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Only You and Me By The Borderline

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by roule, May 12, 2017.

  1. roule

    roule take it all or leave it... I Feel You

    hey guess who pushed back on writing snowstorm by writing another fic? this girl!

    anyway, this takes place in a similar universe to snowstorm, but has some differences (nothing i can spoil yet though :p) to it, and it doesn't take place in north korea or canada, but the ukraine.

    i hope you all enjoy this!


    The weather was dark wet and cold in Kiev, the stark white buildings tinted a bluish grey, and the streets completely empty, with only one or two cars passing through. It was the perfect weather for staying inside for most of the day. At least, that’s how Yuliya had rationalized staying in the house for the entire day to herself. What she could do outside, if sheets of cold rain slammed the earth every hour, and it dipped barely above 0 degrees celsius?

    The truth was, Yuliya hadn’t left the house since last week, when she had the motivation of English lessons and her bi-weekly therapist meeting to draw her out. Bdzi, her ribombee, didn’t exactly need walks, she kind of just floated around her apartment, or hid in her cabinets to scare her owner while she shifted through them. Raffu, her rufflet, only needed occasional walks, while Yuliya wore a falconry glove. Mostly, he lived in her vacant bedroom, too depressed to make much of a fuss, just looking out the window. So, with all these factors adding up, she didn’t need to go out much without a definite reason.

    It didn’t help that going outdoors frequently meant that Yuliya would either have a nervous breakdown or begin to hallucinate violently, sometimes with no way of knowing what was true or not. Everything on the streets, children, food, toys, clothes, even the temperature could remind her of her service in Donbass, what she saw out towards the east. She’d gotten better over the months, towards the beginning she had no choice but to vomit or have a violent panic attack. Now, she’d mostly internalize it, shut it all out. Ultimately, her mind decided that it was best she had no contact with anyone except when absolutely necessary. It was shockingly easy to lock everyone out, because she had no one left in Ukraine to look out for her, and encourage her to go outdoors more than weekly. All her military buddies either hate her or died, her parents left Ukraine, and her brother...

    Yuliya’s thoughts were interrupted by Bdzi swirling around her head with a buzz, humming happily under her breath. The woman laughed and reached a hand up to pet the bee pokemon, who smiled at her and hummed louder. She spun around Yuliya's head eagerly.

    “C’mon.” Yuliya said. “Let’s watch some TV together, shall we?” Bdzi chirped loudly, placing herself on Yuliya’s shoulder. The girl chuckled again, rubbing the insect’s head again.

    Yuliya walked from the window to her white couch, covered in a dark brown comforter and a red woolen blanket over it. The couch was the only place that she could really sleep on without vivid nightmares of shelled houses and dead, bloody comrades that would prevent her from sleeping longer than 20 minutes at the most. Either that, or the bathtub, which both barely fit her, and gave her a crick in her neck so bad it aches for several days. It was her own way of torturing herself, making her sleep somewhere either too cramped for her or too stiff and uncomfortable. It's her way of repaying for her guilt. She switched on the television propped on her wall, which turned to a news channel with a blonde female anchor reading the news.

    “Tomorrow, former Armed Forces sniper Yulia Darya Bousaid will be awarded the Hero of Ukraine award in the Verkhovna Rada.” The anchor read, and a picture of a much happier Yuliya appeared on screen. She was wearing a navy blue ceremonial uniform with a blue beret on her head, partially covering much shorter dark hair compared to her longer, uncontrollable mess of a hairstyle now, round dark eyes curved in a smile, and rosy cheeks as she grinned at the camera. Her large, triangular nose stood out on her face, the butt of many well meaning military jokes and a lot more malicious ones in Russia, usually combined with ones about her dark skin.

    “Bousaid was captured by militants in a small town outside of Alchevsk, in Donbass, in a mortar attack that killed 3 other soldiers. Yuliya was the only one of the two soldiers captured to escape.” The anchor continued, and the woman felt a sense of dread fall over her, and she switched the TV to another channel before her brother’s name could be read off. He had been the other captured soldier, the government telling her family it was a wasteful search. The next channel over was the annual French Pokemon League Competition in Paris, between the champion and some other challenger. She wasn’t paying attention.

    All she could think about was the award. How could she forget? She vaguely remembers some military officer coming to her door after she’d just moved into her apartment and announcing that she’d be presented it in about a month. Has it been a month since then? It felt like forever ago that it’d happened. Time works for her in funny ways. Sometimes, everything feels so close together that she can’t believe it’s been months, sometimes everything feels so distant. Mostly distant.

    Still, she was going to be a hero! Of Ukraine! It seemed so stupid to her. She was no hero, couldn’t even save three of her comrades or her own ****ing brother! Who thought she was worthy enough to be a hero, hm? She was not a hero. Not a hero. Not a hero.

    “Not a hero.”

    No. It can't be...

    "You're not a hero."

    Yuliya looked up, and whipped her head around to face Nazar, her old commander, his hollow pale face glaring at her. His dark hair was up to his neck, unkempt and matted. He was in a dingy white t-shirt and jeans, and was pointing a dark pistol straight at her head. His arms are thin, like he's been starving himself. A shell of the muscular man she knew in Donbass. She feels her stomach drop painfully and her throat constrict.

    “You didn’t think I’d come back, did you?”

    Yuliya nods weakly, violently shaking. She can’t think, only watch as he takes the safety off of his pistol with a click. Yuliya swallows thickly, barely managing to keep her bile down.

    “I always do, Raven.” He grins wildly, like an animal. Yuliya flinches at the use of her military nickname, once used affectionately, but now... “Besides, why wouldn't I come for the girl who betrayed me, who's now being held up as some sort of hero?”

    She prays under her breath, something to protect her, please. It's all she can do, she can't bring herself to harm another human being, not even Nazar…

    “I was your captain, Raven.” Nazar continues. “And yet you reported me to the ****ing Commander for ‘un-soldierly behavior’, and now what am I? A miserable wreck! I will never be able to hold a job, or do anything for that matter. And it’s all your fault, little miss Hero of Ukraine!”

    “Y-You…” Yuliya manages weakly, before she’s cut off.

    “‘I-I’ what? What Raven? Do tell me what you want to say to me!” Nazar mocks her. “ Oh, that’s right… You can’t say anything, because you’re responsible for this! You failed me, you failed Fedir, Borys, Ivan, your own brother, and you definitely failed Ukraine! Prepare to die, traitor!”

    She hears the click of the gun, and winces, covering her head with her scarred arms and prepares for her death, then….



    Yuliya opens her eyes and looks around. No one’s there. She hallucinated him, again. The image od Nazar haunted her in her lowest moments, reminding her that she was responsible for firing him. Responsible for his words. His venom towards her. All her fault. All her fault. Everything was her fault. Her head feels woozy, and her eyes can barely stay open. Bdzi circles around her nervously, holding her hands, visibly worried for her very scared trainer.

    “I’m fine, Bdzi,” Yuliya whispers. “Yuliya just got scared. That’s all.”

    She feels bad for Bdzi. She’d grown up with Yuliya, a gift from her pokemon obsessed father, and Yuliya had cared for her despite her initial disinterest in pokemon. When Yuliya enlisted and got deployed to Donbass, Bdzi went with her, and found good company in the military. Pokemon battling was a past time amongst bored personnel, wanting something positive to draw their attention away from the firefights and gloom. Yuliya liked to think that she was somewhat decent at it, but not as good as Nazar was, who told her he was going to be a trainer before duty called him to the military. Bdzi spent 2 months alone in a military base because her owner went missing, god knows what she would’ve felt. Yuliya remembers reading something that said pokemon feel similar things to humans. Did Bdzi think she died back there? Did she feel grief? Whatever it was, Bdzi finally evolved when Yuliya returned, in a spontaneous act of what could be considered relief.

    Yuliya patted Bdzi on the head softly, before laying down on the couch, pulling the covers over her head. She feels exhaustion creep up on her, turning her mind to fuzz and her eyelids ache with the effort of holding themselves up. Nothing happened at all today, and yet she’s tired. It would make sense if today was the day she was awarded, but it isn’t. She’s tired over nothing. She’s living a nothing life. Yuliya feels tears run down her face, and she quivers softly as she cries at her pathetic existence.

    Bdzi looks over the trembling form of her owner. She doesn’t quite understand what’s happening to her, why she’s sad all of a sudden, but she knows that she has to comfort her owner. The insect flies over to Yuliya’s form, and rubs her head with one of her small hands. Yuliya’s face visibly calms, and she opens her eyes and looks up at Bdzi.

    “Thank you.” Yuliya whispers. "Thank you for staying with me."

    She’s asleep in minutes.
    Last edited: May 18, 2017
  2. DreamSayer

    DreamSayer Name's Adam.

    This was a short sweet but depressing story. I liked the concept of it, a soldier suffering from PTSD, and you handled it pretty well. The chapter opens with a gloomy weather and that immediately set the tone for the story.

    You'd immediately sympathize with Yuliya. War is never a good thing and this story clearly shows why. It messes up with the mind and breaks one's soul. That's not mentioning the fact that war is essentially meaningless.
    The contrast you created between the version of her being on tv and the one sitting on the couch was nice. It goes to show how broken she's become as a person on the verge of possible insanity. With all the loss and guilt that she feels, coupled with her near complete loneliness, she must be having it really rough. At least her little Bdzi is there to keep her company.

    Her having dark haunting hallucinations didn't help her either, but alas, that ending gives hope for her future and recovery.

    There's not much left for me to say about this oneshot of yours, but i quite enjoyed it. It's nice to have stories like this one that reminds the readers of the hardships of life, especially for those who've seen war happen before their very eyes. I very much look forward to seeing more of your work.
  3. roule

    roule take it all or leave it... I Feel You

    thanks for your response! I was worried that Yuliya was somewhat unrelatable to readers that her character was dragged down by it, and im glad that's not the case!

    im glad you've enjoyed the first chapter so far, and with that....


    The white light that came from the bulb blinded Yuliya’s eyes and it caused her to shut them and she turned away from the bulb. She was upright in a metal chair, hands cuffed behind her as a precaution. They were worried she might have been radicalized or brainwashed by the militia that captured her, a somewhat rational fear, she had been out for two months. She couldn't remember anything like that, of what she could remember. If it had been some sort of subconcious control, it had failed miserably.

    “Eyes open, First Lieutenant Bousaid.” The investigator sat across from her, a metal table between them, demanded and Yuliya obliges, and looked him directly in the eyes. He ws an older man, square face, hard eyes, dressed in the typical Major General’s uniform, dark green with a white dress shirt and blue tie. She’s dressed in her sweaty and threadbare field uniform, camo shirt and pants, covered in dried blood stains from the blood of her comrades and some of her own. There was a hole in her undershirt on the shoulder, it wasn't visible, but she feels it rub up against her body every time she shifts a little. She stares at him, emotionally empty since waking up in a holding cell four weeks ago. The nightmares and hallucinations came later, after her honorable discharge.

    “Now, Lieutenant Bousaid.” The investigator said, and passed a document forward. It was an official documentation of the mortar attack she had been in, which looked surprisingly short, only one or two pages. “This is our report on the attack in Alchevsk.”

    “It's rather small.” Yuliya remarked robotically, unable to fake an emotion quite yet.

    “Yes.” The investigator said, and Yuliya heard sarcasm drip from his voice. “That’s why you're here.”

    “You are the only known survivor of the shelling.” He continued, his hands folded on the small metal table. “Everything in that report is written after the attacks, when the aftermath was discovered. So… about 2 hours after, we presume.”

    “I see.” Yuliya whispered, and looked down at the paper. Of what she could read, it seemed very vague and nonspecific. Nothing like what she remembered, what stewed in her mind late at night.

    “So, tell me.” The investigator said, and looked Yuliya directly in the eyes. “What happened in Alchevsk?”

    Yuliya jolts awake from the dream, sitting up on her couch, panting loudly. It takes her a few moments to realize that nothing that happened to her in her dream was real, just a figment of her imagination. She holds her head in her hands before glancing over at the kitchen to see if someone got in while she was gone. Bdzi is asleep on a tiny little bed that Yuliya had made out of fabric scraps and a slice of foam months ago and placed on the kitchen counter, the fabric on top of her sleeping form. The television is still switched on, which is now discussing the latest prospects for the Pokemon League.

    Yuliya gingerly stands up from the couch, stretching her arms out and grunting. The award was today, so she had to make her way out to the Verkhovna Rada as soon as possible. If she skipped or arrived late, she’d end up looking like a complete *******. Right now, she’s dressed in a mere white t-shirt and faded blue shorts that only reached to her mid thighs, not exactly award ceremony material. As she thinks to herself, she’s suddenly hit with a pang of hunger so bad that she almost throws up. Clothes and food, that’s what she needs right now. Food first, she tells herself.

    She walks into the kitchen slowly, brutally aware of Bdzi sleeping on the counter. She swings the fridge open and looks through it, surprisingly full for a paranoid shut in like herself. It’s tempting to just shove a yogurt down her gullet and call it a breakfast like usual, but Yuliya knows that she must be at her best during the ceremony, so she reaches for two eggs, some butter and flour. It’s scrambled eggs, how her mother has always done it, called ‘murtuga’ in Kurdish. Yuliya feels that she needs that home cooked comfort before the inevitable stress of the award ceremony, and quickly gets to work with her pan.

    After 15 minutes, she’s done with her cooking, and scrapes fluffy yellow egg yolk onto her plate, and reaches for a piece of paper on the counter, before bringing a chair to said counter and sitting down. As she eats her food, she looks over the piece of paper, one of the 150 pages of a document she managed to bring back from the military base she fled, hidden away in a suitcase. Unfortunately, the entire thing was in English, so gleaning it’s knowledge seemed nigh impossible for her, who could only say “hello” and “goodbye”, and had to have a translator on hand at all times while chatting with a US military official who came to her base on a visit. Instead of turning the paper over to the authorities, that would probably just laugh it off like they did when her parents asked for an investigation, however, Yuliya was determined to translate it herself, so that she could find her brother. She knew that there was information about what happened to him in the 150 pages of documents, and the sooner that Yuliya knew it, the better. The paper started off with a big black and white picture of a younger Yuliya, hair to her chin, no smile this time, just a serious expression, glaring down the camera.

    Here’s what she could translate so far:

    SUBJECT NAME: Yuliya Darya Bousaid (Юлія даря боусаид)

    AGE: 30 years old (As of 11/14/16)

    DOB: July 17th 1986 (17/7/86)

    PLACE OF BIRTH: Kiev, USSR (now Ukraine)

    PLACE OF RESIDENCE: ---- ----- Avenue, Kiyv, Ukraine

    SEX: Female

    HEIGHT: 6’0 (182 cm)

    WEIGHT: 111 pounds (50 kg)

    BUILD: Muscular but thin

    Occupation: Military sniper for the Ukrainian Armed Forces

    HAIR: Black

    EYES: Brown

    NATIONALITY: Ukrainian

    ETHNICITY: Kurdish

    Subject was born to Fareeha and Erfan Bousaid on July 17th 1985. Subject’s father… Iran, before.... before.... Subject’s mother … Iraq … 1979... Saddam Hussein … met in… married in... Subject had a … Kiev… Subject… Ukrainian Armed Forces … Maidan … Donbass …

    Then everything turns to meaningless symbols. Yuliya remembers the shock and horror she felt when she first discovered how much that this paper knew about her family, about her whole life. She remembers running quickly to the bathroom and kneeling before the toilet with white knuckles, heaving and sobbing. It took her months afterwards for her to even touch the paper out of fear. Now, she was struggling desperately to translate enough to turn the page. How funny…

    Her attention is taken from the papers by Bdzi, who stirs from her little bed on the side. She pulls off the covers with one of her tiny, dark hands. The bee pokemon yawns and stretched her arms, much like her owner did, who was watching with a smile on her face.

    “Hello, little one.” Yuliya says softly, and Bdzi hums and walks over to where Yuliya was resting her head. Bdzi tapped her nose softly, causing her to giggle loudly. The woman got up from her seat and walked to her fridge, grabbing a white bottle of nectar and pouring it out into a shallow bowl for Bdzi.

    “Here ya go…” Yuliya smiled, placing the dish onto the counter. Bdzi hummed a thanks, and flew over to it, drinking rapidly. She smiled at her pokemon, before heading back to the fridge, placing the nectar back, and pulling out a dead mouse with white fur from the freezer. She placed it into her black microwave and defrosted it, before placing it on the chopping block. Humming to herself, she grabbed a cleaver, and decapitated the mouse with a loud thunk, and tossing the head into the trash. Gingerly, she held the mouse by the tail and placed it on a plate, and walked to her bedroom with it in her hands.

    Her bedroom was dark, and she turned the lights on with a flick of a switch. Her bed was still perfectly made, tan covers tucked in. It was still made for spring, which was the last time she slept in it, while on break from service. Photos of her mother and father from their marriage in Turkey were tacked on the dark blue walls, another with both her and her brother in their arms after their birth, pictures of the two in school, graduation, deployment, etc. She glances at them, not really wanting to stew on it too much to avoid an attack. Raffu is a perch placed on the window by the bed, looking out the window. He jumps when Yuliya places the plate on the windowsill, and he turns her head to look at her. The bird pokemon chirps at her, and digs into the mouse with his razor sharp beak. Yuliya looks away from the inevitable carnage, and instead opens her closet, flipping through multiple outfits.

    Eventually, after a lot of deliberation, she decides on a crisp white dress shirt, which she buttons up and tucks into her dark dress pants, and she pulls a black suit jacket over her, buttoning it up as well. As she looks over her outfit, she becomes aware of every little crease in her pants and every piece of fuzz on her jacket, and quickly attempts to fix it. After making herself look spotless and therefore completely normal, she walks to the bathroom a few paces from her room, peering at the mirror. She looks haggard, bags hanging under her eyes and her hair all over the place. With a little wrangling with a brush, Yuliya manages to get her hair less matted looking, and put it all up into a loose ponytail. She grabs her makeup case, and works rapidly to make herself less… tired looking. After a few minutes, she looks somewhat decent, and decides to leave the bathroom.

    Bdzi immediately greets Yuliya with loud, happy noises, spinning around her head. Yuliya giggles loudly at the very excited ribombee, and walks towards the apartment front door, grabbing her dark woolen peacoat and a red scarf, wrapping it around her neck. Walking back to the living room, she locates and picks up Bdzi’s pokeball, feeling a little more confident with her around.

    “Alright.” Yuliya says, straightening herself out in front of the door, before turning to the bee pokemon currently hovering above her head. “If you get too cold and want to go inside, just tell me, alright?” Bdzi nodded, and Yuliya pulls open the door and walks out.

    The hallway was a light cream color, somewhat warm, somewhat cool, and red carpeting across the floor. Yuliya makes her way down the hall, Bdzi floating by her side, and towards the steel elevator, clicking the down button. She slides into the capsule, Bdzi snuggled in her scarf, and fidgets as the elevator comes down, looking all around her and thinking to herself about the award. Will people bug her on the street from now on? Yuliya shudders at the thought, less willing to go outside now.

    However, she manages to bring herself to step outside the lobby doors, once she reaches the lobby from the elevator. The outdoors is cold, smells overtly of gasoline, soggy, loud with talking and cars as crowds pass her by, and over all tiring. Yuliya just swallows, inhales a long breath, exhales, like everything evil is passing out of her, and walks towards the metro station.

    The Verkhovna Rada is only one metro stop down from where she lives and a couple blocks left, so Yuliya buys a ticket and a candy bar and waits for the train in one of the old Soviet train stations, deep within the earth. Bdzi is still holding out strong, huddled in her owner’s scarf. Others around them have their pokemon out, one young lady has a shinx rubbing against her side, another has a pikachu resting on top of her head.

    Yuliya gets on the train, and reaches for her phone and earbuds, placing them in her ears. If she doesn’t put them in, something she overhears on the train might send her spiraling into an attack, and that’s nothing she needs right now. Instead, she listens to David Brubeck’s “Take Five” on repeat until she notices that her stop is up next, and stands up, ready to leave.

    She gets off the train and heads up the stairs quickly, not wanting to make too much of a fuss. This part of Kiev is full of older, stone historical buildings squashed in with the modern cookie cutter apartments in the background. Commuters and tourists alike surround her, and she begins her breathing routines again before walking down the streets towards the Verkhovna Rada building. Halfway there, she orders a mocha to go, suddenly feeling a craving for a coffee similar to the cravings she had when she served. Unlike her excursions into cafes in the Donbass region, Yuliya felt the eyes of all the customers on her, chattering amongst themselves. Did they know her? Was she recognizable now? Yuliya sinks into her coat and gently pulls her scarf over her mouth, peeking out. She left before she could over think it all, walking closer and closer to the building she needed to be in.

    Finally, white labradorite facade of the Verkhovna Rada towers over Yuliya, greeting her silently. She can see a crowd of news cameras and journalists mixing with the general crowd, and she feels her stomach drop. Silently, she holds a hand over her heart and repeats her breathing exercises. It will all be okay. It will all be okay. Facing your fears is one part of conquering them, overcoming them. She needs this.

    Yuliya pushes forward, walking towards the front of the building, Bdzi floating around despite the cold. Somehow, the presence of her pokemon makes her feel comforted, like she has someone to stand by. No matter. She hears the shutters of cameras as she walks past, and Yuliya forces a smile on her face and waves to them primly, Bdzi floating aimlessly.

    The news cameras follow her into the Verkhovna Rada, where she retrieves Bdzi, and hangs her coat up near silently. She had nothing really to say, nothing new, nothing interesting that they could grill her about. If she did, her stammer would probably get in the way of any actual conversation. A male guide, grey hair balding and only about to her chin, shakes her hand and leads her through the building, dodging people at work, darting to and from places like excited wishiwashi.

    Before she enters the hall where her award will be presented to her, Yuliya is met with a large group of MPs from the parliament, most of them men in their later 30s, peering at her, like young, curious children peeking out from their mother’s form. She stares at them as well, peering at their faces until she sees someone she recognizes. It's a woman, a few inches shorter than Yuliya, with a dark crew cut, pale skin and piercing green eyes, a much stockier frame than Yuliya’s, but clad in a similar outfit of dress shirts and suit jackets and pants. The woman looks at her with a serious expression, mouth thin and green eyes practically glaring at her, not exactly welcoming.

    Yuliya knows her. Well, not personally, but knows of her. Her name is Oksana Tymoshenko, and she was once in the military, similar to Yuliya herself, one of the first pilots to serve before Maidan. After fighting in a volunteer battalion in the war, getting captured by separatist fighters and ransomed off, she’d chosen to join politics instead, becoming very popular in the process. Unlike Yuliya, she appeared to have lost none of her spunk while imprisoned, and still had a wit and stubbornness to her that amazed the other woman. Yuliya viewed Oksana as her superior in both mental fortitude and seniorty (Oksana was first enlisted in 2006, Yuliya in 2012).

    So, naturally, Yuliya straightened up, and saluted Oksana to the best of her ability. Oksana’s expression changed from curiosity, to shock at being saluted, to a mixture of amusement and… warmth? The other MPs smile and laugh amongst themselves, but from what Yuliya can read, it's not malicious laughter. They don't seem to be mocking her, at least in public. Yuliya shakes it off, and walks towards the front door of the hall, with gilded handles with leafy designs.

    She pulls the doors open.
    Last edited: May 22, 2017
  4. Samayouru

    Samayouru Rabid Dusclops Fan

    You know, I've noticed that a lot of authors are bringing fresh ideas to the table - and this fanfic is no exception! I don't think I've ever come across a pokemon story set in Ukraine, so you've already gotten my attention there.

    Something I especially like is how you've depicted Yuliya and her struggles to cope with survivors' guilt. The contrast between what she was being shown on TV before all these things happened to her and what she is now is especially nice. Bdzi's interactions with her owner warmed my heart - I love it when pokemon are shown as more than just how they're depicted in the games, so well done for that as well!

    One thing I feel you could improve on is punctuation - it's a small thing but easy to master. Take this line for example:

    When you use words like said, whispers or anything along those lines, you end the dialogue before that with a comma, rather than a full stop. Full stops being used like this can leave sentences feeling rather clunky to a reader. So when you use a comma the quote above would look like this:

    Did you notice how much smoother the transition from dialogue to narrative was? It can really make a difference sometimes!

    Full stops in dialogue are usually implemented when an action follows after dialogue, like in this part:

    Notice how the full stop doesn't make the sentence jarring? It's a weird little technique, but mastering it can really work to your benefit!

    Anyway. Overall I really enjoyed this so far and I'm looking forward to following where you go with it, roule!
  5. I'm not usually one to read the more emotional Pokemon fics like this, but I decided I might as well give it a go today and I can say that this was a... it feels weird to say enjoyable considering the morbid tone, but it's a good read!

    I've never actually met someone who has had PTSD after a war, but I feel like you portrayed Yuliya really well. She's completely traumatised by the war, and that makes her a character who I really sympathise with. Her Ribombee and Rufflet would also be a perfect comfort to her, and it shows how having an animal companion or two with you is often one of the most comforting things to have while having such extreme PTSD. Well done on that! The antagonistic characters are also written really well, showing how malicious some people can truly become while fighting in a war, and so I really enjoyed the characterisation there.

    Overall, well done!
  6. roule

    roule take it all or leave it... I Feel You

    Thanks for Samayouru and Nerdy McNerdface for reviewing! I appreciate both the praise and the criticism offered by you two (especially about the full stops, haha!). I was partially worried that someone would say "Yuliya is too depressed! Make her happier!", but it appears that my fears were unsubtantiated!. Anyways...


    Everything she does during the ceremony is done on autopilot. Yuliya stands pretty as she’s presented the medal, a little golden thing with a star in the middle, strap colored like the Ukrainian flag, blue and gold. She salutes the president, an older man with graying hair, dressed in a dark suit. She goes up to the podium and gives a (hopefully) powerful moving speech about heroes and her brother, while internally being completely devoid of any emotion. Everything after that is a whirlwind of moving, interviews, being chatted to by sympathetic MPs, and shoving fancy cheeses onto a plastic plate to eat. After a while, she gets tired of the attention and the noise and felt her head start to pound painfully and her throat began to close up due to the close proximity of everyone packed around her like a can of sardines and sneaked out.

    She sits on a large wooden bench outside the hall, eating her cheese near silently. Yuliya will probably go back into the hall again to meander around or tell someone she’s leaving. Yuliya reaches for her pokeball and released Bdzi with a click of the white button. The bee pokemon floats around, jittery and smiling with excitement at a new place. Bdzi dances around the Rada building, spinning wildly and looking curiously at everything around her, the sculpted gold columns and the framed works of art. Yuliya smiled as she watched her pokemon drift around, humming loudly.


    Yuliya jumps in shock and turned around to face Oksana, arms crossing and smiling. The woman just gapes at Oksana for a few minutes, words caught in her throat. She feels as if she's in the presence of a god. Bdzi floats over to her, close by her owners side out of shyness.

    “Oh, hello!” Yuliya finally manages, smiling weakly.

    The MP merely laughs, Yuliya noticing that whenever she laughs or smiles the bridge of her nose scrunches up a little, and sits beside the shaking woman. Yuliya feels an urge to retreat inside herself, anxious that she was setting herself up for humiliation, and uncomfortable with the presence of someone else after being alone so long. Oksana just smiled at her, a somewhat sarcastic, jokey smile, eyes crinkled.

    “Too much people for you, hm?” She laughs, and Yuliya nods quickly. She feels like a trapped animal, unable to move, just watch.

    “I know how you’re feeling,” Oksana says, leaning back on the bench and holding her head. “When I was released and given this big ceremony, I was freaked out too.”

    “When they captured me, they held me in this little gray cell with cameras on every corner, watching me,” She continued. “I had to cover my body with towels every time I got dressed or used the bathroom, and I felt their eyes all over my body. Like they were eating me up.”

    “How ****in’ humiliating!” Oksana exclaims, crossing her arms. “When I got back home, I felt that same feeling when all these people swarmed around me, peering at me like I was an animal in a cage.”

    Yuliya feels somewhat comforted by Oksana’s story, calmer, but still on edge. The two of them have something in common, forced internment by the separatists (or potentially someone… different, in Yuliya’s case). They’d suffered in similar ways, the loneliness of prison, and both had probably been tortured, most likely. They’re birds of the same feather.

    “For me, it was… a white cell block...” Yuliya rasps, Bdzi moving to her shoulder. She doesn’t know why she’s telling her this. “Bright, glaring white… with a light bulb on at nearly all times… They’d only turn it off for a few hours. They were forcing me to stay awake…”

    Oksana raises her eyebrows and listens, head cocked to one side.

    “I was naked… the whole time, hands cuffed to a metal pole behind my head...” She continues, and Oksana cringes at the thought of what might have happened to her. To her best knowledge, what she thinks happened, didn't. “A man came in… inspected me… decided it was time for me to join them in ‘the fight’… ****ing ******* uncuffed me. I overpowered him… and ran off, making my way back to the base.”

    “Jeeeeesus,” Oksana hisses, fidgeting with her fingers. “I don’t know what to say…”

    “That’s okay,” Yuliya smiles softly. “At least we have some sort of… camaraderie? Two girls in the Army… both suffered in prison…”

    “Yeah,” Oksana grins, looking up at Yuliya. “Quite an awful bond, but a bond nonetheless.”

    There’s an awkward pause between the two of them.

    “Y’know,” Oksana said, smiling wistfully. “I was worried about you. We were all worried about you, in the Rada.”

    “Really?” Yuliya asks.

    “Oh yeah!” She continues, smiling somewhat. “After they couldn’t find you and your brother's bodies, here you and your brother were was the biggest mystery in all of Ukraine for a month! Everyone had their own theories…”

    “What was yours?” Yuliya asks, deeply curious. She’d only glanced through articles about the attack after her return, not bothering to risk an attack.

    “I was always waiting for that ransom note to get mailed in,” Oksana crosses her arms. “Like what happened with me. I wasn't one of those crackpots who thought you ran off to fight ISIS, or whatever.”

    “...People thought that?” Yuliya laughed, Bdzi looking up at her.

    “It was either fighting for or against,” Oksana smiles, and Yuliya laughs louder. “I told them, ‘It would take them longer than two months for them to reach Syria’, and they just laughed me off and said ‘Well, maybe they took a plane’!”

    It's the most Yuliya has laughed in months, wheezing and red in the face. A few minutes later, she manages to stop laughing, head fuzzy. Bdzi floats around her head in circles, giggling as well, and Oksana watches the two of them with a grin.

    “Where do you think your brother is?” Oksana asks suddenly, and Yuliya looks up at her, smile dropping from her face.

    “I…” Yuliya stammers, before regaining her composure, rubbing at her eyes. “I don’t know. The military said that it was pointless to open up a search for him… that he’s probably dead.”

    “Those ****ers!” Oksana exclaims, and Yuliya flinches at her volume. “How could they? Why didn’t you tell the media or the government?”

    “My parents were the ones who petitioned for the case,” Yuliya mumbles, fidgeting with her hands. “They immigrated to America shortly after that... haven’t really had the time to make another.”

    “And…” Yuliya says before her voice chokes up. She coughs loudly, hunched over the bench. “I… uh… haven’t been in the best shape of my life to talk... too much about him.”

    Oksana stares at her with a sad look, and Yuliya feels shame, like she’s making the MP pity her. She shouldn't have told Oksana her life story, make her think a lot of her off of the bat. She deserves to be alone, to repent for what she’s done. She’s not a hero.

    “Well, I can help you!” Oksana said softly, placing a warm hand on Yuliya’s shoulders. It doesn’t feel uncomfortable, it feels actually soothing. “How about we go back to your place and discuss this further?”

    Yuliya nods, blush creeping across her face. She hasn't had anyone in her apartment for a long time, and it feels exceptionally awkward to let someone in now… Still, the two of them stand up, Yuliya flinging her empty plate into the trash, and begin to walk down the halls of the Rada, Bdzi close by her owner. Oksana looked up at the bee pokemon, who moved a little closer, a curious look on her face.

    “I’ll be honest,” Oksana laughs, gesturing to Bdzi. “I’ve never seen a pokemon like that before… Where'd you get it?”

    “Oh, Bdzi was an old gift from my dad, he’s a big pokemon geek,” Yuliya says, and Bdzi hums triumphantly. “He said that her species lives mainly on islands in the Pacific Ocean... feeding off of exotic flowers or whatever.”

    “Wow…!” Oksana whistles, a crooked smile on her face. “She must be cold here, then!”

    “Not as much as you think,” Yuliya smiles, reaching for her coat and scarf. She wraps the scarf around her neck, and buttons up her coat, Bdzi humming all the while. “She’s pretty hardy, and hides in my scarf most of the time, hehehe!”

    “Huh,” Oksana mumbles, slipping her dark ski jacket on, and opening the door for Yuliya. Bdzi huddles into Yuliya's scarf at the blast of night time cold, and the two girls begin to walk down the bright streets of Kiev. “I’m not as cool as you, I just have a growlithe at home, pretty typical pokemon, y’know…”

    “That's still cool,” Yuliya says, putting her hands in her pockets. She hears a distant caw-caw-caw of a murkrow, and her hand itches to retrieve Bdzi, and her body breaks out in a cold sweat.


    She holds her hands over her ears and grimaces, loud radio static and violent images running through her head. Of bodies sprawled on the fields of Donbass after fierce battles, covered in swarms of murkrow tearing at the flesh, their cawing echoing and overpowering the silence of the fields. Of murkrow attacking her with beaks and talons as she desperately tried to retrieve their bodies, dragging them by a cold foot or arm. She hunches over in the middle of the sidewalk, people walking past the two of them like nothing is happening.

    Oksana rushes over to the shaking woman, wrapping her arms around her in an attempt to comfort her. Yuliya shivers for a few moments, before gradually straightening up, blinking rapidly, grabbing her pokeball, and retrieving Bdzi with a flash of red, placing the ball back into her pocket.

    “Sorry,” Yuliya rasps, and Oksana looks up at her with concern written across her face. “I’m… not fond of murkrow… as you can see.”

    Oksana laughs, but Yuliya notes that her smile doesn’t quite reach her eyes, caught somewhere in the middle. She’s scared, anxious rather. Yuliya feels a pang of anger and disgust, mixing and churning within her belly. She tries her best to shake it off and leads Oksana deep down into the Metro station, to wait for a train.

    They reach Yuliya’s apartment complex after a long train ride with a bunch of middle aged drunk men, which is a cookie cutter building in all white, with clothes lines drifting from the balconies. Oksana doesn’t look very impressed, keeping a stoic face while walking through the lobby, and practically glaring at one of the receptionists. Yuliya thinks that it’s just how her face is when not showing emotion, no harm meant. As they enter the elevator and Yuliya plunks in her floor number, she’s hit by the feeling that Oksana is using her and her brother's case for her own interests. You couldn’t trust politicians with anything, her father had told her, they’d lie to you with a smile upon their maw and turn around and ruin your life.

    To be fair, he had witnessed the Islamic Revolution in Iran, and her grandfather, his father, was purged from society, tortured, and then executed for opposing the regime. He might have had a little bit of a bias there.

    “Oksana…?” Yuliya asked, leaning against the wall of the elevator.


    “W-Why are you helping me?” She stammers, internally berating her own fear leering from the corners of her mind, and Oksana glances back at her with an unreadable expression.

    “Because, if someone won’t look for him, who will?” Oksana says, a small smile gracing her face. Yuliya feels warm because of her, hopefully honest, sentiment, and smiles at her.

    “Oh.” Yuliya hums, before the doors are flung open, and the two walk to her apartment. As Oksana pulls the door open, Yuliya is suddenly aware of the dust, uncleaned plates and over all mess in her apartment, which Oksana peers at with an unreadable expression. Flustered, Yuliya stacks her dishes and places them in the sink, and opening the fridge and peering through.

    “Do you want a drink?” Yuliya asks, looking over at Oksana, who is still looking around. “I have juice, Coca Cola, vodka…”

    “Vodka is fine,” Oksana says, and Yuliya pours out two glasses for them. Oksana sits down at the gray counter and takes a sip of her drink.

    “So…” Oksana said, putting her glass down on the counter with a clatter. “What happened to you two in Alchevsk?”

    Yuliya explains the mortar attack in length, trying her best not to fall into a hallucination or violent panic attack in front of Oksana. All that happens is that she recalls the scene of her screaming and bloody brother being lead away on a stretcher by the same men in dark uniforms who kidnapped her. She chases this image with a gulp of vodka, the burn of it going down both distracting and refocusing her mind.

    “Jesus,” Oksana whispered, looking up at Yuliya. “So that's the last time you saw him?”

    “Yep,” Yuliya says, somewhat mournfully. She moves a strand of hair out of her eyes, trying to refocus her mind. “When I escaped… I looked for him in the cells… but I found no one.”

    “Do you have anything that could help us find out what happened to him?”

    Yuliya’s mind flashes to the papers, and she briefly debates showing her them. What if she thinks she's gone completely insane and faked them all? What if she uses them for her own political gain, making the two Bousaids into martyrs for the war effort, plastering their faces on posters? However…

    “I do,” Yuliya nods, pulling out the wad of papers, separating them into two piles. One for Yuliya, one for her brother. Oksana’s eyes widen, and her eyes go back and forth from the woman and the papers. “They’re completely in English. I can read a little bit of the first page if you want.”

    “Absolutely.” Oksana nods very quickly, eyes so wide they might as well pop from her skull. Yuliya breathes in and out shakily and takes a swig of vodka.

    Yuliya reads what she can of the first page, watching Oksana’s expression change into a mixture of shock, horror, and confusion. Her voice shakes as she reads, fingers trembling at the mental effort of remembering that the people who captured her knew almost everything about her.

    “That’s all I can read,” Yuliya concludes, and the politician just stares at her with wide eyes and a gaping mouth. “I wish I could tell you that they got something wrong… but… it's all true. They know where my mother and father were born, my address, ****, they even know my weight.... They know my whole life.”

    Yuliya shivers at the thought, before downing another gulp of vodka, focusing on the burn, traveling down her gullet. Something in her brain is telling her to pour another glass, slam more down until you forget everything, but she puts the glass down.

    “Who do you think they are?” Oksana asks softly, hand on her chin. “I thought that Russia might have taken you, before, but now…”

    “I… don't know,” Yuliya muttered, rubbing the bridge of her nose, lost in thought. “The man who inspected me spoke awful Ukrainian, but he could be from anywhere… All I know is that the organization uses English in their documentation, so that could mean it's an American or English militia, or maybe consist of multiple nationalities… Who knows?”

    “This is all so bizarre…” Oksana says, looking very thoughtful. “If this isn't all one big red herring, this means that there's a militia working with the separatists that we don't know about! If we don't identify them fast…” Oksana trails off, and Yuliya grimaces.

    “What I’m saying, is that you have valuable information with you,” Oksana said, smiling warmly. “Are you trying to translate it?”

    “Yeah,” Yuliya nods, fidgeting with her fingers. She reaches over and takes a sip of her vodka. “Why?

    “Well,” Oksana said, moving closer to Yuliya, who flushes at the threat of contact. “I want to help you. This isn't something you should do alone, especially since it upsets you so much. So, I want to take a burden off of your shoulders.”

    Yuliya feels comforted by Oksana’s words. It's the first time since her service that someone has really looked out for her, or tried to bond with her, other than her pokemon. The lack of that had itched within her heart, and now that it was satisfied, she felt herself melting at the warmth.

    She wipes the tears out of the corners of her eyes.

    “Thank you.” She whispers, before she's interrupted by a flapping of wings as Raffu lands on her counter, looking over at Oksana with a curious expression. Yuliya laughs at the politicians shocked expression as the hawk pokemon chirps loudly, and taps his talon impatiently.

    “I hope you'll excuse me,” Yuliya smiles, walking back to the fridge. She does the usual, defrosts mouse, chops its head off, and walks the plate to her bedroom, so Oksana isn’t disgusted by Raffu’s eating habits.

    “So,” Oksana says, after Yuliya returns, massaging her hands. “How about we try and gather together some information tomorrow at the Rada, at around 11 o'clock? I’ll talk to my party leader and see what we can do, alright?”

    “That’s fine,” Yuliya says, a smile creeping across her face.

    “Do you have a mobile phone?” Oksana asks, and Yuliya nods, before walking over to the couch and picking up a dusty iPhone from the dark blue coffee table. Oksana watches with a smile as she dusts the phone off with the back of her hand, pouting all the while.

    “Not much of a phone person, are you?” She grins, and Yuliya nods sadly.

    “None of my friends… are left…” Yuliya rasps, and the smile falls off of Oksana’s face as she realizes what she said. “I didn’t really have anyone to… call before…”

    “I’m sorry,” Oksana whispers, before forcing a crooked smile on her face. “Well, now you have me!”

    “Yeah.” Yuliya hums, and the two exchange phone numbers after Yuliya turns her phone on, having shut it off a month ago. Oksana walks towards the front of the room, slipping her ski jacket on, before looking back at Yuliya.

    “So, see you tomorrow!” Oksana says, her familiar nose scrunching grin on her face. She waggles her finger at Yuliya. “Don’t be late!”

    “Bye!” Yuliya waves, peeking out the doorway as Oksana leaves. As she leaves her sight, Yuliya is suddenly hit with a feeling of immense dread, as if she opened something that could lead to her eventual downfall. She swallows, trying to force a lump down her throat.

    “...Be safe.”
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2017
  7. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine Gone. Not coming back.

    This is definitely a very interesting start! I like the wealth of geographic and cultural specificity, and the way you show a whole bunch of different issues interacting with each other: war, ethnicity, geography, and so on. I was a little hesitant about the first chapter, but the story seems to have found its feet by this point; interesting things are happening, characters are starting to get a little more rounded out, and in general a sort of narrative direction has emerged. Which is to say, it's looking pretty good.

    My main hesitation about the first chapter was the way some of the information is laid out. You bombard the reader with a lot of data about Yuliya a little too early, I think. Where your characterisation works best is in the moments where you attach the information to actual events – the bit where she goes to the couch, for instance, naturally leads on to a paragraph about her sleeping patterns and self-loathing, and I think if some more of Yuliya's backstory were told that way, it would come across much more naturally. The information in the early paragraph about Nazar could be brought in when Yuliya hallucinates him, for instance – that would both make his initial appearance more striking and help to tighten up the structure of the chapter.

    Chapters two and three are much better in this regard, I think; we learn a lot about Yuliya, but because we learn it as the thoughts occur to her, it feels much more natural and it's way more engaging as a result. Structurally speaking, they work a lot better, and they start taking the plot in some interesting directions, too. There's a lot of potential here, and some really good writing; I just think that the first chapter might benefit from a little tightening up, is all. I'll definitely keep an eye out to see where this story's headed!
  8. JX Valentine

    JX Valentine Ever-Discordant

    Hope you don't mind me drawing comparisons here, but a lot of what makes this fic interesting is the same as what makes snowstorm on the yellow sea so interesting. I know other folks have brought up how unique a Pokémon fic set in the Ukraine is, but honestly, that's its biggest selling point. The setting is so gritty yet grounded in some level of reality, and the amount of detail you've put into it (from the structure of the Ukrainian military to the Middle Eastern political conflicts of the 1970s) is pretty impressive, given the subject matter at hand. That and it's simply a unique take on the concept of setting a fic in the real world. In most cases, when someone sets out to create a fic based on the real world, nine times out of ten, it's a journey fic. Granted, there are some exceptions, but ... welcome to the exception category, I suppose. Rather than create a journey fic, you've created this entire military drama (Thriller? Conspiracy plot? Too early to tell, I think, but I'm eying those stacks of papers Yulia has to translate.) starring the poster child for PTSD. How can I not be utterly fascinated by the premise?

    (Granted, I might've liked a little stronger ties to Pokémon, as it seems Bdzi is just kinda hanging out as an incidental thing to tie the fic to the franchise, but I'll be fair because it's still pretty early in the fic.)

    But more importantly, the setting. Not only is it tied to the obviously hefty amount of research you've done, but it's fascinating to see it tied to Yulia's state of mind. Like ... sure, you could say that the drab, cut-and-paste apartment complexes looming over comparatively squat, old, dusty historical facades is merely a product of the sort of Soviet-style cultural mashup that pervades Eastern Europe, but on the other hand, we look at Yulia's apartment—with its dust, its uncleaned plates, her neglected iPhone—and we look at how we're introduced to Yulia (holed up in her apartment, struggling to control her own mind), and it just seems to make more sense that the picture of Ukraine we're getting is more or less colored by Yulia's perspective. It's almost like wherever she goes, the setting morphs around her into this mess of gray and anxiety because that's just how she feels. Whether or not that's intentional is another matter, of course, but if it's intentional, it's a great way to portray who she is.

    That said, though, there are a few things I should probably note:

    1. It may be important to go over your work with a beta reader. All of your chapters bounce back and forth between past tense and present tense within the same scene. (As in, it'd make sense if, during the italicized parts, you decided to use one tense over the other, but oftentimes, you might have "jumped" and "turned" just a paragraph before "manages" and "says.") Additionally, other words (such as "camaraderie") are spelled incorrectly ("camradery," in this case), and comma issues crop up here and there. A beta should help you fix up those errors, especially the constantly shifting tenses.

    2. You've nearly got it with dialogue but not quite. For the sake of ease, it might be a good idea to take a look at this guide, as it goes over what a dialogue tag is, which should help clarify things immensely. The only thing it doesn't cover is what isn't a dialogue tag, and that can be summed up with "if it's a standalone sentence and not simply a descriptor of who's speaking when, then it's not a dialogue tag." (This means, for example, "Oksana nods" is not a dialogue tag.)

    3. I'm actually inclined to agree with Cutlerine ... but to be more specific, it's not just the idea that you introduce a lot about Yulia. Instead, it's also that some of the info you present is a little bit on the infodumpy side. For example, whenever Yulia explains to Oksana who her parents were, where she went to school—even what she's been through, it all feels like it's more explaining to us all of this information, rather than simply explaining to Oksana. (This goes especially for the information regarding her parents and college education, as it doesn't seem like it has any relevance to the conversation.) I actually felt like this was a bit of a weakness in snowstorm as well, where characters would opt to tell each other about themselves and their backgrounds, rather than let the story tell us. In short, you rely a lot on dialogue to convey information when it might be stronger if you relied on narration instead. So, rather than simply have Yulia tell us about the inspection or rather than have the narration summarize the shelling and kidnapping in a paragraph to get back to the conversation, it would be far stronger if we could see the attack that killed Yulia and scarred her so badly take place. That way, we have a better foothold into who she is and thus a better chance at establishing an emotional connection to her. (And this kinda still stands even if you were planning on revealing this later in the story because the way it's referred to both in and out of dialogue implies that what happened should be common enough knowledge to show it in fragments at the very least. Like, if you're going to summarize what happened in a paragraph, you might as well show it, you know?)

    But! Other than those three things, I do have to say this is an interesting beginning as well, and it does some really neat and subtle things with both character and setting. Mostly setting because aww yeah, gritty, real-world stuff.
  9. DreamSayer

    DreamSayer Name's Adam.

    Chapter 2 opens with what seemed to be a flashback, but was actually a flashback in a dream. We got to see more of Yuliya’s backstory and how she was interrogated. It was heartbreaking to see her so broken that she couldn’t even emote nor even fake it.

    Afterwards, we’re greeted with her morning routine. She gets herself some breakfast and feeds her pokemon whom continue to just be adorable. I almost forgot that ruffa was a rufflet there for a second. Silly me.

    While not a whole lot happened in this chapter, it was still good to read. Her constant anxiety and ptsd are always interesting to see play out. And I must say, you really handle it pretty well for that matter. The way she can easily be overwhelmed by external forces and has to take breathing exercises just to maintain her calm. It’s commendable.
  10. Reviewing chapter 3 here.

    So this chapter was pretty cool! We got introduced to MP Oksana, who is really interesting in that she's in the Politician position - a position that is often stereotyped as negative and is even feared by Yuliya herself - but contrary to stereotypes, she appears to genuinely care for Yuliya and comes from a background herself that isn't too unlike Yuliya's, which is a really interesting choice for her character!

    Also, we have a cool goal now! I'm really interested to see whether Oksana and Yuliya actually find Yuliya's brother later on, and the fact that you've successfully set up my intrigue means that you've written the situation really well. Kudos to you on that one!

    However, I did spot something with the chapter, in that you kept switching between past and present tense. Throughout most of the fic this wasn't an issue, but near the beginning the fic kept switching tenses rapidly, sometimes within the same sentence. I'd recommend doing a little more proofreading on that if you want to stop this from happening.

    Overall this fic is still going strong, and I wish you luck in writing it!
  11. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    When I clicked on this I was totally expecting something Egyptian-themed, but getting a story set in the Ukraine was a pleasant surprise! I have to admit I don't know a ton about the history of the country, to the point where I'm not totally sure what conflict Yuliya's supposed to have fought in or whether it's one you made up specifically for this story. For a little while I was actually confused by the modern trappings of the story, because Lyudmila Pavlichenko is who I think of when I think "female Ukranian sniper," so for a while I thought the story was set in a much earlier era. So, basically, I'll be pretty easy to impress with all your research, because I know basically nothing. :p

    And you definitely have done your research! All the references to political events anding figures was a bit head-spinning for me, but not in a bad way. Yuliya lives in a different place in the world than me, and so what's familiar common knowledge to her isn't going to line up with my own spheres of understanding. Probably my favorite detail was how Yuliya was mystified by the documents she'd stolen because they were in English, which was some bizarre moonspeak nonsense to her. It's a cute reversal for an English-speaking reader to encounter. (Although if we're in the age of iPhones, couldn't she have at least tried to Google Translate that ****? I know it would probably be tedious to type all that English on a Ukranian keyboard, but still...)

    I would say my favorite thing about the story so far is Oksana, actually. She has such a fierce personality, and it really shines through even in the brief time she's been in the story so far. I can totally get why Yuliya warmed up to her so quickly. I don't totally buy her warming up to such an extent that she's willing to share the top-secret documents about her brother after just that one meeting, but it gets the plot rolling, so I can't really complain too much. In any case, I like Oksana, and I think she and Yuliya have a great dynamic. Yuliya's an interesting character in her own right, but I think having a more forceful, energetic character to play off will really help the story from getting too bogged down in the slough of Yuliya's depression. So, basically, I hope Oksana doesn't end up getting disappeared for looking into the wrong things next chapter or anything like that. :p

    I also like the dynamic between Yuliya and Bdzi, which is of course totally heartwarming. In particular my heart melted a bit at the description of the little bed Yuliya had made up for Bdzi; it makes me think of that one Tumblr post with the fanart of a cutiefly with a matchbox for a bed. In general that evolutionary line is just too tiny and too adorable, and you're certainly capturing the adorable part just fine. I also like Yuliya's little mouse-decapitating ritual with Raffu. It's a great detail of the kind of thing the owner of that kind of pokémon would have to put up with. In general you do a great job of the little details of Yuliya's life, both as it relates to her living in the Ukraine and as it relates to her owning pokémon.

    I would like to see more pokémon content here, though. Up to this point you could easily replace all the pokémon in the story with mundane animals without changing anything. The central plot doesn't appear to have anything to do with pokémon, either, being more of a government conspiracy thing, although they could certainly get worked in somehow. Living with super-powered magical monsters would definitely have an impact on daily life and culture, though, and it would be lovely to see a bit more of that kind of worldbuilding in this story. How does warfare change, for example, when it might possibly incorporate pokémon? (Or be against pokémon?) Overall, I'd like to get a stronger sense of how poké-Ukraine differs from Ukraine-Ukraine.

    I was also kind of weirded out that Yuliya was allowed to nearly forget when she was supposed to show up and receive a medal. If she failed to appear, or appeared but looked like the haggard, emotionally drained person she is, it would be an embarassment to the state as much as to herself. I kinda thought they would have sent somebody to make sure she was presentable and to get her to the ceremony if necessary.

    Last thing--you do have a fair number of grammar and punctuation issues in this story. In particular you shift tenses all the time, sometimes even within the same sentence (e.g. "Yuliya reaches for her pokéball, and released Bdzi with a click of the white button."), which is quite disorienting. There are also some issues with dialogue punctuation, "its" versus "it's," and minor typos. It would probably be best to look for a beta reader who can work with you one-on-one until you get e.g. the tense shifting nailed down and can confidently fix it in your own proofreading. But here's at least one quick note on an easy rule to remember for the future: generally for numbers ten and less, you write the number out instead of using the numeral in the text. It looks a little strange to have something like "2 hours" hanging out in the middle of the narration.

    Anyhow, you've set up an interesting mystery in the disappearance of Yuliya's brother and the possible involvement of some non-Russian faction in her imprisonment. It looks like the plot is really going to kick off in the next chapter, which is great. I'm not totally sure which direction the story is going--murder mystery? political thriller?--but I think you're off to a good start. Good luck with the next chapter!
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2017
  12. roule

    roule take it all or leave it... I Feel You

    Thanks to everyone's responses so far! I really appricate Jax, Cutlerine, Nerdy, Dream, and Negrek's responses. I didn't even catch the whole tense shifting thing, but now that it's mentioned it seems so egregious and obvious!

    Similarly, with the pokemon, I have somewhat of an excuse...? Across The Delta wasn't always a pokemon story, and therefore I have had some trouble writing them in. However, I think that the criticism given has given me an idea on what to do, so thanks!

    (Also, I promise that Oksana isn't going away :p)

    So thank you all for your help in improving my writing skills and becoming better. Now, without further ado...



    "Yesterday, a landmark deal involving rebel leaders in Donbass and Cri-"

    A hand reaches from under a tan woolen blanket over her bed, and Oksana slams a palm onto her bedside radio, turning it off with a click. She sits up groggily, as if she's had a fitful sleep, tossing and turning judging by her messy, short dark hair. Her sleeping outfit isn't much, a loose fitting, neon green t-shirt and dark brown sweats. She blinked rapidly and tried to gather her bearings, scratching an itch on her chest. Her head pounds a little, not a hangover per say, but a piercing one under the eyebrow from a lack of caffeine, and her stomach was hollow, the last meal she had being the fancy awards dinner at the Rada.

    With a heave, she slips out of her bed and walks down the hardwood floors of her house towards the kitchen, feet pattering softly. When she reaches the white, rustic looking kitchen, she fiddles with the coffee maker, and grabs a cup of yogurt from the fridge. Almost everything in her fridge has run out, and she makes a mental note to go to the market after meeting with Yuliya later.

    After the coffee is done, she pours it into a mug and walks over to the living room. Voho, her growlithe, is laying on the couch, fast asleep and snoring loudly. Oksana smiles, and gently sits down next to him, turning the television on. The screen flashes to a group of reporters around a metal table, four men four women, on the tail end of a conversation.

    "Now onto Lieutenant Yuliya Bousaid," One of the female hosts, a young woman with dark hair to her chin, smiles. The screen splits to one with another woman, blonde and somewhat older, in front of the Rada. "The former sniper was honored last night at the Verkhovna Rada with the Hero of Ukraine award. Our reporter Alexandra Derkach is at the Rada building with more."

    Oksana watches as the screen cuts to a picture of Yuliya saluting the president, just before she's given the award. The news proceeds to give a rundown of Yuliya's past, nothing she didn't hear from the girl herself or various other articles. However, the screen switches to one very important clip, and Oksana finds herself leaning towards the TV.

    The next clip was of a happy looking Yuliya at a military base in Kiev next to a man about her age, with similar features to Yuliya, and a short hairstyle as well, wearing the same trooper uniform. The man chats up the camera, eyes squinting somewhat from the bright sun and he gesticulates with his hands. Oksana isn't paying attention to what the man is saying, just looking at Yuliya's face. She smiles -beams!- at him, hand over her eyes as they flicker between the camera and the man. A little yellow box appears on the bottom of the screen, reading: "Major Amir Bousaid".

    Oksana finds herself squinting at the video of Amir, thinking to herself. His sister seemed very committed to the idea that her brother was still alive, in the clutches of separatists. Like the kind of stuff that happens in big budget American movies where everything works out with no loose ends. And Oksana wants to believe her wholeheartedly, to help her find him. But, Yuliya also seemed rather… off. It would make sense, Oksana knew personally that the fighting in Donbass had been unforgiving, and while Oksana had been beaten and psychologically tortured to some degree… Yuliya had it much worse. Much, much worse. Maybe, Yuliya had her mind warped by the trauma, real events and fake stories from movies melding into one truth. Maybe she was just delusional. All she knew is that Yuliya could just be trying to pull Oksana's leg with this, or just pull the other woman into sharing her delusion.

    She's cut out of her thoughts by her phone vibrating against the table. Oksana sighs after looking at the caller ID, rubs the bridge of her nose, and picks up the phone.

    "What is it this time…?" Oksana sighs, and out of the corner of her eye she sees Volo stir, legs kicking.

    "I see you're as rude as ever, Sana." An older sounding woman rasped out of the speakers, and Oksana rolled her eyes. "Didn't sleep much, did you?"

    "I slept ****ing fine, thank you very much." Oksana sneers, rubbing her eyes with the heels of her palms. "Get to the point. What are you calling me about?"

    "Oh, nothing really! I was just watching TV this morning after waking up... and I happened to see that you made a friend at the Rada last night!"

    Oksana sniffs in confusion, before looking up at the TV and rolling her eyes. It's the picture of Yuliya saluting her at the Rada, back straight and face tight, with the politician's green eyes wide in surprise.

    Of course there was a picture taken of it, of course, of course… Why wouldn't there be? It was a special moment between two former soldiers, showing a bond or something, like they'd knew each other before. She expects it to be on every news channel in the world by now, and she just knows that she's gonna be swarmed with interviewers asking her about it.

    "Yeah, so? Are you jealous or something?"

    "No, no." The voice continues, laughing loudly. Volo sits up now, his eyes drooping. He yawns loudly, showing off his sharp teeth and pink tongue. "I'm just glad that you're on the news for a good reason, for once."

    Oksana flinched. She'd gotten that talk from her before, over off the cuff remarks and loud speeches in the Rada, having laced most of them with profanity. She'd seen some of these articles, saying that she was brainwashed during her captivity or just plain crazy.

    She growls under her breath, scratching at her face.

    "So, I'm just calling to… congratulate you."

    "For what, Vira?" Oksana growls, rubbing her scalp painfully. "Because I didn't swear at someone for once in my ****ing life?"

    "No. For making yourself look good for once in your career."

    With that, Vira hangs up.

    "Self centered *****." Oksana mutters, slamming her phone down onto the table. Volo stares at her with concern as she covers her head with her hands and groans loudly. Oksana looks up at the TV, the screen now to the blonde reporter, ready to give her remarks.

    "Tymoshenko's representatives have not commented on her relationship with Lieutenant Bousaid." The reporter says, shivering in the early morning cold. "However, the Fatherland party leader Vira Sadovyi has said that the two merely have a 'mutual respect' for one another."

    Oksana sighs under her breath, and runs her sweaty palms down her face. At least Vira wasn't trying to play up this whole event, make the two seem like they were best friends who paint each other's nails and go out on coffee dates or some **** like that. Still, she doubts anyone will buy it…

    The politician stands up, her legs wobbling with disuse. She walks out of the room and finishes her daily routine, brushes her teeth, puts on her outfit of an open suit jacket, dark pants, and a white dress shirt. Adjusting her jacket, Oksana walks back into the kitchen with her dark suitcase, and Volo climbs down from the couch, tail wagging quickly. Oksana smiles down at him, and grabs his dark collar and leash, clipping them on.

    For once all spring, the walk to the Rada isn't shockingly cold, like it was most of the month, but actually warm like spring is supposed to be…! So, the streets are full of people and pokemon, Oksana has to tug Volo away from attacking some poor schoolgirl's fennekin, who yips at them as Oksana rushes him past.

    "Bad growlithe!" Oksana hisses, and Volo looks up at her with big, sad eyes. "What have I told you about attacking passerby, huh?"

    Volo whimpers sadly, and the politician sighs, rubbing the bridge of her nose painfully. She knows that Volo just wants to make her proud by winning a battle, but it's still irritating to drag him out of every little scrap he gets into. The two walk further towards the Rada, Oksana barely dodging a pokemon battle between two kid's pokemon, one that appears to be a dark salamander like creature, and another ghost-like pokemon connected to a golden mask . Both trainers seem to be exuding as much effort as possible, and she wants to stay and watch, but work prevails over entertainment.

    Oksana reaches her office in the Rada in record time, shuffling in through the dark door with "MP OKSANA TYMOSHENKO, FATHERLAND" printed across it in dark lettering. It's not much, about the size of a large closet, with a crummy wooden desk, black office chair, a mint green pokemon bed that Volo immediately settles in, sighing loudly. A photograph is hanging precariously uneven on the wall of Vira, and Oksana after her release, from about two years ago. Vira is smiling at the camera as she sits primly in her wheelchair, dark blonde hair put up into her familiar braid, next to a hollow and sickly looking Oksana with her short military haircut, bags dark under her eyes, more visible with her pale skin.

    Prison life hadn't been good to her. When that photo was taken, Oksana had dropped from her usual 50 kilograms to only about 35 kilograms. The separatists fed her very little, and what food she was fed was of poor quality, sometimes she found maggots that crawled in the bread they gave her for breakfast. When she stopped eating out of protest, they had beat her with tire irons, tortured her with electric type pokemon, and force fed her. Her poor mother had told her that she had freaked out when Oksana's ransom video was released, which showed her in a baggy orange jumpsuit, her arms skinny and gaunt. Her captors stood beside her, armed with Soviet era rifles, as she read the piece of paper in her hands. It had stated that the Ukrainian government would only get her alive if they released 15 separatist prisoners and returned them to Donbass. Otherwise, Oksana would have been shot in the head and had her body thrown into the nearest body of water. Vira was one of the first politicians that campaigned for her release, and had her elected to the Rada to help bolster her chances of survival. After a few months and a lot of diplomacy, she was released alive, and now, here she was...

    Sighing loudly, Oksana settles into her chair, and flips through the stack of papers on her desk, mostly bills making their way about parliament, some about the EU, some about retaking Donbass, and a lot about Russian sanctions. She feels her interest sap away as she reads further and further, and her mind turns to Yuliya again. Is she up yet? What time does she usually wake up at? Oksana always wakes up early, around 5:30ish, but that's just because of her job. Does Yuliya have a job?

    Oksana tries her best to distract herself from her thoughts by reading further. Vira would be extremely upset if she went out to vote on something without knowing anything about the content of the bills. Another angry phone call from her. Oksana grimaces at the thought of being chewed out indirectly. Not again.

    There's a knock at the door, and Volo sits up on his bed, growling at the person on the other side. Oksana blinks in confusion, peering at the door through narrowing eyes.

    "Come in." She grunts, hopefully loud enough to be audible through the door.

    A man around the same age as her walks in, wearing similar clothes, with a short blonde haircut and smug smile on his face. A blue monkey-like pokemon hangs on his shoulder, chattering loudly with a grin on its face. He's a member of some other party, maybe part of the opposition. However, she doesn't really recognize him, not one of the many MP's she's screamed at. Oksana raises her eyebrows, a stoic expression on her face.

    "Well, well, well," The man says, looking around him. "I sure wasn't expecting a small office space like this from Fatherland's rising MP."

    "Yeah, yeah, **** off." She says, in complete deadpan. This doesn't seem to surprise or unnerve the other politician, who softens his smile somewhat. Oksana can still see the venom lacing his eyes though, as if she was below him.

    "No need to be so rude, I just wanted to say hello, and introduce myself," He grins, and the monkey chatters at the barking Volo, almost as if it's mocking him. "I'm Pyotr Sirko, from the Motherland Defense Party."

    "Huh," Oksana hums, and watches as the monkey spits a jet of water at Volo, who responds in turn by lobbing a ball of fire back at it, which causes the monkey to fall backwards and land with a thump on the carpet. Oksana sighs angrily, resisting the urge to scream at this man for attacking her pokemon, and retrieves Volo into his pokeball, placing it on her desk.

    "So," Oksana says, fidgeting with her pen. "What is it that you want?"

    "You know, Oksana…" Pyotr smiles, petting his pokemon softly. "I saw that picture of you with that soldier, was her name… Yuliya Bousaid?"

    Great. Oksana groans and runs a hand through her hair.

    "We aren't ****ing friends, if that's what you're wondering," Oksana explains, rubbing the bridge of her nose. "She's a nice woman and all, but I barely know her. I'm trying to help her find her brother, that's all."

    "Do you actually believe anything she says?"

    "Huh?" Oksana says, looking up at Pyotr with wide eyes. His expression does not change.

    "You heard me," He says, moving closer to her desk. "Do you believe any of that girl's stories?"

    "...Yeah?" Oksana says incredulously, wheeling away from Pyotr. "

    Pyotr laughs loudly, an ugly sounding laugh that makes Oksana wince.

    "Haven't you heard the story passing around in the Rada?" Pyotr asks, tilting his head somewhat. "Yuliya's a psychotic freak. The military report about the mortar attack said that after she came back to the base she was like a robot. Didn't emote, didn't show any signs of sadness or distress, nothing! The officer interviewing her recommended that she'd be tested for PTSD and schizophrenia!"

    "I'm sorry," Oksana says through grit teeth, watching the smile falter on Pyotr's face. "Have you served in Donbass before?"

    "...Well, no, but I-"

    "Do you know what happens out there? What soldiers have seen out there?"

    "What does that have to do with anything?"

    "Well, smartass, I was one of those soldiers," Oksana hisses as she pushes forward, and Pyotr backs away in shock at her reaction. "I've seen what Yuliya has seen. People blown to bits from mortar fire or sniper fire. Watched my comrades bleed out on the battlefield, unable to do anything to help. I've even watched separatists commit war crimes and unleash packs of feral zangoose and pyroar onto entire squadrons to either roast them alive or tear them to shreds."

    "Maybe I can understand why Yuliya acts like that, alright? And maybe you don't know the **** that she's been through! She lost her friends and her own brother out there, it's only natural she'd come back scarred!"

    "Listen, I'm capable of making my own ****ing rational decisions," Oksana finishes, gripping Volo's pokeball tightly. "I'll stop trusting her if I feel like she's being irrational. I don't need some smug privileged ****er from some other party telling me what to do!"

    "Now, get the **** out of my office."

    Pyotr obeys her at first, stepping cautiously away from her desk. However, as he reaches the door, he turns to face Oksana.

    "Trusting her is the worst mistake you'll ever make," He sneers, and the monkey chatters angrily at her. "Remember this."

    With that, he slams the door behind him. Oksana groans loudly, before the chirpy sound of her ringtone starts playing as her phone vibrates against the desk. She reaches over, and answers it.

    "Oksana Tymoshenko speaking." She grunts, rubbing her eyes.

    "Sana, where the hell are you?" Inna, her chief of staff and younger sister, demands. Oksana flinches. "Voting begins in 10 minutes! You should get your sorry *** down here!"

    Oksana jumps out of her seat, and runs out of her office, apologizing profusely. She tucks Volo's pokeball into her suit jacket pocket as she dashes through the halls of the Rada, feeling stares on her. Finally, she makes it to the doors of the parliament halls, where Vira and her sister, a tall woman with long dark hair, are waiting. Inna's pale, doll like face visibly shows her annoyance with her older sister as Inna turns Vira's wheelchair to face her, and Oksana can see the boredom lacing the older woman's expression, her chin in the palm of her hand.

    "Sorry," Oksana huffs, adjusting her suit jacket. "Some idiot interrogated me over the picture with Lieutenant Yuliya Bousaid."

    "Oh?" Vira says, raising an eyebrow. "Interesting. Was he a reporter?"

    "No, politician." Oksana sighs, rolling her into the hall. Said hall is accented with light wood, with wooden chairs with red fabric circling towards a large podium towards the end of the room. "Some ******* from the 'Motherland Defence Party'. Told me not to trust anything she says because she fought a war." Vira snorts, rubbing her nose.

    "By the way," Oksana says, running a hand through my hair. "I talked with Lieutenant Bousaid last night. Her parents tried to start a search for him a few months ago, but the military refused their request."

    "So?" Vira snorts, looking up at Oksana with an expression of annoyance.

    "Well, I wanted to help bring attention to her brother's cause. Like you did to mine. And I want the support of the party in doing it."

    "Hm," Vira sighs, covering her mouth with her hand. "I'll consider it, but only if you can get Yuliya to work with you."

    "Already done. But.. what should I do next?" Oksana asks, raising her eyebrows and tilting her head to the side.

    Vira looks thoughtfully, before responding:

    "Get her to recall the events of the mortar attack on a recording. We'll request the military files, see if something doesn't add up. Then, I'll decide from there."

    "Alright," Oksana smiles, moving Vira to her seat. "Thanks."

    "No problem," Vira smiles, crossing her arms. "I'm actually ecstatic that you're making friends, Sana."

    Oksana rolls her eyes as she walks to her seat, across from the seat of her party leader. She sits down, slips on her ugly looking grey headphones, and waits for the bills to be read out in full, and voting to commence.

    Voting takes up a good two hours, which mainly consists of arguments between parties over the use of Russian sanctions, or decrying the 'Europfication' of Ukraine. Another fight almost breaks out between MPs of the 'Ukraine Forward!' party and the Communist Party, but they are quickly subdued. Oksana tries her best to refuse to get into an argument by telling herself how angry Yuliya, Inna, and Vira will be, and it works for once. So, when the familiar dismissal announcement begins, she feels satisfied and proud of herself for staying above the influence of the allure of petty fighting.

    After talking with Vira and Inna for a few minutes about the bills in the Rada, and getting her stuff from her office, she walks out of the building. Then, she promptly covers her eyes from the bright, blinding sun, before releasing Volo and putting him on a leash. Oksana scans the horizon, before she spots a familiar, tall figure standing with a bird on her hand, looking around aimlessly. She approaches Yuliya, waving to her excitedly before the other woman notices her.

    Yuliya is dressed in a dark turtleneck and dark jeans, her dark hair pulled up into a ponytail. Her ribombee is floating around her head in circles, and Oksana can slightly hear what sounds to be happy noises. The rufflet is perched on Yuliya's gloved hand, his head turned to one side, looking curiously at Volo, who is behaving himself for once.

    "Hey!" Yuliya smiles, adjusting her ponytail with her free hand. "How's it going?"

    "Oh, it's been okay," Oksana sniffs, stretching her arms. "Pretty tiring day though, doing all that political ****. What have you been up to?"

    "Nothing really," Yuliya shrugs as the two walk down the street. "I went to the mosque for a service... got breakfast at a local coffee place, but nothing much beyond that..."

    "Any special reason you went?" Oksana asks, with a smile.

    "Ramadan starts in a week..." Yuliya smiles back, and her rufflet chirps at her. "Plus... I haven't been there in… about a month?"

    "Still," Yuliya sighs, the smile becoming more sad. "It's gonna be weird to do, now... It'll be my first Ramadan without my parents... or Amir… It'll be pretty lonely, fasting by myself..."

    "Well, I could keep you company," Oksana suggests, placing a hand on Yuliya's shoulder. Yuliya's ribombee swirls around her head, looking over the politician curiously. "Though… I don't know much about Ramadan… I hope you can forgive me for that."

    "It's no problem... I can teach you about it."

    There's a moment of silence between the two, as the both walk further down the street. The two of them have to avoid another pokemon battle between a typhlosion and a rhydon, both destroying the surrounding storefronts and creating a major road block, judging by the loud continuous beeping from behind. In the distance, the two of them can hear sirens approaching. Oksana rubs the bridge of her nose in annoyance.

    "So, I talked to my party leader." Oksana says suddenly, after they pass by that scene. Yuliya blinks in surprise, and turns to face the politician. Her rufflet squawks in response, pulling on Oksana's suitcase strap before his owner makes him stop.


    "She said that you have the party's full support," Oksana says, and she watches Yuliya grin from ear to ear. "But, I have to record you talking about the attack in Alchevsk."

    Yuliya's smile falters somewhat, but she gathers her bearings after a second.

    "I'll do it," Yuliya says, with a hint of confidence. "But… I can't do it in public… only at home."

    "That's fine."

    Oksana swears she feels someone's eyes staring pointedly at her, as they walk away.

    She shakes it off as nerves.
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2017
  13. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine Gone. Not coming back.

    It feels like the plot is starting to get underway in this chapter, which is nice – I mean, not that it hasn't been interesting to speculate about what direction it's going to take, but now you're offering up a little more about that direction with Oksana's encounter with Pyotr, there's more to consider. That incident gives a kind of political thriller vibe, which is a genre that gets neglected (although I guess understandably so) in the field of pokémon fanfiction, so if that turns out to be the direction you're taking this, that'll be exciting. For me, anyway, and I'm sure I can't be the only person who likes to be thrilled politically. (… please never let me attempt to turn that phrase into a verb again.)

    I think some of the weaknesses already pointed out are kinda still present. There are a lot of small typos, like 'laying' for 'lying', 'doll like' for doll-like', and 'the' for 'they', among others, and some of the punctuation with dialogue tags is still a bit hit-and-miss. The dialogue itself does seem a little less pointedly functional – like, there are still parts where it seems like someone is saying something just so the reader gets some information, as when Yuliya slightly unnaturally says she went to the mosque on Lukianivska Street for a service instead of just saying that she went to the mosque (which would usually be enough for the other person to know what she meant), but there are other moments, as in Oksana's offer of company, that work more to establish character, and that's a definite improvement.

    There are still some places where information is a little forced, too, as in 'Inna, her chief of staff and younger sister, demands.' This is a perfectly valid place to introduce who Inna is, but you don't need to crush all that data into one sentence, you know? You can get it across to the reader without them feeling like you're forcing it on them if you pace it a little more naturally, maybe having the dialogue tag be something like 'demands the speaker' and then taking another sentence to say something like 'Oksana recognises the voice: it's Inna, her chief of staff and younger sister.' I've maybe taken too long over just one example here, but it's something you repeat in several other places, packing your sentences a little too densely with information and making them feel contrived as a result.

    My final bit of criticism would be about the pokémon battle that just seems to have broken out in the middle of the street and which Yuliya and Oksana have to walk around – like from their attitude, and that of the drivers whose way is blocked, it seems that this is something that just kinda happens now and again and which just has to be dealt with, and you already showed that people's pokémon in this world do occasionally just go for one another, but it feels like there should really be structures in place to deal with this kind of thing. Definitely before it leads to multiple storefronts being destroyed, anyway, which seems less like an everyday annoyance and more like a major problem. I think what I mean by that is, it's nice to see this kind of detail about the world, but you present it in a way that gives mixed messages: is it one of life's little annoyances, or is it an exceptional and dangerous situation? If the former, why is the city apparently not built to withstand it? If the latter, why are the drivers just honking their horns and waiting to get past instead of fleeing?

    All that said, though, I do appreciate the way that pokémon have insinuated themselves more deeply into the world in this chapter – in war and in peace. Something I find particularly interesting is the fact that virtually everyone has at least one pokémon as a companion, apparently at all levels of society. I wonder if there's a set of societal conventions surrounding that, or whether it's just a case of whatever each person has left over from their trainer journey, if that's even a thing for Poké!Ukraine? It'd be intriguing to see elements like that expanded on more; it'd do a lot to help dispel that okay so why is this a pokémon fic and not just an original story? feeling.

    Anyway! You've still got me wanting more, so that's definitely a positive point. Looking forward to seeing what political skulduggery comes next.
  14. ChloboShoka

    ChloboShoka Writer

    I really like how it's set in Ukraine because it's different as many pokemon fics are set in Japan or America or invented worlds. I like Yuliya's character and there's a lot of information about her. Yuliya made me think of Yulia from T.a.t.U, even though she's russian. At times I felt it was more of an original story than fan fiction as I felt we haven't seen much pokemon in it yet, but I don't see this as a negatice. I thought you did a good job showing the PTSD. The mentions of the Islamic revolution in Iran reminded me of a lady I used to look after. She moved to the UK to escape persecution. I felt my skin was crawling at the mention of maggots being in Oksana's breakfast.

    Nice work.
  15. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    Ah, so we're doing multiple POV's this story? I like getting a chance to see things from Oksana's perspective, and I like that she maybe doesn't have it together as much as Yuliya thinks.

    The introduction of Pyotr gives us the first hint of a real antagonist in this story. He's being super obvious about his intentions... is he just super dumb, or so used to people rolling over at the implication that something unpleasant could happen? He doesn't seem like someone who'd be able to give Yuliya and Oksana much trouble, at least on a personal level (he probably has friends in high places), but I imagine things will start getting more serious as the two of them start getting more serious, and uncovering more evidence of weird conspiracy stuff.

    I also liked to see more of the pokémon this time around! But yeah, I pretty much had the same reaction as Cutlerine, why are people treating this fight like no big deal if it's causing major property damage, that kind of thing can't be routine or the city would perpetually be in ruins. Personally, I'm curious about where the pokémon come from. Is there a "wild" where they live, or are they a part of human cities as well? Do they generally leave people alone, or do humans always need to be prepared to defend themselves? Are there gyms and trainers and all of that, or is the culture totally different?

    ...those are all kind of worldbuilding details that probably have nothing to do with your story, so I'm not expecting you to answer those questions within the text of the story by any means! They're just the kinds of questions I'm thinking about myself, and maybe they can help you get a focus on how pokémon play into your setting.

    As far as mechanical issues go, yeah, they're kind of still there. In particular I find the tense shifts distracting; they happen quite a lot, and I think they're a particularly disorienting kind of grammar problem. The first paragraph is all in the present tense, for example, except the sentence "She blinked rapidly..." The last sentence is half present ("Her head pounds a little") and half past ("her stomach was hollow").

    I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes as the plot starts to ramp up! I imagine Yuliya and Oksana are going to be in serious danger soon, whether they realize it or not.
  16. roule

    roule take it all or leave it... I Feel You

    thanks to everyone for revieiwng so far!! i'm glad that i'm still impressing a lot of people, hehe.

    thanks for reminding me about the technical stuff. even though i use a actual grammar correction tool and try my best to be good about it instead of running it through google doc's correction service and calling it a day, i still slip up sometimes :(.

    also re: the weird scene towards the end of chapter 4: thanks for pointing it out! looking back on it now, it kinda feels weird, and im probably going to edit it out completely because it holds no plot relevance what so ever!



    Yuliya's apartment isn't any different from yesterday, Oksana notes as she enters the door. It's still pretty sloppy, loose papers and blankets strewn all over the place, and it looks like she mainly sleeps on her couch, but somewhat… homely. Comfortable. Oksana finds herself sinking into the leather chair by the kitchen, resting her back as Volo sniffs about loudly, looking over everything in the house. Bdzi is practically inseparable from her owner, always staying within petting reach of Yuliya, and Raffu flies over to a coat hanger, peering at Oksana from the impromptu perch before flying over to the kitchen counter.

    "You mind if I make us lunch?" Yuliya chirps, rummaging through her fridge. "I can't really talk... on an empty stomach... and you've done so much for me already…"

    "Sure." Oksana smiles, petting Volo softly as he wanders back to her legs.

    There's silence as Yuliya fiddles with the pans on the stove and begins to slice up ingredients. Raffu hops over to her, standing on one of the cabinets. He watches his owner cut up lamb with large, saucer-like eyes, and taps his talons impatiently. Yuliya laughs and shakes her head.

    "Not for you," Yuliya scolds, a joking tone to her voice. "It's human food."

    Raffu squawks angrily and practically bangs his talons against the wooden cabinet. Oksana laughs loudly.

    "You know, I can't imagine owning more than one pokemon, seems like too much of a hassle," Oksana smiles, looking over at the sullen bird pokemon. "How do you do it?"

    "Raffu doesn't usually do much, and Bdzi doesn't exercise other than flying around the house," Yuliya hums, washing her hands. "They aren't very high-maintenance."

    "Well, why'd you get him, then? Usually us 'normal folk' only get one instead of twenty-thousand different kinds...”

    "Raffu belonged to Amir," Yuliya says sadly, itching at her ears as she speaks. "I didn't have... much of a choice in receiving him..."

    "Oh," Oksana says, the room suddenly becoming deathly silent. "I see."

    As she begins to cut into a large, ripe tomato, Yuliya speaks, probably to relieve the tension:

    "So… You served in a volunteer battalion, right?" she says, and Oksana notices a slight venom to her voice. "Which one?"

    "Aidar Battalion."

    Yuliya bursts out laughing, a somewhat bitter laugh. Her laughter has a unique noise, and even though it's not particularly happy, Oksana still feels the burn of a contagious smile on her lips. It takes the taller woman few moments to gather her bearings, shaking against the kitchen counter. Oksana feels tense, and she scowls at Yuliya as the woman glances over with a ruddy face.

    "What's f*cking funny about that?" Oksana sniffs, crossing her arms. A nagging voice in her head is screaming that the woman isn't taking her military service seriously, that she's looking down on her for volunteering instead of just staying with the Army and being complacent with sh*t jobs far from the frontlines.

    "It's nothing…" Yuliya shakes her head, the smile fading from her face. Her voice seems overwhelmingly bitter. "Just that… If you told me a year ago that I'd be friendly with a volunteer from the Aidar Battalion… I would've told you that you were out of your f*cking mind…!"

    Oksana blinks, and her face softens somewhat. Bdzi flies over to her owner, spinning around her curiously, a frown visible on her tiny face.

    "Why?" she asks, eyes wide in curiosity. Yuliya smiles sadly, shaking her head. She opens the fridge and pulls out a Coca-Cola can, cracking it open.

    "I worked with them," the woman explains, and Oksana watches Yuliya's lip curl into a sneer. "On the battlefield… A lot of them were absolutely batshit insane. Babbling on about 'bringing the fight to Kyiv'... whatever the f*ck that meant. Also… they were assholes to the actual personnel there, like me… called us… f*ckin' 'Poroshenko's dogs', and said there should be.. a military coup… replacing him with a leader… no, no, no… he told me a dictator! A f*ckin' dictator… who supported military ideals."

    "Said that straight to my f*cking face…! Said that sh*t straight to me... and my brother! Two people… who were born here… because my mother fled Iraq… When the government was overthrown by a coup… and replaced with… guess what… a f*cking dictator! I should've broken his nose… honestly."

    Yuliya takes a long drink of her soda, gasping after.

    "Worst of all…" she sighs, rubbing the bridge of her nose. "They'd target the two of us… specifically. I think… I think you… know why. They… would… would refer to me as an 'ISIS b*tch', said… that all Muslim women were slaves. That if we were on the wrong side of the battlefield… they would've killed us already. That we were… trained by al-Qaeda and were secret 'jihadis'... ready to strike at any time."

    "I cannot… describe how much hearing that hurt me. Made me angry. My people… are being murdered left, right, and center by both of those groups… and yet we're being compared to them… because we have the same religion… and a similar skin tone…"

    Yuliya trails off and takes another sip of her soda. Her expression changes from anger to resignation, staring blankly at the former Aidar paratrooper. Oksana finds herself choking on the apologies she wants to say, the comforting words she could give to the woman, in some attempt to make up for it all.

    Finally, the words come out.

    "I-I… I'm sorry that they said that to you," Oksana stammers, fidgeting with her fingers. Yuliya looks up at her with surprise in her eyes. "You… you were fighting with them, risking your life for them, and they had no right to insult you like that!"

    "Apology accepted," Yuliya hums, returning to the stew boiling in a large metal pot. "I didn't have to work with them all the time... and my comrades were fine with us and didn't say that sort of sh*t to us…"

    Yuliya shrugs, and Bdzi pats her owner's cheek softly.

    "And besides," she smiles, warmth back in her eyes. "You don't really need to apologize... I already know that you're different than them."

    "Really?" Oksana says, blinking in shock. Volo tugs on her pant leg with his teeth, and she gently pushes him away. "How?"

    "Well… If you were like them… you probably would've like… punched me in the face after I saluted you," Yuliya explains, stirring the stew. "Or told me that you thought my people were all terrorists and that I was the only 'good one' afterward… Something stupid."

    "But, you didn't... You actually talked to me like... an actual human being! And, y'know, gave a f*ck about me… and my brother…"

    "Also," Yuliya points her finger back at Oksana, accentuating her point. "I doubt one of those idiots would bother to try and learn about my faith… unlike you. If I mentioned Ramadan or going to a mosque... they'd probably burst into flames."

    Oksana laughs, and Yuliya joins in, her shoulders shaking. Looking at Yuliya as she giggles loudly, Oksana finds herself gawking at the woman. She seems so… young when she's smiling, like she's just a high schooler, and they're talking about music or school or something. Her dark eyes crinkle when she laughs hard, and there's a slight pink flush across her cheeks, that fits well with her complexion. She cannot help but stare at Yuliya as she returns to her food.

    "Have you been to the Middle East?" she asks, and Yuliya appears to soften a little.

    "Mmm…" Yuliya hums, pouring soup into two bowls. "I went to Iraq once… a few years ago. My uncle was dying… and my mother wanted to see him… one last time. It was very sad… but it was nice to go... I guess. Like... it was part of my history..."

    "What part of Iraq?" Oksana asks, tapping her chin. Volo stands on his hind legs and sniffs the air.

    "Ain Sifni… towards the north."

    "Oh. Well, I went to Iraq," Oksana says, and Yuliya looks over at her, her mouth taut. "I went with a brigade to Kut about… er, twelve years ago… Christ, has it really been that long? Feels like it was just last month..."

    "Mmm," she says, a small smile on her lips. "Nope, never been there. That's by Baghdad, right?"

    Oksana nods, as Yuliya places a bowl of tomato-and-lamb soup in front of her, the reddish-orange broth full of green cucumbers and yellow peppers. The scent floating through the air makes her mouth water.

    "You like it?" Yuliya smiles softly, sitting down beside her. "'s called Meftûna Bacanan, mama used to make it for dinner when I was little."

    Oksana thanks her almost silently, and the two stay silent as they eat lunch. Yuliya seems stiff as she eats like she's bracing herself before jumping into an icy river. Guilt sears through Oksana's stomach, and she distracts herself by looking over at Bdzi, who is looking at the politician with big, curious eyes as she floats nearby, but not close to her. Cautious, Oksana notes with a smile, just like her owner.

    After the two are done eating, and Yuliya slowly and methodically cleans the dishes, Oksana sets her phone on the table and clicks into the voice recorder as the former soldier sits down. Her face is tight with stress, and she shakes her hands out quickly before placing them on the table. Why do I have to do this, Oksana asks herself, why do I have to make her suffer again?

    Nevertheless, she presses the red record button.

    "So," Oksana starts, trying to keep her voice from shaking. "On November twelfth, last year, your brigade was fired upon by unknown mercenaries in Alchevsk. Correct?"

    "Yes," Yuliya nods, her voice thin. "That is correct.'

    "This attack ended with three of your comrades dead, Fedir Adamchuk, Borys Voloshyn, and Ivan Dzubenko. Correct?"


    Oksana swallows painfully and looks down at Volo, who looks at her with big brown eyes, before looking back up at Yuliya.

    "You and your brother, Major Amir Bousaid were captured after the firefight, correct?"

    Another yes from Yuliya, and she watches as the former soldier swallows a lump.

    "Can you describe what happened that morning?"

    Yuliya sighs, adjusting her turtleneck with her hand, before continuing.

    "It was… just a normal lookout mission. We'd brought a few things... my Dragunov, a couple of rifles for the rest of my brigade… Nazar, our usual superior… had called out. Said that he had a bad head cold. Couldn't focus on anything. My brother, Amir, was sent with us instead…"

    "There was… an abandoned house nearby. Recently abandoned… still, there was furniture and stuff left behind, but a hole in the roof from an earlier mortar attack. Amir decided to use it as a temporary base for us, and tasked me with moving our bags in there… So, that's what I did… and… that's how I… survived."

    "We… hadn't expected an attack. Our commanders told us that the separatists had withdrawn from this part of Achelvisk… we didn't view this as seriously as we… should have. I was putting a bag of rations by a cabinet when I heard that big 'BANG' noise when a mortar hits the ground, and felt the ground shake with the impact. I fell forward into the glass cabinet, and sliced my hand open as I caught myself. After that, I ran out of the house… screaming my comrade's names…"

    "What did you find?"

    Yuliya's face contorts, trying to hold back tears. Her voice comes out short and choking with regret.

    "I… I… Fedir was the first one I… f-found. He was… there wasn't… anything… left to s-save. All I remember is just… limbs… ripped from his body, his body up… against the wall of the… house, and blank… eyes."

    "Ivan… and Borys… were directly in the blast zone… They were… practically nothing. Just… gore on the grass, torn limbs, bone, tattered… clothes… Murkrow were... already ripping at what little... remained. I vomited after seeing them… I'd lost people before… some of my closest friends… but not like this. Back then... I wasn't the… only one really left."

    "My brother… Major Amir, laid on the grass, far from the general blast area. I… feared the worst, and I ran over to him… trying not to cry. But… he sat up… when I ran towards him. He had… minor lacerations on his legs, and his fingers on his left hand looked seriously damaged, but he'd made a little tourniquet out of his torn jacket... and was smiling weakly up at me with bright but pained eyes..."

    "I hugged him tight out of… relief, and asked him what happened. He said: 'It happened so fast, I don't know,' then smiled... and joked 'they tried to get us, but us Bousaids need more than a measly mortar to kill us!'"

    "I don't think he saw that the rest of our squadron was dead," she sighs, running her hands through her ponytail. "If he did… he wouldn't be joking."

    "Anyways, I stood him up... trying to walk him over to the house... so I could send out a call for backup... Halfway there... I... heard the hum of an engine, and looked up… to see a gigantic military truck driving towards us... and I sat Amir down… ran over to… where he had been… grabbed his Fort-221… and waited for the truck to stop."

    "When the truck finally did stop… a foot away… and the people got out… soldier looking folks… wearing dark uniforms… with rifles in their hands. As they got close… I opened fire."

    "I got two of them in the head... one in the chest… one in the shoulder… and that was it. The gun jammed soon after... and as... I was trying to clear the chamber, one of the remaining three sucker-punched me in the jaw."

    "When I… hit the ground… the remaining men grabbed my arms… and I heard my brother… scream in agony. I screamed his name, trying to wriggle my way out… as I was dragged towards the truck. The men chattered in English amongst themselves… today the words taunt me... unable to be translated…"

    "What did the men look like?" Oksana asks, her voice faint. She coughs softly, trying to adjust her throat.

    "All of them were Caucasian, one had dark hair, one had light blonde hair… The blonde had a thin face with watery blue eyes, muscular frame… The dark-haired man had a square face and thin… green eyes that looked down at me no matter what I did… a little thinner than his friend, though."

    "So, what happened next?"

    "I was… slammed into the back of the truck. The doors... shut for a… few m-moments… before Amir… was thrown in too. He was… unconscious. A-Alive, b-but unmoving… eyes shut… Unresponsive. I howled like a caged pokemon… banging my fists on the doors… until they opened."

    "I… was dragged out again… and my uniform sleeve was rolled up... and the dark-haired man stuck a needle in my arm… and took my blood. I… remember spitting straight in his face… as he went back to do… whatever. After that, he injected some sort of… purplish liquid into my arm… and then… I was thrown back in."

    "I… I… tried my best to fight it… as the truck started to move. I thought of my parents… My brother... My comrades… But… whatever they injected me with… overpowered me. It made my eyes droop… and my body heavy… and soon… I-I was unconscious as well…"

    Oksana practically crushes her phone when she hits the stop button, causing Yuliya to gasp lowly. The politician wipes her eyes, tears burning at her eyes, and she feels the soldier grasp her hand.

    "Are… you alright... Oksana…?"

    "I'm fine," Oksana whispers, but Yuliya still looks at her in concern. "I'm fine, I swear. I just think that that's enough storytelling for today..."

    "You… don't look fine," the woman sighs, and Oksana feels a bright red urge to tell her off, that Yuliya should stop prodding her. "Do you want a drink?"

    "Yeah," she says, rubbing at her eyes. Yuliya stands up slowly, and walks over to the fridge, enough time for Oksana to gather herself.

    She shouldn't cry in front of Yuliya, she needs someone strong, someone to lean on. She doesn't need her problems. Doesn't need her temper, doesn't need her scars, doesn't need anything but the illusion of a sturdy, righteous politician.

    So, when Yuliya comes out with a large, clear bottle of vodka, Oksana takes a sip from it to clear her mind, placing it on the table with a loud thud, and gasps as the vodka burns at her throat.

    Then, she takes another sip.

    Then, after that, another.

    Oksana drinks until her vision goes blurry until Yuliya has to grab her to help her stand up, fear and anxiety in her eyes, and Oksana giggles despite herself because, suddenly, she's so cute. The woman yanks the bottle from her as she reaches for it again, her mouth taut and brows furrowing.

    "You've had too much…" Yuliya sniffs, placing the bottle in the fridge despite Oksana's whining and pawing at her breasts. "You're utterly… smashed, Oksana."

    "C'monnnn Yules!" the politician whimpers, tugging at the neck of Yuliya's sweater. "One m-more sip, please!"

    "No!" Yuliya shouts, her voice sharp. The familiar stammer in her voice is gone. Volo peeks at her from behind the counter, his eyes wide, and Bdzi chatters disapprovingly. "No more! You've had enough!"

    Oksana winces at her volume and feels a mixture of shock and some sort of searing feeling in her belly that makes her feel needy and dirty. She stumbles backward, hand scrabbling for the granite countertop, and she glares at Yuliya.

    "Fine," she growls, pouting at a still stern looking Yuliya. "I'll juuust leave…! Go b-back to my house, where there aren't any Yuliya's to tell me to stop!"

    Yuliya's face drops, and she reaches a hand out to her, but Oksana swats it away.

    "You shouldn't… go alone," she says softly, eyes wide. "You're drunk."

    "'m not drunk!" Oksana howls, crossing her arms. She grabs her coat violently, almost causing the rack to tip over. Raffu squawks at her angrily, banging his talons against the cupboard with a loud thwack-thwack-thwack noise.

    She storms out of Yuliya's apartment, ignoring Yuliya's shouts of protest and Volo's barking, and makes a beeline for the elevator, the best she can with stumbling feet. When she finally gets into the elevator, she leans against the rail and thinks about Yuliya.

    At first, she thought about how unfair it was that Yuliya took away her drinks, instead of letting her have a good time. What a buzzkill, couldn't she see that she was just having fun? That she tried to salvage the mood? What was her problem, anyways? Little f*cking b*tch!

    But, as the door slides open, and she stumbles out into the lobby, her head feeling like a lead weight, her thoughts soften. She thinks of the woman's smile, bright and childish, her eyes crinkling and the dimples on her cheeks showing. It's tiny, and she can barely feel it, but Oksana thinks she feels the flickering of something warm inside her gut, as she walks out of the apartment complex and into the cold Kiev night. Oksana squints at the clear night sky, briefly pulling herself from her thoughts. When did it get this late…? No matter.

    As she walks further and further down the frigid streets of Kyiv, her mind flickers back to Yuliya. Guilt spins in her stomach, as she thinks back to their talk about her old battalion.

    Oksana had never said anything on the lines of what Yuliya described, when the Bousaid's came up in conversation in Aidar's makeshift quarters. Which happened unsuprisingly often, and it was pretty obvious to anyone why. They were the only Muslims in the army, and Amir did not suffer fools gladly. That included any Aidar soldier he fought with who thought low of him. She remembered one of her more... outspoken comrades, a man with a jagged face and a permanent sneer, b*tching on and on about "that dumb*ss terrorist". He'd made a rather tasteless joke about the major's religion, and Amir had laughed angrily, then told him a distastful joke about Christianaity that he "must've learned from those Al-Qaeda ****ers!"

    "Well," the major had smiled mockingly after the Aidar trooper had objected to the joke, "that didn't feel so good, did it?"

    "Maybe don't f*ckin' do it to me then, Private!"

    Oksana remembered not speaking up as everyone else chattered amongst themselves that it was uncalled for to him to joke about that, how dare that dirty muslim say something like that. She had just stared into her vodka glass, and took a shot.

    Maybe, back then, an ugly part of her believed them. That the Bousaid's were rude, callous Muslims who had no place fighting with them. Ukraine wasn't their homeland, so they must be leeching off of the army for some cash. They were grifters. That's all.

    But... Yuliya was Ukranian. Both of them were.

    What if someone said that about her? That she was a glory-hog, running off with a mere volunteer group instead of going with the army?

    She shakes her head, almost as if forcing that thought away.

    Well, Yuliya didn't seem that upset, in the end… Just… showed concern. And who could blame her! She'd been in the military, after all! She'd seen people wasted before, and was being… cautious. Protective, even. Oksana shouldn't have blown up at her, and probably should go get Volo back.

    Oksana probably could just apologize to Yuliya, charm her, convince her that she isn't drunk, have some more drinks and just stay over at her place. There was no need for her to walk all the way back to her house, really. Just… talk to her! It's as simple as that.

    ('Maybe you'll get something more physical in the end,' a low voice in her head whispers in a sing-song tone.)

    ('No, shut up, you aren't like that,' she responds.)

    However, she doesn't get a chance to turn back.

    Oksana's still not quite sure of what happens next. As she turns back to stumble to Yuliya's apartment, she feels someone's arms wrap around her midsection and tug her backward sharply. She falls on the pavement face first, the stone digging into the palms of her hands as she catches herself on the ground before she could slam her head into it. Before she could contemplate or maybe laugh at how clumsy she is, she feels herself moving forward on the ground, unknown hands wrapping around her shoulders. Oksana's blood runs cold, and she thrashes, and shouts, trying to swing her fists around to get at them. She hears a male voice chuckle, and then:

    "Don't bother, dear. No one can save you."

    The voice is thick, and Oksana can tell, even in her drunken state, that this man is unfamiliar with Ukrainian, the language strange on his tongue, and she thinks briefly of Yuliya's story from earlier. Panic runs through her blood, and she shouts again, and thrashes harder. The voice snarls, and slams his foot into her shoulder, causing her to yowl in pain.

    As she reels forward, hand clutching at her shirt, she hears the click of a pokeball opening and sees a stream of white light form into a wolf shape, and Oksana can barely make out its blue-and-yellow coloring between brief flashes of electricity, and she feels her throat close up.

    "N-No," she babbles in a high voice, skittering backward on her hands as she shakes, looking at the manectric with fearful eyes as it growls lowly at her, and she hears the familiar hum of electricity coming from its mane. "Oh no, no, no, no please not again, please please please PLEASE!"

    "Oh dear," the voice lits, horrifyingly cheerful in tone. "They told me that you were supposed to be the difficult one, and yet, the instant you see a manectric, you're a sobbing mess… Pity…"

    If this had been a normal situation, if Oksana wasn't being stared down by the same kind of pokemon used to torture her in captivity, she would've told him to eat sh*t and die, and probably would've spat in his face.

    However, all Oksana can bring herself to do is heave weakly, and feel the warm tears rolling down her face as she shakes.

    "I guess our dear friend, Thaelab, has rubbed off on you some, hasn't she?"

    "T...Thaelab?" Oksana asks, her voice shaking and small, like a child.

    The voice doesn't explain, but keeps on talking, his voice cheery, like a children's television presenter:

    "You two have been a lot of fun to watch," he laughs, and Oksana wants to throw up right then and there. Preferably on his shoes. "Seeing our Thaelab finally make some company after being alone for so long warmed my heart, and you two have bonded so quickly!"

    "How did you…?" Oksana whispers, and the voice giggles almost childishly.

    "That's a secret for a different time, Oksana Tymoshenko," the voice says, not losing its sing-song tone. "But, while you got close to our friend, you've heard too much from her, and dug your little snout too deep into our business!"

    Oksana shakes her head rapidly, skittering backward. The manectric charges forwards, and she stops moving, closing her eyes tight.

    "We were originally going to blow your brains out, like any other weasel, but that'd be such a waste," the voice continues, and Oksana lets out a squeaky cry of distress. "You're a prominent figure in Ukraine, you're so close to our dear Thaelab, our most important asset, and you're also strong enough to be an asset like her, too!"

    Suddenly, the voice wrenches her left arm down, forcing her jacket off and her shirt sleeves up, and Oksana doesn't struggle, eyeing the manetric standing above her. A few seconds after, she feels the prick of a needle as it enters her skin. The voice removes the needle after a moment, and Oksana glances up at him, or rather, where she thinks he'll be.

    "W-What are you g-going to do with me?" she asks, hoping that he can see the pleading look on her face.

    "You're going to become useful to us, dear," he smiles, and Oksana feels another needle prick her right arm, and suddenly, she knows what's happening to her, and she screams loudly.

    "Shut up!" the voice hisses, losing his cool as he removes the needle. The manectric growls loudly, and she can smell the crackle and burn of electricity in the air. Oksana sits up, trying to resist the drug in her veins, even though she can't feel it. She has to win over this, for Yuliya's sake. "Shut your f*cking mouth, or I'll make you regret it!"

    Oksana is about to say something before she hears the quick crunch of footsteps approach her, and stand above her head. The person above her is near silent, but Oksana can see the blinding white light of a flashlight by the person's black combat boots and hears the click of a pistol's safety turning off.

    "Get out," Yuliya says sternly, and Oksana can barely make the shape of the former soldier pointing a Makarov pistol straight at the man's head, and now, Oksana can somewhat see him. His face is sharp, with a wavy haircut reaching to his ears. He's wearing what looks like a dress shirt and long pants, but she honestly can't tell.

    "Oh, Yuliya!" he says, somewhat nervously, and he reaches for the manectric's pokeball, and retrieves it, causing Oksana to relax, and a wave of exhaustion to pass over her. "What a pleasant surprise!"

    "Get out, or I'll blow your f*cking brains out," Yuliya says sternly, but completely calm. Oksana shivers at her tone, a mixture of fear and some nascent form of… attraction? She shakes the feeling away. Must be the drugs, that's all.

    "Oh come on, dear," he continues, walking forward. "You're overreacting. Just leave us be."

    "I think I've seen enough," Yuliya hisses, and her finger twitches on the trigger. "Get the f*ck away from Oksana, and scram."

    "You know, Yuliya," the voice smiles, as he stands up, and steps back. "Your brother misses you so. He says that he wishes that he could be fighting for us alongside you."

    ”GET THE F*CK OUT!" Yuliya screams, and Oksana watches as the man practically bolts away, towards the far end of the alleyway. The woman above her pants angrily, before turning the safety on again, and putting the pistol away. Oksana reaches up weakly, exhaustion taking hold over her, and wraps her arms around Yuliya's abdomen, and cuddles up against her, ignoring the pain in her shoulder. Yuliya pets her hair softly, and the politician makes a noise somewhere between a chirp and a purr. Her head feels heavy with exhaustion, mind becoming fuzzy, and her limbs feel like lead weights barely being held together.

    "Yules…" she slurs, looking up at the woman, whose face is contorting is sadness and anger. "'m sorry."

    "I… know…" Yuliya smiles weakly, standing Oksana up before the politician loses her balance, and flumps against her shoulder. "Sana?"

    "He got me," Oksana says weakly, and sniffles. She cries weakly against Yuliya's stomach.

    "What do you mean?" Yuliya asks, her voice suddenly higher in tone, and Oksana feels her body start to shake.

    "Injected me… 'Think I'm the same as you… Yules."

    And with that, she blacks out.
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2018
  17. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine Gone. Not coming back.

    Another chapter! It took me so long to get around to reviewing, but I've been looking forward to this for a while; Across the Delta is definitely one of the more interesting fics on the forums. And it's a hell of a chapter, too! It feels like gears are turning now, things are in motion, that kind of thing; you've got stuff developing between Yuliya and Oksana, mysterious assailants in dark streets, and a fuller picture of what it was that Yuliya went through even before her capture. Quite a lot of ground to cover, but quite neatly done; most of this fits together really nicely.

    However, if I'm going to make one criticism, I think that this chapter really suffers from a massive overuse of ellipses. They give a very particular sort of effect, and when there's like ten of them in one bit of dialogue it becomes kind of difficult to actually imagine how that bit of dialogue is being said. I guess perhaps it's full of Pinteresque pauses, but some of them are in places where a pause of that length, especially with the sort of trailing off that an ellipsis implies, doesn't seem appropriate. Here's a particularly ellipsisy bit from Yuliya:

    I can tell you want to very carefully set up how the dialogue is meant to sound in Yuliya's mouth, but so many ellipses in close proximity make it sound very slow and unnatural. For setting up that kind of naturalistic dialogue, dashes are probably a better bet in many places – they come without the trailing-off implication, and they can quite easily give an impression of someone breaking up their speech and having difficulty getting the words out. You can also break sentences up into fragments with periods, which can be surprisingly effective at conveying a stop-start tone, though perhaps not with this particular line of dialogue. A good candidate for being broken with a period might be this line:

    The ellipsis that breaks the sentence in half could be a full stop, which I think would convey Yuliya's state of mind quite well, without the soft, almost slurred effect that the mass of ellipses creates. This isn't to say you should never use them – there are places where they definitely work – but if they're the main form of punctuation you have in your dialogue, then that dialogue starts to seem clunky.

    I'm also not sure that I'm totally convinced by the bit where Oksana gets drunk. Like, most people have the self-control to not get completely hammered in a near-stranger's apartment when they came to conduct a serious interview, and Oksana in particular doesn't strike me as the type. Besides which, Yuliya should have been able to tell that she was getting drunk long before she got to the state she left in – like, you skip over the length of time between Yuliya bringing in the bottle and Oksana getting drunk, with the result that we just sort of jump to an extreme quite quickly. I can see this scene working, but maybe not the way you've written it? Like, if there's more dialogue, if both drink because they're talking, enjoying themselves, and they sort of just keep pouring and drinking, that kind of thing, then Oksana could conceivably end up drunker than she means to without either of them quite managing to see it coming. More time is what's needed here – more time for us to see how this happened, otherwise it seems too abrupt. And that would also do the job of preparing the groundwork for that nascent attraction that Oksana mentions; talking to someone while the two of you get slightly drunker than you intend or realise is a good way to bring that kind of thing into the foreground.

    That's quite a big block of critique, and I don't want to give the impression that I think any of these are like critical errors – there are actually a lot of improvements here, not least that you've got that tense-shifting issue sorted out, which makes everything much easier to read. And now that the conspiracy is sort of intruding into the present as well as the past, sneaking up on people in dark alleys and confronting them with their triggers and a syringeful of suspect substances, it really feels like the plot is ratcheting up a notch, and the story's starting to get properly underway. Definitely a lot of good stuff here, I just think there are a few places where it could use tightening up. I'll be awaiting your next chapter with interest!

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