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Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Unequivocant

Discussion in 'Completed Fics' started by lucarioknight56, Feb 19, 2018.

  1. Marika_CZ

    Marika_CZ Well-Known Member

    I've just finished the Act X / Special episodes... so it is time to comment again.

    First the praise, because I believe some is in order here :D I really liked these episodes because they have it all! We learn something important and plot related while having cool moments and character interactions. All that while we also get the "origins" story of Cassia (and partially Grom, too).

    Specifically, I loved the interactions between Cassia and Matheus. He is prankster-like mentor who knows how to to teach you something while making it fun. He somehow manages to sound like a teacher and that one friend you always want to hang out with - at the same time. That was an excellent choice (and very well executed one to boot), because that will make many readers like him (I certainly do now!) just as we are about to see his involvement in the present day.

    Scenes with Arianne were sweet just as intended. She is the Cool Old Lady archetype done right. It is very hard not to fall in love with her. She gives to Cassia all she needed at that point in her life - love, calmness and shelter and a person to talk to who shares her beliefs. Importantly tho, she served that purpose while still being fun character. I really liked that part when Cassia considered stopping the drawing altogether and Arianne giving her "Don't be silly" type of pep talk.
    Fun + smart = win!

    I have also wondered for some time if Cassia's choice of disguise is random or not and these episodes answer that question in a very satisfactory manner! The very person who put her on her path of a teacher while also being a surrogate mother is Cassia's choice for Illusion. Of course!
    This brings me to the following:
    I also need to commend something more general here. The more I get in that story the more obvious it is how much effort was put to worldbuilding and also "characterbuilding" if you will - considering how every major character has a rich and complicated past that comes to play at certain points.
    It shows that you thought things out a lot and worked hard to create this world with so many details - even its own religion. Really, great job! It feels like such a big, rich organic world.

    I also have two things to point out that bugged me tho.
    As usual these are just suggestions, not demands. Feel free to act on them or ignore them as you see fit. Either is fine by me.

    1. I noticed a certain inconsistency (maybe I just missed something tho). At one point Arthus/narrative says that him being back is held secret - because that is the smart thing to do. And yet it seems everyone knows anyway. It was especially noticable in Act X. First a bunch of lowly guild members (Alakazam and Sawk?) know and talk about Arthus like he was a celebrity, and then common thugs Weaviles refer to him specifically on the mere sight of a Zoroark.
    So is Arthus' return a secret to general public or not?

    2. The scene with Cassia and Weaviles: It was pretty much the only scene in Act X that did not work for me. Which is real shame because it was obviously meant to be the key event. This is the moment that defined Cassia and made her forever an opposite to the story's villain Arthus (they suffer the same pain, but she chooses forgiveness and kindness versus Arthus choosing a revenge). Therefore I will go into detail here - as I said feel free to ignore if you disagree.

    Why it didn't work for me: This is clearly a lesson of don't fight fire with fire, otherwise you are no better than those who hurt you. But it didn't fit the situation and the characters. I think what you wanted to go for was, that people who appear evil and deserving death are revealed to have some good reasons for what they do. So we shouldn't judge them too quick or too harshly. But you are trying to show me that on pair of murderers who don't seem remorseful at all.
    They say something akin to "We did for our kids so they don't starve to death." Except they didn't just take the money, they killed its owner, an elderly defenseless lady. And they clearly didn't mind the murder (they said in a scene before, "That Gardevoir didn't even put up a fight" or something like that). That doesn't sound like desperate pair of fathers trying to survive/feed their families. It sounds like heartless cutthroats who don't stop at anything to get their hands on money, consequences be damned. Cassia shouldn't forgive them, she should get them to jail - they could kill more innocent pokemon!
    What is even worse is offering the money as an apology. That is the most shallow and tactless way imaginable. Cassia should be disgusted so much to consider killing these monsters after all. Imagine someone kills your mom / gf / bf / best friend and when you find them they tell you "Oh right they mattered to you, eh? I am so sorry! Here, take some cash..."

    My suggestion: If you want this to work (with Cassia forgiving and moving on with her life stronger spiritually), Weaviles must sound like they are actually remorseful and therefore worthy of second chance / forgiveness.
    Did they really just want money so they could buy food for their families? Then their intent should have been taking money from Arienne without hurting her. Arienne's death should be something they didn't want to do (something they should vocally point out to Cassia). Maybe they went to rob the house some time after Arienne and Cassia left, hoping to get money quick and get out. But then Arienne came back sooner and she actually put up a fight, resulting in her accidental death in self-defense. Now Weaviles should be as horrified as Cassia. They always used to justify their thievery as survival, but now they are suddenly killers?!
    This should show in their dialogue as Cassia gets on their trail - something like "I can't believe we sank this low" / "How was I supposed to know she would hit her head, I only meant to push her out the way". Or maybe they admit to their wives, and after seeing their horrified reaction they realize just how horrible thing they have commited?
    Oh and remove the scene with money for apology; I would replace it with something that feels like they actually want to make amends. Alternatively have Cassia be more proactive by letting her be the one to suggest what needs to be done (would be fitting with the role of a teacher, guiding others to better themselves) - e.g. let her explain that money should go to others like them who struggle for survival - orphans in town, beggars in the streets etc.
    Or let her lecture them next time they are hurt themselves, remember Cassia's forgiveness and be nice in turn instead of taking revenge when tempted (i.e. spread the kindness in opposition how Arthus/guilds spread fear).

    Thanks again, your story is great read and I have fun with it. :) Will try to catch up as fast I can.

    EDIT - I see you altered the Cassia vs Weaviles scene. Yeah I agree it works better now. Good work!
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2018
  2. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    Matheus is one of my favorite characters to write because of this combo, and I'm glad to see you like it too. In a previous incarnation, he used to have that same thing, only he didn't really prove himself as a fighter, leading to clashing viewpoints of whether or not he's really a fighter. Glad I avoided here though.

    For a one-off character, I especially liked Arianne as well. She used to be present in a previous fic as well, only she was a young Gardevoir that was a healer instead. This role fits her far better.

    Which would certainly not be indicated by the level of planning I actually put into this...heh. I had Cassia, Matheus, and Arthus' backstory in my mind, but everyone else was sort of 'there'. It was only when I got to writing the chapters I had--in hindsight, poorly--planned out. Great to see that you appreciate the connections I've made in this world, but just know it actually came on-the-spot rather than through extensive planning. That would be something I'd improve on in my future stories.

    Involving the Guild, I think it's a bit unreasonable to assume he'd be hidden for long given his tendencies for murder and flamboyance, so the Sawk and Alakazam being aware of him isn't too far out. As for the Weavile, Arthus has become a legend of sorts, especially with the fact that he could return at any time. Seeing a Zoroark using Life like him could make anyone in Equivos think that Arthus had returned given his notoriousness, so if anyone says such a thing, its more that they believe he has returned at that moment to kill them rather than he returned previously.

    And now my reply to Point #2:
    I've had it previously noted that this scene needed work--once by my dad, actually, and he doesn't really read Pokemon fanfic. It seems that the biggest issue is not so much with Cassia as it is with the Weavile, as they are shown to be so unsympathetic and callous that it is hard for readers to see why Cassia ought to forgive them. Then there's the money business...that could be handled better.

    You provide a good alternative, and I like that. As for what they should do to make it right, I'm thinking that Cassia would also obligate them to get help from the Pokemon she just taught in Hereb by means of a written note showing that she has full confidence in their trustworthiness, in exchange for no longer thieving. She is respected in the community, especially for being pretty much her adopted daughter.

    Thank you very much for your review, and I look forward to what you have to say for Act 3!

    EDIT: Made you suggested change to the scene, and I think it works a lot better now!
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2018
  3. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    Chapter 28: Infiltration

    At the top of Valence Tech, a finely decorated office perched atop, as dark as the night seen through the windows. The spacious penthouse held few furnishings, save the desk in the center and the portraits surrounding. Four pillars stood between the corners of the desk and the corners of the room, each with an object implanted in them: a watch-like device, a wide tablet, a sleek tablet, and a picture of a Pikachu speaking gibberish.

    The desk faced the elevator on the far wall, and sitting in the chair behind the desk was Aaron Hanson, hunched over the surface. He gazed at the few belongings he had, his eyes flickering between each. To his right, faded pictures of a boy with a Lillipup, an Axew, a Roggenrola, a Ferroseed, a Rufflet, and a Tepig, standing in front of a woodland town. Next to it was a picture of a young man with fully evolved versions of all them, gathered together in the same positions in front of a gargantuan stone temple, decorated with Pokeballs and the Legends. To his left was a folder, open and showing various newspaper clippings, depicting moments of his past life.

    Hanson looked away from the clippings, now staring at the center of his desk. A disc with six hemispheres on top of it rested on the felt center. Two Pokeballs sat inside them, one with emerald engravings, another with ruby. The remaining four bowls had a gold, onyx, silver, and opal bottom, long covered with dust.

    Hanson’s hand hovered over three of the bowls, shaking. “I am sorry I couldn’t do it before you passed. You were my most trusted companions.”

    The elevator at the far end of the room pinged, and Hanson closed the folder. A man with pale skin and balding hair shuffled inside, the tails of his long, white lab coat trailing the ground. A small metal box rested in his frail hands, held up to his scrawny chest.

    Hanson leaned forward in his seat, looking at the box. “Ah, Doctor Vaun! I assume that the procedure turned out well—for both Pokemon?”

    Vaun adjusted his glasses and set the box on the desk. “W-Well, President Hanson, the subject for the procedure—the Bibarel, as you know—suffered from severe…shock, and fell unconscious. The machine strained is body, nearly to the tipping point.” He patted down his balding hair, stepping away from the desk. “H-However, the Bibarel is recovering well. Within a few days, he may be ready for another.”

    Hanson’s hands hovered over the box, then he sighed and set them down on the desk. “Vaun…this is unacceptable.” Vaun swallowed hard.

    Hanson stood up and paced around the desk, circling Vaun. “As simple as these Pokemon may be, they are still Pokemon. They were displaced from their home dimension hours ago, and thanks to that machine, we nearly lost one of them!” Hanson clamped ah and on Vaun’s shoulder and shook him. “We have the only known population of talking Pokemon! We cannot lose any of them!”

    Vaun’s fingers visibly shook as he pulled is glasses back up to his eyes. “U-U-Understood, sir, but you can’t expect the procedure to work perfectly on the first try. Especially considering that it was developed from deceased—”

    “Yes, yes, I know,” Hanson interrupted, sitting down in his desk once more. “Look, we have to use each Pokemon numerous times in order to have any chance of granting speech to all our consumers’ Pokemon. If we have them nearly die after every treatment, they won’t last for more than several procedures.” He gave Vaun a warning look. “Test it again with a Pokemon that isn’t one of my own, and make sure that the Equivosian doesn’t go under.”

    Vaun nodded vigorously, then turned around, shuffling to the elevator. His head perked up, then he turned back around. “I nearly forgot: that Zoroark that came through with Lawrence is reading from some sort of book. It seems to be a form of scripture for them.”

    Hanson arched an eyebrow. “Really? They have a written language? And a religion as well?” He rubbed his chin momentarily, then stopped. “Make sure she is captured first with the Master Balls I ordered from Kanto; research the book after and see if there’s anything that can be used to help them become more trusting of us.” He narrowed his eyes to thin slits. “And be careful with the balls. As you know, one alone is extraordinarily expensive. Buying enough for all the Equivosian Pokemon cost a fortune.” Vaun nodded once more, then entered the elevator and descended, wringing his clammy hands.

    After a minute, Hanson opened the metal box, revealing a Pokeball with gold engraved into the top. He gingerly lifted it and held it close to his face, closing his eyes. “When we lost, all those years ago, I promised that we would fight again once I fixed our one problem.” He forced a smile as he set the ball in its bowl. “I’ve finally done it, but now no one remembers what I did. I’ve become famous for the inventions I made to better connect with all of you, not for the experiences I had.”

    He glanced outside the window, then lowered his gaze. “I am aware that Pokemon aren’t what most make them out to be: a friend like no other, able to understand you like a person. Years of serving that consumer world taught me that.” He turned back to the Pokeballs, focusing on the gold. “But that doesn’t change the fact that you got me where I am. And now, I’ve repaid you. You shall live to fight another day.”

    ~~~~

    In the dark of Castelia, wheels clattered along the sidewalk panels. A figure in a long brown coat turned visible in the orange street lights, her heels clacking toward the harbor. Only the occasional Purrloin meowed in the alleyways, and the sea beat against the edge of the city—otherwise, it was quiet in the night. The five stone extensions that rose up from the sea were caked with salt and grime, its smell filling the air.

    The red-haired woman stopped several feet from the cement platform that jutted above the dock and panted. She looked below: small fishing vessels and speedboats bobbed next to the docks, tied to them with lengths of thick rope. Wingull roosted on top of them, occasionally calling out to drive off a pushy neighbor.

    The woman pulled out a pink Pokedex from her coat pocket and turned it on. Past the clear window, she saw that the time was 11:20. She tucked it back in and growled, “Where is he?” She stamped her foot and shivered, crossing her arms. “Brr, it’s cold…” She looked around the alleyways, finding nothing. “He said I should meet him here!”

    Clank-clatta-clatta!

    She eeped and twirled around, pulling out a Pokeball from her coat. She focused on the garbage can lid that rolled out from the alleyway, then the Purrloin that sauntered out and mewled, sitting down and licking its paw.

    She sighed in relief, putting her Pokeball back in her pocket. “Thank Arceus. That gave me a scare.” She folded her arms again and muttered, “You better not have pulled a fast one on me, Lawrence!”

    Padded footsteps echoed speedily behind her, and she turned around. A dark shape darted into the alley, then a bright flash shone from it. She drew her Pokeball again, advancing toward it. “Who’s there?” she called out nervously.

    She kept advancing toward it, only a shuffling sound coming out in reply. She kept moving forward, pressing the button on her Pokeball and expanding it from one inch to four. She reared it back, ready to throw.

    A brown-haired man in a blue jacket stumbled out, pulling on his shoes. “There’s got to be—Erica!”

    “Ack!”

    They backed away from each other, Erica nearly dropping her Pokeball. She wheezed, putting a hand to her chest. “What are you doing there!”

    Lawrence kicked his shoe on, looking about. “N-Nothing.” He leaned closer. “Did you…see anything?”

    “I saw some guy run in here and take a picture of something, I don’t know!” Erica exclaimed. “Was that you?”

    Lawrence blew out his breath and nodded. “Yeah…yeah, that was me.”

    Erica groaned, shrinking her Pokeball. “You scared me worse than a Haunter!” She pocketed it and asked, “Why didn’t you come over to me?”

    Lawrence held up his hands defensively. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” He looked behind her, noticing her suitcase. “Looks like you’re ready to go.”

    “Go where?”

    Lawrence walked over to the luggage with Erica following. “I called up a friend of mine and asked him to get a liner ready to go to Sinnoh.”

    Erica’s jaw dropped. “A liner? You mean one of those huge passenger ships?”

    “Yeah, that kind. He had to pull a few strings, but—”

    “Why in the world would you need a liner just to get me across to Sinnoh?”

    “It’s not just you.” Lawrence pointed toward a skyscraper with a dully glowing ‘V’ on its front. “I’m going to Valence and getting the Equi—the talking Pokemon out of there and bringing them here. They’ll load up on the ship, then we’ll make our way to Sinnoh right under their noses.”

    Erica raised an eyebrow. “But how are you going to get them across the street with nobody noticing? How many are there?”

    Lawrence seethed, looking away. “Over two thousand.”

    Erica’s eyes widened. “Over two thousand? You’ll never get that many out of there!”

    “It’s a work in progress, okay?” Lawrence sighed, holding his head. “Look, just keep an eye out for the ship when it comes around. The captain’s name is Sheffield; just tell him I sent you, and we’ll be off to Sinnoh when I come back.” He turned toward Valence’s tower. “I’ll hopefully be back in a couple hours.” He started running down the street toward it.

    “Wait, Lawrence!” Erica shouted, reaching out for him. But he was too far away, and his task crowded out everything else from his mind.

    When he got far enough away from Erica, he darted into an alley and pressed his mark. He shined with light and turned into a Lucario, all his senses growing stronger as a result. His tail sat over the seat of his pants and his chest-spike protruded slightly inside his shirt.

    He wrinkled his nose and coughed as he pulled his paws out of his shoes, then tucked his socks inside and tied them together. “How do people live here? It smells horrible!” He draped the shoes over his neck and ran down the streets even faster than before, still dressed in his other clothes.

    Minutes after, Lawrence reached the Valence Tech building, its gate closed and windows dark. He considered jumping over the fence and breaking through the door, but quickly dismissed it; it would be far too noticeable, and even if he got inside, the elevator required a different keycard than he had to access Facility D. There had to be another way.

    He looked to the right and saw that the road surrounding the walled tower descended, leading to a bright orange light. Men chatted with each other, droning on about something. Lawrence crept toward it, his sensitive ears picking up their conversation:

    “Yeesh, half an hour till the end of our shift, and just like every day for the past three months, nothing.”

    “No one ever said this was a fun job.”

    “I wanna throw my Lycanroc at something. Anything to make things interesting.”

    “You know we aren’t supposed to do that unless they’re suspicious-looking.”

    “I’ll just say they had a Pokeball and they wanted to force their way through.”

    “But what if—”

    “Aw, be quiet.”

    Lawrence peered around the corner. Underneath a bright orange lightbulb, two men stood in navy Valence uniforms. They each had a keycard clipped to their shirt pocket, along with a single Pokeball clipped to their waist. One was shorter, and the other was taller than Lawrence, each staring glumly around them. They stood in front of a large iron drop-down door, and to the right was a smaller door with a black scanner on its handle. In the corner of the alcove, a camera swung back and forth, recording every moment near the entrance.

    The smaller man rubbed his nose and tapped his Pokeball. “I’m tellin’ ya, nobody comes here ‘cept the delivery guys, and they came ‘ere an hour ago!”

    The taller man shrugged, his hat falling against his ear. “Well someone needs to make sure no one gets to you-know-where without the president’s say-so.”

    The short man groaned, pulling off his cap and scratching his head. “Don’t remind me. Good thing they put elevators in, or I’d—”

    “Careful what you say, Bernie.” The tall man pointed at the camera. “You know they can see and hear everything.”

    Bernie growled, glaring at him. “Yes, Vincent, I’m aware.

    Lawrence grit his teeth and smacked a paw against the wall. ‘Can’t get in that way; they’d notice if I knocked out the camera or the guards. I’ll have to find another way in.’ He felt a breeze down his neck and looked up; a vent gently blew cold air, a tube with a grate angling it downwards.

    Lawrence blinked having an idea. He wrapped his paws around the edges of the grate and pulled, careful not to shake it too much. It didn’t move.

    Lawrence furrowed his brow and tried again to no results. He silently growled and pulled once more, causing the solder to break off with a metallic snap.

    Lawrence wielded the grate awkwardly, pushing all his weight forward to prevent him from falling backwards. He froze as the guards spoke up:

    “Hey Bernie, did you hear that?”

    “Yeah. Sounded like some cat hopping on a garbage can lid.”

    “That’s not what I thought.”

    “If you want to check it out, I’m not stoppin’ ya.”

    Boots clacked forward, and Lawrence sucked in his breath. He looked down at the grate, then back up to the vent. The boots continued advancing. Lawrence leapt around the corner and hid in the shadows, holding the grate behind his back.

    The guard peered around the vent, casually looking around. He shrugged, then returned to the door. “Just some cat probably.”

    Lawrence wheezed a sigh of a relief, setting the grate against the wall. He returned to the vent and saw how small and rigid it was. He looked down at his clothes. ‘I’d be lucky to fit inside, let alone with these.’ He sighed reluctantly. ‘I’ll have to work it out when I get in there.’

    He pulled off his clothes and gathered them in his jacket, then tucked it underneath the grate, somewhat-satisfied with the results. Feeling somewhat colder with his fur uncovered, he clambered into the vent, careful to minimize the sounds he made.

    He crawled through the vents, weaving through the mazelike structure. Thin, metallic walls surrounded him on all sides, a dark, chilling wind all throughout it. He passed over the sheer drops that led to the facility’s lower levels.

    Lawrence worried that he might wander the vents for hours without any end, until the end of one vent had bright light leaking from it. He came up to it and peeked outside, revealing a bathroom similar to the locker room he had been inside only several hours ago, albeit without the showers or lockers. No one seemed to be inside.

    Cautiously, Lawrence pushed out the grate, clutching it in his paws. He slid down onto the freezing tiles and set the vent back into its position. He stood still, keeping watch for anyone.

    Satisfied, he went into the corner of a stall and leaned against it, staring down at his Lucario body. ‘I won’t be able to get down to them like this—but there’s no way I’m changing unless—’

    The door squeaked open and Lawrence held his breath, hoping that whoever entered wouldn’t see. A tall guard clomped in pulled off his hat next to the sinks, staring into the mirror. “Do I really have Pecha jam on my lips?” he muttered, setting a length of rope attached to his waist onto the counter. “Better be quick; that Tauros isn’t going to lead itself.”

    Lawrence stared at him and blinked.

    He had an idea.

    ~~~~

    In the pyramid of cages the Equivosians resided in, Cassia was in the midst of reading them Dictations from the Arceist Tome. They all listened peacefully, temporarily leaving the fear of the strange world behind. Even the children sat still and quiet, the words of their creator proving enough to calm them. The guards that surrounded them had long since left, confident that none could escape from the bars.

    “Heed my commandments, and prosperity shall follow. A plan of happiness lies in wait for all my children, but it may only come to pass if they put their trust in me and leave behind the misconceptions and misdeeds of the world.”

    Cassia tossed back her head and sighed. “What’s going to happen to us? They can’t just want us to sit here.”

    Lonny looked over to the Bibarel slumped in a cage and covered with bandages. “Not if Thomas is anything to go by.”

    The door on the far side of the room lifted, and two guards stepped in with the gangly Doctor Vaun. The scientist smoothed back his receding hair and calmly said, “Deeply sorry for the trouble, but can I speak to the Zoroark?

    Cassia closed the Tome on her lap. “What do you want?”

    Vaun’s eyes swiveled to her and widened. “Ah, most unusual, showing yourself in your natural state. Zoroark tend to use illusions to hide while they protect their young and hunt for food.”

    Cassia slid the Tome behind her back, her brow furrowing. “I have nothing to hide, unlike you.”

    Vaun swallowed, adjusting his glasses. “A sharp one, I see.” He focused on the Tome, its spine still visible. “And that book. Who wrote it?”

    Cassia hurriedly put the Tome back into her bag. “Only the best Pokemon in the history of Equivos.” She stared at him firmly. “Will Thomas be alright? His family’s worried about him.”

    Vaun rubbed his head, frowning. “Unfortunately, the…tests, were more strenuous than we expected.” He removed his hand. “Although I can assure you that it won’t happen again.” He weakly smiled. “I would appreciate it if I could have a volunteer, that way the procedure is less stressful…for all of us.”

    Cassia lifted an eyebrow. “What would we need to help you with?”

    Vaun’s eyes darted left and right. “Oh, blood and fur samples, little more.”

    Lonny hawed sarcastically. “Oh sure, that’s all you took from old Thomas!”

    Vaun shook his head slowly and rubbed his eyes. “Again, we are sorry for what happened to him. The next procedure will not be as stressful.” He turned back to Cassia. “I would prefer to have you be a volunteer. Would you be so kind?”

    Cassia held on to the bars of her cage. “You’ve given me no reason to trust you.”

    Vaun furrowed his brow. “All I can give you is my word.”

    Cassia held out a hand and waved it in front of her. “Then I won’t go. You just reek with dishonesty.”

    Vaun sighed and turned away. “Very well, we’ll do this the hard way.” He slowly walked back to the door. “Take her down to the machine.” His two guards unclipped their Pokeballs from their belts and prepared to throw them.

    Cassia focused on the Pokeballs; her eyes flashed red. Both Pokeballs became engulfed in flame, and the two guards dropped them and cried out, waving their hands to get rid of the flame.

    Vaun turned back around and shouted, “Well, get on with it!”

    The flames disappeared, and the guards stared at each other, bewildered. Vaun harrumphed and stomped out of the room.

    The guards reached down to pick up their Pokeballs, but they suddenly transformed to Voltorb and screeched as they flashed white. The guards screamed and scrambled out of the room to avoid the explosion, never to come back.

    The Voltorb disappeared, leaving only the Pokeballs. Cassia curtly nodded her head and relaxed, resting her back against the cage.

    Lonny chuckled and smirked. “That was fun.”

    ~~~~

    Lawrence—in a navy Valence uniform as a human—finished tying a rope around the undressed guard in the bathroom stall. He made sure the length of rope as a gag was good, then marched out of the stall, turning the bolt after. He adjusted his hat and ensured that the security card was clipped to his pocket. With that, he exited the bathroom.

    In the dim environment of Facility D, engineers passed by metal crates and machines, inspecting for damage, while navy-suited guards stood watch, their Pokeballs ready at their belts. Scientists darted between them, carrying folders and boxes, rushing to and from the numerous elevators that lined the walls, the primary three residing on his right.

    Lawrence saw two Machoke pushing a crate closer to the warehouse elevator as its doors retracted into the ceiling. One of the two guards next to the elevator waved off the Machoke. “This is just a bunch of balls; we don’t need you on the job. Go find something else to do.” The Machoke obeyed, wandering away and standing to the side until they were directed otherwise.

    As Lawrence steadily approached them, they attempted to push the crate themselves, only budging it slightly. They huffed, and one groaned. “Don’t like those Machoke; do nothin’ but stare at me.” He looked around briefly and waved over to Lawrence. “Hey, can you give us a hand? We’re takin’ these Master Balls down to the talking Pokemon!”

    Lawrence’s eyes widened, then he nodded vigorously and ran to them, positioning himself between to the two guards. The one on his right studied Lawrence up and down. “Your uniform looks a bit big.” The shirt hung loosely around his chest, and the legs of his pants were rolled up against the black shoes. The belt—absent of Pokeballs—was pulled to its last loop.

    Lawrence laughed nervously, his heart thumping in his chest. “Last one they had.”

    The guard shrugged, turning back to the crate. “Eh, don’t worry about it. Happens to the newbies all the time.” He leaned against the crate and pushed, grunting. “Push!”

    The guard on the left joined him in grunting, the crate inching into the elevator. Lawrence joined them, and the crate slid smoothly inside, straining his arms, but perfectly manageable.

    Once the crate lay inside, the guard pushed a button, and the elevator doors closed. Lawrence descended, knowing exactly what these guards planned to do with the Master Balls. He turned to each of them, each panting and wheezing, while he stood still.

    The guard on his right stared at Lawrence and wheezed, “You’re not tired out? What kind of guy are you?”

    Lawrence smirked, adjusting his over-sized cap.

    The elevator Lawrence stood inside was made purely of metal, a rough metal slab and slick wall making up its interior. A grate hung at the top, allowing cool air to flow inside, along with the grinding of the cable and smell of oil and fuses. It sped upwards quickly and smoothly, no jolts coming on their way down.

    Lawrence pulled up his pants, checking to make sure the other guards didn’t notice. ‘The sooner I take care of them, the better.’

    The guard on his left dusted off his knuckles and replaced his hat, nodding. “Right, now for the Pokemon.”

    The guard on the left looked over to the one on the right and said, “Doesn’t this whole thing seem a bit…off, to you? I mean, the president’s never wanted to use Pokemon for one of his inventions.”

    “We’re here to follow orders, not ask questions. If the president wants something done, we do it,” the guard on the right replied.

    “But all the other stuff we did never hurt anybody. We just guarded the building and asked for ID, not anything like this.”

    “What are we supposed to do? Don’t you think it’ll be nice to have our Pokemon talk to us?”

    “Yeah, it would. But we know what’s really going on. I don’t know if I could live with it if I knew a Pokemon got hurt doing that.”

    “Yeah, but what are we going to do? Most of the guys around here probably think the same as you, but they don’t speak up cause Hanson’s too powerful; he’s so obsessed on having Pokemon talk that he’ll take down anybody, even Vaun, and he’s the head scientist!”

    “I guess there really isn’t much we can do. Better take care of the job, even if we don’t like it.”

    “Yeah, we should. Especially that Zoroark; the president seemed to want it pretty badly.”

    “They’re pretty rare Pokemon.”

    “Yeah. Shame it’s gonna end up like that Bibarel.”

    Lawrence snapped. “That’s it.” He took the guard’s heads and pounded them together, instantly knocking them out. They lay on the floor in a daze, completely unaware of what just happened.

    Lawrence sighed, taking off his Valence cap. “Great. Now I have to make sure they don’t find you.” He shook it and put it back on his head. “Couldn’t keep you around anyway.”

    The elevator pinged, and the door rolled up, revealing the wall that barricaded the Equivosians from the rest of the world. Cameras swiveled on their posts, keeping an eye on all that occurred near the single door to the Pokemon.

    Lawrence looked down at the crate of Master Balls. For a split second, Lawrence thought to destroy them. But as he studied them for a moment longer, a smile extended across his face.

    “I can use these.”

    ~~~~

    In the Equivosian room, Cassia had a claw inside the lock of the cage, jiggling it to make it come loose. After several tries, she pulled it out with a groan and sat on the floor of her cage. “It’s no use; these locks are nothing like ours.”

    Lonny held his baby Aipom close and groaned. “What did you expect? These guys have stuff we never dreamed of.

    Cassia slid her bag onto her lap, reaching inside and stroking the tome. “I don’t like this place. No one really sees us as Pokemon. More like…objects.” She held up her claws, allowing a spark of Life to jump between them. “I’d break out of here if I knew what I’d have to deal with out there. I don’t even know where I could get more, or where I could find…Lawrence.” She lowered her claw, then after a moment said, “Do you think Lawrence will come back for us?”

    Lonny shrugged, setting the Aipom on top of his bag. “Who knows? Even if he did, how could he get us out? He’s a human now—no Aura, no strength, no nothing. He’s just like everyone else around here.”

    Cassia held her right wrist in front of her, studying the white fur that made the arc of Arceus. “He can’t be like everyone else…” She lowered her wrist and bow her head. “…Arceus said so.”

    The metallic door rolled open, and all the Pokemon turned to it. A single guard pushed a crate into the room, grunting with the exertion. The door slowly dropped behind him, and he stopped, standing straight.

    Lonny Ambipom came up to the edge of his cage and shouted, “Who’re you goin’ to take this time?”

    Other Pokemon kept shouting, all fueled by the fear driven by their treatment. Throughout all the cries, one message was clear: “What will happen to us?”

    The pink gas hovering around the ceiling gathered next to the guard as he stepped around the crate. He pulled off his hat and stared into Cassia’s eyes. “It’s me, Cassia.”

    Cassia stared for a moment, sliding lower in her cage. “I know…Lawrence.”

    There were collective gasps of astonishment and whispers, all dark and distrusting. Lawrence fully expected this, considering what had happened to them thanks to Hanson.

    Cassia held herself taller, and the other Pokemon stopped. “Lawrence…why? Why did you leave us? Why did you talk with that man? I saw you in the window when I was first brought here, talking with him.” She turned away, shutting her eyes. “I didn’t want to believe what Gardner said…about you betraying us to them.” She turned back, her eyes locking harshly with Lawrence’s. “But after seeing that…” She gripped the bars tighter. “Are you our Keeper? Or did you trick everyone into falling into a trap?”

    Lawrence stepped closer to the cages. He continued looking down as he said, “Hanson only wanted one of you, not all. If I wanted to betray you, I would have saved only one and taken them directly to him—not be stuck in a room and thinking about how I could save you.” Cassia’s grip on the bars remained firm.

    Lawrence pulled up his right sleeve. “I can say all I want, but I know you want proof. Proof that I’m not here to take you to Hanson, proof that I’m not like every other person here.”

    He held up his wrist, holding out the mark. “I met with Arceus, and he told me that Cassia and I would be closer to her, always following her.” He held his finger over the arc, gazing at Cassia. “If I wasn’t loyal to you, Arceus would never have let me do this.” He pressed the center of the arc, and he became absorbed in bright light, causing everyone in the room to gasp.

    The light faded, and Lawrence stood as a Lucario, still dressed as a guard. Everyone gawked at his transformation, with even Lonny at a loss for words.

    Cassia held up her wrist, studying the white fur that created the arc. “You’re…you’re still one of us.”

    Lawrence held up his arc once more and nodded. “I will take you all to where you are supposed to be—if you trust me. Do you?”

    Cassia clasped her claws together and smiled. “Yes.” The Pokemon around her agreed, hopeful now that the Lucario had returned.

    The Lucario bounded up the cages to Cassia, studying the lock. “Once you’re out, go get that can down there.” He pointed at a large, wheeled trash can in the corner.

    The Zoroark stood in front of the door, her bags in her claws. “What do we need that for?”

    Lawrence’s paw glowed with blue fire, and he trained it onto the lock. It sparked and fizzed, blasting apart from the door. He stepped away and swung it out, nodding his head toward the crate.

    “We can get everyone out—unseen.”

    ~~~~

    One hour later…

    In Hanson’s office, the president held the gold-engraved Pokeball, it’s center button still glowing red from its recall. He tapped the button and caused it to shrink, the layered metal folding back into itself into a compact sphere. He then set it back in its bowl.

    He rubbed the side of his head, sighing. “Not the result I was expecting…but at least it’s a start. The machine just needs to be improved.” He tapped the wood next to the bowl, staring out into space. “But it will at least make a difference.”

    “President, sir!” a crackling voice proclaimed.

    Hanson frowned, pulling open a drawer on the right side of his desk. Amidst the smattering of paper and pens, he pulled out a black radio and clicked a button. “Yes, what is it?”

    “Situation, sir! An employee was discovered inside the bathrooms without his uniform; he said he was ambushed!”

    Hanson gripped the radio tighter. “Did he see who it was?” he asked, his voice rising.

    “He said—he said—I can’t remember. Just come down and ask for yourself!”

    Hanson stood still, his face dark. “I’m on my way.” He released the button on the radio and set it back in the drawer, slamming it closed. He came to his feet and scooped the three remaining Pokeballs off his desk, then pulled back his suit coat, revealing a black, magnetic belt.

    He held the Pokeballs away and dropped them one by one, each one zipping onto the belt with a click. He pulled down his jacket and marched to the elevator, pulling his golden key card out.

    “I won’t let some robber make a lifetime of work go to waste.”
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2018
  4. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    Chapter 29: Realization

    The elevator doors of Facility D’s second floor split apart, revealing Hanson’s glowering face. He strode to the module on the far side of the room, weaving around the crates of materials. Most of the scientists, engineers and guards had left, leaving only a fraction of security for the nighttime. The whirring machines of before now lay silent, only the occasional clang from the bowels of the facility.

    A balding, crooked figure came into his path. He raised a shaking fist over his head and exclaimed, “It wasn’t my fault! I was on the way with that Zoroark when she—”

    “Yes, yes, Doctor Vaun, I get the picture,” Hanson seethed. “I have more pressing matters than you at the moment.” He pushed past him and toward the gathering of guards around a collection of monitors.

    Vaun’s face fell as he shuffled toward him. “B-But sir, the experiment—”

    “Can wait!” Hanson fumed, turning his head. “I appreciate the concern, but we have an intruder! Go make yourself useful!” Vaun nodded his head in defeat and slunk away.

    Hanson shook his head sadly, then returned to the monitors and guards. Various video feeds of Facility D showed across them, each showing employees going about their duties. The ten guards around the monitor did not focus on the screens but on the man huddled on a chair, wearing little else except a blanket over his shoulders.

    A guard noticed Hanson and waved over to him. “President Hanson, here’s the man who was ambushed!”

    Hanson made his way to him and noticed a bandage wrapped around his head, keeping a bag of ice in place. He frowned. “When did this happen? Did you see who?”

    The man winced, pushing the bag tighter on his head. “Can’t say for sure. I was just going in the bathroom to clean myself up when I felt something hit me across the head. I passed out, then a few moments later, I was sitting in a stall in nothing but my skivvies, wrapped up in the rope I brought in with me.” He shivered, pulling the blanket tighter. “It’s cold in there. Very cold.”

    Hanson smoothed back his hair, staring at the ground. “Did you see anyone as you passed out? Do you remember their color, their hair, anything?”

    The man furrowed his brow and looked up. “Hold on…I remember seeing the guy as I hit the floor. It was all hazy, but I could’ve sworn he looked…blue.”

    Hanson raised an eyebrow and leaned closer. “…Blue?”

    “Yeah, and a big furry jacket, with a silver thing on his chest. He…he even had red eyes.” The man groaned, holding his head. “Oof, he just hit me once too. Didn’t feel like some regular joe either. He was real strong.”

    Hanson held his chin, considering the detail. He turned to the guard sitting in front of the monitors and said, “Bring up the security footage from the past hour for the main entrance.” He obeyed, typing on the keyboard and dragging the mouse to a certain screen, showing a pair of guards of differing heights near the warehouse door.

    The screen panned back and forth as they chatted, going between the lightened entrance to the dark driveway leading to it. Hanson studied it, watching for anything unusual. At double the speed, nothing appeared to happen—until a shape appeared briefly in the dark.

    Hanson gripped the shoulder of the guard and pointed at the screen. “Pause the footage and go back, slowly!” He obeyed, and steadily, the shape reappeared behind the wall, barely visible in the dim atmosphere.

    Hanson narrowed his eyes, catching the colors of the figure. It appeared to be human, but the triangular…ears, he determined, set it off, and the arms were the wrong proportions. There was also the lack of feet, instead replaced with…paws. That, along with the dog-like head, in addition to the guard’s description, lead him to conclude:

    “The intruder’s a Lucario. He got inside somehow and wound up in the bathroom just as our unlucky fellow went in.” Hanson shook his head in bewilderment. “But there’s no way it could have avoided detection, even if…” He stared, realizing. “Why would it want his uniform?” He held the guard’s shoulder again and said, “Go to the camera closest to the bathroom and watch for anyone leaving it in a uniform.”

    He obeyed, and a visual showing the main floor of Facility D. Employees darted back and forth, making it nearly impossible for one to follow. But Hanson narrowed his focus on the bathroom doors, barely in the corner of the camera. He saw the now-under-dressed guard enter, holding only his rope. Minutes later, a markedly-different individual exited, without the rope—and he looked familiar to Hanson.

    The president leaned closer, the guard becoming more distinctive as he paced toward the Master Ball crate. The brown hair, blue eyes, his posture. Hanson’s nails dug into the seat of station’s chair.

    Hanson released his grip, tossing his hand aside. “Lawrence,” he muttered. It all became clear to him, thinking back on his concern for the Equivosians’ wellbeing when he returned, as well as his interest in that Zoroark that he saw as they passed her.

    But in Hanson’s mind, this didn’t make sense. ‘Lawrence didn’t have a Pokeball, and the Lucario wasn’t in the bathroom when the man was found. Even if Lawrence followed the Lucario, his clothes would’ve remained behind.’ He tapped his Pokeball and lowered his head. ‘There’s something missing.’

    Hanson perked his head up. “Lawrence managed to get inside…and I know why.” He pointed at the screen showing a sturdy wall and a set of elevators opposite to it. “Show me the footage from the Equivosian room.” He looked at the black square to the left of the room and scowled. “Why can’t we see in the room itself?”

    “Electrical short. Happens sometimes with the older ones,” the guard explained.

    Hanson sighed, massaging his temple. “Fine. Just bring up the elevator footage.”

    The camera footage rewound, and he saw Vaun exit through a door in the wall. Minutes after, a solitary guard pushed a crate. He looked around briefly, and Hanson grit his teeth. He saw the face of Lawrence Stephenson, clearly entering the most important room for Project Babel.

    And he had been inside for the past hour.

    Hanson spun around and snapped his fingers. His guard stood at attention. “All of you, follow me down to level four. We have to intercept Lawrence before he releases the Equivosians.” He strode to the elevator, and all ten followed. They entered the elevator and descended to level four.

    On their way down, Hanson considered the ways Lawrence could have gotten inside. “There’s only the main entrance and the building’s elevator, but he couldn’t have gone through either without the right access card. Even then, none of the cameras saw him go inside; they only saw the Lucario—which appeared to be taller than most, actually.” He tapped the side of his head, ignoring the guards around him. “It makes no sense. There had to have been a sign of him. The Lucario likely got inside through the ventilation shaft—I should have made the architect change that—but Lawrence came out instead of it. There is clearly something amiss.” He kept his hand on the Pokeballs on his belt, hidden behind his gray suitcoat. “Regardless of how he got inside, I can’t let him take the Equivosians. It would devastate the company; I invested a significant amount into the Master Balls, as well as the advertising for the project. I would be a laughingstock to cancel it because of him.” He gripped the gilded Pokeball tighter. “I’ve worked most of my life to create a world with perfect communication. I won’t let it end like this.”

    The elevator dinged, and the doors split apart, revealing the wall that guarded the Equivosian Pokemon. Hanson and his guards filed out and wrapped around the warehouse door, the metal gate the only thing standing between them and the Pokemon.

    A guard took his keycard from his pocket and swiped the scanner next to the door. The red light on top flashed green, and the door began to lift. It suddenly spat and struggled, falling to the ground with a clang, its engine smoking.

    Hanson gawked at the broken engine, then pointed at the door and exclaimed, “Bring it down!”

    A guard unclipped his Pokeball and pressed its button, causing the folded pieces of metal to expand outward and form a perfect sphere. He threw the ball in front of the door, and upon hitting the ground it flew open, a blinding white ball of energy flowing out. The ball rebounded into the guard’s hands as the energy warped and dimmed into a Machoke, flexing its arms and emitting a throaty grunt.

    “Punch the door down!” its owner ordered. The Machoke nodded, then punched the door, creating a sizable dent in the metal. It continued in tandem, each blow bringing them closer to their prize.

    Hanson stared ahead but cocked his head at a low rumble that emanated from the corner. His guards noticed the rumble, all craning their heads to find the source. Hanson continued to hold his Pokeball, finding the source to be the wall to the right of the door the Machoke punched.

    The rumble grew louder, and the wall bulged, glowing red. It suddenly exploded outward, a crimson flamethrower blasting it apart. Hanson and his guards stepped back, stunned by the destruction.

    Plastic clattered behind him, and a large wheeled trash can sped out of the massive hole, its lid clanking against its body. A Zoroark and Lucario teamed up behind it, pushing it as fast as their legs could allow. The Lucario held out its paw and shot a sphere of blue light into the left elevator’s control panel, then the right, frying them completely. They both dove into the warehouse elevator, then the Lucario pushed a button, making the doors close.

    Hanson’s head swung between the Pokemon and the wall, then he roared, “What are you doing? Get the Pokemon!”

    The guards clustered around the warehouse elevator, each speaking into their radios. One turned to Hanson and said, “We aren’t going anywhere till this elevator comes back.”

    Hanson growled, striding to the cooling hole the Zoroark had made. “Brilliant.” He peered around the hole, thinking.

    In the room, all the cages now lay empty, either ripped apart at the bars or opened with their destroyed locks. Nothing remained save for scraps of food and a discarded uniform, which strangely lacked the belt.

    Hanson studied it, his rage at losing the Pokemon tempered by his bewilderment. “Now Lawrence is nowhere to be seen. Without…clothes.” He shook himself, refusing to dwell on it. “Regardless of his circumstances, I have to stop him and that Lucario.” He glanced around the room and noticed a door in the corner, barely big enough for a person.

    Hanson lowered his head and ran to it, throwing the door open. A tiny elevator hung inside, tools and supplies scattered within. A spindly lightbulb hung above it all, flickering to life as the door opened.

    Hanson threw off his suit jacket, then clambered inside and pressed a button, causing the elevator to creak and groan in protest. It painstakingly crawled up, leaving behind the confused guard and the room of empty cages.

    Hanson pulled a Pokeball of his belt, grimacing. He pulled a Pokedex from his pants pocket and typed a number into the dialer. After a few rings, a tired voice asked, “Yes, what is it, President Hanson?”

    “Vaun, get the rest of security on their feet! A Zoroark and Lucario are headed up the warehouse elevator to the top, and they have all the Pokemon—” He cut himself short, realizing how ridiculous he sounded. “In a…trashcan.”

    Vaun paused. “A…trashcan?”

    “Yes. They must’ve used the Master Balls to capture them, then tossed them inside to make them easier to carry.” Hanson shook the Pokedex and bellowed, “I’m on my way up now through the service elevator; the Dusknoir destroyed the scanners of the other three. Be ready for them!” He ended the call and continued to hold the Pokedex, closing his eyes as his visions of the future clashed with the complications of the present. All of this melded with the pain of the past and the utter discrepancy of the infiltration of Lawrence and the Lucario.

    ~~~~

    Back in the elevator, Lawrence and Cassia breathed heavily, each winded by the sudden run. They looked at each and laughed in spite of the tension.

    Once they caught their breath, they remained silent as they ascended. Lawrence tapped his paw against the top of the trashcan, while Cassia adjusted the strap to her bag. They both wanted to talk, but the opportunity felt…wrong.

    Lawrence looked around briefly, then took a Pokeball from the can and held it up. “You know that these capture Pokemon, but do you know how they work?” Cassia shook her head. He pointed to the button between its two halves. “If there’s a Pokemon inside, just press the button to expand it, then throw it on the ground; it will release the Pokemon and bounce back to you.” He pointed at a white button on the bottom half of the ball. “If you want to put it back in, just point the main button at it and press this one; it’ll send out a beam and bring it back inside.”

    Cassia scrutinized the Master Ball. “But how do they get trapped inside in the first place.”

    “You can throw an unassigned ball at a Pokemon, and it’ll pull them inside. They can break out of the ball if they destroy the containment mirrors before the ball stops shaking.” Lawrence set the ball back with the others. “But Master Balls are different. Their mirrors are designed to be practically indestructible. Only a Legend would have any chance of breaking it.” He closed the lid and blew his breath out slowly. “I’m surprised that Hanson managed to get this many. Most people can’t afford even one because of the materials they’re made from.”

    Cassia shivered. “They’re so…unnatural.”

    Lawrence shrugged, leaning against the elevator wall. “I agree, but it’s our only chance of getting everyone out of here. We can release them on the ship.”

    They remained quiet, the hum of the elevator filling the room. The box occasionally jittered, shaking the security card clipped to the belt around Lawrence’s waist. The thousands of inch-wide Master Balls clattered against each other, each holding the life of an Equivosian.

    Lawrence shifted in his position, looking down. “I’m…I’m sorry for what happened. I should’ve known Hanson would do something like this. I wanted you to be happy when you came here, not…afraid.” He closed his eyes, grimacing. “If there’s anything I can do to make up for it—”

    “Lawrence.”

    Cassia held Lawrence’s paw, pulling closer to him. “You came back for us. You’ve made up for it already.” Lawrence relaxed, standing upright. Cassia continued, “I want to see what this world really looks like—the trees, the sea…all of it.” She smiled, resting her head on his shoulder. “And you’re just the one I want to see it with.”

    The elevator dinged, ending their talk. Cassia let out her breath quickly, brushing a hand through her mane. “It’s just going to be us against the guards. Do you think we’ll be alright?” Lawrence nodded.

    “We will.”

    ~~~~

    On the ground floor of Facility D, Vaun paced stiffly in front of the thirty guards that remained for the night, holding his head high. They stood in front of the warehouse elevator, waiting for their target Pokemon to come out.

    Vaun pushed back his hair and held his nose high. “President Hanson wants these Pokemon reclaimed as swiftly as possible. Just recapture the Pokemon swiftly and efficiently, for the company’s sake and your own.” He turned around and stopped. “Am I clear?” There were muted grunts of approval from his subordinates.

    Vaun eyed them sternly. “I am aware that many of you don’t agree with the…processes behind Project Babel. But rest assured that these talking Pokemon were being given the best treatment possible in our current situation. They would have been put into a better living area—in time.”

    The elevator dinged, and Vaun shuffled to face it. The doors split, revealing a Zoroark and Lucario standing behind a large trash container, the Zoroark with a leather bag over her shoulder. They carefully advanced, the Lucario steady in his steps and the Zoroark uncertain.

    Vaun frowned, holding his hand behind his back. “You, Lucario, have trespassed on Valence premises and have attempted to steal company property. Leave the Master Balls and the Zoroark, and I can promise you’ll still be treated well.”

    Lawrence set the trashcan down and stepped around it, glaring at Vaun. “Treated well? Like being stuffed in a cage and nearly killed by machine?”

    Vaun flinched, adjusting his cracked glasses. “Y-You can talk? How? You came from the outside, and—”

    “That doesn’t matter!” Lawrence fumed. “You nearly killed a Pokemon, all for some insane experiment! What you did before was bad enough, but then this?” He grimaced and shook his head. “How can you stand yourself?”

    Vaun’s face turned pink as he exclaimed, “I’m just doing what I’ve been told! Yes, I have concerns about their well-being, but these experiments will be tuned and adjusted to not be so taxing!”

    “Has it worked?” Cassia calmly replied.

    Vaun faltered, his face returning to its natural, clammy complexion. “E-Excuse me?”

    “Has your experiment worked? Have you made Thomas’ pain worthwhile?”

    Vaun struggled for words, the guards behind him loosening their grips on their Pokeballs. He looked back, his eyes growing wide. “Y-You can’t expect things like this to be right on the first try. We’re trying our—”

    “You.” Cassia pointed at a guard with graying stubble, who jumped slightly at her claw. “Do you agree with what he’s saying? Do you think that Pokemon should be hurt to make some fantasy?”

    Vaun hurried to the guard and hissed, “She’s a Pokemon, Carlisle! She has no idea what she’s talking about!”

    “I’m asking him, not you,” Cassia reaffirmed.

    Vaun turned back, aghast. He gave Carlisle a final look, then shuffled away, giving Carlisle a perfect view of Cassia and Lawrence.

    He rapped his fingers against his Pokeball, studying the ground. He cleared his throat, then looking up to Cassia, said, “I…I don’t usually speak up about what the President does, or what his plans are. Up until recently, it was all fine; it was just gadgets and stuff.” He pulled off his hat and wiped his brow. “But when he started bringing in Pokemon and saying it was for a new project, I found it hard to keep following what he said. He’s done a lot of things, but he never hurt nobody. But when I saw what he was doing to them…” He shuddered. “I signed up for this job to protect people and Pokemon. Not watch them get hurt. I was willing to put up with it since I thought it was temporary, but then Vaun and his other scientists got to saying it may go on for years—and when I heard them Pokemon talk…”

    Carlisle lowered his hat and stared at the floor, ashen. “I couldn’t watch that. I would’ve up and gotten my resignation ready, if it weren’t for me needing this job and…what the President made me agree to.” He looked to his fellow guards, all with their hands at their sides. “We never wanted this. The President’s gone too far this time. We were just too afraid of him to say no.”

    Vaun’s head flicked back and forth between them and the Pokemon. He sputtered and shouted, “Y-Y-You signed the contract! You’re to obey orders and—”

    “And what?” Another guard replied. “And treat this like any other job?”

    “Like the time you took my pet Herdier and tested ‘medicine’ on him? He was sick for over a week!”

    “Or that time you split open that Magmar’s head to see how it ticked?”

    “Or when you had a bunch of Rattata get some implant in them? None of them survived!”

    Vaun paled, stepping back. “I-I was only following the President’s orders!” The guards surrounded him, ignoring Cassia and Lawrence.

    Carlisle replaced his hat, studying Vaun coldly. “You’re his right-hand man down here. He might give the orders, but he doesn’t know what he’s asking for. You’re the one who gives him what he wants.” He nodded to his fellow guards, and two took Vaun’s arms. “I don’t care if I’m fired. Neither do they. At least we won’t have to send a bunch of Pokemon to die.” He began walking to the exit and waved for the others to follow. “If anyone else doesn’t like what this Sneasel or the President has us do, follow me out. I’ve had it with watching Pokemon die.” He gave a finally glance to Cassia and tipped his cap. “You’re certainly not like any Pokemon I’ve met. Keep making guys like me think, and you guys’ll do fine.” He opened the exit door, the entire troupe of guards following. Vaun was dragged through the crowd despite his feeble attempts to flee, pleading for them to release him. His cries were silenced by the shut door as the guards went out to the streets and left Facility D out of their lives.

    Lawrence turned to Cassia and made a small smile, holding on to the trashcan. “Some guards said they were too afraid to speak up. They just needed someone else to do it for them.”

    Cassia smiled back, holding on to the trashcan. “Lawrence, you’re as smart as ever.” They slowly rolled the trashcan toward the warehouse door, their final obstacle to Sinnoh.

    Clang! Clang!

    They froze, looking to their right. A section of wall rattled, the bolts around it coming loose. It clanged and shook again, a bulge appearing in the middle.

    Clang!

    The sheet burst from the wall and clattered on the ground, revealing Hanson wielding a sledgehammer, panting heavily. He glowered at the two Pokemon setting the head of the hammer on the ground. “Congratulations,” he seethed, “You managed to get past all my security and planning in one night, all to steal away a bunch of Pokemon.” He slowly stepped to the warehouse door, dragging the hammer behind him. “But unlike my guards, I won’t have the wool put over my eyes by a Zoroark.”

    Lawrence noticed the Pokeballs on his waist and lowered into a defensive stance. “Careful, Cassia. He looks ready to fight.”

    Hanson hefted the sledgehammer with a grunt, his eyes wide. “Oh yes, Lucario. To protect my company, my fortune, and my dreams.” He swung the hammer on the scanner for the warehouse door, causing it to explode in sparks and blare out an alarm.

    Hanson threw away the hammer and leaned back, groaning. “I haven’t had to do anything like that in years.” He stood straight again, frowning. “Then again, I haven’t had Lawrence Stephenson and a mysterious Lucario work together. Despite my records, a Lucario was not among the Equivosians, yet here’s one now, talking right to me.” He clutched the side of his head and said, “And Lawrence bewilders me with what he’s done!”

    Cassia took Lawrence’s arm and growled “He’s done more for us than you’d ever know.”

    Hanson stopped. He scrutinized the Lucario, his eyes flitting back and forth. “Wait…the clothes…the hiding…the voice.” Lawrence’s heart pounded as Hanson leaned forward, mouth slightly agape.

    He closed his mouth and coldly said, “You…you were changed. By the wormhole. No wonder you survived so long in such savage lands—and why you care so much for these Pokemon.” He brushed back his wild hair, his eyes squinting once more. “It all makes sense. Now I just have to figure out how to harness such a unique ability—after I give every Pokemon the power of speech.”

    Lawrence overcame the sinking feeling of dread in his chest and shouted, “How can you be so callous to torture these Pokemon, just to have our Pokemon do something that’s impossible?”

    “Impossible?” Hanson spat. “Impossible? We’re practically there! Everyone in the world sees them as companions, talking to them like they actually understand us! Like my teenage self thought, challenging the Elite Four!” He snatched an emerald-topped Pokeball and held it next to his head. “Before I became an inventor, I was an aspiring young trainer, what all the children in the world want to be. I was renowned in Unova, and everyone thought I would become the new champion.” He widened his stance. “I lost at the final round. I was forgotten, just like so many other unlucky challengers. If it wasn’t for the language barrier between me and my Pokemon I would have been victorious. And so many others would have been too.”

    “So that’s what all this is about? Making up for some match you lost ages ago?” Cassia exclaimed.

    Hanson took the ruby-topped Pokeball from his belt and smiled darkly. “Oh, it’s for more than that. I want to see a world with perfect communication for all, just as I’ve done with the Poketch and my Pokedexes. This is the final step. If you escape me, all my time, effort, and money would have been wasted.” He clicked the buttons on his Pokeballs, causing Lawrence to step back. “Those Master Balls cost a fortune, and my company will take a major blow if I fail to return on my investment. People are wanting my latest product, and I can’t leave them waiting.” His reared back the Pokeballs. “I can’t let you go!” He threw them both toward Lawrence and Cassia, their buttons glowing.

    Lawrence grabbed her claw and ran to the corner with the trashcan, avoiding the ruby Pokeball. It clacked against the floor and snapped open, throwing out a blinding sphere of light. It grew and morphed into a thick, musclebound Pokemon, the light fading into orange and black fur. Silver scattered in its coat, especially around the roaring fire that made its beard. Its eyes materialized, and it glared at the two Pokemon before it, snorting and scraping its hooves against the concrete floor.

    The emerald Pokeball did the same, sending out a sphere of light. It sat lower on the ground and formed into a metallic pod with three vined limbs, each with their own thorned casing. Spikes coated its body, the ones on its feet driving themselves into the concrete. It held itself lower, the thorns on the top of its body retracting to launch.

    The balls bounced back into Hanson’s hands, and he grinned. “Meet two of the surviving members of my team all those years ago: Bruiser, my Emboar, and Sniper, my Ferrothorn.” The Emboar bellowed throatily and clapped its paws together, reverberating in the air. The Ferrothorn emitted a crackling, shrieking cry as it vibrated, rattling its thorns.

    Cassia crouched, darkness spilling from her claws. “We don’t have to do this, Hanson. Just let us leave, and—”

    “And what? You’ll disappear, never to be seen again? I can’t afford that; Equivos was the only world I knew of with talking Pokemon, and now that it’s gone, you are my only hope.” Hanson pointed at them and roared, “Bruiser, Sniper, go high!”

    Bruiser the Emboar grunted, picking up Sniper the Ferrothorn by its sides. It rattled eagerly as Bruiser stooped, then thrust upward, sending the Ferrothorn to the ceiling. Its pods drove into the concrete and kept it hanging, the thorns on its bottom half retracting and hissing. Dozens rocketed out and zoomed toward Cassia and Lawrence.

    Lawrence’s paws flared with aura. “Avoid the thorns!” He and Cassia sprinted out of the way, all the thorns embedding into the floor.

    Bruiser bounded forward, his beard growing to consume his entire body. He bellowed and veered toward Lawrence, the force of the flame propelling him forward. The Lucario narrowly leapt over the Emboar, his legfur singed from the heat.

    Cassia dodged more thorns from Sniper, deflecting some with her claws. She turned invisible, causing Sniper to lose target and look back to Hanson.

    He waved to where Cassia disappeared and said, “Swing-Bash Strategy!”

    The Ferrothorn rattled in reply, its vines lengthening and lowering it closer to ground level.

    Lawrence weaved between Bruiser’s slow and powerful blows, beating his paws into his fatty exterior. None of his punches seemed to have any effect on the hardened Emboar, each rippling his skin and little more.

    Sniper hung only a few inches from the ground then started to circle. It spun faster, its arc growing wider and wider. It kept circling its thorn-covered body as its legs scrabbled across the ceiling, beating away crates and searching for a Zoroark in its path.

    Lawrence ducked beneath one of Bruiser’s punches, only to be blown back by another. He skidded against the floor as the Emboar charged forward again, elbow dropping toward him.

    Lawrence rolled out of the way, causing Bruiser to land on his chest. Lawrence summoned an Aura Sphere and fired it into Bruiser’s head, causing him to squeal and grab Lawrence’s leg. He swung him into the floor, stunning him as Bruiser swung him again, and again, and again.

    Cassia—invisible—ducked underneath Sniper’s sweeps and advanced to Bruiser, driving her claws into his side. He squealed once more and swiped at her origin, only for her to strike at a different point.

    He threw Lawrence behind him, only for him to be swung into by Sniper. He slammed into the wall and slid to the floor with a groan, his eyes closing.

    “Lawrence!” Cassia called. She grabbed onto Bruiser’s arm and allowed him to swing her into the air, right toward Sniper. She soared just above its menacing swing and into the vines that held it in place, grabbing onto them. Sniper rattled viciously as it slowed to stop its assailant. Cassia sliced the three vines at once, causing Sniper to fly into a wall and ingrain itself, the remaining vines on its head whipping wildly as they gradually grew back. Cassia landed on the ground and turned invisible once more, running toward Lawrence and leaving Bruiser to cauterize the cuts on its sides with his flamethrower breath.

    Hanson grit his teeth, his aged heart beating rapidly. “I haven’t felt this exhilarated in years. Lawrence is down, but so is Sniper until he can grow back his vines. Bruiser won’t be stopped by a few measly cuts; the Zoroark stands no chance. Soon, Project Babel will be back in order.”

    Cassia stopped next to Lawrence and rolled him onto his back. “Are you okay? Is anything broken?”

    Lawrence coughed, his eyes fluttering open. “Only my pride. Those Pokemon are strong.” As Cassia soothed his wound with what Life she had left, he pointed at the rejuvenating Ferrothorn. “Those things might have tough shells, but with a hard enough hit, they’ll crack open and lose all their thorns. They’ll hibernate until they can repair themselves, so I’ll try and take it on.”

    “Lawrence, we can’t fight here forever. The ship’s waiting for us,” Cassia warned.

    Lawrence came to his feet, holding his head. “I know, but we can’t have Hanson send these after us. Just focus on distracting the Emboar while I hit the Ferrothorn.”

    The pods on Sniper’s vines regrew and pounded into the wall, each straining to push the Ferrothorn out. Bruiser snorted and caught sight of Lawrence. He looked to Hanson.

    He pounded his fist into his palm. “He’s too fast for you to charge into; hit him from afar!”

    The Emboar stared blankly, then leaned toward Lawrence and let his flames envelop him. Lawrence ran away from the wall as Hanson groaned audibly, pressing his hands against his head. “No, no, no! I meant use Flamethrower, not Flame Charge!”

    Cassia ran out after Lawrence, forming a blob of inky-black gas in her claws. She threw it into Bruiser’s eyes, causing him to bellow and barrel ahead, charging into every crate in its path, completely missing Lawrence.

    Sniper finally pushed itself out and clambered to the ceiling, letting itself hang several feet from the wall. As Lawrence sprinted, Sniper showered thorns below it, scratching Lawrence’s body. Lawrence grit his teeth and generated an aura sphere, aiming it toward Sniper.

    Hanson hissed and shouted, “Sniper, drop! Drop now!”

    The Ferrothorn obeyed, shaking loose of the ceiling. Lawrence lost concentration and released the aura sphere prematurely, causing it to spiral into the wall. The Ferrothorn slammed next to him and threw him into the air, it vines pushing itself upright in the floor. It rattled furiously as a glowing green sphere formed in front of its eyes, gathering energy from the air.

    Cassia danced around Bruiser, narrowly avoiding the focused breaths of fire it blew from its snout. She glanced at Lawrence and gasped as he slowly got up, Sniper’s energy ball aimed directly at him.

    She held out her claw and gathered a crimson sphere, then launched it at Sniper. The sphere exploded on Sniper’s iron shell and sent it flying toward Lawrence, the energy ball dissipating. Lawrence reared back his fist and punched Sniper between its spikes, puncturing the shell and causing numberless thorns to flow out.

    Sniper let out one final rattle as its amber eyes closed. Hanson quaked as he pointed Sniper’s ball at the Ferrothorn and tapped the recall button. A red stream of light struck the Ferrothorn and formed it into light once more, travelling along the line into the Pokeball. He shrunk it and set it on his belt, pointing at the Emboar. “Bruiser, you can finish the job!”

    Bruiser grunted and continued swinging around him, narrowly missing Cassia each time. He finally squealed and leapt into the air, massive flames surrounding him on all sides.

    Lawrence paled and shouted, “Cassia, get out of the way! That’s a Heat Crash!”

    Cassia looked up and cried out as Bruiser rocketed to the ground, the heat so intense that neither could look at him. She leapt away, Bruiser’s fire exploding outward and catching Cassia’s back. She screamed, crashing to the ground and rolling to rid herself of the encroaching flame.

    “Cassia!” Lawrence yelled. He ran to her and cradled her head as she struggled to keep her eyes open. Bruiser struggled to push himself free of the sizable crater, everywhere within five feet of him black with char.

    Hanson clapped his hands together, grinning. “Yes, yes! Finally, my Pokemon succeed once more!” He noticed Lawrence leaning toward Cassia’s ear and whisper something, but they were too far away for him to hear.

    He snapped his fingers and said, “Bruiser, get them before they go on the move again!” Bruiser squealed in understanding, still trying to push himself up.

    Lawrence stood up, stone-faced. Cassia lay on the ground, her hands folded over her chest. The Lucario ran to the Emboar and roared, leaping upward. He reached the peak of his arc just above Bruiser, grazing the ceiling. He flipped upside-down and pushed against the ceiling to shoot toward Bruiser’s unguarded head. He held his paw out and struck home, cracking the concrete and driving Bruiser deeper.

    He pushed himself off of Bruiser and landed on his feet. The Emboar’s eyes dazedly focused on Lawrence. The concrete around him sunk slightly, then cracked again. It suddenly dropped out from underneath the Emboar and crashed into the next floor, carrying him down with a slam. Buried underneath tons of concrete, the Emboar did not rise again.

    Hanson gaped at his Pokemon’s defeat as Lawrence advanced to Cassia and held out his final Master Ball. He pressed it next to Cassia’s side and absorbed her in a flash, clicking closed. He shrunk it and snapped it to his belt, then faced Hanson. “You’ll pay for what you’ve done.”

    Hanson stared for a moment, then pinched the bridge of his nose, shaking his head sadly. "Lawrence, Lawrence, Lawrence...I have done nothing wrong. I told my subordinates I wanted Project Babel to progress as quickly and effectively as possible, and they have done so. That is not to say there have not been missteps…” He gripped his third and final Pokeball. “But a tremendous amount of money has been invested into this, and the public has no idea how badly they want Project Babel.”

    He unclipped the Pokeball. “I will not let you walk out of here with those Pokémon...not when I can use them to do so much good for the world!" He held up the gold-engraved Pokeball, a grin plastered on his face. “And now…the Pokemon I began and ended my journey with, the one who failed to obey me when I needed it most—the first to experience the fruits of my labor.” He expanded the ball and threw it at Lawrence, sending out yet another ball of light.

    It grew to tower over Lawrence, standing over four times his height. A long, bladed tail grew, and its head included to large blades. Golden armor coated its body, and charcoal scales coated its face, hand, and arms. Sharp red claws penetrated the scales, and cold, staring eyes bore into Lawrence. A Haxorus.

    The Haxorus stood straight, its tail sweeping back and forth. It opened its mouth:

    “I live to obey…Master.”
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2018
  5. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    Chapter 30: Exodus

    Down at the docks, Erica sat on her suitcase, tapping her feet against its side. She bundled her coat tightly around her, the breeze growing stronger on the shore. The five docks remained free of ships, with only the Wingull perched underneath them any indication of activity.

    She coughed, covering her nose. “I hate staying out here like this.” She looked out to sea briefly, finding nothing. “When is that ship supposed to be here? I’ve been waiting for hours!” She sighed, then muttered, “Lawrence better not have been pranking me…”

    Erica perked up her head; a low rush echoed from beyond the harbor. From the right, a white prow jutted out from behind the buildings lining the coast. A massive white ship with three decks along its sides churned the water, edging forward as the prow tipped toward the harbor.

    Erica stood up, eyes wide and jaw dropped. The liner stopped along the center dock, its engine quieting and crew rushing. Several men sent out a gangplank, and a burly man wearing a black trenchcoat strode down, a colorful Chatot sitting on his shoulder.

    He continued up the dock and stopped in front of Erica, his matted, grey beard and grimy exterior more visible. He tipped his cap and said, “Good evening, young lass! Would you happen to know where a man named Lawrence Stephenson is?”

    Erica shook herself briefly, regaining her composure. “Y-Yes, but he’s not here right now; he’s getting the rest of the…passengers.” She took a step back, eyeing the staring Chatot. “And you are?”

    Rawk! Debbie talks, Debbie talks!” the Chatot squawked, flapping its wings.

    Sheffield chuckled, stroking the Chatot’s note-shaped head. “Aye, that’s her name alright. As for mine, call me Captain Sheffield. I was called by Lawrence to take him to Sinnoh, and he said for me to bring an ocean liner of all things!” He laughed heartily, craning back his head. “I thought he was kidding, but when he explained that there were more coming with him, I went ahead and got one for him.” He blew out his breath, scratching his beard blankly. “Although, it wasn’t easy. Had a few friends who were able to snag one for me, but I won’t be able to use it for long—upcoming cruise and all that. I’ll have to leave tonight if I expect to make it all the way to Sunyshore.”

    “Lawrence said I could come along too,” Erica added, grabbing her suitcase.

    Sheffield studied her for a moment, then nodded. “Won’t deny anyone the pleasure of riding a ship such as this—especially if they’re a friend of Lawrence.” He waved over to the men walking about, carrying crates and other ship materials. “My crew will treat you well, no need to worry about that. Go on aboard and choose a room, and we’ll wait for Lawrence together.”

    “Thank you very much, sir.” Erica curtsied as she took her suitcase and rolled it toward the deck, still finding it difficult to believe that Lawrence indeed managed to hire an ocean liner.

    She stopped at the foot of the gangplank, then turned back to Sheffield, who followed some distance away. “Um…just so you know, he told me all about this today, so if I seem a bit skeptical…”

    Sheffield nodded sagely, stroking Debbie’s feathers once more. “You have every right to be. I mean, look at me, some old grimy man inviting one such as you aboard!” He chuckled momentarily, then said, “Seriously though, you can trust me. If I do something wrong, feel free to walk off whenever you please.” He grinned, stroking his beard. “Until we cast off, of course, but Lawrence and whoever he’s bringing with him ought to be fine.”

    “He…he hasn’t told you who he’s bringing?” Erica asked dubiously.

    “Said it was on a need-to-know basis. Honestly, I’d rather know, but I guess we’ll find out the crowd when he gets here.” Sheffield stepped around Erica and marched back onto his ship. “Now come on aboard! Lawrence surely won’t take long!”

    Erica paused, then slowly advanced onto the gangplank. Midway up, she looked back at the Valence Tech building, the glowing ‘V’ eerie in the cloudy night sky.

    “I sure hope so…”

    ~~~~

    At the top floor of Facility D, Lawrence gaped at the Haxorus that towered over him. Despite the unlit atmosphere, its scales seemed to gleam—yet its eyes were soulless, just like every Pokemon he had seen in this world. And it could speak.

    Lawrence stepped forward, away from the crater behind him. “How…how can it do that? How?” He kept a paw close to the Master Ball around his belt, where he had stored a burned Cassia.

    Hanson stood behind the Haxorus, looking around it to study Lawrence’s expression. “Astounding, isn’t it? After forty years of being an inventor, I’ve finally found the means to grant speech to Pokemon.” He smiled, looking up at the Haxorus. “Isn’t that right, Razor?”

    “Yes, Master,” the Haxorus replied, scraping its feet against the concrete floor, screeching and sending sparks.

    Hanson sighed, pacing around Razor and closer to Lawrence. “Unfortunately, the process still needs adjustments. He has some personality, but certainly nothing like the Equivosians.”

    How did you do this?” Lawrence roared. “You said you couldn’t! You said you needed a Pokemon from Equivos! All other ways failed!” He stamped his foot and bared his teeth. “You put all of them through that for a lie?”

    Hanson pointed at Razor and wagged his finger. “Careful, Lawrence. He may be a bit lacking in intellect, but he makes up for it in strength. And I’d rather not end this moment with his way of doing things.” Razor snorted, the blades around his mouth cleaving in the air.

    Lawrence seethed, crossing his arms and stepping aside. “Why?”

    Hanson held his hands up as he continued toward Lawrence. “I’ll admit, I should have been more open with you. You deserve an explanation—as much as it pains me to say, considering how much trouble you’ve given me.” He pulled the ruby-embedded Pokeball from his belt, tossing it in the air and giving the still Razor a glance. “Would you mind if I recalled poor Bruiser? Razor and I would appreciate it.”

    Lawrence did nothing at first, then stepped further away, allowing Hanson to stand at the edge of the enormous hole in the floor and point the ball at the Emboar buried beneath the rock, unconscious. He tapped the white button on the ball’s underside, causing a red stream of light to come from the main button and strike the Emboar. The Emboar turned into a ball of light, then streamed back into the ball.

    Hanson shrunk the ball and clipped back into his belt, nodding his head toward Lawrence. “It is good to see a gentleman in battle.” Now mere feet from Lawrence, the Lucario could see the president’s eye studying him, whizzing left and right, surely thinking of the sheer conundrum that was him.

    Almost as soon as he came, Hanson returned to Razor, his pace slowing as the Haxorus drew nearer. “It started a year after the Pokedex 2.0 released. I was searching for the next big leap in communication, one that could dwarf even the Pokedex. I won’t bore you with the details, but I eventually concluded that we had to make a product to allow Pokemon to speak—a dream I’ve had ever since I failed the Pokemon league as a young man.”

    Hanson rested a hand against Razor, reaching his side. “By the way, don’t think of going anywhere while I talk; Razor will strike you down faster than you can say ‘ouch’.” Lawrence glanced at the trashcan in the corner, knowing already that he couldn’t afford to do that.

    Hanson continued, “I had a series of basements built with the main Valence building for storage and lab purposes, but I had yet to use them. I ended up converting them into the research facility we call Facility D—the ‘D’ representing ‘discovery’. I set my scientists to work on developing a machine that could translate speech.” He frowned. “That came to nothing. Against my better judgement, I directed Vaun and the other scientists to experiment with Pokemon to devise a means. Nothing worked.

    “This continued for around two years, and I was running short on my patience—until I noticed an article. It advertised that the Aether Foundation was selling its dimensional technology to help offset the costs of allowing the Ultra Beasts to ravage their region. I went ahead and bought it, thinking I could use it to further my project—even if I had no idea how.”

    “What does this have to do with the Haxorus?” Lawrence seethed, eyeing the trash container.

    Hanson held up a finger. “Patience.” He lowered it, then said, “After training my employees on how to use the technology, we set about searching for different dimensions with it. We found many worlds while the generator was still being built, and several contained the known Ultra Beasts. Nothing held a clear view, mind you, but with the glimpses we had of these worlds, we had a good idea of what it had.

    “Several months after I acquired the technology, we found a lush dimension, full of Pokemon—at least, from what we could tell from our overhead views. By that time, the generator had finished construction, and so we decided to test it in this dimension.” He grimaced, standing away from Razor. “It worked well—so well that we accidentally brought something here.”

    Lawrence’s eyes widened. “You mean…you took a Pokemon? From Equivos?”

    “Yes…but it was completely accidental. We never meant for it to happen.” He blew out his breath and said, “The wormhole was close enough to the ground to drag in a Marill and bring her to us. When she came, we were all shocked, and I sent for medical help—she was covered in wounds of all sorts.”

    “Where is she now?” Lawrence asked, suddenly worried.

    Hanson lowered his head. “She died soon after, unfortunately. But before they did, we discovered she could speak. She said, ‘What in Equivos is this place?’ Stunned, I asked if she had a name. In her last breaths, she said, “I…Draena Marill.”

    Lawrence grit his teeth. “So that’s how you got that file…”

    “Yes. We later sent satellites into Equivos’ atmosphere, as we wanted to see the terrain. We didn’t want to try taking another Pokemon until we could guarantee it would be safe.” Hanson held a hand against his head. “The Marill’s death was tragic…but not entirely in vain.”

    Lawrence narrowed his eyes. “What do you mean?”

    Hanson paced next to Razor, folding his hands behind his back. “When I learned that the Equivos Pokemon could speak, I had my scientists investigate the Marill’s DNA. Upon comparing it with a standard Marill’s DNA, it turned out that there was another set of genes embedded there, likely to allow speech—but they were severely damaged from the radiation in the wormhole. It was determined that the genes could be copied to other Pokemon if they were intact, provided that we develop new technology and obtain another subject.

    “So you made something to copy the genes…” Lawrence suggested.

    Hanson smiled. “Yes. Up until we hired you to capture the Pokemon, I had the facility developing the machine and tweaking the wormhole, so that we can be ready to test it.” He gestured to Razor. “When you came with the Equivosians, I had one of them used for the first extraction—and the recipient was Razor. It was a success, if at the cost of the Bibarel’s health. With time, the machine can be perfected, so that it won’t be near as stressful or painful for the Pokemon involved.”

    Razor huffed, scratching the back of his neck. Hanson sighed and looked away. “Although, I can’t say I am entirely pleased. He is now able to speak, yes, but he lacks a certain…charm.” He shrugged. “Something that can be fixed, I’m sure.”

    “How would that even work? Everyone will see the Pokemon and not want to use it!” Lawrence exclaimed, his anger rising.

    “Yes, the approach I mentioned before wouldn’t work. Instead, I’d have customers send in their Pokemon for a few days, and when they get them back, they will be able to speak just like you or myself,” Hanson said. He stepped back, returning to his position from the previous battle. “This is where I stop my little tangent and ask you nicely: stand down, or I’ll have Razor make you.” He leered at Lawrence and said, “And this time, the language barrier won’t prevent me from succeeding.”

    Lawrence remained still. Wires fizzed, and fans whirred, muting anything else in the background. His tail hung low, and he kept himself in a combat-ready stance. “You were never planning on giving them a better place to live, were you? You just wanted to keep them down here, giving all your Pokemon something unnatural to them.”

    “Unnatural?” Hanson asked. He turned to Razor. “Do you think having speech is unnatural?”

    “No, Master. My mind is clear; I understand what you are saying, and I remember my life more clearly than before.” the Haxorus said in a neutral tone.

    Hanson stared for a moment. “Hmm…” He rubbed his chin. “As I’ve said before, there isn’t the same…spark, like the Equivosian Pokemon have. It’s as if there’s something missing, something that needs to be present.” He shrugged. “It matters little. Given enough time, the process can be perfected, and that spark will come.”

    Lawrence crouched, holding his paws up defensively. “I won’t let that happen. They need to live their own life, not satisfy yours.”

    Hanson sighed, shaking his head. “And here I thought you were a reasonable man—or Pokemon, I should say. It is a shame to have to do this to one of my former employees.” He pointed at Lawrence and called out, “Razor, use Dragon Pulse!”

    “Understood. I will destroy this opponent!” Razor reared back as purple light grew in his mouth, gathering into a ball of violet flame.

    Lawrence ran forward, aura coating his paws. Razor fired the Dragon Pulse, rocketing toward Lawrence. He deftly leapt to the right, narrowly dodging the beam. He gathered an Aura Sphere and shot it at Razor, striking across his chest.

    The Haxorus angled back slightly but was otherwise unharmed. His eyes suddenly brightened. “Bluepaws…are no match for me!” he bellowed, stomping forward and roaring. He swung his tail powerfully, meeting with Lawrence’s chest and throwing him to a wall.

    Lawrence shakily pushed himself up from the floor, groaning. Razor continued stomping toward him, holding his head high as his blades glowed white. Lawrence cringed and ducked under him, the Haxorus head clipping just above his own.

    Lawrence clambered onto Razor’s leg and onto his back, struggling to hold on to his scales. Razor attempted to reach back and strike him with his tusks and claws. Lawrence held on, latching onto his neck. He wrapped his legs around him and punched repeatedly at his head, creating dents in his hardened armor.

    “Use your tail to bat him off!” Hanson ordered, his fists tight.

    “Yes!” Razor’s tail swung toward his own head, meeting with Lawrence’s back. Lawrence wheezed as his chest was crushed between back and tail. Razor swung his tail again, and Lawrence fell of his side, holding his side.

    The Haxorus turned around and held his head high, readying to strike. “With Master’s mind, I cannot lose!” Lawrence held his paws out, wincing. Razor swung, and a rod of pure blue light appeared between Lawrence’s paws, blocking the tusks just before they could strike.

    As Razor continued pushing forward, they locked eyes, each trying to overpower the other. Razor huffed and seethed, “You cannot win. Master wishes others to have my gift. I no longer have to remain untested.” The Lucario’s eyes drifted to the corner, where the trash container was. The corner stood empty.

    Lawrence smirked, returning his gaze to Razor. “Thanks for the distraction,” he wheezed. He shouted and pushed the Haxorus’ head away, causing him to step back awkwardly to regain balance. Lawrence jabbed the pole into the Haxorus’ chest, pushing him onto his back with a slam.

    Hanson eyes whizzed left and right as Lawrence advanced, his Haxorus rolling back onto his feet. He looked to the left and froze. The container was gone—and all the Pokemon inside.

    His breathing quickened. “Where are they?” he muttered. He focused on Lawrence and bellowed, “Where are they?

    Lawrence beat away Razor’s claws with his pole, taking glances back at Hanson. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”

    Hanson gripped Razor’s Pokeball so tight his knuckles turned white. “He couldn’t have taken them himself…unless…” He narrowed his eyes and shouted, “Grab the Master Ball on Lawrence’s belt!”

    “Understood!” Razor called, reaching toward Lawrence’s waist. The Lucario leapt out of the way and cracked his pole across the Haxorus’ head, receiving a guttural roar.

    Hanson rushed to the warehouse door, searching suspiciously. “You won’t get away with them that easily...”

    In the midst of their traded blows, Razor spun around and beat his tail across Lawrence, throwing him to the ground and dissipating his pole. Lawrence attempted to push himself up but was pinned to the ground by the Haxorus’ foot, which narrowly avoided his belt.

    Razor reached down and took the Master Ball, then threw it toward Hanson. “As requested, Master.”

    Hanson deftly caught the ball and nodded to Razor. “Well done. Now I can confirm my suspicions.” He enlarged the ball and threw it to the ground in front of him. It bounced upward with no reaction.

    Hanson scooped up the ball and yelled, “I knew it! You never caught that Zoroark! You just had her make it look like you did.” He eyed the walls. “She’s still lurking around here, and she’s got the Pokemon with her as well! Well, your little plan isn’t going to work!” He tossed the ball in his hand, removing his other from Razor’s Pokeball. “I can just capture her—or you even.” He stared, considering it as Razor kept Lawrence on the ground, nearly pressing him to death.

    Hanson tossed the ball again and caught it at its peak. “Yes, far simpler. Zoroark are tricky, but they can hardly be considered strong fighters. Razor can keep her at bay quite easily. Isn’t that right?”

    Razor looked over to Hanson. “Yes. Shinefurs are only tricksters.”

    Hanson sighed, carefully walking toward Lawrence. “I really have to have your personality worked on, Razor. It isn’t at all like talking with a person.”

    Lawrence forced a laugh, holding his palms away from Razor’s leg. “Yeah…a world full of Pokemon like him…a dream come true.”

    Hanson stopped, frowning. “You can still change your mind, you know. Just give me the Pokemon, and—”

    “And what? Expect to be imprisoned for the rest of my life? Like everyone else?” Lawrence wheezed. “Not gonna happen. Ever.” He jabbed the spike on the back of his paws into Razor’s foot, driving them deep.

    Razor screeched and stepped back, stepping back toward the hole in the floor. Lawrence weakly pushed himself up and punched Razor’s chest, pushing him back further.

    Hanson’s eyes widened. “No, Razor! Fight back! Fight back!” He reared back the Master Ball, aiming toward Lawrence.

    Razor attempted to gain footing, swinging his arms to counter Lawrence’s blows. “You will pay!” The Lucario dodged them, continuing to push the Haxorus toward the hole.

    Hanson’s brow beaded with sweat. “This can’t be happening…” He reached for Razor’s Pokeball. “I can recall him and send him away from—”

    He groped empty space, then looked down. The gilded Pokeball was gone.

    The Master Ball was knocked from his hand, suddenly floating away. A Zoroark appeared and ran away from him, her back missing patches of fur and revealing raw, red skin.

    Hanson looked down at his hand, then back at Razor. “Don’t fail me, Razor! We can’t lose, not again!” he bellowed, running awkwardly toward Cassia.

    The Haxorus—now perched at the edge of the hole, suddenly punched Lawrence across his jaw, knocking him to the floor. His mouth glowed violet once more, preparing to strike Lawrence with another Dragon Pulse.

    He suddenly glowed red, then shrunk into a sphere of light. He returned to the Pokeball in Cassia’s outstretched claws, which hung over the edge of the pit. She dropped it.

    Hanson fell to the edge of the pit and reached out to the falling ball, his finger grazing its surface. “No!” It clattered against the rubble below, useless to its owner.

    Hanson seethed, holding his hand in the air. “That’s…that’s…” He leered at Cassia and hissed, “Conniving, deceitful, savage—”

    Cassia held her claws underneath his chin, cutting him short. “You just described yourself.” She studied the Master Ball, then dropped it into the pit as well. “You say you want the best for the world, but you’re willing to do the worst to obtain it.” She removed her claws, then set them against her bag. “If it wasn’t for me, you would have made the worst mistake in your life.”

    “If it wasn’t for you, every trainer in the world would have exactly what they wanted!” Hanson roared, standing up. “I devoted my life to creating communication between Pokemon and humans, and you are taking away the only way to that!” He jabbed a finger at Lawrence, who now stood straight with his arms crossed. “And you! You betrayed my company, leaving it for Pokemon! You left me for pets!

    “They are not pets. You know it,” Lawrence replied. He paced around the pit and grabbed Hanson’s collar, bringing his eyes close to his. “I’m warning you now: don’t try to find us. I’m taking them somewhere far away, somewhere where they can be safe from men like you.” His other paw glowed blue. “I’ll make you pay if you do.” He released Hanson’s collar, then looked over to Cassia. “I’m sick of this place. Let’s get out of here.” He walked away from Hanson, leaving the shaken, defeated man.

    He and Cassia stepped in front of the warehouse door, where the trash container materialized. He leaned over to Cassia’s ear and whispered, “Good thing you had those Rawst berries.” He held an aura sphere in his paws and sent it straight through the warehouse door, punching a sizable hole inside it. They rolled the container out into the cold air of Castelia, hastening their pace to the dock.

    As the can clattered away, Hanson quaked, staring at the hole. “All that money…all that time…wasted…” He balled his fists, continuing to stare. “Mark my words, Lawrence Stephenson, I will find you and take my Pokemon back. Project Babel will continue, no matter what it takes!”

    ~~~~

    On Sheffield’s ship, he and Erica stood on the railing, looking out across Castelia. Debbie the Chatot flew overhead, occasionally squawking as the crew paced across the decks.

    “When do you think he’ll be here?” Erica asked.

    “Not got a clue. Ought to get here soon though; I’m just loaning this beauty till she sets sail for some fancy cruise,” Sheffield replied. He pulled at his collar, coughing slightly. “Yeah, I had to pull a few punches to get the guy to lend it to me. Good thing he trusted me with it—for a little while at least.” He squinted, gripping the guiderail. “Oi, is that Lawrence coming?”

    Erica squinted as well, noticing a large, clattering shape approaching from the darkness. They grew closer, and a bruised and battered man came into view, pushing a trash container alongside an equally beaten Zoroark.

    Sheffield waved his hands and bellowed, “Ahoy, Lawrence! High time you showed up! I was about to set sail without you!”

    “Get ready to leave, now!” he cried, carefully wheeling the container down the steps to the dock.

    Sheffield nodded and stomped away, shouting. “Oi, you heard the man! Get this ship ready for leavin’!” As his crew shouted orders and prepared to leave, he turned back and cocked his head curiously. “Erica here said you’d be bringin’ a bunch of people with ya or somethin. Where are they?”

    Lawrence and the Zoroark wheeled the container up the gangplank, heading toward Sheffield and Erica. “Just go!” Lawrence said as he stopped in front of him, the container screeching to a halt.

    Sheffield stepped around them and tipped his cap off to the Zoroark. “Pretty Pokemon you have there, Lawrence. I wasn’t aware you had one.”

    “Thank you,” she replied, smiling.

    Sheffield’s jaw dropped. “Did…did she just—”

    “I’ll explain later!” Lawrence hastily said, pushing Sheffield toward the stairs. He looked back to the Zoroark and said, “Erica, could you help Cassia get the Pokemon below deck?”

    Erica, equally stunned, nodded slowly as Lawrence ascended the stairs with a stricken Sheffield. She turned to Cassia, who gripped the trashcan and adjusted the bag over her shoulder.

    The Zoroark looked over to the stairs, then leaned over Erica. “Erica, right?”

    Erica blinked, then shook herself and said, “Y-Yes.”

    Cassia held out her claws, beaming. “Cassia Zoroark. It’s nice to see a friendly face around here for once.”

    Erica accepted her hand dumbly, shaking it. “Nice to meet you too.” She fiddled with a length of hair and said, “When Lawrence said there were Pokemon who could talk, I didn’t believe him. But now…”

    “Everyone else is in here.” Cassia opened the trash can lid, revealing the thousands of Master Balls inside.

    Erica’s eyes widened. “T-That’s a lot.”

    “I know, and they’re sure to want out,” Cassia said, closing the lid. “Can you take me down to the…hold, was it?”

    Erica swallowed, the nodded her head and said, “Yeah, sure. Had the tour and everything.” She pointed down the deck with a quivering finger. “Just head on that way and go to the big door. Can’t miss it.”

    Cassia began pushing the trash can, then came next to Erica and said, “Could you, um…help me, a bit later?”

    Erica eyed her curiously. “With what?”

    ~~~~

    “You never told me you had Pokemon that could talk!” Sheffield blasted, storming up the stairs and past sailors rushing back and forth.

    Lawrence struggled to keep up, feeling uneasy as it was. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, but I was sort of pressed for time. Plus, you wouldn’t have believed me anyway.”

    Sheffield threw open the door to the navigation room, then pointed Lawrence. “Darn right, I wouldn’t. Till now.” He crossed around the table covered in maps and around various navigation systems to the single wheel at the front, with a full top-down view of the ship and the ocean beyond. “You better tell me what you’ve been doing for the past month!” He adjusted some controls, and the ship lurched backward.

    Lawrence stumbled to a seat as Sheffield remained as still as a plank. He sighed and zipped up his jacket. “It’s a long story…”

    ~~~~

    Bright, orange light flooded the sky, brightening for a brand-new day. The ocean remained still, the waves barely coming across. Wingull cawed above, flying over the sea in search of food. Goldeen and Wishiwashi swam beneath the surface, cutting between the seaweed and rocks. Kingler and Krabby bubbled on the sandy seafloor, skittering past Mareanie and other deep sea Pokemon.

    A triple-decked liner cleaved through the ocean, leaving behind the distant coast of Unova. Its pristine white reflected the sun’s rays, meshing with the dark windows of the numerous suites. Occasional footsteps clattered against the salt-covered deck, mostly quiet except for the thrumming motor in its heart. Trolleys laden with food wheeled to the various doors on the decks, all being pushed be Sheffield’s crew. They silently entered each room and visited the Pokemon inside, offering them refreshment on their long voyage to Sinnoh.

    Lawrence sat on the deck at the prow of the ship, breathing deeply. His brown hair was neatly swept to the side, and his face sported several bandages. He was unbothered by the smell of the sea and the swaying of the ship—comforted by the fact he was returning home.

    Boots clapped across the deck behind him, and Sheffield appeared, holding two glasses of dark liquid in his hands. He chuckled, sitting alongside Lawrence and setting the glasses between them. “You tell some tall tales, Lawrence, and I like that. A whole tribe of talking Pokemon, in this very ship. Can’t say I saw it coming.” He pointed at the glass closest to Lawrence. “Want one?”

    Lawrence shook his head. “I don’t drink.”

    Sheffield shrugged, taking them both for himself. “More for me then.” He took a swig from one and sighed contentedly, then looked over to Lawrence. “You told me where you’ve been. Now where are you heading? You brought nothing except those Pokemon from ‘Equivos’—you didn’t even bring an extra shirt.”

    “I didn’t have all that much in my apartment, so I didn’t bother packing; I have more clothes waiting for me at my parent’s house.” He leaned his arms against the floor and continued, “I’ll just head over to Solaceon town and bring everyone with me. I plan on making a home for them in the Mount Coronet reserve. There’s plenty of space there, and as long as we lay low, the rangers won’t be any trouble.”

    “And how do you plan on doing that? I doubt you’ll be able to just hide in the bushes with that crowd you’ve got, and you certainly can’t build a few houses.”

    “Funny thing; there’s this cave system I found one day that’s connected to the range. With enough money, I can convert it to a colony of sorts. Rig it up with lighting, buildings, all sorts of things.”

    Sheffield chuckled, taking another drink. “While clever, it ain’t cheap, and in case you weren’t aware, you’re out of a job.”

    Lawrence smiled, sitting straight. “I’ll be fine for a while. Turned out that Hanson paid me soon after I came back. I just transferred it to a separate account, so he couldn’t take it back.”

    Sheffield laughed again, patting Lawrence on the back. “Well played and serves ole Hanson right.” He leaned over and said, “How much did he give you?”

    Lawrence came closer and whispered, “Five-hundred grand.”

    Sheffield gawked, leaning away. “You can’t be serious.”’

    “I’m serious. He said he was giving me a bonus for me going to Equivos, but I never thought it’d be that much.” Lawrence leaned back again, his smile fading. “You know…Hanson isn’t that bad of a person. He did some bad things, but he was always trying to do the right thing.” He sighed. “But that doesn’t mean I can just let him do what he likes.”

    They remained silent for a moment, then Sheffield raised his glasses and said, “Well…I’ll be headin’ back up to the wheel. Feel free to come up and have a chat when you get the chance.” He plodded away, with Debbie flapping down and landing on shoulder with a squawk.

    Soon after, soft footsteps echoed behind Lawrence. He looked behind him and saw Erica, wearing a light blue shirt with a white skirt, with a Pokeball clipped to the belt. Her red hair was bundled together and lay across her shoulder.

    She sat on her knees, looking out to the sky. “Thanks.”

    Lawrence cocked his head. “For what?”

    “For letting me come. I’ve been wanting to go home for years now, but I could never pull together the money to do it. Now I can see my family in person again.” She smiled, nodding toward the suites. “Plus, there’s also your ‘company’.”

    “You like them?”

    “Of course I do! They’re all wonderful Pokemon, all with their own stories and interests! And they all believe in Arceus too!” She huffed, tapping her fingers against her knee. “Honestly, I wish I had a people like them in my church.” She stared for a moment, then asked, “I asked a bunch of them about you, and they all said you were a great Lucario, even greater than some other one named Matheus. Why’s that?”

    Lawrence straightened, smiling sheepishly. “T-They really said that?”

    “Why would I lie about something like that?”

    He blew out his breath, then held out his wrist and pulled back his sleeve, revealing the mark of Arceus. “I can turn into a Lucario by holding this symbol down.”

    Erica gawked at it, then closed her eyes and shook her head, backing away. “One crazy thing after another…” She looked around for a moment, then said, “I’ll…I’ll be going down to see if Cassia’s doing better.” She paused, then added, “I’m surprised she grew her fur back so fast with that red light.” She walked away, leaving Lawrence alone once more.

    He remained for several minutes, until feet padded up from the same direction Erica left. Without looking back, Lawrence said, “How’s Cassia doing?”

    “I’m doing just fine.”

    Caught by surprise, Lawrence looked behind him and froze. A pale-skinned woman stood with bare feet, wearing a simple white dress and a golden brooch in the shape of the arc of Arceus. Her hair was a dark, pure red, with black streaks scattered throughout it. She smiled beautifully, complementing her warm, blue eyes.

    Lawrence stood up, studying her eyes. “…Cassia?”

    She held up her wrist, revealing a symbol exactly like Lawrence’s. “Looks like we’re joined together after all. Just like he said.” She stepped forward unsteadily, stumbling. Lawrence caught her, and she laughed uneasily, looking down at her fingers. “I’ll have to get used to having hands like this.” She stood straight and rubbed the skin on her arm. “And it’s so strange not having fur.”

    Lawrence remained still, considering his own hand. “Similar sort of thing with me—except I had to deal with a tail”

    Cassia laughed and sat at the prow, gently pulling him down to sit next to her. “I’m a lot like you. In a strange place, filled with people I have never known—all in a body that’s unfamiliar to me.” She hugged Lawrence across his shoulder, closing her eyes. “And you happened to meet me, to have me be your guide.” She nestled her head onto his other shoulder. “And now I want you to be mine. Will you?”

    Lawrence’s surprise melted away for peace, and he returned the embrace. “Of course.”

    They sat together at the prow, journeying to their home, fully trusting in Arceus that all would be well.

    ~~~~

    Years Later…

    In a different world, a vast sea stretched on for eternity, crystal-clear and endlessly deep. The sky was a pure light blue, yet no sun could be seen. A slow, gentle wind blew, yet no tides appeared on the water’s surface.

    An island rose from the depths, made of pure, white stone. An enormous, shining tree grew on top of it, its roots wrapping eternally around the stone and its branches fanning to great distances. Light threaded through its bark, pulsing at varying degrees. No mark or blemish lay anywhere on its surface, completely perfect.

    Pokémon roamed through the vast canopy, crossing walkways made solely from the branches. Plateaus arose from the trunk and other branches, and spires sprung up. Berry bushes and fruit trees erupted from the bark, and springs of pure, fresh water flowed into pools. An entire world of Pokémon resided here, each with an aura of light surrounding them.

    The Pokémon spoke and played with each other, no purer joys to be found. No houses or belongings existed in the tree—Pokémon rested in the nests of leaves when needed, only to continue their life of peace. They could craft what they wished with only a thought, from a plaything to a delicious meal, thanks to the wisps of light that rose from the center of the tree and sought to assist.

    The Legends trod amongst them, each sharing glimpses of their storied past. All had completed their duty, and now they were free to be with the Pokémon they had helped create and protect. Water Pokémon swam in the pools, flying Pokémon soared through the trees—every environment a Pokémon would need existed here.

    Near the center of the tree, a Lucario sat, watching others of his kind congregate and laugh with each other. He waved to them, receiving a wave back from them. He passed by a group of Golurk, where one told of his time with a young Zoroark.

    At the center of the canopy, where a natural stairwell descended. Veins of light pulsed all around. The narrow stairwell wrapped continuously around itself, descending for what seemed like eternity. A single exit appeared in the center of the soft wooden steps, then continued to descend.

    The circuits of light gradually dimmed, the bark of the tree turning coarse and rigid. It was dark save for the spheres of violet light that floated above sconces of wood, flickering.

    A gate of intertwined branches stood between the stairs and a hallway. Beyond it, numerous hallways stretched before him, all with rooms and gates of their own. Each held only a single Pokémon, with no light surrounding their bodies. Instead of a peaceful, cheering demeanor of those in the canopy, they were silent, ashamed, and miserable.

    The hallways branched and extended downward, the atmosphere turning grimmer the farther he went. One held the almighty Mewtwo, languishing in his cell for attempting to control the world. Farther down, a Xatu stared in contemplation, dwelling on how he proposed a world without evil, and created the blade necessary to make it come to pass.

    Down toward the bottom of the cells, a Zoroark sat in the center of the ridged, rooted room. His thoughts seemed to echo all around him, free to float after years of madness: “I failed…but I don’t care. Arceus has won, and now I have no chance of seeing my family again…ever.”

    Arthus made no movement, staring at the floor. “I only wanted everyone to be free from sorrow, the sorrow that I brought upon myself and others. I wanted to prevent that, but no one listened.” He let his head fall against the wall. “And now here I stay, to waste away for the rest of eternity.”

    Time passed, and he did nothing. Nothing but consider his actions, and the situation he now stood in. “The afterlife is…brighter, than I expected. In the branches, at least. In the brief moments I had there when I died, it felt joyous. But when I came here…” He shuddered.

    He remembered the crowd he saw surrounding those that died in the final destruction of Equivos. He thought he saw his beloved wife, standing amongst them and witnessing his banishment. He cringed, clutching his head. “If…if I had followed through with Arceus’ plan, none of this would have happened. Even with Corrina gone, I could have turned a new leaf, renounced everything Gregorius ever taught me. Then, I would have at least been together with her in the canopy, along with Cassia and the rest of my descendants.”

    He glared at the wall. “But it was never to be. Not with what I did.”

    More time passed, and his memories haunted him. Every death, every betrayal, every evil act remained in his consciousness on their own accord. He tried to block them out, using his mental strength, but they continued to bash against, as if they were empowered by an unseen force. He screamed throughout the nightmares, the guilt and shame empowered by the roots of the Tree of Life driving away any justification he may have had. The sadness of never seeing his family—the core of his actions in life—only amplified his pain.

    In a brief moment of peace, he huddled in the corner, rocking on his feet. His eyes closed, he couldn’t bear to see the realm he had doomed himself to, all while saying in his mind: “I deserve this—all the death, carnage, and loss brought me here. All of it.” He dug his claws into his skin, but nothing bled; his body was immune to harm. He cursed and thought, “Let me fade and die…I don’t deserve to exist. I should never have been born.”

    The nightmares returned, and he screamed once more. He banged his head against the walls, feeling no pain, yet receiving temporary respite from the plaguing memories. Yet it did nothing to drive away the overflowing guilt of his life, no matter the good he had done before his spiraling downfall.

    In one moment of agony, Arthus stood erect and screamed, “I should never have taken you, Arceus! I should never have denied you! You are the only way to joy! You are the only way to peace! I beg of you—make it stop! AAUUGH!” He pounded his fists against the floor and sobbed, his final memories with Cassia returning to him in a torrent.

    What felt like years later, the memories stopped. He kept praying for Arceus to save him, just as he had done as a child, years ago. He realized that his torture had ended and stood upright.

    Unsure he looked up. “Ar…Arceus? Is it…over?”

    The gate of his cell lifted, and the Zoroark paused, opening his eyes and lowering his arms. The pure, blue eyes stared at the Lucario, no anger or chill in their gaze.

    Arthus wrapped his arms around himself, looking away from the Lucario. “Matheus…you’ve come.”

    Matheus remained still. “Yes, Arthus. I’ve come.”

    Arthus turned away from him, burying his face in his arms. “Leave…please. I can’t bear seeing a Pokémon I hurt—especially you.”

    Matheus stepped inside. “You aren’t the same Pokémon that died.”

    Arthus paused. “Torture…that’s what it was. All the Pokémon I killed return to haunt me. All the lives I ruined, all the families I broke…all because I claimed I had a better way.” He shook his head. “But I couldn’t rely on myself in that torture, or anyone else. Only when I pleaded for Arceus did I feel peace.” He slumped his shoulders. “It feels…strange, for me to say it. Arceus never made a mistake; I did. I strove for good things, and good things happened. He let us have choice so we could make a better future than he ever could. He can create, but we can aspire.”

    He turned back to Matheus, avoiding his gaze. “I always knew it…I just let the darkness of the world crowd my vision.” He pressed a hand against his forehead and groaned, “You…Azure…Cassia…Erik…Laryon…everyone suffered because of me. I became the darkness I wanted to destroy. Gregorius tempted me, and I took his bait. I acted under his beliefs…and look what happened.”

    He fell to his knees, sobbing. “Just leave me, Matheus. I’m worthless. Pathetic. All that rage and death was a means to hide my sorrow. The only thing that made me happy after I emerged from the cocoon was my sweet Cassia…and even she saw the monster I was.”

    Matheus remained silent. He slowly walked to Arthus and set a paw on his shoulder. Arthus flinched, staring at Matheus, then at his paw.

    Matheus stood still. “Arthus…do you remember what we always said about each other?”

    Arthus sniffed, nodding. “That you kept me from madness—”

    “And you kept me from killing myself. We meant it in a joking way, but it was true. We kept each other in check, with your concern for others’ wellbeing countering my recklessness, and my positive outlook on Equivos countering your negative. Without each other, we both fell from grace.”

    Matheus lowered his head and closed his eyes. “It was my fault you changed. If I had never left for the Isle of Regret to complete the Trials, none of this would have happened.”

    “No.” Arthus pulled away. “I’m the one who found Gregorius. I’m the one who used the Edge. I’m the one who stole Arceus. None of it was your fault. None of it.” He retreated to the other corner and said, “If you’re here to apologize, then it’s no use. I’m the one who needs to apologize. Not you.”

    Matheus remained at the corner. “…You remind me of myself. Broken, dejected—I felt like no one loved me because I had abandoned them in their time of need, and to an extent, it was true. I wanted to hide, to be destroyed, to become nothing if only to avoid guilt.”

    “Unlike you, I deserve it,” Arthus croaked.

    Matheus stood at the door and pointed at Arthus. “You do. There is no denying that. But unlike most Pokémon here in the roots, you have a chance to redeem yourself—all because you realized that Arceus could save you.”

    Arthus’ eyes widened. He threw himself at Matheus’ paws and pleaded, “Please, please, let me be free! I will do anything, anything, to get rid of this guilt, this sadness, everything!”

    Matheus grimaced, shaking his head slowly. “If only it were so simple. First, I must ask you a question.” He leaned in close and held Arthus’ head still. “Will you renounce everything you previously believed, and proclaim Arceus to be your only path, even if it means you remain down here forever?”

    Arthus hesitated. He considered all he had fought for in the past two-thousand years: to fight Arceus and bring his own vision of perfect world to be. It had been all he wanted, but his ulterior motive was to reverse the consequence of his worst mistake—of killing Corrina.

    He thought of this—but then of when he followed Arceus. In his youth, he imprisoned outlaws, created the Guild, had his family. He had everything he had longed for and could wish for nothing else.

    Yet he had fled the individual who made it all possible: Arceus.

    Slowly, Arthus nodded his head.

    Matheus stared, then smiled. He stepped away and held up his paw. “I cannot guarantee you can exit the roots…but I can assure you that I will come once every month, to reeducate you about Arceus. If and when he sees fit, he will call you to the canopy to join his other followers.”

    Arthus remained on the ground, tear-stricken. He shakily looked up at Matheus. “Can…can I see Corrina? Or Erik? They are all I’ve wanted since I’ve come here…I don’t know how much more I can take without them.

    Matheus’ smile faded. “Those in punishment are not allowed to see those who have proven worthy for Arceus’ presence.” Arthus closed his eyes, fully expecting it.

    Suddenly, Matheus smiled. “But, as servant of Arceus, I asked him to make an exception—but only one.” He rapped his paw against the gate, and it rose, revealing a young female Zoroark wearing a golden pendant around her neck.

    Arthus froze. She stepped inside, bright, contrasting with his stale appearance. He stood up slowly, completely stunned.

    Quietly, Matheus said, “This is the one time you may meet with her before you must continue with your confinement. With time, Arceus may release you.” He paused, then smiled “I look forward to when we can stand together as friends once more.”

    Arthus embraced his wife, rocking with her in his arms “Corrina…I’ve…I’ve missed you.”

    She nodded her head, crying as well. “I missed you too.” She stepped back and clutched his shoulders. “Promise me…come back. Live with me, and Erik, and everyone else. I’ve gone two thousand years without you, and I don’t want to wait two-thousand more.”

    Arthus nodded his head constantly as she stepped away, falling to his knees once more. “Yes…yes…yes…”

    Corrina stepped out of the room, and Matheus followed. As the gate lowered once more, Matheus said, “I will see you next month.”

    The gate gently fell on the wood, and Arthus forced himself to calm. He looked up at the ceiling, and for once in his afterlife, he smiled. “Thank you…Arceus…for letting me see her again…even if it will take me an eternity to truly be with her…” He sat cross-legged in the floor, a familiar wisp of light entering through the gaps of the gate and touching his chest.

    In the center of the tree of life, Arceus watched Arthus from a clear sphere, motionless. He stood in a room with walls thick with books, drifting in and out of their shelves to be written into by golden threads, all joining with Arceus’ arc. They wrote golden letters inside the different works, recording the events of entire worlds in their pages. The shelves spiraled high into the canopy and low into the roots, spreading even into the branches.

    In front of Arceus was a table with designs of all the Pokémon he had created, interwoven with humans amongst them, all beautifully intertwined. A thick tome lay on top of the table, its last few pages being written into by several threads.

    As the last words trailed onto the paper, Arceus said, “All may be brought to happiness as long as they follow my direction, one of peace and love. Treat others like yourself; a simple, yet powerful way to live. If all follow these words, evil shall be no more. Some who follow my words—the most devoted and worthy—may earn the privilege to learn my works, and to create worlds of their own.”

    He closed the book, and another materialized next to it, its pages blank. “The children of Equivos live on with their Keeper and Priestess. Their story has ended, only for another to begin.” His lights began writing rapidly inside as he stamped his foot.

    “My word shall never die, and my work shall never end.”

    End of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Unequivocant
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2018
  6. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    Chapter 31: Epilogue

    [This chapter has been removed. Thank you for reading.]
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2018
  7. Marika_CZ

    Marika_CZ Well-Known Member

    Sooo... after a long time I finally finished Ch20 and it is time to comment on Act 3.
    A little disclaimer here - somewhere around Ch17-18 I took a break and didn't go back to the story until last week. So my comments may be inaccurate here and there (if so, I apologize).

    As usual let's start with the good stuff, and then move on to criticizing bits.

    I liked training scenes and interactions in the early Act3 chapters. As before you did great job with Matheus. He is likable and fun to read, and quickly becomes my favorite character in your story.
    I love this guy.

    Another thing I liked were the short flashbacks to Lawrence's past at the beginning of each chapter. We know at this point where Cassia and Grom come from, but we didn't know what happened to Lawrence prior Unova. Now we are getting it, gradually, and it explains Lawrence's inward conflict and his opinions at the beginning of the story.

    Lawrence & Cassia's relationship: I like how you didn't let their love story become the main focus, it would fit the story anyway, but it has its purpose (power of friendship/love - which is good choice for the classic Good vs. Evil story). I also like how it has vibes of teenage love despite them being young adults (it took them long to realize the feelings and they are still sort of awkward around each other and joking about it). This is because they actually are the youngest of the main characters afaik, so it is fitting.

    Gardner's character development: Mostly liked that one. It is always interesting to see villainous character start doubting themselves and eventually realize they are unhappy and need to change their lives (it has been done thousand times before, but this is one cliche I will never mind or get tired of). However it felt a bit forced too. So Gardner really has been flawless servant for almost two decades, and only then he f*cked up? Also, he never encountered a ghost type begging for a bit of Life during all those long years (to take pity on)? That is kinda hard to believe.
    As I said I liked it happening tho. It also allowed for us to see Arceus is indeed personally engaged in this conflict, even if s/he doesn't show up themselves officially.

    And finally, Johto Journeys! Eh, I mean, Equivos Journeys!: This one was originally going to be a negative point, but Chapter 20 retroactively justified it. Let me explain what I mean here.
    Most of the Act 3 has this feel of episodic show; we go through several places and meet many one off characters (including the villains). Yes, important things do happen - acquiring Aura, Hoopa exposition, Arthus learning who is enemies are (and what important little item they have), and him working on outsmarting the heroes in several ways. However we didn't need specifically water/rock village nor ice/fire community with insane Delibird and murderous Avalugg for that. Replace them with any other one off characters and the plot will remain basically the same.
    Because of this it had the feel of a filler, but it turns out it served another (almost meta) purpose. The seemingly lower stakes ensured the showdown with Arthus in ch20 would be more tense and had a better impact on the audience.
    Was this intentional?

    And now, the things that didn't work for me.

    Arthus' behavior: This guy suffers from what some call "villain decay" or "badass decay." He was introduced as completely ruthless, and and some points you let him kill others for merely speaking what he didn't want to hear. Gardner should have been killed three times by now (and he does much more than speaking up). Instead Arthus doesn't even punish the guy (not in his supposedly ruthless fashion, anyway) and just whines "How dare you!", multiple times - be very careful with this, it greatly undermines the image of cruel warrior villain. It is very difficult to see him as brutal killer after displaying such weakness.
    Of course there is this excuse which Arthus always remembers to say aloud "If I didn't need you..." and variants of that. But that will only work if you prove that is the case and you better do so as soon as possible. Instead Arthus never needed Gardner at all (every important action during Act3 has been done by Arthus himself, with Gardner basically tagging along and refusing to obey an occasional order while insulting his boss... why is he alive again?).
    I am serious about this, in a an analytic way: Exactly what couldn't Arthus do himself that warranted Gardner alive?
    There was no place that only ghost types could enter; no obstacle that needed exclusively ghost type move/attack; no secret Hoopa-bottle-opening-artifact which would require an eye of Dusknoir to be created (sorry that sounds silly, it was just random stuff from the top of my head).
    I feel like something like this should have come up, because now it looks like Arthus spared Gardner just so he could have his little redemption arc. Either that or kill Gardner off outright, which would send immediate message to the readers that Arthus means business kidz.
    And nope, his off-screen kills and destruction of Virona don't really count, sorry :/ Those characters didn't even have names and existed in exactly one paragraph for the sole purpose of being killed anyway. Very hard to cry for them. I was moved more by that tiny Duskull (who was killed after Gardner was kind to it) than by entire Virona.
    Killing nameless characters with no relevance to the plot is easy, but doesn't have much of an impact. And refusing to kill important character when their death would be actually plausible smells of Plot armor.
    One last thing, nope Arthus didn't need Gardner even for the final trap/battle in ch20 because Arthus could have easily replace him with anyone else who is a capable fighter. Heroes were the ones who needed Gardner there (to betray Arthus). This makes Arthus' choices rather questionable, especially since he already knew he couldn't rely on Gardner's loyalty at this point.

    Arthus' actions: This is basically related to above, but I noticed some plot holes as a result of Arthus' plan to get the Hoopa bottle:
    • took the bottle when Matheus was asleep - why didn't he kill them all and take Cassia if he had this opportunity? Then he could have fixed the Seal without giving the protagonists a chance to foil his plans (also why not take the Illusion stone at this point? Why bother with the whole Xatu act?)

    • double crossing Hoopa - why? What does he gain by this? This threatens his only means of restoring the Seal (even if Hoopa bluffed, why take such a huge risk? he is only one step from fulfilling his dream)

    • the whole Seal restoration while battling the heroes reminds me of Bond villains (even if he really wanted to confront them - he should have restored the Seal first undisturbed, and only then when invincible, finally go meet them)
    To tell you the truth I am not sure how to fix these (provided you agree of course). I would kill Gardner off, but that seems out of question, because you gave him a purpose during the ch20 showdown. Or perhaps consider introducing us to Virona Pokemon properly before Arthus kills them off. Seeing some of the residents watch their children/parents/friends die as their home burns around them would make for quite a tragedy - perhaps you could go that way? Not sure.

    As for plot holes, that is even more challenging. Not sure how much plot relevance will Hoopa have after this point; if none, you could perhaps change how their deal goes if you wanted to. No idea if there is other way for Arthus to obtain the bottle, or even if you would like to commit to the rewrite of that in the first place.

    At any rate, thanks for fun read! Arthus disappointed a bit this time around, but I liked everything else you did, especially the chemistry and relationships among the protagonists. See you in Act 4!
     
  8. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    I always enjoy writing about Matheus as well. In his previous incarnations--in my non-canon stories--he was more of a goofball, and didn't really show that he was a great fighter. I really fixed it up here.

    When I got to writing this act, I knew that readers needed to see more of Lawrence's life, specifically what lead him to eventually leave Arceism and Sinnoh, and how his issues with it are addressed with his interactions with Cassia. There wasn't enough content to simply make a special episode, like what I did for Cassia and Grom, so I decided to but in bits at a time.

    Also, there's the fact that neither of them have had much experience with love; Cassia's been on the run for most of her life, and Lawrence has always been rather isolated from his peers, so they haven't had time to develop this area of life.

    I can understand your concern; no servant is really perfect, and it would be rather strange to say that he has never had a ghost encounter him asking for Life. The latter is easily resolved: our little Duskull can reference the fact that other ghosts have been turned away or worse. As for the first, I can just put notes throughout Arthus' dialogue with him in Acts 2 and 3 referencing the fact he has made mistakes before, but none as serious as this.

    Also, nice eye for seeing that Arceus was the voice in Gardner's head. I wanted to only be implied, so it might sail over other readers' heads.

    I did want to build up to what happened in Chapter 20, but I won't claim it was intentional in this way. I wanted to show how life was in these different portions of Equivos, and how there are a variety of ways malicious Pokemon can take control, and that it often isn't a simple 'we must drive out the Guild!' as I've implied before these chapters.

    So, yes, they are filler chapters, to an extent. Really, the communities provided a setting for my plot and character development, along with building up to the battle in chapter 20.

    I remember something like this being referenced in another review I received, but it wasn't very clear, so I didn't act much on it. I definitely think that Gardner needs to play a more vital role throughout this act, at least more than the guy who visibly chases Lawrence and everyone else.

    I do agree on Virona. Usually with deaths I try and make it so they have an impact, whether it be on the characters or on the reader. Instead, I was focused on how Arthus might approach a town that may end up turning against him, and so that's how that scene turned out. Given that Gardner has expressed his desire to keep Virona alive, he could have gone into the city while it was falling apart and try to save some of the Pokemon, but ultimately fail. He already defied Arthus in this scene, and it wouldn't be too much of a jump.

    It would even be better if I put in an additional scene showing Gardner interacting in the city while Arthus remains in the sidelines. Remember how Arthus is choosing to keep his presence a relative secret outside the Guild? He can investigate things himself, but Gardner is seen as a leader in this Guild-controlled city, so he could play a role in trying to reverse this slackening control, but Arthus sees it as a lost cause, so he takes matters into his own hands.

    But then there's the issue of Arthus not actively doing anything to punish Gardner for his insubordination, and also the fact he doesn't do anything vital for Arthus in the act. Sure, having more actions in Virona would help, but those would ultimately not matter in the scheme of the plot, as it only serves to have better impact to the readers and some greater development on Gardner's part.

    I think that Arthus would give a warning to Gardner each time the first and second time he disobeys, but on the third strike, he would make Gardner suffer for it, rather than simply ranting and raving. But I would go so far as death, as he does play a more important role in Act 4, one that can't be replaced. So while I can improve Arthus' reactions, there is still the matter of improving Gardner's importance to Arthus.

    I can see two areas to place importance: during the journey to the temple, and in the temple itself. It may be better to not have Matheus have the bottle, and instead have it be in a location that is completely closed off from Arthus. Maybe, for example, a narrow tunnel in the Xilo Mountains that can't simply be blasted through, and requires a ghost's touch to access? Gardner would be needed there, especially since he is the only ghost that Arthus (mostly) trusts in. I can resolve the situation with Matheus' transportation by saying he had arranged to meet with Hoopa in Cretea at that specific time, so there would be no need for the bottle. If anything, it's more risky for him to carry the bottle anyway, in case someone like ARhtus would take it from him.

    As for Gardner's importance in the temple, maybe that is where he can come into play with the Illusion Stone, or Grom's missing piece. Rather than Arthus simply throwing it--which, in hindsight, is an incredibly unlikely feat--Gardner can stick it into his head.

    On a note that can relate to your previous point of Gardner dying, maybe Arthus can propose Gardner to be a sacrifice to Hoopa rather than allowing him to be released. This would instantly give Gardner even more justification in turning against him, and can give Arthus a morbid purpose in keeping him around. Of course, he would cheat Hoopa out of taking him by saying that since Gardner doesn't belong to him, he can't bargain him away. This, combined with Arthus taking his freedom, could make a less-predictable twist, along with the aforementioned points.


    The following bullets are based on your first point.
    • The first point would be resolved by making it so the bottle is hidden in the mountains rather than simply having Matheus carry it. As for him not using it right then and there, maybe the temple would provide a better environment to call Hoopa. Remember how in the main games Hoopa Unbound remains for three days before changing back? Maybe something similar can happen here, where he has freedom to roam for three days, but to be freed, someone needs to wish for it. The temple is closed off, as well as being a danger to destroy, as shown with the final sequence. He would be forced to stay there--for at least a little while, considering he is a Legend of massive power.
    • On the previous point, I feel the need to explain why Arthus went with the Xatu guise. He wanted to bring all our protagonists to the temple, and he saw Lawrence as a vehicle for this due to his desire to return home. So while he and everyone else may have a reason to go to the temple, Arthus does not have a reason for them to be there. I'd say that making it a trap for Grom to be under his control again is good, but he could have done that anywhere along the journey. Cassia could be captured, but, again, he could do that anywhere. Lawrence is their drive for going to the temple, but Arthus doesn't really have anything against him outside of being a Lucario, and even then, he could have killed him anywhere if he wanted to. So the only option is Matheus. Maybe Arthus wanted his 'favorite' Legend to be in the perfect position for him to capture--in a closed, secluded place, ripe for absorbing into the seal.
    • Having everyone there can also appeal to another part of Arthus--his vanity. For the past 2000 years, he's been dwelling on taking down Arceus with the Seal, and we've already seen that he is a rather flamboyant character in some instances. Maybe he wants Cassia to be present in the repairing of the Seal to have the opportunity to prove that he is right, and yet again the temple provides a perfect environment. No one can run away, and if we take that into account with his desire to have Grom as a servant and for Lawrence to be dead, this is too great a place to kill all these birds with one stone.
    Now for the second point:
    • Hoopa is an incredibly dangerous figure, as implied by the fact that his Confined form is so afraid of him, along with his appearance and abilities. Hoopa Unbound can also be rather unpredictable, so even if Arthus is immune to his powers with the Seal, he can still be hurt by punches and physical attacks since those aren't inherently exclusive to Legends. I think that Hoopa could take on Arthus pretty easily since he's extremely mobile with his fists, to the point that Arthus wouldn't have the opportunity to strike with the Seal. Then there's the fact that Hoopa could kill Arthus and use the Seal himself--something that Arthus would know is a real possibility and in direct conflict with his plans.
    • Despite the risks, Hoopa is the only way to repair the Seal, so Arthus would try and weave a web for Hoopa to fall into--in the case of a revised plan, offering Gardner first as a sacrifice, then offering Hoopa's freedom as a sweetener, linking it with Gardner's death. He would be forced to take it after the Seal is fixed, and when Arthus pulls his trump card by saying that Gardner's life isn't his to give, Hoopa wouldn't have his freedom, and Arthus could quickly send him back into te bottle before Hoopa could exact his revenge. You could argue that Arthus could simply absorb Hoopa even if he is freed, but Hoopa would no longer be affected by the bottle if he was freed, so Arthus would have a death sentence hanging over his head by letting Hoopa be free.
    And now the third point:
    • This one is trickiest to resolve, as even in the perfect environment and the excuse that he wants them to be present when he repairs the Seal, the point still stand that he could have simply done all this without them being present in the temple, then using the Seal accordingly. Why not have that happen?
    • Arthus could repair the Seal and do everything aforementioned, thus being ready for the protagonists when they come to send Lawrence home, only to discover that Tursha Xatu was really Arthus. Arthus could go through with showing the newly repaired Seal and explain how he had used Hoopa to do so, then detail how he plans to deal with everyone. Gardner does his part of reclaiming Grom, but before the conflict can begin, Gardner would take the Seal from Arthus and hide in the room as a form of a payback for using him as a bargaining chip for Hoopa. Matheus and Arthus would both try to claim the Seal, while Lawrence and Cassia try to bring Grom back to his senses.
    • Grom would nearly kill Cassia before Gardner sees the situation and changes him back with his Life crystal, which stuns him and forces him to drop the Seal. Matheus would snatch it, but Arthus would fight him for it. Then the scene with Grom and Cassia would occur, and Grom would go beserk, destroying the pillars and leading up to the collapse. He would strike Matheus and force him to drop the Seal, allowing Arthus to take it. But Arthus would also be hit back, but he manages to keep his grip.
    • Through all this, Gardner sees the inevitable collapse of the temple, and goes to pull open the door. Despite his injuries, Lawrence tries to take Cassia back with him to the entrance, but they are both hit by Grom as well, with Lawrence ending up near Matheus and Cassia near Arthus. The temple begins to fall apart, and Gardner manages to lift and secure the door. Matheus and Lawrence manage to escape, but when Matheus goes to save Cassia--even with Arthus assisting by pullg her toward the door--the Temple collapses.
    I think that this is a far better way to execute Chapter 20.

    Thank your for your comments, they ended up being invaluable to what I felt was a somewhat-lackluster act. Keep in mind that Act 5 is scheduled to be split from the story to be its own sort of sequel, so Act 4 will be the end.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2018
  9. Marika_CZ

    Marika_CZ Well-Known Member

    You could go with that, yes. But careful, this is one is risky. This basically gives Arthus yet another reason to kill Gardner outright. Which you don't want to happen. It needs to be done right. I was thinking about this and perhaps it would have been better if Gardner didn't openly defy Arceus every single time. You could make him pretend to apologize to Arthus for his failures and assure him his loyalty will never waver again (while he is secretely plotting to betray him anyway - this will make him cunning which honestly fits his personality... also doubles as "ironic echo" of his original pledge to Arthus which was actually a genuine one). The good thing is that it gives you extra excuse why Arthus didn't kill him yet; the bad thing is that means Gardner couldn't afford disobey orders in that case (Virona especially) - so you would have to rewrite those scenes. I don't know tbh, but it is also an option you have here.

    I got one more idea that would provide a viable reason for keeping Gardner alive, but.... it honestly feels far-fetched (pun not intended). You could have Gardner have some personal connection to Hoopa. Someting that makes Gardner able to turn Hoopa into his Unbound self. Arthus would know, hence why he recruited Gardner in the first place and kept him around for years (and why he never killed him). Maybe he even made Gardner forget everything about Hoopa while changing him (so that Gardner wouldn't ever use this as a leverage). This would further give more motivation to Gardner for joining him: he never was loyal to the original guild, he just wanted to go on explorations to have a chance of meeting Hoopa again. Arthus would be of course prefered as the guild leader because of his obsession with legendaries (more likely for Gardner to meet Hoopa). Fast forward to Ch20 - Arthus uses Gardner to "awaken" Hoopa, which restores Gardner's memories as a side-effect. Then he realizes Arthus never respected him, just used him. Then he sees Arthus tricking his friend Hoopa (yet another person who Garner cares about, screwed by Arthus!) and he finally has enough - maybe he steals the restored Seal; maybe leaves to warn Matheus? Up to you. If he warns Matheus, this could be used as an explanation why Arthus didn't fix the Seal first (because of Gardner's warning, Matheus arrives almost immediately while Arthus expected him to show up later).

    Whoops! I got carried away there, sorry X__x

    You could fix that by establishing that te Seal can be repaired in only such a location (hey maybe the elderly Metagross found this one out too, more reason for Arthus to like him), or that it can be done only under specific conditions, which this temple happens to provide -- alternatively maybe the temple somehow limits the power of legends, iirc Arceus did have to deal with rebelious legendaries in the past correct? So it is not completely unreasonable that there is some sort of device or trap for legendaries specifically. Arthus himself would be immune of course, if he does have the Seal repaired at this point (this shouldn't happen because he would be unstoppable then, but it could have been his plan).

    This one is an option too, but I think your former ideas are better. Vanity will explain why Arthus did what he did, but it won't change the fact it wasn't very smart thing to do.

    I like this one, it is actually very plausible explaination since we don't know much about Hoopa Unbound but we did hear some vague warnings from the bound Hoopa. Maybe that is it - he was sealed in the first place, because he turned villainous and threatened Arceus? Nope, Arthus definitely doesn't want such a rival running around free!

    The only problem is you need to make Arthus clearly state that or else it will look like he played Hoopa for lolz. (Bonus points: this will make Arthus look smart and forward thinking)

    I know I am repeating myself, but be very careful with this. Yes, this resolves a problem with Arthus not doing the smart thing, but also gives you new challenges:
    1. This will mean Arthus is essentialy a GOD OF THIS UNIVERSE. At this point, you can't just have Gardner make him trip and lose the seal or something simplistic like that, it would be incredibly silly and anti-climactic. Gardner better has some VERY good plan up his sleeve.
    2. What exactly is stopping Gardner from keeping the seal and becoming God himself (btw that would be a wonderful twist of events, but I don't think that is the direction you would want this story to go)? He has the working Seal of Creation in his own hands!

    Also another thing is if Arthus is God now, why isn't he already turning everyone into obedient slaves (but that one can be explained by either his vanity and wanting to settle the score with Matheus while he is conscious and self aware -- or by establishing that while the Seal is fixed, it will take some time for it recharge -or whatever- to be at its 100% power which it is not right now... or maybe Arthus needs experience to learn how to use it fully, whatever there are definitely plausible ways how to deal with it) ?

    Number 2 could be resolved by Gardner tricking Arthus in such a way he will never have the Seal physically in his hands (or that Matheus immediatelly relieves him of it) - telekinesis / magic / pokemon move or ability, e.g. he can distract Arthus so that one of the good guys snatches the Seal instead.
    ...Or maybe you just need to be a legend to be able to use the Seal?

    So it can work but it will be very tough to pull off. Not allowing Arthus to get the Seal in the first place would be safer route if you ask me (but would probably require more rewrites and changes to the plot). Well, up to you. Good luck either way.

    Oh and thank you for always going through my comments and elaborating on them. Makes me feel like the reviews are being really helpful.
     
  10. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    Hmm...you've got a point there. Even if Gardner is useful to him--particularly in retrieving the Prison Bottle--it wouldn't stop him from killing him after the fact. Gardner has already been shown to be a cunning fellow anyway, so it would fit him.

    Honestly, while this might be a cool idea, it feels like I'm changing up Gardner's arc too much, and the proposed change comes off as too sudden. Good idea still.

    Hmm...there's a thought. The temple was a location made to worship Arceus, so maybe it would amplify his presence there--or amplify the power of legends present, hence allowing Hoopa to have the capability to repair the seal.

    On the second note, I'll explain the situation with the Seal in a moment.

    Agreed, that's what I was planning.

    Simply activating the Seal does not automatically take Arceus' power. That would be overpowered and shortsighted on Arceus' part. No, the way it was designed is that it absorbs the powers of a Legend upon it contacting one--provided, of course, that someone else is wielding it. There's the tricky part on using it, as Arceus lives in a secluded place with the other Legends, and few dare go there. So even if the Seal is repaired, Arthus still has to physically go to Arceus and use his power.Hence why he needs Matheus to be nearby to pull him into the Seal.

    You're very welcome. I will definitely make sure to make these changes, but I'm in the midst of outlining the stories that act as continuations of Unequivocant, along with two prequels. When I have the chance, I'll make note of where I need to make changes, then I'll get to doing it. Given the scope of this revision, it will likely take a while, but it will be worth it.
     
  11. Marika_CZ

    Marika_CZ Well-Known Member

    Right! Finished Act 4!

    I am going to have fewer comments this time around, mostly because it felt like a breeze compared to Act 3.

    Btw. You mentioned your intention to redesign the story with Act 4 being the end and Act 5 being reworked into a sequel. I didn't start Ch27 yet so feel free to use my review as an opinion of person who doesn't know what follows.

    As usual let's start with the good points. Overall I liked this very much. Everything came together in the "prophecy has come true despite all odds"-style ending. The good guys overcame the more powerful villain and saved a lot of lives in the process. It is not exactly super original, but it is good in a classic tale of good versus evil ("The hero's journey" variant) way: Young hero sets out on a journey, meets beautiful kind princess and a wise elderly wizard/sage and after series of trials they overcome the evil sorcerer through their virtues and power of friendship/love.

    I came to like Lawrence, Cassia and Matheus (and poor Grom) because they were likable. I came to dislike Arthus for his murderous nature, misguided nihilistic attitude and utter hypocrisy. And in the end as expected, I see the heroes I like emerge victorious and have their reward while the villain fails in his insane quest and he is going to be punished. I half expected another twist or reveal since you have proven you do not shy away from those - but no the second part of the story was told straight, which I think is fitting for this classic format. (Then again perhaps I speak too soon. There is Act 5 / sequel coming up after all.)

    So basically I am saying is that plot and characters delivered; I don't have much criticism except a few nitpicks below. Lawrence and Cassia end up together and have their little happy end, as was foreshadowed for the start (I didn't believe for s moment she and Arthus died in that temple since there were two full acts of the story remaining... but you probably didn't expect the readers to believe that anyway right? That would be quite a downer ending.) Matheus gave his life in a heroic way for a cause he believed in. All of that was very in character and fitting the story finale.

    I didn't expect Arceus to finally show up officially, even though it was heavily implied that he/she were personally (if subtly) intervening during the entire conflict. That was very brave of you. The story had some heavy spiritual/religious themes going on right from the beginning, but literally meeting THE GOD OF THE ENTIRE MULTIVERSE in person is quite a different level. I imagine some readers might have felt a bit awkward reading it, especially since you draw a lot from judeo-christian Bible (the Apocalypse/Revelation book). However I think it was handled rather tastefully. We do not stay with Arceus for long either, merely to get some answers from him/her on some questionable aspects of their plans - Arthus being allowed to run around free, eventual fate of the Pokemon who died etc.

    I originally expected Unova / human world (and Hanson) to play much bigger role, but I don't mind they didn't. The story worked on its own, focusing on just one world, with Unova being an answer to the Equivos' crisis.

    Now, on the negatives… no worries I don’t have many :p

    This one is probably WIP, but Act 4 finished the story leaving a lot of threads hanging. We don’t know what happened to sentient Pokemon who arrived in Unova and how they dealt with Hanson. Did Lawrence remain in his Lucario form (or did maybe Cassia turn into human?)

    I suppose this is addressed in Act 5 right? If so maybe you will eventually shuffle some scenes around and expand Ch26 so we can see what happened to all the characters?

    Another thing is that Arthus seemed to fall for Matheus’ distraction too easily. Arthus wants to get to the Tree of Life ASAP – decades of his planning and his wife and son’s revival depend on it, and yet he goes chasing Matheus? Just let the Lucario run for the woods, and go to your destination to fulfil your plan! This would work better is Matheus would have a good reason or some plot coupon to have Arthus chase him for that, or the fight would happen in such a way it would slow down Arthus on his way to the tree. Just my two cents.

    I also have a couple of objections to some of the things Arceus said and did and some of their reasoning, but I am a bit afraid that could escalate into OT religious discussion so let’s prevent the potential flame war by PMing me in case you are interested in hearing that.

    All in all, fun read with colourful characters in rich setting. I had a couple of complaints regarding the villain here and there but ultimately it is well written classic with adventures and character arcs. Certain early twist was a nice touch to shake up the relationships somewhat and keep them dynamic throughout the whole plot.

    Thank you for sharing this! (Going to continue with Act 5 anyway because I want to know what followed in Unova :p )
     
    lucarioknight56 likes this.
  12. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    I purposefully kept twists out of the finale because A) I couldn't think of any and B) I've messed with readers enough :). Still, I was hoping to make Arthus more of a sympathetic villain--one you can hate and feel bad for at the same time. I've been making some pretty significant revisions to the villain side of the story, downsizing Gardner's role and using Arthus is his place--along with Cassia in Act 4. I think that the prequel, Twilit Destinies, and the story after, Legends Awakened, ought to help that view with Arthus, but with Unequivocant alone, it is hard to do.

    Well, I had a final scene with Arthus and Matheus in this world's version of the afterlife that's at the end of At 5--it'll be moved to the end of Act 4 with the edits. As for the others, there actually turned out to be a whole lot more about what happened in Unova than I expected in initial planning, so what went from one epilogue chapter turned into five. Because those chapters ultimately don't feel as momentous after the climax, they had to be moved to the sequel for the story's sake.

    That's part of my revisions, and suffice to say, I think Cassia would be a better distraction. ;)

    I am interested in what you have to say, so feel free to PM. Just know that I simply can't make Arceus a perfect caricature of God due to the nature of the Pokemon series, so there will be flaws.

    Alright, sounds good! Justk now that they will be moved into the sequel, Legacy of Equivos: Culmination of Worlds, hopefully by Friday.
     
  13. DeliriousAbsol

    DeliriousAbsol Call me Del

    Chapter 1

    I really don't know why I've not read this sooner. The blurb sort of reminds me of my 'fic The End, with the fairy types being Xerneas' pokemon and having missionaries tell other pokemon about him. So I'm very much intrigued.

    This is a fantastic opening chapter and I'm already pulled right in. The villain character's soft spot for the zorua was very unexpected yet very believable. I can sort of see this rescue of the kid whose parents he just slaughtered being his downfall, and towards the end of the it seems to be hinted at that this might very well be the case.

    I'm thrown as to what happened at the end there. I guess we're not meant to know just yet? The curiosity is keeping me going.

    As for your writing style, it is fantastic. Very vivid with very few typos (given the story is tagged as complete, I won't be commenting on them unless you want me to?) Your writing flows very well, and I'm thoroughly enjoying this read so far.

    Chapter 2

    I love how the Pokedex is like a multi-purpose tool in your universe. Phone calls, alarm clock, TV remote... it's amazing. Of course, likening it to the now-debunked Poketch puts it in a new light. It's like our world's iPhone in a way, except maybe more advanced?

    The company Lawrence works for is rather... shady. It has its light side and its hidden dark side, putting corporate greed in a new light. Hidden away under all the bells and whistles, with a boss who would no sooner 'get rid' of someone than have the dark side of his company revealed to the public. It makes Lawrence's decision to go along with his crazy idea and enter this new pokemon-centric dimension very believable. Plus... it's a pretty unique spin on the human-turned-pokemon idea!

    As for the 'experiment', well... that went all kinds of bad. As if the surveilance craft failing wasn't ominous enough, the entire room almost getting demolished doesn't bode well. I guess Valence won't be in touch with him throughout his ordeal, then?

    Scrolling up to get the company's name, I now understand the Project Babel thing. Exotic pokemon from a 'foreign location'... hmm... excellent foreshadowing there!

    Chapter 3

    Wow, Lawrence sure is a seaking out of water, huh? A rude welcome that could have gone horribly if not for Grom.

    This really is a pretty unique world, and Grom has an interesting ability in draining all the badness away. (That's kinda how I interpreted it?) I'm interested to see how this illusion stone works. Giving a lucario some kind of illusion ability via external means is pretty neat, and hopefully will stop him getting slaughtered before he can even get used to this new world.

    I liked the back story to Arthus. Given Matheus was his friend, the outcome is pretty brutal. I'm kinda tempted to read the previous story perchance it might go more into detail about their history! I'm totally hooked.

    Now... Some questions have been raised here. What exactly is Grom in this PMD setting? And will Lawrence ever find a gate back home?


    I'm really enjoying this so far. It might take me a little while to read it all, but I really think I'm in for the ride here! =D
     
    lucarioknight56 likes this.
  14. Umbramatic

    Umbramatic The Ghost Lord

    Disclaimer: This is a review of Chapters 1-10.

    So normally I don't read PMD fics for various reasons but this review game going on is encouraging me to try new things. Plus this fic was A. recently completed and 1. has a Lucario protagonist, the latter in particular getting my attention.

    But I really like the general premise of a cynical scientist working for a corrupt megacorp being thrust into a high-fantasy setting that goes against everything he believes in. And what a high-fantasy setting it is! You've done an excellent job with the worldbuilding, and I'm curious as to what's actually going on with the Legendaries.

    You have an excellent grasp of characterization as well. Everyone feels distinct and memorable - shoutout to Arthus, who's everything you can expect from an evil overlord but also with a softer side and a reason for doing what he does - abd both aspects are highly entertaining.

    Also Grom. Grom is my favorite. Im lov him.

    (And that twist with Cassia hot damn)

    I can't think of much to criticze about this story just yet. You said you had a lot of issues with previous fics in this series but I don't really see them, so good job!
     
  15. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    Yeah, that last scene in Chapter 1 will come into play later...you'll see.

    The typos likely have been beaten out with my in-progress revision, so there's no need. Good to see that you like my writing style!

    Yep, sort of. I just got to thinking of things that our phones could replace, yet haven't yet. Such as TV remotes. Or even TCGs, to a point, where you can really trade cards with another person, like Lawrence did with the vendor. There's many ways to improve it, and several will hopefully come into play with the small sequel story I am planning for this.

    Nada. Maybe.

    Prepare for a lot of it. ;)

    Life energy isn't inherently bad--I mean, it's what makes everyone stay alive in this universe. It just so happens to have applications that greatly benefit the users of it, such as Arthus. Ghosts feed off of it too, and the Life Energy in the ground is just what remains after someone--or a large group of Pokemon--dies. So Grom is really making a meal out of it.

    Legends Unraveled was his first story, and you can find it on Bulbagarden if you want to read it. Honestly, a lot of the material I came up with here wasn't present in this story, and Unequivocant is essentially a reboot of the story; it becomes pretty clear later on. I intend to make a rewrite of it in the future, so you'd probably be better off waiting for that.

    Grom is a civilized Pokemon like everyone else you've seen talk, but his speech functions have been disabled thanks to a certain...ahem...head injury. This is due to his nature as an artificial Pokemon created long ago, but that is another story.

    As for Lawrence returning home...well, read to find out!

    Arthus is going to be toned down a notch because he ended up becoming so over the top at times that it was hard to take him seriously. He is still crazy, no doubt about it, but I made sure to have a 50/50 focus on both sides of him.

    The issues were primarily lack of planning and odd plot points (see Legends Unraveled from Bulbagarden) along with poor characterization and development (ala Forgotten Isles from Bulbagarden). Both issues aren't present, thank goodness, but due to the changes I had to make in the continuity for this story to work, they are no longer canon.

    Thanks for the reviews, and I look forward to hearing more. I'll try to make some more reviews myself, but I'm just starting with college classes, so that might be a while.
     
  16. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    All chapters of Unequivocant have now been revised and updated! Please read the first post to see what these changes are, and if you so choose, read them for yourself! Almost no chapter was untouched, especially on the villain's side.

    With that, this story will be moved to the archives on October 14, 2018. I thank you all for reading this story, and I hope you will join me for my future works!
     
    canisaries likes this.
  17. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    The four removed chapters have now been reposted, and this thread shall be moved to the archives! Thanks for all of your support, and I hope you will join me in PMD: Twilit Destinies, coming on the 21st!
     

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