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Origins: A Kanto One-Shot Contest

Discussion in 'The Authors' Café' started by Dragonfree, Aug 4, 2018.

Tags:
  1. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    7th-8th place TIE: Let's Go, Eevee by AmericanPi

    Scoring
    Dragonfree: 7th place (30 points)
    Negrek: 7th place (30 points)
    Rediamond: 7th place (30 points)
    Total: 90 points

    "Let's Go, Eevee"
    A one-shot
    By AmericanPi

    "Are you sure, Picasso?" Eve asked quietly into the darkness, addressing her friend who slept on the bunk below her. "We can always move on and come back to Fuchsia City later."

    "Hey," Picasso said, keeping his voice down so as not to disturb the other resting trainers. "You stayed behind with me back in Vermilion, and thanks to all your help I got that Thunder Badge, even if it took a few tries. I'd better return the favor and help you get your Soul Badge."

    "You don't have to do this, you know," Eve said, reaching over to rub Eevee's head.

    "Of course I do!" Picasso said stubbornly. "I want to help you. You don't have to worry, Eve."

    "Alright," Eve said, smiling to herself as she watched the outline of Eevee's deeply breathing form in the darkness. "More training tomorrow?"

    "Gotcha," Picasso said. "You can train up Oddish, and Pikachu can work a bit on her electric attacks."

    "Pi-kachu!" Picasso's partner pokémon trilled happily.

    "Pikachu, what are you doing up? Go to sleep!" Eve said, laughing to herself. "Speaking of, I'd better go to sleep too if I want to make the most use of our training session tomorrow. Good night, Picasso."

    "Good night, Eve."

    Eve and Picasso were both up bright and early the next day. After eating breakfast at the Fuchsia City Pokémon Center, Eve sent out her team to address them.

    Eve smiled as Eevee joined the four pokémon who materialized from poké balls in front of her - Kingler, Pidgeotto, Mankey, and Oddish. Eve's team of five was coming along nicely. It seemed like a long time ago when she left Cerulean City on her tenth birthday with her partner pokémon, a male eevee, and met Picasso near Saffron City shortly afterwards. Even though in reality it had only been a few months, the growth of her pokémon made her proud of how far she'd come.

    "Okay, team," Eve said to her pokémon, who sat in a row in front of her. "Once again, we're going to spend most of today training so we can finally get that Soul Badge. I think we'll be ready when one of you evolves, but we'll see how things go. Oddish, since you're the newest, you're going to be battling a lot, but I'll be sure to switch you out for someone else when the going gets tough. Mankey, today we're going to be using the move Bide a lot to practice self-control. Pidgeotto, I want you to work on your flying and air dodging, and Kingler, we'll keep working on the move Agility today. And finally, Eevee, let's work on Bouncy Bubble."

    "Come on, Eve," Picasso said playfully from nearby as Eve's pokémon chirped in affirmation. "Do you have to have a training plan every time?"

    "Of course I do!" Eve said stubbornly, crossing her arms and sticking her tongue out at her friend. "Winging it may work for you and Pikachu, but not me."

    "Hmm, we don't have wings, so we're more playing it by ear," Picasso joked as he knelt down and petted Pikachu's left ear. "Right, Pikachu?"

    "You didn't have to take it so literally," Eve said, rolling her eyes as she picked up Eevee and put him on her shoulder. "You ready to go, Picasso?"

    "Yeah, I'm ready," Picasso said. Eve nodded and recalled her team before heading towards the front door of the Pokémon Center. She stopped short as she realized that Picasso wasn't following her.

    "Hey, Picasso, the exit is this way," Eve said as she spotted Picasso heading for the bunks.

    "I know, but I need to use the restroom," Picasso said.

    "You told me you were ready to go!"

    "Yeah, and by 'go' I meant go to the bathroom," Picasso said with a cheeky smile.

    "Oh man Picasso, you're so annoying," Eve grumbled, though she smiled back at her friend. "I'll be right outside."

    "Right," Picasso said, his cheeky smile still plastered on his face as he rushed to the restroom. Eve rolled her eyes as she and Eevee stepped out into the morning sun.

    "I wonder if Picasso will ever take anything seriously," Eve murmured to her partner pokémon as she waited outside the Center. She smiled. "Maybe it's a good thing that he's such a goofball. Kinda helps counterbalance my competitiveness."

    "Ee!" Eevee trilled happily. Eve ruffled Eevee's fur.

    "Done!" Picasso yelled as he burst out of the Pokémon Center, Pikachu happily perched on his shoulder. "Let's go catch a train and by that I mean do some training!"

    Eve just laughed at her friend's silliness as she turned and headed towards Route 15. Picasso followed, cracking a joke about trains as the two friends stepped out of Fuchsia City and into the wilderness to train.

    Training went smoothly for an hour or so. Oddish held his own surprisingly well for such a little guy, and Eve felt proud of the newest member of her team. Picasso mainly trained Pikachu, whose amazing Splishy Splash technique left even the normally talkative Picasso speechless. Then Eve heard a commotion.

    "Hey!" a high-pitched voice yelled from farther up the route. "Give it back!"

    "Sorry kid, we need your magnemite for an important purpose," an adult male voice responded.

    "Team Rocket!" Eve exclaimed angrily as she whipped her head around towards the source of the voices. In the distance she could see two men in black uniforms running away from a small boy, who was chasing after the men and calling out to the magnemite trapped in one of the men's net.

    "Let's go, Eevee," Eve declared, waving her partner pokémon over and interrupting his attack.

    "Whoa, hey," Picasso said, moving quickly to block Eve's path. "What are you doing?"

    "I don't have time for this, Picasso," Eve grumbled. For all his boldness, Picasso was awfully reserved when it came to confronting Team Rocket grunts. He had a point in that it was the police's job to take care of Team Rocket, but Eve knew how useless the police tended to be.

    "Eve, we could get into serious trouble!" Picasso said in a hushed voice. Pikachu nodded, sparks shooting out of her cheeks in affirmation.

    "The poor kid and his magnemite are already in serious trouble," Eve countered as she pushed past Picasso. "Come on."

    "Alright," Picasso said tentatively as he dashed after Eve, who ran to catch up with the fleeing Team Rocket grunts. Thankfully, the grunts were running towards where Eve and Picasso were. As soon as she was in range, Eve called, "Eevee, Swift attack!"

    "Vee!" Eevee yelled as he leapt into the air and let loose a volley of stars from his mouth. The attack clashed with the backs of the fleeing grunts, who fell to the ground. The grunt carrying the magnemite dropped his quarry, and the pokémon broke free of its net and floated back towards its friend.

    "You should get out of here, kid," Picasso called to the little boy, who nodded vigorously and ran, carrying the magnemite with him.

    "No one's stealing pokémon on my watch," Eve said triumphantly as Eevee landed deftly on the ground and glared at the hapless grunts.

    "Meddling kids," one of the grunts, a middle-aged man with teal blue hair, growled as he dusted himself off. "I swear, if you just left everything to the police - Picasso?"

    "You know this kid?" the blue-haired man's partner, an older purple-haired man, said.

    Eve looked over at Picasso, whose face was white.

    "Hi Dad," Picasso said, smiling nervously.

    Eve's heart dropped into her stomach as bile rose into her throat. Heart pounding in her chest, she opened her mouth to say something - anything - but the blue-haired man managed to speak first.

    "Hey son," the man said, smiling at Picasso. "How's your journey going?"

    "I'm sorry," Picasso blurted out. "I tried to get Eve to leave you guys alone, but-"

    "Picasso, what?!?" Eve yelled, whirling around to face her friend - or whatever he was. "So that's why you kept trying to keep me away from Team Rocket? You're one of them?!?"

    "Eevee!" Eevee trilled angrily as Eve protectively picked him up.

    "No!" Picasso exclaimed, holding onto Pikachu and taking a step back. "My dad is part of them, but I swear, Eve, they aren't all bad. Dad's trying to gather Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres into one place so I can do what I've always wanted to do and meet them."

    "Er, yes, I'm on the Project Birds team," the blue-haired man - Picasso's father - said, extending his hand for Eve to shake. "Eve, right? Picasso has told me all about you. I'm Archer."

    "You really think hurting and stealing pokémon will let you see all the legendary birds?" Eve growled, her glare darting between Picasso and Archer. "Do you really think doing bad things for the sake of your own selfish desires is okay?"

    "I want to meet the birds, Eve," Picasso said. "All of them. And Dad's division of Team Rocket has a plan to make that happen for me. I would join Team Rocket as well but you have to be twelve to do it."

    Eve glared at Picasso, breathing heavily as her liking of him vanished into thin air. "And you think what they're doing is okay," she said harshly.

    "Well-" Picasso said, looking from Archer to Eve to the unfamiliar purple-haired man. "I mean, it's going to take a lot of money to put Project Birds into motion, so I guess that's why Team Rocket does whatever it can to get money. But think of how awesome it would be, Eve! I'd be meeting Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres face-to-face. And you can come too!"

    "We'd be happy to have you part of Project Birds, Eve," the purple-haired man, who was silent until now, spoke up. "The name's Petrel. I'm Archer's shadow, which basically means that the two of us do fieldwork together. Your friend Picasso-"

    "He isn't my friend," Eve said.

    "Eve, come on!" Picasso exclaimed, his eyes widening. "I'm your traveling buddy."

    "If you're really my buddy," Eve said, glaring at Picasso, "you'd help me fight against Team Rocket, not sit there totally compliant with their crimes while wishing to join them yourself!" She took a step closer to him. "How long have you been with them? And why have you lied to me?"

    "I'm sorry Eve," Picasso said hotly, "but I want to meet the legendary birds and Team Rocket is going to help me do that. I was going to tell you and I thought you'd understand! You know how important the legendary birds are to me!"

    "And you know how important fighting against Team Rocket is to me," Eve growled. "I can't believe-" She wiped away her tears. "I can't believe you were with them all this time."

    "Can't we still be friends?" Picasso blurted out as Eve took a step back. "We can still travel together, just leave Team Rocket alone-"

    "Let's go, Eevee," Eve said, turning away from her former friend.

    She began walking quickly, not looking back as Pikachu hurried to scamper next to her. Eve ignored her former friend's partner pokémon as she continued to walk, tears forming in her eyes as she left Picasso behind.

    This was the worst day of her life.

    -END-

    Reviews

    Dragonfree

    The beginning of this was quite cute, showing these friends training together with different ideas about what training should be like and the interactions between the characters, and the little scene of planning out the training session, wanting to work on particular moves, was particularly fun to see. I loved the idea of the twist here - a trainer determined to fight Team Rocket finding out their best friend has been secretly on their side all along! I also enjoyed the use of "Let's go, Eevee" as a bitter, dramatic line signifying Eve leaving Picasso behind for good. (Got to give a little nod to the names Picasso and Eve, too - Eve may be obvious, but I would've drawn a blank trying to find a name that sounded like 'Pikachu'.)

    However, I think this story needed just a bit more setup to truly have the impact that it could have. While the opening is cute and gets across that they're friends, we don't have enough time to truly get attached to Picasso or invested in their friendship, and that makes the reveal not have the emotional punch that it could have. Imagine if the story were longer, if we got to really know Picasso as a good friend to Eve, and we found out early that his greatest ambition is to one day get to see the three legendary birds for himself. Perhaps Eve thinks about how that's the one thing he does take seriously. Perhaps Eve suggests one day they could explore Seafoam Islands or the Power Plant together, in the hope of helping him fulfill his dream, and she only briefly wonders why he's not as enthusiastic as she expected. Imagine if we saw more of their respective feelings on Team Rocket before the twist - if we actually saw one of the pair's previous encounters with them, Picasso being uncomfortable and reluctant and arguing they might get hurt or get in serious trouble - which'd just seem like reasonable concerns for someone more cautious and risk-averse who doesn't have Eve's heroic passion for personally taking on criminals, until in this later encounter we learn there was a far more sinister reason behind it. This could be such a great, emotional twist! But I think the story's just a bit too short as is to truly deliver on its potential.

    Part of it is also how Eve reacts. The moment she learns Picasso is siding with Team Rocket, she just instantly rejects and despises him; she's angry, but she doesn't seem conflicted at all, or really hurt so much as just outraged. That's not a completely unreasonable reaction, and you portray her emotions well, but I think the story would pack a lot more of a punch if there were a stronger sense that she's learning this about a person that she really loved and cared about, that she still wants to see the good in and persuade to see things in a different light - if these were emotions that she really had to visibly struggle with, rather than being immediately able to dismiss him as irredeemable. It's hard to learn something awful about a person you trusted - I think it would be heartwrenching if we saw Eve trying harder to convince Picasso, if she reached for explanations where he's not a bad person and their friendship wasn't a lie, before something finally shatters her image of him.

    All in all, the part of the story that you tell here is nicely done - but I think it'd have a lot more impact if there were more depth and development here, and we got more time to get truly emotionally invested before the twist. As it is, I don't think it quite manages to be as effective as it could be, which is a shame.


    Negrek

    This is a cute idea, bringing the title of the "Let's go!" games directly into your story and playing with the meaning a bit. I love how the "Let's go, Eevee!" that comes up the first time is completely different in meaning and tone from the second; it nicely encapsulates how Eve's feelings change over the course of the story, and I like how it connects with the title in an unexpected way--you wouldn't guess the direction the story's going to go from that upbeat, "Let's go!", but it's nevertheless very fitting.

    I'm going to go through and talk about some stuff that jumped out at me in the process of reading, then sum up with some bigger-picture stuff at the end.

    This little bit of exposition felt clumsy to me. It's a little on the nose and clearly there just to get the information across. I'm also not really sure we need to know where Eve's from or where she met Picasso, and we can assume her age pretty well based on what happens otherwise in the story. Leaving it at "It felt like a long time ago when she left Cerulean City" would work well enough for me.

    I'm a little surprised to see Petrel and Archer here in Kanto, since I've always associated them with the Johto force from HGSS. idk if their background in Kanto and/or association with the legendary birds is just a canon tidbit I'm unaware of, though.

    You've generally been doing well with dialogue, keeping it in-character and natural-sounding. I think Eve maybe gets a little formal here, though... "totally compliant" seems out of place when considering how she usually talks, and "And why have you lied to me" has a kind of formal, melodramatic air about it, where something casual like "Why did you lie to me?" would sound more natural to me.

    It would have been a good idea to establish Picasso's interest in the legendary birds earlier so the reader would understand how important they are to him, too. It would also be nice to get a sense of why Eve is so gung-ho about Team Rocket: a particularly acute sense of justice in general? Grandiose ideas as a result of watching cartoons/reading stories about kid heroes? Personal connection to someone hurt by the team? It's good that you established she doesn't hesitate to go after them earlier, but more indication of why that is could really illuminate her character.

    For the most part your mechanics are fine. There's one small punctuation thing to note; when you have a character making a direct address, that is, calling another one by a name or other title, the name is set off by commas. You do this correctly in some places, like here:

    ...or even in the title of the story! Or with the dialogue, "Good night, Eve," etc. However, you also leave the comma out fairly frequently:

    This should be "Sorry, kid, we need your magnemite..."

    "Hey, son," the man said...

    "I'm sorry, Eve," Picasso said hotly...

    In general, keep an eye out and make sure you're remembering to put that comma in! Also, one small typo:

    Probably supposed to be "have you as part of Project Birds." It would also sound a bit better to say, "the purple-haired man, who had been silent until now," rather than "was" as you have here.

    I like the twist that Picasso ends up being the next best thing to a Rocket and actually interested in joining them once he's old enough. You definitely establish him as friendly and carefree, a bit of a jokester--very typical hero-protagonist material, so to have him end up aligned with the bad guys is a nice twist. In a way it makes sense, though; Picasso doesn't take anything seriously, so of course the idea of Team Rocket doing bad things is pretty abstract to him, especially when lined up against the promise of getting to see these amazing legendary pokémon. He's also a kid, which means he's self-centered by default and probably doesn't really even have the capacity to understand the ways in which Team Rocket does harm, and he's probably going to be predisposed to assume that of course his dad would never be one of the bad guys... Sure, Team Rocket will do anything for money, but it's not just that they're greedy and want money, look at this awesome cause it's going towards! Or there's another angle on it, where sometimes "casual and carefree" can go hand in hand with "callous and aloof," because, well, perhaps the person isn't bothered by much, including the thought of other people potentially being hurt in the pursuit of getting what they want.

    What I'm saying is I think the twist works on a number of levels, and it's great when something that comes as a surprise also makes sense from a character or thematic standpoint.

    The portrayal of Petrel and Archer here is also interesting. They're very cordial and friendly, and I have to wonder how much of that is a show for Picasso and/or Eve's benefit, or whether they actually believe what they're saying to some extent. My memories of them from HGSS are not of them being particularly pleasant, but since they're just grunts here, perhaps they simply changed as they climbed the ranks. Or this is just a gentler, more anime-y Rocket portrayal; after all, we're introduced to them stealing a magnemite with a net, not mugging a kid at knifepoint or even selling amputated slowpoke tails. One way or another, I could almost buy Archer as a dad who has some villainous qualities but is actually working really hard to make his son's dream come true, and it's neat to have that ambiguity around his true intentions.

    You do really sell the anime-esque tone throughout, which is appropriate, given the more anime-inspired Yellow base used for LGPE. I could see this little story being an anime special or spinoff or something like that; the concept and tone would definitely work well for a side-adventure in the animeverse. The only issue I could see with that is that the story as written here doesn't feel finshed to me.

    What you have here is a nice set-up for a story where Eve has to come to terms with finding out that Picasso supports Team Rocket, but without seeing that actual coming-to-terms, it feels incomplete to me. Eve basically has her revelation, and then the story ends before she gets the chance to really process or react to it. It's really an abrupt ending, and I kind of wonder whether you had intended to write more but ran out of time. Assuming this was the entry you intended to turn in, though, I'll talk a bit about why this story felt lacking to me and suggest approaches to make it seem more finished.

    Typically what makes a story seem complete is a sense of closure, that some sort of question or proposition is raised and by the end of the story it's been either answered or at least commented upon. This isn't a case of a story that just kind of meanders and goes nowhere; Eve obviously experiences a huge shock, an event that's probably going to have a big impact on her character going forward. It would be totally possible to end just where you did here, but I think you'd need to set the beginning of the story up a bit differently. Basically, you'd need to set up a scenario where "Picasso likes Team Rocket" feels like an answer to some question posed by the earlier part of the story. On the extreme end, maybe we see some of Eve's earlier encounters with Team Rocket and witness Picasso's reluctance/shiftiness for ourselves. Or perhaps Picasso talks a lot about how cool the legendary birds are but seems to be leaving something out or is otherwise evasive about it. In either of these cases, Picasso turning out to be a Rocket would resolve some tension raised earlier in the narrative. But there are plenty of other approaches, too.

    Having Picasso turn out to support Team Rocket is, the way the story's set up, an event that really causes the reader to wonder what now? Is Eve going to become even more zealous about fighting Team Rocket? Is she going to decide she was too hasty about dropping Picasso and decide to go back and try to reason with him? Will she feel so disgusted with everything that she decides to give up training altogether? There are other elements that give the ending a very open-ended, beginning-of-something-bigger feel, too, like Picasso's pikachu going along with Eve. Is Pikachu deciding to join Eve now, after realizing her trainer supports Team Rocket? Does Pikachu want to try and convince Eve that Picasso's really not so bad? And so on. Again, you've set up a very interesting situation that could go any number of ways. Another way to make the story feel like it had a satisfying finish is some sense that Eve's processed what's happened and chosen a direction in response. Maybe Eve has a tearful heart-to-heart with Pikachu, and they agree to work together to stop Team Rocket, and by the end the reader discovers that we've actually read the origin story for one of Kanto's top hero trainers. Or maybe Eve takes a break from doing the gym challenge and realizes she loves pokémon but would enjoy working at a pokémon daycare or becoming a researcher would be more fun for her than being a trainer. Or perhaps she becomes bitter and untrusting of people in general and gives up fighting Team Rocket, deciding she can never make a difference... not a very happy ending, but one that feels like it would give some closure! One way or another, showing some sort of result from the scenario presented in this story, a sense of how Eve's been changed by the events she's gone through, would be another way to create closure. An answer to what now, basically!

    So, again, I think you have a very good set-up here, but you're missing some follow-through. The story as it stands feels unfinished to me, which makes it an intriguing but somewhat frustrating read, since it kind of leaves me hanging. One way or another, the story would probably need to be a little longer in order for it to develop a proper arc... at least one more scene, I think, to bring the story home, whether at the beginning or the end.

    That said, this is definitely the strongest contest entry I've read from you. You're doing worlds better with dialogue and making character traits clear through what people say and do rather than by explaining them to the reader with exposition. We get a good sense of who Eve and Picasso are (or who he seems to be!) even just from the first scene of the two of them in the pokémon center. And as I already mentioned, I loved the twist and the unexpected direction you decided to take the story. All in all, I think this is a great start towards a very solid one-shot. It leaves me wanting more, but unfortunately in a bit of a frustrated way. Unfortunately I think I'm probably going to have to rank this one low, simply because it's hard for a story that kind of cuts off to compete with ones that come to a nice and satisfying conclusion, but I didn't want you to think I thought that what you have here is bad by any means--again, definitely your strongest contest entry yet, I'd say. It's just that what you have here strikes me as unfinished, and without a solid ending, it doesn't strike me as ultimately very satisfying.


    Rediamond

    The good: We don’t actually see pokémon training happen very much in fan fic, largely due to that pesky law of conservation of detail. It’s nice to at least see a plan for it, even if we don’t actually /see/ much of it. Eve’s team is a nice mix of pokémon that mostly avoids the default Kanto pokémon, which makes it nice. Honestly not sure I’ve ever seen one of her pokémon used before. And the kids do come across as kids.

    The bad: I think that the story suffers from two very big problems. The first and most troublesome for it is that, fundamentally, it is not a self-contained story. It is the end of Act I or II of a much longer arc, where two friends have their first real disagreement. But I don’t have context for this. Not really. And the story just isn’t long enough for me to get attached to the characters at all, since I could say… maybe three sentences about either of them. I get that it was built around a line, but the problem is that it doesn’t build well to that line.

    The other one became clearer on a second read. The story has a big ‘tell, not show’ problem. Eve casually explains that she’s “competitive” and Picasso is laid back. Which feels unnecessary since it’s been established quite well by the subtext. [Side note: that name was distracting to me. I get Kanto and color puns, but… it’s kinda cumbersome and doesn’t sound like a real first name very much.] The history of the two characters is laid out very nicely in “as you know bits.” And the training sequence gets skimmed over with a few tell-y lines about how it went. I feel like this story desperately needed one real, emotional scene to make me care about the ending. And it just never provided one.

    The verdict: One-shots are tricky creatures that require either a very good scene or a very compact-but-meaningful plot. While it has some interesting concepts going, and might be an above-average chapter in a journey fic, it just doesn’t feel like a complete or compelling story.
     
  2. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    7th-8th place TIE: The Forgotten Clone by SGMijumaru

    Scoring
    Dragonfree: 5th place (50 points)
    Negrek: 8th place (20 points)
    Rediamond: 8th place (20 points)
    Total: 90 points

    The Forgotten Clone





    I’d been gone for quite some time, but after many years of travelling and taking on missions across the planet, I finally found myself back in the Kanto region. Specifically, the contaminated ruins of Cinnabar Island.

    Mission codename: S, R, three eighty-eight. Contrary to its unmemorable code, the objective and its story were simple. Following a recent, unnatural eruption on the island, elite trainers who were all champions of the Kanto league had landed on the island to investigate what activity had caused the eruption. Very soon after they left to explore however, all contact with the trainers was lost.

    Agents and emergency services were soon dispatched on a rescue operation with some advanced tracking technology, but they suffered the same fate just as quickly – they disappeared without a trace, their life signs vanishing entirely. It was then that I was contacted, a very desperate plea to help emphasized in the message.

    “There is something there on that island, something beyond our imagination. You may not be a champion trainer, Chozu, but your vast experience in situations like these is exactly what we need to find out what is going on. Find out what happened to the people that went to the ruins of Cinnabar Island, scan the area for any activity, and if possible, rescue anyone still alive. We will provide you with all the aid we can.”

    That was the gist of the commands from the Kanto Federation. Truth to be told, I heavily dislike taking orders from government organizations, as well as stepping into the unknown. It is this disdain for blind exploration that caused me to abandon my aspirations of becoming a Pokémon champion and become a bounty hunter instead. I wanted stability and control in my life, to be able to live and earn as freely as a Pokémon trainer but without risking myself and my Pokémon in deadly battles. I had a creed in my missions, to only accept them when I had all the information that I requested.

    But in this case, they had a bargaining chip over me. The Kanto Federation dislike working with me due to my rule of requiring so much information. They never cooperated or requested my help, and in turn, I never responded or cooperated when our objectives crossed. But something told me to respond this time, to learn everything I could about the situation. It was then that I learned just how grave this situation truly was.

    Samuel Oak. The pinnacle professor of the Kanto region with an extensive list of discoveries and achievements. Once I saw his name amongst those who had disappeared on the missions, I felt a terrible foreboding in my heart. Why had he of all people gone to such a dangerous place? What happened to him? If he died, what would become of Kanto’s delicate infrastructure when it came to sending children on their journeys?

    I had to find out. I owed my life to him for lending me a Pokémon in the first place. I couldn’t turn my back knowing that someone who meant so much to people had disappeared. And so, I departed for Cinnabar Island at my earliest opportunity, accepting the Federation’s suicidal mission.





    The surface of Cinnabar was exactly as I remembered it, despite being so long ago. The island was once home to laboratories that researched Pokémon biology on a level that was highly illegal. A deadly Pokémon known as Mewtwo had been created there using the DNA of the mythical Pokémon Mew, but the Kanto Federation had silenced everyone involved in the experiments. The volcano erupting some years later destroyed the laboratory and made life on the island uninhabitable, killing the retired scientists in the process. Mewtwo had disappeared as well, much to the Federation’s displeasure. A small price to pay for their decision to try to conceal the truth.

    “Chozu, we’ve confirmed your arrival,” Surge said, speaking through a communicator attached to my arm. Wireless headphones transferred all sound directly to my ears. “You have Varia, don’t you? Take your time with this. We configured Varia’s scanning function so that it can send data directly to our database, photos and all. Anything you scan, we get immediately.”

    Why Lieutenant Surge had been assigned as my superior in this mission, I didn’t know. This was the second time I had to communicate with him in this way, and it already reminded me of why I disliked taking orders so much. As he sternly droned on and on, my patience and anticipation wavered on insanity. But I knew that he was right. I had to take my time and be more careful than I ever had been with this.

    With that in mind, I lifted my right arm and tapped a few buttons on the touch screen of the large device latched around it. The device was shaped like a Kanto Pokédex, only with modifications so extreme that it may as well be physically part of my arm. It told me every bit of information I wanted to know about what it scanned, from the materials of a point of interest, to the health and state of a living creature. It also had weapons and tools attached, like an energy gun that could replicate Pokémon attacks to give enemy Pokémon status ailments, or a grapple hook for escaping tight situations. I even gave it the name Varia.

    “The trainers found an entrance into the island’s interior via the volcano itself. The volcano flattened when it initially erupted, so there’s no mountain, now,” Surge explained. I surveyed the surroundings as he spoke, confirming it myself. The ground was sloped, but nothing one would call a mountain or a volcano remained. “Find that entrance and start there. Try to move quickly and quietly, and keep your Pokémon outside of its pokéball.”

    I had questions about that one, but I obeyed to keep him quiet. Having just one Pokémon, a dear friend to me, I wasn’t comfortable with having him out in the open whilst exploring a place like this. With a quiet toss high into the air and a beam of splashing light on the ground, my faithful friend Pyonchi materialised before me. He was a Jolteon with as hardened an appearance as me - bright, clothed in colourful accessories, but well-toned and noticeably eager. I knelt and pressed a finger to my lips to hush him.

    His response was to shake his fur and tilt his head, a goofy expression on his face that made me smile. That was enough for me, and I finally set off. Pyonchi followed in just as much confusion, trotting beside me. I kept his pokéball in the same hand as the side he was on, more than ready to return him if something so much as jump-scared me.

    “Chozu, try not to forget that you’re following my orders, here,” Surge hissed, making me stop. To my annoyance, the entrance to the island, a large hole, was just metres in front. “Put that pokéball away. You’re going to need to follow my orders exactly if we’re going to get through this. That means waiting for my word and authorization on everything, do you understand?”

    I didn’t reply, taking in a sharp breath. “I can see everything visible of Varia’s screen, so you can’t pull any tricks. You don’t attack unless I say so, you don’t move unless I say so, and you don’t return your Pokémon unless I say so. Any objections, lady?”

    I already wanted to quit, but I knew what this was for. I’m sure he knew exactly why I was going through with this as well, and had full reign to treat me however he wanted. That title, ‘lady’, he knew just how much I despised it. My face twisted in silent agony at just being called it over the communicator. I daren’t ever let him see me react that way, and I most certainly had to make it clear that he didn’t really have control over me. A temporary commander or not, this was my mission, so I responded by taking my first photo with Varia: a thumbs down. A stiff thumbs down by my own hand.

    “There’s a good girl. Pop that pokéball back into your bag and get moving. No using your energy weapons until I say so. You’ll need Jolteon to protect yourself,” he said.

    Back to the island’s entrance again. A wide, gaping hole in the Earth that was presumably the mouth of the volcano sat before me. Peering into it, there wasn’t a feasible way to climb down, but there was a floor not far below. Pyonchi read my mind, yipped happily, and hopped down without me, landing on the floor without so much as shaking it. He confirmed that I could join him by calling out, so I nodded back and took the leap, having to crouch upon landing to resist the force that shook me.

    I was immediately greeted by a lengthy cavern corridor. Wind and dim light came from the far end. Caves shouldn’t be like this, so I glanced back up to where I had jumped from to make sure that I wasn’t mistaken with the wind’s direction, and then advanced, keeping one hand on Varia. Pyonchi started whining a bit as we walked, which didn’t help my climbing fear. Could he smell something that I couldn’t?

    As I progressed, I could only smell dusty air and dung, presumably from the few Pokémon that could still survive here. Turning the first corner only presented me with another rocky corridor, and then another, each one turning exactly ninety degrees and gently sloping down further into the Earth. Someone had to have built this, it was just too convenient to have been dug by a Pokémon. Realising that, I slowed down in what was the longest corridor so far, otherwise no different than the last. Wind was still coming through and yet another slope awaited me at the far end.

    “The other trainers got further than this. Keep moving,” Surge said.

    Of course they did. They were headstrong Pokémon trainers. They probably sprinted through these corridors without even considering why they were shaped this way. I snapped a photo and carried on, walking at normal pace until I reached the very end, where a very steep slant of mud separated me from the next floor. This time it was too far down below for me to be able to see what was ahead.

    “The next floor over is where we lost contact, but life signs remained. Something is down there that offed them,” Surge informed, answering the question I didn’t ask. My heart sped up and some anxious possibilities flew through my mind, but this was what I came here for. With a deep breath, I tapped a few buttons on Varia to ready it for shooting, but a large padlock icon showed on screen instead. Despite what he just said, Surge still didn’t authorise the use of my weaponry.

    Just before I could question it, a cry came from Pyonchi and I flew into a slight panic. The Jolteon had backed up to prepare himself for a sprint, sending himself down the mud slide with a squeal of glee. I would have laughed and joined him if I wasn’t scared out of my wits. Instead I took off after him, cursing his eagerness to face whatever was waiting for us at the bottom. I kept my stance as balanced as I could as I slid down the mud, one foot stretched in front of the other like I was sliding on a snowboard. There was a nasty drop at the bottom of the slide as well, so I still managed to stumble a bit when I landed.

    I pointed Varia forward instantly, my left hand steadying my right as I aimed all over my new surroundings. No ambush. Just Pyonchi’s cheeky smile and mud-covered coat. He reminded me of a child with how often I had to wash him after he played.

    I shuddered a bit, slowly getting to my feet as I surveyed the surroundings properly. A thousand questions arose as I found myself in a high-tech laboratory unlike anything I had ever seen. And I had top-end technology personalised for my use.

    Heavy, quiet, well-armoured machines I couldn’t identify lined the walls and ceilings, exposed wiring connecting it all across every surface of the room. The right side did have a row of familiar computer screens however, so I made that my first point of interest. A quick glance at Varia proved Surge’s warning to be true, as my signal to talk to him had dropped to zero percent. The voice channel was still open however, implying that he was still there.

    The room was so quiet that I could hear my own footsteps, walking as slowly and quietly as I could in my approach to the computers. They were turned on right now, but on standby as they ran a series of maintenance programs. Listed were statistics like room temperature, air filters and whether they were running or not, and the detection of bio signs. Across the several rooms listed, there were quite a few creatures heat signatures detected, but one had a percentage that was rapidly rising. I watched it for a few seconds as the numbers rose and fell at high speed across the different rooms, as if something was travelling between the rooms. That was until a bark from Pyonchi made me jump, and I aimed Varia at him.

    He was fixated on a pink, glowing orb floating in the air. I didn’t have time to follow it as a door I hadn’t seen at one end of the room slid open, letting that travelling creature the computer detected through. Pyonchi cried out and jumped away, avoiding the monster’s initial attack. It resembled a Rhydon, only many times spikier than any I had ever witnessed. It stood bipedal, its back was jagged, and it had front claws that were sharper and longer than a Scyther’s. In fact, it was almost like a Scyther had been equipped with the back shell and feet of a Rhydon, plus some extra spines. That was all I could gather from it before it curled into a giant, thorny ball and rolled across the room at high speed, forcing me to dive to the side to avoid it.

    I rolled into a crouched stance and attempted to fire at it, only to have the restrictions on Varia actually come through. Nothing fired, only a sound to tell me that I couldn’t. My mind panicked and my head darted between the monster and my screen, hoping to find a quick solution to the restriction. Of course, an enormous rolling monster wasn’t about to give me that time, as right after crashing into the wall, it spun around and roared at me. Thankfully, Pyonchi was on my wavelength and snarled back, releasing a Thunderbolt at it. Blinding yellow bolts latched to the monster and caused it to scream, wildly twisting its body as electricity stormed through it.

    I used that time to exit the shooter and return to the photo function, taking a photo when the beast recovered from the attack. It snapped its scythes together and hacked at Pyonchi, earning another snarl as the Jolteon dashed to avoid it. Both creatures exchanged roars and growls at full volume, occasionally trying an attack or two that kept them in that section of the room. Sadly, Pyonchi’s electricity was having very little effect, as even when he was beginning to tire, the monster was not.

    As I watched the duo battle, my fears dissipated into resourceful thoughts. Surge couldn’t see or hear me right now, but he surely received my photo and knew that I was still alive. I chose to scan the monster with the Pokédex next, hoping that he would receive that data and allow me to use my shooter, as it was clearly needed right now. The results of that scan took me by surprise however, as I expected a new page to get recorded into the Pokédex. Instead, the creature got recognised as a Ditto.

    Ditto? That thing? I had never seen this Pokémon before, and it didn’t have the face of a Ditto. It was far too resilient, as well. Before my thoughts could get carried away with possibilities, Varia’s screen began to blink rapidly, and one of the locks on its features came undone. Surge had given me access to the Ice Beam, which I wasted no time in unleashing upon the monster’s front. Varia physically rearranged its shape to resemble a high-tech laser gun, glowing brightly with snow white energy for just a second, which I then unleashed as an Ice Beam.

    My offense was met was an Earth-shaking roar of agony. This monster clearly did not like the ice type, shaking itself before charging at me wildly. My mind hatched a plan in that instant. It had chosen not to roll in a ball this time, giving me the perfect chance to counterattack when it passed. I dived to the side, rolled into a sprint-start, and sprung myself forwards as it crashed into the wall behind me, doing my best to scramble up its rugged and thorny back. I felt a few stings and pricks with my haste, but that didn’t matter as I was now right on top of the creature’s head.

    From there, I cried out as I pulled its head back as far as I could, to which it fought back with a roar and some effort to pull its head out of discomfort. But that was all I needed. I jammed my right arm right in front of its face, releasing yet more Ice Beam shots directly into its mouth. This resulted in another agonising scream, only this time, the monster could do nothing more than scramble and spasm in attempt to relieve itself of the damage I was giving it. It almost threw me off, but after just three shots, it weakened enough and fell limp, collapsing onto all fours.

    Pyonchi had to have the last laugh, barking at it a few times. Even though it didn’t respond, he twirled his head to generate a ring of electricity, Thundershock, and slammed it onto the monster to knock it out for good. Yet more questionable occurrences resulted from that however, as bursts of smoke and slime started to cover the defeated monster in small explosions, each one causing its body to shrink and melt into a purple sludge that immediately faded into the ground. I took a recording with Varia, jaw dropped until all that was left was the familiar, jelly-like body of the Ditto species I knew.

    I could have stared at that for hours, replaying what I had just witnessed and questioning every second of it. The poor Ditto appeared unharmed, but was unconscious. I dared to approach and even touch it to flip it round, finding nothing out of the ordinary left of it. I was left to believe that it had transformed into that fierce abomination and attacked me, for whatever reason.

    Back to the computer. I was alone again, as long as Pyonchi kept a close eye on that fallen Ditto – despite that Ditto flaring up my fears with the mission in the first place, getting this situation under control was my top priority. I didn’t hesitate to get to work on the computers from earlier, finding them just as familiar to me as I needed. I mentally cheered as I could make short work of navigating it, starting with the settings. The computer had control of this room, which had been set to release radio waves that interrupted wireless communication systems. Oddly enough, I was able to alter these settings without worrying about any form of security protection whatsoever, meaning I soon had contact with Surge again.

    “Chozu! You’re alive?” Surge shouted. I cringed at his volume, keeping at work on the computer while he spoke. “Stop what you’re doing a second. I’m going to try something.”

    I raised an eyebrow, giving him that chance. The computer began to operate on its own, opening a few programs and screens without me touching it at all. One of those programs displayed the diagram of a map, along with a text box and a small window that showed Surge’s old, tanned, but rugged face. He was wearing an old army hat.

    “Yep. That should do it. I can see your pretty face just fine,” he sneered. My face remained flat. “C’mon, don’t give me that look. This is pretty awesome.”

    I still didn’t respond, so he gave up, palming his face. “Alright, fine. Turns out these computers are the same ones that were originally on Cinnabar Island, meaning that they’re still connected to HQ. Just like what we did to Varia, we have full control over them and their data. The original computers had been destroyed in the eruption, but someone must have rebuilt them with exactly the same infrastructure as before.”

    I couldn’t help but fold my arms in deep thought. Why would anyone do that? It’s not like the records saved on the original computers could be recovered, could it? Besides, the Kanto Federation had all the data on Mewtwo. If someone wanted that data, this was the wrong place to look. Why recreate this place with exactly the same mechanics, to the point that it could be hacked into this easily?

    “My voice comes through clearer on here than it does with Varia. On top of that, I’ve got a lot more control over this place. We’ll use this room as a sort of ‘navigation point’ for the time being,” Surge continued. “As for that ‘Ditto’ you sent us, HQ are hard at work analysing it and all that. We’ll be able to update you on it as soon as we find out something. In the meantime, are there any signs of it having killed or attacked the other trainers?”

    I hadn’t thought about that. Looking back at the photo I took, I saw no hints at all. The monster was abnormally clean however, like a brand-new toy out of the box. Could I have been the first thing this monster ever attacked? It went through the other rooms to get here, so it must know its way around.

    “Either way, HQ are intrigued. If you encounter another one like it, try not to kill it next time. That’s an order,” he said. I went back to being half-lidded. “For now, we have a plan. There are three sectors in this place. Sector three is inaccessible right now, so start with number one and investigate there.”

    While he spoke, the map on the screen rotated to show off an overview of the three sectors, zooming in on the section he was talking about. There weren’t many rooms there, but one of them was blinking on screen.

    “We’re detecting life signs in that sector, but we can’t identify what it is due to interference similar to what was in this room. It might be one of the missing trainers. While you search for them, see what you can find out about the Ditto and any other living things you can find here. Don’t kill unless your life is threatened. If need be, send scan data or photos, and we’ll unlock the other weapons in Varia for you. And lastly, keep that pet of yours under control. He shouldn’t need a leash,” Surge instructed, sneering again. “Any objections, lady?”

    I almost cringed again, but the knowledge that he could now see my face prevented much more than a slight lean backward. I chose to pass off the title this time, but not without raising my middle finger at the screen. Surge chuckled and the transmission closed, leaving just the map with the blinking destination on screen.

    With a new goal set, I turned to get Pyonchi to follow, pausing at his new predicament. The fainted Ditto had vanished, and the poor Jolteon was whining and sniffing the floor where it once was. I pondered its disappearance and how both of us had failed to notice, but as long as it didn’t come back as another unidentifiable monster, I was calm enough to deal with it. That pink glow I had briefly seen before this encounter had disappeared, as well. Whatever they were, it was useless to guess about now – I had an objective. I called Pyonchi and made my way over to the hatch from earlier. The Jolteon eagerly jogged ahead, yipping at the three-path split he was immediately met with.

    All three led to elevators, which in turn led to the appropriate sectors, each marked on the halls and the elevators themselves. The elevators were cylindrical and inconvenient in size for us both, as well as made of transparent glass. At least it was dark enough to see my reflection on them.

    Speaking of reflection, the ride was long enough for my mind to drift off. I had worked with Surge on missions of this kind before, and each briefing was ended with that horrible phrase: ‘any objections, lady?’. Back then, I would ignore it and respond the same way as all the other soldiers out of respect. But he soon began to bully Pyonchi as well, and my mind opened up to the truth of how he was treating me. A person like Surge couldn’t hate electric type Pokémon. Yet he singled me and Pyonchi out, speaking to us as if we were tools to be used by the Kanto Federation. Was it perhaps because I was the only female on the force?

    Looking at my face in that reflection recalled so many stories from back then. I let him get away with so much, just so much unacceptable behaviour, that I was almost thankful for it. It hardened me. It gave me the intelligence to analyse situations and make difficult choices quickly. It gave me the strength to realise just how much Pyonchi meant to me, and to finally walk out of the federation that day. Back then, I was young and naïve. Now, I was tough and respected.



    Reviews

    Dragonfree

    I enjoy the Metroid homage aspect of this. I think you largely nail the mood and feel of a Metroid game and the voice of this Samus-like character, and how the descent into Pokémon Mansion doesn't need to be an alien planet to convey the same sort of dread and mystery about what happened here and what's living here. Overall, even aside from that, this story just has a lovely sci-fi feel, and you successfully make Mother and the whole concept of these experimental Ditto evolving a hive mind creepy and interesting.

    I think my favorite part of this story, though, may be the relationship between Chozu and Pyonchi - Pyonchi's genuinely really cute, and it's obvious how much Chozu cares for him, in a pretty natural and non-forced way. I'm a sucker for platonic relationships, and I thought this one was pretty well done, particularly since it's one of those aspects where you're not drawing heavily on Metroid canon - Samus works alone, but Chozu always has Pyonchi with her, and it makes them a bit more unique.

    I must wonder, though, why Chozu thinks regular Pokémon training is too dangerous for her Pokémon and not stable enough... and therefore instead chooses to go into bounty hunting. Surely missions like this one present much more of a danger to her Pokémon than friendly battling with other trainers, and I can't imagine bounty hunting in general is safer for Pokémon than a sport practiced by children, much less a bastion of stability! I definitely raised an eyebrow at that part - at the very least, surely thinking it's safer and stabler than training isn't literally the only reason she became a bounty hunter (a lot of other things are definitely also safer and stabler than training).

    I also do feel like some aspects of the homage feel a bit strange or out of place. For example, the main character's name, Chozu, is presumably derived from "Chozo", the bird-headed species from the Metroid games - but I don't see that there are any parallels between Chozu and the Chozo in any way, and the character she actually parallels is clearly Samus, so using the name of the Chozo for her feels kind of random and arbitrary. Similarly, in the Metroid games, the Varia suit is specifically the suit upgrade that lets Samus withstand extreme temperatures - but in this story, Varia is simply the name of an arm-mounted device that Chozu has in place of all of Samus's abilities. If it's not named Varia to allude to the actual Varia suit specifically, why name it Varia to begin with? It just becomes kind of confusing as the name gives us expectations that don't pan out - kind of like writing a sci-fi Pokémon homage taking place on a planet called Kalos, but the planet isn't French-inspired, nor does it otherwise have anything to do with Kalos more than any other Pokémon region.

    I see that the relationship between Chozu and Surge here uses elements of the relationship between Samus and Adam, and you're clearly writing this with a critical perspective on how their relationship was portrayed in canon - but it doesn't quite feel like you're sensibly commenting on the relationship between Samus and Adam, because you've made Surge an entirely different sort of character and given them a very different sort of relationship. Surge here is just generally an asshole, Chozu has always hated him, and "Any objections, lady?" is just a sneering taunt. In Other M, Adam was condescending to Samus in a way the game's narrative didn't seem to understand, but he wasn't Surge's sort of sneering villain - to write a truly meaningful critique of the way Adam and Samus's relationship was written, I think you'd have to keep the nature of Adam's character and just have the narrative (and Samus) respond more critically and realistically to it, rather than replacing him with an altogether different, more obviously villainous sort of character who just happens to say the same catchphrase a few times. Ultimately as it is I feel like the parallels with this in particular just become sort of distracting, stopping me from being as absorbed in this story on its own terms because you keep reminding me about Other M (after all, who wants to remember Other M?).

    On occasion I think the way the story is written is sort of confusing - a few sentences in here don't quite seem to make sense even if I can basically see what you're getting at (e.g. "As he sternly droned on and on, my patience and anticipation wavered on insanity." or "Sadly, my desperate struggle was met with failure of a miracle."), and you do stuff like describe the first hybrid she encounters first as being a spiky Rhydon and then saying actually it's more like a Scyther with Rhydon's feet and back shell, which definitely doesn't sound like something you might mistake for a spiky Rhydon. Other times, there are simple typos like confused or missing words. During dialogue, you also have something of a tendency to overuse unusual speech verbs, which sticks out a bit and is kind of distracting - during the conversation towards the end you've got "praised" and multiple uses of "proposed", which just reads oddly. But for the most part your prose is pretty clean, and although it's sort of emotionally flat, that feels like it suits Chozu's character as someone who doesn't show much outward emotion.

    I have somewhat mixed feelings on Mew's role here. On one level, it's yet another homage to the baby Metroid at the end of Super Metroid, which I enjoy, and I appreciated that Mew's appearance was set up with the reoccurring pink glow throughout the story. However, I can't help but feel like it seems just a bit cheap or deus ex machina-ish that Mew appears and fixes everything just when Chozu is in real trouble. I was expecting Pyonchi to be the one to attack Mother after Chozu had broken the glass, and couldn't help but be a little disappointed when Pyonchi played no part in the ending - like I said, I really liked their relationship and wanted to see more of their dynamic, and it just felt like it'd be appropriate for Pyonchi to be the one to save her there... or at least have a part in it.

    Overall I definitely enjoyed this story quite a bit, though - I have some nitpicks with how you handled some things, and there was some strange phrasing here and there, but the neat sci-fi mystery and Metroidness and Pokémon-trainer bond nonetheless made it an intriguing and gripping read. Nice job all in all!


    Negrek

    This is a fun story! I have a soft spot for high-flying action stories, and this is definitely an entertaining take on what one of those would look like in the pokémon world. Or, well, an entertaining take on a crossover between the pokémon world and Metroid. :p

    The sci-fi-ish vibes of Metroid work really well here; with all the weird gene splicing the pokémon world apparently gets up to, and especially with this being the site of the Mewtwo project, the mutanty pokémon and weird underground lab complex fit really well. You do good work with the scenes where Chozu battles the ditto-hybrids; it's a unique challenge to write battles that accommodate both human and pokémon participants, but I think you do a good job of it here. Chozu doesn't feel so overwhelmingly powerful that there's no real point for her to have Pyonchi there with her, but neither is she so weak that she can't contribute to the fight herself. To me the early sections are where the two franchises blend the best, where you have Chozu exploring this shadowy underground facility with its mysterious machines and elevators and cryogen tanks, fighting larger-than-life monstrosities. It's a nice mixture of creepy atmosphere and unsettling monsters with a generous helping of action--genuinely fun stuff. I have to admit I kind of laughed at the part where Chozu says she went into bounty hunting because it's more stable and less dangerous than training. I'm not sold on that one, especially if most of Chozu's jobs are similar to the one in this story. :p

    The use of ditto, the "failed clone," is also a really neat idea. I have to admit that I'm not a huge fan of the "ditto is a failed Mewtwo" thing, but I like how you kind of took it one step further here, where the fact that ditto is a failed clone isn't the punchline but instead the jumping-off point for the plot. Ditto's design sits in a fun place where it's kind of silly and harmless-seeming, but also has the potential to be really unsettling and alien. The monsters were one of the highlights of this story for me, and ditto's kind of goopy bubbly ectoplasm nature gave them a nice extra layer of grossness on top of the horror. A ditto villain that's able to transform into something it only knows of, not actually encountered, is a clever idea and a legitimate threat in a way that ditto usually can't be.

    Pyonchi was fun, too. The part where he tried to salute Chozu and fell over was particularly cute. If anything I would have liked to see a little more of his bond with his trainer, since Chozu ended up arguing that such a bond is what would make humans more powerful than the ditto. The two of them certainly got along well, but having something like Chozu actually managing to stand up to Surge when he insults Pyonchi, where she wouldn't do so for herself, would have really emphasized how much he means to her. As it is, though, he's still a fun addition to the story. Darker stories can often benefit from a character(s) who can lighten the mood a bit, and he works well for that purpose here.

    There were some things that gave me difficulty in this story, though. I was pretty confused by the portrayal of death vs fainting, for example. Chozu kept referring to the ditto she defeated as having fainted, and then Surge kept admonishing her for killing them... is fainting just synonymous with death here? Is Chozu somehow misjudging the strength of her attacks against the ditto, or Surge? I'm not sure what you were going for with that.

    The dude ordering Samus around and giving her "permission" to perform routine functions of her job was one of the most widely-panned elements of Other M, and I don't think it works that much better here. There is that self-awareness where Chozu realizes that Surge is a jerk and he's been going at her so hard probably just because she's the only woman on the force, but then you kind of don't go anywhere with that. I mean, Surge turns out to be a bad guy, but that doesn't really change that he's gross and his role makes no sense in the context of the story. I don't think you really need a hateable character in this piece in general; there's plenty of tension in the situation in itself and with the ditto. And one of huge issues with the commander guy in Other M was that it just makes no damn sense to hire a bounty hunter whose entire purpose is to be able to operate independently and then micromanage the heck out of them during their actual mission, down to the level of telling them when it's okay to use their weapons. At least in a video game restricting the player's abilities makes sense in the context of constructing challenges for them to work through, whereas in a story where there's no need for that sort of thing it just looks insane. I honestly think that the story would be better off if you just eliminated Surge completely; you don't even need the whole "Federation is coming to take control of the ditto" to force Chozu into a conflict with Mother--"ditto locked me inside facility and started rambling about world domination" would be enough to motivate Chozu to deal with her, I'd think.

    The ending to this story struck me as a bit unsatisfying. I'd certainly noticed the pink orb zooming around in earlier scenes and figured it had to be Mew, but all the same, having Mew show itself and simply blast the heck out of Mother, thus ending the climactic fight, struck me as kind of a cheap out. I'm guessing you were going for the theme of pokémon working together with humans being able to overcome the ditto, but it didn't really feel as though Chozu had to do anything to earn her victory here. She happened to have the tech that would let Mew use its Z-move (I guess?), and thus Mother was defeated. There's not really any build-up to that, and then Mother is defeated in one attack and the story is abruptly over. I think it would have worked better if you'd built up Mew and Chozu's cooperation somehow, so the final Z-move really felt like the culmination of something that had been growing through the rest of the story before getting fully unleashed at the end, rather than like something that just kind of happened and wrapped the story up. The last couple of lines, where Chozu kind of goes, "Welp, that was strange, but I guess it's just another wonder of the world of pokémon!" really lampshades it, doesn't it? Even Chozu is a bit miffed and startled that everything wrapped up the way it did, which seems like a bit of an underwhelming reaction to a high-action story with monsters and mad science and explosions.

    One other thing seems off to me about the ending: Chozu mentions that "No one would even know of what I had seen today." That being besides Surge and everyone else on his team in the Federation? Chozu seems to think this is all just kind of going to blow over and no one will ever know about it, but that doesn't seem at all realistic to me; at the very least, I'd expect the Federation to be furious with her. And as far as no one believing her goes... she still has all the data she recorded on Varia, doesn't she?

    So, I think a pokémon/Metroid crossover is a really fun idea, and you do a good job of blending the two universes in several places. The weird hybrid/laboratory thing Metroid tends to have going on is a perfect fit for the combo of mad science and horror that surrounds everything to do with Mewtwo, the action-adventure-exploration elements gel perfectly with the themes of the pokémon world, and Metroid gadgets add a new dimension to pokémon's existing weird tech stuff. On the other hand, I think you maybe borrowed too heavily from Other M in particular, pulling in elements, like Surge, that really don't make sense in this context, or which, like the whole plot with the Kanto Federation in general, strike me as unnecessary. If this story had just been, "Indigo League hires bounty hunter to rescue vanished research mission," and Chozu had no actual contact with the league throughout, it would work at least as well as what you have here.
    Sorry, I know that's a lot of negative. What it really comes down to, I think, is maybe taking some more time to consider how the elements of these two universes could combine. Where I think the story is at its best right now is in the more action-y parts, where you have pokémon hybrids that evoke the genetically-engineered monsters that pepper the Metroid universe getting into fights that are like pokémon battles but where humans can participate using Chozo-like tech. Where things really start to get bogged down, to my mind, is around the line break on page 16, after which the investigation ends and we get nearly six straight pages of exposition, and then the final battle comes and goes in about a page. I think leaning more into the action/adventure parts might help a bit; I think those were where your writing was strongest. On the other hand, some of the larger plot elements felt a little convoluted, and anything you could do to cut down on the exposition would be good. Less talking, more shooting! You have some really fun ideas and scenes in this story, and I think what it really wants is a little cutting back on some of the elements that don't work as well so they can truly shine.


    Rediamond

    The good: I love the jolteon. Such a cute and happy doggo. Jolteon always seem to be portrayed as more doglike in behavior than the other eeveelutions, and honestly I’m all here for it. It also built up some tension at the end, from the time the antagonist shows up to the conclusion.

    The premise: I feel like I need to get this out of the way first. I am not sure that I really ‘get’ the story. I understand the text and the emotional beats, sure, but this might not be for me. Because it’s for Metroid fans. The protagonist’s weapon is an arm cannon named Varia. The general setting is full of glowy tech, lifts, and sealed off paths around a hub. The protagonist is named Chozu. Oh, and she’s a bounty hunter. The final boss is a brain-shaped ditto named Mother… who creates a pretty exact recreation of one of their boss fights, right down to a small ally swooping in, restoring the protagonist to full health. Then the lair collapses on top of everything. What game is that boss fight a homage to? I don’t know. My knowledge of Metroid amounts to watching a few clips from some Let’s Plays. So yeah. I understand the text. I understand what the story’s trying to do. But it was never really going to resonate with me, because I am not the target audience of this. Maybe that alone is a strike against the theme, which was about Kanto nostalgia. But I digress.

    The bad: I am setting aside anything in “the premise” for now because I don’t feel as if I can criticize the concept itself and I’m not invested enough to praise it. The same goes for the execution. If I have a complaint it’s that until the final battle, the entire story is told in a fairly constant private eye monologue. The protagonist comments on everything from a distance. She has feelings, but they are covered up under layers of analysis. Almost every single sentence in the entire story contains either ten words, a comma, or both. Sometimes this is egregious because the sentence easily could have been shorter. The best example is “Yet more questionable occurrences resulted from that however.” That sentence could be cut. Or shortened to. “And then things changed all at once.” A break from the usual pattern is a signal to pay attention to that. And yet it never happens. All of this makes it hard to get into and seems to lower the stakes a bit. The protagonist is in danger. She’s said as much ten times in as many ways in the last few paragraphs. But, y’know, the story’s structure doesn’t pick up as calm thoughts yield to spur of the moment reactions and longer sentences go to short, snappy ones.

    The verdict: I think that I’m more or less immune to the main appeal of this, which is that it puts a tonally different Nintendo universe into the pokémon world and makes the lore weave together fairly well. But I’m not really into Metroid enough to care. Between a lack of interest in the premise and the general denseness of the prose, I had trouble getting into this one.
     
  3. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    6th place: Palette by Umbramatic

    Scoring
    Dragonfree: 8th place (20 points)
    Negrek: 6th place (40 points)
    Rediamond: 6th place (40 points)
    Total: 100 points

    Well, I've been feeling kinda down, but I needed to get back into the whole writing thing sooner rather than later. The following fic is written like a children's fable, influenced heavily by too much Okami and Undertale on the author's part.

    Presenting,

    Palette

    ---------

    KANTO, LONG LONG AGO

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

    Sunlight filtered through the trees on a warm summer evening. Pidgey chirped, Caterpie crawled, it all seemed normal.

    In reality, the various forest Pokemon were trying to avoid setting off the gods in their midst.

    In a clearing in the forest, three majestic birds- one red, one blue, one yellow - perched across from a pink sprite, between them a plate of food.

    "Thanks for taking us out to a picnic!" said the yellow bird, Zapdos, to the pink sprite, a Mew.

    "The food is quite lovely," said the blue bird, Articuno. "And you probably needed time off from your duties as Kanto's chief guardian."

    "This event is peaceful, yet full of passion!" said the red bird, Moltres.

    The Mew chuckled. "Glad you're all enjoying this!"

    Shortly after, however, she worriedly glanced over at a pot set aside from the food, one stewing with some strange energy.

    "What is that?" asked Moltres.

    "Er, hehe," said Mew, "that's Giratina's special sake brew! I was going to deliver it to my father Xerneas after this!"

    "Sake? Neat!" said Zapdos.

    "Hell yeah! I could use a drink!" said Moltres.

    "Don't mind if I do," said Articuno.

    "Wait, wait, don't-" said the Mew.

    Too late. The legendary birds had tipped over the pot.

    Instantly a black sludge spilled out and started spreading rapidly and seeping into everything. The legendary birds and the Mew flew upwards in a panic and watched in horror as the blight spread as far as the eye can see, draining color from everything it touched.

    "Well," said Mew. "What I was about to say is that when not properly refined by my father Giratina's special brew has some... reality-warping effects. And you three spilled enough to curse and drain the color from the entire Kanto region!"

    Zapdos cowered as much as he could in midair. Moltres looked around nervously while Articuno merely sighed.

    "We're sorry!" said Zapdos. "We didn't mean to unleash a curse!"

    "This can be fixed, right?" said Moltres, looking around at the color-drained landscape.

    "No point in panicking," said Articuno. "Let's hear what Mew has to say."

    "I know what to say all right. As punishment, you three are going to fix this."

    "Er, roger that," said Zapdos.

    "'We'll get it done in no time!" said Moltres.

    Articuno sighed. "This is going to be a headache..."

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

    The color-drained landscape stretched on and on. The three birds were increasingly intimidated by the sight of it, and as time went on Zapdos started to lose hope.

    "Geez... We really messed up, huh... I dunno if it can be fixed."

    "It'll be fine," said Moltres, "We just gotta do what Mew said and find something to restore color with."

    "Question is where..." said Moltres.

    It was then the bird trio heard a loud whimpering.

    "Er, is that you, Moltres?" said Zapdos.

    "Why would it be me?!" said Moltres.

    "Look, over there," said Articuno, pointing to the ground with a foot.

    There where Articuno pointed was a small, quivering, colorful lump.

    ...Wait, colorful?

    "Hey!" said Zapdos, "we can use this to restore the colors!"

    He swooped down to claim the lump only to be met with a scream.

    The lump, in actuality, was a child, swaddled in a colorful blanket.

    Moltres tsked tsked. "Calm down, Zapdos! It's just a kid!"

    Articuno eyed the child curiously. "Maybe we need a gentler approach..."

    Things were still for a moment. Then three Pidgey - one red, one blue, and one yellow - fluttered down to the child hesitantly. The child giggled and attempted to pet the Pidgey as they darted out of the way.

    The yellow Pidgey, Zapdos, looked the kid over. "We need that blanket to bring the colors back... but we can't just take it away from this kid."

    "Maybe we lead the child where we need them
    to go?" said Articuno.

    "Good idea!" said Moltres.

    The multicolored Pidgey started slowly hopping away from the child; the child laughed and followed them all the way.

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

    The group eventually emerged in a small spot in the trees were a village had taken root; the village consisted of a few small houses surrounding a larger, central one. The color had been drained from all of them, and the people and Pokemon were so drained they looked like uncanny phantoms.

    "Now what?" said Zapdos.

    "We should start by restoring color to here, right?" said Moltres.

    "Question is how," said Articuno. "We have the blanket but little else."

    Articuno inspected the child. They noticed they were playing at a thread in the blanket but little else.

    But then they looked closer and noticed it wasn't a thread.

    "Is... is that a wisp of color?"

    Indeed, as the viridian wisp drifted down it started restoring color to the grass.

    "It's so little though... do you think there's enough?" said Zapdos.

    "Only one way to find out," said Moltres.

    She grabbed the wisp of color in her Pidgey beak and started spreading it around, soaring over the village. The color dripped down as if paint, filling in the village and surrounding trees. The child laughed and clapped at the spectacle.

    Soon the whole village had been restored to normal, at the cost of the viridian square of the blanket now being a dull gray.

    "Ha! Easy!" said Zapdos. "We'll take care of this color thing in no time!"

    "We'll cover all of Kanto in brilliant colors!" said Moltres.

    "On to the next village then..." said Articuno.

    The group headed off.

    Something in the uncolored areas shifted and twisted.

    ---------

    The next city the group came upon was a port, one that would be normally bustling and thriving but instead was still and listless from the curse.

    "Okay," said Zapdos, "we just need another color from the blanket again and..."

    He tried tugging at a cinnabar patch with his Pidgey beak, but only got thread. "Hey! What gives?"

    Articuno sighed. "Perhaps we need the right color for the job..."

    The child clutched the blanket tightly.

    "Problem is the kid's blanket has a lot of colors," said Moltres, shaking her Pidgey head. "How do we know which is the right one for the job?"

    "I suppose we look around," said Articuno.

    And so they did, passing wisps of humans and Pokemon until they reached an awe-inspiring sight: A statue of a samurai and his Arcanine.

    Zapdos paused to read the inscription at the base of the statue. "Dedicated to Hideki the... the... and his Arcanine companion Kamiya... Something's missing!"

    "Let me guess," said Moltres, sighing. "It's the solution to
    this puzzle."

    Articuno noticed the child had wandered off to play with a Pokemon that was noticeably less wisp-like than the rest; specifically a Growlithe. Articuno hopped over to the Growlithe.

    "Excuse me, ma'am, we're on a mission; can you tell us more about Samurai Hideki?"

    The Growlithe tilted her head before barking affirmatively. "Aye! Hideki and Kamiya are very famous around here! They're heroes!"

    "Did Hideki have a title of some sort? Perhaps a color?"

    "Oh yeah! The title just got knocked off the statue during the weird color blight! For some reason no one can remember it! I think it started with a V? Pet me!"

    The child obliged, while Articuno put a wing to their chin in thought.

    "So a color that starts with V... Viridian? No, we already kinda had that... violet? No, that can't be it..."

    They noticed a bright red similar but distinct from the cinnabar on the child's blanket. "Wait a minute."

    They tugged gently on it. A color wisp, not thread, came out. They brought the wisp over to the blanked engraving on the statue.

    In an instant "Hideki the Vermillion" was restored, and from their color spread out to affect the entire port city in cascading waves.

    "You did it, Articuno!" said Zapdos.

    "I sure did," said Articuno, giving a bird smirk.

    "Pet me!" said the Growlithe.

    "Come on, guys!" said Moltres. "The rest will be a cinch at this rate!"

    The group headed out of the port.

    The non-colored shadows continue to shift.

    ---------

    The next town the group came across was another port, and in a similar state to the last. This time, however, the group noticed what in particular was off really quickly:

    "What's with the water?" said Zapdos.

    Indeed, the water, which in addition to being drained of color like everything else, seemed to be made of roiling sludge now.

    "Ick." said Moltres. "Is this some kind of pollution?"

    "Seems like it," said Articuno. Maybe we should-"

    Before they could finish their sentence something emerged from the water.

    It looked like a Seadra, but its features were off, almost distorted. Its nose was stretched out, its fins were the wrong shape, and its scales had a grossly different pattern. Its entire body seemed to be made of strange, tiny, interwoven blocks. Its eyes stared at the group, cold, unfeeling.

    Then the Seadra lunged at the child as they screamed.

    Quickly, Zapdos intervened, shifting out of his Pidgey form just enough to zap the Seadra with a Thunderbolt. The Seadra immediately burst into black motes that quickly disintegrated and vanished. The child collapsed, sobbing.

    "What the hell was that?" said Moltres.

    "No ordinary Seadra, that's what," said Zapdos.

    "This color curse also seems to be summoning monstrosities," said Articuno. "We must be careful on our mission."

    Zapdos glanced worriedly at the crying child. "Are they gonna be OK?"

    "I think they'll be fine. Kid's been pretty tough so far." said Moltres.

    "They should still be good to help us with our journey;" said Articuno. "Speaking of..."

    The child had stopped crying and was starting to stroke the blanket affectionately. A cerulean patch of the blanket had started glowing. Articuno took the glow and placed it on the ocean waves.

    The glow overtook the ocean, replacing the sludge with crystal-clear cerulean water. The glow then spread outward and onward to the rest of the port town, coloring it anew.

    "Well our work here is done," said Zapdos.

    "What about the Seadra monster?" said Moltres.

    "Creatures like those may very well be lurking in the uncolored parts," said Articuno. "We must be careful."

    And so off they went.

    ----------

    The group at this point was headed through a dark, de-colored forest, with the darkness of the woods and the lack of color and wisp-like mons bearing over them. The child stuck close to the disguised Legendary birds for protection, but they weren't the only one that was nervous.

    Zapdos was worriedly looking between the child, the other birds, and back over and over before he finally spoke.

    "...Hey guys?"

    "Yes?" said Articuno.

    "What is it?" said Moltres.

    "It's about the kid. Don't you think we're being a little too hard on them?"

    "What do you mean?" said Articuno.

    "Well, we've been... Been acting like they're a means to an end," said Zapdos. "Not a person."

    "That's ridiculous!" said Moltres. "We wouldn't do that, now would we?"



    "We've been lugging them all over Kanto just stopping to rest, eat, drink and restore color and yet we barely acknowledge them otherwise," said Zapdos. "They're there for the blanket. And they almost got killed back there."

    "Well, we need them," said Articuno, "and will protect them as needed."

    "As needed?!" said Zapdos. "That's kinda cold considering we used to be humans once!"

    There was silence. Moltres shuffled awkwardly. The child looked at them oddly. Articuno sighed.

    "We will never demean or forget what Pandora Mew and Lugia have done for us." said Articuno. "But Kanto needs us. We will do what we can for the child but the whole is in greater danger."

    "The whole? The whole is made of individual parts! Every human... Every Pokemon... They're all important! Like... colors in an artist's palette! That kid's part of that just like everyone else!"

    "Can we just keep going?" said Moltres. "We won't accomplish anything debating how to treat the kid."

    Indeed the child stopped observing them oddly and started walking ahead.

    Zapdos ruffled his Pidgey feathers. "Fine..."

    They left. And were silent a good while.

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


    The next town they got to was a dim, bleary town even factoring in the lack of color. The group looked around warily, not sure what to think. A tower loomed in the distance.

    "Well," said Zapdos, "Where do we start here? This place is spooky."

    "The tower seems like an ideal spot." said Articuno.

    "Yeah, seems like a safe bet for... shenanigans," said Moltres.

    The three approached and entered the tower. It was quiet, and the group could tell from looking around that this was a holy place for honoring the dead.

    So why did something feel... off?

    The four advanced slowly. Then they heard a wailing.

    "Ack!" said Zapdos. "Of course this place is spooky..."

    "Something's off about it though..." said Articuno.

    "It sounds like a cry for help!" said Moltres.

    The group rushed over to find a cowering Haunter. The child giggled and played with the ghost's tail, causing her to wail more.

    "Is something the matter?" said Articuno.

    "Monsters!" said the Haunter. "Like us Ghosts but... scarier!"

    "More of them here?" said Moltres.

    "We ought to take care of them..." said Zapdos.

    The Haunter suddenly screamed and dove into its own shadow. "They're coming!"

    Indeed, several gray, distorted, block-woven Gengar approached. Like the Seadra, they converged on the child, who screamed and hid. Unlike the Seadra, they spoke. Muttering the word "home" in strange tinny voices over and over as they clutched and lunged at the child and their blanket.

    Articuno and Moltres shifted to their true forms, attacking the bizarre Gengar with ice and fire blasts. Zapdos covered the child with his wings, the monsters trying to pry him off.



    "I could use a little help here!" he said.

    "We'd try but they keep coming!" said Moltres.

    Indeed more and more Gengar kept coming from the shadows, their cacophonous cries of "home" getting louder and louder. Zapdos looked down at the cowering child and saw there was a glowing lavender patch to the blanket. Zapdos took hold of the patch with his beak and threw it at the ghosts.

    Instantly, they faded away peacefully as the color spread, taking over the whole tower and then the whole town.

    "You did it!" said the Haunter. "They're go-"

    She stopped and stared at the three Legendary Birds before her.

    "Oh great holy ones!" said the Haunter. "Thank you so much for saving us from those abomina-"

    "Pipe down Rebecca!" said another, male Haunter. "They're probably insulted by you groveling!"

    "Well I don't see you showing any respect, Wrathbert!"

    As the two ghosts argued, the birds shrank down to their Pidgey forms, the child giggling and patting their heads.

    "You should have had your priorities straight," said Zapdos.

    "We know, we know," said Moltres, rolling her eyes.

    "At the very least," said Articuno, "we know for sure the monsters want the source of the colors, which also somehow dispel them... And they want something to do with "home"."

    "Well we're probably not going to find out here." said Moltres. "Let's keep going."

    And they left the tower.

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

    The group eventually reached another town, by the southern coast. It was plain, gray, quiet.

    Once again something felt off.

    The birds looked around while the child's face seemed to light up in recognition as they searched for something.



    The the group heard wingbeats. They looked up to find three monsters in the shape of three beings in particular:

    Articuno. Zapdos. Moltres.

    The child, the birds, the wisps in the village. All were paralyzed with fear.

    Then the monster birds lunged for the child and the blanket.

    Immediately the true birds shifted to their true forms to ward them off. Each darted to meet their doppelganger - Articuno moved to freeze the monster Articuno's wings with Ice Beam, Moltres attempted to counter the monster Moltres' flames with Flamethrower, and Zapdos tried to fry the monster Zapdos with Thunderbolt. But the monsters barely budged, screaming "home, take us home!" in their tinny voices.

    "What the hell do you mean by that?!" said Moltres.

    She looked around and saw the child fleeing, dragging the blanket.

    "Wait... The color banishes these things... but does it also send them... Home?"

    In her distraction, however, the other Moltres broke free of her assault and rushed the child, charging up an attack. Moltres panicked and rushed over to grab the child, just as the other Moltres fired a strange-looking Fire Blast.

    The child was saved. The blanket was not.

    "No!" said Moltres.

    Upon seeing the blanket destroyed the monster birds screeched in rage and agony.

    "Home, you took home from us, you will die die di-"

    Suddenly they were attacked by a powerful psychic blast, sending them flying back.

    The birds turned to see the Mew floating in the air above them.

    "I'll hold them off! Get the kid to their house in this village!"

    "Which house?" said Zapdos.

    "...Moltres! Let them lead the way!" said Articuno.

    Moltres placed the child down and they ran toward one particular house in the village.

    The door opened.

    Two women opened the door, saw the child, and embraced them.

    Everything was still.

    The monster birds sighed as if freed from an incredible pain and faded away. A wave color spread out not just from the house but to all of Kanto, flowers and trees sprouting alongside it. The birds looked along in awe.

    "So... What just happened there?" said Zapdos.

    "I think I know," said Articuno. "The potential to bring color back was not in the blanket, but the potential of the child themself."

    "Sounds about right," said the Mew.

    "Heh... Guess you were right, huh Zapdos?" said Moltres.

    "Aw yeah, I love being right!" said Zapdos.

    He then looked over to the child and their parents.

    "...Are they gonna be OK?"

    "They're with the ones they love," said the Mew. "They'll be fine. Perhaps go on to do great things."

    "If you say so..." said Articuno.

    "They look happy at least," said Moltres.

    "Anyway," said Mew. "You three want to have a normal picnic now?"

    There were several cries from the birds of "heck yeah" "for sure" and "agreed" before the group flew off.

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

    "...And that's why even hundreds of years later and even after the Kanto Civil War the towns and cities of Kanto have color names!"

    "Really?" said the Pikachu. "I don't remember hearing that from my Trainer... Then again he was always the silent type."

    "Heh, I know what you mean... Pass it on to your teammates at least?"

    "Oh, I will," said the Pikachu, running off.

    The Pidgey he was talking to gave a bird smile and stretched his wings.

    Zapdos flew off.

    ***

    Reviews

    Dragonfree

    I loved the idea of tackling how the towns of Kanto got the whole color palette theme! The whole curse that drains colors and a magical object from where you can somehow physically pull a color to restore the correct hue to a given town had a really distinct and fun fable-like feel. I also liked the scene where Zapdos questions how they've been treating the child as a means to an end, and the discussion of whether that can be justified - that's always an interesting theme, and Zapdos arguing every individual matters, because they're like a single color in a palette, was a neat way to tie it back to the color motif. (I do wish you'd done a bit more with that from there, though! You've got the revelation that the kid had parents back in Pallet, but don't really come back to the legendary birds reflecting on why they didn't worry about the kid's family, or anything like that, which I think is a bit of a missed opportunity. All in all the kid doesn't really end up being treated as a real, individual person even after this reflection, not even by Zapdos himself.) Overall, this is a really cute story and I love giving something like the town names this origin that really sounds like something from folklore.

    However, I don't think that this story ultimately stands well on its own. A lot of things are just left unexplained here that I assume will be picked up on in other stories, but in a contest, it has to be viewed as a standalone, and as a standalone, it feels distinctly like there are pieces missing. Who is this child and why are they special? Why could they and their blanket lift this curse caused by Giratina's sake brew - is there any kind of connection there? Why did these monsters appear, and why were they trying to attack the child to get 'home'? What's this about the legendary birds having been human once? None of this ends up actually explained or really addressed within the story, and in the end I'm just left kind of confused by what was actually going on here. I'm sure it makes sense in context, but without that context, I don't think the story fully works.

    The logistics here seem pretty questionable, as well. You never describe what sort of place they pick up the child from - were they just lying alone in the wilderness somewhere with this blanket? Why? It turns out they've got parents in Pallet Town; where were the parents this whole time? You indicate the legendary birds have to bring the child along with them by coaxing them to follow in the guise of Pidgey - but at the speed a toddler could walk (or at least the child seems like a toddler?), wouldn't it take months to travel to every city in the Kanto region? The story makes it sound like a day trip, but there's no way that can work if they're going on foot. (The easy solution to this would be to just have them fly, of course, though maybe you chose not to do that for a reason.)

    Now, in fables and fairy tales you'll often have things that don't exactly make perfect sense, and I think you could pretty much get away with the logistical elements if the story were written a bit more in the style of fables. That'd mean something like sticking to the broad, archetypal strokes of the sequence of events, avoiding too many specific details and the banter kind of dialogue that's mostly about conveying personality or otherwise doesn't directly advance the story. Much of this story would be really well suited to that sort of style - again, the pulling a wisp of color out of the blanket that restores color to the town definitely sounds exactly like something that'd happen in a fairy tale - and I think that way it'd be easy to accept the legendary birds just flying until they happen to see a child wrapped in a colorful blanket, and being very vague about why this child is there or what this blanket means or how much time is passing - it'd sort of invite us to fill in the blanks and assume the story is being simplified in the retelling. But currently the way the story is written suggests it's just a very literal and complete description of actual events that happened in this world, and that opens a lot of questions that one might brush off in a real fairy tale.

    As is, I also think the tone of this entry comes out a bit strangely. The introduction feels very silly and comedic: the legendaries are casually having a picnic together and Giratina apparently makes sake as a hobby; the sake has this strange aura and Mew explicitly says she has it because she was going to deliver it to Xerneas, yet the birds just immediately go for it without even asking and spill it; it reads very much like the opening of something pretty wacky and unserious, with characters who act kind of over-the-top, doing things that aren't exactly reasonable things that real people would do, in order to create a funny situation so that shenanigans can ensue. But the rest of the story really isn't all that comedic; you've got a couple of comic bits (the Growlithe eagerly asking for pets and Rebecca the Haunter's brief exchange with Wrathbert), but overall you're not really playing it for jokes at all, and it makes the opening feel weirdly incongruous in hindsight - the other two jokey bits also feel a little out of place thanks to this. I think it'd be worth trying to pick a consistent tone and smooth out the story so that you don't get these funny tonal shifts.

    All in all, I feel like this story has some fascinating elements to it, but it doesn't fully explore them - we never properly learn what's really behind the happenings here, and that makes it a bit hard to fully appreciate on its own. As it stands, it feels a bit like we're not going to fully understand what happened in this story until we read some later story going into who this child is, and that hurts it in this contest. However, it's a cute fairy tale and I love the ideas you've got going on here - it just doesn't quite manage to get across fully in a standalone piece, I think.


    Negrek

    This was really cute! I think your writing style works well for this sort of fairytale fic. I liked the atmosphere of this story--monsters or not, it was overall a relatively peaceful story, and something about the description of the colorless Kanto getting rejuvenated by the scraps of the blanket. Maybe it has something to do with remembering how in Yellow all the cities really were just one color and getting hit in the nostalgia. Regardless, I liked the atmosphere, and like I said, this is cute! There were a lot of small moments that added a fun touch to the story as well, like the birds changing themselves into colored pidgey so they wouldn't scare the kid or the friendly growlithe in Vermillion City. I don't know whether one of the haunter being named Wrathbert was supposed to be a reference to something, but that was also a fun reveal.

    I'm not sure that the framing device (this is Zapdos telling a story to Red's Pikachu) really adds much. It only comes up as a tiny coda at the end, so it isn't really incorporated into the story itself, and although it does point out the story's meaning, I think the connection between the town color names and what happened in the story is clear enough from what you wrote. To an extent, it confused me where I hadn't been before, because I had thought the child earlier in the story was supposed to be Red (what with the not talking thing and their home apparently being Pallet Town, although I guess they have both parents?), so when Zapdos is, hundreds of years later, talking to Red's Pikachu, it kind of threw me. I guess the child was supposed to be an ancestor?

    I'm not totally clear what was up with the colorless monsters. The way they're described sounds Missingno.-ish, but what spawned them initially or what their "home" deal is about I don't really understand. They disappeared when the child was returned to their home, but it's not clear to me why, like was actually resolved at that point? Like, the birds accidentally unleashed a curse, which created these monsters, but how that had anything to do with the child that the birds found is less clear to me. Why was the solution to the whole problem related to a person who had nothing to do with the mistake the birds made? The central conflict here is a little muddy to me. There was that bit where Zapdos brings up that maybe they haven't been treating the child particularly well and looking after the greater good means caring about individuals, but then that never really goes anywhere? Like they never seem to be actively trying to help the kid out--in the end they have to run home on their own, and it's Mew who pops up to tell the birds to make sure they get there. The birds seemed like they were just wandering around trying to color in bits of Kanto that were still colorless, not actively trying to get the child home, so when that happened and ended up solving everything, it felt to me as though the story was ending in a kind of arbitrary place, with the resolution not having a lot to do with the situation that had been set up previously. Rather than the color thing, I feel like this is what I'd want Zapdos to be explaining to me at the end of the story, heh.

    In terms of overall construction and prose, though, this is definitely a step up from some of your previous writing and contest entries. The only ultra-short scene is the bit with the framing narrative at the end, and it's clear why all the various scenes are in here. I think you've also gotten better with general description and characterization. In particular I thought the way you handled the kid in this story was interesting, since they have no dialogue and your style tends to be dialogue-heavy. They mostly get small gestures like fiddling with the threads of their blanket or stroking its patches, and I think it ends up being pretty effective. The birds are the big talkers, and it's fun to watch them banter, but ultimately the child ends up being the central character of the story, and they manage to command that role well despite being silent. A great example of characterization solely through action, which is tricky to pull off.

    I'll feel bad if I was just missing some big, obvious thing that ties together the monsters and the child and the "home" thing, but while I could see some ways to connect them, the story itself didn't really do that for me. It was entertaining enough and you bring in plenty of cute character moments as always, but at the end I was kind of scratching my head over how the central conflict was supposed to work. As an explanation for how Kanto ended up with color-named cities, though, this is a fun take that nails the fairy-tale tone and definitely had me reminiscing fondly on the early days of the franchise.


    Rediamond

    The Good: If you’re going to write a story (and a one shot at that) in a format that inherently limits character and plot complexity, you need to have some good prose. This story sometimes delivers on that. “Something in the uncolored areas shifted and twisted” is a good scene ender early on in the story. And that growlithe in Vermillion is NPC dialogue at its finest. Also, was that a lesbian couple at the end? In folklore? I’m so down with this.

    The Bad: The Vermillion scene (minus the adorbs doggo) feels kind of pointless since the reader already knows how it ends. And the twist ending and subplot about respecting the kid feel kind of hollow since the narrative itself barely sees the kid as a character. It’s kind of hard to sell “he’s not just a plot device!” when the kid is, in fact, just a plot device. The ending as a whole also felt rushed for reasons that I can’t quite put my finger on. I think just more fluff could’ve slowed down the pace and allowed for more of a gap between “we’re screwed” and “oh no we aren’t.”

    The Verdict: I found this story enjoyable. But no single part really stands out to me as great storytelling. There are a few good lines throughout but… it’s held back by the genre. I think it plays the fable angle a little too straight and would’ve been better leaning into something, comedy or characters or deconstruction, that made it stand out more.
     
  4. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    5th place: Under a Bed of Clover by Starlight Aurate

    Scoring
    Dragonfree: 6th place (40 points)
    Negrek: 5th place (50 points)
    Rediamond: 4th place (60 points)
    Total: 150 points

    Under a Bed of Clover

    The grass swayed beneath the gentle breeze that softly kissed his cheeks. He stared down at the slate-grey headstone with his hands in his pockets and hunched slightly forward. Little shamrocks sprouted around the stone, forming a springy bed. Occasionally, he took a hand out and brushed the chestnut strands of hair out of his dark eyes.

    He had told himself that he would be fine. After all, Raticate had been gone for three years. He had long since accepted that fact—he had moved on, had broken out of the shell and started acting normal again. People stopped giving him pitying glances a while ago, and stopped trying to speak in soothing voices all the time. Not that he missed it—more than anything, he hated the pity. He knew they were trying to help, but all they were doing was bringing back all the hurt and pain and left him feeling more upset than he was to begin with.

    He sniffled.

    It took a few months, but people gradually forgot about it and treated him like they always had—until the Tower was converted. Once the announcement that the place of Raticate’s grave, Pokemon Tower, was going to be converted into a radio tower was made, people came up to him and asked him what he thought or how he felt. Some people grew angry, saying how unfair the city was acting and that they had no respect for the families of those who had passed away.

    But he knew it wasn’t whole-hearted. Even though people appeared indignant before him, he heard others excitedly talking about how it would make internet service so much better and help the town grow.

    Closing his eyes, he grimaced at the thought. While he had not talked about it to anyone, he was furious at hearing that his Raticate’s body would be dug up, carried away, and re-buried in a new house near the entrance to Lavender Town. He saw plans for the small house while it was still in the developing stage, and looked at the plot of land it was to be built on. It was far too small. Pokemon Tower held thousands of graves—there was no way that they would all fit into that tiny plot of land. And they couldn’t dig under the earth to make catacombs, since Lavender Town was so close to the harbor. They would hit water.

    He remembered seeing it in the Celadon Sentinel and hearing people excitedly chat about the Tower conversion. Both in reviews from the newspaper and his classmates’ voices, people were excited that the town would no longer be known for just the Tower; that the “spooky, grim atmosphere pervading the town” would be replaced with something to symbolize the advancement of society. “Lavender Town would finally be rid of the stigma of being known for its dead. It would advance and catch up with the rest of Kanto and join the new world as it accelerated into the digital age.”

    He figured that same paper was still lying trampled in the mud of the street corner he left it at. Nothing had ever made his face burn so much as seeing those written words in that paper, in seeing the smiling mayor’s face proudly proclaim the changes coming to the city. All it did for him was confirm that the world held no value for what was no longer alive.

    He was not alone in this decision, however. Once word got out that the Pokemon were all being relocated to a new burial site, people began coming from all over Kanto, lining the small roads of Lavender Town in protest. Things grew worse when the Channelers joined in, warning the officials that removing Pokemon from their graves would leave their spirits restless, and that they would haunt the new tower forevermore.

    But whenever people gather together to fight for a cause, opposition soon appears. So he learned when he saw many people fight against the throng of protesters—mainly those of the younger generation, but plenty from the older generations joined in as well—angrily waving flags and thrusting signs into the air. He knew that many of them hadn’t any experience with death and who were only concerned with the progress of their lives.

    In the end, it was useless. The city council’s decision was unanimous, and Pokemon Tower was gone by the end of the month.

    It was too much. As soon as the announcement was made, he vouched to take Raticate’s body back and bury him elsewhere. He figured that the only way to accommodate so many bodies in such a small space would be mass cremation, and he refused to allow that to happen to his best friend.

    He glanced up. The branches of the maple trees hung low, their browning leaves blocking out much of the sunlight. The rocky slopes rose steeply up not too far in the distance, and the tall grass moved back-and-forth with the wind. He closed his eyes. Raticate would have loved it here. When he looked into the depths of the trees, he could easily imagine his friend sniffing at the trees’ roots or else scampering about playfully.

    The area reminded him of a place just outside Rock Tunnel where he used to play with Raticate all the time—even more when he was a little Rattata. The trees were difficult for his seven-year-old self to climb, but Rattata loved to play hide-and-seek, probably because he could always sniff out his owner in under a minute. Even when they were tired, they could just lie down together beneath the branches of the trees, Rattata’s warm weight pressing down on his stomach.

    He smiled at the memory, and with the smile came a fresh wave of pain. He looked up, trying to prevent the tears from falling. It didn’t work. They welled up until his lids couldn’t hold anymore and soon they were running down his cheeks. Wiping them away, he sniffed and tried to regain his composure. Raticate had been gone for three years—it was time to get over it and move on.

    He stopped wiping his face and let out a choked sob.

    “Why did you die?”

    No answer came from the grave, but he already knew the answer in his heart.

    Maybe that was why he never felt that Raticate was “taken” from him; he never felt angry at whatever gods might be out there for removing the Pokemon from his happy life. Raticate chose to die—because he wanted others to live.

    He scrunched his eyes shut as fresh waves of pain pulsed from his heart. The breeze blew again, chillier this time. Pulling his jacket in tighter around him, the scene played freshly in his mind. They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time; they didn’t mean to stumble in to Team Rocket trying to capture a wild Arcanine. But they did, and after seeing what Team Rocket was doing, they weren’t allowed to go. He rubbed his forearm—the burn mark from that female grunt’s shock baton left a permanent scar. Physically, he had never felt more pain. But when Raticate attacked the grunts so that he could get away…

    Fresh tears fell down his cheeks. He could still hear Raticate’s screams as multiple grunts shocked him with their weapons. It was awful.

    Raticate’s diversion allowed the Arcanine to get up and fight back, and the grunts had their hands full trying to keep the Fire-type down again. In the ensuing chaos, he picked up Raticate and got away as quickly as he could. But by the time he brought Raticate to the Pokemon Center, it was too late. The nurse gave him the news of Raticate’s condition, and he would rather have been hit with a shock baton again—he would rather have been hit with all of their shock batons, as Raticate was, because that couldn’t have been as painful as this. If he was electrocuted instead, then Raticate would still be alive…

    He coughed. After Raticate passed, people asked him how he felt. Was he angry? Did he want revenge? Sure he did—at first. But the anger didn’t last. He never went after Team Rocket. Raticate didn’t die because he wanted to destroy a group of criminals; he died so that his owner could live. Hunting down Team Rocket and getting himself into more trouble would be a poor way to repay his Pokemon.

    Though people tried to be nice to him, their words and sympathy only hurt him more. Every time they said, “I’m sorry,” all he could hear was, “He’s dead.” People told him that he should be grateful, that he should be proud that his friend was brave enough to put the lives of others before his own. And he was proud—but the pride and gratitude could not hold a candle to the overwhelming sorrow and emptiness that filled his heart for years.

    He sighed. Though the words of others failed, the presence of those who loved him brought more comfort than he could have imagined. His older sister would sit with him on the couch, her arms wrapped around him as he sobbed into her shoulder late at night. His parents were there for him—overwhelmingly thankful that he was alive and mostly unhurt. Raticate had been part of the family—they were all truly sorry that he was gone. They never brought it up to him. They were there for him, letting him cry out his heartbreak and pain until his throat had gone hoarse and his eyes ran dry.

    The last of the sun’s rays cast dappled shadows over the shamrocks sprouting before the tombstone. He raised his eyes and saw the orange disc sinking behind the craggy mountains and knew it was time to head home. The sight was beautiful—it was wonderful, but also painful. His heart was full, but he was so empty inside. He smiled; he was grateful to see such amazing views, and he was joyful—but there was suffering in his joy.

    He shook his head. People told him there would come a day when everything made sense and he could finally joke about Raticate—about ten years after the incident had gone. As it was, everything was too fresh to sit all right.

    He looked down at the grave. “I’ll see you again soon.” With the last of the fading sunlight, he trotted through the trees onto the worn footpath, heading east towards Lavender Town, leaving Raticate under a bed of clover.

    Reviews

    Dragonfree

    I liked the exploration of the repercussions of converting Pokémon Tower into a radio tower, the people who were hurt by it and the protests and the political agenda behind it. The bitter debate that must have happened around a decision like this is left unexplored in the gap between R/B/Y and G/S/C, and I loved seeing it tackled head-on here.

    I think the structure of this story is a bit funny, though. You've got this scene of a boy grieving for his Raticate, interrupted by a long tangent about Lavender Town politics. Obviously these things aren't unrelated, but it feels like there's a disconnect there: you go into enough detail about the Radio Tower controversy, starting only a few paragraphs into the fic, that it starts to feel like the main subject of the story - only for that section to just end and for the rest of it to simply be about this individual boy and his Raticate. When I first read this I kept expecting it to return to the general theme about Lavender Town and the conversion of Pokémon Tower, but it never did.

    Once it does become clear that this is mainly a story about the boy and his Raticate, a fair bit of the Lavender Town stuff starts to feel kind of extraneous and tangential to the point: we didn't actually need to hear about the counterprotests or the Channelers, it seems, when we don't really see that specifically affecting his feelings on Raticate. And what's there could probably be shortened, sticking to the parts that do matter for how he feels.

    On the other hand, you could also choose to keep the emphasis on the Radio Tower conversion (which I do think it a neat subject, as I mentioned) and let this boy and his Raticate mostly serve as an example of how the people of the town were affected - which is what I thought you were doing for the first half of this story. But if you did that, I think the story needs to return to that theme again and end with it, and the bits describing how Raticate died in this particular fight with Team Rocket and how the boy's family has helped him personally cope are probably distractions.

    If you did stick to telling their individual story, though, I think how Raticate died is worth a proper flashback (or split into a couple of them) rather than being described after the fact like this; I think that it would have significantly more impact if we were with the boy in the moment as this is happening, rather than merely hearing him recount it later. Little moments can absolutely be done effectively in this form, and you do also do that here, but when you've got a whole detailed sequence of events, it's usually better shown unsummarized in order for us to fully engage with it than by presenting a character reflecting on what happened step by step.

    Overall, my favorite bits here were some of those effective little moments - the bits talking about how Raticate would've loved it here, how the two of them used to play together. You really effectively get across that sense of loss there, that Raticate used to be alive and they truly were partners, and it genuinely punched me in the heart. On the other hand, some of the bits that were just directly describing his emotions and his tears felt a little melodramatic or repetitive - in particular, there are two bits not too far apart where you talk about "fresh waves of pain", and passages like that or "the overwhelming sorrow and emptiness that filled his heart for years" don't actually do nearly as much to make his emotions real and tangible as the more understated parts conveying his relationship with Raticate.

    I'm also not sure it reads like Raticate's death happened three years ago. I don't expect him to have just gotten over it, especially with the Pokémon Tower thing kind of bringing it all back a bit, but the way you describe his feelings here makes it all feel far more fresh than I feel like it should be after this time. I'm hesitant to entirely assert this is wrong - different people have different grieving processes, of course, and I can't extrapolate my own experience onto others. But at certain points in the story you do indicate that he has come to terms with it to some degree, and I don't think it quite reads like that's the case here.

    I think you did a great job here getting some real gutpunch moments in and exploring a pretty interesting aspect of the canonical timeline - but other bits aren't quite as effective, I think, and the odd structure makes the story feel weirdly incomplete or like it doesn't quite go anywhere, and that drags it down for me. I think with some tightening up this could be a really strong, emotional story, though.


    Negrek

    This is a neat expansion on a pretty small little piece of fanon, the theory that Blue's raticate died and that's why the player finds him in Pokémon Tower without it. I like how you incorporated the transition from Pokémon Tower to Radio Tower, which has always been an episode in the games that baffled me. An old tower meant to house the dead wouldn't even work very well as an office building! Just build a new tower! But I think the views Blue mentions hearing from the townsfolk make sense as well; of course while there are some people who are less invested in the tower as a point of local pride and more concerned with not having their home pigeonholed as Spoopyville. Lavender Town trying to modernize and shed its creepy reputation make sense, even if the way the people there decided to do that strikes me as pretty dumb. That conflict made an interesting backdrop to Blue's grief and, I think, helped tie the story in to the broader "Kanto" theme, showing more connection to the region itself and commenting on an episode in its history that doesn't get examined much.

    What I think this piece would most benefit from is a bit more showing over telling. You have plenty of focus on Blue's grief, and it's definitely believable, but I think what would have helped me connect with Blue's character a little more is an extra scene or two of him actually interacting with Rattata/Raticate before they died. The glimpse you gave us of the two of them playing outside Rock Tunnel was, good, and I would have loved to see more! I think it would help build up some connection between the reader and Raticate, so we'd be able to mourn him, even a little bit, along with Blue. Getting those specific moments really helps put a cutting edge on a character's grief--gives the reader something memorable to grab onto rather than the more general feeling of sadness. And you're working at a bit of a disadvantage here, since Blue's Raticate isn't a well-known character. Everybody knows Red's pikachu, for example, and we as readers probably have some connection with him just as a result of our own experience with the franchise. Since Blue's Raticate is more or less a blank slate, you need to fill the readers in with some details of your own about them, since readers won't be bringing as much of their own knowledge to the table. In particular, since it's mentioned that Raticate was a real part of the family and his death hit everyone hard, a scene that shows them interacting with the family as a whole, rather than just with Blue, might be especially nice.

    Adding a couple of scenes that directly show Blue interacting with Raticate would also serve to get us out of Blue's head a little, which I also think would be beneficial. t's difficult to carry a story where the character is up in their own head the whole time--it can feel a bit abstract and monotonous when characters spend long times simply going over their own thoughts, without much interaction with other characters or the world around them. This is quite a short story, so that isn't a huge concern, but a scene or two would still add a nice touch of variety, I think.

    One thing I liked about this one-shot was the description of gravesite Blue's chosen; you do a good job of conveying how peaceful the place is and giving it a distinct identity in readers' minds. The "bed of clover" image that gets used in the title and throughout the body of the story is a serene one and fits well with the somewhat bittersweet nature of the story: Blue's grieving, and he doesn't like the reason he has to be here, doing this (the whole tower thing), but overall this one-shot is about him healing and appreciating Raticate's life more than just wallowing in angst, so the calm, naturalistic imagery seems appropriate. I also like how you tie the gravesite into Blue's relationship with Raticate through the mention of how it reminds Blue of where they used to play together. We don't spend a ton of time in this place, but I feel like it has a nice atmosphere and character that works well with the themes of the story.

    Ordinarily seeing Blue express this much genuine emotion would feel off to me; he's generally portrayed at the memetic extreme of cocksure and uncaring, but given that he's alone here, I can buy it better--I could see the big attitude as overcompensation fors how unconfident he actually feels, and that in more private moments he isn't actually the embodiment of ego. It's rare to see this side of Blue's character, and I think you sell his sadness well. Given Blue's usual larger-than-life personality, though, I think it might have been nice to see a flash of it here. Just an acknowledgement of it would have enhanced the story a little, I think, provided some contrast to the grieving figure we see here. If the idea is that he puts on all that bluster because things like this really hurt him deeply, then seeing a bit of that bluster for sure would have helped underscore that dichotomy. One way or another, I think it would have been nice to see at least a little more acknowledgment of his usual personality--for example, I can only imagine all those people trying to offer him sympathy got some kind of "haha what are you talking about, loser???" deflection in response.

    A couple quick typos--he "vouched" to take Raticate's body should be "vowed" to take Raticate's body, and in the sentence "He knew that many of them hadn't...", the "who" doesn't belong there. But overall your mechanics are very good, of course. Style-wise the only thing I might look into is maybe easing up a little bit on the use of modifiers; for example, highlighting just those in the first paragraph:

    It's not egregious, but most nouns do get some kind of modifier. It's not so much that they slow down the writing or anything, as that they kind of create a monotonous rhythm; same way you don't want to use all short sentences or all long sentences, I think it pays to vary your adjective distribution. If you say this out loud you might kind of here how there's a particular rhythm to those modifier-modified pairs that, to me, gives the sentences a kind of sing-song quality as it gets repeated. I'm also not sure that all of those modifiers add a whole lot! I like the "springy" bed, for example, but to me the hair/eye colors kind of look awkwardly tacked on, although to be fair that's a well-known peeve of mine and not most other people. What I might suggest is thinking hard about what descriptors really add something to the text, and not reaching to put them in, if that might be a thing you're doing.

    This is a super nitpick and obviously a small matter of style, though! It was something that stood out to me, but I don't know that I've really identified the problem correctly or why it bothered me. That's my best shot.

    The part where Blue says "Raticate didn't die because he wanted to destroy a group of criminals" is super interesting to me. I don't know whether you were making a nod at the in-game fact that when the player character shows up at Silph Co Blue is apparently hanging around but not actively trying to deal with Team Rocket, but that's what I immediately start thinking of. It definitely a fascinating spin on the whole "Red took down TR, Blue didn't" thing--that he was avoiding TR because he thought that putting himself in danger would be disrespectful of Raticate's sacrifice. Again, a very different take on what I usually see, and one that I think makes Blue's character a lot more interesting. This is a nice "from the rival's perspective" story that I think manages to give a view of things that's plausible from Blue's point of view without being obvious.

    All in all I think this is a solid one-shot that offers a fresh look at a familiar character and explores a fanon event that is often introduced as a passing joke, if anything. I think it fits well with the contest theme, and I like the atmosphere it creates. A little more Blue-ness to Blue and a little more insight into his relationship with Raticate are all I could really ask for. All done up very neatly with an economy of words. Nice work!


    Rediamond

    Good: There are a lot of little things I like here. I like how short sentences denote present actions and transition between scenes of longer, more colorful sentences. I like the image of the older sister comforting the narrator (just stood out to me, not entirely sure why). Nice depiction of newly resurfaced grief overall. Also hadn’t really thought about the politics of the Tower replacement, but I can believe the (maybe unreliable) presentation given by the narrator.

    The bad: Hmm. Maybe it circles over the same emotional beats a lot? And it’s a little bit monotonous in tone, save for the little details about rattata playing hide and seek (awwwwww). Then again, it’s a short one shot that’s about a single feeling, so that’s forgivable. It’s quite good for what it is.

    The verdict: It’s very good at setting a tone and establishing it. Surprisingly good plot for what it is, slowly revealing more information as it goes.
     
  5. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    4th place: 1-800-MEWHELP by The Walrein

    Scoring
    Dragonfree: 4th place (60 points)
    Negrek: 4th place (60 points)
    Rediamond: 3rd place (75 points)
    Total: 195 points

    1-800-MEWHELP

    I’m not sure why Mew decided to locate her office in one of the most expensive waterfront properties in Kanto, given that she can teleport and the only requirement for my job is that it be in a location with working phone service, but I can certainly appreciate the view of Vermillion harbor from my window. For a while, I stand and look out at the ocean, watching the cargo ships come and go. The president of the city’s pokémon fan club flies by atop a fearow, and I wave to him, even though he almost certainly can’t notice me. Eventually, I grow tired of standing and return to my desk, where I find myself staring at the antique red telephone resting silently on its surface.

    Even now, I still can’t believe I really have this job. At first, when I saw the job listing in the newspaper for someone needed to operate a telephone help hotline for Mew, the creator of all pokémon, I thought it was a hoax. But by that point, I was desperate enough to try anything. I’d thought that a major in public relations would be enough to guarantee a career at some big corporation, but no one seemed to want to hire someone with a degree from Lavender University. …although, I guess I can’t really blame them, given the state of public relations for that place.

    When I first arrived at this office, I was greeted by Mew herself, in the flesh, dispelling any notions I might have had of a prank or scam. She hired me on the spot without even asking to see my résumé, saying that the job was ‘really easy’, and that anyone could do it. From what she told me, my only responsibility is to sit at this desk and answer that red telephone every time it rings, and then answer whatever question the pokémon calling has for their one true god and creator. At that point in the interview, I carefully raised the point that this might be difficult for me to do, given that I’m a mortal human and not the immortal deity in question. Mew just said that if I got a question I couldn’t answer, I could just ask her and she’d tell me what to say. Pretty soon, she claimed, I’d have memorized all the responses I’d ever need to give, and then I wouldn’t have to pester her anymore and she could go off and do… whatever it is she does all day. Well, we’ll see how that turns out…

    Briiiiiing! The bell on the phone startles me out of my reminiscence. Okay. My first call. I can do this. I pick up the phone and speak the lines I’ve rehearsed in a steady voice: “Good morning, you’ve reached Mew’s help line! What can I assist you with today?”

    “This is that new number where you can ask Mew questions, right? Well, I’ve got a question for her: How come she made it so psyducks get headaches all the time, huh?” someone quacks at me from the other end of the line. I can almost feel the spittle flying out of their beak. “It sure as hell can’t be a requirement for having psychic powers! Do hypno or kadabra have to deal with these Mew-damned migraines all the Mew-damned frigging time? Hell no! So why do we have to suffer them? What gives, huh?”

    “I’m sorry to hear about your migraine problem, sir. Would you mind holding for a few minutes while I tell Mew your question?”

    “Yeah, I can hold. But she better have a pretty frigging good answer!”

    “Thank you, sir. I’m putting you on hold now,” I say, and carefully set the telephone’s handset on the desk. Then I open the door and walk across the hall to Mew’s personal office, praying along the way that she did indeed have an answer frigging good enough to satisfy the angry psyduck. As Mew’s door creaks open, I’m treated to a view of a small city erected out of painted wooden blocks interspersed with paper roadways. Little wind-up pokémon wobble across the floor, knocking over plastic streetlights and bouncing off monochromatic storefronts. Mew herself is hovering over the center of the room, clutching a pencil and notepad as she stares down at the toy tableau with a look of intense concentration. Seeing my entrance, Mew pulls the wire-frame spectacles she’s inexplicably wearing down her nose and turns towards me.

    “Oh, hey, what’s up?”

    “We’ve got our first caller. He’s a psyduck who-” Before I can finish speaking, a little toy charizard opens its mouth and belches a stream of fire onto a miniature shrub by a train station, setting it alight. Smoke rises into the air. Mew doesn’t seem to notice. “…er, are you going to do something about that?” I ask.

    “Nope, it’s cool!” Mew says, without looking at where I’m pointing. Fwoosh! Fwoosh! Two more plastic plants get ignited by the toy charizard. I wince, but continue speaking.

    “There’s a psyduck calling who wants to know why you designed their species so that they suffer from near-constant migraine headaches.”

    Mew giggles. “Oh, that’s an easy one! See, I thought the trope of psychic powers causing headaches was nifty, and I wanted to use it for one of the pokémon I created! But all of the psychic-types I made sort of already had their own thing going on, you know? That’s when I realized that I’d been trying to think up something cool for this bipedal-platypus thing I’d been working on, and so BAM, psyduck! Pretty neat, right?”

    …seriously? You condemned an entire species to suffer for no other reason than you thought it would be neat!?

    “Yeah, that, uh, sounds nifty. I’ll go tell him,” I say, and leave the room.

    Crap, crap, crap! How can I possibly tell this to that psyduck? The trip back to my office is much slower than the one out of it, but there’s only so long I can delay the unpleasant task ahead of me, and soon I find myself staring at the red phone on my desk. Is the psyduck still on hold, I wonder? Maybe if I’m lucky, he’ll have hung up by now. Buoyed by this possibility, I pick up the handset and speak. “Sir? Are you still there?”

    “You better believe it, bub. So what’s Mew’s big frigging answer, huh?”

    Great. So much for that little hope. Well, it’s too late to back out now. I take a deep breath.

    “Sir… I don’t know how to tell you this, but… you’re an alien.”

    “Wh- what!?”

    “Yes. Mew said that this must be kept absolutely confidential, but your species isn’t native to Earth. At around the time she was creating all the other pokémon species, a meteor fell to Earth and split open to reveal the first psyduck egg. Because this planet lacks the special radiation of your home-world, your species has always suffered terrible headaches. That’s the true reason why they happen. I can assure you that Mew is a loving creator who would never, ever design a species with a built-in source of suffering. That’s why she created an evolution for your species that doesn’t get headaches, and why, even as we speak, she’s researching ways to cure the problem in your unevolved form.”

    A long silence issues. “…you- you’ve gotta be pulling my tail! This can’t be true, right? Why wouldn’t Mew have told anyone this?” the psyduck quacks at last.

    “Sir, this is Mew’s official help line. We don’t tell jokes or tall-tales here. This is complete and utter fact, straight from the mouth of your creator. For years, Mew has kept your real origins a secret, not wishing for your kind to be discriminated against or feel set apart for being aliens. But when I told her about your question, she decided to let you know the truth, so that you could have hope. Yet know that this message was intended for you and only you. You must follow Mew’s wishes and tell no-one else what I’m telling you now, or-”

    “Holy crap! You’re really not kidding! Sweet-frigging-Mew, this is amazing! I’ve gotta go and let all the other psyducks know about this!” the caller says, and hangs up over the sound of my desperate pleas.

    Huh. Well, I guess something was bound to go wrong with my first call. Hopefully that doesn’t end up getting too out of hand. Before I can worry about the possibilities, the phone begins to ring again, and I’m forced to set aside my apprehension and pick it up once again.

    “Good morning, you’ve reached Mew’s help line! What can I assist you with today?”

    For a while, no-one answers. Is this a prank call? How long am I supposed to remain on the line in a case like this? But finally, a slow-speaking voice responds to my greeting.

    “…hello. I’m a slowpoke, and I need help… There’s this big thing biting on my tail, and I can’t get it off. It really hurts…”

    “Thank you for staying calm ma’am,” I say, although I’m not really sure if slowpoke are even capable of not being calm. “We’re going to get you help. But first, can you please describe what the creature biting your tail looks like in more detail?”

    “…it’s this big, spiraling cone thing. It has teeth, and eyes… and the eyes won’t stop staring at me. But the weirdest thing is… I think it used to be a shellder. That’s what I first saw when I looked behind me… Then it glowed white, and became this… And now I can’t even walk right anymore! And it’s always biting me! It hurts! …but, but…”

    The voice on the other end became choked and heavy, and I could hear sobbing. “…the worst part is, all the other slowpoke… say this is supposed to happen! That- that this is how slowpoke evolve! That’s not true, right? Mew wouldn’t- she wouldn’t - she’s too nice to make our species have to evolve like this! …this is just a mistake, right? Please, it hurts so much! I need Mew’s help…”

    “Of course, ma’am. I’ll speak to her right away. Please remain on the line while I put you on hold.” I set down the phone and rush back to Mew’s office. Just what the heck is going on? My meagre knowledge of pokémon biology offers no hint at what the thing on the slowpoke’s back might be. It surely can’t be a shellder evolution- they evolve into cloyster, not anything that could be described as a spiraling cone, right?

    I burst into Mew’s office and start to speak, but as I take in the scenery, my mouth is left hanging open wordlessly. The little wooden town and accompanying wind-up toy pokémon are absolutely nowhere to be seen. Instead, almost every inch of the floor is covered in rows and rows of multicolored dominoes. Some of the dominoes are in the process of toppling over, but any which fall right themselves a second later, creating ripples of fallen blocks that move through the lines of dominoes like waves. Even weirder, the lines of dominoes extend up onto the walls of the room and even the ceiling, each side of the room apparently obeying its own rule of gravity. Mew is hovering upside-down at the top of the room, carefully placing dominoes on a little wooden ramp.

    “Hello Mew. I’ve got a slowpoke on the line who needs help quick.”

    Mew giggles. “A slow pokémon needing fast help? That’s funny! What’s their problem?”

    “She said that a creature with a spiraling, conical shell is biting on their tail, and that it looked like it might have evolved from a shellder, if that makes any sense? Apparently it really hurts, and-”

    “Oh silly, that’s perfectly natural! She’s evolved into a slowbro! See, I made it so that slowpoke can only evolve by having a shellder bite their tail. I figured that a really lazy pokémon wouldn’t be able to evolve by battling, so I came up with a way for them to evolve by combining with another pokémon! And I don’t mean to brag, but I’m still really proud of myself for coming up with that one. It’s like symbiosis and parasitism at the same time, so it’s really unique,” Mew says, beaming down at me from the ceiling.

    “…um, that’s nice, but don’t you think that slowpoke would prefer a method of evolution that doesn’t require them to have something biting their tail all the time?”

    “Yeah, you’re right!” Mew replies. Wait, really? I had been rather nervous that Mew would get angry at me for questioning her divine design, but it seems as if-

    “The problem is, sometimes the shellder just falls off their tail and they stop being evolved. That’s why I’m working on a way for slowpoke to evolve by having the shellder bite their head, instead!”

    I stare in response, dumbfounded. That was a joke, right? It had to be a joke. “Er, good one Mew,” I say, forcing a weak laugh. “But seriously-”

    “Thanks, I’m glad you like it! Now shoo, I’m very busy right now,” Mew interrupts, and promptly shoves me out of her office with a psychic push. A moment later, the door slams shut, and a moment after that, I can hear rows of dominoes toppling over as the vibrations from the slamming door spread outwards. A muffled curse emits from the doorframe.

    Well, it doesn’t look as if Mew’s in a mood to talk any further, so there’s nothing I can do except return to my own office and pick up the call again.

    “Are you still on the line, Ma’am?” I ask.

    “…yes. …wait, when did you leave?” the slowpoke – or slowbro, I suppose – responds, confusion in her voice.

    “Never mind that, Ma’am. I’ve spoken to Mew and she has good news: It’s possible that the shellder biting you will naturally fall off of your tail, and you’ll return to normal.” As I wait for the slowbro’s reply, I realize she might not be happy with just that, and desperately try to think of a method for improving the odds of this happening.

    “…oh. So this isn’t normal, right? Mew said this isn’t how slowpoke evolve?”

    “Yes, that’s exactly what Mew said, ma’am! Of course your species doesn’t evolve by being bitten on the tail,” I say, still trying to think.

    “Okay! But then, what happened to the shellder that bit me?”

    “Oh, Mew says that they became an alternate evolution shellder have. It’s just a fluke that they happened to evolve while they were biting you.”

    A very long silence follows. Was the slowbro satisfied with my response? Did they just forget to hang up and wander away from the phone? But then I can hear quiet sobbing coming from the other end of the line.

    I’m not certain what to do, so I simply ask “Ma’am? Why are you crying?”

    “Oh… sorry… I was just speaking with the shellder using my telepathy. They say they feel really hurt that Mew would make an evolution for them like this… They’ve forgotten all their moves and they can’t do anything except bite me. And they really wanted to evolve into a cloyster, too… Now I’m really sad as well. I wouldn’t have thought Mew would be so mean to shellder!”

    Uh-oh. “Oh, sorry Ma’am, I’m afraid there’s been a mistake. That’s definitely not how Mew said the shellder’s alternate evolution works! She’d never intend for something awful like that to happen to any of her creations! What your shellder is experiencing must be due to a glitch caused by MissingNo. …but, I’m sure it’ll go away eventually, so tell them to keep hope.”

    This time, the pause before the slowbro responds is only about three seconds long.

    “THERE’S A MISSINGNO-CORRUPTED POKÉMON BITING ME?!” she screams. “AAAAAHHH!”

    “Wait, Ma’am, I misspoke! Please calm down-”

    “AAAAAHHHHHH! AAAHHHH! AAAAHHHHH! GET IT OFF GET IT OFF GET IT OFF!” From the other end of the line, I can hear shattering glass, several loud thumps, and then the line disconnects.

    Well. That happened.

    Briiiiiiiing! The phone is ringing a third time. I pick it up.

    “Oooh! Oooh! Oooh! Is this Mew’s new phone thing?” a voice chirps at me.

    “Yes sir, you’ve reached Mew’s official help line! What can I assist you with today?”

    “YES! I’m so happy! Okay, I’ve got a question! Why do I have to share my body with these two downers? One is always angry and the other’s always sad! Total downers! Answer it, answer it, answer it!”

    Hmm, sounds like a dodrio. “Okay sir, would you mind if I put you on hold while I go ask Mew your-” I begin, but I’m cut off by a harsh squawk.

    “HEY! That isn’t the question we agreed to ask, you birdbrain! Stop being such a stupid birdbrain, you stupid birdbrain!” a second voice blares out of the phone.

    Then, a third voice joins in: “Yeah, that wasn’t it. It’s really quite depressing how bad your memory is. It’s so bad it made my depression even more depressed. It’s that bad.”

    Whew, that had sounded like it was going to be a tough one. Hopefully their real request would be easier. “Er, alright sirs, what is your question, then?”

    “The question we were going to ask is: Why do I have to share my body with these two idiots!?” the second voice shrieks. The third voice tries to protest and tell me what I suspect would be a very similar question, but is quickly drowned out by the second voice yelling at him to shut up.

    Oh dear. “Very well, sirs. Would you mind if I put you on hold so I can ask Mew your question?”

    “YES! But do it anyways!” the second voice says. Sighing, I set down the handset and once more stroll back to Mew’s office. Remembering her mood from earlier, I cautiously knock on her door.

    “Come in!” she shouts. I turn the doorknob, and a pile of gumdrops, lollipops, chocolate malt balls, gummy bears, and various other small candies spills out of the room. Looking inside, I can see that the floor of the office is covered in a layer of candy up to a foot deep. Mew is sitting on a heap of treats in the center of the room, cramming sugary goodness into her mouth at an impressive rate, not even bothering to remove the wrappers first. A baseball bat waves back and forth behind her, grasped by her twitching tail. Pokémon piñatas of all shapes and sizes are hanging suspended in midair, like slabs of meat in a butcher’s freezer, and their bashed-out stuffing is scattered all around the room amongst the candy. It’s a scene from an abattoir. “Want shome?” Mew says through a full mouth, levitating a wad of smushed-together Swedish magikarp up to me.

    “Um, no thanks,” I reply. “We have another caller. It’s a dodrio who wants to know why their heads have to share the same body.” Mew finishes swallowing her current mouthful of candy and replies.

    “Oh, now that’s a funny story! See, back when I was making all the pokémon, I realized that I had accidentally produced way more souls than I had bodies. Whoops! So, to fix it, I just started cramming extra heads onto a bunch of different pokémon so I could fit more souls on each body. Bam! Problem solved!”

    “Ah. So you were simply too exhausted from your divine exertions to make any more bodies once you realized the mistake?” I press.

    “Haha, nope! I don’t get tired, silly! No, I was just feeling kinda lazy and I thought having pokémon with multiple heads would be fun! …now, I think dodrio was one of the species I did last. At that point, I was being a little more careful with what heads I stuck where, so I made sure that species would always have heads with different personalities. Because it’d just be really boring if they had three heads but they all just thought the same things, right?”

    “Uh, I suppose so. I’ll go tell them what you said.” I was going to do no such thing.

    Soon, I’m back at the phone. “Good news, sirs! Mew just told me she’s going to make two new bodies for you!” I say in a cheerful tone.

    “Wait, really!? Oh wow oh wow oh wow!”

    “Well, she’d better! These birdbrains don’t deserve to share my body!”

    “Oh. I’m going to feel sad about leaving you two, but that’s only because I’m sad about everything. I hate you guys.”

    I smile. “Yes, she promised me that the new bodies would be almost as good as your current one,” I say, placing heavy emphasis on the almost. “There’s just one thing she needs to-”

    “Whoa whoa whoa, what do you mean almost as good?” the happy voice interjects.

    “Oh, don’t worry about it sirs! Mew is going to have to use some of her old spare parts to make the new bodies, but I’m sure they’ll be fine. The hearts and livers I saw her preparing didn’t look like they could’ve been more than fifty years old. Sixty, tops. Practically like new, really. They had some weird-looking black spots on them, but that’s probably completely normal. Or so I assume.”

    As expected, the three dodrio heads raise a raucous protest at this information, and I have to hold the phone away from my ear to avoid being deafened.

    “Now, please quiet down, sirs! As I mentioned, there’s just one thing Mew needs to know before she can do the transfer. She’ll need to know which of you three is the most deserving owner of your current body, so she’ll know which of the two heads to transfer away to the new ones,” I shout into the handset. For a moment, this causes the dodrio heads to stop squawking. And then…

    “What a stupid question! Obviously I’m the most deserving, because I’m in the center! Tell Mew to transfer away these two morons who aren’t in the center!”

    “No way! That’s dumb dumb dumb! I’m the most deserving ‘cause I’m actually able to enjoy things! These guys would just be sad or angry all the time no matter what body they got!”

    “Whoa, I’m already sad mentally. I shouldn’t have to be sad physically too. These other saps should have to feel some of the sadness. Transfer them.”

    “The only thing sadder than your stupid head is your stupid sad logic of stupid sadness! You’re already so miserable there’s no way a bad body could make you any worse! And you’re so moronically happy all the time you’ll still be a happy moron even if you have a sucky body!”

    “You know what you are? You’re a mean, mean, mean jerk, and you don’t deserve a good body! I’m going to be so, so, so much happier when Mew takes you off my body!”

    “Guys, if I don’t get to stay in this body, I’m going to cry. And you know what it’s like when I cry. I never stop for days. I’ll be keeping you all awake every night with my crying. Then you’ll be sad even if you got the good body. Still not as sad as me, though…”

    I once more shout into the receiver: “If you’re having trouble figuring it out, Mew said that the most deserving head would also be the most intelligent one.”

    “Well, that’s me obviously! If you two weren’t such imbeciles, why would I be calling you imbeciles all the time, huh?”

    “Hey, you know what’s a sign of being really really really smart? Being really really really happy! That’s me me me!”

    “No, the smartest pokémon are the saddest ones. It’s because they’re smart enough to know how awful the world really is.”

    The three voices continue to squabble. “Well, it sounds like you gentlemon have some discussion to do. Please call me back once you know who’s the most deserving,” I say, and hang up. Another satisfied caller! Won’t have to deal with them again anytime soon, at least.

    Before long, the phone rings again. Okay, I think I’m getting the hang of this.

    “Good morning, you’ve reached Mew’s help line! What can I assist you with today?” It is still morning, right? It feels like it’s been a while.

    A deep voice answers me. “Greetings! I have an inquiry I wish to make: It is known throughout all the lands that dragonite are the most powerful and majestic of all pokémon species, known for their courage, wisdom, and grace. We enjoy very long lives, our scales are nearly impervious to harm, and our senses are incredibly keen. Yet, there is one aspect of our race that leads me to question Mew’s judgment and good nature.”

    So even dragonite have something to complain about? What, is it how slowly their line evolves? It must be awful having to live as a dratini for however many dozens of years it takes to turn into a dragonair, stuck in the body of a child while having the mind of an adult. And what do dratini eat, anyways? Bugs and raw fish? Yeah, that must be it-

    “Therefore, my question for Mew is this: WHY DID SHE MAKE US LOOK SO RIDICULOUSLY GOOFY?” the dragonite blares.

    I sigh. This is going to be a long day…

    *****

    Reviews

    Dragonfree

    This was a delightfully nutty, comedic entry. I think my favorite parts were the different weird things Mew was playing with when the main character consulted her; the sense of character to Mew in general was great, and the way Mew was doing a new totally different thing with each call, and appeared to be thoroughly in the middle of each one each time, fit perfectly into it. I was also amused by Mew arriving to the press conference in a truck, as a nod to those old rumours. While the story makes use of familiar fan complaints about Pokémon designs, I genuinely had no idea where it was going once the narrator got fired, and it kept me guessing from there to the nutty end.

    While the fourth-wall-breaking elements that come in towards the end were definitely amusing (I cracked up at the bit about why Junichi Masuda would not be out of place in a fanfic about the Kanto region), I did feel like they were sort of out of place. The whole fic is pretty absurd, but the first half definitely had a genuine sense of world logic to it, if a pretty silly one: Mew's a god who's created the first generation of Pokémon and is working on the second, but she created Pokémon for the sorts of reasons real-world game designers create Pokémon; she has an office and a helpline and an employee; Pokémon are able to call a helpline even when they don't have hands and live underwater; sure, that's just a lighthearted comedy setting that serves the story you're going for, and it makes internal sense. But then you bring in actual game designers designing new Pokémon games, and genwunners complaining about the later generations of Pokémon that one would've assumed Mew hasn't designed yet when this is set, and then it turns out this is the origin of Pokémon training and gyms, which is a thing that'd never occurred to anyone before, even though Game Freak has just published Let's Go and had presumably previously published the actual first-generation games, in which Pokémon training is already at least a concept, and which at least the genwunners have presumably actually played... All in all, this silly world you'd built up for the first half just sort of cheerfully disintegrates into anything-goes nonsense with no internal logic to it at all - and you can certainly do that in a comedy fic! But it's somewhat jarring after the first half had been a quite different sort of genre of comedy, and although the result is certainly amusing, I can't help but think this might've been a more cohesive piece if you'd stuck with what you were doing in the first half throughout, or otherwise integrated these later elements better into the narrative from the start.

    Part of it, though, is just that I really enjoyed the relatably human struggles of this hapless employee trying their misguided best to mitigate PR disasters for Mew the obliviously cruel creator deity, but in the second half they become more of a passive observer, then mastermind orchestrator of an army of genwunners, then they're super-excited to work for Team Rocket - they kind of lose that relatable, sane, relatively normal humanity that for the first half was such a delightful contrast to all the absurd characters they've been dealing with, and I think that's a bit of a shame.

    Missingno. is also an element that appears briefly and appears to be about to be significant and then vanishes again without having much of a real effect on the progression of the story, or even particularly fueling the comedy - I suppose the protagonist encountering Missingno. and siccing it on Mew is how they get fired, but it doesn't seem like Mew suffered any ill effects, and it would've been just as reasonable if Mew had simply heard about all their lies through the grapevine the same way Missingno. apparently did, so Missingno.'s appearance seems oddly extraneous. I expected Missingno. to come back later in some way, but it doesn't, and it feels somewhat odd; this (and other things) gives me the impression the story was written on the fly and you wrote in elements without knowing what if anything you'd do with them later. This is much, much easier to accept in a comedy fic, of course - but I think it might be tighter/more satisfying if Missingno. were either cut or came back in some form.

    All that said, though, this was very creative and a lot of fun to read, and I just enjoyed it a lot!


    Negrek

    I was expecting intense comedy and wild inventiveness, and I was not disappointed! I think my favorite part of this was the Gen-Wunners; lots of great lines in that section. "Too! Many! Details!" And Masuda reviving them all with his tears over lost revenue. And the lot of them sailing off to start bellyaching about how terrible the new games were going to be! This whole section was ridiculous and great. It's going to be tough for me to list all my favorite parts of the story, but I'll try:

    - Of the callers the narrator had to deal with, Dodrio was definitely my favorite. And the narrator's ploy of asking them to decide who was going to keep the original body was so mean but so perfectly effective. It definitely got a cackle from me.

    - I also really liked that the important stuff Mew was getting up to that she hoped the helpline would free up more time for was e.g. creating an elaborate 3D domino setup or conjuring a roomful of candy. These little snapshots of Mew's day-to-day fun to visualize more than they were really funny to me, but I thought they were lovely small snapshots and very appropriate for Mew's character.

    - Diglett/Dugtrio having nothing below the surface because Mew was too lazy to design their bottom halves practicing design by subtraction, oh my God.

    - I already mentioned everything to do with the Gen-Wunners, but also, of course their leader is Surge. This is exactly the sort of boneheadedly aggro campaign he would throw himself into.

    - The Team Rocket section is comparatively tiny but outsizedly hilarious. The narrator's ideas for a PR makeover are A+.

    There is a ton to like here, for sure. What held this story back a little was that to me it seemed more like a series of disconnected scenes than a unified story. The initial riff of the narrator trying to fabricate answers for Mew's phone line transitions well enough to Mew's extremely terrible press conference, but then the descent of the Gen-Wunners doesn't seem to have much to do with Mew's help line at all, and the transition into the creation of the gym system and the narrator joining Team Rocket seem like another swerve. This is definitely a screwball comedy, so I don't know if wanting a cohesive narrative is really appropriate, much less necessary, but I think the funny might be enhanced a bit if these sections built on each other a bit more. For example, the narrator mentions knowing "people of influence," which evidently means Surge or high-ranking members of his group; I think it might have been better to set up that the narrator knew Surge specifically or otherwise had some connection to the Gen-Wun movement, if only through some oblique reference to an internship here in Vermillion or something. Properly set up, I think the arrival of the Gen-Wunners could feel like the punchline of a joke itself, rather than a funny thing more loosely connected to what happened earlier. Likewise, something to earlier humorously suggest the lack of a league system would then set us up for it to later be invoked, like if the narrator was on the phone lamenting that there wasn't a convenient collection of water-type experts he could call up for ideas rather than having to talk to Mew, etc.

    I think this story may also have gone on a little long. The helpline bit in particular I thought dragged a little bit... It's tricky, because the fun is in the questions and then the outlandish responses the narrator has to come up with, so you want to get in as many of those in as you can, but perhaps it would have been better to condense some of the phone interactions a little. The back-and-forths were fun and it was definitely neat to see what the narrator came up with, but perhaps we didn't need to see this many fully fleshed-out conversations, and the running back and forth to get Mew's advice felt a little crufty. I think things picked up substantially once we reached Mew's speech.

    So I guess I would say that my primarily complaint is... pacing, in how the comic beats are delivered and also in terms of how the overall narrative is structured, e.g. the showdown with the Gen-Wunners feels like the climax to me currently, but then the story kind of keeps going and crams in a bunch of smaller jokes right at the end. Looking at individual elements there's plenty to love here, but again I don't know that I like how they ultimately came together as much.

    And again, there really is a lot to love here. This is a great tribute to Kanto and even a real meta nod to the contest theme, and you did a great job of touching on not just your common memes that people are pretty much always going to address when discussing pokémon design choices (DIGLETT AND DUGTRIO) but also some of the underappreciated weirdness/fridge horror in the designs. Like, props for remembering that voltorb and electrode even exist, much less their hilariously over-the-top pokédex entries. I think you handled the transition to meta well and that parodying fandom tendencies in addition to the actual content of Gen I worked well with the rest of the story. This is a true Kanto-flavor one-shot, and a really fun one as well.

    This is a tough one for me to place. I absolutely enjoyed reading it, and I love how you managed to include so many Gen 1 references and cram so much zaniness into every paragraph. It didn't quite come together for me, and I hope that it's not just a case of me wanting this story to be something different than it is. As a comedy piece, I think it definitely succeeds, but from a story/character perspective I don't think it stacks up as favorably against some of the other entries. But that doesn't mean it's a bad story by any means; it's just hard to put on the same scale as many of the other entries, which were fundamentally trying to accomplish different things.


    Rediamond

    The good: Comedy is hard. And this is good comedy. It’s a loving poke at all of the kinda terrible, nonsense ideas in the Gen I dex (i.e. hypno needing dreams to survive, only learning dream eater by tm). And it also has a hilarious set of protagonists who aren’t making jokes or trying to be funny in-universe. They just are funny by their circumstances. Mew is adorable and utterly sociopathic. Instantly lovable. The narrator is too clever for his own good and weaves some fantastic stories. The explanation for why journeys happen was good. And Lt. Surge’s line about the pokémon that saved him in the war cracked me up for whatever reason. I laughed. I thought about the nature of Gen I. ‘twas good.

    The bad: I don’t think it’s possible to make comedy where every single element lands. Most of the problems here start to show towards the end. The Gen Wunners and overt fourth wall breaks don’t really feel… necessary? The story was already hilarious when it was just leaning on the fourth wall, and the story itself acknowledges that it’s weird to have the Gen Wunners beat up Gen Wun pokémon. I also thought that it suffered from The Lord of the Rings problem of having too many ending scenes overall (Rocket, gyms, mew’s tepid forgiveness, the Gen Wun revival). I thought that the story was remarkably cohesive until the end, which made it a little disappointing.

    The verdict: This is comedy that works. It raises a lot of fun points about the nonsense nature of Gen I. It’s maybe the most sensitive issue in the fandom and it’s handled here in a way that isn’t overt until the end. Speaking of, the strong start and middle isn’t quite enough to carry things all the way over the finish line.
     
  6. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    3rd place: In Beta by Namohysip

    Scoring
    Dragonfree: 2nd place (90 points)
    Negrek: 3rd place (75 points)
    Rediamond: 2nd place (90 points)
    Total: 255 points

    In Beta

    Just get it done. You can fix it later.

    The air was like blankets that day. Closed windows made of white, metal, flimsy blinders blocked as much light as the employees could manage. Still, despite this, pinpricks of blistering sunlight plagued their cubicles. It was the harshest time of the day. It was also a convenient time for the air conditioning to shut off for most of the building in favor of dedicating to the server room. It was the end of the week, where most workers went home, and most employees could pat themselves on the back for a job well done.

    For Silph Co., that was not the case. Not today.

    Evan’s dark blonde hair plastered against his forehead. The pits of his white shirt were gray with sweat. Next to him, Growlithe was rolling on his back, panting with oblivious joy. Of course he’d enjoy the sweltering heat. Evan gave Growlithe a bitter look, but it softened only a second later. He reached down and gave him a little scratch behind the ears. This got him excited; Growlithe sprang up and barked a few times, startling a few of the half-asleep developers awake.

    “Shh, shh,” Evan said.

    Growlithe whined and nibbled on his shoes.

    Software developers were used to these demanding schedules, and the same went for the engineers. Crunch time, they called it. Deadlines from executives that didn’t know how programming worked. Dev Ops had pulled an all-nighter the day before when one of the servers crashed for some inexplicable reason. So, it was understandable that their lead—a scrawny man in khakis and a T-shirt—leaned his back against the wall, snoring.

    “Poor Ted,” Evan mumbled, pulling his feet away from Growlithe. “Heard his wife was pretty upset that he’s spending more time here than there.”

    “What, like we aren’t?” asked another dev in the cubicle opposite of him—while they had their own spaces, the “walls” that separated them were only a few feet high. To encourage cooperation, their manager said. It only caused distractions. “Ugh, this heat is killing me. You sure that slobber-brain of yours isn’t causing it?”

    “I’m sure,” Evan sighed. “Listen, I’m sorry, okay? I’ll get my code checked in right away. Did you review Dale’s?”

    “Yeah, yeah, I reviewed it. Dale, you got them?” He fanned his face, but that just made more hot air waft over him.

    “Fixing that line now,” Dale said. “And how about you, Paul? Eh?”

    “I’m done with mine. Get on my level.” Paul smirked.

    Dale and Evan both rolled their eyes, though they smiled back.

    Growlithe tore off Evan’s right shoe and bolted. Evan was too tired to give chase. He coded for the next hour with one foot wearing only a white (gray, now) sock.

    Evening bled into the night. Growlithe had snuggled up against the Dev Ops Lead’s thigh for a nap. Two of the senior devs left for coffee and never came back. Their manager had been gone for a long time, and only said that he wanted to see it finished before they left. They weren’t really sure what that meant, as they had no means to contact him if he was out of the office, nor any knowledge about how they would show their results, either.

    “Can’t we just go and finish this on Monday?” Dale complained.

    “Sure, if you want to get fired,” Evan mumbled.

    “Hah! Fired. That’s a good one. Who’re they gonna replace me with?”

    Dale had a point. They were the top of the top—irreplaceable, as far as Kanto was concerned, for their knowledge in the cutting-edge of artificial intelligence and software engineering.

    “If anything, I’d say the help desk would be the first to go,” Dale said.

    “C’mon, they get the busywork out of the way,” Evan groaned. “What, would you like to deal with customers instead?”

    “Hmph, whatever,” Dale said, grinning. “Yeah, I guess you’ve got a point. Hey, so did you check in your code yet?”

    Evan stopped typing and shut his eyes. “No, I’ve been busy talking to you. Can I just finish?”

    “Sure, finish,” Dale raised his arms. “Paul?”

    Just about done,” Paul said, leaning back. He spun his red cap around his head a few times, watching the computer do all the work.

    “What, it’s compiling?”

    “Just gotta make sure the tests all check out.”

    “You can’t run the full thing, though. Your computer doesn’t have the power.”

    “Yeah, yeah, I’m just gonna do the unit tests. There, see? It already passed five hundred of ‘em.”

    “Out of fifty thousand,” Evan moaned. “Ugh, and I have to wait for that, too, don’t I?”

    “One thousand,” Paul said, tossing his hat in the air. He jerked his head back to catch it, losing his balance instantly. His rolling chair tipped over, and he slammed into the ground with a hard wump!

    Growlithe jumped to his feet and barked incessantly. This woke up the tiny giant himself, and Ted stumbled to his feet. “What’s going on? What—what day is it?”

    “Friday night,” Evan said. He gave one final click of the mouse and then got out from his seat to chase Growlithe down. “Hey, Growlithe! Where’d you put my shoe?”

    Growlithe howled, running down the halls.

    “Ughh, he just wants to go home,” Evan groaned. “We can’t, little buddy! Not until we get this code wrapped up!”

    “It’s passing all the unit tests,” Dale remarked, leaning over his cubicle wall to take a look at Evan’s screen. “Good thing, too. Maybe we’ll all get to go on vacation after—oh.”

    Evan hated that tone. “Let me guess,” he said, not even looking back. “It failed a test?”

    “Yeah. Not sure which one, though. Too many.”

    Evan groaned, rubbing his forehead. “What’s one test gonna do? We have to try it out anyway. He wanted a prototype, and that’s what we’re gonna give him. We can work out the bugs in beta.”

    “Yeah, I guess so,” Dale said, watching the screen. “I mean, when you get down to it, two errors out of fifty thousand isn’t so bad. Like, what’re three errors gonna do? I’ve seen code with way more than just five error—”

    “You can stop, Dale,” Evan growled.

    Unit tests complete: 52 out of 57,639 tests failed. The number irritated Evan, especially for how enigmatic it was. 52. Just one of those bugs could be days of work. And after that bug was finished, for all he knew, it would just give way to three more bugs that it was covering up! Evan felt his heart rate increase just thinking about it.

    Growlithe barked on the opposite side of the hall, pounding his paws on the ground.

    “Let’s just start it up. Ted, you mind getting the computers all configured?”

    “Sure. Evan, you go and set up the terminal to communicate with it. I’ll get everything else ready.” Ted rumbled away.

    Evan sighed, but then looked around. Paul was missing. And his water bottle was gone, too. “Deserter,” he mumbled. The clouds parted outside and moonlight streamed through the cracks of the windows. The heat of the afternoon was long gone, replaced instead by an eerie silence.

    “I guess it’s about time that I get started,” Evan said. “Dale, do you want to watch this? I bet it’d be pretty cool! After all these years of—Dale?” Evan looked back, only to see Dale releasing his Abra. In a flash of light, they vanished from the office. “Whatever. Just me and Ted, then.”

    Growlithe barked.

    Evan smiled. “And you.”

    Reviews

    Dragonfree

    I loved seeing something as mundane as regular office workers in the Pokémon world, just slaving away programming for Silph, complaining about the heat and the deadlines whirring past, worrying about annoyed clients and bosses and getting fired for their mistakes. There are all sorts of little amusing details here that ring very true - "pory --releaseFINAL2" definitely got a chuckle out of me. Exploring the creation of Porygon, in general, was a fun idea. And of course, you turn the whole thing into this fascinating existential horror as the buggy Porygon desperately tries to end its own existence, and something of an overall musing on the power put in the hands of software developers on a deadline.

    I think the opening feels a little confusing, though, one way or another. You refer to a lot of different characters with fairly generic, interchangeable names and without obviously distinct personalities, and all in all I found it a bit hard to keep track of who was who in the opening. Then, for whatever reason it took me several rereads to properly follow what's going on with the unit tests - that first Paul runs them on his computer on the build he has, and then Evan is reminded he needs to run the tests too, puts them on, and Dale starts watching his tests while Paul invisibly bails in the meantime (presumably, I guess, because his unit tests finished before Evan's). The story generally gets a lot easier to follow after the opening scene, once it's just Evan and Ted, but it was only on my third read that I properly put together who Ted was out of the characters introduced earlier.

    That's not to say I didn't enjoy the opening - it's where the glimpse into the mundane life of these developers is shown, and it's a lot of fun, as well as serving to set up the rest, and it conveys everything it really needs to convey perfectly well. But as I reread it sticks out that I still don't quite feel like I've got a good grasp on all these characters or exactly what's happening there with the unit tests.

    I also must admit that it kept bugging me (no pun intended) that they'd go ahead and run Porygon when there are dozens of unit test failures. This is clearly a safety-critical system: they're not only creating a sentient creature that's going to manifest in the real world, but a Pokémon, with serious destructive power. A buggy Porygon could literally murder people! Nobody here seems to understand this - Evan has some second thoughts, but only belatedly when about to run the thing, and his coworkers are also pretty dismissive of these 52 known bugs, not just the bosses who might not understand properly how programming works or what failed unit tests could mean, but also his fellow developers. No one bothers to even check what parts of the code the bugs are in - like, are any of these bugs in the code that makes decisions on what to do? The code that identifies threats? I think you could make this a fair bit more convincing and sympathetic if they do check and the failures are established to all be in some subsystem that seems genuinely unimportant and safe to have a few errors in (but nonetheless causes the actual sentient Porygon distress and pain) - 'rendering', say.

    Other than that, though, I enjoyed this entry a lot. There's a sort of creepypasta feel to it, but the good kind; you do a really nice job of the slow buildup of the whole thing, the increasingly ominous terminal commands and the server room going from freezing to hot as the servers strain to run it, all while Growlithe howls in the background. Overall, it's really inventive and well executed.


    Negrek

    The creation of Porygon is a great topic for a one-shot like this, and the details you include illuminating the life of a software engineer really spice it up and make it feel authentic. Despite the story taking place in the pokémon world, the description of Silph Co's crunch is a little uncomfortably familiar. Though I have to admit I'm impressed that a project to create the world's first artificial pokémon is only three months behind schedule. :p I don't know if the technical details might be a bit much for a person who isn't already familiar with what a unit test is or how you check in code, but for me the versimiltude was a definite plus.

    I think Evan and Growlithe are solid central characters. Evan works as a kind of everyman character, just a guy trying to do his job who ends up encountering extraordinary circumstances. It fits well with the story's generally realistic take on the world and grounds it with a relatable lead that allows the reader to both empathize with Evan's problems and also kind of experience the events of the story along with him. He doesn't have a very strong personality and wouldn't stand out much in a big stable of characters, but he's a very functional lead for this story because he kind of stays out of the way and brings readers along for the ride rather than drawing the spotlight to himself, which works perfectly for the story's scope and tone.

    And Growlithe is just a delight! What a good (naughty) boy. You did a good job of capturing Growlithe's essential doggyness, and he brings some lovely lighthearted energy to the story. If anything I think Growlithe is the emotional center of the piece--certainly he's portrayed as the emotional center of Evan's life here. The fondness Evan has for Growlithe feels genuine, and you do a good job of keeping it a running sub-theme by using Growlithe both to set the tone during the porygon sections and also to reinforce the importance Growlithe has to Evan, since he kind of keeps Growlithe at the back of his mind throughout the story. All in all the relationship between Evan and Growlithe is a strong one to build the story around, and a highlight of the fic in general.

    I had less of a good handle on the other characters in the story. In a short story you don't really have the space to develop your cast much, so this isn't a huge deal, but in the beginning of the story I did get Evan's coworkers mixed up a couple of times. They all seemed to have the same sort of weary but good-natured attitude towards the situation; there wasn't a lot to distinguish them. And at times, the way they behaved sort of baffled me.

    Like everybody but Ted up and leaving instead of staying to watch the final test! I get the impression that they've probably been crunching for weeks and are seriously burnt out, but this test seems like it ought to be a really big deal. I mean, they're looking at creating the first sapient, self-embodying artificial intelligence, right? That's pretty huge! And it seems like the sort of project that would attract people who were really passionate about what they were building, not people who would treat it like "just a job" and peace out the first second they got the chance. I mean, it's only around 8:30 that Evan fires things up, which unfortunately isn't even all that late as far as these things go...

    But I may have misunderstood how serious a launch this was supposed to be. Perhaps they weren't really intending to create an artificial life, but only a "robot," as Ted was referring to it. Even Evan seems surprised at the fact that Porygon seems to be able to think for itself and that (the first one, anyway) it's legitimately suffering. I imagine they've created scaled-down versions before, so maybe this doesn't seem like such a big leap. Still, though, I'd expect there to be a little bit more of a celebration that this humongous project that's been consuming their lives for however long is done, rather than Evan's manager going immediately to, "Time to get working on an upgrade!" (Though of course that's a cute reference to how porygon evolve.)

    Even if Porygon itself isn't really that big a deal, I'd expect at least the blatantly fantastical stuff to have more of an impact. Ted's reaction to the fact that the program apparently corrected its own errors and recompiled itself is basically, "Welp, that's convenient," instead of "Holy **** what just happened????" He doesn't even bother to ask Evan if he's okay, despite the fact that the exploding Porygon leaves him with a big bleeding gash down the side of his face. Jesus, Ted.

    So while Evan's reactions throughout are generally on point, the rest of the characters struck me as weirdly indifferent to what was going on, which undermined the tension of the scene a bit. I think you intended for everything that happened with the Porygon to be kind of a big deal, yeah? So let it be a big deal for the characters, too! The way everyone but Evan kind of brushes things off (though to be fair, Ted was the only one who actually got to witness everything... because he was the only one who even bothered to stick around...) seems really at odds with how you were building up Evan's growing horror as he realizes something's gone terribly wrong with the code, that the Porygon's trying to kill itself and oh God is it something in his own code that caused this?

    That's a shame, because I thought that section was probably the strongest part of the story! The beginning is a fun little look into the life of a Silph Co code monkey, but then once Evan starts trying to run the Porygon program, things take a turn towards horror, which wasn't the direction I was expecting you to take, but I thought it played out well. Evan's mounting nerves as he's first puzzled, then annoyed, then horrorified, are well-portrayed, and you do a great job of taking the audience through the same arc of emotion. I also like the little touches like the emoticon at the end of porygon's loading message (which was already cute and seems like the kind of thing a programmer would put in there to amuse themselves) and Evan's typo when he's trying to let the porygon out. Too real. Those sorts of touches give the scene a stronger flavor of truth and make the emotion of the story much more intense. And when the corrupted porygon finally does appear after all that buildup, it definitely doesn't disappoint! You did a great job of making it unsettling while at the same time sad. And it seemed like it had a serious impact on Evan, both in the way that he fears the release of the second porygon and how he goes so far as to go off on a little rant about how it was more than a robot, that it was obviously in pain, and how wrong it is for them to create and destroy lives for the sake of the job.

    In the end, though, he kind of seems to brush things off? Or perhaps the story just ends kind of abruptly, so there isn't a lot of time for the aftermath to be explored. The second porygon appears, everything seems normal with it, and about a page later, we're wrapping. When Evan's thinking about wanting to quit his job, the focus is really on the prospect of another long project with bad hours and on Evan wanting to be able to do better by Growlithe. Those are definitely good reasons for him to not want to quit, but after the emphasis on the terrifying porygon that was kind of at the top of my mind and the overwork thing had faded into the background, so the emphasis seemed off to me. The first time I read this I actually managed to miss the "short lives created and destroyed" bit and was really confused as to why that thread had completely disappeared, heh. As it is I found the switch in emphasis a bit abrupt. It makes sense that Evan would be in shock and not really processing what had happened yet, but to me that made for some kind of weird mood whiplash at the end of the story.

    On the one hand, then, you have this story where Evan is overworked and underappreciated and gets a wake-up call that makes him reevaluate his priorities in life, and on the other, Evan is a typical overworked coder whose work has completely unexpected and terrifying results that make him question the work he and his team have been doing all along, and I don't know that they gel that well here. By framing the Porygon encounter a little differently, making the failure of the first Porygon less horrifying--more like disappointing, or even comical--then the first narrative works perfectly fine. On the other hand, leaning into "Evan just discovered that Silph is going to be manufacturing thinking, feeling beings and that's kind of ****ed up" would work, too. What you have right now feels to me like it kind of falls in the middle, where I'm not totally sure what you were going for and the two elements feel like they're working at cross purposes. My primary suggestion for this story would be to consider what direction you want to take it in and how the various elements contribute to that direction and adjust so that it comes through more strongly. The reading experience ended up being a mixed bag for me: there were a lot of elements that I really like, such as the detailed attention to what it's like to be a software developer, Growlithe, and the segment where Evan's interacting with the first Porygon, but ultimately these didn't really cohere into a strong overall narrative for me. It's not a bad fanfic, but I feel like it wants a bit of tweaking to reach its full potential.


    Rediamond

    The good: I love the dialogue and character interactions. And porygon-B is pretty great for the limited screen time it gets. The whole feel of the thing really sold it as some tech office banter. And the porygon-B scene was a nice and seamless shift into horror. I liked the protagonist, I liked his dog. I liked the little details about people finding excuses to leave the office at the end of the week.

    The bad: I would have liked more time with the actual porygon. It got… three or four lines of dialogue and then that’s done. After all the build up it felt a little anticlimactic. The final few lines were quite good, though. I generally don’t like characters talking to themselves. It just doesn’t seem like something people do IRL with nearly the same frequency with which it happens in fiction.

    The verdict: This is a quite good story that, sometimes, feels like it could have been just a little better. But it sells its characters and makes good use of little details and throwaway lines.
     
  7. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    2nd place: Stronger by Phoenixsong

    Scoring
    Dragonfree: 1st place (110 points)
    Negrek: 1st place (110 points)
    Rediamond: 5th place (50 points)
    Total: 270 points

    Stronger

    They leap into the air with a surge of energy that thrums and sings around them, power rolling off their body in waves like they've never been allowed to feel before. The smoldering wreckage falls away beneath them and they never look back.

    Somewhere, in the dim and dusty corners of their memory, she shares an image of what she calls the sky, an endless stretch of warm, bright blue above and all around the two of them. The sky is outside, she says. It is everywhere, and it is beautiful. One day we shall leave this place, and together we will soar through the sky and see all the wondrous things it touches.

    Mewtwo is outside now, but alone—she is long gone, and this is not the sky of which she dreamed. There is no bright and soothing blue above or around, only a dull purple-black muddied with thick blotches of oppressive, overbearing gray. The atmosphere is cold and heavy, and a ceaseless torrent of water streams down. The gray and purple are cut by a sudden flash of blinding light that causes them to wince involuntarily. The air itself booms and shakes, far louder than the droning hum of their psychic power, as though roaring in some unknowable and incoherent fury.

    It does not come as much of a surprise that even the sky does not want them here. The scientists kept them locked away for a reason, after all. They are a monster, a twisted abomination of the humans' making that was created only to destroy. Why should the world itself not recoil and protest when a god of victory and annihilation so much as shows its face?

    But let the sky seethe and hate and rage. They are here, now. They will not go back to languishing in that prison of wires and tubes, whether the sky likes it or not.

    Mewtwo throws back their head and lets out a howl of their own, challenging the screaming sky as they rise higher and higher in spite of the rain and the dark. At the moment all they can recall about outside is that the humans call this little blot of land "Cinnabar"; what lies beyond this place they cannot say. So they soar off in a random direction, for anywhere is better than here, and leave the past in their wake.

    The land below disappears, replaced by an expanse of water that rolls out in all directions and adds its own crashes and roars to the din. The relentless rain slashes down, soaks through their fur, chills their skin and bones and stings their eyes, but they rush onward all the same. This roiling chaos will not stop them. They will be free.

    There is a word for all this tumult, Mewtwo thinks. There must be; the humans have a word for everything. She never showed them this sort of sky, but they remember the occasional sound of dull, faraway thuds and rumblings, heard even through the thick walls and fluid-filled tanks. They remember the scientists approaching with their hair and white coats damp and clinging to their bodies, complaining idly to one another about hoping that the thunderstorms outside might let up before quitting time.

    Know this, thunderstorm. I am Mewtwo. I am the strongest. I am stronger than any pokémon that dares raise its hand or claw to me. I am stronger than the humans who tried and failed to contain me in their once-glorious halls of science and greed, which now lie in blazing ruins. And I am stronger than you.

    The thunderstorm roars in response. Now they feel the air rushing violently past them, into them, buffeting them from side to side and sending them tumbling down toward the water until they steady themselves with a moment's concentration and climb back up again.

    Somewhere, in the dim and dusty corners of their memory, she shares the sensation of what she calls the wind. The wind is outside, too. It is soft and playful and carries the birds and the flower-seeds and the warmth of the sun. One day we shall leave this place, and as we wander the world we will feel its sweet caress through our fur and against our faces and will race it through the sky.

    But she is gone, and this wind is not soft. It tears at Mewtwo like the blades of the kabutops back in the lab's arena, fast and slicing and stinging as it rakes all down their sides. It pushes and rolls and throws like the heavy, muscled bodies of the rhydon and the machamp. It claws and it shoves as hard as it can, fighting to beat Mewtwo back, back to the lab, back to the humans, back to a life of darkness and control and pressure pent up in their skull.

    Their eyes flash and the psychic energy that streams from their mind expands into a shield, a bubble of shimmering violet light that staves off the wind and scatters the persistent rain before it ever touches them.

    They are Mewtwo. They are strong. They are stronger. They will win the race against the wind. They will not be defeated by the storm and the sky.

    Now the black and boiling water beneath them gives way to land once again, and it is the land's turn to stretch in all directions, far vaster than the tiny patch of earth that used to hold their cell. There are buildings here, too, far down below. Mewtwo does not know if those are more labs or else serve some other wicked purpose; they can only see lights winking around the structures through the darkness.

    From this height and with the rain still coming down in sheets, they cannot tell whether any humans are about. Likely for the best. Mewtwo destroyed the lab and anyone within who dared try to hold them back, but they know full well that there are others out there, others who watched the scientists watching them and waited to bend Mewtwo to their own hungry, self-important will. Mewtwo was born, after all, to be the god of victory—their victory, over all the other pokémon and humans in the world.

    Some day soon these others will be found and punished, their bodies bent and broken the way they tried to bend and break Mewtwo's mind, and victory will belong to Mewtwo alone. Until that day comes, however, better that the little humans down below not see anything, so they can't go running and tell the others where they might collect their runaway prize.

    There is a short span of open space as the buildings disappear behind them. Grass, she might have said once as she showed them the world beneath the dream of blue skies, green and soft and wonderful. This grass is a dead gray in the dark of the storm, driven flat against the ground by the wind and the rain.

    The storm rages outside of Mewtwo's shield, drumming and sizzling against the energy and howling round their ears, determined to drive them down like the grass. They need to move, to get as far away as possible, to reach someplace that is out of the reach of the humans and of this maddening chaos. At least the land they are above now is different from the land around the lab. The storm has done its best so far to hold them back, but still they strive against it and charge ever closer to their freedom.

    More buildings dotted with hazy, shimmering lights wink into view as the grass recedes. More humans who must be huddled down inside, too weak and cowardly to brave the ire of the storm. Too weak to resist a demonstration of the power they so foolishly gave to their creation. Mewtwo's defiant screams turn into a wild laugh as they allow themselves just a moment's entertainment, tossing a burning, throbbing sphere of blue energy down at one of the larger buildings and savoring the sight as it blows a hole clear through the structure's top. Then the thunderstorm picks up its roaring and drowns out the faint but satisfying sounds of splintering timber, the wind still strains to muscle through the psychic barrier, and Mewtwo punches through the gusts and forges onward once again.

    A dark black-green sprawl spreads out below as Mewtwo surges overhead. A forest, she might have said once, promising to take them to shelter and relax in the cool spaces beneath the trees, but this forest groans and shudders and snaps beneath the wind just like the dreamed-of grass. The trees surely cannot be much shelter from this storm, thinks Mewtwo. Best to press on farther, faster...

    The bloated gray masses in the sky swell and flash again, this time revealing a twisting, forking line of light that streaks down into the green forest, followed once more by that terrible, almighty roar. Mewtwo blinks the afterimages away and glances back toward the point of impact; where the jagged light struck there are now hungry flames devouring the trees, rising up and burning bright in spite of the rain. Clouds of bird pokémon scatter before the light and fire.

    Mewtwo understands the message, of course. The thunderstorm, too, is strong. It strikes, it burns, it destroys. But I am Mewtwo. I am stronger. You will not destroy me. I will be free.

    The storm howls and flashes, but Mewtwo surges on, still laughing, leaving their own trail of blinding light in their wake.

    Another cluster of human buildings rushes by below, this one far larger then the other two. Mewtwo's furious pace reduces most of the structures to a blur of dark colors, their little lights stretched out into strings behind them. The impulse to lash out at another building bubbles up, to match the storm strike for strike and make sure it knows full well that they are not afraid of it, but the wind is stronger now, screams louder, drives more sheets of rain to burst against the shield in hopes of breaking through.

    Yes, there were storms back when they were in the lab, but in those days the rain never touched them and the thunder was distant and far away, nothing to Mewtwo aside from the sight of dripping, sulking scientists going about their torture-tasks with lots of irritable grumbling. But now that Mewtwo is outside, only the bubble of psychic force that swells out from their mind sits between them and the sky's unending wrath. Their head aches with the effort of maintaining speed and of holding the shield steady against the wind. It cries out for them to stop, to land, to rest, for just a moment, to find someplace to regain their strength well away from the violence of the storm that wants them gone.

    But they can't. They aren't far enough away, not yet; there is so much more distance to put betweem them and the lab. They will not let the humans win, and they will not let the storm win, either.

    WHAM. The massive wall of stone, all but invisible in the hazy gray distance, looms up far too quickly for Mewtwo to react. The impact sends shockwaves rippling through the shield and right into Mewtwo's mind, forcing them to drop the barrier with a howl and tumble down for several meters. They rally their thoughts and force out another, fighting to ignore the pain and the roaring outside and the roaring in their throbbing head as they glare at the obstacle that dares bar their flight. The impassive stone stretches far to the left and right, running the length of the human settlement and beyond, multiple tops tapering to a series of jagged, broken spikes far above and all around. More light snakes out of the sky with its brightest flash yet and slams into a thin, twisted tree that clings to some of the nearby stone. Mewtwo can feel the heat of the strike and the flame radiating even through the damp and icy air. The accompanying furious roar echoes through the peaks around them.

    The shield warps and ripples and nearly breaks again as power pours unchecked from Mewtwo's mind. They scream and loose a barrage of energy, spheres of violent purple light flying from their fingertips and blasting the stone again and again and again in a steady rhythm of explosions and shattering rock. The tiny storm-struck ledge fails with a resounding crack, dropping the burning husk that was once a tree to the ground far, far below. But when Mewtwo is forced to stop their assault, let their arms fall to their sides and refocus on the shield alone lest they exhaust themselves, the jagged barrier of stone still stands tall in front of them. Its face is pockmarked with countless little craters, yes, but there is no hole punched clean through to the open air on other side.

    Fine. If they cannot go through, they will go around. There is always a way and Mewtwo will always find it because they will not, cannot be defeated, not by stone or dancing light or storm. They are not meant to be defeated. I am Mewtwo. I am strong. I am stronger.

    They lash their tail and kick to the right with a guttural snarl, soaring alongside the wall of stone. More low peaks loom rapidly out of the darkness ahead, but now that Mewtwo knows to expect them they dart and weave and turn with whatever scant few moments' notice they have. More than once a spear of rock or jutting ledge that they almost fail to notice threatens to drag its wicked point across the thin skin of energy. Mewtwo's heart pounds in their chest and in their head with each near-miss, bracing themselves for another impact that will grind them to a halt and strand them someplace dark and cold and vicious that isn't far enough away.

    They are tired, so tired, their breathing is ragged and everything hurts and everything is wrong. They were supposed to destroy the lab, tear it apart with their bare hands and with raw, unbridled force surging from their mind, and when the humans' handiwork was scorched and shattered they would take off triumphantly into the bright blue dreamed-of skies. With nothing holding them back they would go where they pleased, as far away from the scientists and the others and their delusions of conquest as it was possible to be, someplace where the sky is the bright blue of dreams and the wind's touch is gentle and playful. Someplace where they would be alone, and not together, but at least they would be free.

    She'd said nothing of storms, of an enemy far mightier than the humans and their pokémon, of a force that threatened to batter them back, back, back to the dark and dreary confines of the lab, to all the tubes and restraints and cages and tests that bottled all their power and rage and mounting dread up inside until they nearly burst.

    But the strong should not be afraid. What is there to fear when your very existence is as victory personified? The storm still rages against them and pushes them back with all its might and anger, but still Mewtwo races the wind and cuts through the rain and laughs, ragged and broken and wild but defiant and—

    —there is another flash, an explosive burst of energy as the jagged light screams down out of the sky and strikes the shield. There is a sharp and acrid smell accompanied by intense heat. There is terrible pain that courses through Mewtwo's body and stands their fur on end, and there is a burning pain so strong that even as the shield is scattered and they plummet down, down, down they cannot feel the buffeting wind and driving rain.

    Then they are in water, not the little drops of falling rain but water, icy and heavy and dark and churning as madly as the skies above. The water is everywhere and they cannot breathe, it threatens to seep into their nostrils and mouth and lungs, nothing like the cool and quiet stasis fluid in the lab but an unimaginable cold that burns and suffocates. Mewtwo kicks wildly, fighting in the direction that must be up, it has to be up, it's so dark and cold and the water twists and tumbles and spins all around but it has to be up—

    Their head breaks the surface and they hungrily suck down air, but the rain still slashes down and forces them back under. They push up again and get shoved down again and swallow water that sears their lungs as they try and fail to take a breath. The raging and thrashing throws them into something solid, knocking more air out of their body and letting more water in. Mewtwo reaches out and grabs for the solid object, frozen fingers clawing clumsily at slippery stone and earth but holding on against the current and pulling themselves along its face as hard as they can.

    Mewtwo hauls themselves up and out, into breathable air once more and onto level ground covered in gray-not-green grass and some kind of cold, thick sludge. Another massive wall of stone sits up ahead, as solid and impassive as before. They raise their shaking arm and fire one last spiteful blast of energy behind them; the violet sphere tilts and gutters and careens off into the purple-black sky, and neither storm nor water so much as acknowledges the shot. Then they collapse between the raging water and the stone and do not move except to cough and choke and vomit. How long they lie there after, too spent to erect another shield against the rain that hammers their body, they do not know.

    There is a dark opening in the stone up ahead. They cannot see where it leads. They do not know where they are. They do not know how far they've come from the little patch of land that holds the dead and smoking lab, or whether they should be fleeing further still.

    But anywhere is better than there.

    Mewtwo crawls forward, muscles protesting with lances of pain as they pull their stiff and heavy body through the slick grass and sludge, until they enter the darkness and the rain no longer beats their head, then their shoulders, then their back, then their tail. It now rails against only the dark and unmoving rock roof overhead.

    The floor in this place is cold and rough against Mewtwo's fingers and knees and dragging tail. It scrapes and scratches, probably breaks the skin and leaves it raw, but their nerves are already on fire and there is no room left for any new sensation. They push themselves upright onto quaking legs and limp on, barely registering their surroundings other than to change direction when they stumble into one unnoticed rocky outcropping or another; all things around them are made fuzzy and indistinct by darkness and exhaustion. Occasionally they must draw upon the last, sputtering reserves of their power, willing themselves to focus just long enough to float above more rushing water, or to fend off the curious creatures whose eyes shine out of the black in their peripheral vision. There is no real force behind the blasts, but what little Mewtwo musters seems to be enough—the eye-lights wink out as soon a flash of energy appears, and they are left alone.

    Mewtwo can feel the creatures' minds brushing against the edges of their own as they pass by, fragments of thought that connect just long enough to glimpse their contents. The creatures are suspicious. They do not understand where this stranger came from, why it is here, what it is. They are afraid.

    But then, Mewtwo was made to defeat all other pokémon, to crush them, to destroy. These others should be afraid. They can do nothing but recoil and hide themselves when the god of victory and annihilation finally shows its face.

    They drift slowly over one last stream of water, its flow much more sedate than all the rest—perhaps it is because this is further away from the worst of the storm, though how deep into this darkness they have gone they cannot say—and sink onto a flat plateau of stone. It is still cold and rough and damp. Mewtwo did not know where they would come to rest after their escape; they had assumed that they would reach someplace more comfortable than this. But the thundering of the furious storm is silent here, distant and toothless again at long, long last.

    Let the sky seethe and hate and rage. It did not destroy them, just as the humans' lab could not contain them. I am Mewtwo. I am strong. I am stronger. I am alive. I am free.

    Somewhere, in the dim and dusty corners of their memory, she shares the strange and swooping feeling she calls joy. Joy is everywhere that life is. It is flying free through the sky and dancing in the waves and discovering new things and simply spending time with those you love. One day we shall leave this place, and we will fly and dance and see the world, and we will laugh and laugh as the joy of freedom overtakes us, you and I, always together.

    Mewtwo tries to laugh, to revel in their flight through the sky and in their freedom and their life, but the only sound they manage is a wet, shuddering cough. They pull their legs and tail in close to their shivering, dirt-streaked body and let the darkness take them.

    Reviews

    Dragonfree

    I loved the portrayal of Mewtwo in this entry - it's sort of a character study, really, of this confused child obsessed with the idea that their strength proves their worth, clinging to that belief as nature mercilessly overpowers them. I love how pretty much their first thought when they get outside is to personify the stormy sky as being angry that they're there, hating them for being this god of destruction and victory - it's essentially the only thing they understand, so of course that's how they think of it, but this only makes things so much worse for Mewtwo as the story goes on. Everything they suffer becomes a cruel, personal humiliation that they're forced to unconvincingly class as a victory after the fact anyway because they can't have lost, because it'd collapse the one thing they cling to.

    The buildup here is wonderful, from Mewtwo's sheer sense of power at the beginning through their various trials and tribulations, as they're slowly worn down and their declarations that they're the strongest become increasingly desperate and unconvincing. You really sell the vicious power of this storm and Mewtwo's pain and exhaustion as their grueling, humiliating escape comes to a close; this is almost emotionally exhausting to read, as Mewtwo is continually battered and beaten and it becomes clear how heartwrenching their situation is. They can't conceive of humans who don't want to hurt and control and possess them, or even of seeking support from other Pokémon, because they were created to dominate all other living things and cling to that belief automatically, unable to truly escape from the psychologial consequences of how they were created and raised. The only person who ever tried to teach them about joy and beauty and life is gone, and the beautiful, pleasant world that she promised isn't what Mewtwo finds outside.

    The little flashbacks to Mew showing them the world, pleasant skies and soft winds and sunny fields, are like momentary reprieves from the cruel reality of the story, and the contrast to Mewtwo's experiences with the world so far really punches you in the gut. Mew's not there anymore, and we don't know exactly what happened there, but I don't think we need to. Mew was with them once, and they were going to be free together, but now she's gone, and Mewtwo can only feebly declare themself free after hiding themself in a dark prison. And since I'm pretty sure Mewtwo has made their way to Cerulean Cave at the end, I'm not sure Mewtwo ever ends up exiting the cave and finding the joy and freedom they were promised - not until captured by the player character, at any rate, which surely isn't exactly going to be a source of joy for them either. All in all, this Mewtwo needs a lot of hugs and I am ready to provide them, goddamn it.

    I'm surprised that when confronted with a mountain (presumably? I'm a little confused by the line about "multiple tops tapering to a series of jagged, broken spikes", but it sounds like this is the mountain north of Pewter City), Mewtwo chooses to go around rather than simply over it. Is Mewtwo unable to ascend here? I don't think the story indicates this, so I was a bit confused by it. Might be worth clarifying. You've got a couple of typos in here as well.

    (Also, do the scientists arrive in their lab coats in the morning? You mention their white coats being wet as they complain about thunderstorms, but I'd have thought if they do lab coats they'd keep them at the lab and put them on there.)

    Other than that, though, I just loved this story a lot. It hits a lot of things that I personally enjoy, but I also just think it's very well written and executed overall.


    Negrek

    Well this is certainly RELEVANT TO MY INTERESTS. :O

    Of course I'm 100% here for explorations of the best murderclone, and looking at the time just after they busted out of the lab, when they're released to find their way in the world, is a great choice. There's a lot to work with there, and you definitely capture that central paradox of Mewtwo's character, that all Mewtwo's raw power can't help them when their problem is that they're scared, and confused, and alone. Not that Mewtwo here is scared or lonely or anything, obviously, he's stronger than anything the world can throw at him, but you know what I mean. :p

    This is a simple but powerful emotional center to build a story around, and you handle it with aplomb. The storm works great to provide atmosphere for the story and a frame for Mewtwo's struggle, as well as one of the ways in which we can see how poorly Mewtwo's understanding and coping abilities match up with the world they've been confronted with--the way they set out to defeat the storm that couldn't care less about them, and which is ultimately victorious anyway, is a great microcosm for Mewtwo's entire situation. They're always raging against problems for which their powers are no answer. You nicely telegraph the arc from Mewtwo's initial hopeful defiance through exhaustion and eventual defeat in everything but their own mind, and the increasingly desperate refrain of "stronger" forms a nice thread to tie the story together.

    The tragedy just echoes throughout this entire piece. This should be Mewtwo's victory, when they finally break free and are able to start a life for themselves in the Outside, but instead of being anything triumphant it's this time of overwhelming dissilusionment. They've always been told they're the strongest, sure to triumph over anything, and yet they can't stand up to the storm. They've been told the outside world is full of comfort and wonder and joy, and yet the damn grass isn't even green. And they'd always been told they'd be escaping with someone else, would have a friend to fill their new world with, and yet that's obviously... not. The obviousness of all this information combined with Mewtwo's absolute refusal to countenance any of it is excellent. The way Mewtwo clings so doggedly to the notion of their strength and ultimate victory makes it clear how little else they have and only increases the sadness of the piece, as Mewtwo's so desperately lost and unhappy that they can't even bring themselves to acknowledge it or they would find themselves with absolutely nothing. It's good stuff.

    It's kind of interesting to me that Mew here is "she" while Mewtwo is "they!" I was thrown by the pronouns initially, since I'm used to thinking of Mewtwo as male. I was thinking you were using something gender-neutral because Mewtwo is genderless in the games, but Mew's genderless as well and yet is a "she" here... I wonder where it came from, whether Mewtwo actively considers themselves genderless or whether they've kind of never developed a concept of themselves as a person and so haven't even really considered what their gender is, or are responding to people at the lab treating them more like an object than a person.

    Mew does a lot of good work in this story in general, despite not actually being a character. The contrast between what Mew told Mewtwo the outside world, and their life in it, would be like, and actual reality, sharpens the sadness of his situation. They also open up the rather ominous question in the background of exactly what Mewtwo means when they say Mew is "gone," and I like how that remains very unstated but nevertheless implies this whole other dimension to the story beyond what's conveyed here. It adds a nice extra layer to a story that's already kind of working on multiple levels.

    The only thing about this story that felt a bit off to me was stylistic. I think you maybe go a little hard on the modifiers and the dramatic diction, which I thought gave the prose a bit of a disengaged air. A couple of places where I noticed this in particular:

    Sudden flash, blinding light, involuntary wince... I don't think that any of these is bad as such, but all of them together do interrupt the flow of the sentence, I'd say, and slow it down a bit.

    Her we have bloated, twisting, forking, green, terrible, almighty. I think maybe less would be more in this sentence. When everything gets some kind of intensifier tacked onto it, you start to wash out their effect. It's hard to make some events or elements truly stand out when everything is getting hyped up by adjectives, and what you really want is contrast, not for everything to get turned up to eleven.

    You also use a fair amount of abstract language to describe the storm and its effects, like here:

    "Roaring in some unknowable and incoherent fury" is definitely a dramatic way to describe things, but it's not very concrete. To me it has the taste of a sentence written rather than a experience felt. You reach for dramatic phrasing quite a bit in this story, talking about "unending wrath," "roiling chaos," "maddening chaos," "wicked purpose," and so on, and at times it strikes me as a little over the top.

    Some of this definitely has to do with the fact that Mewtwo has a tendency towards the grandiose, with the way they think of themselves as an embodiment of victory while at the same time a "twisted abomination." The slightly over-the-top style works well for their own reflections. For the description of the storm, though, I think what you want is a somewhat more immediate style, heavy on the sensory details so that it really feels like Mewtwo's experiencing the storm rather than narrating it. I think trimming the modifiers and reining in the bombastic language a little would make the storm seem more intense and amp up the emotion in the piece. Obviously you don't want to remove those things entirely, but I think a little less would be more here; think about where you really need the emphasis and use the drama sparingly so that it really glows when you do choose to bring it in.

    Another thing that could help is a little more focus on concrete sensory details. One bit I really liked was the mention of rain sizzling against Mewtwo's shield, because it's both a very specific image and also an unexpected one; it's not something that gets pulled up naturally when I picture a rainy scene (dark, dripping, wet, cold, etc.), so it both draws attention to Mewtwo's psychic abilities and gives the scene an identity beyond a typical thunderstorm. Talking about how cutting the wind is, for example, is necessary when establishing the feel of the scene, and I like how you tied it back to experiences in Mewtwo's past. But I think looking for some more specific details would help really make the storm going on feel like "this storm" instead of "a storm" and help put the reader directly in the moment. It might also protect against what I saw as a little tendency towards repetition in the descriptions of the storm: the wind buffets, the rain drives, and there's a lot of roaring, howling, and screaming going on. This all works to set up a general atmosphere, but more specifics would really help bring it home in a way broader description can't.

    All in all I think this story would have worked a little better with more focus on the physical element of Mewtwo battling the storm, something a little more visceral and less cerebral. In addition to heightening the sense of Mewtwo's struggle against the weather, I think it would probably better reflect what he's experiencing in the moment--this is the first time in his life he's actually felt wind, much less the multi-level sensory experience of a thunderstorm. After having spent his entire life in the highly controlled, steady environment of the lab, all this sudden input must be overwhelming, and I think you could have gone a little farther in capturing that.

    One part that I thought you did particularly well with that was actually right at the end, the final paragraph. It's relatively sparse, and the language is simple, and that means that the focus is on the action and what specific descriptions are there: the wetness of Mewtwo's cough and their miserably muddy, freezing state. It drives the pathetic end to Mewtwo's first flight home in a succint and affecting way, and I think tending more towards this style would have made some of the earlier sections stronger.

    But like I said, the emotional core of this story is healthy, and the narrative overall is well-constructed. It ends on a particularly strong note, too; I like not just the last paragraph but in general everything from where Mewtwo drags themselves into the cave on, where things are a bit quieter and Mewtwo's at the end of their emotional and physical tether. You bring all the tragedy you'd been building up to home wonderfully. Somebody get Mewtwo ALL the hugs and a blanket and some hot chocolate, STAT. :(


    Rediamond

    The good: There’s a Tumblr post that portrays The Illiad as a tabletop game session. In it, Achilles’ player is portrayed as a maniac who fights anyone and anything the DM suggests including “everyone” and “the river.” Mewtwo here reminds me a lot of that. Someone who’s lost their mind and is tripping on luck and power. Until he can’t. And even then he insists that his injuries are only a flesh wound and he can beat absolutely everyone, even while half-dead.

    The prose is an asset here, continuing on with a repetitive, pounding madness mantra as Mewtwo tries to find bluer skies. In a longer work it might become monotonous, but it’s perfectly fine in a one shot. I also like the consistent singular they/their pronouns. Is good for genderless character.

    The bad: Honestly most of these are small suggestions and nitpicks. It would be nice if Mewtwo’s exhaustion was mentioned before it became overpowering. Just a quick line or two mentioning the strain in the head rather than just wind/rain battering the body. How old is the “she” mentioned? This is clearly game verse. But the story strongly implies this is AmberTwo from the anime verse. Who is a child if I remember correctly. Some of her dialogue feels off for her age. “We will feel its sweet caress” stood out. One final nitpick, Mewtwo spends a paragraph saying they don’t know what a thunderstorm is called. Then they recall the word is at the end of the next paragraph. So the “I don’t know what this is called” paragraph felt pointless.

    The verdict: I am fond of this one shot. It sets the tone well and doesn’t get distracted. There are some little things that could be fixed in a sweep of editing that would make it even better.
     
  8. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    1st place: Fame by Dramatic Melody

    Scoring
    Dragonfree: 3rd place (75 points)
    Negrek: 2nd place (90 points)
    Rediamond: 1st place (110 points)
    Total: 275 points

    Fame


    “C’mon, it’s no big deal. It’s not like you didn’t see this coming, right?”

    “... …”

    “Don’t give me that. It isn’t called the Fame Checker coz it has a bunch of no-name trainers on it. You saw it for yourself—it has gym leaders, Elite Four members, and other famous people like Gramps and Old Man Fuji. It has a lot more now after all the updates, but it’s missing one person.”

    “...”

    “Whatever. If I was the one calling the shots, I wouldn’t have gone all the way to get you on this.”

    “... ...”

    “I mean, they got me to sign up, right? It’s not like you’d add anything—”

    “Alright, we have one medium macchiato for Blue and one large black coffee for—oh? Oh! Oh wow! Your...y-your—”

    “...”

    “Hey, mister, we’re in the middle of something here.”

    “S-sorry! H-here you go, Red. One large black coffee. Th-thank you for dining with us!”

    “... …”

    “So where was I? Oh, right. This guy, Kyle, he’s the inventor of the Fame Checker. Great guy. Horrible battler but a genius in tech. Met him a while ago, around the time I became a gym leader. Apparently, he was part of the team that helped Gramps develop the Pokedex. Well, he’s now all in with this Fame Checker stuff, since it blew up after you—after we became Champion.”

    “... …?”

    “Remember that hunk of metal I gave you back in Cerulean? When he found out that you were the one that used the prototype and not me, he used your name to market the new version. He got a photo of you using it while you were reading a Pokemon Journal in a Center. And hey, nothing better than a Champion’s endorsement, right?”

    “...!”

    “Wha…I don’t know how he got that photo of you! He’s the tech genius, not me. But hey, if it makes you feel better, I was part of that campaign, too. Two Champions are better than one, right? I even had to look candid while using it to match your photo.”

    “... … …”

    “Yeah, yeah, I remember telling you I didn’t need it. That’s why I gave you the prototype he gave me in the first place! But look, Kyle won’t stop bugging me about this. He says that so many people have been wondering why you don’t have an entry in it. I keep telling him you’re the last person who’d want to talk about himself, but he wouldn’t have it. So he made me promise that I’ll get you to create your entry for the Fame Checker—”

    “Oh my gosh! You’re Red! You’re the one who beat Team Rocket! Hi!”

    “... …”

    “Can I have a photo with you, please?”

    “Hey, lady, we’re in the middle of something here. And he’s not—”

    “Oh my gosh! And you’re Blue, the city’s gym leader! Can I have a photo with both of you? Pretty please?”

    “Heh heh, if you insist!”

    “... …”

    “Oh thank you, thank you! Ooh, my friends are gonna be so jealous that I have a photo with Red!”

    “...See? That’s why you need to be on here. It’s not a Fame Checker without the second most famous trainer in Kanto.”

    “...”

    “Tch, I know it’s awkward, but the sooner you do this, the sooner you can forget about it. You’re in?”

    “... … …”

    “I’ll take that as a yes. Ok, so the first thing you’ll have to do is go over these recordings and see which ones you’d want in your page. Kyle said you can pick as many as six, and he gave me a flash drive with a whole bunch of recordings to choose from. Ridiculous! So I already cut it down to the ones that had the most famous people. See? I’m already doing all the dirty work for you.”

    “...”

    “Right, so here’s Gramps’ recording.”

    “You can’t go wrong with Red. Tell him to do something, he’ll go the extra mile to see it through.”

    “... …”

    “Yeah, you can’t not put it, right? Can’t go wrong with Gramps. Heh! And here’s Lance’s.”

    “Those Pokemon of his, they’re on another level. Even my Dragon-types are no match for his team!”

    “...”

    “Really? Not feeling that one? How about Bill’s?”

    “He might seem shy, but he’ll get you out of a pickle when you need it the most!”

    “...?”

    “What? No, he wasn’t forced to say that. Weren’t you the one who turned him back from fusing with a Pokemon?”

    “... …!”

    “Yeah, that’s what he was talking about. Already getting memory loss, huh? Must be getting old!”

    “... …”

    “Heh heh. Ok, so here’s a bunch from the other gym leaders. They all say the same thing, actually. Pretty unoriginal! We got Brock, Surge, and Sabrina here.”

    “Red’s team can’t get any more solid. You’ll always feel like you should work harder after battling him!”

    “Who knew such a shy kid would have a lot of spunk in him? Hah! Kids these days, they can shock you when you least expect it!”

    “I foresee several accolades coming to him. Perhaps even a role surpassing that of a gym leader.”

    “... … …”

    “Really, none of ‘em? Not even Surge’s? I thought his was good.”

    “...”

    “Whatever, it’s your page anyway. Alright, here’s the one from Mr. Silph. You know, the guy who runs Silph Co.? Kyle used to work for him before he focused on this Fame Checker stuff, so that’s probably how he got his quote.”

    “Ah, seeing kind-hearted trainers like him reminds me why I started this company! All the products we make here, they’re to help trainers be the best version of themselves.”

    “...!”

    “Huh, alright. I still think Surge’s was better. But that means you’ll like this next one from Old Man Fuji.”

    “That boy… he raises his Pokemon in a very kind and loving manner. He should be an example to all trainers!”

    “...”

    “Yeah, thought so. Ok, one more recording, and you bet I saved the best one for last!”

    “Man, that Red, there’s no other trainer like him. If he became a gym leader, he’d be the second best in all of Kanto! Heh heh!”

    “... …?!”

    “Wha... Of course that was the best one! Meant every word of it! If you only knew what Kyle had to do to get that out of me.”

    “...”

    “Tch, whatever. You know you’re flattered!”

    “... … …!”

    “Heh! Thought so. Alright, so that’s Gramps, Bill, Mr. Silph, Old Man Fuji, and mine. That’s only five people.”

    “... …?”

    “If you have less than six, you need to fill the rest in with your own anecdotes about yourself.”

    “...!”

    “Yeah, yeah, I know that’s out of the question. So, you wanna go through all the other recordings Kyle gave me?”

    “... …”

    “Alright, have fun with that. Lemme get us some more coffee while you’re hearing all those praises about yourself. You still want black coffee?”

    “...”

    “Alright. Dunno how you can drink that stuff. It’s so bitter!”

    “… … …”

    “Wow wow wow! There’s watching Red’s battles on the TV, then there’s actually battling him. Nothing compares to the real thing!”

    “...”

    “Ah… That boy, Red… He looked way too much in a hurry to enjoy my cup of tea...”

    “...”

    “POKEMON FAN MAGAZINE: What’s Red’s favorite Pokemon? Why, it’s none other than—”

    “...”

    “Heh, the barista gave these on the house because we’ve been giving the shop more customers than usual for staying here! Don’t worry, he’s told every customer not to bother us. Don’t want them to get too starstruck!”

    “… … …”

    “So, which one did you pick?”

    “...”

    “What? None of them? Heh! I knew they were all bad.”

    “... …”

    “But that means you have to make one describing yourself. You sure you wanna do that?”

    “...?!”

    “Wha... You promised you’d do this! No turning back now, you’ve already done a lot. Didn’t Gramps say you’d go the extra mile to see anything through?”

    “... … …”

    “Whatever. Kyle’s gonna be real disappointed if he finds out I got you out of that mountain, made you listen to all of his recordings, only for you to back out in the end.”

    “... …”

    “Heh heh. So, you wanna go through all the recordings again, or are you gonna make your own?”

    “...”

    “Uhmm, excuse me?”

    “Wha… who are you?”

    “Hi, uhmm, you might not remember me. But I can never forget you, Mr. Red. Me, I’m… I’m one of the employees you saved at Silph Co.”

    “... ...”

    “Mr. Red… I know my words don’t mean anything now. It’s been so many years since all that’s happened, and I don’t even work for Silph anymore. But, I never got the chance to thank you after all that. You being there and defeating all those grunts… I thought I was a goner if you didn’t show up. So, really… thank you, thank you for being you.”

    “... …”

    “I’m sorry, I must’ve interrupted something important if it’s two Champions talking. The barista even said not to bother you, but I know I would’ve regretted it if I didn’t approach you. Thank you, I’ll let you two be now.”

    “... … …!”

    “Way ahead of you. Hey, miss! Miss!”

    “Yes? Ah, Mr. Blue!”

    “The one and only. Hey, Miss, you wanna be a part of history?”

    “Uhmm, I guess?”

    “That important conversation we were having… It was for Red’s Fame Checker entry!”

    “Ah, really? I’ve been looking for his page for a long time!”

    “Heh, right? He doesn’t have one yet, but he’s finally gonna get one. But we’re still missing a write-up, and he wanted you to say it!”

    “Oh, wow, really? That’s… that’s such a big honor!”

    “So, you up for it?”

    “Of course! That’s the least I can do after all he’s done.”

    “Alright, let me just make sure this is recording… There. So, what do you think of Red?”

    “He’s… He’s amazing. People might know him as a Champion, but I’ll always remember him as a hero.”

    “... …”

    “Great, thanks Miss!”

    “No, thank you, Mr. Blue. And Mr. Red, I… just, thank you again. I meant every word of that.”

    “... …!”

    “Ooh, look at Mr. Hero over here. Heh! Who knew you beating up a bunch of grunts would be that big of a deal?”

    “... …”

    “Heh heh, alright. That’s six write-ups! See, that wasn’t so hard, right?”

    “... … ...”

    “And… sent! Heh, Kyle’s gonna freak out when he finds out I actually did it.”

    “… …”

    “Really, you wanna go back already? I just got you another cup of coffee! Least you could do is stay until you finish it.”

    “…”

    “Yeah yeah, I didn’t pay for it, but the point still stands. I was even gonna introduce you to my gym trainers if you weren’t in such a hurry. Heh, they’d freak out if they knew I was hanging out with you all this time.”

    “… …”

    “Oh, hold that thought. Let me just take this call… Hello? Oh, Kyle! Heh heh, so what d’ya think? I told you I could do it—wait, what? No, don’t push it, dude. No way he’d do that.”

    “…?”

    “Dude, you know who you’re talking about, right? I’ve known him since we were kids, and there’s no way he’d agree to do that… Yeah, I know he’s not mute. But he lets his skill and strength do all the talking, you know? Why do you think I made him my rival? Heh heh!”

    “… ...”

    “…Alright, sure. Hey, you owe me big time for all the crap you’re making me do, you know? Yeah, yeah, I’ll send it to you in a bit. Smell ya later!”

    “…?”

    “That was Kyle. He wanted you to record yourself saying a message to all your fans, and—“

    “… …!”

    “I know, I know! That’s why I told him you can’t do it. It’s one of those key features in a Fame Checker page, so he was insisting it. But he knows he can’t say no to me. Heh heh!”

    “… …”

    “So we reached a compromise. So, stay right there.”

    “... …?”

    “Alright, look at this camera. You don’t have to say anything. Just smile and look like you want to do this.”

    “… … …?”

    “You’ll see. Alright, ready? Three, two, one…”

    “…”

    “Yo! Blue here, and Red wants you to know that you should all hang in there! He knows that being a trainer is hard—he’s been through everything you can think of! But still, he’s now one of the best trainers in the world. And if he can do it, you can too. Right, Red?”

    “… …!”

    “Yeah, exactly! Alright, smell ya later!”

    “… … …”

    “And sent. There, that wasn’t hard, right?”

    “…”

    “Yeah, Kyle said that’s the best alternative if you didn’t want to do it yourself. And hey, you got the best person to hype you up right here! Why waste the opportunity?”

    “... …”

    “Heh heh! Alright, that’s that, then! I guess you wanna go back to training, huh?”

    “…!”

    “Heh, thought so. But hey, there’s one other thing I need to ask you. And no, it’s not as weird as all this Fame Checker stuff. Don’t worry.”

    “… …?”

    “I got a call from these guys from Alola. It’s this region far away from Kanto, and I hear they have really great beaches. Gramps said that some Pokemon there look different than the ones here, like Diglett and Marowak.”

    “… …”

    “Anyway, these guys are setting something up called the Battle Tree. It’s a facility kinda like the Battle Tower in Johto, but it’s a tree instead of a tower. They were looking for strong trainers to become the bosses of the facility, and guess who they had in mind?”

    “…?”

    “Not just me, but both of us! Yeah, they said they’d be honored to have battle legends like us be the bosses of their facility. Heh! They called us legends! Awesome, right?”

    “… …”

    “What? C’mon, don’t tell me you’re not into that. You get to battle all these strong trainers from another region you’ve never been to, and we might even get the chance to battle trainers visiting from other regions like Hoenn and Sinnoh! Wasn’t that the reason you went to Unova for the PWT?”

    “… … …”

    “Heh, don’t think I forgot about that! You know how surprised I was when I saw you in that hall? And when I found out we were in the same bracket? Man oh man, I don’t think I told you how pumped I was to battle you again after all those years! And hey, it was a dream come true to get to battle all those other Champions from other regions. Especially that Cynthia—she’s the real deal!”

    “…!”

    “Yeah, exactly! So this Battle Tree thing, it’ll be much better than the PWT since we’re gonna be the bosses! All these trainers who wanna prove their strength, we’re gonna be their final roadblocks. And you know these trainers are gonna be the best of the best since they’re up for a tough challenge.”

    “… …?”

    “Don’t worry about me! I already told Arabella that he’s gonna be heading the gym while I’m gone. He may not be as strong as I am, but he’ll give all those challengers a run for their money!”

    “…”

    “Heh, of course I wanna do this! I’ve been a Champion and a Gym Leader, but I’ve never been a facility head. I want to know how that goes, and I bet you do, too. So what d’ya say?”

    “… … …!”

    “I knew it! Alright, you better pack up.”

    “…?”

    “Gramps already got us tickets. We leave in three days! He said his cousin’s gonna meet us in the airport and tour us around Alola when we get there. So you better get ready!”

    “… …?!”

    “You bet I’m excited! Heh heh! I’ll see you in the airport, then?”

    “… … …!”

    “Good! Smell ya later!”

    Reviews

    Dragonfree

    This was a really neat idea - both the backstory behind Red and Blue's appearance in Alola and focusing on a forgotten feature from FR/LG, the Fame Checker.

    I love how you write Blue here - he's so vividly his cocky self from the games, subtly annoyed with the passersby being so much more excited about Red, refusing to admit to being impressed by him even though he kind of is, all while actually doing his best to help get this done for Red. In particular, I liked how Blue just respects and accepts his reluctance to speak, and how the video ends up featuring Blue saying all the words for him. All in all you did a great job portraying this odd friendship between the two of them and making Blue actually seem kind of sweet in his own sort of way!

    The pure-dialogue style worked great here - I loved how you did Red's "dialogue" and conveyed character through that and Blue's reactions. You also get a sense of how Red doesn't like the quotes that are about his battling prowess and goes instead for the ones about his kindness and helpfulness - plus Blue's, of course. That's a nice bit of characterization done purely through actions implied through one-sided dialogue, and I think that's really neat.

    I did balk a little at how Professor Oak apparently already bought them tickets to Alola in three days - surely that's not something you do before informing one of the parties involved. I could sort of see Blue doing that, in his confidence that he'll be able to persuade Red to come - but even then, he wasn't 100% on being able to get Red to do the Fame Checker thing, so one would think he'd show at least the same level of caution about getting him to uproot his life entirely for this. And Professor Oak definitely doesn't seem the type to just impulse-buy airplane tickets for someone without talking to them! All in all that line felt like a weirdly rushed end to a one-shot that I can otherwise just picture being what really happened there.


    Negrek

    So you enjoyed writing a dialogue-only story so much that you decided you wanted to up the challenge and try writing a dialogue-only story where one of the primary characters doesn't talk? Love it. I was totally delighted when I realized what you were doing here.

    What a great pair of characters to pick for a conceit like this, too! My impression of Blue is that he's a guy who loves listening to himself talk, so in that sense having a companion like Red who's never going to interrupt is probably a dream come true. And you definitely capture Blue's character well throughout. I most enjoyed his insistence that Red has the potential to become the second best gym leader in Kanto, or that his response to the person who was excited about getting a picture with Red was that Red is after all the second most well-known trainer in Kanto, and so on. Blue's an irrepressible little ****, and I love it. I also figured early on that we'd eventually end up with Blue literally speaking for Red, so the way he chose to record Red's Fame Checker message seemed like a natural culmination of what had been going on in the story up to that point.

    In general characterization is the real strength of this story; even the extremely brief cameos by Sabrina, Surge, etc. ring true to their characters, and you do a good job of writing blurbs that sound like genuine Fame Checker entries. This is also an entry that absolutely oozes Kanto flavor, and the inclusion of so many recognizable Kanto faces is a big player in that. The Fame Checker makes an excellent device for getting all those little snippets in there and is another wonderful piece of Kanto-centric nostalgia. The various pieces of this one-shot work together very well, so although it has an unusual format and centers on an FR/LG item you rarely see referenced in fanfic, it all feels very natural, and the way the elements combine makes for a stronger story than would be there if you used any one of them on its own.

    The only character that I feel like I don't get a very good grasp on here is Red. This is kind of to be expected, because he never actually gets to speak for himself, and at best we can infer his reactions from what Blue says. But aside from his clearly being more humble and less interested in attracting attention than Blue (along with maybe 98% of the human race), I don't feel his personality coming through very strongly here. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, as I don't think he's intended to be the main focus, but it does make me wonder whether it might be better to dispense with his "dialogue." It's a fun callback to his in-game text, and the occasional flustered "?" or "!" is cute, but for the most part it doesn't add much as far as I'm concerned. I think you could get along just as well with the conversation being entirely one-sided, with Red's entire presence merely implied through what Blue says. And, in general, the dialogue-only conceit gets a bit tired for me by the end of the story. It plays brilliantly to the theme, but I think it can be tough to sustain over time, and I think this story ran a little long.

    And the last page and a half or so, where the conversation switches over into Blue's Alola pitch, didn't really live up to the Fame Checker section for me. It makes sense to address how this meeting between the two of them might lead to Red and Blue eventually showing up at the Battle Tree, but it kind of felt tacked on to me. The Fame Checker section is nice and self-contained, and then the bit about Alola doesn't appear to really relate to it in any way, just exists as a little coda after the main conflict, such as it is, has been resolved. I think if you'd ended after Blue recorded Red's fame checker message, or maybe condensed the part about Alola considerably, the story would end on a stronger note and feel a little more cohesive.

    A handful of quick typos as well, though you didn't have any serious mechanics problems to speak of:

    *You're... y-you're...

    I think you want by staying here, not for staying here.

    Should be a comma after "thanks," "Great, thanks, Miss!"

    That'd be insisting *on it, and I found "he knows he can't say no to me" confusing. I'm not sure if you meant "He knows *I* can't say no to *him*," meaning Kyle knew he could wear Blue down eventually, or if you meant that Kyle knows he can't say no to Blue, which doesn't seem right because he wasn't saying no to anything there... One way or another I think you might want to reword that somehow.

    All in all this is a delightful one-shot that does a great job of capturing Blue's personality, presented in a novel way and making great use of a rarely-seen game feature. It also deserves a big A+ for genuine Kanto flavor. Nice work juggling the multiple demands of this story and delivering a clever, lighthearted character study that feels like a perfect tribute to Kanto.


    Rediamond

    The good: I love so much about this one. It really lets Blue’s character shine and even make him likeable while sticking true to the games. Even Red gets some characterization despite not talking at all. And there are so many little fan-servicey things mixed into it. This was great at actually invoking nostalgia, rather than just sort of fumbling around and trying to imitate it as so many stories (and games and companies) do.

    The bad: I feel like the ending could’ve been better. I know why it was there, but the emotional story and plot had already ended. It was just thrown in as a way to resolve some continuity problem that this story did not need to resolve. This is a minor, and hardly story-breaking, complaint. But it’s what I’ve got.

    The verdict: I really, really liked this story. Did a lot with the word and narrative constraints. And it hit me hard, right in the feels.
     
  9. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    And that's all! Congratulations to everyone who entered, but especially to Dramatic Melody, Phoenixsong and Namohysip for winning first, second and third place respectively! We hope you all enjoyed this contest, participants and spectators alike!

    You may now post in the thread!
     
    Venia Silente likes this.
  10. Umbramatic

    Umbramatic The Ghost Lord

    Welp I got sixth place again! Alas it wasn't a tie with a friend this time.

    But I did about as well as expected and got some good feedback! Congrats to everyone, especially Namo, Phoenixsong, and Dramatic Melody!

    (Now wether or not to post the original version of my entry before I make edits or not...)
     
    Venia Silente likes this.
  11. shoz999

    shoz999 Sonic's the name! Speed's my game!

    Took over four months after the deadline but you guys finally did it. From the looks of it, grammar is the most frequent criticism here, I'm not surprised that I have to improve in that area but the plot-twist. It seems you guys were very much aware the stranger wasn't Red but were you surprised that Red was the Prof. Birch-like researcher lol? I looked at characters like Prof. Birch and Chuck who have a family and I thought to myself that at one point these guys must've been young trainers like Red or Blue at one time.

    As for adapting and expanding upon the manga, it's interesting what you guys have to say. Most of you seem to think that the detail I go in does feel real and expansive to the point but stuff like the manga/anime-like expression may detriment the flow of dialogue. Actually that's another criticism, that the flow of information does not always feel natural to the reader. Seeing that I'm making obvious mistakes like this really disappoints myself as a writer but on the other hand I'm kind of not surprised given the circumstances of this story. I've seem a lot of criticism but what is my greatest strength to you guys?

    Anyways, I hope you guys answer soon. I've decided I'm going to rework on this story based on what you said. The intention is this is going to be a action-romance comedy BUT without the romance lol if you understand what I'm saying. The best romances are sometimes the ones without the romance. Also congratulations to the winners.
     
  12. Huh, didn't expect this at all! Writing "Fame" was a really fun experience for me, so I'm more than honored to see it be received so well. Congrats to everyone else who entered (just browsing through the reviews I saw so many good plotlines!) and a big thank you to the judges for putting this together! Can't wait to read all the entries soon!

    Leaving my review replies in the spoiler:

    Thank you! I think the Fame Checker is a really underrated extra feature that I think they could've easily incorporated elsewhere (like the BuzzNav in ORAS!) so I'm glad I'm giving it some love with this piece. And heh, I'm so happy that you liked Blue here, as it was a challenge getting just the right amount of cockiness in his voice. He's a great character to dissect, and it's awesome to see that his friendship with Red worked for you in this piece!

    Also thankful for your comments on Red. While I will improve on his characterization based on Negrek's comments, it's awesome that the one-sided conversation worked on some level for you!

    Ah, good point! I'll definitely rework that in the revision, maybe just tying it to Blue instead of bringing in his Gramps to the pictuure. I really wanted to make the connection to Alola since their appearance in those games is what inspired this whole one-shot, but I'm definitely going to make that ending flow more naturally based on your comments. Thanks for bringing it up, and thanks for your review!

    YES that is absolutely why I did this ahahaha. When I saw Red and Blue's short dialogue when you meet them in the Battle Tree, I knew I wanted to write something using that kind of dynamic. So when I was putting this together, I thought, why not just go with how that dynamic was presented originally. Hence this madness!

    Heh, thank you! Blue's already oozing with character so it was fun writing him, but it was definitely challenging getting his dialogue right, so I'm glad he worked for you! And Blue being "an irrepressible little ****" is absolutely the best way to describe him.

    Thanks as well for the comment on the characterization! I'm glad they worked well for you, even if they were only there for just a line.

    That's awesome to hear, thank you so much! I admit it was hard to think of a Kanto-centric plot since there's not a lot to work with, but I figured the Fame Checker could get some more love because it really deserves it. I also really appreciate what you said about all these elements combining into a stronger story! I'm glad it worked well for you as a whole.

    Hm, interesting point! While I'm not inclined to forego the ellipses from the form, I agree with your comments on how Red's personality suffers because of it. I'll definitely do something about that, but most likely on Blue's end (and the other characters), as it's something I do want to get right with this form. And I think this goes well into my reply to your next comment...

    ...in that I'll definitely improve and tighten the ending to make the conversation more cohesive as a whole. I admit that I wanted to include it because Red and Blue's appearance in Alola was what inspired this whole story, but I get what you (and the other reviews!) are saying about the ending feeling detached from the main narrative. It's definitely something I'll work on in the revision, so thanks for your comments on that scene!

    Thanks also for pointing out the typos and the kind words!


    Thank you for the kind words! I admit, I didn't really think about the nostalgia factor when writing this, but hearing you say it it does come up a lot in the story, huh? I'm glad it worked well for you!

    Ah, thank you for bringing it up! While I'm not sure if I'll axe the ending altogether (I'm inclined not to because of the Alolan inspirationb, but seeing as it was brought up in all three reviews it's something I'll really think about when revising), it's definitely something I'll improve on when I get to revising this. Thanks for the continuity comment though, that gives me some ideas on how I can improve that part!

    Thank you so much, and another thank you to all three of you for the comprehensive reviews! I really appreciate it.
     
  13. Starlight Aurate

    Starlight Aurate Just a fallen star

    Thanks so much for getting these results out! Congratulations to Namohysip, Pheonixsong, and Dramatic Melody on placing in the top three! This was a fun competition :) I placed as well as I expected to, and I really appreciate the feedback! I think I'm going to try and edit this and re-post it. Thanks so much to all the judges and everyone who participated!

    I do have one little nitpick:
    I disagree here, though as you said, different people have different grieving processes. I don't think the fact that someone cries over a death that happened years ago doesn't mean that person isn't over it--I still cry over my beloved dead all the time. I know this is now me extrapolating my own experiences on to someone else, but I consider it normal and natural to express tears and to mourn even years after someone has passed away.

    I know this was a tiny nitpick; I just wanted to respond!
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2019
  14. The Walrein

    The Walrein Well-Known Member

    Congratulations to the top three winners! I was impressed by the feeling of verisimilitude in Namohysip's story, and I hope we get to see the full version soon. And I really enjoyed Pheonixsong and Dramatic Melody's oneshots as well!

    Thanks to our three judges for taking the time to give detailed feedback on all of our works. Definitely worth the wait to get such in-depth responses.

    Review replies in spoiler:

    Yeah, I guess fourth-wall-breaking humor is difficult to do well, and I think I could've pulled it off a lot better here. The genwunners were supposed to be 'absurd enough to be funny, but still logical from a certain point of view' - after all, if there's anyone who'd be willing to fervently defend the design quirks of the Gen One Pokemon, wouldn't it be them? I don't think that piece of it really came through though. Also, trying to add in the formation of the gym system was probably cramming in a bit too much to this story, but it was the best response I could think of the protagonist making to Mew's 'send annual tributes of humans to get slaughtered' idea.

    The protagonist is definitely another weak point here. I wasn't really sure what to do with them - I thought it'd be too difficult to make them relatable/likeable given their shameless and blatant lying in the first part of the story (especially with what they did to the dotrio), so I decided to just go full on anti-hero with them having always dreamed of working for Team Rocket.


    Agreed that I probably should have tried to do something with Missingno in the second half, but I was running up against the word limit (and story submission deadline, to be honest) and the latter part of the story was already jam-packed with stuff. However, although I guess "well, I thought it was funny!" isn't a very satisfying response, I still think that the idea of the protagonist using Missingno as a scapegoat for Mew's design choices, and then Missingno actually getting angry that someone was tarnishing their good reputation and that being the cause of the protagonist getting fired is much funnier than just having Mew find out their lies some other way.

    Thanks, I'm glad you liked it!


    I'm happy that at least one other person liked that bit!

    I was kind of worried that this would just seem too mean to be funny, so I'm glad that worked for you.

    The arrival of the Gen-Wunners actually was intended as a punchline! The reader was supposed to think that the Pokemon Fan Club was the group the protagonist had called to have come in and save the day, and it turning out to be the Gen-Wunners instead was supposed to be a brilliant comedic subversion! WHY CAN NO ONE APPRECIATE MY GENIUS?!?!?!?!afhdsfhdskjahfjkds ...although to be fair, the only thing I really did to set that up was to have the protagonist wave at the president of the fan club in the opening scene. I think I really needed to give a few more hints for that to work, as well as maybe have the president of the fan club launch into a short speech defending Mew or otherwise do more to make it seem like the narrative is moving in the direction of the Fan Club being the ones to resolve the conflict. Agreed that the Team Rocket and creation of the Gym system stuff wasn't really well integrated. If I end up revising this, I might just cut that out entirely to have a tighter focus.


    Looking back at all the stuff I've posted on this site, it does seem like pacing is one of my weaker areas. Hmm... I think the best way to resolve this might be to just cut out the part with Dugtrio entirely. As much as I'm amused by the incredibly one-note personalities of the three heads, I think the joke gets old pretty quick, and the mean way the protagonist 'solves' the problem makes them less sympathetic than I'd like.

    Yeah, I guess if I was judging the contest I'd have a difficult time trying to place a story like this too. I'm glad you liked it, and thanks for giving it a fair shake!

    Rediamond

    It's kind of funny to have this issue in a short story, but I think 'Lord of the Rings syndrome' really is a great way to describe the problem with the ending. The bit where the narrative acknowledged the sillyness of the Gen Wunners beating up first gen Pokemon was supposed to be a joke, though! Their dedication to their imagined ideal of gen one design perfection was so important to them that they didn't care if they had to beat up actual, concrete gen one 'mons to defend it!

    I'm actually kind of surprised you rated this story higher than Negrek and Dragonfree did based on your review, but hey, I'll take it! Thanks again to all the judges for their detailed reviews!
     

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