MATURE: How to Conquer Kanto in Eight Easy Steps - Chapter 97

Discussion in 'Writers Workshop' started by AceTrainer14, Oct 5, 2010.

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  1. Threadmarks: Chapter Eighty Six: One With the Wind and Sky
    AceTrainer14

    AceTrainer14 The acest of trainers

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    @Smiles: Thanks for the review! Always nice to get a new person commenting, and I hope you have time to fill in the blanks. I never thought of how this chapter could be read with the first part, it is interesting to have it framed like that. While you are missing a lot that has happened outside of this conflict (of your own admittance, not throwing any shade your way XD) the relationship between Alaska and the reality stars is quite important to the overall story, so you perhaps have gained some very interesting insights reading it this way.

    I respect this view, though I was trying to show a bit more of Damian and Lachlan that hadn't been touched on much in past chapters. I think if they had had more time in the past I probably would have cut out much of that convo.

    Yes, I probably could've done that a bit better XD

    Again, thanks for reviewing!


    Chapter Eighty Six: One with the Wind and Sky

    Alaska stared at the rifle and knew they were dead.

    There was nowhere to hide, nothing in the frozen emptiness they could use to defend themselves. Their closest escape, back the way they'd come, was blocked off. Their only option was to make it to the crevice behind them, where they could either jump into the river and take their chances with hypothermia and unforgiving rapids, or make it to the other side and find some means of escape there.

    Yet all those options relied on being able to get away. Amanda had an assault rifle; Alaska had nothing. Her hands were still clenched firmly around a Poké Ball, but by the time she threw that her brains would have decorated the ice.

    "Something wrong, Alaska? No witty comebacks? No clever insults? This is so terribly unlike you." Vicious pleasure filled every inch of Amanda's face. Her contorted smile was that of a hunter closing on in prey, her eyes shining victoriously, while her body was still, focused, her finger ready to pull the trigger whenever she chose to.

    Alaska didn't reply. She had nothing to say. She had been caught, and all emotion had left her except defeat. All those weeks of fighting, refusing to accept this fate that had been forced upon her, and the minute she relents and lets it control her, it all ends. There would be no victory against Buzz or Gideon, there would be no chance of returning to a normal life. She was a dead woman standing, and Alaska knew it would take an act of god to save her.

    Godly act – fuck I'm dumb! Alaska kept her face neutral, not letting her excitement show, but mentally she tensed up, trying to find that little voice in the back of her head that didn't belong. Are you there, Latios? It's me, Alaska.

    She paused, seconds dragging out like hours, praying this was enough. Finally, a tingle crawled through her brain, and for a moment the blue glow of the ice seemed to shine brighter.

    I didn't know classic fiction was in your wheelhouse.

    What can I say, I'm a nerd. Breathing a low sigh of relief, Alaska eyed Amanda tensely, wondering how long she had before the producer would strike. Can you see what I'm seeing?

    Just. Our connection is not strong enough for me to inhabit your conscious body, but I can gather from your thoughts the person in front of you is trying to kill you.

    Right on the money, soul train. Can you stop her?

    There was a beat, only a few seconds but enough that Alaska was afraid she had lost him. Finally, she got a sigh. Yes, I can, but what you are asking is very draining. I will need to focus, it will take a few moments, time you might not have. Unless we can distract her. Yes, that might work.

    A yelp sounded behind her, and everyone turned towards Sandy, a new kind of fear in her eyes. She was staring intensely at Alaska, a slight blue glint in her eyes.

    "Something wrong?" Amanda hissed, looking away from Alaska but keeping the rifle pointed firmly at her. "You want to die first?"

    "N-n-no, I just…" Sandy paused, eyes moving feverishly as she tried to think of an appropriate distraction. "Why now? Why kill us after all this time?"

    Amanda's eyes narrowed. "Why does it matter?"

    "It's just, you know, you've had plenty of opportunities to kill Alaska. I mean, last time you easily could've handed us over to Buzz. Why aren't you capturing us again?"

    Amanda smirked. "Why, so you can escape again?" She purred, her voice crackling with laughter. "Buzz doesn't care who kills her, as long as she is finally out of the way."

    "But you are going to film us?" Sandy shot back, eyebrow raised quizzically. "Doesn't that rather defeat the purpose of the whole reality show charade? I can't imagine blatant murder would look good for your image."

    Alaska had to marvel at Sandy's quick thinking and Latios for using her. The legendary had fallen silent but his voice had been replaced by a sharp pain as if a hand was slowly squeezing her brain, and Alaska was overcome by the type of sudden heaviness she usually felt after a long day of walking.

    "You think I don't know that they are onto us? There's no point carrying on a magic trick when your audience knows you are faking it. The show is dead in the water, so what? It always was a moronic idea anyway, Buzz's little vanity project. At any rate, I'm the producer, I make the decisions on the ground, and I'm not going to turn down one final stab at ratings glory," Amanda added, turning back to Alaska. "There's nothing like a dead body to draw in the masses."

    Whatever you're doing, I need you to hurry up, Alaska mentally yelled as she stared at the dark mouth of the rifle.

    If I do not take my time, my recovery will be slowed and I won't be able to help you properly.

    Alaska's fear must have finally shown, as Amanda started laughing as she focused on her target. Even when she laughed maniacally, the producer sounded repressed, her cackle a poor imitation of a normal human.

    If you don't act now you won't be able to save me again – just do it!

    A resounding crack shattered the silence, and Alaska gasped as she stumbled over, her vision going black. She heard Amanda scream, and Alaska could just make out as a large icicle crashed in front of the producer, knocking her backwards and sending the gun flying.

    "Alaska, are you ok? Did she get you?" Damian appeared over her, gloved hands grabbing her by the armpits and hauling her to her feet.

    "I'm… I'm fine – we need to get out of here."

    "There's nowhere to run though, she'll still be able to shoot us."

    "Not if I can help it," Sandy interjected, and she threw a Poké Ball towards Chloe. Red light illuminated every corner of the room a second later, and the icicles above them shook as Onix roared into life. The cave suddenly felt less spacious, but Alaska was happy to introduce a giant, uncontrollable beast into a confined area if it meant not risking getting shot in the face.

    "ONIX, KEEP THEM BACK!" Sandy screamed. Onix growled in response as he stretched his body out, giant boulders forming a blockade between his allies and their enemies. For a moment, Alaska felt victorious, and with her body resting against Damian, the four of them began to run towards the river, trying to get as much distance between them as possible.

    Her joy didn't last long though. As she stared at their protector, five Poké Balls flew over the top of him, striking the ice and bursting open in orchestrated succession.

    "Fuck me." Alaska slid to a stop, and without a second thought, she threw the capsule she had clasped in her hand, ignoring the Ivysaur, Fearow and Ninetales forming before her and hoping her choice would defend them.

    "Para!" Frances exclaimed, pulling her claws in close and shivering as soon as she formed. There was no time for Alaska to be disappointed: this was quickly turning into a war, and she needed to improvise fast.

    "Seed Bomb, aim for the icicles above them!"

    Frances seemed to understand the situation she had arrived in, and without any hesitation, she fired a giant green ball from the top of her mushroom. It exploded on contact with the icicles above, firing out bullet-like seeds that shattered the ice.

    Alaska watched for a moment as the frozen spears slammed into the ground, shattering on impact and showering the rival Pokémon in diamond-like shards. A sequence of flashes erupted alongside, her allies Pokémon joining the fight. Alaska wanted to keep Frances safe, but even with a solid team fighting for them, there was no time to wait.

    "Keep using Seed Bomb and follow us when you can!"

    And with that warning, Alaska ran as she never had before. Her body was tired and bruised, she had been shivering all this time, and her breath seemed to be freezing in her lungs, but she ran. If she didn't, she would die and all this would have been for nothing.

    Her fear and determination combined for an energy boost she didn't know she had in her, and she was the first of the four to reach the cliff edge. Panting, fighting the cold in her throat, Alaska gazed across the icy gap. A wall of sparkling ice greeted her, but she could see no obvious exit, while the floor was as smooth and exposed as it was on her side.

    Motherfucker! Angrily, Alaska turned as the other three gathered around her. Lachlan looked terrified, Damian passively worried, while Sandy seemed furious.

    "You had to go and make a scene, didn't you? We might have gotten away if –"

    Alaska interrupted. "Are you really doing this now?"

    "We might not get another chance, we could be about to die! You're not getting off that easily."

    "Seriously Sandy, we are being shot at! Yell at me later!"

    "I plan to!" Sandy wailed, and she pushed Alaska aside as a jet of fire came towards them. They watched as the Ninetales started to charge, only for a well-aimed Aqua Tail from Wartortle to send her flying. There was no sign of Amanda or Chloe, Onix succeeding in holding them off, but their Pokémon were still a threat, and Alaska knew they needed a better strategy than a simple free for all.

    "We need to get across this valley; it is our only way of escaping them. But getting across isn't enough, we need to make sure Amanda can't follow us or have the chance to get a good shot."

    "Are you suggesting we kill her?" Damian asked.

    Alaska shuddered at the thought: Amanda might be awful, but she couldn't imagine ordering someone else's death. "No, we're better than her. We just need to… incapacitate her – Chloe as well."

    "And how do we do that?" Lachlan asked, his voice several octaves higher than normal. Alaska wished they would all shut up and give her a moment to think, but knew that time was a luxury she didn't have right now. She looked at the Pokémon they had already sent out and thought of who she and Sandy had left, ignoring her rapidly beating heart and trying to focus.

    "Frances… she has Effect Spore. Paige can carry her and then Frances can fire something at them." She paused there, looking between Sandy and Damian for some support, but they only looked exhausted. "Does anyone have a better idea?"

    "I suppose not," Damian said. "It's not a great plan, but we need to do something."

    "Fuck yeah we need to do something, so get back over there and take down their Pokémon before they get to us!"

    "Too late," Sandy squeaked.

    Alaska's body tensed. She didn't know what was behind her, but she could feel its warm, stagnant breath on her neck. Slowly, Alaska reached into her pocket for another Poké Ball and turned, wondering if this would be the last thing she would ever see.

    The Pokémon that loomed over her, Alaska had never seen before, in real life or on television. Staring at it now, she could see why. There was no nice way of putting it; it was hideous. It resembled a large blue rock that had spouted four arms and a pair of legs. Instead of a normal face, even by Pokémon standards, it had a fat brown hand, complete with four fingers, a thumb, and two beady eyes peering angrily down at her from where the palm should be. The creature raised its arms, and Alaska saw that each clawed hand had its own eye that glowered out at each of her comrades.

    "Holy shit, you are one ugly mother fucker, aren't you?" Alaska was stunned to the point that she forgot herself and the precarious position they were in. This was a Frankenstein's monster of a Pokémon, an abnormal freak that shouldn't be alive let alone be allowed the duty of taking her life.

    She realised her mistake a second too late: all six eyes on the Pokémon narrowed, clearly unamused. "Whoops," she offered weakly and stepped back towards the edge of the ice.

    "BAAAAAR!" The creature's scream was as hideous as its body, a high pitched shriek that froze Alaska where she was. With a single swipe, the monstrosity sent Sandy flying back towards the battle before turning swiftly and doing the same to Lachlan.

    "Listen, mate, I don't know what you are or who the poor soul is that owns you, but if you think I am letting something as fugly as you kill me, you've got another thing coming." Alaska threw her Poké Ball forwards but the creature knocked it aside with another angry yell. She watched it soar uselessly away, a distant burst of red light briefly casting the monster in shadow.

    "Great job Alaska, real great job!" Damian snarled, the words barely leaving his mouth before he too was bashed aside. Alaska was suddenly alone, only a few feet separating her and the Pokémon. The creature turned, eyes fixated on her, and swiped again; Alaska stepped back, but her right foot slipped.

    "SHIT!" She screamed as she wobbled desperately on the edge of the cliff. She managed to regain her footing, but there was now nowhere for her to run. The Pokémon seemed to know that, briefly smiling, enjoying teasing his cornered prey.

    I either let this monstrosity slice my throat open or throw me over the edge. Alaska wasn't sure which one was worse, but she braced herself for either option, hoping the creature wouldn't toy with her much longer.

    A shriek sounded in the distance. The Pokémon paused, wincing at the piercing wail. Alaska used the opportunity to scout for any chance at getting around the creature but instead saw only what looked like Darwin engaged in combat with another Pokémon.

    Suddenly, she realised what should have been right in front of her: only two of her Pokémon resided in red and white Poké Balls. If Darwin was out, then there was one option left to her.

    "Well, this has been fun," she said, causing the monster to focus on her once more. Alaska smiled as she retrieved her other Poké Ball and pointed it into the valley. "However, I've really got to keep going – don't worry, I'll drop by some other time." The creature roared and lunged, but Alaska stepped backwards into the abyss.

    Her organs seemed to shoot up into her throat. Ice soared past her, illuminated by the red light, and the roar of the river echoed on all sides. Flailing, Alaska stared down at the raging water and for the first time considered this wasn't the smartest plan.

    This better work. Alaska looked up frantically and breathed a sigh of relief; Paige was flying towards her, wearing an all too familiar look of wondering what was wrong with her trainer. Alaska laughed as she reached up, grabbing onto Paige's talons.

    "OTTOOOO!" The bird shrieked as her legs were nearly yanked out of her body.

    Alaska didn't have time to sympathise. "FLY BITCH, FLY!" She yelled as the two sank towards the river.

    With a grunt, Paige began beating her wings furiously. Alaska could feel the bottom of her pants getting wet from the spray, and she tensed, expecting to be submerged within moments. Thankfully, instead she felt her organs settle back into place, and when she looked down again the river was slipping away.

    Triumphantly, Paige soared out of the ravine, her outstretched wings clipping the creature's talons as she swept past. Alaska lashed out, kicking it in the hand-face, and giggled as it stumbled backwards.

    "Air Slash!"

    "PIDGEEEEY!" Paige grunted as she twirled her right wing, and a moment later flung the lilac ball towards their foe. It exploded against the creature's chest, and the two watched as it was blown back towards the fight.

    "That was brilliant!" Alaska heaved herself up onto Paige's back; it was a tight fit, her legs dangling over the sides despite her height, but it allowed her to wrap her arms around her friend. "Thank you for saving me."

    "Pidge," Paige grunted irritably, clearing thinking she shouldn't have been in that position in the first place.

    Alaska wanted to make it up to her but now was not the time. From their position above the pop-up battlefield, she could see all that was unfolding. Onix was still managing to keep Amanda and Chloe back but seemed to be struggling against a constant stream of Blizzard's courtesy of a Clefable. On the other side, Ivysaur, Fearow and Ninetales were facing Frances, Sylveon and Wartortle, leaving Charmeleon to fight what appeared to be a Lopunny while Darwin was now engaged with the strange creature. Alaska could see Damian and Sandy standing near the fray issuing orders, but behind them, Lachlan was slumped on the ice.

    Alaska looked between the tightly packed scrum and the empty space leading between them and the valley. We need to push back, not just match whatever they throw at us.

    "If we move Onix closer to the river, we could cross on him. If we want to do that, we need to get rid of some of their side… you up for a race?" She leant over Paige's crest to face her and saw a mischievous twinkle in her eyes. "That's my bird – alright, let's fucking do this – dive!"

    Cold air battered Alaska as they rocketed towards the battle, but she was too invigorated to care. She reached into her bag and withdrew the hefty weapon Bill had given her so long ago; she wiped the dirt and dust off it before firing it up, altering the ammunition until she got what she wanted.

    "OI BIRD BRAIN, OVER HERE!" At her touch, a red blur shot out of the gun; the flare hit Fearow in the neck, the explosion propelling her right into Onix. Alaska smelt burnt feathers as Paige glided past, and grinned as a shrill squawk sounded after them.

    "Fly towards the icicles." Alaska glanced back and saw her plan was working; Fearow was clearly enraged, her beady eyes fixated on Alaska and Paige despite her pain. As Alaska watched, the bird rested against Onix for a moment before using him as a launch pad, leaping off and shooting towards them, wings outspread like a deformed jet plane.

    Paige could hear their enemy and she gathered speed; Alaska had to cling on tighter as the Pidgeotto swooped upwards, the icicles leering at them like jagged teeth. Alaska could see Fearow was copying them, oblivious to the trap, giant beak open wide in an endless shriek, but though she was gaining on them she remained far behind.

    "Not yet, Paige, not yet," Alaska whispered, well aware how close they were to the ceiling. She tensed, waiting for the right moment; the smell of burnt feathers was getting stronger, and when she looked back, Alaska could see down Fearow's throat, a ghoulish sallow tube reaching out towards her.

    "NOW!"

    Paige dove so quickly that Alaska fell backwards, narrowly avoiding the pointed end of an icicle that had gone for her neck. Behind her, Fearow tried to follow them but her sagging wings were not as graceful, and she slammed into a thick stalactite the size of a chimney. The thud was sickening, a wet crunch filling the room, and Alaska felt a twisted mix of pride and guilt as the bird slumped to earth.

    One down, four to go. Alaska gripped on as Paige dove down, rapidly gathering momentum. It looked like she was going to crash into her ground, but she levelled out at the last second and glided over the ice, flying past Lachlan's body and careering towards an unsuspecting Ivysaur.

    Frances leapt aside as she saw her teammate coming towards her, leaving Chloe's starter as the only thing in their path. Ivysaur turned in time for Paige to hit him head on; the force was so strong Alaska's bones shook, but she ignored the pain, instead laughing at the sight of Ivysaur flailing through the air towards Chloe.

    "That was excellent!" Alaska leant down and hugged her starter, briefly savouring her warmth, her dusty smell that always reminded Alaska of home.

    "Pidge," Paige replied simply, tired but proud.

    As the two hovered above the battle, Alaska could see Sandy watching them in bewilderment and remembered her plan. "You need to get Onix to move forwards but keep the Pokémon fighting, wipe them out and then we can –"

    Alaska fell silent. She was suddenly surrounded by white light, a glare so strong she could see nothing else. She looked at the ceiling, expecting someone to be bursting through to save them, but instead watched the glow shimmer like an aurora between the icicles as reality settled in.

    It was disorientating, feeling Paige stretching and expanding beneath her. Alaska raised her legs as the Pidgeotto's body blossomed, muscles squirming as they doubled in size. She watched the wings grow, unfurling as though they'd been folded up this whole time. Something poked her, and Alaska leant aside, allowing the head crest to explode in length, curving down the contours of Paige's spine. She felt like a child waking up to find themselves resting in their parent's lap, her body suddenly shrunken by the glowing, growing mass around her.

    "PIDGEOT!" Like a switch being flicked off, the light disappeared, revealing Paige's new body in all its glory. Her feathers puffed up with renewed freshness, and she gave her longer head crest a playful flick as she dived towards the ground. She pulled out quickly and spun back up, fluttering her wings and brushing them against the icicles.

    Alaska clung on tightly, stunned silent. She couldn't hear the battle; she couldn't hear Paige's gleeful shrieks. Her breathing echoed inside her head, getting faster and more erratic with every inhale. Her fingers dug into Paige's back; the Pidgeot growled, but Alaska's mind was back in the Athlew Mansion garden, retreating to the woman's tent in Lavender Town, a great weight suddenly pressing down on her.

    "I have to… I can't be here. I have to get off." With the simplicity of getting out of a parked car, Alaska stepped off. Paige squawked at her, but Alaska heard nothing except the wind rushing through her ears as the ground rose up to greet her.

    There was a thud and a crack. Pain jolted up her right leg, and Alaska winced as she collapsed onto it, her head falling to the ice with a heavy thump. The ground was unsurprisingly freezing, the cold enveloping her, but Alaska felt comfortable here, safe, away from the future she'd been hiding from.

    And she shall be a Pidgeot by the time you ride her into your final battle. The copper-skinned woman's words whispered to her from the darkest corners of her mind, the part where Alaska had pushed everything she was afraid of, all the things she didn't want to talk about. She tried shutting her eyes, cutting off her senses, but then she simply saw a Pidgeot engraved in stone, a girl riding its back as chaos unfolded beneath them.

    Opening her eyes, the image was barely different. Clefable lay slumped beneath Onix but an Arbok had now joined the battle, squaring off against Sylveon in an exchange of pink light and purple sludge that darkened the shining floor. Darwin was locked in combat with the Lopunny, chasing her around the room as she danced wildly away from him. Damian was crouched on the floor, and Alaska thought for a minute he had been taken down, but saw a small flicker of flame through his arms and knew he was protecting his starter from the Cubone attacking them. Wartortle was alone trying to defeat Ninetales, standing in front of Frances as the Fire type trapped them with an endless barrage of fire.

    Your final battle. Was this how it ended? Was this the moment Charlotte had predicted centuries ago: no great fight to the finish, no final showdown with Gideon and Buzz, simply losing to her old neighbour in a frozen cave? Gunshots sounded around her with such force she briefly sat up, expecting multiple shooters. Shrieks echoed overhead, and Alaska saw Paige was flying amongst the icicles, dodging bullets that rose up from one spot behind Onix.

    Not Paige. Alaska tried standing, but her leg roared with pain and she sank back down. She wanted to scream. She had no idea what to do. She was no leader; she wasn't the hero she had to be. The battle was madness, a chaotic shambles built on hopelessness. Alaska couldn't see Sandy or Frances, only Damian struggling against Cubone's beatings while Darwin and Lopunny edged further away from them all.

    We're doomed, there's no way out of this. That woman was right. This is my final battle, this is where I die.

    A deafening roar snapped Alaska out of her thoughts. The feuding Pokémon scattered as Onix started flailing, massive tail swinging through the air like a wrecking ball, thick cracks appearing in the frozen walls.

    Alaska wondered if Amanda had done something, but Onix turned towards her and she saw it. It's the monster. The unfamiliar Pokémon was on Onix's head, its lower two arms clinging onto his mouth while the upper two and clawed at the Rock Snake's eyes. Alaska gagged as she saw giant splotches of dark liquid fall like hail to the ground.

    "NO!" Sandy's scream obliterated all other noise, and Alaska watched as she sprinted towards her Pokémon, hand raised in the air. There was a flash of red that swallowed the entire room, and suddenly Onix was gone.

    Sandy, no. Heart beating, Alaska looked towards the tunnel. Amanda and Chloe were revealed once more, standing perfectly still, shocked by the disappearance of their obstacle. It was as though someone had hit pause, and everyone was briefly frozen, well aware of what would happen next but no one willing to press play.

    Alaska wasn't sure if it was out of vengeance for brutalising her Pokémon, or if it was simply her way of trying to end the fight, but after a few tense moments, she listened with a leaden heart as Sandy roared "Fairy Wind" into the abyss, and thus the silence was broken.

    Without a second thought, Alaska scrambled to her feet as the first gunshot went off. There were no screams, and glancing back briefly she saw Amanda shrouded by a mist that glittered red in the icy glow. The attack had blinded her, but it was only a momentary delay in the planned carnage.

    "Frances, use Solarbeam then follow me," she bellowed into the night, stifling a groan as she put weight on her right leg. She ignored it and began limping forwards as quickly as she could. She heard explosions and saw light reflected in the ice, but Alaska didn't stay to watch. There was nothing she could do to stop Amanda, but she was not going to die lying on the ground, nor would she let her team face the same death that she could feel breathing down her neck.

    I am not going to die, I am not going to let them take me, not if I can help it. A second gunshot went off followed instantly by a third and fourth; Alaska heard ice crack somewhere near her, and she pushed forwards, gripping the heavy gun, her finger on the trigger ready for the moment she would have to act.

    She made it to the valley unscathed. Alaska paused at the cliff edge and turned back, hoping to find Frances right behind her. Instead, she saw Darwin barely metres from her; he was locked in an embrace with Lopunny, their arms twisted around each other. It looked fairly even to Alaska, but then she saw Darwin slide backwards, Lopunny pushing him closer and closer towards the river.

    "Oh no you don't." Furiously, Alaska launched herself towards the pair and raised the gun, firing without any idea what it would do.

    A small black ball rocketed towards Lopunny and struck her on the top of her head. The doe-eyed Pokémon turned just as the ball exploded, shrouding her in thick grey smoke.

    "How do you like that, bunny boiler?" Alaska grasped the gun with both hands and rammed it into the Pokémon's furry face.

    "PUN!" Lopunny squealed, and her grip on Darwin lessened. With a vengeful shriek, the Primeape grabbed her around the midriff and began spinning. Alaska stepped back as floppy ears threatened to whack her in the face and watched as Darwin tossed his opponent back towards the battle.

    "That was great," she said, managing a smile. Darwin returned it with a grunt, but Alaska was too tired to care. "You have a good aim, are you up to throwing us over there?"

    "Oh, hell no!" Damian appeared breathlessly beside her, clutching Charmeleon in his arms, Frances scuttling in his wake. "I wouldn't trust your murder monkey to help me cross the street let alone throw me over a fucking ravine!"

    "Well, what bright ideas have you got genius? Onix is out of the question, so unless you happen to have a ladder on you, we're pretty fucking stuck!"

    "What about your Pidgeot – can't she carry us now?"

    "Amanda will shoot us out of the sky by the time she has carried us all over!" Alaska paused, fear striking her heart. "Sandy, where's Sandy?"

    No one said a thing, but Alaska realised they didn't have to; that was the point. It was suddenly quiet again, the last sounds of battle echoing ominously. No more running, no more gunfire, no more fighting – and that could only mean one thing.

    When Alaska turned, it was almost as though no battle had been fought. Chloe and Amanda were there, rifle in hands, same distance away, same triumphant smirks on their faces. The only difference was Chloe now had her arms around Sandy's neck, while Lachlan lay in a lump between them and the camera team.

    Alaska had never felt so hopeless before. When Gideon had shot Sandy, she had at least been able to fight back, chase after the bastard even if she knew it was pointless. Now, there was nothing. She met Sandy's eyes, felt the terror emanating off her; she felt like a child again, staring at her broken home, her crying parents, desperate to take away the pain, stuck with the knowledge that was impossible.

    "You really are a difficult little bitch, aren't you?" Amanda hissed through her thin smile, veins throbbing as she tightened her grip on the rifle. "I hope you are aware that all of this is your fault – all these people dying, that's on you."

    "Fuck you," Alaska hissed, staring defiantly past her even as she felt like breaking down. She tried calling for Latios, but there was no reply this time, no tingle; she'd played that hand, there was no repeat on the cards.

    Amanda smirked. "You just don't give you, do you? I guess that's the one thing I admire about you. Pity it was all an act, wasn't it?" Laughing, she tightened her grip on the rifle and lifted it to her eye, ready to fire.

    Alaska felt nothing. If this was the end, then that was that. She had lost, there was nothing more to be done. She simply stared at the ice, admiring its beauty one last time. At least this is the end. It's finally over… I'm free, I'm finally free.

    A cool breeze struck her face. Alaska tensed up, wondering if this was what happened when you died: death reached out, cold hands coming to take you over to the other side. The wind got stronger, the temperature dropped, and Alaska shut her eyes, preparing herself to find Kyurem or Giratina staring back at her when she next opened them.

    When she heard the screams, Alaska assumed those were the other damned souls she was about to join. When she felt her body rise, she thought it was soul ascending, leaving her natural form behind. Yet as the wind got stronger and her body began to spin, Alaska had to wonder if she may be misinterpreting the situation.

    "ALASKA, WHAT IS SHE DOING?"

    She opened her eyes at Damian's shout and realised with renewed horror that she was still alive, and things were only getting worse.

    A hurricane appeared to have formed in the middle of this airless cave, one that only affected herself, Damian, Frances, Darwin and Charmeleon. About a metre in diameter, a swirling lilac mess had swallowed them whole, and when Alaska looked down she saw they were several feet above the ice, slowly moving clockwise over the valley.

    "Fuck me," Alaska murmured, too confused for anything else. She looked up, wondering where this was coming from even though she already knew: she was spinning around, her body a glowing blur, but it was clearly Paige at the eye of the twister, pulling out one final trick to try and save as many as she could.

    Not all of us though. "SANDY!" Alaska stared through the gathering wind, trying to focus on her friend. She caught sight of her, but it was like being in a speeding car; everything went by too quickly for her to focus on. She couldn't see anything, it was all a blur, but as they left the ice behind, their bodies now hanging dangerously above the water, Alaska saw Amanda step forwards, her rifle was now pointed upwards.

    Alaska screamed at Paige but it was useless; she heard no gunshot over the roar of the hurricane, simply watching as her Pidgeot suddenly slumped and dropped, still spinning as she hurtled towards death.

    Desperately, Alaska reached out for her, screaming for her Pokémon as tears streamed down her face. She didn't care that she was falling, that the walls of the canyon were enclosing on her. She barely noticed as she crashed into the river, her right leg screaming out as if torn from its socket. Even as the frigid rapids hit her like a speeding car, Alaska only cared about Paige.

    Flailing against the raging water, Alaska splashed frantically, pathetically about. She could see Paige, tawny feathers and fiery head crest bobbing in the water. She tried to reach her, ignoring the gunshots echoing down to them, the shards of ice crashing into the water. Even as the cold and pain became too much, even as she felt her arms sag, her shoulders tighten, Alaska tried to reach Paige. She was Sandy, she was Darwin and Frances, she was Damian and Lachlan; she couldn't save them, she couldn't save herself, but if Alaska could save Paige, save just one of them, maybe it might be worth it.
     
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  2. Threadmarks: Chapter 87: She Had it Coming
    AceTrainer14

    AceTrainer14 The acest of trainers

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    Before I get into our regularly scheduled update, I just wanted to shine a little spotlight on this lovely bit of fan-art from @Arkadelphiak. I think it's the first bit of art I've ever received, and it made me all gushy inside, so thanks for sharing!

    [​IMG]

    Now on with the show!

    Chapter Eighty Seven: She Had it Coming

    In her dream, Alaska fell for what felt like an eternity. Walls like jagged glass surrounded her as she plunged backwards into an infinite abyss. She screamed, calling out for Sandy, for Paige, for all her Pokémon, but her words echoed futilely, no one left to hear her. The only sound that resonated with Alaska was the roar of the river. She gazed into the darkness and saw nothing waiting for her below, but the further she fell and the more she screamed, the louder the water became. Soon it was deafening, her own screams lost to her, unable to hear her cries for help as chaos and death reached for her. The roar turned to a high-pitched shriek like static, and Alaska screamed louder, trying to make her brain listen, but she simply kept falling, falling, falling…

    "Sandy."

    Alaska sat upright before she had even realised she was awake. For a moment she was disorientated, seeing only dim light and an indistinguishable, shimmering pattern that made her think of Sabrina's gym. It was only when she registered the cold and felt the sweat freezing on her face that she remembered where she was.

    "About damn time."

    Alaska jumped, her mind still lagging behind in her subconscious. Her eyes darted to the source of the voice and she relaxed when she saw Damian, huddled by a fire beneath a silver blanket like giant tinfoil. The flickering light cast shadows over half his face, giving a serious edge to the way he stared at her.

    "I thought I was on my own for a moment there," Alaska whispered. She leant towards the fire, hoping the heat would wake her up, and felt a crunch; looking down she saw there was a blanket around her too. Alaska felt at her clothes and found them dry, which surprised her, but she was too dazed to question it further.

    "It doesn't really get lonelier than this," Damian said, his tone colder than the ice they sat on.

    Alaska was too confused to retort; her head was swimming, and she felt like she was about to pass out. She gazed around the cramped cave, her eyes struggling in the dark, yet she saw no sign of anyone else. "Where's…" She began but trailed off as her situation dawned on her. There was a reason she couldn't see Sandy, and when Alaska shut her eyes, her last memory of her friend returned; Sandy, collapsed on the ice, Chloe's arms around her neck, terror in her eyes as she looked pleadingly at Alaska…

    A chirp pulled Alaska back to the present. She turned and felt a rush of joy as she saw Paige, Darwin and Frances sitting behind her surrounded by bowls of food. Darwin watched her heavily for a moment before turning away, while Frances began fretfully chewing her food faster. Only Paige smiled back, and as Alaska looked into her oldest friend's eyes, everything came back to her: the fight, the evolution, Onix's bleeding eyes, the whirlwind, the gunshot.

    "Paige!" Alaska flung herself across the ice but collapsed in a heap before her friend, wincing and clutching her leg.

    "I think there's something wrong with your leg," Damian called out. "It looks kind of twisted."

    "Cheers," Alaska grunted back, her agony distracting her from sarcasm. She felt feathers brush her face and found Paige watching her pitifully. "Forget about me, what happened to you? Are you alright?"

    "Gee." The Pidgeot stretched out her left wing so Alaska could see the damage: she was able to stretch it out fully, but a gash ran down the centre, matted blood staining her cream feathers a murderous red.

    "Oh my god." Alaska reached out to touch it but Paige pulled away, fear in her eyes. "Right, sorry, that was stupid. Where's my bag, I need to put something on that."

    "I already have." Damian threw an orange bottle over the fire. "There's some left in there if you think it will help, but I don't think there is anything more you can do except stitch it up."

    "What about the bullet?"

    "That was a high powered rifle; it would have torn through her if it had hit square on, there would be nothing for you to find. I think it just clipped her, enough to make her fall."

    His tone remained distant, sardonic, and Alaska could see it wasn't simply the fire leaving Damian with a dark glower in his eyes. She sat up, eyes narrowing. "You better not be blaming what happened on Paige."

    "I don't," Damian replied, but his eyes lingered on her, and Alaska's body clenched in a defensive rage.

    "But you blame me for everything else, right? I'm not the one who came after you with a fucking assault rifle!"

    Damian shrugged. "I know I shouldn't blame you, but it's hard not to when everything comes back to you."

    The words were simple and without malice, but that didn't stop Alaska from feeling like she'd been stabbed. If her whole body didn't ache, if she wasn't nearly alone in a frozen cave, if she hadn't failed to stop the mad woman trying to kill her and everyone unfortunate enough to come into contact with her, Alaska might have argued back, but she was too fatigued to start a fight, not when she knew her heart wasn't in it.

    All these people dying, that's on you. If her enemies and her allies shared the same point of view, what use was there in arguing?

    "Do you have any food? I'm starving."

    "Only a few snacks. The show usually provided food for us."

    "Lucky you," Alaska said and smiled as Damian smirked back. He broke off half of a protein bar and tossed it over; it looked like condensed sawdust and might as well have been given the taste. Yet Alaska was famished, and couldn't help but wolf it down, needing all the energy she could get.

    As she swallowed the last piece, she looked down at her clothes. "We did land in the river, right? I didn't imagine that part?"

    "Yep," Damian said, slinking back into doleful tones. "Charmeleon dried us out if that's what you were wondering. Made the fire as well."

    "How handy. I should get myself a Fire type."

    "Good luck with that. I'm sure there are heaps around here." Damian began to laugh, rolling his eyes as he stared into the flames, not noticing as Alaska's eyes lit up. She had forgotten all about Blaine and the reason why she had come here in the first place. If she could find him, he might be able to help them off the island or at least contact Leaf and Janine and work out what to do next.

    "Where are we exactly?" Alaska's eyes, finally having adjusted to the gloom, darted around the cave. It looked the same as every other part of the island, but this was much smaller than the ones she'd passed through, the ceiling smooth except for delicate ripples that reflected the fire, dulling the blue light and replacing it with a warming glow. "We aren't near the river."

    "Well done," Damian said sarcastically. "I didn't think a frozen riverbank was the best place to start a fire. Didn't really want to be near it anyway," he added quietly, pulling the blanket tighter.

    "Where are we then? What actually happened?"

    Damian sighed and leant forwards, lowering his face so it was only a few centimetres above the flames. He began breathing in heavily, his smile serene as though there was a salutary element to the smoke.

    "Everything happened really quickly," he began, eyes shut, voice forcibly relaxed. "I had pulled out Gyarados' Poké Ball the second we were over the river, but I seized up when we fell. The shock, I guess. We hit the water and that jolted me awake because it was so freezing and I could feel my body shutting down same as you did.

    "I sent Gyarados out as soon as I was able to tread the water, but you must have passed out by that point. I got on his back and then Tangela pulled everyone out of the water, but by then we had drifted under this tunnel and Gyarados couldn't turn around. Got ashore, walked for a little bit, and now we're here, wherever here is. Doesn't look any different from the rest of it, so can't tell you if we're near an exit or anything or what side of the island we're on."

    Damian finished, but Alaska barely noticed; his voice had been getting quieter and quieter with each passing word, drifting steadily into silence. His voice and face were calm, but his words came out heavily.

    "How long were you underwater for?"

    "A minute? I don't know, I wasn't counting. It was freezing, though, colder than anything I have ever felt in my life. I thought I was going to die, more than when the gun was pointed at us."

    That gun was pointed at me, actually, and if you've made it this far without nearly dying, then consider yourself lucky. The words ran to the tip of Alaska's tongue, and it took all her willpower not to say them out loud. It wouldn't save Sandy. It wouldn't repair the trust she'd broken with her Pokémon. Damian was confused and lost, and while he was putting the blame on the wrong person, he was the only ally she had left. If she had to bite her tongue, so be it; she had lost the privilege to feel contempt.

    Alaska looked to Paige for reassurance and found her starter watching her. There was a look in her eyes, one Alaska didn't recognise. She hoped it was something to do with the evolution, but then, Alaska realised, of course it was – that was the problem.

    "How far is the water?" She asked, slowly getting to her feet.

    "You shouldn't walk."

    "Well, it's my fault I'm hurt, just like everything else I guess, so might as well suffer for my sins." Alaska hadn't meant to be sarcastic, but her bitterness erupted out before she could think, though she felt no guilt to get it off her chest.

    Damian sighed. "I didn't mean to blame you, I just –"

    "Yes, you did. Everyone blames me, even if I didn't start this. You think that if I hadn't made myself an enemy to your little show, Amanda and Buzz would have kept their secret plan a secret, and you would have gone on living this charade right up until a robotic Sunflora shoots Red in the face. You blame me because your dreams have been crushed, even if they were a lie in the first place, but I can't fault you for being angry. It's always better to live a lie and delude yourself than accept the truth, isn't it?" Her words were meant to hurt him, and Alaska smiled coyly as Damian bowed his head in shame, but she knew that a week or so ago, it would have been her in his position, and her joy was short lived.

    "Now, where's the bloody river?"

    ***

    The water was cold. Somehow, Alaska hadn't thought that through; the second her fingers touched the river, she jolted backwards as though she'd received an electric shock. Numbness crawled up her arm, but there was nothing Alaska could do but glower at the cave walls. After all that had happened, she couldn't look at the ice with the same enthrallment she'd had earlier; what had once been beautifully magical was no simply cold and solid like prison bars.

    "I hope you evolved some extra insulating because this is going to sting." Cupping her hands, Alaska tried again: the river was freezing, and Alaska bit her lip as the cold spread up her arms. After a few seconds, she pulled back, shivering, and threw the collected water onto Paige's wing.

    "Gee!"

    "Sorry!" Alaska smiled apologetically as she moved closer to the Pidgeot. Her hands shuddered violently despite the loss of feeling, and Alaska had to stop herself from drying them. With her still damp fingers, she grabbed hold of Paige's sodden wing and started washing away the blood. Dark red water streamed down her arms as she used her fingers to vigorously rub away the thick red crust. Alaska wasn't sure if the blood had frozen or simply dried, but it was tiring work,

    "I can't tell if the blood has frozen or simply dried," Alaska murmured. "Your feathers are soft though, I'd forgotten that." She looked into Paige's eyes and smiled.

    "Do you remember when I used to do this back when you were a Pidgey? I had to clean you feather by feather; you never let me wash you any other way. Well, not after I tried using the hose, remember that?" Alaska let go of the wing, a fit of giggles coming over her. "I aimed it right at you on full blast. You flew back and smacked into the window. Splat!" She slapped her hands together, the wet smack echoing alongside her laugh. "I thought I'd killed you, but then you shook all the water off and hit me with your wings. You were so angry; it was the funniest thing I've ever seen. Except when Sandy sat on that Diglett."

    Alaska fell to her side, squirming with laughter. Her body settled into the foetal position as she laughed, unable to help herself, getting louder and more hysterical the longer it carried on. She looked up at Paige, expecting her to be laughing with her, but the Pidgeot was staring past her, face quiet. Alaska followed her line of sight and saw her own face staring back at her, distorted by the rippling river, and she stopped laughing.

    "Why can't you still be that size?" Alaska reached out towards the water, resting her tips just on the surface; streaks appeared as she disrupted the flow, corrupting her face further, her reflection now staring back at her from some carnival magic mirror. Her eyes flickered to the left and she stared into Paige's reflection. Alaska thought it was a trick of the river, but when she looked back, she saw Paige really did look sombre, almost mournful.

    "What's wrong? Is it your wound, does it hurt?" Alaska reached back, but Paige pulled away, the wing slipping out of her grasp. Alaska slowly sat upright, a heaviness descending on her heart. "Is it me?"

    Paige didn't say anything, but her silence spoke volumes. Alaska sat there quietly for a moment, letting that all settle in, and then her anger manifested in a single, bitter scoff. "Are you angry with me as well, is that it? Do you blame me because you got shot?" Paige remained quiet but looked at her furtively, and Alaska threw her arms into the air. "Great, just fucking great! So I've fucked up so badly everyone, including my own bloody Pokémon, hates me, perfect. I didn't shoot you, you know, you can't blame that on me! Not everything is my fault. The others could have come up with a better plan, it doesn't have to be me. I'm not a war strategist. I just wing it, that's my whole strategy in life, winging everything until it all works out. Why don't you go ask Damian why he didn't send Gyarados out earlier to defend us, eh, or Tangela, or someone else – or go find Sandy and Lachlan, go find out what they are doing rather than blaming the person whose trying to help you."

    Alaska wet her hands again and lunged forwards, grabbing hold of Paige's wing. The Pidgeot squawked and turned away, and Alaska held on tighter. "This is hardly the worst thing I've put you through, so shut up and let me help you!" And she began violently working away at the blood, her hand moving so quickly she slipped and shoved her hand right into the wound.

    "PIDGEY!" Paige leapt backwards and lashed out with her unbroken wing. Alaska barely had time to register before the feathery cape hit her in the face, thin bones cracking against her skull, before the force sent her flying backwards. For a second she was weightless, her body leaving the ice before she crashed back to earth. The frozen surface made her body judder, and Alaska cried out as fresh pain shot up her twisted leg.

    The silence that followed was heavy and painful. It felt as though the ceiling had suddenly lowered and was pressing down on Alaska's back. She lay on her stomach long after the pain in her leg had lessened, staring at the ice, a paroxysm of conflicting emotions leaving her too overwhelmed to do anything else. She touched the place where the wing had hit her; it didn't hurt physically, but Alaska felt a pain she had never experienced before.

    Finally, after several long, deathly quiet minutes, she turned back to Paige. Her beak hung open, face dumbstruck, wings hanging limply by her side. As their eyes met, Paige shrunk as though in shame, and her stunned eyes turned sorrowful, pained, the sort of look someone wore before they started crying.

    Yet it was Alaska who broke first. She did not bawl, did not explode with tears and snot and pity the way actors always did; silent tears that stung her eyes simply fell down her face, cold by the time they reached her chin. When she pushed herself into a sitting position and slid closer to Paige, a single sob, the note repressed and tired, slipped out, but Alaska muffled herself by forcing her head into Paige's neck, throwing her arms around her friend. She felt warmth a second later as the giant wings enveloped her, and the two friends stayed like that for a minute, their faces pressed sorrowfully together, Alaska's tears dripping down Paige's beak.

    "I don't know what I'm doing," she whispered. "I'm not a hero, I'm not the person I have to be. The person they want wants to save the world, they'd know how to handle this situation and what to do next, but I just want to dive into that river and never come back.

    "You are right to blame me. When you evolved, I was terrified." Alaska paused as her voice started shaking and forced her face further down Paige's neck, unable to look at her as she spoke. "That prophecy keeps coming up, the one where you and I fighting together. I don't want that, I don't want us to die, and when you evolved, I panicked, and I'm sorry. If I had stayed focused, you might not have gotten shot, we might have escaped, and Sandy…"

    Alaska paused again, fighting back a second wave of tears. She could only imagine what Amanda was putting Sandy through now. It would almost be better to imagine her dead, throat slit, bullet in her head, blood seeping into ice the somewhere, but that was the nice option. Sandy was the second place prize, and Amanda would keep her until she found a way to win properly.

    The thought terrified Alaska, and her fear must have shown; she opened her eyes as Paige's grip tightened and she rested her head on Alaska's, pulling her trainer in closer, softly. It was the warmest Alaska had felt since leaving the boat, and she reciprocated, moving closer and nuzzling her head against Paige's breast, sinking into the embrace and letting it consume her.

    "Do you remember when we used to run around the garden, not really doing anything, back when I didn't have to be responsible for anything? Remind me why we can't back to that?"

    "Pidgey Gee," Paige cooed softly, and the two fell back into silence.

    Alaska could have fallen asleep there, her pain, both emotional and physical, having utterly drained her of all energy. She knew she couldn't, that her life demanded otherwise, but Alaska had no idea where to go from here. Damian didn't trust her, her Pokémon felt the same, and she was lost in a cave with no idea how to get out or how to get back to Sandy before she got killed.

    Why do they trust me again? She thought, internally sighing as she held Paige tighter. I have no idea how to save Sandy, I don't know what to do next. I'm not a hero. Heroes actually want to save the world. Their friends usually actually like them, and they have a grip on reality. And their animals like them. Heroes never have angry monkeys as sidekicks – they have a stead or something grand like that. How am I meant to ride Paige into battle, she can't wear a saddle.

    Alaska smirked, and then giggled, laughing at her own ridiculousness. It wasn't even that funny, but she was so tired and worn out that anything that didn't remind her of her depressing situation was hilarious. She was so delusional she could actually hear the clip-clop of hooves, and let out a joyful but weary sigh.

    "We should head back to the others and make a plan before I fall asleep." Alaska let go of Paige and sat up, expecting the Pidgeot to do the same, but she saw her starter was staring off into the cave with a look of utter confusion. Alaska turned around, perplexed, and her jaw dropped. "Well fuck me."

    A Ponyta was standing there, its head bowed as it quietly drank from the river. It didn't look at them or seem to notice Alaska and Paige, despite barely ten metres existing between them, nor did it give any indication as to where it had come from. It simply seemed to be there.

    For a moment, Alaska wasn't sure if she was hallucinating or not; the flames weren't right, for one thing, the fire dancing along the Ponyta's spine a dazzling blue not unlike the ice it stood on. That had to be a trick of the mind, surely. The Pokémon shouldn't be here either; it was about as out of place as a nudist in a family photo.

    "I've really lost my mind, haven't I?" Alaska looked at Paige, gazing at the bird's own look of bewilderment. "Maybe we both have," she added, turning back to the Ponyta. Was this Latios playing tricks with her mind – it was blue, and that was his thing, after all. Yet her godly conscience had been quiet ever since he had shattered the icicle.

    Is this one of the other gods? Alaska looked at the river, wondering if Suicune was following her again. Or was this Articuno – Seafoam was her former domain, and Leaf was her guardian, could this be their doing? Had they heard about what had happened and had sent this Ponyta as some sort of spirit guide to guide her onto the path of heroism?

    Without really thinking, Alaska stood up. A spasm shot up her leg as she put weight on it, but Alaska ignored it, limping her way towards the Ponyta. She didn't know what she was going to do, but she felt the need to touch it, to see if it was real, if this was the sign she was looking for. Cautiously, awestruck, Alaska edged closer and closer, until her right hand touched a spot above the Ponyta's back left leg.

    There was a split second, as Alaska's brain processed what was happening, where she felt three emotions at once: mesmerised glee that the Ponyta was real and that she was stroking it; a sudden sense of dread that things here were not quite right; and utter terror that the Ponyta was rearing up much too quickly for her to get away. By the time her brain had reached the last emotion, the hooves were already flying towards her.

    "NYYYY!"

    "MOTHERFUCKER!" Alaska's shout danced through the empty cave as she was sent flying, clutching her stomach in agony. Her head eventually smacked into a wall; for a moment, black spots clouded her vision, but she could see enough to make out a blue blur streaking towards her.

    "Fuck me sideways." As her stomach collapsed upon itself in agony, seemingly sucking her whole body inwards, Alaska feebly grabbed hold of a jagged bit of ice sticking out of the ground and hauled herself out of the way.

    The Ponyta skidded to a stop a second before hitting the wall head first. Its eyes turned towards Alaska slinking away and they narrowed. "TAAAAAA!"

    Alaska knew the war cry would not be alone and wasn't surprised when Ponyta reared its head and fired off a Flamethrower. Without hesitation, Alaska pushed off the wall and rolled back towards Paige, groaning as the pressure shook up her stomach and her knee bashed against the ice. She stopped and watched the fire consume part of the ice, leaving a small pool in the floor that shuddered as Ponyta started running again.

    Alaska turned incredulously to Paige, her eyes practically bulging out of their sockets. "DO SOMETHING!" She shrieked, making Paige jump. The Pidgeot looked between her and the Ponyta for a few seconds, seemingly still in shock, but surged forwards as their surprise enemy gathered speed.

    "Pidgeeeey!" Paige twirled her uninjured wing, a lilac ball forming at the end, and after a few seconds, she flung the Air Slash forwards.

    Ponyta saw the attack coming and was ready to respond. It unleashed a second Flamethrower, a bigger, more billowing stream of fire this time, and the two attacks collided.

    The two moves struck and exploded in a wave hot air that washed across the cave. Alaska threw her arms over her face and winced as the hot flash hit her squarely on the back. The heat lasted only a few seconds, and Alaska lowered her arms carefully as the cold rushed back to her. She saw Paige was laying dazed on the ice by her bag, and quickly checked on Ponyta; the Fire-type was down, slumped against the wall.

    Before Alaska could respond in any way, footsteps echoed behind her, and she turned as Damian and Frances ran out from a small tunnel, Darwin bringing up the rear.

    "What's going on? Have you gotten into another fight?" Damian paused and looked at the Ponyta. "What's that doing here?"

    "Beats me, but the bastard tried to set me on fire."

    "Unprovoked?"

    Alaska looked silently at Paige. "Yep, totally unjustified. It's a wild thing."

    "Wow. Mental." Damian stepped towards the Fire-type, watching carefully as it struggled back to its feet, hooves sliding on the ice. The Pokémon reared its head, and Damian gasped. "It is shiny, I thought it was just the ice. Okay, I am definitely catching it now."

    "Excuse me, but –"

    "Not on your life, boy." A third voice like the crack of a whip froze Alaska and Damian where they were. The two stared down the cave and watched in amazement and confusion as a man made their way towards them. Even before Alaska caught sight of his snow-white moustache she knew he was old; his upper chest and shoulders seemed bent forwards, at odds with the rest of his body, and he clutched a dark red cane in his right hand, the wooden tip echoing with each rap as he dragged it along behind him.

    The man seemed agile though, the cane ignored as he used both hands to help the Ponyta back to its feet. "Easy girl, easy. You'll be alright, not your fault this tragic child startled you."

    His words finally snapped Alaska out of her daze. "Who do you think you're calling pathetic, mate?" The man didn't reply, but a deep, throaty chuckle followed a few moments later, and Alaska saw a smirk replicated on the Ponyta's face as she smugly eyed her.

    "I knew I was expecting a girl, but I had assumed you were made of tougher stuff. Didn't think you were going to be such a mewling, whiny brat like all the others." The man laughed louder, the sound sharp and mocking, and Alaska felt a surge of anger.

    "Listen, you wrinkly old prick, I don't know who the fuck you think you are, but if you call me one more name, I am grabbing you by the haemorrhoids and –"

    "Stupid as well, apparently," the man continued, finally turning towards her so Alaska could see his unashamed leer. "You came here looking for a man who specialises in Fire-types, yet can't put two and two together when the answer is staring you right in your silly little face. You better say your prayers, Ponyta, cause it looks like we're all fucked." He spat the last word out, the laughter leaving his face instantly, allowing his tanned, sagging skin to settle into withered rage.

    Alaska didn't say anything, her shame leaving her speechless. She felt stupid, afraid, and could see it reflected back at her from the man's thick, dark glasses. "Blaine?"

    "Who else would I be – and no, sweetheart, that ain't a riddle." He snorted and managed a final, disdainful guffaw as he eyed her down. "Leaf sent you after me, eh? Well, if you want to talk, missy, let's talk."
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2017
  3. chaos_Leader

    chaos_Leader Member

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    This is going to be a doozy, since there's so much ground to cover. In the late-story, particularly what I read immediately prior to this review, the big driving factor feels more like the predestination dilemma that Alaska has, rather than the actual actions of the plot itself. A LOT of story and words are dedicated to the internal struggle of Alaska about how she wants to deal with the whole 'you're the chosen one from prophecy and will save the world' thing. This is a great way to work through the 'hero and prophecy' stock plot, and makes the main character have to make decisions, but I feel like it's bringing some baggage to the table. The baggage I'm referring to is this sense that the arc of the story gets throttled waaaay down to address the prophecy issue, and for Alaska to wrangle with it in her spicy Alaska way. In so doing, I felt like the threat of Gideon (who is the greatest threat if I remember) got a bit downplayed and pushed away.

    I recall earlier points where there was considerably more action on the part of the threatening antagonists, including that side-arc with the plot of the reality show crew. I felt like most of that had resolved when Bolton was confronted and defeated, leaving Gideon's machinations as the main threat. My question being what is the TV show crew still doing pursuing their plot? Haven't they been exposed? Shouldn't that particular thread be tied up?

    Setting has generally taken a backseat to many other aspects, especially with the long discussion segments. Setting and atmosphere has been used to great effect at several points. The Ice Cave as one example does fairly well. Sometimes little details escape though that could add a bit of visceral charm. It's less 'poorly done' and more 'missed opportunity'. Going back to the ice caves for example, it's mostly described as an ever-pervasive sense of coldness, as opposed to showing specific things that happen to people in that environment, and how it would effect them. For instance, something that happens in very cold places is how the little hairs in your nose will freeze, how even when bundled up pretty well, you still feel the warmth seeping out of your eyes, and how taking a deep breath feels uncomfortable as the mass of cold air fills up your lungs.

    Like I said, it's more of these 'missed opportunity' scenarios than something distracting

    Character has some good things, and some questionable things. In the portions I read and revisited for this particular review, I like how most of these characters are written. Jack the Biker has great motivation for his disdain of Alaska, and is a great foil that forces Alaska to confront her own motivations. He's only a one-off character, but works very well for his role. Similarly with Bertram, being a wealthy benefactor that stands in stark contrast to the previous people who filled that role. Partly this is due to his attitude, how he approaches and really diffuses this predestination dilemma Alaska has to deal with. I also enjoyed at the latest part of the story thus far how Chloe is presented as someone now in the position Alaska herself was once in: determined to knock down someone who is held in high regard, to drag them off the pedestal.

    I'd say the greatest challenge for me as a reader is the sheer volume of material a reader has to work with. It's not just the 86 chapters worth of story, though that in itself has a lot of challenges, it can come inside the chapters themselves. I recall several time when I would feel a bit fatigued by the writing, and given a small amount of payoff at the end. In a similar vein, it feels like there is a lot of retreading of old ground, especially with Alaska and the predestination dilemma. The prose itself isn't the issue here, the words themselves and how they read from the page all work pretty well for the most part. It's this sense of 'here we go again' I've felt several times when Alaska is challenged, whether it's a gym battle or the predestination dilemma. Overall I feel there is a sense of going to such great lengths, but not getting very far, if that makes sense.

    There's a lot of good things going for this story, especially at the later portions. The characters are interesting to read, the progression is satisfying to go through, the plot (later on at least) is an intriguing approach to the 'chosen hero' archetype and predestination dilemma. It is certainly not without some significant challenges however, not the least of which is how its age shows, especially when wading through the older chapters to get up to speed, and some of the bogged-down nature of some later portions.
     
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  4. Flaze

    Flaze Don't Look Away

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    Man, I seriously fell off the face of the earth with this story. So much has happened since I last checked in with Alaska’s tale too, it’s kind of amazing really. But anyways, I had to read this for the awards (though I was already planning on reading this anyway) so it’s a great time for me to catch back up, now let’s get this show on the road.

    Chapter 77 and 78:

    I gotta be honest that I had to do a double take when I started with these two chapters. The first one threw me off a bit cause I didn’t remember them meeting Bertram before but I was quickly able to catch back up. Anyways, I found Bertram to be an interesting character. I like what he stands for in regards to fighting your fate or what people set up for you and always making your own choices, even when it seems like there was a path laid out for you. I also have to give you kudos for the scene with the Kalos Pokemon, it was very vividly described. Overall it was a good stopping point and a place to catch up.

    Unfortunately, it also fell under the trap of it being another person telling Alaska what she should do with her life, which had already happened a lot before, sure Bertram’s words got to her harder than anyone else’s…but that doesn’t really excuse the issue. Another issue I had was with Bertram himself, he kind of feels…really cartoonish, like even offensively so, I get that that’s the point and it’s hinted that it’s all an act to hide his real issues, but it’s a bit jarring when put with everything else.

    But anyways, as stated earlier, Alaska’s meeting with Bertram did a lot for her character and this carried over into the next chapter. Her confrontation with Darwin and her team was heartfelt and you managed to get a good hang of the drama behind it, even if it was a bit melodramatic and I do worry for how much Alaska just keeps getting thrown around by different Pokemon. Sandy’s part in this chapter was also interesting since she started fighting with her own feelings for her and Alaska’s journey. However…well, I have a better place to add my next point.

    Chapters 79 and 80:

    And so the rematch against Janine finally arrives! The scene with Alaska and Sandy before the battle was really good, it managed to get the two to come together and really hash out their doubts while also making up for their strain. The scene leading up to the battlefield in the safari was also very well done, as was the showcase of the legends…though it is a bit weird that they’d all conveniently gather like that and decide the fate of the world on one gym battle, but I guess it makes sense since everyone is pitting their fate on Alaska.

    The subsequent battle was one of your best ones, with a lot of moments and scenes standing out and Alaska pulling out all the stops, it was a real struggle and I actually did tense up sometimes. However, like many of your battles, it also suffers from feeling a bit too dragged out in places and the description can sometimes be confusing and hard to imagine.

    The moments between Sandy and Alaska were really cute and the final bout with Darwin was a perfect way to cap off the battle, it is kind of sad that Alaska won with Frustration but she made good use of the strain in her and Darwin’s bond. It was also nice to see Leaf, Janine and Alaska kind of come to accept one another and for Alaska to finally accept her role…sort of.

    Blog and Interlude:

    I won’t comment too much on the blog since the review is going to be long and the Blogs are essentially just a way for Alaska to recap the events of the arc. The interlude however was really interesting, the party with all the famous trainers in particular. It’s still a bit messed up how everyone and their mom has mental trauma and some prophecy in this world though, not just that, but I still think you suffer from having a lot of characters that either feel like they’re the same as others or are cartoonish in some way (like Alder).

    But what I like about the interludes is how they expand on the world and events that happened before 8ES, particularly when they focus on Cynthia and Kris, two characters whose stories have already been written out (even if you want to rewrite Kris vs Gold). I liked Leaf, but I do want to see how Alaska and Crystal interacting would be.

    Chapter 81, 82, 83 and 84:

    This next arc starts off pretty strong by giving us some more insight into Latios and Alaska’s bond. Latios is linked to Alaska (just like how Latias is linked to Kris if I remember correctly) but we hadn’t gotten much of a chance to really see them bond together. The way you showed it here, interlining Latios’ memories with Alaska’s added depth to the legendary and made for an interesting way of adding some extra exposition. However, it still does kind of feel like a little too much talking about fate and the past, but I’ll forgive it since it helped develop them more.

    It’s nice to see that Alaska can at least try and get along with Janine and Leaf. Her conversation with her mom was really sad, but also acted as a way to show us just how much has changed in Alaska because of what she’s seen. She tries to stay up to date with her mom to not be like her other siblings, but she also can’t afford to tell her everything and this creates a rift between them. Alaska’s conversation with her mom seeps into the other interactions during the training.

    Actually, I really liked chapter 82 because, while it was mostly just characters training, it was nice to have them just interacting and not fighting or blowing stuff up. Leaf and Alaska also had an interesting rapport and in general you did a good job of conveying that Alaska’s finally making strides towards changing, for realsies this time.

    Now, to address one big elephant in my review, Sandy. I have an issue with the way Sandy’s come off in this arc. Her doubts and insecurity in chapter 83 and how they affect her fracturing relationship with Alaska in 84 is great and helps her stand out as her own character. She also raises some good points, if Alaska’s the chosen one then…what is she?

    I particularly like how she pointed out not what that means for her life but for her parents. If Alaska is the chosen one and everyone she meets is meant to help her get to her final battle…what does that mean for everyone that’s tied to the people she meet?

    It’s a good question and it’s explored really well with Bertram (on that note, I really liked his bond with Sandy and the Goomy). Unfortunately, I do have an issue with how Sandy’s character regresses here.

    The point of chapter 78, 79 and 80 was for Sandy and Alaska to look over their issues and, somehow, come to understand each other and work together, Sandy even realizes that she’s important to Alaska because she’s the only person whose opinion Alaska really cares about. So it’s strange when Sandy immediately goes back to questioning her place and her friendship with Alaska right after the battle where they both accepted what they had to do.

    I don’t know, it just makes it seem like it was done as a way to mine more drama and beat on Alaska’s issues again, plus it makes Sandy’s character come off as meaner than she is.

    I think a way to fix this would be to either go back to the last arc and point out a bit better that Sandy isn’t quite as together as it seems, or add a scene in chapter 82/83 where Sandy thinks back to her choice and then realizes “Hmmmm, should I really be happy with my choice?” or something like that, just something to build to it more.

    Chapter 85, 86 and 87:


    Now we’re on the last stride! (finally)

    We finally get the return of the Reality Stars while starting the search for Blaine. Right off the bat I liked how you went into detail for Seafoam Island, I know you were worried about how portraying the cave was going to go but I think you made it come off as really beautiful. Of course, since this is 8ES, things can’t stay peaceful all the time.

    It certainly has been a while since Amanda, Chloe, Damien and Lachlan have appeared…hell it…actually feels a little weird. It kind of felt like a step back in a way, but it also acted as a way to show us how much has changed. Alaska no longer has time for petty squabbles with Chloe and the other crew and she and Damien don’t quite get along like they used to. It also helped in humanizing Damien a bit more by showing how he’s basically been collateral because of Alaska’s rivalry with Chloe.

    I do think that at this point Chloe and Amanda are more cartoon villains that even Bolton. Amanda coming in with a fucking gun and just shooting up the place and Chloe not even caring about murder…shit definitely hit the fan, but considering we’re nearing the end it makes sense to conclude this plotline in the most exaggerated way here.

    The battle between the reality stars and Alaska was…chaotic to say the least, the original start was really well done but once all of the Pokemon jumped in it became weird. This got even weirder when that weird…mutant Pokemon I think? Came in and really made it hard to imagine how everything was going down.

    Of course, this led into Paige finally evolving into Pidgeot, which was an awesome evolution scene in general, I particularly liked how it was only awesome for a second as the idea that her fate was getting closer and closer got to Alaska. Then well…there was more fighting, with a lot more musing from Alaska in regards to her fate and what she should or shouldn’t do. It became a bit of a slog considering there was a lot to keep up with, but I think you did a good job of focusing on her insecurities.

    Finally. The latest chapter was honestly the best one yet. You had Alaska’s annoyance with everything going on in the island come to a clash with Damien and it highlighted the difference in their priorities. Damien is focusing on how Alaska’s presence has stilted his own dreams, while Alaska has to deal with having to save the region. Showing that even Paige’s patience has run out with all the situations they get in also helps. It’s true that Paige works as Alaska’s emotional anchor, but even the Pokemon have to get tired sometime. Plus, let’s not forget that Alaska did decide to just leave everyone else in order to run away.

    I’m still wondering on how Alaska hasn’t just up and died with all the Pokemon attacks she takes head on, she very much belong to the Professor Kukui school of Pokemon training. It was also really weird how she thought the Ponyta was some godly sign instead of realizing it was exactly what she was looking for.

    Lastly, there’s Blaine. His entrance was certainly interesting, though you’d think he would slip up a lot with that cane. He does give off that snarky, rude old man vibe which…I guess fits someone that has been living in an island, he also seems to resemble his anime counterpart more in personality. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see how Blaine and Alaska interact, but I’m worried on what’s going on with Sandy and the other Pokemon.

    Style-wise, as stated before, your description can still feel a bit odd or overly described in places, it’s gotten a lot better in later chapters and it’s not there at all in the latest one. You’ve also gotten better at getting into your character’s heads and describing their feelings in the prose, something that I really like. The pacing’s also improved somewhat but I’d say that it’s actually gotten slower with this later arc. This is supposed to be the Seafoam Island arc but three of the chapters are spent just setting up for Seafoam and it seems like the arc itself is just getting started.

    Grammar-wise…you still have the odd typo or mistake here and there; there were a lot of particular typos or weird words in the latest chapter to boot:



    “No simply cold and solid like prison bars”? I think that’s supposed to be “was now a simple cold and solid-like prison bars” that lack of w really messes things up.



    Was it necessary for the prose to state exactly what Alaska was going to say later? I can see why you did it, but it’s probably better if you stick to one of them instead of both, especially when they both say the exact same thing.



    I think you meant fetal here.



    This one isn’t exactly wrong, it just sounds kind of weird with want and wants coming right next to each other.



    Another awkward line, though this time I can’t exactly tell what you meant.



    “Why we can’t go back to that”



    This one isn’t wrong, I just find it funny when I remember it’s a thirteen year old saying it.


    Lastly, I’ll say that I like the way Alaska’s come in the last arc and so. For most of the story she felt like a stilted and stagnant character, but since the Janine battle she’s really mellowed out and it’s easier to relate to her. She’s still falling a lot in her old habit, but now she at least tries to be nicer and control herself more. If anything it feels like now she’ll have to worry about showing all of this to the others.

    And well. I think this is all I had to say, it was certainly a lot (I definitely don’t want to fall this behind again) but I think the story is better than it’s been at any point before and things are only getting better. Just remember to keep working on it and well…maybe up the pace a bit because I want to see that final fight already :p
     
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  5. AceTrainer14

    AceTrainer14 The acest of trainers

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    Thanks both for reviewing! Hope it wasn't too much of a struggle to read so much in a few weeks XD

    To start off with, I will address the issue that cL talks about and Flaze hints at around the talking issues. I accept it is a problem and I could have planned things better. There were a lot of talking chapters and I think I could have handled it all much better. If I do rewrite these later arcs at all, I think I will try and consolidate the talking or move things around more so that there are not multiple chapters set around discussing things. It has been boring to write at times, though it is not without purpose. Alaska needed to confront this side of herself, and she needed to face the consequences of her decisions and set a course for the future. I definitely think things would have been better if the Leaf and Janine talk had not descended into an anti-Alaska match, and I think I would change the whole Sabrina lesson subplot if I had the opportunity. Basically, I acknowledge that and will try to change things when possible.

    Onwards to individual reviews:

    Buzz was exposed but he still has a huge army on his side. As was discussed during the Fuchsia Arc, as they do not know their plans, the 'elites' do not want to attack Silph Co. as they do not know how expansive his robot army is. At the same time, Amanda has gone rogue and is enacting her own plan rather than let Buzz's mistakes drag her down.

    I can't comment much on your review, largely as I summed things up above. With regards to the length, I can't change that now really. It is really a story that had to be read when it was first posted, it seems XD I appreciate your comments though and hope you keep on reading!

    I am a tad disappointed by this comment as it was my favourite conversation to write. I would not call Bertram 'cartoonish', he is purposefully exaggerated. A lot of people can be extravagant like that and put on a showy personality, and a lot of people do that to mask their true feelings. I also wanted to have someone who is more similar to Alaska than some of the other people she has been confronted by, to help drive things home. He had some sassy lines and he's a prostitute, but I think cartoonish is a bit far.

    With regards to it being "another person", I think this conversation is more important than that, but I'd have to point you up above for more takes.

    Alaska is a melodramatic person, what can I say? I did add something in to the next chapter to address the durability of humanity.

    Leaf, Red and Janine (by way of dead Blue) "own" the six of them, so they can summon them if they want.

    Could you be more specific please?

    I just wanted to note that, while that was the original use of them, I have been trying to make the blogs more insights into Alaska's personality and her way of thinking rather than straight up recaps.

    Do my characters fall into only those two categories? XD Alder is on show, he is a star attraction, someone like that (particularly a middle aged straight man) is naturally going to demand attention. And yes, Cynthia is depressed, but more than one person can be sad at any given time XD This was more of a character exercise than anything else, so I accept if it felt a bit disjointed.

    I accept this is an issue and I will edit that chapter, and possibly the earlier one, to highlight Sandy's doubts and her personality has gone on.

    Amanda is a former member of a crime syndacite. She is by nature a bit cartoon-y, but I do not think she is acting as such in this arc. She is here to kill Alaska, she has finally thrown off the shackles of Buzz and acting on her own accord. She has not done anything remotely like this yet in the story, so it is not as though there is a precedent.

    She was tired, sad and confused, and has been surrounded by gods a lot, so it sort of works XD

    Four arcs to go, sorry love ;P

    Thanks for the review, will edit those typos. Hope you enjoy the rest of the story - there is more action next arc, so that should work for you :p
     
  6. Threadmarks: Chapter 88: Walk to the Fire
    AceTrainer14

    AceTrainer14 The acest of trainers

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    Chapter Eighty Eight: Walk to the Fire

    Cold. No matter how pre-occupied Alaska's mind was, nothing could distract her from the icy bite of Seafoam. Every exposed inch of skin felt numb, a cold that seeped into her bones, threatening to freeze them if she stayed still too long. Every time she breathed in, a cold burn filled her nose and crawled down her throat. It left Alaska with the incessant desire to cough, but she knew she couldn't show weakness, not in her present company.

    Another gym leader, another instant clash. There was a common denominator here, but Alaska wasn't thinking about that now. Instead, she simply stayed silent and masked her pain; she winced with every step, her stomach panged when she turned too quickly, her need to cough was violent and urgent, but Alaska didn't want to give Blaine any more reason to dislike her.

    Instead, as their strange procession made its way through the frozen lower tunnels of Seafoam, Alaska simply watched the gym leader. She wanted to know who exactly she was dealing with. The Blaine she had known from watching old TV shows had seemed witty and clever, a smart thinking, straight talking kind of guy that men like her father had idolised.

    None of that had come across in their brief conversation. If anything, Blaine seemed like an average old man: he looked like one, he laughed like one, he had the cantankerous attitude of one. For a minute, Alaska had wondered why Leaf possibly needed this man's help.

    But after about twenty minutes of silently walking behind him, Alaska spotted what had been staring at her all along: the cane. It seemed to be an accessory rather than a tool, Blaine practically gliding along the ice without any hint of a limp, forcing even Ponyta to trot to keep up. She realised Blaine seem like an old man because he wanted you to think he was. Underestimate someone for even a second, that's all they need to get on top of you. Alaska knew Blaine had already one-upped her with his insults and sarcasm. She admired his cunning, but now the onus was on her to play the next card.

    Unfortunately, the jolting pain up her leg couldn't be ignored any longer. "Can you slow down?" Alaska yelled, irritated by how weak her echo sounded.

    "Slow down?" Blaine barked back without looking around. "Can't slow down, not when the fate of the world's on the line!" And he cackled again, his laugh imitated by the Ponyta that trotted in his wake. The Fire-type tossed her mane back and shot Alaska a smug smile, making sure their eyes had met before laughing right at her.

    Oh, now that's just taking things too far. Alaska was looking forward to when they stopped so she could give Blaine and his bitchy horse a piece of her mind. She was struggling to hold her tongue until then, but Alaska had not come all this way, risked her life and possibly cost Sandy her own, just to ruin things with one misplaced comment.

    However, now that the silence had been broken, there were some questions that couldn't wait. "How did you know Leaf sent me to find you?"

    In the distance, Alaska saw Blaine's shoulders jolt upwards in a shrug. "Call it an old man's intuition. No one comes here unless they have to. Besides, I read your blogs," he added, finally glancing back and flashing a smirk. "Not that hard to put two and two together."

    "So wait, if you knew I was coming, have you been waiting for me?" Alaska forced herself forwards, covering the distance between them in a few painful strides. "Where were you when I was fighting for my life last night?"

    Alaska stopped only when she felt something hard press into her chest. She looked down and saw the cane was rammed against her sternum, stopping her in her tracks. She hadn't even noticed it move, and again made note of the old man's speed. His body may be withered and wrinkled, but Blaine clearly knew how to hold his own.

    "Listen, girlie, just cause I was expecting you doesn't mean I want you here. You've got some case to make, I am willing to hear you out, but if I don't like what you have to say, you are just going to have to carry on your way. I'm perfectly happy carrying on as I was. Only one person in this tunnel has a prophecy on their name, and it sure as shit ain't me."

    Alaska could feel Blaine glaring at her from the other side of his sunglasses, and for the first time in weeks, she found herself tensing up around a potential ally. Blaine had a seriousness she hadn't prepared for, and she was afraid for how the rest of this interaction would unfold. She had been sent here for a reason, and if she couldn't deliver, Alaska had no idea what would happen next with Leaf and Janine.

    After a tense minute, Blaine let his cane drop. Alaska didn't realise she had been holding her breath and almost wheezed as she exhaled. The gym leader cracked a grin, baring mustard yellow teeth, and he turned around, Ponyta following in his step.

    Alaska leaned against the ice, watching the two go as she regained her composure. She could feel the cold already settling in under her clothes, but she needed to focus. All this would have been for nothing if she couldn't win him over. Her injury, the fighting, Sandy… Where are you?

    "So, you never told me this was why you were here."

    Alaska looked around. She had almost forgotten about Damian. The sight of his furrowed brow and tight frown made her smile, and Alaska pushed herself off the ice and carried on; he may not be her least favourite of the reality stars, but that didn't mean she couldn't take pleasure in watching him squirm. "Does it matter?"

    "Of course it matters!" Damian hissed, hurrying to keep up. "You nearly got me killed last night, I have to right know why!"

    "I nearly got you killed?" Alaska asked, snapping around and meeting his narrowed eyes. "Funny, I wasn't aware I was the one with a gun."

    "Amanda only shot at us because she was trying to kill you!"

    "If she was only trying to kill me, she wouldn't have blown her entire operation in order to do that. The fact she tried to kill all of us means that she and Buzz have a new plan… unless she has gone rogue." The thought disturbed Alaska, but she couldn't dwell on it now. "Look, we were keeping the Blaine thing on the down low. I didn't want Amanda finding out what we were up to." She turned, hoping that would placate him.

    It didn't. "You could have told me this morning."

    Alaska glanced back and rolled her eyes at his angry pout. "I didn't have the time in between you blaming me for everything."

    "I didn't – "

    "Will you two shut up?" Blaine growled. "There's no point bloody whispering when you're in a cave – ever heard of a thing called an echo, dipshits!"

    Damian's face turned bright red, but Alaska merely smiled and hurried to catch up. Her face fell when she turned the corner and saw they had reached a dead end. Three walls enclosed Blaine and Ponyta, the icy glow even brighter as it reflected the Fire type's shining flames.

    Blaine frowned as Damian joined the trio as if he had only just noticed the boy was there. "I thought Sandy was a girl," he grunted.

    "She is. That's Damian," Alaska said, trying not to laugh.

    "Should I know or care about him?"

    Alaska glanced back, not even bothering to hide her smirk. "Not really."

    "Good. I'm too old to remember any more bloody names." Blaine looked knowingly at Ponyta, who whinnied in some sort of agreement, and the gym leader chuckled.

    Alaska wished he would stop laughing. She wanted to know why they were here, what tricks the old man had up his sleeves. Her only relief came from the change in temperature: when Alaska exhaled, only a thin vapour of frozen breath rose into the air.

    What's up with that? She thought; the cave had been the same temperature the whole journey. It can't possibly be warmer here… unless…

    As Alaska realised where they were, Blaine lifted his cane and slid it into a crack in the ice, turning the handle with a stifled grunt. The thuds and clinks of locks turning echoed through the tunnel. Alaska heard Damian gasp as a smooth line appeared in the ice, forming a curved doorway. Then, so silently it was as if it wasn't happening, the magic door swung backwards and revealed a smooth stone tunnel.

    Blaine turned around and smiled at their stunned faces, like a magician presenting his latest trick to the audience. "Welcome to the new Cinnabar Gym."

    It was like stepping into a warm bath. When Alaska breathed in, she could smell the heat that somehow permeated from every surface. A shiver went through her body at the shock of the temperature change, but Alaska savoured the quiver as it spread to her fingers and toes: the cold was gone, and that was enough to make her trust Blaine for now.

    A narrow tunnel the same width as the ice path outside stretched ten metres from the door before opening onto a wide and open cave. Alaska's eyes were still seeing blue, and it took her a while to adjust to the gym's more sombre light. The cave was lit by torches scattered around the walls, casting flickering shadows across the stone that gave the gym the feeling of a gothic crypt. A large fire pit stood in the very centre of the room, a huge cauldron that burned brightly and demanded attention.

    "How is this possible?" Damian mumbled behind her.

    Blaine laughed as he walked past the pit, throwing himself onto a leather couch that was built into a stalagmite. "It was ice, once. Until I got here," he added, grinning madly. "Didn't take very long to melt it all away. Had a few Ground types left over from the gym I used to pack up the cracks so that no more water can get in. It does get damp in here sometimes, but there's no cold my fire can't fend off."

    Alaska cast her eyes around the cave. On second glance, she realised how sparse and empty it was. There were a few items built into the walls and rock formations, including a desk and fridge, and if Alaska listened closely she could hear the gentle hum of a generator ticking away, the sound barely audible above the crackling fires. She saw no sign of any passageways leading beyond this cave: no bedroom, no gym, not even a bathroom, just a large, empty cave.

    "Have you been living here for the past five years?"

    "You sounded doubtful, girlie," Blaine grunted, his smile thinning.

    Alaska turned to him and shrugged. "Maybe it's because I am. This can't be your life. There has to be more to this place."

    "Why? What makes you think I can't live like this?" Blaine tossed his head towards Ponyta, who shook hers in disdain. "When you get to my age and you've been through all I have, you realise you don't need all the trappings that come with a regular life. I may be damaging the local ecosystem by using this cave, but I have all that I never had on Cinnabar: peace, quiet, time."

    "You must get lonely though," Damian asked, voice awkward as though uncomfortable at contradicting the gym leader. "I mean, it's so far away from everything else. Don't you want company? Human company, I mean," he added, eyes flickering towards Ponyta.

    Blaine laughed again, the sound reverberating off the jagged walls. "Why would I need humans when I have her?" He boomed, thrusting a withered finger behind his head.

    Alaska thought she had seen everything the cave had to offer, but when she stepped around the pit, she realised there was someone else amongst them; a figure sat in the light of two torches, cast in shadow.

    Alaska cautiously and curiously approached them. Blaine had implied it was a Pokémon, but the figure looked human to her; they were hunched over, drawing shapes in the dirt with her fingers, while what seemed to be a large, spindly walking stick sat at her crossed legs. Why does he have a weird old woman living in his gym?

    A smirk sounded in the shadows. "Who exactly are you calling old?" The figure said with a voice like liquid silk, and she leaned forwards into the light.

    Her ears appeared first: there were huge and yellow like the end of paddles, with large tufts of red fur rising out. A wide face that shone yellow in the light slowly followed, jaw thin and elongated beneath maroon eyes that suggested age and wisdom, narrowing as they examined Alaska.

    Yep, that's a Pokémon. Alaska racked her brains, trying to recognise the creature, the combination of Fire and Psychic ringing distant bells in her memory. "I feel like you're from Kalos, right?"

    "How observant of you," the Pokémon purred. It was meant to be sarcastic, but her voice was so soft and gentle that it simply made Alaska smile. "I am a Delphox, yes, though you can call me Hestia. I was not born in Kalos though, so I do not consider myself Kalosi. I am as Kantonese as you are."

    "Oh, right, sorry. And sorry for thinking you were human, you just looked… very… human." Alaska wasn't sure why this Delphox had her on edge, but there was something mystical and knowing about her that had the trainer completely absorbed.

    "It is alright, Alaska. We Psychic types have a tendency to take on the characteristics of your species, given how much time we spend in your company. It is merely a shame that, over the centuries, your species has taken on so many of our attributes in return."

    She seems fun. "I guess Blaine told you about me, then."

    Hestia let out a laugh, one that was long and strained like that of an old woman. "My dear, I was the one who told him about you."

    "Oh really? And how'd you manage that then?"

    "Why, we've already met," the Delphox said, smiling knowingly. "Are you saying you don't remember?"

    Alaska's eyes narrowed, the familiar feeling that she was walking into a trap befalling her. "No, I don't."

    "Ah, but of course," Hestia said, shaking her head. "I looked very different back in that tent, didn't I?"

    Her eyes flashed pink and her figure became shimmering and distorted as if suddenly enclosed in a waterfall. Her body tense, Alaska stepped backwards and watched as the red, yellow and white of Hestia's fur was replaced with smooth purple robes. Alaska felt her breath freeze in her throat. She put a hand against the cave wall to steady herself, but the shock still hit her in a wave.

    "Is that better?" The Delphox said, though she was no longer looked like a Pokémon. She was human, copper skinned with an unlined face paired with wise, mature eyes. Yet Alaska cared not for her physical appearance. She slowly cast her eyes down and saw what she had feared: a deck of purple cards lying beside the stick, five of them turned upwards. Alaska knew what they'd be without looking, yet she stared at them anyway, her heart beating against her chest as fear washed over her. A sword. A pair of scales. An Apricorn ball. A red rose. A cracked gravestone.

    "You." Alaska looked up at Hestia, and suddenly she was back in the tent, back in Lavender Town, back in the day where she had nearly lost Sandy forever. Words echoed inside her head: And she shall be a Pidgeot by the time you ride her into your final battle… You are letting one thing outweigh the other… Love and passion, this is what is on the horizon for you… The dead will rise before your battle is over, and there is little you can do about it... Make your decision: will you end this war on the battle field or by simply refusing to take part?

    "I see you ignored my advice," Hestia said, her dark lips smiling.

    Her words brought Alaska back to the present, and without hesitation, she exploded.

    "Who are you, you bitch?" Alaska screamed as she lunged forwards. Yet her hands had barely entered the Delphox's atmosphere before an invisible force sent her flying backwards. She cried out as her legs slammed into a jagged boulder, her skin grazed, and Alaska toppled backwards onto another couch hidden amongst the stone.

    "That wasn't very heroic of you." The copper skinned woman disappeared as Hestia raised herself to her full height: in the orange glow of the fire, the blood red fur that covered her lower body seemed to burn with anger. With a gentle wave of her hand, the stick that sat at her feet rose into her hands and burst into flame. It was only a small ball of fire, wispy and sparking, but there was a purple tinge to it that Alaska eyed nervously as the Delphox towered over her.

    "I told you to play nice!" Blaine snapped in his croaky voice.

    "She sarcastically thought I wasn't fun. I thought I'd show her otherwise." Hestia laughed as she walked over to Alaska. "You should be glad your species adapted to survive mine. A thousand years ago and a fall like that would have killed you."

    She held out her stick, and belligerently, Alaska grabbed it, and let herself be hauled up. "Why do you have a huge stick anyway?" She asked, trying to control her emotions.

    "Compensation," Hestia replied, smiling. "That was a joke. I thought it would be to your taste."

    "It'd be funnier if you were a man. Do Pokémon even have dicks?"

    "Of course. You clearly aren't as imaginative as I expected," the Delphox said, rolling her eyes. She left her behind and walked towards Blaine, moving carefully over the warm stone. It was perhaps not surprising an old man would have an old Pokémon, but like her trainer, Hestia had a peculiar energy to her that made her seem younger and stronger than her body would attest.

    Despite their age, Alaska knew she was outnumbered in whatever was about to happen. Blaine, Hestia, even Ponyta, who stood obediently by her trainer like a vainglorious guard; they were strong, smart, and she was in their territory.

    Breathing deeply, thinking carefully, Alaska considered her options. That little revelation had been a test, one that Alaska had failed. They wanted to see which Alaska they are dealing with, and I walked right into it.

    She was riled up, just as they wanted, and Alaska didn't want to let them get away with it. But she had to play this calmly, cleverly, differently. She may be here to talk, but Blaine clearly wanted to see if all the stories of her were true. If she wanted to make this all worthwhile, and if she wanted to save Sandy, she had to prove him wrong.

    "So that was you back in the tent, eh?" Alaska asked, trying to sound and look calm and controlled. She prowled around the pit and stood next to Damian, his handsome face dumbstruck in his confusion. The fire pit now stood between her and Blaine, giving her enough distance should things turn nasty. "Why? Why did you hunt me down that day?"

    "It had to be Lavender Town," Hestia answered. "It has a magic in the air, one that has lingered even without the Pokémon Tower. I needed to channel that in order to enhance my abilities and see your future."

    "What? She read your future?" Damian interjected incredulously. "That's impossible. Only legendaries can do that, the most powerful Psychic types in the world!"

    "Do you doubt my power, Damian Darme of Pallet Town?" Hestia purred. She smirked as Damian's face sank, and she exchanged a look with Blaine. "It was not fortune telling or predictions or any of those very human ideas," she continued with momentary disgust. "Any Psychic Pokémon with enough skill can read a human's thoughts, but the potential of such powers goes well beyond that. Your thoughts are not just the voices in your head that you can hear; there are dozens, maybe hundreds that you are ignoring at any one moment. I can access the voices that you haven't even noticed are speaking to you yet. I can notice things about you that you can't see for yourself."

    Alaska struggled not to roll her eyes; it all sounded like the sort of new age bullshit her mother was always complaining about. Thankfully, she had spotted one flaw with what Hestia had said. "One of the things you told me was that Paige would be a Pidgeot when I rode into my final battle. That's an actual prophecy though, that wasn't in my head."

    "Ah, so they have shown you your fate, interesting." Blaine smirked again, shaking his head. "With Red and Leaf, they waited so long to tell them anything, I thought they'd do the same with you."

    "They did," Alaska replied, failing to mask the bitterness in her voice.

    "Fair call," Blaine laughed. "I have seen some of Charlotte's prophecies. The one you brought is amongst the most well-known. There are creatures carved into the background, details so small that simpler people simply ignore them, but those of us with knowledge have always known that it showed something bigger and more complex that had nothing to do with your predecessors in these cursed wars. When the Alaska Code went off after finally, I knew that it was time for that prophecy to happen."

    "You get those messages down here?" Alaska asked, trying to spot the computer.

    "Of course! I may live in a cave, but I am not a caveman," Blaine snorted, his cackle echoing through the cave again. "I am still a gym leader, even if no one can find me."

    "Doesn't getting those messages give away your position?" Damian asked.

    "You forget what a big island we are on," Blaine shot back, his grin suddenly dark in the glow of the fire. "It's very easy to get lost down here, even easier if you give them a little push in the wrong direction," he added, tilting his head towards Hestia.

    Alaska pushed aside thoughts of how easy it would be for Blaine to lead her to her death and soldiered on. "So you got the message that said they'd found a girl called Alaska, let me guess the rest: Latios disappears, Gideon re-appears, giant robots start attacking the region?"

    "You're warm – literally!" Blaine barked, though he didn't laugh this time. "It began to seem more and more likely that you were the one we were expecting. However, when this all happened five years ago, I made the mistake of trusting in the plan that everyone had agreed on. I couldn't do that again, not after what it nearly cost us last time. I had to know if you were the person we needed to fight this battle, and whether or not it was worth me coming out of the shadows for."

    "I went to Lavender and waited for you to arrive." Hestia stepped forwards, her face heavy and solemn. "I am sorry I did not do more to help you that day. If Charlotte had not been there, I don't know how I could have slept that night."

    "That's easy for you to say. You didn't have to watch your best friend bleed out in the middle of the road." Alaska could feel her heart rate increase again and she paused, taking a deep breath before carrying on. "What did you see then when you looked into my head?"

    "You already know what I saw. Conflict, doubt, fear. This is what I told you when I placed the cards in front of you. Your mind was clouded then, and I am not sure if it is any clearer now."

    Alaska bristled at the remark, but she was uncertain whether it was meant as insult or warning. "You told me I needed to find balance in my life. I tried to do that, I chose to focus on my training and defeat the gyms before going onto the battle."

    "And then you changed your mind," Blaine said.

    "It was changed for me," Alaska replied. "Sabrina tested me to see if I was capable of playing to someone else's rules. That didn't really work. And then I realised the cost of my actions and I knew I had to do things differently. But then Leaf and Janine – well, Bertram more than them – they made me believe in what I'm doing, why I'm here. My mind isn't clouded."

    Hestia smiled. "The saddest part of that sentence is you know you're lying."

    "I'm not lying," Alaska snapped, suddenly unsure if it was a lie or not.

    "You said your mind was changed for you. It doesn't exactly sound like you are willingly here," Blaine pointed out, eyebrows raised.

    "I didn't mean it like that. I just meant I was convinced that I was doing things wrong."

    "And you think that helped you find balance?" Hestia asked.

    "Yes, I think so. I don't know!" Alaska flung her arms in the air and instantly regretted it. She was losing control. "Look, I've struggled this whole time because I felt I was being torn between two different paths. I've created my own one, right down the middle, and I think that is as balanced as you can get. It took a lot of pushing to get there, but if I didn't want to be here, I would have sailed the boat off into the sunset. I am happy to be there."

    "Are you?" Hestia asked again.

    It took all of Alaska's willpower not to scream. "Yes, I am."

    The Delphox smiled and stepped forwards. She shut her eyes and raised her stick above the pit: the flames at the end blossomed, and Alaska felt Damian tense, as though Hestia was about to fire a magic spell at them. Nothing came out of the stick though, and while the Delphox began to whisper, but her incantation was not aimed at them.

    Alaska leapt backwards as flames shot out of the cauldron. Damian flung an arm out in feeble protection, but Alaska realised a moment too late there was no need. The fire quickly receded, now with a pinkish tinge, and rose up towards the stick. The flames began to change and take shapes, and Alaska was dismayed as she saw what they created.

    A Pokémon, a Flying type, was the first creation to rise from the fire. Its wings were outstretched and a figure sat on its back. Hestia waved her stick, and the flame-bird rose up and circled the stalactites above. There was a brief flash, and suddenly the Pokémon doubled in size. The figure looked shrunken by comparison, but it didn't stay on its flame friend for long. With clenched fists to match her gnashing teeth, Alaska watched her flaming miniature as she tumbled off of a wing and sank towards the pit, dissipating into smoke before reaching the flames.

    Silence followed, interrupted only by the crackling fire and the distant click of the generator. Alaska could feel Damian's eyes on her, but she ignored him and stared straight across at her latest judges.

    "So I let the prophecy get to me. It was a tense moment, I couldn't help it. You weren't there, you don't understand."

    Blaine laughed again, but it was short and curt, an anger behind the blunted sound. "You think you've the only person who's ever been in a fight? Why don't you track down Celebi or Dialga, pop on back to 1996, then you can talk about fighting."

    "You jumped because you were scared. Understandable, I know, fate is a frightening thing. But you were scared for a reason." Hestia broke away from Blaine and began to walk timidly around the pit. "Your mind is still clouded because you are afraid of the duty you have accepted. You do not want to fight Gideon and Buzz. You do not want to because you do want that responsibility. You do not want the weight of failure on your shoulders. You do not want to die."

    "Is any of that unreasonable?" Alaska fired back.

    Hestia shook her head. "Of course not, but it is concerning. Blaine sent me to Lavender Town because we both wanted to know who you are and what to expect from you. I am pleased to see you have grown and accepted your duties, but we cannot fight behind or beside anyone who does not want to fight themselves."

    Alaska suddenly noticed how warm the cave was. She was sweating, her forehead and back moist. She was tempted to take her jacket off but decided otherwise; she couldn't look any weaker than she already did.

    "I do not know what to say. Do I feel like a hero? No, not in the slightest. Heroes usually choose to save the day; they don't usually have everyone blaming them for everything." She purposefully glanced at Damian on the last note. "When Paige evolved, in that moment I realised what the situation was, that it was a real fight where people might die, and I wasn't prepared for that responsibility. The guilt of it has been weighing on me all day. My best friend is missing, and I haven't even begun to process what will happen if she is dead. I don't want to be like that, I want to be better. If you do help us fight Buzz and Gideon, and Amanda as well, I guess, I will take whatever advice you have and become the person I need to be to beat them. I can't fail, not after everything I have been through."

    Alaska paused there, not wanting to lay it on too thickly. She looked at Hestia, hoping to find an endorsement, but the Delphox simply smiled sadly back at her. Confused, Alaska turned her attention to Blaine, but he wasn't looking at her, his eyes resting on the flickering fire.

    "Nice speech. Means nothing though," he growled eventually. "If you are so willing to learn, why do you still get annoyed at people blaming you?"

    Before Alaska could say anything, Damian spoke up, leaping at the opportunity. "You hate people pointing out that what you're doing might be wrong. If you had listened weeks ago, none of this would have happened. Amanda could've remained ignorant, they wouldn't have been focussed on trying to destroy you. They'd have no idea who you were. You could have –"

    "Alright, I'm done!" The three words boomed inside the cave, so loud that Ponyta whinnied and glared angrily back at Alaska. She didn't care though. She was done trying to play nice. Ignoring Blaine and Hestia, she turned towards Damian, savouring as his eyes bulged at the accusatory finger she had rammed under his nose. "You don't get to tell me what I could have or should have done. You knew what Amanda was up to, you at least suspected, and you did nothing. You are as complicit in all of this as I am or any of the people sitting by waiting for the perfect plan to save the world. You don't know what I've been through; you wouldn't know an iota of the crap your bosses have put me through. I'm sorry that you had a tough life living under Red's shadow, but try living in the city he was allowed to destroy, cause his statue casts a pretty big shadow over everything that has gone on in these past few months."

    "Oh goodie, I was looking forward to this part," Blaine cackled, clapping his hands together. "I didn't think you'd be so stupid as to play the 'my city got destroyed card' in front of the man whose home couldn't be rebuilt."

    "Oh yes, I'm so sorry your island paradise got volcanoed, but boo-hoo!" Alaska snapped. "Look at this cave, it's luxury compared to my family home. My living room is damper than this place, and it doesn't have to share a wall with a frozen paradise!"

    Blaine began to laugh again, but it took Alaska a moment to realise something had changed. His laugh was deep, angry, manic. It wasn't a sound that came from a natural place; this was something shaped by man, a laugh withered away by time and actions to become something cold and powerful.

    "Look around… look around, she says!" Blaine boomed, throwing his hands up as he gestured at the walls. "Did you hear her? Look around, god that's rich. Oh Alaska, I truly wish I could, if only to see the look on your face as I did this."

    With his smile wide and leering, Blaine removed his sunglasses, and Alaska had to stop herself from gasping. In the flickering firelight, the glass balls that sat where his eyes should be shone a hellish red; combined with his smile, Blaine resembled the star of some low budget horror movie, his furious, maniacal appearance the stuff kids used to have nightmares about.

    "You think you know pain? Try having your eyes pulled out of your skull by a monster you helped to create. When you think you've experienced anything even close to that, let me know, then we can resume your argument."

    Blaine leered at her, daring her to say something, but Alaska remained silent. The cane, the barren cave, hiding away, the gym leader finally made sense to her, but what could she do now? She wanted to prove him wrong and show him they were kindred spirits, but her words had never convinced anyone of anything before.

    "I'm sorry."

    Damian's voice barely registered above a whisper, but it was enough to draw everyone's attention in the tensely silent cave. Alaska looked up at Damian, surprised, but he did not meet her eyes, instead stared fixatedly at his shoes, his face weighed with sadness.

    "I shouldn't have blamed you. It's not your fault Amanda attacked us, or that any of this happened. I just… never mind. I'm sorry!" Damian looked up, his eyes briefly falling on Blaine before he looked away, ashamed. His pitiful face was painful to look at it, and Alaska was surprised that, in this moment, she felt no hatred for the reality star.

    "You're sorry? What for? You have nothing to be sorry about," Blaine shouted, his eyebrows arching that suggested he would be rolling his eyes if he could. "She's the one that needs to be apologising. You think cause you changed your opinion you magically are now a better person? Shit and blood are the hardest stains to wash out, and you're coated in them both. You should be fighting because you want to, not because a carved rock is telling you too. This is a war, and we need a warrior as a leader, not some little girl trying to play hero."

    Blaine turned away while his words continued to ring out around them. He moved into the shadows, leaving only his bald head visible, shining an angry orange in the firelight.

    Speechless and struggling to process the gym leader's vitriol, Alaska stared at the empty space he'd left behind. She had come all this way and it was for nothing.

    As she stared across the pit, trying to think of a solution, something caught her eye; the blue flicker of Ponyta's mane pulled Alaska out of her thoughts as her attention fell on the Fire type. The Ponyta smiled as she caught Alaska's eye, and she flicked her mane and trotted towards Blaine, smiling wickedly as she did so.

    This fucking fire pony, Alaska thought bitterly. Setting Darwin on her would really make the sting out of this. Maybe Chloe did die back in the valley, she seems to have been reincarnated here. Alaska smirked at her joke, but she felt the cold eyes of someone watching her. She turned and saw Hestia was watching her, her face heavy with disappointment. The look left Alaska feeling cold, but suddenly a thought occurred to her.

    "I don't think I'm a good person," she called out, stepping past the Delphox and walking around the pit. Ponyta stepped forwards, but Alaska walked right past her, her eyes fixed on Blaine. "I'm a shit person, I am well aware of that. All of this would have been a lot easier if I had just complied from the start, but I didn't leave my family to get kicked around and controlled by people who stood by as my home was destroyed. I think you understand that. You wouldn't be here otherwise. Part of you blames Red and Leaf and everyone for what happened to you, but part of you blames yourself, and that's why you're hiding away at the bottom of the region.

    "I know that feeling, I feel like that every day. If I could hide away in a cave, I would, but I don't have that luxury. I have to fight, even if I hate the thought of it. But it's not about what I have to do anymore. I want to do this. Buzz, Gideon, Amanda, they are trying to destroy my life. They probably already have," she added, pausing as Sandy's terrified eyes appeared before her again. "If I sit back and do nothing, countless other people are going to suffer the same way you and I have, and I can't let that happen. I don't care if you hate me – I'm pretty sure Leaf and Janine still do, that's the only reason why they've sent me down here. But liking me isn't important. You need to believe in what's happening, and you need to believe that I can help stop it. I'm not a hero, but I am a fighter, and if you fight with me, maybe we can find the clarity we're looking for."

    Alaska felt silent. She hoped she sounded determined, powerful, like a movie general making their inspirational speech before they fight the enemy. Blaine hadn't reacted yet, silent and still in the shadows, but Alaska didn't care. If he turned her down after that, she had bigger issues to deal with, namely saving Sandy if she still had the chance.

    Finally, after a few minutes of tense silence, Blaine made a noise. It was short, loud, explosive in the silence, and the last thing Alaska had expected. She turned to Hestia, hoping for some clarity, but instead saw the Delphox's mouth was twisted in an uncomfortable smile.

    "What the fuck is – " Alaska began, but a snort cut her off. She faced Blaine again as the gym leader finally turned around with a burst of hysterical laughter that was as surprising and confronting as if he had just punched Alaska in the face.

    "I'm sorry, I couldn't keep this up," he snorted, struggling to stand up. "That was too easy, too bloody easy!"

    "Are… are you laughing?" Confused, Alaska turned around to make sure everyone was seeing this. When she saw Hestia and Ponyta were laughing as well, flanking an equally puzzled Damian, things fell into place. "Was this… was this a joke?"

    "Yep," Blaine said with a vigorous nod, wheezing out the word like a deflated balloon. "You should've seen your face. Trying so hard, all furrowed and angry – BRILLIANT! God, I didn't think this would work."

    "Wait, what the fuck is happening? I thought you were blind!" Alaska spluttered.

    "Psychic Pokémon, deep connection, I see everything she does, keep up," Blaine huffed impatiently. "Fuck, best laugh I've had in years!"

    "But… why? I thought you wanted me to prove myself."

    "Well of course I wanted to see what you are really like, but did you really think I hated you?" Blaine shook his head and sighed. "I thought I'd challenge you a bit, act like all the other stuffy fuckers up in the real world, put you through your paces. I thought it might be fun, but never in a million years…" Blaine trailed off there, a fresh wave of laughter consuming him.

    Alaska was incredulous. She had no idea what had just happened, or what she should do now. "So… does this mean you are going to fight with us?"

    "Of course!" Blaine boomed between snorts. "I thought we'd killed Team Rocket off last time, I'm not letting any of those slimy fuckers get away this time."

    "Why haven't you reached out yet?"

    Blaine shrugged. "I've been through more than all those other bastards put together. Leaf wants my help, she can come to me. You'll do though."

    Alaska felt like she had been slapped. "Why put me through all this then? I put my soul into that speech. I've been through hell, I'm in pain, my friend is missing, and you killed time blaming a practical joke?"

    "What do you want me to say – I live in a fucking cave! Give an old man a break." Blaine moved around the pit, the cane hanging limply at his side, and he put his hand on Alaska's shoulder. "Don't worry, we'll find your friend. To our knowledge, she is still alive. Get some sleep and let us worry about Sandy for now."

    Blaine's hand lingered for a minute before he turned and walked away without another word. Alaska watched him leave, dumbstruck. She wanted to say something, but the words wouldn't come. Blaine had gotten one over her, she wanted to react, but surprisingly, she didn't really mind.

    "It may seem like it was all for nothing, but you'll appreciate he made you say all that one day." Hestia smiled as she walked past, resting her hand on the same spot on Alaska's shoulder before following after Blaine.

    It was only now that the pressure was gone that a thought occurred to Alaska. "Hang on…. in the tent, you told me that the dead would rise before this was over. How did you see that in my head?"

    The Delphox paused, halfway between two brackets so her body was masked in competing shadows. There was a long, heavy pause, and Alaska tensed, already dreading the answer.

    "That wasn't something I saw inside of you. It was a warning, Alaska, a warning that your worst is yet to come. This fight is only just beginning."

    Hestia walked away without another word, and Alaska made no effort to fill the silence. She blinked, watching Blaine's team disappear into the shadows. She was tired, she was sore, she desperately needed sleep, but after everything that had transpired in the last ten minutes, Alaska knew that wouldn't be possible now. She stared into the flames, the cracked gravestone burned into her memory, and shivered.
     
  7. Persephone

    Persephone The Vulture Queen

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    Hey, so I'm here for the Review Game. While I have posted in this thread after Chapter 81, it was an awards post that did not itself encompass that chapter so I'm just gonna assume this is ok.

    You've heard my thoughts on 8ES a lot before. Enough that you could probably write my criticisms of the story about as well as I have. So I'll limit my comments on things I've raised before.

    1) I realized while planning this review that I have literally never read a Kanto journey fic that reached the Seafoam Islands and spent any real amount of time there (thus, Unpredictable gets stricken as I can't remember them visiting). Tbh the only other depiction of Seafoam I've ever seen is in my own story. So congrats on reaching the point in a journey fic where you almost have to be original because there isn't anything to copy.

    I think some people have noted they were disappointed that you didn't have much to say about Seafoam and... I have mixed opinions. I quite liked the imagery we did get. But there just wasn't much, beyond a description of like two rooms. One thing I did almost wish for was more of a presentation of it like a labyrinth or puzzle maze, like it is in the games. Where not only is it freezing, but it's also insidious and very difficult to navigate. Would've added another layer of plausibility as to why it seems so few people find Blaine.

    2) I'm very, very meh on the reality crew coming back. Tbh I'd basically forgotten them and assumed they'd just show up as props at the end. Someone noted that Chloe turning murderous was a giant step too far in her character and... really... I almost think it was a missed opportunity. Like, she's a bitch. No one's denying it. But nothing in her previous character had suggested she was a murderer. That's just out of her league as a generic high school alpha girl. I think it actually would've provided a moment of levity, or at least a sign of how far things have gone downhill since the start, if Chloe saw a gun drawn and panicked. But continuing her hatred to the degree she has for as long as she has with... honestly... I can't even remember what motive she has anymore. Like how far do you have to go to convince someone you ostensibly don't think about that you don't care about them. Just seem like she's lost any character traits that would identify her as human at this point, and it took me out of the narrative.

    3) Sandy/Alaska friction felt... it felt like a lot. Especially since it kept going on and consumed just about everything else except the fight. And I liked it! A lot! But it felt like a lot of it came from almost out of nowhere and it would've been better if it slowly built up. Because I thought her feelings were actually perfectly natural and fleshed out her character. Which it really needed after all of this time.

    4) Blaine is incredible and I laughed in public when he revealed his true intentions. Wonderful character. 11/10. Master at mindgames and generally terrible person in the best way.

    5) The evolution was... not sure I've ever read an evolution of a bird while its trainer was riding. It was something. I thought the actual process was described well and Alaska (and the reader) psyching out a bit when it happened because of what it meant was great.

    6) I like how effective guns actually are (in theory) in this story. Like a lot of action things (including part of 8ES) have them be useless, because why else would there be Pokemon? It felt like a good balance here, since humans and Pokemon can and have been shot, the injuries would've been certainly fatal, guns instantly complicate any problem so long as only one antagonist have them (if there are many they will be useless), and it makes things feel... I dunno, more grounded?

    It was also nice to see Alaska remember she was carrying an OP weapon for the first time in a long while. Honestly one of my gripes with other action scenes in the story is of how little use the weapon custom made for her protection actually has been in ensuring that.


    Well, I'll be waiting for more whenever you get back from commy-continent to sheep island.
     
    AceTrainer14 likes this.
  8. Threadmarks: Chapter 89: Nobody Will Oppose
    AceTrainer14

    AceTrainer14 The acest of trainers

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    @Agenda
    In my original notes it was going to be more of a puzzle-type area, but when it came time to write it I realised that it wasn't very realistic to have some naturally occuring maze like that and decided to draw inspiration from real caves I researched online. I admit I could have put some more effort the temperature and the twisty nature of the cave, but I also think that it would have drawn out that first Seafoam chapter to put too much travelogue in there. I may look over it again at some point.

    I always intended to address Alaska's perspective versus Chloe's later in the story, but I included some commentary on it here after reading your review. Hopefully it becomes clearer but it will be developed more in the next arc.

    Glad that Blaine made you laugh, I wasn't sure if it was actually funny or not so that was very reassuring to read XD

    It's been a long time, but the story is finally updated again and finally this arc is coming to a close! Blog and Interlude before the end of the year, and hopefully the start of our next adventure.

    Chapter Eighty Nine: Nobody Will Oppose

    The truth came to Sandy in a dream.

    For what felt like infinity, images danced before her eyes. Some were old, some were new, some she recognised but many were unfamiliar. Her mother pushing her on a swing. Alaska fighting Janine. Robotic Pokémon rising from the ground. Metapod's shell cracking open. Onix bleeding from his eyes. Shadowy men pointing guns at her from the darkness. Alaska walking away from her down a glowing path. The sweaty grip of a stranger's hands on her shoulder. Sandy could not tell which were real and which were imagined, but the more she saw them, the clearer each image became as they slowly began to take shape. It wasn't a shape Sandy recognised, but a voice whispering from the darkest corners of her mind told her that was the point. She wanted longer to make sense of it, to look at her parents and her Pokémon and Alaska, but each time Sandy saw Onix and his bleeding eyes, the more real the memory of a shaking hand clutching her became, and the louder a second voice told her she was in danger.

    I need to wake up.

    Sandy was awake and alert within seconds. Her vision changed rapidly from nightmarish scenes of bleeding Pokémon to a dark, blank wall, but this had happened so often to her now that Sandy focused immediately. Blinking away the last echoes of the dreams that seemed burnt into her eyes, she began to take stock of where she was.

    The first thing that struck her was how familiar it seemed. There as a huge television on one wall that reflected the plush carpet beneath her, which was replaced at the far end of the room by tiles, the walls there covered with cupboards and kitchen furnishings.

    Sandy tensed as the memory came to her. My god, this is Bertram's boat. Was this another part of her dream, or had she become so delirious she had to started to imagine all the places she dreamt of being that weren't with Alaska?

    A noise sounded next to her, something so dark and broken that Sandy knew it was not a part of her. The fear that she was trapped in her mind abated, but looking for the source caused a fresh terror to take over her thoughts.

    Sandy struggled to silence her gasp as she laid her eyes on Lachlan. He was as pale as ice, the delicate whiteness of his skin broken only by a red gash of exposed flesh where his chin should be. Dried blood coated the front of his clothes, which look dampened by wide patches of sweat. If it wasn't for the noise Sandy would have thought he had died, and she shuddered to think how bad she must look.

    "Lachlan, are you ok?" She whispered, startled by how hoarse she sounded. Lachlan made no response, and Sandy tried to lean towards him to see if he was alright. It was only then that she realised her hands were bound behind her back, metal handcuffs preventing her from moving them more than a centimetre apart.

    That's not good. Sandy pulled at her shackles a few times before realising her breathing was becoming erratic. She stopped and tried to calm herself, focusing on how she got here rather than where she was. Her revival on Bertram's boat had stopped her thinking about how she had even gotten here, and she shut her eyes, focussing on all the images her mind had been turning over.

    The fight in the ice cave, Onix being attacked by the Barbaracle, Sandy attempting to catch Alaska and Damian, then Chloe's hands were around her neck, and suddenly all had gone dark. And now she was here, chained up with nowhere to go. How and why this had happened she couldn't tell, but Sandy struggled to keep her thoughts from jumping to assumptions.

    We aren't dead though. For a second, Sandy wondered when the fact she was still alive had become the high point of her day, but she brushed the thought aside. The important question was why had Amanda, when she had a gun and had been so intent on killing Alaska, bothered to take them alive?

    Sandy wanted answers, but her need to escape was more urgent. Amanda may not want us dead yet, but that doesn't mean she won't hurt us. She had to get them both out of here before that happened, but she could see already that there were complications. She knew they were moving, she could feel the vibrations from the engine beneath her feet, but she had no idea where they were going. Sandy doubted she had been out longer than a few hours but there was no way of telling. The curtains were drawn, throwing the cabin in darkness that masked the outside world. They could be floating off the coast of Seafoam, but they could just as easily be in the middle of the ocean.

    Sandy leant back and breathed slowly. There was no point getting worried about where she was just yet. She had to get herself free first and out of Amanda's clutches; then she could fret about the small task of getting back to shore. I started this journey lost and alone with no idea where I was going. Might as well go back to that.

    Forcing herself calm, Sandy began to look around the cabin. Okay, escape, how do we do that. Thankfully they were alone. There were undoubtedly cameras watching them, but clearly Amanda didn't consider them enough of a threat to place a guard in the room. She won't think that once this boat is lying at the bottom of the ocean with her in it. Gosh, that's a little dark. Captivity makes me feral.

    Pushing the dark thoughts aside, Sandy turned her attention to the handcuffs. She pulled at them and winced as the cold metal cut into her flesh again, but this time heard something rattle. She looked back and saw there was a chain looped around the middle of her handcuffs. It curved underneath the sofa, and Sandy pulled at it to see if it was secured anywhere. To her surprise, Lachlan's hands moved. She pulled again, harder this time, and watched Lachlan's arms slide closer to the sofa.

    Sandy struggled not to groan. This made things more difficult. Lachlan seemed completely out to it, and she doubted he would be use even if he woke up in the next five minutes. Sandy didn't know how much he weighed but she doubted she would be able to lug his limp, unconscious body around, not with a thick chain tying them together.

    This would be so much easier with Pokémon. In a moment of ridiculous hopefulness, Sandy gazed around the cabin again as if Butterfree or Weepinbell was sitting in the shadows waiting for her to notice them.

    You're going mad. Sandy sighed and turned her attention back on the chains, but suddenly looked up again. She thought she had seen something vaguely familiar by the television. She shuffled towards it, struggling against Lachlan's weight, but the chain was long enough for her to edge half a metre closer. The dim light made it hard to see anything clearly, but Sandy would recognise that bag anywhere, even if it was normally out of her sight bouncing against her back.

    Without a second thought Sandy lunged towards the cabinet. She barely made it a centimetre before the chains became taut, refusing to go any further. The resistance made Sandy slip backwards, landing sharply on her backbone, but she pushed herself back up and kept pulling. Her only chance of escape was just out of reach and Sandy wasn't going to sit back when her Poké Balls were right in front of her.

    Don't give up. You can do this. The handcuffs were slicing her wrists, the metal digging into her flesh. Her feet were slipping, the carpet too thick to get a good grip. Sandy groaned, trying to push through the pain, push through the lack of gravity, trying to ignore the voice saying this was useless and she might as well give up now. There has to be a way.

    Running low on options, she pushed one foot into the carpet and reached out with the other leg. Surprisingly, it nearly reached the cabinet. Sandy's heart skipped a beat, and she urged herself on, ignoring the pain, ignoring the voices, focusing on the freedom that was just out of reach. Nearly… nearly… NEARLY…

    "What are you doing?"

    In the silent cabin, the voice was like an explosion. With a startled yell, Sandy stumbled backwards, landing in a twisted heap. It was painful, but that faded when Sandy saw Chloe standing just metres away, hovering awkwardly by the same couch Alaska had occupied the other day. The room was too dark to make out her expression, but Sandy saw she was holding a hand to her chest while another hung limply by her side, both empty of weapons.

    "Have you been sitting here this whole time?" Sandy's heart sank as Chloe's shadowed head nodded slowly in response. "Ah, right, well…"

    "What are you doing?" Chloe repeated. Her voice was firm but nervous, like a child confronting a parent. "What's over there, what are you trying to reach?"

    Sandy had only seconds to respond but she had to get this right. If Chloe had truly joined the dark side, there was no telling what she was capable of, but Sandy did not view her the same way Alaska did. She had seen the hesitation on Chloe's face when she had held the gun, and she could hear the nervousness in her voice now. She's not a murderer – not yet, anyway, let's try and keep it that way.

    "I could ask you the same thing," Sandy snapped, channelling all her anger and disappointment into those seven syllables. "You're on a reality show one day and the next you are trying to murder people?"

    Chloe looked affronted but quickly turned fiery. "Don't question me, you're the prisoner here! What are you trying to reach?"

    "Did you just hear yourself? Prisoners? Lachlan's one of your cast mates, how can you do this to him?"

    "I didn't do it, Amanda did," Chloe said, hesitating slightly. Her eyes flickered to the spiral staircase that led to the upper floor and suddenly the blonde was lunging forwards, finger pointed furiously in Sandy's face. "But that doesn't mean I can't be like her!"

    Sandy kept her face blank, refusing to be threatened by the angry little girl looming over her. "This isn't you, Chloe. I may not know you very well, but this isn't you. You are not a murderer. I saw your face yesterday. You hated holding that gun. You hated threatening us. None of this is who you are. Please, you have to help us."

    Chloe's finger lingered threateningly, but the forced anger on her face began to disappear. She looked nervous and afraid once again. "I can't let you go. There's nothing I can do."

    "Yes there is!" Sandy shouted, her enthusiasm getting the better of her. Nearly there, nearly there. "You can free us, you can come with us. Help us get back to Alaska and you can be on the right side of this."

    Chloe suddenly straightened up, her hand falling slack by her side. Sandy thought she had succeeded, but then she saw Chloe's cold, hate filled face, her eyes narrowed and her lips thin, and realised too late she'd said the wrong thing. Alaska… you had to go and mention Alaska…

    "You're going to die soon. I hope you know it's all because that bitch made you think she actually cares about you."

    Sandy lunged forwards, making Chloe jump backwards towards the stairs. It was a desperate and stupid move, but Sandy was too terrified to care. "You can't let us die!"

    "Amanda!" Chloe screamed, throwing herself against a wall well out of Sandy's reach.

    "Chloe, please, I'm begging you!"

    "AMANDA!"

    There was a whine and a flash and suddenly Sandy was flying backwards, white light burning into her eyes. She cried out as she crashed into the sofa, the padded edge not enough to soften the spine-juddering blow, and fell in a heap back on the floor. Her mind was so used to chaos and drama that she instantly thought it was an explosion, but she opened her eyes and was forced to squint, the flash coming from the fluorescent lights flickering loudly into life. Through her half closed lids, Sandy could see the light had cast a harsh white glare over everything, but there was no fiery destruction: the boat had hit a rough patch, causing everything to judder and bounce around as the entire cabin was rocked by the waves.

    The distant sound of footsteps echoed down the staircase. Sandy pushed herself past the pain and used what little freedom she had in her hands to drag herself backwards. "Lachy, wake up!" She hissed, fondling about for his arm and trying to shake him. "You need to get up!"

    A deep moan grumbled in response. "Wassa…"

    "Lachlan, wake up, wake up now!" Sandy shook him as violently as she could, but Lachlan simply groaned incoherently. The footsteps were getting closer, and Sandy bit back a sob as she dropped Lachlan's arm and pulled her legs close, fear filling her heart for the first time. This is it, I'm done, I'm really done for.

    "I see you're finally awake. I must say, I'm terribly relieved. I was starting to think you were actually dead."

    Cautiously, Sandy raised her head. Her eyes were still adjusting to the light, but as she blinked the haze cleared and there was Amanda. She had stopped halfway down the stairs, clutching the handrail and looking down at everyone like some scornful mid-century heiress evaluating her underlings.

    "Oh dear, you look so afraid." Amanda shook her head, her smiling widening. "Don't worry, I am not going to harm you – well, no more than I already have, anyway." Unleashing her clipped, robotic laugh, Amanda strutted proudly down the last few steps, the heavy echo of her leather boots against the wood lingering long after they had sunk into Bertram's lush carpet.

    "I really should thank you girls for the upgrade," Amanda called as she strutted into the kitchen and flung open the fridge doors. "So much nicer than anything Buzz would ever be able to muster up. I would have dumped that bald arsehole years ago if I had known your side had such good connections." She laughed again, the whine of the fridge doing little to soften her cackle.

    A small ball of hope rose up inside Sandy's stomach. 'You aren't with Buzz anymore?"

    Amanda's sigh reverberated out of the fridge. "Of course not. I handed you two to him on a golden platter and he managed to stuff that up." She stepped back and closed the fridge door, a sandwich clutched tightly in her hands. "Had to bring my own food, so predictable. But that's men for you; never think about the small details, only their small little dicks," she cackled and began devouring her meal. "Anyway, why do you scream for me?"

    "She was trying to get to her bag," Chloe whispered, pointing feebly towards the cabinet.

    Amanda's eyes flickered between the bag and Sandy, her smile stretching even wider. "Ah, good, you fell for my little plan. I was going to throw it overboard, but I thought I'd wait until you were awake so I could see your little face squirm." She turned towards Chloe, smile thinning slightly. "I was hoping to watch her struggle a little longer, thanks for ruining that. What were you doing down here anyway?"

    Chloe didn't say anything for a second, her gaze briefly landing on Sandy and Lachlan before falling on her shoes. "Nothing, just… just resting."

    "Whatever," Amanda said with an exaggerated eye roll. "I don't have time for teenage dramatics anymore. That ship was sailed – literally!" She began cackling again at her own joke, bits of bread flying from her mouth. She strutted past Sandy and Lachlan but only had eyes got for the luxurious furnishings, her smile widening even as her laugh croakily petered out.

    "No more reality show, no more bloody teenagers. I didn't think I'd be free of these shackles so soon. I should thank you, actually," Amanda said, tossing her head towards Sandy. "None of us would be here right now if you hadn't tried to make a woman out of Buzz." She paused, struggling to smirk and chew at the same time. "I laughed for hours when I heard he'd been injured, but even the mental image of his flaccid willy barely holding on soured after a while. To think he had fucked up yet again, that he had let you escape when I had busted my ass off delivering you two to him. I should have been angry, disappointed, enraged, but I am beyond those emotions. For Buzz, anyway. I still have my anger for Red and what they did to us, but when I pictured Buzz lying in a hospital bed, I knew I'd never find any solace if I stuck with him.

    "So I've gone rogue, and here we all are." Amanda flung her arms wide and spun around. "Free. No cameras, no ridiculous plans, no fucking robot armies. God, it all seems so farcical looking back. That's what happens when you let men call the shots. No, what this world needs is a woman's touch, and that is exactly what I am going to give it."

    Amanda stopped spinning and finally her eyes settled on Sandy again. They were gleaming with savage victory, the same maddening look she had worn during in the cave. Sandy refused to let her fear show, staring vacantly back at her captor, but inside she was terrified. They had only just gotten their heads around Buzz, they still had Gideon to crack, and now Amanda was making the situation even direr. There was no telling what she was thinking, what madness she was planning, and Sandy dreaded to think what role she would play if she carried on.

    Their locked gaze was broken as the boat hit another wave. Amanda yelped as she stumbled to the side, barely stopping herself from falling. Watching her flail, a thought occurred to Sandy and she looked quickly towards her bag. Her eyes lingered on it only briefly, but enough to see that each wave that rocked the boat was pushing it closer and closer towards the edge.

    There would be only a few seconds gap between it falling and Sandy being able to reach it, and she couldn't let Amanda get in the way. Thinking back to the cave and how easily she had distracted the producer, she knew vanity was the only thing that could save her now.

    "What is the point of carrying on?" She said quickly before the words had even gone through her head. "You can change your plans or whatever, but everyone knows about you. They are ready for you. Do you seriously think you can get away with any of this?"

    She expected Amanda to laugh or belittle her, but the producer merely raised an eyebrow and sighed wearily. "Oh, you silly little girl. A few days with Leaf and Janine and you've bought all their lies already? I thought you girls were smarter. Guess it just shows how dumb Buzz really was." Amanda moved towards the couch and sank down, rubbing a drop of mayo from her chin before carrying on.

    "You say they are prepared for me? Of course they are. The whole world spends years preparing for wars they don't want to happen. It's easy to prepare for something, to say you will do things differently next time, but when it comes time to stop people like me, your elites prefer to just tell people off and display their authority rather than test it on the battlefield.

    "Take your new friends for example. Do you think Red or Leaf or Janine want to invade Saffron and go to war with an army of robots in the centre of the region's business district? Their gods could enact justice and destroy Buzz fairly quickly, but what else would they destroy in the process: the city, the economy, their reputations? No, war is far too messy for everyone involved. Fear of consequences stops them from doing what is easy and sensible. I guess they sent you two to find Blaine? Do you think that's because they desperately need some old recluse to join this fight or because they want to keep your friend out of the way so they can try and stop that prophecy coming true?

    "So to answer your question: yes, I expect I will get away with this. They will track us down. They are probably already after us, but that's why I am taking us to the middle of the Sevii Islands where this all started seventeen years ago. Red and Leaf and all their little friends might just hesitate before unleashing divine justice down in the place where thousands of people died, and that hesitation is what I need – well, what we need."

    Amanda's eyes turned towards Chloe. The blonde looked away awkwardly, but Amanda, after shoving the last of her sandwich in her mouth, leapt up and grabbed Chloe's arm in one swift movement. "I wouldn't be here without you. You were just what I needed for me to break away from Buzz, so thank you for doing everything I asked.

    Chloe smiled briefly but her eyes were locked on the floor. "You didn't tell me we'd be using guns."

    "Pardon me?" Amanda asked crisply, her face suddenly a masterpiece of condensation. Sandy saw her hold on Chloe's arm tighten, making the girl shudder. "And how did you think we were going to capture her?"

    Chloe shrugged at the carpet. "Pokémon?"

    Amanda's laugh was explosive inside the confined cabin. "Oh yes, cause that has worked out so brilliantly in the past. Weaponry is the only area where we can outgun these people, and I am willing to use whatever is necessary to end this. I didn't think this would be a problem with you…"

    Chloe looked up, suddenly fearful. "Oh no, it's not, I just –"

    "Good. We have dawdled enough with this whole project; I am not letting something as insignificant as a conscience get in the way." Amanda grabbed Chloe by the face. It was an action that would see comforting from anyone else, but with Amanda's clenched hands and tight smile she looked like she was about to snap the girl's neck. "Alaska has ruined your life the same way Red and Leaf ruined mine. Now it's time to make them all suffer the same way we have. Starting with them."

    The two turned towards Sandy, their faces reflecting each other's malevolent smiles, and with that look, she finally got her answer. The only reason Amanda had left her alive was so she could get as much pleasure out of her death as possible. I thought I'd wait until you were awake so I could see your little face squirm

    Frantically Sandy gripped Lachlan's arm with all her might. He moaned and shifted so she gripped tighter, refusing to look away from Amanda while she watched her like cornered prey. I am not dying here, not now, not on this boat. I am not some helpless girl you can shove in the fridge. My death has to mean something… my life has to mean something. Wake up Lachlan, wake the fuck up!

    "You're hurting me." Lachlan's voice was weak and quiet, a whisper audible only in the cabin, but it was enough for Sandy to laugh with pained relief.

    Amanda's eyes narrowed. "And what exactly is so –"

    She never finished her sentence. She and Chloe cried out as the boat hit another wave, one huge enough that all four of them were lifted into the air. The producer and her star landed and stumbled backwards at the same time as a thud resounded throughout the room.

    Sandy turned and without a moment's pause threw herself towards her bag: the chains became taut, pulling her body backwards and throwing her legs forwards, but that was just what Sandy needed. Her foot went through a strap and she yanked it backwards, twisting her body so her bag fell between her and Lachlan.

    Her fellow prisoner looked up as Sandy began rummaging through her pockets. "What's happening? Where am I?"

    "Your producer kidnapped us and she is going to kill us if I can't get us out of here and off this boat within the next few minutes."

    "Oh… that's different…"

    "Not for me," Sandy said without irony. She kept one eye on Amanda, who was trying to disentangle herself from Chloe, while her hands worked their way into her bag and clasped on to the first Poké Balls she could find.

    "You thought you had us captured, eh?" Sandy yelled, taking pleasure in the fearful look that descended on Amanda. "Well, looks like you're the ones who are about to suffer MOTHER FUCKERS!" And she flung the balls as far as she could manage, grinning determinedly as red and yellow flashes drowned out the fluorescent light.

    It was only when the light had faded and the energy took form that Sandy realised she had no idea who she had sent out. She had six Pokémon, four of whom could end this fight in under a minute, but fate was not that kind to Sandy. She tried to maintain her vigour, but struggled to mask her disappointment as she finally laid eyes on Pichu and Goomy. The Dragon looked confused, her normal happy smile droopy and worried.

    Unfortunately, her feelings weren't her own. "Chu?" Pichu mumbled, wide and confused eyes moving frantically and frightfully around the room. He looked to Sandy for comfort but saw the chains and began to quiver.

    "Don't cry, don't cry!" Everything dark and depressing about her situation went to the back of Sandy's mind in the face of her crying Pokémon. She leant forward to comfort him, but her fall had left her legs entangled by the chains. Sandy cursed and tried to pull herself free, but the sight of her struggling only made Pichu whimper further.

    Laughter erupted behind her. "Suffer? SUFFER?" Amanda snorted. "Fuck me, and here I was thinking I'd have to be careful with you. I guess Alaska was the only thing keeping you alive."

    Bitterness rising up her throat, Sandy ignored the jibe and moved to free her legs. She shifted her weight and pushed the chains until they became loose, allowing them to fall away from her legs. She sat triumphantly, angry and determined, just in time to watch Amanda bend down and grab hold of Pichu.

    "CHU!"

    "LET HIM GO!"

    Amanda simply smiled as walked towards the doors to the deck. "Don't worry, I will let him go. I make no promises as to where." She threw open the curtain, revealing an ocean of pitch blackness behind, and gripped onto the door handle.

    "YOU CAN'T DO THIS!" Sandy yelled, her voice competing against the roar of the wind and the crashing waves that sounded the second the door was open. She leapt to her feet but crashed down again, the heave of the ocean unbalancing her. She could only look at Pichu's crying face, unable to hear anything: the wind had created a wall between them, Pichu and Amanda silenced by the ocean, but their contorted faces spoke volumes.

    With Lachlan barely awake and Goomy clueless to help, Sandy turned desperately to Chloe. "DO SOMETHING!" She yelled, but Chloe remained static, her face blank.

    "I did say I wanted to see your face," a barely audible Amanda yelled. "I lost everything in these oceans. Trust me when I say this barely even compares." And she turned around so only Pichu's tear-streaked face was visible, bright yellow against the darkness of his grave.

    Sandy forced herself up and lunged again, pulling against the tautness of the chains but falling short, blood dripping down the back of her legs. Your hands are tied, literally. There is nothing you can do. If you keep fighting, it will only make the pain worse. You might as well give up and accept what happens.

    Was this what her journey had come to? She left home with dreams of a better life, and instead she was about to die in chains on a boat owned by a millionaire former prostitute. It seemed so ridiculous, so unbelievable, that if it was fiction Sandy would have laughed. Instead she felt nothing.

    This was meant to be, after all. Why feel bad about it? Everything that had happened to her, every horrible thing, it had all been written down and planned probably thousands of years before she was born. Dying here was part of her destiny. Would this motivate Alaska as she rode Paige into the final battle, she wondered as she watched Pichu struggle. Had she been born purely to die here tonight?

    No. Sandy stopped crying, her body quivering with anger. She glowered at Amanda with a feeling of contempt she had never felt before, and smirked as the producer looked back and paused, fear slowly crossing her face. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Stop thinking about prophecies and death. You didn't know you were destined to meet Alaska. You didn't know you were destined to be here tonight. And you don't know where it will take you tomorrow. You still have a choice in how you live your life. Your hands may be tied, but your feet aren't. And that was when she knew what she had to do.

    "HI-YAH!" Sandy screamed, and she leapt forwards. Amanda's eyes widened, her grip on Pichu slackening, and merely watched in horror as Sandy ran as far as the chains allowed her and kicked out.

    Sandy had no idea if it hurt being kicked in the vagina. She had never seen it happen to anyone, not in real life or on television. However, faced with only her legs and a short tether to work with, shoving her foot firmly into Amanda's genitals was all she had to work with.

    Thankfully, it paid off. Amanda groaned, doubling over and reaching instinctively towards her groin with her free hand. Sandy didn't bask in the success, instead aiming her foot there again before kicking at both knees. Amanda buckled under the pressure, her jaw close enough that Sandy could raise her right knee to meet it.

    "No one fucks with my Pokémon and gets away with it, bitch!" She hissed, and as a finishing touch, she spat. Maybe that's a bit much, she thought, but couldn't help but smile at the thick white gob dripping down Amanda's unconscious face.

    "Chu!" A tiny cry erupted beneath her feet, and Pichu leapt up into Sandy's confined hands, gripping tightly onto her fingers with his own tiny hands.

    Sandy wanted to bask in the embrace but knew she couldn't stop for emotion. While she was still standing still, stunned by the changing circumstances, Sandy knew Chloe wouldn't be an idle threat for long. "I'll hug you once I'm free of these," she told Pichu before looking at Goomy. "DragonBreath!" She barked, pointing with her tied hands towards Lachlan's chains.

    Goomy jumped at the harshness of her tone and responded quickly, unleashing a thin stream of golden fire at the handcuffs.

    It took less than a minute before the chain linking both restraints together melted, but then Lachlan quickly pushed himself to his feet. "What the hell is happening?" He said as he struggled to steady himself.

    "We're getting out of here alive, what do you think?" Sandy positioned herself closer to Goomy, ignoring the pain as the hot metal scalded her skin. "Grab your bag and send Wartortle out."

    "Are you expecting us to swim all the way to shore?" Lachlan said indignantly, wobbling towards his bag.

    "We aren't staying here," Sandy retorted. "Unless boat piloting skills is on your resume, we don't have any choice." She moaned with relief as she brought her hands around, still wearing metal but no longer trapped behind her. She stretched her arms and her wrists before pulling Pichu in close. "Thank you for being brave," she whispered, and the Electric type cooed in her hands.

    "You aren't getting away."

    Lachlan and Wartortle leapt to Sandy's side before Chloe had finished speaking, but Sandy wasn't afraid. Her rival blonde stood at the mouth of the kitchen, Poké Ball in one hand and the knife in the other, wearing a look of pure rage that didn't stop her hands from shaking.

    "Chloe, you don't have to follow Amanda. We can put this all behind us, I am happy to pretend this never happened."

    "What, come with you and let Alaska take all the glory?" Chloe spat. "She killed my one shot to get out of that town forever. I will never be on her side."

    Sandy shook her head. "Suit yourself," she sighed, and turned to Lachlan. "Surf."

    "What?"

    "You heard me, Surf. Get Wartortle to flip the boat."

    Lachlan's eyes bulged. "Are you mad?"

    "Probably. If we do nothing, they come right after us. If we sink it, we get away and we give everyone a chance to survive."

    "You're mad," Lachlan repeated. "This is mad. I don't think Wartortle knows Surf."

    "Give it a crack," Sandy said with more urgency as Chloe stepped forwards. "No time like the present, eh?"

    "We might die!"

    "We'll die anyway!" Sandy shrieked as Chloe started to power walk. "Use Surf!"

    "Sandy, I don't like –"

    "Surf, now!"

    "Sandy!"

    "SURF!"

    "CHUUUUU!"

    The whole boat started to shake. Sandy, Lachlan and Chloe froze, but their eyes moved down to Sandy's midriff where Pichu was still clutched in her hand: his tiny body was vibrating, his eyes shining an electric blue that glowed with power, and his little arms were slowly rising up in a curving wave formation.

    Sandy had no time to be impressed. "Hold me," she yelped and dived to the ground, shoving her free hand into Goomy's mouth. "Gooey, now!"

    "PICHU CHU!" Pichu yelled with childish exuberance. He thrust his arms forwards, and the boat went with him.

    Everything happened in slow motion. Sandy, Lachlan, Chloe and Wartortle all screamed as they were lifted into the air, but their shouts were deafened by the booming thud as the Pichu-created wave crashed into the boat. It hit with such force the vessel was launched into the air, rising so fast that Sandy felt gravity resisting their ascent.

    But what goes up must come down. Chloe let out an explosive shriek as the boat began to drop nose-first. She was thrown into the back wall by the fridge, Amanda's limp body and the cabinet following suit. Sandy, with Lachlan clutching tightly to her bag, were pulled that way and she felt Goomy's slippery lips suck tight to stop them following.

    The boat tipped forwards the further it fell, slowly tilting so the roof was above the water. Sandy gulped as she was weightlessly lifted up before heavily starting to fall towards the ceiling. She looked into Goomy's tiny eyes as the Dragon began to stretch like a huge blob of slime, struggling to hold their weight.

    "Hold on a few more seconds!" Sandy looked to the deck door, the pitch black ocean calling out to her. The boat was still tipping into a full-on somersault; it felt like slow motion yet she could see the water rushing to greet them, and it pulled them towards it.

    "Another second, hold on!" Sandy yelled as they stretched to the right, everything falling towards them now. Her eyes were on the couch, watching as it slid quickly towards the door. "Another second, nearly there!"

    "Gooooo!"

    "One more second!"

    "Sandy, do you have a fucking plan or –"

    "NOW!"

    With a wet sucking noise Goomy let go, and they all screamed as they hurtled towards the couch. The five of them hit it at once, forcing it through the door and into the open air. A burst of wind and sea air greeted them, but all eyes were on the much heavier boat above them that was falling much faster than they had realised.

    "Aqua Jet?" Sandy screamed hopefully.

    "AQUA JET!" Lachlan bellowed, and was answered with the pounding roar of two water columns being fired out of Wartortle's shell.

    Even as the attack pushed them to safety, Sandy didn't take her eyes off the boat until she was certain it wasn't still chasing them. They passed out of its shadow and into the moonlight, and rode the waves generated by the impact of it crashing. Sandy watched even as the white hull disappeared both into the distance and beneath the surface. Sandy kept watching long after they had left it behind, and eventually she began to smile.

    "I can't believe we did it."

    "Did what?" Lachlan called from the end of the couch.

    "Escaped," Sandy said, tipping her head back so her hair skimmed along the water, her eyes locked on the moon. "I thought that was the end…"

    Lachlan huffed, a sound that carried across the ocean. "It nearly was, thanks to you. Honestly, you and Alaska are as bad as each other."

    Sandy didn't reply, losing herself in thought. What did happen to Alaska? Did she escape? Do I even care? Of course I do, why would you even think that? Sandy looked at her Pokémon, hoping to find some normality in them. Goomy felt her eyes on her and turned, throwing her a droopy smile. Pichu, however, leapt towards Sandy, his face a picture of glee.

    "Well, weren't you just a little bit brilliant?" Sandy said, smiling into his little face. "I had no idea he could do that. You're brilliant, did you know that?"

    "Chu Chu!" Pichu squeaked, pink cheeks sparking with glee. And then, without warning his body began to glow a dazzling white. The inky ocean that surrounded them was suddenly illuminated, the burst of light bright enough to reveal a school of Magikarp beneath the surface. Sandy gasped and put Pichu back on the couch, Goomy and Lachlan moving to the opposite end as his body began to grow.

    This can't be happening, this must be a dream, this must be… Sandy's thoughts trialled off, and suddenly she was laughing. None of this had been expected, and she had taken a horrible path to get here, but nothing here felt wrong. She hadn't known what shape her thoughts had been trying to take in her dream, but looking back, a luxury chaise lounge seemed exactly what she had imagined, and she knew it was exactly where she needed to be, destiny be damned.

    "I'm on a couch in the middle of an ocean with a mad woman." Lachlan shook his head and groaned. "Where the hell are we going next?"

    Sandy shrugged, briefly taking her eyes off her new Pokémon and throwing him a wink. "Who knows? I guess we'll have to be surprised, won't we?"
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2017
  9. Persephone

    Persephone The Vulture Queen

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    I'm pretty sure leant refers to letting someone borrow something and leaned refers to the act of leaning. Might just be 'murican English, though.

    So, uh, Alaska and her new friend are in a flipped boat hours from shore. That's... not entirely sure how you're writing your way out of that one tbh. Also they totally just killed Amanda and Chloe, right? Not that I feel bad. I don't. But I didn't expect Sandy of all people to do it and be fine with it.

    There were a couple typos in here but I messed up multiquoting so I ended up losing track on which exact ones they were. Sorry.

    It was nice seeing Chloe from a perspective that wasn't Alaska's perpetual hate-on. Little disappointing to see that, after everything, Chloe still has her perpetual hate-on fully intact. Not really sure why Lachlan needed to be there for the plot, but if he's important later that's fine I guess.

    I was vaguely disappointed that the small-scale escape scene ended up being a building/boat-destroying setpiece, but I guess it's what readers should've come to expect by now. Especially since nothing blew up last chapter.
     
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  10. AceTrainer14

    AceTrainer14 The acest of trainers

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    Alaska, eh? :p I have a plan , don't worry. And just because that's how the chapter ended doesn't mean it will be the end of this storyline. I think if you were escaping somene that wanted to kill you, your first thought wouldn't be if they are ok.

    I'm not sure what you are disappointed by. I don't want to launch into any kind of lecture if I've got it wrong so if you could be more specific I'd appreciate it.

    In terms of Lachlan, he will be paired with Sandy in the next arc which sees her in a different position.

    I'm also not sure what your disappointed by here. I don't know why there was an assumption it'd be small scale. Sandy choosing to jump off the boat perhaps would've worked out better thematically but I think she has earned the right to do something extreme for once - plus she was enraged when making the decision and I've always prefered playing with the idea of how people would react in a world where you have monsters at your disposal to assist your wild uncontrollable rage.
     
  11. canisaries

    canisaries now in mint flavor

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    Hi, I'm here to review chapter 89 for the Review Game.

    Right off the bat, I have to give props where props is due. The prose in this is stellar. It doesn't repeat, it doesn't use words too simple or big, it doesn't feel clunky - I can't find any flaws in it. It reads like a real book. I'm very impressed on that front.

    So, I hadn't read any of this fic before, which unfortunately resulted in many moments of confusion, but I did kind of manage to stay along anyway. I can push aside a lot of things by saying "this probably makes sense within the context of the fic".

    But there is one element I do need to question. The tone. In the beginning, it's very tense. It feels like an action movie. A girl is restrained in a room, her friend is mangled, she needs to get out. Another acquaintance shows up - apparently a former friend, and dramatic dialogue is shared. You get the feeling things are at stake here. People may die.

    Then in comes Amanda, some man-hating, megalomaniac witch of a lady, a very hammy villain with her cartoony motions, laughs, dialogue... I mean, maybe the tone of the rest of the fic is similar to this, but for me, the tension just melted away. I was unable to take her seriously. Perhaps she's meant to be that melodramatic, that's one kind of villain you can have, but when her strange mannerisms aren't really questioned that much, it makes the other characters seem less real as well.

    It's also very strange how this woman, despite her Disney-villain-esque character, curses up a storm and talks about penis. The girls also curse and try to act tough with it, but it comes across pretty weak as they seem innocent enough otherwise. In other words, can't pull it off. There's also a cute animal mascot in the form of the Pichu, which for a second there I thought was actually going to die - would have liked this, as it would have made the villain a much more credible threat. To sum up: the balance of edgy and wholesome here is really strange in my eyes. It's not Saturday morning cartoons, it's not anime for kids, it's not anime for maturer audiences, it's not the abridged version of an anime for kids... I just don't really know what to make of it.

    To be fair, though, you probably shouldn't take this too much to heart. I'm kind of a cynical asshole (I mean, I did just say I wanted to see a cute little rodent thrown into the sea) who tends to be unable to stomach anything feel-good, and I have no knowledge of the rest of the fic. I'm just going with what I'm seeing - my verdict may be way off in reality.
     
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  12. AceTrainer14

    AceTrainer14 The acest of trainers

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    @canisaries: Thanks for the review, always nice to get some fresh insight from readers. I do think that things would be read very differently had you read the rest of the story: Amanda was a fairly repressed character up until a few chapters ago, and her mad behaviour in this chapter comes from her failing to fit into her assumed role of being a super villain. I don't think her story and her motivations or even the jokes about Buzz' groin injury from about thirty chapters ago are things that can be picked up well from this one chapter. I agree that she was a bit hammy but much of that was intentional and is fitting with the rest of the story, which blends tense moments and humour quite frequently. I am not sure where you got wholesome from, and if you would like to be more specific I would be interested to know further what you mean, but that was not my intention in any way shape or form. Sandy is a bit of a wholesome person and could have translated through her, but I am still a bit lost.

    Thanks for reading though, glad you liked the prose, and hopefully you'll check out the other 100-ish chapters some time :)
     
  13. Flaze

    Flaze Don't Look Away

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    Well well well, let's this double feature for a spin shall we?

    Chapter 88

    What can I say to start off except that I think Blaine is the best one of the gymleaders so far, at least in regards to his character. You managed to both combine the cranky old dude and wise old man character into one big asshole whose personality matches really well with Alaska, seriously I wouldn't be surprised if that's how she is when she's an old lady.

    But either way, getting into the nitty gritty of the chapter. Chapter 88 had...quite a few grammar mistakes and typos, I can't criticize you too much since I still have trouble covering all my bases, but yours had a lot of missing words or mistaken words and it made it a bit jarring, because sometimes I didn't know what the sentence was supposed to say since that missing word is key. Of course, I could tell what it was in the end, but it's still something to keep in mind.

    The other big thing about chapter 88 that really stood out to me, at least in regards to flaws, is that overall it was another chapter of characters standing around talking about what Alaska should do with her life and why She Sux and getting her to take a look at herself...I do have to give you points for making us believe that was going to be the chapter and then revealing that Blaine was just kidding, but that doesn't change the fact that the chapter was still that. A nice twist is nice, but it doesn't fully make up for what came before it.

    But even among the Reasons You Suck chapters this one stood out. Blaine's dynamic with Alaska is a lot different than other gymleaders, he's an asshole, but he's not trying to hide it or acting like he's doing it for her own good...he's just an asshole. Alaska actually trying to act civil towards him was also an added change that really made me wonder when things would blow up.

    Lastly, I was actually surprised by the reveal of Hestia being the fortune teller. The scene in Lavender with the fortune teller was one of those scenes that was really pivotal to Alaska's character, but overall remained as scene to go back to when we needed to remember where the prophecy was first mentioned. Revealing it to be Blaine's Delphox adds another layer to it, plus it was also a way for you to talk more on how Psychic types can change things around.

    Overall it was a good chapter, with interesting interactions and another movement for Alaska...but again, these chapters happen once every arc to the point where it's turned into a formula, so, again, try to mix things up so that they at least be more than just Alaska talking to someone.

    Chapter 89

    I really loved chapter 89 (for one cause it was shorter) mainly because it was also time for Sandy to Kick Ass. We got confirmation on Amanda's real motives for doing what she did as well as...some more insight into how she feels about Buzz. The whole scene with Amanda was played pretty well, but it was so overly cartoony that I couldn't help but laugh at it, however, you were still able to get me to feel disturbed by what she was doing, especially when she grabbed Sandy's Pichu, so I can't fault you too much there.

    The chapter itself, much like 88, didn't have a LOT to offer but it was important nevertheless. We know that Sandy had been struggling in regards to her place in the world the last few chapters, especially after Alaska "embraced" her destiny. So giving her a chapter where she gets to be the star and also kick ass (literally and figuratively) is a good way to focus on that. Of course, Sandy doesn't really arrive at a conclusion because at the end of the day the most important part of the whole thing was getting out.

    Another nice bit that I liked was Sandy's and Chloe's little conversation, it was short, but it said a lot about Chloe as a character. Like Agenda pointed out, the fact that Chloe still seems hesitant to go full crazy means she's not quite off the deep end, and it's clear that Sandy's words do have an effect. Actually, Sandy and Chloe are opposite but they're also not that different, they're both people stuck in Alaska's shadow and trying to figure out how to go about their lives beyond Alaska. They both, in their own way, let her influence shape their lives whether they like it or not.

    Maybe that's a reason why Sandy feels Chloe isn't bad, especially since, like Sandy, Chloe also tends to go with the flow if it means they'll get to move forward. Unfortunately, we don't get to see more of this side of Chloe as she quickly reverts back to her role as Amanda's impromptu lacky, but I'm sure we'll be seeing more of her and hopefully explore her a bit more later. Though on that note, I also hope we can find out more about Amanda.

    Oh yeah, what is the deal with Amanda? We know she didn't die from this, but what her role will be from now on is intriguing if anything. Unlike Buzz, who's turned into a joke now, Amanda is unpredictable and utterly nuts, but lacks the gadgets that Gideon does. I still fault you a bit for making her another complete looney, which worked better when Amanda was a side antagonist that was more of a joke, but if she's becoming a serious antagonist then exploring her a bit more beyond her villainess would be good.

    The last two points I want to touch on are Lachlan and description. Lachlan served to add levity to the chapter, but he was still basically useless and pointless in this, hell, Lachlan is a useless character in general. Unlike Chloe and Damien he doesn't really get a chance to be involved in the story. I'm not saying he had to be super important here, but if he's going to be appearing more regularly (which I doubt at this point) thne giving him a more grounded role would help give his character some purpose.

    As for description...well, the chapter's description worked well overall but the way you described Sandy being chained was a bit hard to figure out, I kept thinking that her hands were bound together on her back, but you kept saying that she was reaching for Lachlan and taking out pokeballs must've been really tough in that position, so it confused me a bit. The other thing that was odd was once the boat started flipping up. The description of what Sandy does here is...all over the place to the point where I didn't know what was going on until they got to the sofa, and even then I have to admit I forgot they were floating on the sofa for a moment and got confused thinking they were just floating on water.

    Either way, Sandy's badass hour was a thrill from start to finish and a good step for her character. Also, you gotta give that Pikachu a surf board now.
     
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  14. Threadmarks: Blong 15: When I Grow Up
    AceTrainer14

    AceTrainer14 The acest of trainers

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    I am not sure if I said this the last time you raised it, but while I see your point, I do also disagree with it. There have been a lot of chapters where people talk about Alaska, yes, but that is rather the point of the story, particularly over the last few arcs. Removing them or trying to turn them into something else, like adding random action scenes or forced conversations, would likely be more irritating and pointless to read. As I have always said when people talk about cliches, both when criticising my work and others, if you only focus on the recurring nature of something rather than looking at what is new or different about it than you will only see it one way. There will likely be other chapters that come back to conversations that focus on Alaska, but each one adds something different and I make no apologies for it, particularly not in this situation.

    Her hands were bound behind her back but they were not immobile or unable to move, her wrists were not locked in place. And do you have anything specific about the boat scene that was confusing?

    I do aim to give Lachlan more presence when I go back to rewrite. I did introduce some comradery between him and Sandy in earlier chapters, but the next few chapters will look into him as a character and his reaction to all this plus the overall themes both of YA series deconstruction and Sandy's role in the universe.

    Amanda is meant to be a bit nuts. It seems she came across more cartoonish than I intended (I was going more for her basking in the glory of her assumed role) and will re-examine that when she next appears.

    Thanks again for the feedback :) Sorry I am a tad critical here XD


    Blog Fifteen: When I Grow Up

    There have been plenty of occasions on this journey when I thought my life was over. The robotic Beedrill, Gideon at the museum, the robotic Golem, collapsing caves, the robotic Electrode, facing down Buzz in his office, the army of robotic Pokémon.

    Basically, a lot of dark shit has happened to me. However, in all of those situations, there was always some way out, some way to stop the unfortunate premature death from happening. It wasn't until this week that I actually had a gun shoved in my face, that I had someone with their finger on a trigger ready to blow my brains, and that was the first time I had to seriously stop and consider the possibility that, in a matter of seconds, my life would likely be over and there was no way out of it.

    Obviously, I didn't die. This hasn't turned into some weird paranormal blog, my (after)life hasn't gotten that insane. Yet I am not so bold as to pretend that having a gun aimed at your face doesn't put things into perspective. It does. A lot of things went through my head when that happened. A lot. But, oddly and sadly enough, it's the moments that come afterwards that really get you thinking.

    I'm not talking about the giant battle in an ice cave against a team of reality stars and their mutant Pokémon. I don't think that's what they call a "universal experience". I do think I can speak for most people though when I say that getting threatened with a gun really makes you question your life choices. And no one has more cause to question their choices than I do.

    I'm a mess. That's one thing I realised this week. I really am a mess. First exhibit: Paige evolved. She is finally a Pidgeot, woohoo! This is something I used to dream about ever since I first got her. A few months ago, it was all I was looking forward to in life. Yet when that moment finally arrived, I had never been more frightened in my entire life. And that includes the gun.

    Why? Because I'm meant to be a hero. Everything that is happening in Kanto right now comes back to me. I am meant to ride Paige into some epic battle and save the world or die trying, all because an old rock says so.

    But I am not a hero. I am selfish, I am spiteful, I am bitter, but most importantly, I never had any interest in heroics. I never watched one of those movies or read a book that had a bunch of spirited teen warrior leads and thought 'Gee, that looks like a boatload of fun, I want to be just like that!' It all seemed mad to me, and when I set out on this journey I never once hoped I'd come across some world-ending threat that only I could save. If that is your goal in life, you need to get your head checked, IMMEDIATELY.

    For whatever godly reason though, I am supposed to be a hero. Why it had to be me, I will never know. It is a matter of fate, and you don't get any say in the things life throws your way; you just have to roll with the punches. I learnt to roll with living in a collapsing house with a stressed-out mother and clocked out father, and so I've begun to roll with all this heroism stuff.

    Yet there is one thing that is holding me back from that. I am not just selfish, spiteful, bitter and bitchy. I'm scared. I'm really, truly, unapologetically terrified. I'm scared of losing, I'm scared of dying, which are the same thing, really. I don't want to be the person that flies into the final battle for the good of the world. That's not what I want. Those people don't exist outside of fantasy. There are people I've met who have accepted this as their normal, but no one should live like that.

    When Paige evolved, I thought I was about to die. We were in the middle of a battle (just as a side note, it seems that Indigo Dreams has decided to do away with the pretence as their producer was the one holding the gun to my head. Probably best I don't get into that any further) when the evolution started. I was excited for approximately a second before the fear set it. My brain decided that the prophecy had come true and it was happening right there and then. The ancient rock doodlings of a deranged ghost girl (there's a sentence no one ever thought they'd have to write) unfortunately didn't come attached with any post notes explaining everything that wouldn't fit on the cave wall. There's no date for this battle, no location, no dress code; just a simple, vague invitation to my destiny, cash bar not included.

    I shouldn't try to make fun of this. The simple truth is I thought that was my prophecy, I got scared, and I screwed up. I might have gotten away intact if I had just focussed, but I slipped up, and, to cut a long story short for the sake of protecting my current location, now Sandy and I are separated and I have no idea where she is or if she is still alive.

    I don't care that I let myself down. I care about her. Sandy has been through so much – too much – because of me, because she saw me as a friend whereas I always saw her as a companion. I thought we had sorted our issues, but a few days ago it became clear that it isn't so easy to move on from what I've done. I want to find her if only to say sorry for all I've done and own up to the fact she wouldn't be in any of this if it wasn't for me.

    Being afraid does that. Have I been afraid this whole journey? I don't think so. At first it was ignorance, then it was anger. It wasn't until this fight started to become an unavoidable reality and not something I could simply choose to be involved in that the weight of it started to hit me.

    Fear can manifest in many ways for many reasons. I don't want to psychoanalyse myself more than I already do, but all my reasons for rebelling have been fear of one thing or another. Fear of losing my dreams, fear of failure, fear of becoming something I'm not, fear of dying.

    Yet it's become clear that everything they've all said to me – Damian, Amanda, Evelyn, Janine, everyone – it's all true. We might not be in this war if I hadn't been so afraid of the thought of being in a war. Amanda, Buzz, Gideon, we could've stopped them by now. Or maybe we'd all be dead, who knows. Maybe we all would have fucked up – I mean, Red was on the elite's side from the very beginning, and it took them months to stop Team Rocket, and look what happened to the country in the process.

    I'm getting distracted.

    Really, I was afraid of staying in that city and letting my hatred build up more than it already had. I didn't leave home for anyone else; that was all for me. I left home to get vengeance, or revenge, one of the two. There's a difference to them, I think. Fighting Red, getting one over Chloe, same thing, in the end, it doesn't really matter. I had a goal at the start of this, one that doesn't match the one I have to have now. But it certainly wasn't to try and be a hero… at least, not in the sense I am now.

    People can't flick a switch and become someone else overnight. No one's like that, no matter how hard they pretend to be. I tried to force being a hero on myself, to pretend to be someone tactical and prepared and good and… nice, I suppose. And I went and fucked that up.

    This is a role I was born to play, but I have been using other people's scripts so far to try and get me there. No one told me how to do this, I'm just guessing, and it's clearly not working. I don't have time to wait and learn though. I have to adapt, but I don't really know how.

    Which means… I don't know what it means. I don't have the answers this time (if I ever really had them in the first place). Sorry to any readers hoping I could wrap this up in a neat little bow, putting one week's adventures behind me and setting things up nicely for next time. This was a hard lesson to accept, one that has not just hurt me physically but hurt my relationships with everyone I know. All I know is I need to grow up and adapt quickly, otherwise Sandy is going to die and this is all going to be for nothing.

    I can't live up to the lofty expectations of champions, or the even loftier expectations of gods (who the fuck can?), but if I can live up to the expectations of my friends, that might just be enough for me to pull this thing off. I just have to stop wishing for this all to be over. I guess the hero is the person who actually ends the war rather than waiting for it to be over?

    Alaska

    P.S. If anyone happens to see a blonde girl, potentially with an uncomfortable look on her face surrounded by a tight-lipped middle-aged woman, please let me know. We really need all the help we can get.
     
  15. Flaze

    Flaze Don't Look Away

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    Huh, didn't expect the Blog to be that short. Either way it acts as a pretty good way to cap off the last arc, at least until the interlude comes along. I'm actually quite intrigued about what you'd do for it since the last arc ended on a pretty big cliffhanger (I think it's the first arc where the plot of said arc isn't concluded? or I'm just misremembering here).

    The thing that stands out the most about the blog for me is, as usual, how we get to delve into Alaska's head a bit more and how there's a lot less jokes now. With every arc the blogs stop being a joke and start becoming the place where Alaska is able to bent out her feelings about what happens around her and how she feels. Though I can't help but feel that the "no one can change from one day to the next" line is kind of a jab at the reviews you get in regards to Alaska :p

    Aside from that, there isn't really much to bring up, though in response to your comments. The part that I found more confusing about the Sandy chapter was the whole sequence of the boat tumbling over and them escaping on the sofa, the way in which it was described was really hard to grap...at least for me, if it wasn't brought up before then it's probably not that huge of an issue.

    As for the comment on the Alaska chapters. I can understand your point, and at this point in the story I can't really criticize you for the way in which you do things and lay out your plot. I don't really mean to say that the chapters have to be action focused or the like (god knows you already have those as well), just that they could probably do with offering a bit more than just Alaska talking to the gym leader, not so much because it's bad but because it becomes a routine and something that's expected.
     
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  16. AceTrainer14

    AceTrainer14 The acest of trainers

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    I am not sure if you mean this arc or the one previously, but I have been trying to make it so the arcs are no longer written in the vain of 'this part of the story is over, onwards to next time' as they were in the early parts of the story. The remainder of the arcs will not end in a way that leaves everything all tied up.

    Subtlety has never been my strong suit ;)

    I know that, I meant which part of it was confusing :p Like was the whole sequence hard to understand or just specific descriptions?

    I know what you mean a bit better now, and I do see your point about making the chapters more meaningful. At the same time though, I think it could undermine the message of the discussion and character development if it happens while something else major is going on - I got away with that in the tunnel sequence back in Silph, but less so earlier in this arc with the talk with Damian before the battle - or some big cliffhanger happens. I usually try to have something happen, usually in the form of a revelation or some form of progress, but it is a hard balance to get right where the actual dialogue remains a focus.

    Thanks for the speedy review, hope you like the interlude when it comes out.
     
  17. Persephone

    Persephone The Vulture Queen

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    Yay, short chapter!

    The only little thing that really stood out is that if she's posting this blog from something other than a super-secure Silph Tech computer, it's probably easy for a super scientist or a Silph Exec to figure out where the blog was posted from. So protecting her location from Gideon/Buzz is sort of laughable. Of course, it's altogether possible she would have no idea about that.

    Other than that, does her family read these things? I think it was specified one way or another at some point but there's really no way they haven't been told and she was really dismissive of her parents in this for something they're probably reading at this point. Also been a while since she really tried to talk to them. Which I personally understand.

    A lot of this felt like it also referenced stuff that readers of the blog wouldn't have any context for at all (Charlotte) which felt weird. Main problem here, for me anyways, was that this felt more like a diary or journal entry than a blog post for the public, her family and her enemies to read.

    Still a nice entry though. Looking forward to the interlude.
     
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  18. AceTrainer14

    AceTrainer14 The acest of trainers

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    Gideon is a bit busy hopping all over the world going crazy for that, and Buzz isn't a technical whizz nor, as we will see in the interlude, is he in an appropriate position to request someone else search for it. It is a fair point though and one I totally except, and you are right that Alaska is someone who wouldn't really think of that/let it get in the way of her teenage ramblings.

    They do not, but her references to her parents will be picked up on this arc.

    She spoke to her mother a week ago in the context of the story, even though that chapter came out about a year ago now XD I am going to include more calls to her parents in the rewrites, namely for a bit more variety in what happens in some arcs.

    This is a fair point but I think this blog is consistent with Alaska's current tone. That is not to say you are wrong, but Alaska does tend to do what she wants when she wants. I have increasingly found the blogs to be a handy exercise in showcasing that Alaska is younger than she acts in the main story and a bit more immature/not quite as smart as she generally likes to seem.

    As always, thanks for the review, and glad you are looking forward to the interlude.
     
  19. canisaries

    canisaries now in mint flavor

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    Heya, it's Canis again here. I'm here to review Chapter One for the Review Game, but also because I did feel a bit off about jumping in right at the end before. So now I'm going in like a newcomer should (Well, leaving out the prologue, but it didn't seem to be included in the options), from the first chapter.

    First off, some individual thoughts.

    Kind of confused here - doesn't enter just add a new line? And if you meant a submit button on the screen, I've yet to see any be labeled "enter" instead of "submit" or "send" or such.

    It kind of would fit a child to think that anyone pointing out typos in posts would automatically be a troll. :p

    Also, I think you mean "lest", not "less". i swear this has nothing to do with that previous comment haha

    I'm not even 70% sure if I'm in the right with this, but I think it should be "aside", "beside" or "besides". I could not find google results of "asides" being used like this and I've never heard it used before.

    Alright, so: this chapter is kind of vague about her age and as I don't yet know too much of the timeline, these two parts together almost make it seem like she's 8 years old (even if I do know she's 13, having heard it from you and checked it from latter chapters). Later on, we get

    which at first glance read like 5 years had passed since the last paragraph. It may be a good idea to add just a little bit more clarity on what happened when.

    The impact of the war / crisis / whatever it was that happened feels very thought out and elaborate, which is great worldbuilding. However, this paragraph also highlights an issue I'll get back to after the rest of these specific quotes.

    I cannot figure out what the "three bronze heads" are. Can you elaborate (either in the fic, or just to me right now if this is a reference to something in the canon or it's explained in the prologue)?

    Small sentence error here, I guess probably from the editing phase. Has happened to me many a time too, heh.

    This isn't a critique or anything, I just want to congratulate you on being among the 0.01% of people online who actually use the word "defiantly" right and not exclusively in a poor attempt of spelling "definitely".

    Oh arceus the whole forest is on fire jokes aside, I like this description of wildlife. Seems very lively.

    Whoa whoa whoa whoa. A trainer who actually knows what they're doing? Move over, Ash.

    This paragraph ends in a comma, so I'm not sure if it was meant to be a period instead or a sentence is missing. Either case, should probably be looked over.

    Wonderful description here. I take it that the staters-remark has something to do with Alaska starting off with a mon as mundane as Pidgey?

    The repetition of "anxious" feels a bit weird to me. I'd recommend a synonym or adding a "too"/"as well" in there to amplify the connection.

    *you're

    *tail

    If the nose looks like a snout and acts like a snout, I'm not sure why it wouldn't just be called a snout, but I suppose if it's consistently called a nose through the rest of the fic, that's not really a problem.

    Additionally, here's another grammar issue I'm not totally sure if I'm right on, but I'd write "stick-like" and "snout-like".

    Alright, now to the more general comments.

    In my eyes, the way Alaska and her surrounding family/setting is introduced has a bit of a problem. In the beginning, we don't know much about Alaska. Her personality isn't too out there, she seems like a rather normal girl. Then we find out about her past and the situation she lives in. Her father has become a slob after losing his job, her house and environment rather poor, both monetarily and in quality. This very much seems like it is brought up to generate sympathy for the protagonist, but for me, it didn't do it - that's because the only things I knew about Alaska so far were that she was a girl, she had a bird, she had a blog, and... that's pretty much it. She hadn't had time to charm me with her personality, win me over, earn my sympathy - I didn't even know what her personality was, and while I had a slightly better idea by the end (cocky, confident), she still just struck me as a protagonist first and a character next. In light of this, the tragedies almost feel like they're her current defining characteristic.

    Now, it's very likely this would change later on in the fic, but I think the quirks and unique characteristics of a protagonist should be strong in the introduction already, as first impressions are very powerful and can often determine whether a reader keeps going or drops the fic. I will admit that the effect may be smaller considering the prologue would come before this, and depending on how engaging the prologue is might not even matter.

    To end this on a positive note: I can't really find anything structure- or flow-wise to complain about, so keep up the good work on that front. As seen in some of my individual comment already, I'm also a fan of the description. There seems to be just the right amount - it doesn't turn into purple prose without good reason for it, but I can still tell quite well what's going on and what's happening.

    If you have any questions about my points, feel free to ask. Till then, see ya~
     
  20. AceTrainer14

    AceTrainer14 The acest of trainers

    Blog Posts:
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    @canisaries. A bit late in my response, sorry about that. And sorry for confusion around the prologue and blog: I did intend for them to be included and would have been happy with a review for either. Really, I think the first chapter would feel very odd to read out of context with the two, and that may be where some of the confusion in your reading has come from.

    I am not sure why you read these two sentences the same. The eight years is a reference to her house being painted. The five years is a reference to the entire city being destroyed. The two are entirely separate from one another.

    This is brought up by the end of the arc, but it is a statue.

    I don't know how you would feel differently having read the blog, but the blog is meant to be read before this. I have never received feedback from someone who hasn't read the blog though, so I will take your thoughts from here into consideration. However, I think it would be impossible to introduce Alaska without addressing the unemployed father in the room, and I am not sure how I would address it otherwise. Her character is defined by her past, and really her reaction to the world around her are her quirks and characteristics.

    Thank you, I am glad you liked my style.

    Will make a note of the mistakes mentioned and will seek to fix them.
     
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