• 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!

NebulaDreams

Ace Trainer
Partners
  1. luxray
Chapters 1-3

Hi, I want to preface this review by saying I haven't read any of your works before, and as it stands right now, I'm really curious to find out more. I want to say right off the bat that I really like your prose and the ideas you've presented so far. It ticks quite a few of my personal boxes as well so bonus points for that. While I'll get into these later, first, I'll talk about my issues trying to follow the story from the beginning.

So, what I can piece together is that the protagonist (only known as The Child) is the Mew morph/offspring seen in the summary. From the first chapter onwards, it takes on the form of another trainer along with the Pokemon he used to own, also having to tie up some loose ends by getting his Charizard (poor Titan) to submit to it. By the end of chapter 3, it's well on its way masquerading as other humans and trying to find out nuggets of info with the help of its Pokemon friends. I assume they're Pokemon gathered from The Child's various forms assuming the roles of dead trainers and taking over their identities. While it isn't exactly clear how all the Pokemon ended up saddling along with The Child, that's one thing I expect will be explained more with time.

Unfortunately, I was only able to get the full premise once I finished chapter 3, and even then, I had to reread it and look at the summary to fully get it. Without the summary, I'd be even more lost. It's hard to really address this since I can't tell what's left intentionally vague for the sake of trimming the fat and getting the reader started ASAP, and what's not. As it stands right now, the opening chapters feel a bit too vague for their own good, coupled with the distant prose. The opening chapter in particular had me lost because of the confusion surrounding who is the protagonist and the fact that the protagonist is actually a morph that can change its form at will.

At the moment, I find it difficult to get fully invested since I don't identify with The Child's quest to find Mew. Without the context between them to make me relate to its quest or what happens to put The Child in this position, the main goal feels abstract. That, and it's also hard to side with The Child since that disconnect makes its actions, as well as its lack of tact towards Titan difficult to stomach. It also strikes me as odd that after all that heartbreak with his trainer being dead (to be fair, it made for quite an emotional scene once the story clicked for me), he seems to get along with The Child just fine in chapter 3. How much passage of time is there between the chapters, exactly? There are hints that Titan is already familiar with Mew through the 'I can't save her' shtick, but again, the lack of context adds even more confusion to this plot point.

I feel bad for talking about my confusion at such length since again, I don't know what's intentional or not. That and there are elements I really like. Again, I really like the prose as it oozes with personality, especially once The Child in the opening is referred to as the subject 'You' after shifting forms. Despite my confusion, that was a great way to signpost the change in the story dynamic. It also reinforces The Child's otherness and how it camouflages itself/experiences the world vicariously through humans. I also really like the side characters, especially the Pokemon, as the morph acts as a mediator between the human and Pokemon world. I'm all for Pokemon characters having distinct personalities and motivations as opposed to just being shoved into the background like a lot of Pokemon fics with humans in it.

So, overall, I am interested to read more and check out your other works for more context. From what I've gathered, Little God might be a good starting point. Still, since the story is pretty nebulous at this point, I'll have to take my time going through it to understand the crux of it all.
 
Last edited:

Bluwiikoon

Actual Nosepass
Location
England
Pronouns
He/him
Not sure if I have the spoons to make an in-depth review at the moment (probably should have kept notes!), but I will say that I enjoy your prose a lot and I enjoy the immense bickering between The Child and Nate :3 I definitely forgot some things from this story since the first time I read it (the first version, on ffnet), but I really enjoyed getting to experience these characters again and to experience The Child's very warped, childlike thinking. Absol had somehow left my mind completely, so I was especially happy to meet her again! The way her mind works, and the way she seems to experience unseen threads and ties of Fate in the world is very intriguing and a joy to read about. She is so interesting!

Echoing some other sentiments in reviews: I did have to read the first two paragraphs of the first chapter a few times to really untangle what was happening, but that could also just be my ADHD. xD The way the story jumps right into itself is very refreshing regardless, in my opinion! Despite seeing this story through The Child's eyes we don't immediately know everything that's going on, and it makes things such as the bombshell at the end of chapter 10 more impactful. I'm also delighted when we get hints of how other people in the world experience The Child and its lack of grasp on social interaction, and how strange it must seem to passerbys (what with dragging along a dishevelled, dirtied-up twin of itself).
 

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
  2. custom/dratini-pen
  3. custom/dratini-pen2
Okay, I'm caught up on all my other reviews, so time to start on Salvage! The length sort of scared me in the past, but it's only up to chapter 10 on here which is nice and manageable.

(Chapter 1)

It's a really incredible opening chapter. I both have no idea what's going on and know everything I need to know. Your prose, as always, is a pleasure to read. You wield verbs to great effect and when you go for a bit of description or a simile, it just shines in the narrative.

The child's voice is very well done. Its perspective, despite being deeply morbid, isn't really malevolent and I don't feel at all badly disposed towards it, despite it dredging up a dead body to presumably possess. You drop enough hints that I feel reassured there's a logic underlying all of this, but this isn't an opening that leaves me questing for things to make sense. I'm very happy to be carried along by the icy waters of your prose.

Line-by-line reactions:

In the conversation they can't have, the child would apologize for letting him die.
What an opening line. Just sucks you right in.

She's beside the child now, breath misting white in the chill air of the cavern, watching the human.
"breath misting white" is ugh, so vivid. I think what always gets me is the fact that there are so many ways to say this and not have the same effect: "her breath was white mist", "her breath was like mist" but nah, "breath misting white."

He must have been an intern, then. Not someone who was around for very long. He's uncommonly old to still be training, but perhaps he decided to take a break after Cinnabar. Maybe he decided science wasn't for him.
I read this three times and had trouble making sense of the logic of it, even though I get the general idea. I think maybe what's throwing me is the placement of the last line? Could it be "He must have been an intern, then. Not someone who was around for very long--maybe he decided science wasn't for him. He's uncommonly old to still be training, but perhaps he decided to take a break after Cinnabar."

In movies it seems like there's always time for last words, but here it's all over quickly: the human slips from the edge of the path, down here where everything is glitter-slick from the river's spray. He falls funny on one arm and doesn't even cry out as it snaps, just grabs for an icy rock with the other.
There's a kind of disappointment to "doesn't even cry out" that, again, doesn't feel malevolent per say, just confused and trying to make the world into something that makes sense.

"You don't have to be scared," the child imagines itself telling him as he hangs there for a terrifying second, still thinking he might pull himself back up. "I died once. It wasn't so bad."
I like that its instinct is towards a kind of comfort, if a morbid one. Leaves me well-disposed towards the child.

The river grabs his legs, pulls him down and under, and in no time at all he's gone.
I liked the personification here. Feels fitting for the in-betweenness of this space that the line between what's alive and what's not is blurred.

Absol goes forward, thick claws splayed wide to steady herself on the ice.
"Comes forward" would read better to me.

Its shadow stretches over the water, rippled and frayed on the turbulent surface.
I'm not sure how I feel about shadows fraying. Fraying suggests clothing to me very strongly, and that doesn't align with the image of nakedness and gills we get.

Where the child's going there will be no light at all and only the bravest humans tread.
I kind of want this to cut off at just "Where the child's going there will be no light at all." Would give it even more oomph, I think.

She might stay a while, vacationing, but the child still has work to do.
Vacationing is such a ludicrous word to encounter here and I love it.

Because you died down here, Nicholas Garrett, in the darkness and the deep. You were twenty-six years old.

What do you do now?
Oooh, and the ending line is excellent too.
 

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
  2. custom/dratini-pen
  3. custom/dratini-pen2
(Chapter 2)

Talk about a difficult conversation! It was really intense to read. I like how both of them seem stuck, the child on the idea that it's Titan's trainer and so Titan has to obey, and Titan on the fact that no clearly you are not on my trainer. And since the child actually was Titan's trainer in the past--okay, so I have read Little God, and this suggests to me the child is somehow connected to Sara, though obviously a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. Not gonna speculate though.

I thought the transition from conversation to battle was very effective and did a great job showing how the child exists as both human and pokemon. You communicate Titan's fear very well through the physical details you chose. I was also struck by how deep the child's anger at Titan is, from whatever past they shared and how he forgot it. I get a sense of tragedy from it all that has nothing to do with how much dead bodies are floating around.

"Looks rounder than I remember," Rats says, examining the pokéball between her claws.
Rats is the best and I love her. Raticates ftw forever.

You forget everything you were going to say. You knew he evolved, of course, but somehow you were still thinking of him as that gawky, earnest charmander. Now he towers over you, arching his long neck and letting out a lazy streamer of smoke like he was never knee-high and afraid of his own shadow.
Aw. This is touching and bitter and oof.

"Ooh, so that's how it is, huh? Well, how about this, Titan, would just any raticate remember that time you got beat up by that magikar--oof!" Titan's tail snaps around, catching Rats off guard and knocking her onto her side. The charizard comes at her with teeth and claws and flame, and Rats shrieks disparaging comments about his parentage while struggling to defend herself.
Rats is <3

"Again?" He starts to pant, whining slightly with each exhalation. "Again? You, again? You--"
Love the physical details, the panting, the whites of the eyes. It keeps the pokemon grounded as creatures.

"I wanted to settle this like a human. But if you will not listen to me, we can settle this like pokémon instead."
Nice

You toss the ball of energy upwards, and Titan's gaze follows it higher, higher, until it explodes in a burst of blue light. The beach turns dark and cool as sudden storm clouds block out the sun, and Titan flinches as one fat droplet splashes on his snout. Dark patches appear in the sand as more raindrops fall, and in seconds the island is gripped by a full-on rainstorm.
Love how you depict raindance here. I know exactly what the move is without needing to know the name. Plus, epic.

"That's what you wish, isn't it? You wish I was dead!" You're screaming now, and Titan's wings flare open in shock, beating wildly as he tries to pull away from you. You see in the tensing of his muscles that the moment is now, and you push his head down even as fire starts to gush out around his teeth. The flamethrower is lost as you force the charizard's face into the sand, and he thrashes harder, gagging as a gasp of shock sucks grit into his mouth. You wrench Titan's head up again and stare into his tearing eyes.

"Stop pretending! I know you remember. You promised the same as the rest of us. Someone has to save Mew. We failed last time, but we can't give up. I'm your trainer, Titan. I say we're going after her. Are you with me?"
The most intense moment in the chapter for me. I feel so bad for Titan who is confused and grieving his trainer and being strangled now, but I also feel for the child, because there's something so raw about this moment and the sense of betrayal in the words.

The kitchen table falls with an incredible crash, and the child imagines the soaked and muddy charizard slipping around on the tiles, searching for somewhere warm to curl up and dry off.
I really liked this coda scene. And it's interesting to me how the child interprets the sound into a warm and fuzzy image, when it could very well be the sound of Titan toppling the table in distress, grief, and agony.
 

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
  2. custom/dratini-pen
  3. custom/dratini-pen2
(Chapter 3)

Really enjoying seeing how the child interacts with the real world. I liked how you introduced Leonard Kerrigan and the whole idea that someone has noticed what the child is doing taking over dead bodies and using pokedexes. I can definitely see conflict on the horizon with this, but I appreciate the character-work this chapter does and don't feel in any rush to get there.

It's more attention than you'd like, but the face you built from scratch was worse.
* Shudder * You do a great job leaving this to the imagination, and it is horrific. I'm picturing a child's attempt at a face, both exaggerated and oversimplified.

your favorite paper-reading spots
This struck me as oddly adult--I understood why later, since it's Absol's idea.

humming stickily to herself as she devours a melty lemon slush-on-a-stick from one of the street vendors outside
Having "stickily" modifying "humming" works so well.

You already checked all the good bits--the funnies, the training section, and, of course, the obituaries.
Wonderful.

"Yes. So you need to do both." What exactly she meant by that, she wouldn't explain.
Seems pretty clear? I'm not sure you need that second sentence.

So this is your scene: you have your coffee and your pokémon, your newspaper and your name, and you have the sunlight, too, pouring in through the window. You imagine it like you're a character in a movie, a real adult human living her life. And if you turn your head just a little and look outside, you can watch a parade of other normal humans going past out on the street.

You'd be safer if you took your paper at home, made like a pokémon and holed up in some secluded place, but there's some kind of herd instinct buried down deep in your body, and you like to be out here, where you can see and be seen by humans. You aren't one of them anymore, and you can't really belong to their circle of being, but you can sit at its edge and watch, and to some extent, pretend.
There's something about this that feels very tragic. The child is being so precise about all of this, approaching life as if maybe if it stages everything properly, it can get back something of the humanity it's clearly lost. Or one might say . . . salvage it?

The pokédex observes everything, records everything, surely knows more than the trainer herself about everything that has happened on her journey: every pokémon captured, every item purchased, every visit to a pokémon center.
Huh, very Google/Facebook vibes. I like this focus on the back-end of the pokedex and training system.

That means he's caretaker, too, of all the League's lost souls, all the humans perished in pursuit of their dreams. Their records are marked deceased but not deleted, slumbering in perpetuity in some faceless storage array. Once, Leonard Kerrigan didn't think much of them. But then, one day, something happened. His son became one of the ghosts. And then, his son refused to stay dead. And then Leonard Kerrigan found he had a mission.
Excellent. You do a fantastic job introducing this character in a few paragraphs in a very organic way, where I both feel sympathy for him, but can clearly tell the child views him antagonistically.

You know from TV that there are only two kinds of cops: hard-bitten, driven servants of justice who will stop at nothing to put criminals behind bars and the ones whose greatest exertions are in pursuit of donuts. There's no doubt in your mind which camp Officer Feldhorn falls into. Under the sharp bitterness of the coffee in his thermos, you can smell custard and powdered sugar about his person. "It is a small world," you hazard.
This paragraph was so delightful. I love how you show cliches building the framework of the child's perspective and speech. This whole chapter has a somewhat satirical vibe when it comes to small talk that I'm enjoying.

Officer Feldhorn frowns, which makes him look like a morose granbull; it's all you can do not to laugh.
Nice in-world simile.

"Later," you say, unable to resist showing off a little of your hip slang.
oh my god

Ooh, and you could look for some of the limited-edition Transformozord sneakers you saw an ad for the other day...
Again, so fascinated by the way the child is drawn to ads. It makes sense. Ads present a very clear image of what the world should be like. I can see why they form a guidepost for the child.

The charizard looks scandalized, and you stifle a laugh. You lean across the table and say, in a hushed voice, "If you do not say anything, I will buy you another ice cream cone."

"Oh," he says, wings tipping up a little. "Oh, umm, okay." His smile is so uncertain that you have to laugh, and after a moment's surprise the charizard's laughing with you, joined by Togetic's chiming giggles. She wasn't paying attention to your conversation, probably has no idea what's so funny, but she never misses the opportunity to laugh. You sling your bag over your shoulder and lead your friends out into the hot summer sun, visions of spectacular purchases dancing in your head.

Absol hates it when you buy things. But no one ever has to tell her about today, not ever.
I love how sweet and warped this feels at the same time. It feels like the child is trying so hard to mimic an idealic vision that doesn't exist.
 
Last edited:

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
  2. custom/dratini-pen
  3. custom/dratini-pen2
(Chapter 4)

Well that was . . . I see the child is definitely a member of the Good Decisions club.

I was flinching during the whole break-down at Cinnabar. You captured the child's rising panic and inhuman reaction in a very visceral way. You do an excellent job keeping the child clearly monstrous and inhuman and also incredibly pitiable and human. I understand the child's twisted logic--it feels like Kerrigan violated its identity and now it wants to violate what he holds most dear, the memory of his son. This is not good, every narrative flag is telling us it's not good, but I absolutely understand why it's happening.

I also really like your depiction of Absol and of how a pokemon with the ability to know fate would have to be in order to be able to function.

I'm looking forward to the next chapter like I'd look forward to a slow-motion and incredibly bloody car-crash 😅

Not far away, perhaps, your water-bloated corpse rests at the bottom of Seafoam Caverns. That's not what's putting you on edge, though.
Ahahah, so morbid.

Then the riots, once the rest of the world found out what had really been going on, more fires, streets littered with abandoned cars and broken glass. And then, barely three years later, a quiet morning shattered by the volcano's explosive eruption, one no seismometer had seen coming.
This was smart scene-setting with Cinnabar.

The new models appeared a few weeks ago, not long after you started training with Titan, and you haven't tried one out yet.
I like how you drop this big flag in the narration for us to notice and the child to not.

Your body's starting to shift in response to your emotions, straining away from the human mask you wear. You rub a hand over your face, wipe the tears out of your eyes and massage the muscles back into place.
So visceral, and I was caught between pity and disgust as I read.

You are--trapped inside the machine, all that's left of you, the little card, the little card that tells you who you are. Who are you without it? Who are you now? Who are you?
This kind of break-down feels a long-time coming with how much the child has been investing in the idea of external signifiers in the place of identity.

But you feel you ought to say something into the stunned silence, something apt and witty. You flip through your mental notebook, looking for the right phrase.

And there it is. Still grinning, you say, "Don't worry, I can pay for that."
😬

But the dirty feeling of someone pawing at its spirit lies atop the sour ache of shame.
Wasn't sure about this line. Shame doesn't seem to be the emotion present in the previous lines, seems more like indignation. I think this could stand to be reworked.

Absol settles within easy reach and permits the child to throw its arms around her neck, endures being dripped on, overlooks the fact that her ruff is getting gummed with snot.
Aww. I mean, I shouldn't, but awww. This image is really vivid.

An absol bears no grudges, names no enemies, holds none dear.
Really nicely worded.

"Did you eat the human?"

The child cradles the pokéball close to its chest, its mind racing. "Why?"

Absol doesn't say anything, but her look somehow takes in all of the child, the red-soaked clothing hanging heavy off its frame, the blood smeared across its face, gumming its hair into unruly upwards spikes. "Maybe a little," it mumbles.
Ooof, yikes. Interesting how the child is able to both desire a semblance of humanity and see humans as a food source.

"This is not Fate," Absol says icily. "This is vengeance. And those who practice vengeance will only see it visited on themselves. I cannot stop you if this is what you want to do. But neither will I be able to save you when Fate turns back on you for it. It is not my place to intervene."
I really liked Absol's detachment and karmic mindset. Not able to stop, not able to save.

It's prepared, this time, to be Matt Kerrigan properly. Matt Kerrigan, the lost son. Matt Kerrigan, the suicide case.
This can only go well . . .
 

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
  2. custom/dratini-pen
  3. custom/dratini-pen2
(Chapter 5)

Actual footage of me reading this chapter:
salvage ch 5.png
More actual footage of me reading this chapter:
salvage ch 5 2.png

This was so tense. I was reading on mobile and inching down paragraph by paragraph, watching the proof that the child's future career is definitely not in theater, and watching poor Leonard Kerrigan break-down and then break-down some more. The child's inability to empathize with his distress only heightens it somehow. I can hear the child repeating robotically, "I am sorry, Dad." The details of the house were also well-done, simple but heart-breaking. Watching Leonard's rational mind slowly overcome his grieving dad emotions was also painful. Interestingly, the tension left for me as a reader when the conversation became a battle. I think you do a wonderful job showing how navigating human emotions is the harder task for the child. The child seems to get such visceral satisfaction out of turning a monstrous face upon Leonard in the end. That whole encounter was just incredibly painful (in a good way.) I knew as a reader coming in that this would be a shitshow, but the strength of the chapter is in watching each painful second unfold. (On another note, I really like Leonard and expect this isn't the last we've seen of him.)

That time you were the one in the room dying while another waited outside with Absol, nervous and fidgety and unsure what to do. The child had waited because Absol told it to wait and not interfere. There wasn't much to see, but somehow she knew when you stopped breathing and prodded that other one forward.
Found this quite hard to parse. I think "you" here refers to Leonard's son, who the child imagines itself being now, and "another" and "that other one" are also the child, but it seems unnecessarily confusingly written.

"I did not want to leave. I did not want to be a part of this. But now I am."
This line from the child struck me as sincere and quite sad.

Absol practically swam through it, and the child struggled to follow, floundering along with its shirt pulled over its face in a vain effort to block out the smoke and gritty dust, coughing miserably all the while.
I like the uncanniness of Absol's physicality--swimming in a world of ash.

Sometimes it wasn't sure whether Absol thought Fate was something that was or something you did.
Ooh, I really love this line. Gets to the heart of the question of agency and fate.

They will die. They will die unnaturally. They will die before the time set down for them."
Lovely repetition and prophetic feel.

Only later would the child wonder how Absol managed to find the pokéball buried in a pile of soot in some no-account corner of Cinnabar Island.
Wasn't sure what to make of this? Absol seems to know all sorts of things. This line feels like it has some implication I'm not getting.

It's a journey long-deferred, dreamt of by a dead human child but never taken. It's a journey dreamt of once again by the person it's become, and today it will begin.

There are eight badges. There is a grand tournament held only once per year. It's only a little over a month away.

The child will win those badges. It will enter the tournament. And it will meet the trainer who holds the key to its future--its future, and that of its mother.

But first, someone else will have to die.
Ah, a story map! All right, let's do it! * fist pump *

(Chapter 6)


Author's Notes: This chapter is where the story really starts picking up. Hope you enjoy!
uh . . . my heart begs to differ after the last chapter.

Team Rocket--another reason you don't want to be seen.
"Another reason" struck me as off--we're never given a first reason.

"Yeah, that's right, no need to thank me for dragging this pack of idiots over here for you," the golbat says, hovering so close her wingbeats stir the boy's hair. He ignores her with practiced ease. "Feel free to express your undying gratitude later. Maybe at night, or at least somewhere dark?"
Heh, I loved this golbat's frustrated commentary.

You sink back into the grovyle's hunting trance, letting the trappings of your human mind fall away until the wood takes on new texture beneath your fingers and the rich, sappy smell of the leaves around you blossoms into your awareness. You can see every twitch in the clearing's grass, and you sit and watch them, idly marking the passage of cloud-shadows over the ground, and think no more of anything but what is there before you. You can't remember what you're waiting for, but have vague faith that you'll know it when you see it.
This passage was gorgeous. I love how you use the child's transformative ability to explore the minds of different types of pokemon. I'm also a big fan of the 'shapeshifter looses rational thought the longer spent in animal form' trope--Terry Pratchett uses it to excellent effect with his werewolf characters, and you do too.

Then you wait a few minutes more, sending an idle draco meteor after the group, just to drive home the point.
This whole sequence was great. Love how creative and cunning the child is here, and "idle draco meteor" cracked me up.

Absol gets up off her haunches, turns a tight, agitated circle, then sits down again. "It's not right." Up, circle, sit.

You slowly spread your leaves again, unease prickling in your gut. She's anxious. Absol is actually anxious. You've never seen her show emotion like this before, not even when the volcano was about to annihilate your world--even then, it was efficient professionalism to the last.
Interesting to get some insight into what makes Absol tick here. If you asked me, what does it look like when a pokemon like absol shows anxiety, I don't think I would have an answer, but turning in tight circles works so well.

The attack looks fine, faintly glowing through a thin, gelatinous shell.
I like how you really embraced the idea of soft-boiled. The descriptor of "attack" throws me a bit here. It's a healing move, not an attack.

There's a funny sliding feeling as your jaw unhinges to let it pass through whole, and then it's sitting heavy in your stomach, awaking lizardy instincts to crawl off somewhere and digest.

You can only manage a "thank you" for Absol before you succumb to the urge to rest, scaling the nearest tree and seeking a sunny spot along a branch to settle yourself in. There you relax into a digestive stupor, leaves flared to catch the light and mind gone dozy and distant.
Again, such vivid description of a grovyle's world.

"Absol, you're doing it again. Come on, I know it isn't nothing. You were acting all funny." A thought occurs to you. "Or is it not about this at all? Is it something else?" An icy certainty freezes your bones as you start to realize: "You--you're not sick or something, are you?"
Another of those moments where the child feels so young. Absol is the closest thing it has to a parent right now, and her smallest sign of distress is potentially world-shattering.

It was a shadow on the water's face. I saw it. I don't know how to explain it. That is what it was. A shadow on the water's face.
You render the inexplicable in lovely hues.

After that, you seek out a couple birds to take the edge off your hunger, then become Charmeleon, the warmth of your fire sac and the flame burning on your tail driving back the chill of the late-summer night.
Enjoying how the child's transformative aspect is just built into the way it navigate the world.

I find I have less to say about this than the previous chapter, simply because it's clearly setting up the next chapter. Perhaps that's what you mean by the story picking up--this chapter feels less satisfying stand-alone, and leaves me pushing ahead to see what happens next.

(Chapter 7)

And the fuck boy arrives! He doesn't spark a ton of joy for me at the moment, but maybe he'll grow on me.

The stars are disappearing into the warm gray of a lightening sky, and the birds are trying to sing the sun up.
This chapter opens like, Hello, this is your daily reminder that Negrek is a boss at description.

"Gah! What the fuck was--" he starts, jerking away from you.
Wasn't sure if you meant starts to say or starts as in flinches. If the latter, "he" should be capitalized.

I feel like a bunch of snorlax have been doing the fucking conga all over my body, okay
Very striking simile!

he's not prepared when you upend the canteen over his face.

"Hey! What--" he splutters, then coughs and sits glaring at you for a second, licking moisture off split and swollen lips.

"There is your water. If you want more, you will listen to what I have to say."
Impressively nasty from the child there.

"Oh, fuck, that's it, ain't it? You're some escaped freak they were cooking up down in the labs, huh? And now you're free, you're going to get your revenge on Team Rocket or some shit, like liberate your mutie brothers and sisters and start a revolution, am I right? Well, forget about it, I got nothing to do with that shit..."
I see we have acquired one Genre Savvy Boi

"Oh, I dunno, Freak. Call it a little fucking revenge. You want me to come along on your goddamn journey? Fine, you get your fucking wish, and I get to make your life hell the entire way."
This didn't land for me at all. Revenge? Revenge for what? He remembers that it's the Rockets who beat him up. "I get to make your life hell the entire way" felt, idk, too on the nose? Like announcing, this is going to be my character function in the rest of the story.

"Oh, shit. I think it healed wrong."

"Healed wrong?" All your anger returns in a flash, setting tail and teeth blazing. "Heal wrong? What do you mean, 'heal wrong?' How could that possibly happen?"
The impact of pokemon healing on humans makes perfect sense and is perfectly horrific.

And then perhaps the Rocket can provide you with a bit of entertainment.

After all, you only told Duskull to be sure nothing bothered the great Nathaniel Morgan, not to make sure he didn't run off. If you're lucky, maybe tomorrow you'll return to find the ghost waiting alone.
This contradicts? First the child is excited about Nathaniel providing it with "entertainment" than it's hoping that he'll be gone by the time it returns?
 

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
  2. custom/dratini-pen
  3. custom/dratini-pen2
Chapter 8

Well, let me preface this review by saying this chapter didn't feel long at all. The child/Nathaniel Morgan relationship begins to take shape and we're introduced to the child's full team. That kept me engaged from beginning to end. Liking the whole Nathaniel Morgan thing a lot more in this chapter. The way they play off each other is funny, a bit brutal, and very revealing.

The cognitive dissonance between the child's beliefs and its actions is especially intense when it is all but torturing this dude and getting annoyed about how pathetic he is. That black and white world-view is really coming into play as well. Rocket = bad, and no more can be said. I'm interested to see how the child's perspective on the unshakable rightness of its actions comes under challenge as it begins to interact more fully with the world.

I love the very different personalities on the child's team. War the sociopathic tentacruel was brilliant. I sort of feel like the different pokemon's personalities reflect aspects of the child's personality. War has the cruelty and violence, Togetic has the delight and childish innocence, Titan the empathy (when applicable), and Rats the arrogance. I enjoyed seeing them all bounce off each other.

Line-by-line reactions:

It would be more fun to track slowpoke, and they're stupider than dirt. You shouldn't have hoped, of course. This human is a constant disappointment.
The true moral failing--not being exciting prey.

"I am not your evil twin. If we are twins, you are clearly the evil one because you are a member of Team Rocket."

"And you're some kind of bad-trip demon thing that keeps going on about how it wants to murder me, yeah, clearly I'm the evil one here."

"I am not interested in listening to you babble nonsense. You are evil."
This exchange felt like it summed up the child and NM's relationship thus far.

"Sure, why not? Buddies for life, right, Evil Twin?" To your confused horror, he starts giggling, madly and convulsively.
You depict his hysterical reaction really well.

Then, very slowly and carefully, you recite, "Listen, pal. You've made good friends with some bad people, but if we stick together, we'll get through this thing just fine. You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours, capiche? Whaddaya say? Partners?"
oh. my. god. This is both so amusing and so deeply horrific somehow. The child always thinks it's starring in a very different movie than its actually starring in.

At least the human doesn't look like he got run over by a tyranitar while out on a killing spree anymore.
That is an oddly specific image. Perhaps the child speaks from personal experience . . .

Where did the fucking fire even come from?"

You shrug. "From the same place as all fire attacks, I suppose.
hah, very meta.

For a time the two of you walk in silence, and you bask in the sense of being on your trainer's journey at last. The sun stabs little islands of warmth through the cool shade of the forest, and the air is full of the dampy-sweet smell of decaying leaves. There's no path out here, and you clamber over fallen logs and thrash through bushes, following the ups and downs of the land.
These little descriptive paragraphs are always a treat, and this one also does a great job showing how genuinely excited the child is about the idea of The Pokemon Trainer Journey.

"Trainers do not take the ferry," you say with utmost disdain.
And you show well that like with everything the child does, it's striving to match an idea that it's built in its mind of what the journey should be like.

At least he doesn't have the energy left to complain, sunk into a dull, head-down doggedness, all his attention invested in staying upright and taking yet another step.
Poor dude.

You meet curious stares with your broadest smile, and that, thankfully, has so far been enough to get onlookers hurrying on about their business.
Yikes. I do not want to think too hard about what that smile looked like.

Visions of the human escaping, of him somehow managing to overcome Titan and stealing away with the charizard, play endless loops in your head. You slow down as the bench comes into view, letting out a long breath of relief. They're exactly where you left them: the great Nathaniel Morgan asleep on the bench, Titan staring at him with single-minded diligence.
This passage does a great job showing the disconnect the child has--it really genuinely doesn't seem to understand that NM is exhausted, pushed beyond the point of human endurance, and incapable of doing anything, much less making a daring escape. Moments like this feel important to me because they show that this is not all coming out of malice. Much of it is a complete inability to understand the strengths and limits of others--a failure of empathy in the truest sense of the word.

The great Nathaniel Morgan."

The great Nathaniel Morgan raises his eyebrows at you, then addresses War without bothering to get up from his sprawl. "Yeah. Hi. Did you know your trainer's a total fucking douchebag?"
Continuing with the idea of disconnect, it seems pretty clear that the child calls him that because that's how it first heard him referred to, and somehow thinks that's his full or proper name. NM thinks it's a sarcastic insult. (I don't think the child could even figure out sarcasm?) The gulf there is huge.

You're not sure what War finds so fascinating about the human custom, your washed-out memories tell you of a child who once carried her tentacool around, annoying people who had very important jobs to do with requests to indulge his curiosity.
Well, that hurts the heart. (Comma splice here? Think you want a period before the "your.")

"His name is War," you snap as the tentacruel's eyes narrow. "And yes. You will shake hands. It is polite."
Moments like this show the child isn't completely-self-centered. It's very concerned with its pokemon's feelings and that they are respected.

War is beside himself with mirth, slapping at the water with his tentacles while his laughter tumbles on and on, a pattering noise like churning pebbles.

"Yes. It was pretty funny.
This scene was super vivid.

"You are not dying. War did not really hurt you," you say, shooting the tentacruel a look that says, Right? War stares back at you, placid and inscrutable.
Ooh, that's one nasty tentacruel.

"Look, if I have to be perfectly fucking honest here, I kind of really fucking hate water, okay? Like I can't swim for shit and I kind of don't trust your evil fucking tentacruel not to fucking drown me the first fucking opportunity it gets."

"That is unfortunate. Get on."
The banter really worked for me here. You have the tones down perfectly and the dissonance is funny.

He lurches guiltily upright at the sound of his name, blowing sand out of his nostrils and looking around in wild disorientation. His audience is beside themselves with giggles.
Was a bit confused here. What audience?

"Seafoam?" he roars back, and you realize your mistake as his expression hardens, his tail flame leaping higher.

"It is okay, Titan. I can take you in your pokéball. You do not have to go there if you do not want to."

"No," he says with unusual force. "No, I'll go. By myself."

Before you can object he stretches his neck up and spreads his wings, sending children scampering as they realize what's coming. The charizard takes off in a blast of wind and sand, flapping mightily in a rapid ascent. Below, the kids squeal and stumble around, laughing and blinking sand out of their eyes. A couple wave.

You do not. You watch Titan bank around and soar out over the ocean, anxiety tightening your chest.
I really like that Titan's unease and grief over his trainer's death is continuing as a plot point.

His other hand's swollen up a nasty shade of purple, and the human holds it out away from everything, letting out a bitten-off cry of pain whenever something bumps it. He lies half-curled on War's bell, eyes pressed tight shut as he breathes fast and shallow, shuddering convulsively.
Poor, poor dude.

A few minutes later he sinks another of his kin with a precise blast of water, and you have to smile. Your old friend has become quite the terror of the seas since you last saw him.
Cute and disturbing, at the same time.

Even Rats gets a workout, despite complaining the entire time about how much she hates swimming. She throws herself at her opponents with extra ferocity, just so she can get back into her ball to sulk all the faster.
I love Rats. Best pokemon.

There's a crunch of sand and rock as he uproots himself, and then he's toddling back to deeper waters, starlight glinting wetly off the red sacs on his bell as he lurches out of sight.
The verbs you pick to depict the pokemon's physicality are just excellent: uproots/toddles/lurches.

"Did you get something to eat earlier?" you ask Titan as he flops down behind you with a gusty sigh.

"Not hungry," he mutters, staring out at the ocean. You frown and scratch the base of his neck just above where the wings connect. He doesn't acknowledge you, and you don't know what to say. How can he be mourning that other trainer, the one who stole him from you? You're right here, alive; the two of you are together again. How can he be sad? But somehow, it seems, he is.
It's nice to see the child wrestling with this.

The gummies should keep her occupied for a while, but you get out a tupperware full of honey and crushed insects to heat up for her actual dinner. And while you're thinking of it... "Thunder?"

"Wait. You had a motherfucking car battery in your bag this entire time?"

"Obviously," you say as you clip the black contact to one of the magneton's magnets, the red to another.
I'm into all the different diets the pokemon have.

Titan turns and actually looks at the human, and Rats opens one dark eye to regard him as well. "Rocket?" She flashes her teeth at him. "Maybe you shoulda just ignored Absol and let him die anyway."
Oh, so Rats has Views on this. I really liked this moment. It's interesting to see Rats, whose instinct seems to be to hold the child back, suggest that.

"Yeah, you got me, Freak. I like to spend my free time kicking baby eevee and repeating my mantra about how all pokémon exist for the glory of Team Rocket and shit."

You nod and set aside the empty soup can to eat later and heft a second one, considering. Is your pot big enough to hold all of them at once?

"Christ," the great Nathaniel Morgan mutters, and you glance up to find him looking at you with lips curled back to show a hint of teeth.
Yup, the child does not understand sarcasm, confirmed.

If only your other companion could be so easily pleased. Irritation lends a bit too much force to your kick, and you glance around nervously, hoping no one notices the dent you've put in the bench's metal leg.
The soup can in your hand explodes, and you stop in shock as cold, slimy broth drips down your wrist and drizzles onto the rocks.
I appreciate these continual reminders of the child's unnatural strengths and inability to control it.
 
Last edited:

Tanuki

Friend of All Chu
Location
Rhyme City
Pronouns
He/him/his
[Read up to chapter two]

Here for Catnip.

Anyway, your fic. Rad as fuck. Using “it” as the child’s (mew?) pronoun helps ingrain its lack of identity instantly. It’s just a tool with a job to do. You do that without really saying it at all. Then, when it switches to second person, it weirdly feels a lot like first person.


It’s like I’m reading their stream of consciousness. It really gets me in their head while also feeling extremely natural. I don’t know if I’ve read second person that feels so natural outside of a poem since rule one and two told me not to talk about it. I’m excited to see what else you manage with this, because it’s clear you have a firm grasp on it.

I could do with a lot more description, though. Especially the characters, almost all of them are lucky to get their species name. You describe the child’s changing form enough that it’s some kind of fish when it’s swimming. While I get you’re being intentionally vague there for the sake of not naming what the child is, the rest of the characters could use a lot more.

Titan, as far as you’ve told me, has teeny arms, eyes, wings, and some implied feet. I know what a charizard looks like, sure, but I also know what a human looks like. You describe Nick just about as much, and I really only have the most generic picture of a human in my mind with him. Same with Titan.

Overall, there just wasn’t much description anywhere. It’s hard to get sucked into a world with nothing but the mind’s version of stock images to go off. I didn’t even know for sure Rats was a raticate until Titan said as much.

It’s not an egregious problem, but it sticks out because the rest of the prose is really top shelf, but then this is just barebones.

The characters themselves, though, were great. Everyone’s acting believable, and you get their personalities out in twenty words or less. Dialogue is definitely your strong-suit. I kinda wanna kick the shit out of Child because of what they did to Titan, but that might just be my charizard bias showing.

A really great read all things considered. Describe stuff more is about it. I’d ask you to make me cry less, but I feel like that’s against your creative vision, so I’ll hold back on that criticism. Good work!
 
Last edited:

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
  2. custom/dratini-pen
  3. custom/dratini-pen2
Chapter 9

I suppose I need to finally embrace that I'm destined to write 7k-10k chapters no matter how I try to keep it concise.
tee hee

First gym battle! And also . . . penultimate gym battle? Glad you've joined the Skip The Badge-quest 2020 campaign!

I'll be honest, I was expecting the child to lose. Their tactics of "just hit it with surf tho!!" leave something to be desired. But (I'm a cheater who's read the next chapter) you get to have you cake and eat it too with this, because the child both gets the badge and will get an ego smack-down, courtesy of the Nate the Great.

But before getting into the battle, I want to highlight how much I appreciate these chaotic scenes with the child and the pokemon. They're glorious, and out-of-control, and so very genuine, and I love the pokemon's distinct personalities. The pillow-fight in particular hit hard, coupled with the not-surprising revelation of the child's age (very much not twenty, lol.) Seems like Nate's also beginning to piece together that whatever monster he'd dealing with, it's very much a child monster.

As for the battle itself, what can I say? You write stellar battles. Um, elements I really liked here--the conflict between the child's delusions of grandeur and the reality of the situation, not just in terms of tactics, but also with the battlefield not dramatically being above an active volcano and the people in the crowd not being all that enthused. The thin applause during the seismic toss scene really set the mood. I could feel Red's shadow hanging over all this--I'm interested to see how he ends up being portrayed. The shift in the fight, where the child sort of locks away its emotions, was striking, especially with all the happy fun times lead up. With emotion, the child was unable to think about anything except its friends' pain, which is one of the reasons the child remains a half-sympathetic character for me. They're definitely not completely unempathetic. I do like that the shift didn't necessarily lead to better tactics, just a better ability to persist in the old tactics, regardless of the consequences. The child's pokemon are similarly tenacious, it seems, though I appreciate how their personalities comes out in the battle, particularly best Rat's.

Line-by-line comments:

It feels the rise and fall of the charizard's side beneath its head, listens to the counterpoint of Rats' snoring. The raticate is a solid warmth curled against its side, and Togetic roosts not far away, between Titan's shoulder blades.
Aww, cuddles.

The cold shock of the water brings it to full wakefulness, and for awhile it hunts with eyes closed, following the tickling of movement against its skin, feeling for the sparking of frantic muscles darting through the still-dark ocean. Only after it's sated its hunger and taken to lazy trolling for fish to bring back for the others does it have any thought for the day ahead. By the time it leaves the ocean, shedding gills and webbing as it goes, it's ready to take up its burdens for the day.
Ah I love these descriptions of the fishing! "sparking of frantic muscles" and "lazy trolling for fish" mm.

What matters is that when you were twenty-two years old, you--lived. Unfortunately.
Hah, like how you reversed the refrain.

You give his mind a light flick, but it rings hollow as an empty cistern; he's not dreaming at all.
Like the imagery of flicking; checks out that the child would conceptualize mind intrusion in such a casual way.

So the journey passes unbroken either by fucking stupid detour battles or unwelcome comments from your guest
It's so charming how the child just accepts other people's descriptions into its internal monologue.

"You don't have to if you don't want to. You just won't be able to fight in the gyms. Or, I mean, you don't have to let me catch you again at all, but..."
For how single-minded the child is about the quest, this was quite striking and considerate.

Pokéballs, even cheap models like this, are built to last--but not against something like you. You seize the top of the ball in one hand and the bottom in the other and pull until the hinge gives way, then stab steel-reinforced claws through the protective shield inside each half, stirring metal and glass into a shredded tangle. Then you trap the remains between your palms, knit your fingers tight, and incinerate them with a sudden burst of heat. One of Thunderstorm's eyes spins around to watch the slaggy lump sail into the wastebasket
This is described so lovingly.

Which is why I said I wanted my new digs to be a luxury ball, huh?" She shoots you a meaningful look. "Luxury. But look, that? That's pretty much the opposite of luxury." She swipes at Titan's new pokéball with her tail.
"Yeah, yeah, you're poor and crap. And whose fault is that? Hey, loser!" She launches herself onto the other bed and lands with a gleeful bounce that wakes the Great Nathaniel Morgan immediately.
Hah I love Rats. She's got her priorities straight.

"It was ill-gotten, was it not?" It takes him a second to register what you said. He frowns and leans back a bit, staring at you in confusion. "The money. You got it as the result of some illegal activity, am I right?"

"You--what? What the fuck does--well, yeah, but--"

"So you stole the money from somebody else in the first place. Stealing is bad, so you should not have gotten it at all. The right thing to do would be to give it back to whoever you took it from, but I do not know who they are and have no way to find them even if I did. But at the least you should not be allowed to benefit from it, so I used it instead. It was the right thing to do."
Can't argue with logic like that.

"I dunno, maybe because being a Rocket grunt is only one step up from flipping burgers? The fuck did you think?"
Checks out, though it didn't quite seem like he was a grunt?

"I got you some cookies," Titan says shyly, holding out a bag.
"He got you food. Take it." You can't keep the disapproval out of your voice, but Titan doesn't notice. He smiles when the Great Nathaniel Morgan takes the bag, then wanders off and starts in on his danish.
Awww, Titan, beeg baby. Kind of a startling contrast to his battle rage later in the chapter.

Most cartoons are too much for Togetic--she can't handle bad people, even the mild sorts of bullies seen on most children's programs--but she's more than happy to settle in, eat her candy, and learn how to spell "Silph Company" with Tiara.
So precious! Also "Silph Company" is, uh, an interesting choice for a kid's show.

Blows are traded and battle cries yelled, and after a few minutes you're lying sprawled on your back, laughing uncontrollably, with Rats and Titan collapsed in giggling heaps nearby. Togetic perches on the headboard, wracked with laughter. A fine drift of feathers fills the air from a pillow that caught on one of Rats' incisors.

The moment stretches long as you float on a wave of exhilaration. Then, "Jesus fucking Christ. What the hell was that?"
I can visualize this so well.

"You are just jealous because you are old and soon you are going to get all wrinkly and die."

He stares at you. "What the fuck. And you're not?"

"Nope!" Bounce, bounce. "At least Absol does not think so. Since I never get any bigger and my mother does not, either. And she's been around a long time. Longer than, than Professor Oak, even. And he's old!"

The Great Nathaniel Morgan doesn't act suitably impressed. In fact, he's not even looking at you as he mutters, "So, what? You're going to be like... that... forever?" He waves a hand vaguely in your direction.

"Yup!" He's so slow.

"Huh." To your annoyance, all he does after that is stare at his knees for a while.
Yeah. It's a scary thought. I like when you show the child all smug and missing the point completely.

If he's not jealous, he should be. Because you're awesome.
Damn right.

A second later a thick column of water gushes against the energy shield that separates Blaine from the arena. He would've been a goner without it, smashed against the far wall like a bug. But the shield's there, rippling with blue light as it dissipates the force of the attack.
Smart mechanic.

Rapidash flies around the arena, chased by flickering afterimages, while War labors to right himself, dragging his bell, heavy and sagging without any water to support it, off the ground.
Appreciate how seriously you're taking the problem of tentacruel on land.

"Just hit him with surf," you say.
I'm sure it's that easy.

The tentacruel's tentacles have taken off long strips of skin, and lines of swelling mark the path of War's stinging touch. The rapidash stands out of War's reach for a moment, bleeding and catching his breath.
Oof, battles definitely leaving an impact.

Light streams between them, and the rapidash slowly reappears, glowing white-hot. He jumps down from atop War's bell and gives himself a contemptuous shake, sending off a final wave of heat that flashes the puddles beneath his hooves to steam.

War is cursing fluently now, slapping singed tentacles into puddles and trying to drag his beak free with angry strength.
War's cursing and slapping are great details that really bring this sequence alive.

Your face feels hot, and it's all you can do not to sprout talons and fangs and show the old man what he's really dealing with. Nobody laughs at you like that. Nobody.
Only good decisions once the child gets mad.

Rats remains relaxed and unconcerned, looking around with casual interest. "Could ask for a bit of air conditioning or something, but hey, it's not so bad. No lava or open flames or nothing. Damper than I expected, too."
HAH. How many stars is Rats going to give for the yelp review?

Rats skids to a halt, glancing around an arena suddenly alive with furious splashes. Bursts of water leap from puddles on all sides, the arcanine moving so fast that he seems to be racing through all of them at once.
Love how you're using the landscape of the gym to show the speed of the arcanine.

The air fills with the sour smell of burning fur. And you? You're starting to panic.
Uh-oh.

"A little help here, Boss?" Rats darts away from another burst of fire, but her movements are pained, her skin mottled red and white in patches of burnt-off fur. The twang of panic in her voice sets your heart racing. You open your mouth but can say nothing because the only words in your head are What if I can't win?
But wait. Wait, this is stupid. You close your eyes half a second, make a change you can't feel. When you open them again there is nothing but a raticate and an arcanine on the field in front of you, fighting. You look and struggle for a moment to remember, and then the way is obvious.
The shift from panic into no-emotion is striking here.

The arcanine squeals and rolls over again, kicking madly at Rats. She's yelling while she chews, scissoring her teeth deeper and deeper into the arcanine's flesh even as the fire-type starts glowing himself, like an igniting star.

And then, suddenly, it's over. Rats tumbles free, screeching breathlessly with pain, and the arcanine curls in over his gushing wound, spitting fire blindly. Rats' fur is alight, up in flames just from contact with the blazing arcanine, but somehow she still feels his attacks, still tries to crawl away from them.

She can't. She collapses. The arena is loud with the arcanine's strangled panting.
Oof, very intense sequence. "Scissoring her teeth" is so brutal. The short sentences and switch to the panting really cap off the sequence.

Titan straightens up and fusses with the wound on his side while Blaine recalls the arcanine, cauterizing it with delicate little bursts of flame.
This makes so much sense!

It's only when a fortuitous punch jars something in Titan's head, knocks him far enough askew to turn him the right way round again, that he comes to his senses. The charizard lets out a roar of frustration and pain, but then his eyes focus, finally, on the magmar, and she takes a step back as she realizes it at the same time you do: the charizard's back in business.
Nice realistic portrayal of the game's random snapping out of confusion.

You and Blaine are both yelling commands, but it's no good; the pokémon are deaf in their panic.
These moments when the trainer stops being relevant and it's down to the pokemon always make battles feel more high-stakes to me.

Then the magmar glows red, brilliant laser-red, and is gone. It's over.

The referee's announcement is drowned out by a furious roar from Titan. He flexes empty claws and glares around the arena, which is very definitely empty of magmar. His eyes settle on Blaine instead.

The charizard sets off in a stomping run, head low and neck extended, wings scooping at the air to give him extra speed. He roars a challenge at the puny creature standing so boldly in his way. A moment later, his pokéball's beam finds him. "Return, Titan."
Oh wow, some anger issues from Titan. Then again, there's a lot of repressed emotion going on in that poor charizard.

Soon, now. You're finally on your way. You'll find your brother. You'll save your mother. And you'll be standing in that victor's ring in Indigo Stadium, listening to the whole world cheer for you. It's only a matter of time.
Yep I'm sure it's all going to work out perfectly for you.
 

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
  2. custom/dratini-pen
  3. custom/dratini-pen2
Chapter Ten

gud fic. pls update.




















that's all you get until TR Salvage gets updated. Save me from doing pull-quotes on ffn.

















okay, okay, fine.

The ego-smackdown I thought was going to happen last chapter happens this one, and Nate the Great definitely enjoyed it, though I'm not sure the Child got the memo yet. The denial is strong in this one. I feel like Nate the Great is getting a better sense of what makes the child tick and how he can potentially use the child's temper and immaturity to his advantage. This battle seems like a turning point of sorts in their relationship, a slight levelling of the inequality between them. The child may have all the physical power, but Nate the Great uses his head, and that can prove decisive.

The battle has me hype for future fights, now that Tactics are in the mix. Part of me was skeptical that in the past Rats always beat Titan, but their very different personalities explains that. It's like big happy golden retriever vs mean chihuahua. Rats continues to be Best Rat and really stole the show in this chapter. Her bravado in the battle and her attempt to stop the child from doing some good ol' claw torture were great.

As for the ending bits, all I can say is, exposition time, hell yeah.

Togetic whips past overhead, trailing a streamer of joy dust. You reach up to pass your hand through it, enjoying the tingle of the glowing flecks against your skin. You and the rest of the team are lounging in the sand, enjoying the spoils of victory--ice cream, mostly. The great Nathaniel Morgan sits alone at a nearby picnic table, contributing nothing but snide comments.
Love this scene-setting paragraph. We've got the child in wondersparkle world with bonus Nate the Great. "contributing nothing but snide comments" is a great way to word it--this fic has a lot of humor, and every time I don't expect it when I start chuckling.

"He's going to fucking wreck you, and he'll be a complete dick about it the entire time. It's going to be fucking great."
That . . . yes, that sounds like Blue.

"Come on, Thunder. He's a Rocket. Everybody knows they suck." You cross your arms over your chest and frown, still watching the distant pantomime. "And he's stupid even for one of them."
All Rockets suck. Nate the Great is a Rocket. Therefore Nate the Great sucks.

You can't argue with logic like that.

"From what I saw, that 'big lug' had to clean up a mess you left in the gym battle earlier today."

"Well, maybe you saw wrong, three-eyes. Wouldn't surprise me if it was hard to make things out from where you were cooling your ass on the bench."
Best. rat.

Rats takes off at an angle, ready to jink around Titan's attack.
I nominate "jink" for my Verb Appreciation of this chapter. First encountered that word in the Inkheart series! Good word. very expressive.

"Go for the whiskers," the great Nathaniel Morgan says. Typical. It's what everyone thinks of first, battling a raticate. They're not even half as fast with their whiskers damaged.
Hah this gave me "go for the horn" flashbacks. I like the focus on actual anatomy and the potential for battle injuries to have long-term consequences, though.

Titan hooks his foot-claws under the rim of the slaggy, half-crystallized ring of sand the fire spin left behind. He lifts. Rats stumbles, caught off-guard as the arena moves beneath her feet. "Slash!" the great Nathaniel Morgan yells.
Ooh, yes. This reminds me of a scene from Fate Zero, where Lancer lifts a spear hidden under the dirt with his foot to wound his opponent.

"You--you, you--put me down!" She tries to curl in on herself, reach up and claw at Titan's face, maybe, or pull her tail out of his mouth. But she can't reach and falls back in an exhausted flop, swinging like a pendulum.

"Rats." You still don't really understand how this happened. "Get out of there! Try--quick attack? Sucker punch. Something!"

"I swear, you stupid lizard, you're going to pay for--nrrrrrgh!" Rats transforms into a crazy ball of paddling limbs, twisting gently back and forth but making no progress towards freeing herself. You can see the muscles in Titan's neck straining to keep his head held out at such a strange angle, but he doesn't look tired.
This passage is so vivid, I can just see Rats squirming around. It would be comical if it weren't for the threat of whisker damage.

Ooh, yeah, I was right. That look is fucking priceless." But after a second his smirk fades. "Ugh. Actually, no, wipe that look off my face already. You're making me look like a total fucking moron."
Hah!

"I won," Titan says, staring at the arena in front of him, the place where Rats isn't. Then his snout crinkles in a grin. "I won!"

He looks to you, hoping to share his excitement, but pauses on catching sight of your expression. His wings droop, and he knots his claws together, hunching his shoulders down. "Oh. Sorry."
Such a sweet doofus.

"Oh, really? And how the fuck did I cheat?"

"That was not an actual attack! You cannot do that!"

"Not an actual attack? What, you've never heard of 'I win?' It's like feint attack except it's super effective against total dickheads."

"That is not even a real thing!" you howl.
This almost feels meta to me. The child would definitely write fanfic that uses only the Proper Attack Names.

It's interesting, because the child in a way has more experience with real battles than Nate, in that it fights its own battles. But it has a kind of disconnect between its own experience as an innovative shape-shifting fighter and how a trainer can fight.

"I said shut up! Do not talk about him like that. I do not even care who is watching, I will--" realize with sudden cold certainty that the room has gone quiet and every single eye is on you. Find yourself standing up with your fist drawn back as if preparing to drive it through the great Nathaniel Morgan's smug, ugly face. Discover that your hand hurts for some reason.

You open your fist, and your spoon clatters unevenly to the table. It's a useless mess of metal now, bent and twisted back on itself from the force of your grip. After a moment of surprise, you realize that now everyone is staring at the spoon instead of you. You shuffle it hastily onto your tray under a litter of used napkins, then sit back down again and try to act like nothing's happened.

"This center silverware," the great Nathaniel Morgan says blithely. "Completely shitty, am I right?" He's gone back to eating.
Oof, what a scene. I feel like Nate the Great is pushing the child's buttons on purpose here

"I think you should leave, Rats," you say, running your thumb back and forth over the side of your fist. Iron spines are starting to grow out from your knuckles.

Rats raises her head and squints at you. "What do you mean? What are you going to--oh. Hey, whoah, hang on a second. What's going on?"

"Don't worry about it, Rats. Just get out of here."

She's on her feet already, as alert and attentive as if she'd never been napping. "Hold it. I don't like the looks of this. Why don't we just take a minute and--hey. Hey! I'm talking to you, here!" She makes a running jump when you start towards the human, catching your arm and clinging, like she's going to somehow hold you back.

"Look, you can't go around beating people up whenever they get on your nerves, all right? What the heck's your problem?" You try to twist your arm free, but she hangs on tighter, feet scrabbling for purchase against your side. You work to pry her off while you talk, your words coming out breathless and harsh.

"He made fun of Titan, Rats. He made fun of you. I told him to stop and he wouldn't stop, and I can't just let him get away with that, he can't keep saying things like that. It isn't right! Someone needs to punish him for being so mean."

"That so?" Rats' whiskers twitch, and she pauses for a moment. "Oh, well... Maybe if you just punched him once... No! No, kidding, kidding!" She tries to reach across and grab your other arm, too, while you do your best to shake her off without hurting her. The great Nathaniel Morgan watches the two of you struggling out of the corner of one eye, face expressionless.
I am here for Rats being a good friend and trying to stop the child's impromptu torture session. Also love how she's tempted for a second there.

"Stop it! Absol is not a thing, she is a person, just like you! Except better. And it is because of her that you are still alive, so you ought to show her some respect. Do not ever call my friends 'its' unless that is what they are. Do not call them 'things.' Call them by their names, and treat them like actual people, or you will not like what happens next."

Absol actually blinks, and for a moment the great Nathaniel Morgan is struck dumb. But he's never off-balance for long. "Wow. Jesus fucking Christ, I fucking get it already," he snarls. He nods at Absol, who barely glances in his direction. "Sorry, your royal motherfucking highness. There. You want me to curtsy, too? God."
In a chapter where the child is mostly being stubborn and wrong and, ahem, childish, about things, this was a fascinating moment. Preach it, Child! Um, and don't torture anyone.

Absol kneads the bedspread with her claws for a few seconds.

"For the night, I think." You smile and scratch around the base of her blade, and she is content to be fussed over for a bit.
Awww, absol is beeg cat!!

"Do not be stupid. Of course my brother is not the Champion," you say. "My brother is Mewtwo."
oh ho ho, do I smell Plot and Exposition forthcoming? Now that the child and Nate the Great are established personalities, this does feel like a great time for this.
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Location
waiting for the fog to roll out
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
  4. custom/booper-kintsugi
"looking forward to keeping up to speed with this one" past-self i swear to god you are the WORST

I'm caught up on TR and have been caught up for a while, and I mostly just found myself at a loss for substantial feedback to give. This is a really good story lol. gud fic upd8 moar

Dropping a review for ch 2 - 5 since that felt like the best place to consider a coherent starting arc, and because the great Nathaniel Morgan really needs a post for himself.

---

I think this is one of those stories where if the prose quality were worse, I'd be asking a lot more questions and tearing my hair out about all of the loose ends. Who/what is the child? Where did they actually come from and what do they want to accomplish with all of this? This is a badgequest now?? But the writing quality is good enough that I'm fairly confident that my questions will get answered eventually, even if my pea-sized brain cannot yet comprehend the full scope of what is still to come. I really like how you set scenes and convey the important information without making it immediately obvious. There's a really slick sequence in the Leonard Kerrigan confrontation where we get told that the blue-topped pokeball is Duke's, and then the child is frantically scrambling through all of the pokeballs to get the blue one, and then it recalls Duke mid-battle successfully -- I'm always struck with how hard it is to convey someone's observational/thought processes here, but the evolution of this scene felt almost effortless to track.

And the larger scale scenes were really breathtaking as well -- Absol scooping up the child and taking it to the remains of Cinnabar, aka the ruins of hell, was a striking moment for me in a sea of striking moments. This scarred, desolate landscape was such a haunting backdrop for the lecture (which was also haunting), both in terms of what it meant for the child and what it meant for the grander scheme of where this fic is going. Solemn lectures on fate & defying what is natural, all given in the ruins of a city that was destroyed by a natural disaster (or mewtwo??) and to a child that is in itself a complete anomaly to what the world considers normal -- it was such. good. shit. And I really liked how you set up smaller details too, like how Absol treks out despite the soot staining her immaculate coat, the child pulling up its shirt but not protesting -- it all builds up to a scene that for me functioned as a alright buckos, here's what we're actually here for moment.

The child is delightfully creepy. The second-person switch when it becomes someone else really works for me, since it really nails down this disconcerting this is not really you feeling into the backbone of everything. The moments where we switch back to third for the child to cry into Absol's mane really drive that home, in a sort of twisted way, and I find those conversations really interesting in their own way -- the second-person is where a lot of the events happen, but the child reverts back into its form to really consider what any of those actually mean and how they'll be important moving forward. I can see why it might look offputting in individual chapters, but for me the schtick of the child not really Understanding human nature works because a) it doesn't go on for too long b) the child gets heavily punished for it and we see the child trying to learn from its mistakes very quickly c) it's funny as hell and d) the side characters think differently and do have some degree of empathy and agency, so it's not like we're just on a conga line of sociopaths for the cast.

I also don't really know where else this fits but your ending lines in this opening sequence of chapters were straight fire. I think it really helps since for me the first 5 chapters almost have to be read in one chunk to really gain much value from the rest, so the cliffhangers were a really good way to encourage that progression.

Anyway, Rats and Titan are the best characters ever. Rats was always the best character, and then I read your note about how Titan is actually babby for a charizard and he got an honorary promotion.

Some line edits?

Nicholas Garret's pokéballs you pull off and dump in the bottom drawer, making a mental note to release them later.
haha I only noticed this on second read but ... does this ever happen? rip pokemon. Some serious fridge horror between this and Duke in the PC for eternity, to be released only to find that the world has moved way, way beyond your comprehension.

"Well," Rats wheezes, "that's actually a bit of a difficult question. Maybe if you could let a rat breathe a bit here, we could--"
RATS! She is the best character. I love all of their nicknames.

It also is a difficult question after reading Little God lol. What. Happened. To. Sara???

"I don't need to 'make' you. I'm your trainer. Stop trying to deny it." You don't even bother trying to speak human now. If Titan notices, he doesn't react.
This entire scene was really intense and I like how you pit the child and Titan against one another here, since neither of them are really smart enough in the right way to understand the other -- is there a reason that the child doesn't just take Titan's pre-Nick trainer/Sara's shape and explain what happened to them, though? The child isn't against mentioning that it used to be Titan's original trainer, but I couldn't catch why it kept avoiding proving it.

You're glad you're human right now. It's hard enough to keep your head when you've been fighting, but as a pokémon, it's even harder.
This was a really interesting line of thought that I'm looking forward to seeing more of (and I technically already did, in the future chapters!) -- are pokemon inherently more violent, and humans inherently more rational? Is this a brain chemistry thing? Mewtwo and morphs is such an interesting avenue to explore human nature and I'm really glad that you open this can of worms super early and just shake it all over the fic.

You already checked all the good bits--the funnies, the training section, and, of course, the obituaries. You even choked down most of the boring stuff, the news-news about people who do things other than train pokémon, like you have any reason to care about them.
There's something endearing about this laconic humor that gets replaced by the great Nathanial Morgan (also in a good way) -- but I like how you kept the solo bits with the child interesting by going into how truly skewed its perception of humans is. The idea that they learned most of their knowledge from television also evokes such interesting mental images for me, and explains how a lot of these thought processes are inherently broken -- there's a later line about cops either being hardass servants of justice or donut lovers, and it's great to see such incorrect logic boiled out so confidently and in a way that could foreseeably be correct.

Leonard Kerrigan sits at the nerve center of the League's great digital brain, watching data flow in from all its sensory organs, the pokédexes every trainer must carry to be considered legal. The pokédex observes everything, records everything, surely knows more than the trainer herself about everything that has happened on her journey: every pokémon captured, every item purchased, every visit to a pokémon center.
Another really fascinating concept for two reasons -- 1) wow holy shit that's such a deep level of surveillance state and 2) I liked how you tied the child's perception of a soul to what you've done, where you've been. The latter is more explored early on and I think that makes a lot of sense for where we are in the story, but I'm interested to see if the former comes back!

"Later," you say, unable to resist showing off a little of your hip slang.
early me: why is this fic tagged black humor it literally opens with a child watching a man die
me now: lmfao

There something off about this sunny little island, some kind of wrongness in the soil, maybe, something alien rolling on the waves.
a! typo!??

An absol bears no grudges, names no enemies, holds none dear. The child knows this. Sometimes, it wishes it could be like Absol, eternally serene, eternally detached.
For me this drives home why I find Absol to be such a fundamentally interesting character as well: clearly she wants something, and is willing to go to great lengths to get it, since she babysits the child so aggressively. But what truly drives her? Is she acting purely out of wanting to see Fate run its true course, or does she hold the child dear on some level? The child is an excellent lens because we can see its wrong thought processes go very wrong in real time, but for Absol, who's a lot more grey, we only get to observe from a distance, and even further because it's filtered through the child -- which makes her nebulous and hard to grasp.

Gruff, the family's aged growlithe, is sleeping somewhere on the first floor; if you concentrate, you can just taste the edges of his dreams as they run in confused little circles.
"confused little circles" help i'm dead dogs having cute thoughts this is my one weakness and i did not expect to find it HERE of all places

He looks at you with an unreadable expression on his face, then sighs and removes his hand from your arm. "Up you go, then," he says, pointing towards the stairs. You remember the way to his study from the last time you were here and are only too happy to lead. You're less happy with what you find inside.
The tension throughout this scene was incredible. I entered knowing it wasn't going to go well, because why would it, but I still wasn't prepared. For me this is the line where Leonard figures it out? The unreadable expression is him putting away the gut instinct of relief that his son isn't actually dead, accepting that this is part of the weird ghost fuckeries, and doing his best to defend himself for what comes next? Reading over it, I wasn't exactly sure when he makes this understanding, but this was the line where I made it, and quietly thought, well, shit.

"That's right," Leonard says with a wan smile. "It's been a long time, hasn't it? Why don't we see if he still remembers you?"
ugh this too! Your physical battles are good but the scene here is almost paced like a battle, with both sides doing their best to get past one another until it's revealed that we've just activated Leonard's trap card.

Your grin stretches wider and wider, splitting Matt Kerrigan's face ear to ear as jaws reconfigure to accommodate the new rows of teeth forcing their way out of your gums, gleaming sharp in the dim light. Fingers grow claws and irises bleed to red as you stare into Leonard Kerrigan's eyes.
haha in the suspense of this chapter I'd almost forgotten this was a horror story but NOPE WE'RE BACK.

Sometimes it wasn't sure whether Absol thought Fate was something that was or something you did.
I think all of your prose was really good but for some reason this line stood out for me.

At the time it was too overwhelmed by the reunion with its friend, with the treasure salvaged from the wreckage, with the fact that it suddenly had a real home, once the vacation house of some wealthy Cinnabar resident, now left empty and forgotten on a little island to the south.
And in closing! This to me is why I think these first five chapters are their own arc -- this is finally where we understand the big picture events. This is why the fic is titled this, this is where we've been, this is where we're going. It's complex and mysterious enough that I didn't mind the crux of the story being spread out across several chapters.

idk i don't really have much constructive to say and this is mostly just gushing about why i liked the story also please update on TR so i don't have to deal with FFN's full page ads that pop up mid fic
 

Adamhuarts

Mew specialist
Partners
  1. custom/mew-adam
  2. custom/celebi-shiny
  3. custom/roserade-adam
Hello Negrek! It's been years since I last read this story, and I've come back now to pick up where I left off. I'll be reviewing just the 36th chapter for now!

I must say, the first half of this chapter is very similar to how I remembered it. I got some enjoyment seeing Nate pissed off by the child's presence, as well as the latter's complete obliviousness to most common sense and social cues.

Honestly, I remember hating the child as much as possible in the past, but picking this story back up reminded me that it had more character depth than just emotionless child monster that's a weapon of mass destruction. It was very interesting seeing The Child trying to deal with its feelings of guilt and some regret, feelings it absolutely doesn't enjoy.

Even though it only healed Nate's arm and also is trying to recover Steelix so it doesn't have to deal with its uncomfortable emotions, it's still a bit sweet of it to try anyway. Though I use that word very loosely because the child probably will ditch Nate after it feels it has no debts to repay. Though it might miss Nate over time, who knows? It just as well might not.



Gud fic. Update fast plz.
 
Last edited:

kintsugi

golden scars
Location
waiting for the fog to roll out
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
  4. custom/booper-kintsugi
gud fic upd8 moar

































:quag:

okay, circling back for chapters 6-8 now, fueled by the glory of the great nathaniel morgan. seemed like a good split between this and the gym battle/aftermath

There are a lot of fun details in this chunk too. I really liked how you portrayed absol's unease with the idea that Nate might die, all the terse language about circling and how she's flicking her head around. I think it also works since she's such an unflappable character previously, standing in the ruins of Cinnabar giving victory speeches to a kid who likes transformazod sneakers ... and now she's totally off-kilter and just fucks off into the ether for a bit. Really interesting there. I admittedly have no idea what the shadow over the water's face means, or the reflection, but I feel like eventually that'll be explained and will be really cool, so I'm excited to see that one play out.

Nate's such a good character for the Child to bounce off of too, oh my god. I always forget that the best sidekick for an asshole who thinks they have a heart of gold is just ... another asshole who thinks they have a heart of gold, and then they can both be trying to justify themselves for it. "You don't need your arm to travel" oh my GOD. And then they can both call each other out for it, lol. So fun. I found myself wishing Nate asks more questions and doesn't go along with the Child out of spite/shits and giggles (although there's no promises that he's not just lying so he can get out of the woods in the short term, so I'm okay waiting for the other shoe to drop there). But it definitely *is* refreshing to have someone who isn't taking this 100% seriously, and I see where you get the black comedy label from. I also love that they just osmosis the sarcastic title off of Jenna and never let it up.

I also really liked that we get scenes of the Child just looking after their pokemon, carefully doing the math to make sure everyone gets fed, lil' special tupperware full of honey (wait a second, flies and honey, just picked up on that lol), lil' battery for Thunderstorm so they aren't left out. With the shifting/slightly hazy motives of what the Child actually wants, it's nice to have a set of people in the fic that they actively care about--Absol also works and it's clear that the Child cares deeply for them, but she's kind of mysterious and it's hard to imagine that affection being shown in such everyday acts of taking care instead of vice versa.

Some random line reacts that are also just gushing, lol:

This chapter is where the story really starts picking up. Hope you enjoy!
haha what

Heads are always difficult for you, since you can't change your brain too much without running into problems, and that means they can't get too small or too big or too weird-shaped. Even if Rockets are dumb, you don't think they'd mistake you for a regular grovyle, at least not if they saw your face.
I really liked this detail, since it's kind of hard to get a good handle on what the Child actually can do vs what their limits are clearly there are none. Like, they seem pretty powerful and can influence the weather at will, so the upper gauge seems pretty high. This is a really clever way to nerf transformation, which I feel would otherwise be pretty OP in this infiltration quest. Is "head too big" really an issue in the same way as "head too small"? Couldn't they just pad the head with stuff to fill up the gaps?

For all her griping, the golbat is a-wing immediately, and you have to wonder what could inspire such loyalty in the face of the hated sun. You glare down at the boy as he takes his place at the edge of the large, grassy clearing.
thought this was a cool detail

You zone out for a while, the sounds of the beating fading from your awareness as you think of nothing at all, spreading your leaves and quietly photosynthesizing.
this one too! I love the attention to detail here, and how they end up picking up little physical traits from their transformation targets. maybe that happens on a small scale with humans too?

And still it isn't enough. The human is like a black hole, sucking up all your energy and tossing it into the void. You meet Absol's stern gaze and force yourself upright to perform the attack a third time.
this description was also really neat

"Would you have understood what I meant if I had?"

You have to admit it's still way too metaphorical. "No."
oh rip when the Child is saying Exactly what I feel, that's probably not a good place for me

I really need to get better about remembering to actually do these on Friday


"Whoah, whoah, whoah," he says. "Hold up. Badges? The fucking League finals?" His face twists into a hideous smirk, shattered teeth glinting bloody in the growing light. "What the fuck is this? Splice-boy wants to be a motherfucking pokémon master?"
kind of my thoughts tbh! I trust you but I'm fascinated for why this is the next step in the master plan 👀

"I saved your life. You owe me your cooperation."
The pacing of this arugment felt a bit like the Titan argument a few chapters back, where both of them are just shouting their points at each other and not listening or even trying to think about it. But now Nate has no excuse about being a small grief-stricken dragon; he's just an asshole with broken arms lol.

"I am not your evil twin. If we are twins, you are clearly the evil one because you are a member of Team Rocket."
can't argue with that logic

You like dressing up, especially in bright colors, or clothes with your favorite cartoon characters on them. Unfortunately, this morning's shopping trip failed to turn up any Transformozords shirts in the great Nathaniel Morgan's size. But if you aren't going to wear something special, why bother?
I really liked this detail since it's like, ridiculously disturbing but still hilarious lol. If you could describe what Transformozords is about so I can make shitpost art of the great Nathaniel Morgan in an XXL, I would appreciate it.

Titan pulls his head out of the bucket, looking nervously between the two of you. Grease shimmers on his muzzle, and he's managed to get clot of breading stuck to the base of one horn.
UGH BABY. so cute

"Oh. He wants to shake hands." You're not sure what War finds so fascinating about the human custom, your washed-out memories tell you of a child who once carried her tentacool around, annoying people who had very important jobs to do with requests to indulge his curiosity.
War is beside himself with mirth, slapping at the water with his tentacles while his laughter tumbles on and on, a pattering noise like churning pebbles.
ughhhhh I loved this image and it made me cackle so much. It's also interesting if like, the child's twisted morality is from whatever happened to them to drive them to their current state, or if they're just frozen as a super young child brain. Regardless this is such a cute image and I love that beeg War is still completely on board with this, and that the Child immediately knows that this will be the first thing he asks for.

"No," he says with unusual force. "No, I'll go. By myself."
oh no, I smell more plot hooks.

"What?" His laugh is shallow, breathless, without mirth. "Listen, Freak. Even the wackjobs who claim they can talk to pokémon don't stand there going all 'bark bark growl hiss' at them and shit. Come on."

"Humans do not have to speak the pokémon language to be understood. But I can. I like to."
! I! Have a vested interest in this topic and I always love seeing different approaches for it. Does the language sound like bark/bark/growl/hiss to all the pokemon? Do non-terrestrial pokemon understand the language even though they probably couldn't speak it? How do tentacruel and magneton communicate, and is it the same as how raticate would? I do like the idea that they all speak a universal language since that dramatically simplifies translation, and this is mostly just weird questioning/an interesting worldbuilding knot that I like to poke from time to time.

"Ooh, nice comeback, jackass. That'll fucking show me."
gottem
 

unrepentantAuthor

A cat that writes stories.
Location
UK
Pronouns
they/she
Partners
  1. custom/purrloin-salem
  2. custom/sneasel-dusk
  3. custom/luz-companion
  4. custom/brisa-companion
Hi there, here's my review for chapter 2. Sorry for the delay — both in the sense that you were expecting this yesterday, and in that it's been literally a couple years since I read chapter one. I glanced at chapter one for a quick refresher, but being pressed for time I moved straight on. Fortunately, following chapter 2 was an easier experience generally than I recall was the case with chapter 1, regardless of said time gap!

So, my overwhelming impression coming out of this chapter is that we have a villain protagonist on our hands. It's not that chapter 1 didn't give the impression that the protag had a somewhat unnerving morality. Rather, chapter 1 gave the impression of being a prologue, an incident of significance, but not necessarily the direct precursor to the rest of the narrative. Chapter 2 follows on almost immediately, and it finally kicked in that, yes, our protag is pretty terrifying. Not so much for their powers, although those seem considerable, but for their imperious and obsessive behaviour and apparent lack of empathy. People who can't be reasoned with like this are just scary all on their own, let alone when they can beat the shit out of a powerful pokémon.

I seem to remember reading an extra about absol morality out of irresistible curiosity. This would have been back in 2018. It clearly stuck with me hard, as the comments from the protag about not interfering brought to mind the absol mindset about fated events at once. I don't know for sure that I would have had the same kind of reaction had I not read that extra, but either way, I found it disturbing that the child should think like that.

In terms of prose, I don't have anything to criticise. The peculiar person, tense and POV may be strange to read, but they're well handled, and I didn't notice any technical or stylistic problems.

In terms of narrative, I find myself intrigued by the pact the protag mentions, and by the kind of creature they must be. There were small details that stood out to me, such as Rats' joke about the pokéball, the mention of the protag taking Nick's soul, and Titan's moment of realisation that the protag can understand his utterances. These sort of subtle moments that say much without spelling everything out are some of my favourite things about a good piece of writing, and I'm pleased to expect more prose like this for the rest of the fic.

See you next chapter!
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Location
waiting for the fog to roll out
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
  4. custom/booper-kintsugi
kintsugi 09/24/2020
I think FFN is broken for me??
Old School Johto 09/24/2020
?
kintsugi 09/24/2020
I started reading Salvage and suddenly I was on like chapter 20
really weird
also several hours had passed

anyway, one thing led to the next and now I'm read up to chapter 43 lol.

which is good because I don't really have anything constructive to say about this fic beyond good fic upd8 more and general gushings about how this could be used as a masterclass for writing fanfic, so I'm just going to lean into the quantity over quality route.

so uh yeah, good fic, upd8 more? this review ran stupid long and i'm sorry.

chapters 9-10
New chapters once a week on Friday!
top ten anime betrayals :(

I think this is the first legal battle of the fic? And this one is the one where I really understand what people mean when they say you write battles well. Springing from the future/with the full fic under my belt to say that this isn't even the tip of the iceberg for as far as crazy well-stakes'ed, brilliantly strategized battles go, but there's a really good narrative tension going on across this scene that makes the battle feel so much shorter than it actually is. I think in particular you nail the art of figuring out exactly which details need to be told and which ones you can sort of leave to the wayside; as a result, the battle feels like it's just flowing from one object of importance to the next, instead of being a back/forth/back/forth that 1v1's tend to become. I also liked the reference Blaine makes to the anime lol! I think it was tastefully done. Does Red stand in for Ash in this universe?

And we get to see Nate completely push the child's shit in using the power of his mind! A one-off event in which the child is outsmarted that I'm sure will never happen again in this story, nosiree, not at all.

It's nice that Nate gets a win here--by my tracking his is the happiest he's going to be until like chapter 28, which is ironically back when he's outstrategizing others via pokemon battling once again. I'm really impressed by how you plant seeds like this early, even though the payoff for the strats here in the short term are just like "oh hmmm, Nate is probably way smarter than the child can detect" but the long term is "this guy is really, really good at battling and would be a good fighter". The pieces all fit together like clockwork lol.

And oh nooooo the child is sad that togetic is being fed sour things. Is this because Togetic is gentle-natured or just random haha.

chapter 11
I thought this was sort of a turning point for the fic for me. There's probably 60 or 70k of words leading up to this chapter, so I think it's safe to say that this is sort of the payoff for all of that buildup--pretty much everything swirls around this question of who is the child?. The Leonard Kerrigan stuff made me think that maybe this was going to be a cat-and-mouse (cat-and-cat?) game, sorta ala Death Note with a central thread of a hypercompetent but emotionally-invested detective going up against a murderer hellbent on a singular course of justice, and that the child's identity was going to be pivotal to figuring this all out, but then the cards hit the table pretty early here. Which wasn't really a bad thing, just kind of surprising--where do things go from here, then? A Mewtwo + Mew heist is an interesting (which! I probably should've guessed once I saw the summary bar in FFN), but functionally it's not much different from the crux of the story up until this point; now the child is just going after a different set of pokemon.

And again it's still weird to really call this a criticism; the execution is done in such a way that I don't really mind the extra arcs because I still like what they introduce here and I'm honestly just glad to have more words to read about these characters.

There's something really darkly beautiful about this chapter, reading things that seem innocent at first and knowing they're going to go incredibly dark. Pre-child!Sara befriending Mew, the image of Mew twirling the pokeball on her tail before deciding to follow. It's like reading about those myths of using little girls to lure out unicorns--this idea that innocence doesn't even know the harm it's poised to cause.

I also liked that this chapter gave us concrete stakes on Team Rocket--previously, they seemed kind of dickish, but 1) the child was just making blanket morality statements left and right and 2) the other time was when they were being dicks to the Great Nathaniel Morgan, which, well. But here we get a good taste of the levels of cruelty that they're willing to inflict on others, the extent to which they're causing harm. The Mewtwo story has a lot of room to be cartoon villainy, since it's like oh yeah i'm gonna take this super pokemon and make a SUPER DUPER POKEMON, but the slow boiling of the frog here re: the scientists' experiments and their eventual corruption/subsumption by Team Rocket happens really effectively in slowtime here.

It's also really cool that we get to see Sara here, and see how much of her stayed in the child. She's driven, focused on one goal, and she doesn't really understand fully but still does her best to do right by what she thinks is right. And I can see how there could be a lot of guilt here, why her drive to find Mew again is so overpowering--this was in some ways something she did (and in many ways not, but it's easy to see why the child wouldn't think that). And the baby pokemon on her team, so eager to help right this wrong, even though we know that they're all going to split ways and the mission isn't going to succeed. This is a great use of flashback and juggling the tension that knowing the present-story causes.

Absol did arrive, of course, as abruptly and mysteriously as she always does. She taught you how to be a person again, how to use your pokémon abilities, how to look after yourself. More importantly, she reminded you of your purpose, of the promise you'd made and your failure to fulfill it. You had a mission, and she had one, too. Mew herself had told her to protect you that day so many years ago, after your death and just before the lab went up in flames.
I thought it was pretty interesting that the child uses "you" here instead of "the child"--is there distance between even that version of itself and who it is now?

"I am still connected to Mew. I share her dreams. So I see where she is when she dreams about it."
In light of threads being woven deep, deep into the earlier parts of the fic and only again coming relevant several hundred thousand words later--👀?

chapter 12-14
Forgive me if this was answered somewhere; I did binge a lot of this in a rush and my reading comprehension goes way down when I'm reading quickly--why didn't they just ride the eagles to Mordor teleport to Mewtwo earlier? I recall the setup here mostly being that the child just wanted to have fun and collect badges, and was using the Mewtwo rescue brigade as an excuse to do that, but I remember not really being sold on the change of heart here, or why Absol chooses now to intervene with the child.

The battle in this arc of chapters is done fantastically though. Blaine's a good example of a traditional battle, Blue's a good example of a traditional battle + some cheats, and then this is the first of a few ridiculous brawls that go off the rails. I remember being really blown back by how smoothly you pulled the fight off here and juggled all the different combatants; I got the sense that there was a lot of chaos but I also was able to follow the child's thought process through everything. The gradual incorporation of all of the different elements we've seen in non-combat applications was really clever too, and I loved the creative applications of transformation and swapping abilities. And these end up being important later, when Nate points out how fucking busted it is.

Mewtwo at the end of this section is suitably ominous, and his veiled curiosity at what the child can do now, while still being able to recognize it. It works really nicely with the Nate betrayal at the end of ch12, where everyone is just biding their time around the child and slowly tricking it into a position of vulnerability so that they can amass enough power to betray it, while the child doesn't catch on until it's too late.

I thought it was fascinating that this last section in ch14 was written as "the child" over "you"--is this just referring to the fact that the child is going in undisguised, or is it pointing to something deeper about how it's seeing itself in these different moments?
There's a moment of surprise, but no more than that, before your anger comes flooding back in. "So that's it, then? You liked me better when I was just some weak, frightened child? When I couldn't do anything, when I was too pathetic to save anyone?"

"At least you weren't a total dick," Rats mutters.

"I am what I have to be!" you snarl. "I'm better than when I was human. I'm strong enough to do what I have to do."

"It's not about strength, Boss. I guess it's kind of cool that you can like bench cars now and stuff, but I don't care one way or the other. I'd be fine with it if you were still you."
This spoke really powerfully to the general themes of this section imo, and to the tragedy of Sara in general. There's something really sad about this small child snarling that it was all worth it, that this was necessary for an unfulfilled goal. I like the parallels here between Mewtwo being designed for a purpose and ready to rebel against anything and everything that put him down that road; while in contrast, the child was never meant for this role but embraces the stripping of identity that comes with it anyway.

And Rats :(((( babies. oh no.

ch15-17

And now we get to see Mewtwo unleashed. He's an excellent secondary antagonist, and he's the first person in this fic so far who seems to be a proper counter to the child in terms of raw power as well as intelligence. And yet! Pretty lacking on the empathy front--so it's pretty fun to see this dark mirror version of the child suddenly being the one to boss it around and strongarm it into doing all the things that the child was just doing to Nate a few chapters ago. I liked this from a catharsis standpoint, since it's usually good to have characters who are capable of challenging protagonists both physically and mentally, but also it's kind of entertaining to see how surprised pikachu face the child is to this idea that it's really not all that fun to get bossed around by someone under constant threat of holding your loved ones hostage or general physical pain. And none of those lessons stick, because, lol, why would they, it's the child.

Slavers! I sat up in my chair when Mewtwo dropped this line tbh. I don't really go into fics expecting these sort of themes but I won't look the gift horse in the mouth if you end up writing a beautiful and nuanced take on training ethics. I think the general origins of Mewtwo has so many themes that dovetail into this idea wonderfully, and of course Mewtwo himself is going to have very Spicy Takes on pokemon training as a system, since his entire experience with humans revolves around suffering and being used by them--so if this is what it means to be the ultimate battler, then what good is battling as a system? I'm a little biased but I love how he shuts down the child's arguments that it's a good trainer--it doesn't matter; the child has never had to be property. The child thinks that it's similar to Mewtwto, but they've never had that key experience, and as such they end up being shaped into two very different people.

And like tbh I wasn't even asking for this level of dissection; I was honestly just content with the fact that the child 1) talks to its pokemon and listens when they talk back and 2) is happy to fight its own battles alongside them, and as such has different metrics/better understanding for what it means to be hurt in battle. But imo a really-really good Mewtwo fic is inextricable from themes of personhood, choice, and control, so I'm beyond happy to see these ideas laid out alongside Mewtwo's intrinsic rage at the idea of people being viewed as property. But then! Mewtwo also isn't really doing this for the pokemon's well-being either; he doesn't release them and instead uses them as leverage against the child, so it's clear that while he's willing to talk the good shit about personhood, he's got a bit of his creators in him as well.

Mewtwo sassing Nate and then trying to explain sarcasm to the child continues to be * chef's kiss *. It's just three assholes in a blender and so many excellent interactions come out of it.

The weaving of story elements is almost seamless here. The steelix fight was entrancing and a really huge, massive setpiece with good stakes since it's set underground, but it was pretty crazy seeing it come up almost thirty chapters later as a major plot point.

"None of them are wearing—"

Should they be?

You stare at the clone, at a loss for words, and he stares back. You've never caught him off guard before, but now he's honestly confused. Of course he reads your consternation, your surprise at his ignorance, and his shock bleeds back into sullen resentment. "Scientists wear lab coats, Mewtwo. Haven't you ever seen any movies?"
I'm giggling in a chapter where a tortured clone exacts revenge on his creators by murdering a ton of (potentially evil but) entirely unrelated people, help.

"It's not chatter, it's what I'm thinking. And I can't do anything about it, so you're just going to have to deal with it." You sit up and pout in the general direction of the boulder. "Come on, Mewtwo, we're—"

We are not! Mewtwo's eyes light up, and you feel a sick churning in your stomach as his anger streams into your head. You're tired of this. He doesn't care what the great Nathaniel Morgan says about Mew, but he gets mad whenever you mention your mission? I told you, I've had enough of your talk about teamwork. I'm not your brother, you piece of filth! Don't ever call me that again!

"—siblings, so you shouldn't be mean to me," the child mutters. "And I don't care if you don't like it, I'm going to keep saying it because—"
The switches between you/the child continue to ... elude me for the exact reasoning behind them, but I find it fascinating.

The cuts in dialogue here make it seem like the child just politely waits for Mewtwo to finish and then immediately goes back to exactly where it had stopped in the sentence, which I initially thought was weird but checks out, tbh.

ch 18-20
Infiltration again, once more with feeling! Nate ... once again fucking everyone over despite being the prisoner of twice as many psychic murderbots as last time is a thing of genius. Kind of like the last one I was waiting to see how the other shoe to drop, and I really love how everyone here keeps getting in each other's way and genuinely making it way worse for everyone. Great exercises in group projects if one of your team members can't read and the other one only wants murder and the third one thinks the group has to wear labcoats for it to count as science.

Comically-small Mewtwo voice is (also) a thing of genius. Was he bluffing when he said he'd let himself out and would crush everyone's skulls and bathe in their blood or whatever? Later in ch18 he's yelling at the child to let him out, so I wasn't sure what the mechanics behind self-release are here.

Really solid group of characters introduced in this section--Sabrina's interpretation fits right in with all of the weird murderpsychics; Eskar's a gem (lmao that pun; I'm sorry), and Nate's pokemon! oh no. babies. I love the parallelism between Nate and the child, in which they'll treat the whole world terribly except their pokemon, and then they'll go off and do something to ruin even that, leaving them with no one absolutely nothing bad happens and everyone is fine. Really good establishing moments for Mightyena and Eskar in particular; I immediately got a good idea of who was doing what.

There's something really telling about how this fight between the child and Nate's pokemon gets settled--as much fighting as possible. "Violence is the only thing she understands, just like her trainer," says the child, without a hint of irony. Absol jumping into the fray and losing is also interesting. Didn't expect her to fight here, let alone lose. I kinda wish we knew more about why she did that or if she cares afterward--did she think fighting Mightyena would work? She's been pretty aggressively pacifist before. I did love how in this fight she's basically a force of nature, with blizzards and thunder and shit. Suitably ominous, and yet to no avail!

I do sort of struggle to understand the power scaling here, since the child did take out a ton more pokemon at the end of ch13. Are Nate's pokemon just that much stronger than the rest of Team Rocket's? Were those just kind of shitty grunt pokemon they had lying around? I've gotten the feeling before that Nate's team is pretty good, and from his first appearance Team Rocket sends 6 (I think?) grunts to take him on, so that gave an idea of scale, but I struggled with how visceral and seemingly one-sided this fight was compared to the crazy shit the child's pulled previously. But also! Nate battle gud, and his pokemon do too, and that's pretty obvious.

This chapter is kind of weird because by the beginning of ch21 we sort of end up exactly where we could've been at the beginning of ch12, except with another set of Nate betrayal under the belt. I don't particularly mind, since the content that happened between was still really excellent and tbh I could just watch Mewtwo + the child doing a free-for-all through Rocket territory for the entire fic, but there's a feeling of deja vu here, and besides the knowledge that Mewtwo is smarter than the child and probably shouldn't be trusted (which arguably we already knew), I'm not sure what's changed.

ch21 -22
I really love Nate griping about how he wants the biggest pizza of his life, and then his congo line of good pokefrens happens to prance in bearing pizza and beer. It's really sweet, and it gives a lot of insight into what these guys were like before this--and surely will have no implications on future altercations! Everyone will be fine. These guys are all just having a swell time winning pokemon battles and nothing bad happening.

It's also really cute that Nate doesn't understand the pokemon, but for the most part he gets them. Being really excited when Raticate gets poisoned, understanding when Mightyena wants to kill the child--I think it's really subtle how he doesn't necessarily understand the words that they're saying, but he does guess the meaning right.

And the ending of this section really underscores how fucked and alone the child's actions have left it. Kinda sad, and sadder still that it can't even pin down the reasons for why it ended up here or even really put a name to these feelings besides a yearning for revenge. Once it finds Mew, I wonder what it'll choose to do with itself after? If it even has that choice.

'Oops, oh no, look at all the drugs that I have. By the way, my name is Zachery Oberti, and I am a competitor in the Indigo League Tournament'
i'm dead i'm fucking DEAD

"No. I mean you cannot catch me because pokéballs do not work on me."

The great Nathaniel Morgan spreads his hands. "Well, why the fuck not? Potions and shit do, don't they? And attacks."

"Because that would be stupid," you say. The human makes an exasperated noise, but you move on before he can start in on some new complaint. "And anyway, I would not let you catch me. I do not want a trainer, and even if I did, I would pick somebody better than you."
man good thing this detail is never important ever again.

ch 23
I like how this chapter looks at the central theme of using people. It's really telling and I think it lets the chapter stand on its own in that regard. Eskar uses the child, Nate uses (to some degree) Mightyena and vice versa, and both of them use the child (again). There's a weird (in a good way) and messy argument to pick apart here about different levels of manipulation, what it means to give something willingly, the costs we're willing to shoulder in the name of the things we want.

Eskar in particular is really creepy about this, which I imagine is the point--but I love the lore obsession with eyes, the gemstones (even if it took forever for you to find one that has a singular color), the calm way that she wheedles around the child and boxes it in. The way that the power dynamic shifts in this chapter is a thing of beauty; the child is physically stronger but none of that has ever really mattered through this fic. It can easily overpower Nate and yet gets outsmarted by him multiple times, and this is just another entry on the list. Controlling the narrative and using the best words is a really powerful tool--and the child loses on all fronts because it can talk to pokemon, and this just opens up the possibilites of people who can try to outsmart it.

And yet despite all of this, this is probably the warmest Mightyena and Nate have been to the child, but that's really just because it has something that they want. More manipulation and use, but like, on the scale of things this is probably the happiest and nicest they've ever been This fic has convinced me that writing morally questionable characters sounds like so much fun lol.
"Oh, you are the most boring!" Mightyena calls after him, but it ends in a laugh, and and a second later she's back to prancing, stepping high and light in excitement. "Let's see, let's see. Uhh, tell him, tell him... tell him my favorite color is red. Oh, and ask him what exactly happened with the Viridian Base and Mewtwo, I still don't really get what went on there, oh, oh, tell him he's the best trainer ever and I love him!"
stop no my heart and this read so much worse knowing what comes next.

ch24-26
I kind of forgot this was a tournament arc tbh. I see the error in my ways now; the OG format is just 1 or 2 slice of life chapters with a really good battle in between, and then have your asshole trainer and his pokemon watch movies and eat pizza and go do crimes. It's a solid format, and one that strips the typical monotony out of back-to-back battle chapters while still letting you get character development across, and I thought that was really clever and also something that rarely makes it into tourney arcs lol. The focus isn't actually on winning this exact battle or even like, wanting to do well in the fight; everyone involved is here pretty much because someone else has coerced them or because if they show up they can coerce someone else. It makes for a character dynamic that I found oddly way more compelling than a standard tournament arc, which is sort of counterintuitive since, again, no one actually wants to do this tournament. Lotta fun.

But there are lessons learned here! I also really like how this is probably the first section where Nate and the child both get to shine a little--they're finally playing to their strengths. Nate especially, since he's spent so much of this fic getting beaten into the ground (enjoyably so, I admit), but here's finally a place where he is probably one of a few people who could actually pull off these things, and it's awesome to see him in his own element. I like how this stuff is pretty much second nature to him and the strategies are done in a way that they make no sense going forward (especially when narrated via the child), but make tons of sense once Nate explains, duh, use Toxic, obviously. Everyone wins, except for Pidgeot I guess, who definitely doesn't win. And the child is arguably in a good spot too, since having someone with a better mind for tactics calling the shots is demonstrably the better call in this fight. I think I mentioned in an early review that I was curious how you'd limit the child's ridiculous arsenal, and this is such a clever way to do it--now we're really in a venue where they could still curbstomp everyone, but they can't.

And! Leonard Kerrigan is back! The little flashes into how the rest of the child's identities died was really interesting for me, and I thought it was particularly clever how you presented it in the text--it doesn't even feel like exposition; it's just Leonard vaguely flapping his hands in the air screaming about government bird drones, and Nate having no fucking clue what any of this is, because for once he really doesn't. The information asymmetry here is really good; everyone's talking past one another in ways that the reader can understand but that none of the three characters in the room can, and I thought that was really masterfully done. And then we wrap up with more savage bits where the child just plows through a ton of people with no regard for consequence and then tells itself it's a good person for not outright killing anyone. Really good shit.

"It's kind of sweet of you to offer to take her to see rock porn, but she thinks it's weird that humans are so interested in that stuff," Mightyena says once Graveler's out of sight.
this group is such a group of gems

ch27-31
The audino tuts and reaches over to straighten the chansey's cross-stamped hat, since your tormentor's arms are too short for her to tend to it herself. Currently they're crossed just above her egg while she glares at you. You glare right back.
i have so many questions about how chansey are expected to perform medical assessments if their arms are canonically four inches long lol

"But this is the way of pokémon, yes? So loyal, even to those who do not deserve it. This is how it is. But Orpiment-eyes is smart, yes? So smart. She will learn. Team Rocket can give her a real trainer. She will understand then. I think it will take some time, but she will understand."
So normally I have really mixed feelings on when talking pokemon talk about the nature of training, since like! The takes are usually very scathing. But there's something distinctly unsettling here about having it be Eskar, and when she's talking about how capital-f Fine all of this is and how this is the normal state of things, it's just a deeply fucked situation all around. Nate's team is a reflection of himself, whether they eventually became that way or they naturally jived with him because of how their personalities were so similar--Mightyena's love for him feels genuine, even if it is deeply misplayed and objectively that loyalty is being given to someone who doesn't deserve it. But on some level I understand why they wouldn't care; the answer is just ! dogs ! do not care about these things. And oftentimes neither do people. I will die for this man's relationship with his dog and the fact that you fucking RUN IT INTO THE GROUND in like ten chapters just makes this whole section way worse to look back at, holy shit--

The great Nathaniel Morgan gives her a long look, lips pressed together in a thin line. Then he says, "I liked you better when you couldn't talk."
and yup there it is.

There's also certainly something to be said about how this isn't a purely unethical relationship; everyone is just a product of their circumstances. These chapters, where Nate tries to do good by his team, even to Eskar--it's really good shit lol. I'm used to seeing like, Good characters who have to confront that they do bad things, and occasionally Bad characters who do affably nice things once or twice out of convenience, but these are just really humanizing moments that kind of drive home how little agency Nate has in this story, and how all things considered he's really just going to act like a regular person would when confronted with this fact.

Or like. Maybe a weird tangent but my first experience with mixed feelings on characters was when I was like six and accidentally watching this really weird black and white movie that I can't remember the title of. There was a workaholic dad who was run down by his job, they were sinking into poverty, and his wife was trying her best to keep the kids from seeing how fucked their lives were becoming, and at some point he gets super drunk and yells at her or something? But then he comes back and like buys her a freezer and fills it full of food so she doesn't have to cook, because he loves her and he's a good person who didn't mean it--and then by the end it doesn't all get better, because there are some things you just can't fix, even though he wanted to. I think? It's been many years since I saw this. But what stuck with me was this feeling of frustration at everyone involved, because I hated that he did this, I hated that he couldn't come back from it, and I hated that he was still trying and putting everyone through hell for trying--everyone felt very human, at a time when I really wasn't used to seeing this much nuance in the stories I was consuming. And obviously I think my horizons have broadened a bit since first grade, but it's been a while since I've felt this mixed on a set of characters lol. I want everyone to do good by each other and I know they damn well aren't, but I also understand why that's just not going to be an option. It's excellently done and I'm kinda baffled that this is happening in the backdrop of a really well put together pokemon fanfic? Like this stuff isn't technically even on the label of what the fic is about, but these character dynamics are killer.

because ultimately
"I'm only trying to do the right thing, Absol."

"I know," she says. "Most people are."
this was sort of the vibe of this section for me, outside of the triumphant battles and everyone having a great time. It's resigned, and no one's to blame, but it's certainly there.


anyway that was really sad so here's actual footage of Mightyena and her ball, mixed media, 2020, colorized

"Ah, Cordierite-eyes! I like you, I really do. Such a good friend." Eskar gives you a dazzling smile. "But I'm afraid my rates have gone up."
mmmmmm yikes, no thanks, but also yes

ch 32
Coming to the close of this arc, I think this is really my favorite section of the fic so far, which is weird because normally tournament arcs are a bit rough both to read and write. I have thought about how I've read exactly one good tournament arc in fanfic, and now I have to go back and say that I've read two, and that this one blows all of my standard advice (you need to have opponents who aren't just one-offs; the opponents need to also have investment in winning beyond wanting the title; you can't just write single battles back to back cuz boring) out of the water and waaaaay into outer space. I'm genuinely impressed with it and I'm still trying to figure out where everything ends up going right. I think part of it is just that the battles are really engaging from a strategic point of view; everyone's playing smart but Nate's just playing a little bit smarter. I love the creative use of abilities, the weird strategies that everyone's got running around. Aggron using a tail-club! Acid + water = bad things! Storm drain and role play interactions; blastoise getting massive the older they get and the reaaaallly old ones just being the size of hills. I really like how the battles let your characters win not because their opponents mess up or anything, but because Nate/friends are just being slightly better--everything feels so earned.

What really sells me on it is the character dev that gets woven in between the battles though, and sometimes leaks into the battles as well. Raticate wanting to prove himself because no one thinks a raticate can do anything. The child having to learn to trust Nate's enormous galaxy brain when it comes to strategy, and Nate in turn relying on the child's ability to improvise and pull completely OP broken shit out of its ass. Eskar weaving an ever-tighter web around everyone and slowly manipulating the child away from Absol and the rest through aggressive flattery and just being the only one to really give it what it wants by accepting it ... up until Nate and everyone else also decide to accept it as well. Graveler. Mightyena coming to terms that Nate wants things she'll never want; "I'm doing this for Steelix" my HEART. I think in part this works so well because the major conflicts here aren't really about the battles; it's within the team itself, and the battles are just a venue for them to work through these arguments. Every battle has a high and low specifically around the characters, and while they're beautifully described and painstakingly strategized out, I think the emotional background gives each battle a spine and lets it sort of stand on its own in a way that just a well-written battle wouldn't.

He's doing the exact same thing as his trainer, staring straight at the great Nathaniel Morgan, silent, unblinking. What happened to the smiling boy who won the Championship seven years ago, the pikachu that squirmed in his arms, never more than a blur in photographs?
I vaguely thought shadow pokemon when I first read this, and now looking back on it I'm like a billion percent sure that it's shadow pokemon, which is really less of my detective work and more of just wanting this to be a surprise Orre fic lol. And maybe like?? Shadow Red??? Idk. There's. Certainly a lot of room for interaction with soulless killing creatures and shadow pokemon; with the experiments that corrupted Shadow Lugia and the ones that created Mewtwo; with questions about pokemon ownership/theft; with general questions of good and evil and morally grey protags and a ton of good stuff that I'm really excited for us to eventually get into. Oh and plot wise I hope Mewtwo and Lugia and DarkMew have a big fight or something badass, but I'm sure that what's actually in the cards is going to be amazing as well.

ch 33-40
Most pokémon have evolved ways to infer what others think, to mirror their actions and model their emotional states. Psychic-types, on the other hand, require an absolute sense of self in order to remain distinct individuals amidst the foreign minds that brush against their own. Despite experiencing others' thoughts and feelings, they must recognize them as outside themselves. In a psychic's mind, the separation between "self" and "other" is absolute. More than any other kind of pokémon, then, psychics are naturally inclined towards the task of killing without remorse.
I really loved this bit of headcanon into psychics. And I think it ties in really nicely to the child, who straddles this line of human and psychic--all of the emotions, all of the killing, all of the remorse. There is of course the secondary thread that maybe the human scientists are just bullshitting and psychics do feel empathy, either identically to humans or in a way that doesn't wholly translate, but either way I found this compelling especially given the amount of psychic murder we've seen and all of the times that empathy has come up (or famously not come up).

The part of the story where the shoe finally drops, and all of those great moments in the tournament arc finally hit their natural conclusions and horribly sad things start happening, god. Eskar's sudden but inevitable betrayal, and how even Nate sees it coming lmao. I was so hopeful when the child shakes Eskar free and they're able to go off into the distance--it feels almost like the child had gotten off for all of its shitty decisions here, and we could all just maybe eat cereal and do fun things?

Haha no. (But Nate not being able to read, and in general Leonard immediately picking up on all of the child and Nate's flaws and exploiting them is a new level of bastardry that I didn't think was possible in the context of this fic lmao). The bits about Leonard trying to explain basil, and then herbs, and then just tiny green things to the child made me cackle, which is sad, because the rest of this section immediately goes downhill and there's no turning back.

More Mewtwo ethics! I like how many levels of hurt stack here, in a really twisted way--people hurt Mewtwo to make him so fucked in the head, but Mewtwo hurt the child so now the child is keeping it in a state of sleepless nightmare horror (although? is this also? just what Red has been doing with him for years? that's deeply horrifying), and now the child is the perpetrator of this really shitty thing but as soon as Mewtwo gets out there's going to be hell to pay for this decision. Everything just builds worse and worse until they all have this big fight and immediately end up undoing every single good thing they've been working for across the past like, ever for this entire fic lol. It was kind of horrible to watch but it all made sense--circling back to, in a kind of roundabout way, this central idea that there are different kinds of strength and most of them won't actually get you what you want.

"Well, if Fate keeps saying bad things should happen, and sometimes you have to break things to make them better, then maybe we should be trying to break Fate. If the universe is bad, and Fate wants it to stay bad, maybe we should let it fall apart so something new can start."

Absol chuckles to herself and draws her paw back in, tucking it under her body. Her amusement only stirs seething resentment in the child's chest. "It has always been the way of humans to reject Fate. And who can say who has the right of it? I do as I am bid. Your nature is to rebel. So be it. We must all be as we are."

"I'm not human," the child mutters. But it's too close, maybe. Maybe that's why it feels bad so much.
I'm always really impressed with how you present these concepts. They're ideas that resonate with me, but also ideas that I think I find pretty cliche when I find them in fiction--we're the chosen ones to defy fate, humans are weird for not going along with the flow of the universe, you are the YA protagonist and you are special for thinking that the world has tormented you in particular with this burden of greatness, etc. I like how we touch on these ideas but there's no real answer for who's right and wrong here, either in this conversation or throughout the entire fic--there's more nuance to this. Absol is tied to destiny, in a way that is almost burdensome, but she is at peace with it. And the child is given free choice to do whatever it wants, but that choice has both gotten it into tons of external trouble and also been the source of most of its internal struggles as well; it doesn't know what's right and it's doing a really slow job of learning.

For me it really helps that this is all tied together in the prose. The detached, calm tone that happens during this section is really perfect for the kind of melancholy but inevitable feeling that this section is trying to portray--similar vibes to the prologue, where the narrator isn't really emotionally invested in these goings-on, which somehow makes the entire scene altogether more sad. And I also liked how this tied into the psychic stuff earlier, about how psychics need to recognize the thoughts of others outside of themselves; it really meshes well into this detached vibe but I also love how it's a detached study on people questioning why they're so detached. Onions and layers?

Which rounds really nicely into the final trainwreck of this section, where everything just flat-up falls to shit and Mewtwo is back. I really liked the Mewtwo dynamics in the early chapters because of how neatly they flipped the script on the child; now it isn't the one in control, nor is it the one that gets to call the shots by sheer virtue of being the closest thing in the room to a block-levelling nuke. I really like how this fic examines the ideas of personhood and choice, culminating in this scene of Mewtwo deciding that the best way to get the child to listen to him is by demanding that it battle him. It's a really sad take on how he sees the use of pokemon in general--tying back into my comments when we last saw him, he's still using the pokemon as objects to manipulate those around him, but given all that he's seen, it makes perfect sense that this is all he's seen and known, and this is really all he was ever going to do. He doesn't get to outgrow his roots after all, but at the same time, what other choice does he have? :(

Honestly given what happened with Nate I'm expecting that the Orre vacation is going to be Mewtwo's redemption arc or something ridiculous where we learn that he secretly likes catnip and gets distracted by brightly colored feathers or some dumb shit and I'm going to feel even more bad about how he's just inflicting the abuse and dehumanization that he's seen his entire life on others through projection and the fact that he's finally strong enough to get what he wants but turns out that doesn't mean jack shit if you don't even know what you want want--oh, hmmm, this really is just a good foil for the child, isn't it.

The battle that caps off this chapter is also a lot of creative fun. The child gets to cheat again! And it matters for precisely jack diddly shit.

I wish we got to see more of the child interacting with its pokemon again. Getting them back has been its driving goal for twenty-five-ish chapters to this point, and now that they finally have them back they don't even let any of them out except Duskull, which is for utility. Which I think might be intentional (?) given the running commentary on how everyone is just using the pokemon around them for their own gain and don't actually care about them, so this is more of a "gee I just really want this kid to do at least one thing right in this massive downhill trainwreck" rather than "this is an inconsistent character."

speaking of trainwrecks tho

ch 41-43

Either Lance got called away from an official appearance or he just wears capes all the time.
I now understand all of the commentary on Dragon's Dance Lance and I find it deeply hilarious how different these two versions are, united in their love of capes. Using "one dramatic flair of a cape" as a verb is just ... I can't. This fic is perfect lol.

I like. I really run out of ways to think about how this could get worse for people, and then it gets worse. I'm genuinely impressed. Lance! Bureaucracy! More views on how humans see those who are different than them, and a compelling argument for why Sabrina and the rest aren't perturbed by the deeply fucked circumstances surrounding Metwo's creation--because no one is, and honestly they're probably all complicit in some degree and/or actively participating. I love how they never even entertain the idea that the child is human, which speaks a lot I think to how easy it is to condone the suffering of the ones you see as others. It's also just really fucked in general to watch Lance torture the child with a complete lack of remorse, but I guess he doesn't become Champion for no reason lol.

I wasn't sure what the tsareena in this section was for? Is the idea that queenly majesty is blocking the child from dodging using quick attack or something, and it's just too slow/clumsy to dodge otherwise? The other two abilities are for blocking status, which didn't fully make sense either.

Using the illusion to block the master ball recall beam was really sick. I'm weirdly happy when the child does clever things or otherwise is able to outsmart someone else? Because it spends so much time being outsmarted on its own, sorta.

No one ever believes you being human, at least not for long. Why do you even try?
baby :((((

Bricks crack with puffs of reddish dust; glass tinkles down out of ruined panes. One corner of the place crumbles in an untidy slide of loose bricks. You pour on more power, almost able to feel how the building buckles beneath the weight of your mind. You can destroy the place and everyone in it. They wanted to hurt you—they wanted to kill you. People you thought were good, people you thought were harmless, people you thought were your friends. Crush and bury all of them, leave nothing but ruins for their colleagues to find. You will. You're powerful, and you will. You're no sad scared child anymore.
UGH. BABY. NO.

I dunno. There's something deeply hopeless about this final chunk, about people perpetuating violence and all of them just being consigned to the roles that were given to them. Nate doesn't think it's possible for him to do anything else but be in Team Rocket; Mewtwo at some point probably didn't want to be the ultimate fighting machine but now attempts to solve all of its problems with extremely lethal aggression and abjectly torturing a child; and now here's the child, faced with the same decisions and I think finally really starting to understand what Mewtwo said in the earlier chapter--it didn't fully understand what Mewtwo had to go through, but now that it's only in a fraction of the pain and torment, it sees the parallels between them and has a chance to pull back from the edge. For me the forces that have been trying to pull them back--Mightyena, Absol, maybe Leonard, sometimes even the child--haven't been strong enough, but maybe there's a chance now and the child at least is finally in that middle ground where it can learn from everyone's mistakes and get better.

And does it? I'm not sure. 43 is just a somber recovery chapter; when I say this is probably the point where things finally get better I'm sort of optimistic but I also don't doubt your ability to sweep the rug out from our feet and absolutely ruin the child's life in an even more complex way. But it seems like we're finally getting into the part of the story where (maybe?) people are going to be allowed to break free from the terrible things that used to define them. I'm glad we get to see Rats and frens again; it's been sooooo long

It's also the first time we get to see the child talk about itself as the child again, which is ! probably ! maybe a good sign. I genuinely do not know and I'm just desperately swirling my tea cup looking for good omens in the dregs ok.

grammar

I thought this was a typo at some point and took the time to flag it from FFN. Turns out I am the fool, but I figured it'd be funny to include it so we could all laugh at the fact that I'm incapable of parsing "might" and "could" next to one another.
In storage until the very last second, where all the League's vast electronic might could protect it.
and uh yup that's really all I got for this section.

overall thoughts
hahaha I really dunno.

it's been a while since I've had a story, fictional or otherwise, where I can just turn off my brain and like, subsume the fic and enjoy it purely for what it is, not just what it's trying to be. There's so many good ideas and themes woven together; everyone here feels real; the prose is breathtaking and at the same time flexible enough to be exactly what it needs to be for a given scene. I don't really know if I have coherent thoughts on this; at some point around the middle of the tournament arc I realized I wanted to read this up as far as you had, and I looked up and several hours had passed lmao.

I think maybe some of the earlier chapters (whatever you'd call 1-10 and 12-14) could've been streamlined/condensed just a little. They're still excellent and I'm not sure entirely how you'd restructure the character arcs. For me the major character beats of those early ones are just 1) the child is a creepy creepy freaky friend, 2) absol has Thoughts on this, 3) Nate has more Thoughts on this and shouldn't be trusted with a 50 foot-pole since he can and will figure out a clever way to make this backfire on you while cursing maniacally. But the general gains in this section don't really feel useful--the two gym battles are good, but seeing the tournament arc lined up the way it is makes them feel a bit extra, like, what are we trying to achieve here. The child spends its time trying to get its pokemon together, but it loses them shortly after and doesn't get them back for another thirty chapters, so that also feels like it gets undone by the events in ch15 or so. They do briefly get Mewtwo, but that also gets undone and they have to do the tournament arc in order to get things back to where they were before this chapter ended--all of the progress of these early chapters effectively gets undone in the mid teens chapters and I'm not really sure if there were lessons learned the second time around that couldn't have just been done in the first. The other non-plot bits I think do get reiterated across the other chapters in more powerful ways as well; it's a good primer on the child's batshit powers, but I don't think any of them are really so far out there that the "this is a weird unnatural Mew hybrid" chapter couldn't logically lead into.

Even as I'm typing this out I'm sort of two minds though--I almost don't care lol. I think this is one of the few stories that truly has earned its length; it's almost seven novels long but it really doesn't read like that. The character dynamics are still really fun. If the story drags a little so that I get to watch Mewtwo and the child casually strolling through a Team Rocket base and blowing up everyone they see, I'm really perfectly okay with that? If I get to see more Nate sass and the child famously failing to imitate human empathy, that's also some good shit and I don't mind particularly seeing it a second time; it's handled really well. I think there's a slight bias since like, I usually advocate for cutting the boring extraneous stuff instead of just the purely extraneous stuff, and even though some of these sections pull double duty I still find them fascinating and I'm glad that I got to read them.

(Likewise I wonder how much of this falls into the format of fanfic, and the general woes of having sporadic chapter updates and not being able to read things all at once--some things need to be reiterated; and when there are weeks or months between chapters I think it almost makes sense that you'd need to reinforce certain character traits or plot beats even at the risk of repetition, solely because it's been so long since those details have come up. I'm kinda glad that I got to read this all at once because there are some definite cliffhangers that would've had me pulling my hair out although tbh this is ALSO ONE since the child is MAYBE GOING TO FIX THINGS NEXT CHAPTER and then they get to go to number one best region and nothing bad will happen there, not at all.)

Side/future note--curious to see how you take the canon Orre characters lol! This was something I deeply struggle with. I think by comparison the Kanto characters are pretty easy to make darker; Lance is a bit of a weird guy but he does the capes for public a e s t h e t i c and also he's just dramatic as fuck, but he'll play hardball just like anyone else. Sabrina has a haircut instead of the big dumb swooshy ponytail, etc. But like! Miror B! Played straight, or do we get the dark humor variant ala Nate?? I'm dying to know lol.

Retrospective note, since I can still scroll up and see my old reviews:
! I! Have a vested interest in this topic and I always love seeing different approaches for it. Does the language sound like bark/bark/growl/hiss to all the pokemon? Do non-terrestrial pokemon understand the language even though they probably couldn't speak it? How do tentacruel and magneton communicate, and is it the same as how raticate would? I do like the idea that they all speak a universal language since that dramatically simplifies translation, and this is mostly just weird questioning/an interesting worldbuilding knot that I like to poke from time to time.
I sure am glad that the ongoing themes of communicating, including with people who don't speak your language; people who do speak your lanague; and people who speak your language and act as translators for those who do not, never comes up and this is not a story that is exacerbated by completely logical but also very tragic acts of miscommunication happening, over and over again. Still impressed by how early you plant these theme seeds--were they here in 2012?

...anyway, i don't really have a logical end for this review. nor was there really a logical thread in much of this beyond "good fic, upd8 moar" so I think I'll be closing on that. thank you so much for writing and sharing--I am blown away that someone has spent so much time creating this work in a fandom that I can appreciate.
 
Last edited:

Adamhuarts

Mew specialist
Partners
  1. custom/mew-adam
  2. custom/celebi-shiny
  3. custom/roserade-adam
Ended up reading Chapter 37 at 3am because I couldn't fall back asleep. It was quite a hefty chapter too. Took me an hour and a half to read the whole thing in one sitting lol.

A lot happened in this chapter, though this review will be fairly short and won't cover everything. I liked how the chapter continues the child's current arc of feeling more human emotions like guilt and also beginning to understand that some of its actions maybe, just maybe, might have had some consequences in the end. It's also funny because the whole reason why the child gives a shit about Steelix is purely for its self satisfaction and not because it actually cares about Nate or Steelix itself.

I liked the subversion at the end of the chapter too with the empty pokeball. Some other fic may have ended that with the child just so happening to find steelix's ball, but I think there's something poetic about it going on a wild goose chase that ends with an empty pokeball. That's all I have to say about this chapter really, and I look forward to reading the next one eventually.
 

WildBoots

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. custom/moka-mark
  2. solrock
Things have really changed since the last time I wrote a big, coherent overview instead of little line reactions, and the end of Chapter 35 seems like a good place to pause and reflect.

I do have to figure out where to start though. Oh my goodness.

Um.

...

Gud fic upd8 moar, because I will actually be caught up soon, which will make me both very happy and very sad.





Okay, but let's talk characters:
The child:
I keep finding myself pointing out when its behavior is Obviously Childlike. Some of it is because it bears celebrating that you're nailing the ways children can be: petulant, single-minded, and mischievous. Some of it, though, is that thing that's gnawing at the child. It is caught in between, and it knows it. We saw it melt down about their inhumanity a little with Rats and, I think, with Absol before the League, and it seems like those events kept it busy enough not to have to think about it too hard. But the scenes with Leonard Kerrigan show how it's still hankering deep down for family. And, of course, that's what getting Sara's pokemon back was really about, wasn't it? Sure, it's about having the firepower (maybe) to get Mew back. But they're its family. And, dysfunctional as those relationships are, the way it interacts with Nate, Mewtwo, all the other pokemon, and even Kerrigan is a little like sibling relationships. They fight and they're never going to see completely eye to eye, but they also kinda like each other anyway.

In some ways, I think that being caught in between is part of what makes it a child. It's impatient, it likes to play pretend, and it doesn't understand shades of gray, but it also doesn't know what it wants to be. Characters like Absol know exactly who and what they are. Some of that seems to me like memories-of-Sara caught on loop, but some of it is a choice the child is making not to examine too closely or think further ahead than the next step of the Mew caper. We're slowly getting to see the full extent of their unhealed T R A U M A. Good thing they're just compounding it and shoving it down to the bottom to fester more. Seems like that's going great.

The Great Nathaniel Morgan:

I mostly read right past that moniker now, just like said and the, but every now and then it hits me again how delightfully ridiculous it is. Chapter 35 is full of the child somberly addressing Nate like this and it kills me.

Anyway.

He's not really someone I'd chill with IRL, but he takes the prize for OSJ's favorite character. 🏆 Sorry, everyone else. There's really no contest. I appreciate the way he tells it the way he sees it ... and how doing so gives him absolutely no help. I also appreciate how, even as time passes and relationships ebb and flow, Nate's injuries keep coming back up. He's been through shit that can't be waved away easily. And, RIP, keeps racking up more injuries. It's so clear that he's someone who's used to fighting like a cornered rat. That's where his armor comes from, but probably also his battling skill. The League arc did a great job of revealing parts of him we wouldn't have been able to see in action otherwise.

I also really feel for him. The scene with him talking through his options with mightyena is pretty sobering. He doesn't have a lot of options. Not that it matters because he's irrevocably caught on the child's Mew Quest crazy train. Especially! Because! He can't read!! I can't remember whether any of the pokemon characters have been able to read, but I feel like the answer is yes??? Like, maybe even Togetic? Big oof there. Anyway, I liked him before he started actually acting likable, but it's so rewarding seeing him be sweet to his pokemon and banter with the child. <3

Mewtwo:
I love how he's both just as much of an arrogant asshole as any of the others ... but he's also not necessarily wrong when he rails against pokeballs and humans (and whatever the child is) treating pokemon like tools. He and the child are actually very much alike in the way they are staunchly committed to an ethical stance and yet are totally incapable of recognizing their other moral lapses. That revelation about the positive feedback loop of fear/hate between him and the scientists was illuminating! He's had the least exposure to the rest of the goons, so it'll be interesting to see what kind of effect they have on each other with more long-term exposure. Right now, I'm very aware that the last time we saw the masterball, Nate had it ....

Leonard Kerrigan:
I hadn't expected to see him again--which, FOOLISHNESS. So great to see the child's actons come full circle with consequences and a big mess for everyone. He was already Involved, and now he and Nate are tangled in each other, too. I'd be shocked if he doesn't reappear at some point. It already sounds like he doesn't have much else going on and he's been obsessed with the mystery of the child and his son, and now that the child has almost killed him ....

Eskar:
Definitely in the running for favorite character. She's such a delight, both her weirdness and how vividly you've rendered her. I can hear her voice in my head so clearly--chittering, claw-scrabbling, head tilted so the teeth gleam.

Rats and Raticate:
Yes, lumping them together, sorry, babies. They're both really wonderful. So many great lines between the two of them, both the funny and the insightful. And I love how Raticate's presence highlights Rats' absence. I'm also noticing how Nate seems to be projecting onto Raticate and, maybe, Mightyena is projecting onto him.

Other highlights:
The weird toys and TV purchases all over the child's house. Floor lasagna. Graveler perpetually eating rocks and turning down Nate's offer to take her to see "rock porn." Every time Nate/the child talks shit about Kerrigan's hacking and obviously has no idea what they're talking about. Every time the child talks about TV and movies. Your verbs--so well-chosen and evocative!

Also very interested to learn more about WTF is wrong with Red and his pokemon.

I'm also! Looking forward to meeting Evil Lance. Heard he's here, and I'm here for it.

So glad you're devoting time to this for NaNo! <3 Best of luck. I have so much faith in you.
 

Phoenixsong

the world's scariest violinist
Partners
  1. custom/skiddo-steplively
  2. custom/skiddo-phoenixsong2
  3. custom/skiddo-phoenixsong3
am gud fren, leave lots of review on fren's fic

My brain's still bad at keeping up with reviews, but I would like to at least attempt to change that, yes? I'm just going to post this on TR because something something picket line something something. First things first, here's my embarrassingly-belated review for Chapters 1 through 43:

gud fic upd8 more























...sorry, haha. Not fresh enough in the memory, not enough brainpower to dig back at this point! But seriously, if there's anything specific you wanted me to gush about—and that's probably all it would be anyway, lbr—I'm happy to on request! Genuinely, there's a reason I'm still hooked on this even though darker fics aren't usually my bag. Give me more of these garbage children!

Whew! Exhausting, but I hope at least some of that was helpful to you! Now, for Chapter 44:

"Excuse me! Excuse me, clear the way! I am going to rampage!"

Ten Thousand Rivers & etc. is a precious son and the fact that we were deprived of his presence for all but one chapter so far of this godforsaken fic is criminal.

-I love how the best plan they can think of to get Nate's attention is to just fuck Saffron's shit up. The pattern idea is extremely clever! but, like, wow, honeys. Wow. Bad enough that everyone's presumably still after Nate for stealing Mewtwo from the champion. But then, sure, I guess, what's a little smashing of storefronts if you're already wanted for running off with a living superweapon? I'm sure Nate will be most appreciative should he actually manage to catch the news and make his way there without getting caught. Precious, precious disaster children.

Best of all is how this is still (if memory serves) all just because the child feels bad about separating Nate from his team, about how this just isn't right. Not that Absol's silly fate nonsense was right or anything! Certainly the great Nathaniel Morgan is worthless and mean and everything would've been better if it had just let him die! And it's not feeling guilty, that would imply that it had done something wrong, which it did not, this is just important and that's all that matters and stop asking questions!

Then just ten more minutes, why not, and then until the top of the hour, since it's so close anyway.

In the end it's nearly two hours later that you teleport back to your camp.

Ain't that always how it goes? it's not desperate to find him again no sir

challenging Thunderstorm to solve brain-teasers

Ooh, what kind of brain-teasers does Rats like? And aww, the child's so in tune with Togetic's mood.

It's like there's a fragile meniscus

Hm, not sure how I feel about "meniscus"? I think we've switched out of the child's "you"-perspective at this point, but to me it just seems an oddly clinical term to use there. Even just for narration, I've never really heard it used casually. "Barrier" or "veil" or even "membrane" or something would hitch a bit less, imo. Might just be me, though!

-Man, I still love Rats as the voice of reason—someone who can talk sense to the child, or at least talk sense at it and hope it'll listen (even though, alas, it still doesn't want to!), without sounding as parental or I-know-best-and-you-don't as Absol can. Rats is, like... not the team mom, but the team cool aunt.

I don't know that we've had much confirmation before about exactly why the child's team has agreed to come along; it seemed like all that got mentioned was what the child says here, it's their trainer and they promised, and they just sort of went along with it with undercurrents of nervousness and not much else. Sometimes I wonder whether poor Titan ever really did come around! He must've seen something in this eventually, because I guess he could've flown away from the island after the child left him alone to think, but he's never been entirely comfortable back in the saddle, has he? Does everyone else feel the same sense of duty to Mew or to the world that Rats does? Given how childlike Togetic seems to be, does she even fully understand? (Although now I think about it, she wasn't part of the original team, was she? Still, this is a Very Big Thing for her to be a part of voluntarily!)

-For all that I went on about the child's lack of guilt, though, there's definitely something to this all being stalling! It's not the only reason, sure, but after that unfortunate little confrontation can you blame it?

For even now you let others suffer for your fear.

look absol i know you're *right* but couldn't you say it, like, more *casual* and less *judgy*, k thanks

And Titan will fly me there.

Is this an assumption, or has Titan already agreed to this idea? So maybe there is a sense of duty and wanting to protect others in it for him, too?

What about War, who'd probably couldn't even imagine a place he'd like less than Orre?

Accidental "who'd" there.

And hm... Interesting that it thinks War might jump ship over not liking Desertland; on the surface, at least, it seems that's neither here nor there re: the responsibility of curbing Mewtwo's temper vs. the child's fear of him and so forth. Even with Titan the mention was seemingly a question of loyalty to the child vs. loyalty to Rats, but this one's a bit of an odd thought! Is War not quite as attached to the child/this whole quest as the others?

Rats stands defiant, unmoved by the child's tears. She doesn't care.

So easy for someone so (mentally) young to assume that's what it is! I'm actively upset and you're not acquiescing and I don't understand why you're sticking to your own guns so it must be that you don't care.

-Oof, the poké ball. Kinda funny how just a little earlier, part of the child's belief about why Rats and the others were helping was "because I'm your trainer". A promise is one thing, but there does seem to be a part of it that assumes that that relationship is reason enough! And it backs down when Rats calls it out, realizes that forcibly preventing her from making her own decisions is wrong, but still. Why not "you're my friends, and you promised", eh? (Then again, I'm not sure that's significantly better...) It still has a lot to think about in that department!

And though the child doesn't sleep, not through the whole night, ... to keep it warm through the whole long, cold night.

I'd drop/adjust one of those "whole ... night"s.

Maybe all the child's friends will leave, but that doesn't mean it needs to go to Orre alone.

My god. Only the best decisions. Assuming I'm not wildly off-base about what it means, I have no idea how it thinks it's going to make this work and I am already grabbing my popcorn in anticipation of the slow-mo explosion. If "I dunno, punch Saffron in the face until it works" is any indication...

Happy new year, and here's to accomplishing all your Salvage goals and then some! Nice to have the Good Decisions Band getting back together for a 2021 tour, providing us all with a shining example of what not to do.
 

Dragonfree

Moderator
Staff
Location
Iceland
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partners
  1. butterfree
Well since everyone seems to just be posting their reviews for lategame chapters here even though they haven't been posted...

Steelix lets out a sigh so immense it blows a curious pidgey off a nearby power line. "I suppose."
Hahahahaha this image. I want to draw it.

You stand well back from the excitement, wrapped in a new disguise, a new face to call your own. You don't think you like this one, though. You haven't liked anyone you've tried to be recently. Their skins don't fit, their hair itches down at the roots, falls strangely, feels brittle. Their limbs are all the wrong lengths.
Aww, look at it feeling bad.

Steelix makes a grinding throat-clearing noise, then announces in his most stentorian bellow, "Excuse me! Excuse me, clear the way! I am going to rampage!"
This is delightful.

You cringe, but after a moment have to smile.
Wow, it seems unusually socially aware for the child to even be able to cringe at that.

"Oh, excuse me. Terribly sorry," he says, and while backing away from the sparking stump runs over a fire hydrant, which which pops and spews water into his undercarriage.
There's an extra "which" in here.

The contrast of the abject destruction Steelix is accidentally causing and his apologetic reactions is just a delight.

It was Raticate who figured it out in the end: "Each place we've done a job. One at a time, in order."
oh no, that's so cute, whyyy

You're impressed with Raticate for coming up with the idea, and a little guilty that you're surprised he was the one to think of it.
Ha, that also seems like an unusual level of social awareness.

I love Absol's dramatic "you must choose to be a hero" dialogue and Rats in the background like "Absol you're not helping". Rats is so good.

The child shouldn't have brought that up. Now it has to remember giving up, the way it felt to not care whether Mewtwo killed it, how it couldn't do anything at all when the clone burned its home to the ground. Just like he did on Cinnabar Island, when he made the child homeless the first time.
Oof.

Rats presses herself against the child's side, and even though it turns away, it can still feel her there, warm and solid.
She rests a paw on the child's leg, a blush of warmth and the smooth, dry curve of her claws.
I really like these details of physicality, Rats trying to give comfort (and succeeding at least a little) through contact.

What about War, who'd probably couldn't even imagine a place he'd like less than Orre? If Rats goes, they could all could go.
Think you rephrased this at some point and forgot to change "who'd" to "who" and remove an extra "could".

Going to Orre alone is still better than seeing Mewtwo again. It makes the child's chest ache to think of it, but it's true. And it will get the great Nathaniel Morgan's pokémon back to him. It looks up at the stars and thinks, and tries unhappily to find a comfortable position, until all the thinking actually turns up something useful. The child lies still, as if not wanting to scare the idea away, and examines it carefully.

Maybe all the child's friends will leave, but that doesn't mean it needs to go to Orre alone. Not necessarily. What it's thinking would have seemed like a crazy idea, an awful idea, not so long ago... But it might work. It might actually work. And though the child doesn't sleep, not through the whole night, not until even the stars abandon it and fade into pre-dawn gray, it has this one idea, at least, to keep it warm through the whole long, cold night.
Oh, oh no, are you thinking you'll take Nate and continue to ignore Mewtwo, why child. Are you going to make Nate come with you by dangling his Pokémon over his head, the way Rats was doing.

It seems kind of jarring for Rats to just agree to the two weeks in the end, after how much she's talked about the people Mewtwo is continuing to murder while they wait. How many people is that? After all the talk about how she's going to do this because of the lives at stake, her ending up figuring that well, maybe a dozen more people dying is fine if it'll make the child feel a little better somehow, feels kind of bonkers. Especially since so far it's been ten days, so asking for two more weeks is asking to extend this, and multiply the number of deaths, by 140% from what's already apparently making her extremely uncomfortable. (Unless what it means by two weeks is two weeks total, so just four more days? If so I don't think that's clear.) If she is motivated to do this in the first place, surely this isn't in any way an acceptable compromise?

The child's actual dilemma is painfully genuine, though. Of course these deaths are very abstract for it and it just dreads having to ever see or think about Mewtwo ever again. A hero would do it anyway - but most people aren't heroes, much less inhuman shapeshifter Mew-children, and making choices to do the Right Thing that are personally horrifying is hard. It's not a hero, just a confused, traumatized child who's latched onto this one thing that it needs to get right and just wants to put off thinking about the Mewtwo situation preferably forever. So far in over its poor head.

Really enjoyed the chapter; Nate's Pokémon being adorable plus Rats plus characters poorly dealing with torturous moral dilemmas is always good. Where's that Nate, though, I need him. ;-;
 
Top Bottom