• 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!

Equitial

Ace Trainer
Pronouns
he/him
Partners
  1. espurr
  2. inkay
  3. woobat
  4. ralts
[As a note, I've read both the prologue and the first chapter. I originally intended to review both, but my brain is mush, words are hard, and I have other writing responsibilities. Chapter 1 was great, though! I'll get to it eventually.]

Prologue

So, I read the prologue back when you first released it, but I didn't review it at the time for some reason >.>. I feel like all the other reviews covered basically everything, so I don't think I'll have much to say now. Reading it a second was just as enjoyable as the first though -- it was a really strong beginning!

Fuji was a compelling POV character here. I've always thought he was an interesting character, and you explored all the traits that draw him to me very well in this prologue. I think you said this will be his only appearance, but I'd read a chapter-fic just centering around your portrayal of him. Though he himself won't be appearing anymore, I'm interested to see how the themes presented continue in the rest of the fic. Of course we're going to be dealing with the ethics of Pokemorphs, but also:

If there had been a single moment he could identify and say "Yes, there, that's when it became destiny," it was when he'd first said those words —

"I suppose I have no choice."

I wonder how characters will struggle with choice throughout the story, and if they will respond like Fuji did.

There they were. The human and the pokémon.

Ah, but there lay his conceit. It wasn't a pokémon either, was it? How could it be, with brain readings like that?

Oh, Mewtwo. I... just really love Mewtwo, fam. I think I've mentioned this once or twice in passing on Discord, but this fic hits pretty much all of my interests. I love the set-up for Mewtwo we have here. Fuji going back and forth to how he views his creation --

The creature had three digits on each paw, front and back. Its eyes stayed firmly closed. The proportions almost resembled those of a human child of six or seven years. As old as Ai when she passed. However, the ears were situated high on its head and roughly triangular, the upper torso and shoulders were gaunt and angular, and the lower legs had the thick haunches and elongated feet of a feline pokémon. Then, of course, there was the enormous tail…

It could not possibly be human.

Yet… it still gave him the impression of a sleeping infant.

I especially like how he compares the forming Mewtwo to a child, to his own daughter. It was a great melding of Fuji's conflicts and themes about Mewtwo's human-/nonhumanness. How Fuji viewed the developing Mewtwo was probably my favorite part of the chapter. In general I'm really excited to see what you do with Mewtwo in this fic, how others view them and how they view themself.

(Irrelevant sidenote: Reading Keleri's review about shipping Fuji/Giovanni made me re-read the prologue thinking about shipping, lol. I, however, am for Fuji/Blaine.
"It will not be Giovanni that raises this child-creature, but you and I, Yosuke.
Katsura shrugged. "It has to be. Ah! We will do our level best. And consider: it will even grow up alongside Ai, if all goes well. How could the sibling of your little Ai be anything but noble and kind, eh?"

AU where Fuji and Blaine raise Mewtwo together and everything is fine.)

(Also, end-note, guess I did manage to say a bit hah.)
 
Last edited:

SparklingEspeon

Back on Her Bullshit
Staff
Location
a Terrace of Indeterminate Location in Snowbelle
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. espurr
  2. fennekin
  3. zoroark
~Review of Prologue - Chapter 1~

Originally I was planning to get to this when more chapters were out, but you got rolled for Catnip, so here we are!

Different Eyes initially seems like a very strange premise for a Pokemon Fanfiction, but the more you think about it, the more sense it begins to make - why wouldn't the technology Dr. Fuji developed for Giovanni be further developed and used in society? And considering the original purposes it was developed for, this route of splicing pokemon and human (?) genes together to create something that's not quite either is very in-line with the original Mewtwo Experiment.

This, of course, does assume that Mewtwo doesn't blow up Fuji, his aides, and his entire laboratory the very moment that he awakens, but it seems that you've taken some liberties for this section of the story so that it's more in-line with the games. Since this is the subject matter of the prologue, that's what I'll cover first.

First off, thank you for covering a plot that no-one ever seems to cover! The snippets of lore in the Abandoned Pokemon Mansion was my favorite part of the original R/B/Y, as well as the Anime's ten-minute expansion upon it that the american version cut out REEEEEEEEEEEEE, but to find it here in fanfic form is a nice treat that I haven't yet seen elsewhere. It seems you've settled for a hybrid between the what the games give out and what the anime shows - The experiment is set on Cinnabar Island like in the games, but Fuji has his backstory and motivations from the anime. I'm not familiar with Dr. Katsura, so I imagine he's a new addition.

Giovanni doesn't seem to get much physical description for his part in the prologue - Pleeeeaaaase tell me he isn't wearing that hideous thing he calls a "suit" in the anime I will love you forever

Although, on a different note regarding Giovanni, the lack of description kind of made him a bit too vague for me. Throughout the narration it's stressed repeatedly that Fuji is scared of him, but whenever Giovanni himself speaks I just get the impression that he's a stuck-up arse, particularly when he says something along the lines of "I am merciful enough to let you have X". I get the "can we run this one over with a car, please?" vibes, but not "Oh crap I should fear him" vibes, which kind of clashed with how chilled to the bone Fuji is about all this. Although, Fuji may have more to fear depending on what this "deception" of his is... Looking forward to seeing that reveal.

Throughout all of this I wonder if this experiment will have the same ill fate that the canon one did. Fuji and Katsura seem to be committed to raising Mewtwo to not become the monster that Giovanni wants, which is a very different direction from how the anime opened and more in-line with the game logs... but even the game logs eventually led to the same ill fate. Here, I wonder if it'll be Giovanni's meddling that steers it this way, and maybe the end result will be something like No Culture.

Chapter One drops this plotline in favor of introducing the second main thread - assumedly the 2020 Galar portion that is amazingly plague free! Here we see what is presumably Fuji's technology industrialized for mass pokemon consumption, but it seems that this is still experimental in some way. If it had been going on for a while you would think there would be things like pokemorph workers and some mention of the role pokemorphs serve outside the facility. But none of that seems to be a thing here, with Pokesign being the only thing that suggests a society that has adapted to accommodate pokemorphs. Salem and Dusk seem to be among the first generation of their kind.

My first instinct when thinking about the situation is to ask why this only began 24 or so years after the original Mewtwo Experiment, and for what purpose. My second instinct is to bring into question this facility's motives: Alisha Renardier is a recruitment officer and presumably linked with some kind of parent organization that owns the facility, but that doesn't necessarily mean Galarian Government - this could very easily be the workings of Team Rocket or some other sketchy organization. And that she specifically says she has "admin work"...

Dusk's segment is mostly introductions to the facility and what appears to be going on here, but Salem's segment is a more in-depth look at what actually happens to the pokemon in these tanks (I also notice that you seem to have uniquely colored both of your characters - is this a stylistic choice, or a side effect of the transition process?). I initially assumed that Salem waking up and moving her body around meant something had gone wrong with her tank, but since she seems to get out fine at the end that's probably not anything to worry about? The 'new brain' segment near the end seems to imply that natural pokemon are more akin to hyper-intelligent animals than they are humans mentally, which is interesting. If so, I kind of wonder what the ethics for being 'selected' for this process are - how do they legally prove that a pokemon chose to go through the transition if the pokemon isn't able to properly answer that question? (...Unless they aren't operating legally) Dusk's segment seems to imply she knew what she was getting into, but still.

Overall, Different Eyes is very easy to read and slickly-written! It's obvious you've put a lot of work into making sure these two first segments are the best they can be, and from a grammatical perspective it reads very nicely! From a story perspective, I'll admit all I've seen so far is the general premise of the story and what elements you'll be working with, but those elements are interesting enough to carry my interest over into the next one, whenever it's published. I'm definitely not just sticking around for more Fuji >.>

~SparklingEspeon

Listening to: Stars, Les Misérables
 

unrepentantAuthor

A cat that writes stories.
Location
UK
Pronouns
they/she
Partners
  1. purrloin-salem
  2. sneasel-dusk
  3. luz-companion
  4. brisa-companion
  5. meowth-laura
  6. delphox-jesse
  7. mewtwo
  8. zeraora
Thanks to everyone for their reviews! I'm so sorry for the enormous delay in replying, but I've been having a rough time of it for a while now. I will be writing Different Eyes' 2020 revision for NaNoWriMo this year, and hope to publish quite a lot of new content before 2021. Wish me luck~

@Pen
Prologue:
Thank you so much for leaving a lovely review, and for being the first to review me on TR.
Ditto being failed mew-clones is a very old fan-theory, so I'm afraid I can't take credit. I've never seen anything done with it in fanfiction though.
Thank you for all the complimentary commentary, and also for the critical feedback! I have since hotfixed the prologue with it in mind.
Ch1:
I'm deeply thrilled that not only did all the right stuff come through strongly in this chapter, but that you've picked up on some of the really critical foreshadowing straight away. Glad the opener landed! I spent ages on that line, ha.
Not all sneasel make clothing, but Dusk's folk do. They're throwbacks to ancient sneasel, who had trading relationships with local humans, among other things. Sadly, almost nothing is left of their culture. You'll learn more soon enough.
All morphs go through the process 'voluntarily', but the extent to which their consent was meaningful is a recurring question.
Pokésign is my worldbuilding baby! It's a mishmash of human signs, animalistic body language, and other paralinguistic communication. Whether of not pokémon raising their hackles at each other counts as 'sign' is academic. In any case, Alisha is astonishingly fluent in many body types, but not all human signers can communicate proficiently with all pokémon, and not all mon can understand and reply.
The 'bedraggled' felt appropriate to Galarian meowth, who are all little goblin creatures.
I'm happy to say that Dusk's past relationships absolutely do matter. Sneasel are clannish pokémon, she's not used to being alone.
Becoming a liepard isn't an inevitable way for a purrloin to mature, but more tied to Salem's hopes that she can be more independent. Stronger.
Absolutely adore all your commentary and speculation about the 'morph condition'. It's all absolutely on the money for my core themes. In particular, the notion that Salem will gain a physical voice, but not a figurative one.
The patch for Ch1 will be informed by your critical notes, so thanks very much for those, of course~

@OldschoolJohto
Prologue:
Thanks so much for the review! I made that little change you suggested.
Ch1:
Thanks again!
Warm-down is actually correct, in physical training.
The patch for Ch1 will be informed by your critical notes, so thanks very much for those, of course~

@canisaries
Your commentary on the old prelude was a portion of a great deal of feedback that led to the total reimagining of the opening to the fic. Thanks for doing your part.
I've since updated the prologue, Fuji now refers to a 'subfossil', among other changes based on your feedback.
Several of your other comments got laughs from me, so thanks for that! x3
In this fic's canon, Auguste Katsura has Kalosian/Nihonese dual nationality and heritage. I've included a reference in the patched version to his time at Université de Lumiose to emphasise that this is a deliberate choice.
The 'Mewtwo Crew' definitely do turn up again later, albeit not at first.
Thanks so much! It was great feedback~

@Dragonfree
Prologue:
Thanks for this chunky review!
I confess that my scientific literacy is insufficient for the level of jargon I was going for. I've pared it down significantly in the patch for this chapter.
You make a fair point about the names. Katsura being half-Kalosian is a later plot point, and Giovanni's real name is Japanese, so I have my reasons for leaving them as they are.
I'm glad that the character stuff was strong, and that the parts I consider more important are coming through, though!
Ch1:
Thanks again! And such a large review!
I worked damn hard on that hook, so I'm thrilled it pays off.
You've absolutely hit on the core of Dusk's character in the early fic, and I'm delighted she comes across so clearly! Not only that, but some of my other favourite subtlties, the slow heartbeat and the fixation on communication, the justified mirror scene and the Galarian meowth as default.
I'm so, so proud to have surpassed your expectations, I really feel like the care I took was justified.
The patch for Ch1 will be informed by your critical notes, so thanks very much for those, of course~

@kintsugi
I confess that my scientific literacy is insufficient for the level of jargon I was going for. I've pared it down significantly in the patch for this chapter.
Some of the issues you've flagged up have been fixed in the patch for this chapter. Others are either too difficult to fix or have explanations. In all cases, I appreciate the critical feedback~
I'm glad that you've identified the prose and characterisation as strengths, I work very hard on those!
Many thanks!

@Adamhuarts
Hey, thanks for this! You're very kind to be so complimentary.
Mewtwo will remain a character, albeit a less prominent one than our gal Salem. I'm hoping the new banner I'm working on will make that particularly clear~

@windskull
You don't need to worry about review length, you certainly had plenty to say! Thanks so much for your review.
In particular, I'm glad my little worldbuilding details left an impression.
Cheers, and I hope you continue to enjoy the fic!

@Chibi Pika
Hell yea 😎
I should known you'd really enjoy the crushing self-hatred~ Don't worry, that won't let up, lmfao
Gosh I hope the later Fuji content satisfies people, oh boy.
I love that you spotted the anime lampshading, I think you might have been the only one! Well done lol
I'm so pleased to hear all the things you so enjoyed about this chapter, particularly Giovanni's sense of presence. I hope I can live up to the expectations this prologue gave you!
I rather regret the 'bound by blood' line as it's given people the wrong impression. I've patched it out for "it could take after him."
Seeing as the prologue exists in large part to give a proper sense of scope, I'm glad it's doing that for you!
Many thanks again, my dear friend~

@Namohysip
I basically went back to the drawing board for this one. There are odd lines and details from the prelude that have turned up here, but almost all of this is totally new. I think it was worth it, given the positive reaction, and I'm glad you agree~
I certainly can promise that Mewtwo and the human characters of the prologue will continue to be relevant, as will the teased plot points, albeit less often in the limelight than the original morph characters.
I find it gratifying that you approved so much of Giovanni's voice based on both his Masters and Gen I depictions, as I studied his dialogue from all his incarnations to distill this interpretation of him. Clearly it pays off.
Thanks again! See you for future chapters~

@Cresselia92
Hey, thanks for a reaction-filled review! It was a great read.
In particular, you wondered if Giovanni was thinking of his son for a moment there—he absolutely was.
I also confess I certainly took notes from Pokémon Adventures, and indeed from almost every canon source.
You noticed some foreshadowing: honestly, this entire prologue is nothing but dense foreshadowing~
Thank you so much especially for your gushing conclusion! It's so encouraging and delightful~
I really appreciate your reviews, Cress!

@Tanuki
Holy shit, thanks bud. Love to have my absurd level of effort vindicated in reviews like this.
Your critical close reading of my prose really came in handy not only for the prologue's hotfix, but for all my writing since. Nice one, bro. You've singlehandedly changed something about my approach to writing. You're dead wrong about the pedigree thing, I'm afraid, but the rest goes well-appreciated!

@Future Connected Shulk
I'd like to see you put more consideration into your reviews. Thanks all the same.

@Keleri
Cheers for this, mate! Glad you liked it.
Fuji x Gio is absolutely verboten, sorry! Sinking that ship as fast as I possibly can, lmfao

@Bluwiikoon
Good review pls keep it up x
I'm so proud in particular that I induced such empathy in you with Chapter 1. Looking forward to doing it again! And again!
Thanks, bud~

@Equitia
Thanks so much for this review!
Don't feel pressured to review Ch1, it really has been comprehensively and exhaustively commented on by now.
Fuji will actually continue to show up! Not often as POV, though. I'm delighted you enjoy him this much, and I've honestly been tempted to write a Fuji serial based on my experience writing this.
Don't worry, Mewtwo is absolutely critical to this fic and will make many appearances. They're basically the reason I'm writing this, hence the need to open with them.
Fuji/Katsura is the correct ship, well done. 😉 The 'Fuji and Katsura are Mewtwo's dads' AU is a fun one to think about.
Thanks again!

@SparklingEspeon
Thanks so much for this incredibly substantial review! Wow!! You did an amazing job, and really put my catnipping to shame. Goddamn!
I am in fact taking notes from the mainline games, the anime movie, the manga, some promotional material nobody remembers, fanon, and other minor sources to boot. This is a deeply syncretic Mewtwo Project retelling. I'm glad you like it! Katsura is Blaine, who is explicitly involved with the project in the Adventures manga canon.
Giovanni only wears crisp black tailored suits in my canon. 😏 Shame he doesn't have the intimidating vibe for you, I may return to that.
It's funny you should mention no culture. It's one of my favourite fanfics, and inspired me to make certain changes to my own fic and move the Mewtwo subplot all the way to the front, whereas I'd previously expected it to come up much later.
Salem and Dusk are "second generation process" morphs, among the first dozens to be created relatively smoothly and affordably. 24 years is a short time to develop a deeply illegal technology like this, especially one that was 'lost' when the Mewtwo Project went awry. Not really a spoiler, as it's to be assumed it will, ha.
Learning about Perihelion is one of the major plot threads, so I won't spoil it for you! Suffice it to say, there are explanations to come.
Salem's calico coat and Dusk's winter fur are part of my persistent efforts to write pokémon outside of the unvarying portrayals in canon. I like to have diversity of appearance within a pokémon species.
You're asking great questions, and I hope to answer them at a reasonable pace in upcoming chapters! This definitely isn't a legal operation though, lmao.
Thanks so much for your praise, and you can expect to see a little more of Fuji over time! I hope you come to like the rest of the cast too~

***

Wow! That only took an afternoon. Thanks again, everyone. Chapter 1 hotfix to come soon, then NaNo...
 

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
  2. swampert
  3. ho-oh
  4. crobat
  5. orbeetle
  6. joltik
  7. salandit
  8. tyrantrum
  9. porygon
I'll give some thoughts reactions to the prologue before I move on to the 1st chapter.

Great prologue first of all!! Very poetic and dramatic. I don't have any real critique to give but I figured I'd just put some thoughts and musings.

So Italy exists in this pokemon world? This evokes some fascinating questions for sure

judging by the gem set in its forehead — a pedigree, no doubt
I like this. Makes me wonder how a pedigree Persian looks compared to a non-pedigree. Is their gem bigger? Shinier? More lustrous? Thought-provoking.

brain-shielding headwear.
So this intrigued me too. I assume they wear headwear to protect themselves from the psychics they work with from... manipulating them? Which makes me think that the psychics are perhaps forced to work in the lab? Why else would they want to turn on their masters? Are they slaves? So sad...

l. Temporarily at that. Still, they are intriguing. Some of our western staff have taken to calling them 'metamon', 'omnimorph', and 'ditto' -"

"Ditto? That's a strange word."

"It's Galarish, sir. It means 'that which has been said before.' I confess I quite like that one."
I love this for many reasons. The naming of Ditto! And apparently, Ditto is a galarish word? Cool bit of world building.

"I'll do as you say."
"I suppose I have no choice."
I thought this line would echo the one above... But perhaps it wasn't meant to?


CHOICE internal monologue

Université de Lumiose
OOOOO I like
I really love these little inclusions of world building.

"Perhaps. What pokémon wouldn't want to be like us? To be human?"
Some more choice dialogue. Poignant.

Katsura put his glasses back on, and grinned ferociously. "Not if we use a different sample."

Oh.

Of course.
Clever.
I really enjoy your style of writing. Use of italics and spacing in a fanfic is critical and I like how you do it.

Mew-Two.

"Mewtwo," he whispered to himself. "Will you be thankful that we made you the way you are?"
The naming of Mewtwo!!! This really sounds like a line I'd hear said in the movie
and considering that movie is my most favorite pokemon movie of all time
that's a compliment.

I can really hear this all in my head. It sounds very sad.

The first pokémon-human hybrid floated in its tank, dreaming silently in the dim light. What did it dream of?

He prayed silently that its dreams were peaceful.

It had been a long time since his last peaceful dream.

You have some choice prose

Anyways I don't have much critique to give, just reactions and musings.

Fantastic prologue, freakin good stuff. Really enjoying this so far!!
 

IFBench

Rescue Team Member
Location
Pokemon Paradise
Partners
  1. chikorita-saltriv
  2. bench-gen
  3. charmander
  4. snivy
  5. treecko
  6. tropius
  7. arctozolt
  8. wartortle
  9. zorua
I'm here to supply catnip! Sorry I'm so late.

Prologue

I absolutely loved this! It was a very interesting take on the creation of Mewtwo!

The characters were all quite interesting! I liked Dr. Fuji especially. His inner conflict between wanting to bring back his daughter and doing what he believes to be morally right is very interesting, especially with how he ultimately chose the former option.

Katsura is also really great! I really like how he intends to fight back against Giovanni by giving him exactly what he wants.

The overall description and prose is excellent as well! I loved the initial description of Mewtwo at the beginning, how you showed who Giovanni was without explictly saying so at first, the description of the Dittos, the description of Katsura, and the final bit of prose at the end!

Other than that, I really liked how the "I suppose I have no choice" line came back! I'm also really intrigued at just what happened with Dr. Fuji and Mew.

Overall, this was really good! I think I might read some more when I have the time!

Sorry this review wasn't longer. I'm very stressed currently.
 

Cresselia92

Gym Leader
Pronouns
She/Her/Hers
Partners
  1. ho-oh
  2. sneasel-nyula
  3. rayquaza-cress
  4. celebi-shiny
Well, well, well! Here we are with the second course of catnip for Different Eyes! :3

As usual, I will go with quick reactions first and a more in-depth analysis at the end. Onward we go!

Salem was dying.

Welp! Protagonist is almost dead, story's over alright. This has got to be the fastest story ever. Thanks for the nice read.

Surely, this was how it felt to die.

Ah. False alarm, everyone! Back to your seats.

Darkness. Vertigo. Every body part, aching. Her eyes stung, so she screwed them shut. A barrier of rubbery material clasped against her face—she tried to shake it off, to pull her head away, but still it clung to her. It pressed her whiskers to her cheeks, and though she could breathe, the breaths came hot and stifled. She needed to push at it with her paws, but she couldn’t seem to move her limbs, or even feel them. She couldn’t sense the ground beneath her paws. She just floated, as if through water.

Water.

There was water; she was in water. Submerged. She was underwater!

She held her breath against the instinctive panic. She had to surface, fast. She tried to swim, flail, anything, but her limbs protested at every effort. She stayed in place, suspended in blackness. Her lungs strained. Her chest shook. She tried to reach for something solid. Her paws, barely drifting any distance at all, only met more water. She couldn’t hold her breath any longer, and drew in a wretched gasp.

Then another.

Sounds scary. If she is a feline who hates water, I can only imagine how unnerving this entire experience must be for her.

It was quiet enough beneath the surface that she could only hear the thumping of her own heart and the rasp of her own breathing. No, she was not asleep.

Unless you're sleeping about breathing, of course. Which would make sense as a dream if you're underwater. 🤔

That was it. She was in the tank.

She kept forgetting she was in the tank.

You are in a tank, Salem.

tenor.gif


“Run!”

Dusk set her jaw and pushed herself faster. Faster. She could go faster than this. At long last, running once again came easily, felt natural. Her legs worked tirelessly beneath her just as they’d done before. In fact, she was stronger than ever. Faster, too.

“Speed up!”

Dusk broke into a sprint. She pumped her arms harder, the way they’d taught her. Faster. Faster.

“Ten seconds!”

Run, Dusk, run!

Unfamiliar energy surged through her body, neither shadowy nor chill. Her muscles relaxed, her body seemed to weigh less—this could be it; the technique called ‘agility!’

“Alright! That’s enough.”

What? No! She hadn’t reached her limit yet, she was sure of it. She kept running, willed her legs to work harder, closed her eyes, tried to force the energy, to use agility—!

“Dusk, that’s enough!”

Sheesh, that was short-lived. I wanted to see her running for hours. :v

“You under-stood I said ‘Doc-tor,’” Dusk replied between stretches, with exaggerated sullenness. “You are not my speech there-app-ist.”

I like the fact that she is still struggling with speech. It shows that you don't become a human from a day to another, which is pretty realistic.

Ah. This again.

Dusk dutifully stood before her own reflection, suppressing a wince as she did so.

In the mirror she saw something no longer exactly sneasel, but neither was it exactly human. It was unnerving, even after almost a moon, to look at herself at all. Let alone with the degree of attention Dr. Collett sometimes required of her.

Oh? Is this some exercise to help accept herself?

She knew in her mind that the reflection was her own; it moved when she moved and it shared her features. She just didn’t feel it in her bones yet. Maybe she never really would. Maybe, she didn’t even want to.

“I see… strange creature, tall like humans, hands like humans, but not human. Blood-feathers at the ear and tail like sneasel, white-fur like tundra sneasel, but not sneasel. Some-thing differ-ent. Some-thing new.”

Dr. Collett nodded, her face visible in the mirror over Dusk’s shoulder. “That’s a more measured reaction than last time, Dusk,” she said.

Dusk nodded, and shivered her feathers a little. It was always too warm in Collett’s office, and her blood-feathers could only do so much to keep her cool. “Seeing my-self is normal now,” she explained. “May I go?”

“Well, before our next appointment, I’d like you to focus on seeing the changes in yourself as positive.”

“Didn’t choose to have the Shift to feel good about my-self,” snapped Dusk.

This tells me she didn't quite wish to become a morph. I wonder what's the main reason she decided to Shift, then...

Alisha didn’t stare the way most humans did.

As in, in a friendlier and less distant way? I can see this being the case.

[I want to see another like me,] she signed. [One still growing.] It was a complex series of hand motions, head tilts and ear twitches, but Alisha was fluent.

“Ah… you mean another morph, right? A morph still in the process of changing.”

“Yes,” she said, grinning wider at her success in being understood.

“Hmm. Alright. I don’t see why not. Besides, I have admin work in the tank bay.”

Alisha led Dusk without further interrogation to the bay, as if it were a routine destination and not somewhere sacred where living things were fundamentally altered, body and mind.

Kinda surprised Alisha let Dusk enter without second questions. Probably it could be because she knows Dusk and knows that the Sneasel-morph wouldn't do any funny business, but even then wouldn't there be any risk of contamination or other possible factors that could hamper the growth of the new morphs? Unless there was some kind of barrier to keep pathogenetic agents away or similar protection, that's it.

Suspension tanks filled the room, spaced evenly apart in several rows. There must have been at least a hundred in total.

Well, I've been given the critical eye for something like this, so I'm gonna do the same here. :p

Basically, how does Dusk quantify that there are at least a hundred tanks?

Dusk wandered past them as Alisha set her bag down by an office desk near the door. Cables fixed to the subjects’ bodies linked each one to the socket at the top of their tanks. All wore some sort of mask around their mouths, she guessed to allow breathing. Most unsettling of all, each one was in some stage of bodily alteration. She took a walk around the morphing ward while her guide was busy and, as she’d been told, most of the hybrids were only subtly altered. Elongation of limbs, narrowing of torsos, something different about the jaw. Just enough to be obvious. She noticed more changes in the species she knew better. An eevee in one tank, curled up in apparent sleep, had hind legs twisted at the hip to support an upright gait. In another slept a noibat with their wings wrapped tightly around their body, their tiny clawed digits at the wrists and wingtips already shifting. Soon, they would resemble human fingers.

I liked this part. It clicked with my scientific fascination toward experiments and stuff. ^^

The pokémon in the tank was not much smaller than Dusk, a fully transformed morph. She didn’t resemble a meowth at all—her fur was too short, not at all like bedraggled, steel-wool meowth fur. It was prettier, too; her mottled black-and-orange coat was glossier and more colourful than a meowth’s. Dusk wondered if all purrloin had such an appearance, or just this one.

Nice nod to Galarian Meowth!

She took a step closer and examined the morph-to-be. There were obvious differences between the two of them. That long, thin tail for example, and their opposite hues. Still, the similarities seized her attention. Human-like arms. A body covered in fur. Fingers tipped by claws. Dusk wished this one would open her eyes so that she could see whether those, too, resembled her own.

Aww. Weasel wanna meet cat fren. :3

What would this one think of her? Would she think anything of her? Dusk had no idea about her personality. She searched the purrloin’s face for evidence of an animating spirit, something that would tell her what kind of person was inside. Was the purrloin’s head slightly tilted? Asking about something? Perhaps she was an inquisitive sort. That would be nice.

Kinda hard to guess when the other pal is sleeping, gal. :p

This time she was just barely lucid enough to notice alien intrusions in her flesh. A tube from above pierced her chest. Another pierced her neck. More connected to the breathing mask. Others that she couldn’t see. They hung her, held her in this half-dream, half-death. She pawed weakly at a cable and felt it tug inside her. She would never have the strength to remove it. Maybe that was for the best. Maybe the cables were what was remaking her.

Yikes! This part unnerved me somewhat, namely the implications of what would have happened if she had the strength to pull that cable out... O_O

How could she smell anything but the dead scent of rubber, the mask fitted to her face?

I find the adjective "dead" to refer to rubber a bit strange. It kinda implies that the rubber used to be alive at some point, and yet rubber isn't necessarily alive (unless we're talking about natural rubber). I think adjectives like "artificial", "unnatural" or "chemical" (if she knows that word) would be closer to the scent of rubber.

Her reality was fleeting. Her eyes lied to her. Now she lay in the infirmary bed from before, but the room had changed. Curtains drew close around her. Dangling containers fed fluids into her arm. Patches of fabric and metal circlets adhered to her body. Clean sheets covered her legs. She understood none of it. She closed her eyes and continued to wait out this incomprehensible ordeal.

Now she floated in the tank again. Where the wires touched her skin, it tingled with a bizarre sensation, a little like the way her pads had felt on icy pavement. More numb than truly cold. The wires went up overhead and she could vaguely make out glass canisters of liquid fixed to the top of the tank.

Hmm... I know that the whole thing about tanks is to take the scientific angle in sci-fi, but still I wonder what is the purpose of moving the morphs into tanks. Like, does the green liquid contain something to promote the transformation? Liquid infinity, perhaps? 🤔

Like the growth of trees.

You know, this raises interesting questions about the world. Like, why are Pokémon the only living creatures who evolve? Why do humans and trees age, unlike them?

But I guess this is a question for another time. ^^

The difference between remembering and understanding… She likened it to the difference between drinking water, and actually tasting it. For the first time, she could taste her thoughts.

This is a beautiful metaphor.

She could not escape the dark panic that came with such thoughts while remaining conscious. So she sought sleep again, and despite the cold bruise flowering in her chest, despite the burning of her skin and eyes, she found it. With sleep came an escape from these new and jagged ideas. Her dreams changed, too. She spoke fluent Galarish in a conversation with humans, full and plentiful sentences spilling out of her mouth like water from a tap. She stood as tall as them, and they met her eyes. They listened. They understood. She couldn’t make sense of her words, and when she tried to pay attention to the way her tongue moved to produce them, the dream wavered and reality threatened to pull her out of it. She stopped trying to listen to her own voice and willed the dream to continue. So long as she didn’t concentrate, she kept speaking. She would speak forever.

Ah! Is she experiencing lucid dreaming here?

Salem dreamed of talking to Laura, but the words were trapped in her throat and she choked on them, unable to make a sound. She dreamed of pokémon she’d met. Of signing with the mienshao from the pokémon shelter, fluently and at length. Of hissing at the glameow tomcat she’d seen as a stray. Of walking beside Church, the gentle gogoat-morph she’d met on her arrival. A hybrid she didn’t recognise, her red-rimmed mouth stretched wide and full of teeth, speaking to her, saying “well, soft cat, Salem, good well, all and happy.” The words swam in her ears, utterly meaningless but good, so good and so comforting.

Ah, fascinating nod toward the previous version of the story, which I bet we'll explore in more detail in future chapters! Gotta figure out who is this unknown morph with red-rimmed mouth, however... 🤔

When she woke next, the ward’s lighting shone dimmer than before. A torrent of thoughts hit her, saying ‘is my body any different today,’ and ‘where’s Alisha is she here,’ and ‘Laura lied to me why would she do that,’ and ‘I’m going to live like this for the rest of my life,’ and ‘can I still become a liepard,’ and ‘I have never been this tired in my entire life.’ Not just feelings or half-concepts, but full, clear thoughts. A half dozen at once. Now a dozen. Bright, painful, beautiful thoughts.

Congratulations, Salem! You just discovered the joys and pains of multi-tasking!

These were her hands. Her hands. Hers.

Just wait until you will be able to use your thumbs!

Her size! She easily filled the tank. She could never fit curled up on a pillow now. Or squeeze inside cupboards. Or have her body stroked in one smooth motion from forehead to tail-tip.

Real cat problems for real cats. But who knows, you could ask to a random Regigigas to stroke you! :p

A new brain. She would think differently now. Be different. A different person. That could mean anything. Now her new brain screamed at her with thoughts and memories and sensory input and fear and pain and tiredness and everything, everything, everything at once without letting up. She tried to gasp, but it died in her chest. She couldn’t bear to think about her own thoughts, not yet. Not for now.

And human problems for real humans. You'd better be ready; this will be a wild ride!

Green shadows outside the tank.

The roar of draining liquid.

“Looking good, no problems here.”

Gravity, absent too long, making its unwelcome return.

“There we go. It’s okay. It’s okay, kitten.”

The clashing scents of the waking world filling her nose.

“Salem? Salem, can you hear me?”

Her tongue, finally at ease in her mouth.

“I hear you.”

Welcome to the world of humans morphs! It's so nice to hear your voice!

---

Well, then, here we are!

So, what can I say? The prose is, as usual, excellent. Very easy to sink into and very easy to follow, without distracting the reader from the event that are happening and making it very clear just what is happening. I don't have anything to comment about that.

Regarding the characters themselves, it was nice to see Dusk for the first time. I'm already intrigued by her character, and I wonder what choices she took to wanting to become a morph. By what I've gathered, she doesn't seem entirely content with her choice, and simply accepts what happened to her because there is no way back. Perhaps she even... regrets her choice?

And obviously, that's a clear contrast with Salem, who even in her half-trance and fear of change shows to be all too eager to test out her new body. The part where she is testing her hands and thinking human thoughts for the first time are a true treat! I definitely can't wait to see these two meeting each other and getting along. :D

So, for criticism? Huh... I don't really have any, aside from the part where Dusk goes into the tank room. As I have mentioned earlier, I find it odd that Alisha let Dusk walk in so casually. Droppings of fur, scales and whatnot are a thing: what if the room isn't cleaned thoroughly and some fur accidentally ends inside a tank? Would the process be altered in some way, especially if the green liquid is contaminated?

I could perhaps see some kind of invisible screen between the tanks and the doctors, as a way to further isolate tanks and observers and keep the tanks inside "invisible rooms", which can be accessed only with the proper precaution to avoid contamination and ensure the proper transformation. ...But perhaps I'm just overthinking it. I've just found this detail a bit puzzling.

And... I don't really have much else to say? Good read, as usual, and keep up the good work! :D
 

Umbramatic

The Ghost Lord
Location
The Yangverse
Pronouns
Any
Partners
  1. reshiram
  2. zygarde
Once again I have been meaning to check this fic out for quite a while. Once again Review Blitz was a good excuse. So >let's dive4 right into the prologue, shall we?

First off, this is a very familiar story within this fandom, but you put your own spin on it well, anmd it does a good job of setting up the stuff I already know is to come. I love how you write Fuji. He's kind of nebbish and anxious and doesn't know how to say no top the big scary boss man who he knows thinks he's expendable. Good to see Blaine in here too! His and Fuji's relationship is fun.

(Did you read my fic Splice Of Life? I forget if you did. I am having FUN mentally comparing and contrasting this prologue with that.)

The idea that animals like humans and Pokemon are two entirely convergent kingdoms (i think that's the right scientific term) of life is FASCINASTING to me. And yet, of course, they can still be gene spliced. This will no doubt end well!

Interesting to see Ai/Amber here as well. Though currently she is just a fetus. A CLONE fetus. Remains to bee seen if she'll have a relationship with Mewtwo or die like she did in the Movie 1 prequel or both.

Oh yeah and Giovanni is here too. I love your descriptions of his body language and expressions in particular. Interesting he gives Mewtwo his DNA, that's usually Blaine's job.

(What's important is you mentioned Giovanni's Persian. The real one in charge.)

Looking forward to more of this when I loop around to it! Especially getting to the LESBIANS
 

Flaze

Don't stop, keep walking
Location
Chile
Pronouns
he/him
Partners
  1. infernape
So at this point in my life I've read through three different versions of Different Eyes (see what I did there) however each time I read it I kind of feel like I'm reading a different story...in some ways. It's definitely a good way to measure how your writing's improved over the years as each new iteration goes into more detail behind the project in charge of turning pokemon in pokemorphs, which I do think is a conceit that's a little tough to explain to people at first. I like how you justify it here by taking us all the way back to Mewtwo's creation. The prologue itself and the way in which it sheds life on how he came to be (and thus how other pokemorphs came to be) is really interesting to me because it feels like you pulled from aspects of the game, anime and manga, especially with the main conceit of infusing Mewtwo with human cells which was one of the manga's concepts I enjoyed the most.

Outside of that I do think the prologue is mostly set up and I wonder if it'll actually come back around later. I find it a little funny how your prologue is actually longer than chapter 1, and in fact I feel like I ended up learning more out of the prologue than chapter 1. I know this is mostly because chapter 1 is supposed to act as our introduction to Dusk and Salem while the prologue is to give us an idea of the story we're in for. But even if Salem is technically our protagonist I would've still liked to see more out of Dusk, if only because her portions of the chapter were more interesting to me and I liked what we've seen of her viewpoint.

That's not to say that chapter 1 itself isn't good. I really like how you go in depth with all the little details regarding Salem's experience in the tank, how her transformation progresses and she slowly starts shifting and changing, both physically and mentally. A mental deep dive wasn't something I expected but you do a really good job at it and showing us how she feels about it and how the process is suddenly making her a lot more conscious of herself and the world around it. It's a really interesting dive into how identity is formed...in a way.

I also like how you're slowly setting up the themes of the story already. Outside of science going too far, the general theme here is the idea of identity and self. Pokemorphs were created from humans desire to have pokemon that resembled humans, or I guess humans that could be controlled and have all the benefits of pokemon, without the down sides. But I liked how a lot of characters just act like being human is the pinnacle of evolution and any sort of identity beyond that is somehow inferior to them. This is juxtaposed with the pokemorphs who have a hard time fully understanding their new bodies and deciding on what they really are, are they humans but better? are they pokemon but better? Or are they just a completely different thing altogether.

Anyways, I don't have much more to say from all this, but it all sounds like a lot of interesting groundwork that I hope I get to see...after we get through the next couple of chapter. Unless you really changed the way the story is structure, I'll be curious.
 

love

Memento mori
Pronouns
he/him/it
Partners
  1. leafeon
It's a review!

The presence of human structures was visible in a white-grey mottling against the green of the island's forests.

"The presence of human structures was visible" sounds clunky to me, as opposed to something like "Human structures were visible..."

The geneticist bent at the waist and waited for the crime-lord to speak.

In retrospect, I feel like the epithets in this line nicely contrast Fuji and Giovanni. "Crime-lord" juxtaposed against something as banal as "geneticist."

someone who could afford to keep others waiting, and would naturally take issue with impatience.

I think the comma shouldn't be there, correct me if I am wrong. Also, I wonder if "naturally" could be cut? It doesn't feel needed to me.

It would be unwise to give offence by speaking first.

Maybe "it would be unwise to offend [him] by speaking first"?

The pokémon was a persian, judging by the gem set in its forehead — a pedigree, no doubt — and it followed at his heel without a sound or a sideways glance. He must have trained it strictly.

I like how your description of Gionvanni's pokemon serves to further characterize Gionvanni. Good detail. I wonder if "He must have trained it strictly" could be cut, though. I think it's implied?

His face held no expression but the tense blankness of a person keeping their thoughts behind a mask.

I feel this is repetitive ("no expression"/"blankness"/"behind a mask" convey similar things); perhaps it can be cut down.

Perhaps he thought wrong, and an honourable, philosophical man could be found under all that presence and menace.

Could "presence and menace" be reduced to one word?

Perhaps he genuinely inspected each room they passed and judged what he saw against his private expectations but if so, he gave no indication of his approval.

This sentence feels odd to me, but it is tricky for me to articulate why. I think part of it is that judging the rooms doesn't mean that he approves of them, which is what the phrasing implies to me... And maybe "genuinely" could be cut.

"I read your report on the South American expedition," he said, as they passed the cafeteria, cordially enough.

I think you could cut the comma after said. It kinda threw me off a little.

No time for a light lunch, it would seem.

Maybe cut "a light" or say "...even a light..."

Giovanni's gaze seemed to tug on the secrets in Fuji's heart, but he returned it evenly.

Maybe we can cut the "seemed to" and change "tug" to past tense.

Fuji prayed that his deception had not been a mistake. Oh, Mew. Perhaps you made a mistake entrusting me with that eyelash.

We've got some intrigue here! Hm...

The cultural reluctance to name uncomfortable things was strong, even as a scientist with international colleagues.

Maybe "as" should be "for"?

They moved slowly, somewhat like that of a mundane snail

The "like that" isn't right, I don't think. (Maybe "somewhat" could be cut, too)

"Psychic power is only one of the many possible assets this being could have," said Giovanni. "I also require intelligence, aggression, loyalty.

Yeah I mean there really is no denying he's the bad guy huh

Can you alter the temperament of the clone and so on to achieve these things, but without compromising its power?"

I think we can cut the "but"

As Giovanni's helicopter left, Fuji imagined he could feel the future in his heart.

"imagined he could feel" doesn't feel so smooth to me.

What would it one day become, in the shadow of Giovanni?

I like this bit of introspection. It's genuinely a pretty horrifying question which I'm sure would be very fun* to explore. Though otherwise, I wonder if this scene is necessary—the way it is interposed feels a little awkward to me. Fuji already called himself a coward in the previous scene, so I don't know if we need to go over that again, and we do already know that Giovanni is a pretty bad guy. And in retrospect I guess the question of what the hybrid will become "in the shadow of Giovanni" is raised in the following scene, so maybe it would be okay to skip over it here.
*which is to say, painful

What pokémon wouldn't want to be like us? To be human?

I think this is also a really interesting question, and definitely an assumption that I would like to see challenged

The creature had three digits on each paw, front and back.

I thought this meant "on the front and back of each paw"—kind of threw me off for a bit.

He prayed silently that its dreams were peaceful.

It had been a long time since his last peaceful dream.

I like this closing. It's just a really human moment, so to speak.

Okay, so before I move on, I should probably mention that I don't know really any mainline pokemon stuff at all, and that includes mewtwo lore, so that may limit the usefulness of my remarks.

Anyhow, overall, I felt there was some odd wording in places, but I don't want to judge that too hard because I suspect that your best writing is probably in the later chapters that are still being worked on. To me, the opening scene felt stronger than the rest in that regard.

At a few points it felt like you were directly just telling me what Giovanni is like, but in fairness, you did show it as well. Fuji's reactions to him helped to sell me on his imposing demeanor. There's good contrast between the two of them. I think that the concepts presented in this opening are promising as well.

I had the sense that this chapter could be pared down somehow, but I am not sure exactly how. Maybe the ditto scene could be cut somehow? I don't know, I'm having a really hard time figuring out exactly what I think would be better. I guess it just feels slightly expository/dry to me, on the whole. I like Fuji's internal conflict regarding Ai, though, and his reactions to Giovanni's plan to create a human hybrid. That helped keep things interesting.

Good luck with the rest of the story.
 

IFBench

Rescue Team Member
Location
Pokemon Paradise
Partners
  1. chikorita-saltriv
  2. bench-gen
  3. charmander
  4. snivy
  5. treecko
  6. tropius
  7. arctozolt
  8. wartortle
  9. zorua
Here to leave a long-overdue review on chapter 1 of this! I loved the prologue, so I'm looking forward to reading this.

I quite liked the title of the chapter! It's mysterious, yet perfectly fitting. Great choice!

This chapter, while almost completely disconnected from the prologue, still works in relation to it, because it retains the feel of the prologue. The mysterious lab setting, the strange concepts that are introduced, the overall tone of it is very similar to the prologue, and excellently connects the two chapters. Nicely done!

The characters are also very interesting. Salem is lost, confused, and in fear, yet intrigued, hopeful, and excited at her situation, which is really intriguing. Dusk is more used to her predicament, seeming to resent parts of it, such as the testing, but enjoying others, such as meeting other morphs. Dr. Collett seems formal and distant, focusing on the observations and results, while Alisha is very friendly and seems to care about the morphs in a more personal way. I'm excited to see how they all play off each other in future chapters.

The description is also really good! You perfectly encapsulate the feel of a facility where strange things are going on in the Dusk section, and in the Salem sections you bring forth a feeling of fear, wonder, and awe. Very good!

The ending was amazing as well! The tank draining, Salem's changes finished, people talking to her, and Salem responding with her new body, that was all really well done!

Overall, an excellent followup to the prologue, introducing a new setting and cast of characters, yet still keeping the excellent feel the prologue had.

I look forward to reading more!
 
Chapter 2: First Words

unrepentantAuthor

A cat that writes stories.
Location
UK
Pronouns
they/she
Partners
  1. purrloin-salem
  2. sneasel-dusk
  3. luz-companion
  4. brisa-companion
  5. meowth-laura
  6. delphox-jesse
  7. mewtwo
  8. zeraora


Author's Note:

2020 certainly was a rough year. I haven’t made the chapter updates I wanted to, but progress has continued apace with the back end of the fic. I have an increasingly comprehensive outline, even more buffer material, and at long last, this chapter. It was a tough one to get right, due to how many elements I’m balancing within it, but I trust my efforts were worthwhile. I hope you enjoy it!

N.B. If you’re an older reader and you’re confused to be getting a notification for Chapter 2 when you’ve read further on than that already, please be aware that last year I began redrafting the fic according to a new outline. You may need to double back and read the new prologue and first chapter

Chapter Changelog:

2021/01/28: Tightened up the prose a little and added chapter art!

1d0d1cceb90ab38a8cbc0f10edc2f7f0c4048cfe.jpg


Chapter 2

First Words

Dusk

“Let me in.”

“What? No. Only staff—essential staff—are allowed in for this.”

“I know. Let me in any-way.”

The human shook his head and shooed Dusk away, with that insufferable facial expression the guards in the facility all seemed to wear. She signed furiously at him, trying to explain that a morph should see someone like them when they wake up, that she could help, that she could better put the new morph at ease, but his face maintained blank incomprehension, and he put a hand to a pokéball at his waist. She made a sign with one finger that he’d definitely understand, and stormed away.

Or at least, she began to. Alisha was coming the other way down the corridor. So, she was the purrloin’s recruitment officer as well as Dusk’s. They met halfway, with Dusk already calmer.

“Al-i-sha. Hello.”

“Hey there, Dusk. Figured you’d keep me company again today, huh?”

Dusk offered her a sharp grin and shrugged. “Don’t care about that. Want-ed to give new morph some-one good to look at. Ha?”

Alisha chuckled. “Of course. Well, you already know I can’t let you in. Sorry, mate.”

“O-kay. What can I do?” Dusk frowned at the vagueness of her own words, and resorted to signing: [I am frustrated. I cannot enter this place. I don’t know what to do.]

Alisha smiled gently and hefted her satchel bag. “I’d talk this out, but they’ve been waiting on me awhile now. Hey, how’s this: if you want me to pass anything along to this morph, you just let me know, okay?”

Dusk tilted her head. “Pass things. Give objects?”

“I was thinking messages, but yeah, gifts are fine. Just don’t take it the wrong way if she doesn’t like them.”

“O-kay. Yes. ‘Gifts.’ Let’s do gifts.” Dusk put her claws to her chin and thought for a moment. “What is her name, Al-i-sha?”

“Oh, I’m not telling,” Alisha teased. “I mean for one, don’t you remember what I told you when you woke up? You should have the opportunity to choose a new name to go with your new identity. I'll give this one the same choice when she’s conscious. Once she chooses, then you'll get to know.”

Dusk rolled her eyes theatrically, but she smiled, too. Alisha was right, of course. Dusk was glad that other morphs didn’t know her given name, and it was only fair.

“Alright then, mate. You take care, yeah?”

Dusk nodded and gave Alisha her casual salute, which the human answered with a peace sign before approaching the ward.

Gifts. Okay. She could do that. It wasn’t the same as making an impression in person, but it was a first step toward friendship, and she’d given gifts before. Sneasel typically gave gifts of choice meat cuts, carved tools, or beautiful stones, but none of those were available. What she did have was a lot of saved credit at the rec store.

Yes, she’d find something a morph going through recovery would enjoy.

XxX​

Salem

I hear you.

That’s what she tried to say, as she emerged at last from the hazy half-consciousness of the tank. Instead, it came out as messy, useless noise. Was she not trying hard enough? She tried again and made a strangled yowl. Her throat felt hot from shame, and dry from the air rushing into her aching lungs.

Her head hurt. No—everything hurt.

She opened her eyes. Blinked against the brightness—

Not brightness. Colours?

The world was different now. New colours. Bright colours. Her eyes swivelled in her head, jolting from one alien hue to another. That shirt. That hair. Colours she’d never seen. Never could have imagined. To see so many of them, all at once—too much to take in. She didn’t even face towards them, her eyes just raced—she was dizzy. She felt sick. Too strange. Too new! Too much!

She screwed her eyes shut and wailed against the visual din.

Alisha was talking, but she couldn’t get the meaning of the sounds over the pain and the panic and—

That feeling. That difference. Even with her eyes shut against the world, she could tell.

Her body was not the same.

It felt distant. Stretched-out. Heavy. Impossibly heavy.

She looked down, and saw her altered form laying before her. Human sized. Human shaped. Covered in fur as always, in patterns she knew well. Her body. Yet, not.

This was it—the whole point of being here. Her wish.

She stared at it. Tried to move all at once and found she didn’t know how. She needed to see. Her head spun as she lifted it.

That was her arm, right there. Human-sized, aching bone-deep, pierced by a tube full of liquid. But certainly her arm. Her arm, and at the end of it, her hand. Right? She raised it. It took more effort than she expected, as if it were someone else’s limb. She held it still until it began to shake with the effort. She tried to splay her fingers, and they twitched in front of her, useless. Out of her control. She tried yanking out the tube and found she had neither the strength nor the pain tolerance.

What if… Could she get up? What if she couldn’t move? She needed to be upright. Now.

She tried to flip onto all fours, something she’d done countless times. Pain. Failure. Her body lurched and spasmed; her muscles screamed at her. She gasped, fell back with an audible thump, flinched, cried out in a voice that wasn’t her own.

Around her, someone was talking, but she couldn’t think, she couldn’t listen, she needed to get up—

—a hand pressed gently against Salem’s shoulder, and brought her collapsing down again. Flat on her back, her limbs jerked weakly against the padded railings at the side of her bed. She was exhausted within moments.

“It’s gonna be okay, Salem.”

Above her was Alisha’s face. Smiling widely, with muscles relaxed and eyes creased. That was good, right? Salem checked again. She didn’t trust her intuition. Yes. Alisha was happy, not distressed. Maybe this was normal. Other pokémon-humans must have struggled too! Things were okay, she would get to speak. Soon she would speak. Next to Alisha were the humans from her medical tests. How could she know that? Had she really recognised them by sight alone? She’d only seen their faces once before, and hadn’t even got their scent at the time. She didn’t understand.

Behind the small crowd of humans were clean white walls, equipment she recognised from pokémon centre checkups, and several beds much like her own. They were clearly visible at a surprising distance, more in focus. The contrast between light and shadow sharper. The colours richer. She shrank back from it all. Her vision was drowning her.

“It’s okay, you can close your eyes.”

No. She was weakening, but so was the feeling of wrongness, of being in a body she didn’t understand. She fixed her eyes on Alisha and wished she could read human faces the way she could read feline body language.

“How are you feeling, Kitten?” asked Alisha.

She started to reach to sign, then stopped. She wanted to speak. She forced her mouth into the shapes that she thought were right. What was the thing Alisha had done when she said “feeling?” Teeth against her lower lip. Something with her tongue. She wasn’t sure.

“Fee— oh— I—”

The words died in her mouth. She was so close! It hurt to be so close. But even if she knew how to make the sounds, how could she have explained herself? She felt too much, too many things at once—a storm inside her head! Each sound and scent raised more thoughts and more memories than she could cope with, and emotions too, flowing and flooding and breaching every part of her brain with the weight of her feeling. Too much; too much!

“Take it steady, Salem. You can stay calm, just keep still and you should start to get used to it.”

She gasped and panted, clutching at the bed as if she was about to float away from it. Should start to get used to it? Only should? ‘It’ was her entire existence. If she couldn’t ‘get used to it,’ would she feel this awful forever? Overwhelmed. Breathless. For the rest of her life! She needed to escape, escape from her own lungs— Please— A way out, please—

“Salem, try to take big breaths. You can do it. One at a time, now. Slowly.”

She tried. Breathe in, more, breathe out. Her breath rattled. Inhale, and somehow exhale. Again, again! Slower?—she only knew quick, sharp breaths. Her lungs were so much larger now. She gasped to fill them. Strained. Failed.

“It may not feel like it, but I promise, you can learn to control your breathing. I promise. Keep trying, Salem.”

She took the deepest breaths she could, as if it would brace her against the sensory tide, but could only manage shallow gasps. Fear sunk its teeth into her. She wouldn't manage to handle her new eyes, new body, this was a mistake, she couldn't go back. She wasn’t adapting, she couldn't adapt. She didn’t know how to breathe deeply, contrary to instinct and habit.

Alisha kept speaking to her, but Salem lost her grip on the words. She wanted to feel nothing. Be nothing. She turned to curl into a ball—but couldn’t. Not quite. Was there something wrong? Her back wouldn’t curve all the way. She couldn’t pull her legs all the way up. Why? Was she broken?

Yet, to her tearful relief, turning on her side did help. It took pressure off her chest, allowed more air in, let her breathe easier.

It took time and continuous coaching from Alisha, but she did it. For the first time in her life, she breathed in, deep, held it. And out. What more might she be capable of, with time? She wasn’t her old self; she was new. Maybe with her new eyes, body, brain, she could adapt. There were unfamiliar difficulties in being half-human, but there were also new strengths.

She found something behind the fear. Something different. And it let her breathe.

Alisha talked to her, guiding her breaths and inviting her to control each part of her body in turn, to understand how it had changed, to take her time in experiencing the strangeness of it all. To welcome each thought and feeling one at a time.

She tried. It seemed to take a lifetime. Somehow, she managed.

Once the tide started to subside, it became almost… fun. Now fingers. Now toes. Now ears, still able to pin back against her skull and turn towards Alisha’s snapping fingers. Now tongue, strange and unfamiliar in her mouth, but nevertheless under her control.

It was going to be alright. She was going to be okay. This was really happening. All she’d hoped for… within her reach.

She opened her eyes.

“Feeling better now, Kitten?”

Speech could wait. An affirmative miaow would do. She sounded mostly like normal, but… her voice had deepened.

“Sounds like you are,” said Alisha, smiling.

With some coaxing, Salem rose from the bed and from her stupor. Sitting took effort. Her body felt heavy and distant. She’d much rather be curled up in a ball, but sitting helped with communication, so she struggled on. She felt stable, at least: her faintness subsiding; her breath even; her exhaustion possible to bear. She did, however, have to make several adjustments to her tail’s resting position before it became tolerable.

“Feels like nothing else has in all your life, right?” said Alisha.

Salem blinked slowly and nodded. Alisha blinked slowly back.

“Trust me,” Alisha told her, “it might be pretty overwhelming now, and you’ll need time before everything feels normal, but it’s worth it. It’s so worth it. You’re gonna be able to do almost anything at all. There aren’t many people like… many people like you, you know? With your potential. Mind and body both somewhere between human and pokémon… it’s exciting, right? You’re in good company, Kitten. You’ll be just fine.”

Salem drank it all up, wide-eyed.

Everything would be okay. Everything would be fantastic. She could handle herself. Learn. Even be special.

She raised a weary arm and signed: [Thank you. Friends.]

Something went wrong along the way, because her hands didn’t go where she expected them to, and the motions were vague and amateurish. She could sign better than this. She tried again and just barely got the signs to form. Was she just tired? Yes, she was only tired.

The clumsy signing must have amused Alisha, because she looked down and to the side, and chuckled. “Sure, Kitten,” she said.

Salem concentrated. Aligned her arms with great care. Thought it through. [What will happen–?] she managed, before her hands cramped up, and she wrung them, wincing.

“What happens next depends on you,” said Alisha, softly. "You should rest for a good while. Once you're well enough, then we can try teaching you to walk, use your hands, even talk. But first, rest as long as you need. Most morphs take several days to get their strength up. Minimum."

Salem had no energy left, but she wanted to do those things so badly she felt she could substitute the sheer intensity of her desire for actual bodily strength. She concentrated on bringing her hands up in front of her face and making the right movements. She knew what she wanted to say; it was the physical actions that strained her. Her arms now spoke another language, moving in ways she wasn’t used to, and aching as they did. Were they even the same limbs as before? Why was it so hard to make familiar signs? Somehow, she managed.

Paw to her chest, then a clutching motion. [I want.] A motion from her mouth, moving forward. [To speak.] Hand-over-hand motions. [To walk.] More subtle motions now, ending in a raised paw, high as it could go. [I will try as hard as I can.]

They were halting, cautious movements. Her hands hurt and she couldn't figure out how to move her fingers separately yet. It wasn’t anything like what proficient humans like Alisha could manage.

It was still some of the proudest signing she'd ever done in her life.

“Sorry, Kitten. Even bipeds take a few days before they can hope to walk around. You need rest!”

Her tail repeatedly thumped the bed in quiet anger. [Walk. I want to walk. I can.]

“No way.”

She yowled, signed. [I will walk.]

“Not now, Salem–”

[Now!] She hissed as she signed, showing off her fangs.

Before Alisha could decline again, Salem grappled with the guard rails, preparing to throw herself off with or without help.

"Alright!" said Alisha, hauling Salem back over before she hurt herself. “Alright. Let’s give it a shot.” Was she impressed? Concerned? Her expressions escaped Salem. "We’ll start by standing upright. Let's get those legs carefully on the floor, okay? And I do mean carefully."

She unfastened the rails at the bedside and pulled them down. It took time, but Salem managed to swing her hind paws off the bed and dangle them over its edge. Sudden movements made her feel faint and unbalanced, so she placed her pads on the floor and gingerly pushed off from the bed. Alisha steadied her to prevent her toppling over, hands on her torso. Salem stood, tail and arms thrust away from her body to find a precarious balance.

"You’re a purrloin, so you might think this'll be easy just because you've walked on your hind legs before. It's not going to be easy. Your muscles are exhausted, and your centre of gravity is different. If you were another species, I wouldn’t even let you try standing. Okay, follow my lead..."

With Salem’s arm over Alisha’s shoulders, the human took much of Salem’s weight as she took her first steps in her new body. They were shaky, difficult steps, but her swelling pride was worth it. Her chest heaved, and in a moment of surging confidence, she pushed off to take her own weight unsupported. Instead, she fell to the floor like the contents of a jellied meat packet, clutching at Alisha’s arm. Alisha didn’t even wince as Salem’s claws dug for purchase. Salem looked up at her, her throat burning again. As much as it stung, there was no denying that she wasn't ready.

“Don’t worry, Kitten. You did well.”

Alisha helped her back into the bed to do some light sulking, and reassured her that the emergency call button on the bedside table would bring someone if she needed help. Salem raised an arm to sign her thanks, felt faint, and sank back into her pillow.

“Get some rest, Kitten. You’ve got a tough journey ahead of you.”

XxX​

The first thing she asked for upon waking was water, realising as she tried to punctuate her signs with miaows that her throat was still painfully dry. A nurse fetched her a cup. Salem signed a small thanks and held the thing between both hands, lapping carefully at the surface. Her tongue wasn’t so altered that she’d lost that ability. She was just about dexterous enough to tip the water level towards her face, but her arms were still weak, and she spilt some in the effort. She refused help drinking it, of course. There had to be some limit to what she needed assistance with.

If she couldn’t walk, she'd need something to do besides lying in bed. Some mewling and charades earned her a magazine belonging to a human, something with pictures to look at. Mostly pictures of humans. The nurse offered help turning the pages, and she signed a perfunctory [NO]. If she needed help, she would ask. She touched it with her fingertips, and pulled them back as her claws punctured the material. She tried to slide the pages over with only her pads. At first, she couldn’t get the hang of it, and she tore the paper more than once. Gradually, painstaking pawing at the pages taught her how to turn first one, then the next.

She stared at the pages for an age. It was a joy to see fresh colours revealed to her, to soak them all up at once with her newly-altered vision. She cajoled the nurse over to ask him what colours things were by pointing at them and making the sign for [question]. It took a little while, but eventually he found the right answer.

She discovered ‘red’ from the magazine by pointing at a man’s clothes and being patiently answered by the nurse. Red. It had always been there, at least for humans. Now she could actually see it, really see it, instead of perceiving it as identical to orange, brown, even some purples. The change really was not in the world, but in herself. The thought was strange, that her eyes were different now. Forever. She decided she was okay with that. She chose this. She wouldn't regret it.

Although this moment had no precedent in Salem’s life, the nurse seemed to think that he had more important things to be doing. It was a struggle to correct him on this point. It didn’t matter, she was busy grappling with the dawn of a world in full colour. Brighter, richer, more whole. Brimming over with colours she’d never dreamed existed. Like red.

XxX​

She had barely been introduced to this body, and she could get to know it a little better, even bound to her bed as she was. She became consumed with consuming every sensation, even discomfort and pain, that her new form afforded her. Her body’s greater weight pressed her down into the bed. Her fur had the same texture, the same sensitivity. Her pads remained pads, but were more sensitive, softer, and hadn’t grown quite in proportion with the rest of her hands. Neither had her claws, which were broader than before.

She held up a hand and licked the back of it to find that her tongue had lost some of its rasp, and her sense of taste had changed. Her fur was not exactly pleasant to wash, but if her more human-like tongue could afford her the power of speech, it would be more than worth it.

As time passed, Salem kept moving her attention to another change, another hurt. Her eyes hurt, her paws hurt, her belly hurt. None of them felt like they belonged to her yet, but they soon would. She struggled to relax, but she was still a cat, and persistent at achieving comfort. Eventually, she found a position to curl up in that put less strain on her overtaxed body, and managed to sleep.

In her dreams, Salem was running; running on two legs; running for miles and miles and miles; running, and never getting tired.

XxX​

Salem’s second day as a morph—hard to tell how long exactly without seeing the sky—was less intense an experience on her poor eyes, ears, nose and body. With the lack of intensity came boredom, and with boredom came repeatedly scratching at the side of her mattress until the white-coated humans came to perform more of their tests. She knew how they went from last time, during her pre-morphing checkup, but it was a different experience altogether in her new body. She found some satisfaction in forcing them to ask politely for each cooperative movement, rather than letting them handle her as they’d done when she’d been merely a purrloin.

They moved her to a room of her own on her third day, explaining that she needn’t stay in the ward with her health stabilised. She suspected it may also have had something to do with her shredding the mattress, as her new one was resistant to her claws. Though she would have preferred a room with other morphs, or any other people at all, the advantages of her own space were considerable. She could do as she liked, request everything from an illustrated encyclopedia to soft, warm blankets, and as warm as she pleased it to be.

It almost made up for the solitude.

XxX​

Her uniform consisted of dark grey shorts and sleeveless white shirts. They were elastic, fit comfortably, and often had pockets, in which Salem had taken to keeping loose items, when humans left them unattended. She didn’t care for the constraining sensation of fitted clothes, but they also made her feel very human. On balance, that was a positive, so she consented to wear them.

It also came with a hexagonal badge, black with gold trim (Perihelion put gold trim on everything) and a series of flowing white lines in the centre. It looked a little, but not entirely, like a ‘P’ shape. Salem wouldn’t have paid the thing any attention, but it made a pleasant ‘clink’ when tapped with a claw, and it reflected light as a tiny dancing spot on the walls. Making the little dot of light swim around the room provided considerable entertainment.

XxX​

She stirred on what she estimated to be her fourth day as a pokémorph and began by hitting the emergency call button. Nurse Taylor brought her a plate of soft meat first, which she vanished immediately, but she continued to fuss in exaggerated sign to be taught human speech. It took many tries, but since he always answered the button, and she had more persistence than he had patience, he eventually agreed to schedule her first, solo, speech therapy session. It turned out that getting what you wanted from humans wasn’t so hard, once you got the knack of it. If you made enough fuss, and persevered, they’d figure out what you wanted and let you have it.

This technique worked for many things, but it didn’t make it any easier to learn. Learning was what really mattered. Physical therapy tasks were completed with dreamlike slowness. When she held things she generally either dropped them, or crumpled them. Her pencil wouldn’t go where she wanted it to go. Progress was so slow.

XxX​

At first, she was moved around in a wheelchair. Once she stumbled out of it enough times and the nurse pushing her grew tired of lifting a wriggling cat-person off the floor, she was given her first physical therapy session in the hopes of getting her to walk.

She spent hours learning to put one foot in front of the other, supporting herself by leaning heavily on support rails. She spent hours watching television, trying to piece together fragments of spoken language she was unfamiliar with. Hours practising her sign. Hours clasping her hands together and pulling them apart to develop grip strength. Hours learning to make different sounds with her mouth, so she could finally say real words out loud.

Her first word was ‘hello.’ The first several times she said it it came out as ‘HEYiao,’ trailing off at the end like a miaow. Saying it more clearly, with the second syllable clipped and the central consonant clear, took a whole lesson on its own. But it was still recognisably ‘hello.’ It mattered, her teacher told her. It was very important to know how to greet a human using this word.

Lots of things were important, because of what humans wanted. And because humans wanted them, so did Salem.

Her ‘speech therapist’ was a human woman who smiled often. Her name was Jo, which Salem could only say as ‘Yo’ at first, to Jo’s amusement. When she smiled or laughed the skin around her eyes would crease all the way up, like crumpled fabric. Salem tried smiling back, and learnt quickly that smiling was desirable only if you did not bare your fangs excessively when you did so.

She started counting the small victories, since she couldn’t count the moons from these windowless rooms. Walking from one end of physical therapy to the other, supported the whole way. Her delighted discovery that she could substitute a trilled purr for the ‘rr’ sound. Drinking from a cup without dropping it. Her first time drawing a straight line between two points. Her first time making three steps without holding onto the rails. Five steps without rails. Ten. Twenty.

Saying ‘Salem’ properly for the first time (with an actual ‘mm’ sound!) made her so happy her eyes prickled at the corners. Seeing Jo’s delighted smile lead to tears. Another lesson: tears could come from joy.

XxX​

Often, she would stand in front of her bathroom mirror, and practice expressions in it. Some were easy, because they were similar to what she was used to. A snarl was a snarl, even to a human. Smiles were a little harder. Humans had been giving her odd looks when she smiled at them, but lately they’d been smiling back. More subtle expressions were more challenging, even frustrating, but there was a knack to them, and she was determined to get it.

XxX​

Salem pushed herself to learn with such intensity that it left her exhausted each night, though it hardly felt like night when she couldn’t see the moon. Her small victories had become more significant: Her first sentence without pauses. Her first circuit of physical therapy under her own power. Saying ‘Jo’ with a real ‘j’ sound. Understanding a full conversation between two members of staff, without missing a word. Her first step walking entirely unaided. Ten steps unaided. Thirty.

How many moons were passing as she continually exhausted herself and slept each day?

“This is tay-king so long,” she complained to Jo during one session, hating her tongue for every mangled syllable. She lisped a little if she didn’t concentrate, she drawled half her vowels, and she still paused awkwardly on difficult syllables. It was a wonder Jo understood what she was saying without sign. “Wuh-enn will I speak fast-er?”

“Salem,” said Jo with a smile, “it’s only been two weeks. Take it steady, now.”

Two weeks.

Pokémorphs, it turned out, learnt very quickly.

“It’s a temporary benefit of the morphing process,” explained Taylor. “It’ll wear off in a few months, but for the time being you’ll pick things up like crazy.”

‘Like crazy.’ Figurative language, another quirk of human speech.

The following day, she hit two more milestones: walking a full circuit of the physical therapy room unaided, and pronouncing a whole sentence comprehensibly. She took pains and far more time than she could bear to get out the syllables one by one, but she managed to say aloud: “hello, my name is Salem, and I am a pokémorph.”

My name is Salem. And I am a pokémorph. Saying it in the human tongue made it real.

XxX​

Salem’s room was fast becoming covered in posters, providing sorely-needed staring spots. One of the magazines given to her contained a pullout of a map of Galar, which she’d obsessed over for hours. When Taylor noticed and decided to stick it up on her wall, she demanded more like it. The staff were happy to oblige.

XxX​

“Hey, Kitten.”

“Ah-lee-sa!”

“Nice one, you’re really getting those vowels down, huh?”

“Yes!”

“I’ve got a gift for you. It’s not from me, it’s from another morph. A friend of mine. They know you’re having a rough time in physical therapy and wanted you to have this.”

“Oh?”

Alisha took an object from out of her satchel.

It was soft and colourful and flopped when handled. The outer surface seemed to be a loose skin over something rubbery inside.

“Wha-at is thiss?”

“It’s a hot water bottle. You press it against your body. Good for staying warm and soothing sore muscles. Want me to fill it up?”

“…Yeh-ess. Pluh-ees.”

“Okay, Kitten.”

Alisha took the object to the sink and brought it back swollen and warm. Salem took it carefully with both paws, rested it on her abdomen, and sighed contentedly with a little rumbling purr as its heat seeped into her.

“Who…?” she asked.

“Who sent it? Another morph. She said not to make a big deal out of it, though. Guess you have a secret admirer.”

Another morph had sent her something. To help her.

A restlessness built up in Salem’s limbs as she tried to figure out how to ask to see this morph, to thank her. To meet someone going through the same things as her.

“I want… to see the ad-my-ra.”

“Your secret admirer? That’s a hard no, I’m afraid, not until you’re further along in training. Program policy. Your admirer has to stay secret for now.”

“See-kret?”

“Something you don’t know about. Something hidden.”

“You know many seekret?”

“So many secrets, Kitten,” said Alisha, winking.

XxX​

They gave her toys. She expected little squeaky things and dangling ribbons, like Laura used to play with, but these were not that. One was a cube, each face bearing a different novelty—a switch that clicked when pressed, a disk that could be pushed around in circles, a set of wheels that turned with little noises.

She played with them often. Almost constantly, in fact. Even when asked to stop. Her brain was so fast now, speeding from thought to thought, and clicking and pressing and fidgeting helped her focus. It gave her brain something to preen over while she focused on individual ideas. Even so, it was like being cooped up back home, understimulated, with insufficient company, with not nearly enough to see and do.

Any time her mind went unoccupied, it was like she was back there, with Laura gone, waiting.

Well, Salem might not be able to see Laura here, and (she realised with a crushing feeling around her chest) she might never be able to again, but there were plenty of other humans in this place, and they were willing to tend to her. She decided to make the best of it. She took every opportunity to complain and make demands, and the human staff patiently supplied her with diversion.

XxX​

Dreams continued to be her merciful escape from the sustained agonies of physical therapy. In the waking world, she could barely support herself even by gripping railings on either side. She could manage a step or two more with every bout, but it was barely any progress at all.

“You’re doing excellent work. You know, a human in your position could take weeks or months to make this much progress.”

It wasn’t enough. She wanted to run, now, not push through walls of pain and fatigue just to stand unaided.

XxX​

[Good,] signed her pokésign tutor. [Now make all of those signs, one after the other.]

Salem moved her arms and hands and fingers, making the human-specific signs with the same confidence as the imprecise feline signs she’d used since before she could remember. Now, a series of gestures with digits. Now, a sweeping movement. Now, a twist at the wrist and a certain flick.

[Hello, it’s nice to meet you. My name is ‘Pickpocket’. How are you?] they signed in unison.

[Very good!] signed the teacher again. [You are talented at signing. I’m pleased to see it.]

Salem shrugged. That was another human sign she’d learnt. It meant [I don’t know.]

Maybe she was talented. It didn’t feel like enough. She still cringed at her own slowness, her clumsiness.

More practice. She’d get it.

XxX​

“You need to slow down. You’re pushing yourself faster than we have guidelines for. You’re catching up with morphs that completed the Shift weeks ago.”

“That’s good! I want this.”

“I know you’re proud of yourself, but you’ll wear yourself out. You need rest too.”

“I want to learn everything fast. Then I can be happy.”

“I know. I know you feel that way. I’m asking you to be gentle with yourself. To take it steady.”

“I will try.”

XxX​

Salem decided not to ‘take it steady.’ If she was only going to learn at this pace for a few months, she needed to make best use of it while she still could. She started practising something, anything, every spare moment she had.

She did circuits of her room while talking or signing to herself. She counted out the steps, making the signs for each number. She made fuss at one of the staff until he gave her adhesive putty to stick pages from her books and magazines up on the wall, which she would stare at as if she could will them into comprehensibility. It was exhausting, but her teachers seemed impressed. So she kept it up.

She couldn’t bear to stop.

XxX​

“Put your finger to this part of your neck. Okay. Now say ‘ah’, draw it out, yes. You feel the vibration?”

“It isn’t a purr.”

“No, no it isn’t, ha. Well, that’s where your voice is coming from. If you change your voice, you can feel it differently when you press your fingers to your throat.”

“This is so hard.”

“It will feel that way sometimes. Just keep up your exercises. Especially the breath work”

[Okay. I will try.]

“In Galarish, please, Purrloin? This isn’t a pokésign class.”

“Oh-kay. I will try.”

“You’re getting there.”

XxX​

“When will I meet other morphs? When have I made enough progress?”

Alisha shrugged, but she smiled too.

“When I say so. Which I will when I think you’re ready. What do you think, are you ready?”

“Yes! I’m ready.”

“Well, what do your therapists think? What does Taylor think?”

“They… They keep telling me I’m do-ing well. Very well. Al-so, I need rest. But Al-ee-sha, I can rest and also meet morphs.”

“I’ll consider it.”

XxX​

She still couldn’t read. Literacy lessons weren’t to begin until she’d become fluent in spoken language. She did not know how long that might take.

Alisha told her to be patient. Taylor told her to relax. She did her best.

XxX​

Speaking, it turned out, was addictive.

“Salem, say, lemm, say-lemm, Salem Salemm Salemmm-” she hummed to herself as nurse Taylor brought her some supper.

“I see you’re having fun,” he said, with his soft voice she liked to imitate.

“Having fun,” she agreed.

Taylor laid down her plate and said “I have a surprise for you, Salem.”

“A surprise,” Salem murmured, eyes wide.

He revealed a cylinder of paper, unrolled it, and presented it to her outstretched. It was covered in large, brightly coloured letters, each accompanied by a pokémon. Below it was some text, at which she peered as if she would spontaneously understand it.

“It’s an alphabet. It’s for when you start learning to read.”

“Learning to read…”

Taylor explained it, how each pokémon’s common species name began with the letter beside it. ‘A’ for ‘abra.’ ‘B’ for ‘bewear.’ How the sentence at the bottom read “Cyndaquil's job with fake camps vexes Zygarde” and how that was a pangram. How he knew how excited she was for literacy classes and wanted to help.

“Do you like it?” he asked.

“Like it…” She reached out and touched it, to make it real. “Yes. I like it very much. Thank you.”

Taylor smiled, and leaned over her bed to press it against the wall, where it held in place.

“Will I learn to read very soon?” asked Salem. She felt out a longer word silently with her tongue before attempting it. “I want to learn to read immediately.”

“Yeah. Tomorrow, actually. You’re being moved up. Not just lessons in reading, but in all sorts of other things, too. All that fun you’ve been having is paying off.”

“Paying off,” she echoed.

“Plus you’re getting moved to the residential wing. You’ll get to meet other morphs.”

“Other morphs…”

Other morphs!

XxX​

“Hey Kitten.”

“Hey, Alish-ah.”

“You looking forward to getting moved up?”

“Yes! Looking forward to it especially.” [Been waiting!]

“Good. So, there’s just one especially important thing to decide before that happens. Every morph gets to choose their name. It’s important. I worked very hard to make sure that was one of the rules, so think about this seriously.”

“I choose my name?” [Really?]

“Yeah. Both your spoken name and your sign name. There’s nothing wrong with keeping ‘Salem’, of course. That’s fine if it’s what you want, a lot of morphs prefer the name they were already used to. Or they keep it to remember the human who named them. But it should be your choice.”

“My choice… I could keep it to remember Laura?”

“If you want, yeah. Or like Church, you could even name yourself after your human. Go by ‘Laura’ yourself. Bit weird if you ask me, but you do you. Pretty sure there’s even a couple morphs here who go by their species names. You need some time to think about it?”

“No, I’ve decided already. My name is Salem. I’m Salem.” [And my sign name is Pickpocket.]

“Sure thing, Salem.” [Good for you, Pickpocket.]

XxX​

Salem’s nights as a morph were often dreamless, but the night before she got ‘moved up’ she dreamed that her words spilled out of her mouth as brightly coloured clouds, which burst against her forepaws, staining them pink. When she woke, she looked at them with a start, and saw that they were still her normal paws.

‘Normal’. They weren’t even paws any more, but hands, right?

She couldn't decide. She flexed her fingers, interlocked them, fanned them, pressed them together, curled them into fists. It felt right. It felt wonderful. It felt powerful.

It did not yet feel ‘normal.’

She didn’t look up at the footsteps that signalled Taylor’s arrival, but her ears swivelled towards first that sound, then the sound of the door handle clicking as he entered the room and saw her still going at her dexterity exercises.

“They’re still the same hands as yesterday,” said Taylor, not unkindly.

Salem nodded, but kept her attention on her hands save for a brief smile in Taylor’s direction. She appreciated the gentle conversations he always offered, but right now they were a distraction from her dexterity exercises. She didn’t know how to explain this to him, but perhaps she’d be fluent enough someday soon. Humans had such powers of communication. Surely they didn’t have problems like hers.

“How are you feeling, Salem?” asked Taylor as he gave her some breakfast.

Salem received the plate with both hands. She rolled her tongue around in her mouth for a moment, getting her verbal bearings before her first sentence of the morning.

“I feel fine. Thank you, Taylor.” It was slow, stilted, but oh! So exhilarating!

Taylor, tale, lore, tayyy-lorrr,” she trilled, playing with the syllables and signing a needle and thread motion as she did.

“That’s my name, don’t wear it out,” recited Taylor, in the same patient tone as he’d used the last dozen times.

“Won’t wear it out,” she said, before muttering his name a few more times under her breath.

“Group speech class doesn’t start for a little while yet, but a lot of morphs like to turn up early to get some extra practice in, I guess. Most of them might already be there, so I bet you’ll want to set off now, huh?”

“Yeah!”

Taylor nodded and began unfolding her chair.

“I don’t need that,” she said, immediately.

“Are you sure? You aren’t resting much.”

“Yeah,” replied Salem. “Sure. Yes. I want to walk!”

Taylor didn’t seem convinced. She growled softly and switched to sign. [I know you’re supposed to ask me if I am sure, but I am always sure! Always!]

“Alright, alright! Let’s go, then,” replied Taylor, who could read her animated but truly fluent signing just fine by now. “But I’m bringing your chair along just in case.”

“Yeah!” she said again. It was such an easy word to say that she could say it without pausing to think. It was barely a step up from a miaow, really.

Taylor helped Salem to her feet and once she’d taken a toy from her bedside table, he walked her out.

Salem lifted herself off the bed with haste, before Taylor could walk around to assist her. She put out a hand to press against the wall, steadied herself, and approached the door.

Door handles. So much easier than doorknobs.

She pushed the door wide open to prevent it closing on her tail, and left her room to stand in the corridor outside, arms outstretched, triumphant.

“Did you saw me?” she said to Taylor, behind her. “You should be impressed!”

“Yes, Salem, I saw that,” he replied, laughing.

“Saw that,” she said, under her breath. She’d made an error. Salem had not yet learnt the word ‘embarrassed,’ but she knew what shame felt like.

“Watch me!” she said, resorting to a favourite stock sentence. She slowly performed a 360-degree turn, arms held out for balance.

“How was my thing?” she asked, eyes wide.

“Perfect, Salem!” Taylor laughed again, so perhaps she’d made another error, but his eyebrows said ‘worry’. He probably expected her to topple over, or something equally humiliating. Still, he followed her out. She waited for his cue, and trailed him along the corridor with her fingertips pressed against the wall to aid in balance.

She could walk. She could. Soon enough she’d be running.

Taylor led her further through the facility than she’d ever been. Since her morphing, she’d started to think about space and the relationship between places, and in an afternoon’s focused concentration she’d realised that the whole facility must be enormous. She’d seen only a small part while cooped up in the recovery wing.

They exited the wing into a large, round room, doors spaced along its walls. As they walked across the room, Salem glanced about for scraps of information. Free-standing computers, benches, humans talking, a water cooler, a few pokémon, even a scaled pokémorph passing by.

The residential wing. Where morphs lived after recovery. Where morphs interacted with one another.

She followed Taylor down a corridor smelling of that particular pokémon-human blend, so different after the sterile halls of the recovery wing. She detected a dozen distinct scents, and her body tensed. She was about to be surrounded by her own kind. Her ‘own kind,’ of which she knew almost nothing.

She’d grown fond of Alisha and Taylor and even some of her instructors, but… none were like Laura. Not even Alisha, with all her kindness. Maybe only Laura was like Laura, out of all humans. Morphs, though… Another morph could be like that to her. She felt such a tugging in her chest at the thought of finally meeting someone who could be her friend.

“We’re here,” said Taylor, brightly.

“We’re here?”

He pushed the doors ajar and let her look past them into a space filled with pokémorphs.

XxX​

Dusk

She was the first morph to look up at anyone entering the room, the first to analyse everything she could about arriving humans and morphs and what details she could glean from their appearance, body language, scent. That meant she was the first to see the new morph enter the lounge for the first time, freshly released from individual recovery and accompanied by her handler, that human boy with the soft voice. It had been longer than Dusk had hoped, but she hadn’t forgotten. This was the ‘purrloin’ from the tank bay.

She was a complete morph now, with fully-formed hands and an upright posture and regulation clothing. She’d opted for the basics: shorts and sleeveless shirt. Just like Dusk. The purrloin was broadcasting her anticipation in every possible way: her ears perked forward, her pupils dilated enormously, her tail held high. She was even doing that same head tilt she’d done in her sleep, going through the Shift. She was as expressive a creature as Dusk had ever seen, and her whole body was signing [Huh?].

Dusk tried to catch her eye, winked at her, and made a beckoning sign. [Come here.]

The other morph noticed, and exchanged a few quiet words with her handler. A nod. A couple small signs.

Dusk gestured again, and smiled warmly. [Come here!]

Then the purrloin smiled—a cat’s smile, with mouth and eyes closed—and walked over, a little unsteadily. Dusk kicked out a chair to make it easier for her to sit down, which she did, her body broadcasting ‘inoffensive sociability’ as hard as she could. She signed [thanks,] and waited for Dusk’s lead.

[Hello, welcome,] signed Dusk, grinning.

[Hello,] replied the cat. [Are you a friend?] Then, hesitantly, “Are you… a friend?”

Dusk’s grin got bigger.

“Yeah. I’d like to be, anyway. You got a name?”

The purrloin paused, and flattened her ears ever so slightly for a moment. Then:

“Salem.”

“Salem, huh? Nice to meet you, Salem. I’m Dusk.”
 
Last edited:

kyeugh

you gotta feel your lines
Staff
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. farfetchd-galar
  2. gfetchd-kyeugh
  3. onion-san
  4. farfetchd
  5. farfetchd
hey ua! finally dropping a review here; i was honestly kind of surprised to find that i hadn't yet, i suppose because i've looked at all the chapters in beta already, hah. skipping the prologue since i don't have anything in particular to say aside from that it's Very Good.

1. human dreams

dusk and salem! them!

i really like dusk's introduction. we learn a lot about dusk herself—her insecurities, her beliefs, a little bit about her culture, her desires—and a lot of these sections do double-work too, showing us how perilhelion functions, teaching us about the morphing process, etc. seems like she'll be a fun foil to salem. she's very high energy and curious and prodding, whereas salem seems a lot more tightly-wound. i imagine they'll bounce off each other in fun ways.

we spend a lot of time inside salem's head here too. you do an ace job at capturing the weird, disorienting experience she's going through, really making us feel it with every sense. i do think some of her perspective drags a little; it's a hard line to walk, depicting the repetitive/slow nature of her time in the tank without getting too repetitive or dragging on too long. mostly there's a bit of redundacny that can be snipped out i think—she discovers her hands a few times, notices her pain a few times, struggles with her breathing a few times. i think you could cut some of those repetitions and not much would be lost, narratively. that aside, you do a fantastic job capturing a very alien and disorienting experience, and i felt really pulled into her perspective. so much good sensory detail.

it occurred to me while reading this that what sets DE apart from my expectations of morph fics is that poké morphs aren't created in a test tube here; it's not how you're born, but rather a thing that happens to you. i think that's why i get themes of dysphoria here that i didn't get from e.g. morphic—there's an element of choice and self-identity that just doesn't quite hold in settings where you're simply born a morph. it's honestly really cool and i have faith you'll handle it in a way that's engaging and relatable.

A barrier of rubbery material clasped against her face
not sure about "clasped against." maybe cut "against" or replace "clasped" with "pressed" or something?

She just floated, as if through water.
i think "through" implies motion. maybe She just floated, as if suspended in water.

Inside its confines, she could breathe.
you can probably cut this, since it's been established a few times now that she can breathe.

It was quiet enough beneath the surface that she could only hear the thumping of her own heart and the rasp of her own breathing. No, she was not asleep.
love this. so much sensory information here, and for basically every sense, too. it's almost overwhelming, just as it is for salem.

What? No! She hadn’t reached her limit yet, she was sure of it. She kept running, willed her legs to work harder, closed her eyes, tried to force the energy, to use agility—!
don't need the last comma here, i don't think. it's interesting that morphs seem to still be able to use moves, i don't think i really thought through the implications of that before.

“You are not my speech there-app-ist.”
lmao, get owned.

Dusk dutifully stood before her own reflection, suppressing a wince as she did so.
mood.

“Didn’t choose to have the Shift to feel good about my-self,” snapped Dusk.
hmm, i wonder why then! i'm sure we'll see.

The internal lighting of many tanks cast a faint, green-tinted glow on the surrounding floor. She stepped forward, hardly breathing.
gotta be green for that bonus spooky science factor.

All wore some sort of mask around their mouths, she guessed to allow breathing.
she guessed? wouldn't she have been through this herself fairly recently?

She took a walk around the morphing ward while her guide was busy and, as she’d been told, most of the hybrids were only subtly altered.
the last part of this sentence wants a verb, i think. maybe She took a walk around the morphing ward while her guide was busy and noticed that most of the hybrids were only subtly altered, just as she'd been told.

She didn’t resemble a meowth at all—her fur was too short, not at all like bedraggled, steel-wool meowth fur.
hah, love that galarian meowth is her point of reference. i was like what the hell, too shor—oh yeah.

She hadn’t expected to wake at all while the humans remade her body. This wasn’t right. Something could be wrong with the tank, with the transformation, with Salem. Thinking about it only got harder, and soon she fell back into darkness.
oof, poor girl. her anxiety feels very real here. must be scary to feel that sense of wrongness and not be able to tell anyone.

‘can I still become a liepard,’
interesting question! i'm surprised she doesn't know the answer. makes me think of jean's evolution in morphic.

Her investigations continued, and for the first time it made sense why Laura had always made lists of things. With a human mind, you could feel satisfaction at so many things at once! Salem checked off items on an imaginary list as she tested each body part. She began to explore with her hands, starting with her face. Her fur remained, but the shape of her head was altered. Oh, she still had the same nose it seemed, and she discovered her ears where they’d always been, but the bones… the structure of her skull felt unfamiliar. New brain; new head to keep it in.

A new brain. She would think differently now. Be different. A different person. That could mean anything. Now her new brain screamed at her with thoughts and memories and sensory input and fear and pain and tiredness and everything, everything, everything at once without letting up. She tried to gasp, but it died in her chest. She couldn’t bear to think about her own thoughts, not yet. Not for now.
this is so odd but really interesting. i can't imagine waking up one day and having a new... brain... that would be so disorienting, but also really cool? you capture the wonder of that pretty well, i think you could actually dwell on it even more.



2. first words

no line comments for this one since i went over it in beta already. 😁

i really like the sense of time passing in this chapter. it has sort of a montage-y feeling—lots of scenes giving us a snapshot into a particular moment in time over a long period. seeing salem grow is a blast, and you capture the joy and horrors of living in a new body so well. i absolutely love little details like seeing new colors (something i often wonder about myself, lol). i've blessedly never had to recover from a major injury/surgery so i can't attest to the accuracy of salem's stay with any amount of authority but it at least felt very true to me.

we get lots of precious characterization for salem, too—it's clear by the way she's exerted control over the hospital staff that she's not a cat who likes being told no, and she knows how to get her way one way or the other. honestly i was surprised to see that given some of the stuff you've posted about her in chat, but it doesn't feel wrong, just unexpected. i wonder how that'll bounce off dusk, who seems rather intent on getting her way, too.

the paired despair/optimism in this chapter is really something. salem's emotional state is a total roller coaster, plummeting when she experiences setbacks and soaring when she makes any amount of progress. i wonder if it's the product of her circumstances—locked up with nothing to do but acclimatize, unable to compartmentalize or escape the discomfort of living in a new body—or if mood swings like this are characteristic of her. either way, your characters feel extremely different from one another even in the short time we've seen them; strong characterization seems to be a strong point of yours, even in situations where they don't really have other characters to highlight their personalities, it seems!

we spent the last few chapters sort of building up to salem's rebirth as a poké morph, so it was really satisfying to see her hard work pay off at the end of the chapter. i'm really excited to see how she manages with the other morphs! looking forward to the next chapter, keep up the good work.
 

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
  2. swampert
  3. ho-oh
  4. crobat
  5. orbeetle
  6. joltik
  7. salandit
  8. tyrantrum
  9. porygon
HHAHH I CAN DO THIS CHAPTER 2. This will be somewhat brief but I'll probably leave more thoughts another time.

First up, chapter 2 is great. I can see a lot of the pacing and structure improvements you made. I think they're excellent. This version of the story is much clearer and the revisions reflects that. The flow is clearer too.

I love the details of Salem's experiences being a new morph. I really got a feeling for her struggle. The transition seems like it would be exceptionally difficult, but I can also FEEL her desire. I can feel the strength of her determination. All the details you worked in built a clear picture.

Alisha, Jo and Taylor all seem very nice. I don't have as clear a picture of them, but the parts you work in are painting a good picture of them anyway.

I also have a strange feeling Perihelion is not all that it seems. There's several tiny details throughout that make me think they're not all nice.

I'm going to leave some line comments

She signed furiously at him, trying to explain that a morph should see someone like them when they wake up, that she could help, that she could better put the new morph at ease, but his face maintained blank incomprehension, and he put a hand to a pokéball at his waist. She made a sign with one finger that he’d definitely understand, and stormed away.
GOOD! I loved the inclusion of the man reaching for his pokeballs. It felt very specific. It communicates a little bit of this sinister, uncomfortable feel.

[I am frustrated. I cannot enter this place. I don’t know what to do.]
I really enjoyed the wording of these sentences.

Dusk was glad that other morphs didn’t know her given name, (only friends could know a sneasel's full name, besides close blood relatives)
Oooo I liked this too, explaining the culture of sneasels. Very interesting worldbuilding.

Behind the small crowd of humans were clean white walls, equipment she recognised from pokémon centre checkups, and several beds much like her own. They were clearly visible at a surprising distance, more in focus. The contrast between light and shadow sharper. The colours richer. She shrank back from it all. Her vision was drowning her.
I really liked how you highlighted the literal visual differences for Salem's 'new vision'

“Get some rest, Kitten. You’ve got a tough journey ahead of you.”
I can really feel it this time.

Though she would have preferred a room with other morphs, or any other people at all, the advantages of her own space were considerable. She could do as she liked, request everything from an illustrated encyclopedia to soft, warm blankets, and as warm as she pleased it to be.
This really helped to add a better sense of desire from Salem. She's lonely, she wants someone like her.

Lots of things were important, because of what humans wanted. And because humans wanted them, so did Salem.
Good line. I know what Salem wants. She wants to be like them. I wonder why tho... Can't wait to see how you expand here.

Saying ‘Salem’ properly for the first time made her so happy that her eyes prickled at the corners. Seeing Jo’s delighted smile lead to tears. Another lesson: tears could come from joy.
Awwww cute!

My name is Salem. And I am a pokémorph. Saying it in the human tongue made it real.
This is another nice line.

Program policy.
x for concern.

She played with them often. Almost constantly, in fact. Even when asked to stop.
Ahh classic. I actually have one of these exact cubes, so this is hilarious to me, Salem fiddling constantly, to everyone's disappointment.

Other morphs!
YEAH! Another sweet line that adds to Salem's desire and goals.

“Did you saw me?
This was funny, poor Salem. English is a hard language.

“Watch me!” she said, resorting to a favourite stock sentence. She slowly performed a 360-degree turn, arms held out for balance.
CUTE!

Another morph could be like that to her. She felt such a tugging in her chest at the thought of finally meeting someone who could be her friend.
Yes yes yes, LOVE all these inclusions. Good addition.

“Salem, huh? Nice to meet you, Salem. I’m Dusk.”
You know I love this ending. Glad to see it, good stuff.

EVerything said and done, I think the new chapter is really solid. I have more thoughts but I'll tell you later! GREAT JOB VERY GOOD LOVE!
 

canisaries

you should've known the price of evil
Location
Stovokor
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. inkay-shirlee
  2. houndoom-elliot
  3. yamask-joanna
  4. shuppet
  5. deerling-andre
Heyyyyyy I'm here for chapter 1 and it's not late at allll I swear.

That was it. She was in the tank.

She kept forgetting she was in the tank.

This entire scene is an oof and then finding out it's happened multiple times just elevates that into a mega oof.

“Alright! That’s enough.”

What? No! She hadn’t reached her limit yet, she was sure of it. She kept running, willed her legs to work harder, closed her eyes, tried to force the energy, to use agility—!

me when im in the zone drawing and my dad tells me its time for bed >:(

Blood-feathers at the ear and tail like sneasel,
and her blood-feathers could only do so much to keep her cool.

Establishing the feathers as bloodfeathers at the first time makes sense, but I don't think it's necessary to repeat it as we know they're bloodfeathers - they can simply be called feathers. And if someone gives you crap for "wtf how can feathers cool you down", you know they just didn't read carefully enough.

recruitment officer Alisha Renadier,

*points at the screen like a moron* HEY HER I KNOW THAT CHARACTER WHOA HEY

In another slept a noibat with their wings wrapped tightly around their body, their tiny clawed digits at the wrists and wingtips already shifting. Soon, they would resemble human fingers.

It really is kinda fucked how much mutation the mon need to go through simply for that human intelligence. Surely the sweet spot would be human brain in their regular bodies, possibly with some added dexterity for tool use and such depending on the species. Scronching bat/pretoractyl wings into human hands... good thing it's evolution magic at work so it can believably have non-terrifying results. Because otherwise that's a lot of lost nights of sleep for Perihelion staff.

hand motions around the face,

I can't read this line without thinking of this clip.

Dusk faced a nearly-complete pokémorph, almost as tall as a human, with well-defined hands and an entirely upright posture. Large, triangular ears and a flexible tail ending in a curved hook: not exactly what Dusk expected, but definitely the ‘purrloin.’
The pokémon in the tank was not much smaller than Dusk, a fully transformed morph. She didn’t resemble a meowth at all—her fur was too short, not at all like bedraggled, steel-wool meowth fur. It was prettier, too; her mottled black-and-orange coat was glossier and more colourful than a meowth’s. Dusk wondered if all purrloin had such an appearance, or just this one.

She took a step closer and examined the morph-to-be. There were obvious differences between the two of them. That long, thin tail for example, and their opposite hues. Still, the similarities seized her attention. Human-like arms. A body covered in fur. Fingers tipped by claws. Dusk wished this one would open her eyes so that she could see whether those, too, resembled her own.

Is this the "duplicate scene" thing that you mentioned in the Discord? Because if not, these quotes to contain largely the same information.

her fur was too short, not at all like bedraggled, steel-wool meowth fur.

Different Eyes drinking game: take a shot every time there's a detail that would not have been there before gen 8.

It was prettier, too;

de_ch1_simpsonsmeme.png

and their opposite hues.

There's two issues I have with this remark. One is that Dusk being white(-brown) and Salem being black-orange-white doesn't really have them be "opposite" colors outside the fact that Salem has some black while Dusk has none. The second is more subjective and due to my long history with visual art (you probably know this too now that you've gotten more into art yourself), where "hue" specifically refers to a position on the color wheel rather than lightness or grayness, and in this case, their hues would be either considered the same (both can have brown in their fur, and neither have blue or green) or undefined (as white and black can be thought of as any hue).

(if she was sleeping at all—her dreams felt like memories, and when she woke, it felt like a dream)

It took me a while to read this right as I initially read the "it" in "it felt like a dream" as referring to her memories or dreams, which was confusingly redundant, but now I see that it's a passive "it felt" (as in, it would be in passive in my language - unsure of the proper terminology in English for this) for the situation of waking up.

She’d known she would change, but she’d thought of what she’d seen of evolution in normal pokémon, of instant growth and light. This wasn’t pokémon evolution that she was going through. It was a slow and gradual change. Like ageing. Like the growth of trees.

If what I remember still applies, these transformations were done using pokémon evolution as a gateway to a humanlike form, right? It somewhat begs the question of why this takes so long of pokémon transformation is instantaneous, but I guess it can be up to the details of the implementation.

She couldn’t make sense of her words,

salem speaks simlish

One that could do everything a human hand could. A hand that could do anything at all.

Perhaps even create things. Yes, these truly were hands of creation. Ah shit wrong fic

Holding many memories in her head to compare thrilled her enough, even through the continual, subdued panic of her submersion. If she could breathe freely, it would have stolen her breath just to consider something she’d heard and at the same time consider its context.

I read this a couple of times and I really couldn't figure out what the "it" really referred to, so I ended up just not understanding the second sentence.

She couldn’t have accepted the loss of her tail. It seemed her limbs stayed her own.

Either this remark about limbs is completely unrelated to the paragraph, which is weird, or this implies that a tail is a limb. The definitions of "limb" I found, however, don't support this at all save for the case of a prehensile tail being used as a limb, but a cat tail I doubt counts for that. Either way, if a tail was counted as a limb somewhere, that's not what a majority of people will think of when they think "limb", and so they'll likely just be confused like me.

She began to explore with her hands, starting with her face. Her fur remained, but the shape of her head was altered. Oh, she still had the same nose it seemed,

This implies she felt her nose, but would the mask not cover that part and make it unable to be touched?

“I hear you.”

This is a dramatic line to end on, but is it meant to imply WHOA THREE COMMENTS WITH THE WORD IMPLY IN A ROW that Salem already knows how to speak Galarish? Because that seems to go against everything I've seen and heard so far, and I don't believe that a cat would retroactively remember and know how a human language works and be able to speak it right out of the gate. For a fic that puts so much effort and care into exploring the different aspects of transformation, this would be a big lapse for me.

Now if it was in italics, then all these problems would just vanish, as it'd be her either thinking about saying to them she hears them or her trying to but instead going like mroeawwgaahhh in reality since she doesn't know how to human words yet.


Then, of course, there is also the possibility that I got totally bamboozled and this was just another dream, in which case none of this matters. I just narratively expect this to be the real deal, and I don't see the merit in having a dream about something that's going to happen again pretty similarly in real life in just a short a while.

---

Alright, the first plunge into the world of Salem! For people reading this fic for the first time, anyway. I won't lie, I keep forgetting the chapters of the 2018 version aren't canon (yet) in this story, so I feel like I can't comment properly on the pacing or the reveal of things. I just keep seeing this as a direct sequel to what I read as it ended precisely at Salem going into the tank and this would just pick up from that perfectly.

Dusk, however, this is my first proper time meeting. While there's no grand character motivation revealed here yet and most of her time onscreen revolves around her feelings toward the morphing process and other morphs, I still found her to have personality and be easy to sympathise with.

As for the scifi elements, hat signature uA xenofiction is back and delicious as always. I have to say, though, that while the final scene of Salem was very interesting from a xeno angle, I felt that it was quuuuiite long and repeated the same elements a lot. Repetition itself is not inherently bad, of course, but hearing Salem think about her pain in so many ways so many times diluted its impact for me and slowed down the progress of the events themselves. It feels like the scene could have been more concise for better impact, perhaps a quarter or third less of what it is now.

That's it for my thoughts. I'll get to the second chapter eventually, no doubt, but it might take a while for the same reasons it took me a while to get to this.
 

WildBoots

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. moka-mark
  2. solrock
Hey, uA! Good timing on your update--I was literally about to say screw it and read it anyway right before you posted, lol.

I thought you did a nice job in a couple areas in particular: a) playing with sentence structure to match heightened emotions b) pulling in sensory detail and c) showing the difficulty of PT.

I did notice a couple places where you had extra commas, and I also stumbled on a couple world-building or continuity snags. I've pointed both kinds of things out below. Most are pretty minor.

I'm gonna jump right into line comments, since a lot of my thoughts came out there, and I'll come back with final reflections at the end.

The human shook his head and shooed Dusk away, with that insufferable facial expression
Extra comma.

but his face maintained blank incomprehension
I wondered if incomprehension was really the right word here. Isn't it more that he's disallowing her than that he's confused about what she wants?

She made a sign with one finger that he’d definitely understand, and stormed away.
Ha! (Extra comma here, though.)

They met halfway, with Dusk already calmer.
Here it's the word "with" that feels extra to me and makes it feel a little odd.

don’t you remember what I told you when you woke up? You should have the opportunity to choose a new name to go with your new identity. I'll give this one the same choice when she’s conscious. Once she chooses, then you'll get to know.”
There were a couple places where her words pinged me as ominous, but this is one genuine good idea they're putting into practice. (Also, hi, you're definitely not using this as a metaphor for anything at all, are you. IDK if you saw me post about this the other day, but you'd probably like this collection of short stories by and about trans femmes if you can get your hands on it. I did feel like the endings on a few of them fell flat, but lots of cool ideas and, more importantly for your purposes, lots of ways to unpack trans narratives through fantasy. Might be interesting.)

Sneasel typically gave gifts of choice meat cuts, carved tools, or beautiful stones, but none of those were available. What she did have was a lot of saved credit at the rec store.
I liked this little glimpse into sneasel culture. Checks out for social scavengers.

Her throat felt hot from shame, and dry from the air rushing into her aching lungs.
Lots of images crammed in here! It felt like a little bit much, mostly rhythmically.

She tried yanking out the tube and found she had neither the strength nor the pain tolerance.
"Nor the pain tolerance" is oddly distant and almost seems to skip a step. I have to imagine there ought to be a moment of surprise there. She yanks and, oh shit, nope, that hurts. Not that it hurts too much but that it hurts, period. Not sure, but I kept snagging on it as I was reading.

She tried to flip onto all fours, something she’d done countless times. Pain. Failure.
The fragments here were effective.

She gasped, fell back with an audible thump, flinched, cried out in a voice that wasn’t her own.
Here the rhythm didn't quite work for me. It might be that there's one element too many, or it could be the missing "and."

Around her, someone was talking,
If it's just Alisha, singular, "around" doesn't feel quite right. Near? Beside?

Things were okay, she would get to speak. Soon she would speak.
It felt a little odd to me that this would become her focus again so soon. It felt a little too rational and maybe a little too on-the-nose for the title. By this point in the scene, it felt to me like her anxiety is broader than just speaking/being unable to speak. Her entire everything is failing to cooperate.

Next to Alisha were the humans from her medical tests. How could she know that? Had she really recognised them by sight alone? She’d only seen their faces once before, and hadn’t even got their scent at the time. She didn’t understand.
I thought this could be a separate paragraph.

Too much; too much!
The semicolon felt odd here, in part because these are really two sentence fragments instead of full sentences. I'd let this one be a comma instead.

For the first time in her life, she breathed in, deep, held it.
I think regular quadrupedal cats can both hyperventilate and breathe deeply. Maybe "for the first time in her new life"? Or maybe she's breathing deeper than she ever could before, since her entire body (and presumably her lung capacity) is bigger now?

Once the tide started to subside, it became almost… fun. Now fingers. Now toes. Now ears, still able to pin back against her skull and turn towards Alisha’s snapping fingers. Now tongue, strange and unfamiliar in her mouth, but nevertheless under her control.
"The tide" felt incomplete. The tide of ... what? Anxiety?

Good sequence, though! Very nice rhythmically. Both tactile and alien.

Paw to her chest, then a clutching motion. [I want.] A motion from her mouth, moving forward. [To speak.] Hand-over-hand motions. [To walk.] More subtle motions now, ending in a raised paw, high as it could go. [I will try as hard as I can.]
I know I complained about the order/repetition of sign in the previous chapter, but I thought this passage was effective. It breaks up the dialogue nicely to give each beat a little weight. I do think you want to be careful about over-describing the signs. As the story gets meatier, you won't want to overburden your paragraphs with alllllll the nitty gritty. Also, the more you describe it, the more openings you leave yourself open for world-building holes. But! For now it's fine. Just food for thought.

she fell to the floor like the contents of a jellied meat packet,
Ewww wow what an image. (Also, very British, haha.)

in which Salem had taken to keeping loose items, when humans left them unattended
Extra comma there. I was also curious was these included! Her magazine clippings got a lot of attention, but this was oddly downplayed for someone using Pickpocket as their sign-name.

When she held things she generally either dropped them, or crumpled them. Her pencil wouldn’t go where she wanted it to go. Progress was so slow.
These are great details! Really sold the passage of time and the difficulty.
(Extra comma in that first sentence though.)

“Take it steady, Salem. You can stay calm, just keep still and you should start to get used to it.”

She gasped and panted, clutching at the bed as if she was about to float away from it. Should start to get used to it? Only should?
She spent hours watching television, trying to piece together fragments of spoken language she was unfamiliar with.
These two passages are odds with each other, IMHO. If she's still at the stage of listening to try to catch words she'd missed, getting hung up on "should" feels beyond her competency level.

Lots of things were important, because of what humans wanted. And because humans wanted them, so did Salem.
That cannot possibly set up unrealistic or unhealthy expectations for her. 🙃

Her delighted discovery that she could substitute a trilled purr for the ‘rr’ sound. Drinking from a cup without dropping it.
Aww cute detail. This brought her speaking style to life for me.

Understanding a full conversation between two members of staff, without missing a word.
Extra comma.

“You know many seekret?”

“So many secrets, Kitten,” said Alisha, winking.
Uh oh. That's not ominous at all.

One was a cube, each face bearing a different novelty—a switch that clicked when pressed, a disk that could be pushed around in circles, a set of wheels that turned with little noises.
Oh, I love those! I got my ex one.

Dreams continued to be her merciful escape from the sustained agonies of physical therapy.
You mention dreams ... and then proceed not to talk about dreams at all in the paragraph! Agony also felt pretty strong. She seems frustrated more than in pain. You might want to either dial down "agony" or play up her muscle pain in the previous sections.

Go by ‘Laura’ yourself. Bit weird if you ask me, but you do you.
Ooh, her judgmental nature rears its head. She's a snake.

Salem’s nights as a morph were often dreamless,
☝️ "Dreams continued to be her merciful escape..."

resorting to a favourite stock sentence.
This checks out.

perhaps she’d made another error,
"Error" felt oddly robotic. "Mistake" seems like a more natural word to pick up from her handlers.

She was about to be surrounded by her own kind. Her ‘own kind,’ of which she knew almost nothing.
Woah, willd that they're just throwing her right into it without somehow easing her in or maybe introducing her to the class.

Overall, I thought the PT sequences worked well, but I found myself missing some catlike behaviors (or details about her thievery, because she's that kind of cat). Like, as I write this, I'm watching my cat sleep on the other couch. (Sleeping AGAIN, I should say.) The mania made sense on a character level, but I feel like her human-in-training aspects swallowed her inhuman aspects here. Could've been an opportunity for her handlers to try to coach her out of cat behaviors and into more human ones? There is definitely already a lot going on in this chapter, so I'm not sure how that could be helped. And of course, you have the rest of your story to build out her catlike behavior. But I did feel its absence here.

I can already see how she's gonna crash and burn down the road: if I learn English, I'll never have communication trouble again, right? Right????

Cheers and I hope these thoughts were helpful!
 
Last edited:

Dragonfree

Moderator
Staff
Location
Iceland
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partners
  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
  6. slugma
  7. chinchou
The human shook his head and shooed Dusk away, with that insufferable facial expression the guards in the facility all seemed to wear. She signed furiously at him, trying to explain that a morph should see someone like them when they wake up, that she could help, that she could better put the new morph at ease, but his face maintained blank incomprehension, and he put a hand to a pokéball at his waist. She made a sign with one finger that he’d definitely understand, and stormed away.
Oof. I like how the guard sees her as a threat for trying to communicate in a language he doesn't understand, doesn't regard her as enough of a person to try to communicate back.

Presumably, the actual reason Dusk thinks a morph should see someone like them when they wake up is Dusk herself would have wanted to see someone like herself when she woke up - after all, we already learned in chapter one how eager she was to meet someone like herself then, so it seems reasonable to assume she'd been feeling isolated and different since she got out of the tank. She presents it here like this is something obvious and important that the humans are just neglecting, though, which is interesting - no mention of her own experience, just a morph should see someone like them when they wake up as a statement of fact.

Dusk offered her a sharp grin and shrugged. “Don’t care about that. Want-ed to give new morph some-one good to look at. Ha?”
It's also interesting that that was the reasoning she used when speaking Pokésign to the guard who didn't understand it anyway - but then when speaking to Alisha, someone who'll actually hear what she says, she says this instead - presenting it much less as concern and more as a cocky thing. Two whole layers of covering up the actual emotional basis underlying why this is so important to her.

“O-kay. What can I do?” Dusk frowned at the vagueness of her own words, and resorted to signing: [I am frustrated. I cannot enter this place. I don’t know what to do.]
I quite like this thing of how Dusk's spoken English (Galarish) is so terse and stilted while she's so much more eloquent in sign. Really writing the experience of a language barrier.

Alisha smiled gently and hefted her satchel bag. “I’d talk this out, but they’ve been waiting on me awhile now. Hey, how’s this: if you want me to pass anything along to this morph, you just let me know, okay?”

Dusk tilted her head. “Pass things. Give objects?”

“I was thinking messages, but yeah, gifts are fine. Just don’t take it the wrong way if she doesn’t like them.”
Also like this misunderstanding a lot - "pass anything along" sounds so naturally like passing on a message to us, but yeah, it'd be easy to understand it as things, and then Alisha just shrugs, like "Well, sure, why not." I had vaguely wondered about the notion of Dusk being allowed to give a gift to Salem - it seemed like kind of an oddly specific thing to suggest instead of meeting her - but this makes sense!

The depiction of overstimulation and weird unsettling sensory experiences in Salem's POV continues to be really good. Having to consciously try to parse human expressions is a good detail, and the horror of not being able to breathe properly and feeling like she never will in that moment feels very authentic.

She started to reach to sign, then stopped. She wanted to speak. She forced her mouth into the shapes that she thought were right. What was the thing Alisha had done when she said “feeling?” Teeth against her lower lip. Something with her tongue. She wasn’t sure.

“Fee— oh— I—”
I'm kind of surprised she's even this successful on her very first time attempting to speak! You can't really see very well what the tongue is doing when you just look at someone else speaking, and intuitively I don't feel like that's the way humans pick up on how to make new sounds as children at all? I remember that when I figured out how to pronounce an Icelandic R I was just messing around with my tongue and did it accidentally, not watching someone else do it.

Fear sunk its teeth into her.
Shouldn't the past tense of "sink" be "sank"?

Alisha talked to her, guiding her breaths and inviting her to control each part of her body in turn, to understand how it had changed, to take her time in experiencing the strangeness of it all. To welcome each thought and feeling one at a time.
Enjoy this body awareness meditation sort of exercise - it makes sense they'd go for something like that.

She did, however, have to make several adjustments to her tail’s resting position before it became tolerable.
This sentence feels a little clunky and clinical.

“Trust me,” Alisha told her, “it might be pretty overwhelming now, and you’ll need time before everything feels normal, but it’s worth it. It’s so worth it. You’re gonna be able to do almost anything at all. There aren’t many people like… many people like you, you know? With your potential. Mind and body both somewhere between human and pokémon… it’s exciting, right? You’re in good company, Kitten. You’ll be just fine.”
...is Alisha a Pokémorph? The whole deal with her being extra good at Pokésign, and now this with her saying "It's so worth it", something you wouldn't normally say about something you haven't done yourself, and hastily correcting "There aren't many people like..." into "many people like you", as if she meant to say something other than "you", such as "us"? Ditto/Mew morph, maybe? Transforms to look 100% human?

Salem had no energy left, but she wanted to do those things so badly she felt she could substitute the sheer intensity of her desire for actual bodily strength.
Had real trouble parsing this sentence; took a few tries for it to resolve as "substitute [the sheer intensity of her desire] for [actual bodily strength]" and not "substitute [the sheer intensity of [her desire for actual bodily strength]]". Maybe rephrase?

Alisha didn’t even wince as Salem’s claws dug for purchase.
Another hint that she's not quite human? 👀

She cajoled the nurse over to ask him what colours things were by pointing at them and making the sign for [question]. It took a little while, but eventually he found the right answer.
Huh, would she not know the sign for "color"? That kind of seems like it'd be a basic one, even if her color vision used to be limited.

We see a lot of Salem insisting on being independent, not needing help, learning to do things on her own; strong characterization. Perihelion seems eager to help while also respecting these wishes as far as reasonable. So while Dusk wasn't allowed to be there for Salem waking up, they're not wholly unreasonable authority figures - they're basically treated with kindness and respect, at least when it comes to building trust with a new morph.

In her dreams, Salem was running; running on two legs; running for miles and miles and miles; running, and never getting tired.
Love this image of freedom.

It's a little hard to tell the passage of time in these scenes - with each scene break it's not quite clear how long of a timeskip we're missing, whether it's been days or what, so it came as kind of a surprise to me when one started by clarifying it's her second day as a morph. Maybe some time indicators at the opening of those scenes would make it easier for the reader to place them temporally?

She found some satisfaction in forcing them to ask politely for each cooperative movement, rather than letting them handle her as they’d done when she’d been merely a purrloin.
Ah, so the respect very much only starts when they've been morphed.

They moved her to a room of her own on her third day, explaining that she needn’t stay in the ward with her health stabilised. She suspected it may also have had something to do with her shredding the mattress, as her new one was resistant to her claws.
Interesting detail that they don't tell her that. They really don't want to make her hostile towards them in any way, do they?

Salem wouldn’t have paid the thing any attention, but it made a pleasant ‘clink’ when tapped with a claw, and it reflected light as a tiny dancing spot on the walls. Making the little dot of light swim around the room provided considerable entertainment.
Ahaha, she is still a cat. ("provided considerable entertainment" feels like somewhat overly clinical phrasing, though.)

Lots of things were important, because of what humans wanted. And because humans wanted them, so did Salem.
My name is Salem. And I am a pokémorph. Saying it in the human tongue made it real.
You really make this point come through and it becomes so intriguing why she's so preoccupied with being human.

“I’ve got a gift for you. It’s not from me, it’s from another morph. A friend of mine. They know you’re having a rough time in physical therapy and wanted you to have this.”
Hmm. Dusk was told she could pick out a gift weeks ago now, though. Is she only bringing the gift now, and making it sound like it's happening because she's having a rough time with physical therapy, or did Dusk actually only end up giving the gift now? No real way to tell.

“So many secrets, Kitten,” said Alisha, winking.
Suspicious Absol emoji

One was a cube, each face bearing a different novelty—a switch that clicked when pressed, a disk that could be pushed around in circles, a set of wheels that turned with little noises.
Ha, I've heard of those.

Maybe she was talented. It didn’t feel like enough. She still cringed at her own slowness, her clumsiness.

More practice. She’d get it.

XxX

“You need to slow down. You’re pushing yourself faster than we have guidelines for. You’re catching up with morphs that completed the Shift weeks ago.”
Nice cut.

I notice in this scene Salem's speech is without defects, which means she seems to be farther along speech-wise than Dusk was in her first scene in chapter one - but in Dusk's first scene, she was running, while Salem's physical therapy seems to be going considerably slower! Assuming that's an intentional contrast?

“It will feel that way sometimes. Just keep up your exercises. Especially the breath work”
Missing a period at the end of this paragraph.

“When will I meet other morphs? When have I made enough progress?”

Alisha shrugged, but she smiled too.

“When I say so. Which I will when I think you’re ready. What do you think, are you ready?”

“Yes! I’m ready.”

“Well, what do your therapists think? What does Taylor think?”

“They… They keep telling me I’m do-ing well. Very well. Al-so, I need rest. But Al-ee-sha, I can rest and also meet morphs.”

“I’ll consider it.”
Yup, really want her to be fully dependent on them and to accept being subject to their whims for a while.

Taylor laid down her plate and said “I have a surprise for you, Salem.”
You want a comma before the quote.

How the sentence at the bottom read “Cyndaquil's job with fake camps vexes Zygarde” and how that was a pangram.
Love Pokémon pangram

“I feel fine. Thank you, Taylor.” It was slow, stilted, but oh! So exhilarating!

Taylor, tale, lore, tayyy-lorrr,” she trilled, playing with the syllables and signing a needle and thread motion as she did.

“That’s my name, don’t wear it out,” recited Taylor, in the same patient tone as he’d used the last dozen times.
This is cute.

“Yeah!” she said again. It was such an easy word to say that she could say it without pausing to think. It was barely a step up from a miaow, really.
So is this.

“Did you saw me?” she said to Taylor, behind her. “You should be impressed!”

“Yes, Salem, I saw that,” he replied, laughing.

“Saw that,” she said, under her breath. She’d made an error. Salem had not yet learnt the word ‘embarrassed,’ but she knew what shame felt like.
Aww, she did make a grammatical error but that's not why he's laughing! This is tragic.

I do think the Salem section feels a little long; some of the short scenes in the middle, where you're spending a while on her progress with physical/speech therapy, could be excised or combined, I think. It's a little tough because you do want to communicate a certain lonely restlessness and make the reader feel it, and I think you do so effectively, but my intuition is it could still be effective if it were a bit shorter? It's not boring, it doesn't seriously drag, but it does feel a little slow for a bit.

It feels almost a little anticlimactic after all that buildup that when we finally get to see Salem meet Dusk, the chapter ends before they actually get to properly interact for real! Dusk's descriptions of Salem's body language are adorable, though, and it's fun to see how she's all cockiness here, after all that yearning.

I was a little surprised to see no real followup on the gift thing - Salem got the bottle, weeks late, and then she never brings it up again, nor does she express any particular curiosity about the specific morph who gave it to her, nor does Dusk at all think of the fact she gave her that gift during her scene at the end. It makes that whole thread feel like it just kind of vanishes into the ether and didn't mean anything. Maybe I feel more so because you'd talked so much about the gift thing on Discord, and discussed ideas about Dusk sneaking in to give a gift in person, etc., which made me feel as if that'd be a more important component of the chapter than it actually was? I don't know, it felt kind of strange, after the chapter opened with that and all, that it ended up ultimately feeling like such a throwaway thing.

Overall, though, I thought you did a great job portraying a new Pokémorph painstakingly coming into her new form, blazingly fast but agonizingly slowly for her, and showing a lot of characterization and subtle little things in the process - you've got some really strong bits of writing about it in here, really selling the process and the difficulty of it and how impossibly eager Salem is to make it happen as quickly as possible.

Also I'm 100% calling Alisha being a Pokémorph right now. If she isn't I will feel misled.
 

Bluwiikoon

waow!
Location
Gensokyo, Past and Present ~ Flower Land
Pronouns
He/him
Partners
  1. nosepass-bluwiikoon
The human shook his head and shooed Dusk away, with that insufferable facial expression the guards in the facility all seemed to wear. She signed furiously at him, trying to explain that a morph should see someone like them when they wake up, that she could help, that she could better put the new morph at ease, but his face maintained blank incomprehension, and he put a hand to a pokéball at his waist. She made a sign with one finger that he’d definitely understand, and stormed away.
I too would be making that sign!!! It sure says a lot of uncomfortable things that A) there's apparently many guards and B) training in pokesign is not mandatory. He didn't even try to attempt to understand!

“O-kay. What can I do?” Dusk frowned at the vagueness of her own words, and resorted to signing: [I am frustrated. I cannot enter this place. I don’t know what to do.]
Dusk is so desperate for a friend and I cry :(

Gifts. Okay. She could do that. It wasn’t the same as making an impression in person, but it was a first step toward friendship, and she’d given gifts before. Sneasel typically gave gifts of choice meat cuts, carved tools, or beautiful stones, but none of those were available. What she did have was a lot of saved credit at the rec store.

Yes, she’d find something a morph going through recovery would enjoy.
No arts or crafts at Perihelion? D: Though, maybe they don't want to give pointy chiseling objects to the morphs. For reasonable reasons, of course.

"Making an impression in person" gives me the feeling that in sneasel culture, they opt for big acts of solidarity or very useful/nice gifts in order to initiate friendship. Acts of service!

I hear you.

That’s what she tried to say, as she emerged at last from the hazy half-consciousness of the tank. Instead, it came out as messy, useless noise. Was she not trying hard enough? She tried again and made a strangled yowl. Her throat felt hot from shame, and dry from the air rushing into her aching lungs.
Poor kitty, all those tube dreams of talking and walking brought back to the reality of not knowing how to human yet :(

The world was different now. New colours. Bright colours. Her eyes swivelled in her head, jolting from one alien hue to another. That shirt. That hair. Colours she’d never seen. Never could have imagined. To see so many of them, all at once—too much to take in. She didn’t even face towards them, her eyes just raced—she was dizzy. She felt sick. Too strange. Too new! Too much!

She screwed her eyes shut and wailed against the visual din.
D: Sensory overload!!! Very good description of too many things happening all at once. Her wailing makes me feel so sad - and it's very evocative of a newborn too! Narratively fitting things!

This was it—the whole point of being here. Her wish.
Phrasing ominous and foreboding given that I know how much you enjoy Madoka. She has kind of sacrificed her old life to get to where she is now, where she has to fight for that wish. Was it worth it, Salem?

I won't regret making this sinful wish of mine ♫♪

What if… Could she get up? What if she couldn’t move? She needed to be upright. Now.

She tried to flip onto all fours, something she’d done countless times. Pain. Failure. Her body lurched and spasmed; her muscles screamed at her. She gasped, fell back with an audible thump, flinched, cried out in a voice that wasn’t her own.
D: You haven't used any muscles in a long time, kitty! They've all deteriorated! The fear and panic of not being able to move and control your own body and the frustration is conveyed really well!

Next to Alisha were the humans from her medical tests. How could she know that? Had she really recognised them by sight alone? She’d only seen their faces once before, and hadn’t even got their scent at the time. She didn’t understand.
I love how you describe the way her brain has changed from Pokemon to more humanlike. There's so many little things!

They were clearly visible at a surprising distance, more in focus. The contrast between light and shadow sharper. The colours richer. She shrank back from it all. Her vision was drowning her.
God it must be so strange adjusting to new eyes. To... different eyes :D I guess everything in the tank was kind of green and blurry, huh?

She felt too much, too many things at once—a storm inside her head! Each sound and scent raised more thoughts and more memories than she could cope with, and emotions too, flowing and flooding and breaching every part of her brain with the weight of her feeling. Too much; too much!
I love this description!! So many feelings rushing around all at once...!

She tried. Breathe in, more, breathe out. Her breath rattled. Inhale, and somehow exhale. Again, again! Slower?—she only knew quick, sharp breaths. Her lungs were so much larger now. She gasped to fill them. Strained. Failed.
There's so many things you never think about but make perfect sense. Of course she'd struggle with much bigger lungs D:

She took the deepest breaths she could, as if it would brace her against the sensory tide
NICE

Alisha kept speaking to her, but Salem lost her grip on the words. She wanted to feel nothing. Be nothing. She turned to curl into a ball—but couldn’t. Not quite. Was there something wrong? Her back wouldn’t curve all the way. She couldn’t pull her legs all the way up. Why? Was she broken?
:( Kitty doesn't have a kitty spine no more! Poor baby

It was going to be alright. She was going to be okay. This was really happening. All she’d hoped for… within her reach.
BIG :BLEAM: EMOJI

She did, however, have to make several adjustments to her tail’s resting position before it became tolerable.
The unending struggle of sitting whilst anthro :D

“Feels like nothing else has in all your life, right?” said Alisha.

Salem blinked slowly and nodded. Alisha blinked slowly back.

“Trust me,” Alisha told her, “it might be pretty overwhelming now, and you’ll need time before everything feels normal, but it’s worth it. It’s so worth it. You’re gonna be able to do almost anything at all. There aren’t many people like… many people like you, you know? With your potential. Mind and body both somewhere between human and pokémon… it’s exciting, right? You’re in good company, Kitten. You’ll be just fine.”
Reading Dragonfree's review has made me very :O about this passage and about her theory. It does seem like Alisha is describing things from some kind of personal experience.

Also, I love the detail about Alisha blinking slowly!!! Kitty language :D Comfort the Salem!

Her tail repeatedly thumped the bed in quiet anger. [Walk. I want to walk. I can.
Love the tail detail. Angy!!!

Every doctor: Salem you need to rest
Salem: [Suddenly I can't understand Galarish :) ]
Every doctor: SALEM!!!!

With Salem’s arm over Alisha’s shoulders, the human took much of Salem’s weight as she took her first steps in her new body. They were shaky, difficult steps, but her swelling pride was worth it. Her chest heaved, and in a moment of surging confidence, she pushed off to take her own weight unsupported. Instead, she fell to the floor like the contents of a jellied meat packet, clutching at Alisha’s arm. Alisha didn’t even wince as Salem’s claws dug for purchase. Salem looked up at her, her throat burning again. As much as it stung, there was no denying that she wasn't ready.
She wants to do all the things and she wants to do them now!!! AAAAA
I wonder if her rash decisions are a thing that continues in future chapters? She seems very eager and excited to do all the things as soon as she can, with little thought!

She stared at the pages for an age. It was a joy to see fresh colours revealed to her, to soak them all up at once with her newly-altered vision. She cajoled the nurse over to ask him what colours things were by pointing at them and making the sign for [question]. It took a little while, but eventually he found the right answer.

She discovered ‘red’ from the magazine by pointing at a man’s clothes and being patiently answered by the nurse. Red. It had always been there, at least for humans. Now she could actually see it, really see it, instead of perceiving it as identical to orange, brown, even some purples. The change really was not in the world, but in herself.
:D Learning new colours! So wholesome and sweet! She's so happy just experiencing all of this omg

She decided she was okay with that. She chose this. She wouldn't regret it.
YOU STOP THAT RIGHT NOW JACKIE I SWEAR
I am going to Cry a lot aren't I

Although this moment had no precedent in Salem’s life, the nurse seemed to think that he had more important things to be doing. It was a struggle to correct him on this point. It didn’t matter, she was busy grappling with the dawn of a world in full colour. Brighter, richer, more whole. Brimming over with colours she’d never dreamed existed. Like red.
The small things we take for granted and she's just freakin overjoyed that red exists for her now :quag:

She held up a hand and licked the back of it to find that her tongue had lost some of its rasp, and her sense of taste had changed. Her fur was not exactly pleasant to wash, but if her more human-like tongue could afford her the power of speech, it would be more than worth it.
I bet they had fun introducing her to the concept of showers! :D It must be so hard breaking the habit of kitty washes, even when it's now sensorily displeasing.

She struggled to relax, but she was still a cat, and persistent at achieving comfort.
YES

With the lack of intensity came boredom, and with boredom came repeatedly scratching at the side of her mattress until the white-coated humans came to perform more of their tests.
I live for her doing cat things. Nobody's taught her how to human yet!

They moved her to a room of her own on her third day, explaining that she needn’t stay in the ward with her health stabilised. She suspected it may also have had something to do with her shredding the mattress, as her new one was resistant to her claws.
>:D YESSSSS

It almost made up for the solitude.
D: Kitty craves friends!!!

Her uniform consisted of dark grey shorts and sleeveless white shirts. They were elastic, fit comfortably, and often had pockets, in which Salem had taken to keeping loose items, when humans left them unattended.
Human has thing? It's cat's thing now :D Mweeheehee!

It also came with a hexagonal badge, black with gold trim (Perihelion put gold trim on everything) and a series of flowing white lines in the centre. It looked a little, but not entirely, like a ‘P’ shape. Salem wouldn’t have paid the thing any attention, but it made a pleasant ‘clink’ when tapped with a claw, and it reflected light as a tiny dancing spot on the walls. Making the little dot of light swim around the room provided considerable entertainment.
:D The stimming!!! The dot of light!! This is so delightful and I love it

Nurse Taylor brought her a plate of soft meat first, which she vanished immediately,
There was meat here, gone now!

It took many tries, but since he always answered the button, and she had more persistence than he had patience, he eventually agreed to schedule her first, solo, speech therapy session.
Lovely mental image of Salem spamming the button and Nurse Taylor just sighing and brewing another dark cup of coffee

It turned out that getting what you wanted from humans wasn’t so hard, once you got the knack of it. If you made enough fuss, and persevered, they’d figure out what you wanted and let you have it.
Cat strats!! :3

At first, she was moved around in a wheelchair. Once she stumbled out of it enough times and the nurse pushing her grew tired of lifting a wriggling cat-person off the floor, she was given her first physical therapy session in the hopes of getting her to walk.
Wriggling cat-person... oh my lord xD Salem you gotta slow down!

Lots of things were important, because of what humans wanted. And because humans wanted them, so did Salem.
Oh, honey... :(

Salem tried smiling back, and learnt quickly that smiling was desirable only if you did not bare your fangs excessively when you did so.
Growing up with a learning disability, this was also something I had to learn manually. Salem reads as very neurodivergent in this chapter, though since her brain started as a cat brain it would be different in a physical sense regardless. Either way her experiences resonate with me!

Saying ‘Salem’ properly for the first time (with an actual ‘mm’ sound!) made her so happy her eyes prickled at the corners. Seeing Jo’s delighted smile lead to tears. Another lesson: tears could come from joy.
SALEM UR SO PRECIOUS AND IM CRYING TOO ;O; UR DOING AMAZING SWEETIE!!!!!!

Smiles were a little harder. Humans had been giving her odd looks when she smiled at them, but lately they’d been smiling back.
:D
Funny how humans are only nice to other humans when they make their face do the right muscle thing, even though some humans can't do the face muscle thing through no fault of their own (but that's a tangent for another day!)

“Salem,” said Jo with a smile, “it’s only been two weeks. Take it steady, now.”

Two weeks.
Humans are typically awake for more hours in a day than a cat is... all this daytime must feel like forever!

Salem’s room was fast becoming covered in posters, providing sorely-needed staring spots. One of the magazines given to her contained a pullout of a map of Galar, which she’d obsessed over for hours. When Taylor noticed and decided to stick it up on her wall, she demanded more like it. The staff were happy to oblige.
:D ENRICHMENT FOR KITTY!!!! She must really want to travel right now...

Alisha took the object to the sink and brought it back swollen and warm. Salem took it carefully with both paws, rested it on her abdomen, and sighed contentedly with a little rumbling purr as its heat seeped into her.

“Who…?” she asked.

“Who sent it? Another morph. She said not to make a big deal out of it, though. Guess you have a secret admirer.”

Another morph had sent her something. To help her.

A restlessness built up in Salem’s limbs as she tried to figure out how to ask to see this morph, to thank her. To meet someone going through the same things as her.

“I want… to see the ad-my-ra.”
My interpretation of this (as compared to other folks!) is that they wanted to wait until Salem had more hand control before giving her a thing full of boiling water that could easily be punctured by eager kitty claws xD That, and they surely know already how restless she is to meet others right now. Mentioning other morphs will stir that up even more!

“You know many seekret?”

“So many secrets, Kitten,” said Alisha, winking.
I swish my tail in your direction >:o So secretive!

They gave her toys. She expected little squeaky things and dangling ribbons, like Laura used to play with, but these were not that. One was a cube, each face bearing a different novelty—a switch that clicked when pressed, a disk that could be pushed around in circles, a set of wheels that turned with little noises.

She played with them often. Almost constantly, in fact. Even when asked to stop. Her brain was so fast now, speeding from thought to thought, and clicking and pressing and fidgeting helped her focus. It gave her brain something to preen over while she focused on individual ideas.
:D Stim cube!!! Cats require so much stimulation as it is, but with a brain with more RAM? She must crave so much more entertainment than she's getting...! Pls supply kitty with more toys and good things thank you this is a threat

Any time her mind went unoccupied, it was like she was back there, with Laura gone, waiting.
(REALLY BIG YELLING CRYING CAT EMOJI)

She took every opportunity to complain and make demands, and the human staff patiently supplied her with diversion.
Salem you are such a cat

“I know. I know you feel that way. I’m asking you to be gentle with yourself. To take it steady.”

“I will try.”

XxX

Salem decided not to ‘take it steady.’
SALEM PLEASE

She started practising something, anything, every spare moment she had.

She did circuits of her room while talking or signing to herself. She counted out the steps, making the signs for each number. She made fuss at one of the staff until he gave her adhesive putty to stick pages from her books and magazines up on the wall, which she would stare at as if she could will them into comprehensibility. It was exhausting, but her teachers seemed impressed. So she kept it up.

She couldn’t bear to stop.
Kitty is restless and bored and understimulated!! You can feel her frustration so clearly and you didn't even mention the word "frustration"

“In Galarish, please, Purrloin? This isn’t a pokésign class.”
>:( Why aren't you using her name??? Seems like a sign of disrespect

She still couldn’t read. Literacy lessons weren’t to begin until she’d become fluent in spoken language. She did not know how long that might take.

Alisha told her to be patient. Taylor told her to relax. She did her best.
You are torturing this poor morph!!! I'm surprised every glass and tabled object isn't smashed on the floor by now

Taylor explained it, how each pokémon’s common species name began with the letter beside it. ‘A’ for ‘abra.’ ‘B’ for ‘bewear.’ How the sentence at the bottom read “Cyndaquil's job with fake camps vexes Zygarde” and how that was a pangram. How he knew how excited she was for literacy classes and wanted to help.

“Do you like it?” he asked.

“Like it…” She reached out and touched it, to make it real. “Yes. I like it very much. Thank you.”

Taylor smiled, and leaned over her bed to press it against the wall, where it held in place.
I know it's his job and they probably get those posters for every morph, but something about this feels very sincere and like he cares about her a lot :D Even if she's been harassing him nonstop for weeks!

“No, I’ve decided already. My name is Salem. I’m Salem.” [And my sign name is Pickpocket.]

“Sure thing, Salem.” [Good for you, Pickpocket.]
I love the simultaneous talking and signing, it's formatted so nicely and adds a lot of depth to these conversations imo :D I love it!

I also like that apparently the staff have given her the nickname Pickpocket due to her tendencies and now it's just a thing that's stuck. You really get the feeling of so much implied life happening inbetween the moments that are shown, that are all there if you look really closely

Taylor helped Salem to her feet and once she’d taken a toy from her bedside table, he walked her out.
:D Gotta have a fidget toy! I love all the ways in which Taylor is shown caring for Salem in this part of the chapter. Of course you can walk fine, no problem, let me bring the chair just in case though

“Did you saw me?” she said to Taylor, behind her. “You should be impressed!”

“Yes, Salem, I saw that,” he replied, laughing.

“Saw that,” she said, under her breath. She’d made an error. Salem had not yet learnt the word ‘embarrassed,’ but she knew what shame felt like.

“Watch me!” she said, resorting to a favourite stock sentence. She slowly performed a 360-degree turn, arms held out for balance.

“How was my thing?” she asked, eyes wide.

“Perfect, Salem!” Taylor laughed again, so perhaps she’d made another error, but his eyebrows said ‘worry’.
Oh, Salem ;o; Communicating with humans isn't just about words! And that's the hardest part!

She felt such a tugging in her chest at the thought of finally meeting someone who could be her friend.
PLS FRIENDS FOR KITTY... SHE IS SO LONELY ;;;;

Sidenote, I love the bold character name text for whenever the POV changes :D That's a great system! I think more things should use that

Then the purrloin smiled—a cat’s smile, with mouth and eyes closed—and walked over, a little unsteadily.
Cat smile!!!! PRECIOUS

It is so good seeing Salem from another person's perspective now omg. So many things we don't see when we're in Salem's eyes!

“Yeah. I’d like to be, anyway. You got a name?”

The purrloin paused, and flattened her ears ever so slightly for a moment.
D: Laura thoughts nooooo!!!

Summary: fic gud pls update :quag: I LOVED THIS CHAPTER!!!! I FEEL SO MANY EMOTIONS ABOUT SALEM AND SHE'S DOING SO WELL AND TRYING SO HARD AAAAAAAA

Since they let morphs choose a name, I wonder if they also let them choose a gender if they feel particularly strongly about it :O I guess most Pokemon wouldn't give that kind of thing much thought unless they're uhhhh human-socialised already?

Also!!! I almost forgot something very important!

2021-01-30 pet-salem.png
 

love

Memento mori
Pronouns
he/him/it
Partners
  1. leafeon
By mistake I read chapter 2 before chapter 1, so here is a review for chapter 2

I enjoyed this slow, subdued chapter quite a bit. The hurried sentences in the first scene got across Salem's overwhelmedness fairly well to me. I felt pretty invested in Salem's development, which I think is in part because of her likability. Her innocent excitement is kind of contagious. I have a sense that you put research and care into her development, which I think also helps. For a story about a superpowered cat person, it feels very grounded. I appreciate that Salem retains feline quirks, like being entertained by reflected light. Her personality is catlike, as well. Her pride, (desire for) independence, and like, sense of entitlement, I guess—at least, she's a little pushy about getting the things she wants.

Salem's motivation for becoming a morph is not quite stated explicitly, but she really seems to value being perceived as human/similar to humans.

She didn’t care for the constraining sensation of fitted clothes, but they also made her feel very human. On balance, that was a positive, so she consented to wear them.

Lots of things were important, because of what humans wanted. And because humans wanted them, so did Salem.

My name is Salem. And I am a pokémorph. Saying it in the human tongue made it real.

The last one is perhaps the most impactful. Articulating herself like a human is so important to her that she wouldn't feel real without being able to do it—at least, that's the implication. I felt like there was an undercurrent of darkness behind this superficially optimistic paragraph. Well, the same is true of the one above it, really.

When she learns that humans aren't really all that great, she will have to develop her identity more.

Personally, I'm also interested in Laura. From what I know about her, she is a shy and gentle sort who gets along with pokemon better than humans, which feels like a character I could relate to on some level. I do not know if she will feature heavily in the story or not, though. Who knows.

"Alright!" said Alisha, hauling Salem back over before she hurt herself.

This sentence stood out to me as a little odd, like it was coming from Alisha's perspective rather than Salem's

She became consumed with consuming every sensation

I don't know if the repetition was deliberate, but it read a little silly to me.

her exhaustion possible to bear.

"possible to bear" could be "bearable"

She could do as she liked, request everything from an illustrated encyclopedia to soft, warm blankets, and as warm as she pleased it to be.

This one needs a little massaging, I think (what's as warm as she pleases it to be?)

Making the little dot of light swim around the room provided considerable entertainment.

almost as fun as a laser pointer!

She spent hours learning to put one foot in front of the other, supporting herself by leaning heavily on support rails.

Double "support" sounded a little weird. I'd just write "She spent hours learning to put one foot in front of the other, leaning heavily on support rails." which is a bit simpler

He pushed the doors ajar and let her look past them into a space filled with pokémorphs.

Something about this closing just didn't feel so strong to me—maybe the lack of a clear mental image.

Okay, moving backwards on to chapter 1

I don't think I missed any important information by skipping this chapter initially. Mainly I just learned a little about Dusk. It is not clear what she wants out of her new form, but it's not the same as what Salem wants.

Anyway, this made me think about the human mind a bit. Salem sort of seems infatuated with her new mind, but she is also tasting the pathological qualities of "higher" intellect—in particular, its inclination toward fear and anxiety. It is nice to view the mind as a gift, but as time goes on I think one has to question that.

The lovecore version of this story would probably involve people rejecting humanity and returning to poke.

Anyway I thought the chapter was pretty neat, it's kinda cool to go through the morphing process with Salem. It makes one feel very close to the character, I think. And it's just fun to imagine new experiences.

Sentence time

Her muscles relaxed, her body seemed to weigh less—this could be it; the technique called ‘agility!’

The punctuation of this sentence seemed awkward to me. One option would be to simply replace the semicolon with a comma. Another option would be something like "Her muscles relaxed, her body seemed to weigh less. This could be it—the technique called 'agility!'"

With amber-brown skin and a charcoal-brown mane barely kept in a thick ponytail, her narrow face was easy to recognise among the paler complexions and shorter hairstyles of most Perihelion staff.

This sentence read kind of weirdly to me. "With amber-brown skin and a charcoal-brown mane"—her skin and hair are the subjects, so far so good; "her narrow face was easy to recognize"—now we're talking about her face, which seems like a bit of a jump; "among the paler complexions and shorter hairstyles of most Perihelion staff."—and now we're back to talking about complexion and hair. It just doesn't flow right to me. I hope that makes sense.

Well for one thing, this cat was the next morph due to fully change. A ‘feline’ morph, not so different from her. One to whom Dusk’s experience of being part-human would be similar.

As far as I can recall, this seems to be summarizing info we already know; I wonder if this paragraph could be abridged in some way?

At least, she hoped so.

I think this is supposed to mean "At least, she hoped that Salem would not be too distant to befriend". But because the previous sentence started with "She just wanted someone like her", it read to me like it was saying "At least, she hoped she wanted someone like her," which doesn't really make sense.

Where the wires touched her skin, it tingled with a bizarre sensation, a little like the way her pads had felt on icy pavement. More numb than truly cold.

I like this comparison, even though I do not have pawpads.

Anyway, have fun with the rest of the story. I think I will keep up with it, because I liked these two chapters.
 

TheGOAT

🗿
Location
Houston, Texas
Pronouns
Him/his
Partners
  1. serperior
  2. alolatales-goat
Hey Jackie! The only knowledge I have going into this fic is that you’ll be tractor beaming the main characters into Heartache, and that it involves pokemorphs and cats. If your on-the-fly writing in Blacklight is to show for anything, I figure this should be a worthwhile read.




It was bound for an island off the Japanese coast, too far out at sea for the mainland to be visible. This was Izu Ōshima, known as Cinnabar Island to tourists and to trainers on the League Circuit. The presence of human structures was visible in a white-grey mottling against the green of the island's forests. Merely a small town, clinging to the coast. The aircraft passed over it and cruised for a few miles inland, the forests soon giving way to the red-brown tones of the central volcanic mountain. At its foot huddled a building complex, squat and angular. A tower at its corner rose well above the tree-line to support a modest landing pad.
I’m a fan of and frequently encourage practicing slow-paced descriptive writing like this, even if it can drag on a liiiittle bit. I think it’s fine to prioritize things like worldbuilding and basic establishing details in openers—especially scenic ones that aren’t starting medias res—as well as those that establish significant worldbuilding details that the reader might need a moment to digest. In this case that might be the combination of irl geography with the geography of canon Pokemon, but reimagined in a sense to work consistently with one another as one planet. Pretty cool.


That was it. She was in the tank.

She kept forgetting she was in the tank.
Ahh I love inoffensive twists like this that grip your attention. Great for ADHD readers lol


“Didn’t choose to have the Shift to feel good about my-self,” snapped Dusk.
Hmmm. It was a choice?

It’s fascinating to imagine a Pokémon leaping at the opportunity to become a human.


“A lot of active tanks were only recently filled,” the woman was saying, “so the morphs in those are practically ordinary pokémon
It sounds like they’re upscaling their operation, not downscaling. Not at the moment, at least. This is quickly brewing into a pokehumanitarian crisis :’D


The world was different now. New colours. Bright colours. Her eyes swivelled in her head, jolting from one alien hue to another. That shirt. That hair. Colours she’d never seen. Never could have imagined. To see so many of them, all at once—too much to take in. She didn’t even face towards them, her eyes just raced—she was dizzy. She felt sick. Too strange. Too new! Too much!
I enjoyed this explosion of sensory language here. Short sentences, racing thoughts, probably what you’d expect from someone who just unlocked new colors.



The thought was strange, that her eyes were different now.
Roll credits! :quag:


How many moons were passing as she continually exhausted herself and slept each day?

“This is tay-king so long,” she complained to Jo during one session, hating her tongue for every mangled syllable. She lisped a little if she didn’t concentrate, she drawled half her vowels, and she still paused awkwardly on difficult syllables. It was a wonder Jo understood what she was saying without sign. “Wuh-enn will I speak fast-er?”

“Salem,” said Jo with a smile, “it’s only been two weeks. Take it steady, now.”

Two weeks.

Pokémorphs, it turned out, learnt very quickly.
This one had me wondering. Salem had expressed an understanding of numbers and bare-bones math here, so she must know how to count. I got the impression her sleep schedule was relatively stable (despite her exhaustion), so that would keep the days within a frame of reference relatively close to 14. My brain equated ‘moons’ with months; don’t know if that was the intention, but I figured I’d mention it.


‘Like crazy.’ Figurative language, another quirk of human speech.
Loving these little one-liner tidbits that clue into how Salem interprets everything. She’s so curious and hard to satisfy. Like a Purrloin, probably.


“You know many seekret?”

“So many secrets, Kitten,” said Alisha, winking.
Oh she’s eeeeeeevil.

I think, at least.

It’s hard to get a full read on how Team Rocket factors into this pokemorph process. But there’s a sinister vibe I’m getting from the whole operation. Blame the prologue—it’s gotta be Team Rocket after all, right?—but this is many years in the future and seems to have a whole new approach and everything. Very much the same thing but veiled by innocence and refined by technology.


She decided to make the best of it. She took every opportunity to complain and make demands, and the human staff patiently supplied her with diversion.
Re: Salem is still very much a Purrloin — this feels like something outrageous that a Purrloin would do. And it’s not outright stated at all, but still cleverly touches upon the broader concept of Salem’s clinging ties to her Pokemon-inherent nature. That’s what the morphs have that set them apart from other humans, which I have a feeling will become relevant fairly soon.


After I finished reading, I think the thing I was most impressed by was how you managed to take Salem’s gruesomely boring (in-universe) journey to becoming functional and turn it into a jolly and compelling read, step-by-step.

The pacing started slow and picked up and up until the ‘scenes’ were sometimes only a few lines of narration and some dialogue here and there. It picks up in speed proportional to the rate that Salem gains confidence in her body, which she expressed thoroughly as things really picked up. It really let me vibe with how she was feeling about her progress.

Pokemorphs aren’t really something I’ve been familiar with as a concept but given the amount of worldbuilding you’ve put into it I’m starting to get hooked. Glad I read this~
 

Negrek

Windswept Questant
Staff
Here for one overdue Blacklight prize review! I'll be looking at all the chapters posted so far--some general comments to start out, then individual chapter commentary under the spoilers!

Salem seems like she'll be a fun character to follow. I enjoyed the nods to her purrloin past in the form of casual thievery, as well as her general catty nature. She falls into the pattern of making a fuss until she gets what she wants mighty fast--I imagine she must have been a handful to have as a pet. On the flip side, it felt a little odd to me how much emphasis there was on how badly she wanted to progress, to be human, but no hint thus far as to why that's so important to her. It's to the extent that other characters comment on it (but don't ask why), even! I look forward to seeing what brought about this intense need to better herself, and specifically in a human way, no less.

The detail on the morphing process here is great, not only in terms of the attention paid to the details that a lot of stories gloss over, like learning to speak out of a transfigured mouth and throat, but also in terms of the feel of it, how Salem reacts to the changes her body's undergoing. The best part of the fic so far, to me, was the scene at the beginning of Chapter 1 where Salem's freaking out after waking up in the tank. Which I suppose isn't about the morphing itself, as such, but it's an intense opener and feels true to life, the terror of awakening in such a bizarre, unfamiliar environment, alone. I also like that we get some different perspectives on the morphing process in Dusk and Salem; Salem has her moments of doubt and worry, but for the most part she's extremely on board and wants to maximize the potential of her new body, where Dusk seems more ambivalent, or at least not so joyous. It's refreshing just to see someone so enthusiastic about the morph change, to be honest; a looooot of very angsty, "oh no, I have been cursed with awesome magic powers" fics out there.

At the end of this early run of chapters, I think as a reader I'd be a little unsure of the genre of this story. From everything you've said about it, my impression is this is going to be a fairly plotty story, with a lot of drama and intrigue and allies and enemies and so on. Going in blind, at this point I think I'd be expecting something more slice-of-life or character focused, as these early chapters have been very heavy on the worldbuilding and character study, without much hint at an overarching thread. The prologue does have some suggestion of the potential for something more ation/adventureish, but iirc although Mewtwo does appear later, his story doesn't directly interact with Salem's? If this is going to be a more plot-heavy story, then I by no means think it's going to be too late to dive into the plot after this point, but I do think it's going to want to kick in quite soon in order to not feel like a bit of a genre shift.

Your prose is pretty solid, although there are a couple comma-related constructions that trip you up. In the first place, if you have two complete sentences that are joined by a conjunction, like "and" or "but," you want to put a comma in front of that joining word. For example:

Perhaps he genuinely inspected each room they passed and judged what he saw against his private expectations but if so, he gave no indication of his approval.
Both "Perhaps he genuinely inspected..." and "If so, he gave no indication..." are independent sentences that could stand alone, so there wants to be a comma before "but."

Likewise, there should be a comma before "and" in both of these sentences:

She knew in her mind that the reflection was her own; it moved when she moved and it shared her features.

Dusk padded out and the human locked the doors behind them.

On the flip side, if the clauses joined by and, but, etc. aren't complete sentences, there should be no comma before the word. This is the more common error in what's been posted so far. For example:

Katsura put his glasses back on, and grinned ferociously.
"Grinned ferociously" isn't a sentence, so there should be no comma in this sentence. Same deal in the following two examples:

No, he stood alone with his creations, and the stone tablet bearing the image of mew.

Dusk shrugged, and kept her attention on the purrloin morph for a while.

But in general, you do a good job of the mechanics.

Overall, this fic shows a lot of polish, and it feels like an ambitious and carefully polished story that's just starting to unfold. With Dusk and Salem together at the end of the second chapter, it feels like things can properly begin. It's obvious that a lot of love and care's gone into this story already, and I'm sure there's more great stuff to come! I hope you've been having a good time working on it.

A man stood on the platform, his wild hair swept back and lab coat blown about by the airflow from the heliplane.
Don't think "airflow" is what you're going for here; it refers to

The geneticist bent at the waist and waited for the crime-lord to speak.
The epithets here struck me as kind of a lot.

"Of course," he said at last.
This reads a bit odd since the last "he" was Fuji.

Giovanni merely raised an eyebrow and walked past him, ignoring the implicit question.
...what implicit question? Or did you mean the question Fuji actually asked?

When he moved, he did so with unhurried confidence. This was surely a man accustomed to commanding the patience and attention of anyone in his line of sight.
This struck me as repetitive--Fuji's already commented on how Giovanni's lack of hurry is a power play.

The pokémon was a persian, judging by the gem set in its forehead — a pedigree, no doubt — and it followed at his heel without a sound or a sideways glance.
"The pokémon" comes out of nowhere here--the definite article is what makes it weird, like we're already supposed to know what pokémon's being referred to, even though this is the sentence that introduces it. Rearranging this to be something like "A persian followed at his heel..." would smooth things out. It's perhaps odd that Persian vanishes completely from the narrative after this point, though, if it's supposed to be following Giovanni the whole time.

So too did he pass his piercing gaze over the rest of the complex, in all its drab, metallic coldness.
"So too" means "same as," but you just indicated he treated the psy-lab differently and had little interest in the rest of the facility.

"I read your report on the South American expedition," he said, as they passed the cafeteria, cordially enough.
No comma before "as."

They moved slowly, somewhat like that of a mundane snail, or a slugma: they stretched out their amorphous bodies and then pulled their mass forwards using the extended part.
Should just be "like a mundane snail," no "that of."

Giovanni's face displayed the slightest flicker of empathy for a mere half-second.
I felt like this sentence was a little over the top with the modifiers for how short it is. I do get the picture that Giovanni's flash of empathy was extremely brief. :P

- The ditto part is cute, but feels a little unnecessary to me.

Healthy vitals, as far as they could tell.
They? Weird with no antecedent. Something like "as far as anyone could tell" would work better if you're referring to the general not-currently-present scientific team, I think.

Then, aware of himself, he checked over his shoulders for an errant colleague who may have heard.
Just "shoulder," I think.

Always a fan of a retelling of the Mewtwo story! And it's especially fun to see Giovanni terrifying the heck out of everyone with his calculated level of understatement. I'd love to see more of him, although my impression is we probably won't. I thought you did a good job of getting across character in a relatively short amount of time; Fuji, Blaine, and especially Giovanni feel vivid and distinct. I enjoyed Fuji's discussion with Blaine at the end in particular, though I did think it was odd that Blaine apparently didn't coordinate with Fuji at all before Giovanni's visit. Letting the whole "human DNA" thing be a surprise for Fuji once Giovanni's actually there strikes me as a real bad idea--surely Blaine knew Fuji'd be angry about it, and leaving him to have that reaction in front of Giovanni could have led to some Very Bad outcomes, like Fuji straight-up refusing the guy and possibly bringing consequences down on the whole lab. Not sure why Blaine did things the way he did... He's definitely a troll in canon, but seems quite serious here.

She just floated, as if through water.
I like "in water" better than "through water" here, since I think "through" implies movement.

Unfamiliar energy surged through her body, neither shadowy nor chill. Her muscles relaxed, her body seemed to weigh less—this could be it; the technique called ‘agility!’
You want a colon here rather than a semicolon, since "the technique called agility" isn't a complete sentence, and colons are typically used for this kind of "setup: payoff" construction.

Maybe, she didn’t even want to.
No comma after "maybe."

Alisha led Dusk without further interrogation to the bay, as if it were a routine destination and not somewhere sacred where living things were fundamentally altered, body and mind.
The word order in the beginning of this sentence struck me as odd; any reason not "Alisha led Dusk to the bay without further interrogation?"

She stepped forward, hardly breathing.
It seems odd to use a pronoun here when Dusk hasn't been referenced at all this paragraph.

Holding many memories in her head to compare thrilled her enough, even through the continual, subdued panic of her submersion.
Thrilled her enough to/that what?

I'm always here for a good transformation scene! And I think you did a good job with Salem's entanked moments here. Nice and visceral, and there's a great sense of tension throughout both of them. You also get across a lot about Salem's situation in a short amount of time and without giving too much away; there's enough information here that it doesn't feel witholding, but it's just enough to intrigue, not overwhelm. The pacing stood out to me in this chapter; everything feels very deliberate and necessary, the scenes are individually strong on their own, and the switch from Salem to Dusk provides a nice contrast while introducing us to both of the primary characters.

And yes, this is also our introduction to Dusk--it's kind of interesting that we get to "know" her before before we do Salem, who I'm assuming is the "main" protagonist (although we obviously have multiple POV's). She seems like she's going to be a good foil for Salem, a bit more cynical, a bit more closed off, but at the same time seemingly desperate for a connection, with another person or with a tribe of sorts. I know a lot less about her backstory than I do Salem's, but I can't imagine it's a terribly happy one...

It's a bit surprising to me that, with all the attention Perihelion pays to getting the morphs in good condition, they just leave Salem to freak tf out in her tank/hospital bed. Obviously I enjoy those parts, but it seems like they should prooobably have somebody on alert to go "hey, it's okay, you're not actually dying" when they wake up, or at least some automated system to up the anaesthesia when their heart rates hit a certain point or whatever. Never mind the psychological trauma/mental damage that might result from those experiences, they could actually physically injure themselves out of fright, which seems bad for Perihelion's bottom line even if they don't actually give a shit aboout the morph's wellbeing. These aren't subtle arousals that would be easy for them to miss, like, Salem's moving her hands and such.

- I was confused by the situation at the beginning of Salem's first POV in this chapter. At the end of the last chapter, we have Salem saying "I hear you" while she's in her tank, just after it's been drained. Her POV here begins with "I hear you. That’s what she tried to say, as she emerged at last from the hazy half-consciousness of the tank," which to me makes it sound like we're picking up immediately where the last chapter left off. But as time goes on, it becomes clear that Salem's actually in a bed, so this must be some time later, but it's not clear to me when that transition happened.

She opened her eyes.
Wait, when did she close them? She explicitly chose not to earlier.

She could do as she liked, request everything from an illustrated encyclopedia to soft, warm blankets, and as warm as she pleased it to be.
The last clause doesn't fit either the pattern of "things Salem can request," nor is it an extension of "she could do as she liked," since she's not doing anything there. "And make the room as warm as she pleased it to be," or similar? Needs either a verb in there or

It looked a little, but not entirely, like a ‘P’ shape.
She doesn't actually know what a "P" is at this point, does she?

Seeing Jo’s delighted smile lead to tears.
*led

It gave her brain something to preen over while she focused on individual ideas.
Not sure what you're going for with the use of "preen" here.

It's clear that you didn't want to gloss over the aftereffects of the transformation process here, the way many stories will have a character who gets turned into a pokémon (or vice versa) and, like, can't walk properly for a couple paragraphs, but after that has only minor if any issues adjusting to their new body. I like that you really tackle how difficult a transition that would be, even with the conceit that morphs are especially adaptable for a while after the procedure. The different exercises Salem goes through to get accustomed to her new mind and body add a realistic touch and emphasize what a radical change this has been for Salem. It's not clear yet what Perihelion's intent is for the morphs, whether it's mostly a benevolent organization or intends to use them somehow, but even in the latter case, it really makes sense for them to try and ensure that the morph transition goes well, rather than tossing the morphs into cells or whatever and generally treating them poorly. It was also nice to properly be introduced to Salem--I feel like this chapter is where we first get a sense of her as a character, once the immediate terror of the morphing process is over.

This is a long one, though! The attention to detail is nice, and I assume the somewhat claustrophobic, repetitious structure was intentional to reinforce Salem's own frustrations with the process. Nevertheless, I did feel the wordcount here. I wonder if threading Dusk through a little more strongly might help a bit--giving Salem some curiosity about her "secret admirer" and having her take steps to try and figure out who/what was going on with that might add some tension and provide forward motion. I was kind of surprised that Dusk almost felt incidental to this chapter as it was.

If you were looking for pieces to cut, I think the scene about picking the name could go, since Salem ends up being pretty matter-of-fact about it and it'll be obvious from context what name she picked. Potentially confusing since she has a different sign name (and since it actually showed up before the naming scene, I initially thought that was the name she was going to use for herself), but that could also be cleared up in, like, a sentence. Other than that, probably some of the microscenes that spend a few sentences here or there on Salem's progress could go.
 
Top Bottom