TEEN: Backgrounds

The Vulture Queen
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I've posted this fic elsewhere. It deals a lot with deconstructing religion, politics, technology, etc. Some portions are rather dark. In general I try to limit swearing but in a somewhat realistic story based around teenagers, it happens. Little on-screen violence above normal Pokemon battle and little to no sex. Individual chapters and arcs will have more specific warnings. Also, the early reviews and chapter titles make zero sense because of restructuring to make their more, shorter chapters. Just deal with the confusion or read through the links in the Table of Contents to get through them.

Gela Esprit never double-locked her door and hadn’t owned a Clefairy doll since she was a little girl. Yet when she got back from her evening swim, the door was locked and a strange pink plush greeted her with wide eyes. She sighed and pulled out her watch and cell phone. “Kodo, scan for bugs. New bugs.” A whirring sound emanated from her timepiece, so she put it down and called her mother as she loaded her computer.

The phone was answered on the third ring. A new record. “Hey, Gela. How’s it going?”

“Same as always. Get up, do some coding, find the meaning of life, talk to my volleyball and maybe the skipper. Standard stuff for living alone on a remote island.” Her OS had loaded. She just needed to wait on Kodo.

“Sarcastic as ever, I see.” The traditional four seconds of silence elapsed. Neither could think of what to say in just three, and five would be unthinkable. “I take it you aren’t just calling for small talk.”

“No, I’m not. What’d I do to piss off the boss this time?”

“Huh?”

“My lair got a visitation today. No robbery, just a few reminders that they’d been there. Probably some bugs, but those are easy enough to take care of.”

“I haven’t heard of anything. Same awkward situation as usual around here. I’ll ask around, though. See if I can find anything.”

“Thanks.” A notification flashed on Gela’s monitor. “I think Kodo’s got something. I’ll get back to you later.”

“Alright, see you soon. Love you.”

“I love you too, mom.” A buzz as the phone disconnected mingled with the stench of lies. Gela scanned the message on her screen. “Alright, disable all but one of the bugs. We’ll destroy them later. In the meantime, let’s see who exactly wants to bother us from the Sevii Islands.


------

The winter air rushed in and out of his lungs, mingling with the smoke inside them as John rapidly inhaled, his periwinkle eyes unfocused as he pushed a cart through the snow. He could no longer hear chanting behind him, but his own heartbeat might have covered it up. Glancing around the forest, he saw an ash tree with a lightning burn. Good. He knew where he was now. Umber was miles behind him. His shoulders relaxed and his breathing slowed. No longer concerned with imminent death, his thoughts shifted to sin.


Return was the moral option. Reverend Xavier knew what was right and he would end the sin in John’s life if given the chance. Then he could be a good person and spared from eternal fire. But when he glanced in front of him, his resolve sapped away. The girl he had taken with him was still coated in rust red. Some time ago, he didn’t know how long exactly, he had stopped to treat her wounds. She would be fine, though. John was sure of that. But if he came back now, well, that was a different story. In Umber, there was only one way to deal with witches. Kill them.



-----

“Six months ago, Ronaldo Wyvern was just your average teenage boy from the country. Today he stands at the gates of the Indigo Plateau, and many analysts predict he could go all the way. Who is he? How did he do what so many only dream of? Today we will explore the origins and rise of this phenomenal trainer, potentially the future regional Champion. As always, no detail will remain unmentioned, no view unaired. Welcome to the Cinnabar Factor.”

The TV shut off as a teenage boy stood in front of it, his Graveler nervously standing back as he fumed. “Why? The kid breezes through all the gyms, gets the media to fall in love with him, and then goes to fight off a few legendaries without breaking a sweat. How? We’ve fought strong trainers before, but once he starts battling, poof. Nothing. Pretty soon everything we can muster is defeated. Military grade strategy? Useless. Hundreds of hours of training? Useless. Gym badges? Useless. How on earth does he do it? It’s like he can warp reality or something!”

Graveler ducked as a remote flew over his head. It wouldn’t hurt him, but the device might get shattered. That would just make his trainer angrier. “I swear, one day we’re going to beat Ronaldo Wyvern. Forget being the best. Just got to be better than that punk.”

------​

The boat swayed rhythmically on the waves, lifted and lowered by the gentle swells scraping the surface of the immeasurably large ocean. Inside the vessel, dwarfed by the natural forces around it, soft music permeated the room, seeping from a violin at the front. As if shadowing the dance of nature around them, pairs of humans swayed to and fro, mindful of nothing but each other, the music, and the gentle rocking of the boat. Except for one girl, who was thinking about something quite different. “The incinerator,” she whispered.

“What?” Her partner momentarily stumbled, but quickly made up for it. “What did you say?”

“The incinerator, of course. No one expects someone to hide in the incinerator. But if it’s large enough and could be turned off... and then the ashes could be a red herring. The police, readers too, would assume that it was used to burn evidence, but maybe it was just used to burn fingerprints and cover shoe markings in the old ashes. Yes, the killer hid in there until only Miss Watson-“

“Lenore, you’re speaking aloud.”

“I’m- oh, shoot. Sorry. How loud was I?”

Her partner shook his head. “Not very. I’m guessing no one else heard you.”

“Oh, thank goodness. Thanks for stopping me, Edgar.”

“No problem. Look, if you don’t want to do this, I understand. The song is nearly finished, so you could slip off and think for a few minutes if you need to.”

As the music ended, Edgar left to find a new partner. Lenore apologized and thanked him before slipping off through the crowds and into the quieter hallway. Her parents would want to see her in the room, but for now she had a few minutes of quiet to enjoy her inspiration. That’s just how writing went. Brief flashes of clarity muddled by the mundane moments of life. Of course, it would help if she did something interesting for once. Or got out of her heels and behind a type-writer. But neither was going to happen anytime soon.

-----

Have you ever been in situations like these? Are murderous cult leaders, mafia spies, unbeatable rivals or midnight dances regularly out to make your life worse? Good. If they were you probably wouldn’t have time to read this. These four are currently working on a book after watching one too many terrible Cinnabar Factor broadcast fail to accurately tell their story. But it’s a long story, which makes for a really long book. And a long book means that it will take a long time to get to you. In the meantime, I have been allowed to put this together. It’s a collection of origin stories, telling how four children with deep psychological issues became four teenagers with deep psychological issues and access to powerful biological weapons.

Sound interesting? Good.

The stories can be read in any order. For example, you could read File 1 then Files 2, 3 and 4. You could also read them in the order 4, 3, 2, 1 or even 3, 2, 1, 4. But not 2, 1, 3, 4. Don’t get crazy on us.

So to find out why a girl lives alone with her watch, check out File 1. If you want to read more about how a teenage boy came to flee into the forest with a witch, go to File 2. For a depressing story about the futility of fighting fate and Sues, File 3 is your best bet. File 4 chronicles the musings of a poet dealing with her mental demons. As if there was any other kind of poet. There are no time-traveling robots, sinking ships, or blue aliens in any of the files. Please go to Netflix and look up James Cameron if those sound interesting.

A/N

I will be updating File 1 here on Saturdays.

And now for a table of contents:


File 1: Anachronic Order
Despite being mentally, physically, and emotionally shattered, a genius programmer finds a new distraction when a Bond Villain comes knocking. His work is comparatively easy and the pay is good, but between his task, her dreams, and the politics of the Kanto Campers, old wounds reopen and she risks being shattered once more.

File 1
Part One | Part Two

A bungled break-in leads Gela Esprit to hunt down a powerful magnate with ambitions that could affect the entire region. In the meantime, a strangely similar yet far younger girl deals with a diagnosis and a death.


File Two: Meet Cute
Part One | Part Two

Even geniuses handling projects of tremendous importance need to go to work. But between a frustrating assignment and run-ins with friends and 'friends,' Gela finds herself struggling to make much process. And her dreams are getting stranger.


File Three: She Cleans Up Nicely
Part One | Part Two

Gela meets up with an old friend and inadvertently stumbles into taking a step towards a vision she abandoned long ago. Yet as her assignment comes to a close and family issues flare up, she still has no more idea how to proceed in life than she did before.


File Four: Curbstomp Battle
Part One | Part Two

After a year of hard intellectual work, summer comes to the region, bringing Gela's job working at a Camper summer camp with it. However, biological and political realities intervene to turn a period of rest into a great tribulation.



File Five: Precision F-Strike


Gela literally puts on a show for the world. Elsewhen, a girl's world comes crashing down as an unbridgeable rift forms between mother and daughter.


File Six: An Arm and a Leg

You can only live between personalities, identities, and timelines for so long while retaining the ability to tell the difference. As limbs and leaders are crushed, the levees of sanity begin to break.
 
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Thesaurus rex
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Welcome to the forum! Don't know if you've been a lurker for a while, but in my experience, the more you participate in the Fairground the more you tend to get out of it

Technical Accuracy/Style
Switching perspective works well. Interesting choice to use four narratives that will apparently intersect. Good use of English, a good balance between description and moving each scenelet along. It was a little confusing which parts were story and which parts were author's comments. Having the narrator as the author is fine - Lemony Snicket style - but it does mean that any comments that you make have to be very clearly marked.

Story
Not a lot to say here - with each story there's a hook, but whether or not they'll make sense (Or make for good reading) is yet to be seen.

Characters
Each has their own appeal. There's a lot of potential in each one. One thing though - Wyvern? As a surname? It could be an assumed name, I suppose, but it's the kind of name that's too cool to be real.

Final Thoughts
I've not seen anything like this before. With big plots and big ideas they need a good, critical, eye from the author to make sure that they make sense. Fantasy is good, but there has to be an internal logic to everything
 
The Vulture Queen
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Re: Pavell

OPEN FILE 1: ANACHRONIC ORDER
OPEN FILE 1.1: PILOT EPISODE


“I love how the bad guy always tries to get the hero to join them. You’d think the previous twenty dead ones would have given them a heads up by now.”
-James Bond


Years ago in Celadon City, on one side of a dream…

Ripples spread across the surface of the pond after the pebble struck, distorting the image of the young girl who threw it in. “The water looks fine. Why won’t you let me swim?”

The older man watching her sighed and shook his head as he slipped his hands into the pockets of his dark coat. “Looks can only tell you so much. The pond is beautiful, sure, but it’s downright filthy beneath the surface. Grimer and Muk are just about the only things that have been able to survive there after the casino was put up.”

“And Magikarp.”

“Yes, Magikarp, too. Although, I can’t think of many places they won’t live. They’re weaker than Caterpie and hardly the most intelligent of fish¬- no offense to Drako, of course- but there aren’t many places a Magikarp can’t live. Hot springs, pools, bilge water or anything, really. Hardy fellows.”

The girl sat down near the water’s edge, slipping the tip of her sandal into the pond to test her limits. “Gyarados are stronger and flying-type. I could have beat her if Drako evolved. Maybe not the first time, but surely the second or third time. That Venusaur would have been easy to beat.”

Sitting down a meter farther away, the man in the dark coat beckoned for her to ease away from the toxic pool. “Perhaps you would have, but you might wish you only had your Clefairy and Magikarp, then.”

“Why?” The girl looked up, her arched green eyes and puzzled frown expressing her confusion.

“Back in the navy you could always tell the Gyarados trainers apart before you knew what Pokémon they had on their team. They were emotionally aloof and composed, even during the heights of battle. Whenever they looked upon destruction their expression was almost bored, as if they had seen something far worse. Most of them had. Magikarp are docile creatures and they only evolve when they see anger and rage of the purest type. That emotion obsesses their simple minds as their bodies become far more powerful. If a trainer is lucky, they stop the rampage before someone gets hurt. More often than not, they don’t.”

Another few stones disrupted the pond’s surface as the two stared across it, lost in their own thoughts. “But I am angry right now. I hate losing.”

“You’re frustrated; there’s a difference.”

A final ripple progressed from the impact site. “The referee said that I could rechallenge in a year, right?”

“Yes, he did.”

“Do you think Mom will come for that match?”

The older man shifted uncomfortably. “We’ll have to wait and see. She doesn’t like battling too much.”

“Oh,” the girl lifted herself back to her feet, pushing off the ground with both arms. “Well, I will just have to train more in the next year. Then I should beat her easily. Horatio said that first badge fights are not hard once you learn the basics.”

“Yes, I’ve heard that too.”

And elsewhere on the hill another girl sat. She was very much like the youngster she was watching. Almost identical, actually. But there were differences. This girl was obviously older. She cut her dirty blonde hair far shorter and could not recall the last time she had talked so openly with anyone. At least, in her present. On the other side. She glanced down at her arm, hanging limp and dotted with occasional scars and blotches and deformities that could not be fixed by the best medicine in the region. There was another difference, too. She recognized the pity in the old man's voice as she began to wake.


---...---...---​


More recently in the Seafoam Islands, on the other side of a dream…

It had been years since she had double-locked her door and while she loved her Clefairy, she had never been interested in dolls. Yet when she got back from her swim the door was secured twice and a pair of wide glass eyes stared into her own. Sighing, the girl slipped her bag off of her left shoulder and pulled out her watch and cell phone, pushing her right arm away when it dangled into her hand’s path. “Kodo, scan for bugs. New bugs.” A whirring sound emanated from her timepiece, affirming that it had received the command. She briefly placed both gadgets down to turn on her computer, picking the phone back up when the black screen in front of her turned gray. She hit five on her speed dial and wondered why she still had the number listed higher than the nearest pizza parlor.

The call was answered on the third ring. A new record. “Hey, Gela. How’s it going?”

“Same as always. Get up, do some coding, find the meaning of life, talk to my volleyball and maybe the skipper. Standard stuff for living alone on a remote island.” Her OS had loaded. She just needed to wait on Kodo.

“Sarcastic as ever, I see.” The traditional four seconds of silence elapsed. Neither could think of what to say in just three, and five would be unthinkable. “I take it you aren’t just calling for small talk.”

“No, I am not. What did I do to piss off the boss this time?”

“Huh?”

“My lair got a visitation today. No robbery, just a few reminders that they had been there. Probably some bugs, but those are easy enough to take care of.”

“I haven’t heard of anything. Same awkward situation as usual around here. I’ll ask around, though. See if I can find anything.”

“Thanks.” A notification flashed on Gela’s monitor. “I think Kodo’s got something. I will get back to you later.”

“Alright, see you soon. Love you.”

“I love you too, mom.” A buzz as the phone disconnected mingled with the stench of lies. Kennedy scanned the message on her screen. “Alright, disable all but one of the bugs. We will destroy them later. In the meantime, let us see who wanted to visit us from the Sevii Islands. And who was nice enough to leave a bug connected to their network inside the room of a professional coder. Genius man, right there. Launch initial infiltration scripts from a proxy.” A command prompt window popped open on the screen, quickly filled with a flurry of Python scripts as Kodo tapped into an infected computer to begin launching the attack. Gela smiled faintly as she leaned back in her chair, admiring her bot’s speed and her visitor’s stupidity. A minute later lines of code stopped appearing in the window and she scrolled to the bottom, her smile fading rapidly as she surveyed the results. “Well, seems like they are not quite as stupid as we thought. Do you think we’d be better off continuing with standard algorithms or just hoping they downloaded our trojan?” A question mark flashed onto her screen. “Right, you can’t answer that. Reactivate and trace the other bugs. Then see if we have an entry point on one of the computers or one nearby.”

Another window opened, this time scanning her database of infected devices. After only a few seconds, a short list of potential backdoors opened on her screen. “Good work. Activate the program and use supplemental algorithms if needed. Once you have access, infiltrate their system and see what information you can get. If anything comes up, sound an alarm.” A prompt on screen indicated that the message had been received. Gela glanced at the clock. Half past eight. Way too early to sleep, but Kodo moved too quickly for her to easily follow and she wasn’t sure how long it would take it to get any meaningful information. Surely an hour wouldn’t hurt if she could get it, right? She pulled a baseball cap off of the table and placed it so the bill hung low over her face. It took almost a half hour, but eventually both arms hung limp at her sides as her eyelids closed.


---...---...---

Years ago in the Seafoam Islands, on one side of a dream…

Gela woke to screaming and light. A horde of people were sitting in grandstands, staring at a pool of water on stage.

The Dewgong burst from the surface in a colossal splash. As water droplets cascaded into the air, it reared back its head and shot forth a beam of flashing light, instantly freezing them into a light snowfall that fell back into the pool. Another Dewgong shot through the surface beside him, leaping two meters out of the water to slam a suspended ball with its tail before falling back in. Applause rose from the crowd, only to die back down as the MC’s voice rang out over the PA. “That concludes our Dewgong show today, sponsored by Silph Co, serving the region since 1956. The trainers will be coming out shortly to answer questions near the front viewing areas. From all of us here at the Seafoam Islands Marine Park, we hope you enjoy the rest of your visit.”

Most of the crowd stood up and headed for either the exits or the front of the room, but the girl remained seated with her father in the stands. “You can teach Pokémon to do that?”

“Yes, I can. It is what I do for my job.”

She continued to scrutinize the tank with her green eyes, focusing on the still-swinging ball hanging in the air as if trying to decipher the secrets to a magic trick. “How?”

“I use a type of computer called a ‘Technical Machine.’ There are some things that Pokémon can learn to do in the wild for hunting, defense, or showing off that they aren’t quite born knowing how to do. We just program the Technical Machine with enough information about the move to let other Pokémon of that species learn how to do it.”

“So it is not magic?”

Her father laughed. “No, but I guess it seems like it.”

The ball was barely vibrating and the water had calmed, so the girl’s attention shifted to the gathering crowds near the glass panels at the front of the tank. The Dewgong swam by, occasionally stopping to look at one human or another for a little while longer. They moved slowly, almost completely unlike the performance they had just put on. “Could you teach me how to do it?”

“It is probably a bit too hard for you right now. But, I promise to teach you when you are older.”

“So, only grown-ups can use the not-magic?”

“Sort of. Technical Machines are really difficult to make. When we get back to Celadon, though, I can teach you more about programming. That way you can learn how to make them sooner.”

Then an alarm starting blaring. Gela rolled her eyes and stood to leave. The Dewgong show was far less exciting now. She had directed a few in her time, although that really was not her specialty. But seeing the girl’s passion still made her smile, removed as she was from it.


---...---...---​


More recently in the Seafoam Islands, on the other side of a dream…

The alarm blasted from the speakers behind the monitor until it was silenced by a quick keystroke. 9:30 PM. Well, an hour was nothing to scoff at. Attention shifting back to the monitor, Gela scanned Kodo’s report. “An extensive intranet with high security? Interesting. Nice job getting an admin password, by the way. Reinforce whatever behavior led to that. Hmm. ‘Key Isle Securities.’ No notable employees and no clear references to me outside of the location of the bugs. And you found no likely code-names?” The monitor briefly glowed red. Negatory. “Then our visitors probably just outsourced the monitoring to Key Isle. Did you get any information on the main investors? Nice. Ninety percent Pewter Mining Company. I think that’s a Vulcan subcontractor. Scan the DII database to check, though.” A green light flashed across the monitor. A few seconds later a file was pulled up in her word processor. “Good job, good job. Let me just control-find and, yup, Vulcan. Scan the DII database for Vulcan plus CEO.” Another file popped open shortly after. “Thank you. According to the file, he spends most of his time at 56 Ash Street on Cinnabar. Name is Frederigo Conti.”

Gela pushed her chair back and stood up, moving towards the bag she had sat down in the entranceway to pull out her Pokéballs. A burst of red light materialized into a tan, humanoid figure next to her. “

“Stelo.”

Madame.

She turned to face her Hypno, pulling out her other two Pokéballs as well before speaking again. “There has been an intrusion, not from the DII this time. Mineral magnate operating out of Cinnabar. We are going to need to get up somewhat early to meet him tomorrow, so I will need your assistance tonight.”

Are you certain that visiting the boss in person is the best strategy?

“Walking right straight into the villain’s citadel alone always works out, right? Do not worry. If a random corporation bothered to pay me a visit reminiscent of a DII break-in, there was almost undeniably high-level authorization. In this case, seeking a lower level executive would likely be either pointless or alert the highest echelons of our knowledge without actually accruing any relevant information. Besides, I do enough hiding from problems behind a digital veil as it is. Might as well get some fresh air, for a change.”

If you are certain there is no other option, I shall accompany you. What time do you wish to awaken tomorrow?

“Six, probably. It is a moderately lengthy trip and I suspect that whatever occurs, it will not be brief.”

What if he simply refuses to see you?

“Oh, trust me. I am virtually certain I can get an audience with him.”

I see. How long will it be until you desire my services?

“Only a few minutes. I just need to finish putting some things away, and then I’ll be ready.”


---...---...---​


Years ago in Celadon City, on one side of a dream…

Shouting rang through the house. Even with the theoretically soundproof walls that lined her room, the girl could hear it as she lie awake, staring up at the ceiling of her room. Midnight. It was midnight and her parents were fighting again and she was awake as always.

What do you expect me to do? Live with all of this? You, of all people, are supposed to stand against this kind of thing! That is your job!

My job is to do whatever I am told. If that means lying to the press, so be it. It’s for our daughter’s good. You know that.

Great. Do things in her name that will just make her world worse when she grows up. Fantastic idea.

Three soft knocks on the door. “Come in,” the girl said, her gaze never moving from the ceiling.

An older man stepped in, his body cloaked in a coat almost as dark as the room. “I hope I did not wake you,” he whispered.

“I have been awake all night. Just like the last few.”

“You still have sleeping issues? Your mother told me that those had gone away.”

“I lied to get her to stop worrying. She has more important things to deal with, so please do not tell her.”

The man sat down at the foot of her bed. The girl had never shifted her gaze from the ceiling, but felt the balance of it shift when he sat down. “Well, I might just have to take you to the doctor myself. See what’s wrong with you.”

For a few minutes everything was quiet in the room, the only noise coming from the screams outside of it. Believing the girl had gone to sleep, the older man glanced at her face to see her green eyes wide open, still staring up. “Is there something wrong with me? Mom and Dad talk about me a lot when they’re like this. Am I the problem?”

“There might be something wrong with your body that’s keeping you from sleeping, but there’s nothing wrong with you as a person.”

“Then what are they fighting over?”

“Your mother has a very powerful and important job. She has to do some things for it that your father doesn’t always agree with, so they fight about that. They do love each other and you, it’s just that they disagree about some political things.” Another sleepless moment of relative silence elapsed before the older man got up and pulled out a chair from a nearby table. “I can stay with you for a while longer, if you would like.”

“I am fine, thank you.”

“Then I will see you tomorrow.”

She wiped a lock of dirty blonde hair off of her face as she continued to stare up at the ceiling, listening to the arguments below. Gela stayed with the girl for several more hours as sleep eluded her, both to listen to the shouting’s messages and keep the girl company, however little it would help. It was a shame, really. Even when she was alone, her future self could always be there watching. And it would never make a difference.


---...---...---​


More recently in Cinnabar Island, on the other side of a dream…

The mansion was an imposing structure. It was made entirely from the finest stone of the region and towered high above every building on the island except for the burned remains on the eastern edge of it. The sea stretched out behind it and thick walls surrounded the structure on land, with only a large wrought iron gate allowing entrance. Gela normally did not care for details like these, but even she had to admit it was impressive. It would make threatening to destroy it all the more fun.

Not noticing any physical security guards, but wary of the conspicuous machine gun turrets lining the wall, she stepped up to the gate. After a moment with no response, she began searching for some kind of a button on the edge of the wall. Finding none, she looked up and found a camera following her movements. She ran her hand through her hair and smiled at it. “Greetings, my name is Gela Esprit and I am reasonably sure that Mr. Conti wished to speak to me today.” The wind blew across the grass and birds shrieked in the distance, but no other sound was made. “I believe he was quite set upon meeting with me. He passed on something of an invitation last evening.” The camera shifted away slightly, a subtle sign of rejection. “Oh, come on. Are you really going to deny shelter to an overly optimistic cripple? That is more or less the basin of human cruelty. Nearly analogous to killing puppies. But I see how it must be to be rich. Too many dollars to be made, boats to be had, and puppies to kill to focus on wrecking the dreams of a single adolescent with delusional fantasies about meeting a powerful and illustrious idol.”

“Ma’am, please leave,” a voice called out from a nearby speaker.

“Ah, I see. That is how it is, indeed. Simply going to cast out an admirer in her prime, not even bothering with a backwards glance as she trudges back into the cruel winter snow and you go to your fireplace to slaughter more newborn dogs. Such is life.”

“It’s early April and there hasn’t been snow on this island for a month.”

“Really? As a clearly spurned and mentally incapacitated girl who randomly appears at the gates of the mansions of the wealthiest denizens of our region, I obviously have no idea what season it is. I am afraid that now I will have to go back to my Gyarados friend of the deep and mourn the injustices I perceive in the bitter world I stumble through where the rich men have no pity while they cut down droves of-“

“Can we stop with the dead puppies thing? I think I got the point.”

“Fine. Where was I?”

“Gyarados friends of the deep.”

“Thank you. As I was saying, I will have to tell my Gyarados friends of the deep about the terrible atrocities that have been inflicted upon me. Out of the nobleness of my heart I will try and prevent them from viewing me as a martyr in vain, but alas, they cannot be stopped. In a maelstrom of fury they shall overtake this wretched puppy-stained-“

“I thought you agreed to stop.”

“Sorry, I got caught up in the moment there. This wretched stain upon the Earth and tear it to the ground in righteous fury. And there shall be moaning and gnashing of teeth because why not, right?”

“Ma’am, loitering and trespassing are illegal under regional law. I suggest you leave before we have to escort you to the police.”

“Ah, and now we witness the law’s allegiance not to justice, but to the extravagantly wealthy who most certainly do not kill puppies in droves. My story will be all the more enraging to my sea serpent friends now.”

“That’s it, I’m calling the-“

The ground shook across the northwestern corner of the island as a massive roar rose from the sea behind the mansion, followed by a small tidal wave that raced up the beach. The machine gun turrets whirled around, searching for an apparent source of the chaos.

“Sir, are you sure that you could not at least ask Mr. Conti if he would like to see me?”

An even longer silence elapsed as the turrets spun and the seagulls shrieked in fear as they took to the air in one giant swarm. Finally, the static-filled voice returned, wavering with fear.

“What did you say your name was?”

That was progress. But, of course. Progress did not always mean immediate success.

“I love how, ‘He’ll see you shortly’ really means, ‘Please sit down here while we go into DEFCON 1 to deal with some insane chick with an overpowered strongmon.’”

We have been here for less than an hour. Our host almost certainly has meetings to attend to that cannot wait.


“I am aware. It is just that there is only so much I can look at in this room, and staring at the same portraits of someone else’s ancestors gets a little old after a while.”

Are you tired?

“Stelo, when am I ever not tired? Outside of when I am lying in bed and trying to sleep, of course.”

I could put you to sleep, if you wanted. Estrea and I are more than capable of watching out for you, and you should be as rested as possible during the meeting.


“Fine, just let me send her out.”

Gela reached down to her belt and pulled out a dark blue ball with a yellow crescent on top. In a press of a button and a flash of light, her second Pokémon appeared. “Fairy! Clefairy!” The pink fairy flapped up onto her lap and snuggled against her chest.

“Yes, good to see you again, Estrea. Just like the other three times today.” Looking up from her Pokémon, she turned to Stelo. “Alright, if you’re ready you can do it.”

It is what I am born to do. Of course I am ready.

Three swings of his pendulum later, Gela was out.


---...---...---​


Years ago in Celadon City, on one side of a dream…

Gela was by her home’s pool again. The girl seemed to be more or less the same age as their meeting last night. And she looked terrible.

A Magikarp’s orange body barely protruded above the surface of the pool as it swam lazily in circles. Every once in a while it scraped past his trainer’s feet dangling in the water in the only sign of affection it seemed capable of. The girl stared off into the distance, occasionally focusing on her Pokémon’s movements, but mainly concerned with something else. There are been more yelling in the house the previous nights. While the butler had promised to not tell her parents about their trip to the doctor, they had found out anyway. She was not sure how. Obviously the butler hadn’t broken his promise, so it had probably been the doctor or nurse. Or her father used his computer to find out. That was always a possibility.

The doctor had told the girl that some hormone in her blood (cortisol, Gela noted to little effect) was messed up. Now her parents argued more often and about new things. They still talked about politics and jobs and the usual things, but now there was angry discussion about drugs and depression. She had tried looking up more information about her condition, but all the articles she found were really scientific-sounding and had lots of big words. If those were big words about computers she could have read them, but they were about the body. The two were very different things.

The more confusing articles about her body and hormones and sleep she read, the more her mind rushed at night and kept sleep away. All the while, more and more distractions came from downstairs. The yelling she was used to, but the crying was new.

Now she was too exhausted to swim. All she could do was sit by the pool and idly watch her Pokémon rub against her feet before moving in another large and mellow loop.

The door opened and closed behind the girl. While she was curious as to who it was, in her exhaustion the girl did not care enough to turn around. Gela saw the girl’s father walk into the dream before the girl noticed him crouch down in her peripheral vision. Strange. He should have been at work. Even in the midst of a dream that was clear. “Hey.”

“Hi.” The girl finally worked up the motivation to turn her head to face him. “Why are you here right now?”

“Well, I am glad to know that you are overjoyed to see me.” He laughed to himself while the girl’s face remained uncharacteristically serious. “How are you doing today?”

The girl slouched and turned back to her Magikarp. “I am fine. And you?”

“You look tired.”

“No, I am perfectly fine. You do not have to worry,” she replied.

Four seconds passed. Always four seconds when family conversations paused.

“You can always talk to me about it. You know that, right?”

“Yes, I know that.”

The father glanced down as the Magikarp approached the pool’s edge to look at him. “Alright, I was just making sure. I did not come here to talk about that, though. I wanted to teach you something.” His daughter’s eyes followed with interest as he pulled a twenty centimeter disk and small electronic tablet out of his backpack. “I think it is about time I showed you how to write code for Technical Machines.”

Her eyes were almost free of dreariness now as they took in the equipment in front of her, unable to believe that the information she had hungered for over the last few years was finally within reach. “I thought you said you would teach me when I grew up.”

“I did. That was the plan. Unfortunately, a handful of complications have come up. It would be more convenient for me to teach you know.”

The subtext was lost to her in her anticipation and excitement. For Gela, the benefit of hindsight and detachment made it painfully clear. She stood up to leave the dream and girl behind. For one of the two, a moment of unimaginable joy was about to begin as exhaustion withdrew. For the other, this was not the case.
 
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FYI - because I need to sleep soon - there aren't really any review customs as such that I am aware of. I do believe that we're all better off if we read and review each other's work. As for myself, there's no obligation - read my story as you please :)
 
The Vulture Queen
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File 1.1: Pilot Episode

RESUME FILE 1.1: PILOT EPISODE


More recently in Cinnabar Island, on the other side of a dream…

Stelo tapped Gela’s leg, releasing her from his spell. She stretched for a moment before looking up to face a tall and well-groomed man in a dark suit. “Mr. Conti will see you now, ma’am.”

Smiling, she rose to her feet as Estrea jumped off of her lap, cowering behind her trainer’s legs as soon as possible to avoid the scary newcomer. “Thank you, sir.” The imposing man guided her down the long hallways of the mansion, past several elaborate portraits and tapestries that were probably centuries old. She recognized a few of them from art history books she had read in grade school. They were probably originals. At last, the two arrived at a pair of massive oak doors at the end of the hallway, flanked on both sides by the most ornate weavings thus far.

“Mr. Conti is waiting inside.”

Gela made a final backwards glance at the hallway. “With surroundings like that I half expect to see a bearded man with bulging muscles stroking a white cat inside. Actually, it is more or less inevitable now.” Seeing no further response from the guard, Gela pressed open the doors and entered with her Hypno and Clefairy.

She noted that the scene inside was not terribly far from her expectations. Elegant paintings covered the walls, along with detailed and marked maps of the region. The space immediately behind the main desk was occupied by a large glass window displaying the ocean northwest of the island. At the desk itself, a relatively small man with graying hair and oval spectacles sat up straighter in his chair to greet his guest. An Arcanine with dulling fur lifted its head briefly, but then went back to sleep. Frederigo Conti welcomed her, motioning to a burly wooden chair pushed under the desk in front of him. “Please, have a seat.”

She awkwardly struggled to move the heavy chair for a minute before Stelo finally gave her some telekinetic help. “Thank you,” Gela whispered as she slid into her seat to face the magnate.

Conti cleared his throat before speaking again. “Your visit was rather unexpected, I must say. Our original plan was to send you a few gifts and vague signals that you had someone on your side before we actually approached you formally. But, since you are here, we might as well get started.”

“If you want to keep a hacker from finding you, I suggest not bugging her room with devices connected to the Internet and continuously streaming to a computer. But thanks for the, uh, gift. I really needed some wiretaps, a reminder to keep my door fully secured and a genuinely creepy doll.”

“Clefair?”

“The doll was creepy, not you.”

“Fair.”

“The creepy doll had a secondary purpose. I thought that if you could figure out whom to look for and where to find them you would have discovered that much. Perhaps you would even have a slightly different team.”

“Oh, boy. Cryptic hints incoming now just to confirm that this meeting is straight out of a spy movie.”

The magnate chuckled. “I suppose it is. I do have a fondness for the genre. I personally financed a few movies just to get new material to watch. Rather than the villain, I prefer to view myself as the powerful benefactor, though. But you may think what you wish.”

“Fascinating. Either way, megalomaniac or mysterious puppet master or whatever you style yourself as, what precisely do you have to gain through an elaborate series of visitations and donations to a random sprite of sarcasm dwelling in human form?”

“Ms. Esprit-“

“I prefer Gela, NeonChimera31, or The Goddam Batman, actually.”

“Gela, then. I believe we have a shared political goal that you could assist me with.”

“So you’re a ‘take over the government’ style villain?”

“Effectively so, if you choose to view it that way. Could you please not interrupt me when I am in the middle of a monologue? I do actually enjoy a chance to play what you call the mysterious puppet master.”

“My sarcasm is harder to extinguish than a flame war over liberation, but I will nobly venture to contain it if this is truly your greatest desire. Such is the overflowing virtue of my character.”

Conti eyed her warily before leaning back in his chair and sighing. “I was never told you were this difficult.”

“There is no way mere words could convey my wit except in an infinitely small dosage, which would in turn form a black hole of dry humor and rend the universe asunder in a vortex of cruel irony.”

“Fine, but can I at least continue my speech- you don’t have to reply verbally.” Gela awkwardly lifted her left hand into a salute before lowering it down. “Great, so, shared political objectives. Corruption has been almost universal since the war ended. Of course, you wouldn’t remember how things worked before then. Let me just say that however terrible the regime was they were rather transparent and they were very clear about their objectives. At the time I was living in the Sevii Islands helping transition my family’s fortune into a modern business empire, longing for the day I could return to this region. Indeed, the regime’s fall to a secular government was a dream come true for me. But, I can’t stand the new government. Common thugs and robbers occupy all levels, supported by the Champion, military, bureaucracy, and the DII. There is no inspiration anymore! They don’t care for dignity or ideology or even the beauty of high culture. It is a terrible waste, if you ask me.

“I don’t want a coup. The region has seen enough of that in the last few decades. I want a bloodless revolution and a shift in political momentum. I believe that change can come from the outside, if only through shady and indirect attacks on the central government.” Gela raised her left arm. “Is this a serious question? If so, you can talk.”

“Thank you, good sir. I assume you know that elections and League are pretty much impossible to win without the blessings of the DII and security agencies. How exactly do you propose to non-violently replace a government that is quite content to stay in place, by pushing them somewhere else or some plan that I am clearly missing?”

“You obviously have not seen enough spy films.”

“Oh, I get it. That was exposition as to why I should join the dark side. Now you want to lay out your nefarious and unbeatable plan before I decline, you try to kill me in some overly elaborate death trap, and I get out unharmed to defy the odds and stop your ambitions.”

The doors were pushed open by the butler, carrying a tray with two glasses upon it. “I brought the tea you requested, sir.”

“Thank you, George. You are dismissed.”

“Yes, sir.”

After the butler walked out, Gela turned to the goblet in front of her. “If it is alright with you, I would rather not drink this. I gave up caffeine years ago and quite frankly I do not want to play the drink switching game to figure out which is poisoned.”

“Don’t worry. I understand. Besides, as the genre-savvy villain I am, I would have poisoned both glasses or neither anyway.” He laughed heartily at his own joke and Gela smiled politely. At least today’s villain had some sense of humor, even if it did not sync with hers. “Back to your earlier comment, yes, this is the part where I tell you how I plan upon achieving my objective. I would rather avoid the part where I have to kill you or you come back to kill me, though. That would be quite the setback.” He laughed again. Gela was not sure whether smiling was polite or not in the situation, so she just looked down at Estrea sitting in her lap. The fairy shrugged to the extent that a puffball can.

“My plan is simple. League matches are rigged by allowing leaders to bend the rules. However, if the leader is beaten even under the modified rules, they have to forfeit the badge. The same concept also applies to the Elite Four. If I could build a team so singularly unstoppable that I could crush every single leader and Elite Four member, even under rigged conditions, I would become the Champion. As commander-in-chief of the armies, and with my substantial connections among certain factions back in the Sevii Islands, it would be within my power to supervise the elections to prevent corruption. Furthermore, I would be above bribery myself as there is almost no amount of money that could persuade me to change my mind. All that would remain to change would be the spy services and DII, which a free government could get around to replacing in time.”

“And when in all of this do the agencies shoot you? That is still a thing they can do quite easily.”

Conti waved his hand dismissively. “Bah, I have security that I pay very well. I give background checks, too, making me a bit smarter than the average villain, if we really have to use that analogy. If they do try anything I would have a martyr or a clear reason for war. The security services are powerful, but they cannot stop my friends in the Sevii Isles combined with the progressive factions in the military. Whatever they do, I win. I don’t see any problems with this plan.”

“Neither did I. ‘Unbeatable teams’ that can triumph over every trainer in the League under any circumstances are floating around everywhere these days. They practically grow on trees. I mean, I was walking back to my cave yesterday when a one-ton Rhydon with decades of combat experience just fell straight out of a fern. And then an Alakazam sprouted from a banana. It was incredible.”

“The unbeatable team is actually what I need your assistance for. You are a trainer at the Seafoam Marine Park, right?”

“In theory, yes. In practice I do a lot more coding and sarcastic ranting than anything.”

“You do this through unconventional tactics if I am not mistaken. Something called a ‘Technical Machine’?”

“More or less. I also spend a fair amount of time on conventional training for Gyarados and Lapras, if that can be called conventional.”

“But you do make Technical Machines? Devices that can teach any move to any Pokémon?”

“Not quite. They can teach a move to Pokémon whom naturally learn it or are physiologically capable of performing it. It is not like I am teaching Golbat how to use Earthquake, so it is not quite any move to any Pokémon.”

“The machines allow for easy training of powerful moves to Pokémon who would otherwise have to train extensively to learn them.”

“If that was a question, then yes. That is a potential use of them.”

Conti smirked. “Do you see how you play into the unbeatable team idea?”

“Sort of. I assume you want me to construct exceptionally powerful technical machines that allow your Pokémon to wield the most devastating forces in nature to decimate opponents. Or maybe I am completely missing the point and you want me to make blue and white cotton candy. This is something I can also do for my job.”

“Your first theory was correct. I want you to make me three extremely powerful moves capable of ending a battle in very little time.”

Gela stroked Astrea and looked at her watch, frowning. “Are there any specific moves you want?”

“I have no preferences, as you probably know more about this than I do. The Pewter City gym leader did mention that his Golem had learned an extremely powerful technique. You might want to look into that. The other two are entirely up to you so long as they are sufficiently powerful.”

“Hmm. I think it could theoretically be done. There is no absolute limit on power, anyway. However, the complexity needed to pull of these moves would be astounding. Multiple brain processes, high precision, and enormous physical or mental strength. Given a ton of time and research opportunities I could probably provide the first two. You would have to take care of the base strength part.”

“I am fully prepared to do that to see my goals through.” Gela continued to stroke Estrea, lost in mental calculations. “Your appearance today has dramatically shifted forward our time tables. I could give you a year and a sizable laboratory to operate with, along with a substantial payment of course.”

“Let me guess, you are about to take out a yup, briefcase full of money. I cannot really see through leather, so could you just tell me how much it is?”

“Ten million pokémon dollars. One quarter up front, one quarter for each of the drives you provide me.”

Green eyes flashed quickly from the suitcase to the magnate and then back down to the Clefairy. “Well, with that kind of money I might as well upgrade your order to hidden machines and give you free shipping and handling. Maybe a carrot peeler as well.”

“Hidden machines?”

“Technical machines with unlimited uses. It is a hardware thing. Most of our disks are only good for one use to reduce the risk of theft.”

“I see. I want that, then. Now that you know the details, are you going to accept?”

“Hell yes. I will not need your lab, either. Just a few months to get things done if you only want three. They will be three really complicated machines, but I have literally been making these things since I was eight so it should not be too time-consuming.” Conti chuckled. “What?”

“Nothing, I just find it amusing that you of all people would turn against family members for money.”

“I guess my father would disapprove of using his technology for this, but he happens to have no real say at the moment so it is fine.”

“I meant your mother. Are you really comfortable making moves that could lead to the downfall of the institution your mother has worked so hard to preserve?”

Gela frowned and glared straight into the magnate’s eyes, making him shudder slightly beneath his fine suit. “I have no qualms about tearing down institutions that I disagree with, whomever may be at the helm. Your proposal also makes this sound like a bloodless revolution. I trust you have seen enough action films to know what killing the parents of your female scientific benefactors brings about, though.”

“Yes, I happen to know what I am doing, thank you very much. This will be bloodless unless other factions fire first.”

“Then we should have no problem. Although, I do have one question remaining.”

“And that is?”

“If you did any research on me at all, you probably deduced that a far smaller sum would have procured my allegiance. I may have even done it for no charge at all if your presentation was strong enough. So why waste so much money on a petty programmer who has not even seen their eighteenth birthday.”

“Ah, good question. A great question, even.” The magnate’s Arcanine rose to its feet and yawned before walking over to his owner to beg for a petting. The businessman obliged and then continued his answer. “I will admit that part of the motivation was just because I wanted to ask for someone’s help with a suitcase full of money. It’s just something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I could also easily afford to do so. While ten million is a fortune for you, it is barely one percent of what I make in one year. It is a price I am willing to pay a thousand times over for my objective. You could also consider it an investment in the region’s future. When I am Champion, I imagine a girl with your intelligence and skills could start a small company that could quickly grow larger. Think about it: training goods are already a tremendous portion of the market. Vitamins and other performance-enhancing products are a billion dollar industry. Technical machines would be far more of a revolution in training. Wealthy trainers would shell out thousands for them, casinos and reality shows would stockpile them for prizes, and even the Pokémon League could use them as rewards for aspiring trainers. And that is just the domestic uses. Imagine what our military could do with the ability to train unique moves to Pokémon as the situation demanded. Sure, this would require a means of mass-producing the hardware and a devoted team of coders, but that is what the ten million is for. I am just shocked that the Marine Park never realized what a gold mine it was sitting on.”

“Actually, the park does not own the patent on them, nor does any park employee outside of myself know how to make them. In fact, I think only four people in the region are familiar with the coding and I am the only one who actually makes them. My father abhorred the usage of the machines for anything but a handful of minor uses with entirely non-violent consequences. Me? To be honest I never shared his reservations, but I also have never felt the urge to actually try and profit on them. I have enough stress to deal with. I will gladly take your payment and consider future action with it, though. I trust that the down payment is being wired to an off-shore account or something, because I have no idea what I would do with that much cash. Hard to just walk into a bank with a few million and ask to deposit it.”

“Yes, yes. My secretary will get that information to you later. I hope you do consider going corporate later. There is so much potential for that technology.”

Gela rose to her feet as Estrea leapt off of her lap. “Well, Mr. Evil Steve Jobs, I will keep that in mind. When I have some progress, I will contact you again. Probably electronically this time.”

“I look forward to meeting again.” Conti extended his right hand for a moment before quickly pulling it back and extending his left, apologizing quietly under his breath. Gela shook it without comment and left the room, wondering how to tell her friends that she was now a millionaire committed to bringing about the overthrow of the government.

Or if they would even bat an eyelash at the news.


---...---...---​


Years ago in Celadon City, on one side of a dream…

Gela thought that the girl should have realized something was wrong when no alarm went off. She had only slept for two hours the previous night and had awaken hours ago, but there was never any indication that she was to rise from bed and leave. There were no windows, so she could not tell for sure, but she suspected that the sun had rose hours ago. Still, no one came to wake her up and her alarm clock was missing.

Eventually, she decided that she would at least step outside her room to check what time of day it was. Opening her door, she found sunlight streaming into the hall. Today was a Wednesday. Why had no one came to tell her to get ready for school? The halls were strangely quiet as well, as if no one was walking through them anywhere. Confused, she wandered down them and descended the spiral staircase into the kitchen. Her mother was sitting by the counter, drinking a cup of coffee and reading the newspaper alone. She worked on Wednesdays. There were usually other people in the kitchen. They almost never talked alone. The girl knew that this was different. She had not yet learned that different meant bad.

Noticing her daughter, the woman at the counter smiled and lowered the paper. Thin streaks of dried water ran from the corners of her eyes but she tried to deny them. “Hello. How was your rest?”

Not answering her question, the girl looked around the room in confusion. “What is going on?” she asked.

Her mother sighed and put down the paper entirely. “It’s about your father. He’s gone away for a while.”

Indeed he had.


END FILE 1.1: PILOT EPISODE
PROCEED TO FILE 1.2: MEET CUTE

A/N

'Sup. It's a long chapter, and not even the longest in the arc, but that's kind of how I do things. I've never quite figured out how I feel about this chapter. It fleshes out the basics of her character as well as her explicit and implicit goals and weaknesses, and I had always wanted to make a story that really plays with time and dreams, but I can't tell if I quite did it right here. The time/dream thing is a running motif in the arc, but this the chapter that plays with it the (second) most. I'm also pretty sure my librarian got totally the wrong impression when I checked out a half-dozen books on mental and physical ailments I don't have. But that's just how the writing life goes, I guess. See you next week.
 
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powered by the sun ☀️
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I must commend you on that opening paragraph. Wow, that was good. It got my attention.
I've only read the first part (chapter?) thus far, but I'll definitely come back and read the second one.

There's just something about the way you write that's captivating. The subject matter is interesting (if not a bit confusing because it jumps around), but I suppose that will be solved in future chapters. I like it so far.
You know what vibe I feel? That whole 999/Virtue's Last Reward kind of story. I have this feeling that something bad is going to happen, but I don't know what and that's suspenseful.
When I say "bad," I don't mean in regards to a religious bad, but that something not good is going to happen to one of the characters (injury, death-- something like that).
 
The Vulture Queen
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Re: farewell, friend

Contains some language and one-sided Pokémon X human attraction that will not be going anywhere. This in not that kind of ‘fic. Also, props to Paradigm of Writing on FF.net for Beta Reading this File. Go check out his stuff.


OPEN FILE 1.2: MEET CUTE

“The probability of two people ending up in a relationship is directly proportional to the awkwardness of their initial meeting.”
-Archimedes


---...---...---​


Years ago in Cinnabar Island, on one side of a dream…

Tonight Gela found herself in a brightly lit and irritatingly warm room, high above a stage. A male friend of hers sat beside her. He was a few years younger on this side than he was on the other one. She glanced down on the stage to see the girl lost in her own insecurities on the floor of a gym arena. Probably wondering why she let herself get talked into an obviously unwinnable situation. Nothing too unusual.

A man with thinning gray hair stood opposite her. He wore thick, dark sunglasses and carried a cane. However, his age had not stopped him from making a million puns in even the short time Gela had been watching. Neither the girl nor Gela could decide whether enduring them was worse than the actual prospect of battle.

Another, younger man waved a pair of flags on the side of the battlefield. “Welcome to today’s Cinnabar Gym match. Today our challenger will seek their first badge from Leader Blaine. As per League regulations, this will be a one-on-one battle. Leader Blaine must use an approved Fire Pokémon. The challenger can use any Pokémon of her choice. Once one Pokémon is unable to battle, the opposing trainer will be declared the winner. Are there any questions? Seeing none, the Leader may send out his first Pokémon.”

“Magmar, let’s see if this whipper-snapper can beat the heat!” A bipedal being of flames rose in front of him, instantly heating the room. The air around it rippled, distorting the girl’s view of it after only seconds.

“Estrea, this seems like as good a job for you as any.” The girl’s Clefairy appeared before her, twirling around and singing as if oblivious to the opposing Magmar. “Girl, I know it has been a while since we had one of these but it would be helpful if you focused. This is a gym match.” The Pokémon instantly perked up and snarled at the opponent to the extent that a pink puffball can.

“Clefairy! Fair-EE!”

“Why, that does appear to be quite the menacing sprite, right? As the challenger, you can be the first to bring the fire in this fight.”

“Puns and rhyming, now? Really? What’s next, a full musical representation of a Tauros being barbecued?” Sarcasm was always a great cure for anxiety. “Estrea, get in with a Double-Slap.”

“Ember her if she actually gets close,” Blaine retaliated.

Clefairy continued to dash forward as she held her hands wide apart, prepared to mercilessly slap the opponent. “If she actually gets—oh no. Estrea, stop! Water Gun!”

The fairy quickly switched to frothing at the mouth before blasting out a steady pulse of liquid at the opposing Magmar, catching it off guard after only a few embers spewed from its mouth. Most of the water evaporated in the intense heat near it, but some did manage to reach the beast’s outer flames. The Magmar momentarily became visible as it shrieked in pain before the air around it once again heated to conceal it. Clefairy pumped one of her fists into the air, jamming it straight into a small fleck of ash that her opponent had release. In an instant she had brought it back down to her mouth with a high-pitched screech, desperately licking it as quickly as possible.

From her position, the girl could barely see the injury. A portion of her Pokémon’s paw was burned, which made her cringe, but it was far better than what would have happened if the Clefairy had run straight into the inferno around Magmar. “Sorry, girl. I will heal you up later, I promise. As for you, Blaine, thanks for the heads up.”

It was hard to tell what the Gym Leader was thinking through his sunglasses, but his joking smile had momentarily lapsed. “Water Gun, eh? I hadn’t heard of a Clefairy who could do that. You must be quite the—“

“Water Gun again!”

“Heat yourself!”

Another pulse of water jettisoned through the air as Magmar let loose a torrent of fire around its body, seriously disturbing the air flow in the room and evaporating almost all of the water before it could reach it. “Hey, don’t interrupt me while I’m on a monologue! I’ll make you feel the burn for that!”

“I have a feeling you reuse those puns a lot.”

“Yup, I reheat them often!”

“Could you keep making them while I stall for time, please!”

“I can’t just put this match on the backburner like that! Prepare to—“

“Minimize. Thank you.”

A burst of light surrounded Clefairy, quickly retracting in size as if it had entered into its Pokéball. It was now almost as hard to distinguish as the Magmar was through his own trickery.

“Scatter Embers all around the field. Keep it from coming in any closer.”

“Water Gun around yourself. Keep any from hitting.”

A small puddle formed at one tiny point on the floor as a cloud of fiery particulates floated down. “I must say, that you are quite unusual for a trainer seeking their first badge. Solid strategy, unconventional moves tailored to win, and a Pokémon powerful enough to pierce Magmar’s surroundings without an elemental affinity. Is this your first time around the bonfire?”

“I hope you know how strange that pun sounded. No, this is not quite my first time.”

“I figured as much. How many badges did you get before losing the last time? Four? Five?”

“Believe it or not, zero. I am an absolute master at losing spectacularly in first battles. Venusaur alone cost me three matches in Celadon.”

“Venusaur? On a first match? Huh. She normally saves that for the fire-tested veterans seeking their last few badges. I wonder why—Magmar, no!” In front of him, his Pokémon had drifted to sleep and was soundly dozing off on the floor. “How! I didn’t hear a Sing attack!”

“Pokémon have far better senses than us fleshbags. Volume also does not matter for Sing, just your understanding of the words. As someone personally screwed out of two years of good sleep by that mechanic, I can tell you all about that. Estrea, Water Gun in front of Magmar. Reuse as necessary.”

A small stream of water came from the floor at the sleeping Magmar, forming a pool around him that bypassed his now-cooled flames. The fire-type slowly began to stir as the Sing wore off and the cool water trickled under it, but by that point it was too late. With its relatively low-level and weakness, Magmar was down for the count.

The referee raised a flag. “Magmar is unable to battle. This match and the Volcano Badge go to challenger Gela Esprit of Celadon City.”

The Volcano badge was one of the hardest to earn first, although with the gyms moving around as much as they did they were hard to compare. But as her friend came down from the stands to congratulate her, the girl felt like she could be a successful trainer for the first time in years. Gela rolled her eyes and stood up. The girl would be, briefly, before coming down harder to Earth and burning up in reentry. Articuno, those fire puns were infectious.


---...---...---​


More recently in the Seafoam Islands, on the other side of a dream…

“You really will not eat without me, huh?”

Gela threw another fish at the blue Pokémon in front of her. It snapped its long neck to the side and easily caught it before humming softly and pleading with his trainer with an unapologetically sad expression. She laughed and threw him another fish. “Come on, we both know that you do not have to beg with me, big guy.” The Pokémon cooed and swam closer to her, craning out his neck in hopes of either a petting or another fish. “You really do need to learn to take food from other people. What happens if I have to leave for a while?” Despite her admonishment, she stroked the plesiosaur’s neck gently before handing him another herring.

A persistent tapping nearby caught the trainer’s attention. Gela turned towards the glass to face the early morning crowd and quickly spotted a young child banging on the glass repeatedly with his fist. She stood up, ignoring the Lapras moving in on the whole bucket of food, and tapped her microphone on. “Please obey the signs posted throughout the gallery. Do not touch the glass. Thank you.”

Gela sighed as she saw the Lapras trying to shake the now-empty bucket off of his face. She motioned for him to lean down and then helped pull it off by the handle. “See you later, Tri. If any other visitors are obnoxious, let me know.” The Lapras gave a mournful farewell cry and Gela struggled to find the willpower to open the door to step back out of the exhibit. Triassic’s codependency would have been almost adorable if it was not so problematic.

Immediately after shutting the door to leave the Lapras enclosure, Gela was pulled aside by her boss. “There you are. I should have known you would be here.”

“Greetings, ma’am.”

“Hello, Gela. How was Triassic? He was anxious all weekend. We had to keep him in a storage area just to keep the visitors from worrying.”

“He is fine. He ate and acted normally and his vitals were stable. Just going through his normal withdrawal.”

“Good to hear, good to hear. You should get to see more of her than usual this week. Sarah broke her arm over the weekend—“

“Cripple for the cripple god,” Gela muttered under her breath.

“—so she can’t direct shows until the cast comes off. I need you to lead the Lapras shows this week.”

“I can do that. Is there anything I need to be doing this morning now that Tri’s been fed?”

“Actually, you can walk with me for a minute. I need to explain something you missed over the weekend.” She motioned for Gela to follow her down the hallway behind the Local Species cages and began to move. They passed by windows into a large circular Dewgong pool and a rocky seascape filled with bivalve Shellder and Cloyster slowly opening and closing. “This summer, we’re going to give every trainer a chance to perform a personalized show with their own Pokémon, directing, and narration. You can use it to show off your team and tell the audience a little bit about yourself. Not that I fully expect you to go into your life story—Hell, you haven’t even told me much of that—but some basic information would be nice. Maybe a quick review of how you got your team.” The two arrived at the end of the hallway and prepared to enter onto the main paths of the Seafoam Islands Marine Park. “Do you have any questions?”

“As a matter of fact, I do. Is it really necessary that I do this? It just really is not something I would ever normally do. That is pretty much rule one of being Gela Esprit. You do not talk about Gela Esprit. Seriously, at least. It is acceptable if coated in a massive layer of sarcasm.”

Her boss sighed. “Yes, you have to do something. I don’t care what, but some sort of half-serious presentation would be nice. I wouldn’t care if you didn't it, but the higher ups want to feel like their employees are appreciated and such. And it’s an easy way for them to decide who to promote without really getting to know people. Win-win for them.” With that, she opened the door and strode out into the crowd, leaving Gela with a task infinitely harder than constructing three death machines for a megalomaniac.

She at least knew where to start work on that task.


---...---...---​


Gyarados: Monsters of the Deep

The words were engraved in a colossal banner above a tremendous pane of reinforced glass. In fact, everything about the exhibit was gigantic. The tank itself contained over three million liters of seawater with a retired military vessel submerged in the center. The viewing area was the second-largest room in the entire Park, with dozens of rows of grandstands sloping down to the glass panel separating visitors from the two massive sea serpents on the other side of the glass.

Gela would be the first to admit she was a terrible tour guide and barely knew any statistics about the park, except for the prices charged by the machines that carried good decaffeinated soda, but the Gyarados gallery was impressive enough that she made an exception. The only problem with it was that it was always so loud and crowded that getting work done there was near impossible. That, of course, never stopped her from trying.

On that particular morning she found herself perched in her usual spot twenty-five rows up the bleachers and three meters from the right edge. From there she could watch the coolest Pokémon on the planet when she wanted to, but most of the time she was too busy tapping away on her tablet with all the speed she could muster one-handed to watch the Pokémon. The coding was slow work, transferring data on whether or not a neuron fired into the elaborate code her father had invented and then adapting it to match other species’ equivalent neural networks as required. Normally, this was about as hard as it sounded. Today it was brutal due to the ridiculous complexity of her chosen move.

So when thirty children walked in as part of a spring camp tour she was quite willing to embrace the distraction. After tucking her tablet into her bag, she began to descend the staircase on the side of the grandstand until she reached a teenage boy in a staff uniform walking up towards her. “So, the great Sawyer Ericson came down from his perch, eh? Is administration worried that one of the kids is going to spontaneously trip into a puddle and drown in the span of seconds, desperately wishing that a lifeguard was there to nobly risk life and limb in a valiant rescue mission?”

The lifeguard rolled his eyes. “Nah, the admins had nothing to do with it. There was an opening for spring counselors this week and I figured I might as well ride a different wave for once. Can’t get too eased into the same old habits, can we?”

Gela flicked a loose strand of hair out of her eyes and widened her smile. “I guess not. What time does your shift get off today, anyway?” In her peripheral vision she saw a handful of kids arguing about something or another. One took a step closer to the glass. Whatever. She was not about to have her conversation interrupted by a bunch of hyperactive rule breakers.

“I get off at eight tonight. Why? You want to hang somewhere?”

The kid was tapping on the glass now. How he could miss the twenty-six “For the safety of you and our Pokémon, please do not touch the glass” signs, she did not know. Shifting her attention back to Sawyer, she ran through her schedule mentally. She should really get her current TM done while she was making progress. Only one or two nights of work would finish it. But, Conti expected her to take several months more than she needed. A night away could not hurt, right?

“Sarah is out today, so I need to cover the Lapras show at nine. You can come if you want. After that, I am entirely free.”

“Sweet. My bro’s working the night shift today in vet services, so we could just chill at my place. If you don’t feel like riding back to your hermit cave after, the couch is always open.”

“Thank you, good sir.” A hushed silence fell over the crowd followed by a flurry of flashes from cameras across the room. The thirty-two signs reminding guests that flash photography was banned were also being ignored. Gela looked up to see Drako slowly moving towards the glass panel to face the child who had been banging on it. The kid was backing away slowly, quivering as the serpent approached with fangs bared.

“He won’t actually do anything, right?” Sawyer asked, his normally relaxed, muscular body shaking slightly. “I mean, that glass could handle it if he did flip out or something.”

Gela smirked at him, her green eyes flashing mischievously as she turned her microphone on. “Drako, use Thrash on the ship.”

The atrocious Pokémon looked for his trainer behind the panel, eventually spotting her in the crowd. He then swiftly rushed towards the glass before sharply turning, dragging his body against the panel as he made a U-turn with impressive speed for his bulk. He then roared, a terrifying bellow that sounded clearly through the glass and led to most of the flashes halting as the visitors stared on in awe. The Gyarados rushed straight for the shipwreck in the middle of his tank before abruptly turning, slamming his body straight into the metal plating and leaving a considerable dent. He then went back around and smacked the weakened point with his head before slamming his tail into the side of the boat again. The female Gyarados in the tank quickly took notice and rammed into the other side of the ship with her equally prodigous bulk. The two alternated strikes on the boat until eventually huge holes had been formed in the military-grade plating on both sides of it.

Gela smiled as she watched the audience shaking at the sight of the subsiding rampage before them. She then clicked her microphone back on. “For the safety of you and our Pokémon, please do not touch the glass.”


---...---...---​


Years ago in Vermillion City, on one side of a dream…

Gela sighed. It was one of those trippy dreams again. Utterly. Fantastic.

It had taken her hours to fall asleep away from her normal location. Perhaps due to the unusual circumstances, tonight’s dream was different. The person she was connected to was younger, as expected, but now she was taller and stronger. The girl was someone else entirely.

The boy effortlessly moved through the water. He was a natural swimmer and the rough harbor waves were far from strong enough to deter him. He had not looked back in a while to check, but he was almost certain that his entire group was far behind. Even at state swimming competitions he was nearly unbeatable. For a moment he stopped to tread water, rest, and think. So far Water Camp had been a decent experience. The beach the camp owned on the outskirts of Vermillion was exceptional. His personality earned him the friendship of most of his fellow Campers. Quite a few staff members liked him because he could talk about surfing from his own experiences and marine biology from listening to his brother talk about his studies. In a few more days he would be the alpha of his little pack without ever having to be aggressive about it. And it was good to be king.

Needless to say, the king was not expecting anyone to tap him on the shoulder that far out in the harbor. Much less the weird quiet girl in his patrol. “Hey, you really should not be out this far without a buddy. You would be vulnerable if something happened.”

“Sure, thanks for the consideration. How did you reach me out here, though?”

The strange girl smirked. “You are not the only one who can swim. You know that, right?”

“I know, I’m just not used to people swimming as fast as I can.”

A piercing whistle rang over the harbor, leading to a flurry of splashing behind them as the rest of the campers moved to the shore. The boy looked around in confusion before seeing the strange girl stare out into the ocean. He followed her gaze out to see a huge wake heading right towards them, a blue shape rising from it. “Look down and do not move,” the quiet girl hissed. The boy complied, too shocked to think for himself after seeing the approaching sea monster.

The water around the two churned as they could feel the currents moving around the creature’s body as it approached. A spray of water fell over them as the snake rose above. The boy did not dare to look up. Beside him, the strange girl began to speak softly. “Hello, Gyarados. We did not mean to intrude upon your territory. It was entirely an accident and we will—“

The strange girl froze as the beast lowered its head right down to her body, pressing its jaw against her torso and wrapping its whiskers around her. The boy locked up as he saw the encounter occurring out of the side of his vision. His trembling increased as the serpent abruptly lashed out towards him, growling as it circled him in the water.

“Gyarados, no. He is not a threat to me and we are not, um, mating. Please, leave us alone.” The atrocious Pokémon rose his head above the water and snorted before diving back into the deep. For a full minute the two tread water, the boy’s shaking increasing dramatically as he scanned the water beneath him for any signs of a pair of jaws rushing up. At long last, the strange girl spoke again. “Alright, I think we are safe now. Let us head back in.”

She slowly turned around and began to swim back towards shore. A moment later the boy followed. “Wait, what happened there? Why didn’t it attack?”

Between strokes, the girl replied. “I have trained a Magikarp for years, ever since it was a juvenile. Male Gyarados often select mates based on their perceived ability to care for their Magikarp offspring, so it was probably, uh, checking me out. He likely thought we were mating and wanted to eliminate or intimidate you into—your said your brother was studying marine biology, correct?”

“Yes.”

“Then ask him for the rest of the explanation. He should know.”

The boy had to admit that the entire thing was freaky and terrifying. Still, looking ahead at the girl’s powerful strokes, he had to admit that the Gyarados could have gone for a worse potential partner.

In the part of her lucid mind that was not caught up in the strangeness of the night’s dream, Gela was both disgusted and strangely exhilarated.

TO BE CONTINUED....
 
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powered by the sun ☀️
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No problem!

Ah, you might want to include a note then so that new readers know the prologue is more akin to a table of contents than a prologue.
And I highly recommend you play 999 and VLR! 999 is on the Apple Appstore for I believe $3.99, which is a steal compared to its retail value (the only thing missing are the puzzles, if you care for that).
 
Thesaurus rex
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Finally managed to finish this chapter - yes, it is indeed a long one.

Technical Accuracy/Style
No complains on the technical accuracy side, but stylistically there's room for improvement. With a story that flickers back and forth like this the narration needs to be easy to follow in every other aspect. Each scene break is heralded by one line - the recurring theme is ok, by the way - but it looks like a text wall. You need a breaker line in there to make absolutely clear that it's the end of one scene and the beginning of another.

Hypno's narration needs some kind of dialogue tag. Even if it's not spoken dialogue, you need something to make it clear that it's dialogue and not narration - I had to double-take once or twice to make sure it made sense to me.

Finally, with the computer-speak. I suspect you're aware of this already, but much of it meant little or nothing to me. If that's the point, no problem, but it's worth being aware that if crucial information is going to come out of moments like that, it has to make sense to someone who doesn't speak the jargon.

Story
Flicking back and forth across memory is a great idea and one that has a lot of potential. I think you're being too cryptic about it, though. It took me a long time to figure out how the scenes fit together - I think they're Gela dreaming about her younger self as an observer - and it pulls me out of what's otherwise a good story.

The idea off using TMs to centre the story around is a great one. TMs aren't nearly used enough in pokémon fanfic and I'm interested to see what you do with them. Speaking of which, a lot of exposition and world-building here. So far I buy the political structure you're setting up, but for the time being I'll reserve opinion on whether I like the spy-plot you're setting up until it begins to unfold.

Characters
Gela's annoying. Which is a shame, but she's just so smug in that meeting with Conti. Considering that so far there isn't a whole lot of her character other than that, inevitably it comes across as her defining characteristic. I'm prepared to stick with it, though, and see where it goes.

Final Thoughts
Really, the big hurdle here is the formatting, which I mentioned in Style above. I suspect I'll enjoy this story a lot more once I find it easier on the eye
 
It's been a while
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The stories can be read in any order. For example, you could read File 1 then Files 2, 3 and 4. You could also read them in the order 4, 3, 2, 1 or even 3, 2, 1, 4. But not 2, 1, 3, 4. Don’t get crazy on us.
I totally laughed at loud at this. I always imagine someone over reacting like: BUT NOT 2, 1, 3, 4! Don’t get crazy on us. :p

Anyway, I'm not going to give you a review since this is merely a taste of whats to come, but let me tell you it's delicious. I really liked what you did with the perspectives. You gave a little trailer of each one of the stories in a brief yet intriguing way. I found myself interesting in each of them. It will be a challenge to write them all, so I commend you on your endeavor. I'm definitely going to follow this. Your prose is well done, and you've managed to characterize each of your characters using the fewest of words, while still doing a great job of painting the atmosphere around them. I'll be reading the first chapter soon.

EDIT: So I read the first chapter and I gotta say, I'm loving Gela. She's hilarious. Dat sarcasm tho. The whole thing you did when transitioning with reality and dreams, which were in fact memories, I thought was a great way to get into her back story. I also liked how you explained why and how; for a second I was wondering why you chose to give her a Hypno (you know considering the rumors ... ) but it makes sense when you bring up her condition. I also loved that your character is a programmer, and of Technical Machines no less. And I also loved how you explained why TMs are destroyed after use.

The dialogue was just so entertaining, and the only thing I found myself being slowed down by was your choice not you use contractions (-I am- instead of -I'm-, or -do not- instead of -don't- and others). It really made the dialogue feel chunk-ed when it would have been smooth otherwise. Then again chunky and creamy peanut butter is a preference, I don't judge ... creamy is better.
 
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Gather round, people, I'll tell you a story
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This story is incredibly interesting and well-written. The author has a clear grasp of how to structure a good story and write engaging characters. The anachronistic, achronological nature reminds me slightly of Baccano! Overall, these first few entries are a very good start, and this is definitely one story I'll be watching.

Sorry for my brevity, but I don't have time to do a close reading or detailed review. I'll try to make up for it later!
 
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RESUME FILE 1.2: MEET CUTE


More recently in the Seafoam Islands, on the other side of a dream…

“Well, they say that the three hundred and second time is the charm. Maybe this one will work. And maybe the sky will fall, cartoon characters will age, and I will actually find a half-decent story on that one Bulb site.” Gela pulled yet another disk out from her pile and placed it into a scanning machine, watching as the initial transcription began. Shortly after, her phone buzzed in her pocket. One new text message from Gage Carver.

‘How did the testing work last night? 1 step closer to a death weapon?’

Gela strongly considered face palming before replying. Sure, that was really hard in her condition and she was not sure anyone in the real world had done it unironically in the last decade, but it might be worth a try to vent frustration. Gage, of all people, should know that text messages were mass collected by people not fond of death weapons being built. He even tapped that data regularly.

‘I have no idea what you are talking about.’

Another minute passed before she got a reply.

‘Has the Eagle landed?’

‘No. I was a bit too busy enjoying the company of mortal beings like you are prone to advise me to do. Perhaps your bird of prey might yet roost tonight.’


‘Perchance could u tell me who u were with?’


A clicking sound came from the scanner, so Gela removed the disk and slid it into the download device. After inserting a borrowed Kingler’s Pokéball, she pressed the necessary buttons for the TM to be used. Only then did she reply.

‘Sawyer. I will also be having a state dinner with Her Highness, Queen of Aggravation, tomorrow.’

‘Victoria?! U srs? She doesn’t even live in the isles.’ Almost immediately, another text came in. ‘What did u do with Sawyer, anyway? Anything I should know about? ;)

‘If you bothered to come out every once and a while I would be perfectly amiable to you. Well, maybe not. I would be no more hostile than I am to any other miserable denizen of this planet. As for Victoria, I am badly in need of a decent coordinator. This is a problem given my location and my unfortunate habit of developing friendships with freak mutants with a horribly disheveled 23rd chromosomal pair and no sense of style. No offense intended.’
She waited a moment. If she received two text messages she would send two replies. That is how the universe worked. ‘And you know that Sawyer and I are just friends in the seldom used sense that means that we are indeed merely friends with no romantic interests.’

The TM was done transferring information, so she sent out the Kingler into a nearby testing pond. The crab warily surveyed its surroundings, seeing nothing but the glass walls at the edge of his tank and a short concrete pillar. “Alright, Kingler. Use Guillotine on the cement pillar, please.” The crab turned to face her before moving to line his claw up with his target. Then it moved.

It’s claw latched onto the pillar with unnatural speed, crushing it in its massive pincer and squeezing as cracks shot up and down the concrete object. Finally, it slammed its claw shut and the pillar fell into pieces around it, obliterated at the point of contact. After staring in awe for a few seconds, Gela pulled her phone back out.

‘In other news, I am proud to announce that I am now formally Death, destroyer of worlds. Please change my contact information to reflect this.’


---...---...---​


Years ago in Celadon City, on one side of a dream…

Cold. It was cold and for some reason the girl insisted on swimming and for the love of Articuno could she not wake up in dreams with a reasonable temperature? Or at least get reasonable clothing for those dreams? She relaxed and eased into the girl’s perspective entirely. She hated doing it abruptly—it did ruin the game, after all—but at least the girl was wearing a wetsuit.

Drako swam nearby her, occasionally swimming underneath or flopping out of the water. He showed happiness, and honestly all of his emotions, in strange ways. A particularly chilly breeze blew overhead, causing a small patch of snow to blow off into the pool and turn into slush. Still she swam on. That and coding were almost all she ever did anymore and she could not code with her Pokémon. The door opened and Mr. Aldo stepped out. At first the girl thought she would be admonished for swimming in the December cold, but her stomach churned when she saw a Clefairy hesitantly waddle out behind the older butler.

“Is there any reason you left your Clefairy inside, again?”

The girl swam to the edge of the pool and pulled her upper body out into the freezing air. “I told you already that I do not want her. I wanted a strong Pokémon to help me beat gyms.”

The older man looked at Drako for a moment. “So, your Magikarp isn’t too weak but Clefairy is?”

“He is different. We have been friends for years and Gyarados are the coolest Pokémon ever. I am a programmer, not a princess. I do not need soft, pink Pokémon for little girls.”

The Clefairy was cowering behind the older man’s legs, nervously looking out at the mean girl in the water. The older man reached down to pick her up, petting the Pokémon’s fur until it calmed back down. “You know, a lot of people spend years looking for Clefairy or saving to buy one. Not many parents could afford to get one for their kid’s tenth birthday. You are really very lucky.”

“Hmph. That is the point. It is a generically good starter. It has nothing to do with what I wanted, though. Mom could not even bother to get me a Magnemite or an Abra or something more common I could actually use. It is like she does not even know me.”

The older man cleared his throat as his expression turned harsh. “Your mother goes through more for you than you could possibly imagine and knows you very well. She wanted to give you a Voltorb, actually. I talked her into the Clefairy. Blame me if you want to attack someone for it.”

Another gust of wind blew over them and the girl lowered all of her body but her head back into the less frigid water. “Why?”

“A variety of reasons. The first is that it gives you a Pokémon that can and will spend the night with you in your room. Pokémon song doesn’t work on humans who can’t understand the words, but at least you will have someone to spend long nights with. The second is that Clefairy can battle in the air and land reasonably well, covering the fights that a water-type can’t begin to compete in. The third is that you honestly need something that shows genuine emotion. Whether or not you acknowledge you have them, you should try to express and control your feelings every once and a while. It’s good for you, and I think that something as playful as a Clefairy could teach you. Normal-types have also been reported to know some strange moves in the wild, meaning that you could use it as a test subject for your Technical Machines better than almost any other Pokémon. The last reason is, well, see for yourself.” He set the Pokémon down on the ground. “Use Metronome.” The Pokémon’s fingers began to glow as it waved them from side to side, generating an intense light that dissolved after only a few seconds. Clefairy then inhaled sharply and spewed out a blast of air, drastically reducing the temperature of the pool and freezing the water on the girl’s hair almost instantly while making her uncomfortable even in her wet suit. At long last the gale died down, leaving much of the pool frozen and the girl physically miserable but beaming nonetheless.

“What was that?”

“It’s called Metronome. It’s a powerful technique of the Clefairy that lets them summon a random move that they’ve seen. I’m not sure how useful it would be to your coding, but it could be helpful. Your father mentioned that it could be used for research purposes once. And if you’re really desperate in a gym battle it could turn the tide if you get lucky.

She had something, whether it was hypothermia, the flu or just a bad cold she didn't remember, the week after taking the Blizzard attack, giving the girl plenty of time to bond with her new Pokémon. The two planned detailed strategies they would use to defeat the Celadon Gym when the time came, and then move onto earning the rest of the badges and becoming Champions. She must have missed it at the time, or maybe it was just the dream distorting the facts of the moment, but the girl did not recall seeing a flash of regret in her mother’s eyes when they announced they were going to win the Rainbow Badge as soon as the girl was well.


---...---...---​


More recently in the Seafoam Islands, on the other side of a dream…

“Thrash, Surf, Hyper Beam, Fire Blast, Thunder—you taught your Gyarados Thunder?!”

Gela looked over at the coordinator next to her as she scanned her Pokémon’s data. “Yes, I taught him Thunder. He is the smaller Gyarados that gets displayed in the tank and I would prefer the other try to assert dominance exactly once. The plan succeeded, mind you.”

“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. You’re you, after all. Anyway, can Gyarados be used in this show? It’s a general rule in coordinating not to use any Pokémon who might freak out and kill the audience.”

“Rules are generally there because someone broke them once. I want to know where that one came from. Did a Vulpix flip out and ignite a comically placed fuse leading to twelve tons of dynamite once? Or did an Eevee just adore the entire audience to death. You gotta watch out for dem cutemons, after all.”

Victoria laughed. “I can’t think of anything like that. Is Gyarados tame, though?”

“I am reasonably certain that I can restrict Drako to only eating three audience members. Maybe even one if they are obese, but in general he prefers a high-carb low-fat diet so that is unlikely.”

“Um, you are joking, right?”

“Have I ever approached something without the utmost seriousness? I am frankly shocked and appalled you would accuse me of joking about a subject as serious as my Gyarados’ weight loss attempts.”

Her friend nervously scribbled some notes down on a page. “I’m going to go ahead and assume that Gyarados is usable, then. That’s good. It isn’t often you find a special move pool like that. If we can get a fog machine and some strobe lights—“

“Drako does not work with strobe lights. Let us leave it at that.”

“Okay, if we can get a fog machine and possibly a curtain we could pull of a nice entrance. Could we get a quick-burn curtain to hang over the tank’s outer walls? I haven’t seen one used in a stadium this big before. Well, maybe at the Grand Festival one year.”

“As you can imagine, we keep tons of props to assist fire-types around an aquarium. It really helps us perform stunts with the copious volume of volcanic Pokémon we keep inside of water-filled cages.”

“Okay, so that’s out.”

Gela interrupted her. “Surprisingly, we actually have a few on hand left over from a visiting exhibit on dragons a while back. There are even some lightning rods somewhere from another temporary display. Not being sarcastic this time.”

“Nice. So, we could dim the lights before you release Gyarados. The audience sees a massive silhouette rise out of the water and face them before roaring—“

“Good, Drako does love roaring. Probably his only preferred activity to eating low-carb audience members.”

“Ok, then. It roars and then ignites the curtain with a Fire Blast. At that point a fog machine starts going, or has been going, and Gyarados starts to show off special moves in the dark and fog. I’ve seen that kind of thing be really cool. Maybe your Lapras could join in if you’re allowed to use it. Or even Clefairy. They know special moves, right?”

“Clefable, actually. She evolved three months ago. Unfortunately, she is still prone to cower from anything and everything that is not a rampaging Gyarados, which she is strangely perfectly fine with, so I probably cannot use her in front of a few hundred spectators. Triassic knows a few elemental moves and is sort of comfortable with Gyarados so that should be okay. What about Stelo? We could have him knock out the entire audience as a twist.”

“I’m pretty sure that would be frowned upon. I don’t really use Psychic types so I couldn’t tell you anything right now. I’ll look up some strategies that other coordinators have used if you are set on using him. But more importantly, Clefable! Can you please show her to me! They’re so adorable, but I can never find any and only a few coordinators can find both a Clefairy and a moon stone so I seldom get to see one. Please!”

Gela rolled her eyes. “Fine, I think we have done enough planning here, anyway. Estrea, unleash your terrifying cuteness upon an unsuspecting world.”

The fairy Pokémon appeared beside her and scanned the room for threats. She perked up when she saw Victoria. “Fae?” The moment the coordinator’s red comb was out of her purse, the fairy was beside her begging to be groomed.

“You really should comb her fur more. It would make her happier and help her appearance,” she admonished.

“Victoria, I barely take care of my own hair and my first Pokémon was a Magikarp. I am clearly well-attuned to the grooming habits of normal-types.”

“I guess. You never did play your role very well.” Victoria laughed to herself. “Such a shame, too. You have a really cute Pokémon and you’re really pretty when you want to be. I think we could have been great friends and rivals.”

Gela gazed out across the enormous space they were in. The second-largest pool in the entire aquarium lie before them with row upon row of grandstands rising to the retractable ceiling in order to give a better view of their current position on stage. In a few months she would have to stand right here and tell hundreds of people about her life and show off her Pokémon. At least she had Victoria for the latter. And could honestly lie or tell half-truths for the former, if she really did have to give information to total strangers.

“Drako, use Bite on the uppermost ball.” Almost immediately a massive beast propelled itself out of the water. It almost seemed to fly as it soared into the air, rising until only the tip of its tail was still in the water before it snatched a hanging ball in its teeth, tearing it loose as it began to fall back into the tank before disappearing in a flash of light. “Thank you.” Gela rose to her feet and retracted Estrea as well. “We both know that was never going to happen. I get a 404 error whenever I try to give a damn about the modern princess thing and I never did understand how you and Lenore do it. Probably helps that you do not have the entire familial meltdown thing going on, but even then can you imagine me in a dress? Seriously? You two live in the role that your parents want. It is justified for you since you actually enjoy it. I have no idea why Lenore puts up with it. As for me I was going to be the Champion. I would wear my blue jeans and bring my tough and cool Pokémon all the way to the Indigo Plateau. Well, that never quite worked out. Now I program death machines, sorry, deadly cool machines, and make snide remarks about the world while wearing my blue jeans and training a cool and tough Pokemon. By the way, do you know how much of an aneurism my mom had when I first came home covered in mud with a Pokéball I got from Articuno-knows-where and told her I had caught a Magikarp and was training to conquer the League?”

“I can only imagine. Still, you would probably have Sawyer by now if you wore a skirt more than once a year. Just saying. Although I’m not sure you even wear one that often.”

“Victoria, I literally just got done ranting about how I do not change myself for other people. That would totally be my reason for ignoring your advice if I was not asexual, which is an altogether more compelling reason to not care if I could or could not get some guy to date me.”

“Fine. You know that only one of you can be general director next year, right? Gage, too. Do you really think you have a shot at beating them?”

“I think I can beat Gage. He is reasonably intelligent and skilled at politics, but I know the aquatic aspects of camp far better. Sawyer might get half the girls to vote for him because he happens to be one of the most attractive guys on staff—in a purely objective way, of course—but I am smarter, funnier, and have the cripple sympathy factor going in. And before you rant about my aversion to getting things I do not deserve, for all the pain and inconvenience that arm gives me I think I deserve to take some pity votes.” Gela pulled up her hand to look at her watch. “And with that said, there is a show in here in about an hour and the stage hands will need to get the arena prepared. I need to give a short presentation on training backstage to the spring campers, anyway. Nice seeing you. Hope we can testily move over the same subjects again some other time.”


---...---...---​


Years ago in Vermillion City, on one side of a dream…

The Vermillion Gym had once been an imposing structure. Tall, concrete walls towered above the southern portion of the city in a menacing trapezoid. Turrets stuck out and helicopters regularly flew in and out of the base. Unfortunately, due to escalating terrorist threats in the area and a new gym leader the foreign military based there had ordered a new gym that was still under construction a mile away. For now, Gela met the girl in the lobby of the city’s Pokémon Center as she waited to battle the leader.

The girl rubbed her hands together in anticipation as she waited for her opponent to arrive. “The secretary told us to be here at nine. I did not make that up, right?”

The boy next to her shook his head. “Not a chance. I made a note on my phone. Three notes, actually. It’s only eight-fifty. Give him a few minutes.”

“Thanks, Gage. Although if you really wanted to be helpful, not signing me up for gym matches without informing me would be a nice start.”

“Sawyer said you did a nice enough job against Blaine, and the new guy can’t be any harder.”

“If being a centimeter away from getting your Pokémon killed is a nice enough job, than I am about three steps away from being Champion.”

“You won handily. That’s hardly getting your Pokémon killed.”

The girl stopped pacing and paused to consider the information. “I guess, but even then I have lost three times in Celadon and once to Sabrina. The latter is acceptable. Being shut out on a bid for the first badge is pathetic.”

“Look, I have no idea what happened there, but you should be fine. You beat me regularly enough and I got to seven badges before getting shut out. Getting your first few badges should be easy.”

The banter was immediately stopped by a tall and muscular man striding into the room. He projected an aura of absolute power that forced both youth to snap to attention and consider saluting, even without military experience. The new gym leader came to a halt and crossed his arms before barking out, “I haven’t quite figured out the naming system of this region yet. Which one of you is here to get destroyed by the Lightning American?”

Her legs shook slightly in terror as the girl raised her hand. “The name is from the Sevii Isles. It is not typical for the region.”

The gym leader made a turn on the spot and headed out to the arenas behind the Pokémon Center. “Abnormal name or not, are you prepared for one Hell of a battle? The name is Surge. 2nd Lieutenant Daniel Surge from San Diego, to be precise. Where I’m from, challengers are supposed to expect a full battle against monstrous Pokémon if they dare set foot into a gym. Here things are a little bit softer. I’m only allowed to use a single Pokémon against you because you only have one badge. Not even one of my stronger ones. I would advise you not to get too confident, though. My Pokémon have all served me well in the heat of battle fighting off hordes of enemy combatants during the Desert War. A mere school girl should not be enough to deter me. Am I understood?”

“Yes, sir.” The girl stood up straighter in Surge’s presence and moved to the opposite side of the field. Even Gela found herself standing at attention on the sidelines.

“Good. Today we lack a referee. I am used to fighting in far less structured situations so it does not bother me in the slightest. Can I trust you to show the least bit of maturity, play fair, and recognize the obvious?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Fantastic. Now, I will begin. Voltorb, show ‘em how we brawl in America!”

“Stelo, please help me!”

In twin flashes of light a red and white orb appeared in front of Surge and a strange pig-like creature materialized in front of the girl. The two trainers stared each other down. Surge’s face was inscrutable behind his sunglasses and hard demeanor. The girl had dealt with a lot of intimidating figures in her life, but she had to do her best not to faint from the Gym Leader’s tough presence alone.

“Alright, Stelo, let’s start with our usual route.” The Drowzee’s eyes glowed pink for a moment as he stared directly into his opponent’s eyes. Surge barely missed a beat before ordering.

“Flash. Go.”

A bright light shone throughout the arena, temporarily stunning the girl and her friend and almost completely blinding the other Pokémon whose eyes had been wide open when the move struck.

“Screech. Let’s get this over with.”

An ear-splitting sound fell over the battlefield, giving the impression that several bombs were detonating at once while simultaneously crashing cars blaring the theme song of a certain water-based theme park ride from their speakers. At least, that is what it sounded like in the dream. Combined with the nasty flash earlier it seemed like the 2nd Lieutenant’s strategy was to recreate the horrors of war in an all-out attack on the senses.

Drowzee shuttered under the noise before another blinding flash swept over the arena, even causing Surge to flinch behind his sunglasses. Light enveloped Drowzee as his form slowly began to shift into a larger, more imposing being. The girl quivered in her sandals from the excitement. She had known this was coming for months, but it could not possibly have had better timing. As soon as the lights began to die down, she shouted out her next order.

“Hypno, Psychic!”

The newly evolved psychic-type’s eyes shone brightly before Voltorb was lifted into the air. It vainly tried to execute another Flash, but compared to the recent glow of his evolution it was nothing to Stelo and the attack continued regardless.

Surge’s hands clenched into fists. “No other way out! End this with a bang!”

“No! Toss it up!”

As the Voltorb began to glow once more, Stelo bent down for a moment before straightening up. When he reached his full height, the electric-type was sent flying high into the air. Several meters up its glow became intensely bright. A sound that puts its screech to shame burst out across the battlefield before a wave of heat followed. However, from meters away on the ground neither the girl, the leader, nor the Hypno were severely hurt. Seconds later, an unconscious Pokémon hit the ground. The match was over.

“I… I won,” the girl whispered. “No hits taken. No overpowered monstrosities. No dirty sleep-inducing tricks… I won.”

“And you’re damn lucky that was only a battle for the second badge. Any higher up and you would’ve been in for one hell of a fight, miss. But for now, according to League—well, shoot. Young man, does she have a history of fainting?”

Neither of the girls in the arena did. But Gela almost fainted herself in the excitement of one of her better dreams.


END FILE 1.2: MEET CUTE
PROCEED TO FILE 1.3: SHE CLEANS UP NICELY


A/N: I figured that if I was going to make Technical Machines a plot point, an aquarium/marine park would probably be the best place to do it as these facilities already rely upon training relatively intelligent animals to exhibit certain behaviors. As such, they would have a clear use for TMs. And, yes, the battles are a lot more one-sided than Gela makes them seem. She is a skilled trainer with access to technology with the potential to be really useful. All other things being equal she would be a very serious threat in the League. But all other things are not equal in this conception of Kanto...
 
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The Vulture Queen
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Some language and discussion of underage drinking in this chapter. It’s also the longest chapter in the arc by quite a bit. You have been warned.


OPEN FILE 1.3: SHE CLEANS UP NICELY


“The probability of a tomboy dressing up at least once approaches one as the story’s length approaches infinity.”
-Isaac Newton


---...---...---​


Years ago in Celadon City, on one side of a dream…

Gela awoke to find that the girl had been awake for some time. She glanced at the calendar. It had been only a few weeks since the girl had met her mother alone in the kitchen.

And those weeks had been brutal. The girl’s mother had ordered nearly all of the help out for a while and she seemed to be at work more than ever. All the girl could do was wander the empty and silent hallways of the home, code in her room, or swim with Drako. Granted, this was almost all she did anyway, but now she found herself staring off in silence when she would ordinarily be contently playing.

What did her mother mean when she said her dad had gone away? Where to? For how long?

Now she was learning that however silent the house was, sleep still eluded her as she intently studied the patterns of her bedroom ceiling. There were no windows in her room and looking at the clock would have been far too much effort, but she suspected that hours had passed while she was lying on her back. It had certainly seemed like an eternity since she had heard the front door open and close that morning.

She considered getting up to e-mail one of her friends. But what was the point? All Victoria had done over the last few days was keep telling her how sorry she was. The girl’s request to know what she should be sorry about was ignored. Gela figured that was a good thing; the girl on the bed would not agree until almost six years had passed. Most of the girl’s other friends were programmers her dad had introduced her to. They were far older than her eight years and had not responded to any messages in the last few weeks. No, there was no point at all in contacting someone else. Best to keep staring up and hoping for sleep or entertainment or something. Anything.

The girl heard the garage door open through the crack in her bedroom door. It was something. She slowly pulled herself out of bed and glanced at the clock. Eleven-thirty. Long past her bed time. Maybe her mother would understand though. She trudged downstairs to the kitchen where her mother was unpacking her briefcase for the day and talking to someone on the phone.

“Look, Sharon, I agree… No, no I’m not angry. It needed to be done… Yes, I am perfectly, completely fine about the whole thing—I understand why it had to happen… Hey, I know that this is bad timing, but could we put this off for a few minutes. My daughter wants to talk and, well, you know, I feel like… ok, thank you so much. Goodbye.” She slipped her cell phone into her pocket and straightened up. “Hello, what are you doing awake this late?”

“I just wanted to talk. No other reason.”

Her mother sighed and bent down to hug her. The girl stiffened slightly, not fully accustomed to it. “Couldn’t sleep, could you? Do you want any medication? I have some in my purse if you need it.”

“No thank you. Dad said that would be bad for me.”

“Of course he did,” she snapped before loosening her body and adopting a more sympathetic expression. “Sorry about that. I’m just stressed right now. I really think the medicine would help.”

The girl’s eyes widened at the outburst and calmed only slightly after it. “I am fine, thank you. I can go back to bed now.” She turned around and began to move for the stairs before her mother interrupted her.

“Wait.” The girl paused and she continued. “Your dad did some research into all of this, and he came up with a few ideas. If you really aren’t going to take the medicine, although I still think you should, I could show you some of them.” She pulled a strange bag out of her purse and moved to the counter. The girl thought it smelled strange. “This is called lavender. Supposedly it helps with sleep when brewed in a tea. We’ll see, though.” She noticed her daughter looking up in confused silence. For a minute or so she continued to prepare the tea before she finally spoke again.

“Look, I get that we haven’t talked as much as we probably should have. I’m busy with work and don’t have a lot of time left for it. I want to change that. Surely there are some things we could do together. Victoria’s in a local Camping chapter. I’m not sure what you know about them, but the organization sounds fun enough. We could do that. I could also take you to yoga class every once in a while. That might help with your sleep issues, too.” Her daughter was still staring up in mildly fearful silence. “And if that doesn’t work, well, I don’t know. We could find something.”

“You could help me train.” It was barely a whisper and the girl’s mother asked her to repeat it just to make sure she had heard it correctly.

“Oh, uh, I’d rather not. It’s a pretty dangerous world out there and you have so much potential. It would really be a shame if you went out and got hurt.”

“But if I was strong that wouldn’t happen.”

The tea was done and the girl was momentarily distracted. “Sure, maybe I’ll help. Why not? I think we should start by trying Camping and yoga, though.”

Gela observed her fake smile with a perfectly neutral expression. Had she really been that vulnerable to her mother’s lies for so many years? Had she just wanted to believe them. Was her mother better in reality than she was in dreams? Whatever the case, that was the girl’s problem now. Gela had stopped caring a long time ago.


---...---...---​

More recently in Pewter City, on the other side of a dream…

Twelve-thirty. Gela took another sip of water and stared out the window. It was a beautiful early summer day in Pewter and she was stuck in a café waiting on a chronically late individual. She would have ordered already—her friend barely knew that ‘etiquette’ was a word, much less what it meant, but she did not want to be done eating before her friend met her. And Articuno only knew how long that was going to take.

She set her glass down and pulled her cell phone out of her pocket to make sure that he was still coming. He had sent her a message after all. ‘On my way.’ Twelve-ten. He was already ten minutes late then. Thankfully the café was hardly busy. As she put her phone away, the door finally swung open and a young man in a camouflage jacket walked in. Gela smiled and waved her arm, drawing him to the table.

“Thirty-one minutes late, Horatio. Is the earliest you have ever come to a meeting?”

“Yeah, yeah, traffic was bad. Good to see you too, by the way. We don’t meet often enough.”

“I think we saw each other last October. That surely satisfied your yearly need for vitamin snark.”

“We used to see each other all the time.”

“Actually, we saw each other once a month on campouts and occasionally talked on the phone. Which, while more interaction with members of the female species than you have had since, is not much by objective standards. We also did not live on literally opposite ends of the region at that time.”

“Hey, I’ll have you know that I’ve had six girlfriends in the last year. While conquering the league.”

“Frequency and quality are generally inversely related from what I have observed. Could you possibly tell me any of their middle names?”

“Uh, well, that wasn’t important to our relationship. Do you even know your boyfriend’s name?”

Gela rolled her eyes and laughed softly as the waitress came to take their orders. Once she had gone away again, she gave her reply. “If you do not know that much, I think it hardly counts as a noteworthy relationship. And yes, my asexual soul mate and I are very close. I even know the middle initial of his nonexistent middle name.”

“Are you still doing that dumb asexual thing? Come on, we both you're into somebody. Is it that lifeguard down at your camp. Just spit it out already.”

“Congratulations on assuming that asexuality is not a real orientation and that all chicks dig lifeguards. Your political correctness is astounding.”

“You know what I meant. I think you mentioned a specific one, name started with an ‘s’ or something, in a text a while back.”

“Oh, right. I forgot that mentioning a boy in a text message means that I am obviously yearning for his presence with every fiber of my being. My life pretty much has no meaning until every boy I off-handedly reference in a hundred-character message is mine.”

“Whatever, whatever. Has anyone told you you’re weird?”

“You have. Twenty-seven hundred times, as a matter of fact. Maybe a few more. I keep forgetting the exact totals.”

Horatio laughed heartily. “I guess I have. So, what’s this big project you keep alluding to these days. Come on, don’t lie to me. Every time I call you seem to be busy with some important business or another. What is it?”

“I take it that saying ‘I am busy because I work a full-time job as a trainer at a prestigious marine park’ would not suffice? No? Just checking that sane answers are no longer valid. The project is actually why I am in town today. I am trying to make three extraordinarily powerful technical machines. I already had one done at the start of the process. The second one is completed. I heard that Flint’s got a powerful enough move to work as the third one.”

“Right, I’ve heard the same thing. It’s kind of been the talk of the town around here. Our local legend’s Golem has developed a damn near unbeatable move. Some people say that it’s capable of knocking out anything it touches, boom, just like that. Glad I beat this gym a few months back. Not sure I could do it now.”

The waitress came back with their sandwiches and the two set to eating, the conversation quickly dying down. After they finished, Horatio reached down into his backpack and pulled out a small object wrapped in cloth. “I get that your birthday’s a few months past, but I got you something.” Gela watched as he sat it down on the table. Horatio fumbled with the knot for a moment and she found herself inadvertently staring at the scars that laced his skin. She shifted her eyes back to the bag as soon as she noticed what she was looking at. It was a sore subject. And one of her arms was not in much better shape. Thankfully, Horatio was too busy to notice before he looked back up as the string unraveled. "Here you go."

Inside was a stone spiral. It was almost perfectly preserved in the gray rock. The fossil was smaller than a full-sized Pokémon of the species usually grew to, but she was uncertain whether that was due to it being an unusually small example or the cloning process enlarging it. “Oh my gosh, wow. Thanks.” She moved her hand over the stone, wondering just how old it was.

“You’re welcome. I found it while I was hiking out in the mountains, and I figured that you would have more use for it. I don’t have the money to revive it myself.”

“Really? Even with League prize money? I could take care of that for you. Just, uh, how much—“

Horatio stopped her from opening her backpack. “No, no. It’s a gift to you. I shouldn’t have said that, sorry. You’ve got me something every year since I was ten. I haven’t got you anything.”

“You gave me a water stone when I was eleven.”

“You don’t have any Pokémon who could use it.”

“Well, it is the thought that counts. I had it made into some earrings later.”

Horatio shook his head. “Do you even wear that type of thing?”

“No, but let us not dwell on that. Thank you for the gift, Horatio.”

The waitress came back to give them the bill. Horatio glanced over his and fumbled around in his wallet for a while before Gela pulled out two twenty-Pokédollar bills. She left one with her bill and handed the other to him. Before he could object, she zipped her backpack and stood up to leave. On the way out, Horatio did catch up to her.

“Wait, you said you were going to the gym?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Do you mind if I watch? I have nothing better to do and I figure that I could use some experience watching good battlers with the tournament coming up and all.”

“I do not plan on challenging so you might be disappointed, but it is a public area. You may go if you wish.”

Of course, seeing one of the most powerful moves in the world executed by a master was hardly disappointing.

“Michael, Fissure attack again. Go!”

The Golem stared across the worn rock battlefield and grunted as he sized up the recording dummy in front of him. He made a slight motion towards the sensory equipment near his head in protest, but eventually complied. The megaton Pokémon jumped slightly into the air and yelled before retracting his limbs and hitting the ground with an enormous thud. The shockwave rocked all present but it was only the start. Shortly after impact, a small but rapidly growing crack extended from the landing site and rushed towards the dummy as the ground began to vibrate. When the crack connected, the dummy began to shake with almost unbelievable frequency as portions of it were shredded instantaneously. It gradually began to fall apart entirely as the shaking increased in frequency until only a rapidly moving metal pole remained where a mighty replica of a Snorlax had stood a moment before. The rock-type then slowly rose to his feet to receive a tasty quartz crystal from his trainer.

“Good job, Michael. You may rest.” He was recalled in a flash of light as his brown-haired trainer eyed the destroyed dummy. “Was that good enough?”

Gela eyed her readings in near disbelief. If she had not already seen a few equally powerful attacks she would not have taken the data seriously. “I think so. Three trials is usually enough to make a beta version. Thank you for your assistance.”

“No problem. I’m no physics man, so I was hoping you could answer a question for me. How does that move work? I can’t believe a crack that small can really wreck something that easily.”

“Physics is not my area, either. I deal more with biology and computer science. I think the move abuses resonance, but do not quote me on it. I am just going by some show I saw about a shaking bridge on television once. You should ask someone with an actual degree in that field.”

“I see.”

Gela began to pack up her equipment. Horatio came down from the stands shortly after to help her as the job was somewhat arduous with one good arm. “Thank you, good sir. I will be on my way now.”

“What, not stopping to battle?”

“Not really my thing. Besides, this would either end with you knocking me aside like wet cardboard or losing your job for fighting fair. I would rather not put you in the latter situation, and as a general rule I avoid feeling like wet cardboard if I can help it. Dry cardboard is also unenviable but if I must choose between them, it is the clear winner.”

“Right. Your mother had that silly memo a while back. I don’t really care ‘bout the suits unless it interferes with my funding. Do you really think she’d cut it over that?”

Gela sighed as she put the last piece of measuring equipment away. “She has done far worse to people she cared far more about. I think everyone at that level has.”

“Well, then. If you’re really good enough to get special treatment, I’d like to at least see how you fight. Let’s split it evenly. Half of my team will be the normal one for trainers with two badges. The other half will be playtime for Michael. What d’ya say?”

Horatio smiled at her and nodded, so Gela rolled her eyes and faced the gym leader. “Sure, why not? It has been an exceptionally long time since I have felt like soggy modified paper being knocked aside. I would hate to forget what that feels like.”

“Well, let’s head off to the battlefield, then.”

Once they got there, Flint began the somewhat long walk over to his side of the arena. Scanning the battlefield, Gela immediately wished she had more planning. Flint was one of the stronger leaders in the region and his arena was nothing short of strange. It was a half-pipe of sorts with both trainers standing at the highest points in the arena and a gradual slope down to a low-point between them. There was no water or plants. Only a few loose boulders jutted out of the landscape. She tried to remember everything she could about rock-types and Golem, but could not recall much. Her training dealt mostly with aquatic Pokémon.

So this match was going to be utterly fantastic.

A referee took his place on the sidelines as Horatio and a few gym trainers made their way to the stands. “Welcome to this match between Leader Flint Harding of Pewter City and challenger Gela Esprit of the Seafoam Islands! This match will be a two-on-two battle with no substitutions of any kind. Due to exceptional circumstances and prior agreement, Leader Flint is not bound to his standard team for a third badge match. Are there any questions? Seeing none, Leader Flint will send out his first Pokémon.”

“Graveler, go!”

As the stony Pokémon appeared before the leader on the other side of the arena, Gela weighed her options quietly. “Another Pokémon really weak to water, huh? Only one good way to play this. Sorry for sending you onto dry land, buddy.” She pulled a Pokéball off of her belt and raised her voice so the entire room could hear. “Drako, I choose you!”

In an explosion of light Gela’s Gyarados formed near the bottom of the half-pipe. It roared in displeasure at the dry environment before staring up angrily at his trainer. She waved over to the other side of the arena where the Graveler stood. Something seemed to click in the Pokémon’s mind as it saw the rock-type as it immediately gave a savage roar and adopted a battle stance, its anger at the dryness shifted to rage at an opponent.

“Let’s start this off right. Defense Curl into Double-Edge.” Flint’s Graveler grunted and rolled up into a tighter ball before starting to drift down the half-pipe with increasing speed towards Drako.

“Thrash. We should win a fight of strength.” She waited until the Gyarados was coiling inwards to prepare a counter-strike before whispering under her breath, “Right?”

The Graveler was made for rolling and when it finally jumped out of its ball to slam into his opponent, he was moving with incredible force. However, ‘incredible’ force is relative when comparing an attack to a sea serpent. Drako may have noticed the move, but in his rage he did not care. He lashed out repeatedly at the rock-type, slamming it with powerful strokes of his tail and midsection until small stones began to fall off of it. Gela tensed as she knew that she no longer had control of the match. Drako would tire out in time, but until then she would just have to watch him rampage.

Fortunately, the Graveler had no more in control over its predicament. Flint grimaced as he watched his Pokémon be seriously injured by even the resisted attack. “Rock Throw. The thing’s a flying-type as well.”

Graveler barked in agreement while shielding himself from 500 pounds of muscle slamming into him. One of his lower arms broke his defensive position to pick up a handful of protruding stones from the ground and slam them into the water-type. This bothered Drako enough to cause him to recoil and glare at the Graveler. Unfortunately, it was not enough to seriously injure the beast’s thick scales.

“Good! Surf him down!”

“Ugh! Just Harden for now!”

Heeding orders, Drako reared back and sent his mouth crashing towards the Graveler as he spewed obnoxious amounts of water at his opponent. Graveler tried to strengthen his body’s defenses to make it more resistant to the incoming torrent, but eventually the sheer force of the attack eroded some of its outer layers and it collapsed in the watery basin of the half-pipe.

The referee held up a flag. “Graveler is unable to battle! This match goes to the challenger and her Gyarados!”

“Remind me why Gyarados are so overpowered?”

“You are literally about to use a Pokémon famous for destroying opponents in one hit. Can you please not complain about things being overpowered?”

“Fair point. Michael, let’s crush this irritating monster of an enemy!”

Instantly, the megaton Pokémon had appeared and was rolling down the slopes, right towards Drako at the bottom.

“Hyper Beam!”

The Gyarados reared back its head and charged a shot of energy before blasting it out at the far heavier Pokémon as it rolled down the half-pipe. The beam did not manage to completely stop the rolling attack, but it did manage to slow Michael down enough that the damage was negligible.

“Double-Edge!”

“Surf when you can!”

As Drako recovered from the energy usage, Michael began to slam his considerable bulk into the serpent in an attempt to pin him. Just as he almost succeeded, Drako slipped away on a small wave further into a growing puddle of water before lashing out at the Golem with a smaller wave. Unfortunately for him, Michael was far stronger and had a far less vulnerable hide so the Pokémon was able to rise to his feet seemingly unharmed after the attack.

“Fissure. Let’s finish him now.”

“Rise.”

As Michael bent down to jump into the air, Drako slowly began to float off the surface of the ground. It snarled at the Golem as a crack flew a meter below his body before lashing forward with another frothing blast of water to add to the growing pool at the bottom of the arena.

“Since when can Gyarados fly?”

“Since they were flying-types actually. It is part of why Gyarados are the coolest Pokémon in the world.”

“I see. Michael, feel free to Rock Slide this flying-type if it insists on being airborne.”

As the Golem caused the ground to shake and stones to rise to the surface, Gela considered having Drako use Thunder on the water. Since the ground-type was now soaked, it might be vulnerable to electricity. Then she remembered that type matchups only worked that way in children’s cartoons.

“Blizzard. Try to push the rocks back.”

Drako shook his head to acknowledge the command before opening his mouth wide to unleash a gale of cold air upon his opponent. The rock-type was annoyed by the harsh conditions, but nonetheless stomped his foot down on the ground and sent a flurry of boulders flying into the ice storm. While Gyarados’ move slowed them slightly, it was not nearly enough to stop the onslaught. The snake was not quite knocked out by the barrage of stones, but it was now bound to the floor of the arena by a pile of stones over its midsection.

Gela raised Drako’s Pokéball. “Sorry, but no way we can avoid Fissure now. You did well, Drako.” Ignoring his cry of protest, Gela clicked the button to withdraw him.

The referee raised a flag. “The challenger has withdrawn her Gyarados. The match goes to the leader and his Golem.

Gela’s hand moved to Stelo’s Pokéball until she noticed Michael slowly trudging back up the half-pipe to join his trainer at the top. Of course. The point of the arena was to ensure that every round opened with an impossibly powerful rolling attack from the leader’s Pokémon. No Hypno was going to save itself from being crushed by a descending Golem. On the other hand, a soft and plushy pink Pokémon might have the raw strength needed to do it. Or something like that.

“Estrea, get out there and show this punk strongmon how real girls play!”

The ball was tossed to release the Clefable right at the bottom of the half-pipe, directly beneath the Golem at the top. Gela smiled as the crowd murmured in disbelief. It was good to be viewed as completely insane.

“Alright, I have no idea what you’re planning here but it ain’t gonna work. Defense Curl and Double-Edge!”

As Michael began to build momentum, Gela smirked. “You know what to do.”

With one mighty smack, the megaton Pokémon slammed into the Clefable. The Pokémon squealed in protest but did not budge a single inch upon impact. Instead, she began to exude a dull brown aura and smacked Michael with far more force than a Clefable should be capable of. Almost immediately, the still-curled Golem was blasted straight back up the half-pipe as his trainer scrambled out of the way to avoid being crushed. The beast crashed into the back wall of the arena and struggled to stand back up as it lumbered to the top of the half-pipe again. At the bottom, Estrea pumped her fist into the air in a show of victory. Gela glanced at the stands and was glad they were mostly empty. This would be a much harder match with a crowd.

“You okay, Michael?” The rock-type grunted as he regained his composure and stared down his opponent from his vantage point. “Good. Let’s not walk back into the obvious trap. Rock Slide from the top.”

As the Golem began to gather more stones together in a large pile, Gela eyed the situation. She could not risk an avalanche of rock crushing Estrea and none of her ranged moves could realistically reach the top of the half-pipe with any real force. She could always Metrenome, but that was needlessly unreliable when another option existed.

If Flint kept insisting upon excessively powerful attacks, be they rock slides, incredible tremors, or unstoppable tackles, she would have to retaliate in the only way possible. Hardcore trolling.

“Estrea, pwn noobs plz.”

The fairy grunted. Gela wondered if any other trained Pokémon in the region would have understood and acknowledged that command before her attention was immediately diverted by a rush of boulders, some as large as her Clefable, pouring down the half-pipe towards her pink ball of fun and death at the bottom. She held her breath as the first few collided with her Pokémon, causing it to recoil but not go down. She had to stare in horror as more and more began to pile around Estrea until she could no longer see any pink at the bottom. Gela bit her lower lip, an unusual behavior for her, in stress. Maybe she had slightly underestimated the finishing power of a finishing move.

A part of her mind wryly noted that if she was indeed the heroine of a terribly cliché action film, her Pokémon would dig herself out of the rubble and fire off an even more obnoxious finishing move in a few seconds. Yet most of her mind was somehow surprised when her Pokémon did just that.

Pink hands burst through the top of the pile as heat waves began to radiate from it. Boulders were shattered into dust as more and more light and heat assembled around Estrea. Finally, every last rock at the bottom was shattered by tentacles of light extending from the fairy’s back that slowly pulled back towards her in an increasingly powerful glow.

“Michael, uh, I have no idea what that is, but—“

Boom.

A meter-wide tentacle of light shot from Estrea and wrapped around Michael, crushing him as more and more pressure was applied. Cracks began to form in the weaker parts of his body before the pressure was finally released in a blast of heat that made Gela recoil thirty meters away. At the last minute, Flint managed to duck behind a nearby boulder and avoid the worst of it. That did not stop his eyebrows from being singed off when he came out to see his Pokémon knocked out a few seconds later.

In stunned silence the referee raised a flag before he remembered what he should say. “Leader Flint is out of usable Pokémon. This match goes to the challenger, Gela Esprit of the Seafoam Islands!”

Horatio stood to cheer while the rest of the gym looked on in shock. Flint withdrew Golem and laughed nervously. “Well, it looks like you might owe me some data on a super-move now. I could sure use whatever-its-called in my gym.”

Gela smiled as Estrea ran up the slope to embrace her trainer. “Bide. And I might get a copy to you later if you can give me a good reason.”

After badges and prize money were distributed, Gela walked outside with Horatio. The two talked about the battle and future plans for meeting up before their conversation was immediately cut short. Gela stared out at a woman in an immaculate suit before them, sternly gazing in frustration at the gym’s façade. Her green eyes were hidden behind a pair of sunglasses, but Horatio still managed to recognize the woman from her neatly styled blonde hair.

“Oh, um, hi. How are you doing Mrs. Esprit? I’ll be going now. Great seeing you, Gela!” He waved his scarred hand at her and opened his mouth as if he wanted to say something more before closing it again and walking off, his back uncharacteristically slouched.

“You too,” Gela muttered under her breath before walking forward to get the conversation started. “Hello, mother. You here to see the gym?”

Mrs. Esprit lowered her gaze to meet her daughter’s. “No, I wanted to see you.”

“Right. You wanted to see me so you headed to the a gym halfway across the region from where I live.”

“Your phone’s tracked. I thought you knew that.”

“Hmm. I should probably disable that at some point.”

Four seconds passed. Three would be too few and five would be too many.

“Gela, I meant to contact you earlier but I doubted you would reply at all to my message, much less in the affirmative. So, here I am.”

Her daughter shifted nervously on the balls of her feet. “What exactly is this mission that I would otherwise choose not to accept?”

“There’s an important ceremony at DII headquarters. Long story short, I’m getting promoted. I know you don’t exactly agree with our organization and I didn’t want to invite you, but Mrs. Everett insisted you be there. Since this is more or less the last time I’ll have to answer to her, I would rather grant her request.”

Gela closed her eyes for a moment and exhaled slowly. “Three questions. You probably know all of them.”

“Yes, Victoria will be there. You could talk to her the whole time if you wanted. In fact, you could even fake being mute or socially incompetent or something if you didn’t want to talk to anyone but her. Just don’t be too embarrassing to yourself or anyone else. The event is in thirty-six hours in Celadon. You can stay at my house for the night if you want. It’s been fully repaired from your—anyway, it’s operational and you can stay there. And finally, yes, I do expect you to wear something nicer than jeans and a sarcastic or monocolor T-shirt. I got you a gray dress; I think it should fit. You don't look like you've picked up much weight and you never had any to lose. If you actually want to wear a color that doesn’t look like you’re going to a funeral, feel free to pick one.”

Gela sighed and tugged at her collar. “You know how hard it is getting into normal clothes with, well, one arm? Kind of hard being crippled.”

“And whose fault is that?” She snapped. Eight seconds. A mere four would be far too few. “Look, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have brought that up. Just given all that I do for you,” she paused to take a deep breath, “No, that’s the wrong approach. Please. Will you go? I know you don’t want to, but we are family however much you wish we weren’t.”

For a second Gela almost made a crack about the ironic appeal to family values, but ultimately she shrugged. It was hard winning staring contests with people in shades. “Fine. I’ll go to your adult birthday party equivalent. Can I at least code through it? I have a rather big project I need to work on.” And coding her machine at the party of the group it was intended to bring down was far too ironic for her to resist.

“Sure. Mrs. Everett will just be glad you’re there. And, uh, I’m sorry for being tense now. There’s just a lot of stress in my life at the moment due to the whole promotion thing. I was hoping we could talk sooner under better circumstances, but that wasn’t really possible. We can catch up on the ride back to Celadon. The car should be coming soon.”

“It is fine.”

“Okay, good.”

They waited in silence. When the car finally came and they got in, Mrs. Esprit spoke. “So, what have you been doing for the last few months. Been busy?”

Gela’s answers were normally shallow, deceptive, and sarcastic. Given that she could not tell her the truth, the rest of the day’s conversation was even more so than usual right up until she collapsed in her old bed in a windowless room.

TO BE CONTINUED...
 
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Reader and Writer
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Here for the Review Game!

Ok, first off all, let me just say that the prose here is very well done. Flows very gracefully and is enjoyable to read.

I don't normally like stories that jump around POV a lot, but you handle it with incredible skill and in a way that makes it clear that you know what you are doing.

The characters, especially Gela are rich and deep. You do a fantastic job of describing their personality within the narrative, not just through dialog. This is something I struggle with, but you are great at it. The subtleties that Gela has, like her eye rolls and mannerisms that you describe go a long way to helping her be a really relatable character.

Awesome job so far, I'm definitely glad I decided to read this. I'm excited to see how the different POV's will intertwine as the plot progresses!
 
The Vulture Queen
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Thanks for reviewing!

Glad to see you're liking the story. The time-skip stuff was always going to be the part of the fic that could really break it, but I feel like the story would be far weaker without it. Also glad to see that you like characterization given that the story's plot is an excuse to explore a character at most levels.

And mid-chapter or arc POV flips are mostly limited to the story's prologue and epilogue. Between them the arcs are pretty set in the POV of one character at a time.

Anyway, I appreciate the review!

EDIT:

I put a table of contents in the OP. It has the names and release dates of future chapters and a brief summary of the ones released+the next one. No major spoilers, though.
 
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The Vulture Queen
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RESUME FILE 1.3: SHE CLEANS UP NICELY


Years ago in Celadon City, on one side of a dream…

When Gela awoke, she saw the girl walking through a forest in the early summer with a friend. Everything around them was silent. She smiled. For once, it was a dream she did not mind having.

The two girls trudged through the grass, only stopping their conversation to glance around and make sure they were still following the almost indistinct trail. “I can’t believe your mom comes on campouts. Mine doesn’t come anywhere near them. Security concerns and stuff.”

“It is kind of strange. After years of more or less ignoring me she has tried to be really involved in my life in the last few months. I am not complaining, of course. It is nice to see her. I just do not really understand it.”

“Oh, uh, she might have a reason, then. But it’s nice that she’s spending time with you! I get to talk to my mom maybe once a month. Yours is spending a weekend a month with you and then some. You should feel really glad.”

The girl stopped in her tracks. “You keep bringing up her reason for doing it. What is it? Why will you not just tell me already?”

“Look, you’re my friend and I want to tell you, but I can’t. I just kind of overheard our parents talking at my house and, um, just forget I said anything.”

“Fine. Just do not bring it up if you do not want to talk about it.”

The two resumed their walk in silence until they came across a large stream flowing through the woods. The girl smiled and leaned down beside it to release Drako into the water. The Magikarp flopped around briefly to test the water before swimming in more regular patterns in the stream. His trainer slipped her shoes and socks off to rest her feet in the water. Her friend waited for another minute until she realized that they were going nowhere. She crouched down on the water’s edge and stared at her broken reflection and the orange fish moving beneath the surface.

“You really have a thing for water, don’t you?”

“Uh-huh. I’m going to be a great water-type trainer and the Champion and maybe also a professional swimmer when I grow up. Water is important for that.”

“I think my mom wants me to get into politics or something. She has me go to a lot of social events with her and gets me nice clothes. I like it. I don’t really know what this “politics” thing is, but it can’t be too bad.”

The girl frowned. “My parents used to argue about it a lot. I do not really understand it either. Apparently our mothers are good at it.”

The two gazed off across the stream, content to wonder about the mysteries of politics for another few minutes before a loud, boyish voice burst out from behind them.

“Woah! That’s a big Magikarp! Get out of the way so I can catch it.”

The girl turned around to face the newly arrived boy. “No, we will not. He is my Pokémon, thank you very much.”

“Wait, you have a Pokémon? How? It isn’t legal until you’re ten. Are you ten?”

“I am nine, but I think most adults have better things to do than punish a girl training a Magikarp a year early. It is not like I could possibly do any harm with it.”

“Cool. I’m going to be nine in a week. Could you help me get a Pokémon?”

“I do not have any Pokéballs on me right now. Sorry, I cannot help you.”

“Come on! Surely you have something.”

The girl exhaled in frustration. “No, I really do not. Please go away.”

“Liar. I’ll take your shoes until you help me.”

“Hey, that is—come back!” The girl watched as the boy picked up her shoes and ran off into the woods. She quickly withdrew Drako and ran after him barefoot. The grass was slick with dew and the boy was athletic with a head start. But the girl was not about to give in. For a half hour she chased the boy across the grass, weaving around trees and almost losing sight of him at times until the boy finally collapsed along the edge of a ravine.

He laughed nervously and dangled the shoes over the edge. “You run well for a girl. But now you’re cornered. Give me a Pokéball or I’ll drop them.”

“I told you I do not have one. Please give me back my shoes.”

“Why?”

“Because otherwise I will make you do something you do not want to.”

“Like what?”

“Like,” the girl flailed her arms beside her, “I do not know, like something!”

“You are being really convincing here. Could a girl like you really—oof.” He flinched from a barefoot kick to the side and his grip momentarily slackened, sending the girl’s shoes tumbling down the ravine. “Great, what was that for?”

“Get them.”

“What?”

“Get my shoes. You dropped them, now you should go and get them.”

The boy nervously eyed the edge of the ravine. “Look, I don’t think I can do that.”

“Fine. You will have to repay your debts, then.”

“I only have three dollars. Will that be enough?”

“No, but…” A mischievous glint came into the girl’s eyes. “Do you regularly camp here?”

“My unit comes every month. Why do you care?”

“Fine. You can work for me for a few hours a campout until you pay them off.”

“That seems really unfair to me. You just lost a pair of shoes and you seem to run just fine without them.”

The girl smirked. “Do you want another kick?”

“No, no. Ugh. You win. I’ll be your dumb servant or whatever for the next few campouts. Whatever makes you happy.” He started to rise to his feet but stopped midway. “By the way, I never did get your name. My parents told me to always introduce myself and get the name of anyone I met, and if we’ll have to deal with each other, we should start with that. My name is Horatio Mars. And yours is?”

Gela began to walk away as the girl gave her name and the world dimmed and faded. She already knew the rest.


---...---...---​


More recently in Celadon City, on the other side of a dream…

The room was extravagantly decorated with the finest food and drink the region had to offer and filled with the most politically powerful men and women in the region. The past three Champions drank and shared stories in a corner as the chiefs of the intelligence agencies quietly sipped their drinks and exchanged quick remarks as they scanned the room. On stage, the present and future heads of the most powerful agency in the regional government chatted with the Prime Minister and the wealthiest magnate in the land. And sitting in a table with a front-row view of the entire event, Gela was bored out of her mind. Occasionally a magnate or DII executive who recognized her would come over to talk in hopes of getting a better connection to the family of the woman who would soon be wielding incredible political power. None were interested in genuine conversation. Some persisted in talking long after Gela made it clear she had no interest, but most were polite enough to stay away from her affairs. She made a few attempts to work on coding Fissure but her usually ponderous speed was hampered by people coming up to talk and her extreme exhaustion. It had been three days since she had slept in her usual bed and she had not deemed her situation important enough to use Stelo. That had side effects.

Gela tried to stay awake since she was in the public eye at an event that her mother apparently cared about, but she could not prevent her vision from occasionally fading to black before she jolted awake in her chair and shifted to stave off a future blackout that inevitably came. After a few lapses Gela pulled out her tablet and began to type a little more. While she would have to wait to get a real keyboard and Kodo before any meaningful work could get done, a little manual input would not hurt. Only a few lines in, she was interrupted by an enthusiastic hug from behind that almost made her drop the device she was holding.

“Gela! It’s so strange to actually see you dressed up for something!”

“Victoria, my arm,” Gela seethed as quietly as possible while still getting the message across.

“Oh! Oh my, I’m sorry. Did I hurt it?”

“Yes, you hurt it. Just about any pressure hurts it. You will be forgiven, though if you sit down here right now and give me something to look busy doing and keep me awake.”

“As you wish,” Victoria sat down in the seat next to her. “It’s better than sitting with my grandparents, anyway. Half of them are tycoons who insist that in two years I go to some fancy school to study business overseas, as if intelligence actually matters in amassing fortunes here, and the other half are military nuts who think I need to join the services now. It gets awkward quickly.”

“I can imagine. My mom ran away when she was nine and my dad’s family does not have anything to do with me anymore, so I do not quite have that problem. I am perfectly fine listening to how your life sucks, though. Do tell me more.”

“Someone’s a little grumpy today.”

“My arm is throbbing, I have not had a proper night’s sleep in days, I wasted two hours getting prepared to come to this ordeal and I am bored out of my mind to boot. I think I can afford to be a little bitchy today.”

At long last a man in a tuxedo walked up to the microphone on stage. “Hello. We will be starting the main program in two minutes. Please be seated so we may begin.”

“Finally. You know what is going to happen? My mother barely told me anything,” Gela said.

“I think my mom’s going to give a short history of the department and your mom. Then there will be an acceptance speech and the main party will begin.”

Gela gave her a blank look. “You mean there is more of this ‘partying’ after the speech? Can they not keep these things simple?”

“From someone who makes a living training Pokémon to do complicated things, you’re rather opposed to elegance and festival. Lighten up. It’ll be good for you.”

“What are the chances they would card me if I asked for a drink?”

“I thought alcohol messed with your sleep.”

Gela sighed and leaned back in her chair. “It does. But my sleep schedule is already shot and I need a distraction.

Before she could flag down a server, Mrs. Everett took the stage. “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Sharon Everett, Chairman of the Department of Internal Investigations. We are gathered here tonight to honor Suzanne Esprit, my successor in the post. Before we begin, allow me to give a brief history of the DII.”

Gela sarcastically muttered under her breath, “Because the people gathered here definitely do not know about the DII. No chance at all.”

“Look, it sounds nice. Let her give exposition if she wants.”

Mrs. Everett continued, “The Department was founded a few years after the Second Revolution. At the time, gangs and corrupt officials controlled most of the government. Our region was little more than a mafia state and the League was in shambles due to inept leadership. Even most seats in the Parliament were filled on the whims of local crime syndicates. The Department of Internal Investigations was founded by then-Champion Rutherford to clean up the mess. We were given broad authority to make and enact policies based on general resolutions from the Parliament. Within two years the prices at Pokémarts and grocery stores had halved and their profits were up. The cost of running Pokémon Centers declined and quality improved, leading to more and more citizens of our region having access to basic supplies and health care. Our League became competitive once more. The parliament was elected by the people and our industries thrived under government supervision and occasional nationalization following the odd failure.

“In our government, the Champion has responsibility for the League and our defense. The Parliament and the people determine the course we shall take. Corporations and independent segments of the bureaucracy thrive, but it is the Department of Internal Investigations that makes specific policies, and calls out the other branches when corruption occurs. I have spent thirty years of service in the Department and I do not regret a second of it. Tonight, an equally longtime veteran will be taking my place.

"Suzanne Esprit first joined the Regional Intelligence Authority at the age of twelve as a junior clerk. Over the course of two decades she rose through the ranks to become a full agent and eventually Assistant Head of Operations in the Island District. At around this time, she generously accepted an offer to transition to the DII. In her eighteen years of service to our department, she has proven to be an exceptionally talented administrator and assistant. Please, give a round of applause for our newest Chairman, Suzanne Esprit!”

“That was relatively short,” Gela whispered to Victoria.

“You aren’t going to clap for your own—oh, sorry. That was stupid of me. What else could she say about the DII? It isn’t like she’s going to say much more than what they formally do. And almost everything else about your mom is classified or too touchy to discuss.”

“I guess,” Gela relaxed in her chair as her mother walked onto the stage. “Hey, if I zone out and fall asleep, please do not wake me up.”

“You know the press would have a field day if they caught you falling asleep during your mother’s speech. Do you really want to inflict that on her that early in her tenure.”

“If the press are smart they will not bite the hand that could rip their head off.”

“Fair enough. You could show a little more respect.”

“I am here in heels. That is far more than I would do for anyone else on the planet.”

Gela watched her mother speak for a full five minutes, occasionally shifting a little to ward off encroaching darkness. When Mrs. Esprit first referred to her ‘wonderful daughter', her wonderful daughter stopped fighting sleep.


---...---...---​


Years ago in Celadon City, on one side of a dream…

Gela woke up in front of the pool at her old home once more. This time the girl before her had longer hair and was taller than most of her poolside dreams. She had traded her normal wetsuit for a more standard swimsuit her mother had purchased. Great. The middle of the dark days. Gela sat down on a seat in the deck. She had a hunch as to what the dream was going to show and wanted to observe it more closely than normal.

The girl was in the water with her Magikarp as usual. It was neither particularly cold nor warm, suggesting either early fall or late spring. As usual the girl and her Pokémon were alone. Three minutes into the scene, the screen door opened and the girl’s mother stepped out. The sun had not yet begun to sink under the horizon. A few years ago the girl would have found her mother’s appearance before sundown strange, but now she hardly batted an eyelash.

“Hello, mother.”

“Hey.” The girl’s mother sat down in a seat next to Gela. “What have you been doing today?”

“I read a chapter of my textbooks and worked on a technical machine for an hour before coming down here. And you?”

“Same as always.” Her mother frowned for a moment while the girl was underwater before regaining her composure. “Are you excited for the campout next weekend? We’re going to a different camp than normal. This one is at the foothills of Mount Moon. Supposedly there are hills and caves.”

“So, Horatio will not be there?”

“No, but you can see him next month.”

“Okay.” The girl resumed her aimless swim as she gathered the resolve to say what she wanted to. “I am going to Saffron tomorrow with Mr. Aldo to challenge the gym there. Sabrina is one of the harder leaders, but I have had almost two years to train since losing to the Celadon gym and she will not know my strategies as well. I think I can win. Can you go?”

Her mother glanced at her watch for a second before replying. “I am sorry, dear, but I have work. I am sure you will put up a good fight.”

“I see.” The girl looked down at the distorted image of her feet in the water while her mother rose up to go back inside.

“We can talk more about the campout at dinner. I have a call I need to make for now. I love you.”

As her mother left, the girl weakly whispered back an affirmative answer. Had she been in Gela’s position, she would have seen a deeply worried expression fall over her mother’s face as she looked talked to a servant who went off to find a directory shortly after their conversation. When he reached the section for major Saffron companies, he picked up the phone.


---...---...---​


Six weeks later on Cinnabar Island, on the other side of a dream…

The dully colored Arcanine lifted its head as two humans walked in the door of its master’s office before it fell back into a resting position. The fire-type’s resting place had moved slightly from the last time Gela had been inside the room, but that was the only notable difference Gela could see in Conti’s office.

“You didn’t have to come all the way out to Cinnabar to see me. I would have gladly met you in the Seafoam Islands or wherever else you wanted to meet.”

“It is fine. I have some business I need to take care of on the island. It turns out that I am actually a professional volcano jumper with an interest in ancient mansions,” Gela replied.

“I see. Please be seated, Ms. Esprit. Or The Batman or whatever other name it was you preferred. I take it you have one of the disks to give me now?”

“No, I was really just here to chat. Talk about life problems with a billionaire I barely trust and is quite possibly a cliché action film villain.” After a moment of confused silence, she continued “Not quite. I actually have all three of them done. Just let me get them out.”

As Gela shifted gear around in her backpack to pull out the disks, Conti’s mouth fell open. “It’s only been eight months. My technology experts predicted it would take you two years at the earliest. How did you get it done so quickly?”

Gela put the disks on the table and blankly stared at him. “I thought you said you liked spy flicks? Have you not learned that the best programmers in industry will always dramatically underestimate the capabilities of a sarcastic teenager with a tablet?”

Conti laughed as he ran his finger over the disks’ casing. “It is still very impressive to see this in real life. Outside of your, uh, film protagonist advantage, how did you do this so quickly?”

“I already had one done when you asked and was half-way done with a second. Fissure, Flint’s move, was hardly any different from an Earthquake drive I made a while back. There were some modifications to be made and that took a few weeks, but I had a decent start. Not to mention that I highly doubt your ‘technology expert’ actually knows how technical machine coding works beyond the very basics. It really is not that hard if someone in the know taught you.”

“I see. My researchers have already procured the technology to teach these moves to capable Pokémon, so I will not need that from you. The remaining funds will be transferred to an offshore account and—Zapdos, I can’t believe that I’m really holding these things. I expected it to take a decade to bring my dream to fruition. Now I could be Champion within a year.”

“About that. Remember my disclaimer? The moves are powerful and can annihilate basically anything in one hit. Getting the one-hit is the problem. If your Pokémon are not powerful enough to go toe-to-toe with the best before having the moves, they will not make all of the difference. They really just tip close battles definitively to your side.”

Conti smiled wryly. “Ms. Esprit, if I am willing to shell out ten million dollars on these devices I surely have the money to buy Pokémon capable of using them. That will hardly be a problem. If there is nothing else I should know, my secretary will contact you shortly to tell you how to get the remaining money.” The magnate extended his hand—his left one this time—to shake. Gela rose and returned the handshake before moving to the door and stopping.

“Huh.”

“What?”

“No pistol shots to the back of the head? No orders to your Arcanine to burn me to a crisp? I have outlived my usefulness to you and you are just letting me go. Disappointing. I may have overestimated your competence as a villain.”

“Gela, I come from a long line of noblemen from the Isles and hold a deep faith in the Storm Gods. My code of honor would forbid such tactics. Beyond that, I am a man of business. All I have in some cases is the sacred trust placed on a contract.”

“Well, it looks like you might be an anti-villain then. I will need to reflect upon how this affects your chances of success.”

“Or I might just be the protagonist. Have you considered this?”

“Nope. You are far too rich and well-connected to actually be the hero of this kind of story.”

Conti laughed as he rose to his feet. “Coming from the multi-millionaire daughter of the most powerful woman in the region, this is somewhat amusing.”

Gela turned to face the noble before she left the room.

“Did I ever claim to be the hero?”


---...---...---​


Years ago in Saffron City, on one side of a dream…

Gela woke up to see the girl and the family butler, Mr. Aldo, walking the streets of the region’s largest city in the late afternoon until the girl stopped walking and slumped down on a park bench. The older man joined her a moment later.

“That Hypno was really strong,” the girl stated.

“Yes, it was quite the powerful specimen. But you knew you would have to face Pokémon like that on your badge quest.”

“I was not expecting them this early. I was hoping for a Kadabra or a Slowpoke or something that would actually be injured when hit by a Double-Slap. Something I could actually stand a chance against.”

“Well, maybe this isn’t for you. You’re a genius with technology and you like camping well enough. You could just do those things. They would let you play with your Pokémon, too.”

The girl stared off into the crowds and watched the throngs of people coming and going who were entirely oblivious to her plight. “It was that Hypnosis. I was already losing, but then I started getting sleepy and I could not focus. Then I lost.”

The older man blinked in surprise and turned to look at the girl. “You say that the Pokémon’s attack made you tired?”

“Yes. Is that important?”

The older man stood up immediately and began to walk at a brisk pace. “There’s supposed to be a population of Drowzee by Vermillion. If we hurry we could be there by nightfall when they come out. Who knows, we might even solve your problem.”

Yes, it had solved one of her problems. She could sleep normally with the Hypno and the side-effects would not surface until years later. And in the ensuing weeks her dream of being Champion had slowly faded to nothing. It would be years before it was revived again by two successive victories. Then she tried to battle Sabrina again. And then several of her problems began.

END FILE 1.3: SHE CLEANS UP NICELY
PROCEED TO FILE 1.4: CURBSTOMP BATTLE


Authors Notes:
I seriously considered splitting the chapter after the Pewter Gym match. But, the DII meeting, Conti scene, and final flashbacks would have been far shorter than any of the other chapters and no other break made sense. I also considered just having an enlongated Conti/Cinnabar scene be its own chapter, but I couldn't find enough content for it and it did not really fit in well with the remaining chapters.

In other news, Backgrounds tied for fourth place in Best Setting on Serebii! Given that it was never widely read on a site that does its awards by democracy, I will take it.

And in still other news, I finally finished plans and research for Horatio's story and am ready to begin writing. Like his scenes? Get ready to see a lot more in June when he travels across the land in an incredibly meta romance story examining how mere mortals live in the shadows of gods.

The next episode's summary is in the Table of Contents in the OP, if you care for minor spoilers. This will be the case for most future updates.
 
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The Vulture Queen
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Some swearing in this chapter. It gets far worse next time and only goes down slightly for the last chapter of the arc. Just warning y’all in advance.

OPEN FILE 1.4: CURBSTOMP BATTLE

“When the bad guy wins, they win big.”
-Genghis Khan


Years ago in Saffron City, on one side of a dream…

Gela joined the girl in a gym’s stands, looking down upon someone else’s challenge. The girl was shaking with anticipation for her own battle. Gela simply settled into her seat. She already knew how this ended.

The referee raised her flags to signal the match was about to begin. “Welcome to today’s battle between leader Sabrina Fey of Saffron City and challenger Gage Carver of Vermillion, seeking his third badge. Each side may use two Pokémon with no substitutions permitted. Any questions? No? In that case, leader Sabrina may send out first.”

“Mr. Mime. Go.”

“Reef, let’s rock this!”

A Wartortle and Mr. Mime appeared on the battlefield and stared each other down as they shifted on their feet, waiting for initial orders.

“Reef, bite attack!”

“You know what to do.”

The Wartortle rushed forward, jaws open, only to hit an invisible wall between him and the opponent. He grimaced at the impact, but promptly began to froth at the mouth and shoot out a tremendous blast of fluid straight through the transparent wall before striking the Mr. Mime directly in the face.

“Damage him,” Sabrina droned.

“Withdraw attack, now.”

The Mr. Mime’s eyes began to glow as his hands moved in a convoluted pattern that sent a ripple of psychic waves throughout the arena. Reef cried out in pain. Even lodged inside of his shell he could feel it. The mental assault seemed completely unhindered by physical barriers.

“Ugh. Use the covering fire strategy we practiced yesterday,” Gage commanded. Sabrina frowned, but gave no verbal orders.

Reef leaned his neck back before shooting another Hydro Pump towards his opponent. Mr. Mime quickly bent the light around him to shield himself from harm and counter the blow. Continuing the fruitless deluge, Reef took a few uneasy steps closer to the barrier. Mr. Mime’s eyes glowed slightly as a weaker wave of psychic energy radiated from the shield, harming the advancing Wartortle.

At last Reef was merely inches away from the scintillating sphere of light. “Now!” Gage called. The Wartortle’s blast immediately stopped and it lunged straight through the shield and bit down into the Mr. Mime’s torso with as much power as it could muster, clamping down even harder as the Pokémon began to shoot out random confusion-inducing signals in a last effort to get Reef to release him. Eventually, though, the squirming grew less and less frequent and the Mr. Mime collapsed. Reef got to his feet, slightly worn but still in solid fighting condition.

The referee dropped a flag to signal the match-up’s end. “Mr. Mime is unable to battle. This round goes to the challenger. Sabrina, please pick a new Pokémon.”

“Slowbro, go,” the gym leader said as a large Pokémon materialized in front of her. If she seemed concerned, it did not show. “Start with Psychic.”

“Toxic attack, Reef. Leave this to Sparker.”

The girl smiled beside Gela. She and Gage had made that device specifically to beat Sabrina’s Slowbro to get their third badges. They had been planning to do a dual challenge, a match where two people underwent a special challenge to get a badge each, but Gela had wanted to earn her rematch all by herself. Now she could see if Toxic actually did the trick.

Reef fired off a shot of polluted water at Slowbro that burned against the psychic-type’s skin. The injured area glowed purple, but the affected Pokémon barely seemed to notice it as he yawned and waved a paw at his opponent. The Wartortle was sent flying back into a wall. He looked pained by the attack, but he steadily got to his feet and rushed forward to clamp onto the Slowbro. The Pokémon’s nervous system was far too slow to react in time and the Bite attack landed without any interference. After three seconds, the Slowbro finally noticed the opponent and smacked him away with another Psychic before closing his eyes and focusing hard to sharpen his mind. When he felt another bite attack digging into his flank he slammed Reef away with a powerful mental blast boosted by the Amnesia. When he opened his eyes again, the Wartortle was unconscious on the edge of the arena.

The referee raised her flag and looked at the Slowbro with a quizzical expression. The purple patch had expanded and was now visibly pulsing. It was certainly not an attack or symptom that normally came from the Squirtle line. “Wartortle is unable to battle. The leader is the winner of this match-up. Challenger, please send out your next Pokémon.”

Gage pulled out another Pokéball and tossed it into the air a few times as he stalled, watching the purple splotch on Slowbro grow larger with every pulse. “Sparker, this shouldn't t take long. Finish this.”

In a blast of static, a metallic being with three interconnected parts assembled in front of Gage. The Magneton’s eyes darted around the room as it took in its surroundings and made calculations for the battle. “Thunderbolt attack. Go!”

Sabrina’s eyes glinted blue for the briefest of moments before Slowbro’s eyes turned completely white. The electric blast struck its target with almost perfect accuracy, causing the water-type’s muscles to seize up momentarily before a white laser shot out from the impact site and went sailing straight for Sparker. When the beam hit, the magnet’s body flashed pure white before returning to its normal color.

“Disable, shoot. And now she’s going psychic,” Gage muttered to himself as he stared across the battlefield. Sabrina could theoretically strike at any time now that she was using psychic links, but her Pokémon was slow enough that it should telegraph most of its attacks. The purple spot was now about thirty square centimeters in size. “Alright, Screech attack!”

The Magneton’s electric fields went crazy as a harsh static sound echoed across the room before it rapidly grinded its magnets together to amplify the harsh noise. Sabrina visibly recoiled and Slowbro moved to cover its ears. The Slowbro shot a weak pulse of water at Magneton that he easily dodged.

“Thundershock attack the ground!”

Sparker dipped to the gym floor and sent a weak shock through the trail of water the Water Gun had left on the ground. The voltage went straight to Slowbro who shook slightly from the weak attack before suddenly collapsing as the purple area faded back to its normal color. The referee looked on in silence for almost a full minute before raising a flag.

“Slowbro is unable to battle. This match and the Soul Badge go to the challenger, Gage Carver, of Vermillion City.”

Alarms began to ring throughout the room. Gela glanced at her watch and rose to her feet. It was not a terrible loss to stop there for the night. The best part was over, anyway. Now she needed to wake up.

---...---...---​

More recently in Vermillion City, on the other side of a dream…

Gela rolled over to maneuver her good arm into a position that could turn the alarm off. Once it was she stretched a little on her cot and marveled that she could actually fall asleep in the back room of a dinky equipment shed. The higher-ups had wanted her to sleep in an actual cabin so she could, well, sleep, but she had objected to get the conditions most similar to the rest of the staff possible. On mornings like this she wondered why she could not be a more reasonable person.

She got into her uniform in the damp and enclosed space, an ordeal that took far longer than she liked to admit. After finally getting her shirt and pants on, she scanned the room for her neckerchief. For a minute she panicked, not finding it in her admittedly messy space, but then she remembered leaving it in the staff lounge last night. She could pick up the neckerchief when she brushed her teeth and awkwardly ran her hand through her hair to claim she had done something with it. Half of the campers looked worse, anyway, and the staff would not expect anything nicer.

When Gela finally walked into the lounge, the TV was on as usual. Unlike most of the time, though, it was now broadcasting a news panel picking apart some press conference. She cleared her throat and spoke as she entered. “Let me guess: publicly engineered confession. ‘I did it. I actively supported Titania in trying to install a Communist, Nazi, Cult-run, Anarchist state where sitcoms are required viewing for all?’ Or some new study showing that half of the people who live here are enemies of the state and we need to ramp up surveillance?”

One of the junior staff members, probably a first year, turned around to face her. “Gela, your mom has some balls.”

Gela exhaled slowly, irritated that some people on staff had not yet learned that bringing up her family around her was generally a no-no. Even in political discussions mentioning a certain name was dangerous to all but those she knew very well. “Yes, yes she does. It is a little known secret, but she is addicted to bowling. Loves it. Cannot stop. Down in the basement she has shoes, gloves, pins and, surprisingly, a whole pile of heavy projectiles lobbed down a wooden surface to knock over strangely shaped objects. You have figured it out. My mother does indeed have a prodigious supply of balls. What tipped you off?”

Ignoring the added level of harshness to today’s delivery of sarcasm, the staff member who now had a very intelligent, creative, and high-ranking staff member plotting to ruin his day continued talking. “She just announced an investigation of the Assistant Chairman of Regional Security. She’s messing with the spy agencies, now. That isn’t a thing that the DII has ever done. This could be a real game changer. Has she talked to you about this? I mean, it must be fantastic having your mom be able to—“

“Tell me, what is your name?”

“James White. Why are you glaring at me like that? Did I do something wrong?”

“James, what is your job on staff?”

“I’m a lifeguard. Why? You just cover program stuff, right? What do I have to do with you?”

Gela glanced around the room. It was entirely silent. Some of the younger staff members were confused, while many of the older ones were looking at James with a mixture of pity and disgust. “No. Theoretically not. But Sawyer and I go back a few years. In fact, I am quite sure he would not mind assigning a junior staff member to cleaning the showers for the entire day if I asked him. Which means, since you seem incapable of taking hints, that I would learn the proper scrubbing techniques very soon if I were you.” She saluted the rest of the staff and picked up her neckerchief. “Good day to all of you. Tonight’s staff meeting is going to be here tonight at ten-thirty. Campfire is still tomorrow at nine. We are changing the program slightly, so if you have a role in it please see me at some point during the day in the program office. If I am not there I will be down at the waterfront scaring the daylights out of campers with a Gyarados. Run to the screaming to find me.”

She began to walk down the hall to the bathroom. Gage got up and walked quickly to match her pace. “Hey,” he said.

“Look, if you are going to tell me I should have been easier on that kid, I will save you the time. Yes, I should have been. No, I do not care. There. Problem solved.”

Gage smirked. “No, he had that coming. Sawyer really should do a better job teaching his staff what dragons not to poke. I wanted to talk about something else entirely.”

“Politics?”

“I can tell you about that later. It is interesting, but probably not something you want to deal with now. I actually wanted to talk about Conti. Did you see his match last night?”

“No. I try to watch as little news as possible now that, well, you know. It wasn't big in the intranet, either, which has also gotten pretty annoying to read.”

Gage nodded sympathetically. “I get it. How powerful were those moves you sold him? He one-shotted Blaine’s Magmar in the first five seconds. Yes, it was a first badge battle and probably not rigged, but still.” He shook his head in disbelief. “I don’t think there’s anything that the government can do to keep him from becoming Champion outside of outright killing him or blackmail.”

“The moves have somewhere north of 400 BP. And beating the snot out of gym leaders was the entire point. If that match had been anywhere near fair, it would mean that I failed at my goal. Now, if you will excuse me I have an elaborate styling routine to perform in an area that you are restricted from entering. We can talk later.”

---...---...---​

As it turned out, “later” meant more than twelve hours later at the evening staff meeting. Gela glanced around the lounge as more and more staff members poured in. She estimated that approximately eighty percent of the water camp staff was now present with ten minutes to go until the meeting was scheduled to begin. All six of the minor directors were there. The General Director was still nowhere to be seen. Apparently her meeting with the adult staff was running late tonight.

Gela glanced at the other minor directors standing beside her. “So, if Lenore does not show up, which one of us runs the meeting?” Four raised their hands. “Great. Maybe we could just collectively do it?”

The problem was resolved when her boss came walking in the door to the lounge and made a beeline for the minor directors. “Salutations. According to the excessively lengthy debacle I was just liberated from, the day went swimmingly well. Onto actually relevant business, are any of you not running for my position tomorrow evening? Well, the people sufficiently worn down by father time? Sorry, Victoria.” Only Gage raised his hand, which earned him a stunned look from Gela. “Well, congratulations to you for preemptively escaping the excessive drudgery of my post. Now, if you will excuse me, I have a meeting to conduct.”

Lenore made her way to the front of the room and called the staff to attention. She began to review the day’s events and complications as well as discussing the much-anticipated events of the next day. Gela already knew most of what was going to be said and tugged on Gage’s shoulder before moving her arm to motion towards the door. He got the hint and the two discreetly slipped outside. Once they were out of earshot, she turned to face him.

“Really? You, of all people? Outside of maybe Victoria you probably have the biggest Type A complex on staff. What could have possibly swayed you not to run for the top job?”

Gage stared off into the distant ocean for a few seconds before answering, every passing second grinding on Gela’s nerves. “I would have rather seen you win. Things are changing in a region not known for change, and whether or not you like it you’re going to be in the center. I figured it would be best if you had some distraction so you didn’t do anything monumentally stupid to call attention to yourself. That and you’re probably the most qualified for the job.”

She stared at him for almost another full minute, mouth wide open. “You know, that may have literally been the dumbest reason for any decision I have ever heard. I reserve the right to make idiotic decisions whatever my obligations are and I happen to have a full-time job ten months of the year. If anything was going to distract me, it would be that. And seriously? I am the most qualified person on staff? All I even do here is write witty articles for a fake newspaper. You actually manage people.”

“Look, I get that my reasoning doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I’m standing by it. I have other reasons as well. Personal ones. I think you of all people should be able to appreciate that.”

She shrugged slightly. “I guess.”

The door creaked open behind them and Sawyer stepped out into the warm July evening.

“’Sup?” He nonchalantly observed a flock of Spearow perch on a nearby building before continuing. “You guys ready for tomorrow? Well, I guess not for you, brother. Not sure what’s drifting through your mind right now, but whatever. That’s on you. Sister, you ready to go head to head?”

Gela flinched before replying. “You bet. I am pretty much a professional player of another region’s sport prepared to bash my head into yours repeatedly in a show of dominance until we both get concussions and contemplate suicide while the franchise owner vehemently denies responsibility. That is how ready I am to go head to head.”

Sawyer laughed. “Good, good. Glad to see you’re ready to roll.” The wind picked up and the Spearow left their roost. “It’s supposed to storm tonight. A titan of a storm, too. And, uh, the moon is full. Sis, I know that means you probably won’t be sleeping. The three of us could hang in the lounge tonight, if that’s cool with you. If we have three people it doesn’t go against policy.”

Gage nodded. “I could do that.”

“That would be fine with me. I should probably let Drako out now. He enjoys storms. I have no idea why. Surely not because he loves the electricity flying through the air. Once I take care of that we can get our thunderstorm survival party started.”

Indeed, they stayed up through the dark and stormy night, reflecting on the past and present. Thankfully, that night Gela only had to live through the latter.

---...---...---​

The walls of the program office, a mercifully air-conditioned building on the outskirts of Water Camp’s Vermillion facility, were lined with headlines and pictures. “BREAKING: CAMP WATER UNSUITABLY WET, STUDY SHOWS.” “RUSHED PROGRAM DIRECTOR ACCIDENTALLY GIVES GO-AHEAD FOR REENACTMENT OF STALINGRAD.” “DAILY WAVE VOTED MOST RELIABLE NEWS SOURCE IN WORLD.”

Today, Gela was finishing work on yet another masterpiece of satiric camp news. She was scanning a shortlist of potential headlines to go with the day’s leading article. Her options included “THUNDERSTORM FRANTICALLY CALCULATING HOW FAR AWAY LIGHTNING IS,” to “GHOST OF TESLA CELBRATES NEW YEARS SIX MONTHS LATE.” The decision would be much easier to make if she had more than one assistant, who happened to be sick today, and if she had any sleep at all to work with. Sighing, she had Kodo pull up the rest of the day’s articles, most of which she had finished the day or night before. She glanced over them all once to ensure quality and give herself more time to reflect on the lightning article. Not finding inspiration, she pulled out the night’s campfire program and mentally checked that everything was good to go. Seeing that it was and still not finding any ideas, she rose from her chair.

“Kodo, I am going on a walk. Revert to watch.” A flash on her wrist indicated that the command had been executed. After checking to make sure that the transition had occurred properly, she set off to the beach to meet up with the head lifeguard.

It was a full two kilometers to the camp’s waterfront area. Normally, this would be nothing for her. But sleep-deprived she could feel her strength slipping with every step. Only seeing the cool waves lapping against the land finally revived her spirits enough to carry her all the way. She saw Sawyer wading ankle-deep in the water and staring out to sea. Even a layer of sand forming between her feet and sandals could not stop Gela from smiling as she approached her friend.

“How are you feeling today? Ready to face the world with the alertness required by your post and today’s circumstances?”

“Sis, I have no idea how you deal with this as often as you do. I can hardly stand now.”

“You get used to it after a while. Or you find ways to fall asleep. Or you get a Pokémon who can do it for you when you are too lazy to make some lavender tea or meditate or mess around with pressure points. All are valid solutions.”

Sawyer yawned and continued to stare out into the water. “I guess.”

“What exactly are you looking for? I already withdrew Drako for the day, so you should not be getting any Gyarados surprises. At least, none from a trained Gyarados.”

“I’ve been teaching a staff member to swim for the last few weeks. He’s good enough that he can do it now, but he still wants me to watch him.”

“I see. That is, uh, awfully nice of you.”

“It is possible to be friends with the people you lead. I’ve found it to work well.”

“But that takes all the fun out of being a cool loner with a dark sense of humor.”

After a few more waves lapped up, Sawyer stretched and yawned. “I don’t really want to abandon him, but I need to catch some Zs. Any chance you can watch him?”

“Sawyer, I am not sure anyone has unironically said ‘catch some Zs’ since 1972. I get that you have the entire surfer thing going, but really?”

“Is counting sheep still a good idiom?”

“It is better. And I happen to be just as exhausted as you, if not more so, and while I can swim just fine I would personally be terrified if my lifeguard had a single working arm. That might not be the best option.”

“Fine. But I really don’t think I would be very helpful right now if he did slip up,” Sawyer replied.

Gela dug her feet into the wet sand and prepared to sit down in the water. “Then we can be not very effective, together.” All thoughts of titling storm-related articles slipped from her mind.

---...---...---​

Two hours would pass before she stumbled back into her office to print the day’s run (the Tesla article won on a coin flip) and take as long of a nap as she could justify.

---...---...---​

Years ago in Saffron City, on one side of a dream…

Gela found herself in the same stands as her last dream, only seconds after it had ended. The referee was scanning over her papers. She called out the name of the next challenger. The girl’s name.

She stood and looked around in confusion as she made her way to the arena floor. Normally, another level of challenge would be taken next to give Sabrina’s third badge team time to heal. For some reason this was not the case now. She nervously took her place in the challenger’s spot and glanced into the stands to look at her friend, who simply shrugged. He had no more idea what was going on.

“Today’s challenger is going for her third badge. This will be a one-on-one battle with no substitutions allowed. The challenger will send out her Pokémon first, followed by the leader. Seeing the experience of both sides and the previous third badge challenge, no questions will be taken now. Challenger, release your first Pokémon.”

The girl was quaking in her shoes, wondering what to do. Her plan had been instantly dashed and she had no idea what Sabrina could use to counter her choice. That was not supposed to happen. The leader always sent out first. “Uh, um, go.” She weakly tossed one of the two Pokéballs she had intended to use in the fight, not particularly caring which one of her Pokémon came out.

“Fair! Clefairy!” She looked down at Estrea as she scanned the room for an opponent. There was supposed to be a Mr. Mime or Slowbro before her. Instead, there was only a wholly disinterested gym leader.

“Psy. Finish this match.”

Almost instantly, a large humanoid Pokémon burst from its Pokéball and brandished two massive spoons. It scanned the field for mental activity and quickly located the Clefairy. Seeing Estrea, it sent out a pulse of powerful psychic energy that picked up the fairy and slammed her hard against the back wall. As she fell back down, the Alakazam picked her up again and slammed her higher up. Once she recoiled it continued to whack her into the wall three times before suddenly launching her through the air to the wall behind Sabrina. Before the girl could even order, her Pokémon collapsed to the ground in a heap.

“Clefairy is unable to battle. The challenger is out of usable Pokémon. This marks a win for the gym leader and the challenger’s second loss of her second challenge. One more loss will invalidate her ability to challenge gyms for a full year. Our next challenger has seven badges and hails from…”

The girl collapsed onto the ground, fighting back tears. Sabrina cast her a look of disgust before quickly focusing on the new opponent walking down the staircase. Gela stood to leave. Such a short dream. Such a dream-crushing moment.

TO BE CONTINUED...
 
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Thesaurus rex
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I'm about halfway through 1.3, and one point is jumping out at me - your chapters are too long for your plot.

I'll explain what I mean. So far the story is a lot of separate plot strands, often told in quite short scenes, but because the story isn't told chronologically, the reader has to pay close attention to what's going on in order for the information in each scene to be entertaining. When you couple that with your mysterious style when it comes to establishing chronology, and the length of each individual chapter, it's just too much to take in (This is coming from a guy who followed Inception with no trouble, mind).

It does also give the impression that the story isn't moving forward. I stopped and thought about the plot, and it is moving forward, but it's hard to see that as I read
 
The Vulture Queen
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RESUME FILE 1.4: CURBSTOMP BATTLE

More recently in Vermillion City, on the other side of a dream…

A man with a short white beard walked to the front of the dining hall and flashed a salute, sending the room into silence. “Good evening, staff. My name is Mr. Winter. I am the regional director of the Camping organization’s facilities, including the various outposts of Water Camp. Tonight you will be electing the next year’s General Director. This vote holds special significance in our organization, as this is the only camp that holds elections for the role. The directors of Moon and Viridian Camps are appointed by the national council and adult leadership of the camps. Running tonight are four young men and women who will be between seventeen and nineteen years old next year. They are Sawyer Ericson, Price Farthing, Todd Nowack, and Gela Esprit. You are likely familiar with all of them, as they are some of the most senior leaders in the course. We are handing ballots out now to all Vermillion campus staff present. The other staff members who could not be here tonight have voted remotely. If there is no majority winner at the end of the first round, one candidate will be eliminated until one takes a simple majority. When you are done voting, pass your ballot to the center aisle.

Winter stepped back and watched as pens met paper across the room. Almost everyone, except for a few disappointed equipment staff who could not vote for their boss, had written a name in a matter of seconds. All votes were in within two minutes. Lenore, Winter, and a handful of adult staff members went to the back of the room to help count. Gela glanced the room. A few whispered conversations had broken out among people who were pretty sure that the person next to them had voted for the same person. A few glanced up at the candidates, but they were seated so close together it was hard to tell who they were looking at.

After only three minutes of vote counting, a curiously small amount of time for a room this large, Winter came back to the lectern. Gela’s lips curled into a fraction of a smile in anticipation. She expected to make it into the next round. She was not quite so sure who would be eliminated.

“Attention, please. After a fierce competition, I am pleased to announce that for the first time since 1981 an election has been decided on the first round. Please welcome your new program director, Gela Esprit!”

The next hour or so was a blur of congratulations, hand-shaking and social interaction. If she was not experiencing one of the biggest positive rushes of her life, Gela would have been unnerved by the attention or irritated by the staff members without the brain cells to extend their left hands. Finally, exhaustion from the previous night settled in and the future General Director slipped from the dining hall to head back to her shed. The moon was waxing and half-empty, casting enough light that no supplements were needed for her to see the path.

A third of the way to her destination, she heard footsteps running after her. She absentmindedly reached to Stelo’s Pokéball before turning to see Victoria running after her. “Heh. Didn’t think you had the nerve to cheat that blatantly. Congratulations on finally gaining some confidence.”

“Victoria, I have genuinely no idea what you are talking about and do not honestly care.”

“Really, now? No casual notes from your mother stressing how much she wanted her daughter to win? Or even just telling Winter that you had to go to a family appointment after elections. Nothing like that?”

“We both know that I would never plan something like that with my mom for multiple reasons.”

“Strange. You sure?”

“Positive.”

“Absolutely?

“Do I look like a yellow-clad cyclist here? I promise I did not use performance enhancing last names. Or blood doping. Actually, maybe the latter. Articuno knows what the doctors did to my arm.”

Victoria stopped walking and Gela went on, glad for the annoyance’s end. “Well, you know that no election in a decade has ended in a first round winner. And no program director has won in about as long. You aren’t exactly great at making friends. Even if you didn’t authorize or order it, you don’t seriously believe you won cleanly, right? That vote was tallied in half the time as last year’s with a larger staff. Even if all of Gage’s people voted for you and a third of Sawyer’s, there is no way you could have pulled a first round win. None. Not cleanly.”

Gela stopped in her tracks and turned around to face her. “Then I will have to tell Winter to hold a fair vote.”

“I doubt there’s ever been a fair vote. You know the adults are way too controlling to ever let someone they didn’t like get in power. You’re in now. Best enjoy your ill-gotten gains. See you!”

She thought about calling back as the younger staff member walked away. That was not her. She had won legitimately for once in her life and was now going to occupy her rightful throne.

But she did not call back. On some level, she knew that Victoria might be right. The events of the day had been far too improbable to have occurred without interference. That should have been obvious. It was obvious. Everyone would figure it out. She was a fraud. An extension of her mother with no strength of her own.

The full weight of a week of near sleepless nights crashed down on her as she stumbled to her shed, shut and locked the door, and changed into her clothes for the night. Her mind was numb. She had won. She could not have lost. It had nothing to do with her at all. Why should she care? What did it really mean?

She rested on her back and stared up at a metal ceiling. Darkness moved in on the edges of her vision but she fought it off. She knew the dreams that would come. She could see them in the brief moments she blinked or nodded off before jerking awake after a mere moment asleep. Poolside conversations with her father. Trite maxims on independence and self-worth. Reminders to use her mind and ideas to get ahead. The foundation of a worldview, for better or worse. Betrayed. She had betrayed it. She had betrayed him.

Exhaustion, fear, and guilt swam before her eyes throughout the night until her alarm blared beside her, signaling that a whole new ordeal was about to begin.

---...---...---​

Slightly more recently, in the same nightmare…

The darkness still swam at the edge of her vision from two consecutive sleepless nights as she walked to the water surface. Sawyer was standing shin-deep in the water, looking out at the same stupid kid as yesterday. She plopped down in the water next to him, not particularly caring nor noticing that she was not wearing a swimsuit.

The head lifeguard glanced over at her. “You look awful.”

“Great way to start a conversation with the ladies. Explains the massive amount of female attention you get.”

He ignored the remark. “Did you sleep last night?”

“Does it look like I slept last night?”

A massive wave brushed by. Neither flinched. “Sis, if you don’t want to talk about it, that’s cool with me, but I’m always up for lending an ear.”

“Victoria thinks the election was rigged.”

“So does Gage. So do I, for what it’s worth. No sweat, though. Always goes to the biggest butt-kisser on staff. First time I can remember that the adults wanted to give it to kiss butt. You won. What’s not cool about that?”

“I don’t know, maybe that it’s painfully obvious I didn’t deserve it. The next year will be staff saying, ‘That’s Gela, she’s the daughter of the DII Chairman,’ rather than “That’s Gela, the girl who deserved the job.’ That’s what isn’t cool about this debacle. I could’ve been literally anyone in the right age range with the desire to win, doesn’t matter if I was a total asshole or a serial killer—yes, I know that I’m pretty much already an asshole—I would get the job because of my last name. So if I’m getting ahead because of that, there’s nothing to show the rest of staff that I’m not just some dumb blonde rich girl who’s mommy shoved them through. That’s the problem.”

“I don’t think anyone who’s ever met you for more than a sec has thought that. Just chill out. Take a breath. Feel the waves. It’ll be fine.”

“Chilling, breathing, and wave feeling completed. Still feeling like shit. Any new prescriptions, doc?”

“Nope. If you’re going to beat yourself to pieces over this, do it. I’ll be here to listen.”

More waves lapsed. Gela was too tired to get into a serious argument with Sawyer. She hated doing it, too. “Is there anything I could do,” she asked.

“Do about what?”

“Do to prove that I’m the best? That I earned the job? That type of thing. I can’t win a vote to show that, so I might as well win it in some fair way. It’ll get me to stop moping about it.”

Sawyer frowned as he watched a distinct shape pop up on the horizon. “Yours?”

“Huh?”

“That Gyarados out there. Is it yours?”

“Probably. I’m heading out to Seafoam today. Triassic’s not eating again. Glad to see someone’s got bigger psychological issues than I do.”

“Any chance I could come? I’ve got a few break days to play with and I want to see my bro.”

“Sure. Drako’s big enough.”

The two watched the sea monster swim in. Half of the participants were now cowering on the beach or as far away in the water as possible. The lifeguard glanced at Gela. She flashed him a thumbs up and he went back to looking indifferent.

“You know, if you really wanted to go out and prove that you’re the very best—“

“Like no one ever was.”

“I didn’t know you watched cartoons.”

“I never liked doing it. But there isn’t a lot of programming an eight year-old can watch at three in the morning.”

“Makes sense. What I was going to say is that none of the other assistant directors have eight badges. Gage and I got to seven before losing. You could always go out and do that. Wouldn’t even have to fight the League. Just get the badges. And, yes, I know that’s not going to be easy. Well, Conti’s doing it with your tech. That you built. With your own skills. And I can’t believe he’s half as smart as you are. Might be worth a try.” He braced himself as Drako came painfully close. He had never liked the species. “Or, you could do something else. I don’t know. Just throwing ideas out there.”

Gela idly ran her hand through the water as her Gyarados leered at some nearby participants who dared to get too close. “Can you get the first few days off after camp ends? I have the show Saturday. I have some business in Celadon after that. Then I might need to drop by a certain ninja’s domain and show him the firepower of nerd-fu.”

Sawyer nervously approached the Gyarados, pawing his back to let him know he was getting on. “As you wish, miss director.”

---...---...---​

Years ago in the Seafoam Islands, on one side of a dream…

Gela hated this dream, but compared to her second match against Sabrina and the poolside micro-dreams of the night before, it was tolerable. She was standing on an ice floe in one of the larger tanks in the Seafoam Marine Park. The girl was nowhere to be seen yet. She was still in the passageways behind the area, heading off to the Golduck cage to work on a technical machine. There was strangely little security back there, if she remembered correctly. That should have tipped her off that something was not right.

Only a solitary Pokémon occupied the tank she was in. It was a young Lapras, barely a few months old. He plodded along uncertainly in the water, craning his neck to the sky and mournfully calling every two minutes to figure out where the rest of his small pod had gone to. It was tragic, really. They would not be coming.

A side door opened and three men in long coats marked with the DII logo entered. Gela saw holsters tucked into their belts, fully loaded pistols inside. One brandished a net, while another carried a small can of Pokémon food. “Here, girl. Come on. Just a little closer. There now, be a good girl. Yes, come to—now!”

His accomplice tossed his net onto the small Pokémon, ensnaring it almost immediately. The water-type thrashed against it, but only succeeded in lacerating his neck against the mesh net. They began dragging the now shrieking Pokémon closer to them, almost getting it onto land before a door creaked open behind Gela. She turned to watch the girl enter. The girl’s arm was awkwardly slung in her uniform. She was not used to either her limb’s current state or the new clothing and it showed.

The girl saw the three men on the other side of the tank and the baby Lapras they had ensnared, but little else in the lighting. “Who, exactly, are you and how did you get in here?”

The tallest man straightened and pulled a badge out of his pocket. “Agents with the Department of Internal Investigation. We are on an official mission at the moment and require this Lapras. Everything has been sorted out with the park ownership, ma’am. You may go about your business.”

“If you have the park’s approval, why are you doing this at night and without a Pokéball? And what mission could you possibly need a baby Pokémon for? It only knows Water Gun.”

“Miss, trust us. Everything is fine with this mission. Just leave before something happens.”

The girl reached down to her belt for Drako’s Pokéball. It had been a bad month for her opinion of the DII and she happened to like that Lapras. Then she saw a glint of metal on the agent’s belt and quickly moved her hand away from her Pokéball. She may have liked the Lapras, but she was not about to get shot for it. However much she hated to do it, diplomacy was needed.

“What for? I have level eight clearance. That should cover it.”

The agent laughed. “Look, good one. But we don’t just give—“

“There are one thousand three-hundred and eighty seven operative agents in the DII, but a ton more unofficial subcontractors—you call them subcontractors, anyway—that do most of the dirty work. The main building has seven floors and five-hundred and six offices, representing the executive order that founded the agency. Almost all of your computers run Linux, easily the greatest OS widely available. The current Seafoam Chief is Alexander Wycliffe, who has held the post for eight years. The current RIA regional director is Thomas Pyrope—I could go on, if I needed to. Give more specific information. Operation Harper’s Shadow comes to mind.”

The three looked between each other and then back at the girl. “How ‘bout that? I guess you do have some authority, after all. It’s just a standard benefactor reward op. Some rich kid wanted a Lapras. Those things don’t exactly grow on trees, ya know. Finally tracked it down to this place and the zoo in Fuchsia. The zoo only had one and wasn’t keen on giving him up. This place had more and a baby, which we figured would probably be easier for them to store in their bathtub or something. Your managers approved, but didn’t want to deal with the stain of legitimately transferring it to us. Likes to pretend he’s a goddam priest in public. That’s why we’re here, ok? Surely someone with your kind of clearance gets it.”

The Lapras howled in pain once more, a dramatic plea with power amplified by his beautiful voice. “I know that all too well. But you cannot just take a Lapras to a random kid. They are highly intelligent and sensitive creatures that grow to be quite large. Any sort of abuse can mess one up for life and within two years that one will be bigger than me. Probably capable of doing some serious damage if it got angry. And he is really, really needy. Lapras are social Pokémon that require need constant interaction or other stimulation to be happy. It could easily die in slightly improper conditions.”

“Yes, but we’re kind of dealing with the child of a really powerful individual. I don’t know who, before you ask. It wasn’t important to the mission. Just that they really should not be messed with. Not a whole lot of room to negotiate if someone like that tells the DII their kid wants a Lapras.”

The girl bit her lip before relaxing. She would need to swallow her pride and might hate herself for what she did, but it was the only way to help the increasingly desperate water-type. “If you told them that Esprit told you to change plans, they would probably take it if you presented a reasonable alternative. And you would not technically be lying.”

The agent eyed her for a moment before blinking in sudden realization. “Well, I’ll be… should have noticed the eyes. Just like hers. And that strange obsession with doing things right. Don’t recall her sayin’ her daughter was a crip, though. But she didn’t really talk about ya much at all. You wouldn’t a been really old then. Well, then, Miss Esprit, what should we do?”

“There is a breeding group of Seel and Dewgong out by my mother’s old retreat. You probably know where that is. They are much more playful Pokémon and they can deal with being left alone for a while. They also do better in captivity and are more trusting of humans. The line also eats less and do not grow to ridiculous sizes. Sure, it is not ideal and hunting them there is technically illegal, but the population is large enough there and I doubt you care much about the law. You can get him season tickets to this place or Zoo Fuchsia. I hear Silph’s new aquarium is also trying to get their hands on one or two if he lives in that area. That is how I would do it.” She shrugged before wincing in pain. It would be another few months before she mastered the art of shrugging one shoulder.

Miraculously, her appeal seemed to work. The three agents quietly discussed the matter amongst themselves for a moment before bending down to cut the Lapras free and left her alone with the Pokémon. The girl slipped into the water and slowly kicked her way to it, awkwardly holding herself up above the surface with one arm. Once at the other ledge, she pulled herself out with monumental difficulty and slowly scooted towards the baby. The Lapras reflexively swam further out into the pool with a cry of warning, disturbed by a new human coming to capture it. The girl smiled and released her Clefairy. She diverted her attention entirely from the baby Lapras and just stroked the pink Pokémon for a while. The fairy Pokémon may have noticed the other Pokémon nearby, but she did not seem to pay him any mind.

A minute later, the Lapras’ curiosity finally won out. It slowly moved towards the girl, nervously staying a meter or so away. The girl reached into her backpack and pulled out a super potion. She suspected that would be enough to start the healing process on a Pokémon that young. When it finally got close enough to her, she reached out to snag its neck and held it firmly in place. It took her a moment to realize that the position did not leave her with a hand to spray the area with. Thankfully, the Clefairy figured out what to do and helped finish the job. The cuts on the young Pokémon’s neck slowly faded as the Pokémon stopped struggling and the girl released it. In awe at its rejuvenation, the Lapras rushed over to the girl and hummed a song of gratitude. She stayed there with him for the rest of the night, until another group of humans arrived the next morning and startled the baby back into the center of the pool.

Gela stood up and left long before that. She could deal with her sleepless nights staying on the other side of the dream.


END FILE 1.4: CURBSTOMP BATTLE
PROCEED TO FILE 1.5: PRECISION F-STRIKE


A/N 2.5's description is up in the Table of Contents. I will be transferring most Author's Notes to the blog as a way of rewarding people who are current with reading with the ability to see them without archive delving.
 
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Thesaurus rex
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I think perhaps that if you were to do a reboot you need to drill down to the essential theme of each chapter. Thematically, each chapter will seem more satisfying if it revolves around a particular plot point. You might want to consider biting the bullet and outright stating the date and place at the start of your scenes - during File 1:1 it wasn't such a problem, but having read what I have I think it will increasingly become a problem. During the dream-style sequences you've got enough difficulties to cope with in establishing Gela's perspective while watching herself. On top of that, there's time and place problems to solve ... every time you write a dream sequence
 
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