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Salvage

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Negrek, Nov 1, 2012.

  1. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    omg, I can't believe you dusted off your old account just to comment on these extras! I'm glad you liked the bio extra; it was hard to get it under control, I kept thinking of more stuff i wanted to talk about, and then I ended up killing over a thousand words in editing, too. Can't shut up. :p And tbh I love your energy-spirit interpretation... would definitely be fun to play with. Maybe we can swap. ;)

    And I'm glad you enjoyed the additional scene. Though I hope it wasn't too Stockholm Syndrome... Nate's feelings towards the protagonist are pretty complicated, and they have softened over time, but I guarantee he's not at the level of ignoring that it's quite dangerous and, on a more personal level, a total shithead, or where he'd try to defend it in any way. In fact as of this chapter he's still low-key pissed that calling the League on it at the end of the tournament didn't end up working out like he'd hoped.

    Thanks so much for the comment! It really made my day.
     
  2. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    Author's Notes: A couple days late, but for me that's actually pretty good! I blame crappy airport wi-fi. I'm still working on getting this arc laid out, but it's starting to really come together. At this point I hope to get the next chapter out in around three weeks.

    Also, I managed to miss nominations, but a quick reminder that voting's on for Serebii's 2017 fanfic awards! Make sure you stop by and vote for your favorite stories some time in the next month or so... Or get reading, if you haven't checked the fics out yet!

    And Dragonfree made more fanart! Please enjoy this great picture of Nate and the protagonist playing pretend, from the scene that I added back into Chapter 35, as well as a very cute poochyena.

    And now, onwards to Orre!

    Chapter 36

    Your hover-scooter whines as it labors up the side of a dune, displaced sand whirling in its headlight as the anti-gravity thrusters keep it hovering just above the ground. It would be kind of cool, you guess, if you had it back in Kanto. Even this blocky thing, a bland white with peeling decals on it, goes way faster than the bikes most trainers get, and the anti-grav rings on the bottom light up a pretty blue.

    Here in Orre, though, you're always going to be comparing it to real hover-cycles, the ones they have in movies, which roar and zoom and belch smoke and occasionally explode when driven into walls at high speed. They also require a special license to drive, and Mewtwo refused to wait for you to find someone that you could be who also had one. So here you are, stuck as Jade Winstead with nothing but a kiddie hover-scooter to use.

    Let me out.

    And that. That. Mewtwo's been doing that for almost two weeks now. Your grip tightens on the handlebars. "Mewtwo, we're not even half an hour away from Gateon Port." If you turned and looked over your shoulder you'd see it sprawled behind you, a scattering of lights like glowing, multicolored jewels.

    Let me out.

    He's being even more obnoxious today, now that you've finally made it to Orre. He must sense freedom at hand.

    "Not until we're past Agate Village at least," you say. You don't actually need to talk out loud; Mewtwo could as easily pluck the words from your brain. But it's more satisfying to speak, especially as you've really had no one to talk to, in the conventional sense, since you left home. Now more than ever you miss Togetic, and Duskull, and Rats, and everybody.

    Mewtwo still won't say where they are. Best that they stay safe, he said before you left home, like either of you believed he wasn't withholding them just to be a jerk.

    Let me out.

    Nearly two weeks of that, most of them spent cooped up on a boat. You wanted to fly, but you'd never get Mewtwo on a plane, not with security like it is. You spent as much time as possible out of your cabin, on the deck where you could smell the ocean and feel the sun on your face. Absol was around a fair amount, too, but you still spent far too much time locked up with the clone, trying to fall asleep with him whispering at you from the dark. Waking up again later to find yourself mouthing the same sentence, over and over.

    Let me out.

    You scowl and twist the handlebars forward so the cycle's little motor goes "rrrRRRR" and accelerates a bit. It's the only sound, out here in the desert, and there's no light but the headlight and the green glow of the GPS and the stars and crescent moon above. The desert stretches out in rolling purple-black waves, dunes on dunes broken here and there by jagged spires of rock.

    It would be lovely if you could be alone, inside your head as well as out, to enjoy it.

    Let me out.

    "Mewtwo, when we get there! It's only supposed to be two hours. You know what would happen if anybody saw you."

    Who would see me out here? One or two at most, traveling like you are. One or two could easily be dealt with.

    "Mewtwo, no." Your stomach clenches. You know exactly what he means when he says "dealt with." "When we get there."

    "There" is an old Cipher facility where they supposedly made shadow pokémon. You'd seen stuff about shadow pokémon on TV, but not much, so you spent a lot of the boat ride on your pokédex, looking for information about them and about Orre in general.

    This Cipher building should be sitting abandoned, no doubt long ago picked over for clues. Still, though. It's one of the few Cipher bases you know of, and it's the kind of place Mew's in, somewhere full of machines with harsh, clinical lighting. Maybe there's more going on in the desert than people realize.

    Let me out.

    You grit your teeth and try to accelerate more, and another dune falls away behind you.

    --​

    You had pictures of the factory, of course, but it's almost unrecognizable at night, looming overhead rather than safely confined to a small screen. The old smokestacks give it away, two of them leaning, now, threatening collapse. They stick up over the mountain behind the building, while the angular mass of the place itself could have been just another crag, unnaturally smooth but no shape that your mind would register as "building", either.

    You stare up at it as you let the hover-scooter purr to a halt, and now Mewtwo is just an eager, wordless pressure on the back of your skull. No excuse to keep him cooped up now, and both of you know it. He spills out of the master ball in a burst of light, then sweeps towards the building while you linger behind, entranced.

    The Cipher factory's a hulking dark mass, diamond-shaped like a normal building that got tossed up onto one of its corners. A long, long ramp rises up to the front door at the diamond's bulgy middle, far up above the ground. Below the ramp metal plates form a kind of maze around a central platform, dark chasms dropping between them to the unseen desert floor. Just looking at the place gives you the shivers--apprehension, yes, but also excitement. Now here's a real villain's lair. None of Team Rocket's hiding underground; Cipher doesn't care who sees it, gleefully flaunts its evil.

    Mewtwo's fur practically glows in the starlight as he makes his way up the ramp. He stops in front of a chain-link fence blocking off the actual entryway. It's festooned with signs you can't read from here but know must say things like Keep Out, No Trespassing, Danger.

    If anybody's working here now they're being awfully discreet, you think as you climb slowly up to join the clone. Drifts of sand and rubbish have collected in the corners of the angular metal maze, and the building itself is dark and completely silent.

    Nevertheless, we check, Mewtwo says, and the fence parts for him, bulging in as though punched by a giant fist, wires sprong-ing back in twisted curls, leaving a perfect opening for Mewtwo to glide-walk through.

    "Mew-two," you hiss, scurrying after. It's nothing to worry about, probably, no way for people to connect a busted fence with Mewtwo, but you're so used to secrecy that such a blatant lack of care brings on involuntary horror.

    Mewtwo doesn't acknowledge the feeling, nor the even more urgent one that follows when he does for the doors what he did for the fence. There's no one here, Mewtwo says to your unspoken fretting over what if he accidentally blasts something important, or even a person hiding out here, someone who might be able to tell you if Cipher has Mew.

    "What's the point of being here, then?"

    Mewtwo doesn't answer. Instead he begins to glow, really glow, purple light spilling from his fur. He steps into the dark hole he's created and swiftly recedes, like a diver sinking down into the black well of the deep. If you hesitate any longer you're going to lose him completely.

    You wish you'd come here in daytime. Cipher's weird factory is windowless, its metal hallways made for cold fluorescent light. Mewtwo's flash casts hard shadows from exposed wires and bits of broken furniture, the dark shifting and sliding in weird shapes as he moves. What scientific fixtures are left are all dark screens and glassy dials pointing to zero.

    It's not much like the lab on Cinnabar. That still had lights, even at night when when almost everyone had gone home. And there was Mewtwo. You could feel the buzz of his psychic field, knew he was somewhere in the building, watching, hating you. But this is different, see, you never had these kinds of machines on Cinnabar, it was all medical equipment, not lasers and cranes and stuff. And now you know where Mewtwo is, you don't have to guess, to feel him lurking. It's not the same at all.

    Will you stop thinking about that? Mewtwo snaps. He stops in front of a sliding metal door stuck two-thirds shut. It shudders, scrapes open to halfway, then sticks again. The thrum of psychic energy rises, and the door trembles, then abruptly slides the rest of the way with a shriek of metal on metal. Mewtwo ignores your unease and passes through, glowing bright.

    "There's nothing here," you say, following with your eyes on the floor so you don't have to stare into Mewtwo's glow. At least everything important is gone, just empty cabinets and tumbledown shelves left. The warning stickers still clinging to some of them make the child wonder nervously who took the radioactivity, the biohazard, the caustic--was it Cipher, or the police, or common looters? Who has the poison now?

    And you would claim humans aren't evil, Mewtwo says, striding along the remains of a conveyor belt, following it deeper into the facility. Here they are, feeding pokémon along an assembly line, just another product to be sold. Just another tool. So much more useful than normal pokémon.

    Mewtwo takes to banging on the equipment as he goes past, bursts of telekinesis striking metal cabinets with hollow booms that echo down empty corridors. They gave their broken pokémon away to trainers, to normal trainers, what you would call innocent, and they didn't even notice! Give them a pokémon with no spirit, who will do nothing but obey orders, who has lost all sense of themself, and they couldn't tell the difference! They thought it was normal! And what does that mean for all the other pokémon, the ones who weren't shadowed, the ones those trainers supposedly loved so much?

    You walk behind Mewtwo, breathing in his anger. He's right in a way, you suppose. And more than that, he distracts you from the memories that threaten to creep in from the ruined lab around you.

    And where did they go? Mewtwo roars. His next strike does more than boom, crumpling a section of metal wall. They took my mother, and where did they go?

    You doubt you'll find the answer here. Under Mewtwo's pulsing anger is your own hollow dread for months or years of scouring the desert with him muttering in your head.

    Oh, don't be so pathetic, Mewtwo snaps. The group that ran this place is called Cipher, is that right? Another coalition of humans that preys on pokémon. And they're gone now, supposedly. But Team Rocket was supposed to be gone, too. Not all of Cipher was found, is that right? We can start there.

    Mewtwo knows exactly everything you do about Cipher, lifted the information from your neurons rather than the page. So he knows that, yes, the majority of Cipher's administration remains at large. But, "Mewtwo, they're hiding. Everybody's been looking for them. If it was easy, someone would have caught them already."

    We haven't been the ones searching, Mewtwo says, his cold determination threaded through with a faint strain of pride. Ahead, rickety metal stairs lead up to an open hatch, one that shows a purple-blue patch of sky.

    Mewtwo disdains the staircase, launching himself into a leap that goes on and on as his telekinesis carries him upwards. You hesitate at the bottom, then float up after him, not as smooth in the air but enjoying the opportunity to flex your psychic abilities. It's kind of fun, floating around like this, even if you get tired fast.

    Mewtwo stands at the edge of the roof, looking out over the desert and wind-scoured juts of rock that rise up into mountains. A kind of ziggurat stands behind him, like this place is some sort of temple. You don't want to think about what would have been worshipped here.

    Yes, it's rather elaborate, isn't it? You can feel that Mewtwo's cold, the night wind cutting through his thin fur, but he makes no move towards shelter. I was thinking I would scour it from the earth, but perhaps I'd rather keep it. We need somewhere to base ourselves, somewhere private. And it would be fitting, wouldn't it? Making use of the ruins left by the ones who thought they could make use of me.

    "Really? This is where you want to stay?" the child asks, shivering for both of them.

    Mewtwo stands in quiet contemplation of the shadowy desert landscape. The scientist, Professor Krane. I think we will go to see him first, he says at last.

    "I don't think he knows anything about where Cipher's hiding. He got kidnapped by them once. They aren't friends."

    I know. But supposedly he knows more than anyone about these "shadow pokémon," Mewtwo says. I have some questions for him.

    You grimace. Poor Professor Krane. "I'll go back to Gateon Port, then. We can go to his lab tomorrow morning."

    Why go all the way back there? This place is ours now. You can sleep right here. You don't even get to protest before Mewtwo's mind pushes you down, down, turning everything heavy and distant so you don't even realize you've fallen until you feel cold metal against the side of your face. And then you have little choice but to sleep.

    --​

    The sun's high by the time you wake from enforced slumber, hot and sweating and disoriented. Mewtwo's just where he was last night, sitting now with his tail wrapped around his body. Some people might believe he'd been there the whole time, meditating or whatever it is he does, but you aren't fooled.

    "You can't do that, Mewtwo!" you yell.

    I'm quite sure I can, actually, the clone says, and he feels bored, not even self-satisfied or anything. You seem to think you control my entire life. I hardly think you get to complain about a few hours' rest.

    You reach for the master ball on your belt only for your arm to lock up painfully, halted by empty air and psychic force. "This is why I don't want to let you out! I can't trust you. What were you doing? It was something I wouldn't like, wasn't it?"

    I was enjoying getting to breathe actual air and see the world with my actual eyes! Mewtwo snarls. You're no better than a human! Keeping me locked up because it's not convenient to you for me to get to live my life--

    "It's not inconvenient. You kill people! That's bad, and if you keep it up people are going to figure out you're here, and when they do--"

    I killed nothing. Nothing! Not one single wretched human!

    "Is that real, or is it a lie? I can't trust you, Mewtwo, I can't--"

    Absol walks out from the shade of the ziggurat. Your heart leaps, and it takes you a moment to realize some of your relief is actually coming from Mewtwo. "Absol!" you say. "Take the master ball, Mewtwo won't let me--" The clone stops your voice in your throat.

    Absol stands looking between the two of you, Mewtwo calm and unruffled, you with eyes bulging and muscles straining against his psychic grip. "I thought the two of you had work to do. Why are you fighting?" she asks.

    "Of course we do. The creature's holding things up, complaining about nothing," Mewtwo says. He's speaking normal pokéspeech now, instead of mind to mind, and his words come out blurry. He obviously isn't comfortable using his voice, and his psychic field prickles with embarrassment and anger when you notice.

    You struggle furiously against Mewtwo's hold, but he keeps it clamped firmly in place. Absol turns towards you. No doubt she can read what's going on in the strained expression on your face. "Do you think you should use your power against your sibling like that?" she asks Mewtwo.

    His shock lands on you like an icy bucket of water, but it's supplanted by your own smugness a moment later. Mewtwo thought Absol would back him up, but of course not--she's your friend, after all.

    And now Mewtwo's angry again. "Do you think it's right for that thing to keep me locked up in the dark? I'm defending myself. If I didn't stop it, it'd have me back in that master ball in five seconds, and who knows when it would let me out again?"

    "That's true." Absol's deep red eyes stare straight at you. "Do you think it's right to keep your brother caged?"

    Now it's Mewtwo's turn to blossom with smugness. You throw yourself against his hold again, indignation burning hot in your chest, pointed words fighting for release from between cramped jaws. That's not how it is! It's not caging, it's just--

    "Your sibling doesn't seem able to answer," Absol says. There's a long pause. Finally your face feels less tight, and your tongue can move freely in your mouth. Everything below your neck is still frozen, though; certainly your fingers can't twitch any closer to the master ball.

    "Absol, he's still doing it," you say, and she turns to calmly look at Mewtwo instead.

    Resentment simmers like acid inside your skull, and you slump a little as Mewtwo's psychic grip releases. Your fingers do twitch, now, but you stop yourself from going straight for the master ball. You're not going to prove Mewtwo right.

    You already have.

    "It's rude to talk so Absol can't hear you," you say, and only smile wider when Mewtwo yells furious insults into your head. For whatever reason that makes you the new target of Absol's glare. "Absol, he knocked me out and went off and did something by himself last night. I can't let him out if he keeps doing that. He kills people. And it's bad," you add hastily. "I mean I know you say if they were supposed to die then it's okay, but that's not why he's doing it. He wanted to kill the great Nathaniel Morgan the whole time we were on the island--"

    "And I should have! This creature is endangering everything, letting humans get close to it. I am not going to let that thing--"

    "I'm not endangering anything! The great Nathaniel Morgan can't stop us. And anyway, he's important. I remember. That's why you made me save him earlier." You can't resist shooting a grin at Mewtwo. That's your trump card, and something Mewtwo didn't know.

    "That human isn't important," Absol says. "However, needless killing will not help you find your mother."

    It's not needless! Even the creature understands that humans can't know where we are or what we're planning. Or it would, if it weren't blinded by sentiment.

    "I don't know what that means, but you're wrong."

    "Both of you," Absol says, and she actually sounds annoyed. "You won't succeed if you fight like this. Why can't you work together?"

    "He has to stop bossing me around all the time!"

    "It can't keep me trapped! It doesn't control me!"

    Time passes. "Well, what do you want us to do, Absol?" you ask at last, realizing her silence is a prompt.

    "It's true that Mewtwo cannot be seen. That means he must either allow himself to be confined to the master ball, or he must remain elsewhere out of sight while you work." Absol shouldn't be able to feel the simmering resentment Mewtwo exudes, but her pause is eerily well-timed. "Am I correct?"

    "Yes," Mewtwo says sulkily, and you realize the sulkiness is all in your own head. The clone's actual words are weirdly uninflected. He sounds a bit like Absol that way, but Absol's emotions are subtle, not nonexistent. "But that thing won't let me out even when there isn't any danger. I won't stand for it. I'm sick of being down in the dark."

    "Also true," Absol says. "What, then, if we agree that you will always be released in the evening and allowed to remain out until the next morning, unless there is pressing danger? And other times, when you are safe, as well. But always in the evening, guaranteed. Is that acceptable?"

    "Yes," Mewtwo says at last, still petulant.

    "Only if he doesn't go off and do anything on his own, or mess with me," you say.

    "I believe that's fair," Absol says. Her look invites Mewtwo to agree.

    "And how am I supposed to be assured the creature will actually let me out?" the clone asks.

    "I'll make sure that all involved keep their word," Absol says. "Is that acceptable?" This time she gets reluctant agreement from you and Mewtwo both. "Excellent," she says, and you know she must feel like she's solved the whole problem, just like that. But you still don't trust Mewtwo, and it's not like Absol could actually stop him if he decided not to cooperate. "Now, were you going to go somewhere?" Absol asks.

    "We have to go to a place near Gateon Port. That means Mewtwo has to go back in his ball."

    "There is no one out here!" Mewtwo snarls for the millionth time.

    "Does he need to go with you?"

    "Yes. I want to ask questions. I have to be there when the creature speaks to Professor Krane."

    "Then perhaps your brother can remain out for as long as it is safe."

    "Anybody could be riding around out there. He should stay in the master ball the whole way." Absol doesn't say anything, and as time stretches on you realize she expects the two of you to actually work this out yourselves. It's so annoying when she acts like she's your mother.

    I can't believe she's taking your side, Mewtwo hisses inside your brain.

    She doesn't believe me about how terrible you are, you think at him as hard as you can. She's going to be watching, so you'd better not try anything or she'll probably say to never let you out again.

    She probably wouldn't, honestly, and in your opinion she's been way too lenient with Mewtwo. She wasn't the one who had to deal with him on the ship, who'd eventually give in to his complaints and let him out for a bit, in the cabin where no one else could see. He mostly celebrated having physical form again by stretching and taking up the entire room, knocking things over with his tail and using the cabin fixtures as exercise equipment without concern for what he broke.

    You didn't need that, nor the fear that he wouldn't actually go back into his ball. One time he paralyzed you and left you stuck for over an hour, cramping and unhappy and with no choice but to listen to him ranting about how unfair his life was and everything he'd do to the people responsible if he only got the chance. Absol can claim she'll stop him from doing that again, but it's not like she can actually do much but get stern with him.

    "Now, are you ready to leave?" Absol asks.

    The child holds the master ball up, pointedly, at Mewtwo. He says acidly, For now, maybe. But the guardian won't always be there to protect you.

    With him inside the master ball, the psychic pressure shrinks--doesn't go away entirely, of course, but you can breathe easy again and even start to enjoy the morning sweeping across the desert. It's kind of pretty, the ragged teeth of the mountains dappled by sun and deep shadow, the smooth humps of dunes subtly changing color as they spread out towards the horizon. "We really shouldn't leave right now. Not until the sun's gone down. It's too hot."

    "Then will you not let your brother out?" Absol asks.

    You stand looking out over the desert for a couple minutes longer. Well? Mewtwo asks.

    "I changed my mind," you announce. "Let's go." And with Mewtwo fuming at the back of your mind, blessedly small, you turn and make your way down through floors of broken and abandoned machinery, more pathetic than anything with dusty sunlight shining in through chinks in the factory's cladding, and out into the desert.

    --​

    Several hours later, you remain Jade Winstead, but you have a new backstory: you're a journalist from the Saffron Times, hoping to inform the Kantoan public about an issue people outside Orre know almost nothing about. You didn't know anything yourself, after all, until you started your research.

    You've also discovered Jade Winstead has an abiding dislike of receptionists. The one in Professor Krane's lab keeps making up problems like needing an appointment, or the professor being busy all day, or could she see some ID? If you hadn't literally seen Professor Krane go into an office down the hall you might not have gotten to see him today at all. Now he's standing right in front of you while the receptionist hangs onto the door-frame, panting.

    "I'm so sorry, Professor," she gasps. "I told her you were booked, but she just ran..."

    "Ah." Professor Krane blinks at you from behind thick glasses. He's a bit stooped, with thick, dark hair like some alien organism attacking his head. He reminds you of Leonard Kerrigan a lot. "Well, what Judy said is true. I can't speak to you right now, but I'm sure she'd be able to help you find a better time."

    "No, it has to be today!" you say. "I have a--a big deadline for a contest worth a lot of money!"

    "Left it a bit late, haven't you?" says the guy whose desk Professor Krane is standing by.

    "Well..." Professor Krane looks between you and the red-faced receptionist. "I was going to do some upgrades to the Purification Chamber this morning. Perhaps we can talk while I work? This will be quick, won't it?"

    "Yes, quick. Very quick."

    "Okay. Then, Earl, if we could reconvene in half an hour?"

    "Yeah, yeah, go on," the man at the desk grumbles into his coffee.

    "This way, then," Professor Krane says with a smile for you. He's the only one smiling, actually. The receptionist in particular is going an angry, splotchy red-white. You hold your head high as you go past her. Professor Krane said it was okay.

    "I like your lab," you say out in the hallway. It's all glass and high ceilings, and somehow manages to feel light and airy despite an abundance of metal and cold tile. And the trees! You can see them through the big glass bubble at the front of the building, green shadows against the sun. They're real trees, not the bushy kind that normally grow out in the desert but oaks and maples other great-big broadleaf trees, and their roots clutch earth covered in real, thick grass. Professor Krane isn't nearly as famous as Professor Oak, but the child thinks maybe he wants to be, or at least wants to bring some of the prestige of Kanto and Johto out here to a little region that doesn't even have its own League.

    "Thank you." Professor Krane beams. "I've worked very hard on it. Now, this is the Purification Chamber, just in here." It's a room choked with computer equipment. In the middle is a round platform surrounded by VR projectors.

    "Can I try it?" you ask.

    "Of course! Well, the interface, anyway. It wouldn't do to try digitizing you and actually putting you in the chamber," Professor Krane says, still smiling. "Please, stand on the platform there. The routine will begin automatically."

    You step onto the platform, and whirls of hazy light like stylized musical notes spin around the projectors. The room falls away, and you find yourself standing in what seems like endless empty space, the faint suggestion of walls and floor outlined by glowing geometric patterns. Three-dimensional projections of pokémon slowly orbit you.

    "So I imagine you know what the Purification Chamber does," Professor Krane says, voice echoing over the quiet, abstract music that fills the place.

    "Yes. It makes shadow pokémon go back to normal," you say. There are a bunch of numbers floating near the "ceiling," along with little graphs and statistics that mean nothing to you. You point at one and the interface changes, brining up a display with icons representing pokémon standing in a circle and... dancing? The music's changed to something peppy and upbeat.

    "That's right," Professor Krane says. "Shadow pokémon have blunted emotional responses, and over time the areas of their brains responsible for regulating emotion can actually atrophy. The Purification Chamber analyzes the brain activity of normal, healthy pokémon and attempts to create similar patterns of activation in the brains of shadow pokémon, rejuvenating atrophied neural pathways. I would give you a demonstration, but thankfully we've purified all of the shadow pokémon Cipher produced, so we don't have any more to work with. Do you have any questions about the Purification Chamber?"

    "Umm, can you turn it off? The music is really annoying."

    You idiot, don't provoke him, Mewtwo hisses, but Professor Krane laughs.

    "Yes, of course." The VR interface fades away, a faint haze of musical notes hanging around the VR projectors for a few seconds before dissipating entirely. "We've also found some elements of music therapy to be useful in the purification process, and the assisting pokémon seem to enjoy dancing, so..." Professor Krane spreads his hands with a sheepish smile.

    You don't think you'd want to dance to that, much less for hours on end.

    "So what questions did you have for me? Don't mind me, I'm just looking at some numbers, here," Professor Krane says. He sits on the edge of a desk, pecking at the computer sitting there and examining its screen over the rims of his glasses.

    "Um," you say, but Mewtwo steps in to supply you with a question almost immediately.

    What exactly is a shadow pokémon? What makes it different than a normal pokémon?

    "Ah." Professor Krane smiles absently after you repeat Mewtwo's question. "Going to start off with the big one, are we? If you find somebody who knows the answer to that I'd dearly love to speak with them."

    "But you studied them so much! And you built the Purification Chamber! How can you not know?"

    "Well, we can observe shadow pokémon's symptoms and come up with ways to treat them without really knowing why they are the way they are. Shadow pokémon seem unable to express emotions besides anxiety and rage. They have an unquestioning drive to follow orders, and they produce "shadow" attacks that are effective against all known pokémon types. Obviously some component of being a shadow pokémon is mental--I was telling you how their brains can change.

    "But there's more to it than that. In addition to using shadow attacks, they seem to have difficulty processing the infinity energy they're exposed to in battle--they can't learn or grow nearly as fast as normal pokémon. But we don't know what the source of those differences is, whether mental changes somehow alter energy metabolism, or vice versa, or if there's something else entirely underlying it all."

    So he doesn't know how Cipher made shadow pokémon? Mewtwo asks sharply. He doesn't know what it did to them?

    "Oh, no, no, definitely not," Professor Krane says. "No, the only high-ranking members of Cipher that have been captured are management types. We really need to get ahold of some of their top scientists, especially Lovrina. The techs that were apprehended could describe how the machines they used worked, or what their part in the process was, but it hasn't been enough to get a sense of what was going on big-picture-wise."

    Why hasn't anyone found them? How could they all just disappear?

    "Ah." Professor Krane's mouth thins to a flat line, and he gives the keyboard a couple particularly aggressive jabs. "If you weren't aware, I'm afraid that Orre's law enforcement isn't exactly known for... competence. Probably something you'll want to research for your article. But even with the best police in the world it would be hard to find someone in Orre. It's impossible to monitor all the desert, we barely have maps, and most of those are out of date... There are loads of little caves and crannies... It's just full of hiding places. Good for criminals, bad for everyone else."

    And no one has any idea where they went? None at all? You clench one hand at your side, squeezing hard to try and burn off some of the anger Mewtwo's sending your way.

    "I certainly don't. I'm sorry. Of course I'd tell you if I knew, of course, but..." He shakes his head.

    What about our mother? Mewtwo demands. What about Mew?

    "Mew?" Professor Krane frowns and looks up from the computer. "Why do you ask?"

    "Umm, no reason. I just like Mew... And it's rare... So..."

    Professor Krane studies you for a second before answering. "Well, I guess there were some rumors about Mew being in our desert a while back, but I never saw it myself. Did you think there was some connection with shadow pokémon?"

    "No, no, nothing like that. I was just asking." Is he mad because he wants to be talking about his own work all the time?

    Worthless, Mewtwo snarls to himself. Worthless, ignorant human.

    Since he either doesn't have any more questions or would rather be angry than ask them, you go with one of your own. "How did people deal with shadow pokémon before the Purification Chamber?"

    And yes, Professor Krane brightens up at that. "Well, the purification process has to do with emotion, of course, but memory may be even more important. Shadow pokémon respond strongly to scents, and scent is heavily linked to memory. That may also help explain why Celebi's shrine helps with--"

    Celebi? Mewtwo demands, and you lose track of Professor Krane's monologue as the clone goes on, He comes out to this place? Where there aren't even any trees?

    "Hmm? Oh, the shrine's in Agate Village. It was built long before Orre became a desert. Some people think it might be part of why Agate is so green. For whatever reason, shadow pokémon that visited the shrine showed remarkable recovery. That was part of my inspiration, actually. I wanted to create a machine that could do what the shrine could do, but anytime, anywhere, and fast. Otherwise, what would happen if shadow pokémon began appearing in other regions or, Gods forbid, Cipher did something to the shrine?"

    This is excellent, Mewtwo says. Celebi will help us find my mother. We need to find this shrine.

    You blink. Professor Krane's staring at you. "Umm," you say nervously.

    "I said, is that all?"

    Mewtwo's still purring to himself about his new plan. He's excited; he's gotten what he wants. But you're still curious. "Do you think there's going to be more shadow pokémon? Is that why you're still working on a way to help them even though Cipher's gone?"

    "That's what everyone asked when we started designing it in the first place. They thought Cipher was done for good. And then, two years later, look what happened. We're in the same situation today. Supposedly the ringleader's been dealt with, but most of the higher ranks are still at large, and their tech's still out there, too. It would be naive to think it won't show up again somehow." Professor Krane takes a deep breath and continues in a much more upbeat tone, "Also, we're researching the interactions between emotion and infinity energy in pokémon. Perhaps we can develop treatments for ailments besides shadowfication, maybe even treatments that will work on humans. That's the kind of thing I have to say to get money," he adds a bit sheepishly.

    "Pokémon dance, and people are not sick anymore?"

    Professor Krane's smile is visibly strained. "It's research. The idea is to find out."

    Enough of this. We're done here, Mewtwo says. We need to meet Celebi.

    "That sounds pretty weird, but good luck," you say graciously. "That is everything I wanted to ask. Thank you."

    "It's no problem. I would say stop by anytime, but," this time Professor Krane's smile is definitely genuine, "you really should make an appointment first."
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2018
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  3. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Definitely a winter

    Orre hype, whoop whoop. I guess? I think? I mean, we're sure taking in all the Orre sights right of the bat, I suppose. Random minor tidbit, but I'm pretty this is the first time I've ever seen anyone expressly refer to Mewtwo as having fur. I always thought it was just flesh/skin. Now I can't get the image of a fluffy Mewtwo out of my head, and I thoroughly blame you for this gross injustice. :p

    And it doesn't take long for Mewtwo to fill the void created by Nate's (and, to a lesser extend, Leonard's) absence. He's super confrontational and resorts to putting Mewra to sleep. I can see his anger, to be sure. Though, maybe because you really just made Nate so absurd, I can't help but feeling like Mewtwo's actually... a bit underwhelming. His strawman ranting about humans seemed whiny (which could've been what you were going for, but anger seemed more like the intention). This isn't one of those instances where I can really give specifics. He just felt sort of flat to me. He shared some traits with the protagonist. Quick to anger. Likes to boast or show off, when possible. I guess the fact that the protagonist doesn't even appear to acknowledge that kind of takes something out of it for me, if that makes any sense. Also, because of the sheer hypocrisy of Mewra, who's far from a saint and has been straight up told that already. It picks up a little bit once Absol steps in and the two start bickering like they're actual siblings. A lot of "Nuh-uh, you are's" get tossed around, and it's pretty evident that Absol is the mature "adult" in the room. And something about having her make a verbal contract struct me as funny for some reason. Something something it's symbolic.

    I also have to say that, given how powerful you made Mewtwo out to be, I'm quite taken aback that your Mewtwo doesn't seem to know Miracle Eye. Or, at least, some version of it. Maybe I missed something. But it feels like Miracle Eye is practically part of Mewtwo's identity. Something to put him a cut above other psychic-types, because "even the vanuted dark-typing won't save you from my powers." It's really weird not seeing it show up. It's not a huge problem, by any means. I just thought I'd bring it up anyway. :V

    The stuff at Professor Krane's lab is chock full of references to the Orre games. But there are just enough little teases to leave me guessing about where you're possible going (Celebi, Lovrina, maybe Cipher's not actualy gone for good). I guess I'll just have to see where we go from here.

    It looks like your tag broke in the middle of this dialogue.

    So, basically, Mewtwo's a really swole cat. As long as he wasn't skipping leg day, we're cool.

    Guess there won't be any Dance Dance Revolution in this story's future. :p
     
  4. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Alright, finally catching up!

    I think it’s really, really interesting to note the shift in the child’s behavior once it pretty much has everything it wants. It’s upbeat and friendly and excited when it’s not having to deal with the stress that it is generally terrible at handling. Which gets especially interesting when things go horribly wrong at the end of chapter 35. It comes this close to realizing that it’s out of line and that it didn’t want to act like that, and yet immediately jumps back into blaming others.

    The other most interesting character-related bit to me is the reveal that Nate is, in fact, a failed Pokémon trainer. Which manages to both make perfect sense (how many successful Pokémon trainers wind up needing to join a gang to get by?) and also surprising at the same time.

    Wait. Wait wait wait. Did I forget. Or did I just never piece the clues together? Mewtwo doesn’t have Steelix? Oh god… the child’s just been stringing Nate along for nothing. God, that’s twisted.

    hello yes i'd like to report a murder, it is mine, you have killed me

    I love the fact that you had Nate use the wrong word here. It was so subtle I almost missed it.

    Huh. I forget how far in school Nate got, but I’d figured it was further than, y’know, 1st grade. Unless translation convention is in effect and Kanto’s language is similar to Japanese and involves something like Kanji, which is taught over the course of one’s entire primary education. Either way, it’s interesting.

    Go home everyone. Best sentence in the fic, right here.

    Hot damn that is fantastically useless info. Literally years have passed and Mew can teleport. Wow. For the entire fic thus far, the protag has been chasing imagined goals, and it’s going to keep on doing that. I’m beginning to suspect that futility is a core theme in this fic.

    I really loved the biology extra! Reminded me a lot of all my old Pokémon biology essays I published on deviantart (aside from the fact that I would rather not anyone read those because it’s hilariously obvious I had no idea what energy actually is.) I’m especially in love with the term “infinity energy.” I always struggled with what to call it and wanted to come up with a cool term but couldn’t come up with anything and just called it “Pokémon energy.” x.X

    ….oh yeah. Orre. Shadow Pokémon are a thing. Red has Shadow Pokémon. I’m legit embarrassed it took me this long to put that together. (Of course, there’s still the massive question of "why" so it’s not like I’m any further along now.)

    Man, there’s just something wild about Mewtwo using actual Pokéspeech. It always makes me double-take. Although I think I missed the reason why he was intentionally embarrassing himself like that.

    Interesting that even Mewtwo trusts her a great deal. Also equally interesting that he tolerates his sibling so well now. Oh, don’t get me wrong, he clearly dislikes the protag a great deal, and actively resents it for keeping him in the ball, but he’s no longer trying to stay away from it. Either because he realizes that it’s too much trouble to avoid, or because it can be useful to have around. Or maybe both. ;P

    I was totally prepared to cringe at the protag attempting to pass as a normal human again because that never ends well, but it actually didn’t go too badly this time! xD Well, aside from the whole “attempting to have a normal conversation while dealing with constant telepathic intrusions” thing. Which, I can say from experience, is fantastically fun to write. ;P In any case, they actually have a lead now! Huzzah! That’s honestly amazing considering that the phrase “needle in a haystack” doesn’t come close to adequately describing their goal.

    ~Chibi~
     
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  5. DreamSayer

    DreamSayer Dreamzone Trainer

    Review for Chapters 34-36

    Well, for Ch34, one if my favorite parts was the little bonding moment between Nate and his Raticate. Moments like these are refreshing, and they really help the characters grow one way or another. It's a shame that they didn't completely resolve their issues, but maybe they'll get over it eventually. Also, I'm starting to think that the 'child' might subconsciously like having Nate around, either because they're used to him or just find him amusing in an ironic way.

    I can't say I didn't get the chills when Mewtwo was strongly displaying his bloodlust. I mean, dude needs to take a chill pill or something. I can't blame him though, but still, it's hypocritical when you see him criticizing humans, and yet he'd kill thousands with no remorse if given the chance.

    Ch35 finally brought us to the conclusion of another major phase in this story, and it also greatly changed up the status quo between the characters. Kerrigan just had to provoke the child to the extreme, right after the child finished reliving their trauma, and the child was having none of it.

    Still, I almost felt sad for the child by the end of the chapter.... almost. I still dislike the child from the bottom of my heart lol XD. Honestly, I'm only reading because of Absol and Mewtwo.

    Ch36 was a bit of a straightforward chapter. The highlight of it was no doubt the interactions between the child and Mewtwo, and how Absol was able to help them come to a compromise. It's weird seeing Mewtwo actually listening to her, but I suppose Absol gives an air of wisdom when she's present, hence why he'd trust her judgment.

    In any case, things are finally picking up now that we're in Orre. I just hope you won't be heavy on the references because I haven't played the Colosseum games :(. In any case, i look forward to their possible encounter with Celebi, if it does show up.
     
  6. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    Happy belated birthday, first of all! XD I love the little extra scene with them dressing up and play fighting. Of course there's some hints of business in there, with Nate wanting to just send the child over to Kerrigan and call it a day, plus the child just wanting to play by its own rules, but. The child's, well, childlike self getting the spotlight for even a short while was adorable to see.

    For the Pokémon biology entries... There's a lot of neat concepts expanded on from canon, the infinite energy aspect being the most interesting for me. Right down to Pokémon growing by "levels," you cover everything and tie everything in together in a way that seems plausible - as plausible as Pokémon can be, anyway, compared to the real world. :p I'll also say I never thought I'd see such an in depth explanation on Pokémon breeding, but there it was. I would've been interested to hear more about the genetic differences passed down from parent to offspring in more specific terms used in other aspects of the entries, as I think real world dominant/recessive traits and whatnot could serve as a foundation for that, but if you'd tried to cover every little thing ever, you'd basically have never finished the entries. XD

    Onto the actual latest chapter: I don't know why, but now that Mewtwo and the child are together more often, something rubs me the wrong way about their interactions. From what I can remember, Mewtwo's usually been rather ruthless and has tossed the child aside even when the child could've proved useful, but now he's cooperating and has softened considerably. Perhaps that's because this lead is far different from past information they've been acting on, but I don't know. I'd just expect more harshness from him, especially with the child treating him so badly by keeping him contained in a ball. Absol stepping in to act like their mother and put them in line was a nice touch, though, and perhaps that means Mewtwo has got his own childish side we haven't been able to see as well until now.

    Also, Orre! I like the little homages to Cipher in Colosseum/XD. Damn right they flaunt their evilness. Not really surprised Mewtwo and the child ran into a few hiccups almost right away, honestly. It's starting to feel like a wild goose chase in which they'll never get answers or find Mew, and that's not really a criticism, per se, just more that I feel their frustration and wonder if they're ever going to find up or, you know, find their mother. I'm still not anticipating any happy ending, you know? So it breaks my heart to see them running around like this and meeting failure after failure.

    The psychologist in me has her interest piqued by the whole shadow Pokémon being treated thing, as well as how they become shadow Pokémon in the first place. Seems the latter was shoved to the side in favor of the treatment, and don't know if that'll stand, but it's fine either way. I can't say for sure if shadow Pokémon will even have a huge role here, but a hunch tells me yes. xD

    Looking forward to where the duo go from here!
     
  7. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    After way more time and effort than expected, I've fixed up the chapter index and merged posts where possible to take advantage of the new, higher character limit. Now only chapters 11 and 31 require two posts!

    What I haven't updated yet is the swear-filtering code, which looks weird on the new forums because of the way the font tag is implemented. What I'm going to do is read back through the entire story and make some revisions, and I'll be replacing the old coding as I go along. I'm not looking to make major changes, and mostly I'll just be zapping typos and making sure I didn't delete half the chapter in the process of doing a post mere (I'm sure I managed to do that at least once). However, I've been thinking for a while about making some changes to the middle-ish chapters, and I definitely need to make the situation surrounding Nate's steelix more clear, so this is my chance to finally do that. Chapters ~9-20, then, will be getting some more major edits, which I'll probably announce once I've done them. I needed to do a full reread anyway, for Reasons, so this works out.

    In any case, that'll be running in the background while I continue to work on new material. I'm not going to stop posting chapters while I do revisions, which will probably take months anyway. But that's why the cursing will look funny for a little bit longer!

    Now, some review replies.

    @Ambyssin

    Woo yeah, Orre hype! ;)

    I've seen people do furry Mew before, but it's rare! I think I mentioned his fur once before. It's not very nice fur, though, pretty sparse and mostly on his limbs and torso rather than his face.

    'Tis fair. I think Mewtwo is the weakest of the major characters by a fair amount; he hasn't been much of a player in the previous arcs, mostly just steamrolling over everybody else and getting stuff done. Since he's much more important for this one, he'll need to step it up as an actual person, which I think is one of my major challenges for this section of the story. It's a bit tricky because there isn't much to him, really; he pretty much hates people, fights, and kills things. It's not like he has... hobbies, or anything. So, he obviously needs development and some element of interest besides "guy who's good at killing things." We'll see how it goes. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, it's very useful feedback to have.

    Yeah, I forgot about miracle eye. While I don't know that Mewtwo would bother for a mundane conversation, it's only something I put in this chapter because I realized the logistical difficulties as I was writing it, so it can come out again just as easily. Thanks for pointing it out.

    Mewtwo NEVER skips leg day, haha. Though I think it's shifted a bit with the introduction of Mega Mewtwo X, people have traditionally focused on Mewtwo's psychic/special abilities, so I've enjoyed putting a little more spotlight on Mewtwo's physical capabilities. He can explode your skull at thirty feet with his mind or kick you through a wall, it just depends on what he's feeling like at the moment!

    Nah, the protagonist would be super enthusiastically bad at DDR. This is just me projecting how annoying I find the set-editing music onto my poor fictional characters, haha. Spending twenty minutes or so building sets so I could purify Shadow Lugia was a serious exercise in patience for me.

    Thanks for the review! I hope you end up enjoying how this arc shapes up, but even if you don't, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on it.

    @Chibi Pika

    To be fair, I think most people are relatively upbeat and friendly when they have what they want and aren't feeling stressed. But yes, the protagonist isn't by any means some kind of villain that spends its free time spinning plots or tormenting people (er... much). For the most part it just wants to do kid stuff. And it's not quite ready to let go of some of its bad habits just yet.

    It's funny, because I never actually thought of him as such until you put it like that, ahaha. I guess it's because he didn't obtain a license (the air-quotes kind of obtain) until after he was a member of Team Rocket, so he was never a journeying trainer in the conventional sense.

    tbh this line shouldn't really be in here, since it's a bit anachronistic; Salvage takes place in something like ~2005, before "the cloud" was really a thing, but on the other hand I like it too much to axe it.

    It also fuels my dear, dear hope that somehow someone out there reading this story has Cloud to Butt installed and got momentarily very confused, but also hopefully amused, upon reading that bit.

    Argh, yes, this is something that I need to make a lot more obvious, because it's sort of an important point. Mewtwo doesn't have Steelix and never did, and the protagonist always knew that. It claiming otherwise was a baldfaced lie, and yeah, definitely cruel.

    Where is Steelix actually? Place your bets, I guess.

    THANK YOU for noticing that, ahahaha.

    Nate dropped out of high school. Believe it or not it's totally possible to graduate from high school without, effectively, knowing how to read. If a kid is struggling that badly with their academics, it's often easier just to pass them and let it be someone else's problem than it is to hold them back and try to get them up to speed. In some classrooms, that sort of problem might not even be noticed, and it wasn't like Nate was going to a great school or anything. Even in the US, there are millions of adults like him and who probably have a comparable education; in this study from 2003, 14% of participants were at a "below basic" level of reading proficiency, and of those, 55% did not have a high school diploma... meaning that 45% of them could barely read but graduated from high school anyway. (I think there's a more recent study of this, but I couldn't find it with a cursory Google, and I'd be surprised if it were dramatically different.

    Here's a good article I read a while back about a guy teaching himself to read... while in college.

    In any case and in Nate's defense, he's not completely illiterate, he's just bad enough at reading for it to be embarrassing, and he avoids it as much as possible. He could have read the cereal box Leo was taunting him with, but it would have taken him obvious effort and been totally humiliating. Likewise he could have puzzled through the trainer profiles on the pokédex, but it wouldn't have been at all time efficient. The summons he got from the League probably would have been beyond him.

    I had a lot of fun with some of the dialogue in this chapter, and it was high time someone finally said this!

    It's definitely not much to go on. On the other hand, I suppose, what other leads is the protagonist supposed to pursue? Don't talk to me about trying to gather additional information or explore other approaches before haring off halfway across the world to pursue a weak lead, we'll have none of your earth logic here.

    Well, now you've definitely gone and made me curious about your old pokémon biology essays. XD I think it's a lot of fun

    "Infinity energy" is definitely a cool name for nebulous "Pokémon energy," but unfortunately I can't take credit; it's a canon term since ORAS, when Steven casually mentions that e.g. the rockets launched from Mossdeep are powered by sucking the life energy out of pokémon and then somehow this is just treated as normal. D:

    Well, you're the first person who's actually mentioned making that connection, so I'd say you're probably ahead of the game there. Before writing the champion battle I'd been like, "Hmm, what color is the shadow pokémon aura again? Purple, right?" and then when everyone was like, "It's purple! It Mewtwo!!" I was like, "Oh... whoops." A little unintentional confusion there; I'd been thinking solely of shadow mons and not the color of Mewtwo's psychic aura.

    Red's pokémon aren't quite shadow pokémon in the traditional sense, but that's probably the best way to describe their condition.

    Absol can't hear telepathy because she's a dark-type. As Ambyssin pointed out, though, Mewtwo has miracle eye, so I'll probably just have him use that instead.

    Yes, Mewtwo definitely has a lot of respect for Absol for no apparent reason. He's not so thrilled about having the protagonist around, but after what happened in Saffron he has to recognize that he can't really openly wander around the region causing havoc, much though he'd like that. And he needs someone who can communicate with humans while he sulks in his master ball... so yeah, it's pretty much a matter of utility.

    A lot of people have commented that Mewtwo seems less dickish towards the protagonist in this chapter, so I probably haven't done a good job of conveying the transition here. Mewtwo needs the protagonist around to handle jobs that he would be too conspicuous/vulnerable doing himself. After getting thoroughly smacked down by both Sabrina and Team Rocket, it's pretty clear that if he just goes around blowing stuff up, someone's probably going to be able to come and stop him (although he'd certainly still claim otherwise). He needs the protagonist to do stuff for him where going himself would attract too much attention. The power dynamic has also shifted a bit because previously the protagonist thought that he could leave his master ball at any time and punish it if it did something he didn't like; now that it realizes that he's well and truly trapped when he's in the ball, Mewtwo has a little bit less of an overwhelming advantage over it, and as a result he can't strongarm the protagonist quite as much.

    I cut this chapter down quite a bit; originally there was a scene where the protagonist tries to get the receptionist at Professor Krane's lab to cooperate with it and fails miserably, but I cut it out because at this point I think that joke's pretty played out. It still really doesn't understand human social interaction as well as it thinks it does, but harping on that more would really be beating a dead horse at this point.

    Thanks for the review! Like I said, you picked out a lot of my favorite bits, so it was a ton of fun to read.

    @DreamSayer

    I'm glad you enjoyed that! To be honest, I wanted to have a lot more stuff that was just Nate/his pokémon in the last arc, and on rewrite I really would like to slip more in because I think it's pretty important, but there's already so much going on there that I don't know what would get cut.

    The protagonist subconsciously liking to have Nate around, though? Well, maybe if only subconsciously. I'm sure it would be very offended if you accused it of such. :p

    Mewtwo DEFINITELY needs to chill, haha. Of course, he'd argue that humans are the ones who made him like he is, so really they're the ones at fault for him slaughtering people. Truly, all this nonsense could have been avoided if Giovanni'd made better business decisions.

    Well, I'm glad you were nearly moved. XD It's true, the protagonist is still a real brat. I mean, yeesh, speaking of characters who need to chill...

    Mewtwo was listening to her for a different reason... but more on that much, much later. :p

    Well, the story will definitely involve places and characters that were significant in the Orre games, as well as reference some of their plot points. Hopefully it shouldn't be a problem for someone who hasn't played the games, since the characters are just learning about these things themselves, but if it's confusing or unclear, please let me know!

    Great to see you back. Thanks for leaving a review, and I hope you enjoy the upcoming chapters.

    @diamondpearl876

    Thanks for the birthday wishes! And a happy belated birthday to you as well, haha. I'm glad you liked the extras. Like I said (I think?), the scene with Nate and the protagonist is my favorite in the chapter, so it was great to be able to re-add it to the main storyline.

    For the biology extra, I'm glad you thought it made things sound plausible (considering). I have a lot of fun trying to figure out how things like levels might kind of make sense. I actually didn't want to go too much into genetics because that's kind of my field and I think I'd have a tendency to go way, way too far down the rabbit hole there, to a degree of detail that people really wouldn't want. It might be fun to do a more focused segment discussing that kind of thing, though, and maybe going into some of the other stuff that's vaguely mentioned in the story but not explored much, like physical variations in pokémon.

    Several people have mentioned that Mewtwo seems better disposed towards the protagonist in this chapter than he has previously, which was something I honestly didn't even think of! I think I probably need to make more clear that his behavior is different because the circumstances are different, not because his disposition towards the protagonist has changed. He's still as much of a dick as ever, I assure you. :p

    I guarantee there'll be more discussion of how pokémon get turned into shadow pokémon and how they recover! I've had entirely too much fun thinking about how all of that would work, since the actual Orre games contain, like, basically zero concrete information about it, so it's more a matter of me trying to figure out how to cut down my giant exposition dumps than me glossing over the worldbuilding. Your hunch is correct, the nature of shadow pokémon and purification is very important to the overall story, so hopefully you'll enjoy how they're portrayed.

    Thanks for catching up and taking the time to leave a review!
     
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  8. unrepentantAuthor

    unrepentantAuthor A cat who writes stories

    Hi there! I'd spotted Salvage previously and taken a light interest, so seeing that you'd requested a review for it via the review game was enough to get me to take a proper look at it. Bear in mind that I might be very slow in catching up with it if I keep reading! Here follows a review for the opening chapter.

    What an interesting start! Normally I would comment as I read but the body of chapter one was so intriguing as to make me read it in its entirety before commenting. This is a consequence both of the unusual style, and of the actual story content.

    Regarding the style, you begin with future-in-the-past tense, which is one of the rarest grammatical tenses I see in prose fiction. It indicates a kind of wistfulness or remorse, I suppose. It suggests to me that the child's actions are performed with resignation, subject to the Fate that Absol serves. I immediately learn from this that there's some worldbuilding ahead of me, that the protagonist already has goals in conflict with their intentions, and that you're an author capable of making unusual choices for the sake of better prose.

    The present tense used for the main body of the chapter is another unconventional choice that helps the narration stay close to the physical reality of these events, and encourages me to picture the details as they happen. Then you end with second person POV and force me further into the head of the protagonist, ending on a question that is not so much part of the prose as it is the very question any reader would now have - what was this murder and identity theft for? It is for these reasons that I am already certain I will continue reading.

    I worry that the narrative style is sometimes a little too hard to follow. I can't tell if the omission of a comma in the first quote is deliberate, but it made me read the paragraph again and disrupted the reading experience. The second quote confuses me even after having finished the story, because it seems to reference a fourth party besides the child, the real Nicholas, and Absol. Honestly, for the opening to be somewhat disorienting actually has its own kind of appeal, but I feel these shouldn't go unquestioned.

    Regarding the content, you've already presented hints at a world with its own lore, a protagonist about whom I am compelled to learn more, and a murder committed for unknown reasons. That would already be enough to hook me in firmly. The care taken to describe not just the aquatic form the child adopts but the consequences of doing so - the protection of the scales, the agility in water, the spluttering of excess water upon surfacing - is the kind of descriptive content I enjoy the most. A transforming protagonist whose transformations cause them to interact with the world with precise and meaningful differences is a great thing to read about.

    Something else I really enjoy in my fiction that you demonstrated in this chapter is the provision of worldbuilding and characterisation in integrated slivers - the reference to Fate, the abilities of the child, the contents of the pokédex. They imply a fully realised setting with its own quirks, without dropping exposition on me like an anvil. All these informational droplets successfully coax me into reading further - and I'll be sure to read more of Salvage when I have the opportunity to get really stuck in!
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2018
  9. Starlight Aurate

    Starlight Aurate Just a fallen star

    Hey! It's been quite a while, so I thought I'd stop by and pick up where I left off :)

    Ch. 32:
    - I like the part where the child speculates about Red's mother and what she must be feeling. Makes me think of the mom from the Red and Blue games!
    - The battle was really intense, and really cool. Just what was wrong with Red and his team?

    Ch. 33:
    - lol I like the pidgey that flew after the child. I feel like it just wants to help, even if it isn't strong enough to do much XD
    - Aaah the little scene where you describe Cinnabar reminds me of Hawaii when I visited a few months ago. Oh how I miss Hawaii.
    - I'm impressed Nate manages to stand after having his hands cuffed and all he's been through.

    Ch. 34:
    - The sudden shift back to third person caught me off guard. I know you've written third person in this fic before; maybe it just jarred me now because I'm reading a couple of chapters back-to-back.
    - Also, this might be an odd question, but is the child biologically a boy, girl, or neither? I just thought about it because Nate is looking at him naked, and if the child has the biological features of neither a boy nor a girl (since you keep referring to the child as "it") then I can see why that would squick him out more than usual.
    - Aaah I love Leonard Kerrigan's dry snark :)
    - Raticate's self-deprecation made me sad ;_;
    - When Nate says he doesn't want to see Red again... I feel like he's tempting fate

    Ch. 35:
    - "End of the first part of the story"? Geeze Louise you've got a long story.
    - Nate's refusal to eat vegetables reminds me of a friend I had who refused to eat vegetables throughout college and even took supplementary vitamins because his diet was so bad.
    - Awww Graveler is so cute! I love how she accepts Nate's rock and then just sets it aside for another one. He should really learn to differentiate rocks so he can get ones she likes.
    - Orre... Well, I didn't think the child would end up going there. Isn't there something in the games about Mew being found there? Maybe not; I might be getting stuff mixed up. Either way, an interesting little twist! :D

    Ch. 36:
    - The Fanart by Dragonfree made me think of Feirefiz from Parzival; who's described as having piebald skin due to a black mother and white father (biology was not well understood in those days) and d'awwww that Poochy is adorable ;_;
    - There's an odd switch from the second to the third person tense in this chapter that stuck out to me. Any particular reason for it? Or was it not on purpose?
    - Ah, sounds like Red has been using Shadow Pokemon to me, what with their emotions regulating and brains atrophying.

    Overall:
    Do you have to change the font or letter size for certain words that contain swear words? I notice that kept popping up, haha.
    You've certainly got an interesting bit of story here! I'm glad I was able to finally catch up, and I like forward to where this story is going to go. I've never played any of the Orre games myself, but being the geek that I am, I know quite a bit about them and they sound like a lot of fun! Orre also seems to be an under-written and under-appreciated part of the Pokemon world, so it's always nice to see it have some love and attention. I'm excited to see where this is headed next! :D
     
  10. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    After several months of radio silence, I'm finally seeing good progress on the next chapter. I'll be posting it a week from now, on Wednesday the 8th! In the meantime, here are some review responses that, like everything else, are super late.

    @unrepentantAuthor

    Good to see you! I'm glad the review game gave you an incentive to check this fic out. It's great to hear your thoughts.

    It's kind of interesting to have you comment on the various tense and POV changes in this chapter. To be honest, I hadn't really thought about how I was moving around so much. This story does use several different POVs and tenses based on what's going on, but I hadn't realized that was actually reflected even within the first chapter. Thanks for taking the time to lay out the impressions you got from the different POV sections. It's always interesting to see how people respond to these unusual POV choices, and it's helpful to see if they're in line with what I was hoping for. It's interesting that you thought the future-in-the-past section made you think that the protagonist has goals in conflict with their intentions... I'd say that's a pretty big recurring theme in this story, haha.

    The beginning chapters are definitely disorienting, and probably too much so. I've tried to tone it down a bit, since most of the story is told in a more straightforward way, but I haven't been able to work out how to make it more straightforward while still conveying what I want. Unfortunately I think the earlier chapters do turn off some people who might have enjoyed the later parts of the story, but at this point I'm kind of resigned to it and will just have to try and not make the same mistake on my next go-round, haha.

    As for these particular quotes, I'm not actually sure where you'd put a comma in the first sentence? ("But this one it thinks it recalls.") After "one," maybe? If the punctuation is confusing, it's unintentional!

    The second one, though, yeah, that should be in third person and not in first! Probably going to have to work out some way to reword it, though, since "the one that is its" just reads terribly, haha. Thanks for pointing that out!

    I'm glad that you enjoyed how the child's transformations are portrayed. I love playing around with the different ways that pokémon understand and interact with the world, and it's fun to have a character where I can kind of cheat and look at a bunch of different species using only one POV. It's one of the most fun things about this story for me.

    Thanks for a lovely review! I'm glad you enjoyed the story, and if you continue with it I hope you'll enjoy the later chapters as well. I definitely look forward to getting to check out Different Eyes, too. As usual I'm super behind on all my reading and reviewing, but it's absolutely on my list of stories I need to look at!

    @Starlight Aurate

    It's great to see you back again! Thanks for taking the time to catch up.

    I liked this bit quite a lot, too! Actually had to cut it down from a longer initial version; it's not something the child would be thinking that hard about. With Red's whole "retreating to an isolated mountaintop" thing, I had to imagine his mother probably wouldn't be so gung-ho about the whole "Champion" thing, even while being proud of him for achieving it.

    I'm glad you liked the battle! I wanted to end things on a solid note, since there won't really be standard trainer battles like that in the rest of the story. (Although I guess it wasn't the most standard of trainer battles, either, heh.)

    I visited Hawaii for the first time not too long before this chapter was posted, so perhaps that had some influence on it, haha. It was wild to see how much Hawaii actually resembled Alola. I kept accidentally calling Diamond Head "Ten Karat Hill." >>;

    Anger gives him strength! I might have underestimated the difficulty of standing with cuffed hands, though; it's not something I've tried myself.

    Yeah, the POV's aren't very evenly distributed across the story. Sometimes it'll be second person for a long time, and other times it'll be third almost exclusive for a long time. Not sure whether that's a problem as such, but I can see transitioning after a while of one or the other could be jarring.

    Not an odd question, I don't think. "The child" doesn't have any fixed sex, and it isn't particularly consistent about what sex it is from one day to the next. In this scene it might have had physical characteristics that would indicate it as being male, female, both, or neither. So as for what Nate might have seen here, feel free to use your imagination... or decide not to, if you'd prefer. XD

    Thanks, I had a lot of fun writing him in this chapter. :D

    I regret not having more scenes with Nate interacting with his pokémon like this in the last arc, but it was already really long with a lot going on! I'm glad this one was well-received.

    He really needs to learn not to say that kind of thing where a mean person with a word processor might hear. :p

    Haha, yeah, it's turning out to be a lot longer than expected. Which typically happens with my fics, tbh. I generally don't know when to shut up. I was originally expecting it to run to fifty-something chapters, but it's looking more likely it'll end up around seventy.

    Well, at least he was taking vitamins! I know people with all kinds of unusual diets and food habits (and my dad supposedly knows someone who always eats dessert before dinner and insists on this even in restaurants), so Nate's aversion to vegetables seems pretty tame to me. Let people eat what they want, Leo, seriously. =/

    Haha, yeah, that was a definitely "it's the thought that counts" moment for Graveler. Nate should definitely try to figure out what kinds of rocks his pokémon like (he has two experts to help him out with that!), but unfortunately it'd take a while for him to become an accomplished geologist, haha. His pokémon get him wildly inappropriate gifts, too... they definitely have a lot they could learn from each other, haha.

    I can't honestly remember how Orre ended up in the storyline. It might just be that I've always liked it and wanted to set a story there! As far as I can remember there isn't anything about Mew in the Orre games, although it's also totally possible that I thought there was at some point.

    Yeah, human skin color 100% doesn't work that way, but since the child isn't constrained by normal genetics, it can mix traits in odd ways. Those "patchy" colors would be the result of something like X-inactivation, what gets you the blotches of black/orange/white on calico cats.

    And yes, the poochyena is super cute!

    Arrgh, I'm guessing that wasn't on purpose. I'm going to be going back over this chapter around when I post the next one, so I'll keep an eye out for this and hopefully fix it!

    Pretty much! We'll definitely learn more later about exactly is up with Red and his pokémon, but I think you're ahead of the curve here. Not many people appear to have made that connection!

    This happened as a result of the board upgrade. Future chapters will make the censor evasion invisible again, and I'll be going back over previous chapters to fix the size/font differences as well.

    Thanks again for catching up and leaving such a nice review! I'm glad you enjoyed this run of chapters, and I hope you won't find the Orre stuff too difficult to follow. I'm not sure how it'll read to people who aren't familiar with the games, but hopefully it won't be too confusing!
     
    unrepentantAuthor likes this.
  11. unrepentantAuthor

    unrepentantAuthor A cat who writes stories

    You're very welcome, Negrek, and thank you for your response.

    I know the feeling, believe me. I think to some extent an author just has to accept that not everyone will read past the first chapter, and that it's better to maintain a smaller audience of people that love your work for what it is.

    "But this one it thinks it recalls." reads as if this one is the entity thinking and recalling. I prefer "But it thinks it recalls this one." or something similar.

    I'd reword from "the one that is mine, the one that was stolen from me" to "the one that was stolen from it, that rightfully belonged to it" or similar.

    I'm sure I will! It's gonna take ages to get round to them, though. I'd be sorry, but there's really nothing I can do about it, haha. I'm studying, moving house, getting a driver's license and a job, while ill and working on my own stuff. I do promise to keep reading on when I have some more time, though.

    Hey, thanks! I'm excited to hear what you think of it.
     
  12. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    @unrepentantAuthor
    Ah, gotcha. So it's more my fondness for sort of archaic constructions that's an issue there, haha. Thanks for the suggested edits!

    No worries, I still haven't managed to even get out one review for you, and it took me months to even get this chapter out. We can go at our own paces and maybe we'll have caught up on each other's stories in a decade or so. :p

    Here's Chapter 37 at last! Took a little longer than expected because it turned out I somehow managed to delete the scripts I use to format my chapters for posting, and then the backups I'm 100% sure I made turned out to not exist, somehow. Regardless, it's here now, and I hope you enjoy!

    I shuffled the scenes in this chapter around while editing, which resulted in a kind of weird, short opening section that would work better as the end of the previous chapter. I'll leave it as is for a couple of weeks so as not to confuse anyone/make them need to go and reread the last chapter, then go move the first part of this chapter into the previous one.

    I also removed my old PM list, as it was really old and the new forums offer more convenient options for that sort of thing. If you'd like, I can ping you whenever a new chapter goes up by mentioning your name in the post; let me know if you'd be interested in that.

    Chapter 37

    You're feeling cheerful, coming out of Professor Krane's office. That was easy! You thought you'd to have to spend weeks wandering around in the desert trying to find a lead. Even if Celebi doesn't know anything, having him on your side will be great. Maybe he could time travel into the past and make it so Mew never got caught in the first place, and then you won't have to do anything at all. Time travel is never a good idea in movies, but it's what Celebi does all day, he has to be good at it.

    Mewtwo's filling your head with questions. Where is this shrine? Do you know how to get there? You didn't ask. How far away is it?

    You can't answer him here, not with people coming and going all around you. There are even pokémon wandering the broad tiled hallway, the most you've seen in Orre. Mewtwo keeps going anyway, like he's thinking out loud. Desert heat envelops you as you pass through the lab's sliding glass doors, but it's still early, still bearable, and you're still in the shade of Professor Krane's improbable trees. You never would have imagined Celebi living in the desert, not with how he's supposed to love forests.

    You're so wrapped up in anticipation that you don't notice anyone coming up behind until a hand closes on your arm. You turn, expecting some human you have no interest in speaking with, but find a flashing disc of metal instead. It swings gently back and forth.

    What is that? Mewtwo asks, but you're too busy to answer. You try to follow the pendant with your eyes, but it moves so fast! Even turning your head doesn't work. The pendant keeps slipping out of your field of vision, then swinging back the other way just when you manage to catch it. Maybe you'd have a better shot if Mewtwo wasn't yelling nonsense in your head. The pendant blurs to a shining arc of light, racing faster and faster. Or maybe you're getting slower.

    The pendant flashes bright, and then everything goes dark.

    --​

    "Are you okay?"

    Someone's shaking your shoulder. It's hot. You're hot. You smell stone and dust.

    "Hello?" More shaking. Stronger this time. "Hello? Can you wake up?"

    You open your eyes into searing blue sky, blinking away tears.

    "Oh," says the voice. "Oh, oh. Okay. Are you okay?"

    A human hovers over you, shadowy against the sky. Her dark hair frizzes out around her ears. "I am so, so sorry," she says. "Hypno's never done that to someone before." She turns to look at something outside your field of view. "You have to give that back, Hypno. You know that's not how you ask for a fight."

    Give what back? You don't feel bad, actually. Just groggy. More than anything you want to go back to sleep.

    "No," some pokémon says. "I need to know where she got this. She shouldn't have it."

    From your ground-level perspective you can see the woman grimace. She bites her lip. "No? Because... it's bad? Hypno, you can't just take things from people. I'm sure this woman knows how to handle her pokémon." After a second she adds, "If you won't give it back to the lady, will you let me hold onto it instead?"

    "No."

    This is stupid. You're going to have to get up and deal with it if you're going to get any sleep at all. You make no attempt to smother a groan of irritation as you drag yourself upright and hope you look as cranky as you feel as you squint around for the pokémon that's been causing trouble.

    The hypno stiffens when you face her, clutching the thing she took from you. Which is--you freeze. You don't feel tired anymore.

    "Give that back!" You reach towards Hypno, who retreats a step, hunching defensively over Mewtwo's master ball.

    "Who is this?" she demands. You open your mouth to reply but catch yourself just in time. Hypno stares up at you with narrowed eyes. "You understand me, don't you? The one in this ball was talking like you could hear. What are you?"

    "No, no, it's okay, it's okay," Hypno's trainer babbles, pushing her way between the two of you. "She'll give it back, I promise. If we can just calm down a moment, calm down and work this out..."

    "She needs to give that back now," you say, keeping a stern eye on Hypno. "That is a dangerous pokémon. She cannot let it out."

    "See, Hypno, it's no good for battling. Give the ball back, now."

    Hypno spares a glance for her trainer. "We need to talk. Alone."

    It would be easier to handle this without the human here, yes. It would be even easier to fight, though, just punch the hypno out, take the ball, and be on your way. You clench one fist experimentally.

    The human's staring at Hypno. "You want me to... go away?" Hypno grunts and makes a shooing gesture with the hand that has her pendulum wrapped around it.

    The human looks between you and Hypno. "I don't... Why? You aren't going to hypnotize her again, are you?"

    "She is not going to hypnotize me," you say. You were expecting Hypno to back you up, but she has her head tipped towards the master ball like she's listening. She is listening, you realize. Mewtwo must be talking to her. That's exactly what you need.

    "I really, I just don't know." The woman's chewing her lip like she's been confronted with the worst dilemma of her life. "This is all so weird, I..."

    Hypno looks up at you, though her head's still tipped towards the master ball. She stands there frowning a moment more, then thrusts the ball at you. You reach for it without thinking. What on earth did Mewtwo say that made her decide to give him up so fast?

    I think this one knows something about Cipher. Mewtwo's voice fills your head when you touch the master ball. I want to speak with her more. Give me back to her and distract the human until we're done talking.

    The hypno's making exasperated wheezy honk-noises at her trainer while the woman insists, "You've caused enough trouble for one day! Besides, we're running late. The professor's expecting us."

    "It is okay," you say, then again, louder, and the human finally turns to you.

    "What?"

    "My pokémon wants to talk to Hypno. I will give the ball back to her, it is okay."

    The human's mouth goes thin, and she looks at you with fresh suspicion. "Can it wait? We're supposed to be somewhere." The end of her sentence is drowned out by Hypno's bark of protest.

    "No." Or rather, you think it could wait, but Mewtwo would disagree.

    The woman turns her scowl on Hypno. "If Professor Krane's mad at us for being late, you're taking the blame, okay?" The hypno nods once, then stares a challenge at her trainer. The woman sighs and waves a hand at you. "Okay. Go on, then, if you want to."

    The hypno snatches the master ball from you before your arm is even fully extended, then retreats a couple steps, cupping it just under her nose. You recognize the pose you've fallen into many times yourself, the master ball right up in front of your face while you argued with the clone inside.

    "What do you have in there?" the trainer asks sharply, watching Hypno commune with the master ball.

    "An alakazam," you say uneasily.

    "An alakazam so dangerous you can't let it out? What are you even doing with a pokémon like that?"

    "Um," you say, "I came to Orre because I heard about shadow pokémon, and I was wondering, umm... If this alakazam is, uh, is kind of like a shadow pokémon, maybe somebody here would be able to help him."

    "Oh!" The human's expression changes to beaming so fast you're afraid you might have screwed something up. It wasn't that good a story. "That makes sense. Hypno was a shadow pokémon."

    "Really?"

    "Uh-huh. Part of the second wave, in that big cargo ship that got stolen. If she sensed something wrong with your alakazam, she probably wanted to try and help."

    "How did you get a shadow pokémon?"

    "Professor Krane arranged it. I have chronic insomnia. Really bad, actually. Drowzee and hypno are special because their hypnosis isn't like a normal attack, so it works on humans. They're used to treat sleep disorders sometimes. I was lucky that my doctor knows Professor Krane so she could recommend me when he was asking around for anyone who might benefit from an alternative sleep aid. Hypno lives with me and helps with my insomnia while she works on getting certified as a sleep pathologist for real. I guess I'm her guinea pig." She laughs. "But no, it helps out a lot, really. I'm glad she decided to stick around."

    She looks over at Hypno, smiling fondly. The pokémon's staring hard at the master ball, eyes squinted in concentration. You can't share the human's affection; the scene just makes you nervous.

    "She was supposed to be going to Hoenn, right?" That's where the S. S. Libra was headed before Shadow Lugia got it. "If she's better, why is she still here?"

    The woman's smile vanishes. "I'm not sure. She has friends here. Other pokémon that used to be with Cipher. They've been through a lot together. I've asked, but even though Hypno can send me decent mental images, it's still hard to tell what she means a lot of the time."

    Not surprising. Telepathy takes more control than any other psychic power because it has to change a person's brain in a very precise way. Mewtwo makes it feel like he's talking in your head, with actual words, but a psychic has to be at least as strong as Sabrina's alakazam, you think, to do that. Usually they can only cause general feelings; if Hypno can make actual pictures, she must be pretty good.

    "What about you and your alakazam? If it's so dangerous, why do you even have it?"

    You manage to stifle a wince. You thought you'd managed to get off that topic. "Oh, it just... kind of happened."

    "Oh?" The human turns back to you. "And it's in a master ball. Where did you get one of those? They're restricted."

    "I won it. In a tournament," you say. After a moment you add, "I have other pokémon. They, uh... are not here right now."

    "Mmm." The human considers you for long, uncomfortable seconds before turning back to Hypno. "Did you get to see the professor, then? Did he have any idea how to help your alakazam?"

    "Um, no, not really. And when I asked him about shadow pokémon he did not seem to know much."

    "I guess nobody does, except maybe the people who were actually in Cipher. Or the pokémon! Imagine how much we could learn if we could actually talk to them properly. Professor Krane does his best, though. We usually meet with him once a month to make sure everything's going okay with the sleep stuff and there aren't any signs of Hypno's shadow-ness, uh, coming back. It's a very important appointment that we're definitely really late for."

    Hypno catches the pointed word, and she frowns and raises a finger in the universal gesture for just a moment.

    "Yeah. It would be really cool to talk to pokémon," you say. But it would be even cooler if the pokémon right in front of you would wrap it up already. You're tired of making conversation. Fortunately Hypno's satisfied after only a couple more minutes to be satisfied. She approaches slowly, frowning attention all trained on you, but she does offer the master ball back.

    "Thank you," you say, and take it from her.

    "Okay, good. We all happy?" Hypno waves a hand dismissively and walks past her trainer, as though the human's the one who's been holding things up all along. The woman nods to you and says, "Sorry again. I hope you find what you need to get help for that alakazam."

    "What did you find out?" you whisper to Mewtwo while you watch the human trot off, catching up to Hypno just before she reaches the lab's big glass doors.

    Nothing terribly interesting, Mewtwo says, which must be calculated to infuriate you. She wants to help, though. And she knows other shadow pokémon. Perhaps one of those will be more useful. We'll meet with some of them tomorrow.

    "That's good!" You've read so much about shadow pokémon, but you don't know what they're actually like. And now you're going to meet a whole bunch of them!

    Not now, Mewtwo snaps. Now we're going to see Celebi, remember? And if it all goes well, we won't need any of these shadow pokémon at all.

    --​

    The desert around Professor Krane's lab is green with the spindly beginnings of forest, which grow lusher and more tangled the farther you go into the foothills. They're real hills, not dunes, with grass and yellow and white and purple wildflowers. The hover-scooter's grav-rings still kick up sand along the winding track that leads towards Agate Village, but there are footprints in the dirt, so people actually walk along this road instead of always using hovercraft like they do when they cross the proper desert.

    No pokémon, though. With as much green as there is there should be enough food for a few at least. But no. No sign.

    Agate Village itself is built on a mountain, and you think Professor Krane hardly needed to invoke Celebi to explain why it's green. It lies next to the biggest waterfall you've ever seen, with streams cascading down through the village so you can never escape the sound of running water. The rusty little houses are overgrown with moss and tree roots. Orre's relentless industrialization has left the place almost entirely untouched. Maybe that's the Celebi connection: Agate is a place outside of time.

    You could almost mistake this for somewhere in Kanto, you think as you climb the spongy, grassy slope into town.

    Where are you going? Mewtwo snaps when you keep climbing, up towards the massive tree stump looming above the village.

    You tap the pocket with the master ball and mutter, "Looking for someone who can tell me where the shrine is." You have to be careful about talking to midair when there are people around.

    Most of those people look old, which suits you fine; old people are harmless and eager to help. They're good to practice conversations with. An elderly woman in a pink and purple hat passes by, a combusken trotting beside her. You want a hat like that.

    When you stop her she says, "Oh, the Relic Stone? Getting to be a bit of a tourist attraction, isn't it? Now that people know what it can do. It's in a cave under the waterfall, dear. There's a path going down right next to the Pokémon Center."

    Feeling inexplicably more cheerful, you make your way downhill, following the sound of falling water. Mewtwo's prodding has you moving faster than you'd like, but it's a pleasant walk anyway, along a clear mountain stream that flows into a cave glowing with luminescent algae. There are even trainers battling by the water's edge, but since you aren't wearing any pokéballs nobody challenges you.

    Light streams in through an opening at the far end of the cave, and you can hear bird calls--mundane birds, but more than you've heard since arriving in Orre. The air feels different here, too. It's not a psychic field, or you don't think so, but there's a sense of some kind of power, calm and gently-flowing like the stream that cuts through the center of the cavern or the breeze fluttering the ferns around its mouth. This place feels alive like nowhere else you've been in Orre, and maybe in Kanto, either.

    Move faster! Mewtwo snaps.

    You hurry past the last trainers, for once as eager as Mewtwo about something. You push through the curtain of ferns and step out into warm sunlight, a hidden grotto filled with trees. Real trees, tall and broad, sheltered from the wind and watered by Agate's stream. It's like Professor Krane's lab, a piece of another world transported to the desert, but wild instead of planned and planted and vigorously tamed. Overgrown stone slabs lead up to a crooked stack of stone discs standing a good two times your height.

    You pace slowly around the Relic Stone, looking for any hint of how you might summon Celebi. The stones are old, weathered smooth even in this protected place, and if there were ever any carvings on them, they've long since worn away. Feeling at least as nervous as you do hopeful, you press your palm against the side of the monument, fingers spread. Nothing happens.

    "Celebi?" you call. You would feel silly if not for that strange energy in the air. Something must be here. "Celebi, I... I need your help!"

    The birds go quiet for a few seconds, but nothing else changes, not even in the energy suffusing the place. It's still calm. Still dormant, maybe?

    Let me out. I'll do it.

    "Mewtwo, there's all those people right outside. It's okay. I can go back to town and probably find someone who knows how--"

    I can do it myself. Celebi will not ignore my call.

    "But the people--"

    You can scare them off, can't you?

    "I guess?" You peer through the curtain of leaves at the trainers standing around, chatting, fighting. Your first thought is poison gas, to send them running from the smell. But that could make them sick, and some might run in here instead of outside. Loud noise could work, if it didn't outright incapacitate them. What else?

    Get on with it, then.

    You sidle around behind the Relic Stone where you'll be hard to see and move your hands gently back and forth, fingers spread wide as you rake them through the air. The breeze filtering through the mouth of the cave grows stronger, and stronger yet, blowing steadily out towards Agate Village. Confused shouts sound faintly over the sound of blustering wind. It's only a tailwind--uncomfortable enough to drive some people off, maybe, but not enough to force them out.

    That comes next. You turn your hands palm-up and wiggle your fingers, threads of air twining between them and whipping outwards as the wind rises around you. Tree branches thrash and clatter together; some snap clean off, sucked into the windy vortex growing around the Relic Stone. You grimace and hope Celebi won't be mad at you for hurting his trees. Dead leaves and twigs and whole boughs whip through the air around the Relic Stone, with you standing in the relative calm next to it.

    You push your hands forward, directing the cyclone towards the tunnel. It slams into the grotto's wall, spilling crazed rivulets of air in all directions. Gale-force winds howl out through the cave, bodily throwing people out into the grassy clearing under the waterfall. The tailwind keeps on streaming behind, discouraging anyone from running back in to see what caused all the hoopla.

    You lean around the Relic Stone and peer into the cave, looking through fern-fronds battered and bent where they haven't been ripped from the stone entirely. The bridge is torn up, boards scattered amidst shredded vegetation, all of it slick with water tossed from the stream.

    No humans, though, which is the main thing. One woman hit a wall instead of getting properly blown out of the cavern, but she looks like she isn't getting up for a while, so that's okay. You take the master ball from your belt.

    As always, you have to crane your neck back to look Mewtwo in the face; as Jade Winstead you don't even make it to his shoulders. His purple eyes barely move to take in the grotto; he's already seen it in your mind. I didn't expect you to destroy the place, Mewtwo grouses. You should show more respect. You're in the presence of power.

    "It worked, didn't it? You didn't have any ideas."

    Mewtwo examines the Relic Stone for himself, circling around with his nose practically pressed against the monument. Determined to pick up on on everything you missed, you suppose. You try to divide your attention between him and the cave. You have to make sure no one's coming back in.

    Mewtwo stops his circuit of the Relic Stone and stands looking up at it, psychic field thrumming with anticipation. Celebi! he says, mental voice ringing with excitement. I call you! We have need of your power!

    Silence. Not even birdsong now. Just Mewtwo's humming mind and whatever lies beneath it, that slow, gentle sense of awareness. It seems as tranquil--unresponsive--as ever, and is hard to even feel, smothered by the force of Mewtwo's psychic presence.

    Mewtwo raises his arms, which is more expressive than you think you've ever seen him. With hands spread he entreats the Relic Stone again. Celebi! Hear me! I am Mewtwo, Mew's son! A pause. I know you're listening!

    A longer pause. Your stomach turns over as you feel uncertainty creeping in around the edges of Mewtwo's exultation. Now he's going to get angry, and when he gets angry, he does bad things. You bend your own thoughts towards Celebi, praying for an answer, for him to just say something.

    We seek my mother, Mewtwo says with a calm you can feel him working hard to maintain. She's been captured by humans. We want to free her. Anything you know would be helpful. The wait for an answer has you so on edge that you nearly jump when you notice movement outside. A pair of sturdy timburr brave the wind, trudging over to the fallen woman by the cave's exit. Not a problem yet, but if humans follow, you could be in trouble.

    Are you going to stand by and do nothing while Mew is tortured? Mewtwo roars. Answer me! Why are you silent? His eyes glow purple, telekinetic waves stirring dead leaves to frenzied dancing around his toes.

    "He's probably not here, Mewtwo. That's all," you say anxiously, watching the timburr hoist the unconscious woman in their arms. A couple kids are watching from the cave entrance, off to the side and out of the worst of the wind. They won't be able to see Mewtwo unless they venture further in, but if he lets his psychic field grow they'll certainly be able to hear him.

    He's here! He's watching us! Can't you feel it? Mewtwo snarls. And maybe you do, maybe that's what you feel, but even if it is you don't think screaming at Celebi's going to help.

    "Celebi has lots of shrines. That doesn't mean he's watching them all. I mean, he lives in Ilex Forest, everybody knows that. Maybe we ought to--"

    Answer me! Mewtwo howls. I know you're listening! Do you think you can ignore me? That I'm less than you because I was created by humans? You think I'm some common pokémon come to beg a favor of its god? I'm more powerful than you could ever hope to be! You will aid me now, or when the time comes, when my mother is released, I'll find you. I'll find you, and I'll make you pay for sitting idle while she suffered. I'll make you pay for ignoring me in my time of need. I ask you one final time: answer me!

    Mewtwo doesn't exactly give Celebi much time to respond: your head throbs as he gathers power, and a droning hum fills the air, growing so loud it drowns out the whipping wind. Even if Celebi said something, there's no way you'd hear. The stones of Celebi's monument appear to tremble, but you aren't sure if they're moving or if your eyes are vibrating in your skull. Then you're sure, and battle training gone nearly instinctive has you throwing up a protect shield as you dive to the ground.

    The Relic Stone explodes, chunks of rock scything through the trees and clattering against the grotto's walls. There's a blinding flash of green, a long, high note like a violin quavering at the top of its range, and then silence falls again.

    Mewtwo's psychic field recedes to a gentle, contented buzzing. The clone pants while he surveys his handiwork, the shattered stone stump in front of him, fallen branches and trees splintered by the spray of rocks. You eye the remains of the Relic Stone in wonder. There must have been something more than mortar holding it together, if Mewtwo had to work so hard to smash it.

    The clearing's odd presence hasn't changed. It's undiminished, in no way agitated by all the commotion. Asleep, maybe, or not aware at all.

    You walk over to stand beside Mewtwo, unsure of what to say. Mewtwo's perfectly aware of the thoughts eddying around your skull anyway. You're impressed despite yourself, and Mewtwo apparently finds that extremely amusing.

    Oh, it is gratifying. But no. I was laughing at our audience.

    You spin around, in one icy second realizing that you forgot about maintaining your tailwind. And yes, there they are, two boys with their timburr out in front of them in defensive stances. The humans' eyes are huge and round, fixed on Mewtwo.

    You're a curious pair, aren't you? the clone asks. The air smells of ozone as he gathers power again.

    "Mewtwo, stop!" you say. The timburr pound their logs against the ground, yelling--there's less than no chance for them, and they know it, but it's their duty to at least try to protect their trainers. Or friends. Whatever they are, whatever they won't be in another second.

    We can't have witnesses, Mewtwo says, psychic field thrumming with delight. Isn't that what you keep saying?

    He's enjoying it. Tingling cold spreads across your body. He's enjoying the humans' fear, drawing it out, raising his hand towards them in a completely unnecessary flourish.

    There's a strange, squeaky noise like what you'd hear from a video played on rewind, many sounds blurring to a frantic high pitch. The grotto snaps back to the way it was before. The Relic Stone stands tall and whole at the center. The trees are unbroken. Birds sing from them, oblivious, carefree.

    Mewtwo turns and stares, his emotions shifting so fast they leave you dizzy: surprise, confusion, fear, and sudden, terrible anger, the same anger he always feels but now helpless, undirected and impotent. Where are you? he roars in your head. Where are you? Answer me!

    Again the Relic Stone trembles, and you throw yourself on the ground, eyes watering from the pain of a splitting headache. The stone shakes and cracks, green light glowing from fissures down its sides, but this time it doesn't shatter. Before Mewtwo can finish prying it apart it snaps back whole again. Mewtwo yowls aloud, a sound of wild frustration, and kicks off from the ground, leaving a contrail of purple energy crackling behind as he shoots off to--where? Where? Where's he going?

    "Mewtwo!" you yell after him, but he's already so far away. You scramble up and run for the cave, hoping you'll at least be able to see where he lands, but the two boys and their timburr are still there, frozen in comical attitudes of shock. For a second horrifying calculations pass through your head--Mewtwo's right, you can't have any witnesses.

    It doesn't matter, though. Dozens of people must have seen him blasting off. You clench your teeth and satisfy yourself with pushing roughly past the kids, toppling the timburr in a heap with them. You speed through the tunnel into daylight and the waterfall's spray.

    The trainers who were battling in the cave earlier stand with heads tipped back and mouths hanging open, watching a sparkling purple jet in the sky. It vanishes into the distance while you watch--where is he going?

    Of course he'd do something like this. You can't trust him with anything! You've been in Orre two days and already he's blown your cover and run off. Are you going to have to wait for the news reports to know where he went?

    The people around you titter and exclaim and argue about what they just saw. The boys come running out of the cave with their timburr in tow, and you decide now's a good time to be gone, shove your way out of the crowd and pelt up the hill. People call out to you as you go past.

    Where did Mewtwo go? He doesn't know Orre. Or is he just going to land somewhere in the desert and hide?

    That would be better, you think with a chill, than going off to wreck Gateon Port or something to blow off steam. If he goes out and murders a bunch of people, that's it. Rockets are one thing, but just some random people who got in his way... You don't care what he says, you don't care what Absol says, he's staying in the master ball forever. You're done with this.

    Where did he go? He doesn't even know anywhere except Professor Krane's lab, and here, and Gateon Port, a little. Plus the factory, of course, but he wouldn't drag a neon line through the sky to point right at it. He wouldn't make it the first place everyone would go to look for him. He isn't that stupid.

    You grit your teeth and put on a burst of speed, not even caring if you're running too fast for a human. You almost knock your scooter over in your hurry to get on, slapping at the control panel while it takes forever to warm up, then throw it into the highest gear immediately, taking off with a jolt and a whine to speed off into the desert.

    --​

    The weird pyramidal shape of the Cipher factory looms above, and you leave the hover-scooter parked out in its metal courtyard, not caring if anyone sees. No point putting effort in if your partner's going to have a tantrum and blow your cover completely.

    You aren't going to waste time climbing through a spooky building. You're not as graceful in the air as Mewtwo, but levitating yourself to the top of the factory leaves you only mildly out of breath. The hardest part is actually resisting the waves of emotion cascading off the roof, anger and resentment and suppurating sorrow, an exhausting combination even experienced second-hand.

    Mewtwo's curled near the edge of the roof, with the tip of his tail looped up by his face, crying. You stand off to one side, awkward and out of place and exasperated. He pulls a big stunt, and now he's up here sobbing like it isn't all his fault?

    Get out of here! Mewtwo snarls in your head, which is even weirder than usual because he's whimpering at the same time. Leave me alone!

    "You flew off and left me, Mewtwo. You can't do that."

    I'll do what I want! Mewtwo halfway raises himself up like he's about to tackle you. You can't control me! I'm not your slave!

    Absol appears from the shadow cast by the temple-looking building that takes up most of the roof. "What happened?"

    "Mewtwo got mad because Celebi wouldn't talk to him, then he blew up Celebi's statue thing and Celebi fixed it right away. Which you'd know if you actually bothered to come with us," you can't help but add.

    Mocking me! Mewtwo snarls. You can't tell if he bothered to use miracle eye, if Absol can even hear him. Thinks he's better than me because he's one of the originals. I'll show him. I'll show all of them! Idiots! They stand by and do nothing while Mew suffers, and then they make fun of me... They laugh at me... I'm stronger than any of them. I'm the strongest! And they act like I'm nothing!

    You spread your hands and gesture towards Mewtwo, inviting Absol to do whatever she's going to do. You're done with him.

    Absol sits down next to Mewtwo and asks, "What did Celebi say?"

    Nothing! Mewtwo's still on hands and knees like he's forgotten he was in the process of getting up. He acted like I wasn't even there, and then he fixed things like I couldn't do anything. Like I wasn't even worth noticing!

    "We don't even know if Celebi was there. He might not have heard you."

    Of course he was there! He fixed the rock, he had to have been!

    "Some places are magic on their own. If it's a special little pocket of time or something, maybe it just--"

    Shut up! Mewtwo roars, and a blast of psychic energy sends you stumbling backwards. The low railing around the edge of the roof hits you in the back of your knees so you teeter towards going over the edge. You're head's ringing from the blow and you can't think of anything but staying upright, arms spinning while you frantically call up your own psychic abilities to keep you level. It takes a few seconds, crouched on the edge of the roof, to regain your breath, and all the while Mewtwo's ranting on in the background about how you don't know anything about legends and you don't understand what's going on and should just shut up.

    Finally you gulp and look up and find Absol standing between you and Mewtwo, who's turned half aside so he doesn't have to look straight at her. "And why did you think that would help?" she asks him.

    It made the creature shut up, didn't it?

    "Why didn't you ask?"

    "I shut up, that doesn't mean I'm wrong!" you yell. "You're being stupid!"

    "Why are you here?" Absol asks, which is as good as telling you to leave.

    "What? But, Absol, I'm right, he's the one acting like--"

    "You may be right," Absol says, "but I'm not sure how being right is helping."

    "Well, fine. I didn't want to listen to him cry about nothing anyway." You stand up and have to pause a second, dizzy, before stomping off to the far side of the temple. You sit with your feet dangling over the edge of the roof and sulk. Why is Absol acting like you're the problem? You're right, and she knows it.

    You kick you heels against the side of the building, enjoying the booms they make on the metal. Now and again you lean out and glance back at Mewtwo and Absol. Absol's sitting there listening, presumably, to whatever Mewtwo's bawling about. You doubt she's saying anything useful back because when does she ever do that, but the two of them together reminds you so much of the times she sat with you while you cried that you scowl and kick your heels harder against the wall. Why's she acting like he has any reason to be sad? Why won't she tell him he's being stupid?

    Mewtwo talks and talks and talks, or maybe he's still crying, and your legs get tired and the metal under you is uncomfortable so you end up slumped over and cranky. The sun's going down behind the mountains, and the shadows stretch tall and dark. You're getting hungry. And absolutely everything has gone wrong again.

    You shouldn't have expected Celebi to be any help. That would be too easy, wouldn't it? But it's strange, too. Why haven't any of the legends tried to rescue Mew? Why wouldn't they help you and Mewtwo? They don't care much about normal pokémon, but someone like Mew, one of their own?

    You suppose she doesn't really have many friends--her ragged memories hold few pokémon you would say she was close to, none of them legendary. Anyone she would have known is on another continent. You and Mewtwo and Absol are all she's got. She does have a reputation, though. Doesn't anyone else want to help her, knowing how important she is?

    Maybe they're afraid. Whatever happened to Mew, it could happen to the other legends, too. Like Mewtwo, they would probably never say they're scared. Mew isn't the only legend humans have hurt, especially not here in Orre.

    Or maybe somebody did try. Maybe a lot of somebodies. You wouldn't know unless one of them succeeded.

    You lean back and squint into the sun. Nah. They're probably just jerks like Mewtwo. Who's probably right--you bet he is even stronger than Celebi. You have the best chance of anybody at succeeding at your mission. Someday soon you'll find your mother, and then hopefully you'll never have to deal with Mewtwo ever again.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2018
  13. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Definitely a winter

    You're back and so am I to guilt trip you about how behind you say you are *evil laugh*

    Y'know, with how much people like to prop up Team Rocket in fanfics as these cold-blooded, would-be world dominators, it tends to get lost in translation that Cipher has probably done some of the most unspeakable stuff to Pokémon. Of course, the Orre games are spin-offs, so they can get away with that stuff. It's nice to see a reminder of the heinous acts that they did commit in the form of Hypno. Not sure if this is something you're going to follow up on, because it might be interesting to see the psyche (heh) of a Pokémon forced through that whole process. That stuff practically screams fanfic material. And teasing us with the idea that a mythical like Celebi being frightened of their fringe remnants is going to have me interested, of course. Curse you for leaving it as a tease! *shakes fist*

    It's been awhile since we've seen Mewra forced to try and make small talk. I see they've not gotten any better at it, really. The difference is that Hypno's trainer is a reasonable, mild-mannered woman... and not Nate Morgan, Leonard Karrigan, or Mewtwo. So, it actually proceeds like a reasonable conversation instead of some hyperactive sitcom scene. I think that's a good thing, I guess? I might've preferred it if Mewra was actually just getting better at being sociable because, y'know, character development and stuff. But it's fine as is.

    And wow, Mewtwo is basically just a spoiled little brat, here... mixed in with some "ow the edge" for good measure. Granted, Mewra's got such a terrible moral compass to start with, so it's not a great juxtaposition. I'm just surprised his response to getting stood up by Celebi is to basically throw a temper tantrum. Like, not even a destructive one, just the Pokémon equivalent of storming up to your room and slamming the door shut. It gets points for comedy, I suppose. :V

    Okay, see, this is why I label this fic as black comedy. <.<

    "You're not the boss of me, mom! I can so eat cookies for breakfast if I want to!" C'mon Mewtwo, show a little maturity.

    Okay, I've gotta post the meme...
    [​IMG]
    Silly Mewtwo... trying to channel his inner Infinite. You're not jackal enough, buddy, that's what we have Lucario for. :p
     
  14. Starlight Aurate

    Starlight Aurate Just a fallen star

    Eh, desert heat isn't so bad anyways. There's no humidity, which is what really makes the heat unbearable.

    A Hypno as a certified sleep pathologist is one of the cutest things I've heard of.

    Wait what

    That seriously sounds like a dream come true.

    Oh, nice! Idk if you've seen Yu-Gi-Oh! before, but there's one episode where someone reverses time and it plays like a VHS recording on rewind--which it sounds like kind of happened here. And I feel like I should have seen the grotto going back to the way it was, but I definitely did not =P

    I get the situation is urgent, but they really should have known better than to release Mewtwo, so my pity is limited.

    Yes, you should definitely know by know that he IS that reckless =P

    Lol. The child does not understand parenting or motherhood at all.

    Mmmm. I like this part; it really makes you think, especially of the people whose efforts go unnoticed by now fault of their own.

    Nice little chapter; I feel like not much happened plot-wise, but we certainly got to see more emotion from our protagonist and his interactions with Mewtwo. I'm curious to see the their conversation with the Shadow Pokemon in the future, and to see how this is all connected and what all will play a part in it =) And I really do like the more motherly aspects of Absol; when I started reading, I didn't catch on to them so much at first, but now that I do they're really cute and heartwarming to see. Nice chapter!
     
  15. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    WOW, how did it take me so long to get to this. I somehow managed to not even know it was out until a week after you posted it! In any case, I'd like to be added to the tag list! (It's funny, I was actually just about to replace the old PM list with a tag list for my own fic as well! So much more efficient.)

    In any case, wooooww, Mewtwo. We might like to poke fun at the child for being... well... childish, but maaaannn, Mewtwo takes the cake in this chapter. xD; Then again, in retrospect, it's easy to see why his tough guy exterior is just a mask to cover up his insecurity. "I'm strong and that makes me worth something but no one else is acting like it, I'm not worthless." So something completely innocuous like Celebi just happening to not notice him (since, as the child mentioned, it has loads of shines and doesn't even live near Agate.

    Good to see the child disturbed by Mewtwo's antics though. It's used violent force to get its way so much (of course those times were ok because it was "only" threatening bad people who were interfering with its very-important-mission) that it's nice to see how scared it is of Mewtwo going on another murder spree.

    The Hypno encounter at the beginning was pretty great, and the child actually did a good job at stalling while Mewtwo talked with her. Huzzah! Really loved the description of Agate village, too. Felt like I was practically there.

    Also, this quote in particular got a kick out of me:
    Looking forward to the next one~

    ~Chibi~
     
  16. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner *aromatisse noise*

    DITTO used MAKE EGG!
    DITTO's attack continues!
    DITTO's attack continues!
    DITTO's--you get the idea :p

    Also it amuses me greatly that "Beldum" and "Porygon" are apparently registered trademarks in this universe. Of course they would be. Are any other pokémon (apart from proygon and their evos and, presumably, beldum evos) trademarked, incidentally?

    I don't think I would be able to tolerate someone constantly, constantly repeating the exact same phrase over and over adn fricking OVER again for two hours, let alone two weeks. XD
    Oh, Krane. If only. If only...
    (Why no, no I will never stop wishing we could have more Orre games.)

    I always thought that Cipher factory was neat-lookin'. Was happy to see it make an appearance. And Agate seemed lovely--as it should. One of the coolest locations in the game. It's fortunate Mewtwo didn't get to wreck the actual frick out of it. Celebi bothering to fix the Relic Stone, or said stone fixing itself, I could. As far as the entire village goes--to say nothing of everyone in it? That, I don't know about.

    And pfff. Leave it to protag to be coveting a hat in the middle of all this. XD
     
  17. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    Here for chapter 37!

    Heh, I love this line. You'd think the state of its brother and mother would be kind of telling about a legendary's life not being exactly easy, but, well, it's a child. :p

    It's amusing, this interaction between the Hypno and the child, heh. And it's nice seeing the child get to interpret for someone that isn't Nate. The Hypno's body language and its trainer being utterly confused by being told to go away and everything else is priceless, and the scene just flows really well in general. Plus, I always liked the idea that the Drowzee line could help with sleep problems, and that mixed with the shadow Pokémon story makes this minor character feel real amongst the rest of your cast.

    Love this description of Agate Village, guh. It's definitely one of my favorite locations in the Orre region.

    Meh, people talk to themselves all the time. It's the perfect way for the child to fit right in. ;P

    Damn, Absol can be harsh, but I love this line.

    Mewtwo's not that much different than the child, though, when you get down to it, is he? Throwing such a childish fit over being ignored and seemingly deemed inferior... He just uses some bigger words and uses his powers more freely or recklessly than the child does.

    Hmm... Sounds like there's some secrets that are gonna hit 'em like a brick eventually. I wonder the same thing, honestly. Is it a refusal to get involved in another legendary's mess, believing everyone's got their own duty to fulfill and shouldn't interfere with others'? Is it a refusal to appear in front of human society whenever possible? Something else related to not wanting to help Mew and/or Mewtwo specifically?

    Guess I'll have to keep reading and find out. ;P
     
  18. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    Hey, all! November 1st was a few days ago, which was Salvage's sixth birthday!

    Naturally, I wanted to post a new chapter then, but ultimately I decided this one needed just a little more time. And here we are! I'll be following up with a new extra next week.

    This month I'm going to be working on Salvage for NaNo! I think it's going to take more than 50,000 words to finish this story entirely, but that's my goal nonetheless! At the very least, that should take us through the squishy middle bits and on to my personal favorite part of the story, which I've already written a substantial portion of, heh.

    Sorry for the long wait on this chapter; I've had an especially busy couple of months, and there's literally always some kind of crisis at the end of October--November 1st is really the worst possible day to have a ficiversary, for me. But enough whining! I've been far too slow about replying to your reviews, so here are some responses at last, with the next chapter below.

    @Ambyssin

    Oh dear. Best not to dwell on that last point. I will catch up! It's on my list!

    We're absolutely going to see more (former) shadow pokémon and learn quite a bit about the shadowfication process during this arc! It's something that's left incredibly vague in the games themselves, so naturally I'm going to have a lot of fun exploring one possible way it might work. Through characters and their tragic pasts, naturally. :p The darker atmosphere of Orre and straight-up cruelty of Cipher definitely makes for an interesting contrast from the other canon regions, and I hope it has a different texture in this fic, too.

    Unfortunately conversational skills are one area where the protagonist won't be progressing a great deal over the course of this story. Not many opportunities to practice, outside of certain not-particularly-sociable other characters. I'm making an effort to cut down on "shenanigans ensue when conversation goes horribly wrong" scenes, though; I think they're pretty played out by this point.

    Mewtwo isn't used to getting stood up by anyone and not being able to do anything about it. He was probably as surprised by his reaction as anyone. Not trying to be comedic with it, though. That's unfortunate.

    If you don't feel terrible for laughing, I'm not doing my job right!

    He's like nine years old! The problem is there's no one out there who can send him to bed without supper. :p

    He's truly a whiny edgelord at heart. Stop trying, Mewtwo, you aren't cool.

    Thanks a lot for reviewing! This was a really helpful reply.

    @Starlight Aurate

    It's definitely better than wet heat, but I'm still not a fan, personally. It actually feels like my skin is burning off, as opposed to getting broiled in my own sweat in the tropics.

    I believe there was one in the anime! One of the Gen I filler episodes. I can't remember the episode too well--possibly the hypno had actually gone out of control and had hypnotized the entire town to feed on their dreams--but originally I think it had gotten brought in to help people with sleep problems. In any case, this hypno's one of the responsible (aspiring) sleep therapists. :p

    I really like Agate Village, in case you couldn't tell. :p

    Oh dear. I'll fix that. XD

    I watched Yu-Gi-Oh! way back in the nineties, but man, it's been ages! I don't think I saw the episode you're talking about here, but from what you're describing, yeah, that was the kind of effect I was going for!

    Hope springs eternal... unfortunately.

    The protagonist is only reluctantly starting to realize how much of a chore it's going to be to have to deal with Mewtwo all the time. A chore and worse! They can't afford many mistakes like this.

    For sure. The protagonist would admit to not understanding humans very well, but in all honesty it's not that good with anybody.

    Interesting that you're seeing Absol's motherly side coming out in recent chapters! She'll be around a lot more in upcoming chapters, so there'll be more of a focus on her. She's not totally comfortable in a maternal kind of role, but she does her best.

    Thanks for the review! We have a couple of quiet chapters coming up, but I hope you don't find them boring. Still setting up for the arc to come!

    @Chibi Pika

    Sure, I'll add you to the tag list! Not that it makes much difference for this chapter, but I definitely shouldn't be letting review replies slide like this in the future.

    Yes, definitely! Mewtwo's less than a year older than the protagonist, so he's not exactly the pinnacle of maturity. He can put on a brave (and scary) face all he likes, but he has a pretty brittle ego, push comes to shove. The only thing people have ever valued him for is his strength, so meeting something he can't muscle into submission is a pretty unpleasant shock.

    The protagonist would like to believe that it has at least some semblance of control over Mewtwo, but yeah, it's coming to realize just how out of its depth it is... and how little Mewtwo cares about its own ideas of heroism and being "one of the good guys." Questionable though those are at times!

    Glad you enjoyed that bit. Hypno is a pretty important character, so hopefully you'll like her later scenes as well.

    Thanks, that's one of my favorite lines, too. :p

    Thanks for the review! I'm glad you liked this chapter.

    @Sike Saner

    I'm glad you liked that little detail! To me it only made sense that if corporations made pokémon, they would trademark them. At the moment the Porygon and Beldum families are the only trademarked pokémon, but there's an ongoing legal battle over the various species of fossil pokémon that have recently been revived. Since their genomes had to be reconstructed from incomplete data in fossils, some researchers argue that they constitute, in some sense, original inventions by the people who developed them, and therefore should be copyrightable. Other people think that you shouldn't be able to patent gene sequences. If it's ruled that they're copyrightable, some research groups will probably commercialize the species they've revived, trademark them, and restrict other labs from reviving them unless they buy the rights.

    If Team Rocket had been able to get a satisfactory Mewtwo, they also probably would have commercialized the cell line he was created from and sold (somewhat downgraded) copies to interested third parties, in which case those clones probably would have been some trademarked species as well. Mewtwo destroyed all their samples when he trashed the lab, so at least for the moment, that dream's off the table.

    Mewtwo is like your bored and super-annoying sibling on a long car ride, except ten times as creepy. XD

    Same, omg. There's so much cool potential there, and I think a lot of fans remember them fondly. There's got to be Orre-based fangames out there, but I haven't encountered any...

    I'm glad you liked how these were portrayed! Orre's so small, we'll be able to cover a fair amount of the region in this story.

    And I could never wreck Agate Village, then I'd have to give up my dreams of retiring there. :p

    Always gotta keep your priorities in order!

    Thanks for reviewing! It's great to see you around again.

    @diamondpearl876

    Thanks, that's one of my favorite lines in this chapter. And yes, if the protagonist thinks it's so easy, I'm sure Celebi would be amused to let it try time-traveling itself.

    I'm glad you enjoyed this scene! I changed it up a lot during the editing process, but overall I'm satisfied with how it turned out. As with every conversation I write, pretty much, it's just a matter of trying to figure out which future chapter I can cram all the banter I cropped out of this one into. :p

    Glad you enjoyed it! Agate's one of my favorites, too. Overall I don't think I'd want to live in Orre, but Agate Village would definitely be worth a visit.

    These days with Bluetooth headsets and everything it seems like everyone on the street's talking to themselves. It startles me every time I'm walking near someone who makes a sudden loud nonsequitur. :p

    She doesn't pull any punches, that's for sure. :p

    Yes, absolutely! I really want to emphasize how Mewtwo's basically the same age as the protagonist, and if anything has had an even weirder/less adequate upbringing than it has. He pretty much behaves exactly the same way the protagonist would if it had his kind of power. This is especially true when it comes to how he treats people he feels are weaker, generally lesser than himself... he treats the protagonist basically the same way it's treated Nate for the entire fic. This arc is something of a turned-tables situation for it, in that regard.

    There's lots of possibilities, for sure. And, personally, if some dude showed up at my doorstep and started yelling about how I needed to come help him find his mom or else he'd wreck all my ****, I'd also probably ignore the **** out of him and/or call the police. :p

    I guess you might! :p Thanks for keeping up with this, and I hope you're satisfied with any eventual answers to your questions.

    Thanks again for all of your reviews, and to everyone who's supported this story over the six years I've been posting it. As always, I hope it'll take far less than six years to wrap everything up... and I think at this point it's safe to say that the end is going to come sooner rather than later. Two to three years, I'd say. Thanks again, and I hope you enjoy what's to come!

    Chapter 38

    The first thing your new hideout needs is a TV. You need to watch your shows, obviously, and now that Mewtwo's blown your cover completely you need to see what's on the news. That means it's back to Gateon Port, teleporting--you considered taking the hover-scooter, but it's too hot to ride for no reason, and there's nothing to see on the way except for a lot of desert.

    You spend longer than you need shopping, wander in and out of stores selling weird machinery, shriveled herbal remedies, funny sculptures of wire and colored glass like nothing you've seen in Kanto. The ocean smells like it does at home, though, and sounds like it, and the breeze keeps the heat down to something liveable.

    You manage to find a television even bigger than the one at home, but shortly discover that actually the first thing your hideout needs is electricity, when you plug it in and nothing happens. You have to go crawling around on the roof outside, poking at sand-blasted wire and dusty old solar panels, shielding your pokédex with your hand so you can read maintenance manuals off its screen. Absol helps by sitting around and watching you and occasionally holding things.

    Mewtwo seems to be occupying himself with his weird meditating thing, which suits you fine. You barely think about him until you triumphantly plug the TV in and get power, and then when you turn it to the news the clone is all anybody's talking about. You almost, almost wish he was here so you could yell at him, but only almost.

    Everything about the Mewtwo sighting yesterday is "alleged," the camera footage shaky and indistinct, lots of eyewitnesses but all of them confused. Only a couple of kids have real conviction about what they saw. The news anchors seem to take it as a given that the story's fake, that all anyone saw was some other psychic pokémon--like Celebi, for example, who after all is supposed to appear in Agate.

    What they're talking about instead is pressure from the Kantoan Prime Minister, who's offered high-level trainers, troops, psychic suppression devices, anything, all "for the safety of Orre's citizens." The people on the news repeat that like they don't think it's true. And on and on they talk, all boring politics stuff, like Mewtwo isn't even important, somehow.

    It's weird. It's super weird. Who even wants to watch this stuff when there's maybe the most powerful pokémon in the world running around and causing trouble? Weird, but convenient. Slowly the knot in your gut untwists. If they're so convinced Mewtwo was never there, maybe they won't do much investigating. If you're lucky, his stupidity might not screw up anything at all.

    You surf around, catching a snatch of a show here, a long infomercial there. You didn't get to watch anything at all while you were on the stupid boat, but now you can finally get caught up. And you do, at last, forget Mewtwo entirely, until he comes in to join you, moving silently but with his mind preceding him like a burning wave. I'm hungry, he announces, and you can feel that, too.

    Thankfully you bought him a big fish while you were out shopping. As usual he complains about the quality, while simultaneously tearing it apart with bare fingers and teeth. You look at the clock and wince. It's already late in the afternoon.

    "We were going to meet Hypno and her friends today, right? Where?"

    The metal city. Pyrite. Look. He pictures the place for you. You see it as Hypno does, a low-down image from the perspective of a squat pokémon.

    Pyrite Town! You know that name. It's full of gangsters and robbers and shootouts and cowboys. If anyone's left from Cipher, you bet that's where to find them. And shadow pokémon! You're going to meet shadow pokémon!

    Why do you care so much about that? All that matters is whether they can tell us where our mother is.

    "I don't know. It's cool. There doesn't need to be a reason." Even if the shadow pokémon turn out to be boring, Pyrite Town won't. Maybe someone will try to hassle you and you can punch them. With the way you've been feeling lately, getting to punch someone would be really, really nice.

    I don't understand your fascination with the place. It sounds like a grimy pit to me. Mewtwo flicks away the skeletal remains of his meal and stands licking up along his bony hands and arms, still talking. In any case, I wasn't the one who chose it. Get ready. We're leaving.

    "You have to get in the master ball," you say, steeling yourself for an argument. But Mewtwo simply flicks the ball over to you with a spike of psychic force and lets himself be recalled. You look down at the master ball's knobby purple top.

    More strangeness. Not that you would prefer the usual towering anger. But you don't understand his mood, and you don't like it. Especially not after what happened yesterday. You tuck the master ball deep in your pocket, already dreading having to pull it out again later and find out what Mewtwo has in mind for you both.

    --​

    You feel like you've already been to Pyrite Town, you've seen it in so many movies. It almost feels like a film set, all empty and quiet. The desert sun comes down like a hammer, gleaming off dingy metal siding and foil wrappers strewn along the edges of its dusty main street. Air conditioning units rumble and gurgle from every building, rusty fans turning with creaky slowness in periodic bracing gusts of wind.

    Neon signs buzz as you go past them, lights flickering and fizzing on and off. They're nowhere near as impressive as they would be in darkness. The people here come out at night, "like roaches." You smile to yourself. That's a line from Orre Sunsets.

    You keep one eye on the cracked dome at the far end of town, the colosseum, and try to line it up with Hypno's memory, squinting one eye and shuffling sideways, then more forward. A lot more forward. You need to go up three streets at least. That's the problem with getting a psychic picture for your directions: you'll know the place immediately when you get there, but until you do, you're going to be lost.

    You're early anyway. It's barely past four, in the full heat of the day, and if push comes to shove you can find someone to ask if they've seen a hypno around. There's probably only one hypno in all of Orre, like she's some kind of legend.

    With all the metal and machines and grit, you'd been thinking of Pyrite like a city, but it really is a town, long past its glory days. Its main street runs through like the river that once carved its sheltering canyon out of rock, but there are no other major roads. Its metal houses, all exotic colors and shapes, are rusting, and old machines, hunks of rock, the detritus of construction is piled haphazardly in building sites that don't look like they've been touched for years. In the end you find the place that matches Hypno's memory not because it's in any way obvious, but because there aren't many places to look.

    You take shelter under a jutting roof-edge, where it's at least kind of shady, and wait for Hypno to show up. There aren't any humans about, and no pokémon, either. It's eerie. There are lots of desert pokémon, and you've never been in a town where there weren't murkrow or pidgey or spearow chattering away on the rooftops, rattata fighting over rubbish in the gutters. It might be hot, and dry, but that shouldn't mean there's nothing.

    The longer you wait, the creepier it feels. Agate Village felt peaceful, like somewhere you could call home, but Pyrite's unfriendly somehow. You chew on a hangnail and try to think about what kinds of questions you're going to ask the shadow pokémon. Fan turbines turn creakily, constantly, in hot blasts of wind that only seem to make the temperature worse. This isn't a nice place, but why does it make you feel so anxious?

    Hypno appears before you come to a conclusion, appearing from a narrow side street. She stops in the middle of the road, her pendant a searing disc of light under the bright sun. She waves, once, and waits waits for you to come to her. Finally, Mewtwo mutters in your head.

    You walk over to Hypno, slowly--it feels like everything has to happen slower in this heat. "Follow me," she says, and turns to head back the way she came without waiting to see if you're coming.

    She turns and turns again, taking you from a narrow lane into a short alley and then through the ruins of a chain-link fence to what used to be somebody's backyard. The house gapes with glassless window-scars, so long abandoned that even its grafitti's fading. Hypno hoists herself over an empty sill and into the dark interior. You follow, grinning. This feels furtive, and illicit, and very appropriate for Orre.

    The house is only as big as maybe two of the rooms in your own house, total. Harsh sunlight streams through spots where the metal walls have rusted out, casting spotlight-circles through the dim. Everything's covered in a fine layer of sand, and there's more graffiti inside, too. Hypno leads you into what was once front room and kitchen both, judging by the skeleton frames of cabinets and the pipeless sink. Bare concrete floor is blackened here and there, as if from fire, and rubbish is strewn around, old threadbare blankets and food wrappers and what you recognize with a fascinated shiver as a needle shoved up in one corner.

    You can't dwell long on the state of the house, though, because Hypno's friends are already here. A great noctowl stands in shadow, eyes huge and gleaming, totally silent. Him you could imagine as a shadow pokémon, or Hypno, who watches you with arms folded, looking wary. But then there's the heracross, who slurps loudly from a can of soda and says, "So this is Mewtwo, huh? Less purple than I expected."

    "Mewtwo's right here." You take the master ball out of your pocket and hold it up, then immediately feel stupid. "I guess I'll, um, send him out. He has to stay away from the window so no one can see him." The last a warning to the clone himself, before you toss the master ball into the doorway behind you.

    Mewtwo seems to unfold from his confinement, so tall his head nearly scrapes the ceiling, pale purple skin looking ghostly in the dim. He looms, and his psychic field settles heavily over the little house. You see Heracross and Hypno flinch, and Noctowl's head turns sharply, his eyes widening. Not a bad entrance, you think sourly.

    "Oh. Uh, wow," Heracross says after a moment. "Guess you weren't lying, Hypno. Noctowl, I owe you an ice cream."

    "So this is what it's like to stand in the presence of a legend," Noctowl murmurs. Mewtwo radiates smug satisfaction, what seems to you a very catlike feeling.

    You've done that before, haven't you? Mewtwo asks. Cipher captured several legends.

    "None I ever met," Noctowl says. "I heard stories, but it's not the same as being there."

    "They had Lugia controlling the weather around Citadark Isle," Hypno says. "That's where I was. But I never met her, only saw the storm."

    Well, I'm sure it was a very impressive storm, Mewtwo says with an air of someone giving praise for an utterly routine and unimpressive task. Regardless. I appreciate your meeting me here today. What do you know about Mew?

    There's a long silence. "Well, I got nothing," Heracross says. "You guys?"

    "None of us saw her, either," Noctowl says.

    "We weren't with the real high-ups," Heracross says. "Sorry. The people around us didn't know half of what was going on with Cipher. Mostly they did what they were told and cashed the check, you know? Not questioning types."

    Then why, Mewtwo asks after a moment, am I here?

    "Do you know where any of the important people in Cipher went? Like that guy, Greevil, or his sons? Or especially one of the scientists like, uhhh, was she called Lovey?" you ask, hoping to head off a temper tantrum. The three of them must know something, if they really were shadow pokémon.

    "Remind me who you are again?" Heracross says.

    Answer the question, Mewtwo snaps, and the pokémon flinch from the sudden cold stab of his anger.

    "I'm sorry," Hypno says, raising a hand. "I thought Noctowl or Heracross might know something about Mew, but I was wrong. I'll be honest, I knew the other two would really want to meet you, and I was curious, too."

    We met yesterday.

    "With you in your ball like that? I couldn't even be sure who you were."

    "I didn't really believe Hypno when she told me," Noctowl says. "Even with people saying they saw you in Agate, it didn't seem possible."

    You had me come all the way out here because you wanted to meet me? Blessedly, he seems more confused than angry, psychic field eddying with conflicted emotions. You pick fretfully at your shirt while you wait for everything to go south.

    "I guess so. Mostly," Hypno says. "We had to be sure, and I really did hope the other two might know something. It's only been a day--give us time, and I promise we'll find something out. Cipher hurt a lot of people, and some of them know a whole lot more than us. We'll get in touch with some of the other pokémon who were captured by Cipher and see if they've heard anything about Mew."

    "And if they don't know anything, we'll ask them to talk to anyone they know who can help. And so on, and so on." Heracross makes a vague circular motion with her can of soda. "There's a lot of us out there. Somebody knows what's up with Mew. Guaranteed."

    "It might take a while," Noctowl says. "But we will try. We want to help."

    Mewtwo doesn't seem to know what to do with that information. You can't understand his emotions, by turns irritated, by turns... hopeful? What about humans? Do you know any of them who were part of Cipher? Mewtwo asks after a moment.

    "No one important," Hypno says. "Again, we weren't part of the upper ranks."

    Anyone, Mewtwo says. Anyone involved in Cipher would be better than nothing.

    The pokémon turn to one another, Noctowl shifting slowly foot to foot. You wonder what Mewtwo's seeing in their heads.

    "Sure, right, there's loads of former Cipher types around here in Pyrite," Heracross says.

    Excellent! Where? You're not sure if you'll ever get used to the way Mewtwo's face stays blank no matter what he's feeling. His mental voice is alive with excitement, but he looks as ominous and detached as ever, lurking in the doorway, in the dark. Maybe he's leaning forward, slightly, perhaps his eyes are wider than usual, but there's nothing more than that.

    "The person who got me from Cipher lives in Pyrite, too. I might be able to figure out where," Noctowl says. "But it's not something I would... like to do."

    "Some of us would rather not know," Hypno says.

    But you. You do know. Mewtwo's full attention focuses on Heracross, who grips her drink tighter.

    "Sure, I mean, I think so, anyway." She's looking at Hypno like she expects some kind of help.

    "Well," Hypno says slowly. "Actually, we were wondering if you wanted us to show you around Pyrite for a bit. Just, ah, to get to know the place."

    Mewtwo's too confused to even be annoyed by that. You wanted to give us a tour?

    "I can point out places where goons might hang out while we're going along," Heracross says, rushing the words out in her enthusiasm. "If you're interested, I mean."

    A tour, Mewtwo says thoughtfully, and you fight to keep your enthusiasm tamped down. He's going to say no, maybe even just because he knows--because you can't hide--how much you want to go. Yes, I believe that could be useful. Take the creature with you. It can report back to me.

    "Me?" you say. "Just me?"

    Just you.

    You try to be grateful that the pokémon at least attempt to hide their disappointment. "Of course, if that's what you want," Noctowl says.

    "A private tour? Sure, why not," Heracross says, and takes a loud--annoyed, you think--slurp of her drink.

    "Then what are you going to do?" you ask Mewtwo.

    I will pursue my own leads, Mewtwo says.

    "What leads? The whole point of coming here was to get leads!"

    You can feel the pokémon watching your argument. It looks absurd, you getting angry at a creature that gives no outward sign that it even acknowledges your existence.

    How long is this tour going to take? Mewtwo asks.

    Hypno shrugs. "I don't know. An hour?"

    Make it two hours, Mewtwo says.

    "Mewtwo, you know you can't go off on your own," you hiss at him. Does he really want to do this now? In front of people who actually want to help you?

    Do you want to go with them or not?

    Well, of course you do. You want to see Pyrite, especially the places where the bad guys hang out. You'll have a chance to ask all the interesting questions Mewtwo never asks. But you don't want to take a tour more than you want to be sure Mewtwo isn't letting himself be seen, or off murdering people.

    Mewtwo's eyes narrow slightly. Good. Then go. I will meet you here when you're done.

    You glare at him while the other pokémon exchange meaningful looks. "If that works for you, then great," Hypno says. "Are you sure you don't want one of us to stay with you, or give you any advice?"

    That's very kind of you, but no. As I said, I'll meet you here later.

    "Yeah, it's not like he needs to worry about getting mugged or anything," Heracross says. "Come on, then. Let's get going."

    You feel like you can't object, not with the pressure of Mewtwo's psychic field reminding you of who holds all the power here. The fact that you actually want to go doesn't make it better, just makes it feel like won't get to enjoy it properly, since you'll be resenting Mewtwo the whole time. You can't even summon the energy for a proper farewell glare before you follow the pokémon back through the empty window, the front door being nailed shut.

    Outside the weight of Mewtwo's mind is replaced by the almost physical pressure of sunlight. As always when you leave Mewtwo's psychic field the world seems brighter--well, it literally is brighter--the air fresher, and you're so light you can practically float.

    Heracross lets out a whoop of pleasure and takes to the air for a brief, buzzing flight. Hypno follows behind, holding one arm out for Noctowl to alight upon. Heracross lands at the end of the street and waits for her to catch up, burst of energy spent but enthusiasm clearly not.

    "So that was Mewtwo! Hell! I can't believe it!"

    "And you doubted me," Hypno says, grinning.

    "Even Noctowl doubted you!" Heracross laughs. "And real smooth, making out like it was us two who were all excited to meet him. Like you didn't come up to me yesterday going on about how the most a-maaaaa-zing thing just happened, I'd never believe it..."

    "I have a professional interest," Hypno says with great dignity, then breaks down and grins at Heracross.

    "Yeah," Heracross says. "Damn, though. That's power!"

    "He is very impressive," Noctowl murmurs. You nearly jump when his head snaps around backwards so he's looking straight at you. "And who are you?" the bird asks. "How did you come to travel with Mewtwo?"

    "I'm helping Mewtwo. We're both trying to find Mew. I was doing it first."

    "Okay, and what are you?" Heracross asks. "You look human, but I've never heard a human talk properly."

    You shrug hopelessly. "I'm me."

    "Thanks for the non-answer."

    "I don't know. It doesn't matter. I'm just me."

    Heracross gives Hypno what you think must be a significant look over the rim of her can of soda, but you don't know what else to tell her. "You got a name, at least, whatever-you-are?"

    "No."

    "Heracross." Noctowl spreads his wings slightly, and whatever Heracross was starting to say, she hides it behind an extra-large sip of soda. "What would you like us to call you?" Noctowl asks.

    "Whatever you want. I do not care."

    Heracross laughs. "I think I like this one! You and Noctowl are going to get along swell."

    "I think we said we were going to do a tour, right? Not an interrogation?" Hypno asks.

    "I was told someone owes me ice cream," Noctowl says. "Perhaps we can make that our last stop?"

    "Yes!" In this heat, nothing sounds better than ice cream.

    "I'm all for it, especially if Heracross is buying," Hypno says. "Let's walk that way, then. And in the meantime, well, you've seen... this." She waves her hand around at the quiet street, the small rusty shacks, dusty rubbish-choked yards.

    "Pyrite used to be much larger," Noctowl says. "When the mines were open, people came from all over the world to try their luck."

    "They used to build shanties and little shelters out of whatever they could find. Most of them didn't last, but a lot of these places started out that way," Hypno says.

    "Some people who came here for the mines still live here today," Noctowl says. He's riding on Hypno's outstretched arm, and you wonder if she isn't getting tired by now, and why Noctowl doesn't just fly. Maybe that would make it harder to be part of the conversation.

    "Living in Pyrite, huh." Heracross takes a loud slurp of her drink. "It's a great option if you haven't got options."

    Whatever that means. "And it's all run by gangs now, right?"

    "More or less. And don't worry. I remember you were interested in Cipher. Most of the places you'd find old members would be near Main Street, which, well." Hypno makes an expansive gesture with her free arm. "Here we are."

    "There's nobody around," you say. "It's so quiet."

    "Too hot," Hypno says.

    "Hot is right," Heracross says. "Used to be everyone was down in the Under on days like this."

    "The Under! That was like that gambling place that Miror B. had, right?" A very popular setting for Orrenian crime dramas.

    "'That gambling place,' sure," Hypno says with a smile. "It got shut down about five years ago. They completely filled it in. Supposedly it was unsafe."

    "Like it's not unsafe being in the sun up here," Heracross says.

    "What happened down there still happens," Noctowl says quietly. "Just aboveground now. But it isn't all bad. There's ONBS, for example. That started as a way to resist Miror B.'s rule, and now they're trying to do better for Pyrite. They uncover corruption, they educate people about what's going on, they try to recruit young people so they don't end up in gangs. Miror B.'s gone. Cipher is... was supposed to be gone."

    "But you're not here for the hope!" Heracross says. "What was it, hives of scum and villainy? Let's see what we've got around here." She drums her claws clinkingly against the side of her soda can. "Well, I can't say I know for certain where old Cipher peons like, but if you want some of the least reputable dives, I would check out Fool's Gold or The Two Ursaring. The Copperside Club, too, if you want to be thorough."

    You try to keep up with Heracross' pointing and commit each place to memory, but it's tough. They're rusty metal buildings shut tight against the heat and sun, like any number of other rusty metal buildings along the street, and their signs are dark. You wonder, briefly, if Mewtwo will be able to see them in your memory even if you can't actually remember them yourself. Fool's Gold is a garish red around its rust, though, The Two Ursaring long and low while most of Pyrite's architecture is compact, and you try to memorize these details, or at least the configuration of buildings around them, and hope that you can find them again.

    "There's the park, too," Hypno says.

    She must mean the expanse of pitted concrete coming up on your left. A bunch of basketball courts, netless, that regularly double as battlefields, judging by the craters and the carbonized black stains littering them. The air shimmers above them, and you reach up to wipe sweat off your face. It's hot.

    "They call it Battle Square. There have been fighting rings there since forever, I think," Hypno says. "Some are associated with gangs, some are just aspiring trainers. Miror B.'s old crew used to hang around there."

    "My old trainer went there," Noctowl says softly.

    "Were they in Cipher?" you ask.

    For whatever reason, Hypno's the one who answers. "A lot of people who had shadow pokémon weren't, at least not directly."

    Nobody talks for a bit after that, but the silence fills up with your footsteps, miscellaneous metallic creakings, bangings, scrapings from loose shutters, bad hinges, old fans; periodic, blessed gust of wind. The buildings at this end of town look newer, mostly, with a lot of glass--probably not a good idea with all the sun around here. Hypno breaks the silence to point one out, ONBS broadcasting headquarters. "And there's the windmill! You can't visit Pyrite without seeing the windmill."

    "Is the ice cream close?" you ask. You're tired of walking, and ice cream sounds like the best thing ever except maybe a cold drink of water.

    Noctowl does another one of his head-spins and nearly gives you a heart attack, and a tide of dizziness follows the clenching in your chest. "Are you all right?" Noctowl asks, and the other pokémon stop.

    "I'm fine," you say, somewhat undermined by having to wipe a trickle of gritty sweat out of your eyes.

    "I'll get some ice cream to bring back," Hypno says.

    "I said I'm fine! I'll get it myself."

    "Don't worry about it," Hypno says. "You haven't been in Orre long, have you? It takes a while to get used to the heat. Here, why don't you sit in the shade over for a minute?"

    You want to protest again that you're fine, but the shop stoop, under a ratty, sun-bleached awning, looks too good to pass up.

    Noctowl flutters down next to you, watching with concern you find offensive. "We'd go someplace with air conditioning, but there isn't much around here that would let us hang out on the cheap," Heracross says.

    You wouldn't mind paying, but at the moment the mere thought of having to walk to find someplace else makes you dizzy. "Hey, fan," Heracross says with a loud clack of her claws like a finger-snap, "make with the fanning, would you?"

    Noctowl almost knocks her down with a wallop from one of his wings, but then he sets up a steady breeze, sweeping his wings back and forth. You lean into the wind while you wipe the sweat off your face. Right at this moment it's the nicest thing you can ever remember feeling.

    "Maybe bring some water next time or something, kid," Heracross says after righting herself.

    Hypno nods. "There's a convenience store a couple streets down. They're bound to have some there."

    "I don't need anything!" you snap. And if you didn't have to look human right now, you wouldn't have any problem at all. You can handle a desert just fine, probably for way longer than any of these three.

    "Suit yourself," Heracross says.

    "What do you think of Pyrite Town so far?" Hypno asks, settling in beside you.

    "It's cool!" You can muster up a little enthusiasm now that you're sitting down and shaded. "It's just like the movies. I bet it's even cooler at night."

    Heracross chuckles. "That's not the word I would use."

    "Be careful if you come back here after dark," Noctowl says. "It's not safe."

    For other people, maybe. You aren't scared.

    "Well, if you liked Pyrite Town, you'll enjoy Orre, anyway," Heracross says. "Pyrite's basically the armpit of the whole region, so it's all uphill from here."

    "I went to Agate Village. That was really nice!"

    "It is nice," Hypno says.

    "Phenac City is, too. That's where Hypno lives," Noctowl says. "Maybe we can take you there next."

    "I want to go to Phenac City. And Relgam Tower! Can you really see all the way to the ocean from the top? Mount Battle sounds cool, too."

    "I guess I'll just pencil the whole region in on your schedule," Hypno says.

    "You know, if you want to find old Cipher peons, you ought to visit the colosseum here, too," Heracross says. "Duking's in charge now, but there's plenty of shady types who still battle there, especially since Deep Colosseum got shut down."

    "The colosseum! Yes, I want to go!" The shiny dome dominates Pyrite's skyline, the terminus of its one real street. The Indigo Plateau stadium is huge, as you now know firsthand, but even from here you can tell Pyrite Colosseum's on an entirely different scale. Orre's supposed to have the most impressive battling arenas in the entire world.

    "Ha! Well, it's too bad you didn't come here on a Friday. They have a local tournament every week, open entry. That's when the Three Musketeers battle."

    "Heracross," Noctowl says, but you're too curious to let it go.

    "The Three Musketeers? Like from Unova?"

    "Bingo. The Three Musketeers, fighting for justice, defending the common pokémon, fierce friends until the end!" Heracross says, raising her soda.

    "They come all the way from Unova to battle here?"

    Noctowl hides his beak behind one wing, and you think he must be laughing.

    "It's us three. We're the Three Musketeers. Of Orre," Heracross says. "I'm Virizion, obviously. Noctowl's Cobalion."

    "So that makes you... Terrakion," you say to Hypno, uncertain.

    "It's not a perfect metaphor," Heracross says. "But don't underestimate her. She kicks harder than you might expect."

    "Some people are more invested in their role than others," Hypno says, but she's smiling behind the hand she's resting her chin on. Noctowl fluffs himself and narrows his eyes, which doesn't really have the wise and meditative effect you think he was going for.

    "But that's so cool! You fight together? You fight the bad guys who go to the colosseum?"

    "That's right. Tell you what, you come down here on Friday, we'll give you the VIP treatment. Backstage access and all that."

    "Yes! You will? I'll be there!" You grin at Hypno and Noctowl, who continue to act half embarrassed, half pleased. It takes a second before you remember Mewtwo, and exactly what he'd think about going for an evening at the colosseum. You can feel the smile fall off your face, and you turn away so the others won't notice. It's all you can do not to blurt out that wait, no, you take it back.

    "It's a date, then," Heracross says. "Better be ready. If you've never seen a proper Orre battle tournament, you don't know what you've been missing.

    You nod and force yourself to look at her, though you can't manage another smile. Forget about it. If Mewtwo has a problem, let him have a problem. You're going to go, no matter what he says.

    Hypno goes for ice cream, which makes you feel a little better, but now that you're thinking of Mewtwo you can't stop worrying about what he's been up to, what you'll find when you return to the abandoned house.

    The sun's begun to sink, the colosseum's dome gleaming golden, when Hypno says you should be heading back. You're feeling better after your rest, and by now it's cold, genuinely cold, in the shadows, which stretch thick and dark all up and down the sides of the street. Here and there, people are out walking.

    By the time you can see the abandoned house up ahead you're convinced Mewtwo won't be there. The whole way down the street you're steeling yourself to have to spend the night searching for him, to not find him, to have to rely on more news reports to figure out where he is. When you come around to the back of the house, though, you feel tingling psychic pressure seeping through its walls, and then there Mewtwo is, waiting in precisely the spot you left him, expressionless.

    Did you enjoy your tour? he asks.

    "Yes. It was great," you say, defiant without really knowing why.

    Good. Then we both had productive evenings.

    "If you ever want us to show you around, just let us know," Hypno says. "We'd be happy to take you."

    Thank you, but I would be more interested in anything you might discover about my mother.

    "Of course," Hypno says. "We'll do everything we can."

    Excellent. I appreciate the help. Mewtwo's gaze turns to you. Now, I think we should be going.

    "Do you have anywhere to stay?" Noctowl asks. "Heracross lives in a cave near here. You could stay with her if you liked."

    "Always happy to have guests!" the bug says, raising her soda in a phantom toast. "You get humans sniffing around sometimes, but you wouldn't have trouble sending them packing, would you?"

    Thank you, but that won't be necessary. We're staying at the Old Cipher factory. Do you know where that is? You should meet us there if you discover anything worthwhile.

    The silence that descends is icy. You shift from one foot to the other, chest tingling with nerves.

    "Really? That's where you're hanging out?" Heracross says.

    "I'd pick Heracross' cave over that, for sure," Hypno says. "I'm not sure... why..."

    It belonged to my enemies, and now it belongs to me. I will make it the seat from which I overthrow them, Mewtwo says. He radiates smug delight at the idea, but the Three Musketeers don't warm to it. Noctowl looks off into the distance, and Hypno's watching him.

    "That's where you want us to go. When we find something out," Heracross says.

    Irritation. But all Mewtwo says is, *Precisely. Now, I think that's all. We should be going."

    "Okay. Yeah," Heracross says. "I guess we'll see you, then." She draws herself up and flashes a cheeky smile. "If we don't see you on TV before then, anyway. Already got people buzzing about your visit, don't you?"

    The surge of Mewtwo's anger is enough to bring Hypno and Noctowl out of their reveries. They turn wide-eyed towards the clone, and Heracross blanches. Quite, Mewtwo says. Now, we're going. He tosses his master ball, hovering in the air beside him as always, back to you. You catch it and recall him numbly.

    The pokémon are looking at you. "Sorry," you say. "I have to go." To Heracross, "I'm sure your cave is very nice."

    "Don't sweat it," she says. "We'll see you again soon."

    You nod and turn towards the door, thinking wearily of your return to the factory, your lair--Mewtwo's lair--in the cold and dark. "Hey," Heracross says, and you turn back. "Why the long face? You've got the Three Musketeers on your case, remember?" She raises her soda with a warm smile. "We've got your backs, both of you. Everything's gonna turn out fine, just you wait and see."
     
  19. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner *aromatisse noise*

    Good thing protag had the sense not to try zapping the tv into functionality.

    ...Why do I suspect that protag tried exactly that on some other television at some point in the past.

    Of course this just leads me to imagine what if that weren't the case. What if the opposite were true?

    And so I find myself picturing Mewtwo making the most absurd faces possible.

    I am really liking these new characters, let me tell you. :D I'd say they're definitely my favorite thing about the latest chapter--and that's saying something, considering that even just a mention of things like the Under and Miror B. are enough to send me into holy frick nostalgia mode. Heracross in particular is a gift.

    I wonder if she's a doomed gift, because of course I do.
     
  20. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    NaNo's been going really well! Definitely not going to come close to finishing the entire fic, but I've made some fantastic progress. Looking forward to updating in December with that extra I mentioned earlier. ;)

    And I have a review to reply to, which is always excellent!

    Sike Saner

    I'm sure it has destroyed many a device, intentional and unintentional, in exactly this way. :p

    A complete crack version of the story where Mewtwo is the exact opposite of everything he is now would be hecking fun, that's for sure.

    All the faces.

    I'm glad you like them! I've had a lot of fun writing them so far, especially Heracross. I think it tends to be kind of obvious which characters are my favorites, haha. We'll be seeing plenty of them, so hopefully you continue to enjoy!

    Of course, yes, the characters I like most don't tend to fare the best... we'll see!

    You've been following this story for something like four whole years now! Thanks so much for your kind words for this chapter and all those chapters past. I always look forward to your reviews!
     
    Sike Saner likes this.

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