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  #1    
Old September 30th, 2008, 08:03 PM
JX Valentine's Avatar
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Latest Chapter: Sixteen (10/1/09)
Author's Note: Happy October, everyone!
Betaed By: El Nino (prologue and chapter one) and Gizamimi Pichu (chapter two onward).
Warning: Gore, violence, scarring of young children, sexual innuendo, and campy sci-fi cliches. Don't like this list? Hit the back button, not the post reply button.


Prologue
(I'll bring down the stars for you.)

Twilight broke into night over Hoenn in waves: blue swallowed by red, red swallowed by black. One by one, taillow retreated to the trees for sleep, giving way to zubat fluttering across the black sky in search of prey. Cities gained white haloes of electric light as the human race fought the darkness of night. Far above, ignorant of mankind's attempt to preserve the daylight, the celestial forest of stars, planets, and other points of white flickered to life.

One of them moved.

Dubbed MC-198 by the scientific community, the meteor sported the size and approximate mass of a school bus. That, along with the fact that it streaked down a path that crossed neatly with Earth, had kept astronomers' eyes on it for several months prior to its destined approach. For the past twenty-four hours, the city closest to the estimated point of impact, Fortree City, remained completely deserted save for the area's wild pokémon. Despite their curiosity and puzzlement over the long train of humans traveling in masses towards neighboring cities and the nagging sense that something was about to happen, few of them fled the area, particularly with the lack of anywhere else to go. For that reason, as day faded away into night, the wild pokémon could do nothing but stare skyward at the glowing streak that loomed closer.

Standing atop a hill, within a circle of rocks countless years old, was an absol whose red eyes were fixed on the falling star. He shifted on his paws as the cold but familiar feeling of dread sank into his bones. The minutes ticked closer to the blackest part of the night, but he could do nothing during that time but watch. There was no one to warn, not because the place was deserted but instead because of something else he could sense – a feeling of inevitability.

The meteor punched through the atmosphere and immediately burst into a brilliant ball of red and white. Absol's claws scraped against the dirt of the hill as he burst into a run down its face. To his side, the meteor fell rapidly, descending hundreds of feet in seconds towards the soft earth. Several linoone lifted their heads skyward as the absol passed by in his frantic search for safety.

He barely reached the edge of the lake some distance from the base of the hill when the meteor landed. The ground beneath his paws shook violently as a cloud of red dust spewed towards the heavens and quickly engulfed the area. Waves from the lake swallowed the sandy shores and flooded the Scorched Slab. In the distance, a great crack and subsequent crash signaled the literal fall of Fortree City, shaken free from its lofty perch in the trees of the forest. Unable to ground himself, the absol flew through the air and landed awkwardly on a paw. His mouth opened to release a great cry, but it was drowned by the rumbling and screams of both the trembling land and the dying pokémon further north.

Absol lay on the earth for what felt like hours as his ruby eyes watched the red cloud above him fade to allow the blood-red moon to shine through. Eventually, he tried to move, but his body ached. One of his paws was definitely injured – the back one that was already beginning to swell. He whimpered as he limped north, back towards the remains of his home.

Several yards away, a hole stood in his path, mostly concealed by the cloud of red dust. Gingerly, he limped on his twisted paw for what felt like an immense distance towards the lip of the crater. His throat whined, not because of the pain shooting up his leg but instead because of the familiar, cold feeling that seeped into his bones. When he finally ambled to the rocky edge of the crater, he cautiously looked downward, towards the rock at the exact center of the pit as the dust began to clear enough for its silhouette to appear. In the darkness, it lacked any sort of detail except for a crack lacing up the side of its worn exterior. Beyond the crack, a red glow emanated from the meteor's hollow interior, a glow that spilled onto the earth around its source.

It took a moment for the absol to realize that the glow moved. Instantly, his eyes widened, and he turned to stumble away towards the hill. With unseen eyes, the wave of red pouring from the meteor detected the absol's movement and rushed up the side of the crater. The white dog remained unaware that he was being pursued. All his attention went into running, but his injured ankle protested with each step. Eventually, it bent underneath him and sent him head-long into the dirt only a short distance from the crater. A sharp whine tore from his throat as he struggled to stand, but his pursuers were already upon him and washed against his hind legs in a wave of red. Small mouths tore his flesh in tiny bites until his skin was completely ripped off by a coat of red parasites. The dog wanted to scream, but all he could do was feel his legs give out, his body collapsing into the carpet of red that quickly overwhelmed him. He tried to open his muzzle to release a howl, but as soon as he did, the parasites took the opportunity to enter his body and consume him from the inside out. Unable to find a piece of the absol left to devour, parts of the entity pulled away from the dying canine to lunge towards the grass to the south of the crater. Slowly but surely, the entity slaughtered sleeping zigzagoon, kecleon, oddish – anything it came into contact with until it carved a path towards Mt. Pyre. The other entity, having picked the bones of the absol clean, moved northward across the crater and towards the fallen Fortree.

When the inhabitants of Fortree gradually returned throughout the course of the week, their only warning would be the blood-drained corpses of pokémon outside their matchstick city.
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Last edited by JX Valentine; September 30th, 2009 at 08:50 PM.
  #2    
Old October 1st, 2008, 07:10 AM
Incinermyn's Avatar
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A brilliant piece, Jax! OH, this had me on edge the whole time I read it. It was like I was reading the prologue to an epic/horror novel! I cannot wait to read more!
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  #3    
Old October 1st, 2008, 07:40 AM
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Woohoo! I've always liked stories like this where a myriad of tiny things work to devour bigger things (Indiana Jones is a recent example with the ants), but it seems as though you're going to take it a step further and have said creatures take over the world (or at least attempt to). I've always thought they should be the primary enemy instead of an aside like they usually are.

I'll try to read this as you update. Drop me a visitor message if you feel like telling me a new chapter is out or whatnot.
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Old October 1st, 2008, 09:35 AM
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This seems really interesting and I like your style, but that was expected. I hate tiny devouring things, though but I love meteors. I want to know where the story goes from here. Ah, how cruel you were to that poor Absol! *shivers*

It's just too bad I'm not native with this language, because it really affects how much I like writings. It's not as easy or fast to read for me than Finnish would be and that's why I tend to miss important things (like: "whoops! It was that Absol who just got devoured! How come I didn't notice before?". Also, many stylish phrases, idioms and words ase wasted on me ;_; What a cruel world this is!

But seriously, despite all that, I think I love this. Gotta wait and see, huh?
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  #5    
Old October 1st, 2008, 11:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by An-chan View Post
It's just too bad I'm not native with this language, because it really affects how much I like writings. It's not as easy or fast to read for me than Finnish would be and that's why I tend to miss important things (like: "whoops! It was that Absol who just got devoured! How come I didn't notice before?". Also, many stylish phrases, idioms and words ase wasted on me ;_; What a cruel world this is!
As a Finnish person who is also not a native English speaker, I must object to this. Just because you aren't born into a language it doesn't mean you can't get as proficient in it as someone who is; it's all a matter of how much effort you put into learning the language and how much interest you really have in it.


Okay, yeah, I should get on topic, shouldn't I? :\ Right, reviewing time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jax Malcolm View Post
Twilight broke into night over Hoenn like waves: blue swallowed by red, red swallowed by black. One by one, taillow retreated to the trees for sleep, giving way to zubat fluttering across the black sky in search of prey. Cities gained white haloes of electric light as the human race fought the darkness of night. Far above, ignorant of mankind's attempt to preserve the daylight, the celestial forest of stars and planets and other points of white flickered to life.
Two 'and's after each other is a rather unusual choice, given that the standard is to replace all but the last 'and' with a comma. Was this an intentional choice or did it just happen? Also, on that note: the 'and other points of white' just struck me as a bit redundant and needlessly specific. I mean what would those be? Satellites and space shuttle lights? I dunno', personally I would prefer it with out that last one, but that's a matter of taste. Just thought I'd mention it.

Oh, and that twilight simile? 'Twilight broke into night' would kind of call for a comparison of 'like X into Y', but there is only 'like waves' there, and waves don't really break into night. Maybe just say that it broke into night 'in waves'? Again, this could just be my own schewed understanding of the language, but to me that would sound like a more appropriate expression. :3

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jax Malcolm View Post
Standing atop a hill, within a circle of rocks countless years old (yet still very young compared to the meteor), was an absol whose red eyes were fixed on the falling star. He shifted on his paws as the cold but familiar feeling of dread sank into his bones. The minutes ticked closer to the blackest part of the night, but he could do nothing during that time but watch. There was no one to warn, not because the place was deserted but instead because of something else he could sense – a feeling of inevitability.
Kind of petty, I know, but I can't help feeling that this would look nicer without that parenthesis. Unless you plan on making it a regular part of the narrator's style, maybe that could be reworded?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jax Malcolm View Post
Several yards away, a hole stood in his path, mostly concealed by the cloud of red dust. Gingerly, he limped on his twisted paw for what felt like an immense distance towards the lip of the crater. His throat whined, not because of the pain shooting up his leg (although that in itself was nearly unavoidable) but also because of the familiar, cold feeling that seeped into his bones. When he finally ambled to the rocky edge of the crater, he cautiously looked downward, towards the rock at the exact center of the pit as the dust began to clear enough for its silhouette to appear. In the darkness, it lacked any sort of detail except for a crack lacing up the side of its worn exterior. Beyond the crack, a red glow emanated from the meteor's hollow interior, a glow that spilled onto the earth around its source.
Same thing as before about the parenthesis.


Pretty much everything I've said above is open to debate and correction. As I keep telling you, Jax, you need to be a good sport and leave some errors for us reviewing people to fix. This level of writing is just not cricket. >|

Anywho, as much as I am not a fan of the whole 'aliens descend from space and start killing people' thing, I must say that I enjoyed reading this. You did a good job with both the impending doom feel before the meteor strike and the terror of the attacking parasite things when they killed the Absol. So yes, despite my biases, I'm looking forward to where this story is going to go. ^^

Oh, and just out of curiosity: is Midsummer Knights still in progress or is it discontinued? Meant to go and comment on that, but the changing of months had me outspeeded.
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  #6    
Old October 1st, 2008, 11:55 AM
An-chan's Avatar
An-chan
Whoops.
 
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...Gasp! Another Finnish person? Really?

I know it's about the effort, but that is precisely my point. It's easier to read Finnish, because that doesn't require any effort from my part. And with English, I'm not as sophisticated as a reader, but well, I'm getting there, so...

There's something I forgot to mention.
Quote:
With unseen eyes, the wave of red pouring from the meteor detected the absol's movement and rushed up the side of the crater. The white dog remained unaware that he was being pursued.
I don't know about other people, but I, for one, never thought Absol as a dog, so that one took me a while to figure. I always though Absol are more cat-like. But well, everyone has their opinions. I just thought I'd point it out.

And, I've been wondering about this for a while now, are Pokémon names, like Absol here, supposed to be written with capital first letters? Is this true or is this just some misconception I ripped off somewhere? '' I also understood that Pokémon names are never written in plural, but I noticed Jax doesn't use them in plural either, so I guess that's confirmed, then. ^-^
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  #7    
Old October 1st, 2008, 01:13 PM
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JX Valentine
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skunter View Post
A brilliant piece, Jax! OH, this had me on edge the whole time I read it. It was like I was reading the prologue to an epic/horror novel! I cannot wait to read more!
Thank you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by txteclipse View Post
Woohoo! I've always liked stories like this where a myriad of tiny things work to devour bigger things (Indiana Jones is a recent example with the ants),
...I have yet to see the latest Indiana Jones. *flees!* (But I want to!)

Quote:
I'll try to read this as you update. Drop me a visitor message if you feel like telling me a new chapter is out or whatnot.
Sure. Thanks for reading.

Quote:
Originally Posted by An-chan View Post
But seriously, despite all that, I think I love this. Gotta wait and see, huh?
Thanks. And yep. I'm already done with chapter one (with chapter two sitting with my beta... who I forgot to credit, dammit).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alter Ego View Post
Was this an intentional choice or did it just happen?
It actually was in order to give the sentence a certain rhythm. The points of white, meanwhile, was there because it felt odd to mention just stars and planets and then mention that one of them (which would be the meteor) moved. I understand what you're saying about it being redundant. I'm just wondering if leaving that part out and then talking about the meteor would imply that I thought the meteor was a star or planet.

Quote:
Maybe just say that it broke into night 'in waves'? Again, this could just be my own schewed understanding of the language, but to me that would sound like a more appropriate expression. :3
No, you're right. That sounds a bit better.

Quote:
Kind of petty, I know, but I can't help feeling that this would look nicer without that parenthesis. Unless you plan on making it a regular part of the narrator's style, maybe that could be reworded?
Hmm. In this case, you're right. The sentence could make a bit more sense without it. (Same thing with the part you pointed out after. I should remove the word "also" right after the word "but" there anyway.)

Quote:
As I keep telling you, Jax, you need to be a good sport and leave some errors for us reviewing people to fix. This level of writing is just not cricket. >|
XD Okay. I'll start writing like this. (Oh, FFNet. I'm so glad I came back to you.)

Quote:
Anywho, as much as I am not a fan of the whole 'aliens descend from space and start killing people' thing, I must say that I enjoyed reading this. You did a good job with both the impending doom feel before the meteor strike and the terror of the attacking parasite things when they killed the Absol. So yes, despite my biases, I'm looking forward to where this story is going to go. ^^
Thank you. =D

Quote:
Oh, and just out of curiosity: is Midsummer Knights still in progress or is it discontinued?
Oh, I'm definitely bound and determined to finish it. It's just that this baby took up most of my time. XD (I've been planning it since January, and I've already written up to chapter four.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by An-chan View Post
I don't know about other people, but I, for one, never thought Absol as a dog, so that one took me a while to figure. I always though Absol are more cat-like. But well, everyone has their opinions. I just thought I'd point it out.
*nods* It's fine. Sometimes, it's hard to tell in the Pokemon universe. For a long while, I personally thought it was a goat. (No, seriously.)

According to Bulbapedia, it could be based on either -- either a black cat or a barghest (dog in English folklore whose appearance foretold death).

Quote:
And, I've been wondering about this for a while now, are Pokémon names, like Absol here, supposed to be written with capital first letters? Is this true or is this just some misconception I ripped off somewhere? -_-'' I also understood that Pokémon names are never written in plural, but I noticed Jax doesn't use them in plural either, so I guess that's confirmed, then. ^-^
There's two schools of thought in Pokemon fanfiction when it comes to names. The first school believes you capitalize everything because they're all copyrighted. The second believes you don't unless they're actual names because otherwise, they're common nouns like "cat." You can really follow either just as long as you stay consistent in the work about it. For example, if you want to go with the first school of thought, that's definitely cool with everyone else, but you can't write any of the Pokemon names in lowercase.

Thanks for the questions, by the way, as well as the reviews. ^_^
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  #8    
Old October 1st, 2008, 02:21 PM
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Wow, Jax its so dark and R-rated and dark. I likes it! I can't wait for more. T_T I wish I could write that good. V_V Oh well. I've got time to practice right? XP
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  #9    
Old October 1st, 2008, 07:44 PM
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Absol Perfect Distaster
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Wow, I almost cried, but this was an excellent fan fic. I loved it. Even though I read something about my favorite pokemon getting ripped to shreads, I still loved the dark story plot.
  #10    
Old October 3rd, 2008, 10:05 PM
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JX Valentine
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Quote:
Originally Posted by darkcowboy View Post
Wow, Jax its so dark and R-rated and dark. I likes it! I can't wait for more. T_T I wish I could write that good. V_V Oh well. I've got time to practice right? XP
Thanks. And yeah. It took me years to iron out problems with my writing. And even then, I've got bundles of ones I haven't even touched yet. XD *motions to Alter Ego's review*

Kinda tempted to save it like that, but I'll definitely get around to editing the FFNet version. Why? Because I always feel weird editing the original post after someone posts a review in a thread. Maybe it's just me. *shrug*

Quote:
Originally Posted by Absol Perfect Distaster View Post
Wow, I almost cried, but this was an excellent fan fic. I loved it. Even though I read something about my favorite pokemon getting ripped to shreads, I still loved the dark story plot.
Thanks. Sorry about the Absol, though. He died for a good cause!
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  #11    
Old October 3rd, 2008, 10:38 PM
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It's always terrifying when something so powerful is so easily detroyed by something so small and meager.
I like your style of writing and the dark edge to the story so far.
Cant wait for more, ;p
  #12    
Old October 7th, 2008, 05:35 PM
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JX Valentine
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aceupthesleeve View Post
It's always terrifying when something so powerful is so easily detroyed by something so small and meager.
It's probably going to get even scarier. Sorry. XD

Thanks for the compliment, by the way.

One
(Helter-skelter, birds flew off with the fallout shelter.)

Polaris Institute existed before Project Stardust, but then, it mostly centered around technology, rather than the direct study of pokémon. However, when Hoenn succumbed to a mysterious epidemic, the government stepped in to take over major research centers in its other regions, including Polaris. The best of the best in the Pokémon Symposium, the elite community of pokémologists across the country, were hand-picked by each center to lend their skills to the government in a time of desperation.

Ten months have passed since that day when each member of Polaris' team gathered to the circular citadel of a laboratory complex on Seafoam Island. Not long after, an armored car rolled past the gates, and safely inside that car, a metal box drifted through the entrance of the outermost rings of the complex.

The box had since been removed, but the thing that was formerly within it now dwelled in the very heart of Polaris Institute, a square building just beyond the rings of the living quarters. Even here, past two other rings with their own complicated systems of locks and gates, security remained absurdly tight. The corridors weaved within the building like a giant, white maze of linoleum and bitter-scented air. Doors were thick, metal beasts with only a small sign next to them to tell them apart. Even then, security cameras – the most recent feature, actually – hung above each door with one glass eye staring at the tops of heads with a scrutinizing gaze.

Then, even more annoying, was the lock. Keycard, thumbprint, iris. Those were the keys to unlock every door in the inner chambers of Polaris Institute. The eyes and thumbprints of every last employee were recorded and stored in a central computer within the complex to be used as the combination for each lock. It was, after all, of the utmost importance that the thing inside remained completely removed from the outside world – not to keep the people outside from getting inside, as most locks tend to do.

Outside one of the doors, a keycard slipped through the slot on the side of the lock. A pale thumb pressed against the silver thumb pad. Lights blinked as the panel above the thumb pad slipped upward to reveal a camera. Hands pulled back green, curly hair as a heart-shaped face leaned forward. A red beam flashed from the lens and trailed down one dark eye before vanishing. The young man straightened, his hands working their way into the pockets of his lab coat as he waited.

A female, computerized voice finally broke the silence of the hallway. "Identity confirmed. Welcome, Professor McKenzie."

The door slid open, and the young man stepped into a room full of machinery.

Technically, Bill McKenzie wasn't a professor. In fact, while he held a master's in psychology and biology, his attempts to earn a proper doctorate (and, therefore, the title "professor") were scattered across the near decade since he graduated college to the point where his close colleagues and relatives took it as a mundane piece of news whenever he would declare another attempt. It hardly mattered to them, anyway. Most of the respect for him came from actions, not credentials. Even at the young age of twenty-one, he had already written books on the subject of pokémon behavior and produced revolutionary inventions such as the Storage and Retrieval System.

It was those achievements that earned him a place at Polaris Institute, primarily because of his work with pokémon psychology, but the lack of credentials still sparked criticism and controversy within the Pokémon Symposium, an organization filled with scientists who worked for years to gain the credentials he lacked. In turn, that controversy planted doubt in the minds of Project Stardust's primary benefactor: the Japanese government and the officials who sat on the board that oversaw the research efforts. Many of them would have rejected him as being far too inexperienced to handle teamwork on a major project (based, of course, on the opinions of a number of members of the Symposium), but luckily, he had at least one very reliable backer.

"Good morning, Bill!"

Bill lifted his eyes towards the end of the room, past the rows of strange, flickering machines. A dark window spread across the far wall, creating a deep, crimson gap in the otherwise white wall. At it, an old man with near-black eyes stared at him. Professor Oak's wrinkled face drew into a wide grin as he motioned for Bill to come forward. With a small nod, Bill took a few more steps into the laboratory, but before he could go any further, another voice rose from the side.

"McKenzie!" A woman turned fully from the machinery at the side of the room to address him. "Do you realize what time it is?"

At once, Bill cringed, taking a step back towards the door. He wasn't normally shy around his own colleagues, but Professor Yvonne Nettle had that sort of effect on almost everyone. From behind a pair of oval-framed glasses, her hazel eyes flashed angrily at Bill. Her thin face contracted into a deep frown as she drew her hands from her lab coat pockets and crossed her thin arms. In many ways, she and her contracting mouth reminded Bill of fragments of glass: the smaller and thinner they were, the sharper and more dangerous they were. Normally, Bill didn't actually dislike many people. However, he felt his judgment was fair, considering Nettle's apparently perpetual sense of irritation towards him.

"Yes, Professor," he finally replied. "Half past ten in the morning."

The long fingers of her right hand began to drum on her left elbow. "When were you scheduled to arrive here?"

Bill paused, swallowing hard. "Half past… ten?"

"Yes." Nettle narrowed her eyes. "And what time is it now?"

Right then, Bill's blood felt cold in his veins. What time? Wasn't it half past ten? Reaching into the pocket of his own lab coat, Bill pulled out a silver pocket watch. He pursed his lips and found himself trembling slightly as he glanced at its face. The hour hand was almost to eleven, but the minute hand sat comfortably just past the ten. Immediately, the color drained from his cheeks, and he found he couldn't speak. How could he have lost track of that much time?

Nettle, meanwhile, knitted her eyebrows as she set her jaw.

"McKenzie," she said. Her voice lowered in volume, but it was just as winter-cold. "If you wish to be a fully recognized pokémon researcher, you should learn that punctuality and professionalism in the laboratory—"

Oak stepped forward. "Excuse me, Professor Nettle."

Immediately, Nettle stopped and turned. Her hazel eyes went wide at Oak's sudden interruption.

"Don't be too hard on him," Oak said. "After all, a real researcher is never late."

Nettle's expression softened slightly. "With all due respect, Professor Oak, that's exactly my point. A real researcher is always on time, which is why McKenzie should be taught to arrive promptly, when he promised to arrive."

Oak smiled, but unlike Nettle's, his was one of a genuine, friendly nature. "All I mean is that a researcher is never late because he arrives precisely when he means to."

For a beat of hesitation, Nettle puckered her lips and tried to make sense of this statement. "Given that we're working for the government, surely we should take into consideration a strict schedule…"

"Ah." Oak nodded. "Considering the government, yes, I think we should consider the time he arrived compared to when he was scheduled to work here."

Nettle suppressed a smile as she turned her attention back towards Bill. Her subordinate cringed again. He knew the worst part of his day was just about to begin.

"And in that case, we should consider the fact that Bill was actually on time then too," Oak added.

Nettle turned her head sharply back towards Oak. "I'm sorry?"

Even Bill had to send his superiors an odd glance. After all, his watch was in perfect working condition. He made sure of that. It was his mental clock that needed adjusting.

In the meantime, Oak took off his watch and offered it to Nettle with a firm nod and a smile. "Absolutely. Check my watch if you'd like."

Without a word, Nettle reached for the leather strap of the watch. Her mouth opened slightly as she examined the face. On it, the hour hand pointed towards the eleven, but the minute hand nestled itself between the six and the seven. If it was correct, then Bill would have arrived just a couple of minutes before 10:30 in order to endure the conversation until the minute hand ticked to 10:32. Biting her lip, Nettle handed Oak his watch.

"Maybe your watch is a few minutes fast," Oak said with a shrug as he put his watch back on. "You should be careful about that, Professor Nettle. You know how the other teams feel about arriving early enough to interrupt their experiments, and I would hate to have to settle an argument when we're all working well together today."

"Right," Nettle said with a slow nod. "Right then."

She turned her attention back towards Bill. He still looked heavily confused, and that expression alone tried Nettle's patience. Nonetheless, she hid that fact well.

"McKenzie, I want yesterday's reports finished by 1:30 today," she said. "We have Laboratory D for a two o'clock experiment. After that, you're to begin today's reports."

Without another word, she turned and walked briskly to the other side of the room. Bill watched her lean over another colleague of theirs to observe what was appearing on a computer screen.

"You can relax now," Oak said. "She'll go easy on you today."

At his consent, Bill exhaled a breath he didn't even realize he was holding. "Professor… Thank you. You lied for me."

Oak pulled his sleeve to examine his watch. With his large fingers, he pulled out the pin in its side and twisted the head to turn the hands back to their original positions.

"Eh, I should've known you would notice," he replied. "Luckily for you, Nettle didn't." He pushed the pin back in. "Bill, I know you don't mean to do it, but please, for your sake, try not to cross Professor Nettle again. I can't keep helping you like this, as much as I want to."

Bill lowered his head. He felt the heat of a blush cross his cheeks. "I understand."

"It's different, working in a team compared to working freelance, especially if the laboratory is government or corporation-owned and operated, and I want you to realize that, Bill," Oak said. "As harsh as she may seem to you, Professor Nettle is right. There're certain rules you need to follow in order to work well with the rest of the team."

Inside, Bill felt himself flinch. It was one thing to be scolded by Professor Nettle, who was perpetually in a sour mood around him, but it was a different thing altogether to be scolded by Professor Samuel Oak. For one, Oak rarely felt the need to reprimand team members, although his typically jovial personality was slowly being replaced by weariness born from constant pressure as Polaris' current director combined with sheer old age. For another, even without the title of Polaris' director, Oak was the foremost figure in the field of pokémology aside from Professor Oswald Rowan. To receive praise from Oak was the ultimate affirmation for a pokémon researcher. Criticism, that one had a long way to go.

"Yes, Professor," Bill said after a long pause.

Sensing the youth's discomfort, Oak's stern face cracked into a warm smile. With one of his large hands, he gave Bill a firm pat on the shoulder, nearly knocking his colleague off his feet in the process. Quickly, Bill righted himself and blinked until he fixed his wide eyes on his superior.

"You'll learn," he said. "Ah, the innocence of youth. It reminds me of a poem, actually. Would you like—"

Bill couldn't decide whether it was a relief or impending doom that Nettle's voice suddenly interrupted.

"Excuse me, Professor," she said. She stood stiffly a few feet away, and her voice was strained, as if she was struggling to keep the sharpness out of her words. "With all due respect, we need McKenzie's reports before two this afternoon."

Oak's smile grew, and without warning, he tilted back on his feet to laugh. His deep, rumbling voice bubbled over every other noise in the laboratory. A few other scientists even looked up to watch him close his eyes for a moment and rub the back of his neck.

"Oh yes!" he replied. "I'm sorry. You're absolutely right." He opened his eyes and glanced towards his younger colleague. "Well, Bill, go on! Work hard for Hoenn's sake! I don't expect anything less than excellence from you."

Although the director probably didn't realize it, Bill had definitely heard that line of encouragement before, uttered to another researcher who felt the cold, hard snap of the voice of another team leader. Nonetheless, Oak's smile and tone were enough to let Bill ease from anxiety caused by humility and into a slightly more comfortable zone. He returned his own smile – albeit a significantly more timid one – and nodded.

"Right. Thank you, Professor."

With that, he walked briskly to his station in a corner of the laboratory. Nettle watched him for a moment before turning to Oak.

"I don't mean to offend you, Professor, but I think you're being a bit easy on him and those like him," she muttered as she crossed her arms. "We have an important project on our hands, and we need every last scientist working on it to take it with the utmost seriousness."

At the end of her comment, Oak turned his head, giving her a long look. She stood with her back ruler-straight next to him. The corners of her mouth wavered slightly for a second before pulling back into its taut frown, but that short second betrayed her uncertainty. Oak smiled, not for her vulnerability but instead because he knew her all too well.

"Ah, Professor Nettle," Oak sighed. "You'll make an excellent director someday."

Nettle straightened a bit more, a feat in itself. "Thank you, sir."

Oak shook his head. "But you really need to know your team members. Is the psychology team making any progress?"

At once, Nettle raised her eyebrows. "Yes, sir."

"And how many official warnings have you given Bill or the other members of your team?"

"Fifty-seven in the past month. McKenzie alone accounts for thirty-four of them."

Oak nodded. "Yet, all of them have been making progress. The reports from your team are thorough and have delivered incredible amounts of information every week. The Committee even ranks the psychology team as one of the top five most productive bodies in Polaris Institute. Is that true?"

Nettle shifted uncomfortably on her feet. She sensed a trap closing in on her. "Yes."

"Ah."

Oak said nothing more, but to Nettle, that one word said far more than she was willing to comprehend.

---

The afternoon crept into the complex, and with it, at two exactly, Professor Nettle herded her team into the observational deck of Laboratory D.

Even the other members of the psychology team couldn't quite understand how Nettle became their leader. Granted, she was nearing fifty and had almost as many awards and degrees as she did years on Earth, but it was widely known throughout the complex that she was a bit overly anal. She had previously been a professor of psychology at Celadon University and before that, a field researcher like Oak himself, known mostly for her endeavors to understand the jynx communication patterns. It was a whispered joke that she communed with the ice women well enough; to the men, she wouldn't hesitate to handle them just as frostily as she frequently did with Bill. To women, she had her harsh moments, but she often restrained herself just enough to give the members of her own gender something resembling mercy.

Needless to say, while she never made a decision that she didn't think was justifiable, her often overly critical nature grated on her team. Bill wasn't the only one who cringed when she threw a glare.

So, when she swept her hazel eyes from the back of a trembling scientist to Bill, he was only slightly surprised that his colleague visibly relaxed.

"McKenzie?" she said sharply as she turned away from a computer.

Bill recoiled as he stood across the room. The observational deck of lab D was just large enough for the five scientists working on the psychology aspect of Project Stardust, yet Bill felt it just wasn't large enough. He turned towards Nettle and tried to look as professional as possible, knowing that she – who, if her reputation was correct, most likely loathed the fact that a successful man still existed in that day and age – would happily comment on his behavior if he wasn't.

"Yes, Professor Nettle?" he asked.

She glanced at him with a serious, nearly suspicious eye. "Are the cameras in working order?"

He nodded. "Yes, Professor Nettle. They're feeding into monitors two through seven."

"The microphone?"

"Yes. Speakers one, four, and six."

"The subjects?"

Bill swallowed, resisting any temptation to wince at the thought of the experiment. "XP-494 is ready in cage one. Rattata C is in cage two."

Nettle nodded. "Very well." She turned away from him. "Professors Heath and Mulberry, stand by the window for release. Professor Fig, keep an eye on the monitors. McKenzie."
Bill looked up as his colleagues took their places. She eyed him carefully with a critical gaze, then nodded.

"Prepare to record the observations."

At that, Bill nodded and turned away, only to sigh. It was usually how it was with Nettle. As soon as she was given a leadership position, she would take it upon herself to assign what she thought would be the most appropriate task to each individual member of the team. Unfortunately, without those precious credentials and given Bill's behavior around the professor, Nettle was apparently convinced that Bill was barely able to function at all. For that reason, she gave him the simplest jobs that required as little of his skills as a pokémon researcher as she could possibly get from him. He, however, rarely complained, not because he was lazy but instead because he knew the alternative was forgoing the experience and returning to Cerulean City, possibly shaming himself in the process.

Nettle narrowed her eyes as she watched him assume a position in front of the computer on the observational deck. She didn't trust him, although she couldn't name as many reasons for why Bill shouldn't be there as Oak had for why he should (reasons that, naturally, convinced the Committee to invite him onboard). Turning, she walked to the window, her eyes staring out and down at the large, concrete room. Nothing was in it except two glass boxes, one of which held a purple rat and the other of which held the creature, pulsing with red light as it scuttled around its cage. Her eyes narrowed at the sight of the crystal boxes in the very center of the room.

"Open both doors," she said.

Fig, a small, squat man, turned his bright blue eyes towards a red button by the monitors. His large hand rose, hitting the smooth face of the button with a fleshy palm.

"Doors released," he said as he slowly turned back to the monitors.

Nettle touched her bony chin as she watched through the window. One side on each respective cube swung outward, and the cautious rat was the first to move. He crawled into the open, twitching his long whiskers as he blinked at the strange creature in the other box. The creature clacked its numerous legs to pull itself forward, from glass onto concrete. It had no eyes, yet it seemed to be staring at the rattata. A cold feeling settled in the prey's heart as he crept towards his left with his eyes fixed on the red creature.

Then, suddenly, the thing leapt at him. With a screech, the rattata lunged towards the open space to the side. His paws scrambled desperately as his small heart beat against his chest in his mad dash for safety. Yet, even with his speed, in seconds, he felt the searing pain of eight small, sharp needles planting themselves into the flesh of his shoulder. He screamed once again, and his eyes widened in horror at the bulbous creature resting on his body. His legs still pounded in a frantic, tumbling run as something slid under his skin and sucked on his veins. No matter what he did, including bashing his shoulder into the cement, the creature refused to let go.

With the rapid loss of blood, the rattata's movements became sluggish, eventually slowing to the point where he could only stumble inch by inch towards his box. By the time the rodent reached the glass walls again, he collapsed and closed his eyes.

"Dear God," Nettle whispered. "How long was that?"

"Two minutes, forty-seven seconds," Fig recited.

Bill's fingers clacked on the keyboard to record the number. Then, he glanced up cautiously to note the positions of his colleagues, particularly Nettle. She stood with her back towards him, completely absorbed in the happenings on the field. Pursing his lips, he pulled away from the computer and approached the window, casting his eyes towards the field to steal a glimpse before she noticed.

Immediately, he paled as he watched the creature consume the rattata from the inside out. It crawled up the rodent's side, ripping the flesh as it went to open a large gash and expose the ribs and the slick insides. Bill had seen a vast number of different things since he became a pokémon researcher, but never had he seen a pokémon consume live prey with such clean efficiency. Not a drop of blood was spilled, and the creature cut through flesh with such ease that it seemed to take no time at all to open the rattata's body.

Already feeling lightheaded, Bill covered his mouth with a hand, but he couldn't tear his eyes away from the creature. Then, when it began to ooze a strange, green gel into the wound, Bill stumbled backwards, towards the desk with the computer perched on it. Nettle heard the sound of his feet and looked over her shoulder.

"McKenzie?" she asked in a neutral tone.

He exhaled, and seconds later, he was on the floor.

---

When Bill opened his eyes again, he found himself staring at a white ceiling that he knew wasn't part of the observational deck. Moreover, he felt under his body something soft, rather than the hard, tiled floor. His fingers pressed into the mattress and cotton sheets in deep thought as a pounding headache began to radiate from the side of his skull. Drawing in a breath, he closed his eyes again and brought a hand to his face to gingerly rub his forehead.

"Ah! Welcome back to the land of the living, Bill."

Bill opened one eye and looked towards the side of the room, where Oak sat on another bed. By then, Bill realized he was in the infirmary within the Outer Ring, stretched on one of the hospital beds in the minor injuries wing, rather than the private rooms reserved for serious accidents that happened on occasion. Squinting (mostly because fully opening both eyes would send pulses of pain through his head), he propped himself up on his elbows to face his superior.

"Professor Oak," he murmured.

Oak nodded. "You fainted. Hit your head on a desk on the way down. Luckily, it was only a mild trauma, but you'll still want to stay here for awhile before going back to the dorms."

"How long ago…?" Bill's voice trailed off as he gingerly rubbed the side of his head, feeling the bump beneath his curly hair.

"You were brought here a few hours ago," Oak said. "You knocked your head pretty well, and the shock Professor Mulberry tells me you had just before then probably didn't help, either."

"A few hours." With a heavy sigh, Bill lay flat on his back again with his hand rubbing the bridge of his nose. "I'm certain Professor Nettle thinks highly of this."

Oak offered him a sympathetic glance. "I know that Professor Nettle never gives you a chance, but you shouldn't be discouraged. You're doing well."

Well enough to faint at the sight of a pokémon being dissected, Bill thought, but he didn't dare voice that comment. Instead, he offered a weak smile.

Seemingly unaware of this smile, Oak continued. "Professors Heath and Fig are happy to be working with you, and Professor Mulberry insists you do most of her work for her. I hope she's exaggerating. It'll send the wrong message to the other teams, after all."

Oak cracked a smile, a reassurance that none or little of what he said was to be taken seriously. Bill felt that was a reassurance enough and forced himself to sit up. His head swam, and for a moment, he swayed. Oak's smile faded, and his large hands thrust out to catch Bill by the shoulder.

"Easy now!" he said. "Steady. That was a nasty bump, and we can't be having you adding more to it. Lay down. I'll get Nurse Joy."

Bill shook his head. "No. I'm… I'm fine. I just need—"

He was about to finish the sentence with "more time," but before he could, alarms went off. Swiveling around, Oak threw a wide-eyed glance towards the door. Then, he let go of Bill, holding one of his hands up with his palm outward. Bill winced at the blaring sound but managed to keep an eye open to glance at Oak. In Bill's eyes, his superior was beginning to blur into a shapeless figure as a headache slammed through Bill's skull.

"Stay here," Oak said. "With our security, I wouldn't be surprised if it was a malfunction, but I'd better go see anyway."

Bill nodded, but he knew it was a pointless gesture. Already, Oak had turned away, quickly heading towards the door.

Oak cautiously poked his head through the open doorway, casting his eyes up and down the sterile-smelling corridor. At first, he heard nothing but the blaring siren echoing down the empty hallway. However, as he parted from the doorway and began moving past rooms, he began to hear shouts of men heading closer to him at a faster pace than he was moving towards them. In the first moments, he couldn't make out what they were saying, but as they grew closer to each other, he began to realize they were shouting orders to one another – namely, orders to break in.

His feet shuffled backwards, preparing to run towards the closest security booth behind him. Before he could, a pair of hands grabbed him from behind. With a startled gasp, he turned his head, finding himself face-to-face with the dark cap and face of a Team Rocket henchman. Frowning sharply, he shoved the grunt away and began bolting back the way he came. He didn't get particularly far, however, because a few feet away, a group of black-clad Rockets rounded a corner and blocked his path. Stopping short, Oak whirled around to find Rockets approaching behind him. Realizing he was heavily outnumbered, he allowed two pairs of white-gloved hands to grab him by the arms.

A woman pushed through the crowds to face Oak. She was much shorter than the scientist, but her violet eyes conveyed an intimidating ferocity that made the old man feel weak. A grin spread across her pale face, nestled evenly between the locks of blonde hair caressing her rosy cheeks. She crossed her white-clad arms as she eyed Oak.

"Professor Samuel Oak," she said, almost as if she was reciting information from a book. "Pokémon researcher, based in Pallet Town. Currently the director of Polaris Institute and one of the overseers of the top-secret government endeavor known as Project Stardust." She tilted her head. "I thought it would be harder to find you."

He scowled at the woman. "Who are you? What do you want?"

"Collectively," she said with a smile, "I think you know. We're here for any and all information on the pokémon temporarily designated as XP-494."

At that, Oak narrowed his eyes. "I don't know what you're talking about. We're a technological institute."

She put a hand on her hip. "Oh, don't even try to pretend. We have eyes and ears everywhere. We know you have the pokémon that caused the government to quarantine an entire region, and we want to know everything you've discovered about it. Cooperate, and we'll leave quietly once we have everything we want. Resist, and, well…" Her smile grew slightly sweeter. "…You'll see."

Oak hesitated for only a brief second with his response. "You can do whatever you want with me, but you're not getting XP-494 or any of the information we've found on it."

The woman opened her mouth to say something, but before she could, another voice rose from the back of the crowd.

"Agent 009!"

She looked past the old man to see three figures pushing through the sea of black. Two of them were fellow Rocket agents, unnamed underlings in her eyes. The third, however, was someone who piqued her interest. Her eyebrows rose as she stepped past Oak, who stared at the new captive with wide eyes. She stood slightly on her tiptoes as she reached forward to lift the chin of the captive with a finger. He stared back at her with intense, dark eyes.

"Bill McKenzie," she recited in the same fashion as she had for Oak. "Pokémon researcher, based in Cerulean City. Student of pokémon psychology and related technology."

"We found him leaving the hospital wing," one of the underlings said.

"It's a good thing you did," she said. "I think he may be valuable to us."

She looked over her shoulder towards Oak. The old man could only stand there, staring at his colleague with a paling face.

"Bill," he whispered.

The youth looked up, cringing slightly at the situation. "I'm sorry."

"Oh, don't apologize," the woman said as she smiled at Bill. "You've just made negotiations a little easier." Then, she turned to Oak. "You might not budge if we did anything to you, but what if we did anything to him? I mean, look at him." She studied the younger researcher with a mischievous glint in her eyes. "He's just an innocent, ambitious new addition to the team, isn't he? Cutting his life short, if not a few appendages or fingers, when he hasn't even reached his prime…" She paused for emphasis, relishing the fact that he was now staring at her with wide, startled eyes. "…That would just be a tragedy, wouldn't it? And he'd have your stubbornness to—"

"No!" Oak shouted.

Agent 009 fell silent as she turned towards Oak. In the ensuing silence, Oak mentally flipped between his options. On the one hand, it was his duty to protect the institute and everything in it, including XP-494. On the other hand, it was his duty to protect the researchers as well. Team Rocket only wanted information. Was protecting that information worth risking someone else's life or limb? Oak felt his mind go numb at the thought of even asking himself that question, yet looking at the number of Team Rocket uniforms that surrounded him, he knew how small the number of options he had actually were.

In the meantime, despite her sweet smile, Agent 009 grew impatient. "Yes?"

"All of our laboratories are in the Inner Ring," Oak said. "I can take you—"

Bill shook his head. "Professor, don't!"

Oak sent him a warning glance. Bill immediately closed his mouth and bit his lip, knowing better than to argue with his superior. The grunts tightened their grips around his arms until it hurt, when he could feel the skin and muscle under the thin cotton of his shirt twist with their hands. He refused to cry out in protest. That was what they wanted to hear, and besides, what would they do if he happened to scream?

"I'm sorry. What was that, Professor?" Agent 009 said.

Oak's eyes flashed towards her saccharine grin. "I can take you to the Inner Ring. That's where we're conducting our research on XP-494."

Agent 009 grinned with glistening teeth. "Excellent. Lead the way, then."

---

The elaborate electronic locks and barriers that carefully guarded all three layers of Polaris Institute quickly fell away. Bill hung his head, keeping his eyes on his feet and his expression hidden as they marched him just behind Oak through the three layers of the institute: first the Outer, then the Median, and finally the Inner. The alarm had been disabled long before they left the Median Ring, and the few scientists who were still on edge were quickly pinned by Rocket agents. Oak spoke now and then to Agent 009, but none of his words sank into Bill's skull. Instead, Oak's young colleague found himself focusing on the hands holding him, twisting his skin and muscle under the loose sleeves of his shirt. He winced every time they turned a corner and wrenched his arms with every swift pivot. Somehow, he fought the urge to break out of their grip. He knew that if he tried without a plan, he would get no further than two inches before they seized him again. Looking up, he attempted to find an opening, but there were simply too many black suits. He bit his bottom lip as his hope slowly faded.

Eventually, Oak arrived at the door at the end of the labyrinthine hall. Bill recognized it as the door he'd arrived at earlier in the day, Laboratory F, the room with the tank on the far wall. Briefly, Bill froze in his tracks, unwilling to go further, but the Rockets yanked him forward painfully enough that, as a reaction, his teeth bit painfully into his lip. A salty, metal taste crawled across the tip of his tongue as he watched Oak approach the final lock. Bill felt nothing, as if all of his nerves were suddenly hesitating, each one waiting for Oak's next action. He watched his elder lean forward to pass through the three locks on the door. All he could do was pray that a glitch or some other miracle would prevent that door from opening.

Technology ignored prayer. Instead, each one quickly accepted Oak's signatures, completely oblivious to the crowd behind him. With a cheerful, electronic greeting, the doors opened. And that, Bill knew, was the sure sign that there was nothing left to protect the institute's secrets.

Inside, the scientists at work – both the psychology team and the internal biology team – turned to see countless Rockets flowing into the room. Before a single one of them could protest, they were backed against walls, away from machines and guarded by Rockets. The Rockets that held Bill dragged him into the room and threw him, nearly literally, into one of the groups. He staggered to remain on his feet and glared at his captors as he gingerly rubbed one of his shoulders. Ignoring him, the Rockets formed a wall of black to prevent the scientists from interfering. In the meantime, Agent 009 approached Oak, who stood in the middle of the room.

"Well?" she said. "What can you tell us?"

Oak exhaled. "The data we've found is recorded in the computers that surround you."

Grinning, Agent 009 held up a hand and motioned for her underlings to get to work. Without a word of protest, several Rockets immediately took to computers and machines to record whatever information they could get from the system. In the meantime, Agent 009 glanced back towards Oak. Her violet eyes fell on the window beyond him, and with a smile, she skipped past him to peer through the glass. Inside, a red glow moved from left to right like a firefly in a wine-red sky.

"What's this?" she said with a grin. "Oh, don't tell me!" One of her white-clad fingers rose to prod at the glass. "Is this it? It is, isn't it?"

Oak said nothing, opting instead to merely stare at her.

Grinning, she straightened and turned around. "We'll take it too."

Raising his eyebrows, Oak shook his head. "I can't let you do that. You can have whatever information you like – but not that."

"Oh?"

Agent 009 snapped her fingers. One of the Rockets immediately turned towards her, and she motioned towards him with her hand. With a nod, the Rocket plucked a poké ball from his belt and flicked it towards the center of the room. In seconds, it broke open and released a flash of white light that quickly formed a tyranitar. The green beast threw back his head and emitted a booming roar from the depths of his stone throat.

"We'll take it too," Agent 009 repeated.

Oak shook his head, but he said nothing. His mind tried to piece together a plan. He was painfully aware of the number of Rockets that surrounded him and how fast he was at that age. Both provided too much of a barrier. What could he do?

With a frown, Agent 009 turned towards the agent. "Choose the weakest-looking scientist and experiment on them – to see whether or not they can take a Hyper Beam."

Oak's eyes widened almost to an impossible degree. "No!"

He tried to step forward, tried to do something to stop the tyranitar's trainer from selecting one of the scientists when the black wall of Rockets reached forward to grab him and hold him back. There was to be no interfering, and Oak's heart sank at the realization of that fact. A grin crossed the trainer's face as he glanced towards the huddled group of scientists. His arm rose, finger extended towards the willowy Professor Mulberry. With a low growl, the stone dinosaur turned towards the woman, who stood pale-faced in front of the pokémon.

Bill couldn't help but react to this. He couldn't even explain what made him jump at that time. Something pushed him to act, and without thinking, he responded by darting towards Mulberry to shove her out of the way. All he was aware of was Mulberry's scream and the glow of energy forming in the tyranitar's mouth. The dinosaur reared back as Rockets shouted incomprehensible orders. Energy burst into a beam from the stone mouth and careened with a high-pitched wail towards the two targets. At the last moment, the two shifted, and the beam sailed past them, striking a computer that burst into a shower of glass and plastic as Mulberry hit the linoleum floor. Bill was about to follow when a pair of hands grabbed him roughly by the arm and swung him around to throw him into an empty spot at Agent 009's feet.

Agent 009's smile faded into a narrow-eyed frown as she knelt and reached down towards Bill with a white-gloved hand. He struggled to push himself up on his hands when he felt cloth grab his chin and harshly tilt his head back. His eyes watered slightly as he felt long nails dig through the glove and into his skin, but he couldn't turn away. All he could do was stare at the agent's electric-purple eyes.

"You idiot," she hissed. "Don't you know how to deal with Team Rocket? Or haven't you learned anything from watching Professor Oak? Pretending to be a hero doesn't get you anywhere."

She let go of his chin and stood. Before he could even move, she placed a boot on his back and put her weight on that foot to shove him back onto the linoleum.

"I was really hoping you'd be a bit more clever than this," she said to no one in particular. "Well, I guess I can't have all my expectations met." She lifted her purple eyes to tyranitar's trainer. "Have your tyranitar blast open that window. We'll take it when it's stunned."

Oak held his tongue. He wanted desperately to step in and defend the laboratory and his employees, but with so many Rockets, all he could do was stand among the cluster that held him and watch as the trainer directed his tyranitar to turn to the red window.

The beast reared back for a second time. In his mouth, a second yellow ball of energy formed. No one could do anything to stop it. Rockets had the scientists pinned and restrained, and any attempt to disrupt the tyranitar would only result in that energy being released prematurely – at people, at the window, at the machinery. It all was at risk.

When the beam was fired, time seemed to slow. Yellow light surged from the creature's mouth and into the window, which rippled and bent inward at the force of the strike. A red light appeared and floated frantically in the pool of blood and water beyond the glass until finally, the glass gave way. As soon as the glass broke, a chorus of screams rose to fill the room as a rain of glass shards and a cascade of red water surged from the wall and onto the linoleum floor.

Agent 009 darted out of the way to avoid most of surge, but Bill wasn't as quick. Instead, he shielded his head with his arms and buried his face into the floor as salty water slammed the floor in front of him and pooled around him. Glass bit through his clothing and into his skin, but that hardly concerned him as much as the feet of the Rockets who scrambled around and over him. The tyranitar roared above him briefly, just before he heard the crunch of rock smashing metal. He looked up and over his shoulder to see the red beam of a poké ball draw the beast back into its confines before a tower of machinery – its front smashed in, presumably from a strike from the rock lizard – exploded. Crackling electricity arced to the towers next to it. Each of them began to spew smoke, and immediately, the scrambling crowds behind him knew exactly what was about to happen.

Both machines burst into flame. With shrieks, screams, orders from Agent 009 that were largely ignored, people began to stream out of the door as a sea of black and white. Bill forced himself onto his knees. His body ached, and every move he made was sluggish, just as every thought that floated through his head was muddled and confused. He looked down, preparing to plant his hands into the linoleum to force himself to his feet when he saw it. XP-494, the tiny creature, bobbed in the inch of water on the floor as it flashed red light from its body frantically.

Drawing in a breath, Bill jolted, splashing the water as he jumped awkwardly at the sight of the parasite. He slipped to his rear, one wrist smacking into the floor painfully to support him. As it bobbed in the waves he created, XP-494's glow calmed. Bill kept his eyes fixed on the creature, but for the life of him, he couldn't move. He was frozen to the spot.

Behind him, Oak pushed past Rockets in an effort to reenter the room. They didn't even bother to stop him. His dark eyes scanned the area for anyone left, and without much effort, his gaze landed on his young colleague, still sitting in the middle of the room.

"Bill!" he called.

At once, Bill looked up and over his shoulder. As soon as he did, the parasite took advantage of the opportunity and leapt unseen onto his right leg. Swiftly, it darted up his pant leg and onto his shirt while Oak distracted him. Before he had a chance to notice, it slipped under the folds between buttons and continued upward in search of a warm patch of skin.

In the meantime, Oak started forward.

"Are you all right? Can you stand up?" Oak asked. "Come on. We need to leave. The security doors – we have three minutes to get out before they seal the fire in!"

Sucking in a gasp, Bill forced himself to stand.

"Yes, of course," he murmured. "I'm sorry."

Oak didn't seem to notice Bill's confused words. Instead, he turned and hurried the youth along, pulling him towards the door and into the hallway. The room quickly filled with smoke and the red-hot glow of fire as a distant, mechanical voice boomed an alarm and warning to evacuate the area. Bill looked back only briefly as he tried to get his thoughts to settle enough. The rapid march of the past hour went by so quickly, he wasn't quite sure what was real.

Outside, the hallway was empty. The Rockets were long gone, save for their voices rising in a shout as they stampeded in a panic back towards the Median Ring. The barking of growlithe – the security dogs of Polaris – mingled with their screams in the song of a battle neither Oak nor Bill could see. Behind them, the door clanged shut by itself, and the metal locks whirred and clicked into place. Oak loosened his grip on Bill's arm, but he didn't let go for fear that doing so would cause his younger colleague to collapse. He cast a concerned glance towards the other scientist, who stared at the closed door with wide eyes. Oak didn't even need to take a second glance to know something was seriously wrong.

"Bill, are you all right?" Oak said. "Can you walk as far as the medical wing?"

"I…"

Before Bill could finish his thought, his voice caught in his throat. Suddenly, he wrenched his arm away from Oak and bent over as a surge of pain radiated from his chest. A cry escaped his lips as he fell to his knees.

Seasoned researcher or not, even Oak had to jump at the suddenness of Bill's collapse.

"Bill! What is it?" he asked as he reached for the youth's shoulder.

He shook his head. "XP-494…"

Oak's eyes widened as he realized he didn't check for his subject. He was thinking about only the masses of people; it hadn't occurred to him that the thing might have been left behind.

"Is it still in there?" Oak asked as he stepped towards the door.

Again, Bill shook his head. "No! It's… it's…"

Oak watched as Bill quickly took his lab coat off and flung it to the side. Already, his shaking hands were fumbling with getting his shirt off. Taking a step towards him, Oak felt a cold pang of dread fill his chest.

"What? What is it?" he asked.

"It's… it's on me!" Bill cried.

His hands desperately tore at the cloth over his chest until he ripped the front of his shirt to shreds. Oak's eyes widened as he watched for a moment before stooping down to Bill's level.

"What?" he asked in a low voice.

Oak grabbed Bill's wrists, and with a bit of resistance, he managed to pull the youth's hands away from his chest. There, beneath Bill's fingers, was the parasite. Already, XP-494's sharp legs burrowed into his skin, and the creature began to glow a deep, blood-red as its bulbous body began to expand. Oak drew in a gasp as he studied Bill's face. The youth's expression twisted in pain.

"Professor," he whispered, "help…"
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Last edited by JX Valentine; July 1st, 2009 at 12:08 PM.
  #13    
Old October 9th, 2008, 09:28 PM
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Ouch. Small blade-legged parasites to the chest can't be comfortable.

That was an enthralling chapter, most certainly. I'm still wondering what these little things are going to do. And now that the Rockets are in on it, it can only get better, I assume.

Quote:
How could he have lost track of that much time?
This sentence and your reputation with Bill in your writing made me laugh out loud.
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Old October 10th, 2008, 06:48 AM
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Originally Posted by txteclipse View Post
Ouch. Small blade-legged parasites to the chest can't be comfortable.
XD Best reaction to character injury ever.

Quote:
That was an enthralling chapter, most certainly.
Thank you. =D

Quote:
I'm still wondering what these little things are going to do.
Luckily, you'll at least have an idea of what they do to humans in the next chapter. Which, uh, won't be coming until the end of the month. My beta's currently getting himself mind-raped by school. Poor guy. ^_^;

Quote:
And now that the Rockets are in on it, it can only get better, I assume.
Oh yeah. It depends on who you are. Bill gets screwed over either way. XD

Quote:
This sentence and your reputation with Bill in your writing made me laugh out loud.
Hey, he was fully clothed for what he was doing before the opening of this scene!

...Hopefully, anyway.
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  #15    
Old October 15th, 2008, 11:40 AM
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“‘Blood…’ a faint voice behind us spoke. Charizard was yanked backwards.

Whipping our bodies around, Tyranitar and I watch as the ellipse jaws of a monster pulled him down the hall. After reaching a spot several yards away, the beast dropped him on the floor with its maw still attached to his neck and started to wrap its slender form around him. Its alternating lime and black coils quickly constricted to his abdomen and tail.

‘Get off!’ the dragon roared as he clawed the monster’s hide. It appeared useless, as if its hide formed to his slash…”~quote Biohazard (sorry if that’s wrong, I don’t know how to do inter-thread quotes…)

Sound like it was meant for comfort, txteclipse? Little known fact of life, parasites cause pain. Not meaning to be rude, just trying to emphasize it.

But, damn! Can’t get much more cruel than that! I thought I was onto something with Doxisite, the ravenous leech from that excerpt, but your parasites hold no bonds, Xanthine! Though, they might not last long if they were to fight with my fake (can’t break my monster’s hide and its innards can turn unstable, HO HO! ;p), let alone the monster that spawned it. Okay, sorry for digressing like that.

Seriously, though, I love your work! Sci-fi action, horror, suspense… These are things that most fiction and movies of the genre aren’t up to snuff with anymore (at least not without overkill), and here you go pulling them off almost masterfully. Hope I don’t offend anyone else when I say it, but you’re too good for fan fiction! You should write a novel and get it published…seriously. I’d definitely read it!
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Old October 16th, 2008, 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Skunter View Post
But, damn! Can’t get much more cruel than that! I thought I was onto something with Doxisite, the ravenous leech from that excerpt, but your parasites hold no bonds, Xanthine! Though, they might not last long if they were to fight with my fake (can’t break my monster’s hide and its innards can turn unstable, HO HO! ;p), let alone the monster that spawned it. Okay, sorry for digressing like that.
I admit I have yet to read Biohazard, but I think I'll have to sit down and do so sometime.

Still, I can't help but be amused by a XP-494 vs. Doxisite deathmatch, especially because of what's going to happen in the second chapter. (Man, I really need to finish that thing.) Although, the invulnerability of yours kinda makes the fight one-sided here. XD;

Thanks for the compliment, by the way.
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  #17    
Old October 19th, 2008, 08:57 AM
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That's kind of the idea with the Doxi-series. They're creatures that are virutally impossible to kill just because of how they're physiology is (though, in the games, you'd be able to take them out with special ground moves pretty easily due to all of them having low Sp. Def. stats). I think the mother colony that spawned Doxisite and its siblings would be far more difficult. But, that's why they're all legendary fakes.

But, eh...I haven't made a whole lot of progress in my fics either, and I was thinking about revising them too. But, as for your story, you know what they say, rushed work heralds no fruit; so don't go hurrying to finish chapter two on our account. I mean, it really is high quality work!
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Old November 13th, 2008, 08:15 AM
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And after the short delay (and a change of betas)...


Two
(Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams.)

The past twenty-four hours had been chaotic in Polaris Institute. The Rockets eventually disappeared from the complex, no doubt retreating to prepare for another attempt. The Inner Ring was in shambles. Most of the data the research team had gathered was lost to the destroyed computer banks, and the laboratories were left in debris (mostly caused by the chaos and panic of an army of Rockets storming the halls). Already, many members of the team relocated to the Median Ring while many others struggled to salvage anything they could from the destruction. Meanwhile, the Institute was quiet. The outer gates were locked, and the laboratory doors of the Outer Ring were shut tightly – all part of the citadel's computerized self-defense system.

In the infirmary of the Outer Ring, Nettle and Oak stood over one of the hospital beds, next to a Nurse Joy trained in general medicine. All three of them looked down at the occupant of the bed with solemn faces. Bill lay stretched on the bed in an anesthetic-induced sleep and had been for the past several hours. A cotton sheet covered up to his hips, while his chest with the parasite still half-buried in his flesh remained exposed. Long bumps radiated from the parasite, as if snakes slithered under his skin.

"What do we do now?" Nettle muttered. "We lost both McKenzie and the specimen."

Ignoring her for lack of a response, Oak turned to Joy. "What's the latest news?"

Joy shook her head. "I'm sorry, Professor. Officer Jenny is working as quickly as possible to get the security system disarmed. We won't be able to get a surgeon here and ready to operate until tomorrow morning. Until then, my chansey and I have been sedating him. It's the only thing we can do."

Oak closed his eyes and exhaled. Nettle, meanwhile, crossed her arms.

"So, do we wait until it devours him before we can get the specimen?" Nettle asked.

At that, Oak opened his eyes and cast her a grave glance. When he spoke to her, his voice was emotionless. "We aren't letting him die. If there's anything we can do to help him, we will. In the meantime, the chemistry team found eggs in the green substance you took from the rattata. I heard they've hatched only a couple hours ago. Go on and use one of the newborns. I know the team can't wait much longer."

She hesitated slightly in an attempt to read his expression. Oak hadn't slept for nearly two days straight. How could he? Between inspections, reports, repairs, and ensuring the well-being of everyone who should be in the complex (and the ejection of those who weren't), there was absolutely no time to so much as breathe. His weariness was taking a toll on his sense of humor, although given the fact that he adamantly refused to believe one of his own colleagues was about to die, she couldn't blame him. Nonetheless, her own weariness was affecting her own patience with the man.

"That's not exactly my point," Nettle responded flatly. "With all due respect, you realize that there's nothing that can be done to save him, right? We don't even know what it's doing to him right now! Those things under his skin. What are they? What will happen if we try to remove them?"

Ignoring her again (for lack of a response without any evidence to back it up), Oak turned to Joy. "Has anyone notified Professor and Mrs. McKenzie of Goldenrod City?"

Joy blinked and shook her head. "No. We were waiting for your word."

Oak sighed. "I'll contact them. They'll want to know. Maybe we can get them to come see him in the next few days."

Nettle frowned slightly. "Even you think he has little time left."

Turning towards her, Oak gave her a forced smile. "Professor Nettle, until Bill recovers, I'm afraid you'll have to work with three people on your team instead of four. In the meantime, I'll call his family. Cornelius McKenzie. He's working with the Johto branch in New Bark Town, isn't he?" He paused slightly and looked towards the ceiling in thought. The question wasn't directed towards anyone in particular, but he still hesitated as if to wait for someone to respond. "Yes, I think that's right. It's only right that he and his wife know that an accident's happened."

Without another word, Oak turned and swiftly walked from the room.

---

Night in Polaris Institute usually found the halls of the Median Ring almost devoid of people. A few researchers continued to work on the new hatchlings in the laboratories. Otherwise, activity was transferred mostly to the Outer Ring, and even then, most personnel had retreated into their respective dormitories by midnight.

Just after one in the morning, a whistle floated down the hall. One of the janitors, a bulky man in a gray jumpsuit, wheeled a yellow bucket past the doors of each laboratory. Every so often, he stopped and drew a mop out of the bucket. With a wet smack, the mop's medusa head hit the linoleum floor and left a shining trail of soap and water across the cold surface. Unaware of much of his surroundings besides his work, the janitor continued to whistle a lively tune as he pulled and pushed the mop and dunked its head into the bucket every now and then.

He didn't realize anything was watching him. With his back turned towards the areas he'd already mopped, he failed to notice the small, red glow traveling quickly towards him. The thick polyester of the jumpsuit blocked the feeling of the parasite's legs climbing up the back of his calf, thigh, and torso. It wasn't until the parasite found a patch of flesh just above his collar when he finally felt something: the sensation of a pinch. Slapping his neck, he felt only something small, cold, and wet, just like the surrounding sweat-drenched skin. Shrugging, he continued pushing along the hall.

Daybreak came five hours later. By then, the janitor retreated into his room, unaware that anything was wrong. He was fast asleep by the time the institute's only operating room erupted into a flurry of panic.

---

Bill lost track of how much time he spent asleep. He'd retreated into a haze less than a half an hour after the thing burrowed into his chest. Since then, he had been dreaming.

The dreams were strange and incomprehensible. At some points, he had torn off his own skin to find that a metal exoskeleton slick with his blood and the parasite's acid had oozed from unseen pores to cover his body. His bones slipped out of his hands to leave behind flesh-colored gloves, and in their places were silver masses with sharp claws for fingers and garnets in the palms. He would have thought them beautiful if their creation wasn't so grotesque.

He dreamt of internal changes. As if he had eyes inside his body, he watched organs melting, reforming, reshaping, and rearranging to take on new and strange functions. Twice, he died in this dream, but it brought him back – the second heart pulsing on his chest as it reached inside him and pumped him full of its light until his organs throbbed again. It was so warm. Too warm.

The other dream, woven between inner and outer transformations, was the most horrifying of all. Bill knew he should have felt pain. The thing inside him was ripping him apart and reassembling him just as violently. Yet, he felt nothing. He could remember no pain, no torment, nothing to indicate that he was suffering.

Someone else did it for him.

Helpless inside his own mind, Bill could only watch his body move as if it wasn't his. It thrashed. It screamed. It struggled desperately as Nurse Joy's team of chansey tried to restrain it. Between these moments were gaps in which he sensed morphine crawling through his veins or watched his bones crack and reassemble.

He saw glimpses of people he knew. Professor Oak hovered over him at one point. Bill could hear the elder's voice, but it said nothing to him. It was gibberish, spoken with a distant tone. The strips of skin Bill (or whatever was acting in his place) had ripped off his own body were being taken away at those moments along with little red vials of liquid Nurse Joy prepared. (He never felt the needle or the tourniquet, let alone his blood rushing out of his veins.) For the life of him, he couldn't understand why.

Sometimes, there were people he didn't know. At one point, he found himself under bright lights. That caused a flurry of screams and shouts from voices he'd never heard before. Someone masked – a surgeon – stood over him, looking from his face to the people around him.

Bill felt no pain then, even though he knew he was bleeding. He wasn't sure how he knew. In any case, his body reacted, convulsing and crying out without his consent. Something lashed out from his side. It was a flash of red and silver – something he knew he never had before the dream began. Whatever it was, it slashed across the surgeon's wrist, the one that led to the hand that held the scalpel.

There was a spurt of red. He could almost taste the surgeon's blood on his lips, and that seemed to aggravate his body. The surgeon screamed and backed away, and his hand rolled off Bill's chest and onto the floor.

From his place somewhere behind his own eyes, Bill heard the wet thump of dead flesh on tile, but for whatever reason, his brain refused to make sense of it.

Another gap stretched across his memory. Darkness became more frequent than the few glimpses of the dream he had. There were times when he saw himself being wheeled down the corridors between the Rings. He could swear he was strapped down, but because his body didn't react for once, he couldn't move to see. All he had was simply the feeling that he was confined.

Then, there was the glimpse of the empty room, bright white with a bed and a table and a window.

That last image repeated itself several times before finally, he turned over to fall into deeper sleep.

It was a terrifying dream – one that he felt was almost over. But that's all it was.

A dream.

---

"I don't think it's appropriate to think about euthanasia."

Oak crossed his arms and shifted uncomfortably on his feet. The word felt so dirty, and it left a sour taste on his tongue. He gave Nettle an uncertain glance, tearing his eyes away from the window for just a moment.

For the past several days, he'd been in and out of that room, a room that he'd set up to look almost exactly like Laboratory F. The difference (other than the fact that, given that it was the Median Ring, the doors didn't lock quite as tightly as he'd like) was that beyond the window, instead of a massive tank full of blood-tinged water, there was another room. In that room, for the past several days, his young colleague had been fading in and out of consciousness. It scared him to know that when Bill woke up next, there was no way to tell whether it would be him or whatever attacked a number of doctors.

Nettle seemed to know this fact, even if he never voiced it.

"With all due respect," she said, "he cut off the hand of a surgeon, Professor. One of the finest brought in from Cinnabar's hospitals. What's more, we're not even sure what he used to do it." Her eyes trailed back to the window. "Whatever it was, it was not human."

"I know, but…" Oak paused to think of the best words. "This is Bill. He couldn't have meant to do it."

Nettle frowned. "McKenzie might not have meant to do it, but we're not sure who or what that is in that room."

Oak shook his head. "We can't just give up hope that we've lost Bill completely. After all, it wouldn't be right to let a colleague die when there may be something we can do to help him. Besides, you know how I feel about euthanasia."

"They put down growlithe that get too unruly."

At that comment, Oak frowned, but his voice held no trace of anger. "I'd rather see them be released into the wild."

Although Nettle knew better, she couldn't help but raise her eyebrows. Her mouth drew back into a tight but amused smile.

"Are you proposing to release McKenzie into the wild?" she asked. "Perhaps we can send him to Hoenn with his fellow monsters."

"He's not a monster."

Nettle shook her head as her smile faded. "Perhaps McKenzie wasn't. However, the creature we're dealing with now is not McKenzie. Remember, Professor, if you say McKenzie would never attack another human being, then what attacked those doctors?"

Oak furrowed his eyebrows. "It's too early to think about putting him to sleep. He was a human being." He paused and rubbed his forehead. "I think it would be best to wait until we learn a bit more about him."

"How long do we wait?" Nettle asked without bothering to mask her irritation. "Until he kills someone? And what about the parasite? What if it finishes whatever it's doing to McKenzie, detaches itself, and tries to do the same thing to someone else?" Her voice lowered to a harsh whisper. "We still don't know what we're dealing with here."

"Bill won't hurt anyone. I'll make sure of that, and anyway, even if he attacked Dr. Hawthorn in the operating room, he's still a reasonable human being inside. Maybe there's a part of him that remembers."

"A part of him that remembers," Nettle echoed before Oak could respond to her other question. "Of all the ridiculous things…"

She shook her head once more and looked through the window at the silver creature lying on the bed. From the back, she couldn't see his claws or the parasite nestled in his chest. All she could see was the shiny surface, segmented with a pair of small spikes on the shoulder blades. He looked like an armadillo that way, curled on his side with each sheet of metal angled slightly away from his body. His legs were covered by a thin, white sheet, and behind them, something moved every so often. He'd lost the soft, green curls crowning his head sometime during the transformation (namely, at the time he'd been busy ripping off his own skin), and in their place were silver bristles, still growing to cover his head like a wire brush. In the middle of the field of bristles, two rounded horns rose from both sides of his head, horns with dull points and no apparent purpose. Nettle could only wonder if they would become just as dangerous weapons as the creature's limbs.

"Perhaps there may be an alternative," she said.

Oak looked her way. "Alternative? What did you have in mind?"

"Conditioning," she replied. "We can bring in a hypno or other pokémon capable of hypnosis to control his behavior. If not, we could possibly train him to restrain himself in the presence of human beings."

Oak raised his eyebrows. "Hypnosis? That sounds a little extreme, Professor Nettle."

Nettle sighed. "Professor, I don't mean to overstep my boundaries, but you must stop thinking of him as your colleague. He is a dangerous creature now, one that could seriously hurt members of this organization if we leave him unchecked. One that already has."

At her words, Oak swallowed hard and looked back towards the window. She had a point; Bill could seriously injure someone. As difficult a fact as it was to accept that, Oak had no choice but to admit it was true, especially after the incident in the medical wing and how much trouble the staff went through to restrain him and transport him to this room. As much as he respected Bill, he knew Nettle was right about needing to confine him now too. Yet, on the other hand, he couldn't help but continue thinking of the creature in the other room as being human – or a living creature at all, not some vicious monster that had to be put down or forcibly controlled. His frown deepened.

"I'll call the Committee," he said. "Maybe they can shed some light on what should be done."

Nettle heaved a small sigh. "You don't have much of a choice, Professor."

Oak turned towards the door, but before he walked away, he forced himself to smile. His expression was weak and weary, but it held the flicker of warmth he had several days ago.

"If it was you in that room, Professor Nettle, I think you'd want me to ask the Committee too," he said.

He waited for her response. When he saw her merely stare at him, he gave her a firm nod and a reassuring smile, though she wasn't quite sure why he was reassuring her at all. With that, he walked quickly beyond the rows of computers and out the door.

She stood where he'd left her. For several moments, she waited, turning over his last words in her mind. Eventually, she turned back to the window and peered at the subject, still lying quietly in the bed. One of her pale hands reached up to adjust her wire-rimmed glasses as a scowl crossed her lips.

"Weak old fool," she murmured.

---

When the dream receded and Bill felt his body for the first time in days, he awoke with a start. Immediately after, he wished he hadn't. The pure, white walls reflected the light of the fluorescent lamp overhead (despite the fact that the light itself was fairly dim), and as a result, the transition between perfect darkness and intense white sent a stabbing pain through his eyes. He winced, shutting his eyes tightly and turning his head away for a moment. Slowly, he opened one eye and let it adjust to the light. Then, he opened the other and blinked several times until he could finally see.

The second sensation he felt was a shiver running through his body. He wasn't cold. In fact, he was actually quite warm, but it was his muscles. Each one felt like a vibrating current was running through them. On top of that, he felt like he barely had any energy, and his stomach felt like it was trying to twist itself into a knot. He groaned, the sound rumbling painfully in his throat as he curled a bit tighter into a ball. Eventually, he was aware of the thin blanket covering him, and in a futile attempt to stop himself from shivering, he tried to pull at it to cover the rest of his body and convince it that it wasn't cold.

That, naturally, didn't work. Doing his best to keep himself from getting frustrated at what minimal control over himself that he had, Bill opted for ignoring the shivering altogether. Instead, he craned his neck and peered at as much of the room as he could. It was exactly the way he saw it in his dream. The bed was in the middle of the room, and across a small gap was a metal table with only one chair placed beside it. There were no other furnishings in the room, nothing to use to amuse himself. The walls were bare except a door on the wall to his left and window beside it through which, from that angle looking over his shoulder, he could only see the tops of machines. Otherwise, no windows looked towards the outside, and no pictures decorated the walls.

Well, this is rather austere, Bill thought. It was a trivial matter, but he felt he had to keep himself thinking.

Carefully, he forced himself to sit up, keeping his eyes on the window. His stomach continued to radiate pain, to which he responded with a wince and a slightly more violent shiver. Exhaling a shuddering breath, he wrapped his arms around himself.

Instantly, he knew something was wrong.

He heard the sound of metal on metal and felt his fingers trail along something smooth and hard. An overwhelming sense of fear gripped his mind as he felt his breathing grow slightly more rapid. Slowly, he looked down at his hands to find the silver claws from his dream. A shudder ran down his back again as he carefully lifted them in front of his face to examine them carefully. The smooth surfaces of the red jewels in his palms glinted in the light, and the sharp edges of his claws seemed to shine.

With a shocked cry, Bill pushed himself out of the bed and nearly fell to the floor. Instead, he stumbled to clawed feet – or rather, the clawed toes of them, given that his feet had somehow taken a more reptilian appearance while he'd slept. He tried to back away from the bed, but something else tangled around his already awkward feet. In seconds, he was sent sprawling with a bang across the hard floor, and a bolt of pain shot up his spine. Shaking with terror and weakness, he curled into a ball for a moment until he could convince himself to look. With careful movements, he forced himself to sit up again and gazed down at his strange, three-clawed feet again. Across one and under another, a segmented wire was draped. Its silver, arrowhead tip lay just beyond his right foot, and the beginning looped out of Bill's sight. Part of him felt like he didn't want to know what it was. The other part of him, the one that was infinitely curious, forced him to reach out and touch the tip.

He felt it on both ends: the metal of the tip on his fingertips and the metal of his fingertips on the tip. Like electricity, sensation shot through the wire and shocked Bill's spine for a second time. He sucked in a gasp as he winced at the feeling. Opening his eyes slightly, he stared at the arrowhead tip again and wrapped his arms around himself. He didn't want anything to do with it, but the curious part of his mind told him to move it.

It twitched on his command. Drawing in a breath, he tried to get it to do something else. Slowly, it wove its way back around his feet and slipped behind him. Glancing over his shoulder, he could see his smooth back and the other end of the wire where it was connected to him at exactly where he expected the base of his spine to be.

"A tail," he murmured. "A tail."

As if it had a mind of its own and was incredibly happy to be acknowledged, the tail rose and curled in the air in a lazy wag. With another shudder, Bill buried his face in his hands.

"This is a dream," he said. "This is another dream. That's all this is. I'm dreaming. Yes."

His fingers felt something rough on the top of his head. He swallowed again as he let his left hand play across the bristles where there were once curls. Eventually, they came in contact with something hard, and with a numb feeling, his fingertips traced the smooth edge of a horn. It seemed oddly sensitive to his touch, and a cold pain laced through his skull. He clenched his teeth and placed his hands on the floor, spreading the fingers out with soft scratches.

With a deep breath, he took another look at his body – namely, at the other occupant of it. The parasite remained where it was, latched onto the front of his chest. Now, he couldn't tell that it was ever a separate living creature, rather than just a piece of decoration. The only clue to its true nature came in a red pulse of light that ran across its surface every so often. He trembled at the thought of what it might be and lifted a hand to touch it. In his horror, he realized he could feel his claws brushing against its smooth surface as if it was just as much a part of him as anything else. He thought about bracing himself against the pain and pulling it out with his hands, but his eyes caught sight of the small lumps that radiated from it – tendrils that snaked under his metal skin and disappeared a few inches out from all sides into smooth armor. No doubt the tendrils were meant to ensure that pulling out the parasite would result in far more damage than he'd want.

"This can't be real," he whispered. "It's not. It's… it's just a dream. That's all."

Clenching his teeth, he turned his gaze sharply to the window. Questions filled his mind to the point where they crashed into each other and left him in a dazed fog. Words pulled apart sentences to form muddled, incoherent thoughts. He whimpered slightly as he pulled himself to the bed and placed his hands on the edge of it. His eyes tried not to look at his claws as he struggled to stand up. All he knew was he wanted answers, but to what? He couldn't quite think of the right questions. His mind couldn't sort through all of them at once to find the most important ones.

Some of them, of course, were simple. What happened to me? What am I? What is this place? But then, there were others, questions within questions and questions, like the first, that he wasn't sure actually had answers.

His feet felt strange when he put weight on them – proper weight. He resisted every temptation to look down. Instead, he closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths. All six of the clawed toes that were supporting him spread and took his weight as if he was born with those reptilian feet. Meanwhile, his mind couldn't help but notice this came a little too naturally for his liking.

Try walking.

He wasn't sure if the thought came from the back of his mind or outside himself, but a voice echoed those two words through his skull as if they were both whispered in his ear and came to him as internal monologue. It didn't occur to him that it might have been strange. Instead, he agreed. Awkwardly, he placed one foot in front of another to work his way around the bed. At first, he swayed at each step as if he was about to fall backwards, but little by little, as if he was relearning something he knew all along by touch, he began to understand how his legs worked. By the time he reached the door, he no longer had his arms outward to keep his balance, and he walked stiffly but without the threat of pitching off his toes. A nagging thought at the back of his mind made him realize he'd learned how to keep his balance a little too quickly. Part of him felt a sense of shock at that fact, and he hesitated at the door when that shock gave way to fear.

What's happening to me?

The question repeated itself as a mantra through his mind for a few moments. His hands began to shake, and the metal began to feel cold against… against what? Did he even have skin anymore underneath all that armor?

Closing his eyes, he leaned forward and placed both hands on the metal door. Metal, like everything else. He felt his heart beat a little faster and his hands shake against the door.

No. You've got to control yourself.

He opened his eyes.

Calm yourself. Think. There's no one to help you here, and you won't help yourself if you let yourself panic.

It took a moment of repeating those words over and over again before Bill finally felt himself calm down enough to think about his situation. Eventually, he came to the realization that he needed to get out. Get out – that's how he'll get his questions answered. He needed to find someone, and he wasn't going to find anyone to help him if he stayed in that room.

One of his hands slid downward towards where he expected a knob or handle to be. When it felt nothing but the smooth surface of the door, he looked down and found that, in fact, there was nothing there. No handle, no knob, nothing to open the door from his side.

Right about then, he realized they'd locked him in.

Panic rose in his chest again, and he stumbled to the side, towards the window. Trapped. All he could think about was being trapped.

When he looked out the window, he could see a near replica of Laboratory F. His breathing still came in heaved gasps, as if he'd been sprinting, and his eyes went wide as he gazed at the rows of computers and the men and women in white coats fluttering from one to another like bees in a hive. He swallowed cold saliva as he tried to calm his breathing enough to address them. One of his clawed hands reached up to the glass, palm pressed against the cool surface as his fingers fanned out. None of them seemed to notice him.

"Hello…?" He realized his voice came across quietly. Taking a deep breath, he tried again. "Hey!"

The closest workers looked up. Their faces paled slightly as they examined Bill's face. All of a sudden, he felt naked and wondered if it would have been a better idea to use the blanket to cover as much of his body as he could. Still, it was too late to go back, and it wasn't important except to make him look slightly more human. He would just have to convince them he didn't mean any harm.

"Please," he said. "I need your help. I don't know what happened."

The two workers exchanged glances, then looked over their shoulders towards the other scientists. He saw their lips move, but not a word filtered through the glass. It succeeded, however, in getting the attention of the other scientists, who each looked towards the glass with startled glances.

By then, Bill knew things weren't going his way. He placed his other hand on the glass to show he had nothing to use to threaten them.

"No, don't panic," he pleaded. "Please. Could one of you tell me what's going on?"

All of them seemed to ignore his request. Instead, they broke away from the machinery and bustled through the room, frantically hitting buttons and flipping switches. One of them even picked up a phone and began placing a call on the other side of the room, but from there, Bill couldn't see which number was being dialed to tell who that one might have been calling. Distracted by the scientist at the other end of the room, he didn't notice one of them grab a microphone on the machine nearest to the window.

"Step away from the window."

Bill jumped at the booming voice that filled his silent room. He glanced at the walls and corners to find some speaker that he might have missed, but he could see nothing. Glancing back at the window, he retreated to the bed and sat down.

"I'm sorry," he said as loudly and clearly as possible. "Is there anyone who can tell me—"

"Professor Nettle will arrive shortly," the voice replied before the question was finished.
Although Nettle wasn't his first choice for someone to speak to so soon, Bill still felt a wave of relief. He would have spoken to anyone as long as he was given the explanations he wanted desperately.

"Thank you," he said after a long moment.

No one responded, and once again, the room fell into silence. Bill didn't mind this time; the relief of knowing someone was coming excited him too much. Minutes couldn't pass quickly enough, and ten minutes felt like an eternity and a half. At first, Bill kept his eyes on the glass as he let his tail wag back and forth. Part of him was conscious of it and felt each muscle move fluidly to amuse himself. That distracted him for the first few minutes before his restlessness got to him again. Rising to his feet, he began pacing back and forth in front of the window. His thoughts stumbled over each other again in a mad rush of excitement. They would know what to do, surely. And if not, he would at least be let out of that room and be led to someone who could help. All he wanted, more than anything, was to leave that room and find someone to talk to. Anyone could be comforting enough.

Out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of new movement. Looking up, he saw Nettle standing at the window, flanked by two scientists working on machinery in front of her. With a smile, he approached, remembering to put some distance between himself and the glass.

"Professor Nettle!" he exclaimed. "Thank goodness! I'm very glad to see you."

She raised her eyebrows for a moment as she stared at him. Then, she turned her head and began speaking to the scientist on her right. Once again, Bill couldn't tell what she was saying, and part of him felt a little alarmed by that.

In an attempt to get her attention again, he added, "Professor, perhaps you could tell me what's going on."

Falling silent, she turned her gaze back to the window. The scientist she had addressed pressed a button on his console. Suddenly, Bill began to hear a strange hiss coming from the corners of the room. Glancing towards them, he started to see white puffs of smoke rush from unseen pipes.

By then, Bill knew without a doubt things weren't going his way.

He took another step back and looked at Nettle with a horrified expression. "What is that? What's going on? Professor Nettle, please tell me!"

She said nothing. Instead, she watched as the white smoke quickly filled the room and obscured the creature within it. In an attempt to avoid the cloud, Bill ducked and dodged to remain in clear patches of air, but soon, there was nowhere left to go. He coughed and gagged as the smoke dried his throat and entered his lungs. Stumbling, he hunched over and reached out for the bed.

His head felt heavy, as if it was filled with cotton. Swaying on his feet, he realized with horror what was being pumped into the room.

"Sleeping gas," he murmured.

Glancing back towards the window, he stared with wide eyes towards Nettle. Her silhouette remained framed in white, but otherwise, the smoke obscured her features. Slowly, even her outline began to blur as Bill found it harder and harder to keep his eyes open.

"What ha…?" he whispered.

The last syllable came out as a heavy sigh. Unable to fight his drowsiness, Bill closed his eyes, and seconds later, he was on the floor. He'd fallen into a deep sleep before he even hit the cement.
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Last edited by JX Valentine; March 17th, 2009 at 11:10 AM.
  #19    
Old November 13th, 2008, 08:50 PM
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u like to hurt pokemon dont u lol good fic
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  #20    
Old November 13th, 2008, 09:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Lukespade View Post
u like to hurt pokemon dont u lol good fic
Well, mostly Bill. (There's three types of fangirls out there. The sane ones, the ones who want to get into the pants of their favorite characters, and the sadistic ones who like to watch them suffer. For whatever reason, Bill enjoys collecting the latter.)

Thanks for the compliment. *bows*
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  #21    
Old November 14th, 2008, 07:43 PM
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"Bill jumped at the booming voice that filled his silent room." I don't know why but for some reason it put an image of him jumping and coming down off screen with a loud clang and stuff goes rolling across the floor. XD I'm weird, but it made me laugh. X3
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  #22    
Old November 15th, 2008, 10:57 AM
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I don't know why but for some reason it put an image of him jumping and coming down off screen with a loud clang and stuff goes rolling across the floor. XD I'm weird, but it made me laugh. X3
Ahhahaha! That's what should have happened. ...I'll save that idea for later. XD

Also, blargh. I just noticed that mistake. The sentence should be:

"Bill jumped at the booming voice that filled his formerly silent room."

Why do I not see this sort of thing before I post a story? ;_; I'll have to go back through and look at the chapter to see if I screwed anything else up. Thanks for including that in your comment.
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  #23    
Old November 15th, 2008, 11:56 AM
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Hmm… Your usage of the dream state, from what I read, is just a little off to me. I don’t know; maybe its just because I like having people reliving their worst memories in dreams (mostly because my fics usually deal with these three demons that embody bad or dark memories), but I think you could have been just a little bit more direct with things that happened in them. The passage of time also kind of got to me. Like at the one part you said “when the dream receded and Bill felt his body for the first time in days,” that disoriented me for a short bit because I wasn’t completely sure whether it was real time or dream time. After reading it through again, though, I think you meant for that to happen.

But, that aside, your fic has just the gritty type of sci-fi feel that made me fall in love with series like Stargate, in the sense that it takes place in kind of a modern world where people are in a race against time to save themselves (and Pokémon, in this case) before aliens with far superior capabilities eradicate them (kind of that series’ norm…or at least what it was in SG-1 with races the Goa’uld, the Replicators, and the Ori. Somewhat similar in Atlantis with ones like the Wrath and, to some extent, the Gen’ni/sp?). I was actually going to mention that on an earlier response, but I got onto that Doxisite rant and totally forgot.

Overall, another very excellent chapter! I cannot wait for chapter three! Seriously, Xanthine! Post it now! …okay, just kidding.
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  #24    
Old November 15th, 2008, 05:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Skunter View Post
Hmm… Your usage of the dream state, from what I read, is just a little off to me. I don’t know; maybe its just because I like having people reliving their worst memories in dreams (mostly because my fics usually deal with these three demons that embody bad or dark memories), but I think you could have been just a little bit more direct with things that happened in them. The passage of time also kind of got to me. Like at the one part you said “when the dream receded and Bill felt his body for the first time in days,” that disoriented me for a short bit because I wasn’t completely sure whether it was real time or dream time. After reading it through again, though, I think you meant for that to happen.

But, that aside, your fic has just the gritty type of sci-fi feel that made me fall in love with series like Stargate, in the sense that it takes place in kind of a modern world where people are in a race against time to save themselves (and Pokémon, in this case) before aliens with far superior capabilities eradicate them (kind of that series’ norm…or at least what it was in SG-1 with races the Goa’uld, the Replicators, and the Ori. Somewhat similar in Atlantis with ones like the Wrath and, to some extent, the Gen’ni/sp?). I was actually going to mention that on an earlier response, but I got onto that Doxisite rant and totally forgot.

Overall, another very excellent chapter! I cannot wait for chapter three! Seriously, Xanthine! Post it now! …okay, just kidding.
hey, she's right. they're kinda like the flood in Halo.
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  #25    
Old November 15th, 2008, 09:06 PM
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JX Valentine
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Originally Posted by Skunter View Post
Hmm… Your usage of the dream state, from what I read, is just a little off to me. I don’t know; maybe its just because I like having people reliving their worst memories in dreams (mostly because my fics usually deal with these three demons that embody bad or dark memories), but I think you could have been just a little bit more direct with things that happened in them.
First off, ooh. Demons. Is this Biohazard or no?

Second, oddly enough, the original version of this chapter told Bill's transformation more from Oak's perspective, so things were a lot clearer. Unfortunately, after a few scenes, the entire thing got kinda long, so I was afraid I'd be losing the readers' attention.

Also, yeah, I'll have to admit the choice of going with the dream sequence was intentional for the sake of creating a chaotic atmosphere. Bill's not really supposed to know what happened to him until he wakes up (although he can see what's going on in a number of scenes -- even if he's not entirely conscious), so I wanted to try to get the story to reflect how confused he is during that time. That way, the fact that he wakes up as the obligatory sci-fi/horror monster ends up being a bit more shocking.

At least, that's what I was intending on doing. I guess I overdid it a bit. ^_^; I'll take another look at the scene to see if I can clear it up a bit.

Also, about the mention of Stargate, would you believe I've never watched an episode? XD (Except for Stargate Infinity, but I started with that series partway through and had no idea what was going on except for the fact that the team went through pretty portals and fought things. Man, I miss that show.) Still, thanks for the compliment. Yeah, I wouldn't really be surprised if it made you think of something else in the sci-fi genre. Really, this entire fic is supposed to be one big, slightly campy nod to every science fiction book, television show, and movie ever made.

I will check out Stargate, though, because now I'm curious. XD
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