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Old 08-24-2008, 12:58 AM
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Default Morphic

Reposting! Since posting seven chapters in a row here would be annoying and posting them one at a time when I've already written a chapter the old forums never saw would be even more so, I'm just going to link to the first seven chapters here and then get right to chapter eight.

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7



Chapter 8

Peter didn’t notice anything odd when he woke up. Aside from the singing of the bird Pokémon outside, everything was silent. He ran his eyes up towards the wooden ceiling and then to the bright daylight flooding in through the window; he had forgotten to draw the thick green curtains last night.

He sat up stiffly, yawning as he scratched the small, deformed wings on his back, and reached for the large blue T-shirt at the foot of his bed. He pulled it on absent-mindedly while his eyes searched the room for other hastily discarded articles of clothing; he didn’t need to look for his blue-and-yellow baseball cap, which was always lying on the stool by the side of his bed where he could reach for it without even thinking about it. He pulled it on, turned it backwards and adjusted it before he stood up, walked to a pair of jeans lying beside his wardrobe in the corner of the room, and put them on as well.

He was beginning to notice in the back of his mind that things were a little more quiet than they were supposed to be.

“Kathy?” he called and got no answer. He opened his bedroom door and looked at the identical wooden door straight across; it was open and he could tell without really checking that his sister wasn’t there.

He turned towards the staircase on the left and began to walk carefully down. “Kathy, are you there?”

“Pete?”

Her voice was squeaky and quiet, and he could tell she was in tears even before he came down the stairs and found her sitting at the kitchen table with her face buried in the petals of her roselike hands. He had that strange feeling of being out of place, like the world had been turned upside-down when he slept and he was the only one still this way up.

“Sis, what’s wrong?”

She looked up at him, her arms flopping uselessly down at her sides. “They killed Brian,” she whispered. “And Dave was nearly killed, too.”

He stared. He wasn’t used to seeing his big sister like that. “What?”

“Some man tried to kill them both,” she said helplessly, and he walked over to her in a bit of a trance to let her hug him, just to confirm she was still physically there.

“Where are Mom and Dad?”

“They went to visit Dave at the hospital. They told me to tell you.”

“So is Brian…”

“He’s gone,” she sniffed. “The… the murderer shot him through the heart.”

As she said it, she didn’t sound like she really believed it. Peter felt increasingly like the world around him was some sort of an alien place, not the one in which he had gone to sleep last night. The thought that it was a dream crossed his mind, but more because that was how he knew people were supposed to feel in situations like this than because he actually believed it could be. He felt like he ought to cry, but he didn’t really feel sad. It was too surreal to be sad.

“It’s… it’s okay, Kathy,” he said numbly. His sister sobbed into his shoulder and he wondered if the Taillow part of him had made him emotionally disturbed to some degree, unable to mourn. Then he thought of Gabriel, and somehow, maybe because they went to the same school and had played a lot together when they were a bit younger or just because they were both Pokémorphs, that was when he felt a little sting in his heart, the world melted abruptly back into the real world and he found himself hugging Katherine back and letting his own tears stain her shoulder.


“Is Sarah still asleep?” he murmured.

“Yeah.”

He glanced at the third bedroom door between the stairs and the cheery, bright red wooden letters spelling out his technically older sister’s name. There was not a sound to be heard from the room. It was not surprising; he had always woken up earlier than Sarah when they were left to their own devices. But to know that she was asleep, that she didn’t even know, made the world begin to feel alien again, and he turned around and buried his face in Katherine’s shoulder and wished everything could just be normal again.

-------

“Daddy, Daddy!”

Dave groaned. He had no sooner woken up than his headache returned. He blinked a few times and forced himself to sit up. “What is it, honey?”

Jean nearly jumped into the hospital bed, stopped more by the height of it than by any respect towards the sick. “I’ve got the contract, Daddy! They sent it!”

Dave stared at her in dazed disbelief. “What?”

“The acting contract! For Sarah Hooter!”

He wasn’t quite sure how to even begin to reply. “I was nearly shot to death last night. The contract isn’t really a… top priority right now.”

She showed him her cute puppy eyes, and he pretended she was really sad about him. Or Brian. Not the contract.

“But Daddy…”

Not the fucking contract.

She clamped onto his arm, closed her eyes and started sobbing. “But Mr. McKenzie said you were asleep, and he said it was okay, and then he talked to the doctors and they said you can come home today and now he said I could wake you up.”

There. Now he felt a bit more like a father. “I’m fine, sweetie,” he said and hugged her back as well as his current position allowed him. He wondered briefly whether Joe had told her about Brian or not but didn’t have the heart to ask.

“So are you going to sign it now?” she asked brightly, looking expectantly back up at him and putting a few sheets of paper on the bed along with a pen.

He didn’t really want to do it, but she was too cute and he had too much of a headache to argue. Afterwards, she went bouncing off into the hall to show it off, and he rubbed his forehead and sighed. It was first now that he noticed that the television in the room was on; he wouldn’t have thought much of that either if he hadn’t caught a glimpse of a pretty, redheaded news reporter in quite a lovely scarlet dress.

“…of the famous Heywood Labs perished and another was hurt when an unknown attacker with a firearm ambushed them last night. The research institute was the center of controversy a decade ago when its employees were the first to successfully splice the genomes of humans and Pokémon, resulting in eight living so-called Pokémorphs. Police have been unable to locate the attacker as of yet but have stated that the shootings are likely to be connected to the Pokémorph incident.”

“Bitch,” Dave muttered to himself. “Won’t even say my name.”

They moved on to sports and then to silly news about Meowth kittens and the whole while she was sitting happily beside that smug anchorman she was screwing (or had been a few months ago, at least, not that she hadn’t probably given everyone at the studio several blowjobs to get where she was now) as if she had no more than a passing knowledge of Heywood Labs and the Pokémorphs. Most of the people watching it, he realized with irritation, had no idea she had had a nervous breakdown and tried to throw a baby out of a window and just thought of her as one of those successful career women. And she was making more money than he was, damn it.

“…but not as cute as you, though.”

“Haha, good one, Jane.”

It was a good thing he was not holding the remote, because he might have thrown it at the TV and then he would have had to pay for it.

-------

Gabriel stared at the back of whoever was in front of him.

He could see the blurry blob he knew was Dave in his peripheral vision, walking up to the altar – he could just picture the man scowling at the fact they were in a church, which had been at his grandmother’s insistence – but wanted anything but to look at him. Him, who had been there when his father had died.

“Brian was a nice guy. He was always a nice guy. It was difficult not to like him.”

Him, who was lying through his teeth, because Gabriel had noticed – who hadn’t, really? – the way that Dave liked to blame Brian for his own mistakes just because he was so easy to pin things on, just because he never fought back. Just because he was too nice to stand up for himself.

“He always tried to do what was best for his son and his effort to try to make things as easy and comfortable for Gabriel as possible was truly admirable.”

Him, who had helped, but left most of the work to Brian; him, who had raised his daughter as a spoiled brat and still dared to comment on the parenting skills of others.

“His creative input when we were creating the Pokémorphs was also something amazing.”

Him, who had always taken the full credit for their creation unless that was inconvenient and would continue to do so after the funeral.

“And, well, without him, they wouldn’t even exist today.”

By which he meant screwing up the television debate that he had forced Brian to go to and had blamed him for for years.

“He even took on the most challenging morph to raise, which is quite something, and handled it admirably, resulting in, well, our Gabriel.”

Meaning him, the Slugma boy that no one had wanted but he had forced on Brian as punishment for the debate and Brian had learned to love only later.

“He was a truly great man and will be sorely missed among his coworkers.”

Because you must say that at a funeral, even if you won’t miss him, or at most miss the fact he would deal with the burden of his disgusting, slimy freak son and thus you would not have to.

“When he was taken from us so suddenly…”

And how dare he, how dare the man who the murderer had been going for stand there and say that about the one who took the bullet for him?

Gabriel felt sick.

He stood quietly up and began to walk out at the side, knowing that everyone was looking at him, even being aware of Dave’s gaze on his back while he tried to continue that horrible speech. Gabriel was glad to find a side door, threw up into the grass by the church wall and then sat down on the other side and shook, staring at the graveyard and the open grave that waited, ready to swallow what was left of his father and mark it with a meaningless cross as a symbol for a nonexistent god. He could still hear the faint echo of Dave’s words through the door.

He would never forgive him, ever. How could he forgive the one who should have died instead of his father? At least Dave was a jerk. Gabriel didn’t like to say anyone deserved to die, but no one could deny that there would have been some semblance of karma in it. His father had never done anything wrong.

It wasn’t fair.

He wasn’t sure how long he sat there. When they carried the coffin out, many people gave him a glance from afar and he considered joining the procession, but he figured he would just ruin the ceremony for everybody there who wasn’t used to seeing him (he had noticed several aunts and uncles he had only seen once or twice who seemed a little horrified by the sight of him) and the thought of watching the coffin sink into the ground while knowing what it contained was a bit sickening.

His father. He’d been a living, breathing, thinking human being only a few days ago. They’d ordered pizza last Friday and watched a cheesy romantic comedy. He had been in the middle of reading an acclaimed mystery novel and would never know who did it.

Pathetic as it was, that was the thought that made him finally curl up, bury his head between his knees and cry.

He was too far away to distinguish words, but he could make out the faint drawl of the priest’s voice from the churchyard. There was something soothing about it being so far away, the silence otherwise only broken by the occasional noise of the radio from the stationary police car that had been assigned to watch the funeral to deter or capture the criminal if he showed up to finish the job and the chirping of a flock of Pidgey near the other side of the church. It was just outside Taillow Springs, where the sound of cars from the town could not really be heard anymore. The Harrisons didn’t live too far away; they had a Pokémon breeding ranch a short drive from town.

“Hey, Gabriel,” said a voice, and Gabriel looked up to see Jack’s blue face and the accompanying antennae bobbing up and down in front of it. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” he replied dully, took off one of his black gloves and rubbed some life into his face. Down by the grave, he could see the coffin being lowered in, cringed and looked away.

“Here,” said Jack and held forward an ordinary red and white Pokéball. “From all of us.”

Gabriel stared at it for a second, took it in his gloved hand and then dropped it on the ground. A jagged shape of white light burst out of the ball and formed into a cute young Growlithe puppy. It tilted its head before attempting to lick his face; it cringed at the taste, let out a quiet whine and then lay down by his side.

He looked up at Jack.

“It’s one of Talia’s pups, you know, the Harrisons’ Arcanine,” the Chinchou boy explained. “They said she was the most playful and good-tempered of the bunch. Her name’s Felicia. We just thought… even while you’re living with us, it would be nice for you to have somebody who’ll always love you and be there for you.” He smiled awkwardly. “Something like that. It was Dave’s idea, actually.”

Gabriel had a sudden urge to throw the Pokéball in Jack’s face as hard as he could and tell him to leave him alone, but Jack hadn’t done anything wrong and the puppy really was kind of cute. He just gave the other boy a weak smile and scratched the Growlithe’s ear.

“Well, I hope you like her,” Jack said at last. “We were planning it yesterday, so we got food for her and such. It will be ready when we get home. Are you coming over to the…” He trailed off, his tone questioning. Gabriel shook his head, still scratching the puppy’s thick fur, and Jack turned around and walked back to the group.

Gabriel looked at the dog Pokémon by his side, half of him already attached to the creature and half feeling hurt at the suggestion that a Pokémon could even begin to act as a replacement for his father.

She looked up at him with adorable dark brown eyes and he figured she didn’t really need to be a replacement for anything.

“Felicia,” he muttered. “Good girl.”

“Growl,” she responded and tilted her head towards him. He smiled but hated himself for being able to smile now, now when he just wanted to mourn and punch a pillow and cry, and after a moment of thought he recalled her back into the ball, stared at the police car and just waited.

Brian would never find out who did it.

Gabriel felt his eyes begin to water again, and he silently resolved to himself that he would read that book and find out for him.
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Last edited by BACHURU; 08-24-2008 at 01:11 AM.
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Old 08-24-2008, 02:46 AM
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Default Re: Morphic

Hey. I just read it outside of this thread. I say... Brian really didn't deserve it. It's really sad.

"And a tiny bit funny!" No, kidding.
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Old 11-14-2008, 11:22 PM
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Default Re: Morphic

Okay, chapter nine is here. While my personal NaNo-esque aspirations to write 50,000 total words of Morphic and TQftL were clearly far too optimistic, I at least finished this chapter. Before you ask, it should be proofread to just the same degree as my chapters normally are; I'm not about to make 50,000 anyway, so I had nothing to lose spending a bit of time on proofing.

Thanks go to opaltiger for giving a couple of opinions.



Chapter 9

The geneticist who had lost his daughter at the beginning of the book was the murderer, and at the end he shot himself.

Gabriel sniffed as he closed the book. He remembered his father describing what it was about and how he felt for that character when he had only just started reading; once Gabriel had started, he’d quickly also concluded that the geneticist was the most sympathetic character in the whole book. And then… Gabriel felt tears welling up in his eyes again and blinked them resentfully away. Why did he have to be such a wreck over this, of all things? A stupid book. Pathetic.

He looked dully at Felicia, sleeping on the other end of the couch, and reached over to pet her. He half-wanted to vent about it aloud, but didn’t really trust his voice for the moment, so he kept his mouth shut.

Jack came out of the kitchen, holding a platter with two slices of toast with marmalade, and turned towards Gabriel. The luminous ends of his antennae swished back and forth; Gabriel didn’t think it would ever stop being slightly comical. He smiled dryly as Jack made his way towards him, laid the platter down on the glass table and then threw himself down beside Felicia, scratching her ear slightly. “Want some?” he asked, indicating the bread. Gabriel shook his head.

Jack shrugged and took a large bite out of one slice for himself, eying the book that still lay shut in Gabriel’s hands. “Finished it?” he asked through the bread. Gabriel just nodded.

“How was it?”

“Good,” Gabriel replied emptily. “Really good.”

Jack looked at him out of the corner of his eye as he stuffed more bread into his mouth. “You’ve got…” he said, crumbs flying out over the table as he pointed to his hair. Gabriel extinguished the growing flame blindly with his hand, only remembering that he was still wearing his gloves after he began to smell singed leather.

“Crap.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Jack said quickly. “You can’t really see it.”

Gabriel looked dully at the black glove; while he couldn’t really tell where it had started to burn, that didn’t change that it was now smeared with his skin on the outside, quite undermining the purpose of wearing the gloves to begin with. He sighed, pulled them off and laid them down on the table with the dirty one on top of the clean one.

“So, uh…” Jack’s gaze shifted between Gabriel and the gloves on the table. “Magic?”

Gabriel looked at him, not really in the mood. “I’m no good at that game.”

“You can always learn more, right?” Jack looked at him hopefully. “Or, hey, we can watch Pokérus. I borrowed season four from Ben the other day.” He paused. “It’s not something you used to watch with your dad, is it?”

Gabriel shook his head. He had never been very fond of that show (even he could tell that the biology was markedly off in some episodes), but at least it was an excuse to spend a few hours killing time without actually doing anything. “Sure.”

Jack sprang up from the couch. “I’ll put them in the laundry basket,” he said, picking up the gloves. “Be right back.”

Gabriel was left alone with Felicia, unable to stroke her without getting the stupid slime all over her fur. He sighed and looked longingly at the slice of toast remaining on the platter; on second thought he was kind of hungry and would have liked to be able to belatedly take Jack’s offer and eat it. But without his gloves, the idea of eating something while holding it in his hands was less than appetizing.

He sighed, stood up and went to the kitchen look for a knife and fork. He heard Jack returning, the footsteps suddenly stopping, and then the inevitable, “Gabriel, where’d you go?”

“Kitchen,” he called back, picking the cutleries carefully up before closing the drawer with his elbow and walking back out to the living room. “Do you mind if I eat the other piece of toast?”

“Oh,” Jack replied, sounding somewhat taken aback. “Sure.” He inserted the DVD into the player and then sat down at the other end of the couch, leaving the seat by the platter for Gabriel. As he sank into the red leather of the couch, Felicia looked up with an expression that begged for petting, but he could only shake his head and focus on his bread, which he finished within a few bites. He still felt hungry, but somehow unmotivated to try to get himself more food. He had barely noticed the beginning of the episode on the screen, but they were all kind of the same anyway.

He laid down the knife and fork, sat back and sighed. Jack gave him a brief, anxious glance.

“You don’t need to try so hard, you know,” Gabriel muttered.

“Huh?”

“Keeping me occupied.”

“Oh, it’s…” Jack began immediately, but trailed off and stared at the TV for a second; the fake nothing-is-wrong expression faded from his face. “Well, I just… I kinda worry about you, you know? I figured you needed something to keep your mind off things.”

Gabriel smiled wearily. “Thanks, but you do that better by just being you.”

Jack looked at him and then back at the screen, contemplating it; then he turned suddenly back to Gabriel and asked, “Do you mind if I ask my friends over to play DnD?”

As it turned out, this was the first evening since the incident that Gabriel could really enjoy himself; it was very relaxing to spend it as the wizard Gringalot on a quest to defeat Giratina as part of an unlikely team of travellers with an oddly modern sense of humour.

-------

Peter took a shower that morning. It was always a bit of a tedious affair for him to take a shower, since his wings, with their rather messed-up feathers, liked to collect a lot of dirt, and it was always a bit difficult to reach around to clean them.

When he was created, his parents had explained, a large part of the challenge was to see if they could modify a human to have six limbs, and because of this he had been one of the key morphs of the experiment – he liked to think he’d been the very most important one. To achieve this, they had introduced a gene recurring with minor differences in various six-limbed Pokémon species, such as Machamp and Charizard, that when disabled in them would prevent the growth of the third set of limbs. Naturally, he had also had the Taillow genes coding for wing structure, and they had made sure that they would be active in the right set of limbs. But they had missed something in the complex interactions of all those genes, because while the bone structure had accommodated the third pair of limbs reasonably, the wings themselves had ended up tiny and shrivelled and he had never been able to move them at all.

In other words, he was a failed experiment.

His parents had told him not to let that fact upset him; he wasn’t sure why it ought to and just found it kind of cool. They had also offered to let him have his wings surgically removed, but even if they were hard to clean, they were still cool, and they didn’t really get in his way since they were so small.

So Peter liked his wings, even if they were tiny and useless. When he was wearing a reasonably big T-shirt, people couldn’t even tell they were there, and while he was wearing his baseball cap, they couldn’t tell that he had feathers instead of hair on his head, either. He thought that was why he’d never had it as bad as some of the others – people could forget he was weird. He thought that was nice, too. Not that they couldn’t figure it out when he moved weirdly when he wasn’t concentrating, or in the showers in gym class, but they weren’t thinking about it all the time, like they were with Kathy or Gabriel. And that was why Peter had normal friends and they didn’t really. He was lucky. His sister was nice and deserved to have friends, but her rose-hands freaked people out, and whenever she started getting to know someone she grew up much faster than them.

He turned off the shower, stepped out of it and dried himself. A stripe of golden sunlight stretched across the floor from between the curtains, a hint that autumn hadn’t quite set into the weather yet. He quickly pulled on his clothes and opened the curtains, looking out at the countryside landscape of fields and trees; it only took a few notes of birdsong to draw him down the stairs and out the front door.

Peter had never liked being confined to closed rooms, after all.

He ran out to the Ponyta herd grazing in the north field, feeling energized just to know of all the wide space around him; he laughed when the startled Pokémon closest to him turned around, their manes flaring, and galloped to the other side of the field. “Lily!” he shouted. “Come over here!”

His Rapidash, who had been his starter Pokémon at the beginning of his journey that summer, looked up, her ears perked up, before trotting over to him. She was still the most powerful and his favourite of his Pokémon, even though his parents had told him he shouldn’t really have favourites because he ought to love them all equally for who they were. He had known her since her birth, after all, knowing she would be his starter Pokémon; the ones he had caught in the wild during the summer just weren’t the same.

Lily let him pet her for a moment, but then abruptly snatched the cap from his head and took off in a light run along the fence, neighing mischievously towards him. He broke into a sprint after her, laughing; he loved little more than running after her when she was teasing him, and she knew that well.

The wind rushed past his ears, comfortably cool but somehow numbing, and he felt the dew-coated grass blades stroke his ankles in an odd, blurry sort of sensation; something felt different, though he couldn’t put his finger on it. He was closing in on Lily and saw her turn her head slightly to see him before speeding up. And that was when it struck him that he was really, really fast. The realization made him laugh in exhilaration as he looked around and saw the trees whirring past – he hadn’t even been this fast in a car! – and turning at the corner of the fence seemed strangely easy and automatic. He felt himself gaining speed without really realizing how he did it, the Rapidash struggling to keep ahead of him, and then he miraculously caught up to her side; he flung himself into her without really knowing why, and the sheer momentum sent both of them tumbling into the grass. It was lucky it was soft.

He was still letting out short bursts of laughter when he stood up, intoxicated by the sheer amazement of what he had just achieved; his heart pounded in his chest and he was breathing in rapid gulps of air. He would end up with some bruises from this, he was sure, and his clothes were soaking wet from the landing in the grass. Lily was pushing herself to her feet; she shook her head, tiny droplets of water flying in every direction as her mane flared up indignantly. Peter picked his cap up from the grass beside them; it was too wet to put on.

The Pokémon looked at him with a questioning gaze.

“Lily,” he said after a moment, “I’m not sure, but I think I just used a Quick Attack.”

He grinned at her, and she tilted her head towards him with an unimpressed snort. He made sure she wasn’t seriously injured after the roll, gave her a pat on the neck and then walked back towards the house to tell someone.

-------

Cheryl waved to the police officer in the car parked a short distance away as she crossed the street. He raised a hand back at her, which told her he had gotten the message that she would be coming. That was good, she thought; she’d have hated to have to deal with convincing a policeman that she was not there to murder David Ambrose.

The only reason she’d come at all, really, was how horribly broken he had sounded on the phone begging for company. They couldn’t leave Mia and Lucy home alone at night – not at a time like this – so Howard was left with the girls, and she had gone alone. Now that she was actually stepping into the apartment building, she was having second thoughts; the drive there had felt a lot more unsettling than it sounded in theory, and despite good intentions, the presence of the lone police car outside did little to make her feel safer from lurking murderers.

But Dave was a friend, and Cheryl couldn’t turn her back on a friend, even if he was in all likelihood drinking and nighttime travel a bit dangerous.

The staircases were unlit and empty, the windows giving clear view out to the streets; the bright light from the streetlamps outside cast harsh shadows on the stairs. She could not help finding the large windows a little unnerving: too easy to see and shoot someone through, she thought as she hurried up the last flight of stairs. She knocked on the door of Dave’s apartment, throwing another glance at the window and the empty street outside as she did.

“It’s not locked,” she heard a muffled voice call from inside. Cheryl turned the doorknob and pushed the door open.

“Oh, God, Dave,” she muttered as she closed it hesitantly. Of course she knew Dave too well to have expected him to be sober, but the sheer number of empty cans and bottles standing on and around the table that Dave was sitting at still startled her; again she was struck with the feeling she shouldn’t have come. But pity quickly took over: she couldn’t just leave him like this.

Dave looked up. “Sorry I’m such a mess,” he said, his voice slightly slurred and full of self-contempt. “Thanks for coming.”

He pushed the chair opposite him away from the table with his foot; Cheryl walked slowly over to it and sat down. She wasn’t sure what to say; he looked at her, and she looked at him, wondering just when he’d last shaved, just how much he’d been drinking recently, just how little he’d slept in the past week. Again she felt sorry for him.

“I can’t fucking live like this,” he said at last. “Locking myself in to hide from some crazy fuck, not going anywhere without police watching over my shoulder. I’m going to go insane before they catch him, damn it.”

Cheryl looked away and nodded absent-mindedly. Dave, having been concluded to have been the primary intended target of the attack that had killed Brian, had the most extreme protective measures around him, but they all knew the feeling to some extent. The sudden lack of freedom was bad enough; the paranoia that automatically enforced it was even worse.

“Are you alone?” she asked quietly. “Where’s Jean?”

“Been staying with the McKenzies for a couple of days,” Dave answered. “Can’t fucking blame her, can I?”

A few seconds of silence. Then, “She’s going to be in that goddamn Sarah Hooter movie. Why did I sign the fucking thing?”

Cheryl shook her head. “It’s her choice, Dave,” she said. “They’re not the best books around, I know, but in the end it’s her life and her own decis…”

“Her decision, my ass,” Dave interjected with an angry motion of his hand that knocked a few empty cans off the table. “There’ll be thousands of fucking furries and pedos jacking off to her picture every night; how could she ever make an informed decision about that? More publicity’s the absolute worst fucking thing that could be done to her, and I signed a fucking contract to make her a kid star. Jesus Christ.”

Cheryl wished she had something reassuring to say to this, but she couldn’t really think of anything. Dave rested his head on his hands, fingers buried in his hair. “Fuck,” he muttered.

She looked at him in silence.

Dave looked up after a few seconds, took a sip from the bottle in his hand and said suddenly, “I haven’t gotten laid in fucking ages.”

Cheryl took a deep breath. “Dave,” she said gently, “you’re drunk.”

“I still like you, you know,” he went on, pleading entering into his voice as he ignored her reply.

“Yes,” she said shortly and wondered fleetingly if he honestly thought she hadn’t noticed. “I know.”

“Howard would never have to find ou…”

“Dave,” she interrupted, jerking her head back towards him, “that’s over. There’s a reason I married him instead of running off with you back then.”

Dave looked at her for a moment and then rested his his head on his arms again, looking down. “Right,” he muttered. “Yes, I’m drunk. Sorry. I didn’t mean it. It’s just… I fucking hate this.”

Cheryl took another deep breath. “I should probably leave,” she said.

“Yes,” Dave replied, shaking his head. “I’m sorry. Christ, I’m going to snap if they don’t find the fucker soon.”

She couldn’t help still pitying him as she walked out the door, plagued with guilty memories.

-------

A/N: The plot of Gabriel’s book is that of an Icelandic mystery novel (Tainted Blood or Jar City in the English translation), although the order of events described here is as they unfold in the film of the book. Mostly just a reference put in for my own amusement, but I’d rather give credit where it’s due before people start to tell me “You should really write that book!”
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Old 11-14-2008, 11:40 PM
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Default Re: Morphic

You should really write that book!

Mmm, good chapter. The ending bit kinda made me depressed what with the drinking though. But one thing bugs me...

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Old 11-19-2008, 12:09 AM
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Default Re: Morphic

Still a good story, still a good plot, I'm still liking Jack's attitude, it's so... average. Wouldn't mind him around me.

...and, um, the Quick Attack thing was sort of unexpected. I had thought that they wouldn't have much control over not-so-basic Normal-type moves, since it seems that they'd be more adapted to their type's attributes. But since Peter couldn't really do anything with Flying due to deformed wings (reminds me of wings that you can get surgically attached, but uncontrollable), I guess the mastery was shifted over to the other type, huh?
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Old 07-07-2009, 06:16 AM
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Hi, everybody! Sorry about the ridiculously long wait between chapters here.

Thanks for reading and reviewing, you two. Hopefully you still remember what's going on.

As for chapter ten, well, there are things I'm satisfied with the outcome of and things I'm not. It feels kind of short to me, but it's actually seven pages, which is actually slightly longer than average for this fic.




Chapter 10

“David Ambrose?”

“Yes?”

“We got him.”

-------

Dave hesitated before pulling the key from the ignition. Without ever taking his hand off it – that would make it too deliberate – he took a deep breath and leaned back against the car seat. He exhaled, slowly, controlledly. He felt the built-up tension of the past couple of weeks relaxing its grip on his body; muscles he didn’t know he had unclenched one by one.

It was over.

He allowed himself to close his eyes and savor another gulp of air, finally mostly devoid of that smothering paranoia. Part of Dave’s mind of course imagined a crazy-looking man in a prison uniform bursting out of the door in front of him, pulling a gun out of nowhere and pointing it at the windshield with a wicked grin – but at least now the possibility was remote enough to safely ignore.

“Christ,” he muttered, took one last moment to sit there and enjoy the relief, and then pulled the key out. He opened the door, climbed out of the car, slammed it back shut. No murderers. Nothing to fear. Not anymore.

The moment he stepped through the door of the police station, two officers that had been talking near a desk across the room turned their heads towards him and one of them stood up. The policeman hastened towards him and grabbed his hand in an almost painful handshake. “Mr. Ambrose,” he said, a fast but firm voice. “I’m Officer Russell. Thank you for coming. How much did they tell you on the phone?”

“That you got the psycho that nearly shot me.”

“We did, we did,” replied the policeman while nodding overenthusiastically. “Or I suppose you could say he got himself. A man came by the station yesterday, Jacob Daniels – do you know him?”

“Can’t say it rings any bells.”

“Well, he knows you. Brother of the priest of the Church of Holy Truth – it’s a fundamentalist sect, don’t know if you’ve heard of it. They’ve been quite outspoken about the, ah… Pokémorph issue.”

The man winced when he mentioned it, a gesture that, in Dave’s experience, was mostly common to those who had been horrified and disgusted when they had first heard about the morphs and merely tried their best to forget where they came from now that they were lovable little kids. “Fundies,” he responded, channelling his brief annoyance into a more productive path. “Figures.”

“Well, anyway, he said he wanted to confess to the murder of Brian Edwards. Recited all sorts of details only the killer could know, even brought the weapon with him to let us match the rifling marks. Registered to him, bought a few years ago for home protection. Seemed pretty proud of it, but even if he recants the confession, we have more than enough evidence to make a quick, straightforward case. It’s pretty solid.”

Dave looked blankly at the other man. “So wait, the guy chooses to turn himself in now, after we’ve been hiding from the bogeyman for weeks?”

Officer Russell shrugged. “He said God told him to do it, and now to confess his crime.”

“Well, that’s... annoying.” Annoying. It wasn’t even just annoying. It was fucking criminal. If he was going to turn himself in in the first place, why couldn’t the fucker have done it immediately afterwards and saved everyone the trouble?

“Anyway,” the policeman went on, “just to put a lid on it, we wanted to do a Gardevoir test as well, so that’s why we called you. It’ll only take a minute.”

“Right.”

“Follow me, then.”

The officer led him down a corridor to the right. “Are you familiar with how the test works?”

“Vaguely.”

“Just look him in the eye, ask him whether he did it and whether anybody knew about his intentions or was working with him, and the creature handles the rest.”

They went through a reinforced metal door into a bleak interrogation room. At the table in the middle sat a tall, dark-haired man with striking, handsome features and an element of relaxed confidence in his posture even despite having his hands cuffed behind his back. Two guards stood behind him, while another officer stood at the side of the table beside the graceful Psychic Pokémon that was watching the prisoner steadily with unblinking red eyes. Jacob Daniels was looking musingly back at the Pokémon, but turned his piercing blue eyes towards Dave as they walked in. A grin spread through his face.

“Amelia is picking up malice, possibly murderous intent, sir,” said the policeman with the Gardevoir, which was still staring fixedly at the prisoner. Jacob Daniels appeared completely unfazed by the declaration and simply continued to flash that creepy toothpasty grin.

Dave regarded the man in silence for a second. The knowledge that he was standing in front of someone who had attempted to murder him struck him uncomfortably. He cleared his throat.

“So you’re the creep who tried to kill me.”

Jacob smiled at him, arrogance beaming from his face. “I was an instrument of the Lord. Your fate has been decided. I was merely chosen to do the dirty work.”

“Some mighty fine instrument, aren’t you, killing the wrong guy?”

“Please stick to questioning about the matter at hand, Mr. Ambrose,” said Officer Russell. Jacob Daniels laughed softly.

“There are no coincidences, Mr. Ambrose. God’s ways are many and mysterious. We cannot make the mistake of doubting them when our interpretations are faulty.”

“What the fuck is that supposed to even mean?” Dave waited a second for a possible answer; Jacob did not so much as change his expression. “Were you working alone?”

“I answer to no one but the Lord.”

“Did anybody else know about your little plot?”

The man looked into his eyes and folded his arms. “Why would I tell someone who might have interfered before the cause could be carried out? No. I am not an idiot, Mr. Ambrose.”

“And that’s why you’re in jail right now and I’m still alive.”

Jacob Daniels flashed him a grin, unfazed. There was something deeply disturbing about his complete lack of anger at his failure. Dave looked at the guard with the Gardevoir.

“She feels no indication that he is lying or concealing any facts, sir.”

Officer Russell shrugged and stepped back from the wall he had been leaning against. “That will be all for now, then. Let me show you out.”

Dave took one last look at his would-be murderer and his unsettling grin before following the officer out of the room and back into the cold corridor. It took a moment for the discomfort of Jacob Daniels’ presence to wear off.

“Why’d you need me to ask him that stuff, anyway?”

“It gives a better emotional reading,” the policeman explained. “We questioned him too, of course, but it’s easier for Gardevoir to sense them fully when an outside stimulus is forcing the emotions associated with the relevant memories more to the forefront of the mind.”

“Right,” Dave replied, trying to keep most of the scepticism from his voice. “How reliable is this?”

“It’s pretty good, as far as all the evidence suggests. Good liars can keep it off their faces, but you can’t hide it from a Gardevoir. There are those cases where they honestly believe what they’re saying, but for a man who gave himself up and confessed voluntarily and without coercion, well…” He shrugged. “It’s pretty foolproof here.”

“So we’re safe, right? We can stop hiding and being guarded?”

The policeman nodded. “Looks like it.”

“Have you talked to the others yet?”

“We called them just after we called you. They all sounded very relieved.”

They were at the door now, and the policeman stopped and extended his hand. “Thanks for coming in. Then we will need to hear from you as a witness once it gets to court; we’ll call you about that.”

Dave shook his hand and walked outside into the sun. They were free. Now Jean would come home and everything would be back to normal at last.

-------

Gabriel didn’t feel as much better as he had thought he would. He was glad nobody else would get hurt, in an oddly detached sort of way, but somehow knowing of his father’s killer behind bars did nothing for his sense of justice, and the same dull bitterness still throbbed within him, more intensely than before if anything. It was frustrating to know he ought to be content while painfully aware that he wasn’t in the least.

“Well, what would make you content?” Jack asked him sometime. “Isn’t this just something only time can heal?”

“It’s not that,” said Gabriel, shaking his head, and it wasn’t: it was not just grief. It was a sort of restless hunger for something, only he could not know what the something was – his best guess had been the incarceration of the murderer, but when that brought him no satisfaction, he was lost as to what could.

But did not explain it to Jack, figuring it would only make him more worried about him. Gabriel didn’t like worrying other people.

-------

Will sat on his bed, licking absent-mindedly at his fingertips. Jean was gone. The mattress she’d slept on was still on the floor below him, the red blanket crumpled and the pillow resting half on the floor, half on the edge of the mattress. It felt so long since he’d been completely alone. He wasn’t really sure what to do with himself. What had he done with himself before she’d pretty much moved in with them, anyway?

He looked around the room for ideas and then under the bed. His ball of yarn was still lying there. It was just too tempting.

He stood up and locked the door out of habit, even though he knew his siblings weren’t there: they’d fled the premises when Jean came over and had been staying with his friends. He took the ball out from under the bed and put it on the floor in front of him before sitting down and just staring at it.

It had been a while. Maybe he had grown out of it after all. He considered the possibility dully and could not bring himself to be happy about it.

The gold charm on his forehead itched and he reached up to scratch around it, but the more he scratched, the more it itched. He grabbed it in irritation, wishing he could just pull it off once and for all, and just like that, it came off, leaving only a cold tingle on the skin below it.

Will stared at the gold in his hand in disbelief. His first thought was that somehow he was evolving, turning into a Persian morph, but something made him instinctively know that that was not it.

Pay Day, he realized absurdly, blinking at the coin.

The tingle in his forehead was turning into a hot, painful throb. He winced and touched the spot where his charm had been with his fingers; at first it was just hard and rough and bulging out disturbingly, but within a few seconds there was metal regrowing where the old charm had been, and a few seconds after that, it had been completely replaced, with only a faint throb of pain and the flat piece of gold in his hand to remind him that it had ever happened.

He blinked again at the coin. A surreal idea popped up in his head: maybe he could buy candy for it?

He thought about it for a second – no, there were Pokémon abuse laws in place to prevent the sale of Meowth charms – but then decided he kind of wanted to keep it, anyway. He put the gold piece carefully in his pocket.

Shouldn’t he tell his parents? They always wanted to know when they exhibited new Pokémon traits. He looked up at the door and then back down to the white ball of yarn in front of him.

Aw, heck. He could tell them later.

-------

A few days later, Gabriel gave up and did try to explain it, when he was in a particularly wretched mood and somewhere in the back of his consciousness kind of wanted Jack to worry about him after all.

“I feel like there’s... there’s lava bubbling up inside me and it’s about to try to burst out,” he said, but it sounded ridiculous, like some sort of a miserable pun on his condition. He clenched his fists around the plastic-coated sheets he was sitting on – his bed had been moved from their house into Jack’s room when it had been decided he would stay with them – and shook his head before trying again. “Every day just makes me feel angrier. I don’t even know who or what I’m angry at anymore. I thought it was the killer, but it’s not.”

Jack sat curled up opposite him on his own bed, listening, resting his head on his knees while his hands fiddled with his finger-webbing. He said nothing. Jack knew when Gabriel expected an answer and when he just wanted to vent to somebody he could trust. It was one of the reasons they had always bonded well.

“Maybe it’s Dave,” Gabriel went on, thinking aloud. “I still sometimes look at him and hate him for being alive, still strutting around and pretending everything revolves around him. Maybe I’m just angry at my dad for still being dead. Or all this stupid slime. Why didn’t they abort me as a fetus again?” He paused. “Oh, right, the Stop Abortion Movement. Maybe I’m just angry at them.” He looked up at Jack as if he could confirm or deny it.

“Do you think it could be some sort of a lust for revenge?” Jack asked after a moment’s pause.

“Well, no,” Gabriel replied in irritation. “I already told you. I didn’t feel a thing when they caught the guy. I don’t care about the killer. It has to be...”

“Well,” Jack interrupted him, “maybe it’s just not satisfying to you to just hear on the phone that they caught him. Maybe you wanted to... be involved with catching him yourself.”

Gabriel stopped to think about it. He hadn’t really considered it. “Why would that matter?” he replied stubbornly. “The end result is the same. He’s in prison.”

Jack hesitated. Then, “Really?”

It was a probing sort of ‘Really’, fishing for something in particular. Gabriel frowned at him. “What do you mean?”

Jack bit his lip, his gaze flicking nervously to the locked door. “Would you have wanted to... attack him? Fight him?”

Gabriel looked at him for a moment. “Maybe, I guess?” he said quizzically, and Jack looked away, his blue face turning a shade towards purple. “What’re you thinking?”

“Don’t you ever get... violent impulses?” he asked, jerking his head back towards Gabriel. “Wanting to punch random people? Attack them, hurt them...?”

“Kill them?” Gabriel suggested.

“Maybe.” He flicked his gaze towards the door again. “I mean, I didn’t get much of it when I was little, but I think it could be a hormonal thing that’s just setting in now. These days, when people get on my nerves, I really want to attack them to show I’m better. Sometimes I want to fight random people I see just because I wonder if I could beat them.”

Gabriel paused. “So you think it’s because of the Pokémon genes?”

“It’s the only reason I can think of,” Jack replied with a nervous shrug. “For the impulse to be this strong, I mean. I’ve been wanting to ask all the others, but if it’s just me, I don’t really want to draw attention to it.”

Gabriel nodded. The last thing they needed was convincing more people that they were dangerous subhumans that needed to be restrained somewhere far away from normal people.

A few seconds passed in silence. Then Jack asked quietly, “So have you felt anything like that?”

Gabriel thought about it and then shook his head. “Not really.”

Jack looked away, his gaze distant, and Gabriel wished he could have told him they were the same. But he really had felt nothing of the sort – nothing he wouldn’t think would be ordinary for a frustrated teenage human orphan, at the very least.

Did he want to personally hurt or kill his father’s murderer? The thought of it was somewhat satisfying, maybe even more so than it ought to be for a normal person if he considered it – but he could tell that still wasn’t quite it.

“I think I can use Spark,” said Jack suddenly.

“Really?” Gabriel looked back at him.

“Yeah. I think we’re all developing some more Pokémon powers. I heard Peter used a Quick Attack the other day, and Will did a Pay Day just a couple of days ago, and Lucy is starting to gain control of that primitive Shadow Ball she could do. And now I can use Spark. It’s kind of neat, but still not very strong. Want to see?”

Gabriel nodded.

Jack reached for the switch to turn the lights off. He closed his eyes to concentrate, and the small lights at the ends of his antennae brightened visibly; he moved his right hand slowly upwards until it was right between the antennae, and then a bright yellow spark of electricity jumped from between the bulbs and his hand. He jumped, jerking his hand back down as he opened his eyes and began to shake his arm.

“It feels kinda numb afterwards,” he explained, “but it’s cool to know I can do it, right?” He looked brightly at Gabriel, who smiled.

“Yeah, it’s pretty cool,” he said, not sounding as enthusiastic as he would have liked.

Jack’s smile faded. “What about you? Have you been discovering any cool new powers?”

Gabriel shook his head with a skewed smile. “I guess I just don’t get any cool powers.”

The other boy looked at him with regret. That worry and concern was creeping into his eyes again. “You might just discover them later,” he suggested. “Maybe yours just need a bit more time.”

If there was any time when Jack irritated Gabriel, it was when he was trying too hard to suggest a positive way of looking at being a half-Slugma. But his mood was beginning to get better and he didn’t want to subject his friend to some sort of irritated remark on top of the confusion he must be feeling about his Pokémonlike fighting impulses, so he just shrugged. “So what now? Let out some steam by playing violent video games?”

Jack grinned, and seeing his friend smile made Gabriel somehow feel better, enough so to make him completely forget to mention the weird glint in Jack’s eyes while they played and the way it intensified when his opponents exploded into splatters of gore.
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Old 07-08-2009, 08:33 PM
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Default Re: Morphic

Hooray! I'm really enjoying this. I remember saying before that I like it much, much more than TQftL and that still stands. It has a much better feel and aesthetic to it. I'm enjoying the progression of the story thus far, and I quite like how all of the Pokémorphs show an underlying inhumanity - especially Mia. One of my favourite lines comes from her, actually. The one about wanting to eat Brian. It was delicious to read.

I quite like the distinction between Gabriel and the others, too. His humanity is much more apparent than theirs. I'm assuming that's deliberate, although Peter also seems a tad more human in his behaviour than the others.

It's also refreshing to see you treat pokémon as wild animals rather than the cutesy "nothing goes wrong :D" attitude that many people have when writing what are ultimately dangerous and sometimes horrific creatures.
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Old 07-12-2009, 02:46 PM
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Default Re: Morphic

Hooray for new abilities! This makes the whole thing about two times more interesting.

And it was way too interesting to begin with. Also, more Jack action. Gabriel seems to be most important at the moment... and there's a bit of foreshadowing in there, I think. I'll have to stay tuned to find out, though...

Keep up the good work.
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Old 07-12-2009, 03:46 PM
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Well, I'm not even halfway through yet, and I can already say I like it, a lot. Your style of writing fits the story, and it's just a blast to read.

the only thing that bothers me is something you can't do anything about, and it's the fact I get this aching and rumbling feeling in my chest that I usually get when I see or experience something I either find disturbing or simply doesn't want to remember. Which I have no idea why I feel so because this is something I'd like to remember.
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Old 08-24-2009, 03:49 PM
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Thanks for the feedback, everyone. It's appreciated. :3

Chapter eleven is here, pretty early by Morphic standards, so I hope you still remember what went on in chapter ten. It's rather short, but it does advance the storyline more than most chapters. :P

Fun fact: all but some two or three paragraphs of this chapter were written within the space of twenty-four hours. I had a major writing spree, all thanks to being unable to sleep so I started thinking about it and suddenly figured out how to get the plot to fit together better than before.

The end of the chapter feels a little abrupt, but eh.


Chapter 11

“The hotdogs were good,” said Mia as she stared through the side window of the car.

“You’re welcome,” Dave replied and darted an eye towards her to make sure the corners of her scythes weren’t poking holes in the seat. There was a short silence.

“Why do people celebrate birthdays?” Mia asked suddenly.

“Well,” Dave began but then paused to quickly turn a corner he’d almost missed. They jerked uncomfortably in their seats. Damn distractions.

Mia looked expectantly at him. “Well,” he started again. “Today it’s been forty-three years since your mother was born. So we celebrate it.”

“I don’t get it,” Mia said and looked distractedly around for a few seconds, as if she wasn’t going to continue. “Why you celebrate that,” she then added.

“What’s so hard to get?”

Mia looked directly at him. “It doesn’t make any sense,” she said. “Years and days don’t even line up right. Maybe the real time when the earth has gone around the sun once since the birth is tomorrow. Maybe it was this morning but we’re celebrating it tonight. It doesn’t have any meaning that it’s still the same day. And it doesn’t have any meaning anyway that the earth has gone around the sun so many times since your birth. None of it makes sense.”

Dave sighed; Mia was going philosophical on him again. “It’s just a nice excuse to give people presents. Nobody cares how many circles the earth has gone around the sun or whatever. You’re thinking about it too much.”

“Presents,” Mia repeated with a nod. There was another one of those few-second silences where she made Dave think she wasn’t going to continue. “I like presents.”

“See? That’s why we have birthdays.”

“As long as it’s a good present,” Mia went on as if he hadn’t spoken. “I don’t like getting bad presents.”

Giving Mia presents had been a nightmarish task the first few years. Then they’d realized it was best just to stick with giving her meat and things she could cut.

Pause. “I didn’t get her anything,” Mia said in her usual neutral voice.

“Well, I got her something,” Dave replied. “It can be from both of us if you want.”

Mia shrugged in a way that could have been indifference or agreement. Dave supposed it didn’t really matter.

He’d gotten Cheryl a Miltank in some third-world country. Some church-sponsored charity crap, trying to make donations feel more physical by giving you a photo of a Miltank for a set price that would supposedly buy one for a starving family and might single-handedly save their lives and future for generations to come, according to the probably exaggerated little booklet about it. Cheryl was all over charities like that. He’d figured the best way to make up for coming on to her the other day was to give her something personal that she would really like, but it had to be something that could not be taken the wrong way. This was the best thing he’d come up with, and reluctant as he was to do business with any sort of church, she was more important. Besides, it was just a charity; it didn’t actually have anything to do with religion.

He turned into the Kerrigans’ home street. On the corner stood that creepy, pale, dark-haired fundamentalist guy with the sign again – he hadn’t seen him in a while. What had his name been again? The man looked at Dave as they passed and grinned widely. Creepy fuck.

“It was him,” said Mia matter-of-factly.

“Hm?”

“It was him,” she repeated. “Who killed Brian.”

Dave turned his head sharply towards her and turned back just in time to avoid driving up onto the sidewalk. “What? Don’t be ridiculous. That’s not him. They caught him, remember?”

Mia shook her head. “It was him. Must have got the wrong guy.”

Dave laughed for a moment but stopped when he realized how nervous he sounded. “That’s ridiculous. Why the fuck would you think that?”

“The way he looked at you.”

“You can’t tell who killed a guy by just watching how he looks at some other guy, for fuck’s sake.” Dave glanced in the rear-view mirror. The man had turned around and was still watching them.

“The tendons in his neck tensed. And then he bared his teeth.”

“That’s what you call a fucking smile.”

“His pupils dilated. The index finger twitched a little when he was remembering how he pulled the trigger.”

“What are you now, fucking psychic?” He pulled into the driveway. “Look, they had a real psychic down at the police station. They have the right guy, okay?”

“It was him,” Mia just repeated, in the exact same tone as before.

“Bullshit.” Dave stopped the car, pulled the key out of the ignition and opened the door, throwing Mia a glance. She casually opened the door at her own side as she would any other time.

As he knocked on the front door, Dave looked quickly down the street, but the man was gone.

“Hi,” said Cheryl warmly as she opened the door, giving each of them a quick smile in turn. “We have a bit of a surprise visitor at the moment, so I hope you don’t mind...”

She gestured for them to come inside. In the sofa sat a distraught-looking plump woman in a plain maroon dress, hunched over and fiddling nervously with her hands.

“Who is that?” Dave asked. The woman looked quickly up and gave him a look of what he could only call terror; she sat there frozenly for a second but didn’t reply.

Howard, sitting opposite her, gave Dave a glare.

“She says she knows something about Brian,” Cheryl murmured. “The murder, I mean.”

The woman, who had turned back towards Howard, shot a quick glance their way and Dave suddenly realized it was Mia she was looking at with terror, not him. Cheryl gestured silently at the girl and the Scyther morph obediently walked into her room and closed the door.

The woman shook her head absent-mindedly, her orange-red curls swishing in front of her face. She straightened herself, brushed them aside, gave Howard, Cheryl and Dave a quick glance each, and then stared down at her lap again. She licked her lips and swallowed, as if just to demonstrate every nervous gesture known to man.

“M-my name is Monica Sellers,” she began at last. There were a few seconds of silence. “I’m a member of your church.” She looked at Howard, very quickly, and then back down. Another silence.

“Yes?” Howard said carefully.

The woman nodded quickly. “I’m also among a group of churchgoers who meet regularly to discuss...” She stopped and glanced around once more. “They organized the attack on...”

Howard and Cheryl both glanced at Dave; he shuddered inwardly at the memory.

Monica Sellers took a deep breath. “I’m here because... I think what they did was wrong.”

“No shit,” Dave interjected; the woman flinched visibly. Howard gave him another glare.

“The... the one who hatched the plan... was Isaac Daniels. He also did the...” She trailed off, glancing at Dave.

“Isaac? I thought his name was Jacob or something.”

Monica Sellers shook her head frantically. “Jacob is his brother. They sent him to take the blame so the police would stop watching over you.”

Dave looked at the door to Mia’s room, feeling sick. This had to be some sort of a joke.

“You’re full of shit,” he managed to say. “They had a fucking Gardevoir. He said he did it and wasn’t working with anybody and he wasn’t lying.”

The woman looked blankly at him. He felt his heart pounding in his chest, anger rising in his throat. “You’re just fucking with us!” he shouted, louder than he’d intended. “It was that one nut who did the shooting and now you’re trying to make us get all in a panic again by taking credit for it. Crazy fundamentalist fucks!”

“N-no,” the woman stammered, flinching again. “I swear I...”

Dave felt something move by his thigh and jumped before realizing it was his cellphone vibrating. He pulled it out of his pocket, turned around and took a deep breath to calm himself down before opening it to answer. “Hello?”

“Hello, David Ambrose,” said a smooth, calm voice on the other end.

“Who are you?”

“My name is Isaac Daniels. We met earlier.”

An uncomfortable cold shiver trickled ever so slowly down Dave’s spine. “What the fuck do you want?”

“We have the Slugma boy.”

He froze.

“What?” he asked weakly and heard his voice tremble.

“A woman named Monica Sellers has been talking to you. If you tell the police what she told you or anything about the kidnapping, the hybrid dies. Do you understand?”

“What the fuck.” Dave tried to get the gears started in his brain again. “You’re bluffing.”

There was a distorted sigh on the other end. “Call his phone. He will tell you himself if he needs to. Rest assured that if you inform the police of anything, we will know and will be happy to keep our end of the deal. Goodbye, Mr. Ambrose.”

-------

While Gabriel waited for Jack’s mom to pick him up for the birthday party, he flipped through the first few pages of one of the comic books he’d just bought. It was pretty bloody, he noted – Jack would love it. He’d definitely show it to him at the party. Maybe, if the other morphs were the same, they’d be all over it too.

He looked up to scan the street for Sharon’s car, but there wasn’t a person in sight. Jack had gone with his dad earlier to get a present for Cheryl. He’d opted to go to the comic book store instead and get picked up later when Sharon got out of work. He didn’t like going to the bigger shopping streets where there would be people wrinkling their noses at him everywhere. At least the guys at the comic book store were used to him and that street was less travelled. And he’d still told her to pick him up in a side street a couple of blocks away, where he was comfortably sure nobody would be around. Sitting on a bench here, where all the city sounds were kind of muted, was strangely calm and peaceful. It made him feel almost normal.

Somebody clamped a hand over his mouth from behind.

He yelped in surprise as two sets of strong, gloved hands pulled him over the back of the bench and grabbed hold of his arms. He tried frantically to kick backwards and scream for help with feeble results and then to bring his feet down to stop them from dragging him, but it didn’t even slow them down. He tried to turn his head to see the men or where they were taking him, but the hand over his mouth was holding his head in place.

He was thrown into the back seat of a car and finally got to look at one of the men – it was a tall, muscular guy, but he had a white scarf tied around his face as a makeshift mask – as the man sat down in the seat beside him, all the while pointing a small pistol straight at him. Gabriel pressed against the back of the seat, his throat dry, and tried not to move as the car jerked into motion. The man pulled out another scarf, a red one, and handed it to Gabriel, who looked blankly at his captor.

“Tie it over your eyes,” the man said through his own scarf. “Now.” He thrust the gun towards Gabriel for emphasis; he flinched, accepted the scarf carefully and began to tie it around his head.

The murky reddish darkness behind the scarf was somehow calming. He tried to tie it as tightly as he could behind his head and then lowered his hands very slowly when he was done. A hand felt briefly around the scarf; the man grunted in approval and then, judging from the sound, took the scarf away from his own face.

“Don’t move,” said the man’s voice, now unmuffled. “Don’t try to take it off. Don’t try anything.”

Gabriel hadn’t been planning to.

He took a shaky breath and tried to get his brain back into thinking-mode. He couldn’t really; everything was sort of whirling around – kidnapping, must be still, guy had a gun pointed at him, what did they want? He dimly heard the man beside him talking on the phone but didn’t have the presence of mind to process just what he was saying. Kidnapping. Were they holding him for ransom? They might kill him. The guy had a gun. What had happened to his comic books? He must have dropped them on the bench. What would Sharon think when he wasn’t there? Jack would be worried sick.

“Wh... what...” he began when the chaos in his mind began to settle on the question of what the kidnappers wanted, but his lips were still not quite reconnected to his brain and his mouth was still uncomfortably dry. “Why...?”

“You are a hostage,” said the man beside him, apparently no longer on the phone, though Gabriel hadn’t noticed when that happened. “As long as you don’t try anything and nobody calls the police, we won’t kill you. Be still.”

Nobody calls the police? About what? Gabriel tried to make sense of it; his brain alternated between thinking they meant about the kidnapping and thinking that would be circular logic. He couldn’t really think clearly enough to tell which was right. Not with a gun pointed at his head.

His cellphone started vibrating in his pocket. He turned his head towards the man beside him, not sure if he could answer it. The man shoved his own hand into the pocket instead and picked up the phone; Gabriel heard the soft click of it opening. Then...

“Gabriel? Please tell me you’re there.”

“Dave?” he called without thinking. “I’ve been kidnapped as a hostage and they have me in some car and I think we’re heading...” Cold metal pressed against the side of his head and he froze, not daring to even breathe: the feeling of the weapon there made it suddenly seem real in a way it hadn’t before.

“Oh, shit. Fuck. Gabriel? Are you still...”

The phone snapped shut again; it did not come back into Gabriel’s pocket.

A few slow seconds passed; Gabriel felt his heart thumping in his chest as he held his breath, shivering at the touch of what he knew was the muzzle of the gun. Finally, slowly, the man pulled it back and he managed to exhale. He sucked in another breath, still trembling, but the man was silent and the gun didn’t touch him again. Even after the initial shock wore off, the knowledge that the gun was still there, somewhere off to his left, kept his thoughts from wandering; whatever he tried to think about was jerked back to the horrifying reality by the memory of feeling it pressed to his head.

With the reddish darkness still covering his vision, the world soon became nothing but the gun, the noise of the car engine and his heavy breaths and thumping heartbeats, each of them sending more chilling terror pulsing through his veins.
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Old 08-26-2009, 02:37 PM
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Default Re: Morphic

I read this story in 1 AM the first tie, for 2 hours, reading 9 chapters of it(then it was all there was). No wonder I had nightmares. Acctualy, its funny, but a little bit...pscyho. Yay for new chapter!
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Old 08-31-2009, 03:18 AM
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Default Re: Morphic

Interesting development with this new chapter... I feel for Gabriel right now, kidnapped out of nowhere... very close to death... I want to help!
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Old 01-24-2010, 02:43 AM
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Default Re: Morphic

Chapter 12

Dave closed his cellphone, turned around and looked blankly at Cheryl, then Howard, then Monica Sellers. They stared back at him, eyes wide.

“It’s true. They have Gabriel. Goddamn it.” He placed a hand over his face and tried to think. “He’s bluffing. He has to be bluffing. How are they going to know if we talk to the police? They couldn’t possibly know.”

“They could,” whispered Monica. “At least one of them is in the police force. Maybe more. I don’t know.”

“In the police force? The fuck.” Dave paced back and forth around the floor. “That would explain the fucking Gardevoir test. Who the fuck lets fundies on the force?” It was that officer who was with the Gardevoir, then – or maybe somebody who had trained it. It could be fucking anybody. Even that apparently nice Officer Russell, if he was a good actor.

“And how the fuck did they know to kidnap him?” Dave went on. “There’s no way he followed you here and cooked up and executed a fucking kidnapping plan in the time it took for you to tell us about it.” He looked over at Monica, who flinched under his gaze.

“Actually I…” she began in a quiet, high-pitched voice that then broke. She tried again. “I told him what I meant to do yesterday.”

Dave stared at her. “You fucking told him you were going to rat him out?”

She looked mortified. “I thought that… I thought he would cancel it all if I threatened to warn you. And he didn’t.”

“You thought…? Oh, Christ. You idiot. Why didn’t you go straight to the fucking police the moment you snapped out of it and realized he’s a psycho?”

She shook her head, in tears now. “I couldn’t… I felt…”

“And guess what. Now we can’t call the fucking police, because they have Gabriel and could kill him. And that leaves them peace and quiet to come and gun us all down whenever they’re ready. Goddamn it.”

He walked quickly to the nearest window, looked briefly outside for suspicious people and then pulled the curtains to cover it. He did the same with the other windows in the room. Howard and Cheryl watched him silently.

“Look, here’s what we’ll do,” Dave went on. “You call everybody, tell them the party’s off and they should get the fuck away from here. Then we try to stay behind solid walls…” He trailed off. “Fuck, what if they try to set fire to the house?”

“Dave,” Cheryl said gently, laying a hand on his shoulder. “Calm down. Judging from the attack on you and Brian, they won’t strike in broad daylight. When everyone is here, it will be easier to talk it over properly and figure out just how we should respond.”

“How the fuck can we respond? If we do anything, they kill Gabriel. If we don’t do anything, they find an opportunity to kill us and then kill Gabriel too.”

Cheryl was silent for a moment as Dave buried his hands in his hair and paced back and forth in an attempt to think. They were interrupted by a knock on the door; everyone turned sharply towards it and hesitated before Cheryl hastily walked over to open it.

“Happy birthday,” said Bill and Jack cheerfully in unison, the Chinchou morph holding forward a large giftwrapped box. “Are Sharon and Gabriel here yet?”

-------

There was a long silence when everyone was finally there and everything had been explained.

“Well?” Jack asked, feeling his pulse uncomfortably in his throat. “What are we going to do?”

“We could talk to the police anyway,” Howard suggested with little conviction. “It could be kept to a select few individuals, people who can be trusted.”

“How do we know their guy isn’t the one answering the telephone?” Dave replied immediately, still pacing back and forth around the floor, though now with a glass of beer in his hand.

“We could hire somebody to investigate it,” said Sharon.

“What sort of a private investigator would take a case that requires him to save a kidnapped half-Slugma from a bunch of armed religious fanatics?”

There was another long silence.

“Christ,” said Dave, shaking his head before he took a long sip from his glass, “I don’t think there’s anything we can do.” He paused for a moment and then without warning began to chuckle madly. “Actually, the smartest fucking thing in the situation is to just call the police anyway and save ourselves, because Gabriel’s dead no matter what we do.”

Something in Jack’s chest twisted itself into a knot and made him nauseous. He tried to tell himself there was no way it was a serious suggestion, because Dave was still burying his head in his hands like he didn’t expect an answer and nobody else seemed to think it was even worthy of comment, or were they actually considering it? No, they couldn’t be. They wouldn’t.

“Perhaps we could try to wait it out,” said Joe, Will’s father, after a pause. “Maybe they’ll change their minds or...”

Dave let out a short burst of hysterical laughter and Joe trailed off without finishing. There was yet another silence as everyone gave uncomfortable glances to one another.

“Maybe we should sleep on it,” said Cheryl at last. “They won’t kill Gabriel while they can still use him to keep us from calling the police. Somebody can keep watch in case they try anything tonight, and we can attempt to defend ourselves somehow.”

She looked around at everyone; they looked back at her and at everyone else in silence. Dave slumped exhaustedly down on the couch and squeezed his eyes shut.

“So, what?” Jack asked loudly. “We’re not going to do anything?”

“We can’t fucking do anything!” Dave snapped and slammed his fist down on the coffee table with a bang that made everyone shudder. “What the hell do you expect us to do about it? If you’re going to be a naïve little idiot thinking you can rush in and rescue him or something, you can go do that yourself and get gunned down like Brian, but those of us without a goddamn hero complex are not going to get ourselves killed with you. Fucking shit.”

Jack looked at him for a moment, feeling as if he’d just been slapped in the face. Everyone’s eyes were on him or Dave, all of them still too stunned to speak.

He quickly turned around, walked into Mia and Lucy’s room and slammed the door behind him before they’d had the chance to respond.

-------

Jack lay awake that night, listening to the sound of the other morphs breathing all around him in their sleeping bags. Lucy’s ghostly form stood by the window, the pink-tipped strands of her hair floating eerily behind her head, and watched for suspicious people with all her senses.

Technically, he supposed, their parents were right. Gabriel was theoretically safe for as long as he was useful to his captors alive, and for as long as the police didn’t know anything, he would be. And Lucy was largely nocturnal anyway and could sense new presences in the vicinity, allowing her to alert them if they came, and then they could be prepared. Dave had gone out and bought some guns for use in self-defense if it came to that.

But he was still afraid. After all, these people’s long-term goal, according to Monica Sellers, was to kill all of them, including Gabriel; the moment they decided keeping him around was more trouble than it was worth, they would murder him in a heartbeat. And though Isaac had called earlier that night to let them hear Gabriel’s voice again and tell them he would call twice a day to assure them they were keeping their end of the deal, that was still only twice a day and would give the kidnappers twelve hours’ headstart before they noticed anything – plenty of time to execute a plan to murder as many of them as possible.

He looked around the room and suddenly realized that Lucy’s big, hypnotic eyes were looking at him.

“You’re scared,” she said quietly.

Jack’s first instinct was to deny it and try to convince her there was nothing to worry about, but the very thought of pretending everything was okay made him feel hollow and empty. Instead, he just nodded and looked down at his webbed fingers, faintly lit by the glow of his antennae.

“If you’re scared, you should talk to them,” Lucy said, blinking innocently at him. Jack wasn’t sure how much she understood of what was going on and what he was thinking. He wasn’t even sure what ‘them’ she was referring to. But somehow, he still felt like she was right: he would like to talk to somebody, if only to get things off his chest.

He looked around the room again. If he was going to talk to anyone, it was the other morphs, and preferably someone mature enough to understand. Katherine was lying on her side in a sleeping bag near him, one rose-hand sprawled limply on the floor; she was physically the ‘oldest’ of them, but she was also slow and groggy without sunlight, so waking her up in the middle of the night was probably not the best idea. Just after her in mental age was Mia, but she was plenty disturbed enough to make her a poor choice for a comforting conversation.

The next candidates, then, were Will and Jean, and Jean was certainly no pinnacle of maturity, so although Will was pretty shy and reserved and generally didn’t talk much, Jack figured he was his best bet.

He glanced back at Lucy, who had resumed staring out the window, and then climbed carefully over Katherine to get to the Meowth morph, who was curled up in a ball in his sleeping bag.

“Will?” Jack touched his shoulder carefully.

“Mm.” Will curled himself up tighter, smiling in his sleep, and after a second began to let out a soft, purring noise. Jack watched him in disbelief, some part of him balking at the idea he could be purring at a time like this.

“Will, wake up,” he muttered and gave him a push. This time the purr stopped instantly and Will jerked his head up, his big eyes flicking open.

“Jack?” he asked sleepily. “What is it?”

“I just wanted to talk.”

“Talk? About what?” Will yawned.

“This whole thing,” Jack said. “You know, I really think we should do something.”

Will blinked. “About Gabriel, you mean?” he asked after a moment.

“Yes, about Gabriel,” Jack answered, trying to beat down his disturbing urge to punch the other boy. “These people want to kill him. It’s just a question of when. They’re never going to just let him go, and if it’s ever slightly inconvenient to keep him around, they’ll decide it’s not worth it. The longer we wait, the likelier they’ll just go fuck it and...”

Jack trailed off, not really wanting to finish that thought, and realized suddenly that all the morphs were awake and looking at him. It registered vaguely that maybe he had raised his voice a bit somewhere in the middle of that rant. Lucy smiled at him from her position by the window.

“What’s going on?” asked Katherine, her voice a bit slurred as she rubbed her eyes.

“I was just telling Will we need to do something,” Jack said, not bothering to keep his voice down now. “We can’t just sit around waiting. They want us all dead, including him. All that’s keeping them from killing him right now is that they’re using him to stop us from calling the police, and even if they do kill him, it could be twelve hours before we realize there’s anything wrong, and by that point they could have killed us all. And we can’t call anybody. We have to step in ourselves and do something about it.” He took a deep breath. “And really, we can do something about it. Have you all forgotten we’re Pokémorphs? We can use Pokémon moves now! We have powers! If we could just find where they’re keeping him, we could sneak in and free him, and then we can call the police when he’s safe and have the killers finally put in jail.” He looked around at all of them and dreaded for a split second that they would all start to argue and not want to risk their lives on a rescue operation and yell at him, just like Dave had.

But they didn’t. For a few seconds they were all quiet, and then Peter piped up, “Sounds cool. I’m in.”

Will looked at Jack. “Well... it sounds dangerous, but I guess if anybody can save him, it’s us.”

“We’ll go there and torch all the bad guys, right?” asked Jean brightly.

Jack resisted the urge to slap his forehead; he needed the support. “Yes,” he said decisively. “We’ll torch all the bad guys, and we’ll save Gabriel, and everything is going to be fine.”

“But how do we actually find out where they’re keeping him?” Will asked, looking around. “We can’t really do anything without knowing that.”

“I know,” Jack said and sighed, closing his eyes to think, and an idea hit him almost immediately. “Felicia!” he said excitedly. “Growlithe have a great sense of smell! If we just go to the place where they took him – it must have been where Sharon was going to pick him up from the comic book store – she might be able to smell where he was – smell the car they put him in – maybe even follow the car –”

“That’s crazy,” Katherine interrupted groggily. “That was in the afternoon. It’s the middle of the night now. How many cars do you think have been parked in the same spot and driven the same streets since then? How would Felicia work out which layer of generic car smell it is that leads to the right place?”

“Well, it’s something,” Jack snapped. “Do you have a better idea? Or do you think we should just sit here and let them kill Gabriel?”

Katherine swallowed. “No,” she said quietly.

“At least it’s worth a try. And there could be more clues at the location where they took him, too. All we need to do is get there.”

The others were all silent, waiting for him to go on.

“Well... Katherine got a couple of driving lessons with her dad, right?” He looked hopefully at the Roselia girl.

“What?” she asked, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. “You want to steal our car and have me drive it without a license?”

“Nobody here has a license! And we can’t tell our parents about it. They’d stop us.”

“And maybe there’s a good reason for that.” Katherine looked anxiously at him. “I wish we could save Gabriel too, I do, but the way to do that isn’t to put ourselves in as much danger as possible.”

“But that’s not…” Jack looked around at the others in frustration. “Let’s have a vote, all right? If more than half of us want to go, I’ll be driving the car and I don’t care that I don’t know how. Okay? I want to save Gabriel because he’s my best friend and these people want to murder him, and they won’t release him by will no matter what we do, so we have to get him released by force. Katherine?” He tried to look neutral as he turned towards her, but it came out as a resentful glare anyway.

Katherine took a deep breath. “I’d want to help Gabriel if I thought we actually could, but realistically… we just can’t. We don’t know where he is. The clues Jack wants us to chase are almost definitely dead ends. Even if we did find out where he is, they’re probably armed and won’t think twice before shooting us, and the little we have in the way of Pokémon attacks is pretty pathetic. It seems to me we would just be endangering ourselves with little to no chance of actually succeeding at rescuing him. It’s a terrible situation, but...” She bit her lip. “I just can’t see this helping anyone.”

Jack swallowed and resisted the urge to shout at her, try to slap some sense into her. “Will?”

The Meowth morph looked unsurely around. “Well...” he began, “what Katherine’s saying makes a lot of sense, but are we really any better off here?” He looked around at the others. “They could come here any time and try to kill us, and even if we have weapons, it doesn’t really make us safe. If we go somewhere, at least they won’t know where we are. And who knows; maybe if they notice we’re gone when they come, they won’t attack our parents, since it’s really us they want.” He looked hopefully up at Jack. “And Dave too, I guess,” he added in a mutter.

“He’s right,” Jack said. “It’s not like we aren’t in danger if we stay here. We’ll be on the run, and we might save Gabriel too. What have we got to lose? Jean?”

“I say we go and kick their asses!” the Vulpix girl said happily with an emphasizing punch to her sleeping bag.

“Peter?”

“Gabriel was my friend too. I want to try to help him, no matter what it takes.”

“Lucy?”

“I have to stay here and watch,” said the Misdreavus girl, still facing the window.

“Right. You’ll take good care of our parents, okay? Mia?”

The Scyther morph sat for a moment staring blankly ahead, contemplating it. “I’ll get to fight them?”

“Yes, hopefully, you’ll get to fight them,” Jack replied patiently.

She nodded. “Then I’ll come.”

“Great.” Jack turned back to the Roselia girl, his expression stern. “So, Katherine. Am I driving, or will you?”

She sighed, rubbing her forehead. “Fine. I’ll do it. But not now. It’s the middle of the night. I might as well be driving drunk. We can sneak out when the sun rises and my head starts clearing, okay?”

-------

Some of the others managed to get a bit of sleep after this (Katherine, in particular, was fast asleep five minutes after things had quieted down), but Jack didn’t; he was too worked up to feel tired. In his mind, he laid out a careful plan for what they’d do once they found out where they were keeping Gabriel, while pushing aside all nagging doubts. After he’d gone over it too many times to think he’d be able to add to it, he spent the rest of the night practicing his Spark while all too aware of the eyes of the other non-sleeping morphs on him.

Then, finally, the first rays of the sun made their way into the room, and he sprang up to wake Katherine.

“Mwuh?” she mumbled as he shook her. “Oh, Jesus, I’m going to be terrible until a couple of hours from now.”

“That doesn’t matter,” Jack hissed at her. “Our parents could be up a couple of hours from now. We have to get going.”

“I don’t know how you goaded me into this,” she muttered, but she stood up anyway, and after several frantic insistences for everyone to be as quiet as possible, Jack opened the bedroom door as silently as he could and they tiptoed out into the hall while Lucy waved absent-mindedly after them from her position by the window.

Jack crept towards the front door and opened it, also as quietly as he could. This early on a Saturday, there was nobody in the streets. His heart was racing as the others came through the door; he saw a movement in a bush across the street and jumped, but it was just a Murkrow taking off. As Mia came through the door, the last of them, Jack moved to close it, slowly and carefully.

He exhaled finally when he took his hand off the doorknob. “Okay,” he said quietly. “You took the keys, Katherine?”

She nodded nervously, blinking towards the sunrise. “This is a terrible idea,” she muttered, sounding more scared than irritated now that some of the grogginess had faded. Nonetheless, she walked shakily towards her parents’ car and opened it. “Get in. Hopefully we can fit four of you in the back seat.”

Since nobody wanted to be beside Mia in a cramped space, she had an automatic claim to the passenger seat. As Katherine struggled to fasten her seatbelt with her flaplike fingers, Jack, Will, Jean and Peter managed to squeeze themselves together into the back seat.

“I don’t suppose you can get your belts on like this?” Katherine asked anxiously, glancing at them in the rear-view mirror; they shook their heads. “Oh, God, this is an awful idea. We shouldn’t be doing this.”

“It’s too late now,” Jack said firmly. “We have to get going before our parents wake up. First stop, our place.”

“All the way over in Taillow Springs.” Katherine sighed. “What are we doing? I can’t drive.”

“Yes, you can,” Jack insisted. “There’s no traffic now. You’ll be fine. Just start the car.”

After closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, she did. The engine whirred to life. She grabbed the steering wheel as well as she could before remembering she was still in parking gear, and she silently thanked God that at least she didn’t have to drive stick. Another deep breath and she shifted to reverse; then she stepped extremely slowly and carefully on the gas pedal, only to realize the handbrake was still on.

“Okay, look, I can’t do this. I’m forgetting everything. Can we please just stay?”

“We voted on it.”

Katherine shook her head and took a few breaths to steel herself. She carefully released the handbrake and then managed to back the car into the middle of the street, where she had to spend a moment to try to get a decent grip on the steering wheel before turning it. Eventually they were on the right half of the street and she got the car straight before pressing a bit harder down on the gas and getting it up to an acceptable speed, and finally the worst was over for now.

-------

It was a forty-five minute drive to the neighbouring town, but they met nobody on the way; in fact, had that not been what they’d been hoping for, the general emptiness of the streets would probably have been unnerving. The drive itself was about as uneventful as they could have hoped, though Katherine had a hard time making sharp turns thanks to her hands’ poor grasp on the steering wheel. Once they’d entered Taillow Springs, Jack gave her directions to his home, where he quickly ran inside to get Felicia in her Pokéball, and then to the comic book store, which she hadn’t been to often enough to remember the way.

“Right,” said Jack as they stepped out of the car in a parking lot close to the store after Katherine had just barely managed to park the car. “I think I heard Gabriel talk about how he’d be up in... that street.” He pointed decisively up towards the small side street. Without further words, they walked there, all the while looking nervously around for people or murderers. By now it was slightly less empty than it had been on the way, with a few cars making their way around the downtown streets, but none came close enough to be likely to notice they weren’t just a normal disparate group of kids and teens taking an early-Saturday morning walk.

They entered the street, and Jack’s heart stung horribly as he recognized the bag from the comic book store still lying there on a bench, a book lying discarded on the sidewalk under it. He ran over and picked it up, wiping the grime off the pages (he couldn’t help noticing that it had been lying open on a fold in the middle of a scene where one character was bashing another’s brains in with a baseball bat, and there was something disturbingly satisfying about it) and put it back into the bag. “It’s his,” he said quietly, looking up as the others hurried towards him. “He was here.”

They stood there silently for a moment, looking at the bag in Jack’s hands, before he had the presence of mind to drop Felicia’s Pokéball onto the ground. The Growlithe materialized in a burst of light and looked happily around at the group of them before apparently picking up on the gloomy atmosphere; the eager swishing of her tail slowed down to a crawl and she sat down with a soft whine.

“Felicia,” said Jack, “Gabriel’s lost. We need you to help us find him. Okay?”

The dog Pokémon tilted her head for a moment but then gave an affirmative bark and got to work with sniffing at and around the bench. She quickly found a trail leading from behind the bench and followed it for a few meters, where she stopped and barked proudly. Jack quickly came over to see what she had found: there was a familiar-looking dirty glob of orange slime on the ground.

“Good girl!” he said excitedly, his heart racing. “Go on!”

The Growlithe continued eagerly, wagging her tail all the while. Gabriel’s scent led her over to the very parking lot they’d parked in and to the spot next to where they’d parked (Jack shuddered), and there, of course, the trail ended. He asked the Pokémon if she could follow the car, but Felicia just tilted her head with a soft whine; as far as she could tell, Gabriel had simply been abducted by aliens right there.

They looked glumly at the puppy for a moment in silence. Jack sighed. What had he been expecting, honestly? Some sort of a Lassie movie where the dog miraculously saves the day? He recalled Felicia into her Pokéball and just stood there for a few seconds, knot in his stomach, tears burning in his eyes.

Jean’s cellphone chose this moment to start ringing with a horribly loud and obnoxiously cheery pop tune.

She reached into her pocket and, oblivious to the wretched stares of all the others, took several seconds to fish the phone out, the ringtone only growing more intolerable when it was no longer muffled by the fabric of her jeans. With a practised motion that somehow combined checking the caller ID, opening the phone and swinging her arm upwards, she held the phone to her ear and said, in a tone nearly as cheery as her ringtone, “Hi, Dad!”

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” was the answer, clearly audible to anyone within a ten-foot radius.

“We’re saving Gabriel!” Jean replied excitedly. “We took the Harrisons’ car, and Katherine could totally drive it all the way over here! And Felicia can smell Gabriel, so we’re going to go and torch all the bad guys!”

“What the... you’re sneaking around up at the Church of Holy Truth? Katherine driving? Are you fucking insane? We wake up and go to check on you, and suddenly Lucy’s alone and telling us you fucking went to play superheroes? Christ, Jean, just get back here right now. This isn’t some fucking kids’ action movie where the good guys win. This is real life with real-life murderers waiting to murk the life out of you because the invisible man in the sky told them to do it. You’re just a bunch of kids. By God, Jean, you’re all going to fucking die. Please don’t do this to me.”

Over the course of this rant, Dave’s voice became less angry and more pathetically desperate. Jean sniffled and looked unsurely around at the others; Jack’s heart thumped as his brain processed everything Dave had just said.

“Give me that,” he said quickly, but didn’t wait for Jean to voluntarily give her the cellphone before he’d torn it out of her hand. “The Church of Holy Truth?” he said into it. “That’s what you said? They’re keeping Gabriel there?”

There was a short pause. “Oh, what the fuck? You didn’t know...? Look, forget I said anything about that. Just get back here already. Your parents are all worried sick about you.”

“They want us more than you,” Jack replied, his heart still racing. Church of Holy Truth. “If they realize we’re not there anymore, you’re safer than you are with us. Just stay there and keep safe. We’re going to try and save Gabriel, no matter what it takes.”

He hung up immediately, before Dave had begun to answer; he didn’t want to hear it. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and then looked at the others, who were staring at him.

“We know where they’re keeping him now,” he said. “Or we know the name of the place. Looking up where that is is easy. We can go do this now. If you want to go home, go ahead, but this is what we came here for, and every one of you that helps gives us better chances. And don’t listen to Dave. We’re not just a bunch of kids. We’re a bunch of Pokémorphs. We can do this.”

Nobody volunteered to leave, but nobody responded with a particular enthusiasm, either. He could tell they were worried, scared; they looked at one another, doubtfully, gauging one another’s reactions in silence.

“Come on,” he said, gritting his teeth. “Gabriel is going to die if we don’t do something.”

They murmured some uncertain agreement.

“Great. So let’s go.”

Jack marched over to the car, and the others followed hesitantly behind, except for Katherine, who caught up with him, grabbed his arm and pulled him aside while vaguely telling the others they needed to discuss driving.

“There’s something that bothers me,” she said quietly as the others were getting into the car.

“Oh?”

“It didn’t really register this morning when I was all groggy, but... why didn’t they attack last night?”

Jack looked at her. Deep down, that had been nagging at him, too; if they were going to attack them, why hadn’t they done so at the first opportunity, when their victims would be the least prepared? But he still just shrugged and replied, “Maybe they needed time to plan or get ready.”

Katherine glanced at him. “Really?”

Jack shrugged as nonchalantly as he could. They couldn’t start getting paranoid now.

“And how does Dave know where they’re keeping Gabriel?”

Jack shrugged again, wishing she would just stop. “He’s the one who spoke to them on the phone. Maybe Gabriel managed to tell him.”

“But why would they let that happen? It’s almost like…”

“Almost like what, Katherine?” Jack snapped, looking at her. “What are you trying to say?”

She bit her lip. “Doesn’t this all seem a bit… too easy?”

Yes. Of course it did. “What are you talking about?”

“It’s almost as if… they want us to come for him.”

She looked at him, and he looked back, biting back the thought.

“Think about it,” Katherine went on, carefully. “They’ve got someone we love. There are better ways to exploit that than just as leverage to prevent us from calling the police. Normally kidnappers do it because of what the family is willing to do to get the child safe. And what they actually want… is us.”

Bait. Gabriel had been made into the bait in a Pokémorph-trap. Jack clenched his fist tightly in anger.

“We’re not leaving him behind,” he said quietly. “We’re on to them now. We’ll be prepared and be careful, and we’ll surprise them, and we’ll save him anyway.”

Katherine looked anxiously at him. “Jack…”

“Don’t you ‘Jack’ me!” he snapped. “Gabriel is my best friend, and I would gladly die for the chance he could be saved. I’ll go alone if I have to, but don’t try to stop me. Please.”

He looked desperately at her, and for a moment he wanted to just go home with the others and hope somehow everything would magically be okay.

But nothing was ever magically okay. The only way to make things right was to act, no matter how hopeless and horrifying the prospect was, and at least if he failed he wouldn’t have to live with the dread of constantly wondering what Gabriel could be going through. And so he steeled himself, looked away, and said, “Well? Are you coming?”

Katherine was silent for a moment. “We’ll have to talk to the others,” she finally said. He nodded without words, his throat dry, and they went back over to the car, where the others had gotten in already. She explained the bait theory to them as they watched, wide-eyed, and there was a long silence.

“I think we can surprise them,” Jack said, sensing the unease in the others. “We can spend a little while practicing our Pokémon moves before we go. We can try to disguise ourselves so they won’t be able to gun us down from a distance. We could even buy a good TM and teach it to Felicia so she can help. But I understand if you’re afraid and don’t want to get involved. All I know is that I’m going no matter what, and my chances are better the more of you come with me.” He took a deep breath. “Even then, don’t come for my sake. Come for Gabriel’s sake. And if you don’t want to come, then don’t.”

There was another doubtful silence.

“But really,” Jack found himself adding all of a sudden, “haven’t you ever felt restless? Like you want to get into a fight and win, and to show the world what you can do? Aren’t you ever more excited by violence than you know you should be? Don’t you ever just want to solve your problems the physical way? Don’t you ever want to act?”

“I feel like that all the time!” Jean replied immediately, her eyes sparkling with excitement. “I want to kill the bad people who took Gabriel!”

There was an awkward silence for a moment, and then they all started speaking at once, confirming that yes, actually they all felt that way sometimes, or a lot of the time, or constantly in Mia’s case – even Katherine admitted reluctantly that she had disturbingly violent urges once in a blue moon and there was something irrationally satisfying about the idea of trying to rescue someone in danger.

Within minutes they had all agreed to continue on their mission, with Katherine the only one somewhat reluctant, and as she started the car again, Jack felt for the first time like it was really all going to work out.
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Old 01-24-2010, 07:06 PM
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Default Re: Morphic

Nice work as usual, Butterfree. I really like Jack and his taking leadership of the others. And I also don't want Gabriel to die, so I guess we're similar in that vein. This is very gripping, and the next chapter ought to be good.
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Old 05-31-2010, 09:39 PM
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Default Re: Morphic

Here's chapter thirteen, finally. It's a bit over fifteen pages long, making it decidedly the longest chapter ever of this fic. I should also warn you this chapter is quite brutal and bloody. If you were hoping for sunshine and rainbows and cheery PG violence, turn away now. Seriously.


Chapter 13

Peter stepped out of the Grace City Department Store and hurried into the alley behind the building, quickly unwrapping the Fire Stone and Fire Blast TM he’d bought. The others were sitting around and waiting for him there; Jack stood up as soon as Peter came in, with Jean following.

“You got them?” Jack asked urgently.

“Yeah,” Peter replied, handing him the items before he sat down next to Will. “I don’t think they realized I wasn’t normal.”

“Good.” Jack nodded and turned his attention to the yellow rock and CD case in his hands. “Okay, I hope Felicia doesn’t mind becoming an Arcanine. Can somebody hold this for a moment?”

Jean stepped up and took the rock off his hands while he reached for the minimized Pokéball in his pocket. There was a piercing scream, and Jack turned quickly around, his brain realizing belatedly that he had just given a Fire Stone to a half-Vulpix.

Her body had taken on an uneven sort of white glow, with her fully-Vulpix tails, hair and ears shining the way they ought to on an evolving Pokémon, but the rest of her either glowing sort of halfway or flickering disturbingly back and forth in intensity, like a failing lightbulb. Her six tails split into nine, her curled red hair straightened into a long, flowing mane, her ears became more perked and delicate, but at the same time her skull seemed to be trying to change shape, and her neck bulged out weirdly, and her legs and arms lengthened a little, and something horrible was happening to her eyes; the whole while she screamed in pain, her body stiffened by the horrors that were happening to it. Jack looked frantically for the Fire Stone, in some vague hope that he could remove it, but it had already turned a dull, grayish yellow in her hand, its power exhausted; there was nothing they could do.

“Jean! Are you okay?” Will shouted as the girl dropped down on all fours; the scream that followed sounded decidedly like a no. Then she cried out again, and it came out in an eerie howl as a tongue of flames spewed out of her mouth and narrowly missed Jack, who backed away in horror.

The glow faded completely from her body at last, but she didn’t stop bawling and screaming breathlessly as she curled up on the ground. Will and Katherine ran up to her side as Jack stared at her, taking in the changes.

Well, she’d turned blonde. That in itself, combined with the straightening of the curls in both her hair and tails, made her look disturbingly unlike herself at a brief glance. The lengthening of her limbs had made her look several years older, though her proportions were odd and kind of disturbing; she looked too thin and her body too small in comparison, like a misshapen doll. Yellow-white fur, the same color as her hair, had grown into an uneven, messy collar around her neck. Her eyes had gone blood red, with the whites no longer visible. Primarily, though, her face had lengthened and her chin shrunk, giving her something almost like a muzzle but not quite, still too human to pass as Pokémonlike.

Everything about her was wrong, smack-dab in the middle of the Uncanny Valley. Jack cringed and looked away as her cries quieted into hysterical sobbing. Peter was still staring at her in disbelief. Only Mia was wearing the same expression as always.

“It... it h-hurts...” Jean moaned between shaky breaths.

“What hurts?” Katherine asked quickly.

“M-my mouth,” Jean choked up and began to wail again. Of course, Jack thought distantly – even if evolution had activated the fire sac they’d always known she had, the inside of her mouth probably wasn’t all that heat-resistant. That had to suck.

“I’m sorry,” he said limply, not sure if it was loud enough for Jean to hear him. Handing her a Fire Stone. How could he be that stupid and careless at a time like this? (His mind also insisted on pointing out how stupid it was that she had actually accepted it, and really he’d just sort of held it out for anyone to take, and it was her fault if she took it anyway, right? Then again, he was also extremely tired after staying up all night, so perhaps it was no wonder he’d been a bit careless.)

Katherine, still kneeling by Jean’s side, stroked her silky Ninetales mane gently in an attempt to comfort her, and suddenly the Roselia morph’s expression changed. She closed her eyes, raised her face up towards the bright sunlight, and they all looked at her in puzzlement for a few seconds – all except Jean, who was still sniffling – before a strange, sweet, soothing smell wafted through the alley. It was incredibly pleasant and relaxing; Jack inhaled deeply and slowly realized he no longer felt tired. Jean sniffed and blinked.

“It feels better,” she said weakly and sat shakily up, feeling her body up and down with her hands. Her expression turned horrified as she groped at her face, and when she stroked her hands along her hair and new tails, she began to cry again.

“What is it? Does it still hurt?” Will asked with concern.

“No,” Jean said miserably, “but how can I be Sarah Hooter now? I look all wrong.”

Nobody answered that. Katherine still looked kind of dazed after what had to have been an Aromatherapy attack; she blinked blankly, like she wasn’t sure where she was. When Peter came over to his sister to ask quietly if she was all right, however, she nodded and seemed to be recovering.

“Look, Jean,” Jack said, looking at her again, “nobody gives a fuck about Sarah Hooter right now, okay? Just... don’t. We’re trying to help Gabriel here and...”

“But I don’t want to help Gabriel anymore!” Jean whined. “I want to go home!”

Jack really, really wanted to slap her, but the nagging knowledge that this was still his fault to at least some extent stopped him. “You can’t go home,” he said desperately. “We need Katherine with us, especially with Aromatherapy; she can’t be driving you back and forth. And you could help too – even if it burns your mouth, fire would be really useful, right? What if Katherine...”

“I don’t want to!” Jean yelled shrilly; Jack looked quickly towards the alley exit to make sure nobody had heard all her incessant screaming and was coming to check on it, but they seemed to have chosen a location out of the way enough for nobody to be around.

“Well, all right, but if not, you can just stay in the car while we go in, or something. Either way you can’t go home.”

“I’ll take a bus,” she replied, sniffling.

“Oh, Christ, Jean, public transport?” Jack asked in frustration. “You’ve never used it before. There are all sorts of people on public transports and maybe one in five of them is okay with sharing a ride with a Pokémorph. There’s just no way. Snap out of it and just come with us.”

Jean pondered this for a moment; then, with a barely-visible nod, she muttered, “Okay.”

Jack nodded emphatically in reply. “Great.” There was a moment’s pause. “So Peter, could you go get another Fire Stone?”

-------

The good thing about churches, thought Jack, was that they didn’t exactly sneak up on you; thanks to those convenient towers, you could always be sure where they were from a comfortable distance away. Even before they were two thirds down the directions they’d printed at his place, they could see the Church of Holy Truth looming ominously above the buildings around them.

“We probably shouldn’t go too close,” he told Katherine from the back seat. “They could be watching the roads leading up to the church.”

She didn’t answer. They’d all been a bit silent in the past minutes as it fully dawned on them just what they were doing. Jean still sniffled every now and then, fiddling with her pale, straight locks or shifting in discomfort as she tried to fit all her tails into the left-side seat. Will licked guiltily at his fingertips, squished between her and Peter, who kept turning his head anxiously towards Jack and back again with a jerky, birdlike motion. Katherine glanced in the rear view mirror so often it was a miracle she could pay attention to the road in front of her. The only one of them who wasn’t shifty at all was Mia, ever silent and stoic in the passenger seat in front of Jack.

Katherine pulled into the next parking lot they noticed with a few free spaces and began to slowly make her way into a spot between two stationary cars, until there was an uncomfortable crunching sound as the side of their car squished into the corner of the one on the left.

“Oh, shit,” Katherine hissed between her teeth and banged her rose-hands on the steering wheel in frustration. “What do we do now? I told you I couldn’t do this.”

Jack’s heart sank horribly. “Try... try to get back?” he suggested weakly as his mind swirled with the fact he should have known something like this would probably happen when they had a completely inexperienced driver under great pressure trying to get around in the city; something had to go wrong somewhere.

Katherine did something, and there were more crunching noises. “I can’t do this!” she repeated, her voice high-pitched and panicky as she lifted her hands completely from the steering wheel. “I’m just making it worse!”

“You’ll have to do it somehow!” Jack replied desperately; the others were looking fearfully at him. “It’s not like we can drive!”

“Turn it left,” Mia said coolly. “Then back out. Don’t hit the car on the right.”

Katherine looked at her for a moment, still cringing and holding her hands away from the steering wheel as if they might do something on their own accord if they came too close to it. “Right,” she squeaked, trying to slow her breathing, before she turned back towards the wheel. “Right. Okay, Mia. You probably know all about this. Gee, I wonder why you haven’t just been driving instead of me the whole time.”

Despite the sarcasm, she still followed Mia’s advice and carefully turned the steering wheel left and switched to reverse. Very slowly, the car eased away from the other one; the front right corner fast approached the car on the right, but Katherine managed to stop and turn straight before anything happened on that side. After what seemed like absolute ages, they were a comfortable distance away from both cars again.

“And now I have to try it again,” Katherine said with a nervous sigh. “That’s going to end well.”

Incredibly enough, it did; this time she came in at less of an angle and successfully got the car into place. There she switched to parking gear, put the handbrake on and finally shut off the engine with a turn of the key.

She slumped back in the seat and took a deep breath. “Okay. Uh, we should probably leave a note for the owner of the other car?” She looked around for a moment before opening the glove compartment. “Our parents are going to love this.”

Jack looked guiltily at Peter, who was kind of pale but silent as his sister attempted to pick up some papers, had little success, and in frustration asked Mia to do it instead. The Scyther morph took them out and looked blankly at the damage report forms; Katherine looked over her shoulder at them, about as blankly, and finally said, “We’ll get this stuff filled out later. Let’s just leave a cellphone and license plate number before the owner of the car gets here.”

Some part of Jack’s mind was immediately convinced that judging from their luck so far, the owner of the car would probably get there just around the time they’d finished writing a note, but no, they managed to write down Katherine and Peter’s dad’s cellphone number and the license number of the car on a piece of paper and stick it under the wipers on their victim – thankfully or not-so-thankfully, their car looked considerably worse than the other one once they walked around it – before they made their way out of sight as quickly as they could while looking reasonably casual.

“Okay, uh,” Jack began once they were a comfortable distance away from the parking lot, “well, you’re not going to be waiting in the car, Jean, so I guess you can just wait someplace reasonably quiet around here?” He looked around; there was nowhere immediately obvious in the vicinity that wasn’t uncomfortably public. “Or you could come in with us and try to help. That would be nice, too.”

“No!” she answered immediately and looked unsurely around. “I’ll... I’ll walk to our place and just wait there.”

“Your place?” Katherine asked hesitantly. “Well, it’s a bit of a walk, but it’s away from the church, and I guess you could avoid the larger streets.” She looked at Jack with a shrug.

He sighed. “Okay. I guess that’s the best option. Try to stay safe.”

“I will.” Jean smiled brightly. “Good luck!”

Well-intentioned as they were, her words only made Jack feel more nauseous. The others didn’t respond very enthusiastically to it either, but at least they managed some sort of a brief goodbye before the now-Ninetales morph bounded off across the road and soon disappeared into a side street.

“I hope she’ll be all right,” Will muttered.

“I’m sure she will,” Jack said with a lot more confidence than he felt. “Come on. Gabriel needs our help now.”

-------

“Okay,” Gabriel said unconvincingly to himself, staring at the strewn sand and dirt on the floor beside him, “I could eat this as a fetus. I’ve got to be able to eat it now.”

He had been locked inside a tiny, windowless, spectacularly dirty room in the church cellar, probably used to store visitors’ shoes or something of the like, for what he estimated to be close to twenty-four hours now though that figure might have been exaggerated by boredom. And although he thankfully didn’t need a lot of water to sustain himself, it took a lot of energy to maintain his unusual body temperature, and he was already feeling on the brink of starvation. He’d tried the whole banging-on-the-door thing already, but had soon come to the conclusion that there was simply nobody on the other side – not that his captors seemed likely to care very much about keeping him fed, anyway.

After giving up on that, he had looked around the room in exasperation and concluded for the umpteenth time that there was absolutely nothing in it except the thick layer of dust, sand and dirt on the floor. Then he had sat down, mostly because he was getting tired of pacing around and figured he could stay still for a while now before needing to warm up his skin again. And the floor had felt grainy beneath his fingers, which had made him remember some of what he knew about the circumstances of his creation.

So now, deliberately ignoring the glaring logical fallacy in his previous words, he squinted at the floor and stroked his hand carefully over it. The sand stuck to his gooey skin, leaving a visibly cleaner patch where he had wiped it. He turned his hand slowly around and dully watched the grains sink into the semi-transparent orange sludge on his palm. He shook his head; this was why he’d always had to eat everything with a fork or a spoon.

He looked around as if expecting to find a spoon magically lying around. Part of him wondered in morbid amusement whether he was really hungry enough yet for this to be worth it, but by now it was really less so much because he was hungry and more a means of finally letting his brain occupy itself with a task: figure out some way to eat this sand. It was oddly relieving after all the sleepless hours of having nothing to think about except guns being pressed against his head and whether he would ever get out of this alive.

After a bit of deliberation, Gabriel carefully removed his shirt and began to use a corner of the fabric, helped by the stiffer plastic coating on the inside, as a shovel. It took him at least ten minutes going around part of the room and trying to sweep the sand onto the shirt before he had gathered a satisfactory pile of dirt, and then he set it very carefully down on the floor and stared at it. He felt oddly like a drug addict confronted in a moment of clarity with the knowledge that his fix had spent unknown periods of time inside somebody’s anus.

Again he wondered whether he was really this hungry.

Then he decided that the longer he thought about it, the worse it would seem, and so he quickly grabbed the shirt and stuffed the pile of dirt into his mouth.

His gag reflex reacted immediately and violently. He coughed and spluttered, trying to clear the dirt from the inside of his mouth, but a lot of it remained stuck and gave him a terrifying feeling of suffocation. He desperately spat out a glob of grayish sludge, then half-vomited a bit more of it at the sight of what he’d just willingly attempted to eat, and finally lay there miserably for a few moments, feeling his muddy saliva dribble down his chin and blend with his skin, before he shakily pulled himself to his feet.

“Okay,” he croaked to himself and coughed a few more times, “no way in hell am I trying that again.”

He stood up, shaking a little, and wondered just how fetus-him had managed to feed on that.

In fact, he wondered just how he had eaten anything at all while he was a fetus. Fetuses weren’t supposed to eat, were they? Technically, of course, he’d become self-sustaining even while he was still a fetus by human standards, but his mouth and digestive system were nothing like those of a Slugma.

There was something very important that he was forgetting. He closed his eyes and rubbed them, trying to concentrate on the memory of when he’d seen that brief news video about the Pokémorphs years ago. A small slimy blob squirming around in an incubator – an incubator full of sand. Dave explaining off-screen that he gained nourishment from the sand by…

He was an idiot.

Gabriel stroked his slimy hand again over the floor and then stared at his dirty palm. The sand and dust were again sinking ever-so-slowly into the orange goo. He stared at it for a long while, watching the already tiny grains shrink and eventually dissolve into nothing. He wasn’t exactly surprised – this was, after all, why it wasn’t a problem that it was impossible for him to bathe – but this was the first time he’d ever properly realized the significance of it.

Gabriel removed his jeans, cleaned out a corner of the room with his hands, piled his clothes there and lay down naked on the floor.

He squeezed his eyes and mouth shut and then rolled himself awkwardly across the room. He stood up and looked with satisfaction at the line of cleanness he had left on the floor – cleanness aside from the globs of slime, of course, but that was not important. He looked down at himself and the dirt covering his entire body and watched with a triumphant glee as it slowly just disappeared, leaving his slime back to its normal orange in a matter of minutes – in fact, he must have been imagining it, but somehow it seemed to have gotten a little lighter and glowier and warmer than before.

Gabriel began to press himself against the walls, too, gathering up the grime stuck on them, before he had an even crazier idea. Experimentally, he pushed his hands onto the bare wall, laying his weight against them. He waited still like that for several minutes, feeling his quickening heartbeat all the while, and then stepped away to find two shallow, hand-shaped depressions in the concrete, unmistakable even underneath the layer of slime.

He laughed uncontrollably, looking at his hands in disbelief; they were a little grayish, but even that was rapidly disappearing with a renewed vigor. He wasn’t feeling one bit less hungry, in the way that he ordinarily understood the word – but as he pushed his entire body at the wall, he felt as if he were satiating some even greater hunger that he had gotten too used to to even notice. In fact, he was beginning to feel better and more energized overall than he had in years – and although it did alarm him somewhat that his skin really did seem to be getting hotter and hardening more quickly while his heart was beating as if it were about to explode, that feeling was too euphoric for him to stop.

For the first time in his life, he felt powerful. He felt fierce. He felt like a Pokémon.

-------

Jean, in fact, hadn’t gone home. She cringed at the very thought of being alone in their apartment now when she direly needed a hug and some pity. So instead, she’d just run over to the next bus stop she knew of and waited for a bus anyway.

The bus driver had a weird expression when she stepped in. She handed him the fare as quickly as she could and then walked shakily down the middle of the bus, uncomfortably aware of all the eyes on her. She didn’t look like Sarah Hooter anymore. She just looked like a freak, and they all hated her.

She found an empty seat near the back of the bus and sat down in it, tucking her tails carefully away so they wouldn’t get in people’s way. At first she looked around, but they were all still staring, so she just looked down at her clenched fists and pretended she didn’t see them. Her hands still felt weirdly far away, almost like puppets she was controlling from the end of a stick rather than parts of her body.

She twiddled her foot and it accidentally hit the seat in front of her; the old woman sitting there turned around with a scowl, and Jean looked back down, blushing. She tried not to move as the bus continued on its way, and she didn’t look up until she heard a couple of teenage boys who were about to get off making a joke about how it was no wonder Sarah Hooter hadn’t taken the Ultimate Fire Stone; she growled threateningly at them and they hurried out of the bus. Afterwards her throat burned, because there had been flames beginning to form, but she tried to cry as quietly as she could, and finally the bus stopped near where the Kerrigans lived, and she got off and ran all the way to the house as fast as she could.

She knocked on the door and her dad opened it, his expression lost and bewildered. “Jean?” he asked weakly. “Christ, what the hell happened to you?”

She was going to answer, but all that came out was a strangled sob, and she flung herself into his arms to cry on his shoulders. He was stunned momentarily but then pulled her inside and hastily closed the door. All their parents were standing around, looking exhausted and horrified.

“I’m glad you’re okay,” her father said quickly, hugging her. “Where are the others? Are they all right?”

It was a while before she could speak again. “I-I don’t know,” she said. “I left them after that Fire Stone evolv...” Her voice broke again.

“And they were all okay when you left?”

She nodded quickly and a wave of relieved tension and mutters of “Oh, thank God” travelled through the room.

“What did they do? What were they going to do?”

“T-they hadn’t really done anything yet,” Jean answered. “They were about to... to enter the church, but I... I wanted to go home.”

“Shit,” her father muttered, very quietly, but she heard him anyway. “Okay,” he said, a little louder, releasing her so he could look her in the eyes, “so they’re at the Church of Holy Truth, right? The one here in the city?”

Jean nodded.

“I’m going after them,” said Martha Harrison immediately, her gaze steeled. “Who’s going to lend me a car?”

“But... but then you’ll be in danger,” said Jean, looking at her.

“I don’t care,” Martha replied. “We’re in danger here anyway. And now that I know where they are...”

“B-but it was a trap!” Jean exclaimed. “We figured it out – they wanted us to come to rescue Gabriel, and that’s why they didn’t attack you, so you’ll be okay if you stay here.”

Everyone stared at her.

“Wait,” her father said, squeezing the bridge of his nose, “are you telling me they figured out it’s some sort of a trap... and then they went there anyway?”

Jean nodded. “They wanted to save Gabriel.”

“Oh, for the love of...” He grabbed his hair with both hands. “Shit. Why do they all have such a fucking hero complex?”

Before anyone could reply, Lucy suddenly floated through the wall from the girls’ room and looked at Jean. “They’re waiting for them?” she asked. “They won’t come here?”

Jean shook her head. “You’re safe.”

Lucy looked at her for a moment with her ghostly eyes. “I’m going to help them,” she said, and without warning, she disappeared out through the front wall.

“Lucy!” called Howard, but she was already gone.

-------

Peter walked innocently towards the Church of Holy Truth, concentrating fiercely on keeping his movements natural. He peered at the stained-glass windows, trying to see through them; the colored glass made it hard to see through into the darker building, and though he knew those inside would have a much easier time seeing into the sunlight, he also noticed those windows didn’t appear to open. He didn’t think these people would actually destroy the pretty glass windows of their church with bullets, even if they could avoid getting the glass all over themselves. They were probably safe until they were inside, then, but there was no real knowing. Maybe some of the windows could be opened. They could never be sure.

He glanced towards the streets where the others were coming through. He still wasn’t sure it had been a good idea to temporarily split up, but it did make them harder targets and more difficult to spot than the rather glaring image of five kids and teens in conveniently concealing clothing all advancing towards a church together. Currently he was the closest to the building, which made him a bit nervous, but he tried to ignore it and headed in a beeline towards the door. Katherine wasn’t far behind; being his big sister, she’d insisted on being close to him.

He quickened his pace a little, looking to the sides before he crossed the street – oh, crap, he’d just done a very conspicuous head-jerk, hadn’t he? His heart raced as he tried to decide whether it would be better to run and possibly blow his cover if he hadn’t already or to walk and remain easy to hit, but he’d started running before he’d come to a conclusion. In a sprint that may have been unconsciously assisted by a Quick Attack, he narrowly avoided getting hit by a bus, reached the door, turned the knob, opened it, went inside and slammed it behind him to catch his breath.

The clunk of the door echoed uncomfortably in the empty church. He flicked his gaze around in several quick jerks of his head, but found only the walls and windows, benches, an altar with some candles and crosses on it, normal church stuff like that. There was a small door at the back, but there didn’t seem to be anybody in the nave. He took a few breaths to calm himself. He should just wait for the others now and then they could continue and look for Gabriel.

The door at the back flew open, breaking the silence again. A man half-jumped out and threw it shut again, and Peter realized with a chilling feeling of horror that he was holding a pistol.

The man’s frantic eyes locked onto him, and he pointed the gun straight at Peter and fired.

-------

Flames danced around Gabriel’s hand, tickling him comfortably; it took only the slightest effort to maintain them. It seemed so natural and intuitive. It was almost bizarre to think that he couldn’t do that yesterday. His heart thumped furiously. Every part of him felt hot.

He looked at the wooden door and wanted to smash it to pieces or disintegrate it in a blaze of glory, but common sense stopped him: if he did anything too noisy and obvious, he’d attract the attention of his captors immediately if they were anywhere nearby. So he settled for pressing his fiery hands onto the door near the lock and watching the wood blacken and crumble under his fingers.

The faint echo of a gunshot sounded somewhere above him.

-------

The world slowed down. Peter watched wide-eyed as a bullet came flying in his direction; he desperately tried to jump to the side, and that was when he realized that he wasn’t slowed down at all.

He grinned as a second shot rang out and another bullet came flying; another Quick Attack allowed him to speed out of the way with no more effort than dodging a thrown softball. This was easy. They couldn’t hurt him.

He skirted out of the way of the third bullet just as the door opened again.

“Peter?” asked Katherine in a high-pitched, panicked voice, and the gunman immediately turned towards her and pulled the trigger yet again.

She had no Quick Attack. All Peter could think of to help her was running into the path of the bullet as fast as he could.

He felt it pierce through his side, leaving a path of burning pain in its wake, but saw the man raising his gun again and raced towards him instead, trying to ignore the numbness spreading through the right side of his body. Before the man could pull the trigger, Peter had reached him and awkwardly tackled him down; the gun flew out of his hand, and Peter landed on top of him with a sharp sting of pain.

“Peter!” he hazily heard his sister screaming as she ran towards them, her footsteps echoing. The gunman pushed him off and stumbled towards where the gun was lying, but Katherine threw herself at him and tackled him down again. She shook her rose-hands desperately in his face as he tried to wrestle her away, and in a matter of seconds, his struggling stopped.

Katherine ran over to Peter as he lay on the church floor, groaning. He felt dizzy and weak; pain throbbed where the bullet had hit him, somewhere in the middle of a strange numbness.

“Oh, God,” she said, pale and wide-eyed. “Are you... Peter, you can’t just jump in front of...”

That was the last thing he heard before he blacked out.

-------

Jack approached the front door with hurried steps. He glanced to the left, where Mia was creeping along the wall, her gaze fixed on him with something disturbingly like predatory hunger. He’d been close enough to hear the gunshots; he had to expect the worst. He shivered as he grabbed the doorknob and had to steel himself for a moment before he pushed it open.

Involuntary static electricity was beginning to build up in his antennae even before he took in the sight of the church: a man was lying motionless on the floor next to a gun, and up nearer to the altar, Peter was lying in a pool of blood, with Katherine kneeling over him. She looked sharply up as he let the door clunk shut; he hurried over to them, his heart thumping in his chest.

“I have to get him to a hospital,” she said, her voice strained and hysterical. Jack stared at the wound and the blood, simultaneously fascinated and horrified.

“You call an ambulance,” he said to Katherine. “Just tell them he’s in here, and then we can continue looking for...”

“I’m staying with him,” she said sharply. “We can’t just leave him defenceless like this.”

Everything was wrong. It wasn’t supposed to go like this. “Look, Katherine,” Jack said pleadingly, “we need you. You can’t just...”

“I need to protect him,” she replied, looking into his eyes; she was pale but her eyes shone with determination and he could tell nothing he could say would convince her. “It’s our fault he got involved in this. We never should have come here in the first place.”

The front door clunked shut and Jack looked around at it in alarm. Will was shuffling inside, panting. Mia seemed to have made her way inside earlier; she was watching them steadily from close to the entrance. As Will saw Peter lying on the ground, he froze, the tip of his tail twitching as he stared at the pool of blood spreading around him.

Jack looked back at Katherine. She’d taken out her cellphone to call an ambulance. As long as she didn’t mention anything relating to Brian’s murder or Gabriel’s kidnapping, it should be okay even if the inevitable questions reached the police. Will was hurrying over, while Mia followed him nonchalantly, looking around.

“Is he going to be okay?” Will murmured as he knelt down by Jack’s side. The Meowth morph averted his eyes from Peter’s wound, instead staring at his face.

“Katherine’s calling an ambulance, and they’ll get him and it’ll be fine,” Jack replied insistently. Of course it would be fine. It had to be.

Will glanced at the sleeping man lying on the floor a bit further away. “So um... is that all? Aren’t there more of them?”

Jack looked up. “More,” he repeated, blinking; somehow the word didn’t sink in immediately, but once it did, of course it struck him as odd. “Why aren’t there more?”

“Must be lying in wait,” Mia said. She’d reached them now; her eyes were still darting back and forth, taking in the room. “They probably want us to proceed further inside, where it’ll be harder to run.”

Jack’s stomach lurched uncomfortably; the thought of being ambushed somewhere deep inside an unfamiliar building was chilling. He looked around and found the door in the back that Mia’s gaze had also settled upon. “Well, we’re not running, are we?” he said. “Let’s go find Gabriel.”

Mia simply nodded. Katherine gave him a meaningful glance: she’d be staying with her brother, no matter what he said. He looked at Will; the Meowth boy’s tail was swishing restlessly back and forth as he glanced uncomfortably at Peter’s unconscious form. He looked uncannily like a cornered kitten.

“You coming or not?”

Katherine was still on the phone, but she gave Jack a frantic glare and shook her head.

“I... I’m okay,” Will muttered. “I want to help.” He stood up, and as Mia led the way towards the back door, he followed uncertainly behind Jack as Katherine gestured wildly in their direction.

Mia stopped abruptly as they were about to reach the door. Jack held his breath as her eyes darted around.

“There’s somebody breathing on the other side,” she said.

Jack stared at her. “You sure?” he whispered.

She gave him a strange look. Of course she was sure. She never said anything she wasn’t sure about.

“Um,” Will asked quietly. “So what do we do then?”

They never had to answer, because now the door burst open and suddenly two men were standing there, aiming handguns at them.

Time slowed down to a crawl. A shot rang out and Will started to crumple to the ground just as Jack instinctively threw himself down; he could feel the air displacement in the wake of the second shot just above him. Energy automatically flared up in his antennae as Mia emerged from behind the door, and somehow, he simply knew what to do: he focused for a fraction of a second as one of the men was starting to lower his gun down towards him, and suddenly a burst of electricity hit the man.

The victim let out a strangled sound as his muscles contracted involuntarily; his finger squeezed the trigger automatically, and Jack felt horrible, searing pain in his right leg. The other man, momentarily distracted by his partner’s fate, screamed when Mia slashed at his forearm, and the gun flew out of his hand; she grabbed his bloodied arm and with a disturbing strength managed to swing him headfirst into the wall. After a long moment, she released him and he fell, unmoving.

The one Jack had Thunder Waved was lying helpless on the ground, locked in a foetal position and groaning in pain. Jack tried to stand up but couldn’t even begin to try to put weight on his shot leg. Now that the brief adrenaline rush of the fight was dying down, the pain was coming back with a vengeance, intensifying with every heartbeat. He shakily managed to drag himself over to the wall, roll over onto his back and sit up.

“Mia,” he said and looked over at her, realizing with a jolt of horror that she’d laid out the unconscious man on the ground and was staring as if mesmerized at his pulsing jugular, her scythed arm hovering dangerously close. “Mia!” he said, louder, and she turned her head towards him. He saw her eyes flick over to his bleeding leg and stay there. “Don’t get carried away, just...”

She stood up, and he grimaced in pain and closed his eyes, trying to wish it away. He heard Katherine approaching hurriedly and kneeling down somewhere near him. “Can somebody, um... do something about my guy before the paralysis wears off?” he managed to say, but there was no response.

Jack opened his eyes again, and as he found Katherine, his gaze fell on Will, who was lying sprawled on the church floor next to her with a pool of blood spreading from his head.

He felt dizzy all of a sudden. Will. He’d completely forgotten about him in the heat of the moment, and there he was, his large eyes empty and staring. Jack had the time to make out an entry wound just beside the charm on his forehead before he forced himself to look away, frantically refusing to assess the damage otherwise. Will had to be okay somehow. The image of him curled up in his sleeping bag and purring with a contented smile on his face just last night hovered in Jack’s head, clashing violently with the horrifying, dull stare of the present. He couldn’t just be gone.

Katherine turned sharply towards him, tears of anger streaming down her cheeks. She choked on whatever words she meant to say, but he knew what she was thinking. It was his fault. Of course it was.

Searing pain throbbed in his leg. He dimly heard several loud thumps as Mia presumably introduced the paralyzed guy’s head to a wall on the other side of the door. Katherine was right; they never should have come there. And after what happened to Peter, why had he brought Will into danger as well?

Off where he was lying, Peter let out a groan, having seemingly regained consciousness, and Katherine immediately hurried over to him. Jack was left alone with Will and his empty stare.

He cringed and looked away, and suddenly he remembered Felicia. He somehow managed to dig into his pocket for the Pokéball before he crawled through the doorway. “Mia,” he said hoarsely. “We just... we have to find Gabriel and get out of...”

Mia wasn’t paying attention to him. She was staring at something that looked like a broom cupboard by the wall on the right, which she suddenly almost leapt towards and wrenched the door open.

A scrawny guy with wide, haunted eyes half-fell out of it with a frightened yelp, managing just barely to keep his balance and point the gun he was holding at Mia with a trembling hand. She was ready before he fired it and jumped to the side, grabbed the gun arm and used it as leverage to move up behind him while he fired useless shots into thin air.

As he struggled and screamed, she swung her other arm around and slit his throat with its blade. Blood sprayed out as the man continued feebly to fight back against her, but she held him still until his body went limp.

Jack stared in frozen horror at the dead man and at the psychotic grin breaking out on Mia’s face as she gazed at the blood dripping from her scythe, and it surprised him as much as her when yet another gunshot rang out, her head jerked, and she collapsed on top of her prey, her eyes rolled back in her head.

A tall, dark-haired man with piercing, icy blue eyes stood in front of another open door at the back of the room, his gun still raised, and chuckled. He looked at Jack, but the gun remained steadily pointed at Mia’s body as he walked slowly closer and fired two more shots at the back of her head.

Jack threw Felicia’s Pokéball forward with the little strength he had just as the man pointed the gun towards him. “Use Fire Blast!” he shouted in panic.

The Pokéball’s white sendout light burst forth, illuminating the room as it took the shape of the enormous Pokémon, and the moment the light began to fade, the man simply emptied the clip into the Arcanine’s head.

Jack stared in horror, splattered with hot Fire-type blood. Felicia’s body collapsed in front of him. The man was already reloading his gun with quick, practiced motions. Jack tried feebly to crawl back towards the wall as he raised the weapon yet again with a satisfied grin.

“Freeze!” came Katherine’s voice from the doorway, high-pitched and panicky. She was holding one of the other men’s discarded guns and pointing it shakily at Jack’s attacker. “You – you drop the gun, or I’ll shoot!”

The man didn’t drop the gun. He just swung his arm towards her instead, there was yet another gunshot and a scream, and Katherine hit the floor with a thump.

The killer chuckled softly. “Stupid girl.”

Jack wanted to shout something defiant and angry as the man looked back at him, but all that came out was a frightened whimper. There was no one left to save him now.

The man grinned manically and pointed the gun at him, and he braced himself for a swift death.

A jet of flame suddenly rushed into the room from behind the gunman, and he whirled around to shoot in its direction, but the fire enveloped him completely before he could. The gun dropped from his hand; he staggered backwards, but the fire followed him mercilessly, and Jack’s heart jumped when he realized that the source of the flames was Gabriel, his skin glowing a bright orange as flames streamed from his outstretched hand.

The man backed up against the wall, and Gabriel continued to advance towards him, glancing worriedly at Jack. As Mia’s murderer burned to death, he laughed madly among the flames, never screaming or crying; Gabriel continued to scorch his body with a shaking hand until he was finally silent and unmoving.

“Jack,” he said weakly as the flames died down and he hurried towards his friend. “Are you all right?” He knelt down by Jack’s side, looking at the bloodsoaked leg of his jeans and then at the room. “I... is that... Felicia?”

“I’m sorry,” Jack whispered. “It’s all my fault.”

“It’s okay,” Gabriel murmured, still staring frozenly at the body of the Arcanine.

“Are... are you okay?” Jack was shaking. His brain felt frozen and numb.

“Me?” Gabriel smiled faintly for a moment. “Never better.”

Then his eyes rolled back in his head and he slumped limply down across Jack’s lap.

“Gabriel?” Jack shook him frantically, but the Slugma morph didn’t wake up. “Oh, no. Gabriel, you can’t die. We all came... we all came to save you and... Will, he... everyone... oh, God, please. It’s all my fault. Please don’t die.”

He was starting to sob uncontrollably, his hands still buried in the uncomfortably hot slime of Gabriel’s back. His leg burned with pain; part of Gabriel had landed on top of it and the liquid skin was pressing into the wound. Some part of him registered in puzzlement that Gabriel was naked. What had they done to him? Why was he dying? How had he escaped? When had he learned to use fire?

There was a groan near the door he’d come in through, and he looked frantically towards it. The first man that Mia had knocked out had regained consciousness where he was lying and was reaching for the gun he’d dropped.

“No,” he said hoarsely as the man gripped the weapon and turned his head towards them with difficulty. “Please. We didn’t do anything to you. Please don’t.”

The man’s eyes flicked towards the bodies of the two men they had killed and pointed the gun towards Jack with a shaky hand, his expression showing only pure terror.

He was knocked back by an orb of purple energy as the dark shape of a little girl emerged through the wall beside Jack. She levitated to the middle of the room, forming another Shadow Ball between her small hands as her ghostly hair fluttered in a nonexistent wind and her hypnotic eyes watched the man carefully.

“Lucy!” Jack choked out in relief before he realized that the Misdreavus morph had noticed her sister’s body lying there on the floor.

Lucy let out a bone-chilling wail as her eyes took on a blood red glow. The man she’d attacked frantically grabbed the opportunity to shoot at her, but the bullets went through her like smoke, eliciting no reaction as she floated up straight above him and hurled the second ball of energy down at him. He screamed as it hit, but it was drowned out by Lucy’s own scream that quickly transformed into an eerie melody of concentrated agony.

The world became pain; Jack dimly heard himself begin to scream as well as the excruciating notes dug into every fiber of his being, and then everything went black.

-------

Author’s note: No, Lucy did not just kill everybody; Perish Song induces unconsciousness, not death. Obviously you will find this out in the next chapter, but until that’s written, I’d rather not have people think rocks fell and everyone died.
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  #16  
Old 05-31-2010, 10:25 PM
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Default Re: Morphic

... which characters actually died? ;~;
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Old 06-01-2010, 08:31 PM
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Default Re: Morphic

I know for a fact that Mia had her brains blown out... then again, she did just kill like three people. Eh.

Not sure about the rest, though; Peter was shot and so were Will (it seems incredibly fatal in his case, actually) and Katherine (and Felicia), and it looks like Gabriel overexhausted himself. It looks as if Jack is okay for the time being, though.

That was a very intense chapter, though; I'm looking forward to the conclusion. Hopefully at least some of them recover.
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  #18  
Old 06-03-2010, 05:37 AM
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Quote:
Obviously you will find this out in the next chapter, but until that’s written, I’d rather not have people think rocks fell and everyone died.
Instead it's just "guns were fired, everybody* died".

*at least three people, fine, fine
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  #19  
Old 06-03-2010, 03:21 PM
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Default Re: Morphic

I have great respect for your writing, Butterfree, but I think that this chapter was a little bit pell-mell.

I found myself getting a little confused near the middle who had died, who had actually been injured, and what actually was happening. Although you write the quieter scenes beautifully (my favourite was when Lucy came along and used Perish Song), I feel that there is a little way to go in terms of the action scenes.
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Old 06-03-2010, 07:25 PM
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Default Re: Morphic

"Near the middle" really isn't very specific (particularly since the actual middle of the chapter is before anybody was killed/injured at all). Can you give a bit more detail about exactly where you were confused and why? Sort of surprised you liked the bit where Lucy came out; that's pretty much my least favorite part of the whole thing, but eh.

Also, did anybody else have thoughts on anything besides who died? I realize multiple character deaths/injuries are a pretty major thing, but this is a hugely long chapter and there is a lot going on in it besides people dying. The response so far seems to pretty much universally ignore that anything happened other than people getting shot; it would be very nice to get some feedback on how the other parts turned out and what could be improved.
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