2nd December 2013, 02:20 PM
The Science of Battle: Kanto 
The wind stirred the long grass as I trudged along the dirt path. The bite of the breeze spoke of an early winter, and I drew my arms in tight. There was more to the gesture than trying to hold on to the warmth of the station -- a transitory warm spot in my trek, now some miles back. Perhaps it was the odd shadows of dusk, or the exposed nature of the hill-top, but I felt as though I was being watched. Given some of the stories that had drawn me here, that was entirely possible.
My destination was in sight, now. By no means palatial, the old farmhouse building, but the light seeping through the windows looked warm, and that was enough encouragement for me. I picked up my pace. A certain thrill was running through me at the thought of what might await me, but I was used to dealing with those jitters.
As I neared the gate, I was startled by a haunting cry. It was gentle-sounding, but it was also unexpectedly close. A warning call from some midnight guardian? I glanced around, but couldn't identify the source. Perhaps a minute passed with me frozen like this, looking around cautiously mere paces from the farmhouse gate. In retrospect, that was a fairly suspicious-looking reaction for any observer.
What prompted me to move was the realisation -- or imagination -- that the rustling in the grass was not entirely the result of the chill wind. It is an odd instinct that makes men think of houses as being always safer than fields.
A short dash up the garden path later, I was smoothing my coat with one hand while the other rapped gently on the solid-looking oak door. From inside the house there came a squawk, a much brasher sound than the gentle hoot that had unnerved me by the gate, but nonetheless carrying a certain ominous weight. I glanced back down the garden path and wondered how many of the shadows I saw moving were caused by the oak tree moving in the wind.
The door opened, and some of my tension faded. A grey-bearded man with an unreadable expression on his face stood in the doorway, dressed in an untucked shirt and loose denim trousers.
"Can I help you?" he asked, as my brain stumbled over various half-formed introductions.
"I'm here to write the book." I replied.
Not my smoothest sales pitch.
Thankfully, it seemed he appreciated the straight sell. That line, followed by a bit of babbling, got me an amused raised eyebrow and an invitation in out of the cold. Coatlessly seated on a comfy seat, I rubbed my hands and adjusted to the heat, making somewhat starstruck smalltalk with my hostess while my host made me a drink.
In my days as a journalist, I had spent quite a lot of time on the Pocket Monster desk, doing my dues on local interest while I looked for a shot at the big political scene. In Petalburg, this meant co-ordinating with the local Gym over promotion of training events, and interviewing the nutters -- the enthusiasts who filled their houses with official League memorabilia and dressed up their pets.
I had once thought that the professional trainers' houses -- if any of that particularly nomadic profession had such a thing as a permanent home -- would be something like those gaudy shrines to commercialised sport, just with more dumbbells and water bowls. I was corrected in that belief when I ran a human interest story on Norman, the head of the local Gym. His home's only concession to the League he worked with was a cabinet full of trophies which he almost seemed to avoid, and the occasional bit of paperwork lying around with the Petalburg Gym insignia on it.
This house was if anything more reserved than that. The furnishings were obviously selected with deference to comfort and durability: hardwood bookshelves, wool blankets. My trim synthetic fabric coat was sharing a rack with a weathered-looking pair of leather jackets, and there were dirty gloves on the rack by the door. The only clue I had that there were creatures living in his house other than the old couple I was here to meet was the smell -- a musky overlay of scents, some tantalisingly familiar, some entirely foreign.
My warm drink arrived, and I accepted it gratefully.
"So," he began, sitting down next to her. "A book?"
Stumbling over myself a little, I started to explain how the timing was right in the market, that any figures likely to be implicated were either retired or dead. I was midway through reaching for a copy of my last publication when she stopped me with a raised hand.
"But why?" she asked. "The parts that would matter to the public were in the news. The majority of the rest is in the papers -- the Oak Heritage people have them if you need copies. What more is there?"
"I've read the papers." I responded, acutely aware of how important my reply would be to the project. "What's missing from them isn't so much events or analysis. What I need from you are the details, the pieces which make it all part of a narrative."
"I'm not sure there is a narrative," he said. "What we set out to do, and what we ended up doing -- they're not even linked. I don't know what end-point you'd want to put on your narrative, but you could be talking about years of our lives. How do you filter that into chapters?"
The answer to that question was a long time coming.
Last edited by Ghurlag; 20th December 2013 at 09:42 PM.
20th December 2013, 09:24 PM
Re: The Science of Battle: Kanto
1: The Pokedex Projections
3065 (Samuel Oak) [Project Meeting Moved]
3066 r (Samuel Oak) [RE: Indexer Summary Lengths]
3067 N (Pallet Lab) [Reminder about the Indigo League Open Day]
A touch on the shoulder raised Beta's attention from his inbox.
"Could you take Titus his food?" Reve asked. She held a hamper of washing in her other hand.
"Sure," he responded, a flurry of keystrokes killing the mail client. Scratching the bristles on his chin, he strolled barefoot through the apartment to the kitchen, where Reve was already bundling clothes into the machine, taking the tray of chopped vegetables from the fridge.
A flick of flame near his face alerted Beta to the fact that he was being monitored.
"You wouldn't like it," he informed the Charmander peering at the tray from its perch on the kitchen surface. In lieu of a response it stood up on all fours, raising its fire-tipped tail as it stretched, before finally standing on its back legs and reaching towards Beta.
"Oh, you want to come outside?" he asked. He turned and leaned close, letting the heavy lizard climb onto his shoulders. Reve smiled up at them as Beta staggered out of the room, Charmander's claws tightening as he tried to maintain his purchase.
"We left the back door unlocked," Beta called as he opened it, stepping out onto the chilly stone path. Reve's reply was lost to a blare of traffic from the road. He quick-stepped up the path, avoiding the patches where the grass was growing back through the cracks.
Charmander shifted his weight, and Beta felt his companion's leathery front paw on his head as it turned to poke its head over his shoulder. He could just about see the creature's reptilian face in the corner of his vision as he bent down in front of Titus's hut, shaking the tray.
The spring morning was a little brisk, so it was no surprise that the Squirtle was slow to respond. The wrinkled face was the first thing to emerge from its shell, followed by forelegs that slowly cleared the straw from around it. Eventually, Titus rose onto four legs and trotted out of the hut. As the Squirtle reached his tray and started sniffing the chilled vegetables, Charmander chirped and sprung onto the low wooden roof, distracting Reve's pet from his inspection. Beta stood up, rubbing his shoulder where Charmander's claws had been digging in.
"You let him eat," he warned Charmander as he watched Titus start chowing down cautiously on a slice of carrot, "and keep your tail out of the straw."
Charmander chirped at Beta, then craned its neck to look past him. He turned around to see Reve standing at the doorway.
"Bacon?" she asked as he walked back towards her.
"Yeah?" Beta responded, shrugging. As he reached the doorway, she reached out and put a hand on his shoulder, pulling him to face her.
"Your top's got a hole in it," she admonished. "That's what happens when you play climbing-post."
Beta leant forward and kissed her in response.
"What did I get a kiss for?" she asked, moving her hands to the back of his neck.
"Bacon." Beta responded, skipping inside.
The lab was unusually busy today, as various officious-looking people from the Indigo League ran around setting up displays and tidying up workstations in preparation for the open day tomorrow. Reve was finding it hard to concentrate on the Snorlax migration plots she was supposed to be translating into the format used by the indexer's location advisory service. People kept appearing and asking for office supplies, or wandering around the room talking about placing such-and-such display in this or that location.
She sighed, and leant back in her chair. An email from Beta heavily hinted that the conditions were also less than adequate down in his office -- it seemed that any productive work would be stymied until after the event tomorrow.
A flash of grey hair in the doorway alerted Reve to Sam's arrival. He was looking around the room distractedly, and she waited a moment in case he was going to duck straight out again.
"Hey," she greeted the absent-minded professor.
"Ah, Reve," he responded with a businesslike smile. "A bit hectic today, isn't it?"
"Mmm," she commented, nodding agreement. Sam always seemed to want to open with smalltalk, and it was best not to give him much to get distracted by.
"Still," he said, finally moving fully into the room, "these things have to be done if the indexer is going to get the promotion it needs. The League are really pushing for junior trainers nowadays, and really for their purposes all we offer is a way to shorten the learning curve from amateur to competitive trainer, so they really want to milk us for these open days."
Reve nodded. None of this was news, particularly not that the almost crassly commercial Indigo League wasn't involved in an encyclopaedic effort for altruistic motives.
"They're even talking about new features linked to the League," Sam said, glancing absently at a cardboard display standing half-deployed by the window.
"Oh?" This was new.
"Mmm," Sam confirmed with a bob of his head. "I had Mary -- did you meet her when she was here? -- I had her pushing this idea of having the indexer carry a record of the gym graduations a trainer's received, as a sort of permanent record."
"Don't they already have that?" Reve asked. "I mean, they get given badges when they graduate, don't they?"
"Yes, but the League people -- and I'm not entirely convinced, but this is what they say -- say that having an electronic record would help them prevent theft and forgery cases, and speed up the lines at registration for League events."
"I guess," Reve conceded reluctantly. "But it seems..." she trailed off, searching for the right words.
"Well, my main concern," Sam picked up, "is that this is really quite a big shift of purpose if you think about it. Rather than providing a resource for trainers to draw on, we'd be developing a device to store information about the trainer for the League. They want the indexer to be a sort of personal appliance-cum-identification device with all sorts of trainer features, not just the encyclopaedia."
"Yeah," Reve agreed. "Yeah, and that's not really our job. I see what you mean."
"Well, that's what I've got to debate with them." Sam replied. "None of this will be going in the next release, at any rate. I still have to talk to the technical guys to see if we even could do it, hah."
Reve shrugged, nodding 'of course' and making a mental note to ask Beta about it.
"Oh, before I forget," the professor said, seeming to re-gather his purpose. "I seem to recall you have a pet, don't you?"
"Yes," she confirmed, "Well, we've got two, actually, a Charmander and a Squirtle."
"A Squirtle?!" Sam exclaimed, an odd look of surprise on his face. "What a coincidence -- I've actually got a Squirtle in my office at the moment."
"Oh?" she queried.
"Yes, how remarkable" Sam replied, leaning forward conspiratorially. "It's actually a present for my grandson. He'll be part of the tour tomorrow -- I'm somewhat edging him to take up training. His parents aren't the keenest, but I did a fair bit myself when I was younger, and I want him to give it a try while he's still eager."
Reve nodded, part of her well aware Sam was about to stray from his topic again.
"So, when did you get your Squirtle?" he asked, shifting his trousers as he perched on the side of a vacant desk.
"Well, he was actually my parents'," she said, giving the short version of Titus' story. "They've had him since before I was born. I think he was imported."
"Yes, probably," Sam replied, switching into encyclopaedic mode. "You don't tend to see Squirtle on the mainland much, they're more common down towards the Orange Islands, perhaps in the Sevii chain as well. The one in my office is from an old friend of mine who specifically breeds that line."
"That must be interesting," Reve commented politely.
"Oh yes, there's a lot of work that goes into that, yes..." Sam nodded. There was a brief lull in the conversation.
"So," she picked up the topic the professor had dropped. "You asked about pets?"
"Sorry? Oh, yes. Are they both okay with children? We want to have some creatures on-hand for the younger children to pet, to show them they're not all that scary."
"I think so," Reve replied. "They don't see a lot of children, but we've never really had any trouble with them, and both of them have lived in a house with children before."
"That's great," Sam said, standing up. "If you could have them to hand tomorrow -- probably bring them in in their balls, just to be safe -- that'd really be helpful."
"Sure," Reve responded.
"Right," the professor concluded, returning to the doorway. "You got the timetable I sent around for tomorrow, yes? Right, I'm sure people are looking for me. See you tomorrow."
With that, he was gone. Reve sighed, and turned to stare blankly at her monitor for a minute. A second sigh broke free as a vacuuming sound started to reverberate through the ceiling. Giving up the attempt, she left the office for the kitchen, where coffee might be found, if not peace or productivity.
"That sounds like hell." Beta responded briefly after Nicola outlined the League's gym record intentions to him that evening. They were sat at the small table they used for meals, making their way through a simple pasta dish.
"Sam doesn't seem too happy about it," she commented, passing on the professor's objections. Beta nodded along as he wolfed down his food.
"Sure, I agree with him," he responded between bites. "But even disregarding that, there's a whole infrastructure you'd have to build for this. You'd either have to make the gyms all use some form of microchipped version of their badges -- which I can't see them liking, as so many gyms have traditional local craftsmen make their badges -- or you install some sort of device in their gyms to distribute virtual badges to the indexers of winning challengers."
"Mmm," Reve agreed. "I'm not even sure it would help with the forgery they want to stop, though."
"No, you're right." Beta chipped in, nodding. "If the record is going to actually be stored _on_ the indexer, then we'd have to put a lot of work into a security system we've not been designing for so far, or else basically anyone could edit themselves into League entry requirements. We'd essentially be bolting on a security system after the fact, too, which is never a good idea."
"Where else would it be stored?" Reve asked.
"Online," Beta said, taking a moment to gesture vaguely as he considered the hypothetical. "You could have the indexer just provide an identifier and have the gym databases keep track of which identifiers have graduated through them. I've no idea how that would affect prior graduates, of course, and there's a whole other set of problems there, but really the biggest issue is that there's no need to bring the indexer into it if all it's going to be carrying is an identification number."
"I hadn't even thought about the prior graduates," Reve commented. "But you're right, what are they going to do? Say someone turns up to enter the League championships, year one of the new system. Most trainers that battle professionally probably got their badges a while ago. What do the people at the desks do when someone doesn't have an indexer, only the badges? Do they turn them away, even if they're usually top competitors?"
"Mmm," Beta said, agreeing with her rhetorical conclusion. "But even worse than that. Say they tell these people they have to go back to the gyms to get some kind of electronic record. That wouldn't go down well, but say they do. Then you get the gyms being flooded with trainers turning up with badges, demanding their indexers get the electronic version. If the point is to stop forgeries and thefts, what's to stop someone turning up with fake or stolen badges and getting authorised just like anyone else? I can't imagine the gym leaders remember every graduate, or that they have very good records."
Reve smiled, nodding.
"It's not going to work, is it?" she said. "It's too much to try and handle when you've got to do this with every gym across the country, especially given that some of them barely even have electricity."
"Like I said, it'd be hell," Beta agreed, "and like Sam was saying, it shouldn't be something an encyclopaedia is doing."
The discussion had awoken Charmander from where he slept on the treated flagstone he used as a bed. Chirping mildly, he strolled over to Beta and rested his head against his owner's leg affectionately. Beta reached down absently to pet him. Reve smiled at the creature, and he blinked cheerily at her in response. She'd only known Charmander for a couple of years, which wasn't very long compared with the ever-present Titus or even her parents' Eevee, Champ, but she was already quite familiar with its moods and rhythms. The unnamed Charmander was about to signal that it wanted to go outside and see Titus.
As she stood up to open the back door, Sam's other topic came to mind.
"Oh," she said. "We have to find Charmander's Pokeball."
24th December 2013, 01:44 AM
24th December 2013, 11:39 AM
Re: The Science of Battle: Kanto 
Thanks for the comments, Legacy, and thanks for reading. I'm aware that the setup I'm investing in in these initial chapters makes the pace a little ponderous, but hopefully I'll be able to keep your interest.
29th December 2013, 06:39 PM
I'll be your shadow
Re: The Science of Battle: Kanto 
Well, I for one think it's an interesting concept, though I haven't quite figured out what the story will be about quite yet, though it's only the first chapter so that's not really a problem in and on itself. I myself think that you could use a bit more description on the appearance side of things. I actually think that you could've used a lot more description when it comes to surroundings or what characters look like, I mean we don't know what Beta and Reve look like.
One thing that irked me is the fact that you used their names before they were properly introduce. Now this is something that differs from writer to writer but I think it makes things move along better if you don't call the characters by name until they are properly introduced into the story, otherwise it could cause confusion.
Aside from that I felt like there was a lot of exposition in the first chapter, this isn't bad, I mean dialogue is a good thing, but maybe delve a bit more into the character's feelings and thoughts and mix it in with the dialogue more.
Regardless of that I think you're off to a good start, and I'll definetily keep checking this story so if you want me to review just mention me when you post your new chapter.