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Pokémon Drowning

Chapter 1

Starlight Aurate

Just a fallen star
Location
Route 123
Partner
mightyena
Hello, everyone! This is a fic that I started writing close to seven years ago. After posting it elsewhere, I decided it was time to bring it here. I'm re-vamping the older chapters (mainly just editing them so they more accurately reflect my style and tie in better with the story that comes later), so these will be slightly different from the ones you would see on other sites.

One important thing to note: this fic uses the ORIGINAL designs for Team Aqua and Team Magma. I started writing this before there was any official word of Pokemon Omega Ruby or Alpha Sapphire so I had the original designs in mind (and quite honestly, I prefer them, but that's just my personal taste ^_^;)

Our very own Dragonfree did a beautiful depiction of the main character, Maressa, which you can see here.

Any comments or criticisms are greatly appreciated! Enjoy!

Rated PG-13 for violence and some swearing.


Chapter 1



The moon in the sky looked like a black canopy with a curved tear. Maressa looked over to her friend as she sat up and pushed her blonde hair out of her face. Sarah lay on her back, her blue bandanna pulled down low enough to conceal her eyes.

"Sarah?"

The bandanna was pulled upward as Sarah's pale eyes looked questioningly at her friend.

"Just making sure you didn't fall asleep." Saying so, Maressa leaned back on her hands, stretching out her legs over the rounded metal top of the small submarine. The river made no noise as it flowed by; were it not for the light patterns caused by ripples, Maressa would have thought the water to be perfectly still.

Sarah sat up as she let out a small laugh. "I wouldn't fall asleep while on watch." She stretched out her legs next to Maressa's as the duo watched the running water pass by.

Maressa shrugged. "I wouldn't be surprised if either of us did. I can see why this position is only given to the most junior recruits." Tucking in her legs, she slid down to where her feet almost touched the water. She dipped a hand into the cool liquid, letting the current soothe her hand with its gentle caress.

"That's because no one ever comes out here!" Sarah let loose an exasperated sigh. "I would fall asleep if it wasn't for the officers coming out to check on us. This is so boring; nothing ever happens and we know nothing will happen. It's so stupid."

Maressa snorted. "Be careful what you say, Sarah,” she teased, “You don’t want to be charged with insubordination!”

Sarah shook her head. "You're so weird."

"Must be why we get along." Taking her hand out of the water, Maressa sighed as she looked at her friend. "Hey... if I tell you something, will you promise to not tell anyone else?"

"Sure. Is it about what the commander had called you in for yesterday?"

Maressa nodded. "I'm not supposed to tell anyone, but I'm sure you won't tell anyone, and well... I don't even know anything about what we're doing." Looking around nervously, Maressa turned toward her friend again as she said slowly, "They're taking me with them when they go to Slateport next week."

Sarah's eyebrows furrowed. "Slateport? Who's going there?"

"Commander Shelly is taking a group of more experienced team members there next week to explore the undersea cliff side. Apparently, there are ancient underwater craters that have been covered up over the years with rocks and debris. The commander wants to uncover and examine what's beneath the buildup."

Sarah's eyes widened. "Really? That's awesome, good for you, Maressa! Getting up there with the champs! But really, that is cool you get to do that." Suddenly becoming apprehensive, she breathed, "Does she think it may have something to do with... with what we're looking for?"

Raising her hands uncertainly, Maressa replied, "I don't know; all she said is that they could use me when I'm there."

"But you don't even know what you're doing?"

"All she needed of me was a promise to obey any order immediately and without question. Just absolute, unconditional obedience."

"What a small thing to ask for," Sarah replied sarcastically. "Well, it's no surprise that you're the one chosen for something like this."

Taken aback, her friend asked, "What do you mean?"

"Come on, everyone knows you're one of the best Pokémon battlers on the team. You've commanded entire squadrons and taken down enemies faster and easier than even some of the oldest members. And when you're just using your own Pokémon, you're still no pushover."

Maressa’s face flushed and she bowed her head in embarrassment. "It's the Pokémon who do all the work. I just oversee what they do."

Sarah snorted. "Yes, 'the Pokémon do all the work'-- the exact same Pokémon, used by different people, who only manage to win when you're in charge of them. Just accept some credit, okay?" When her companion said nothing Sarah turned her eyes back towards the moving water, which rippled and shone almost eerily beneath the pale moonlight. "Though I guess your Golduck can take full credit for itself; he fights like a monster. Oh, sorry, I didn't mean it like that," she hurried as Maressa raised an eyebrow at her. "I just mean that even on his own, he can hold off other Pokémon really well. It's as if he can fight without anyone coordinating him."

Maressa combed her hair thoughtfully with her sun-tanned fingers. "I guess. Golduck and I are always working together; we just don't need me to shout commands. We've been together long enough. He knows what I want him to do, and I know what his limits are so I can have him fight without pushing him to the point of exhaustion."

Sarah gave her a questioning look before asking, "How long have you two been together?"

"I'm not actually sure... I think... was I five? Four? Yes, I think it was four... But he was just a Psyduck then, and neither of us knew the first thing about battling. The first few years were just building our friendship; it wasn't until much later that we started getting involved in battling and training."

Sarah sighed as she remarked, "A lot of people want a relationship like that." Seeing Maressa’s quizzical stare, she elaborated. "I, well... you just seem to always get along so well with your Pokémon. My Sealeo and I... sometimes we just don't agree on what to do or what's best for us. And I can tell a lot of other people on the team are like that also. It even happens to people not on our team; so many people are still like that. We get along, and we're still friends, but ..." She cast her eyes downward, shrugging as she finished, "we just don't work together that well all the time."

Snorting, Maressa raised her eyebrows in disbelief. "That's your problem?"

“What?"

"Everyone has those sorts of problems with their Pokémon! Golduck and I argue all the time. It got so bad once that he wouldn't talk to me for two days." Huffing, Maressa cast her eyes downward unhappily. "I would have let it go, but he’s just too stubborn to apologize."

Sarah smiled. "I guess your personalities do match each other perfectly. But you two still seem to have no disagreements when battling."

"Because battling is something different. When we fight someone, we put aside our disagreements and work together. He trusts me to know what to do, and I trust him to do the right thing."

Pushing herself up the side of the submarirne, Maressa lay next to her friend and gazed skyward into the moonlit night.

Laying on her back, Sarah joined Maressa in silence as the two stared upwards. Raising her hand, she traced a path from the western horizon. "The Millennium Comet is supposed to appear in a few weeks. There'll be a lot of celebrating back at home.... I wish I could be there for it.”

Turning her amber eyes to her friend, Maressa asked, "Where are you from, again?"

"Mossdeep City. It's on an island far in the northeastern part of Hoenn. Growing up, we used to go down to the ocean every day." Sarah smiled as she mused, "We would collect Clamperl shells that had washed up on the shore or go exploring the mangroves that grew on the wild coasts. Or, if we were tired, we could just sit on the cliff sides and watch the Wailmer pop up near the shore; we called it Wailmer Watching. It's pretty boring on the history side of things, though. All of our old buildings and ancient architecture aren't there anymore. By the time people really cared about preserving them, they were gone. And our language and writing styles have hardly changed since the island was first civilized." A smile lit her features as she cheerfully added, "But there is the Millennium Comet. When it comes, we're supposed to have a week-long celebration, with singing, dancing and feasting around the white rock. But I won't be there for that," she finished bitterly. She turned to Maressa. "What part of Hoenn are you from?"

"Not from Hoenn. Kanto."

"You're from Kanto?" When Maressa nodded, Sarah gushed, "That's so cool! I've always wanted to go there; they have beautiful cities and tons of cool museums. What part are you from?"

"It's a small, sea-side village near Fuchsia City. That's where I met Psyduck and had most of my childhood friends." Taking a small pause, she continued more quietly, "But when I was eleven, my family moved to Mauville City."

"Oh, I'm sorry."

"It's fine. I made new friends when I got there. And at least I still had Psyduck to always be with, right?"

Moments of silence passed by as the two lay on the cold, smooth top of the submarine. Maressa and Sarah sat up as they heard the water splash, and four feet slap on top of the dull grey metal.

Maressa smiled at her companion. "Hey buddy. What's up?" Giving her a high-five, Golduck sat down next to his friend. Opening its pale yellow bill, throaty noises gargled from his mouth as he communicated with Maressa. Sarah watched, fascinated, as her human friend engaged in conversation with the kappa-like creature.

Scooting closer to her friend, Sarah asked, "What does he say?"

"He says he got bored and decided to come talk to us." Looking past Maressa, Sarah tried to make eye contact with Golduck. As soon as her blue eyes met his red ones, she smiled and greeted him. Though his inflexible bill limited his facial expressions, she could make out the happiness in his eyes as he returned her greeting.

Golduck said something else to Maressa. "He says that it should almost be time for our watch to end." Groaning, the two humans reluctantly stood up and walked to opposite sides of the submarine, their eyes scanning the water for any unusual disturbances. After a few minutes, however, they succumbed to boredom and began to let their minds wander. Neither took any notice as Golduck splashed back into the river. After a few minutes, Maressa heard Sarah gasp and quietly call her name.

Turning around, Maressa saw a dark fin protrude from the surface of the water; shaped like a razor, cutting through the air, it came with alarming alacrity towards the vessel. Smiling, Maressa walked to the edge of the submarine and reached a hand out to the protrusion. A dark, scaly head bisected by a star emerged from the water and nuzzled its owner's black glove.

"Relax, Sarah. It's only Sharpedo." Crouching down, Maressa ran her fingers along the top of her Pokémon's head, grateful for the protection her thick gloves offered her from the creature's cutting-edge scales. Withdrawing a small ball from her pocket, Maressa opened it and recalled Sharpedo, allowing the dull red light to engulf her Pokémon. After Sharpedo shrank down to pocket-size, she snapped the small sphere shut and encased him inside.

Sarah watched her friend deposit the ball in her pocket and shuddered. "I don't know how you do it, Maressa. I wouldn't mind seeing those Pokémon from a distance, but I could never own and take care of one."

Maressa took out another ball as her Golduck came back. "I've never had a problem with vicious-looking Pokémon, honestly. He may look mean, but...." Her voice trailed off as she withheld her words. She was about to say that Sharpedo was "really a big softy on the inside," but that would be lying; Sharpedo was every bit as ornery as he looked. Shrugging, she merely said, "You just have to learn how to deal with them." Returning her Golduck's ball to her pocket, she said, "I expect we'll be relieved any minute now." The two turned back to their respective sides and continued their monotonous task of watching the river.

Three hours later, "any minute" became all but a dream. Too afraid to be caught napping, the pair constantly rubbed their eyes and walked around in attempts to get their blood flowing and fend off sleep. Maressa sent out her Pokémon again, only to find them asleep. After another two hours, the sun began to rise, and the duo stood together at one end of the vessel. With hunched shoulders and bagging eyelids, they stared out at the river. Their bloodshot eyes took in the scene of the rising sun spilling its light over the earth, causing the water to look like a thousand diamonds strewn across an orange blanket.

Hearing hinges creek, the two turned as the hatch lifted up and a blue bandanna, marked with a small skeletal "A," appeared from below. Looking tired, a girl dragged her fingers through her bushy brown hair before turning her hazel eyes on the sleep-deprived duo. Eyes wide in shock, she asked, "Were you two out all night?"

They nodded.

"But... Sean and Mike were supposed to cover for you five hours ago."

Maressa attempted to speak, but found that all she could do was make stuttering noises. Neither she nor Sarah could bring themselves to do more than stare as they struggled to remain awake. Confirming their condition, their teammate only said, "Well, you two can go back in and sleep now. Jana and I will take watch; we're scheduled to move out in three hours though."

As Maressa and Sara lowered themselves into the submarine, they finally found themselves able to articulate the words they had been trying to say before:

"What the hell."
 
Last edited:

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
So I instantly found this set-up to be atmospheric--the watch by the water, the moonlight, some lurking unease. I'm also really excited to see a golduck trainer! I don't think I've ever seen that in a fic, and golduck is such a cool pokemon, from its appearance to its psychic nature.

I know this fic is seven years old, so I don't want to belabor anything you're already aware of, but a few points. First, we're getting a lot of exposition dumped in this conversation and the dumping feels pretty obvious. One place it especially stands out is when Sara is complementing Maressa on her skills and relationship with her pokemon. This would really be a place where showing would work better than telling. All these details are great, but we should be able to observe them ourselves when Maressa and her golduck interact, rather than learn them from Sara. The moment with the sharpedo was a good example of that. In that short interaction we at once learn that Maressa is a good water-type trainer and comfortable with all kinds of pokemon.

Next, the conflict. Most of the chapter is a free-floating conversation. It's only in the last few paragraphs that something seems to be wrong, with their replacements not coming. This is a great way to set up the tension, but I would lead with it! What if the chapter started with something like: "It was 2am, and the relief shift still hadn't come." That problem would then frame the rest of the chapter and give some more context for why they're talking about their childhoods to each other.

The moon in the sky looked like a black canopy with a curved tear. Maressa looked over to her friend as she sat up and pushed her blonde hair out of her face.
Something's mismatched in the simile here. I think the order needs to be something like 'The moon looked like a curved tear against the black canopy of the sky.' Right now it feels like moon is being compared to black canopy. These first two sentences use the same main verb 'look' which is an odd repetition to start out a story with.

were it not for the light patterns caused by ripples, Maressa would have thought the water to be perfectly still.
The language is oddly formal here and stands out from the sentences around it.

Maressa combed her hair thoughtfully with her sun-tanned fingers.
This is a strange place to drop the 'sun-tanned' fingers epithet, since she's doing an action that essentially hides her fingers.

She was about to say that Sharpedo was "really a big softy on the inside," but that would be lying; Sharpedo was every bit as ornery as he looked.
Heh, nice line.

"What the hell."
Bit of an awkward place to cut off.
 
Chapter 2

Starlight Aurate

Just a fallen star
Location
Route 123
Partner
mightyena
So I instantly found this set-up to be atmospheric--the watch by the water, the moonlight, some lurking unease. I'm also really excited to see a golduck trainer! I don't think I've ever seen that in a fic, and golduck is such a cool pokemon, from its appearance to its psychic nature.

I know this fic is seven years old, so I don't want to belabor anything you're already aware of, but a few points. First, we're getting a lot of exposition dumped in this conversation and the dumping feels pretty obvious. One place it especially stands out is when Sara is complementing Maressa on her skills and relationship with her pokemon. This would really be a place where showing would work better than telling. All these details are great, but we should be able to observe them ourselves when Maressa and her golduck interact, rather than learn them from Sara. The moment with the sharpedo was a good example of that. In that short interaction we at once learn that Maressa is a good water-type trainer and comfortable with all kinds of pokemon.
Hey, thanks so much for dropping by to leave a review! I haven't gotten the comment on this being an info dump before, so I appreciate you pointing it out to me (perhaps a version 3 of this fic will be in order? XP)

Next, the conflict. Most of the chapter is a free-floating conversation. It's only in the last few paragraphs that something seems to be wrong, with their replacements not coming. This is a great way to set up the tension, but I would lead with it! What if the chapter started with something like: "It was 2am, and the relief shift still hadn't come." That problem would then frame the rest of the chapter and give some more context for why they're talking about their childhoods to each other.
Fair enough; thanks so much! I intended for them talking to each other to come from the fact that they were put on watch in a deserted area and they felt like there was no need. But point taken!

Something's mismatched in the simile here. I think the order needs to be something like 'The moon looked like a curved tear against the black canopy of the sky.' Right now it feels like moon is being compared to black canopy. These first two sentences use the same main verb 'look' which is an odd repetition to start out a story with.

Thanks so much for leaving a review! I always appreciate it :)


Here's chapter 2! This replaces chapters 2 and 3 from the first version of this fic and, so far, is the only chapter that has been re-written from scratch. I have another scene for the end of it but I thought it felt repetitive so I decided not to include it. I'm going to tryyyyy and stick to a schedule of getting a chapter up every other week (I know this is three days behind lol). Any thoughts and critiques are greatly appreciated!


Chapter 2


Maressa tightened the ties of her bandanna as she stared at her reflection. Closing her eyes, she straightened up, took a few deep breaths, and looked at herself once more. She tried to keep calm but her reflection only showed how anxious she was. She paced back and forth, sat down, stood back up, said a prayer—yet nothing would fend off the anxiety that kept attacking her.

Stationing herself before the mirror once more, she stared herself down.

"Calm down; everything will be fine. They know you're inexperienced. They won't put a lot of pressure on you. Everything will be okay, you will not mess up. Your Pokémon will be there, they'll know what to do. Don't worr—"

She inhaled sharply as she heard a knock at the door.

"Come in!”

The door popped open slightly.

"You okay?" Mark questioned.

Maressa breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of her friend.

"I'm fine. Do you want to come in?"

“Sure!” Mark stepped in, stooping so his head wouldn’t hit the low doorframe. "Nice... place you have here..."

Maressa smiled unabashedly; the small bed, nightstand with her family picture and vanity were all that composed her "nice place." The room was bare but Maressa knew that decorating and personalizing it meant that more work had to be done when time came for cleaning.

"Thanks. You can sit down if you'd like," she offered, gesturing to the bed.

Mark sat down on the bed—the only place to sit in the tiny room. Maressa joined him. She tried to appear calm but couldn’t stop fidgeting with her hands and feet.

"How do you feel?" Mark asked her.

"Fine."

Mark raised an eyebrow. “Maressa… I’m not quizzing you or anything, just be honest.”

“I’m so nervous!” she immediately blurted out.

"Don't worry about it; you'll be fine."

"But... But what if I mess up? What if to goes wrong because of me? What if—"

"It won't, it won't. Don't keep doubting yourself. If you want to do your best, you have to be confident. Everyone knows how you feel. We've all had first missions—you were chosen to come on this one because we know that you can handle it."

His reassurances did nothing to deter her fear.

"But I don't even know what I'm doing. I've hardly done anything on this team! I've never had to go anywhere for anything or do anything like... like this... " Her voice died as she gave up trying to finish her sentence.

Putting an arm on her shoulder, Mark replied softly, "You're not going to be alone. The rest of us will be there with you to show you what to do. If you can't trust yourself, trust us and trust your Pokémon." Seeing her about to speak again, he put a hand up to stop her. "And if, for some reason, you do mess up, that's okay. We'll be there to fix it. Learn from your mistakes and they won't happen again."

Maressa raised her eyes and saw Mark looking at her gently.

He really just wants me to do well, she realized.

The realization brought her hope and she didn’t feel nearly as nervous as before.

"Thank you, Mark. I think... " She looked down at her hands, which were no longer shaking, and curled her fingers into fists. "I think I'm ready."

"Good. It's time for us to go."

+++++

Maressa inhaled deeply, the salty air filling her lungs till they could hold no more. The grey-blue waves of the ocean rolled forward into the shipyard. The breeze blew her blonde hair back into a tangled nest. She couldn’t stop herself from smiling. If she ever had any doubts about working for Team Aqua, being at sea took those away. Well, maybe she wasn’t actually “at sea”—she was disappointed to learn that the majority of her squadron would get to explore the debris by Slateport’s cliffs in underwater vessels while she, Mark, and a few others had to stay on land as lookouts.

Her heat panged with jealousy when she remembered her commander, Shelly, telling Maressa to allow her to borrow her Lanturn, Seaking and Sharpedo.

“You’ll be on land and we’ll be in the ocean,” Shelly had explained. “They can’t be outside their Pokeballs with you, and we need the extra help.”

Maressa loathed to allow other trainers to command her Pokemon. After spending years of building friendships and learning how to work as a team, it felt wrong to allow someone else to take them. But she remembered her promise to be obedient and handed their three Pokeballs over.

As she looked out at the cloudy sky and windy harbor, her heart soared. The sea was still so beautiful. She always had an affinity for it and was pleasantly surprised to see how clean it was around Slateport. Maressa thought large cities would normally be laden with trash but the Slateport harbor defied those expectations. A twinge of disappointment crept into her heart when she thought of how Team Aqua could take more direct action by going to where the sea was much dirtier and more damaged. But she knew that Team Aqua was also dedicated to research and that discovering the origins of their earth and sea would be helpful for their mission of ocean restoration in the long run.

She looked down at Golduck, who stood as expressionless as ever.

“Come on, Golduck,” she said. “You have to love the ocean!”

Golduck shrugged and let out a quack. He was more of a freshwater-type of Pokemon.

“You’re just being difficult. Come on, should we take a look around this harbor?”

“Remember, Maressa,” Mark said. Maressa turned to see him with his arms crossed and staring out at sea. It was weird to see him wearing civilian clothing instead of their Team Aqua uniform. “We’re supposed to maintain a lookout. Don’t get distracted.”

“I know…”

She looked at the sea sadly. Team Aqua didn’t have permission to take their vessels into private waters, but if they were going to get things done and take the marine samples they needed, they had to work on their own terms. Maressa didn’t feel guilty—the city should see the good Team Aqua was trying to do and let them have more free reign instead of imposing an overabundance of regulations that suffocated progress.

“But come on, let’s take a look around while we can! We can stay in the area, I just want to look around this shipyard a bit!”

Mark sighed and followed Maressa. She was like a giddy child at a theme park, looking up at the ships with wide eyes and constantly smiling. She pointed things out to Golduck excitedly and chattered away.

“Isn’t that so cool, Golduck? I’ve never been out to sea before—going on one of these ships would be awesome! And apparently the people in charge of this port also collaborate with the Oceanic Museum—I wonder what cool things are there?”

“Maressa,” Mark said exasperatedly as she pointed to some men giving orders to Machokes carrying crates up gangplanks and onto ships, “try not to draw attention to yourself.”

But Mark might as well have not spoken at all, for a man wearing glasses and a weather-worn jacket stepped over to Maressa.

“You’ve never been here before, have you?” he asked with a smile.

Maressa was hardly aware of Mark hovering behind her. He was tense—they shouldn’t be talking to any civilians in the first place, and he didn’t know if Maressa was able to control her mouth.

“No, I haven’t!” she replied with the same overly-excited expression on her face.

“Where are you from?”

“I’m from Mauville City.”

“Ah, that’s probably why! You don’t get to see much of the ocean from way over there, do you?” he asked with a laugh. “What’s your name?”

“I’m Maressa!”

He held out a hand for her to shake. “It’s a pleasure. My name is Captain Stern—I run the shipyard.”

“Wow, that’s amazing! You design these ships?” Maressa asked as she gazed at the ships docked in the harbor.

“I commission people to design them—I more-or-less oversee everything and make the final decisions on things. We also work together with the Oceanic Museum.”

“That’s so cool! How long have you been doing this? How did you get started? Have you lived near the ocean your whole life? What’s it like to go out on one of these ships?”

“How would you like a bit of a tour? I’ll explain everything as we walk.”

Maressa was only too happy to oblige; Mark and Golduck were more hesitant but followed along as Captain Stern explained his passion for the ocean and the beginnings of Stern’s Shipyard.

“Hoenn has several artificial reefs because of us,” he explained to Maressa as they walked up to a large building overlooking the shipyard. “When ships get old, we take them out to sea and sink them. Nature soon takes over and they wind up making great habitats for Pokemon. Want to take a look inside?”

“Do I ever!”

Maressa followed Captain Stern into the large building, looking around her as if in a dream. The majority of the building was dominated by ship construction—Mark saw a few scaffolds while Machokes and Vigoroths ran around hauling lumber and other materials.

“There’s a guided tour that goes down here—we’re having a slow day, so I can take you down there now.”

Captain Stern led them down a staircase into what resembled a small tunnel. A group of civilians following a tour guide stood in the back of the tunnel. Screens lined one wall while scientists studied them and typed away at keyboards. Maressa gasped—this time, even Mark conceded to how impressive it looked.

Several cameras showed underwater scenes from Slateport’s coast. There were several from which they could see the undersides of docks and ships from the harbor and many more that showed the wide open ocean from Slateport’s cliffs.

“Hey, what are those?”

Maressa, Mark, Golduck, and Captain Stern all looked at the screen that one of the scientists pointed to. Maressa’s heart plummeted as she recognized three of Team Aqua’s sea crafts descending into the rubble overlaying the bottom of the ocean. Several Wailmer, Seaking and Tentacruel could be seen swimming around them.

“Did we authorize any visitors to come?” the same scientist asked.

“Not that I know of,” a woman replied. “Ask Marius just to make sure. If he says no, we’ve got to tell them to get out of there.”

Everyone jumped in the room as the door slammed. Maressa wheeled around and saw Mark standing in front of the door to the stairway with his hand on the handle. She turned her head as she heard Pokeballs opening. The room filled with flashes of white light as Team Aqua members—the “civilians” Maressa noticed before—released their Pokemon.

“Who are you?” Captain Stern demanded. “And re-open the door!”

“Maressa, Mark catch!” said their teammate, Shannon, as she tossed something to them.

Maressa caught the small pouch and opened it to see a set of ear plugs. An Azumarill standing in front of her inhaled deeply—Maressa caught on and immediately popped the ear plugs into her ears.

She wasn’t a moment too soon, for the Water-type sang and filled the tiny room with a lullaby. All the scientists slumped forward in their seats, snoring. Captain Stern, however, caught on quickly—he covered his ears with his hands while Azumarill sang. Once her lullaby ceased, he reached into his pocket and took out a Pokeball

“Go, Sealeo!”

A large, blubbery, blue pinniped lay protectively in front of its trainer. The Sealeo’s white mustache bristled as it growled at its opponents.

“Ready, Golduck?” Maressa asked her Pokemon. Golduck stood in front of her and raised his shoulders while hissing at the Sealeo. “Attack him close up! Don’t use any ranged moves, or you might hit the other people.”

Golduck did as ordered and launched himself at the Ice-type. The two of them quickly got caught in a jumble of limbs; Azumarill tried to join in, but had difficulty trying to hit the Sealeo without hitting Golduck.

While the Pokemon were engaged, Mark ran right over to Captain Stern and punched him in the face. Stern fell to his hands and knees. The walkie-talkie he pulled from his pocket dropped out of his hand before he had a chance to speak into it.

Grabbing the captain by the collar of his jacket, Mark called, “Maressa, come with me. The rest of you, keep fighting.”

Maressa followed Mark as he dragged the captain—who was loudly protesting and trying to scramble to his feet—through a door in the back of the room. The trio ended up in a storage room piled high with crates and boxes. Mark roughly shoved the captain to the floor and, reaching into his pocket, pulled out a Pokeball. He opened the Pokeball and a Lombre appeared in a flash of white light.

“Let me out of here!” Stern shouted. “Do you realize what you two—”

“Lombre, keep him quiet,” Mark said.

The Grass-type Pokemon swiftly punched the captain in his abdomen. The human fell to his knees, choking. Mark turned to Maressa and handed her something metallic.

“Here. Knock him out.”

Maressa—whose heart had been pounding rapidly with excitement this entire time—now felt like her heart would stop. She stared at Mark.

What?

“Use those”—he pointed to the object in her hand—“to knock him out.”

Maressa examined the object and realized it was a set of brass knuckles. She looked at Mark, shaking slightly.

“He’s seen your face. He knows your name. You’ve got to knock him out and let him know he can’t mess with you.”

“But Mark, I—I can’t”—

“Maressa,” he said sternly, “you promised to be obedient before you came on this mission. And this is an order. It’s fine if you mess up. I’ll show you how to do it properly.”

Slipping her shaking fingers into the brass knuckles, Maressa walked over to the kneeling captain. Her insides twisted into knots as he looked up at her in disgust.

“What are you doing? Who do you think you are to come in here and treat me and my staff like this?”

Maressa looked over at Mark. Should she tell him they were with Team Aqua?

Mark didn’t look at Marerssa but walked over to Captain Stern and stared down at him.

“You’re an oceanographer. You love the sea and its Pokemon. When we’ve finished our long-term goals, you’ll be thanking us.” He nodded to Maressa. “Get going.”

“ ‘Thanking you?!’ ” the captain roared, his eyes wide in shock. “How can you say that when—ow!”

Maressa didn’t let him finish; she felt it was easier to try and knock him out when she was distracted. She brought the brass knuckles down on the captain’s head but didn’t hit him nearly hard enough to knock him out. The captain glared at her in rage.

You put those down now”

“Maressa, give them to me,” Mark said, ignoring the captain’s shouts.

Maressa was only too quick to oblige. She took the brass knuckles off and gave them to Mark so quickly that she nearly dropped them. Mark slipped his fingers through them and brought them down on the captain’s head with amazing force. The captain’s eyes closed and he fell to the ground. Maressa was sure that, beneath his dark hair, there was some nasty mark. She couldn’t peel her eyes away from the man lying on the ground and couldn’t get rid of the feelings of guilt and dread that filled her.

“Come on,” Mark said nonchalantly. “Let’s go.”

==========================================

“And Golduck, he told me to knock the captain out! He gave me brass knuckles! Those are super illegal! I know what we were doing wasn’t legal, but we weren’t hurting anybody until then! And I said I couldn’t do it, but he told me that I promised obedience, so I—I tried, and oh, Golduck, I feel so guilty!

Maressa sat on her bed with Golduck. The Water-type looked up at her curiously. Did she manage to knock the captain out?

“No, I didn’t hit him hard enough—I couldn’t bring myself to! So Mark took them and knocked him out. I just… I feel so bad. I know what we’re doing is good overall, and that the clean, restored oceans we’ll have in the end will make this all worth it—but I just feel so guilty right now.” Maressa closed her eyes and shook her head, trying to get rid of Captain Stern’s angry words.

Golduck quacked. He didn’t see why she felt so bad about it—she told Golduck to fight other Pokemon hundreds of times, and he never felt guilty about it. He even fought the Captain’s Sealeo!

“Golduck, Pokemon battles are different. You guys are more capable of defending yourselves. I took brass knuckles—freaking brass knuckles, Golduck—and tried to knock out a defenseless man!”

Golduck looked at Maressa sympathetically while she wrapped her arms around him. Even though he didn’t understand her feelings, he knew it was hard for her.

He quacked. He was just glad that Maressa didn’t get hurt in any of the fighting.

Maressa pulled back from their hug and smiled at him. “Thanks, Golduck. And I’m glad you didn’t get hurt, either. Thanks for always staying with me.”

Maressa looked at her desk and saw the picture of her parents and sister sitting out on it. A fresh wave of guilt washed over her—what would they say? But then again, her family didn’t even know she joined Team Aqua. She received a job offer from Team Aqua working under a different name and told her family she was conducting marine research—which wasn’t entirely untrue. Maressa knew her family would never approve of her doing something illegal, so she told them that she would be in a submarine for months with no way to contact anyone.

Her heart panged as she thought of her family. Betty would be in her third year of college by now—if she hadn’t dropped out—and Maressa knew their parents were eagerly awaiting Maressa’s return “from her submarine trip” so she could visit them again and tell them all about her life. Maressa felt guilty about lying to them—she also didn’t realize before just how much she missed them.

But that was life. She and her parents may disagree in the present, but she would show them how good everything proved to be in the end.

Right?

As Maressa sat with Golduck, she kept reminding herself of what Mark had told her and tried to find comfort in his words.

This will all be worth it in the end.
 
Chapter 3

Starlight Aurate

Just a fallen star
Location
Route 123
Partner
mightyena
Hi! Here's Chapter 3; in my original version of this story, this was Chapter 4. That's because Chapter 3 was just a scene of Maressa and Mark that I did revise but ended up not posting because I felt like, after her scene with Golduck, it felt redundant. So this will be a chapter ahead.

I did overall tweaks for this chapter and scrapped and re-wrote a lot of the dialogue and tried to change Shelly's character since she came off as cartoonishly evil in the first version of this, hehe. I tried to be more efficient in how I described everything since I know purple prose was a big weakness of mine when I first wrote this.

I'm also going to update the first post because I forgot that I need to mention that this fic uses the ORIGINAL evil Team designs from Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire, not Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. I wrote and posted this before the generation 3 remakes were made (or, at least, released) and I keep forgetting that most people nowadays are more familiar with the remake designs. So the Team Aqua grunts wear blue pants, the Team Magma grunts don't do the ridiculous elbow-in-the-air post, Shelly is pale with a bunch of red curly hair, and Tabitha is much leaner and opens his eyes.

Got any thoughts or critiques on how I did with this chapter? I'd be happy to hear them! Thanks again for stopping by.


Chapter 3



Maressa blinked lazily as she held a hand to shield her eyes from the sun’s glare. Her other hand touched ran along the thin, wiry frame of her headset. For perhaps the twentieth time since she got it, she smiled. The excitement from being told that she was entrusted with direct communication to her commander had not died down, and she still felt sparks of joy whenever she used her new headgear. There had been little need for it so far, though. Everything on this mission had gone particularly well. From her perch near the peak of Mt. Chimney, she could see nothing but stretches of forest running before her and crags of rock laying behind.

She glanced down by her side. Golduck sweat profusely under the sun’s harsh rays, and his eyes blinked drowsily in the sunlight. Every time she looked at him, her heart sank with pity.

“Here, Golduck.”

She opened her bottle of water and, holding it above him, poured it. He guzzled it down gratefully and gave a nod of thanks when she closed it.

Sitting down, he narrowed his eyes in annoyance as he glared up at the pale sky. Maressa knew he was frustrated with everything going on, and, though things were going well for her, she would have been upset if she was in his place. Most of the orders for the missions were given on the way there; the trainers’ Pokemon had no idea what they were supposed to do until they reached their destination.

Maressa took her eyes off Golduck and stared straight ahead. He was fit for battles but he didn’t feel like he’d gotten enough opportunities to fight. He felt locked out of the loop and that his talents were wasted.

All she could do, however, was sympathize with him and tell him to put up with it for a bit longer. Maybe she could take him out and go swimming with him later...

“A-squad, come in!”

Maressa jumped as she was jolted back to reality by the voice coming in from her headset.

“Yes?” she replied.

“Get back here immediately. And prepare for battle!”

“Yes ma’am.” She looked down at Golduck—his muscles were tense and eyes were wide in anticipation. “They want us over. Let’s go!”

The two set off, hopping over rocks and up boulders until they reached a sea of blue bandanas. At the forefront of their group, Shelly stood at the edge of a ledge. Maressa made her way over until she stood a few people behind her commander. About twenty meters across from them, a swarm of red-clad people stood on another ledge. Maressa’s heart dropped slightly as she recognized the black “M” emblem on their chest. On the ground between the two groups of people, a bespectacled man nervously clutched a porous rock to his chest.

“And this nice man is going to give us that meteorite,” Shelly said to the commander of the other team.

“The altitude must be affecting your brain. He’s handing that over to us,” the Magma commander replied coolly.

“Well, if it’s a fight you want, then it’s a fight you’ll get! Go, Walrein and Crawdaunt!”

The area was bathed in splashes of white light as multiple Pokémon were released from the Pokéballs and materialized onto the ground. At Maressa’s command, Golduck jumped down to join his teammates.

Oh no, Maressa thought when she saw the aquatic Pokémon grouped together on the sunbaked ground. Not good. She wanted to say something to Shelly, but held her tongue. Telling her commander that she was making a bad decision would only get her into trouble.

The Team Magma commander called, "Go, Golbat and Mightyena!"

The Walrein bared their saber-sharp tusks and Crawdaunt clacked their pincers menacingly as a horde of snarling Mightyena and screeching Golbat was sent out to meet them.

“Commander, the meteorite!” a Team Magma grunt shouted. Maressa jerked her head; the bespectacled man ran away from the battle scene, still clutching the rock to his chest.

“B-squad, after him!” Shelly commanded. A troop of Aqua members chased after the man while a group of Magma members did likewise.

Shelly turned back to the Team Magma commander. “Are you ready?”

“Yep. But you’re going to regret it.”

“Walrein, water gun! Crawdaunt, bubble beam!”

At Shelly’s command, the Pokémon sprayed jets of water and unleashed bursts of bubbles at their adversaries. The Golbat merely flew out of the way, and the water splashed uselessly on the rocks as the Mightyena gracefully evaded.

“Golbat, air cutter! Mightyena, hyper beam!”

As ordered, the Golbat sent razor-sharp gusts of air while Mightyena let loose blinding beams of energy at the Walrein and Crawdaunt.

Golduck, Maressa was grateful to see, was agile enough to dodge the attacks. The rest of Team Aqua’s Pokemon were not so lucky: the Walrein, with flippers unsuited for travel over rocky terrain and hundreds of pounds of fat weighing them down, let loose roars of pain as they were blasted backwards. The Crawdaunts' legs were too small to allow them to travel quickly enough over the ground.

Maressa looked around. All over the mountainside, she saw Team Aqua grunts shouting orders to their individual Pokemon while Team Magma grunts countered. The admins of each team commanded several Pokemon, and how they were doing reflected how it was going overall for their teams. None of the Team Aqua grunts seemed to be doing well and neither did Shelly.

Golduck shot beams of psychic energy into the air at several Golbat flying overhead. The Poison-types evaded his beams easily and retaliated with air cutter attacks.

“Golduck, focus on not getting hit! Hide if you have to!”

At Maressa’s command, Golduck ducked beneath an overhanging ledge. The Golbat shrieked in frustration as their attacks bounced uselessly off the rock.

“Go after him!” the Team Magma grunt across Maressa shouted. “Drive him out of there with poison fang!”

The Golbat swooped down low and headed straight for Golduck, who crouched beneath the rock overhang.

“Now!” Maressa shouted.

Once the Golbat were within Golduck’s sight, his eyes glowed purple and he shot beams of psychic energy at the incoming Golbat. The Poison-types screeched as they reeled back in pain before falling to the ground.

“Great job!” Maressa shouted as the Team Magma grunt recalled his unconscious Golbat. “Let’s go help the others!”

Golduck joined her as they ran over the rocks and crags. Maressa ran up next to a Team Aqua member she didn’t know while Golduck went over to his Walrein.

“Mind if we join you?” Maressa asked.

“Please do!” her teammate replied. His forehead was wet with sweat—from the heat or stress, Maressa wasn’t sure, but she was willing to bet it was a combination of both.

Maressa surveyed the situation: the Team Magma grunt’s Mightyena was running circles around Walrein and evading all of the Water-type’s attacks.

“Want Golduck to hold the Mightyena still? Then your Walrein can attack it?”

Her teammate glanced at her and nodded. “Sure—we’ll try that.”

“Golduck, fight the Mightyena in close combat!”

“Mightyena, use crunch!”

Golduck and the Mightyena tackled each other furiously. Golduck wrapped his arms around the Dark-type’s neck. The Mightyena sank its jaws into Golduck’s side, but it soon let go and was gasping for air.

“Walrein, use sheer cold!”

The canine looked up in terror as the Walrein flopped over to it. Ice coated the Walrein’s tusks, making them so cold that the surrounding air shimmered. Once he reached the Mightyena—who was squealing and desperately trying to get out of Golduck’s grasp—the Walrein brought his tusks down on its side, sending lances of icy pain throughout the Dark-type’s body. The Mightyena stopped moving and Golduck let go.

“Great job, you two!” Maressa called. “Come on, Golduck, let’s go help the others!”

Maressa and Golduck helped out other Team Aqua members with whatever they needed—Golduck pinned down Golbat while Crawdaunt clubbed them unconscious and he baited Mightyena so Walrein and Sealeo could shoot them down with water and ice attacks.

The team members that Maressa aided joined her and Golduck as they took on more Team Magma grunts. Eventually, Maressa saw that she was very near to Shelly, who was still engaged in battle with the Team Magma commander.

“Commander Shelly!” Maressa called as she and her teammates ran up to her.

Shelly turned to look at them and her eyes widened in surprise as she saw the group of people and Pokemon coming to her.

“What are you all doing?” she asked sternly.

“We fought those Team Magma grunts and took out their Pokemon! Do you want any help?”

Shelly looked at the Pokemon she commanded and Maressa followed her gaze. The Walrein and Crawdaunt were being beat down by the Golbat and Mightyena—Walrein cried out in pain as the Golbat lashed them with air cutter and the Crawdaunt desperately tried to shield themselves from the Mightyena’s hyper beams and shadow balls.

“Maressa salvaged our battles!” one of her teammates said. “She and her Golduck helped us out, or else we would have been done for!”

“Do you want us all to help you?” Maressa asked again.

“What?” Shelly looked almost insulted at having the battle taken from her. “No, I’ll be fine here—focus on taking out their grunts.”

Maressa’s blood boiled—she knew Shelly was aware of her bad condition and was trying to save face.

The Team Aqua commander looked worried as she watched the fighting Pokemon. It certainly was not going well for her; the Walrein struggled to get up and the Crawdaunt could do little more than use protect to ward off attacks.

Maressa heard a crackle from Shelly’s headgear. The Team Aqua commander put a hand to it.

“Yes, what is it? ... Really? Okay, understood. We'll be there soon.”

She turned back to Maressa. “Change of plans. If you can help out, go ahead. There are more important things happening. Take control of the battle. Everyone else, listen up!”

Maressa was more than a little annoyed that Shelly suddenly handed the battle off when she had “more important things” to do, but that didn’t matter. Once she was told to take over the fight, she didn’t listen to anything else her commander said. Stepping up the edge of the precipice, Maressa’s heart pounded with anticipation as she surveyed the battle scene. Golduck stood next to her, ready to go.

“Just wait here for a bit, Golduck.”

He looked at her incredulously. Wait here?! How could he wait here when there was a battle going on? A battle they were losing and that they clearly needed help in?

“You just fought several battles and you need to rest. Besides, I’d rather have you as back up if it’s needed.” She noticed a Mightyena standing next to the Magma commander. Even from a distance, Maressa saw that his Mightyena was larger than those on the battlefield. “I especially want you ready if that Mightyena joins the fight.”

Golduck understood—and though he didn’t like to admit it, he did need a rest from the fighting.

Looking back at Team Aqua’s Pokemon, Maressa noticed that they had considerably higher defenses than Team Magma’s—they just had lower speed and were unsuited for the hot, rocky terrain.

“Crawdaunt, get in front of the Walrein and use protect to shield yourselves and them! Walrein, use aurora beam and ice ball!”

Walls of light formed in front of the Crawdaunt and any incoming attacks deflected off them harmlessly. The Walrein launched balls of ice and rainbow-colored beams at their attackers. Mightyena howled and Golbat screeched as the chunks of ice sent them flying.

The strategy worked for a period of time—the Magma commander quickly caught on and had the Golbat fly around to attack the Walrein from behind. Maressa countered accordingly and told the Crawdaunt to fire bubblebeams at the attackers. The Mightyena retaliated by attacking the Crawdaunt straight on while the Golbat set their fangs, dripping with poison, into their enemies.

Maressa’s eyes scanned the battlefield as she tried to think of a way to re-organize and retaliate. It dissolved into utter chaos—the Pokemon were no longer fighting as units but locked into individual battles. Beams of ice and bursts of water shot into the sky. Gusts of air buffeted the area. Orange beams fired hectically, knocking out many Crawdaunt and Walrein. Her eyes alighted on the Magma commander who stood with his arms folded across his chest while his Mightyena fired hyper beams at the aquatic Pokemon.

“Golduck,” Maressa said.

Her companion leaped to his feet, his red eyes alight with excitement. Was it his time to fight?

“Yep. See that Mightyena next to the Magma commander? Take him out.”

As soon as Maressa gave the word, bright purple ray shot from Golduck’s forehead at the feet of the Mightyena and his trainer. The rock beneath them crumbled and the two of them tumbled off the precipice to the ground below. As they got to their feet, Golduck leapt off the ledge and onto the battlefield. He ran on all fours and charged the Dark-type.

A high-pitched yelp met Maressa’s ears as Golduck tackled the Mightyena to the ground and swiped furiously with his claws. At Maressa’s command, Golduck whipped his tail around slammed it repeatedly into his enemy’s back. Each smack was punctured with a squeal as Mightyena scrambled in an attempt to regain his feet.

The beat down didn’t last long—at his trainer’s command, the Mightyena fired a shadow ball and sent Golduck flying back through the air. Getting to his feet, Golduck panted as he glared at Mightyena. The Dark-type responded with baring his large white fangs in a snarl.

Maressa grimaced as her mind raced a mile a minute. Using psychic attacks was useless, and, especially in the arid climate, she didn’t want Golduck expending any water. That left one option.

“Meet him in close combat!”

Golduck sped towards his opponent, dodging shadow balls as he ran.

Baring his claws and fangs respectively, Golduck and the Mightyena leapt at each other, meeting in mid-air and falling to the ground in a scuffle. Wrapping his arms around Mightyena’s neck, Golduck held his adversary in position, jabbing its head with his bill.

Maressa balled her hands into fists as she watched anxiously. Golduck would have a hard time lasting, and she knew that they needed to finish this battle soon. She bit her lip when she saw Mightyena wriggle free from Golduck’s grasp and sink its teeth into the water Pokémon’s upper arm.

“Golduck, screech!”

Placing his bill next to Mightyena’s ear, Golduck let loose a high-pitched shriek. Mightyena immediately let go of Golduck’s arm and jerked his head away in shock. Golduck halted the auditory onslaught and immediately fired a psybeam at Mightyena’s feet, blasting him several meters backwards.

As Golduck ran to attack his foe again, the Magma commander shouted, “Mightyena, sand attack!”

“Golduck, keep your distance!”

“Hyper beam!”

“Evade, and try to get as close to him as possible!”

Their voices grew more fervent and more anxious as the humans continued to give orders. The two Pokemon did all they could to keep up with their commands. Maressa’s face grew hotter as blood rushed through her veins; her heart pounded viciously beneath her sternum as she watched Golduck run away from the Mightyena—who was now digging and flinging sand everywhere—and stand before her.

Sweat dripped down Maressa’s face as she watched Golduck pant. He was almost bent-double as he took in great gasps of air and his eyelids opened and closed slowly.

“How are you holding up?” she asked him.

He turned his head, closed his eyes, and shrugged nonchalantly.

“Do you want to take a break? I can have someone else fight for you.”

He shook his head vehemently. Maressa wasn’t surprised to see he was angry.

“You know, if you go on much longer, you’re going to faint.”

Lowering his eyes, he nodded. He quacked reassuringly to let her know that he understood what he was taking on. Though shaking badly, he took an offensive stance, ready to charge again.

Maressa sighed.

“Golduck.”

He turned his head around to face her as she softly called his name.

“I hate seeing you get hurt.”

He stared back at her for a moment, thoughtful and—Maressa hardly dared to believe—almost appreciative at her sappy words. A second later, he turned back to their foes and told her that, sometimes, he had to.

Maressa sighed again. “If you say so.” Looking up at the Mightyena standing before the Magma commander, she suggested, “Let’s try to finish this, all right?”

Golduck nodded and ran several meters ahead so Mightyena was within range of his attacks.

“Hydro pump!”

“Hyper beam!”

A ray of fluorescent-orange energy collided with the white burst of water. For a second, the two were evenly matched as both Pokemon held their ground—then the hydro pump gave way as Golduck fell in exhaustion.

The orange light threw Golduck’s face in sharp relief for a second—his eyes were wide in terror and his bill hung open. The beam collided with him and he soared through the air before falling flat on the rock.

“GOLDUCK!”

Maressa jumped off the precipice and raced over to her fallen companion. The Mightyena reached him first and stood over his unmoving form with bared fangs.

“Get away from him!”

Someone whistled and the Mightyena backed away from Golduck as Maressa knelt down beside her companion.

“Oh, Golduck, no...”

She cradled his head in her hands. His eyes were closed and his chest slowly rose up and down. He didn’t respond at her touch.

She put her head against his.

“I’m so sorry.”

A shadow passed over them as the sun was suddenly blocked. Maressa looked up and gasped as she saw the Magma commander standing over her. Whipping out her Pokéball, she withdrew Golduck and got to her feet. She was about to back away when she heard a growl behind her and turned her head to see Mightyena pacing back and forth. His fur was disheveled and blood oozed from cuts and scrapes all over his body. Breathing heavily, he snarled at her.

She turned her head back to the Magma commander as he spoke.

“Just wait here for a moment.”

His voice was surprisingly soft but held authority and confidence. His black eyes were half-closed and roved over Maressa calculatingly. She tensed as he stepped closer but hearing another growl prevented her from moving away.

The commander smiled as he saw Maressa anxiously eye Mightyena. “Don’t worry; he won’t attack you unless I tell him to.”

Maressa looked off to the side, wanting to make eye contact with neither human nor Pokémon. Sweat dripped down her face and her fingers fidgeted as she stood locked in place. She glanced up at the commander every few seconds as he talked.

“That was a good fight; I haven’t been that thrilled from a Pokémon battle in at least a year. You certainly did a much better job than your commander—she can hardly put up a fight. What’s your name?”

Maressa stayed silent until Mightyena growled deeply. The commander chuckled as he watched her wet her lips and open and close her mouth nervously.

“I guess it doesn’t really matter. But you should know that your talents are being wasted. Someone as skilled as you shouldn’t be with Team Aqua.”

Balling her hands into fists, Maressa raised her eyes to meet his. For a moment, she glared at him while his black gaze bore into her. She felt obliged to say something but words failed her.

The commander suddenly stopped smiling and put a hand to his headgear as a voice crackled in. Turning slightly to the side, he hissed, “What?”

His gaze hardened as he listened. He turned back to Maressa, no longer coy or smug—he was livid, and his glare sent a chill down Maressa’s spine. Her fingers fidgeted again and she swallowed nervously. Why did he suddenly change?

“You mean they’ve already...?”

He looked up and into the distance towards the peak of Mt. Chimney. Maressa looked over there too but saw nothing besides the rocky mountainside.

The Magma commander turned back to Maressa. Whatever conversation took place over his headgear apparently ended, and all his attention was focused on the Team Aqua member in front of him.

Maressa was at a loss for words.

What just happened? she wondered.

Seeing her confused look, the Magma commander furrowed his eyebrows. “What? Do you not know what your own team has been doing? Look around you.” He pointed to the area behind Maressa. She turned, and saw that most of the Walrein and Crawdaunt had been withdrawn from the battlefield.

“Your own team left you to distract me while they took the meteorite and used it to make the volcano dormant. Although, I have to admit, you did put up a good fight.” Maressa turned back to look at him, and though he looked angry, there was also a sense of approval.

As he continued to stare at her, Maressa again grew uncomfortable and looked away as her heart pounded rapidly.

Please go away; please leave, she prayed.

“There’s no point in staying here now that you’ve finished. But maybe...” Maressa glanced back at him and saw him studying her curiously as though here was formulating some sort of plan in his head.

Mightyena let loose a bark and shot a shadow ball at an incoming jet of water. On the ledge where Maressa stood previously were Shelly and other Team Aqua members. A Walrein stood before them, baring its massive tusks at the snarling canine.

“Go back to your team,” the commander told her. Maressa looked at him in disbelief as he took out a Pokéball and withdrew the Mightyena. “You’ve done a decent job for today. We’ll see each other again.” His analytic gaze lingered on her for a moment before he smiled. “I look forward to our rematch.” So saying, he turned and walked away, leaving the Team Aqua member feeling both relief and dread.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Beep.

The heart monitor was the only source of noise in the room. All the patients slept soundly in their beds. A few groggily blinked their eyes before returning to a heavy sleep. Nearly every patient was hooked up to an IV tube, the multitude of which formed a plastic jungle. A nurse walked around, checking tubes, administering food, and adjusting pillows to make the patients more comfortable.

Maressa clasped her hands and hunched over. It seemed that the Magma commander had been right; while she and Golduck were fighting, her team left, secured the meteorite from the scientist, and put Mt. Chimney to sleep for good. Though Shelly ordered the team to get back to work when they returned, most of the squadron put together a party. Maressa had walked into Sarah’s room to ask if she could borrow a pair of gloves and instead found people celebrating their successful mission.

Maressa was more than a little disheartened when she saw Sarah celebrating with everyone else. She wanted a friend to talk to about how she felt letting Golduck get hurt and hoped Sarah would be available to listen. Part of her wondered if Sarah would step out of the party to talk to Maressa, but Maressa couldn’t pluck up the nerve to take her friend away from celebrating.

A Walrein behind her let loose a deep sigh as it rolled over. Though Maressa loved her teammates, she couldn’t feel justified in celebrating with them. Their mission was a success but the battle was a disaster. She succeeded in holding Team Magma off but every time she looked at Golduck’s damaged body, the word “success” didn’t seem right.

She checked her watch; she had been sitting there for nearly two hours. Her stomach rumbled but she wasn’t in the mood to eat. The nurse said that Golduck just needed to re-hydrate and rest for a few days but Maressa didn’t want to leave him until she saw in full health.

Rubbing her temples, she groaned when she thought of the next assignment she had been given. She glanced up at Golduck, wishing she could stay with him, but she was due to move out in two days and he needed more time than that to recover.

Maressa reached over and touched Golduck’s webbed hand. Bandages wound around his arm covered the needle connecting to an IV tube. His body was marred with slashes and scrapes. At her touch, he opened his eyes slightly, gave a grateful nod and then closed them again.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered.

He opened his eyes slightly and gave her a quizzical look.

“This was my fault. I knew you were exhausted, and I had you use hydro pump.”

Golduck shook his head slightly as if to say that he didn’t hold her to any blame.

Still unhappy, Maressa took her hand away while Golduck closed his eyes again and returned to sleep.

So this is the world we’re building...

She found it darkly ironic that Pokémon sustained worse injuries than people on their missions. Though she was relieved to find that none of her teammates were injured on the mission, she loathed to see the Pokémon get hurt.

Shuddering, she recalled her conversation with the Team Magma commander. For a moment, she had been scared that she may have been captured.

Thank goodness I wasn’t.

She had no idea what she could do if she was taken by them—getting back to Team Aqua would be difficult, if she would be allowed back at all.

Her blood boiled in her veins as she remembered the Magma commander’s words. He had practically offered her a position on the team—her, who trained a Golduck, to work with Team Magma!

Remembering how Team Magma attacked her team and tried to set the volcano active again reminded Maressa why the world had to be changed. Standing up, she took one last look at Golduck.

“Don’t worry, boy,” she whispered softly enough so the nurse wouldn’t hear.

Golduck lay unmoving, eyes still closed.

“One day, we’ll make this right.”
 

OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
How fun — seems like we’re working with a similar premise, based on that interaction between Maressa and Tabitha. 👀 Very different approaches though! It’ll be interesting to see how our stories diverge and/or converge. We’ve both got a Mark, but mine is not in Aqua, so that gave me a jolt and a laugh.

I’ll pick up with chapters 2 & 3 since I feel like Pen covered the bases in chapter 1 already.

So I dig the surreal split between Mark (snrk!) as comforting friend/mentor and then ... scary brawler. Definitely unsettling.

I’m curious about Aqua/Magma as a *job* because it’s something I’ve puzzled over before: where do these guys get their funding? I’m also curious what that interview looked like — were they presenting themselves as one thing on the listing, and then their true nature was revealed when she finally met them face to face?

I actually wonder how it would feel if we started chapter 2 with a flashback about how she got involved. I like the moment with Mark comforting her, but I bet you could expand the scene on the docks and squeeze it in there instead. Either way, you’ve got a pattern of starting with Maressa in thought. Atmospheric, yes, but a slow start. Starting more in the middle of things wouldn’t hurt.

I was a little confused on the docks. At first it felt like Maressa was being chatty and following Stern when she she shouldn’t have... but then later it felt like maybe it was part of the plan? I think this is a spot where I did want more atmosphere and sense of place because it would help me see how far she’s strayed from where she’s supposed to be.

The impact of the fight is clear though. She’s a good tactician, but she wasn’t prepared for the way this fight would play out. The earbuds were a nice touch. The brass knuckles felt odd to me though —less suited for knocking someone out than for wrecking someone’s face real bad. I’m wondering why not use pokémon for this? Do they have objections? Or I'm sure there are plenty of items on display around the room that could deliver some blunt-force blows without mangling someone quite so badly — framed map? Ship in a bottle?

I liked her reflections on how her family would react, the struggle of justifying it to herself. Hope we explore them more later in the story! I always enjoy watching characters dig themselves in a hole and wanting to believe they’re doing the right thing. I do wish we had more clarity on Maressa’s commitment to Aqua. I don’t mind that she doesn’t quite grasp what they’re up to, and I’m enjoying the obvious *eyebrow raise* that her blind loyalty invites. But knowing what does make her loyal and trusting of them would make her choices feel stronger, especially because we know she’s operating on at least some blind faith. Liking the ocean isn’t quite enough by itself, otherwise why not just work for the oceanography museum?

Chapter 3 has a lot going on! Nice to see Maressa and her golduck in action. In a couple places, you describe a chain of actions summarily, which lessens the impact. You could ramp up the tension by breaking down the action into shorter sentences with more specific detail. I’ll give you an example:

The Walrein and Crawdaunt were being beat down by the Golbat and Mightyena—Walrein cried out in pain as the Golbat lashed them with air cutter and the Crawdaunt desperately tried to shield themselves from the Mightyena’s hyper beams and shadow balls.
Suggestion: Two golbats shot past. Wind whistled over their wings — then a blast that Maressa felt on her face even at a distance. A walrein cried out in pain and fell. One of the crawdaunts managed to raise a shimmering barrier over itself, only for it to collapse under a shadow ball seconds later. The mightyenas slunk down the hill towards them.

On the other hand, you could stand to thin some of the dialogue. Pausing to ask permission to help does say something about Maressa, who seems unsure of herself, but it also makes it feel like she’s failing to grasp the urgency, which undermines her strategic prowess. An exasperated, “Just get over here!” might be appropriate.

That said, I do think it’s smart that in some places you skim over the action when it’s less important and give more attention to the moments that most want it. In a long battle like this, you have to.

Aqua seems to have a problem with how it treats its pokémon! Maressa has a better eye for strategy and the needs of the pokémon... but duty and loyalty require her to keep her mouth shut. I think it might be interesting to take that angle with golduck at the end, too. As it stands, I wasn’t too worried about him because “fainting” feels like a normal outcome of a battle and he willingly chooses to stay in the fight. If Maressa gives him an order against her better judgment at a superior’s urging, she’s got more to feel guilty over. And then after that she’s basically unarmed and defenseless, right, because her other pokémon need water to move?

I also wondered a little about her relationship with Shelly! In previous chapters Maressa seems in awe of her, which makes me wonder... was Shelly, like your Mark, showing a different face before and now Maressa is seeing the truth? Or had she not worked closely with her yet?

And Tabitha. “Girl, the way you battle is hot. And I’d know — I’m all about volcanoes!” I was a little confused about what his intentions were. Is it just that she’s no longer a threat now that her golduck is down, and therefore he doesn’t care about coming over to gloat? Either way, it feels like he should be focused on other things, so it feels a little off. It might’ve helped to see them interact at a distance leading up to this — some meaningful looks or a laugh across the battlefield? I also share her confusion about his interest in her despite her pokémon... but my hunch is that it’s related to exploring underwater caverns... 👀 (Though it feels a little reductive to count herself out because of her pokemon alone, right? I’d think underlying ideology would be a stronger reason.) Speaking of reasons, I wish he’d added just a tiny bit to his appeal to her: not just “hey you battle good come be my friend instead” but “they don’t appreciate you, do they?” A personal note with some truth to it.

Very curious to see how their next interaction will play out.

Some typos and fussy line fixes:

Her heat panged
Heart *

And re-open the door!”
Just “open.” :)

She found it darkly ironic that Pokémon sustained worse injuries than people on their missions.
It’s not clear where the irony is. If it’s that Aqua claims to be about pokémon health and yet doesn’t treat their pokémon well, that needs to be made clearer.

Glad to have a cohort in Aqua/Magma shenanigans here!🌋❤ 💙 🌊
 
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Starlight Aurate

Just a fallen star
Location
Route 123
Partner
mightyena
How fun — seems like we’re working with a similar premise, based on that interaction between Maressa and Tabitha. 👀 Very different approaches though! It’ll be interesting to see how our stories diverge and/or converge. We’ve both got a Mark, but mine is not in Aqua, so that gave me a jolt and a laugh.
Hey! So glad to see you here. And for whatever reason I hadn't noticed Continental Divides--I definitely need to check it out now! I'm such a sucker for Team Aqua and Team Magma :love:


I’m curious about Aqua/Magma as a *job* because it’s something I’ve puzzled over before: where do these guys get their funding? I’m also curious what that interview looked like — were they presenting themselves as one thing on the listing, and then their true nature was revealed when she finally met them face to face?

I actually wonder how it would feel if we started chapter 2 with a flashback about how she got involved. I like the moment with Mark comforting her, but I bet you could expand the scene on the docks and squeeze it in there instead. Either way, you’ve got a pattern of starting with Maressa in thought. Atmospheric, yes, but a slow start. Starting more in the middle of things wouldn’t hurt.
Bot things end up getting covered in later chapters! I appreciate the feedback on them. I had written this many many years ago and by the time my first draft was written I hadn't given much thought to either of these. Both are covered later, but it's helpful to know that they would go better at the beginning of the story instead of later on!

I was a little confused on the docks. At first it felt like Maressa was being chatty and following Stern when she she shouldn’t have... but then later it felt like maybe it was part of the plan? I think this is a spot where I did want more atmosphere and sense of place because it would help me see how far she’s strayed from where she’s supposed to be.
Fair enough! I was trying to show her naivety, so it wasn't supposed to be part of a plan in her part. I was also trying to skim down the atmosphere and detail since I went waaaaay overboard on those in the first draft; I guess I should make expand on them a bit more!

The impact of the fight is clear though. She’s a good tactician, but she wasn’t prepared for the way this fight would play out. The earbuds were a nice touch. The brass knuckles felt odd to me though —less suited for knocking someone out than for wrecking someone’s face real bad. I’m wondering why not use pokémon for this? Do they have objections? Or I'm sure there are plenty of items on display around the room that could deliver some blunt-force blows without mangling someone quite so badly — framed map? Ship in a bottle?
Also fair enough. The point of Maressa doing it was supposed to be Team Aqua testing her obedience, hence why they didn't use Pokemon. But the brass knuckles part I concede on.


Aqua seems to have a problem with how it treats its pokémon! Maressa has a better eye for strategy and the needs of the pokémon... but duty and loyalty require her to keep her mouth shut. I think it might be interesting to take that angle with golduck at the end, too. As it stands, I wasn’t too worried about him because “fainting” feels like a normal outcome of a battle and he willingly chooses to stay in the fight. If Maressa gives him an order against her better judgment at a superior’s urging, she’s got more to feel guilty over. And then after that she’s basically unarmed and defenseless, right, because her other pokémon need water to move?

I also wondered a little about her relationship with Shelly! In previous chapters Maressa seems in awe of her, which makes me wonder... was Shelly, like your Mark, showing a different face before and now Maressa is seeing the truth? Or had she not worked closely with her yet?
Thanks for all the pointers on dialogue and description! I really appreciate them. The part about Shelly is probably something I failed to modify from the first draft. In my first version of the story, chapter 2 was an entire different mission with Shelly in charge, so Maressa worked closely with her there and it shaped her opinion of her. That has been cut out here; Maressa is supposed to have respect for her out of the hierarchy in the team but gets frustrated with Shelly when Shelly isn't quite as good at battling as Maressa is. I suppose I should have expanded on that a bit more.


“Girl, the way you battle is hot. And I’d know — I’m all about volcanoes!”
AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

I was a little confused about what his intentions were. Is it just that she’s no longer a threat now that her golduck is down, and therefore he doesn’t care about coming over to gloat? Either way, it feels like he should be focused on other things, so it feels a little off. It might’ve helped to see them interact at a distance leading up to this — some meaningful looks or a laugh across the battlefield? I also share her confusion about his interest in her despite her pokémon... but my hunch is that it’s related to exploring underwater caverns... 👀 (Though it feels a little reductive to count herself out because of her pokemon alone, right? I’d think underlying ideology would be a stronger reason.) Speaking of reasons, I wish he’d added just a tiny bit to his appeal to her: not just “hey you battle good come be my friend instead” but “they don’t appreciate you, do they?” A personal note with some truth to it.

Very curious to see how their next interaction will play out.
Not to spoil too much, but their next interaction does play this part out lol. I concede in that they could've interacted a bit more beforehand haha.


Glad to have a cohort in Aqua/Magma shenanigans here!🌋❤ 💙 🌊
ALWAYS 🤩

Thanks so much for the review! I truly appreciate it ^_^ I'm trying to release a chapter every other week (at least for now lol). Thanks so much for the reviews!
 

OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
I had written this many many years ago and by the time my first draft was written I hadn't given much thought to either of these. Both are covered later, but it's helpful to know that they would go better at the beginning of the story instead of later on!
Oh yeah I totally get that — there’s nothing wrong with still enjoying an old fic or with knowing when to leave it alone and let it be what it is. Taking advice for future stories is a great attitude to have about it.

I was also trying to skim down the atmosphere and detail since I went waaaaay overboard on those in the first draft; I guess I should make expand on them a bit more!
I relate deeply to this too haha. Some of my current writing habits definitely include overcompensating for old, bad ones. Like, I constantly have to go back to add internal monologue now, because I used to use too much.

supposed to be Team Aqua testing her obedience,
Ohhhh I gotcha. That does make sense.
 

The Walrein

Junior Trainer
Partner
gulpin
Hello Starlight Aurate! Thought I'd give this a look for the first anniversary celebration event.

The bandanna was pulled upward as Sarah's pale eyes looked questioningly at her friend.
I feel the passive voice at the beginning ("The bandanna was pulled upwards") combined with describing Sarah's eyes as doing the looking rather than Sarah herself made this read a bit awkwardly.

"Must be why we get along." Taking her hand out of the water, Maressa sighed as she looked at her friend. "Hey... if I tell you something, will you promise to not tell anyone else?"

"Sure. Is it about what the commander had called you in for yesterday?"

Maressa nodded. "I'm not supposed to tell anyone, but I'm sure you won't tell anyone, and well... I don't even know anything about what we're doing."
The three uses of "tell anyone" here felt a little repetitive.

"Come on, everyone knows you're one of the best Pokémon battlers on the team. You've commanded entire squadrons and taken down enemies faster and easier than even some of the oldest members. And when you're just using your own Pokémon, you're still no pushover."
I thought the guard duty position was only given to "the most junior recruits" - this seems inconsistent with Maressa having commanded squadrons before and having been around long enough to earn a reputation as a good battler. Did she get busted down in the ranks at some point?

Pushing herself up the side of the submarirne, Maressa lay next to her friend and gazed skyward into the moonlit night.
Typo with submarirne here.

Opening its pale yellow bill, throaty noises gargled from his mouth as he communicated with Maressa.
A little inconsistency with using its/his to refer to Golduck here.

Turning around, Maressa saw a dark fin protrude from the surface of the water; shaped like a razor, cutting through the air, it came with alarming alacrity towards the vessel.
This feels a little choppy with all the pauses, especially when it's trying to describe an event happening quickly. Maybe change the semicolon to a period and reword the latter part to something like: "Shaped like a razor, it cut through the air towards the vessel with alarming alacrity."

Three hours later, "any minute" became all but a dream. Too afraid to be caught napping, the pair constantly rubbed their eyes and walked around in attempts to get their blood flowing and fend off sleep. Maressa sent out her Pokémon again, only to find them asleep. After another two hours, the sun began to rise, and the duo stood together at one end of the vessel. With hunched shoulders and bagging eyelids, they stared out at the river. Their bloodshot eyes took in the scene of the rising sun spilling its light over the earth, causing the water to look like a thousand diamonds strewn across an orange blanket.
You'd think that they'd have a means to radio in and ask why the relief shift hadn't appeared yet; were they afraid of looking like complainers?

So, I agree with Pen that the opening felt pretty slow here, what with it mostly consisting of the protagonists having vaguely expositional conversation whilst slightly bored. I feel like it might've been more interesting if we had more details about what exactly Team Aqua might've been expecting to find in the undersea craters rather than keeping it coy with a vague reference to "what we're looking for". Or, maybe if we were given an indication to believe that Maressa's mission might not go smoothly. (The part about her being told nothing except the need to obey all orders absolutely is a bit ominous, but it doesn't seem like Maressa has much of a reaction to it). As it is, I'm not really sure where the story's headed from now.

I did like Maressa's interactions with Golduck and Sharpedo, and they aren't typical protagonist Pokemon, which is a nice change.
 
Chapter 4

Starlight Aurate

Just a fallen star
Location
Route 123
Partner
mightyena
So, I agree with Pen that the opening felt pretty slow here, what with it mostly consisting of the protagonists having vaguely expositional conversation whilst slightly bored. I feel like it might've been more interesting if we had more details about what exactly Team Aqua might've been expecting to find in the undersea craters rather than keeping it coy with a vague reference to "what we're looking for". Or, maybe if we were given an indication to believe that Maressa's mission might not go smoothly. (The part about her being told nothing except the need to obey all orders absolutely is a bit ominous, but it doesn't seem like Maressa has much of a reaction to it). As it is, I'm not really sure where the story's headed from now.

I did like Maressa's interactions with Golduck and Sharpedo, and they aren't typical protagonist Pokemon, which is a nice change.
Hey! Thanks so much for giving the reviews; I really appreciate pointing out the typos and inconsistencies that I never noticed after all these years >_< I see the opening is slow; I'm not sure how else to begin the story and since I'm still working on later parts of the story, trying to rewrite the opening into something totally new is a bit daunting ._. But I really appreciate your advice! Maybe I need to give this a more thorough revamp or scrap this edition and do another rewrite... I'll think of something.

Anyway, here's the new Chapter 4! I tried to cut down on wordiness, but I feel like I could have done more or broken up more paragraphs. Any thoughts are appreciated. I hope you enjoy!

Chapter 4



The sun cast its rays over the treetops and heat the air to a scorching degree. Fanning herself with her blue bandanna, Sarah panted as beads of sweat rolled down her face.

"It's so hot..." she moaned.

Maressa's eyes fluttered open. "Well, this is Hoenn..."

Keeping her back against the rock face, Maressa rose up from her sitting position and surveyed the scene before them. Despite the sweltering heat, the area was pleasant to look at. The two Team Aqua grunts stood on a rocky precipice overlooking a treetop canopy that stretched on for a few hundred meters. Beyond the green swath of plant life, the sea glistened in the sunlight like gemstones scattered across the water. The ledge they stood on was covered with grass and soft soil only interrupted by the door in its side.

Maressa smiled. "Being on watch isn’t so bad in places like these."

Sarah looked at her friend in concern. "Do you think you'll be going on another mission like at Slateport?"

"I don't know... In a way, I would like to go again, but in another way, I'd rather not." Absentmindedly kicking a rock, she added, “The mission didn’t work out anyway. Apparently, they didn’t find whatever they were looking for.”

"Why? What happened?"

“Yeah, I’ve actually been meaning to talk to you about it…” Maressa looked up at the sunlit waters. Why was talking about it to Sarah so much harder than she had thought?

"Sarah… I had to… I had to attack someone."

"Attack? What do you mean? Like in a Pokemon battle? Are you and your Pokemon okay?"

“No, like we went into a shipyard and our teammates in the sea got caught and we needed to stop them from getting caught—okay, so they weren’t caught, but they were spotted and they weren’t allowed to be down where they were—and we needed to make sure they didn’t get reported so we—me, Mark, and some other teammates—got in a Pokemon battle and someone’s Azumarill sang most of them to sleep except this one guy. So Mark took me and him into a back room and—and Mark gave me brass knuckles and told me to knock him out!”

Sarah stared at her with eyes wide in shock. “He did? What did you do?”

“I… I said I couldn’t, but he reminded me to be obedient, so I—well—I tried, but I was really bad and didn’t actually do anything—so Mark knocked him out instead—and oh, Sarah, I feel so guilty!”

Sarah looked at Maressa with shock. She said nothing.

“What do I do?” Maressa demanded.

“Well… It sounds like there was nothing you could do. Like he said, you had to be obedient. And… Yeah, I don’t know.” The shock disappeared from Sarah’s face and she gazed at her friend with pity. “I’m sorry you had to go through that.”

“It’s okay… I hope that was just a one-time thing. I can’t imagine we always do stuff like that…” Guilt knotted in her stomach as the scene played before her eyes again.

After a moment, Maressa looked back up at her friend and gave her a grateful smile. “Thanks for talking to me about it.”

“Sure, don’t mention it. Always feel free to talk to me if you need something—I might not be able to help,” she said with a laugh, “but I can always listen!”

Gratitude swelled in Maressa’s heart—she was about to respond when the door opened and a stout girl with tan skin and deep, coffee-brown eyes walked out.

Immediately, Sarah's eyes lit up and she hugged the woman. "Cloe! How've you been? It's been a while since I've seen you!"

"I know, right?"

She was cut off as two arms wrapped around her from behind. Cloe twisted and saw Maressa embracing her. "Hey Maressa! I haven't seen you in forever, either!"

"I know, I've missed you so much!"

When she first joined Team Aqua, she, Cloe and Sarah were all in the same squadron and got along immediately. Though Cloe was soon moved to a different group, the friendship between the three of them continued to grow.

“What are you doing here?" Maressa asked.

"My squadron was assigned to this position to keep watch."

Sarah turned to Cloe, no longer smiling. "Why would they need two groups here? It's a pretty small outpost."

"They're re-grouping some of the members. There's a mission planned, and some of the people in our squads are switching positions."

"Huh," Maressa said. "So how have things been going with you? Do you have any news to tell us?"

Cloe turned slightly more serious as she said, "Actually, I've come to relieve you of watch."

The grin on Maressa's face faded. "Relieve me of watch?"

“Commander Shelly wants to speak with you. I'm supposed to cover for you while you're down there." She gestured to the doorway set into the side of the ledge.

Deflated, Maressa walked away from her friends. "It was nice catching up with you."

“I know, I'm sorry I didn't have time to talk to you. We'll get together later, okay?"

Maressa nodded as she turned away from her friends and passed through the doorway and into the gloomy interior. Her heart lightened somewhat at the prospect of speaking with her friend again but she turned her thoughts to the task set before her.

What did the commander want? Was she in trouble? Or was she being called to head out on another mission? She didn’t feel quite ready to go out again. Part of the reason she joined Team Aqua was the opportunity to work with her Pokémon and, though she certainly got to do that, she didn’t want any of them to get hurt again like Golduck did.

As Maressa descended into the depths of the base, she thought more of the possibilities her superior could have for calling her. She hardly made any attempts to conceal the fact that she didn’t like Shelly and already vented to Sarah about how frustrating she was to work with.

Maressa liked Team Aqua otherwise—she had friends, and their goal of defending water Pokémon and preserving their habitats from harmful human actions seemed righteous enough. She did feel a little in the dark when it came to their missions, though. Though some of them were to make more homes for water Pokémon, such as at Mt. Chimney, the purposes behind other missions were not so readily apparent. She heard Mark talking about an agent in Rustboro trying to retrieve some amber, though neither she nor Mark had any idea what it could be used for.

She suspected that there was something bigger at stake, something larger that they were working towards, that every mission they went on was just a little piece in something that would add up to something greater.

Something, something, something...


But what?

++++++++++

Sunlight filtered through the surface of the water, sparkling on the wave tops as Maressa and her teammates descended. The submarine floated at the surface, minuscule in comparison to the infinite open ocean around them. The large columns of rock reached out from the seafloor like fingers of the earth. As though reaching upward in an attempt to escape the cold seawater and feel the warm sun, they formed avenues in the great sea. The sides of the pinnacles were lush with multitudes of coral and sedentary organisms arrayed in a rainbow of colors. Numerous Pokémon nosed their way about in search of food or else floated by idly as the current carried them wherever it willed.

Bubbles floated upwards as Maressa breathed out through her regulator. Clenching Seaking's tail with one hand, she gazed at the scenery around them, feeling perfectly at peace. Though she was to search the rock faces for the cavern opening Shelly described, she couldn’t help but be mystified at the beauty of the tropical ocean. Her fingers relaxed as she let go of Seaking's tail and began the descent by herself and allowed her aquatic companion to scout ahead of her. She continued to stare in awe at the passing Pokémon and stationary plant life and remained still as her body began to steadily sink deeper into the ocean.

The rocky bottom grew steadily closer. Maressa switched her gaze from the aquatic life to her companions nearby her. Some of the other divers were within a few meters, each wearing the same grey-blue wetsuit as she was. Each took care not to let himself touch the rocks for fear of harming any fragile organisms he came in contact with. Floating a few meters above the stony sea floor, they cast their eyes about, searching for a cavern opening.

Maressa looked upward as she saw a flash of orange and white streak towards her. She put up her hands as Seaking came to her in a panic.

Her heart raced with excitement—did Seaking find the cavern they were looking for? Maressa stared at her friend questioningly but slowly realized that it was not as she had hoped; he fluttered about nervously, darting his eyes back and forth before explaining to her what he saw.

Maressa’s heart dropped as Seaking related the appearance of a submarine, much larger than theirs, coming steadily towards them. She motioned for her friend to continue his explanation, but all he could say was that the submarine was a deep shade of red. No divers or Pokémon were seen near it.

Patting her companion gratefully, Maressa pointed to each of her teammates, still floating near the bottom, and then pointed upward. Seaking closed his large, benevolent brown eyes and nodded before swiftly moving to each of the team members, nuzzling them or prodding them gently with his horn before gesturing to the surface.

Ascending slowly, Maressa's heart beat so hard and fast she felt as though it were about to break out of her chest. Spotting the small submarine owned by Team Aqua, she crept towards it, continuously looking about for the submarine Seaking described.

She grasped the line extending from her team’s submarine and hauled herself inward, taking the regulator out of her mouth and removing her mask once she stood atop the small grey vessel. Staring ahead, she caught sight of a massive burgundy submarine, coming slowly but surely towards them.

Mickey, who stayed on the submarine to man it while his teammates were underwater, came up through the hatch as Maressa clambered aboard. He watched Maressa push her untied hair out of her eyes and stare ahead.

"You guys noticed, too?"

Nodding, Maressa continued to stare ahead as her teammates clambered out of the water on board the little vessel.

Turning to Mickey, Maressa asked, “Do you want to fight them?”

Mickey considered the question for a moment, his emerald eyes squinting against the sun. “Nah—everyone get inside. We’ll try to leave quietly.” Turning to Maressa, he said, "I'd rather not try to fight. If they're sailing on a huge thing like that," he pointed to the burgundy vessel creeping towards them, "then they've definitely got us outnumbered. I'm going to see if we can escape them."

"Do you think we can still escape without notice?"

“They’d be blind not to see us on their radar. Still, I’d rather try.” Seeing Maressa still standing there, he grabbed her shoulders and exclaimed, "GO!" before shoving her down the hatch.

As soon as Maressa got through, Mickey attempted to follow. He just started to lower himself through the hatchway when Maressa saw a burst of light and heard a splash as Mickey was blasted off the top of the submarine and into the water.

Maressa scrambled back up the hatch and stood on top of the submarine once again. The red submarine was but a hundred meters away, and Maressa saw numerous men and women standing on the top of it, accompanied by a short creature whose head was topped by a green dome-like mushroom. Maressa clenched her fists as she glared at them. Her anger somewhat subsided as she reached down to help pull Mickey out of the water. He was all right but his shirt was torn where he had been hit. His face was taught with pain as he held a hand against his side.

"Maressa," he commanded, glaring at their adversaries, "tell everyone to get out here now. We're going to try to fight them."

Maressa obeyed, and soon the top of their submarine was crowded with the nine Team Aqua members. As Maressa's teammates sent out their Pokémon, their opponents did likewise, filling the air with Golbat and Swellow.

As she heard her name called again, Maressa turned to Mickey. The fury in his face, though still prominent, had somewhat lessened.

"I'm going to give you authority over this battle. Do you think you can do it?"

Maressa hesitated. She expected to feel anxious—but she didn’t. When she looked up at the red submarine, she thought back to her battle at Mt. Chimney and confidence overcame any indecision. Curling her fingers into fists, she turned back to Mickey.

"I think so."

He nodded and encouragingly patted Maressa on the back. "Good. You got this."

Maressa nodded and strode toward the submarine's edge, mentally enumerating the Pokémon she had to command: four Wailmer, a Gorebyss, two Tentacool, a Tentacruel, three Luvdisc, and her own Seaking. She took in the large number of bat-and-bird-like Pokémon their opponents had sent out, making special note of the single Breloom that stood with them.

Maressa called out, "Water gun!"

Her Seaking and a few others immediately shot water at the flock of flying Pokémon, but a number of the marine Pokémon turned to stare at her in confusion. In a few seconds, they were either blown by razors of wind or slammed by the Swellow in a flurry of feathers.

Maressa's cheeks flushed in anger as she shouted, "You have to listen to me! Just do what I say, and don't question it!"

Seeing their Pokémon's confusion, some of the team members stepped forward and commanded their companions to obey Maressa's orders.

Maressa heard a harsh laugh. Looking forward, she saw the men and women on the burgundy submarine expelling bouts of laughter. Clenching her fists in fury, Maressa turned to the Pokémon in the water.

"You three"—she pointed to the two Tentacool and lone Tentacruel—"stay up here, back by me. The rest of you are to go underwater and come up in fifteen seconds. When you come up, use bubblebeam, hydro pump, water gun, or whatever you've got on them." She punctuated the last word with a point to their airborne enemies swirling in the sky.

As nine Pokemon ducked beneath the waves, Maressa shouted.

"Acid!"

High-pressured streams of hide-melting toxins spurt into the air. The Swellow and Golbat flapped around chaotically to evade the noxious liquid. As Tentacool and Tentacruel stopped their attacks, Maressa saw the airborne creatures dive towards them.

"Stay here," she commanded the Tentacoo and Tentacruel. As soon as their enemies were almost upon them, Maressa ordered, "Constrict!"

The three poisonous Pokémon lashed out with their tentacles, taking hold of a number of Flying-types. The unfortunate Swellow and Golbat who were caught were taken beneath the water as the Tentacool and Tentacruel dove under the waves. The rest flew upward haphazardly and had only just begun to reorganize when they were struck with jets of water. Satisfaction danced in Maressa's heart as she watched the winged Pokémon fall to the waves as they were shot down.

"Solar beam!"

A beam of fluorescent-green light shot the aquatic Pokémon. Maressa whipped her head around and saw the Breloom standing next to one of the red-hooded men. Grinding her teeth in fury, she turned her head back to the Pokémon in the sea. Several Team Magma members recalled their Swellow and Golbat. The Pokémon captured by the Tentacruel and Tentacool weakly flapped their wings as they gasped for air. Despite being hit with the solar beam, most of the water Pokémon were able to continue fighting. Only the three Luvdisc had to be recalled after taking full force of the blast.

Calling Seaking over, Maressa bent down to speak to him.

"Seaking, when I tell all of the Pokémon to go underneath, I want you to stay above water. You're going to use supersonic, okay?"

Seaking nodded in confirmation.

Maressa turned to her teammates.

"When I tell the Pokémon to all go underwater, I need everyone to cover their ears. Seaking is going to use supersonic. Understand?"

Maressa turned back to the aquatic Pokémon. They stared at her expectantly, awaiting orders. Maressa was about to speak when she heard another voice. She looked at the red submarine where one man gave orders to the Pokémon. His pant legs had white stripes—

He’s a commander, she realized.

While Team Magma’s commander gave orders, Maressa ordered, "Everyone, down!"

The Pokemon ducked beneath the waves while each team member covered their ears with their hands. Maressa did likewise, watching her Seaking rise as high as he could out of the air and emit sound waves.

In less than a second, the flock of airborne Pokémon lost all order and flew around in chaos. The Breloom danced about frantically as the Team Magma members gripped their heads in anguish. Many of them recalled more Pokémon as they knocked into each other and fell to the waves below. Feeling a sick sense of satisfaction, Maressa allowed herself a small sadistic smile as she saw her foes struggle against Seaking's supersonic.

Absorbed in the general disorder of the scene, she failed to notice Breloom stop hopping and snap out of confusion. Her ears were covered—she didn’t hear the Magma commander call, "Solar beam!" Maressa only looked up just in time to see the bright beam before it slammed into her midriff and sent her flying into the air.

Landing with a heavy splash, she frantically grabbed her regulator and stuffed it into her mouth. She opened her eyes and tried to make her way above water when she saw a blurry mass of orange and white approach her. Reaching out an arm, she held on to Seaking as he swam her to the surface.

As her head broke free of the water, she removed the regulator from her mouth and glared up at the large red submarine. The Breloom stood there smugly, its arms folded across its chest just like its human’s.

“Seaking,” she gasped, “can you take me back to the submarine?”

“King!”

He complied, and the two headed back towards the small grey-blue vessel when another Team Aqua member shouted.

“Look out!”

Mickey pointed into the air. Maressa jerked her head around in time to see a large seed erupt from the mouth of the Breloom and fly towards them. Vines several meters long burst from the seed and wrapped her and Seaking. Seaking cried out in pain as the thorny plants gripped and ripped his orange scales.

Maressa felt the thorns suck away her energy as they tore through her wetsuit and pricked her flesh. Hanging onto Seaking, she patted his head and tried to calm him down while she reached for her Pokéball.

“Seaking—Seaking—it’s okay! Calm down—I promise—this won’t last—Seaking, I’m here—Seaking—!”

Her efforts proved fruitless: Seaking only continued to flail, thrashing about so violently that his Pokéball slipped from Maressa’s hands and fell into the water.

Maressa made a desperate lunge for the ball when a searing pain lanced up her left thigh. Looking down, she felt sick to her stomach.

Seaking’s horn penetrated her wetsuit and bore at a sharp angle into her leg. The ivory horn dug in deeper as Seaking continued to buck.

Maressa's screamed but water flooded her mouth. Terror clouded her mind—she beat Seaking with her fists and lashed out with her legs in an attempt to remove the horn from her thigh—to stop the pain. Giving a cry as her heel dug into his eye, Seaking wiggled his horn loose.

Maressa had no time to worry about her leg as she was blinded by light. A beam slammed into her and ripped her out of the parasitic plant’s grasp. Seawater washed over Maressa's unmasked eyes, and bubbles tickled her neck. Reaching behind her, Maressa ran her hands over the air tank and felt a knife of terror stab her heart as her fingers felt the tube that transferred air between her regulator and her air tank—snapped clean through.

The air tank was still attached to her body—and rapidly expelling bubbles. She frantically attempted to detach the heavy tank but in her distress her fingers only fumbled about uselessly as the metal dragged her further down into the depths of the sea.

Panic absorbed Maressa as the light above her grew dimmer and her lungs like felt they would burst. Black spots burst across her vision. She opened her mouth to take in air—but only water came in. Her body wracked with pain in every nerve and her fingers gradually stopped moving while the ocean stretched out its arms and welcomed her.
 

OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
Oh that took a direction I didn't expect! I'm excited to see Maressa in physical peril in a way that can't be simply fixed with pokemon. I am wondering where her other pokemon are, but I'm curious to see how she'll handle this situation on her own.

Some other thoughts:

Maressa's eyes fluttered open. "Well, this is Hoenn..."
Hahaha. Hoenn's hot these days, what can we say.

"Sarah… I had to… I had to attack someone."
It was nice to see her have a moment to unpack this experience and explore those doubts -- it's clearly still bothering her. I sort of wish Sarah would've resisted her story more somehow, either refusing to believe that their team could be so rough or telling her to suck it up and remember why she was there.

"They're re-grouping some of the members. There's a mission planned, and some of the people in our squads are switching positions."
I do appreciate how much of the work required of them seems to be...well, grunt work. That's why they don't really know what's happening, and it shows how little they're valued.

the friendship between the three of them continued to grow.
I'm wondering what this looks like! Are they the kinds of friends who mostly gossip while they're on watch? Do they hang out and do non-Team Aqua things together like ice cream or the cinema? I feel like this friend could be used more to either serve as a reason Maressa still feels dedicated to Team Aqua in spite of everything or to cast further doubt on their activities and make her feel the strain. Right now Chloe isn't quite doing either of those things for me.

Part of the reason she joined Team Aqua was the opportunity to work with her Pokémon
Nice to get another tiny glimpse at why she's here. I still want more! Did she try other more... traditional venues, and it didn't work out? Or are there other reasons?

Sunlight filtered through the surface of the water, sparkling on the wave tops as Maressa and her teammates descended. The submarine floated at the surface, minuscule in comparison to the infinite open ocean around them.
Oh! I was surprised we didn't get the conversation with Shelly. Again, it seems like another way to start ramping up the pressure on Maressa, make her sweat over her involvement in this.

Each took care not to let himself touch the rocks for fear of harming any fragile organisms he came in contact with.
Loved this detail. In spite of Aqua's occasional failure to make good on taking care of pokemon, they do care and are making efforts to try.

explaining to her what he saw.
How are they communicating, exactly? Any spoken language is just going to come out as unintelligible bubbles underwater.

"GO!" before shoving her down the hatch.
I had trouble picturing what was going on with the Aqua submarine here. Is it fully underwater, or just sitting on the water, or underwater at first and then it surfaces?

green dome-like mushroom.
Breloom! My favorite.

"You have to listen to me! Just do what I say, and don't question it!"
This was kinda odd to see after all the hype around her battling ability and how well she handled other pokemon last chapter. Considering how much we've seen pokemon in Aqua trade hands or be borrowed for this and that mission, it's s surprise that their pokemon are so slow to follow the commands of another Aqua member.

Maressa turned to her teammates.

"When I tell the Pokémon to all go underwater, I need everyone to cover their ears. Seaking is going to use supersonic. Understand?"
I was confused whether these were human or pokemon teammates. If human, why don't they have more of a presence? How are they helping, or what are they doing? If pokemon, how are they covering their ears?

flew around in chaos.
Because you described it as chaos earlier when they're dodging sludge, the effect is lessened here.

Landing with a heavy splash, she frantically grabbed her regulator and stuffed it into her mouth.
This read to me a little like she's already underwater when she's putting it in her mouth, which seems...dubious. I'm also wondering why it isn't more of a mask covering her nose and mouth? IDK, I don't have experience with diving equipment. But it made me pause and wonder. Similarly, when she come back up, it seemed premature to me to take it back out of her mouth.

Hanging onto Seaking, she patted his head and tried to calm him down while she reached for her Pokéball.

“Seaking—Seaking—it’s okay! Calm down—I promise—this won’t last—Seaking, I’m here—Seaking—!”
Huh. I had mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I was surprised a pokemon that's used to battling was so easily thrown off by a leech seed and that she didn't recall it more quickly when it freaked out. But, I liked seeing her face a consequence here -- a pretty serious one.

her fingers only fumbled about uselessly as the metal dragged her further down
Dragged doesn't feel quite right. It seems to me more that the air pressure would be driving or pushing her forward -- and down if she'd pointed that way.

Nice to see another update from you!
 
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Starlight Aurate

Just a fallen star
Location
Route 123
Partner
mightyena
It was nice to see her have a moment to unpack this experience and explore those doubts -- it's clearly still bothering her. I sort of wish Sarah would've resisted her story more somehow, either refusing to believe that their team could be so rough or telling her to suck it up and remember why she was there.

I'm wondering what this looks like! Are they the kinds of friends who mostly gossip while they're on watch? Do they hang out and do non-Team Aqua things together like ice cream or the cinema? I feel like this friend could be used more to either serve as a reason Maressa still feels dedicated to Team Aqua in spite of everything or to cast further doubt on their activities and make her feel the strain. Right now Chloe isn't quite doing either of those things for me.
Both fair points! I am definitely in favor of "showing, not telling" and as I had tendencies to go overboard on that I tried to dial it back. Here, I did more of the telling because I honestly wanted to get into the meat of the story where things happen. I've had different opinions on whether the first chapter was a good start or a slow one (and more people here have said the latter, which I agree with) and I feel like taking more time to dwell on relationships would lag the story behind. But I appreciate the feedback! If interactions between them would be worth showing more, then I could definitely do that.

Nice to get another tiny glimpse at why she's here. I still want more! Did she try other more... traditional venues, and it didn't work out? Or are there other reasons?
Eh, both. She goes into more detail in a chapter soon.

Oh! I was surprised we didn't get the conversation with Shelly. Again, it seems like another way to start ramping up the pressure on Maressa, make her sweat over her involvement in this.
Haha yeeaaahhhh I was avoiding writing a scene I didn't want to. My original draft of the story had a chapter where Shelly explains a plan... And I wrote it out so convoluted that it just made things more difficult to follow. So going forward I decided to just nix those scenes and get to the action (not realizing that my action scenes left/leave a LOT to be desired >_>) and I wasn't sure how much it would be needed when I revised it. I felt like the chapter was long enough and had enough substance as it was, so I decided to leave it out.

But I'm grateful for the feedback! Knowing that more character interaction on display is definitely a good thing I want to keep in mind going forward. Thank you so much!


How are they communicating, exactly? Any spoken language is just going to come out as unintelligible bubbles underwater.
Ahhhfksjdsklf I have a head canon that Pokemon trainers can understand what their Pokemon say and forget it's not actual canon and end up not explaining it >_> The idea was supposed to be that Seaking can speak underwater and Maressa just makes motions for him to continue or to explain. But I guess that should have had more explicit explanation lol

[quote[I had trouble picturing what was going on with the Aqua submarine here. Is it fully underwater, or just sitting on the water, or underwater at first and then it surfaces?[/quote]
Oh, sitting at the surface, like this.

This was kinda odd to see after all the hype around her battling ability and how well she handled other pokemon last chapter. Considering how much we've seen pokemon in Aqua trade hands or be borrowed for this and that mission, it's s surprise that their pokemon are so slow to follow the commands of another Aqua member.
Point taken. Thank you!

This read to me a little like she's already underwater when she's putting it in her mouth, which seems...dubious. I'm also wondering why it isn't more of a mask covering her nose and mouth? IDK, I don't have experience with diving equipment. But it made me pause and wonder. Similarly, when she come back up, it seemed premature to me to take it back out of her mouth.
lol if you want me to talk about diving:

You can definitely put your regulator in when your underwater. You expel the water from your mouth into your regulator and it expels it back into the ocean. I haven't gone on a ton of dives but I am certified and have been out a few times. She took it out of her mouth so she could talk to Seaking.

Huh. I had mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I was surprised a pokemon that's used to battling was so easily thrown off by a leech seed and that she didn't recall it more quickly when it freaked out. But, I liked seeing her face a consequence here -- a pretty serious one.
Idk, I just wrote it a bit overdramatic I guess? Would it be better for it to be less so? And her Pokeball fell into the water.

Nice to see another update from you!
Thank YOU for leaving another review! :)
 

OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
Haha yeeaaahhhh I was avoiding writing a scene I didn't want to. My original draft of the story had a chapter where Shelly explains a plan... And I wrote it out so convoluted that it just made things more difficult to follow. So going forward I decided to just nix those scenes and get to the action (not realizing that my action scenes left/leave a LOT to be desired >_>) and I wasn't sure how much it would be needed when I revised it. I felt like the chapter was long enough and had enough substance as it was, so I decided to leave it out.
Yeah, there's definitely something to be said for skipping to the parts you're excited about. If You're not feeling it, likely the reader isn't either. In this case, I was surprised not to see at least part of it though.

lol if you want me to talk about diving:

You can definitely put your regulator in when your underwater. You expel the water from your mouth into your regulator and it expels it back into the ocean. I haven't gone on a ton of dives but I am certified and have been out a few times. She took it out of her mouth so she could talk to Seaking.
Yeah, I've been on zero dives, so I clearly have no idea what I'm talking about, hahaha. I'll have you come talk to you before I write my diviner's scenes. (A million years from now, at this rate, but oh well.)

Idk, I just wrote it a bit overdramatic I guess? Would it be better for it to be less so? And her Pokeball fell into the water.
I'd if overdramatic is the word so much as... How do you want to characterize the seaking? How many battles has it fought in with Maressa? And, oh, gotcha--I missed the pokeball falling into the water, but that makes sense.

☀
 
Chapter 5

Starlight Aurate

Just a fallen star
Location
Route 123
Partner
mightyena
Woops, a quick thing I want to reply to that I didn't get to before:
I'd if overdramatic is the word so much as... How do you want to characterize the seaking? How many battles has it fought in with Maressa?
Fair enough! Another case of me not characterizing the Pokemon enough before delving into the plot. Her Seaking is much more timid and easily distressed than her other Pokemon. Her Pokemon all have backstories, but it isn't something I even noted before going in with the story. Maybe I should have expanded on them more, first. Thanks for the feedback!

Here's Chapter 5! It's long but it was my favorite one to write at the time, hehe. I hope you enjoy, and any thoughts or critiques are always appreciated!

Chapter 5



Maressa inhaled deeply. Her eyes were closed. She was lying on something warm and soft. It was so pleasant…

Something touched her leg—it brushed against it and pulled at it. Was it a bug? Was a bug crawling on her leg? Or was a Pokemon poking around at it?

The thought freaked her out. Her eyes popped open and she flailed her hand about. It gave a meaty SMACK! as it collided with flesh. Maressa propped herself up on her elbows and looked to her left to see a man squatting next to her bed. His nose was bright red and he groaned angrily.

“Who are you?” she demanded.

The man put his hands up as if in surrender. “Stop, stop. I’m trying to help you. I was just taking care of your wound.”

Looking down, Maressa saw that her wetsuit was gone and replaced with a t-shirt that was too large for her and shorts. Bandages encircled her upper left thigh and a dark stain indicated where Seaking’s horn had punctured her. Maressa glanced back at the man; he looked to be in his mid-twenties, was dressed in white scrubs, and still holding his gloved hands up. Blushing slightly, she relaxed.

“Sorry,” she murmured.

“Don’t worry about it.”

As he stood up and walked away from her, Maressa took in her surroundings. She lay on a bed in a sparsely furnished room. Numerous beds, identical to hers, were the only furniture. Each bed had a curtained stand around it. The walls and floors alike were of blank metal. A door was closed immediately on her left, and on a side wall, she saw the man disappear through another door.

Maressa glanced down at her new attire.

I wonder where my wetsuit is... Maybe Seaking damaged it too badly to be worn again.

Seaking!


At the thought of her companion, a thorn of worry pricked her heart. As the man entered the room again, Maressa immediately spoke up.

“Do you know what happened to my Seaking? Is he all right?”

The man shook his head. “I have no idea. Sorry.”

Deflated, Maressa lowered her eyes, wincing as she fingered the bandages around her leg.

“What happened?”

“I hoped you would be able to answer that. All I know is that Connor carried you in a few hours ago, bleeding and unconscious, and so I’ve been taking care of you.”

Maressa started. A few hours ago?

“How long have I been out?”

“Just a few hours.”

“Well, yeah, but...” She glanced around the room. The windowless walls and lack of a clock made it impossible to tell what time of day it was. “What time is it now?”

“About four o’clock.”

“AM or PM?”

“Why would I be awake at four AM?”

Four o’clock...

The mission had begun in the morning; noon was the latest that she could have passed out.

I haven’t eaten for over eight hours, she realized, though she also noted that she wasn’t hungry at the moment—just very tired.

“So... what’s your side of the story? I asked Connor what had happened, but even he didn’t know.”

Connor?

Maressa didn’t know anyone on the team named Connor. H wasn’t one of the people on the mission, at least.

Where am I?

Choosing to answer the man’s question—she didn’t know him either, but she was hardly familiar with the team members working in the medical areas—before she posed more of her own, she told him about getting knocked off of the submarine from the Breloom’s solar beam, Seaking coming to help her, and his panic once they had been hit by leech seed. As she talked, the man paced around the room, stopping next to her bed when she mentioned Breloom.

“You said a Breloom hit you?”

Maressa nodded.

He grimaced and looked guilty. “I’m sorry about that.”

She eyed him suspiciously. Something was odd.

“Why?”

“Well, he used to not like battling much at all. But once he evolved, it was like he became a new Pokemon—which, I guess, he kinda did—and now just goes as hard as he can every time he’s in a fight.”

Maressa’s heart clenched. “He’s your Breloom?”

“Yeah. Tabitha asked me if he could borrow him, since Breloom likes fighting so much and is good at it—“

“You’re—you’re with Team Magma?”

He looked at her with his head cocked to the side. “I guess you wouldn’t have known, since you were unconscious—“

His voice suddenly cut off as Maressa attempted to lash out with her legs. Bursts of pain rippled from her left leg as soon as she tried to move it; she gasped and held it while the medic stood over her, looking concerned and confused. Still holding her left leg, she kicked out with her right and hit him in the stomach. She got up, standing on her right food and favoring her left, and was about to grab the door handle when a hand closed around her upper arm. She wheeled around; her kick apparently didn’t do much, as the medic stood with his hand clamped around her arm. Using her free hand, she grabbed the arm that held hers and tried to break free of his grip.

She usually prided herself on her strength, but with how weak and tired she was, she couldn’t even pry his hand of her arm. She grabbed his arm with both of her hands—her heart raced and panic started overtaking her.

“Let go of me!”

“No.”

She glared at him and he merely stared back at her. His expression was stern but not malicious.

Maressa struggled against him, but her strength—diminished as it was—was no match for his own. Her breathing quickened as sweat beaded on her forehead and her eyes darted rapidly around the room, looking desperately for a way out.

“Please, calm down,” he said in a gentler tone. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

“How can I trust someone who’s from Team Magma?”

“Because I have nothing personal against you. I’m only against Team Aqua by reputation.”

Maressa struggled fruitlessly again. “Why have you been trying to heal me?”

“Because we’re people! We’re humane; we wouldn’t just leave you to die. Look at it this way—if we wanted to hurt you, why didn’t we just let you bleed to death?”

“Because you can’t get information out of a dead person.”

He closed his eyes and sighed. Maressa saw that he was annoyed.

“Do you honestly believe that we would want to hurt you after we’ve been trying to heal you? Medical equipment isn’t cheap, you know.”

Maressa averted her eyes, thinking on what he said.

“Will you let go of me?” she asked again.

“Will you promise to not try and hurt me or run away, but just sit on the bed and do what I tell you?”

She loathed to consent but knew that there weren’t any other options. Swallowing her pride, she nodded, and the man released her. As she sat back on the bed, he knelt down next to her and proceeded to remove her bandages.

As she promised, Maressa sat quietly, watching him as he replaced her bloody bandages with fresh ones. Though her heart beat at a steady, moderate tempo, her mind raced with questions.

What’s going to happen to me?

Tentatively, she asked, “Do you know how bad my injury is?”

“It’s really not as bad as it looks. The Seaking’s horn didn’t go in that deep. It ripped up your skin and some muscle, but it completely missed your bones and arteries. You should be fully recovered within a few weeks.”

Maressa’s heart skipped a beat.

“A few weeks? But—but I’ll out of here before then, won’t I?”

The medic glanced up at her and gave an apologetic shrug. “I don’t know. Maybe.”

“Do you know anything else?”

“Like what?”

“Like what’s going to happen to me? Where’s my team? What happened to them? Is anyone else here?” The words tumbled out of her mouth before she could stop them and a strain of panic entered her voice.

The man looked up at the ceiling, his chestnut-brown eyes roving back and forth thoughtfully.

“I can’t say what’s going happen to you, as I don’t know myself. As far as I know, the rest of your team got away safely. As soon as we had you, they got out of there.”

Maressa’s heart lightened with the news.

They got away.

It grew heavy again as she wondered, But why did they leave me behind?

She sat, lost in thought, and started when the man put a plate of spaghetti in her hands. “You’ll need to eat if you want to heal faster.”

Maressa gave him a grateful smile. “Thanks.”

He returned the smile. “I need to get back to my work. If for some reason you need something, like if your leg is spurting blood,” he waved his hand in the air, “or anything like that, just call for help. Oh, by the way, my name is Derek.”

Maressa took the hand that he held out and gave it a strong shake. “I’m Maressa.”

He nodded then turned and walked away. As he left the room and shut the door, it occurred to Maressa that perhaps she shouldn’t have told him her name. She shrugged away the thought; there was nothing to be done about it now. The scent of the food made her stomach rumble but her uneasiness took away all desire to eat. The panic of a few moments before left her even wearier. She leaned her head back and closed her eyes.

Her eyes popped open as Derek poked his head through the doorway.

“I almost forgot to tell you: my commander, Tabitha, wanted to see you after you woke up, so I’ll take you to over there in a bit.”

"Do you know what she wants me for?"

He blinked. "What?"

"Your commander, Tabitha," Maressa clarified, "do you know what she wants to see me for?"

"Tabitha is a guy."

Maressa snorted. “A guy?

“Yes,” he said simply. He checked his watch again, then closed the door.

Maressa leaned back, the unease lessening as she smiled. A guy—a commander named Tabitha? If there was ever a name that brought the image of an old, crusty grandma to Maressa’s mind, it was Tabitha.

Her worry abated; if that was really his name, it would be hard to take him seriously.

++++++++

It was hard to not be afraid of him.

She sat uncomfortably on the edge of a small chair in a little office. The main source of her discomfort wasn’t from the claustrophobic feel of the cluttered office or the gloomy light given off by a single lamp. Rather, it was from the calculating gaze bored into her by his black eyes. She kept her head down, trying to avoid his eyes, but she could feel them on her.

True to his word, Derek took her from the medical room to this little office. When the office door opened to reveal the Magma commander Maressa fought on Mt. Chimney, she had difficulty containing her surprise and—she loathed to admit—dread. Now, she sat before him while he leaned against the edge of his desk, wondering what he was about to do to his new captive.

“I told you we’d meet again. Maybe now we can arrange a little payback for what you did at Mt. Chimney.”

Maressa glared up at him.

“For what we did? We should be getting back at you for attacking our team.”

“Maybe, but I don’t think the people of Lavaridge Town are quite as angry with us as they are with you.”

“What do you mean?”

“Do you not know?”

“… Know what?”

“Lavaridge’s economy just went down the drain.”

Maressa stared at him quizzically.

“Here,” he said as he picked up a newspaper off his cluttered desk and thrust it at her. Maressa glanced at the headline that mentioned the hot springs cooling off.

“What does this have to do with us?”

Taking the newspaper back, he answered, “Lavaridge Town is a main tourist attraction of Hoenn. While you and I were fighting on Mt. Chimney, Team Aqua made the volcano dormant. The volcano was the only thing keeping those hot springs warm. Without hot springs, tourists have stopped coming to Lavaridge Town, and this has hurt not only their economy, but that of all of Hoenn. Peoples’ incomes are decreasing, and some who had a reasonably comfortable lifestyle before are now falling into poverty. First you made a mess of Dewford and Slateport, and now this.”

“I wasn’t even at Dewford Town,” she grumbled.

“But you were there at Slateport,” he said with a smug smile. “And if what I saw at Mt. Chimney means anything, then you probably had something to do with the little uproar at Slateport, didn’t you?”

“It’s hardly as if your team is much better! You were at Mt. Chimney, too, trying to get the meteorite. And back when you captured me—my team wasn’t even doing anything wrong, and Team Magma just shows up and attacks us!”

“I doubt it. If I know anything about Team Aqua, you’re always trying to stir up trouble wherever you go. If you weren’t doing anything wrong, then what were you up to?”

She was about to reply but noticed that his expression had changed. It was still disgusted but also genuinely curious.

He actually wants to know what we were doing, she realized.

“I’m not going to tell you.”

Her answer didn’t appear to disappoint him. He smiled. “So you’ll tell me that you weren’t up to anything, but you won’t actually prove it?”

“No.”

She glared at him. If he brought her here just to belittle her and ask her what her team was up to, then she thought it was a sad attempt at interrogation. He may be intimidating, but that wasn’t enough to get her to talk.

“If that’s the best you can do,” she said testily, “then you’re wasting your time. I’m not obligated to tell you anything.”

“You believe that this is the best we can do? This isn’t even your interrogation. I’m just giving you the option of taking the easy way out and telling us everything you know right now. If not, then in two days, I’ll turn you over to someone else. She won’t be so kind as I am, and you will tell her what you know.”

Two days?

That was nothing to worry about. By that time, she would be out of there and back with her own team.

Her expression must have visibly changed. “Do you think you’ll be out here by then?” Tabitha asked. “That your team is going to come crashing in here and saving you?”

“Our number-one rule is that no one is left behind. So there’s no way—”

“And you were left behind,” he noted. His smile widened as he leered over her. “Do you want to know what happened when you became unconscious? As soon as your team saw Breloom hit you with that solar beam, they panicked and ran off without you. The dirty cowards were more worried about saving their own skins than following their own rules.”

The initial impact of this words struck Maressa but then her self-pity gave way to anger.

“Don’t call my team a bunch of dirty cowards,” she growled.

“Fine. According to your logic, then, they’re stupid cowards.” She opened her mouth to retaliate, but he cut across her. “If they really were to come and rescue you, they would be wasting their time. Do you know why the most important rule is to make sure nobody falls behind? It’s so that nobody gives away information to the other teams. If one of my team members was caught—not that anyone on Team Magma is that incompetent—I would only try to get him back if we had something equal to offer Team Aqua for him, which would be one of their own members.

“Team Aqua isn’t going to come for you because, as far as they know, you’ve already betrayed them and told us everything you know. If that’s the case, then you’re useless to them and they wouldn’t do much more than lock you up or keep you in the lowest rank.”

He was no longer smiling, just surveying her with disdain. Maressa averted her gaze, not wanting to believe him. He couldn’t be right—he was her enemy, after all. He was messing with her.

And yet, something in his voice and the matter-of-fact way that he said it made Maressa suspect he was being honest.

“Maybe that’s what Team Magma would do,” she slowly started, “but—”

“Our teams’ goals may be complete opposites, but I know that our structure is near-identical. I’ve done more work concerning Team Aqua than you have.”

She forced herself to look back into his black eyes. She wanted to say something but words were failing her and all she could do was try to hide her own fear, try to push away the possibility that he could be right.

“I can understand if you don’t want to go back to an organization like that.” His voice softened, sending a chill up Maressa’s spine. “After all, you did put up a decent fight. It’s unfortunate that you didn’t have teammates reliable enough to pull you out of trouble. It can’t be easy to deal with, can it?” He was still frowning. “Betrayal. Being left behind. Not seen as important enough.”

Maressa glanced away uneasily. His words held mock-pity, but he seemed to be expressing some degree of sympathy. She knew he was trying to break her down and that she shouldn’t believe him—after all, she wasn’t sure that she would consider it “betrayal.”

But was it?

She relied on the knowledge that her teammates would pull her out of any danger she ran into—she would do the same for them if the opportunity presented itself.

They must have had good reasons.

But it was their number-one rule. When she first joined Team Aqua, their superiors hammered it into their heads that no one should ever leave anyone behind on any account. So why had Mickey and the others done just that?

Is it… because I’m just a grunt? Does that make me worthless?

Maressa’s heart sank at the thought. Being a grunt hadn’t really bothered her before—she was new and felt like she could pull herself up the ladder and make it into a higher rank with time and effort. But what if her grunt status did make her disposable?

“What I can’t understand,” Tabitha continued, and Maressa was relieved when he leaned back and had stopped speaking so softly, “is why anyone would want to join an organization that wants to do something as insane as trying to expand the sea and whose members are too cowardly to do what they’re told.”

She glanced up at him sharply. “What?”

“Maybe some of you manage to do what you’re supposed to,” he sneered. “But from what I saw—“

“No, no, not that. What did you say about expanding the sea?”

He didn’t immediately respond. He merely surveyed her with that dark, calculating stare. Maressa tried to read his expression more closely, but his cold gaze expressed little emotion.

“Control Kyogre and expand the sea,” he said bluntly.

She could only stare at him, befuddled. Expand the sea? Team Aqua loved the sea—it was everything they fought for—but expand it? Anyone who knew the basics of biology, geology or physics knew something like that would only cause devastation—not to mention, it was impossible. And Kyogre? She knew she had heard the word before, but she couldn’t remember what it meant.

The Magma commander continued to look down at her with his dark eyes as she wrestled with his words.

“You don’t even know.” His expression suddenly changed as though something clicked in his brain.

Her amber eyes stared into his black ones as she struggled with deciding what to do. She didn’t want to appear clueless, but what was he talking about?

Tabitha unfolded his arms and stared at her more intensely than before.

“Do you want to know what Team Aqua is really up to?”

“I already know,” she shot back, but it was a lie and she knew it was a bad one. In spite of herself, she wanted to hear what he had to say. Would he answer the questions that had been on her mind for the past few days?

“No, I don’t think you do.”

When Maressa didn’t respond, he continued, “The oceans of our planet were formed by the ancient Pokemon, Kyogre. It’s said to have the power to cause unending rain, and Team Aqua wants to control Kyogre to expand the sea.

“Exactly how you’re going to do that yet, we aren’t sure. We know that you need the Blue Orb to control it, but as far as we know, nobody knows where that item is.

“That’s what you’re up to every time your team sends you out to go look somewhere—underwater caves, ruins, old temples.. You may just think that they’re having you gather information or do research, but they’re really looking for the ancient Pokémon or the Orb.”

She averted her eyes, contemplating his words. They were ridiculous—they couldn’t be true. Nobody could possibly think that expanding the sea could be good for the planet. Kyogre was just a creature from mythology. Did the people that she worked for, that she looked up to, honestly believe that a Pokémon had created the world and could be put under human control? If Tabitha was trying to give her false information, why would he bother with something so far-fetched?

But there was something in his voice that held an unshakeable truth. There was no malice, no pity, no derision—just plain, simple information.

He smiled as he saw her helpless, confused stare.

“Never thought your team would do something like that, did you? I guess I can’t really blame them for hiding that stuff from newer recruits. If they went around spreading information like that to everyone, they probably wouldn’t have nearly the same number of team members as they do now.”

“What about Team Magma?” she suddenly asked.

He raised his eyebrows questioningly.

“Does everyone on your team know what you’re up to? Or do you tell them different?”

“All of our members know that we’re trying to create more land. We, at least, don’t have a goal that’s so obviously destructive that we have to hide it.”

Maressa cast her eyes down. She knew she shouldn’t believe him, that she couldn’t trust him to be honest, but what if he was right? And it would make sense for him to know more, since he was of a higher rank. But for him to know more about her own team than she did? But if he was right, then it was no wonder that Team Aqua was trying to keep their goals a secret….

But it didn’t make any sense! Team Aqua was trying to help the oceans, not re-create the entire planet. And yet everything that she had just been told—that they were searching for Kyogre or for the Orb, that they didn’t care about how many people they had to hurt to achieve their goals—fit with all of the missions she had gone on since she had taken up the blue bandana.

At last, she raised her eyes to meet his own. “Why are you telling me this?”

“You ought to be informed about what your team is doing. At least the members of Team Magma know our basic goals—they’re easy enough to understand. You shouldn’t just blindly follow orders when it’s going to cause complete chaos and destroy a large portion of our planet. I know that you just want to do what’s right. It can’t be easy, thinking that you’ve been helping the world this whole time, when it turns out that the only intention Team Aqua has is to destroy it.”

His voice had gotten softer, and once again lacked the denigration that it had before. She looked up. He leaned in closer, staring down at her from overhead, his heavy-lidded eyes scanning her with an intensity that made her supremely uncomfortable. She shrank back in her chair, averting her eyes and trying to escape his gaze.

“You don’t belong with them, Maressa.”

She forced herself to look back at him. There was something odd about those words, and she had a bad feeling that she knew where this conversation was heading.

“Well, I signed a contract with them, so I can’t leave and don’t really have anywhere else to go, so I…” Her voice died as he smiled softly. She really wished he wouldn’t smile.

“You don’t have to go back to them at all; you can just stay here. Think about it. If you go back there—if you ever manage to get back there—you’ll be stuck in a low rank for getting captured, and probably won’t have anything more important to do than to keep watch. No more Pokemon battles, no more missions. If you stay here, you would be much more valuable than that. As a member of Team Aqua, you must know the locations of their hideouts, the layouts of their bases, how strong their security is, the Pokémon they use—stuff that may be basic to you, but is very important and useful to us. If you were to give us this information, everything that you’ve done against us will be forgiven. You’ll be well-respected on our team and given a higher rank and privileges not permitted to the lower-ranking members.”

The smile was still playing on his face but now there was a glimmer of hope in his eyes.

He actually wants me to join.

But as she listened to him, she grew angry and balled her hands in to fists.

“You want me betray them.”

“Of course I do; you’d be more useful to us that way. Besides, they betrayed you, and haven’t exactly given you much reason to keep standing up for them.”

He’s right, she admitted. After everything she had gone through, she didn’t know if she really wanted to keep working for Team Aqua. She wasn’t sure that she liked them anymore, but one thing hadn’t changed: she still hated Team Magma. Besides, what would Golduck and the others think?

Golduck.

At the thought of her him, a light flicked on her head. Her Pokémon were still with Team Aqua, and she knew that no matter what, she had to return for them.

“No. Maybe I could betray people I hardly know, but I could never betray my Pokémon. And I have friends on Team Aqua—you seriously think I could just turn traitor on them?” Her voice rose and grew stronger as her blood boiled hotter.

He shrugged. “It’s just an offer. You can join us and tell us what you know now or you can be interrogated and have the information forced out of you. I’m just giving you an easier way out.”

“ ‘Have the information forced out’? Do you really think that sounds like something with an ethical standard that would make me want to join?”

“It’s nothing Team Aqua doesn’t do.”

“That doesn’t make it any better!” Ignoring the pain in her leg, she stood up, her cheeks flushed in anger. “Maybe you’re right about some stuff, and maybe Team Aqua isn’t that good of an organization but Team Magma is just the same. You expect me to believe you when you make my team sound like a mass-murdering organization of serial killers and yours sound like a bunch of angels who just help out this world?”

“I know that Team Magma is illegal, if that’s what you’re getting at.” He didn’t move when she stood up, and was completely unfazed even when she was shouting inches from his face.

Growing more reckless by the second, she snorted.

“And acting like I’m going to tell you everything one way or another—you can’t force me to do anything.”

Tabitha tilted his head to the side.

“Can’t I?”

Maressa was not prepared for how quickly he got to his feet and pushed her against the metal wall. The back of Maressa’s head throbbed as it hit the cold metal. His hands were on his upper arms, clenching her so tightly she thought they might bruise. His dark eyes were coldly bore into her.

She suddenly realized just how much taller he was than her, and as he towered over her, Maressa’s resolve dissolved and she shrank back from her captor.

“This is my team, Maressa,” he said softly. “I can do whatever I want here.”

He released his hold on her left arm and placed his hand on her thigh, right where the bandages covered the hole in her leg.

“No!” she shouted in panic. “No, please! Don’t touch it—don’t hurt me—“

His expression didn’t change. Maressa felt on the verge of tears—she was panicking so badly, trying to pry his hand off of her leg—but her efforts were useless. Tabitha kept his gaze locked on her.

Maressa didn’t know how long they continued like that—her gasping and panicking and him silently staring—but he eventually let go and backed away from her. Maressa leaned against the wall, shaking slightly.

“We reach land the day after tomorrow, Maressa. I encourage you to think about telling us what you know.”

He opened the door and gestured for her to exit. She walked out to find Derek waiting for her.

“What’s wrong?” he asked when he saw her rapidly panting.

She could shook her head in reply. Steadying her breathing, the two walked back to the clinic, where they parted ways. Sitting down on her bed, Maressa buried her head in her hands, thinking on all that had been said and dreading the events to come.

=================================

“We have to go back and get her!”

Sarah’s stared at Mickey—pathetic, helpless-looking Mickey. Her mouth was slightly agape as he finished telling her what had happened.

“We couldn’t. We were lucky that they decided to go after her and not after the rest of us! Imagine how much worse it would be if everyone in our group was caught! They had us outnumbered, there was no way we could have held them off for long—“

Sarah’s blood boiled as he explained his cowardice. “Then why did you even fight back in the first place?!”

“We couldn’t just escape! We tried to, but they noticed us and fought—they probably could’ve torn our submarine apart in minutes!”

Mickey panted and held his hands out in a pleading gesture. Their outbursts attracted a group of onlookers, including most of Mickey’s group, who had just gotten back. They were in the unloading dock of one of Team Aqua’s bases—it was a surprise to see Mickey’s group arrive there, as they were scheduled to return to a base further south. His excuses did not incite sympathy from Sarah.

She turned away in disgust—she couldn’t speak to him anymore. Maressa was just re-assigned under a week ago. When Sarah had heard that Maressa was going diving and searching for underwater caverns for her assignment, she had been jealous, but happy for her friend. Meanwhile, she and Cloe had been put in a group under the commander Matt and had been doing little more than standing as lookout and undergoing training simulations for spying.

They had only been in their new position for a few days when Mickey suddenly showed up—and had nothing to say except that Maressa had been captured.

“Don’t you get mad us too, Sarah,” he whined. “I’m still wondering how I’m going to explain this to the admins.”

“Explain what to who?”

Every head snapped towards the open doorway as a tall, burly man, whose open vest flapped around a slightly overhanging belly, came striding out. Everyone stiffened and stood at attention as Matt rubbed his tired-looking eyes and said to Mickey, “Did you say you had something to tell us?”

“Yes, it’s about... our last mission, sir.” He looked extremely agitated and his emerald eyes darted restlessly around.

Matt’s tired eyes narrowed in confusion.

“Why did you come to this base? Didn’t Shelly send you all out? You know you’re to report back to whoever sent you out unless told otherwise.”

Opening his mouth, Mickey was about to answer, but Sarah could take it no longer.

“Maressa’s been captured by Team Magma!”

Matt turned his eyes on her. They were no longer confused or tired, but sharp and cold.

“Who?”

“Maressa, she was with Mickey’s squad, and she was caught by Team Magma!”

Matt turned to the people in Mickey’s group, all of whom were looking terrified.

“Explain,” he said quietly.

Everyone in the room remained dead silent as Mickey gave excuses for his cowardice. He went into detail about their failed attempt at escape and the battle with the Magma members, finishing with the enemy’s Breloom sending a solar beam at Maressa and her Seaking.

“And when I saw her Seaking swim away as fast as he could and Maressa didn’t come back up, I knew something was wrong, and with her down and her Pokémon gone I didn’t want to risk staying there and having something happen to the rest of us, so I had everyone get back in and we left,” he finished in a rush.

Nobody spoke a word. Matt’s face was stern. His eyes glinted with murderous light, and, though she knew his anger wasn’t directed at her, Sarah was scared. She had never seen him this angry—he had always been fairly lenient and easy-going, much easier to get along with than Shelly—but now she saw why everyone warned the newcomers not to cross him.

“Did anyone follow you?” His voice was deadly quiet and held a chill that made Sarah uncomfortable.

Mickey shook his head.

“No, I’m sure of it.”

“Do you remember what the number one rule on missions is?”

Mickey faltered. “Yes, but—“

“Then you, Michael Angelo, are permanently stripped of rank. You will be treated as a brand-new recruit, but any mistakes you make won’t be easily forgiven.”

Mouth agape, Mickey stared at Matt.

“But I’ve been here for four years! I’ve worked—“

He was cut off as Matt thundered.

“Yes, you’ve been here for four years! You should know what our first rule is and how to follow it! You were put in charge of the mission, and you should’ve looked after the newer recruits and made sure that everyone got away safely!” He turned on his heel and tromped back through the open door. “Don’t think you’re getting off lightly; this is only temporary punishment. When I tell Archie about this, he’ll decide what to do with you.” So saying, he slammed the door behind him, leaving the room in stricken silence.

Mickey slumped against a wall and covered his face with both hands. Many of the spectators either stared in shock or immediately left the room. Some started whispering amongst themselves.

Sarah made her way to the door Matt exited through but hesitated before opening it. She was scared to face an angry Matt, but he hadn’t been angry at her, and he hadn’t said anything about what she really wanted to know.

She opened the door and found Matt sitting at a smell desk, talking through a phone. He held up a hand as he noticed her and gestured for her to wait a moment.

“He claimed there was no other way out... Yes... Yes... He—” Leaning back in his chair, Matt looked as though he was in pain, and started to relay what Mickey had said through the phone. Sarah grew slightly nervous as she realized he must have been speaking to their boss.

“Yes sir... I don’t know, I—yes, I will... Right now? Where do you want us to go? ... Yes, sir.” At last, he put down the receiver and looked up at Sarah. “Did you want something?”

She was relieved to see that he was no longer angry, just surveying her curiously.

“Yes, sir, it’s about Maressa.”

“What happens to Mickey is for him to know. If he decides to share it with anyone, that’s his choice. I’m not about to tell everyone who asks me what his punishment is.”

“No, sir, I know. I just wanted to make sure, since you didn’t say anything about it earlier, but we are going to get Maressa back, aren’t we?”

He averted his eyes, and after a second’s hesitation, he said, “Of course, it’s just a matter of how long it will take and what we need to do to get her back. But don’t worry. She won’t be with them long.”

Sarah left the room, her heart considerably lighter at knowing that her friend would soon be back and safe from danger.
 

OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
Maressa's in a tight spot, and--oof--without any of her pokemon! Sounds like she's on course to get back home ... but the damage will have been done. Some degree of trust has been broken. I get why you cut away, but the scene with Sarah was harder for me to get into because I'm not invested in her as a character.

Was it a bug? Was a bug crawling on her leg?
A human hand feels so different from a bug, it was hard for me to suspend disbelief on this one. I could maybe buy it more if she were drifting in and out of dreams and she imagined something from her dream grabbing her?

replaced with a t-shirt that was too large for her and shorts.
Suggestion: a too-large t-shirt and shorts.

was dressed in white scrubs
It feels like this is a source of comfort for her, like she takes it as a sign of safety, and I want to poke that a little. I can't quite tell by the descriptions if she thinks she's in a real hospital or an Aqua facility. What is Team Aqua/Magma's relationship to hospitals anyway? Do they have to avoid them because of their criminal history, or can they use them? It might also be nice to get a little inkling of Maressa's history with Aqua and injury. Has she ever been in an Aqua medical bay before? Has she been hurt on a mission before? (Seems like probably not!)

“Do you know what happened to my Seaking? Is he all right?”

The man shook his head. “I have no idea. Sorry.”
:c

“AM or PM?”

“Why would I be awake at four AM?”
Biiig tipoff that she's not in a real hospital, if she didn't know already. I can't tell what she makes of that though.

She eyed him suspiciously. Something was odd.

“Why?”
I'd cut "something was odd" or replace it with something along the lines of ... He didn't sound like he was empathizing--he was apologetic. I also think you can bump that "Why" up and make it part of the same paragraph. Her body language is essentially like part of the dialogue here.

“Let go of me!”

“No.”
Ha, a nice moment. This could be a place to expand on that "No" and show a bit of his true colors--to what degree is he looking out for her wellbeing and trying to help her, and to what degree does he just want her to sit down and be a good prisoner patient?

“Will you promise to not try and hurt me or run away, but just sit on the bed and do what I tell you?”
This felt a little like a check-list rather than natural dialogue. Maybe instead: "Will you promise to sit and do what I tell you? No more kicking."

“I almost forgot to tell you: my commander, Tabitha, wanted to see you after you woke up, so I’ll take you to over there in a bit.”

"Do you know what she wants me for?"
LOL.

The main source of her discomfort wasn’t from the claustrophobic feel of the cluttered office or the gloomy light given off by a single lamp. Rather, it was from the calculating gaze bored into her by his black eyes.
I like this sentiment, but I'd reword to make it flow a little better. The office was dimly lit and claustrophobic, cluttered with __. But Maressa's real source of discomfort was his calculating gaze. I'm also very curious what Tabitha's office is cluttered with! Is he hoarding newspapers? Igneous rock? Plates he hasn't brought back to the cafeteria in a long time? Books about Hoenn legendaries? Etc. Good opportunity to sneak in more characterization for him.

“… Know what?”

“Lavaridge’s economy just went down the drain.”

Maressa stared at him quizzically.
I grew up on a hot spring without any volcanoes nearby, so I had to Google this to double-check. Nice way to justify that this action is a problem! The canon really doesn't offer much there.

“Our number-one rule is that no one is left behind. So there’s no way—”
I would've been nice to see this dropped earlier! It doesn't have as much impact hearing it for the first time now. But it would be easy to make this something Mark says to Maressa to reassure her.

“Team Aqua isn’t going to come for you because, as far as they know, you’ve already betrayed them and told us everything you know.
This doesn't ring true for me. I can't tell if the intention here is that he's trying to psych her out, or if they both think this is how it works. If they think she's given up information, it would still make sense to get her back, to figure out what exactly she told them.

“I can understand if you don’t want to go back to an organization like that.” His voice softened, sending a chill up Maressa’s spine. “After all, you did put up a decent fight. It’s unfortunate that you didn’t have teammates reliable enough to pull you out of trouble. It can’t be easy to deal with, can it?” He was still frowning. “Betrayal. Being left behind. Not seen as important enough.”
Part of me want him to neg her harder? Like, really plant ideas of what her team might think of her in her head, put words in their mouths. Another part of me is glad he didn't because it suuuure does seem like you're slowly nudging them together too, and that would make it harder for me to like him. He's pretty ... rough ... as-is. At this stage it would take a big shift in Tabitha for me to see him as likable, but maybe that's the plan.

but his cold gaze expressed little emotion.

“Control Kyogre and expand the sea,” he said bluntly.
Hm, I'm wondering at his lack of emotion here! Is this something he worries about? Does he think they can do it, or that they're crazy? (And what about Maressa?)

they probably wouldn’t have nearly the same number of team members as they do now.”
A little wordy. Suggestion: probably wouldn't have nearly the same numbers they do now.

“All of our members know that we’re trying to create more land. We, at least, don’t have a goal that’s so obviously destructive that we have to hide it.”
Again, I can't tell if he's just drunk his own Kool-aid here or if we're playing Sapphire version, not Emerald, and this is Totally Fine. I would expect Maressa with her background in bio and love of oceans to make a rebuttal about more land = harming existing aquatic ecosystems.

“Well, I signed a contract with them, so I can’t leave and don’t really have anywhere else to go, so I…”
!
This is news! I wonder about not having anywhere else to go though. Did she have a fight with her family that we don't know about?

She really wished he wouldn’t smile.
It's not clear if it's because his smile is scary, or if she finds his smile comforting/alluring and doesn't want to.

At the thought of her him, a light flicked on her head. Her Pokémon were still with Team Aqua, and she knew that no matter what, she had to return for them.
Oh wow, yeah. The babies. gotta stay with em.

training simulations for spying.
Could be simply spy training. Again, this raises a lot of questions for me! Spying on whom? Magma? The government? What does this training look like?

“Why did you come to this base? Didn’t Shelly send you all out? You know you’re to report back to whoever sent you out unless told otherwise.”

Opening his mouth, Mickey was about to answer, but Sarah could take it no longer.

“Maressa’s been captured by Team Magma!”
Throughout, I'm having trouble getting a sense for how authority is wielded in Team Aqua. Are people generally scared of commanders ... or not? It feels a little more casual and less authoritarian than I'd expect. Like, there's a lot of bluster, but the punishments don't seem to be that bad. And here Sarah gets to interrupt without any consequences at all.

“Then you, Michael Angelo, are permanently stripped of rank.
Big name.

When I tell Archie about this, he’ll decide what to do with you.”
Huh, yeah, we haven't seen Archie or Maxie up close yet! Looking forward to seeing what you do with them.

“He claimed there was no other way out... Yes... Yes... He—” Leaning back in his chair, Matt looked as though he was in pain, and started to relay what Mickey had said through the phone. Sarah grew slightly nervous as she realized he must have been speaking to their boss.

“Yes sir... I don’t know, I—yes, I will... Right now? Where do you want us to go? ... Yes, sir.” At last, he put down the receiver and looked up at Sarah. “Did you want something?”
This didn't quite feel like a conversation she should be allowed to overhear! It also didn't add much for me, since he's repeating information we just got.
 
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Chapter 6

Starlight Aurate

Just a fallen star
Location
Route 123
Partner
mightyena
Maressa's in a tight spot, and--oof--without any of her pokemon! Sounds like she's on course to get back home ... but the damage will have been done. Some degree of trust has been broken. I get why you cut away, but the scene with Sarah was harder for me to get into because I'm not invested in her as a character.
Hey! I'm sorry this is such a late reply. I've had... various things going on with my family members in real life lately and it's taken my mind out of fanfiction. I'll get around to reviewing the latest chapter of Continental Divides soon! Sorry about that ._.


A human hand feels so different from a bug, it was hard for me to suspend disbelief on this one. I could maybe buy it more if she were drifting in and out of dreams and she imagined something from her dream grabbing her?
Good point! I added the bug thing on a whim, not sure why I thought it was a great idea lol

It feels like this is a source of comfort for her, like she takes it as a sign of safety, and I want to poke that a little. I can't quite tell by the descriptions if she thinks she's in a real hospital or an Aqua facility. What is Team Aqua/Magma's relationship to hospitals anyway? Do they have to avoid them because of their criminal history, or can they use them? It might also be nice to get a little inkling of Maressa's history with Aqua and injury. Has she ever been in an Aqua medical bay before? Has she been hurt on a mission before? (Seems like probably not!)
Good questions! Maressa thinks she's in a Team Aqua facility, though she hasn't stayed in one herself yet. For the most part, the Teams get by with their own medics but can go into hospitals if needed. This gets expanded on more later, in how the Teams function as part of society and operate under different names.

Heartbreak will happen (for her, probs not the readers lol)

Biiig tipoff that she's not in a real hospital, if she didn't know already. I can't tell what she makes of that though.
Heheh, fair enough. I didn't realize or really think about that when I wrote this, but after having visited a friend of mine in the hospital several times, I know that everyone's up all hours of the night.

I like that you noticed this in your fic and changed his gender entirely lol

I like this sentiment, but I'd reword to make it flow a little better. The office was dimly lit and claustrophobic, cluttered with __. But Maressa's real source of discomfort was his calculating gaze. I'm also very curious what Tabitha's office is cluttered with! Is he hoarding newspapers? Igneous rock? Plates he hasn't brought back to the cafeteria in a long time? Books about Hoenn legendaries? Etc. Good opportunity to sneak in more characterization for him.
Thanks for this tip! I had always imagined with newspapers and book scans etc. I should elaborate more on it!

I grew up on a hot spring without any volcanoes nearby, so I had to Google this to double-check. Nice way to justify that this action is a problem! The canon really doesn't offer much there.
I think I got this from the Pokemon Adventures/Pokemon Special manga. But that also rreminded me of a funny meme I saw lol I'll post it if I can find it.

I would've been nice to see this dropped earlier! It doesn't have as much impact hearing it for the first time now. But it would be easy to make this something Mark says to Maressa to reassure her.
Good to know! Thanks for bringing that up!

This doesn't ring true for me. I can't tell if the intention here is that he's trying to psych her out, or if they both think this is how it works. If they think she's given up information, it would still make sense to get her back, to figure out what exactly she told them.
Oh for sure, and he knows that. He's trying to scare her, and even though she's fairly reasonable (or I try to describe her that way for the most part) her whole situation makes her scared and more prone to believing him.

Part of me want him to neg her harder? Like, really plant ideas of what her team might think of her in her head, put words in their mouths. Another part of me is glad he didn't because it suuuure does seem like you're slowly nudging them together too, and that would make it harder for me to like him. He's pretty ... rough ... as-is. At this stage it would take a big shift in Tabitha for me to see him as likable, but maybe that's the plan.
Hmmm I've gotten a lot of feedback on Tabitha and his character, so I'm just going to stay quiet about this right now and let you see you end up feeling about him :)

Hm, I'm wondering at his lack of emotion here! Is this something he worries about? Does he think they can do it, or that they're crazy? (And what about Maressa?)
I tried to make him stoic and not very expressive (which didn't work in the first draft because he was a melodramatic DRAMA QUEEN)

Again, I can't tell if he's just drunk his own Kool-aid here or if we're playing Sapphire version, not Emerald, and this is Totally Fine. I would expect Maressa with her background in bio and love of oceans to make a rebuttal about more land = harming existing aquatic ecosystems.
I don't want to say too much except that he believes that will become of it is BEST, but not necessarily beneficial... Which I realize doesn't make much sense at this point. And yes, Maressa definitely knows that more land =/= better world, but at the moment she's more caught up in her own worries with her team.

!
This is news! I wonder about not having anywhere else to go though. Did she have a fight with her family that we don't know about?
She meant she doesn't have other jobs lined up in terms of "nowhere else to go;" she's on good terms with her family (as long as they don't know she lied to them about Team Aqua)

It's not clear if it's because his smile is scary, or if she finds his smile comforting/alluring and doesn't want to.
O_O
Oh, yeah, I should probably clarify it to make it apparent that it's the former. She's intimidated by Tabitha, not attracted to him (I realize those aren't necessarily mutually exclusive all the time, but here she's solely the former)



Throughout, I'm having trouble getting a sense for how authority is wielded in Team Aqua. Are people generally scared of commanders ... or not? It feels a little more casual and less authoritarian than I'd expect. Like, there's a lot of bluster, but the punishments don't seem to be that bad. And here Sarah gets to interrupt without any consequences at all.
Depends on who it is. Shelly was MUCH stricter (though since I cut out her chapter... I guess people would no longer have a way of knowing that) whereas Matt is more laid back and this causes different character dynamics, especially in future chapters.

Huh, yeah, we haven't seen Archie or Maxie up close yet! Looking forward to seeing what you do with them.
Heh, I'm not super impressed with myself for how I handle them, since I wanted this story to primarily be about grunts. But they will appear!

This didn't quite feel like a conversation she should be allowed to overhear! It also didn't add much for me, since he's repeating information we just got.
Fair enough.
Thanks again for the review! I'll get around to reviewing Continental Divides when I'm less frazzled. Always good to hear from you!


Hi everyone! This is another fairly long chapter. If you have any thoughts or critiques, I'm happy to hear them! Enjoy!

Chapter 6



"Please?"

Claydol groaned, firmly denying the request.

“Come on. It’s easy, and what else are you going to spend your time doing? All you do all day is float next to me and bother me while I’m trying to work.”

Derek turned around and faced Claydol. His numerous red eyes were half-closed and surveyed the human with amusement. In spite of Derek’s provocation, the Pokemon didn’t respond.

“Won’t you, please? I actually have a patient to take care of for once, and you know that I hate doing inventory.”

Looking him over with an unchanged expression—not that his expression could change much, anyway—Claydol gave another groan.

The answer was still the same.

Turning away, Derek sighed as he walked towards the medical room. He pushed open the door and walked in to see Maressa lying awake on her bed. She was flexing her arms, studying the muscles carefully. She was unusually brawny for a girl; while her muscles were lean and slim, they were well-defined—more well-defined than those of any girls Derek knew. Sighing, she relaxed her arms and looked up at Derek. He gave a small wave and walked to the door on the side wall.

“Who’s your friend?"

“Hm?"

Derek turned to see that Claydol stopped following him and floated by Maressa’s bedside. She sat up and gazed at him with curiosity and awe.

“Oh, that’s just Claydol. He helps me out when I need to get some stuff done.” After a second’s pause he added, “Or he just bothers me when he’s too lazy to do anything.”

She reached up a hand, as though about to pet the Pokemon, and asked, “May I?”

Derek nodded and Claydol rumbled his consent. Maressa ran her fingers along the earthen body, rubbing the white patterns that grooved his mid-section.

“He’s beautiful…”

Claydol gave an appreciative groan, but Derek noticed that there was more than just respect in her voice. There was something forlorn, some note of longing, underneath the outward awe.

She must be upset about not having her Seaking with her, he realized. The thought stirred sympathy within him; he couldn’t imagine being stuck in one place without Claydol, Breloom or Golbat.

He glanced at the door then moved across the room and sat on the bed opposite Maressa’s. There would be time to do inventory later. Actually, there probably wouldn’t, but he didn’t feel like doing it anyway. Besides, he couldn’t get into too much trouble. As one of the only medics on the team, he knew that Team Magma considered him too valuable to lose.

He watched Maressa pat the large earthen doll. “I know Breloom’s a fighter, but what about you? Do you like to battle, or would you rather stay on the sidelines?”

Claydol groaned an answer. Derek sat stiffly, a little surprised that she was talking directly to his Pokemon and not asking him. She was the first to do so. Everyone else had had met always talked to the trainer, not the Pokemon.

“He’s not much of a battler,” Derek informed her. She turned her amber eyes on him as he spoke. “He can fight when he needs to, but he mainly helps me out in here.”

“He knows how to do all of this medical stuff?”

He shrugged. “A bit. I’m usually the one that handles the patients. He’ll get out or put together whatever equipment I need, though.”

“That’s cool. I tried teaching my Pokemon calculus, but Lanturn and Sharpedo weren’t interested. Seaking showed interest, but I don’t think he really understood any of it. Golduck told me that it was a waste of time and that I shouldn’t bother trying to teach him anything as useless and boring as math.”

Taken aback, Derek noted, “Your Golduck seems pretty… stubborn.” He thought this was an understatement, but couldn’t think of anything else to say and didn’t want to run the risk of insulting her Pokemon.

Her brow furrowed. “You have no idea. I can hardly ever get him to listen to me.”

“Does he battle much?”

“All the time—he’s the strongest Pokemon I have and he works the best with me. He knows what I want him to do and does it without question. Sure, outside of battle, he can be rude, but I can tell that he doesn’t really mean it.”

She stopped petting Claydol. Her eyes were downcast and the curiosity she showed before vanished.

Derek couldn’t really think of what to say; he pitied her for being stuck alone and without her Pokemon, but it wasn’t something he could relate to and he didn’t think that there was anything he could do to make her feel better. He didn’t want to end their conversation on such a somber note, though.

“You, uh… you liked studying calculus?”

“Hm? Oh, yeah.” She snapped out of her dejection and sat upright again. “Math was always my favorite; I studied it throughout high school and college.”

“Where did you go for college?”

“I went to the Hoenn Institute of Technology and Architecture.”

“Oh, decided to stay regional?”

“Yeah, they have pretty incredible math and physics departments. Did you know that they have a particle accelerator?”

His eyes widened. “I didn’t know that! That’s pretty cool. I guess it’s no surprise, though, since most of the top scientists and researchers in Hoenn have gone there.”

“What about you? Where did you go?”

“I studied at the Johto Technological and Medical Institution.”

“Did you go to med school?”

“I…”

He paused—he always felt a little embarrassed when talking about this. But in his split second of silence Maressa cut across him.

“I don’t mean to be asking anything too personal, it’s just that if—I thought that if you had gone to med school, you probably could’ve gotten a job as a doctor pretty easily, and it would’ve paid a lot better than being on Team Magma.” Her words tumbled out in a rush as though she was worried about offending him.

“It’s all right, don’t worry about. It’s just that… Yeah, I went to med school—got accepted and started my first year and everything—but I never finished. I wanted to, but it burned me out a lot more quickly than I thought it would.”

He shifted. He hated admitting how he gave in to burn out—he could never look back on his decision to quit without feeling shame.

“And while I was in school, I heard about Team Magma—they said I could be a medic on the team even if I joined then right then and there. Med school is expensive, and the pay I get here is really good. It's like working early without having to pay for all of school. And it seems like my teammates were right. There hasn't been a single Pokémon brought to me that I haven't been able to cure yet."

"What about people?"

"To be honest, you're pretty much the only person I've really worked with. Sure, there have been cuts, burns, bruised bones, and things like that, but nobody else has had to lie in a bed for a while." He smiled. "You get to be my first long-time patient."

“So you joined Team Magma because you were tired and wanted to pay off your college debt?”

“Well… No, there’s more to it than that.” He rubbed his eyes with both of his hands for a moment. “I might go back to school—I haven’t decided. But I needed to leave—at least for a bit.”

“Do you think you don’t want to do medicine anymore?”

“No, I want to do medicine and take care of patients more than anything! It was the studying and bookwork that fried me—I spent five years in college working myself to the bone just to be good enough for medical school. But then one of my professors suggested I ‘take a year off’ and do some lab or clinical work before applying. So I did—but that ‘year off’ wasn’t relaxing. I still studied, staying up late constantly reading research papers and analyzing data to get results and compile reports. I had to study for entrance exams into medical schools, go through interviews and file more paperwork. When I got in, I went straight into school from work—it was constant studying and bookwork…” He shook his head.

“I couldn’t handle it anymore. Team Magma offered me the chance to start doing medical work. And after over six years of burning out, it sounded like a dream—so I took it and I’m starting to pay off my dues for undergrad and med school.” He closed his eyes and shook his head. “School is not cheap.”

“No, I’ve definitely learned that by now,” Maressa said. Her voice quieted and she stared down at her feet.

“So, why did you join Team Aqua? I told you my reasons for joining Team Magma.”

She grimaced. “I don’t have to pay for pre-med school, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have plenty left to pay off. Honestly, being able to pay off school was a pretty big reason for joining them…” Her voice trailed off, and she shifted her gaze away in embarrassment.

“So—in that regard—you’re in the same boat as I am.”

“Well, it’s more than just paying off school; I enjoy what I do. I get to fight Pokemon battles and spend plenty of time with my Pokemon.”

“If you’re in this for Pokemon battling, why don’t you enter Pokemon tournaments? They offer pretty hefty cash prizes.”

“I don’t know… A lot of the biggest ones are televised, and I’m not really comfortable with all of that. And I like getting recognition for when I’m good at something, but I don’t think I could ever be comfortable with appearing on TV and being famous or anything. Besides, those are super competitive; the best people spend all their time training their Pokemon and have really diverse teams. I just have four Water-type Pokemon, and they are strong, but I don’t think we would really stand a chance in a tournament like that.” She shifted her eyes. “Besides, when I joined Team Aqua, I heard that I would be helping Pokemon and prevent destruction of their habitats.”

She was no longer smiling or warm. She shrunk against the back wall and averted her eyes from his. She looked upset and confused. There was something odd about her words as well.

“ ‘When you joined’ them, you heard that? Has that changed?”

She shifted her amber eyes back to him. “I don’t know—well, there were things going on in my team that I didn’t know about. They never told us everything when they sent us on missions. They would just tell our squad leaders. And I was okay with it then, since I was just a grunt and I knew that obedience was the most important thing. But since then, I’ve heard stuff about what we do and I just—I—I don’t know…”

Taken aback, Derek studied her. Slouched back on the bed with such a lost look, she seemed so pathetic that he found himself feeling a little sorry for her.

“What did they tell you, then?”

“Not much, really. I could tell that there was something going on that they weren’t giving us all of the details about, but I just thought it was because I was a low-ranking member and that I would be told more the longer I worked with them.

“And then when I came here, Tabitha told me that Team Aqua’s goal is to take control of some ancient Pokemon and use it to expand the sea, and if that’s true… Well, that’ll be the opposite of everything I thought we were doing. I don’t want to work for a team like that, but my team wouldn’t really be doing that, would they?”

She looked pleadingly at him as though she expected him to hold some answer that would refute all of her suspicions and secure her belief in the goodwill of Team Aqua.

But he couldn’t do that. That would be a lie, and if she was living a lie the entire time she worked with Team Aqua then it was time for her to face the truth.

“That is what your team is doing. At least as far as Team Magma knows, anyway.”

She closed her eyes at his words, and when she opened them, she appeared more dejected and forlorn than he had seen her yet.

“But… What about Team Magma?”

“What about us?”

“If Team Aqua is trying to expand the sea by controlling some sort of monster, then how are you guys going to try to expand the land? From what my team says, you guys are trying to make more land—aren’t you?”

“Yeah.”

“And you’re okay with that? You do realize that will cause destruction and kill a ton of people and Pokemon, right?”

He paused. He did not believe that creating more land would be bad for the planet—all scientific models pointing to that were just theoretic, after all—but he was not interested in arguing with a Team Aqua member about it.

Maressa apparently wasn’t one for pauses and quickly cut through the silence.

“You want to take care of people and do what’s best for them but you’re supporting a team that’s only going to get them killed?”

“No, I don’t think that creating more land will hurt people—“

“But what about the stuff you guys do? Team Magma terrorizes people and towns! Doesn’t that matter to you? Doesn’t the path to completing your goal matter just as much as the completion itself?”

He paused. She stared intently at him, her amber eyes blazing. He couldn’t think of much else to say—of course, he didn’t want to make ends meet by doing something unethical, but after all, he wasn’t doing anything wrong. He just took care of the sick.

“I just take care of the wounded. I don’t see anything wrong in that.”

“You’re doing it for a criminal organization when you could be doing it for anyone else!”

Blood rushed to his face and he balled his hands into fists. Maressa glared at him and he glared back. He swallowed—he wanted to say something—how could she say that about him? She didn’t know his life. But he couldn’t think of how to put it into words.

“Dol…”

The two humans started as Claydol rumbled. Derek forgot he was there and floating inches from him as he had talked with his patient.

Seeing this as an opportunity to get out of the uncomfortable conversation, Derek stood up.

“You’re right, Claydol, we should get back to work.”

Ignoring the Pokemon as he blinked his several eyes in confusion, he turned to Maressa.

“We need to get back to work,” he said, ignoring the Pokemon’s protestant rumblings. Derek turned and walked across the infirmary to the supply door.

“Derek?”

He was about to exit when Maressa called. He turned and saw her looking at him—the fire was gone from her eyes. She sat upright on her bed, her leg stretched out, shoulders slumped, looking at him sadly.

“Thank you for taking care of me.”

Derek sighed. Maressa looked sad—even a bit apologetic and she really did seem grateful.

His anger abated and he smiled at her. “You’re welcome.”

+++++++++++

The door swung open easily as he gave a gentle push. Derek peered inside to see Tabitha sitting at his desk, his face hidden in his hands, his violet hair stuck out in several different directions. Random pieces of paper were strewn across his desk—some covered in writing, others with diagrams of the earth’s layers or stellar movements.

Tabitha looked up. “Come in. You can take a seat.” He gestured to the empty seat before his desk.

Nodding thankfully, Derek sat down in front of him.

“How is she?” Tabitha asked.

“Maressa?”

He nodded.

Derek shrugged. “Not any worse than when we found her. Her leg is healing, though it’ll be a while before it’s back to one-hundred percent.”

“How is she emotionally?”

“She seems okay, not breaking down into hysterics or anything.”

Tabitha nodded again, and lapsed into silence. His baggy eyes glazed over as he stared at the corner of his desk. The lids of his eyes drooped heavily, and his hair was unusually untidy.

“Are you all right? You look like you need sleep.”

Tabitha bobbed his head up and down. “I probably do, but I there’s stuff that I needed to get done. I’ve been trying to reach Courtney for hours but she won’t answer.” He grimaced and passed his hand over his face as though trying to rub the sleepiness away.

Derek started. “You mean Crazy Courtney? Why are you calling her?”

He immediately regretted his words; though he considered Tabitha a friend and would joke around with him, he realized that referring to a commander by the nickname the grunts had for her was probably a bad idea.

His concern was needless, however. Tabitha merely smiled for a moment before replying, “She’s typically the one that interrogates any captives we have. The sooner we get something out of Maressa, the better.”

“ ‘Typically’? Has this happened before?”

“We’ve captured a few Team Aqua members and one scientist that we needed information from.”

Tabitha didn’t seem to notice Derek’s discomfort. It was as though taking captives was nothing to the commander. But Derek couldn’t help but wonder what happened to those held as prisoners.

Silence stretched between the two again but some shard of discomfort urge Derek to ask, “Why do you have to hand her over to Courtney? Didn’t you already interrogate her?”

“I gave her an offer to join Team Magma. Maxie says that he prefers Courtney to handle interrogations, so I’ve been trying to get a hold of her.”

“What does she normally do to them?”

“Whatever she wants. I usually don’t watch, but I know she likes to get her Ninetales to help her.”

“If we’re going to hurt Maressa, why have you been having me treat her?”

“When we first fished her out of the water, I was more concerned with keeping her alive, so I left her in your care. Besides, even if she won’t join us or doesn’t have useful information, keeping a Team Aqua member captive is still good for us—whether for trading or setting an example. Unless there’s something you can do to her to make her stop recovering, I didn’t see any other options.”

“She won’t just stagnate, she either gets better or she gets worse.”

Tabitha shrugged. “Yeah, I’m sorry about that. If you want, we can move her out of that room and just lock her up somewhere. Or does she still need you?”

Something about these words bothered Derek. He wasn’t quite sure what Tabitha meant, but he sensed that Maressa’s future wouldn’t be very pleasant.

“I should probably keep looking after her for the next few days, to make sure her wound doesn’t get infected and she doesn’t get sick or anything.”

Tabitha nodded and rubbed his eyes hard. “Well, if that’s all there is with you, I’m turning in for the night.”

Standing up to leave, Derek asked, “Is that all you wanted me for?”

“That’s it. Oh, by the way, do you like Soda Pop?” He gestured to a pile of cans standing in the corner of the little office.

“Where did you get all of those?”

“Some of the teammates were having a party and I confiscated them. I don’t drink it, but my Mightyena loves that stuff. You can have some to give to your Pokemon, if you’d like.”

“Claydol doesn’t have a mouth, and Breloom’s hyperactive enough as it is, but I’ll see if Golbat wants any.”

Picking up a can, he waved goodbye to his friend and made his way out of the office. As he walked down the corridor, his mind buzzed with questions and concerns.

It’s happened before…

So they had captured other Team Aqua members and interrogated them. Where were they now? Was Team Magma holding them somewhere, or had they been sent back to Team Aqua? If so, what did their own team do with them? Were they still allowed on missions or were they regarded as useless? And what about Team Magma—had any of their members been caught by Team Aqua? Derek grew uncomfortable at the thought of his teammates lying in a dark room with little to eat, without their people or Pokemon. And as he thought about the possibilities Maressa might face, a chill crept down his spine.

What is my team actually doing?

++++++++++++++++

Maressa waited, her body growing tenser with anticipation every waking moment. Were it not for her overall weariness caused by the gash in her leg, she didn’t think she’d be able to sleep.

But the night passed and Tabitha didn’t come. She had asked Derek about it, but all he would do was shrug away the question and claim he didn’t know.

Derek provided a surprising amount of comfort. Perhaps it was because he was the only living being Maressa had contact with, but she soon found that he was entertaining to talk to and be with. Whenever she heard footsteps sound in the hallway, terror clutched at her heart, but its grip always vanished whenever he appeared in the doorway.

“But I need to get back outside,” she said the next morning as he sorted through bottles of liquids and pills. “I gain weight like crazy if I’m not actively working out.”

Derek smiled skeptically as glanced at Maressa’s trim, athletically-fit form. “I’m sure you don’t.”

Maressa lay on her back with her hands on her belly a she stared disdainfully at the pale pudge. “I do, though. A lot of girls say that they’re fat and that they gain weight really quickly but I’m one that actually does.” She huffed as she inspected her arms and legs. “I’m also losing my tan; I had to work for days to get rid of my tanlines and even out my skin tone. And I’m losing all my muscle—I’m so out of shape. If I don’t get back outside soon and stop eating, I’m going to be a fat albino!” She covered her face with her hand as she lay on her back and let out a moan of despair.

Derek snorted as he attempted to stifle his laughter. He turned away and tonelessly said, “We hardly feed you anything.”

When silence greeted him, he thought that was an end to their conversation. As he turned away again, he indistinctly heard a muffled voice strain out, “I’m going to get a muffin top...”

As Derek let out a burst of laughter, Maressa raised her hands from her face and gave a smile in return. Eventually, she descended into laughter with him and the room echoed with peals of their voices. It was odd for Derek; he had never expected to enjoy his time with an Aqua member as much as this.

Although, he realized, she isn't really an Aqua member anymore. Only their higher-ups considered her to still be affiliated with them.

And what they think is all that matters, he realized as he thought darkly about the future Maressa was about to face. For the rest of the afternoon, the thought set a damper on his mood, and the joy that he had experienced a moment ago made the realization all the more painful.

++++++++

Derek lay awake, racking his brains.

There has to be a way…

There had to be a way to get Maressa out—to let her out without anyone knowing he had helped her. He shuddered to think what would happen to her if she was to be put alone with Courtney. At least her own team wouldn’t be as bad when she got back to them.

Or would they?

His eyes popped open as he realized that he didn’t know how Team Aqua would react if Maressa was ever returned to them. Would they trust her and let her continue to work for them? After all, being captured was something that could happen to anyone. Wouldn’t she be able to return to the same position she had before?

But inside, Derek knew that couldn’t be true. If a Team Magma member had been captured and returned, the best that could happen to them was to be kept in the lowest rank, used as only a janitor and perhaps a watch-person. The worst that could happen…

She has to get out of here.

But even if she did get out, then what? Would her team really let her continue to be with them as she did before? They must—someone who had managed to escape from an enemy base must be invaluable as a team member. But would they believe she had actually escaped or would they suspect her to have turned traitor? Would they think that she had chosen to work for Team Magma and that they planted her back in Team Aqua to work as a spy or to sabotage them?

I’m overthinking this, Derek told himself as he sat up and ran his fingers through his hair. I just have to get her out and everything else will take care of itself. With this thought, he laid back down and tried to sleep but sat back up as horrible images and ideas came to his mind.

What’s wrong with me? he wondered. Team Aqua wouldn’t do that, not to one of their own members.

Would they?

He closed his eyes in dismay. He knew the security of these teams, and he knew that if Maressa couldn’t give Team Aqua a reason to trust her again, then she was could very well be subject to whatever treatment was reserved for traitors.

But what could he do? The only thing that came to his mind was if Maressa gave Team Aqua information about Team Magma and it proved to be right. As this thought came to his mind, he saw a bunch of faceless, blue-clad people and Water-type Pokemon attack a small base in the depths of the rainforest. If they managed to force out information from those people and attain knowledge of other bases, they could very well overrun their entire organization and Team Magma would be finished.

He couldn’t betray the whole of Team Magma and risk the destruction of their team—that would leave Team Aqua more powerful and could very well bring about the destruction of the world if they ever succeeded. But neither could he just leave Maressa in this base and have her suffer for merely being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He got out of bed, hastily threw on some clothes and made his way over to the medical room. He opened the door and flicked on the light, preparing to talk to Maressa, but saw that she lay on the bed fast asleep.

The tension that built up inside him eased as he laid eyes on her. Her hands were partially covering her face, and her brow was slightly furrowed. Her eyelids twitched and the blanket was twisted around her feet, making he appear exposed and vulnerable. Derek sighed. He didn’t want to wake her up but it appeared that sleep was doing her little good at the moment.

Unsure of how to approach the topic, he decided to get into a comfort zone. Snapping on some gloves, he bent down and started to examine the wound in her leg. He had checked it and replaced the bandages only a few hours ago, but at least this injury was something he knew how to approach, something he knew how to handle.

Maressa stirred as Derek’s hands brushed her thigh.

“Derek?”

Derek glanced at her as she sat up. Her face was lined from lack of sleep, and her eyelids were drooping—though with sleepiness or worry, he couldn’t tell.

“What’s up?” she asked tiredly.

He paused, his hands still holding bandages as he stared at the hole in her leg.

“Maressa,” he said slowly, “If I asked you to make me a promise, would you?”

“What?” She rubbed her eyes. “A promise? What for?”

“I’ve been thinking,” he stated, still staring at the exposed flesh, “and I can’t just let you stay here. I’ve decided that I’m going to find a way to get you out of here.”

She stared at him, her amber eyes wide in shock. “What—Why?”

“If you stay here, things are going to go bad for you—really bad. And I—” he bowed his head, taking in a deep breath. “I can’t just let that happen to you with a clear conscience. So I’ve decided to help you make it back to Team Aqua, and to make sure that they’ll still trust you and won’t think that you’ve turned spy for Team Magma, I’ll give you some information about us that you can give to them. Which is why I need to know: can you promise me, that if Team Aqua attacks any Team Magma members, to not let them go too far? Will you hold them back and make sure that, if they succeed, they won’t end up doing anything that will cause lasting damage to my team?”

The words tumbled out in a rush. As he ended, he raised his head and looked directly into her eyes.

“Maressa, please,” he begged as she remained silent. “I just need your word.”

“But why would I try to hold Team Aqua back?” she asked slowly. “Why would you expect me to try and stop them from succeeding?”

“Because I know you’re not one of them anymore! You said it yourself—you didn’t want to keep working for a team that was willing to drown the world.”

“Derek…” She gazed at him, and this time he allowed her time as she struggled with her words. “Why… why are you helping me?”

Now it was his turn to stare at her in shock.

“Why? Why do you care? Don’t you want to just get out of here however you can?”

“I do! But—when I was working with Team Aqua, I don’t think I would’ve ever helped a Team Magma member. If you say you’re still working with them, why are you doing this for me?”

He sighed as he turned his eyes back to her leg and began winding bandages around it once more.

“We’re all human. I want to help people out any way I can, and I don’t think your escape will cause any lasting damage to Team Magma.”

“But what about you? If I escaped, then you would be charged for treason.”

“Only if people knew that I helped you escape. It’s not as if I would go shouting something like that around for everyone to hear.”

“Even then, you’re the one who’s supposed to be watching over and taking care of me. If I escaped—even on my own—it would be your fault for letting it happen. You would still get into huge trouble.”

He shook his head. “Nah. Everyone would be upset at me, sure, but I’m one of only four medics on this entire team. I’m too valuable for them to lose. What would be my punishment—that I’m not allowed to heal their Pokemon anymore? No, the worse they would do is dock some of my pay. Even if it’s my fault that you escaped, I don’t think they would stop paying me completely.”

Finishing, he stood up and looked at her, smiling softly. “I promise I won’t do anything to hurt you. I just want to make sure that Team Aqua won’t completely destroy Team Magma. Which is why I’m asking you: do you promise to stop them from going too far? All I need is your word, and then I can work on setting you free.”

Her amber eyes stared into his chestnut ones, and as she contemplated his words, her gaze softened. Closing her eyes, she nodded.

“I promise.”

+++++++++++++++++

“Tomorrow?!”

Tabitha flinched as he held the receiver a few inches away from his face. As if Courtney’s voice wasn’t already shrill enough, talking over a phone made it so much worse.

“No, I’m sorry, but that’s just not possible. My squad left the day before yesterday, and there’s no way I can get over there before the end of the week.”

Putting the receiver back to his ear, Tabitha responded, “A week? But they’ll have evacuated their bases and relocated by then.”

“Unless you planned on attacking Team Aqua the moment you had captured that team member, then they would probably have evacuated already anyway. You know it only takes a few hours.”

Tabitha faltered. “But the larger bases…”

She cut across him. “Look, if it’s so important to you, why don’t you just interrogate her yourself?”

“When I told Maxie we captured an Aqua grunt, he told me to bring her straight to him and to ask you if you could come by and do the interrogation.”

“Yeah, no. He sent me out on this crazy scouting detour or whatever-this-is at Rusturf Tunnel. Nevermind that the tunnel isn’t fully excavated yet and there are Whismur everywhere. Do you realize how hard it is to do anything when the slightest noise upsets them and they start screaming so loud that it causes avalanches?”

Tabitha sighed. He did what Maxie told him to—he asked Courtney if she could come interrogate Maressa, and the answer was no. He didn’t want to overstep Maxie’s orders, so the next step was to bring her to Maxie and see what he would want done with her.

“Okay,” he said to Courtney. “I should be at Maxie’s base in a day and a—“

“No, I’m not done. I’m not just trying to work around hair-triggered Whismur, I’m working with the stupidest grunts I’ve ever met! Several of them are thieves, and some haven’t even done Pokemon battles before! Why on earth did we let them join us? And some had absolutely no respect for me. But I showed them. Seriously, I haven’t had to use my knife or sic Ninetales on this many new recruits before. Who picked these guys?"


Tabitha closed his eyes and held the receiver a few inches away from his face. He hated it when Courtney went into a tirade. It happened every other time they spoke on the phone. He wasn’t interested in her personal issues—he wanted business done and was wasting time listening to Courtney when he could be doing work.

But he knew that talking to someone helped her. And if it was the opportunity to vent that she needed, he could spare a few minutes to listen.

… Except that a few minutes quickly turned into thirty minutes. He kept his face close enough to the receiver while shuffling through paperwork, occasionally saying “Yeah,” “that sounds hard,” “sorry you have to go through that,” and other phrases to make her feel heard. Tabitha heard Mightyena exhale deeply. He looked over and saw his companion lying on his bed, staring at him with crimson eyes. The canine opened his mouth and widely yawned while Courtney prattled away.

He glanced at an old scan he had taken from a book a while back. The page detailed aspects of the Millennium Comet, which was last sighted in the early 1000’s. The time of year for the Comet to appear was rapidly approaching; every year around this time, Maxie grew anxious—it had to appear soon. Tabitha had never heard of the Millennium Comet before working for Maxie, but if Maxie had this much faith in it, then it must be real.

“… and then I told her to not worry, that if Maxie is right and everything works out, my grudge will finally be gone and we can live normal lives.” She sighed. “Anyway, Tabs, I think I gotta dip out now. I’ve got an early morning tomorrow.”

Tabitha picked up the receiver as he felt a twinge of annoyance. “Don’t call me Tabs or any variation of it. Can’t you and I be more professional with each other?”

“We can be more professional with the grunts, sure, but with each other? Come on, Tabby Catty, I’ve got to have someone to have fun with!”

Tabitha sighed and lowered the phone as he heard a click from the other end. He looked over at his bed, where Mightyena lay fast asleep. One of Mightyena’s back legs moved in slow, circular motions, and his nose was twitching. Occasionally, he let out a small whine.

Tabitha smiled as he sat on the bed and rubbed Mightyena’s shaggy black head. “You and I both have a lot on our minds, boy. But don’t worry, everything will be all right.”

Soon, the Pokemon stopped his restless moving and finally drifted into a peaceful sleep. Tabitha leaned back, his thoughts turned to Maressa.

Courtney was right. With a hole in her leg, no Pokemon or teammates, and locked inside a room, there wasn’t much chance of her escaping. And she had Derek watching over her.

At least his Pokemon are decent battlers, he recalled, thinking of how Breloom had effectively fought when they captured the Aqua member. He had given Breloom back to Derek as soon as the battle was over, but he wished that he could have fought with Breloom a bit more.

If only more people on our team had Pokemon that could fight that well.

Tabitha lay down next to Mightyena. His heart ached. He hoped the Team Magma would accomplish their goal soon and all this fighting could end.

But even if it didn’t end soon, he would hold out with Maxie for as long as they needed.
 

OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
Responding to, uh, your responses and will come back for the chapter itself soon.

I've had... various things going on with my family members in real life lately and it's taken my mind out of fanfiction. I'll get around to reviewing the latest chapter of Continental Divides soon!
Yeah things are INTENSE in the world right now. Please take care of yourself. Also—no worries there because I think you did comment on the most recent Divides, unless im misremembering.

I like that you noticed this in your fic and changed his gender entirely lol
🙃 It’s that and ... I got so excited about original characters that they’ve started to take real-estate from canon characters. For example, Mark in Divides covers too much the same niche that canon Tabitha would, but I feel like lady!Tabitha offers me something different.

I had always imagined with newspapers and book scans etc.
Professor Tabitha, keeping office hours. 😉

so I'm just going to stay quiet about this right now and let you see you end up feeling about him :)
Haha, fair enough! I’ll definitely let you know.

I tried to make him stoic and not very expressive
Oh, sure. I can see that, and I think that fits. Even so, no one can completely control their emotions, in my opinion. Just a flicker of something in his expression could say a lot, even if Maressa isn’t sure whether she imagined it.

She meant she doesn't have other jobs lined up in terms of "nowhere else to go;" she's on good terms with her family
Ohhh I gotcha. That would be a good spot to clarify then.

Oh, yeah, I should probably clarify it to make it apparent that it's the former. She's intimidated by Tabitha, not attracted to him
Thank goodness, honestly. That would be a lot in this moment.

Heh, I'm not super impressed with myself for how I handle them, since I wanted this story to primarily be about grunts. But they will appear!
I think that works though! Because the focus is on the grunts, it makes Maxie and Archie feel far away and larger-than life.

Looking forward to coming back for the new chapter soon. My brain is mush and all I want to do is read.
 
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OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
I didn’t expect you to open with a Derek perspective, but I thought that scene worked really well. Might be one my favorite in the fic so far. We’ve gotten a few other perspectives, but this is the first time we’ve gotten to see Maressa from the outside.

It’s easy, and what else are you going to spend your time doing?
...
Oh, that’s just Claydol.
Seems like Magma, similarly to Aqua, has a little bit of a problem with how it treats its pokémon. It’s clear that this is banter ... but it is also dismissive.

“He’s beautiful…”
...
“I know Breloom’s a fighter, but what about you? Do you like to battle, or would you rather stay on the sidelines?”
Maressa, by contrast, seems much more empathetic to pokémon, and there seems to be a link between that attitude and her battling skill. I also liked that Derek was savvy enough to put together that she’s responding this way because she misses her own pokemon.

tried teaching my Pokemon calculus,
Woah, this really raises some questions about pokemon intelligence. Like, did she try teaching them algebra first and working her way up because she cares about their education? Or was this the equivalent of her nerding out because she was just that excited about math and wanted to talk to them about it? Sounds more like the second, but it also sounds like she has at least some hope they might pick it up—and I can’t decide if I think that’s naive of her or an indication that pokemon are quite sapient. Makes Aqua and Magma’s dismissal of pokemon even more striking.

went to the Hoenn Institute of Technology and Architecture.”
Oh wow, so she’s very bright. Sounds like she should be able to work in a lot of places—I still have questions about why she saw Aqua as an option, because surely other places also could’ve paid, right?

studied at the Johto Technological and Medical Institution.”

“Did you go to med school?”
Interesting—so he’s not local? Or he left for school and came back? Very curious about that.

I do like the idea that, for folks who fell short, working for Magma and Aqua feels like a viable option. Not finishing a program comes with shame and financial burden. These groups offer purpose and pay. I loved how you pulled in student debt as a real pressure that they both deal with. Big oof.

you’re in the same boat as I am.”
I see what you did there.

I don’t think I could ever be comfortable with appearing on TV and being famous or anything.
Yeah, a life of crime is the opposite in many ways—you definitely don’t want to be seen at that work.

“ ‘When you joined’ them, you heard that?
You put quotes within quotes in a couple places here, and I found it distracting from the flow of the dialogue. Especially in the above example where he’s not actually quoting her directly but paraphrasing—he’s plugged in “you” where she used “I.” I’d consider using italics instead.

but I just thought it was because I was a low-ranking member and that I would be told more the longer I worked with them.
I still feel like I don’t have a satisfying answer to what made her trust them. Even if she expects to learn more later ... there has to be something to make her feel okay with waiting for later to come around, even if it’s something as small and biased as knowing and trusting someone who was involved already.

That is what your team is doing.
I feel like that “is” wants to be italicized for emphasis.

He did not believe that creating more land would be bad for the planet—all scientific models pointing to that were just theoretic, after all—
Huh. I struggle with this a little. Even if he didn’t complete his degree, he was in med school. He definitely knows how to read a scientific study And knows to respect those studies—and surely they include at least some concrete, observable phenomena.

Doesn’t the path to completing your goal matter just as much as the completion itself?”
👀

Ignoring the Pokemon as he blinked his several eyes in confusion, he turned to Maressa.
I was confused which part was Derek and which part was the claydol on the first read.

We need to get back to work,” he said, ignoring the Pokemon’s protestant rumblings.
The repetition here was a little odd. Maybe it would’ve worked better if it has been clearer that claydol protested or resisted (maybe leaning in for more pets from Maressa?) the first time he said it and he repeated himself to lay down the line.

Derek started. “You mean Crazy Courtney? Why are you calling her?”
This felt a little off—if it’s known that she’s also an admin, there could be LOTS of reasons for Tabitha to call her. Might ring truer for me if it were less “why call her?” and more of an uneasy “she’s not coming here, is she?” If she’s the go-to “interrogator,” there must be some nasty rumors about her.

This also reminds me of the role she plays in Wolflyn’s fic “Deal with the Devil.” You reading it?

We’ve captured a few Team Aqua members and one scientist that we needed information from.”
This felt a little stilted, especially since it sounds like it’s new information for Derek. Might be more useful to have Tabitha wave him away, obfuscate, or change the subject.

Maxie says that he prefers Courtney to handle interrogations,
Why is that? I am getting the impression that it’s just an excuse for him not to have to dirty his own hands, but it also seems like these are genuinely Maxie’s orders?

Whatever she wants. I usually don’t watch, but I know she likes to get her Ninetales to help her.”

“If we’re going to hurt Maressa, why have you been having me treat her?”
I really wanted more emotional reactions from both of them here! Again, it seems like Tabitha isn’t really comfortable with it, despite his blustering to Maressa, and that his body language or tone might show it. Even if he is cold as ice, Derek definitely isn’t, and we need some kind of reaction from him here.

Unless there’s something you can do to her to make her stop recovering, I didn’t see any other options.”
This was a little hard to parse.

Some of the teammates were having a party and I confiscated them.
This was a little confusing. Is this ... not literal soda? Is that a euphemism for something harder? But it’s for pokemon only? Or humans and pokémon? I know you’re pulling from the game canon, but in this context it’s a little odd.

Also “the teammates” is a little stiff. Doesn’t feel like how real people on a team talk about each other, and it also doesn’t paint a very strong picture of how Tabitha is interacting with them. He confiscated their ... beverages ... so he can’t be too chummy, but if that’s the case I’d expect a more specific, colder word there. Squadron B or something, maybe. The stealth unit.

her body growing tenser with anticipation every waking moment. Were it not for her overall weariness caused by the gash in her leg, she didn’t think she’d be able to sleep.
I’d cut “from the gash in her leg”—goes without saying. Does make much wonder how much pain she’s in though! In the first part of this passage, I was wishing for more specifics. Later where you describe her jumping at footsteps in the hall, I thought it was a much better, more grounded indication of her mental state. Might help to get some verbatim thoughts from her here! What words or images is she fixating on?

I gain weight like crazy if I’m not actively working out.”

Derek smiled skeptically as glanced at Maressa’s trim, athletically-fit form. “I’m sure you don’t.”
Aha, I see what’s happening now.

This passage did less for me than the first scene where they talked about school. Here, it feels like we’re leaning on a stereotype about Things Girls Care About that feels like it should be low on her list of priorities. In the other scene, we could see them connecting over shared experience, which was much more meaningful.

As this thought came to his mind, he saw a bunch of faceless, blue-clad people and Water-type Pokemon attack a small base in the depths of the rainforest.
This was just non-specific enough that I was confused. Is this where they are currently or another specific base he’s worried about?

Unsure of how to approach the topic, he decided to get into a comfort zone. Snapping on some gloves, he bent down and started to examine the wound in her leg.
I liked the sentiment that he’d lean on a medical encounter as a segway into a tough conversation. However, it felt like a weird invasion of her privacy to start touching her without asking while she’s asleep, especially since they’re becoming friends. I’d rather see him wake her up on the pretense of changing her bandages—gives her a way to consent, and gives us a moment of additional guilt from him for waking her up.

So I’ve decided to help you make it back to Team Aqua, and to make sure that they’ll still trust you and won’t think that you’ve turned spy for Team Magma, I’ll give you some information about us that you can give to them.
I’m not totally sold on this plan. I’d find it more realistic that he’d try to help her escape on the condition that she didn’t rejoin with Aqua or that she personally wouldn’t fight Magma. What he does ask her to promise is ... hard to measure, and he must know how little power she’d have to enforce it.

What would be my punishment—that I’m not allowed to heal their Pokemon anymore? No, the worse they would do is dock some of my pay. Even if it’s my fault that you escaped, I don’t think they would stop paying me completely.”
His decision to help her would mean so much more if it felt like he did have something to risk!

Unless you planned on attacking Team Aqua the moment you had captured that team member,
I was confused here.

and some haven’t even done Pokemon battles before!
“Done battles” hits my ear wrong. Had battles, maybe. Been in battles. Or even battled.

he wanted business done and was wasting time listening to Courtney when he could be doing work.
I kinda see where he’s coming from here, except that her grievances sound legitimate. They’re not well-staffed or equipped, it sounds like, which he’s bemoaning too a few paragraphs later. As he should—that’s a dangerous position to be in. If you’re going against the law, you’d better be sure you can trust the people around you to back you.

The page detailed aspects of the Millennium Comet, which was last sighted in the early 1000’s. The time of year for the Comet to appear was rapidly approaching; every year around this time, Maxie grew anxious—it had to appear soon.
Very Fire Lord Ozai.

If only more people on our team had Pokemon that could fight that well.
Why is it so hard for them to find good trainers? Is it that good trainers are rare or that good trainers aren’t attracted to their mission?

Tabitha lay down next to Mightyena. His heart ached. He hoped the Team Magma would accomplish their goal soon and all this fighting could end.
I feel like I’m supposed to feel sympathy for him here more than I do. If we’re gonna focus on him in this scene, I’d love a moment of internal conflict or vulnerability from him. Rolling his eyes about Courtney didn’t scratch that itch for me.

Guess next chapter it’ll be time for Maressa’s big escape! Will be interesting see what Derek has in mind and how she’s affected by her injury.
 

Starlight Aurate

Just a fallen star
Location
Route 123
Partner
mightyena
Yeah things are INTENSE in the world right now. Please take care of yourself. Also—no worries there because I think you did comment on the most recent Divides, unless im misremembering.
Things in my life are actually unrelated to what you're probably talking about; it's just health conditions appearing suddenly in my family members that we don't yet know how serious they are, so maybe everyone will be okay, and maybe not. My sister's family was threatened and robbed so they're preparing to move (they don't live in Hong Kong or the US, so it's not related to the riots or violence happening in those places). But thanks for the affirmation. I'm going to try to keep to my every-other-week update and I think I should be able to, but if not... Well, that's probably why lol

[🙃 It’s that and ... I got so excited about original characters that they’ve started to take real-estate from canon characters. For example, Mark in Divides covers too much the same niche that canon Tabitha would, but I feel like lady!Tabitha offers me something different.
Ooohhh neat! Haha I find it a bit annoying when I came up with an idea forr an OC and that same idea gets used later for canon characters ._. But I'll have to check lady!Tabitha out!


Thank goodness, honestly. That would be a lot in this moment.
Oh yeah lol I've never tried writing affection/attraction or romance and tbh I'm not at all confident enough to really try.

I think that works though! Because the focus is on the grunts, it makes Maxie and Archie feel far away and larger-than life.
That's the idea! They're the big guys surrounded by little people--and I've always been more interested in the little people.

And WOW you have a lot to say about the chapter. I appreciate it! My first thought about seeing such big posts is always to feel intimidated lolol so let's see how this goes.

Maressa, by contrast, seems much more empathetic to pokémon, and there seems to be a link between that attitude and her battling skill. I also liked that Derek was savvy enough to put together that she’s responding this way because she misses her own pokemon.


Woah, this really raises some questions about pokemon intelligence. Like, did she try teaching them algebra first and working her way up because she cares about their education? Or was this the equivalent of her nerding out because she was just that excited about math and wanted to talk to them about it? Sounds more like the second, but it also sounds like she has at least some hope they might pick it up—and I can’t decide if I think that’s naive of her or an indication that pokemon are quite sapient. Makes Aqua and Magma’s dismissal of pokemon even more striking.
I like how you pick up on these things! Maressa's Pokemon are definitely the most important beings in her life. She tried teaching them about math because, as you said, she was nerding out and was just that excited about it and wanted to share with her best friends something that made her happy. I don't ever think of Pokemon as less intelligent than humans, but intelligent in a different way--they have much more animalistic instincts and don't care about things like math and it's not something that all of them would be able to comprehend.

The Teams are sometimes a bit hypocritical when it comes to their treatment of Pokemon--some definitely love and treat their Pokemon with respect but others only see them as tools. It's something I didn't intentionally explore at the time, but I think just kinda came out subconsciously in my writing.

Interesting—so he’s not local? Or he left for school and came back? Very curious about that.
I wrote this in mind with him being from Johto. Thinking about it, he has two Pokemon exclusive to Hoenn... I need to think more on that. But originally I meant for him to be from Johto lololol

Oh wow, so she’s very bright. Sounds like she should be able to work in a lot of places—I still have questions about why she saw Aqua as an option, because surely other places also could’ve paid, right?

I do like the idea that, for folks who fell short, working for Magma and Aqua feels like a viable option. Not finishing a program comes with shame and financial burden. These groups offer purpose and pay. I loved how you pulled in student debt as a real pressure that they both deal with. Big oof.
It's one of those things where real life contrasts with what schools tell their students; I know several people who graduated from prestigious schools and had a hard time finding work and figuring out what to do. Maressa studied math because she loves it and graduated with it but didn't have a sort of career in mind when she finished school. Team Aqua sounded good to her, so she went with it though it didn't turn out to be what she expected.

And yeah, schools definitely impose a big financial burden. I'd be lying if I said I didn't know the feel hahaaaaaaa

I
see what you did there.
LOLLLLLLL I burst out laughing because I didn't even think about that.

You put quotes within quotes in a couple places here, and I found it distracting from the flow of the dialogue. Especially in the above example where he’s not actually quoting her directly but paraphrasing—he’s plugged in “you” where she used “I.” I’d consider using italics instead.
Good to know! I struggle using punctuation and wording that doesn't come off too clunky so I appreciate the tip!

I still feel like I don’t have a satisfying answer to what made her trust them. Even if she expects to learn more later ... there has to be something to make her feel okay with waiting for later to come around, even if it’s something as small and biased as knowing and trusting someone who was involved already.
Fair enough. It was born partly out of desperation on her part, both for having financial security and feeling affirmed at knowing she CAN do something. I have heard a lot that her motives at the beginning are not clear, so I appreciate this!

I feel like that “is” wants to be italicized for emphasis.
Ha, pretty sure I originally italicized that. Must've slipped by. Thanks for the catch!

Huh. I struggle with this a little. Even if he didn’t complete his degree, he was in med school. He definitely knows how to read a scientific study And knows to respect those studies—and surely they include at least some concrete, observable phenomena.
Fair; I've been in science for a long time and have read many papers, and I come across weird things that sound like complete nonsense being published and put out. Science also follows money--whatever is funded gets researched and published. Derek isn't a flat-earther but he's definitely skeptical of these things, along with the rest of his team.

I was confused which part was Derek and which part was the claydol on the first read.
Sorry lol I hoped that the "several eyes" would have given Claydol away but I concede that the grammar is confusing.

The repetition here was a little odd. Maybe it would’ve worked better if it has been clearer that claydol protested or resisted (maybe leaning in for more pets from Maressa?) the first time he said it and he repeated himself to lay down the line.

This felt a little off—if it’s known that she’s also an admin, there could be LOTS of reasons for Tabitha to call her. Might ring truer for me if it were less “why call her?” and more of an uneasy “she’s not coming here, is she?” If she’s the go-to “interrogator,” there must be some nasty rumors about her.

This also reminds me of the role she plays in Wolflyn’s fic “Deal with the Devil.” You reading it?
Ah, good point. And no, I have not! But it sounds like I should :D

Why is that? I am getting the impression that it’s just an excuse for him not to have to dirty his own hands, but it also seems like these are genuinely Maxie’s orders?
Bit of both; in the original, Courtney teased Tabitha about how he refused to hurt women. But also a flaw on Maxie's part in over-delegating something to a specific person.

This was a little confusing. Is this ... not literal soda? Is that a euphemism for something harder? But it’s for pokemon only? Or humans and pokémon? I know you’re pulling from the game canon, but in this context it’s a little odd.

Also “the teammates” is a little stiff. Doesn’t feel like how real people on a team talk about each other, and it also doesn’t paint a very strong picture of how Tabitha is interacting with them. He confiscated their ... beverages ... so he can’t be too chummy, but if that’s the case I’d expect a more specific, colder word there. Squadron B or something, maybe. The stealth unit.
Oh, ha. This referred to a one-shot I wrote for a contest way back when where Tabitha shuts down a crazy party the Magma grunts were having and confiscates all their alcohol and pop. I guess it doesn't make much sense on its own tho lol. Tbh I'm not sure what the stuff in the game is, whether it's literal soda pop or a special Pokemon supplement. I haven't thought too much about it, but I feel like it makes for interesting ideas. And I like the suggestion for him to use a different term; it would be a very Tabitha thing to do.

This was just non-specific enough that I was confused. Is this where they are currently or another specific base he’s worried about?
He was imagining another base he knew about and was scared about it being run over

I liked the sentiment that he’d lean on a medical encounter as a segway into a tough conversation. However, it felt like a weird invasion of her privacy to start touching her without asking while she’s asleep, especially since they’re becoming friends. I’d rather see him wake her up on the pretense of changing her bandages—gives her a way to consent, and gives us a moment of additional guilt from him for waking her up.
Ohhhh true. I'm so stupid to forget about asking for consent >_< Whoops

I’m not totally sold on this plan. I’d find it more realistic that he’d try to help her escape on the condition that she didn’t rejoin with Aqua or that she personally wouldn’t fight Magma. What he does ask her to promise is ... hard to measure, and he must know how little power she’d have to enforce it.

His decision to help her would mean so much more if it felt like he did have something to risk!
Maressa would go back either way for her Pokemon--Derek asking her not to would just add more dialogue that I don't think (?) would be totally necessary. And while it's hard to measure and can easily go wrong, Derek is someone who's willing to try if it means helping out a woman he doesn't see much guilt in. And true lol but if he doesn't have to risk anything more than he already is, why should he? :P

I was confused here.
He didn't immediately capture Team Aqua member-->interrogate her-->attack Team Magma bases.

I kinda see where he’s coming from here, except that her grievances sound legitimate. They’re not well-staffed or equipped, it sounds like, which he’s bemoaning too a few paragraphs later. As he should—that’s a dangerous position to be in. If you’re going against the law, you’d better be sure you can trust the people around you to back you.
Sure; Tabitha's just not always the best at listening and isn't a very patient person when it comes to Courtney

Very Fire Lord Ozai.
LOL also did not think of that. I've seen Avatar the Last Airbender like... once or twice? Maybe it slipped into my subconscious and is affecting me, heh.

Why is it so hard for them to find good trainers? Is it that good trainers are rare or that good trainers aren’t attracted to their mission?
They're a criminal organization and a lot of their members are not much better than thieves; finding people who are good, ethical fighters isn't easy for them.

I feel like I’m supposed to feel sympathy for him here more than I do. If we’re gonna focus on him in this scene, I’d love a moment of internal conflict or vulnerability from him. Rolling his eyes about Courtney didn’t scratch that itch for me.
Fair enough. I changed this scene from the original, which might have been a better ending tbh. And this won't be the last you see of Tabitha so give him time :)

Guess next chapter it’ll be time for Maressa’s big escape! Will be interesting see what Derek has in mind and how she’s affected by her injury.
Ohohoh we'll definitely see. Thanks again for reviewing! I appreciate it and for your kind words :)
 

OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
Hey, doesn’t matter the source. Real life is real life, and it makes its demands. Wishing you the best with everything you have going on all the same.

But I'll have to check lady!Tabitha out!
Sadly, haven’t finished writing her scenes yet. So ... no rush, lol.

lol I've never tried writing affection/attraction or romance
Ha! Oh man, then I apologize! I’m clearly projecting. That’s a weight off, though, and I can rest easy and stop side-eyeing Tabitha.

My first thought about seeing such big posts is always to feel intimidated lolol so let's see how this goes.
Haha, sorry! Don’t mean to come off a scary. I’m just channeling all my creative energy into reviews today.

The Teams are sometimes a bit hypocritical when it comes to their treatment of Pokemon
Oh, for sure, as real people so often are.

But originally I meant for him to be from Johto lololol
It’s totally possible That he started training after he relocated! Implies a less sturdy bond with his team though if it’s more recent. (Maybe fits with Claydol!) I’m curious how he got involved with Magma from way out there though, especially subcritical I’ve got a similar challenge with Mark in Divides coming from Unova. I’ve got some ideas for my setting, but I’m curious what your thought process was like here.

I know several people who graduated from prestigious schools and had a hard time finding work and figuring out what to do.
THAT I can get behind, but you need a little bit more for me to get that from the text.

I've been in science for a long time and have read many papers, and I come across weird things that sound like complete nonsense being published and put out. Science also follows money--whatever is funded gets researched and published.
That’s fair—is he suspicious that Devon or someone is funding those studies then? Might lend more credibility to his ... incredulity, lol.

He was imagining another base he knew about and was scared about it being run over
Ah, then I think a little more specific language would help pull us into his thoughts a little more and make it feel more tangible. As it reads right now, I couldn’t tell if he was being hypothetical.

Maressa would go back either way for her Pokemon
Oh, of course. We know that. But he might not. IDK, just another idea.

finding people who are good, ethical fighters isn't easy for them.
Ah but do they really need ethical fighters? 👀
 
Chapter 7 New

Starlight Aurate

Just a fallen star
Location
Route 123
Partner
mightyena
Hi everyone! Here's the next chapter. Hope you all enjoy! ^_^



Chapter 7


Derek’s thoughts whirred about as he walked along deck, the salty wind whipping his face. He eyed a number of large fiberglass canisters.

At least he knew how to get Maressa out of there. The problem would be framing her for her own escape and avoid getting himself into trouble.

He grimaced as he looked out over the waters. The slate-grey clouds completely blocked the sky. He hated being out at sea, and, especially on days like this, he longed for a bit of sunlight. Though he couldn’t feel the motion of the ship, he would rather have his feet planted on solid ground. Pity stirred inside him as he thought of Claydol, Breloom and Golbat; as unsuited for the ocean as he was, they were even less compatible with it. Except for when he sent Golbat out to scout over the waves, the Pokemon remained inside all day, cut off from fresh air but too scared of the ocean to come out.

A pang of guilt hit him as he remembered that he had yet to tell his Pokemon about his plan to free Maressa. Would his Pokemon support it?

It doesn’t matter, he told himself. They wouldn’t have to agree with his decision; after all, they were still his closest friends. He knew they wouldn’t be too angry or label him a traitor for choosing to set Maressa free.

Sighing, Derek took mental note of the position of the canisters holding the life rafts and made his way to his room. Once there, he let his three Pokemon out of their balls.

“Listen,” he said, ignoring Breloom’s protests at being woken up from a nap. “I’ve got something to tell you.”

As he told the Pokemon his intentions, they remained silent—they didn’t make any objections or appear even the slightest bit surprised. Breloom looked smug and cheekily asked if Derek had any other ideas for betraying Team Magma.

“What? No, I’m not turning traitor—”

At least not permanently.

“Will you calm down? Anyway, I need to think of a way to get her out of here without any of us getting caught. Do any of you have any ideas?”

The three Pokemon thought quietly for a moment, but it wasn’t long before Breloom was spouting out his thoughts. Eventually, Derek had to tell him not to give anymore suggestions, as the most reasonable of the Fighting-type’s ideas involved gun powder, vegetable oil, and glitter.

“What about you two?” he asked Claydol and Golbat, ignoring Breloom as he sat sulkily in the corner.

“Dol…” Claydol moaned as Derek felt the Psychic-type connect a telepathic link between the two of them. Over the mental connection, Derek saw Claydol’s visions, felt his every emotion and listened to his every idea. Claydol poured out his observations and ideas, trying to immerse his trainer in his thoughts and convince him to follow his plans. But Derek knew Claydol too well and had been working with him too long to fall so easily into the depths of his Pokemon’s mind. Eventually, as Claydol’s ideas proved to hardly be saner than Breloom’s, Derek had to pull away. Claydol was very disappointed.

“Can you think of anything, Golbat?” he asked hopefully. Though Golbat wasn’t as strong as Breloom, and not as intelligent as Claydol, he had more common sense than the other two combined, and his ideas weren’t often as roundabout or convoluted as theirs.

The bat-like creature ruffled his wings and stretched them out thoughtfully. Through a series of high-pitched “eeks,” he suggested giving a diversion while Derek took Maressa away to escape.

“What sort of diversion?”

The Poison-type suggested that, while on watch some night, he could grab a Wingull, bring it inside, and chase it around the interior of the ship. That, he figured, should distract the guards—at least for a little bit.

Derek considered this and his heart lightened. Wingull were everywhere on the open ocean; it wouldn’t take long for Golbat to chase a small one onto the ship. And besides, wild Pokemon always made their ways inside bases somehow—it wouldn’t be obvious that Golbat had chased it in on purpose.

Looking up at Golbat, Derek asked, “Do you really think you could do it?”

Golbat nodded.

“Thank you,” Derek said, and a heavy weight was lifted off of him as he stood up. He held out his arm, and Golbat hopped happily onto it. “Since I don’t want anyone to see me rewarding you after you chase a wild Pokemon around the base, I’m going to treat you right now. What do you want for dinner? Calm down,” he told Breloom and Claydol as they moaned in disbelief. “I let you both choose last week; it’s Golbat’s turn anyway. I’ll go get started on the food.” With that, he and the bat-like creature left the others.

While he walked, Derek contemplated Golbat’s plan. It seemed as good of a plan as anything he was able to come up with.

I just hope it works.

+++++++++++++++++++

Evening came, and Derek smiled at Maressa as he entered her room.

“How are you doing?” he asked her.

“I’m okay,” she replied, and she really did seem okay—her smile was genuine, and there was a sort of hope shining in her eyes that, until recently, had been absent.

“Do you remember everything I told you—about our base and team members?”

She nodded.

“Okay, just please be careful with that information. If anyone finds that I told you that—“

“Don’t worry,” she cut him off. “It’s not as if I’m going to tell everyone that I escaped with the help of a Team Magma member, and that he gave me the information I have.”

“I know, just…”

He shrugged uncomfortably.

“I understand. Don’t worry; your secrets are safe with me, and I’ll do everything I can to make sure everything will be all right.”

He smiled at her. “The ship has stopped moving now, but there’s a current going south. It should carry you to Mossdeep City by morning.”

She nodded but didn’t seem too keen on getting in the ocean. Derek couldn’t blame her; he could hardly stand being in the sea, and her last experience in the ocean made him sympathize greatly with her.

The two descended into silence until Derek voiced aloud a concern.

“I’ve been thinking,” he wondered, “since you don’t really want to be part of Team Aqua, what are you going to do once you get out? What will you do once you get to Mossdeep?”

Maressa sighed. “I’ve been thinking about this, too,” she said at last. “At first I was thinking I would go straight to the police—”

“Don’t do that.”

She eyed him, a little annoyed at being interrupted.

“I’ve changed my mind since, but why do you think I shouldn’t do that? If I was to go, I would only give away information about Team Aqua. I don’t have anything to say about you guys other than what you’ve told me and the fact that you own a boat.”

“It’s not just that I’m worried about you betraying us. But I know that Team Magma—and maybe Team Aqua too—have members infiltrating Hoenn’s police force, giving them false leads and wrong information to keep them off our trail. If one of them got wind that you were there, you could end up as a prisoner again.”

Looking taken aback for a moment, she stared down at her feet, apparently lost in thought. Judging by the distressed expression on her face, Derek figured that she didn’t know this. Anger burned in him. Just how much information did Team Aqua keep hidden from their low-ranking recruits?

“Well,” she said after a momentary silence, “I decided that I’ll return to Team Aqua anyway. Even if I did go to the police, I don’t know how much I’d be allowed to help outside of giving them info. My Pokemon are still with Team Aqua, and I’m not going to leave the team unless they’re with me.”

As she spoke, her worry quickly faded and was replaced by calm determination. Derek smiled; he worried about the possibility of her getting caught as a traitor to Team Aqua, but he admired the dedication she had for her Pokemon.

“And what will you do afterwards?”

She shrugged. “Whatever I can to slow them down. I’ll have Golduck, Lanturn, Sharpedo and Seaking with me, so they’ll have ideas and we’ll figure out where to go from there.” She looked up at him, her face shining with gratitude. “Thank you for everything, Derek. I don’t know what I would do otherwise.”

“You can thank me after you’ve gotten off this ship.”

But he smiled warmly all the same.

He checked his watch. “It’ll be dark outside by now. We’ll hear Golbat and the Wingull once they fly in here. Claydol is in the hallway, keeping watch. Once the coast is clear, he’ll let me know. Golbat will chase the Wingull past here. You and I will head the other way and we’ll get you out of here.”

Maressa looked confused. “How does Claydol let you know?”

Derek tapped his head. “He makes a mental link between us, so if he wants to tell me something, he just has to connect our minds and let me know what he wants to.”

“Are you always connected that way?”

“As long as Claydol isn’t in his Pokeball, the link is always there, but not always open, you know? Like…” He scratched his head. “It’s hard to explain, but he can pretty much telepathically communicate with me whenever he wants to. And as long as the link is open, I can communicate with him.”

Maressa nodded and the duo descended into silence. Derek glanced at her; the cool, determined air she held a moment ago was gone. Her eyes were downcast and she slouched slightly. He wondered how she was when she was with her Pokemon. He imagined she wasn’t always this concerned or distressed. Perhaps, when this fight was over, they could still be friends, and he and she and their Pokemon could all get together.

When this is all over…

But just when would it be over? And when it was, how would the world be—conformed to Team Magma’s ideals, or flooded in accordance with Team Aqua’s plan? Or would it be the same as it was now, and everyone had given up?

Definitely not the last one, he thought bitterly. He knew the boss too well; though he had seldom seen Maxie, the few times he had, he noted a powerful, confident aura emanating from him. And Derek knew that Tabitha would stay by Maxie until the end—he wouldn’t stop at anything until Team Magma’s goal was achieved.

A pang of guilt hit him when he thought of Tabitha. His friend was sure to get into trouble for Maressa escaping under his watch, and everyone else in the unit was going to have a rough time as well.

He shook the thought from his head. They may get in trouble from those of higher rank, but it wouldn’t be as bad as what Maressa would have to go through if she stayed. He tore his mind from the subject and let his thoughts wander elsewhere until he heard screeching.

The screeching continued, rising in volume as it grew closer. Soon, however, it was drowned out in the numerous voices filling the hallway.

“Get them out of here!”

“Whose Golbat is that?"

“Look out, there’s another one!”

Derek opened the door and stuck his head into the hallway just in time to see a streak of white closely followed by a blue blur. A few Poochyena bounded past, followed by their trainers. The Magma members were commanding their Poochyena to attack the two flyers, but Golbat and Wingull were far too fast for them and sped away. Shouting excitedly, Breloom bounded out of the room and ran after them.

One of them, a sandy-haired man named Nate, suddenly stopped. “Derek, isn’t that your Golbat?”

“Was it?” Derek tried to appear mildly concerned, silently praying for Nate to leave and follow the commotion deeper into the ship.

However, Nate didn’t have enough time to reply before a deep, furious squawking echoed through the halls. The two turned, and Derek’s heart sank as he saw a large Pelipper hurtling towards them, its wings so large that it could barely move about in the hallway. Derek ducked back into the medical room and Nate flattened himself against the wall as the avian flew past, screeching angrily.

“I think that’s the Wingull’s mom,” Nate said.

“It’s mom?!

“Yeah! The Wingull that flew in here was pretty small, and I saw that Pelipper sticking pretty close to it, so the mom is probably still looking after it."

Golbat!

Fear filled Derek. He knew that Golbat would have been able to handle a scared Wingull, but he wasn’t confident that he would fare well against an enraged mother Pelipper. Without a second thought, he sprinted down the hallway, Nate following slightly behind him.

It didn’t take long to get to the fighting Pokemon; their screeches, combined with the voices of angry Magma members, echoed throughout the halls. Derek felt something brush against his consciousness, but he ignored whatever Claydol was trying to tell him and overrode it with his own thoughts.

Claydol, get over here! Golbat might be in danger!

Wedging his way through a crowd of red hoodies, Derek got to where the Pokemon fought in the middle of a hallway. The door to the security room was wide open, and the guards had their own Pokemon out with their backs turned to the camera feed.

“Numel, use Take Down!”

“Watch out for its Water Gun!"

“Gloom, Sleep Powder!”

The Wingull zipped around, screeching in fear. The Pelipper, with its massive bulk, shrugged off all attacks that hit her. When the Gloom released a green powder into the air, the Flying-type flapped its powerful wings, pushing the dust away from her and into a crowd of Magma members and their Pokemon. The trainers and their companions fell to the ground, all fast asleep. The Pelipper turned her attention back to Golbat, who flew around and dodged all attacks aimed at him.

Derek bit his lip, at a loss of what to do. He didn’t want Golbat to use Haze or Supersonic in the confined space, but he couldn’t just let Golbat grow tired and be beaten.

Suddenly, Claydol appeared, floating into the midst of the battle serenely. Derek breathed a sigh of relief at seeing his friend. The command barely formed in his mind before Claydol obeyed. The Pelipper and Wingull suddenly stopped moving, held in place by the Ground-type’s psychic power.

“Good work, Claydol!” Derek turned to the two guards, Lloyd and Stephen, standing in the doorway, who both appeared taken off-guard by Claydol’s sudden appearance. “What do you want him to do with them?”

Lloyd shrugged. “Just take them outside and set them loose again.”

“Yeah,” Stephen agreed, eyeing the Pokemon frozen in mid-air with distaste. “Thanks, by the way.”

“Sure thing.” Derek decided to not apologize for his Golbat being the reason for the two of them flying in in the first place; as long as he cleaned up the mess he made, everything would be okay. “Come on, Claydol.”

He led his Pokemon down the hallway while the other Magma members tried to wake their sleeping teammates up. He had only been walking for a minute or so when another member came sprinting down the hallway, hollering at the top of his lungs.

“SHE’S ESCAPED! THE AQUA MEMBER ESCAPED!”

The man stopped right in front of Derek, panting heavily, his hood slipped off his dark brown hair. A lead weight sank to the bottom of Derek’s stomach.

“What?”

“The Aqua Member—went overboard—fell in water—escaped—” the team member panted out, pointing a shaking finger to the hallway behind him.

Maressa, no.

Derek sprinted down the hallway at top speed. In his concern for Golbat, he had completely forgotten about her. He prayed that she had figured out how to open a canister and take a life raft off, that she would most likely make it to Mossdeep all right. If she hadn’t…

Derek flew out onto deck, where the starry sky stretched out endlessly above the calm, black sea. No life raft canisters were in sight—she had gone to the wrong deck.

“Maressa, oh, Maressa, no…”

His shaking hands gripped the rail as he stared over the waters going by beneath them, devoid of any sign of life.

She’s gone. She’s gone and dead.

He barely noticed when Breloom bounded out onto the deck. Claydol followed and blasted away the Wingull and Pelipper with psychic energy. The doll floated next to Derek, moaning questioningly.

“She’s gone, Claydol. She’s gone and dead because of me. If I hadn’t told Golbat to chase that Wingull—if I hadn’t left her… She’s gone. She’s gone and she’ll die.” He couldn’t bring his voice to rise above a whisper, couldn’t bring himself to do anything but stand at the railing at stare at the starlit waters, hoping beyond hope that he might see a blonde head bobbing on the surface.

But there was nothing. There was only the sea, empty and oppressive, swallowing up everything while a twinkling sky winked innocently down at them.

He heard footsteps pounding through the halls behind him and was dimly aware of voices shouting over the ship. Claydol moaned once more, and Breloom urgently chirped, but he ignored them both. He stood, in silent dread and sorrow. As he breathed, he noticed the air suddenly turn thick with spores. As he breathed them in, his consciousness slipped away, and he let go of the railing as he fell to the ground, wondering why Breloom chose to put him to sleep.

++++++++++++++++

When Derek had sprinted down the hallway after Golbat with the other Magma member trailing behind him, Maressa could only sit and stare in shock. Derek promised to stay with her, to guide her to deck and help her take off—not leave her alone. What was she to do now? But this might be her only chance to get away from Team Magma—she had to do something. Getting up, she made her way over to the door and looked both ways down the hall. It was completely empty.

She paused, thinking for a second. Turning the opposite way Derek had run, she made her way down the hall, going as quickly as her injured leg would permit.

Her eyes darted around anxiously as she increased her speed. Walking in the halls made her feel vulnerable, exposed, and at every turn she made, she expected to come face-to-face with a Magma member.

She stopped at an intersection, thinking hard. Derek had briefly gone over where they would go to get out, but she had trouble remembering his instructions.

As she thought she heard footsteps approaching, she wheeled around, heart beating furiously in her chest. Did she really hear footsteps? Or was she so anxious that her mind was playing tricks on her? Either way, she had to make a decision. She went straight, and continued along as quickly as she could, in constant fear of being discovered.

The smell of salt hit her as soon as she stepped outside. And, though the danger was far from over, a smile broke over her face. She stepped over to the railing, breathing in the salty air, filling her lungs with it, feeling so elated, so free. The ocean flowed calmly beneath the still ship, and as she leaned against the rail, closing her eyes, all anxiety melted away as tranquility washed over her.

Opening her eyes, she looked around the deck. Derek had said there would be life rafts, but she couldn’t see any. The nervousness came back as she looked around. Had she gone to the wrong deck?

She looked back out at the dark waters, wondering if perhaps she could trust the current to carry her somewhere safely without a life raft. But as she stared into the black depths, memories of her last venture into the ocean returned, and a fear drove deeply into her heart.

She backed away from the rail, slightly shaking.

Get a hold of yourself. Now is your chance to leave. You don’t want to be stuck here.

Forcing herself to approach the rail again, she gripped the cold metal bars. Hoisting herself up, she put both feet on it and settled in a crouch, preparing herself to jump as she stared into the waters. She had never been afraid of the ocean before—but up until a few days ago, she had never come close to dying in it, either. None of her Pokemon were with her this time. Could she live in the ocean alone, even for a short period of time?

“You have to go,” she told herself. “Time is running out, and if you don’t go, Derek and Golbat will have done all of this for nothing.”

In spite of her words, she couldn’t bring herself to go into the waters. As she gazed at them, she could almost feel the weight of the air tank dragging her down, of her leg bursting with pain, and of her lungs about to burst. Already, the water seemed to come up to her, and she could see herself sinking, drowning, dying…

Who am I kidding? she realized. She got off the rail and backed away, overcome with fear. Sure if I stay here, I’ll suffer, but if I go into the ocean without a raft or boat, I’ll die.

Inhaling deeply, she turned away, and realized just how badly she was shaking. She didn’t want to face whatever Team Magma had in store for her, but compared to death, it was preferable. She prepared to go back inside, wondering if she could get in without anyone catching her.

As soon as she turned around, her heart stopped in her chest. A red-hooded man stood in the doorway through which she had come, staring at her in shock.

“HEY!” he shouted as he lunged towards her.

Without thinking, Maressa turned around, climbed onto the rail, and launched herself off of the ship. Before she hit the water, she realized what she had done, and panic engulfed her as the salt waterr swallowed her up. Her leg stung horribly in the water, and primal fear devoured her as she felt the current carry her away from the ship.

Sticking her head above the surface, she took in great gulps of air, her heart racing in a panic. For a few moments, her arms and legs beat frantically, but then her habits overcame instinct and she treaded her arms and legs steadily. The current swiftly carried her. It was a calm night; there was little wind. The stars shown serenely out of the sky and illuminated the seascape with an ethereal light.

She turned her head and watched the Magma ship steadily shrink until it appeared as little more than a speck on the horizon.

Maressa floated on her back, staring up at the star-strewn sky. She hoped that no carnivorous creature would be attracted by the scent of her open wound, but fear would do her no good now. All she could do was wait for the current to carry her to any nearby land and try to stay alive.

+++++++++++++++

Derek blearily opened his eyes, blinking in the bright light. He sat up, wincing as his head throbbed. Why was his head throbbing? As he rubbed the back of his head, he suddenly remembered the events of the previous night.

He looked around but could not see his Pokemon. He was lying in his bed and Nate stood in the doorway.

The blonde man nodded to Derek. “It’s about time you got up. You were out for a while. What happened? Did you faint?”

“No, I…” He rubbed his head, trying to remember. “It was my Breloom; he used spore on me, and I fell asleep.”

“Why did he do that?”

“Good question…”

“Probably to save you from Tabitha. He was furious when he found out that the Aqua member had gotten away.”

Was furious? Is he fine now?”

“No, he’s still really mad, but he’s cooled down some. I’m supposed to go tell him that you’ve woken up. He wants to talk to you.”

“Great,” Derek grumbled as Nate walked out.

He sat for a moment on his bed and thought about what happened. He wanted to know why Breloom knocked him out. He reached in his pant pockets, but they were empty. No Pokeballs were on his nightstand, either. Worry gnawed at him—had they taken his Pokemon away from him?

Derek gasped as he remembered Maressa and passed a hand over his face as he closed his eyes. He didn’t have time to dwell on it before his commander appeared in the doorway.

Derek glanced up as Tabitha slammed the door shut. His eyes burned lividly, and the glare he gave Derek sent chills down his spine.

“What happened?” he demanded.

As truthfully as he could, Derek recounted everything that happened from the moment he first heard Golbat screeching through the hallway, though he didn’t say that Golbat intentionally chased the Wingull inside.

“Once I heard there was a Pelipper, I got scared for Golbat and ran after him—”

“And you just left the door wide open while Maressa was fully conscious?”

“Yes, I did. I forgot about her; as soon as I heard Golbat was in trouble, I forgot about everything else.” He met Tabitha’s dark gaze. “I’m sorry.”

The commander continued to glare down at him, disgusted, but eventually his darkened look passed. Sighing, he turned away.

“What am I going to do with you, Derek? I can’t let this pass without punishing you, but we can’t really have you anywhere other than where you are now.”

“What will happen to me?” Derek asked curiously.

Tabitha shrugged. “I’m not sure… I’ll talk to Maxie about it. What you can do or where you can go will probably be more limited, but I can’t see much more happening than that. After all,” he turned back to Derek, and his gaze had softened considerably, “you were acting out of concern for your Pokemon, so that much is understandable, at least. Just pay more attention in the future.

“Also,” Tabitha said as he crossed his arms and leaned against the opposite wall, “what about Maressa? Do you think she’ll live in the ocean without her Pokemon?”

Closing his eyes, Derek shrugged and shook his head. “I don’t know, but death is likely. There are millions of diseases and bacteria in the ocean; even in a short span of time, her wound can easily get infected. If she does make it to land, she could just as well die from that.” As he said the words, the reality of them hit him again, and he bit his lip to try and stop them quivering.

Tabitha nodded and stood for a few moments. He stared off into the distance and said nothing.

Standing up straight, he walked over to the door and made to leave. “I’ll talk to Maxie about what to do with you. Until then, just try to rest. You hit your head pretty hard when you passed out.”

“Tabitha!” Derek exclaimed suddenly as his commander was about to walk out. The purple-haired man looked questioningly at him. “Do you know where my Pokemon are?”

“Stephen’s holding onto them. You can have them back after I’ve talked to Maxie. They’ve all been returned to their Pokeballs, and none of them were hurt.” With that, he walked out, shutting the door behind him.

Derek sank back down into the bed, more worried than before.

You can have them back after I’ve talked to Maxie…

What did that mean? If their boss saw fit to punish him, then would he not see them again? Would Golbat, Claydol or Breloom be punished for what he did?

His heart sank, and he knew that he would not be able to sleep. Maressa escaped, but everything had taken a turn for the worse.
 
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