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A man given a new lease on life finds himself amongst pokemon. From his memories of pokemon as a whole, he assumes the power of pokemon and the world around him runs on convenient fate, rule of cool, and cheesy friendship just like any other anime. Unfortunately for everyone else, he's 100% right.
If Borne of Caution is an attempt at a coherent and realistic look at pokemon, then, Borne of Desire is the opposite. It's all the mindless indulgence I DONT want in a serious fic. It's a very seat-of-my-pants for-fun project and is written with no storyboard. Updates will be inconsistent and quality cannot be assured. Not to be taken too seriously.
I do not own Pokemon.
"Good mornin' Mr. Julian."
With a grunt, Julian drops the remaining items from his pocket, his phone and his keys, into the worn plastic basket by the xray scanner and steps through the man-sized metal detector. As it does every morning, the stupid thing wails when it picks up his belt-buckle. "Morning indeed..." he grumbles, looking over at the only adornment on the checkpoint wall; a clock.
It's 6:44 am.
The guard manning the checkpoint, an elderly gentleman that Julian never remembers the name of chuckles. "Just morning?" He asks, slowly rising from his seat behind his computer with a handheld metal detector in hand. The old guard presses a key on his computer before shuffling over, making the conveyor belt under the basket of Julian's things pull the basket through the xray scanner.
"I promise I'm not this grumpy all the time, just the mornings," Julian mutters, suppressing a yawn. "Once I have some state-provided caffeinated swill, that'll fix everything."
The handheld metal detector warbles a grand total of once as it passes Julian's belt, satisfying the security guard who returns to his seat with a sigh. He glances at his monitor, and although Julian can't see what's on it, it's probably the xray readout.
"You're good, Mr. Julian." The guard smiles and waves him forward. "Have a good day!"
Julian just gives the guard a halfhearted wave and collects his things from the basket. Everything but his ID card, which hangs from a lanyard, is thrust into his pockets without much care. He looks down at his ID card with a measure of disdain.
The photo, one from several years ago, shows a blonde, green-eyed man of roughly twenty-five years of age with a wide, eager smile. His face is clean shaven, his hair is short and professional, and what little of his suit that can be seen in the photo is clean and pressed.
Ha! Julian smirks and rubs his stubble-coated chin, looking down at his plain polo shirt and ruffled slacks as he does so. He doesn't bother with taking rebellious pleasure in his messy mane of blonde, which is almost to his shoulders.
Below the photo is a name, his name. Julian Angelo, followed by his title, Network Admin. Just under his name in obnoxious lettering is another name that makes Julian's eye twitch.
One might think working for the mysterious government department of supposed mad scientists would be filled with exciting thrills and discoveries, but really..?
Julian scans his badge at the keypad leading into the facility proper and waits. When the heavy, bullet and blastproof door doesn't budge, he scans his badge again, then again. Finally, he sighs and punches in an obnoxiously long manual PIN number into the keypad. With a click, the thick door swings open with the whine of a motor on its way to being burnt out.
Inside is the most uninspired lobby of any government office ever. Disgusting yellow walls and a ripped up carpet from the 90s draw the eye, and looking up, Julian sees yet another light is out, making a dark spot in the middle of the room. The air vents, clogged with an unspeakable amount of dust, fill the room with a humid, musty odor.
...Really, for all its funding, DARPA is run like any other government agency.
Julian sighs and ignores the young intern manning the lobby front desk, who in turn is too absorbed in web surfing on her computer to look at him. Looking back as he waits for an elevator, he sees what website she's fooling around on and makes a mental note to add a network filter rule to block that site in particular.
The elevator dings and opens, letting Julian in. When he scans his badge and selects a floor inside the elevator, it surprisingly works the first time. The doors shut with a creak, then the elevator descends one floor, two, then stops.
Julian just scans his badge again, and the elevator groans and drops one more floor. It dings, but the LED panel displaying the floor number is blank.
The doors open, letting the blonde man walk out and shiver as the oppressive AC of the 'blacksite' floor hits him fullforce. This early, there is no-one on the floor other than the guard patrol, so that means no shitty interns calling him cousin and making bowling jokes.
'Blacksite. Now that's a real joke.' Julian shakes his head as he walks down the sterile white hallway, passing a single stoic guard who glances at his badge. 'I know there are at least three more floors below this one. Whoever set-up the data center on B3 before I took over as its babysitter did a lazy job. Why would I ignore all the unlabeled, caged racks in the back when the director handed me the keys to them without a second thought? None of that goes to anything in the rest of the building.'
He makes the same turns he does every morning. Left, right, then second set of double doors on the left. He scans his badge once more and slips inside the building's data center.
All around, racks of servers, switches, and other sorts of network equipment hum and whirr as their little LEDs flash merrily. The noise of the cooling fans and HVAC system makes a dull, monotone drone that makes Julian sleepy again just listening. For now, he ignores everything and ventures to his office in the farthest corner of the room. Opening the door and flipping on the light, he looks at the 'office' with a frown.
The office is more of a large closet with just enough room for a desk, a comfortable chair Julian shelled good money out for, and an old laptop.
Closing the door and seating himself, Julian glances over the various alerts and emails sent his way on his laptop. After dismissing all the false positive network equipment alerts and replying to the only important email in the several hundred he gets per day, he leans back in his chair and crosses his arms, feeling himself relax.
'Another hard day at work...' The man snorts. 'I can't believe I went to school for this.'
After just a few minutes, he slips into dreamland.
Hours pass without any incident, and just before midday, Julian awakens groggily. He yawns and sits up, jiggling his mouse to wake up his equally sluggish computer. Looking at the screen, he scans through his two-dozen new emails and promptly files them all away when nothing seems urgent. Popping over to the network alerts, he feels his brows rise.
"Overheating alerts?" He blinks and counts the number of emails with a trickle of annoyance. "What in the world is this? Nothing should be-" He pauses when one alert is different, instantly telling him why he's getting the other alerts. "A hundred percent RAM and CPU utilization on all ten of the blacksite servers?" He murmurs, looking at the flashing alarm almost begging him to do something. "That's not right. They've never jumped over twenty-something each."
Suddenly fearing that he slept through something that's sure to lose him his job, the blonde curses a colorful tapestry of obscenities and leaps to his feet, running out of his office and to the unmarked racks of servers. To his silent alarm, the data center is warm. A room filled to the brim with sensitive machines and cooling devices is warm.
"Shit..." He curses once more and hurries to the lonely corner.
As he gets closer, the air gets hotter and drier, almost uncomfortably so, and it all comes from the screaming cluster of unmarked servers. Their fans shriek as they desperately try to cool the monolith of circuitry, but it's in vain.
Julian fumbles with his keys and unlocks the cage around the servers, then steps in and looks at the terminal sticking out of the side. The screen asks for a username and password that he doesn't have.
Looking around the terminal, Julian groans when government incompetence doesn't save him like it has in the past. No one left a sticky note with the credentials laying around, and he knows his standard admin log-in isn't going to work. Hoping beyond hope, he gropes behind the monitor and when he feels loose paper, he rips it away and breathes a sigh of relief when a sticky note rich with info comes back.
"Never thought a protocol breach like this would make me so happy..." He grins as he types in the info on the terminal, and after it hesitates for a moment, the machine presents a command line. A few commands later, and both the CPU and RAM are throttled to a much more manageable 50%.
Near instantly, the air begins to cool again and the terminal becomes much more responsive.
As he walks back to his office, Julian stops for a moment and glances back at the unmarked servers nervously. "They'd email me if they didn't want me messing with those, right?" Then he shakes his head. "Duh. Of course they would. Besides, what is a little throttling going to do to them?"
Seven floors below the false blacksite floor, chaos is unfolding.
On this floor lies DARPA's latest and greatest project: A true Einstein-Rosen bridge prototype, capable of warping space to teleport loads great distances.
The monolithic machine shares zero resemblance with its science fiction counterparts, instead looking like a sphere of inward-facing needles and twisted lengths of cables. One might look at the device and think it a convoluted means of tourture, or even something built on another planet. Even the incredible minds who birthed the impossible machine gaze upon it with awe and caution, each one treading on eggshells when even in the same room with the device.
None of that matters anymore, however.
Something went wrong during the initial power-up. The bridge was in the middle of calculating a destination for the test subject inside -a common and inert marble- when suddenly the processing power of the bridge took a nosedive.
The bridge tried to restore its stolen processing power as per its programming, and tried again and again. When millions of attempts passed in the span of a minute, the system promptly froze, crashed, and restarted with a violent power surge. Unresponsive of the master terminal's input, the Bridge began to power on.
In the panic, no one noticed an intern's laptop off to the side of the room. On its screen, an unsent email addressed to one J. Angelo sits, its warning to ignore any alerts today going unread by the one who needed to see it the most.
The Bridge groans, stilling the alarm of the researchers trying to escape the electronically controlled blast doors. Above, a shrill klaxon screams as the central point of all the Bridge's needles glow a blinding white over the marble. Then like a balloon, the ball of white expands and swallows everything around.
Julian suddenly jumps when alarm klaxons ring over the PA systems. There's no announcement signaling what it's for, so it's probably a false alarm, but the blonde man still jumps up from his desk and quickly walks to the doors. He swipes his badge to open the door... and they don't budge.
"C'mon." He swipes his badge over and over, and the light on the sensor beeps and blinks red in denial each time. "Whose bright idea was it to put these on the inside of secure areas! Fuckin-!" He grows and kicks the door, doing little more than scuffing it with his shoe.
With a sigh, he presses his back to the door and slides down to the floor. Pulling his phone from his pocket, he sends a text message to the site director and the janitor saying his door is stuck again before putting the little device away. As he sits there, he looks around at all the networking equipment with a frown.
He doesn't even like the IT field.
That in mind, he mulls over his life thus far.
An underwhelming childhood in the old country. Rural life as the youngest child meant his brothers and father did everything for him, because the family baby was not expected to pull his own weight. Of course he took the out. What child wouldn't?
Forgettable teen years wasted on video games and TV. He could have spent that time and money learning something valuable. He could have asked his father to teach him something. Anything! Anything more than throwing his time down the drain. It was only after the last saccharine years of true childhood did he realize his mistake, and did his desire to be more begin tocatalyze.
Moving to the states amid the unrest of their old home, and a highschool life that amounted to nothing. Oh, it seemed like everything at the time. The sudden burst of popularity at being foreign and having an accent felt incredible, because he stood out and made a difference! He was more! Julian's first girlfriend swooned over him, then broke his heart a month later. He loved too easily, too intensely, and it ended with him in pain more often than not. Few were as confused and desperate to find themselves as Julian was. His wish to be more grew without check.
Then mom passed away.
Oh, mom... Her constitution was ever so weak. Bearing four sons in the poor, rural old country and the sudden upheaval of moving to a new home was harsh on a petite waif of a woman like her. The flaxen hair she shared with Julian dulled rapidly over the years and weight would slide off her bones. One late night, she settled gingerly in bed with a book before falling asleep. She didn't rise the next day.
The dizzying, tear-filled weeks that followed were the worst of Julian's young life. Mom's death sucked the life from dad, and it was all Julian and his brothers could do to not kill each other in frustration. Nerves stayed raw for years afterward, but the part that truely stayed with Julian? Just how few people attended mom's funeral.
She was a woman worthy of the entire town showing up to mourn. She struck out, making connections and meeting people despite her health. She volunteered for the community, greeted all with a smile, and was fair no matter what. How many besides dad, Julian's brothers, and Julian himself showed up?
Three. Just three. The local minister, the lonely old man from down the lane, and one of Julian's teachers.
In just a year, mom was forgotten, reduced to a framed picture on the mantle. Dad rarely spoke of her, his brothers rarely spoke of her, and no one else spoke of her at all. One night, Julian slinked from his bed and to the mantle, looking at mom's smiling photo for what felt like hours.
The woman in the photo looked different from his memories. Not much, but enough to notice. Julian had started to forget her.
Something broke. Something inside him shattered. The raging fire flowing through his veins no longer urged him to be more, but something. Something everyone knows, something unforgettable. Mom may have been Something to him, but to everyone else? Nothing.
His college years and internships were spent with his nose to the grindstone. Vices like women and drinking and partying and socialising were left at the door as he worked his damnedest to be Something. His dreams of a medical doctorate were quickly crushed when he flunked out. He tried and tried again, but something just didn't click, forcing him to shoot lower and settle with technical courses.
Bouncing from job to job, looking for something that didn't crush his soul, that didn't extinguish his want to be Something. Then finally getting an offer from DARPA. A twenty-five year old Julian was over the moon. This is where he would find his excitement and make a place in the world!
Nope. It's just like every other government job. Lethargic and unfulfilling.
Maybe that's all Julian Angelo was to amount to in the grander scheme. Being an unfulfilled cog. To be Something was beyond him.
He scoffs and banishes the dour thoughts. "No. There's more to life than that. I know it." Then he glances at the door against his back. "Whatever they're doing out there, it better not-"
His words are cut off as brilliant white light swallows his vision and the sound of a waterfall overwhelms all else.
To anyone outside the building, it would look like an enormous section of it simply vanished, instantly evaporating out of existence, leaving the highest floors to fall and crumble. The panic set in instantly afterward, and first responders swarmed the scene, shocked by the huge crater where the government building was.
Federal agents slinked their way in, and when nothing could be recovered, they wove a narrative to cover everything up.
A disgruntled, extremist employee with an unknown motive smuggled explosives in the building and blew the entire place to kingdom come. The yield was so high, that much of the building and many of the bodies were destroyed beyond recognition. Anyone who pointed out the holes in the story went ignored.
Some people mourned while others were angry, the President addressed the tragedy with practiced sympathy, the news ran the story for a week, then life went on as normal.
Or life went on as normal for most...
Birdsong. Birdsong is the first thing to greet Julian's ears when he feels the snaring fingers of sleep release their hold on him. 'Great. Did someone catch me sleeping at my desk again? Pranks like this got old after the first time.'
Slowly, the man blinks his green eyes only to shut them again when a beam of sunlight catches him through the canopy of green leaves above. 'Hold on. What?'
Suddenly aware of soft grass tickling his scalp through his hair, Julian groans and raises himself up into a seated position, crossing his legs as he does so. He blinks his eyes open again and looks around as he combs loose grass from his hair.
In every direction is woodland for as far as the eye can see. Grass, bushes, and trees untouched by human hands dominate the landscape. The verdant green color and cool breeze rustling the trees wakes Julian up near instantly. He stands unsteadily and blinks, but after rubbing his eyes, the landscape stays unchanged.
"The hell?" He mutters to himself. "This is a little far for a prank. Pick on the poor network guy, eh? We'll see how you like having your everything throttled..." He pulls his phone from his strangely loose pants and looks at it only to pause.
"Huh..." Julian takes a moment to reboot his phone, but gets the same result. "Fine then." He looks up, but the sun is difficult to see through the trees, which makes orienting himself a pain. He scratches his face with a sigh then freezes.
His stubble is missing. Not just missing, gone entirely. Julian rubs his face, only to find it smoother than it has been in years. No hair, no little acne scars, nothing.
Taking out his phone again, the confused man turns on the forward-facing camera and gapes at what he sees.
A much younger Julian, one who barely looks fourteen years old, gapes back at him. His face is youthful and angular, lacking the lines carved by adult stress. Looking down, he sees the thin and reedy form of his teen-years, not the slightly overweight adult built by years of white-collar work. His clothes, now several sizes too large, hang off his frame as if he were a child who raided his father's wardrobe.
"What the hell were they working on downstairs?" Julian touches his face in wonder. He looks even better than he did when he was actually fourteen. "They weren't making a time-machine or something... were they? Jesus, was there even a forest here years ago? That building was built in the 80s I thought..." Again he looks at this phone, and still, it reads NO SERVICE, making annoyance flare in the man-turned-teen. "Swell."
He turns to pick a direction and begins walking, but stumbles when he steps on something round that nearly makes him trip.
Lifting his shoe and looking down, he blinks in confusion.
Partially embedded into the dirt after he stepped on it, a beautiful rainbow-colored marble stares back at him. In its center sits a curious design, almost like a cutout from a double-helix. It glitters when a thin shaft of sunlight waves past its surface, and if Julian was more superstitious, he'd even say the marble is glowing. Regardless, he leans down, picking up the captivating bauble and rolling it in his hand.
"The design always faces me?" He turns the rainbow-colored orb around and around, yet the design in the center dutifully remains facing him. "Trippy. Did one of DARPA's toys end up here too? No? Where have I seen this design before..?"
Julian isn't sure how long he walks for, as he's too busy entertaining himself by rolling the marble around in his fingers. He inspects it every which way, yet the little glass bauble refuses to show him how it does its party trick. After his too-large shoes almost slip free for the tenth time, he stops and frowns. Cupping his hands around his mouth, he shouts; "Hey! Anyone there!?"
His voice rolls through the trees, and no answer is heard back.
Undaunted, Julian slips the marble into his pocket and keeps walking. He glances at the sky again, and judging from how the sun has moved, he must be heading south.
As the day drags on, the man-turned-teen feels his ire grow when he encounters nothing but more forest. In his mis-sized shoes, his feet begin to hurt, and his unfed stomach begins to growl and chew on itself in hunger.
Julian pauses when a curious noise comes from above him in a tree. Expecting a bird of some type, he looks up into the tree branches and freezes in place.
Sitting in a glistening spider web large enough to capture an eagle, a bulbous, green spider of horrifying size stares down at him with beady black eyes and blood-red fangs bared. Its yellow legs are banded with black, and a black pattern on its green abdomen resembles a simple smiley face that looks grossly out of place.
Slowly, the spider lowers itself down at him in a strand of thin silk, its tiny eyes trained on the human below it.
Julian turns and runs like hell is on his heels.
"What the fuck was that thing!?" He cries to himself. In the back of his mind, the spider somehow seems familiar, much like the marble he found underfoot, but his panicked mind can't seem to place where exactly he's seen such a monstrous arachnid before.
'In a nightmare, maybe. Jesus fuckin' Christ. I didn't get sent to a jungle where everything and its venomous grandma are out to get me, did I?'
He continues running, crashing through several bushes. After a minute of solid sprinting, Julian dares to look back and sees no spider in pursuit. "Thank you, God!" He praises aloud, dropping out of his sprint to a shaky walk. Turning and leaning against a tree, he puts his hands on his knees and takes deep, lung filling breaths of cool air. Slowly, the adrenaline drains out of his limbs and leaves the man-turned-teen simply frustrated and tired. "I've about had it with this shit," he growls to himself. He looks up at the sky with his arms spread wide. "Okay! I don't know what kind of demented joke this is, but I'm not laughing! Something please start making sense!"
Several birds fly out of the trees, startled by the yelling human below them, but other than that the sound of the wind is Julian's only answer.
The blonde teen crosses his arms with a huff, glancing down at them as he does so. Across his arms are several little cuts and scrapes from where he ran into the bushes earlier. He pokes one and winces at the sting. 'Probably not a dream, then.'
Then without warning, something drops out of the tree above him and lands with a quiet thud.
Julian yelps and jumps away, whirling his arms when his too-large shoes nearly make him trip again. "Who the hell are-" he stops, his jaw dropping.
Slowly rising from its crouched position, a…a something resembling a bipedal jackal regards him with wary crimson eyes. The thing stands on two very canine paws coated in black fur up until its knees, where the fur suddenly transitions to a dull blue color. The muscular legs lead up to a narrow waist with another sharp change in fur color, this time back to black before just as suddenly changing to a cream color for its torso. Right in the middle of its chest, a short, symmetrical spike of… Bone? Metal? A spike of something protrudes from its sternum, and connected that sternum are a pair of arms with the same blue and black fur as the legs. The arms each end in a paw with three digits, and on the back of each paw is another conical spike. Finally, the head of the creature looks like a heavily anthropomorphized jackal, with a thin muzzle set in a frown, tall ears, and what seemed to be dreadlocks hanging from the back of its head.
This thing, Julian remembers this thing. It was nearly 20 years ago that he played that old videogame, but how could anyone forget such an iconic creature? This is a…
"…Lucario?" He breathes.
The Lucario blinks. The action looks so strange on a three-dimensional being rather than a two-dimensional animation on a computer monitor. The pokémon looks so real. Julian can see the wind rustling its fur, the subtle tensing and relaxing of the muscles despite said fur, and the slow rise and fall of its chest.
For a second, the teen in ill-fitting clothes and the animation-made-flesh remained still, both unwilling to break the uneasy peace. Then something rustles in the leaves above.
With a gulp, Julian slowly turns his eyes skyward and immediately wishes he hadn't.
Standing crouched in the tree branches high above like expert gymnasts… or assassins, an entire trope of Lucario, numbering at least 10, stare down at him.
One of the jackals high above leaps down from its perch, landing between Julian and the first Lucario, totally unfazed from the 20-foot fall. This one rises with confidence and stands half a head higher than the first Lucario, and Julian can see why.
Those old games clearly got the heights of these pokémon wrong, because this one stands tall enough to look him in the eye. The newcomer's fur is a duller color all around and its lean body is a sculpted, envy inducing collection of muscle. Crisscrossing over its body is a number of scars, each one faded with age. On its muzzle, which holds wisps of graying fur, an imperious expression sits. The large Lucario raises its nose to Julian and crosses its arms. From its skin rolls crackling bands of light the same color as the sky. The grass around its feet ripples.
Julian sucks in a tense breath as his body breaks out to goosebumps. A tangible sort of pressure presses down upon him, and in the back of his mind, a primal instinct long forgotten to modern humanity awakens. With that awakening, Julian is struck with the preternatural feeling-no, preternatural knowledge of just how small he is before this Lucario. One single strike from the pokemon in front of Julian would cave in his chest, powder his skeleton, rupture his skin and organs. The eyes, the eyes, the eyes! The red eyes of the Lucario shine with violence! It wants to KILL him!
The instinct grows from a whisper to a scream, it urges the frightened teen to do one thing and one thing only.
The blonde tries to turn and flee as fast as his limbs will carry him, only to tremble in place. Julian gurgles, his eyes bugging out as he realizes that he can't even breathe, the pressure around him is so great. The edges of his vision bleed red, and then black.
How long has he been stuck like this?
Then suddenly, the terrible pressure vanishes.
Julian sucks in a breath and coughs, almost falling to his hands and knees when his legs nearly give out. The spots dancing in his vision slowly fade as someone takes a firm hold of his shoulder to keep him steady.
'The fuck was that? It felt like gravity doubled and tried to pull me to the ground! And that… that…' He tries to find words for the feeling of utter dread and the surefire knowledge of his impending demise that pierced him down to the soul, but nothing he thinks of seems to carry enough weight. 'That felt like… like… Maybe that killing intent shit you see in bad anime?'
A snarling bark makes him jump, and when he looks back up, he blinks in surprise.
The smaller Lucario is now at his side, one of its large forepaws on his shoulder and the other wrapped securely around his arm. Its face is screwed up in anger as it lifts a paw and points accusingly at the larger, more grizzled Lucario. Did this one… Jump to his defense?
The smaller one says something in a growl, then pulls at Julian's too-large clothes as if to make a point. It glances at him with its red eyes, which take a gentle, apologetic look. The apology is replaced with fury again when it looks back at the senior pokémon.
A short, quiet rumbling of the throat is the elder's reply. It doesn't seem phased in the slightest bit by its junior's anger. It uncrossed its arms and finally takes its piercing eyes off of Julian to stare at the smaller pokémon. "Grarrio… Ruruirioo?" It says with a voice like stones grinding together.
Julian's defender scowls and steps forward, firmly planting itself between the human and the aggressor.
Both turn to look at him, one set of eyes uncertain and the other set with displeasure, making Julian flinch. "Look, I'm not here to make trouble. I'm just super lost, honest. If you could, uh, point me to the nearest human town I'll skedaddle. No need to be upset…"
'Man, I hope they can understand me. These guys can do that emotion-sensing thing, can't they? They can tell I'm being honest, right?'
The younger Lucario turns to its senior with an eyebrow raised, an astonishingly human gesture, as if saying 'Well?' or 'I told you so.'
For a moment, everyone holds their breath as the scarred pokemon narrows its eyes in thought. Even the Lucario up in the trees watch nervously. After the longest moment in Julian's life, the large Lucario finally deflates under the younger's stern, disapproving gaze. It - no, he. Something about him seems distinctly masculine to Julian - murmurs something under his breath and waves a dismissive paw.
His junior smiles and breathes a sigh of relief, putting its paws on its hips in yet another human gesture. It freezes, however, when the elder male turns away and murmurs something else in its rough voice, something too quiet for Julian to fully hear.
Julian breathes out a silent sigh and shifts on his feet, nervousness still bubbling in his gut. "So is that a yes? Can you show me to a town or something? I'm lost and alone out here, and if you show me I can get out of your forest and leave you alone."
Without any warning, the seemingly alpha male Lucario effortlessly hops back up into a high tree branch, landing upon the limb without so much as a sound or a disturbed leaf. He glances back down at both Julian and the junior pokémon.
The smaller Lucario regards Julian and raises its paw to its chin, seemingly indecisive. Then with a deep breath and a resolute nod, it turns away, making Julian's heart sink. They're just going to leave him here alone in this for-
The Lucario bends slightly and holds its arms out backward before looking over its shoulder. It looks as if the jackal pokémon wants to…
"…Carry me?" Julian blinks. "Well, erm. That's really kind and all, but you don't need to go that far. You can just point me to a town and I'll get going. Also, not looking to slight you so don't take it that way, but I think I'm probably a little too heavy for you."
And indeed the pokémon looks a little too overconfident. While the Lucario is definitely taller than the 3 foot average described in those old video games, this one is still a head shorter than him if the ears aren't counted.
The Lucario's brows furrow in annoyance. It waves its arms as if asking him to hurry up.
'Then again, I'm not that tall anymore either and my spare tire is gone now. Whatever, I'll humor…'
With it's back bent and tail slightly raised, Julian can clearly see that it is a she.
"Okay, if you really insist…" The formerly grown man sighs, fully expecting the Lucario to crumple under his weight. He steps closer and drapes himself slowly over the back of the jackal, finding himself surprised when she doesn't even budge. He grips her shoulders and yelps when she easily scoops his legs up under her forepaws and stands up straight as if he isn't even there. "H-Hold on…"
Her legs tense, then she leaps.
Julian has to bite his lip to keep from yelling into his ride's ears as the ground rushes away under them, almost as if gravity simply ceased caring. The Lucario carrying him lands softly in a tree branch that groans under their combined weight, but it holds steady.
Ahead, the alpha male Lucario turns and jumps onto a distant tree branch. He flies with practically no arc and once again makes no sound.
As one, the entire Lucario trope, Julian and his savior included, rush to keep up. They all cut through the air with only a faint whistle from their sharp spikes marking their travel.
Julian grimaces and hugs the back of the pokemon carrying him, keeping his head pressed to the back of hers as to not be smacked by an errant branch. Despite his stomach rolling and churning he still manages to groan. "Definitely not my idea of an ideal day…"
Through the wind whistling in his ears and through his chest mashed to her back, the blonde both hears and feels his savior let out a distinctly canine chortle.
Julian huffs. "You don't need a laugh about it. How would you feel if you ended up in the middle of nowhere in an unfamiliar body likely due to some fuckery that your government workplace got up to?"
She spares a second between jumps to look back at him, confusion plain on her face.
"Oh, right. Pokémon. You don't have to worry about things like workplace incompetence. Whatever the hell happened, I'm just fine blaming them…" The teen grumbles. "Do you have a name?"
She looks back at him again, this time with an inquiring "Rrrr?"
"I can't just keep calling you 'that Lucario that saved me from getting pulped' now can I?" Julian muses, making an effort to think of anything other than the speeding forest floor below them. "I'll go first. Julian is my name, Julian Angelo. Yours is?"
She doesn't respond for a moment. "Rrrurrru," she says, sounding as if she's struggling to not roll her Rs.
"Ruru?" Julian murmurs, trying and failing to pronounce it as she did. "Eh, I'm sorry for butchering your name. How about a nickname so I don't look completely incompetent? Does Lulu sound all right? Kinda sounds like what you're trying to get across. Probably not the most original nickname for a Lucario, but…"
She tilts her head, then nods uncaringly.
"Glad we've got that out of the way." Julian takes a deep breath and ignores the smell of sweat and dog coming from the newly dubbed Lulu. Slowly but surely, his stomach begins to settle. "So, the guy who very obviously wanted me dead. He seems like a protective one. Is he your…" The teen pauses and thinks for a moment. "Husband? Mate?"
Lulu turns her head just enough to let him see her muzzle scrunched in distaste. Following that, she quickly shakes her head, accidentally batting him with her dreadlocks.
Again, Lulu shakes her head.
This time, she nods and sighs in exasperation.
"Yeah, I can kinda relate to that." Julian muses aloud. "I was the youngest of my siblings and after my mom passed, my own dad sometimes went a little overboard because I was the 'baby' of the family. I'm not super thrilled over how he threatened my life and all that, but I can kinda get where your old man is coming from. I'd be a bit pissed if someone ran through my home making a racket."
Again, Lulu looks back at Julian, but this time he can't seem to place the expression on her face. Contemplation, maybe?
The one-sided conversation lapses into silence, broken only by the sound of Lulu's spikes dragging through the air and the whipping of Julian's too-large clothes.
'Man, just what the hell did I get into this time?' Julian holds back a groan. 'In the middle of God knows where, back to being a teenager, with nothing but the clothes on my back, a phone with no service, and a fancy marble. I know that DARPA had something to do with this. What were they working on? Some kind of virtual-reality thing? No, why would they bother loading it with pokémon? And why include me for that matter? This has to be a mistake. They did something and this is all the result of a colossal fuck-up, I know it.' He sighs and looks at the back of Lulu's head. 'I hope all that jazz about pokémon naturally being nice is true. I've already hitched a ride on Air-Cario and I can't exactly go back now.'
For almost an hour Lulu carries him as she and the rest of her group jump tree branch to tree branch like ninja. Not once do any of them trip or lose their balance, instead flowing with supernatural grace from one movement to the next. Their travel frightens away the other pokemon that Julian can catch a glimpse of. Starlys, ground-bound Bidoofs, a Shinx, and even a Carnivine all make themselves scarce when the group of Lucario bound by.
Eventually, the trees begin to thin out, and the alpha male who Julian mentally dubs 'Pops' jumps down to the ground with everyone swiftly following his lead. Once all of the Lucario are on the ground, Pops takes off with breakneck speed along the ground. His stance is low and his arms drag out behind him from the sheer velocity. Everyone quickly follows along, adopting the same stance before they run as blue and black blurs, dodging trees and bushes as they go.
Lulu, unable to mimic their stance with Julian on her back, simply has to push off the ground harder to keep up. The sprint only carries on for about 15 minutes before the group begins to slow, but by then Julian can hear Lulu beginning to pant. No doubt she's tired from traveling through the trees with him and the sprint only makes things worse.
Finally, it seems as if the trip is at an end. Pops comes to a stop near a thicket of trees and shrubs so dense that nothing can be seen beyond them. Forming into a single file line, each Lucario slips through a very narrow gap between two of the shrubs. Pops stands by the 'entrance' with his arms crossed, waiting for everyone else to cross before he does.
Julian starts when Lulu releases his legs. It isn't until his feet hit the ground that the pins-and-needles sensation of his legs being asleep hits him. He hisses and shakes his legs, trying to will feeling back into them.
The last Lucario that isn't Lulu or Pops crosses the threshold that Pops is guarding, leaving just the three of them outside the thicket.
Julian stiffens when Pops levels him with yet another glare. The same unplaceable feeling that makes a primordial piece of Julian awaken and suddenly become wary washes over him again like a wave. The feeling stops when Lulu protectively steps in front of him and returns her father's glare with one of her own, shielding the teen from the oppressive feeling.
Pops scoffs and holds his nose up, not deigning to give Julian any more attention than necessary. Again, the sudden weight disappears.
Lulu growls at her father one final time then takes one of Julian's hands in her paws, dragging the blonde human with her without a struggle. She leads him past Pops and into the narrow opening of the shrubs, ducking a little as she does so.
Julian follows, ducking his head as well to clear the branches. Once he feels no more leaves or twigs tugging at his arms and back, he raises his head and feels his eyes widen.
Past the narrow gap is a grove of trees arranged in a tight circle with tall bushes filling in the cracks, making an unbroken wall of green leaves and brown bark. Along the barrier of green and brown are simple open-faced huts and wicki-ups, each built with woven sticks and covered in a layer of mossy dirt. Many have circles of stones filled with ash nearby, but no fires currently lit. Under the simple shelters, a number of startled Lucario and wide-eyed Riolu stare at Julian. Out in the distance, a babbling river cuts through the natural camp, filling the clearing with the sound of running water. In the very middle of the camp where several more Lucario pause spars between them, the grass has been worn down to bare dirt by the countless paws that have no doubt tread over the spot.
It's... peaceful. Beautiful, even.
Before either side can get a word in, Pops comes striding in from behind. He stops several steps ahead of Lulu and Julian, then waves a paw uncaringly toward the only human in the little camp. "Grario. Lugrrr..." the rest of his speech dips into a growl punctuated by an annoyed bark.
Whatever he said, it makes a wave of quiet murmurs break out amongst the pokemon. One Lucario in particular stands from under the largest hut and makes her way over, and as she walks, anyone in her way steps aside and inclines their head, signifying her importance to the teen interloper.
As she walks closer, Julian can make out the gray hairs on her muzzle much like Pops, and although no less fit in body, her eyes are much more gentle. Rather than look like blood similar to the male Lucario, her eyes sparkle like rubies. She comes to a halt just arms length away from Pops, her expression shifting into something unimpressed as she lays a forepaw on her hip. The growl that comes from her lips is quiet and followed by a raised eyebrow.
Pops, who didn't so much as flinch when his daughter laid into him, wilts under the stare of the lady Lucario before him. He looks away first and mutters something too quiet for Julian to hear in reply.
'Oof. Tough luck pal. Sucks being whipped, don't it?'
Lady Lucario pokes Pops in the chest, just under his spike, in a clear warning to behave. Then she turns to Lulu with a smile and opens her arms.
Lulu returns the smile with one of her own and steps into the offered hug. Both pokemon turn their chests just a bit so neither are poked by the other's chest spike. Lady Lucario nuzzles Lulu tenderly before releasing her and turning to face Julian.
'If Pops is Lulu's father, does that mean Lady Luca here is her mom?' He wonders as the elegant Fighting-type steps closer.
Lady Luca stops just short of him, almost uncomfortably close, her nose twitching as she sniffs the air around him. Julian doesn't stop her when she pulls at his clothes with a frown, then she gently lifts his scratched arms up to inspect them. "Graroo?" She asks something of him, looking up at him with an expression that isn't quite a frown, but not pleased either.
"Eh?" Julian looks down at the small cuts littering his arms. "It's no big deal. I just need to clean them and I'll be fine. No need to worry about me."
Lady Luca clicks her tongue and shakes her head just like a disappointed mother might. She places one large, flat forepaw over the largest cut and closes her eyes.
The teen winces when her rough paw pad pulls as the laceration. "What are yo...!"
Under the Lucario's paw, a pink glow shines between the gaps where his arm and her paw meet, stopping Julian's protests dead in his mouth. The pink light is so warm and inviting that he couldn't pull away even if he tried, and that warmth slowly travels through his arm to diffuse through his body. It flows like warmed molasses, down his arm, to his core, then to the rest of his limbs. Under Julian's awe-struck eyes, all the cuts on his arms knit themselves together and fizzle like water in a hot pan, vanishing as if they never existed.
Struck dumb, Julian doesn't fight at all when Lady Luca pulls him along to the large hut shared by her, Pops, and Lulu. He doesn't fight when she gently coaxes him into a bed of soft leaves and runs a soothing paw through his hair. He barely notices Lady Luca shoo away a horde of curious Riolu crowding the entrance. Slowly outside, the day turns to night. Several times Lady Luca and sometimes Lulu come to check on him, but he's too caught in his own thoughts to care.
It was one thing to find himself stranded and his body changed by unknown means.
It was another thing to be carried around by a bipedal jackal who should not have the muscle needed to even lift him.
One could even rationalize the phenomena around Pops and his hostile intro as a hallucination.
But his wounds just closing on their own, and the sensation of that pink light filling him with warmth, chasing away his soreness...
Witnessing, or better yet, feeling what any sane person would call "magic" first hand really hammers everything home.
Julian Angelo is lost.