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Negrek

Lost but Seeking
Author's Notes: Not much to say here. This one's pretty short and sweet. Enjoy!

Chapter 13

You don't actually feel that first blow, dazed and winded and from your fall and struggling to make sense of what's going on. It's not until the bird wrenches her beak free again, spattering you with gobbets of your own blood, that the pain hits, and you act without even thinking.

You use your good hand to slam a thunder punch into the fearow's chest, toppling her with a surprised squawk. Then you clasp your mangled shoulder and channel healing energy, re-knitting muscle and stopping the arterial flood.

You push yourself back to your feet and flex the fingers on your injured arm to make sure everything's working. As you bend to finish the struggling fearow off, a yell diverts your attention.

"Hey, dumbass!" The great Nathaniel Morgan's over by the tree line, holding out his hand. The sneasel tosses him the pokédex, and he raises it over his head with a fleeting wince. "You want this?"

You don't bother replying and rush into an extreme speed, hand already out to grab the pokédex. A black streak collides with you mid-pounce, and you fall to the ground with the sneasel on your chest, his hooked claws sunk in just above your collarbones.

You grab the dark-type around the neck and tear him off, heedless of the chunks of flesh that come away with him. Then you hesitate. The great Nathaniel Morgan hasn't moved, but now he has company. Pokémon emerge from the brush around him: parasect, nidoran, rhyhorn, ekans. "That's right, you stupid piece of shit," the great Nathaniel Morgan says. "You want it, you'd better come and fucking get it. But if you know what's good for you, you'll get the fuck out of here now, while you still can."

Your response is a shattering roar of frustration, all fury and betrayal. The noise halts the pokémon's advance for a moment, uncertainty rippling through their ranks.

He did this somehow, that conniving, evil little human. You save his life, and this is how he repays you? With some craven ambush, the very thing his despicable Rocket friends tried on him? You hurl your pokéballs at the gathering monsters. "Get them!"

Titan snorts in surprised distaste, leaning in over his tail to shield it from the rain. At first he just stares around, confused, but the situation is clear enough. The charizard spreads his wings and growls, and his teammates gather around him.

You move to join them, only to have the sneasel leap onto your back, grabbing at your throat with his claws. You drop to the ground, trying to catch him underneath you, but he lets go and jumps away, then dodges a swipe of your hand and spits an icy wind at you.

You roll onto your stomach and reach for him again, only to have the fearow come spearing down out of the sky, hitting you beak-first with a drill peck. It doesn't hurt this time either, your heart racing and your body flush with adrenaline. There's a jarring scrape as the spinning attack glances off your ribcage and drags a long, bloody streak down your back, but no more than that. The fearow's momentum carries her beak on into the dirt, and she flaps and curses as she tries to wrench it free.

The sneasel leaps on you again, claws a blur as he covers you with gashes. Then Titan's there, a blast of flame putting the sneasel into full retreat and lending extra energy to the fearow's struggles. Her beak comes up in a shower of dirt, and she flops free. Fearow takes to the air as another flamethrower rushes her way, so Titan swings it around to threaten the sneasel instead. The dark-type retreats well out of reach, and Titan flares his wings and growls at him while you pull yourself into a crouch, injuries already knitting closed.

"Thanks, Titan," you say. He stands over you with chest heaving, huffing out angry clouds of smoke. Behind him your other pokémon are embroiled in fights of their own, cut off from you by the enemies swarming out of the woods. Rats battles another raticate, the two of them locked in a hissing, spitting ball of sodden fur. War's driven his beak deep into the soft earth to keep himself steady, lashing out with his stingers and pulling unwary opponents into a poisonous embrace. Meanwhile Thunderstorm sparks too bright to look at, thunder rolling as it sends jags of lightning in all directions.

Anxiety wars with anger in your gut. It's disgusting, the audacity of these scum, daring to take you and your pokémon on. Worse that they caught you off guard, actually managed to injure you while you were stuck in a pathetically fragile human body.

But the great Nathaniel Morgan's made a horrible mistake in attacking you, and a worse one by getting his friends involved. You're going to have to kill them all, too, or at least most of them, enough to warn Team Rocket away from you in the future. They don't stand a chance against you at full power, and they're about to find out the hard way.

You transform, muscles expanding and skin growing tough and scaly. Armor plates slide out to cover your head, your chest, your shoulders; your fingertips merge and sharpen into stubby talons strong enough to tear apart solid rock. You stagger upright, clumsy as the last changes take hold, while Titan turns to meet a gaggle of enemies.

You ignore them, darkness bubbling around your claws as you prepare an attack. As you raise your arms above your head a black wave sweeps across the clearing, engulfing your opponents. A couple manage to pull themselves free, fly or dig out of reach of the spreading nightmarescape, but most are pulled under, dragged down into unnatural slumber.

"Get the humans!" you call to your friends as you hurry to do just that. They don't move, though, and as you open your mouth to reproach their hestitation you're distracted by the clunk and hiss of pokéballs going off in the woods. Just how many people are out there? There are at least a dozen pokémon scattered around the battlefield already, and that's probably four humans, five. They're sending more, though--make it six or seven on the inside.

You haven't got the time to look for them just now. The sneasel leaps at you a final time, and you slam him into unconsciousness with a brick break. A thin shriek from overhead gives you the warning you need to put up a protect, and a second later the fearow crashes into it with a crackle of energy discharge. She's on her way skyward a moment later, and you shield your eyes with a hand grown plate-sized and craggy as you draw a bead on her.

With the rain pouring down there's plenty of free charge to harness, and you send a bolt of lightning ripping down and straight through your quarry. The brilliant streak of electricity leaves you blind for a moment, eyes clouded by neon afterimages. After the shredding blast of thunder that follows you strain your ears until you hear the wet thud of the fearow falling to earth.

You don't get long to savor your revenge. The next threat announces itself in the form of a sodden boulder, which would have caught you in the side of your head if it didn't hit an unseen barrier first. A gleaming-white crescent of energy flickers in the air over your head as the rock to shatters and vanishes in a cloud of grainy debris.

You spin around and find three pokémon sneaking up on you. They stare at you dumbly. "What the heck was that?" wonders the geodude responsible for blowing their cover, raising his voice over the sound of Thunderstorm calling more lightning in the background.

"Wonder guard, I think," says the litleo next to him. "Shit. What the hell is this thing, anywa--?"

They scatter as you stomp on the ground and send a wash of dirty water over the group. "Ridge!" sputters the meowth who managed to stand strong against the attack. "We need to get Ridge over here. We're screwed if we can't even hit this thing. Ridge!"

You punt the struggling geodude into a golbat you see winging towards you, then turn your attention to the litleo, who's soaked and shivering from the muddy water. One of his eyes is caked shut with mud, but he sees you coming and scrambles to get away, dodging the lazy volley of water guns you send after him. He turns to fling embers over his shoulder, but they fizzle uselessly against the wonder guard.

"Shit shit shit shit shit! What are you?!" the normal-type bawls. You don't bother to answer, switching to a widespread bubble attack. The little normal-type's already slipping and struggling on the soaking battlefield, and a barrage of rain-swelled bubbles is enough to drop him at last.

That leaves the meowth, who's been chasing you the entire time, trying to distract you from her friend. Her claws only glance off your barrier, though; her teeth do no better, and you ignore her furious growling, reaching down and hooking her into the air with a sky uppercut. After that a comet punch sends her flying, out cold.

The meowth couldn't do anything by herself, but finishing her off did serve to distract you. You don't notice the golbat, recovered from her high-speed geodude encounter, until she flies up behind you and wraps her thick tongue around your neck.

You yell, reaching up to grab the warm, gooey thing as it slithers across your armor. A second later you regret the impulse as your hands become coated in the noxious substances oozing from the bat's tongue. They burn into your scales, an awful wet itching spreading down your torso, and you roar and send electricity snaking over your body with a spark attack.

The golbat lets out a screech occluded by her hyperextended tongue, and her wings buffet the back of your head as she tries to remain airborne. You can feel them now that your wonder guard is fading, corroded by the gastro acid. You tug at the bat's tongue again, claws biting deep, then stagger as her keening rises to a higher pitch, a supersonic attack that batters your eardrums and throws off your equilibrium.

For a while after that the battle is a blur. You shock the golbat, try to swat her away, and end up face-down in the mud on more than one occasion. More pokémon show up to join the attack, and you strike out at anything that comes close, filling the air around you with lightning and leaves and clouds of paralytic dust, anything to drive them back while you try to get your bearings.

In the end it's the wave that breaks your confusion. You don't notice it building, are caught off-guard by the abrupt transition from light and air to a world of freezing murk. Sticks and logs and floating pokémon buffet you as the surf attack sweeps them past, but you stand strong against it, too heavy to drag away. You gag and choke up gritty water as air breaks over your head again, pawing slimy leaves off your face and trying to figure out where the attack came from.

The surf pushed most of the pokémon to the edge of the clearing, but War remains, his tentacles reaching towards a drowzee and kadabra only now letting protect shields fall. Judging from what Rats is yelling, looking no more than half her normal size with her fur all plastered against her body, the tentracruel was the source of the surf. Thunderstorm lies sparking in the mud, a victim of his own teammate's attack. Judging by the cries from the woods, the humans didn't escape, either. How many voices? Seven?

You run towards War, feet sinking in sucking puddles. On the way you fire a thunderbolt at the wingull harrying Titan, who escaped the water by being in the skies.

The psychics stand out of reach of War's tentacles and bombard him with bursts of telekinetic force. He retaliates with water pulses and hydro pumps, but it's probably only a matter of time before he gets frustrated and tries to sweep them away with another surf.

You cover the last of the distance with an extreme speed, bowling a nidorina out of the way as you go. You ram into the kadabra and trample him underfoot as you rush on towards his partner. Then you turn too quickly, and your legs slew out from under you. You fall on your side, your momentum sending you sliding into a sleeping machoke.

She wakes up, of course, while you're trying to stand, hands and feet slipping in the watery muck, and no sooner have you managed to rise than she tackles you to the ground again, driving your face into the mire.

You struggle and kick, trying to throw the machoke off, your mind blaring terror as you can't breathe, can't see, sink deeper into the clinging mud. The fighting-type shifts her weight, getting a better grip on you and riding out all your thrashing.

You call on heat, and raindrops fizz to nothing as they strike your burning skin. But it is raining, and between that and the half-liquid mire around you most of the overheat's strength is leeched away to no good use. The machoke tightens her grip.

You call instead on lightning, sparks dancing across your body, and that gets a grunt of pain. The machoke's tough, though. She hangs on with a determination you'd admire if you weren't so afraid of passing out.

You stop for a moment, listening to your heartbeat echoing in your ears and trying to ignore the burning tightness in your chest. Pain spreads out across your back and arms, through all the metal-imbued tissues of your armor. The machoke shifts, and her surprised cry comes to you garbled through the water. She retreats a second later, and you push yourself up, gasping in a huge breath of air.

The machoke dives at you, fist raised, and you flip onto your back and fire a psybeam into her chest, which is stippled with bleeding holes from your armor's new spines. The psychic attack is a solid hit, knocking the machoke over backwards, and you drag in more ragged gulps of air.

There's a mienfoo headed towards you, skipping on fallen logs and fallen pokémon to avoid contact with the damp mess of the ground. You duck under her flying kick and rise up to engage, only to stagger as a blast of ice slams into the back of your head. You turn and fire a rainbow dazzle of energy at a bergmite clinging to a downed tree branch. The little ice-type loses his grip with a squeak, but the last glimmers of the power gem glint off the armor of a lairon trundling in your direction. You don't have time to worry about him now. The mienfoo is back in the fight, sweeping your legs out from under you before you have a chance to brace yourself.

You collapse in the mud, slinging confusion attacks to drive the mienfoo back. She stumbles, dizzied by concentrated psychic energy, and you cast an air slash her way as you get to your knees, taking her out of the fight entirely.

Then you have to duck as a staravia swoops at your face. You knock him out of the air with a thunderbolt, then turn and blow an oddish away with gust. The gold-glittering powder he sent your way dissipates just before a persian makes a flying leap for your shoulder, claws digging into unprotected flesh and breath hot against your throat. You turn so he's in the path of a fury attack from a darting beedrill, making his body your shield.

Then it's fire for the bee; ice for the staravia newly risen; heat wave and razor leaf to keep the lot at bay; circle throw to put the persian out of the fight; stop and use close combat on the lairon, the rain of blows shattering armor and putting it down with a single attack; dragon rage and energy ball and thunderbolt and thunderbolt again and you're standing in a clear space amidst downed opponents, breathing hard. Formless energy crackles over your scales, ready to leap at anything that comes near. The mud at your feet bubbles and lets off a stink like cooking garbage.

It looks like that's the last of that wave. You duck your head and take a moment to recover, healing off bite wounds and lacerations and stinging energy burns. The move comes slow and taxing, and you sway as the strength runs out of your legs. You'll need to stop and take a proper rest before you can do much more healing.

After a few seconds you straighten up, raising your head to look around, only to be jerked sideways by a sudden weight on your arm. You scream as the bones in your wrist give way with an audible crunch. The lairon you thought knocked out clamps down harder, sending stabs of agony racing up your arm with the slightest movement. The rock-type drags at your wrist, trying to pull you off your feet. You slam your fist into his face without even thinking, truly knocking him out this time, but then have to kneel and pry him off your arm as his jaws stay locked in a bulldog grip.

Mending the fracture leaves you lightheaded, and you take another long moment to catch your breath, rolling your wrist back and forth and wiggling your fingers. And then, then, when you finally feel recovered enough to go looking for another fight, a wave crests over your head and plunges you into chill darkness.

As the surf attack ebbs you turn to War and find him barely moving, his feeble strikes coming nowhere close to reaching the emolga who sails above him, peppering him with thunder shocks. The water around the tentacruel's beak swirls and ripples as he tries to exert his power, but you doubt he has the strength to manage another surf, not that you want him to. You fumble his pokéball off your belt and recall him, then do the same for Rats, who's sprawled in another cluster of fallen pokémon, out cold.

Thunderstorm is still kicking, but every time it tries to call lightning from the lowering clouds the bolt veers off course, striking the upraised club of a marowak hanging around the edge of the battlefield. Now and again the magneton sends a barrage of swift stars whirling at the ground-type, but most of its attention is focused on blasting a different group of pokémon.

And that group is... You choke down your anger and bow your head in brief concentration, then look up at a confused gaggle of enemies. You summon a blizzard before the pokémon can recover from their surprise, and chill winds swirl and gather, tugging at the tattered remains of your clothing. The ally switch sent Titan across the battlefield, and he's still hunched down with his tail tucked close to his chest, defending himself against vanished opponents. He raises his head and lets out a snort of surprise, and then you lose sight of him behind a wall of pelting ice.

As the blizzard clears you kick out at the snow-covered pokémon around you, trying to figure out which are still conscious. Then a tooth-rattling rumble tears your attention away.

Great muck-covered boulders shiver their way out of the ground, rising ever higher as the marowak lifts her bone club over her head. You hurry to establish another psychic link with Titan, and in a flash you're standing where he was, just in time for the rock slide to fall on your head instead of his.

You reach up and catch the first boulder, but the marowak directs more your way, the rocks following her club as though it were a conductor's baton. Not far away, Thunderstorm is suffering a milder barrage, rocks ringing off his metal skin as they rain back to earth. You toss aside the boulder and raise your hands over your head, trying to catch the rest on a cushion of psychic force, but you're too tired to sustain it and the lot comes tumbling down, burying you under a good half ton of rock and dirt.

For a few seconds you just lie where you are, crushed into the muck by the weight of the debris. The rock slide itself didn't do you much harm, but you ache all over and fatigue is starting to gnaw at your muscles, stemming the tide of adrenaline that was pushing you forward and dulling your injuries.

Thinking of the great Nathaniel Morgan's smug face is enough to get you moving again. You won't let that disgusting human walk away from this one. The battle's nearly over, and you're going to win it.

You reach out with your mind, pushing up just enough to relieve some of the weight on your back, then shift to get your legs under you. You dig upwards, shoving boulders aside, tearing them off in chunks where they're too large to move easily. Finally you clear a patch of dripping sky and worm through, back out to the battlefield.

You're just in time to see Titan go down, a grimer clinging to the side of his neck, covering the charizard's nose and mouth with extensions of his sludgy body. The poison-type holds on despite the flames Titan forces from his mouth, and the other pokémon who weathered your blizzard fall upon the fire-type as he collapses, pummeling him from all sides.

The charizard flares red and vanishes, and the grimer dribbles to the ground in an exhausted slump. He's not done for yet, though, not him nor the rest of his group, and the remaining pokémon turn and start heading for Thunderstorm, muttering amongst themselves as they go.

You return Titan's pokéball to your belt and hold your hand out towards Thunderstorm, leaning against a boulder for support as you toss a burst of energy at the magneton. The approaching pokémon slow as a haze of pink and gold shimmers swirls around Thunder, the heal pulse glinting off what bits of the magneton's metallic skin aren't muddied.

"Hit them with flash cannon, Thunder," you say. "Swift if they split up. I'll handle the marowak."

She's watching, calm and relaxed, as you step down from the rock pile. She lets you get close, close enough that you start conjuring ice in preparation for an attack, then lets her club fly with a sudden flick of the wrist.

You duck to the side, but the attack was never meant for you. "Wait! Thunder!"

You speed after the marowak's club, arm outstretched to catch it, only to slip and land in a long slide. You reach up and fire a magical leaf after the club, trying to knock it off course, but it's too late. Thunder's filling the air with waves of brilliant white stars, content to let you deal with the marowak, and is too slow to respond to your cry.

Thunder's swift bashes the grimer into unconsciousness and drives the others back, but then the bone club spins right through the magneton's center, smashing its magnemite apart with a resonant clang. The magnemite scatter in the mud, fizzing with stray charge.

You bellow an incoherent challenge at the marowak as you recall Thunder, your hand shaking so badly that you miss the first time with the capture beam. The ground-type doesn't respond, just raises a hand to catch the club on its return swing.

The Rockets gather behind her, stepping out of hiding places and standing at the ready. There's eight of them--nine with the great Nathaniel Morgan, though he's hanging back, embroiled in an argument with another human. You growl as you notice he's still holding the pokédex limply in one hand. He'll pay for this. You may be the only one left, and you may be worn out, but you're still more than a match for a bunch of grunts. The great Nathaniel Morgan is going to regret betraying you for the rest of his loathsome life, which you'll make sure is short indeed.

A cold thrill of fear passes over you as you notice that the Rockets have guns--your human memories, maybe, old associations getting the better of you. Just as suddenly you're struck by the urge to laugh. Guns? And what do you have to fear from bullets?

You smile and raise your hands, darkness whirling and growing between them. Another wave of blackness rolls out across the battlefield, dragging most of your enemies deep into sleep. The man arguing with the great Nathaniel Morgan sways and leans against a tree for a moment, then looks around in confusion until he notices the other Rocket passed out in the dirt. He leaves the great Nathaniel Morgan to his nap, stepping up to the front lines and taking a gun from a sleeping comrade.

The marowak stands firm, her expression blank, maybe even bored. Unfortunate. You push your irritation aside and charge, swinging for the ground-type with a fistful of ice. She parries with her club, then swipes at your knee. You take a step back, slashing across her chest with a blade of compressed air.

Something pings off your chest plate, and it takes you a moment to realize the Rockets are firing at you. Darts, not bullets. You look down at one of the little fletched things lying in the mud, and an acid tingling spreads across your body as you realize what it means.

The Rockets aren't trying to kill you. They want to capture you. That's why the fearow didn't try and stab you through the heart. They've been letting their pokémon wear you down to the point that you're vulnerable to their weapons. They're going to catch you and throw you into one of their fighting rings, maybe, or their labs. For a moment the world goes dead and gray, a constant flat humming in your ears as confused memories stir. You taste bile at the back of your throat, thick and sour.

You throw up a protect shield to give yourself a moment to think, and another volley of darts bounces off it in a spray of silver sparks. Marowak slams her bone into the barrier again and again, steady, patient.

This is too dangerous. You don't have to fight these people--not now, not on their terms. All you have to do is break through their line, just fly over them if you have to. You can grab the great Nathaniel Morgan and teleport out, and once you've dealt with him, you'll be back for the rest. Even if you have to retreat for now, you can't just let this go. Team Rocket needs to learn that you are not a creature to be hunted.

You drop the protect and knock the marowak off her feet with a hydro pump. Then you turn your attention to the Rockets, the four of them awake, and pins and needles spread out from your palms as you gather energy for an attack.

"Hey." The emolga's sitting on one of the Rocket's shoulders. The human ignores her, firing a dart that bounces off armor plating. "Not thinking of running, are you? Getting tired, not feeling up to a fight like this?"

Your concentration wavers, half from the emolga's words, half with the recognition of what they mean. Oh, not that. Not now. You let your attack go half-formed, stray dazzles of light bursting in the air around you as you clamp your hands over your ears. You only have a second to prepare your defense--

The marowak's club smashes into your side and you topple over, instinctively reaching out to break your fall.

"Not a surprise, I guess. Just disappointing. You put up a good fight, whatever you are. Some kind of ditto, am I right?"

Don't listen, don't listen. You kick the marowak away and stand up, but you can't cover your ears anymore. Every time you try to move your hands, you feel like you want to punch something.

It's so stupid. The taunts aren't even any good. There's no way they should be getting to you like this. You clench your teeth over bubbling irritation. It's so stupid.

"Yeah, I guess you're scarier than the average pile of goo, but you're obviously still too weak to fight real pokémon. It's a shame, really. All those attacks and you can't even beat a marowak?"

Of course it's not about the words, really. It's the energy behind them. You have to get rid of the emolga before you fall under their sway. You have to get rid of the emolga now. If you let her go on she's just going to pile on more of these inane, pointless insults.

"Why don't you just hang tight for a few minutes, let the humans wrap this up, huh? Team Rocket's not so bad, you know. At least they'll make a real fighter out of you."

That's the last you hear. Your yell drowns out the rest. "Shut up! Shut up!" You spread your arms, closing your eyes against the brilliance of your own attack. The humans yell and try to run as the dazzling gleam spreads, ripping leaves off trees and skin off flesh as it flares in sheets of burning silver light.

You race into the tail end of it, before the Rockets have a chance to recover. The emolga's words still buzz in your head, a constant irritant. You need to find her and get rid of her and make them stop.

Something tangles in your legs, and you trip, landing half on top of one of the fallen Rocket agents. She's cradling a bleeding arm, but she still has the presence of mind to try and kick you. You cauterize the arm for her, and most of the rest of her torso, with a blast of flame. Then you look back, searching for what hit you.

Oh, the marowak. Did you forget about her somehow? You twist around and lunge for the ground-type, one hand out to grab her club. It hits your palm with numbing impact, but you manage to close your fingers on it anyway. You drag the bone aside and keep it out of the way while you soak the ground-type with another hydro pump, point blank range. Can't even beat a marowak, was that it? This is how you beat a marowak.

Something bounces off the armor on your back, but you barely even notice. The marowak goes limp, but as soon as you relax and loosen your grip on her club she springs to life again. She wrenches the femur out of your hand and brings it down hard on the inside of your elbow, smashing bone at a single stroke.

You couldn't care less. You claw at the marowak's face, trying to tear her helmet off, while she lays into you with the club, denting armor as she swings at any part of you she can reach. You manage to get her in the stomach with a mega punch, and she lets out a surprised cough of air. You aim a water gun into her open mouth, sending into a fit of choking coughs. Her careful strikes degenerate into limp-wristed flailing, and you knock her down, pressing a foot on her throat to hold her while you conjure another attack, slush dripping between your fingers.

The marowak throws her bone at you, but it's an unsteady toss, doesn't even come close to hitting you. You grind down harder with your foot and pour more power into your attack. Small impacts rattle against your back. The... darts? Yes. More of them now. Most bounce off, but here and there one gets into a chink in your armor, hits just right so it doesn't glance off your scales. They're only tiny pinpricks of pain, hardly felt before they're gone. There's a spreading numbness, maybe from the cold.

Your right arm's not working, hanging limp at your side and feathered with darts, but in your left hand the sheer cold is growing larger, a vortex of white and blue light that sucks greedily at the heat of your body and drains the warmth from the air around you. Your breath comes in billowing white gasps, and frozen raindrops patter to the ground around you. A couple more seconds now and you'll finish Marowak off. Then you need to find that emolga, and once you've settled her you can deal with those irritating humans and their sting-firing guns.

Then the world cracks open, a silent explosion rocking your whole body. You black out for a moment, waking to find yourself collapsed atop the marowak. A great starburst of ice stretches out around you, and your chest is horribly cold and brittle-feeling, like it might crack at any moment. The back of your neck is warm, something wet spreading over your shoulders.

Your vision is blurry and dark-edged, but you don't really mind. You think you were mad a minute ago. Or not mad, but--you were very excited for some reason. You wanted to hurt things. You can't really remember why. Something someone said?

You don't really want to hurt things now. You just want to lie here and stare at Marowak's club, which is sticking in the mud near your shoulder, one end bloodied. That's funny. You thought she threw it away earlier, but no, it was just lying there for some reason. Funny.

It feels hard to breathe, like your body's too heavy for your lungs to push their way out. There's something spreading through your veins, nice and warm but also heavy. Everything's heavy, even your eyelids. What you can see keeps getting smaller and smaller.

It must be something to do with the humans. They knocked you down? No. They were doing something else. You want to sleep, but you feel like this must be important. Think first, then sleep. You close your eyes anyway. Think. The humans. Rockets. Team Rocket. Team Rocket has Mew. You have to get her back. Team Rocket took her, and now they're here because... you. They have Mew, but they want you, too.

Now you think you want to move. You try to open your eyes but can't get them to more than watery slits, a bit of graying light coming in through the cracks. You want to run away, but you can't move your legs at all. Your heart starts beating faster as panic floods your brain, but your limbs no more than twitch. Weight rolls in like a heavy fog and smothers your resolve. It really is getting hard to breathe. You try to swallow and choke instead, saliva dribbling from your mouth. Your eyes close again, and you can't get them open.

It's poison. They poisoned you with whatever they put in those darts. They? Someone. You're poisoned. Your thoughts are starting to fall apart, but you try to hold on to one thing, one last thing. Escape. Run. You have to get away from here. You have to heal yourself, get all the poison out. Escape.

It stops raining. The marowak is gone from under you, the bone-numbing ice traded for cold earth and a scattering of jabbing twigs. That's all you know, that's all you can tell, before you fall into a healing stupor and all the rest is lost.
 
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Dragonfree

Just me
Gossip magazines attribute his hairdo's increasing height to the fact that Red's started shooting up in growth spurts, while Blue hasn't.
Hah, that is so Blue.

The shield goes down as the referee makes the official announcement, and Gyarados lunges forward, nudging his trainer's shoulder. Blue tries to pull away as the serpent's whiskers dance over his torso, poking and prodding. "Knock it off, Gyarados. I'm fine."
I really enjoy this image for some reason. Plus it's just cute how Gyarados is being concerned about him - Gyarados isn't the first Pokémon you imagine trying to make sure their trainer is okay.

"Hey," Rats says, and you stop teasing Togetic for a moment to give your champion a smile. "Good work, Rats. That was a tough battle, but--"
Having that dialogue in the same paragraph as Rats's "Hey" makes it sound like it's still Rats speaking, so it threw me off a little. It's kind of tough what with how that dialogue goes with the latter half of the same dialogue tag as the "Hey", but I still think it would be clearer if you did include a paragraph break.

I enjoyed the scene of the child lashing out in fury when Nate tries to give Togetic some sour candy. The child still thinks in such unshakable absolutes.

As you raise your arms above your head a black wave sweeps across the arena, engulfing your opponents.
The arena? Seems a bit weird to call it that just because a brawl happens to be taking place there...?

the normal type bawls
Maybe it's just me, but using "x type" (as opposed to the hyphenated form, "x-type") as a noun meaning a Pokémon of that type always reads a bit wrong to me. "A normal type" sounds like you're talking about a type that is normal, not something whose type is Normal. I don't know how much grammatical sense this makes, though.

You turn and fire a power gem at a bergmite clinging to a downed tree branch, and the rainbow dazzle of energy glints off the armor of a lairon trundling in your direction.
I found this sentence a bit confusing - my first thought was "What rainbow dazzle?" and then, as I guessed you meant the Power Gem, "But didn't the child fire it at the Bergmite, not a Lairon?" I'd probably reword it to indicate more clearly that the light of the attack just happens to illuminate a previously-unnoticed Lairon.

Now and again the magneton sends a barrage of swift stars whirling at the ground type, but most of its attention is focused on blasting a different group of pokémon.

And that group is... You choke down your anger and bow your head in brief concentration, then look up to find yourself surrounded by enemies. You summon a blizzard before the pokémon can recover from their surprise, and chill winds swirl and gather, tugging at the tattered remains of your clothing. Titan's taken your place across the battlefield, hunched down with his tail tucked close to his chest and one wing hanging shredded and useless. He raises his head and lets out a snort of surprise, and then you lose sight of him behind a wall of pelting ice.
It... took me a while to grasp what on earth this section was on about. After rereading a few times and giving it some thought, I gather the child was so angry because it saw Titan was helpless against a group of Pokémon that were ganging up on him, and thus it switched places with him to attack them. Fair enough; the information is all there somewhere. But I think this is too many leaps for any normal person to get on a straight read-through - first there's a "group of Pokémon" whose significance you don't explain, then the child is angry about this group of Pokémon for some unspecified reason, then suddenly the child is surrounded by some unspecified enemies who are surprised, then Titan has taken the child's place and his wings are torn and is also surprised, and only after this can the reader begin to piece together how all these things relate and generally what just happened, after a paragraph of having absolutely no idea what they should be imagining. Trusting the reader to figure out things without stating them explicitly is cool (I really like how you portray the Bonemerang that gets the child in the end), but I think you went too far with it in this bit.

then shift to you get your legs under you
Extra "you".

I'm a bit torn on this battle. On the one hand, it gives a really nice sense of just how powerful the child is while still believably showing it being slowly worn down and eventually succumbing, but on the other hand it does feel kind of lengthy, especially in the first half. Around the time Thunderstorm faints it picks up beautifully again, though, as the Rockets bring out the tranquilizer guns and there's that fun portrayal of Taunt and the Bonemerang and the child's mental faculties slowly fading away - that's the highlight of the chapter, I think.

It'll be fun to see what Team Rocket has in store for the child and how it's going to deal. As is your custom, the characters never spend too long doing anything before something drastic happens to shake things up.
 
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Negrek

Lost but Seeking
Plus it's just cute how Gyarados is being concerned about him - Gyarados isn't the first Pokémon you imagine trying to make sure their trainer is okay.
Rage fishy cares only for your welfare!

Having that dialogue in the same paragraph as Rats's "Hey" makes it sound like it's still Rats speaking, so it threw me off a little.
Ooh, yeah, there was definitely supposed to be a line break there.

I enjoyed the scene of the child lashing out in fury when Nate tries to give Togetic some sour candy. The child still thinks in such unshakable absolutes.
Heh, I'm rather fond of that one myself. It allllmost didn't make the cut, but I think it might leave me an important out later. I am curious, though: why do you think Nate was giving Togetic that candy? Do you think he was lying about not knowing it would make her sick? (Same question to anyone else who might be reading this, if you would be kind enough to weigh in; also hello.)

Maybe it's just me, but using "x type" (as opposed to the hyphenated form, "x-type") as a noun meaning a Pokémon of that type always reads a bit wrong to me. "A normal type" sounds like you're talking about a type that is normal, not something whose type is Normal. I don't know how much grammatical sense this makes, though.
This one messed me up quite a bit. In the end I decided they probably should be hyphenated, because the only real equivalent, where you have an adjective phrase that can also act as a noun phrase. Soooo I went back and fixed that up in chapters eight through fifteen, as well as taking the opportunity to reconcile some changes made on the forums with my native copies of the chapters (this is not how you version control), fix a couple additional typos, and tweak some dialogue in previous chapters that I felt needed to change slightly. I'll get the first seven chapters when I do finally get around to editing them, although that will not be in the horribly near future, as taking care of that other stuff has put me way behind in my edits of the next chapter, and I'd prefer to get that out first.

Anyway. Other minor things mentioned in this review also taken care of in that sweep.

It... took me a while to grasp what on earth this section was on about.
Fair enough. I was actually thinking this section was probably too unclear, but I was also feeling very averse to using the words "ally switch" for some reason. I've edited it a bit; it still takes a couple of sentences to indicate what exactly happened, I think it's a bit more explicit now. I'm glad that you did get the bonemarang thing, though; that's another one I was worried about, although what happened there is explicitly spelled out in the next chapter, so I wasn't as concerned with it being clear right this second.

I'm a bit torn on this battle. On the one hand, it gives a really nice sense of just how powerful the child is while still believably showing it being slowly worn down and eventually succumbing, but on the other hand it does feel kind of lengthy, especially in the first half.
I kind of got that feeling myself; quite a lot of running around and punching things going on in there, isn't there? Not to mention slipping and falling down. That's maybe a bit of a tired meme here. I'm not altogether sure what to do with this one, because by its nature it's always going to be kind of a chaotic brawl with no particular strategy going on, but I'll see what I can do to try and tighten up the narrative arc a bit. Nice to know that the ending went over well, though.

Thanks as always for a wonderful review! I hope you won't be too disappointed when the next chapter has nothing whatsoever to do with Team Rocket... I also went back in and tweaked things juuust slightly to make it a little more evident what happened right at the end, there. :p
 

Dragonfree

Just me
I am curious, though: why do you think Nate was giving Togetic that candy? Do you think he was lying about not knowing it would make her sick?
It seemed to me at least like something most people would be highly unlikely to know unless they've personally raised Togetic, plus that Nate doesn't strike me as a very good actor, so I assumed he was honest about that.

Right, the bit where the ground seemingly just vanished entirely before it fell unconscious in the last paragraph read to me as going into a Pokéball (...can the child even go into Pokéballs, come to think of it?). It's a lot clearer now. Same with the edits to the other bits I commented on.

And I'm sure it will be fun regardless of Team Rocket's lack of involvement. :p
 

Shurtugal

The aura is with me.
Chapter One

That is one weird Pokedex. How does it know all of this? How is it even talking? Also, for something that is technologically engineered, I would think a paradox would zap most of the logic out of it. ("You are Nicholas Garret. You died down there, Nicholas Garret.") It can't be talking to Nicholas Garret if he's dead. How is it forming opinions? ("You were a slow trainer.")

And one thing that really gets me -- why is the pokedex telling Nicholas Garret what he did if the pokedex believes itself to be talking to Nicholas Garret?


This is written well, in a manner of speaking. The grammar was strong. It seems to be structured out okay. I'm assuming most of my confusion will get sorted out. For me, this is baffling while interesting at the same time. I want to keep reading; however, I'm at that point where if these issues aren't addressed, I'm going to be one pissed reader!

As for anything more substantial, it's really hard to saying anything about this piece. I haven't read enough to make a full critique quite yet. I'll get to Chapter Two and I'll see you there.
 
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Shurtugal

The aura is with me.
Chapter Two


I like this, but there are some very confusing things.

First is the second person narration. When I started reading, I had thought the Pokedex was still narrating (since it was the only one to narrate in second person before). However, with "you" being Nicholas Garret, with the addition that everything was having in the present, I easily surmised it couldn't be the pokedex afterward. But then, who is narrating? The transition back to third person in the only portion is also kind of awkward. It seems like this child and the "you" are the same person -- so why are their narration styles different?

There is a grumpy complaint from the raticate dozing in a puddle of sun just inside, but it brushes this aside, along with the concern of a duskull that materializes from a dark corner. It's clutching a pokeball so tight that the blisters on the back of its hand are burst and leaking, but it's too angry to notice the pain.

It storms into the study and hauls open a desk drawer, revealing old egg cartons with dozens of pokeballs shuddering in their depressions. It hurls the ball it's carrying into an empty one, then fumbles to catch it as it bounces out again. Grittingits teeth in pure fury, the child sets the ball back down with aching gentleness, then slams the drawer explosively and stands there glaring at it until a wave of dizziness forces it to lean forward and grab the edge of the desk for support.
Not sure if this is just me, but I'm picturing the duskull do all this with the pokeball, but then the child has it? Who is the it referring to? The duskull, or the child? If the child catches the pokeball as the duskull is fumbling with it, I feel it could be worded better, since the child doesn't "catch" the ball it "sets the ball back down" as if it was the one with the ball the entire time. Just mighty confusing.

It can't stand here forever. The child looks down at itself, does a thorough inspection of the damage. Its shirt is rent open from just above the right hip almost all the way up to its heart, and its left arm is bubbled with half-healed burns. The gash on its chest is already scabbing over, but the clothes are ruined, soaked in blood where they aren't torn.
I spy with my little eye...

-o-o-o-

From what I'm getting, this person / childthing is an identity thief, which is a really neat idea to incorporate, but there are some obvious questions raised (which I'm sure are intentional). Beyond the confusion, my interests are still piqued. I know this piece is trying to be different with the second-person speech, but unless it starts to make some sense, it is't working for me.

See you at Chapter Three!
 
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Shurtugal

The aura is with me.
Chapter Three

I liked chapter three.

The plot is fairly interesting, enough to keep me wanting to read it. I'm starting to like the second person narration style, but it a.) is still confusing with chapter one's pokedex scene and b.) the child / second-person narrator still makes no sense considering they are the same person, but then again, perhaps the story will explain later. Beyond from that, this story is quite well put together.

Despite being told in second person, the narrator is quite in sync with their audience. It has a voice, something even first-person characters will lack in fanfiction. We know personal things from it, and we get its personal observations. Overall, the narrator is quiet strong, and the plot is interesting, to say the least.

What I don't like, though, is that the Pokedex records everything and is all knowing: how exactly can it do that? How exactly is it talking, and in second person nonetheless! I think it MIGHT have worked, but the fact that the pokedex says "You are Nicholas!" ruins the whole thing: wouldn't the pokedex detect identity fraud immediately if it knew its owner was dead? Some plotholes I want to see addressed, but apart from that, I'm enjoying this read

(Another thing, but the League hires people to track down souls? A bit much in my opinion. Doesn't seem likely. Can they even prove human souls exist? Why haven't they targeted that man crazy by now?)

Will get to Chapter Four sometime tomorrow? Or maybe today. Kind of tired. Literally haven't been off the computer since I got home from work.
 
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Negrek

Lost but Seeking
Butterfree

It seemed to me at least like something most people would be highly unlikely to know unless they've personally raised Togetic, plus that Nate doesn't strike me as a very good actor, so I assumed he was honest about that.
Mmm. Thanks! This is a scene that I hope would read differently on a second go-through of the 'fic, but I don't have a very good sense of how it actually looks to someone reading through for the first time, so I figured I'd ask.

Right, the bit where the ground seemingly just vanished entirely before it fell unconscious in the last paragraph read to me as going into a Pokéball (...can the child even go into Pokéballs, come to think of it?).
Yeah, after rereading I figured that was the most likely alternate interpretation of that bit. Anyway, you can bet that there are certain characters who would be very interested to know how the protagonist interacts with pokeballs, so you can bet we'll be finding out before the story's over.

Shurtugal

That is one weird Pokedex. How does it know all of this? How is it even talking? Also, for something that is technologically engineered, I would think a paradox would zap most of the logic out of it. ("You are Nicholas Garret. You died down there, Nicholas Garret.") It can't be talking to Nicholas Garret if he's dead. How is it forming opinions? ("You were a slow trainer.")
What I don't like, though, is that the Pokedex records everything and is all knowing: how exactly can it do that? How exactly is it talking, and in second person nonetheless! I think it MIGHT have worked, but the fact that the pokedex says "You are Nicholas!" ruins the whole thing: wouldn't the pokedex detect identity fraud immediately if it knew its owner was dead? Some plotholes I want to see addressed, but apart from that, I'm enjoying this read
Ahhh dear, no, I'm afraid that's not what's going on. The pokedex hasn't been doing any narration whatsoever here; it's just a machine. All it does is display the usual records for a trainer: basic personal information like name, age, hometown, etc., and training-related data, like the pokemon they've seen and the badges they've collected. The protagonist, as you said, is something of an identity thief, and it reads these entries to learn something about the person it's going to impersonate--the pokedex "tells it who it is" in a metaphorical sense, not a literal sense. So the POV shifts actually have nothing to do with the pokedex at all. I can see how you might get that impression from the first chapter, though; I'll think about what I can do to try and prevent it from reading that way.

(Similarly, the League doesn't actually have anything to do with "souls;" that's just how the protagonist views the situation. It's metaphorical. As far as the League is concerned, it handles data and nothing more. And Leo doesn't tell almost anyone about his little personal vendetta, so no one is really aware of the fact that he thinks there's something fishy about his son's death.)

Anyway, to address a couple other quick things you mentioned...

Not sure if this is just me, but I'm picturing the duskull do all this with the pokeball, but then the child has it?
The child has the pokeball the entire time. I'll sort the pronouns there to make things clearer.

I spy with my little eye...
Hmm, I'm not sure what you're pointing out in this passage. Do you think "rent" is a typo? It means something close to "ripped;" I think the word works just fine there.

Anyway, I'm glad you've found the plot interesting enough to keep reading despite the POV confusion. Most people appear to figure out what's going on there somewhere between the seventh and tenth chapter. Since you've already (correctly) surmised that the second- and third-person narration are both being done by the same character, you might figure out why the shifts happen a bit earlier than that. Hopefully you'll find your questions addressed within the next few chapters.

Thanks for taking the time to review! It's always helpful to see how people understand the first few chapters, since a lot of weird stuff gets thrown at the reader all at once.
 

diamondpearl876

→ follow your fire.
It stows the goods in a corner, to be looked over later, but there is one thing that cannot wait.
Would like to know what these "goods" are, it threw me off reading it like this and it seemed a little informal for the serious tone you're trying to set here.

EDIT: It's probably something related to the "souls" the child keeps, but if so, it makes "goods" sound even more informal and inappropriate, though I can see now why you'd want to avoid spilling out that information at that point.
Four years later you own the charizard that evolved from your starter, a primeape, a nidoqueen, and several more of little consequence
I wonder why those pokemon are of little consequence. It seems a little blunt and cruel for the pokedex to say that but it also gives it some personality. Very neat.

First chapter is short and functions more like a prologue in my opinion, but it gets the job done. I have a lot of questions, but ones that I figure will get answered eventually. If Nicholas died, who/what is this child, and what is this pokedex and where does it gets its interesting functions? Those are just two questions I have. Makes me want to read more.

The first thing you do is empty your computer account. There isn't much in your PC, just a few potions and odd trinkets picked up here and there, but you take them all and shove them into your backpack. You have no pokémon in storage, and that is a relief. You still haven't really figured out what to do with former trainers' pokémon; you've tried releasing them, but they often attack you when you try, and Absol considers it unwise. You do try to be careful—release them far from home, all across the globe, and hope no one will listen to some pokémon's wild tale of a creature that wore its trainer's face but was something else entirely. But if someone took an interest, and the proper lines were drawn—dangerous.
Quite an intriguing first paragraph which raises more questions and barely answers any I had before, haha. I quite like the last 2 sentences particularly, very ominous and maybe it shows a bit of foreshadowing?

In the end, you decide to take 10,000P; you'll have plenty in the bank for later and enough on hand to purchase a few small things. You can get candy for yourself and for Togetic, a toy or such for Duskull, and probably a small piece of furniture for Rats to chew. The remainder will go under your mattress. You don't know why it's traditional for humans to store money under mattresses, and Absol hasn't been able to explain it to you, but you suppose that's as good a place as any. At least it keeps it out of the way.
Ugh, I love when non-pokemon centric fics (not sure if this is one of them) try to incorporate pokemon like this. Cute imagery and I love how Absol seems to be the voice of reason for whoever this character is.

You set out down street, thinking half of heading to the beach, half of heading north and west instead, up to Celadon to get your shopping done.
This reads really awkward to me. I would put "down the street" and remove the "half"s and put "or" in between the thoughts instead.

For another moment more you stand there, wavering. Then you see a pair of trainers passing, chatting and enjoying ice cream cones, and are overwhelmed by a desire for sugary things and the gaudy bustle of the mall. And after all, you've waited years to be reunited with Titan; what's another little detour? You head west towards Cycling Road, visions of spectacular purchases dancing in your head.

Absol calls you hopelessly materialistic. You call her a wet blanket.
It kind of shows me how well you can write when you can incorporate humor with such a serious writing style. I also like how you're showing the real person's personality behind this Nicholas Garrett mask (ie is pretty sentimental but values shopping/materialistic things above his/her own pokemon).

It storms into the study and hauls open a desk drawer, revealing old egg cartons with dozens of pokeballs shuddering in their depressions.
Creative use of egg cartons, though I think pokeballs are more spherical and probably wouldn't fit well.

And now it's going need to go out and find replacements.
Think you're missing a word in this sentence.

Today you are Jade Winstead, and you are no one.
A perfect start to this chapter. Your style is very simplistic but is full of simple embellishments like this that I like a lot.
He's growing old, is Leonard Kerrigan.
Would put "this" instead of "is" so it flows better.

If it it's bad hot, it's unspeakable cold.
This read pretty awkwardly. But I do love Togetic's reaction to it.
Some hours later, when it's resting in bed, it hears the door open and something large blunder inside.
"blunders"
You walk into the Cinnabar Pokémon Center with a calm assurance born of practice, Rats and Titan resting exhausted in the pokéballs at your waist. Not far away, perhaps, your water-bloated corpse rests at the bottom of Seafoam Caverns. This doesn't bother you, but Cinnabar itself does. You've had good memories here, but this is also where you died—it's a hard thing to overlook. And there's something else, too, on this sunny little island; some kind of wrongness in the soil, maybe, something alien rolling on the waves. In the past decade, what has this place seen?
Have I told you yet that I love the way you open your chapters? Particularly like the description of the wrongness Nick can't quite place about Cinnabar.
Duskull floats nearby, his single eye giving off a cold exit-sign glow.
Perfect imagery. I might be biased because Duskull is one of my favorite pokemon, but... :~)
"I mean, the way he just stuck his whole arm in there like that, didn't even care about the glass and stuff, that's not natural at all, I mean-"
This might be just a nitpick, but I don't think that's a real dash. Some word processors don't make dashes the right way, but it should look like two hyphens put together rather than one.

A trainer identified as Nick Garret of Cerulean City had a breakdown and destroyed a computer terminal, then injured several other visitors to the Center who tried to detain him. What makes this case interesting, though, is that Nick was found dead in Seafoam Caverns just last week."
Don't remember him hurting others to get out. And I think the case is interesting enough without him having been found dead, haha.
Now it is her turn to wait and practice the art of noninterference.
The child might be smug about it now, but I have a feeling it will regret this eventually.
Gruff, the family's aged growlithe, is sleeping somewhere on the first floor; if you concentrate, you can just taste the edges of his dreams as they run in their confused little circles.
Like this little bit of description here. I do notice though that you like to use the word "little". It must be one of your favorite descriptor words. :p
Ah, wait. This is a “hug,” isn't it? You've seen these before. You know how this works. Yes, definitely you do.
Nice use of narration. I was expecting some sort of assault but it was really just a hug. :p
I mean, after all this time the least you could have done would have been to let us know somehow—I mean, everyone thought you were dead, and I--
Yep, that's the right dash. Then it looks weird again.
the rest of the room is awash in old newspapers, from respectable publications to the most seedy, the kind that announce Pikablu sightings and report on people who've seen the face of Arceus in their breakfast cereal.
Been years since I heard about Pikablu, and the Arceus thing is just hilarious.
You ignore them, bringing your claws together in front of your face and concentrating. For all your practice, this attack never comes easy to you. You draw deep on the shadows, and darkness wells up and through you, hollowing out your chest, scouring your insides with the chill of the unreal. It overflows and pours out from the shell of your body, the fluorescent lights overhead dimming as a wave of dark energy sweeps out in all directions, a tide of nightmare power that engulfs everyone in the room, catching their minds in its inky undertow. The minun's electricity goes out with a tiny zzzt!, and he staggers and sinks to the floor while the humans collapse boneless and unconscious behind him, pulled down into noxious, unnatural sleep. Absol lets fall the energy barrier that shielded her from the attack and looks around with mild interest, then back at you, waiting for an explanation.
I'm not a fan of onomatopoeia, but I do like the rest of the description. What is this attack? I thought of dark pulse but I'm not familiar with weavile's movepool.
how could it fail to understand something so natural and obvoius?
"obvious"
She reached an anonymous pile of wreckage climbed the jut of a splintered beam poking from the ash slurry, claws digging deep into the crumbling wood to hold herself steady.
Not sure if I'm reading this wrong but the first part of this sentence doesn't seem to make sense?
"I don't care if they're having a mother****ing church revival up there. We're getting out of here before we find out," Jenna says as dark clouds boil into existence overhead and rain begins to fall. She rubs at her cheek, where a flying piece of debris has scored a long cut.
Your dialogue is generally realistic, though a bit dramatic and overdone at times, but I do like this comical bit. I'd also like to point out here that the killing of Nathanial was a little drawn out, especially for having been described as dull by all parties involved (the child, the killers themselves, etc).
Wasn't training was supposed to be a dangerous profession?
Remove "was"
"No, Duskull. I told you I don't want you hanging around those guys." The chirp of crickets fills your pause. "I mean, you don't know if... they have a hit out on anybody else right now?"
I have a feeling Duskull's going to mess something up eventually. There's too much focus on him for it not to happen.

The sky is lightening, the stars disappearing into its warm gray, and the birds are trying to sing the sun up.
I like the imagery you're trying to convey, but it sounds a bit awkward the way you're trying to say it. Sometimes your wording can be pretty awkward, and it's not just here. Maybe experiment with sentence structure and wording until you feel it's just right when you're proofreading/writing.
The Rocket twitches, like he's going to try and strike you, but can only subside with a choked noise of discomfort. You glare at him for a second, then go on when he doesn't try anything else. "Now. Once again, I have a request for you. I want to use your identity in order to take the gym challenge, and I need you to come with me as I do so. If you agree to those terms, I will spare your life and return your identity to you after I finish the Indigo League Tournament. What is your answer?"

He's quiet for so long you're about to press him again, but at last he takes a wheezing breath and says, even softer than before, "Look, I still don't even know what in the **** is going on here. I'm hungry, I'm thirsty, I'm ****ing cold, and I feel like a bunch of snorlax have been doing the ****ing conga all over my body, okay? I'm having a little trouble concentrating on your ****ing offer, get me?"
Two things: this is unlike any other gym challenge fic I've ever seen, and I like Nathanial's voice, even if he does swear a lot. I know some people mind swearing in fics but I don't, so it works.
"What the **** is this? Splice-boy wants to be a mother****ing pokémon master?"
Yep, best dialogue ever.
That horrible smirk of his is broad enough to show the angular stubs of teeth. "Oh, no," he says, and a spasm of suppressed laughter shivers through him. "No there's nothing ****ing weird about that. You're definitely not my ****ing evil twin, huh?"

"Right. I am not." What exactly does he find so funny?

You try and puzzle it out while the great Nathaniel Morgan finishes shuffling through the clothing. "Hey. A little ****ing privacy, here?" he asks as he sees you looking.

"What do you mean?"
For someone who has to pretend to be human so much, it sure fails at being human. :p
You let that one go in favor of getting moving again, but despite all your exhortations and threats that you really will carry the him if he will not walk, you achieve only a moderate increase in speed.
“the him”?
"Oh. He wants to shake hands." You're not sure what the tentacruel finds so fascinating about the human custom, but you hold washed-out memories of days spent carrying a tentacool around, annoying people with very important jobs to do with requests to indulge his curiosity.
This is so cute I could die.
Now he lashes out at a passing tentacool, forcing her to hasty retreat. A few minutes later he sinks another of his kin with a precise blast of water, and you grin, forgetting your irritation with him. Your old friend has become quite the terror of the seas since you last saw him.
Not sure you ever showed their reunion scene... so seeing them get along so well already, when you compare it to Titan's reaction, is slightly weird.
"I wha--?" Rats turns around again and takes in the full scene: the ocean, the swimmers floating in it, the inscrutable spike of the staryu. "Oh hell no. Listen, you ever heard the phrase 'drowned like rats?' Guess what I don't want to be, huh?"
As the main character is going to find out, being a pokemon trainer isn't quite as easy as it hoped it'd be. :p
These are my pokémon. Rats. Thunderstorm. You already met Titan. Togetic. Duskull."
I wonder why togetic and duskull are the only ones without nicknames?
"Yeah, you won. Because you got ****ing lucky. That and your charizard is some kind of ****ing insane berserker or something." Titan turns in his direction, confused, licking ice cream off his snout.
I didn't comment much during the battle, but the part where it says the child and charizard used to fly together as pokemon... and now it's Titan's trainer... you don't see that every day. And I liked the shift in Titan's temperament. He goes from cute to mad and back again.

So the great Nathaniel Morgan wants to have his secret conference? He thinks a few minutes of preparation will be enough to let him win? Fine, then. It doesn't matter. You're going to beat him no matter what, so like he said, you don't need any extra advantages.
Seems like this could go very wrong. I do wish you had used someone besides Rats, though, as we've seen her battle. What about Togetic or Duskull or Thunderstorm? I understand the use of Titan, though.

"Go for the whiskers," the great Nathaniel Morgan says. Typical. It's what everyone thinks of first, battling a raticate. They're not even half as fast with their whiskers damaged.
An interesting strategy. I like it.
"Good. Now go for the whiskers," the great Nathaniel Morgan says, and Titan brings his tail around and lines it up carefully under Rats. Then he starts to move it up, closer and closer to his helpless opponent. Rats, hanging in quiet exhaustion, sees it coming, her eyes widening.
Sorry, Rats, but I'm sitting here smiling at what he did to you. Though it was a little cheap having to figure out a strategy beforehand. Like the child said, that's not usually how battles work.
"I won," Titan says, staring at the arena in front of him, the place where Rats isn't. Then his snout crinkles in a grin. "I won!"

It's only when he looks to you, hoping to share his excitement, that he catches your expression. His wings droop, and he knots his claws together, hunching his shoulders down. "...Oh. Sorry."
Poor Titan. Can't even enjoy his victory. lmao
"Not an actual attack? What, you've never heard of 'I win' attack? It's like feint attack except it's super effective against total dickheads."
This. This is why I like the great Nathaniel Morgan.
"Do not be stupid. Of course my brother is not the Champion." Absol grows bored of wandering and jumps back up on the bed, stretching out across its full width. "My brother is Mewtwo."
When my mouse was going crazy I accidentally scrolled down and saw this part chapters ago, but I'm still confused about it. So the child is Mew? That explains why it can transform and use any attack and such, but not much else. Though I'm not sure if Mew can turn human. I'm interested to see where this goes.
"I mean I know what the goddamn Mewtwo project is, okay? For Christ's sake."

"That was a joke? It was a lie. How is lying funny?"

"Okay, so it was a lie. I'm a huge ****ing liar. Now will you please get to the ****ing point? As you were so ****ing kind to remind me the other day, I ain't getting any younger over here."

You could strangle him, you really could. You glance down at Absol. No doubt she'll miraculously awaken the very second you threaten violence.
If fanfiction award voting was still going on, I'd vote these two for my favorite interactions, next to the child/Absol's.
The child watches as the pokémon scoops the pokéball out of her hand, balancing it on the tip of its tail. The ball stays steady while the pokémon spins around it, inspecting it from every angle. It flicks the ball up, bounces it off foot and nose, its mental laughter filling the child with the reflection of joy, making her forget her nerves for a spare moment. The pokémon gives her one last long look, blue eyes wide, then flicks the ball high into the air. It catches the it as it comes back down, daintily, on the very tip of its tail and square on the button. The ball springs open, and in a flash the pokémon is gone.
Cutest way to catch a pokemon ever. Your description is really top notch so far in this chapter, though the lack of names makes things slightly confusing.


"Listen to your mother!" her father roars, and she jumps in shock. "This is what you have to do, do you understand? You're going if I have to drag you down to the registration office myself, and that's final." He abruptly turns away.
I'm used to having fics where the parents don't let their child go on a journey, so this is new. Even before the disaster they seemed keen on having her have a pokemon.
She doesn't know if how much she loves him outweighs how much he frightens her.
A beautiful line that really shows the struggle they're going through here.
I didn't have many individual parts to point out in this chapter, but I thought the selling point was how Mew thought Sara was in on the whole steal-her-away-and-keep-Mewtwo-away-from-her ordeal. That's heartbreaking and made me miss the happy-go-lucky times they had, however brief they were.
You can feel her before you see her, psychic pressure turning the inside of your skull close and buzzing. Alakazam gives you a long look as she walks her spoons back and forth through her fingers. She can't read your thoughts at this distance, but she can probably catch their outlines, recognize they aren't quite human. You wonder what she makes of that.
I thought there was no exciting way to start out the next chapter after the revelations that occurred last chapter, but you just proved me wrong.
The psychic clutches her weapons tight, impassive expression changed to one of utter fury as she stares Thunderstorm down. "Disable magnet bomb! Disable magnet bomb and get out of there!" Blue yells, but the psychic stands her ground. From the texture of her thoughts you get the sense that this fight has gotten personal.
This part is my favorite part of the battle, but I do like how you generally keep the trainers out of it and let the pokemon do what they have to do to settle the score. I also like the use of alakazam's spoons and how you make Thunderstorm's three magnemites seemingly different identities that can each do their own thing.
Togetic reappears, flying a loose orbit around you and amusing herself by spelling out words on the signs you pass. "Viridian" is her favorite, and she finds it everywhere, of course, letting out a delighted chirp every time. After a while she gets tired of flying and settles on your shoulder. You entertain her by reading off your favorite bits of text from posters in the windows you go by: "Official League apparel sold here! Wear it like a champion!"; "Lightning Strikes, here for a limited time only!"; "Try our Victory Roadhouse Ribeye! Best steak this side of the Plateau!"
This is nice worldbuilding going on right here. I especially love Togetic's desire to read human words. She's really childish... just like her owner, in a lot of ways. I wonder if she'll have more of a use later down the road, though?
Overall, long, crazy chapter. You said it was short and sweet and I thought I could pull it off before I went to bed, but now I just feel wide awake and worried for the child. Oops. I agree with Dragonfree when she says it was a bit lengthy and confusing, but that's to be expected of a big brawl, as you said, too. The descriptions were nice and easy to follow most of the time, though I'm glad you simply said attack names sometimes instead of full-on descriptions.
Do you mind putting me on the PM list? I've been reading this for four days straight, in short bursts, and I don't do that for many fics, so I think it's worth following this one.
And if there's anything you want me to expand on, let me know.
 

Creepychu

The horror
Ugh, I was hoping to get back to this way sooner, but getting things sorted with my new apartment took way longer than expected, and then midsummer celebration came around so...here we are. I've still been keeping up with reading, but I haven't found the time to actually sit down and sort my thoughts out properly.

Oh well, time to make up for lost time.

Perhaps there's some confusion because your impression of the house itself is too cold? It's only supposed to be "cool" relative to the temperature outside, the same way it's cooler inside a shaded building in the summer than it is outside. The palm trees aren't supposed to be in contrast to the house's interior, just giving an indication of the sort of place where it's been built.
Yeah, the image I got of the scene was definitely that the house was also cold (if not as cold as the child). After giving it another read through, I think the reason I interpreted it that way really comes down to one particular phrase.

The child comes home with the chill of the caverns still clinging to it, slush under its fingernails and inner fire stoked against the cold. The inside of the house is cool as well, the windows in the small kitchen showing mostly the underside of palm leaves. It stows the goods in a corner, to be looked over later, but there is one thing that cannot wait.
Since you used 'as well' I assumed you meant to draw a direct comparison between the chill of the caverns and the cold inside the house. Since this is narrated from the child's point of view and it is still cold and slush-covered at this point, I'd have expected a warmed house (or even just a house in a fairly warm climate) to come across as warm rather than cool due to the change in comparative temperature. For it to feel cool, it would have to be pretty close to the child's current body temperature (which is cold enough for the slush not to melt), and so I went under the assumption that the child arrived at an unwarmed house, probably at nighttime, and warmed itself up using the inner fire rather than the natural temperature around it. It didn't really occur to me that you were referring to the temperature outside the house since it didn't really seem like a relevant frame of reference in this situation. The child's body was still cold (or else the slush would have already been melting), so therefore I assumed its estimation of the temperature around it would be biased accordingly.

Thanks again for reviewing, and giving such a detailed response as well! You definitely make some good points, and I'll keep them in mind as I go back through and make some revisions. I'm flattered you like the story enough to have read this multiple times (and notice a minor scene I inserted recently, wow); I hope you continue to enjoy it in the future.
Heh, I'm glad the review was appreciated. I'd have felt like a right jerk for dropping another wall of multi-quote comments in here otherwise. =P

Speaking of, it's time for chapters 5 through 7.

Chapter 5

Once your pokémon have been healed, you wander over, give the new terminals a good inspection. You slide your pokédex into a slot and don't even flinch when the machine razzes at you. You nearly had a heart attack the first time that happened, nearly blew your cover in the most dramatic way possible, but now you have more experience. You lean into the screen, calm, unruffled, to read the error message. By now you know that this is the only way to keep safe, to keep unnoticed; if you give any sign of weakness, they'll be on you in a moment.

The machine razzes at you again, and you almost jump in surprise. Another consultation with the screen gives you no new information. It's the same message staring back at you, hateful and red. You press the button again and grit your teeth as another loud buzz grates against your ears.
Got to love how proud the child is of something that simple, especially given how it so obviously has no idea how the computer actually works. The way it's personifying the computer really brings across how uncomfortable the child is with this whole thing.

The nurse. The nurse. You spin around so fast she flinches back, staring at you like you're an agitated animal who might lash out and bite her, and she doesn't know how right she is.
While this is a nice enough description, it feels a bit on the nose. You've done such a good job before this in managing to convey the child's animalistic side without drawing direct animal comparisons, so this feels a bit...blunt by comparison, I guess?

You don't let yourself hope that she'll know what's going on, that she'll be able to get it back. That's not why you're leaning forward to watch, that's not why your breathing's picked up again.
Lovely bit of characterization here. The child's denial of its own emotional reactions brings them across way better than describing them would.

You are not reassured. In fact, it is as though the nurse has torn open your torso and poured a bucket of ice water into your guts. There is no glitch. This is not a mistake. They've found your dead body, marked you down deceased in their eternal electronic records. This time, they are not content to let you walk the world of the living. They've taken your pokédex and now they're coming here, to retrieve it, to retrieve you.

There is a flash of hot and then cold again in the depths of your chest. "They" aren't coming. Leonard Kerrigan. This is his doing. He stole it. Now he is the one coming, to confront you at the last
Not sure about that bucket of water image. I get what you're trying to get across with it, but it's such a strange image that it did more to take me out of the emotional intensity of the scene than it did to immerse me in it. The 'flash of hot and then cold again' bit just feels a bit long and laborious compared to the short, impactful sentences in the rest of the paragraph as we. Maybe try and replace the 'and then' with something that rolls off the tongue a bit easier? I also I keep wanting to add an italics emphasis to 'his doing' to make it conform in my head with the emphasized 'he's, though maybe that's just me.

Your smile only gets wider. Something seems to have come loose in your head. You can't think. But you feel you ought to say something into the stunned silence. Something witty and apt. You flip through your mental notebook, looking for the right phrase.

And there it is. Still grinning, you say, "Don't worry, I can pay for that." Then you lean forward over the pokédex and charge for the doors
That image is just priceless. Perfect way to cap off the scene and release all the tension at the end there.

The child lies curled on the bed, sobbing and shaking in the dark. Its grip on the pokédex is so tight it can feel the pulse beating in its fingertips, and the device's metal casing has grown warm from the heat of its body. Duskull floats nearby, his single eye giving off a cold exit-sign glow. His presence is comforting; some of the child's earliest memories from this life are of the damp and the cold and the light, the little red light, of Duskull, watching. It cried a lot then, too.
It's a nice image, but specifying that it's Duskull's light again when you've already established it in the previous sentence feels a bit unnecessary. Something along the lines of '[...]and the light, that little red light, watching' would get the same message across without the unnecessary repeat of Duskull's name.

This is what it says to Absol, not that it wants to see the look on the man's face as he realizes what's going on, realizes that he really has lost everything, and there's nothing he can do about it. He will be powerless, and he will know it. And he will never again, never ever again, dare to bother the child about its business.
Another lovely bit of denial there.

"But he's bleeding," points out another, as the action moves on to the brawl between Nicholas Garret and the other trainers in the center. "I mean, have you ever heard of a zombie that bleeds?" Laughter.
Not sure why you arranged the phrase like that. Wouldn't 'another points out' work just as well? I suppose it's not technically wrong as is, but it feels a bit strange and formal, like something you'd use in poetry to make it fit an established rhyme scheme. Might just be me though.


Overall, this is probably the chapter I'm the most torn on. On one hand, it has a great balance of action, drama, and humor and it shows a childish side to the child's character that went a long way to make me sympathize with it even though, objectively speaking, it's doing some really horrible things. Plus, the interaction between Absol and the child is just hilarious to read.

On the other, the part about Garret's body just sort of popping up really strained my suspension of disbelief at first read and still nags at me no matter how close I look. The seafoam caverns are not exactly a common thoroughfare, so someone going all the way downstream on a whim and happening to come across it seems pretty unlikely, as is that body finding its way back out from an underground lake by natural means. On top of that, since the child took Garret's pokédex and personal possessions and has been using his identity prior to the discovery of the body, it seems weird that they'd come up with an ID positive enough to warrant locking down his pokédex within a week. Garret's body would have been battered and bruised from the way he died and bloated and decomposed from lying around in the water to boot. Without any ID on his person and with the latest sightings of 'him' heading in the exact opposite direction (up towards Celadon), they wouldn't really have cause to assume it's him, which means they'd have a pretty wide pool of missing persons to screen. Given what they do, it seems fair to assume that trainers often spend extended periods of time off the beaten path where reception is poor, so it also seems unlikely that he would have been reported missing in such a short timeframe.

So...I guess as a final question on this one, was this meant to look suspicious or am I missing something obvious here?

Chapter 6

So it is that Leonard manages to catch hold of you, wrapping his arms inappropriately tightly around your torso. At least you manage to get your arms up and out of the way so they aren't pinned to your sides, but you're nevertheless stuck there, leaning out of Leonard Kerrigan's embrace, trying to make the minimum amount of contact, while he clings to you like a limpet for some reason.
Given how the child is supposed to not realize what the gesture is just yet, describing it as an 'embrace' feels wrong here. Since it's the child's point of view, wouldn't it sooner think of this as something like a grip at this point?

I'm also seconding Dragonfree's comment about the 'for some reason' at the end there. It just feels like it's watering down what's otherwise a really strong, evocative image.

You run your fingers through your hair, on edge and not wanting to think about why, then grimace and tease it back into place. Honestly—after all the time you took getting it right in the first place.
And then he descends into incoherence again, sobbing and coughing on his own tears, and you are almost—honestly. Why does being human have to be so confusing?
You surprise yourself in having to take a deep breath before you say the line, but say it you do. There's no going back now.
You're having to work hard to stifle your impatience. All this pathetic human blubbering. Why can't the man just get on with it, already? Standing here with the reminders of his scheming all around you is putting you on edge, fraying the ends of your temper.
I really enjoy the way the child's growing inability to keep its emotions in check seems to be reflected in how elaborate the narration, escalating from just a physical description to almost admitting to feeling something to open admission that the situation is getting to it.


Overall, a really enjoyable chapter. There's a great sense of tension throughout, especially once Leonard catches onto the child's ruse and starts actively trying to press it for information and much like the previous chapter, it shows a more vulnerable side to the child that helps fill it out as a character. Still, I think the biggest reason why I enjoyed this one so much is that rather than just heaping on new things to figure out, it revisits a plot point from earlier (specifically, Leonard and his mission) and shows it from a different perspective. Even though it's still narrated from the child's point of view, seeing how Leonard actually lives through little details like the newspaper clippings and the unwashed dishes really helps put the child's grandiose fantasy image of him into perspective, which in turn makes the child itself easier to understand and relate to.

To be honest, I think a fairly large part of the inaccessibility in earlier chapters comes precisely because we're limited to seeing things only from the child's own, skewed perspective. It has a very simplistic understanding of some things and an over-complicated and romanticized one of others, and without any alternative frame of reference to compare its version of events to, it can be hard to tell which category any given thing falls under, especially with the sheer volume of new information the reader needs to sort through early on. I'd be hard pressed to give concrete suggestions as to how and where you would fit them in, but if there were moments like this one earlier on, meaning moments where we get to re-examine the child's interpretation of earlier events from a different perspective, it might help people get a handle on its mindset earlier.

I have no doubt this will vary a lot from reader to reader, but for me, this chapter was the point in the story where I really started feeling like I understood the child on some level. Not necessarily in terms of what its ultimate goal is, but rather its mindset and the kinds of biases I could expect from it. Once that clicked for me, the story opened up a lot more, which is what prompted my first re-read. I understand what other reviewers are saying about setting out a clear goal for the reader to get invested in early, but since the child's goals are a bit hard to appreciate without understanding how its mind works (at least a little bit), I think that an alternative approach of trying to give a bit more insight into the child's inner workings early on and then using that understanding as a hook to keep people reading could also do the trick.

Then again, I seem to find the child more likable as a character than some of your other readers, so this may just be my personal bias speaking. XD

Chapter 7

Some weeks later, the child starts awake from dreams not its own. It sits in the dark for a few moments, confused, wondering what brought it round. Then it sees Absol sitting quietly by the far wall, watching, and its disorientation fades as adrenaline floods its veins. It swings itself out of bed and into the right body, then wrestles out of its pajamas and gives itself a look over, checking that it's got everything right, recalling who it is.
While it's helpful for trying to keep track of the wider timeframe of the story, I'm not sure about the relevance of mentioning the amount of time that has passed since the last chapter here. If the child wakes up so disoriented that it needs a moment just to recall its identity, and has woken up from dreams 'not its own', it seems contrary to the mood you're trying to establish to lead the paragraph off with a piece of information that seems to imply that it does remember at least roughly how many days have passed since the incident with Kerrigan right off the bat. It's kind of a nitpick, but I think leading with 'The child starts awake' would do a better job of bringing across the child's initial sense of disorientation. If you feel it's important to include, the information about the time is easy enough to slip in later on when the child has recovered its bearings, such as when it's contemplating how quickly the new disaster came around.

When she finally pulls you out of the darkness, you are struck by the urge to turn around and hurl yourself right back in. The stench of the place overwhelms you, the cold burn of disinfectant unable to hide the undertones of sweat and vomit and urine and blood from your sensitive nose. The whirr and beep of machinery fills your ears, and farther away, footsteps, conversations; closer, slow, heavy breathing, the rustling of sheets from the small motions of sleep. You feel the dark fur bristling along your arms as you fight the instinct to flee.
Not sure if I've already mentioned it earlier on, but I really like this attention to little sensory details. It's a very effective way of bringing across the animal perspective the child's occupying and give it its own feel.

It's evolved now, you note with affectionate pride, the original Thunderstorm being the leftmost magnet. Whatever your feelings towards the trainers who stole your friends, they at least seem to have been treated well.
Since the child's friends have been relegated to a modifier, the current sentence structure implies that the trainers who stole them are the ones who have been treated well rather than the pokémon. Since this is obviously not what you were going for, this part could use a rewording, such as 'Whatever your feelings towards the trainers who stole them, your friends at least seem to have been treated well'.

The doctors and nurses summoned by the shrilling of the equipment are filing out, exhausted and slump-shouldered, doing their best not to notice the anguished group in the corridor. Their colleague, with the unlucky job of watching over the survivors, motions for them to come back inside, where the body is waiting.
Similar kind of thing here. Since the previous use of 'their' in this passage is referring to the doctors and nurses, this sentence makes it sound like the person in charge of the mourners just shooed those poor doctors and nurses right back into the room. Also, since there's no mention of the other trainers in the room being injured or hurt in any way, I'm not quite sure why you are referring to them as 'survivors' here.

And, her anger temporarily forgotten, the second replies, "A--weavile?"

"That's the biggest weavile I've ever seen..."
I actually really liked this detail. It's just another little slip-up that shows the child isn't nearly as good at disguising itself as it likes to think.

You plunge a claw into the trainer's pocket, digging out pokéballs. You struggle to keep hold of them as you dart over to a pair of chairs up against the wall and the three large hiking packs propped next to them. You bring a fist down on one of the bags to create a depression, then drop the pokéballs into it with your other hand. A couple nestle in place, but several slither away, rebounding from the tiled floor and scattering in all directions.
Again, a really nice little touch. This sort of thing happens to me all the time when I stress, so it's really easy to picture in my head.

So, Fate it was. Absol continued. "Two years ago, a terrible crime happened here. It was a crime both against Mew and against nature itself. It must not be allowed to happen again. Look around you. Those who were responsible have been punished." She tipped her head to the side, ever so slightly. "And those who were not responsible have also been punished. Such is the way of Fate."
I'm honestly surprised that no-one has put it forward in the thread yet, and I was tempted to already go there in my review of the first four chapters, but I ended up holding back. Given everything that's been revealed since then, though, I think I can safely say that the child is actually:
Missingno

I originally suspected Mew, based - I admit - quite a bit on the fic's banner. The childlike behavior also seemed consistent, and Mew's learn-every-TM shtick seemed an adequate justification for a wide range of abilities. Reading further, though, a couple of things caught my attention:

1. The child builds its identity off the recorded information of dead trainers. This would be very strange behavior for a legendary pokémon like Mew, but for Missigno, which is essentially a cluster of temporary gameplay data, that would be a beautiful translation.

2. The child's comment that it's part human and part pokémon but not really either. This would not fit Mew or any other pokémon with transformative powers at all but, again, is spot-on for what's essentially trainer data occupying a pokémon slot.

3. The child is able to mix and match transformations seemingly pretty much however it wants and originally had trouble maintaining a steady form. The latter part in particular again sounds more consistent with Missingno and its unpredictable 'sprite' than a pokémon who simply knows Transform.

4. The exchange at the end of this chapter essentially pegs the child as a perversion of nature that should never have been. This pretty much rules out all the official species by default, with the possible exception of Mewtwo who is already accounted for as an entity separate from the child.

From chapter 7 on, my list of canon possibilities was basically narrowed down to Missingno, but I was still on the fence about whether it was really this simple or whether the child was some kind of out-of-canon entity (or something from outside strictly game canon that I wasn't aware of, like what Dragonfree suggested), but the new banner confirmed that I should just have gone with my gut from the start. So yeah, I call Missingno.

Speculation aside, this is another really solid chapter. Despite how serious the content is, Absol's nonchalant behavior (especially with the doctor who tried to block her) and the contrast between her and the child's fretting inserts just the right amount of levity into the mix to keep it from ever becoming oppressively dark or heavy. This also felt a bit like it was completing what chapter 6 started for me, adding a clearly stated long-term goal for the child alongside the character building and emotional investment.

Anyway, since we're dealing with the Great Nathaniel Morgan from chapter 8 onward, this feels like a natural second cutoff point for me. I'll try to get to chapters 8 through 10 in the next stretch and maybe, if the planets align, eventually even catch up and get to commenting on something as I read it rather than a year in delay. No promises on that one though.

Though, in the interest of taking a baby step towards that, on the matter of Nathaniel and Togetic, I think he was up to no good, but not the kind of no good the child assumed. More than any other pokémon on the team, Togetic has spent a lot of time around Nathaniel, which is obviously not good for trying to get things done without drawing attention, so if I had to guess at his motives, I'd say he was banking on the sour candy either upsetting Togetic enough that she'd go somewhere else or distracting her long enough for him to go about his business. I also like to think of it that way because that would mean that the child unwittingly helped him when it told Togetic to stay way. Regardless, I don't think he was actually aiming to do any serious harm to Togetic herself, if only because he seems smart enough to realize that if anything like that happened, the child would immediately blame him for it and he likely wouldn't invite any extra pain to his person in his current condition.
 
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Negrek

Lost but Seeking
diamondpearl876

This might be just a nitpick, but I don't think that's a real dash. Some word processors don't make dashes the right way, but it should look like two hyphens put together rather than one.
Yeah, this is an issue in the earlier chapters because I was probably copy and pasting from FFN to get them onto Serebii (back when you could actually copy and paste from FFN *fistshake*) and hadn't yet realized that it was stripping double dashes. I generally prefer the double dash rather than the actual Unicode dash character, and that should be what's in consistent use in the more recent chapters. Should be automatically fixed for me when I get on revising those early chapters, but more word on that at some later date, I think...

Don't remember him hurting others to get out. And I think the case is interesting enough without him having been found dead, haha.
He ended up having to fight some people in order to get out, which happened after the end of the chapter.

The child might be smug about it now, but I have a feeling it will regret this eventually.
Oh, absolutely. All of the regrets, all of them.

Like this little bit of description here. I do notice though that you like to use the word "little". It must be one of your favorite descriptor words. :p
Apparently so! Twenty-one uses in chapter thirteen alone, good grief. I guess I just find something about the word/and or small things inherently funny. Thanks for pointing it out, I'll have to try and cut back. The next chapter is a lost cause in that regard, but perhaps the ones after...

I'm not a fan of onomatopoeia, but I do like the rest of the description. What is this attack? I thought of dark pulse but I'm not familiar with weavile's movepool.
It's dark void. We see the protagonist use it again a couple times in the most recent chapter. Cheapness incarnate, really.

Not sure if I'm reading this wrong but the first part of this sentence doesn't seem to make sense?
Yeah, missing some words, there.

Your dialogue is generally realistic, though a bit dramatic and overdone at times, but I do like this comical bit. I'd also like to point out here that the killing of Nathanial was a little drawn out, especially for having been described as dull by all parties involved (the child, the killers themselves, etc).
Hmm, did you mean that sentence in particular is overdramatic, or could you give an example of what you're talking about there? I'm glad you do generally find the dialogue realistic, though; it's undoubtedly what I was worst at when I started writing.

Nate getting beaten up actually takes fewer than ten sentences to resolve--did you mean the scene as a whole ran long, or was the actual beating part still draggy, even though it was over pretty quickly in terms of word count?

I have a feeling Duskull's going to mess something up eventually. There's too much focus on him for it not to happen.
If he hasn't already, sure...

I like the imagery you're trying to convey, but it sounds a bit awkward the way you're trying to say it. Sometimes your wording can be pretty awkward, and it's not just here. Maybe experiment with sentence structure and wording until you feel it's just right when you're proofreading/writing.
Hmm, what part of it reads strange to you? The part about the birds, or the sentence as a whole? This one looks okay to me. Likewise, I'm not sure what you dislike about this:

If it it's bad hot, it's unspeakable cold.
I must cede that sentences like "He's growing old, is Leonard Kerrigan" aren't necessarily that flowing; sometimes I seem to have a thing for archaic constructions, for whatever reasons. A couple of those examples you called out don't strike me as off, though.

Not sure you ever showed their reunion scene... so seeing them get along so well already, when you compare it to Titan's reaction, is slightly weird.
I didn't, no. It's been a while since the protagonist and Tentacruel met, so they're on pretty good terms by this point, but I could probably make that more clear.

This. This is why I like the great Nathaniel Morgan.
Ha, I actually hate that line of dialogue. It got rewritten a lot, and it's still not quite right. I'm glad you like it, though! In general I'm glad you like Nate and the way he bounces off the protagonist. I've always been leery of making him such a large part of the story because he really is such an *** (and the cursing certainly does put some people off, but that can't really be helped), so it's good to know that he's at least an entertaining ***, usually.

I wonder why togetic and duskull are the only ones without nicknames?
Togetic and Duskull were both met at a point when the protagonist was more comfortable with the pokémon language than "human," so it was able to understand them when they told it their actual names, and those are what it uses to refer to them. They get rendered as "Togetic" and "Duskull" because the different variants all look the same in "human language," but they're actually the Togetic/Duskull equivalents of "Jane" or whatever.

Meanwhile all the rest of the pokémon were Sara's, and she liked nicknaming them and certainly wouldn't have any idea what their other names might be.

I didn't comment much during the battle, but the part where it says the child and charizard used to fly together as pokemon... and now it's Titan's trainer... you don't see that every day.
Ah, well, the protagonist was still Titan's trainer while it was flying around with him, too. It just has the advantage over most trainers in that it's able to demonstrate battle techniques and actually fight its pokémon, rather than having severe anatomical limitations in those areas.

Seems like this could go very wrong. I do wish you had used someone besides Rats, though, as we've seen her battle. What about Togetic or Duskull or Thunderstorm? I understand the use of Titan, though.
I didn't want to use Rats again either, but I wanted to not have a match-up where there was an obvious type match-up, which would have made blasting away with whatever super-effective attack the obvious course of action. That pretty much brought it down to Titan vs Rats or War vs Rats, and I came up with a better idea for the battle between the latter two. Togetic and Duskull aren't battling pokémon, which is also why they don't participate in the brawl in the most recent chapter.

This is nice worldbuilding going on right here. I especially love Togetic's desire to read human words. She's really childish... just like her owner, in a lot of ways. I wonder if she'll have more of a use later down the road, though?
Glad you like it. I originally had a more description here, but I thought redoing it with more specific examples would be more effective.

Even the protagonist understimates Togetic! She's definitely critical to the plot.

Overall, long, crazy chapter. You said it was short and sweet and I thought I could pull it off before I went to bed, but now I just feel wide awake and worried for the child. Oops.
Ha, sorry. Short for me, I suppose--it's not even 6,000 words! I do think the beginning could be structured a bit better, but unfortunately I have a hunch that I'd end up making it... longer.

Do you mind putting me on the PM list?
Sure, no problem. Thanks for taking the time to put together such a nice review! I appreciate your feedback, and I'm happy you like the story... especially because if it would have sucked if I'd asked you to review something you ended up despising.

Creepychu

No worries on the delay; I'm just glad to see you back and know you're still reading. I feel your pain when it comes to moving--just had to go through that myself, actually.

Since you used 'as well' I assumed you meant to draw a direct comparison between the chill of the caverns and the cold inside the house...
Mmm, yes, there is a direct comparison being made there. I'll think about how I might reword that.

While this is a nice enough description, it feels a bit on the nose. You've done such a good job before this in managing to convey the child's animalistic side without drawing direct animal comparisons, so this feels a bit...blunt by comparison, I guess?
True, that one's probably a little anvilicious.

Not sure about that bucket of water image. I get what you're trying to get across with it, but it's such a strange image that it did more to take me out of the emotional intensity of the scene than it did to immerse me in it. The 'flash of hot and then cold again' bit just feels a bit long and laborious compared to the short, impactful sentences in the rest of the paragraph as we. Maybe try and replace the 'and then' with something that rolls off the tongue a bit easier? I also I keep wanting to add an italics emphasis to 'his doing' to make it conform in my head with the emphasized 'he's, though maybe that's just me.
Hmm, interesting; would it work better if the "torn open" part was left out and/or it wasn't specifically being attributed to the nurse? I'll see what I can do with "hot and cold" as well.

The emphasis is definitely supposed to be on "his" in that sentence, but I'm trying to wean myself off my addiction to italicizing dialogue to provide emphasis, so unless it reads as a particularly strong emphasis to me I try to leave it out.

It's a nice image, but specifying that it's Duskull's light again when you've already established it in the previous sentence feels a bit unnecessary. Something along the lines of '[...]and the light, that little red light, watching' would get the same message across without the unnecessary repeat of Duskull's name.
Sure, it wouldn't hurt to cut the redundancy there.

Not sure why you arranged the phrase like that. Wouldn't 'another points out' work just as well? I suppose it's not technically wrong as is, but it feels a bit strange and formal, like something you'd use in poetry to make it fit an established rhyme scheme. Might just be me though.
"Another points out" works just fine, sure. Either looks fine to me, but sometimes I do fall into weird turns of phrase.

So...I guess as a final question on this one, was this meant to look suspicious or am I missing something obvious here?
Not supposed to be suspicious; just a bit of carelessness on my part. As far as identification goes, I figure that since the Pokémon World is obviously way, way more advanced than we are in terms of molecular biology (see: Mewtwo) that sequencing someone would be a trivial affair and could probably be done quickly and on-site, without needing to send samples to a lab, thus it would be easy to get a pretty surefire idea of who the corpse was very quickly. Actually finding it, though, I can see being more of a problem. I was figuring that a fair number of trainers visit the Seafoam Islands in any given week, but indeed if the body was way down at the bottom where it'd be hard to get to, you wouldn't expect someone to just stumble across it in that time. No big deal how much time passes before they find the guy, really, so I don't have a problem dilating it a bit--perhaps to a month?

Given how the child is supposed to not realize what the gesture is just yet, describing it as an 'embrace' feels wrong here. Since it's the child's point of view, wouldn't it sooner think of this as something like a grip at this point?
Mmm, yes, it would probably be better not to use that word there.

To be honest, I think a fairly large part of the inaccessibility in earlier chapters comes precisely because we're limited to seeing things only from the child's own, skewed perspective. It has a very simplistic understanding of some things and an over-complicated and romanticized one of others, and without any alternative frame of reference to compare its version of events to, it can be hard to tell which category any given thing falls under, especially with the sheer volume of new information the reader needs to sort through early on. I'd be hard pressed to give concrete suggestions as to how and where you would fit them in, but if there were moments like this one earlier on, meaning moments where we get to re-examine the child's interpretation of earlier events from a different perspective, it might help people get a handle on its mindset earlier.

I have no doubt this will vary a lot from reader to reader, but for me, this chapter was the point in the story where I really started feeling like I understood the child on some level. Not necessarily in terms of what its ultimate goal is, but rather its mindset and the kinds of biases I could expect from it. Once that clicked for me, the story opened up a lot more, which is what prompted my first re-read. I understand what other reviewers are saying about setting out a clear goal for the reader to get invested in early, but since the child's goals are a bit hard to appreciate without understanding how its mind works (at least a little bit), I think that an alternative approach of trying to give a bit more insight into the child's inner workings early on and then using that understanding as a hook to keep people reading could also do the trick.

Then again, I seem to find the child more likable as a character than some of your other readers, so this may just be my personal bias speaking. XD
I've been thinking a lot about how I might fix up the early chapters, so this is very helpful. I think bringing in the context a bit earlier would be helpful, to set the protagonist's weirdness off against the mostly-normal world at large. I'm still considering how to balance that with the other stuff that needs to go on near the beginning, but it's definitely an important consideration. One thing and another, I definitely want people to get invested a bit earlier than six chapters in!

There are some people out there who seem to really like the child, but no one who's spoken up here, for whatever reason. Definitely a case of "acknowledge they're kind of an awful person but like them anyway," though.

It's kind of a nitpick, but I think leading with 'The child starts awake' would do a better job of bringing across the child's initial sense of disorientation. If you feel it's important to include, the information about the time is easy enough to slip in later on when the child has recovered its bearings, such as when it's contemplating how quickly the new disaster came around.
That's true. No problem moving that little tidbit somewhere later.

Since the child's friends have been relegated to a modifier, the current sentence structure implies that the trainers who stole them are the ones who have been treated well rather than the pokémon.
Ahhh, yes, definitely a misplaced modifier.

Similar kind of thing here. Since the previous use of 'their' in this passage is referring to the doctors and nurses, this sentence makes it sound like the person in charge of the mourners just shooed those poor doctors and nurses right back into the room. Also, since there's no mention of the other trainers in the room being injured or hurt in any way, I'm not quite sure why you are referring to them as 'survivors' here.
Again, you're right about the pronoun problems. I could probably come up with a better epithet than "survivors," too, yes.

I'm honestly surprised that no-one has put it forward in the thread yet, and I was tempted to already go there in my review of the first four chapters, but I ended up holding back. Given everything that's been revealed since then, though, I think I can safely say that the child is actually:
[spoil]
I'm a little surprised too, although the story kind of does have a strong Mew/Mewtwo theme. While I like that you took notice of the glitch banner I requested for this story, I'll admit that that's a complete coincidence and you shouldn't read anything into this particular banner choice aside from Mewtwo being important to the story. In any case, those are all good points, and it'll be interesting to see how your thinking on the matter evolves as we go on with the story.[/spoil]

Though, in the interest of taking a baby step towards that, on the matter of Nathaniel and Togetic, I think he was up to no good, but not the kind of no good the child assumed.
Great, thanks!

Anyway, thanks again for reviewing and especially for giving the broad impressions you had of the early chapters; they're very helpful. I'm still kind of floored that you'd actually go through and read this thing multiple times, but it's really cool to see all the things you pick up on. Hopefully you'll enjoy the later chapters as well.

Everyone

The next chapter's been delayed for largely excuse-y reasons, but it's coming along pretty well now and will be up within the week.
 

diamondpearl876

→ follow your fire.
It seems I just don't understand/like archaic sentence structure. Or I might just be dense. :) I re-read it a few times and I still don't get it, but if you get it, it's probably on my end.

I was a little hesitant getting into this because it was 15 chapters long already, but I was pleasantly surprised. Not only is the plot nice, I'm a sucker for second person narrative and present tense. Thank you for writing this.
 

Starlight Aurate

Just a fallen star
Hey! I haven’t forgotten the review you gave me, and my promise to do whatever I could in return. I’m sorry that this has taken so long to get done (and I honestly have no excuse as to why I took so long), but here it is! I know it probably won’t be of any help to you, but since you said you’d appreciate a review all the same, here you go :)

Chapter 1
I don't really have much to say to this chapter, except I like the little cliff-hanger on the end and I really like the description of the Seafoam Islands. The use of second-person POV also caught my attention; I used to read such stories when I was younger, and they were a lot of fun, though it has been a long time since I've read one. It's interesting, and unusual, but I like it. It certainly (at least for me) was an interesting beginning to what I'm sure will be a riveting story!

Chapter 2
Withdraw too much or spend it too fast, and some far-off computer algorithm will flag your account, and you'll be out a perfectly good identity.
Forgive me if I'm wrong (I won't be surprised if I am), but should there be an "of" after "out"? Or have "without" instead of "out"? I read this over a couple of times, and the wording just seemed odd to me.

The remainder will go under your mattress. You don't know why it's traditional for humans to store money under mattresses, and Absol hasn't been able to explain it to you, but you suppose that's as good a place as any. At least it keeps it out of the way.
I found this amusing :p A mattress is always good to keep stuff you want well-hidden!

Its shirt is rent open from just above the right hip almost all the way up to its heart, and its left arm is bubbled with half-healed burns. The gash on its chest is already scabbing over, but the clothes are ruined, soaked in blood where they aren't torn.
Ewwwww good description though.

What a mess. It's always such trouble to find attire to match what's on a corpse, since the original is rarely in any condition to be worn again—trainers rarely go quietly in their sleep. And now it's going need to go out and find replacements.
And I'm starting to get the feeling that this "child" isn't really a child...

Hmm, this chapter was intriguing and brought a lot of questions. But, as with the first, there is little for me to offer except to say that I liked it and look forward to more :)

Chapter 3
Today you are Jade Winstead, and you are no one. You have no family or friends, and your fingerprints are the fingerprints of a dead child. Your face is modeled after one of your favorite television characters, and more than once someone has stopped you in the street, mistaking you for her. This is more attention than you would like, but your attempts at building a face from scratch were worse.
Woah. I didn't expect the opening of the chapter to make me feel so sad. I know the tone is rather indifferent, but just reading it made me feel... sad. And I can't say why.

You watch the adults, striding along on personal errands, ferrying children through the crowd, sitting outside a cafe for lunch—is that what you should be like now, settling into a life under your own power, caring about all those names in the newspaper, talking about money and jobs and sex the way they do on television? You watch the children—is that how you were, once, looking around with eyes joyful at the sight of ice cream vendors, the colorful tableau of the beach? Would you have been clutching a parental hand or running with a gaggle of young ruffians, loud and rude and thoroughly enjoying your age?
These reflections also made me sad. And I think it's the not-knowing of it that makes me sad; the uncertainty, and perhaps earlier, the apathy.

The great digital brain of the League records everything, from the first step each trainer takes after receiving their license to the origin and life history of every pokémon passing through their hands. Leonard stands at the nerve center, watching the data flow in from all the league's sensory organs, the pokédexes that every trainer must carry to be considered legal. The pokédex observes everything, records everything, surely knows more than the trainer herself about everything that has happened on her journey: every item purchased; every trainer battled, and the outcome of that battle; every visit to a pokémon center.
Oh gosh, that's terrifying >_< I don't know if I would want to ever be a Pokémon trainer if everything I did was being watched.

His son became one of the ghosts. And then, his son refused to stay dead. And then Leonard found he had a calling.

It had been a mistake. You were so young, then, so careless; you had no idea what you were doing. Certainly you had no idea who Leonard Kerrigan was, or why he should matter to you at all.... For Leonard has a calling, and that calling is to find you. He will discover what happened to his son and, you have no doubt, he will make those responsible pay. He is no small man in Kanto, Leonard Kerrigan, not even after his fall from grace. And he is your enemy.
You (or I?) have no idea who Leonard Kerrigan was, he's your enemy, and yet he's your father? o_o

Television has taught you that there are two kinds of cops in the world: the hard-bitten, driven servants of justice who will stop at nothing to put criminals behind bars, and those whose greatest exertions are in pursuit of donuts.
So, bad cop and good cop? :p

You revel in your own cunning and subtlety.
I actually smiled at this; it seems, at least to me, that this main-character (me?) has a lot to learn about "cunning and subtlety." It also shows a bit of characterization (which I'm not sure you're trying to evoke, since 2nd-person is so different from when using 1st or 3rd-person); while I certainly got the idea that the character was malignant/indifferent before, this also shows his/her sense of pride and self-pleasure. I don't know if I made much sense, but.... eh.

“Later,” you say, unable to resist showing off a little of your hip slang.
Alas, if only the hip still used the word "hip."

She weaves through the crowd and turns off onto a little side-street, disappears into a shadowy alley. She doesn't come out.
A nice way to contrast the sun and sand that the character was looking at earlier :p

Your writing is phenomenal; it's so formal with such sophisticated (but not too sophisticated) word choice, and I feel really distant from the main character. I have no idea what they're plotting, but hopefully I'll found out! On to the next chapter!

Chapter 4
A grumpy raticate is roused. All is made ready. It sighs, ducks its head, and plunges out into the dripping forest.
When I read this, "it" seemed to be the raticate at first, though I expect it corresponds to the aforementioned "it". I would normally suggest rectifying this, but since it's hard to do while maintaining the animosity of the "it" and I'm sure that what I would say hasn't been said already, I guess the best is to just leave it as is.

“I’m Nicholas Garret! I’m no one else!” you insist, feeling the blood mix with the rain as it rolls down the inside of your shirt. Damn. Now you'll need to mend these clothes again.
I like the final sentence; it shows the audience Garret's priorities, and that physical harm means little to him. It also helps us show that, whatever else he may claim to be, he certainly isn't human--not an ordinary one, anyway.

And now that I see that the "it" mentioned in the first part of the chapter is the same as Garret, I can't help but wonder why you switched between POV. It's interesting to look at it from different perspectives, certainly, but (sorry, I'm just curious) is there another reason?

Interesting chapter; I like emotional chapters such as these that just focus on a scene and the characters in them. I have a hard time believing that a trainer would say to his Pokémon "**** that" or "********" or make their Pokémon cry or break them down emotionally when physical means do nothing. I don't know, maybe the main character has reaasonable motives for treating his Pokémon such and whatever he's trying to get them to do is something that needs to be done, but at the moment, he comes across as a jerk who doesn't quite get humanity.

Chapter 5
There was the twisted excess of the Mewtwo project, that perversion of nature that ended in flame and the death for most of the island's population, those who worked in the slick research facility dominating its northwestern corner. And then, barely five years later, the volcano erupted one quiet morning, completely out of the blue, sweeping away all the rest on a tide of lava and ash.
So, I take it that this is following the GSC cannon? If I remember correctly, that was where the volcano had erupted, yes?

And there it is. Still grinning, you say, "Don't worry, I can pay for that." Then you lean forward over the pokédex and charge for the doors.
Ha, I find it ironic how he had gone to the PC in the first place to get money as is now offering to pay for what he just broke (though I can tell they were empty words). Also goes to show that he's unaware as to how his "hip slang" can't always get him out of situations.

It is not badly hurt, although it's healed itself too quickly, and the skin's closed around and trapped some shards of glass in its flesh.
Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow!

They'll need to be dug out later.
OW!

Absol settles within easy reach and permits the child to throw its arms around her neck, endures being dripped on, overlooks the fact that her ruff is getting gummed with snot.
I actually find that really sweet of her.

The child doesn't care if she's right. She probably is—that's the exasperating thing about Absol. It wants to answer the burning anger flooding its body, not listen to her measured reason.
I like this as well; it shows the chlid's humanity (it also reminds me of Harry Potter towards Albus Dumbledore in the 5th Harry Potter book, but that's irrelevant... I'm not sure why I brought that up) and lets me sympathize with him more.

Beside you, Absol makes a noise.
I thought that was odd; in the entirety of the section, that's the only time when you switch from 3rd-person to 2nd-person. Any particular reason for that?

It is prepared, this time, to be Matt Kerrigan properly. Matt Kerrigan, the lost son. Matt Kerrigan, the suicide case.
So he's given up on being Nicholas Garret? Is he just going to leave Garret's Pokémon behind, or...? Well, I guess I'll find out eventually.

Overall, it's a bit creepy how much stock the child is putting into his Pokédex, referring to it as his "soul" and freaking out over losing it. I get that he feels that the Pokédex is his identity, but it doesn't make it any less unnatural--even though the child himself is clearly unnatural, and doesn't understand and is struggling with trying to be human.

Chapter 6
if you concentrate, you can just taste the edges of his dreams as they run in their confused little circles.
This little bit made me think that the child is a Hypno, but the part in chapter 5 where he's sobbing about getting "her" reminds me of Deoxys trying to help a friend, though I suppose I won't find out what the child really is until later :p

So it is that Leonard manages to catch hold of you, wrapping his arms inappropriately tightly around your torso.
"Inappropriately tightly" seems an odd word choice; is it correct to have two adverbs right next to each other? I'm not trying to correct you, I'm just honestly curious.

The longer you wait there, the more nervous you get—he's making a scene. Leonard's making a scene! What if someone comes to investigate the noise? What if someone sees you?
As formal as the main character is, his worries and obliviousness to love are pretty funny to read :) And it just affirms my guess earlier that this character really isn't genre savvy--or at least, not when the emotions of a father to his long-lost son are concerned.

“I am sorry, Dad, but I cannot stay long. If you want to talk, we can do it while you get my pokémon out of storage.”
And I just can't help but feel sorry for Leonard. He's been found by what he believes to be his long-lost son, and is getting more emotional than men usually do, and is just being brushed aside. The poor guy doesn't even know what's going on and is being treated more as an object by his supposed son than a human being :(

But the rest of the room is awash in old newspapers, from respectable publications to the most seedy, the kind that announce Pikablu sightings and report on people who've seen the face of Arceus in their breakfast cereal.
I love references to old Pokémon myths XD

These in particular have been going wild with the stories of the dead walking Kanto, but even the Saffron Times was only marginally more restrained in its reporting.
Is the newspaper the "Saffron Times," or "Times" for Saffron City? If it's the former, only the word "Times" is italicized.

“I knew it,” he says, wearing a sickly smile. “You're not my son. And you are connected with the other dead trainers, aren't you? Who are you? And what”—the smile is gone, replaced with a grim expression that draws the skin tight over his cheekbones—“have you done with my son?”
It's nice to see that someone here understands how to take control of a situation, and that Leonard isn't going to be used like the main character was intending to. Leonard, you rock.

Your grin stretches wider and wider, splitting Matt Kerrigan's face ear to ear as jaws reconfigure to accommodate the rows of new teeth forcing their way out of your gums, gleaming sharp in the dim light. Fingers grow claws and irises bleed to red as you stare into Leonard Kerrigan's eyes.
Yes! We get to see his Pokémon side! Freakin' FINALLY!

.... or not. Oh well, it was a nice scene to end on (for the audience, anyway; certainly not for poor Leonard). It's too bad that the poor man was thrust aside and had his hopes of his son being alive crushed :( I know I should be rooting for the protagonist, but... I find that I'm not. It's not that Leonard is necessarily charismatic, just that I can connect with him and his sorrow.

Chapter 7
It swings itself out of bed and into the right body, then wrestles out of its pajamas and gives itself a look over, checking that it's got everything right, recalling who it is.

You are Weavile, claws out and glinting in the cutting moonlight.
I felt like the POV change was rather jarring, but I guess that's just me.

Never heard of one making any trouble, and they can be dead useful--watch where they're going and get a crash cart ready, if you know what I mean.
Ha, "dead useful." I like the pun :)

You chide yourself both for your mistake and for your overreaction to it, then go for the doorhandle.


Your dark little hidey-hole is a supply closet just down the hall from the room Absol chose. You ease the door open the slightest crack, just enough that you can see and hear a little of what's going on in the examination room.
I noticed you have two spaces between these paragraphs instead of just one, but there isn't any time skips or changes in POV. Any reason as to why?

"How could she leave us?" the typhlosion is bawling, paws over his face and his snout buried in the sheet next to the cooling body of his trainer. "What's going to happen to us? Who's going to take care of us?"
It's this kind of attitude I hate that others have when someone dies; just concern about what will happen to the living and not what's happening to the dead. If it was a child, or worrying about children, then it woudl be different, but since this is a Typhlosion, I'm going to assume that it's fully-grown and is just immature and despicable.

"There was a starter on my old team, a charmander."
Titan? :O

Now that the typhlosion's subsided to more quiet grief, you can pick up their conversation easily enough.
Is this proper word choice? It feels awkward when I read it; "typhlosion's" is supposed to be "typhlosion is," but I felt like "typhlosion has" would have been better, but you are using present tense, so...? I'm not trying to correct you or say you made a mistake, I just honestly don't know and am wondering about it.

You ignore them, bringing your claws together in front of your face and concentrating. For all your practice, this attack never comes easy to you. You draw deep on the shadows, and darkness wells up and through you, hollowing out your chest, scouring your insides with the chill of the unreal. It overflows and pours out from the shell of your body, the fluorescent lights overhead dimming as a wave of dark energy sweeps out in all directions, a tide of nightmare power that engulfs everyone in the room, catching their minds in its inky undertow. The minun's electricity goes out with a tiny zzzt!, and he staggers and sinks to the floor while the humans collapse boneless and unconscious behind him, pulled down into noxious, unnatural sleep. Absol lets fall the energy barrier that shielded her from the attack and looks around with mild interest, then back at you, waiting for an explanation.
This paragraph has a lot more description than the others. It was interesting and made for a sudden change, and I liked how you described it :)

But also.... boneless? D:

She reached an anonymous pile of wreckage climbed the jut of a splintered beam poking from the ash slurry, claws digging deep into the crumbling wood to hold herself steady.
This sentence felt run-on; is there supposed to be a comma after "wreckage"?

Absol would be annoyed by the child's stupidity--how could it fail to understand something so natural and obvoius?
"Obvouis" or "obvious"?

with the treasure salvaged from the wreckage,
Does this mean we're about to find out why the fic has the title it does?! :D

Sorry I didn't have much to say on this chapter; I was just mostly confused and trying to work out the shadow and shades thing when they were in the hospital. The end has my curiosity piqued, and I appreciate the amount of effort you put into this overall, as the quality of the writing is simply amazing and much admired :)

Chapter 8
"Wha--" he starts, then thinks better of it, takes a deep breath, and tries to draw himself up straighter. The other humans step forward, all eagerness now. "Just what in the **** do you think you're doing, Jenna? This your idea of a joke, setting a whole ****ing truckload of mankey on me while I'm ****ing working?"
Though I typically don't like cursing, I do say that it makes this more realistic, especially as they're dealing with teenagers here and teens are so fond of putting the f-word in every few sentences.

Certainly if it were you staring down nearly six feet of stony-faced bear, you wouldn't sneer up at him and say, "All right, you stupid piece of ****, let's see what you--".
I appreciate this bravery. Though, Idon't really know the great Nathaniel Morgan, so I'm not sure if it's bravery or stupidity, but all the same I appreciate someone who won't cower before a six-foot tall man-eating bear.

It rockets into the trees on the far side of the clearing with a rending crack and an impact that knocks two of the humans off their feet and showers the rest in leaves, twigs, and a surprised squirrel.
I like the use of the word "rockets" here since we're dealing with them I am so smart for figuring that out

She rubs at her cheek, where a flying piece of debris has scored a long cut.
Score one for debris! Debris=1 Jenna=0 and I'm really just trying to find stuff to say ;-;

To your immense surprise, she doesn't reprimand you for being rude. She actually rises and says, "I suppose."
In spite of when Absol is professional, formal, refined, and sometimes rude or haughty, it's times like these and the one I mentioned earlier that shows she can be kind and has a soft side :)

Wasn't training was supposed to be a dangerous profession?
Is the second "was" needed?

This was interesting; it was amusing to see the Rockets attack the great Nathaniel Morgan (gosh, that sounds wrong), as well as have the main character constantly criticize them for being Rockets. Again, I liked Absol's concern and care for the main charcter, showing that she's not all formal as she always seems.

Chapter 9
Well, you've probably used the f-word in some form more in this story than in any other on Serebii; in chapters 9, 10, 11 and 12, you use it 285 times. Impressive!

You can tell he's watching as you rummage out your water and storm back over, the tiniest slit of eyes showing under his lids, but he's not prepared when you upend the canteen over his face.

"Hey! What--" he splutters, then coughs and sits glaring at you for a second, licking moisture off split and swollen lips.

"There is your water. If you want more, you will listen to what I have to say."
Geeze, both of these guys are a-holes.

"...don't even like scientists, those nerds give me the ****ing creeps, let me tell you. I mean, yeah, sure, I know some guys who were in on the whole Mewtwo thing, but who the **** doesn't? Like--"
I can't help but wonder if this pasing mention of Mewtwo is just there, or if it's going to have more involvement. If it's the latter, then I'm excited! :D

There's naked fear in his eyes, and he flinches away from you.
Odd how when he's being torn apart, he isn't scared or bothered in the least, but when his arm heals back in the wrong position, he starts to panic. Is he really not afraid of death as much as he is living life in constant pain, or looking odd with his arm bent the wrong way?

They call humans "the most dangerous game," don't they?
I read that short story! I quite liked it, too, though I don't know if it would apply to the Pokémon world XD

"What... what the **** are you?"
A question I think the entire audience has been wondering for quite some time.

"I am me."
I guess that's the best we can expect from ourselves, though :p

"That's... not..." He suddenly throws himself backwards, trying to wrench out of your grasp, but even caught off-guard you have no trouble bracing yourself against his struggles. "If you keep being difficult, I will have to paralyze you. Calm down."
Is that the main character speaking the second time? If so, should a new paragraph be made for that? I noticed that this was done a couple of times in Harry Potter, so I'm wondering as to what the rule as to whether to start a new paragraph when a new person speaks is.

Dressing up is fun, though, especially in bright colors, or clothes with your favorite cartoon characters on them. Unfortunately, though, this morning's shopping trip failed to turn up any Transformozords shirts in the great Nathaniel Morgan's size.
I never would have guessed that the protagonist is someone who would like to dress up. Since he's spent so much time being serious and dealing with others who are even more straight-laced than he is, I find it pretty amusing. Too bad that they didn't have any Transformozords shirts; perhaps that would make the great Nathaniel Morgan more appreciative.

"I thought giving you medication might make you stop whining."

"Fat ****ing chance, Freak. Fat ****ing chance."
Well, at least he's honest :/

"Yeah. Hi. Did you know your trainer's a total ****ing douchebag?"
I admit, that gave me a chuckle :)

This chapter had a lot more dialogue than the rest, and I guess that's why I had more to say about it. Even though the great Nathaniel Morgan uses the f-word excessively (over a hundred times in this chapter, I believe), it does make him more realistic in a sense. It's funny how the main character just handwaves the great Nathaniel Morgan's whining and pain and just tells him to suck it up and deal with it. And poor, poor Titan, having to go back to the place where his original trainer died :( Hopefully Seafoam is less... deadly this time around.

Chapter 10
I've got to say, even though War has less dialogue than any other character so far, he's one of my favorites. It's nice to have someone light-hearted in a setting as grim as this ^_^

"I hope you're okay with a no-wager battle. I kind of don't have any cash on me, 'cause, well, you know..." She makes an expansive gesture.

What, because of the ocean?
Haha, I love it when the main character's unawareness of the human world shows through.

The staryu just sits there as Rats fights through the waves, paddling madly with her short legs and cursing under her breath.
Oh gosh, that's so adorable XD

You realize you've slipped into talking pokémon, and he hasn't been able to understand a word.
Makes me wonder what it would sound like for a human to speak Pokémon, since most species just say their name. I guess it would be its own separate language though, since in all canon different species of Pokémon can always understand each other.

"Everyone else is eating. It would not be fair for Thunderstorm to be left out."
There's something heartwarming about a trainer carrying a car battery around with them just so their electric-type can have dinner with everyone else.

"I am a good trainer. Me! Your opinion does not matter. "
If only he understood that this logic doesn't sit well with most people....

I don't have as much to say on this, except that the story overall is starting to make more sense. At first, I was just really confused, but I expected that and just went with it. And then I stayed confused for several chapters, but I think I'm kindof maybe a little starting to string everything together. I'm sorry, I know this story shouldn't be hard to understand, but .... I don't know, I wouldn't choose to be confused, and it's certainly not your fault in the slightest, I just have a hard time making sense of things that should be simple. But I like what's going on; if only the great Nathaniel Morgan could learn to stop whining and bemoaning the guy who saved his life :p


Chapter 11
And that's how the human ends up shoved in a room at the pokémon center with Thunderstorm on guard under strict orders that the man shouldn't be allowed near the phone, window, or most especially, door.
Well, he got his wish XD

I'll take a moment to say that the characterization is wonderful: sassy Rats, agreeable Titan, quiet Duskull, mild Thunderstorm, lighthearted War, energetic Togetic, and the whining great Nathaniel Morgan. I had a harder time getting through earlier chapters since it was mostly the protagonist and Absol, who are so strait-laced and formal. It's nice to have a team of well-rounded characters that make for an engaging story overall. I know I'm not one to critique or comment on characterizing characters (as I've written and had experience with so little), but I appreciate all you've written and give you props :)

"Are you telling me that you've been ****ing using my money to buy ****?"

"I was. Until it ran out."
In spite of all the whining he does, it's times like these when I really sympathize with the great Nathaniel Morgan.

"He got you food. Take it." You can't keep the disapproval out of your voice, but Titan doesn't notice. He just smiles when the Great Nathaniel Morgan takes the bag, then wanders away and starts in on his danish.
Awwww Titan is so sweet for a charizard ^_^

I liked the whole pillow fight scene. It's sweet to see the main character and all of the Pokémon playing with each other even though they have a hostile ex-Rocket with them and have been hurrying for the past few days, because they're still a family and still have time to make each other happy no matter how tired they are :)

The comment about his mother intrigues me. Are we finally going to find out what sort of creature this character is? :D

You should be celebrating. You have the lead, after all. To win, you just need to hold it. But you'd expected War to carry you all the way through the battle without a hitch, and he's barely upright, sagging and bruised. You will win, of course. Your pokémon are the best, and you're the best, and that's just simple facts, but this is turning out more difficult than you'd expected.
Why do I have the feeling that he's going to be eating his own words soon? ;)

I was a little surprised that the protagonist won, with the way things were going. I liked the mention of Red, as I was thinking of him when Titan started going for the seismic toss strategy. The mention of the mother and brother intrigues me, but I guess I'll have to wait and keep reading before I can find out what they amount to.


Chapter 12
"Yeah, you won. Because you got ****ing lucky. That and your charizard is some kind of ****ing insane berserker or something." Titan turns in his direction, confused, licking ice cream off his snout.
Oh, the contradictory-ness of this is beautiful XD

"Come on, Thunder. He's a Rocket. Everybody knows they suck."
Well, when they're used to fighting with Rattata and Zubat, who knows how they would do with a Charizard?

Rats transforms into a crazy ball of paddling limbs, twisting gently back and forth in the air but making no progress towards freeing herself.
After seeing mice do this while hanging them from their tails, I can honestly say that this is quite funny and cute at the same time.

I liked the confrontation between the great Nathaniel Morgan and the protagonist; I honestly thought the great Nathaniel Morgan's strategy was a lot more well thought-out and amusing to watch than the main character's. Even at the end, when eh refuses to let him have is reward for "cheating "(even though I think it would be perfectly fair, personally), I can only imagine the delight the great Nathaniel Morgan has for proving the protagonist wrong.

"My brother is Mewtwo."
8O This raises so many questions and theories that I'm just going to leave with this emotion face.

Another confrontation wth the great Nathaniel Morgan and the protagonist, and there are certainly things that I don't like about him (mostly the way he treats the Pokémon, but he is a Rocket after all), but I still sympathize with him and think that if he's going to keep living, he must end up doing some good. I don't know how/why Absol keeps popping up, and just wish she could leave with more straightforward answers, but eh, it's in her character not to. I enjoyed this chapter, and am wondering where this cliff-hanger will take the story!
Chapter 13
"Have you ever heard of the Mewtwo project?"

"Nawwwww." He smirks as he traces an invisible "R" over his chest. "The **** is that? How the hell would I know, huh?"

"Really? I thought you were the one who brought it up in the first place." You frown. This is going to take even longer than you thought.
The main character really needs to learn what sarcasm is XD And he ought to know he can't trust the great Nathaniel Morgan to ever be quiet, deal or no deal.

"That was a joke? It was a lie. How is lying funny?"
And it's times like this that the protagonist reveals his ignorance of human behavior and, no matter what he may say or think, he never thinks completely the way a human does.

I don't have much to say about the part of the child in the rainforest; all I got was that she befriended some creature and it willingly is going away with her to somewhere. I take it that the Pokémon is Mew?

Here are the crowded perceptions of a thousand thousand people, humans and pokémon alike, giving the world a riotous depth like she's never known.
Is "thousand" supposed to be there twice?

It's a horrible thing, an awful thing, to steal the psychic's voice, but after all the grating hours under the pressure of his hate it's hard, somehow, not to begin hating in return.
It's nasty to see how the child and the Pokémon have been hurt and affected. If it really was Team Rocket who took over the Institute and had all this happen, then no wonder the main character hates them so much.

"I said I wasn't going without Mew, and I'm not!"
I KNEW IT!

But it's barely a month before the agent finds them, defeats their teams, brings them with honeyed force back to Kanto. For surely there must have been some misunderstanding, the two of them running off like that. Didn't they know their parents were worried sick? And you, little miss, what were you thinking? You know how Mew gets when you're not around to cheer her up. How could you go and leave her all alone?

After that the child's parents don't talk about her going away anymore. Her mother walks with a limp, and her father can't quite conceal the bruises under his sleeves. She goes back to working at the lab because, after all, she's important. Owen's brother wasn't important, not to anyone but his friends and family, and her parents don't talk about him anymore either. No one does.
Well, that's a nice little mix of disturbing and WTF.

"Unacceptable," he's saying to some nervous, stuttering scientist. "A weapon I can't control is worthless. No matter how powerful it is, it's of no use to me if it won't follow orders."
If I'm right in assuming that this is Giovanni, it's interesting to see that hte's genre savvy enough to avoid his canonical fate. But with everything about Mew's child being so strong, and telling his mother that he would eventually grow strong enough to defeat the scientists and set them free, I feel like Dr. Fuji's fate will be the same. After all, they did dream of creating the world's strongest Pokémon, and they succeeded.

"And anyway, I know where she is being held. I see it in my dreams."
You're just digging yourself deeper there, pal. It definitely has a lot to learn on how to make someone like the great Nathaniel Morgan understand what it's talking about.

"Well, one thing's for ****ing sure. Whatever else you are, you're definitely one cold little bastard. Not to mention crazy, thinking you want to go looking for Mewtwo and ****."
Would it make me a bad person to say that I agree with him on the main character being "one cold little basterd"?

It's hard to believe that, after all this time, everything's finally going right.
Just don't get used to it ;)

A long chapter, but it was nice to finally find out what this child is and what happened and why he wants to go to Mewtwo so badly. The great Nathaniel Morgan might not believe him, but I was satisfied with the story. Now I just wonder what role the great Nathaniel Morgan will be playing in this story, and why Absol was so dead-set against him dying. It was heart-wrenching to see the chld beg with the police and just have them brush her off like nothing. I hope things start to take an upward turn for her, but I also hope that she can get a better grasp of how humans think. At least you proved that the great Nathaniel Morgan has a heart, with him apologizing for the death of her parents. Good chapter :)

Chapter 14
Fifteen minutes into your gym battle, things are starting to look grim.
I guess that's another win for the great Nathaniel Morgan, then. He really needs to know by now that he shouldn't make bets with him :p

Now you just think he's confusing. Why would he want to save you any trouble?
And yet another great example of the main character's obliviousness to sarcasm XD

Gossip magazines attribute his hairdo's increasing height to the fact that Red's started shooting up in growth spurts, while Blue hasn't.
This sentence feels out of place; while I know that Blue was just fluffing up his hair, so the main character would be thinking about it, it's odd that she would put that much thought into it during an intense battle. I know that it's not human, so its thought trains are different than ours, but it just still felt like an odd sentence to have right there.

I liked the whole battle between Thunderstorm and Alakazam; even though the main character technically wasn't doing anything, it was nice how you portrayed just the two of the Pokémon fighting it out on a more personal level. It's a kind of respect for the Pokémon to think and be able to battle for themselves that I'm happy to see, and I thought you did a good job of showing it.

Gyarados, the legendary creature of rage. Gyarados, the destroyer of cities. Gyarados, the consummate predator.

Gyarados, the pokémon with one of the best-known, most easily-exploitable weaknesses of all time. This battle's as good as over. "Thunderbolt."

"Earthquake."
This is just beautiful XD

With your head down like this, no one can see the glow of psychic energy in your eyes as you reach out and stab at Blue's mind.
Even though this character's the protagonist, it's hard to root for it when it does things like this. It gets upset at the great Nathaniel Morgan for lying (even though it was sarcasm it just didn't understand), insists that everything the great Nathaniel Morgan does is wrong simply because he is a former Rocket, yet it feels that attacking his opponent's mind (which, by its own rules, should be cheating since it isn't using any moves in a Pokémon battle) is okay. I can tell it's intentional, and you've done a good job of it, but you've certainly set up one morally ambiguous protagonist.

It would be inconvenient if the gym leader went and died on you in the middle of your battle. Would they still give you the badge if that happened?
And times like this, too, show just skewed the protagonist's priorities are :p

If only everyone on your team were so easy to please.
Should this be "was" instead of "were," since "everyone" is like "every one" and is single, right? Or am I wrong?

Gym leaders are still important in the region's defense, of course, but in these days of peace and prosperity that function is a distant second behind mentoring rising trainers.
Which is both sad and happy at the same time; it's nice that the gym leaders don't necessarily need to go out and actively defend the city, but at the same time, watching trainers running around coming before protecting their homes seems skewed.

The routine between the great Nathaniel Morgan and the main character fighting about him being too slow/the protagonist being a jerk still hasn't gotten old XD And it still makes me sympathetic with the great Nathaniel Morgan.

"Mother****er," the great Nathaniel Morgan gasps, holding his side as he slowly pulls himself into a crouch. "I think you broke one of my ****ing ribs again. ****ing ****."
The poor guy will just never catch a break, will he?

This is probably one of my more favorite chapters (does that even make sense? lol Idk), between the fight with Blue and the bickering with the great Nathaniel Morgan. I was confused at the end as to why he just suddenly ran off and why the main character didn't pursue the Sneasel, though. Of course, having a Fearow beak lodged in your shoulder is bound to hold you up. I can't help but feel the the main character is going to pay for interfering in his match with Blue like that, and I feel sorry for Rats. Poor thing didn't get a chance :( Anyway, this was a fun read :) On to the last chapter (of this review)!

Chapter 15
Your response is a shattering roar of frustration, all fury and betrayal.
Betrayal? Sure, you took the great Nathaniel Morgan to be on your side and kept him by you 24/7, but you can't ever say that you were nice to him or ever possibly expected him to willingly stay with you when he has a way out.

The Rockets aren't trying to kill you. They want to capture you. That's why the fearow didn't try and stab you through the heart. They've been letting their pokémon wear you down to the point that you're vulnerable to their weapons. They're going to catch you and throw you into one of their fighting rings, maybe, or their labs.
Well, that makes sense as to why they'd send a hoard of un-evolved Pokémon to fight off a human/Pokémon/morpher.

Team Rocket needs to learn that you are not a creature to be hunted.
*sigh* This just proves that, despite previous encounters with the Rockets, the protagonist doesn't understand them. After seeing something like itself, Rockets won't be deterred by its ferocity, only more determined to capture it.

It's so stupid. The taunts aren't even any good. There's no way they should be getting to you like this. You clench your teeth over bubbling irritation. It's so stupid.
I was wondering why the Emolga was resorting to words and why the main character couldn't just fly away XD

The humans yell and try to run as the dazzling gleam spreads, ripping leaves off trees and skin off flesh as it flares in sheets of burning silver light.... You cauterize the arm for her, and most of the rest of her torso, with a blast of flame.
That's pretty brutal D: I understand that they're Rockets and were hurting it and its Pokémon, but yeesh.

The... darts? Yes. More of them now. Most bounce off, but here and there one gets into a chink in your armor, hits just right so it doesn't glance off your scales. They're only tiny pinpricks of pain, hardly felt before they're gone. There's a spreading numbness, maybe from the cold.
Oh no >_<

That's all you know, that's all you can tell, before you fall into a healing stupor and all the rest is lost.
... Yep


This was enjoyable as well; I liked seeing the battle at the end (it certainly served as an epic conclusion for my reading and reviewing), as it showed just how strong the child really is. It was a bit slow at parts, mostly when it's just the main character fighting by himself, but it always picked up again rather quickly. Even after everythign that's happened I still don't hate the great Nathaniel Morgan; I have a feeling that he didn't summon those Rockets (how could he have?) and he just wanted a way out after suffering days of abuse under the child. Even with all of the horrible things Team Rocket has done, it may not have been those members specifically who had stuff to do with the Mewtwo project. I don't know; I like the great Nathaniel Morgan, and think that, overall, he may be my favorite element in this entire story. And I feel that he'll either end up doing something good (in reference to what Absol may or may not have been hinting at earlier), or the child and Absol will learn that they don't always have to abide by something because it's in accordance with "Fate."

This is a great story; the writing is fantastic, and it's never too boring for too long. I admit, up until chapter 9, I was tired of it since there was only the main character and its interactions with the Pokémon and I just didn't find those so engaging or interesting. Once he found and became the great Nathaniel Morgan, though, things started to pick up more and I was more easily involved in it. The consistency cannot be denied; the child always thinks in unshakable absolutes, with a simple black-and-white morality that, after we learn of its past, makes sense. I never really cared much for Absol and all her talks of Fate and whatnot, though I suppose their fitting, considering what type of species she is.

Really, I just don't have much to say (you can probably tell since I was quoting a number of things just because I felt like I should have said more on that chapter). I don't have any advice to give aside from what I've already said (though that's more of just my opinion than advice for you to heed). I know that this is long, and I don’t expect you to respond; I just wanted to prove that I did read this and appreciate everything you have written. I did my best to re-pay the kindness that you once showed me in giving me a lengthy, detailed, and extremely helpful review :) I know that this doesn't amount to the same quality as that one, but I've done everything I can and hope that it's enough. Maybe, when I one day become a better reviewer, I can come back and give them a REAL review! :D And maybe not. I'm just rambling right now. Wonderful story, fleshed-out and consistent characters, and an interesting concept. Best of luck to you in the future :)
 

Negrek

Lost but Seeking
Author's Notes: Not much to say here. Enjoy the chapter!

Chapter 14

You feel like your skull's been scoured out by steel wool dipped in acid. You try to open your eyes. One of them is gummed shut, and the other gets to half mast before you decide the world's too bright and let it fall closed again.

"So you're awake."

You hurt too much to turn towards the voice, but at least you can smile, a bit. The inside of your mouth is dry and furry and tastes like something incontinent died in it.

"Absol." It takes two tries to get the word out.

"What did I tell you about dragging that human along?"

You open your eye again and blink until the world comes into focus. From where you're lying all you can see is the side of one of Absol's paws, some of her leg. You don't try to get a better look; you're certain your head will explode if you move it. Besides, you can tell how furious Absol is from the sound of her voice.

"Dangerous." The word comes out scratchy and labored. Hopefully Absol doesn't expect real conversation out of you.

"Dangerous. Yes, dangerous. And foolish. And unnecessary. You didn't listen."

You flex your fingers a little, digging them into cool, loamy earth. You're still damp, and you're so dirty you itch. It looks like you're going to find out for sure if you can't get sick. After all that rolling around in the mud, you're bound to end up a big ball of infection otherwise.

"Do you see now what I meant? Humans are dangerous, child. You cannot underestimate them."

You grit your teeth, both in preparation for moving and against the angry words that burn at the back of your parched throat. In one motion you get your hands under you and shove yourself into a sitting position, pain flaring all up and down your spine. You sit with your head hanging for a few seconds, eyes squeezed closed against the throbbing in your temples. At last you collect yourself and say, "I know that, Absol. I was careful. I was watching him the entire time."

How did he do it? How did he arrange an ambush when he didn't get five minutes to himself? How did he convince Team Rocket to help him, even though they wanted him dead?

You'll ask him. Right before you make sure he never double-crosses anyone ever again.

"Apparently you weren't careful enough. And now here we are."

You reach up to investigate your stuck-closed eye and find a dead leaf plastered over that side of your face. You peel it off and rub the back of your hand in your eye's orbit, trying to clean it out but probably only making it worse. With both eyes open you have an excellent binocular view of Absol's disdain.

"I hope you've learned your lesson."

"Yes, Absol," you say gloomily, plucking a couple of darts that are still sticking out of your flesh. "You're right. You're always right. I should have listened to you in the first place."

"What you should have done was think. Playing at being a trainer had nothing to do with your goal, but you jeopardized all for it anyway. There are more important things than that human silliness right now."

"If you knew it was such a bad idea, you should have stopped me." You suck in a deep breath, brace yourself, and change. A sheet of pain passes over you as your armor merges back into your skin and scales shrink to nothing. You shed the last vestiges of the great Nathaniel Morgan's form, happy to be leaving that hated human's body, and shrink down to a more comfortable size. You are the child once again.

The child starts peeling off the limp tatters of its clothing. Its shirt comes off in three ragged pieces, and it balls them up and tosses them away. They land with a heavy splatting noise.

Absol goes on with her lecture while the child struggles out of split and peeling boots. "It is not up to me to make decisions for you. I can only help you figure out what the best choice is. It is up to you to make it. I will not interfere."

The child feels a bit better without the clammy garments sticking to it, but not by much. At least changing size shed a bit of grime, leaving strips of cleanish skin showing here and there. The child reaches up and picks at the crust of mud and vomit and pine needles clinging to one cheek. It wants a bath. It hates baths, but it wants one anyway.

When it becomes clear that the child would rather sulk than talk, Absol turns and walks to a hiking pack lying a few feet away. The child stops fussing and watches, suddenly alert. Absol grabs a strap between her teeth and drags the bag over. "I brought supplies to replace the ones you lost. But remember that if you eat or drink too much, you will make yourself sick."

Oh, right. The child's pack is gone. Maybe it tossed it away in some now-forgotten moment, wanting to unburden itself for the fight. Maybe the bag got ripped off at some point during the battle. Doesn't matter. There was nothing important in there anyway.

The child reaches down and runs its fingers over the pokéballs on its belt. They're barely recognizable under a layer of mud, but they're there, all six of them. It relaxes and reaches for the backpack.

The water first. It tastes stale and sour, but the child couldn't care less, downing about half a bottle in a single go. Sensing Absol's gaze, the child puts the cap back on, very deliberately, and sets it aside.

The pack's fabric gives easily under the child's fingers, and it doesn't bother with the zippers, just tears a hole in the half-rotted fabric and reaches in to rummage. Absol must have dragged this pack through the dark ways to get here--not terribly far, since it's still in one piece, but far enough that it's aged beyond usefulness.

Inside the child is delighted to find some packs of string cheese. They look decent enough, and the child crams a few sticks into its mouth before settling down to peel the rest apart in curling, sticky strips, pulling more items out of the bag as it goes. Nothing exciting here--no money, at least, which is what it'd really been hoping for. Now that the great Nathaniel Morgan's stolen its pokédex, the financial tables have been turned.

"I'm going to kill him," the child announces with mouth full, pulling out a super potion and inspecting it. There's liquid sloshing around inside the bottle, but is it any good? Probably best not to chance it.

"The human?"

"Yes." Hmm. Soap. It's green and in the shape of a bulbasaur.

Absol gives the child a reproachful look, and it stops digging a moment to frown back. "After I'm done with the mission."

"After?"

"Yes, after. I know it's the most important thing. I know I can't get distracted, you don't have to tell me."

Absol stares off into the trees, lost in thought. "I suppose anything is possible."

"He deserves it," the child snarls. "Do you know what he was going to do? He was going to catch me, Absol. He was going to let the Rockets have me, and study me, and take me down into their laboratory, and..." It has to stop, swallowing hard. "And who would have helped Mew then?" the child asks, voice gone high and trembling. "Who would have helped me?"

Absol moves to stand next to it, the tips of her silky coat just brushing its shoulder. "It didn't happen," she says.

"No, but it almost did! And it was him, he made it happen. He's the only way they could have known. I hate him! I hate him and I'm going to kill him. I can't just... I can't just let him..."

The child puts its head down between its arms and draws itself into a tight ball against the wet and the chill of lengthening shadows, trying not to shiver.

It hates him. It thinks that, over and over, until it can forget it was ever afraid. There's no reason to fear. He's only human. He doesn't stand a chance against the child.

As its thoughts clear it realizes sitting like this is actually really comfortable. Its head it feels all wobbly and off-balance, and the child's afraid to lift it, since it feels like it's it's going to fall off and roll away with the slightest movement. But when it stays still, just rests its forehead on its arms, even the headache fades to a low pulsing.

In the end it's the insects that get the child moving again. They settle in the big smear of blood down the back of its neck, humming on tiny wings, and the child swears it can feel their little feet prickling on its flesh. It swats at them, then reaches up and prods the base of its skull. Its hair's gummy and matted with drying blood, and the spot where the marowak's bone struck is tender under the child's probing fingers. The wound's closed, though. It's nearly healed.

The child unfolds itself with deliberate slowness and reaches for the bag again. "The human took his pokédex with him," it says as it digs around in the pack, finding a much-folded piece of paper way down at the bottom. It brings the note out and smooths it flat.

It's a letter written on light blue stationery with little cartoon squirtle in the corners. The child scans the text. Hi Hon, Thought I'd pack a little surprise for the first day of your journey. There's stained-glass cookies in the bag, and I added some socks since you never pack enough...

The child tosses the note aside and tries to recall what it was talking about. Right. "He took the pokédex. I need to go back and get mine."

"Why?"

"I need it. I need it so I can be somebody."

"You are in no condition to travel that far," Absol says. "You need rest, and there is not much time left to get to the Plateau. If you teleport back to the house, you will tire yourself out so much that you will need extra time to recover. There is no reason to risk such a delay."

"But I need it!"

"You do not. I told you, you can go to the Plateau as someone imaginary. If you do not take part in the battles, you do not need to have an official identity. You can just play pretend."

Play pretend. The child used to do that with Absol, half a game and half a way to practice its abilities. Now I'm an astronaut. I'm a famous scientist from Mossdeep, and I'm going to go to the moon! Now I'm a pirate! Now I'm a lawyer from Celadon City! I'll make all the bad guys go to jail! Change and change and change again. Do it faster, be more accurate. Come up with different names, different features--be someone new. Now I'm a fighter pilot with the Unovan air force. Now I'm the princess of a tiny region no one's ever heard of. Now I'm, umm... now I'm Red, the champion of the Kanto region. And you can be Pikachu! Come on, use thunder!

"I don't want to play pretend," the child says. "Absol, I want to be somebody real. I want to be a real person."

"You already are a real person."

"No I'm not!" The child practically shouts the words, and Absol moves aside a step, her gaze reproachful. The child clutches the sides of its aching head as it goes on, regretting the yell. "I'm somebody who's supposed to be dead. I don't even have a name, Absol."

"You can have any name you want. All you have to do is pick one."

"No! It's not the same. You know it's not the same." The child bares its teeth and shivers, tears welling at the corners of its eyes, maybe from anger, or maybe... not. "Even that stupid Rocket is a person. It's not fair. Why should he get to be one when I'm not?"

Absol watches as the child buries its face in its arms again. After a while she starts licking its ear where it shows over the edge of its arm. The child pulls its head down farther so Absol can't reach, but she's persistent, moving over to attack its forehead instead. The child tries to shove her away, recoiling from the sandpapery feeling of her tongue. "Eww. Absol, stop."

"If you don't let me clean you up, you'll have to do it yourself," she observes, stepping back a pace. "You've had a hard day, and it is getting late. There will be time to worry about your identity later. For now, you will feel better if you eat and drink some more. Soon you will have to move, unless you want to be sitting on the ground without any clothes on when the night comes. It will get cold."

She's right, of course. Absol's always right. The child digs out some more cheese, but the effort of not crying has ratcheted its headache up tenfold and turned its stomach sour. It chews with a listless sense of duty, staring at the dirt.

"You know I would come for you." Absol has been pacing just out of reach, staring into the forest, but now she stops and looks at the child. "If you were captured by Team Rocket, I would come for you."

The child grimaces and swallows, feeling the lump move all the way down its throat. "How? You wouldn't know where I was as long as they kept me alive. That's the whole problem with finding Mew."

"I would find you eventually. I do not have to be told where something is to find it." She snorts and turns away. "Besides, I don't know how concerned they'd be with keeping you alive. How do you think I found you so quickly today? They shot you with too many of those darts. If you hadn't gotten away when you did, they would have hit you with more, and I doubt you would have been able to heal fast enough to survive."

The child pulls its knees in tighter under its chin and suppresses another shiver. "Oh." Mortal peril.

"Yes." Absol looks back at the child again. "This is why they are dangerous. You are not invincible."

"I know I'm not." The child's heart is racing again, its breath hitching in its throat. It didn't happen, the child reminds itself. It didn't happen, it won't happen, the child won't let it happen. Next time the child will win, and then it won't have to worry any more.

"Thank you, Absol," it says at last.

"Of course." She stalks past the child, close enough to brush against its arm. It notices dimly that it's still holding a piece of cheese, which seems completely unappetizing now. "The champion will arrive at the Plateau soon, but you have some time to rest. The day is nearly over."

Yes, the sun falls golden-slantwise between the trees, and crickets sing from deepening shade. For want of anything better to do the child spends a few minutes chewing away at its piece of cheese.

It's stupid, though, sitting here feeling bad. There's no reason to. The child gathers its strength and changes, changes so it doesn't feel anything at all. It stuffs the rest of the cheese into its mouth and goes back to rooting through the pack. The day is fading, and there's still work to be done. The least it can do is get some dry clothes on.

--​

Somehow this leads to having an argument about fashion with a giant rat.

"I like this sweater. It has a charmander on it." Your current attire comes from the hiking pack, and you designed your new body to fit it. The sweater's a bit threadbare, but it should hold up well enough for a couple of days.

"Boss, I'm saying, you like whatever you like and stuff, but aren't you kinda not supposed to be yourself right now? Like, maybe you think lumpy homemade sweaters are adorable, but what about what's-his-face, you know?"

"I like this sweater, so I say Keenan likes it too. I made him up, so I get to decide what he likes. That's how it works."

"So you decided he likes crazy tattoos and adorable charmander sweaters, huh?"

"Yes. Tattoos are cool. Besides, the sweater is the warmest thing I have." Even in summer, there's a bite to the Plateau's restless winds. They're gusting stronger than usual this evening, and you walk hunched over against their sting, a bag of take-out clutched against your chest.

"Hey, whatever, that's cool. I'm just saying you're a little better at the whole 'blending in' thing when you're pretending to be someone who's got fashion sense."

"I wanted to be a real person, but Absol wouldn't let me go back and get my pokédex. She says I don't need a real identity if I'm not going to be in the tournament." In a way you're grateful to her. Even after a couple days' rest and easy travel, you're only just starting to feel back to normal. Your head still hurts a bit if you move it too fast.

You'll never admit to Absol that she was right, of course. She already thinks too highly of her opinions.

"Oh, what? Tats McSweaterson isn't going to be making his glorious debut? That's a shame. I wanted to see the look on his face when he got disqualified for trying to pull some stupid trick."

It takes you a couple of seconds to puzzle out what she means. "Is this about what happened in the gym battle? Are you still mad about that?"

"Yes. Yes I'm still mad about that. What tipped you off?"

"You were talking about me getting kicked out of the tournament for cheating, so I figured you were thinking of the gym battle. Anyway, I said I was sorry, Rats. What more do you want me to do?"

"Look, whatever. I don't want to talk about it," Rats mutters. She kicks a pebble lying near the middle of the path and watches it bounce and skip off under a shelf of rock.

"You've been complaining about this ever since Viridian City. Either tell me what's wrong or stop bugging me about it."

"Ooh, sorry my feelings annoyed you, your highness."

"Why are you calling me that? I'm not a king." Keenan could be, though. Why not? He can be whoever you want.

Rats is giving you a flat look. "Okay, fine. I'll say I'm sorry again. I'm sorry. There. Now I've done everything I can do, twice, and if you're not going to tell me what you want, then--"

"I want you to think about someone other than yourself for two goddamn minutes!" Rats yells, bristling. "I want you to stop using this whole 'mission' thing as an excuse to be an ass all the time!"

"Think about someone other than me?" You stop and turn to her. "You think this is about what I want? It's not about me! It's about Mew! She's more important than anything else!"

"Oh, Mew, huh? Yeah, it's totally Mew who's making you go around threatening to off people at the drop of a hat! It's because of Mew you go and cheat in some stupid battle that doesn't even matter!"

"I'm doing what I have to. I know you don't like it. I don't like it, either. But I do it because it's what I have to do, and saving Mew is more important that what I want." How can she not understand this?

"Bullshit! You didn't have to do that! You don't have to do anything, especially not you with your--your--" she waves her paws in exasperated circles "--your crazy power thing. You can do whatever you want! There's always another way."

"Rats..."

"I'm not done! And the worst part about it is you act like it's all because of your goddamn mission. Which it's not. Admit it, you just wanted to do the gym challenge real badly, so you made out like oh, you totally had to, like it wasn't completely obvious you were just in it for yourself. You can't justify whatever the hell you want by saying it's part of your 'mission,' Boss."

"Rats! You're not listen--"

"It's so goddamn stupid. You don't want to do the right thing, you want to do the easy thing. It's easy to just steamroll everybody. Hell, it's even easy to kill someone because you don't like their face or whatever. Because working things out with people is hard, isn't it? Who has the patience to try and consider someone else--"

"You're going on about the great Nathaniel Morgan, is that it? You think I should have treated him differently?"

"Oh yeah, I really wanted to talk more about the raging hate-on you have for Third Rocket from the Left. I definitely haven't gotten enough of that to last a lifetime. No, actually, I--"

"He almost killed me. Did you know that?"

Rats breaks off and stares at you. "Huh? When did--?"

"Team Rocket didn't just beat us in a battle. They were after me. They wanted to catch me, so they shot me full of tranquilizer darts. Except they used too many." You bend down to put your face right in front of hers. "I almost died, Rats."

She shrinks back a bit, fidgeting with her paws. "Well gee, Boss, I had no idea--"

"So go on, tell me more about how I wasn't considerate enough. I only saved his life, after all, and spared him all those times he provoked me. But that wasn't enough, was it? I guess I should've just let the great Nathaniel Morgan do whatever he wanted, huh? Maybe I should have just laid down and let the Rockets catch me. After all, that would have made him happy, and his feelings are obviously so damn important."

"What? No! Come on, Boss, that's not--"

"So in the end he sold me out to Team Rocket. That is the thanks I get for not killing someone who deserved to die," you say. "That is what I get for not doing the easy thing." You straighten up, crushing the food hard against your chest in your anger. "You're mad because I'm not being nice. Well, 'nice' isn't going to save Mew. It's too bad if you don't like it, but that's just the way it is."

Rats looks at you for a long moment, then shakes her head, slowly, whiskers adroop. "You didn't used to be like this."

"What?" It takes you a moment to figure out what she's talking about. "You mean when I was human? You liked me better when I was human?" Rats glances up at you, then starts to look away. But she pauses mid-turn, then gives a slow, deliberate nod.

There's a moment of surprise, but no more than that, before your anger comes flooding back in. "So that's it, then? You liked me better when I was just some weak, frightened child? When I couldn't do anything, when I was too pathetic to save anyone?"

"At least you weren't a total dick," Rats mutters.

"I am what I have to be!" you snarl. "I'm better than when I was human. I'm strong enough to do what I have to do."

"It's not about strength, Boss. I guess it's kind of cool that you can like bench cars now and stuff, but I don't care one way or the other. I'd be fine with it if you were still you."

You clutch the bags tighter and stare at Rats, shaking with anger. You want to scream and hit something, but instead you say, "I told you your trainer was dead back at the beginning."

"Yeah."

"Then I don't see what you're complaining about. I'm a different person. I can't ever be like that human was."

"I guess not."

The silence stretches out between you until you catch a whiff of wood smoke on the breeze. You're not far from your campsite, and Titan must have started a fire. He'll be hungry. They'll all be hungry, and the food's getting cold. You can't go on just yet, though. There's still one thing you have to know.

"So you don't like me," you say. Rats twitches her whiskers at you, a raticate shrug. "Are you going to go back on your promise?"

Another twitch. "It's the same deal as always, Boss. You make dinner, you make the rules. I'm not going anywhere."

You glance down at the take-out in your arms, then back at Rats, eyes narrowing in suspicion. "I didn't make it. I bought it. But it still counts."

She lets out a small sigh. "Yeah, Boss, it counts."

"Good." You look down the path towards where the others are waiting. "I've said everything I wanted to say. We are already late. Now keep up."

"I'm just saying, Boss," Rats says as you turn away, "remember that you need us. Supposedly. Maybe you ought to start acting like it."

"What do you mean by that?"

"I mean you can be all, 'I am the hero, this is what I must do for the sake of my mission,' but if we haven't got your back, you're screwed. Maybe you ought to consider how we feel about things, you know? I mean, look at Titan. The guy would take a bullet for you, idiot that he is, but even he--"

"He won't have to. I'm not afraid of bullets."

"Missing the point, Boss."

"Well, I don't like your point. It sounds like a threat to me. I don't like threats." It's getting colder as the sun sets, and you hunch your shoulders against the wind. You mean to turn around and start walking, but you find yourself saying something else instead. It's not what you intend to say, it's not even what you're thinking, but it's what comes out of your mouth, somehow. "You're supposed to be my friend."

She doesn't meet your eyes. "You're supposed to be mine."

"I'm done listening to you," you say, and now you really do leave. You don't look back to see if Rats is following.

"I just want you to remember, Boss," she says from behind you. "We're just trying to help you."

You grit your teeth. Not helpful! No one could call this 'helping.' You walk faster, hurrying through growing shadows, walk until the warm circle of firelight takes you in. You manage a face-tightening smile at the enthusiasm that greets the arrival of food. The team digs in, all save one. You think you're the only one who notices that, for the first time in her life, Rats is late for dinner.

--​

"Are you ready to go?"

The child starts as Absol steps out of the shadows, casual as ever. It has to strain its ears to hear the whisper of her footsteps over the rocky ground.

"Yes. Just a minute." The child hurries to bank the fire, then glances around, hoping to find something else to do. But there's nothing it needs to bring, and its friends slumber in an untidy pile, enjoying a night of relaxation while their trainer goes off to confront one of the most powerful pokémon in existence. Not that there's any reason to worry, of course. Mewtwo wants the same things it does, after all. He'll have no quarrel with the child.

Absol ghosts to the child's side and says, "We don't have much time." The child nods and takes a deep breath, then steps forward before it can think of doing otherwise, summoning darkness to push back against the corrosive shadows. It lays a hand on Absol's head, and together they set out.

It's a short plunge, like ducking through the freezing curtain of a waterfall. There's the briefest glimpse of the dark world's weird, shifting landscape, and then light appears ahead of them. The child rushes forward, stumbling back into the living world's warmth. Absol follows with none of its eagerness.

It's dark here too, but just regular dark, velvety and barred by faint moonlight. The child trips over a dusty old footstool and knocks a carved ursaring off a low shelf, then stands quaking at the arm of a moldy-smelling sofa, eyes wide in the gloom, trying to calm itself. There's no reason to be scared. It's just jumpy, that's all. Jumpy whenever it thinks about why it's really here...

Mewtwo's nowhere in sight. The place is all quiet-dark, its big stone fireplace cold and still. This isn't quite the mansion the child was imagining for the Champion's accommodations. It looks around, trying to find some indication of the Champion's presence among all the lived-in, battered old clutter, but there's nothing, no personal touch at all.

"There." Absol tilts her head, scythe pointing towards a coffee table. There's a pack of playing cards in one corner and a scatter of books across its surface, and in the center a metal stand squats like a tiny alien landing craft, its mushroom top clutching a single pokéball. A master ball.

"I'm going to keep watch," Absol says. "I'll return if we must leave. You know what you need to do. It would be best not to delay."

The child nods, but it's rooted to the spot, too awestruck to approach the plinth. Absol steps back into darkness and is gone, leaving the child alone with its racing heart. It waits a moment longer, gathering its courage, and then one, two careful steps and it stands beside the table, looking down. The legendary master ball sits next to a water-browned copy of Johto Journeys and a couple well-thumbed fishing magazines.

The child smiles to itself and takes the master ball from its holder, then nearly drops it as buzzing springs up inside its skull, a low hum of psychic pressure setting the air asimmer. The child puts the master ball back in its stand, and the feeling vanishes. Picks it up again, and the buzzing pops back, making the child's teeth vibrate. It stares at the ball in its hand. It's never heard of a psychic strong enough to project its power while in a pokéball, never mind a master ball, which has the strongest containment field of all.

So this is why the Champion left Mewtwo here alone. He usually goes everywhere with his pokémon, but anyone with the faintest psychic sensitivity would feel the brush of Mewtwo's mind against their own as the Champion passed them by. The clone's power is a constant nagging itch, like a bug bite in a spot impossible to reach. It's not really the sort of thing you want to take out in public. It's not really the sort of thing you want to experience yourself.

The child rolls the ball into a two-handed grip, fingers tented loosely, then blows out its cheeks in a long sigh. Best to just get this over with. "Go," it says, tipping the master ball onto the carpet.

Its first impression, as Mewtwo stretches up out of pure energy, is of how big he's gotten. The child almost has to lean back to look up at him, stepping away without even realizing it. Is this as tall as he'll get, or is he still growing? It's completely unfair that he keeps getting bigger while the child is stuck the same way forever.

The psychic pressure that only nagged when the clone was in his ball is suffocating now, tightening the muscles in the child's neck and setting its eyes to watering. Mewtwo isn't doing it on purpose, not as far as the child can tell. He stands where he was released, looking slowly around the room. His face is expressionless; if he's surprised to find the Champion absent, someone new in charge of his master ball, not a ripple of it disturbs his mental projections.

"Mewtwo, umm..." His purple eyes lock on the child, and it stutters to a halt, beating back old memories and embarrassment alike, acutely aware that the clone is party to every bit of its nervousness.

When seconds pass and it fails to find its voice, Mewtwo finally speaks. Well?

"Umm, Mewtwo, I'm here because, I'm here because, umm... Do you remember me?"

The clone's gaze goes back to wandering the room. The child wonders, abruptly, if he's ever seen the place before. Mewtwo's tail gives a slow side-to-side lash. And why should I remember you?

"Umm, no, that was wrong. I guess you wouldn't. But, umm, I was there when, you know, at the lab when you were..." It rehearsed this conversation so carefully, went over it so many times. But it forgot what it's like to be in the clone's presence, how the sheer force of his mind makes it difficult to think.

Mewtwo glances back at the child, and it coughs to stifle a giggle as a tremor of mirth passes through the psychic field. Go on.

"Well, it's not important. What I meant to say was, what I meant to say was, is, you know Mew...? You know what happened to her...?"

If you have something to say, you had better hurry up and say it. I don't think you have much time, little thief.

"Right. What I'm trying to say is, I'm trying to find out what happened to Mew, and I wanted to ask you for your--"

Yes.

The child stammers as it tries to crawl out of the wreckage of its train of thought. "What? You mean yes--?"

Yes, I will go with you and help you find my mother.

"Just like that? You're not going to even ask me if--?"

What do you think you could tell me that I don't already know? There is a distinct strain of impatience running through the clone's mind now. The child opens its mouth to answer and, Yes. I see. Well, that was easy, wasn't it?

Feeling sheepish, the child changes what it was about to say, tripping over its words. "Oh, umm, good? Good, yes. Thank you." It takes a moment just to breathe, then stammers out a question. "I was just wondering about the master ball, if I take it, is there--?"

Yes. Open it. The child stops mid-word, mouth half open, then hits the button on the master ball. It jumps back in surprise as Mewtwo bends down to look inside.

Don't look at me, look at the ball. I need your eyes. The child swallows a painful lump in its throat and stares into the inner workings. It can see well in the dark, of course, but even with the best night vision the master ball's insides are a confusing tangle of wire and circuitry, and without any color to speak of...

The child yelps in surprise as lights come on all around the room, one lamp toppling with a crash as something invisible bumps it. The child catches a faint flicker of irritation from Mewtwo, but the clone doesn't acknowledge the child's surprise, doesn't even look at it. Instead he reaches into the master ball with one finger. Here. Here. Here. Remove those chips. Do not disturb anything else.

"Remove? But why don't I just--?" Its fingers tighten on the ball, and it starts to pull it away from the clone.

Don't! The child jumps, heart hammering. This is not an ordinary master ball. If you destroy it, you destroy me as well. The humans have seen to that. Remove only the pieces I told you about to disable the tracking.

The child's hands shake as it tucks its fingers into the ball's inside curve. Already it feels like it's forgotten the things Mewtwo pointed at. "Maybe I ought to... Maybe I ought to..."

Whatever you decide, decide it quickly.

"Quit rushing me! The Champion isn't supposed to be back for an hour at least. We don't have to hurry so much."

The clone's purple eyes regard it calmly. What reason do you have to delay?

"I just need to think, okay? I'm trying to figure out what to do."

The child quails before a tidal surge of anger. It remembers this, maybe this better than anything--someone else's emotions etched into its neurons.

But though the clone feels angry, no expression crosses his face. There's not the faintest tension in him. He doesn't need body language when he's spraying his mood into the heads of every thinking thing around. One of the disadvantages of being psychic--the only way for him to hide his feelings from someone is to contract his psychic field until it excludes them. But do that, and he can no longer read from nor speak to that person.

I have told you what must be done, Mewtwo says, the words neutral in tone but floating on a dark wave of malice. There is no need for you to think any further than that.

The child looks down at the master ball again, blocking out the sight of Mewtwo's impassive face but does nothing to shield it from the clone's anger. It tries to be fascinated by the inner workings of the device, which are just the faintest shade off those in an ordinary pokéball. There's a strange webbing here, too, a cage of metal strips that sits over the interior of the ball. The little black boxes Mewtwo indicated are half-hidden under the rims of mirrors, tucked away in nests of wires.

The child grows claws out of the fingers on its right hand, long and very thin, and runs them around the edge of the ball. The protective liner comes away all in one piece, and the child sets it aside on the floor.

Now the tricky part. The child tilts the ball so it can edge its claws in under a mirror, pressing down on the wires with one finger so it can slide the others past without getting them tangled. It seizes the chip between two needle-thin claws and levers it up. Then the child turns the ball upside-down and shakes, the chip skipping soundlessly across the floor.

The child wipes sweat off its brow and frowns down into the master ball, rotating it until the next chip is near the top. It reaches in again, moving delicately, trying to keep its hand steady. But one claw catches on a wire, slips, just nicks the weird cage overlaying the inner workings.

The child's hand jerks as a stab of pain hits it square between the eyes. The involuntary movement makes its claws scrape up against the cage again, and another burst of agony shoots down the length of its spine. The master ball falls from the child's hands as it clutches at its stomach, groaning.

I told you to be careful! Mewtwo roars, and there's as much fear in his mind as there is anger. The child swallows down bile and looks up, and then it realizes that the pain must have come from the clone. Mewtwo's backed up against a couch, teeth bared and muscles tensed all down his wiry frame.

The child looks down at the master ball and thinks it doesn't want to pick it up again. "W-what--?"

The ball is designed with insurance against tampering. Damage it, and I will suffer; destroy it, and I will almost surely die--and you as well, if you're in range of my mind.

The child pokes the master ball with a claw, tilting it enough to see inside. The net of wire is webbed with glowing red veins like inflamed nerves only just now fading to invisibility. The second chip falls out as the ball rocks--the child's accidental twitch must have popped it free. The child stares at the little black box lying on the carpet and knows it doesn't want to try going for the third.

Unless all of the chips are removed, the entire League will know exactly where that master ball is. And I cannot leave it behind. The pain will come if I venture too far from it. If I am to go with you--if I am to go anywhere at all without my master's express approval--then you must remove all three.

"So you do it then!" The child swallows hard, forcing back tears and still shaking from the unexpected burst of pain. "If you're just going to stand there and yell at me, why don't you do it?"

Idiot. And how am I supposed to do it? I can't manipulate something that small with my mind. I'm not happy to put my life in the hands of a monkey like you, but this is the sort of thing that makes those clever little hands of yours useful. So use them.

The child peers into the master ball and swallows again, wanting to say--no, no point, Mewtwo knows what it's thinking anyway. It's no good sitting here, a ball of nerves and doubts. It's silly to let its emotions get the better of it. After all, this is really just a simple job.

The child closes its eyes and changes. Surprise radiates throughout Mewtwo's mind, but the child ignores it, bringing the master ball closer to its face and sliding claws inside.

That's very interesting. How do you manage it?

"You told me to get this done quickly. Don't distract me." The clone can't hide his rippling curiosity as the child goes to work. With a few quick movements the job is done. The child flicks the final chip away, then snaps the master ball shut.

How did you do that?

"I just did what you told me."

No, I mean how did you change your thoughts? Their composition is completely different now than it was a couple of minutes ago.

"I can change. You know, shapeshift. The brain is an organ like any other. It's as easy to change as my skin. And if I change my brain's structure, I change how I think." The child gets to its feet. "Now we'll go to my camp. We can talk more once we're there."

Fascinating. Mewtwo looks the child over with purple-glowing eyes. So you alter how you perceive the world.

"That's what I said." The child shakes its head. The air feels thicker somehow. It child starts to raise its arm, reaching out for Mewtwo, but the gesture jerks to a halt halfway through. "Come... come here. I need to teleport..." Its tongue is swollen and clumsy.

Mewtwo does come forward, bent low to look the child in the eye. You are more interesting than I expected. He puts his hand on the child's face, fingers splayed. The child had expected his touch to be cold and clammy, the pale purplish cast of his skin reminding it of corpses, but instead his hand is warm and smothering. Underneath it all, the child supposes Mewtwo is but a cousin to mammals.

The calluses on the clone's palm are rough against the bridge of the child's nose and it wonders, in a vague, distracted way, why someone who can lift buildings with his mind would ever bother to use his hands.

The child tries to teleport now that they're touching, but somehow it can't muster the energy. It tries to say something but forgets how halfway through, lets out a sigh of air instead. Mewtwo's hand presses down, and the weight on the child's mind grows heavier.

You're certainly different than I recall. Because of course I remember you, little thief--one who would have stolen Mother.

It takes the child a second to work out the implication, fighting against the fog of interference blanketing its brain. It's a second it might not have needed if it had left its thoughts alone. Perhaps with the aid of its intuition it would have realized earlier; perhaps fear would have raised the alarm. As it is the child grasps for dark energy too late, much too weak to fight against the power of Mewtwo's mind. The clone's hand forces downwards as the child struggles, twitching in useless little movements. His eyes glow brilliant as he presses the child down, down, to the floor and into the dark of unconsciousness.
 
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Negrek

Lost but Seeking
starliteevee

I was going to put this in a spoiler above Chapter 16, buuuut then that made the post too long, so I guess I'll just do a quick double-post, here...

Forgive me if I'm wrong (I won't be surprised if I am), but should there be an "of" after "out"? Or have "without" instead of "out"? I read this over a couple of times, and the wording just seemed odd to me.
Dropping the "of" is a colloquial version of the phrase, so it may sound a bit off to you if you're not accustomed to hearing people speak that way, but it's not wrong.

When I read this, "it" seemed to be the raticate at first, though I expect it corresponds to the aforementioned "it". I would normally suggest rectifying this, but since it's hard to do while maintaining the animosity of the "it" and I'm sure that what I would say hasn't been said already, I guess the best is to just leave it as is.
Yeah, having a main character referred to by "it" makes things difficult at times. I think I'll probably just drop "The child" in for the "It" at the start of the sentence; that ought to fix the confusion.

And now that I see that the "it" mentioned in the first part of the chapter is the same as Garret, I can't help but wonder why you switched between POV. It's interesting to look at it from different perspectives, certainly, but (sorry, I'm just curious) is there another reason?
By now you've probably figured it out, but the POV shifts indicate when the protagonist is in its default form ("the child") versus when it's taking on someone else's identity ("you"). Whenever it's "being" someone else it's telling itself the story of what that person does, hence the change to second person.

I don't know, maybe the main character has reaasonable motives for treating his Pokémon such and whatever he's trying to get them to do is something that needs to be done, but at the moment, he comes across as a jerk who doesn't quite get humanity.
Mmmm, "a jerk who doesn't quite get humanity" sums it up pretty well, I think.

So, I take it that this is following the GSC cannon? If I remember correctly, that was where the volcano had erupted, yes?
Yup, this is about four years post-GSC.

I thought that was odd; in the entirety of the section, that's the only time when you switch from 3rd-person to 2nd-person. Any particular reason for that?
Because it's a typo aaaaaaaa

"Inappropriately tightly" seems an odd word choice; is it correct to have two adverbs right next to each other? I'm not trying to correct you, I'm just honestly curious.
Like adjectives, you can stack adverbs as deep as you want. Might not be best practice, though. :p

And it just affirms my guess earlier that this character really isn't genre savvy--or at least, not when the emotions of a father to his long-lost son are concerned.
Heh, they're a bit wrong-genre-savvy if anything. Definitely doesn't understand people, though.

Is the newspaper the "Saffron Times," or "Times" for Saffron City? If it's the former, only the word "Times" is italicized.
I guess I decided on Saffron Times, as kind of a fake mirror of the New York Times.

.... or not. Oh well, it was a nice scene to end on (for the audience, anyway; certainly not for poor Leonard). It's too bad that the poor man was thrust aside and had his hopes of his son being alive crushed :( I know I should be rooting for the protagonist, but... I find that I'm not. It's not that Leonard is necessarily charismatic, just that I can connect with him and his sorrow.
Works for me. I think you get the point by now that you shouldn't necessarily be rooting for the protagonist.

I noticed you have two spaces between these paragraphs instead of just one, but there isn't any time skips or changes in POV. Any reason as to why?
Must not've deleted one. :p

Is this proper word choice? It feels awkward when I read it; "typhlosion's" is supposed to be "typhlosion is," but I felt like "typhlosion has" would have been better, but you are using present tense, so...? I'm not trying to correct you or say you made a mistake, I just honestly don't know and am wondering about it.
Usually an apostrophe before an s is short for "[something] is," but it can also be either "[something] has" or "[something] was" depending on the context. Here you're correct in surmising that it means "typhlosion has" rather than "typhlosion is."

But also.... boneless? D:
Heh. Figuratively, not literally.

This sentence felt run-on; is there supposed to be a comma after "wreckage"?
There is!

"Obvouis" or "obvious"?
"Obvious," ouch.

Does this mean we're about to find out why the fic has the title it does?! :D
Heh, not for a while yet.

Though I typically don't like cursing, I do say that it makes this more realistic, especially as they're dealing with teenagers here and teens are so fond of putting the f-word in every few sentences.
Well, Nate swears a lot more than is normal for most people, teenage or otherwise, although apparently there are a few people who speak more or less the way he does.

I appreciate this bravery. Though, Idon't really know the great Nathaniel Morgan, so I'm not sure if it's bravery or stupidity, but all the same I appreciate someone who won't cower before a six-foot tall man-eating bear.
It's a little bit deathwish and a lot bit bravado, I'd say.

Is the second "was" needed?
Haha, no.

Well, you've probably used the f-word in some form more in this story than in any other on Serebii; in chapters 9, 10, 11 and 12, you use it 285 times. Impressive!
Ah, so you've caught on to my secret ambition to have the most curse-laden thread on the forums...

Geeze, both of these guys are a-holes.
YUP. XD

Odd how when he's being torn apart, he isn't scared or bothered in the least, but when his arm heals back in the wrong position, he starts to panic. Is he really not afraid of death as much as he is living life in constant pain, or looking odd with his arm bent the wrong way?
He's definitely less afraid of death than of living in pain. However, in this case, it's more the body horror element than anything that's making him freak out. It's one thing to see some huge gash on your arm or something--it's not pleasant, and it might make you a bit queasy, but it's not really weird, per se. On the other hand, seeing bone sticking out through your skin or one of your limbs twisted around in a way that it really should not be has an additional sense of wrongness that, for me at least, is extra-creepy/unsettling.

Is that the main character speaking the second time? If so, should a new paragraph be made for that?
Yeah, I just missed it there.

I don't have as much to say on this, except that the story overall is starting to make more sense. At first, I was just really confused, but I expected that and just went with it. And then I stayed confused for several chapters, but I think I'm kindof maybe a little starting to string everything together. I'm sorry, I know this story shouldn't be hard to understand, but .... I don't know, I wouldn't choose to be confused, and it's certainly not your fault in the slightest, I just have a hard time making sense of things that should be simple. But I like what's going on; if only the great Nathaniel Morgan could learn to stop whining and bemoaning the guy who saved his life :p
Nah, the beginning is definitely confusing. To an extent it should be, because it's a strange situation and a strange protagonist whom we're following for this story, but I probably overdid it in the early chapters. I'm glad that you like where the story goes eventually, though.

I'll take a moment to say that the characterization is wonderful: sassy Rats, agreeable Titan, quiet Duskull, mild Thunderstorm, lighthearted War, energetic Togetic, and the whining great Nathaniel Morgan. I had a harder time getting through earlier chapters since it was mostly the protagonist and Absol, who are so strait-laced and formal. It's nice to have a team of well-rounded characters that make for an engaging story overall. I know I'm not one to critique or comment on characterizing characters (as I've written and had experience with so little), but I appreciate all you've written and give you props :)
Thanks, glad you like it!

Awwww Titan is so sweet for a charizard ^_^
"For a charizard?" XD I think he's pretty sweet in general.

I liked the confrontation between the great Nathaniel Morgan and the protagonist; I honestly thought the great Nathaniel Morgan's strategy was a lot more well thought-out and amusing to watch than the main character's. Even at the end, when eh refuses to let him have is reward for "cheating "(even though I think it would be perfectly fair, personally), I can only imagine the delight the great Nathaniel Morgan has for proving the protagonist wrong.
Heh, I don't know that the protagonist had any kind of strategy at all, honestly. You're right, though, Nate has all of the glee over that one. He's going to savor it for quite some time.

And he ought to know he can't trust the great Nathaniel Morgan to ever be quiet, deal or no deal.
The guy really just doesn't shut up.

Is "thousand" supposed to be there twice?
Yup. One thousand thousands, or a million.

Well, that's a nice little mix of disturbing and WTF.
Hmm, what was WTF about it?

Would it make me a bad person to say that I agree with him on the main character being "one cold little basterd"?
Nah. It's a fairly accurate statement.

At least you proved that the great Nathaniel Morgan has a heart, with him apologizing for the death of her parents.
Aww, I love that you caught that.

I guess that's another win for the great Nathaniel Morgan, then. He really needs to know by now that he shouldn't make bets with him :p
Well, Nate bet that the protagonist would actually have lost by this point, so this is probably a win for the main character in that sense.

This sentence feels out of place; while I know that Blue was just fluffing up his hair, so the main character would be thinking about it, it's odd that she would put that much thought into it during an intense battle. I know that it's not human, so its thought trains are different than ours, but it just still felt like an odd sentence to have right there.
Yeah, that's fair. I'll admit that it's a bit of a cheat, but I couldn't really resist.

Even though this character's the protagonist, it's hard to root for it when it does things like this. It gets upset at the great Nathaniel Morgan for lying (even though it was sarcasm it just didn't understand), insists that everything the great Nathaniel Morgan does is wrong simply because he is a former Rocket, yet it feels that attacking his opponent's mind (which, by its own rules, should be cheating since it isn't using any moves in a Pokémon battle) is okay. I can tell it's intentional, and you've done a good job of it, but you've certainly set up one morally ambiguous protagonist.
Yes, there are certainly some double standards in play. As long as you recognize that the protagonist is not necessarily a good person, I'm satisfied; moral ambiguity (or perhaps even unambiguously "this character is not in the right") is definitely what I'm going for.

Should this be "was" instead of "were," since "everyone" is like "every one" and is single, right? Or am I wrong?
This sentence is talking about a scenario that could be but isn't (the team could be easy to please, but is not), which means this sentence is in the subjunctive tense and "were" is correct. If you're familiar with the song title "If I Were a Rich Man" from Fiddler on the Roof, it's the same deal there.

The routine between the great Nathaniel Morgan and the main character fighting about him being too slow/the protagonist being a jerk still hasn't gotten old XD And it still makes me sympathetic with the great Nathaniel Morgan.
Heh, good... we'll be getting a lot of that over the course of the story, so hopefully it'll stay fresh for quite a while yet.

The poor guy will just never catch a break, will he?
NOPE. XD

This is probably one of my more favorite chapters (does that even make sense? lol Idk), between the fight with Blue and the bickering with the great Nathaniel Morgan.
Glad you liked it!

Betrayal? Sure, you took the great Nathaniel Morgan to be on your side and kept him by you 24/7, but you can't ever say that you were nice to him or ever possibly expected him to willingly stay with you when he has a way out.
But they totally had a deal! You don't just go breaking a deal!

Even after everythign that's happened I still don't hate the great Nathaniel Morgan; I have a feeling that he didn't summon those Rockets (how could he have?) and he just wanted a way out after suffering days of abuse under the child. Even with all of the horrible things Team Rocket has done, it may not have been those members specifically who had stuff to do with the Mewtwo project. I don't know; I like the great Nathaniel Morgan, and think that, overall, he may be my favorite element in this entire story.
I have to admit that he's my favorite too, so I'm glad you like him. Whether or not he'll ever actually do something "good" in the traditional sense, we'll just have to wait and see, but I do hope at least he isn't altogether hateable.

I admit, up until chapter 9, I was tired of it since there was only the main character and its interactions with the Pokémon and I just didn't find those so engaging or interesting.
Haha, ouch. It's true, though, that the earlier chapters tend to turn a lot of people off. I'm working on a revision that I hope will structure the early part of the story a bit better.

I know that this doesn't amount to the same quality as that one, but I've done everything I can and hope that it's enough. Maybe, when I one day become a better reviewer, I can come back and give them a REAL review! :D And maybe not. I'm just rambling right now. Wonderful story, fleshed-out and consistent characters, and an interesting concept. Best of luck to you in the future :)
Looks like a perfectly fine review to me. I'm not sure what else you think a review ought to be, really; you mentioned the things you liked and didn't, as well as a few errors here and there, and I could hardly ask for anything more. Anyway, I really enjoyed getting it, so thank you for taking all the time to type up your thoughts!
 

Creepychu

The horror
Hmm, interesting; would it work better if the "torn open" part was left out and/or it wasn't specifically being attributed to the nurse? I'll see what I can do with "hot and cold" as well.
Hmmm, I think it's the compound effect that's doing it to me. I understand the concept of tearing someone's torso open and I understand the concept of drenching someone's insides with something ice cold, but doing the former just so you can get to do the latter just seems weird. Not only do you usually tear things open to get something out rather than put something in, but I can't help picturing all that water leaking right back out again because of the big old hole in the child's chest.

That being said, I think it would make more sense if the hole in this image wasn't attributed to the nurse's doing. That way, the cold water part could come off as the nurse trying to help but actually just making things worse, which would align with what's actually happening here.

Not supposed to be suspicious; just a bit of carelessness on my part. As far as identification goes, I figure that since the Pokémon World is obviously way, way more advanced than we are in terms of molecular biology (see: Mewtwo) that sequencing someone would be a trivial affair and could probably be done quickly and on-site, without needing to send samples to a lab, thus it would be easy to get a pretty surefire idea of who the corpse was very quickly. Actually finding it, though, I can see being more of a problem. I was figuring that a fair number of trainers visit the Seafoam Islands in any given week, but indeed if the body was way down at the bottom where it'd be hard to get to, you wouldn't expect someone to just stumble across it in that time. No big deal how much time passes before they find the guy, really, so I don't have a problem dilating it a bit--perhaps to a month?
Well, the snag here is that even assuming hyper-advanced sequencing technology, you can never guarantee an absolute definitive match because no given DNA profile is necessarily unique to one individual. Because the range of viable variation for human DNA is smaller than the amount of people around, some people are going to have identical DNA profiles just because there aren't enough variations to go around while others are going to wind up identical just as a matter of statistical chance. This is a big reason for why DNA evidence alone usually isn't sufficient to convict someone in a court of law (at least not if they have a skilled lawyer). There's also the chance that the sample was damaged or contaminated, or that there's some kind of clerical error with their database. Given that this is a field test, it seems likely that if they got a match to somebody who is confirmed alive, they'd blame one of those possibilities and send the body to a properly sterilized lab for retests or at least try to reach the trainer or next of kin rather than run the risk of pronouncing a living child deceased based on premature assumptions.

But yeah, with the kind of high tech you're describing, a month of time or so should do it. It might also be a good idea to give the reader a bit more of an advance warning that this kind of technology exists. It's a large stretch to just assume this kind of technology into existence as a reader, even with the high-tech, and the child's passing hint of it really doesn't do it justice because the child bases its idea of police work on crime dramas, which are basically synonymous with horridly butchered science.

There are some people out there who seem to really like the child, but no one who's spoken up here, for whatever reason. Definitely a case of "acknowledge they're kind of an awful person but like them anyway," though.
Kind of awful but like them anyway seems about right, yeah. For me, I guess it comes down to the fact that, yes, it's doing bad things and will likely cause something really bad if it actually succeeds with its mission, but at the same time, the terrible things it does it seems to be doing out of ignorance and immaturity rather than premeditated malice. It's enough to make me want it to fail enough to mature from the experience, but not so much that I'd actually want things to end up really badly for it. Which, I realize, is pretty much setting myself up for the tragic ending it seems intent to work itself towards. I'll likely go into this more a bit further down the line, though, given the content of the upcoming chapters.

Anyway, thanks again for reviewing and especially for giving the broad impressions you had of the early chapters; they're very helpful. I'm still kind of floored that you'd actually go through and read this thing multiple times, but it's really cool to see all the things you pick up on. Hopefully you'll enjoy the later chapters as well.
Oh, it's been great fun. I really enjoy stories where I can look back at past chapters and go 'oh, so that's what that thing meant' and this one has definitely had a lot of those moments. Things have gotten really intense with the past few though, so I'm going to try to speed things up just a little.

Chapter 8

The golbat doesn't stop grumbling, but she takes off into the trees, and the humans are forced into a lope to keep her in sight.
Correct me if I'm wrong on my obscure vocabulary, but I thought a lope was still a pretty leisurely pace (just walking with longer strides, basically). Given the impression of speed you give in the next paragraph, wouldn't the child go bounding far past the, still pretty leisurely, rockets leaping around at full Grovyle speed like that? Or do the rockets just have that much of a head start on it?

"Wha--" he starts, then thinks better of it, takes a deep breath, and tries to draw himself up straighter. The other humans step forward, all eagerness now. "Just what in the fuck do you think you're doing, Jenna? This your idea of a joke, setting a whole fucking truckload of mankey on me while I'm fucking working?"
And the great Nathaniel Morgan makes his grand entrance. I love how his first impression is just blurting out a bunch of expletives at someone, it sets the tone for his character really nicely. The really over-the-top way he treats curse words is interesting too. I'm not sure if it's the impression you meant to give, but it kinda makes him comes off as a teenager trying way too hard to be a tough guy, probably someone who'd get cold feet if they were ever put in a position where they'd have to seriously hurt someone, which might explain the botched jobs accusation. Not necessarily a great person either, mind you, but not really what I'd picture as Rocket material either.

He makes as if to start forward again, the mightyena stalking ahead, but they both stop when Jenna unclips a pokéball from her belt and tosses it to herself. "So terribly sorry to detain you, your lordship," she says, with a bobbing parody of a curtsy, "but we're here on orders from someone even higher and mightier than yourself, if you can imagine that. See," and the mocking tone drains from her voice, leaving it all steel and malice, "Aiden isn't very pleased with the quality of your 'work.' In fact, he's thinking it has something to do with how the police have been doing a mighty good job of busting our suppliers lately and how half the jobs you work on go all pear-shaped. Because if there's one thing Aiden can't stand--what any of us can't stand, Nate--it's traitors."
This parts reads really strangely when I try to read it in context of the main clause. Since you're leading into this with 'if there's one thing (that) Aiden can't stand', shouldn't that be 'that any of us can't stand' rather than 'what'?

It also seems a bit strange that Nathaniel would stop here to let her finish her little speech like that. It's pretty obvious from the setup that they're not intending on letting him just walk away from this, so wouldn't the better bet be trying to get in position to make a break for it before any pokémon hit the field?

The group is heading back in your direction at a casual saunter, laughing and talking amongst themselves. They stop and look up as a shadow passes across the sun, a meteor hurtling low over the forest. It rockets into the trees on the far side of the clearing with a rending crack and an impact that knocks two of the humans off their feet and showers the rest in leaves, twigs, and a surprised squirrel.
Somehow, I managed to glance over this little detail on my first read through, but when I did see this it really cracked me up. Poor squirrel.

"I can't see anything up there," says another girl, and you petulantly send the next thunder attack her way, just for that.
Childish side showing again. The child really is a poor sport when things don't go its way.

"He is not dead. He will be, soon. And he should not be." Absol has seated herself next to you, but as you watch she gets up off her haunches, turns a tight, agitated circle, then sits down again. "It's not right." Up, circle, sit.
I really like the way you've described Absol's agitation here. I've seen this behavior in upset animals before and you caught it perfectly. The fact she's still a bit formal even when upset just makes it that much more disconcerting.

"Absol, I don't have the time to get anybody else. It took me over two weeks to find this one, and that was only because Duskull got lucky." That had been a surprise. Wasn't training was supposed to be a dangerous profession? Trainers on TV face peril every day, and there's never any shortage of murders to fuel your favorite crime dramas. You'd expected there to be plenty of lives for the taking if you were willing to do a little leg work--honestly, you'd been surprised you hadn't encountered any murders in what time you'd spent around humans already.
Redundant 'was' there, it kind of looks like you were trying to decide between 'Training was supposed to be' and 'Wasn't training supposed to be' and ended up leaving a bit of both in.

You thought it unfair that she wouldn't help you, especially when it was her own fault that you were scrounging for another body in the first place. It was her ridiculous rule that you leave the corpses of all your doomed souls where you'd found them. It was a heinous inconvenience and a waste of perfectly good food besides.
I love how the child keeps getting these horrible thoughts whenever it's in a nonhuman form. From a predator's mindset, this does make a whole lot of sense.

Absol tips her head to the side and stares at you, and you realize in a flash of exasperated relief that she's genuinely puzzled by your reaction. Then she leans forward and gives you a quick nudge on the shoulder with her nose. "Well. I did not mean to frighten you. I'm sorry, but it really is nothing. Nothing you need to worry about."
Or in other words, it was something. Also, seeing this in the light of having read chapter 13, I find myself wondering if this is somehow related to what happened back then. Since the severity of her reaction is supposedly tied to how closely entwined her destiny is with the dying person's and this reaction was major, that would seem to make sense, though I can't really say what that connection would be as is.

Overall, this definitely feels like a foreshadow-heavy chapter. Considering he's down for the count for the vast majority of the chapter, you've done a good job with hitting the main points of Nathaniel's characterization here. His foul mouth, his bravado in the face of situations that obviously aren't going to go his way, and the way people around him tend towards physically abusing him all going strong. There's also a number of hints towards potential future developments, like the way the other Rockets suspect him of being a traitor or the way Absol loses her composure over his impending death, which goes a long way to establish him as a character of interest and future plot significance and makes you want to find out more about him. Just from the way the child is describing him, it's also clear the two aren't going to see eye to eye.

There's also a more ominous side with the interaction between Absol and the child. The way she's talking, it kind of sounds like she can tell something bad is waiting for the child down the line but at the same time feels she can't (or I suppose shouldn't) do anything to stop it. She's obviously trying to coax the child into changing its behavior on its own initiative instead, but the miscommunication between them means that's probably not going to happen either.

Dunno, I may be reading too far into it, but this chapter gave me a really ominous feeling about things to come.

Chapter 9

The sky is lightening, the stars disappearing into its warm gray, and the birds are trying to sing the sun up. For a few groggy seconds you think they're the ones that woke you. You're about to shut them up with a little song of your own when Duskull drops down in front of your face, eye pulsing slowly on and off. "Oh," you say, the smile sliding off your face.
You know, reading that, I can't help wondering whether the child was thinking of Sing or Perish Song on that one. Either way, love the opening.

"Whoah, whoah, whoah," he says. "Hold up. Badges? The fucking league finals?" His face twists into a hideous smirk, shattered teeth glinting bloody in the growing light. "What the fuck is this? Splice-boy wants to be a motherfucking pokémon master?"
I love how Nathaniel has a way of really illustrating how unrealistic the child's plans get.

"Oh, come the fuck on," he says, smirk growing wider. "You're obviously some kind of ugly mutant thing. I mean, whatever lab you escaped from"--his smile falters for a second, and his eyes widen. You wait in confusion as he groans, "Oh, fuck, that's it, isn't it? You're some escaped freak they were cooking up down in the labs, huh? And now you're free, you're going to get your revenge on Team Rocket or some shit, like liberate your mutie brothers and sisters and start a revolution, am I right? Well, forget about it, I got nothing to do with that shit..."

"I am not an experiment."

"...don't even like scientists, those nerds give me the fucking creeps, let me tell you. I mean, yeah, sure, I know some guys who were in on the whole Mewtwo thing, but who the fuck doesn't? Like--"
Got to admit, it's pretty impressive how he's managing this much whining on a dry throat and an empty stomach. The child might have kind of a point in not wanting to give him any.

He stares at you for a moment, then bursts into actual laughter. It only lasts a second before it turns into coughing, wrenching noises that shake his whole body. He's gasping for air but trying hard not to breathe, curling in over smashed ribs and choking back the wracking noise. Eventually he opens his tearing eyes again and glares at you. "Come the fuck on, Freak," he says, barely above a whisper. "I may be ugly, but I'm not that fucking ugly. What are you, some kind of master of fucking disguise?"

"Yes."

He blinks up at you, then lets his head fall back against the tree trunk with a careful sigh. "Fine," he says. "You know what? That can be your fucking problem. But I still don't know how the fuck you expect me to be going anywhere in time for the goddamned finals, hell, anywhere for like fucking weeks."

"Why not? If you have some other plans, you will have to cancel them. This is more important."

He stares at you again. "What the fuck are you talking about, retard? Plans? Hell yeah I got plans, like, you know, lying around in a fucking hospital, high out of my mind on painkillers, until I can fucking walk again, shit like that."

"You mean you need more time to heal."

"Yes! Yes, that's what I'm fucking talking about. I can hardly fucking move over here, and everything hurts like a motherfucker. I ain't going nowhere, with you or nobody else."
These two really make a beautiful combination. Nathaniel thinks the child is just jerking him around for kicks, the child thinks Nathaniel is just being difficult on purpose and they're both too petulant to ever reason through their misunderstandings.

You jerk up on the free end of his arm, and the mishealed joint snaps again after only a moment of resistance. The Rocket's scream makes you jump, but it's cut mercifully short. You poke him with a claw and discover he's fainted.
That one actually made me wince as I read it. Speaking from experience with a broken wrist, I'd say you nailed his reaction pretty spot on.

Even now he doesn't look ready to put up a fight, just staring at you with mouth half hanging open, eyes wide, making faint choking noises. "You are not very good at this. Did you think that I would let you just walk away? If you remember our agreement--"
As much as he's going through a horrible time, this image of Nathaniel in shock is just really funny to me.

You're going about this all wrong, somehow. You've tried to make this as straightforward as possible, and whether he's just stupid or intentionally misunderstanding you, he simply isn't getting the picture. Concentrating mightily, you gather what few references you have for this sort of situation and line the words up in your head. Then, very slowly and carefully, you recite, "Listen, pal. You've made good friends with some bad people, but if we stick together, we'll get through this thing just fine. You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours, capiche? Whaddaya say? Partners?
...got to sympathize with Nathaniel on this one; situations don't really get much more absurd than this.

Oh, right. You'd forgotten about humans and their taboo against nudity--not having any particular use for clothes yourself, you usually do without. Dressing up is fun, though, especially in bright colors, or clothes with your favorite cartoon characters on them. Unfortunately, though, this morning's shopping trip failed to turn up any Transformozords shirts in the great Nathaniel Morgan's size.
...is what I said a couple of paragraphs too early it seems.

He shrugs your hand away and blinks around at a new assortment of trees and bushes, a sudden shift in light and shade. Then he turns to you and snarls, "If you can just fucking teleport wherever you want, why are we still in the middle of the goddamn woods? You're going to Cinnabar, right?"

"I didn't want to risk anyone seeing me teleport. It could lead to awkward questions."
The child is saying that, but somehow I get the feeling it would have teleported into the wilderness even if that wasn't a concern. This whole trip is basically one big attempt to live the trainer dream, so it would probably want to journey 'properly', walking into town on foot.

"Fuck, why didn't you give me the drugs first, Freak?" he grumbles, struggling for a few seconds with the childproof cap on the bottle. He dumps a slurry of pills into his palm, considers them for a moment, then knocks the lot back with a swig from his water bottle. "Well, thanks, I guess. But I don't think what I've got going on here is really aspirin-level pain, you know?"
Aaaaw, the great Nathaniel Morgan actually had a moment of genuine appreciation. It really is too bad the child couldn't read these to save its life; this whole journey thing might have gone very differently if it could.

You let that one go in favor of getting moving again, but despite all your exhortations and threats that you really will carry the him if he will not walk, you achieve only a moderate increase in speed. The great Nathaniel Morgan only gets clumsier as time wears on, and slower, too. He's panting like he's run the whole way, sweating heavily into his new clothes. Pathetic. At least he doesn't have the energy left to complain, sunk into a dull, head-down doggedness, all his attention invested in staying upright and taking yet another step.
You know, Nathaniel's being a real trooper here. Hiking through terrain like this is hard enough when you're good and healthy, it's actually pretty remarkable he's pulling this off at all, hopped up on aspirin or no.

This is all his fault. If not for him, you'd be long gone, well on your way to Cinnabar. And you wouldn't be attracting so much attention, either--your dirty, staggering friend is drawing eyes. You meet curious stares with your broadest smile, and that, thankfully, has so far been enough to get onlookers hurrying on about their business.
And now I'm just picturing the creepiest, most unnatural slasher movie villain smile on the child's face while Nathaniel stumbles behind it, battered and bleeding.

"Oh. He wants to shake hands." You're not sure what the tentacruel finds so fascinating about the human custom, but you hold washed-out memories of days spent carrying a tentacool around, annoying people with very important jobs to do with requests to indulge his curiosity.
I enjoyed this little detail. It's an easy image to visualize and it brings across War's personality really well with very few words.

Nothing to be done for it now. Best to get moving. You push your worries aside and pat War's bell, shouting down, "Okay, War. Let's get going." The tentacruel lurches around, clumsy in the shallows, and sets out into the sea.
Not sure about your choice of ending line here. Between the child's worries about Titan and Nathaniel's reaction to the sea, describing War setting off feels like a pretty perfunctory way to wrap it up. With a bit of rearranging, you could probably end the chapter on a more memorable note.


All in all, a lot of good characterization in this one, and not only for the great Nathaniel Morgan either, though he definitely steals the show. Having him around really brings all the child's weird idiosyncrasies into sharp focus and watching the two of them fight these things out is pretty much equal parts tragedy (for all the miscommunication between them and the things it causes for both) and just plain entertainment value because beyond the mutual resentment they both really seem to get a kick out of one-upping each other. Based off what I've seen so far, he honestly doesn't seem like such a bad guy. Not a great and moral person mind you, but also not really a bad guy. I can picture him committing petty crime easily enough, but between the small glimpses of remorse and common decency he shows (not that the child can notice any of them) and the way his constant cussing makes him sound like he's trying way too hard to act like a tough guy, the impression I get is that if he was actually put in a position to do something legitimately heinous rather than just a bit shady or underhanded, he'd probably not be able to go through with it. (or at least he'd feel some serious remorse for it after the fact) Currently entertaining that as a possibility for why the Rockets have him pegged as a traitor. I dunno, he just seems a lot more like somebody trying to deal with a crappy life situation in whatever way he can than the mustachio-twirling cartoon villain the child is making him out to be. Kinda makes me wonder how their relationship would have worked out if the child wasn't so good at making new enemies for itself.

Also, won't lie; he's kind of adorable. In that constantly cussing, sarcastic smartass kind of way. His commentary on the child's behavior is just a really entertaining read all around.

That aside, it's also nice to finally get a bit more detail on the friends the child was so intent on rescuing. I really liked War's introduction here; it's just a really good example of cramming in a lot of characterization into a tight writing space. I loved your use of body language here, and even though it was a pretty short exchange, the handshake moment and the little flash of their shared past really brought across War's personality and his relationship with the child.

Titan's behavior, on the other hand, blindsided me a little bit. It was a very enjoyable read, but considering that the last time we saw him he was having an all-out brawl with the child out in the rain, seeing the two of them act so carefree around each other was a bit of a characterization whiplash. He's definitely got that dog-like touch to his personality where I can see he wouldn't think too hard about things and in terms of in/story time it's a while ago now, but since we haven't seen or even heard anything of their relationship between this and the fight they had, this just felt like a really abrupt and extreme change. Some kind of bit-part or at least a mention somewhere in-between the two might smooth that out.


Anyway, I was going to include chapter 10 in this one as well, but somehow I've managed to go significantly over the post character limit with this one, so in the spirit of chapter 9 I'm going to have to split this one here. Comments on 10 are already done, so the next one should come in a bit sooner than my pace so far.

You know, theoretically speaking.
 

Negrek

Lost but Seeking
Hmmm, I think it's the compound effect that's doing it to me. I understand the concept of tearing someone's torso open and I understand the concept of drenching someone's insides with something ice cold, but doing the former just so you can get to do the latter just seems weird. Not only do you usually tear things open to get something out rather than put something in, but I can't help picturing all that water leaking right back out again because of the big old hole in the child's chest.
Heh, fair enough. I can't claim that was my most inspired bit of prose, in any case.

Well, the snag here is that even assuming hyper-advanced sequencing technology, you can never guarantee an absolute definitive match because no given DNA profile is necessarily unique to one individual. Because the range of viable variation for human DNA is smaller than the amount of people around, some people are going to have identical DNA profiles just because there aren't enough variations to go around while others are going to wind up identical just as a matter of statistical chance.
Oh yeah, I was assuming that the DNA test was only the first step in identifying the body, and that they would be doing a lot of follow-up in order to confirm what they found. I'm just assuming that their lab tests are faster and more accurate than what we have today. Hopefully a month is still reasonable considering the additional work that would have to be done in terms of contacting the family, ordering additional tests, etc.

I'm curious as to where you got the statistic that the viable range of human genetic variation results in fewer viable profiles than the number of people on Earth, though. That doesn't sound right to me, since even if we allow only a thousandth of a percent of the base pairs in the sequence to vary without constraint, that's still more potential variants than the total number of humans who have ever lived, and observed variation is much higher. This is totally irrelevant to the story itself, of course; I'm just curious.

I think the revised version will work just fine without needing to specify any concrete timeline here and obviate the need for magic sequencing anyway, but it's good to consider if not. (Hopefully there will be some actual tangible evidence of the work I've been doing on that revision soon, too.)

Which, I realize, is pretty much setting myself up for the tragic ending it seems intent to work itself towards. I'll likely go into this more a bit further down the line, though, given the content of the upcoming chapters.
Heh, I look forward to that.

Oh, it's been great fun. I really enjoy stories where I can look back at past chapters and go 'oh, so that's what that thing meant' and this one has definitely had a lot of those moments. Things have gotten really intense with the past few though, so I'm going to try to speed things up just a little.
Glad to hear it! As long as it doesn't actually require rereading, I'm happy.

Chapter 8

Correct me if I'm wrong on my obscure vocabulary, but I thought a lope was still a pretty leisurely pace (just walking with longer strides, basically).
My impression is it's a sort of bounding gait, a bit more strenuous than a jog but not yet a full-out run. Dictionary.com says it's "to move or run with bounding steps, as a quadruped, or with a long, easy stride, as a person," so I get the longer strides bit, but I think it's supposed to be closer to a run than a walk, based on the rest of the definition.

The really over-the-top way he treats curse words is interesting too. I'm not sure if it's the impression you meant to give, but it kinda makes him comes off as a teenager trying way too hard to be a tough guy, probably someone who'd get cold feet if they were ever put in a position where they'd have to seriously hurt someone, which might explain the botched jobs accusation.
It's exactly the impression I meant to give.

This parts reads really strangely when I try to read it in context of the main clause. Since you're leading into this with 'if there's one thing (that) Aiden can't stand', shouldn't that be 'that any of us can't stand' rather than 'what'?

It also seems a bit strange that Nathaniel would stop here to let her finish her little speech like that. It's pretty obvious from the setup that they're not intending on letting him just walk away from this, so wouldn't the better bet be trying to get in position to make a break for it before any pokémon hit the field?
Yeah, "that" is definitely the correct word in that sentence.

Nate lets Jenna finish what she's saying because he really has no idea what's going on and is hoping something she says will illuminate that. His situation only becomes clear to him after Jenna actually calls him a traitor.

Redundant 'was' there, it kind of looks like you were trying to decide between 'Training was supposed to be' and 'Wasn't training supposed to be' and ended up leaving a bit of both in.
Whoops, yes, I imagine that's what happened.

There's also a more ominous side with the interaction between Absol and the child. The way she's talking, it kind of sounds like she can tell something bad is waiting for the child down the line but at the same time feels she can't (or I suppose shouldn't) do anything to stop it. She's obviously trying to coax the child into changing its behavior on its own initiative instead, but the miscommunication between them means that's probably not going to happen either.
All in all this is definitely an ominous and foreshadow-y sort of chapter, yeah. It sounds like you have a pretty good idea of the state of things at this point.

Dunno, I may be reading too far into it, but this chapter gave me a really ominous feeling about things to come.
Not sure what you're talking about, this is clearly a happy bunnies and kittens kind of story, nothing bad is going to happen.

Chapter 9

You know, reading that, I can't help wondering whether the child was thinking of Sing or Perish Song on that one. Either way, love the opening.
It was just sing, but I do love the perish song interpretation.

Got to admit, it's pretty impressive how he's managing this much whining on a dry throat and an empty stomach. The child might have kind of a point in not wanting to give him any.
Yeeeeah, hopefully it's not too out there that he'd be able to keep his mouth running despite the bad shape he's in. As long as it doesn't come across as totally ridiculous, I'm good.

These two really make a beautiful combination. Nathaniel thinks the child is just jerking him around for kicks, the child thinks Nathaniel is just being difficult on purpose and they're both too petulant to ever reason through their misunderstandings.
I'm glad you think so. It's a ton of fun to write the two of them together.

That one actually made me wince as I read it. Speaking from experience with a broken wrist, I'd say you nailed his reaction pretty spot on.
That's good. I have basically no experience with major injuries, so I always do worry about how well I do portraying them (since the plot somehow seems to call for them... a lot) and the sometimes-accompanying medical stuff.

The child is saying that, but somehow I get the feeling it would have teleported into the wilderness even if that wasn't a concern. This whole trip is basically one big attempt to live the trainer dream, so it would probably want to journey 'properly', walking into town on foot.
Definitely. It would have found an excuse to walk no matter what.

Aaaaw, the great Nathaniel Morgan actually had a moment of genuine appreciation. It really is too bad the child couldn't read these to save its life; this whole journey thing might have gone very differently if it could.
Definitely true, although this little moment flew by so fast that I think a lot of people would miss it in normal conversation.

You know, Nathaniel's being a real trooper here. Hiking through terrain like this is hard enough when you're good and healthy, it's actually pretty remarkable he's pulling this off at all, hopped up on aspirin or no.
Definitely. He's actually very tough.

And now I'm just picturing the creepiest, most unnatural slasher movie villain smile on the child's face while Nathaniel stumbles behind it, battered and bleeding.
Yup, pretty much. XD

Not sure about your choice of ending line here. Between the child's worries about Titan and Nathaniel's reaction to the sea, describing War setting off feels like a pretty perfunctory way to wrap it up. With a bit of rearranging, you could probably end the chapter on a more memorable note.
Hmm, I'll take another look at it. I'm not sure what I would really do in that regard at the moment.

Titan's behavior, on the other hand, blindsided me a little bit. It was a very enjoyable read, but considering that the last time we saw him he was having an all-out brawl with the child out in the rain, seeing the two of them act so carefree around each other was a bit of a characterization whiplash.
Yeah, I was worried about that. I'll see if I can work in another scene with him between this and his introduction, or at least a reference to the fight and the fact that they're okay with each other now.

Thanks for another wonderful review. It was a real treat to see when I popped back online after my vacation.

To everyone: I'm working on editing Chapter 17 now, and it should be up this weekend.
 

Negrek

Lost but Seeking
Chapter 15

Titan's wing membranes thrum against the air as he banks, swinging around towards the column of flying pokémon that marks the impact site.

Breaking news, the television in the Indigo Pokémon Center had blared--the Pokémon Center, open all hours, ever accommodating to a sleepy-eyed trainer in need of both food and news. This one had slumped over a bowl of cereal and squinted blurrily at the television, still rattled from waking to a missing wall and the wail of approaching sirens. We're bringing you an update on the story of Mewtwo's escape.

You ease the charizard in between fliers carrying camera crews and join the curious who circle outside the police's aerial cordon. Fliers with badges or officers on their backs stare back at you, moving in their own slow spirals.

Mewtwo escaped from his trainer earlier tonight and flew east from Indigo. Shaky, blurred camera footage showed nothing more than a blazing purple streak across the sky, the clone a comet of psychic energy. Reports from traveling trainers put him over Viridian Forest around eleven o'clock, and twenty minutes ago we received word that he had reached the outskirts of Viridian City.

Floodlights illuminate the scene below. You direct Titan into a low, slow flight around the edge of the site and peer down into the chaos, strengthening your eyes until you can pick out the faces of the people below.

We can now confirm that Mewtwo has touched down near the edge of the city, in the old manufacturing district. Reports indicate that he circled the area for several minutes before diving through the roof of a building, which subsequently collapsed. The picture showed a crater that was once a building, a nonsense jumble of splintered boards, wires, and shingles throwing tall, jagged shadows against surrounding buildings. All the debris swirled inward as though the building did not fall so much as it was pulled into the clone's wake, imploded somehow by the force of his mind.

You scan the activity below, half anxious, half excited, and yes, there he is, a calm eye in the raging storm of activity. And there's Blue, too, talking with him--at him, really; the Champion doesn't talk these days. You squint and watch their conversation for a moment and decide that Blue looks no worse for wear after your gym battle.

Casualty numbers are unknown at this time. Police are evacuating the area but waiting to investigate the premises until a League task force can be gathered, on the recommendation of Champion Red himself. Shots showed humans and pokémon picking through the wreckage, psychic-types levitating away debris and dust-covered machoke lifting fallen beams. The camera followed Elite Four Karen as she arrived on the scene, disappearing into the roil of police activity. A curfew is currently in effect for all of Viridian City, and citizens are instructed to remain indoors until the all-clear is given. Traveling trainers are advised to seek out the Pokémon Center or leave the city immediately.

You notice a police-pidgeot keeping an eye on you, following Titan's circling progress at a higher altitude. You tell the charizard to bank away, and the bird peels off as you leave the vicinity of the crime scene. You direct Titan to the roof of a building a couple blocks away and slide off his back. The charizard stands folding and unfolding his wings, craning his neck as though longing to leap back into the air.

We still don't know how Mewtwo escaped or what purpose he might have in Viridian. However, local police have identified the building he demolished as the office of a suspected Team Rocket front business. The receptionist on duty looked up in surprise as the trainer barged out of the Center at top speed. If she'd cared to pursue, perhaps to complain about the half-eaten bowl of cereal left to grow soggy in front of the television, she would have found him vanished, utterly gone.

Now that trainer steps up to the edge of the roof, looking down on the crash site. The charizard does the same, and you reach up to scratch the scales around the base of his neck. "Nice work, Titan. Did you enjoy flying?"

"I could have flown the whole way," the charizard huffs.

"I know. We just had to get here really fast, that's all." You say that, but you're still standing and looking.

"So Mewtwo went down there? That's where you're going?"

"Yes." At least the clone's getting straight down to the business of finding Mew. Still, you can't believe he just up and left without you, that he actually knocked you out so you wouldn't be able to follow. You're supposed to be on the same side. You're supposed to be helping each other.

Titan glances at you, catching some hint of your mood. "Be careful," he says.

"I'll be fine, Titan," you say, patting him on the shoulder. "Return?"

He gives a brief, worried nod, then vanishes in a cloud of red light. You clip the ball back to your belt and take a last look at the crime scene. Police on the ground, police in the air, police all around--only one way for you to go, then.

You take the stairs down from the roof, all the way down to the apartment complex's basement, and break down the laundry room door. You're sure the police will come investigate the tunnel from this building's basement to the nearby Rocket base, but you'll be long gone by then. You'll be someone else. And this is much less conspicuous than tearing a hole in the street.

Your hands grow huge and slablike, fingers merging and hardening into flat claws and muscles rippling down your arms and back. You pick a likely piece of floor, off in a corner behind some washing machines, and dig in, ripping through concrete to the earth beneath. You dig down and down and over, under water lines and electricity, below sewers and subway tunnels, turning in the direction of the impact crater.

You dig until you hit concrete again, then tear through it, shredding through wires and insulation until, finally, you breach the great metal sheet that serves as the inner wall of the base and emerge into fluorescent glare. You wriggle through the hole, then pause a moment to see whether the noise will draw any guards.

It doesn't. You shake off a bit of dirt and shrink back to normal human proportions as you take a look around. To your left the hall is filled with debris, the fallen foundations of the building that used to stand over the entrance. To your right, stairs slope downward into the base proper. You turn and begin your descent.

There are guards lying sprawled on the staircase, sporting only minor injuries but unquestionably dead. Convenient. You search their pockets. No pokédex on either of them, but they have identification in their wallets. Mel Gladstone and Tony Flores. You decide you'll be Tony, since his body lies a bit closer to hand.

You close your eyes and concentrate, burning spreading throughout your body as you grow taller and thicker. Your face shifts, your hair lengthens, and then you open your eyes again and you are Tony Flores. Sex: M. Height: 5'10". Eyes: BRN. Organ donor. When you were nineteen years old, you died. Quite suddenly, at a guess--Mewtwo probably did something to your brain, took care of you in seconds. The kind of thing you could never see coming. And now you: slip the ID back into the wallet, then bend down and strip the body, completing your disguise with the corpse's clothing. You spend a moment checking yourself over, growing accustomed to the little scars and imperfections pocking your new skin and getting comfortable in your form. Not stalling, of course.

You shake your head and step forward to put a bit of distance between yourself and the bodies, then kneel down, bending forward until your nose nearly brushes the corrugated metal of the floor. You close your eyes, then sneeze as tingling sweeps up through your sinuses, cells proliferating, nerves branching and synapsing.

Now sniffing the floor treats you to a rich tapestry of scents layered on scents, a record that stretches back through time, containing traces of all who've passed this way. You change your mind a little to better process the burst of sensory information, input a human brain doesn't usually receive.

Mewtwo looms large and recent, overlaying all the other smells. He's got the same sweaty odor as most things warm and furry, mixed with the earthy smell of rock dust from his time spent in the mountains. You swing your head back and forth, looking for a trail, trying to figure out which way the clone went.

It's hard to concentrate on Mewtwo's scent, despite its strength. Just underneath is the smell of a human who passes this way often, male, late teens, suffering from some kind of virus in recent weeks. He's probably the one who gave it to his girlfriend, who also comes and goes, someone who spends a lot of time around poison-type pokémon and loves Sinnohan cuisine. Here too a nidorina carrying on her the scent of her rival, their blood mixing before your nose, the tale of their one-upmanship and spite layered day by day in the scent catalog lying bare before you. You could sit here for hours, sifting little dramas out of the floor, stories of people whose faces you do not know but whose lives you peer into through the traces of scent they leave behind.

Except there is someone you know. Your eyes pop open, and you stare off down the hall, fingers digging shallow grooves in metal as you flex them against the floor. He's here.

You swallow deliberately and try to clear your mind. You're here on business, and you haven't got much time. You can't let your grudge get in the way of that. Now you're going to straighten up, yes, and you're going to walk down the hall Mewtwo took, just like this. You're not going to fly off on some personal vendetta.

Besides, the great Nathaniel Morgan was going the same way as Mewtwo. Maybe you'll get to kill two birds with one stone.

Mewtwo himself has killed many birds, and the hallway is littered with human corpses. Most show no sign of injury, might be sleeping if not for their utter stillness and the blank stares of horror-widened eyes. But some met a violent end: here one with nothing but mess above the neck, skull crumpled like a crushed pop can; here one lying in a great slick of blood and glistening exposed organs; here one nothing more than a mess of wrong angles and jutting bone. There are pokémon scattered here and there, too--unconscious, not dead.

You find yourself walking quickly, trying not to look too close. You can't be lingering, after all. There's every reason to hurry.

It's dead quiet outside the ring of your footsteps on the metal floor. Video screens are set into the wall at intervals, all displaying the same message: "BASE COMPROMISED EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY" in glaring red on white. Underneath in smaller text: "Emergency protocol 17." You wonder what protocol could possibly guard against Mewtwo's arrival.

At first you pause at each intersection to sharpen your senses, your enhanced nose too sensitive to the smell of curdling fluids to keep with you all the time, and find Mewtwo's scent again. As the carnage grows denser, you rarely have to bother--just crane your neck out, look both ways, and spy which path is decked with corpses. And then you don't stop at all, as you realize where the clone is headed.

You pick up speed without even realizing it until you're sprinting down corridors and hurtling dead bodies. Signs posted at each junction guide you deeper. "Lab Level: Take Elevator C to B2F." You don't know if Mewtwo can read, but he can read minds, and after getting this far he must have been able to pluck directions from some brain or other.

In fact, you don't realize how fast you're going until you slam to a sudden halt just shy of another corner. You stumble into the wall to keep yourself from falling, almost tripping on the outstretched arm of a corpse. As the echoes of your booming footsteps fade, you strain to hear over the hammering of your heart. After a few adrenaline-burned seconds it comes again: a faint scratching, the swish of something soft over metal, now and again a mysterious pattering.

You listen for a while. It's the first sign of life you've heard since entering the base, and you have no idea what it could be. No idea whatsoever. But you're sure the scratching can't be the sound of newly-dead fingers clutching at the floor, nor the brushing sound tattered, bloodied clothing against metal as the creature drags itself forward. Sightless eyes stare, a slack jaw gapes as it pulls itself towards the smell of life, fighting ruined joints and leaving behind a trail of bile and shredded membrane rent from the gaping hole through its torso.

The hair on the back of your neck prickles. And all those bodies you passed without a second glance... All those side doors you never opened, never thought to check... There's the brush of air against the back of your neck, a gentle breeze in this place of complete stillness, movement at your back, the expiration of air from dead lungs, and after all your worry about what might lie ahead you never even considered an attack from behind, you fool, you fool--but no, that's stupid.

You jerk around, primed to run, but of course there's nothing there. Dead eyes watch accusingly from the floor, and not a single thing moves. You knew that, of course. They're dead. They're all dead. They can't hurt you now.

Still noises come from up ahead. You take a deep breath, cupping one hand around a growing spark of energy that radiates warmth through your fingers. Stupid brain. There's nothing to be scared of, and you know that. You stand with the aura sphere swirling in your palm, blue glow dancing reflected in the metal of the wall, then push away from the wall in one abrupt motion, leaving a sweaty handprint behind. You step out around the corner, ready to fire.

Ahead the corridor widens into a sort of lobby, one whose ceiling has been brought down in a huge pile of rubble topped with jutting spires of rebar and fractured concrete. There was resistance here, blood pinking the dust. One pidgey escaped being crushed, and flutters around a hand protruding from the rubble. She drags at the debris pinning it to the floor, but they hardly shift.

The aura sphere hits her and smashes her against the block she's trying to move, knocking her unconscious in a burst of blue light. Silence settles back around you as you take in the scene. The hole in the ceiling leads up to some dark emptiness--the basement of a building, you guess. High up on the wall is a sign that reads "VATOR" in thick, square letters, just visible behind a leaning metal beam. So Mewtwo's blocked the elevator.

That's okay. You're strong. You can clear a path, and then you can keep going. You'll have a choice: you could go up. Up is back to the world above, where it's light and lively. You could go down, where Mewtwo is, where there's more quiet and death. Where your mother is, maybe. You just have to clear a path through this rubble, rubble and the crushed remains of the people caught underneath it...

Long strips of skin hang gauzy from the hand the pidgey was trying to exhume. It's cut to bone where the pidgey tore at it, gentle at first, then ever more violent as it tried to rouse a response, tried to pull the human from underneath the rubble. You turn and stare at the wall and cross your arms over your chest to stop them shaking.

Honestly. They're just dead people. There's no reason to get so worked up. They're dead. They can't hurt you. They're dead.

It's not fair. You stomp your foot, and a metallic boom drives back the silence. You shouldn't even be here. You're only here because Mewtwo decided he was going to fly off and pulverize a bunch of Rockets without you.

Another stomp leaves a deep dent in the floor. Well he'd better watch out, because when you find him you're going to give him a piece of your mind. Doesn't he realize he can't just go around murdering people, not if he doesn't want the League to come after him?

You force your foot clear through the metal, then bend over and peel it back, exposing a layer of concrete. You stand again and hammer on it with your foot, putting all your anger and resentment into each blow. It's not fair, it's not right, you should--not--even--be--here--

The floor gives way. You tumble down to the next level in a shower of debris, landing with an echoing clang that's probably audible throughout the entire base, square in the middle of a bunch of Rockets.

Before you can even start getting up you find yourself surrounded by hostile pokémon and gun barrels alike. "Did you just come through the fucking ceiling?" one of the Rockets demands. You don't bother answering, taking a moment to get your bearings.

There's a thin psychic charge to the air. It's barely more than you felt when you held Mewtwo's master ball, but it's definitely there. The clone can't be far away.

Behind the ring of Rockets is a ragtag bunch of pokémon hard at work on a pile of rubble that here, as above, blocks access to the elevator. There are more humans, too, standing in a huddle up against one wall. They're wearing some kind of ID badges, but as you squint to try and make them out, the Rocket speaks up again.

"Hey! I'm talking to you! Who are you? Where's the rest of your squad?" A poliwag repeats the question, bouncing up and down and frothing with angry bubbles. You spare the water-type a glance of disdain before answering.

"I am Tony Flores," you say, focusing your attention on the Rocket before you. She's scowling, but most of the others look more nervous than anything, glancing over their shoulders and shifting uneasily. "The floor up above was broken. I... fell through."

"That so? Then I'll bet you saw whatever it was that was banging on the ceiling there, what, about two seconds before you showed up, huh?"

"Umm, yes. It was... a rhydon. Trying to clear the block by the elevator. That is how the floor got cracked."

"Oh, really?" The Rocket lowers her gun and takes a couple steps forward, tilting her head sideways to try and see up through the hole. "Hey! Anybody up there?"

You consider the odds. If it comes to a fight you can probably take down this group without much trouble, but it might be better to save your strength. You don't know what Mewtwo's up to or what else the base might have in store.

"Marilyn, I don't think we have time to--" one of the other Rockets starts.

"No," she says, straightening up. "Looks clear. Bogart, get over here. The rest of you get back to work." A hitmonlee lopes over from helping clear the rubble while the Rockets and their pokémon disperse, moving back towards the elevator. Only one remains, a manectric that stays by the commander's side. Neither of them moves to help you as you get to your feet, brushing dust and bits of concrete from your clothing.

"You lot," the Rocket goes on, turning to the little knot of humans. "Single file. Line up here. Bogart'll take you up. Once you're up there, you wait, you understand me? There'll be no one to help you if you go running off. Bogart, make sure the coast is clear."

"Of course," the hitmonlee says in a cave-hollow voice. With one spectacular leap he grabs the edge of the hole and hoists himself up on his spindly arms, peering around the lobby above.

"And you." You turn back to the commander. "Over there. Stay out of the way, and don't try anything funny. Jordan, watch him."

You shuffle over to the wall, the manectric pacing after. "You're going up to the first floor?"

"Hell yes we are. And so are you, once everyone else is out."

"Why?"

"Why?" The Rocket gives you an incredulous look while, behind her, the hitmonlee drops lightly down again, springy legs easily absorbing the shock of landing. "All the porters down here are gone. The bastard went and attacked them first. There's supposed to be an outlet on the first floor, though, so that's where we're headed. Haven't you been paying any attention to the comm channel?"

You'd like to ask what she means by "porters," but the hitmonlee announces his presence with a low, "There is. You can get into the subway up above."

"We good?" the Rocket asks him, and he inclines his body briefly, a kind of neckless nod. "No 'rhydon' around?"

Bogart twists his body side to side and spreads empty hands. "Good. Let's go, then. One at a time, now. No pushing." She pulls out a pokénav and thumbs a shortcut key. "Green squad to gold squad, green squad to gold squad. You there, Elliot...?"

The armed Rockets lurk around the edge of the operation, keeping watch for Mewtwo, you guess. In the background, the other pokémon are still shifting hunks of rubble. "Watch it!" one of the Rockets snaps as a doduo's overenthusiastic kick starts a miniature rock slide, a slurry of debris tumbling down the side of the pile and beating a loud tattoo on the metal floor. "Keep it down, or that psychic bastard's going to find us and kill us all."

"It does not matter," you say. "Mewtwo already knows where you are. If he wanted to kill you, you would already be dead."

The Rocket turns towards you, a stricken look on his face. His companions do the same. "What?"

Their commander is still talking into her pokénav with a finger jammed in her free ear and a frown on her face. "...clear it out, so if anybody else manages to work their way over here, they ought to be able to use the elevator. Don't know about any hole up on One yet, but we'll check it out as soon as we can. But listen, the name 'Tony Flores' ring any bells to you...?"

Her hitmonlee bends down, wrapping his arms snugly around a skinny middle-aged woman who looks absolutely terrified.

"I said Mewtwo already knows where you are," you say to the watching Rockets. "Can't you feel it?" You point to your forehead. "He can see you."

The Rocket who yelled backs away from you, eyes widening. "What?"

The hitmonlee takes off with a powerful kick of his legs, and the woman he's carrying lets out a shriek as they rocket into the air. You expect the fighting-type to go shooting through the hole as easily as he did before, despite his ungainly cargo, but instead something snatches him out of the air. He tumbles sideways and away, landing hard on the floor with his springy legs whipping in a dangerous, boneless spread. The woman in the hitmonlee's arms lets out another scream, and all the Rockets whip around, searching for the source of the attack. The commander lowers her pokénav. "Bogart! What the hell?"

The psychic pressure spikes, and you draw darkness to yourself to ward it off, watching calmly as the humans finally notice the force of Mewtwo's mind. "Shit, my head," moans one of the nearest Rockets, taking a hand off his gun to rub the sweat out of his eyes. All around you weapons are wavering, humans swaying or collapsing. A couple are sick, and more still, mostly among the unarmed group, are scrambling blindly down the corridor, clutching at the walls and each other for support.

The pokémon aren't faring much better. Excavation of the elevator comes to a halt as the rock-breakers hunker down in a pointless effort to shield themselves from an attack that comes from everywhere at once. A couple of them, a nidorino and a mankey, are already out cold. The manectric at your side quavers with pain, but her snout stays trained on you.

"Fall back!" the commander yells. "Fall back slowly! Scientists at the rear. Agents, guns ready. Get your pokémon over here!"

The group retreats in a surprisingly coordinated shuffle. The pokémon turn tail and rejoin their trainers, no more eager to face what's coming than the humans. People flow past you like a receding tide, slow at first, then faster as the psychic pressure increases. Even the manectrc turns and runs, following the sound of her trainer's voice.

There's movement out of the corner of your eye, and you can't help but jump when you turn to find the barrel of a gun two inches from your face. One of the Rockets has fetched up beside you. "How come you ain't runnin'?" the agent growls through gritted teeth. Her short blonde hair is darkened by sweat, and one eye is slicked-red blind from a burst blood vessel. "It's you, ain't it? It's you brought him here."

You turn away from the trembling end of the gun and look off down the corridor, where you know Mewtwo is waiting, just out of sight. "Lydia!" the commander yells from somewhere behind you. "I said fall back, goddammit! Leave him!"

The psychic field redoubles again, and the air is filled with a high ringing note, the kind to shiver glass. The Rocket threatening you drops, clutching at her hip. You look back over your shoulder to find agents stumbling, falling, bloodstains blossoming around waists and pockets, wherever they keep their pokéballs. One woman who'd been wearing them on a necklace is fatally wounded, blood pulsing around shrapnel bits of metal embedded in her neck and face. You reach down, momentarily terrified that your own pokéballs have met the same fate and shock's stopped you noticing the pain, but they're still there, smooth and whole under your fingers.

By now the pokémon are starting to realize what's happened. One spearow laughs as he turns, claws open and flashing, and latches onto a Rocket's face, tearing with his beak. "Not so high and mighty now, are we?" the bird crows, nearly drowned out by the man's shrieks.

"Don't you dare!" the manectric barks as a slugma turns her eyes on her trainer, viscous body bubbling and steaming as she prepares an attack. The pokémon fall into confusion, some attacking the humans, others moving to defend them. The guns turn on them too, terrified Rockets sending bullets into the fray despite their captain's yells.

You're probably the first to notice Mewtwo's arrival. The clone advances at a leisurely pace, eyes aglow, moving with a fluid, low-gravity grace. He has his master ball with him, bobbing just over his head on a cushion of psychic power. The clone clears the rubble in a single, floating bound--he must be using his powers to augment his movement. And now, at last, the Rockets notice.

A sweep of Mewtwo's arm scatters the pokémon that rush to intercept him, hurling them unconscious across the hallway, knocked out with a single blast of psychic power. A purple shield of energy flicks into place in front of him as the Rockets unload the rest of their ammunition. The surface of the forcefield ripples and dances as the bullets strike it, and spent ammunition clatters to the floor at Mewtwo's feet as it is robbed of its momentum. The clone does not even slow.

You find yourself in an unenviable position between the Rockets and their target, surrounded by zipping bullets. You discreetly draw up a wonder guard, then relax, curious more than anything about what's going to happen next.

Mewtwo draws level with you. Are you just going to stand there and watch?

It takes you a second to realize he's talking to you. And no, you guess not, but you don't want to get involved without understanding the situation.

What's there to understand? They're Rockets. Kill them.

They're also quite able to hear what Mewtwo's saying. Now most of the bullets headed your way are actually intended for you, not that it makes any difference. They disintegrate against your wonder guard as you raise a hand and fire a thunderbolt at the Rocket captain, dropping her in a heap. Meanwhile, Mewtwo continues his steadfast forward march, wading in amongst the humans without pause.

It's the same as you saw on the first floor. Most of the Rockets simply drop like puppets cut from their strings. Here and there, though, Mewtwo pays more cruel attention to a particular individual, crushing or flaying with no more apparent effort than it takes him to snuff out the others.

The Rockets' stand is brief and bloodily ended, the remaining humans fleeing in an untidy rush now that there's no one to marshal them. Mewtwo doesn't hurry to catch up, instead cutting them down at a distance. He chooses his targets carefully so they fall and tangle in the others' legs, bringing the whole lot down in a mess of screams and struggles. Still the clone walks on, heeding neither plea nor curse.

You realize you've just been standing there, frozen. In a few seconds you've been rendered alone, the only one standing amidst a litter of human corpses and unconscious pokémon and lurid bursts of gore. And Mewtwo is leaving you behind.

"Mewtwo! Wait! Stop, Mewtwo! Mewtwo!" You take off after the clone, stumbling over bodies in your haste to catch up. "Mewtwo, stop!"

He doesn't stop, or wait, or even turn to look at you, following a last couple survivors at the same leisurely pace as always. You put on a burst of speed and dash around him, stopping square in the middle of the corridor and holding up your arms. "Stop!"

He stops. What?

The clone's reflected irritation only deepens your own. "Mewtwo, you have to get out of here! The League's coming. They know you're here."

The League? What do you mean, 'the League?'

"Red and Blue and Karen and more people, I don't know, but they're coming. You have to get out of here!"

Do I? Mewtwo asks. Three humans? You're telling me I should run away because of three humans? His mental voice is flat and confident, but you feel a tremor of uncertainty run through his mind. He can feel you feel it, and nervousness sinks into sour resentment.

"Mewtwo, these aren't just any humans. You know that. Come on, you can come back later. I can sneak you in, and you can finish... what are you even doing here, anyway?"

What does it look like I'm doing? The clone spreads his hands. He's spattered with blood, almost none of it his own. He wears cuts and grazes here and there, weird discolorations of the skin where he's been hit by energy attacks. There's a deep puncture in one hip, crusted with gore. And all around him lie the dead.

"I don't know, killing Rockets? You can do that any time. If you have a plan, I sure don't know what it is because you decided to leave me behind. We were supposed to work something out together."

Why would I bring you along? the clone asks, and the anger that makes you bristle isn't entirely secondhand. What would you possibly do besides get in my way? As you are doing now, I might add. Is there some reason we can't have this conversation while walking?

"I'm not going anywhere until you either tell me what's going on or agree to leave! Mewtwo, you can't--" There's movement down the corridor. The captain is stirring, picking herself up off the bloodied floor. She sways, eyes wide and glassy as she takes in the carnage around her. Her fingers fumble for something in her pocket, and you barely register the gleam of the knife before she throws herself at Mewtwo's back. You start to raise your arm, words of warning forming at the back of your throat.

Mewtwo stays where he is, staring at you, but his tail whips sideways just as the woman gets close. It slams her into the wall with a wet crunch, and she slides to the floor gurgling and choking as she struggles to draw breath into her compacted chest.

Throughout it all Mewtwo remains utterly composed, looking you in the face while your own gaze goes to the Rocket woman slowly drowning in her own blood. Move!

You move. Mewtwo sweeps past, adopting that same patient, easy pace.

You consider letting him go. You warned him, and he didn't listen, so it's on him if he ends up getting recaptured by the League.

But you can't. After how far you've come, you can't just stand by and let him--

Just go. They will not catch me, and I will not leave without the information I need.

"What information?" You hurry after him, drawing level and half-jogging to keep up with his long, brisk strides. "If you told me what you were looking for, I could help."

What do you think? The air fairly crackles with his derision. I am looking for Mother. I am looking for someone who knows where she is. I am looking for someone who knows someone who knows where she is. I am trying to find out what happened to her, and why.

"By killing people without even talking to them?"

I don't need to talk to them. I was listening to that group's thoughts before you decided to break in and offer them a way out. The rocks would have kept them busy for another ten minutes at least.

He answers your questions before you can even speak them. It's no concern of yours. I'll handle it. You will stay out of the way, or leave if you are so worried by these coming humans. And yes, I cut off their means of escape first. I'm going to interrogate the useful ones, then wipe them out; I don't want them running.

"But there's a big hole right up--"

I didn't realize there was a subway tunnel running above that part of the base, Mewtwo snaps. But while the atmosphere around you is clouded by his irritation, his pace never falters. He strides down the corridor with the bored nonchalance of someone who knows this place like the back of his hand. And he does, you suppose, leveraging a familiarity that isn't his.

Mewtwo sweeps on through a set of electronic doors, looking neither left nor right as he advances. On the other hand, you fall behind, staring into the glass-walled rooms to either side. You've found the lab area, and it's as eerily quiet as the first floor. There are no humans to be seen, dead or alive, but here and there machines are still whirring, computer screens scrolling through reams of numbers as though people have only just fled their work. You crane your neck, trying to get a better view as memories stir in your mind. There's comfort here, an old familiarity, the half-forgotten names of strange equipment. But there are other memories, too, of beeping machines and clear liquids the sour rankle of fear. You stare in at the empty labs in a confusion of reassurance and terror.

You're so absorbed in your own thoughts that you nearly bowl right into Mewtwo when he stops. The clone stands peering into a lab that is, as far as you can tell, just like all the others. His tail lashes as he oozes pleasure.

You stare through the glass at long tables cluttered with racks and tubes and petri dishes, groaning high shelves laden with jars and jugs and boxes, and sinks stacked with glass dishes and beakers in all manner of confounding shapes. What surfaces aren't covered in junk are pasted over with scraps of paper, napkins, sticky notes covered in faded and messy handwriting. You examine the mess and wonder what Mewtwo could possibly have noticed here.

The clone's hand twitches, and the front wall of the lab blows out, scattering glass over buckets of ice and open notebooks. The shards skitter away from Mewtwo's feet as he steps across the new threshold, his eyes lit with psychic energy. It's no good trying to hide from me, he says. Your thoughts betray you.

The clone extends an arm, and a tall set of shelves on the center island creaks, then begins ponderously to tip. Jars fall and smash, and a rain of boxes and electronic equipment forces the humans hiding behind the island to throw themselves into the open. They huddle, exposed, before Mewtwo's dispassionate gaze. Five people altogether, men and women, one of the older ones clutching some kind of needle-like device like she plans to stab the clone with it.

The silence is broken only by the clatter of plastic tubes scattering to parts unknown and a faint hiss as spilled liquid starts to eat the tiles. Then the unsound of Mewtwo's voice invades the mind. That's better. You humans consider it polite to look someone in the eye when they're talking to you, don't you?

A twitch of mirth tells you Mewtwo's laughing at his own joke, but all he gets from the humans are dumb stares. The clone goes on. Well, then. I'm just stopping by to ask directions. Which of you knows where I can find records on-- another little spike of laughter, and one of the scientists lets out a desperate giggle --the "Mewtwo Project?" And please don't bother lying. I can see right through you, you know.

They make noises of negation, shake their heads, voice denials. You clench your hands as Mewtwo's irritation rises. Then where are the records kept? Who has access to them? Even before the response comes, you can feel him growing angrier. No? And how is it that a bunch of scientists working at HQ know nothing about Rocket's greatest accomplishment? Where is that information? Who would know?

"This isn't headquarters," one of the scientists says, then quails as Mewtwo's gaze swings to fix on her.

No? Not Viridian City, home of Giovanni? This is not the primary Rocket base?

"No," another of the humans says. "Team Rocket is older than Giovanni. It started in Saffron, and that's where headquarters has always been."

I see, is all the clone says, and his outward demeanor is blank as ever, but inside he simmers. The same acid bubbling of fury churns in your own stomach, and you can see the humans sweating, tense and fidgeting with nerves as they try to resist foreign emotions hammering against their own. Then who knows how to find those records? Who has access to the computer network?

"They're not on the network. If they still exist at all, it's probably on some closed-access computer somewhere. Nobody here is going to be able to... to find them."

She trails off into stammering as Mewtwo's anger roils the air around you. In irritation you snap, "Come on, Mewtwo! They obviously don't know anything. They're not even real scientists!"

He's turning to you before you can even finish the sentence. What?

"None of them are wearing--"

Should they be?

You stare at the clone, at a loss for words, and he stares back. You've never caught him off guard before, but now he's honestly confused. Of course he reads your consternation, your surprise at his ignorance, and his shock bleeds back into sullen resentment. "Scientists wear lab coats, Mewtwo. Haven't you ever seen any movies?"

One of the humans lets out a desperate giggle, then clamps a hand over his mouth. He looks up at Mewtwo in shivering terror, but he's not the target of the clone's wrath. I am trying to work here. If you are going to get in the way, you had better leave before I have to make you.

"Why? I'm help--"

Quiet! The clone turns his attention back to the humans. So. None of you knows anything. None of you even knows where I might find someone who--

"Saffron! They're bound have someone who knows where those records are held!"

"Have you tried Cinnabar? They found those old notebooks there. Maybe there's--"

Speculation is no use to me, the clone announces, and his anger dissolves before a wave of cruel anticipation. He raises a hand.

"Please!" one of the older humans chokes. "I'm not a Rocket! I'm not even supposed to be here! They have--"

Do you think I care? Mewtwo says as pleading voices rise.

Pain flares deep in your sinuses as the pressure around you increases, but it's nothing like the epicenter of the attack, the lab itself. Viewscreens crack and instruments collapse into crumples of plastic and spitting wires, beakers implode with popping crashes, and cracks spiderweb even the heavy tabletops as Mewtwo exercises the fullness of his strength. The air is filled with the sounds of breaking glass and crackling plastic and the deep-voiced creaking of instruments on the verge of failure. And the humans... You try not to pay attention to the humans. At least they don't make any noise.

Mewtwo lets his hand fall, and everything snaps back to normal. You relax and let out a long breath, rubbing your face and wiping a trickle of blood away from your nose. From inside the lab comes the sound of dripping liquid as fluid runs out of containers shattered by the psychic attack, and spreading puddles mix with fanning tendrils of blood. Mewtwo surveys his handiwork a moment more, then turns and leaves, probably encouraged by the acrid smoke starting to billow out of the room. There are other labs.

"Wait!" You hurry after. "Mewtwo, wait! What are you doing? You aren't going to find anything here. You heard the Rockets. They weren't lying, were they? Looking around here is just a waste of time, and you need to get out before--"

The clone rounds on you, and you freeze as psychic power flows around you like a hot wind. I have to do nothing. I don't take orders from a creature like you. You're the one who needs to leave. You are getting in my way. Get out of here!

"But Mewtwo, we're a t--"

No! His anger hits you like a physical blow, almost sending you to your knees. You think you have some part to play in this. You don't! We are not a team. I want nothing to do with you. You are of no use to me. And if you wish to be able to leave under your own power, you will go. Now!

Protests build up in your head, but you forget them all when something tugs on your midriff, hard, and you see your trainer's belt, pokéballs attached, floating towards Mewtwo. It ties itself into a messy knot around his waist, and hangs there askew. His own master ball continues to float nearby, never out of reach.

I'm taking this as well. I don't do business with slavers.

"What?" Where on earth did that come from? "Slavers? What do you mean?" Mewtwo turns away and stalks off down the hall. "No, wait, I'm--I'm not a slaver! I'm a good trainer! What--?"

Mewtwo doesn't wait, but he does speak. If you are such a good trainer, then I'm sure you'll be pleased to hear that I mean these pokémon no harm. I'll release them once I get out of this place.

"No, but--we need them! We need them to find Mew! And they need their pokéballs, War can't go almost anywhere without his. And what if one of them gets hurt? It's not safe if I can't recall them. And they're big, what about--?"

The clone turns back, thin fur bristling, tension in every line of his body. His words are flat and acid. How awful that their freedom would be inconvenient for you.

"But Mewtwo, you don't underst--"

I don't understand? the clone roars, and you flinch, bowing your head before the blast of psychic fury. You draw more dark energy, as much as you can hold, and the anger recedes, but you can still feel the clone's power thickening the air around you, pressing in from all sides. He'll overwhelm your mind if you let your guard down. You dare stand there and tell me I don't understand? You, who has never been captured, who has no idea what it means to be someone else's property? You, who have always been the one giving the orders, enjoying your power over the pokémon you own? And you dare stand there and tell me that I--don't--understand?

You dare it, but not an inch more. You can't do anything but stand still and try to put your thoughts in order. You get no chance to speak them; Mewtwo can see them forming even through the haze of darkness.

Don't say it. Get out of here before I forget myself and give you what all "trainers" deserve.

But you have to try, you can't just let him take--

GO! An unseen hand hurls you into the air, and you sail a few yards down the corridor before slamming back to the floor and sliding until your skull cracks against the wall. You lie stunned, dumbly taking in a sideways view of the hallway and at the far end, Mewtwo, suddenly distant. The clone stares at you, eyes burning purple, daring you to get up again. Then he turns and leaves, blowing out a door and going through, the tip of his purple tail disappearing from view. His churning anger goes with him, but you can still feel the edges of it nipping at your mind: receded, not gone.

You lie there sick and confused and in pain. How can he do this? After all the work you did to get your friends back, he's going to scatter them again. He doesn't understand, you need them. He's going to ruin everything. He's crazy! He can't do this!

You rock your body into a kneeling position, then brace one hand on the wall and pull yourself to your feet. You have to go after him. If he's going to release your pokémon, then as long as you're there, as long as you get a chance to talk to them--

You start to take a step, then groan and lean your head against the wall a moment instead, the cool metal giving you a small measure of relief. Wait. Calm down. There has to be another way out of this.

Mewtwo has something you want--badly, desperately want. There's no way you can take it back by force, you can't outsmart him, and reasoning with him hasn't worked well, either. But you do have one advantage. You have something the clone wants. You know someone who knows someone who knows about the Mewtwo project. Perhaps Mewtwo can be tempted to trade.

You close your eyes and open them to find yourself back at the entrance to the base, your own corpse lying at your feet. You jerk your gaze away and find a clear space a little down the hall, somewhere where you can relax and enjoy the absence of Mewtwo's psychic field. It's so much easier to think, so much easier to breathe without the pressure of his mind poisoning the air. After a few minutes, you're starting to feel almost cheerful again.

You hope the great Nathaniel Morgan hasn't gone far. For once you'll be happy to see him.
 
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diamondpearl876

→ follow your fire.
"Dangerous. Yes, dangerous. And foolish. And unnecessary. You didn't listen."
It doesn't listen to anything. Go figure.
You'll ask him. Right before you make sure he never double-crosses anyone ever again.
Yup, I knew it'd think something like this. Very in-character.
It hates baths, but it wants one anyway.
Have I ever mentioned how I love how you make things so childish yet serious at the same time?
You grit your teeth. Not helpful! No one could call this 'helping.' You walk faster, hurrying through growing shadows, walk until the warm circle of firelight takes you in. You manage a face-tightening smile at the enthusiasm that greets the arrival of food. The team digs in, all save one. You think you're the only one who notices that, for the first time in her life, Rats is late for dinner.
I like the direction that conversation took. Rats is definitely torn, but the child is still stuck its in ways.
The child smiles to itself and takes the master ball from its holder, then nearly drops it as buzzing springs up inside its skull, a low hum of psychic pressure setting the air asimmer. The child puts the master ball back in its stand, and the feeling vanishes. Picks it up again, and the buzzing pops back, making the child's teeth vibrate. It stares at the ball in its hand. It's never heard of a psychic strong enough to project its power while in a pokéball, never mind a master ball, which has the strongest containment field of all.
I like this take on pokeballs.
"Yes." At least the clone's getting straight down to the business of finding Mew. Still, you can't believe he just up and left without you, that he actually knocked you out so you wouldn't be able to follow. You're supposed to be on the same side. You're supposed to be helping each other.
Of course the child expected things to go so simply...

Overall this chapter was brilliant. Mewtwo's defiance was expected but well executed, and the language flows very well throughout the entire chapter, especially during descriptive parts. If the child loses his pokemon again I wonder what he'll do, or if he'll succeed in tempting Mewtwo. Still wanna see what role Nathaniel Morgan plays in all this, too.
 

Negrek

Lost but Seeking
Thanks for reviewing! It's good to see you back.

Have I ever mentioned how I love how you make things so childish yet serious at the same time?
Not really intentional... just something that kind of happened as I was doing the writing. I'm happy it's worked out so far.

I like the direction that conversation took. Rats is definitely torn, but the child is still stuck its in ways.
This scene was actually a spontaneous addition that I hadn't been planning on, but overall I'm pleased with how it turned out.

Of course the child expected things to go so simply...
Things never manage to go simply in this story, do they?

Overall this chapter was brilliant. Mewtwo's defiance was expected but well executed, and the language flows very well throughout the entire chapter, especially during descriptive parts. If the child loses his pokemon again I wonder what he'll do, or if he'll succeed in tempting Mewtwo. Still wanna see what role Nathaniel Morgan plays in all this, too.
Glad you liked it! You should be getting answers to a couple of those questions fairly soon, although speaking of...

The next chapter is stalled, unfortunately, not because of anything in the chapter itself but because of a plot issue in chapter twenty that I haven't been able to resolve in the three months or so that I've been thinking about it. The end of chapter eighteen sets things in motion for whatever's going to go down there, so I'm a bit reluctant to release it for the fear of having to retcon it almost immediately.

If there's much more of a delay I might put up an extra (e.g. the piece I took an excerpt from for that "show what you're working on" thing for the Fanfiction Club) to bridge the time a bit, but hopefully I'll get something worked out and an actual chapter up in the near future.
 
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