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

    Join now!

Pokémon Little God

Negrek

Angel of Memory
Staff
Rating: PG

Warnings: Mild violence

Author's Notes: I thought I was going to get to be FIRST!!!, but it looks like Umbramatic beat me to it!

This is a short chapterfic exploring what might have happened on the South American expedition that discovered Mew. It's very much a game-canon-based interpretation, so if you're hoping for anything about e.g. Madame Boss, you will be disappointed. This story is a little action-adventure, a little bit of suspense, and a lot of being careful what you wish for. It is technically a spin-off of my main chapterfic, Salvage, but no familiarity with that story is required; this story takes place a long time before that one, and most of the characters we see here have minor roles at best.

With that said, hope you enjoy!

Part One

Professor Oak was fuzzy on the tiny vidscreen, a washed-out greeny color that kept flickering to black and white. "Good to see you again, Sara. How's the expedition going?" he asked.

"Okay, I guess. We had to walk a lot." There were no roads going deep into the jungle, and they'd had to go up, and up, and up on the side of the mountain where the ruins were. There weren't just not roads, either, but not even real paths, and every day they had to stop for hours and wait for someone to cut a way through the bushes so they could bring the equipment through. "And it rained every day!"

"Ah, yes, I understand they do call it a rainforest," Professor Oak said, and even though the picture was so bad Sara could barely see his face, she knew he was smiling. Well, let him come and walk in the rain and the mud and the bugs if he thought it was so funny. "But you're in camp now, so you won't have to walk so much."

"Not if I go with Dad. Mom has to go around putting cameras up and stuff."

Professor Oak had been their first call after finally getting the satellite array set up. Now that they'd made camp they could talk to people back home and Sara's parents could send back their pictures and reports. Mom kept saying how much better this was than it used to be, when they'd only been able to send sound, no picture at all, and even that had been crackly and hard to hear and sometimes didn't work at all.

"Well, I hope you'll spend at least a little bit of time with your mother. You have your pokédex, don't you? It would be wonderful if you could bring back a few scans of whatever you find out there." Professor Oak did something on the little screen--took a drink, maybe? Of coffee? It was tomorrow in Kanto, and early.

"I will. Mom says I'm not allowed to catch anything, though. Because the pokémon out here don't have an a-gree-ment." Sara drew the word out in annoyance. "She won't even let me have any pokéballs."

"It's true, you shouldn't catch any pokémon that aren't on a route. That's poaching. And they don't have routes in Guyana." Professor Oak's voice was stern, even through the distortion.

"I know that. But it's still okay if you ask. I would ask. And Mom has pokéballs in case she finds something that wants to go with her, she just won't let me have any."

"I'm sure your mother knows what she's doing," Professor Oak said, and there went Sara's hopes of getting him on her side. "Now where's Titan? How's he doing?"

Sara scowled at the obvious change of subject, but the charmander had been sitting next to her, waiting his turn. Now he stood up, whining and chirping and reaching with his claws. Sara moved over so he could get in front of the screen.

"There you are, Titan!" Professor Oak said. "You've been the talk of the lab, you know. Everyone here's jealous of your adventure."

Titan leaned in over the keyboard, making singsong growls at the professor. "Well, you're looking bigger, aren't you! How's--ah, hold on, I think someone over here wants to talk to you." Professor Oak stepped back as a couple hands appeared over the edge of the table, feeling around blindly for better leverage until Squirtle managed to drag himself over the edge. Titan leaned in so close his breath fogged the crummy screen, yapping away. Squirtle trilled back, and then they were off in furious conversation about something-or-other. A few seconds later Bulbasaur joined Squirtle on the far side of the screen, and Sara waved to Professor Oak, then left them to it.

She passed close to the camp stove, which sizzled under insect-swarmed kerosene lights, but one of the grad students was standing right there poking it, so she couldn't hope to sneak anything. Instead she wandered over to where Dad was sitting, sorting through photographs. She climbed up on the bench next to him, scooted in close until she was pressed up against his side, and rested her chin on the scratchy wood tabletop in an attitude that she hoped conveyed both boredom and hunger.

"Well, look who we have here!" Dad said, smiling big. His face was spotted with weird glistening patches where he'd slathered anti-itch cream over bug bites. "Want to see what we found at the dig today?"

Sara propped her cheek up on her hand without enthusiasm, but it wasn't like there was anything else to do. And when Dad held the photos out towards her, there was actually something interesting.

"What's that?"

"Well, that's what we're here to find out, isn't it?" Dad said, which was one of his dumb non-answers, but Sara didn't even care. She stretched up to see better while Dad slowly flipped through the photographs. Usually all he were pictures of different angles on bits of broken wall, bare and then with rulers propped against them, or holes with tape and little flags around them, or people digging. Sometimes a pot or something.

But this--"Is that Mew?"

"Maybe. It could be an espurr, or even an abra, but the tail, and the eyes--it certainly looks like Mew to me. What do you think?"

"Yeah!" The picture was of a wall covered in faded, shallow marks. Mostly they were nonsense squiggles and squares and things, but right in the middle was the unmistakable outline of something organic, something pokémon: little stubby arms, bit long feet, squashed face with huge eyes, and a long, snaky tail. "Mew lives here?"

"Maybe. Or did. They might be gone now. Or changed so much it would be hard to recognize them. This is from a long, long time ago. You can come with me tomorrow if you want to see it in person," Dad said.

"Will you make me pick up sticks again?"

"Well, it would be nice if you helped the grad students out a bit." Dad glanced up as Mom sat down across from them, with her notebook and her pen.

"What are you two up to?"

"Taking a look at the mural we found today. Check it out."

He handed the stack of photos across to Mom, and Sara watched them go, frowning. "Wow. That's remarkable preservation," her mother said, missing the obvious important point.

"Yeah. Most of the roof's intact, kept it pretty sheltered. About time we had a bit of luck."

"What do you think this place was? Temple? Palace?"

"That structure we're not sure. For a complex this large you'd have to think one of those two, but the rooms are much smaller than we'd expect, and the artifacts suggest a high concentration of people living there, lots of day-to-day utilitarian items. Some kind of villa, maybe? Or harem? We've got a lot more work to do."

Sara got the alarming sense that they were about to go off into boring science stuff. "But there's just one Mew. It can't be gone," Sara said. "Not if it's legendary."

"Maybe," Dad says. "It's been a long time."

"Like the birds," Sara insisted. "There's just one of them, and they've been around forever. Mew could be like that."

"That's right, Sara," Mom said. "If Mew is a legendary pokémon, it might still be alive, and it might live around here. But there are legendary pokémon that vanished, too, a lot of them. In Unova, for example, there are very good records of the dragons that split the region, but they died out thousands and thousands of years ago. Either the Unovans were wrong about them being legendary, or things can happen even to pokémon that powerful. Or they might never have existed at all, like the lords of time and space they worship in Sinnoh."

"People have seen Mew. There's pictures," Sara said sulkily.

"Well, that's a pretty generous description of what could easily be photos of abra taken with bad cameras in poor lighting," Mom said. "I'm not saying it couldn't happen, I'm just saying don't get your hopes up. There are undiscovered species out here; that's why we brought my lot, after all. There have been two new kinds of pokémon found in South America just in the last year, and we know there have to be more."

Sara knew that. It was one of the ways Mom had pitched this trip in the first place. Of course an undiscovered pokémon would be cool, but it would probably be some kind of bird thing or bug or maybe a fish, which was fine, but there were lots of those already. Nothing at all like Mew.

"Do you want to go with your mom tomorrow instead? Now that the camera traps are all set up, you get to see if they found anything. Then you're off and tracking through the jungle. That's your real adventure, right?"

"Mmmm." Going with Mom meant being out all day. If Sara visited Dad's site instead, she could go do what she wanted after a while, but also he'd probably make her do boring stuff while she was there. Right now nothing sounded very good. Even dinner would be too much effort.

Titan climbed up next to her, whining and chuffing. He was hungry, too. "When's dinner?" Sara asked while Mom distracted Titan with the photos.

"Should be just a few minutes. Sanesh has been poking at the hot dogs for a while now," Dad said. He was craning out around Sara, and she could feel how tense he was, watching Titan shuffle clumsily through the photographs, holding them so tight they bent around his little claws. Dad reached over to snatch them the instant Titan was done, but Sara managed to slip a picture of the wall carving out of the stack before he could get it.

"Can I keep this one?"

"I can make a copy for you, but for now I need it back."

Sara sulkily handed the picture over, then flopped over sideways, flinging one arm out dramatically across the table. "I'm hungryyyyyy." Titan rumbled his agreement.

"Sara, sweetie, why don't you go get plates and silverware for everybody? That way we'll be ready to go when the food gets here."

Titan immediately jumped down and headed for the mess tent because that was just the kind of thing he did, but Sara groaned and rolled over face-down on the table, arm still outflung. Who would have thought an expedition to mysterious ruins would be so boring?

--​

At the dig site Dad did make her pick up sticks--clear an area so the archaeologists could excavate. But he also let her see the carving, and took a picture of her standing next to it with the special camera that spat out the pictures right away. Sara held the photo all the way through lunch, watching herself fade into view, the carving behind her even taller than she was.

She wanted to touch the stones, to run her fingers through the grooves that made up Mew's face and eyes. They were shallow, round and smooth, and the pictures around Mew had almost completely faded into the stone. Of course Dad said she couldn't touch, but he let her stay and look as long as she wanted, so she did.

In the afternoon she tried to convince him to let her go off by herself. "Are you sure you don't want to go back to camp and play with Titan or read a book? You can go with your mother tomorrow to see the forest," Dad said.

"Dad, I'm going to be a pokémon trainer. I'm going to be doing stuff like this all the time. You have to get used to it."

He made one of those frowns that meant he knew she was right but didn't like it. "The forest here is a lot different from Route 1," he said. "You have Hunter. Send him out if you get into trouble or get lost."

Hunter the kadabra belonged to one of the grad students, and he'd made it very clear he would prefer to stay right where he was, using his psychic powers to blow dirt off of uncovered artifacts. Dad absolutely refused to let her leave the excavation without somebody who could teleport, though, and Hunter was the only one.

"You have food, water, bug spray, sunscreen...?"

"Already wearing it!" Sara said brightly. "Dad, I'm only going to be gone for a few hours. I don't have to pack like I'm going on an expedition for a week."

"You don't pack supplies because you expect to be gone for days, you pack supplies because you expect to be gone a few hours but end up getting lost and have to survive for days," Dad said grimly, but he did zip Sara's backpack up and hand it over and watch gloomily while she put it on.

"It's okay, Dad. I have Titan with me."

"Char!" the charmander said brightly.

"Don't harass the wild pokémon. If they challenge you it's fine, but don't go looking for fights. Run if they let you. I mean it. Titan's only one pokémon. If he gets hurt in a battle, and then something else jumps you before you get back, you'll be in trouble. Don't hesitate to ask Hunter for help."

Sara knew the wild pokémon were more dangerous here. It was like the deepwilds: there was nothing that said they couldn't attack a human, even a defenseless one. There wasn't even anything to say they couldn't kill people, unless they had their own pokémon-laws that did. A lot of the stuff they'd hauled up the mountainside was tribute, items to offer the local pokémon in exchange for permission to stay and reassurance that no one would bother the camp or the dig site or Mom's cameras. Even with all the high-level pokémon they'd brought they'd be in trouble if the wilds decided they wanted them gone.

But it wasn't like wild pokémon roamed around just looking for the first opportunity to murder someone, any more than people did. That didn't mean don't be cautious, but you couldn't worry too much, either.

Sara knew all about this kind of stuff. They talked about it a lot in pokémon class, so people would know how to be safe on their journey. Maybe Dad should go to Mr. Heather's class, too, if he needed a refresher.

"Be back by five, understand? That's a hard deadline. If you're not back by then, we will start looking for you, and you had better believe you won't be going off by yourself again after that."

"I know, Dad, I know." Sara also knew that bringing her along on this expedition had been Mom's idea, and Mom had probably had to listen loads of this kind of stuff and worse trying to convince Dad to let her come. Now that she'd seen the only interesting thing at the dig site, maybe Sara ought to go with Mom for a few days and see if she could get permission to go into the woods for an hour or two while everybody else was eating lunch or something. Mom at least wouldn't fuss this much about it.

"Bye, Dad," she said, feeling a bit silly as she turned towards the forest.

"Bye, Sara. Be safe," he said, and he looked so anxious that Sara walked fast, so fast Titan was almost running to catch up, until she was well between the trees and couldn't see him anymore.

Sara blew out a big breath and hiked her backpack higher on her shoulders. The weight was going to get annoying fast. The pokédex in her hand was heavy, too. Professor Oak said he'd wanted it to be portable, but in Sara's opinion it barely qualified. He said wait and see, it would get smaller in a few years, just like everything else. That didn't make it any lighter now.

"Titan, let's go!" Sara said. "Scratch that tree!"

"Char!" Titan leapt up and gouged the wood with his claws, clear sap oozing from the rents.

Sara didn't really need to mark a path back. In the first place, she wasn't going to get lost, in the second, she had a compass, and third, she had Hunter, too, so it would only take her a second to get back to camp no matter how far off course she definitely wouldn't get. But it was probably better to practice what you were supposed to do, and besides, Titan was enjoying himself.

Now, where would Mew hang out? The forest looked the same to Sara no matter which way she turned. She wouldn't even be able to tell which way the dig site was if she didn't already know.

Ahead and to the left the land sloped down, and Sara thought she heard water running. She knew from wildlife documentaries that predators in Africa liked to wait around watering holes to catch prey, because everything would have to come and drink sometime. Even Mew would need to drink. It was an easy decision.

The water turned out to be farther away than Sara thought, but that was okay. There were bats on the underside of a big leaf, lined up in a furry row along the vein, upside-down with their wings folded around them. Sara wanted to touch one real bad, but she knew she shouldn't. Strange birds called overhead, and once Sara heard a woodpecker knocking, but she couldn't see it. Next time she would go with Mom, so she could borrow some binoculars.

Twice she ran into a really thick spiderweb and shrieked with delighted disgust, and then she found a massive bug that looked like a cross between a crab and a spider, bigger than two of her hands put together. She thought it had to be a pokémon, but the pokédex kept saying there was nothing in range, so she decided it was a bug after all and ran away shrieking and laughing, Titan following after making confused growly noises.

One pokémon she did see was combee, and she had to keep yelling at Titan not to attack them. It was too bad. They were perfect targets, droning lazily through the forest, and Titan could take one, easy. The problem was there were a lot of them, and they would all come buzzing over if you went after one, and then their vespiquen, too. Sara wanted to see a vespiquen, but not when the only pokémon between her and it and the entire swarm was a single charmander, even if he was a really good charmander.

Mew wasn't by the stream, but Sara wasn't too disappointed. She started to take off her shoes to go wading, but then thought of piranhas and leeches and angry water pokémon. She settled for sitting nearby and chucking rocks into the water, enjoying the plunking noise and hoping to stir up some kind of activity.

Titan sat down, too, well away from the water's edge, and Sara split her snacks with him. "They say Mew only appears before people who're pure of heart," she said. "That's like us! You have to want to see it, too, and I do, real bad. The reason nobody ever found it before is they kept sending grown-ups. This is the sort of thing only kids can do."

"Mahn." Titan scratched the edge of his jaw and watched the stream like it might slip quietly from its banks and jump at him.

"Do you know about Mew? Do pokémon talk about it, too?"

"Man-man." He didn't seem very interested. That was okay. He'd change his mind once they actually found Mew. No way he could meet a real live legendary pokémon and not get excited about it.

Now, where were they going to go next? Sara took a long look around. There was jungle and more jungle in every direction. She took a second to make sure she knew which way they'd come from, too. Titan's sappy scratches in the tree bark made it easy, and her footprints in the damp soil.

"Which way should we go next, Titan?"

"Char." He pointed away from the stream, naturally.

"That's the way we came from."

The charmander put his claws up near his face, a gesture he must have learned from humans, and made an uncertain humming noise.

"Anywhere you want! Do you hear anything interesting around here? Or smell anything?"

"Char?" He pawed at his snout as though confused by the question. But then he got to his feet, padded a few paces to where the bank sloped steeply up, and pointed decisively in a direction Sara was 100% sure he'd picked at random. "Char!"

"Okay, let's check it out!" she said, and from then on, Titan led. He took a meandering path through the forest, idly scraping his claws against the sides of trees as he went past, stopping to sniff the air, detouring wide around mud-sloughs and puddles. Sara followed, daydreaming.

So what if Mom and Dad didn't think Mew was out here? This was one of those things grown-ups thought they understood but really didn't. Mew was out here, and Sara was going to find it. She didn't have any pokéballs, but she'd convince it to come with her anyway. She'd bring it home with her, and Professor Oak would be so impressed he'd say she could go off on her journey right away, and then she'd beat the entire League. With Mew on her team, there was no way she could lose.

No, wait, she'd have to go back to school for at least a little bit so all her friends could see Mew, too. So she'd do that first. But then, then she'd go on her journey. And people would remember her always, the girl who'd rediscovered Mew and become League Champion... Titan stopped abruptly, head tilted as he listened, and after a moment Sara heard what he did, too: an irregular clicking. The clatter of mandibles, Sara thought. The tap of many legs over bark. Bug pokémon.

There were venipede out here. Sara had seen one, briefly, before Titan sent it running. He was tense now, ready, Sara thought, to hurl himself at the pokémon and no doubt scare it off.

"Shh, Titan," she said, keeping her voice low. "Let me talk to this one first. I want to try and catch it." Venipede were really cool, and you couldn't find them in Kanto at all. Sara would love to have one for her team.

Titan glanced back at her like he didn't know what she was talking about, but he didn't go charging off this time. He was actually going slow, gently pushing the undergrowth aside, although his tail-flame was flickering orange with excitement, letting off a thin trail of smoke.

Sara crept after him, holding her breath and carefully withdrawing an energy bar from her pocket. Maybe a snack would be enough to convince the bug to come with her. Mom and Dad wouldn't be able to do anything if it decided it wanted to leave the forest even without a pokéball.

Titan stopped, and Sara thrashed her way through a clutching bush to join him, annoyed that now she might be the one to scare the venipede off. The charmander didn't react to all the crunching and thrashing and flying leaves. He was looking up at a young Ceiba tree, had to be young, not even two stories high. Its trunk was wrapped with ropes dyed all different colors, its branches laden with wooden wind chimes trailing colorful tassels. Those were what was making the clicking noises, not a pokémon, their frayed tails swaying gently.

All around the tree's massive buttress roots were pots, little clay statues, piled berries. With a fascinated shiver Sara recognized the huddled lumps among them as dead animals, some bloody or twisted and some just laid out still.

Sara felt like tiptoeing as she moved up next to Titan. A pokémon altar--it had to be pokémon, didn't it? There weren't any humans out here, not for miles and miles. She'd only ever read about places like this in books.

The wind chimes clattered, a delicate sound in a forest that was usually full of harsh noises. Sara took a picture with her pokédex, then immediately wondered if she shouldn't have.

"Char!" Titan tugged on Sara's pants, and she looked down in surprise. The charmander was wide-eyed, his tail still glowing orange with excitement. "Char char!"

"What's wrong?" Had he seen a pokémon? They were alone as far as Sara could tell.

Titan whined and shot a look around before returning his gaze to Sara, patting at her leg with one hand. Sara couldn't see anything scary. Maybe it was going to rain? But no, the sun was bright where it shone through the gaps in the canopy. There were trees and fallen trunks bristling with mushrooms and ferns, climbing vines, sprays of flowers. Nothing scary. Maybe there was a snake? Sara looked around in sudden panic. No snake.

"What is it, Titan?" Why was she whispering?

The charmander whined again and scratched at his head. Did he have a headache?

Goosebumps rose on Sara's arms. There was a cold feeling in the air, a kind of icy charge, like something was there. Something Sara couldn't see, but not something good, not something good at all. Something watching her.

Shouldn't there be birds? The wind chimes stirred to a discordant rattle, like they'd caught a sudden breeze. They struck louder now, and Sara could start to hear real notes instead of a bunch of clicks. Why was that all she could hear? Where were the birds?

The dead animals around the base of the tree suddenly seemed a warning. Sara tried not to look at their still, contorted faces.

"Come on, Titan," she whispered. She was going to be calm. She wasn't going to run, especially not in any old direction where she would end up getting lost in the woods. She was going to turn around and follow Titan's marks back until the weird feeling went away.

Titan was panting, mouth hanging open to show his sharp little fangs. His tail-flame flared and danced. But he stayed by Sara's side, actually holding onto the fabric of her pants half the time. He was brave. He was going to protect his trainer no matter what. And Sara didn't run. She walked and she followed the trail back to the stream, and then why not, turned from there and headed back towards the dig site. She needed to get back soon anyhow.

She never ran, although a couple of times maybe she sped up, just a little. And she never looked back more than two or three times. There was nothing there, and soon she couldn't even hear the wind chimes anymore.
 
  • Like
Reactions: qva

Negrek

Angel of Memory
Staff
Author's Notes: Back with part two! In which we actually get to meet the story's namesake. Before we get started, though, I just wanted to give a shoutout to qva, who drew a couple of awesome pieces of fanart for this story. Here's Sara with the Mew carving, as well as what the picture her dad took of her would have looked like.



Thanks a ton, qva! These are really awesome. And for everyone else, I hope you enjoy the second chapter!

Part Two

Sara didn't know what woke her. It was still early; she could smell coffee brewing, always the first thing to get done in the morning. She rolled over and covered her face with her arm. She didn't need to get up for a while yet and wasn't going to.

Usually people were chatty in the morning, discussing what they'd do for the day, clattery with their bowls and plates. There were voices out there, but not many. They sounded serious.

Sara unzipped the tent flap just enough to peek through. She wasn't at a good angle, and there was a tent in her way, but what she could see enough to recognize pokémon.

Sara thought she recognized the big simipour she saw half of, the leader of a local troupe. The pokémon were making pokémon-noises, so Hunter would have to be there, too, doing his best to translate. The simipour pantomimed something, lips drawn partway back from her teeth in annoyance, but at least from here Sara had no idea what she was trying to communicate.

Sara waited, straining her ears to listen and debating whether to go out and join her parents--she could recognize their voices now and then but not understand the words--or even just get a little closer, hide behind a tent or something. Whatever was going on was definitely something for grown-ups, but Sara didn't want to wait and hear about it second-hand if at all.

Before Sara could decide the conversation was over, the pokémon filing between the tents on the far side of camp and heading into the jungle. Sara watched and catalogued: trumbeak, snivy, the simipour, even a vespiquen--but the people were dispersing, too, some coming her way, and Sara had to get back from the tent flap while her mind whirled with curiosity. She wasn't worried, because her parents would handle it if it was anything bad, but something important was going on and she was getting left out.

Her parents stopped a bit away from the tent, talking in low voices, probably trying not to wake her. Sara concentrated mightily on the words.

"...have to leave the cameras," her mother was saying. "How do we know which ones are good?"

"Will you need help?" Dad said. "If you go over whatever invisible line and something attacks you, then--"

"No, no, I don't think we want to send more people out there than we have to, if they're getting antsy about humans on their land. And one more's not going to do any good if they do decide to attack. They've always been able to get rid of us if they wanted to. This doesn't change that."

There was a long pause. "You could always just leave the cameras. Try again next year," Dad said.

"Cory, we didn't come all the way out here to give up at the first sign of trouble. There's been some kind of misunderstanding, fine. We can work it out. It's not the end of the world."

"I would really feel better if you took Ascher with you, at least. And Hunter. Someone who can try to communicate with them, if things get out of hand."

"Okay. I can do that."

Another, longer silence. "What do you think they were talking about, some power? Some kind of sacred place, maybe? Or a legend?" Mom asked at last.

"I think it's some kind of pokémon. A real one. They didn't seem to be speaking metaphorically at all."

"No, but people can experience superstitions in a very real way, too. I don't know if it's something literally real."

"Maybe not. I don't think it really matters one way or the other."

"Do you think it could be a venusaur?" Mom asked. Professor Oak had brought the first bulbasaur back from around here, many years ago. There were supposed to be wild ones, but Sara hadn't seen one yet.

"I have no idea. I guess. That would probably be powerful enough to put the fear in most pokémon."

"Can you imagine? A real venusaur in the wild. No one's ever observed--even just a picture would be--"

"Amanda."

"Oh, all right, all right. I promise I won't go chasing whatever it is that has that lot spooked. But we do need to recover as many of the cameras as we can. I'll see if Hunter can arrange for another guide, some pokémon that could tell us where not to go. That would be the safest thing."

"Good. And I think it would be best if Sara stayed with me for the next few days at least. Or in camp." Sara scowled mightily.

Mom sighed. "She'll be so disappointed. But yes. Of course."

Sara scowled harder and twisted her fingers in the fabric of her sleeping bag. She didn't want to spend all her time picking up sticks and watching people move dirt around. She needed to be out in the forest, looking for Mew and collecting scans for Professor Oak and training Titan. She couldn't let her one time out in the jungle be one that ended with her getting scared and running away over nothing. She fumed in silence, because her parents came into the tent and she had to pretend to be asleep. And then she was asleep, again, without even realizing it.

--​

Several days later, Sara sat at a picnic table, flipping halfheartedly through a field guide and looking at the pictures. She wished she'd brought her video games with her. Mom said they wouldn't have much electricity in the forest, and Sara had expected to be out having adventures all day anyway. She hadn't thought she would need entertainment.

She'd done her best, but Mom and Dad had been firm about keeping her out of the jungle. She'd gone with Dad a couple times and watched people move dirt, then hung around staring at the Mew carving looming large on the wall. She wandered as close as she could get to the edge of the forest before Dad called her back. Sometimes she thought she felt something watching her from the trees, a cold feeling that set goosebumps all up and down her arms, but probably it was just her imagination.

She hadn't told anybody about what she'd found in the jungle. She had a feeling that if the wild pokémon were mad about something vague it was probably her accidentally stumbling into their church or whatever, not Mom's cameras. Which was stupid, because it wasn't like they had a sign or anything saying not to go there, and it was Titan who'd found it anyway. But she hadn't told Mom and Dad because if they knew they for sure wouldn't let her go back in the jungle ever again, like it was all her fault.

Now she was stuck in camp without even the carving to look at. Titan had the pokédex out beside her, stabbing the buttons with his claws. Professor Oak had recorded the audio himself, and Titan seemed to enjoy hearing his voice. He was more homesick than she was, Sara thought.

Sara pushed the field guide away and rested her chin on the edge of the table. Bored. She was a trainer now. She was supposed to be out living the plants and the animals and everything, not reading about them in books.

"Sara! There's a time and place for everything! But not now," the pokédex said. Titan clucked to himself and kept pressing buttons.

Sara looked narrow-eyed across the campsite to where a couple of grad students were sitting with their laptops, working. They were the ones who were supposed to be watching her while Mom and Dad were gone, and if they thought she had nothing to do, they'd come up with some stupid chores to occupy her.

"I'm going back to my tent," she said at them, loudly. "I want to take a nap."

June, on the left, raised a hand without looking up from her computer. Sanesh kept typing. Good.

Sara slid down from her seat. "Come on, Titan."

"Char?" He didn't want to take a nap, Sara guessed.

"Shhh. Come on."

Titan huffed and scraped at the edge of the table with his claws, turning longingly back towards the pokédex. Sara stood there waiting, though, and after a moment he slid down, too, grabbing the pokédex and hugging it to his chest.

"We're going to have some fun," Sara murmured to him. "You want some berries?" The charmander followed more enthusiastically after that, eyes bright and tail up and waving behind him.

Not far from camp was a clearing where a fallen tree had ripped a hole in the canopy so sunlight actually reached the ground. It was all covered in tangled berry bushes, every kind, and would stay that way until the little trees poking up from the forest floor got big enough to shade everything out again.

Mom and Dad had taken Sara out there a couple times to pick fruit for breakfast, and there was a worn-down path leading to it, so there was no way to get lost. There were sure to be lots of pokémon around--they liked berries too, after all. It would be the perfect place to find Mew, a sun-drenched patch of woods full of flowers and the sweet smell of berries. And it was close, so they could go and come back without anybody realizing they'd been.

It was as easy as heading towards Sara's tent, then skirting around behind instead of going in. Tack left, keeping a row of tents between her and the grad students, and she found the scuffed path and was on her way.

There were pokémon in the berry patch, eating, but they scattered when Sara and Titan came walking up. After a while they started coming back, though, when they saw it was just the two of them. One panpour even challenged Titan to a fight. It was too young to control its water attacks, so mostly the two of them wrestled, trying to use their claws. Titan was stronger and heavier and after a couple of minutes he'd sent the panpour running to the low branches of a tree at the edge of the clearing, where it sat watching gloomily while the charmander paraded around, crowing his victory.

Sara tossed oran berries to the panpour, and she was going to ask if it wanted to join her, but once it was feeling better it ran off instead. Sara didn't even mind. Titan ate oran berries, too, until he'd gotten blue all over his scales and his scratches had healed so he didn't even need a potion.

Sara wandered around, stuffing herself with her favorite berries, especially the pecha berries near the middle of the patch. Mom would never let her eat this many, or wander for so long. Which was dumb, because it was educational. Sara listed off in her head all the berries she could name and used her pokédex to take pictures of the ones she couldn't, especially the weird mutants where different kinds of plants grew together, ones that were in between two colors, or lumpy like one kind but the color of another. Sara tried every kind, for science, and shrieked when a knobbly red one made her mouth feel like it was on fire, even spicier than a razz berry. She spat it out after just one bite and Titan came running to see if she was hurt.

Soon Sara thought there weren't any more berries to try, and she was stuffed and sticky and her clothes were stained all different colors. Titan was napping under a chilan bush, and Sara sat down nearby, too full to even contemplate walking back to camp. The air was warm and felt thick, humid and dense with the smells of berries broken open and rotting on the ground. Those would grow into even more bushes. Sara wondered idly if she could pick some to take back to Cinnabar and plant at home.

This was the best morning. Sara couldn't wait to be out on her journey so it could be like this every day. No parents to tell her she couldn't do stuff, just Titan and nature and wild pokémon all around. She'd even nearly caught a panpour! It was too bad she couldn't tell Mom that, since she wasn't supposed to be out here in the first place. But from now on she could come out here with Titan and do some real training. That's what she ought to do.

Sara flipped idly through the berry pictures she'd taken, making a note here and there about what they tasted like. Professor Oak would be very impressed with how seriously she was taking this. She was so engrossed that she almost missed the telltale rattle and click, the scuttle of bug-legs over bark.

A venipede! A real one, this time! It was on the far side of the clearing, and Sara could only see the edge of its carapace as it crawled over a kind of berry bush Sara didn't recognize, eating away. Then it moved and was completely out of view. It probably hadn't seen her.

"Titan," Sara whispered. "Titan!" She knew better than to try poking him awake. In the end the only way she could get a response was by being loud, and sure enough, while Titan pushed himself up, yawning, Sara peeked around the edge of the bush to find the venipede stopped with a half-eaten berry in its mandibles, antennae waving nervously.

"There's a venipede, Titan," Sara muttered to him, keeping her eyes on the bug the whole time. "Maybe if you go slow and don't run at it it'll fight instead of running away."

Titan crawled out from under the bush, blinking in the sunlight, and rose slowly to his hind legs. He could see the venipede now, too. The bug let him get all the way to his feet before it dropped its berry and took off towards the trees.

Sara said a bad word under her breath, then, "It's okay, Titan! You don't have to--Titan!" But the charmander wanted to fight and went crashing after the venipede, heedless. The bug knew the forest better and didn't have to navigate the undergrowth, but Sara noted with approval that Titan was nearly keeping up. Then she realized both of them were going to be out of sight in a second if she didn't get moving herself.

"Titan!" she yelled. "Titan, wait! Don't go into the jungle!"

Of course he was already in the jungle. Sara could hear him crashing around up ahead, now and again caught sight of his waving flame. He wasn't waiting for her. Sara hurried, her contented lethargy forgotten, keeping the tail flame in view at all times until at last Titan stopped at the base of a big tree.

The venipede was up above on the trunk, apparently amused by the charmander who was growling and kept trying to climb up to reach it, his claws dragging up long curly strips of bark every time he slid back to the ground. Sara grinned and jogged up behind him. "It's okay, Titan. You can leave it. It's just teasing you."

Titan stopped trying to climb and paced around the base of the tree instead, whining up at the venipede. Sara bet he was wishing he knew how to breathe fire so he could knock the bug down and teach it not to laugh at him. Sara wished he could, too. He couldn't be too far from starting to learn ember.

This venipede apparently decided the fun was over. It turned and climbed up out of sight, and Titan came back over to Sara, chuffing and growling in irritation. "You almost got it!" she said. "I bet if we train hard you'll be able to get one of those stupid bugs with your fire soon. We have to go back to camp now, come on." She turned and led him back to the berry patch.

The only problem was that she didn't come to the berry patch. She'd been walking for what felt like way too long, and she didn't see it anywhere. Or smell it, or hear the sounds of pokémon eating. Maybe she'd run after Titan for longer than she thought.

But no, she kept going and it still wasn't there. Sara stopped and looked around, and the forest looked the same in all directions. "Do you know how to get back, Titan?" she asked. The charmander made a puzzled noise, looked around like he hadn't really been considering it. He'd just been following her.

Sara tried to clamp down on the fear spreading through her chest. She couldn't be lost, not already. They'd barely even gone anywhere. She just had to calm down and think.

She retraced her steps, hoping to find the tree the venipede had been in. She'd definitely be able to get back from there. But she couldn't find that place, either. There weren't any trees with charmander claw-marks on them.

By now Titan had picked up on her mood, following her around making anxious little chirping noises. "It's okay, Titan," she said. "We'll be okay. I just need to figure things out."

Getting lost in the wild. The worst thing. Way more trainers died just from going a little off the path and not being able to get back than were attacked by wild pokémon or got sick or drowned or anything. Not getting lost was always the first rule. And now here she was, lost, and she wasn't even on the same continent as home.

When you got lost you were supposed to stop moving. That way people could come and find you and you wouldn't get even more lost. It was basically lunchtime, so probably people had noticed she wasn't around. They'd start searching. If they didn't find her by the time her parents got back, then Mom and Dad would join in and things would really start to pick up.

They would find her. Even though they didn't know what direction she went, there were a lot of them and they wouldn't give up. She'd be able to hear them calling for sure.

So Sara wasn't worried about being lost forever. What really made the cold sink to the pit of her stomach was the thought of just how mad her parents would be when they found her. They always said to never go in the forest alone, especially not without telling anyone what you were doing. They said they trusted her to know how to do things properly, like a real trainer would. Then she did all the things she wasn't supposed to do, and now she was lost, just like they said. She hadn't brought anything with her, didn't have her compass or even any food or water.

Her parents were never going to let her go off on her own again. They probably wouldn't let her go on her journey either. Sara bet they wouldn't even let her leave the house until she turned fifteen.

She had to find her way back. No way could she wait and let them come to her and ground her until she was old enough to drive. Sara stopped, took some deep breaths, and looked around again. The berry patch was a big clearing that was sunny. She should be able to see where things got lighter and go that way.

Yes, now that she was looking properly things did seem to be brighter off to her left. And she thought she remembered seeing that big spiderweb hanging just above head-height. "Come on, Titan," Sara said, and set off.

She walked. She found what she was sure was part of the path she'd made, a scuffed bit in the leaf litter where one of her feet had slipped, and there was a bush that looked like Titan had broken through it while he was running. But then she didn't think she remembered that ridge of stone, rising up covered in tangled roots and creepers, and then up in front of her opened a ravine, the land suddenly sloping away down below, and she didn't know where she was at all. She was lost.

Sara sat down and tried to figure out what to do. She felt sick. She wanted to recall Titan so she could cry and it wouldn't make him anxious, but if she recalled him, then she'd be all alone in the middle of the woods.

Titan wasn't helping. He kept tugging on her arm and whining. Probably he wanted reassurance. Sara ducked her head down between her arms and tried not to cry, her eyes feeling hot under the lids, chest tight with the pressure of holding everything in.

That just made Titan pull harder, until Sara shoved him away. "Stop it! I'll put you in the pokéball if you don't leave me alone."

"Chah!" There was genuine panic in Titan's voice. "Chah, chah!"

"It's going to be okay, Titan," Sara said. "Calm down. Do you want to go in your ball? I think you should--"

"Chamanda!"

Sara had never heard him sound like that. She stopped, and once she stopped she realized the tightness in her chest wasn't just suppressed tears. Her heart was pounding loud. Her palms were sweaty and her arms were covered in goosebumps. Something was here, watching them. She could feel it.

It was was the same thing that had watched them at the altar. The same bad thing. Wild pokémon? Sara couldn't see anything or anyone at all. Still the shadows beneath the trees looked darker, the sway of hanging moss or fluttering leaf evidence of something unseen breathing, alien and hidden.

There was nowhere to run. Sara drew her knees in tight and tried to be small, like there was even a chance that whatever it was didn't know she was there already. Her heartbeat was so loud that Sara felt like it would give her away in any case. Surely the entire jungle could hear it.

Titan was panting with his mouth open, splayed on four feet in the leaves next to her, his flame high and glowing yellow and orange. He could probably burn down the whole jungle if he stuck his tail down in the dry leaves. Sara didn't know why that thought kept going around and around in her head--maybe because her brain needed something to think about other than the awful feeling smothering her, telling her she was going to die.

Sara sat there trembling, with Titan shaking next to her, and felt like this would never end. Whatever-it-was had decided to watch them, would be content to do so forever, until her thundering heart skipped and stopped and then she died.

It was too much. Even dying had to be better than this. If it was going to end, she wanted it to be over with. "Stop it!" she yelled, or tried to. There wasn't enough air in her lungs to get out more than a halfhearted bark. She tried again, louder, squeezing her eyes shut. "Stop it! Leave me alone!"

There weren't even any birds chirping. Had the jungle always been so quiet? Maybe the bad thing had scared everything off. Sara thought about the wild pokémon and their story about something awakened in the forest and tried to convince herself that there was no birdsong because she couldn't hear anything over her heartbeat, which was making the darkness behind her closed eyes shudder.

"Char!"

Sara heard that, and could feel the heat from Titan's tail-flame beating against the side of her arm and face. She didn't want to look, she still didn't want to look. Leaving him to face this alone was as bad as him abandoning her, but Sara still didn't want to open her eyes.

"Char, charman! Charmanda!" Titan tugged on her arm, more roughly than before. His claws bit into her skin, and Sara's eyes popped open as she gasped.

Titan wasn't apologetic about the scratches, pointing frantically up, up. Sara looked without thinking, and there it was, way up high in the crown of a young, growing fig: a pink pokémon with stubby arms hooked over a branch and feet hanging free below, snaky long tail dangling between. It watched them with huge blue eyes.

Sara tried to say something, tried to say what it was, the name she knew, but either she didn't have the breath or the word got lost somewhere between her brain and her tongue. Titan was quiet now, staring.

The pokémon blinked at them. It let go of the branch but didn't fall, instead moving zigzag through the air, so fast Sara struggled to keep it in view, tracking it back and forth while it moved in and out of sight around intervening trees, watching her the whole time.

"Char!" Titan brandished his claws at the pokémon, rising up to his hind legs and then falling forward again. "Char!"

The pokémon shot out from behind a tree trunk and into full view. It hung in the air for a second, as if considering. Then Titan went back over Sara's head like he'd been launched from a slingshot, slamming against a tree trunk with a thud so solid Sara could swear she felt it, too. He fell limply to the ground.

Sara stood with another cry stuck in her throat, wide-eyed and too stunned, for a second, to remember what she had to do. Then she fumbled for Titan's pokéball, the clip holding it to her belt still stiff and new, and managed somehow to hit the button and call him back in a flash of red light.

She squeaked when the pokémon swooped down to hover over the spot where the charmander had landed. It moved back and forth, examining the ground, then turned those wide blue eyes on Sara. She felt... something. Like something had brushed against, not her skin, but her brain, like someone had said something quiet she just barely couldn't make out.

Sara's hand was sweating around the pokéball, her arm shaking. There was nothing standing between her and the pokémon now. Her heart was pounding so hard it was starting to make her dizzy.

It was going to be okay, she tried to tell herself. This was Mew. That was the name of the pokémon. Mew wasn't going to hurt her. Mew was cute. Mew was a fun pokémon that liked to bounce and play and pick berries and fly around with its pokémon friends.

The pokémon in front of her did not seem much like an illustration in a children's book. It moved too fast, hovering up, down, around in a circle, examining Sara from all sides. The eyes were huge and brilliant blue, but here, alive, they held a shrewd intelligence that artists had missed.

Sara could hardly breathe, and her tongue felt glued to the roof of her mouth, but she had to say something, she had to do something. This was what she'd been looking for all along, a legendary pokémon, one a lot of people didn't even believe existed. "Hello," she croaked, but the noise that came out didn't sound much like any word in particular. And after that she couldn't think of anything else at all. What were you even supposed to say in a situation like this? "My name's... Sara."

Mew whipped around in the air to look at her, and Sara froze, heart hammering. It was okay, though. It was just Mew. And a second later the pokémon turned away, hovered around the spot Titan had disappeared from again, swung left, right, constantly in motion and hardly paying any attention to Sara at all. As if it had seen everything of interest here it lashed its tail and set off in a sudden straight line, away from Sara.

"W-wait!" she said, and Mew stopped, revolving slowly in the air. Again there was a funny feeling in Sara's head, like something brushing against the surface of her thoughts, stirring them to ripples.

"I'm lost," Sara said. "Please, do you know how to get back to the camp? Can you show me?"

Again that faint whirl of sensation. A wave of hot, then cold passed over Sara as she realized that was Mew talking. It was talking inside her head, it was that good of a psychic. Even Hunter couldn't do much more than give people headaches or make them feel sick to their stomach.

Sara didn't think the vague communication felt very positive, though. "Please, you have to know where it is." Even if Mew had never seen it, all the pokémon in the forest must be talking about it. "It has a bunch of tents and machines and other humans. Other people like me. I have to get back there, but I don't know the way."

Legendary pokémon helped lost people all the time in stories, and not even just old stories--Moltres was supposed to have saved Blaine when he was lost in the mountains, and he was old but not dead yet.

Mew stayed where it was for a few seconds, spinning end over end. Then it kicked with its back legs, flipping itself right-side up with a gentle, lazy motion. It flew a short distance forward, then turned back towards Sara. The universal attitude of someone asking another person to follow.

Sara felt dizzy from relief, or maybe just from holding her breath. "You know. Can you--will you--show me?"

Mew zipped forward again and stopped, waited. Sara stumbled after. Her legs felt like they didn't remember how to walk. Mew watched her come closer, then when she had almost caught up turned and took off in earnest.

Mew didn't realize how fast it was compared to humans, or possibly didn't care. It didn't look back again to see whether Sara was following and soared easily over dense thickets and fallen logs where Sara had to go around or fight her way through. She might have worried Mew wasn't taking her the right way if she'd had the energy to spare for worries. All her concentration went to keeping Mew in sight and making sure she didn't trip.

It felt like she ran forever, and all of it uphill. Mew got harder and harder to see until it was just the odd flash of pink in between the trees up ahead. Sara yelled again for it to wait, but it didn't hear or didn't stop. She pushed herself to run faster, faster, but it was no good. Mew was gone.

Sara stumbled to a halt, gasping and heaving for air, her hands on her knees, dread creeping in around the edges of her exhaustion. No good. Now she was really, really lost.

Her breath had almost slowed down enough for her to start crying when she noticed the noise. There was music, faint and crackly but with the unmistakeable beat of one of Sanesh's pop CD's. He played them in an immense boxy CD player that looked like it weighed a hundred pounds and had been dropped down at least three flights of stairs in its lifetime, but he said it was indestructible and worth the hassle of carrying to have his tunes while he was out on an expedition.

Sara wasn't far. She could follow the music and she'd be back in camp in no time. It was only then that she realized she actually was crying, staring dazed at the dark holes her tears had left in the leaf litter. She wanted to go back and have lunch and lie down for a very long time.

Mew must not have wanted to get too close to the camp. That made sense. Sara straightened up, still breathing hard, and rubbed the tears from her eyes. "Thank you," she said to the empty jungle and started walking in the direction of the music, slow at first and then faster when she saw the first tent between the trees up ahead, faster until she was almost running when she came out of the forest.

Sara wanted to go back to her tent so she could at least pretend to be coming out of it like normal, but instead she ran headlong into June coming around the opposite side.

"Sara!" June gasped. "Oh, thank God. Where have you been?"

"I was trying to catch a cool bug," Sara said, trying to summon enough energy to sound indignant. "It was blue and green and really shiny."

"You didn't go into the woods, did you?" June asked.

"No," Sara said, with extra defiance. There were multicolored berry stains on her shirt, sticks in her hair, Titan's scratches on her arm. June took all this in for a moment, then said, "Good. Because if your parents found out you'd been wandering around in the jungle on my watch, they'd kill me."

"Uh-huh."

"Kill. K-I-L-L. Murder. Decapitate. Bury in a shallow grave. Come on." June flapped her hands at Sara, herding her in the direction of the picnic tables. "Have you had lunch yet? Let's get you lunch."
 

Persephone

Pokémon Trainer
Pronouns
her/hers
Hello,

I remembered why I love your work lol. Honestly don't have much in the way of concrit here so, um, just take some praise? Please?

Wanting to touch bats and ruins and not being able to but still sometimes trying anyway is a mood I can relate to.

Going off trail is v serious. Am glad you captured that. Also got strong Blair Witch vibes from the shrine. Good use of horror in a medium that sometimes doesn't do suspense well, because timing and imagery are harder. Also, birbeaters <3 <3 <3 best not-pokemon.

Sara is... idk. She's a child narrator, with all the drawbacks and strengths that come with that. I'd peg her around eight from the narration and mentions of future events. And she did see Mew! And even battle it! And it still felt v pyrrhic. I like that kind of thing, where the protagonist accomplishes their goal but fulfills none of the reasons they had for going about the goal in the first place. Not sure I can buy parents bringing a kid that young and immature into the middle of the Amazon tho.

Then, uh, Mew. I guess I should've expected that, given Salvage and all. I do like that we can kind of see Mewtwo in its progenitor, in its attack first mentality, vague cult of fear its implied to have, and obliviousness towards human life. While Mew leans benevolent when it cares and Mewtwo leans the other way. Overall, it's just not a being that cares much about humans. Or maybe pokemon, given the silence that accompanies it. That's an interesting take, and explains its mythical status well.

Anyway. I'm better with longer stories. But I hope this was vaguely useful.
 

Negrek

Angel of Memory
Staff
Hey, no worries, I'm perfectly happy to take some praise! I'm glad you've liked this one so far.

Haha, I want to touch ALL the things I'm not supposed to touch. I enjoyed putting bits of my experiences and enjoyment of the outdoors into Sara's narration--the parts of it where she isn't terrified, anyway. :P Thankfully I've never had an off-the-path experience myself, but I'm also much more of a rule-follower than Sara is.

Sara's nine here. I'm glad you got a pretty good read on her age, since I struggle a lot with making characters sound at the right level of maturity. I don't think I write kids particularly well, so I'm kind of in hell with my current story, haha. Next one will have no one younger than upper teenage, thank God. Since I'm rolling with "trainers start at ten" for Salvage's continuity I kind of downshift societal age expectations by a couple of years. I know of professors who enjoy bringing their children with them to their research sites, but those kids are generally more like 10-12, so I hoped nine wouldn't seem totally out there, given that Sara was going to be allowed to go out and tame murderbeasts without adult supervision the next year anyhow. :P I'm glad you like the pyrrhic victory thing, it is, uh. Kind of a theme in this story as well as Salvage itself, haha.

Yeah, Mew's portrayal is something I kind of wanted to expand upon. I tried to hint at the fact that Mew is Not Nice in Salvage itself, but the focus is more on the tragedy of her situation there and we don't see much of it in general, so I don't know how many people picked up on it. Once I finish this story I'll have to try writing a story where the mews aren't jerks to cleanse the palate or something. But you're spot on, Mew isn't actively malevolent, but can't relate to and isn't really interested in humans or in other pokémon unless they're actively catering to her somehow, and not necessarily even then.

Thanks so much for taking the time to comment on this! It was very reassuring to hear that you're getting out of this what I hoped that people would! Should have the next chapter cleaned up to post in the next couple of days.
 
  • Like
Reactions: qva

Negrek

Angel of Memory
Staff
Author's Note: When I was originally planning this story, I thought I was going to get it all done within three parts. That... didn't happen. Here's the penultimate part, and also the longest. Hope you enjoy!

Part Three

"Mom, what do psychic pokémon like to eat?" Sara asked.

"Hmm?" Mom was flipping through photos and didn't even look up when Sara sat down next to her. "Well, lots of things. It depends on the species. Xatu don't eat the same things as staryu, for example."

"Well," Sara said, hesitating a moment. "What about Mew? What would Mew like to eat?"

That got Mom's attention. Sara held her breath. "Mew?" Mom asked. "Oh... Oh. I get it. You want something to use as bait, so Mew might come visit. Is that it?"

Sara nodded emphatically. By unacknowledged mutual agreement, no one had told her parents that she'd gotten lost in the jungle. She hadn't told anybody about Mew, and regretted not thinking to scan it with her pokédex when she'd had the chance.

"Well, that's a great idea, Sara. Let's see... Nobody really knows, of course, it's a mythical creature, but if I had to guess... Probably carnivorous, you could try a jerky like we use for the abra line. And high protein, nuts, seeds, maybe we could think about berries... Yes, I think we could whip something up. You can help, and then what do you say, we can put some out and see if anyone shows up for it. Does that sound like fun?"

"Yeah!" Sara said, as emphatically as she could. She might have to sneak away anything that got left out, just in case. She wanted to bring Mew into camp herself, not have it show up on its own and have someone else say they saw it first. But she'd be able to get extra of the bait they made to take into the forest.

"Great. I'm just going to finish up with these, and then we'll see what we've got in the kitchen." Mom's voice was going distant as she resumed thumbing through her photos. She paused on one and sighed. "Oh. They found the camera again." Most of the rest were pictures of pansear, who knew about the experiment, striking poses and mugging for the camera trap. "For now, why don't you ask Hunter?" Mom said.

"Ask him what?"

"How to attract a Mew."

"Hunter doesn't like me."

"Hunter doesn't like anybody who's not a potsherd, Sweetie. He likes history, though. I bet he'd be very interested in your Mew project, and he'd know a lot better than me how to find a psychic pokémon."

That was probably true. Sara looked over to where Hunter was sitting and spooning berries into his mouth. He was always by himself except sometimes when he was working at the dig. His trainer was back on Cinnabar Island, and as far as Sara knew he mostly only had a trainer at all because it gave him a convenient place to stay.

Mom was right that he probably had a better idea of how to find a psychic pokémon than anybody else on the expedition. And this was Mew, this was important, so she really should try, even if she didn't want to.

"Hi, Hunter," Sara said, sliding onto the bench next to him. The kadabra's gaze flicked towards her, but that was all. Sitting right up next to him Sara could feel a funny buzzing in the air, almost like what she'd felt with Mew. He couldn't make it go everywhere like Mew did, though.

"You know Mew?" Sara asked. He gave her a look she thought was supposed to make her feel stupid. "It's supposed to live around here, and I want to find it. Do you know how?"

Hunter snorted, his moustache trembling. He scooted his bowl away from Sara and halfway turned his back.

"Well, I thought since you're a psychic pokémon, you might know how to find Mew." A twinge of pain sparked behind one of Sara's eyebrows. Not good; a sudden headache was how Hunter told you he was annoyed with you and wanted you to leave.

"Even if you don't believe in it, you could at least tell me and I can try and see what happens," Sara said, then winced when another spike of pain erupted deep in her skull. Hunter was almost done with his berries, and Sara had the feeling he was going to scuttle off the instant he'd finished his breakfast.

"Listen, can you keep a secret?" she asked. A sudden burst of pain made Sara's hands fly up to clutch her head. "No, listen!" she hissed, "Mew is here. I saw it. I found it out in the jungle the other day. Now I have to find it again so I can catch it, but I don't know how. Can you help me?"

Hunter harrumphed again, but at least he didn't blast Sara with a headache.

"I really did! I can prove it! I can remember it for you and then you can see!" And without waiting for a response Sara remembered Mew as hard as she could, the way it moved through the air, the wide bright blue eyes, how it had flung Titan into a tree. Once she started she couldn't help but remember, too, the sick suffocating feeling that was some mixture of fear and Mew's psychic-ness, the tingly prickly way it made goosebumps rise, how she'd thought she would be lost forever.

Hunter grumbled to himself, raking at his moustache with his free claw and tapping his spoon against the edge of the table. He'd stopped eating.

"That's right!" Sara whispered. "I saw Mew. For real. And you can't. Tell. Anybody."

Usually it was easy to tell what Hunter meant. To say "No," he'd make you feel bad. For "Yes," you'd feel good instead. And all kinds of emotions, from disgust to fear to awe, he could make you feel those, too, to one degree or another. And obviously he could do headaches if you annoyed him. The stronger a psychic pokémon was, the better it was at telepathy. Supposedly really really strong psychics could make pictures in a person's mind, and some were even supposed to be able to make the voice in your head say what they wanted to tell you.

Hunter was nowhere near as strong as that, but he usually managed better than he was now. Sara flashed cold and then hot, her nerves skittering so she bounced her foot under the table, but also, inexplicably, her eyes itched? And she felt faintly headache-y.

"Hey, come on. You're interested, aren't you?"

Sara's heart leapt. That was an emphatic "yes." "So stop giving me headaches. Will you tell me how to get Mew to come now?"

Hunter rapped his spoon against the edge of the table with a swift, agitated beat. "Dab dab," he muttered. He hardly ever talked, and his voice was more high-pitched than Sara had expected. A tingling sensation started on her skin, and it felt like the air around her was actually getting hot. Sara's vision receded a moment into a funny rainbow arc, which rippled away from her like a spreading wave. That was what she thought: Open. Going out. Spreading.

Sara blinked. "Did you... Did you do that?" she asked. Hunter made an impatient gesture with his spoon. "You want to do something? Like a...?" Sara waggled her fingers and spread her hands wide.

Hunter swiped his spoon and sent an arc of pink light racing through the air to dissipate just over one of the tents. Psycho cut. "You don't mean you're going to fight--" Sara realized she was talking loud and leaned in closer to the kadabra, feeling the weird buzz from his mind flow over her skin like a breeze "--you're not going to fight Mew, are you?"

No hit her like a punch to the stomach. Hunter tapped his spoon gently against his lips and then made a sweeping outward gesture with it.

"Talk, huh? Like a psychic call?"

Yes.

"Okay," Sara said. "Okay, that makes sense. Tomorrow morning, come to my tent. It's Mira staying here tomorrow, right? After she cleans up after breakfast, then. We can sneak out to the berry patch and nobody will notice."

Hunter grunted and resumed scooping berries into his mouth. "And remember, you can't tell anyone. Got it?" Hunter lifted his free hand from the table and waved her off.

"Okay, good. Me and Mom are going to make bait. Maybe you can have some after we find Mew," Sara said magnanimously. When she felt the hot clench of an oncoming headache, she decided at last to leave Hunter alone.

--​

The grad students had been more attentive ever since Sara's sojourn in the woods. Hovering, Sara might say. At least Mira hadn't been around when Sara snuck out the first time, so although the others must have filled her in, she hadn't experienced losing track of Sara firsthand.

There was a trick kids used a lot in movies when they wanted to get out of going to school. Sara ate breakfast extra-slow and complained loudly that she didn't feel good. She went back to her tent instead of sitting at one of the tables like normal, and while she was listening to the morning exodus and Mira cleaning up, she stuffed all her extra clothes into her sleeping bag so it bulged like there was a person inside, tried to arrange things so from the entrance you wouldn't really be able to see the person's head anyway.

Sara fussed and straightened the pillow and plumped the sleeping bag over and over, worrying that Hunter wouldn't be discreet, would let Mira see him coming over to her tent. She didn't even have Titan to distract her. After what happened with Mew last time, neither of them wanted him to stay out and get hurt. He was already in his pokéball, and Sara was sure the second she sent him out for company Hunter would show up anyway.

Almost she'd started to wonder if the kadabra really wasn't interested and had only been messing with her when Hunter appeared outside her tent, glowering and twisting his spoon between his fingers while he watched Sara struggle out and post a sign that said "SLEEPING DO NOT DISTURB" on the tent flap.

"Come on!" she said. "Take us as close to the berry patch as you can!"

That wasn't very close; Hunter had been content to let someone else pick his meals for him. But his teleport put the two of them off at the edge of camp, at least, away from easy observation, and it was only a short walk from there.

Hunter surveyed the tumbled mess of berry bushes, the dark specks of droning insects visiting flowers or feasting on burst and fallen berries, and disdained the lot with a twitch of his moustache. He did reach out and take a bluk berry as he passed, though, and went to stand at the edge of the trees, his spoon raised.

Sara watched, but of course there was nothing to see. Hunter stalked around the edge of the clearing for a bit, then raised his spoon. Something flew past Sara, whipped over her like a sudden breeze. She took a couple of steps in Hunter's direction before she realized what she was doing.

Hunter ignored her. He wandered a bit more then stopped to do his thing again. Was Mew all that would come? Sara hoped there weren't any scary-powerful pokémon who might decide to see who was yelling into their forest. Another pulse rippled past and stirred Sara up inside even thought it didn't even rustle the leaves on the berry bushes. Psychic pokémon were weird.

Sara wasn't prepared when a small pink pokémon came zooming out of the trees, didn't have time to appreciate that Hunter's idea had actually worked. The kadabra turned toward Mew, spoon held up defensively. He might have started to go to one knee, like bowing or something, but Mew didn't slow down, corkscrewing through the air while deep purple-blue shadows swirled in front her. They shot towards Hunter, bursting into a dark haze.

That was a shadow ball, Sara realized. She'd never been that close to a real, serious pokémon attack before. Just like Titan, Hunter was tossed unceremoniously to the ground, unconscious.

Mew circled over him, thrumming with displeasure, then swept around in a broad arc, headed back towards the trees. "Wait!" Sara yelled. Mew stopped and turned, but the buzzing in Sara's head didn't feel friendly, and the legend's tail switched back and forth, coiling in and out around its long feet.

"I wanted to see you again," Sara said. She looked at Hunter, unconscious on the ground. "He just wanted to meet you. It was mean to attack him like that."

Mew spun away with what Sara could almost imagine was a huffy flick of its tail. It cruised low over the bushes, swooping in low to snag a berry. Sara shook her head as it filled with happy wordless whispering. Mew moved back and forth across the berry patch, picking berries and taking a couple bites of each before casting them aside. Now was her chance.

Mew turned, and Sara froze mid-creep, the pokédex out and poised between her hands. The legend darted off a moment later, though, browsing carelessly over the berry plants. Sara moved closer, and closer, hissing an exasperated breath when Mew made an abrupt sweep over to the other side of the clearing, erasing all Sara's careful progress. She almost just wanted to dash up and get a scan and then turn and run off again.

Fortunately Mew seemed to be enjoying the grepa berries in particular and hung around them long enough that pressing the "scan" button finally gave Sara a message other than "no target in range."

"Unknown species detected," the pokédex said. "Please hold pokédex steady for energy analysis." But Sara didn't hold the pokédex steady: she nearly dropped it, yelping, when Mew rounded and shot towards her, stopping not a foot from her face.

The legend hung in midair, tail drifting gently out behind it, peering at the device in Sara's hands. It felt curious, puzzled, not aggressive. "It's a pokédex," Sara said once she'd caught her breath. "It records data about pokémon for science. Nobody's ever seen a pokémon like you before."

Mew sent more shadowy not-noises into Sara's head. It was frustrating. Sara felt like if she really concentrated, really listened, she'd be able to make out actual words. But the psychic communications were always over too fast.

Then the pokédex chirped, "Spectral scan saved. Unknown species detected. Estimated mass 5 kg. Probable psychic-type. Unadjusted level approximation: sixty or greater. Approach with extreme caution."

Mew actually jumped, bouncing backwards through the air, and Sara giggled. "It's just a recording. It's not really talking." And then, as it dawned on her, "You've never seen something like this before, have you? It's a machine. They can do all kinds of things. They can make noises, or show pictures, or--you've never heard of TV! Or video games!"

Mew came cautiously forward again, prodding at Sara's mind with curious murmurings. Sara's own enthusiasm was rising, her words running away with her. "You don't even know--there were humans here before, weren't there? But you don't even know! You've been in the forest the whole time! It's nothing like it was then, there are all kinds of... buildings, and technology, and art and everything! You have to come back with me! You have to see it--we can go to the movie theater and the carnival and on an airplane and--the ocean! Have you ever even seen the ocean?"

Mew hung in the air in front of her, watching with huge blue eyes, drinking it all in, Sara thought. She remembered visualizing for Hunter, and Mew could probably read minds even better than he could. She remembered hard, sunlight shining off the big glass windows of skyscrapers, popsicles on the beach, pokémon battles on TV. "There's cities now, big cities. And all kinds of people... and pokémon... it must be so boring all the time in the jungle. Don't you want to see it? There's so much, you don't even know. Come with me! We can travel all over, we'll be the best team. I'm going to be a great trainer, and you can be my pokémon!"

Mew remained inscrutable, silent, watching Sara but not responding at all. Then, with a flick of her tail, she was around and away again, drifting lazily towards the trees. Sara's heart sank into her stomach. "No--no! Wait! I don't mean--you don't have to leave if you don't want to! I didn't mean it like that!" She ran after the legend, but Mew disappeared between the trees, and Sara stopped at their edge. She wasn't going to go out into the jungle, not after what happened last time.

She let out a long, dispirited breath. Nice job. Well, at least she got the scan. Even if Hunter wouldn't help her again, or Mew didn't come when he called, she had proof. She probably ought to be getting back to camp any--

Sara shrieked when something rocketed out of the undergrowth practically right next to her leg. Mew giggled, hanging in the air just above Sara's head, then arced into a graceful backflip and disappeared, with a rustle, into a clump of berry bushes. Sara took deep breaths, willing her heart to stillness, and cautiously approached.

"Mew?" Sara said, pushing aside branches and peering into the bushes' dense, shadowy interior. Nothing there. She couldn't feel the creepy tingly feeling Mew usually brought with it, either. Sara walked all around the bushes, now and again ducking down, contorting herself at some new angle to try and see inside. There was nothing there.

It was only when she'd given up and gone to check on Hunter that Mew exploded into the air, scattering leaves and twigs. Her psychic field blossomed once again, brimming with delight and laughter. Sara responded with laughter of her own. "You're good at hiding!"

Mew corskscrewed through the air, radiating excitement, then hooked swiftly around behind a tree trunk. The air fell inert. The chase was on.

Sara searched over and over, checking each of Mew's hiding places in turn, but she could never find the legend until it chose to reveal itself--it was good at hiding. It had to have some kind of camouflage, Sara decided, or some psychic thing that made your eyes skip over it completely. It wasn't exactly fair, but Sara didn't care. She was actually playing with a legendary pokémon! With Mew! And when at last the legend lost interest and sailed off into the forest for real, Sara felt confident it would be back again to play. She'd just need Hunter to call for it again.

Ah... Hunter. Sara dashed back to where he'd been lying, around near the edge of the clearing. The kadabra was sitting up, scratching at his head with his long claws. "Oh--Hunter!" Sara ran to get him some oran berries and watched anxiously while he ate them one by careful one. She definitely shouldn't have left him lying on the ground like that. She'd just been so distracted, with Mew...

"Did you see Mew?" Sara asked. Hunter gave her an exasperated look. "I mean, I guess you did, just for a couple seconds. I'm sorry it attacked you. I guess it's pretty territorial."

Hunter huffed and pushed himself to his feet. His movements were more confident now, less ginger. It was convenient to have all these berries around. "I'm sure next time we can get Mew to stop and talk to you instead of attacking," Sara said. "Umm, I mean, there will be a next time, right? You want to try again?"

Hunter looked her up and down, then gave a long-suffering sigh. With a flick of his spoon they were back at Sara's tent.

--​

Sara didn't have to guess why she woke up early the next morning, or why the atmosphere of the camp outside felt hushed and strained. She unzipped the tent flap, working slowly and quietly. The forest pokémon had all gathered near the center of camp again, and Sara recognized a few: the snivy, the trumbeak, the simipour.

Were they mad because Mew wanted to play with her? How was that fair? She didn't even go anywhere near their altar, and they'd already said people could use their forest if they wanted.

Hunter would be out there now, translating for Mom and Dad and everybody. And what would he tell them? Did the forest pokémon realize he'd gone with her to see Mew?

Sara strained pointlessly to hear what the pokémon were saying, caught only the odd growl or chirp that didn't mean anything anyway. She ducked back inside when the pokémon left and people started funneling back out between the tents. She sat up on her sleeping bag and pretended to read, waiting and waiting until finally Mom came to rummage through her stuff.

She didn't immediately ask whether Sara had been going into the jungle. That was good. "What were the pokémon here for, Mom?" Sara asked.

"Hmm? Oh, well, we're not entirely sure," Mom said. "Ah. Here it is." She pulled a bundle of maps out of her pile of papers. They were covered in scribbles and hand-drawn marker lines, the printed ink underneath giving little more than a sketch of the land around camp. Nobody really knew what was out here. "Don't worry about it, Sweetie. Dad and I are going to do our best to figure out what they want, and we'll be sure to stay safe. As long as you stick to camp or the ruins, I promise you'll be fine."

Mom paused from shuffling through the maps. Sara froze, thinking realization might have struck. But Mom said, "I know this trip hasn't been as exciting as you hoped. Sometimes these things happen, but I'm sorry they had to come up and ruin your adventure. When we get back there'll still be some time left before school starts, and I promise you we'll make sure you get to have a real vacation before you have to go back."

School seemed impossibly far away, off in some world that didn't even matter, not with legends roaming the forest and Sara, with her charmander, out to catch them. Sara tried to put herself back there, to remember what she would want to do if she wasn't living through literally the most exciting thing that had ever happened to her. What would be fun whether she had Mew with her or not? "Can we go to FossilWorld?" An exhibit at the Pewter Science Museum with robots of ancient pokémon that moved and roared like real.

Mom smiled. "How did I see that one coming? Of course, Sara. Let's say we stick it out for another couple of weeks with the bugs and the mud, and then we can spend the rest of the summer in air conditioning with a robot kabutops. Sound good?"

"They have three robot kabutops!" Sara said with a laugh. "I really want to see the armaldo, it's supposed to be scary."

"Sounds good to me." Mom tucked the maps under her arm. "Hang in there, kiddo. We're nearly there."

She left. Sara waited a few minutes to be sure she wasn't coming back, then hurried out of the tent like she was just hungry for breakfast. She almost ran straight into Hunter, who was skulking outside, raking his claws through his moustache and looking just about as suspicious as it was possible to look.

He was so bad at this! "Were the pokémon mad about us finding Mew?" Sara asked.

For a moment Sara was exasperated, and then confused about why she was exasperated, and then exasperated again when she realized that was Hunter being irritated with her. She just thought she should check! "Okay, fine. Did you tell anybody about us? Ow, ow! Okay! I get it!"

Hunter gave her one of his dour looks while she rubbed at her forehead, stewing. "Fine. So you want to try again today? I'll ask Mew to not knock you out right away this time."

Hunter's response was a luxurious feeling that made Sara think of sliding into a wonderfully warm bath. It was like being with Mew when it was happy or excited. It was strange to learn this, when she'd never been around many psychic pokémon before. It was kind of cool, but also kind of creepy, too.

"Okay," Sara said, and her grin couldn't all be from what Hunter put into her head. "We're a team, right? We'll get Mew together. And Mom and Dad aren't going to find out until we bring it back here for everyone to see."

--​

Mew didn't knock Hunter out right away that time. They even had some kind of conversation, Sara thought, the air fizzing with communication just beyond her ability to comprehend. Mew drifted around picking berries, unconcerned as ever, and Hunter was constantly turning to keep her in front of him while he talked, or whatever he was doing. He gestured with his spoon a lot. Sara got the sense there was some kind of expansive speech happening.

After a couple of minutes Mew spun and chucked a shadow ball at him, and he was out cold again. The ripples Mew sent out seemed like they tickled the inside of Sara's head, and she laughed as the legend came sailing over to her, burbling half-formed impressions.

"Okay, I get he's probably pretty boring. But that's still mean," Sara said. Mew danced around radiating smug satisfaction, and Sara grinned. "So, what do you... You want to play?" Sara asked. "Uh, you want to play catch?"

There wasn't a lot around to work with, but she was able to find a fallen berry that hadn't gotten too slimy yet. Mew watched her digging through the dead leaves as though it was utterly fascinating. "Okay, now catch!" Sara shouted, hurling the berry at Mew.

It stopped long before reaching the pokémon, then started to bob and dance with Mew's movements, zipping out of Sara's reach when she ran up to grab it. Sara tossed berry after berry up to Mew, and Mew caught them all, keeping them in orbit around itself, making them dance. Now and again it fired one back at Sara, without warning and much too fast for her to have any hope of catching. The flung berries burst uselessly against the forest floor.

That was how it went with all their games. They'd hide and seek, or tag, or race, and every time Mew won easily, if it even bothered to play by anything like normal rules. It didn't seem to mind, though, or thought it was fun to crush such easy competition, emanating delight whenever Sara exclaimed over its speed or psychic powers. Sara began to suspect that she didn't really need to bring Hunter to summon the legend, that Mew would have showed up at the berry patch on schedule just to see her. The warm secret that she'd found a legendary pokémon and made friends with it crept up on her sometimes, unexpected, and she found herself grinning at nothing over dinner or sitting by herself in her tent.

Hunter insisted on coming anyway. Sara felt a little bad, because he seemed like he really wanted to get to know Mew, and Mew seemed to find it funny to knock him out mid-rant and had no interest in him whatsoever. It would run off to play with Sara, the both of them forgetting about the unconscious kadabra until it was time to go home.

They couldn't keep just playing, though. There had only been ten days left of the expedition the first time Sara met Mew, and time trickled by ever faster, so Sara tried bringing up how exciting life was outside the jungle and how great it was to have a trainer. Mom did help her make some bait, and Sara mused pointedly on how many tasty things humans made while Mew greedily scarfed it down. Sara gave some of it to Hunter, too, afterwards, as thanks and apology both. She had to keep herself focused on her goal, though. Every opportunity she had, Sara pushed Mew to consider leaving the forest with her.

That's what she was doing with only four days left to go. Mew ranged back and forth across the clearing, swooping and bouncing and not even looking at Sara, peering at flowers and trailing vines, in constant motion. "And, and there are ice cream stands and fishing and surfing by the beach," Sara went on, feeling like she was losing the legend's attention completely. "We wouldn't have to stay on Cinnabar Island, either, we could go to Viridian or Saffron or Celadon or somewhere really cool."

Mew swung around and scooted over to Sara, an abrupt lunge made with a single lash of its tail. Sara jumped, then recovered and grinned, eager. "That's right! There are big buildings and so many people and all kinds of things to do. We could have a lot of fun."

Sara felt a brief tug at her waist. She looked down, confused, and saw Titan's pokéball floating towards Mew. "Oh, yeah!" she said. "That's a pokéball. It's for keeping pokémon in. Watch."

She grabbed the pokéball out of the air and clicked the button, and white light spilled out, forming up into Titan. The charmander looked around, and then up at Mew, and squeaked, but Sara already knew what was going to happen and clicked the pokéball's button again. The ground shook a little, even where Sara was standing, as something invisible slammed into the ground. Dirt and leaves puffed into the air. Titan was already halfway sucked into the pokéball, safe from whatever psychic attack that had been.

"It's not nice to pick on baby pokémon," Sara said. "If you came with me to Cinnabar Island then you could fight some real battling pokémon. Like Blaine, he's the gym leader, his team is really great."

Mew's eyes fixed on her, and Sara's mouth went dry. The pokéball in her hand jerked abruptly towards Mew, but Sara held on tight.

"I'll let Titan out again," she said, feeling very courageous, "but only if you don't attack him. Okay? You have to be nice."

Mew swung side to side in the air, and a cold feeling fell over Sara. Her heart started beating fast, the same way it had when she'd first felt Mew's psychic powers, before she'd gotten used to them. Even now, even though Mew could be cute and friendly, it was sometimes scary, too. And it was probably used to getting its way.

"Will you be nice?" she asked, and then gasped when the pokéball was torn from her fingers by rough and unseen force. She never had a chance at holding on. Mew floated the ball up overhead and examined it from all angles, twirling around it in the air. "Give that back," Sara said, her heart beating even harder now. Mew dropped the pokéball into its paws and then threw it up again, caught the ball with its tail and bounced it experimentally.

"I mean it," Sara said. "Give it back. That's Titan's pokéball. If you lose it or something happens to it, he's stuck in there forever. You have to be careful with pokéballs. They're where somebody lives."

Mew gave the ball an extra-large swat so it went shooting off into the trees, and Sara raced after, panting, already envisioning it rolling away somewhere, maybe into a gully or into the dark heart of a thorny bush, and being lost forever.

She didn't see it land. How could she? All she saw was the direction it went, and that it must have gone far. There was no way she could find something pokéball-sized in the jungle, with all the trees and bushes and fallen branches and leaves, even if it was bright red. And wandering around looking for it, she'd be relying on Mew to show her the way back to camp again, and who knew if it would even do that, or if it would decide it was more fun to watch Sara stumble around on her own.

Stop it. She couldn't think about that now. Finding Titan was the most important thing. Sara kicked aside undergrowth and parted bushes, peering inside, heedless of how her hands got scratched. She tried to be calm, distant, not let her heart leap with hope at each glimpse of what she thought was glossy white or bold red plastic. No hope, and no disappointment, either, when each new nook or cranny turned up empty.

A chill went up Sara's spine, the small hairs rising on her arms. Mew was lurking in the air behind her, watching. At first she tried to ignore it and only took her anger out on the jungle plants, kicking fallen branches aside, snapping stems and ripping leaves as she pushed through thickets. Mew kept pace behind, apparently fascinated.

"You think this is funny?" Sara finally snapped. "Titan could be lost forever, do you understand? It's like dying. He could be gone forever because you thought it was funny to play with his pokéball."

The impression she got from Mew was one of uncertainty and annoyance. The pokémon's huge blue eyes were unblinking, as always, no expression on its chubby snout.

"No," Sara said as firmly as she could. "I can't play with you. Not until I find Titan. This is important.

Mew hung around broadcasting dissatisfaction at her, like an incongruously pink stormcloud. Sara ignored it even harder, and tried not to let the effort of ignoring it distract her from finding Titan. That was the most important thing, always.

Finally Mew gave up and floated away. Sara reflected, bitterly, that she was probably just lucky it hadn't attacked her to have some fun. The legend was drifting around in the background somewhere, still fuming, no doubt, but Sara was determined not to pay any attention to it. And determined not to think of the endless jungle, stretching on and on for miles, and Titan's pokéball, only as large as her fist, lost somewhere within.

"Char!"

Sara whipped around, and there he was behind her: Titan, bright orange against the forest's greens and browns, his flame glowing warmly behind him. "Charman," he said, seeming reproachful.

"Titan!" Sara practically fell down in front of him, trying to get a closer look. "Where's your pokéball? How did you get out?"

The charmander let out an exasperated hrff of air and walked away like he didn't even know what she was so worked up about. Sara's arms were up and reaching before she managed to stop herself, to hold herself back. Titan hated it when people grabbed him or tried to pick him up.

"Titan, we can't just go. We have to find your pokéball. And then..." Trees to all sides, row on row. All alike. She felt sick. "Then we have to find the way back."

"Charman!" Titan pointed decisively forward and kept walking.

"Titan, we can't," Sara said. She closed he eyes and willed herself to be calm. "We can't just pick a direction and go. Remember what happened last time? And first we have to find your pokéball. Where did it go?"

And where was--but Sara couldn't see Mew anywhere. It must have flown off in a huff. And Hunter, he was still back at the berry patch, where she'd left him... like usual. He should wake up soon. He wouldn't leave her, would he? Maybe if he called Mew back, it would tell him how to find her.

"Charmander char!" And Sara felt "come here" so strongly that she looked up in surprise, already tensed to get to her feet. Titan had stopped and was glaring at her, reproachful.

"What was that?" Was Mew still around, actually? It could be hiding. Sara would never see it. Actually... actually now that she was thinking about it, she could still feel the fizzing sensation in the air. She was so used to it now that she usually didn't notice. But that meant it had to be around here somewhere.

"Come out, Mew!" she yelled. "I'm not playing your stupid game. Either help me find Titan's pokéball or show us the way back or go away."

Of course it didn't come out. The psychic presence still hung in the air, taunting. Where was it? Sara glared around at the trees. Titan growled, and Sara glanced at him, hoping he might have sensed where Mew was, like he did before. But he was growling at her.

The psychic presence hummed all around Sara. In front of her was Titan, definitely Titan: overlarge for a charmander, one snaggle-tooth grown out at a weird angle, deep dark eyes that glowed brown when the light hit them just right. He had the same voice that went from growly to squeaky in an instant. Sara stepped towards him and felt the psychic tension grow stronger.

"You can transform," Sara whispered.

"Charmander! Char, char!" Mew's tail flared up with excitement, and it raised its arms as though cheering her on. It pointed again in what must actually be the direction of the berry patch, then hurried on its way, flaming tail bobbing behind.

Sara could only stay awed for a second, though. "No, I'm not going to play with you," she said. "I don't want to play with you. I don't want a fake Titan, I want the real one, and you threw him away. You aren't anything like him at all."

Mew stopped and snorted, glaring. "That's right," Sara said. "You're mean. I don't want to play with you anymore, ever. Either bring Titan back or go away and leave me alone."

Mew actually hissed at her, face crumpling into a snarl that showed all Titan's gleaming jagged teeth. Its tail swished behind it, scattering live embers. Sara had never seen Titan look like that in her life. "So attack me, then!" she yelled. "I don't care! I never want to see you again. I want Titan!" Tears were turning her vision blurry. "The real Titan. You're not him. Go away."

Mew stood there growling, and Sara turned her back on it, sitting down right there in the gross leaves and covering her face with her hands. Why did she keep doing things wrong? She found Mew, but it wasn't nice, it was mean, and now she'd gone and lost her starter pokémon, the very most important one, and she was never going to find him ever again. She was the worst trainer ever, and she wasn't even a proper trainer yet.

Heat and tingling psychic pressure grew against her back as Mew came nearer. "Go away!" Sara shrieked and, remarkably, it did.

Sara sobbed, the way she hadn't been able to when she was lost the last time. Now here she was again, but she didn't have to be strong for Titan because Titan was gone because of stupid Mew and it didn't even matter that she wasn't going to be able to get back to camp, because if Titan couldn't go back then she didn't deserve to, either. She cried harder than she thought she ever had in her life.

Something thumped down in the dirt next to her and Sara looked up to get a watery view of Mew, itself again and hovering just overhead, making stern not-noises in her head. A pokéball lay on the ground underneath it, glossy plastic bright against the gray-brown old leaves. Sara was sobbing even while she grabbed it up, holding it tight against her chest even though there was no way to protect it if Mew wanted to grab it again. She was still crying but also hiccuping now, snot dripping from her nose.

Mew bounced up and down in the air. "No. I still don't want to play," Sara said. She took deep breaths but couldn't stop another sob from coming out, then turned and wiped her eyes on her shoulders, first one and then the other. Everything was wet and blurry.

Mew flew in circles over her head, radiating irritation that resonated with Sara's own. "Thank you for bringing Titan back, but I still want you to go away. You were the one who almost lost him in the first place." The pokéball was faintly warm in her hands, had a slight weight to it that was more than plastic, so she knew the charmander was in there.

Mew stopped circling but didn't go away. It laced the air with exasperated confusion. Then it seemed to twist, or spin, blurring and melting and then there was a basculin floating there, fins fanning gently in midair.

"I don't care. Go away," Sara said.

The basculin stretched and then squashed down into a rattata, then a caterpie that shone gold instead of green. "Go away." Sara turned her back to it again. She shifted Titan's pokéball to just one hand but kept it pressed tight against her chest. She wiped her face off properly with the other. Now that she'd stopped crying the world seemed extra bright and crisp.

Mew curved around to get in front of her again. First it was itself, all big eyes and cute round face. Then it changed, this time to Hunter. It scowled and combed its moustache with its claws, and stalked around so like the kadabra himself that Sara couldn't help it. She giggled.

Mew changed. It was a bulbasaur a moment, then some kind of bird pokémon Sara didn't recognize, feathers shimmering iridescent blues and greens. Mew was a kecleon that vanished and a vaporeon that melted into a pool of water into a pool of sludge that rose again as a grimer.

Sara laughed. "Even ditto can't transform that fast! What else can you be? Can you be Moltres?"

Mew was a bird with wings wider than Sara's outstretched arms, flames licking from its feathers. The heat beat at Sara's face.

"Good! What about... What about a rock? Can you be a rock?"

Mew was a geodude. Sara said that wasn't what she meant, and it was a roggenrola instead. Still no good. Mew pouted, but it turned out that it could not, in fact, be a rock. Or a flower, or a tree.

"Hmm, what else?" Sara said to herself. Mew was swinging back and forth in the air in front of her, apparently miffed that Sara had found something it couldn't do. The pokémon paused and turned back to face her, and then Mew was Sara.

It was perfect, like looking in the mirror. Mew had her own brown eyes, without any of the beadiness you normally saw with ditto. It had the same wild hair, trying to go every way at once. It even had the little mole on her shoulder. There was no expression on its perfectly-formed face.

What it didn't have was clothes.

Sara shrieked and put her hand over her mouth, then over her eyes, then peeked out between her fingers, horrified but intrigued. All the while one hand stayed clamped tight around Titan's pokéball. Sara turned away from Mew, then thought of the not-her staring at her back, and that was so creepy she had to turn around again and look.

"You can't be me naked," Sara said, horrified but at the same time delighted. "How do you even know what I look like without clothes? Can you see through them? That's so creepy!"

The not-her's expression, so neutral as to be almost frightening, did not change.

So creepy. "Stop that," she said. "You're being weird."

The not-her smiled, slowly. It was the kind of smile you'd get from practicing in the mirror, if you didn't know what a smile meant. Sara looked at the exposed teeth and how Mew's cheeks pulled up and it was just the worst.

Sara got to her feet, clipping Titan's pokéball back to her belt. Mew was a little shorter than her--not wearing shoes. "That's so bad," Sara said, laughing. She didn't know how the sight was so unsettling but funny at the same time. "Stop doing that." She shoved Mew on the shoulder, and its skin under her hand felt like her skin except not.

Mew shoved back, and it was much stronger than she was. Sara nearly fell over, and then while she was getting her balance back Mew smiled another toothy smile and dashed into the bushes, apparently unconcerned about broken branches under its bare feet or thorns snagging at exposed skin. "No, no, wait--get back here!" Sara took off after it, head filled with horrifying, hilarious thoughts of Mew sprinting into camp, stark naked except for mud, and just what a scene that would make.

It led her on a broad-ranging chase through the woods, now and again doubling back to pounce on her, the two of them wrestling so Sara got nearly as dirty as it was. Sara put aside what had almost happened to Titan, just for now, but it wasn't like she forgot. The moment was simply too strange and hilarious for her to pass up.

Eventually Mew led them back to the berry patch. It got bored, it always got bored, and it flipped back to its pink and long-tailed self and shot off into the air without even a goodbye. Sara lowered her arm from waving after it.

They'd been playing for a long time. She looked around for Hunter, as always feeling faintly guilty that she'd left him behind. Mew was mean. She'd seen that for sure today. She had to remember that. She had to be careful, and she wouldn't bring Titan with her again.

"Hunter?" she called. He should definitely be up and about by now. Maybe he got tired of waiting and went back without her? Probably. That seemed like the kind of thing he'd do. No problem. She could walk.

One more check around the clearing, just to be sure the kadabra hadn't dozed off or something. Sara walked a circuit of the patch, calling and ducking down to look under bushes. No Hunter anywhere. But when she came around to the path that led back towards camp, there was a passimian waiting for her.

It was big, a lot bigger, it seemed like, than the ones she'd seen at the campsite. She couldn't tell if this was one of them or not. Sara had barely been a trainer for a month, but even so her hand went automatically to her belt.

"Hey," she said. The passimian gazed at her cooly, leaning on its fruit, which was big and round and striped dark green. Sara wondered distantly what kind it was, if she should know the name.

A crash and rustle in the trees made her whip around to look. A pikipek had knocked a panpour off a branch, and they were staring each other down, flashing wings and showing teeth.

Pokémon. They were all around, and she hadn't even noticed. The bushes were laden with them, they stood in the alleys between trees, clung to trunks. They were all watching, quiet, like the passimian in front of her.

Now Sara grabbed Titan's pokéball, even though it was no good. There were too many of them. "Okay, I'll go back," Sara said. "I'm turning around. I won't go that way."

With her heart pounding she turned and walked towards the middle of the berry patch. Where could she even go? That was the way back to camp, and beyond the clearing there was nothing but jungle. Movement flashed in Sara's peripheral vision, branches nodding and bouncing as pokémon jumped from one to the next, flashes of color as they moved between trees. They were keeping up with her. Sara forced herself not to turn around, to keep going, until a lightning-fast flash of emerald darted out ahead of her. It was a servine, red eyes glaring, leaf-shaped tail whipping around in front of its stubby legs.

Sara stopped, again, and now she did turn. The passimian was still there, behind her, walking casually to keep up. It stopped again, leaned on its fruit with the same casual air as before. Sara looked between it and the servine and the pokémon watching from the trees.

"I'm going back to camp," she said, her voice shaking. "I'm not going to hurt anybody. I just want to go home."

The passimian actually spoke then, in a chattery voice. "I'm sorry," Sara said, her pulse so loud in her ears that she almost couldn't hear her own words. "I don't understand."

The passimian grunted and waved its paws in the air, gently back and forth, as though conducting a symphony. It bounced and swooped them through the air. It pointed at the pokéball on her belt and said something else.

"I don't know," Sara said. "Sorry, I, I don't understand. If you come, if you come back to camp with me, I can get Hunter and he, he can try to talk to you. The kadabra. He always talks to you."

The passimian flashed teeth at her and growled. "I don't--I, I'm sorry." The servine watched impassively, tongue flicking out as it smelled the air. Sara felt the world closing in around her, like maybe she was going to faint. The passimian regarded her with cool confidence from under the rim of its helmet, which was striped with the same green as the fruit it was holding. Sara stared into its eyes and tried to take deep breaths. Please turn around. Please step aside. Please let me go past. I want to go home. I just want to go home.

The passimian shifted its weight, ever so slightly. It never dropped its gaze from Sara's face, but it gave a short bark. The pokémon moved.

Sara gasped and ducked as a pikipek shot from the trees, beak slashing through the air where her face had been. It turned in a mad flutter of wings, what Sara would have thought of as a harmless, soft sound, but now meant that it was coming around to attack again. "Stop!" she yelled, and stumbled a step forward. The pikipek lunged, and she only just got her arms up in time, so its beak tore a cut across the back of her hand.

It was going for her face. No--her eyes. "Stop! Leave me alone!" Sara screamed, and then nearly fell when something hit her from the side. Her calf awoke with stabbing pain. A pansage was climbing up her leg, claws digging in deep. Sara tore Titan's pokéball from her belt, and no sooner had he materialized than he tackled the pansage away, hissing and scratching.

Sara ran, swatting at the air to fend the pikipek off. Pokémon spilled from the trees, racing in pursuit. The passimian sat in the path where it had before, and Sara had just enough emotion left to dread it, to envision it leaping at her and smashing in her skull with its big round fruit.

It let her go past. Turned to watch, maybe, but Sara didn't care, couldn't think of anything but the way home, not even whether Titan was running after her. The pokémon hadn't caught her yet, and if she could just keep ahead of them, if she could just run, it was only two minutes and she'd be back in camp, and then she'd be safe.

The pikipek harried her, darting in and out, but it wasn't good at flying fast while also aiming and so far all its strikes had gone wide. As long as the passimian didn't change its mind, as long as it didn't try to catch her, she could outrun the little ones--one second later she was on the ground, and a second after that she was strangling, her chest heaving against a tight, crushing band.

The servine had slithered up on her from behind and wrapped its slender body tight around her chest. It was coiled now with its head against her breastbone, tongue flicking lazily while it squeezed. One of Sara's arms was crushed up against her side, held in place by the servine's body, but she struck at it with the other one so it ducked its head and hissed, and tightened its grip still further.

It felt impossible that such a small pokémon could be so strong. Sara took deeper and deeper breaths, frantic, but it felt like her ribs were caving in under the servine's pressure. Her head pounded and she clawed at the pokémon, not caring how it bit her fingers. Then the pikipek cut a long scratch across her cheek and she turned her face into the dirt, shrieking.

They couldn't really be trying to kill her. Sara breathed as hard as she could, but her chest could hardly move anymore, with how tight the servine had wrapped it. She was starting to feel dizzy. But it couldn't possibly want to kill her. It wasn't possible that she could die like this, just past the edge of safety, in the jungle far from home, when she was still too young to have even started her journey yet.

Something grabbed one of her legs, something landed hard with claws on her back. Where was Titan? Sara kept her face down with her free arm shielding it, the pikipek's beak stabbing in to try and get her around the edges of it. She tried to crush the servine under her own body but it was the one crushing her, and then something doused her in water, horrible cold and stinging, and she tried to cough but the servine was holding on too tight.

The pikipek was gone, but then there was more water, and shouting, and something roughly turned her over, and then she was looking up at Sanesh while Golduck clawed the servine off her chest, scratching and slashing its face until it let go.

Maybe Sara passed out then, or maybe she didn't. But after that point she didn't remember anything.
 

Persephone

Pokémon Trainer
Pronouns
her/hers
Well, uh, that was certainly something.

Mew is adorable. And terrifying. Usually more of the former, but sometimes a little more of the latter. I wonder if it was messing with Sara's head when she forgave it rather quickly. Or if she's just being eight and doing the thing eight-year-olds do where they have a big, friendship-shattering fight that sticks for half the afternoon.

Still not entirely sure why the pokemon are mad? The girl constantly trying to steal their god is probably as good a cause as any though.

And now she has a dex scan! It can be the 151st pokemon! After a species that literally doesn't even exist yet!

It is kind of weird that Mew can't speak telepathically since even Hunter can, but her portrayal would be very different if she had anything more than emotional pushes and awkward body language to work with. I think I like your version better even if it doesn't always make the most sense.

And bad Mew! Stop knocking out everything the first time you see it! Even if it is funny.

So uh. I'll be back for the fourth part that wasn't supposed to be.
 

Negrek

Angel of Memory
Staff
Adorable and terrifying! :D I think I could have gone harder on the adorable, tbh. But it's the darker side of the pokémon that fascinates me.

Wild pokémon are not too pleased about meddling child stealing their god for sure, but really interacting with Mew at all is in and of itself pretty seriously taboo. Mostly they don't want anybody stirring up their local god; they have this appeasement thing down pretty well and the last thing they want is somebody showing up and upsetting that relationship.

I wish I could come up with a way for Mew coming after Mewtwo in the 'dex to make sense, heh. At least not in my stories, since Oak knew about Mew from the start. In another universe perhaps Mewtwo shows up in Cerulean and people don't find the research notes about Mew until afterwards, and that's the only confirmation anyone has that it exists.

Ah, Hunter can't speak telepathically! Maybe the yes made it sound like that? I just put that in as shorthand because I didn't want to describe the physical sensation of the yes, but I can see how it would be confusing. Mew is definitely a better telepath than Hunter, but not as good as Mewtwo (who absolutely *can* beam words into people's heads). She might be able to talk to Sara to some degree, but right now she's yelling at Sara what she thinks Sara should understand and getting frustrated that Sara doesn't get it, rather than seriously trying to work out a way to communicate with her.

Thanks again for reviewing! I hope you'll enjoy the final part.
 

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
Location
*aurorus noise*
Partner
glalie
Sara scowled at the obvious change of subject, but the charmander had been sitting next to her, waiting his turn. Now he stood up, whining and chirping and reaching with his claws.
Chirping! That's so cute.

Sara held the photo all the way through lunch, watching herself fade into view, the carving behind her even taller than she was.
I remember the grandfolks had one of those back in the '80s/'90s. Kid!me thought it was neat.

The pokédex in her hand was heavy, too. Professor Oak said he'd wanted it to be portable, but in Sara's opinion it barely qualified. He said wait and see, it would get smaller in a few years, just like everything else.
...Only to get bigger, and bigger, and then good luck getting that shit in your pockets.

(I would like to believe that pokémon-timeline Earth would be a little better about having practical pockets for everyone, seeing as it seems to be a more pedestrian-friendly place in general, but I guess I've just been let down by too many pairs of pants.)

There were bats on the underside of a big leaf, lined up in a furry row along the vein, upside-down with their wings folded around them.
Omg cute...

The venipede was up above on the trunk, apparently amused by the charmander who was growling and kept trying to climb up to reach it, his claws dragging up long curly strips of bark every time he slid back to the ground.
Pffff. Well, he gets a gold star for effort, anyway.

Titan stopped trying to climb and paced around the base of the tree instead, whining up at the venipede.
Awww!

His trainer was back on Cinnabar Island, and as far as Sara knew he mostly only had a trainer at all because it gave him a convenient place to stay.
I kind of have the feeling that this is often the case when it comes to powerful psychics. :B

Usually it was easy to tell what Hunter meant. To say "No," he'd make you feel bad.
I also have the feeling that I would be best off not interacting with Hunter. XD;


Wow, Mew sure is a little shit! Which seems very befitting, somehow. It's all just a game to this thing, after all, isn't it. Life is something to play with, nothing more, nothing less, and everything in it is just a toy. Even the things that, whoops, actually have lives of their own. The toy (read: Sara) stopped being fun (read: was upset by Mew being a fartface)? Just play with it differently! And so Mew started turning into random crap, and the toy made the "you're doing it right" noises again, and there, now Mew's winning the game again.

Wonder what got like half the jungle in "attack Sara" mode. Maybe somebody saw fake!Sara turn back into Mew, somehow interpreted that as "THERE'S A FAKE GOD AROUND HERE" and rallied up everyone they could to take down the first thing they saw that resembled the fake Sara. Which, oops, happened to be the real Sara. I suppose time may tell!
 

Negrek

Angel of Memory
Staff
Hey, thanks for stopping by! I'm glad you've enjoyed this story so far.

I remember the grandfolks had one of those back in the '80s/'90s. Kid!me thought it was neat.
My grandma had a Polaroid, too, and that was also the only one I ever saw. Still cool today, even though of course all cameras now give you an "instant picture"... but not one you can hold in your hands!

(I would like to believe that pokémon-timeline Earth would be a little better about having practical pockets for everyone, seeing as it seems to be a more pedestrian-friendly place in general, but I guess I've just been let down by too many pairs of pants.)
I sure hope so! With seemingly so many people engaged in more outdoorsy hobbies where you're going to want your stuff and to be able to stick it in your pants, pockets for all seems like a really important lifestyle upgrade.

The struggle is real. =/

Omg cute...
Tent bats! They are pretty great.



I kind of have the feeling that this is often the case when it comes to powerful psychics. :B
Powerful pokemon in general tbh. Room and board ain't a bad deal when your "payment" on it is getting to beat people up. :P

I also have the feeling that I would be best off not interacting with Hunter. XD;
It would probably make both of you happier, haha.

Wow, Mew sure is a little shit! Which seems very befitting, somehow. It's all just a game to this thing, after all, isn't it. Life is something to play with, nothing more, nothing less, and everything in it is just a toy. Even the things that, whoops, actually have lives of their own. The toy (read: Sara) stopped being fun (read: was upset by Mew being a fartface)? Just play with it differently! And so Mew started turning into random crap, and the toy made the "you're doing it right" noises again, and there, now Mew's winning the game again.
I love this characterization of Mew. Only interested in other people insofar as they're entertaining, not really caring about their feelings, only if they produce the right outputs. The flip-side to that bouncy, carefree attitude.

Wonder what got like half the jungle in "attack Sara" mode. Maybe somebody saw fake!Sara turn back into Mew, somehow interpreted that as "THERE'S A FAKE GOD AROUND HERE" and rallied up everyone they could to take down the first thing they saw that resembled the fake Sara. Which, oops, happened to be the real Sara. I suppose time may tell!
This is the BEST interpretation, haha. It would definitely be unnerving to see what you think is a human turn into Mew... although I imagine some of the forest mons think humans are just some weird kind of pokemon as it is!

Thanks for reading, Sike! It was great to hear from you.

Going to be editing up the final chapter and hoping to post it tomorrow. Got a couple of stories to bring over after that!
 

Negrek

Angel of Memory
Staff
Author's Note: Here we are at the final chapter! This isn't the end of the story per se--it continues in my primary chapterfic, Salvage, which I'll be porting to these forums after I post a few shorter pieces. Thanks for reading, for commenting, and even making fanart(!) for this story! I really appreciate your support, and I hope you enjoy this last chapter.

Part Four

It hurt to breathe. It hurt to move at all, but worst of all was breathing, because Sara couldn't stop, and every inhalation felt like a knife-stab. She lay very still and breathed as shallowly as she could, to almost let the air roll out and in of its own accord, but no matter how hard she tried she always had to move a little bit. Then it hurt.

Titan's flame lit the tent, yellow-hot with worry. He was curled unhappily in the aisle between the cots. He'd wanted to snuggle with Sara, but it hurt to have him pressing against her, and she'd started to cry, and that hurt even worse, so now Titan was on the floor, by himself.

It hurt so bad. It almost wasn't fair, because the scratches and scrapes, even the big cut on her forehead from the pikipek's beak, she barely felt those. They were slathered in antiseptic gel that had tingled going on and now felt vaguely slimy. But her ribs, they said there was nothing more they could do for them, that they hadn't brought any stronger medicine along.

Broken, Dad had insisted. Broken, broken. How long to the hospital?

Maybe not broken, Mom said back. No way to tell. Three days to the village, even if we hurry.

Dad said a bad word, and, Where's Hunter? He's supposed to be our emergency out.

They hadn't even asked her if she knew where Hunter was. They didn't realize he'd gone with her at all. Everyone was being nice to her even though it was her fault Hunter was gone, and what were they going to do when they found out? She couldn't keep it a secret forever. They couldn't leave Hunter alone in the jungle.

When they first started talking about leaving, Sara had tried to protest. She tried to say no, she was fine, they should stay. It was only for a few more days anyway. She couldn't leave without catching Mew, especially not now.

But Mom and Dad had only looked at her, and said not to be silly, she needed to go to a doctor, and she hadn't even really tried to convince them otherwise. She didn't really want to catch Mew, right now. She wanted to go home.

When she next woke up it was dark out but also weirdly bright, every floodlamp in camp on and pointing outwards, lighting up the edge of the jungle. The harsh light cast long shadows through the tent canvas, black shapes moving back and forth. Sara could hear things clattering, rustling, all the random noises of packing-up. Mom said they were leaving early in the morning.

Dad was on his cot, reading something. Sara tried to be quiet, but she must have moved or something, because he looked over at her. "Hey, Sara," he said. "How are you feeling?"

"Okay," Sara said.

"Hmm." Dad came over to feel her forehead, and Sara held still, willing there to be nothing else wrong. Dad stood looking down at her for a moment, brushing a stray lock of hair back from her face. "If you feel any worse, let me or Mom know, okay? We're going to get you to a doctor as soon as we can, I promise."

Sara didn't want to go to a doctor. She wanted to go home or, failing that, to stay right here, not moving. Dad went back to his bed and picked up his book again. Sara tried to shrink down under the covers and go back to sleep, but that lit up one whole side of her with fire, and she swallowed back a squeak of pain.

Titan wasn't here anymore. Probably he was outside helping people pack. That's the kind of thing he would be doing.

"You want me to tell you a story, Sara?" Dad asked. "It must be boring having to lie real still like that."

Sara thought for a while. "Do you know any stories about Mew? Like what the people here used to tell?"

"Oh, tough one," Dad said, laughing. He set the book down next to him and leaned forward, elbows resting on his knees. "There were a lot of people who lived here, Sara. Cities--there were many cities here. They came and went. Most of them we don't know what they believed because we don't know how to read what they wrote. But all the people out here, every culture, each one had a different understanding of Mew. Some revered it. Others saw it as a villain."

"Like evil?" Sara croaked.

"Some of them. I know it's hard to imagine for a cute little pokémon, but Mew was said to be very powerful. That's one thing the stories agree on. Legendary pokémon do tend to be dangerous, even the ones who are usually helpful. Even if Mew wasn't a proper legendary, it must have really been something. And it couldn't have been everyone's friend."

Sara shifted in her sleeping bag and immediately regretted it. Dad was looking at her, so she tried to smile.

"But let's see. This place here, what I think we've found, they used to say it was the little god's home. The whole city founded just to honor it. People waited on it hand and foot, created art in its likeness for it to admire, tempted it with foods from far-off places. In return their land was bountiful and the weather fair and they feared no army, for even that one single pokémon was supposed to be stronger than a thousand men."

He was really getting going now. Mom called it time-traveling, when Dad went on and on with his stories of the past. He was having a good time, had been having a good time this entire trip. He didn't know Sara had found Mew, that she'd been disobeying him and Mom and going off to see it by herself. She'd been breaking rules they made up just to keep her safe, and then of course the exact thing they'd said would happen had happened.

That wasn't the worst thing. The worst thing, the very worst thing, was that nobody had even asked her what she'd been doing outside the camp. They hadn't been mad. Nobody had even asked.

"Actually, one of the stories about Mew is that it was the one who destroyed that city. That it turned on its worshippers and tore down their temples and--well, maybe this isn't the best time for a scary story," Dad said, coming out of his reverie for a moment. "So let's think about what that city would have been like. Up on a mountainside, so you'd be able to look out at the jungle all around, higher even than the clouds. Almost every day sunny, just enough rain for the crops, never too hot or too cold. Everywhere riches. There's this little Mew pendant they found, all decorated with pearls that must have come from hundreds of miles away. There was a lot of trade in those days, a lot more than most people realize, and--"

"Dad."

"What is it, Sara?" He was on his feet like he thought she might be dying.

She almost wished she would. Sara started to take a deep breath, and then she couldn't talk a second for the pain. Still she tried to turn away when Dad came over and knelt down next to her cot. She didn't want to have to look at him.

"I know where Hunter went."

--​

Sara walked, because being carried was worse. There was no way to hold her without pressing on her screaming ribs, and lying on a stretcher only meant she felt every tiny bump in her maybe-broken bones. So she walked, and when night came she slept, exhausted and insensible, and then got up to walk again.

Mom had said three days to get out of the jungle, but it was slow going now with guard-pokémon surrounding them on all sides. All along the trail there were glimpses, flashes of wild pokémon watching from the trees. Maybe curious onlookers and not the same ones who had attacked Sara. Maybe they wanted to make sure the humans were really leaving, make them aware they were no longer welcome.

Titan was there, always, to protect Sara, but his loyalty felt almost like an insult, considering what she'd done. Dad had to stay behind because of her--they couldn't leave Hunter behind, and it had to be one of her parents, one of the expedition's leaders, who went to find him.

"Don't worry about it. Once we find Hunter we'll teleport straight back to town. We'll get there first, you'll see. We'll be waiting when you get out of the jungle," Dad had said, but Sara was old enough to be able to tell when he was pretending to be brave. He smiled too much and never at the right times.

She'd said Hunter was with her in the forest, that they went to the berry patch together, and that he got knocked out and afterwards she didn't see him. She hadn't talked about Mew. Why didn't she tell? It wasn't like she'd thought about it and decided. Maybe she'd thought it would make everything harder, that people would want to stay and search for Mew, too. Maybe she still had some hope, somewhere, that she could catch Mew and bring it out of the forest herself. Maybe she was just used to keeping it a secret now.

It didn't matter. Sara walked until they stopped, and then she slept until it was time to get up and walk again. Two times she did that. And then, on the third evening, she slept, but only for a little while before she woke to Titan screaming.

Sara sat up without even thinking about it, and almost didn't notice the pain that followed when she saw what had set Titan off.

Crouched down with head and shoulders stuck through the tent flap, staring blankly at Titan, was her. The air swirled with cold irritation, a tingling psychic buzz.

"It's okay, Titan," Sara said through gritted teeth, but the charmander yelled and pounced anyway, claws flashing. He was on his back at the far end of the tent a second later, eyes rolled up in his head. Mew turned its gaze on Sara, prodding her with impatient thoughts.

"Get in here," Sara hissed while she groped for Titan's pokéball. Where had she put it? She thought it was right by the edge of the bed. "People can't see you like that! Get in here and turn into Titan."

Mew stayed where it was. Its thoughts beckoned Sara forward. It wanted her to come out.

"No!" Sara snapped, finally scooping Titan's pokéball out from under a loose fold of sleeping bag. She recalled him and slammed the pokéball down again, too hard. A stab of pain went straight down her side so she stopped breathing for a second. Mew twitched. "I'm not going anywhere. You get in here or someone's going to see you. You don't want that, do you?"

Mew pouted more in her head, but after a moment it clambered the rest of the way into the tent. Sara blushed, turning her eyes away. Why was it weird seeing someone that looked like her without clothes? Well, maybe because it was weird. Was this what it was like to have a twin? It had to be less creepy. Maybe you just got used to it.

"Now be Titan," Sara said and, realizing that the dinner-noises outside the tent had stopped, "Quick! They're going to find you soon."

The time Mew took to go through the transformation had to be deliberate. Sara had plenty of time to see how Mew's skin flushed brilliant orange and split open in scales, limbs shrunk and thickened and eyes grew wide, wide, wide. Its hair sank out of sight as though its skin had turned to liquid, molten orange flowing to cover it up. It was so gross, Sara wanted to look away but couldn't, and then all of a sudden everything was normal again and Titan was sitting on the ground in front of her, impassive.

Sara hadn't even thought of what to say when the tent flap ripped open and Mom thrust her head inside. "Sara! What was that--I heard Titan screeching, I thought I saw--"

She came up short on seeing "Titan" sitting there calmly and Sara still in her sleeping bag, unharmed.

"It's okay, Mom. Titan just saw a weird bug and got scared. He's fine now."

"A bug? I could have sworn--" Mom leaned a little farther into the tent, peering into corners. Sara wondered whether she'd be able to recognize the psychic signals Mew was putting off, but then she realized, all of a sudden, that she couldn't feel anything herself. Everything was just... normal. Mew sat in the middle of the tent, much too still to be the real Titan, but otherwise giving no sign of what it was.

"Oh, well, never mind." Mom said. "I'm glad it was nothing. Do you want something to eat? We're having dinner out here. I could bring you something."

"No. I just want to go back to sleep."

"Okay. I'll save you something," Mom said. Still she lingered, peering, suspicious. But there was nothing in the tent but a human girl and a quiet charmander.

"I'm glad it was nothing," she said at last. "Get your rest, then, sweetie. You were very brave today. We'll be out of this soon."

Sara hadn't wanted to be reminded that there was more still to come, at least another full day of walking. But she didn't say anything, and finally Mom went away.

The air fizzed and tingled, and something like a warm wind swept over Sara as Mew let its psychic powers go again. It nudged her mind impatiently.

"What are you doing here?" Sara asked.

Loose pens, a paperback novel, Titan's pokéball, one of Mom's boots rose into the air, hovering in slow orbit around Mew. The book shot at Sara's face, and she instinctively reached up to catch it, missed, and it bounced off her arm instead. The dull burst of pain from the impact was easily drowned out by her ribs' complaint, and Sara's fingers twisted tight into the fabric of her sleeping bag. Mew made a loud mental protest.

"Yes, I know it hurts," Sara snapped. "I got attacked by a bunch of your friends. We're leaving. We're going back to where humans live."

The items Mew had gathered toppled to the floor, and the pokémon stood up. One clawed hand went to its chest, where brilliant white suddenly glowed. It looked like Mew pulled a ball of light out of its body, the energy stretching and sticking to its scales before pulling away to join the mass in its hand. A softboiled attack. Mew stepped forward and held the ball of energy imperiously out towards Sara.

"That doesn't work on humans," she said. Mew waved it up and down, prodding at Sara's mind. "Okay, but it's not going to do anything." Gingerly she reached out and took the glowing egg from Mew. It was warm against her fingers, and after a second of wondering Sara shoved it into her mouth whole.

It was like taking a bite of the sun; Sara saw a flash of light, and a burst of heat swept down her throat and out across her whole body, and that was all. Did she feel any better? Maybe, maybe a tiny little bit. But when she shifted her weight another stab of pain went up from her ribs, and Mew flinched, complaining wordlessly in Sara's head.

"See? I told you." Sara carefully lay back against her pillow. "I can't play with you anymore. It hurts too much."

Now it was Mew that lifted up off the ground, zooming in agitated little circles. "Stop that! What if somebody comes in and sees you?" Sara said, but the sight of a charmander floating like a soap bubble, bouncing and drifting in the air, was so funny she couldn't help but smile.

Fuzzy ill-formed thoughts pattered against Sara's brain, but it seemed Mew was at a loss. It kept going in circles, fretting to itself.

"Do you want to come with me?" Sara asked. "I'll get better. Then we can play again. Otherwise we're going to be out of the forest in a couple of days, and then we'll probably never see each other again."

Mew huffed in a way that was far too like Titan when he was annoyed, and dropped back to the floor with a thump. It stared up at Sara, prickling with irritation.

"Or you could come with me," Sara said. "I'd need to get a pokéball, or"--she'd only just thought of it--"you could. It would probably be easy for you. I know they keep them with the rest of the equipment. As long as you look like Titan, nobody would notice you--or you could be a kecleon! Like that one time! And be invisible! It'd be easy! And then we could leave together, and you could see Cinnabar Island and travel all around Kanto with me and go to the League and we could be friends forever. We could play all the time!"

Mew made more annoyed feelings at her. So no, then. Sara lay back again. "Well, I can't do anything right now. It's up to you. You can stay here and be Titan as long as you like, or you can go get a pokéball and let me catch you and we can play later, or you can go away. I don't care."

And she almost didn't care, actually, when Mew stomped an unhappy circle in the middle of the floor, hissing and scattering sparks, then turned up its snout and vanished with a clap of displaced air. Teleported off somewhere else. Maybe it had other playmates to bother if it didn't get its way.

Sara eased herself deeper under the sleeping bag. Probably later she'd regret leaving things at that when she was never going to see Mew again. Or maybe she could tell people about it once she felt better, show them the pokédex and convince them to take her back out here. Right now, though? Right now she thought she'd be fine never seeing Mew again. What good was a pokémon you couldn't even count on to be nice to you when you were hurt?

--​

Sara woke again in the middle of the night. What was it this time--the high squeal of some pokémon out in the dark, the crunch and snap of twigs as things moved out among the trees, the sudden flare of firelight? "Stay here," Mom said. She was already up and shoving her feet into boots, hair a snarled mess. Before Sara could ask what was happening, she was gone.

Golduck's quacking voice sounded outside, and the deep hiss-roar of a hydro pump. Running feet, the crash of something metal falling. Titan was awake, pacing the front of the tent, eyes wide and tail-flame high and fizzing. Sara slipped off her cot, biting her lip against reawakened aches, and knelt by the tent flap Mom had neglected to zip behind her.

Camp was dark save for the floodlights set up around the edge, lighting up the forest for the pokémon on guard. It was full of shadowed running shapes, inhuman, slithering or galloping or bounding in ones and twos between the tents.

Wild pokémon. Sara pulled away from the tent flap and reached under the cot for her backpack, fished out her pocketknife, her flashlight, then reached for her boots. Mom said stay here, but how long until one of the pokémon came to this tent? One or ten or twenty?

There were human voices outside now, people waking up. Too late? The pokémon were already in the camp, probably dozens of them. Sara froze when she heard Mom's voice, yelling. Not scared, it didn't sound like that. It sounded like she was trying to reason with the pokémon, asking them to calm down and if they could talk.

Sara's ribs stung and complained while she shoved her foot hard into her boot. Fat chance of that. The pokémon must have planned this, showing up once everybody was asleep. For some reason they'd let them go before, let them think they might get away, but now--now they were serious. Why?

Because Mew had come here.

Sara stopped with the second boot halfway on, hardly breathing. Mew had never come into the camp before tonight. The wild pokémon must have been watching, must have felt the brush of its psychic emanations. Maybe they had decided that everyone had to die, that they'd all seen too much. Mew had come to see her, and now the wild pokémon were attacking everybody.

Mew was also the only one who could stop them. If what Dad said was true, if it was stronger than a thousand men--even if it was only stronger than a hundred--it would be able to stop them.

Something slammed into the side of the tent, making swishing, zipping sounds against the nylon. Titan dashed over to the thrashing bulge, but it wasn't trying to get inside, lashing out and hissing at something Sara couldn't see. It bounced away again, and Sara heard scuffling, snarling and rustling in dead leaves, then running paws. Whatever-it-was was gone.

Sara could breathe again, and loosen her sweaty grip on her knife. Titan trotted back over to her, chirring nervously.

"Come on," Sara said, and knelt gingerly by the tent flap, moving like someone ten times her age. Titan whined and hung back. He remembered what Mom had said.

"Come on. Mom needs our help. Everybody does." Sara peered out into camp. People had come out of their tents with their own pokémon, the ones who'd been resting instead of guarding. Sanesh and Golduck ran from place to place, Golduck's gem glowing while he threw pokémon aside with confusion and bursts of water. Trying to drive the pokémon back, back into the jungle.

Mom was shouting, calling people to her. Sanesh moved towards her voice. Sara waited for a stout nidorino to gallop past, then came up out of the tent as fast as she could, gritting her teeth against protesting ribs.

She weaved between tents, not running but not walking, either. She didn't want anyone to notice her. This was the hard part, where she only had Titan to protect her.

It wasn't far to the tent with the equipment in it, Sara's rational mind said. In the cry-split darkness it felt very far away indeed. Sara hustled, crouched over in stealth as well as pain, and then something tingled against the back of her neck, prodded at her mind. Sara spun around. Mew?

The shape was flapping, too small to be Mew. It let out a piercing squeal and dived, fluffy body illuminated by a flare of pinkish energy. Titan leapt and swiped at it, but it was well above his range.

Woobat. Sara covered her face with her hands, remembering the horrible pikipek, and stumbled for the equipment tent, trying to keep her bearings while the pokémon dive-bombed her with waves of disorienting psychic energy. She blundered straight into a steenee, but then Titan leapt forward, hissing and flaring. Sara left him to fight, swatting at the air with her hands while she ran. She ducked into the equipment tent, still flailing.

Here were the great boxes and dismantled antenna of the satellite link, huge bags done up in ropes and straps that pokémon would carry all stuffed with excavation equipment, first-aid supplies, anything too heavy for a person to carry on their own. Sara wrestled sack-necks open, biting her lip to stop herself crying out in pain. Her ribs hurt even when she wasn't moving now, aching in protest.

Here at last was the bag with pokémon supplies, extra potions and antidotes, cut HM's labelled with peeling masking tape, portable healers. Sara tipped the bag and spilled it all in a mess across the floor. Here were pokéballs, two mesh bags of them, maybe forty altogether. Titan came stumbling in while she was fretting over how many to take. Sara sprayed him down with a potion, thanked him for handling the steenee, and made her decision. She took one bag, slit the top open, and gave Titan the nod.

"Come on. We just have to make it to the forest," she said.

She stepped from the equipment tent and straight into the path of wild pokémon. They stopped, and Sara stopped, and Titan bumped into the back of her leg. For a second they all stared at each other, Sara and Titan and a sewaddle and two nidoran. Then Titan ran forward, and the sewaddle made a weird chirping noise, and Sara fumbled the first pokéball she pulled from the bag, dropping it on the ground.

The next throw sucked the pokémon into the ball, though, and seeing that, its companions scattered. Sara heard the pokéball pop open again behind her, but she was already running, Titan following after.

She threw balls at pokémon before they even noticed her, the seconds they spent struggling to escape enough for her to get safely past. One passimian went into the ball for only a heartbeat before exploding back out, then shied away from the spent pokéball in the grass, fur bristling, and ran off screaming. The pokémon here weren't used to pokéballs like the ones at home. Maybe they didn't even realize such things were possible.

Sara didn't have time to stop and contemplate that, nor the pokéball that actually locked shut around a woobat, or how Titan coughed and then dribbled an ashy scattering of embers over a persistent nidoran. The bag of pokéballs was growing light in Sara's hands, but the trees were growing closer, too.

One of the guard pokémon, a rapidash, fought near the edge of camp, flames leaping high. She kicked and bucked to dislodge swarming pokémon, a mass of wild creatures trying to pull her down. Some of her fire had escaped into the undergrowth, flames sluggish in the jungle damp but growing larger all the same.

Sara veered left towards a break in the fighting, where wild pokémon poured into camp in ones and twos and no one remained to stop them. She hurled pokéballs at a golbat, a darting panpour. Titan struggled along behind her, panting smoke. Still he turned aside a snivy with only the suggestion of an ember. Sara pushed through screening bushes into the black and white world of the floodlights' glare.

She didn't feel safe to stop until they were out of the light and into the forest proper, where Sara heard the click of bugs and creaking of trees instead of sounds of violence. She sprayed Titan down with potion and tried to catch her breath, not that it made her feel much better. It was like she could only now realize how much she hurt and how much she wanted to go right back to bed.

The trees beckoned, spookily. Sara counted five pokéballs left in her bag. That would have to be enough.

"Mew!" she yelled, expanding her lungs so it hurt, driving the name out with as much force as she could. "Mew, I need you! Where are you? Mew!"

She tried thinking it as hard as she could, her own psychic call. Come to me! Mew! I need you! Help! Titan made cries of his own, his tail-flame bobbing ahead of her to light the way.

The jungle was treacherous in the dark, the bouncing circle of her flashlight illuminating only what lay immediately ahead.. Sara practically rushed into a gulch, had to grab for a sapling clinging to its edge, feet slipping in mud. Titan didn't even notice, racing down one slope and then laboring up the other, claws scattering dirt clods and stones. He stood on the far side yelling back across at Sara, urging her to hurry.

"Mew!" she yelled. She let go of the tree and picked her way down the slope, lost her balance and fell on her butt with enough force to drive tears of pain from the corners of her eyes. She slid almost all the way to the bottom.

"Mew!" It came out breathless, and Sara stopped to take searing gulps of air. "Mew!" Croaky and too soft, but by now she was saying it almost just to say it. What were the chances Mew would ever hear? What were the chances they'd ever find it, out in the great big jungle? What were the chances it would come, even if it knew it had been called?

Sara stumbled up against the far wall of the ravine, hunks of mud coming out under her hands when she tried to pull herself up. Trying to support her weight with her arms had to be the worst, the most painful thing she'd ever done. Titan ran back and forth on the edge of the bank overhead, yelling encouragement.

There was a throaty noise in the air, something like wind but deeper. A rush and crackle. Red and orange glowed through the trees in the direction they'd come from. The fire was spreading.

Sara threw herself against the wall of the ravine, fingers slipping off mud-slimed roots, feet kicking free hunks of loose earth. She slithered up the side more than climbed, scrambling for new holds as the old ones dissolved. Somehow she made it to the top of an incline no more than twice her height, breathing raggedly, muddy all over. Titan grabbed her arm when it came over the edge. He pulled, which didn't actually help but did make Sara kick harder until she could pull herself all the way up.

No sign of Mew. Sara wasn't calling anymore. "Can you feel anything?" she rasped.

Titan shook his head but turned and padded away, slashing through low stems as he went. It was obvious which way they had to go. Behind them fire billowed and danced.

Sara tried to move faster, but her body didn't seem to want to listen to what her head said anymore. The tall black columns of trees, the lumpy abstract shapes of undergrowth, the shifting orange light--it was like a dream-world, something invented by fever.

Was Titan following any kind of trail? Was he just going wherever he felt like, or moving away from the flames? It didn't really matter. And maybe she should have realized that even if Mew didn't hear her pathetic calls, it was bound to come and see about the growing fire.

"Char!" Titan yelled. "Charman, char!"

The legend was high overhead, front paws resting on a branch, feet dangling below. Sara snapped back to awareness, felt the tingle of psychic-ness on her skin. Mew turned in the glare of Sara's flashlight, blue eyes narrowed. The feeling in her head was unmistakably that of, And what are you doing here?

"Mew!" Sara yelled. "We need your help. The wild pokémon attacked us--all the humans. They're mad because you came to see me, and they're too strong for us. You're the only one who can stop them."

Mew flicked its tail and went back to gazing at the fire. Sara swallowed a hot surge of anger and went on. "It's because of us that everybody's in danger. We have to fix it. Please help. I know you don't want to, but if you don't, people are probably going to die. I might die," she said, only then thinking it. Even if she'd escaped from the fighting at the camp, what was she going to do, all by herself in the forest?

Mew shoved at her mind, pushing her away. The air was shot through with its annoyance, and anger rose again in Sara's chest. She tried to cling on to it, to use it to keep her voice steady. "Then if you won't help," Sara said, "I'll have to catch you. I'll show you I'm strong enough to be your trainer and that you should listen to me. When we go and save the camp, that can be our first battle together."

Mew let go of the branch and came jetting down, hovering just above Sara's head. Titan hissed at her side, showing teeth, showing claws. Of course. What pokémon didn't get excited about a battle? Sara gripped an empty pokéball tight in one hand and said, "Titan, go."

He jumped, he spat fire. His claws passed through thin air, his embers showered nothing. Mew scooted back, and up, and then tossed him into the side of a tree no different than before. Of course it could never have been any different. No matter how determined he was, no matter if he could use his fire now, he'd never had a chance.

"If he can't battle you, I guess I'll have to do it myself," Sara said, and she felt wild, gripping her knife tight. Mew must have been surprised when she jumped at it, but it moved anyway. Sara hit the same tree Titan had, practically landed on top of him, breath forced from her lungs and then kept out by the pain that flared whenever she tried to inhale.

She lay dazed, the knife gone from her hand. Mew hadn't liked it when she hurt earlier, and she'd hoped, somehow, that might stop it from hurting her itself. But it hovered over her now, radiating frank displeasure.

Suddenly desperate, desperate like she hadn't been before, when she only thought she was desperate, Sara dug in the bag of pokéballs and hurled one with a quick snap of her wrist. Mew caught it in midair, held it slowly revolving. Sara growled and threw another, and Mew caught that one, too.

It floated over her, waiting for--what? An apology? For Sara to do something else entertaining and futile? She drew burning breath, eyes stinging with tears. "You don't care," she said. "We're all just humans who are going to die soon anyway. We're not special like you. Why should you go out of your way to help us?"

Mew drifted off, shedding inscrutable murmurs. Sara pushed to herself to her feet. "What do you want?" she yelled after the legend. "You're right, I'm weak. I don't deserve to be your trainer. Probably nobody does. You're right, you're strong and nobody can make you do anything if you don't want to. So what do you want? I'll do it. Just help us, please."

Even as she said it Sara realized: of course there was nothing Mew wanted from her. It had lived longer than she could imagine and seen things she probably wouldn't even understand. And it was leaving, unmoved by her words if it was even listening at all.

"Then, then--stop! Then don't do it for me. Do it because... Because of the stories. Like what they used to tell about you. When there was that city, they all told stories about you, didn't they? All the things you did?"

Mew turned back to her, murmuring nonsense in her head. "That's right. But now nobody knows you're here. Nobody remembers. And if you save them... If you save us, everybody will know. They'll tell stories about you again. It won't just be me, it'll be everybody. Even people a lot stronger than me. You're the only one who can help us, and everyone will remember if you do."

Mew rolled over slowly in the air, keeping its gaze fixed on Sara all the while. It felt more mystified than anything. What else could she say? Nothing else. That was all she had. "Please."

That hadn't done anything, she thought. Mew stayed where it was. But then, with one of its too-abrupt movements, it jetted forward, stopping right in front of Sara's face with a mental outburst like a giggle. Sara stared, and Mew tapped her head with its tail, and they both disappeared.

They were back at the edge of camp, and suddenly the fire wasn't far-off noise and light, but here, and roaring, beating against Sara's face with its heat. The trees burned, and a couple of the tents, too. The lights were out but Sara hardly noticed with the fire's glow.

Mew kicked away from her, floating up and over the tents. A pink bubble of light flickered around it, then expanded, a glowing ring of psychic energy pushing outward. It knocked Sara to the ground, ripped tents from their stakes and hurled them over, toppled light poles and sent pokémon flying.

In the sudden confusion Mew dived down. Sara could only see its silhouette against the flames, and when it turned towards her the pink glow of eyes. Pokémon ran now, picking themselves up from the dirt and fleeing into the trees, away from the fire and from Mew.

The legend spun pokémon into the air with psychic force, then slammed them hard into the ground, into trees, into each other. It attacked with swirling shadow balls and black scythes of power, forking lightning and creeping frost. Here and there pokémon fought back, leaping at Mew as it swooped past, reaching with claws and vines. Mew hardly seemed to notice, and the one time Sara saw a lucky flame burst graze Mew's side, the legend crushed the pansear that had hurled it into the ground without so much as slowing down.

Wild pokémon rushed back into the jungle like a receding tide, while the trained pokémon, slumped with exhaustion, watched their opponents flee. Not that their being trained meant anything to Mew; Sara saw Rapidash collapse from a casually-tossed shadow ball, and winced. Some of the skulking humans had caught on and were recalling their pokémon; the others might just be too shell-shocked to think of it.

Mew shot along close to the ground, letting a terrified pair of pansage make it almost to the treeline before blasting them into unconsciousness, then doubling back to fire lazy dark pulses at a noctowl. The bird went through desperate banks and dives until finally it couldn't dodge fast enough and plowed into the dirt.

Evidently bored with the wild pokémon, Mew soared up, up so Sara lost sight of it, but a moment later a cold blast of wind sent scraps of flame licking ever farther out into the jungle. Then there was a roar, a huge growling of thunder, and the trees swayed and groaned in storm-winds. The rain came a second later, slashing and blown near-horizontal with the force of the wind. It came down heavy, hard, stinging against Sara's skin, drenching her through in seconds.

What tents hadn't already been knocked over by Mew's psychic blast toppled as guylines snapped, some pinwheeling crazily across the ground until they fetched up against piles of equipment or crashed into the trees. The rain beat down, the wind howled, and at first the fire flared and leaped, but then slowly, slowly the rain pounded the flames into the ground, left nothing but smoky mud and splinters.

The storm passed as quickly as it had come, thunder grumbling away into the distance to leave the camp in unnatural quiet, and dark, so Sara fumbled with her flashlight, banged it against her palm until it flickered alive again. It felt like she'd been running around all night, but the whole attack couldn't have lasted more than, what, half an hour? She didn't know. Maybe everybody was okay. She had to find Mom.

Sara jumped and gasped when something appeared in the air in front of her, a sudden pink glow and clamor in her mind. Mew wriggled with delight, turning loop-the-loops. Her laughter pealed around the camp, echoing soundlessly in the minds of dazed researchers. Sara found herself laughing, too, painfully and wishing she wasn't. But why not? It was over, wasn't it?

"Thank you," she said to Mew, who bubbled smugly in reply. "Thank you. That was... That was..."

Tents were upended everywhere, tangles of canvas and metal poles. Unconscious pokémon littered the ground, and smoke billowed up through dripping branches. Mew giggled and spun, as delighted as Sara'd ever felt her.

Sara had dropped the bag of pokéballs at some point, and they gleamed bright and wet in the flashlight's beam. Sara bent down slowly, gritting her teeth against pain, and picked one up.

Mew squiggled down, peered at the pokéball like it had never seen one before. It scooped the ball from Sara's hand with the tip of its tail, balanced it there, held the ball steady and spun around it, inspecting it from every angle. It flicked the ball into the air, bounced it off foot and nose, laughing again. One last toss and the pokéball flew up high, lost in darkness.

Mew looked down at Sara, great blue eyes inscrutable. It caught the ball as it came back down, daintily with the tip of its tail, square on the button. In a flash of light the pokémon was gone.

The ball did shake, twice, after landing back on the ground. Sara held her breath and stared. When the light had gone out and she picked the ball up again it was wet beneath her fingers, but a little heavier, too. Faintly warm.

Sara held the ball close to her chest and thought of championships, of cheering crowds. The rising smoke stung her eyes. It took Sara some time to believe it, and even longer to tell anyone. But for a long time, even after all of that, she never put the pokéball down.
 
Last edited:

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
Location
*aurorus noise*
Partner
glalie
The time Mew took to go through the transformation had to be deliberate. Sara had plenty of time to see how Mew's skin flushed brilliant orange and split open in scales, limbs shrunk and thickened and eyes grew wide, wide, wide. Its hair sank out of sight as though its skin had turned to liquid, molten orange flowing to cover it up. It was so gross, Sara wanted to look away but couldn't, and then all of a sudden everything was normal again and Titan was sitting on the ground in front of her, impassive.
Mew must've been an Animorphs fan.

Now it was Mew that lifted up off the ground, zooming in agitated little circles. "Stop that! What if somebody comes in and sees you?" Sara said, but the sight of a charmander floating like a soap bubble, bouncing and drifting in the air, was so funny she couldn't help but smile.
Good thing Mew was in charmander form then and not anything bigger!

And she almost didn't care, actually, when Mew stomped an unhappy circle in the middle of the floor, hissing and scattering sparks, then turned up its snout and vanished with a clap of displaced air.
That was such a huffy exit that it was frankly adorable.

She threw balls at pokémon before they even noticed her, the seconds they spent struggling to escape enough for her to get safely past. One passimian went into the ball for only a heartbeat before exploding back out, then shied away from the spent pokéball in the grass, fur bristling, and ran off screaming. The pokémon here weren't used to pokéballs like the ones at home. Maybe they didn't even realize such things were possible.
That actually would be pretty disorienting, wouldn't it. Certainly not a foolproof getaway strategy, but not a terrible one, either.

It floated over her, waiting for--what? An apology? For Sara to do something else entertaining and futile?
The latter seems likeliest. :B

"Thank you," she said to Mew, who bubbled smugly in reply. "Thank you. That was... That was..."

Tents were upended everywhere, tangles of canvas and metal poles. Unconscious pokémon littered the ground, and smoke billowed up through dripping branches. Mew giggled and spun, as delighted as Sara'd ever felt her.
All's well that ends well! :y


I like how in the end, what it took to get Mew to play ball was an appeal to ego. Because of course, of course that what it'd take. Mew is what matters to Mew. Mew is what's real. Everything else is just a game.

This has been a neat read, and I'm glad to have finally gotten back to it. Thanks for posting it! :D
 

qva

Pokémon Trainer
Location
florida
Pronouns
her/hers
been a while since i took this one on! not sure why i fell behind tbh... but now's as good a time as ever! i'm just going to be taking on chapter three for the time being, but i'll come back to it to wrap up later for sure.

before i get started, some thoughts on chapter two: your portrayal of mew was very unique and really drew me in! there's no shortage of mew fics, but at least in my experience, mew is pretty uniformly depicted as this sort of floaty, benevolent fae-like creature. but your mew exudes raw power and almost a sense of... dread? it's very different, but i'm honestly in love with it, and it really puts its legendary status (and the power of mewtwo) into perspective. really cool stuff, and makes me excited about the latter half of the fic! anyway, moving into chapter three...
"Mom, what do psychic pokémon like to eat?" Sara asked.
haha, i forgot how good you are at making sara feel like a kid. this is a very Kid question... my brother's always asking stuff like "what do birds eat?"
"Well, that's a great idea, Sara. Let's see... Nobody really knows, of course, it's a mythical creature, but if I had to guess... Probably carnivorous, you could try a jerky like we use for the abra line.
omg, i never really thought about this but i guess mew is a cat and thus would be a carnivore. i absolutely can't imagine mew On The Hunt but i'm having a great time trying.
"Dab dab," he muttered.
44
i have to say, the way that hunter interacts with sara is really cool. i won't harp on it for too long, but i don't think i've seen anything quite like it before, but it's awesome and feels exactly how i'd go about it myself. it's really cool to see people interacting with pokémon in this way at all... usually i feel like people can either speak to their pokémon straight up, or pokémon are just intelligent animals, with not much in between... this take on it is a lot of fun and kind of similar to what i'm trying to establish myself. taking notes, taking notes...

sara's age puts a cool twist on what's already a neat interaction. interesting that the two will be collaborating in secret to meet mew... i wonder where it'll go! hunter's flurry of emotion regarding mew is pretty fascinating, and his inability to communicate it fully really makes me wonder what's going on in his head. guess we'll find out...

She went back to her tent instead of sitting at one of the tables like normal, and while she was listening to the morning exodus and Mira cleaning up, she stuffed all her extra clothes into her sleeping bag so it bulged like there was a person inside, tried to arrange things so from the entrance you wouldn't really be able to see the person's head anyway.
oh my god, i love sara. serious calvin energy here.
Sara wasn't prepared when a small pink pokémon came zooming out of the trees, didn't have time to appreciate that Hunter's idea had actually worked.
huh, kind of unceremonious. i'm surprised it worked too! too bad hunter got conked like immediately.
Mew spun away with what Sara could almost imagine was a huffy flick of its tail.
hahaha, omg, mew is totally a cat, huh. i love this.

It was only when she'd given up and gone to check on Hunter that Mew exploded into the air, scattering leaves and twigs. Her psychic field blossomed once again, brimming with delight and laughter. Sara responded with laughter of her own. "You're good at hiding!"
omfg this is so... cute...........
Hunter's response was a luxurious feeling that made Sara think of sliding into a wonderfully warm bath.
kind of thinking about the implications of this... do you think you could have, like, a Prescribed Psychic-Type that just floods your mind with good feelings to cancel out depression and the like? or maybe in hospitals, as a form of painkiller? pretty interesting.
Mew stopped and snorted, glaring. "That's right," Sara said. "You're mean. I don't want to play with you anymore, ever. Either bring Titan back or go away and leave me alone."
oh man, sara's really playing with fire here. the overconfidence of a child, i guess... i haven't quoted any lines about mew's behavior aside from its cuteness, but i really like how well you capture the personality of a bratty, spoiled cat. my aunt brought over her cat for christmas recently and she's sort of just this mean, demanding thing. you've totally captured that exact energy here, except it's cranked to eleven due to mew's total seclusion and overwhelming power. you've captured sara's childishness very well, too... you've really got a knack for that stuff, huh?
The passimian actually spoke then, in a chattery voice. "I'm sorry," Sara said, her pulse so loud in her ears that she almost couldn't hear her own words. "I don't understand."
man, this is pretty scary. even though this is a totally alien experience, i feel like i somehow understand exactly how sara feels... almost like being in a foreign country? except the people don't just dress weird, they're also shaped different, and could probably kill you in an instant.
Maybe Sara passed out then, or maybe she didn't. But after that point she didn't remember anything.
wow, what a cliffhanger... i wonder what prompted that. so strange, but i guess the pokémon kind have something to hide, huh? are they jealous that mew has been spending so much time with sara? is there something hidden in the rainforest somewhere? i'm not really sure what to expect, but pokémon other than mew have kind of only played a peripheral role so far, so this is an unexpected but interesting turn for the story to take.

i think i've expressed most of my thoughts about the chapter so far, but i want to reiterate how good you are at conveying personality. even hunter, gruff and wordless, gives such a strong impression. your writing does something different for me that i'm not really sure how to express... like, it really puts me there in a way that most other writing doesn't, and i really feel like i know and understand the characters, and am seeing the world through their eyes. i can't really identify what it is about your writing that does this, other than that it's just very well written and your characters are precious. i love how you've portrayed mew here, sara's been a joy, and i'm curious to see how this will wrap up in the next chapter. looking forward to finishing it up soon!
 

Umbramatic

The Ghost Lord
Location
The Yangverse
Pronouns
Any
DISCLAIMER: This is a review of Chapter 1

I PROMISED myself I would READ and REVIEW more of YOUR SHIT and now I AM

This feels... Very G1 flavored. What with the real world locations and the actual goddamn animals showing up. I wouldn't be suprised if someone mentioned Indian Elephants, and when you got to post-G1 legendaries and Combee I was like "wait, those exist here?"

Your protagonist is cute and precocious but I have a feeling she is too cute and precocious for her own good and that HORRIBLE THINGS are going to happen. Because. Just... Because.

SPEAKING OF CUTE The little charmander... i like his little mannerisms a lot and his Squirtle friend and hnnnnnnng

i'm getting the feeling Mew isn't as benevolent here as usual lel. it demands SACRIFICES. And maybe also skritches behind the ears because cat.

But yeah I do in fact plan on coming back to this Soon. Review event and all.
 

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Staff
Partner
charizard
(Part 1 ~ 2)

Alright. I reviewed a few of your shorter works in the past, so this is more of the same! Although this time it’s not a one shot, but a short-shot. So I guess you could say that’s a promotion. In any case, I think this is a cute work so far! Sure, a bit of a foregone conclusion for what’s gonna happen to the main character, but I think you played that to your advantage by not really focusing on that as the primary plot and instead banked on world building—at least, that’s the impression I got for the beginning portions of this.

It’s sort of a clever way to go about it, and I think because I’ve never read many of your works, let alone one so long, I’m finding myself using this as an opportunity to get ready to read your main work, Salvage, when I get to it. I guess that’ll be my main perspective going into this, since I do wonder how many people here are in the same boat.

Anyway, the first chapter was nice in that it introduced a lot of world building elements quickly but subtly that while I’m sure not all will be relevant to the plot as a while, are still nice to have as flavor. I think when I get to the end, I’ll try to remember to revisit this point, because I’m also a little anal about wanting to see things that entire scenes are dedicated to have relevance later on, otherwise, I’m not really sure what the full point is of them. But that might be a stylistic choice on my part. Pokémon in general is prone to overdoing it on the world while undercutting the plot, so I can’t blame you for employing some of that—even if you did it to your advantage in this case due to the aforementioned foregone conclusion.

Just as a preference thing, I do find it odd that South America just… exists. I know the ‘dex mentions it, but… literally nothing else does, nor do future installments, I think? The presence of actual animals was another interesting take, but while it’s not my personal choice, as long as it’s established early and kept consistent, no problems from me.

But anyway, one thing that I really enjoyed about the first chapter—and I made a remark about this in your other work whose title escapes me, one about a Swablu that didn’t sink—was the personality you’re able to give Pokémon despite them not actually speaking the same language. That’s something that I feel a lot of stories set in the mainline worlds miss, so it’s a treat to see it done here. It also captures some of that cartoonish feel with how they behave with one another.

The second part, circling around finding Mew, has more of the same commentary for the most part, until the second half when we meet Mew. And for that, I’d like to say it was really interesting to depict Mew as this creature that doesn’t necessarily like humanity, or at least is shy of them or so on, so much as… well, indifference, I suppose. Establishing Mew as a Legendary Pokémon, canonically immortal or at least ageless, is another interesting take that compounds on being unable to relate to humans, despite being curious otherwise. I’m curious where that’ll go in the second half.
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
Oh! Mew origins! *buckles up*

This is just for part one for now (came here from the title thread), but I'm definitely circling back soon!

It was tomorrow in Kanto, and early.
This is a really neat detail -- I think it's really easy to get a mental image of all of the Pokemon world lumped together in a little map, but this is a great way to show how big it actually could be.

Titan leaned in so close his breath fogged the crummy screen, yapping away. Squirtle trilled back, and then they were off in furious conversation about something-or-other.
Ahhh! This is great. I like how Oak asks about how Titan is doing and then lets them yammer on to each other; it really gives them so much more agency and also it's cute. Curious to see how you'll tie this in to how people view Mew/company, given that the Mew/Mewtwo story typically ends up being a thesis in how humans end up treating pokemon like garbage.

fun fact, I've tried this with my dog and she has no idea what's going on.

dragons that split the region, but they died out thousands and thousands of years ago
"died out" to me implies that there was a whole species of them, but I think you're just referring to the two?

items to offer the local pokémon in exchange for permission to stay and reassurance that no one would bother the camp or the dig site or Mom's cameras
oh! this is a neat idea too; vaguely has some Implications but could be neutral either way. what kind of items would wild pokemon even want from humans?

"Bye, Dad," she said, feeling a bit silly as she turned towards the forest.

"Bye, Sara. Be safe,"
oh man one of them is definitely screwed, aren't they?

she found a massive bug that looked like a cross between a crab and a spider, bigger than two of her hands put together
yessss fill the ecological void implied by pokemon canon by having all the weird creepy insects that are vital to the world functioning correctly

Child narrators are great because you get to skip all the boring facts (science! grad students! archaeological sites!) while still making them pay for all of the consequences (don't split the party, don't go off trail, don't talk to the creepy tree draped in corpses). You do a really good job of establishing her voice here, and she gets to take us on stupid adventures that most adults probably wouldn't do.

I'm actually really curious about this one and where it's going to go! From your other stories that I've read I was expecting something a bit more grim and/or tragic, but for the most part this is sort of just fun slice-of-life? A kid wanders into the woods and sees weird shit and just... wanders out? I read through this chapter waiting for the other shoe to drop, for you to pull the rug out and cleverly subvert expectations that the forest was going to be sunshine and rainbows, but tbh I think this interpretation feels a lot more realistic and a lot more earned. Which is really neat.

Otherwise, everything here feels really natural. The adults feel like adults, Sara feels like a youngish child (idk... eight to eleven? don't take this as a bad sign; I'm pretty sure I can't properly guess child ages when I'm looking at them), the forest feels like a forest. My favorite bits were the details that I highlighted above, but in general your description really clicks for me here.

Lovely stuff! I think this one is a bit shorter/less emotionally taxing than how Salvage feels, so maybe I'll alternate on them haha. I'll try to catch up on the rest + share some more holistic feedback later tonight! Thanks for sharing.
 

qva

Pokémon Trainer
Location
florida
Pronouns
her/hers
okay, final chapter here! going in.
When they first started talking about leaving, Sara had tried to protest. She tried to say no, she was fine, they should stay. It was only for a few more days anyway. She couldn't leave without catching Mew, especially not now.
aw... after reading the last chapter, i was trying to kind of thing through what the consequences of sara getting beat up might be. is she stranded in the forest? will she get rescued by mew? but having her end up back at camp, battered and bruised and with parents who want to send her home, seems like the most realistic and yet strangely the saddest outcome. something tells me she won’t actually get sent back to kanto just like this, but i have to say i’m pretty stumped on how else it would progress at this point...
"But let's see. This place here, what I think we've found, they used to say it was the little god's home. The whole city founded just to honor it. People waited on it hand and foot, created art in its likeness for it to admire, tempted it with foods from far-off places. In return their land was bountiful and the weather fair and they feared no army, for even that one single pokémon was supposed to be stronger than a thousand men."
this feels both like a very believable take on how the indigenous people might treat the absurdly powerful pokémon in their midst, and also like a very relatable take on how we humans treat our cats. both approaches are very good and welcome.
Mew pouted more in her head, but after a moment it clambered the rest of the way into the tent. Sara blushed, turning her eyes away. Why was it weird seeing someone that looked like her without clothes? Well, maybe because it was weird. Was this what it was like to have a twin? It had to be less creepy. Maybe you just got used to it.
haha, i love that you follow this weird little line of thought to its conclusion. it makes for fun reading and also feels in-character for sara. i need to try and do things like that more in my own writing...
"I'm glad it was nothing," she said at last. "Get your rest, then, sweetie. You were very brave today. We'll be out of this soon."
this line felt a little weird. she just said that, right? overall it doesn't seem to flow with the previous couple of lines very well for a reason i can't quite place.

the softboiled scene is intereting! of course it brings to mind the similar scene from salvage... kind of an interesting parallel there, though i'd argue sara deserved it much more than certain other recipients. :p
Right now, though? Right now she thought she'd be fine never seeing Mew again. What good was a pokémon you couldn't even count on to be nice to you when you were hurt?
i love how at odds sara's feelings on mew are with the rest of the characters'. mew is no good to sara because she's so snooty... meanwhile everyone else has been roughing it in the muck for weeks in the hopes of just catching a glimpse of it. it'd be hilarious if this story ended that way, with sara having had this little childish drama with mew and the rest of the world carrying on believing it's just a long-dead myth.
Here were the great boxes and dismantled antenna of the satellite link, huge bags done up in ropes and straps that pokémon would carry all stuffed with excavation equipment, first-aid supplies, anything too heavy for a person to carry on their own. Sara wrestled sack-necks open, biting her lip to stop herself crying out in pain. Her ribs hurt even when she wasn't moving now, aching in protest.

Here at last was the bag with pokémon supplies, extra potions and antidotes, cut HM's labelled with peeling masking tape, portable healers. Sara tipped the bag and spilled it all in a mess across the floor. Here were pokéballs, two mesh bags of them, maybe forty altogether. Titan came stumbling in while she was fretting over how many to take. Sara sprayed him down with a potion, thanked him for handling the steenee, and made her decision. She took one bag, slit the top open, and gave Titan the nod.
these paragraphs are really, really similar in structure, to the point that i think it might've been intentional? it read sort of strangely to me though. also, do you mean she gave Titan *a nod here?
The pokémon here weren't used to pokéballs like the ones at home. Maybe they didn't even realize such things were possible.
hahaha, this is interesting. i guess they'd have no reason to know about things like poké balls, and maybe apricorns aren't even native to south america. i love that sara's out here conducting psychological warfare on these wild pokémon... sweet revenge.
Even as she said it Sara realized: of course there was nothing Mew wanted from her. It had lived longer than she could imagine and seen things she probably wouldn't even understand. And it was leaving, unmoved by her words if it was even listening at all.
damn, that's a powerful couple of lines, and really feels like the thesis of the story... or maybe of mew.

what an ending! i'll be honest, i definitely didn't see it coming even if it is technically the most obvious outcome of a fic about a bunch of people trying to find mew... maybe that's exactly why i didn't expect it? in the end you do an incredible job as painting mew as this intensely powerful and arbitrary, sort of smug, playful, and aloof, all in ways that feel very perfect for both an ageless forest god and a plain old housecat. in general i think you're really great at characterizing, and while that certainly applies to humans i think it really shines through in your ability to paint very clear pictures of nonverbal pokémon characters, through their actions and attitudes and everything else. i like what kintsugi had to say about your writing:
Otherwise, everything here feels really natural. The adults feel like adults, Sara feels like a youngish child (idk... eight to eleven? don't take this as a bad sign; I'm pretty sure I can't properly guess child ages when I'm looking at them), the forest feels like a forest. My favorite bits were the details that I highlighted above, but in general your description really clicks for me here.
it's hard for me to pinpoint exactly, but your writing just works and feels right. this fic was a joy to read overall and it feels like a nice setup to salvage. really gets you to wondering what happens afterwards—does sara get to keep mew? will we get to see her again? what happens between now and the creation of mewtwo? and yet, despite all those questions, this fic feels very well-contained. each chapter is memorable on its own, and the story is delightful as a whole... overall just really good stuff, probably one of my favorites that i've read so far. i don't have much else to say that isn't similarly nebulous praise, but i'm looking forward to getting into salvage and seeing more of the lines this story set down, as well as getting to read more of your writing! thanks for sharing this.
 

Umbramatic

The Ghost Lord
Location
The Yangverse
Pronouns
Any
Chapter 2 review!

Oh boy now we've met Mew. First off RIP Titan. Second off my theory Mew is actually malevolent or at least fair-folk-like still stands. It just gives off that VIBE. Your description of that VIBE is really good by the way, it FEELS alien and wrong.

Cool we get more than gen 1 mons despite the big gen 1 feel. Feels nice.

Sara also feels believably like a kid. Talks like one, acts like one, you know the deal. Her sheer fear of what her parents will do to her is funny and very disturbingly relateable to me growing up.

So looking forward to the next few parts. Things are going to go horribly wrong I assume. I'll get popcorn.
 

Dragonfree

Pokémon Trainer
Staff
Location
Iceland
Pronouns
she/her/hers
So, deepest apologies for reading the first two chapters of this and then just dropping off for literally no reason. I was enjoying it a bunch and then my brain just put up some mental block against reading and it didn't happen and then I didn't read Salvage either because I was going to read this first. No more! I am actually reading and reviewing!

"Well," Sara said, hesitating a moment. "What about Mew? What would Mew like to eat?"

That got Mom's attention. Sara held her breath. "Mew?" Mom asked. "Oh... Oh. I get it. You want something to use as bait, so Mew might come visit. Is that it?"

Sara nodded emphatically. By unacknowledged mutual agreement, no one had told her parents that she'd gotten lost in the jungle. She hadn't told anybody about Mew, and regretted not thinking to scan it with her pokédex when she'd had the chance.

"Well, that's a great idea, Sara. Let's see... Nobody really knows, of course, it's a mythical creature, but if I had to guess... Probably carnivorous, you could try a jerky like we use for the abra line. And high protein, nuts, seeds, maybe we could think about berries... Yes, I think we could whip something up. You can help, and then what do you say, we can put some out and see if anyone shows up for it. Does that sound like fun?"
That's very cute. Putting out food for Mew who is totally going to appear is such a little kid thing to do, and her mom probably figures some other Pokémon might come and Sara'd have fun with those. In general, I like the character of Sara's mom a lot here and how she responds to Sara without quite understanding what's actually going on in her head, apologizing for how boring this vacation is when really it's been incredibly exciting, etc. Characters making wrong assumptions about each other is my jam.

She paused on one and sighed. "Oh. They found the camera again." Most of the rest were pictures of pansear, who knew about the experiment, striking poses and mugging for the camera trap.
Hee. It's so easy to sort of fall into the pattern of making throwaway wild Pokémon pretty much act like feral animals, but in a world where they're all sapient, they should act like it, and I enjoy this a lot.

I also enjoy the way you do Hunter's psychic communication using feelings over the more difficult straight-up telepathy (but then I am biased because of the certain similarity to that one scene in TQftL :P).

the legend's tail switched back and forth
Switched?

Mew actually jumped, bouncing backwards through the air, and Sara giggled. "It's just a recording. It's not really talking." And then, as it dawned on her, "You've never seen something like this before, have you? It's a machine. They can do all kinds of things. They can make noises, or show pictures, or--you've never heard of TV! Or video games!"
Of course that's the most important thing Mew should know about, right. First priority when bringing Mew to civilization: video games.

Then, with a flick of her tail, she was around and away again, drifting lazily towards the trees.
Is there a reason the narration switches to "her" for Mew here?

The hide and seek match with Mew is very cute, with Mew withdrawing the psychic field when hiding. I'm also amused that she doesn't properly grasp the concept of the game at all - there's no point if she's literally turning invisible (or otherwise impossible to find), but the sheer novelty of it makes it fun for Sara anyway, and Mew just doesn't have the basic empathy to wonder if this maybe makes the game slightly unfair.

There had only been ten days left of the expedition the first time Sara met Mew
Earlier her mom said they'd have to stick it out for a couple more weeks, though, and according to this that actually would've been closer to one week than two. Is there an explanation for the discrepancy or did you just change your mind on how long they had?

"No," Sara said as firmly as she could. "I can't play with you. Not until I find Titan. This is important.
Missing quote at the end here.

This is all very M8 Mew. What do you mean, you're all sad and upset and don't want to play anymore when your friend's gone? Is it that the hat fell? It's the hat, isn't it. Here, here's the hat.

That Titan is totally actually Mew, isn't it - yyyyup. Clearly she just wants a Charmander, right? There's a Charmander now, even the same as hers! What do you mean, she still isn't happy.

The basculin stretched and then squashed down into a rattata, then a caterpie that shone gold instead of green.
Mew, just casually going shiny when she feels like it.

All in all, Mew's disturbing amorality here sure is a bit familiar, isn't it.

It's also very authentically childlike that Sara's so upset with Mew, telling her to go away and she doesn't want to play anymore, but then Mew transforms into even more things and it's just really cool and Sara sort of forgets about it in the middle of that (at least temporarily).

It was a bulbasaur a moment, then some kind of bird pokémon Sara didn't recognize, feathers shimmering iridescent blues and greens.
I'm not sure what Pokémon this is but the fact this is Mew and you just used the word "iridescent" just convinced my brain that it's actually Iriesce. :P

"You can't be me naked," Sara said, horrified but at the same time delighted. "How do you even know what I look like without clothes? Can you see through them? That's so creepy!"
I love this reaction. That's definitely a little kid.

The not-her smiled, slowly. It was the kind of smile you'd get from practicing in the mirror, if you didn't know what a smile meant. Sara looked at the exposed teeth and how Mew's cheeks pulled up and it was just the worst.
This is basically how I imagine the Salvage protagonist half of the time.

The main content of this part was a lot of fun - innocent Sara so excited about Mew, actually getting to play with it, then learning her cute playmate is also kind of a disturbing, amoral jerk who nearly gets her Pokémon killed on a whim. You still write her kid POV so well, and Mew's characterization as it comes out here is fascinating, really leaning into and going further with something like the M8 characterization of Mew as playful, adorable, but resolutely unempathetic.

The whole Pokémon attack at the end didn't quite work for me, though. All in all the aggressive Pokémon's behaviour just feels kind of random, and I don't feel like I really get a clear sense that the Pokémon are actually angry about anything or want anything - they're just kind of there being threatening for some reason, but not actually scary or intimidating enough to just feel like terrifying threats (besides that the fic has firmly established wild Pokémon are just sapient individuals, so one wants to get some sort of a sense of why they're doing things). You responded to another review saying that interacting with Mew at all is a huge taboo, and Sara's interfering with the sort of arrangement they've got going, but I don't feel like I really get that from the fic at all at this point; if it weren't for your word there I'd have been inclined to think Sara's assumption that they're mad about her playing with Mew was just her being wrong, and the Pokémon are actually mad about something completely different that's meant to be a mystery. Perhaps showing that there are wild Pokémon watching Sara with Mew would help, or if the timing of their attack was put into some sort of context where it actually feels related to her hanging out with Mew, instead of them just kind of popping up out of nowhere in the berry patch a while after Mew leaves? Presumably they're not attacking while Mew's there because they don't want to anger Mew, but as it is it just doesn't really feel terribly much like these things actually have anything to do with each other. (Granted - I'm assuming here that there wasn't something in the previous parts that actually made this more convincing in some way I just completely forgot about in the interval between reading part two and three. Apologies if so.)

The most fun thing about this fic for me, though, is how it illuminates the Salvage protagonist! It's so starkly clear here how the child's personality and behaviour are just an uncanny mixture of Sara and Mew - that genuine human childishness coupled with this alien amorality and self-absorption and unquestioning sense of entitlement and total inability to properly grasp other people's points of view or act convincingly like an actual human (well, it's getting *somewhat* better at some of this of late, but it took a lot). I've theorized for a really long time that the child is Mew (partly) and this absolutely feels like confirmation - Mew's personality wasn't too clearly established in Salvage itself but Mew's got so many of the child's distinct character traits here and it's just yup, there you are, I see you.

I'm looking forward to reading part four! Should get to that next week.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: qva

Umbramatic

The Ghost Lord
Location
The Yangverse
Pronouns
Any
Part 3 review!

First off I need you to know the part where Mew turns into a bunch of things and then for an extended sequence is HUMAN (specifically a Sara) is pretty much Umbracore.

But Sarah is getting to know Mew now! For better or for worse. Do have to wonder why Mew attacks any trained Pokemon on sight. RIP Hunter. By the way Hunter is great and I like how you go over psychic communication with him.

In a rare bit of concrit I saw what Dragonfree said about the wild Pokemon scene at the end and had to agree. You clarify Sara has stepped on some local Pokemon taboo interacting with Mew at all in another review but that's only loosely implied in the actual story so it's like "buh, why re these wild Pokemon beating up this poor girl". Still, the scene works for what it is.

Anyway I hope to get to Part 4 soon. Hopefully. Maybe.
 

Dragonfree

Pokémon Trainer
Staff
Location
Iceland
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Aaaand chapter four, sneaking in before the deadline!

I love your portrayal of Sara's dad a lot. His fascination with the history here is cute. Also this:

"Don't worry about it. Once we find Hunter we'll teleport straight back to town. We'll get there first, you'll see. We'll be waiting when you get out of the jungle," Dad had said, but Sara was old enough to be able to tell when he was pretending to be brave. He smiled too much and never at the right times.
Poor Sara, recovering from her injuries while fraught with guilt about Hunter and sneaking around and how nobody's even asked what she was doing out there.

Mew psychically complaining to Sara when it psychically feels *her* pain is so audacious.

And she almost didn't care, actually, when Mew stomped an unhappy circle in the middle of the floor, hissing and scattering sparks, then turned up its snout and vanished with a clap of displaced air. Teleported off somewhere else. Maybe it had other playmates to bother if it didn't get its way.

Sara eased herself deeper under the sleeping bag. Probably later she'd regret leaving things at that when she was never going to see Mew again. Or maybe she could tell people about it once she felt better, show them the pokédex and convince them to take her back out here. Right now, though? Right now she thought she'd be fine never seeing Mew again. What good was a pokémon you couldn't even count on to be nice to you when you were hurt?
Yyyyyup, you're right Sara, you're better off without Mew.

The shape was flapping, too small to be Mew.
Does it really make sense to say that when Mew can transform, though?

Here were the great boxes and dismantled antenna of the satellite link, huge bags done up in ropes and straps that pokémon would carry all stuffed with excavation equipment, first-aid supplies, anything too heavy for a person to carry on their own.
I think this sentence may have gotten away from you a bit; I had to read it a couple times to parse it correctly.

She threw balls at pokémon before they even noticed her, the seconds they spent struggling to escape enough for her to get safely past. One passimian went into the ball for only a heartbeat before exploding back out, then shied away from the spent pokéball in the grass, fur bristling, and ran off screaming. The pokémon here weren't used to pokéballs like the ones at home. Maybe they didn't even realize such things were possible.
I enjoy this a lot. Like, yeah, it would be pretty weird and unsettling to suddenly dissolve from your material form for a second when a ball hits you, when this isn't an idea you are used to.

Sara didn't have time to stop and contemplate that, nor the pokéball that actually locked shut around a woobat
Well, she just condemned this Woobat to the same fate as she was worried about Titan suffering last chapter... (Unless another Pokémon can come along and open the ball.)

He pulled, which didn't actually help but did make Sara kick harder until she could pull herself all the way up.
Aw, that's cute.

Mew wriggled with delight, turning loop-the-loops. Her laughter pealed around the camp, echoing soundlessly in the minds of dazed researchers.
Suddenly calling Mew "her" again.

"Thank you," she said to Mew, who bubbled smugly in reply. "Thank you. That was... That was..."

Tents were upended everywhere, tangles of canvas and metal poles. Unconscious pokémon littered the ground, and smoke billowed up through dripping branches. Mew giggled and spun, as delighted as Sara'd ever felt her.
Love that contrast of abject horrific destruction with Mew's giggly self-satisfaction about it. You little absolute sociopath.

I reread the relevant bit of Salvage for comparison - it definitely feels like the story's evolved a bit since then, since Salvage makes it sound like Mew just kind of shrugged and agreed the first time Sara asked her about coming with her! Mew also sounds a great deal more innocent and sympathetic there - just sort of curious about humans being a thing again and the images she can see in Sara's mind. I'll be curious to reread that chapter once you post it on TR; presumably it'll be a little different and match the depiction here more closely.

I think it's interesting how here the way Sara seems to convince Mew to come with her is apparently specifically the thing about stories - that they'll tell stories about Mew again. On the one hand, ouch, Pokémon, I guess your devout worship isn't enough for Mew. But also, this seems to fit with the child's personality, too: it does like the idea of fame and fortune, and being a savior, even without quite being able to wrap its head around the concept of compassion or justice or the right thing.

I think I enjoyed the previous chapter more overall with its focus on Sara and Mew and exploring Mew's alien personality over this more action-oriented one, but the action was very well done, and I do always have a weakness for protagonists stumbling around in an injured state as they feel very guilty about something and also everything hurts. Overall this was a fascinating story, exploring the idea of darker, more sinister (if not exactly intentionally so) interpretations of a cute legendary, and the kid POV is excellently done throughout.

It does feel very much like a Salvage extra - that is, the ending raises way more questions than it answers! If I were reading this without having read Salvage I'd probably be a bit unhappy with it ending here. Viewed as an extra, though, we know where this all leads, and the story adds depth and intrigue to the main fic. It's sure gotten me even more excited about future Salvage chapters.
 
Top