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May 22nd, 2009 (7:40 PM).
I'm really enjoying this work.
It's well-written, with a wonderfully dark plot. Your descriptions of the carnage and mutated society really bring the story to life. I start picturing myself in the theater watching this on the screen. It's rare that we find a good, mature fiction in this fandom, which is ironic due to many of the fans being mature themselves. I mean, we need more hard, gritty, R-rated fics that aren't afraid to cross the lines.
I have a very small gripe, though. I've noticed that in several of your Pokemon species names, you don't capitalize the first letter, yet you do on the other occasions. I'd like to see more consistent accuracy in that department, but overall it's a very minor problem that's hardly detrimental to readability and plot lines.
Can't wait for Chapter Twelve! :D
May 22nd, 2009 (9:39 PM).
But luckily, I won't.
Rambly rant short, yes, we really do. XD
Basically, within the fic, I tend to see most Pokémon names (and items and whatnot) as being common nouns. So, if I talk about a group of wild Spinda, it doesn't get capitalized because it's like capitalizing "panda" in "a group of wild panda." However, most characters in the fic also don't nickname their Pokémon, so instead, they take their Pokémon's species name to be their specific Pokémon's actual name. For example, I might say "the numel" because "numel" serves as a common noun in that situation, but when referring to Rose's by name, it becomes just Numel because it's the actual name of an individual Pokémon. Move names tend to be constantly capitalized because I take them to be names of techniques (or a bunch of small maneuvers bundled together).
Outside of the fic, however, I tend to switch back and forth because I still haven't decided whether or not I want to maintain those rules in everything I post. XD;
Thanks again to the both of you for the compliments and the reviews. They were both insightful, and it's always fun talking to the readers.
And again, twelve should be up in a couple of days. *thumbs up*
May 22nd, 2009 (11:23 PM).
I think the feeling of it not being quite right largely has to do with how short the chapter is, only eight pages. Of course, all recent chapters have been getting kind of short, especially when compared to, say, chapter 3 at 18 pages. It's not just the short length, though; not much really happens in this chapter. It seems like it's just starting and is about to move on to the next part when it ends, without any real action and little advancement of the plot or characters. The only conflicts in it are the short-lived battle and Bill coming to grips with being caught, which he did surprisingly fast. Compared to previous chapters which have had larger, more action-packed conflicts such as the mecha fight as well as smaller, deeper ones such as Bill struggling to drink the Zigzagoon's blood, the conflicts in this chapter seem almost petty. Also, it probably doesn't help that it resembles chapter 8 pretty closely, with the large bulk of the chapter centered around the "normal" life of the three companions with a small flash at the end of some upcoming villain who's no doubt about to screw up the temporary peace.
Still, it's a transitory chapter and I can live with it, especially since I guess the next one will be out soon. The opening scene was probably what interested me the most, if only because we find out that the fire-type Ixodida has an awesome codename: Prometheus. Codename something Daedalus and my inner Stargate geek will love you forever. While Icarus would be the more fitting name for a flying type, Daedalus is Icaraus' father, so... <_< I've always had a greater fondness for the Prometheus than the Daedalus in Stargate anyways though, namely because the Prometheus is the original and, while a lot smaller and weaker, has a far more unique design that isn't afraid of being "ugly." It's also one of a kind, unlike the Daedalus-class which is virtually being mass produced now it seems, yet is somehow still able to be kept secret...
Anyways, uh...keep up the good work!
May 23rd, 2009 (9:12 PM).
Purely amazing. The detail, the word choice, the poetry of your writing is outstanding. And that's just from reading a few lines! You should really consider about going professional.
May 24th, 2009 (8:36 AM).
As a side note about Bill coming to terms surprisingly quickly, I got that feeling too. I might draw it out a bit more, but mainly, the reason why it's so short is because I'm really afraid of letting these characters get at all emo. It's probably logical for them to do it, but for the most part, Veronica is the kind of person who keeps a level head about a lot of things, making her not entirely likely to want to get anyone (especially Bill) worked up about anything unless she was teasing him. Meanwhile, this version of Bill (based mostly on an amalgam of the anime and games) is supposed to take things more in stride unless they're really out of whack. Basically, Special Bill is the only incarnation who flips at the drop of a hat. Game Bill has said something along the lines of, "Hi! I'm a Pokémon! ...No, sorry, I'm just screwing with you. Yay gallows humor?" Anime Bill has gone, "My pet project ran off before I could finish it, destroyed my lighthouse tower, and nearly killed me in the process. ... Oh well!" In other words, when writing that scene, I was thinking, "Well, this is probably going to turn out with Bill desperately wanting to be free, but I can't figure out why because the scientist in him would want to experience life as a captured Pokémon. ****. What do I do? ...Have him meditate on it but eventually be okay with it because he didn't notice it for the past two weeks anyway? Okay!"
But then it sort of came out a little lackluster anyway. XD I need to work out the logic there, and maybe I'll actually have a reason why Bill would be worried about it.
Also, chapter eight? Really? O_o Man, I really do think that one's better than chapter eleven. At least more stuff happened there. XD
Almost tempted, though, after that description of the Daedalus class of Stargate to give Team Rocket an army of Ixodida named pretty much that. Or maybe I can give the NDF something about it. Or I can think really far ahead to the sequel my muse keeps saying I should write, which will involved even more interplanetary shenanigans.
Either way, I will definitely keep that name in mind because it's so flipping cool.
Thanks for the review and for helping me out in general. *thumbs up*
Also, aww. There's a baleeted review. Gonna have to poke Asty because curious cat wants to be Schrodinger cat.
May 24th, 2009 (8:39 AM).
First: Perhaps I spoke too soon... Someone actually replied to Feral Twilight without it being some smart-aleck comment or spam...and he sincerely enjoyed it? Though I still question whether or not it's a good idea to be using Watcher Leyi in the prologue over Canersia the Ascetic... My friends elsewhere said it was better, so I guess whatever works...
Secondly: I still don't know what it is. The plot is solid, but then that maybe why it seems off because its kind of unwavering. Maybe I should just learn to keep my mouth shut, since you've got more experience than I do...
May 24th, 2009 (12:32 PM).
I need to watch Elfen Lied again. I love it for the exact reasons many hate it. <_<
May 27th, 2009 (2:52 PM). Edited June 30th, 2009 by JX Valentine.
Also, at long last (ha), chapter twelve. Again, the request for a beta is still out there, even though I'm sending chapter thirteen to my current one tonight.
(Fulvia is dead.)
Veronica soon learned that, even if someone seems accepting of his fate, it's incredibly difficult to force a stubborn and particularly proud being into an object the size of a baseball. Nonetheless, it took almost an hour of coaxing, pleading, and eventually threatening with violence to finally talk Bill into going into his poké ball before any one of their party could cross the town limits of Fallarbor. The former cop couldn't help but notice their traveling group was significantly quieter after that point.
Fallarbor Town, a spot of colorful buildings nestled in the valley between Mt. Chimney and the range of cliffs that marked Hoenn's northernmost edge, was still populated. Barely, but its people were still alive. Having remained mostly in Mauville since the beginning of the invasion, Veronica had no idea why this was, but frankly, it was the least of her worries. Right now, the most of her worries was fending off the questions and sympathy from her second cousin, who she found a block from the city limits and who was now walking her motorcycle beside Veronica and her small companion.
"I'm sorry to hear about Mauville City," Officer Jenny said for the umpteenth time since Veronica explained why she'd left her precinct. "You did your best, and that's honorable enough. If you'd like, we could get you transferred here."
"Not interested. Sorry, Pepper, but I've got things to do," Veronica replied.
The officer shrugged. "Suit yourself, but we really could get more help up here. Sue came up here last week, and – by the way, you've heard about Verdanturf, right? I feel sorry for those guys. The town was small enough as it was."
Veronica quirked an eyebrow. "Uh, Pepper? You were saying?"
Pepper straightened. "Oh! Right. Well, she came up here last week, but even then, we're overwhelmed. Are you sure you don't want to join us?"
She shook her head. "There's no ixodida up here, are there?"
Pepper grinned. "Not that many get close to town, thank goodness. I've heard the parasites stop at the ash fields, and the big ones don't have too much of a reason for coming up here except if they're trying to hunt for spinda. We're surrounded by mountains. Who's going to get us?" She paused. "But it's pretty bad outside of town. The ixodida apparently like hanging around Meteor Falls. We've tried to move everyone who's camping out around those fields and caves, but some of them are still down there." She stopped for a second time to shrug. "Anyway, what brings you here? It's a pretty desolate place to be just passing through. Looking for a place to relax from the invasion?"
"No, it's not that," Veronica answered. "We're looking for someone."
"Looking for someone?" Pepper blinked. "Who could you possibly be looking for all the way up here?"
At once, Veronica stopped. She tried to go over the names in her head, but she couldn't for the life of her remember what the name of the person was. She turned to Rose as the girl looked in wonder at the buildings around her. Reaching out, Veronica placed a hand on her shoulder, causing Rose to jump and turn her wide eyes towards her companion.
"Hey, Rose," she whispered. "Do you remember who Bill wanted to come here to see?"
Rose shrugged, shook her head, and looked away again. Straightening, Veronica put her hands on her hips.
"Hmph. Some help you are," she responded with a soft smile.
Pepper tilted her head. "Hey, Ronnie. Is there something wrong?"
"No," Veronica answered as she reached up to rub the back of her neck. "I just forgot who we're here for. That's all."
In response, Pepper nearly fell over her motorcycle. "Are you serious? You can't remember anything about this person? Maybe even why you wanted to see them?"
Veronica furrowed his eyebrows. "Well, my friend wanted to talk—er, us to talk to them."
"Well, why don't you ask your friend?"
She shifted uncomfortably on her feet. "He's… not here right now."
"Hmph." Pepper looked skyward, at the bright, blue daylight. "Well, what do you know about your friend? Maybe something can give you a hint to the kinds of people he might know around here."
For a few moments, Veronica stood in thought. Then, she replied, "Know anyone a little weird and pretentious around here?"
Pepper raised an eyebrow. "No."
"Well, that's a dead end," Veronica said with a sigh. "Mind leading us to the pokémon center? Looks like we'll need to place a phone call."
Pepper pointed a thumb down the road behind her. "Can't you do that from the station?"
Veronica shook her head. "No. Rose and I need a place to stay, anyway."
"You can stay at my place for the night."
Veronica smirked. "And can you treat our pokémon?"
Pepper raised her eyebrows. At that point, Veronica knew she won the argument. With a shrug and a sigh, Pepper turned away and began leading them down the road to the pokémon center.
Fallarbor's pokémon center was a lot like the one in Mauville, as Veronica noticed. Immaculate, tiled floors led from the door to the front desk, where a Nurse Joy was frequently working on paperwork via a computer. Behind the desk was a door to the examination and operating rooms. To the right was a waiting area, and to the left, a row of green public videophones, bookended by a PC on the far end and a clear tube that marked where the archaic transporter – the one that was in use just before the widespread installment of the PC Storage and Retrieval System – operated. Past the waiting area with its brightly-colored couches and wooden tables were doors: doors to the bathrooms, doors to the free rooms trainers could use, and the door to the dining hall. Even in the latter, with its maroon booths and the perpetual smell of fried eggs, Veronica had the feeling that if she magically switched the Mauville pokémon center with the one in Fallarbor, no one would notice.
But, of course, this one wasn't run by her best friend. It was Joy's sister-in-law, and that made it feel a bit wrong. Looking up from her work at the computer on the desk on the far side of the room, Joy watched Veronica and Rose approach. This Joy smiled sweetly enough. To almost anyone other than a Jenny or a Joy, that smile would have looked like the one on the faces of all the other members of the Joy family, but Veronica was different. She came from a family of nearly identical women, and with that, she grew up knowing how to tell nearly identical women apart. Her best friend in Mauville smiled with a sense of inner strength. This one smiled just to be sweet.
"Oh, hello!" she said. "Which one are you?"
The Joy was just trying to be polite. Veronica knew from her friend that Joys had the exact same potential to tell members of the Jenny family apart, and it wasn't as if she was an unknown figure within it.
"Veronica Jenny," she replied. "My precinct was Mauville City."
At once, Joy's smile faded. "Mauville City?"
Closing her eyes, Veronica decided to cut off the conversation before she had to explain why she wasn't on duty in her city. "My friend and I are taking a little trip. Don't ask. In any case, our pokémon could use some checkups. Would you mind?"
Joy blinked. "Your friend?"
At that point, Veronica opened her eyes and motioned to Rose, who was hiding behind the former officer. Slowly, Rose peeked around her companion and peered at the nurse with wide eyes. When Joy glanced at her and smiled, she jumped and hid herself partially behind Veronica again. Veronica looked over her shoulder with a raised eyebrow.
"Uh, she's not normally like that," she said. "I think."
Turning, Veronica leaned down. Her lips were next to the girl's ear, and even then, she lowered her voice to a barely audible level.
"Listen, Rose," she said, "she's related to the Nurse Joy you lived with for a little while. You remember her, don't you? Why don't you follow this one for awhile and let her look at your pokémon? I promise you, she's just as nice as the other Nurse Joy was, okay?"
Biting her lip, Rose looked at Joy again. Joy leaned against the desk, her smile broadening as she tilted her head slightly. Finally, Rose nodded.
"Good girl," Veronica said. "But just remember, don't let her see Bill. Keep him in your pocket until you get to our room, got it?"
Once again, the girl nodded. Straightening, Veronica exhaled and turned around to face the desk as she pulled Growlithe's poké ball from her pocket.
"Here we go," she said. "I've got a growlithe, and my friend has a few other pokémon. You wouldn't mind if she watched you, would you? Her name's Rose, and she could really use someone other than me to talk to."
Joy crossed her arms and leaned them on the desk. "Well, she's just the cutest thing! I don't think there would be any harm in letting her watch me go through routine checkups, especially if I'll be working with her pokémon. What do you say, Rose? Would you like to be my helper for the day?"
Quietly, Rose stepped around Veronica and approached the desk. Her lips were pressed together as she stared at Nurse Joy for a long moment. Then, slowly, she pulled four poké balls from her own pockets and nodded enthusiastically. With another smile, Joy took the balls both Rose and Veronica offered her and placed them on a tray beside the computer. Then, she walked briskly from behind the desk towards the door to the clinic.
"This way," she said.
Rose turned to Veronica one last time. A broad smile crossed the girl's face before she turned and scampered after the nurse. Shoving her hands into her pockets, Veronica watched them with a warm grin until they passed through the door. Then, the grin faded.
With a sigh, Veronica turned. Her steps were heavy as she crossed the waiting area and went through the open door to the dining hall. Pepper had disappeared into this room awhile ago, having promised to order them both a cup of coffee. Good to her word, the officer sat in a corner by a window, waiting for her relative to arrive, and on the table in front of her were two cups of black coffee.
Forcing a smile, Veronica approached and slipped into the booth, sitting down on the plastic seat. It felt entirely too familiar to her, but she knew it was in the wrong place and filled with the wrong people. It just wasn't Mauville.
Looking up from the cup of coffee in front of her, Pepper studied Veronica and raised her eyebrows.
"There's something wrong," she said.
For a beat, Veronica hesitated, wondering whether or not she should say anything concerning why the place disturbed her so much. Finally, she sighed.
"Ellen's dead," Veronica replied.
Pepper placed her cup on the table. "Ellen?"
Veronica sighed. "A poison ixodida attacked her. She didn't get mauled, but she got poisoned."
Pepper furrowed her eyebrows. "And you told me the rest of your city's gone too. Did that poison…"
Veronica shook her head. "No. I shot one, and I couldn't kill the parasite in time. Its eggs hatched and finished the rest of us off. Except for that girl. Rose. She's a nice kid."
"She doesn't deserve to be here, though."
Pepper paused. A frown drew across her face, and she lifted a fist to pound it on the table. Veronica jumped and turned towards her cousin with wide eyes.
"Damn it!" Pepper snapped. "There's got to be something we can do to stop these damn things! They've got to have some weakness that can kill them all off in one shot!"
Veronica furrowed her eyebrows. "Aren't you getting a little excited? I mean, the big ones are people at—"
She stopped. Her own words sounded strangely familiar to her.
"How can you say that?" Pepper asked. "The ixodida are killing us left and right! We can't just sit around and do nothing!"
It hit Veronica with the force of a stampeding rhyperior. Somehow, in the course of her time outside of Mauville, her perspective shifted. She wasn't a cop anymore. She wasn't the same person as the one who would gladly shoot an ixodida's claws off because it was a threat and chain another one to a monument to figure out how to kill it without letting the parasite hatch millions of eggs in its body. She no longer was the same kind of person as Pepper, the kind who believed the only way to stop the ixodida epidemic was to kill each and every parasite and infected human on the island.
Instead, she was like Ellen, the kind who looked into an ixodida's face and saw a person, the kind who only shot one as a last resort. She'd heard an ixodida's voice, watched him protect her, and saw him vulnerable in more ways than one. He was human inside, just like the other ixodida were nothing more than people who happened to be unluckier than she was. None of them deserved to die, especially because they didn't choose to become ixodida. They deserved to be…
"A cure," Veronica whispered. "That's what he's looking for."
Pepper, who had been ranting for the entire time about how dangerous the ixodida race was, suddenly stopped and stared at her cousin.
"Did you say something, Ronnie?" she asked.
Veronica looked at the table. "He wouldn't come all this way just to talk to a Nurse Joy, so…" She put her hands around her cup and leaned forward. "Pepper, are there any pokémon researchers in this area?"
Pepper blinked. "Well, there were a few. Professor George Cozmo, the Rousseau sisters, and I think the Fossil Maniac calls himself a researcher of sorts. Why?"
Veronica shook her head. "Are any of them still in the city?"
At that, Pepper pursed her lips momentarily and looked towards the ceiling. "Cozmo died early in the invasion. He got caught up in Meteor Falls when it got infested with adult ixodida. A couple of hikers managed to bring back his body. The Fossil Maniac moved into his abandoned laboratory, and Brigette Rousseau fled to Saffron City just before the quarantine. The only one who's still where she's always been is Lanette Rousseau. She's halfway between the city limits and Meteor Falls. It's dangerous out that way, but we can't get her to move."
Listening carefully, Veronica nodded every so often until her cousin was finished. Then, she asked, "What do they specialize in?"
Pepper tilted her head. "Well, the Fossil Maniac's pretty obvious. He studies ancient pokémon and their fossils, usually the stuff he digs up himself in the mountains around town. Cozmo did research in astronomy, studying meteors and the link between space and pokémon. Bit batty if you ask me. Brigette and Lanette Rousseau did a lot of research in pokémon-related technology, but on the side, they also do some studies into genetics and physiology. You know they worked with the Weather Institute to figure out how castform change shape, right?"
Veronica bit her lip. She knew Bill was looking for information about the ixodida and that he might not be entirely informed about the whereabouts of his colleagues. Secondly, she knew about the speculation that the ixodida were linked to the meteor that fell near Fortree, given that they started appearing around the crater it had left. So, considering both Bill's possible obliviousness to the status of each expert and each figure's field of study, she had a feeling he was looking for either Cozmo or the Rousseau sisters. That meant a two in three chance that they had come for nothing.
"Ronnie, what's with this sudden interest in our celebrities?" Pepper asked with a small smile.
"It's my friend," she replied. "I think he wanted us to go see one of them about the ixodida, but I can't remember which one."
Pepper frowned. "The ixodida, huh? Well, I hope for your sake it's Brigette, although I don't know how you'd get yourself to Kanto if it was."
Veronica sighed. "I don't think it is."
Then, eying her coffee, she downed the remainder. Wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, she stood. Pepper blinked.
"What're you going to do now?" the officer asked.
Veronica gave her a long glance. "Actually, Pepper, if it's all right, I need to pick up some supplies."
One of the only instructions Veronica gave Rose was, "Don't open Bill's poké ball until you're in our room." Hence, Rose waited until after Nurse Joy showed her to one of the trainer rooms before doing anything. Part of her wanted to go back out, to follow Nurse Joy wherever she went. After all, she looked like the nice one who took care of her in Mauville City. However, she knew also that her brother was waiting patiently. So, with a small "thank you," she quietly shut the door and listened for Nurse Joy's receding footsteps. Then, she did the lock and pulled her brother's ball from her pocket.
That was over three hours ago.
The room itself was simple. Upon passing through the door, one would see a set of bunk beds against one of the white walls. The beds were neatly made with white sheets stretched tightly over the mattresses and brown, wool blankets at their feet. A wooden door was set into the wall just beyond the feet of the bunk beds, beyond which was a small bathroom done mostly in chrome. The only other piece of furniture in the room was a wooden desk and chair set, on which were a computer, a clock, a pen, and a pad of paper. Trainers rarely used rooms for more than a night; that was really all they needed.
At that moment, Bill lay stretched on his back on the bottom bunk. The wool blanket was pulled up over the lower half of his body, and his eyes were closed. Still, he wasn't asleep. He merely listened to his sister, who was at the desk with Veronica's bag at her feet. She carefully ripped out pages of the pad and tore small bits out of each sheet. Slowly but surely, each bit would transform from an ordinary, white corner of a page to a small paper bird that she'd set anywhere there was room on the desk. In the over-three hours the two had been alone in the room, seventy-six paper birds came into being. She told Bill she was trying to make a thousand. He recognized the superstition and didn't ask her anything more about them.
In the meantime, Bill was bored. If one asked his colleagues, they would have said this was usually a dangerous thing because it meant Bill would wander off or come up with some outlandish idea in about a few minutes, but that was usually when he had some way to pull it off. Here, the computer was an ancient model – at least ten years old – and barely ran, much less connect to anything through which Bill could get some form of news. Rose had commandeered the paper, not that he would have asked for it after she found a way to occupy herself anyway. The only other thing to do in that room was to leave it, but after realizing they were in a pokémon center, Bill quickly decided against that.
So, instead, he lay on the bed, pretending to be asleep but really quietly thinking about the situation. He knew he wasn't the only one stuck as an ixodida. That was already obvious. He also knew a bit of information about the parasites. Part of him considered asking Adam more, but he could feel Adam quietly working on reaching into his mind. He could tell the parasite wasn't looking at his conscious thoughts. Rather, it was like he felt an arm reach past him for a jar on a shelf behind him. Despite the discomfort he got from the sensation, Bill assumed his companion was looking at his memories and let it go. It wasn't as if Bill had any idea how to stop the creature from reaching that deep into him anyway.
Still, he knew that the sooner he found a way to physically separate himself from the parasite, the better. That was why he was in Fallarbor.
A twist of the knob broke the quiet of the room. When the door was stopped from opening thanks to the lock, a knock followed. Bill immediately sat up and glanced towards Rose. She put the bird she was making on the desk and glanced his way in response.
"Nii-san, the bathroom!" she whispered.
With a nod, Bill stood and drew the wool blanket around him and over his head like a cloak. Without a word, he started for the other room.
Then, a voice came through the front door.
"Rose," Veronica said. "It's me."
Bill paused just after opening the bathroom door. He turned back towards Rose, who jumped to her feet and padded to the door. She undid the lock with a click and stepped back to let the door slowly open. Sure enough, Veronica pushed open the door and slid inside numerous paper bags before stepping into the room herself. When she closed and locked the door behind her, she turned to Rose to begin explaining the items within the bags, but before she could say another word, she noticed Bill. Immediately, she gave him a confused look.
"Bill, what's with the blanket?" she asked.
"It's a disguise," he replied without skipping a beat.
She raised an eyebrow. "Your feet are showing, and you look ridiculous."
Bill looked down. Sure enough, his silver claws were poking out from the bottom of his makeshift cloak. Looking up, he opted to respond to the latter comment.
"I really didn't have too many other options," he said.
She tilted her head. "The door was locked. Also, you look like a demented Jedi."
She straightened. "You really don't get out much, do you?"
With a tight frown, Bill took off the blanket and threw it over the bed. Veronica smirked as she bent down over the bags.
"Sorry it took so long," she said. "I went out to pick up a few things. Here. There's backpacks for Rose and me to replace those old ones we took."
She drew two backpacks from one of the bags. The first was a large, brown backpack covered with pockets. She slipped this on to show off as she handed the smaller, pink backpack to Rose. With a smile, Rose happily accepted it and tried it on momentarily before retreating to the desk. There, she slipped it off and began to fill it with the things that were in her pockets.
"Save room, Rose," she said. "We're going to split up what's in my old bag along with the rest of this stuff. Clothes that should fit us – though I had to guess your sizes, Rose – food, canteens for water, basics of what we'll need on the road. I even got us some spare poké balls and medicines in case we encounter any other wild battles where we'll need 'em."
Bill leaned in, placing his hands on his knees as he studied the supplies Veronica was pulling out. His eyebrows rose as his tail swished behind him.
"You've thought of everything," Bill commented.
"Of course I did," Veronica said. "I even thought of this."
She pulled from one of the remaining paper bags a parcel wrapped in white paper and tied with hemp strings. Bill blinked as he accepted the package and straightened. Whatever was inside it bent easily in his hands like it was made of cloth. Glancing back to Veronica, he offered her a curious expression as she sat back.
"Open it," she said.
Quirking an eyebrow, he pulled one of the ends of the string to undo the knot at its top. Sliding the thread off the paper, he turned the package over and slipped his finger under one of the white flaps. It opened easily, and soon, the paper fell to the floor as Bill drew from the package a long cloak made of black velvet.
"It took me a bit of hunting to find something like it," Veronica explained. "I had to visit practically every artisan store still open around here. It cost my cousin a pretty penny, but I promised her it was definitely important. Try it on. I'm not sure if it'll fit you because I had to guess your size too."
With wide eyes, Bill carefully undid a silver clasp shaped like an oak leaf near the hood. Then, he carefully drew the cloak over his shoulders and redid the clasp before looking down to examine it. Sure enough, the cloak fell low. It didn't quite reach the ground, but it covered just enough of him to hide most of his body except a half an inch at the bottom – and even then, this time, his clawed toes didn't stick out awkwardly. Veronica stepped forward, nodding in approval as she reached up to pull the hood over Bill's head.
"We'll have to come up with something underneath it so you can use your arms, but it's a start," she said. Then, looking down, she frowned. "Your tail's probably going to be a problem if it starts wagging under this thing. Try wrapping it around your waist like a belt."
Blinking, Bill stepped back and opened the cloak slightly to peer down. He lifted his tail, examining it as it brushed the back of the cloak. Then, he wound it around his torso, just tight enough to make it less noticeable. Closing the garment, he glanced towards Veronica as she stepped forward and touched the hood.
"We'll need something else to cover those scales on your neck. Otherwise, I'd say you're perfect," she said.
Turning, she carefully stepped over the new supplies and towards her old bag. Opening it, she knelt down and began rummaging for some loose bit of cloth as Bill stepped into the bathroom to get a look at his face and the new cloak.
"Thank you," he said. "Is this an alternative to the poké ball?"
Veronica shook her head. "No, we're still going to use the ball if there's an emergency, like if you faint when we need to get out of a place quickly. That thing I got you is just so you can spend less time cooped up."
Bill nodded and turned on the lights. Looking in the mirror over the sink, he definitely looked human enough with the cloak covering most of him. As Veronica had noticed, the cloak was clasped at the bottom of Bill's neck, leaving the scales that lined the sides of his throat exposed. A patch of skin ran between them like a stripe, leading up to the bare chin.
He realized then that it was the first time he's really seen his reflection since he was infected. Even when their party stopped in abandoned houses, he hadn't really looked, but now, curiosity got to him. Carefully, he drew a hand from the folds of his cloak and pulled down the hood to get a better look at himself. His face was distinctly human, albeit paler and thinner now than before the accident. From a distance, the wires on his head – silver in color and the consistency of individual optical fibers – looked like actual strands of hair, and by then, they had grown enough to take on a wave reminiscent of his old curls. The only thing that looked out of the ordinary other than the scales were the two horns. They were white and rounded, jutting out of the top of his head in a manner that reminded him of cat ears. He could tell they couldn't possibly be used to attack, but in the time that he'd spent as an ixodida, they hadn't grown into anything otherwise potentially useful. Lifting his hand to touch one, he briefly wondered what purpose they could serve.
Their function is simple, Bill, Adam suddenly drawled.
Bill jumped and glanced downward, towards the black velvet that covered the jewel in his chest.
What are they? he asked.
Adam shifted, curling in Bill's chest with a liquid warmth. How do bug-types communicate?
Bill furrowed his eyebrows. He knew the answer – the hundreds of answers, depending on the bug-type – but he couldn't come up with an answer that matched what he'd already perceived. Before he could puzzle over the question any further, Veronica appeared in the bathroom doorway.
"Hey, Bill," she said. "I've got these bandages. Let's try wrapping your neck in them."
He turned to her and blinked as she stepped forward with a tan roll of cloth in one hand and a safety pin in the other. Bill leaned against the sink as Veronica reached up, placed the pin on the edge of the sink, and began wrapping his neck with the roll.
"Tell me if it's too tight," she said.
He smiled. "It's fine."
A moment of silence lapsed between them. Rose appeared in the doorway to watch as Veronica slowly rolled the cloth around Bill's neck. He lifted his chin slightly to give her room.
"So, do you like the cape?" Veronica asked.
Bill chuckled. "It's one of the best gifts I've received in my life."
"Okay, now you're bullmukting," Veronica replied. "By the way, who are we here to see?"
Without skipping a beat, Bill answered, "Her name is Lanette Rousseau. She's a colleague of mine."
At that moment, what Pepper had said about Cozmo flashed through her mind. As a knee-jerk reaction, Veronica sighed with relief.
"Oh, thank God," she muttered.
Bill blinked and tried to move, only to be stopped by the former officer's hands. "What?"
Veronica shook her head and reached for the pin. "Nothing."
Finishing the roll, she pinned the bandages at the side of Bill's neck and drew up the hood. Then, she carefully pushed him into turning around and looking at himself in the mirror.
"What do you think?" she asked.
His eyebrows rose again. The bandages definitely covered the scales, although now, it looked like he was badly injured.
"Well, I suppose it's better than going without it," Bill reasoned.
Veronica smirked. "Yeah, probably. Anyway, tomorrow, we'll go see Lanette. There's something you should know, though."
He turned to look at her. "What?"
At that point, Veronica frowned. "Ixodida are infesting that route. The Officer Jenny around here tells me they like to lurk in Meteor Falls, and the parasites can hunt in the grasslands to the north of the cave. Are you sure you want to do this?"
Bill nodded. "I have no choice but to do this, Veronica. Lanette is the only one who can help me right now."
Veronica furrowed her eyebrows. "You know, Bill, she has a sister."
He gave her an awkward smile. "Veronica, I haven't been isolated for that long. Brigette is in Saffron City. She was there when I was still in Kanto."
"Well, what about the Birch Institute in Littleroot Town? Birch is one of the best researchers in Hoenn."
In response, he shook his head. "There's another reason why I think Lanette would be the best person to help me. I've known her longer than any of my other colleagues. We work well together – better and more efficiently than I do with anyone else."
Then, Veronica began to realize that it wasn't just a cure Bill wanted from Lanette. Her eyebrows rose at the sudden revelation, but she didn't dare say a word about it.
"Are you here to find a cure?" Veronica asked.
Once again, Bill nodded. "Of course. If I can cure myself, then perhaps I can help the other infected humans."
A smirk drew across Veronica's lips. "So, for now, you're trying to save yourself?"
For a brief moment, Veronica saw a flash of anger play across Bill's face. He was insulted, just as she had hoped. It said a lot to her about his motivations.
"What are you talking about? Of course not," he replied.
Veronica shrugged and turned to walk out of the bathroom. "Just trying to figure you out. That's all. Anyway, what'll we do about sleeping arrangements? There's only two beds. Hey, Rose? Want to share a bed with your brother or me? I'm not sleeping with him. No offense, Bill."
He blinked at the sudden change in subject.
"Just trying to… figure me out?" he murmured. Part of him felt he had more trouble trying to figure her out than she did him.
Glancing at her brother with an apologetic face – eyebrows furrowed upward, lip bitten – Rose took Veronica's hand. She'd made her decision. Veronica turned and gave Bill a mock salute.
"I'm going to clean up a little out here and hit the sack," she said. "When you're done modeling here, you get the bottom bunk."
With that, she and Rose left the bathroom, pulling the door mostly closed behind them. Bill stood, mouth slightly open in silence as he tried to piece together exactly what had just happened.
From the peaks of the mountains surrounding Fallarbor Town, the place looked beautiful at night. Even before the invasion, the wilderness surrounding the hamlet would be pitch black, and there it would sit in the valley, twinkling with white and yellow lights. Now that the wilderness was considered nearly lethal, the hamlet became a haven, its lights glowing in defiance of the destruction that had engulfed most of Hoenn already.
One pair of eyes stared at these lights blankly. The ground-type stood unmoving, save for the arrowhead-tipped tail that swung back and forth behind him. His mouth curved in a slight frown as his hands balled into fists. He'd been there for awhile, since he'd seen a steel-type retreat into some round, human contraption earlier that morning. Now, he was waiting, in part for the steel-type to reappear and in part for something else.
The something else landed behind him with a small burst of wind and a soft scrape. He turned, watching as the female rose to her full height. White feathers covered the majority of her body, save for the gold-colored claws on her hands and feet and the skin of her pale face. Her wings were bird-like and never retracted into her back. Rather, they folded neatly behind her like an angel's wings. On her forehead, half hidden by white feathers that curled down from the crown of her plumage, her core glowed like a third eye. Her tail, covered in small feathers and tipped with an arrowhead like the male's own, curled around her bird-like feet as she narrowed her blue eyes at him.
"I find it highly unusual that you would call me to your domain," she commented.
The male turned back to the town. "You are the fastest at flying, and your nest is closest to our lady's."
She raised her eyebrows. "Yes, and what importance does this have?"
"Have you really not sensed it?" the male hissed with a frown. "Perhaps not. He has not been through your domain yet."
Crossing her arms, the flying-type moved forward. "Who?"
She smirked and moved to sit on the edge of the cliff. Her talons swung back and forth over the edge as she peered down at the city.
"How is that anything to be concerned about?" she asked. "Rogues may not be common, but they're not unheard of. There is a rogue in every dynasty. I have rogues in my own domain, but I pay no attention to them. Humans are stupid. They panic, and when they do, they seek out other humans. But when normal humans see our kind, they panic as well and kill the rogues for us. Whatever the humans don't kill are killed by the drones, and when one of us dies, more of our brothers and sisters hatch and claim more hosts. So…" She glanced towards the ground-type. "Rogues increase our numbers. We should be thankful for them and let our lady's personal guards handle whatever rogue gets past his own human stupidity to reach her. That would, of course, be heavily unlikely."
The male narrowed his eyes. "You underestimate these humans. This rogue was responsible for the deaths of two members of the Venom Clan. I have been watching him ever since."
"He was lucky, then. Has he killed any of our numbers since then?"
Looking at the ground, the male shook his head. "No, but this one has also found humans who are not afraid of him. They are keeping him safe. As we speak, he lies asleep in that place, unknown to the other humans dwelling there."
The female shrugged. "He is lucky. Still, humans are weak. Unless his companions become our hosts, they will be killed if enough drones overwhelm them. If his companions do become our hosts, however, they will most likely kill him. It should be of no major concern to you, and I fail to see why it should be."
"He is of the Iron Clan."
At once, the female froze. She slowly turned to her companion, staring at him with an open mouth at first. Then, she pulled herself away from the edge of the cliff and rose carefully to her feet. When she was at her full height, she narrowed her eyes.
"Repeat that," she hissed. "I believe I misheard you."
The male straightened to tower above her. "He is of the Iron Clan."
"A rogue. From the Iron Clan?"
She turned back to the town. "Is he…"
The male nodded grimly. "It is a possibility."
Suddenly, the female paled. She covered her mouth and shook her head before turning away. Her wings spread with a sharp flap.
"Our lady must be told," she said. "I see now why you have called me. What will you do?"
The male frowned. "I will do my best to capture him."
"And if he resists?"
He closed his eyes. "You know as well as I do that the Iron Clan produces such dangerous monsters. He will be destroyed utterly if he does not cooperate. It will be best for our kind."
The flying-type gave him a bitter smile. "I wish you luck, but be on your guard. The Iron Clan does indeed produce dangerous monsters."
With that, she pushed off the edge of the cliff and took to the air with a flap of her wings. The male resumed his post, watching his companion ride towards the eastern horizon. Then, he turned back towards the town and waited.
May 28th, 2009 (1:23 AM).
Wow. No wonder this is rated 5 stars and has well over a thousand views.
To return the favour of your review I decided to come and read this to see what all the fuss is about. I just have a few gripes to share.
Did you realise that in chapter 8 there was this? Oh do you actually correct pointed out mistakes? (no offense)
Another thing, I like the way you portray Bill's family as Japanese (are you japanese?), but when Rosie calls Bill Niisan as in older brother it's kind of confusing to some readers as you might be referring to the Japanese car brand, Nissan.
Whenever I've seen the word Niisan before it's alaways written like so
See the difference. I know that sometimes people just combine it to sound like Nisan but it's better etiquotte to write it as Nii-san. I think. I could be mistaken though but when you type it in Google it comes out as Nii-san. And in some anime subs it also comes out Nii-san, even when the chracter is shouting.
oh and the Rocket Mecha Alpha part was kind of playing around with the team rocket cliche. Still, it's not my place to judge names.
Other than that, when Pepper is talking to Veronica, she refers to the Jenny in she says
Oh, is Veronica jealous of Bridgette? Or is it really that obvious?
Well that's that. It's a really good fic and I hope you keep writing more. Oh, about me posting on weekdays, my ban was lifted since my exams over *cheers*.
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May 28th, 2009 (5:56 PM).
Long story short, I really didn't think of the Nissan thing, so I'll think about adding in the hyphen for that and to be on the safe side. In the meantime, it's probably not so much etiquette as it is just to separate out what's technically the honorific.
Also, nope, I'm not Japanese in the least bit, to be honest. (Different kind of Asian by heritage, however.) Most of what I know about the Japanese language comes from either internet research or friends who have taken Japanese. In the meantime, the main reason why I made Bill's family half Japanese – other than the fact that I consider the Pokémon world to be an AU Japan – is because his mother was a kimono girl and was probably fairly traditional as a result of that.
But the bottom line is, Bill is really stupid when it comes to relationships. Really stupid.
Yeah, as pathetically comic relief-y as it sounds, Team Rocket grunts still send out stupid ideas in an attempt to get things done. Part of this is in order to keep even Rockets in character (because this is basically anime and game canon we're talking about here, where grunts really are stupid enough to think giant robots are the perfect capturing machines), and another part is because the higher ups (or Nettle, at least) actually wanted Bill to beat the crap out of their mecha in order to get information from him. This will later come up when it's revealed just how many antagonist groups are actually in this fic. (Off the top of my head, there's four. Two of them have actually been mentioned by name and are actually explicitly presenting themselves as problems. One of them is explicitly a problem but not yet named. The last will come out of left field because I'm evil.)
In general terms, though, personally, I just go with the canon interpretation, where everyone's actually related one way or another instead of just clones (the way certain other fics like to assume they are). The ones you'll meet throughout this fic will probably be cousins of Veronica by some degree. She's not an only child; I'm just lazy in trying to map out Veronica's family. (Although there's something about her sister I've been meaning to insert into the fanfiction. I wrote it out of chapter six, and I'm not sure if it'll be back.)
As for how Veronica sees Lanette, nah. Veronica is more indifferent to her at the moment because she's never met her, but when they do meet, she's actually rather impressed by Lanette. But you'll see that in the next chapter.
Seriously though, yeah, I totally see what you're saying. It's difficult to sit there for long periods of time and read through massive amounts of information. There's too many distractions on a computer.
May 29th, 2009 (9:05 AM).
What! more chapters! this just keeps getting better and better.
May 29th, 2009 (10:55 AM).
Much more flexible than eleven! Or, perhaps, it makes eleven look more sensible? I can't tell which it is... Again, loved it, Valentine!
May 29th, 2009 (2:31 PM).
Thanks. =D I'm glad you did.
June 1st, 2009 (4:21 PM).
*clap clap clap*
Very nice, very nice. This stuff should be published.
I'm sure this'll play out very well. The ixodidas... uh... ticks? =) The name, on first sight, is impressive, though.
June 1st, 2009 (8:33 PM).
June 2nd, 2009 (9:50 PM).
All right, sorry it took me so long to reply this time. I've been busy with the whole 7k 7 day thing (halfway done, w00t. I can already tell the story will need to be longer, though...) as well as preparing for this whole moving deal my family has to go through so my dad can get a new job. Yeah, haven't had to do this (not counting going back and forth from dorms) for nine years now.
So, this chapter was a lot better than eleven, yep. Important plot progression happens, we get another glimpse of the new group of bad guys, and get some hints as to their structure as well as the fact that Bill may not be alone in being able to maintain control of his body. Going back to chapter eight and the mention of "monarch" in relation to the arrowhead tail tip, I guess that is a sign of the Ixodida who rule over their specific clan or domain. Evidently, something's also up with him being of the iron clan that makes him even less normal than he already is.
So yeah, keep up the good work as always and I'll be right here reading, even if I do happen to get distracted by other stuff and can't reply for a week...
June 2nd, 2009 (10:24 PM).
I wanted to see Bill and Lanette do stuff
This is too good, ah.
I want the next chapter already. xD
Btw, who's Fulvia?
June 2nd, 2009 (11:05 PM). Edited June 2nd, 2009 by JX Valentine.
Random side note, but I know the Verdanturf Jenny still doesn't have a name. Trying to come up with one, I promise. The pattern is women in sci-fi flicks/superhero comic books. Suggestions welcome. Anyone who can identify the sources for the names Ellen, Veronica, and Pepper knowing this get a cookie.
So tempted to respond to your guesses involving monarchs, but because that would spoiler the crap out of upcoming chapters... XD
And ha. Bill calls himself a self-respecting geek, yet he's never fawned over Princess Leia in a slave bikini. Shame on you, Bill.
Thanks kindly for the response. =D
Also, gasp! Another chapter again? Yes, kids. Before Jax skips off to play in southern climes for a week, she offers one more chapter so you can be distracted enough to prevent yourselves from driving Asty insane while I'm gone.
(Make new friends, but keep the old.)
Although Veronica, Rose, and Bill left the pokémon center early – at the crack of dawn, in fact – they had difficulties leaving town early. Pepper had found them as she headed towards the center for breakfast and attempted to insist on feeding them (which made Bill uncomfortable) and then to introduce herself to Bill (which made him even more uncomfortable). The latter was made worse when Pepper said things such as "Oh, so your friend came after all" and "You must be pretty brave to be traveling alone through Hoenn." Both statements thoroughly confused Bill until Veronica finally said her goodbyes and urged her companions across the city limits.
Then, the three of them fell quiet for some time. The sun shone brightly overhead, and the skies were brilliant-blue. However, Veronica and Bill remembered the warnings, the talk about how the place was infested with parasites and adult ixodida. The humans remained on the paths, and their ixodida companion padded alongside them, keeping his ears open and his eyes sweeping the sides of the road for any sign of a red glow. Not one of them said a word: Veronica to avoid attracting attention to themselves, Rose because it was her nature, and Bill because he strained to listen for any suspicious sounds.
It was in the middle of the morning when they finally caught sight of some sign of humanity alongside the road aside from a signpost. A river flowed to the east from a waterfall not far away, and at one point, the road led up to it and crossed it from a wooden bridge before winding towards the mountainside. Nestled between the road and the river was an orange-walled cottage with a garden of bluk berry plants growing behind it.
At once, Bill picked up the pace, walking ahead of the girls with long, wide strides. Veronica blinked and took Rose by the hand, and the two of them sped up to close the distance between themselves and their companion.
"Bill, what are you doing?" she hissed.
With a smile, he crossed the bridge and made a beeline for the house.
"We're here," he said. "This is the Rousseau sisters' laboratory."
He approached the wooden door with Rose and Veronica just behind him. Stopping, he looked up, taking in the sight of the house. It had been awhile since he was last there, and to his relief, it seemed exactly the same as it had been all that time ago. There was no evidence of disturbance, nothing that indicated its occupants had been attacked by the creatures roaming the valley. With a smile, he drew his hand out of the folds of his cloak and lifted it to knock.
At the sound of Veronica's voice, Bill paused. With a blink, he looked over his shoulder. She frowned slightly.
"What is it?" he asked.
For a moment, Veronica considered asking him the question that was floating through her mind. Right then was the happiest she had seen him, and part of her was curious about one simple idea. However, she knew better than to pry, so with a shake of her head, she tossed the question aside for something else to say.
"What if Lanette's not here?"
At once, she was sorry she'd said it. Bill's smile faded, and his face took on a darker expression. He didn't respond, however, as he turned his attention back to the door. His hand rapped on the door three times before lowering to his side. A long silence ensued, lying thick on the group of travelers as a minute drew on for what seemed to be an eternity. Bill lifted his hand and knocked for a second time.
"Lanette?" he called.
In response, something banged loudly inside. Jumping, Bill instinctively grabbed the doorknob and twisted. The deadbolt hadn't been slipped into place, so the only thing that held the door partially closed was the chain. Bill leaned in and peered into the shadowy interior of the lab. All he could see were boxes and papers stacked into towers and walls that nearly reached the ceiling. Almost every available flat surface within view was covered with something, be it a stack of papers, a computer, scattered parts, or more boxes. Furrowing his eyebrows, Bill tensed his left hand until his fingers began to glow with a Metal Claw. Then, with a quick swipe, he slashed at the chain and felt it snap beneath his attack.
He pushed the door open with ease at that point, revealing a jungle of boxes with a long path leading from the front door to the stairs at the back. Smaller paths branched away from the main "road," lacing their way through the laboratory to small desk spaces and the humming, cylindrical machinery for the Hoenn PC Storage and Retrieval System. Directly in front of him, about halfway down the larger path, a large box lay on its side with papers spilling from its inside.
With a frown, he cautiously stepped into the laboratory. His nose was assaulted with a number of different smells: dust, cardboard, oil… and something flowery. Reaching for the coat rack on the other side of the door, he took what he knew to be one of Lanette's jackets – a green wool sweater – and brought it to his nose. The flowery scent lingered on the wool.
"Bill?" Veronica whispered. "What is it?"
He turned to her. "Stay out there. I'm going to find Lanette and make sure no ixodida is here. Don't come in unless you see something outside."
Before she could argue, he turned and walked down the path, climbing over the box as he went. The flowery scent grew stronger as he went deeper into the cottage. Every so often, he'd glance down the paths to check for anything that might be hiding, but all he could see were empty dead ends or desks cluttered with books, computers, or instruments.
Eventually, he came to the stairs, through a door on the opposite side of the room. Inhaling again, he took in the flowery scent. It was strongest here, as if perfume had just been sprayed over the stairs. Above him, the floorboards of the next story creaked. Pursing his lips, he slowly climbed the stairs, keeping his eyes peeled for anything out of the ordinary.
The upstairs hall formed a T, with the stairs leading to one end of the top arm. Bill wandered around the corner and stared down the empty hall, down the row of closed doors. At the end, one door was open. This he knew to lead to the den, where Lanette would often go to read. Quietly, he crept closer, but the closer he got, the more he was aware that there was another sound filling the quiet of the hallway. Someone was breathing in short gasps occasionally laced with high-pitched whimpers. The sound led him to the open door, and cautiously, he peered inside.
Three of the walls were lined with bookshelves stocked from floor to ceiling with books. The light was off here, with the only illumination coming from the sunlight streaming from the window in the left wall. Shadows drew across the floor from a tall floor lamp, a coffee table, and a white couch set up in the middle of the room. Meanwhile, the only other occupant of this den was trembling across the way from the door.
Lanette Rousseau wasn't a tall young woman. In fact, she was slightly shorter than Bill when he was still human. Still, even considering the extra inch of height Bill had from standing on his toes, Lanette somehow seemed smaller at that point, cowering in the shadows. Her pale skin seemed paler, and behind her wire-rimmed, oval glasses, her red eyes widened at the sight of what she took to be a stranger. Her straight, orange hair fell halfway down her back, caressing the back of a green sundress, and her hands hid something behind her back.
Knowing fully well that his appearance must have been alarming to her, Bill did his best to smile warmly. He moved towards her slowly, careful to make no sudden moves.
"Lanette," he said. "I'm sorry for intruding on you, but when I heard that bang from outside, I thought you might have been hurt. So—"
Before he could finish explaining himself, she shrieked and swung the object she had been holding as her weapon at his head. It connected with a whack, and before he knew it, he found out just how comfortable the oriental rug on her floor was.
For the latest time in one too many, Bill awoke with a throbbing headache induced by a blunt trauma to his skull. He groaned, squinting at the pink light of a sunset streaming from a window until he saw a pair of hands press something white against his forehead. It clacked against him, and a cold sensation spread across his skin. Blinking, he tried to shift but could only see Lanette from her waist to her chest. She seemed to be sitting in a chair, but her arms blocked most of his view as her hands held the icepack against his head. Only then did he realize he was resting in a bed under thin, cotton sheets.
"You're awake," Lanette said softly. "That's good. I was worried I really hurt you."
Closing his eyes, Bill winced and forced himself to sit up. He took the icepack from Lanette's hands and shifted it, pressing it to the side of his head where he took the blow. Slowly, he opened his eyes to find himself in the guest room. A dresser stood across the way from the white-covered bed, and beside it was a closet door on which his cloak hung from a single hook. Across the room, to his left, was the door to the hall, and between Bill and it was a second bed, separated from the first by a nightstand with a clock on it. Forcing his eyes to open a little more, Bill turned to glance at Lanette, who was staring at her folded hands on her lap.
"I'm really sorry," she told him. "I didn't know it was you when I hit you. Your sister heard me scream and came up to explain as much as she could to me, but by then, you were down. She and your friend are eating dinner right now. When you're feeling better, you can join them." She looked up. "You should have contacted me as soon as you got to Hoenn. What happened to you? Are you all right?" Then, she paused. "I didn't hurt you too badly, did I?"
Bill gave her a weak smile. "Lively as ever, Lanette?"
She glared at him. "I'm serious, Bill."
"I know you are. It's just… it's a long story, and I'll need to tell you later when my mind is a bit clearer." He sucked in a breath through clenched teeth as he winced. "What did you hit me with?"
Suddenly, the glare turned into a sheepish smile. "A crowbar."
He turned his head to give her a curious glance. "A crowbar?"
For a second time, Bill winced. "Oh. That crowbar."
"Lanette, do the National Defense Forces track pokémon movements across Hoenn's borders?"
The question came abruptly after a long moment of silence, during which Lanette fully expected Bill to explain what had happened in the time that he went missing. Currently, the two of them were working on clearing some space in her laboratory. Lanette was moving single boxes and small stacks of paper off a table and nearby desk and computer. Bill was taking larger stacks. He was starting to realize what the Rocket had meant about his strength; he definitely felt like he was lifting far more than he would have as a human.
Refined strength, Adam had told him when he started to notice this change. Not super-strength. You can lift as much as your body is built to carry but no more.
It was a vague definition, but it was the least of Bill's worries at that moment. Instead, he kept looking towards the machinery of the Storage and Retrieval System as an idea wormed into his brain. Lanette had watched him with interest at first, but now, her stare was one of surprise instead of fascination.
"I don't know. What are you thinking?" she asked.
He shrugged. "If we can access my account, I can withdraw pokémon that may be able to carry us out of Hoenn. We could use Surf, Fly—"
She shook her head. "That would be too conspicuous."
For a moment, Bill paused in thought. Then, he straightened.
"Kadabra," he said. "He can use Teleport. We can go back to the Sea Cottage, and—"
Lanette raised her eyebrows. "We?"
At once, Bill stopped. He put the cardboard boxes he held on the floor and turned back to stare at her blankly.
"Well, yes," he said. "We could work here for awhile, but if things get dangerous, Lanette, I want you to come with me and get out of Hoenn. We'll take Veronica and Rosie along."
She gave him a weak smile. "Four non-psychics in a trans-regional teleportation. Don't you think that would overstress a psychic pokémon?"
"You have a kirlia. We could have them link to use Teleport simultaneously. That should be enough to carry us."
Lanette shook her head. "I really can't leave Hoenn."
Bill furrowed his eyebrows. "Why not? If we can escape—"
She peered over the top of her glasses with a glare that silenced him. Once he was quiet, she turned to grab a small box of instruments, a notepad, and a pen. Then, placing these items on the cleared table, she patted an empty spot.
"Sit," she said. "We'll start with the physical examination and then move on to taking DNA samples."
For a moment, Bill hesitated. Then, with a sigh, he moved to the table and pushed himself onto its surface. His tail curled around his waist to rest on his lap as he waited patiently. She drew a tape measure from the box and began stretching it, pressing its yellow surface against the left arm of her companion's body. She paused only to write numbers and notes on the pad before moving on to take measurements of his hands. For the first few minutes of the examination, Bill remained silent, but then, the nagging problems in his mind pressed him into speaking.
"Why can't you leave Hoenn?" he asked. "The system has been transferred to Saffron City, hasn't it?"
Lanette didn't even look up from her notes when she answered, "Because it's my duty as a researcher to stay here and gather as much information as I can about the ixodida."
Bill shifted. "How much have you found out already?"
She shook her head and measured the lengths of the claws on his hands. "Not enough. I can't get close enough to study them, but I've managed to plant cameras in the grass to watch them from a distance. The parasites are obligate carnivores, you know. They consume the entirety of a carcass except its bones and the skin. I think, though, that the same could be said for the adults, only they eat everything. At least, nothing is left when an adult finishes—"
For the first time since the examination began, she stopped and looked into her partner's face. It was paler than usual, and a fang was poking out of the corner of his mouth to bite his lip.
"Oh." She straightened and pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose. "Sorry. I thought you'd be interested in learning about their habits. Isn't your area psychology?"
He nodded. "It is, but I have no desire to delve deeply into the mind of an ixodida."
She raised her eyebrows. "Why not? Bill, you have a perfect opportunity!"
"Because I'm afraid I won't be able to come back!"
The silence that ensued seemed heavier than it had been a moment ago. Bill straightened as he realized exactly what he'd said and how he'd said it. Frowning, he realized that he just told Lanette exactly what he didn't want to tell Veronica and Rose. On the other hand, it felt good to talk about it to someone. Lanette was his colleague, his closest human companion. He trusted her. It wasn't as if he didn't trust Veronica or Rose, really. It was more that he could tell something to Lanette and expect her to remain calm. He couldn't predict his traveling companions' reactions.
So, when Lanette gave him the opportunity to share, he seized it with both hands. She withdrew, pushing aside her tools to take a seat next to him. He, meanwhile, gripped the edges of the table.
"When I wear a costume," he began, "there is always one way to take it off – a zipper or a button. No matter how far I go, there's always the option to go back to being a person. This…" He paused to raise his claws between them. "This is my body. There's no taking this off and becoming human again. No way that's known yet, at least."
Lanette tilted her head and frowned. "You're scared."
Turning his head, he gave her a forced smile. "There's something inside me, and I don't exactly know what it wants. Of course I'm scared."
She offered a sympathetic glance in response. "I want to help you."
"Help me get back to Kanto," Bill replied. "If I can get to the lighthouse, it can keep me from losing myself."
Sighing, Lanette realized he was continuing the argument from a moment ago. "And then what? Bill, you don't look human. Even I couldn't recognize you at first."
He twisted in his seat to face her. "No one has to see me! It's not unusual for me to stay in the cottage for long periods of time."
"But not forever."
"Just long enough to find a cure." Bill slipped off the table and grabbed his partner's wrists. "Please, Lanette. We can't stay here. I've encountered those things before. They're dangerous, and they can kill us without a second thought."
She gave him a long, steady look. His eyebrows were furrowed, and his grip on her wrists was firm. She could feel his fingers curl and hold her with just enough pressure to make it known she wasn't about to break out of his touch but not enough to hurt her. The latter was a slight surprise to her, given she could also feel the sharpness of his claws against the flesh of her hands. Rather than looking at them, she lifted her chin and stared into his eyes.
"You might change in form, but that stubbornness you've always had is still there," she said lightly.
She could feel his grip loosen. His expression softened slightly. He was hesitating, and she could see it just from his movements. A smile crossed her lips at the realization. Bill may have been the psychologist, but she could read his body language better than he could analyze her mind.
"You don't believe me," he murmured.
Lanette pulled her hands away. Then, she pushed herself off the table and passed him to get to the computer. Her hands played across the keyboard in a series of clacks before she stood. Glancing at the screen, Bill noticed the familiar interface of the Storage and Retrieval System.
"I never said I didn't," she said. "Get whatever pokémon you think you need."
Bill tried not to show his relief and satisfaction, but the way he moved with such fluidity and a lack of hesitation told her he thought he'd won the argument. His hands slipped to the keyboard, and Bill couldn't help but notice how strange the keys felt under his fingertips. Still, his mind slipped into familiar routines. With quick strokes, he flipped through images of each box, searching for one pokémon in particular.
"You logged in for me," he said idly.
Lanette shrugged. "The NDF contacted Brigette to have your account frozen. She and I don't keep secrets between us; she gave me the go-ahead to unlock it if I needed to evacuate or in the event, which we thought would have been extremely unlikely if it didn't turn out to be true, that you showed up here." Placing her hands on her hips, she watched him for a bit before adding, "Which reminds me. You have yet to fulfill your promise."
He paused. "Promise?"
"The one where you said you'd tell me what happened as soon as you could think clearly," she told him. "You've been gone for two months. The only hint to where you went were the facts that the NDF wanted us to keep you from getting into your account and that Polaris Institute advised Bebe and Celio to split the Kanto and Johto servers between them. Bebe thinks you're dead, you know, but Celio thinks there's a conspiracy."
Bill smiled. "He would."
Ignoring his comment, Lanette continued. "Then, you show up at my doorstep infected. What are you doing in Hoenn? Weren't you working for Polaris Institute in Kanto?"
Bill clicked on a pokémon to check its status. The institute had deposited all of the pokémon he had with him in his dormitory into his PC. With them, his boxes were almost at maximum capacity. Herds of pokémon, and they were all just keystrokes away. It was no wonder to him that the military wanted to keep him from accessing his account.
"I was," he finally said. "As I've said, it's a long story. The institute was attacked, and in the ensuing battle, the sample we held found its way onto my chest." He straightened and tapped a finger on the jewel over his heart. "As you may know by now, the parasite has the ability to mutate its host. I came to you to find out how this happens."
Lanette shook her head. "Sorry. I don't have that kind of information."
He gave her a soft smile. "Right now, you don't, but I'm willing to give you whatever data you need to help me find out."
Lanette raised her eyebrows. "Bill, you're lucky I'm not Bebe."
"Ho-oh burn me if you were. I know what obscene things go through her mind."
Then, for the first time in awhile, Bill realized he was relaxed. He no longer had to be on constant watch from the predators in the wild. Worries about impending danger no longer plagued his every waking moment. He felt like he was having the kind of conversation he held with Lanette before the invasion.
As he hit the enter key to withdraw a pokémon, Lanette crossed her arms and tilted her head. In the meantime, Bill turned his attention towards the corner of the room, where the cylindrical receiving pod stood from floor to ceiling. The pod was almost entirely made of metal, save for roughly a foot and a half of glass that, when data was transmitted to it, lit up with a bright, white light beamed from a laser at the chamber's top. Colored lights flashed on panels above and below the window as the machine processed the information it received from the computer. It took only a few seconds of light and buzzing before the machine stopped as an ordinary poké ball sat in the once-empty chamber. Bill stepped forward and opened the door to retrieve the ball. Even it felt strange in his hand now, and he felt uncomfortable and hypocritical for holding it. He did, after all, object to its use on him only a day ago.
"So, they quarantined you," Lanette said.
"Huh?" Bill turned towards her with a blink before the question sank into his skull. "Oh. Not exactly. They planned on keeping me at the institute, but something happened."
Bill hesitated for a beat as he examined the poké ball in his hand. Then, he shrugged.
"Another person was infected at roughly the same time I had been," he told her. "He attacked most of the institute, and the National Defense Forces were called in."
Lanette raised her eyebrows. "So, the NDF captured not only you but someone else?"
He shook his head. "The other ixodida was killed before they found us. I think Adam was the one who did it."
Turning his eyes back towards Lanette, Bill gave her a forced smile. Then, he lifted a finger and tapped the parasite in his chest for a second time. At once, Lanette's eyes widened.
"It takes control of me now and then," Bill explained. "That time… I don't know what exactly happened. I lost consciousness, and…" Then, he paused, studying her face before quickly adding, "But he should be harmless now. He never takes control unless he wants to protect me or speak directly to me, and he certainly hasn't harmed another human being."
At least, as far as he knew. Bill paused, his smile fading slightly as he realized he hadn't really thought about what happened that day apart from in his nightmares. He furrowed his eyebrows as he tried to remember, to think past that mental block, but all he could recall was blackness. In his mind, Adam stirred, and he felt the parasite uncurl itself and reach into his head.
All you need to do is ask, it hissed. But for now, I will refrain from telling you. After all, is this not the female you wished for weeks to see? Perhaps I have spent far too long living within a human's mind, but even I must say I find her to be very charming.
A small flash of heat crossed Bill's face, and he was just about to respond to Adam's venom when Lanette called his attention again.
He looked up, his face dropping his angered expression in favor of surprise. She, meanwhile, tilted her head.
"Is it doing something?" she asked.
"What?" For a second time, he blinked. "Oh, the parasite? No, nothing important. Why do you ask?"
"Well," she replied, "for one thing, you're blushing."
Bill paused for a moment, his eyes wide and his body straightened. Then, with a frown, he decided to ignore her comment. Instead, he pointed the button in the center of the poké ball towards a clear patch of floor and cleared his throat.
"Kadabra, come on out," he said.
The white hemisphere of the ball swung downward with a click, and from the sphere's center, white light poured onto the concrete floor. There, it molded itself into a canine shape roughly half Bill's height as the ball clicked closed. In seconds, the light faded to reveal the form of a male kadabra kneeling before his master. At once, Bill smiled. Like the rest of that hour, it was the meeting of a companion from his past: the reunion between Bill and the first pokémon he ever owned.
"Hello, old friend," he whispered.
The kadabra opened his eyes, took one look at the ixodida, and, in response, telekinetically sent him crashing into a pile of boxes with the poké ball hitting the floor between them.
"Kadabra!" Lanette cried. "Don't! That's Bill!"
She wrapped her arms around the fox-like creature as a blue glow began to surround him. Another tower of boxes came crashing down on top of the pile, seemingly on its own. Footsteps pounded down the stairs, and in moments, Veronica peered into the laboratory.
"What's going on?" she demanded.
Despite Lanette's protests, the kadabra continued to squirm against her hold. Her free hand reached for his poké ball as another blue aura flared around him. Boxes shook around the already growing pile, but before he could topple another tower, Lanette held the ball against his skin.
With a flash of red light, the fox vanished into the ball. Lanette sighed momentarily before rising to her feet and placing the ball on the table. Then, she rushed towards the pile and pulled one box after another off its top.
"Help me with these boxes," Lanette said to Veronica.
The former officer blinked and jogged to her side. Bending over, Veronica grabbed for boxes herself.
"What happened?" she asked. "What's with that kadabra?"
"It's Bill's," Lanette explained quickly. "He tried to summon it, but it went berserk and buried him."
Veronica straightened. "What?!"
Bending over again, Veronica picked up the pace, grabbing and throwing boxes to the side. With both women working furiously, it didn't take long at all for a flash of metal to be uncovered. Their hands reached down and seized it to pull it up. First, an arm rose out of the boxes, followed shortly afterwards by a torso and head. Bill sat up, still half buried in boxes as his free hand reached to rub his temples.
"Are you all right?" Veronica asked.
Bill sucked in a breath. "I'll be fine. What happened?"
A small frown crossed Lanette's lips. "Kadabra attacked you. I should've known releasing it without telling it about your condition first would have been a bad idea."
He winced as he pulled himself out of the pile. "It's not your fault."
Veronica straightened and narrowed her eyes at the both of them. Placing her hands on her hips, she tilted her head.
"I feel like I'm missing something here," she said. "Since when did you have a kadabra?"
Bill blinked and glanced her way. "I've had one since I was a human. I just chose to withdraw him from the system because I'd hoped we could use him to get out of Hoenn." He frowned and shakily climbed out of the pile of boxes. "Perhaps I should rethink this."
Lanette sighed and helped him to stand. "Hopefully, you're not going to try to use Kadabra again anytime soon. You saw how quickly it attacked you."
He bit his lip. Of course he saw, and of course he wasn't particularly surprised that it happened. On the other hand, Kadabra was one of his oldest pokémon companions, and that was aside from considering that the psychic was the group's only means of transportation out of Hoenn as far as Bill could tell at that point. Just giving up on trying to convince Kadabra to trust him didn't feel right to him.
Veronica, meanwhile, was not satisfied with the change of subject.
"You withdrew it from the system?" she asked. "What? You mean the Storage and Retrieval System? We're nowhere near a pokémon center."
At once, Bill glanced at Veronica with wide eyes. Then, slowly, he turned to his colleague, who looked away and coughed.
"You didn't tell her?" he asked.
She shrugged and gave him a small smile. "We didn't talk to each other much. She explained to me your situation and asked to use my kitchen. Telling her anything else must have slipped my mind."
Exhaling, Bill turned his attention back to Veronica and said nothing more to his partner. He knew all too well how her mind worked when she was excited.
"Veronica, this is Lanette Rousseau," he said, "one of the two managers of Hoenn's Storage and Retrieval System. Because all of Japan's systems are connected, getting to my account is a simple matter of logging in through Lanette's computer."
His companion's eyes went wide before he'd even finished. She stepped forward, leaning towards Lanette with wonder.
"That Lanette?! The creator of the Storage and Retrieval System?" Veronica asked. "Oh, Bill, you didn't tell me you knew someone famous in Hoenn! Ms. Rousseau, it's an honor to meet you. Your system is a godsend for my entire family!"
At once, Lanette smiled and blushed. "Oh, well, thank you. That's quite a compliment."
Bill, meanwhile, blinked. "You're surprised that I know Lanette Rousseau? I told you she was my colleague."
"Yeah, but…" Veronica rubbed the back of her neck. "I didn't think you were talking about the creator of the Storage and Retrieval System."
"Co-creator," Bill mumbled.
Veronica's eyebrows rose. "Really? Who's the other one?"
He crossed his arms and glared at her. "I am."
"Seriously?" She tilted her head. "Huh. I didn't think you were that kind of person."
Narrowing his eyes, he studied her carefully. "What do you mean?"
She shrugged. "Well, I knew you were a pokémon researcher, but I thought you were just an amateur one or just an intern or something."
Bill nearly fell over in surprise at her response. Reaching up to rub the back of his head, he stared at her with wide, incredulous eyes. His mouth opened to respond, but before he could, a loud explosion rose outside. The house shook, and boxes came crashing down throughout the lab.
With a gasp, Lanette turned to seize the poké ball on the table before it could roll into the piles. Then, she followed her two companions as they bolted towards the doorway to the stairs.
"An earthquake?!" Veronica yelled.
Before either of the scientists could reply, a chorus of shrieks filtered through the walls of the cottage. Instantly, Bill froze. His body felt ice-cold as he listened to the cries coming from all around the building. Although none of them were human, each one felt unsettlingly familiar, and each ixodida outside was calling for him.
"Oh no," he whispered.
June 3rd, 2009 (4:57 AM).
Finally, another chapter comes out of Valentine's brain box. Great, as ar as I can see, there are no mistakes yet.
Ixodidas, I thought you came up with it, but when i googled it, that was the third or second thing that came out. I guess a lot of people like to use animal species/family/genus names these days.
(i.e. Chiropterans-Chiroptera :Blood + anime series.)
Oh and what about Selina for the Verandaturf Jenny? It's from cat woman.
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June 3rd, 2009 (6:04 AM). Edited June 3rd, 2009 by JX Valentine.
Here's a hint: Technically speaking, Bill is (canonically) based on a character from the same series.
June 16th, 2009 (12:48 PM).
Sorry for the long delayed review. Real life got in the way.
For chapter eleven, first off, I wonder when Professor Oak and Riko’s exploits are going to mention again. XD I say Giovanni’s plan is interesting on how to obtain the larger information. I would like to see how far Oak and Riko had progressed on their findings, though (perhaps in later chapters? ).
Also, I felt when Jenny dropped the bomb how Bill passed out at the Valley of Steel and was captured is a bit all of a sudden. I actually thought perhaps you could write a chapter about that instead. Some interesting developments could be how Bill is unable to handle the heat, despite the other Steel type Pokemon able to. Also, Veronica’s dilemma if Bill should be in a pokeball or not.
I have to agree also Bill took the news a bit quickly. Mad at first, but then goes all, “whatever.” Then again, I read your reason behind it and I can understand you don’t want the characters to be all angst and also you’re unsure what kind of reaction you want to go through with. Hm, considering this story is more animeverse, perhaps go more with animeBill’s reaction (which, now I think about it, is what you did already ; ).Then again, he has been only mentioned in one episode and there’s a bit of flexibility there.
I love Veronica’s development here, having her realize that the ixodida were once human. Also, love the interaction between her and Pepper.
The ending of the chapter I like also. Hm, so there’s more to the Iron Clan, huh? Can’t wait to see where that goes.
There are a couple problems that I have, though.
I think you did well with Lanette’s character here. Hah, Mr. Smashy? XD’; Also, huh, interesting to note how she thinks it’s her duty to stay at Hoenn and study the ixodidas roaming around. Lastly, I too think she’s charming (but not in that way – more as if I’m a teacher and she’s my student…er, yeah. XD; ).
Good development on Bill here. Love the part where he explains being in a Pokemon costume is different than from being an ixodida. Feel sorry though his Kadabra didn’t recognize him at first. ;
Also , another great chapter ending there. Hm, wonder if those ixodida are from the Iron Clan…
Nothing else much to say but that you’re doing great here. Can’t wait next chapter!
June 16th, 2009 (8:40 PM). Edited June 16th, 2009 by JX Valentine.
Seriously, yeah, they definitely will. It's just that I'm trying to juggle about three or four different outside groups while keeping the events that happen with Bill and his group flowing smoothly. However, you'll definitely get to see more of their findings (and by their, I mean the Committee's), and there's going to be a little side plot coming up for them that's going to be deliciously evil.
In other words, have no fear! Jax has not forgotten they exist!
As for Bill not being able to handle the heat, I really want to make people think there's not a really lame reason behind that, but yeah, there really is a lame reason behind it. Fire is Bill's kryptonite because as incredible his powers are, they're still balanced out by the fact that he's really, really not that strong (read: lame at defending himself). XD But to be fair, he was hit with multiple Embers, and if this fic used levels, he'd be pretty down there. But this is something Veronica totally would point out (especially because they're training), so I'm thinking of going ahead and throwing in an explanation behind why Bill + fire = so i herd u liek fainted ixodida.
Long story short, I think the problem here is that I know that it's not realistic at all to have a person get turned into a monster and then learn that they're technically actually someone else's property come to accept it quickly, but on the other hand, in-character for Bill would mean having him react pretty much opposite to any logical action I can imagine for someone who just found out all of that. Yeah, I know Bill's an obscure character, which lets me have some leeway, but it's the fangirl in me.
On the other hand… I just had a hilarious and fantastic idea, and I might actually revise that chapter (because eleven's rather short anyway) to include it because it's so appropriate for the cast and would take care of this problem. Probably not in the way that would actually make Bill's reaction more realistic, but I think I'm just going to resign myself to the fact that Bill doesn't believe in magical things like "priorities" and "reasonable reactions." Except Special!Bill for some reason.
See, guys? This is why Jax makes long, rambly posts when she replies to reviews. It makes her come up with awesome crap for later.
In other words, Veronica isn't ruling anyone out because she doesn't know whether or not Bill knows what happened to the scientists in Fallarbor. You're the second person to make this comment, though, so I'll go back and try to make this a bit clearer.
Why, however, is something that I'll only explain in the future. Because it's full of backstory that's going to be a lot of fun to write. (Mmm. World building.)
June 23rd, 2009 (8:00 AM).
Since I'd failed to recognize your changed name and had (out of my own ignorance) never heard any outside opinions about this, what really drew me to this fic was the title. I suppose my initial suspicions about this being an evil-sentient-computer plot died out, but there's a lot of compensation for that fact. (Also, it still seems to me that I'm missing something important here without which I can't understand the relevance of the title, which means the only way is to keep reading and see what more I learn.)
Hum. Where do I start? I never know what (not) to write when I have a good thirteen chapters to cover.
The prologue and the beginning chapters remarked on me for one (perhaps small) reason: your writing style. It was this matter of fact, technical description of every physical happening that had relevance, and it did seem to work. I noticed that there wasn't a single opinion presented in the first few portions, or an artistic theme or any purely human twist of the language. (Of course, my memory is a little blurry.) I think it was a good way to establish the attitude of the story towards violence: we're going to have lots of it, but we won't always bother to wrap it in horrified words and faces or try to overstate it at all. Or was it my imagination?
In the beginning I thought it was falling a little into the common science-fiction invasion clichés, which I presume is exactly what you want to hear; but it was really the point at which you started playing these clichés for creative and advanced backstories that I started noticing. Is this really a partial parody? In what way do you write serious fics, then? O.O Adam seems to be getting rather more sympathetic than most parasites created by author, unless this is my imagination too; the metamorphosis certainly doesn't let Bill transform smoothly; the invading aliens from outer space are actually interesting, which is rare enough by itself. Some of your subversions actually floored me a little. The fact that Bill's heart isn't Too Pure for Adam's Evil Touch, but actually Too Weak, is quite a brutal subversion of the 'special one' by itself. All of the characters reacted in ways that suggested they were too complex to completely understand even this far into the plotline (I remember Rosie's sudden unexpected acceptance of her brother, and Veronica's sexual suggestiveness as examples), and the ixodida civilization is turning out to be far too complex to shake a stick at.
That bit is a little odd at times. You essentially started the fic with creatures that (as far as they desired to actually show) were little more than brutal genocidal progressors of their own species, and slowly showed progressively smarter and more important depictions of the ixodida until you came to this far junction, with the different clans buzzing all over the craziness that seems to be a rogue from the Iron Clan. I suppose this made a nice little narrative pattern, but I'm not sure what it did for the consistency: while it's possible to reconcile the animalistcally bloodthirsty couple of the Venom Clan encountered in the Pokémon Center with the smooth-talking, eternally rational snarky alien being inhabiting Bill's body, I do wonder what you'd do to explain it. Are there different levels of intelligence among types? With the Venoms being little more than feral at best, the grass-types (whatever they are called) capable of communication in pack or tribal mentality, and the Irons really clever manipulators and chaos-bringers. Or was it chance that we found examples in these states of rationality?
Though I certainly don't know the original sources and references of half your names and characters, one of my constant games here is to find another important personality from important stories whom I can associate these characters to. I won't even start on Bill, simply because in the course of your references in the chapter titles you've compared him to everything from Samsa to Adam to Ikari Shinji (probably). Currently I'm seeing Veronica Jenny as a sort of more functional and active Katsuragi Misato, Adam as a Magnificent Bastard whose name I can't pinpoint right now; Rosie I was trying to peg onto Gregor's sister before she became entirely accepting and affectionate to her Nii-san. Mrs. McKenzie is either Angela Petrelli or (better) Livia as depicted in I, Claudius, despite my lack of much knowledge about her yet; and Oak seems to have a surprisingly lot to do with my own depiction of Oak from Aftershock (though I can attest that your own Oak is far more detailed and workable as a character).
I'll end this slightly pointless review here, mainly because I believe that anything one long rambly review can do, several shorter successive rambly reviews can do better. I wodner how much actual benefit can be gained from these comments.
June 24th, 2009 (7:07 AM).
I mean, what?
The long (i.e., more complicated) answer is it's a title that can be taken literally and also figuratively.
1. A lot was happening, so focusing on any one character probably wouldn't let the reader see the full picture.
2. A lot was happening, so bogging the reader down with unnecessary details would probably turn them off. (I've already received a note that said the beginning was fairly slow-paced. I'd shorten it to speed things up except everything that's there really has to be there except maybe the part of the fourth chapter where Bill's hallucinating in the Poké Ball, which I keep going back and forth about taking out.)
So, instead of spending pages going on and on about the OMGDARKNESS of what was happening (which a lot of dark fic and transformation/Pokémorph fic writers seem to do because it turns them on or something), I try to touch on things like that, but mostly, I tell the reader, "Yeah, uh, this definitely is an issue, but look! Something else is happening!"
Because, really, if it takes a character a page and a half to do something, then I know I'd just consider it a tl;dr situation and label it as plotless. But that's just my opinion. *shrug*
That and a lot of the time, this fic starts out to be like a campy sci-fi movie or a typical Pokémorph fic, but somewhere along the line, things don't work out that way. For example, the part where Bill attempts to fight the mecha and gets smacked away by its arm isn't supposed to be funny just because it's slapstick or it's making fun of Bill. It's supposed to be funny also because the fic is acknowledging the fact that if this was a typical sci-fi flick or a Pokémorph fic (especially the latter), that tactic would have totally worked.
So, it's really the self-references and the subsequent subversions that make it a partial parody. In other words, it's like the universe is setting things up to be one way, acknowledges that this is a cliché, and pulls the rug out under anyone with expectations because it has a really, really weird sense of humor. I guess this would be a case of the universe hanging lampshades?
Yep. And I totally know it, too. XD I mean, MKD's an example of me trying to be completely serious.
After all, think about it. The body's changing completely, both internally and externally. If you're a human who's turning into a half-Pokémon or a Pokémon turning into a half-human, that means a lot of bones are probably going to get reshaped, a lot of muscles will probably be shifting and changing, a lot of internal organs are going to shift and make room for new ones (because human biology =/= anyone else's biology, particularly that of a fire-breathing dog, thank you very much), what have you. Even if the character was sedated and unconscious for the entirety of the transformation, chances are, waking up will hurt like a *****. And that's if the person is lucky enough to make it out alive. (Hence the note that Bill died twice during his transformation but only survived because Adam was like, "WTF ARE YOU DOING. *makeshift defibulator sounds*")
But nope. Those other fics are happy-happy, "I just gave this character Pokémon DNA without consequences!" No, kids. It probably wouldn't work like that unless you have fairy magic.
And even then, the magical transformations don't have to be entirely painless, either.
And the weakness thing totally will.
So will, by the way, the fire.
And a few other fun things that come with the body because Steel-type Ixodida aren't exactly well-designed.
As for the Ixodida civilization, oh yes. And you'll find out just how it works soon… ish.
Assuming you do a bit of digging, some of you might be saying "oh ****" right about now. If not, relax. It'll be explained later.
So, yeah, I know you said they were basically what the characters resemble for you, and that's really cool that you're doing it. Beyond that, it's just something to keep in mind, probably for your own amusement, that this Bill is really meant to be as close to canon as I can get him without making people go "WTF is wrong with this character?" (Because, seriously, I've looked at his character for a long while, and I've realized that it's not bad characterization that Bill reacts to things the way he does. He's just really, really incomprehensible sometimes. I guess it comes with having a brain that just doesn't work the way normal people's headmeats do to begin with. Just as a warning to any reader who might be wondering about what I'm going to be doing with chapter eleven once I'm finished with fourteen.)
Oddly enough, if you're interested, Rose is based on Yuri Otani from the heavily obscure manga/OAV, Alien Nine. Yuri, a twelve-year-old, is forced into a team of three elementary school girls who patrol their school to capture aliens. Only mindrape happens. Frequently. Yuri herself is the typical girl who hates aliens with a passion to the point where she doesn't even want to be touched by one. However, the party she teams up with have to wear symbiotic aliens on their heads as a form of protection against things that are not-so-pleasant. Naturally, Yuri hates it at first, but eventually, although she's still uncomfortable with her alien (especially when it tries to kinda-rape her in the manga), she still converses with it in a friendly manner and comes to rely on it.
So, yeah. Long story short, if that alien were five-foot-something and covered with metal and not worn on the head while Yuri had Pokémon instead of lacrosse sticks and rollerblades, you'd pretty much have Bill and Rose right there. Rose isn't entirely accepting of her brother (Although I didn't make this clear, admittedly, but she refuses to actually touch him, hence her reaction to being asked to sleep in the same bed as him.), but she's stable enough to talk to him now and then because she realizes he's trying to protect her.
That and I still haven't taken care of the requests on my to-review list. *facepalm*
In other words, because you went in-depth, I think that's really cool, and I can find some use out of it.
Seriously, though, thanks so much for taking the time to look at it at that level and for taking the time to write about what you saw. I really appreciate it.
Also, obligatory promise, but I've finally sat my butt down to work on chapter fourteen. It'll be finished in a few pages, I think, and then it's off to my beta (who I will poke repeatedly because she found out about Sims 3).
June 30th, 2009 (9:39 PM). Edited July 4th, 2009 by JX Valentine.
All edits except the minor ones for the first chapter have been added. Only I realized belatedly that revised the wrong scene in twelve. Fail, me. Fail.
As a separate note, there's actually a prequel to AEM set one year before the events of the first chapter. *points to sig* Incidentally, any spelling errors on that journal are entirely intentional. Those of you who have also read Electric Tale of Pikachu, feel free to lol.
On that note, a new chapter! Gasp! Shock! Whoops, kinda fell back into my old update schedule. Real life really bites sometimes.
(Never say die.)
There were thirty-two ixodida outside, and by the looks of them, Bill could tell two things. First, they were most likely ground or rock-types. He got this conclusion mostly from the fact that all of them would raise their long, clawed arms in the air and strike the earth around the cottage in unison to send one Earthquake after another to rock the house. Second, for reasons he didn't entirely understand, they were pissed. This conclusion came from, naturally, the fact that they had been attacking the house with one Earthquake after another for the past half an hour.
Bill closed his eyes as he backed away from the window. Lanette was already in the other room, trying to convince her kirlia that the strangers in the guest room were her friends. Rose sat on the bed, surrounded by all of her pokémon: Numel, Squirtle, Whismur, and Shroomish. Squirtle and Whismur huddled close to Rose, both trembling uncontrollably. Numel kept close himself, but on his face was an expression of fierce determination. He frowned and crouched as if he was ready to attack an enemy that was just about to burst through the door. In the meantime, Shroomish seemed to have the same sentiment, but she growled as she paced on the foot of the bed.
Glancing away from his sister, Bill looked towards Veronica, who sat on the chair twirling Growlithe's poké ball in her hands. She said nothing since the two of them went to each window to see what they were up against. Nothing, at least, until that particular moment.
"We've got to fight," she said.
Bill furrowed his eyebrows as he made his way to the closet door. "There's too many of them."
Pulling his cloak off the hook, he flung it over his shoulders and worked on fastening it around his neck. When he looked up, he saw Veronica twisted around in her seat, glaring at him.
"We can't wait all night for Lanette to convince Kirlia to use Teleport for us. Go downstairs and withdraw more pokémon," she said.
"How will that help?" Bill asked. "Any pokémon I withdraw will most likely attack me. Even then, I can't withdraw more than six pokémon. It would take too much time to override the system."
Another earthquake shook the house. Rose whimpered as she hugged her knees to her chest. Veronica grabbed the chair and tried to remain stable, and Bill threw open the door to the closet and clutched the doorframe to keep himself on his feet. The tremor only lasted a few seconds before the floors calmed. Rose buried her face in her knees and sniffled as the two adults exchanged glances. It wasn't going to be the last tremor they were going to feel, and both of them knew that.
With a growl, Veronica stood. "This is ridiculous."
She stood and stomped towards the door with Growlithe's poké ball enlarged in her hand. Bill's eyes widened, and he darted after her as fast as he could, eventually reaching out to grab her by the wrist. Turning, she glared at him and shook her arm in an attempt to throw him off.
"Let go!" she snapped.
Without thinking about it, he growled – actually growled. "What are you planning on doing?"
Veronica paused, startled by the sound that came just before his words. Narrowing her eyes at him, she stopped struggling. Her thumb found the button at the front of the ball to shrink it, and with another click, she clipped it back to her belt.
"Nothing," she said. "If no one else is going to help me fight those things, it's suicide."
Bill loosened his grip on her wrist. He said nothing in return. Instead, he straightened and relaxed, cutting off the growl at once. Veronica slipped her hand away from him and turned to walk towards the doorway. Leaning out of it, she peered across the hall to the kitchen, where Lanette knelt in front of her kirlia.
"How's it going?" Veronica asked.
Lanette looked over her shoulder. "She says she'll do it so long as Bill doesn't touch her."
Veronica scoffed. "So, what? Is she saying we leave him here?"
Shaking her head, Lanette stood. "He only needs to touch one of us to come along. Take his hand and touch Kirlia. That should be enough."
One of Veronica's eyebrows arched as she muttered, "Isn't that your job?"
Lanette didn't seem to catch it as she moved towards the door.
"Get ready. We'll leave in five minutes," she said.
With that, she swept herself out the door and moved quickly along the hallway to her bedroom, leaving her kirlia sitting on the floor in the kitchen. In the meantime, Veronica turned to head back into the guest room. Bill hesitated for a moment and then frowned.
"What do you mean?" he asked.
Veronica paused for a second before starting forward again. "What?"
Bill pursed his lips. For a second time, Veronica paused, this time to look over her shoulder at him. Her expression was neutral – serious.
"Look," she said, "if you mean that little thing I said a minute ago, I'm just saying it's pretty obvious."
She walked to her bag in the corner of the room. This time, Bill followed her.
"What's pretty obvious?" he asked. Then, as if saying it as an afterthought, he glanced towards Rose and added, "Rosie, recall your pokémon and get your bag. Everything will be okay."
With quick, fumbling hands, Rose pulled the poké balls from her pockets to recall each of her companions on the bed. Meanwhile, Veronica picked up her bag and threw Rose's at the girl's feet.
"I mean," Veronica said in response to Bill's question. Then, she shrugged. "You know what? Never mind. It's not important right now."
He gave her a confused glance in response, but instead of saying a word, he simply turned and walked out the door. Veronica put her hands behind her head and followed him. She didn't say anything. She only watched him curiously as, once again, a question nagged at her mind. Part of her wanted to come right out and ask him, but she knew it was trivial compared to their situation.
Suddenly, that situation got worse. Downstairs, the sound of the door smashing open broke the silence. Shortly afterwards, a piercing scream filled the walls of the cottage. Bill instantly froze. His body felt cold as he heard the message in the cry.
Rose screamed and ran into the kitchen. She fell to her knees just inside as her arms wrapped around the trembling kirlia. Lanette was the second one to enter as she quickly passed the two adults while slinging a messenger bag over her shoulder. Veronica hesitated only to look at Bill, who stared towards the stairs with wide eyes.
"Bill, what are you doing?" she snapped. "Come on!"
The screams rose again as the sound of ripping and crashing rose from downstairs. In his mind, each shriek resolved into words.
He paused. Though he couldn't consciously make sense of what they meant, he felt like he understood – like he knew the meaning of the string of words but didn't know how he could have arrived at his conclusion. They were after him, and they were willing to kill everyone in the house for him. Why? Because he somehow broke an unwritten law of the ixodida? He tried to search for Adam and ask him, but Adam, strangely, evaded Bill's reaches. Before he could make more of an effort to coax Adam to the surface of his mind, Veronica grabbed his hand and pulled him into the kitchen.
"Let's go!" she snapped. "They're getting closer!"
He didn't protest. Instead, he turned and darted with her to the kirlia. Rose held one of the psychic-type's hands while Lanette held a shoulder. Veronica, meanwhile, reached out to grasp Kirlia's other hand.
With a sharp frown, Lanette gave her command to her pokémon. "Kirlia! Focus all of your energy and use Teleport to get us to Littleroot!"
The psychic closed her eyes and hummed. Within seconds, a blue aura flared around her and began to expand outwards to touch all of her passengers. The light flickered and danced across them as it steadily grew brighter.
Suddenly, the room shook with another tremor. Shrieks rose from the first floor as plaster fell in a white snow onto the five travelers. Rose clung tighter to Kirlia's arm with both hands, and Veronica fell to a knee – bringing Bill down with her – to keep herself stable and connected to the psychic.
However, Lanette's hand slipped from Kirlia's shoulder as she lost her balance and pitched backwards onto the floor.
All of the travelers, including Lanette, realized a split second too late her mistake, but before Lanette could reach out to touch one of her companions again, they vanished.
Panting with panic at the realization of what had just happened, Lanette waited until the tremors stopped. The shrieks rose again, this time closer. She could tell they were almost at the foot of the steps. Even the mountains of boxes and papers downstairs weren't enough to keep them at bay for long. Lanette gradually stood, her hands searching through her bag for an answer. Inside, she found the poké ball she'd intended to give back to its proper owner.
Biting her lip, she opened it, allowing the light to spill from it and form, in seconds, a kadabra. He knelt in front of her for a brief moment before looking up to find Lanette. At once, she dropped to her knees and placed her hands on his shoulders.
"I'm sorry, Kadabra," she said. "Bill isn't here. It's just me. You remember me, don't you? I'm Lanette."
He stared at her for a moment before nodding slowly.
Lanette offered a small smile in return. "I'll explain in a moment, but right now, we need to get out of here. I want you to Teleport to the safest place you can think of."
For a beat, Kadabra hesitated. Then, slowly, he closed his eyes and focused.
In the next instant, the kitchen was empty.
The forest outside of Littleroot had been quiet for weeks. It was one of the last places ixodida appeared, having been hampered by the abundant fauna in Petalburg Woods and City. Even here, zigzagoon were still plentiful, and wurmple, with their poisonous barbs, clung to almost every tree trunk in the area. The darkest part of the night drew on, and the lights from the stars and the moon filtered through the lacing tree branches overhead. Throughout the forest, the only sounds were poochyena barks and the scratching of zigzagoon claws across the leaves littering the ground.
Then, in the middle of the path winding to Littleroot, four figures suddenly materialized, and the first sound out of one of them was a scream.
"Lanette!" Bill shouted.
He tore his hand away from Veronica's and swung desperately towards the spot in their formation where Lanette would have stood. In the darkness, he could see no one there.
"No," he whispered. "No, we've got to go back! Lanette—"
Veronica frowned. She felt the kirlia's hand hang limply from her own before she let it slip through her fingers. The psychic didn't even have enough strength to stand up, and Veronica knew that from the way the stubby arm fell and from the soft thumping of Kirlia's body on the dirt.
"Bill," she said calmly, "the ixodida broke in. If we went back, we'd be too late."
He shook his head. "No, Veronica, if we go back right now, we'd—"
"Do you really think Kirlia's up to it?" Veronica asked.
Bill hesitated for a beat. Then, turning, he stooped down to Kirlia's level. He could see her in monochrome, but even in broad daylight, she would have looked pale. Already, she was on her hands and knees on the ground as her small mouth panted from the exertion. Bill ignored this and reached for her arm.
"Please," he pleaded. "Kirlia, please. Lanette's in danger. We need to go back."
Noticing his hand coming for her, Kirlia froze. Her eyes widened in terror for a beat before taking on a blue glow. In the next instant, Bill felt a snap, like a sharp electric shock hitting his hand. Right then, he recoiled and winced.
"Kirlia!" he hissed.
Veronica put her hands on her hips, her fingers brushing the poké balls on her belt. "Bill, it's no use! We can't go back!"
In response, Bill rose to his feet quickly, whirling around to face Veronica. "I refuse to believe that! We're running out of time!"
"Calm down," she said. "Lanette's a smart girl. She'll figure out a way out."
"How can you say that?" he replied. "Lanette's in danger! She… aren't you supposed to protect the people?"
"We can't use Teleport," Veronica told him. "Would you just look at Kirlia? Even I can tell she's too weak to make another trip. Forcing her might hurt her."
"If we don't do something," Bill snapped, "someone is going to be killed."
"How can we ask Kirlia to Teleport to an ixodida-infested house and back with all of us? She needs rest, Bill."
For a beat, he was silent. Veronica could see his silhouette in the dim light of the moon, but she couldn't read his expression. However, soon, she didn't have to. Instead, he exhaled, and she could hear the sound of metal sliding across metal. Bill pushed his cloak between the spikes on his back as his wings extended to his sides.
"We don't ask her, then," he replied. "I'll fly there myself. It will put fewer of us in danger anyway."
In the next moment, Veronica could hear the hum of Bill's wings beating. She watched him rise into the air for several feet, just before she saw the twisting line of his tail. Without thinking, she snatched it and wrapped it around her hand once. Then, with a sharp yank, she pulled it, sending the creature slamming back into the ground mere seconds after he took off. A piercing scream tore from his throat – an inhuman one, much like the ones that she'd heard fill Lanette's home.
Suddenly, Bill wasn't on the ground. Instead, he was swinging back onto his feet as his claws raced through the air. There was the sound of tearing, and a searing pain ran through Veronica's arm. She gasped and released Bill's tail as she glanced at him with watering eyes. It was strange, but she didn't notice until now that in the darkness, Bill's eyes glowed like a cat's. That image and the feeling of blood running down her arm sent shivers through her body.
Holding her arm, she backed away, realizing she wasn't facing a human. "Bill, what the hell? Look, I'm sorry for pulling your tail, but you've really completely lost it, you know that? How long do you think it'll take you to get back to Fallarbor? And then, you're running right into danger. You'd be outnumbered, even if you took us. Kirlia wouldn't be able to Teleport us back either way. And even then, who's to say that they didn't get La—"
She stopped when she heard it. It was a strange sound, a rumbling growl. Bill crouched and narrowed his glowing eyes. His claws were stretched out at his sides, and his tail whipped behind him in irritation.
"Don't you dare stop me," he hissed.
His wings spread, and once again, Veronica heard the hum of the blades beating. However, she also heard a pop, and out of the corner of her eye, she saw a white light.
"Shroomish, Stun Spore!"
Veronica dove backwards, as far away from Bill as she could get while one of her hands covered her mouth and nose. She'd been attacked by enough pokémon in the line of duty to know how to react. However, Bill wasn't quite used to it. Instead of diving out of the way, he turned, facing the source of the cold breeze head-on. Unfortunately, his night vision wasn't sharp enough for him to make out the gold dust that had engulfed him, but he could see clearly the image of his sister helping the fallen kirlia to get away from the cloud as the shroomish in front of her shook violently.
In the next moment, Bill smelled something bitter. He clenched his teeth and tried to hold his breath, but by then, it was far too late. The unprotected skin of his face felt it first, the numbness crawling through his body as a result of the toxins in the spores working their way into his body. Next went his muscles as the golden dust wormed its way into the gaps between the plates of his armor. At first, his entire body seized up, and he stood as straight as a wooden board. Then, slowly, he lost the ability to do even that as he sank to his knees first and then onto his stomach.
He couldn't speak. He couldn't move. All he could do was stare, angry and hurt, at his sister.
"Recall him. We've got to get him some help." Veronica paused to glance at her injured arm, still stinging and bleeding. "And I think I need stitches."
With a nod, Rose reached behind her to pull his ball from her backpack. Bill stared helplessly as she held it up to him. Then, a red light pierced the darkness of the forest, and Bill could no longer see the outside world.
In the middle of the night, Brigette Rousseau sat in a barely furnished apartment in Saffron City. She had moved in months ago, but even then, the place only had a bed, a dresser, a kitchenette, a door to a small bathroom, and a desk with a computer sitting on top of it. Brigette wasn't usually one to live extravagantly, and anyway, she didn't need much for what she had to do there.
She leaned back in her chair, her slender body tilting it slightly off its front legs as her ruby-colored eyes fixed on the screen. Statistics of the Hoenn Storage and Retrieval System flashed in rapid succession in blinking windows as the system ran through checks and scans. It went on like this for a quiet hour, with Brigette only getting up to walk across the room to the bathroom and then the kitchenette beside it. Her back was turned as she poured herself a glass of water from the kitchenette's tap when, suddenly, the processes stopped.
Only then did she hear the ringing of the video phone function. As she took a sip from her glass, she turned and walked back to the computer. A few keystrokes later, she answered on the third ring.
When the image of the caller appeared on the screen, Brigette was surprised for two reasons. First, it was her sister, who had sworn never to leave Hoenn until she gathered enough data on the ixodida. Second, the brown plaster walls, the dim light, and the red carpets of the all-too-familiar backdrop told Brigette she wasn't looking at the cottage near Meteor Falls. Instead, she recognized it immediately as the Sea Cottage – Bill's lighthouse.
"Lanette?" she asked as she sat down. "Explain."
The caller exhaled. "Hello, Brigette. I'm sorry about calling this late, but I need to tell you something important."
Brigette quirked an eyebrow. "You're not in Hoenn anymore, are you?"
She bowed her head. "No. That's part of why I called."
At that, the older sister took another sip from her glass, swallowed, and added, "I noticed you unfroze Bill's account. Was it one of his pokémon that brought you to Kanto?"
"How did you…" Lanette looked over her shoulder. "Oh. Right." She glanced back at the screen. "I can't say too much about how I evaded quarantine, but yes."
Brigette furrowed her eyebrows. "I see. What happened?"
"We were attacked by ixodida, Brigette. Our lab is destroyed, and Bill's kadabra used Teleport at the last second to get me out."
Brigette nodded. "I see."
Lanette straightened as a frown tightened her face. "There's something you need to know. I found Bill."
At that, Brigette's eyebrows rose. "You did?"
In response, Lanette nodded. "Yes, but he's in trouble."
"They quarantined him."
"Quarantined?" Brigette tilted her head. "Lanette, tell me he didn't…"
Lanette nodded solemnly. "He told me there was an accident in Polaris Institute. He's an ixodida now, and he's stuck in Hoenn with his sister."
"An ixodida?" Brigette blinked. "And he told you…?"
The younger sister shook her head. "I don't understand it either, but somehow, Bill isn't like the other ixodida I've seen in the area. He still thinks the way he always has." Her eyelids lowered slightly as she looked away briefly. Then, glancing back, she furrowed her eyebrows. "Brigette, we've got to do something. We can't just leave him or anyone else like him there. What if he slips and turns into an ixodida in his mind too? We'll lose our best chance at finding out about the ixodida!"
Brigette closed her eyes. "You know Bill as well as I do. He practically does this kind of thing for a living. He won't break down that easily."
"He's scared that he will, though. I think he's been like this for far too long."
Brigette nodded. "Probably since he disappeared." She opened her eyes. "Stay there for a few days. I'm going to make arrangements for the two of us to go to Pallet Town."
"Pallet Town?" Lanette gave her a curious look. "What's in Pallet Town?"
"According to the news," Brigette replied, "Professor Oak. We're going to go there and ask him a few questions."
"Why not just go to Polaris Institute?"
Brigette shook her head. "That fortress? We'd be lucky to get in the front gate. Professor Oak, however, survived something bad enough to be forced to retire from the institute at the same time we were asked to freeze Bill's accounts. I think he might know something about the beginning of all of this, and if we can find out exactly what happened to Bill, we might be able to help him."
Lanette's eyes widened, but she didn't say anything in response. In the meantime, Brigette placed her glass on the desk, laced her hands in front of her, and propped her elbows on the table.
"Might," she added.
In the heart of Hoenn, there was a mountain on an island called Mt. Pyre. This particular point, for its location and the fact that it was the tallest point in the region, had often been seen by the natives as being the point at which the spirits of the dead rose to the heavens to be judged. Hence, the interior was almost completely a cemetery for both people and pokémon. Ghost-types lurked among the countless markers lining each floor, and outside, in the tiers leading up to the cloud-cloaked top, vulpix and meditite came to hone their spiritual powers while chimecho sang for the dead. At least, they did until the invasion. Now, ghost-types lurked the interior, remaining close to the high ceilings to avoid being disturbed by the parasites and the monsters infesting the mountain. The vulpix, the chimecho, and the meditite were all dead, desiccated and devoured within months.
Or, at least, almost all of them were.
The last chimecho on the mountain tried his best to avoid being captured, despite the persistence of his predators. He knew the best hiding places on the mountain, but many of them were filled with the red parasites by now. In any case, even if he tried to hide himself in one of his usual burrows, the larger monsters would somehow find him. That was exactly what happened. He thought the ridge behind the shrine would have provided him safety, but somehow, the creatures knew he was there. So, he no sooner drifted behind the rocky wall and attached himself to the underside of a ledge than a hand came down to snatch him, as if it had been waiting for him.
Currently, his ribbon-like tail was wrapped around the purple claws of a female ixodida. The creature's blue eyes fixed on the terrified chimecho as a grin crossed her tanned face. She was a petite figure with dark purple skin that glistened in the fog which covered the peak of the mountain. Purple wisps curled around her breasts and waist, framing the glowing, red core of the parasite just above her navel. Wisps wrapped around her ankles and wrists like trailing, smoky bracelets, and on her head, her hair was not much more than a crown of purple fog trailing into nothing. Behind her, a long tail ending in a sharp arrowhead twisted slowly like a snake.
Her long claws toyed with the chimecho's tail as a faint, red aura surrounded the psychic creature. The prey was trapped, and it was just a matter of time before the ixodida would finally bite into the trembling creature's body.
However, before she could, a warm feeling passed through her body. She turned, glancing towards the dark patches of night sky through the fog. A moment later, the fog stirred, and she heard the flapping of wings. With a smile, she wrapped the tail of the chimecho around her hand and pulled it towards the shrine to wait for the visitor. Her feet stepped onto the stone platform and the bones of the elderly couple who tried to protect one of Hoenn's most sacred places. She kicked the latter off the platform as soon as she touched them and stalked forward to the three pedestals in the middle of the shrine. Two of them held the only sources of light on the peak of the mountain: one crystal ball that glowed with the color of molten lava and its twin, glowing with the color of ocean waves. The last pedestal held nothing at all; it was on this that she set her prey.
"Welcome," she finally said.
Behind her, she heard the scraping of talons on stone. Turning, she saw the silhouette of her visitor, a flying-type ixodida who she knew had traveled halfway across the region to see her. As soon as she was noticed, the harpy dropped to a knee and bowed her head.
"My lady," she said.
The lady smiled in return. "Rise, my guardian of the wind. You come bearing news."
"Not good news, I fear," the harpy replied as she slowly stood. "I cannot tell whether you know or not, but there is a rogue in the Earth Guardian's domain. He is of the Iron Clan."
For a moment, the lady pursed her lips and fell silent. In the meantime, the Wind Guardian shifted uncomfortably.
"My lady?" she asked.
"Yes," the lady replied. "Yes, I know of his existence. You forget that I can sense every one of our kind in this colony, regardless of whether or not they obey me. He has a strong presence, but that is only natural for someone of his kind." She turned and glanced towards the red orb. "Furthermore, he is no longer in the Earth Guardian's domain. He is in the Fire Guardian's. It should be considered lucky that we have not yet rescued our dear brother from those humans yet."
"Lucky?" The Wind Guardian's eyes widened. "My lady, why should it be considered lucky? The Iron Clan has the potential to destroy us all!"
The lady looked over her shoulder. "He is only one, my guardian, and he has difficulties with his host. Besides…"
She turned back to the red orb. One of her hands reached to grasp its surface and hold it in front of her face. Her blue eyes studied the flickering light within it as her skin felt its heat in her palm.
"It would be interesting to see what he does," she added.
The Wind Guardian tilted her head. "But… my lady, do you think he is…"
She shook her head. "No. I do not think he is. I know he is." A grin crossed her face as she looked at the Wind Guardian again. "Do you think he remembers me?"
"Him," the Wind Guardian gasped as she held her head. "No, not him! Why, of all the planets our kind has spread to, has he followed us to ours?"
The lady's expression darkened. "Oh, guardian. Do you truly wish him on anyone else? In truth, our kind is lucky. He has fallen to a planet filled with weak hosts, and the Iron Clan's numbers are small here. Why should we worry about him?"
At that response, the Wind Guardian sighed. "Because it was his fault that our planet was destroyed."
"Perhaps it was, but we still live on." She grinned. "The Interplanetary Alliance and that senate of theirs may try time and time again to kill our entire people, but now, we are spread among all of their planets and scores of unaligned ones. We can rebuild a thousand empires like the one we once had, and they could never possibly wipe us all from existence. So, we should really have our former lord to thank for giving us more prosperity than any emperor before him could have dreamed possible."
The Wind Guardian's eyes widened to a near impossible degree. "My lady!"
She grinned. "As we speak, my knight of ice and other members of the Snow Clan are traveling to the humans' fortress to retrieve my guardian of fire. Until he arrives, go to his domain and watch the Iron rogue. If you get a chance, capture him and bring him to me. Perhaps I can gain something useful from his host. However, if either of them attempt to usurp my throne or ruin my colony, then you have my permission to kill him any way you please."
An electric shock traveled through the Wind Guardian's body, beginning with the base of her horns. Shivering, she bowed.
"Yes, my lady," she said.
Turning back to the pedestals, the lady examined each orb closely.
"Humans have such fascinating stories," she told her guardian. "It may be one thing I keep of theirs." She glanced over her shoulder for a third time. "He agrees, you know. He calls himself Adam now, after their first human."
"Adam," the Wind Guardian repeated.
Smiling, she nodded. "Yes. I believe I will take my name from the same story. From now on, I shall call myself Lilith."
Again, the Wind Guardian bowed. "Yes, my lady. It is a fitting name."
"Of course." She nodded and tilted her head. "You are dismissed, then, unless you have further information to share."
The Wind Guardian shook her head and straightened. For a beat, she hesitated, staring through the fog at her ruler with a frown. Then, without another word, she extended her wings, turned, and pushed off the ground.
Lilith turned back to the pedestals once again. She examined the red sphere in her hand closely before replacing it carefully, as if she thought it was just as holy an artifact as the humans in the region had. Then, her blue eyes swept towards the third pedestal, but only then did she see that the chimecho had escaped sometime during their conversation. With a smile, she sauntered to the empty pillar, turned, and gracefully pulled herself up to sit on it. Gazing at the obscured sky, she tilted her head.
"Adam," she said, "I can see you, but I cannot fathom what you may be thinking."
Then, her grin turned mischievous. Her tail twisted behind her like a cat's as a clawed hand rose to her mouth.
"I hope for our sake, it will make things interesting."