2010 Contest entry: Catwalk category (1st place)
Received: September 27th, 2010
Meroe's entry comes with a fanfic and a lenghty artist's description, so beware of the upcoming wall of text! Judging found below.
The Stuff of Legends
Written by Amber Bevan
Inspired by characters Charlotte, Blue-Uncia on DeviantArt
Some things should be left alone...
"After our failure to create the most powerful of all pokemon using our mew cloning experiment, the organization retreated into the dark, crusty places of the world to understand and correct what had gone wrong. We had engineered the perfect warrior in Mewtwo—an awesome, psychokinetic monster with agility and strength far surpassing any other pokemon, human, or weapon in existence—but why had Mewtwo gone rogue? Was it a flaw in the creature's genetic code, did it possess too much free will, or was it a combination of the two that ruined so much hard work? The research into the matter required decades to complete, but, with the world believing we disbanded, it was easy for us to work in secrecy and thus finish what we started all those years before. The result was so frightening that most of the executives disappeared or committed suicide. However… those executives who remained, the most ambitious and cruel of us all, were more than happy to carry out the organization's plan.
"As I stood in the darkness, bathed in the sickly blue haze of thousands of life support capsules, a cringe unsettled my stomach. What unnamable evil were we about to unleash on the unsuspecting world? What would be left when it was all over? My colleagues cried in joy as they witnessed the hideous visages of the things we had created, but I shuddered and looked away. Mewtwo had been an imperfect clone but it had still been a beautiful creature, worthy of our respect and admiration… but these things we made, they were no longer pokemon. They weren't even monsters. They were tools, puppets, machines—heartless, soulless weapons made for slaughter. And our engineers were ready to breed more of these things, thousands more, enough to smother all of humanity underfoot.
"I realized it far too late, but I knew at that moment that we were wrong. There was a reason why our original experiment had failed. It was a warning for us to leave it be, to stop being arrogant and stupid and stop tampering with things we couldn't comprehend. One of my colleagues saw me turn away, my face contorted in disgust, and he grilled me with a crooked grin. I hurried back to my lab then, knowing what was coming. Even now, as I write this, I can sense the end approaching in the icy steel gripped in someone's hands. I now wonder: are my colleagues acting on their own, or do our experiments possess more free will and power than we could ever know? I suppose it doesn't matter now that we've started the world on this path to oblivion...
[excerpt from a document written by a member of Team Rocket's leading genetic cloning team]
The history of the world can change in a single day...
No one could have prepared mankind for what happened. On the dawn of a blazing summer morning on the anniversary of Team Rocket's supposed disbanding, strange figures with long, crooked tails appeared in the skies over every major city across the globe. For hours the limber and bulky silhouettes just hovered there, silently observing the tiny people's lives passing insignificantly below them. Those people stopped in the streets to shout and point upwards, more curious than frightened of the spectacle. Eventually, the most daring citizens sent their flying pokemon to investigate. Those poor creatures were the first casualties. A twitch from the mysterious figures, and the bones and guts of the flying pokemon hurtled through the air to decorate the city roofs and people's cars and faces. Then, in a crescendo that made the world tremble to its core, fire, ice, and lightning crashed down onto the streets.
The ordeal was easiest on the people who perished. The people who survived those initial waves of death, they are the ones who suffered the greatest.
Through the plumes of fire and clouds of ash and frost, cybernetically enhanced abominations flew over the streets at reckless speed. The terrors from the sky vaguely resembled the legendary Mewtwo, but their widely varied skeletal structure, skin, and proportions were never quite right, and, unlike their predecessor, these creatures were unburdened by a sense of self or the desire to understand the meaning of life. They battled without fear or trepidation and killed with no mercy, but, most terrible of all, they obeyed their Team Rocket masters without question. With these monsters hovering by their sides, the members of Team Rocket strolled into the crumbling cities and seized control in one location after another. Many people and pokemon stepped up with confidence to defend their homes and families. Many more trainers and their teams perished. Even the military powers of the world, with all of their high-tech equipment and powerful weapons of war, could do nothing against Team Rocket. Amidst the unending chaos, people cried out for salvation, for some hero with great heart or great power to stand up and stop the madness... but no hero came. There was no one with the strength or skill to stand against the might and numbers of Team Rocket's horrid army.
It took only one day for Team Rocket to sweep civilized society away and claim the smoldering, bloody pieces left behind under their dark flag. In the days that followed, a new society formed with Team Rocket in complete control. They rebuilt the industries and businesses they wanted and left the rest to rot in the dust, forgotten to all except those few who remained true to their memories. Everyone else quietly accepted the changes and withdrew into a twisted version of normalcy. Many brave or suicidal trainers continued to fight for what had been lost, but many more trainers joined Team Rocket, enticed by their power and cloning technologies. The strongest of those trainers' pokemon were cloned and used as disposable warriors in places too lowly for the mewtwos to bother with. The battle lines were drawn with the shattered world as the battlefield, and over it all hung a giant, bloody R surrounded by misshapen, armored mewtwos like vultures eager to swoop on anyone who dared turn their face to the sky, searching for a single ray of hope through the ash and dust.
Yet Team Rocket was not satisfied with simply owning the world's material possessions. They desired the hearts of the people as well. They appeased the downtrodden masses with new currency in their image and provided their citizens with new places to go to work: game corners, carnivals, arcades, and malls all filled with wonderful things to occupy the people's frayed minds. In the weeks that followed, public opinion turned in Team Rocket's favor. In the next months, people began to forget that the Rockets were ever criminals at all, even as wild pokemon began to act erratically and attack any human they saw. And as the months faded into years, the world began a slow, inevitable decay beneath the countless battles waged in the name of truth and justice.
Team Rocket had finally won.
A battle they can't possibly win, but a burden they must bear...
Matt "the Red" Ray and ex-champion Sandy Gano had been on an epic journey, but that journey was rudely interrupted when Team Rocket conquered the planet. Matt and Sandy lost so much that day: the places they had visited, the people and pokemon they cherished, and the way of life they loved. Suddenly the duo was faced with an impossible decision: Confront an indomitable enemy or join that hated but all-powerful enemy. If they fought, they would probably die like so many others, but how could they work with an organization responsible for so much devastation and heartache? Slowly, the choice became clear. Too many friends were gone, murdered by Team Rocket's endless armies of pokemon, and too many once well-respected trainers had given in to Team Rocket's demands and become their pawns. In order to show Team Rocket's true colors to the world, Matt and Sandy would stand against the organization, alone if they had to, but maybe their ferocious fighting would encourage more people to make a stand. Someone had to do something, or future generations would grow up believing only the mask Team Rocket portrayed to the public, not the horrors the organization committed.
Burdened by their sense of justice, Matt and Sandy cast aside all aspects of their old lives and took up weapons against the new masters of the planet. With their friend Subastion van der Wyck as their informer and guide, they joined the resistance and took advantage of the technologies stolen from Team Rocket to enhance their combat strength. Sandy took to the skies in her state-of-the-art combat aircraft and blasted through the hoards of winged enemies with her trusted partner Solly the Blaziken always by her side, while on the ground Matt roared through Team Rocket's ground troops on his heavy armored, feraligator-themed battle bike, always in the company of his fearless companion, Nile. Matt, Sandy, and their pokemon soon became infamous across the land for their struggles. They weren't indomitable, and they suffered more than anyone should suffer, yet they always protected their friends and what bits of the old way still struggled to survive under the orange sky. Matt, Sandy, and company became a symbol of defiance to Team Rocket's control and inspired many trainers to fight when otherwise they would have knelt in submission. Becoming icons for the resistance didn't matter much to Matt or Sandy though. All they cared about was fighting for what they believed in, but that was what made their battles worth remembering.
In time, their failures and triumphs would become the stuff of legends.
When you fight for so long, you forget how to do anything else...
The mission was standard: Ambush the transport and acquire any useful goods on board. It was a mission that Matt and Sandy had carried out hundreds of times before, but they suspected that their luck was ready to retire as Sandy in her aircraft and Matt on his armored bike sped over the lonely, brown countryside towards their target.
Sandy leaned forward in her chair and picked up her radio. "Matt, can you hear me?" It took a moment for the static to clear, but Sandy soon heard the familiar purr of her partner's engine and his usual grumpy sigh.
"Yeah, I hear you."
"There's a radar tower ahead of us. It will pick me up if I fly any closer. I'm joining you on the ground."
"If that's what you want to do, I can't stop you. Just don't get in my way."
He closed the line. Accustomed to his rudeness, Sandy smiled as she put the radio away. She switched off the autopilot and steered towards a safe landing place below the mountains. What was once beautiful green hills was now a broad expanse of dying white-brown grass and unused, broken roads. Team Rocket only repaired the roads they used to bring supplies into the cities. Places like this weren't important to them, except when they were looking for more pokemon to sell or use for their games. Sandy tried not to grind her teeth away as she sat her craft down beside a burned-out farmstead.
As the glass slid away from overhead for her to disembark, Sandy turned around to her co-pilot, Solly. "Give me a hand. We can hide the ship in that old barn until we're finished."
The lounging blaziken stretched and nodded.
Matt parked his bike on the hill and cut the engine. Once a forest, the hill was now nothing but brittle trees and crunchy grass—terrible cover, but Matt was never the one to care about stealth operations. Through his binocular goggles, he spotted the faint line of dust where the transport approached, flanked by aerodactyles, as usual. At least there weren't any mewtwos this time, but there could be a hundred pokemon waiting in their pokeballs. Matt scowled as he started his engine again. Between fossil resurrection, cloning, reanimation, and cybernetic enhancement, it was almost impossible to make any kind of dent on Team Rocket's forces, but fighting was the only thing that made sense now. There was no more pokemon league, no more league rules for trainers, and no more consequences for Team Rocket's actions. The more Matt thought about what those criminals did to poor, innocent pokemon, the harder he clenched the handlebars and the faster he raced down the hill. He backed off when he noticed the dust cloud behind him.
Worried he'd blown his cover, Matt veered across the road and took to a dry river bed. The rough terrain knocked his spine against the seat, but the small shocks of pain were nothing compared to the excitement building in his gut. He slowed, parked behind a veil of up-heaved stones and trees, and waited. For a moment, Matt wondered if Sandy was waiting close by, but it was too dangerous to look for her. Then he had a mental image of Solly looming over him, cracking his scaly knuckles. Sandy could take care of herself, Matt decided.
At last, the transport emerged far down the road. The huge armored vehicle, like a pill bug on wheels, rolled along beneath its winged escort, all unaware of their stalkers. It would be minutes still before it was time to spring the trap. Matt placed a hand over his heavy utility belt, sensing his team's impatience and growing more uneasy. Every fight, he faced death too many times to number, and he survived somehow, but there was a chance, always a chance, that he wouldn't dodge far enough, that his pokemon wouldn't strike fast enough...
An aerodactyle detached from the transport and glided up the road. Even from afar, the enemy pokemon's eyes glowed an unnatural neon green like the seams of the finely polished armor on its chest. The aerodactyle turned away and Matt relaxed, but the creature suddenly swerved towards the riverbed. So the drivers weren't dumb. Matt smirked as he revved the engine and vaulted onto the road. The aerodactyles shrieked a warning to the transport. Lights flashed along it. In moments, the sky was full of roaring and screeching pokemon. The lead group flapped their wings or hovered towards Matt. As they unleashed their attacks, the sides of Matt's bike opened and spewed laser bullets skyward. The enemies unable to shield plummeted to the road. Matt swerved around the heaving bodies, driving with one hand while the other worked the trigger on a beam machine gun. In mid turn, he flipped open a compartment on his belt and withdrew a beat-up pokeball.
"Let's go, Nile!"
A beam of light shot forwards and suddenly the giant, armored feraligatr was blocking the road with his shining bulk. Matt drove around his partner with a shout. Oblivious to his trainer, Nile stretched to his impressive full height and fired his ice beam into the air. The wide beam swept over multiple enemies, freezing them solid. When they struck the ground, they splintered into sparkly fragments. Other enemies countered with flamethrowers, but Nile was off running with a wild roar.
"Don't stray!" Matt said after his friend.
Nile shouted an answer as he spun around and slammed his tail onto a charizard.
Suddenly, a metagross teleported on top of the transport. The new enemy cast shields to reflect Matt's laser fire. Swearing, he quickly put his gun away and exchanged it for a bullet-fed machine gun. The cartridge was empty in a minute. The weapon auto-loaded new bullets and the barrage continued as Matt drove closer and closer to the coveted transport. When he emptied the cartridge again, he exchanged the gun for a heavy sword and swung through the side of a drenched dragonite. The dragonite screeched and flailed like a thing possessed. There was a familiar twinge of guilt in Matt at striking a pokemon in cold blood, but it was only brief. These pokemon were machine hybrids, zombies, traitors, and clones, and those that weren't had been brainwashed into ruthlessness. Matt couldn't afford to feel sorry for these monsters, not when they had killed so many innocent people and pokemon already. Nile finished the enemy with a slash and bite to the throat.
Matt sped up, aiming straight for the transport, but a trio of bronzong blocked his path. Their eyes gleamed as silver light gathered in front of them. Before they fired, Matt popped a wheelie and drove up the lead bronzong's body. The pokemon crashed with a resounding bong. As Matt landed with a harsh bump, the two other bronzong spun around and grabbed their opponent in a psychic chokehold. A purple light flashed on Matt's body. The dark shield snapped the psychic and stunned the bronzong. Nile appeared over the trio, surrounded in light from superpower. He slammed the three bronzong together, mashed them into a metal wad, and hurled it at a dragonite preparing its hyperbeam. The projectile cracked against the enemy's jaw.
Just as a shimmery confuse ray sprayed past Matt's head, a winged shadow fell over him. He braked and swerved, but it was only Solly blaze-kicking a fearow. As the enemy flopped on the ground, the lightly armored blaziken leaped skyward again to confront his next opponent, a gallade on steroids.
"Hey, Solly, forget the small fry! Go for that metagross!"
The gallade unexpectedly slumped in mid-air. The pokemon dropped to the ground, dead, as Solly planted his foot in a salamence's face. Matt silently thanked Sandy's marksmanship skills and gunned his engine.
He was close enough to the transport now to see the silhouettes of the drivers shouting orders at their pokemon hoard. One of the silhouettes raised a fist. By the time Matt realized what the person was doing, the beam of light had already streamed around the truck and formed into a vague shape on the road, right in front of Matt. There was no time for Matt to do anything except brace himself. He yelled as he plowed into the fat miltank. Matt's bike flipped over the corpse, hurling parts as it slammed back into the ground and screeched along. Matt rolled away before he was crushed, but he landed in front of the transport.
The armored vehicle increased its speed. Matt tried to stand, but a gravity move floored him as if Nile had sat on him. He struggled against the cracked pavement, hardly able to breathe, but it was futile. It was then that Nile jumped in front of Matt and used superpower once more. The transport slammed into him and stopped cold. The sharp light around Nile glared off the crumpled front of the armored vehicle as he rocked the entire transport onto its side. The metagross hovered to a safer height. That was when Solly's flaming first smashed into the metagross' top, ending its gravity attack.
Matt said, "Thanks, Nile, but you could have done that earlier!" as he hauled himself off the road. His cheek and body armor bore new scrapes and his pants were torn, but he was alive.
"Sorry, I was busy."
A stray thunderbolt crashed beside Matt, standing his hair on end. As he ducked behind his wrecked bike and fumbled for a weapon, Nile ripped a door off the transport vehicle's cab. Bullets flew past the feraligatr and bounced off his armor. A few shots ripped into his scales. Nile roared as he plunged into the cab jaws-first. Matt focused on the battle, feeling no sympathy for the screaming people behind him.
The conflict ended abruptly once the screams stopped. Without their humans giving commands, the enemy pokemon milled about, unsure what to do. All of the experiments and modifications had robbed them of their natural instincts and personalities. Even the enhanced metagross, for all its famed mental prowess, was useless without a Rocket telling it what to do. It hovered about, aimlessly seeking something that wasn't there.
"Keep an eye on that one," Matt said. He moved past his armored friend but stopped when he heard a strange, squishy crunch. Matt turned at once and regretted it. "Nile, what are you doing?! Get away from that miltank!"
"But it's good." The feraligatr licked the red remains off his lips. "I don't want it to go to waste."
"Nevermind... just keep look out. I'm checking inside. Maybe you didn't wreck everything."
While Matt was digging through the jumble of supplies in the transport, he heard footsteps outside. Pistol in hand, he poked his head out to make sure it was Sandy, since Nile hadn't gave him a roar. She grinned as she thumped Nile's leg in greeting. The feraligatr sighed and sat on his rump.
"One superpower too many?" Sandy said, her eyes darting to Matt.
"Shut up," he mumbled as he ducked back inside the transport. When he jumped out of the vehicle again, his arms were full of medical supplies and pokeballs. Sandy snatched a potion and handed it to Nile. He showed all of his stained teeth in thanks. When Solly approached, the fire still burning from his gauntlets, Sandy handed him a bottle as well, even though the blaziken was hardly injured. Matt was about to say something about wasting supplies when Sandy whirled on him. She scalded him with her best glare, and he glared right back at her. After a moment, Sandy relaxed and leaned against Solly.
"You have all your limbs this time, Matt. That's good. Your bike wasn't so fortunate. What did you do, use it as a battering ram?"
"Something like that..." He gazed at his boots, recalling the vacant expression the miltank had before he turned it into hamburger. It had been an innocent pokemon, not one of the Rockets' abominations. Sandy placed a gentle hand on Matt's shoulder armor.
"At least we rescued these ones."
Matt smiled at the load of pokeballs in his arms. Whether wild pokemon captured by the Rockets or trainer's partners "given to the cause", the pokemon would be welcome at the resistance and treated with love and respect. Matt stowed the balls away in his belt to keep them safe until they reached their new home. Then he turned and stared at his smoldering bike and frowned a little.
Sandy said, "Yeah, about that..."
"Do you want me to carry it?" Nile asked, his arms crossed. While it sounded like a good idea, Matt knew his friend was tired.
"It's only good for scrap now." Matt kicked the muffler. "Guess that means… I'm riding with you, Sandy."
She scowled at first, and he couldn't blame her. The last time they had flown together, a passing aerial squad had attacked and forced them into a dogfight. Matt had eaten a big steak-and-egg breakfast that morning, and he had seen it again… all over the back of Sandy's head. He really hated to ask her to take him with her again, and he expected her to say no, but she grinned and planted one hand on her hip. Matt stared, recognizing her mischief pose, as Solly turned away to hide his grin.
"You can ride," Sandy said, "on two conditions. First, I have full control of the radio, and second… you have to wear a full-face helmet."
Matt groaned as Nile laughed.
Meroe writes: Originally I intended to enter the “catwalk” portion of the contest, featuring Matt and Sandy in nifty armored/combat gear type outfits. As I began to design and draw out the artwork, however, I started to think about just why they would be wearing something like it. Me and thinking just don’t mix. That’s how my projects run away with me, because I remembered the whole mewtwo army idea from Moche’s story (which the creator hinted that Mewtwo and Mew have something to do with her web comic, too) and, well, I like sci-fi post-apocalyptic stuff and gritty heroes and storylines… so my mind exploded. Plus the picture looked too plain with just Matt and Sandy, so I added in first Solly and Nile and eventually Tarim and Nami as well and expanded the image into a full artwork instead of just a shot of the two in armor. Their poses ended up stale, as usual, but I didn’t want to make the poses too crazy anyway since the gang is just strolling along after their fight. Sandy is making fun of Matt for crashing his bike, Tarim is telling Nami not to wander, Nile is on guard, and Solly is trying to get Sub on his communicator.
I tried to make each character’s armor unique and fit their personality/skills. Matt, for instance, is a reckless ground fighter so his armor is heavier built and intimidating, and he loves his feraligatr so much that he had it crafted after his buddy. Matt’s weapon of choice is any kind of gun but he is also fond of a metal baseball bat, great for quick hits-and-run against weaker/smaller opponents. Sandy’s armor is lighter since she spends much of her time seated in her aircraft and she generally dislikes direct confrontation. Also too she has parts of a blaziken hinted at in her gear, in honor of her friend Solly. I imagine her using a long range type arsenal but never melee weapons unless she’s desperate. For Nami, her armor is dull colored and the shine has been removed because she is a stealth fighter. She sneaks behind enemy lines, marks them for aerial attacks, or poisons them with her venom-wired fangs and wrist claws. She’s also equipped with a re-breather so she can swim through water and go through poisonous environments without harm. Tarim is the odd ball here. He’s too cool for all that clunky armor stuff, so he just has dark goggles to give him stronger night vision and enhance his dark attacks. He isn’t defenseless, however, and wears a special device on his chest that gives him bio armor in battle. The bio armor generates around his body, is lighter and more flexible than most battle armor, and provides him with complete protection. Of course, he would rather rely on himself and only uses the bio armor in intense battles. As for Nile, he’s already armored with tough scales, but he wears more armor to make himself look intimidating. The visor on his face flips up and down and helps him see thermal radiation, great for sneaky enemies. Lastly, Solly is wearing light but durable armor crafted for aerial combat. His boost-assisted wings give him great flight capabilities but can be removed so he can fight on the ground also. His gauntlets are outfitted with a beam gun, shield, and sword combo as well as communication technology. The most difficult character to do was Matt. I still I screwed up in a lot of places but I like his expression and accessories. No, those are not his pokeballs on his neck. That woudl be stupid, having them in easy reach where they could get lost/stolen like that. The easiest character to draw/design was Tarim, obviously, but I had actually had to redraw him several times because of proportion issues. I gave him a more "cheetah" look than the usual "mountain lion" shape. I just realized that I keep giving Tarim the usual persian whiskers instead of mewoth whiskers, like he's suppossed to have. :( Sorry!
FYI, Sandy and Matt are equipped with a translater that lets them understand pokemon. It can be turned off and on. The Rockets did not develope this technology, since it isn't important to them, but it helps the resitance coordinate with pokemon. This "communication device" was actually hinted at in one of the games--red/green, I think. I can't quite remember, but in one of the games, there is a group of scientists working on different inventions such as "dream viewer" for pokemon and a "fossil regenerator", and one of the men says he's workign on a device to communicate with pokemon. That's where that comes from.
Judging: Meroe puts forth a lot of effort by not only making this very detailed image of SIX characters, but also writing a lengthy fanfic to go with it. And while she certainly takes some liberties with the events she described, she does show she has guts. The writing is solid and entertainable, and the image supports the story nicely. And interestingly, it actually does slightly resemble what will happen in SoL's future pages, so that's quite something!
A well-deserved win!
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