Thread: [Pokémon] Stranger Than Fiction
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Old April 19th, 2012 (3:01 AM).
Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
Gone. May or may not return.
    Join Date: Mar 2010
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    Upon leaving the void, they found themselves in a small, nondescript chamber exactly like the last two. Alex took a moment to recover from the jump, and then, very cautiously, placed an ear to the door. There was, he was relieved to notice, no music.

    “I don't hear anything,” he said.

    “I don't sense a Reader nearby, either,” mused Rosario. “Hm. I think we may be within the backstory.”

    “Uh, guys?”

    Something in the tone of Brock's voice made Alex turn around very slowly, the way you do when someone's just informed you of the axe murderer standing behind you.

    “What?” he asked, mildly relieved to notice that there did not in fact seem to be any impending doom.

    “I just had a thought.” Brock looked a little pale – not as bad as when he'd first tried to open the hatch, but not normal, either. “What if those Retelling people tell the authorities about us?”

    Alex's heart skipped a beat – and for once, it wasn't just an idiom. It actually ceased to pulse for a half-second. Brock was right, he realised. If Wes and Miror B and all those others were to go to the government headquarters in Hamlet with the textual anomaly they'd created as proof... well, Alex had no idea what they did to characters who left their stories and wilfully disrupted those of others, but he was willing to bet it was a crime. And if someone wanted someone found guilty in novels, it was easy – when it was time to pick what book to hold the trial in, they simply chose The Trial or Macbeth. Of course, if the defendant was choosing, they could pick Alice in Wonderland and plead uncontrollable growth, but it would be the Retelling characters who got that right in this case...

    “There's no use worrying about it now,” said Rosario. “I doubt they'll take it to the authorities anyway. They don't care what happens in fanfiction. That's one reason why I didn't suggest we invade a published book – most of them have far better security than fanfictions, and they're much more likely to prosecute.”

    “So you think we're safe?” asked Alex, latching onto this small fragment of hope.

    “Nothing is entirely without its risks,” repeated Rosario, which would probably have been infuriating if he hadn't done it in his Morgan Freeman voice. “Come. We don't have much time.”

    This made Alex and Brock feel marginally better, and they left the room, to find themselves in what appeared to be a windowless hospital room. The only item of furniture was a bed, on which a young woman in a hospital gown was reclining and reading a magazine.

    At their entrance, she looked up for a second, then went back to her magazine; a moment later, she realised they were something out of the ordinary, and sat up to stare at them.

    “Who are you?” she asked. “Where did you come from?”

    “This is Anima ex Machina, right?” asked Alex. Play it cool, Alex, he thought. Talk to her. Get some information and devise a plan.

    “Sort of. This is the backstory.”

    “I was right,” proclaimed Rosario.

    “Yes, well done. Shut up.” Evidently Brock's awe at the little Sandshrew's voice had worn off.

    Alex looked at the woman carefully. She was pretty nondescript; her hair was dark and there was something unspeakably nasty on her shoulder, but that was the extent of her description. The character in the main narrative that she represented might be as well-done as Alex or as briefly-sketched as the Geodude – but this woman was nothing but a backstory clone, and that meant he should be able to outwit her. Or, failing that, bully her into submission.

    “OK,” he said, the germ of an idea taking shape in his head, “what exactly happens here...?”

    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.

    Oak thought he saw something odd then, two extra people that appeared from nowhere for a second and then disappeared, but it must have been his imagination.

    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 shot of a claw. It wiped the lens carefully, then pointed across the room, across the dark mess on the floor, to the opposite wall.

    Oak leaned in closer, a hollow, uncomfortable feeling rising in his stomach. Something wasn't right here. What was that on the wall? It looked like someone had dipped their finger in paint and... written something?

    “What on earth...?” breathed Oak, as he read the letters:


    Then darkness sprayed across the camera again. Static followed, the only sound that broke the long silence.

    “Yeah!” Brock cried enthusiastically, high-fiving Alex. “Now that's the way to do it.”

    “A sterling idea,” agreed Rosario. “Much better than how you handled Retelling.”

    “I just needed to get a feel for what I was doing,” said Alex. “Give me a break. I got the advertisement in, didn't I?”

    He heard someone cough behind him, and turned to face the young woman, who was now looking a hell of a lot scarier than when they'd first met.

    “Yeah,” he said. “Thanks for all that. You've been a great help.”

    She smiled at him, an action that displayed rather too much tooth for Alex to be wholly comfortable with it.

    “No problem. Glad I could help.”

    “Well,” said Alex, wiping blood off his fingers and stepping backwards over a piece of scientist, “we'll be on our way, then. Er – places to go, people to see. You know.”

    “Do I?”

    That was the annoying thing about backstory clones – they just didn't have the same understanding that their counterparts in the story did. Not that he could judge; Alex knew for a fact that there was a clone of himself in Lapse's backstory that was so shallow that it couldn't actually stand up. It was little more than a cardboard cut-out that could blink and say that its name was Alex.

    Besides, the fact that she was a backstory clone was what had made his plan possible, so Alex supposed he shouldn't really complain.

    “Yeah. We... er... need to leave.”

    “Oh.” The young woman tried to look sad for a moment, but evidently she hadn't been made with that capability. “OK. Bye!”

    “Goodbye,” called Alex over his shoulder as they left, leaving a trail of wet, dark footprints that shrivelled instantly into their constituent letters when they entered the descriptionless exit room. He shut the door and leaned on it, closing his eyes for a moment. “Do you think the real version of her will notice what she just did?”

    When his backstory clone did anything out of the ordinary (which admittedly wasn't often), Alex noticed it; it manifested itself as a little aberration in his memory as bits of his past were shuffled.

    “I don't know,” said Brock. “It was a pretty big change, wasn't it?”

    “Yeah, that's what I'm thinking,” said Alex. “That camera footage is probably important later.”

    “That's exactly what we want,” Rosario pointed out. “Let the repercussions be damned; they're not likely to come, and without Readers we'll be dead by next week anyway.”

    “Readers... Rosario, how long do you think we've got until the Readers get back to our book?” asked Alex, with sudden urgency.

    “I don't know, but not long at all,” replied the Sandshrew. “For maximum effect, we want to get to The Thinking Man's Guide to Destroying the World before we go back, and I think if we're quick we might just make it.”

    “But if we miss the Reader starting...”

    “There'll be more,” Rosario assured him. “Think about it. The changes we've made to Anima will last until the story matrix manages to clean the backstory. Readers will be noticing it for at least a week. And if in that time we can get a few more from Guide, we should have enough to rebuild and survive.”

    Alex wavered – and crumbled. He was, after all, only fictional; he was far more susceptible to word-based persuasion than a real human.

    “OK,” he said. “We'll go to Guide next.” He took hold of the handle on the door, paused for a moment to gather his strength, and pulled it open, ready for another journey into the abyss.


    This room was different to the others: where before the exit chambers had all been devoid of adjectives, made up of just the barest skeleton of nouns, this one was flamboyantly decorated in shades of orange and purple. Evidently the residents of this story didn't believe in economy.

    “This is... different,” said Brock, staring around at the ragged stripes. “And really quite weird.”

    “Yeah,” agreed Alex. “Rosario, is this story like The Retelling of Pokémon Colosseum?

    “How do you mean?”

    “I mean, am I going to walk out of this door to find something really weird happening?”

    The Sandshrew considered.

    “In all honesty,” he said at length, “yes. I rather think you are.”

    Alex sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.

    “Great,” he muttered. “This is going to be fun.”

    “Was that—?”

    “Yes, Brock, that was sarcasm,” said Alex wearily. “OK, let's get this over with. We don't have much time and I'd rather not be here.”

    He pushed open the door, and stepped straight into the plot.

    The Swampert rushed forwards with the deadly burst of speed that made its species so dangerous; thankfully, I had Puck's own reflexes to call on, and I sidestepped swiftly. Unfortunately, the monster wasn't as dumb as it looked, and was already swinging one giant arm in my direction—

    Don't flinch! Take it!

    —only for it to pass straight through me, and impact on the floor so hard that the linoleum burst and flew up in a little explosion.

    For the longest moment, the Swampert and I stared at each other, each equally confused, and I noticed that a guy in a red jacket had wandered out of nowhere on the left. Behind him was a tall guy who, if I wasn't very much mistaken, was the Gym Leader Brock from Kanto.

    Ah, it's that guy. You know, the guy who isn't meant to be here. In my story. Kester, kill him.


    Kill him

    Alex retreated abruptly through the door and slammed it shut behind him.

    “Whoa,” he said, rubbing his eyes. “Was that a first-person narrative?”

    “I think it was,” said Brock. “Man. That was weird.”

    “I know. It was like... I was there, but he was more there. You know?”

    “I know.” Brock shook his head. “Trippy, man.”

    Alex took a deep breath.

    “Maybe we should come back at another scene. You know, where there isn't a teenager in drag being beaten up by a Swampert in the middle of a vast underground cave with a submarine in it.”

    “No,” said Rosario. “There's no time for this. Just get out there, say your piece – get close to the narrator, so he can hear you – and leave. The Readers from Anima will probably arrive at Lapse soon.”

    Ah. Alex had forgotten about the Readers. The events on the other side of the door had been somewhat distracting.

    “Fine,” he said petulantly. “Suit yourself. But I warn you, I'm not to blame here if I end up dead.”

    I flung myself flat on the floor, just as the Swampert whipped its massive head forwards; if I'd still been there, I didn't doubt that my skull would have been split open like a ripe watermelon.


    I rolled out from between the Swampert's legs while it was still trying to work out where I had gone; I jumped up behind it and was about to call back to Sapphire when the guy in the red jacket with the Sandshrew ran over and tapped me on the shoulder.

    I have to say, I wasn't entirely certain what to do. I'd been—

    When I told you earlier to kill them, I meant it! These people are invasive, like Japanese knotweed or evil sentient Gatorade, and I want them out of my book!

    “It's my book, damn it! I'm the protagonist!”

    The Swampert looked over its shoulder, grunted in surprise to see me over there, and settled back on its haunches, uncertain of what to do.

    “Kester,” it said, in a surprisingly dainty voice, “those people aren't meant to be there.”

    “I know!” I cried. “Look, whoever you are, can you just get lost? We're being read right now—”

    “Please come and read Lapse, the greatest fanfiction on earth!” screamed the red jacket guy in my face; so very loud was he that I staggered back a step and fell heavily onto the Swampert's leg.

    “Oh! Up you get, dearie.” A massive, three-fingered hand helped me back onto my feet, and I strode back over to the intruders.

    “Was that loud enough?” the guy asked the Sandshrew.

    “I think it probably was,” it replied, but before it could get any further I snatched it out of his arms and threw it over at the door to the exit chamber.

    “Get out of the story!” I shrieked. “You're ruining it!”

    That's the spirit, Kester. Toss that pangolin. Toss it!

    “And you shut up, too!” I snapped. “Sapphire? Matt? Swampert? I'd like some support here!”

    “It can probably wait,” said Sapphire.


    “It can probably wait,” she said meaningfully – and suddenly I got it. We were still being Read – and this scene was very rapidly going to hell.
    “Oh. Ah. Aaaaagh!” I yelled, and fell heavily to the floor.

    “It can probably wait,” called Sapphire.

    “Aaaauuughh,” I moaned, struggling to get back up. “That h-hurts so much...”

    Are you serious? Ignore them? They're in my book!

    Just do it!

    Gah... Fine. If you let the pain paralyse you, you're dead, said Puck frankly. I'll see what I can do to numb your pain receptors, but you need to stay focused and get moving.

    Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Brock and the red jacket guy running over to the Sandshrew. The pain seemed to fade a little, and I got back to my feet, to see the Swampert right in front of me; I could have sworn it spent a moment grinning, and then it punched me, right in the face.

    “Let's never, ever go back there,” said Alex, mopping his brow with his sleeve and leaning heavily against the door.

    “I second that,” agreed Rosario, brushing mud from his belly. “Now, let's get out of here and back to Lapse.”

    “Yeah,” said Brock. “I think that, terrible as it is, I prefer our story to any of these. The first was weird, the second was scary and this one was abusive and insane.”

    Alex didn't reply; he was already thinking of Readers, the fear and confusion of the last few minutes fading in his mind. Fictional characters never formed memories as real and solid as those of flesh-and-blood people; it was difficult for their minds to stay focused on anything outside their plot, and so his recent hardships already seemed distant. He stepped forwards and pushed open the hatch.


    collapsed forwards in a heap on the floor, just as a single colossal claw poked through after them; Brock rolled under it, jumped up and slammed the hatch on it, hard. Whether it was because of this or because it realised it couldn't get through, the monster withdrew its claw, and Alex and Brock threw their collective weight against the door after it, sliding the bolt shut with trembling fingers.

    “Jesus,” gasped Alex. “I didn't think they'd send anyone after us!”

    “What the hell was that thing?” asked Brock, running a shaking hand through his hair. “Did you see how big it was?”

    “It doesn't matter,” said Rosario firmly, scurrying over to the door. “What's done is done; man's tomorrow may never be like his yesterday. Now, come on! We must check the Reader clock.”

    Right then, Alex wanted nothing more than to lie down and sleep – he hadn't done so much so quickly since his Action/Adventure Genre training back at college – but that wasn't an option right now. There would be Readers, and Readers needed something to read.

    He got to his feet, helped up Brock with a tug on the wrist, and stumbled out into the lab – where, to his surprise, he saw Professor Oak, tapping away at the computer.

    “Oh,” said the Professor, looking up. “Hello.” A look of confusion passed over his face. “Where've you been?”

    “Doesn't matter. What does the Reader clock say?” asked Alex urgently.

    “It's of paramount importance,” added Brock gravely; since Oak wasn't the deepest of characters, he was easily impressed by long words, and fumbled for a response in his haste to answer.

    “Um – er – I don't know—”

    Alex didn't wait for him to finish; he ran out of the lab and into the middle of Pallet Town, where he turned one corner and ended up directly in front of his house. This was the hub of the story, and the Reader clock hung from the gable, six feet of glassy enamel surrounded by an ornate nest of bronze scrolls. The more hands there were, the more Readers were approaching; the closer they were to twelve, the sooner the next one was due in.

    Right now, there were fourteen hands, and the nearest stood at eight to twelve.

    “We just made it,” panted Brock, staring up at it and trying to get his breath back. “We did it!”

    “Fourteen Readers...” breathed Alex. “Fourteen coming in the next fifty minutes...” All at once, a thought struck him, and he turned to Brock. “Mia!” he cried. “We have to tell Mia!”

    Brock nodded, too breathless to speak, and they turned on their heels to run back up the street, heading for Lucy's house. There, if they were lucky, they'd find Mia; it was where a lot of the equipment was kept, and where Mia spent most of her free time...

    “You wouldn't mind putting me down, would you?” asked Rosario politely, but he was ignored; Alex, too busy to think of using his hands, put his shoulder to Lucy's front door and burst through into her living-room.

    “Where's Mia?” he asked wildly, casting his gaze around and not seeing the Syntactician he sought. “Mia! Mia!”

    He ran off up the stairs; from the sofa, Lucy called:

    “Nice to see you too, Alex!”

    There was no landing at the top of the stairs, just Lucy's bedroom; Mia had commandeered it some time ago, and turned around sharply as Alex kicked the door open.

    “What the hell—?”

    “Mia!” cried Alex, Brock almost crashing into his back and stopping just in time. “Mia, we've got fourteen Readers incoming!”


    She stared back at him and now, as the effects of the adrenaline began to wear off, Alex began to perceive how the situation stood. He saw Mia standing at her desk, a hatch in the wall beyond open to reveal a fat pipe. He saw a large canister of something unbelievably expressive in Mia's hands. He saw the rubber tube connecting pipe to canister.

    Alex saw, and Alex understood.

    “Alex...” said Brock uncertainly. “Is it me, or is Mia...?”

    Alex did not respond. He just stared at Mia, and Mia stared back, caught by his stare like a rabbit in headlights.

    “What,” he said eventually, in a slow, cold voice, “are you doing?”

    Mia tried for a moment to speak, failed, licked her lips and tried again. This time, she succeeded.

    Lapse is doomed,” she said. “I'm cutting my losses and getting out of here. There's a new novel – original fiction – being constructed in the next lot, and...” She faltered, perhaps at the look in Alex's eyes – but she soon pulled herself back together, and carried on. “I've made a trade. Fifty-three gallons of Imagery for a place on their technical team. If you had any brains you'd do the same.”

    “Somehow,” said Alex coldly, “I don't think I would.”

    “Give it up, Mia,” Brock told her, ruining the atmosphere somewhat. “You can't get away!”

    Mia smiled.

    “Really,” she said, and threw the canister of Imagery at their heads.

    In a flash, she was across the room, pushing past them and catching the can with the speed and dexterity only possible in fiction; a moment later, she had vanished down the stairs, and Alex was staring wildly after her.

    ****!” he yelled. “After her!”

    Rosario jumped from his arms and onto the desk, where there was now a sizeable quantity of Imagery leaking from the torn pipe.

    “Go ahead!” he cried. “I'll stop the flow!”

    Alex needed no encouragement; he half-ran, half-fell down the stairs in his haste to give chase, Brock following hard upon his heels. He burst past Lucy again and out through the door, just in time to see Mia disappearing into Oak's lab, a thin trail of Imagery leaking from the loosely-lidded canister.

    “She's heading for the exit chamber!” shouted Brock.

    “I'm not a freaking idiot!” Alex screamed back, sneakers thumping against the gravel path. “I know where she's going!”

    “Sorry! I'm used to doing exposition disguised as dialogue!”

    They reached the door to Oak's lab at the same time, became briefly wedged in the frame and struggled for a moment before breaking free; the sight was sufficiently distracting for Mia to fumble a vault over one of Oak's many and entirely useless desks, and the second it took her to get back on her feet gave Alex time to get almost within arm's reach of her.

    “Give back the Imagery!” he cried, trying to cut off her path to the exit chamber and failing miserably. “Lapse is going to be successful now – fourteen Readers are coming and we've got five minutes until they get here!”

    “I've made a deal,” Mia retorted, barging through the door and heading for the hatch. “Besides, who wants to stay here in fanfiction? You know you'd do the same.”

    Struck by an awful feeling that this was true, Alex stopped dead and this time Brock did crash into him; the two of them went down in a tangle of limbs, and Mia smiled thinly down at them as she opened the hatch.

    “It's nothing personal,” she assured them. “Seriously. If Readers are coming, I wish you all the best.”

    “You're going to kill us all,” Alex growled, trying to get out from under Brock. “Without Imagery we can't survive any longer!” He lashed out at her ankle with one hand, trying to grab at it – but it was slightly too far, and he missed.

    “You can't murder fictional characters,” said Mia, stepping away. “Authors do it all the time, with no more thought than goes into tapping the delete key or drawing a line through a name.” Her smile faded. “Besides. I have to think of my life here.”

    She stepped backwards through the hatch, and


    “No!” cried Brock, finally managing to untangle his leg from Alex's; the two of them sprang to their feet and flung themselves after her, but it was too late: she was drifting


    Alex stared at Brock.

    “What the...?”

    “I have no idea,” he replied.

    There was a silence.

    “Jesus,” said Alex at length.


    “That was... profoundly disturbing,” he said. “I think she might be dead.”

    “I think she might too.”

    Brock smiled weakly; he looked more dazed than Alex felt.

    “There's no Imagery, though,” said Alex, thoughtfully. “There's no – ****, there's no Imagery!”

    “It's, um – actually, I don't even know what to say.”

    But Alex wasn't listening; there would be time to marvel later, but right now they needed to prepare for a reading. They had almost zero Imagery; anyone who read the story right now would see it for what it was: a bunch of words and punctuation marks, arranged on the page like so many cuts of meat on the butcher's slab.

    “We need to see how much is left,” he muttered to himself, and ran to find Rosario.

    He was where they had left him, in Mia's room. The leak was staunched now, but a lot had been lost. The table had acquired a wood grain, the lamp now had a switch, the carpet felt soft as well as looked it – all over the room, little pieces of detail had appeared as the Imagery dissolved into the text.

    “How much is there?” Alex asked urgently.

    “Not much,” replied Rosario gravely. “About a gallon and a half. Not—”

    “Not enough for a whole chapter. ****!

    Without sufficient Imagery, there could be no convincing the Reader that they were actually watching the life of Alex Vegas, his Farfetch'd Leekley, and his friend/rival/potential love interest Lucy Demall. They would only see characters and situations, word tricks and lists of events. The magic of the story would be gone.

    A bone-deep tremor ran through Alex's hands. A thousand conflicting urges rose in him at once: he wanted to kick something, tear his hair out, punch the wall, bash Brock with Rosario, rip his own head off... ordinarily, this vast rush of emotion would have seemed like ecstasy, but now it was maddening: Alex felt like he was about to burst. He glanced at the clock on the bedside table. There was one and a half minutes to go.

    “what do we do” asked Brock, his panic once again overriding good punctuation. “what do we do what do we do”

    “I don't know!” cried Alex. “I don't know!” He looked feverishly over at Rosario. “Rosario?”

    “I don't know either,” said the Sandshrew, and although Alex had never thought it possible that his voice could sound worried, it did now. “This has never happened to me before.”

    “Oh God,” moaned Alex, “Christ, I wish we'd never done this—”

    And then it occurred to him.

    The Big Idea.

    Without Imagery, the reader would see them as they really were: characters and words, arranged around locations built like towns in Westerns, all show and no substance. But if Alex was right, that meant they could—

    “Can you play Mia?” he demanded of Rosario.

    “What? Mia doesn't appear in the—”

    “Can you play her?”

    Rosario drew himself up to his full height, the effect of which was only slightly ruined by the fact that this was a mere two feet.

    “Alex, I could play Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty if I had to – at the same time.”

    “Good. Then start getting in character.” Alex looked at Brock and at Rosario, and took a deep breath. He had thirty seconds to explain and get into position. “We're going to use the lack of Imagery to our advantage,” he explained. “We're going to change the story...”

    The sound of an alarm clock is never a welcoming one, unless you are one of those peculiar people who wake just before their clocks sound, and lie in wait so as to switch off the alarm as soon as it comes on; as Alex was not one of these people, he reacted to the sound of the clock by groaning loudly and lashing out with one hand in the general direction of the snooze button. Regrettably, he missed by approximately a yard, and plunged his hand instead onto the back of a stuffed porcupine, a gift from a well-travelled uncle. Consequently, Alex shot bolt upright, snapped into wakefulness more suddenly than he had been since last week, when he'd done exactly the same thing—

    “Ah, screw it,” he muttered, the look of pain vanishing from his face. “What's the point?”


    The sunrise outside dimmed, the morning birdsong stopped and a Sandshrew rather angry-looking young woman advanced on Alex, clipboard in hand and severe frown on brow. Actually, Alex thought, she always had that severe frown; it was a Syntactician thing. They were all angry, all the time.

    “What the hell, Alex?” she asked. “What if this weren't a practice? What if someone had actually been reading us right then...?”

    Naturally, it was a hit.

    Fourteen Readers in fifty minutes would have been cause enough for celebration in Lapse – but a successful plot adjustment on the fly using less than a pint of Imagery was beyond belief. As it turned out, Readers liked the story of what had happened earlier that day a lot more than they did the story of Alex Vegas' quest to get all eight Gym Badges. Perhaps it was more truthful, perhaps they'd just never thought of what might go on behind the page before. Whatever it was, something about Stranger Than Fiction, as they now called it, attracted them in droves.

    Their achievements didn't go unnoticed, either. As their read-rate went up, so did their funding; grants came thick and fast from the offices at Elsinore – though these were delivered by two men bearing orders for their own execution, who had to be dealt with accordingly.

    And although it was a risky strategy – Readers were never supposed to learn what happened on the other side of the page – it seemed to pay off, disguised as fiction as it wa

    Official Fiction Secrets Act compromise detected.

    Shutting down story.

    Disengaging Reader...


    Imagination going offline...


    Plot stored successfully.

    Next Reader due: 1437 hours.

    Thank you for using a DoublePlusGood Novel Software™ product.

    Note: Thanks for putting up with my poor art. I know I'm not the best, but I had fun drawing it.

    For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.