AN: Hey everyone, 50 here. I just wanted to let everyone following this story know that between work and writing some original pieces I've been working on the Foundations of the World on the side. I'm going in a somewhat different direction with this one, mechanically speaking, in that the narrative won't be limited to the point of view of a single character, nor will only one side of the upcoming conflict have someone telling its story. May will provide one set of eyes, but so will some Hoenn natives, and even a few folks from the various "villainous" groups native to Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald. This is in no way a final product or even necessarily a portion thereof, but it's a good idea of what can be expected when I post the full story.
Anyway, just wanted to let you all know that I've loved reading all of your reviews and personal messages. I've gone over every one, considered the criticisms, laughed, cringed, and generally felt like I have the best readers of any author on the internet.
Preview Chapter - May
That poor man, May thought to herself, sitting on the bench several yards down from her observee. As the soldier in Team Rocket's black and red uniform gripped with white knuckles the edges of the barrel and vomited forcefully into the already overfull container, the ship beneath his feet hit the rising crest of a wave and threw him to the ground. The soldier failed to relinquish his grip on the barrel of regurgitated muck and pulled it over as he went down, splashing its contents all over himself, the floor, and no less than a dozen nearby people.
Her own white and gold regalia dotted with day-old putrescence, May gripped the handholds by her thighs tighter, her stomach churning like a bag of angry snakes. "Ensign!" she snarled at the man on the floor. "Get your sorry self back in your seat, strap in, and do not get up until the storm is over! If you must puke you will do it in your lap!"
The sailor groaned a "yes ma'am," pushing himself from his hands and knees to his feet just long enough to fall back onto the bench. The Rockets on either side quickly reached over and helped the stricken sailor work the straps over his chest and pelvis, securing him to the bench.
Looking to the sandy-haired youth to her left, May fought back the seasickness and nudged him with her elbow. "Odin, are the storms always this rough?" she asked, barely loud enough to be heard over the gale outside.
The room sat so poorly lit May could barely make out the faces three seats down from her, but she easily saw the happy spark in his bright green eyes as Odin shook his head. "No ma'am," he said as the ship pitched sharply and a number of crewmen in the chamber gasped and growled in complaint. "Rougher usually," he stopped as May felt her resolved expression break and she catapulted forward, heaving but not throwing up. "Permission to rub your back, ma'am," Odin asked.
After heaving again, May looked up at him. "Granted," she moaned.
Reaching over and pressing the butt of his hand firmly up and down his commander's back, Odin cleared his throat. "Respectfully ma'am," he said. "There's no need to worry. Seaspear is a good ship, as solid as any vessel thrice her weight. She'll bring us through just fine."
"How do you know?" May asked.
"Mom was a Cinnabarean," Odin answered. "Dad hailed from the Orange Island Navy. Seawater's in my blood ma'am."
A loud drone and a crash filled chamber as the ship started to roll so hard that the men on the port side of the room found themselves looking almost straight down at the men on the starboard wall. As the Seaspear righted herself with a splash, a wave of water came rushing down stairs to the top deck and soaked everyone present.
May heaved a third time as Odin shook out his hair and looked around. "Okay," he smiled at her. "That was a big one." He looked over when his commander didn't respond. "Look on the bright side ma'am," he said. "You went toe to toe with a storm this big in a boat as small as this without puking your red and orange guts out. That's pretty impressive."
May groaned again as her stomach churned and her face drained of color. "How much longer can this damn storm possibly last?"
Fourteen hours later, the crashing waves and lashing rain began to abate. The men in the Sea spear's hold gradually filtered out of the secure room and returned to their duties about the vessel or left for their racks, leaving May and Odin alone in their seats. The savant in white and gold leaned forward with her head in her hands and the stink of the chamber's spilled barrel of aging vomit filing her nose.
Taking a breath to steady herself, May looked up. "We've been at sea two weeks," she said, eyes sunken. "I've been in the wilds of Johto for months at a time and it never beat me to death like this."
"We survived," Odin said, getting up and stretching. "And unless the storm threw us completely off course we should reach Isla Comienzo within the next twelve hours. Restocking there shouldn't take more than a day or two, and from there," he motioned forward with an open hand, "We hop islands straight to Hoenn. Shouldn't take more than three or four months."
"So long?" May asked.
Odin shrugged. "We," he stomped the deck beneath his foot, "could make the trip in this ship in several weeks if we never had to resupply and the wind never slowed us down. But we do have to resupply, navigate to hop the islands from here to Hoenn to do so, and the wind will be against us most of the way. We're not a single ship either. Just because my Seaspear cruises at 29 knots doesn't mean the heavier ships can."
Getting to her feet, May rolled her shoulders back. "This is the fastest ship in the fleet by a wide margin," she said. "Maybe I should just take it and go ahead."
"Wouldn't recommend it ma'am," Odin followed as May crossed the room for the stairs leading up to the main deck. "Seaspear cuts through the waves quick enough and her marines are some of the hardest troops in Team Rocket's employ, but there are pirate fleets between here and Hoenn, big ones: Gyarados and Tentacruel too. Any one of those catches us unawares and we're done."
"I know, I know," May grumbled, climbing out into the blinding sunlight on deck, her long hair instantly caught in the fierce breeze and thrown all about her face as Odin walked behind her towards the bow of the ship. "I just want to be there. I want my family's name, our lands back." The young savant gripped the rail at the forward most extreme of the ship, looking towards the horizon. "Tomorrow wouldn't be soon enough, let alone several months."
"Ma'am," Odin stepped up behind May and to her left, "might I offer an alternate perspective?"
Turning back to the youth, May nodded. It occurred to her that she almost didn't recognize Odin as the stammering, awkward soul she'd met on the docks of Pallet town two weeks ago. "Of course," she said. "Offer away."
Leaning against the railing, Odin looked towards the rear of the vessel at the twelve other ships trailing the Seaspear, each one a minimum of twice the size of the lead vessel. "Think of the coming months as a gift. Once we get to Hoenn the real work starts: politicking, peacekeeping, and probably more than a little warring. Use the time afforded by the trip to strategize, put together a solid plan for how you're going to accomplish what needs doing. We need more than twelve ships and a few hundred men to take and hold an entire continent."
Expression unchanged, May kept looking forward, staring intently at the horizon. "You're right," she looked back at Odin. "Is there a gym on Isla Comienzo?"
"Was the last time I was there," the young trainer answered, taking a pokeball from his belt and rolling it around between his fingers. "Some young guy with a few moderately skilled Pokemon from what I hear. Never met him."
"Fine," May shrugged. "Once we land I'll leave restocking the flotilla to you and the other captains. Spare the purses as much as possible."
"Of course," Odin inclined his head to her. "Where should I look for you when we finish?"
"Wherever I can train," May answered, blinking against the wind.
The young savant paused and looked to Odin as he glanced again back at the ships trailing his own. Odin folded his arms in front of his chest. "It might do the men some good to see their commander directing them personally," he said. "If you can find the time."
May shook her head. "I need to spend every spare minute I find between here and Littleroot training my team. I want them as strong as possible."
"Respectfully ma'am," Odin offered, "Strong Pokemon are all well and fine, but it would be good for morale if the rest of your men saw you taking an interest in them."
Folding her arms, May turned directly towards Odin. "Morale needs me less than I need my Pokemon," she said curtly. "I'd poured years into training my last team and Mewtwo slaughtered them before I realized the fight started. I'm a trainer at heart Odin. That's where I need to focus my energy."
"Trainers fight wars ma'am," Odin said. "Leaders win them. Men can't follow someone who doesn't lead," he went on, adding "with all respect," very quickly.
Smirking and closing her eyes against the breeze, May smirked. "How ever did you did you reach Captain with those manners?"
Odin cleared his throat, his face noticeably redder. "Took over when mom and dad passed," he said quietly and matter-of-factly.
"I'm sorry," May flinched.
The captain, features soft, leaned his weight against the railing. "Hemorrhagic Pox," Odin shrugged. "It's the bane of armies, navies, and cities alike in Orange and, from what I hear, Hoenn; spreads like hayfever on a windy day and kills like nothing I've ever seen."
"Do I even want to know?" May asked.
"No," Odin answered. "You probably should though. If we find an infected village in Hoenn, well, in your position I'd want to know why everyone's skin was turning obsidian black and sloughing off their bones like sheets of rice paper. If ten men catch it, nine men die and the tenth languishes blind for the rest of his life."
"No cure?" asked the young woman in white armor.
"No ma'am," Odin answered. "You can vaccinate against it, but actually catch the stuff and you're gone. That's the problem... out in the more remote islands in the Orange chain, anywhere doctors don't usually go actually, the 'Bloody Pox' just waits to wipe out whole villages and catch a ride on an unsuspecting slouch back to civilization."
Taking a deep breath of the salty air, May resisted a shiver. "That's horrible. Have you ever seen it up close?"
Odin nodded. "I had the good fortune of being vaccinated young, so when the Pox hit my father's ship... I got to clean up the remains, sanitize the ship, and bring it into port."
Jaw slack, May stared at him. "Odin I'm so sorry, that must have been," she trailed off, a soreness stabbing into her chest as her companion stared without emotion at the horizon. "I'm so sorry," she repeated. "That was this ship?"
Odin pointed across the deck of the ship towards the captain's quarters. "My father passed in that room there." He stopped as a look of horror spread across May's face. "Don't give it a second thought," he said. "I don't. Death's just as much a part of life as being born, no use worrying or dwelling."
May spent the rest of that first afternoon since the storm touring the Seaspear with Odin, assessing damage and gathering reports from the crewmen on their statuses. May left most of the talking to the young captain, perfectly content to allow the seaman to run the affairs aboard his own ship, though she made every effort to note the policies and procedures that came up during the tour.
Stopping in the engine room, a cramped and dim chamber crowded by cables running across the floor and filled with the smell of hot copper and iron, May watched as Odin addressed two of the frigate's engineers. He knows this ship like the back of his hand, May thought as Odin and the engineers exchanged a great deal of numbers and pointed to the cables running here and there before chattering on about power generation and thermal to electric efficiency.
Odin nodded, his face bearing a satisfied expression. "Excellent work keeping the salts from freezing during the storm," said the captain as the pair of crewmen saluted him. "I knew you boys were good but that's impressive. Let's focus on keeping the noble metal buildup in the pipes to an absolute minimum until we reach our next stop. Understood?"
Both engineers dropped their salutes enthusiastically. "Yes sir," they acknowledged.
May paused in her inspection of the engines and turned to the crewman, both of whom she noticed were watching her look around the room.
"Question ma'am?" the taller of the engineers probed, returning his hand to his chest to salute the young savant.
Her earlier conversation with Odin sticking in the front of her mind, May pointed to the massive engine cases that consumed most of the lower deck's floorspace. "Ensign Keller, wasn't it? Tell me about the engine," she said calmly, a subdued smile on her lips. "I'd like to know a little more about the Seaspear and how you keep it running."
The taller engineer, a burly character with a complexion like raw dough cleared his throat and glanced between the captain and the flotilla commander. "Yes ma'am," he said, visibly pulling himself together and beginning to motion to the massive cases. "Well basically Seaspear runs off an experimental Thorium reactor. It's specially designed for naval applications and calling it only top of the line would be an insult. The reactor itself started out as a proof-of-concept that the boss back in Viridian thought had enough potential to stick it on a boat and see how things went."
May followed along as Keller walked her to a display panel showing several numbers and red and green bar graphs that monitored the heat, pressure, and other variables within the engine. "Essentially," the engineer continued, "Seaspear was a great ship when Rocket co-developed it with the Orange Island Navy back in the day, but it was the modularity with which the ship was designed which made outfitting it with the LFTR power plant possible, and its the power plant that makes her absolutely amazing. Seaspear generates as much power as a small city, won't need to refuel for the next fifteen years, and has the capacity to serve as an emergency power supply for other vessels that lose power."
May nodded along. "Very impressive," she said, reaching out and shaking the engineer's hand after he very briefly paused as if to make sure his commander had actually extended the gesture. "I'll be joining the crew for meals this evening and I'd like very much to discuss Seaspear's potential to serve as a mobile base of operations then, assuming you'd eat with me," she added.
Keller nodded, a smile creeping across his features. "Yes ma'am," he said. "I'll save you a spot. Looking forward to it ma'am."
Both engineers saluted. May, as she and Odin turned to leave, heard them chattering amongst themselves with pleasant surprise that the flotilla's commander would bother to stop by and personally talk to them. The young savant looked to her companion as they ascended the ladder that carried them up to one of the upper decks. "How was that?" she called up to him as Odin lead on.
The sandy haired youth nodded and gave her a quick thumb's up as they reached the top of the ladder, finding themselves in a steel hall full of tightly clusters of doors. "A little awkward," he smiled at her, "but not bad. Keep it up and you'll win some friends yet."
May grinned and started to respond, but stopped short and froze as the sound of a horn blaring high overhead stopped her in her tracks. "One long blast," she muttered. "One short. A distressed ship in the vicinity?"
Odin turned and May walked quickly beside him towards the light at the end of the hall. "Odin," she said, wincing as she stepped back into the sunlight, "assemble the trainers and be ready for anything."
Again the horn sounded overhead, blown by a trainer soaring in circles over the Seaspear atop a Pidgeot. Some dozen people hustled about the deck of the ship as May split off from the captain, bound for the bow of the ship as Odin walked for the bridge. The young savant waited, her single pokeball in her hand as the Rocket trainer on the Pidgeot aimed his mount for the ship and descended towards her. Talons clattering, the massive bird landed on the Seaspear and its trainer, a young man in black and red, hopped down, still brandishing a bronze horn in one hand.
May walked forward as the trainer saluted. "Any particular reason you're using a horn like that over the perfectly good radio we issued you?" May looked the trainer over.
Straightening up as he fastened the archaic instrument to his belt. "No ma'am," he said abruptly, tapping the little earpiece clipped to the side of his head with one thumb. "I radioed several times but no one responded. There's some kind of interference."
May nodded. "Acknowledged," she said as a number of other crewman arrived. "What did you see?"
The trainer, armored from his neck to his boots, walked to the ship's railing and pointed at a spot on the horizon. "We've got one ship dead in the water, about nine miles out. From bow to stern she's maybe two hundred meters long and I didn't see any structural damage."
May raised an eyebrow. "Big-ass ship," she said. "Anyone onboard?"
The trainer shook his head. "Not that I saw on a flyby ma'am," he said. "Just a dead ship."
Both the scout and the savant turned as Odin and another officer arrived, though the captain spoke first. "Radios are down," he said, out of breath. "There's some kind of interference," he looked around at the other officers and trainers around him. "Nobody stopped to think that, maybe, I would have liked to know that something as important as my radios being down."
The officer walking beside the captain cleared his throat, stonefaced. "Sorry sir, they went down less than fifteen minutes ago."
Everyone present at the bow of the ship flinched and several cursed beneath their breaths as sharp chirps sounded over their radio earpieces and most of those around, including May, tore the tools from their ears and held them aside. Before anyone could speak, a loud thumping shook the ship. May turned and looked at the vessels surrounding the Seaspear as their bridge lights dimmed and flickered out. All around her the shouting voices of crewman rose and fell, declaring that they were losing power. Odin immediately began barking orders and his subordinates responded with disciplined and quick actions, hustling about readying to disseminate as much as information to the other ships as possible.
Watching the bridge lights onboard the Seaspear, May remained fixed on the deck, unmoving and breathing only a little as the incandescent bulbs inside the ship's command center continued glowing. As several minutes passed and a number of messengers arrived onboard the Seaspear from the other ships in the flotilla as each captain sought to figure out the situation, May kept watching, waiting to see if the bridge lights would go out. "Why aren't we losing power?" she asked at length.
Odin stopped in the middle of relaying an order, looking between May and the bridge. "I don't know," he said, voice shot through with worry. "I've never seen anything like this before. Everyone's telling me the other ships, all of them, have completely lost power. We're dead in the water right now."
May shook her head. "We're not," she said. "Odin," she went on, "what do you want to bet that the radios going dead and the flotilla going cold are related to that other ship out there?"
The young captain paused and looked between the horizon and the lazily descending sun. "What makes you say that?" he asked.
May looked to the speck jutting up out of the ocean some miles ahead and stared at it for a long moment, her mind turning over. "Something's out there," she muttered, glancing to the scout trainer. "Did you see the colours the ship flew?" she asked.
Clasping his hands behind his back, the scout shook his head. "No ma'am," he answered. "No colours, no crew, no nothing. The ship looks like a Cinnabarean make though."
Odin and May exchanged glances. The young savant nodded towards the dead ship. "Let's go have a look."