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<Allentown, New American League>
Henry applauded when the two women burst through the bushes and came to a sliding stop in front of him. “Fourteen!”
Camilla coughed, clutching at her chest and doing her best not to dry heave. “And?”
“And it’s a real fourteen this time.” Henry smiled. “Zero penalties. Congratulations.”
Camilla fell backwards, thudding into the loamy earth a moment before Tanya joined her. Both continued to catch their breath until Camilla burst into a fit of giggles, closely followed by the Combusticunt as the two released the tension that had been gripping them for two full weeks.
“We did it.” Tanya gasped. “Wha-what’s next?”
Henry began to laugh and shook his head. “You’ve completed every task we’ve given you. Over the last five months the two of you have gone through more training than many tamers experience in five years.” He walked over, bracing against his cane and helping them to their feet. “Have you completed my first task in that time?”
Camilla looked at the six pokegirls that had materialized from the forest around them. “A few were easy. I had them in the first month.”
“And they are?”
Camilla gestured. “Angela is a Gar-Gal.”
Angela smiled, spreading her bat-like wings and tapping her tough skin. “Correct.”
“Freis is an Assasara.”
The insectoid girl grinned. “I nearly had you too.”
“You almost did, but when you kept avoiding taking your armor off I figured it out.” Camilla laughed. “The Shednobi can do that. You can’t.”
“Any others you found easy?” Henry asked.
“Shalah was only ever one of two breeds.” Camilla replied. “Although if she had wanted she could have made it harder. As it was, the tattoo guarantees that she’s a Sphinx.”
Shalah nodded approvingly.
“And that’s where the easy ones ended.” Camilla admitted. “Johana was my next focus, but she could be quite a few different things. Just like Freis, a single, inconsequential detail gave her away.”
The armored woman was missing her helmet and her weathered face smirked at Camilla. “Oh?”
“For a while I was thinking you were an Armsmistress. But finally I managed to see you without your armor and you had none of the normal tones an Armsmistress is supposed to have. Sure, that doesn’t mean much, but it started me thinking on other lines. Eventually I realized it when we were doing the exercises in the lake.” She struck a triumphant pose. “You’re… a Samurai!”
The metallic crash made everyone jump as Johana laughed, her booming voice barely edging above the noises her gauntleted claps were causing. “YES! Excellently figured. When you noticed I changed without leaving my armor behind, it must have narrowed your options significantly.”
“That was it.” Camilla replied. “From there it wasn’t simple, but a Samurai was the obvious choice.”
“Four for four so far.” Angela cut in. “But you’ve left the hardest two for last.”
Camilla tsked. “Merlí was tough. Very tough. All I had to go on was a gut feeling and a possible power she had showed me. The problem was she never confirmed that power. Ever. Beyond the first day I met her I never had a reason to suspect she was a telepath of any skill. So I’ve got a woman of normal build, likes dresses, wears her hair long, and maybe is a telepath. There are so many breeds with those traits that I’d be better off just asking for the answer.”
Merlí was watching her. “You have an answer.”
“You held your own with Johana in hand to hand combat.”
Merlí shrugged. “Perhaps she was simply holding back her own strength.”
“No, she was trying her best that day. You just were better.” Camilla’s eyes brightened when Merlí hid her smile. “THERE! I knew it.”
Merlí finally couldn’t hold back and her bright laughter filled the clearing. “I tried, Master Henry. I tried very hard to make myself appear as a Megami.”
“You’re a Neo-Iczel.” Camilla grinned. “One who has trained with psychics and uses her magical abilities for a limited foresight or scanning technique.”
“I am a full telepath.” Merlí replied in Camilla’s mind, her eyes dancing. “I recognize your skill today, Camilla Harrisburg.”
Camilla’s eyes widened but Merlí made no indication that she had said anything as she addressed the group. “Battle sisters, she has one left.”
Maryna smiled. “I have given no indications to help discover what I am.”
“All I had to go on was water, magic, and no obvious inhuman traits.” Camilla agreed. “I watched you like a hawk. My first clue was when I noticed how most of you went to Maryna for instruction. I knew Angela was the Alpha, so why would you go to Maryna? You must be the Beta.”
Maryna nodded. “That is correct, though I am unsure how that helps you here.”
“It means you’re used to being in that position.” Camilla explained. “A position that is above two powerhouses in the form of Merlí and Johana. I remember what you taught me. The Alpha makes training schedules and such, right? Well, didn’t you also tell me about how a Beta will usually take over a training role for the harem?”
Maryna waggled her eyebrows. “So you’re saying because I am the Beta, I must be able to hold my own with those two?”
“I’m saying you at the very least must have needed to know how to train them, even if you yourself couldn’t beat them.” Camilla reasoned. “That kind of knowledge brought me to three different possibilities. You’ve never once used sailing terminology, so that all but eliminated the She-Captain. And while I’m sure a Druidess could fit, they’re a multi-element mage where you only ever use water. Plus they’re so rare, if you were one, I’d be okay being wrong here.”
Maryna nodded. “So?”
“You’re a Pirouette.”
Silence. After a moment Henry propped himself up and began slowly clapping, the sound cutting through the dead air. “You are correct. Six for six, a perfect score.” He glanced at where Tanya was staring with wide eyes at her tamer. “I’m impressed. In both of you. And I believe you’re ready for your final lesson.”
Maryna flicked her hand, a sheen of water whirling around her. “Here’s the trick that would have given me away for sure, Camilla. Well done.”
Camilla nodded, watching the torrent swirl around the Pirouette until she was encased in a whirlpool. “None of you intentionally made it easy on me.”
“They weren’t supposed to and they did not.” Henry agreed. “Camilla, Tanya. Come here.” He waited for them to step over. “If you both wish, I feel comfortable sending you to the journey trials, once you listen to my final lesson.”
The two women nodded, watching Henry intently. “What’s that?”
“Above all else, above anything we have taught you or you are told, is the ultimate, inescapable rule.” Henry’s eyes bored into their own. “You must survive. Neither of you – or anyone you call your partner or ally – are worth more dead than alive. Many a tamer or pokegirl has believed they are working for a greater good, a grander strategy, when they give their lives. It is never true. No matter how well equipped you may believe yourselves, how well prepared or experienced, you will eventually come across a situation you cannot handle. Dying to delay it, to lessen it, even to neutralize it, is not worth the life that will have been lost. Promise me this, both of you. Put aside your prides. If you are ever entering a situation where the best outcome results in death, you will run. You will run until you are no longer at risk. What you do then, that will be up to you. To fight, to flee, whatever it is, as long as death is no longer an outcome.”
Camilla glanced at Tanya. “That’s the second time I’ve been told that around here.”
Henry raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”
“One of the instructors at the Mountaineer base. When I asked him for tips on the journey test, he said I shouldn’t forget to run.”
Henry nodded slightly. “Failure is not the end. Death is. As long as an outcome continues to offer options, you must take that outcome, no matter how embarrassing or painful it may be.”
I’m all too familiar with that idea. Camilla thought to herself as she nodded back. More familiar than I’ll ever admit to any of you. She glanced sidelong at Merlí. And if you’re listening to me right now I expect you’ll respect my privacy.
Whether or not the Neo-Iczel was listening, she didn’t react and Camilla cleared her throat. “I swear I will do everything I can to make sure we survive.”
“Good.” Henry glanced at the silent Combusticunt but continued. “In that case, I will send you the information you need to register for the trials. Good luck, and be safe.”
Camilla and Tanya stared across the open field they had been directed to. A few other pairs stood around, each tamer and pokegirl picking apart their peers with practiced eyes.
“This is already so intense.” Camilla muttered. “We can do it. We’ve got this.”
Camilla cut off her scream, wincing and clutching at where she had impacted. Above her Tanya struggled with a nimble pokegirl, both breaking free and Tanya dodging back to haul Camilla to her feet. “GO!”
“That rock has moved.” Camilla nursed her injuries and pointed at their map. “Its relationship to that tree was North/South before. Now it’s Northwest/Southeast.”
Tanya’s eyes flicked between their compass, map, and the surroundings. “You’re right. That means the interference has moved, either northwest of us, or southeast.”
“Let’s check the next landmark.” Camilla said, striking out into the forest.
“SHE’S NOT MY ALPHA!” Camilla grimaced when the pokegirl continued screaming, stomping back and forth and dodging whenever Tanya reached for her. “I’M BETTER! ME! ME!”
“You’re not even my pokegirl.” Camilla snapped. “You can’t be Alpha without being my partner, so shut your fucking mouth before I shut it for you.”
She screamed in frustration when a whistle sounded and a man appeared. “Hailey, this test is over. Thank you.”
Camilla glared at the man as the pokegirl nodded and ran off. “Don’t tell me swearing isn’t allowed now?”
The man shrugged. “This evaluation is over. Move on to your next activity.”
“Busted ass-“ Camilla was muttering when Tanya grabbed her arm and pulled her away from the watching proctor.
“Breathe.” The Combusticunt whispered. “It’s okay.”
Camilla slid to a halt, Tanya scrabbling to slow down before grabbing a tree to stop herself.
Before them lay three figures, all facedown. Camilla slowly controlled her breathing as she surveyed the scene, including the torn and bloodied cloth that was scattered around one of the unmoving bodies.
“She’s near.” Tanya said suddenly, settling into a fighting stance. “Cammy, what’s going on in there?”
Camilla continued staring. The one in the middle, that was… But that’s impossible, he…
A chill ran down her spine when she felt the presence watching them. The unearthly cry that heralded the feral’s arrival vibrated through her chest and she felt herself let go. The days of little sleep, of stress, and test after test that had worn her down finally sent her over the edge.
Tanya whirled when Camilla collapsed, her eyes rolling back as she fainted. Her panicked screams fell on deaf ears until Tanya’s hand burst into flame and she struck the shocked human in the chest.
Camilla spasmed, her brain processing the fire licking up her clothes before her arms began to flail, finally beating out the embers. “whawaszatfo-“
“MOVE!” Tanya shoved her away, turning just in time to block the first attack. “CAMMY!”
Camilla struggled upright, staring at the pokegirl that had just broken Tanya’s blocking arm and sunk a heavy strike directly into the Combusticunt’s chest. At Tanya, doubling over and coughing blood.
She made it a dozen yards before whirling, finally remembering the pokeball at her side and raising it to recall the dying Combusticunt.
The whistle that blew dropped her to her knees, tears forming in her eyes. The words that the proctor spoke fell on deaf ears as Camilla cried.
Camilla and Tanya lay watching the ceiling fan turn. Neither spoke.
It had been two days since their journey trials. In that time, only three words had been spoken between them.
“Are you okay?” Camilla whispered, clutching Tanya close after they had arrived back in Allentown.
The Combusticunt had only nodded.
Eventually Tanya rolled over, reaching one hand out to caress Camilla’s face. “Hey.”
Her voice croaked from disuse and the tears still wet on her face. Camilla barely reacted, only half-heartedly reaching a hand up to touch Tanya’s arm.
“Hey, snap out of it.” Tanya coughed, clearing her throat. “Cammy, come on.”
“We were never going to succeed.” Camilla forced out. “I’m sorry.” She finally turned her head to look at Tanya. “I failed you.”
“No, no.” Tanya whispered, awkwardly embracing her tamer. “No, we… I…. it was too much, for both of us.”
Camilla coughed, groaning before clutching at Tanya’s head. “I’m sorry.” She repeated. “Too much.”
“Too much.” Tanya parroted. They remained hugging for a long time before Tanya disengaged. “I’ll get some food.”
Camilla sat up, watching her unsteadily weave towards the fridge. Her eyes were on Tanya’s back but her gaze was staring off in the distance.
“Tanya.” The Combusticunt turned with a quizzical noise. “Did any of them succeed?”
“I… don’t know.” Tanya turned back to the fridge, also staring at nothing in particular. “I don’t think so. I don’t want to go back, that…” She shuddered. “I don’t think I can go any lower. I don’t want to find out.”
Camilla’s blank stare watched Tanya pick through the leftovers until her expression firmed and she threw the covers away. “We’re going back.”
Tanya whirled in shock. “Whu-“
“We were meant to fail.” Camilla pulled off the dirty underwear she had been too stunned to even change for three days. “Shower. Get changed. We’re going back, right now.”
“Cammy, I don’t…” Tanya trailed off helplessly, watching the human move with a sudden purpose around the room. “Please.”
Camilla stopped, looking over at the younger girl. “We’re not dead, are we?”
Tanya blinked. “N-no?”
“They wanted to break us.” Camilla whispered. “They wanted to tear us down until they could see exactly what we were made of. It’s already been a day too long. Get cleaned up.”
Tanya didn’t react for a few minutes but finally she nodded. “I get it.”
“What’s the worst that happens.” Camilla shot Tanya a jaunty grin that she only barely felt. “They tell us we failed, and to go home?”
Tanya slowly smiled back. “I guess.”
“Come on. Let’s stick it right back to them.”
Let go of that anger. Camilla thought, purposefully striding through the small camp that was still erected. It’s what they want you to be holding onto. Anger is weak. It’ll give out before you can complete what you need to. She looked at Tanya, grinning savagely at the hooded eyes and smoldering aura that licked across the Combusticunt’s shoulders. Her anger, she can use it. But you need to be calm. Deliberate.
They burst into the command tent, a number of heads turning when Camilla spoke. “Where’s the head proctor?”
A man slowly looked up, letting Camilla’s loud but firm tone pass before he answered. “Harrisburg. I thought you crawled out of here days ago.”
“I wasn’t done.” Camilla growled. “I’m not leaving without my license.”
The man shrugged, looking back down at his work. “You broke. Go home.”
Tanya started to relax as the words rang out but jumped when Camilla slammed her hand against a desk. “I said I wasn’t done.”
The man sat motionless for a few moments before tossing his pen aside. “There were two more tests you hadn’t finished yet. Tell you what. I’ll let you see what they were so you have a better chance of succeeding next time.”
“You should have taken the loss and moved on.” The man muttered just loudly enough to hear. “JOHNNY!”
A man stood, a pokegirl stepping up behind him. “Here’s the first test you didn’t finish, Ms. Harrisburg.” The proctor gestured. “Jonathan here is a level four Journeyman. That woman behind him is his Alpha, an extraordinarily powerful pokegirl known as a Warvern. She often fights solo against threats that dozens of tamers would fail to fight together.”
Tanya felt a flash of fear but something about how Camilla stood confidently kept her resolve from breaking. “That’s all?” Camilla scoffed. “What am I expected to do, fight them?”
“That’s right.” The proctor smiled at the sudden stunned silence. “Well?”
Camilla stared at the glowering man for a full minute before clearing her throat. “The wrong answer is to say yes, isn’t it?”
The proctor raised an eyebrow. “You have to fight him. That’s part of the trials.”
“You can’t say no.” The proctor snapped. “Either you fight him, or you forfeit your only chance, Ms. Harrisburg!”
“There’s no victory in that path.” Camilla shot back. “If knowing when I’m outmatched is wrong, then fail me.” She glared at the man. “Well?”
The proctor nodded slightly. “Very well.” He flicked his head, causing the man and pokegirl to sit back down. “This is your final chance.”
“I had a good teacher.” Camilla stared defiantly. “There’s no shame in running away.”
The proctor shrugged. “If that’s what you believe.” He sat, shuffling his papers around.
Camilla waited, feeling a slight panic begin to build when nobody even looked at her. Was she wrong? Was this not what she was supposed to do?
She was hesitantly turning towards the door when a voice made her pause. “Before you leave, I have one more question for you.” The proctor picked his pen back up, looking down at his paperwork. “What level were you going for, again?”
“I see.” The proctor scribbled across a few forms before holding one up. “Here.”
Camilla slowly walked forwards, taking the paper and scanning it. “What’s this?”
“File that with your sponsorship city and you’ll receive your physical card within a week.” The proctor glanced back up, a small smile finally playing across his lips. “And tell your partner that she can stop looking tough. She isn’t fooling anybody.”
Camilla glanced over to see Tanya’s expression break down, the Combusticunt staggering against a table and taking deep, heaving breaths. “Tanya?”
“Give me a moment.” She gasped, waving one hand as most of the watching people began to quietly laugh. “’m about to pass out.”
“Are you saying we passed?” Camilla asked. “What happened to your whole ‘two tests so you know what to expect next time’?”
“I assume you already know what one of them was.” The proctor chuckled. “Four days, by the way. That’s the expected period for a serious tamer to return in. Most take about a week, some a bit longer. The true failures never return at all.”
Camilla sighed. “I knew it. I knew the first part was designed specifically to fuck with us.”
“You did well.” The man nodded when Camilla looked surprised. “Overall you did well. Yes, the tests were designed to be impossible, but you did your best even still.” He returned his attention to his work. “Now get out of here.”
Mayor Dawkins’ receptionist looked up when the door opened. “Good afternoon, and welcome to town hall. Do you have an appointment?”
Camilla shook her head. Tanya had had a full on panic attack so she was resting in their room. “I’ve got a license application to submit.”
The woman cocked her head. “That would be records, then. Completed, or pending?”
“Second hall, room 124B.”
Camilla nodded, moving towards the indicated hallway and disappearing inside.
Tanya’s chest rose and fell, her breathing skipping as she fought to quell the rising emotions that had been swirling for the entire day.
What had kept her calm then? She certainly hadn’t felt the way she acted. Seeing the pokegirl step forwards, to be able to so strongly feel the difference in strength between them, she was surprised she hadn’t broken down right then and there.
Camilla. It had been Camilla. Seeing her… her tamer standing there, calm, collected, had given her an anchor to cling to. It was Camilla that had kept her strong.
A noise from the door caused her to shoot upright, watching as Camilla stepped in and closed the door behind her. “I’msosorryI-“
“Shhh.” Camilla pushed her fingers through her hair before smiling at the flustered Combusticunt. “It’s alright.”
“Hey.” Camilla winked. “I told you it was going to be alright.”
Tanya felt the turmoil dissipate when Camilla reassured her, the smile on her face sending a shiver through her body and she slowly took a deep breath.
“How are you feeling?” Camilla asked, bustling about the room. “Still a bit light headed?”
“Not anymore.” Tanya watched her continue to do daily chores as if nothing had happened. “Is it real?”
“Sure seems like it.” Camilla finished tidying up the counters and turned to Tanya with a smile. “They kept me in the office for a while, and when I was leaving Mr. Jameson was waiting for me.” She snickered. “He said he’d miss us. So I think that means we really did it.”
Tanya let out her breath, slowly beginning to giggle until she was laughing uncontrollably. “YES!”
Camilla laughed with her. “Oh! I can check.” She pulled out her pokedex, fiddling with her profile until her eyes brightened. “Yea! It’s already here. License: Level 1.”
Tanya whooped with joy, bouncing off the mattress and throwing herself at Tanya, the two spinning around as they laughed together. Eventually the pure joy began to change and Camilla kissed Tanya, the two clinging to each other as they rationalized the days upon days of stress and pain with the truth of each other’s bodies.
A few hours later, Camilla rolled out of bed, gently stroking the slumbering Combusticunt’s cheek and massaging her own chest where Tanya had bit.
When she stepped out of the shower Tanya was waiting for her, pushing past and cleaning up for herself. Eventually they both found themselves seated at the table, quietly eating dinner.
“So what’s next?” Tanya asked.
Camilla shrugged. “Don’t know. Sleep?”
Tanya laughed. “You want more?”
They grinned at each other but Camilla shook her head. “They said at town hall that there was an instructional packet for Level 1s. I assume that’ll come tomorrow.”
Tanya nodded, blissfully watching Camilla. “Tomorrow, then.”
“…and these are your further study books.” The man manning the records desk said. “You can request your Level 1 information from this link, and if you need more assistance…”
Camilla let him continue, but her attention was captured completely on the shiny metal card in her hand. After months upon months of blood, sweat, and tears, she was this Level 1 Journeyman. A license that allowed her more freedom than she could have ever had before, and a massive step in this strange new world.
“Camilla?” Camilla looked up to see the man smiling at her. “Congratulations.”
“Thanks.” Camilla turned, rubbing the edges of her card thoughtfully as Tanya tagged along right behind.
“Hey, before we go, let me look at this.” She called, stopping outside the room and pulling out her pokedex. Tanya waited patiently while she navigated the browser, accessing the link her packet designated.
“Welcome to the Journeyman database.” She read. “Huh. That’s handy, this is like an entire contact forum for Journeyman tamers.”
“Anything there for us?” Tanya asked curiously.
“I doubt there’d be…” Camilla trailed off. “What the hell. There’s a message waiting.” She opened it. “Ha. It’s Mr. Abrahams.”
“I haven’t seen him since we went to the trials.” Tanya said curiously. “What’s he say?”
“’Camilla, Tanya, Congratulations.’” Camilla read. “’If you’re reading this message, it means you reached your lowest point and clawed your way back up. I am nothing but proud for what you both have accomplished. Now that you are officially licensed, why not find a few more partners? There are places you can look besides the ones known to the public. Like this one.’”
“Which one?” Tanya asked.
Camilla opened the attachment. “This is a flyer for a club in Philadelphia.”
“A club?” Tanya asked incredulously. “Why would we go there?”
“I don’t know.” Camilla closed the message. “But I trust Henry wouldn’t send us on a wild goose chase.”
“Philadelphia?” Tanya made a face. “We need to get permission, then find a ride…”
Camilla smirked. “Or we can just go. That’s what Journeymen do.”
Tanya stopped mid sentence with her mouth still hanging open. “Oh. Right.”
Camila laughed and pushed outside. “We’ll be there in no time.” She winked at Tanya. “I’ve got my own ride.”
Tanya looked confused for a moment before she grinned. “Riiiight.”
Camilla laughed, the two heading towards their room to pack.
A few hours later Camilla was strolling into Philly, presenting her belongings to the checkpoint before being waved through. It had been a very calm flight and now she followed her map towards where this club supposedly sat.
Tanya materialized next to her, glancing around and making a face. “Yech. Hate that feeling.”
“We’re here.” Camilla nodded at a plain building with a bouncer slouching outside. “Sign says this is the Longest Journey Club.”
The female bouncer glanced at them as they approached. “Name?”
Camilla stopped. “Sorry?”
“If you’re not on the list, you don’t get in. Public hours don’t start until nine.”
“I was sent here by…”
“Don’t care.” The bouncer straightened and Camilla took an involuntary step back when the pokegirl’s features were revealed. She stood well over a foot taller than Camilla and two additional arms could be seen crossed under her hanging jacket. “Give me some identification.”
Camilla nervously pulled out her pokedex but the pokegirl raised a hand. “Some real stuff. I don’t care what your little screen claims.”
“I don’t have…” Camilla trailed off. “Right, sorry.”
The pokegirl nodded when Camilla handed her her new license. “Ms. Harrisburg, welcome to the Longest Journey.” She stepped aside to reveal a door. “Please, come inside.”
Camilla pushed in, waiting for Tanya before looking around.
The main room was packed, men, women, pokegirls, all relaxing at the scattered tables and massive bar that dominated an entire wall.
“Excuse me, do you have a meeting?” Camilla turned to see a hovering girl in uniform watching them. “Or may I get you something to drink?”
“No, thank you.” Camilla continued to scan the room. “It’s my first time here, if I’m looking for some new partners, should I just start chatting, or…?”
“Ah, you’ll be wanting to head over there, then.” The pokegirl gestured at a side room. “I hope you find someone you like.” She flashed a smile before moving back to a hostess stand.
“Guess we go there.” Tanya whispered.
They moved across the room, smiling and acknowledging the few looks they got. Eventually Camilla stepped into the room and froze.
It was nothing but pokegirls. An entire, massive lounge, almost identical to the main room they had just left, but every filled seat was occupied by a pokegirl. She saw snakes, birds, cats, dogs, some that weren’t even close to human, some that could probably be mistaken for a human, but each and every one was unmistakably a pokegirl. Even the most human woman she could see was giving herself away by casually levitating a set of glasses around her head.
“Whoah.” Tanya peeked over Camilla’s shoulder. “So…?”
One of the pokegirls glanced in their direction before turning to the bar and whistling. “OI! Mary! Two newbies, get ‘em a drink!”
The woman behind the bar turned, glasses moving themselves off shelves and beginning to fill. “Welcome, welcome! Come on over here.” She snagged the drinks, pushing them to Camilla and Tanya as they approached. “Good afternoon, ladies. Waiting like the rest of us, eh?”
“Uh, actually, I’m human.” Camilla muttered.
The bartender blinked. “You’re a smart one then, keeping your voice down.” She flashed a grin. “What level?”
“Ah, fresh from the horrors of the trials, and ready to make some new friends.” She winked. “You managed to come to the right girl. What’re you looking for, a fighter? A lover? Someone to cry on? Lisa’s good for that.”
Camilla glanced where the bartender was looking and snorted at what she saw. “I see why. She’s huge.”
“Whoah, don’t say that to her face.” Mary muttered. “She’ll crush you.” She rolled her eyes. “So?”
“Tanya here is aiming for the Olympics. I want to protect the innocent.”
Mary’s eyes danced. “Mmm, a budding hero. I know a few of these girls who might like to follow along.” She looked about the room before nodding. “Over there, you see the girl with blue hair?”
Camilla glanced where Mary was looking. “Yea?”
“Behind her, talk to that angel. She might be interested.”
Camilla nodded, wandering over and introducing herself, sitting after a moment and beginning to chat.
“There, now I’ve got you alone.” Tanya jumped when Mary spoke, whirling to see the bartender waving her hand dismissively. “Ah, calm down. Take a drink.”
Tanya glanced at the glass. “What is it?”
“Not alcohol, so don’t worry. I wouldn’t stick anything even remotely flammable near you.”
Tanya giggled and picked up the glass. “Thanks.” She took a sip, her eyes widening. “Wow, that’s good.”
“Glad you like it.” Mary turned back to her bar. “What’s your tamer’s name?”
“You know Camilla pretty well, Tanya?” Mary asked. “She a good one?”
Tanya nodded. “She is. I couldn’t be happier that she found me.”
Mary nodded to herself. “Bi?”
“We’re both lesbians.”
“Ah, dang. Gina’s been looking for a tamer.” Mary sighed. “Unfortunately, she’s got a dick. Oh well.”
Tanya made a face. “No thanks.”
“Mmm, don’t worry about it. Not your fault you don’t swing that way.” She turned back. “So the Olympics, huh? What section?”
“I haven’t really put that much thought into it.” Tanya confessed. “I like wrestling, but I’m nowhere near where I need to be for that.”
“How old are you?”
“You’re young. Give it another few years before you start to worry.” Mary leaned on the bar. “Looks like someone else is catching her attention.”
Tanya turned to see Camilla making her excuses and wandering over to where a smiling canine pokegirl was sitting. “You know everyone in here, don’t you?”
Mary nodded. “Just about.”
“Camilla isn’t just a budding hero, she’s a superhero. My superhero. That’s how she acts, and… she wants to be beside me, always. Even in battle.” She gazed off at the wandering human. “Anyone in here able to honor that kind of commitment from their tamer?”
Mary gazed at the back of Tanya’s head. “In this room, right now? No.”
Tanya turned back to her. “You know someone?”
“I know two someones.” Mary replied. “But they don’t come here during the day.”
Camilla wandered back over, a defeated smile on her face. “No good, Mary.”
“That’s alright. Tanya here was telling me a bit more about you.” Mary glanced at the Combusticunt. “Come back in three hours. There’s a few girls I want you to meet.”
The bouncer barely glanced at them before letting them back inside. Camilla yelped, stepping back when a worker busily moved past with a stack of chairs in her arms.
It was just after 8PM, and the club was in full preparation mode. According to the workers she had questioned earlier, 9PM to 2AM was the public hours before the club closed until morning. Anyone was allowed in, and that included pokegirls, tamers, and regular citizens.
It apparently got quite rowdy around midnight.
They slipped into the side room, walking immediately to the bar and waving at Mary. She waved back, filling a few orders before bustling over. “They’re not here yet, grab that seat there. Camilla, you want anything? I can get the same that Tanya had earlier.”
“It was good.” Tanya offered.
“Sure.” Camilla watched her fill a glass and slide it down. “Thanks.”
She turned, sipping the drink as she watched the seats slowly fill. Earlier, it had been about half full; now, there were barely any open chairs. But still, every single pokegirl in the room met some sort of special qualification that set them apart. What, exactly, she didn’t know, but she had watched a handful of younger pokegirls get turned away earlier at the door. Maybe everyone in that room was considered the pokegirl equivalent of a Journeyman.
She was watching the room and didn’t notice two women step inside, each laughing at pushing at the other as they sidled up to the bar next to her.
‘MARY!” One yelled. “TWO OF THE USUAL!”
Mary turned. “GIMME A MINUTE, BITCH!”
Camilla glanced over when the two literally roared with laughter. After a moment Mary appeared, producing two glasses of cider. “Here you go, girls.” She glanced at Camilla and winked before moving off down the bar.
Camilla took the momentary distraction as the two drank to look them over. If she was understanding Mary’s signal correctly they were who she was here to meet.
One of the two noticed her out of the corner of her eye and lowered her glass. “Hm? Hey, you’re new here. Whatcha staring for, we’re all here for the same reason, yea?”
Camilla cleared her throat. “Just admiring your coat.”
The girl grinned. In the low light it had been hard to really spot but as she turned to face Camilla her feline aspects became apparent. “Is that a pun, or you really admiring the fur?”
“That was a pun.” Camilla retorted with a laugh. “I mean your jacket.”
“It’s nice, isn’t it.” The girl fluffed her collar. “Simple, no nonsense design. Just like me.” She chuckled before turning back to her drink.
Her compatriot leaned back to get a good look at Camilla. “What’s your name?”
“I’m Camilla.” Camilla reached around the flicking yellow tail next to her and shook the other girl’s hand. “I’m actually not here for the exact same reason you two are. I’m a tamer.”
The first girl choked, slamming her glass down and hastily clearing her throat. “Wait, what?”
“Am I not allowed in here?” Camilla asked teasingly. “I’m a Level 1 Jorneyman. Tanya here is my partner.”
The first girl stared at her. “You’re a girl.”
The pokegirl blinked. “You’re sure you’re a tamer…?”
“Pretty sure.” Camilla replied, annoyed. “I’ve introduced myself. How about you?”
The second girl patted the first’s shoulder. “Sorry about her.” She snorted. “I’m Rui. This is Vira. She’s a bitch, but she’s working on it.”
Vira slapped Rui’s hand, a low growl rumbling from her chest. “Watch it.”
Rui giggled, sneaking a kiss on Vira’s cheek before retreating. “Mrowr.”
Vira sighed, turning back to Camilla. “I apologize for my attitude. Rui’s right, and I am trying to be better about my pride.”
“Is it a natural problem, or just who you are?” Camilla asked curiously.
Vira frowned. “What do you mean by that?”
“Well, Tanya’s a Combusticunt. She naturally likes to argue and fight, but she’s working on it, too.” Camilla smiled at Tanya. “She gets a bit heated sometimes, but I love her, so we work it out together.”
Vira was staring at Camilla. “You do?”
“Of course we do.” Camilla turned back to her. “So you’re here looking for a tamer, right? What do you want to do?”
Vira blinked. “Well, um, I…” She rubbed her neck. “It’s kind of embarrassing, um…”
“Spit it out.” Rui hissed.
“…I like to fight.” Vira slowly admitted. “I want to find a tamer who I can butt heads with. Pushing at each other and…” She shook her head. “Sorry, that’s not what you want to hear. Nobody does.”
Camilla frowned. “I think I know what you mean.”
“No, you don’t.” Vira sighed. “You think I mean I want to be a pain in the ass, arguing and annoying you…”
“Want to arm wrestle?”
Vira froze. “Whu?”
“Here.” Camilla dropped her elbow onto the bar. “Come on. Give me a try.”
“There is no way you’ll put up a fight.”
“I’ll surprise you, and that’s all I want.” Camilla waggled her eyebrows. “Scared?”
Rui chuckled when Vira scowled, slamming her own elbow down and capturing Camilla’s hand in a deathgrip. “Count.”
“Three. Two. One.”
Camilla felt her hand start to rocket towards the bar but resisted, holding even for an instant before Vira slammed her hand down.
The girl went wide-eyed. “How did-?”
“I surprised you, yea?” Camilla grinned. “You want someone who you can push against so that they’ll push back and you both will grow stronger.”
Vira slowly nodded. “You actually understand.”
“I do.” Camilla looked over at Rui. “And you? What do you want to do?”
Rui smiled. “I want to be with Vira.”
“She’s my pride leader.” Rui smirked at the blushing girl next to her. “Although if I had to choose, entering some brawler tournaments might be interesting.”
“So, I can see Vira is a cat of some sort.” Camilla mused. “But I haven’t been able to get a good look at you yet. The way you’re talking, are you one too?”
Rui slipped off her stool, walking over and bending so Camilla could see her ears. “Yes.”
Camilla glanced at Vira. “Neither of you have much fur.”
The two catgirls were silent for a moment before Vira spoke. “Not that you can see, no.”
“Do you want to show me?”
The two looked at each other and back to Camilla. “Mary?” Vira called. “You’re my friend, right?”
“I wouldn’t have put her in that seat otherwise.” Mary called back.
Vira nodded to herself. “How many more pokegirls are you allowed to have as a partner?”
Vira nodded, slower this time. “I see.” She turned. “One second.”
Camilla leaned back as the two had a hurried conversation, glancing at Tanya. “What do you think?”
Tanya was watching the pair curiously. “They seem confident. But they haven’t even tried to get to know you yet.”
Vira’s ear twitched and she glanced back. “Um, I can hear you.”
Tanya stared deadpan at the catgirl. “I know.”
Vira’s breath caught and a deep blush began to suffuse her face. “Shit.” She muttered. “I’m sorry, I…”
“Am working on it.” Camilla smiled. “Right?”
Vira stared at her before turning back to Rui. They talked for another minute before Rui pushed her head past Vira’s. “You got a place here in town?”
Camilla shook her head. “I was planning on getting a hotel room.”
“We usually only stop in for a quick drink before the crowds flood the place, so we’re headed home.” Rui batted her eyelashes, doing her best to carry the conversation despite Vira’s silence. “Why don’t you come along? We can talk, get to know each other a bit better… show you our fur…”
Camilla smiled slightly. “Sounds good. Lead the way.”
Camilla slowly opened her eyes to see Vira’s sleeping face inches from her own.
What had happened last night? She remembered leaving the club, chatting with the two girls, Tanya slowly taking the lead in their conversations...
Right, they had come to Rui and Vira’s apartment and started talking. And talking. She could remember hours of the four just sitting around and getting to know each other.
Camilla sat up, feeling the clothes still on her body and looking around. Tanya was passed out in a nearby chair, Rui sprawled on the floor beside her. Both were clothed, or in Tanya’s case, mostly so.
Movement beside her caught her attention and she glanced over to see Vira stretch, the Lioness’ mouth popping open in a massive yawn. Eventually she shook her head, snapping her jaw shut and blearily looking at Camilla.
“‘mornin.” She mumbled. “You win.”
“I what?” Camilla asked.
Vira blinked at her. “Our bet last night.”
Camilla gave her a hesitant smile. “Right, that.”
Vira suddenly came wide awake and she leaned in. “You remember, don’t you?” Her face split into a grin when Camilla gave her a nervous smile. “O-o-oohh, don’t tell me you’ve for-got-ten~”
“I was very tired.” Camilla confessed.
“I forgive you.” Camilla jumped when Vira kissed her cheek, feeling the bumps on the catgirl’s tongue jump across her skin. “I’ll even remind you.” She sat up, the blankets falling away to show her nudity. “I bet you wouldn’t keep your hands off me. You showed me you could.”
Camilla stared at the smiling girl. Right, she remembered that now. She’d been hesitant, everything they discussed making the two felines seem like good new partners for her and Tanya. But she hadn’t wanted to make any decisions hastily. Annoyed, Vira had declared she wouldn’t last the night before stripping and sliding in next to her.
“I’m glad you didn’t take it as an insult.” Camilla managed as a response. “How I ignored such a stunning woman like yourself...”
Vira’s eyes glinted and she turned, stepping onto the floor and walking to a nearby closet. “It hurts, I admit.” She said. “But it proves you are who you claim you are. You made a decision and you stuck to it, no matter how hard I tried to tempt you.” She pulled out some clothing, getting dressed before turning back to Camilla. “It shows that you can truly be what I want in my tamer.”
“I’m glad I’ve proved myself, then.” Camilla watched Vira walk over to the sleeping pair. “What are you doing?”
“Rui always tries to sleep in to avoid our morning run.” Vira bent down, slapping the slumbering Electrocat’s ass and jumping back when she came to life in a flurry of limbs. “WAKEY WAKEY!”
Rui shot to her feet with an unintelligible shout, Tanya jumping and slowly rubbing the sleep from her own eyes. “Igo- VIRA!”
Vira snickered. “I’ll make breakfast.” She looked at Camilla. “Will you be joining us?”
Camilla looked over at Tanya, watching the redhead slowly wake up. “I think we will, thank you.”
Vira nodded, exiting the bedroom as Rui caught her breath.
“So did you do it?” Camilla glanced over to see Rui watching her intently. “She’s never taken anyone else to bed with her before.”
Camilla raised an eyebrow. “Then how does she stay tamed?”
“When I say bed, I mean what you two did. Sleeping together, waking up together, not taming because you have to.”
“Oh.” Camilla shook her head. “We didn’t do anything.”
Rui blinked. “But, didn’t she...?”
“I said I wasn’t going to make a decision yet, and I didn’t.” Tanya was awake now, watching the two talk. “I’ve been enjoying being with you two, but there are still things I need to think about before I commit to taking you as my partners.”
Rui made a disappointed noise but shrugged. “Was hoping you wouldn’t say that.” She glanced sidelong at Tanya. “I’ve been enjoying getting to know you too.”
“And you’re the first human I’ve really been able to tolerate.” All three turned to see Vira lounging in the doorway. “Most tamers are assholes. I’ve got big tits and a powerful body, so that’s all they see in me. Even the few women that have tried for me are after the same things.” Her eyes flicked across Camilla’s face. “But you, you’re different. I see you looking at me, but your admiration isn’t the only thing on your mind. Do you have any idea how few people have ever asked me about my hobbies, even as I tried to get in their pants? About my experiences, who I am?”
“You’re saying I’ve won you over by simply being a good person?” Camilla asked sarcastically.
“That’s how you’ve kept me around.” Camilla turned to see Tanya watching her. “The strong girl act was what made me notice you, but it’s who you are that’s kept me happy.”
Camilla turned to Rui, receiving a shrug before looking back at Vira. “I feel like I’m not the one making this decision anymore.”
“You are.” Vira replied quietly. “I’ve already made mine, that’s all.”
Camilla slowly nodded. “Okay. Hey, anyone else hungry?”
Vira smirked and pushed off the doorframe. “Breakfast is ready in ten minutes.”
“You know, I have to ask. Tanya got the same question when we first met.” Camilla gazed over the skyline as she ran her fingers through Vira’s hair. “Most things I read don’t exactly censor people like us, but they do try to make it easier for the majority male tamer population. Are you a lesbian, or bi?”
Vira’s purring quieted for a moment while she responded. “I think labeling people like that is ridiculous. I’ve met some guys I’d enjoy being around. I’ve met a lot more girls. At the end of the day, if you’re happy with your partner, why does it matter who they are?”
Camilla chuckled, scratching behind Vira’s ear until the girl’s purrs rose in volume. “I like that answer.”
Behind her Rui and Tanya sat, watching the two bond. “I’m so happy they’re getting along.” Rui smiled wistfully at the pair. “Vira’s always pushed people away with how blunt and tomboyish she is. I know she mentioned how people always wanted her for her tits, but it’s funny how quickly they leave when they hear the mouth attached to them.”
Tanya laughed quietly. “Cammy is the same way sometimes. She isn’t afraid to clap back when necessary.”
“What about you?” Rui turned to the Combusticunt. “You’re younger than even I am. Do you let her get her way all the time?”
“What does age have to do with that?” Tanya asked. “We’re equals. Partners. Sometimes I have the right idea, sometimes she does. We work together.”
Rui smiled. “Good.”
“You two are noisy.” Camilla called. “Why don’t you get a room.”
Vira began to laugh, the noise reverberating with her purring until it filled the room. “Why don’t we all?”
“Because I’m happy watching the blue sky with my catgirl in my lap.” Camilla replied.
Vira sighed happily. “Your catgirl?”
“Mmhmm.” Camilla smiled. “You’re too cute to let get away.”
Vira blushed, pulling away from Camilla’s hand and looking up into her eyes. “If you ever talk about me like that in public, I’ll kill you.”
“Got to keep up appearances, is that it?” Camilla laughed and tapped Vira’s nose. “Don’t worry. I’ll make sure people believe you’re my fierce little lion.”
“There she goes again.” Tanya sighed wistfully. “I don’t know how she does it.”
“Does what?” Rui whispered.
“Makes you feel so happy to be with her.” Tanya gazed at Camilla’s back. “I love her so much.”
Rui nodded, watching Camilla and Vira return to their positions. “Hey, let’s get some privacy.”
Camilla continued stroking until the bedroom door had closed behind the two pokegirls. “Vira, who is Rui to you? Beyond what you’ve both talked about.”
Vira sighed. “I pulled her off the streets. Back when we were both a pair of Kittens.” She shrugged to herself. “I was stable, had a decent job, but I was lonely. She was scared, barely making it with League aid, and needed a friend. That lasted for six years before she decided she needed a lover instead.”
“How old are the two of you?”
“I’m twenty-eight. She’s twenty-two.”
“And you’ve been together for about ten years, is that right?”
“Mmhmm.” Vira pushed up against Camilla’s body. “And you’re somewhere in between us, right?”
“Right about in the middle.” Vira exhaled, standing and turning to help Camilla to her feet. “Come on. While those two have fun, we need to do some work.”
“What kind?” Camilla asked as she stood.
“We’re only in this apartment because we were unclaimed.” Vira confessed. “If we’re going to be yours, we’ll have to leave.”
“I don’t have a real home either.” Camilla murmured. “A kind NurseJoy in Allentown lets me stay in her apartment.”
Vira smiled slightly. “I guess we’re wanderers, huh?”
“That’s what it’s looking like.”
“I’m okay with that.” Vira stretched, making little noises as she did. “Right. Paperwork. Great.” She walked to the door, grabbing her bag. “Office is on the first floor.”
They walked downstairs, passing a few pokegirls on the way and walking into a small office. There was a pokegirl in front of them but right as they entered she turned away.
“I’ll update your employment status.” The man behind the counter was saying. “Good luck, Lucy.”
Camilla stepped forward, waiting for the man to finish writing before speaking. “Hey, we...”
“Oh, hey Vira.” Tom grinned at the Lioness. “Who’s your friend?”
Vira shot Camilla a smug look. “He knows me. You’re not important.” She grinned and turned away when Camilla gave her a scathing look in reply. “I’m leaving you, Thomas. Rui too.”
Tom looked blankly at them for a moment before his eyebrows shot up and he looked at Camilla. “Oh, you’re human? A tamer?”
“Why is that the default response I always get.” Camilla grumbled.
“You’re in an all-pokegirl apartment complex. You’re a woman. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, I’d be correct to assume you’re a pokegirl,” Tom replied drily. “I’ll get your paperwork, Vira.”
“I was more taking about how every guy I’ve met so far, unless they knew beforehand, has assumed I’m a pokegirl.” Camilla muttered.
“And more often than not they’d be correct.” Tom called from behind the desk. “Here we go. Vira, once you’re out there will be an inspection before we return your deposit. You’ll need to come back to collect that chip.”
Vira sighed, already signing and filling in the forms Tom was placing on the desk. “You can’t just give it to me now? You know I’m careful.”
“It’s policy.” Tom apologized. “And you don’t have a pokedex, do you?”
“Never needed something that crazy. Thought about getting a phone, though.”
“Most of those can’t access your accounts anyways.” Tom blinked when Camilla placed her pokedex on the desk. “Hm?”
“As her tamer, I’m responsible for Vira’s wellbeing, isn’t that right?” Camilla stared at the man. “She won’t be around to collect that, which means she needs it transferred to her in another way.”
“I can’t authorize the transfer to you, even if you’re her tamer.”
“I told you she won’t be able to come back for a while.”
“And that’s between you and her.” Tom replied. “Kind of a shit thing to do to her in my opinion.”
Camilla frowned. “Oh, you think she won’t be able to come back because I won’t let her?”
“Maybe this will explain things.” Camilla pulled out her license and dropped it onto the desk with a satisfying clunk.
Tom blinked, picking up the license and looking it over. “Well I’ll be damned. That changes a lot of things, actually.” He grimaced. “I apologize about my assumption there. Your story was sounding like the one I hear a few times a week.”
“Thieves are thieves, no matter what they call themselves.” Camilla could see that Vira had stopped writing and was watching her. “I’m not trying to steal from someone who trusts me with her life.”
“I was hoping you’d find one of the good ones, Vira.” Tom waved the license in the air for a moment. “Give me a second to validate this and we’ll go from there.”
Vira waited for the man to vanish into a back room before speaking. “Are you always going to do that?”
“Fight for me.” Vira whispered. “Even when it doesn’t matter.”
“You’re damn right I will.”
Vira glanced down, focusing on her papers. “Okay.”
Camilla watched her until Tom returned and handed her the license back. “Right, so here’s what will happen anyways. When you go and declare Vira as your partner, you’ll legally be linked to her accounts. You know how you can access your balance on your pokedex right now?”
“After all the processing finishes, Vira will be able to use your device for her business, just like you use it for yours. It should have been the same for your first partner.”
“Oh, she didn’t have any accounts. She was still living with her parents.” Camilla explained.
“Ah, okay. Well anyways, I’ll just send the deposit to your account, Vira.” He glanced over and frowned. “Hey, are you crying?”
Vira glanced up, quickly rubbing at her wet eyes. “N-no.”
Tom looked between the two. “What did I miss?”
“Nothing.” Vira rubbed a bit more before sniffing. “I’m going to miss you, that’s all.”
“I never thought I’d see the day,” Tom teased gently, “that I’d see the big strong Vira let her emotions out.”
Vira cleared her throat, doing her best to glare at the man. “Stuff it.”
“I’ll miss you too.” He replied. “Be safe out there, won’t you?”
Tom took the completed forms, looking them over and nodding. “Since the room was in your name, Rui doesn’t need to do anything. You’re all set.” He sighed. “I really will miss you. You’re one of the few girls left who I saw arrive. Now you’re leaving, too.”
“It’s part of the job.”
“Yea, I guess it is.” Tom reached out to shake Camilla’s hand. “Keep her safe.”
Camilla nodded, watching Tom vanish with the paperwork. “I think he liked you.”
“Everyone tries to flirt with Tom.” Vira muttered. “They want a better room, or some privilege, something. He likes me because I let him do his job.”
I don’t think that was it at all, but I won’t make this any harder on either of you. Especially if you never noticed on your own. Camilla nodded to herself. “Ready to make this official?”
Vira took a deep breath. “Let’s go.”
Camilla Harrisburg AKA “Metal Maiden”
Other Personal Information Hidden
A hero without superhuman powers, Camilla Harrisburg makes up for her lack of super strength or speed with an above average intellect and incredibly sharp intuition. Self taught in numerous scientific disciplines, she creates various weapons and tools to assist her as a superhero. Known primarily for her various suits of power armor, she also is the leading mind behind many of the Vindicators’ recent superconstructions and technological advancements.
Tanya Harrisburg AKA unknown
Height: 5’ 8”
Hair Color: Red
Eye Color: Red
Other Personal Information Hidden
A type of meta-human known as a Pokegirl, Tanya Harrisburg wields considerable super strength and speed as well as elemental powers in the form of fire.
NOTE:Further data required. Database incomplete.
Threat Database Omega
Limited Access Granted
unknown AKA “Truth”
Danger Level: Presumed Epsilon
Personal Data not found.
An unknown type of meta-human that appears to use elemental powers of water. Witness reports indicate Truth commands immense psychic power. Heavy caution is advised on contact.