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Pokémon Drowning

WildBoots

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. moka-mark
  2. solrock
Here for Chapter 11!

He held out his hand and a smile split Maressa’s face when she saw her Pokeballs.
It’s been 300 years! 👵🏻🙌🏻

Maressa felt a slight twinge of guilt; she forgot to pay her superior respect, but she pushed the feeling aside and walked over to her commander.
The way these ideas are broken up is a little odd.

Suggestion: Maressa felt a slight twinge of guilt at forgetting to pay respect to her superior. But she pushed the feeling aside and stepped forward.

whom she had saved from people who saw him as only an object.
!
This deserves more attention, I’d say.

singing lullabies to him at night when he was too nervous to sleep,
Haha, just this morning my roommate and I were talking about people projecting onto their pets.

Tears came hot and fast. Maressa’s chest constricted. She knew people were staring at her, but it didn’t matter.

Shelly put a hand on her shoulder, gazing at her subordinate with more pity than Maressa had ever seen.
Both nice moments here.

if we send them too far out into the sea, it’s possible that even they could lose their way and not return.”
Seems to me like the bigger problem is that it would be a lot of resources for finding one seaking—and that’s not Aqua’s priority. Though maybe Shelly is trying to be nice?

Soon, she wore a full-length wetsuit emblazoned with the Team Aqua logo and sat atop Lanturn out in the ocean.
I wanted an indication of how much time had passed and how far away from the base they were.

Sharpedo’s eyes angled in anger,
Strange verb choice. Having trouble picturing this.

Seaking had been stuck alone in the ocean for the past week—he could be starving or hurt, and was surely lost and confused.
Starving feels like a stretch. I feel like there are lots of things for a seaking to eat in the ocean,

Though he still looked unhappy, he swam closer to Lanturn and Golduck, the latter of whom eyed him warily.
Suggestion: the latter eyeing him warily.

One that would most likely die if Team Aqua’s goals came to fruition?
This feels like thinking too far ahead. Like, it felt like a jump, especially considering that later in the conversation it sounds like they don’t fully know what Aqua is planning until M tells them.

the last member of our family…”
Aww, family.

And I’ll go to my parents and sister and explain what I’ve really been doing these past few months and make everything up to them.”
For the love of god, please do, Maressa.

she wondered if she should have asked more questions,
Protagonist syndrome.

It never occurred to her that Derek might have left her for dead.

“Do you really think he’ll care about knowing whether I’m okay or not?”
I don’t think “left her for dead” is what you want here. Maybe assumed her dead?

Moonlight shone on the tall pearlescent rock. People crowded around it, trying to touch the historic, mystical stone. They attached small tags to it on which were written the contents of their hearts, from their trivial desires to fervent prayers.
Ooh this is interesting! I like this glimpse into the local culture. Good details.

this rock had been nothing more than a shrine for people to come and put their wishes or respects to.
“Nothing more than” feels too trivializing for a an object of such importance.

It was completely unfamiliar to anything he had ever felt—nothing like the mind of a human, and much different from those of Pokemon such as Solrock or Xatu. And every time the consciousness contacted his own, he sensed a deep longing and loneliness emanating from it.
!!!
I do hope we’ll get some explanation for why he’s the chosen one though.

Mildred furrowed her brow as she toyed with the Skitty icon in her keychain.
I think “skitty charm on her keychain” would read more naturally.

Soon, people of Hoenn, she thought as she traced the jagged black ‘M’ on her coin, you’ll wish these were the only problems you had.
Hm interesting! Though I have to wonder what the significance of the coin is beyond signaling that she’s with Magma.

I really liked the interlude on Mossdeep! It had a lot of juicy, concrete detail.
 
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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 Chapters 1 - 7~

Hi, I’m here for Catnip! …And got way too ambitious with the amount of chapters I wanted to cover, so this is a bit late, sorry.

Drowning is something I probably never would have checked out on my own due to lack of interest – Team Aqua and Magma were always my least favorite of the Canon Evil Teams. They seemed so dumb in conception, without even a unifying ideology beyond common idiocy to hold them together. Here, though, you manage to make both sides of the Aqua/Magma conflict seem realistic and somewhat reasonable, even if both teams are still hellbent on a severely misguided attempt to “””save the world”””. I got sucked in almost immediately and had read seven chapters before I knew it.

True enough to its name, this fic does give me the impression of drowning. Maressa is a Team Aqua grunt who blindly believes obedience is the best virtue. There are tiny little hints of how deep she’s getting herself in, like when she’s made to use brass knuckles to knock a civilian out, but she doesn’t really realize what she’s gotten herself into until she becomes a prisoner of Team Magma. By the time the reality of her situation finally hits her, she realizes she’s caught in a trap with no easy way out – and there’s no walking away from a conflict that could easily end with the world in flames, underwater, or possibly both.

One thing I enjoyed about this fic is the pokemon battles. Maressa is a master battler, and it shows here – she easily outbattles a team aqua commander (even if she loses that one in the end), and conducts the battle between the two submarines almost flawlessly. However, it’s also clear that the people she works with do not have the same regard for pokemon that she does – every battle Maressa has fought onscreen ends badly for either her or her pokemon, and it seems utterly clear that she and the pokemon she battles with are seen as completely disposable in the eyes of Maressa’s superiors. It almost makes the reader want Maressa to betray them and switch over to Team Magma instead… until you realize that Team Magma is just as bad as Team Aqua, if not worse.

It surprises me how grey the situation is after Tabitha’s interrogation. It’s clear that both teams are indisputably evil, but the different priorities they value make them evil in different ways. Team Aqua is more secretive and prefers to dupe their members into thinking they’re working for a great cause while they do their dirty business in secret, while Team Magma openly spreads information around its members, and is more openly ruthless as a result. I don’t think either team is good, though, and it seems that they have gotten many of their members from people who are in debt or too young to think twice about what they’re doing.

Either way, I guess this is just a roundabout way of saying I think both teams are despicable. It’s too bad they’re the only choices around…

All of this makes me wonder about Maxie and Archie’s ideologies, though. They’ve both been namedropped a few times, but it’s clear that they’re pulling the strings, and whatever their cause is must be believable/strong enough for them to have won at least a few high-ranking team officials to their side. IF we finally reach them and it’s something like they were researchers who disagreed, then broke up their friendship, then started a rivalry that blew up into this, you will have my everlasting rage.

I will admit that even though you said this fic uses the original Aqua/Magma designs, it’s hard for me to imagine Tabitha as anything outside of his ORAS design lol

I think one thing that broke my suspension of disbelief a bit is when people in this fic seem to understand their pokemon even without a proper way to talk to them. Good examples of this are Maressa and Seaking right before and during the submarine battle, and Derek with both Breloom and Golbat when discussing how best to free Maressa. While it’s not preposterous to think that people living with pokemon develop ways to know what their pokemon are saying after living with them for a bit, being able to make out details like ‘red submarine’ or breloom’s many over-the-top escape plans implies a more sophisticated form of communication that I don’t think was ever hinted at past ‘we have a bond’.

Overall, I think what I’ve read so far of Drowning is a very rich, in-depth, and realistic depiction of what are (in my opinion) the least realistic groups of villains in the pokemon franchise. It doesn’t hold back when depicting brutal, difficult or immoral situations, but also doesn’t stoop to using blood and gore alone as a horror factor. And above all, it’s gotten me invested in a conflict that by all rights is too ridiculous to exist, and worried for both Maressa and Derek, who, in acting by their moral compass, are about to get themselves in so deep that they may as well be drowning.

~SparklingEspeon

Listening to: Trucks in Place – Ludwig Goransson
 

WildBoots

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. moka-mark
  2. solrock
Chapter 12!
Slowly catching up on my backlog!

he gave them instructions for getting ready tomorrow;
This feels redundant. If they’re getting directions for tomorrow, I think that = getting ready for tomorrow.

Have you forgotten about my leg?!” She pointed to her left leg, and though the cut was hidden beneath the fabric of her pants, it throbbed horribly. “Walking is a pain, not to mention trying to run.
I don’t have a good sense how bad her injury is. It does seem like she’s doing a lot on an injured leg, which is probably preventing it from healing. That feels to me like it should be serious, but the tone here is kinda light.

Even if we did manage to take any hostages, I doubt it would really matter.
This is a weird statement coming from someone who was kidnapped by Magma and knows how unpleasant that can be!

His vermillion eyes glanced curiously at her.
This makes his eyes feel weirdly disembodied. If anything I’d do a “he glanced at her, curiosity in his vermillion eyes.”

I just want to say goodbye before I leave them for good.”

That was the point! If she was going to make some tearful farewell, then they would know something was up and their plan for escape would be ruined.
Ironic that a golduck seems to understand human behavior here better than she does.

she was duty-bound to her Pokemon—her family—first.
But not her literal flesh-and-blood family. What on earth happened between them?

She could have sworn that he hadn’t smelled this bad before. Maybe the stench he gave off had something to do with his mood? But he seemed just the same as before. Perhaps it was due to a difference in stress levels? She had no idea, though it at least seemed possible that a constantly-changing environment was making him stressed out.
I liked this. Makes sense.

Yep. The boss honestly doesn’t care that much which grunt goes where—you’re all pretty much the same to him.
Yay. Comforting.

By the way,” he mentioned as he leaned on the door frame and surveyed Maressa with his pale eyes, “do you want to hang out this evening? A couple of the grunts and I are having drinks. You’re more than welcome to come!”
Um, excuse me, sir. This feels unprofessional and I need an adult.

pockets were empty—she knew Golduck didn’t like Matt, so she decided to leave him behind.
I expected this to end so badly.

surrounded by grunts playing a variety of games: poker, crazy eights, bridge, and several others.
This really makes me miss playing card games! :c And this makes a lot of sense to me, the grunts hanging out in a bar playing card games.

Maressa glared at him when she felt a nudge from Matt.

“Do you wanna step outside?”
Flirt alert.

Maressa smiled at him. “Thanks—and I’ll see you soon!” As she strode down the hallway, her heart was light and fluttery—part of her wanted to gush to her Pokemon about how much fun she had. But she knew how Golduck felt about Matt. Maybe it was best to wait until he warmed up to him a bit more.
Homegirl is not good at abandoning ship.

“I like Shelly,” Mark admitted.
Omg Aqua Mark is back. And wow, what a strange sentence to read out of context lololol. Something tells me it will not be appearing in my fic.

Yeah, well,” Maressa muttered, “that seems to be the kind of people teams like this one want the most.”

“Maressa,” Mark said sharply, and she glanced up at him, slightly worried. His dark eyes were narrowed as he asked, “where is your Peanuts pile?”

Maressa looked down at the table and suddenly realized that her deck was completely depleted. “I win! PEANUTS!”
LOL

“Why do you look this upset?” Cloe asked.
This felt a tad too suspicious without reason from her perspective—look implies deceit to me.

Suggestion: Cloe laughed. “What’s got you so down? Lighten up!”

But what’s going on in Mossdeep???
 

Adamhuarts

Mew specialist
Partners
  1. mew-adam
  2. celebi-shiny
  3. roserade-adam
Chapter 5 was quite uncomfortable to read, and also a bit scary to be honest. I was pretty surprised when it was revealed that she'd ended up being caught by Team Magma. Here I thought she'd wake up washed up on an island somehow lol.

You did well in selling how scary and manipulative Tabitha actually is in this chapter, and I'm glad you didn't make him feel too much like a creep when he was tormenting Maressa towards the end of their conversation.

I do wonder how she's going to feel working for Team Aqua beyond this point as even though she knows what they're all about now, will she change her mind if they come back to rescue her? Or will she have mixed feelings up until she decides to abandon the group? It does make me wonder if they'll really just keep her as a grunt forever for being caught by the enemy team. Time will tell.
 
Chapter 15

Starlight Aurate

Ad Jesum per Mariam | pfp by kintsugi
Location
Route 123
Partners
  1. mightyena
  2. psyduck
Wow thanks for all the replies everyone! :D
It’s been 300 years! 👵🏻🙌🏻
Gotta throw my characters a bone at some point!


!
This deserves more attention, I’d say.
Backstory will come in time :P

Haha, just this morning my roommate and I were talking about people projecting onto their pets.
lol she definitely projects on to her Pokemon.

Seems to me like the bigger problem is that it would be a lot of resources for finding one seaking—and that’s not Aqua’s priority. Though maybe Shelly is trying to be nice?
Totally fair--but yes, Shelly was trying to be nice. Succeeding? Who knows!

I wanted an indication of how much time had passed and how far away from the base they were.
Ah. I was thinking of only an hour or so and easily within sight, but I guess those would've been good things to put in, heh.


This feels like thinking too far ahead. Like, it felt like a jump, especially considering that later in the conversation it sounds like they don’t fully know what Aqua is planning until M tells them.
Ooooh good point. I have a hard time remembering which character knows how much information at different times 😅

Protagonist syndrome.
What is that? I haven't head of it before.

I don’t think “left her for dead” is what you want here. Maybe assumed her dead?
Much better word choice! Thank ye.

Ooh this is interesting! I like this glimpse into the local culture. Good details.
Showing local cultures is one of my favorite things to do with writing!

“Nothing more than” feels too trivializing for a an object of such importance.
Hmmm on reading back on it, I agree with you here.

Hm interesting! Though I have to wonder what the significance of the coin is beyond signaling that she’s with Magma.
Oh lol I just got it frrom the "Magma Emblem" item in Pokemon Emerald that allows the player access to Team Magma's base. It isn't really anything more than that ^_^;

I really liked the interlude on Mossdeep! It had a lot of juicy, concrete detail.
[/QUOTE]
Thanks! Writing about things like that are some of my favs ^_^
Chapter 12!
Slowly catching up on my backlog!
Woo! You can do et!

I don’t have a good sense how bad her injury is. It does seem like she’s doing a lot on an injured leg, which is probably preventing it from healing. That feels to me like it should be serious, but the tone here is kinda light.
Ah, this is criticism I got from the last time I posted this--that her leg injury kept reappearing and disappearing. I'm... not doing too well at remembering and handling it, admittedly.

This is a weird statement coming from someone who was kidnapped by Magma and knows how unpleasant that can be!
Yeeeaaaah I probably shouldn't have had her say that.

Ironic that a golduck seems to understand human behavior here better than she does.
Lol Golduck totally turns into the voice of reason for the next few chapters. He is not interested in doing what's heroic or right; he just wants Maressa and the rest of the team to be safe.

But not her literal flesh-and-blood family. What on earth happened between them?
I didn't have them in mind when I wrote this fic, so I didn't include much about them--I didn't intend to include them at all when I first wrote this.

Yay. Comforting.

Um, excuse me, sir. This feels unprofessional and I need an adult.

I expected this to end so badly.
As you can see, Team Aqua leadership is full of great professionalism and leadership. Sign up today!

This really makes me miss playing card games! :c And this makes a lot of sense to me, the grunts hanging out in a bar playing card games.
Hah, it kinda gave the traditional image of thugs/bad guys hanging out in a bar with drinks and card games, though here they're meant to be neither bad guys nor thugs.

Flirt alert.
Good thing you've got more of a flirt radar than she does.

Homegirl is not good at abandoning ship.
She gets very attached to people.

Omg Aqua Mark is back. And wow, what a strange sentence to read out of context lololol. Something tells me it will not be appearing in my fic.
Hahaha I forget that we both have Marks XD And on opposite teams! I would be very, very surprised if your Mark said this, lol

Also about the Peanuts scene--that happened to me and friends in real life. I had won a round and didn't even realize it for a few minutes XD

But what’s going on in Mossdeep???
SOON
Thanks so much for stopping by! I love reading reviews and comments from you ^_^
~Review of Chapters 1 - 7~

Hi, I’m here for Catnip! …And got way too ambitious with the amount of chapters I wanted to cover, so this is a bit late, sorry.
No worries at all! You certainly went way above and beyond what I was expecting and read more of my fic than I read of yours, so don't worry :)

is something I probably never would have checked out on my own due to lack of interest – Team Aqua and Magma were always my least favorite of the Canon Evil Teams. They seemed so dumb in conception, without even a unifying ideology beyond common idiocy to hold them together. Here, though, you manage to make both sides of the Aqua/Magma conflict seem realistic and somewhat reasonable, even if both teams are still hellbent on a severely misguided attempt to “””save the world”””. I got sucked in almost immediately and had read seven chapters before I knew it.

True enough to its name, this fic does give me the impression of drowning. Maressa is a Team Aqua grunt who blindly believes obedience is the best virtue. There are tiny little hints of how deep she’s getting herself in, like when she’s made to use brass knuckles to knock a civilian out, but she doesn’t really realize what she’s gotten herself into until she becomes a prisoner of Team Magma. By the time the reality of her situation finally hits her, she realizes she’s caught in a trap with no easy way out – and there’s no walking away from a conflict that could easily end with the world in flames, underwater, or possibly both.
Ha, yeah, the Hoenn teams definitely are considered the most idiotic for a good reason, and I understand why you have a natural lack of interest in them! I'm glad I was able to make their goals into a story that's worthwhile. And thanks for expanding on the title! I feel like it's pretty obvious to most people, but I feel really affirmed when people point out what it means and how it plays in ^_^

One thing I enjoyed about this fic is the pokemon battles. Maressa is a master battler, and it shows here – she easily outbattles a team aqua commander (even if she loses that one in the end), and conducts the battle between the two submarines almost flawlessly. However, it’s also clear that the people she works with do not have the same regard for pokemon that she does – every battle Maressa has fought onscreen ends badly for either her or her pokemon, and it seems utterly clear that she and the pokemon she battles with are seen as completely disposable in the eyes of Maressa’s superiors. It almost makes the reader want Maressa to betray them and switch over to Team Magma instead… until you realize that Team Magma is just as bad as Team Aqua, if not worse.
This is helpful for me to know; I was told in the first version of this fic that writing battles was something I struggled with a lot, and it's never come naturally for me. But given that you enjoy them and can see that Maressa is considered a good battler makes me feel like I've come a long way in writing action scenes, so thank you so much!

It surprises me how grey the situation is after Tabitha’s interrogation. It’s clear that both teams are indisputably evil, but the different priorities they value make them evil in different ways. Team Aqua is more secretive and prefers to dupe their members into thinking they’re working for a great cause while they do their dirty business in secret, while Team Magma openly spreads information around its members, and is more openly ruthless as a result. I don’t think either team is good, though, and it seems that they have gotten many of their members from people who are in debt or too young to think twice about what they’re doing.

Yep, for my fic, Team Aqua is the one that values obedience and deceives their members while Team Magma is one that seeks open communication and encourages relationships between each other--which is the opposite of what a couple other fics have, and something I hadn't even intentionally written in at first! Everyone except the leaders are fairly young, and it's easier for them to get people who are desperate/looking for purpose to join them.

All of this makes me wonder about Maxie and Archie’s ideologies, though. They’ve both been namedropped a few times, but it’s clear that they’re pulling the strings, and whatever their cause is must be believable/strong enough for them to have won at least a few high-ranking team officials to their side. IF we finally reach them and it’s something like they were researchers who disagreed, then broke up their friendship, then started a rivalry that blew up into this, you will have my everlasting rage.
Oh they appear, all right :P And what is the reason for the everlasting rage, I wonder? That the whole "we used to be friends" is a bit cliched, perhaps? :P

I will admit that even though you said this fic uses the original Aqua/Magma designs, it’s hard for me to imagine Tabitha as anything outside of his ORAS design lol
HAHAHAHAHAHA. I get that from quite a couple people, that they keep thinking of the ORAS designs, but I can assure you that Tabitha does not look like that XD

I think one thing that broke my suspension of disbelief a bit is when people in this fic seem to understand their pokemon even without a proper way to talk to them. Good examples of this are Maressa and Seaking right before and during the submarine battle, and Derek with both Breloom and Golbat when discussing how best to free Maressa. While it’s not preposterous to think that people living with pokemon develop ways to know what their pokemon are saying after living with them for a bit, being able to make out details like ‘red submarine’ or breloom’s many over-the-top escape plans implies a more sophisticated form of communication that I don’t think was ever hinted at past ‘we have a bond’.
I kinda took this idea from the Pokemon anime; Ash was able to understand Pikachu and in one of the Indigo League episodes a researcher asked how he can talk to Pokemon and Ash said something along the lines of, "Well, it's my Pokemon, of course I can understand him!" I just took that logic and ran with it. Pokemon-human dialogue has been something I've gotten mixed reviews on; a number of people say it's clunky and awkwardr and could be rethought, whereas other people think it's an elegant solution. So idk :V

Overall, I think what I’ve read so far of Drowning is a very rich, in-depth, and realistic depiction of what are (in my opinion) the least realistic groups of villains in the pokemon franchise. It doesn’t hold back when depicting brutal, difficult or immoral situations, but also doesn’t stoop to using blood and gore alone as a horror factor. And above all, it’s gotten me invested in a conflict that by all rights is too ridiculous to exist, and worried for both Maressa and Derek, who, in acting by their moral compass, are about to get themselves in so deep that they may as well be drowning.
Aww, thanks so much for this and for leaving such a kind review! I thought your review was very well-written and nicely structured, and I really appreciate the feedback on Pokemon-human dialogue! :)
Chapter 5 was quite uncomfortable to read, and also a bit scary to be honest. I was pretty surprised when it was revealed that she'd ended up being caught by Team Magma. Here I thought she'd wake up washed up on an island somehow lol.

You did well in selling how scary and manipulative Tabitha actually is in this chapter, and I'm glad you didn't make him feel too much like a creep when he was tormenting Maressa towards the end of their conversation.
Thanks! Chapter 5 was one of my favorites to write, so I'm glad to hear that I did a good job in selling Tabitha this time around. He was much more melodramatic laughable in the previous version ^_^;

I do wonder how she's going to feel working for Team Aqua beyond this point as even though she knows what they're all about now, will she change her mind if they come back to rescue her? Or will she have mixed feelings up until she decides to abandon the group? It does make me wonder if they'll really just keep her as a grunt forever for being caught by the enemy team. Time will tell.
Time will indeed tell! Thanks so much for stopping by--it's always great to see you and I love hearing your thoughts about each chapter! Hope everything is going well on your end :)


Hey everyone! This chapter is a bit on the long side (for me, anyway) and is a hodge-podge of different scenes that I had a hard time pulling together in an orderly fashion. Thoughts or comments are appreciated!

Chapter 15



Sunlight streamed in through the windows of the treetop house as Phoebe finished packing her bags. Fortree was a beautiful city, but with her home at Mt. Pyre so close, she’d rather stay there. She was never one for throngs of foot traffic and crowds. She glanced up as a shadow passed overhead and saw an Altaria perch on the windowsill, holding a note in its beak. Phoebe removed the note and scanned it:

Please come meet me at the Conference Room as soon as you can.

- Steven


Phoebe’s heart twisted into knots—she hadn’t told anyone about her encounter with Team Aqua. Did Steven know? Was she going to pay for it?

As she descended the treetop house and made her way through the streets towards the Pokemon League Conference Center, her mind went through different scenarios and what she should say.

Worst case scenario: Steven knew she was making a deal with Team Aqua and he would punish her for it. What would that look like? But if that situation arose, she could defend herself—she didn’t mean to make a deal with them so soon, and she and Liza were forced to act on the spot.

And maybe that scenario wouldn’t happen. Maybe Steven didn’t know about the deal and wanted Phoebe for something else entirely.

But what?

She thought about bringing her Pokemon out of their Pokeballs and asking them their thoughts, but before she knew it, she arrived at the Conference Center. Perhaps, if Steven was okay with it, she could let them in on their meeting…

As Phoebe ascended the wooden steps to the center—which, like everything else in Fortree, was in the trees—her heart pounded with anxiety. She walked in to the Conference Room to see Steven with several bags next to him. His Skarmory stood perched on the sill of an enormous window; the sunlight shining on his silver wings made him glow. Steven patted Skarmory’s beak and gave Phoebe a tired smile when she walked in.

“Thank you for coming here on such short notice. I’m sorry to have done this to you, but with current events, I’m sure you understand why we need to act quickly and urgently.”

Phoebe dipped her head. “Yes, sir.”

“How is Liza doing?”

“She’s… restless,” was the only word Phoebe could think of. “She’s really upset about Tate being gone—she wants to take action.”

“I’m sure. That poor girl… Anyway, the real reason I brought you here is because I’m worried that, if the teams are kidnapping mythical Pokemon like Jirachi, they may soon target other such Pokemon as well.” He gestured to his bags. “I’m heading to Route 134 to search the underwater caves there. There’s writing and it looks like it was cut out deliberately a long time ago. Those rocks are hard, and they wouldn’t be easy to cut into. But they’re not like the volcanic rock that makes up the Sootopolis crater—interesting, isn’t it? That seems to be its own sort of rock entirely. Any places on this planet with the same type of rock as Sootopolis are yet to be discovered. But I digress.” He shook his head. “Before I go, I want to ask you what you know about Hoenn’s legendary Pokemon.

“I know you come from one of the oldest families in Hoenn and that your family guards the Red and Blue Orbs. Most people don’t know about them, but if the teams find out the connection of those items to ancient Pokemon, I fear they may be in danger—that we will all be in much greater danger.”

Phoebe’s stomach dropped. This was it—she had to say something. But before she could formulate words, Steven was already speaking again.

“We know they want to expand the land and the sea, but I didn’t know they would try to use mythical Pokemon to do it. If it’s okay with your family, I think we ought to keep the Orbs at the Pokemon League Center in Ever Grande City.”

“That won’t work—they need to stay at Mt. Pyre for their power to be neutralized.”

Steven raised his silver eyebrows. “Really? Why is that?”

“We believe it has to do with the creation of the Orbs themselves. All life comes from the Cave of Origin—it’s where the Weather Trio, Latios and Latias, and other Pokemon like them came from. But the Orbs aren’t part of Hoenn creation mythos; they only appear in later stories. According to the record passed down by my family, a hundred people willingly gave up their lives to tame Kyogre and Groudon, and that’s how the Orbs were made.”

Steven nodded. “The Orbs were made by people… And they lose their power if they’re kept at Mt. Pyre?”

“There’s a part of The Scorched Slab Codex that says, ‘Those who are truly dead stop those stuck in time.’ We know the Orbs are harmless when kept together at Mt. Pyre.”

“Why haven’t they been destroyed?”

Phoebe sighed. “We aren’t sure how… My family has records of people trying many things—horrible things—to destroy them, but nothing has worked. We don’t know if it would involve more sacrifice or dangerous magic, and since so few people know about them and their power is nullified at Mt. Pyre, we don’t want to try too hard.”

As Phoebe looked into Steven’s grey eyes, she desperately wanted to tell him that Team Aqua did know about the Orbs and wanted them. Then Steven could warn the rest of the Elite Four and they could all take down Team Aqua together—what did Phoebe have to lose?

Banette.

She had Banette to lose—Matt still had her Pokemon, and if Phoebe slipped up, then he could do the worst to Banette. There was no guarantee that Steven and the Pokemon League could find and take down Team Aqua. After all, their boss wasn’t at the police station when Phoebe and Liza were cornered. And if he was still up and running, then Team Aqua was still a threat.

There was a guarantee that if Matt got upset, Banette would be the one to pay for it. And as Phoebe watched Steven mount his Skarmory, she couldn’t bring herself to tell him the truth.

Steven gave her a grateful smile from atop his Skarmory. “Thank you for your time, Phoebe.” In the sunlight, Skarmory blazed as if he was made of harnessed sunlight. As the magnificent Steel-type spread its wings and took off into the pale blue sky and became nothing more than a glowing speck, Phoebe’s heart sank lower.

What had she gotten herself into?

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

Derek descended the stairway, carrying a container of spaghetti along with some fruit juice. Ever since his interactions with Maressa, he had grown more sympathetic towards prisoners, and so he had taken some of his personal juice to give them to keep their spirits up. He paused as he was about to take another step—he didn’t really know what kind of person this prisoner was, and maybe they didn’t really deserve the juice. It was possible that they were really a thug, and not someone he could empathize with like Maressa was. He checked the flavor of the juice: orange. His favorite. Grimacing, he put it into one of his overly-large pockets. Maybe if he liked this person, he would give it to them. Otherwise, they could live with water.

Descending into the deep darkness of the base, he grew more and more anxious. Breloom told him everything he had seen—and felt. Derek could hardly believe that they had actually captured Jirachi—a Pokemon he had only heard of in classes and mythology books. Hardly anyone had actually believed it was real, but if he believed Breloom (who wasn’t always totally reliable), then they actually had the Wish Maker living with them.

Apparently, Jirachi had left the base for an indefinite amount of time. When Derek pressed Breloom for reasons, the Grass-type couldn’t answer—he had missed most of what Maxie said, being so overwhelmed by Jirachi’s feelings and energy.

Derek reached the basement. In the darkness of the dimly-lit room, it was hard to believe that it was actually mid-morning. Derek made his way around crates and to the door Tabitha had told him. Opening the door and flicking on the light, Derek nearly dropped the spaghetti in shock.

On the floor, up against the wall, sat a child. His messy hair was falling out of his bun, and in spite of his youth, his facial countenance was ghastly. His eyes were closed, mouth slightly agape, cheeks and lips twitching uneasily in his sleep. On his lap, a Mightyena lay. The Dark-type woke up at the sound of Derek opening the door, and he raised his head and squealed happily when he saw Derek. His tail wagged back-and-forth ecstatically but he remained lying where he was.

The sound of Mightyena squealing woke the boy and he shifted uneasily as he eyed the Pokemon. Mightyena noticed the movement, shot the boy a dark look and a low growl, then returned his attention and happy wagging to Derek.

Derek squatted down next to the kid, setting down the spaghetti. “You’re the person Team Magma took prisoner?” he asked incredulously.

The boy glanced at him, then paused. Perhaps the word “prisoner” hadn’t occurred to him, but after a moment, he nodded.

“Why?”

“I—I think it’s because you want Jirachi, and Jirachi wants me.”

Derek studied the boy and Mightyena, and things began clicking in place. He shook his head.

“No…” Standing up, he was about to exit but remembered to take the orange juice out of his pocket and hand it to the kid. “Here. It’s not much, but I hope you’ll like it.” Turning to Mightyena, he jabbed a finger at the Dark-type. “You don’t touch his food, or take that juice, or do anything to hurt him. I’m going to talk to your trainer.”

Derek sprinted upstairs two at a time, his mind going a mile a minute. Where could Tabitha be? It was roughly ten-thirty a.m. He decided to check the training area—perhaps he was drilling some of the newer recruits.

His guess turned out to be correct. In a large room, Tabitha stood before a bunch of uniformed men and women, each with their Pokemon out.

Derek walked over to his commander. “Tabitha, I need to talk to you.”

His black eyes shot Derek an impatient look. “Wait until we’re done.”

“It can’t wait.”

“What is it about?”

“The kid—”

Tabitha silenced the medic with a glare and a glance at the grunts. “Not here. I told you, you need to wait until I’m done with them. Now get out.”

Derek stormed out of the room and back to the clinic, thinking of perhaps trying to stitch the laceration in that Cacnea’s arm back up while waiting. But he soon dismissed the idea—he knew that it was never a good idea to try and work while he was angry, so he just opted to watch Claydol do it. In a minute, he was sitting on a stool, watching Claydol floating before the Grass-type, telekinetically levitating a bunch of tools. The Psychic-type’s telekinesis proved to be just as precise as Derek’s handiwork, perhaps even more so.

An hour-and-a-half later, Tabitha entered, looking disgruntled. “What is so important that you had to interrupt my training regimen for?”

Derek stood up. “We’re holding a child hostage? What the hell, Tabitha?!”

What was previously mild annoyance turned into exasperation and anger as Tabitha shot a dark glare at Derek. “We need the kid because it’s the only way to get Jirachi to listen to us. If we didn’t take him, we couldn’t have Jirachi, and the Pokemon League or the police could use that Pokemon to find us and destroy our organization. And the kid is a Gym Leader. He’s been working against us the entire time—he’s our enemy as much as Team Aqua is.”

“He’s a kid! He’s barely done anything in his entire life! And you’re fine with stationing a Dark-type right next to him, ready to kill him if he doesn’t do what you want? And he’s a Psychic-type trainer! Imprisoning him with a Dark-type is torturing him!”

“It’s not torture—”

“Yes it is! Psychics are used to projecting their minds and feeling the thoughts and feelings of those around them, but they can’t do it on Dark-type Pokemon. It’s like they’re voids or drains on their consciousness.”

Tabitha looked slightly surprised at this information, but just said, “So we’re preventing the kid from knowing what we think or feel. All the better, then.”

“ ‘All the bett—’ how can you say that?” Derek stared open-mouthed at his commander. “And have you even considered the consequences of what’s going to happen? We’re going to have the entire legal force of Hoenn hunting us down!”

“This was Leader Maxie’s idea. If you want to take it up with him, fine, but don’t you dare tell anyone else about this. This has to be our most important secret, and we can’t have any of others knowing about it. You’ve been entrusted to take care of the kid, so we trust you well enough to know about this at all. There’s nothing else about this that I have control over, and at this point I’m just carrying out orders.”

Derek stood there, staring at Tabitha but at a complete loss for words. His commander turned around and exited, shutting the door behind him. Claydol and Cacnea were looking up at Derek, curious and slightly frightened. Derek sighed and sat back down next to Claydol.

His mind mulled over the issue, trying to look at it from every angle, and his thoughts kept on turning back to Maressa. When she couldn’t agree with what her team was doing anymore, she had quit. She was brave—she had done what Derek couldn’t do. Derek shook the thought from his head. His situation was entirely different than hers, wasn’t it?

“Claydol,” he said as one of the Ground-type’s large red eyes met his own, “I don’t know what to do.”

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

The bright moon shone in the black sky overhead. Maressa leaned back on her hands as she stared up into the nighttime void. Next to her, Matt sat in the same position while he chattered away.

The two of them spent the past few nights just hanging outside and talking until late into the night. Maressa’s heart always swelled with warmth whenever Matt said he wanted to hang out with her. He—the cool commander—the one the grunts liked—actually enjoyed spending time with her!

Maressa grew into a habit of leaving her Pokeballs in her room when Matt asked her to hang out. Throughout high school and college, whenever Maressa became interested in a boy, Golduck noticed and hounded her constantly.

He claimed he didn’t want Maressa to get hurt and had to screen the boys before they got too close to Maressa—though she didn’t think that following them and watching them closely on dates was the most effective way to do it.

Maybe that’s why I’ve never gotten past a first date… she mused.

But it was different now. Golduck knew Matt—he didn’t like him, but he knew him—and didn’t need to know Maressa was spending so much time with him just yet. Maressa knew Golduck wouldn’t take it well.

She glanced over at Matt and saw him gesture to a large patch of knotted skin encircling his bicep.

“… And this is where Huntail chomped down on me when he got upset,” Matt explained. “But I showed him who’s boss—you’ve got to show these Pokemon that you know their weaknesses and then they’ll come to respect you. Archie had to do it with his Sharpedo, too. That man is a tank—he didn’t let up when his Sharpedo and its school of Carvanha all started biting him!” His pale blue eyes glanced at Maressa and he smiled. “You understand this, of course, what with your Sharpedo.”

Maressa smiled bashfully. “Well, yeah, I do. I had to fight my Sharpedo for him to listen to me—and now we’re great friends!”

“Yeah. Funny how that happens, eh? Well,” Matt said as he checked his watch, “we should probably turn in for the night.”

Maressa nodded. “Probably.”

Matt gazed at her; her face grew red.

“What?” she asked him with a smile on her face.

“Do you want to come back tonight with me?”

At Matt’s words, the temperature around Maressa might have dropped ten degrees. The warmth faded, the smile fell from her face and her heart sank a little.

“Oh... No, I—I’m just going back to my bed.”

The smile vanished from Matt’s face and his brows furrowed.

“What? Why?”

“I’m—I’m just not comfortable with that.”

He stared at her with his mouth partly open.

“Then what were these past few nights about? Why did you always come out and spend hours talking to me?”

Maressa’s eyes opened wide as a feeling of icy water spread from her heart through her veins. “I—I don’t know! You always just asked me to hang out with you—I thought—I thought we were just getting along!”

Matt rolled his eyes. “Maressa… We spent hours together. You really just wanted to talk?”

Maressa’s heart dropped but her fists quickly balled up in anger. The iciness gave way to heat which soon boiled into simmering anger.

“Do you realize how much we’ve done for you—how much I’ve don’t for you?” Matt continued. “Maressa, I’ve been thinking about promoting you!”

She felt he face turn red as blood coursed though her veins. She stood up.

“So you’ll promote me if I just do what you want? Is that how this works?”

Matt stood up, his eyes narrowing over his small frown. “This isn’t anything to get worked up about. My line of thought was perfectly reasonable.”

“Well, what about now? Are you still going to promote me when I don’t do what you want?”

“You shouldn’t talk to me like that. Remember, I’m still in charge of you—I can do whatever I want, you know.”

Maressa’s heart skipped a beat but she regained her composure. “Are you threatening me?” she spat.

“Just reminding you of your position—I’m a commander, and you’re a grunt.”

“I’m not interested,” she immediately said. Turning tail, she walked back to the base at the bottom of the hill as quickly as she could. She didn’t hear Matt’s footsteps behind her and didn’t bother looking back to see whether he also came back or whether he stayed—but she didn’t care. She didn’t care about what he said, or what he wanted—she didn’t care about him!

How could he say that to her? Would he really decide to promote her based on whether she caved to his every whim?

As she walked, Matt’s words made their full impact and hot tears came to her eyes. Her nose sniffled. In a few moments, she was full-on crying, just barely able to suppress audible sobs.

Once she reached her room, she slammed the door shut and opened Golduck’s Pokeball. Maressa leaned against the door of her room and slid to the ground while she cried.

Golduck—who initially blinked in annoyance at being woken up—immediately ran over to Maressa and put an arm around her. What happened to her?

Choking out words, Maressa told Golduck that she had been seeing and speaking with Matt for the past several nights—and what he said to Maressa. Her chest heaved with each breath and she could barely get words out.

“And—and I’m sorry I never told you—or Sharpedo, or Lanturn, or anybody—I just—just felt like—like he wanted to be with me—until—until he said he was never interested in—in me—just—just what he wanted—from me…”

Golduck quacked, but Maressa could hardly hear anything other than the thoughts running through her head.

Did none of the guys she ever spent time talking to—time being friends with—actually care about her? Those times that Mark came in when she was new—did he not really care about how she felt? And all that time Derek spoke to her when she was captured by Team Magma—all the effort he put in to protecting her, to helping her escape, to ensure she’d still have a spot with Team Aqua after she escaped—was it all for nothing?

No. Maressa knew that couldn’t be true—she refused to believe it.

Even still, a shard of doubt remained lodged in her heart.

Maressa put her head on Golduck’s shoulder and listened to his quacks.

She should have escaped earlier, he said. She had been avoiding it for so long, and now there was no more escaping reality. Staying grew more dangerous by the day, and if she stayed with Team Aqua any longer then she would only face more trouble.

Maressa’s exhaled deeply. “I know,” she said steadily. “You were right… And back then, if Phoebe hadn’t demanded one of Matt’s Pokemon, I would have lost another one of you.” As though she was living through it again, she saw the event play out, and her hands balled into fists. “But I can’t just take this! I can’t just let him get away after talking like that to me!”

Golduck jumped up and quacked angrily. How could Maressa be so stubborn? How could she stay behind to try and get even with someone when there were four other Pokemon who relied on her and when they needed to be looking for Seaking

Maressa glared through tears at Golduck. “Do you think I’ve forgotten about all of you? Did you think I forgot about Seaking? I think about him all the time! I think about you—I worry about you all. But I’m with Matt now, and he won’t leave me alone. We stay up late at night talking and then during the day he always wants me with him and he keeps telling me how I good I am at being a Team Aqua member and how if—if I just do what he says then he’ll promote me…” Her face twisted into a grimace, and she shook her head and turned away. She pounded a fist on the floor again. “I won’t do it anymore, Golduck.”

Golduck quacked. Then they should all escape!

“I feel like it’s wrong at this point, though. Team Aqua doesn’t want us to leave because we know so much about them. And now we know that Team Magma has Jirachi and if those Pokemon League people keep their promise—which I kinda doubt—then Team Aqua will have the Orbs. Can we really just do nothing and leave?”

Golduck stared blankly at her. Team Aqua and Team Magma were large organizations with hundreds of members and countless Pokemon trained for battle and spying. She was one Team Aqua grunt with three Pokemon. What were they supposed to do?

Maressa stared ahead, deep in thought. “Well, Derek was one grunt with only three Pokemon, and he managed to sneak a captive out.”

Shaking his head, Golduck paced back and forth. Her situation and Derek’s were completely different—they couldn’t be compared.

Flinging her hands in the air, Maressa cried, “I don’t know, then! But I feel like I have to—if Team Aqua does get this powerful, how can I live with myself with just running away and doing absolutely nothing after helping them get this far?”

That didn’t matter! What did matter was that she and the others would still be alive—as long as they were alive, things could get better! They could keep fighting and keep hoping! As it was, they were powerless to do anything else.

Maressa scowled. She didn’t want to argue anymore, so she took out a Pokeball and released Gloom. He popped out, looking as apathetic as usual. Smiling through her tears, Maressa said with forced cheerfulness, “How are you doing, Gloom?”

The Pokemon tilted his head as he gazed at her. At least, Maressa assumed he was gazing—his eyes were so nearly closed that it was hard to tell if he could see anything at all. Maressa wiped tears away as she smiled at him. He looked more doleful than she had ever seen him. Maybe he was surprised to see her crying?

“Oh, it’s no big deal,” she said nonchalantly as she sniffed. Golduck shot her a glare, but she ignored him. “This just happens sometimes.”

Gloom looked completely unassured. It wasn’t just his usual, un-changing expression that made Maressa notice; it was something in him—though Maressa couldn’t entirely tell what—that emanated worry. Maressa continued to gaze at him, showcasing her false smile. It wasn’t entirely false, as she was happy to see Gloom and genuinely wanted him to be happy. But with the rawness of her throat and stinging of her salty eyes, it was hard to forget the events that recently transpired.

After staring at her for a minute, Gloom did something Maressa had never seen him do.

He reached his little arms out towards her.

Her heart soaring, Maressa took him in her hands, set him on her lap, and cradled him. As he leaned back into her, she couldn’t help smiling. She glanced over at Golduck, who looked a bit surprised but pleased. Maressa wanted to snuggle her face into Gloom like she used to do to Psyduck and Seaking, but she held back because she knew she would only breathe in toxic substances from Gloom’s flower—which didn’t smell nearly as horrible as before.

As Maressa sat there, holding Gloom in her arms, rocking him and singing softly to him, she felt a deeper resentment for Team Aqua growing in her heart. She knew Team Aqua would have no interest in protecting Grass-types and that Gloom would have little chance of surviving in whatever new world Kyogre was to create.

When Maressa stopped singing, she leaned back against the wall and merely looked at Golduck. She couldn’t let Team Aqua go through with their plan. She at least had to try something, and if it meant stealing the Orbs from right under Team Aqua’s noses, she would do it.

Golduck gazed back at her evenly. Perhaps he disapproved or disagreed with her, but they both knew that he and the other Pokemon would stick with her through anything. Sharpedo was always willing to fight, and Lanturn would always stick by the rest of them.

The two held their gaze, and after a moment, Golduck closed his eyes and nodded.

Relieved, Maressa gave Gloom a gentle squeeze. “Don’t worry, Gloom,” she said. “We’ll keep you stay safe. And we’ll make sure the world stays the way it is.”

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

Maressa blinked as the sun peeked through her blinds and shone on her face, sending bright spots dancing behind her eyes. She inhaled deeply as she watched dust motes float in the rays of the morning sun. Matt’s words came back to her from the previous night and fury bubbled up in her. She clenched her bed sheets as she remembered—but the anger quickly died away and morphed into sadness and fear.

Am I really not worth it?

Rolling on to her side, she saw Golduck curled up on the metal floor—he was so good to her, choosing to sleep in uncomfortable conditions if it meant that she didn’t have to be alone. Next to him, Gloom was slumped in the corner, snoring softly.

Maressa gazed at Gloom; the sight of him sleeping so peacefully was oddly heartwarming. She glanced back at the sunlight shining on the bright green leaves outside—

Where no one else was.

Bolting out of bed, Maressa scrutinized the forest through her window. There were no Team Aqua members or Pokemon in sight. Quickly getting changed, she returned Gloom to his Pokeball and made her way through the hallway and out of the base.

As she strode through the trees, stepping through tall grasses and pushing aside ferns, her shoes and pant legs quickly became soaked from the dew covering the foliage. Tendrils of misty vapor rose through the forest canopy as it soaked in the morning sun. A few Taillow twittered to each other, but aside from that, the forest was quiet.

Stopping at a patch of grass, Maressa took out Gloom’s Pokeball. Through the translucent red cap, she saw him still sleeping peacefully. For just a moment, she thought of putting the Pokeball back into her pocket and keeping him with her—but she quickly dismissed the thought. Gloom was never meant to stay with her long-term. And she didn’t know how to properly care for a Grass-type, anyway.

Opening the ball, Maressa released him in a flash of white light. Gloom stretched his stubby little hands and legs before looking up at Maressa. He rubbed his eyes and yawned, a line of white drool falling from his mouth as he did so. The woman smiled at him as she bent down to where she was almost eye-level.

“Here you are, Gloom. There are lots of other Gloom and Grass-types in this forest. I’m sure it’ll be perfect for you to live in! You’re free now.”

Gloom cocked his head and stared at Maressa as drool dribbled down his chin and into the grass. Maressa’s heart panged—she didn’t have anything else to say, but she didn’t want to leave. Why was it so hard to leave him? She barely knew him. She had just met him a few days ago. Was she really that attached to him? Or was she just projecting her attachment for Seaking onto another Pokemon?

She didn’t know. But either way, it wasn’t fair to subject Gloom to anything dangerous. Getting up, she turned and strode back the way she came. She suddenly stopped as she heard the grass rustle behind her. Heartbeat racing, she turned around, grabbing Sharpedo’s Pokeball. He might not be able to move on land, but he could at least shoot water or bite whatever Pokemon got close.

Looking around, Maressa’s heart melted when she saw Gloom walk through the grass, following close behind her.

“You can’t stay with me!” she said, though she wished he could. Gloom looked up at her. “I don’t know how to take care of you—you won’t get sunlight from being inside all day, and everyone will wonder where I got a Gloom, and things will be dangerous, and—and you belong here.

She stopped talking as Gloom reached his short arms out to her. Tears came to her eyes—why did tears come to her eyes? This shouldn’t be hard, not after everything she’d already been through, and not with everything she was about to go through.

All the same, she bent down, took Gloom in her arms and hugged him. Her body shook slightly as she softly cried. The floral scent of sweet azaleas and magnolias reached Maressa’s nose. When she opened her eyes and realized how close her nose was to Gloom’s flower, she realized with a jolt that it was his flower that smelled so sweet.

She didn’t know how long they held each other—it might have been five minutes, it might have been twenty. But she eventually put Gloom back down and smiled at him through her tears.

“I love you, Gloom. And I’ll still be around. But things are going to get dangerous soon, and I don’t want you caught up in it. I’ll come back here—I promise! When the fighting is all over, Golduck, Lanturn, Sharpedo, Seaking and I will come back here and we can all play together. We can go to the river, and you can meet Seaking and talk to him. Won’t that be nice?”

Gloom made no sound but just looked up at Maressa sadly. She was surprised to see that his eyes were wet, too.

“When everything is safe again, I promise I’ll come back!”

With that, she turned around again and walked through the forest, wiping away tears and snot. She half-hoped to hear the rustle of Gloom’s footsteps again, but the forest was as silent as the grave.
 
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WildBoots

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. moka-mark
  2. solrock
Chapter 13 flows well overall! I appreciate the moments of guilt vs duty from Tabitha for obvious reasons haha. Nice to get a glimpse at what’s going on with the other side here.

This is the first night of the Millennium Comet, and Mom and Dad took me shopping and say they want to take you too!
Long sentence! I think this one would benefit from being split up.

I heard Mom and Dad talking and saying that you need to get away from that rock soon!”
There’s an implicit “or else” here, and I kinda wanted to know what it was. How much are gym leaders beholden to their parents??

he added his voice to the song.
I wish these lyrics were in a language I speak! Without knowing the meaning, they’re decorative more than symbolic.

and giving cries of joy.
Giving hits my ear weird. Maybe crying out with joy?

The light the comet threw on it made it look as if the rock was glowing a bright, pearly white.
Is the comet so close that it’s this bright? I think image/word order is also a little off. We’re focusing on the light being reflected onto “it” before we know what we’re looking at.

Standing under a tree on a ledge a few hundred feet away, Tabitha watched the scene, petting Mightyena.
Niiice. Lezgo.

Both were small slip-ups—but both happened so quickly, and both were his fault.
Oof. Tabitha, I have a friend for you in a parallel Hoenn.

who gazed down at the boy before it with dark, benevolent eyes.
I like the juxtaposition of dark and benevolent.

Tabitha had but a moment to inspect the Pokemon before jets of flame covered it from each side.
”Covered” feels like perhaps too gentle a word here. Maybe struck? I also wish we had an indication of where the flame is coming from. Even if the Houndoom are not in sight, T-money over here knows what the plan is and could give us a moment of elation at everyone being in their proper places.

In the distance, the glass of building windows shattered as small explosions erupted in the air.
Word order again. I think it wants to be explosions then effect.

Tabitha leapt off the ledge and made his way through the crowd of people to the white rock.
Is the rock still there? I thought it had become Jirachi.

The Mossdeep Gym Leaders were the only people still at the rock.
I wish there had been an indication earlier of how they’d reacted.

a Lunatone floated, its eyes glowing blue as it formed a barrier of solidified light between the trainers and the flames. A Solrock was doing likewise, hovering protectively before the trainers as it tried to shepherd them away from the fire.
Yessss good babies!!! “Solrock doing likewise” kinda strips out the momentum though. Is there a way the solrock could get some individuality in its action here to make it feel more alive and dynamic?

Mightyena responded with a hyper beam, and the two attacks collided, forcing both Pokemon to stand their ground in an attempt to gain the advantage. Lunatone’s ice beam caused crystals of frost to coat the grass, whereas the blades near Mightyena’s feet were singed from the sheer intensity of the energy.
The sentences here are a little long and languid. It would help to get a little more into Tabitha’s head, less impersonal.

Although the Pokemon were occupied, the humans weren’t. While Mightyena was trying to gain advantage over Lunatone, Tabitha continued running right past the Pokemon towards the twins.
But this is them being occupied with something! For gym leaders, the twins are so easily dispensed with! I wanted them to put up more of a fight and/or to feel the presence of Magma closing in on them more.

now a column of roaring, twisting fire—in which his friend lay.
Friend feels like a strong word considering they’ve never exchanged actual words! Or have they been and I’m forgetting?

It would be so much easier to take her with them. He knew that she wasn’t the one Jirachi appeared for, but it was dangerous to leave her behind. She had seen him, and though she was about ten years old, she was still a Hoenn Gym Leader. And if she was anything like the siblings Tabitha had known, she would hunt her brother to the ends of the earth.
This was an effective moment! Also whaaaat is this other sibling thing about?

The large eyelid on its belly was mostly closed, but through the half-open lid Tabitha could see the eye roving back and forth in delirium.
Oooh a little creepy. Nice.

Nothing. Instead, he had orchestrated its kidnapping, and he knew nothing good would come of it.
Oof. These lines work well.

The Pokemon let out a large huff of breath through his nose, and lay down on the ground, resting his head on Tate’s stomach. He looked up accusingly at his trainer, and though he was being obedient, Tabitha could tell that he was still unhappy.
FATHER Y U ABANDON ME

Feeling a little guilty, he exited the room, still carrying Jirachi in his arms.
We get a good sense of guilt from prior lines. Here I wanted some kind of physicality/action instead.

But that stupid Azumarill shot water on me and knocked me down about thirty feet—
Thirty feet feels mechanical and too specific.
Also *at me?

This is the kid Jirachi woke up for.”

“And where is the Pokemon?”

At the mention of Jirachi’s name, the boy’s eyes flickered up to them, filled with concern. The fear wasn’t totally gone, but now there was a great deal of anger.
Paragraphs 2 & 3 want to switch places here.

and Tabitha felt a mystic energy radiate from it, filling the room and impressing on his mind.
I don’t know what mystic energy means or what it feels like for it to impress on his mind.

The sleeves of his shirt and legs of his pants fluttered from the pure energy Jirachi radiated.
Suggestion: The sleeves of his shirt and legs of his pants fluttered as if caught in the wind.

I can’t! the voice screamed desperately. The Orbs belong to Pokemon who were here when the earth was made—I don’t have power over them. Humans made the Orbs were made with some sort of magic that I can’t do anything about.
Huh!

Whose Breloom is that?”

“Derek’s. He’s trustworthy.”
I wasn’t sure why he asked. The unsolicited assurance of his trustworthiness felt like compensating for something. And why would they keep a member who wasn’t?

We can’t it directly return the damaged and polluted parts of nature to their original states and get rid of people?
Well when you put it like that! 🙃 Healing the land sounds v smart, but what does Tabitha think will happen to him, a people?

Groudon is the only Pokemon we will be using to do that.
Can’t cheat on bae ...? Wasn’t sure what this was about.

Tabitha tried to walk away, but the Grass-type wouldn’t stop following him. He didn’t want to be left alone!
I like the parallel with gloom. Grass-types are oddly caught in the middle here.

until Breloom had hopped on his lap.

“Wha—oh hey, you’re back! No, stop that, you’re too big to do that anymore!”
Ahaha cute.

I didn’t get a lot out of the quick return to Derek POV. I would end instead on Tabitha’s evaluation of him and their conversation.

Hmmmm Tabitha’s trust and loyalty seem to be straining! 👀
 
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WildBoots

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. moka-mark
  2. solrock
Responding to the bonus chapter!

There were quite a few beats here that I thought worked well. I think overall the writing has been stronger in the more recent chapters.

Here we see Tabitha being surprisingly kind. Tea! I kinda wanted to know what kind of tea he pulled together. Is this, like, welp this Lipton teabag has been in this drawer forever, sorry, but hope it helps? Or does he have a tea stash and is thinking over carefully which teas are best for anxiety—before reminding himself it’s not his job? These glimpses at his internal life make me think he won’t last much longer in Magma—his duties are pushing him up against his values.

Poor Sarah. She was so self-assured at the outset. I do wish we got to know whether this experience has made her doubt her role in Aqua. Sure, she has Matt’s esteem, but has he ever been that kind to her? And maybe Shelly isn’t looking out for her as much as she thought. Or! Maybe she’s more determined than ever. I did like the switch to Tabitha, but it does mean we don’t get to know how her position has changed.

The last thing I wondered about was why it never crossed her mind that someone might recognize her. Their faces are out there for the world to see, after all. Has she not run many other missions for Aqua?

I did think the first section with Sarah ended in a stronger place than the second one with Chloe. Maybe consider swapping them? Or expanding the Chloe scene.

Sarah’s blue eyes focused on the Team Magma member ahead of her as he gave out orders.
I feel like her eye color is incidental to this scene, and framing it like this is taking away from putting us in her shoes. Until the end of this paragraph or so, she’s anxious, right? I want to see her anxiety in action, maybe see her reassure herself.

but the Ice-type had no place in a Team Magma base.
I still can’t tell if this is because of something about the base itself or if a water-type would somehow be too suspicious.

As she listened to the Magma member’s comments and commands for them to group off in pairs, the anxiety that had been pounding in her heart started to die down.

She could do this. Shelly wouldn’t have sent her off on her own if she thought it was too dangerous for her.
The first sentence is rather condensed, and I think it might flow better as two or more shorter sentences. I do like the way we transition from nervous to feeling confident and righteous in her purpose. I couldn’t resist taking a stab at rewriting this passage, painting the scene a little more and plugging in a visual cue that Sarah is more confident than the others and also separate.

Suggestion: The drill instructor sent them off in pairs. All around, the new grunts exchanger nervous glances. A few of the other girls latched onto each other arm-in-arm, not wanting to be alone. But Sarah began to smile,
the anxiety that had been pounding in her heart started to die down.

She could do this. Shelly wouldn’t have sent her off on her own if she thought it was too dangerous for her.

Avoid talking to Team Magma members as much as you can.
It does seem like this would be a good way to gather intel though!

Matt had referred her,
*deferred to?

“Sarah,” she said quickly and turned around.

“That’s a beautiful name!
Omg, this guy. It does make him sound romantically interested, because Sarah is a very common name. He’s reaching.

Don’t worry, you’re not in trouble. I saw that other Team Magma member talking to you. Is there anything there that I should be aware of?”
Aww, good boss. This was nice to see.

Shelly told her the Magneton steel in there would block any interference, so whatever defense a small base like that would have against transmission, the device should be able to stall it so her report to Shelly could get through.
Hm interesting! I appreciated seeing all her preparations here. Though it does strike me as foolish to leave anything that important in her room—she doesn’t know how this base works!

A really, really short mini-skirt. How was it practical at all?
Yeah, how is she doing sprints in a mini skirt?

Or what? You don’t have any authority here.”

“I’ll scream,” she threatened.

He scoffed. “See my Loudred there? His soundproof ability stops all sound we make from going through these halls. Go ahead and scream, kick—anything you want. But no one will be able to hear you.”
Eeeeeek.

Tabitha grimaced as he glanced—he would have to scold the secretary for letting the room get in such disarray.
Unclear what he’s glancing at here.

He lightly squeezed both in his hand; Greg’s ID stayed rigid, but Sarah’s bent fairly easily.

He looked at her ID. A fake? But why?
This is interesting! I liked seeing his thought process. I wonder why they have their actual IDs and not photocopies though.

Can you go in there and check? Please?”
This doesn’t seem much better than bursting in himself, honestly.

A few names were listed: “Boss,” “Shelly,” “Mattimeo,” and “Oscar.”
Girl, gotta use code names!

Tabitha kneed him in the navel.
Navel doesn’t really evoke getting hit in the stomach for me. Navel is surface-level, and what we’re really talking about is driving the breath out of him. Maybe in the gut?

The poor girl had just been harassed, and Tabitha had saved her only to tell her that she would now be their prisoner. His heart twisted—he couldn’t bring himself to do it yet.
Tabs, you might not be cut out for this job, my guy.

“I need you to tell me everything you know. Please make this easy—I don’t want to use force.”
This is interesting. IIRC, he was pretty forceful and up in Maressa’s face. Part of me is like, “Hasn’t he done this enough times that he would be more numb to this? Capitalize on her bad experience, even if only to make threats he doesn’t intend to back up?” But another part of me thinks that, yeah, being kind is possibly a better way to get information anyway. Good cop, bad cop.

The tea was very sweet. ._.

if anyone saw a Corsola in a river, they’d know there was a trainer about.
Oh, a good observation!

just like everywhere else she kept watch at
Cut the at.

collecting data on rainfall, soil temperatures, and running simulations on soil absorbancy. But it was the scientists who got to do cool stuff like that.
Haha, I bet if she got a chance to play scientist, she’d find that recording data can be pretty dull, too.

I wish we knew why this research was being labeled illicit, at least ostensibly.

ever since Maressa had returned from being Team Magma’s captive, she was crying about losing Seaking or else looking extremely nervous.
I wished we had more specific images here, especially on “looking nervous.”

but she could be there for her and hear her out whenever she needed someone to talk to or just a shoulder to cry on.
Mmm but it’s sounds like the conflict is that Maressa isn’t letting her? You could expand this, I think.

Cloe didn’t feel like it.

Sitting down, she leaned against a tree trunk, her eyelids slowly closing in the warmth radiating from the noonday sun. Guess this was just the life of a Team Aqua grunt.
This landed kinda flat for me. She’s clearly dissatisfied, so I wanted something more from her than just “oh well then.”
 

Starlight Aurate

Ad Jesum per Mariam | pfp by kintsugi
Location
Route 123
Partners
  1. mightyena
  2. psyduck
Short announcement: I won't be posting a new chapter today :( It still needs a lot of editing and life this past week/this upcoming week is very hectic. I'm not sure when it'll be posted, though I don't think it'll be for at least another week.
Responding to the bonus chapter!

There were quite a few beats here that I thought worked well. I think overall the writing has been stronger in the more recent chapters.
Thanks! That's definitely due to me getting better over time and the recent chapters having more thorough rewrites. Glad to know I've been improving! :)

Here we see Tabitha being surprisingly kind. Tea! I kinda wanted to know what kind of tea he pulled together. Is this, like, welp this Lipton teabag has been in this drawer forever, sorry, but hope it helps? Or does he have a tea stash and is thinking over carefully which teas are best for anxiety—before reminding himself it’s not his job? These glimpses at his internal life make me think he won’t last much longer in Magma—his duties are pushing him up against his values.
Hahaha I know answered your tea question a bit in the discord but I'll elaborate here. It would all be plain loose-leaf green tea from him :P I have a headcanon that this Tabitha is very traditional and based his background off some traditional eastern/oriental values. His kindness wasn't supposed to be entirely against his duty as a Team Magma commander--he's a high-ranking member on an evil team, but still views himself as a good person and cares about people and Pokemon around him. This Tabitha has an instinct to protect those more vulnerable than he is, which often does go against his duties as a commander, as seen with Tate and Jirachi. This chapter was partly to show that, even though he's part of an evil organization, Tabitha has moral values (albeit some very very misguided ones). How that will affect his loyalty will be shown over the course of the story! I did model some of his personality after his Mightyena and the Pokedex flavor text for it :P

Poor Sarah. She was so self-assured at the outset. I do wish we got to know whether this experience has made her doubt her role in Aqua. Sure, she has Matt’s esteem, but has he ever been that kind to her? And maybe Shelly isn’t looking out for her as much as she thought. Or! Maybe she’s more determined than ever. I did like the switch to Tabitha, but it does mean we don’t get to know how her position has changed.
I've been thinking of writing another bonus chapter showing her point-of-view as a Team Magma prisoner! But yes, I do see that this would have been good to show. Thanks for the input!

The last thing I wondered about was why it never crossed her mind that someone might recognize her. Their faces are out there for the world to see, after all. Has she not run many other missions for Aqua?
(I thought this was mentioned in the chapter but maybe not) This was Sarah's first mission and she was sent to a base of new recruits. Since she was relatively new to Team Aqua, her commanders hoped there would be less chance of her being found out and it would be easier to blend in with new Team Magma recruits.

I did think the first section with Sarah ended in a stronger place than the second one with Chloe. Maybe consider swapping them? Or expanding the Chloe scene.
A swap might be good! I wanted to contrast her high-energy misadventure with the mundane life of most Team Aqua members and end the chapter on a quieter note.

I still can’t tell if this is because of something about the base itself or if a water-type would somehow be too suspicious.
Bit of both--Sealeo in particular are pretty large and Water/Ice type. They would be conspicuous and I have in my mind that the Team Magma members would find it strange that a Pokemon so commonly used on Team Aqua would belong to one of their new trainers.

It does seem like this would be a good way to gather intel though!
Fair point! This was a combo "You're new so take extra precaution" and "they're almost all new recruits and won't have too much info to give."

Omg, this guy. It does make him sound romantically interested, because Sarah is a very common name. He’s reaching.
Hahah well, it was never confirmed that he WASN'T flirting :P

Hm interesting! I appreciated seeing all her preparations here. Though it does strike me as foolish to leave anything that important in her room—she doesn’t know how this base works!
And her foolishness was rewarded as deserved.

Yeah, how is she doing sprints in a mini skirt?
It's possible. HARD, but possible.

I was uncomfortable writing this scene >_<

Unclear what he’s glancing at here.
Woops--forgot a word!

This doesn’t seem much better than bursting in himself, honestly.
I feel more at ease to a dog/dog-like creature busting in on me than a dude.

Girl, gotta use code names!
I started with that but then went ahead and used real names for the audience sake if nothing else lol tbh I really wanted to use the name "Mattimeo" and thought this might be my only chance to

Navel doesn’t really evoke getting hit in the stomach for me. Navel is surface-level, and what we’re really talking about is driving the breath out of him. Maybe in the gut?
:O I didn't realize that! The more you know.

Tabs, you might not be cut out for this job, my guy.
I think the last sentence I wrote might have been misplaced. It was to show a bit more of who Tabitha is (that he's gentler with women and really, really despises men who assault women and abuse their own strength) but I do think I worded the second part too strongly.

This is interesting. IIRC, he was pretty forceful and up in Maressa’s face. Part of me is like, “Hasn’t he done this enough times that he would be more numb to this? Capitalize on her bad experience, even if only to make threats he doesn’t intend to back up?” But another part of me thinks that, yeah, being kind is possibly a better way to get information anyway. Good cop, bad cop.
A bit of both; heh, I actually rewrote his actions here to make him less compassionate :P If he can get info out without having to cause excessive harm, he prefers it.

The tea was very sweet. ._.
Now I know how to get info out of you if you're ever my prisoner

Oh, a good observation!
Ngl whether Water-types naturally live in salt water or fresh water is constantly on my mind. And it drives me insane when I can't put them in a category.

Haha, I bet if she got a chance to play scientist, she’d find that recording data can be pretty dull, too.

I wish we knew why this research was being labeled illicit, at least ostensibly.
Girl tell me about it ._.


I wished we had more specific images here, especially on “looking nervous.”

Mmm but it’s sounds like the conflict is that Maressa isn’t letting her? You could expand this, I think.
Fair on both points! I also had bonus chapters in mind to elaborate on this ^_^; As it was, I felt like this chapter was long enough. Maybe it should be expanded on and made its own?
Thanks so much for stopping by! Always a treat to see something from you <3
 
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Chapter 16

Starlight Aurate

Ad Jesum per Mariam | pfp by kintsugi
Location
Route 123
Partners
  1. mightyena
  2. psyduck
Well, this is about 10 days late. My apologies, and I'll do what I can to get back on schedule with these chapters! I decided to try a new style of writing with this chapter: instead of just summing up things that happen over a period of days, I put in snippets of the dialogue and things that happened. Did it work? Or would summing have been better? Let me know!

Credit to bluwiikoon for the onomatopoeia of the fire siren!

Quick side-note: I've gotten a lot of commends over the years about human-Pokemon dialogue and interactio in this fic. I edited chapter 1 a bit to more explicitly spell out that, as trainers and their Pokemon spend more time together, they can communicate with each other. Since Maressa has spent most of her life with her Pokemon, she understands them just fine. Other trainers in this fic can also understand their Pokemon.


Chapter 16


Maressa leaned against a tree trunk and gazed out over the wide river as the roar of the waterfall reached her ears. She stood on a protruding piece of land that gave her a breathtaking view of the rainforest stretching out like a green carpet beneath a bright blue canopy; it was a view that would allow her to easily spot any intruders—or visitors. The waterfall nearby was the same one where she and Matt were to meet Phoebe and Liza.

Switching her gaze to the riverbed, she saw Golduck lazily hovering just beneath the water’s surface, the jewel on his forehead glinting dully. He still disagreed with Maressa in staying with Team Aqua, but he wasn’t so angry at her that he wouldn’t hang around her.

Maressa swiveled her head around to make sure no other team members were nearby. None was in sight. She glanced at a swath of trees behind her and saw Gloom sitting beside a tree in a patch of sunlight, a line of white drool dribbling from his mouth. Her heart lightened and turned warm.

She hadn’t officially released him; he could technically be returned to the Pokeball and she always kept his Pokeball on her belt, although it was more for sentimental reasons at this point. The sentimentality wasn’t entirely directed towards Gloom; it had always felt right for her to have four Pokeballs with her. Feeling the empty one reminded her, with panging sorrow, of Seaking each time.

Fortunately, Gloom seemed to acclimate to the rainforest just fine, and Maressa couldn’t help but notice that every time she came outside, she saw him nearby, gazing at her. She always smiled at him, and even though he hardly made a response, it filled her heart to know that he stayed nearby and that she could still see him.

She frowned. She wanted to do something nice for Gloom—maybe give him a snack or something to eat. But what did Grass-types eat? Did they eat at all? Every time she saw him, Gloom seemed content to just soak up the sunlight. Maressa’s thoughts flickered back to Derek and his Breloom; they would know how to take care of Gloom. Breloom might make a really good friend for Gloom—he was always so welcoming and friendly every time Maressa saw him.

Thinking of Derek and his Pokemon made Maressa’s heart sink a little. She wondered what trouble they had gotten into for releasing her and hoped they were all right. There was a longing in her heart to speak to Derek—to speak to someone about her desire to leave Team Aqua and how she had grown to hate the Team.

Well, how she had grown to hate Matt.

At the thought of Matt, she turned her mind to thinking what she could do to damage Team Aqua. Many of the experimental labs had bottles filled with ethanol—that was highly flammable. Maybe she could—

KABOOM!

She wheeled around at the sound of the explosion as it accompanied a shockwave that reverberated through the air. People screamed and yelled—a group of team members pelted into the forest and away from their base. Maressa rushed down the slope to where the Team Aqua base was located, hearing Golduck’s feet slap wetly in the grass as he raced alongside her. She came to a halt as she saw the small metal structure—or what was left of it—nestled snugly between several trees. Most of the base was underground with only a small entrance at the surface. Copious amounts of smoke issued from the metal structure and Team Aqua members stumbled out of it, coughing.

Maressa started forward but stopped when everything in her vision exploded in a flash. It was too bright to see—even when she clenched her eyes shut, the golden light shone through her eyelids. She turned away and buried her face in the crook of her elbow—frustrated, confused and completely helpless.

A moment later the light vanished. Maressa opened her eyes and lowered her arm, blinking away the spots popping up. Heart racing, she raised her eyes towards the heavens and a chill rolled down her spine.

Dark grey clouds moved rapidly in a spotty formation, erratically letting through piercing columns of sunlight before covering them up again. Columns of cloud has been turned on their side and rolled with alarming speed through the skyscape.

And just as suddenly as they had started, they stopped, leaving puffy white cumulus clouds and serene blue sky.

Maressa blinked but didn’t have enough time to question it before she felt every hair on her body rise. She looked down at Golduck—but she barely had control of her own muscles. Golduck didn’t have any hairs—not since he was a Psyduck—but the wide-eyed expression of shock on his face mirrored the panic Maressa felt in her heart. She saw her friend’s body lift into the air, as if he was a puppet attached to strings. Her own body rose along with him—her heart pounded madly and a terrified sweat broke out on her forehead.

Maressa’s heart jumped in her throat as she saw a little gold and silver imp floating in the air before her, its body giving off a soft glow. She might have considered it cute, but with the dark smoke billowing from the remains of the base behind it, along with the fact that she could no longer move her own body, left Maressa terrified.

Her terror was overridden a second later by searing pain. She took in a strangled gasp as it felt like a thousand needles were hammered into her brain—each hammer blow sending skull-cracking lances of agony through her body.

Her own memories flashed before her eyes: playing in a pond near Fuchsia city, getting into a slap-fight with Psyduck, staring out the window of a moving truck, getting into a slap-fight with Betty, graduating college, receiving her Team Aqua uniform, talking with Derek…

Each of these memories lasted for a split-second before moving on to the next with a new jolt of pain. Maressa didn’t only see the memories, but felt all of the feelings associated with them: the anger at Psyduck and her sister, the longing and sadness of moving away from Kanto, the excitement of joining Team Aqua, the fear of being trapped in a Team Magma base—and everything else as hundreds of memories were sifted through her mind in an instant. Only the memories of her talking to Derek and escaping the Team Magma base lasted longer. It paused on a memory of Derek searching through the medicine cabinet, turning his head to talk to her.

I like this one.

Maressa saw the little imp staring at her, its brown eyes stern but approving.

This one is nice.

It took her but a moment to realize that “this one” meant Derek and that it was the creature’s voice she heard in her head—a voice that sounded like a young boy’s.

I’ve seen him before. He’s nice to my friend. He brings him food and takes care of him.

The pain vanished from Maressa’s brain and the Pokemon gazed at her eagerly. She didn’t know who this “friend” was—but the Pokemon knew Derek. And he was taking care of someone just like he did with Maressa. Was he okay after her escape?

He’s fine. I have seen his thoughts too. He worries about you a lot. He thinks you’re dead. I’ll let him know that you are alive.

The Pokemon held Maressa a moment longer—it examined her feelings of resentment towards Team Aqua and sifted through her memories of making a deal with Liza and Phoebe. As these flashed before her mind, she felt a burst of joy though it was not her own. The Pokemon’s eyes lit up as it gazed at her and then lowered her to the ground.

The two of them stared at each other for a moment—then it vanished.

Maressa was only on her feet for only a second before the weight of her body came back to her. She fell to her knees, clutching her stomach as it reeled in nausea. She felt dizzy and heavy. The world spun around her—her vision started to go black, and she leaned forward and retched, coughing as she wiped her mouth clean. She fell onto her back, arms spread outwards as she breathed heavily, gazing at the sky while colors popped before her eyes. Golduck was at her side in a flash, his vermillion eyes filled with concern.

Laying a hand on her friend, Maressa panted, “Did… did you feel it, Golduck?”

The Pokemon’s eyes moved downwards as he nodded slowly.

“What do you think it was?”

Golduck shook his head. It was a Pokemon—some type that was far more powerful than anything he had ever come across.

Maressa continued gazing at the sky, questions popping into her mind, which she voiced aloud to Golduck.

“But just what was that thing? Why did it come to attack us? How does it know Derek? Does this mean it’s been around Team Magma before? Why was it so overjoyed when it realized Matt and I had made a deal with Phoebe and Liza? What did it do to the sky—and to our base?”

As she voiced these thoughts, she pieced together bits of the puzzle in her mind when she felt the ground shake and saw people run by. Golduck helped Maressa sit back up as Team Aqua members sprinted over to the base.

“Are you all right?”

Maressa looked up as Mark ambled over. “Yeah,” she said a little shakily. “Do you know what that thing was?”

Mark shook his head. “I have no idea. I was just outside with Lombre one minute, and then I heard this loud explosion. So I took off running as fast as I could—because what was I supposed to do, y’know?—and once I reached the woods, it felt like something was squeezing my brain. And I can hardly even move my own body, and next thing I know I’m in the air, and I see my entire life flash right before my eyes. Literally every single thing I ever experienced flashed before me in a few seconds! And a second later I’m lying flat on my back in the grass. So I got up and noticed that little—that little thing floating in the air, and you and your Golduck were floating in front of it for a few seconds before you two dropped down. Then it vanished—not a sound, just a weird little light flicker—and it was gone.”

“Yeah… That’s pretty much what happened to me.”

Maressa stared at the plume of smoke erupting from the ground for a second more before switching her gaze to Golduck. His face—as usual—showed little expression, but Maressa could tell that he was disturbed. His slanted red eyes were soft and glossed over. Reaching out a hand, Maressa rubbed his shoulder. He jolted back to reality and gave her a nod of acknowledgement.

“You doing okay?”

Nod.

“You wanna talk about it?”

A pause. Shrug. Maybe they would talk later.

“Is something on your mind?”

Golduck’s gaze was downcast. His shoulders slumped forward and his tail moved back-and-forth slowly.

“What is it? Come on, speak to me.”

He paused before he let out a series of low quacks. He knew that the creature was powerful and very old. Once he saw it, some sort of sense awoke in Golduck—a sense that he should treat that creature with deference and shouldn’t attack it. It was a higher being; it was far above him. But the moment it looked at Maressa, Golduck knew it was a potential threat to her so he cast aside his instincts and prepared to attack anyway.

Except that he couldn’t. The creature overpowered him—it had taken control over his body and brain and scanned all of his memories and everything that was on his mind, halting his flow of thought and rendering him completely useless and immobile—physically and mentally. But it had also done it to Maressa and apparently the other Team Aqua grunts and their Pokemon, too, all at the same time.

Golduck sat down on the ground, his head turned away as he quacked. In all his life, he had never felt so useless. That creature could have done away with Maressa or any of the Pokemon and there wasn’t a thing he could have done to stop it.

Putting an arm around his shoulders, Maressa smiled. “It’s okay. I know that thing was strong—I don’t think any Pokemon I’ve ever met would be able to do a thing to it. I doubt even the Elite Four could give it a fight! And,” she whispered wryly, “it certainly did a number on Team Aqua’s base.”

Several meters before her, she saw Matt and the rest of the team standing and staring at the ruined remains of their base. The smoke had cleared away, leaving a pit in the middle of the jungle. Matt swore violently and put his hands on his hips.

“What the hell do we do now?”

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

For the next several days, the attacks by that little creature continued to occur on all of the Team Aqua bases. Archie told the Team Aqua members that the little creature was known as “Jirachi.”

“It’s incredibly powerful, as you already saw,” he said to a small contingent of members one day. He sat at a desk, chin resting on one hand, eyes locked as he thought hard. “There’s only one of it, and it’s supposed to only be awake for a week every one-thousand years. Most people don’t believe it exists—I sure didn’t.” He shook his head. “I can’t believe he was right…”

“If it’s going to keep attacking us, what do we do?” Shelly asked.

“Lay low. No missions, no going out for anything except to abandon bases and move elsewhere. If it attacks, leave the base. I’m sure the Hoenn authorities will be trying to track it and investigate the attack sites. Considering we were an immediate target, I’m willing to bet that Team Magma has control of it—somehow.”

But the Hoenn authorities seemed to be having problems of their own. The day after Jirachi had attacked the base in the rainforest, the police headquarters in Petalburg City was demolished. Maressa saw an image of the building—once large and fortified—on the TV as little more than a mound of smoking rubble within a steel skeleton. It wasn’t just police buildings; random areas of cities throughout Hoenn were being torn apart by Jirachi’s attacks.

Maressa stood in a room of other Team Aqua members, all of whom were crowded around a TV. As she watched the reporters speak of the attacks and speculate where they might occur next, more and more questions kept coming to her mind.

The most prominent question was: if Team Magma really was controlling Jirachi, why didn’t they just have Jirachi bring them the Red and Blue Orbs directly? The admins brought this question to Archie.

“If there’s anything Jirarchi can’t do, it’s control Kyogre and Groudon,” he theorized. “The Red and Blue Orbs aren’t ordinary objects. They must have special properties that prevent Pokemon powers from working on them.”

Well, Maressa thought, if that was the case, why didn’t Maxie just have Jirachi dry up the oceans and make more land by itself? If the power Maressa had seen was anything to gauge by, Jirachi was certainly capable of doing such.

Maressa mentioned it to Shelly. Her commander glanced at her, annoyed. “Because they’re going to get Groudon to do that,” she said shortly. And the conversation was over.

Maressa thought back to the words Archie had said to her when she first returned to Team Aqua: “If we can find Kyogre and find that Orb, then there’s hope that we can return the seas to their natural state and prevent humanity from destroying them ever again.”

Was Team Aqua planning to control Kyogre long-term? Jirachi was only awake for a week, after all. But Team Aqua’s objective was to restore oceans to their state before humanity intervened—and from her conversation with Tabitha, it seemed like Team Magma intended to do the same with Groudon and terrestrial habitats. Why not just use Jirachi to do so? If their goal really was to restore natural habitats, Jirachi should have been able to do it quickly and easily. Why go to the trouble of summoning another Pokemon? Unless they wanted control over Groudon for the long-term, she couldn’t see the reasoning—and even then, how long would they want to control Groudon?

She stood in the security room, her eyes on the camera screens as Mark and Cloe, who were on duty, chattered away. Her eyes roved from one screen to another, looking at the different rooms: the lower left hallway, Microbio Lab A, the lower right hallway—

She blinked. There were two microbiology labs, but Microbio Lab B wasn’t next to A like she thought it would. Her eyes darted around—Lab B wasn’t on any of the screens at all.

“Why is only Lab A on here?” she asked.

Cloe and Mark looked at the screens.

“Oh,” Mark said as he remembered. “They were originally one lab. But people were stepping on each other’s toes and getting angry—the people studying Lombre genetics always left their stuff out, and those studying Barboach breeding patterns didn’t label their stuff so all of the DNA samples in the freezers and fridges were disorganized. Someone—we don’t know who, but it was probably Terry—left something big and frozen in the freezer for half a year. We lost power during a storm once, everything in the freezer melted, and it’s smelled like something dead ever since. That was the last straw for the Lombre researchers—so they built a wall to keep the others out.”

“Isn’t that extreme? Why not just talk to each other and work it out?”

“I think it’s genius!” Cloe exclaimed. “I wouldn’t want anyone messing with my projects.”

As Cloe chattered away about how wonderful it was to keep scientific projects organized and away from messy people, Maressa kept her eyes fixed on the screen, formulating a plan in her head. She smiled—she knew what to do.

A few hours later, she walked down the hallway towards the Microbio Labs, her heart pounding with excitement. They were full of ethanol, and they had lighters in the drawer that they used for sterilizing—all she had to do was knock over a bottle of ethanol, light it on fire, and the lab would go up in flames!

BREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE BEEOOBEEOOBEEOOBEEOO

Clamping her hands over her eyes, she shut her eyes against the bursts of blinding light before her eyes. The fire sirens went off—but she hadn’t even set the lab on fire yet!

Doors to the microbiology labs burst open and a cloud of smoke poured out—the Barboach researchers stumbled through the haze, coughing.

A man in his early thirties saw Maressa and exclaimed, “We need to move! The lab’s on fire!”

Maressa reached to grab a Pokeball but a young woman named Ashley grabbed her arms and ushered her down the hallway, away from the smoke. Doors opened on either side—a couple people and their Water-type Pokemon went down the hall to take care of the damage.

“What happened?” Maressa asked as they walked out into the sunlight on the grassy hillside.

“That was my fault,” said the man from before. “I put down the chemical paper and had the Barboach tissue samples on them. I was sanitizing my tweezers in the fire, but I knocked over my burner and it burned the chemical paper. I stood up too quickly—I knocked the bottle of ethanol over, too, and it soaked the wooden table and it all lit on fire.”

Terry.

His lab-mates didn’t seem too upset with him; Ashley patted him on the back; Donald said it was “no big deal, accidents happen all the time;” Rhett figured that the fire would just clean out the contamination that had plagued that lab for years, if nothing else.

Maressa turned away from the researchers, not wanting them to see her pouting. She wanted to be the one to set the lab on fire! As other Team Aqua members came out the door and informed them that the fire was put out, Maressa angrily stormed back into the hall. Sure, it was good for her, but she didn’t even get to do anything!

As she power-walked past a few open doors, she paused. Glancing to her right, she saw a large computer in the room, its multiple monitors filling up the wall space. Various amounts of code and data were recorded on the screens. Maressa glanced about—in the chaos of Terry setting the lab on fire, the room was left wide open and abandoned.

Should she have done it? Maybe not. But in the heat of her anger and resentment, she stormed into the room, opened the file menu, and deleted all the files saved to the computer. Yanking the USB drives out of the computer—without waiting for the computer to signal it was safe to eject them—she pocketed them, walked outside, followed the river to where no one else saw her, and flung the USB drives in the water.

That would show them.

As she stood in the soft mud of the river bank beneath the broad green leaves of the canopy, she saw two large forms swim towards her up the river—one of them emanating a pale light.

She smiled as she saw Sharpedo and Lanturn break the surface of the water. Sharpedo smiled smugly—as much as a Sharpedo could, anyway—looked very pleased with himself; Lanturn looked worried and slightly upset.

Sharpedo growled proudly—he had just torn chunks out of some of the team’s equipment!

“Good job, Sharpedo!” Maressa said.

Lanturn crooned—it was dangerous! He shouldn’t have done it, especially not when other people on the team also raised and studied Sharpedo!

“I’m sure it’ll be fine, Lanturn,” Maressa said. “One of our own team members just set the lab on fire, I just deleted all the files on a computer, and Jirachi is still causing chaos and blowing up parts of our bases. If anything, they’ll just think Jirachi did all this!”

While she never heard anything more about the first two, it seemed that the rest of the team members dismissed it as another of Jirachi’s attacks or from a wild, territorial Sharpedo.

In the meantime, Golduck was pressing Maressa harder than ever to pack up and leave Team Aqua for good. Everyone was on edge and thinking about Jirachi all the time; she could easily get out undetected and they could start looking for Seaking. It was their golden opportunity!

“I can’t,” Maressa hissed. “I have to meet up with Matt every day to go see Phoebe and Liza.”

Golduck shook his head in disgust. Maressa could get away—she just chose not to.

“But Golduck, what if Phoebe and Liza end up actually giving the Orbs to Team Aqua? Am I supposed to just run away and let it happen? If Team Aqua gets the Orbs, then the rest of the world is done for!”

Golduck slapped his tail loudly on the ground and quacked angrily. So what if Team Aqua got the Orbs? What were they supposed to do about it? She was one person with three Pokemon, he reminded her. Team Aqua was over a hundred people and hundreds of Pokemon. How were they supposed to fight against them?

“Because you’re stronger than any other Pokemon on this team,” she told him, and she almost meant it.

Golduck rolled his eyes at this but dropped the issue for the time being. A large reason he wanted to leave was that he didn’t want to constantly guard Maressa and be on lookout for Matt.

“Well, that was stupid and dangerous of you,” Archie growled when Matt told him about the deal they made with Phoebe and Liza. “You trust scum like the Pokemon League to keep their word on anything?”

“No, which is why I’ve got one of their Pokemon,” Matt said as he held up Banette’s Pokeball.

Archie took it. His anger abated when he saw Banette through the translucent cap. “How’d you get this?”

“I had to give them one of my own,” Matt mumbled with a murderous glare at Maressa.

She stiffened and was ready to throw back a retort—it wasn’t her fault that Phoebe demanded one of his Pokemon!

But the Boss spoke up first. “You might as well see this through. Our base on Route 119 is gone,” the boss said to Matt as he handed Banette’s Pokeball back. “Meet up with them each day. We’ve sent a number of our own members to pretend to be new Team Magma recruits and spy on them and try to get the boy; I’ll tell you if I hear anything. Bring strong Pokemon with you in case anything bad happens. Who knows—maybe they are looking for an honest bargain. They seem to have their hands tied up as much as we do.”

He paused before letting out a bark of laughter. “I take that back—they’ll never aim for an honest bargain, not with us!”

Except for the times when Maressa and Matt met to go see Phoebe and Liza, they had almost completely stopped interacting. She sensed displeasure and anger emanating from him but she didn’t care. Even though he seemed to regard Crawdaunt falling into the hands of the Pokemon League to be her fault, Maressa didn’t have any pity for him.

Well, maybe a little. But it wasn’t enough to make a difference. And he hadn’t asked her to hang out with him since she turned him down.

Two days after Team Aqua made the deal with Phoebe and Liza, Maressa found herself standing with the other three humans and Golduck in a small cliff-side opening right next to the waterfall. Large ferns and other plants grew all over the rockface, completely blocking the appearance of the cave-like opening.

Maressa rubbed her arms. The walls were wet—they always were. Away from the sun, the rocks never seemed to dry. Lichens and slime molds grew within the craggy crevices. Barely anything was visible from the few streams of sunlight that trickled in. Everything was cold, damp and dark. She didn’t like being there.

The Elite Four Member and Gym Leader were both soaking wet from the rain outside and looking thoroughly disgruntled. Matt looked up at them, his expression bored.

“Got anything?” he asked.

Phoebe wordlessly held up a cloth bag in which two bulges could be seen. Matt’s eyes immediately lit up and he held out his hand to receive it.

The Elite Four member jerked her hand back. “Give us Tate and then you can have these.”

Matt’s excitement dissipated into stony anger. “We don’t have him—yet. But we’re working on it. At least let me take a look at the Orbs.”

“Are you kidding me? ‘Just take a look’ means that you’re not going to return them.” She and Liza turned to go. “Have Tate with you next time.”

Matt’s face turned a vivid shade of red as the two of them began to walk out. Phoebe and Liza hadn’t even reached the cliff opening when Matt punched the wall—a large group of Zubat descended from their perches on the ceiling and filled the air.

“Go, Lunatone!”

“Stop them, Banet—no!”

The girls had only just sent out their Pokemon when a Zubat snatched the bag from Phoebe’s hands. Maressa watched apprehensively as the admin took the bag from the Pokemon’s jaws and looked inside, his eyes shining in earnest. He reached in and pulled out a dull, blue sphere that looked as if it was made of glass. All traces of delight faded from his face, and after a second of examining the Orb, he looked at Phoebe and Liza—whose Pokemon were fending off the cloud of Zubat—in disgust.

“Do you realize who you’re dealing with?”

At his words, the Zubat dispersed. Phoebe and Liza looked directly at him. Small bite marks dotted their hands and faces, leaving little bleeding punctures. Liza looked confused; Phoebe, apprehensive.

“What do you mean?” Phoebe asked.

Keeping a steady gaze on her, Matt dropped the Blue Orb. Maressa gasped sharply as it shattered into thousands of azure bits on the rocks.

It actually shattered.

And so easily, as if it were made of ordinary glass. Maressa’s flow of thought ceased. She looked up at the other humans: Liza stared at the shattered Orb in shock, Phoebe looked at Matt in horror. The Aqua admin looked squarely at the two of them and grew angrier by the second.

“What kind of person do you take me for? You think that just because I don’t play by your rules means that I’m some kind of idiot? That wasn’t the Blue Orb, and this—” he reached in the bag and held out a perfectly-round sphere of red glass, “—isn’t the Red Orb.” So saying, he dropped it, where it shattered on the ground next to its twin.

Phoebe grew hysterical. “Do you know what you’ve done?” she shrieked. “Those are needed for keeping the balance of power in Hoenn! Now that you’ve destroyed them, Groudon and Kyogre are all the more likely to set loose and start fighting!”

“Don’t lie to me!” Matt shouted. “I know those were plain glass objects—the real Orbs would have power, those had nothing!” Breathing heavily, he glared icily at the Elite Four member. “If you’re not going to uphold your end of the bargain, I see no reason to uphold mine.”

He reached inside his pocket and took out a Pokeball.

Phoebe’s face blanched. “What are you doing?” she asked quietly.

“I don’t get it,” Liza said as she looked up at Phoebe. “What’s going on?”

Maressa was wondering the same thing and watched as Matt dropped the Pokeball and it clattered on the ground. Placing a foot on it, Matt leaned, gradually pushing more of his weight on it. There was a crack, and a brief spark of static—

“STOP!”

Maressa’s head jerked upwards at Phoebe’s scream. The Elite Four member’s dark face turned completely white—tears streamed from her dark brown eyes. Phoebe ran forward, trying to grab the Pokeball from Matt, but he deftly picked it as Azumarill burst out of a Pokeball on his belt and sprayed the Ghost-type trainer with a jet of water.

A second later, the Water-type’s body was surrounded by a ghastly purple glow and it was thrown across the cave.

The purple glow faded from Lunatone’s eyes as Liza rushed over to where Phoebe lay against the rock wall. Azumarill immediately got up from where it laid and ran to stand before Matt.

“I’m not interested in fighting,” Matt said. He held up the Pokeball he had tried to crush. “But you should have never tried to pull that on me.”

“P—please,” Phoebe stuttered from where she lay. She gazed pleadingly at Matt as she lay on the floor in a sopping wet heap, the pink flowers in her hair sagging. Tears still leaked from her eyes as she despaired. “Don’t do anything to hurt her. I’m—I’m sorry—I’ll bring you the real ones.”

“Oh, I wasn’t going to hurt her,” Matt said nonchalantly. “Don’t you know what happens to Pokemon who are stuck inside their Pokeballs when they’re destroyed? They—”

“Yes, I know!” Phoebe shouted. Matt chuckled as he watched her gaze at him in terror and shock. “I know, I’m sorry, I’ll bring you the real Orbs—whatever you want, just please don’t do anything to my Banette.”

“Bring me the real Orbs, and you’ve got a deal. Otherwise, I will destroy this Pokeball with your precious Banette inside it. We’re done here.” Without another word, he walked to the opening in the cliff face. Maressa glanced at Lunatone and Liza—who glared at her—and Phoebe, who remained on the ground and sobbed softly. Turning her head, she followed Matt outside to where the Pelipper were waiting for them, her heart heavy with guilt and pity.
 
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Adamhuarts

Mew specialist
Partners
  1. mew-adam
  2. celebi-shiny
  3. roserade-adam
Finally got back to Drowning and I'm here for the sixth chapter. This chapter was mostly just characterization and I enjoyed reading through it.

I notice that we see a lot of Derek in this chapter, and I've come to like his character quite a lot. I think you do a good job of incorporating real world concepts and pokemon ones once again. I kinda felt bad for Derek as the whole getting burned out by college is something a lot of people could relate to, and I find the vague parallels for why Maressa and him joined their respective teams to be quite interesting.

It was quite considerate of him to come to the decision of helping Maressa escape from Team Magma's grasp. From what we know of Courtney, she doesn't exactly shine with maturity or kindness, though it was funny seeing her poke at Tabitha and overall bantering with him. Even though Tabitha is also a scary individual, it's nice to see that even the commanders are just people and have things they care about. It adds a lot of depth to them.

I wonder what Derek's plan for getting Maressa actually is though. I'm guessing Maressa isn't in a fortified Magma base, otherwise he wouldn't even entertain the idea because the risk would've been too high. Either way, I look forward to seeing how that all plays out and what ramifications will follow.
 

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 Chapters 8 - 16~

What was said:

He held out his hand and a smile split Maressa’s face when she saw her Pokeballs.

What I read:

He split Maressa's face when he smiled at her Pokeballs.

Hewwo I am is do returneth now

fear me rawr Quilaree.png

I've been meaning to get back to Drowning for a couple of weeks now, but stuff has been hectic so this late arrival shall have to do. If it means anything, I stayed up to an ungodly time of night reading this both because I have Problems (TM) and because it's so good Copyka.png

I must say, I wasn't expecting things to ramp up that quickly, after the relatively slow pace of the first seven chapters. It feels like we went from Maressa making her way back to a Team Aqua base to cross-team espionage, exploding team bases, gym leader involvement, and the immediate and looming threat of awakening legendary pokemon in just a snap. A striking, but certainly not unwelcome expansion of scope! I just wonder how long it'll go on for, since it seems like tensions are beginning to click into high gear and the all-important Red and Blue Orbs are very nearly in Team Aqua's grasp.

I think Jirachi's Awakening and the subsequent Magma kidnapping are really where it began to kick into high gear for me. We had looming threats of an epic Team face-off and Maressa's escape from the Team Magma submarine all the way to Blue Seas was admittedly pretty high-strung in the moment, but it's all low-key grunt drama that focuses on Maressa and her insignificance in the big scheme of things. And then all the sudden it's like a switch was flicked and all this stuff is going on and it's hard to keep up but also I want to know everything and where this is going all the sudden.

One thing I think Drowning does really well is present a more grounded, down-to-earth portrayal of these two warring teams. Where the game presented us with a bunch of cartoony idiots with no clue what they were playing around with, Drowning turns them into fully militarized factions with false-front companies, multiple bases all over the region, apparent control of the police authorities, and a deep understanding of what they are toying with in the worst of ways. Which is pretty darn freaky, NGL.

I think it's slightly LOL that Courtney has appeared two or three times already and every time it's been over the phone ranting to either Tabitha or Maxie. :ROFLMAO:

Right after Maressa gets back into Team Aqua, she's interrogated by none other than Archie himself, who provides his long-awaited motive for starting Team Aqua... and it's actually pretty reasonable, to be honest. He seems like a well-intentioned, if misguided person, but as always there's something he's just not saying that makes it all a little off - exactly like the rest of Team Aqua. And that's why - just like Maressa - I don't believe he's saying everything, because that's what Team Aqua does. They spin a tapestry of lies to hide their true intentions, and it all sounds so good that most people ignore the cracks on purpose.

And then there's Team Magma, who in true Team Magma fashion aren't even hiding their evil deeds. It's ironic how openly evil Maxie seems to be, yet the Magma team-base Sarah infiltrates is very concerned with its team members' well-being and Tabitha shows more mercy than Matt or Shelly likely would have in his position. ...And then there's the fact that they kidnapped a freaking child and are currently forcing his legendary friend to go around and blow places up WTF

So now to talk about Jirachi, who hands down may be the most tragic/interesting character in this fic. I think it's nice that, overall, pretty much every pokemon in this fic has some kind of distinct characterization, but Jirachi is the first pokemon who actually talks to the humans here. I think its lore is tragic, honestly - it sleeps alone for a thousand years and gets so desperate that when it wakes up it clings onto someone for the six days it's awake until it's forced back into sleep again. I feel really sad for it. Hopefully it gets a happy ending with Tate

Now that Jirachi's out, though, it seems that the fic is softlocked into its new, high-speed pace. Jirachi's awake for six days only, and in that time it's created a lot of mess and made things particularly hard for Team Aqua. I think that Maxie forgoing using Jirachi to replenish the land they wanted is enough to prove that he wants something a bit more than just environmental repair, something Drowning has been tackling head-on.

Initially I was going to ding that Jirachi seems to be a media sensation when it first comes out of the stone and interacts with Tate, but none of the characters seem to realize what it is or that it exists until it's convenient for them. Then I realized that the last four or so chapters have pretty much all taken place at once, or over the same stretch of time. It didn't really click for me until Chapter Sixteen, when Jirachi executes an order Maxie made two or three chapters ago, and Archie talks about Aqua spies sent to Magma bases. But then it did, and I realized that 'Oh crap. This all happened at once.' it's very high-speed and dense, but despite the denseness (which is not a negative in my book at all) it all slotted together well in the end.

On a not-so-related note, I find it odd that everyone constantly dunks on Shelly being hard to work with behind Shelly's back, but Shelly doesn't seem that hard to work with in the few moments she does get page-time? Busy, maybe, and a bit snippy in the beginning with the Mt. Chimney mission, but certainly not hard to work with IMO. At the very least, she's not constantly jabbering into her superiors' ears through a phone like Courtney is lol

Poor Seaking... I hope it's alright :sadwott:

It's kind of freaky how every single grunt in Team Aqua seems to be hypnotized under this ideology of "I'm only fulfilling life if I'm serving Team Aqua". I kind of got those vibes in the beginning with Maressa and it rang alarm bells, but now they're just blaring non-stop, seeing how all these other grunts like Sarah and Chloe are being used like fodder in Team Aqua's name, and how even Maressa seems to be back under its spell for a bit. With how strong a grip this idealogy seems to have upon its members, and especially in Maressa's case, who has information to the contrary and should know better, I wouldn't even discount some kind of literal hypnotization/brain programming at this point.

Aww, Derek shares his juice with the prisoners :veelove: I have to admit, at this point I'm a bit worried for him. I feel like his conscience is going to drive him to do the same thing that he did with Maressa - moreso because Tate is just a kid. And the difference is that while Maressa was just a grunt, everything hinges on Tate. and Derek is already floating on a second chance. If he strikes out again - if he frees Tate - Maxie is probably going to let his mightyena eat Derek alive, and I think he knows that. So my prediction is that he's going to strike out a second time, and this time he's going for good. That, or face certain death.

One thing I've found interesting while reading is what seems to be the recurring theme of Drowning: Doing the right thing gets you in trouble with the wrong people. Derek gets in trouble with Tabitha and the higher-ups for letting a prisoner """die""" on his watch. Tate is in a boatload of trouble for sticking with Jirachi. Phoebe is in trouble for trying to comfort Liza and accidentally getting herself in deep water with Team Aqua, and Maressa is headed nowhere good by actively sabotaging TA's missions and stuff. It hits hard, because I think that's an unfortunate IRL truth - when presented with a hard situation, if you follow your conscience you're probably going to get a lot of crap for it - even if it turns out to be the right thing in the end. And you might make some very bad decisions along the way, like nearly everyone in this fic has done at some point.

A negative I had is that I didn't really understand Maressa's train of actions after she makes it back to the Team Aqua base. It's like... she arrives, and then she skirts under the radar during interrogation, which is fine. But then she just lets her tongue slip out of nowhere about the Team Magma base? And then after that, she talks about wanting to escape from Team Aqua, but then gets caught up with Matt and straight up abandons this goal for a few days so she can pretend like it's not happening, and it's only when Matt attempts to hit on her that she decides to help dismantle Team Aqua. It's like... I understand not being able to keep it together - I know I wouldn't be holding up very well in her situation at all - but the train of thought isn't really clear to me. It's like she set herself a goal and then took a U-turn right away, with brief interludes of "I know, I know" when Golduck rightfully WTF'd at her. I'm kind of ??? as well.

Why does it not surprise me at all that the lab scientists could not keep their crap together well enough to share a lab lol. But then Maressa trashed it... and at this point it feels less like she's actually making a calculated effort to destroy Team Aqua and more like she's just taking out her petty frustrations on the team. That, or she has no clue how to go about it and is way to excited to destroy things and hamper progress. Either way, it bodes badly for her, and she's likely to get caught sooner or later. I think Golduck is absolutely justified to be worried about her.

Another thing that kind of made me go "??" was when Phoebe chased after Liza, caught up with her, and sat her down to discuss strategies for finding a criminal gang... in the middle of the street in public. It feels like something an elite member of the Pokemon League should know better than to do, especially considering Maressa, a disgruntled criminal grunt, was very mindful of eavesdroppers and the like. As a side note, I kind of saw the Team Aqua gang-up at the police station coming once it was mentioned that the eavesdropping police officer had a marshtomp, but also as a reader I am privy to both sides of the situation and know a lot more about Team Aqua than Phoebe and Liza do, so... hindsight is 20/20, I suppose?

Overall I am very much enjoying myself, though! This down-to-earth, more reasonably portrayal of the Team Aqua/Magma conflict has me thoroughly hooked, and the elements I assume had absolutely no place in the original game (such as the kidnapping of Jirachi) make it all the more engaging. No matter what happens from here on out, this fic deserves to be Drowning in praise :veelove:
I have
no regrets


~SparklingEspeon

Listening to: Bloody Stream (From JoJo)
 
Chapter 17

Starlight Aurate

Ad Jesum per Mariam | pfp by kintsugi
Location
Route 123
Partners
  1. mightyena
  2. psyduck
~Review of Chapters 8 - 16~
Hewwo I am is do returneth now

fear me rawr View attachment 453
To be fair, my prose was VERY off in earlier chapters ^_^;


I've been meaning to get back to Drowning for a couple of weeks now, but stuff has been hectic so this late arrival shall have to do. If it means anything, I stayed up to an ungodly time of night reading this both because I have Problems (TM) and because it's so good View attachment 454
That one sentence gave me such feels 😭I cannot overstate how affirming it is to see someone say that.

I must say, I wasn't expecting things to ramp up that quickly, after the relatively slow pace of the first seven chapters. It feels like we went from Maressa making her way back to a Team Aqua base to cross-team espionage, exploding team bases, gym leader involvement, and the immediate and looming threat of awakening legendary pokemon in just a snap. A striking, but certainly not unwelcome expansion of scope! I just wonder how long it'll go on for, since it seems like tensions are beginning to click into high gear and the all-important Red and Blue Orbs are very nearly in Team Aqua's grasp.
Yep, the scope-creep was real and quite unintentional with this fic ^_^; I always meant for it to happen to some extent, but it happened much more quickly and on a marge larger scale than I had initially intended.

One thing I think Drowning does really well is present a more grounded, down-to-earth portrayal of these two warring teams. Where the game presented us with a bunch of cartoony idiots with no clue what they were playing around with, Drowning turns them into fully militarized factions with false-front companies, multiple bases all over the region, apparent control of the police authorities, and a deep understanding of what they are toying with in the worst of ways. Which is pretty darn freaky, NGL.
Thank you so much! Portraying each of the "mooks" or grunts as more than just a faceless unit in the teams was something big that initially drove me to start writing this, and I'm glad to hear that it's been working to an extent!

I think it's slightly LOL that Courtney has appeared two or three times already and every time it's been over the phone ranting to either Tabitha or Maxie. :ROFLMAO:
LOL I hadn't even realized that XD If it makes up for it at all, she does show up in-person this chapter!

Right after Maressa gets back into Team Aqua, she's interrogated by none other than Archie himself, who provides his long-awaited motive for starting Team Aqua... and it's actually pretty reasonable, to be honest. He seems like a well-intentioned, if misguided person, but as always there's something he's just not saying that makes it all a little off - exactly like the rest of Team Aqua. And that's why - just like Maressa - I don't believe he's saying everything, because that's what Team Aqua does. They spin a tapestry of lies to hide their true intentions, and it all sounds so good that most people ignore the cracks on purpose.
The Archie scene was written one night where I could not go to sleep for whatever reason and lay awake thinking about what he would say. And thus it was written View attachment 454 And you're right, he's definitely keep a few secrets :P

And then there's Team Magma, who in true Team Magma fashion aren't even hiding their evil deeds. It's ironic how openly evil Maxie seems to be, yet the Magma team-base Sarah infiltrates is very concerned with its team members' well-being and Tabitha shows more mercy than Matt or Shelly likely would have in his position. ...And then there's the fact that they kidnapped a freaking child and are currently forcing his legendary friend to go around and blow places up WTF

I think Team Magma can be summed up as "has strong morals but they are very misguided." Hopefully Maxie appears a bit more human and less cartoonishly-evil as the fic goes on. His team members, at the very least, think he's a great guy ^_^; Tabitha is probably the most complex character in this fic in terms of morality/actions and how he does things :P

So now to talk about Jirachi, who hands down may be the most tragic/interesting character in this fic. I think it's nice that, overall, pretty much every pokemon in this fic has some kind of distinct characterization, but Jirachi is the first pokemon who actually talks to the humans here. I think its lore is tragic, honestly - it sleeps alone for a thousand years and gets so desperate that when it wakes up it clings onto someone for the six days it's awake until it's forced back into sleep again. I feel really sad for it. Hopefully it gets a happy ending with Tate
I always thought that too :( The poor little Pokemon just wants to have a friend for seven out of every 365,000 days and people just want it to grant their wishes. I also kinda had the direct talking to separate it from non-legendary Pokemon.

Now that Jirachi's out, though, it seems that the fic is softlocked into its new, high-speed pace. Jirachi's awake for six days only, and in that time it's created a lot of mess and made things particularly hard for Team Aqua. I think that Maxie forgoing using Jirachi to replenish the land they wanted is enough to prove that he wants something a bit more than just environmental repair, something Drowning has been tackling head-on.
Interesting observations! You shall see :P

Initially I was going to ding that Jirachi seems to be a media sensation when it first comes out of the stone and interacts with Tate, but none of the characters seem to realize what it is or that it exists until it's convenient for them. Then I realized that the last four or so chapters have pretty much all taken place at once, or over the same stretch of time. It didn't really click for me until Chapter Sixteen, when Jirachi executes an order Maxie made two or three chapters ago, and Archie talks about Aqua spies sent to Magma bases. But then it did, and I realized that 'Oh crap. This all happened at once.' it's very high-speed and dense, but despite the denseness (which is not a negative in my book at all) it all slotted together well in the end.
That's something that has sorta slid under my radar, too--the fact that there are so many things to look at and focus on but so many characters who are entangled in it. So I have to keep each character's scenes individually in line, at least, and decide what order to focus stuff on. And creating the timeline for this part of the fic definitely took some effort lol.

On a not-so-related note, I find it odd that everyone constantly dunks on Shelly being hard to work with behind Shelly's back, but Shelly doesn't seem that hard to work with in the few moments she does get page-time? Busy, maybe, and a bit snippy in the beginning with the Mt. Chimney mission, but certainly not hard to work with IMO. At the very least, she's not constantly jabbering into her superiors' ears through a phone like Courtney is lol
Ah, that's something left over from the first draft that I never truly revisited. She was a lot more apparent in the first version of this story and much stricter and crueler to her underlings, but because I've re-written the chapters she appears in, she's much more out of focus. But those are good points! I'll definitely keep them in mind.

Poor Seaking... I hope it's alright :sadwott:
Me too ;_;

One thing I've found interesting while reading is what seems to be the recurring theme of Drowning: Doing the right thing gets you in trouble with the wrong people. Derek gets in trouble with Tabitha and the higher-ups for letting a prisoner """die""" on his watch. Tate is in a boatload of trouble for sticking with Jirachi. Phoebe is in trouble for trying to comfort Liza and accidentally getting herself in deep water with Team Aqua, and Maressa is headed nowhere good by actively sabotaging TA's missions and stuff. It hits hard, because I think that's an unfortunate IRL truth - when presented with a hard situation, if you follow your conscience you're probably going to get a lot of crap for it - even if it turns out to be the right thing in the end. And you might make some very bad decisions along the way, like nearly everyone in this fic has done at some point.
Exactly. "No good deed goes unpunished." I'm glad you picked up on this! It's really affirming when readers catch onto the stuff that's not explicitly spelled out ^_^ And that all the "good" characters are making bad decisions is also a recurring theme--some pressured into it, others not knowing what's best--it happens to everyone. How far do we excuse another's bad actions? And how much do good intentions make up for it?

A negative I had is that I didn't really understand Maressa's train of actions after she makes it back to the Team Aqua base. It's like... she arrives, and then she skirts under the radar during interrogation, which is fine. But then she just lets her tongue slip out of nowhere about the Team Magma base?
She intentionally told Archie about the Team Magma base--it was part of her and Derek's plan to get her safely back to Team Aqua and ""prove"" that she hadn't betrayed them by giving them useful information

And then after that, she talks about wanting to escape from Team Aqua, but then gets caught up with Matt and straight up abandons this goal for a few days so she can pretend like it's not happening, and it's only when Matt attempts to hit on her that she decides to help dismantle Team Aqua. It's like... I understand not being able to keep it together - I know I wouldn't be holding up very well in her situation at all - but the train of thought isn't really clear to me. It's like she set herself a goal and then took a U-turn right away, with brief interludes of "I know, I know" when Golduck rightfully WTF'd at her. I'm kind of ??? as well.
She's caving in a lot to the pressure of the present moment and not making good decisions. I'm... not quite sure how far I can have my main character do that and still have them be a likeable/strong main character ^_^; It is supposed to be following the theme of her being flawed and making bad decisions in the present moment despite knowing better, but you definitely bring up a fair point.

Why does it not surprise me at all that the lab scientists could not keep their crap together well enough to share a lab lol.
Would you believe me if I told you that this has happened to me before in real life

But then Maressa trashed it... and at this point it feels less like she's actually making a calculated effort to destroy Team Aqua and more like she's just taking out her petty frustrations on the team. That, or she has no clue how to go about it and is way to excited to destroy things and hamper progress. Either way, it bodes badly for her, and she's likely to get caught sooner or later. I think Golduck is absolutely justified to be worried about her.
Yeeeaaaah more about her making not-so-good decisions and acting out on her rashness 😬 It originally was written as a calculated effort but the scene I wrote didn't properly fit with the chapter :sadwott: so what I wrote ended up being her pettiness instead :V

Another thing that kind of made me go "??" was when Phoebe chased after Liza, caught up with her, and sat her down to discuss strategies for finding a criminal gang... in the middle of the street in public. It feels like something an elite member of the Pokemon League should know better than to do, especially considering Maressa, a disgruntled criminal grunt, was very mindful of eavesdroppers and the like. As a side note, I kind of saw the Team Aqua gang-up at the police station coming once it was mentioned that the eavesdropping police officer had a marshtomp, but also as a reader I am privy to both sides of the situation and know a lot more about Team Aqua than Phoebe and Liza do, so... hindsight is 20/20, I suppose?
Totally fair--this chapter was also rewritten. Originally, Phoebe and Liza logic'd together and found a Team Aqua base by the waterfall on Route 119, but readers told me that it suspended their disbelief by having two ordinary folk find Team Aqua when the police had been trying and failing for years to do so. Phoebe and Liza are both very young here, so I had their naivete in mind when I wrote this, but you still make a good point. Thanks for bringing it up!
Now I'll just have to decide if Team Aqua finding them or if them finding Team Aqua would work better :rowlanxiety:

Overall I am very much enjoying myself, though! This down-to-earth, more reasonably portrayal of the Team Aqua/Magma conflict has me thoroughly hooked, and the elements I assume had absolutely no place in the original game (such as the kidnapping of Jirachi) make it all the more engaging. No matter what happens from here on out, this fic deserves to be Drowning in praise :veelove:
I have
no regrets


~SparklingEspeon
Thank you so much for this review :veelove:This truly brightened my day! It is such a joy to hear this and gives me inspiration to keep going when I am in a funk. I'll even forgive you for that pun! Thanks for sticking around, I really appreciate the feedback!

Hey hey! I am back on schedule with this next chapter--I know it's soon after the previous one, but at this rate, I'll hopefully be back on track.


Chapter 17


The walls, floor and ceiling were all made of the same drab metal. Tabitha sighed inwardly—working in places like this all the time made him long for the outside air, for forests, fields and jungles. He knew that being a Team Magma admin would mean a lot of indoor work, and to an extent he enjoyed what he did, but mostly he couldn’t wait until the day Team Magma took control of Groudon and built up more land, restoring the forests and habitats to their natural states.

Before him, a group of several grunts with their Pokemon underwent a series of training exercises. The walls reverberated with the sounds of trainers shouting, Pokemon leaping, snarling, and growling. He reached down to pat Mightyena, but his canine companion wasn’t at his usual spot. Tabitha remembered that his Pokemon was watching their prisoner at that moment and his heart sank a little further.

He was snapped out of his reverie by the sounds of footsteps and audible crunching. Raising his head, he saw Courtney walking over to him, a plate piled high with toast in one hand while the other held a half-eaten piece of toast. Chewing with her mouth open, she nodded to Tabitha as she made her way over to him, her long grey skirt swinging from side-to-side with the movement of her hips.

“How’s it going, Tabs?”

“What are you doing here? Don’t you have work to do?”

“Got it all finished,” she said as she took another bite. “I asked the boss what to do, and he said to find a way to kill time.”

Tabitha eyed her toast with disgust. “Do you have to have that here?”

“It’s my breakfast! What do you want me to do, starve?”

He glanced at his watch. “Courtney, it’s 2 pm. Why are you eating breakfast now?”

“Because I had to work night shifts this past week and didn’t get off until four AM, which usually means not getting to bed until about five.” Holding the plate of toast up to him, she asked, “Want some?”

“No, thanks.”

“Come on, I took too many. Have some.”

“No, I can’t.”

“You can’t or you don’t want to?”

“No, I can’t have grains. I gain weight really easily.”

Courtney’s black eyebrows raised at his words. “Oh really?” she said as she eyed him.

“Will you stop staring at me?” he snapped.

“I mean,” she closed her eyes and shrugged. “You could stand to gain a few pounds, is all.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I mean I can see every vein and muscle sticking out on your arm,” she said as she poked his bicep.

“Stop that.”

“It makes you look like you’re always extremely tense.”

“I probably look that way because I am tense,” he said through gritted teeth.

“Learn to relax a little! And maybe a good way to start with that would be eating whatever you want,” she sang as she waved a piece of toast in front of his face.

“Kinda hard to relax when there are always people around.”

“Really? I feel like it’s harder to relax when there aren’t people around. Like when I’m put somewhere by myself, I get so restless and anxious and it gets so boring and I get lonely easily. Either that, or my energy just drains away and I don’t feel like doing anything.” She shrugged. “But maybe that’s just me. Anyway, how are the new recruits?” she asked as she gestured to the group of people before them.

Tabitha shrugged. “Seem pretty average. I put Connor in charge of them and had them go through a series of exercises, mainly to see whether or not they can take orders. Haven’t had any issues yet.”

Silence stretched between the two of them. Connor’s echoing commands and the grunt’s replies were the only noises in the room. Tabitha savored the peace, but after a few minutes glanced at Courtney. Her dark red eyes had glossed over, and a small frown was etched on her face. Her brow was slightly furrowed, and she overall looked very worried—and slightly disturbed.

Taken aback, Tabitha asked, “Are you okay? Courtney?”

At the sound of her name, she snapped out of her trance. Nodding, she said, “Yeah, it’s… it’s nothing. I’ve just been out of it for the past few days…”

Unconvinced, Tabitha turned his attention back to the new recruits, but his mind was still working rapidly. It just wasn’t like Courtney to suddenly drift off like that—he had only seen her do it a few times before and had known her for the better part of four years. Why would—

“Have you felt it?” she asked him suddenly, her eyes shining with worry.

“Felt what?”

“That… that presence.” She turned from him and cast her eyes downward. “Ever since we took them, I’ve sometimes felt it here, even though I’ve never seen it. But I know who it is.”

Tabitha immediately knew what she was talking about and glanced worriedly at the new recruits. No one seemed to have overheard their conversation, however. “No,” he answered quietly, “I haven’t felt anything. And I don’t think this is the best place to discuss this. But try not to worry—they’ll both be gone in a few days.”

Courtney nodded demurely, a most un-Courtney-like way to do anything, but she said no more about it. Even still, Tabitha noticed that she didn’t take another bite of toast and kept the same sorrowful expression on her face.

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

Tabitha knocked on the door to Maxie’s office. The hollow noise echoed down the empty hallways. At his side, Mightyena yawned, displaying his large white teeth.

“Come in.”

Tabitha entered the office. It was very spacious—the ceiling was high, and the large windows at the back of the room showed the crags and cascading rocksides of central Hoenn. The setting sun dyed everything with golden light. Maxie gazed out the window and turned his head around as Tabitha and Mightyena came through the door. The two Houndoom at Maxie’s side looked over at them, sniffed, then turned away. Mightyena did likewise.

Tabitha’s heart panged—he wished that Mightyena held the same respect for Maxie’s Houndoom that Tabitha held for Maxie. But it didn’t seem to work the same way for Pokemon. Mightyena held no loyalty to Houndoom and didn’t consider them superior.

Tabitha held up a few stapled papers and a Pokeball. “I’ve got that report on Camerupt sediment composition you wanted. And here’s the Camerupt our scientists experimented on.”

Maxie nodded eagerly. “Did they find anything interesting?”

“They know the sediments that form Camerupt humps vary by region, and they got some… weird results from their experiment. They stopped with this one when they tried mixing mud with the rocks in his body and smoke wouldn’t stop coming out of him—they had to clear the lab and open all the vents to air it out.”

Maxie nodded as he skimmed the papers. “Fascinating… Thank you for bringing me these. You can take a seat, if you want.”

Tabitha was happy to do so. Mightyena came and immediately put his head on Tabitha’s lap. He idly ruffled the Dark-type’s fur but didn’t give him any more attention than that. Even with how busy the week had been—what with capturing Jirachi, sending it after Team Aqua and the police, and running their other experiments—Maxie seemed in an unusually good mood. Tabitha relaxed against the back of the chair. He tried not to bother Maxie too much, especially with him being so busy, but it was nice to have intelligent conversation with him and take a break from all the stupid stunts the grunts got into on a daily basis.

The Leader went over to a cabinet and took out a bottle of wine. “You still don’t drink, do you?”

“No, sir, but thank you.”

Maxie smiled wryly as he poured himself a glass. The liquid was a deep shade of red, its pungent odor carrying across the room and wafting to Tabitha’s nose.

“You know, Tabitha, in some ways, you’ve changed and grown a lot since I found you—and in other ways, you haven’t changed at all.”

Tabitha smiled wryly. He had changed, all right—he didn’t like looking back on his life before meeting Maxie and forming Team Magma. But he did like to hear Maxie’s thoughts on things, especially on Tabitha’s progress. “How so?” he asked.

“Well, for one, you were still torn-up over some girl who had left you. And here, I don’t think you’ve dated anyone. You know, I haven’t outright forbidden it.”

Tabitha grimaced. “That would not be professional at all.”

Maxie smiled. “No, it wouldn’t be—and I’m glad you’re responsible enough to see that. Tell me,” he said as he took a sip of wine, “have you ever had any desire to go back to living in the streets?”

“None whatsoever.”

Maxie nodded. “Though it would probably beat being a member of modern society, wouldn’t it?”

Tabitha looked out the window and thought on Maxie’s words.

“Honestly, without Team Magma, I don’t know what I would be doing right now,” he mused. “You’re right—I can’t become a part of modern society. Cities are hellholes, and towns aren’t much better. I don’t know about living in a rural area. I’d still be subject to the state.”

“You and me both,” Maxie said pensively. “Along with everyone else here, it seems like. Courtney was in here the other week telling me how much she hates it—well, she doesn’t hate most people, obviously. But she hates what the Pokemon League has done to human-Pokemon bonds.”

Tabitha grimaced. “I can see that.”

Maxie put his glass of wine down on the counter. “When I was traveling to Dewford the other day, I saw a child exploring on a Salamence—and I don’t mean a kid in his late teens or early twenties, I mean someone who barely looked like he was twelve. He can’t even grow facial hair and he’s out riding on a Salamence. There’s no way he could have gotten him as a Bagon and raised him all the way without resorting to some drug use to stimulate evolution.”

Tabitha sighed. “I saw two children battling their Pokemon the other day: one had a Tyranitar and the other had a Machamp. And they weren’t particularly good—the Pokemon are strong, sure, but I could tell the trainers both lacked experience and skill. Mightyena would be at a type disadvantage against either of them, but I have no doubt he’d be able to defeat one of them in battle.” Tabitha looked down at Mightyena and smiled. The Dark-type’s facial expression didn’t change, but he wagged his bushy black tail.

Maxie glanced down at one of his Houndoom lounging across the cold metal floor. “Same with you, I’d bet.” Houndoom’s only response was to let out a few embers through her nose.

“The way these children are being lied to is horrible,” Tabitha said as watched the sunlight turn from gold to red. “Kids should enjoy their childhood. They shouldn’t be taught to catch Pokemon, train them into the most powerful forms they can get, and then only use them for battle. There’s so much more to Pokemon than that.” He smiled down at Mightyena as he ruffled his fur. “I can’t imagine what life would be like without you! But kids these days don’t get to experience that so much.”

“I agree. It’s a crime—all pointing to some larger agenda.”

Tabitha glanced at Maxie. “You think so?”

Maxie took another sip of wine. “It’s a classic trick in the book: manipulate the children. Turn the schools into indoctrination camps. Let it trickle into their malleable minds. Turn them into your own army. Turn them against their parents. Get them to do their work for you. Public education is a terrible idea—it’s letting the state and the government own your children. Parents who give up their children shouldn’t have custody of them in the first place. But with a system that’s so ingrained into our society, how would you convince anyone to give it up? Restarting this society and re-building it from the ground up is the only way to go from here.”

Tabitha nodded. “I agree.”

Maxie flipped through the pages of the Camerupt report. “Anything unusual going on with the grunts lately?” he asked without looking up.

Tabitha sighed and closed his eyes as he thought back to the events he witnessed earlier that day. “One of the women working here, Naomi, has a Numel. And a couple of guys thought it’d be a good idea to drop solid sodium into the Numel’s crater—it caused a mini eruption and filled the hall with smoke. And the Numel started oozing lava all over the floor. I made them clean up what they could, but there’s still quite a bit to repair.”

Tabitha couldn’t quite read Maxie’s expression; he clenched his face muscles and stared very pointedly away from Tabitha. He took another sip of wine.

“Well,” the Leader said, “even with the grunts acting—well, acting normal, I suppose—that shouldn’t be something to get down about.” He looked wistfully out the window with a half-smile on his face as the land turned dark shades of blue beneath a cotton-candy colored sky. “I’ve been thinking back the past few days, and even though things aren’t going the way I thought they would or exactly the way I wanted them to, overall, it has been going really well for us.”

Tabitha looked back at Maxie. “How so?” He remembered Maxie’s frustration with Jirachi—and now he was happy?

He put his glass down. “We need to remember to look at the whole picture—at how far we’ve come in a few years. I had my vision, and you had skills, passion—but it was just the two of us. And now, we have a whole team—another admin, over a hundred grunts, a couple of medics, and even a PR team.” He shook his head. “I always knew things would work out well, but it’s surreal, sometimes, to see how much they’ve changed.” He looked directly at Tabitha, his red eyes alight with eagerness. “And now, we have Jirachi. Think about it, Tabitha—it might not be the legendary Pokemon we were after, but it’s still one of those that most people only know of from myths. And we have near-total control over it! Who else, in all of human history, can claim that? Even the people who made the Red and Blue Orbs—they took control over Kyogre and Groudon, but their victory was shared by many people later down the line in history. We have a Pokemon who isn’t even from this world—a Pokemon born of a star, with the power to grant almost any wish!”

His expression soured as he mentioned, “Except, of course, our only wish.”

Tabitha nodded but said nothing. As much as he trusted Maxie, he didn’t share his joy. He remembered holding the little Pokemon’s body—surprisingly heavy for its small size—in his arms and the overwhelming sensation that it was all wrong. And even though they had Jirachi under control, something in him told him that they were poorly using the Pokemon’s powers—it was abuse. Abusing the supernatural. And what good ever came of that?

“You don’t look happy,” Maxie noted.

Tabitha looked up at him. “None of this felt right to me. We were after Groudon, and now we’re taking control of a different Pokemon entirely—a supernatural one. It’s… it’s more like a god than a Pokemon. I have a bad feeling that this is going to come back and bite us hard.”

“I’ve thought about that too,” Maxie said pensively. “But as long as we hold on to the child for the next week, we should be able to manage. It’s certainly not ideal, but we have to make the best of this situation. Does anyone else know about him?”

Tabitha shook his head. “Just us, Courtney, and a few of the grunts who helped me capture him also know, but they know the significance of this. They’ll keep quiet.”

Maxie nodded, swilling the wine in his glass. “As long as we’re careful, we should be set for the next week. I honestly don’t know if this could have been pulled off without you and your leadership, Tabitha.”

Tabitha’s heart jumped at these words—approval from Maxie! It didn’t come often, so he had to relish it.

He dipped his head. “Thank you, sir.” As he watched the last of the sunlight fade to darkness, he stood up. “I ought to go. Thank you for your time.”

“Of course.” Maxie gazed critically at him. “You’ve done a very good job with everything lately, Tabitha. You have a lot to be proud of.”

Tabitha said nothing but exited in silence. He and Mightyena walked down the empty hallway, leaving Maxie’s office behind them. His heart soared as he replayed Maxie’s words over and over in his head, feeling the same burst of excitement each time:

You have a lot to be proud of.

He thought he might cry. In his six years of work, he always had to work hard to get approval from Maxie—let alone affection.

And Maxie was proud of him. He thought Tabitha was capable—that Tabitha was good enough to be commanding Team Magma.

Tabitha’s face flushed. As he went back to his office, he couldn’t stop smiling. After hearing that, even office work seemed durable.

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

Tabitha’s eyes flickered open as he heard whining accompanied by scratching. He closed his eyes and rolled over, burying his face in his blanket. Maybe if he pretended that he hadn’t heard him, he would stop…

A few seconds later, Mightyena’s wet tongue slid over his ear and he jolted upright. Blinking hazily, he rubbed his eyes as he tried to see in the blackness of his bedroom. Mightyena continued whining, and even though Tabitha was blind without light, he knew that the Pokemon saw him perfectly clearly.

“What is it, boy?” Tabitha said groggily. He heard the pads of Mightyena’s feet and more scratching at the door. “What do you need to go out for? Huh? What’s out there?”

Getting to his feet, Tabitha flicked on the light, blinking at the sudden brightness. Mightyena sat right in front of the door, crimson eyes gazing at Tabitha in worry. His ears flattened against his head, and he let out a high-pitched whine.

Tabitha was confused. Why was Mightyena so worked up? He usually went to bed whenever Tabitha did and slept through the night.

“Why do you want to go out?”

Mightyena kept whining: She’s crying, she’s crying.

She? The only person who stayed near Tabitha was Courtney. He put his ear to the door, but he could hear nothing. Mightyena’s hearing was much more acute than his own, though. And his and Courtney’s rooms were fairly close—it wouldn’t hurt to go check and see if she was okay.

Putting some clothes on, Tabitha opened the door. Mightyena bounded down the hallway, stopping right before the door to Courtney’s office, which lay adjacent to her bedroom. Tabitha knocked on the door and waited while Mightyena kept snuffling and scratching—but there was no answer. Sighing—it felt so wrong to do this, but Mightyena wouldn’t be making a fuss if it wasn’t a big deal—he pulled a knife out of his pocket and picked the lock open. Opening the door, he intended to peer in and see if everything was okay—but Mightyena pushed the door all the way open as he made his way into the office and through the open door to Courtney’s bedroom. Giving in, Tabitha decided to just go with his Pokemon and followed him in.

Once he stepped through the doorway, he heard cries—Courtney’s cries. Tabitha darted into her bedroom and turned the light on to see her lying on her bed, eyes shut, face covered in sweat as she constantly turned back and forth in her distressed sleep. Mightyena jumped up and placed his two front paws on her bed, looking at her with concern.

“Courtney!” Tabitha called as he hurried over to her bed and grabbed her shoulders. She continued to turn and toss, but in her sleep, her movements were weak.

“No... Can’t be… Gone, all gone…”

Courtney!” Tabitha felt bad and slightly nervous about doing so, but he roughly shook her shoulders. Courtney’s eyelids flitted open, and she gazed terror-stricken at Tabitha.

“Are you okay?”

“Oh, n—no, how can it be you?” she asked before bursting into tears. Sitting on the bed, Tabitha gently wrapped his arms around her and patted her sweat-stiff hair.

“It’s okay, it was all just a dream,” he said quietly.

“It wasn’t just a dream,” she insisted as she looked up at him. Her red eyes gazed at him steadily as she said, “Tabitha, I just watched you die.”

Tabitha’s heart jolted but he shook his head. “Courtney, I’m right here. Whatever you saw, it wasn’t real. It was all in your head.”

“Maybe it was all in my head, but why should that mean that it’s not real?” she asked angrily. “Everything I saw—it was all so clear. You and Maxie and almost everyone else was there, and pe—people were dying,” she choked. Her gaze switched from Tabitha and she stared straight forward. “Everything was so bright—the sun was so much brighter than ever. And the sky—it was burning. It was orange and yellow—and looked like it was going up in flames. And volcanoes were erupting all over, releasing ash and gas, and the air was dirty. People could barely breathe. And I saw—” her eyes widened, and she started shaking slightly, “—I saw it—I saw Groudon. It was huge, it was so huge, and it was so angry. It was standing in this big pool of lava and staring down at Maxie. Maxie’s hand was bright red, and it was glowing. But Groudon just—just sort of—of breathed out, and lava came out of its mouth—and it covered you and Maxie and—” she stopped, shaking her head as tears came out of her eyes
“It’s okay,” Tabitha said soothingly as he held her. As Courtney described what she had seen, a trickle of fear crept into his heart. “You just had a nightmare. None of that actually happened.”

“It wasn’t just a nightmare! I’ve had nightmares before, but this was so much more! Tabitha, I saw you and Maxie and everyone else I know on our team get killed by Groudon!”

“Courtney, I am right here. How could I have been killed if I’m sitting with you right now? You can feel me—you know I’m not a ghost.”

“But what if I saw was a sort of vision, what if it’s showing me what’s about to come? Is that what’ll happen if we take Groudon?”

“None of us can know that,” Tabitha said firmly.

She switched her gaze away from him. “I… might be able to,” she whispered.

Apprehension settled more deeply into Tabitha. “What do you mean?” he asked, though part of him didn’t want to know the answer.

Without a word, Courtney yanked her blankets to the side, showing her bare legs covered in markings. The marks were a dark, charred grey, as if they had been burned into her. They twisted and turned in various shapes—it might have been some sort of writing Tabitha had never seen before.

“What are those from?” he asked uneasily.

“My parents put them there,” she said flatly. Her eyebrows furrowed. She no longer looked afraid; a scowl crossed her face. “My family is from Sootopolis—one of the oldest in Hoenn. It can be traced back three-thousand years, to when the Orbs were made. My ancestors were sacrificed to make the Orbs.”

Tabitha stared at Courtney. He had never seen her this resentful, this bitter—nor had he ever heard about the creation of the Orbs.

“People wanted power, so they took control of Kyogre and Groudon. They created the Orbs in the Cave of Origin—poisoned it,” she spat. “Defiled its divine power to create life by sacrificing humans to take control over the gods themselves. But some of my family lived, and we’ve been bearing this grudge ever since.”

“And you… you support Maxie trying to take the Orb and controlling Groudon?” Tabitha asked hesitantly.

She nodded. “I do. Maxie knows humanity’s flaws—sacrificing people to create the Orbs in the first place and running this planet to the ground. Look at all they’ve done, Tabitha!”

“I kno—”

“They’ve cleared forests—”

“Yes, I—”

“Polluted countrysides—”

I know—”

“Hunted Pokemon to extinction, broken the human-Pokemon bond that was supposed to exist, and are wantonly wasting natural resources! You can’t believe that continuing to trust humanity with this world is a good idea, can you?”

“Courtney,” he said with annoyance, “we’ve talked about this before. You know I agree with everything you’ve said.”

“And that’s why I agree with Maxie—he’ll take the Red Orb, clear out those who did all this, and leave Groudon to restore this planet to the way it was.” She sighed—the fire was gone and she looked tired. Her eyes drooped, her shoulders slumped, and she blinked slowly. “But this Pokemon… having it here has been showing me strange things this past week. It feels like parts of me are waking up—like I’m remembering stuff that I forgot…”

“You said that these Orbs were made in the Cave of Origin, right? Would that hold any solutions to this—”

“I don’t want to go back there,” she whispered. Tabitha saw her rub her markings and he felt guilty. “I don’t know what’ll happen to me—how it’ll affect me. Not after last time.” She shook her head and sighed. “Maybe were wrong to do this. We should never have taken Tate or Jirachi. This’ll just end in disaster for us all—even for Maxie.”

Tabitha’s heartbeat quickened—Courtney shouldn’t confide any doubts about Maxie’s decisions to him. “Courtney, you know that Maxie has thought all of this through. If you’re concerned about any of it, let him know—he’ll listen. It’s probably just Jirachi making you think that—that Pokemon is a Psychic-type, and it might be messing with our minds.” Tabitha stood up. “Trust me, everything will be fine. You just need to get some proper sleep.”

Courtney shrugged, still looking distracted. “Maybe. We’ll see.”

Tabitha grimaced. His co-worker was as stubborn as ever. “I don’t want to leave you by yourself tonight; do you want one of your Pokemon to stay out with you?”

She frowned, thinking on what he said. “Yeah, that’s a good idea. Can you hand me that Pokeball on the dresser? Ninetales is in there.”

He did so and she opened the ball. The Ninetales yawned and stretched, her sleek cream-colored fur shining even in the dull light of the room. Tossing her nine tails to the side, she looked questioningly up at her trainer, wondering why she was called out of her ball so late at night. But Courtney simply smiled on seeing her companion and began ruffling the silky fur on her head. Ninetales closed her brilliant red eyes contentedly and laid her head on her trainer’s bed.

Tabitha got Courtney a glass of water then bade her goodnight and left her room. As he lay on his bed, staring at the blackness, his mind buzzed with thoughts while the sound of Mightyena’s snores reached his ears.

Everything Courtney said disturbed him. Tabitha had never known much about the Orbs—he hadn’t even known they were man-made. But hearing how closely Courtney’s life was tied to them, of how they affected her and that people had poisoned the Cave of Origin to create them…

That people purposefully abused divine power from the source of life itself made everything feel wrong. At the same time, Tabitha questioned Maxie and felt more admiration towards him—such abuse of power and nature had to be remedied, but why was he using the very object that had been so wrongfully created? Did Maxie intend to get rid of the Orb and cleanse the Cave—was that even possible? Courtney trusted Maxie’s intentions, so there shouldn’t be any problem…

And then what was with her dream? Everything she had seen sounded terrifying, but it was just a dream—Tabitha had had his fair share of disturbing dreams and night terrors throughout his life, but nothing to convince him that one of Maxie’s ideas was flat-out wrong. Courtney was one of the highest-ranking people on their team. She had been working with them since its very beginning—at least, right after Maxie had started recruiting people. She was also by far the most ruthless person on their team. Tabitha had seen few people in life more vicious than her, and he knew that the grunts called her “Crazy Courtney” for a good reason. The most notorious example was the time where a grunt was caught trying to desert Team Magma, so Maxie told Courtney to “deal with him.” Tabitha didn’t know exactly what had happened behind those closed doors, but the grunt had come out of that room, singed and shivering, his eyes holding the look of someone who had experienced things that were forever burned into his memory.

And Tabitha had been with her during other interrogations; she typically sent her Ninetales out and people fell victim to her fiery wrath. Tabitha knew that her Ninetales possessed some psychic powers, and perhaps she would mess with the minds of her victims. Other times, Courtney would use the Boss’s Houndoom to inflict burns that never healed.

Tabitha gripped his hair in frustration. It was reasons like this that made him more aggravated—Courtney barely had any morals! She would do whatever it took for Team Magma to win. She was always eager to cause destruction and burn trees and buildings and whatever else her heart desired to the ground. Did a dream of seeing her co-workers dying really mean that much to her?

Sighing, Tabitha turned on his side, trying to calm his thoughts. Granted, Courtney hadn’t just seen anyone die—it was Maxie. Tabitha didn’t know what his life would look like without Maxie and he knew Courtney was greatly indebted to him as well.

This had to be due to them harboring Jirachi; Courtney’s nightmare couldn’t just be a coincidence. But Jirachi would only be around a few more days, and once it was gone, everything would be back to normal.

If they could make it that long.
 
Chapter 18

Starlight Aurate

Ad Jesum per Mariam | pfp by kintsugi
Location
Route 123
Partners
  1. mightyena
  2. psyduck
Back at it with the next chapter! I'm wondering if the three totally different scenes makes this chapter feel disjointed. If you have any thoughts, let me know! Enjoy!

Content warning: someone's legs are cut into



Chapter 18



The waves slapped the rockfaces, spraying them with white foam. The sun peeked out behind puffy white cumulus clouds as it beams shone on the choppy waters. Corphish and Corsola teemed in the tidepools at the base of the cliffs.

She silently followed her parents, the cheeriness of the ocean view failing to brighten her somber spirits.

“Where are we going, mommy?” she asked when her mother and father told her to follow them.

“Don’t ask,” her mother snapped. And that was that.

Theodosia saw an odd assortment of items in the pack on her mother’s back—paints, gourds, and her heart leapt when she spotted a knife. But she knew better than to nag her parents, so she followed them out of their small home into the bright sunlight.

Theodosia glanced over her shoulder at the city built into the cliffsides. The buildings of the city crowded the terraces, leaving only narrow walkways for people and Pokemon to rush up and down. They were made of the same mixture of sandy shells as the homes in her village, but the structure was so different. Many were made of materials Theodosia didn’t otherwise see used in buildings: metal and other strange mixtures that she couldn’t name. These buildings reached high into the sky, piercing the blue dome with their spires.

She looked up at her village. Many of their homes and public facilities were open to the air, with columns carved into elegant branches holding up slates of stone. People walked up and down the wider walkways, carrying jars of water, baskets of seaweed, nets teeming with marine life, and packs of fruit. Trees stood in-between the terraces, their branches laden with olives ripe for the picking.

“Theodosia, come!

The young girl snapped out of her reverie and hastily followed her parents. They didn’t go further up into the village as she had hoped. They followed the rocky path laterally along the cliffsides, leaving behind the slow pace of their home.

As Theodosia walked, her heart pounded with fear. She didn’t know why her parents told her to come with them. She didn’t know why they didn’t want to bring along Nikolaos or Thaddeus. Theodosia wished her younger brothers were with her. It was easier to not be afraid when she was with them.

As she followed her parents, she saw the Cave loom before her, like a black gaping mouth in the cliff face, waiting to swallow up whatever walked inside. The sight of it scared Theodosia. She didn’t know why.

The closer they got to the entrance, the smaller Theodosia felt. The cliff face sharply curved inward several feet above her—her parents could stand on each other’s shoulders and still not be able to touch the top. The air in front of the Cave entrance was cool. Theodosia peered in. Sunlight didn’t penetrate far into the darkness, and soon everything was lost to sight.

Her parents walked in wordlessly. They were going quickly, as if they were excited. Theodosia hung back. Something told her to turn around and go home. She shouldn’t go inside—she couldn’t!

“Theodosia?”

Her mother turned around and glared at Theodosia. Her purple eyebrows converged in an angry frown. “Follow along—quickly, now!”

Startled, Theodosia ran into the cave, the footfalls of her sandaled feet echoing all around her. She didn’t want to be left behind! She didn’t know what she would do if she was all alone.

Running deeper into the Cave, Theodosia felt the cool air sap away her energy. The warmth from the sunshine was dispelled in the blackness of the Cave. Theodosia tried to see ahead of her, but everything was so dark and her parents were going so quickly that it was all she could do to keep up with them.

Theodosia noticed little lights up ahead—gemstones shone in the walls around her! She wanted to stop and look at them, but if she did, she would be left behind and her parents would continue without her. And something about these gems weren’t right. The light was cold, not like the sunlight that made her warm. She saw writing on the walls, but she couldn’t read quickly enough to make out what it said.

Goosebumps crawled up her pale arms and she shivered. She shouldn’t be there. It was wrong—the Cave was not a place for anyone to be. So why were they there? Why couldn’t she go back to their home and lay out the seaweed to dry? Or play with baby Thaddeus? Or help Aunt Diana harvest the olives? Why did she have to be in this dark, cold, awful, horrible place?

Eventually, she caught up to her parents. They stopped in the center of a large, circular room. This room was dark. There were no gemstones in the wall.

“Theodosia, go sit in the center of the room,” her mother said as she rifled through items in her pack.

Theodosia complied though she really didn’t want to. She wanted to run away and get out of this Cave. As she walked to the center of the dark room, she tripped and fell face first to the floor—there were two holes in the ground!

“Perfect, Theodosia, stay right there,” her father said.

Sniffling, she picked herself up and sat right in front of the two holes her feet got caught in. They weren’t big, but but they were enough to catch her feet.

She looked all around her. She couldn’t make out anything in the dark. And it was so cold. Her purple hair stuck to her forehead from the dampness. Theodosia hugged herself and started sniffling as tears ran down her cheeks. She wanted to go home.

“Think we’ll need the whole root? She’s so tiny… Maybe just half of it will do. And put some blue dye with it.”

“We’re not going to use it for anything else; we might as well use the whole thing now. Never too much for a god, right?”

Theodosia cried. “Mommy, Daddy, can we go home?”

Her parents didn’t answer. Her mom was mixing something together in a bowl and her dad walked over to her. Theodosia could barely see him stroking his purple beard as he looked down at her.

“Lie down right between those two holes, Theodosia.”

“I wanna go home!”

“Be quiet!”

Theodosia hiccupped and did as he told, still shaking and crying. She stared straight up into the blackness overhead—this horrible, horrible black Cave. She needed to leave—but her parents told her to stay. When could she leave and see the sun again?

“Are you ready?” she heard her dad ask.

“Yes! Here, take the bowl.”

Theodosia heard the footsteps of her approaching parents. They both knelt down around her. She sat up—

“Lie down!” her dad hissed.

Theodosia sobbed again and did as she was told.

“Now, Theodosia, this is going to hurt, but I need you to hold still, okay?” her mom said.

“O—okay…”

She screamed and leapt back as something cold and sharp broke the skin of her ankle.

“Theodosia, hold still!” her mother shouted angrily. “Krataigos, hold her down.”

Her father’s strong hands clamped her down and held her to the floor. She felt the sharp pain again—it started in her ankle and made its way up her legs. Blood spilled down her legs and onto the floor as she screamed.

And then it felt as if the lines dug into her legs were filled with stinging from a thousand Wurmples. Her throat went hoarse from her screaming—she gasped so hard that her lungs hurt. Her eyes stung from all the crying. Her mother and father were saying something—or singing something—bright colors flashed all around her eyes—

Black smoke choked the night sky as embers danced in the air. The sound of wailing met her ears—

She screamed—her throat hurt so badly, but the rest of her body hurt even more. The stinging from her legs turned into lances of fire that surged throughout her whole body—fire that burned before her eyes, eating everything in sight. And in that fire was a pair of yellow eyes—

“No!”

Courtney jolted awake and sat up in bed. She was breathing hard. Her forehead was wet with sweat. Tearing the blanket away from her, she looked down at her legs. The marks from her childhood were still there, elongated and stretched as they grew with her.

Her heart raced—she took several gulps of air to try and calm herself down. She had never felt pain in her dreams before. Not since they had Jirachi…

Maxie would want to know. Courtney looked at the clock on her bedside. It was 2:11 AM. He wasn’t in the base. He would be in Mt. Chimney, while she was stuck with the kid near Lilycove.

Going to the phone, Courtney typed in the numbers for Maxie’s office at Mt. Chimney. As expected, he didn’t answer.

“Maxie, this is Courtney. I just had a vivid dream about my childhood. Call me when you can.”

Hanging up, Courtney sat back on her bed, her mind stewing with resentment.

She started going back to bed when she saw—and felt—something hovering in the air before her.

Soft golden light shimmered around Jirachi’s body as it stared at Courtney. She felt its presence—it didn’t pierce her brain but it felt distinctly alien.

You’ve suffered a lot, haven’t you? its voice softly echoed through her head.

“Go away,” she hissed.

The Pokemon slowly drifted through the air, gazing at Courtney with large, round eyes as it encircled her.

Cursed from birth, experimented on by parents who didn’t love you, and sent away by your aunt in the hopes that you would be safe…

“Get out!”

The creature drifted closer to her. It kept staring straight into Courtney’s eyes. Courtney started breathing heavily as blood pounded through her veins and rage filled her.

So desperate for love, for validation from anyone that you joined a criminal team—the first people who made you feel wanted. The first time you felt like you were good at something.

Courtney’s hands balled into fists and she shook in anger. The creature narrowed its eyes slightly.

But you’re not perfect the way you are. You’ve taken advantage of and killed people. You killed many people. And Pokemon. You burned down buildings and created landslides—all in the name of Team Magma. Your own surrogate sister—

“I SAID GO!”


Courtney screamed the last words. Darting to her nightstand, she grabbed a long knife and ripped it out of its sheath. She lunged at the loathsome being floating before her but was too late. With a flash, Jirachi was gone. Her knife clanged against the metal wall. Courtney stood for a few seconds as sweat dripped down her forehead.

She stood on shaky legs for a moment before dragging herself back to her bed. Tears trickled down her cheeks as she lay on top of her blanket, still sweating. That horrid Pokemon was doing this—digging through her brains, making her relive her past, trying to get her to let him go.

Well, it wouldn’t work. Team Magma’s goals weren’t that disposable—though it certainly did make Courtney want to get away from that Pokemon. It had been a long time since she thought about her parents—since she thought about her childhood at all. As far as she considered, her life began when she chose the name “Courtney” and escaped from the agony and pain that characterized her childhood. Once she left Sootopolis, she had no intention of going back to that cursed city—a city that the people of Hoenn largely considered a landmark to be proud of but in reality was an empty crater that led straight into the depths of Hell.

Her heart pounded viciously with anger when she thought of her parents. She hoped they’d stay to witness Groudon’s awakening—that way they could perish in its fire. She looked forward to that day of seeing her parents finally get a taste of what they forcefed her in her youth.

She did love her Aunt Diana, though. Harvesting the olives and helping with dinner were the few happy memories Courtney had of growing up in Sootopolis crater.

Otherwise, she wanted that rest of that damned city to crumble into the abyss and take all of its native inhabitants with it.

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

Derek rifled through papers on his desk, trying to figure out what kind of disinfectant was suitable for Graveler wounds. The Rock-type Pokemon sat on a bed nearby him, looking up at Derek with doleful eyes. Two of her arms had long gashes in them, the exterior chipped away to reveal some sort of sandy substance mixed with flesh and blood. Parts of her injury festered an ugly grey color.

Derek felt bad for the poor Pokemon and he knew she needed her wounds disinfected, but what might work for Breloom or Golbat might not work with her rocky composition. Stuff he used for Claydol might work, but he wanted to be sure before experimenting on someone else’s Pokemon. And he couldn’t keep his mind off of his frustrations with Team Magma.

They kidnapped a child. How could they be sure about the good they were doing when they had a child locked up? At what point was it worth terrorizing civilians and kidnapping innocent children just to achieve their goal?

He stared at words on paper but not really absorbing them. Blood pounded to his head so hard that it hurt. Team Magma always said that the world they aimed to build would be better, and maybe they honestly believed that it was—but if this was the cost, was it really worth it?

“Derek?”

He turned around and saw a female Team Magma grunt standing in the doorway. Long dark hair spilled out from beneath her hood and down her shoulders. The freckles speckled across her face coupled with her curious expression made her look much younger than she was.

“Hey, Naomi, do you need something?”

“I just wanted to see how my Graveler was doing.”

His heart sank with guilt as he looked at the Pokemon’s open wound. “She’ll be fine—there’s something infecting the flesh and rock in her wound, but I need to find out what kind of disinfectant can be used for Graveler. It’s nothing I can’t fix, I just…” He glanced at the pile of papers on his desk arrayed haphazardly. “…Yeah.”

Naomi nodded and stepped into the doorway to show she was holding a bag of muffins. “Thanks so much for looking after her. I made some muffins—do you want some?”

She opened the bag and the scent of pumpkin spice wafted to Derek’s nose, causing his mouth to water and his stomach to rumble. He would never admit out loud how much he liked pumpkin spice, but it was definitely one of his favorite flavors.

“Sure. Thanks, Naomi.”

She smiled gently. “Of course.” Her smile quickly faded as she looked at Derek and noticed his red face and messy hair. “Are you doing okay?”

Derek paused and inhaled deeply before answering. He didn’t want to take out his anger on someone else. And there was something about the woman’s presence that calmed him down and eased his pent-up tension.

“Yeah, it’s just… work stuff.”

“I see. Dealing with other people?”

“Not really, it’s… stuff I’m not really allowed to talk about.”

Naomi nodded. “I understand. Thanks so much again for taking care of Graveler—we really appreciate it,” she said with a smile.

Derek smiled back, and he felt his heartrate calm and the blood stopped pounding through his veins. He watched Naomi pat her Graveler on the head, speak a few encouraging words, and then depart.

With his head clear, it was much easier to find the right antiseptic and apply it to the Pokemon. After wrapping the Graveler’s arm up, he turned off the lights in the clinic and departed to his own room. He stored the muffins in a cabinet—he didn’t need to share them with anyone else.

He got ready for bed and turned off the lights in his room, plunging it into utter darkness. Sitting on the edge of his bed, he mulled over all that had happened.

He still couldn’t shake the thought of keeping a child captive. Didn’t he trust Maxie to have the right idea, to make the right choices? Sure, but—

A soft glow caught his eye and he felt a psychic presence touch his mind—it felt similar to when Claydol communicated with him, but this presence was vastly different. There was something about it that was completely alien when compared to Claydol and any other Psychic-type Pokemon Derek had met.

Turning his head, Derek’s heart skipped a beat when he saw a gold and silver creature hang in the air before him. Its body shone as if it was a star plucked from the heavens. As Derek gazed at it in awe, a voice echoed in his head.

I saw your friend.

He blinked—and the image of Maressa appeared before his eyes. She and Golduck floated in the midst of a jungle, her eyes wide open and terrified.

The image disappeared and Derek was left staring at Jirachi. The Pokemon smiled at him.

She’s okay. She’s with Team Aqua again. But she doesn’t like them.

Derek could do no more than stare dumbly as the creature gazed at him kindly.

Thank you for taking care of Tate. You have been so kind.

The Pokemon’s eyelids drooped and it rubbed an eye with one of its little fists.

I am… sleepy. I need to sleep.

Without a further word, the Pokemon disappeared, leaving behind a soft golden shimmer that hung in the air for a few seconds before dissipating. Derek was left staring at the spot long after it had disappeared into the darkness.

As he lay on his bed, his thoughts were finally able to come together—he could comprehend what had happened.

He had been visited by Jirachi—and Maressa was alive! She was more than alive, she was okay! The plan had worked.

Derek’s face broke out into a smile. He couldn’t believe it—he couldn’t believe the awesome power of Jirachi, and he couldn’t believe that Maressa had—somehow—gotten through the ocean safely and was back with Team Aqua.

Closing his eyes, all the anger that had filled Derek earlier left him. For the first night in recent memory, he slept peacefully.

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

Mist swirled up towards the treetops as the early morning sun ascended into the sky. The dark, broad leaves of trees dripped with water. The moist ground squelched underfoot as Phoebe walked through the wet grass, trudging her way up the mountainside. With every step she took higher, her heart sunk lower in her chest.

She tried to come and see her grandparents frequently, but no matter how much she came, it never felt often enough. She was busy almost all the time with trainer matches and Elite Four meetings—and now that the Elite Four matches had temporarily stopped, she should, theoretically, have less work to do. But all of the members were supposed to be searching for Tate and Team Magma around the clock, and she hadn’t told anyone of her and Liza’s secret deal with Team Aqua…

The guilt built up to where Phoebe was tempted multiple times to turn around and give up. It was the first time seeing her grandparents all month, but she wasn’t going to check up on them. She might not even talk to them. No, she had to talk to them—they at least had to know what she was going to do. Maybe she could even convince them to give her the Orbs—but she immediately scratched that idea. She knew that nothing, not even a request from one of their few grandchildren, would convince them to do that.

Squelch, squelch, squelch…

She knew she could just send out one of her Pokemon and have them swiftly fly her up to the mountaintop, just like they always did. But somehow, that seemed even more wrong. Trudging up through the forest and thickening fog seemed to fit her mood more; besides, she wasn’t in a ready mindset to meet her grandparents quite yet…

The forest around her rustled as Vulpixes darted back and forth, and Ghost-types flitted through the trees, little more than moving shadows. All of these had ceased to bother Phoebe years ago. In fact, she couldn’t remember ever being afraid of Ghost-type Pokemon.

The dirt path gave way to a stone stairway. The steps were a dark grey, with moss creeping through the cracks and eating away at the crumbling edges.

Okay, Phoebe told herself as she closed her eyes, taking deep, slow breaths. Explain the situation, say what you want, and if they refuse to give them, then—then take them. Opening her eyes, she made her way up the stairs, her heart pounding heavily. Physically taking the Orbs would be easy, but she knew that it would weigh heavily on her conscience for a long time—possibly the rest of her life.

She slowly ascended the stairs. They had always seemed to go by fairly quickly when she flew up with her Pokemon, and even though she was going on foot this time, it still went by much faster than she liked. She paused right as she reached the top of the stairs, glancing up at the large alabaster rocks forming an archway. The fog had thinned out and she could now see several feet in every direction. Her stomach churned uneasily; she thought she might throw up. Resisting the urge, she steeled herself and walked forward.

All too soon, two elderly people came into view. Their dark eyes were bright, and the corners of their mouths were lifted in cheerful smiles. A walking staff with odd stones embedded in gnarled wood stood near the man’s chair. Both of them had white hair, and the woman’s hands were shaking. They had started constantly shaking a few months ago, and Phoebe’s family suggested that she come down from the mountain and see a doctor, but her grandmother dismissed the idea. Phoebe wondered if her mother had ever set up that appointment for the doctor to come check on her grandmother…

Phoebe set her eyes on her grandparents and gave them a soft smile as she came closer. She could see the Orbs out of her peripheral vision and was using all of her willpower to avoid looking at them directly. They would be where they always were, standing on a podium right in-between and slightly behind her grandparents. She had barely given them thought before, but now they were all that mattered.

“Is that Phoebe?” her grandfather asked as she came up to him. He rose to give her a gentle hug, his smile showcasing a few missing teeth. “We haven’t seen you in weeks! Been busy as ever, I suppose?”

Phoebe couldn’t help smiling as she returned her grandfather’s hug and held her grandmother’s shaking hands. She could allow herself a few moments of happiness with them.

“Is it true that the League has been shut down?” her grandmother asked.

“How did you know?”

“Chimecho told us.”

The Elite Four member looked up to see a Chimecho hang above them, the yellow suction cup on her head plastering her to a tree branch. Their Chimecho would often go out into the world, collect news and bring it back to them to keep them more up-to-date on the goings-on when their children and grandchildren weren’t around.

“What for?” her grandfather asked. “I’ve never heard of this happening before.”

“You seem very troubled, child,” her grandmother put in. “What is it?”

Phoebe’s eyes were downcast. Her grandmother had psychic powers; if she wanted to, she could read Phoebe’s mind. But she wouldn’t do that—she never had.

And she didn’t have to.

Eyes still down, Phoebe explained, “It’s because one of the Gym Leaders—Tate from Mossdeep City—has been kidnapped. We’re pretty sure it was Team Magma. And so his sister, Liza, and I made a pact with Team Aqua for them to get Tate back.”

“Why would they want that boy?” her grandmother asked.

“Because he was the one Jirachi ‘chose’—or something. We think it’s that they want Jirachi’s power, so they kidnapped him. Maybe to use him to control Jirachi. We’ve been having a lot of problems since it’s all happened. Police headquarters around the region have been destroyed, along with all of their computers and security information. A lot of data that hasn’t been backed up has been lost. Some people have been lost, too,” she finished quietly.

Her grandparents sat there in stunned silence, their mouths slightly agape. “This is terrible,” her grandfather muttered as his eyes lowered. “Not only kidnapping a child but destroying buildings and ending lives. And for what purpose?”

“Maybe so people will be more concerned with their own safety than with trying to hunt down Team Magma. Just hoping that they aren’t victims of its next attack. And that poor boy’s family…” Her grandmother’s face creased with pain and sorrow. “They must be worried sick, absolutely terrified! And the boy himself—I can’t imagine.”

“Yeah,” Phoebe murmured. “That’s why we need to get Tate out as soon as possible, to put a stop to all of this.”

“Phoebe,” her grandfather said slowly, “you said you made a pact with Team Aqua. What pact was this, exactly?”

“Before you go any further,” her grandmother said, “why did you trust Team Aqua in the first place? From what anyone knows, they’re no better than Team Magma.”

“Because they’re similar to each other,” Phoebe said. “Teams Aqua and Magma know each other better than any outsider does—if anyone is able to free Tate, wouldn’t Team Aqua know how to do it best? And wouldn’t they want to do it just as much as we would?”

“But you need to think about these people, and where they come from and what they value. No matter what they may claim to be, they’re a criminal organization. They attack innocent people and have destroyed public property, all for the sake of getting what they want. And I find it very difficult to believe that they would help you get Tate back just because it’s a shared goal between you two.”

“They’ve given me—given me custody of one of their Pokemon as insurance that they’ll keep their word.” So saying, she held up Crawdaunt’s Pokeball.

Her grandfather’s eyebrows furrowed. “They’ve agreed to free your friend, and they’ve lent you one of their Pokemon…”

“Because I let them have Banette as insurance that I would keep my word,” she said haltingly, looking her grandfather in her eye. Guilt and fear gnawed their ways into her heart as she dreaded their next question.

“And what was it that you promised them?” her grandmother asked. But Phoebe felt as if she already knew.

“I promised to give them the Red and Blue Orbs in exchange for Tate.”

Her grandparents gazed at her critically for a second—not accusingly, not angrily, not even confused. It just seemed as though they were trying to decide how to best voice their thoughts.

“Those aren’t yours to give,” her grandfather said.

“It was the only thing they would accept.” Fear and worry had overtaken her now, and she was struggling to keep it together, to keep from crying.

“Phoebe,” her grandmother said gently. And Phoebe couldn’t keep the tears from her eyes as her grandmother’s gentle gaze met her. “I know you had the best intentions. But these are matters that you’ve never dealt with before, and you’ve made a promise you had no right to. Giving them the Orbs won’t do anyone any good.”

“But—but they’ll give Tate back—” her voice began to break as tears trailed down her cheeks.

But her grandmother shook her head. “And what then? They’ll give him back, and then use the Orbs to unleash complete chaos. You will be helping no one.”

“But—I—I—I—I have to,” Phoebe sobbed. “After—after Tara—I can’t put her through it, too…”

“Phoebe,” her grandfather said, “I know you empathize with Liza, and that makes this all harder. But you can’t let that get in the way—if Team Aqua has the Orbs, they’ll kill everyone.”

Phoebe’s eyes were shut tight, sobs wracking her chest. Through her closed eyelids, she could make out a burst of white light and heard the groan of her Dusclops.

“Phoebe.”

She looked up to see her grandmother’s dark brown eyes. Not a trace of fear, or even anger. But what she saw was almost worse; it made her heart drop, it melted away all resolve, and put Phoebe into a deeper shame than she had ever felt. It was disappointment.

Never in her life—not when she had failed to win a Pokemon battle for the nineteenth time in a row, not when her parents told her she was mistreating her Pokemon or being cruel to her siblings, not even when she had failed to watch her little brother and her parents found him riding his tricycle in the street while she was watching TV—had she known such disappointment. And they weren’t disappointed in what she had already done; it was in what she was about to do. She could still stop. She was on the verge of calling her Dusclops off when her grandparents’ eyes fell shut.

She fell to her knees, crying softly for a moment. She could barely believe what she was doing. She would have been content to stay there, but a groan from Dusclops urged her to her feet. Walking over to the pedestal, she looked at where the Orbs sat, gleaming dully. Reaching into the bag slung around her shoulder, she took out a cloth and carefully picked the Orbs up—she didn’t dare touch them with her bare hands.

Once the Orbs were secure, Dusclops picked her up and soared down the steps towards the base of Mt. Pyre. Phoebe glanced at the sleeping figures of her grandparents as well as the little Chimecho that had fallen near them. Heart wracked with guilt, Phoebe whispered, “I’m sorry,” before turning her face away from the sight.

As they descended the mountain, she couldn’t help but think about how her grandparents didn’t even try to stop her. Her grandmother wielded enormous psychic power, and Phoebe knew that she could easily have put her to sleep or much more.

Perhaps she couldn’t, and that she had faced the same struggle that Phoebe was facing: when it came to family, they couldn’t do anything against each other. And maybe her grandmother wasn’t just disappointed in Phoebe; maybe she was disappointed in herself for not being able to do what she knew was right, for not being able to stand against family. Were it not for Dusclops, Phoebe would not have been able to take the Orbs from her grandparents.

Phoebe glanced down at her bag, then set her face forward. Soon they reached the sea, and the salty wind dried the tears on her cheeks. She would work something out—Team Aqua wouldn’t have the Orbs so easily, or for so long. But now she had to get back Tate and Banette.
 

WildBoots

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. moka-mark
  2. solrock
Here for Chapter 14!

Some line reactions at the top and some expanded thoughts at the bottom.

glanced around the room apprehensively
I would love to see more body language cues right here!

Gym Leaders and Elite Four of Hoenn sat around a table
(Minus 1/2)
Oh, it's going down.

and for a moment, the pain of losing a sibling washed over her—but she quickly shook the thought from her mind.
It wasn't clear here whether she's remembering something that happened to her or if her empath abilities (not sure if she has them or not here?) are causing her to feel what Liza is feeling. I'm sure this moment was a hard one for you to write, but I think more specificity will make it hit harder! Who was this sibling? Surely she doesn't think of them as "my sibling." They have a name or a nickname. There are specific things she misses about them, maybe misses more in times of stress. (If [name] were here--no, it wouldn't help her to dwell on that now.)

Norman donned civilian clothes
This is interesting. It implies that there is a uniform, that he's normally in a military uniform instead, or that what Wallace and Steven are wearing is a uniform.

along with the Pokemon, Jirachi.
No comma--otherwise this implies that Jirachi is the one and only pokemon there is.

His fingers combed through his red mohawk
Suggestion: He finger-combed his red mohawk.

But do we know who kidnapped Tate?” Brawley asked.
pictures and videos of it waking up have been all over the news.”
I'm not totally clear on why there's doubt about who did it? I guess this setting doesn't have great CCTV footage access or that the Gym Leaders are really disconnected. It's just strange to me that the hoodie with the horns would be the only way to confirm who did the deed.

so I think we should team up with Team Aqua and then arrest them all after we’re done with them.”
giphy.gif

Arrest them for what? Being members of Team Aqua? They'd be potentially arresting Maressa for stuff that, say, Shelly did if that's the case. Which ... you know, real justice systems are pretty scary too, so maybe that's fine. But it is 😬

Liza, wait!”

Phoebe sent out her Dusclops, who picked her up and floated over to Lunatone.
Until this moment, I'd forgotten that she was the perspective character for this chapter. With her relationship to ghosts, death, and prophecy, I feel like she must have an interesting world view that could bring something interesting to the chapter if it were explored more!

“Do you have any ideas as to where to start looking for Team Aqua?”

The girl’s dark eyes were downcast. “No. Maybe the river or sea, since they’re all Water-type trainers…”

Phoebe grimaced. “That’s way too much to cover…
7.8/10 too much water

This felt a little Scooby Doo to me, though. They want to find one group they don't know the location of to find another group they don't know the location of?

Since then, it’s been filling with rainwater, and some plants have started growing and Water-type Pokemon are moving in.
Kind of a long sentence!

Yeah, but we don’t know why.
Yeah, why are they flooding things?? Trying to DIY mini Kyogre in lieu of the blue orb?

Tsunamis, as far as she knew, where caused by earthquakes
Oh, I forgot about this! Interesting point of overlap between these two!

But if Team Aqua owned so many Water-type Pokemon, why hadn’t they just made it rain already?
giphy.gif


maybe they don’t even know of its existence in the first place…”
Why wouldn't they know a TM existed?

My chief wants to speak with you
"My chief" sounds super weird. If anything "the Fortree Chief of Police" would be more appropriate. If this is supposed to be bad acting, then Phoebe and Liza need to react.

“So! The Pokemon League is here, hoping to find Team Aqua so they can defeat Team Magma and get their brother back.”
This felt a little heavy-handed. "As we both know ...."

And you can’t do anything without causing collateral damage—there are innocent police officers working here, too, you know. And if you want to scream, go ahead: these walls are soundproof.”
Oh, interesting. Aqua goes all the way to the top. Again, this felt a little Bond villain: and also (pulls lever) now you're suspended over a pit of carvanha!! This felt a little like an excuse for them not to battle, which seemed to me like a missed opportunity to show how very outnumbered P + L are. Being surrounded is probably motive enough to comply.

We’ll give each other some form of insurance—something we’ll want back. That way we’ll have to see each other again, and when we do, we’ll return what we gave each other. Sound fair?”
Oh, nice.

You can’t have those. Ask for something else.”

“That’s the only thing we want.”
*They're the only things

It's too bad that one of few times we get to see Maressa from someone else's perspective ... she's not very distinct. I get why she wouldn't be the focus here, but very little of what she's about shows through except that she doesn't want her pokemon to be insulted. This is another place where leaning harder into Phoebe's perceptions and intuitions could help you out.

I appreciated seeing the gym leaders divided over what to do ... but as I said above, I'm not completely following their logic. I also wonder why they haven't been involved with the police prior? It paints a bit of an image of them as very hands-off.

I wish Matt had had a little more interaction with the pokemon he's giving up! We get a very brief sadface, but I feel like he should at least tell it through the pokeball what's happening? Or he's a complete jerk about it, leaving Phoebe wondering if he'll bother to hold up his end of the deal. Similarly, I don't know what losing banette means to Phoebe except that it's hers. Why did she give up that one over the others?

The emphasis on the loss of Tate has a lot of potential, though! Seems like something Phoebe and Liza could bond over.

Maressa sure isn't making her move out of Aqua very quickly!
 

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
Alright, here from Catnip! Like said before, I'd reviewed the first chapter some years back, so I'm reading and reviewing the second instead - though not without a skim of the first to refresh my memory. Anyway, here are my thoughts.

What if to goes wrong because of me?

I'm not sure what word supposed to be here, but probably not "to"?

Her heat panged with jealousy

her WHAT

She looked at the sea sadly.

I'm so used to seeing "sadly" meaning "unfortunately" that it looks odd when used for a more literal meaning. Either way, it's a rather blunt word and a blunt way to phrase sadness, so I think some other word might look better. "Sorrowfully" I guess is one, though I'm one of the people obsessed with avoiding adverbs, so I'd use something like "She looked at the sea, dejected". (Am ESL, though, and not certain about these.)

They can’t be outside their Pokeballs with you

The fact that Golduck is out of his ball after this was said and no one seems to care is a bit weird. They can break the rules, sure, but when they discuss the other rule-breakings, it's strange that this one is left unaddressed.

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

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

STRANGER DANGER

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

You're gonna want a comma after Mark.

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

This seemed weirdly easy after how much Mark argued against Maressa even going for a walk - and I'm not sure why Mark couldn't have stayed behind, if we're already assuming this stranger is trustworthy.

Once her lullaby ceased, he reached into his pocket and took out a Pokeball

“Go, Sealeo!”

Missing period here?

The two of them quickly got caught in a jumble of limbs

duck vs seal slap fight go

While the Pokemon were engaged, Mark ran right over to Captain Stern and punched him in the face. Stern fell to his hands and knees.

wow rude

Mark didn’t look at Marerssa

Typo.

This will all be worth it in the end.

Nice ending line.

---

General Thoughts

So, that escalated. It's good, though - the first chapter was rather slow, and I think it would've tested the readers' patience to have many chapters like those before getting into a proper conflict. The fact that this chapter used to be two separate ones might hint at the revision addressing something like that, actually.

I generally liked this chapter, but I'm kind of confused as to what the team's plan was exactly. Was Maressa actually meant to stay out while the takeover took place? If Stern hadn't decided to go talk to her and offer a tour, she wouldn't have shown up, and neither would have Mark. Unless Mark actually was supposed to be there, in which case it gets even weirder that he'd then do the whole charade of not wanting to go. The most sensible explanation I have in mind right now is that Mark and Maressa were planned to stay at the lookout, but Mark decided they might as well go since that's where the takeover was happening. It's kind of a rogue move from Mark then, though... Well, it's possible I'm overlooking something or the explanation lies in the following chapters.

Anyway, I also like the relationship trainers have with their pokemon here, it seems very genuine. It does puzzle me, though, how this works in tandem with the pokemon seemingly not having names - not just because it feels kind of detached, but also because it raises the question of how orders don't get mixed up when several of the same species are on the battlefield (something that's especially going to happen in teams with themed pokemon). It could be that the mon are smart enough to recognize the person giving the commands and whether they're supposed to obey that person specifically or not, but I feel like it'd be a lot easier just to name the pokemon. I know that it's closer to the anime and games to say the species name, but we're all aware that the canon doesn't always make sense.

Two more highlights - the earplugs for Lullaby and duck hugs. We could all use more duck hugs in our lives.

That's it for my thoughts. Feel free to ask about them if you want, either on here or the Discord is fine.
 

kintsugi

golden scars | pfp by sun
Location
the warmth of summer in the songs you write
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
  4. booper-kintsugi
  5. meloetta-kint-muse
  6. meloetta-kint-dancer
  7. murkrow
  8. yveltal
  9. celebi
hiya Starlight! this has been on my list FOREVER but I've been silly about reading things in the right order this year. Mostly here for ch1 rn but I'm hoping to pick up speed! I know you were planning on doing some early rewrites, so if I'm just spitballing against material you're planning on scrapping later, forgive me!

We get a good glimpse into Maressa and Sarah in this chapter. There are some bits that I think are a little "well, as you know", such as where they both talk about where they're from and their histories, but I think for the most part the conversation flows nicely. It's just two kids on guard duty where nothing happens, and it's a clever vessel for starting us off with a lot of character moments without much plot to weigh it down--circling back to that in a moment.

Aqua conflicts seem super interesting as well--based on some of the hooks in this chapter, I imagine the long-term arc will be along the lines of Maressa maybe trying to disentangle herself from them, but what you've set up now does feel like a realistic backdrop. I'm a little biased, but I love that you have Sarah admiring her here and trying to build up her self-esteem--pals gotta support each other! But at the same time I think this loops back into how some bits of this conversation feel a bit inorganic; it's a strange line to tread! Do they often have intimate late night talks about how much they admire each other, and if so, how has this only come up now? But I mean, again, always here for supporting friendships in fic and I stan Sarah already; she seems like she has a good head on her shoulders. As a character Maressa seems to have a really good hand that she's backed herself into a corner with; she's good at a lot of skills and she has the respect of her peers, but is it giving her what she wants? Does she even know what she wants yet? I imagine a lot of what is to come will involve her grappling with these questions.

I thought the discussion on pokemon was super interesting too! I like the idea that Maressa sees it as natural for a human and their pokemon to disagree sometimes; I think it says a lot about how she views them (and, in a more transactional sense, what she view them for). The way she talks about Golduck is very much like how I'd talk about a friend--he's too stubborn; we argue all the time--and that's always really cute to see.

revisiting "without much plot to weigh it down"--I do wish there was some sort of external conflict. I don't think this intro bit is quite character-driven enough for this to make sense as purely being carried by the characters (the revelations/exchanges here are very surface level; it's more about two people meeting instead of a growth/learning moment for anyone; that stuff comes later). As such, it feels like things don't quite go anywhere. There's definitely some hooks here about Maressa's Very Good Decisions re: how she's definitely thought through being in Aqua, and at the end there's this whole guard duty mixup that started everything in the first place, but I didn't really get anything deeper than that. I appreciate the time spent with the characters and I'm glad we get to know them, but I found myself wondering if perhaps some of this info could've come later, and instead we got a bit more of a hint of what the plot was about.

But big picture, it looks like some interesting stuff is on the horizon for these two! Hoping they end up at least somewhat okay.

---

some line-by-line's/prose thoughts:

I noticed a lot of eyes this chapter (I do it too!) in the descriptions/accompanying dialogue--probably too many?

The moon in the sky looked like a black canopy with a curved tear.
I think this one is a bit over complicated--"the moon" is what we're looking at here from the sentence structure, but it looks like a "black canopy" (which refers to the sky)

The river made no noise as it flowed by
duo watched the running water pass by.
lil' silly relic that I noticed when rereading: the repetition of structure here with the narration noting the water and then noting it passing by felt a bit redundant

Tucking in her legs, she slid down to where her feet almost touched the water. She dipped a hand into the cool liquid, letting the current soothe her hand with its gentle caress.
I think in general your description is really nice--floaty, atmospheric, a bit abstract, which suits the theme for this chapter well. In this one, I think you stack too much, and things could be streamlined a bit, maybe like:
> "Tucking in her legs, she slid down so that her feet almost touched the water. She dipped a hand into the river, letting the current gently caress her hand."

"Be careful what you say, Sarah,” she teased, “You don’t want to be charged with insubordination!”
Silly grammar thing, but since Maressa's doing two differenent sentences here, I think this one would read nicer as:
> "Be careful what you say, Sarah," she teased. "You don't want to be charged with insubordination!"
> "Be careful what you say, Sarah." She teased, "You don't want to be charged with insubordination!"
(imo the first one works better)
(you have solid grammar throughout so this felt like a typo, but if not--lmk and I'm happy to break it down)

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

"What a small thing to ask for," Sarah replied sarcastically. "Well, it's no surprise that you're the one chosen for something like this."
👀 I feel like Sarah knows more than she lets on here!

"It's the Pokémon who do all the work. I just oversee what they do."
I thought it was interesting here that she sees overseeing as separate from doing the work, since she's (presumably) effectively a grunt for someone else! Always a fun topic to unpack re: who's actually to blame, who's in charge, who's calling the shots.

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

"Relax, Sarah. It's only Sharpedo."
I think the order of this paragraph would work a bit nicer if she says "relax, it's just a sharpedo" before proving the point by doing the cuddles

Shrugging, she merely said, "You just have to learn how to deal with them."
"deal" felt like a bit of a harsh word--I think it's a little less friendly than the verbiage Maressa uses the other times she talks about interacting with her pokemon
 

Umbramatic

The Ghost Lord
Location
The Yangverse
Pronouns
Any
Partners
  1. reshiram
  2. zygarde
I HAVE RETURNED! For Chapter 2 this time!

So you said this was the chapter that was completely fucking rewritten from scratchedy scratch and I can tell because I'm like "I remember very little of this except near the end possibly mabye." So this is a fresh experience!

The scene of Maressa and Mark getting ready for ZE MISSION is uneventful, but does a good job of setting things up. Maressa is having plenty of anxiety that will not turn out to be totally justified nope!

And then we get to the mission itself! Very intresting worldbuilding bits about Slateoort being nice and spanking cleaqn, and good point by Maressa that HMMMM WHY ISN'T AQUA TAKING CARE OF THE DIRTY PLACES CHECKMATE AQUA SCUM

And then, of course, the plan goes awry, and Maressa panics, and people get hurt. I feel sorry for captain dude. Also feel sorry for Maressa for being presented with "you must kill this man. okay not quite but you must grievously injure him." I did not know brass knuckles were illegal but I can kinda see why given Mark uses them with EXTREME FUCKING PREDUDICE. Ow.

And I really liked the end bit with Golduck. He's a good boy. I liked his Pokemon-y perception of things. Why is human upset about beating up other human? . Human should not be concerned. Pokemon beat each other up all the time. It's cleaerly the same thing. Everything is perfectly fine. Just dandy. Not troubling at all in the slightest.

Looking forward to more of this! When I get to it.
 

WildBoots

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. moka-mark
  2. solrock
I had hoped to read more Drowning during Review Blitz ... but I didn't manage to read as much as I wanted to! So I'm here now instead. Saw you're back in action on Discord and thought this would be a good way to say welcome back. ;)

Lots to like in Chapter 15! I'll just start with line-by-lines and then talk a little more broadly.

This chapter is a bit on the long side (for me, anyway) and is a hodge-podge of different scenes that I had a hard time pulling together in an orderly fashion. Thoughts or comments are appreciated!
You know how we do here. ;D

She was never one for throngs of foot traffic and crowds
I think most people don't like throngs. To me, that implies not just lots of people but, like, long lines or having trouble moving through a space. Even extroverts don't necessarily like overcrowded streets per se. I think "she was never one for crowds" is plenty.

She glanced up as a shadow passed overhead and saw an Altaria perch on the windowsill, holding a note in its beak.
Good baby. :D I wondered why he didn't send skarmory though.

She thought about bringing her Pokemon out of their Pokeballs and asking them their thoughts,
I do like how there's a repeated theme of trainers caring about the opinions of their pokemon and seeking their guidance.

There’s writing and it looks like it was cut out deliberately a long time ago. Those rocks are hard, and they wouldn’t be easy to cut into.
"Writing" confused me. Is this ... graffiti? Ancient carvings? Not quite clear.

That poor girl…
This sounds a little distant, considering he must have some kind of relationship with Tate and Liza.

“That won’t work—they need to stay at Mt. Pyre for their power to be neutralized.”

Steven raised his silver eyebrows. “Really? Why is that?”
This section was maybe a little heavy-handed, BUT these are some very good questions! Nice to get some kind of attempt to address them.

a hundred people willingly gave up their lives to tame Kyogre and Groudon, and that’s how the Orbs were made.”
Oh, damn. Bloody history. Guess it makes it sense that they'd be connected with the resting place of spirits. I'm a little surprised it was people and not pokemon, honestly--seems like they have a lot more power to add to something like that. (Unless the text describing this was from a time when pokemon were considered people.)

“There’s a part of The Scorched Slab Codex that says, ‘Those who are truly dead stop those stuck in time.’
It took me a while to parse "those stuck in time" as Kyogre/Groudon.

There was no guarantee that Steven and the Pokemon League could find and take down Team Aqua. After all, their boss wasn’t at the police station when Phoebe and Liza were cornered.
Took me a second to figure out if "their boss" meant Aqua (and Archie) or the League.

Derek descended the stairway, carrying a container of spaghetti along with some fruit juice.
Aww, Derek. What a wholesome bean.

so he had taken some of his personal juice to give them to keep their spirits up.
Omg
BitterScalyAoudad-size_restricted.gif


maybe they didn’t really deserve the juice
:v

giphy.gif


his facial countenance was ghastly.
Hmm, this feels a little formal, and I'm not totally sure what you mean. Is he ... beat up? Sad and tired? Pale? All three?

On his lap, a Mightyena lay.
A little funky rhythmically.

Suggestion: Across his lap lay a Mightyena.

The Dark-type woke up at the sound of Derek opening the door, and he raised his head and squealed happily when he saw Derek.
It's the best boy!

thinking of perhaps trying to stitch the laceration in that Cacnea’s arm back up while waiting.
Oh! This is from Best Boy, too!

“ ‘All the bett—’
I don't think you actually need the single quotes here, even though he's repeating Tabitha.

His mind mulled over the issue, trying to look at it from every angle, and his thoughts kept on turning back to Maressa.
I wish we had a little physicality from him here.

“… And this is where Huntail chomped down on me when he got upset,” Matt explained. “But I showed him who’s boss—you’ve got to show these Pokemon that you know their weaknesses and then they’ll come to respect you. Archie had to do it with his Sharpedo, too. That man is a tank—he didn’t let up when his Sharpedo and its school of Carvanha all started biting him!” His pale blue eyes glanced at Maressa and he smiled. “You understand this, of course, what with your Sharpedo.”
Hahaha, nice details here.

Then what were these past few nights about? Why did you always come out and spend hours talking to me?”
D:

“Do you realize how much we’ve done for you—how much I’ve don’t for you?” Matt continued. “Maressa, I’ve been thinking about promoting you!”
Fuckfuckfuck
Escape, escape, escape.

“This isn’t anything to get worked up about. My line of thought was perfectly reasonable.”
I think the first line is stronger and sounds more natural by itself.

“And—and I’m sorry I never told you—or Sharpedo, or Lanturn, or anybody—I just—just felt like—like he wanted to be with me—until—until he said he was never interested in—in me—just—just what he wanted—from me…”
I actually didn't totally get this impression during their conversation! I wasn't sure if she was interested in him romantically, maybe, and was just turned off by his approach/the implication that he was only interested in her body ... or if she genuinely only wanted friendship. In that conversation with him, it would be nice to get a better idea of where she did expect or want things to go if not, uh, his room.

“You were right… And back then, if Phoebe hadn’t demanded one of Matt’s Pokemon, I would have lost another one of you.”
"Back then" makes it seem like a long time ago, but I'm not sure it was?

when they needed to be looking for Seaking
Dropped a period here.

Team Aqua and Team Magma were large organizations with hundreds of members and countless Pokemon trained for battle and spying. She was one Team Aqua grunt with three Pokemon. What were they supposed to do?

Maressa stared ahead, deep in thought. “Well, Derek was one grunt with only three Pokemon, and he managed to sneak a captive out.”
Yeah, that's a big ol' mood. I like that she's remembering a friend for strength ... and, oof at the parallel that he's thinking of her and feeling inadequate in his own actions, too. Team up across the aisle, team up across the aisle!!

He reached his little arms out towards her.
:c
27a.gif


little chance of surviving in whatever new world Kyogre was to create.
A little clunky on the end there.

Suggestion: in whatever new world Kyogre created.

She glanced back at the sunlight shining on the bright green leaves outside—

Where no one else was.
A little funky in the phrasing here, too.

Suggestion: And nothing else.

Suggestion: And no one was outside.

As she strode through the trees, stepping through tall grasses and pushing aside ferns, her shoes and pant legs quickly became soaked from the dew covering the foliage. Tendrils of misty vapor rose through the forest canopy as it soaked in the morning sun.
I like the imagery here a lot! You do have "soaked" twice, though, and I think that first sentence could be reworded to flow more smoothly.

Suggestion: She strode between the trees, stepping through tall grasses and pushing aside ferns. Her shoes and pant legs were soon soaked with dew.

Heartbeat racing, she turned around, grabbing Sharpedo’s Pokeball. He might not be able to move on land, but he could at least shoot water or bite whatever Pokemon got close.
Wait, why was his pokeball the one she reached for?

You're right that there are a lot of pieces here, but I don't necessarily mind it. I thought the transition from Derek thinking about Maressa --> here's what Maressa is up to worked especially well. I wonder if the Phoebe scene could transition into the Derek scene a little more, maybe another parallel image?

I enjoyed getting to see an extended Steven scene! We all know I'm not exactly his biggest advocate, but I also genuinely enjoy him, haha. Your word choices for him were good--he's definitely distinct from Phoebe's speaking style, and he got to show off his knowledge about rocks, too!

Oh man, I hope we get a Derek and Maressa reunion sometime! It does feel like this conflict is bigger than Maressa can handle on her own, and it sounds like something has got to give for him, too.

I liked the ending note, too. I thought it worked well.

I'll be back for Chapter 16 ... you know, sometime. :)
 

Starlight Aurate

Ad Jesum per Mariam | pfp by kintsugi
Location
Route 123
Partners
  1. mightyena
  2. psyduck
UPDATE POST

Hi everyone! After my unannounced hiatus, I am back with more chapters of Drowning! Chapters 1-7 have been completely rewritten from scratch. This was to reflect my current writing style (they were close to 8 years old), to flesh out more character backstory and give more background to this fic. You don't need to go back to read them if you read the previous versions of the chapters; the story will work out just fine. This also means I extend an apology to everyone who recently reviewed the early chapters--I won't be able to give a proper reply, but I kept your comments in mind as I revised!

Synopsis of changes:
- Team Aqua goes on a submarine trip and encounter some ruins with ~mysterious~ writing
- Shelly used to be a researcher at Devon
- Maressa's leg injury is totally gone and replaced with nitrogen bubbling in her joints/ "the bends"
- Tabitha tells Maressa that the Team Aqua/Magma feud doesn't actually have to do with the natural environment

I have two more scenes to insert, but both are for the sake of character development/background and neither are pivotal to the story. I want to thank everyone who has read this story and encouraged me to keep doing what I love. New chapters will be released soon!
I had hoped to read more Drowning during Review Blitz ... but I didn't manage to read as much as I wanted to! So I'm here now instead. Saw you're back in action on Discord and thought this would be a good way to say welcome back. ;)
Two months late, but better late than never, amirite?

Good baby. :D I wondered why he didn't send skarmory though.
Everyone deserves a time to shine okay

I do like how there's a repeated theme of trainers caring about the opinions of their pokemon and seeking their guidance.
I'm stuck in this headcanon of Pokemon=friends! and so I can't seem to avoid having every trainer talk to their Pokemon ^_^;

"Writing" confused me. Is this ... graffiti? Ancient carvings? Not quite clear.
Supposed to be ancient carvings

This section was maybe a little heavy-handed, BUT these are some very good questions! Nice to get some kind of attempt to address them.
Subtlety is not my forte but I don't want too many things to go unanswered/unquestioned, ha

Oh, damn. Bloody history. Guess it makes it sense that they'd be connected with the resting place of spirits. I'm a little surprised it was people and not pokemon, honestly--seems like they have a lot more power to add to something like that. (Unless the text describing this was from a time when pokemon were considered people.)
The running theme behind this was humans desperate for control and willing to sacrifice anything for it, even other people. I also thought it kindof aligned with people of ancient religions sacrificing those they defeated in battle to their gods. Also I stole it from Yu-Gi-Oh! and the creation of the Millennium Items

It took me a while to parse "those stuck in time" as Kyogre/Groudon.
Not actually something the readers are supposed to get yet; it gets answered later!

Took me a second to figure out if "their boss" meant Aqua (and Archie) or the League.
Oh woop. Supposed to be Archie.

Aww, Derek. What a wholesome bean.
Oh I definitely consider Derek to be the most wholesome human character in this fic, his affiliation with Team Magma notwithstanding.

It's the best boy!


Oh! This is from Best Boy, too!
I also can't resist having my one-shots tie in XD

I actually didn't totally get this impression during their conversation! I wasn't sure if she was interested in him romantically, maybe, and was just turned off by his approach/the implication that he was only interested in her body ... or if she genuinely only wanted friendship. In that conversation with him, it would be nice to get a better idea of where she did expect or want things to go if not, uh, his room.
Maressa wanted a genuine friendship and was starting to become romantically interested in him--but was not at all ready for physicality and was scared when he was.

Dropped a period here.
Curse you, forums, and my inability to edit well in the text bos!!

Yeah, that's a big ol' mood. I like that she's remembering a friend for strength ... and, oof at the parallel that he's thinking of her and feeling inadequate in his own actions, too. Team up across the aisle, team up across the aisle!!
Glad that the parallel is visible! And I like your idea, but it's a biiiiit harder to do when they have no way to contact each other ^_^;

Wait, why was his pokeball the one she reached for?
Because she left Golduck inside so it was either Sharpedo or Lanturn.

You're right that there are a lot of pieces here, but I don't necessarily mind it. I thought the transition from Derek thinking about Maressa --> here's what Maressa is up to worked especially well. I wonder if the Phoebe scene could transition into the Derek scene a little more, maybe another parallel image?
Oh cool, thanks for picking up on that! Glad to hear that several pieces are also working out okay--I want to keep up with all the characters but that means making each chapter disjointed scenes. Thanks for the advice!

I enjoyed getting to see an extended Steven scene! We all know I'm not exactly his biggest advocate, but I also genuinely enjoy him, haha. Your word choices for him were good--he's definitely distinct from Phoebe's speaking style, and he got to show off his knowledge about rocks, too!
Thanks! We'll see more of him, though I definitely need to work on fleshing out his character more.

Oh man, I hope we get a Derek and Maressa reunion sometime! It does feel like this conflict is bigger than Maressa can handle on her own, and it sounds like something has got to give for him, too.
We'll see ;P

Thanks so much for your comments! They're always appreciated ^_^
 

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
  2. dratini-pen
  3. dratini-pen2
First chapter, take two! You've made big strides with this one in editing. I have a much stronger sense of Marissa's interactions with her teammates and pokemon, as well as her position in Team Aqua. I like the sense of comradery between the grunts and the attention paid to the different species of water type pokemon and their habitats. Shelly also makes an impression. She's strict, but she's also not wrong! Someone who goofs off because stuff is boring is not going to be a great soldier. Of course, can Team Aqua really expect good soldiers here? Maressa seems to come from a more academic background, even if she's physically prepared for rigorous expedition.

It might have been nice to get a bit more in the 'Team Aqua's not legal but not bad' section about how Maressa got involved. I don't mean the full story--I'm sure that comes later--but even something like a reference to the research world being insular, or some kind of disillusionment that justifies her committing to an illegal marine activist association. The way she says that Team Aqua "hired" her makes it sound like she just passed her resume around at a job fair.

The prologue-ish section made an interesting addition. I like the epigraph--very atmospheric. It's a very different tone than the story starts off on, so it will be interesting to see how those end up cohering. I wasn't quite sure what to take away from the prologue--the ocean is mighty and dangerous? There's no particular suggestion that this storm was Kyogre induced, so i'm not sure how it fits in with the overall story. Some worldbuilding flavor might have been nice here--who do sailors make their prayers to in Hoenn before they die in a storm? A few personalized details like that would have brought the scene alive more to me.

Overall, the chapter does a nice job introducing us to Maressa and Team Aqua, as well as setting up that action is soon to follow. I don't have a super strong sense of Maressa yet--she's a bit headstrong, and likes spending time with her pokemon and battling. Most of the conflict set up is through dramatic irony, that as a reader I know Maressa's naive enthusiasm is unlikely to match the reality of what awaits her.

Great work with the edits! I'm way behind on my reviews right now, but once I'm caught up I'll circle back to see what goes down in chapter two.

The storm raged endlessly. Lightning sparked in mile-high clouds, throwing their black depths into sharp relief before the skies succumbed to darkness once more. The heavens tore open, sending sheets of rain down upon the turbulent seas.
I've noticed it's very common for people to jump to more elevated and purplish prose in a prologue. It can actually be counter-intuitive though--less is often more. Redundancy dulls impact. For example, it's clear the seas are turbulent--a storm is raging. Ending on that actually detracts from the sense of turbulence, because it furthers us from the concrete action of the heavens tearing open (nice choice of verbs.)

Maybe: The storm raged on. Lightning sparked in mile-high clouds, throwing their black depths into sharp relief. The heavens tore open, sending down sheets of rain.

In the roaring waters, a wooden ship plowed through the salty sea, miniscule in comparison to the endless abyss.
Stuff like "endless abyss" is a little generic--as a reader, my eye tends to glaze over at language like that. I'd focus on keeping things grounded:

Below, a wooden ship plowed through the roaring water.

Three men stood together at the wheel in an attempt to prevent the ship from spinning out of control.
The way this is worded is oddly static to me--as if they're just standing by the wheel, not doing anything. Are all three of them turning the wheel together? or holding it back from spinning?

Black walls of water raged higher and higher; each new monstrous wave crashed down only to be replaced by one bigger than itself. The waves fell, retreated, and returned more powerful and numerous than ever before. Fighting to stay afloat was akin to fighting a hydra: the more progress they appeared to make, the more hopeless the situation became.
I like the metaphor a lot! You do say the same thing a few times here, though.

Maybe: Black walls of water raged higher and higher. Staying afloat was like fighting a hydra: for each wave surmounted, two more rose in its place.

At last, as the ship fell into a trough, as rains lashed the bulwarks, as the faces of every sailor looked up in terror at the wall of water looming over them, highlighted by a burst of lightning, they gave in. The men at the wheel let go: the ship spun, capsizing, and a second later was completely submerged as the wave slammed down on it.
Is falling into a trough here falling into the trough of a wave? A little unclear to me from the wording.

The fragments of the magnificent ship and its passengers all descended into the calmness of the deep, the latest victims of the thirsty storm.
The last sentence of a segment signals to the reader the tone and feeling we should end on. This one gives me mixed messages. Are we mourning the destruction of the ship? Are we celebrating the peace of the ocean and of death? Are we condemning the hunger of the storm? I'm not sure what my take-away is.

“No, Golduck, careful—no—OW!”

Maressa jerked back as Golduck wolfed down a piece of dried jerky in her hand—he had reached too far and snapped his bill over her fingers.

“Be more careful!” she snapped at him as he eagerly snapped up the food.
Triple snapped here--especially confusing since you've got two different uses of the word! You' also use the 'as' construction twice in a row.

Maybe, “No, Golduck, careful—no—OW!”

Maressa jerked back as her Golduck's bill snapped over her fingers.

“Be more careful!” she chided him. But he was already wolfing down the dried jerky he'd snatched from her hand.

Golduck rolled his eyes and quacked something—Maressa couldn’t quite hear what. Even though he didn’t speak with words the same way that humans did, he and Maressa had been together for so long that she perfectly understood his every mannerism and quack.
This reads a little confusing, because we see her not understanding him and then we're told she perfectly understands every quack. Not sure we need the direct exposition here--we're told they've been together 19 years later, and that she understands him should be clear from the context of her understanding him.

Maybe instead of "Golduck rolled his eyes and quacked something—Maressa couldn’t quite hear what." you could say, "Golduck rolled his eyes and quacked something under his breath." or "Golduck rolled his eyes and quacked something too low for Maressa to catch." (which implies that had she heard it, she would know what it means.)

estuarine
Ooh, never seen that as an adjective before! Cool.

Sure enough, Seaking closed his eyes and fluttered his fins happily
A good fish!! I adore the verb "fluttered" when referring to pokemon.

“Nothing—literally nothing is going on down there. How about up here?”
It's cute how everyone is saying this.

Sarah frowned. “Isn’t brackish water bad for Corsola?”

“Only if I leave her in there all day—she’ll be fine if it’s just a few hours,”
This does a nice job establishing that they're all somewhat educated on caretaking water pokemon.

nineteen yeas ago
Typo!

Maressa averted her eyes. “Well, I wasn’t, either… But we worked around it… without really telling anyone.

“Don’t look at me like that!” she said in response to Sarah’s and Cloe’s doubtful stares. “When I was four years old, I came across Psyduck and we became friends—I wasn’t allowed to have Pokemon yet, so I just saw him whenever I played outside. Once I was old enough, I caught him, my family moved from Kanto to Hoenn, and now we’re here. That’s not bad—we’re all Team Aqua members, and you guys know this organization isn’t legal!”
This didn't quite work for me, since the story Maressa tells is literally legal--she didn't actually do anything wrong, right? Whereas Team Aqua is literally not legal. So comparing this story to Team Aqua feels odd. Maybe tweak it so Maressa was actually doing something a little illegal (though not, in her mind, harmful)--battling before she got her license, maybe?

That’s not bad—we’re all Team Aqua members, and you guys know this organization isn’t legal!”

“That’s true,” Cloe said, “but Team Aqua isn’t bad, either—oceanic conservation without government regulations and stopping Team Magma isn’t exactly ‘bad.’”
Cloe's response doesn't make sense to me. Maressa says 'Team Aqua isn't legal, but that doesn't mean Team Aqua is bad.' And then Cleo says, 'BUT Team Aqua isn't bad." Why the but? Cleo is agreeing. Exposition feels a little forced here.

“No,” she said sadly. “I asked Commander Shelly, and she said that Team Aqua has to be a priority.”

“Well, Shelly can take her priorities and shove them up—”

Maressa was cut off by the sound of the hatch opening. A woman wearing a blue bandanna with bushy red hair emerged from the submarine. Her red eyes were narrowed with displeasure, she slightly held her chin up, and a haughty air hung about her.

“Is Cloe up here?” Commander Shelly asked.

“Crap!” Cloe hissed.

“What are you all doing?” the Commander demanded as she walked onto the deck, her hands on her hips. “You—” she jabbed a finger at Cloe— “are supposed to be inside, cleaning the windows! And you two—" she pointed to Maressa and Sarah— "are supposed to be on watch! Tell me, how are you watching anything when you are lying on your backs?”
Excellent timing on Shelly's entrance and instantly establishes her as a hardass.

(really esoteric dialogue rules time--em dash action interruptions like you're doing here actually both go outside the quote marks, like so:

Youshe jabbed a finger at Cloe—"are supposed to be inside, cleaning the windows! And you two"she pointed to Maressa and Sarah— "are supposed to be on watch! Tell me, how are you watching anything when you are lying on your backs?”)

Shelly raised an eyebrow.

“Really?”

Maressa turned her head and her heart sank when she saw Golduck and Corsola wrestling with Seaking. Corsola clung to Seaking’s horn, yipping like a cowgirl as Seaking bucked up and down; Golduck had his arms wrapped as far around Seaking as they would go, trying to hold on while Seaking vigorously tried to shake them off.
Heh, this moment made me smile. You do a nice job here letting us experience the 'oops' feeling along with Maressa.

The Commander sighed. “Maressa, I’m very disappointed in you.

“We have a lot of hope for you, you know. I’m taking you with me to Mt. Chimney tomorrow because I believe you can handle it. I’ve seen the way your Pokemon fight, and I know you say that you care about the ocean—but you have to prove it. We didn’t find out about the meteorite on our own; it was through a spy we have on Team Magma. They’re going after that meteorite, so we are, too.”
The line break here between Shelly's dialogue is kind of jarring.

The last two lines feel kind of out of place? Shelly's talking about whether Maressa can handle this and prove herself, why is she suddenly talking about spies?

“We will fight Team Magma tomorrow, Maressa. And you need to prove that you and your Pokemon are willing to work hard for Team Aqua. Standing out here on watch is easy. If I can’t trust you with a simple task like that, how can I trust you to do something that carries as much weight as a Pokemon battle?

“There may be a point where your loyalty is tested. If you want to be a member of Team Aqua, you must be willing to fight for it.”
I really like the framing of 'if you can't even be trusted to keep watch, how can we trust you to fight?' I'm a bit confused about how that transitions into 'if you want to be a member, you have to fight for it.' Seems like that initial line of thought is more leading towards 'if you want to be a member, you have to follow orders, even if you don't like them/think you're above them/don't see the point.'

Maressa pursed her lips in anger—her disdain for Shelly growing ever stronger. She didn’t need to prove she was physically capable of hiking Mt. Chimney—the training simulations had already proven that! She swam four-hundred meters in the open ocean for her dive test; she had run up and down the muddy hillsides of Route 119; she had done free-diving with her Pokemon to more than twenty meters—

And now she needed to prove herself?
We see Maressa's anger and disdain clearly through her inner monologue. I think it may be more effective if you let that speak for itself, like:

"Maressa pursed her lips tightly. She didn’t need to prove she was physically capable of hiking Mt. Chimney . . ."

(You probably want "She had swum" for parallelism)

She wouldn’t let her anger get the better of her—this time. Getting on her hands and feet, she steadily did push-ups while Shelly stood over her. Expending energy usually calmed her down—but as her chest and biceps burned, so did her resentment.

At dawn—Sean and Casey were supposed to relieve her and Sarah at 3 AM but missed their watch—she clambered down into the submarine hatch and sat on her cot, all four of her Pokemon recalled into their Pokeballs.
I can't believe I'm going to say this, but the first and second em dashes feel a bit excessive and unnecessary here.

As she lay on the bed, weariness overtook her, clouding her mind with the bliss of restful sleep. Her upper body was still tender from doing push-ups—but she was excited for what the next day would bring. Recovering and researching a meteorite! Fighting Team Magma! She smiled, a single thought running through her head:
This will all be worth it in the end.
Language feels a little overly elevated in the first sentence. Clouding her mind/bliss are a bit contradictory, in that the first has negative connotations and the second positive. And she doesn't actually fall asleep at this line? So she's weary, then blissfully sleepy, then sore, then excited. It pingpongs a bit.

Maybe, "Maressa lay back on the bed. Despite the soreness in her body from Shelly's push-ups and her weariness from the over-long watch, she thrummed with excitement. Tomorrow, she would recover a rare meteorite! Maybe she'd even get the chance to fight Team Magma! As sleep overtook her, a single thought ran through her mind: This will all be worth it in the end."
 
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