a private engagement," the man insists, trying to step around Saoirse, who cheerfully moves to be in his way again. "Please, let me pass."

"So you're saying you haven't seen anybody odd around town? Nobody who seems out of place?"

"No! Now please, Madame... I am a musician, I have an important private engagement..."

Pyotr's heart leaps. A musician? But of course, even in a fictional world like this one, there must be people who appreciate music. And what kind of music might they create? He could travel from world to world, hearing pieces that never could have been created in his own time, his own reality. Learning techniques not just from other countries, but other worlds.

"Excuse me, sir!" he calls out, just as the man with the skitty is skirting around Saoirse. "Where are you performing?"

The man pauses a second, considering Pyotr, and then, to Pyotr's horrified embarrassment, the cannon sitting next to him. "Private. Engagement. Monsieur," the man hisses, and sets off again at an extremely brisk walk.

Pyotr's frozen a moment by sheer mortified shock, but he can't let this opportunity simply slip away. Forget the cannon, forget the moderators and this entirely silly quest. He has to know--he has to take the opportunity to hear... He starts off after the unknown musician, half at a run. "Wait. Please, sir, a moment!"

The man with the skitty is already well ahead, and moving like he really is late for an appointment. He ducks around the people strolling down the street, with a great deal more success than Pyotr. Blundering along behind, the composer struggles to make up any ground. He sees the man with the skitty take a corner up ahead, barely manages to catch a glimpse of him turning again once gaining the street himself.

Pyotr might have lost the man after that point, had the crowd not thickened considerably up ahead. The man with the skitty stops, and Pyotr, puffing, jogs up behind him. He's so focused on reaching his quarry that it takes him a moment to notice what's stopped all the people in the street.

Up ahead is a row of perfectly ordinary townhouses. Ordinary except for one, anyway, which has some kind of lumpy black ooze spilling from its windows, clinging viscously to the facade, covering nearly half its front. In the bulging black mass eyes blink and swivel, staring blankly around at the onlookers.

The man with the skitty stands with mouth hanging open, staring in obvious horror at the black, blinking mass. "Mon dieu," he breathes. "Frédéric!"

He charges towards the house, shoving people roughly out of his way, but Pyotr remains frozen, staring at the hidous, pulsating black mass. Is that what they're supposed to be fighting? Whatever it was that stole the moderators away? Whatever it is, it very clearly doesn't belong here, and Pyotr somehow doubts it's anything like friendly.

"Make way!" Saoirse yells from far too close, and Pyotr starts, then hastily steps aside. She's got the canon, of all things. How on earth did she get here so fast, rolling it? And how can she act so enthusiastic about something so monstrous as this? "Oh boy! I knew we were gonna need the cannon!"

--

After the charmander's announcement about targeting specific stories, Farfecth'd chuckles to himself. Only catching on now, were they? Of course, they can't have been expected to connect the dots, being nowhere near as clever Farfetch'd, not to mention being thoroughly convinced that The Deep Plate was nothing more than a wacko conspiracty theory. If they'd thought to consult the expert, they'd find that his careful research (stacked all around the disused kitchen, books marked up so flagrantly it would surely make any librarian faint) had already led him to the moderators' true location!

It was, in fact, one of the books the charmander had identified, and Farfetch'd has to hurry to retrieve it before everyone else, which involves employing his leek to smack aside the cutiefly beelining for it--this is going to be his victory, after all! The vindication of all his years of totally justified paranoia and that time he had to wear peanut hulls for three months straight to throw off a particularly persistent and legume-averse member of The Deep Plate! When he finds the mods, everyone will finally have to take him seriously!

"The Defense Of Rainbow Rocket HQ, A Story Without Mods In It," Farfetch'd murmurs, reading the title back to himself. "Ha! Of course they'd say that. Think they can throw me off the trail that easily, do they? Might as well have planted a sign saying Mods right here, come and get them!"

Even so, he'd have to be cautious. Deep Plate was bound to have serious security around the mods, despite their laughable attempt misdirection. With leek under one wing and meat thermometer the other, he takes his time perusing the story, reading between the lines to discover their true meaning. The quiet of the library is gradually replaced by the sound of footsteps muffled by thick carpet, doors opening and closing, the mutter of far-off conversation. Farfetch'd finds himself alone and dangerously exposed in the middle of a hallway, and immediately takes shelter behind a conveniently-placed persian statue.

Of course he's familiar with Team Rocket--what rare and undeniably tasty pokémon wouldn't have heard of the Kantan continent's most notorious poachers? No surprise that Deep Plate would employ such a brutish group, at least as cover for their true operations.

Farfetch'd works his way down the hall, darting from statue to potted plant to water cooler. Rocket grunts pass back and forth, and at one point an odd cold patch of air quietly moaning, "Completely out of line with safety and disability regulations... Provide hiding places for intruders... Should have... insisted... no planters..." Not one notices Farfetch'd, of course, master of disguise and also fairly small and master of cramming himself into inexplicably small hiding-places. It isn't until he rounds a corner and darts behind a stack of crates that he runs into a problem. Namely, that this hiding place is actually occupied.

Confronted with a threat, Farfetch'd's honed reflexes and prodigious battle skills immediately come into action. In less than five seconds, he's assessed the threat--funny-looking human, weird clothes, gigantic blood-sucking fangs--and sprung into action. His leek catches the guy across the face before he can so much as open his mouth to alert his fellow operatives to Farfetch'd presence. Farfetch'd leaps onto the guy's chest so he's wedged awkwardly into a corner, as close to on his back as he can be in the cramped space.

"Where are the moderators?" Farfetch'd demands, leek and thermometer alike trained menacingly on the human's face.

"How can you ta--owww!" A smart smack with the leek cuts him off.

"Where are the moderators? I know you've got them around here somewhere! Talk, or it's the thermometer for you!" Farfetch'd makes sure the guy can see its abrupt metallic point.

"No, you don't understand, I--" the operative starts, but Farfetch'd gives a slow, grimly disappointed shake of the head, and raises the thermometer. Before he can bring it down somewhere tender, though, a rough shove sends him tumbling to the floor, and now he's the one at a disadvantage, scrambling for his fallen leek.

"I said you don't understand," the guy hisses, now looming over Farfetch'd at an appropriately human height, albeit crouched to stay hidden. "I'm on your side! I'm looking for the mods, too!"

"A likely story," Farfetch'd sneers. "Exactly the sort of cover I'd expect for a member of The Deep Plate! You can't fool me. I see those teeth. Only a carnivore could have fangs like that!"

The strange human puts a hand up to his mouth, confused, and in doing so gives Farfetch'd precisely the opportunity he needs. With a yell, he leaps on his opponent again, and this time gives him the thermometer rather than the leek. The human yelps and falls over backwards, knocking over a crate and landing on his back with Farfetch'd on his chest, in full view of the grunts attracted by the noise.

A second later, in full flight down the corridor, the human's wasting breath on complaints. "Why are you following me? I thought you said I was some kind of evil spy!"

"Oh, so you'd rather I face down your henchmen?" Farfetch'd huffs. The corridor behind them is, indeed, full of jogging Rockets and their pokémon. "Not a chance! You'll have to try harder than that to be rid of me!"

The corridor appears to be under construction, or in the midst of a move. There are crates and boxes stacked all along the wall. A few of the smaller ones scoot out to the middle of the hallway, shoved by an invisible hand, and trip unwary Rockets. "Hey, those boxes say MODS on them," the human wheezes as they go past. "You distract the grunts, and I'll check out--"

Farfetch'd, who of course had already noticed this, scoffs. "As if Deep Plate would be so unwise as to leave their hostages out in the open! Do I smell a clever trap?" He hurls his leek at the boxes, which explode spectacularly at even such a small jostling. Farfetch'd and his extremely suspicious companion are sent over on their fronts, while behind them the Rockets are in disarray, separated from their quarries by smoke and rapidly-spreading flame.

Farfetch'd scrambles back to his feet, laughing hysterically, and takes off again. Down one flight of stairs, and then another, and he begins to believe he's left most pursuers behind. There's just the extremely suspicious human now, panting along and starting to look a bit green.

The duck might almost start to believe that he's in the clear, that he just has to locate a definitely-not-mod-containing room to search, when he rounds a corner and finds himself confronted by an extremely unsettling sight. The Deep Plate operative blundering into him a second later doesn't help.

It's a dead-end corridor, for one. For two, it's absolutely slathered in blood, including an unsettling amount that's somehow gotten up on the ceiling. And for three, it's full of Rocket grunts in pitch-back uniforms. With pitch-black hair. And skin. And... everything?

They turn at the sound of the commotion, not black but void, and reveal that where they should have faces are only single, giant eyes, placidly blinking at the one The Deep Plate has been searching for for so long. Not that the strangled squeaking gasp that sounds when they turn their eyes on him comes from the most dashing, the most intelligent, the most brave Farfetch'd. That was definitely the guy behind him.

--

Owen and Takato reach their destination at almost the same moment, having held their chosen book open together, read shoulder to shoulder until the library fell away from them.

"Where's Four?" Owen says, taking another careful look around. To be honest, it wouldn't be hard to misplace someone as tiny as the cutiefly, but even after careful inspection, he sees no sign. "I thought she was coming with us."

"I thought so, too," Takato says. He's leaning against his Judicator. "And how do you get lost reading a book? I mean, it's not like there are that many places to go. Maybe she ended up somewhere else in the same world?"

"I hope not," Owen says, icy fear settling in the pit of his stomach. He can't have lost one of his teammates already, before they've even really begun their mission.

"Well, guess we better go look for her," Takato says, hefting his gun. "And the mods, obviously. I don't see them around, either."

Not too surprising, since where they'd emerged was some kind of cavern. The walls are craggy and crusted with outcroppings of gemstones, glowing blue and green. And, after walking along for a little while, taking a turn here and there into what prove to be only more tunnels, endlessly branching, eerily similar, a familiar feeling settles over Owen. "This is a mystery dungeon, isn't it?"

"I bet," Takato says with a grin. "You think I should try the Judicator if we hit any wild pokémon, or save it for the boss?"

"I think that might be overkill," Owen says. "But I also kinda want to see what it does." They laughed together at that, but Owen's good cheer couldn't last long. A mystery dungeon. He knew how to handle that. He also usually had supplies, or at the very least an Escape Orb in case things got out of hand."

"Well, if we're in a Mystery Dungeon, we might be on the right track," Takato says. "If you wanted to imprison somebody..."

"There's bound to be something at the bottom of the dungeon," Owen says. Just so long as it's nothing like an unquiet god. Too many of those make their homes in shifting caves like this one.

It's easy going, though. As they press deeper into the cave they find the usual mystery dungeon trappings: apples and seeds, orbs and gravelrocks. They can only carry so much without a treasure bag, but Owen's reassured, at least, that they won't be totally unequipped. The odd apple, consumed immediately, prevents them from going hungry.

The wild pokémon are mostly of the mineral persuasion: rhyhorn, roggenrola, even a couple scuttling kabuto. Not exactly Owen and Takato's specialty, but not enough to give them a serious challenge, either. As they descend through the floors, the charmander's beginning to feel rather accomplished. Not bad for his first time leading an exploration team!

Of course, it's worrying that they don't run across Four, nor anything at all that looks like one of the moderators, but the bottom of the dungeon is a logical place for them to be, and it's not like they have a great deal of choice in terms of where to go, since they don't exactly have badges to let them teleport out.

When they run across an absol, somewhere in the low teens in terms of floors, they think instantly it must be someone important, either a pokémon in need of rescue or maybe an outlaw trying to escape justice. She turns at the sound of their calls, and immediately starts moving in their direction. Owen blinks, surprised by the purple swirl that appears to have replaced her right eye. It rotates gently while he watches.

"Hello!" she says brightly. "Are you down here to rescue me? Ah, no... Is that a gun you have?"

"That's right!" Takato says. He's gotten a lot better about maneuvering it through the narrow dungeon corridors by this point. He still hasn't fired it yet, either, preferring to take the wild pokémon out through more traditional means, but is also obviously getting anxious for a chance to try it out. Now he rests his free hand against the side of the weapon. "This is the Judicator. Cool, huh?"

"What, is it more powerful than one of your thunder attacks?"

Takato grins widely. "Oh, man. I hope so."

"Do you need to be rescued?" Owen asks. "We aren't actually a rescue team... We don't have any badges, so we can't take you out. If you want to come with us, though, we're heading to the bottom of the dungeon, and we should be able to get out from there."

"No, I'm not the one who needs rescuing," the Absol says. "I'm looking for some, ah, moderators. Some humans, I think, but maybe they got turned into pokémon! You haven't seen anyone strange around, have you?"

After a couple minutes of confused conversation, it comes out that they're all here for the same reason, and no one has any idea where the mods--or Four--might have gone.

"I must have started a little later than everyone else," the absol, Delirious, says. "I wanted to have a bit of tea before starting out, you know how it is. Speaking of, I don't suppose either of you brought some with you? Tea? I've drunk all of mine." Her blade-tail gives a small, hopeful wag.

"I didn't, sorry," says Owen, and Takato's response is, "Eww, tea," and that's all the administrative backlog sorted. The three of them set off again, headed for the bottom of the dungeon. You shouldn't dawdle, after all, in the depths of a mystery dungeon.

A few floors down they encounter a strange kabuto. Jet-black, it bumbles blindly down the corridor, and when it raises itself up on its hindmost claws, rather than the glowing red eyes one would expect, it has just single large white one. A thundershock from Takato doesn't simply roast it, but bursts it into a fine black mist.

"Whoah," the pikachu says. "What was that? Some kind of illusion? Or a ghost being weird?"

"Never seen anything like it," Delirious says, and Owen shakes his head. Under ordinary circumstances it would be easy to dismiss an encounter like that as a fluke, just one of the strange happenings that tend to occur in weird places like mystery dungeons, but on the next floor down they find a graveler, likewise black, but this one with entirely too many eyes, peering out from arms as well as from its face.

Delirious swipes her blade in a sideways slash, sending an arc of psychic energy sailing at the strange pokémon. Rather than knocking it back and taking a few chips out of its rocky hide, the attack slices the strange graveler straight in half.

"Oh, eww," Takato says, padding forward to poke at the slumped black pile the graveler's fallen into with his foot. His fur stands on end and sparks radiate in all directions when the puddle of darkness twitches, then starts to flow back together, rising up into a new, vague graveler-shape.

Delirious jumps, purple eye spinning wildly, but Owen rushes forward. "Come on! If we can't knock it out, we have to run! We need to get past it while we still can!"

The other two follow him, giving the reassembling graveler as wide a berth as they can manage in the narrow tunnel. None of them has a great deal of interest in sticking around to investigate the creepy phenomenon.

The dungeon delve's a lot less genial after that. Gradually the normal pokémon are replaced by more and more of the strange black versions. They don't seem particularly dangerous, falling easily to the trio's attacks and doing nothing in particular but occasionally blocking the path. What's unsettling is that they don't stay down after getting hit, and as they go deeper Owen is more and more uncomfortably aware of how many of the creatures are now behind them, perhaps waiting to turn and crush them in an ambush.

They have to be near the end of the dungeon by now, though. It's been nearly twenty floors! Owen tries not to think of some of the legendary dungeons out there, ones rumored to have a hundred floors or more. Weird monsters aside, this is just a normal dungeon. It has to be over soon.

And, at last, they tumble down the stairs to find themselves in a wide, high-ceilinged cavern: the dungeon's end, to be sure. Here the crystals lining the walls have grown mammoth, taller than Owen and Takato, some taller even than Delirious. Their pale glow illuminates the dark ranks of more of the odd wild pokémon than the adventurers have seen in one place so far.

They aren't the only glow in the room, either. Hanging in midair on the far side of the room, inspecting a dark slash in the air, is a huge bat pokémon, glowing with a gentle blue radiance. Glinting black armor covers its face and chest, extending into hands nearly as large as Owen, one claw of which is currently tapping at the pokémon's chin.

"Hmmm," the pokémon muses. "There sure are a lot of you, aren't there? But you won't be much use unless you learn to fight back a bit." He lazily waves an armored claw, slicing through a thick tendril of darkness and severing it completely. The cut-off bit bulges and grows and then takes on the same form as the pokémon himself, but completely black save for the blinking eyes on its face and chest.

There's more darkness welling from the weird tear in reality, bulging out into midair and slowly taking on a recognizable shape, sometimes of the bat pokémon, sometimes of one of the other wild pokémon in the dungeon. It flows out of the portal in a steady, apparently unending stream, and the dark creatures it spawns slowly shamble off towards the stairs, utterly silent. One of them brushes against Takato, who's been staring transfixed at the bat. He lets out an involuntary squeak, and instantly regrets it as the bat whirls to face them.

"Oh ho ho! What have we here?" it says. It disappears with a faint puff of air, then reappears directly over Owen's team. The three of them scramble back, putting a bit of space between themselves and the leering bat.

"Hors d'oeuvres! And here I thought I'd have to destroy the world on an empty stomach!"

"What pokémon is that?" Owen whispers nervously to his companions.

"Oh, that's Necrozma," Delirious says. "It's a pokémon that feeds on light. A legendary pokémon."

"Oh, so you've heard of me?" Necrozma asks, spreading his wings wide. "I'm famous! I'm a star! Tell me, did you hear it from that idiot tin can of a guildmaster? One of those sniveling, useless gods? Sh--that ninetales and his pathetic little friends? Who was it that told you of the great and powerful Necrozma?" He spreads wings and claws alike, cackling. One of the dark blobs that's taken his shape silently copies the gesture.

"Oi! This is my spotlight, you lightless freak! Butt out!" Necrozma reaches over and seizes his black doppelganger in his claws. Dark crystals spread out across the creature's body, and with a twitch of Necrozma's hand they shatter, dissolving the dark Necrozma into dust. "Yes, liiiight," Necrozma croons, turning back to Owen's team. "Whatever these things are, they don't have any! I've got places to be, worlds to destroy--I need a little snack for the road!" His tongue lolls grotesquely as he makes an exaggerated show of licking his lips.

"I don't think so," Takato says, stepping up with the Judicator braced on his shoulder. "My gun has other ideas."

"Myeeheeheehee," Necrozma giggles. "This'll be fun. You three don't know how lucky you are. You get to be the first to see my new army, before it swallows this miserable world. You really think you can stand against me, against all my army?" He spreads his hands, swirling rivulets of darkness starting up around his claws. "Bring it on."

--

People are very worried about PikachuFan. They keep yelling at her, things about "breach" and the League and how she needs to get away, it isn't safe.

"It's okay!" she calls back. "It's friendly. See?"

She puts her hands in the air and waves them back and forth. A second later the other PikachuFan standing in front of her does likewise. The huge eye in the center of its jet-black mask blinks at her. She puts her arms back down, and a second later, it does, too.

PikachuFan turns back to her audience. "It's not going to hurt me. You don't have to worry."

The lady with the natu takes a step forward, whether because she's hoping to rush in and grab PikachuFan or because she wants to talk to the black creatures herself PikachuFan can't tell. The one with the salandit stays behind, looking frozen.

PikachuFan turns back to her new friend. "I'm PikachuFan, but you can call me Pika! I'm looking for the fanfic moderators. Do you know where those are?"

The creature blinks placidly up at her. There are more of them coming through the big black hole in the air nearby, kind of oozing out like bubbles in a lava lamp, slowly growing arms and legs and heads. Pika understands why people would be afraid of them--they are pretty creepy, with the ooziness and the weird eyes and all. They're also kind of funny, though. And this is just a story, after all--it's all going to work out just fine in the end.

A look over her shoulder finds the natu lady closer yet, but stopped now, as more black things converge around her. One or two are beginning to look a lot like her.

"You don't know?" Pika asks hers when it seems like it's not going to answer her earlier question. "Well, what are you? Why are you here?"

It blinks at her some more. Then it raises a hand and points an ectoplasmic finger straight at her.

--

Without waiting to see whether anyone else wanted to join him, Silvally tears his chosen book open, reading with a feverish intensity and speed, his attention bent completely towards finding and defeating the Beasts... and finding the moderators, of course.

Unfortunately no obvious opponents present themselves when the library fades out of being, replaced by a small, nondescript room, unfurnished aside from a bed that certainly wouldn't fit Silvally, an empty set of shelves, and a small table, lit by a single glowing tile overhead. Silvally can hear voices, though, and after struggling with the panel next to the weird sliding door embedded in the wall, manages to open it after hitting enough random buttons.

Outside in the hall an overwhelming sweet scent hangs in the air, guiding Silvally as much as the voices towards another room, as starkly metal as the one he arrived in but furnished with a long table laden with plates, which mostly seemed to feature berries in some kind of syrup. The pokémon sitting along it stare up at Silvally, dessert momentarily forgotten.

"Sorry to interrupt your meal," he says, "but it's urgent. I'm looking for a group of moderators, and I think the Ultra Beasts may have taken them. Have you seen any around? Either of them?"

"You're looking for Ultra Beasts? Are you sure you're not one yourself?" asks a granbull. "I can tell you're not from around here, put it that way."

"What's a moderator?" says a ribombee down at the far end of the table.

"Forget that," snaps a mawile in a long purple scarf. "How did you get on my ship?"

"I don't really know how it works. I was reading a story, and I ended up here, wherever here is. I don't want to bother you, I'm just trying to find some people who've gone missing. Because of the Beasts." Silvally's claws curl inward again, scraping against the metal floor, but he manages to keep himself from sparking or flaring. His anger must show on his face, though, given how the assembled pokémon are staring at him. All of them except for the mawile, who merely looks annoyed.

"Where here is is Wildcard Gamma, my ship. And you'd better not get comfortable, because as soon we get where we're going, you're getting off. Clear?" He pushes the plate in front of him away and scowls. "You're in luck, anyway. We were just going to check out out what those beasts have been doing to Meta City. I'd be happy to drop you off there."

"Macro," hisses a pachirisu who appears to have an antenna growing from her head. "You can't just leave somebody where those Beasts are around."

"I don't like stowaways, especially not ones who think they know something about these Ultra Beasts," the mawile says grimly. "Come on, then. Let's head to the bridge and see if we can't get a look at them."

Under ordinary circumstances Silvally would probably have been fascinated by the strange ship, especially, upon coming out on the "bridge" up by the windows at the front, after realizing that it flew, and dizzyingly fast. He would have wondered at the floating continents, suspended somehow up in the sky, or how jam-packed crowded they were, with buildings grown impossibly tall and crammed closer together than seemed possible. He might even have asked about the strange yellow-brown haze that hung over what the other pokémon seemed to call Meta City, the lot of them settled into chairs by strange machines that showed numbers and symbols and did who only knew what.

As it was, though, he had thoughts only of defeating the Beasts. And the moderators, of course. He scanned the horizon, keeping constant watch, and soon enough could make out strange creatures ranging across the strange buildings, halfway spiky and halfway floppy, noodly limbs and bristling, sparking heads. He could barely hear one of the other pokémon call them "xurkitree" over his own growling.

"Easy there, big guy," the granbull says, glancing up over a shoulder. "You'll get to fight, if that's what you really want."

"Matrix, DL, you watch the ship," Macro says, jumping down from his chair. "We'll go down and figure out what the situation is."

The pachirisu looked as though she wanted to protest, but the mawile didn't give her the chance. "Come on," he said to Silvally. "You'll need a respirator if you're going out with us."

Silvally would object, not actually knowing what a respirator is, but knowing full well that time is of the essence and there are Beasts out there, tearing the city apart, and he's already perfectly equipped to fight them. There's even the Groovibomb as backup, should he need it.

He doesn't much care for the respirator, either, once it's strapped on over his face. It feels like he can't get enough air, no matter how hard he breathes, and he has to resist reaching up and clawing it off. Once outside the ship, though, descending glowing ladder-rungs hung in midair, he begins to get the sense of why he might need it. Even with the device's ostensible filtering, the brownish air tastes rancid. It would have been badly distracting, at the very least, if he had to inhale it full-strength.

As it is, though, he can operate unencumbered. From the moment his talons hit the pitted stone(?) street he's in full-on beast-killer mode, charging after the xurkitree, looplet glowing and cheek-bolts whirring as he draws on the fullest extent of his powers. He's aware of the other pokémon following behind, occasionally making gestures at not harming the Beasts, but only enticing them to return to where they came, but something tells Silvally the captain isn't so concerned with all that. And who could blame him, watching the xurkitree tearing the city apart?

It matters little to Silvally in any case he has his own directives.

He also notices, on some level, that something's amiss.

"Cap'n! What are those things? More Ultra Beasts?" the granbull calls from behind him.

They're not. Silvally can tell just by looking, can sense the lack of Ultra Aura. There's certainly something wrong with them, though. Oily black, they sprout blinking eyes not just where eyes might make sense. They've taken on the form of xurkitree, mingling with them in the streets, but unlike the xurkitree they don't seem bent on destruction, or even on consuming electricity. They wander, apparently aimlessly, wiggling like the real xurkitree, perhaps trying to blend in.

They're not Beasts, but Silvally doesn't like them. If anything they remind him of unown, a recognition that sends a shudder through his memories.

"Like we needed more to worry about," grumbles the mawile. One of the black beasts falls to a blast from his weapon, only to rise again a few seconds later, the hole the weapon punched through its torso filling in. It's now coming straight at the trio, at a purposeful wobble.

Silvally braces himself, reluctant to attack it when he could be spending his attacks on some proper Beast. It nags at him even as he blasts the thing back with a burst of seismic force. These aren't Beasts. They might not even be pokémon. And if they aren't pokémon, do they even belong in this story?

It's difficult to think when he'd rather devote all his attention to driving back the xurkitree. They're a clear and pressing problem, and one he's eager to solve, even though he has to admit it probably won't help with his actual reason for being here. There's no sign of the moderators, and no sign that the xurkitree have any interest in anything but stripping the city of its electricity.

"That one of BackDoor's portals, Cap'n?" the granbull wonders, and for a couple of seconds Silvally wonders what he's talking about. Tearing his gaze away from the crowded street in front of him, he takes a moment to reassess the situation and look for whatever the granbull's talking about.

"I don't know," the mawile behind him mutters. "Whatever it is, it looks like it's where those black Beasts are coming from."

Silvally takes another, more careful look around, and this time he sees it: a portal of some kind, hanging in the air far off down the street, blurred and off-color from the pollution. Black wells from it, breaking off into blobs that form up into more black xurkitree. An Ultra Wormhole? Necrozma's doing? Somehow Silvally doubts it's anything good.

He starts when someone lays a paw on his flank. "We've seen enough," Macro says. "And unless someone closes that portal, we're just wasting time fighting the Beasts here. I know I said we'd drop you off here, but I've got to admit you know a thing or two about fighting. If you're against the Beasts, we'd be happy to have you."

"Another one, Cap'n?" the granbull asks. "You've been taking in a lot of strays lately."

The black creatures don't belong here. Silvally doesn't belong here, either, and neither do the moderators. Unlike Silvally, though, the black stuff didn't come from the library. So where is it coming from?

Silvally looks up at the ship he's come down from, hanging overhead, greenish-looking through the pollution-haze. "I think I have an idea," he says.
 
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Negrek

Lost but Seeking
Meanwhile, Four O'Clock finds herself somehow thrown off-course as she tries to follow her friends into their stories, buffeted and tumbled about on unknown dark winds, so that when she finally resolves she finds herself alone and not where she expected to be at all.

She's high up, for one thing, with the ocean spread all down below and out to every side. The winds throw her side to side, much stronger than her tiny wings. Beneath her some kind of fight is going on, mid-air, a dark slash in the sky spilling long tentacles of black into empty air, eyes winking open and shut all along their lengths. They reach and twist and then burst in showers of black mist, are torn apart or charred or frozen by the pokémon floating in the air before them, eyes glowing with psychic power.

No moderators here, but Four isn't about to let that stop her from helping. She angles herself downward, fighting the wind as best she can, and has her push-pin out and gripped in four legs at once, pointed forward for a battering-ram attack. As she gets close to the fight, though, the air grows heavy with some kind of power, a sensation like someone's watching from behind her, leaning in uncomfortably close.

The psychic pokémon, a catlike creature far larger than Four, doesn't turn or otherwise acknowledge her presence, but his voice fills her head anyway. I don't need your help. I have this under control.

Four buzzes in protest, because even though the psychic is dispatching the black tentacle things easily, without apparent effort, they also show no sign of stopping, more of them constantly welling, bubbling, blinking their way from the portal to replace the ones that were destroyed.

It's dangerous for you to be here, the psychic says. Leave. And a burst of psychic energy, a powerful telekinetic shove, sends Four spinning through the air, down and away from the fight. By the time she manages to right herself, the battle is yards away overhead, and she's hanging above an island, dense palm forest bordered by broad, sandy beach. There are humans down there.

Under ordinary circumstances Four would have zipped right down to check them out, but the constant buffeting of the wind off the ocean makes even this a chore. Once she gets close, too, it's obvious these two aren't the mods she's looking for. One, human at a distance, is clearly only human more-or-less, and the other is no one Four recognizes, watching the other from the shade of the forest's edge.

The first looks up from the sandcastle it's building when she goes buzzing past, headed for the shade and directions, maybe, from the other, who looks like he hasn't slept in days but rouses enough to put his hand out for her to land on. "Where did you come from?" he asks.

Four launches into her best explanation, prancing back and forth across the human's hand, gesturing with her push-pin for emphasis at the sky, at Mewtwo, at the general surroundings. "Ah, sorry," the human says. "I can't really understand you too well. If you've got a big story, you'd better talk to the freak."

He nods in the direction of the other humanoid, who's watching them with obvious suspicion, idly scooping sand up and patting it onto the rampart it's building. Apparently the battle between Mewtwo and the black tentacles above doesn't warrant much attention.

Four lets her push-pin droop and buzzes her wings in dismay. After the all the hard flying she's been doing, fighting the wind off the ocean to go all the way over there is about the last thing she wants to be doing. "Yeah, I get it," the human says. He leans his head back against the trunk of the palm tree, casting his gaze up at Mewtwo overhead. "May as well relax and wait for the creepy-ass tentacle things to come kill us all, anyhow. Ain't no point doing much of anything else."

Four buzzes uncertainly at that, but she really would like to take a couple of minutes to catch her breath, at least. She perches on the odd man's hand and squints up at the battle overhead. The black tentacles don't appear to be gaining on Mewtwo, but neither does he appear to be making any progress in eliminating them.

The freak ends up abandoning its sandcastle and coming over to them anyway. "Who are you?" it asks Four. "You came out of the sky, right? Did you come through that portal thing, too?"

A bit wearily, Four takes off and repeats her story, buzzing and dancing around in the air in front of the freak. Thankfully, it frowns when she asks a question and says, "Moderators? I do not know what those are, but the only weird thing I have seen today is that portal with the squiggly things."

"And that **** ain't half as weird as your ****ing face," the human says, watching the freak from beneath half-closed lids.

"That is the Great Nathaniel Morgan," the freak says brightly. "Just ignore him, he is always like that. Anyway, I was fighting the tentacle things earlier, too. I am really good at fighting! But I got bored, and Mewtwo can handle it anyway."

Four, a bit skeptical, begins to express her certainty that that's true and ask if the freak has any suggestions about where she ought to look next when a sudden burst of elation makes all three of them look up towards Mewtwo, from which the psychic emanation must have come. The writhing dark tendrils are retreating, curling back on themselves and drawing back towards the hole as though pulled by an invisible hand. Mewtwo practically glows with satisfaction as he watches them retreat.

The portal shimmers and ripples. It bulges in a way that instantly beheads Mewtwo's psychic smugness. Then it tears wider, with an avalanche-rumble noise, and something huge noses through, emerging into Mewtwo's airspace in a horribly protracted moment.

For a few seconds people can only stare. Then, "It's a spaceship!" the freak squeals in breathless delight, and it certainly appears to be. Huge and blue and fashioned after a wishiwashi school, the ship roars as it hangs in the air overhead, cooling its audience with its shadow.

Four waves her push-pin and buzzes half-heartedly. Valiant she might be, but she can still recognize a losing battle.

Perhaps miraculously, Mewtwo doesn't attack. He drifts closer, mental attitude a mixture of puzzlement and wariness. Behind him, dark tendrils once more begin to drift from the portal.

A hatch opens in the belly of the ship, and bars of light descend, hanging in midair without apparent support. A strange pokémon emerges a second later and climbs carefully down. The humans and Four gather around the base of the ladder, while Mewtwo turns abruptly, as though realizing he's forgotten something, and sails back towards the portal, which is once again leaking darkness.

"Nightmare **** and spaceships and aliens," mutters the larger human. "Just another ****ing Tuesday, ain't it?"

"It is Thursday," the other one says.

At last the pokémon touches down on the beach and turns towards them, the ocean breeze tugging at its feathers, lion-paws braced in the sand. "Hello," it says. "I'm Silvally, and I'm looking for--oh, you got here already?"

Four buzzes in tight circles around Silvally's crest, trilling in delight. "Great! Did you see any sign of the moderators?"

Four has to admit she hasn't, but she only just got here. There's plenty more to explore.

"I don't know," Silvally says contemplatively. "I think that if the moderators are around, they're probably going to be close to one of those portals. So if you haven't seen anything, and there isn't much else around, it might be better to try a different story."

Four buzzes indifferently. She's happy to stay, she's happy to go. She's just glad another friend came along to help.

"Are you leaving?" asks the freak. "Can I come? I want to ride on the spaceship!"

"It's going to be dangerous," Silvally says. "At least I think so."

"I don't care. I can fight! I'm really good at fighting! I can use all the attacks! See?" It throws a hand out and casually obliterates its sandcastle with a shadow ball.

"Yes. Please. Take it," says the other human.

The big chimera looks to Four. "What do you think?"

The cutiefly buzzes in a complicated series of loop-the-loops. Mostly, she's excited to be on her way again. But if this one wants to come, why not let it? They need all the friends they can get, don't they?

Silvally inclines his head in acknowledgement but takes a few seconds more to come to a decision, during which the freak bounces on its heels, hands tucked up under its chin, staring at Silvally pleadingly.

"I suppose," he says, the second word largely drowned out by the freak's shriek of delight.

Go if you want. Mewtwo's voice suddenly fills their heads. If you do, though, take the human with you.

"What? ****ing why?" the Great Nathaniel Morgan snarls at empty air.

Because I'm busy here, and I'm not fool enough to leave you alone without supervision.

"Come on, Great Nathaniel Morgan, it'll be fun!" The freak is already up on the ladder, and hauls on the Great Nathaniel Morgan's arm so hard that it literally lifts him up off the ground.

"Fine. Fine! Let go, you asshole! I can climb by my ****ing self!"

And he does, with Silvally bringing up the rear, Four nestled in his feathery crest, clinging tight against the wind.

Macro is less than pleased to be taking on more passengers, even ridiculously tiny, cute ones. "We're space pirates! We don't have room to be ferrying people all over the... the universe, or whatever!"

"Space pirates?!" the freak squeals breathlessly.

"Don't have a ****ing aneurysm, Freak."

In the end Macro doesn't have a lot of choice, not with Four already in deep conversation with Matrix, the cutiefly perched on one of the navigator's antennae, firing off endless questions about the ship and what it's like to be a pirate. The freak charges off to explore despite Macro's yelled protests, and then he's still left confronting the other two, already up there in his bridge, taking up space.

The pachirisu takes Macro aside to calm him down, and soon enough Matrix is back in his navigator's seat, Four shamelessly back-seat driving while he swings Wildcard Gamma ponderously around, pointing back towards the portal. Silvally paces up and down, thinking, while the deck rumbles under him and the ship begins to accelerate.

The black eye-creatures seem to have invaded stories, then, and exist somewhere outside them all. One way or another, they must have something to do with the mods' disappearance. But what? And what are they supposed to do against an enemy whose aims are inscrutable, who seems endless, and whose powers and limits are unknown?

The chimera stops near the center of the bridge, looking around at his small group of allies. There are more people out there searching, though. A lot more. Some of them quite powerful. They'll come up with something together. That's how it always goes, doesn't it? Friends standing together against impossible odds. That's how the story goes, and what are they a part of now but another grand story?[/B]
 
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