Crucible [WaR]

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    Default Crucible [WaR]

    Write-a-Roll Requirements

    Genre: Other
    Time Period/Setting: Crossover
    Characters: Pokémon and Humans - Together but Separate

    [A/N: To fulfill these requirements, I formatted the story as journal entries or field notes (which would fall under the "Other" genre, I hope xD ) based on the crossover that I used. This crossover was Pokémon and The Left Hand of Darkness, an excellent book by Ursula K. Le Guin that, unfortunately, falls very squarely into the "Sci-Fi" genre. Hopefully, the genre that I used to write the story overcomes the innate genre of the world that I used. In terms of the third requirement...well, I'll let you read the story and find out for yourself. ;) Also, if you've never read The Left Hand of Darkness, don't worry - I covered all of the basic things you need to know about the universe in the story itself. The only thing you might be missing is the Gethenian Calendar, and I couldn't find a good source for it online. Basically, all you need to know is that each entry starts with the date and then the month being listed, and Getheny is the first day of any given month. You should be able to figure it out from there, blah blah blah, long Author's Note is long. LET'S MOVE ON!]

    Pokémon: Aggron (Demanding)
    Characters: 88,209
    Caution: Here, there be Eskimos mature sexual themes concerning human-like extraterrestrials and a few instances of language. I wish I was making that up. xD READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!

    ---

    Crucible

    A Bulbagarden Forums URPG Story for the Write-a-Roll Competition, by Neighborhood-Guest

    ---


    ANSIBLE QUANTUM COMMUNICATION KEYBOARDS, INT-SOL-CO.
    FUNCTION: MESSAGE PLAYBACK
    TITLE: “Field Notes on the Biology of Drumner and Dremegole over a Three-Month Study”
    TYPIST: “Bjorn Tseveidehaan, Envoy”
    LOCATION: STAR 69UKLG, ORBITAL 4; “Gethen, coll. Winter”
    PURPOSE: “Report of discovery of species elsewhere present in the Ekumen Galactic System on Gethen; Study of habitat, growth, and processes for comparison to other organisms in the System”

    >> BEGIN PLAYBACK

    ---

    Getheny Tuwa.

    On Winter, cold is a constant. When I first arrived on this planet with the other Envoys, I supposed that statement went without saying, but only through direct involvement in the lives of the people here have I learned how true it is.

    The Gethenians have dealt with the cold forever, and their activities, their movements…everything that they do, that they are, is suppressed (or perhaps embraced?) by the cold. It halts their sense of curiosity and exploration, their knack for invention, and perhaps most importantly, their scientific progress, which has been the uniting factor for all of the planetary nations of the Ekumen Galactic System since we began discovering other inhabited worlds. We came to this planet hoping to extend the hand of interstellar communication to them, and yet, they have only just begun to very anxiously return the hand. They have spent thousands of years of inhabitance creating myths and fiefdoms and blindly following them without question, or producing laws of commerce and economy and lining their pockets with the pillars of materialism, rather than attempting to understand the world around them.

    Back on Terra, in the northern latitudes where I was born, the cold was also a constant; however, we were quick to ask why it was, and we learned the reason through scientific explanations. The Gethenians do not ask why, and they suffer for it.

    But I suppose I speak bitterly of them, and I don’t mean to; before the curiosity of the Ekumen led us to seek each other out throughout our galaxy, we were as traditional as the Gethenians. And besides, we have planted the seed of our Renaissance at their feet now, and they are learning to cultivate it alongside us. The original Envoy, Genly Ai, said that they were quick to learn, and he was not wrong.

    In the five years that we have been on this planet, we have established a settlement in the northern regions, close to the Gobrin Icecaps, where work is dedicated to the study of the topography, geography, and biology of Winter. Of course, that is but one of many victories, but I am a biologist by trade, so the social sciences and the Yomesh religious system that we have studied in the southern regions of Karhide and Orgoreyn, while important, are none of my concern. I leave that to the expert Envoys that practice in those cultural centers, and continue with my own work here.

    I have seen a glimmer of the possibility of the Gethenian work ethic first-hand here at the Gobrin base, with the volunteers that have come to the base from both of the southern regions to aid us in our work. From what I’m told by Lang Heo Hew, the Envoy psychologist assigned to us, this is a rare occurrence, as the two nations have never gotten along due to cultural boundaries and disputes, but their differences don’t seem to show in the face of the scientific common ground. In any case, without their expertise, we would never have been able to prepare for the excursion that we are setting out on later today.

    You see, we have spread out across the northern regions in an attempt to find evidence of life that is similar to life in other parts of the Ekumen since the base was established nearly three years ago. We have found very little thus far in terms of similarity; most of the animals that we have found are completely indigenous to Winter, and while that is a discovery worthy of notation, there are so few evolutionary branches due to the encroaching conditions of the planet that there is very little variation among the species that we have found. Thus far, only ten distinct species have been noted and studied in rather exhaustive detail, and we have little confidence in finding much else.

    Our progress has been constantly halted by the sheer extent to which the Gobrin overtakes the landscape of this region of Winter. As our topographer Tulier has noted to us from the pictures he has taken from our craft in orbit, there isn’t a particular line of latitude or longitude upon which the Ice stops unless one ventures a couple hundred miles south of our base. However, in what little we have chipped away from it, we have found preserved samples of carbon-based life from an age long ago, possibly before the beginning of the Ice Age that this planet is currently gripped by. When compared with samples from Terra and several other planets of the Ekumen, we have found exact DNA matches in nearly every experiment. Such an exact level of similarity cannot be a coincidence.

    The Gethenians that I have worked with have come up with a couple of theories as to why these species (now extinct on this planet) have so magically appeared for us inside the icecaps. For one, it could be that these are the remnants of the planet from before the Ice Age, as I’ve said. But we have also found samples of species that are particularly resistant or comfortable in even the coldest of conditions. These samples were taken from close to the surface of the Gobrin, suggesting the possibility that the species may not actually be extinct, or only recently so. Could there be small groups of these Pokémon still living in habitable pockets of the icecaps? We found only one way to test this theory: to go up there ourselves and find out.

    Now, Genly Ai ventured across the Gobrin with one of the Gethenians at one point in his seven-year test cycle before we were called to the planet, though it wasn’t by choice. From what we understand, he was detained at a concentration camp by the upper-level bureaucrats of Orgoreyn during his time with them. The plotting bastards are all but gone now in that region, driven out by the bourgeois workers that they tried so hard to anaesthetize, but it doesn’t change the fact that Genly had to escape across the Ice with his Gethenian friend to find safety in Karhide. They traveled six hundred miles together, on foot, across the Ice, to avoid the patrols that Orgoreyn had sniffing up and down the roads looking for them and other escaped prisoners. After all, these camps were not known to the public, and they didn’t want anyone ruining their standing with the people by calling them out for using them. He managed to make it back to Karhide in the end, though the Gethenian sacrificed himself in the last throes of their journey to ensure his safety.

    Despite the tragedy of Genly’s situation, we can learn two important things from his exploits. For one, we now know a likely location for living groups of these uncovered species: the Drumner and Dremegole volcanoes. While they are dormant and capped off by solid sheets of ice and snow, it is likely that there is still activity within the deepest reaches of the mountain, if they share any similarity to volcanoes on Terra. This means that, at some point under the surface, the ice melts into water and is distributed among the rocks inside the basin, which are rich in minerals needed to form the complex carbon chains of multicellular life. For another, we now know that travel onto and across the Gobrin by foot would be impossible, given that the trip has only a slim chance for success when one is carrying the bare minimum needed to sustain him or herself, as Genly did. Add to it the equipment that we would need to haul onto the Ice to perform experiments on any evidence of life we find at Drumner and Dremegole, and we could never hope to overcome the ratio of people we would need to take with us and the rations to keep them alive. We would likely die out there on the Ice, as Genly almost did, or be forced to turn back after an insufficient amount of time studying the landscape.

    So we knew the destination of our study almost immediately, but the second question still remained: how would we get there? The traditional method of travel along the roads south of us was via the Gethenian plow; it is a powerful machine quite similar to a bulldozer back on Terra. It is slow-moving, topping out at only about twenty-five miles per hour in the best of conditions, but its treads ensure that the machine stays upright and stable throughout its trip, even on the instability of the Gobrin’s lower-altitude ice sheets. Even this machine, though, is limited in its mobility in the coldest regions of Winter. It is steam-powered, and liquid water is scarce here; additionally, due to the very nature of the Ice and its lack of uniform spreading, straight and even pathways are difficult to find, meaning that our maneuverability will be hindered throughout the journey.

    As I have said before, though, the Gethenians have a knack for invention. The Ice could be melted and used as a constant fuel source if we had a means of breaking it down quickly and collecting it. In doing so, we could also bore through large sections of the Ice that would otherwise be inaccessible to us, or would take a long time to travel around, to refuel and establish a travel route. It was thus that they set out to integrate their superior heating technology (also steam-powered) into the plow-heads that were fitted onto the front of the machines that we had on the base. After much work, they succeeded in their efforts; we tested the machines directly on the might of the Ice just to the north of our base and plowed a slope clear from the plateau to allow us to get up on the surface without traveling many unnecessary miles to the lowest borders of the region and slowly climbing up. These heater-plows (as they’ve dubbed them) would smash into the ice wall and flash-melt them on the spot, sucking up the water left behind directly into the steam engines and replenishing themselves. It is a brilliant invention, and I think that it will become quite important for the advancement of both science and technology as the Gethenians become more accustomed to them.

    Now, the only concerns for our journey are collapses from the ice-walls and the deep trenches that dot the landscape of the Gobrin. The Gethenians on the base are incredibly capable behind the wheel of a plow, so a collapse is not likely so long as we are all of sound judgment, and we have Tulier’s maps available to us to accurately map out the locations of the trenches along the way. We have plotted a route over the past few days, and, if all goes according to plan, we should reach Drumner and Dremegole in three weeks’ time. We have enough supplies for Lang, myself, and four of the Gethenians working here on the base to be sustained for five months, and we shall travel on three heater-plows in single-file from here all the way to the base of the mountains before setting up camp. Lang and I will travel in separate heater-plows in the copilot seats, with Gethero and Maxa, two of the three volunteers from Orgoreyn that we’re taking along, doing the driving. The third heater-plow will have Ensus, our third volunteer from Orgoreyn, riding with Nirm, one of the few Karhide volunteers on the base.

    We begin our journey in a few hours, in the hopes that travel will be easier in the spring and summer seasons thanks to slightly warmer temperatures. I am feeling optimistic about our chances, but also retaining skepticism of the possibility of full-fledged groups of Pokémon living out in the middle of the worst conditions this planet has to offer. I shall type again once we have reached our destination.

    ---

    Streth Osme.

    We have arrived. Drumner stands, imposing to the point of intimidation, about three miles northeast of our camp. The journey took us one month and five days, as we were forced to travel for shorter distances at the end of Tuwa due to the lunar cycle adversely affecting the weather.

    We have set up our tents in such a way that our heater-plows block most of the chilling winds that sweep across the Ice and up the mountainside. The tents that the Gethenians have brought with them are incredibly durable and resistant to the elements, but our bodies, even in all of this thermal clothing, are not, so we need to keep ourselves protected from frostbite when we aren’t sheltered inside. We have a large, collective tent set up closest to the mountains, and all of our equipment is unpacked and ready for us inside. It is from this tent that we will conduct the vast majority of our experiments on the samples that we collect, with any others occurring while we’re out doing fieldwork on the slopes and possibly in the caverns of the volcanoes. Three smaller tents are set up closest to the heater-plows, each housing two of the six individuals in our group. The four Gethenians have two tents to themselves, and Lang and I will sleep in the third.

    Now that we have everything set up, it’s only a matter of setting out for the mountains and seeing what we can find. Tulier sent us several photographs just before we left the Gobrin base that show the zoomed-in details of the mountainsides, and possible locations of openings in the cliffs for us to look around in. We will begin exploring our immediate area tomorrow before moving towards these locations in the coming days.

    ---

    Harhahad Osme.

    Three days since my last typing. We found virtually no evidence of any life or activity in the immediate area of our camp, so we moved to the base of Drumner and have been looking around there for the past couple of days. It is a rather strange feeling, being on those slopes; after so many days of seeing nothing but endless ice and snow, it is nice to sink my feet into solid ground again. The pebbles and mud offer much better traction; we can take our snowshoes off for the first time since we set out. As dull and brown as the landscape is, I’m inclined to believe that it boosts the group’s morale.

    We were thinking that we would need to pack our climbing equipment for the trip tomorrow, since we didn’t find any signs of activity for most of the past two days. However, just before we were ready to head back to base camp today, Nirm spotted small indents in the clay just below the cliff face. Thinking them to be tracks, we followed them across the slopes and found a small alcove about a quarter mile from where we started. Inside was an opening into the mountains, about six feet tall and four feet across. We would easily be able to fit into this opening, but we were ill-equipped in terms of lighting. We got only a few steps into the cave before the darkness and the sounds of the mountain moving beneath us forced us to turn back. We marked our return route and the location of the tracks on our maps once we returned to base camp.

    These are good signs; not only have we found a decently-sized opening to explore, we have also confirmed, due to the mountain’s movement within the cave, that there is still some amount of volcanic activity below the surface. I am hopeful that our fortune will continue to improve, because if it does, we will be sure to make a remarkable discovery soon enough.

    ---

    Tormenbod Osme.

    A vicious blizzard left us snowed in and unable to return to the cave opening for three days. It is odd to think of the season as being summer up here on the Ice, considering the weather; however, I suppose the conditions in the extreme northern regions of Terra are similar, if a little warmer and less windy.

    We returned to the alcove today to further explore the inner workings of Drumner. As we moved about the tunnel, we found very few branching paths, all dead-ends that extended only a short distance off the main thoroughfare. We didn’t want to begin digging unless we absolutely had to, and the main portion of the cave wasn’t fully explored yet. We also had to be careful of time; if we got off on a tangential project trying to uncover the cave system for too long, we would be hiking back in the darkness, complete with howling winds and temperatures lower than anything observed on Terra. We could try opening up one of these passages another day if we had time.

    Unfortunately, after only a couple more hours of following the main path and collecting small samples along the way, we found ourselves at something of a dead end. The cave ahead of us had collapsed; a solid wall of assorted rocks and clay impeded us from going any further. We searched the area for any sign of an opening, and found one: it was barely a foot in diameter, but far more uniform than any of the paths we had seen today. I could only partially shine my flashlight through the hole as I peered inside, observing the walls. A thin veil of dust coated the floor, and I noticed that the rocks lining the passage, whether they were large or small, were all cut away in chunks, as if something had taken a bite out of them. The passage continued for probably ten more feet before opening into what I figured would be the rest of the cave system, but instead, my light met with a dull silver material at the end of the passage. I could have mistaken it for clay, but it was different; it had a sort of sheen in the presence of light, which made me think it was more like iron. I was about to call this cave a bust when the iron shifted and moved. It changed from the dull silver color to a metallic black right before my eyes until finally, without warning, a pair of piercing sky-blue objects, glowing warmly with my light source, stared back at me.

    I jumped and backpedaled with my hands at the sight of them, alerting my fellow explorers; however, when Ensus looked into the passage with his own light source just after, he saw nothing, not even the dull silver glow. We returned to base camp, disappointed that the alcove couldn’t be explored further without digging into the walls, and packed our climbing gear for tomorrow’s outing.

    The Gethenians are calling it an illusion, a hallucination set on by cabin fever from the three days spent huddling together inside our tents. But I know what I saw. Those were eyes. Something was staring back at me from behind that cave-in.

    ---

    Odyrny Osme.

    Our return to base camp today after an eleven-day excursion up on the cliffs was both triumphant and disheartening: we had made it back alive despite being snowed inside of one of the three caves we explored up there for five straight days and having to dig our way through it to see the light of day again, but none of the three caves had any signs of activity in them. The only clue that we had was the sulfuric smell that we had caught wind of while spelunking deep in the second cave system. It is likely that this cave led very deep into the mountain, into the volcanic basin where the dormant magma lay. However, we couldn’t venture that far into the mountain if we wanted to because we were met with another cave-in a little further on after we first noticed the smell. The rock and clay samples we harvested would have to suffice for now.

    We climbed down the cliffs yesterday and set up a temporary camp early, at the base of the mountains. A heavy snow was rolling in again, and we didn’t want to risk losing our bearings out on the Ice, even for the three miles that we would have to walk. We woke this morning, dug our way out of our partially-buried tents, and were prepared to set off when Maxa called us over to a patch of snow just south of our camp. He pointed out small, fresh indents in the packed powder, identical to the ones we had found in the clay earlier in the month, and they were directed further south, in the direction of our base camp. We followed them there, both excited at the possibility of finding some other form of life out here on the Ice and anxious that it may have found our base camp and done something horribly primal to our equipment.

    Gethero has told me previously that he has excellent vision. It came as no surprise, then, that he was the first of the group to spot the creature as we approached base camp; it had its back to us, and was facing our heater-plows. The closer we got to it, the surer I became of what I was looking at. We could make out the unmarred, dusty plated iron armor on its back, its gray-black lower body, shimmering with melted snow, the perfectly circular pores that dotted its armor, and its stubby legs that barely poked up out of the packed powder beneath it. It must have heard us approaching, because it turned towards us just as we passed our largest tent. It had the same sky-blue eyes that I had seen inside the opening days ago, and stared at us inquisitively while back-stepping into a more defensive stance. It was as if it knew that we had caught it invading our territory, even though we staked no claim to this area aside from the necessities for scientific study.

    In spite of how absolutely certain I was that I wasn’t hallucinating, I scanned each of my team members’ faces as we stopped in front of the Iron Armor Pokémon. They were as awestruck as I was. It was an Aron. A real, live Aron, all the way up here on the Gobrin Icecaps!

    Our sense of awe changed to anger, though, when we turned our attention to the heater-plow behind it and realized just why it was here in the first place. It had chewed its way through several of the gears holding up the treads; they folded in on themselves as they no longer had the resistance needed to wrap tautly around the machine’s lower workings. Our eyes then turned back on the Aron sternly, and it stared back at us with guilt in its gaze.

    The Gethenians were understandably upset by this turn of events, but were unsure how to proceed. After all, this was their first encounter with this sort of creature, and it was taking place in one of the most unexpected places on their planet. They turned to Lang and I like lost children, hoping to find out how we could deal with this intruder. I sighed deeply; I didn’t want to hurt the creature, nor did any of us, and we didn’t really have the materials to do so anyway, so there was only one option I could see. We would have to appease it and hope that it would leave quietly.

    We all went inside of the large tent and procured some of the repair materials we brought with us, just in case we needed them for the heater-plows. Assorted gears and screws were all thrown hastily into a small bag. I made sure before showing these to the Aron that we had only given it a small portion of what we had, and that we had more than enough leftover items to repair the plow’s treads. It was a risk, but the plows ran so smoothly on our way up here that I doubted we would need to use any more of these materials. While Lang and the Gethenians pulled the bag out of the tent, I squared myself up between the Aron and the heater-plows and gave it a hard, firm look. I shook my head, hoping that it would understand that these machines were off-limits, and then pointed to the bag of gears. Interested, the Aron walked over to the bag to inspect it; as it did so, I followed behind, and stomped my foot in the snow next to it to get its attention. When it looked up to me, I pointed back at Drumner and motioned my head towards it. From what I could see in its eyes, it understood me, and it began ingesting the metal objects in the bag.

    Sure enough, by the time night rolled around and we were all settling into the warm comfort of our tents, the Aron had finished its meal, and walked out of the camp, heading back towards Drumner. It looked back at us as it got to the edge of the camp, and I met its eyes for a few seconds. Then it turned and continued on its journey back to its home.

    Lang told me afterwards that there was a certain level of respect in its eyes when it looked back at us. Though I’m not attuned to the emotions of Pokémon the same way that she is, I felt that she was right. But I’m still not sure what it means.

    ---

    Opposthe Osme.

    I am inclined to believe that even small victories have a lasting effect on the morale of my crew.

    Today, they were more joyous and excited to be up here on the Ice than when we first set out. I have several reasons to believe this. For one, we had collected an abundance of samples from the caves that we explored to sift through for at least the next week, which didn’t require good conditions outside to process. For another, we were blessed with the fortune to actually see one of the creatures that lives in this area, completely alive and functioning, with our own eyes. And while we didn’t collect any samples directly from the Aron, we learned exactly what type of DNA to look for in our samples, since we were all certain of that species living on Drumner now.

    Of course, these are the reasons a biologist would give for boosted morale, and as such, I admit to a certain level of egocentrism in listing them. If you were to ask one of the Gethenian members of my crew what was boosting their morale, they would place something else, something much more animalistic, at the top of the list.

    You see, during our eleven-day trip inside the caves at the top of the cliffs, we passed through Onnetherhad, the eighteenth day of the Gethenian month, and the typical starting point for the cycle of kemmer. Now, kemmer is an interesting facet of the Gethenian personality because it begets such a strong desire for sexual interaction that the whole of one’s being becomes engrossed in pursuing it. We saw no such outbursts from the Gethenians while we were up on the mountainside, probably because we were all closely huddled together in a single tent every single night, and the intimacy that is often required for them to establish their sex drives was completely alienated by the presence of non-Gethenian observers. I don’t know about you, but I would have to agree that I wouldn’t want a strange third party observing me when I’m making intense love to the partner of my choice.

    I use the word “intense” there, but I feel that it may be an understatement, given what the process of kemmer does to a Gethenian. To speak frankly, it changes them, utterly and completely, until the drives go away. The amazing thing about Winter’s inhabitants is that they are neither man nor woman when outside of kemmer; they are completely androgynous, all wearing the same chiseled, stone-like expressions on their thin bluish faces, and showing no signs of secondary sex characteristics on their lanky bodies. This androgyny is present for the first seventeen days of their month, before the pituitary glands begin to secrete sex hormones on Onnetherhad. The individual then enters secher, the first phase of kemmer, in which they very actively seek out partners but remain undifferentiated until they find one. If they don’t find consent for their impulses, they will not move into the later phases of the cycle, but if they do, they will enter the second phase, thoharmen. In this stage, the partners establish both intimacy and sexual tendencies; by perfectly calculated chance, one of the partners becomes biologically male (complete with enlargement of the testicular regions of the body and testosterone influx in the glands), and the other becomes biologically female (complete with engorgement of the breasts and spreading of the pelvic girdle). This process is rapid, usually occurring within one day of the phase beginning, and the individuals then enter the culminating phase of the cycle, thokemmer, where all of the sexual activity occurs, almost continuously.*

    Lang and I have found that all four of our Gethenian friends have initiated this process amongst one another tonight; surely they are trying to make up for lost time, as they only have tonight and tomorrow to finish the cycle. We both feel bad for them; the rapidness of their entrance into the cycle means that they likely suppressed their sexual urges while we were still up on the cliffs. This would explain why they ate so little on those days and spoke to no one, because they were exerting all of their energy just to keep themselves under control. The Gethenians call this mediation of mental and physical energies dothe, a condition similar to an adrenaline surge in humans, but lasting for much longer. The process must have been taxing for them, because they moved in and out of dothe for approximately a week, and when four Gethenians are trying to suppress those emotions while in very close proximity to one another, the feelings must be unbearable. I hope to apologize to all of them for failing to recognize how dire their situation would be in the late throes of the month.

    But now that we have returned to the safety, isolation, and relative privacy of our base camp, all bets are off; I doubt that we will see any sign of them for at least a day and a half, when we pass into a new month and their period of kemmer comes to a close. Once that happens, we will focus our efforts on repairing the broken heater-plow and unpacking all of the information stored in the molecules of the rocks and clay we collected in the caves.

    Lang is resting her head on my shoulder, snoring softly. She was watching me type this report while we huddled close together next to the space heater at the center of our tent. Outside, the wind is howling with the force of a gale; our tents are protected from the damage that it could do thanks to the heater-plows. Honestly, I’m glad the wind is so strong tonight, because it means that the Gethenians can get the privacy and intimacy that they so rightfully deserve.

    Even out in these terrible conditions, in the middle of half a planet full of glaciers, moments like this one make me glad we took this trip.

    *All information given on the subject of kemmer is directly from my memory of the field notes of Investigator Oppong, the precursor to the Envoys, when he conducted his studies of the indigenous populations here a few hundred years ago. For the full reference material, please see “Envoy Reference TLHD”, Chapter 7, starting on page 95.

    ---

    Eps Ockre.

    Four days since my last message. Tomorrow, we will be two crewmembers shorter, due to forces beyond our control.

    To be clear, I don’t claim clairvoyance on the matter; it is simply biology running its course. One thing that I forgot to mention about kemmer in my last writing is that, should conception occur, the female-oriented partner will remain potent for the entirety of both the conception and gestation period, in order to meet the needs of the fertilized zygote that will grow into a Gethenian child. The male-oriented partner returns to latency and androgyny, but is considered to have “sired” the child due to social norms. Therefore, depending on chance, a single Gethenian could be mother to several children and father to several more.

    In humans, this process of conceiving a child is very anonymous for the first few weeks; there are both symptoms and tests for pregnancy, but none of them are one-hundred percent accurate, at least to my knowledge. In the one-hundred thirty-two years I have been away from Terra, a new means of testing that guarantees an accurate result may have been created. Regardless, the inhabitants of Winter see nothing of this anonymity; if the process of kemmer has occurred and the individual slips even one day into the next month while still prominently displaying the secondary sex characteristics of a female, they have conceived, and should prepare as such. This was the case for Gethero, whom Lang has been monitoring for the past couple of days to keep stress levels at a minimum. After all, when carrying what will eventually grow into a child around inside of you, one does not necessarily want to find oneself in unfavorable conditions, such as the ones we find ourselves in now, on top of the Ice.

    Thankfully, we have repaired the heater-plow in our three days of downtime since we found out that Gethero had conceived. Maxa, Gethero’s kemmer partner for this cycle, has agreed to take both of them home to the Gobrin research base, where they can be transported back to Orgoreyn, a much more stable environment for their child’s birth and gestation. They will take the newly-repaired plow, their share of the rations and repair equipment, and the news of our recent success with them when they go tomorrow.

    That will leave myself, Lang, Ensus, and Nirm to sift through all of the information contained within the samples that we collected in the caves over the course of Osme. It will take a little while longer for us to get through all of it, surely, but it isn’t an issue. There are only a couple more possible locations for cave openings on the rocky portions of Drumner; others could be located in the icy upper levels of the mountainside, but those would require several days of climbing to get to, and that is time that we don’t have. They can be investigated by those who come after us, whether I do so during a follow-up visit or the Gethenians take the matters of science into their own hands in my absence.

    We have made plans to set off for these two openings in the morning, after seeing Gethero and Maxa off. I wish them the best of luck, and thank them for their service and cooperation with our efforts.

    ---

    Berny Ockre.

    Four days on Drumner, almost two of those days snowed inside our tents up on the cliffs. The cave openings turned out to be busts, as well – one of them was a very large sinkhole that was tightly sealed with what appeared to be years of snow accumulation, and the other was an outpost of sorts – a rock jutting awkwardly off of the cliff-face that acted as a roof for us when the blizzards rolled in at the end of the second day. We made it back here to base camp just a few hours ago, feeling like we had lost a lot of time and ground.

    I suppose it doesn’t matter too much. We have gathered plenty of samples from the other caves, and have seen physical proof that Aron live in the vicinity. We will begin processing everything that we have tomorrow; I expect to be finished with it in a week or so. Then we can begin planning how we’re going to tackle Dremegole for the final leg of our investigation.

    ---

    Onnetherhad Ockre.

    We have made several breakthroughs over the past eleven days on the nature of Drumner and its cave systems. As expected, there is more to this mountain than what first appears to be true. In the barren wasteland of the Ice, we may have found a nesting site for a sizeable population of Pokémon.

    Our first objective was investigating the structure of the caves themselves. We have found that they may, in fact, be artificially formed, at least partially, by the residents of this mountain. To be more specific, we took trace samples of the walls of all of the caves we explored and found an exact replica of DNA in every single sample. The gene combinations that we found are consistent with those of a single Aggron, the final stage in the Aron evolutionary line; this matches up with our findings on other planets of the Ekumen, where an Aggron will claim an entire mountain to itself. From what we can infer, these tunnels were carved throughout the mountain by the Aggron that claimed Drumner as a means of safer passage for its subjects, such as the Aron that we have interacted with on two separate occasions now. According to our records, it is unlikely for male Aggron to allow others of its kind on the mountain that it claims, even those within its own species; therefore, we are making the assumption, for now, that the one claiming responsibility over this mountain is female.

    I wondered how this assumption would affect Ensus and Nirm, given the biology of their kind and how fundamentally different it is than their own; surprisingly, they are fascinated by the utter dichotomy of the species, which stands in complete contrast to what they know. Back home in Karhide and Orgoreyn, they say, individuals that are always male or female are considered perverse, and are outcast from society to be nothing greater than prostitutes. But here is a group of animals that survives entirely without their system centralized on androgyny, and it does so in worse conditions than anything seen south of the Gobrin borders. I would have thought that this change in perspective would be most difficult for Nirm because he was raised on the values of kings and indentured servitude in Karhide, but it does not seem this way. He has spoken to me a few times already, as we were going through the samples, about how incredible it must be for Aron’s evolutionary line to thrive in conditions that are cause for exile in his country. I would simply laugh, and tell him that science and biology are not limited by these boundaries, which seems to fuel his intrigue even more.

    In fact, it was he who made the first observation of the strangest concept we have come across about the caves from what we have found so far: there is a startling scarcity of Aron DNA located in the dust, rock, and clay samples that we have available. Only one of the openings that we explored, the one that we smelled the sulfur fumes in, has enough of a population trace to be considered “inhabited”. And yet, we have seen an Aron venture out of the mountains and even onto the Ice with our own eyes. It’s possible that this behavior is not common, but if that is the case, then where have all of the rest of the Aron gone?

    The conclusion that we have come to is that the population lies deep within the mountain, closer to the volcanic shelf, where the mineral content of the rocks is most concentrated. We have come to this conclusion for two reasons. First and foremost, Aron’s physical growth has been directly linked to its mineral intake in multiple studies and scenarios; the more minerals it ingests, and the higher the quality of those minerals, the stronger it will become as it matures. Our second clue was the cave-ins that we were met with each time we advanced deep into the cave openings. If the Aggron that claimed this mountain does indeed oversee its subjects, it would want to ensure that invaders, however unlikely they are, would have a hard time getting into the hub areas that these subjects live in, to allow them to grow safely.

    We then asked the question that is likely on your mind right now: where would intruders come from out in the middle of a giant glacier? Our next piece of evidence seemed to give us something of an idea about it. Before realizing the fact that the population of Aron is likely to inhabit the deepest reaches of Drumner, we would have thought that there would be a lot of footprints from this species in the dust samples we took from the floors of the caves. What we found instead were multiple gene combinations for Lairon, indicating a decent population of this stage, littering the floors of all of these caves. Now, Lairon is a lot pickier in terms of what it ingests than Aron is: Lairon are known to eat only rocks that are heavy in iron content, in order to build up its coat of armor. The cave-ins that impeded our progress had a distribution of rocks that contained no traces of iron in the samples that we took from them. Therefore, it is likely that these cave-ins act as much as barriers for us as they do for these Lairon that seem to be walking around in the outermost hallways of the volcano: they will not pass through them because the rocks that are blocking the passage can no longer be ingested in their stage of evolution. I’m sure it’s possible that the Lairon could simply try to smash through the barricades; we found some signs of blunt-force trauma in the faces of some of the caved-in rocks to support this concept, but none of the barriers were outright knocked down to our knowledge.

    While we have made significant progress thanks to our samples and the diligence of my crew, there are still so many questions left unanswered. For one, how does this system account for evolutions? When the Aron finally grow enough to be capable of evolving, are they simply trapped inside the mountain, and seek out a different living place therein? Do they dig and eat their way out before evolving? Could their new living spot be located closer to the basin, where mineral water is likely to be abundant, to accommodate Lairon’s diet? And in the face of all of this information, where does Dremegole come in? Does it serve the same purpose as Drumner, just to a different colony of Pokémon?

    What we do know for sure is that Dremegole is a mere two-day drive away to the southeast. We must cross a narrow pass to reach our destination, an ice bridge that spans the length of the Great Gobrin Trench, in order to set up camp at its base. This will also put us in a comfortable position to return home when we’re finished there, as we may simply follow the trench southwest until we reach its edge, nearly three hundred miles from our projected base camp at Dremegole.

    We shall wait out the end of this month here to accommodate Ensus and Nirm’s kemmer cycle. Once they are prepared, we will make the journey in our heater-plows to the final destination of this study. With any luck, we will find the answers that we are looking for.

    ---

    Ottormenbod Ockre.

    The end of the second month. I wasn’t expecting to be typing again for another couple of days, but we had a rather strange experience at the camp just a few moments ago.

    Lang and I had just finished packing up the collective tent with all of our research materials and loading the contents onto our heater-plows for tomorrow’s journey to Dremegole. We were settling into our sleeping bags for the night, expecting to get an early start tomorrow, when we were jarred awake by a horribly loud sound outside our tents: a bellowing roar that pierced the sound of the gale-force winds of the Ice. Racked with fear, we four (including Ensus and Nirm, who I suspect were no longer interested in sex) peeked our heads outside of the tents to try to locate the source of the noise.

    It was difficult to see with the darkness and blowing snow hindering our eyesight, but we could make out a shadowy figure approaching the camp. It was quadrupedal and quite heavy, by the sound of its footsteps. We could just barely make out the rough, armored exterior, like a prehistoric dinosaur walking around in an Ice Age. Despite the rugged appearance, its armor shimmered with the snowflakes, indicating a build of polished iron. And that’s when I saw the eyes. The same sky-blue eyes, again. Only this time, they were attached to something much more intimidating.

    The Aron that had visited our camp in Osme had evolved into a Lairon, and it was heading straight for our tents.

    We all stood up to meet it in spite of ourselves and our drowsiness from being abruptly jolted awake in the late hours of the night. We weren’t sure what it could want with us, but considering what we had to do to get rid of it last time, we didn’t know if it would leave us with anything to get home with this time. It approached us without intimidation; I met its eyes for a second, and it returned the glance unwavering. Lang noted that it seemed very serious about something, but she wasn’t sure what that was. Finally, it stopped just a few feet in front of us, and scanned our faces with the same piercing glare.

    After a couple of tense moments, its gaze shifted somewhere else, behind us. We turned to see what it was looking at, and shielded our faces to protect us from the blowing snow. There, off in the distance, Dremegole stood, shadowy and distorted in the bowels of the storm. Lang stated that, perhaps, that mountain was its destination; it made that notion all the more clear with what it did next.

    With an ease of effort that was both awe-inspiring and terrifying at the same time, Lairon walked over to one of our heater-plows. We suspected foul play again, and started running after it to try to stop it; not one of us was brave enough to entertain the thought that our plows were made of aluminum and stainless steel, rather than the iron that was an integral part of its diet. Sure enough, instead of attempting to ingest the metals in our machines, it simply lowered its head and pressed its armored forehead onto the plow. It gave a grunt of exertion, and began pushing the ten-ton machine towards Dremegole. The heater-plow slid so smoothly across the Ice and snow while Lairon pushed it that one might confuse its movements with that of a regular plow out on the open dirt roads of Karhide or Orgoreyn. Our tent, attached to the plow by cables to prevent any unnecessary damage and to keep us from blowing away, skidded along the ground after it. Lairon pushed the plow for around a minute before it slowed to a stop, returned to the second plow, and repeated the process. By the time it was finished, both of our tents were several hundred feet closer to Dremegole, and we were left, staring in disbelief, out in the cold.

    Lairon shook its head and huffed out a deep breath as we approached, assuring us that it was finished with its work. Then, just as abruptly as it entered our camp, it walked next to the heater-plow anchoring Lang’s and my tent to the ground, shuffled its feet in the snow for a minute to dig it up, and then laid down. It was asleep before we could make any sense of the situation and return to our tents to try to get some sleep ourselves.

    I can hear its low, deep breaths just outside as I sit here typing this message. I have questioned many facets of the nature of our worlds before, but I have always arrived at an explanation or theory that can adequately answer those questions. This scenario defies those answers. The only logical reason for Lairon’s behavior could be that it’s paying us back for the materials we fed it when it was an Aron; however, even that possibility is flawed, because we were appealing to its basic needs in order to get it to leave our camp. We feed you, and you leave us alone; if the cosmic scales of karma existed, one should think that we would be “even” at this point. Of course, that also assumes that Lairon even had a reason to do what it did, since I can’t see any intentions behind its actions. If its destination was indeed Dremegole, why would it want to drag us along with it? It couldn’t have possibly known that we were also planning to go there as well, because in all cases before this one, there has not been a confirmation of telepathy in this species of Pokémon, even back home on Terra, where telepathy is a common practice for both humans and those creatures attuned to the Psychic energies. I’m not ruling out the possibility that this could be one of the rarest finds in the recorded universe, but the fact that neither Lang nor I have heard anything of its mind when we are attuned to telepathy ourselves makes it extremely unlikely.

    I shall continue to try to unravel this mystery in the coming days as I attempt to explain to Ensus and Nirm that Lairon is the same creature that was eating our heater-plow previously. I have not entirely convinced myself that this isn’t all just a bad dream, though, and that these words I am typing are imaginary and shall never be seen by anyone other than myself. I suppose I shall have my answer in the morning when we set out; for now, I will hold my tongue and try to go back to sleep.

    ---

    Sordny Kus.

    Two days have passed since the encounter with Lairon; we are in the third month of the study. For the past two months, when I have entered the tent to settle in for the night, I have been surrounded by a seemingly never-ending expanse of ice. Today, as I sat down to type this message, I am encased in it.

    The windstorm that blew all around us that night continued throughout our voyage to Dremegole, and, I assume, continues still at this point. From where we are now, though, none of us can hear it howling anymore. We are all thankful for that.

    While Tulier’s maps of the Gobrin have been an integral part of our success thus far, there is one aspect of the environment that even these high-quality photographs can’t show us: the climate and weather patterns of the area. I am led to believe now, by Lairon’s behavior in reaction to this storm, that it is a regular occurrence in the vicinity of Drumner and Dremegole; otherwise, how would it have known to find a place to hide out until the storm passes? The wind seemed to be blowing up the side of Drumner as usual when we set out, but it did so with such great intensity that we were worried if even our heater-plows could stand up to them. With that kind of a gale colliding with the ice and snow farther up the mountain, there’s no doubt in our minds that a massive blizzard would follow on the other side, in the valley between Drumner and Dremegole. This valley was our direct route between the mountains, as well, so we would have been driving in the thick of it as we were crossing to the final destination of this study. And given that the location of the ice bridge crossing the Great Gobrin Trench was directly in the path of this storm, we probably wouldn’t have survived the encounter, falling to our deaths in the endless void that exists in this crack in the glacier-top.

    Of course, as we found out early this morning, the ice bridge doesn’t span two sides of the glacier over top of such a void; it would have just been a very long drop if we fell off. On the first day of travel, Lairon led us to a large incline that slopes down from the base of Drumner, about a half-mile from the cave system that we followed its tracks to so long ago. The incline is only barely visible on Tulier’s maps, and is only wide enough for us to move single-file through it with the plows. However, it is a low incline, allowing us to control our speed with a fair amount of precision, and it runs directly underneath the ice bridge after a few hours of traveling on it. I would have to estimate that it runs about five-hundred feet below the bridge itself, a height from which we would surely have been crushed by the weight of the plows should the unthinkable happen and the wind blow us to our dooms. After many more hours of travel, the incline became parallel with the direction of the Great Gobrin Trench, and snaked its way underneath Dremegole, into a collection of crystalline caves. We have set up our camp inside of one such cave, far enough away from the open air of the Trench that the wind is no longer ringing in our ears every step of the way.

    One important note about the topography of this incline was that it wasn’t a smooth ride for the plows, which rules out the idea that it is naturally formed, due to the clean cleaving patterns of solid ice. Rather, I suspect that it was made artificially by the Pokémon in this area, stamped flat from many years of use moving into and out of the Dremegole subterranean cave system. We had planned on stopping at one point to try to take a sample of the incline for our DNA research, but that ended with the wind almost pulling the door to the passenger side of the plow that Nirm and I were traveling in off its hinges and away on the breeze, like a tornado carrying the doors to a barn. It was only thanks to an intervention by Lairon, who sensed the danger and jumped up to slam the door shut with his head, that we did not suffer any injuries in the incident.

    Speaking of which, Lairon actually walked the whole way through the storm despite us asking it if it wanted to ride with our cargo in the back of the heater-plows out of courtesy before we set out. It is incredible how resilient his species is in the face of the elements of nature: the snow, ice, and wind roared outside, but he never broke his stride as he traveled ahead of our plows, guiding us to the incline and then through the valley that it passed across, and it is likely that, in his unevolved state, he lived in the presence of lava within a habitat of extreme heat and pressure. But it was more than just its natural resistance thanks to its typing and eating habits; throughout the entire trip, Lairon kept its gaze affixed on its destination, never once allowing any trauma, internal or external, to keep it from its goal. It is almost as if it has some sort of devotion to this mountain, but we are still unsure what resolution it is hoping to accomplish here. All we know is that it doesn’t seem to mean us harm, and that’s good enough for everyone but me.

    I fear that even with the nature of the storm outside shown to us and Lairon’s purpose of guiding us resolved, none of the questions that I posed in the previous entry have been answered. Certainly it pushed the plows to give us an idea that it was going to have us follow it to this crystal cave, and if we didn’t do that, we probably would have died to the powerful storm outside, but why take us here at all? What purpose does it hope to serve us, or rather, what purpose does it hope we will serve to its cause? We are still unsure as to why it chose to travel to Dremegole, and while the passage of time will likely hold answers for us, we are completely in the dark about this situation we find ourselves in for now. I wouldn’t want to wish paranoia on any of my crewmembers, especially not out here in the middle of the frozen wasteland, and our current situation seems to only be aggravating its possibility.

    But I suppose I worry too much. We have traveled for two days without rest in the heater-plows, and these thoughts are keeping me from getting the sleep I need to conduct our investigation of this ecosystem efficiently. Nirm has told me to count my blessings when I have them before, and I guess now is as good a time as any. It is a wonder I was able to recount this much, given how groggy I am currently feeling. I will type more on the nature of our current location and anything else that comes up in tomorrow’s log.

    ---

    Eps Kus.

    We are all rested and refreshed now from our nonstop journey to reach this subterranean level of Dremegole. Although the cave that we find ourselves in at the moment seems like a stable enough environment to set up camp in, we agreed to only unpack the research materials we would need as we went along, rather than pulling them all out only to have to pack them back up again when the storm finally died down outside and we headed for the more elevated levels of the mountain.

    In the meantime, our immediate environment does show some promise as to the nature of the caves of this volcano and their possibility of harboring similar natives to the caves of Drumner. Despite our location inside of the glacier, it is definitely a cave, and a large one; the floors are rocky and little light is present from the outside world, save for what filters in from the narrow entrance passage that leads back out into the Great Gobrin Trench. Above our heads, stalactites reach down towards us, coated in a thin layer of ice that sometimes drips fresh water down to the ground. In the spots where this water drops, the floor has eroded and the water has pooled inside the space that is created. We took a drink from one such pool this morning, and while the contents were both numbingly cold and a little bit powdery, it is the first water source that we have come across on our expedition that we didn’t need to filter with our heaters in order to drink.

    The basin may not be far away from our current location, either. In fact, at the farthest end of this cave is a small passageway that leads to a much larger pool of water, eroded and filled with countless years of droplets from above. This water room doesn’t seem to lead anywhere else, but it is warmer than the water in our base cave, indicating some amount of convection from the magma reserves deep underground. We will most likely be taking our water from this pool because it is the most convenient source available to us.

    Lairon will be joining us in drinking from this large pool; it spent a large portion of the morning drinking from it without stopping. This is consistent with the behavior of Lairon on other planets of the Ekumen, who consume their iron-based needs primarily through osmosis in the bloodstream from their water source inside of volcanoes and the like. They will drink until they are bloated and then work off the excess fluids through physical activity for the remainder of the day. While we worked on our research, we checked in on Lairon periodically, and found that each time it was either bashing its head against the rocks of the cave or going back to the spring for another drink. As usual, it did these things with the same determined look that it had shown us since we met it.

    It could be that Lairon expects some competition in the near future. We ventured out of the cave and into the Trench for just long enough to collect a sample of the icy ground out there. We wouldn’t have wanted to stay out there any longer regardless, due to how loudly and strongly the wind was blowing even that far below the eye of the storm. Sure enough, the results of our experiment with this sample suggest that the incline was artificially formed by a large group of Lairon pounding up and down it over many years. This strongly hints at the concept that Dremegole serves as a migratory destination for Lairon from Drumner once they evolve; they leave the cave system that they grew up in and head for a water source that is not protected by the cave-ins created by the Aggron holding domain over the mountain at the time. We are still unsure as to why they cannot simply find a way to coexist within the environment that they grew up, as it is likely that Drumner contains a similar basin to the one here on Dremegole from which they may drink to fulfill their basic needs. However, we may find an answer to this question if the expected competition arrives in the coming days.

    I am intrigued by a conversation that Lang and Ensus were having towards the end of the day, when we were all beginning to unwind just before bed. Lang, of course, is fascinated by Lairon’s behavior, and is attempting to puzzle out possible reasons for its training here in the cave. I pointed out that the strength it could gain from this training would give it an advantage over other Lairon, who hadn’t yet made it to this location to train for themselves; Ensus offered his own take on the behavior, suggesting that Lairon’s regiment indicated signs of a strong leader. He explained that one who wishes to lead one’s people must set a good example for them by committing to their actions with absolution and not straying from them once they are carried out. While I feel that Ensus’ opinion is heavily influenced by the proletariat overthrow that recently occurred in Orgoreyn, I believe that his point may lead us somewhere. We still haven’t figured out the connection between Drumner and the Aggron that gets to rule over it. Has it been the same Aggron for many years now? Is the right directly linked to the strength of the candidates for the spot, and the one that comes out on top in a competition claims ownership of the mountain? We do not know the hypothesis to ask that would arrive at an outcome, and therefore, we cannot know the answer just yet, just like how we are still unsure what Lairon’s motives are for leading us here. Perhaps the answers to these questions are linked somehow? That is the feeling that I’m getting as I ponder this whole situation.

    I can hear it breathing outside again. It seems to make an imperative out of sleeping near to Lang and my tent each night, as well as giving me a fierce look for a few moments just before it curls up to go to sleep. There is no question that this behavior is intentional, and Lang and I can feel a deep sense of respect and compassion emanating from Lairon when it does this, but why? What does it see in me that could be so important to it? Does it know the answers to the questions that I have, and is trying to give me some sort of signal?

    There are too many questions, and I am but a single biologist. I shall wait out the month and see what unfolds; then my crew and I will form our conclusions based on the data that we collect. I shall write again when something new unfolds.

    ---

    Orny Kus.

    Just as we hypothesized, Lairon was expecting competition here in the caves of Dremegole. They arrived, one at a time, periodically over the past five days.

    In total, there are about thirty Lairon sharing the cave with us now, but this pocket in the glacier is expansive enough, so we don’t really have to worry about not having enough room to function. The scene that played out when each one arrived was almost comical, as it went about almost the exact same way for each of the new visitors when they passed my crew and I. They would first walk over to our heater-plows and sniff at the machines, and then they would sniff each of us individually. When they couldn’t smell any iron on either the machines or our persons, save for the trace amounts that were present in the water we drank, they would give a low huffing sound, almost like a scoff, and lumber off down the passageway to gorge themselves at the large pool of water. It was a little off-putting at first, being rejected by the indigenous population, but at the very least, we aren’t expecting any stray attacks from any of them, because we haven’t been labeled as potential threats to their little competition.

    It was difficult distinguishing all of the Lairon from one another at first, but we looked up a possible means by which to identify them when manual tagging is impossible, and arrived at a solution. Due to the newly-acquired competitive nature of this stage in the evolutionary line, battles between them are common, and wounds in their armor or thick skin heal very slowly. We began to note the various wounds that the Lairon displayed and identify them based on those features. Our Lairon only has a few marks on its forehead from moving the heater-plows and training in solitude before the rest of the competition arrived, so it is fairly easy to spot in a crowd.

    Speaking of looking things up, we noticed as we were looking for possible distinguishing features for the group that Lairon, as a species, doesn’t have any gender differences. This is an important piece of information because it throws a new spin on this entire situation that we hadn’t thought of before. While the behavior patterns of female members of this evolutionary line don’t indicate as much competitive activity as that of the male members, there is nothing saying that several or all of the Lairon here aren’t female. We don’t really have any way of knowing; like the Gethenians, they are an androgynous species, at least in terms of body structure. From the sparring matches that we have witnessed so far (which seem to be practice for the real thing, as no major injuries have occurred yet), each Lairon has an equal chance for victory, indicating that both males and females of the group have an equal chance of becoming the owner of Drumner at the end of the competition, if it is directly linked to that position and if both genders are present, as we have theorized. Should this hold true, then we can conclude that the overseeing of offspring and lower stages of evolution is not something that is solely linked to the female side of this species, which disrupts years of research on the subject from other planets.

    Is this phenomenon exclusive to Winter? We are unsure, but this finding is sure to cause renewed interest in this species throughout the Ekumen in order to further chronicle the various forms of life that call our Galactic System home.

    ---

    Odgetheny Kus.

    The competition between the Lairon has gotten fierce over the past six days. Visible wounds have been added to the ones on display previously, and there is a clear hierarchy being established amongst the group. When the Lairon butt heads with one another, as is their traditional means of showing their strength in battle, sparks from the impact fly outwards in all directions; the sheer power behind some of the blows that we’ve seen have illuminated the entire cave for a brief second after the impact due to the quantity of sparks being generated.

    Amidst all of the battles, our Lairon has remained steadfast in its approach to the competition. It observes each match that occurs closely, with the same determination that we’ve come to expect from it by now. In this way, it thinks to a greater degree than we believe its brethren do; where they attempt to smash their way through the competition with brute force, our Lairon chooses its fights and uses what it has seen to conquer any challenger that stands in its way.

    Our observations over the course of this month have given us a great deal of insight into the personality shift that appears to occur during the evolutionary process from Aron to Lairon. While we don’t really have field data to explain the behavior of the first stage of this evolutionary line, we have data explored by previous experiments and field studies to rely on as a mold for our hypotheses. These studies suggest that Aron is a relatively passive species by comparison to its later stages, as its primary concern in the day-to-day process isn’t ruling over a domain that it has claimed or enabling competition amongst its group to determine the alpha. Instead, Aron focuses most of its energy on consumption, and getting the food that it needs in order to both survive and grow in strength for the time when it evolves. In this way, the pre-evolutions of this species appear to have a great deal of foresight into the nature of their later stages, and they prepare themselves in order to be ready for these changes.

    This passive nature in the basic form of this species is supported by a couple of our own observations in our study. For one, we were unable to find more than a single case of physical evidence that a population of Aron are living inside Drumner. In the case that we did find, the Pokémon seemed intimidated by our presence even though it was probably more threatening to us than we could ever hope to be to it. For another, we can infer that this population exists simply by looking at the sheer number of Lairon that have shown up to this cave that we are in to compete for dominance. This stage has made itself known because it has something to prove to whatever else calls this mountain home; the population of Aron, on the other hand, does not have anything to prove, even to each other, and so they remain hidden from observers unless those observers are able to venture into the deepest reaches of their habitat. Previous experiments on other planets have made an effort to venture into this habitat; in the future, we may follow in their footsteps, and bore our way through the barriers blocking us at Drumner in order to find more conclusive evidence of this behavior pattern.

    When an Aron evolves into a Lairon, generally speaking, it appears to become almost obsessed with the spirit of competition. These new thought patterns govern virtually all of its actions after the evolution occurs, and because of the change, it is mostly unable to coexist peacefully with the other inhabitants of its former environment. It must therefore seek out a new place to live, where it can find the materials it needs to survive and also fulfill its need for competition. It is likely that this is the reason that we are observing a large group of Lairon exclusively in this cave, because this habitat meets both of those objectives, along with being a relatively safe and secure place that isn’t much affected by the harsh weather patterns of the Ice.

    Speaking of which, the migratory route to get to this subterranean level appears to be a sort of test of willpower for the Lairon. The cold and wind tempers their bodies, and the sense of isolation that comes from traveling alone across the icy wastelands prepares them for their experience when they achieve their final evolution, where they will live in solitude for as long as they claim ownership over their domain. Indeed, the whole system that is in place here, even for being one of the harshest places on Winter, seems very well accustomed to the behavior patterns of this species. Of course, we aren’t expecting to find any casualties along the route as we travel back out onto the Ice, because if they were unprepared for the journey outside, the Aron would not have evolved in the first place.

    In conclusion, the vast majority of our questions have been answered in terms of the ecosystem that this species lives in and how it interacts with its environment at this point. An Aron is born and grows in the depths of Drumner, where its needs for solid and concentrated minerals are met. Once it has ingested enough to prepare it for the migration, it evolves into a Lairon and leaves Drumner. We are unsure what exit route they use to get out of the mountain, given that every possible exit that we found was blocked off by cave-ins, but we are aware of the fact that this migration is not likely to occur without the proper weather conditions. The massive storm that we outran at the beginning of this month appears to signal the migration, as it is the most powerful storm that we have seen yet on the Ice, and surely serves as a worthy test for the Lairon wishing to make the migration to Dremegole. Once they are here, their needs are met through the mineral-infused water sources located in the subterranean levels of the volcano and the rest of the group that evolved and migrated here, which serves as their competition to measure up to. This competition appears to go on until an evolution occurs; we are unsure of what happens after the evolution, but we may find our answer in the coming days. We are also unsure if this entire process works in reverse, with Aron growing up deep inside Dremegole migrating to the water sources beneath Drumner for competition; this is a matter that will need to be tested by other field studies in the future.

    That really leaves us with only a single odd variable out: our case study, our Lairon. As I have made evident from my previous entries into this log, it appears to think on a higher level than its brethren here in the cave; it evokes a personal devotion to the sense of competition that it learned when it evolved, and every action that it takes appears to be connected to that devotion. We are still unsure to what end this personality trait will serve it, but we have formed some theories to explain what we’ve seen.

    I have stated Ensus’ side of the argument previously: he believes that our Lairon’s behavior indicates signs of a strong leader. Today, while we were discussing the matter, Nirm offered his own spin on the debate. The responsibility that it seems to have towards its own destiny, he explained, indicates a level of compassion for its trade that the others of its kind don’t seem to be able to comprehend. It embraces the spirit of competition that its evolution instilled within it, and therefore works to master its control over it by watching, learning, and applying. This goes along with Ensus’ opinion on the matter, because an organism that masters its environment and behaviors will become incredibly strong as a result, and will be very well accustomed to leading its underlings towards gaining the strength that it found over the course of its lifetime. Lang is in agreement with the fact that a combination of the two opinions seems to be the strongest theory that we have to explain our Lairon’s behavior, because there appears to be both biological and psychological reasons for its actions. In addition, she thinks that there is likely a social connection, and that link may explain why it took us along with it to Dremegole. Whereas the other Lairon were simply indifferent to our presence in the cave due to their individualistic competitive mindset, our Lairon seems to welcome us into the vignette of its life that we have been subject to. This supports Nirm’s theory about its compassionate mindset, because an organism with compassion, especially one that is a leader to others, displays neither fear nor aggression in the face of a potential competitor or unusual circumstances. Rather, it exhibits a certain sense of control, both over its own energies and in knowing what the circumstance in question (us, for example) is doing at all times, and correcting them assertively if they overstep their boundaries.

    Personally, I don’t know what to think of this situation anymore. I had been assured when we set out on this journey, based on my own life experiences, that there was a purely biological explanation for every action that any organism in the universe takes, but now, I’m not so sure that biology can explain everything on its own. I am in agreement with the theories that have been presented by my crew to explain our case study, but I am skeptical of their application because the psychology that goes into their theories is not easily quantified in data without a large group of similar organisms. Here, we have only one case of this behavior to measure from, and it does not appear to be a good indicator of anything that the population is as a whole. What Lairon’s motives are, both with us and with its own kind, may never be numerically defined to us, and therefore, I am ill to accept such an explanation.

    Or, at least, I should be ill to accept it; the biologist that I was when I was trained to be an Envoy years ago would tell me so. But our Lairon…it exhibits this energy and fervor in everything it does that isn’t typical of its species. Usually, this fervor is reserved for the competitive nature of humans, because it involves the subjectivity, the drive, which comes natural to our inquisitive species. I want to find an empirical answer for this problem, but at the same time, I want there to be more to this equation than just biology. We may have made a powerful new discovery into the subjective nature of Pokémon with our Lairon, and that knowledge would foster countless experiments across the light-years of planets within the Ekumen. This spread of knowledge and passion is central to our mission, and I wouldn’t want to hold it back by discounting it.

    I am troubled by this matter, but I believe, in spite of my own desire, that there are more important things to worry about at this moment. I have observed our Lairon’s matches with the others as the competition has gotten fiercer. I think the other Lairon are very much aware of its cognitive advantage, because they appear to exhibit frustration with their losses. No matter how they throw themselves at our case study, it shakes them off without a second thought. There has been more than one point where a Lairon that just recently lost to ours pounded its head against the cave wall with such force that it caused a small tremor in the cave system. I am loathing thinking of what this frustration could mean if it was ever turned against us, because for all of their indifference towards us, we are simply collateral damage to them if the worst should happen.

    I shall alert my crew of this matter tomorrow, not to put them on edge, but to make them aware that, at any given moment, we may need to escape from this place with all haste. I can only hope that we make it out without losing anyone.

    ---

    Onnetherhad Kus.

    The lunar cycle of Winter is an omnipresent force that governs not only climate changes throughout the planet, but also the sexual activation of the most human-like species that lives here, the Gethenians. And now, we may add a new candidate to the list that it oversees: the climax of the competitive nature of the Lairon living around the Great Gobrin Trench.

    We awoke this morning to a circle of iron masses in the center of the cave. All of the Lairon had gathered together, crowding around a focal point amongst the rocks and pools of water. And there, in the center of the mass, was our Lairon, bent low to the ground and emitting a frustrated and painful growl as it shook violently. Indeed, “violent” is a keen way to describe the process, because even the ground around our Lairon rocked as the pain of the process was imparted to every fiber of its powerful frame. We could do nothing except for watch in awe and horror as its body contorted slightly, its unmarred armor giving way to the uncontrollable spasms and sending it reeling in agony. Despite everything that was happening, it never withdrew from the process; it stood its ground, not willing to even bend a knee to this test of strength. After all, it had accepted its fate long before anyone or anything else in the cave would.

    And then, all at once, our Lairon blazed with a surging white light that enveloped its entire body; even the Lairon surrounding it, which had lacked in any reaction to the process thus far, had to squint their eyes as the ray filled the entire cave with light. Our eyes couldn’t escape the power of the light, either; we shielded our faces with our hands, and howled with a sensation of our own pain as the bright flash caused a few seconds of momentary blindness in each of us. When we finally blinked the spots from our eyes, we returned our gaze to the center of the group, and found a more fearsome creature standing where our Lairon had once been. It stood up on its two back legs, exhibiting the thick iron horns that had grown in on the top of its head and the sharp, toe-like claws that had developed on its forelegs. Its iron armor coating now mostly covered its spinal column, but its thick black skin seemed to have hardened in the shape of an armor piece itself, and was no doubt as strong as one. It opened its sky-blue eyes slowly, readjusting to the dim light of the cave, and then looked skyward, letting out a bellowing roar. We covered our ears this time, and the Lairon surrounding it flinched as the sound vibrated through the pores of their armor.

    Our Lairon had achieved the final stage of its kind. It had evolved into an Aggron.

    The environment stood still for a moment; Aggron appeared to be sizing up its competition to its newfound body and power, while my crew and the Lairon were coming to terms with the fact that the caves of Dremegole had chosen their champion, the individual among them that stood the greatest chance of conquering Drumner.

    Then, everything moved. If there is a Hell in the Yomesh pantheon, it broke loose then and there, in that cave.

    Whether it was frustration at their previous losses, disappointment at not being the one to evolve, or spite taken on due to their competitive nature, an emotional fervor overtook the crowd of Lairon, and they all jumped at Aggron simultaneously. Their attacks were aggressive, mindless, and desperate; they threw themselves at it in an act of sheer disparity, hoping to change the process, to usurp the power found within our case study for themselves. Aggron was able to fend them off fairly well, but despite its battling expertise and high-end cognition, it was still outnumbered twenty-nine to one. They clawed, bit, and slashed their way through its rock-solid defenses, and eventually, we lost sight of it amidst the flailing bodies of tempered iron.

    My crew and I understood the brevity of the situation, and turned to make our escape in the heater-plows; however, it wasn’t long before we became the target of a part of the group. Their aggression seemed both limitless and without direction; in the despair of not being the alpha of the group, they lashed out at everything, not thinking about consequences, injuries, or what was a friend or foe. They allowed their basest, most primal instincts to take over, and they lunged at us with the intent of breaking us until we were nothing but dust in their wake. And we couldn’t outrun their quadrupedal figures, especially not on the ice-glossed ground of the cave. Three of them pushed ahead of the group, intent on spilling our blood first; we ran as fast as we could, but they grew closer and closer with each step.

    And then Aggron rejoined the fight. It roared in frustration and defiance, sending iron bodies flying in all directions as it regained itself in the center of the cave. With a speed unlike anything we expected from a creature of its framework, it sped over to our aggressors and smashed them out of the air with a single, solid swing of its tail. The sickening crack of metal-on-metal contact resounded throughout the cave and probably reverberated up into the Trench as all three of the front-runners flew through the air, like flies swatted away by a human hand, and collided with the cave wall. They bounced off of it and collapsed in a heap on the floor, stunned momentarily but probably not out of the fight just yet. Aggron waded into the crowd and batted at the rest of the group with virtually every move in its arsenal: its claw swipes, tail swings, and head-butts scattered the group across the space of the cave in a matter of seconds.

    We made it to the heater-plows without suffering any injuries, and cut the cables holding our tents to them. If we made it out of this, the plows would serve as a good enough resting place for us. We then piled into the massive machines, one Gethenian and one human each, and started the engines. The machines roared to life, and we directed them to the mouth of the cave as quickly as we possibly could. As we approached our salvation, we could feel vibrations bouncing off the machine from where the Lairon slammed into them, but shortly thereafter, we would hear the same Lairon be smashed back by Aggron’s attacks. It seemed like an eternity before we made it to the mouth of the cave and sped out into the open air of the bottom of the incline. I looked back at the mouth of the cave to see Aggron standing with its back to us, spreading its arms wide to prevent anything else from leaving. If the Lairon got too close, it would beat them back with another powerful wave of attacks.

    I knew the brevity of the situation. I knew that, if Aggron was to hesitate for even a moment, it could lose its advantage, and we would be lost to a stampede of Lairon overtaking our plows. But I had to know the truth. I reached out to it in my mind, not thinking about the fact that I might not receive an answer back.

    Why? I asked in thought-speak. Why save us from the storm, or from the Lairon? What purpose do we serve to you? There was a long pause. I hoped, beyond hope, that the void would be filled with a response, an explanation, anything. Then, in a voice that was undoubtedly male and completely foreign to me, I heard it answer.

    Some things, you question. Other things, you simply do.



    We have made it out of the Trench now, without resting for the past several hours, and are climbing the incline to get back to the top of the glacier. The winds of the storm have moved on and died down, and there is a light snow falling. I have no doubt that everyone is troubled by the developments earlier; indeed, both Ensus and Nirm are likely in dothe right now, to overcome their sexual drives and to keep themselves focused on driving the heater-plows.

    I am too tired to think on this matter now. Once we are a safe distance away from the Trench and capable of resting, I will consider what Aggron said. For now, I am content in knowing what he did.

    He saved our lives.

    ---

    Obberny Kus.

    We gave him a chance. We believed in him, in a circumstance where nobody else would. And he repaid us for it by considering us to be one of his own.

    What Aggron did when he was in the basic form of his evolutionary stage goes totally against the expectations that we have of his species. It goes against the cycle that he was supposed to grow up learning. By digging his way out of the caves of Drumner, he sealed himself a cold fate on the Ice, where no food source exists to satiate him under normal circumstances. And yet, in this case, there was a food source, and he was caught taking advantage of it, but not punished for doing so.

    I think that changed him. He started to question our act of compassion, though we didn’t know it was considered as such at the time. He wanted to understand it, and so grew strong on the minerals of Drumner’s volcanic basin in the hopes of meeting us again. When he evolved, he was subjected to the changes in his behavior based on the newly-instilled spirit of competition, but instead of using them purely to suit his individual needs, he incorporated it into his character, and it drove him to pursue his goals further. He linked compassion with mastery over one’s environment, and thus, set out to become the master of his own destiny. And that is why he evolved into an Aggron, and was chosen as a candidate for ruling over Drumner.

    We instilled within him the spirit that he would need to become a strong leader, and he gave us answers to questions we didn’t even know we had, not just about his species, but about all Pokémon in the known universe. I will never know if he survived the fight with his competitors, but at the very least, I hope that these journal entries will serve to honor his memory, and the things he did for us.

    I believe I owe my crew an apology. I respected Lang for her expertise previously, but I did not respect the field of her expertise. This journey has shown me that it has a significant deal of merit, and can stand alongside biological explanations to give a clearer picture of the exact explanation for a natural phenomenon. In addition, I feel as though I was seeing Ensus, Nirm, Gethero, and Maxa for what they are, rather than who they are, before we came up here on the Ice. There is so much more to them than just what their Gethenian biology allows them to be; in their own right, they are brilliant scientists, and they will be the pioneers that lead their kind to further their advancement of knowledge in all fields, including the sciences. To that end, the Envoys have succeeded in their mission on Winter.

    We will be back at the Gobrin base in around a month’s time. At that point, all of the data we have collected will be amassed and deduced to form conclusions about the nature of life up here on the Ice. As it turns out, the Gobrin has quite a story to tell.

    ---

    >> END PLAYBACK

    ---

    Odorny Anner.

    This is my first writing for this log in eight months, give or take a day. It will not be empirical, so feel free to discard it from the report if you find that it does not hold any scientific merit or pertinence.

    We arrived home to the Gobrin base safely, and almost immediately, we were set to work helping the other scientists with the data sets that they would create for the report. They didn’t mind listening to us recount our tale up on the Ice, either.

    There is still much work to do to make this information publicly available, but for now, we are resting on our laurels. Ensus, Nirm, Lang, and I have taken a vacation from the freezing temperatures of the base in the wintertime to visit Gethero and Maxa in Orgoreyn. They just recently gave birth to the child that they conceived when we were up on the Ice; they named him Amayule, a Terran name meaning “the end of winter”. It is both a fitting and beautiful name, and I wish them the best of luck with him.

    I still think about our journey every now and then, even when I am not working with the data we gathered therein. I think about spelunking in the caves and carving an access route to Drumner and Dremegole across the Ice. I think about the people that I thought I knew when we first set out, but met truly for the first time through direct experience with them in our time together. And of course, I think about Aggron, and wonder if he ever became what he deserved to be to his species.



    On Winter, cold is a constant, but so too is warmth, emanating from the various means by which we all survive in its harsh conditions. It shapes us and embraces us, molding us into the people we are now and will become in the future. I see that truth now, far clearer than ever before.

    If there’s one thing I know for certain, it’s that I can’t wait to get back up onto the Icecaps again. It has become a part of me now, and I don’t think I shall ever let it go.

    ---
    Last edited by Neighborhood-Guest; 22nd May 2013 at 01:53 PM.

  2. #2
    Virbank Gym Leader WinterVines's Avatar
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    Default Re: Crucible [WaR Story LOL]

    Okay, I'll bite.

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  3. #3
    Virbank Gym Leader WinterVines's Avatar
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    Default Re: Crucible [WaR]

    @Neighborhood-Guest;

    Crucible Grade. Since this was demanding rank, I'm going to be a little more picky about stuff by digging deeper into analysis.

    ---

    Intro: Your story starts off as a sort of recording of scientific observations on another planet other than Earth. That was pretty neat. I like the format you set up for it, since it was much different than regular stories (and also pertains to your WaR prompt too).

    While the other planet history was mostly interesting since it was a bit different, I felt there was a lot of it. Back-story is good, but too much of it can be a bad thing as well. I don't think all of what you included right at the beginning was completely necessary. I know that most of it was to establish that this was a crossover story, but I find the best way to do back-story in this type of instance is to provide just enough for the reader to understand the world and drop just enough hints to pique interest.

    I really like crossovers and AUs because little hints about the other fandom makes me curious to explore it further. I fear that there was a bit much back-story here. Readers don't necessarily need to know about the first envoy's exploits right away. It might've been a better idea to thin some of it out and feed it to readers when it became relevant to the story. For example, when traveling to the mountains, the narrator could've commented how it was similar to the first envoy's journey or something.

    I only worry about this because I really struggled to get through the beginning. Part of it I know was due to the fact that the world wasn't standard, but I found myself not really caring about what some other character else did prior to your story, especially since I could learn about this by reading the actual book you assimilated into your fic (especially since this character only appeared in mention and wasn't in the actual story itself). The intro as is didn't really hook me in, and I don't want readers to click the back button on their browser because they got bored, since I enjoyed the story and it's worth reading.

    That being said, I think you could've probably started the story when they arrived at the base camp on the first mountain and nothing much in the story would've changed. This would've began with action and a bit of confusion, which, if done correctly, can draw readers in so that they continue reading so they can figure out what exactly is going on. Even starting with the Aggron sighting would've been a great spot, since that was the first place I was intrigued to keep reading.

    Your introduction did establish what the story was going to be about, however, including setting, tone, and possible happenings, so good job on that. I found it rather interesting despite not being into more hard science fiction based on facts. The view of a biologist was cool.

    I think that another reason for the expedition's purpose might've been good to establish right at the beginning too. This is more plot-related, but other than documenting similar lifeforms on this other planet, why are they making this trip? What will the discovery of other Pokemon do for anyone? I was unclear about this for most of the time, since even though documenting species is important, there has to be some sort of other motivation. Are they trying to understand the people of the winter planet better through Pokemon too? Do they want to import or export other species? Will this positively or negatively affect the relationship between the planets? I think some future goal being hinted at would've given the trip more purpose, and that would've also interested readers more, which is why I suggested it near the beginning.

    Overall, the intro was okay. I liked it, but I didn't quite find it up my alley enough to be super interested in it. If I had been a normal reader, I may have skimmed or skipped parts, which is not what we want. The extra back-story did establish the new world introduction, but I feel you did enough of that in the story itself that you didn't need to elaborate so much early on.

    Plot: This is the major area. Due to the type of story you chose to write, you were a little limited in how you could describe events, since everything that happened is a retelling as a summary. Because of this, the plot's complexity isn't really suited for action and instead must come from the connections and revelations you make within it.

    That being said, I think the story was much longer than it needed to be based on what you wrote. Part of this I talked about in the introduction. I went and counted the sections when I read this, writing down notes about what happened in each one. In total, you have 17 different entries. The last two are much like a reflection and wrap-up, so I consider the main bulk of your story to be the first 15 entries.

    A lot of these sections could've been summarized or condensed a little, I think. For example, a Pokemon didn't even appear at all until the 4th and 5th section of the story (the glimpse of the Aggron and the Aron in the camp), which is almost 1/3 of the way into the tale. This is probably part of the reason why I thought the story moved a little slowly, since there was a lot of build up and time for something to really happen. After all, the plot revolved around researching the species. The first three sections outline what the researchers were planning to do/back-story, their travel, and moving their base camp closer to the mountain after they arrived. I feel all of the events in these sections could've been grouped into one, since it wasn't until after these parts that I really became interested in what was going on (since that's when the Pokemon started appearing).

    These extra sections wouldn't normally be a super big deal, but because this story is so long and because of the rank of mon you chose to write for, what you actually include in the story becomes very important. Even when not writing something longer, be very careful what you choose to include in it. You don't want readers get bogged down with information they don't really need/want, and everything in the story should serve some sort of purpose, whether it provides character development, plot advancement, a break in the action, or some other feature.

    The same thing happens with the middle section of your story. Sections 4-9 pretty much consist of exploring the caves. Some of these are very short, and other than providing additional science facts, not much else happens in them. I feel some of these could've been condensed too. It isn't until sections 10-15 that things start to pick up, but that's already the last 1/3 of your story.

    I did like this last section, however. I feel in these parts you did a little bit more analysis on what the events meant than in the beginning sections, and that's what the plot is supposed to be about: the comparison of these creatures to other ones. I feel that includes the humanoids on the planet as well.

    That is what I wanted to see most in your story, but other than some bits in the last reflection and wrap-up section, I didn't see very much of it throughout the story, and I feel that's what your plot really needed to keep it going. I think that would've drawn more interest early on if you had highlighted more what things meant. Readers know the scientists are studying the possible Pokemon species, but what's the point of it? Like the questions I asked in the introduction, why else are they doing this? What are some of the other connections the researcher could've made?

    There were a couple of places for insight that I felt were missed opportunities. For example, when you mentioned how the Pokemon on the mountain couldn't coexist with each other (thus the separation), that could've been compared to the humanoids, who actually do get along. It could even go a step further and compare to how the people on that planet then went and formed bonds with people from the other planets too. In the same vein, when you mentioned how their Lairon went against the natural cycle of his kind, that could've also been reflected back the people, since they accepted the foreigners and then became more advanced because of it.

    While it's great to make readers think for themselves, sometimes they need the author to directly spell out some of those parallels for them to really enjoy what the story is trying to get across. This is especially true in longer stories because by the time they get to the next connecting point, they may have forgotten part of what they've already read (especially if they take breaks, as I did).

    There were a few connections, but I think most of them were too subtle or came too far and few between (perhaps partly because of the length of the story) to actually make a lasting impression on readers unless they're actively searching for them. I thought these connections were the most important aspect of the story, so I wish there had been more of them. There were times when you were on the brink of a major link, and then it just stopped and moved on to the next topic.

    The last two sections in your story wrapped it up pretty nicely, but in a way, I felt like it was almost the ending to a different story than the one I had just read. They had a nice feel good tone to them, but they don't quite match up with the rest of the story. Like the connections, some of the support for the conclusions you came to were missing throughout the story itself.

    For example, the envoy's comment of the lifeforms being more than what biology dictated was cool, and it indicated that he had a change of thought. However, there wasn't a solid statement that said he thought otherwise up until that point. It was a little implied because of the scientific approach, but one could argue that he was just doing his job. He didn't speculate much throughout, and opinions don't just change overnight. Leading readers to this end gradually would've made it a little more acceptable.

    The same goes for saying that their expedition answered questions about other Pokemon in the entire universe. What ones? You did comment saying that behavior on the mountain was similar to that on other planets and that the cold planet was making them act differently, but how does this answer questions about all the rest of the Pokemon you implied? What exactly did it solve for them?

    I did like some of the statements in the end sections, I just don't think they matched up as well as they could've. I especially liked how the scientist thought of the natives as people instead of what they were, but again, other than the comment in the very very beginning and a piece near the very end, there wasn't a lot of evidence that the envoy was having a change of heart.

    As far as the target Pokemon goes, I would've felt a lot better about it had you been shooting for Lairon, which is hard rank, instead. Due to the type of story you created (based on your prompts), it didn't really leave a lot of room for a super complex plot. In fact, this story was pretty similar to 'kid walks into the woods until a Pokemon appears' only it was 'scientists explore in a mountain until a Pokemon appears'. Of course it was slightly more advanced than that, but not too much. I don't feel this story caters to demanding rank, even if you had enough characters for it. Hard rank, however, would suit it just fine if the connections between the groups were more profound/noticeable.

    This is also born from the Pokemon part in the story as well. In the 15 main sections, Larion is present for 6 of them (7 if you count the Aron, since it recently evolved). Aggron is present for 2 of the 15, and one of them isn't even the same Aggron. One could argue that because it evolved, it's the same Pokemon, but I feel the Lairon played a much bigger part in the story than Aggron did since Lairon prompted some comparisons and theory as to why it acted different.

    Overall, I think this story would've been better suited for Hard rank instead of Demanding. Additional and clearer connections and insights about the Pokemon's behavior and how they relate to other Pokemon and people could've been helpful too. I liked it—I just wish it had gone a little deeper.

    Detail/Description: I did like how everything had a scientific twist to it as far as details and things went. It made the case study seem more realistic, which is key in any sort of story. I feel that there was enough description of what was going on for readers to picture it, even if the story was presented in a summary format.

    You were worried about the calendar in your author's note, but I don't think it was really a big deal. Personally, I suspect most people are not going to pay strict attention to the dates of the entries. In the future, if you do something like this, you can always add a physical number to the entries as well for the date. Similarly, you could've had the envoy mention the dates or something in the beginning of the study playback, since not everyone reading/listening would understand how the cold planet's time system worked.

    I do wish there had been a couple more reminders of some of the strange terms, however. Because of the length of the story, I had to keep going back to remember what some of the weird words meant or what the names were because I had forgotten. It was a little frustrating. I know some of that is to be expected because it is a crossover, but little reminders (for example, when saying the second mountain’s name, you could've said the other mountain along with it) will help readers remember without forcing them to reread or just not understand part of the tale. I don't expect full explanations of what the word means again, since you've presumably already done that once, but a couple extra helping words are key—especially for crossovers where everyone might not know the other fandom.

    I feel this section was solid. I liked what you added, and what you didn't wasn't much of a deal.

    Grammar/Mechanics: Not too many complains here, which is always nice, especially in a story this long.

    Along with possibly adding regular numbers to the dates on the entries to indicate what number it is, I suppose you could've also added a time or location line as well, and possibly even topic. These would then correspond more to the first data set, even though they're smaller entries in the playback. This is just an extra thing, though. I don't really think its necessary.

    One thing I will mention, however, is your sentence length. Due to the scientifically-based information, a lot of your sentences ran a little long. There's nothing wrong with this really, except that after many of these in a row, it sometimes becomes hard to read. Even in a scientific report, keep an eye on your sentence variation. A couple of shorter sentences after a long one can really add a 'pop' and drive home a main point you wanted to make.

    One of my English professors was really big on this, so it's something I watch for in my own writing. He had us write down the number of words in each sentence down the margin, and that way we could easily look for patterns and see if too many similar in length sentences were too close to one another. A paragraph is much easier to read if there's a little variation in length, and writing the numbers out makes them easier to see. I still do this on my essays. It's especially important with longer pieces of work like this one—if you want readers to get through the whole thing, sometimes you have to cater to them, and most people shy away from large blocks of text or long sentences. Other than that, it looked good!

    Length: Aggron is demanding, giving you a goal range of 40-55k. I counted around 88k or so, give or take due to my word processor not copying all of it at once and for page breaks and other punctuation. Well over, regardless.

    Reality/Miscellaneous: There isn't too much for this section that I didn't mention elsewhere already. One thing I am puzzled about is the telepathy, however. It sort of came out of nowhere. It was briefly mentioned, but other than that, there was nothing until the envoy successfully used it at the very end. It made me a little skeptical. If this was a skill they had the entire time, why hadn't they used it to question the Aron/Lairon before? That could've helped answer their questions, among other things. It made for a nice line by the Aggron, but I feel that it was a little too farfetched without more explanation/use of it earlier on.

    Also, when you mentioned that the group's Lairon had been chosen to rule over Drumner, what about the Aggron that was already there? That part confused me a little bit, since nothing more was explained on it. Would those two fight or something? Would the old one just move on? There was a bit of a plot hanger there, although it didn't play too much into what had already happened.

    Result:


    Prompts:
    As far as your competition rolls go, here's my verdict on that:

    Genre: Other. I felt the scientific entries/notes fit into a different genre than the others on the list. I wouldn't worry so much about your chosen crossover world being Sci-fi because a lot of genres blend and mesh together. I felt the story mostly focused on the science facts, and the format helped that out.
    Setting: Crossover. I felt you did this very well, also. There were enough bits of this other world in here that I understand how the jist of things worked in the novel.
    Character: Pokemon and Humans, Together but Separate. Here is where I'm not sure it's quite spot-on. From the contest thread, it reads:
    3.. Pokemon and Humans, Together but Separate. A perfect harmony! You’ve got free reign here, but the main characters have to be at least one Pokemon and one human. This requires multiple main characters to be completely effective.
    I feel that the format you chose didn't really cater to the Pokemon side. Lairon didn't feel like much of a main character since the story didn't really include him until the last 1/3 of the story.

    That being said, I need to knock it down a rank. You would be qualified for a Complex rank Pokemon if the story had passed at Demanding rank. Keep in mind that a story must pass to receive the competition prize, and you can only obtain a prize that is the same rank of the target or lower, so if you decide to change the mon to Lairon, this will change as well. If the Pokemon is a main character for a majority of the story, your score for this section of the prompt will increase. As of right now, the Pokemon doesn't play enough role as a main character.

    I hope I gave some helpful feedback for this. Be sure to contact me ASAP if something doesn't sound right! I enjoyed the story—it just needs a little polishing.
    ChainReaction 6:09 pm
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