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COMPLETE: [Teen] Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Unequivocant

The Hidden Author
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Thanks for your comments, @canisaries. I'll get to work on the suggested changes.

Just as it was from the start, though, the morality of Arceus is still questionable - the theme of him allowing choice and not intervening (though still sometimes doing it) is a good contrast to Arthus, but on other hand, it's essentially comparable to a landlord of a monster-ravaged land with the landlord having infinite amounts of monster repellent but refusing to distribute it to anyone who doesn't swear allegiance to him, causing the "nonbelievers" to become snacks to the wild beasts. It's not the same, as what Arceus asks for isn't much and actually inspires altruism which in the long run will be beneficial to all, but it's still a bit close to the line. Cassia did claim she reached all towns and all mon, but there's likely still the odd hermit or low-ranking Guild member who never heard enough good arguments to switch to Arceism.

However, the problem of who has choice, who is truly evil and why a higher power would allow pain are among the biggest questions of life and philosophy, so I don't expect anyone to actually give a fully logical, all encompassing answer to them - much less so in a 24-chapter fanfic. Mind-blowing life advice is not something I read fanfiction for, so some moral dilemmas left unanswered is not big a deal all things considered. I read fics for entertainment and I definitely got it from Unequivocant. Plus, you got me rambling this much, so I can't say it didn't make me think!
Well...I can't exactly create a perfect parallel with real-life God. There are just some things I can't put into play, and this is a difficult real-life issue. I've done the best I can given the length and context, and I don't plan on trying to make this story an outlet to prove that.

Thanks again for your review, and I'll see you with Chapter 24!
 
ERROR
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Well, he's devoted a lot of resources to the project, and he had faith that Lawrence would survive with his background. Still, this blind faith wouldn't sit well with, say, his investors. He is awfully desperate to have these talking Pokemon, and considering how much time he's invested into it, he doesn't want to let go. I can put some of that reasoning into his thoughts in his initial scene.
I think it would greatly help to show that desperation somehow. Because I honestly don't really know what Hanson's motivation is. Does he really want to see some sort of golden age of Human-Pokémon relations? Or is he driven purely by greed and profit? If you're really going to wrap this all up in one chapter, then I think it would be good to lay out Hanson's thoughts, so that he can be properly dealt with in a short frame of time. Plenty of media pull stunts where the Big Bad dies in a blaze of glory, and you think things are over, only for some new antagonistic force to step in. Difference is, most of the time you usually still have some time left before the end of the story. You're introducing this with one chapter to go, so you've written yourself into a bit of a corner. ^^;

As previously explained, the Pokemon of the main world aren't on the same level of sentience as those in Equivos. The mainline Pokemon are sort of between the civilized and wild of Equivos, hence why there's a grey area in terms of the Arceists' beliefs. The reason why the Equivosians are civilized in the first place are sort of why the humans in the mainline world are: the Lake Spirit Pokemon, Uxie, Azelf, and Mesprit.
Oh. Huh. If that was explained, then I think I missed it...

Really, the core of 'All Pokemon are created equal' is that you treat all as you would want to. The Arceists trained and loved Pokemon as pets, yes, but they certainly didn't see them like that. They saw them as companions, just as they would another human. The Arcean Texts of Lawrence's world say so.
If that's the case, why wasn't this teaching simply phrased as the Golden Rule. Y'know, "Treat everyone (including Pokémon) as you want to be treated." That would've saved me a lot of confusion.

And there's one other thing to keep in mind: the Arceist Tome was written for Equivos. Sure, many of the truths also apply to Lawrence's world, but what about the wild Pokemon? I don't believe I've written about the relationship the Equivosians had with them. It is sure to be entirely different amongst them.
In that case... why don't we learn more about the wild 'mons of Equivos? Especially Lawrence, since he spends so much time comparing Equivos 'mons to the ones he saw in Sinnoh. What is it that made certain Pokémon special enough to gain these human-like qualities from the Lake Trio while others just didn't? If that was explained at some point, I really think I missed it.

Yeah, that line came out wrong. I can definitely make that change. As for Arthus' killing of those Pokemon, yeah, it does come down to the Tree of Life: any who hold faith in Arceus experience an afterlife of tranquility, while those who do not are punished, because their actions ultimately lead to the unhappiness of others. It's a simple and rather predictable explanation, but even if Arthus kills all the Arceists, they'll still win. They get peace and happiness while Arthus doesn't.
Okay. That's perfectly fine. I think I (and maybe others) might appreciate some clarity. Like, do these Pokémon get corporeal forms in the afterlife? Can they physically move about the Tree of Life and do stuff? It sounds like that's what you're going for but, unlike when a visual medium portrays heaven, you don't have the image element to work off of. It's asking a lot for me to guess about what your story's vision of the afterlife actually looks like, when it's never explained.
 
The Hidden Author
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I think it would greatly help to show that desperation somehow. Because I honestly don't really know what Hanson's motivation is. Does he really want to see some sort of golden age of Human-Pokémon relations? Or is he driven purely by greed and profit? If you're really going to wrap this all up in one chapter, then I think it would be good to lay out Hanson's thoughts, so that he can be properly dealt with in a short frame of time. Plenty of media pull stunts where the Big Bad dies in a blaze of glory, and you think things are over, only for some new antagonistic force to step in. Difference is, most of the time you usually still have some time left before the end of the story. You're introducing this with one chapter to go, so you've written yourself into a bit of a corner. ^^;
I wouldn't say I wrote myself into a corner. He'll show his ambitions soon enough when Chapter 24 comes around, and don't forget that he expressed his desire to have a world full of talking Pokemon while also selling this product in Chapter 02. He is an important role, yes, but I never felt the need to provide much on Hanson since the focus of this story is on Equivos, not Unova.

I will try to provide satisfactory details on Hanson in Chapter 24, but as for what he does in Chapter 23 and before, he is fine.

Oh. Huh. If that was explained, then I think I missed it...
Well...after rethinking it, it may not have been detailed. It would have been between chapters 3 and 5 if mentioned, but otherwise, refer to this point that Negrek made over on Serebii on Chapters 2-5:

Negrek said:
Lawrence's conflicted feelings about Arceism seem a little weird to me, though. Like, it's definitely unsettling to see it echoed here, and it makes sense that he has a beef with the religion. But his whole, "I'm just helping these pokémon because I want to! That doesn't make me an Arceist!" seems kind of over the top. I guess he's retroactively guilty about his previous views, and the fact that pokémon are so humanlike here does raise some uncomfortable questions about what may be up with the pokémon where Lawrence is from. But at the same time, the pokémon here are clearly VERY different, so I don't know why Lawrence's opinions about them should necessarily have any bearing on how he relates to pokémon in Unova. Like, it just seems odd to me that he's angsting about how the pokémon here have something to do with Arceus' teachings that all life is created equal, when really they... don't? People aren't really rational about this kind of stuff, so it's not necessarily unrealistic just because it doesn't make sense to me, but it does strike me as a bit overblown, and Lawrence really does bang on about it quite a bit in these chapters.
Ultimately, it got too confusing to try and write for, even if I wanted to keep the conflict early on.
If that's the case, why wasn't this teaching simply phrased as the Golden Rule. Y'know, "Treat everyone (including Pokémon) as you want to be treated." That would've saved me a lot of confusion.
That probably could have been fixed, yes. But I wasn't thinking like that at the time, so...sorry.

In that case... why don't we learn more about the wild 'mons of Equivos? Especially Lawrence, since he spends so much time comparing Equivos 'mons to the ones he saw in Sinnoh. What is it that made certain Pokémon special enough to gain these human-like qualities from the Lake Trio while others just didn't? If that was explained at some point, I really think I missed it.
There are few wild Pokemon left in Equivos in this time period. Sure, there's plenty in the less developed areas, such as the Faylen Jungle, Xilo Mountains and the Iren Desert, but they never directly impacted the story in any way. Really, the only area I brought up the teachings of Arceus involving wild Pokemon would be in Chapter 09, where they eat a Basculin, or in Bonus Chapter 2, where the same thing happens.

And for Lawrence making comparisons, all of those were removed in my chapter edits due to the rather preachy nature of them. They ultimately provided a comparison that didn't make much sense, as Negrek mentioned.

Okay. That's perfectly fine. I think I (and maybe others) might appreciate some clarity. Like, do these Pokémon get corporeal forms in the afterlife? Can they physically move about the Tree of Life and do stuff? It sounds like that's what you're going for but, unlike when a visual medium portrays heaven, you don't have the image element to work off of. It's asking a lot for me to guess about what your story's vision of the afterlife actually looks like, when it's never explained.
Well...I have a way around that.

Alright, I've been meaning to keep this a surprise for when I post Chapter 24, but there is actually going to be an additional chapter: an epilogue, detailing what happens after the story's all said and done. I won't go into explicit details, but I think I'll resolve this issue with that chapter.

I know I made some confusing steps here and there, but with the changes I made in the previous chapters in the past, along with the frank lack of necessity for other factors, there really isn't a need to elaborate.

I've been thinking about making a worldbuilding thread similar to unrepentantAuthor's for his story, Different Eyes. I think it would help resolve some of these problems, in a secondhand way. I was planning on opening such a thread after I finished PMDUE to pass the time until the release of Edge of Despair, but I could make it early if there is enough interest.
 
ERROR
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That might help. Hopefully you could get some advice from folks. My big suggestion would be to outline your next story, so that you can give yourself a guide as to what you want to show and when you want to show it. But I know that doesn't work for everyone. Just figured I'd throw it out there anyway. *shrug*
 
The Hidden Author
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Well, I did outline Unequivocant, but I would hardly call it in-depth; it was more of a rough sketch of the storyline to keep me on track. What I'll do next time is make the character arcs more defined for everyone, rather than simply having the general plotline be what defines them. That is my next big step in improving my writing, so I just need to take it.

I'll get the worldbuilding thread up this week for questions and the like, but until I'm done with the composition of Unequivocant, I won't be updating it with new material regularly. That will have to wait for the downtime between stories.
 
The Hidden Author
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Alright, I'm extremely disappointed to say that Chapter 24 isn't ready. I had to go on a trip I was planning to skip, but was ultimately persuaded to go on, in exchange for more writing time today. Due to that and other circumstances, I was unable to write it in time. But as with before, I plan on writing it tomorrow, and unlike Chapter 23, I have a pretty clear vision on how I want it to turn out. There may be enough content I have in mind to split into two separate chapters, but I will determine that tomorrow with my writing. Sorry for the delay once more, but I plan to make up for it.
 
Chapter 27: Turning
The Hidden Author
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If you have any questions relating to the world of Equivos, feel free to send a question to this thread, The Region of Equivos--A PMD Universe.

Act 5: The Aftermath
Chapter 27: Turning


Darkness.

All he saw was darkness.

He felt heavy, as if he had been through a great ordeal, only it had happened instantaneously.

He forced his eyes to open, his vision blurry in the dim light. He lay on a pad in an empty room, free of instruments and furniture. As his vision cleared, he saw a light buzzing overhead, and a series of windows revealing a dark, technological underworld, full of whirring machinery. The buzzing seemed quieter, duller, as if his hearing had worsened. The smell of oil and smoke also seemed muted compared to his previous experience.

He craned his head up to see through the window better. He felt a chill in his arms and legs, despite not usually having one. He rubbed his face to rid the tiredness from his eyes.

He stopped.

He held out his hand, noticing the pearlescent, smooth, sturdy fabric that covered it. The digits were long and well defined, unlike the paws he remembered.

His breathing grew heavy. He carefully pulled off the glove, studying the furless, pale hand underneath. He pressed it against his face, feeling no snout, no fur. Only a mouth, nose, and eyes.

He passed his hand through his hair, a long, unkempt brown mess. His elation rose as it fell from his fingers, unlike the short, velvety fur that covered him for over a month. He looked down and saw himself in the same white suit he had entered Equivos in, perfectly clean and shiny, even in the low light.

He looked up and gasped. “Which means—"

A shout echoed from the window to his left. Others followed, each furious in their cries. Lawrence shakily stood up, unused to the balance of his former self. He shuffled toward the window and froze.

A dozen guards surrounded an Ambipom as he threw punches everywhere, but the Mightyena forced him into a cage with an infant Aipom. His shouts were drowned out by the cries of the more Pokemon were forced into cages, all to be carried away.

Lawrence’s jaw fell. “No…” He looked to the left and breathed in sharply. Two Machoke each took one of Cassia’s arms as she was dragged across the room, each listening to the shouts of their masters. He mane trailed along the ground, her eyes closed and head bowed. She soon panned out of view, her dark, Zoroark fur clutched in the arms of the Machoke.

Lawrence’s heart beat rapidly. Sweat beaded on his brow. “She’s…she’s…” His face hardened. “They can’t do this.” He turned around and marched toward the door, finding renewed strength. “They can’t do this!”

He slammed open the door, his eyes locking with an elderly man in a suit. His eyes squinted up from a book in his lap, his white hair flowing over his bald crown. The ruby around his neck glinted in the flickering light, matching the smart, black suit he wore, and the crimson tie underneath the coat.

The man grinned, shutting the book. “High time you woke up!” He pushed himself up and heartily took Lawrence’s hand, shaking it vigorously. “Thanks to you, Valence Tech will rise to new heights!” He pulled Lawrence’s tense arm closer and muttered, “And under such strenuous conditions. I have no idea how you survived there for as long as you did, but rest assured that you will be handsomely compensated for it.”

Lawrence didn’t reply, scarcely restraining his anger toward President Hanson. “Let Cassia and everyone else go!” he wanted to scream, but he knew that such an action could lead to nothing. For now, if he wanted to reason with Hanson, he had to force himself to say, “Thank you.” He looked back at the window. “What will happen to them?” he asked with barest restraint.

Hanson cocked his head, his continually squinting eyes contorting in confusion. “The Equivos Pokemon?” He waved his hand, shaking his head. “Don’t know why you’re so concerned, considering their savage nature.” He folded his hands behind his back and cleared his throat. “Don’t worry; they are being put into holding cells as we speak. Within hours, we will begin the research and experimentation phase.”

He wrapped an arm around Lawrence and guided him away from the door, their footsteps clapping against the coarse concrete. “You know, I thought you wouldn’t make it because of the instability of the wormhole. After that Dusknoir came through, it was warping so much that it threatened to destroy the facility.” He smiled, looking across to Lawrence. “But you managed to come through with a Zoroark—quite a rare specimen. You’ve only been asleep for several minutes while we took care of it.” He turned back toward the hallway, grim. “That Ambipom was making things difficult…along with some others.” He shook his head gently. “There’s always complications, but they’ll soon be gone. They are just Pokemon after all.”

Lawrence carefully hissed through his teeth. “They aren’t just Pokemon…”

Hanson patted Lawrence’s shoulder, chuckling. “Regardless, they will make excellent subjects for Project Babel.”

A cry of anguish echoed through the hallway. Lawrence tightened his fist. “What are your plans for the project?”

Hanson looked up thoughtfully. “We’ll likely spend the next several months, or years even, on extracting the DNA sequence from these Pokemon that allows them to speak. Then it will be used to create a serum or machine capable of granting our Pokemon speech capabilities.” He smiled wide, his eyes opening. He lowered his arms, staring out into space, breathing deeply. “After mass production and distribution, we will have a world with perfect communication between man and Pokemon.”

Lawrence realized that Hanson couldn’t simply be convinced to release the Equivosians; he not only had a profit in mind from them, but also an ambition, one that he seemed entirely devoted to.

Lawrence forced himself to calm, then said, “Is there any way to do this without harming them?”

Hanson’s eyes squinted again, and he eyed Lawrence with suspicion. “Why so concerned? From my observations, you saw Pokemon as savages, like myself. There’s no humanity in them, so why should it matter?”

Lawrence never remembered being willing to harm Pokemon, but he did remember his previous views on Pokemon and regretted them. ‘I was right that this world’s Pokemon weren’t supposed to be treated like people, but the Arcean Texts never said that; it was meant to make way for the Equivosians. Everyone else never realized that—only I made it a reason to leave Arceus.’

Hanson looked away, disinterested. “I can’t guarantee they won’t be harmed while we extract their DNA. But after it is set on the assembly lines, we’ll show them to the world as part of the advertising campaign of Project Babel. They will be assurance that the project will work for their Pokemon.”

“But that’s a lie! I brought them from Equivos!” Lawrence fumed, wondering how extensively Hanson planned this entire scheme.

Hanson held up a finger and smirked. “The public won’t know that. We’ll use the completed Project on our own Pokemon, yes, but why not use Pokemon that have already been prepared?” He focused his eyes on Lawrence again. “And if you really are concerned about their fate afterward, they’ll be given the best life we can offer: food, enclosures, nests, toys—everything needed to make Pokemon happy.” He turned away and shrugged. “Who knows? We might be able to integrate them with our own Pokemon. We could find them owners and train them, just like any other.”

Lawrence grinded his teeth, scarcely believing his employer. ‘They aren’t like ours! They can’t be forced to live that life!’ He slowly let out his breath, watching Hanson smile and wave to a few engineers walking by. ‘You might seem like a good person, but you’re not. You don’t care about Pokemon, least of all Equivos. You and your company.’

A long window extended to their left, revealing the massive warehouse that Facility D housed. He stopped to study the whirring machine lifts and workers rushing back and forth, all working to carry the cages that housed the Pokemon they captured. Their cells were formed into a rough rectangle, stacking on top of one another in a jigsaw, accommodating all sizes of Pokemon. And sitting on the highest cage, gently lowering onto the top of the others, was a Zoroark, clutching a set of bags in her arms.

Lawrence held onto the railing beneath the window, focusing on Cassia. She stared at the floor of the cage, looking down at the Pokemon she had saved from destruction. She looked around her, watching the alien people cross by her, all shouting various orders to their subordinates. She looked up, staring at the window. Her eyes widened.

Lawrence cringed, leaning closer to her. “Cassia…” he whispered.

Their eyes met, and Cassia put a hand over her mouth. She looked away and hid her face, her back rising and falling with her heaving.

Hanson stood next to Lawrence, scrutinizing his crestfallen face. “What is the matter? They are being given the best treatment possible in the current situation. We were expecting only a dozen at most when you first entered Equivos, not over two thousand!”

Realizing his mistake, Lawrence stood straight and forced himself to look away from Cassia. “Please, e-excuse me. I’m just…I’m just feeling tired, that’s all.”

Hanson didn’t move. “Considering what you’ve been through, I’m not surprised.” He gave the cages another glance, then turned around, pacing toward the door at the end of the hallway.

Lawrence turned back toward the Cassia, who still covered her face. “I’ll get you out,” he assured her, knowing she couldn’t hear him. “You and everyone else.” He stared for a few moments longer, then returned to Hanson, passing through the door.

The dark environment brightened, no longer so grim and forbidding. To the left of the simple lamp hanging from the ceiling, the elevator doors waited for service, while to the left, two doors marked ‘Men’s’ and ‘Women’s’ stood, perpendicular to the doors Lawrence and Hanson came from.

Hanson waved to the Men’s room. “Go on and get freshened up; I’ll have your belongings sent down from your station.”

Lawrence strode past him, pushing open the door. Hanson’s eyebrows lifted. “Oh, and by the way…” Lawrence stopped.

Hanson set a hand on Lawrence’s shoulder. “I made sure to take care of your finances while you were gone. It wouldn’t be right to have you go through trivial matters after your ordeal.” His hand slid off, then he walked to the elevator and pressed the up button.

Lawrence continued into the room, feeling no kindness from Hanson’s gesture. The concrete of the facility changed to pristine white tiles. Going around the corner of the door, bathroom stalls and urinals lined the left and sinks with mirrors lined the right. Beyond them, a massive wall of lockers stretched, prepared for the hundreds of employees under Hanson’s control. All of it was lit with elongated light bulbs, seeming brighter due to the slight smell of bleach and cleaner.

He walked into the locker room and looked to the left, where showers rose from a massive web of walls, none in use. He wove through the lockers, searching for his own—then realized he had forgotten the number.

He groaned in frustration, not surprised to have forgotten it with all that happened. He almost went out of the locker room altogether, then noticed a neat pile of clothing sitting on a bench, a note on top of it.

He gathered his clothes—remembering them to be his own—then read the note:

Lawrence,

I had my janitors take out your clothes after we assumed you to be gone, but I had them sent here when we heard you were alive. Nothing has been taken, I assure you; I would trust my employees with my life.

Aaron Hanson

Despite his thankfulness, Lawrence couldn’t forgive Hanson in the slightest.

He went into the closest shower and pulled the door shut, finding a mirror on the other side of it. He saw his face and how alien it appeared after being a Lucario for so long—the small, round nose; the angular chin; his dark blue eyes and the brown eyebrows above them. All of it contrasting the subtle, handsome features of a Lucario.

He pulled off the top of his suit and stared at his chest and arms. Toned muscles replaced the thin body from before his time in Equivos, as if the training he had undergone as a Lucario had somehow transferred into this body—almost as a gift from Arceus, now that he thought about it.

He passed his hand over the smooth skin on his left arm, then came to his wrist and stopped. On the underside, he felt a strange, raised section at the base of his hand. He flipped it over and saw the fleshy, pink arc of Arceus, roughly two inches across. It was intrinsically etched into his wrist and raised into being.

Lawrence considered the reason for such a symbol, feeling a strange want to touch the center. His finger hovered over it, then his mind abruptly shifted to the task at hand: cleaning himself. He left the mark alone and finished undressing, then took a long, hot shower in the stall. But he felt no peace.

His indignation toward Hanson now cooled, he considered what he could do to break the Equivosians free from their prison. But his mind kept returning to the mark, and Arceus’ promise to him: “Your fates have been intertwined ever since you were born. And now, they will be closer, with each following the other.” Surely, he couldn’t have meant only one of them changing? With them apart, with one imprisoned and the other free?

He closed his eyes and thought of the surest sign of her love toward her: Aura. He wanted its warmth to comfort him, to bring assurance that not all his Lucario self had gone. But none came. He was as human as he was before he left.

He turned off the shower and dried himself, then dressed in the clothes he left behind, wincing as the fabric contacted his bare skin. He shook his head free of the feeling as he zipped up the blue jacket over his green collared shirt, then walked out of the locker room in his jeans and brown shoes.

He pushed open the door as he brushed back his hair, taming the wild mess that he woke up with. Hanson waited at the elevator with a black bag in his hand, and two guards in navy outfits stood behind him, each with three Pokeballs at their belts.

Hanson smiled in satisfaction as Lawrence approached them. “Good to see you back; the white of that outfit was a tad overdone.” He held the bag out to him. “Here’s everything from your station. I watched the guards myself to make sure nothing was taken.”

Lawrence accepted it, then Hanson looked up at the two burly men behind him. “Given your experience, I thought it best to give you a week paid vacation. It is only fair.” His positive expression suddenly turned serious. “But I warn you: don’t say a thing about this project. We can’t have the public know there are Pokemon that can talk…or their origin.” One of the guards plucked a ball from his side and tossed it in the air, catching it threateningly.

Hanson stepped away from the elevator, and the guards followed. “Oh, and don’t come back until your vacation is over,” Hanson added. The other guard lifted a Pokeball and tossed it in the same manner as the other.

Lawrence nonchalantly walked past them, hiding the confirmation that he knew he wasn’t welcome. He pushed the elevator’s button, entered, then shot up into the main lobby, leaving Hanson and his beloved project. He then exited the quiet, pristine lobby of Valence Tech, and entered nighttime Castelia.

He strode past the bronze statue of the Pokedex 2.0 and entered the main walkway, orange lights flickering over his path. No one but Lawrence crossed the sidewalks—no cars hummed, no Pokemon called, and no people came. Sewage, gasoline and grease hung faintly in the air, evidence of the traffic hours earlier. The unusual quiet joined with the eerie dominance of the skyscrapers in the sky, replacing the trees and mountains of Arceus’ design.

Lawrence looked around him, the bag bouncing on his back. ‘This…this isn’t right,’ he thought. ‘I don’t belong here. I need trees…’ He looked up, the stars invisible from the various lights of the city. ‘I need clear skies.’ He passed a sign advertising the Pokedex 2.0. ‘I need isolation…’

The edge of Castelia became visible on his left, and Lawrence stopped. He stared at the horizon, the black night and sea joining as a single entity. ‘I need Equivos.’ He turned back onto his path. ‘I need…home.’

He reached his apartment building and ascended the stairs, then opened the door. The door slowly swung outward, and as he entered, he studied the place he had called ‘home’: the solitary couch and TV, the underused kitchen, the unappealing bathroom, and the near-empty bedroom. All inside a space no more than thirty feet across.

Lawrence’s chest ached. ‘Do I really live here?’ He swept his hand across the counter, still clean. ‘Why would I want this place? Why did I work for Valence?’ He pulled out his Pokedex from his pocket, opening it. He tapped on ‘Call’ and swiped to ‘Missed Calls’; his parents had left over fifty since he had gone.

He sat on the couch and set his bag next to him, then tapped on his parents’ picture, calling them. ‘Why did I leave behind what made me happy?’

The phone continued to ring, until it suddenly showed a large, scruffy man and the woman next to him. Each wore large, broad-brimmed hats, and their faces were streaked with sweat.

“Lawrence!” they both exclaimed in relief. “We’ve been trying to call you for the past month! Where in Arceus’ name have you been?” Lawrence’s mother continued.

Lawrence’s throat grew tighter. “Mom…”

His father pushed a little closer. “And why are you calling now? It’s the middle of the day over here! We’re usually outside, but…after you didn’t pick up, we’ve been taking more breaks...hoping you’d call.” He pulled off hat, his bald head shining in the bright light. He noticed Lawrence’s pained expression. “Son…what’s wrong?”

Lawrence struggled to keep his voice even as he said, “I had to go somewhere…somewhere far away. I…I made new friends…saw new places…” A tear rolled down his face. “But I didn’t realize until I left how much I missed you. I…I couldn’t call you from where I was. It was so much like Sinnoh: the trees, the mountains…everything.” He wiped his hand over his eyes. “I can’t work with Valence anymore…I can’t live here anymore…not after being in that place.”

His parents fell quiet. A Tauros lowed behind them, and several passed behind the window. His mother leaned closer, sympathetic. “We missed you Lawrence…even before you left. Talking to you once a day was never enough, but then we couldn’t see you at all.” His father hugged her, rocking her. “Can you…can you come visit us? You’ve already been gone for years, and you’ve never come back. Can you now?”

Lawrence nodded, slowly at first, but then gradually faster. “Yes…yes I will.” Despite his joy of going back, he felt a stabbing pain in his chest. “Mom, Dad…about how I’ve been…with the Arceists.”

His parents looked at each other, then his mother said, “I know how hard it’s been, and I’m sure you have questions…but we’re not the ones to talk about it with you.” She weakly smiled. “Remember that little church in Castelia…the one we kept telling you about?”

Lawrence blinked. He pulled his bag closer and sifted through the unimportant employee material and found what mattered: a brochure emblazoned with the arc of Arceus, labeled, ‘Arceism: A Belief Fit for All!’.

Lawrence turned back to his parents. “Yeah…I remember.” He flipped it over, revealing the address of the closest building and its owner. “I’ll go get some things, and…and I’ll visit.”

~~~~

In Facility D, the Equivosians huddled together in their cages, avoiding eye contact with the guards who forcefully shoved them in. Their Mightyena and Arcanine prowled around it, watching for anyone who dared to try and escape. The Equivosians, however, held no faith that they could, what with their Keeper gone and their home destroyed. Now all that awaited them was the dark and oppressive Valence Tech and their dreams of granting speech to all the Pokemon in their world.

Cassia sat in the topmost cage, staring at the iron floor beneath her. Her bag sat in her lap, while the supply pouch she had worked to distribute lay at her side, its contents untouched. In the corner of the cage was a metal bowl filled with brown chunks of grainy substance that smelled vaguely of meat. She dared not try it.

The Zoroark’s mind wasn’t focused on food, or even the loss of her friends and home. She thought only of the human that looked down from above, longingly, like he wanted to come to her. She recognized his face, from when he had shown her long ago. Lawrence Stephenson, a human. And herself, a Pokemon.

“Hey.”

She looked down the bars and saw Lonny Ambipom pressed up against the ceiling of his own. His little Aipom lay nestled in his arms, sleeping uneasily.

He held up some of the brown chunks and narrowed his eye. “Don’t try this stuff. I learned the hard way.” He tossed it to the corner of his cage and slumped against the bars, groaning. "And here I thought we’d be in paradise.” He spat in the corner. “And we’ve got no idea where Lawrence is.” He sighed again, looking down at his son. “Do you think that he might have…betrayed us?”

Cassia shook her head in astonishment. “What, no! He wouldn’t!” His human body returned to her mind, and her features twisted into doubt. “He…he loves me…he loves everyone.”

Gardner continued to stare. “He might’ve changed back on the return and sold us out. He doesn’t seem like the sort of guy to do something like that, but considering the circumstances..." He closed his eye and shook his head. "This isn’t what I thought his world would be like. I was expecting open skies at the least. Not this.”

Cassia held up her right wrist, tracing the white fur that now cropped on it. The arc of Arceus shown prominently through it, leaving a raised impression in her skin. She had no idea why she had it, but she expected Arceus to have an explanation. That is, if she could talk with him again.

Crrreak!

The door of a cage swung open and two Machoke lunged for the Bibarel inside. The hapless Pokemon was dragged by his arms, his beady eyes darting everywhere. “Where’re you takin’ me? Tell me, please! I thought this was supposed to be a paradise fer us, not this!” The Machoke took no notice of his pleas, continuing past the circle of guards to an unseen corridor of Facility D.

Cassia clutched her wrist, horrified. “Arceus preserve us.” The Pokemon below her murmured, each wondering if they were the next to be taken. Children were held by their parents, wondering if Arceus truly wanted them to be in this forsaken place.

Cassia looked down at her bag, focusing on the book that lay visible within. She carefully pulled it out, revealing the final copy of the Arceist Tome. She opened it and studied its pages, a sense of peace overcoming her as she read.

Slowly, carefully, she read aloud, and the murmuring stopped. Despite the grinding and whirring surrounding them, her voice rang out beautifully and clearly, projecting the Creator’s message of peace and goodwill to all his creations, human and Pokemon alike. She started from the beginning, the creation of Equivos, and read on through the ages, recounting the vast tale of the region to its final survivors. The peace she felt spread to them, and despite the danger that awaited them, they felt that all would be well in the end.

~~~~

In a circular room in a lower level of the facility, Hanson watched as men in white lab coats tuned machinery and prepared wires around a large chair with straps, the screens around them blank and ready for listing information. The deafening noise outside was muted, leaving them to work in relative peace.

Hanson couldn’t stop himself from smiling, despite the fact he knew it unsettled his employees. ‘A world full of Pokemon that can speak. A way to not only add to the world, but truly change it.’

He thought back to his youth, when he tinkered with circuitry leftover from computers and Pokeballs in an attempt to create a successful product. Not until years later, when he produced the Poketch, did he succeed. He was successful, but he saw little impact from it; people used it, but it made no meaningful change to their lives.

He pushed himself and others to create the Pokedex 1.0 years after that, and later the 2.0. Now everyone is interconnected with one another, using the universal remote to complete all they must. He had made a difference, but many still went on through life without its advantage, instead staying true to their ways before the new modern age.

And now, years after resolving to change the world, he could do it. Everyone, young and old, man and woman, would buy speech for their beloved Pokemon. And no one could create a competitor.

He chuckled, imagining the perfect world further. ‘No need for sign language or translators, just have a Pokemon tell you what’s wrong. How much easier could life get?’

The doors behind him burst open and a pair of Machoke carrying a Bibarel entered, strapping him into the chair. They exited, and Hanson clapped his hands together. “Time to work, everyone! The sooner, the better!”

An aged, balding scientist hobbled over as his associates placed wires on the blubbering Bibarel. He anxiously swallowed and said, “Are you sure this is…ethical? I mean, he seems as intelligent as you or me.”

Hanson set a hand on the man’s shoulder, tightening his grip. “Doctor Vaun, they’re just Pokemon. We’ve done this before with other subjects, and you had no qualms."

"But this is different. They never spoke or—”

“We must ensure the machine works, no matter the circumstances.” Hanson flashed Vaun a dark look. “Are we clear?”

Vaun nodded reluctantly, then shouted orders to his subordinates. A generator began to spin, and the Bibarel cried out in pain as the process began.

Hanson turned away and closed his eyes, grimacing. “A needed sacrifice, but a regrettable one nonetheless.” He pushed past the stricken employees and entered the elevator, it’s door closing. He looked up, remembering his dream. “But it is a small one to bring unity to all.”

~~~~

Lawrence crossed the streets of Castelia, looking at the back of the closed brochure. He occasionally glanced up passing the numbers and street signs of the various towers until he came across a sign labeled ‘Reshiram Boulevard’. He turned left, a small black book in his hands, imprinted with three golden words: ‘The Arcean Texts’.

He came to number 255 and saw a tiny house squished between two apartment complexes. Lights shined behind the windows, and the arc on top of the spire on the roof glowed a soft yellow. The soft red paint on its walls seemed to invite him in, despite the late hour.

He ascended the steps slowly, feeling guilty for avoiding the church for so long. He went to knock on the wooden door decorated with the Legends of the world but stopped when he saw it open a crack.

He pushed it open the rest of the way and entered a darkened chapel, the bulbs in its chandeliers off. Rows of pews extended toward the stand at the front, which had a podium and rows of chairs behind it. An organ sat to the left of it, and to the right was a donation box, stuck between the corner of the chapel and the entrance to a foyer. Light poured out from within.

Lawrence walked toward it, passing his hands on the tops of the pews. He remembered the meetings he had when he was young, how the Pokemon sat with their masters on the pews to listen to the priest and those he had asked to speak that day. Testimonies of those who believed rang out from his mind, and the soothing, yet powerful notes of the organ during the hymns brought peace to even the most troubled soul.

He stepped into the foyer, where a collection of doors lined the walls, all labeled as ‘Classroom’. A door labeled ‘Library’ stood locked, and the bulletin board to the right had various events listed, all their dates long passed. The light from the lamp in the room emitted a soft, pink glow, and just down the hallway connected to the foyer, Lawrence heard someone cry.

Concerned, Lawrence approached the hallway, passing various paintings of Arceus and his Legends. In some, he created the world and Pokemon; in others, he stood with his followers against the darkness, his arms holding back the fears that lay so prevalent in the world. They stopped at the end, where a door labeled ‘Office’ lay open, and where the woman could be heard.

He stood at the open door and saw a red-haired woman in a long, grey coat, piling clothes into a suitcase, fighting back the tears that came. A pull-down bed had numerous papers and books thrown across it, and the desk lay clear, fitting only the massive suitcase that she loaded everything into.

She stopped briefly, then fell back into the rolling chair behind the desk, sighing. “What am I going to do?”

Lawrence took a step back, realizing that he likely came at the wrong time. ‘I could go back. But what can I do? I don’t know how to break in, and even if I did pull everyone out, where would they go? Moving two thousand Pokemon out of sight is nearly impossible.’ He shrugged and stepped forward. ‘Until I figure it out, might as well talk to her. He knocked on the open door.

Erica gasped and stood up from her chair, eyes wide with panic as she turned toward the door. She cocked her head in bewilderment. “Lawrence? What are you doing here this late?” She waved at the mess and sighed, wiping away the tears on her face. “You came at a bad time.”

Lawrence peeked inside the room, noticing a bag full of hygiene supplies tucked next to the suitcase. “I came by to talk. What are you doing?”

Erica sat back down on the chair and crossed her arms, then grumbled, “Nice to see someone come here other than me.” She blinked and gave Lawrence a suspicious look. “I thought you hated me? I haven’t been able to see you for the past month, and none of the guys you worked with seemed to know where you were.”

Lawrence cautiously stepped inside the office, sitting down at the strangely-empty chair in front of the desk. “It’s a long story.” He looked around another time. “Seriously, what’s going on? Are you…moving?”

Erica stood up and picked up a pile of clothing. “Yes. I haven’t had anyone but a few elderly couples come for the past year, and even they eventually stopped. Without the donations, I couldn’t afford to pay the mortgage, so the bank’s evicting me.” She set the clothes inside the suitcase and picked up a Pokeball on the dresser behind the desk. “I’m a waitress over at the Simisear Grill and Chill, but I could only afford food and supplies for me and Roselia. I was hoping to move back with my mom in Sinnoh, but I don’t have enough money saved up. I’ll have to rent an apartment until I can.” He fingers passed over the button of the ball, decorated with a tiny arc of Arceus. “I really wanted to be a priestess here…” She tucked the ball inside a coat pocket, then patted it. “But I guess there’s just not enough people who believe.”

She turned back to Lawrence, scowling. “Why am I telling you this? You never cared about me. You never cared about this church or anyone who went to it.”

Lawrence silently cursed himself and held up his copy of the Arcean Texts. “I just have some things I need to talk with you about. You know about this a lot better than I do, so I need you to help me confirm it.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Confirm what?”

Lawrence flipped to a bookmark, scanning the page. “See, I’m technically a member of the church already; I’ve just been inactive for the past seven years. Now I want to start getting into it again, but I want to help correct a big mistake.”

Erica closed her suitcase and leaned over the desk, curious to see Lawrence’s notes. “What mistake? Is it some policy that the presidency made?”

“No.” He set the book on her case and pointed at a lengthy passage, where he added his own notes. The sentences were interrupted by large gaps, indicating the portions of the texts that were lost through the years.

He pointed at the paper and said, “I think I figured out what this is meant to say. I underlined what I think should be added.” Erica studied his changes:

“And I, the Creator, have made worlds without number, but they do not affect the salvation of this present one. However, one will impact this one upon its end. This world holds my children, just as this one, but contains only Pokemon, and no men. They hold the memories, emotions, and willpower that the men of this world have, and so, must be treated as such. At the conclusion of that world’s journey, these Pokemon will have a new journey within this one. Treat them as men, and they shall treat you as them. Respect all life, but treat the children of Equivos as equals.”

Erica studied the page, her face unchanging. At the end, she leaned back and interlocked her fingers, shaking her head in disbelief. “This…this is ridiculous. Yes, he created worlds without number, but one with only Pokemon? That can speak? And they’re coming here for some reason?” She blew out her breath and continued, “This changes our longest held belief: to treat Pokemon like ourselves. According to you, we were really supposed to just respect our Pokemon, and treat these Pokemon from ‘Equivos’ as equals—not ours.” She eyed him suspiciously. “Where’d you come up with all of this, and why are you showing it to me?”

Lawrence passed his hand through his hair, considering the best way he could explain. “Let’s just say that Valence managed to find it, and I…may have brought these Pokemon here.” He winced, hoping that word wouldn’t spread.

Erica simply stared. “I’d say you’re lying if I didn’t know you were horrible at it.” She stood up and held a hand on her head, scarcely believing it. “This is…just too much.” She dropped her hand and shook her head in defeat. “Why are you telling me this? What can I do? I’m just a waitress-slash-priestess!”

Lawrence threw his hands in the air. “I don’t know either! Look, Valence is planning on doing something with the Pokemon from Equivos, so I have to get them out!” He slapped the brochure on the desk and groaned. “I just want to say sorry for all the times I shrugged you off. My life’s been crazy for the entire month, and I just want to set things right again, even if I sound crazy while doing it.”

Erica crossed her arms, considering his exclamation. She looked down at the brochure and cocked her head. “Hey, what’s this?” She took out a slip of paper tucked between the folded pages and inspected it. “’Sheffield’? Who’s he? And why’s his number on here?”

Lawrence blinked. He took the paper and stared at it, remembering the captain’s intrusion well—and his promise.

He thought of an idea.

He shot upright and shoved the paper into his pocket, then took Erica’s hand and looked directly at her. “I know this is going to sound strange, but I have a way to get you back home—free of charge.” She jerked slightly, caught off-guard by his gesture and his statement.

He continued, “I don’t have the time to explain, but get down to the docks and wait for me there. I have a friend who can help.” He darted toward the door.

She looked down at her hand, then back at Lawrence. “Wait, why are you wanting to help me? Why are you doing any of this? You’re making no sense!”

He stopped at the door and thought for a moment. “I guess I want to make up for running away from Arceus for so long…and running from you in the process.” He shrugged. “Plus, I wouldn’t want anyone to be stuck here in Castelia. Would you?" He ran down the hallway and burst out the door, his feet clattering down the streets of the city.

Erica held the side of her face, bowing her head. “Is this really true?” She stood still for a moment, then leaned forward slightly. She stood straight, and a smile slowly crept onto her face.

“You know…maybe it is.”

~~~~

Lawrence slammed his apartment door closed and pulled out Sheffield’s number. “I hope you like staying up late.” He then pulled out his Pokedex and went to type the seaman’s number. He stopped. He set his Pokedex down on the counter with the number and sighed. “But I still don’t have any idea on how to save Cassia and the others! What am I supposed to do?”

Touch the arc.

Lawrence looked around, remembering that soft, quiet voice from when he took pictures of the Arceist Tome. “…Arceus?”

Touch the arc. Hold it.

Lawrence pulled back the sleeve of his left wrist, revealing the arc-shaped scar. “Might as well.” He held his right finger against it, and for several seconds, nothing happened.

A fire burned in his core.

He pulled his finger away, and his body became absorbed in light.

He felt himself shift and change, a welcome, if unexpected, feeling.

The light disappeared, and Lawrence opened his eyes. He looked down.

A black-furred paw rested on the counter.

Lawrence gaped, then felt his own face, feeling the snout and ears of a Lucario. He looked down at himself and saw the proportions of a Lucario through his clothing. His legs were notably thinner than before, and he appeared to be taller to compensate for his human form. His feet rose out from his shoes, now with small points of contact, and his tail hung above the rim of his pants.

Lawrence studied his left paw, studying the white fur that made up the arc of Arceus. He held the arc again, and the same bright light enveloped him. Moments after, he was back to being a human, albeit with his shoes now underneath his feet.

His mouth hung open, then he closed it and looked up gratefully. “Arceus…thank you. You never separated me from her after all.” He picked up his Pokedex and carefully typed in Sheffield’s number, a plan to rescue Equivos from Valence forming in his mind.
 
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Oh, I can definitely understand two more chapters after this - I was puzzled on how you'd manage to wrap up so much in just one chapter. This seems like the right choice for pacing.

Darkness.

All he saw was darkness.
Neat contrast to the last chapter here.

He felt heavy, as if he had been through a great ordeal, only it happened instantaneously.
Had happened, I'd put.

As his vision cleared, he saw an overhead light buzzing overhead,
somewhat redundant with "overhead" twice

Lawrence shakily stood up, unused to the balance of his former self. He shuffled toward the window and froze.
Love that the details of transformation are still here with the return to the original form. He did spend quite a while as a Lucario.

Lawrence continued into the room, feeling no kindness from Hanson’s gesture. The concrete of the facility changed to pristine white tiles. Going around the corner of the door, bathroom stalls and urinals lined the left and sinks with mirrors lined the right. Beyond them, a massive wall of lockers stretched, prepared for the hundreds of employees under Hanson’s control. All of it lit with elongated light bulbs.
Man, can't blame Lawrence for feeling dull after coming back from a fantastical gorgeous land to this.

Despite his thankfulness, Lawrence couldn’t forgive Hanson in the slightest.
Hanson really wants Lawrence to like him - makes sense as Lawrence has to keep the whole thing a secret, and threats, while effective, tend to make things more tense than needed.

He passed his hand over the smooth skin on his left arm, then came to his wrist and stopped. On the underside, he felt a strange, raised section at the base of his hand. He flipped it over and saw the fleshy, pink arc of Arceus, roughly two inches across. It was intrinsically etched into his wrist and raised into being.

Lawrence considered the reason for such a symbol, feeling a strange want to touch the center. His finger hovered over it, then his mind abruptly shifted to the task at hand: cleaning himself. He left the scar alone and finished undressing, then took a long, relaxing shower in the stall.
Ooh, marked. Though have to admit that a scar is kinda creepy. I'd suggest a tattoo, but that might be too conspicuous and attract a few questions from the workers of Valence.

which, strangely, felt strange to have on his body
redundance again

Now all that awaited them was the dark and oppressive Valence Tech, and their dreams of granting speech to all Pokemon in their world.
Comma might actually muddle with what "their" is pointing to here? I mean it's obvious from the context, but it still kind of reads like the dreams were of the Pokemon.

He doesn’t fseem like the sort of guy to do something like that, but considering the circumstances...
*seem

Cassia held up her wrist, tracing the white fur that now cropped on it. The arc of Arceus shown prominently through it, leaving a raised impression in her skin. She had no idea why she had it, but she expected Arceus to have an explanation. That is, if she could talk with him again.
Oh, neat, truly bound together! Fur is far less creepy than marks on the skin, too.

Cassia looked down at her bag, focusing on the book that lay visibile within. She carefully pulled it out, revealing the final copy of the Arceist Tome. She opened it and studied its pages, a sense of peace overcoming her as she read.

Slowly, carefully, she read aloud, and the murmuring stopped. Despite the grinding and whirring surrounding them, her voice rang out beautifully and clearly, projecting the Creator’s message of peace and goodwill to all his creations, human and Pokemon alike. She started from the beginning, the creation of Equivos, and read on through the ages, recounting the vast tale of the region to its final survivors. The peace she felt spread to them, and despite the danger that awaited them, they felt that all would be well in the end.
*visible

Anyway, I love how her instinct is to start reading to the mon from the Tome. It's so like her.

Hanson turned away, a satisfied smirk plastered on his face. “A small sacrifice for bringing unity to all.”
Huh, Arthus and Hanson would get along well. If their egos could fit in the same room, that is.

Testimonies of those who believed rang out from hi mind,
*his

He felt himself shift and change, a welcome, if unexpected, feeling.

The light disappeared, and Lawrence opened his eyes. He looked down.

A black-furred paw rested on the counter.

Lawrence gaped, then felt his own face, feeling the snout and ears of a Lucario. He looked down at himself and saw the proportions of a Lucaro through his clothing. His legs were notable thinner than before, and he appeared to be taller to compensate for his human form. His feet rose out from his shoes, now with small points of contact, and his tail hung above the rim of his pants.
BEHOLD, THE AMAZING LUCARIO-MAN

also, *Lucario

General Comments

Funny story, but I actually thought the start was about Arthus at first. Turning into a gross ugly human in a gross human world would surely have been a hellish punishment for him. ;p

With the return to the human world come many events that work well to bookend and tie this story together, such as the call to the parents and meeting up with Erica. They truly show how Lawrence's adventure in Equivos has changed him as a person, too. The dark and dull atmosphere of Castelia is somewhat clashing with the busy but peppy intro of Lawrence going to work in chapter 2, but in a way I feel it actually works to show that Lawrence was pretty much settling when there were more communal places he could have been happier living in.

However, the offer of the seaman was a pretty quick and minor event all those chapters ago, so I feel it could use a little more description now to remind readers better - although, it's possible that happens well enough in the upcoming chapters, and I can understand not wanting to spell stuff out so much.

Looking forward to the next chapter, and a final note - if you feel like you need to take like a week or so from updating to have more time to write, we'll totally understand. The story used to be updated every other week anyway, and taking more time to make sure a chapter is the quality you want is only logical.
 
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Oh, I can definitely understand two more chapters after this - I was puzzled on how you'd manage to wrap up so much in just one chapter. This seems like the right choice for pacing.
Yeah, that's the next thing I'll need to work on: making sure I don't have to split chapters. After this experience, I think I'll be able to avoid that.

Ooh, marked. Though have to admit that a scar is kinda creepy. I'd suggest a tattoo, but that might be too conspicuous and attract a few questions from the workers of Valence.
The arc is initially covered by the suit he wore to protect himself in the wormhole, and his jacket covers it after he changes; they wouldn't notice it anyway. Still, I want it to look like a natural part of the body, so I'm unsure of how to handle it outside of the scar.

Funny story, but I actually thought the start was about Arthus at first. Turning into a gross ugly human in a gross human world would surely have been a hellish punishment for him. ;p
Interesting, but no. He has a whole other thing waiting for him. ;)

With the return to the human world come many events that work well to bookend and tie this story together, such as the call to the parents and meeting up with Erica. They truly show how Lawrence's adventure in Equivos has changed him as a person, too. The dark and dull atmosphere of Castelia is somewhat clashing with the busy but peppy intro of Lawrence going to work in chapter 2, but in a way I feel it actually works to show that Lawrence was pretty much settling when there were more communal places he could have been happier living in.
If you notice in the intro, Lawrence isn't particularly happy when he goes through Castelia. He wore headphones on the way to work just to avoid the bustle of people. And if you think about it, there really is a difference in a city in the night compared to the day.

However, the offer of the seaman was a pretty quick and minor event all those chapters ago, so I feel it could use a little more description now to remind readers better - although, it's possible that happens well enough in the upcoming chapters, and I can understand not wanting to spell stuff out so much.
Yeah, this is where I'd prefer readers' memories to be jogged. Even tiny details in the chapters have great bearing in this work.

Looking forward to the next chapter, and a final note - if you feel like you need to take like a week or so from updating to have more time to write, we'll totally understand. The story used to be updated every other week anyway, and taking more time to make sure a chapter is the quality you want is only logical.
I don't think it should be an issue anymore, but I'll definitely keep that in mind. I do prefer not having to write on Sundays, even if it does end up being the day that I have the most time. Good to hear that you look forward to the next chapter, and I'll see you then.
 
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The arc is initially covered by the suit he wore to protect himself in the wormhole, and his jacket covers it after he changes; they wouldn't notice it anyway. Still, I want it to look like a natural part of the body, so I'm unsure of how to handle it outside of the scar.
Can understand that... It's probably just the word "scar" that makes it appear so unsettling, as if it was carved there. Maybe it could simply be a change in skin color, like a birthmark, which would make it a marking in the same sense as a fur pattern (fun fact: tigers actually have striped skin under their fur), but I suppose that doesn't have as snappy a word to refer it to with, only "mark".
 
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I'm not surprised you opted to extend this by other chapters. I didn't think you'd be able to wrap everything up unless chapter 24 was huuuuge. Though, again, as feedback for the future, I think you'd be best served by not stating outright how many chapters you think you're going to have. Or using author's notes to tell me how many chapters are left. It does lessen the suspense when I know things like that. And that can take the fun out of reading these stories, for me anyway.

So, Lawrence is human again... kinda. Not convinced he's fully back to his usual self after this whole affair. Something's definitely going to have changed. Maybe he's a morph? Dunno. On the flip side, Cassia is decidedly not human. Clearly, Arceus had some sort of "bridging the gap" mentality in mind when Lawrence left it to his decision. I say that because that's about all I can tell myself to not think, at this point, that Arceus completely stomped on Lawrence and Cassia for all their hard work. I'm sure I'll know the why soon enough, but that's my in the moment reaction so I sincerely hope that's what you were going for.

As for Hanson, I can't quite get the read on his motivation here. Some of the words read like typical corporate greed, but the "perfect communication" seems more like he considers himself a visionary, while the "most powerful company in the world!" part just screams classic monologuing villain. And then he pulls a bit of a "we're not so different you and I" bit on Lawrence with their thoughts about Pokémon. It's a lot of different motivational factors pooling into one that really makes me wish we'd seen more of Hanson in the past... not that there was really an effective way to do that other than put in some interludes back at Valence where they're attempting to figure out what happened to Lawrence. Overall, I think Hanson went from being a bit morally gray in the opening chapters to black and white. Maybe you had Arthus in the back of your mind when you were writing Hanson, since there are some similarities that make them blur together. Overall, I think you'd benefit from having Hanson's statements read as less openly evil and more neutral. It'd be more realistic, especially for a big company like Valence supposedly is. And it would fit better with the scene of Hanson thinking to himself later on. Like, I'd have found his thoughts more believable if the actual stuff he said wasn't so openly antagonistic... or at least didn't come across that way.

Also, not to be that guy, but if Hanson knows these 'mons can talk, why not simply ask them if he could take blood or fur samples? If he spun it so that the Equivos folks' assistance could "save the Pokémon of our world," I'm sure he'd at least manage to convince (or trick) some of them into cooperating. And maybe pull the wool over Lawrence's eyes. :p

I do, however, like Hanson's attempts to "look out" for Lawrence, with his finances and getting his clothes back. It really evokes that sense of the protagonist getting a reward for helping in a way that ultimately disagrees with him. Kind of like in all those sports movies where a team wins, but they ask themselves "at what cost?" The difference, of course, is that Lawrence has no doubts about wanting to oppose Hanson here. Though Lawrence loses points for the "long, relaxing shower." If you're urgently trying to break your friends out, then you should be hustling, buster! *shakes head disapprovingly*

As a stylistic bit (and since I noticed you put up a scene setting thread) I need to point out that there's a lot of "feel" in this chapter. You rely mostly on vision and touch to sell Lawrence's surprise at changing back into his new body. And while those are certainly the most obvious changes, there would be other things that you're leaving out. I imagine his sense of smell is now far worse as a human... and the "sterile" smell a steel and concrete facility like Valence has should be much different from the musks in Equivos. Also, as far as conveying touch goes, you use "feel" – the actualy word – a whole lot and could stand to vary some of those descriptions. For example...

which, strangely, felt strange to have on his body.
Instead of going with this, you could use some actual body language...
He turned off the shower and dried himself, then dressed in the clothes he left behind, wincing as the fabric contacted his bear skin.
It would help sell that the change back to being human was jarring for him. Especially since his stroll through the lobby right after shows that he's having himself a bit of a breakdown with everything going on. Seems he acclimated to his new locale a bit more than he expected to. Not much to say on his call to his parents other than I had a sneaking suspicion that brochure he got would pop up somehow. I just didn't expect it to be this late into the story. Also not much to say on the Cassia scene... other than speaking as someone in medicine I'm aware that people may turn to religion when faced with a potential end of life scenario. So, that's kind of how I read that scene which may have made it much darker than you intended. Sort of like a resigned acceptance of their fates.

Nice to see Erica again, I suppose. Though, I'm a bit worried that the "repaired" Tome passage has these disturbing undertones that the Equivos 'mons are better than the ones of the main line world if they're the ones that get to be treated as equal to humans and not, y'know, caught in balls and trained and what not. Had to throw that out there, because I couldn't help but think it.

As for the ending... I'm going to reserve judgment on morphing!Lawrence until I see exactly where the next chapter goes. I've already said waaaaay too much. :p
 
The Hidden Author
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I'm not surprised you opted to extend this by other chapters. I didn't think you'd be able to wrap everything up unless chapter 24 was huuuuge. Though, again, as feedback for the future, I think you'd be best served by not stating outright how many chapters you think you're going to have. Or using author's notes to tell me how many chapters are left. It does lessen the suspense when I know things like that. And that can take the fun out of reading these stories, for me anyway.
Agreed, I'll keep that in mind for the future.

As for Hanson, I can't quite get the read on his motivation here. Some of the words read like typical corporate greed, but the "perfect communication" seems more like he considers himself a visionary, while the "most powerful company in the world!" part just screams classic monologuing villain. And then he pulls a bit of a "we're not so different you and I" bit on Lawrence with their thoughts about Pokémon. It's a lot of different motivational factors pooling into one that really makes me wish we'd seen more of Hanson in the past... not that there was really an effective way to do that other than put in some interludes back at Valence where they're attempting to figure out what happened to Lawrence. Overall, I think Hanson went from being a bit morally gray in the opening chapters to black and white. Maybe you had Arthus in the back of your mind when you were writing Hanson, since there are some similarities that make them blur together. Overall, I think you'd benefit from having Hanson's statements read as less openly evil and more neutral. It'd be more realistic, especially for a big company like Valence supposedly is. And it would fit better with the scene of Hanson thinking to himself later on. Like, I'd have found his thoughts more believable if the actual stuff he said wasn't so openly antagonistic... or at least didn't come across that way.
Yeah, he is meant to be more complex in terms of motivation, but due to the majority of the story taking place in Equivos, there really wasn't a place for me to put such a backstory. As for his lines, I can go ahead and make them more neutral for the sake of keeping him as a gray character. Can't say I'd be able to resolve the backstory situation, however.

And yes, Arthus was present in my mind to an extent. Hanson and Arthus are rather different from each other, so I can understand why that should be changed.

Also, not to be that guy, but if Hanson knows these 'mons can talk, why not simply ask them if he could take blood or fur samples? If he spun it so that the Equivos folks' assistance could "save the Pokémon of our world," I'm sure he'd at least manage to convince (or trick) some of them into cooperating. And maybe pull the wool over Lawrence's eyes.
Hmm...good idea. I can probably do something similar to that in Chapter 25. Though, with that poor Bibarel gone, there's sure to be suspicion.

I do, however, like Hanson's attempts to "look out" for Lawrence, with his finances and getting his clothes back. It really evokes that sense of the protagonist getting a reward for helping in a way that ultimately disagrees with him. Kind of like in all those sports movies where a team wins, but they ask themselves "at what cost?" The difference, of course, is that Lawrence has no doubts about wanting to oppose Hanson here. Though Lawrence loses points for the "long, relaxing shower." If you're urgently trying to break your friends out, then you should be hustling, buster! *shakes head disapprovingly*
I'm glad to see there is some part of Hanson you like. Joke aside, I find that a warm shower is the perfect environment to be thinking, and he's got a whole lot ahead of him if he wants to break everyone out.

As a stylistic bit (and since I noticed you put up a scene setting thread) I need to point out that there's a lot of "feel" in this chapter. You rely mostly on vision and touch to sell Lawrence's surprise at changing back into his new body. And while those are certainly the most obvious changes, there would be other things that you're leaving out. I imagine his sense of smell is now far worse as a human... and the "sterile" smell a steel and concrete facility like Valence has should be much different from the musks in Equivos. Also, as far as conveying touch goes, you use "feel" – the actual word – a whole lot and could stand to vary some of those descriptions...It would help sell that the change back to being human was jarring for him. Especially since his stroll through the lobby right after shows that he's having himself a bit of a breakdown with everything going on. Seems he acclimated to his new locale a bit more than he expected to.
Hmm...I remember writing how his sense of smell and hearing improved in Chapter 03, even if it was only a fleeting mention. I'll go through the chapter and remove the 'tell' descriptions and replace them with 'show'. Might as well take some of my own advice, right?

As for his acclimation to Equivos, he remarked on how it was similar to Sinnoh, his childhood home, so he was able to get used to it rather quickly. Living in such an area for so long, along with his general ambivalence toward the industrialized Unova, makes for him feeling like he doesn't belong.

Not much to say on his call to his parents other than I had a sneaking suspicion that brochure he got would pop up somehow. I just didn't expect it to be this late into the story.
Well, I'm not sure how it could've been earlier, so...

Also not much to say on the Cassia scene... other than speaking as someone in medicine I'm aware that people may turn to religion when faced with a potential end of life scenario. So, that's kind of how I read that scene which may have made it much darker than you intended. Sort of like a resigned acceptance of their fates.
Not exactly how I thought of it when I was writing, but an interesting view nonetheless.

Nice to see Erica again, I suppose. Though, I'm a bit worried that the "repaired" Tome passage has these disturbing undertones that the Equivos 'mons are better than the ones of the main line world if they're the ones that get to be treated as equal to humans and not, y'know, caught in balls and trained and what not. Had to throw that out there, because I couldn't help but think it.
Well, it's not that they're better. The Arcean Texts (and the Arceist Tome to an extent) mentions how all life should be respected, so the Arceists' treatment of their Pokemon is still suggested. It just needs to be reinterpreted to indicate that they should treat them well because they are Arceus' creations, not necessarily because they are on the same level of intellect--which the Equivosians are.

As for the ending... I'm going to reserve judgment on morphing!Lawrence until I see exactly where the next chapter goes. I've already said waaaaay too much.
Yeah, I won't say anything either. Had to change it up somehow, right?

Thanks for the review, and I'll get to work on the suggested changes!
 
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Just so everyone knows, I updated Special Chapter 3 according to the suggestion of a reviewer on Serebii, so feel free to read it when you get the chance!
 
Chapter 28: Infiltration
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Chapter 28: Infiltration

At the top of Valence Tech, a finely decorated office perched atop, as dark as the night seen through the windows. The spacious penthouse held few furnishings, save the desk in the center and the portraits surrounding. Four pillars stood between the corners of the desk and the corners of the room, each with an object implanted in them: a watch-like device, a wide tablet, a sleek tablet, and a picture of a Pikachu speaking gibberish.

The desk faced the elevator on the far wall, and sitting in the chair behind the desk was Aaron Hanson, hunched over the surface. He gazed at the few belongings he had, his eyes flickering between each. To his right, faded pictures of a boy with a Lillipup, an Axew, a Roggenrola, a Ferroseed, a Rufflet, and a Tepig, standing in front of a woodland town. Next to it was a picture of a young man with fully evolved versions of all them, gathered together in the same positions in front of a gargantuan stone temple, decorated with Pokeballs and the Legends. To his left was a folder, open and showing various newspaper clippings, depicting moments of his past life.

Hanson looked away from the clippings, now staring at the center of his desk. A disc with six hemispheres on top of it rested on the felt center. Two Pokeballs sat inside them, one with emerald engravings, another with ruby. The remaining four bowls had a gold, onyx, silver, and opal bottom, long covered with dust.

Hanson’s hand hovered over three of the bowls, shaking. “I am sorry I couldn’t do it before you passed. You were my most trusted companions.”

The elevator at the far end of the room pinged, and Hanson closed the folder. A man with pale skin and balding hair shuffled inside, the tails of his long, white lab coat trailing the ground. A small metal box rested in his frail hands, held up to his scrawny chest.

Hanson leaned forward in his seat, looking at the box. “Ah, Doctor Vaun! I assume that the procedure turned out well—for both Pokemon?”

Vaun adjusted his glasses and set the box on the desk. “W-Well, President Hanson, the subject for the procedure—the Bibarel, as you know—suffered from severe…shock, and fell unconscious. The machine strained is body, nearly to the tipping point.” He patted down his balding hair, stepping away from the desk. “H-However, the Bibarel is recovering well. Within a few days, he may be ready for another.”

Hanson’s hands hovered over the box, then he sighed and set them down on the desk. “Vaun…this is unacceptable.” Vaun swallowed hard.

Hanson stood up and paced around the desk, circling Vaun. “As simple as these Pokemon may be, they are still Pokemon. They were displaced from their home dimension hours ago, and thanks to that machine, we nearly lost one of them!” Hanson clamped ah and on Vaun’s shoulder and shook him. “We have the only known population of talking Pokemon! We cannot lose any of them!”

Vaun’s fingers visibly shook as he pulled is glasses back up to his eyes. “U-U-Understood, sir, but you can’t expect the procedure to work perfectly on the first try. Especially considering that it was developed from deceased—”

“Yes, yes, I know,” Hanson interrupted, sitting down in his desk once more. “Look, we have to use each Pokemon numerous times in order to have any chance of granting speech to all our consumers’ Pokemon. If we have them nearly die after every treatment, they won’t last for more than several procedures.” He gave Vaun a warning look. “Test it again with a Pokemon that isn’t one of my own, and make sure that the Equivosian doesn’t go under.”

Vaun nodded vigorously, then turned around, shuffling to the elevator. His head perked up, then he turned back around. “I nearly forgot: that Zoroark that came through with Lawrence is reading from some sort of book. It seems to be a form of scripture for them.”

Hanson arched an eyebrow. “Really? They have a written language? And a religion as well?” He rubbed his chin momentarily, then stopped. “Make sure she is captured first with the Master Balls I ordered from Kanto; research the book after and see if there’s anything that can be used to help them become more trusting of us.” He narrowed his eyes to thin slits. “And be careful with the balls. As you know, one alone is extraordinarily expensive. Buying enough for all the Equivosian Pokemon cost a fortune.” Vaun nodded once more, then entered the elevator and descended, wringing his clammy hands.

After a minute, Hanson opened the metal box, revealing a Pokeball with gold engraved into the top. He gingerly lifted it and held it close to his face, closing his eyes. “When we lost, all those years ago, I promised that we would fight again once I fixed our one problem.” He forced a smile as he set the ball in its bowl. “I’ve finally done it, but now no one remembers what I did. I’ve become famous for the inventions I made to better connect with all of you, not for the experiences I had.”

He glanced outside the window, then lowered his gaze. “I am aware that Pokemon aren’t what most make them out to be: a friend like no other, able to understand you like a person. Years of serving that consumer world taught me that.” He turned back to the Pokeballs, focusing on the gold. “But that doesn’t change the fact that you got me where I am. And now, I’ve repaid you. You shall live to fight another day.”

~~~~

In the dark of Castelia, wheels clattered along the sidewalk panels. A figure in a long brown coat turned visible in the orange street lights, her heels clacking toward the harbor. Only the occasional Purrloin meowed in the alleyways, and the sea beat against the edge of the city—otherwise, it was quiet in the night. The five stone extensions that rose up from the sea were caked with salt and grime, its smell filling the air.

The red-haired woman stopped several feet from the cement platform that jutted above the dock and panted. She looked below: small fishing vessels and speedboats bobbed next to the docks, tied to them with lengths of thick rope. Wingull roosted on top of them, occasionally calling out to drive off a pushy neighbor.

The woman pulled out a pink Pokedex from her coat pocket and turned it on. Past the clear window, she saw that the time was 11:20. She tucked it back in and growled, “Where is he?” She stamped her foot and shivered, crossing her arms. “Brr, it’s cold…” She looked around the alleyways, finding nothing. “He said I should meet him here!”

Clank-clatta-clatta!

She eeped and twirled around, pulling out a Pokeball from her coat. She focused on the garbage can lid that rolled out from the alleyway, then the Purrloin that sauntered out and mewled, sitting down and licking its paw.

She sighed in relief, putting her Pokeball back in her pocket. “Thank Arceus. That gave me a scare.” She folded her arms again and muttered, “You better not have pulled a fast one on me, Lawrence!”

Padded footsteps echoed speedily behind her, and she turned around. A dark shape darted into the alley, then a bright flash shone from it. She drew her Pokeball again, advancing toward it. “Who’s there?” she called out nervously.

She kept advancing toward it, only a shuffling sound coming out in reply. She kept moving forward, pressing the button on her Pokeball and expanding it from one inch to four. She reared it back, ready to throw.

A brown-haired man in a blue jacket stumbled out, pulling on his shoes. “There’s got to be—Erica!”

“Ack!”

They backed away from each other, Erica nearly dropping her Pokeball. She wheezed, putting a hand to her chest. “What are you doing there!”

Lawrence kicked his shoe on, looking about. “N-Nothing.” He leaned closer. “Did you…see anything?”

“I saw some guy run in here and take a picture of something, I don’t know!” Erica exclaimed. “Was that you?”

Lawrence blew out his breath and nodded. “Yeah…yeah, that was me.”

Erica groaned, shrinking her Pokeball. “You scared me worse than a Haunter!” She pocketed it and asked, “Why didn’t you come over to me?”

Lawrence held up his hands defensively. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” He looked behind her, noticing her suitcase. “Looks like you’re ready to go.”

“Go where?”

Lawrence walked over to the luggage with Erica following. “I called up a friend of mine and asked him to get a liner ready to go to Sinnoh.”

Erica’s jaw dropped. “A liner? You mean one of those huge passenger ships?”

“Yeah, that kind. He had to pull a few strings, but—”

“Why in the world would you need a liner just to get me across to Sinnoh?”

“It’s not just you.” Lawrence pointed toward a skyscraper with a dully glowing ‘V’ on its front. “I’m going to Valence and getting the Equi—the talking Pokemon out of there and bringing them here. They’ll load up on the ship, then we’ll make our way to Sinnoh right under their noses.”

Erica raised an eyebrow. “But how are you going to get them across the street with nobody noticing? How many are there?”

Lawrence seethed, looking away. “Over two thousand.”

Erica’s eyes widened. “Over two thousand? You’ll never get that many out of there!”

“It’s a work in progress, okay?” Lawrence sighed, holding his head. “Look, just keep an eye out for the ship when it comes around. The captain’s name is Sheffield; just tell him I sent you, and we’ll be off to Sinnoh when I come back.” He turned toward Valence’s tower. “I’ll hopefully be back in a couple hours.” He started running down the street toward it.

“Wait, Lawrence!” Erica shouted, reaching out for him. But he was too far away, and his task crowded out everything else from his mind.

When he got far enough away from Erica, he darted into an alley and pressed his mark. He shined with light and turned into a Lucario, all his senses growing stronger as a result. His tail sat over the seat of his pants and his chest-spike protruded slightly inside his shirt.

He wrinkled his nose and coughed as he pulled his paws out of his shoes, then tucked his socks inside and tied them together. “How do people live here? It smells horrible!” He draped the shoes over his neck and ran down the streets even faster than before, still dressed in his other clothes.

Minutes after, Lawrence reached the Valence Tech building, its gate closed and windows dark. He considered jumping over the fence and breaking through the door, but quickly dismissed it; it would be far too noticeable, and even if he got inside, the elevator required a different keycard than he had to access Facility D. There had to be another way.

He looked to the right and saw that the road surrounding the walled tower descended, leading to a bright orange light. Men chatted with each other, droning on about something. Lawrence crept toward it, his sensitive ears picking up their conversation:

“Yeesh, half an hour till the end of our shift, and just like every day for the past three months, nothing.”

“No one ever said this was a fun job.”

“I wanna throw my Lycanroc at something. Anything to make things interesting.”

“You know we aren’t supposed to do that unless they’re suspicious-looking.”

“I’ll just say they had a Pokeball and they wanted to force their way through.”

“But what if—”

“Aw, be quiet.”

Lawrence peered around the corner. Underneath a bright orange lightbulb, two men stood in navy Valence uniforms. They each had a keycard clipped to their shirt pocket, along with a single Pokeball clipped to their waist. One was shorter, and the other was taller than Lawrence, each staring glumly around them. They stood in front of a large iron drop-down door, and to the right was a smaller door with a black scanner on its handle. In the corner of the alcove, a camera swung back and forth, recording every moment near the entrance.

The smaller man rubbed his nose and tapped his Pokeball. “I’m tellin’ ya, nobody comes here ‘cept the delivery guys, and they came ‘ere an hour ago!”

The taller man shrugged, his hat falling against his ear. “Well someone needs to make sure no one gets to you-know-where without the president’s say-so.”

The short man groaned, pulling off his cap and scratching his head. “Don’t remind me. Good thing they put elevators in, or I’d—”

“Careful what you say, Bernie.” The tall man pointed at the camera. “You know they can see and hear everything.”

Bernie growled, glaring at him. “Yes, Vincent, I’m aware.

Lawrence grit his teeth and smacked a paw against the wall. ‘Can’t get in that way; they’d notice if I knocked out the camera or the guards. I’ll have to find another way in.’ He felt a breeze down his neck and looked up; a vent gently blew cold air, a tube with a grate angling it downwards.

Lawrence blinked having an idea. He wrapped his paws around the edges of the grate and pulled, careful not to shake it too much. It didn’t move.

Lawrence furrowed his brow and tried again to no results. He silently growled and pulled once more, causing the solder to break off with a metallic snap.

Lawrence wielded the grate awkwardly, pushing all his weight forward to prevent him from falling backwards. He froze as the guards spoke up:

“Hey Bernie, did you hear that?”

“Yeah. Sounded like some cat hopping on a garbage can lid.”

“That’s not what I thought.”

“If you want to check it out, I’m not stoppin’ ya.”

Boots clacked forward, and Lawrence sucked in his breath. He looked down at the grate, then back up to the vent. The boots continued advancing. Lawrence leapt around the corner and hid in the shadows, holding the grate behind his back.

The guard peered around the vent, casually looking around. He shrugged, then returned to the door. “Just some cat probably.”

Lawrence wheezed a sigh of a relief, setting the grate against the wall. He returned to the vent and saw how small and rigid it was. He looked down at his clothes. ‘I’d be lucky to fit inside, let alone with these.’ He sighed reluctantly. ‘I’ll have to work it out when I get in there.’

He pulled off his clothes and gathered them in his jacket, then tucked it underneath the grate, somewhat-satisfied with the results. Feeling somewhat colder with his fur uncovered, he clambered into the vent, careful to minimize the sounds he made.

He crawled through the vents, weaving through the mazelike structure. Thin, metallic walls surrounded him on all sides, a dark, chilling wind all throughout it. He passed over the sheer drops that led to the facility’s lower levels.

Lawrence worried that he might wander the vents for hours without any end, until the end of one vent had bright light leaking from it. He came up to it and peeked outside, revealing a bathroom similar to the locker room he had been inside only several hours ago, albeit without the showers or lockers. No one seemed to be inside.

Cautiously, Lawrence pushed out the grate, clutching it in his paws. He slid down onto the freezing tiles and set the vent back into its position. He stood still, keeping watch for anyone.

Satisfied, he went into the corner of a stall and leaned against it, staring down at his Lucario body. ‘I won’t be able to get down to them like this—but there’s no way I’m changing unless—’

The door squeaked open and Lawrence held his breath, hoping that whoever entered wouldn’t see. A tall guard clomped in pulled off his hat next to the sinks, staring into the mirror. “Do I really have Pecha jam on my lips?” he muttered, setting a length of rope attached to his waist onto the counter. “Better be quick; that Tauros isn’t going to lead itself.”

Lawrence stared at him and blinked.

He had an idea.

~~~~

In the pyramid of cages the Equivosians resided in, Cassia was in the midst of reading them Dictations from the Arceist Tome. They all listened peacefully, temporarily leaving the fear of the strange world behind. Even the children sat still and quiet, the words of their creator proving enough to calm them. The guards that surrounded them had long since left, confident that none could escape from the bars.

“Heed my commandments, and prosperity shall follow. A plan of happiness lies in wait for all my children, but it may only come to pass if they put their trust in me and leave behind the misconceptions and misdeeds of the world.”

Cassia tossed back her head and sighed. “What’s going to happen to us? They can’t just want us to sit here.”

Lonny looked over to the Bibarel slumped in a cage and covered with bandages. “Not if Thomas is anything to go by.”

The door on the far side of the room lifted, and two guards stepped in with the gangly Doctor Vaun. The scientist smoothed back his receding hair and calmly said, “Deeply sorry for the trouble, but can I speak to the Zoroark?

Cassia closed the Tome on her lap. “What do you want?”

Vaun’s eyes swiveled to her and widened. “Ah, most unusual, showing yourself in your natural state. Zoroark tend to use illusions to hide while they protect their young and hunt for food.”

Cassia slid the Tome behind her back, her brow furrowing. “I have nothing to hide, unlike you.”

Vaun swallowed, adjusting his glasses. “A sharp one, I see.” He focused on the Tome, its spine still visible. “And that book. Who wrote it?”

Cassia hurriedly put the Tome back into her bag. “Only the best Pokemon in the history of Equivos.” She stared at him firmly. “Will Thomas be alright? His family’s worried about him.”

Vaun rubbed his head, frowning. “Unfortunately, the…tests, were more strenuous than we expected.” He removed his hand. “Although I can assure you that it won’t happen again.” He weakly smiled. “I would appreciate it if I could have a volunteer, that way the procedure is less stressful…for all of us.”

Cassia lifted an eyebrow. “What would we need to help you with?”

Vaun’s eyes darted left and right. “Oh, blood and fur samples, little more.”

Lonny hawed sarcastically. “Oh sure, that’s all you took from old Thomas!”

Vaun shook his head slowly and rubbed his eyes. “Again, we are sorry for what happened to him. The next procedure will not be as stressful.” He turned back to Cassia. “I would prefer to have you be a volunteer. Would you be so kind?”

Cassia held on to the bars of her cage. “You’ve given me no reason to trust you.”

Vaun furrowed his brow. “All I can give you is my word.”

Cassia held out a hand and waved it in front of her. “Then I won’t go. You just reek with dishonesty.”

Vaun sighed and turned away. “Very well, we’ll do this the hard way.” He slowly walked back to the door. “Take her down to the machine.” His two guards unclipped their Pokeballs from their belts and prepared to throw them.

Cassia focused on the Pokeballs; her eyes flashed red. Both Pokeballs became engulfed in flame, and the two guards dropped them and cried out, waving their hands to get rid of the flame.

Vaun turned back around and shouted, “Well, get on with it!”

The flames disappeared, and the guards stared at each other, bewildered. Vaun harrumphed and stomped out of the room.

The guards reached down to pick up their Pokeballs, but they suddenly transformed to Voltorb and screeched as they flashed white. The guards screamed and scrambled out of the room to avoid the explosion, never to come back.

The Voltorb disappeared, leaving only the Pokeballs. Cassia curtly nodded her head and relaxed, resting her back against the cage.

Lonny chuckled and smirked. “That was fun.”

~~~~

Lawrence—in a navy Valence uniform as a human—finished tying a rope around the undressed guard in the bathroom stall. He made sure the length of rope as a gag was good, then marched out of the stall, turning the bolt after. He adjusted his hat and ensured that the security card was clipped to his pocket. With that, he exited the bathroom.

In the dim environment of Facility D, engineers passed by metal crates and machines, inspecting for damage, while navy-suited guards stood watch, their Pokeballs ready at their belts. Scientists darted between them, carrying folders and boxes, rushing to and from the numerous elevators that lined the walls, the primary three residing on his right.

Lawrence saw two Machoke pushing a crate closer to the warehouse elevator as its doors retracted into the ceiling. One of the two guards next to the elevator waved off the Machoke. “This is just a bunch of balls; we don’t need you on the job. Go find something else to do.” The Machoke obeyed, wandering away and standing to the side until they were directed otherwise.

As Lawrence steadily approached them, they attempted to push the crate themselves, only budging it slightly. They huffed, and one groaned. “Don’t like those Machoke; do nothin’ but stare at me.” He looked around briefly and waved over to Lawrence. “Hey, can you give us a hand? We’re takin’ these Master Balls down to the talking Pokemon!”

Lawrence’s eyes widened, then he nodded vigorously and ran to them, positioning himself between to the two guards. The one on his right studied Lawrence up and down. “Your uniform looks a bit big.” The shirt hung loosely around his chest, and the legs of his pants were rolled up against the black shoes. The belt—absent of Pokeballs—was pulled to its last loop.

Lawrence laughed nervously, his heart thumping in his chest. “Last one they had.”

The guard shrugged, turning back to the crate. “Eh, don’t worry about it. Happens to the newbies all the time.” He leaned against the crate and pushed, grunting. “Push!”

The guard on the left joined him in grunting, the crate inching into the elevator. Lawrence joined them, and the crate slid smoothly inside, straining his arms, but perfectly manageable.

Once the crate lay inside, the guard pushed a button, and the elevator doors closed. Lawrence descended, knowing exactly what these guards planned to do with the Master Balls. He turned to each of them, each panting and wheezing, while he stood still.

The guard on his right stared at Lawrence and wheezed, “You’re not tired out? What kind of guy are you?”

Lawrence smirked, adjusting his over-sized cap.

The elevator Lawrence stood inside was made purely of metal, a rough metal slab and slick wall making up its interior. A grate hung at the top, allowing cool air to flow inside, along with the grinding of the cable and smell of oil and fuses. It sped upwards quickly and smoothly, no jolts coming on their way down.

Lawrence pulled up his pants, checking to make sure the other guards didn’t notice. ‘The sooner I take care of them, the better.’

The guard on his left dusted off his knuckles and replaced his hat, nodding. “Right, now for the Pokemon.”

The guard on the left looked over to the one on the right and said, “Doesn’t this whole thing seem a bit…off, to you? I mean, the president’s never wanted to use Pokemon for one of his inventions.”

“We’re here to follow orders, not ask questions. If the president wants something done, we do it,” the guard on the right replied.

“But all the other stuff we did never hurt anybody. We just guarded the building and asked for ID, not anything like this.”

“What are we supposed to do? Don’t you think it’ll be nice to have our Pokemon talk to us?”

“Yeah, it would. But we know what’s really going on. I don’t know if I could live with it if I knew a Pokemon got hurt doing that.”

“Yeah, but what are we going to do? Most of the guys around here probably think the same as you, but they don’t speak up cause Hanson’s too powerful; he’s so obsessed on having Pokemon talk that he’ll take down anybody, even Vaun, and he’s the head scientist!”

“I guess there really isn’t much we can do. Better take care of the job, even if we don’t like it.”

“Yeah, we should. Especially that Zoroark; the president seemed to want it pretty badly.”

“They’re pretty rare Pokemon.”

“Yeah. Shame it’s gonna end up like that Bibarel.”

Lawrence snapped. “That’s it.” He took the guard’s heads and pounded them together, instantly knocking them out. They lay on the floor in a daze, completely unaware of what just happened.

Lawrence sighed, taking off his Valence cap. “Great. Now I have to make sure they don’t find you.” He shook it and put it back on his head. “Couldn’t keep you around anyway.”

The elevator pinged, and the door rolled up, revealing the wall that barricaded the Equivosians from the rest of the world. Cameras swiveled on their posts, keeping an eye on all that occurred near the single door to the Pokemon.

Lawrence looked down at the crate of Master Balls. For a split second, Lawrence thought to destroy them. But as he studied them for a moment longer, a smile extended across his face.

“I can use these.”

~~~~

In the Equivosian room, Cassia had a claw inside the lock of the cage, jiggling it to make it come loose. After several tries, she pulled it out with a groan and sat on the floor of her cage. “It’s no use; these locks are nothing like ours.”

Lonny held his baby Aipom close and groaned. “What did you expect? These guys have stuff we never dreamed of.

Cassia slid her bag onto her lap, reaching inside and stroking the tome. “I don’t like this place. No one really sees us as Pokemon. More like…objects.” She held up her claws, allowing a spark of Life to jump between them. “I’d break out of here if I knew what I’d have to deal with out there. I don’t even know where I could get more, or where I could find…Lawrence.” She lowered her claw, then after a moment said, “Do you think Lawrence will come back for us?”

Lonny shrugged, setting the Aipom on top of his bag. “Who knows? Even if he did, how could he get us out? He’s a human now—no Aura, no strength, no nothing. He’s just like everyone else around here.”

Cassia held her right wrist in front of her, studying the white fur that made the arc of Arceus. “He can’t be like everyone else…” She lowered her wrist and bow her head. “…Arceus said so.”

The metallic door rolled open, and all the Pokemon turned to it. A single guard pushed a crate into the room, grunting with the exertion. The door slowly dropped behind him, and he stopped, standing straight.

Lonny Ambipom came up to the edge of his cage and shouted, “Who’re you goin’ to take this time?”

Other Pokemon kept shouting, all fueled by the fear driven by their treatment. Throughout all the cries, one message was clear: “What will happen to us?”

The pink gas hovering around the ceiling gathered next to the guard as he stepped around the crate. He pulled off his hat and stared into Cassia’s eyes. “It’s me, Cassia.”

Cassia stared for a moment, sliding lower in her cage. “I know…Lawrence.”

There were collective gasps of astonishment and whispers, all dark and distrusting. Lawrence fully expected this, considering what had happened to them thanks to Hanson.

Cassia held herself taller, and the other Pokemon stopped. “Lawrence…why? Why did you leave us? Why did you talk with that man? I saw you in the window when I was first brought here, talking with him.” She turned away, shutting her eyes. “I didn’t want to believe what Gardner said…about you betraying us to them.” She turned back, her eyes locking harshly with Lawrence’s. “But after seeing that…” She gripped the bars tighter. “Are you our Keeper? Or did you trick everyone into falling into a trap?”

Lawrence stepped closer to the cages. He continued looking down as he said, “Hanson only wanted one of you, not all. If I wanted to betray you, I would have saved only one and taken them directly to him—not be stuck in a room and thinking about how I could save you.” Cassia’s grip on the bars remained firm.

Lawrence pulled up his right sleeve. “I can say all I want, but I know you want proof. Proof that I’m not here to take you to Hanson, proof that I’m not like every other person here.”

He held up his wrist, holding out the mark. “I met with Arceus, and he told me that Cassia and I would be closer to her, always following her.” He held his finger over the arc, gazing at Cassia. “If I wasn’t loyal to you, Arceus would never have let me do this.” He pressed the center of the arc, and he became absorbed in bright light, causing everyone in the room to gasp.

The light faded, and Lawrence stood as a Lucario, still dressed as a guard. Everyone gawked at his transformation, with even Lonny at a loss for words.

Cassia held up her wrist, studying the white fur that created the arc. “You’re…you’re still one of us.”

Lawrence held up his arc once more and nodded. “I will take you all to where you are supposed to be—if you trust me. Do you?”

Cassia clasped her claws together and smiled. “Yes.” The Pokemon around her agreed, hopeful now that the Lucario had returned.

The Lucario bounded up the cages to Cassia, studying the lock. “Once you’re out, go get that can down there.” He pointed at a large, wheeled trash can in the corner.

The Zoroark stood in front of the door, her bags in her claws. “What do we need that for?”

Lawrence’s paw glowed with blue fire, and he trained it onto the lock. It sparked and fizzed, blasting apart from the door. He stepped away and swung it out, nodding his head toward the crate.

“We can get everyone out—unseen.”

~~~~

One hour later…

In Hanson’s office, the president held the gold-engraved Pokeball, it’s center button still glowing red from its recall. He tapped the button and caused it to shrink, the layered metal folding back into itself into a compact sphere. He then set it back in its bowl.

He rubbed the side of his head, sighing. “Not the result I was expecting…but at least it’s a start. The machine just needs to be improved.” He tapped the wood next to the bowl, staring out into space. “But it will at least make a difference.”

“President, sir!” a crackling voice proclaimed.

Hanson frowned, pulling open a drawer on the right side of his desk. Amidst the smattering of paper and pens, he pulled out a black radio and clicked a button. “Yes, what is it?”

“Situation, sir! An employee was discovered inside the bathrooms without his uniform; he said he was ambushed!”

Hanson gripped the radio tighter. “Did he see who it was?” he asked, his voice rising.

“He said—he said—I can’t remember. Just come down and ask for yourself!”

Hanson stood still, his face dark. “I’m on my way.” He released the button on the radio and set it back in the drawer, slamming it closed. He came to his feet and scooped the three remaining Pokeballs off his desk, then pulled back his suit coat, revealing a black, magnetic belt.

He held the Pokeballs away and dropped them one by one, each one zipping onto the belt with a click. He pulled down his jacket and marched to the elevator, pulling his golden key card out.

“I won’t let some robber make a lifetime of work go to waste.”
 
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I'd actually like to start off, not by addressing the chapter, but the title of the story. Call me slow or dumb if you'd like, but it just occurred to be that Unequivocant is a rather clever title that I didn't catch until now. In some ways, it's forshadowing the exact fate of Equivos... unEquivos = unmaking of Equivos = Equivos' destruction. And it's clever wordplay on "unequal," as the Equivos 'mons and 'mons of Lawrence's world are different in intelligence level and therefor not equal. Maybe you're also playing off "unequivocal," in that, by the end of this, Lawrence unequivocally believes in Arceus' teachings. That's what popped into my head yesterday. If it's nonsensical, blame the chemo. :V

Onto the chapter, again, your wording in this opening scene makes Valent seem really, REALLY evil. Things like "dark underbelly" and Hanson's dialogue don't sell the idea of him having any sort of good intentions, even though he thinks he's trying to better the world in some ways. A line like "I would prefer not to have the subject die," could work well as something less outright siniser, like, "Project Babel will never succeed with results like this!"

Looks like Lawrence has gone full Pokémorph then, by the looks of it. I like the sudden onset of excess smell, though I'm confused why/how he didn't tear through any of his clothing. The tail should've ripped right through his pants – Lucario tails do not look to be flexible at all in canon media, they just stick straight out – and his chest spike should've ripped his shirt. I guess my problem with morphs that can go back and forth like that is that they really stretch my willful suspension of disbelief. Also, a bit creeped out that Lawrence casually chuckled at attacking humans with Aura Spheres. Realistically speaking, those two should have some broken bones or something. Also, just how many sublevels does Valence have? You can only go so far underground, y'know.

So, Hanson's plan involves a whole bunch of Master Balls? Personally, I'm not a big fan of them getting mass-produced like that. The whole point behind them is that they're supposed to be extremely rare and only for very specific circumstances. At least you took the time to explain the mechanics of the balls for your world. Something not even most trainer fics do. Lawrence is able to win back the Equivosians' trust pretty quickly, though given his morphing abilities I didn't imagine it would be hard to do.

The last scene was fairly reminiscent of what you tried to do for Arthus... building Hanson up to be sympathetic through the use of these brief glimpses at his past. However, it doesn't really work here, since it comes directly after scenes where Lawrence and the Equivosians separately consider Hanson to be a rather vile man. And with the harsh orders he gives regarding Gardner, it's hard to see him an sympathetic light, similar to how all of Arthus' grizzly deeds make it impossible for me to view the stuff with Cassia (his wife) as tragic. At this point, I'm mostly going with the corporate greed angle for Hanson, since that's the motivation I find the most believable.
 
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I'd actually like to start off, not by addressing the chapter, but the title of the story. Call me slow or dumb if you'd like, but it just occurred to be that Unequivocant is a rather clever title that I didn't catch until now. In some ways, it's forshadowing the exact fate of Equivos... unEquivos = unmaking of Equivos = Equivos' destruction. And it's clever wordplay on "unequal," as the Equivos 'mons and 'mons of Lawrence's world are different in intelligence level and therefor not equal. Maybe you're also playing off "unequivocal," in that, by the end of this, Lawrence unequivocally believes in Arceus' teachings. That's what popped into my head yesterday.
I based the word 'unequivocant' on 'unequivocal' and 'equivocate', as I was wanting to show that all these actions will lead to one, certain conclusion, and how everything here really means one message. Your other points also make sense, and I wish I could've come up with them on my own. :)

Onto the chapter, again, your wording in this opening scene makes Valent seem really, REALLY evil. Things like "dark underbelly" and Hanson's dialogue don't sell the idea of him having any sort of good intentions, even though he thinks he's trying to better the world in some ways. A line like "I would prefer not to have the subject die," could work well as something less outright siniser, like, "Project Babel will never succeed with results like this!"
How is saying he'd rather not have someone die sinister? I mean, yes, it's grim, but he's just being...frank, for sake of a better word. Although, it does leave room to say that he would regrettably allow them to die, so I can see your point. I just need to rephrase it to make it more reliant on the Pokemon remaining alive.

I think it's a bit of an exaggeration to claim that Valence seems really evil in this scene alone. But, in a way, it's sort of how I want them portrayed. Hanson is willing to make unethical decisions in order to reach what he sees as a massive leap in the world, which is granting speech to all Pokemon. Arthus was similar, in that he was willing to kill a world of Pokemon to make a world free of evil by resurrecting them without that capability. Good intentions don't excuse these acts, so would we consider them evil? Yes.

However, not all of Valence is evil; just this particular project is. Look at the Pokedex 2.0, or their application development. Both of those wouldn't really be evil. Project Babel is just a giant black mark against a good person, as Hanson has shown himself to be a benevolent man throughout his life with his inventions. It just so happens that he took his inventions too far with Project Babel, and now Lawrence is standing up to it.

I get what you're saying: Valence was shown to be morally gray in Chapter 02, and should continue to be shown as such throughout these chapters as well. And I agree...to an extent. Project Babel is really the dark secret of Valence Tech, and should be treated as such, no matter the intentions. But don't forget that they have other projects as well in the form of the Pokedex and their applications, along with whatever other work they do to help trainer's lives. That's really all they're about, but they are simply taking it too far with this. If I need to spell it out more clearly in the narrative, I can do that. I just don't know where else I can elaborate.

Looks like Lawrence has gone full Pokémorph then, by the looks of it. I like the sudden onset of excess smell, though I'm confused why/how he didn't tear through any of his clothing. The tail should've ripped right through his pants – Lucario tails do not look to be flexible at all in canon media, they just stick straight out – and his chest spike should've ripped his shirt. I guess my problem with morphs that can go back and forth like that is that they really stretch my willful suspension of disbelief.
Well, as noted in the previous chapter, his proportions have changed thanks to some of Arceus' handiwork. His tail is shown to go just above the rim of his pants, and the spike would be less pronounced--although I probably need to bring up that point (no pun intended). He still has issues with shoes, as his feet are too small to really fit, so he just ties them together and drapes them over his neck so he can keep them around.

I've tried to make it as reasonable as I can in terms of him being able to wear clothes while also being able to shift, and this is about as far as I can stretch it.

I feel I need to bring up why I had Lawrence become a morph. There were two predictions for how the last chapter could go in terms of Cassia and Lawrence changing, with both of them ending up as humans, or both of them as Pokemon. I think that either on would have been too suspicious for Valence to let alone. If Lawrence remained a Lucario, they'd test him and see how it was done, and see if they could potentially replicate it, which is a whole other direction compared to giving Pokemon speech. And having Cassia become human would lead to a whole slew of questions on whether humans existed in Equivos and how she came to be. Neither would have really worked, so Lawrence had to change back for the sake of him being able to go free.

But at the same time, I didn't want him to be separated from Cassia, and I think readers can agree. It would be rather tragic for such a romantic pair to be separated by species after going through so much together, and I really didn't want to break that. So, I had to have them be able to change at will for both conditions to be satisfied. Unconventional, but needed.

Also, a bit creeped out that Lawrence casually chuckled at attacking humans with Aura Spheres. Realistically speaking, those two should have some broken bones or something.
In hindsight, that ought to be changed. The aura sphere would be made smaller so that it isn't as deadly, even if it could still knock out someone.

Also, just how many sublevels does Valence have? You can only go so far underground, y'know.
After thinking about it, the maximum that would be reasonable would be 12 or 15. I'll change the numbers accordingly.

So, Hanson's plan involves a whole bunch of Master Balls? Personally, I'm not a big fan of them getting mass-produced like that. The whole point behind them is that they're supposed to be extremely rare and only for very specific circumstances. At least you took the time to explain the mechanics of the balls for your world. Something not even most trainer fics do.
I'm not really sure what other way I'd go about it. Hanson needs a way to store the Pokemon and also bring them to where he needs to, and he likely won't be able to capture them in conventional balls without weakening them, and knowing the...strenuous nature of his experiments, he needs them to be in peak condition. Sure, he could help them recover, but it certainly wouldn't improve their view of him or Valence by any means.

Plus, Unequivocant is technically a decade in the future of the main games; in my opinion, the Master Balls would be in at least small-scale mass production, albeit absurdly expensive due to their unique materials that prevent them from being escapable. There would be a demand for such powerful items, and it has been said that a Legend can still break out of them, even if its not the way they work in the main games.

The last scene was fairly reminiscent of what you tried to do for Arthus... building Hanson up to be sympathetic through the use of these brief glimpses at his past. However, it doesn't really work here, since it comes directly after scenes where Lawrence and the Equivosians separately consider Hanson to be a rather vile man. And with the harsh orders he gives regarding Gardner, it's hard to see him an sympathetic light, similar to how all of Arthus' grizzly deeds make it impossible for me to view the stuff with Cassia (his wife) as tragic. At this point, I'm mostly going with the corporate greed angle for Hanson, since that's the motivation I find the most believable.
The only reasonable way I could change that is if I have this scene with Hanson take place at the beginning of the chapter, and have him discover the attack on the guards up front at the end as normal. I can see a way around that, where he instead receives this Pokeball from Mister Vaun by way of delivery, and learns of the fate of Bibarel from him. He'd remain in his office and simply order Vaun to take a more willing candidate from the Equivosians, who would send the contingent of guards that Hanson originally had. I think it is

I think the issue with Hanson's morals here is that he's the one who's actively ordering his employees to do this, rather than him saying he wants something done and letting a subordinate take care of it. With the former approach, he'd seem more like a behind-the-lines leader, like these corporate giants tend to be. He himself may be questionable in his morals for allowing such men to be hired, or for him to allow these experiments, but it would not be so bad as him actually being down in the labs and taking charge of the experiments.

I will admit, I should have gone into detail on Arthus' backstory more, but if we assume that the next two stories are made to be read first, then I think this descent into an evil Pokemon would be more sympathetic, even if it doesn't appear as such now.
 
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Bit late this time, sorry bout that, had this annoying headache yesterday. Anyway, here we go.

In the dark underbelly of Valence Tech, Aaron Hanson watched as a pair of scientists unstrapped the deceased Bibarel from the chair in the circular room onto a cart and pushed it away, his body withered and twisted. Other scientists darted around the machine behind the chair and adjusted dials and turned screws, preparing it for further use. Machines still clanged and whirred in the background, all the other experiments continuing as usual outside the muffled room.
i can't believe bibarel is f**king dead But no joke, I didn't expect that, though mainly because it's hard to think of a DNA/cognitive research method that would actually kill the subject, or even wither the body. Twisting I can see if ECT is involved, as that causes seizures. However, given Bibarel was unwilling and stressed, I could definitely see a heart attack or so having happened. And I do suppose Electric is super effective on Water :thinking:

On another note, it's nicely realistic to have Hanson be annoyed by the death, as it really is an inconvenience. A colder reaction would make him just appear inhuman or sadistic, neither of which fit him as a character.

“You know we aren’t supposed to do that unless their suspicious-looking.”
*they're

shouting, “Hey bozo, what’re you doin’!”
Use question mark instead of exclamation, the shouting's already mentioned.

He focused on the tome, it’s spine still visible.
Cassia hurriedly put the tome back into her bag.
Cassia slid her bag onto her lap, reaching inside and stroking the tome.
*its, plus capitalize Tomes

while the one in the center had a door six time’s longer and three times higher.
*times

On the opposite side of the room, a smaller elevator’s doors spit apart,
*split?

rushing to and from the numerous elevators the lined the walls,
*that?

The guard on the left joined im in grunting, the crate inching into the elevator.
*him

Cringing, the young guard whispered, “Where’s the switch for the light?”

Gardner pointed at the vaguely visible switch at the back of his neck. “Here. I can’t touch it.”

The young guard shrugged and reached for the switch. “It just turns off the light, right?”

A guard on the other side of guard noticed the younger one’s straying hand. “Hey, what’re you doing?” he bellowed, reaching for his hand.
That's a pretty idiot moment on the young guy's part. I mean, what kind of collar would have a blinky light just for the sake of a blinky light?

Also, not sure why the last line of dialogue in this is italicized, is there a reason or did you maybe just mix it up with Gardner's thoughts after?

The one in the middle wore a uniform that appeared to be too big A third dusted off his knuckles and replaced his hat, nodding.
Missing period.

EDIT: After working with my file management and the naming system of other sites I post this on--as well as looking at other works--I have determined that the chapters in 'Act X: Special Episode' are going to be named properly with the others. Special Chapters 1-3 will be known as Chapters 10-12, and all the others after them will be shifted three places down, creating a nice, even 30 chapters named together. I'll make the change now, but if there's any confusion afterward, let me know if you'd like me to change it back.
Yeah, I can understand this. The special chapters are pretty important for Cassia's character, and "special" to some people can come across as "filler" or "skippable", neither of which are terms I'd use to describe the chapters.

General Comments

I can't think of much to say this time, probably as a lot of this chapter was pretty straightforward action. All I can think of is that I found it odd how the cameras were handled. I mean, the moment a camera goes dark, the people looking at them are supposed to alert people (as something's clearly wrong), so there's really no advantage to breaking them other than keeping Lawrence's face hidden from the people who'd recognize him. With such a big building, I'd expect there to be a flood of guards ready to jump on intruders or troublemakers.

Ah crap, this message turned out pretty negative, didn't it... well, I definitely love the description and characters as always, but I've just said it so many times already. ;p

Anyway, question: do you still want me to beta the coming chapters privately or do you prefer this after-publish review thing I've been doing now? Feel free to answer in this thread or a PM.
 
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I based the word 'unequivocant' on 'unequivocal' and 'equivocate', as I was wanting to show that all these actions will lead to one, certain conclusion, and how everything here really means one message. Your other points also make sense, and I wish I could've come up with them on my own. :)
Shhh... just take credit for it. No one has to know. :p

How is saying he'd rather not have someone die sinister? I mean, yes, it's grim, but he's just being...frank, for sake of a better word.
I suppose it comes down to subtext and body language. Hanson doesn't appear at all disturbed by the fact that Bibarel died... and he doesn't even hesitate a moment to question if he's going about Babel in the wrong way. If you're going for well-intentioned extremist, then I do think he needs to have a bit of doubt before assuring himself that, say, what happened to Bibarel is an accident and he can prevent it in the future by being more careful.

I think it's a bit of an exaggeration to claim that Valence seems really evil in this scene alone. But, in a way, it's sort of how I want them portrayed. Hanson is willing to make unethical decisions in order to reach what he sees as a massive leap in the world, which is granting speech to all Pokemon. Arthus was similar, in that he was willing to kill a world of Pokemon to make a world free of evil by resurrecting them without that capability. Good intentions don't excuse these acts, so would we consider them evil? Yes.
That sounds extremely black and white (fitting for Unova I guess, ha ha) and contradictory to what you state below. Referring to Project Babel as a "black stain" and actually calling it evil makes me think they're evil. You point to their other projects, but all we see of them is Hanson reflecting on them, as opposed to employees who aren't involved in Babel and have no idea what it is. Every employee shown this chapter is involved in Babel... and none of them offer up even the slightest hesitancy toward what Hanson is ordering. I have a really hard time believing there isn't someone among his rank and file uncomfortable with what he's doing. That lack of push back is what leads me to broadly label them "evil." If Lawrence is the only one who thinks Babel is inherently wrong, that doesn't paint Valence in a good light at all.

I get what you're saying: Valence was shown to be morally gray in Chapter 02, and should continue to be shown as such throughout these chapters as well. And I agree...to an extent. Project Babel is really the dark secret of Valence Tech, and should be treated as such, no matter the intentions.
But if Hanson's goal is something pure (stronger relationships between humans and Pokémon) then why is it such a dark secret? Because of the way it's being conducted? Isn't the point that the public will never know how this stuff happened? I assume Hanson has a great PR team that can spin everything. I dunno... I guess I'm just being critical of Valence because you've turned them into arc villains... after killing your main antagonist off. So I, as the reader, expect Hanson and Valence to be as engaging as Arthus, but it feels like they needed more time to be developed.

I feel I need to bring up why I had Lawrence become a morph.
I mean... I'd have liked to see either of those scenarios you presented. I think they could've been really entertaining! ^^;

But at the same time, I didn't want him to be separated from Cassia, and I think readers can agree. It would be rather tragic for such a romantic pair to be separated by species after going through so much together, and I really didn't want to break that. So, I had to have them be able to change at will for both conditions to be satisfied. Unconventional, but needed.
I suppose. It's just... as long as Lawrence has the ability to be human and Cassia is still a Zoroark... there's a bit of a creepiness factor to the relationship. I mean, yeah, Cassia could theoretically do a human illusion, but she seems pretty staunchly anti-illusion at this point. There's, of course, still a chance Lawrence could end up purely Lucario once he's back in Sinnoh, so, again, I'll reserve judgment.

Plus, Unequivocant is technically a decade in the future of the main games; in my opinion, the Master Balls would be in at least small-scale mass production, albeit absurdly expensive due to their unique materials that prevent them from being escapable. There would be a demand for such powerful items, and it has been said that a Legend can still break out of them, even if its not the way they work in the main games.
Fair enough. It's one of those bits of game material that always throws me when it shows up in fics.

I think the issue with Hanson's morals here is that he's the one who's actively ordering his employees to do this, rather than him saying he wants something done and letting a subordinate take care of it. With the former approach, he'd seem more like a behind-the-lines leader, like these corporate giants tend to be. He himself may be questionable in his morals for allowing such men to be hired, or for him to allow these experiments, but it would not be so bad as him actually being down in the labs and taking charge of the experiments.
That's another way of looking at it... I suppose. It would be much grayer if he's simply really dedicated toward making his dream a reality... to the point where he turns a bit of a blind eye to what his employees are doing to make that happen.
 
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i can't believe bibarel is f**king dead But no joke, I didn't expect that, though mainly because it's hard to think of a DNA/cognitive research method that would actually kill the subject, or even wither the body. Twisting I can see if ECT is involved, as that causes seizures. However, given Bibarel was unwilling and stressed, I could definitely see a heart attack or so having happened. And I do suppose Electric is super effective on Water :thinking:

On another note, it's nicely realistic to have Hanson be annoyed by the death, as it really is an inconvenience. A colder reaction would make him just appear inhuman or sadistic, neither of which fit him as a character.
Yeah, I think death is too extreme. Severe injuries maybe, but otherwise it's pushing it.

That's a pretty idiot moment on the young guy's part. I mean, what kind of collar would have a blinky light just for the sake of a blinky light?

Also, not sure why the last line of dialogue in this is italicized, is there a reason or did you maybe just mix it up with Gardner's thoughts after?
After you brought this up, I think it needs to be changed; it's rather unrealistic to assume the guy doesn't know why Gardner has the collar on. I think this would be a good moment to introduce some of Ambyssin's advice below nd have him be sympathetic to the Equivosian's plight, and want to help Gardner and the others by releasing him."

Oh, and about that line of dialogue, it was italicized to put more emphasis in his words, but I can see the confusion, so I'll change it.

I can't think of much to say this time, probably as a lot of this chapter was pretty straightforward action. All I can think of is that I found it odd how the cameras were handled. I mean, the moment a camera goes dark, the people looking at them are supposed to alert people (as something's clearly wrong), so there's really no advantage to breaking them other than keeping Lawrence's face hidden from the people who'd recognize him. With such a big building, I'd expect there to be a flood of guards ready to jump on intruders or troublemakers.
Hmm...you have a point. I haven't really written using cameras until this point, so I blame inexperience. Maybe it would be better for Lawrence to sneak inside and grab a guard uniform within the facility, then be ordered to take care of the Master Ball shipment afterward. It would resolve the situation with the camera up front.

As for the cameras in the room with the Equivosians, I think it would be safe to assume that none would be in the containment room since they want to be watching the sole entrance/exit, so they'd have plenty there. I'll just have to leave it alone, and that could be a way Lawrence could be discovered.

Anyway, question: do you still want me to beta the coming chapters privately or do you prefer this after-publish review thing I've been doing now? Feel free to answer in this thread or a PM.
The previous method worked because I had a backlog of chapters to work with, but since I don't have any at the moment, it can't be conducted behind-the-scenes. There's only two chapters after this left anyways, so justk eep doing what you're doing here. It's still a great help!

I suppose it comes down to subtext and body language. Hanson doesn't appear at all disturbed by the fact that Bibarel died... and he doesn't even hesitate a moment to question if he's going about Babel in the wrong way. If you're going for well-intentioned extremist, then I do think he needs to have a bit of doubt before assuring himself that, say, what happened to Bibarel is an accident and he can prevent it in the future by being more careful.
That clarification makes more sense. After canisaries' comment, I think I need to change the Bibarel to simply suffering a near-death experience and recovering steadily, but Hanson still isn't satisfied.

And thinking about that entire scene, I think it needs to be replaced with what I put at the end of the chapter--Hanson's backstory--then I can have Mister Vaun come up and relay the situation, making Hanson seem more distant and more...president-like, for sake of a better word. It is reasonable to say he was around Facility D with Lawrence to introduce him more personably, and also for the big leaps for the project (IE: the wormhole generator and the machine) so he can personally witness the progress he is making. Otherwise, I see him as a guy who would let others do the grunt work; he just tells them what to do, and he expects it to be done.

I've already revised Hanson's final scene in Chapter 27 to fit this new scene, as well as to make it more gray. I aim to have the revisions done today.

That sounds extremely black and white (fitting for Unova I guess, ha ha) and contradictory to what you state below. Referring to Project Babel as a "black stain" and actually calling it evil makes me think they're evil. You point to their other projects, but all we see of them is Hanson reflecting on them, as opposed to employees who aren't involved in Babel and have no idea what it is. Every employee shown this chapter is involved in Babel... and none of them offer up even the slightest hesitancy toward what Hanson is ordering. I have a really hard time believing there isn't someone among his rank and file uncomfortable with what he's doing. That lack of push back is what leads me to broadly label them "evil." If Lawrence is the only one who thinks Babel is inherently wrong, that doesn't paint Valence in a good light at all.
Hmm...I see your point. It would do to see the employees disagreeing with their leader and only committing to him for sake of their jobs. I could even talk about how Facility D had always been researching Pokemon in unconventional ways, but never to this extent. There could even be talk of how the other project and products helped the world without hurting anyone, whereas this would, and tha would shake some employees' faith in their leader. While I may have that more limited in this chapter, I can certainly have it in the next.

But if Hanson's goal is something pure (stronger relationships between humans and Pokémon) then why is it such a dark secret? Because of the way it's being conducted? Isn't the point that the public will never know how this stuff happened? I assume Hanson has a great PR team that can spin everything. I dunno... I guess I'm just being critical of Valence because you've turned them into arc villains... after killing your main antagonist off. So I, as the reader, expect Hanson and Valence to be as engaging as Arthus, but it feels like they needed more time to be developed.
When I said 'dark secret', I did mean more of Project Babel's process, not necessarily the end results. Sorry if it came off as confusing.

I will admit, I don't think I can make Hanson or Valence as engaging as Arthus. He was a villain I enjoyed writing for, and it helped that he was entirely in a fantasy setting, where I have the most experience. Valence and Hanson are in a sci-fi/realistic fantasy world, where I don't have as much heart or experience. The only other place I could really develop Valence is during Chapter 02, but that is mostly devoted to establishing Lawrence, and I can't afford to develop them too much. I don't really know how I could do more except by hear-say through this act or showing their efforts via background movement in Chapter 02.

I mean... I'd have liked to see either of those scenarios you presented. I think they could've been really entertaining! ^^;
While yes, they would have been interesting...I'm not sure how I would have had them effectively sneak out of Valence. As we've seen, Hanson isn't going to budge on his position of keeping the Pokemon, and if they were both human, they couldn't really do much--especially Cassia, as she would have to get used to the human body. And if they were both Pokemon, I doubt Valence would be able to help as they could keep Lawrence far more secure than any other Pokemon sheerly for his rarity as a human-turned-Pokemon. Interesting scenarios, but neither would lead to the ending I envision.

I suppose. It's just... as long as Lawrence has the ability to be human and Cassia is still a Zoroark... there's a bit of a creepiness factor to the relationship. I mean, yeah, Cassia could theoretically do a human illusion, but she seems pretty staunchly anti-illusion at this point. There's, of course, still a chance Lawrence could end up purely Lucario once he's back in Sinnoh, so, again, I'll reserve judgment.
Well...consider this: Cassia has the same mark on her wrist.
 
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