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Fanfiction Pokémon: Altered/Origin

Discussion in 'Literature Library' started by Absolute Zero, Dec 30, 2018.

  1. Absolute Zero

    Absolute Zero Maybe... I am the fool...

    Aki
    (Minccino)
    Level 6
    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2015
    Posts:
    2,020
    PokéPoints:
    ₽2,110.2
    "You know who you are. And you know who I am." She said, seated across the desk from her camera set to start and end on a timer. The studio was amateurly but effectively made. A desk scrubbed clean of every scorch and spot of dust, a stool with no back to be seen, and a new black bedsheet ironed then pinned to the wall for a simple and unidentifiable backdrop. "So I won't waste time with address or introduction." She was dressed in white, prim and high-collared for the contrast. Gray-colored contact lenses and an unnecessary pair of reading glasses combined with the slightest of automatic audio filters hid her identity to all but those already familiar with her. "It has been almost one year since we met, and I must say: I sincerely hope it has been as tiresome and as miserable a year for you as it was for me." This message would reach her opposers wherever they may be wandering.

    She took a deep breath. This monologue was well-rehearsed: she read it a dozen times or more per day over the past week since this idea's inception, modifying it only slightly since its first draft. Still, the nerves of a live stream - more candid and more sincere than a recorded message - got to her just slightly. "This is not a declaration of war. This is not a treat of truce. This is an ultimatum." She noticed her heart rate increase and felt some involuntary twitches around her eyes and mouth. "Disappear." She said, the syllables moving with solid weight from her lungs. "Disappear and never show yourself again. If you show yourself to me, you start the countdown of your remaining time in this world, and pluck any mercy I may yet have for you. If I see your deeds in the news, if I receive a letter of apology from you, if I see you at a market buying a carton of berries, I do not care, I swear to myself and to the Omega I will erase you from the universes."

    She reached off screen and picked up a purple ceramic-like tile, then showed it off for the camera before placing it to her side on the desk, still in view. "This is not a threat. This is not a warning." She said, continuing to stack tiles one-by-one from off camera. "This is an explanation of consequences. I will erase you. You will not die, because you will not have lived. You will never have become the zygote that would eventually become such a thorn in my side. I will construct yet another universe for the expressed purpose of making a forgery of this one without you in it, for my own satisfaction of knowing you are never there." She continued stacking with a shaking hand until she had a small rainbow tower of tiles twelve random colors high. "I am two thirds of the way to reshaping this universe to be my own. Do not take me lightly. Hear these words, rival." With her tiles stacked, she interlocked her fingers, combining a fist on the table. "Disappear, or I will force you to."

    :;:::::;:;::;;;;​

    AN: That was the front-jacket hook of my latest/current fanfiction project, presently titled "Pokémon: Altered/Origin". Over the past year or so (unrelated to the speaking character above, though that is a flash-forward to one year ahead of the start of the story), I've been incubating an idea for a Pokémon fanfiction. I even wrote the first four or so chapters of it already! That is, until I decided to scrap all that and start from the beginning again. Starting in my next post will be a long-thought idea finally put to text so it can start growing.

    Some things:
    - This story will probably rated PG, maybe barely into TV14 at the very worst. I have the vocabulary to avoid F-bombs and the class to know secks isn't necessary to convey this story.
    - Most main characters are going to be in their 20s contrary to the usual 11-year old heroes we see in the Pokémon games. I anticipate it will be a similar feel as later seasons of Legend of Korra compared to The Last Airbender.
    - This will be almost entirely OC. I have a plan to introduce a few specific canon characters at a certain time, but don't expect to see Ash or Pikachu traipsing around here. It's also not a journey-fic, though it is directly serial, not so much of self-contained episodes.
    - Release schedule is: there is none, because I am very busy, so subscribe to the thread if you feel like following it as it comes out. I also won't make status updates about it very often.
    - I do welcome public commentary, but if you do post in this thread, put it entirely between [spoiler][/spoiler], or an unnamed moderator will do that for you, and also scowl in your general direction.
    - As far as public commentary is concerned, know this: I am writing for fun. Don't complain to me that I'm not writing in MLA format, or that I do use Oxford commas, or about my pattern of capitalizing or not capitalizing particular phrases, or other trivial details. We'll leave that to my paid editor when I eventually publish something. Go ahead and do comment to me that I'm not explaining something clearly enough or that I'm babying the reader too much with excess explanation, or that I have a writing tendency that is annoying or pleasing, or that I seem to have left in a huge plot hole. I will read your commentary, but I probably verbally won't reply to it.
    - I write this in a combination of Libre Office and Kate notepad, which may result in some formatting weirdness. Having both sets of quotation marks, ("straight" and “curly”), sometimes forgetting to add [i][/i] to my italics, and weirdness in paragraph spacing are all possible side effects of this. I'll do my best to make it consistent and pleasing to the eye.

    I'll edit in a table of contents and maybe other fun stuff at some point also, once I catch up to the beta version of this story. So watch out for that.

    (PS: I can't believe this title hasn't been taken yet (as far as I know). I'm rather proud of it, and I hope I can live up to its coolness and lore!)
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
    #1 Dec 30, 2018
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2018
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  2. Absolute Zero

    Absolute Zero Maybe... I am the fool...

    Aki
    (Minccino)
    Level 6
    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2015
    Posts:
    2,020
    PokéPoints:
    ₽2,110.2
    Chapter 1:
    Swift

    The moon was high above Hearthome City that evening. The night was young and the sky was bright for a town that was usually in the darkness of the mountain even just a few hours past noon.

    “Why are you taking me to the contest hall?” Audrey asked her little brother, stepping into the end of a queue alone the sidewalk. “Is it because one of your classmates told you she was going to become a coordinator?”

    “What? Gross, no.” Cedric bounced back without a moment’s hesitation. “It’s not a Super Contest at all this week: it’s actually a museum for now.”

    “Oh, so she’s going to be an archaeologist.” The line was moving pretty quickly, at least.

    “No, it’s not that, it’s the Plates of Creation. Or that’s what they’re calling them, since nobody knows what they are just yet.”

    “It’s a pretty heavy name for something nobody can identify, don’t you think?” Audrey paid admission for both of them as Cedric went along, rambling off the creation myth he was taught in his World Histories class. They walked past a few sets of security personnel standing in pairs, glaring at visitors who were, at the very least, eclectic. Older folks ready for a gala, children still dressed for school, researchers in their khakis and bow-ties. Very few twenty-somethings like Audrey in the crowd of the entire main hall.

    "Hey there, where do you think you're off to in such a hurry?"

    Audrey stopped and turned. "Are you talking to me?" She asked.

    The young man was dressed all in dark clothes. Brown slacks that broke over worn-out shoes, a buttoned shirt too big for his arms, a fedora hat worn indoors for some reason. He smiled with the impression of a real lady-killer, a good effort but wholly ineffective. "Of course, who else?"

    She looked back into the crowd. "I'm losing my brother."

    "Oh, okay." He said, still enthusiastic. "Well come back when you find him, I can get you both backstage." He followed her partway into the crowd, spouting about his access, losing her trail.

    Audrey could barely see Cedric’s head between all the adults. He was close to front-and-center of the stage, looking up at a display of four triangular artifacts, tiles in various primary colors. She wove through crowds and to the front, where she stood beside him, still talking as if they were never separated.

    “Won’t that be cool? When I help break the code of what’s happening with these?” He rambled as he stared through the viewfinder of a camera aimed at the artifacts. “They’ll name the whole set after me, I’ll write a book, people will want TV interviews...”

    Audrey tuned back to the room. Other artifacts that seemed mostly to have been dug up from the area around Celestic town were in glass cases on pedestals all around the area: tools and potteries and clothes that were promised to not be the result of grave-robbing. Up above, so many spotlights shone from catwalks, and one sparkle buzzed and glimmered between them, moving from one wall to the other.

    And then the lights went out. The crowd gasped as people grabbed for their phones and illuminators, while Audrey took her brother by the shoulders and kept him still. After a moment, one spotlight came on, shining to a pedestal while a layer of fog covered the floor. “Stay close.” Audrey whispered, she started to walk to the side with Cedric, strafing the circumference of the crowd in the direction of the exit, while moving one hand to pull a Pokéball from her belt holster.

    “Wait, I want to see what’s happening!” Cedric wiggled free of her grasp.

    “No, you don’t.” She took him by the hand, beckoning him to the main entrance among the dark crowd. “This is none of our business. We’re getting out of here.” It took her a few seconds to notice, but on that one illuminated pedestal across the room was a small stone. Cut of brown earth and cracked with a fissure down its middle, it started to leak a cloud, manifesting into a face of pareidolia, grimacing and laughing. Audrey looked away and hastened her pace to the exit.

    “Tooooome.” The Spiritomb spoke and its cloudy swirl accelerated, as Audrey could only see through her periphery. In clusters, the entirety of the museum’s visitors collapsed, falling almost indiscriminately to Hypnosis. Even Cedric fell limp from her grip.

    Audrey had no words. Through approaching unconsciousness, she heard glass shattering and could only think of her brother being stuck helpless in a dangerous situation. She fell to her hands and knees beside him as the lights came back on, illuminating an entirely clouded room full of mist, blank white as far as the eye could see. Fighting Hypnosis, she opened one Pokéball. “Scizor! Aerial Ace that ghost!” She watched Scizor disappear into the cloud. “And Defog!”

    She got back onto her feet as the Hypnosis broke, but almost everyone else stayed down. The room was clearing, and there were only two humans left standing: herself and a woman in a white dress who had just smashed the display case of the four triangular tiles.

    Cedric groaned painfully in his sleep, and Audrey tried to carry him out while the robber was working. As much as she tried to pull him up over her back or shoulders, the boy was growing up so quickly she couldn’t manage to lift him like she could even one year ago.

    If I can’t get him away from danger, I’ll get the danger away from him. “You! Stop right there!” She called to the thief. Audrey ran to the main display, stepping between bodies and looking for an open space.

    “I don’t do what you tell me to. I do what I want, and you won't stop me.” The thief said casually as she dropped the tiles into a shopping bag. Her hair was dark and long enough that she used it to cover half of her face, and aside from showing a fit physique didn’t have any easily recognizable traits.

    “Oh yes I will.” She was strangely pleased at the challenge. She found a space big enough for her Pokémon. “Metagross, let’s stop her!”

    The thief opened another Pokéball, this time Drifblim. She pulled the bag of artifact tiles up to her shoulder and grabbed on to the Drifblim’s basket, and together, they rose to the hall’s glass ceiling.

    “Metagross, Magnet Rise! We’re following!”

    “You’re not going to stop me! Hyper Beam!” The Drifblim launched a beam of energy, not at Audrey or Metagross, but at a support beam behind them. The entire building groaned under its own stress as the pillar turned to dust and rebar.

    Audrey looked to the thief floating up to the skylights, and back to the crumbled support. “Jack up the ceiling, Metagross!” She commanded as she slid off her floating Pokémon and to the floor. “Don’t move until everyone’s out!” She scanned the walls and doors, searching for a way up without her only two flighted Pokémon while Scizor was still busy with Spiritomb. Across the hall, she slammed open a door and ran the switchbacks of stairs to the roof access, shocked by the cold autumn wind.

    “I bet you’re loving that recovery time on Hyper Beam right about now.” The thief chided. She stood on the opposite end of the roof, nearly glowing in the moonlight.

    Scizor flew up through the broken skylight and stood beside Audrey on the roof, presumably leaving the KO’d ghost below. “Drifblim’s no good for a high-speed escape. You have nowhere to go now.”

    “You must know everything. I surely have no choice.” She withdrew Drifblim into its ball, adjusted the bag of artifacts on her shoulder, and raised one arm into the air.

    Audrey and Scizor stepped closer to the thief, ever so cautiously. A gust of wind pushed them back a step as a Staraptor landed lightly on the thief’s outstretched hand, and flew her off the roof and away.

    It was only in the brief silence before police sirens rang on the street that Audrey noticed how hard she was breathing, just from two minutes of danger. She watched as the silhouette of the thief shrunk in the distant night, then cursed and walked the stairs back into the main floor of the building. Back in the main hall, Metagross was in the place where there used to be a support pillar, arms on the floor and legs on the ceiling as fire brigade propped up beams and gave first aid to the visitors rising from hypnotic sleep.

    “You there, freeze!” A police officer and his Machamp ran to Audrey.

    “No, that’s not her!” Cedric came from behind the Machamp. “That’s my sister, she didn’t steal anything!”

    “We see only one person who wasn’t asleep when we got here, one person who came from the roof, one person who can’t be considered a victim.”

    “Are we really doing this? That’s my Metagross keeping the ceiling from collapsing!” She said, as a pair of officers went up the stairs behind her. “Just check the cameras. It was a woman with a Drifblim and some cloudy thing that my Scizor stopped!” A crowd was forming. Private security, jennies, all manner of onlookers.

    “The cameras were probably down when the lights were out.” The lady-killer from before emerged from the crowd, next to the police. “But I’ll vouch for her. This bright-eyed beauty successfully fought off and attempted to pursue the real thief.”

    The cop turned to him. Petty Detective Flynn, your testimony does not-”

    “Detective Flynn, actually. Just detective. Even myself, I was almost entirely incapacitated by that villainous Spiritomb yonder, and such was unable to protect or to serve. It seems our friend has strength of will unknown to us... normies.”

    “Pump the brakes, kid.” The officer whispered to the young detective. He looked between Audrey and her two believers. “Okay, just let me see your ID, and we’ll be in touch.”

    As Audrey gave him the card, Cedric approached her and whispered energetically. “You got arrested! My big sister got arrested!”

    “No I didn’t, and don’t you go calling our parents to say I did!”

    “Audrey Ferris? The Audrey Ferris?” The officer asked.

    “I don’t know any others.” She sighed.

    “Such a delight!” Detective Flynn entered the conversation. “At long last, Sinnoh’s Sword and Shield has returned, and none too soon. Years hence your disappearance, and your return is just as heroic as your crowning victory! Why, if I only knew-”

    “Detective Flynn, shouldn’t you be gathering witness statements?” The officer cut him off.

    The young man clammed up. “Until we meet again.” To Audrey.

    The officer sighed. “Truth be told, I mostly feel the same way. I didn’t know you were still in the region. Was the Elite Four not enough for you? Nobody’s heard anything big from you in years, not even those Where-Are-They-Now in the tabloids.” He scanned her card through a tablet device. “Sorry, it’s just you have a lot of fans, and nobody knows what became of you. I had no idea you were still here.”

    “Cedric, could you go get Exprime back into her Pokéball? It looks like the fire brigade has supports set up.” She passed him a ball. Across the room and over the din of the awakened crowd she could hear him pleading with the behemoth, debating the conditions for her relief. A team of reporter and camera operator pushed past them and to the site of the robbery, already blocked by police tape. “That life isn’t for me.” She said to the officer, who gave her back her ID card. “I mind myself.”

    Six hundred pounds of metal hit the ground as Metagross was convinced to trust the fire department and its trainer’s intended meaning. “If you say so. It was nice having a real Champion for a while again. My wife and daughter couldn’t get enough of you.” The officer said. “As if I couldn’t help save the day.” He added with a grumble.

    Cedric came back through the crowd and gave back Metagross Exprime’s Pokéball to his sister. “Thank you, officer.” She said, tired of the conversation. “My brother and I are ready to leave now. You know where to find us if we’re needed.” She left with her brother, protesting weakly that he still wanted to see more of the exhibit.

    :;:::::;:;::;;::​

    “These pictures turned out great.” Cedric said, sitting at the computer he and his sister shared, looking at zoomed-in photos of the triangular plates.

    “I’m glad you got them.” Audrey said, pretending to read the first book off her shelf and pretending to not be shaken by the danger of the evening. “You might be one of the few people in the public to have such quality pictures.”

    The boy paused and looked upward. “Yes.” He muttered. “I am.” He fell silent for a while. “I have secret knowledge of the creation of the universe. It’s in my hands.”

    “It’s on your hard drive.” Audrey laughed. “You’ll still have it tomorrow. It’s late, time for you to get to bed.”

    He stared at the computer screen a moment longer before going to his room and bidding his sister good night. Once he was away, Audrey’s curiosity began to build. She sat at the computer and looked at the clear pictures of the plates, nearly identical except for their color. They weren’t simple, flat ceramics, but had an expanding spiral of nearly microscopic glyphs expanding to the edges in each one. They were barely discernible, but each of the glyphs tended to repeat randomly, none had only one instance. There was dot-with-two-protrusions-on-opposite-sides, and there was dot-with-a-surrounding-circle, and ultimately too many others to bother classifying. She shut down the computer, locked up the flat, and went to her room to turn in for the night, trying to put the excitement of the evening behind her.

    And while she slept, Sinnoh and the world watched the Jubilife TV report on that night's heist. Eyes fixed on screens, some noticed the shifting of the world. Like tectonic plates, always moving, it then became noticeable to few. The world changed that night, just as it always does.

    -------- --------

    The Angel waited in its domain, trapped in a prison without boundary.
    Immeasurable of space, endless of time, it waited.
    "I hear you." The Angel spake.
    And so The Fiend listened.​
     
    #2 Dec 31, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2019
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  3. Absolute Zero

    Absolute Zero Maybe... I am the fool...

    Aki
    (Minccino)
    Level 6
    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2015
    Posts:
    2,020
    PokéPoints:
    ₽2,110.2
    Chapter 2:
    Dig

    Audrey rolled awake from a restless night. She woke at least twice, interrupting one nightmare of being chased by the ghost-in-a-stone from the Contest Hall yesterday (a quick bit of online research told her it was called Spiritomb, but she had otherwise never seen one firsthand to verify) and a separate dream of her talking to something that looked like a shining Absol that apparently could speak to her.

    She slid awake her phone and saw a notification from a freelancer job board. She read slowly as her eyes adjusted to the light of the screen in the darkness of her room in the morning. "Iron Island... infestation of Ferroseed... mining operations canceled." She yawned and squeaked as she found her voice. "When I say I'm a Steel-type specialist, it means I like them, not that I like to exterminate them." She dialed the dispatcher's phone number and managed one last yawn of the morning. "This is Audrey, number seventeen. Is that Iron Island job still available?"

    :;:;:;;;:;:::::;​

    An hour later, she was dressed, fed, and climbing off a rental Altaria and onto the the barren shore of Iron Island. Typically the island would be busy with trucks and machinery and all kinds of racket, but for once it was quiet enough to hear the sea breeze. She fed Altaria two dry Poffins and went inside one of the prefab office trailers near the main cave entrance.

    "Hello there!" A young man said, seated at the near side of an administrator's desk.

    "Hi. Um. Are you the operation manager? I thought I'd be seeing Byron."

    "Yeah, he's here. He just went into the back to get some paperwork." He gestured to a door in the opposite wall. "Take a seat."

    Clearly he sensed an awkward hesitation in Audrey standing at the door. She sat down in the other chair to wait for Byron, and looked at her apparent co-worker. He was dressed in cargo pants and a tank top, and was clearly proud of however much he could bench press, and he kept his hair shaved on the sides and short on top. For all of this, it was impossible to be certain if all this meant he was a military type or keeping the stype of a street thug.

    "The name's Dro, by the way." He bent his arm over for a handshake. "It looks like we'll be working together today."

    "Audrey." She took his hand. "Is your name short for something?"

    "Just Dro." He answered as the back office door opened.

    "If it isn't Audrey. I knew I wasn't getting old enough to be losing my memory." Byron laughed, then glared at Dro. He was the same big and boistrous man as he ever was, though perhaps a bit more bearded than a few years ago. "Maybe this is a job for two." He pulled out the chair to sit by his side of the desk, then passed a stack papers and a pen to Dro on a clipboard. "I still have your waivers on file, Little Missy. Anyway, Iron Island Mine has a problem we can't solve. It seems an infestation of Ferroseed has taken root in our mines."

    "Ayy." Dro said, looking up from his forms. "Taken root. They're seeds".

    "This is a real problem, boy." Byron said sternly. "Despite its name, Iron Island is mostly home to Rock and Ground type Pokémon, and the local ecosystem is very stable this way. Something like Ferrothorn has no natural predators here, eats our valuable iron ore, would devestate the habitat, and on top of all that their presence continues make an unsafe workplace for my miners, who are all on paid leave until this problem is handled. We're bleeding money until we can get our guys and girls back to work, but it's worth mentioning the Ministry of Environment doesn't want us to entirely wipe out the Ferroseeds, so I'm in quite a pinch. I mean how did they even get here! Ferroseed aren't native to any place near Sinnoh. Not Johto or Hoenn, not even Sevii, and it's not like they drifted across the entire ocean like a coconut." He took a moment to remember the context of the monologue. "The point is, I desperately need this problem fixed, and even though I only wanted one of you, I'll make sure you're both paid fully. Go in there, show the Ferroseed who's boss by knocking them around a bit, but leave some of them standing. The mine is empty, so bring an Escape Rope in case of trouble. Any questions? You both have Pokémon capable of fighting off Ferroseed, right?"

    "Mawile's good with Fire Fang and I've got a bag of Sitrus and Leppa Berries." Audrey answered.

    "I'm sure Chesnaught can figure something out. Just because I like Grass-types doesn't mean I have a problem with showing them who's boss." Dro slid the clipboard with signed forms across the desk to Byron.

    "Good. Just write your names on tags put them up on the 'in' part of the pegboard outside, and check back in with me when you're done."

    :;:;;::;:;:;::;;​

    Dro and Audrey walked side by side into the mine, flanked their Chesnaught and Mawile as a series of electric lamps lit the way. Every score or so meters was a forked path, sometimes boarded up with fresh pine planks.

    "You seem familiar somehow." Dro said to strike up conversation. "Have you spent any time in Unova?"

    She dreaded the upcoming topic. "I trained a little bit in Johto, but otherwise I haven't left Sinnoh."

    "Oh, I see." He said knowingly. "I came here from Driftveil City over in Unova. It's not so far from Chargestone Cave where Ferroseed are native, so I'm not so worried about Power-Up Punch!"

    On command, Dro's accompanying Chesnaught jabbed forward one arm, blasting a gently hoving Ferroseed into the dim depths of the mine.

    "Gotta stay focused on the task at hand." Dro smiled at Audrey. "Anyway, I've lived there a few years training against all sorts of people and wild Pokémon, and I don't know, I just came to enjoy it." He laughed for himself. "I admit, it's really nice being able to make ends meet doing something you love. Training and fighting!"

    Aside from Dro giving repeated orders of Power-Up Punch to his fighter, they were quiet for a while, heading deeper into the tunnel. "So how about you? Are you a born adventuring freelancer?"

    "I mostly do this for fun." Audrey replied flatly.

    "Huh. You sound like it. Power-up Punch!" Another Ferroseed was knocked into the darkness.

    "So umm, Dro, how often do you battle trainers who fight with Ferrothorns?"

    "The last time was a few weeks ago. Why do you ask?"

    "Give your Chesnaught these." She said, passing him a handful of Sitrus Berries. "Those Iron Barbs will tear you up if you're not careful, even in a landslide fight."

    The gears of thought were turning in Dro's head. "Heh, yeah, I guess so." He held the berries out in his hand to Chesnaught, who grabbed the cluster and threw them into his mouth in one bite, the scrapes on its fingers healing almost instantly.

    "How about you cover the rear while Dante and I lead." It wasn't a question. Audrey stepped forward with the little Mawile who held one Sitrus Berry close to his chest. Following the main tunnel of the mine, she gave repeated orders of Fire Fang while doling out Sitrus Berries and Leppa Berries as needed.

    "But then I started to notice that they weren't fighting back." Dro said, swaying his emphasis like a storyteller. "They were only rescuing smaller Pokémon from the brushfire and preventing the Icirrus clearcutters from advancing. That was a real life-changing moment for me. I started to re-evaluate a lot of what I do starting that day."

    Audrey noticed she missed almost an entire expository tale from the man. "That's quite a story."

    "Not just a story, my story." He ended with a smile. "How about you? Any stories for the road?"

    She fed Mawile another Sitrus berry. "What is your number with the freelancers?"

    "My what?" Dro asked.

    "Your number. When you accept a job, the dispatcher wants to know your freelancer number. What's yours?"

    He looked back to Chesnaught. "Number six, five, two." He said with staccato in his voice. "Six five two, just started recently."

    "Is that so?" Audrey asked. "I'm number seventeen. You have a very high number. The last I heard, we were up to fifty-five sequential."

    "Maybe there's a different system for out-of-towners?"

    "What are you hiding from me?" She and Dante stopped. Audrey took a few steps closer to Dro, if-that-is-his-real-name. He was muscular, but probably an inch shorter than her. The intimidation game could be played either way if she let it. She stepped closer to him, backing him into a wall as he kept his distance. "I've been working with the freelancers for five years and never been double-booked, then someone I've never met before claims to be my new team-mate while knowing nothing of the company, and all of this right after..." she trailed. "Right after I witnessed a robbery." She stepped back until she was against the opposite wall of the corridor, so wary.

    "Listen, I'm not bad news. I just--"

    "I don't have to listen to you." She looked down the corridor to the exit. "I should tell Byron about you. Or maybe the police."

    "Hold up, what is that sound?"

    "Don't change the topic!"

    "Hush, listen!" He whispered back. From deeper in the mine there was a rumble growing louder and closer by the second. "Probably a Graveler. We can stop it, Chesnaught! Just like that sumo battle in Kanto! Brace yourself!"

    Moments passed before a Camerupt, heavy and lumbering and snorting, ran as fast as it could toward them, spilling bits of its lava on the way.

    Audrey and Dro each pressed against the walls, squeezing against opposite sides of the corridor.

    "Yeah, I don't play with fire either." Dro said, smiling. He was always smiling. Standing so broad chested beside Chesnaught poking out from the wall, they weren't fully out of harm's way. The Camerupt pushed between them and huffed out a warning shot of Flamethrower.

    Directly at Mawile. The small Fairy turned and covered its face in pain, and Audrey fumbled to think of an adequate counter-attack.

    "Chesnaught, snag it with Grass Knot!" He ran after the rogue Camerupt alongside his Pokémon, and snared it in a tangle of wild grass spawned by the attack. "And Spikes! Don't let it get away!"

    The Pokémon threw a layer of caltrops both directions along the mine shaft, halting the runaway Camerupt. It turned to face Dro and Chesnaught, then stamped and dragged one foot like an angry Rapidash.

    "Oh, he's going to charge for a Take Down! You see that, Greenhorn?" Dro called excitedly. "Just like those Rollout Sealeos, we have this!"

    Camerupt charged forward, lumbering to the Chesnaught in its low stance. Greenhorn braced and grabbed its foe by the shoulders, sliding back mere inches before digging in for a spin to redirect and throw the Camerupt into a boarded-off shaft. Greenhorn ran in after, followed by its trainer, and later Audrey and Mawile.

    In the darkness, Camerupt threw plumes of flame and roared in frustration at the Chesnaught dodging its every attack and peppering counter-punches when it found the opening. In the firelight, Audrey could see a pedestal in the center of the chamber: a rough earth stalagmite topped by a flat gray surface that reflected the light like polished steel. She wanted to approach it, but the chaos of the fight was too dangerous.

    "Dante, stay between me and Camerupt, and be ready to Protect." Audrey stepped carefully into the dark chamber to the pedestal. She could see then that the steel had the same spiral pattern as the three tiles from the museum display last night. "The Plates of Creation" Cedric's voice sounded in her head. She kicked at the pillar, but was no match for solid earth.

    "Cammy, Earth Power!"

    Audrey and Dro each froze and looked to a silhouette in the main tunnel, then at the Camerupt. It stopped running around and instead stood still, glowing with streaks of yellow that spread through the floor. Audrey snatched up Dante as everyone dashed to corners of the chamber seeking refuge. The ground beneath camerupt turned to splashing sand exploding in all directions. Audrey pulled Mawile to her chest and turned her back to the explosion for a few terrifying seconds until the attack subsided. Across the room, Dro and Chesnaught were also safe in a far corner.

    "What do you two think you to are doing?" The silhouette shouted. A girl's voice, she ran down the crater of sand to the Camerupt.

    "Defending ourselves, that's what!" Dro shouted across the chamber. "Your precious friend here burned Mawile!"

    "Your Mawile should have stayed out of the way." The girl replied while scratching the ears of her Camerupt. "Cammie was just leading the way out for me, because she has a great sense of direction."

    "Oh, she does?" Dro said, stepping into the crater of sand without Chesnaught. "She also has a great flamethrower." He lost his footing and fell right onto his backside.

    "Thank you."

    "Does Byron even know you're in here?" Audrey asked as Dro patted dust off his pants.

    "Who?" She asked, still pampering Camerupt.

    "Unbelievable." Audrey said with a huff.

    "Okay, we'll show you the way out." Dro extended a hand to the girl from partway down the crater. Instead, she and Camerupt walked past him up to the room's entrance as sure-footed as if it was a wooden staircase. Dro followed her up, stumbling every step, and Audrey walked the rocky periphery of the chamber until she got to the entrance with them. She glanced back into the sand pit once more, then followed the cavavan out, keeping a safe distance behind everyone.

    -------- --------

    The Fiend cried out from within its mind, unrestricted yet caged.
    Restrained of life, singular of existence, it cried out.
    "I hear you." The Fiend heard.
    And so The Fiend cried out.​
     
    #3 Feb 3, 2019
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2019
    Laserdragon14 likes this.
  4. Absolute Zero

    Absolute Zero Maybe... I am the fool...

    Aki
    (Minccino)
    Level 6
    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2015
    Posts:
    2,020
    PokéPoints:
    ₽2,110.2
    Chapter 3:
    Iron Defense

    "Oh, that's some good sunshine." The girl said, breathing deeply and then recalling Camerupt into her Pokéball.

    "And that is Byron." Dro said, pointing to one of the two men at the entrance to the administrative building. "He runs the mine, and you need his permission to enter."

    "Apparently I don't, since I got in anyway."

    Dro and Audrey exchanged a glance of mutual contempt.

    The man talking to Byron noticed their approach, and began a run to the girl, arms spread wide for an embrace. "Oh Cassandra, you're back!" It was almost comical: a bald musclehead in a suit running to an embrace a teenage girl.

    Byron jogged to Audrey and Dro. "How did she get in there? How long was she in there?"

    "Probably just since this morning. She seems okay. By the way," Audrey said, "what is the current rule on taking artifacts out of the cave?"

    "We found this in a chamber we... accidentally opened." Dro pulled the shining artifact from a cargo pocket, and Audrey's heart rate jumped. It was indeed exactly like the four tiles lifted from the museum, but in a shining gray color. She wanted to keep it secret and keep it for herself. Both of those intentions were lost.

    "I've never seen anything like it." Byron said, looking closely before averting his attention conspicuously. "Iron Island Mining Corp wouldn't be allowed to disturb something like that if it was in the cave, but if an adventurer were to come across it as non-owned object property in the mine, they would be allowed to claim it. Again, I've never seen anything like it, it would be in my way, and any adventurer would be free to take it out."

    "Nice. Thank you, Mr. Byron." Dro said as he slid the tile back into his pocket.

    Audrey blinked out of staring as the artifact disappeared from view. "So how about the girl? I thought we were the only ones here." She gestured to the girl they led out of the mine. The titanic man who greeted her took a selfie with her from nearly a telescopic distance with his height and wingspan.

    "A failure of our tag system, and an avoided lawsuit, thanks to you. That man comes here and nearly busts down my door looking for his charge who wandered off. Once we decided it was neither of you, he started to raise hell about finding her. I'm glad you two--"

    "Mister Dro! Miss Audrey!" The titan boomed as he strode to them full of energy. "Thank you so much for rescuing my dear Cassandra from the depths of this earth!" He shook Audrey's hand in a tender shake of gratitude, clasped between both of his. He then moved to Dro, a single-hand handshake that discolored Dro's hand in the grip but had him grinning ear to ear, squeezing just as hard in return.

    "All in a day's work, Mister..."

    "Donough. Mister Donough. I work for the Family Drace. If ever you are in Celestic Town, please stop by the estate. Until then," he opened a Luxury Ball and let out fully grown Flygon. "We bid you both adieu." He climbed aboard the Pokémon behind the wings.

    Cassandra climbed closer to the neck of the beast. "Bye." She said with a wave, as the Flygon lifted into the air and to the mainland of Sinnoh.

    "Now you, Mister Salar" Byron said, opening a Pokéball to let a Bronzong float beside him. "I don't know what game you're playing here. I called the contractors, and they have no idea who you are: they only sent me Audrey. Who are you, and what are you doing on my island."

    Audrey positioned herself to Byron's side, resuming her stance against Dro.

    "I know this looks bad." Dro said, pulling Chesnaught back into its Pokéball. "Can I just talk to you Audrey? For like three minutes? With just a little bit of privacy while we finish what we started before that Camerupt--?"

    "Anything you want to say to me you can say in front of Byron."

    Dro took a few deep breaths. "Okay. Some friends and I are traveling problem-fixers..." he measured the expressions of his audience, and he figured he hadn't lost them yet. "and we're all impressed with your past work, both as former regional champion and in your handling of the Stark Mountain catastrophe. We want you to help us to..." he continued gauging expressions. "Help us save the universe."

    Moments passed. "Son, how old are you?"

    "Twenty-two, sir."

    "I see." Byron rubbed his stubbled chin thoughtfully. "And at what age are you going to stop believing in fairy tales?"

    "With all due respect, Byron, I don't care what you think, or what anyone else thinks for that matter. I'm strictly scouting for a particular someone with experience in saving the day, someone who can help me and my comrades save more days. Now if you don't mind, I'm talking to Audrey, and this was supposed to be a private conversation."

    Waves crashed on the rocky shore. "Do you want me to stick around, Little Miss?"

    A flock Wingull squawked near the pier. "Thanks Byron. I'll call you tomorrow."

    The man nodded, glared at Dro, then walked back to the administrative building with his hands in his pockets and with Bronzong at his side.

    "That's the short version." Dro continued. "I'm a front-lines guy, but my friends are both very knowledgeable in just how the universe is at risk. And we really need help."

    "That's for sure." Audrey crossed her arms low in front of her chest. She turned away from him and to where she left her rental Altaria and looked to the ocean. There was no Altaria. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, cursing internally her own past refusal to raise an Empoleon or any other sea-worthy Pokémon. "Okay, I'll make you a deal. You give me a ride back to Hearthome, and I'll listen to more of your sales pitch."

    Dro smiled and opened a Pokéball for Tropius to emerge. "Our chariot."

    xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx​

    "I keep forgetting that it's hard to carry a conversation over the sound of wind." Dro said as he slid off Tropius' back to the side. He held up a hand to help steady Audrey on her way down to the grass of a Hearthome public park.

    She declined his offer, sliding off by her own and stumbling forward a few steps. She resisted the ease of leaning onto him like a biker for the flight over, and even by just keeping her posture on the undulating beast, her core muscles were exhausted. "Thanks for the ride." She said as she brushed invisible dust from her pants. She then turned away from Dro.

    "Hold up, where are you going?" He asked when Tropius was safely recalled. "You said you would listen to what I had to say if I gave you a lift back!"

    "It's been a long day, and I really need to get something to eat."

    "Then let me feed you, let me take you to dinner!" Dro called. "I need to talk to you, and I need you to hear me." He closed his eyes and tilted his head back for a slow breath. "I'm sorry I misled - I'm sorry I lied to you. From this moment forward I will never lie to you again. I swear on myself."

    "It's easy to lie." She answered. "You've done it before, you can do it again."

    "But I won't. Not to you. It was a bad choice, and it goes against my code as a warrior."

    "Then you'll find a way out of it with your words, some clause of I-never-said."

    That made Dro laugh. "I am not a smart man. If I was, I wouldn't have been caught, and I might not even need your help. I'm just... I can't even think of a thing. But the important thing is that I'm sure I'm not only smarts-wise incapable of outsmarting you, I am from this point forward personally incapable. Please, let me talk to you, and then you can go on your way and make your own choice."

    She weighed her options. "Fine." Audrey said. She walked past Dro, and he kept a step to the side and behind her as she followed the sidewalk to a diner. She led the way to a booth near the front and they placed their orders: Psyduck over fettuccine for Audrey, and Dro had to be coerced into anything more than water.

    "Order something." She commanded softly. "A boy in your shape needs his calories."

    "I'm just not up for eating real meat." He said.

    "We serve only labmeats, no pain or death of sentient life in our supply line." The waiter mentioned impatiently.

    "It's no less uncomfortable." Dro mumbled. "This Lickitung loin-chops seems... I'll have that. And a salad." He gave his menu back to the waiter and addressed Audrey. "So where were we."

    "You and your friends are fixers who want my help to save the entire universe."

    "Yes! That! So that's the short version of it. So will you help?"

    Audrey didn't answer. She only stared.

    "You have pretty eyes." Dro said, smiling before getting serious again. "Here's the thing: there's an un-famous criminal, no, let me fix that: there's an un-famous terrorist who I've locked horns with six times over as many years. Most of the time the trouble is something like a new villainous Team with goals that are too unrealistic for their reach. Like you know that anarchist cell in Alola from last year? Or the return of Team Rocket? And guess who was playing both sides of the eco-terrorism game in Hoenn three years ago?"

    "This terrorist?" Audrey said after a pause.

    "Exactly! She's been everywhere, and has worked behind the scenes of madmen's operations around the world. And she's at it again, and we need help. Your help."

    The waiter stopped by and put plates in front of each of them. "I like heroes." Audrey said. "When I was little, I watched a lot of Blaziken Mask's cartoon. Always trying his best to save the day, doing whatever it takes, risking his own life. It's admirable. That's part of the reason I stepped up at Stark Mountain when they needed someone. So I get it." She twirled noodles around a fork and impaled a hunk of labmeat. "Tell me more about this terrorist."

    "She calls herself O, just the letter, not the number, legal identity a mystery. Her first act was igniting the return of Team Rocket. She was entirely behind the scenes, but one of my friends got into Silph Co's systems and found records of communications that were consistent with her other acts forward of that point, which makes it seem like that's where she started."

    "You're friends with hackers?"

    "One, yes, but not this friend. This one has connections, but I can't divulge his personal information, you'll have to ask him later."

    "I appreciate how honest and specific you're being." Audrey said, and she put down her fork. "One thing still doesn't make sense to me. You said she works with villains whose goals are too far for their reach, right? What's different about this time?"

    "This time she's working alone without anyone to weigh her down, or at least not on a public stage like those--"

    "No, the difference is that ruining the universe is a whole lot bigger than cornering the black market or spreading anarchy. If she couldn't help Team Rocket outlast two meddling kids, how is she going to destroy the universe?"

    Dro paused. "I... don't know. You'll have to ask Nate. He's the brains. But he's never wrong!"

    "He's not right yet."

    "He--" Dro paused and breathed deeply. "He will be. I've trusted him with my life for five years, and he's never let me down." He continued his deep breathing. "You're a hard-facts person. I respect that, partly because I am too. And I understand now that I won't convince you with words because I'm not good with words." He pulled out the silvery triangle plate from his cargo pocket. "I will give you this." He said, pulling it away from Audrey's reach as she accepted what she thought was an offer. "I will give it to you the next time we meet. You can do what you want with it. Keep it, sell it, throw it at O, I don't care. Well, I do care, but I won't stop you. It will be yours next time I see you." He put the tile back into his pocket and took out a wallet to drop a fold of cash on the table as well as a card of his contact information closer to Audrey. "Thank you for letting me speak." He said with a bow. "I hope we meet again soon."

    Audrey watched Dro march out of the diner, clenching his fists and flexing out his fingers like a man possessed. She was left with one and a half full plates and no more appetite.

    "Two boxes?" A waiter asked after a minute.

    Audrey nodded solemnly. Her words left with Dro.

    -------- --------​

    The Fiend stood in a puddle, its blood covered its feet.
    It knew The Angel was there, but did not know how far.
    It did not try to walk. It stood in its place.
    And its blood covered its feet still.​

    A few notes that I'll edit out of here later. Previously I was hiding a hidden message among the colons and semicolons that separated Scenes in these chapters, but I'm dropping that because it honestly wasn't worth the effort behind it, but let me know if you can decipher it (only the prequel post fully makes sense so far) before I edit those out and I'll give you a like. For the future, I'm just going to replace it with the same scene-break throughout, whether that's the Xs or something else to be decided.

    Also, I'm adding a new thing to the end of each chapter. This weird mysterious prose at the end? I edited others in to chapters 1 and 2. They are chronologically relevant to each other, but are not in-time with the story as it progresses, so don't bother figuring out what metaphor I'm trying to connect to in the previous 2000 words.

    Also-also I changed Chapter 2's title from Iron Defense to Dig for reasons.

    Thanks for bearing with me!
     
    #4 Mar 20, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2019 at 4:10 PM
  5. Absolute Zero

    Absolute Zero Maybe... I am the fool...

    Aki
    (Minccino)
    Level 6
    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2015
    Posts:
    2,020
    PokéPoints:
    ₽2,110.2
    Chapter 4:
    Night Shade

    "Cedric, I'm home." Audrey announced as she opened the door to her flat. "Oh. You have a friend over."

    "Hi sis. This is Cindy." Cedric declared just-so-calmly from beside the friend. Cindy, an overall light-palleted girl just taller than Cedric, was seated at the computer with a digitally zoomed image of one of the artifacts spanning the screen and with several sheets of paper laid all across the desk.

    The girl turned fully to face the adult. "Hi Miss Audrey." She said flatly.

    "Wow, you're making me feel old that way. Just Audrey is fine."

    The girl returned to her work without a word.

    "So what are you two working on?" Audrey asked in her best interested-Mom impression as she put her leftovers into the refrigerator.

    "We're trying to decode the spiral pattern on the Plates." Cedric explained. "We're kind of hitting a block with camera quality, so a lot of the symbols look the same."

    "And this is for a school project?"

    Cindy laughed a sharp breath. "I submit papers to the National Journal of Archaeology and Anthropology. A fake name and email will get you far if you're convincing."

    Audrey stared at the girl almost as hard as Cedric did. Those two looked like they were both in sixth grade, and while Cedric is no slouch, this new girl was something else. "Well I've had a busy day," Audrey announced, "so I'm going to turn in early. Can you get home on your own, Cindy?"

    "I live just a few blocks away with my mom." She put down her pencil. "Before you go, I have a question about Stark Mountain."

    It seems inescapable these past few days. "Sure, what is it?"

    "The stone that you recovered and put back into its place in the volcano, the Magma Stone. Is it a Heatran egg?"

    "Is that what they're saying?" She was honestly confused. Was Heatran the name of the beast inside the caldera? Could that hunk of glowing rock be an egg? "It was probably just a fulcrum or a plug to a lava vent. That's my idea."

    -------- --------​

    Dro sulked as he walked a street of the city, his mind stuck in a whirlpool of frustration. He plugged an earpiece into one ear and made a call from his cell as he wandered the sidewalks.

    "Bro, what's going on? Any luck?"

    "Mission failed, Marc." Dro grumbled back. "Semi-permanently. I don't know what Nate was thinking. I doubt she's really necessary for all this, and even if she is, why send me instead of you? I can't convince people, I can only carry things."

    "Because I'm busy at home and Nate's even less capable for the job. We won't be there until tomorrow, and every day counts."

    "Your gamble on me didn't pay off. We rushed by a day and so we're still at three. Well, we did at least get one of these Plates though, at least for now. I promised Audrey I'd give it to her next time we meet, so we have that much time and that much leverage in our favor. From what I know of her, she'll probably just take it and walk off. I'm tempted to go back on my word, but--"

    "Don't." Marc interrupted. "We have to be the good guys. Virtuous, honorable, principled, dignified, exemplary. Paragons of righteousness and bringers of hope. Shall I go on?"

    Dro laughed. "This is why you should have made first contact. Even if you couldn't convince her with reason, you would be able to make her swoon."

    There was a moment of radio silence. "So what are you doing until Nate and I arrive tomorrow?"

    "Probably finding a place to forage for food and then sleep. I've had a day."

    "Have fun with that, and be safe." Marc said. "See you tomorrow. Good night."

    "Night." Dro said and pulled out his earpiece. By this time he was in front of the venue from which the first four Plates were stolen, with yellow police tape stretched across the front between two cones. A sharp-dressed but unconfident-looking young man came from the front door, a notebook clutched in one hand. "Hey you!" Dro called with a wave and a smile. "Do you want to help me save the universe?"

    He looked to both sides. Nobody else stood next to him. "I'm working on something already."

    "That must be the phrase of the day." Dro mumbled. "What's the deal with this place? No Contest this evening?"

    "You're new here." He said. "There was a robbery and destruction of property last night."

    "Wow, that's exciting. Do they know who did it yet?"

    "We're working on that." He said flatly. With his free hand, he pulled a contact card from his shirt pocket. "Detective Flynn, Hearthome PD."

    "No kidding?" Dro asked as he turned the card over in his fingers. "A real live detective. So, do you have any leads yet?"

    "Check the newspapers for the official statement." The young detective barely made eye contact.

    "Can't you tell me any--"

    "Check the newspapers."

    "So there's nothing...?"

    Flynn looked him in the eye. "You're asking a lot of questions. Do you mind if I ask you a few?"

    "I won't be much help. You're right that I just got here. How about I call you if I hear anything on these mean streets?" Dro flicked the card between his fingers. "Keep up the good work, Detective." He smiled and turned away before scoffing at the conversational stonewalling and every the inhabitant of Hearthome City.

    It was barely past 6:00 PM and Hearthome was already dark, and with the early night of the mountain's shadow came a chill. Dro wandered through the city for almost another hour, learning its street names and landmarks, before he entered a park. Not the exclusively classist Amity park, but one that would serve his purpose nonetheless. Dro picked a tree with dense foliage and climbed into its branches. He straddled a limb and put his back against the trunk before noticing almost half of a dozen Burmy hanging withing arm's reach.

    "What are you looking at?" He asked. Even though they looked so leafy, he knew deeper down they were bugs, and the thought of lingering so close to them unsettled him. "I've slept through worse." He said as he crossed his arms and closed his eyes.

    Minutes passed before Dro was woken up. A metallic ringing filled the air, shrill and head-splitting. The various Burmy all around him retreated higher into the tree. Confusion tangled around more confusion, he looked to the ground to see he was surrounded by a number of wispy white Pokémon, and as tired as he was, he could not push himself back into sleep. "What is with all this racket!" He grumbled before a rock was thrown up at him, followed by a barage of other pebbles. Dro hung down and dropped from his branch, and grabbed a Pokéball from his holster. "What's your problem, attacking random strangers! Are you looking for a fight?"

    "Chimecho, cease Uproar."

    Dro realized he was standing in a circle of three matching strangers. Each one was dressed in a long white hooded cloak and wearing a black blindfold. "I've encountered a lot of gangs since I started adventuring, but you all have by far the least practical uniform. Can you even see me?" He approached one of the gangsters, waving his hand side-to-side at eye level.

    "Team Cosmos sees all." He said with a grab of Dro's wrist. "Crime and disorder are seen, and thus will be corrected."

    Dro pulled his arm free. "I'm not committing a crime. I'm climbing a tree. This is a public park, right? It's not even Amity."

    "Vagrants are not welcome." Another one said.

    "I'm not a vagrant. I'm studying native Pokémon. There are some in that tree, I was watcing them."

    "Lying is discord, and we cannot abide that." The third added.

    He waited, surrounded by the mysterious thugs. "I'm going to climb this tree, and you all are going to leave me alone. Understood?" Dro waited a moment without getting a response. As soon as he put one hand on a branch overhead, the cluster of Chimecho started their metallic Uproar again.

    "Okay, that's it!" He threw down the Pokéball of his Chesnaught. "Greenhorn, Needle Arm! Just pick one!"

    The Pokémon swung a heavy arm and swatted one Chimecho away. As soon as the hit landed, the remaining two shone a warm light on the injured one.

    "Again, Greenhorn! Beat them back!" Again and again he ordered attacks, but it was a futile fight, their combined Heal Pulse recovery was faster than his damage.

    "Dark Pulse." The detective from before approached from the street with a Honchkrow swooping overhead. "And again." Flynn kept his calm pace as all the Chimecho were entirely knocked out. "Get out of this town, Cosmos."

    "This man is a vagrant, and vagrancy is unlawful in--"

    "Hearthome Police Department won't have you harassing visitors. If something needs to be done, alert an officer of the law. Now, I'm much more concerned with protecting a visitor from a gang of thugs hiding their identities under hoods and visors than I am with one man sitting in a park at night. Now be on your way before I call in a one-oh-three on you for causing a disturbance."

    The Cosmos grunts exchanged a glance past their blindfolds. "This would not be the way of order." One declared. They each recalled their Chimecho into their pokeballs and walked as a wall toward the street and out of sight.

    Dro considered asking if there was any connection between them and the robbery, but he reconsidered at the last second. "Thanks for the assist, you really know how to handle trouble." He said. "I owe you. For serious."

    Slowly the Kricketot started chirping again. "Don't be caught being a vagrant." Flynn walked into the night, hands in his pockets and Honchkrow following overhead.

    "Yes sir, Detective." Dro mumbled. He found another tree to climb. He went higher up that time, and once he was comfortable, he closed his eyes and thought of Humilau city.

    -------- --------​

    Audrey rolled over in bed. If she was asked, she would say she had no idea why she couldn't sleep, but in truth she thought of Dro. What if he really was on to something that needed saving? What if the lie was just one bad choice and not a sign of bad character? What if she really was somehow necessary to protecting the world from destruction?

    Such a responsibility, saving the world.
    The world would find other saviors. It always does.
    Until it doesn't.
    When has a hero not risen?
    Anthropic principle, that's a weak excuse.
    There's still his friends, I'm not needed there.
    Anything worth doing is worth over-doing.
    I should just protect who I can.
    Shouldn't I try to protect everyone?
    Could I even protect everyone?
    I protected everyone on Stark Island.
    Lives were at stake.
    And the whole world might be at stake now.
    Nobody even knows if there's actual danger.
    And nobody will until it's too late.
    Pascal's wager now?
    Screw you, I'm running a cost-benefit analysis.
    What is the cost of my life?
    What is the cost of all life?
    What is the benefit of all life?
    What kind of a hero says something like that?
    Who ever said I'm a hero?
    I did, years ago, and I meant it.
    Time changes.
    But people don't.

    Audrey pushed herself up in bed, then crossed the room to the window. She let in the cold breeze of night with a song of Chimecho rising elsewhere in the city. She slithered back into bed and focused on the sounds of chimes and bugs, blocked the words and absorbed the flatness.

    -------- --------

    The Fiend asked The Angel.
    It wanted to talk, to confide, to trust.
    Would The Angel talk, confide, trust?
    Or would it shun, lie, mislead?​
     
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