• Welcome to Thousand Roads! You're welcome to view discussions or read our stories without registering, but you'll need an account to join in our events, interact with other members, or post one of your own fics. Why not become a member of our community? We'd love to have you!

    Join now!

Pokémon Barricade (oneshot)

canisaries

voted most likely to be edgy
Location
the middle of nowhere
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/inkay-shirlee
Decided to polish up this story from a year or so ago! It was originally written for the Genre Gambles writing game created by @kintsugi over at Bulbagarden Forums, where a player would receive a randomized prompt to write a story from. The prompt for this story was Alternate (category), Tragedy (genre), Pokémon (protagonist) and Orre (region). It's a standalone and so unrelated to all my other works.

For the people who read the original version: the story is now roughly twice as long as the original (3k -> 6k), meaning much added content. The ending is also slightly different. It may well be worth a reread.

Rating is teen for violence, strong language, death and themes of mental illness. Enjoy.

---

Barricade

Synopsis: A Shadow Aggron tells his story.

---​

Humans can’t be trusted. Mon can’t be trusted. The only one I can trust is myself. That is the truth of this world.

I didn’t always know that truth. I only realized it through two very important events. The first was the beginning of my new life.

I don’t remember much of my old life, but I remember being naive. Naive like a hatchling, overgrown aron. One that would think the world’s creatures don’t only care about themselves. I now know that such childishness should be discarded with the first molted shell.

Fortunately, that silly lairon was awakened before he could get himself hurt. Humans with black shells came to his nest, somehow shrunk him down to trap him in a round colorful nut and brought him to more humans, but these new humans had different kinds of shells, white and long. The lairon had seen many humans before, mostly from afar as mother had taught him to stay away. He knew they all had soft shells that came in many different colors, and that’s why he was puzzled by how these humans that had come to take him had such similar shells to one another. He guessed that they were related and left it at that, as he had more important things to worry about.

All these humans seemed very keen on keeping him restrained, be it in a strange nut one could be put inside or with a large, durable spiderweb that could sting like a plusle. The lairon could not seem to escape, and so he could only watch as they brought him to their nest.

This nest was unlike any the lairon had seen before. There were little lights all around, like fireflies, but they stayed immobile like stars. They glimmered atop chunks of metal here and there, but these chunks were nothing like the chunks one would find buried in rock. They were far too neatly shaped, far too smooth. But they must have been there for a long time, because vines had grown between them. Vines of many colors. It all looked very tasty to that silly little lairon, but he never got to try it.

After that it gets hazy, but I remember a big change - and that was the beginning of my new life. The world felt different. More rigid. Dead. It did not move unless something moved it. And that something always had some plan, some reason to do what it did. I’d known that for a longer time, but now I was much more aware. Creatures had intentions. And those intentions, most always, were to serve themselves.

With this, my fear grew, as I could not figure out why they wanted me there. They clearly weren’t trying to eat me or chase me away from their territory. In fact, they gave me food and water. Like a mother would do. But I wasn’t their child. What would they be raising me for?

That night, I met the human that would answer that question.

I was curled up in my cage - though I didn’t know back then what it was, just thought of it as a strange hollow unbreakable rock or something - when she came in, despite the warning cries the whiteshells gave. I only got onto my feet and stared at her, not attacking, as I knew that would probably make her packmates mad and want to hurt me. I didn’t know what to expect of her, but it definitely wasn’t what happened next.

She sat down. Like she wanted to rest. But there must have been far better places to rest, ones that were softer and didn’t have a foreign mon many times her weight within. I tilted my head. She started making noises, the kind of noises humans like to make, but soft and gentle. I didn’t know what they meant, but I liked the sound. Why was she making these noises at me, though? What would it benefit her? I could not wrap my mind around that.

She then did something I managed to understand. She pointed at herself, tapped her chest and said ‘Lena’. She was a ‘Lena’ - no, her name was Lena. Then she pointed to me, tilting her head.

I gave my own name, the call my family identified me by and what I learned to identify myself by. I don’t remember it anymore, but I think it had a specific growl and a huff in it. Not very suitable for human mouths, though. I saw Lena lower her brow and stare at the floor, seemingly pondering the same. Then she looked up, let her eyes wander on my shell, then finally pointed again and said a new word. ‘Barricade’. Be-ri-ke-id. I could make those sounds. I tried right away. Lena’s eyes lit up. I tried again, more flowingly. I liked making those sounds. Finally, I accepted the new name - raising a forefoot to my snout and tapping it while saying the word. Lena showed her teeth and made a new noise. I flinched, but then realized it wasn’t a threat as she backed away, seemingly apologetic. It was just some human communication thing I hadn’t understood.

I felt very strange at that moment. Like I’d briefly become a little aron again, playing with my siblings. It felt good, but scared me - was I going to slip back into my previous ignorance?

Lena slowly got up and began to approach. I didn’t back away - if she wanted to hurt me, she would’ve had plenty of opportunities before - but I still kept my guard up. Finally, she was close enough to touch my snout, and she did so with a careful hand. It felt very light. I pushed into it a little, but even then it felt light. She couldn’t possibly harm me with limbs that flimsy. I sat down and hummed softly. She hummed back. Now I felt like an aron in a different way. An aron nuzzling close to his mother.

It was the first peace I’d felt since the humans had first approached.

We stayed like that for a while. Lena made more noises at me, noises I couldn’t understand, but I started to pick up some repeating sounds. Individual vocalizations and combinations of them. The building blocks of human language. I wanted to learn more so I could understand what she was saying and what the other humans were saying. Luckily, Lena seemed willing to teach me. I knew there must have been a price for me to pay for that favor, but I was ready to pay it. Anything to just know what was going on so I didn’t have to live in uncertainty.

Over the next few months, that wish came true. Lena taught me more about not only her language but the odd things around us - what they were called, what their purpose was, what they were made out of. The 'shells' of humans were actually 'clothes' and they could put them on and take them off at will. That's why clothes are a bad way to identify a person, Lena had told me, and I should focus on hair and scents instead since their faces looked all the same to me. I made it an effort to press the image of her short red hair even harder into my memory.

Lena also told me that the ‘vines’ from before were ‘wires’ and not plants at all. They were made by humans from ‘plastic’ which was made from ‘oil’ which was made from the corpses of living creatures that had died many many years ago and squeezed by rock deep underground into that black liquid called ‘oil’. I didn’t really get how that worked, but Lena told me she didn’t either, but knew that this ‘plastic’ had many uses and could be molded to many different forms with different properties. I asked if one could eat it and she simply laughed. Laughing, that’s what the teeth-baring thing was called. I tried it once myself but Lena said it just looked scary.

But most importantly, I learned the reason for why I’d been brought there. They wanted me to work. I would help out on ‘missions’ and do things Lena instructed me to. It wasn’t actually very hard. I was sturdy, even for a lairon - Lena told me that it’s why she thought of the name Barricade to begin with - and it was no trouble for me to ram through the walls of some other humans’ nest structures or knock away the mon that tried to stop our group. I wondered why we did that since I never saw much food in the nests, but Lena told me there was ‘money’ which humans could give to each other in exchange for food or materials. It baffled me how they could put so much value in something that only has value if everyone agrees it does, but Lena insisted it was a working system. I figured it was just another strange human thing and let it be.

Sometimes we captured other mon. They never liked it, wanting to stay with their humans or in their nests, but I could tell they were just naive like I used to be. Far too trusting of their keepers or the cruel wilderness. Our pack, ‘Cipher’, was actually honest. Clear on what they wanted. And after the mon were put in the ‘machine’, the same one I knew I had been put into, they were reborn like me and saw the truth. They regretted living in ignorance. They saw that ‘Cipher’ was the best place for them.

It sure was for me. Life was far better than it had been in the wild. I didn’t have to protect my own nest or go out to search for food and water, everything was taken care of for me. All I had to do in exchange was follow orders and spend a bunch of time inside that round seed which Lena told me was a 'pokéball'. I initially worried that meant I would be poked at random intervals, but Lena explained it was just named that way because 'pokémon' could go inside, 'pokémon' being the fancy word for mon. Sounded dumb to me, but I could admit it was better than my own 'shrink seed'.

Either way, I was glad to be learning about humans and the silly things they did. It made life exciting and meant that every day had something new, but I was still safe and comfortable. And any time it got uncomfortable - like when I got hurt during a mission after all, or some human was being needlessly rude to me - Lena was there by my side to help me get through it.

Lena was the only person I ‘trusted’ in my new life. ‘Trusting’ is when you believe someone will be good to you even if you don’t see how it would benefit them. In my old life, I trusted my family, but I think I was just lucky to never get screwed over too badly. Family is strange, anyway. Some kind of instinct makes family not want to hurt or cheat each other. I wondered sometimes if Lena had that instinct for me. It felt like I had it for her.

Then came the second important event.

One night, my armor cracked during practice for a mission. A big black lightning bolt shot right across my forehead, and it completely freaked Lena out. She spoke frantically about medicare and breathed way too fast, but I rushed to calm her down. I explained - as best as I could with my current knowledge of the human language - that it was a natural part of my kind’s life cycle and meant that I was soon going to evolve. Her distress quickly transformed to excitement. Aggron were ‘so cool’ to her, which did not mean they lacked heat but more that they were awe-inspiring in her eyes. For myself, it was mixed - I would be stronger and more nimble, but I’d have to learn a whole new gait and posture. For Lena’s sake, however, I was happy.

She insisted, though, that I’d sit this mission out. She didn’t want anything vital in my body to be damaged with this old armor crumbling down. While I was looking forward to another mission, I saw her point and agreed to stay behind. But I made her promise to me that she’d be safe. She did, but only if I promised I’d stay safe too. I did, and so she recalled me to my ball.

She was not the one to release me.

That was the first sign of something being wrong. I immediately lowered my head and growled, but it seemed that the person there was not planning on hurting me. She only wanted to talk. But what she said did hurt me, deeply so.

“Lena’s gone.”

‘Gone’. It meant ‘away’. But I’d been with humans enough to know this wasn’t about her simply being elsewhere. No - the human meant that Lena no longer was anywhere.

She could never be anywhere again. She would never come back. I would never see her again, hear her voice again, feel her touch again. Anything that ever involved her was now strictly a thing of the past.

Well. Maybe I could see her, but would I want to? She would just be a corpse.

But how? How did this happen? I cried out to the human. Shot, she said. Right in the head. The cops did it. Mission went wrong. They had to flee. Couldn’t even take Lena’s body with them.

It felt impossible. Lena had been with me so long, and now she’d just disappeared? Surely this wasn’t true. She promised me she’d be safe, after all. She wouldn’t break my promise.

I decided it was a lie. Humans sometimes played tricks on each other for their entertainment. They called those ‘pranks’ or ‘jokes’. This must have been another ‘joke’. Well, I certainly didn’t find it entertaining. I found it appalling. The idea that someone would find joy in hurting someone like that, even more so. This was a bad, bad person, and she deserved punishment.

Before she could react, I rammed her into the wall. It hurt me somewhat with my armor being weaker, but definitely not as much as it hurt her. “No jokes!” I roared. I expected an immediate apology, for her to swear she’d never play a trick like that on me again, but that’s not what she did.

“No, no! It’s not a joke!” she yelled between cries of agony. She was still trying to trick me? No, she wouldn’t do that, I would hurt her even more. So then it must have been… true.

Lena really was gone.

Other humans flooded in through the door. They were alarmed, afraid, then angry. They released their own mon and told them to restrain me. One crept for the ball that had fallen out of the first human’s hand. No. I didn’t want to go back. I didn’t want to be released by someone who wasn’t Lena again. I didn’t want to go back to where I’d been like nothing had happened and go on with my life like Lena had never been part of it.

Fear and rage built up in my core like hatchlings huddling together for warmth. That warmth became hotter and hotter, bursting to flames and still growing - it was melting me from the inside out. I had to let it scatter, disperse to the rest of my body. I focused on the scalding, blazing core, and I ripped it apart.

The fire molded my body anew. It raised me to my hind legs, stretched my limbs, tail and snout, grew me horns. The humans shrank before me. I was bigger, heavier, stronger.

I had evolved… and Lena did not get to see it.

I had to get away. Be alone. Away from everyone, every member of this pack that had failed to protect Lena, that couldn’t even bring back her body. Selfish. Selfish like everyone was. I couldn’t believe I’d managed to forget. No one can be trusted.

I slammed against the wall. It crumbled like clay, revealing another room. I marched through it, ignoring everything in the way, and charged through another wall. They all screamed and shouted, humans and mon alike, but I didn’t listen. I just kept going, smashing more and more until finally I found the light, the outside, the desert. I ran into the sands, the horizon as my goal. Many tried to stop me, many mon and devices and vehicles, but nothing worked. No earthquake or focus punch could sway me from my course, even if it hurt. Eventually, they realized it too, giving up. When they left, I heard some call me a monster. Beyond anything they’d ever created.

After some more walking, my power finally ran out. I collapsed on the ground with an earth-shaking thud, puffing up the sand around me. I closed my eyes, and with my last waking breath, I bellowed.

Such were the two very important events that taught me the truth of this world.

---​

I begin my daily trek through the sands. A sandstorm of my own creation swirls around me, concealing me and scaring off any humans that may be nearby. I want nothing to do with those things anymore. I can't risk letting myself trust anyone again.

I warp the course of the swirling particles to tear a window into my sandy veil. Ahead, I see an oasis. I release my hold of the grains, and the storm fades away. I don't want to damage my food sources, after all, they're scarce as is.

I arrive at the oasis and march right into the water. Oh, its coolness is so wonderful. Much needed after all that sun heating up my shell.

I lap some water to quench my thirst, then rise out to munch on the brittlebush and other vegetation around me. Once sufficiently full, I lie down in the shade of a nearby prickly-leaved tree for a quick rest. After that, it’s back to the vast sands - I bid the oasis farewell and set my course for the next.

It’s not an exciting life, but excitement is not what I want anymore. I just want to live in peace, knowing no treachery from anyone who’d pretend to be a friend. It’d be nice if I could do so in a place less monotonous as the desert, but I dare not venture out of this place in fear of being targeted again. The humans of Cipher may still want to capture me again.

I stomp onwards. My tail drags behind me, drawing a trail in the sand. It’s not a problem, though, as my trail will be shuffled away once I set up my sandstorm again. I’ll just need to get far enough away from the oasis to avoid harming the plants.

While waiting for my sluggish steps to take me there, I study my claws to pass the time. They used to shine like gems, being steel and all, but the sands have worn their glamour out. By the reflection I see in the ponds, I know the same goes for the rest of my armor.

Shining…

Did I just see something shine in the distance? On top of that dune?

It could’ve just been sunlight reflecting off a special grain of sand… but I can’t seem to reproduce the glint by moving my head around. Maybe it was hot air bending the light? I learned with Cipher that such a thing can happen, and that’s why fake ponds sometimes appear in the desert.

Even still, I haven’t survived this long by shrugging off suspicious events, so I’d better put up a sandstorm just in case…

I focus on the sand around me, preparing to whip them up to a twister - but a sudden gust brings interference. Gusts like these don’t happen here. This must be an attack!

I look to the gust’s direction and catch a glimpse of a shadowy form above dashing past. A flying type? No flyer preys on aggron, none is that stupid. Does it have some kind of --

What’s touching my legs?

White, stringy stalks with little caps have ensnared my feet. I pull myself free, meeting moderate resistance, and rush a few body-lengths away. Were those mushrooms? Is there a flying type with those powers?

Wait. Mushrooms carry spores. Could it try to --

Another gust arises, this time from the direction of the mushrooms were. It shakes the stalks, drawing out tiny yellow specks, and rushes at me.

I shut my eyes tight and hold my breath as the wind rushes past. I strengthen it with a sandstorm of my own, making sure the spores fly far past me, then dare to open my eyes and breathe. Success.

But this thing will surely try again. I can’t avoid the spores forever and I doubt I can outrun the attacker with my pitiful speed, so my only option is to defeat it. At least try to.

I scan my surroundings and find the flying shadow again. By its deep blue, white and crimson color, I identify it as a swellow. One rock type strike would likely knock it down for good, but how could I hit it?

I've got it. Grains of sand are too light and easily blown away by a wind attack, but if I made a storm of something heavier, deadlier…

Tapping into the earthly energy beneath me, I search for something solid. My search brings me deeper and deeper under the sand - until I hit what I need. I grab it with invisible arms and tug as hard as I can. With a great rumble, the surface of the sand bulges and a boulder of sandstone rises through right before me. That will do. Just need to… strike it!

My claws drive into the stone, shattering it into dozens of pieces. The swellow in the distance turns tail and flies a few meters further away. It must know what I'm planning.

I seize control of the pieces, lifting them with an orange glow. Once they’ve formed a sparse dome around me, I move my right hand forwards and left arm backwards, sending the barrier into a spinning motion. Being so heavy, they stay in motion rather well, seeming to need new pushes only now and then. Perfect - all I have to do now is catch that bird in this formation.

I shove the stones outward, expanding my range. They need more speed again, but I have strength to spare. They’re approaching the swellow, who is now trying to fly away. Go ahead! If you leave, it’s still a win for me.

But wait. Swellow don’t have mushroom powers. There must be someone else here. And while a mon can’t get through this barrier, their powers…

White stalks erupt from the sand below. They coil around my feet like before - though I think their caps look a bit different this time - but who cares! The stalks are as flimsy as before and I rip myself free with little --

“Gahh!”

Spores? Yes, spores, and they’re in my eyes and even in my mouth, no, where did they… oh, the damn thing exploded! That’s why the shrooms looked different!

I blink and spit furiously, but some of their poison has already entered my body, I can feel it. My mind is getting lazier, my motions less precise. The stones of my barrier wobble and lower, then thump down to the sands. This is bad.

But I can’t give up now. I don’t know what these mon want from me, but it can’t be anything good. I want to keep living free. I want to keep living, period.

Where the hell is this second mon? I spin around - which makes me even dizzier - but I can’t spot it. Maybe it’s faster and just always moving out of my sight. Well, aggron may be slow and have poor hearing… but we aren’t stupid.

I seize some of the stones behind my back and fling them at each other, hoping to catch the mystery mon in the crossfire. They hit something! I turn around, but the mon slips out of my vision right as I spot it. Looked greenish, bipedal. It’s probably a breloom. Those can be pretty fast, which explains this one’s quickness…

Ugh… I'm getting tired. I can barely keep my head up. But no! I have to… keep fighting. I'm so close…

I try reaching for the stones again, but my sense of energy has gone dim. I can't grab them… where even are they…

The green mon comes to my vision. There it is, I just have to strike! But these stones are all slippery, I can't get… a grasp…

My legs betray me. I fall to the sand, body limp. My eyelids droop down, blinding me. No, no...

“He’s down!” someone yells. A human? When did a… human arrive? A-and I hear… others...

“Quick, come get… before...”

“...up on th...”

“...”

---​

...Ngh.

I'm awake. But this isn't my nest. Wrong smell, wrong temperature, wrong texture beneath me - too soft for stone, too continuous for sand. And there's something on top of me, too. Stripes of touch running across my body and limbs. I try to move, they won't let me. Restraints!

I open my eyes properly. As expected, no sky, no sands or rocks. Instead, grays and whites and metals, a grid of lights above me. Machines and wires around. Is this Cipher's nest? Did they come back to get me? No, they can't have me again!

I growl and struggle, but the restraints won't budge, I'm trapped! But wait - maybe I'm still weakened. Maybe if I wait and gather my power, I'll be able to break free. I stop and go limp. I feel so defenseless… but the other option is just to waste my strength. I have to just wait, try to slow down my pounding heart, rest while I can…

Or maybe I can find some rock and cut myself free? I feel around for energies… but there's something in the way. Something filling the air, a disturbance. Wait, I recognize it. Back when Cipher first captured me, they had this in the cages and machines. A 'suppression field'. Prevents mon from connecting to type energies. Dammit! Even if there was stone here, I wouldn't be able to grab it…

A door opens. A human walks into view. Female, long pale hair bound back. She’s got white clothing, but not a coat. I never saw clothes like that in Cipher, but things may have changed while I was gone. Either way, it’s a human, a creature that isn’t me, and so it can’t be trusted.

The human approaches, and I growl. It quakes the entire platform I’m on.

“It’s okay,” she says, palms raised. White gloves. “We’re here to help. No one’s going to hurt you.”

I snort. As if I’d fall for your lies. At least you’ve hidden whatever you plan to use on me in that bag you carry. What’s in it, huh? Syringes? Scalpels? Chisels to get the armor off?

I’m running out of time, aren’t I. If only my strength could recharge faster…

The human stops before me and reaches in her bag. I stare at it as intensely as my eyes allow. Go ahead, show me what you've got. I want to know just how screwed I am.

A jar? It’s filled with something yellowish. Looks waxy. What is that?

The human takes a step towards me, and I give another growl.

“This is massage oil,” she says in a clear, patient tone, though I can hear some stress leaking through it. “I’m going to open this and it’s going to smell a little strange, but don’t be alarmed, it’s harmless.”

She twists open the lid, and soon a new scent reaches my nostrils. Strong, but not unpleasant. But it’s not smell I’m worried about, it’s the effects. Is this going to put me to sleep? Force me to only tell the truth? Is this a toxin they’ll only give the cure for if I tell them what I know? In that last case, it may already be too late. And why wouldn’t they kill me in the end anyway? Let’s hope it’s a truth serum - I have nothing to hide, and talking buys me time.

She moves past me, out of sight. I growl more.

“It’s alright, it’s alright...” she just keeps saying. Lying.

I flinch as I feel a touch on my back. What’s she doing now?

“I’m going to massage you a little bit,” she says. “It’s not going to hurt, don’t worry.” I feel a stickier touch. Is that the oil? What will seep in through my skin?

“Everything’s fine, no one’s going to hurt you, just relax...”

Her palms push lightly into my skin. It doesn’t hurt - in fact, it feels kind of nice - but I’m not an idiot. They want to give me a false sense of security.

Well! I’ll give them one, too. Play meek and weak. Make them think whatever poison they may have given me has already taken effect, then strike when they get too confident. But I still need a bit more time to gather my strength… perhaps relaxing like she suggested would help. But I won’t relax too much. I’ll still be alert in case they try to pull anything.

I release the tension from my back, allowing the rubbing hands of the woman to work with less strain.

“Good, thank you… doesn’t that feel nice?” She’s really committed to this act, but so am I to mine.

Huh… it seems this massage is quite effective in bringing back my energy now that I'm cooperating. Great, but why would they do that for me…?

Maybe it's an unwanted side effect. Or maybe they're really going strong with this false sense of security thing. Or maybe they… actually want to…

...help?

Some time passes with the masseuse giving similar treatment to other parts of my body. I keep up my relaxed facade - though at times, it comes dangerously close to turning authentic. I fortunately manage to set myself straight every time. Years of experience and knowledge doesn’t disappear with just a little rubbing.

The woman speaks some more every now and then, but every time it’s only her telling me where she’ll move on to next or when she’ll add some more oil. I stay quiet, but my heartbeat’s still quite fast.

A door opens again.

“Jackson, are you close to being finished?” whispers a male voice.

“He seems pretty calm,” the masseuse whispers back. “I think he’s ready. But we should still be careful, take it slow.”

I almost tense up, but manage to suppress the response. Ready. So they are planning something.

“Alright,” replies the voice. “Let’s begin the purification.”

Purification? What does that mean? It’s a pretty word, but it’s a bit too pretty. Sounds like it’s got something to hide!

I feel like my strength has reached its peak. Now all that’s left is to wait for the right moment. But when would that be? I still know so little.

Steps. A human male, also in white, walks into my sight. He’s holding something, something technical looking and weird, I don’t like it at all. This is the best time I’m gonna get!

I draw in a deep breath. Time to raise hell.

I jerk upward with great force against the straps holding me down. The woman screams, startled, and the man runs back behind the machinery. Something breaks, but I'm not free yet - I have to keep thrashing.

“What are you --” she continues, reaching to touch me but then recoiling. “No, it’s okay!”

Shut up! I’m done with your lies! I’m gonna break free and get the hell out of here!

Thrash, thrash, why aren’t they breaking? I’m a full grown aggron! I’m at the peak of my strength! Please… please break! Something broke the first time, why isn’t anything else breaking?

“I'm getting the sedative!” shouts the man, and steps run out of the room.

No…! I can't fail! If I don't get out now, I never will! Come on, come on! Just break! It's starting t-to get heavier… no, please, I need to get away…!

M-maybe I need to lie still for just a bit, just a few heartbeats? I stop my convulsing. No, no, the strain is hitting me, I’m not gonna get any more power from this, I should've just kept going…

By chance, my eyes meet the woman's. She's terrified - no, pretending to be terrified. Five wavering words escape her hand-covered mouth.

“Who hurt you like this…?”

Who hurt me…?

You did. You did!

The anger inside me boils. It's bubbling, hissing, screaming. I hate this world, I hate all the snakes slithering on its earth! The mind games they play! The voice deep inside me that wants to trust again, wants to see me hurt again so it can laugh at my agony!

"GRRAAAHHHH!"

The entire building trembles from the power of my roar. The heat inside explodes, crashes into my skin, it's white hot, blistering, changing me --

I'm changing? My flesh is reforming, my armor expanding, rehardening?

Snap, snap, snap! The restraints… the restrains are gone! I'm free!

"What's happening?" screams some human. "That's not possible!" screams another. Their voices remind me of this fire's purpose - I don't know how I've evolved again, but it's for a reason!

I tense my muscles, strong as steel wires, and stand upright! The power of this new form is incredible! Finally, I receive my justice, and it is my duty to now share it!

I leap off the platform and land before one machine, the machine I believe creates the suppression field. I pull back an arm - armored with dark steel - and plunge it forth. With an ear-splitting screech, the fist tears through the metal! The field disappears! Energies light up around me, in the walls, in the ground, even above! It -- it makes the fire even hotter. Too hot. Too hot!

I scream. This hurts. This hurts like hell. My own armor sears my skin. Pain, pain!

"Please, calm down! We want to help!" shouts another human. It reminds me of the rage again, and it burns even more! You bastard! You are all bastards! Look what you've done to me! I'm burning to death!

This is it, isn't it? This is the end of my life. My body couldn't take the injustice anymore and turned itself into something it couldn't maintain. Its final outcry against the world. Going out with a flash.

Well! If I have to go, I won't let these serpents slither free! They will see justice!

I claw my way through the pain to focus on the earthly energies one last time. Concrete, metal, any mineral. I will return it all to where it came.

I seize the energies - and I pull.

Cracks ravage the walls, ceiling and floor. They crumble. I can barely hear the humans' screams through the deafening destruction.

The ceiling comes free, speeding up towards me. It will snuff out this blazing inferno, free me of my pain - of the body and of the mind. I will see Lena again, and I will force her to apologize, apologize for breaking her promise --

Oh.

Wait.

Didn't I also promise…

---​
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Location
waiting for the fog to roll out
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
hi it's me, so late that you had time to rewrite the entire story. sorry i took so long

that being said, i'm really glad you did? silver linings? i don't fully remember the old version but there's a lot more good stuff here, and that ending line is 🔥

I like the perspective here. Orre has a lot of interesting setup for how pokemon/human relations work with a lot less of the fluff present in the mainstream games, but it's pretty often that we just see it through Wes's eyes. I like the lens you use for Barricade; it's a little obtuse at times but it gives us a view into Cipher from the inside.

Paragraphs 4-6 are in third person while the rest is in first -- I feel like this was intentional to stress the difference between the new and old lives, but it comes across as more jarring than anything else. For me the most confusing part was that the new life should begin when he gets taken to Cipher, but the third person persists for a bit to describe his cell in Cipher, so the actual division between them doesn't feel well-defined even though it's supposed to be big enough that everything before that event happened to someone else.

but I'm not free yet - I have to keep thrashing.
em dash! i think you know what these are because I see them elsewhere, but you dropped a few in this scene

I tense my muscles, strong as steel wires, and stand upright
I sort of like this as a callback to Barricade learning what wires are, but muscle strength (punching/compression) is pretty opposite to what wire strength (tension) is, so this metaphor is kind of tricky for me.

somehow shrunk him down to trap him in a round colorful nut and brought him to more humans
Vines of many colors. It all looked very tasty to that silly little lairon, but he never got to try it.
Like a mother would do. But I wasn’t their child. What would they be raising me for?
Pokemon perspective on foreign human objects is a lens that I've read and struggled a lot with, so apologies in advance for the rambling.

"Alien" perspectives on human writing comes in two flavors, I think. The first is how they view objects, and the second is how they view actions. In the above examples, the nuts and vines are alien view of pokeballs and wires; the "why are they feeding me if I'm not their child" is an alien view of exchanging goods for services/having debts/capitalism?/pokemon training.

For me, the first category isn't terribly interesting, and it's also confusing sometimes. I didn't figure out the wire = rainbow vines, for example, because I didn't think that Cipher would have exposed wiring in their base. And it's also a little strange that a desert pokemon would even think of nuts/vines in the first place, since presumably those are more suited to damper climates. Some of your view of objects are good, like the hard/soft shells of clothing, but for me the ramifications are still the more interesting parts -- unlike lairon, humans regularly change their shells, and that leads to more learning/growth when Barricade needs to figure this out and adapt around it, and this plays in to how he grows to recognize and appreciate Lena for what's beneath her shell as well.

I find that a lot of stories that try to focus on the alien perspective end up getting bogged down on the first category, and in making intricate names/terminologies/substitutions for how the alien perspective would view human objects. This tends to result in a distracting narration because human readers end up having to do mental hopscotch -- they're a human reader familiar with human terminology reading a non-human reader unfamiliar with human terminology becoming familiar with human terminology again. And the payoff is just that... pokeballs and wires and clothes exist and have names.

Where I think non-human narration really gets the chance to shine is when, like with the "why are they raising me" example, you focus on the non-human behaviors, because then you can call attention to things that people do/take for granted that are, in fact, kind of strange. In the quoted example I think it really drives home how fucked up the whole situation is, because Barricade doesn't even suspect that there'd be any other reason to feed/care for someone else other than because you love them and want to protect them. This sets up and pays off massively given the arc of this story, and honestly this was the line that sort of made me sit up in my seat and made me aware of the kind of underlying story you were going to be picking at.

And after the mon were put in the ‘machine’, the same one I knew I had been put into, they were reborn like me and saw the truth.
I figure that this happens sometime between when Barricade gets captured and when he starts going on missions with Lena, but looking back I can't quite pinpoint where he actually becomes a shadow pokemon? At first I really thought this was going to go in the other direction -- Barricade is opening up his heart to Lena and it's really hard to reconcile that their relationship is genuine with the fact that shadow pokemon are supposed to be incapable of love/trust. So then I thought maybe Barricade was a normal lairon and Cipher was going to try to shadowfy Barricade post-Lena death to make him listen again, but I think he's supposed to be shadow the whole time, even when he's opening up to Lena.

And you definitely sell the heartless/cold/distrusting narration of a shadow pokemon in the second half. "It's a creature and it isn't me" was a very chilling line, and while it was sad to watch happen I'm sort of glad that you didn't end up renewing his trust in humanity again; it would've felt kind of cheesey with the amount of space you had left for it.

The ending lines are well-written and sad. Barricade finally understands the vulnerability and messy gradient that comes with trusting people, and I like how you sketch it out so he really doesn't get it until the last minute, but when he gets it, he definitely gets it.

Barricade as a character is a bit hard for me to peg. Because this story is sort of a smudge of different anectdotes, the passing of time is really unclear -- it feels like only a few months (because really, how long can Cipher successfully terrorize a region with shadow pokemon without winning outright, especially since they seem to have more teeth in your incarnation of them here), but towards the end Barricade mentions "years of experience" to form his distrust of humans. So then how long ago was the Lena thing? In the canon, Wes defects from Orre pretty soon after shadow pokemon hit the streets. It's unclear to me if Barricade is referencing years of distrust of humans based on the (unknown) amount of time at Cipher, or the (unknown) amount of time spent wandering feral in the desert.

I think this ties into the scope of this story -- you're basically boiling down an entire character arc into a few thousand words. Ironically I think this might've actually been snappier with fewer words, or perhaps formatted differently -- spending equal amounts of time on each of the major beats in the story (meeting Lena, learning from Lena, losing Lena, defecting from Cipher, battling Wes, purification attempt) makes them all feel like they have similar weight, when in reality a lot of those events aren't really important (the battle with Wes for example, came at a really strange place in the story emotionally). And this puts you in this weird space where you have a lot of events that happen close together chronologically, and then another set of events that happen close together chronologically, but a lot of time and the interesting character growth between them only really gets told by implication.

I guess for me it really just boils down to -- this is a character centric oneshot and all of the character development happens in the first half. The second half feels much more stagnant even though there's technically more stuff happening; I think part of that is because you start rendering out things in full with real dialogue/reactions, but Barricade's a passive participant for most of the last scene, and when he's not his character/actions are just "I'm angry; you all suck" and "hulk smash". Barricade sort of loses all character motivation once Lena dies, and I get that that's the Point, but this also means that he loses all his character motivation in the first half of the story -- it makes the ending feel really drawn out.

Plus, combined with the fact that none of the old characters/locations from the first half have any appearances in the second half, this really does feel like two distinct things that are only tangentially related -- the front half is just a vehicle for providing more backstory for what's happening in the second half. I think part of that burden is that Wes and Jackson are also new and while we get the basis for who they are/what they want due to familiarity with Orre canon, as characters they're just sort of a means to piss off Barricade and prove once and for all that love doesn't beat hate. Otherwise, though, they remain pretty faceless as well -- tying back in to how the second half of the story feels directionless because the characters there are as well.

Still though! I did enjoy reading this; I just feel like there were some structural/chronological issues that distracted me a bit throughout so this review ends up focusing heavily on those. Your prose is still on point as always, and the story you tell is still cynically tragic -- no one gets their happy ending in the end -- which I feel is pretty on-brand for Orre. Thanks for sharing!
 

canisaries

voted most likely to be edgy
Location
the middle of nowhere
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/inkay-shirlee
Thank you for the review, very long and juicy 👀

Paragraphs 4-6 are in third person while the rest is in first -- I feel like this was intentional to stress the difference between the new and old lives, but it comes across as more jarring than anything else. For me the most confusing part was that the new life should begin when he gets taken to Cipher, but the third person persists for a bit to describe his cell in Cipher, so the actual division between them doesn't feel well-defined even though it's supposed to be big enough that everything before that event happened to someone else.

Good point - I did indeed use the pronouns with the idea that Barricade views his old self as a different person, but I guess I forgot the implications towards the end of the segment. I should make it clearer that Barry indeed goes through the shadowification process before he meets Lena.

em dash! i think you know what these are because I see them elsewhere, but you dropped a few in this scene

I have to admit that I'm not always sure how I use my lines :p I guess I'm used to using -- only for interruptions (unless they're mid-word), and I adhere to some kind of personal protocol rather than official proper punctuation since I figured not being able to do fancy real dashes and only having hyphens at hand already disqualified me.

I sort of like this as a callback to Barricade learning what wires are, but muscle strength (punching/compression) is pretty opposite to what wire strength (tension) is, so this metaphor is kind of tricky for me.

Yeah, and Barry already eats metal for breakfast. It was a risky choice that didn't pay off.

For me, the first category isn't terribly interesting, and it's also confusing sometimes. I didn't figure out the wire = rainbow vines, for example, because I didn't think that Cipher would have exposed wiring in their base. And it's also a little strange that a desert pokemon would even think of nuts/vines in the first place, since presumably those are more suited to damper climates.

I did think about climate and remember worrying about the vines, but somehow... stuck with them anyway? Maybe something cut me off mid pondering and I forgot to fix it. :p I have a personal soft spot for animals misinterpreting technology so I may have overdone it in hindsight. As for the nuts, those I based on the fact that I know some dry climate plants store their seeds in hard shells that keep moisture inside, but "seed" itself felt like it gave the right image. I also considered berry, as those are colorful already, but figured berries definitely didn't grow in the desert. The wires being there in the first place, on the other hand, was kind of to give that "scary bad technology" vibe for the backdrop, I won't lie.

Barricade as a character is a bit hard for me to peg. Because this story is sort of a smudge of different anectdotes, the passing of time is really unclear -- it feels like only a few months (because really, how long can Cipher successfully terrorize a region with shadow pokemon without winning outright, especially since they seem to have more teeth in your incarnation of them here), but towards the end Barricade mentions "years of experience" to form his distrust of humans. So then how long ago was the Lena thing? In the canon, Wes defects from Orre pretty soon after shadow pokemon hit the streets. It's unclear to me if Barricade is referencing years of distrust of humans based on the (unknown) amount of time at Cipher, or the (unknown) amount of time spent wandering feral in the desert.

Oh, that "years of experience" feels like it was an oversight on my behalf during the revision... months would be more accurate, though I guess it doesn't quite have the same punch. And technically even two years is still years? ehhh

The Wes thing we discussed in DMs already, but in case other readers are curious: I didn't actually write this with any canon Orre characters in mind (mainly because I remember next to nothing from the games), and the Breloom and Swellow are simply unrelated mon cooperating with the people trying to purify stray Shadow mon.

I think this ties into the scope of this story -- you're basically boiling down an entire character arc into a few thousand words. Ironically I think this might've actually been snappier with fewer words, or perhaps formatted differently -- spending equal amounts of time on each of the major beats in the story (meeting Lena, learning from Lena, losing Lena, defecting from Cipher, battling Wes, purification attempt) makes them all feel like they have similar weight, when in reality a lot of those events aren't really important (the battle with Wes for example, came at a really strange place in the story emotionally). And this puts you in this weird space where you have a lot of events that happen close together chronologically, and then another set of events that happen close together chronologically, but a lot of time and the interesting character growth between them only really gets told by implication.

This is a surprising critique to get, as the old version had many people say the segment on Lena was far too short - but I can see your point when you put it that way. Unfortunately I don't really know how to go about mending it...

Anyway, thank you again for reading and reviewing! I don't know how much I'll revise just yet, as I managed to get sort of burnt out with this story again like I did the first time around. Valuable feedback, though, definitely.
 
Top Bottom