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Old June 18th, 2010, 05:31 PM
JX Valentine's Avatar
JX Valentine
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: Harassing Bill
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Warning: This fic is rated PG-13 to R (and labeled R to be on the safe side). Why? Because we're dealing with violence, body horror, mind rape, and other bits of trope-abusing fun. If you're easily squicked, you may want to hit the back button. Thanks!

Author's Note: This fic is a rewrite of this fic. The plot has been reworked from the first chapter onward, plot holes have been filled in, and it's generally a less unwieldy piece of... fanfic. If any of you are returning readers, I'd like to welcome you back, and to all you new readers out there, I hope you enjoy the story.

Chapter List:
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Anima Ex Machina: Zero
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. Street lamps and fluorescent lights flickered on in the cities, and above them, white dots began to appear one by one in the night sky.

One of these dots moved.

The meteor in question sported the size and approximate mass of a small car. That, along with the fact that its path crossed neatly with Earth's, 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 some of the area's wild pokémon. The flying-types had been gone, of course, as were the linoone and the mightyena packs. As for the rest? The water-types kept to the lake, knowing they couldn't wander much further than that without risking territory wars with wailmer, and the grass-types and kecleon, neither of whom were particularly known for their mobility, didn't have much further to go than sticking to the surrounding forests and hope for the best.

What was strange was the fact that most of the absol stayed behind. Absol had the capability of relocating. They knew they could move and feed off of whatever they found along the way. It was just that only a handful of them actually left the area. All of them looked towards the sky for months, as if knowing already that no matter where they went, it wouldn't matter.

Standing atop a hill, within a circle of rocks countless years old, was one of these absol. He shifted on his paws as the cold but familiar feeling of dread sank into his bones. The minutes ticked away, but he could do nothing during that time except watch. He didn't bother to warn anyone, in part because he couldn't tell where the meteor was going to land and in part because of that feeling of inevitability that was plaguing his pack for all that time. It wasn't just the meteor, he felt. There was something else, but for the life of him, he couldn't pinpoint what.

Above him, the meteor punched through a cloud and streaked closer in a brilliant ball of red and white. Looking up, the absol hesitated. He certainly didn't expect the meteor to arrive so soon. Jolting into action, he burst into a run down the face of the hill, his claws scraping against dirt and rock. To his side, the meteor fell rapidly, descending hundreds of feet in seconds towards the soft earth.

He barely reached the edge of the lake some distance from the base of the hill when the meteorite landed. The ground beneath his paws shook violently as a cloud of red dust spewed towards the heavens and quickly engulfed the area. In the distance, a great crack and subsequent crash signaled the literal fall of Fortree City, shaken free from its 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 loud cry, but it was drowned by the rumbling of aftershocks and the screams of dying pokémon farther north.

The absol lay on the earth for what felt like hours as he watched the red cloud of dust above him fade. 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.

Not far away, a hole stood in his path. It was mostly concealed by the dust still in the air, but he could just make out the shadow of its edge. Gingerly, he limped on his twisted paw towards it. He whined, partly from to the pain shooting up his leg and partly from the familiar, cold feeling in his bones. The ground beneath his feet grew hotter until it was almost unbearable, but it wasn't the pain that made him hesitate a few yards away from the crater. It was fear. He stood, leaning more on his good paws as he stared directly at the red glow. At first, he thought it was simply from the intense heat emanating from the earth, but something was wrong about it. He could feel it.

Abruptly, the glow shifted. Instantly, the absol realized that it wasn't coming from the nearly molten rocks around the crater but instead from something inside it. A loud crack -- like the sound of rock being smashed with a sledgehammer -- filled the air, followed by a chorus of scratches. The absol tried to scramble backwards, but his weight came down on his bad paw. As soon as it did, he collapsed on his knees with a high-pitched whine. He closed his eyes tightly until the pain faded, but when he opened them, he found that it was too late to escape.

A massive, red wave had risen from the inside of the crater and lingered on the edge. Then, it rushed like a tsunami at the dark-type creature. With a whimper, Absol struggled to stand, but the small, red beads that flowed towards him were already washing against his legs. Small mouths tore into his flesh.

Instantly, his eyes widened. He threw back his head, and his high-pitched howl filled the air.

Then, shortly after the howl began, it ended abruptly. The pokémon surrounding Fortree City would have no other warning.

Neither would the rest of Hoenn.
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Last edited by JX Valentine; August 19th, 2011 at 10:25 PM.
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  #2    
Old June 18th, 2010, 05:33 PM
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JX Valentine
Your aquatic overlord
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Harassing Bill
Age: 27
Gender: Female
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Note: After this chapter, I'll wait a couple of days to post the second. I've finished up to chapter ten, so you'll probably see an update on that kind of schedule for awhile.


Anima Ex Machina: One
It's a pleasure to meet you.


Polaris Institute existed before Project Stardust, but back then, it mostly centered around technology, rather than the direct study of pokémon. However, when Hoenn succumbed to an infestation of mysterious, pokémon-eating predators, the national government stepped in to take over the most secure and high-tech research centers in its other regions, including Polaris. The best of the best in the Pokémon Symposium, the elite community of pokéologists across the country, were hand-picked by each center to lend their skills to the government in a time of desperation. Hence, Stardust, the project geared towards studying the creature that shut down an entire region.

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

The box had since been removed, but the thing that was formerly within it now dwelled in the very heart of the institute, inside a circular 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. Key card, 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. These were the combination for each lock. It was 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 key card slipped through the slot on the side of the lock. A pale thumb pressed against the silver thumb pad. Lights blinked while the panel above the thumb pad slipped upward to reveal a camera. Hands pulled back green, curly hair as a face leaned forward. A red beam flashed from the lens and trailed down one dark eye before vanishing. After all that, the man in front of the scanner 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 figure stepped into a room full of machinery.

Technically, Bill McKenzie wasn't a professor. He held a master's in psychology and biology, but even years after he left graduate school, he was just barely on his way towards earning a proper doctorate and, therefore, the title that went with it. It hardly mattered to many of his colleagues, anyway. Most of the respect for him came from actions, not credentials. Even though he was far younger than most of his fellow researchers when they had started in the field, he had already revolutionized the field of pokémon transportation with his Storage and Retrieval System, wrote programs to decipher pokémon calls, and cracked decades-old mysteries surrounding no less than five different extinct pokémon.

It was his ingenuity and achievements in the field of pokémon psychology that earned him a place at Polaris Institute, but thanks to his age, his apparent lack of experience still sparked criticism and controversy within the Pokémon Symposium. 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 analysis of several 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 humming machines. A window spread across the far side, creating a deep, white indentation in the wall, and by one end of it stood an old man with near-black eyes. 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 fellow scientists, but Professor Yvonne Nettle, one of those Symposium members who didn't exactly support him wholeheartedly, 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 crossed her thin arms. In many ways, her entire being reminded Bill of fragments of glass: the smaller and thinner they were, the more someone had to worry about crossing them.

"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 pressed his lips together 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 and set her jaw.

"McKenzie," she said. Her voice lowered in volume, but it was still 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 eyebrows rose 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. "All I mean is that a researcher is never late because he arrives precisely when he means to."

"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 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. "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. Realizing this, 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 interruptions, and I'd hate to break up another argument if you go back to Laboratory F to find the biochemistry team still there, especially when we're getting along so well 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'll assume you've been briefed about Experiment #22a already. Prepare to record observations."

Leaving it at that, she turned and walked briskly to the other side of the room. Bill watched her lean over someone else to check a computer screen.

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

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

Oak pulled up 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. 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 get Professor Nettle worked up 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. 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, 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 thanks to being Polaris' current director. For another, even without that title, Oak was the foremost figure in the field of pokéology aside from Professor Rowan. To receive praise from Oak was the ultimate affirmation for a pokémon researcher. To receive criticism meant 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. "You'll learn," Oak assured him. "Ah, the innocence of youth. It reminds me of a poem, actually. Would you like--"

"You'll learn," Oak assured him. "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 at his station now."

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 and rub the back of his neck.

"Oh yes! I'm sorry. You're absolutely right." He opened his eyes and glanced towards his protégé. "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 humiliation-born anxiety to a slightly more comfortable zone. He responded with his own smile -- albeit a significantly more timid one -- and nodded.

"Right. Thank you, Professor."

He walked briskly to his station in a corner of the laboratory. Oak stood back, smiling as he waited for the experiment to begin, but as a result, he didn't seem to notice Nettle's icy glance at Bill before she turned her attention to the window and what lay beyond it.

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 more than just a little anal. She had previously been a field researcher, known mostly for her endeavors to understand the jynx communication patterns. Bill wasn't the only one who noticed she lacked much in the way of mercy: it was a whispered joke that she could relate more to the ice women than any human being.

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

Bill recoiled as he settled at his station across the room. The observational deck of Laboratory D was just large enough for the five scientists working on the psychology aspect of Kanto's Project Stardust, yet with Nettle so close by, Bill felt just a little uncomfortable being there, as if the space was smaller than it actually was. He turned towards Nettle and tried to look as professional as possible.

"Yes, Professor Nettle?" he asked.

She glanced at him with a serious, nearly suspicious eye. "Are you ready?"

Turning back to his station, Bill placed his hands on the keyboard of the computer in front of him. With a few quick key strokes, he brought the machine back to life, and a few more let him through its digital security system. The black screen was quickly replaced by a desktop sparsely populated with icons. Bill ignored most of these graphics as he keyed in a few more commands to fill the screen with two boxes. One was a blank document, and the other was a box with a video feed of an open, white room. In the middle of the room were two clear boxes: one of them held a purple and white rat pawing at the sides of its cage, while the other...

He tried not to think about it as he switched to the blank document.

"I'm ready, Professor," he finally said.

Nettle nodded. "Very well." She turned away from him. "Professor Fig, stand by for release. Everyone else, this will be Experiment #22a: Hunting Tactics of XP-650. Are you ready?"

All four of her colleagues promptly replied, "Yes, Professor."

"Good." She nodded. "Open both doors, Professor Fig."

Fig, a small, squat man, turned his bright blue eyes towards a large console at his work station. His large hand rose and hit the smooth face of a red button with a fleshy palm.

"Doors released," he said as he slowly turned back to his monitor.

Nettle touched her chin as she watched through the window at the far end of the laboratory. Beyond it was the exact same thing Bill was seeing on his computer screen: a large, open room with solid, white walls and a concrete floor. Sitting in the middle of the room were the very same boxes.

One side on each respective cube swung outward, and the cautious rattata in the first box 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 Plexiglas 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.

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, 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 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 blood loss, the rattata's movements became sluggish, eventually slowing to the point where he could only stumble inch by inch towards his box. Just before the rodent reached the Plexiglas 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 at the video feed on his monitor again. Curiosity got the best of him, and he tapped his mouse over and clicked a button to zoom in. He had hoped to get a better view of what the parasite was doing, but instead, a strange feeling settled in his stomach. Instinctively, he paled. Although he wanted to turn away, he couldn't stop watching the flickering image of the creature consuming the rattata from the inside out. It crawled up the rodent's side, ripping the flesh as it went until the ribs and the slick insides were exposed. 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 alien cut through skin with the deftness of a surgeon.

Already feeling lightheaded, Bill covered his mouth with a hand, but he still couldn't tear his eyes away from the creature. Then, when it began to ooze a strange, green gel into the wound, Bill leaned back in his chair and shuddered, catching Oak's attention again.

"Bill?" he murmured.

Taking a breath, Bill pushed away from his station and stood.

"Excuse me for a moment," he said quietly.

Without any further explanation, Bill quickly walked out of the room.

---

"Stop it."

Bill hunched over the sink in a bathroom down the hall. Moving his hands beneath the silver faucet, he watched the red sensor blink and click. Cold water sprayed over his hands and into the granite basin beneath them. Cupping his hands, he caught enough water to splash his face before he straightened. One of his hands grabbed a paper towel from a small pile next to the sink and used it to dry himself. Peering over the towel, he caught sight of his reflection in a mirror that occupied one wall of the room. His face still looked paler than usual.

Sighing, he crumpled the paper towel and tossed it into a garbage can by the door in the corner. Then, he turned back to the mirror and placed his hands on both sides of the sink.

"You're a trained researcher," he said to himself. "You've been studying pokémon for years. Why are you having this reaction now? Is it any different from watching a scyther hunting?"

His mind wandered back to the images he saw on his computer. He thought about the parasite slicing open the rattata, about the sight of the rat's innards, about the green gel oozing into the wound...

A queasy feeling churned his stomach, and he doubled over to gag into the sink. It took a good portion of his will not to throw up. Instead, he coughed and took a few gasps of air. After a few moments of this, he shook his head and looked up to stare at his reflection again.

"All right. Perhaps it is," he murmured. "But haven't you seen worse? How many years have you worked on the field, and why are you reacting like this now?"

He shut his eyes tightly and shook his head for a second time. Gingerly, he straightened his back once more.

"Right. You need to do this, Bill. It's why you're here."

Taking a deep breath, he opened his eyes and looked at his reflection again. Already, color was beginning to come back to his cheeks.

"There. That's it. Just remember, what can possibly go wrong? You're doing this as a scientist. There's no reason to be afraid of it."

Nodding, he smiled at himself and turned towards the door.

"Nearly fainting at a pokémon's hunting behavior. Honestly, Bill, what kind of researcher are you?"

Pulling open the door, he emerged in the hallway, assuming it was completely empty. After all, it was between lab hours. Most personnel were probably occupied in one room or another.

Except, apparently, for the three fairly large interns who suddenly grabbed him.
__________________
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Need some light reading?
Anima Ex Machina (Chapter 20 now available)
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Last edited by JX Valentine; November 1st, 2010 at 07:30 AM.
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  #3    
Old June 18th, 2010, 07:34 PM
Eliminator Jr.'s Avatar
Eliminator Jr.
Gym Leader
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Age: 21
Gender: Male
Nature: Calm
Yesssssss, finally it's back. I've got no complaints but it's almost nostalgic to read this again. That and I'm too scared to even look for grammar problems (though I doubt there are any) because it's you writing.

Anyway, really looking forward to the next chapters, even though I know the basic outline of what happens so far. Thanks for posting this again.
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  #4    
Old June 19th, 2010, 07:43 PM
JX Valentine's Avatar
JX Valentine
Your aquatic overlord
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Harassing Bill
Age: 27
Gender: Female
Nature: Bold
Send a message via AIM to JX Valentine Send a message via Windows Live Messenger to JX Valentine
*brofists Eliminator* Hey, man! Good to see you again! (Or, well, I've seen you around the forums, but you know what I mean.) Yeah, I've been all over the place for the past couple of months, but I think I've figured out that after all that, considering PC's the forum I wrote AEM for in the first place, there's no place like home. Well, I mean, Serebii's cool and all, but at least this place loads. Most of the time.

I hope you'll like the changes as well. I did a ton of tweaking since the first version, so... yeah.

For the rest of you, I've decided to post the next chapter before PC goes down. Because some part of me insists that's a brilliant plan. As a minor note before I get into this part of the fic, you'll notice the designation XP-494 somewhere in the middle of the story, in reference to a new Pokémon's 'dex number. That's because this fic was started back in 2008 when we only had 493 Pokémon, and until we get an official fix on how many Black and White's giving us, I can't really change it. And yes, it's necessary to have. So, yeah, other than that, poke and prod away.


Anima Ex Machina: Two
Helter-skelter, birds flew off with the fallout shelter.


Today, Bill decided, was not his day. As far as he could tell, the people who had just ambushed him were certainly not normal interns, and he wondered briefly how he could have missed them. All three of them were large men, no less than a foot taller than he was, although that wasn't saying much. What was saying much, however, was the fact that all of them had the muscles of a football player under their starched, white lab coats. One of them practically dragged him along in a way that made it look like he was only leading the researcher down the hall; no one could see that the intern's bulky hand was gripping Bill's arms to the point where it was almost painful.

However, Bill didn't scream or cry for several reasons. One of them was because the second one, who was babbling about how excited he was to work on a project with so many stars of the Pokémon Symposium, was gripping Bill's shoulder in a way that only looked like a friendly grasp. Bill said nothing as he felt the man's hand tense over his collarbone. It felt like his new friend was trying to poke through his skin to the major artery underneath, and Bill knew that one good squeeze there would bring him to his knees. The touch itself wouldn't knock him out, of course, but he knew it would stun him just enough for something else to happen. He didn't want to think about what his captors would do if he became any more vulnerable than he already was.

Another reason was because the third bulky intern, the tallest of the three, walked behind the group at a distance that cast a shadow over the scientist in its middle. Bill didn't have to look back to know that the top of his head barely reached the man's chest, which meant that the man could easily reach up and twist his head off with the same amount of effort one might use to turn a doorknob.

This was, of course, ignoring the fact that any resistance Bill would have put up would be met with three football players beating him into submission. The simple fact of the matter was that Bill was by no means a fighter. He had no pokémon or weapons on his person; Polaris's security measures meant that someone of his rank wasn't authorized to carry any. On top of that, aside from a few self-defense lessons in college and a lifetime of watching B-rated kung fu movies, he had absolutely no unarmed combat training.

In short, he was screwed.

Silently, he let himself be led to a laboratory further down the hallway. They only saw a couple of passing scientists along the way, none of whom seemed to care much about the group. Bill couldn't blame them. All of them were focused on their own jobs and their own tasks at Polaris, so, really, the interns' entire attempt to look at all friendly was rather unnecessary in his view. Of course, he couldn't quite tell them this. All he could do was play along because it meant that, at the end of the day, he'd walk away with his body intact.

He hoped, anyway.

At the door, the intern who guided him by the arm swiped a card and proceeded through the rest of the security measures. Bill watched with mild interest. He didn't know who these people were, but he at least knew that they hadn't somehow broken in. The door swung open at that point, and he was led inside, passing through the doorway without another glance towards the first intern.

Right after the door closed behind the group, all pretenses were dropped. Bill was shoved forward, into a group of waiting hands. Almost all of them wore the lab coats and sea-green scrubs that identified them as interns. Only one of them was any different, a male security officer who stood by the door with his hands clasped behind his back. Bill only took one glance at the latter, and that sick feeling in his stomach grew a little worse.

He couldn't see much of the room thanks to how many people were crowding it. As far as he could tell, it was identical to Laboratory D, with the only difference being a tank of red water instead of a window to a concrete room. Backing up, Bill immediately recognized where he was based on that window alone.

"Laboratory F," he murmured. "This is where they keep XP-650, isn't it?"

"Very good. You know your way around Polaris Institute already."

He looked straight ahead to the source of the voice. At the opposite end of the room, a short blonde sauntered forward. One of her pale hands reached into a pocket of her lab coat, and with a fluid movement, she brought out a black PDA and slid its stylus into her opposite hand. Her purple eyes fixed on its screen as she tapped a few options.

"Now, let's see. Who are you?" she asked. "Oh! Profile match already!"

She looked up and flashed a smile at Bill. Although her face looked like a young girl's, something about that smile made Bill shudder. It was just a little too wide and showed just a bit too much of her clean, white teeth. Or perhaps it was the fact that the girl looked a little too innocent, with curly, golden pigtails caressing the sides of a round face. It reminded him of victreebel: the kind of thing that lured prey in by looking appealing just before killing them off with one swift blow.

"Don't you just love technology?" she asked, using the same tone a girl would use with her best friend. "Of course you would. It says here your specialty, other than pokémon behavior, is pokémon-related technology. I'm a big fan of that storage system of yours, Mr. McKenzie. It's a shame we can't talk about it. I know someone who'd be very interested in learning everything you could teach him. Speaking of which..."

She pocketed the device in her hands and walked forward, brushing past Bill to approach the interns behind him. Bill turned to face her, intending on reaching for her wrist, but before he could move, two of the other grunts grabbed his arms.

"Whose brilliant idea was it to grab him before identifying him?" the blonde demanded.

All three of Bill's former companions cringed. Not a single one of them said a word.

"Don't you know how valuable he could be to us? Giovanni isn't going to be happy," she snapped.

The tallest one wrung his hands. "Well, 009, ma'am, he was the first one we could grab, and you said--"

"Hmph." She turned away from the grunts. "Useless. All of you agents are useless. We can't just let him go and find a new subject because he's the kind of person who would talk, and we can't just capture him and keep him quiet because that'll be suspicious. I guess we have no other choice but to use him anyway."

At that, the girl Bill now knew as 009 turned her eyes back on him. Bill froze, noticing at once that her expression changed slightly. It wasn't the same childlike grin he'd seen on her face just a moment ago. This time, her eyes were slanted, and her mouth was pulled into a smirk. As the girl walked towards him, Bill tried to pull himself away, but the interns held him still.

"What are you talking about?" he muttered. "Use... use me for what?"

The girl chuckled. "An experiment. Don't worry. It's all in the name of science, isn't it?"

"What?"

Bill struggled, twisting his arms in an attempt to yank himself free, but every turn he made, the grunts just gripped him harder. Wincing, he doubled over and glared at the blonde, only to see an orange-haired woman approach. In her hands was a long, glass capsule with metal ends. Within the capsule, XP-650 clicked its legs against the glass, scrambling to climb up a side. As soon as he saw the creature, his eyes widened.

"Wait! What are you doing?" he asked. "Why are you doing this?"

The blonde grinned and took the capsule. "You have no idea what happens when XP-650 comes in contact with a human, do you? Of course you don't. The Committee's been keeping that kind of thing from you for reasons I can't even imagine, but allow me to let you in on a little secret of my own. Team Rocket has agents everywhere. We know a thing or two about what happens. Soon, you will, too."

Bill knew at once what she was about to do, and with that, he tried to wrench his arms free again. "No! I won't let you! You won't get away with this!"

She arched a golden eyebrow and straightened. "'You won't get away with this'? Are you serious? What, do you think you're some kind of hero in a cheesy science-fiction movie? Oh, we'll get away with it, all right. In no time at all, you're going to be Team Rocket property. We've already got all the arrangements set to transport you out of the complex when the time's right. And who knows? If you keep your sanity after everything you're about to go through, Giovanni will even get the keys to the Storage and Retrieval System, so I think we could consider this a win for our side, couldn't we?"

Growling, he kicked the shin of one of the men gripping his arm. The grunt snorted, smiled, and responded by stomping Bill's foot. Right then, Bill was reminded of why he didn't try struggling as he was led there: the larger the opponent, the more painful it would be to get the crap beaten out of him. At just the foot stomp, Bill gritted his teeth and let loose a strained cry. His body leaned forward, but the grunts held his arms tightly enough to keep him upright. The burning pain that was developing in his shoulders as a result was only adding to the excruciating one in his foot. He shut his eyes tightly as his leg began to throb. Briefly, he wondered if his foot was broken, and if that was the case, that was certainly not going to make escaping any easier.

He realized a second too late that the pain was a distraction. Opening his eyes again, he found the orange-haired girl right in front of him. Her hands yanked his lab coat open, tore off his ascot, and let the scarf flutter to the floor. Behind her, 009 flicked her wrist and allowed a black tulip to slip into her free hand. The other hand held the capsule out for an aqua-haired man to grab. As soon as the capsule was out of her hand, she turned her gaze to the side and hid her mouth behind the flower's black petals.

"Cassidy," she scolded, "what are you waiting for? We've got a mission, and you know how the boss doesn't like to clean up potential messes."

The orange-haired girl huffed and frowned. Then, with a quick motion, she ripped open Bill's shirt and shoved him backwards. To his sides, the men holding him went with the movement, eventually pinning Bill to the tiled floor by his shoulders. Bill screamed and thrashed, which only prompted more hands to reach out and hold him down to the floor. In the meantime, the aqua-haired man moved to position the capsule over Bill's bare chest. Upon feeling its cold, metal surface, Bill shivered and tried to squirm out of the way, but he knew it was no use now.

"Scream all you want, Mr. McKenzie," 009 told him cheerfully. "That's what I really like about this place. It's so off-the-hook, isn't it? The walls are so thick and the doors so secure that you can scream and scream and not bother anyone! It's so exciting and secretive, don't you think?"

The man holding the capsule in place pressed a button on its base. Bill felt the opening in the bottom slide open. His breathing grew rapid as he felt something move across his skin.

Please, he thought. Please no please no please no...

What he felt next was pain. It was like feeling a large, hot needle getting jammed into his chest. It was like sticking a hand into a nest of rabid beedrill. It was like getting molten lava pumped into the veins.

Bill was certain he screamed because he could feel his throat vibrate. He even saw several of the people around him flinch. It was just that he was too terrified to let it register that he screamed. But by the end of it, he was lying there, breathing heavily and unable to get up. The pain dulled after a short time, but it was still there.

He could feel it moving under his skin.

The hands released him, but he didn't get up. Suddenly, he felt too weak to even move. All he could do was stare wide-eyed at the ceiling while the people above him moved out of the way. 009's face floated into view, and before he knew it, she was kneeling next to him.

"Now, this next part is really going to hurt," she told him. "I'll tell you what, though. I'm going to be nice because Giovanni doesn't like it when his property gets damaged. So, before you do anything to yourself or anyone around you, I'm going to put you to sleep for a while. Okay?"

Naturally, Bill didn't answer. He barely moved his eyes to look at her.

She smiled. "Great. Good night!"

009 placed the blossom by his nose and squeezed the stem between her fingers. A cloud of blue, glittering spores puffed out of the flower, and although Bill would have easily identified it as an extract of Sleep Powder had he been fully aware, he still did nothing except lie there and allow himself to breathe it in. As soon as she saw the small, blue cloud disappear, 009 stood.

"Already taking orders. I can tell this is going to be a wonderful relationship," she said. "Well, don't just stand there! Make this look like an accident! And you. We're gonna need a code red out there. Some idiot intern dropped the container, and XP-650 escaped! Go!"

As the crowds of Team Rocket grunts filtered towards the door, Bill's head began to swim. His vision blurred, and it seemed to be made worse as he felt himself being picked up. The people who were moving him quickly turned into blurs and then faded into shadows. Slowly but surely, every inch of him went numb. Part of him wanted to fight it, to stay awake and maybe stop the thing from crawling deeper inside him, but he knew that he had just as much a choice in the matter as he had since he was ambushed outside the bathroom: none at all.

Instead, he could only let his head fall back and his limbs go limp as his consciousness slipped away.
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Old June 20th, 2010, 02:41 AM
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Hey, very good fanfic, however, there was jus one grammatical error that I noticed

Quote:
and with a fluid movement, she brought out a black PDA, and with a fluid movement, she brought out a black PDA
you said the same thing twice XD

p.s: Could you send me a notification when each new chapter is relased
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Old June 20th, 2010, 06:38 AM
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Excellent! ¬.¬ I know I'm not supposed to be posting yet, but what the hey. I saw you posted a redux version and since I followed the original I thought maybe I'd check out the changes.

Anyway yeah, except for that one grammar mistake pointed out by Ruin Maniac, I couldn't really see anything, nor did I expect to.

The plot's moving along fine; I see you changed that entire invasion of Polaris sequence (or did I imagine that?). I like Bill's reaction in the first chapter. It's realistic and it's the kind of thing you can relate to.

Also,
Quote:
With one of his large hands, he gave Bill a firm pat on the shoulder, nearly knocking him off his feet in the process.
I can't really see Oak doing this to Bill. Maybe to Ash, but not to Bill. Maybe it's because I haven't watched the anime in years, but I can't imagine it.

Quote:
Professor Fig
Lol.

Quote:
"All right. Perhaps it is," he murmured. "Haven't you seen worse? What about the grimer mating rituals or the cubone mourning process? Why are you reacting like this now?"
I know that was supposed to be disgusting, but it really doesn't sound that bad.And no, I'm not they type of person to use the internet for that thing in that one lulzy Avenue Q song. I'd say this part was a bit narm-ish to be honest.

Quote:
college and a lifetime of watching B-rated kung fu movies, he had absolutely no unarmed combat training.
As a matter of interest, is kung-fu hyphenated?

Finally, keep it up; I'll be watching the thread. XD
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Old June 20th, 2010, 07:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruin Maniac View Post
you said the same thing twice XD
See, this is why I post my fanfic everywhere I can. I'm all right at picking out other people's grammatical errors but can't for the life of me pick out my own. XD Thanks.

Also, sure, I'd be happy to send you a notification.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mizan de la Plume Kuro View Post
I know I'm not supposed to be posting yet,
Wait, what? XD

Quote:
The plot's moving along fine; I see you changed that entire invasion of Polaris sequence (or did I imagine that?).
Yeah, I did. I just couldn't get it to work. I mean, Domino's a lot more secretive than that, and I couldn't explain how Team Rocket would be allowed to just stick around. So, it ended up being changed to, "Whoops! Kidnapping!"

Quote:
I like Bill's reaction in the first chapter. It's realistic and it's the kind of thing you can relate to.
Thanks.

Quote:
Also, I can't really see Oak doing this to Bill. Maybe to Ash, but not to Bill. Maybe it's because I haven't watched the anime in years, but I can't imagine it.
Yeah, from what I can recall, the Professor Oak in the anime tends to be extremely light-hearted. To an older researcher like Elm, he wouldn't, but because Bill's only a few years older than Ash (*hand-motions to a vague number of years*) and, in my head-canon, was actually Oak's intern/apprentice/whatever at one point, I can't help but imagine Oak being particularly friendly with him.

That and this is the same Oak that thought this was a good idea:



So, I don't know. It was meant to preserve Oak's jovial side more than anything else and to establish the fact that they are on familiar terms with each other.

(Also, this entire explanation was not just an excuse to use that GIF.)

On the other hand, he does acknowledge the fact that Bill's a person who should be taken seriously, so I'll play around with that part a bit.

Quote:
Lol.
I refuse to ditch that name. If I ever write an OT story, Professor Fig will be the starting professor, and he will be awesome.

Quote:
I know that was supposed to be disgusting, but it really doesn't sound that bad.
Believe it or not, but it actually wasn't supposed to be. It was actually supposed to be rather funny completely because it's Bill who's saying it. (To help out, Bill's a prude.) On top of that, while Bill is trying to be completely serious, what he's actually saying... isn't entirely. This is in part because he's still thinking on the level of the anime (which is full of narm) and in part because he's trying to get himself to calm down.

Also, it sets up for the phrase "cubone mourning process." Because you're probably laughing at the idea of Grimer mating (or at least feeling it's a bit jarring), you're probably a touch too distracted to think too deeply about what that second phrase means or why Bill, who's apparently seen everything when it comes to Pokémon, considers it one of the most shocking practices in nature.

Or maybe you do, and it's still not that bad. *shrug*

Quote:
As a matter of interest, is kung-fu hyphenated?
Strangely enough, Googling it (and Wikipediaing it) gives me an unhyphenated phrase except in one instance. I say "strangely enough" here because I thought it was hyphenated too until I went to look it up.

Quote:
Finally, keep it up; I'll be watching the thread. XD
Thanks! Good to see you again. =D

I will, eventually, sit down to read your fic as well.
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Old June 20th, 2010, 04:13 PM
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Le gasp, a rewrite! :o Maybe I can actually read this fic and not get scared away/distracted by sixty other books or anime series now. That said, I couldn't find any grammar issues, so props on that.

However, I will say that I haven't ever seen a mating ritual that seriously disturbed me, and animated sludge intertwining doesn't sound like something that would traumatize me. Of course, Bill may just be tossing out random things to calm himself (which might be totally plausible in anime canon, I wouldn't know), but still.

Also, I've got a professor with the surname Driftwood, so there's been worse.
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Old June 20th, 2010, 09:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Giratina ♀ View Post
Le gasp, a rewrite! :o Maybe I can actually read this fic and not get scared away/distracted by sixty other books or anime series now.
XD Totally okay. I've yet to sit down and read the rest of Wings Have We. Or your new fic. 'Cause, you know, I'm totally not being distracted by other shiny objects. *clears throat*

Quote:
However, I will say that I haven't ever seen a mating ritual that seriously disturbed me, and animated sludge intertwining doesn't sound like something that would traumatize me. Of course, Bill may just be tossing out random things to calm himself (which might be totally plausible in anime canon, I wouldn't know), but still.
Yeah, again, about the mating ritual, there's just a few things to remember there:

1. Yep, this is mostly anime canon, so characters really are used to things being mostly happy bunnies that just magically produce eggs. Which actually might explain why Bill's having such a violent reaction in the first place, despite being a behavioral researcher whose portfolio includes running around, pretending to be the preevolution of an ancient blood-sucking killer.

2. Bill's a prude.

3. The phrase isn't meant to be taken seriously, as is the rest of the scene. (I mean, the fic's not that serious just yet, guys. A chapter later, Bill's train of thought goes on to reference the fact that his combat training involves watching kung fu movies.)

4. It's setting up for the "cubone mourning process" bit with the hope that the narm would add a bit of a fridge horror feeling to that part. In other words, it's a distraction from the whole list of things that are wrong with that phrase. For convenience's sake, it's below:

Spoiler:
- According to various 'dexes, the skull Cubone wears is its mother's. Additionally, I could've sworn something said that the bone it carries is also from the mother Cubone/Marowak. This means Bill watched a Cubone dissect its own mother.

- This wouldn't be so bad... except, chances are, the Cubone and mother weren't exactly anywhere near anything sharp enough to cut into the body of a corpse. (Marowak's bone is dull on both ends. You could probably do it with a Cubone bone if it's sharp enough, but let's assume it isn't.) That means either Bill watched a Cubone rip open its dead mother with claws/teeth (which might also imply that the Cubone ate parts of its own mother in order to get to the bones) or that Bill watched a Cubone wait by the corpse of its mother until it rotted enough to be dealt with. I'll let you figure out which one it was, keeping in mind that Bill considers this one of the most disturbing things he's seen a Pokémon do. (Here's a hint: If you guess any single option, you're wrong.)

- Non-traumatic meta bonus points: Bill does his research indoors. Grimer of opposite genders are easy to get. A Cubone and its dead Marowak mother aren't. What does this say about Bill?
-- Bonus bonus points: For that matter, considering Bill's research method is primarily donning costumes and pretending to be the Pokémon he's observing... yeah. (Granted, I never said whether or not this was a field experiment, but it's a possibility to think about.)


In other words, it was mostly supposed to be a distraction for the tons of possibilities in the phrase that came after it. I'm not sure what conclusions you drew from the Cubone thing, but if you didn't draw anything, the phrase did its job.

Still, while I can't quite promise that what he really saw wouldn't make it any less narmy, this was what Bill was looking at for the sake of the curious:

Spoiler:
2 Girls 1 Cup, only with two Grimer and no cups.

It's not disturbing until you try to watch the 2g1c video itself and think about how this might produce a baby. (No, I did not do this myself.)
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Old June 21st, 2010, 07:04 PM
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Really don't know how long I've been meaning to read this, but I guess now that the revamp is under way it's as good a time as any!

Unlike the others I did notice a few little slip-ups here and there, but I'm not at all surprised to see that the number is nice and small.

Quote:
but the small, red beads that flowed towards him were already washing against his legs. Small mouths tore into his legs.
You might want to replace one of those "legs" with something else, maybe "limbs"; it seems a little repetitive otherwise.

Quote:
Polaris Institute existed before Project Stardust, but then, it mostly centered around technology
I don't think you need that comma after "then". Right now it looks like you mean "but then again" as opposed to "but at that time". Actually, "but at that time/but back then" might be clearer still.

Quote:
To receive praise from Oak was the ultimate affirmation for a pokémon researcher. Criticism, that one had a long way to go.
Given the structure of the first sentence, are you sure you don't mean "Criticism meant that one had a long way to go"? I don't think it's parallel to the first sentence as is. Could be wrong depending on how that was to be interpreted, but it still seems a smidge awkward.

Quote:
At just the foot stomp, Bill gritted his teeth, bent over, and let loose a straining cry.
"Strained", perhaps.

Quote:
Bill was certain he screamed because he could feel his throat vibrate in a scream.
Repetitive again.

Quote:
I'm going to put you to sleep for awhile.
It's "a while"; "awhile" is an adverb.

I haven't actually read AEM before (am I the only commenter so far who hasn't? :p), though I'll admit that I've spoiled myself somewhat by reading a few of the info pages on your website and do have a general idea of the direction that this will be taking. That said, I wasn't expecting XP-494 to find its way into Bill's body as quickly as it did; this faster pace is probably going to turn out to be more interesting than what I'd been anticipating. I definitely look forward to seeing what happens to poor Bill when he wakes up with that parasite still very much inside him. Domino's "this will hurt" comment seems to point toward some funtiems there. :)

I do have a slightly off-topic question: where did you get that Bill's last name is McKenzie? Is that some animé or perhaps manga convention that I don't know about because I don't follow either, or did you make that up? Just curious.

Now I wish I hadn't waited so long to start reading this, heh. Then again, if this is a "revamp" then it's due to be even better than the older versions I could've read, so maybe it's for the best. Regardless, I look forward to seeing the next chapters.

(Thanks for the friend request, by the way!)
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Old June 22nd, 2010, 06:56 AM
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First off, thanks for pointing out all those errors. I'll go back and correct them later, but right now, I'll just have to say that repetition is actually a serious weak point for me. It's cool to have someone notice when I trip up on that kind of thing because I normally don't.

As for the rest...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Delusions of Originality View Post
I haven't actually read AEM before (am I the only commenter so far who hasn't? :p),
I think Ruin's the only other one. The other three are stalkers.

Quote:
I do have a slightly off-topic question: where did you get that Bill's last name is McKenzie? Is that some animé or perhaps manga convention that I don't know about because I don't follow either, or did you make that up? Just curious.
Time for Jax's Happy Fun Story Minute!

It actually came from the Pokémon site sponsored by Nintendo/The Pokémon Company. Way back in the day (around 2002 and earlier), Pokémon.com/Pokémon World... whatever you want to call it had pretty bad episode summaries. The content was vague, no one bothered to copy-edit anything, and to top it all off, it had this weird tendency to take the franchise's Japanese names and anglicize them, even though these same characters already had their actual dub names revealed in the US. For example, Lt. Surge was listed as Marcus to match his Japanese name of Matis. Cinnabar Island was called Glen Island, which came from Guren Island. Meanwhile, for "Mystery at the Lighthouse," it referred to Bill as "the Pokémon researcher, McKenzie" (stemming vaguely from Bill's Japanese name, Masaki). Back then, I thought that sounded pretty cool, so I picked it up and decided to use it as Bill's surname. The site was eventually corrected in 2003/4, but I've been keeping McKenzie around ever since.

If we ignore that site, though, Bill actually has no canonical last name (except in the Japanese version), so while I didn't quite make it up myself, it's also not in reference to any particular universe.

Quote:
Then again, if this is a "revamp" then it's due to be even better than the older versions I could've read, so maybe it's for the best.
Yeah, it really is. XD The first version, the one linked in the first post, had much slower pacing and unwieldy chapters. While Lanette was introduced in chapter six of the original (not a spoiler if you happen to know me), the revamp's up to chapter ten and still hasn't reached her. However, the original was also notorious for chapters that were frequently fifteen pages long and over and riddled with awkward moments, so... yeah.

Meanwhile, version 2 (on Serebii and FFNet currently and half of which is on The BBS right now) is similar to this version, but it had a pretty massive plot hole that was still unresolved from the first version. Namely, Team Rocket actually revealed themselves and destroyed half of Polaris Institute within the first two chapters, and this becomes a plot hole in that there's no real follow-up investigation to get rid of the remaining Rocket forces in the complex. I guess you could have argued that Rockets were controlling security, but considering the legions of good guys, it was just easier to bulldoze that and rewrite the beginning of the story for version 3 (this one).

Long story short, yeah, you're not missing much by joining in now. XD

Quote:
(Thanks for the friend request, by the way!)
No problem. Thanks for accepting, for the review, and for wanting to see more of this fic.

Speaking of which, the next chapter will be up tonight. Just going to be busy a bit for the day in the meantime.
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Old June 22nd, 2010, 04:24 PM
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Quote:
I think Ruin's the only other one. The other three are stalkers.
I read one and a half chapters on Serebii...?

Also, knowing the sadistic tendencies of my mind towards characters, I kinda figured that the Cubone would sort of wander around in the area near its mother for a few months (maybe a year, I don't know much about decomposition) until bones were pretty much all that was left. At that point it would scavenge the mommy's bones because it's a good melodramatic little Cubone... or it would rip its ma apart, take a bone, sharpen it to a point, and whack people with it if it's a bad melodramatic little Cubone.

...I don't think they really covered Pokémon breeding at all in the anime, did they? XD
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Old June 22nd, 2010, 06:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Giratina ♀ View Post
I read one and a half chapters on Serebii...?
Still counts. XD

As for the death bit, I probably didn't go too far into detail with it (which means your explanation could be just as right as mine), but I was personally thinking that given how melodramatic Cubone was, it stayed by its mother to mourn for that period. As in, without leaving her side. Which means it probably found sustenance by, um, yeah. Also, the fact that Bill was observing this should imply a lot about him if you think about it. (The best case scenario is you'll assume he was just lucky and happened across a dead Marowak during his time doing research on the field. The worst case is you'll remember that this is the anime canon we're talking about. The one who normally wears costumes to understand how a Pokémon behaves. I'm not sure what conclusions you might draw from that, but let's just say it was completely intentional that Bill listed that experience.)

Also, yeah, they really didn't cover breeding in the anime... despite, you know, Brock trying to be a breeder and all. XD


Anyway, as promised, the next chapter:

Anima Ex Machina: Three
If you come across Pandora's Box, don't open it.


The alarms were still blaring when 009 darted into her apartment in the Outer Ring of Polaris Institute. She had already shifted command over to her mole in security; now, she had more important things to worry about. Shutting the door behind her, she ran down the small hallway and into a side room. Inside was a fairly modest space with a cot and a dresser against the far wall. Without hesitation, she rushed for the dresser and placed her hands on the knobs on the face of one of its drawers. Before she could pull it open, however, she suddenly heard a cough.

Slowly, she straightened. She peeked over her shoulder to see Professor Nettle standing in the doorway of the room. The woman's arms were crossed, and her mouth was contracted into a small frown.

"Professor Nettle!" 009 gasped. "How did you get in here?!"

"Sloppy work, Black Tulip, especially for you," the scientist replied. "You failed to lock your door just now."

"Hmph!"

009 pulled the drawer open. She didn't say anything. Instead, she simply pulled a black case out from under neatly folded clothes. Nettle narrowed her eyes at the other woman's lack of response.

"What I don't understand," she said, "is why you felt the need to stage all of this in the first place. Why would you call our forces in security to sound a false alarm?"

Tossing the black case on her cot, 009 busied herself with opening it and drawing from its depths a manila envelope. At Nettle's question, she glanced over her shoulder.

"Headquarters didn't notify you?" she asked.

Nettle quirked an eyebrow. "Of what?"

"Giovanni must not trust you that much." Turning, 009 slipped a hand into the envelope and pulled from it a photo. "The Stardust Operation is for gathering intelligence, but my mission, the Polaris Operation, is a bit different. I was sent here to collect this."

Walking forward, she handed the photo to Nettle. Glancing at it, the scientist saw the image of a creature crouched on all fours on a cement floor. Even though the image was black-and-white, the thing was the palest object in the room. Crystal spikes jutted out of its back, tracing along its spine and down a tail that ended in a glassy arrowhead. Straight, white hair draped across the back and around the wrists of the creature. Locks of it pooled around the pair of rounded horns on its head and fell in front of its face. The tips of the creature's hair, meanwhile, brushed long claws on both its hands and three-toed feet.

"XP-650B," she said as she handed the photo back. "I already know about this. My operation hasn't collected nearly enough data concerning it, however. We've been blocked from further observation thanks to the Committee's concerns over human experimentation." She narrowed her eyes. "Surely our leader already understands we wouldn't know what to do with one of these things if we captured one."

Placing the photo on the dresser, 009 flicked her free wrist to let a black-petaled tulip slide into her hand. "Giovanni doesn't care. He wants this and the A form, and he'll figure out the rest in our own laboratories, beyond the Committee's reach. I'm surprised he never notified you of my mission. That says a lot about his opinion of you. Then again, he gave you the Stardust Operation to run, and he's highly disappointed in your lack of results."

Nettle smirked. "Or perhaps he realizes that one should never send in a team leader to do a grunt's job. You misunderstood my question, 009. You assume I don't know about Operation Polaris, but I asked you why you staged the attack, not why you're here. Now that Polaris Institute is aware of the possibility that XP-650A can escape, everyone will be keeping a sharper eye on it. How do you propose to complete your mission now?"

Frowning, the Black Tulip replied, "Now, you're underestimating the organization, Professor Nettle. Our operatives have a hand everywhere. We can slip in and out of this place easily, regardless of how well-guarded it is."

In response to her claim, Nettle turned her head slightly and stared at the Black Tulip from the corner of her eye. The blonde noticed the scientist's skeptical look and responded with a huff.

"Instead of questioning me, why don't you make yourself useful and ensure that our agents secure XP-650A? Operatives on the chemistry team have told me that the green substance in that test rattata you used today was actually a cluster of eggs. I'm certain the little cuties will be hatching shortly, and with the number of eggs that were laid, who's going to miss one tiny specimen out of hundreds? Our agents will rendezvous with you tonight outside of Laboratory F. Act like you're bringing them in to brief them on tomorrow's experiment and—"

"And make the exact same mistake you have?"

009 arched her eyebrows but then scowled. Her hand swung up and pointed the head of the flower at Nettle. In response, the scientist merely smirked, slipped her hands into her pockets, and watched the blossom spark electricity.

"I know what I'm doing," 009 drawled. "Why don't you leave worrying about how to smuggle XP-650A and B out of the institute to me and follow my orders?"

"Because you forget my place in the organization," Nettle replied. "As far as you're concerned, if you work in a Rocket-run laboratory, you answer to me, not the other way around."

009 lowered her tulip and glared at Nettle. She couldn't argue with the scientist's statement when it was absolutely true.

Grinning at the surrender, Nettle shrugged. "However, for the sake of a potential Rocket victory, I'll humor you and follow your suggestion. Whatever failures come from this are your responsibility, not mine. Do you understand?"

The agent gripped the stem of her flower until it burst into a shower of sparks. She didn't seem to notice. "I understand."

"Good." Turning away, Nettle was about to head for the door when she stopped. "By the way, for the sake of curiosity, whom did you choose to become XP-650's host?"

"You should know him very well. McKenzie, from the psychology team."

Nettle laughed. "I don't know whether to congratulate you or pity you. Our leader will be thrilled to know you infected one of the few people in this complex we were explicitly told not to touch."

With that, she walked out of the room, leaving 009 to glower at her back.

---

Oak stood in front of his desk in his office. His dark eyes were fixed on the wall-sized screen behind it. There, he saw a black-and-white clip of a young, dark-haired woman in a hospital gown. She was seated on a bed at the far end of an otherwise empty room, and her shoulder was exposed to reveal the glistening parasite. At first, it was simply a shot of her, swaying as she tried to remain conscious, but then, the clip cut abruptly to the image of the woman with her head craned back and several scientists gathered around her. One of them attempted to stick her with a long needle, but her flailing arms knocked the syringe flying. Pale crystals burst from her skin, letting the scraps hang in bloody flaps from her shoulders.

The clip cut again. This time, her hair had fallen out, and a pair of rounded horns jutted out of her skull. Her entire body took on a shimmering coat of ice, interrupted every so often by a crystal spike. The creature's thin arms wrapped around her naked body as she shivered and opened her mouth in a silent scream. A few more men in lab coats immediately responded by gathering around her. Their bodies shielded most of her from view, save for the limbs that flashed above their heads.

Suddenly, the girl sat with long, pale hair shielding her pallid face. Behind her, a tail flicked back and forth. The patient sat perched with her knees hugged tightly to her chest and her clawed feet curled around the edge of the bed. After a few seconds, a scientist appeared in the side of the shot with his back turned towards the camera. His hands moved as if he was speaking with her, to which she responded by lifting her head.

In the next instant, no one was on the bed, and the scientist had disappeared. Something dark sprayed across the lens of the camera, partially obscuring the image of the room.

Then, a mouth with a pair of long fangs appeared in the shot, followed by a split-second shot of a claw. Static followed, the only sound that broke the long silence.

Eventually, a new image appeared on the screen: one of five silhouettes sitting at a long desk. The Committee.

Its full name was hardly ever used by its members, and no one else who knew about its presence ever felt the need to know what it was. All anyone knew was that it was simply a board of individuals who oversaw the funding and activity of government-sponsored scientific endeavors. In other words, they were the ones currently in charge of Project Stardust: monitoring all operations, collecting all information, and deciding the best choice of action based on the research they received. They funded the efforts, summoned each scientist, and most importantly, watched each designated research facility carefully.

So, several hours after Bill was discovered and the interns were questioned about the apparent accident (the story being that one of the interns had dropped XP-650's carrying case in the hallway and that Bill had accidentally gotten in its way), Professor Oak called them to explain the situation and seek advice. He expected to be reprimanded or even dismissed from his position. However, he only got as far as informing them about Bill and XP-650 when the Committee calmly showed him the video of Pandora.

"XP-650B," the center silhouette said. "Codename Pandora, a former intern at the Valencia Institute of Science in the Orange Islands. Shortly after this video was taken, she killed half the staff and destroyed most of the complex before escaping. Valencia Institute was shut down, and the survivors are currently housed in one of the National Defense Forces' bases to be given therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder. We refuse to have that happen again."

Furrowing his eyebrows, Oak meditated briefly on the name. That wasn't the first time she'd heard a designation like that. Typically, when a pokémon species lacked an official name, the Pokémon Symposium simply referred to it as XP, followed by its number in the National Dex. Therefore, XP-650 literally meant "Unidentified Pokémon #650," the first entry after the most recently documented legendary pokémon Genesect. Letters at the end of such designations, Oak recalled, usually indicated alternate forms: A for the first, B for the second, and so on. The practice was rare; only a handful of pokémon were documented in this manner prior to receiving their official names, with rotom being the last case. If the pokémon Oak knew as XP-650 was only the A form with the one in the video being its B form, Oak wondered how many other forms this single creature possessed.

"Why weren't we told about this?" Oak whispered.

The leader sighed. "We have very little information about it other than what I have just told you. XP-650B has the potential of becoming an uncontrollable beast. Valencia made the mistake of not taking caution in handling Pandora. Do not follow their example with this researcher you described to us."

Oak swallowed. Naturally, his thoughts wandered back to Bill. He tried to imagine his junior slipping into a violent rampage, but it didn't quite fit in his mind. For that reason, he laughed nervously.

"But this is Bill we're talking about," he said. "He's a pacifist. He wouldn't intentionally hurt anyone."

His superior shook his head. "It will not matter. Soon, XP-650 will invade his body and alter his thought processes. Should he survive the transformation, he will not be the same person you know. You must remove the parasite quickly. If you fail, then you must take heavy precaution. Sedatives, restraints, and increased security, Professor."

Oak's smile faded. "Isn't that all a bit much?"

"If anything, it may be too little to keep your staff safe. XP-650B is a powerful creature that should not be taken lightly," the leader replied. "Nonetheless, killing him is not an option. This is the second time a member of Project Stardust has been infected. We must use this opportunity to find out how and why to fully understand what we are facing. Perhaps then we may be able to find a way to stop or reverse the transformation."

Oak listened carefully and nodded once the Committee finished. "I understand."

The leader straightened. "Additionally, we will send you all of the reports salvaged from Valencia to establish your base of information. In the meantime, we request that your reports designate this Bill of yours as Codename Adam to protect his identity once we begin chronicling your reports. We had hoped that we could learn the secrets of the parasite without resorting to a violation of the Nuremberg Code, but perhaps it may be impossible if we wish to continue our work on XP-650. For that, we sincerely apologize. All of the institutions have a right to know, yours especially but also Sinnoh's and Johto's as well."

Sinnoh's and Johto's as well, Oak thought. …Oh no.

At once, the professor remembered the victim's family. Frowning, he looked away. Bill wasn't the only researcher in the McKenzie clan, and even worse, hadn't Bill once mentioned that his father was lending his own talents to Project Stardust?

"Professor?" the Committee inquired.

Shaking himself back into reality, Oak responded, "I understand, but there's something else that's bothering me. Bill's father, John McKenzie – he's a member of Project Stardust with the Johto branch. Shouldn't we at least tell him?"

The Committee leader nodded. "Tell him whatever you wish, but there must be victim confidentiality otherwise. If he agrees to it, we may begin processing a transfer so that he may work under you. We would suspect that he would be interested in working directly with Codename Adam."

Oak nodded. "Thank you. I'll tell him as soon as I can."

"Very well," the leader replied. "Remember, we will take special interest in Polaris from now onward. Very rarely have we been able to study XP-650B. The first and last instance was Pandora, who had completely surprised us with both her generation and her behavior. We can only emphasize that if a similar reaction occurs every time XP-650A comes in contact with a human being, it should be quite obvious that maintaining Adam's captivity at this moment is of the utmost importance."

"Yes. I understand."

"Very good."

Before Oak could say anything else, the call cut off, and the screen faded to complete black. Oak stared at the dark screen for a long while before turning to the rest of his office. With shaking steps, he made his way around the desk, pulled out the chair behind it, and dropped himself into his seat. Leaning back, he sighed and wiped his forehead.

"I'm getting too old for this," he muttered to himself.
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  #14    
Old June 22nd, 2010, 06:55 PM
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Delusions of Originality
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Just one typo I happened to catch this time.

Quote:
She had already shifted command over her mole in security;
"Over to", perhaps?

Quote:
Time for Jax's Happy Fun Story Minute!

It actually came from the Pokémon site sponsored by Nintendo/The Pokémon Company. Way back in the day (around 2002 and earlier), Pokémon.com/Pokémon World... whatever you want to call it had pretty bad episode summaries. The content was vague, no one bothered to copy-edit anything, and to top it all off, it had this weird tendency to take the franchise's Japanese names and anglicize them, even though these same characters already had their actual dub names revealed in the US. For example, Lt. Surge was listed as Marcus to match his Japanese name of Matis. Cinnabar Island was called Glen Island, which came from Guren Island. Meanwhile, for "Mystery at the Lighthouse," it referred to Bill as "the Pokémon researcher, McKenzie" (stemming vaguely from Bill's Japanese name, Masaki). Back then, I thought that sounded pretty cool, so I picked it up and decided to use it as Bill's surname. The site was eventually corrected in 2003/4, but I've been keeping McKenzie around ever since.

If we ignore that site, though, Bill actually has no canonical last name (except in the Japanese version), so while I didn't quite make it up myself, it's also not in reference to any particular universe.
I see. I have learned something today!

I didn't expect Nettle to be part of Team Rocket. Heck, I was almost picturing her as grudgingly coming around to appreciate Bill and even like him (well, before he went and got all infested by chapter two)... there goes that theory. It is interesting to see that there's someone who can actually intimidate her, too.

Incidentally, have you read Saffire Persian's Dividing the Bones? That's what I was imagining when you mentioned the cubone bit. *shrug* Not quite what Bill saw, I guess, and I doubt a human would ever get to observe those particular cubone/marowak, but that's what it reminded me of. Hm.

Eagerly awaiting the rest!
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  #15    
Old June 23rd, 2010, 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Delusions of Originality View Post
Just one typo I happened to catch this time.

"Over to", perhaps?
Thanks. Not sure how I missed that, actually. It's within the first line of the chapter. O_o

Quote:
I didn't expect Nettle to be part of Team Rocket. Heck, I was almost picturing her as grudgingly coming around to appreciate Bill and even like him (well, before he went and got all infested by chapter two)... there goes that theory. It is interesting to see that there's someone who can actually intimidate her, too.
Yep. Domino is just that much of a badass.

Also, you're not the first person to say that about Nettle, and I actually have to thank you and the others for it. I always thought as I was developing her character that Nettle would be too obvious -- like she was so much of a ***** readers would automatically suspect that something was up with her. Turns out, people just think she's a *****. XD

Quote:
Incidentally, have you read Saffire Persian's Dividing the Bones? That's what I was imagining when you mentioned the cubone bit. *shrug* Not quite what Bill saw, I guess, and I doubt a human would ever get to observe those particular cubone/marowak, but that's what it reminded me of. Hm.
I've actually read that several years ago, so I sort of forgot that it existed. XD Which is a shame because it's a beautiful fic, so I get the feeling I should reread it to remember what exactly happened in it.

However, that's not entirely where the fridge horror was meant to be. I've been asking you (general you here) these questions and giving you hints to see if you'd be able to pick up on something I said. Admittedly, I'm not entirely certain if it's terribly OOC of me to do it this way (or if I'll be able to pull it off as well as I want), which is why I didn't actually say outright what happened there. However, let me just lay out what I intended on getting you to imagine behind this fancy spoiler tag:

Spoiler:
1. It's true that the Cubone claws out its mother's bones to use as a club. It's also true that the Cubone hollows out its mother's skull to use as a helmet. This happens sometime after her death, which either involves waiting for long periods of time or the Cubone eating parts of its own mother to expedite the process a little.

2. I've dropped a lot of hints that this Bill is primarily from the anime's continuum. He's a bit of a cocktail (considering the fact that he invented the storage system), sure, but green hair + polite mannerisms + lighthouse + the fact that he researches behavior = anime.

3. In that continuum, Bill wears costumes to pretend to be the Pokémon he's studying. For the most part, at least.

4. Notice how I said earlier that it's easy to get a pair of Grimer but not easy to get a Cubone and its dead mother? I'm going to just do a bit of Word of God here and say that, yes, the Grimer mating rituals were observed in a field study (by accident). This is because sex doesn't take months to happen, so he really could have observed that in action without having to follow Grimer for months. (That and, as I've said before, Bill is a prude, which means he doesn't get that kind of pleasure out of wearing costumes, if you know what I mean.)

5. Cubone, meanwhile, would actually require him to devote an entire project to observing the mourning rituals alone, rather than study the species as a whole. The reason why is because depending on how you think Cubone mourn their mothers, this could take anywhere from a day to months of observations.

6. Which means we go back to the costume idea.

7. Which means Bill made a Cubone costume and tried to emulate the Cubone to understand it better.

8. Which means Bill inflicted psychological trauma on himself for science.

9. Which should tell you something about Bill's sanity from the outset, if it doesn't make you wonder how exactly this trauma happened and how he emulated Cubone's behavior.

10. Incidentally, he would have to do something similar to this frequently because this is his research method. (Although now you know why I had to do a bit of Word-of-Goding up there.)

11. Which means Bill should go from the innocent, mild-mannered geek he appears to be in the rest of the narration to something much less stable before he's even infected. (Assuming you've thought deeply enough about that phrase to start asking questions about it.) Yes, this will come into play later, and yes, this isn't the first time the narration implied that Bill's not exactly stable.

The narm-like bit was just meant to prevent you from thinking too deeply about the way this continuum works, but I get the feeling the phrase itself might need a bit of fine-tuning if people didn't arrive to the "he was wearing a costume when he did this" conclusion.
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  #16    
Old June 23rd, 2010, 10:17 AM
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Very good chapter, getting to be one of my favourites since He Who Must not Be Named by Citrinin

Just one thing that really stuck in my head

Quote:
This time, her hair had fallen out, and a pair of rounded horns jutted out of her skull
Nothing wrong with that. But then...

Quote:
Suddenly, the girl sat with long, pale hair shielding her pallid face
Just thought i would point that out for you.

Quote:
I'm an elite officer, and you're just a Rocket scientist. I know what I'm doing
Never guessed that Nettle was a Rocket.I just thought she was one of those uptight characters who may be stiff and snappy but still mean the best.

P.S: You forgot to pm me about the new chapter XD
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Old June 23rd, 2010, 10:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Ruin Maniac View Post
Very good chapter, getting to be one of my favourites since He Who Must not Be Named by Citrinin
Thanks. =D

Quote:
Just one thing that really stuck in my head

Nothing wrong with that. But then...

Just thought i would point that out for you.
This was actually intentional. Time lapsed between that first shot and that second one. I probably didn't make it clear enough, but whenever you see the word "suddenly" or whenever the clip cuts, it indicates that parts of the video are actually missing and that we don't get to know what happens between one part of the footage and the next.

Quote:
P.S: You forgot to pm me about the new chapter XD
Sorry about that. XD It was late when I posted it, so I was completely out of it.
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  #18    
Old June 23rd, 2010, 12:43 PM
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Oh sorry, my bad, i'm not really a very good critic as I havent really written or commented on a fanfic.

Oh, and no problem, don't really mind as I caught it before chapter 4 anyway
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Old June 25th, 2010, 10:56 AM
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Totally okay. Everyone gets tripped up about something in a fic now and then.


Also...

Anima Ex Machina: Four
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.


There was no such thing as the dead of night in Polaris Institute. At all hours, someone was working. Granted, in the middle of the night, most people had retreated to the apartments of the Outer Ring, the circular building surrounding the clerical and medical offices of the Median Ring and the laboratories of the Inner Ring, but there were still enough people to keep work on Project Stardust going nearly constantly.

Just after one in the morning, one of these workers, a bulky man in a blue jumpsuit, wheeled his bin towards the door of a lavatory. It seemed quiet to him, but he figured it was just the sound of hard, scientific work going on somewhere inside. With a whistle, he passed the door to a laboratory when it suddenly opened. The janitor grinned and, thinking he would exercise an ounce of courtesy, reached over to hold the door open.

That's when he heard a soft voice.

"****."

Blinking, he peeked around the door to glance at who was on the other side when he was suddenly grabbed and dragged into the room. Inside, he was greeted by one sight he never thought he'd see. An entire team of scientists, twelve in all, lay on the ground in front of the rows of computers on either side of the room. All of them were either dead or unconscious; he couldn't even tell which. He took a shaking breath and tried to step backwards, but the hands – belonging to two large interns – dragged him forward.

"Professor, this guy was snooping around outside," one of them said.

"H-hey!" he stammered. "I-I-I'm not looking for any trouble. Whatever's going on here, I won't tell a soul! Honest!"

"Honest," a voice echoed.

Looking forward, he watched as Professor Nettle walked out of a corner he couldn't see from his place at the door. Calmly, she headed straight to the tank on the other side of the room and clasped her hands behind her back. Her eyes stared through the window at the multitudes of ruby lights passing like fireflies across a sea of red. Other interns swarmed from the sides of the room to play with the machines. In the meantime, a jynx sidled up to Nettle with a Plexiglas tube in her purple hands. Instantly, the janitor knew what the tube was. It was supposed to be for transporting one of the little creatures in the tank into one of the glass boxes they used for testing. He had watched the transfer happen only once, but he had a feeling now that there wouldn't be a glass box involved.

"Honest is, unfortunately, what I'm afraid you are," Nettle continued.

The janitor only stood and watched as she inserted the tube into a slot beneath the tank and pressed a button on the console next to it. He could hear a whoosh, and one of the red glows shot downwards. The only thing that came back up was a large bubble. Twisting the handle on the tube, Nettle carefully drew the object out of the slot and held it up to examine the single light floating in its center.

"Uh, look, lady," the janitor croaked. "I didn't see a thing, right? I don't know what's going on, and—"

She glared at him over her shoulder, and instantly, he shut up.

"What do we do with him, Professor?" one of the interns drawled.

Nettle sighed. "Well, I don't suppose we can let him walk away, can we? He's going to tell someone. The question is whether or not we have much time before he does."

She sauntered forward with the jynx trailing behind her. Narrowing her eyes at him, she pressed her lips together and quickly went over her options. Slowly, she frowned and examined the tube.

"Your plan, Professor?" the intern asked.

"Let's make it so he can't talk, then," Nettle replied. "Jynx, use Lovely Kiss. And you—" She nodded to a third intern, standing at one of the machines. "—contact 009. Tell her our leader will have to be content with two specimens of XP-650B."

Immediately, the janitor began to scream and thrash, but just as he predicted, the interns held him tight, even twisted his arms to get him to stop. He doubled over at the pain shooting through his limbs, but this action put him in range for the other thing he was trying to avoid: Jynx.

The ice witch swayed her hips as she walked towards him. Her pursed lips began to glow bright pink, and she purred as she leaned in and grasped his chin with a large hand. He felt her strong grip clamp down on his jaw, and as she forced him to turn his head, he winced in pain. No matter how much he struggled, he didn't buy himself much time to protest because in the next second, he felt her cold lips against his skin. Shortly afterwards, a tingling, numb sensation spread through the rest of his head, and he suddenly felt like he couldn't keep his eyes open.

Struggling against drowsiness, he lifted his head as Jynx backed away to make room for her master. Nettle slipped forward and grabbed his collar. With a flick, she ripped his shirt open using only one hand, letting the buttons go flying. Then, using the same hand, she pulled his undershirt away from his skin, just enough to let her slide the tube against his chest. Unable to fight anymore, the janitor hung limply between both of the lackeys as he felt the tube's cold door slide open and the liquid within it rush across his skin.

The last sensation he had before he completely blacked out was the feeling of something biting him hard.

---

Bill eventually lost track of how much time he spent asleep. He had 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 covered his muscles. His hands slipped out of his skin, leaving behind flesh-colored gloves, and in their places were silver-skinned appendages with claws for fingers and garnets for palms. He would have thought they were 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 on his chest. Whenever he slipped, it would reach inside him and ensnare his organs, grasping them until they pumped on their own again.

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.

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. 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 came more and more frequently now. 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 room. All he could see was something bright white with a bed and a table and a window. No people. No pokémon. Nothing was there but him. His body thrashed every so often, but once again, he realized he was confined.

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

It was a terrifying dream, but at least, to him, that's all it was: a dream.
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  #20    
Old June 25th, 2010, 11:17 AM
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The great thing about me posting now is that I can do a chapter-by-chapter review as opposed to last time where I started midway through the story.

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Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
Wait, what? XD
Referring to me breaking my own personal promise to not post until I'd finished my work. Which is why I haven't been around as much as of late; only replying to VMs and such.
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Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
Also, yeah, they really didn't cover breeding in the anime... despite, you know, Brock trying to be a breeder and all. XD
You will now be redirected to a Super Effective strip.

And one, two, three, review...
Quote:
Entire sequence with Nettle and 009/Domino
While the overall pace and dialogue was handled quite well, I'm apprehensive when it comes to the levels of respect the two have for each other. I'm sure a Rocket Scientist wouldn't dare oppose an officer, no less an elite one, but here we see Nettle, who may be a senior scientist, openly attacking 009. Granted, Nettle reall could be that *****y as to forget her place.

Also, given the fact that Nettle was being a bit out of place, I'm not sure why 009 would want to prove herself to a scientist instead of just reprimanding her there and then. Unless it's an egotistical kind of thing. As far as I know about military politics, the lower you are down in the chain of command, the less you're to know and the less the officer's will tell you. A scientist, is usually quite far down there. Seeing as it is relevant to Nettle's work, I'm wondering why she wasn't informed of this beforehand though. She's quite big-headed so I assumed that she'd be at least a notch above other Rocket Scientists, instead of just being a regular one in an incognito and high position.

Quote:
She was seated on a bed at the far end of an otherwise empty room, and her shoulder was exposed to reveal the glistening parasite. At first, it was simply a shot of her, swaying as she tried to remain conscious, but then, the clip cut abruptly to the image of the woman with her head craned back and several scientists gathered around her. One of them attempted to stick her with a long needle, but her flailing arms knocked the syringe flying. Pale crystals burst from her skin, letting the scraps hang in bloody flaps from her shoulders.

The clip cut again. This time, her hair had fallen out, and a pair of rounded horns jutted out of her skull. Her entire body took on a shimmering coat of ice, interrupted every so often by a crystal spike. The creature's thin arms wrapped around her naked body as she shivered and opened her mouth in a silent scream. A few more men in lab coats immediately responded by gathering around her. Their bodies shielded most of her from view, save for the limbs that flashed above their heads.

Suddenly, the girl sat with long, pale hair shielding her pallid face. Behind her, a tail flicked back and forth. The patient sat perched with her knees hugged tightly to her chest and her clawed feet curled around the edge of the bed. After a few seconds, a scientist appeared in the side of the shot with his back turned towards the camera. His hands moved as if he was speaking with her, to which she responded by lifting her head.

In the next instant, no one was on the bed, and the scientist had disappeared. Something dark sprayed across the lens of the camera, partially obscuring the image of the room.

Then, a mouth with a pair of long fangs appeared in the shot, followed by a split-second shot of a claw. Static followed, the only sound that broke the long silence.
Despite it being explicity stated that the subject had pale-coloured hair, I can't stop imagining her with pinkish hair. Probably because of Elfen Lied and how much this scene reminds me of the Diclonius. The reference to horns didn't make it much easier to not remember Elfen Lied.

Quote:
We had hoped that we could learn the secrets of the parasite without resorting to a violation of the Nuremberg Code,
I love it when fics try to integrate our world with the Pokemon world realistically. I've bee doing this a lot with my fic.

Quote:
"I'm getting too old for this," he muttered to himself.
In order to not spoil it for new readers, I won't mention it, but I hope that that one thing that happens happens to Oak like in the previous version. I may, or may not be making much sense here...

All in all, great chapter; I will be looking forward to more.

EDIT: You seriously just ninja'd me with a new chapter while I was typing up my review... Shame on you, Jax. XD
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  #21    
Old June 25th, 2010, 12:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Mizan de la Plume Kuro View Post
Referring to me breaking my own personal promise to not post until I'd finished my work. Which is why I haven't been around as much as of late; only replying to VMs and such.
*pats* Good luck with that, dear.

Oh yes. I'm surprised this doesn't happen in canon. (Oh, like the anime never tried.)

Quote:
While the overall pace and dialogue was handled quite well, I'm apprehensive when it comes to the levels of respect the two have for each other. I'm sure a Rocket Scientist wouldn't dare oppose an officer, no less an elite one, but here we see Nettle, who may be a senior scientist, openly attacking 009. Granted, Nettle reall could be that *****y as to forget her place.

Also, given the fact that Nettle was being a bit out of place, I'm not sure why 009 would want to prove herself to a scientist instead of just reprimanding her there and then. Unless it's an egotistical kind of thing. As far as I know about military politics, the lower you are down in the chain of command, the less you're to know and the less the officer's will tell you. A scientist, is usually quite far down there. Seeing as it is relevant to Nettle's work, I'm wondering why she wasn't informed of this beforehand though. She's quite big-headed so I assumed that she'd be at least a notch above other Rocket Scientists, instead of just being a regular one in an incognito and high position.
You actually have a very good point here, and part of the problem is I haven't entirely worked out where Nettle stands. Originally, I had Domino and Nettle be sort of equals: Domino took care of Team Rocket's movements within the complex, whereas Nettle maintained the front, oversaw Team Rocket's scientific operations, and controlled intel. As in, ordinarily, she's the head of the Rocket science division, with scientists like Namba answering to her in the same way agents like Butch and Cassidy would answer to Domino. So, it's sort of like they had the same rank but in completely different departments (which is why I thought there might be an informational divide), so they're forced to work on the same level because their operations intertwine. (To be more specific, they're actually working on two different missions. Nettle's mission, which isn't named, is to run a team that's stealing information from Project Stardust. Domino's mission, Operation Polaris, is to lead a team to steal actual subjects.) Hence, yeah, they're actually not really subordinate and officer but rather officers of equivalent ranks.

On the other hand, it is weird that Nettle wasn't told about Domino's mission. I really can't think of any way that would happen except if there was a communication breakdown between Giovanni and Nettle (which actually isn't that out-of-the-question for her character).

Quote:
Despite it being explicity stated that the subject had pale-coloured hair, I can't stop imagining her with pinkish hair. Probably because of Elfen Lied and how much this scene reminds me of the Diclonius. The reference to horns didn't make it much easier to not remember Elfen Lied.
I'm not actually sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. XD XP-494B is partially based on the Diclonius (with Xenomorph elements thrown in), so it's actually easier for me if you automatically think of them (as in, I don't have to clarify that the horns aren't demon horns). On the other hand, I really hope you don't think every infected character looks like Lucy 'cause that'd be awkward, what with the main character being male and all.

Quote:
I love it when fics try to integrate our world with the Pokemon world realistically. I've bee doing this a lot with my fic.
Thank you. (And this reminds me that I need to go and actually comment on your fic.)

Quote:
In order to not spoil it for new readers, I won't mention it, but I hope that that one thing that happens happens to Oak like in the previous version. I may, or may not be making much sense here...
You are, but unfortunately, I'm going to have to say I've yet to find a way to work it in. ;_; Maybe, but if not, I'm hoping the other things I've got planned will make up for it.

Quote:
All in all, great chapter; I will be looking forward to more.
Thanks!

Quote:
EDIT: You seriously just ninja'd me with a new chapter while I was typing up my review... Shame on you, Jax. XD
I'm just that talented. XD
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Last edited by JX Valentine; June 25th, 2010 at 05:19 PM.
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  #22    
Old June 26th, 2010, 05:26 AM
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Very good chapter, especially the part about Bill, and his "dream".

Something I'd like to point out

Quote:
The last sensation he had before he completely blacked out was the feeling of something biting him hard
I think the last line of the paragraph should always be the most powerful, and for me, it wasn't. What I was thinking of was

"The last sensation he had before he completely blacked out was the feeling of something biting him... hard"

I dont know if you think it makes any difference but to me it feels more powerful than before, like the Janitor had a real problem going on for him. The way you wrote it, the language sounded like he'd been bit by a rat or a snake, not a space travelling mutant! XD

I'm not critisizing the way you write, as you do a much better job than me, but i think that sounds a lot better

p.s: Can't wait to see what happens to good ol' bill
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Old June 27th, 2010, 09:02 AM
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Thanks. I'll think about it.

The ellipsis right there feels like it'd indicate how hard the thing was biting. As in, it's saying, "No, really, this thing was biting hard." (Ellipsis between two words of a sentence usually emphasize whatever comes after it. While the alien's pretty terrifying, we're not really talking about taking a bear trap to the chest, so "hard" probably isn't the best word to emphasize.) You have an interesting point about emphasis, though, but I'll have to think about how to do it.
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  #24    
Old June 27th, 2010, 01:33 PM
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Y halo thar, new chapter.


Anima Ex Machina: Five
Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams.


When the dream receded and Bill felt his body for the first time in days, he awoke with a start. Immediately after that, he shut his eyes and groaned. Although he wasn't the kind of person who had a particular appreciation for alcohol, he imagined that this was exactly what a hangover was like: waking up to nothing but blinding whiteness that only fed a pounding headache. He twisted where he lay and tried to swallow to keep himself from throwing up, and right about then, he realized something was wrong. For one, he couldn't actually move his arms or legs. For another, his chest was pinned to what felt like a mattress, too.

And for a third, a pair of voices floated into his ears, and what they were saying didn't exactly comfort him.

"Professor, it's awake."

"He, Sienna. He's a male."

Much to his relief, one of those voices was Professor Oak. The other sounded strangely familiar to him, but he couldn't place where he might have heard it. Slowly, he opened his eyes into a squint and tried to look for the source of the sounds. His vision slowly resolved, allowing his world to transform from an amorphous, white blob to the edge of a bed and a metal rail. Several feet beyond the rail was a white wall, but other than that, there were no signs of people yet. Another groan rumbled in his throat as he pressed his eyes closed tightly and turned over. Blinking, he opened his eyes wider this time and found himself staring at another white wall, but in this one, he could see a window.

Beyond that window stood Professor Oak, staring at him with concern. On the left side of the researcher sat a blonde intern who moved her head back and forth to read something below the window. As soon as he glanced at her, it occurred to Bill that this girl looked familiar too, but no matter how hard he tried to focus, he couldn't remember where he met her. It wasn't just the memory of her that he couldn't quite grasp, either: all of his thoughts seemed hazy. Resting his head back, he stared at the ceiling and tried to think through his headache to what happened before he passed out. It felt to him like a safe place to start, and anyway, he had a nagging feeling this girl had something to do with the events leading up to that point.

"Sir, this isn't like the other times," the girl – Sienna – told Oak. "It, er, he's not reacting violently."

Oak nodded. "Yes. I wonder…" Clearing his throat, he rolled himself onto the balls of his feet. "Bill? I don't suppose you can hear us, can you?"

Bill blinked in confusion and looked back to his superior. "I can hear you just fine, Professor."

Immediately, Sienna looked up, and Oak raised his eyebrows. Bill shifted uncomfortably as his insides started to twist with worry. He couldn't imagine why he was there, why he was feeling so confined, and most of all, why Professor Oak was on the other side of that pane of glass. Gradually, his head began to clear. The pain was still wrenching his insides, but at least he was starting to think straight enough to realize there was something very, very wrong about all of this.

"What's going on?" he asked quietly.

Oak stared at him in response to his question. Then, after a long pause, he turned to Sienna.

"Unlock the cuffs," he said.

Sienna gave him a wide-eyed glance. "But sir—!"

"Please."

Frowning, she turned back to the console in front of her and tapped a few keys. Then, she withdrew her hands as if every button in front of her was wired to give her electric shocks. She stared downward, but Oak looked through the window to study Bill.

As soon as Sienna was done typing, Bill felt something slide away from his arms, legs, and chest, and right then, the feeling of being pinned down disappeared. His arms fell onto the bed with a pair of thumps, and he arched his back to take pleasure in his sudden freedom.

"Wait, Bill, there's something you should know before you get up," Oak said. "If you're conscious, that is."

With more effort than he expected, Bill forced himself to sit up. "Conscious? Of course I am."

"Well, it's not that easy to tell," Oak replied. "We're hoping you're still the same person in mindset, but—wait! Don't!"

Before he could continue, Bill brought his hands up to rub his wrists. He couldn't imagine why this would be such a bad idea until one hand actually touched the other. As soon as he did, he heard a clack and felt something that couldn't have been right.

Looking down sharply, he examined his fingers. Somehow, while he was asleep, his skin had turned into metal plates, overlapping each other at the joints like the limbs of a suit of armor. His fingertips were no longer the round, fleshy things he remembered. They were now sharp, curved claws. Turning one of his hands over, he found the round hemisphere of a garnet embedded in his palm. In it, he caught sight of his reflection: a gaunt face, fangs just visible in his open mouth, short, bristly hair, and horns – a pair of rounded horns shaped like cat ears on either side of his skull.

Now, Bill had always felt that he was a decently rational person. He would get excited about a success or a recent discovery or a new pokémon in the index, but he wasn't the kind of person to be jumping and shouting over it. Likewise, although he had seen quite a lot of things that would have shocked a normal person – such as, for example, the complete destruction of his lighthouse's beacon by a giant pokémon – he wasn't the kind of person to experience a total meltdown.

Of course, waking up to discover that his hands were made of metal was an unusual circumstance, and as such, it deserved an unusual response. With a cry, Bill jolted backwards, scrambling in an effort to get away from his own hand. In doing so, he could feel his feet and torso dig into the mattress and the foam stuffing flowing out against his metal skin. Looking down, he caught another glimpse of something that caused his voice to catch in his throat. His entire torso was made of overlapping plates of metal, and beyond that, his feet no longer looked remotely human. Inhaling shakily, Bill extended one of his legs and examined it carefully. It looked somewhat normal, although the calf stopped a few inches shorter. Right after where it ended, another joint led into a broad, reptilian foot. Swallowing, he tried to move his toes, only to see the three claws on the appendage flex.

It was at that point that he realized Oak was talking to him.

"—to stay calm," Oak said.

"W-what?" Bill croaked, suddenly finding his throat very dry.

"I understand all of this is startling," Oak continued. "We weren't exactly expecting any of this."

It was, of course, a half-truth. Oak did his best not to betray what he was thinking at that moment. It had been roughly two weeks since Bill had been brought to the operating room in an attempt to detach the parasite from his body, but when he cut off the hand of the surgeon – with what, even Oak didn't know by then – it was decided that there would be no further attempts. Oak knew it was too dangerous; Bill, of all people, attacked without much provocation. The elder researcher didn't want to think Bill was completely lost the way Pandora had been, but all he could do for the past two weeks was stand by and watch carefully behind a thick window.

There were, of course, two things that made this moment not exactly what Oak was expecting. First, the files the Committee gave him stated that Pandora was an ice-type, but as far as he could tell, Bill was a steel-type. Meanwhile, the other XP-650B, the one that had been created (as far as he knew) when a curious janitor interfered with the transfer of a test specimen, was an electric-type. None of it made sense. If XP-650B was an alternate form, did it somehow have alternate forms itself?

Aside from that, Oak didn't entirely expect to be speaking to Bill instead of a thrashing, screaming, extremely angry beast. He had hoped he would, of course, but he didn't really consider it a serious possibility. Yet, there he was, standing on the other side of the window to a room containing what appeared to be a responsive, albeit panicking, human.

"Bill?" Oak asked.

Unfortunately, his subordinate was a bit busy exploring more of his new form. Squirming, Bill realized he was sitting on something, and with that, he reached behind him.

"What is this?" he rasped.

Grabbing it, he froze. A cold, electric sensation ran up his spine and made him grimace. Whatever it was, it was definitely part of him. Carefully, he lifted himself and pulled the object out from underneath his body to let it rest beside him. His fingers ran along the length as far as he could follow it without bending over. Claws clacked along segment after segment along the thick, reptilian appendage, stopping a couple feet short of the sharp arrowhead at its tip. Closing his mouth, Bill experimentally focused on moving it, and on command, the arrowhead rose and fell in time with the tune his mind was playing to keep him from screaming until his lungs exploded.

"I... I have a tail," he murmured.

"Bill, can you hear me?" Oak asked.

He shut his eyes tightly and breathed deeply. His hands reached up to grasp the sides of his head, lacing through the stiff, wire hair on his scalp. Clenching his teeth, he swallowed and tried desperately to sort through his racing thoughts.

This can't be happening, he thought.

At that point, his mind felt like it stopped. He wrapped his arms around himself and curled himself so that his forehead rested on his knees. With a whimper, he shut his eyes and tried his best to ignore what he was feeling. It wasn't real to him. His skin wasn't metal. His fingers weren't claws. That wasn't a tail trying to wrap itself around his ankles. It was all just a mistake. He was still asleep. A thousand different things ran through his mind, but the longer he went, the more he realized that the plate he was feeling against his forehead wasn't going away.

Something warm hit his leg. Opening his eyes, he looked down to see a droplet of water run across his armor. Another one fell from his face, and he realized what he was doing.

It was strange to him. He felt detached from himself. On the one hand, he could feel himself shaking, and he could feel the tears run across his skin and hit his armor. On the other, he couldn't explain why he was doing it or why he could feel the tears running along the metal of his leg. All of these things were foreign to him. They weren't his emotions or sensations, but he felt them. He wanted to say he was scared, but at the same time, he wasn't so much scared as...

Confused. He felt confused. Very, very confused. Lost? Worried, of course, and why wouldn't he be? Mostly, numb. It was like his entire body was doing whatever it liked. Somehow, it didn't scream or thrash. It simply sat there, unable to do anything but shiver. His mind, meanwhile... for the first time in his life, Bill realized he couldn't think straight. He just couldn't force himself to grasp any particular thought.

Oak stood silently. Asking anything else seemed inappropriate, and he wasn't sure if Bill was already gone.

"Sir?" Sienna asked.

"Give him a moment," he replied as he looked at her. "In the meantime, go get him something to eat. It's been awhile."

"Yes, sir," she answered, and with that, she stood and started for the lab door.

Turning back to the window, Oak was just in time to see the victim lift his head. Bill's thoughts were still stumbling across each other in a mess, and he was barely aware that he had moved himself.

"Professor, I…" Bill's voice trailed off. He wasn't even sure what he was supposed to say. His mind was filled with beginnings of sentences and ends of others, but he couldn't for the life of him bridge one broken thought to another to form something coherent.

"You have a lot of questions," Oak said casually. "I would too if I were you. I'll do my best to answer all the ones I can, but Bill, you've got to promise me one thing."

Bill gave him an uneasy glance. "What?"

"No matter what you do, you've got to control yourself. Okay?"

Although Bill certainly didn't like the sound of the request – because there had to be a reason why it needed to be said – he nodded slowly. "Okay."

Oak stood a little straighter. "Well, let's see. Which one should we answer first? Ah. I guess we should try tackling the question of what happened, shouldn't we?"

Bill could only nod. His mouth was slightly open, but he found he couldn't speak.

"Right. Well, after you were brought to the medical wing two weeks ago—"

Bill jumped. His thoughts narrowed down to that one point, and he felt like he was abruptly being jerked closer to reality. Both of his hands clattered onto the rail on the side of his bed and gripped it with the same amount of tension that would have, if he still had human hands, turned his knuckles bone-white. He gave Oak a startled expression as he stared through the window.

"Two weeks?" he gasped. "I was inactive for two weeks?"

Oak, who had frozen at the suddenness of Bill's reaction, relaxed into a smile. This was definitely the Bill he remembered.

"I'm afraid so," he said. Then, he raised a hand and waved it in the air. "But don't worry about that. It'd be completely unreasonable for any of us to refuse forgiving you for not working with the psychology team for that long. Besides, you're still making a valuable contribution to the project, even if it's not exactly in the way any of us would have wanted."

"Contribution?" Bill whispered.

"Yes," Oak replied. "After you were brought to the medical wing, XP-650A began altering your body. It's a process the Committee has only one record of; they were hoping to use your transformation to fill in any gaps in data."

Right about then, several more questions finally crawled their way out of Bill's mental train-wreck. He shook his head, trying to clear his mind enough to grasp at least one of them, but only three words came out of his mouth.

"I don't understand."

Oak shrugged. "Honestly, Bill, I don't expect you to after hearing only that much. We don't fully understand it either, but let me try to explain it this way. XP-650A, what we were studying before your accident, is actually a predator only to pokémon. We're coming up with theories as to why it treats us differently, but we know that when it comes in contact with a human, it becomes a parasite. It latches onto the human host and transforms it into… well, something like you."

Inhaling shakily, Bill slowly slipped his hands from the rail and raised them to examine them carefully. Gradually, something was beginning to click in his head.

"Do you…" He swallowed in an effort to find his voice. "Do you mean to say… to say that I… I'm…"

"That you're not fully human anymore?" Oak replied. It was obvious, but he felt laying the facts in front of his colleague might help him climb back to sanity. "Yes. Currently, the Committee is calling pokémon like you XP-650B, the second form of the pokémon species XP-650. They say it's because the parasite is still technically unchanged, but the designation's still up for debate."

Bill shook his head and went back to holding it in both hands. "I'm a pokémon…?"

Oak nodded. "Yes. No one's sure how it happens. That's what we hope you'll help us find out."

Taking another shaky breath, Bill looked down, intending on gazing at his lap. That's when he caught sight of the other occupant of his body, the small glint of red right over his heart. Carefully, he brought a hand over it and touched it with a fingertip. It came as a surprise to him that he was able to feel his claw on it, as if it was just another part of his body.

"Is this…" He looked at Oak. "Is this it?"

Oak leaned towards the window to see what Bill was talking about. "Oh! Yes, that's the parasite."

Frowning, Bill turned back to it and tried to dig his claws into his metal skin around it. At once, Oak darted towards the door to the other room.

"Bill, don't!"

Skidding to a halt in front of the door, Oak whipped out his ID. Quickly, he swiped it and pressed a thumb against the pad to force the lock to open. When it clicked, he threw open the door and dashed inside.

At the same time, Bill was finding out why what he just did was a bad idea. Suddenly, he felt like something under the skin all over his body constrict, but the feeling was especially strong in his chest. He tried to scream but could only manage a loud croak; something gripped his lungs to make it difficult to breathe. His vision went blurry as he pressed his forehead against the mattress. In his head, he heard his own voice hiss.

You will not.

Before he could make sense of the message, he felt a pair of hands force him to unfold himself. The feeling of all his organs being clenched subsided, and he let himself be coaxed into lying flat on his back. He was still panting. The pain had only diminished from blinding to dull but still irritating.

"Bill, are you all right?!" Oak asked.

Eventually, Bill's vision returned, and he stared at Oak's face. The elder was standing over him. His large hands held Bill down, and his face was full of worry. When the question finally registered in Bill's mind, the patient nodded.

Oak sighed and pulled his hands away. "I know this is all overwhelming for you. I can't really blame you if you feel like you don't want any part of this. However, until we figure out just what happened, please don't try to remove it yourself. It's hard to say what it'll do to you."

Releasing him, Oak backed away. Blinking, Bill slowly sat up and stared at his superior. Eventually, after a long while, he began to feel his thoughts settle down a little. He realized then that he was going to have to deal with his situation somehow.

"I'm sorry, Professor," Bill said quietly. "I don't know what to do."

Oak nodded. "I'd be worried if you didn't panic. I'm glad to hear you're calming down."

"Of course I would. However it happened... it feels like it might not be that easy to undo. I just have to accept that for now."

At that, Oak relaxed. Bill was sounding more and more like his usual self, and for that, Oak was grateful. After all, it not only meant that Bill wasn't about to rip him limb from limb, but it also meant he might be a little more willing to help after all.

"No, it might not be," Oak replied, "but everyone here will do everything they can to figure out what happened and how to reverse it. In the meantime, will you let us study you?"

Bill shrugged. "I don't have much of a choice."

"Of course you do. You know how the ethical codes work these days. If you said you'd be uncomfortable with it, we wouldn't be able to conduct anything on you, not even an interrogation. You'll always have a say, Bill."

Turning his head, Bill eyed Oak carefully. "No, I really don't, and it has nothing to do with what the ethical codes state. Professor, as a researcher, it's my duty to do everything in my power to help this project. While I don't know if you'll let me resume my place on the staff, I can't say no to allowing you to get as much information as possible from me."

Oak grinned. "You're really starting to sound like your old self now."

Bill shook his head. "Actually… I'm simply talking because I feel like my sanity is very close to being compromised."

"Compromised? Bill, you don't mean…"

He looked at his elder from out of the corner of his eye. "Professor... I thought I had a dream while I was unconscious. Could you tell me if I happened across a surgeon in the past two weeks?"

Oak didn't know what to say. He only clenched his jaw shut and stared at Bill with a blank expression. Noticing the silence, Bill looked up and studied the professor's face. When Bill spoke next, his voice was barely audible.

"I cut off his hand, didn't I?"

"You didn't mean to," Oak answered quickly. "It was a defense mechanism. He was trying to separate the parasite from you. We should've known it'd try anything to keep you two together."

That didn't seem to be what Bill was hoping he would say. Instead, Bill pulled both knees to his chest and buried his face in them again.

"Oh no."

"I'm sorry, Bill," Oak said. "You've got to listen to me when I say it wa—"

Before he could finish, he was interrupted by a loud bang. Oak looked up, glancing over his shoulder at the door. Sienna slammed the one to the hallway open and rushed forward until she stood behind her chair. Her face, which was pale on its own, took on the hue of a sheet of paper.

"What happened?" Oak asked.

Sienna motioned behind her. Curiously, Oak moved to the door and looked across the lab. All of the interns and scientists that were lined up at the computers paused to watch people storming down the hall. One of them stopped, clinging to both sides of the doorway.

"Professor Oak, sir!" the scientist screamed. "It's Abel!"

Oak headed for the door. "What about Abel?"

The scientist looked over his shoulder as he stumbled into the lab. "He knows Discharge, sir!"

"Discharge?"

Nodding, he continued, "He short-circuited the cuff system, and now he's attacking the door with Thunder! He's more powerful than we thought he'd be! The security system can't handle him much longer!"

"What?!"

Rushing towards the door, Oak could see a flash of light. The sound of thunder reverberated off the walls of the hallway, and the smell of fire grew more intense. Glancing outside, he could see scientists streaming out of the lab down the hall; the door lay in a twisted mess beneath their scrambling feet. Light bounced off the walls, and the sound of screaming echoed through the open doorway. Without hesitation, Oak moved back into the room and darted to a corner. There, on the wall, a phone hung. He quickly removed the receiver and pressed a key, and he only had to wait a couple of seconds before someone answered.

"Officer Jenny, sound the alarm," he ordered. "Abel's trying to escape from Laboratory V."

Before she could reply, he placed the receiver back into its carriage and scrambled to close the door to the hallway. All of the scientists backed away from the computers and into the middle of the room.

"Stay calm, everyone!" he ordered as he made his way to the other door. "Abel might be breaking out, but security will be here to subdue him soon. Get ready in case he tries to break down the door. Professor Rosewood, I know you have a bellossom with you. We'll need its Sleep Powder. Professors Maple, Apple, and Cedar, unlock the cabinets and distribute tranquilizer guns to everyone who can aim. Don't shoot until it's clear Sleep Powder won't have any effect!"

With that, he approached the other doorway and leaned inside to look at Bill. Staring back in fear, Bill sat straight with his claws digging into the mattress.

"What is it?" he asked.

Frowning, Oak hesitated in sharing what he knew, but eventually, he gave in. "Bill, you're not the only person who was infected two weeks ago. Shortly after you were brought to the medical wing, a janitor got into the holding lab while a few interns were preparing another XP-650A for observations. It attached to him, and we've been struggling with containing him ever since."

"Abel," Bill whispered.

Oak nodded. "Bill, I'd like to tell you more, but I need for you to do something."

"What?"

"Stay here. We'll be protecting you in the observation room."

With that, Oak closed the door. Bill tried to stand up and protest, but then, the alarms sounded. This time, unlike two weeks ago when he last heard the beginning of them, it felt like it was several decibels louder than normal. He screamed and bent over, holding his aching ears as the sound continued to blast into his head. After a few seconds, he tried to calm himself just enough to lift his head from the mattress.

Pulling his legs over the edge of the bed, he tried to stand and immediately crashed to one knee. Pain shot through him, but he forced himself to remove his hands and grit his teeth against the blaring noise. Then, he planted his hands on the edge of the bed and struggled against gravity one more time. It took him a few seconds to realize why he fell in the first place: he wasn't used to the way his legs worked. With that in mind, he shifted his weight, placing all of it on the balls of his feet. When he was sure he wasn't about to collapse again, he took his first stiff steps towards the window, just as light illuminated the other room. Resolving himself, he tried to pick up the pace, walking awkwardly to the window to peer beyond it.

In the doorway to the hall, he saw the creature he assumed was Abel. Electricity sparked off the yellow spikes that jutted from the creature's skull, arms, and limbs, and a tail studded with golden barbs flicked behind him. The only things that weren't yellow were his face and the glistening, red parasite on his chest.

Then, Bill noticed the people in the room. Two of the interns were already electrocuted and on the floor. Everyone else was backed against the sides and corners of the room. Shots rang out as darts flew towards Abel, but before any of them could hit, he shielded his face with his arms and surrounded himself with a field of blue electricity. In the next instant, the field expanded, sending the darts flying away from his body.

That wasn't the only thing it did. Blue lightning struck everything around it, leaving scorch marks on the floor and ceiling, blasting a row of computers, and striking three of the scientists and interns who happened to be in the way. With a crack, the bellossom, who was standing in the middle of the room, was thrown against the wall, hitting it with a thump before crashing onto a console.

Bill yelped in response and took a step backwards. As soon as he did, his tail tangled around his feet and sent him crashing to the floor once again. Another grimace twisted his face, and he looked up to see blue light flash through the window.

Inside his head, he heard his voice speak again.

Will you simply stand by and watch?

"I don't know what to do," he whispered.

What else is there to do? the voice asked.

Bill paused and thought about the question. He could hear screaming from the other side. The sound mingled with the roar from the creature and the boom of thunder. In response, he stood.

"I don't want to do this," he muttered to himself.

Yet, despite acknowledging that part, he made his way towards the door.
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Old June 27th, 2010, 05:28 PM
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Delusions of Originality
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Two more chapters, hurrhurr. Les go.

Chapter Four looked quite clean; the only thing I can think to point out is something minor.

Quote:
He felt her strong grip clamp down on his jaw, and as she forced him to turn his head, he winced as pain stabbed at his neck.
The "as... as" structure you've got right now is slightly repetitive and a little awkward. Or maybe it just is to me, I dunno; I have trouble with repeating stuff like that all the time and have been trying to get better about it, so it tends to stick out to me. I'd have worded it something like "...and as she forced him to turn his head, pain stabbed at his neck and he winced." I don't think it's technically wrong, though, so feel free to ignore me. :p

The second part, with Bill, was gorgeous. (You know, in a flesh-tearing carnivorous parasitic alien sort of way.) I loved the way it flowed, the fragmented "dream" description even though it's still clear that it's what's for dinner actually happening... it was just so sad. The poor guy is still too delirious to understand just how royally screwed he is, and that came across really well.

Quote:
The other, however, sounded strangely familiar to him, but he couldn't place where he might have heard it.
I don't know about using those two conjunctions in the same sentence.

Quote:
Somehow, while he was asleep, his skin turned into metal plates,
Shouldn't that be past perfect tense ("his skin had turned")?

Quote:
Likewise, although he had seen quite a lot of things that would have shocked a normal person – such as, for example, the complete destruction of his lighthouse's beacon by a giant pokémon – he wasn't the kind of person to experience a total meltdown.

Of course, waking up to discover that his hands were made of metal was an unusual circumstance, and as such, it deserved an unusual response.
I'm not 100% sure why, but I really like this passage here. I guess it's the understatement--I'm a sucker for that stuff when it's done well.

Quote:
His entire torso was made of overlapping plates of metal like the shell of an armadillo, but beyond that, his feet no longer looked remotely human.
Dunno about this wording here... I mean, obviously his torso doesn't look remotely human either given the way you described it, so saying "but" there makes it... odd.

Quote:
Closing his mouth, Bill experimentally focused on moving it, and on command, the arrowhead rose and fell in time with the tune his mind was playing to keep him from screaming until his lungs exploded.
Again, I like this.

Quote:
His hands reached up to grasp the sides of his head, lacing through the stiff, wire hair to his scalp.
"On his scalp"? Something else?

Quote:
XP-494A, what we've been studying before your accident,
I think you mean either "what we were studying..." or "what we've been studying since...".

Ooh, the next chapter should be awesome. I know we're dealing with two scary-looking, carnivorous and incredibly powerful aliens, but the thought of "Bill vs. Janitor" is still making me giggle.

I do have a question, though. Since it uses a human host, does XP-494B still heave human or humanoid vocal chords? Given its physiology after the transformation, I'm wondering whether its throat would be capable of sounding normal (which I'm assuming it does, since no comments have been made by Bill, Oak or anyone else about him not sounding like himself). Then again, this is animé canon and I guess Meowth and the few other talking pokémon speak with average human voices... eh, maybe I'm just overthinking it.
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