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Pokémon Affliction

#1
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I have a terrible habit of rambling before I paste my stories; I apologize for that. I have but one request of my readers: please leave constructive feedback. I have been MIA for somewhere around three years now, and my writing is not as sharp as it once was. I would appreciate specific feedback that helps me to refine my skills, but if you post to simply tell me what you like or dislike, I can't complain about that either.

I will stagger my posting of what I currently have written to allow me time to write my next portion as well as to allow others time to read what is posted. I will try to release a chapter once per week, but if time does not permit it, then I will be unable to do so.

And now, on to the story.

Affliction

Prologue
A fire is burning around me, ready to consume my limp body. My trusted companion is nowhere to be seen, but I can't believe that she has survived this inferno. I'm barely holding on to my last thread of life, fading in and out of consciousness, coming within a step of death but fighting as hard as I can to stay alive. The lab around me is ruined, destroyed by the wildfire that will soon end my life. A tear comes to my eye with the thought that my quest is to end in failure, that my mission to stop the plans of the government scientists will only serve to delay their inevitable success.

I struggle to my feet, dizzy and weak from the smoke that I can't help but inhale. The room feels like it's spinning, and I soon fall back down, wearier than before. Determined, I grab onto a counter to my right and use it to lift my body up. This time I keep my balance and slowly limp across the lab toward what looks like my partner's lifeless body. However, as I get closer to it, I realize that it is no more than the charred body of a test subject.

The subject, unlike my companion, has short, yellow fur covering its body. Brown marks on its back extend from the right side of its ribcage to the left. It has a lightning bolt shaped tail that is nearly as long as the creature is tall. Long, pointy ears with brown ends, black eyes, a thin mouth, and red, circular cheeks make up its face. The creature's lean, aerodynamic body suggests that it is built for speed, despite the small legs that it possesses. Its physiology also suggests that it is a creature of the elements rather than one of physical might.

I shudder as I turn away from the dead body. Just how many more of these strange creatures will have to die before somebody stops these people? I think sadly. How long will this madness ensue before something is done?

I walk aimlessly now, my thoughts unclear as the smoke fills my lungs. I'm surprised that I have lasted this long, that my body has managed to resist collapsing and dying. However, I don't think I will last much longer. The only thing I have that keeps me going is my desire to find my partner's body. Once I have done that, then I will succumb to death.

I wander about the room some more, searching with glazed eyes for the body of my friend. I know that it must be here. She wouldn't have left without me, and it's extremely unlikely that she has survived. The heat is too intense for a creature as small as her, the smoke is too thick for lungs as small as hers. However, a voice in my head tells me that she is still alive. Somehow it knows this, is insistent that she has not died yet. I desperately want to believe this, but reason insists that she must be dead.

After some time, I finally find her. She is still alive, but just barely. Her brown and white fur are singed, her beautiful face is covered in burns, and her body is cut from the recent fight. She lays shivering on the ground, tears pouring out of her deep, black eyes like rain would from a dark sky. I fall to her side and start crying as well, unable to hold in the anguish I feel. She feels the tears fall on her limp body and weakly looks up at me. Her eyes lock onto mine and pass on an understanding: we both may die, but at least we died together, doing what was right. This thought only makes me cry harder.

I look once more at my surroundings, wanting to see everything around me once more before I die. Nothing new stands out, however, so I instead think back to my journey. I think back to all the good and bad times that Eevee and I experienced on our quest to stop the government and its scientists. I think back to everyone I had met along the way. Every friend, every foe. I think back to the very day my journey began, when a seventeen-year-old boy met a strange, new creature he had never seen, let alone heard of.
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#2
Chapter One: A Discovery


It was a dreary October day. The season’s first snow had left the ground coated in a layer of white powder, obscuring any differentiation between grass and pavement. The pine needles on the trees overlooking the narrow road were a starch white rather than the familiar green, warning us that winter was indeed on its way. In fact, everything around me hinted that winter was soon to come, and with that winter would be long nights and short days. I sighed as I thought about all of this. After all, I wasn't too fond of winter.

I continued my walk down the sidewalk towards my apartment, thinking deeply. I grew less and less conscious of my surroundings, focusing only on what had transpired that day. Not even the crunch of my footsteps in the snow could distract me from my thoughts, nor could the chirp of the migrating birds in the sky. Only the events of that morning held my attention.

***************

It was my third hour, my biology class. The corpse of a rare creature had been brought in for us to examine and to perform a dissection upon. I had been one of three students selected to assist our professor in the demonstration, but was designated as third assistant. I had thought that this was ridiculous, considering I had the highest grade in the class. I fumed about it, but only inwardly. I didn't want my instructor, Professor Periwinkle, to think that I was ungrateful for this opportunity; I just didn't think it was fair to be placed behind inferior students.

The two other students that had been selected, I must admit, were quite intelligent as well. The first assistant, Jake, had short, light brown hair and deep, hazel eyes. His face possessed a sharp nose, flat cheeks, and small lips. He had dark, slanted eyebrows that gave him a piercing gaze that seemed to look right through you. He was of a slender build, weighing at most 120 pounds and was a little over five foot eleven in height. Little muscle covered his arms, giving him a scrawny appearance, but his legs bulged much like a sprinter’s would. Overall, he was a small guy.

The second assistant was a girl named Elizabeth. She had long, flowing black hair that she never wore up. Her eyes were as gray as the sea on a chilly morning, and if I gazed into them for too long it felt as if I had become lost. She had a soft, rounded face with freckled cheeks. Her lips were as red as a freshly picked apple, almost inviting one to taste the sweetness of them. Her black eyebrows followed the curve of her eye, almost connecting to each other but ended nearly a centimeter apart from one another. She wasn't as slender as Jake was, but was not exactly fat either. Her figure was slightly rounded as opposed to the stick-like figure that most of the class possessed. It wasn't as if she were humongous in comparison to the rest of us, rather that she had a less defined body. I would say that she weighed no more than 160 pounds. For being around five foot seven, I would say that she wasn't too disproportioned at all.

After the three of us had been selected, the class was led to the lab where the subject's body lay ready for the dissection. I examined it as we came closer, wanting to note as much as I could based on physical observations.

The creature was no more than one-and-a-half feet tall. The majority of its body was blue in color, but a few parts, such as the belly and the fins or wings, whatever they were, were of a cream color. Its head had three spike-like protrusions extending from the sides, almost like ears, and the mouth was more of a tube than a mandible. Its eyes were wide with red pupils, while the iris in the center was black.

I continued to scrutinize it, but it appeared that I had noticed everything significant about it. One thing perturbed me, though. I could not for the life of me figure out what this creature was. It was like no creature I had ever seen, either through textbook or experiment. I glanced up at the professor, curiosity blazing in my eyes. I was surprised to see a smile on his face as he watched us examine the creature. I studied my fellow assistants, looking for their reaction to this... thing. Neither of them appeared to know what it was either, which relieved me. Satisfied that I was not the only one stumped by the creature, I turned my gaze back to the professor.

After a few minutes of study, the professor finally spoke. “What do you think it is?” he asked.

“I'm not exactly sure,” Jake admitted, disappointment in his voice. “It appears to be some kind of sea creature, but not one that I have lain eyes on before.”

“Well, you're right about it being a sea creature,” the professor said. “What about you, Elizabeth? What do you think it is?”

“I'm not so sure either, Professor Periwinkle,” Elizabeth said, tearing her gaze away from the creature before us. “The delicate-looking fins on its back seem to indicate that it lives close to the surface, and the mouth appears to be designed for eating insects, but I cannot tell much more than that.” She looked back down at the creature, her eyes scanning the creature as if searching for some hidden clue, some kind of feature that would instantly reveal the identity of this mysterious thing.

The professor's eyes floated towards me, an amused smile on his face. He paused, his smile widening, before addressing me. “Well, Aaron, what do you think?” he finally asked.

I stood still, thinking for a moment. Jake had pointed out the most obvious detail, giving a generalized explanation about its body, while Elizabeth had mentioned more specific uses for its bizarre body parts. I would have to formulate my answer well.

“Well?” Professor Periwinkle pressed. “What are your thoughts?” His smile widened even further, as if he knew that I intended to one-up my colleagues. His anticipation reminded me of a child on Christmas Eve, eager for the night to pass quickly so that he could open his presents in the morning.

“Well,” I began slowly, deliberately stalling. “The streamlined body shape would allow it to be a fast swimmer, although the densities of the fins seem to disagree. However, the intricate patterns of veins in the fins seem to be designed to reinforce the fins and protect them from damage when it needs to swim fast. The blue scales on its body seem to be hard enough to withstand somewhat high water pressure, which may mean that it lives or travels in the deep sea. As Elizabeth said, the tubular mouth seems designed to eat insects, but it may also eat small fish. I admit the species baffles me, but my best guess would be some variant of a sea horse.” The professor gave me a slight nod at my conclusion.

“Very good, Aaron,” Professor Periwinkle congratulated. “I was expecting an answer like that from you. You are, for the most part, very right. However, this creature is not a sea horse, although its physiology suggests it to be a close relative. We're not really sure what it is, but studies of the DNA conclude that it has no relation to a sea horse in any way.” The class gasped in surprise. Apparently everyone had thought it was some strange kind of sea horse.

“So why are we dissecting it?” a boy named Alex asked from the back of the laboratory.

“Well, to be honest, a whole lake of these things was found,” the professor admitted. “Quite a number were captured and killed for study by universities such as this. They made sure to leave enough in the lake to prevent the species from dying out, so there's no need to worry about that.” The class sighed in relief. Killing off an entire species for the sake of science was undoubtedly taking it too far.

“Wait, you just said that this was found in a lake,” a girl named Mary piped up. “It looks more like a creature of the sea, to be honest.”

“Excellent point,” the professor said. “The lake that these were found in had a salt-to-water consistency similar to that of the Pacific Ocean. That means that this species might live there as well, but deeper than we can safely travel.” He gazed out at the class for a moment before speaking up again. “Is that all of the questions?” No one spoke up, leaving Professor Periwinkle to say, “okay, now let's begin this dissection.”

Jake, Elizabeth, and I took our positions around the gurney that the creature occupied before beginning the procedure. The rest of the class watched from chairs set up for this demonstration. The professor disappeared for a moment behind a door and reappeared with a tray filled with scalpels and other dissection tools. We put on our vinyl gloves and grabbed a scalpel each, preparing to cut into the creature. The professor drew lines along the body of the creature with his permanent marker so that we knew where to cut. The physiology of this creature was much different than those we had seen before, and none of us would have had any idea of what to do without the professor there to help us.

We began cutting along the lines once Professor Periwinkle finished drawing them. We had to move slowly to avoid damaging any internal organs, so five minutes passed before we were able to see the insides of the creature.

The insides of this creature were more complex than any other sea organism I had ever seen. I could see, of course, the heart and lungs, which were necessary for any animal to survive, but along with those basic organs were several others I could not identify. Two sack-like glands lay where kidneys on a human would normally be, and a tube protruded from each that led to the face of the creature. Upon further inspection, it appeared that the tubes connected to the mouth along with the trachea. The use of these glands was beyond me and seemed to puzzle my partners as well. The professor looked at them curiously and bent closer, attempting to get a better look. He drew his scalpel once again and slowly brought it towards the tubes connected to the organs, being careful not to cut any other organs. He delicately began cutting the tube, watching it the entire time. At the first cut, some black liquid began trickling from the laceration. The professor took no more notice of this than to verify that it had occurred, and continued to cut. He finally got to the last slice when the tube began flying wildly, spraying the black liquid everywhere.

Jake, Elizabeth, Professor Periwinkle and I flinched away, surprised at the sudden explosion of this liquid. Soon someone was yelling “I can't see!” at the top of their lungs. When I looked for the source, I saw a young man named Jenkins stumbling about, the black liquid covering his eyes. He was attempting to wipe it away, but his attempts did not seem to be working. The professor noticed this as well, and darted to him before he could hurt himself.

“Stay right here,” the professor said sternly. “We just need to wait until the thing stops spraying liquid before we can check out your eyes.”

“O-okay,” Jenkins sobbed, huddling in the corner nearest me in the fetal position. His body was shaking from fear despite his attempts to calm down. I could hear him whispering something like “it's just like being in a dark room. Don't be afraid,” to himself.

After a half minute of spraying, the tube finally ran out of liquid. The professor took Jenkins aside and examined his eyes, attempting to determine what the liquid was. After a few moments of scrutiny, Professor Periwinkle led Jenkins to the sink and began rubbing the liquid out with water. After a minute or two of doing so, the liquid finally rubbed away.

“Just as I thought,” Professor Periwinkle said. “Ink.”

I was surprised by this revelation. I looked more closely at some of the liquid and realized that he was right. It was ink.

“I think that's enough dissection for today,” the professor said. “I don't want to cut into that other gland and find out the hard way that it contains acid or something in it.”

The students all groaned, exhilarated by the recent event. Well, all except Jenkins. He was still hunched over, an immense amount of fear showing on his face. He looked like he had seen a ghost.

“Since we're done with the lab today, I think I'm just going to dismiss you. This will take longer to clean than we have time left in class anyway,” the professor said. “You may all go.”

The class, now realizing that they could go home early, was no longer disappointed that they couldn't dissect the creature any further. The room emptied out quickly, leaving only the professor and the mysterious creature alone.

So that's why I ended up walking home. I had no way to contact anyone at my house, so they had no idea that I was let out early. I guess I could have just waited in the lab, helping Professor Periwinkle clean up, but the prospect of walking home in the first snow was too enticing to pass up.

If only I would have known what was to happen. Then, the prospect of walking in the first snow would not have been so enticing.

I had been walking along a fairly busy street. It was rush hour, so cars were crowding the streets and pedestrians were bunched up like bowling pins on the sidewalks. I was feeling a little claustrophobic, so I slipped into the first ally that I saw.

Away from the insanity that was the main street, I resumed my thinking. What was that thing? I asked myself. I think the professor is hiding something from us. He seemed to know more about it than he let on.

These thoughts haunted me as I ventured further and further down the alley. However, after a few minutes of walking, I heard a frightened cry followed by some voices. I ducked behind a dumpster and peeked out as a group of people chasing some strange creatures appeared. The animals appeared to be frightened of these people and frantically ran down the alley away from them. It looked like they were going to get away until one of the people chasing it tore a strange sphere from their belt and threw it over the creatures. The ball landed on the ground ahead of the creatures and, in a burst of light, a large, black dog appeared.

The dog had what appeared to be bones plating its hide, most likely for protection purposes. Other than that, there was nothing really special about it. It was simply a dog. Or so I thought.

The creatures halted in front of the dog, paralyzed in fear. The people finally caught up and halted as well.

“Well, well. It appears that Houndour got those Eevee to stop,” one of them said. “Quickly, start capturing them.” Each of the people produced a sphere identical to the one that produced the “Houndour” from their jackets and threw them at the creatures. All but one were absorbed into the spheres with a beam of red light, and the one that remained attempted to jump around the “Houndour.” However, the person who had summoned the dog noticed what had happened.

“Houndour, use your fire on it!” the man yelled. The black dog opened its mouth to release a steady jet of fire at the “Eevee”, which made direct contact. The Eevee fell down, knocked unconscious by the amount of pain the fire inflicted upon it. A sphere was thrown at this Eevee as well, and this time the Eevee succumbed. The woman who had thrown the sphere walked over and picked it up, analyzing it.

“This one is no good,” she said. “The vitals are too low to do much with it. We may as well just throw it away.”

“Fine,” the man sighed. “All that trouble for nothing. At least we have, what, four other Eevee to experiment on?” He counted the spheres that contained an Eevee lying on the ground. “Five. Well, that's all we really need. Just toss it into the dumpster and we'll head back to headquarters.”

The woman walked towards the dumpster slowly, almost as if she didn't want to part with the sphere. I hugged the ground, trying my best to not be seen. She didn't seem to be looking at the dumpster, though, and tossed the sphere away. She quickly turned around and joined her associates, who were already leaving the alley. After they had disappeared, I stood up from my cramped position and looked in the dumpster. The sphere lay right on the top of the heap, as if waiting for me to pick it up.

I examined it closely before reaching in, making sure that it wasn't some kind of trick. The sphere was red on the top half and white on the bottom, the halves separated by a crevice that must have been where it opened. There was a button on what I assumed to be the front that I determined was an opening mechanism. A digital screen on the top of the sphere displayed information regarding the sphere's inhabitant.

I slowly reached into the dumpster and retrieved the ball, unable to believe that this was happening. I pressed the circular button and, in a flash of red light, the Eevee appeared.

Most of its body was burned from the Houndour's fire. It was very audible in its whimpering. Tears trickled from its closed eyes, falling on the ground and landing in tiny, inaudible splashes. I was stunned and couldn't decide what to do. I sat there for several seconds before I realized what needed to be done. I pressed the button again and the Eevee was pulled in by a beam of red light. I stood up and started running down the alley towards the university, one thought repeating in my mind. I need to get to Professor Periwinkle.
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