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Salvage

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

  1. Starlight Aurate

    Starlight Aurate Just a fallen star

    Chapter 16
    I admit, when I started chapter 16, I'm intrigued as to how Absol could have rescued the child and brought it and the supplies away from danger. It does make for an interesting start to the chapter, at least, and I expect that you'll give us some explanation soon.

    I particularly like this part; it just proves that the child still is a child in some ways, and having it peel string cheese is one way to show it (though who doesn't love to peel string cheese?).

    This is really cute. Yes, I can tell that it's part training, but the playful aspect definitely is there and it's definitely enjoyable and seems to be overtaking the training part. It's just so much like a child would be, and that makes it so much more real.

    This is a beautiful transition :)
    But in all seriousness, I do like the contrasts of the somber first part and the... unexpected-ness of the second.

    The rat's got a point. I agree that homemade sweaters and tattoos don't really go together, but I'd be a liar if I said that I didn't want an adorable Charmander sweater.

    This. Just this. It shows the child-like mindset, and the short attention span, and at once it so wonderfully portrays his character and his current mindset. Plus, it's adorable, though I probably think that because I love children and all of their antics and their thought processes are so funny. Okay, I'll stop going on about the child-like stuff now; I just want you to know that you did a good job on it and it is one aspect of the story that I find most enjoyable :)

    Aww :(
    Rats is definitely a character easy to sympathize with, here. Her whole "I wish you were still you," calls back to when Titan was first angry and attacking the child for not really being his trainer. How well these Pokemon have been getting on knowing that their trainer isn't really their trainer is something that I had wondered about; sure, the child still loves them, but he's definitely someone else, and I can only imagine that it must be somewhat tragic for the Pokemon to deal with, though I'm not sure that all of them know that he's not actually their trainer. Though if Rats's attitude is anything to go off of, then there are certainly changes that they, at least, find noticeable.

    Oh boy. This won't turn out good, will it? Genre-blindness is a pain :/

    How do Absol and the child know where to go to find Mewtwo? I know the child has memories of him, so does it work that he can locate Mewtwo through those and travel to where Mewtwo is? Or that it can feel Mewtwo's presence? Sorry if you explained it and I didn't remember; there are just so many ways to interpret how Psychic and Dark types work, and without a clearer explanation, I'm a little lost.

    I think you need a "to" between "But" and "do." As a sidenote, I like how you explain how Pyschic-type's mind works. I, at least, find it interesting.

    Well, if I remember correctly, the scientists from the first movie found one of Mew's eyebrows, which would technically make Mew a mammal. And if Mew is a mammal, then Mewtwo would be something as well, or at least something close.
    Assuming that you're using some canon from the first movie, of course.

    And that chapter ends on a suitably-dark note! I like this chapter; not as much as I have said in previous chapters (though I'm also refraining from typing out every thought that comes to mind, since I feel it's a bit obnoxious of me to do so), but I like where this fic has gone. The current chapters are, in my opinion at least, more interesting, and your character interactions are engaging. I'm really enjoying all that you've done, and how far this has come :)


    Chapter 17
    I can't imagine that it would be that quiet, especially with the door torn down and no barriers between that and the main part of the Pokemon Center. I'm guessing that the noise from outside the center being made the searchers is blocking it out?

    This whole paragraph is so cold. He's just so... inhuman.

    Aww, only nineteen? I guess it's a reasonable age for a security guard, but it just seems young for him to be in that position....

    I could say that this whole paragraph si a bit much, but I'm a sucker for poetic writing like this. I know it's all arbitrary, unneeded, and can feel like too much, but I like it. I don't know, man, you just got this going on and I'm a sucker for this writing style.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan?! :D

    YEEEEESSSSS

    I guess this Mewtwo has the same prejudice as CanonMewtwo does.
    And the above part is pretty gross, actually. Though it does show that our protagonist isn't put off by that sort of thing. Again, it really helps make him feel cold.

    After reading all this carnage that Mewtwo left behind, at least it's apparent that he doesn't hate the main character all that much; after all, he left him alive.

    Aww! I assume that was her trainer, and that he died and she's trying to rescue him without realizing he's dead?

    And yet, in spite of what I said before, there are parts like these that show that the main character does have some heart in him.

    I think you added a second "no" here by mistake.

    This may be an obnoxiously small detail, but "oozes" is just the perfect word for this whole set-up; it matches the setting, and just everything.

    As unhinged and frightening as Mewtwo is, I have to admit that he has a point.

    And I'll be happy to see him as well ^_^

    This chapter was... good? It was certainly well-written and captivating, but it was really gruesome and morbid. Towards the end, I actually felt like it was playing out like a horror story; bodies lying everywhere, Pokemon going crazy and attacking trainers, an overwhelming force that killed everyone without exception--it made me feel really uncomfortable! If that's what you were going for, then good job! I can't say that I like this chapter, as this sort of subject matter just isn't my cup of tea, but it was essential to showing Mewtwo's character and just how darn powerful he really is. Regardless of how I felt about it, it was necessary and I appreciate all of the effort and good writing that went into this.

    Good job, and I look forward to the next chapter! Plus, I really look forward to seeing the great Nathaniel Morgan again :p
     
  2. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    Sorry I never reviewed chapter 16. It was a great chapter and full of eminently quotable bits, but apparently I never got around to writing up a review.

    The opening of chapter 17 works out really weirdly tense-wise. In the first paragraph about the news report, you're using the past perfect, which sounds wrong with the present tense, but then when you go on to use the simple past for the other paragraphs about it, the lack of other sentence-level indication that you're talking about an earlier timeframe just makes it sound like you're accidentally slipping into the past. I'm not sure what to suggest here, to be honest - present tense may just not be very conducive to doing this kind of rapid back-and-forth in time at all. Either way as it is I just find it confusing and rather unintuitive to read correctly.

    ..."Eyes: BRN" in a Pokémon context makes me think "EYES BURNING", not brown. This is probably something standard in English-language identification, but still kind of threw me off.

    Also, I really like the organ donor detail. Gives this random dead Team Rocket member a little nugget of humanity.

    Of course not! The child would never do that.

    Also a really fun, interesting paragraph with nuggets of the countless other stories intersecting with this one. You do a really nice job of getting us into these alien sensory experiences.

    It's interesting that Mewtwo has killed all the Rockets but meticulously spared their Pokémon.

    Yes, I'm sure that's why.

    The child has watched entirely too many zombie flicks.

    Aww.

    This reads kind of oddly to me since you talk like the blood is just kind of mysteriously appearing for no reason - in fact, initially I read this as some sort of internal bleeding triggered directly by the psychic attack that concentrates near Pokéballs because they magnify it somehow. Wouldn't the Pokéballs exploding into shards of metal make a sound, or otherwise generally register as a thing that's happening before the blood does?

    Repeated "no".

    IMPECCABLE LOGIC.

    I like the scientist who starts giggling. Laughing at something absurd in horrid, not-remotely-funny situations is a terribly human thing to do that you don't see very often in fiction outside of outright comedies.

    In general, I think you did a great job in this chapter of showing these are real people being slaughtered, not just generic evil set decoration - the chapter is full of little details humanizing these Rockets and their Pokémon just slightly, and it adds a lot of immersion and impact to what in another fic might just have felt like a gratuitous gorefest. The child is also entertaining to watch as always, with its conflicted discomfort in the sea of dead bodies. You make Mewtwo and his power utterly terrifying even as the child doesn't quite get it, and the juxtaposition of entirely serious horror and mass murder with the child desperately trying to get Mewtwo's attention and explaining to him that real scientists wear lab coats is delightfully absurd.

    Looking forward to seeing Nate again next chapter (presumably). Bet his thoughts on Mewtwo systematically murdering hundreds of Rockets in his vicinity are fun.
     
  3. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    starliteevee

    Absol didn't actually rescue the protagonist; it teleported away from the battle at the end of the last chapter, and Absol found it shortly afterwards. That's as much explanation as there is, I'm afraid. :p

    The string cheese was actually a fairly late addition in the editing process that kind of metastasized and got everywhere. Glad you liked it!

    Thanks. I think writing the protagonist as a convincing child is one of the bigger challenges for me this story, so I'm glad you think I've been doing well with it.

    The pokémon definitely have varying levels of being okay with the way the protagonist is relative to how their trainer was; they all know that they're not the same person, although the degree to which they really understand how that works varies widely as well. We'll definitely be seeing more of how they're trying to deal with the situation later on.

    Well, it's common knowledge that Red captured Mewtwo a few years back, and ever since then he's been spending most of his time out training around Mt. Silver. He does return to civilization for the League Championships each year, though; thus, this is the only time of year when Absol/the child can be sure he'll be in a particular place, and hence why it's been so important that the child gets to Indigo in time for the tournament. If it misses this, Red's going to vanish back into the wilderness and take Mewtwo with him. This is covered mostly back in chapter... nine, I think, or eight, so it's been a while.

    As to how Absol knows specifically which house they're putting Red up in and what his schedule is for tonight, that isn't specifically discussed. She's been off doing her own thing while the protagonist was making its way towards the Plateau--presumably this includes snooping around and figuring where the Champion is living and when he's usually out of the house.

    I'm pretty sure that's a valid construction, but unfortunately I can't think of any specific well-known examples where it's used. I'm glad you like the description of how psychic powers work, though; they'll be pretty important to the story, so they get a fair amount of exposition.

    For the purposes of this story, pokémon aren't actually animals but a different domain of life. However, the particular lineage Mew's in originally descended from mammals. Mew and Mewtwo have mammal-like traits (e.g. fur), but they're actually a few million years off being mammals themselves.

    Well, as long as it's improving rather than getting worse, I'm satisfied!

    I imagine ripping up the concrete is pretty noisy, but the actual digging not so much, no more so than somebody digging with a shovel. The laundry room's actually in the basement, though, so there aren't a whole lot of people around to hear it in any case... I can't see it being audible from any of the upper floors.

    A lot of people get started in organized crime quite young, and I figure that's even more true in the pokémon world if you have ten-year-olds running around being trainers. Most people in positions of power in Team Rocket are late teens/twenties at least, but a lot of the general rank and file that Mewtwo's been slaughtering his way through are fairly young teenagers.

    Haha, well, I hope that it's not arbitrary or unnecessary... I definitely do get carried away at times, though. Here I just wanted to give a sense of what it might be like to have smell as your primary scent instead of sight. Your nose gives you very different information than your eyes.

    Yeah, Mewtwo doesn't like humans at all, but he generally has no beef with other pokémon.

    It's pretty gross, yes. The protagonist isn't too bothered by it... or isn't about to admit to being bothered by it. Although, as you pointed out later, it might not be quite as unaffected as it believes.

    Well, he definitely doesn't like the protagonist, but it seems he doesn't have any interest in killing it at the moment.

    More or less. She's in denial that her trainer's dead--that's why their hand's all pecked up; she was trying to get their attention, and got increasingly desperate and more violent when she wasn't getting any response.

    Fixed!

    Heh, thanks. I rather like this sentence.

    I hope so. He's pretty sure he's in the right, whatever his methods.

    Yes, this is definitely one of the top five darkest chapters in the story. All the dead bodies and corridors and so forth were definitely supposed to make it feel a bit survival/horror-ish. I understand if you don't like that sort of thing much, but there won't be a great deal of it in the story overall.

    Heh. He's only been gone for like a chapter and a half, and you're already anxious for him to be back, huh?

    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on the chapter even though the subject matter wasn't really to your taste. You don't need to worry about reviewing if the story is making you uncomfortable... I'm not going to be offended or anything. But thank you for your comments! I'm glad there were some things you enjoyed, too.

    Dragonfree

    np, glad you liked it.

    Bah. That section really didn't come out how I wanted it to, but I'm not quite ready to ditch it yet. I want to do something to get across how and why the protagonist goes from Indigo to Viridian without actually having to tack a full scene onto the front; I'll see what I can do to make the current version read a bit more clearly, or perhaps try solving the problem a different way.

    Okay, I have to admit that I laughed a bit at this. What about the Pokémon context makes "eyes burning" seem a likely translation? Suddenly your interpretation of the Pokémon world is sounding kind of gruesome. XD

    I'm pretty sure that's the standard abbreviation used for "brown" on identification documents in the US, though I don't know about elsewhere. I just read off my own ID for those fields, although I'll admit that the reason I left the abbreviation in there was because originally the protagonist did a little double-take at it (Sex: M. Height: 5'10". Eyes: BRN. BRN? Brown, then. Organ donor.) but then I removed it. I'll probably either put that bit back in or just write out "brown."

    Heh, thanks. I have a lot of fun with these sections.

    A television and a total lack of adult supervision will do that to you, yeah.

    Hmm, I see what you mean. I'll see what I can do to make that part more explicit.

    I SEE YOU HAVE NO REBUTTAL.

    I'm someone who has problems with laughing at inappropriate times, so a lot of my characters get kind of giggly at weird moments. :p

    That's good! I definitely wanted this chapter to challenge the protagonist's beliefs about Team Rocket and "being a hero" in general (who cares about killing Rockets, they're evil and nobody cares about slaughtering mooks in movies anyway); this is the first case of its assumptions about its little quest being contradicted by reality in a big way. Making it clear that the people being killed here were actually people and not just generic villains was definitely a priority, as was giving a sense of the protagonist being confused and taken aback by the way those deaths made it feel.

    And Mewtwo's supposed to be totes scary, of course. Glad that came across too.

    Nate wanted me to let you and any other readers hoping to see him get hauled back into this cluster**** know that he hates all of you on a deep and personal level. He's been trying so hard to escape the plot. So hard.

    Anyway, it's good to see you back, and thanks for a lovely review as always!

    General You

    I'm more than half done with the third draft of Chapter 18, and I'm going to make every effort to have it up before October 30th, which would mark (sigh) two months since the last chapter. The 'fic's second birthday is also approaching, and I'll have something to post for that, too.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2014
  4. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    "BRN" is the abbreviation for the burn status condition!

    It may just be me and my Icelandicness being unaware of BRN as an abbreviation for brown, in which case you probably shouldn't worry about it. It just took me a moment of "Wait, what, his eyes have a burn ow what and why is that on his identification" before I managed to come up with brown. If you see "Eyes: BRN" on a regular basis, this is probably not that weird. (I do like the version where the child takes a moment to understand the abbreviation, though.)

    You and your unfinished sentences.

    It's only because I love you, Nate.

    Also yay chapter 18 and fic birthdays!
     
  5. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    *facepalm* Oh right, those "game" things.

    I'll probably just put the protagonist's little confused moment back in. I removed it originally because I thought that it left the "organ donor" bit kind of hanging by itself, and it seemed weird to transition out of the ID stuff and then back in just for that single tidbit. If I rearrange the order of the information, though, it won't have to be all by its lonesome out on the end.

    Okay so this time it's not even about that, I totally finished the rest of this paragraph, and I have no idea what happened to it:

    "That's good! I definitely wanted this chapter to challenge the protagonist's beliefs about Team Rocket and "being a hero" in general (who cares about killing Rockets, they're evil and nobody cares about slaughtering mooks in movies anyway); this is the first case of its assumptions about its little quest being contradicted by reality in a big way. Making it clear that the people being killed here were actually people and not just generic villains was definitely a priority, as was giving a sense of the protagonist being confused and taken aback by the way those deaths made it feel."

    So I actually got the chapter done by the time I said I would, despite some expert-level procrastination on my part and my internet going out last night when I was trying to upload it. As always, hope you enjoy.

    Chapter 16

    You smell him all around the door. Without that, you'd never have noticed it. It's a nondescript sheet of metal like all the others in this hallway, a letter-number code stenciled on it in bold red. At the moment you're attacking the card reader next to it with the complete contents of Tony Flores' wallet. He doesn't have an obvious Rocket ID, but he does have a lot of cards.

    You're acutely aware, as you fumble one after another against the scanner, that the elites could be descending even now, sweeping through the base in search of Mewtwo. Or maybe the clone's found what he's looking for and is smashing his way to the surface, ready to collapse the base behind him, to bring it down in a pile of rubble about your ears.

    At last the scanner beeps, and the door slides open while you stare down at what looks like a sandwich shop rewards card in your hand. You shake your head, deciding to worry about it later, and step through into a storeroom. Or maybe it's an armory, racks of guns run down one side, shelves of pokéballs along the other. And near the back--"You!"

    He glances over his shoulder, a fistful of pokéballs in one hand and his pokédex in the other. Your stomach sours with resentment at the sight of it. The mightyena by his side sniffs at a shelf, ignoring you completely. "Who the hell're you?" the great Nathaniel Morgan asks nonchalantly.

    You charge down the center aisle by way of reply, and after a moment's surprise the mightyena turns and rushes to intercept you. You clench a fist, gathering spores inside, then leap aside just before you two collide and scatter the powder in the dark-type's face as she goes sailing past. The mightyena recovers easily and comes around for another pass, but her strides turn shaky and uncertain, and bald confusion crosses her face for just a second before she collapses in heavy slumber.

    "Oh, shit," the great Nathaniel Morgan says as you surge back into a run. He grimaces and reaches up to pull a shelving unit over, scattering pokéballs in all directions. "Go on, all of you!"

    A blaze of multicolored light knocks the Rocket off his feet and capsizes another couple of shelves. The air is filled with the confused cries of pokémon, and you slow, skirting around the edge of the group and looking for a way through to the human on the other side.

    A steelix rears up out of the crowd with a furious bellow, only to subside into a buzzsaw growl when he bangs his head on the low ceiling. Then he twists back on himself, lifting his tail to free an irate vaporeon who'd gotten trapped underneath. "Dreadfully sorry about that. I didn't see you there. Would you please--"

    His words cut off with a grunt as you land on the broad expanse of his head, alighting for only a moment before kicking off again, powerful blaziken muscles bunching in your legs. Curved talons split open your shoes as you fall towards the great Nathaniel Morgan, who's pulling himself back to his feet, oblivious.

    The impact knocks him to the ground again, and your momentum carries him clear into the wall. His ribs give way under your weight, and your claws clutch in the flesh beneath. You can feel his heart beating somewhere close by, sending warm pulses of blood trickling out around your toes. You could just reach up and grab it, crush it between your talons and finish the human off for good. Not yet, though. Not just yet.

    You lean in close while the great Nathaniel Morgan gags and sputters, bright frothing blood dribbling from his mouth. "It is me." He just stares at you, irregular breaths gurgling in his throat. "Did you really think you could escape that easily? Did you really think you could attack me, try to capture me, and I would let you walk away? We had a deal!"

    He shifts a bit under you, squinting up at your face. "The fuck... are you doing here?" You can barely make out the words over the noise of his breathing.

    "Why did you do it? I saved your life. I would have let you go. All you had to do was cooperate! Why could you not cooperate for two damn weeks?"

    "Go to hell... you worthless... piece..."

    You twist your claws in deeper, and the human lets out a choked, bubbling scream. "Answer me!" He gags up more blood and lies there coughing, his chest spasming in your grip. You pick him up with one foot and slam him back against the floor. "Answer me!"

    The great Nathaniel Morgan stares up at the ceiling, eyes unfocused. His voice is hoarse and distant as he says, "Ticket... back on the team... right? Valuable... for parts... at least..."

    Rage boils over in your chest, and you forget why you came to find him, forget about Mewtwo and your pokémon, forget everything but revenge. "You sold a child to Team Rocket!" You're halfway shrieking now. "A child, you, you evil--you disgusting--" You slam him into the floor with each word, your claws tearing chunks of flesh out of his side.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan tries to curl into a ball, but he can barely move. You pin him on his back and stand there quivering with anger but unsure of what to do. Killing seems too good, burning seems too good for someone who would condemn you to rot in a cage underground, picked apart by Rocket scientists or thrown into one of their fighting rings to battle to the death. And he did it just to get back in with his awful friends. He did it, you're sure, with one of those awful smirks on his face as he imagined what lay ahead of you.

    He's trying to smirk now, lips drawing back in a red-stained half-smile. "Ha... not child... more like... fucking... demon..."

    You raise a clawed foot, ready to drive it through his disgusting face, when your world explodes with pain. A dizzying second later you find you're crushed up against the wall, whole body crying out in agony.

    You drop to the floor as something releases you and try to twist your head around on a body gone all out of alignment to see what it was.

    You barely manage a protect before the steelix brings his tail down again, and the blow connects with a crash that rattles your shattered bones and sends up a great plume of sparks. The steel-type pauses for a moment to shake himself, scattering the last of the pokémon trying to restrain him, then brings his tail back for another swing. The big steel-type smashes at your barrier again and again. "What are you doing?" he roars. "You'll kill him! What are you doing?"

    You grit your teeth against the stress headache building behind your temples and wrench your body the right way around with a stinging series of pops and crunches, smashed bones starting to knit back together. The steelix must have pulled his iron tail attack, but even so, you'd be in dire shape if you were human. The steel-type withdraws for a moment, staring at you in confusion, and you let go of your protect and spread one hand, sending a five-pointed burst of flame into the steelix's face.

    "He's a member of Team Rocket! Of course I'm going to kill him!" you yell over the steelix's scraping metal screech of pain. There's a murmur of fear and surprise from the other pokémon, and you hesitate, only now remembering that you have an audience.

    The bewildered pokémon stare at you, seeing something blood-smeared and furious and obviously inhuman. They're not moving to attack yet, but there's nervous shifting in the crowd, some muttering. The mention of Team Rocket has them distracted for the moment, but you can't count on the watchers to stay neutral forever. Most of them have been trained to protect humans without a second thought, after all. "Stay out of this. It doesn't concern you," you say, as much to them as to the steelix.

    "He's my trainer!" the steelix roars, scattering pokémon as he lunges for you in a shriek of metal armor over metal floor. "Of course it's my business if you intend to murder him!" You roll to the side, and the steel-type's jaws crash shut on empty air. You duck as he follows up with a headbutt, then protect yourself from a slashing iron tail. He's trying to drive you away from the great Nathaniel Morgan, you note, and a burst of inspiration and a burst of speed take you to the comatose human's side. Your ruined shoes squelch in a spreading puddle of blood as you haul the human up and hold him out in front of you as a shield. The steelix twists aside to avoid hitting the two of you with his double-edge, demolishing several shelves instead and sending pokéballs spinning in all directions.

    You back up and try to split your attention between the steelix and the other pokémon. Most have retreated out of the battle zone, but a few are stalking around the edges of the fight, watching too intently for your tastes.

    The steelix rears up, swaying side to side as he looks for a way to get at you without further injuring his trainer. He opens his mouth wide and lets out a long, keening screech of frustration, and you smile despite your ringing ears, keeping a firm grip on the great Nathaniel Morgan. Good. Now, just a moment and you'll be out of here...

    A faint noise behind you is all the warning you get before something seizes your leg, dragging you to the floor. You scream and drop the great Nathaniel Morgan as fangs tear deep into your calf, shredding through muscle and grating against bone. You fire a swift attack over your shoulder, blind, but your attacker doesn't let go.

    You manage to twist around enough to see that it's the mightyena, awake now and angry, her teeth glowing as she mangles your leg. You grab the pokéballs off the great Nathaniel Morgan's belt and smack her on the side of the head with them. One goes off and draws her inside, leaving you alone, your blood mingling with the human's on the floor.

    You swallow back pain and nausea, bowing your head a moment as you shove the pokéballs into your pocket, then grab the great Nathaniel Morgan's pokédex for good measure. Dark-types. Always popping up at the most inconvenient times.

    You shouldn't have stopped to rest. There's movement in your peripheral vision, but you're in too much pain to get out of the way before the steelix's tail connects and sends you crashing into a shelf.

    You land slipping on spilled pokéballs and flop over on your stomach as another iron tail comes down, smashing the shelf to bits and landing inches from your arm. You throw yourself aside as another attack lands, then again, and without time to regain your feet you only just stay ahead of the steelix's attacks. He brings his tail down over and over like he's determined to swat a particularly annoying fly, each strike landing with a boom that bounces pokéballs in all directions.

    You've little attention left for thought, but you know this is a losing battle. Blood pumps from shredded arteries in your leg, and your head's growing foggy, your movements sluggish and clumsy. If the steelix hits you, which he will if he keeps this up, you're going to be out of the fight or worse.

    All you have to do is get to the great Nathaniel Morgan and teleport out of here. That's it. You can't see the human anymore, the steelix's silver coils separating you from his trainer. But if you could just get back up, all you'd need is one good quick attack. You'd be there and gone before the big slab of metal knew what was going on.

    A desperate sideways roll leaves you close enough to Steelix's swing that you can smell hot metal as his tail strikes sparks from the floor. Pokéballs spin all around you, and at last something clicks in your overwhelmed mind. "Go, go!" you shout, fumbling any balls you can reach into the air. Pokémon appear, a farfetch'd, a chansey, a ponyta burning silver flames, and their shouts of surprise are drowned out by another booming iron tail.

    "Get him! Stop him!" you yell, only just remembering to use human, and their training and the assumption that you know what's going on quiets them and turns them towards the steelix. The farfetch'd takes wing, all bravery in the face of an opponent who won't even feel the stabs of her leek, and the chansey waddles forward with an ugly scowl on her face. Only the ponyta hangs back, his flames dancing with building power.

    The steelix hesitates with tail raised, glancing between his new opponents, and you see your moment. You pull yourself upright with the help of a splintered shelf while the farfetch'd starts jabbing with her leek. The blows ping uselessly from the steelix's armor, and he ignores them, starting forward with jaws open wide. A flamethrower from the ponyta drags a molten, glowing streak across the steelix's face, but he keeps coming despite his bellow of pain.

    The steelix tries to curve around the chansey, angling for you directly, but she's having none of it. The normal-type dashes right in under the steelix, reaches out with stubby fingerless paws, and seizes one of the spikes protruding from his side. Then she lifts.

    The steelix's jaw hangs slack with shock, and for a moment his body stays limp while the chansey hauls him up over her head. He gets over his surprise quickly, though, and an awful grinding noise starts up as the links of his tail twist and writhe against the floor, the steelix fighting for purchase to pull himself free.

    The throbbing in your leg fades beneath a tide of warmth as you channel energy to your injuries, not too much, but enough to staunch the bleeding. "Put me down!" the steelix is yelling in the distance. "Please! Stop! You don't know what you're doing! Madam, I must insist that you--"

    The chansey hoists him higher with a trilling cry, then throws. It's not much of a seismic toss--the steelix is too unwieldy for that--but he goes crashing to the floor nonetheless, body whipping and flailing as he tries to right himself, crushing onlookers in the process.

    This at last shocks the watching pokémon into action. The chansey charges as they flood onto the battlefield, letting out another battle-cry as she goes.

    You only have a few seconds before they reach you. Already energy attacks burst on all sides, sending up fountains of guns and pokéballs as they explode more shelves. You shift weight onto your injured leg and almost fall over, head going swimmy from the pain. You can do this, though. It will all be over in a heartbeat. Steelix is only now thrashing his way upright, and he'll never be able to get between you and the great Nathaniel Morgan in time. You throw yourself forward at an impossible run.

    In an instant you're standing over the human. A glowing blade of compressed air whizzes just over your head as you bend down to grab his arm, and you shut your eyes to block everything out, the pain in your leg and the flickering pulse under your fingers. Everything fades into the background, the steelix's despairing roar sounding far-off and echoing, and then it truly is gone as you leave the base and all its bloodstained corridors behind.

    --​

    It's not fair, you think, turning in another circle. You're limping, your hurt leg still too weak to hold you properly, but you're much too tired to fix it now. It's not fair that you have to work so hard to keep the great Nathaniel Morgan alive when you really just want him dead. Three softboileds was all you dared give him, but that was more than enough for you. Your body feels like one giant bruise, but you're afraid that if you sit down you'll fall asleep and miss what happens below. So for now, you walk and seethe.

    It's true, you should have waited to get the information you wanted out of the Rocket before getting your revenge, but it's so hard for you to think when you're angry, and everything the great Nathaniel Morgan does makes you angry.

    Most recently that was being loud. You never thought someone could give so much offense just by breathing, but the wheezing, bubbling noise got on your nerves to the point that you wedged the human in the rooftop shed behind you just to get away from it. You're pretty sure both his lungs are working again now; he's got no reason to be as dramatic as all that.

    You pause for a moment and lean against the lip of the roof, staring at the police perimeter below. It stirs with constant activity, a new tension in the air now that the elites have descended into the base. The six of them went down around ten minutes ago, Blaine, Lorelei, and Sabrina joining the three you saw earlier, anyone they could get together on short notice, you presume. The cops chatter over radios, keeping tabs on what's happening underground, but no matter how you turn up your ears you can't make out the words over the clamor.

    You watch a moment more, then turn away, clenching a fist as you resume your slow, unsteady pacing. You don't care what Mewtwo thinks, even he isn't powerful enough to stand up to that many of Kanto's best trainers. After all, the Champion captured him before, alone. How he thinks he'll get away this time, you don't know.

    And Mewtwo's not just risking himself, of course. No, he took your pokémon, for whatever insane reason. If he gets captured, so do they. And then what? They get released if you're lucky. If you're very lucky. If not, they're kept as evidence, or witnesses, or something, trapped in the slow bureaucratic whirlpool of the justice system. Or worse; someone looks at them, realizes where they come from, discovers the thread that connects them all--they recognize you. They'll come for you next, all because that arrogant, stubborn clone thinks he's so above it all. He's supposed to help you, not make things worse. He just doesn't--

    A distant explosion sends you running back to the edge, weariness momentarily forgotten. The activity below halts as humans and pokémon alike turn their eyes skyward, following an unfurling purple ribbon of psychic energy. Then comes the shouting, then comes the running, and you wrestle your shirt off, only just remembering to wrap yourself in the illusion of a pidgey before feathers start to flow down your torso. Your very bones itch as your skeleton reconfigures, and you hunch forward as your chest bulks out with new muscle and your arms are weighted down by feathers. Every second feels like an agonizing eternity as you watch Mewtwo grow smaller and smaller, craning your head back to keep him in view. He's so fast, he's so terribly fast, and he's leaving you behind.

    The clone came up from somewhere else. You suppose you should have expected that--the base probably covers a couple blocks at least. Thankfully you don't see anyone on his tail. The police start to follow, flying units swirling around his fading contrail, but given his head start you doubt they'll catch him.

    Unfortunately that means you might not be able to catch him, either. You vault off the edge of the roof and spread your new wings, joining the last stragglers in pursuit. A crobat goes spiraling past, followed shortly by a flygon and then a pidgeot with a rider goading him on. You flap along grimly, trying to ignore your fatigue as you draw on energy to increase your speed. You're not very fast on your own merits, but with the techniques at your disposal, you begin to close the gap. Streamers of energy trail behind your wings as you fly, invisible under the shroud of your illusion. The crobat stares down at the determined pidgey who's overtaking her by fits and starts.

    No sooner have you reached the head of the pack than you drop back again, throwing up a protect just before a wave of psychic energy rips through the crowd of flying-types. A few fall, and the screaming of humans mixes with cries of pokémon as unlucky riders topple from their mounts. A few turn back to help those in distress, and some retaliate, streamers of fire and bolts of energy leaping towards the fleeing clone. Only a handful of pokémon carry on forward--gaining on Mewtwo, perhaps? Only slightly if so.

    Through dogged effort you pull to the front again, closing with Mewtwo until you feel the scintillating edge of his psychic field as a faint ringing in your ears. You feel, too, the surge of power just before the clone releases another attack.

    It breaks against your protect, which glows a moment as the wave of psychic energy washes over its surface. It slows you down, yes, but most of the pokémon behind you are knocked from the sky. As soon as you let the protect fall you pour all you've got into catching up. Wait! you think with all your might. Wait for me! Stop!

    You think you feel a ripple in the clone's mind, but there's no other sign of recognition. Mewtwo doesn't slow.

    He knows you're behind him, and he recognizes you, you're sure of it. If you can feel him, he can feel you, too. You focus all your thoughts on how much you want him to wait, to just slow down a little bit, until you feel like your head's going to explode from concentrating.

    The clone doesn't wait, not even as the police fall farther and farther behind. He shoots straight as an arrow north and east, Viridian Forest rolling on and on below, endless miles of trees. You follow grimly, wondering where he's going. Not to Cerulean, you're sure. Not to seek out more of Team Rocket, not so soon. Even he must need to rest after a night like this. Not even he could be thinking of more bloodshed now. He can't be going to Cerulean.

    And he isn't. You sag with relief as Mewtwo drops lower, skimming just over the trees as the ground slopes up towards the foot of Mt. Moon. You follow at a distance, laboring on numb and sluggish wings. After nearly an hour of flying you're coasting mostly on momentum, your weak, erratic wingbeats barely enough to keep you stable and aloft. When the clone arcs down, slicing straight through the dark canopy, you simply give up on flying, letting yourself fall forward in a barely-controlled dive.

    You try to aim between the trees, but the forest is deep and dense, and branches reach at you from all sides. One snags a wing and flips you over, and after that your descent becomes a mess of hopeless flailing that only gets you more tangled up. It feels like you bounce off of every branch possible on the way down until you drop below the canopy and free-fall the rest of the way to the ground, landing in a heap amidst a rain of twigs and broken boughs.

    Mewtwo stands not far away, watching. His amusement seeps into your brain as you lie there gasping for air, long scratches left by tree branches burning and your whole body shivering with weariness.

    "Why didn't you slow down?" you wheeze at last. "You knew I was following you. Why didn't you let me catch up?"

    After all the fuss you made about those humans coming to get me? I was expecting you to complain that I was too slow. The clone turns away and stares up through the trees. It's a full moon tonight, shining round and brilliant beyond a cage of needles. Besides, I didn't care whether you could keep up. You don't need to be here.

    "Yes I do. We're in this together, Mewtwo. We're--"

    You should stop saying that before I lose my patience. I won't repeat myself again: I do not need you. I do not want to have you around. It would be better for both of us if you just went home, little thief. I will come get you if I change my mind.

    You glare at the clone, too tired to argue. You are useful, whatever Mewtwo says. You want to help, and already you've--

    Is that so? The clone pauses a moment, head tipped as if listening to a distant strain of music. Then he turns and walks briskly back to you, one hand outstretched. Very well. Let's go see this Rocket of yours, then.

    You shake your head and roll onto your stomach. Feathers melt away as you shed your borrowed form, shrinking back to child-sized.

    The child props its head on its arms and looks up into the impatient clone's face. "No. You can't go. Give my pokémon back, and I'll--"

    The clone's rage is so sudden that the child drops flat against the ground, stunned. A second ago you claimed we were in this together. And now you dare stand in my way? You dare come between me and my mother?

    The child grits its teeth, eyes watering with the effort of speaking. "You said you didn't want my help, but now you seem pretty angry that I'm not going to do what you say."

    The air is churning, humid with the psychic's anger. The child is scared, no point hiding that, but it doesn't matter. It keeps its eyes trained on the clone's face, where at last there is some sign of emotion. Mewtwo's lips draw back, showing long, curving teeth. His tail lashes side to side, powerful enough to shatter bone at a single blow. The child lies at the center of an invisible, silent tempest, the air surging with currents of psychic force and the leaf litter around it stirring fretfully. But not a bit of the clone's ire touches the child.

    "If we're going to work together, you have to let me do things my way. It's no good if you're just going to push me around all the time. That means I want you to give my pokémon back. You have no right to take--"

    And you have no right to keep them! They're not your property! Mewtwo yells. His voice is so loud the child would call it deafening if it were coming in through its ears.

    "Have you tried asking them for their opinion?" the child asks, wincing at the un-noise.

    You think they'd want to go with you, do you? Mewtwo asks, and the child is sure they would, of course it is--and thoughts of Rats rise unbidden. An icy tendril of uncertainty wends its way through the child's guts as Mewtwo's laughter fills its mind. His blistering anger fades into smugness. Yes, that's what I thought. Such a good trainer, aren't we?

    The child rubs out a patch of feathers near its elbow. This isn't where it expected the conversation to go at all. And no matter how it tries to focus, Rats' face keeps coming back to it, whiskers drooping and body hunched over in disappointment. She was so sad. Which isn't its fault, but--

    Very well, Mewtwo says, and there's genuine levity in his emanations. Bring the human here. I will return your pokémon if it proves useful.

    "No. Give them back now."

    Mewtwo's gaze is impassive. Do you really think you're going to get a better offer?

    The child sits and stews a while, as best it can with Mewtwo's amusement leaching into its mind. And it's too tired for being angry. In the end the child decides that after all the effort, it might as well bring the great Nathaniel Morgan here and let the chips fall where they may. With a thought it's gone, back out in Viridian City's noisy, halogen-hazed nighttime.

    The child can hear the police still bustling about down below but doesn't bother to go look. Instead it staggers upright and leans against the rooftop shed, resting its head against the side. The air here is so wonderfully light without Mewtwo's thoughts to weigh it down, and it even feels cleaner as the child draws deep breaths into its lungs.

    It can only relax for a moment, though. It doesn't want to find out what Mewtwo will do if he grows impatient in its absence. It drags open the door of the shed, ignoring the blood-smell that comes rolling out, and nudges the great Nathaniel Morgan with a foot. In a flash, it's back in the clone's presence.

    Mewtwo's thoughts are stained with avid interest as he bends down to inspect the Rocket, but they shift rapidly into disappointment. Do you even expect this thing to survive? It's hardly breathing.

    "I don't know. I think so. I could try to heal him more, I guess, but he was sort of hurt to begin with, and he got hurt again really bad, and now I'm worried that he might not have enough energy left for another softboiled. The shock might kill him." The last round of healing wasted the human down to skin and bone, and his clothing hangs loose and tattered. His chest is still a mess of scabbing gouges, but the child thinks the worst of the internal damage is fixed. At least the great Nathaniel Morgan's breathing with both lungs now.

    Mewtwo stares down at the human, most likely not even listening to the child's explanation. You are familiar with this human, he says, and despite the neutral tone, the child understands it to be an accusation.

    "Yes, but only because we're enemies. You can look at my memories, I'm telling the truth." It has no trouble remembering all the awful things the great Nathaniel Morgan's done for Mewtwo's benefit. After about a minute the clone turns away, satisfied.

    "He knows people who were on the Mewtwo project," you say, made nervous by the clone's silence. "When he wakes up you can ask him who they are. Then we can go and find them, and then we can find Mew."

    I already know what I'm looking for. Mewtwo ignores the acid horror building in the pit of the child's stomach. Still, I suppose this might be convenient. At least it means I won't have to snag another. And the fact that he's a fugitive is interesting. Perhaps that can be of use.

    And just as fast as the child had its hopes dashed it perks up again, alight with anxiety and impatience. "So you're saying you can still use him? He still might be valuable?"

    Mewtwo wanders away, headed for the dark mass of a rocky outcropping rearing up nearby. The child watches in agonized uncertainty, wanting to get up and pursue him but not quite daring. The clone wriggles into a little alcove at the base of the ridge, sweeping leaf litter around himself with his tail and curling into a comfortable ball. He settles back into the darkness, so deep the child would never know he was there if not for the purple glow of his eyes. I require rest before the trip to Saffron City. If that thing wakes up, I suppose we can bring it with us. I have a job for it.
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2015
  6. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    Do you mean "around" not "about"?
    The child could have fun with those kinds of cards.
    "The" shouldn't be capitalized.
    I like the little touch about how it'd be if it were human.
    Perfect description, and there were no errors I could see. I do wonder what Mewtwo wants the great Nathaniel Morgan to do. And I want the child to reconcile with Rats and the rest of its pokemon, but that scene seems so far away... By the way, I do like that you call him THE GREAT Nathaniel Morgan rather than just... Nathaniel. It adds a nice touch to the narrative, and all the little informal lines and humorous bits really add to the narrative as well. Don't know if I've said that yet, but now that it's on my mind I'll type it. ;)
     
  7. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    diamondpearl876

    Nope, "about" rather than "around" is a valid turn of phrase

    Oh, absolutely. We haven't seen the last of Tony's cards.

    Ah, looks like a regex corner case I need to patch. Thanks for pointing it out!

    The humorous stuff really crept in unexpectedly, but overall I'm pleased with how it's turned out. Hopefully I can keep myself from going overboard with it in the future. Thanks for mentioning it, and for turning around such a nice, prompt response!

    --

    So it's November 1st, two years after I posted the first chapter of this fanfic. To celebrate this year, I figured I'd post the first chapter of this fanfic... again.

    That's right, the big revision I've been talking about for months now is underway, and the first revised chapter is up now. It's entirely new, but you don't need to read it, or any of the other revised chapters, for that matter. They don't give any new information, and it's the same story as before--only the way that story's being presented will change (with the exception of some minor details).

    Unfortunately, the first chapter is the only one where I can just drop in a new version and have everything else line up nicely. The rest of the revision is going to involve a lot of moving things around and the total number of chapters will change, so it all has to get uploaded in one shot rather than on a chapter-by-chapter basis. I hope to be able to do that in early December. NaNoWriMo is going to be commandeering my usual draft writing time in November, so as far as work on Salvage goes I'm going to be focusing solely on revision.

    In the meantime, I've prepared some "extras" that I'll be posting between chapters so there will be new content at least a little more regularly than usual. The first one will go up sometime in mid-November. I've written up a fair number, including several that focus on world-building topics, including:

    - The pokédex
    - The history and structure of the Pokémon League
    - The relationship between pokémon and animals
    - The relationship between pokémon and humans
    - Absol morality

    I've also got a grab-bag of other things planned:

    - A deleted scene from near the beginning of the story, where the protagonist is trying to find out if the Safari Zone would be a good place to look for dead trainers
    - A very silly AU where Nate reads the protagonist a bedtime story
    - The story of how Nate met his mightyena

    If you're particularly interested in any of those, let me know. Otherwise I'll pick one myself (probably one of the worldbuilding ones) and it'll be a surprise.

    Anyway, here's to two years of posting my silly fanfic. At the current rate of updating, I expect the story to run for about three years more. Thanks to everyone who's read and supported the story so far, and I hope you continue to enjoy it through the updates to come.
     
  8. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    OKAY SO. Guess what I just finished reading. That's right: the post about the revisions and extras.

    But yeah, also the preceding story so far.

    Hella fascinating protagonist, first off: otherly in a way I'm not sure I've ever seen anything be otherly before. Which is extra noteworthy given that the character was human once upon a time. At the same time, said character does a pretty darn good job of seeming legitimately young. I'm having trouble putting my finger on how, but I thhhhhhink it has to do with the way it like... gets carried away with itself sometimes? And the ways its judgment gets clouded sometimes. The way it thinks and behaves seems appropriately childish, is what I guess I'm getting at.

    AND THE POKEMON. God, so many great pokémon characters. I love it.

    This thing's also made me the most interested I've been in reading about Mew and Mewtwo and related matters in quite some time, so points for that, too.

    I guess now's as good a time as any to go to the play-by-plays. What follows are my thoughts recorded as I was reading, so expect some questions that have already been answered, heh...

    Can't speak for Nicholas, but what I do is go WELL NOW. Talk about a hook. Of course I'm gonna keep reading when you've gone and dropped the likes of that on me.

    Yeah, given that absol faces are half wolf and half goddamn scythe, it's probably best to heed their advice.

    The balls I am. I mean... oh, you know what I mean.

    Certainly curious as to what this... being actually is, though. As well as if second-person person and third-person person are actually separate entities. Strongly inclined to believe they are not.

    Oh no, that's adorable.

    Inability to resist taking a little peek at some reviews and replies has pretty much confirmed that yes, 2nd-person person and 3rd-person person are one and the same. (The previous uncertainty and that little "pretty much" there aren't comments on your clarity, incidentally. I'm just a huge, mildly paranoid goober who's reluctant as such to assume too readily that I've got things figured out, heh.)

    Okay, gonna try a little harder not to peek at spoilers and the like now so that we can both enjoy my semi-blind fumblings for the truth behind this story.

    An unhapling, if you will.

    I like this raticate. And raticate in general, but particularly this one.

    Okay, so. Mysterious being 1.) can masquerade as a human and 2.) knows mirror coat. Hmm.

    skips off to bulbapedia for a moment

    ...Hm. Still not sure what to pin it on. Is it even a canon pokémon? Is it even a pokémon, when it all comes down to it? I suppose I'll see.

    Claws. Maybe that indicates the main character has claws in its natural form. Maybe it doesn't. What are the limits to this thing's shapeshifting/illusion-casting/whatever shenanigans it's pulling? Is it restricted to human disguises, or are other pokémon on the table? What about forms that technically conform to neither?

    WELL THEN.

    I've been asking the same question for years and years and years, Main Character.

    Just had to be eating when that came up, didn't I.

    finally, properly notices the banner

    ...Huh.

    Now what, if anything, should I make of that?

    There's something undeniably funny about someone shooing a damn absol away like she's a stray dog or some such. The humor's very welcome right about now. I've developed a headache that won't frick off--the more nice little distractions come along, the better.

    That said, I'm glad I didn't do more than chuckle a little. Might've hurt like heck otherwise.

    And you don't even have a paper bag to stick on your head.

    (Would a paper bag even fit properly over a weavile crest? Science still doesn't know.)

    Oh my god I like this golbat.

    Those must be the best ****ing treats in the history of ever.

    immediately, helplessly pictures what it might look like if that were literally true

    laughs

    Well, that was adorably dog of her.

    Cute!

    Mmm, tasty.

    In all fairness, he didn't specify what he wanted done with the water. :3

    Pfffffheheheh. What a great reaction.

    A REALLY, REALLY GREAT reaction.

    Good grief I like this raticate.

    Cute!

    There's something oddly satisfying about watching the main character get their composure not only cracked but served to them on a ****ing bun.

    For the next five hours, the time is 80:08.

    Oh my god.

    Rats, you might just have some competition in the favorite pokémon category.

    Some very stiff competition.

    She is just so badass. I'd have loved her regardless, because magmar, but that's just icing on the incendiary duck monster.

    ...For the sake of everyone forced to breathe the air in there, I certainly hope said dust is coming from her feathers.

    It's togebutt dander, I suspect.

    Wait, do things with feathers even produce dander?

    Today I have learned that I know incredibly little about birds, and by extension dinosaurs.

    Enter that special sort of delight that comes with the certainty that a character has just sealed their fate. >:)

    ...Okay, I have to applaud him for that line.

    Oh god. I mmmmmmay have flinched as if I actually expected crumbs to spray out of the screen at me.

    shudders

    Okay I think that might be the cutest thing I've ever seen an absol do, ever.

    Precious wolfkitty thing...

    Starting to get a hunch about who said "brother" is...

    Ayup. There's the banner question answered too, I suppose.


    Gosh dang. The bits about how Mew perceives things were fascinating. Fascinating and lovely and sad and just... hell yes. I could read entire fics worth of that stuff.

    Something about that just makes her seem so alien. I love it.

    Oh, you poor thing.

    You poor, doomed thing.

    Okay, I laughed. XD

    Now there's an ability I can't help but covet. Maybe there's some reason why I shouldn't, but I'm failing to see it.

    Ah. I suppose that answers that.

    PFFF good job there, steelix.

    He is just too gosh darn adorable for his own good.

    Oh god, that is a priceless image.

    WELL THEN.

    Okay this chansey gets a kickass pokémon award too.

    Gotta mention while I'm here that that scene? Was great. Definitely a highlight. Came across as appropriately chaotic, yet wasn't impossible to follow. And goddamn those pokémon are entertaining.


    So yeah I'll be back for more of this. Extras included, because...

    Oh hell yes. :D
     
  9. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    Hey Sike! Thanks a ton for taking the time to read this. I'll put my reply under a spoiler here:

    Thanks! I actually think the way I write the protagonist was subliminally lifted from another fanfic I read many years ago (and that that one did a much better job of capturing the alienness of the character sob) that must have really affected me; if I'm lucky maybe people will be as struck by the portrayal here as I was by that one. I've had a lot of fun writing it, so I'm happy to hear you like it.

    Great. There are a LOT of pokemon characters in the story, so I'm glad you don't find them same-y or uninteresting.

    worst pun of the thread so far congrats

    Heh, I'm glad you found the mysteries interesting rather than just confusing or frustrating. I'm trying to make things a bit clearer in the revision for a variety of reasons, but it's never going to be all that straightforward, so it's comforting to hear you weren't too put off.

    I am so unreasonably happy with that line.

    Praxiteles wrote her interpretation of a salamence church revival, if you're interested.

    You really have to be very specific when you're talking to the protagonist. :p

    I enjoyed writing that scene a lot for that very reason.

    And also for knowing all the implications that conversation has for future chapters. ;)

    I love magmar! Evidently Blaine doesn't even have one in the games (whoops), but there was no way I was going to have the final round be against a ninetales or something, pfft.

    Oh, great. Now I'm never going to be able to unsee that. >>

    Oh, definitely. >:D

    Heh, I like that line a lot as well.

    Glad you liked them! Alas, I don't think I'd ever be able to write a whole fic like that, but it was a fun challenge to try for a little bit.

    We'll see a bit more of this later on in the story. The protagonist hasn't been leaning on that ability all that heavily yet.

    I originally wrote this as just letting Steelix rear up to his full height, but during revision I realized it wouldn't make sense to have such a high ceiling in an underground storage room. So Steelix was made to suffer for my fail. :D

    Awesome. It changed a lot in revision, so I'm glad it ended up coming out well.

    Thanks again for the review. You always pick on the best bits. :)
    Except this:

    You're in luck, then! The absol morality extra is the one I decided to go with first; I actually wanted to release it after chapter sixteen, since Absol features prominently in that chapter, but obviously that didn't happen. Some of what's talked about here will be covered in the 'fic itself later on, but I thought it would be nice to consolidate it all and go a bit deeper in some areas. Enjoy!

    On Absol Morality

    Absol morality, along with most of their culture, is built around their concept of "Fate." An absol's relationship with Fate is simple: they must do everything in their power to see that events play out as they have foreseen, and this overrides all questions of right and wrong. It may be necessary to deceive, to steal, even to murder, to bring Fate to pass. Nevertheless, what is done in the name of Fate is always considered good, even if the Fate itself is horrible.

    This is because absol believe Fate is the force that holds the universe together. It's the manifestation of the laws of causality, and if it were to unravel, the universe would descend into meaningless chaos. A fated event is the correct outcome of the current situation, so even if most people would consider that outcome undesirable, to an absol it is imperative that it come to pass. Under most circumstances, no intervention is required, and the absol simply observes and stays out of the way while events unfold as foreseen. In some cases, however, the universe doesn't match up to Fate's expectations, and an absol is expected to use any means necessary to shape events to the fated end.

    Fate might require an absol to murder their family and friends, for example, and not only would they not be condemned for doing so, but their actions would in fact be lauded, even as other absol expressed sympathy for their sacrifice. Much of absol storytelling revolves around the conflicts between acting in the interest of Fate and acting in one's own interest, with heroes who commit what other cultures would consider heinous crimes in the name of Fate and despite personal reservations.

    It should be noted that predictions between absol almost always agree. What they experience as Fate appears to be either an interpretation of some objective external reality or at least a consistent quirk of their biology. It's not possible for an absol to claim "Fate made me do it" without other absol being able to tell they're lying. On the other hand, the actions an absol takes when they intervene in the name of Fate are open to scrutiny. For example, other absol might question whether it was really necessary to maim someone to make sure they would be out of commission at a critical moment. Crimes committed in the name of Fate are usually pardoned, but only if the absol can justify them to the satisfaction of other members of their species. Absol are punished harshly for using Fate as an excuse to commit morally repugnant acts, although other absol often have difficulty coming to an agreement over when such punishment is warranted.

    To an outsider, of course, an absol's actions can appear horribly arbitrary. It's hard for other species to appreciate the concrete reality Fate has for absol, who as far as they know are just making things up to justify their tendency to flip out over minor things now and again--because just as most events in life are minor, so too are most of an absol's visions of Fate. Many a trainer has been confused when their absol becomes vehemently, even violently against their wearing a blue shirt one morning. As far as absol are concerned, these minor details deserve as much attention as the most dramatic events.

    On the other hand, the more dramatic an event is, the more people it affects and the more likely it is to be foretold by at least one absol, thus their legendary ability to predict disaster. Typically, absol can only sense the Fate of a few people with whom they are intimately familiar. Most wild absol can only see events affecting local wild pokémon. Trained absol, usually their trainer and the other pokémon on their team, and perhaps some individuals from their past if they're wild-caught. There are no known cases of absol who appear in their own visions or absol tied to places or inanimate objects, but there are some rare absol who can sense the Fate of one or more people they have never met. Such "prophets" are revered in absol society and usually compelled to seek out the subjects of their visions. They are considered the purest agents of Fate, unaffected by personal interest in their subjects' lives. Such absol are likely responsible for the earliest human contact with the species and many of the legends surrounding them.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum are absol born without the usual Fate-sensing ability. The treatment of these individuals varies between absol populations, with reactions ranging from pity to outright hostility. The ability to sense Fate can also be lost if an absol's scythe and the gemstone on their forehead are badly damaged or removed. This is considered the harshest punishment an absol can receive and is usually reserved for absol believed to have actively gone against Fate.

    The question of why absol can sense Fate, especially when no other species appears to share their ability, is answered differently by different absol cultures and schools of thought. Furthermore, there's nothing to say that what absol see actually has anything to do with "Fate" or the future as such. Their visions might just be a biological artifact, some kind of esoteric sense that, filtered through their brains, happens to look like prophecy. They might mean something else entirely, or absolutely nothing at all. Whether Fate, the central pillar of absol culture, is a lie or whether their interpretation of it is misguided is an interesting question, but won't be discussed here. For the purposes of this essay it is simply accepted that an absol senses Fate and acts to see that Fate brought about, regardless of personal qualms or hardship.

    So the core of the absol moral system is simple enough: act in accordance with Fate. Absol believe that life is governed by forces beyond their understanding or control, forces without care for their personal opinions or desires. However, most of the time absol have no idea what Fate has in store for them. They sense the outcomes of only a small fraction of all events, leaving them with as little guidance as any other person much of the time. Absol consider this lack of knowledge a gift, an opportunity to choose Fate rather than have it dictated to them, even if that choice is only an illusion. As a result, they value freedom of choice above all else besides Fate itself.

    In a way, this renders the rest of the absol moral system simple as well: any action which infringes on another's ability to choose--any attempt to impose one's own will on another--is bad. Anything else is fair game. This is referred to as the absol's principle of "noninterference."

    In practice, this results in a sense of right and wrong that lines up fairly closely with most humans' beliefs. For example, murder is considered extremely bad, because of course killing someone removes their ability to choose to do anything ever again. On the other hand, unlike in human cultures, murder is never condoned except in self-defense; large-scale war has never been practiced by absol. And issues that humans may consider debatable are sometimes unambiguous to absol. For example, absol have nothing against assisted suicide, and in fact if an absol weren't to kill someone who had asked to be killed, they would be considered gravely in the wrong. Absol have no taboo against suicide in general, and in some absol cultures it's the expected, honorable course of action after having failed to uphold Fate, intentionally or otherwise.

    By extension absol appreciate transparency and disdain manipulation. Individuals need accurate information in order to make choices that best align with their desires. Therefore, an absol who misrepresents the facts to another person is in a sense restricting their freedom by leaving them unaware of or misrepresenting some of their options, and as a result lying is a serious crime in most absol societies. Attempting to dictate other people's actions is at best a serious breach of etiquette and at worst actually against the law. As a result, absol avoid speaking in imperatives and usually become extremely uncomfortable when asked for direction--they will provide any information they have that might be helpful for the person doing the asking, but will resist making any sort of judgement based on it. You might imagine them functioning like the sorts of "pro/con" lists people sometimes use to help them with decisions: they will happily relate what they see as being the upsides or downsides of a decision, but will balk at being asked "What, therefore, should I do?"

    Of course, perfect neutrality is an ideal, and one very far removed from reality. The very act of communicating with another person almost always involves some attempt to influence them. Even the order in which facts are presented or the language used to do so can sway someone's thinking without any overt persuasion being involved. Absol can and do attempt to lead others, influence others, and otherwise make an impact on others' lives; however, their cultural restrictions force them to be circumspect about these goals. Absol do not value ambition, and they scorn politics. Nonetheless, the degree to which any individual absol values or adheres to the idea of noninterference varies widely, and as long as they don't actually command someone to do something, they can often get away with a considerable amount of maneuvering. This leads to a conversational style that other species often find maddening in its subtlety: absol suggest, they imply, but they never demand. They lie by omission or by playing on their listeners' assumptions and failing to correct errors of understanding. As a result, some argue that what absol value most is the illusion of choice, rather than choice itself.

    Somewhat paradoxically, this emphasis on freedom and lack of influence makes many absol uncomfortable. When confronted with the dichotomy between the prophecies of Fate, where what has to happen is made explicitly clear, and everyday life, where it seems anything goes, many absol feel more comfortable working within the rigid framework of Fate. They long for more guidance, for someone or something to tell them what to do. As a result, many absol readily accept authority or doctrine. They are renowned for their loyalty to human trainers or owners--although they do not always work well on a battling team, as other pokémon can find them aloof and difficult to relate to. They are often employed as guard-pokémon by higher-end establishments because, in addition to sometimes being able to foresee threats to the merchandise, their strong desire for order and certainty makes them especially vigorous in their attempts to thwart thieves and reacquire stolen goods. They are comforted by being able to keep things in their proper place.

    While tolerant of other species and understanding of the fact that they can't know Fate, absol in general view humans and other pokémon as barbaric and horribly straightforward about their desires. In absol society the highest ideal is to do your duty without anyone ever knowing and to leave no trace upon the earth. Other species often view absol with suspicion, for while they espouse no desire for influence, all this means is that they often operate from the shadows. Absol may prefer to remain anonymous, but they act like a wind blowing across the vast ocean of history: invisible, but leaving in their wake ripples that can build to towering waves.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2018
  10. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    I am picturing this exact literal scenario and I can't stop giggling.

    Eerie timing. Here this comes up just as I was beginning to wonder about it.

    Makes sense in this context, really. If they're just following marching orders, so to speak, they can effectively ABSOLve themselves of any guilt in performing actions that might otherwise make them feel icky.

    Whether or not I've outdone my previous horrendous pun, I'll leave up to you to decide. :B

    One question, or one cluster of questions, and I guess it kind of ties into my previous quote-comment:

    yet

    and

    So the questions are: are they exploiting some kind of loophole--consciously or otherwise--and if so, what's the nature thereof? Do they regard keeping things from falling into chaos as a form of self-defense, protecting themselves from Outcomes Which Should Not Be? Are they effectively passing the buck to Fate ("I didn't commit the murder; Fate did.")? Is it some combination of the two in play? Or something else? Does it vary between individuals?


    To wrap it up: this extra was every bit as interesting and thought-provoking as I'd expected it to be. Absol morality/ethics come across as accessible enough to accept, by and large, yet unreachable enough to seem suitably non-human, the sort of views and values you could expect from beings with a fundamentally different interface with reality. Or that's how I took it, anyway. I kind of view things through an odd lens to begin with, tbh.
     
  11. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    Not bad, but I still like "unhapling" better, myself. :p

    Ah, I should have made that more clear. Any action is fair game if it's being done in the name of Fate; whether or not an action would be moral under ordinary circumstances isn't even a consideration in that case. Basically, Fate overrules everything else. I guess it's sort of passing the buck to Fate, but absol would consider it more like the ultimate good, I think; sometimes things get messy when you have to make sure that cause and effect keep working the right way.

    Awesome! That's what I was going for.
     
  12. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    Well, since chapter 19 is coming soon, I figured I'd better hurry up and finally review chapter 18.


    I like Team Rocket's sandwich shop ID cards, and the fact the child seems to have expected something with "Team Rocket ID Card" on it.

    Presumably that T shouldn't be capitalized.

    Polite Steelix is the best Steelix.

    I really like how you characterize all the various random Pokémon that pop up in this story, in general; you pick a lot of rarely-seen species and/or give them delightfully non-stereotypical personalities. It adds a lot of flavor.

    Nate, I'm sorry but it's just so fun to watch you squirm.

    That Chansey reminds me of Gale from Tangled Web.

    Nate's Steelix you are the most precious.

    Something always just delights me about these passages.

    Fun detail, but would the child actually see this?

    I like the contrast between the child's exhaustion and Mewtwo's calmness as they meet, and the child's initial attempt to make demands deflating quickly into just doing what Mewtwo wants, and then its feeble grasps to regain a sense of importance. We get such a good sense of the power disparity between them and how grossly out of its depth the child is in the whole thing.


    The Absol morality extra is interesting and a fun extrapolation of what the morality of a species that believes it can sense fate might be like. I want to go back and reread some chapters with Absol to see how this illuminates her actions, but as of now I haven't gotten around to it.


    Finally, the new chapter one. The first thing that stuck out to me on reading it was actually just that Nicholas Garrett is suddenly twenty-six and that really messes with my head after having been picturing a fifteen-year-old for so long, argh.

    Presumably that's an extra "are dying"? Unless I'm parsing this completely wrong.

    I'm not quite sure how these semicolons make sense, given "a few pokémon, wary, staying out of its way" is neither an independent clause nor an item in a list.

    Presumably there's a word missing here.

    Good work on the revision; it suggests a lot more of the actual plot than the old version did and is a lot clearer about the child's nature, both of which I think make for an overall stronger beginning. At the same time, it's still plenty strange and mysterious. It's hard to know exactly how it compares to the old version for a new reader, but I think it's likely to be more enticing.


    Happy (very) late fic-birthday! Looking forward to the next chapters.
     
  13. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    What's the point of being a card-carrying member of TR if you can't whip out your ID and prove it?

    Ah, yes. Unfortunately I think that regex is always going to have problems with dialogue boundaries.

    Isn't it, though? :p

    Definitely an inspiration ngl. Ah, what could have been if that fic ever finished...

    That the crobat's looking at it? Sure. It's a little bit of a cheat in that the protagonist was pretty tired and focused on Mewtwo at that point, but since the crobat was ahead of it and therefore between it and Mewtwo, it would have been able to see them pretty well.

    Great. I hope it's clear the protagonist is in way over its head at this point... even if the protagonist itself is convinced it still has everything under control.

    Probably best to wait until the revisions are out for the earlier chapters; I did clean up her parts in particular a little while ago, but there are still some character inconsistencies that I'll be sorting out in the new version.

    Heh, that was one of the first things I changed, actually. The Cinnabar incident happened eight years ago, so if he were fifteen in this chapter he would've been seven at the time. Makes it rather unlikely that he'd be connected with the lab in any meaningful sense.

    Definitely a sentence that got mangled somewhere in the midst of revisions, yeah.

    I think it was supposed to be an item list (of things the protagonist ignored), but then I left it at two things. I'll probably just have to rewrite this... I don't think it wants another item added to it, and just changing the semicolons to commas makes it read really long and unwieldy to me. (And would more strongly imply that the ghostly swimming things are pokemon, I think, which isn't the intent...)

    Yuuuup.

    Great. That's what I was going for!

    Thanks for reviewing! It's always nice to hear what you think about things. And those mistakes, ugh. I'll never understand how I miss so much.

    --

    Anyway, as Dragonfree alluded to, I'm over halfway through the third draft of Chapter 19, and I'm expecting to post it on Wednesday. Unfortunately, the revision is going a little (...or a lot) slower than I'd hoped; I ended up having to essentially write two new chapters as well as making changes to the others, and while I do hope to have everything done by early February at the latest, I don't want to hold the main story up any longer. Thus: Chapter 19! And then hopefully the revisions, finally, and not too long a wait before Chapter 20.
     
  14. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    A chapter that's actually out when I said it would be for once! As always, I hope you like it.

    Chapter 17

    The child lies awhile in a delirium of nerves, struggling to keep its eyes open, desperate to know, to be watching in the moment when the human either awakens or slides from sleep down into death. It waits, tense with anxiety and resentful of every moment of lost sleep, hating that so much rides on the life of this human that it tried to kill. It stews but can't help straining its ears to listen for the irregular sigh the great Nathaniel Morgan's breathing.

    Even when dawn creeps gray into the clearing and the child at last succumbs to exhaustion, it can find no peace. It sleeps in dribs and drabs and fitful bursts as day unspools into evening, exploding into panicked wakefulness like a drowning person who now and again breaks the surface long enough to suck down a few burning gulps of air. Then fatigue pulls it under again, down into unsettled depths where bloodstained metal and broken glass mix with its mother's intubated nightmares.

    The child finds itself lying in a shivering ball, waiting for its heartbeat to slow and trying to ignore the great Nathaniel Morgan's uneven respiration in the background. It stares up at the moon and thinks there's no point to this at all. What's it afraid of? Nothing but harmless dreams, a future that may or may not come to pass. There's no point in worrying at all--so it won't. The child changes its brain to something more sensible, then at last slips into undisturbed slumber.

    It comes to with afternoon sunlight warming its skin, refreshed if aching from lying in the dirt. It stretches and rolls onto its stomach, hungry but too lazy, yet, to do anything about it. Across the clearing, the great Nathaniel Morgan breathes. The child grimaces and turns away. Not quite that hungry, but enough that the possibility can't be ignored.

    Mewtwo's draped over top of his boulder, stretched out in a patch of sun with his head resting in his hands. No signs remain of the clone's adventure in Viridian, his wounds healed over smooth and invisible under his thin fur. Purple light glows from under Mewtwo's half-closed lids, but his mind is utterly calm. Perhaps he's doing some kind of meditation. The child feels no need to interrupt until it notices the pokéball belt still knotted around the clone's waist. Then it sits up, not worried but recognizing something unexpected.

    "Where are my pokémon?"

    It has to repeat the question twice before Mewtwo stirs. The clone turns towards the child, tail twitching and stretching as the light fades from his eyes. What?

    "My pokémon. What did you do with them?" It points to the clone's belt, where only the master ball is clipped.

    I put them somewhere safe. You can have them back if our trip to Saffron is successful. For now, I don't want you distracted.

    "I wouldn't be distracted."

    You haven't been awake five minutes and already you're whining about them. Your preoccupation is clear.

    "I'm not whining. I'm concerned that you might not hold up your end of our deal. Also, putting my pokéballs out of sight is obviously not doing anything to stop me from thinking about them, so I would prefer that you--"

    Quit complaining. You've woken our guest.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan's making small, tentative movements, every exploration accompanied by a hiss of breath and an exclamation of pain. He opens his eyes, squinting up into the searing blue sky. For a few seconds he just lies there, staring in confusion. Then his hand goes abruptly to his belt, as if he's only just remembered something. When he finds nothing there the human closes his eyes again, grimacing and letting out a hissed expletive.

    That's right. You're defenseless without your slaves, aren't you?

    The human jerks upright, then has to stop, holding his side and panting. He raises his head with deliberate slowness, gaze roaming the clearing, taking in trees, ferns, the great, mossy boulder...

    His eyes widen, and he freezes. "Oh, shit," he squeaks.

    The child smiles as a ripple of amusement moves across Mewtwo's mind. Quite.

    A smile flits across the great Nathaniel Morgan's face, too, followed by a look of confusion, like he has no idea where it came from. He bares broken teeth and snarls, "What the hell is going on here? Where the fuck am I, and just what the fucking fuck are you--" The child shifts, stretching out a cramp in one leg. The great Nathaniel Morgan turns towards the noise, only to recoil with a wince. "What the fuck is that?"

    Ignore the creature. You deal with me, Mewtwo says, and the child frowns, wondering what he means." Now. Can you stand?

    The great Nathaniel Morgan's eyes are still on the child. "The fuck?" he rasps, hardly above a whisper. "That you, Freak? What the f--?"

    Oh, come now. You at least have to try. A purple glow flares around the human's body, and he lets out a cracked scream as Mewtwo hauls him upright. The glow disappears, and the great Nathaniel Morgan sways in place, then collapses on hands and knees, letting out a sob of pain.

    That's no good. I'll pull you up as many times as it takes for you to start trying to stay up by yourself. Surely you're not too stupid to understand something as simple as that.

    The human doesn't move. He's staring at his hand, his fingers splayed out in the dirt. They're like knobby twigs, every bone visible. "What the fuck," the great Nathaniel Morgan gasps, raising a shaking hand to poke at his face. He must be able to feel the hard lines of bone under his fingers, must notice now how his clothes hang off him loose and baggy. He used to be the very picture of a Rocket goon, the kind of guy the child imagined leering and cracking his knuckles before working someone over with his fists. Now he looks more like an undernourished teenager, and there's an edge of hysteria in his voice as he asks, "What the fuck did you do to me? Just what the f--" He is interrupted by a wracking fit of coughs that leaves him shivering and gasping for air.

    I am made to understand it's a side effect of the healing you received from my overzealous companion, the clone says with a tremor of amusement. The great Nathaniel Morgan's eyes are round and staring as turns to the child.

    That's an excellent idea. I'm hungry as well. It takes the child a second to realize Mewtwo's addressing its thoughts. But it's not just hungry, it's ravenous, and the great Nathaniel Morgan's cowering prey-animal impression isn't helping. If Mewtwo doesn't need it here it can pop over to Saffron and pick up some food. For Mewtwo, too, if he's hungry, though it doesn't know what he might--

    Fish. I like fish. Especially the little silver kind from the stream next to the--what do you mean you don't know them?

    "Mewtwo, if I don't know the name I can't--no, not even if you show me," the child says as its mouth fills with the cold wetness of raw fish, silver scales flashing before its mind's eye. "They're not going to have fish from whatever place you're talking about anyway. That's not how it works."

    The clone doesn't have to ask why not, or what he can get instead; it's all floating around in the child's head, and after a few seconds of concentration Mewtwo's absorbed all it knows about how grocery stores work. Very well, then, the clone says sourly. Whatever you can find. Something fresh.

    "If you want me to, I could stop and catch you something instead. It's just that would take--"

    No, no, not necessary. Be quick about it. Just make sure it's real food, not that awful processed stuff they feed to pokémon.

    "Actually, I tried some of that before, and it wasn't b--"

    Enough! Just go. And you--on your feet.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan's still in his shivering crouch, his breathing shallow and labored and his gaze darting around the clearing like he's looking for escape routes. The child ignores him, and the noises he makes when Mewtwo goes to work, as it changes.

    In a couple of seconds you're Tony Flores again, checking your ID to put the finishing touches on your face. Then you're gone, throwing yourself to the outskirts of Saffron City with nothing but a thought.

    At first you don't notice the wide berth people give you, the stares they have for tattered clothing stiff with dirt and blood. It's not until you find yourself trying to explain to the police why you're wandering around in the garb of an axe murderer that you remember to change your brain back to human, too. Once you do that, you realize what's wrong and manage to throw the officers off your trail with a story about a wild pokémon attack on Route 5. They're even kind enough to give you directions to the nearest pokémon center so you can get your imaginary team healed.

    Shopping is more fun when you think like a human anyway. You get some new clothes, just to prevent any further misunderstandings, and some for the great Nathaniel Morgan as well. You buy six different kinds of fish for Mewtwo to try because why not, then wander down the aisles, choosing whatever looks interesting, picking up some of your favorite snacks as you go along. After some confusion where you try to pay with your ID, you enjoy the novelty of using a credit card, then decide you have to try them all, one at each different store. Not all of them work, but in the end the late Tony Flores' money is more than enough to fund your shopping spree.

    You spend longer than you intended out on the town, and the sky's turning dusky by the time you teleport back into the clearing. Mewtwo doesn't bother to comment on your lateness, has no need to ask what took you so long. He zeroes in on the food you bought him, radiating impatience as he levitates a bag of groceries his way.

    Why did you bother getting anything for the human? the clone asks as he attacks a package of fish with his teeth, gnawing at the plastic wrap. It doesn't need to survive for long.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan is curled up on the ground, his back to you and Mewtwo. You watch him uneasily, expecting some kind of comeback, but the human stays quiet. "So he's coming with us, then?"

    Oh yes, Mewtwo says. It can stand and it can walk. Not too many fractures. Much more amusing than I expected, I will admit. But still, there's no reason to waste food on it. The clone drops the package of fish, deformed but still sealed, onto the boulder, then fires a narrow burst of psychic power at it. Juice and scales and bits of flesh spatter in all directions, but Mewtwo doesn't blink, just digs the remaining fish out of the crumpled wrapping and scarfs it down in greedy gulps.

    "Well we don't want him to die yet," you hazard, keeping a wary eye on the great Nathaniel Morgan as you approach. He shouldn't be this quiet. "If you want him to stay able to walk and stuff, we should probably give him something. He's got to be really dehydrated at least." You stop and size the human up, then nudge him with your foot. "You. Turn around. I got you food."

    It takes him a few seconds, but he does finally turn, holding his side as he goes. All his apathy evaporates once he actually lays eyes on the bag of food.

    "You probably should not have too much of that," you says as he downs a bottle of water faster than you've ever seen, but of course he ignores you, inhales some of it, then spills half of what's left as he falls into a choking, coughing fit. You retreat to the far side of the clearing while he plows through his food, eating even faster than usual and without apparent consideration for what he puts in his mouth. You probably could have thrown a box of nails in there and he wouldn't have noticed.

    "That is supposed to last for tomorrow too," you say. "Both of you." Mewtwo's being more leisurely about his dinner, but he's already finished half the fish and shows no sign of slowing down.

    I'll need more after our visit to Saffron tomorrow, the clone says, but no matter. This will suffice for now, and it's of no consequence for the human.

    "How did you get him to be quiet, anyway? Normally he won't shut up." The human's mouth is preoccupied with a box of crackers--you saved the boringest food for him--but it's not like that's stopped him in the past.

    That one realized quickly that it doesn't need to speak out loud to be understood. It's hardly quiet, though. Be glad you can't hear all the nonsense running around its puny little mind.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan continues to ignore the clone while he devours another sandwich. "Really, you should not eat that much. You will make yourself sick."

    The human makes a rude gesture at you with his free hand, which is strangely comforting; he's been much too cooperative so far. Maybe he's trying to lull you into a false sense of security.

    Hardly. I can see everything it's thinking, remember? It can't deceive us. Mewtwo's licking oil off his hands, the last package of fish lying crumpled and empty at his feet. The clone shifts to a seated position, tucking his tail around his legs. So. We've eaten. Now to business. He keeps licking his hands and arms, grooming his sparse fur, without any break in what he's thinking at you. We are going to Saffron City. We are looking for a computer terminal in the Rocket base.

    For a moment you see it, a boxy thing at least ten years out of date sitting in a cluttered alcove under a pile of dusty folders. This machine holds the files related to the Mewtwo project. Very few people have access to them, and I do not know any of their login credentials. However, I do know the human responsible for granting access to the system. If we can find her, I can extract the information I need.

    Now. This human here. the great Nathaniel Morgan is still chewing, watching the clone all the while. He was supposed to be killed. And when he showed up alive, he told some impossible story about an unknown pokémon, a creature Team Rocket would be wise to acquire. They tried, but the creature was even more powerful than expected, and their attempt to capture it failed.

    You smirk at the great Nathaniel Morgan. He's sorry about that now, isn't he? No sooner was the human taken to Viridian than I attacked the base and killed all the Rockets I could find. The clone's words bubble over with smugness. But this one, again, survived.

    "Just my fucking luck," the great Nathaniel Morgan mutters, while Mewtwo goes on over him.

    The Rockets will be very curious about how it managed to stay alive. If someone were to bring it to the Saffron Base and claim it was involved with Mewtwo's attack, that it lived because it knew something about me, and that it said there was something in the old Cinnabar records that would tell them how to stop me... I think the Rockets would be very interested. I think they'd want to bring in someone who knows how to get into that computer to see what information they can find, and as soon as they do that, we'll have everything we need.

    You grin in sudden understanding. "Oh, I get it. It's like that time in Knight of Old Johto where they pretend to have captured Satoshi and bring him to the castle so the guards'll let them in. Or in Spydeath III where she knocks the assassin out then pretends to be taking him to the hospital so they let her inside!"

    Yes, Mewtwo says after a moment, though there's a hint of uncertainty in his words. Yes, I suppose it's like those things.

    You smile to yourself. It's great. It's a great plan. You can see it already: you and Mewtwo, outwitting the Rockets and sneaking past their best defenses, only to reveal yourself once you're inside. You'll be like Aleksandra Aksakov, international super-spy, whipping out your pen that's actually a laser and tossing off a pithy one-liner while you fry some bad guys. "I guess the pen really is mightier!" It's going to be awesome.

    Except for one thing. "Mewtwo, what if the human screws things up? He doesn't want to help us out. What if we kill him first, then we won't--"

    Team Rocket can't interrogate him if he's dead. It's information they want, not his corpse. The clone pauses, head tipped as though listening to some faint voice. Then he breaks out in mental laughter. Well, I suppose they want both. But he's worth more alive.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan lets out a choked giggle, then gives Mewtwo a sour look and goes back to picking at crumbs in the bottom of the cracker box.

    "But he'll find a way to screw it up. I know he will. He did that to me, you know. It's too risky."

    I am not you, Mewtwo says. I have nothing to fear from this human. What could it possibly do to me? And besides, he goes on, ignoring your nascent protest, who can say it won't cooperate?

    The clone turns towards the great Nathaniel Morgan, expressionless as ever. Well, human? Will you assist us? We aren't asking that much of you, are we?

    The human drops the box, moving as little as possible. "You're shitting me, right? Why the fuck would I help you?"

    Why not? No harm will come to you.

    "You're going to haul me up in front of a bunch of jackasses who want me dead, and you say I ain't gonna get hurt? What the fuck are you smoking?" The great Nathaniel Morgan stirs the remnants of his food, an empty scatter of packaging, like he's hoping to find something he missed. "Besides, I saw what you did in Viridian. You think I'm gonna help that happen in Saffron, too? I'm a criminal, you bastard, not a fucking monster."

    Perhaps you failed to comprehend the plan. There is no need for any of your kind to die.

    "Yeah, I believe the hell out of that one, fucker. Why the fuck wouldn't you just go all murdershow on everybody like you did last time? Give me a fucking break." The human doesn't meet the clone's gaze as he picks up an empty yogurt carton and runs a finger around the inside, then licks it.

    We can't risk the admin figuring out we're there before we find her. She might escape. So I will have to stay in my master ball until the creature is able to locate her. We will kill no one. We will do nothing to draw the Rockets' suspicion.

    "Okay, so you find whoever the fuck, get your intel, and then you turn everybody's brains to soup. Well, shit, how can I say no to that?"

    The clone watches the human for a moment, his face blank but his irritation scintillating through your mind. So noble, he says. Do you know what this creature and I are working towards? We're searching for our mother, for Mew. We are going to free her. If it's doing the right thing that weighs so heavily on your conscience, then we're the ones you should be helping, not Team Rocket.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan fixes Mewtwo with a glare. "You just don't fucking get it, do you? I couldn't give less of a shit about your stupid fucking mission. As far as I'm concerned your cunt of a mother can rot in hell, and serves the bitch right if she's anything like you pieces of shit."

    The human probably goes on talking after that, but you can't hear him over the blood pounding in your ears. You're on your feet without even realizing it. "Take that back!" you yell, starting forward. "Take that back, you, you--"

    You smack into an invisible barrier, snarling and clawing at empty air as you try to break through to the human. Your hands smack the barrier with hollow thuds, like you're punching a piece of Plexiglas, but even with all your strength behind them the blows have no noticeable effect.

    You back off, panting and growling to yourself, then round on Mewtwo. He's got one arm out, the palm of his hand turned towards you and the air dancing around his fingers. He must have put up a wall of psychic force.

    "Stop it!" You bang your fists on the barrier, noticing now the faint static tingle as your hands connect. "Why are you protecting him? You can't just let him say things like that about Mew!"

    Can't I? the clone asks, reeking of self-satisfaction. They're only words. Don't you see? That's the best it can do. That is its best effort. It's a weak, scared, pathetic creature. It has no power over us. It has no hope of stopping us. The best it can do is spit in our faces and call our mother names.

    You can't believe it. "You aren't angry? You aren't even a little bit angry? Mewtwo, he said--"

    I know what it said. Why should I be angry? What should I care what some festering excuse for a living creature says about my mother? It's just the yapping of a dog on a chain, completely harmless. The human knows it can't really hurt us. It can only hope to trick us into harming ourselves. Isn't that right, human?

    "I don't know what the fuck you're talking about," the Rocket says breezily. "But if you're asking for more insults, wankstain, then buckle up, because I got a fuckton more where that came from, you fucking ugly cocksucker."

    Yes, wonderful, the clone says while you stand their quivering, just waiting for the second the barrier falls. Enjoy it while you can. We both know what awaits you when we drag you back to your den, and no amount of squeaking is going to prevent it.

    "No, but it's pretty fucking hilarious anyway. Hey assface," he says to you.

    "Mewtwo," you start, glaring, but the clone is already responding.

    It's not the human I'm worried will cause problems tomorrow. It's you. You have no self-control. You allow the human to provoke you, and your petty anger endangers all. If the human is weak, you are the weaker for giving it power over you.

    You're only half-listening to the clone. The great Nathaniel Morgan is still going. His voice is hoarse and raspy, but it looks like he's enjoying himself nonetheless. "...got even half a brain, you retarded asswipe. What the fuck was that earlier? Can't even put together a proper body if you don't have a real human to cheat off, huh? Nice fucking try, dumbass. I mean, your eyes weren't even the same fucking color..."

    I think I've made my point, Mewtwo says, and the great Nathaniel Morgan's voice cracks into a scream, a jagged noise that actually makes you wince. The human doubles over coughing and retching, and Mewtwo says, You see? True power does not threaten. It acts. Now. This is what we'll do.

    Tomorrow morning you'll go to Saffron City. You'll find the entrance to the base, and you'll teleport back here to pick me and the human up. Then you'll teleport us all straight to the entrance. I don't fancy dragging that worthless sack of flesh around on foot.

    "Do you know where the base is?" you ask, watching the great Nathaniel Morgan struggle to get his breathing under control. You wanted to be the one to punish him.

    Certainly. You ought to sit down.

    "Why? Is it scary? Do you have to kill somebody to get in? Do they make you do a blood pact? Is there a secret--"

    Mewtwo's eyes glow, somewhere far off, but their purple light is lost in the springtime sunlight glaring off the bank's marble facade. You shift the briefcase to the other hand, flexing sweaty fingers and resisting the urge to wipe them on your pants. The case is a lot heavier than you were expecting, and the handle cuts a painful line across the inside of your fingers.

    At least it's not far now. Just turn... here, and then a right at the end of the block. Funny how few streets it takes to get you to the bad side of town. No soaring institutions here, just cash-advance ATMs and liquor stores and convenience stores with bars on the windows. You try not to make eye contact, put your head down and hurry between a coffee shop and a dusty, empty storefront, into an alleyway that turns to another and then another, a winding maze where all you can do is hurry on and hope your instructions are a lot more reliable than you suspect.

    You want a door, metal, rusting at the bottom, flaking green paint. It's in the back of a pawn shop next to a loading dock. It's not far off the street, just past the balcony with red wire wound through the railing.

    You turn. You turn again and see the wire, then the dock, then the door. It's there, ahead. Two steps. It's here. You shift the briefcase again, for the last time, let it hang awkwardly against your leg. You raise your hand to knock and go over the line you need to say one last time...

    ...as you lie face-down in sudden dark, reaching for a door that isn't there. You blink and you're Tony Flores again, your nose full of the smell of loam and your mouth full of grit. You realize you're on the ground, somehow, half draped over a bush that jabs with indignant branches...

    ...and then the night lights up halogen orange and you leap and hit the fence halfway up, wire cutting into your fingers and feet scrambling on air. You hardly even notice, clawing up and over and landing with a jolt that radiates up through your legs to punch you in the stomach.

    It only stops you for a moment. Then you run. You can still hear footsteps behind you. They don't know these streets, but it doesn't matter with that houndour of theirs. They're not going to lose you for more than a few seconds. That's fine. You can run. The burn on your side hasn't started hurting yet, and you barely feel the bullet either. Somehow it's the blood you feel instead, a warm trickle down the side of your leg. You won't hurt until you stop, and you won't stop until you're home.

    You make the turns without even thinking, running on instinct as all your awareness centers on the footsteps behind you, barely audible over the beating of your heart. The door's ahead. You know it in your bones and pick up speed until each breath of air scorches your throat, your chest so tight it might burst.

    You're going too fast to stop before you hit the door, but you hardly notice the impact. You pound on it with the palm of one hand while you fumble in your pocket, and it opens before you even manage to fish out your ID.

    You push past Kayla and slam the door, but you don't have the breath to answer any of her questions. You don't even know what they are, can't hear them over the blood surging in your ears and the footsteps you know are out there, still echoing through your mind.

    "Job went bad," you gasp, then have to repeat yourself over whatever Kayla's trying to say. "They had backup. They got Anthony. They're coming."

    Kayla's not stupid, and she knows when to shut up. She's getting her 'nav out already, finger on the internal service button.

    For you, it's over. For now. You can lean against the wall and start to feel things again. You can feel your legs aching and a stitch burning in your side, but you still can't feel the bullet in your thigh. Instead you feel... cold. Prickled. Sideways? How'd you end up on the ground?

    You blink and the walls are gone and you hurt in all the wrong places. And you're laughing, too, choking out of breath with tears streaming down your face. For a few seconds you lie there, completely at a loss.

    I did tell you to sit down, something says in your head instead of in your ears. You grasp at faint recognition, and then all at once remember Mewtwo, then yourself, Tony Flores, back in your borrowed body again. You force your hitching giggles back, smothering the clone's mirth with your annoyance.

    "Those were memories," the great Nathaniel Morgan says, and somehow he's gotten far away. He's sweating and wheezing like he was the one running, and he keeps squeezing his eyes shut and opening them again, squinting at nothing in the growing shade. "Like, other people's memories, weren't they?"

    Yes, the clone says. And now, creature, you know the way to the base as well as they did. Two different entrances, I believe.

    You pull yourself into a sitting position and start untangling your clothes from the bush you somehow ended up in. There are little bleeding cuts all over one arm, and you know this is all Mewtwo's fault somehow. There's no point trying to keep the sourness out of your voice as you say, "Not really, though. I know what the area looks like, but I don't remember any street names or anything. They could still be almost anywhere in the--"

    Well, if those won't suffice, I imagine the human can provide us with more. How is your memory, human? Shall we have a look?

    "Stay the fuck out of my head, fucker!"

    I assure you I have no desire to go trawling through that cesspit you call a mind, the clone says. The wonderful thing is that with the proper stimulation you'll just start spraying information in all directions where anyone with real eyes can see it.

    "Cute. Well don't do no fucking 'stimulating,' got it?"

    "Why was I walking around?" you wonder aloud, looking at the dirt smeared up your arms.

    The introduction of foreign memories affects you much as a dream would. Your brain approximates the motor output. Your body is not paralyzed the way it would be if you were asleep, hence the ambulatory side-effects.

    "He didn't run around at all," you say, glaring at the great Nathaniel Morgan and scratching one of your cuts.

    I focused the information transfer on you. The human might have injured itself further, and I daresay it'll be enough of a hindrance in the state it's in now.

    You can't really argue with that. You pull yourself the rest of the way out of the bush, then move back to your old spot, sitting down to brush off the worst of the dirt and dislodge a few twigs tangled in your hair. After that you try to coax the great Nathaniel Morgan into the clothes you got for him, and as full dark falls Mewtwo crawls under the boulder again, rustling around in dead leaves.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan ignores all your protests and just pulls the new clothes on over his old ones, then curls up on the ground, facing away from you. You glare at his back. Fine, then. He can go right ahead and keep wearing those smelly old clothes of his, and serves him right when all the other humans give him funny looks tomorrow.

    You lie down yourself and think about going to sleep, even though you aren't tired. The human's being distracting, shifting around and grumbling to himself and coughing now and again. At last he says, "Hey, kitty. Ever heard of a fucking fire? I'd make one myself if I wasn't about to just keel over and fucking die, here."

    Mewtwo doesn't answer for a moment, but at least his thoughts don't feel angry when he says, I am quite comfortable, thank you.

    "Good for fucking you. But catch this, dipshit, you ain't the one who's about to fucking freeze to death in the first place. And unless you think Base's gonna be pleased when you drag in a fucking Natesicle tomo--"

    Very well. Mewtwo's arm emerges from the alcove, his hand palm-up towards the sky. He makes a fist, and there's a chorus of rending, snapping noises as limbs are torn from trees. The clone brings his hand down slowly, directing them into an untidy pile between you and the human, then extends a finger, and a thick streamer of flame sets the wood ablaze.

    A great wave of heat washes over the clearing, and a great wave of smoke, too. The child can hear the great Nathaniel Morgan coughing dryly from the far side of the blaze.

    There we are, Mewtwo purrs, letting his arm drop again. You stare into the fire, at leaves curling into blackened, ashy husks, and think that it might be big, but it'll burn itself out fast. You can just see the great Nathaniel Morgan around the edge of the pile. The human's curled in a ball, wrapped in a few extra items of clothing and a couple plastic grocery bags.

    You could go back to Saffron for a bit, find a store that's open late, and get him a blanket or something. But that would be silly, wouldn't it? He'll probably survive the night just fine without.

    You're right. It would be silly. Now think about something else.

    You sigh. "Look, Mewtwo, I can't really control what I'm thinking. It's none of your business anyway."

    You make it my business when you keep chattering on about it, the clone says.

    "It's not chatter, it's what I'm thinking. And I can't do anything about it, so you're just going to have to deal with it." You sit up and pout in the general direction of the boulder. "Come on, Mewtwo, we're--"

    We are not! Mewtwo's eyes light up, and you feel a sick churning in your stomach as his anger streams into your head. You're tired of this. He doesn't care what the great Nathaniel Morgan says about Mew, but he gets mad whenever you mention your mission? I told you, I've had enough of your talk about teamwork. I'm not your brother, you piece of filth! Don't ever call me that again!

    "--siblings, so you shouldn't be mean to me," the child mutters. "And I don't care if you don't like it, I'm going to keep saying it because--"

    It's not! The fire leaps and dances, sending a whirl of embers into the sky. You're nothing like me, you understand? You're a mistake! You never should have happened!

    The child lets the clone's own anger wash away its fear. "What do you mean? You don't even know me! And if it weren't for you, neither of us would even be in this situation!"

    I don't know? You think I'm the one who doesn't know what's going on here? You understand nothing! You're a weak, stupid, pathetic creature that shouldn't even exist! It's only by my generosity that you yet live!

    The child tries to speak again, tries to protest, but finds it can't move its jaw. It can't move at all. It's frozen, seething, yelling the words with its mind instead. I'm not weak! I'm important, too, and if Mew saw you treating me--

    Leave my mother out of this!

    She's my mother t--

    No! Enough! You want to close your eyes but can't, have to sit there struggling just to breathe. The fire burns higher, and the smoky air is raw in your throat. You can't think, not really, and your own fury is reflected back on you by Mewtwo as the two of you feed each other's ire. No more of this! I've said it for the last time. I may not be able to kill you, but there is much within my power that--

    "Oh my fucking God. Will you shut the fuck up already? I'm trying to die in fucking peace over here."

    Mewtwo's attention swings away from you, and you let out a startled breath, raising your hands to rub at watering eyes. You're still tense with fear and anger, but at least you don't feel like you're getting cooked alive in the spotlight of Mewtwo's rage.

    Ah, of course, Mewtwo sneers. You can feel him relaxing, though. Somehow the great Nathaniel Morgan is just a minor nuisance compared to you. Well, give the human time, you think. He'll grow on you. Pretty soon you'll understand why I cut him open like I did. We have a human among us now, don't we? Already giving commands like we're your precious slaves, I see. So sorry to have disturbed you with our conversation. You don't believe that pokémon should talk, do you?

    "Not when I'm trying to get some goddamn sleep. And cut that shit out with the fire, you're going to burn this whole fucking forest down, and nobody's impress--"

    It's sleep you want, is that it? Mewtwo interrupts. Oh, certainly, Master. Why didn't you ask earlier? His eyes flare, and the great Nathaniel Morgan goes limp.

    "Why did you call him Master?" you ask. "He's not your trainer."

    It wouldn't matter if he was. No human has the right to call themselves my master.

    "Then why did--"

    I'm done trying to explain simple things to you. If you know what's good for you you'll stop asking, you insufferably stupid creature.

    You scowl into the fire, drawing your knees up to your chest. You wish Absol were here. Sometimes she gets exasperated by questions, too, but at least she isn't mean about it.

    Mewtwo must be able to hear that thought, and feel your anger, too, but he doesn't press the issue. His eyes glow steadily under the boulder while his own irritation ebbs, until you can't feel anything from him at all.

    You sit up watching the fire, thinking that there's a lot you need to ask Absol about. She's the one who called Mewtwo your brother, wasn't she? She's the one who said you had to have him. She's always right, of course, so if she says it, it must be true. But when she shows up again, she'd better be ready for questions. Somehow things aren't going quite like you thought they would.
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2015
  15. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    He's got a point there.

    Mewtwo you are such a cat when it all comes down to it. It's frankly adorable.

    And once again Mewtwo has a point. Smart kitty.


    For some reason it took a few paragraphs of the shared memories before I realized that's what they were. Considering they swept the child off guard too, I'm inclined to suspect that's more or less how it was supposed to hit me; i.e. it was meant to make me feel abruptly thrust into another place and time, same as the protag was.

    That or the Benadryl is making me slightly slow on the uptake. Either way, it was something to look back on and go "oh hey, that was pretty cool" after the fact. I'm just glad I didn't walk off into a bush like protag did, heh.
     
  16. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    I love the use of italics. You do it nicely here and it adds to the general tension of the opening scene.

    Lol. Mewtwo and the child's interactions are my favorite next to Nathaniel and the child's. This piece of dialogue in particular made me laugh.

    The child's so innocent, not knowing how to react to being called “creature”. Also, there's a random quotation mark in this part.

    Missed some capitalization here.

    Well, Mewtwo, I'm not sure the child is going to respond positively to YOUR insults compared to the great Nathaniel Morgan's. (Though I do enjoy reading your insults, so keep on going.)

    I was kind of wondering what was happening. Don't get me wrong, though. You did a good job executing the memories, since they came fast and they were confusing and muddled.

    Did Mewtwo just get called a “kitty”? I think he did.

    You're killing me this chapter. Really killing me.

    The whole chapter seems like a filler that is leading to them taking over the base, but the interactions are well worth it and I have very little complaints. Except maybe Nathaniel Morgan could learn to insult others without swearing. I know he's intelligent enough to do so. ;)

    This is really interesting. The child has a point about Mewtwo not being mad about his mother being called a ****. If words are just words, why does Mewtwo care so much about the child's? I have a feeling there's something Mewtwo is holding on to that he won't explicitly express. Either that or he just has a really soft spot for people who can actually help him achieve what he wants.

    Your description is always good, but I found this part particularly well written.

    This was a perfect way to end the chapter. Ugh. Your character interactions are great. I'm going to assume Mewtwo was laughing at the child's attempts to 'scold' Nathaniel Morgan, which makes it all the more amusing.
     
  17. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    NOTE: After working a bit on Chapter 20, I decided to remove the final scene from Chapter 19. After making some changes to 20, I didn't think there was any reason for it to be present anymore. So if you read the earlier version and think you remember something extra being here that isn't anymore, that's where it went!

    Sike Saner

    To whatever extent his anatomy allows, yup.

    His observations often aren't very nice, but he definitely knows what's up.

    Pretty much! There's no way you could figure out what was going on before getting to the explanation at the end, at least. Hopefully the fact that it was short made it reasonable to read despite the disorientation.

    Thanks for reviewing!

    diamondpearl876

    Got the typos, thanks!

    Haha, thanks! I'm always afraid I'm using too many italics.

    That's good! We'll certainly see a lot of those two.

    Are they really insults if they're accurate? :p

    Haha, oh dear. I hope it's not filler, but it's true that there isn't a ton that goes on here that will be revisited later on in the story, especially given the wordcount. I'll consider whether I can move the important stuff elsewhere and take this chapter out.

    Eh, I don't know. He has an awfully small vocabulary.

    There's definitely something more going on with him there, yeah.

    Thanks! It's always nice to hear when some prose goes over well.

    Glad you like it! We would have learned what Mewtwo thought was so funny at the beginning of Chapter 20, but that scene's gone now, so it doesn't really matter. He was actually amused over something Nate did there that the protagonist didn't notice.

    Thanks for reviewing! I'm glad you like the character interactions in this chapter; they were certainly a lot of fun to write.
     
  18. Starlight Aurate

    Starlight Aurate Just a fallen star

    Since I’ve defeated my writer’s block (thanks for your advice on that, by the way!), I figured it was time to get back to reviewing this. Sorry it’s been a while, but better late than never, right? :p

    Chapter 18

    It's nice to see you too :)

    Good gravy child, what the actual hell. I get where he's coming from, but ew.

    Do the child's attacks not work on Dark-types? I sorta gathered that from this passage and from the relation to Mewtwo, since Mewtwo's psychic attacks have no effect on Dark-types.

    And it was really sweet to see Steelix trying to defend the great Nathaniel Morgan; at least someone in here loves this guy!

    Team Rocket has a shiny Ponyta?! :O
    But aren't shiny ponytas supposed to be blue, and shiny Rapidashes supposed to be silver?

    I really like this part; it just shows how brave and strong the Pokemon are (well, only the former for Farfetch'd). And at the last sentence I was all :O

    I'm not sure why, but the mental image I have here is just so funny XP

    No lie, this sounds exactly like something my eight-year-old nephew would say.

    But really, this whole part here is just filled with child logic and I love it.

    Ooh, and what might that be? ;P

    This was good chapter; I found it really captivating, and the description was very detailed (to the point where I was shaking my head from just how bloody the child made everything). Seeing the great Nathaniel Morgan again is always a plus, and I loved the parts with Mewtwo. Nicely done!

    ======

    And congrats on two years of Salvage being around! I'll have to go and check on that first chapter again :p

    I WANT.
    But seriously either of those would be incredible. I'm looking forward to the first one since I expect comedic value, but the second one sounds like it could be really sweet and heartwarming. And Mightyena is my favorite Pokemon.

    If that's so, then I'm in for an entertaining three years. Thanks for writing this, and I plan on enjoying every bit of what's to come :)

    Chapter 19

    Good--I would be devastated if the great Nathaniel Morgan were to be eaten out of this story!

    Mewtwo is just so damn sophisticated. The great Nathaniel Morgan is cowering before him, and he's just sun-bathing and being all intimidating. Classy.

    Imma take a guess and say that that quotation mark isn't supposed to be there, amirite?

    Also, "what the ****ing ****" = best exclamation ever.

    Huh. I'd completely forgotten about him, and the fact that the child had taken all of his cards.

    That can't be good. I guess even he can only take so much abuse--and whatever Mewtwo has done with him.

    This is all adorable, and the child is just awesome.

    Oh, I guess I was wrong. Looks like he's fine.

    Oh no. Someone's going to die, isn't he?

    I believe it.

    That was a really abrupt transition, and yet not hard to follow. In fact, none of the transitions that came were hard to follow; it all just flowed smoothly. Good job!

    I also liked this chapter, and I found it amusing how the great Nathaniel Morgan didn't really make Mewtwo angry (except towards the end). Mew two's hate for humans is clear, and it's rather chilling how he keeps calling the great Nathaniel Morgan "it."

    Anyway, nice job on these! I'll get around to reading Absol Morality hopefully soon, and I look forward to the story to come!
     
  19. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    Always! Glad to see you back. I thought those last couple chapters might have scared you off. :p

    Nah, it has plenty of fighting attacks and so on. Most dark-types have the ability to walk through shadows like absol does (this is the ability that allows them to use "feint attack"), which means that they can jump into a shadow in one place and jump out somewhere completely different, similar to a weaker teleport. It's hard to predict where and when they'll appear, which is why the protagonist is here griping about them always turning up "in the most inconvenient places."

    Heh, it's true, Steelix is probably the first character we've seen to express anything like a positive opinion of the guy. It's not that no one likes him, it's just... uh, almost no one. But not quite.

    Yes, it's supposed to be a shiny ponyta, and yes, I did totally get the shiny colors confused with rapidash's. >> Thanks for pointing that out, I'll fix it!

    Nice! I'm glad you could imagine an actual eight-year old saying something like that, and that you enjoy the protagonist's more childish moments.

    Well, hopefully the AU will have some comedic value, but it'll probably be posted quite a ways into the fic; I'm still not sure where I want to put it. On the other hand, the second story is indeed a heartwarming tale of theft, assault, and trespassing, and I plan to post it between chapters 22 and 23.

    Yup, he's totally above this human, and he knows it.

    Ha, thanks. Hopefully I'll be able to top it by the end of the 'fic.

    Thanks. I had a lot of trouble trying to get the actual writing to live up to what I was going for, but I'm pretty satisfied with how it came out in the end.

    You can't keep a good dog down. :p Not with just this level of abuse, anyway.

    Great, glad you didn't find it too hard to follow. This bit was probably the part I was most unsure about in this chapter, and it's a pretty late addition as well.

    Thanks for reviewing! It's nice to hear you enjoy the chapters, and you like Mewtwo as well as Nate. We'll be getting plenty of Nate in the next few chapters, but Mewtwo does have to carry things more or less by himself at times, so it's good to hear that people like him, too.

    Anyway, at this point I'm looking at posting the next chapter on my birthday, which is the 18th. The hope is that I'll be able to have all the early-chapter revisions done by that date, too, but it's too early to say. I'm feeling optimistic! In any case, chapter twenty is definitely a go for the 18th, so at the least we'll keep advancing the story.
     
  20. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    Author's Notes: No revisions yet, but here's the next chapter nonetheless. This is the first one that was written almost entirely during NaNoWriMo, though hopefully you wouldn't be able to tell that without my having told you.

    Also, huge thanks to everyone who's nominated this story for something in the 2014 Fanfic Awards. I'm honored you like my story enough to put it up for nomination. On the other hand, if you haven't submitted any nominations, please consider doing so--there are tons of great stories on the board that deserve more attention, and a nomination is one of the best ways to get them the recognition they deserve. You still have a week to get yours done!

    Chapter 18

    But by all means, try, Mewtwo's saying as you reappear in the clearing. If it amuses me enough, who knows? I am not an unreasonable pokémon. He shifts his attention to you without turning. So? Did you find it?

    The great Nathaniel Morgan's sitting up against a sapling, head bowed and frowning so deeply it looks almost painful. As far as you can tell Mewtwo isn't doing anything to him aside from talking, though. "I found the entrance," you say. "We can go whenever you are ready."

    You understand what you need to do?

    "Go find the human scientist who knows about the computer. What is her name? You never said."

    Eleanor Fairchild. Is that all? He doesn't really have to ask, and he doesn't bother looking to see you nod. The master ball plucks itself from his belt and hovers out in front of him for a moment, and then a red beam of light swallows him up.

    The ball drops out of the air, landing in the dirt with a solid thump. You can still feel the humming of the clone's mind, the same as when you first picked up his ball. Now that you've been around him for a couple of days, though, you find the faint tingle inconsequential, not startling. You've gotten used to much worse.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan opens his eyes as you reach for the master ball. "I don't know about you, but I'm all for shoving that asshole in the first PC we see and pretending none of this shit ever happened."

    I can still hear you, you know, the clone says. His voice is comically small, like he's been shrunk down to ant-size and is shouting up at you. Rest assured that if you try something like that, I'll know. I'll let myself out and make sure you live exactly long enough to regret it.

    The human starts to answer, but falls victim to a harsh, painful coughing fit instead. You frown and stuff the master ball in your pocket. "I do not know why you think I would side with you. You know how hard I worked to find Mewtwo. Why would I try to get rid of him now?"

    "I don't know, because he's a giant douche?"

    You frown at the human. "That is not a good reason. Now stand up."

    He actually tries, but it's so painfully slow that after about three seconds you decide you don't have time for this. "Enough. I will help you."

    "No, don't--"

    You reach down and grab his arm, only to drop it again when he jerks back from you with a choked-off yell. You watch, suddenly wary, as the human curls in over his left side like he's trying to protect it. "Other arm," he hisses through gritted teeth.

    "Fine, then." You have neither the time nor the patience to try and figure out what's gotten into him. This time you seize the human's right arm, and he allows you to drag him to his feet. He won't stand properly, though. "Could you not lean on me like that?"

    "No." If anything, he shifts more weight onto you, and no amount of glaring can get him to move. At least he's not that heavy anymore. "So? We gonna do this or what?"

    You don't bother to reply, or to warn him before you go. You close your eyes, steeling yourself for the glare of the sun when it's not hidden behind tree branches, the psychedelic whirl of energy that melts one place into another, but the human is unprepared. He sucks in a surprised breath, then coughs it out again a moment later, a nasty wet noise that makes you screw up your face in displeasure and shove him a little farther away from you. The human smells spoiled, like something's rotting away under the blood and dirt sticking in his unwashed clothes. You can't believe you were half thinking of snacking on him only yesterday. Not having to think human is useful a lot of the time, but it's so weird, and a little gross, too.

    At least you won't have to put up with the great Nathaniel Morgan for much longer. You drag him over to the doorway from the businessman's memory, a rusty metal thing, the kind you imagine they use on military bunkers, and hammer on it with all your might. You're still cringing at the resulting dents, hoping no one will notice, when the door swings open and a rumpled teenager with bad acne pokes his head out. "Fine, fine, I'm here. You don't have to try and break the damn door do--what the hell is this?"

    He's staring at the great Nathaniel Morgan, who gives him a dull look in response. "I am Tony Flores, from Viridian Base," you say. "I was told to bring the Great Nathaniel Morgan here so the boss could interrogate him."

    "The who-what now?" The guard peers even closer at the great Nathaniel Morgan, and you frown, wondering what he's seeing. "Did you say Nate Morgan? You're kidding me, right? Even he's not that ugly."

    "Eat a dick, Fawcett," the great Nathaniel Morgan says without feeling.

    The younger Rocket looks taken aback for a moment, and then a slow, broad smile stretches across his face as he gives the great Nathaniel Morgan another inspection. "Well I'll be damned," he says. "It really is him. How's it hanging, Nate? What the hell happened to your face?"

    "Yes, it is him," you say, before the great Nathaniel Morgan gets the chance to reply. "We are in a hurry. You need to let the boss know we are here."

    "Sure, sure. Come on in," Fawcett says, stepping back and holding the door open for you as you haul your companion inside. The Rocket's eyes never leave the great Nathaniel Morgan, alight with avid curiosity.

    The door swings shut with a heavy clunk, leaving you in a dim storeroom claustrophobic with junk-laden shelves: here stacks of old travel magazines, there a broken blender, a collection of faded pokémon bobbleheads. It's all covered in what looks like a decade's worth of dust. The only furniture is a single chair facing a tiny TV with bent antennae, currently showing a grainy picture of some game show or other.

    "You said you came here from Viridian?" Fawcett says over his shoulder as he jostles past you to the far side of the room.

    "Yes. I am from Viridian base," you say, wondering why the Rocket's lurking around in the corner instead of taking you through the door on the far wall.

    "So I guess you left early enough to miss out on... you know."

    It takes you a few seconds to work out what he means. "Yes."

    "Crazy stuff, man. Just crazy." He shakes his head and turns his attention to the great Nathaniel Morgan again.

    "We are in a hurry," you say pointedly. "This man has information the boss wants. I do not think it they will appreciate you delaying us here."

    "Only thing he's got that anybody wants," the Rocket says with a laugh, but at least he's getting out his pokénav.

    "Laugh it up, asshole. If you had half a fucking brain, you'd be getting the hell outta here and praying nobody comes looking. You think Viridian was the end of it? You think you're fucking safe because you--"

    "Shut the fuck up, Nate," Fawcett snaps, putting the pokénav to his ear. It's only a couple minutes of chatter before he cancels the call, leering at the great Nathaniel Morgan as he puts the pokénav away. "Well whaddaya know, sounds like the boss is interested. Guess I'm not the only one who's wondering how you made it back from the dead. What, even Hell didn't want to put up with your bullshit?"

    He chuckles to himself and kicks up the edge of the carpet, stepping on something underneath. Your eyes widen as one of the shelves slides sideways, revealing another heavy metal door. An actual secret door. A real, live secret door, just like in the movies. It's the coolest thing ever, and Fawcett's just messing with the keypad next to it as though nothing could be more normal.

    "Anyway, take that guy down to detention and stuff him in a cell. The boss'll meet you there in a few minutes," Fawcett says as the door slides open, smooth and silent. "It's in D-wing. Just take the second corridor on the left once you get to the hub. Can't miss it."

    "Thank you," you say, and push the great Nathaniel Morgan forward, eager to see what the secret passage looks like.

    The stairs go down and down and down, much deeper, you think, than they did in Viridian. The great Nathaniel Morgan moves slower than you thought possible, and as you get deeper into the earth your excitement starts to fade. The corridor's dull and grimy, rust crusting the rivets in the walls, but you're not really seeing them. As the surface draws away overhead you're remembering somewhere else, where the metal was gleaming bright under smears of blood. The air down here tastes stale, like fear, except that doesn't make any sense, you're just a couple minutes from the surface, aren't you?

    You shove the great Nathaniel Morgan so hard he almost falls, then curse yourself for your mistake when he has to spend an eternity stabilizing himself again. "Move faster," you snarl. "We have not got all day."

    "Jesus shit, who pissed in your cornflakes?" he mutters to himself, but he does manage to go down a bit faster than before.

    The corridor opens up just past the foot of the stairs, bringing you to an underground cavern like the hub of a giant wheel, at least a dozen other hallways branching off from it. Old, cracked tiles cover the walls, blue and white and red and black. An old subway station, maybe? You see no sign of tracks, but the architecture feels familiar. Up near the ceiling red tiles spell out "All Pokémon Exist for the Glory of Team Rocket." Faint awareness of Mewtwo prickles at the back of your mind. You imagine he must be watching through your eyes.

    At least a dozen other hallways branch off from the central chamber, and Rockets bustle from one to another, crossing the broad empty space without even glancing up, absorbed in their own business. No one's noticed you, as far as you can tell.

    There's that insistent tickling in your head again. No words, no more than the barest hint of emotion, but somehow you get the feeling Mewtwo doesn't appreciate you standing around admiring the scenery. You push the great Nathaniel Morgan forward while you stare around, trying to remember which way the guard told you to go. The human is being deliberately difficult, and you practically have to drag him along, forcing Rockets to detour around you. Most dodge past and continue on their way without a second glance, but a few slow down and stare, and here and there a couple stand together and mutter, watching the two of you stagger away.

    Just wonderful. The great Nathaniel Morgan is creating a scene. Why does it feel like you're always hauling him around and hoping the other humans don't get too suspicious?

    You turn into another cramped metal corridor, one much busier than the tunnel you came in by. You're forced to take the lead, jostling Rockets out of the way so you can get past with the great Nathaniel Morgan. The backup gets worse as Rockets stop to stare, and you ignore curses and surprised yells alike as you push your way along. One grunt starts to say something to your companion, but she doesn't get farther than "Nnn?" before a vicious look shuts her up. For his part, the great Nathaniel Morgan doesn't appear to notice her. He seems very focused on breathing just at the moment.

    You do your best to divide your attention between shoving people out of the way and trying to figure out which of the hallway's identical metal doors is the one you want. How does anyone figure out where they're going in this place? Maybe it's some human skill you haven't mastered yet. Or maybe it's something exclusive to Rockets--maybe you have to have evil-vision to pull it off.

    At last you find a door with a tiny plate on it reading "D085A Lower Detention Block." You hammer on the pressure plate, and the sound of conversation drifts into the hallway as the door slides open.

    A couple of guards are leaning against a desk at the front of the room, laughing and chatting about nothing in particular. A houndoom lounges on the floor next to them, right up against a heating vent in the wall, squeaking away at a rubber toy. They pause at the sound of the door, turning towards you.

    "Hey, is that Nate?" one guard asks. "No worries, man, we kept the master suite open for you. Everybody knew you were too big of a dick to stay d--"

    She falls silent when she actually lays eyes on the great Nathaniel Morgan and exchanges an alarmed look with her companion. You frown, tired of dealing with this, and haul the human over to the desk. "Hello," you say. "I am Tony Flores, from Viridian base. I was told to bring the great Nathaniel Morgan here."

    "Bring the... who, now?" one of the guards asks, raising an eyebrow at you.

    The other smirks at the great Nathaniel Morgan. "Finally got what was coming to you, didn't you?" she says, crossing her arms over her chest. "Idiot. And I'll bet you still haven't learned your lesson?"

    "Could you talk later? This man refuses to stand by himself, and I am tired of holding him."

    "Right, sure. Hang on a sec." The raised-eyebrow guard paws through a litter of paperwork to uncover a key card. "Second cell over there," she says, jerking her head towards the back of the room. The other pulls a card out of her pocket, and the two of them move to stand on either side of the cell, pressing their keys against readers flanking the door.

    The metal grating rattles back, and you shove the great Nathaniel Morgan through. He catches himself against the far wall and slumps down onto the bench, staring at the floor. You watch him for a few moments, suspicious, but all he does is give a painful cough.

    "All right, let's clock him in and get on with our lives," one of the guards says, already back at the desk and poking away at the computer. "I've got that dumbass' number on speed dial, but I need your ax."

    "My what?"

    "Your ax." When you don't say anything, she glances at you over her shoulder. "Your access identification number? Come on, Nate there's trying to catch 'em all. Don't deny him another ID."

    "What's he on now? Fifteen?"

    "Seventeen. Eighteen with this one."

    "Ooh, so close. Think he'll make it to twenty before they kill him for real?"

    You barely notice their conversation. They're nattering on like this is any other day on the job, like there's nothing wrong here, but you, you don't know any number. How are you supposed to have a number? If it's important, why isn't it on your ID? You clench your hands down at your sides but try not to let anxiety show on your face. You can do this. They're just Rocket grunts, and they're not even on the alert for you. You just have to think for a moment.

    "Wait, what's he in for this time?"

    "Well, he came back from the dead, right? That musta pissed off the higher-ups, big time. When they say to take some permanent vacation time, they like it to be permanent."

    "So basically the same as usual."

    The other guard laughs. "Yeah, I guess. Being... a... dick," she says as she types, then bangs the enter key with extra gusto. "Okay, so, just need that ID, and then you can get out of here."

    "No I cannot," you say reflexively. "I need to stay here until the boss comes."

    "Until the boss comes? What are you talking about?"

    "I am supposed to wait here until the boss arrives. They want to ask the great Nathaniel Morgan some questions."

    There's a grunt and the click of claws from the far side of the desk as the houndoom heaves himself up. He pokes his head around the corner and stares up at you. "Whoah, whoah, whoah," one of the guards says. "Did you just say the boss was coming here?"

    "Yes."

    "When?"

    "I am not sure. Soon. Fawcett said it would be soon."

    The guards stare at each other for a moment. Then they spring into action, shoving the papers on the desk into neatish piles, sweeping cigarettes, dog-eared magazines, half-empty packs of gum into a drawer. The houndoom grabs his squeaky toy and hands it up to one of the humans for concealment. One guard starts dumping empty drink cups and take-out boxes into the garbage while the other stands in front a spreadsheet taped to the wall, scribbling away with grim determination. "So we probably had... eight? In July, and..."

    She jumps to attention as the door slides open, standing directly in front of the chart to block it from view. The houndoom and the other guard straighten up, tense with nerves.

    At first you think it's just someone bringing a troublemaker to detention, but the guards don't relax, and you can't imagine what an old woman would have done to land herself here anyway. She's tiny, leaning on an elegantly worked cane topped by a golden sceptile head, and Hoennese, face darkened and creased from long years out in the sun.

    Behind her is more what you were expecting out of Rocket leadership: a grim, hulking man of about thirty who wears his gun as openly as his pokéballs. A beedrill floats behind him, glassy red eyes reflecting the harsh ceiling lights in a manifold dazzle.

    "Oh? Got word we were coming, did you?" the woman asks, smiling warmly. "No need to look so nervous. We're just here for a friendly chat."

    The guards babble out something halfway apologetic, which seems to involve a lot of "ma'am," then shut up in unison, looking queasy. The boss nods at them, still smiling, and turns her attention to you. "You must be Tony, then."

    "Yes. I am Tony Flores, from Viridian base."

    "I heard." The boss' smile is gone in an instant, and her face draws down in hard lines. She looks determined, almost predatory--angry. It's the look of someone who has lost a game and who deeply, deeply hates to lose. "You have my condolences. I'm sure you lost friends two nights ago."

    "Yes. It was... horrible." Horrible. Yes. That's a good word. That's exactly how a member of Team Rocket would describe it. You swallow back bile as you remember the Rocket woman choking up blood, staring after you as you left her alone to die.

    "Yes, I'm sure it was." The woman's face softens, and she studies you with a calm, level gaze that leaves you squirming with unease. You don't know what it is, but there's something about her that's scary. "I assure you, Tony, that there's a place for you here in Saffron, if you want it. Either way, rest assured that your loyalty won't go unrewarded. I commend you for finishing your job, even in the face of everything that happened. But," she raps the end of her cane against the floor for emphasis, "we can discuss that more later. I believe you had something you wanted to tell me about?"

    "Yes. I need to talk to Eleanor Fairchild. She worked on the Mew project."

    The boss inclines her head slightly. "I thought I was the one you wanted to talk to."

    "You too. But Eleanor Fairchild knows about Mewtwo. And Mewtwo is coming here, soon! We have to do something to stop him!" You're starting to warm to your role.

    The boss gives you a faint smile and nods towards the great Nathaniel Morgan's cell. "And somehow this has to do with that man over there?"

    "Yes. He is involved." You hurry after the boss as she goes to stand in front of the bars. "We do not really know how. But he was supposed to be dead, and then he was not, and then he was talking about some special pokémon, like Mew but not, and we tried to catch it but could not, and right after he got to the base, then Mewtwo attacked. Now he is saying Mewtwo will come here, soon. That is why we have to get Eleanor Fairchild."

    The Rocket accompanying the boss snorts. He makes you think of an ursaring, like the one that beat the great Nathaniel Morgan to a pulp: sleepy eyes, bland expression, but very, very strong. "That was the best you could do? What, is Viridian going soft? If you couldn't get better answers than that, you obviously weren't trying hard enough."

    "Eleanor isn't here," the boss says, studying the great Nathaniel Morgan through the bars. He stares back for a couple of seconds, then looks up and away, studying the ceiling instead.

    "What?" You're so surprised you blurt it out without even thinking. "Where is she?"

    The boss turns to you, still smiling, but her words are edged with iron as she says, "Not here." She turns away again. "It hardly matters, in any case. Mewtwo isn't coming here."

    "What?" There's such calm, unruffled surety in her voice that you can't reconcile it with her being so drastically, dangerously wrong.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan glances at you, then away again, and after a moment you realize the boss' bodyguard is giving you a hostile look. The woman herself says, "This is Saffron, after all. It's Sabrina's city. Outside of Red, she's probably the only human the experiment fears. If it's Mewtwo you're worried about, you couldn't find a safer place than here."

    She turns away from you, leaving you frozen in shock. Is that true? you wonder pointedly, but there's no response from Mewtwo. He's lying low.

    "But you'd know more about that than I would, wouldn't you, Nathan?" the boss says, stepping a little closer to the bars. "Perhaps you'd care to tell me just what the connection between you and the experiment is."

    "Perhaps you'd care to kiss my ass. I don't owe you jack fucking shit. Or did you forget the part where you sent a bunch of goons to fucking murder me?" the great Nathaniel Morgan rasps, baring broken teeth.

    "Show some respect, you piece of shit!" the bodyguard roars.

    "Aiden, please," the boss says, and he flinches and falls silent, settling for glaring daggers at the great Nathaniel Morgan. "Nathan's obviously been having a difficult time lately. It's understandable that he'd forget his formalities." She smiles a warm, broad smile. "I'm sure it won't happen again."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan has nothing to say to that, so she goes on. "I understand your resentment, Nathan. But you know I didn't have anything to do with that. Personnel decisions are always up to a soldier's commanding officer." She glances at Aiden, who's still fixated on the great Nathaniel Morgan. "In any case, I'm curious why you would go to such lengths to contact us after Aiden's attempt to discharge you. Why not simply run away when you had the chance?"

    The great Nathaniel Morgan doesn't bother to reply, but the boss goes on anyway. She doesn't really seem to be talking to him anymore but only speaking her thoughts aloud as she works through some tangle in her head. "I've looked at your records, of course. Putting aside certain... disciplinary issues, you've led a career with an almost singular lack of accomplishment. This despite what appears to be a certain talent for battle--"

    "Ha." That at last rouses the great Nathaniel Morgan out of his sullen silence. "If by 'talent' you mean I kicked this jagoff's ass so hard he's still gotta shit standing up, then yeah, I got loads of motherfucking talent. That dumbass battles like a drunk skitty, though, so it ain't exactly an 'accomplishment.' Hey, Gimpy." He sneers at the beedrill hovering by Aiden's side. "How's it going? Ya miss me?"

    The thrumming of the bug's wings climbs to a higher pitch, and the beedrill bobs a little in the air, as though longing to shoot forward and run the insolent human through. One of the beedrill's hind legs is twisted and curled back on itself, hanging limp and useless alongside his abdomen.

    "You caused permanent damage to one of my pokémon," Aiden growls. "I should have had you taken off the team right then and there."

    "Karma's a bitch, ain't it, douchebag?" the great Nathaniel Morgan says, and Aiden flushes with anger. "Too bad you couldn't ax me after that, not without everybody knowing what a little bitch you were about losing that fight."

    "Who the hell do you think you are, you ungrateful gutter rat?" the other Rocket snarls. "I don't know how you survived that ursaring, and I don't care. This time I'm going to handle your execution personally, and I'm going to enjoy every second of it."

    "What's that? Not gonna send somebody else to do your dirty work for once? Damn, don't tell me you went and grew some balls since I was here last. I'm gonna have to start coming up with new jokes."

    They're too wrapped up in their argument to see the boss' gesture, a quick twitch of the fingers. Something stirs in the darkness under the great Nathaniel Morgan's seat, a double row of triangular teeth glinting where none were before. The great Nathaniel Morgan yelps as the sableye scuttles up his leg, then lets out a hiss of pain as he regrets his involuntary start. The ghost ignores him, climbing all the way up to his shoulder and leaning out in front of his face, staring avidly into his eyes.

    "Ah, Eskar. There you are," the boss says, sounding for all the world like she's surprised to see the sableye.

    "What the fuck is this thing doing up in my face?" the great Nathaniel Morgan snarls, trying without success to pull away from the ghost.

    "Oh, I think she's just admiring your eyes, that's all," the boss says. "They're the same color as hers, after all."

    "Not the same," the sableye insists. She pops a light blue gemstone out of her face and holds it up for the great Nathaniel Morgan to see, swelling with pride. "Aquamarine," she says. "Illite-Eyes got this one for me. I cut it myself. See the fire?" The big gemstone dazzles in the light, but the great Nathaniel Morgan doesn't look appreciative.

    "When two sableye meet, they exchange eye-stones and compliment one another on the quality and cut. It's a matter of social rank to them," the boss says. "Eskar is quite fascinated by human eyes, too, but although she finds they come out just fine, she hasn't quite grasped that they tend not to go back in nicely afterwards."

    "Do so!" the sableye snaps. She presses the gem back into her face. "You always drag the humans away before I get a chance to put them back. Rude!" She peers into the great Nathaniel Morgan's eyes again. "Illite-Eyes is wrong. Not aquamarine, yours. No, lazurite, I'd say, or perhaps a nice euclase. Such a lovely color. But I would need to have a closer look to be sure." She pats the great Nathaniel Morgan, who is visibly sweating, on the cheek. "But not now, I'm afraid. You'll need those soon, I think."

    The sableye settles herself down on the human's shoulder, her back against the side of his head, and waves to Aiden. The man pales.

    "Illite-Eyes says I should be interested in Axinite-Eyes over there, but I don't know why," Eskar goes on conversationally. "Axinite is common for the humans of this region, is it not? And I see nothing special about his eyes. A nice rich color, to be sure, but nothing special. But Illite-Eyes knows more about humans than I do. Maybe I'll see what she means when I take a closer look." The sableye sighs and shakes her head, stretching a moment before settling back into a more comfortable sprawl. She looks pleased to have found a warm spot to perch. "But really, humans don't understand minerals. Not even Illite-Eyes." The great Nathaniel Morgan shivers, trying to see her out of the corner of his eye without actually turning his head, listening to the nonsense whisper of the sableye's hissing, clicking language in his ear.

    "I'm sorry about the interruption," the boss says after a moment of silence. "Were the two of you discussing something?"

    They practically trip over their words in their haste to deny it. "Very well, then. We return, Nathan, to this creature of yours, and what it has to do with Mew or Mewtwo."

    "What the fuck do you want me to say?" the great Nathaniel Morgan says tightly, trying to split his attention between the humans in front of him and the sableye slipping into a doze on his shoulder. "You must have read the fucking field reports. Ma'am."

    "Naturally. But I was hoping you might be able to provide some insight into just how a squad ended up fighting some kind of shapeshifting pokémon with an unprecedented number of abilities, and what, if anything, that has to do with Mewtwo."

    "Yeah, well, I got a metric fuckton of insight, believe you me, but what I'm not seeing is why I oughta be sharing it with you, get me? Ma'am?"

    "You should ask Eleanor Fairchild. I bet she would know."

    "Yes, thank you, Tony. Rest assured that I will take all appropriate measures to figure out what's going on. But right now I'm interested in learning what I can from this man here." To the great Nathaniel Morgan she says, "Listen, Nathan. In a business like this, you don't get to be my age by being stupid. You cheated death once, and that was miraculous enough. But now you've turned up alive again when by all reports you should be dead. I'm not the sort to believe in miracles, Nathan. Especially not two of them."

    The human lets out a phlegmy bark of a laugh. "Yeah. Some fucking miracles."

    "It's obvious there's something more going on here. I don't know whether it has anything to do with Mewtwo, and at the moment I don't particularly care. It's obvious no ursaring did that to you, and that Viridian squad did see something that no one's been able to explain. I understand you and the commanding officers of this base have had certain disagreements. But nothing is unforgivable, Nathan. Team Rocket protects its own. Tell me what you know, and there will be a place for you on the team again."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan looks between her and Aiden, who's all a-scowl, and what little he can see of the sableye. The boss waits quietly, a gentle half-smile on her face. At length the great Nathaniel Morgan says, "Look. Even I ain't that stupid. You wouldn't believe me if I told you, and even if you did, who gives a shit? You'd still find some reason to bump me off. So you off me today or off me tomorrow, the fuck kind of difference does it make ?" He tries to shift to a more comfortable position on the bench, but freezes when Eskar lets out a sleepy jabber. "You ain't got nothing I want no more anyhow. So you can kindly go to hell, ma'am."

    The boss shakes her head, face grim. "We both know this is the best offer you're going to get, Nathan, and it's better than you have any right to expect. I'll get what I want, one way or another, but I'm offering you an easy way out. You would be wise to take it."

    "I said you can take your offer and shove it, bitch," the great Nathaniel Morgan growls. "Who the hell wants to get stuck on a team full of fuckwits like boulder shoulders over there? Or those two dumbasses, couldn't handle booking a prisoner if their lives depended on it."

    The boss turns, and you do, too. You'd completely forgotten the guards were there. They've been keeping quiet this whole time, probably hoping for exactly that.

    "I don't know what he's talking about, ma'am," one stammers, rigid with shock, while the other glares pure hatred at the great Nathaniel Morgan. "We were nearly done booking him when you came in. All we need is that guy's ax--err, his ID--and it'll be done."

    "Is that all?" the boss asks, shooting a glance back at the great Nathaniel Morgan. He's watching with a blankly sullen expression. "Well, go ahead and finish it up, then. Apparently someone's very concerned about proper protocol today."

    'Of course, ma'am." She turns a strained smile on you. "Youre ax, then, please? Sir?"

    How did it come around to this again? How did it come around to this again so fast? You stare hopelessly around at the humans, who are looking at you expectantly, like there couldn't be a more simple request.

    "I--I forget."

    "You forget?" Aiden rumbles.

    The boss smiles like you've told a wonderful joke. "It's the number you use to access your paycheck, Tony. I'm sure you haven't forgotten."

    "What, got stage fright?" one of the guards asks with an uneasy chuckle. "Don't worry, the boss isn't judging you, she's--well, uh, she's, she's... not judging you."

    "No, really, I... I can't remember."

    "Tony," the boss says in a voice so gentle and encouraging that it sets your heart racing with fear, "this is no time for games. What is your access identification number?"

    You have to come up with something. You have to say something. Any number is better than no number. Any number is better than no number.

    "Five?"

    They all just stare at you. You hurry on, hoping to somehow patch the mistake, to arrive at something that will satisfy them. "Zero... zero... six?"

    You become aware of a noise, a kind of scratching, croaking sound. It's laughter. You turn around and find the great Nathaniel Morgan laughing at you, or trying to. It's more wheezing than anything, and he has to brace himself against the wall, but you can tell he's trying to laugh. Eskar drops to the floor with an indignant chatter, then scurries out of the cell, passing straight through the bars.

    "Oh my God," the great Nathaniel Morgan wheezes. "It's a shapeshifter. It's a shapeshifter, and you let it walk straight into the middle of the fucking base, you fucking morons."

    This time you don't catch the command, but a froslass appears at the boss' side in a whirl of ice crystals, and Aiden grabs two of the pokéballs off his belt as his beedrill raises gleaming stingers. You find yourself anxious, alight with nerves, and realize you've been drumming on your leg, right over the pocket where Mewtwo's master ball resides. Something prickles at the back of your mind, the faintest brush of awareness.

    "Tony," the boss says, deadly calm, "could you recite the Team Rocket oath for me, please?"

    Your legs almost buckle as sweet relief floods your veins. Yes, yes you could. Doesn't everybody know Team Rocket's oath? Everybody who watches gangster movies, anyway.

    "Steal pokémon for profit. Exploit pokémon for profit. All pokémon exist for the glory of Team Rocket."

    There's a long silence. You stand there in confusion, resisting the urge to blurt out something more, trying not to let your anxiety show. Those are the words, you're sure of it. Unless she was looking for "Prepare for trouble..."

    "What about the rest, Tony?" the boss asks quietly.

    "There is more?"

    "Arcanine, Machoke, let's go!" Aiden roars. The froslass floats forward with arms spread wide, trailing snowflakes.

    Let me out! The voice in your head is faint but distinct even over the sudden clamor.

    "What?" you mutter as you drop under a shadow ball from the froslass. The arcanine jumps onto the desk, scattering papers everywhere and knocking the computer to the floor before he lunges at you with teeth blazing.

    I said let me out! The arcanine rebounds from your protect, but the machoke is on you as soon as the bubble dissipates, swinging a fire punch at your head. You can't keep retreating in this cramped little room, and you won't have time to power up any of your serious attacks with all the pokémon focusing on you at once.

    "But Sabrina," you gasp, firing a widespread shock wave. The pokémon move to block the attack from hitting the humans, but it only slows them for a moment. "The Rocket was saying you wouldn't--"

    You think I fear that ridiculous excuse for a psychic? You believe that crawling human's word over mine? Let me out! An ice beam hits you while you're distracted, knocking you over and leaving you stiff with burning cold. Let me out before you ruin everything!

    You fumble in your pocket and manage to grab the master ball just before the machoke's foot comes down, pinning you and crushing the breath out of your body. The master ball clatters to the floor and starts to roll away, and you croak, "Go" as you tear at the machoke's leg with fingers morphing into claws.

    The fighting-type's lifting his foot for another stomp when the clone takes shape, but he never gets the chance to bring it down again. Mewtwo gives himself a shake, shoulders down to tail-tip, like he's trying to shed water, and a wave of psychic energy spreads out across the room, sweeping up everything in its path. Humans and pokémon alike are slammed into the walls, and the desk smashes after them, splintering on impact.

    There's a long moment of silence where nothing moves, and then the houndoom, the only one still conscious, begins struggling his way free of the pile. You get to your feet as Mewtwo hurls an aura sphere at the dark-type to make him stay down.

    Come, the clone says, eyes blazing with purple light. We must hurry.

    "Mewtwo, Eleanor Fairchild isn't here," you say as you brush the last of the ice from your clothes. "What are we supposed to do--?"

    Find out where she's gone, of course, the clone says. He starts towards the pile of humans washed up like driftwood against the far wall, then turns so fast it puts your heart in your throat, forming and flinging the dusky whirl of a shadow ball in the blink of an eye. It hits the dusknoir before he even finishes phasing out of the wall, scattering clouds of ectoplasm. The ghost's cry is a hollow, lonesome sound that sets goosebumps prickling up your arms. He's tough, too, and a chill wind blows around the detention block, rippling bands of darkness undulating through the air.

    Mewtwo doesn't let the dusknoir finish building up his ominous wind. Another casual shadow ball is too much for the ghost, and he falls unconscious, slumped halfway out of the wall with curling wisps of ectoplasm drifting from the gaping holes blown through his body by Mewtwo's attacks.

    You shudder and turn away. Hopefully that's the last of the boss' ghosts that's lurking around. It must be nice, being a psychic like Mewtwo, and never having to worry about someone sneaking up on you.

    The clone's sifting through the debris, standing calmly in place while bodies and detritus alike shift around as if of their own accord. Smug satisfaction oozes from the clone as he uncovers the boss, lying in a crumpled heap and bleeding where flying debris carved narrow scratches across her cheek. Let's see what you remember, shall we? the clone asks as his eyes blaze brighter and the human rises in the grip of psychic force, floating a couple of inches off the ground with her head still lolling in unconsciousness.

    You take a step forward, curious what Mewtwo's going to do. It's probably some psychic thing, you probably won't even be able to see much, but you crane your neck anyway, wondering. You end up blindsided anyway, shoved away from Mewtwo by a wall of psychic force. You stumble and fall over, vision lurching as a headache starts throbbing in your temples. At first you think Mewtwo attacked for some reason, but then you realize some of your surprise is his own, a wordless shout echoing around your skull. You blink and try to figure out what the yellowish thing is that's somehow gotten between you and the clone. You can't recognize it, you can't think through the buzz of psychic pressure so powerful it feels like it's going to vibrate your brain to pieces.

    "Mewtwo," someone says from nearby, and you focus on her, a young human with short dark hair and one hand resting on the shoulder of an alakazam.

    Just like that, everything snaps into focus. The thing standing in front of you is a kadabra. There's over a dozen of them now, kadabra and alakazam both, in a ring around Mewtwo. He turns slowly in the middle of them, reflected in their upraised spoons, looking for a gap in the circle.

    "Mewtwo," the human repeats, and you recognize her at last as Sabrina, Saffron City's gym leader and a person Mewtwo's definitely not afraid of. "It's time for you to come with me."
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2015

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