Rating: PG-13 Author’s Notes: I’ve been sitting on this one for a long time—I got the idea quite some time ago, but I wasn’t able to figure out how to pull it off. I haven’t actually played any of the PMD games after the red/blue generation, so I don’t know if this still applies. I just couldn’t get over how ridiculous some of the missions were; I’m pretty sure I had to go in and save a metagross from Tiny Woods at least once. I mean, metagross, really? Something about that seemed a little fishy…
“There’s a zubat. There’s a zubat! There’s a zubat!”
Nick grunted and staggered as a wall of red and black fur slammed into him from behind. Arcanine stared down into the charmander’s face, eyes wide and wild and fluffy mane bristling. “Yes, okay, okay,” Nick snapped, cutting off another frantic statement of the obvious. Now that he’d been knocked down, he had the perfect vantage to see the flittering little package of impending doom swooping down out of the murk.
A concentrated stream of fire rushed within inches of Arcanine’s nose, and the charred zubat fell silently out of the air, unconscious before it hit the ground. Arcanine looked back over his shoulder as the bat landed with a pitiful thump, then turned a grin on Nick.
The charmander scowled back as he levered himself up. “All right. There. Now, to the back of the group, if you don’t mind. We should get moving before more of those show up.” As Arcanine trotted away, Nick straightened his Rescue Team badge and brushed a bit of grit off his pecha scarf. A quick glance at cubone showed that the ground type shared his exasperation; the usually friendly and easygoing pokémon rolled his eyes as soon as he caught Nick’s glance.
Turning away, Nick started off down the narrow corridor again, his team and their buffoon of a client trailing along behind. The charmander’s burning tail lit up a considerable stretch of the corridor, enough for him to catch sight of the whismur long before it reached him. By the time it did, it had so many gravelrock bruises that a simple scratch was more than enough to do it in.
Nick sighed as he kicked the limp body out of the way. Honestly, where were all the good jobs these days? It seemed as though it had been ages since there’d been a legendary around to stir up trouble, and the only jobs he’d been able to find were along the lines of, “Baby Pichu got lost while picking flowers in Tiny Woods! Please save her!” About as exciting as watching paint dry.
Behind him, Nick could hear Cubone periodically banging his club up against the wall of the corridor. Cubone was at least as restless as his team’s leader; what he’d signed up for was adventure, for daring escapades and frightful dungeons. The occasional zubat from the gloom didn’t do much to get the blood pumping. Poochyena was a little more difficult to read, but Nick doubted the playful pokémon enjoyed getting dragged along on pointless make-work missions that paid the bills but did little for the spirit.
Not to mention that the jobs were often preposterous as well as inane. It was ridiculous—here his team was, guiding an Arcanine twice their collective size down into a cavern to meet up with another idiot that should by all rights be able to eat zubat for breakfast rather than cowering at the sight of them. Most of the pokémon around here hardly seemed to “enjoy fighting for sport” the way the games made things out to be. Certainly Arcanine acted as though he couldn’t fight his way out of a paper bag, fire type or not.
Nick’s stomach gurgled, and he put a clawed paw to it with a grimace. Long missions like these were a drag in more ways than one. It had taken a long time for Nick to adjust to his little charmander body—not that he ever hoped to grow comfortable in it—and while it was fun to be able to breathe fire and carry around his own combination flashlight/stove, there were drawbacks. The fire-lizard’s ridiculously fast metabolism was definitely one of these. Why did pokémon with no talent for battle go wandering into the depths—not just a little way in, but the depths—of untamed caverns, anyway?
“Okay, food break,” Nick said, as the tunnel widened out into an underground gallery. There was nothing threatening in sight, and the charmander leaned up against the wall to one side of the passage as his team and their client filed out past him. “Poochy, let’s have it.”
Poochyena, who was taking his turn carrying the team’s toolbox, trotted over and set it down at his leader’s feet, then watched, ears perked, as the charmander opened it and started rummaging. Nick came up with an apple and, for a moment appreciating his current pokémon form, sliced it into three neat pieces with his claws. Arcanine looked on hungrily as Nick passed the grub out to his partners, but the charmander ignored the stupid dog; they were taking him to rescue his friend, after all—he couldn’t expect to mooch off their food at the same time.
When it became apparent that no one was going to offer him anything, Arcanine settled himself down a little ways off from the rest of the group. There he remained, silent and brooding, until a nincada came scuttling out of the darkness, and then he could not be quieted until Cubone had dispatched of the thing.
It was some time later that an even wearier and more impatient Nick found himself within sight of the holy grail. The font of life, the beacon of hope in a dark and airless dungeon: the last set of stairs he’d need to drag his weary little body down before he could call this dumb mission a success. Zubat and nincada had been replaced by poliwhirl and wooper in the dungeon’s deeper, wetter parts, and Nick’s little team had found them a bit more of a challenge than they’d hoped for on this mission. Aching but filled with renewed strength, Nick turned to smile over his shoulder at the ragged column of pokémon following behind.
Oddly enough, it was Arcanine who caught the meaning of his glance. The only one amongst the party not sporting injuries and a sour expression, he started to wag his tail and gave Nick a maddening grin. “This is it?” he asked. “Last floor? The one where Metagross is?”
“Right down those stairs, yes,” Nick said, trying not to sound too sour. “Watch your back; if you get yourself knocked out now, I swear your metal friend can rust down there for all I care.” He turned away before he could see Arcanine’s reaction, but he didn’t care what the big fire-type thought, anyway. He’d had enough of this nonsense, and the hum of the Rescue Team badge pinned to his scarf took over all the rest of his thoughts as he clambered down steps that were much more of a chore for him now than they would have been in human form.
The end of the mission was near, he thought as he felt the thrum of the badge vibrating in his chest, telling him that he was close, so close, to his objective. No more escort missions for a long time after this one, Nick decided. Straight rescues, deliveries, fine. But no more blocking for some pansy who should be at the top of the food chain.
From the base of the stairs, Nick did his best to make it a straight shot to Metagross. He pushed the team hard, running wherever possible, turning and turning through the maze of narrow passageways with little care for order or reason. The mounting buzz of power in his badge was all he needed to guide him, and he’d be damned if he was going to take his time about this. He’d had enough—more than enough. He was tired and bitter and wanted to go home and take a nap at Base.
By now the rest of the team had caught wind of what was going on and were running along with him, despite their various injuries and the hunger that had started to nag at all of them, with the apple break seeming to be in the distant past. Even arcanine was, for once, able to keep up rather than inclined to wander off down interesting-looking passages and come running back with a bunch of angry wilds on his heels.
Never again, Nick decided as he pelted across slick stones and along the fingers of an underground river, the water milky with minerals in the glow of his tail-flame. This escort mission had been bad enough, but at least they hadn’t had to redo it; Acanine wasn’t quite enough of a moron to get himself knocked out. Escorts were always way more hassle than they were worth, everybody hated doing them, and it’s not like they were going out and saving pokémon from actual disasters or anything—just saving them from their weird fascination with getting trapped in improbably remote places.
The team tore through any wild pokémon hapless enough to stand in its way as it stormed the final floor, scouring every nook and cranny for some sign of Metagross. Nick was so wrapped up in his own thoughts that he almost didn’t catch what the zubat he’d been pulling apart squeaked.
“Don’t go left up ahead… big metal guy… he’ll eat you up!” the pokémon wheezed, teetering on the edge of unconsciousness; Nick felt a spasm of shame for beating up what was obviously only a little kid, but then shoved the feeling aside out of irritation. Pokémon, right? This is what they were born to do. A smack with his tail laid the bat out cold.
“Come on, guys!” Nick said, shaking blood from his claws. “Up ahead on the left. We’re almost there!” The group pounded on down the empty corridor and nearly piled atop one another at the sharp left turn that opened up without warning.
Strange cautiousness overcame Nick as he found himself in the open chamber that opened off the tunnel. It was broad and quiet, not so much as a zubat-screech to lighten the heavy silence of the deep caverns. His flame seemed to throw more shadows than illumination, his companions turned to giants as their shades paraded across the wall beside his. At the far end of the chamber, his light glinted off metal; red eyes glowed from the dark.
“Metagross!” Arcanine’s happy bark boomed out into the stillness, and the dog shouldered past Nick, making a beeline for his companion. His whole hindquarters were wagging back and forth, and he bounced higher with each step; despite himself, Nick had to grin. He was so much like a real dog…
Pulling the thought back before he could follow it on to remember how far from home he really was, the charmander turned to his rescue team. “All right, guys, good work. I’ll just go over and zap those two out of here, and then we can grab our money and head home. Poochy, think you could check if there’re any orange gummis in there? I was going to take some to Meditite later today if we found any lying around.”
Warm breath panted against his ear, and Nick found himself uncomfortably close to Arcanine’s face as he turned around again. “Thank you so much!” Arcanine said, offering Nick a tongue-lolling grin. “I never would have made it without you guys!” The charmander tried not to shiver—how had Arcanine crept up on him like that?
“Yeah, sure, anytime.” Metal sidled into Nick’s peripheral vision; Metagross was close enough for the rescue badge to work on it now. “Here, just stand next to your friend and I’ll get you out of—“
There was a heavy slam and screech of tortured metal, and Nick’s head whipped around as his heart leapt in his chest. The team’s toolbox was a twisted hunk of scrap, an explosion of trinkets littering the floor around it. It was Poochy who had taken most of the blow, though, the blow that must have come from Metagross, who was raising a metal arm sprayed with gore away from the shattered body of the puppy.
Cubone let out a howl and hurled his bone at Metagross; it clanged off the metal monster’s hide, and a jet of fire blazed past Nick’s ear to engulf the ground type. Nick turned horrified eyes on Arcanine, who seemed unconcerned as he cooked the Cubone with a flamethrower. While the ground type toppled over in a smoking heap, Nick backed up, pawing desperately for the rescue badge pinned to his scarf.
It was so wrong, he had to get them out of here, maybe they would still be okay if he could just get them away from these monsters—
A heavy paw slammed into his chest and crushed him to the ground; Arcanine loomed over Nick, a lazy grin across his muzzle. The charmander clawed at the toes digging into his chest and trapping the rescue badge just over his heart, where he could feel it humming with the power to take him to safety. His eyes flicked sideways at flickers of movement of movement, and he saw Cubone struggling to get up. Then the ground type was raised right off the floor in a cocoon of psychic energy, pedaling the air with his legs and flailing his arms until invisible force twisted his head sharply to the side with a brittle snap.
Nick looked back up at Arcanine. The big pokémon, who had been watching cubone’s death as well, turned his attention back to the trapped charmander. He said, “Too bad you couldn’t spare any of that apple earlier. Now I’m hungry.”
Charmander blew flames at the arcanine’s face and renewed trying to tear the paw off his chest. In terror, there was no thought, only the hammering of his heart and the buzzing of the rescue badge above--and the sight of that gleaming smile, growing closer. The flames he spat only raised a flickering red aura around Arcanine’s body, renewing his strength. Through the curtain of spectral fire, the teeth glistened.
Then they came down.
By now, Arcanine was reduced to nibbling at the bones in a lazy way. A few feet away, Metagross had gone into its hibernation mode, red eyes no more than embers as it stood motionless: digesting, Arcanine guessed. He’d let it have the poochyena—a bit too much like a growlithe for his taste—and half the cubone, as per the usual agreement. It would be content to chew on that for a while.
All in all, not a bad haul. Poochyena were dirt-common, you could get those anywhere, but cubone and charmander were both rare treats. After this, Arcanine thought, a nice trip to the southern ocean would be nice; it had been ages since he’d had seafood.
These days, of course, a civilized pokémon was supposed to be content with berries and whatnot to get through the day. It was wrong to kill a fellow sentient, or something along those lines. Complete crock, of course; predators were predators, no matter if they moved into houses and swapped recipes with their prey-neighbors. Any pokémon that gave up his true nature for the sake of “civilization” deserved what he got, in Arcanine’s opinion. You should live life off what you could catch and kill, or not live at all.
But cave living got boring; you could only eat so many zubat and poliwag before it all started to blur together. Which was why rescue teams were so convenient—like a home-delivery service. You never knew what you’d get, but it was almost always something rare, powerful, and unusual for the area; an exhilarating challenge, a special treat, and a nice surprise all in one.
Arcanine gnawed on the femur. There was always the danger you’d come across something too strong, of course, but then you just let them ‘port you out and went on your way afterwards. He and Metagross were strong enough to take most teams, especially after they'd been worn down by a long dungeon-dive. It was easy to lure rescue teams into the depths, where no one would witness the act save maybe a few wilds. And who would believe some crazed wild wandering into town, shouting about how so-and-so had been murdered by the pokémon they’d been trying to save? Sometimes rescue teams just didn’t come back, after all; it was a dangerous job. You overcame it or you perished.
Soon enough he and Metagross would need to move on again before someone realized that rescue teams had been disappearing much more frequently than normal. For now, though, he could relax and enjoy his satiety, and have leftovers for later.
The bone shattered in his jaws and he started to lick at the marrow. Now, this charmander here, he hoped he found another like this. There was some little hint of he didn’t-know-what, some extra flavor hiding in there, he’d never tasted the like of before. This, he decided, was something he could get used to.
Seriously, people, has no one reviewed this yet? For bonus points it was a very fun story. It crossed the entire spectre of "fun".
Granted, I haven't ever played PMD games, nor do I know much about the plot except for the "Grovyle dies" sort of spoiler, you know, things like that. But if I know something about the gaming fans and I'm almost sure, is that one thing that they hate more than Bidoof and GTS-like stuff, is escort missions. So when I was taking a quick crawl-thru-pages in search for a good fic to read, and I found this title, it was like, "Oh ho ho... who would write what about this?"
As per my usual kind of review, I'm afraid I can't help with the grammar. If there is any mistake, I can't find it. Then again, this story I'm not reading it for the spellchecker. The only thing remotely close to a mistake is most likely a simple typo or a variant on the idiom that I don't know:
Certainly Arcanine acted as though he couldn’t fight his way out of a paper bag, fire type or not.
Already the first sentences were tasty, and brought in a bit of nostalgia, I mean, what does one think when one finds a sentence like this?
“There’s a zubat. There’s a zubat! There’s a zubat!”
Between that and the first two of three paragraphs, I was sure this was turn to either a parody or a turn-around of the escort mission with Charmander and Cubone beating their client to a pulp. Go figure. I like it very much when the characterization and perceptions about a character make it so blatant that it is breaking the mold, that anything that comes after is darn fun. I could hardly think of that Arcanine as a spoiler creature and could not avoid giggling at every step, particularly the paragraph when you suggest Arcanine wouldn't be able to find his way out of a paper bag.
“Baby Pichu got lost while picking flowers in Tiny Woods! Please save her!” About as exciting as watching paint dry
What, Arcanine? Timmy the Metagross fell in the well cave? -- Given how you portray Arcanine and Charmander, I can imagine, to a point, how such a scene would have been carried out. The whole "missions are not like they used to be" and "escort missions are a drag" sentiment was well explored, with the mention of the Legendaries and how Poochyena might be more "difficult to read" about that particular subject... When you describe Cubone tap-tap-tapping the walls of the cave, and especially when in the scene Arcanine interrupts lunch because of a Nincada and Cubone has to intervene, I feel a very specific kind of pain in the characters -- the "Oh my god one more Zubat and I will just *push* the reset button" kind of pain.
I felt sorry for Arcanine when the others didn't share an apple with him. I mean, he seemed like he was either unaware or extremely sorry for his behaviour, and then he saddening up saddened me.
I never expected the story to turn around the way it did. If anything, I expected Charmander and Cubone to mob their client and rescuee right before leaving the cave, just to have a little... let's call it compensation for the spirit. And you put it up with a good point: who was to believe wild Pokémon anyways? If anything, the mission went just a little bit out of control and Arcanine was heavily wounded while the team tried to secure Metagross for the escape.
But no, you turned this all around. Everything was fine and dandy up until the scene where Arcanine was like, about to lick Charmander (cute scene and, again, that paints very funny images in my head). Three words later or something, we have one team member dead, right? Poor Poochyena, never saw that Metagross. Nevew saw much characterization either-- it doesn't matter, for me, Arcanine and Cubone were the strong points of this story. Then, of course, it was Cubone who bit the dust next. Neck psych-snapped... ugh. I like the concise way you write killing your characters, by the way.
And then poor Charmander who, if I interpret the story correctly, was a human to begin with. Poor fellow. Got to feel first-hand-- er, first-claw, the treason and the pain we gamers can only curse and throw the controller at. Does ex-human meat taste so good, really?
Way to go to kill a hero. I'll certainly remember this story for that particular detail.
Not to sound like I'm ranting, but, seriously, what's with all authors here turning to write all brooding, dark, "the world is a mess and your hopes only specks" fics here? By the [SWC] time, most of the entries had this sad, dark tone, with people and Pokémon dying all around with a rate so alarming that I got seriously worried for some time. But you, pal, you made these deaths here fun. Like, "good joke" fun and also "morbid joke" fun.
...Or maybe that's the way. Some of those deaths are so attracting, so well-written, and in some cases so filled with action, philosophy or fun, that people just can't help themselves write and read such things.
All in all, Negrek, you have done a wonderful job painting with words the eternal tale that since the dawn of videogames has defined the concept of Escort Missions. This story has everything it needs to have, from the weakling escortee who has managed to survive and get stuck at the dangerousest (word invented for the occasion) place of the entire dungeon and for some wicked reason has to mingle around and awaken the Zubats or equivalent... to the whole Terrible Surprise Boss Battle With A Twist and No Retry that I have found lately in some games.
I'm faving this for when I don't have Mood EVs.
And now I'm a little bit wary about playing the PMD series... :)
Mm... almost forgot. You get extra bonus points for the last scene suggesting that Metagross was digesting (I had never thought of Metagross eating, they always seemed too inorganic and self-centered for that to me) and Arcanine not having wanted to feed upon a fellow dog-type. It was illuminating and friendship-inspiring... in its own wicked way of course.
I don't have cookies because my cat ate them (IRL, seriously). And cookies are way too common anyways. I hope you like chocolate mousse in exchange.
And if you want to try for something out of this death-seeking mood all around here, I have a couple of fics around and coincidentally one of them stars an Arcanine. No I'm not shamelessly promoting myself.
Hum, solovino summed it all. But everyone gets a different opinion, I guess.
All in all, the story was great, and for some wicked reason, I liked how it ended. I guess its because when you faint, you faint and that's that, you just go back to the base, whereas here you have no coming back and there's a real GAME OVER for ya. Start all over. xD
The Escort Missions were quite boring, the one to be escorted usually ran away and just got killed before I could even turn around to see it. In that, I gotta agree with the story. :D
Actually, there's pretty much nothing I can disagree with in the whole story.
It's funny in its way, and for people who like these "parodies", if I can call it that, will know what I mean.
One last note: the Zubat one is old, but I've never seen it used in a story before. 6/5 points for that.
The only thing remotely close to a mistake is most likely a simple typo or a variant on the idiom that I don't know...
I was going for an "X or no X" construction here, but upon reflection "fire type" is being used as an adjective and not a noun, so you are correct, it should be "not."
Not to sound like I'm ranting, but, seriously, what's with all authors here turning to write all brooding, dark, "the world is a mess and your hopes only specks" fics here? By the [SWC] time, most of the entries had this sad, dark tone, with people and Pokémon dying all around with a rate so alarming that I got seriously worried for some time.
Well, I tend to write morbid things no matter what, but more of them do seem to show up around contest time. No way for me to prove it, but I sometimes feel it's because people think that sad or angsty stories are necessarily more deep/impactful and therefore the kind most likely to be well-received by the judges.
Anyway, I'm glad that you enjoyed the story despite the fact that it's morbid. And you're right, the charmander was a human. Thank you so much for the lovely review... and the mousse (I'll take that over cookies any day!).
Heh, glad you found the story true to your experience with escort missions. Good to know I'm not the only one who found them insufferably annoying.
Don't know whether I would really call this a parody, but I'm happy you enjoyed it all the same. Thanks for the review!