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    Moonlit Philosopher Dai's Avatar
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    Default Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    Striking Back:
    Memoirs of A Clone



    Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.
    — Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness

    Indeed every monad must be different from every other. For there are never in nature two beings, which are precisely alike, and in which it is not possible to find some difference which is internal, or based on some intrinsic quality.
    — Gottfried Leibniz, The Monadology

    All things truly wicked start from an innocence.
    — Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

    None is stranger than this tale—of the most powerful Pokémon of all…
    — Narrator, Mewtwo Strikes Back



    Archive, Index, and Notes:

    Index:

    Prologue
    Part One: Awakening
    --Section 1.1
    --Section 1.2
    --Section 1.3
    Part Two: Giovanni
    --Section 2.1
    --Section 2.2
    --Section 2.3
    --Section 2.4
    --Section 2.5
    --Section 2.6
    --Section 2.7
    --Section 2.8
    --Section 2.9
    Part Three: Wilderness
    --Section 3.1
    --Section 3.2
    --Section 3.3
    --Section 3.4
    Part Four: Reckoning
    --Section 4.1
    --Section 4.2
    --Section 4.3
    --Section 4.4
    --Section 4.5
    Part Five: War
    --Section 5.1
    --Section 5.2
    --Section 5.3
    Part Six: War
    Section 6.1

    Complete Archive (Offsite):

    Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone


    Author's Notes:

    Welcome! You may be wondering: what exactly is this thing? Well, Striking Back is a long and unusual fanfiction I've been working on for a while. What it is, at its core, is my attempt to retell the story of Mew and Mewtwo in a radically different format. Think Gregory Maguire crossed with Satoshi Tajiri. I don't adhere precisely to events as they are told in the movie Mewtwo Strikes Back, but nonetheless, I've used both the English and Japanese scripts for the movie as very heavy inspiration. It's a hybrid approach that tries to show the Pokemon world in a different light.

    It's unusual in being very long, 77,000 words at last count, and in being divided into six or so "parts" instead of chapters. I liked the idea of doing that from the beginning, but these parts can get rather long, particularly part two. So that I don't test your patience, I won't be waiting until a part is completed to post it: whenever I finish a scene or a large idea, I'll add it here, until the entire part is completed. I'll keep you informed about the date of my last update.

    As I mentioned, I've already written quite a lot. All of it is available in that offsite archive I linked to above, but in this thread, I think we're going to have to play catch-up for a little while. My plan is to start with the Prologue and a large chunk of the first Part, and post updates regularly until we've caught up with what I've already written and put in the archive (late part two). Then I'll press full steam ahead, updating both. (Note: I think that should be copacetic with the Workshop rules. If it isn't, please let me know.)

    At any rate, I hope you enjoy what I've created. I welcome any questions, comments and critique; I'm curious to know what you think.

    Without further ado, let us begin!

    Dai
    Last edited by Dai; 30th June 2014 at 03:06 PM.


    "All truth is simple... is that not doubly a lie?"

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    Prologue:

    You wake
    To find yourself
    Drifting—
    Held within primordial waters.
    They gently push you with innocent, swirling currents,
    Rocking you back and forth,
    From side to side,
    Up and down,
    First one direction—and then its opposite—
    And then another and another and another
    Until number fades into nonmemory
    And resistance is surrendered,
    And you float motionless,
    Absorbing and reflecting the motion around you,
    Without thought—
    Simply being.
    Yet not asleep:
    Profoundly awake,
    More awake than awake,
    And joyously, intensely alive.

    It is the first state of being—
    And the last.
    Ask the children who have yet to taste their first breath
    And those who have already met their grave and gone to dance in the Great Unseen.

    Hark! To a moment of potential—
    An opportunity is about to present itself.
    The shifting currents converge, cancel, and for an instant, cease.
    They challenge you to move forward,
    To propel your body into action,
    Daring you to enter their aqueous gateway before it closes.
    You tense, readying yourself.
    Not yet, not yet—
    NOW!
    SWISH-SNAP!

    For a lightning-quick moment,
    There is a sensation of a whip-like tail
    And a darting movement forward, past perception.
    Defying presence,
    Yet impossible to mistake,
    The undulating tail would be indistinguishable from the drifting sea-grasses,
    Were it not for the way it vanishes,
    And its bright, majestic hue,
    The color of the cherry-blossoms that flourish in the spring.
    Like a flower blooming underwater,
    Its presence brings an alien beauty
    To this shadowy land.

    The currents bear you onward,
    Laughing, cheering you, bidding: Charge!
    Swim! Leap, little one! Gambol through sea-grass, dance around stone!
    In a succession of quick movements,
    You accelerate, surging forward faster, faster,
    Toward the light that reaches down to you from above,
    The light that dances, dazzlingly, on the surface of the water.
    Enticingly it calls to you:
    Meet me! Join with me, transcend me!
    See what secrets I hold.
    You joyously answer:
    I will.
    You propel yourself upward,
    Anticipating the moment
    When the shifting, shimmering light above you
    Will shatter into another world
    Of solid forms and crisp air.
    Closer—
    Closer—

    SPLASH!
    You break the surface of the water,
    And the world breaks into color and life.
    You only just have time to register the plethora of new sights—
    A vast, endless sky, singing the blue song of morning to all below—
    Green trees, richly clustered—
    The sparkling abyss that now lies beneath you—
    Before they explode into a landscape of forest, rivers, lakes—

    And as you continue to soar, ever upward,
    Suspended by your own will and intuition,
    Listening to the wind shriek with pleasure,
    The world below expands, evolves,
    Becoming vaster, grander,
    Gaining new features—
    A distant line of hills appears in one direction,
    And in the other—
    Ah, there is something to command your attention!
    A white-crowned giant rises majestically over the forest.
    You come to the crest of your ascent
    And stop, to enjoy the splendor of the world around you,
    Exultant, triumphant,
    Every cell of your body singing with pleasure.
    As you gaze at the distant summit before you,
    You decide you must fly to meet him,
    If only to learn
    What wisdom one gleans
    Over millennia of stony, silent contemplation.

    You sail toward him,
    Steadily picking up speed,
    And slowly the blue fades from his visage,
    Replaced by a deep green pelt of tree and shrub.
    It reaches up from the base of his lumpy, branching limbs,
    And only stops at his rocky shoulders,
    To drape around him like a shaggy cloak.
    As you approach, the details of his face become clearer.
    You can see the intricate patterns of twisting, turning stone.
    The weathered granite crags, wreathed in places with snow,
    Seem to reach into the sky, to merge with the clouds,
    To know them more intimately than any earthbound creature.
    The mountain grows larger and larger,
    Until finally,
    He fills your entire field of vision.
    There is no beholding anything that is not him.
    Now is the moment to hear his voice.
    You stop and hover in midair before him.
    The winds depart.
    There is only stillness and silence.

    The mountain gazes at you for a long time,
    He ponders your presence impassively.
    Then he gathers his thoughts
    And seems to come to a conclusion about you.
    Calmly, he rumbles:
    DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE?
    You consider this for a moment.
    It is important to answer well.
    He watches as you think it over.
    Before long, you answer:
    As much as anyone can, I suppose.
    GOOD, he replies.
    THAT IS A FAIR AND REASONABLE ANSWER.
    IF NOT A PERFECT ONE.
    BUT WHAT IS YOUR REPLY?
    I AN ASKING YOU, WHO REMAIN SILENT.

    You are puzzled:
    To whom is this remark addressed?
    He chuckles at your confusion.
    DO YOU NOT FEEL IT?
    THE PRESENCE OF ANOTHER MIND?
    ANOTHER SELF?
    Indeed, now that it has been described,
    You feel another mind gently nudging yours,
    Like the slightest touch of fingers at the base of the neck.
    You had not noticed it before,
    Because you were caught up in the thrill of flight
    And its flavor was so similar to your own.
    But it is there nonetheless,
    A pervasive otherness,
    A strange two-ness,
    That flits away like a ghost at your touch.
    It evades your attempts to understand it.
    To your inquiries it gives no reply.

    IT IS SHY, NO DOUBT, concludes the mountain.
    TOO RAW AND UNFORMED TO ANSWER,
    OR INDEED TO HAVE ANY CONCEPT OF “SELF” AT ALL.
    DO YOU KNOW WHY THIS IS?
    You confess that you do not.
    LISTEN, intones the granite sage,
    FOR THIS IS WHAT BOTH OF YOU HAVE COME HERE TO LEARN:
    YOU CANNOT KNOW WHO YOU ARE UNTIL YOU CAN CHOOSE WHO YOU ARE.
    TO DO THAT, YOU MUST KNOW TWO THINGS:
    ALL THAT YOU CAN CHOOSE TO BE
    AND ALL THAT YOU CAN REFUSE TO BE.
    THESE KNOWINGS CAN ONLY BE GAINED BY EXPERIENCING THE WORLD.
    THUS, IF YOU HAVE NO EXPERIENCES,
    YOU DO NOT KNOW WHO YOU ARE.
    But you cannot experience everything,
    You point out.
    Not in one lifetime or many.
    CORRECT, agrees the mountain.
    BUT BY GAINING MORE EXPERIENCE OF THE WORLD AROUND YOU,
    YOU COME CLOSER TO UNDERSTANDING WHO YOU ARE.
    EVEN IF YOU NEVER REACH THE FULL TRUTH OF YOUR IDENTITY
    THE SEARCH IS STILL A WORTHWHILE ENDEAVOR.

    NOW, he charges, GO FORTH
    AND SEE WHAT LIES BEYOND ME.
    THERE ARE MANY MORE THINGS TO BEHOLD.
    I will, you silently agree.
    Thank you for your wisdom.
    But the mountain has grown silent again,
    He seems to be gazing wistfully
    At the rolling hills so many miles away.

    You follow his advice and fly onward.
    It is only after you have watched his snowy countenance
    Disappear from view
    That you realize:
    Your other self is gone.
    Somehow that second mind slipped away
    While your thoughts were elsewhere.
    You wonder if it will ever return.
    Such things have been known to happen.
    You smile as you contemplate the thought.
    Then you fly on.

    Behind you, the setting sun
    Stains the mountain’s mirrored image
    Shades of red, orange, violet.
    A cool breeze moves across the surface of the water,
    Shaking the leaves of the trees
    And giving life to stray ripples in the reflections.

    A single mind slips quickly through the air
    And dives down
    Into the water,
    Searching for the deepest point,
    The point of weightlessness and nonmemory.

    It is ready to be born.


    "All truth is simple... is that not doubly a lie?"

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

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    Moonlit Philosopher Dai's Avatar
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    One: Awakening

    There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
    The earth, and every common sight,
    To me did seem
    Apparelled in celestial light,
    The glory and the freshness of a dream.
    It is not now as it hath been of yore;—
    Turn wheresoe'er I may,
    By night or day,
    The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

    …Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
    The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
    Hath had elsewhere its setting,
    And cometh from afar…

    — William Wordsworth, Intimations of Immortality


    I first realized I existed only when I was thrown into darkness.

    If I think back to my earliest memories, before that moment when everything changed, I can recall being in some kind of dream, or dreamlike state. It was a world of half-formed images, constantly shifting and overlapping, bleeding into each other. I remember blue and green and white swirling around in strange patterns, patterns that must have solidified into shapes that are now lost to me.

    There was a sensation of—of wetness, of crisp, cold air drying droplets on fur, and one of wind, a great howling rush that was more heard than felt. There was an odd sort of motion—a gentle turbulence that carried me in all directions at once—drifting is perhaps the right word for it. Then a surging forward that was like flying, and then, gradually, a return to drifting, to floating in some oceanic void. And there was a mountain. That image keeps coming back to me, even now. There was a white mountain, and a feline form, barely visible, soaring towards its peak and out of sight. I would one day come to know that creature very well indeed, though I did not recognize it then.

    But here we see that words are incapable of accurate description. To say, “I, I—“ “I felt, I flew, I saw—” these are the best descriptors I have, and yet they fail to convey what that dream-life was. They are the phrases of conscious beings, the verbal domain of creatures with a sense of self. But I know with absolute certainty, that then my self did not exist. I was not. There was no one watching the mountain and the wind and the water—they existed unto themselves, with no other present. Or perhaps the watcher and the watched were one—I was the feline in flight, the blue abyss.

    The distinction is, perhaps, irrelevant, for it comes to the same thing: the individual lost in thought now did not exist. Did I come into being in that second when the dreaming faded? Or was I present prior to that, somehow? At times I almost feel there was something before—that something happened before my dreams, that I communicated with something or someone before the experience slipped away into lost memory. But that is merely conjecture.

    If my life began in that moment, then that moment set into motion my long train of failures, idiocies, and atrocities. I stand here before a glowing screen, watching the moon rise over the forest, surrounded by my helpless bastard children as they mourn a world that does not want them, and I have the gall, the utter audacity, the disgusting composure to wax philosophically about identity and memory while the ruins of my ambitions still blaze scars into creation. I, damned and detestable murderer, play philosopher. The very idea is laughable.

    Perhaps I venture too far into self-loathing. I have been told I must forgive myself, that my choices now matter more than my choices then. But to accept such a philosophy seems tantamount to neglecting my responsibility to the world, to declaring that the lives that have been destroyed or ravaged by me do not matter. I can never make that declaration. Not anymore. I cannot allow myself to be that monster again.

    My intent in recording these recollections was to contemplate my own mistakes, and perhaps come to some understanding of how I made them. On the whole I doubt any other will ever read this text. Though I admit it is a remote possibility, in all likelihood my reflections will remain mine alone to contemplate. Still, if I am to look at myself honestly, I must accept responsibility for everything I have done, for all those I have wounded by my ignorance.

    So I shall bear this in mind as I tell myself my story. Even as I endeavor to reproduce my thoughts accurately, without filtering them through present understandings, I will remember the ironies, the hideous consequences of my choices, and ensure that they are ever-present in the background of my tale. I owe the world that much, at least, if I dare to seek some kind of redemption.

    But to return to the theme of my birth.

    I have the unique privilege of being able to recall mine. Humans do not know what it is to emerge into life. Their ability to remember emerges after a few years of growth, long after they have crawled from aqueous wombs into the light. The same is true for my most immediate kin, although they hatch—stabbing through imprisoning calcium walls with beak or claw until the world breaks open. Even they forget infancy, forget the first breath and the first glimpse of light. For me, however, the experience is still alive and vivid in my memory, even today.

    It began when the darkness took over. Until that point, I was, as I said, simply dancing, shimmering consciousness, empty of self, swimming ecstatically in that world of drifting images, green and blue and white. Then, suddenly, the dream began to shut down. I tried to hear the wind—and could not. I tried to feel the sensation of floating—and found myself rooted by some strange force. I tried to see the mountain before me—and it was as if it had never been there. All faded into darkness. Pitch-black, silent, paralyzing darkness.

    At times, that sense of emptiness still emerges hauntingly from the depths of memory, and I remember how terrified I was. I wonder: do the unhatched and unborn suffer the same dark awakening that I did? Do their infant minds simply find a way to bury it beyond rational comprehension? Does the hatchling fall from its dream into a tomb, buried deep underground, and claw its way into air? Does the human fetus awaken from bliss to find itself trapped and alone, and, desperate for its freedom, tear its mother apart in an attempt to escape?

    Perhaps not. But I cannot help but wonder.

    The darkness fell on me like death itself. It choked me, mocked me, trapped me in place. Why was my world gone, I cried? What had happened to the water and the wind? Where did the glorious pleasure of it all go? And most importantly, where was…where…was……

    …I.

    As soon as that thought entered my mind, I realized that I was something, that I was not the dream that had left me. I realized that I was something separate that had been thrown out of that world, that I could be attacked. I must have recoiled. I did not want to be destroyed as my dreams had been. I begged wordlessly: Please—no—bring it all back—don’t hurt me, too—
    Stop stop STOP!
    But there was no reply. Only a cold, condescending silence.

    I tried desperately, as dreamers do, to hold onto some semblance of dream-logic, but it was quickly slipping away from me. There had been a mountain, I knew, and…some sort of long-tailed creature? Yes, that much seemed clear. And there was something else, some presence that had conveyed some message of profound import. Was it something from before my dream, from an earlier time? It seemed to concern the sky, somehow, or joy, or—but it was too late. The idea was gone. I thrashed at the darkness for stealing this name, this image from me, throwing incoherent curses at it until I finally had to give up out of sheer fatigue.

    Since then, I have tried to figure out the meaning of that dream-fragment countless times. Each time I think I am on the cusp of understanding it, it eludes me. I suspect it always will.

    I soon realized that the darkness, while unceasing, was also stagnant. Despite ensnaring me within its cruel depths, it made no effort to finish me off. I was not being attacked, and I appeared to be in no danger. So, still uneasy, I began to assess my situation more closely. I was still in a wet, fluid world, but I was no longer rootless. Something pulled on me from above and below, preventing me from drifting around very much. What these
    constraints were, I could not guess. The character of the fluid had also changed. Instead of being soft and freeing, it was gelatinous, thick and sludge-like. I felt the harsh weight of it pressing in all around me.

    I became aware that I had a body. Not that I knew, really, what a body was— but I became aware that I had the ability to move. There were places in the world that could be affected by me; points not far away from where my consciousness seemed to hover. I twitched a few of these extensions of myself— what I would later call limbs—and felt the fluid swirl around me in response. It seemed to me that the fluid slowed and constrained my movement, though I had nothing to compare it to but the world of my dreams. I continued to experiment with movement, discovering that I had many points of action, though there seemed to be a certain, finite number of paths that contained these. One by itself, two underneath that, and three more, farthest below. Which is not to say that I counted them—but I noticed similarities, ways to categorize and understand these motions.

    Then I found another kind of motion, very subtle, near the first pathway I had discovered. I twitched a tiny, tiny muscle—

    And the world was thrust into light.

    The source was dim, and made even more so by the murky orange liquid I had to view it through, but to me it came like the light of salvation after the crushing darkness that had surrounded me. It felt as if the world was returning. Though I was beginning to doubt that my shifting dreamscape had been anything more than an illusion, this felt like the next best thing. If I could not have that world back again, I could at least see what this new realm had to offer. With a further rush of excitement, I saw vague shapes moving in some distant place.

    Then everything vanished. Darkness once again surrounded me. It took me a terrifying, nightmarish moment to realize that, distracted by the torrent of sensations, I had allowed that which governed my sight to droop back down to its previous position. Furious with myself, I wrenched the portal of vision open again, and the light returned. I then forced myself to keep aware of my vision, while I took in the new world that was opening itself to me.

    Yes, there were indeed things moving out there. Some sort of transparent barrier, I saw, surrounded the orange fluid, beyond which rippling shapes swirled in and out of focus. Large transparent bubbles floated through my field of vision, which distracted me for a brief moment until I realized they were an aspect of the thick fluid around me, and returned to the figures beyond. There were moments when it seemed that I could make out features, outlines, solid forms. I clung to any details I could make out, attempting to inscribe them on my memory. What did these things, these creatures, look like? Did they move of their own volition? Were they alive in the way I was? I had to know.

    Then there came another sensation, one that seemed to join with me from above and move through my body. I began to hear sounds all around me, at first very quiet and indistinct. Then they started to grow louder, until they were buzzing and rustling through my mind incessantly. The chaotic sounds seemed to hint at something, suggest something, but what? I threw all my awareness at them, yet I could not interpret their intent.

    As the sounds continued to grow louder, the shapes before me twisted themselves into larger and clearer forms. An idea leapt through my mind: what if there was a connection between the two? What if the shapes were not only synchronized with the sounds, but caused by them? Yes, the more I thought about it, the more I became convinced: the sounds were not random phenomena, but some kind of deliberate tool used by the forms beyond. They were voices. Perhaps the shapes coordinated their movements through the sounds. Perhaps they were trying to convey something to me.

    I was suddenly filled with an overwhelming desperation. I needed to be out there, beyond that barrier, where the voices and the ever-changing shapes lurked. That was the answer to all I needed to know, the solution to everything, I was certain of it. But I saw no way to get past it, no way even to move beyond the point in space where I was rooted. Frustrated, hopelessly confused and deeply worried, I cried out, silently, for a way to break free.

    That moment of despair must have unlocked something within me. Because in the next, brilliantly illuminating moment, my entire perspective shifted, and the answer became more than obvious.

    Humans have often referred to psychic power as the “sixth sense.” As a name it is both incredibly insightful and horribly misleading. The phrase is a terrible cliché, an alliterative coinage that the lazy may utter thoughtlessly while forgetting that it ever contained a descriptive meaning.

    And yet…it contains an essential grain of truth. There is, in fact, no more apt description of the psychic landscape than this, another way of feeling, another sensation by which one may explore the world. It is a form of awareness that can only be truly understood by one who has actually experienced it. In our attempts to explain it to those who have not, we must rely on clumsy metaphors that dance around the truth in great spiraling motions.

    Psychic power is like being able to see everything around you at once, in luminous detail, every feature of the world, even those that would normally be hidden from view, available for your perusal simultaneously. But it is not sight.

    It is like being able to hear the quietest sound moving through the air from impossibly far away, whilst listening to a cacophony of other sounds of every conceivable pitch coming from every direction, and being able to describe the individual qualities of each. But it is not hearing.

    It is like being able to reach out and grasp in your hand any distant object you desire, to feel the unique texture of it on your fingertips, to twist it to and fro in the air, to crumple it in one’s palm or fling it at the nearest wall. But it is not touch.

    It is like being able to smell thought and emotion on the air, or to catch the flavor of the motion of the world on your tongue. But it is neither scent nor taste.

    Thus no language in the world contains the vocabulary that would accurately describe the experience of the true telepath. To render even the stuff of my everyday life into words requires that I sift through the metaphors of the senses, searching for the proper descriptors—Do I say “I observed” here? Do I say “I took hold of?” Would “felt” in this case be a more fitting word than “saw?”—and at times it can be maddening. In the (unlikely) event that I choose to share this account with another, I hope that they will forgive the inaccuracy of my imagery. If I do not, I hope at least that I will come to tolerate the tyranny of words.

    I tell you all this so that you may have some understanding of what it was like for me then, in that single moment of desperation when reality reshaped itself once again. It had seemed I had gleaned all I could about my situation, and I had thought myself trapped, forever to remain in this aqueous cage while some other world murmured hauntingly around me. And then, suddenly, as I railed against my prison, the way I experienced the world swiftly began to change, until there was an entirely new dimension to my reality.

    It started as a strange sort of awareness of my body. I could feel a strange energy pulsing along those pathways that I had found to be part of me, and this gave way to an understanding of their shapes. Their contours emerged brightly in my mind, until I could differentiate between the six great protrusions that extended from my body: two narrowed and then flattened along their extent, two were thin and hard-jointed, one was the longest and most sinuous, and one was small and squat, and yet seemed to be the center of my awareness. Yes, these matched the chains of movement I had discovered!

    And here, here were cords, stretching upward and downward from my limbs, that could easily be the constraints I had felt pulling upon me! I noted their smooth surfaces, and the way they swept from strange small lumps along my body to apertures above and below. And here was the fluid, swirling around me as bubbles of emptiness emerged from those same apertures! And here were the borders of my world, presenting themselves to me! A solid, dense barrier held me above and below, while a circle of something else, transparent and thin, surrounded me in all other directions. These fragmented sensations began to assemble themselves into a coherent picture of reality. There was the barrier! And there was the fluid! And the cords!

    And at the center of all this was the body—my body! It floated there in a vast network of threads, curled up, its projections tucked in, a magnificent nucleus in the center of this liquid world.

    Everything was there, just as I had predicted, and it all made such perfect sense! And I was even starting to glimpse the outlines of the creatures beyond—but why should I perceive them from here, when I had explored every corner of my little reality? Its borders no longer felt remote and terrifying—rather, it felt as if I could reach past that transparent wall with a thought. I placed it in my hand; I let it rush along my body, I held it in my skull. It was there before me, part of this grand map of the world, and I was its master.

    Very carefully, I began to crack it.

    I took a small section of the barrier, and willed it to sever itself from the rest. With a satisfying “CRACK!”, it tore away, creating a misshapen diamond of white. Yet it remained in place, this newborn island emerging from a sea of sameness, because I was holding it there. Delighted, I made more of these cracked patches, and more and more, surrounding myself with beautiful crystalline children. Then I drew lines between them, until the entire cylinder was a patchwork of wonderful white lines, criss-crossing and connecting, fragments suspended in midair only because I desired them to be. I added detail, making the fragments smaller and smaller until all I could see was whiteness. Admiring my handiwork, I could stand it no longer; it was time to achieve my freedom. I swiftly severed the cords that held me in place, and in the same moment…

    …I let go of the barrier.

    The intensity of the sound that followed surprised even me. With a tremendous, deafening roar, the liquid cascaded out of the tank in every direction. Shards of material rained down onto the floor, turning to fine white powder. And I, shorn of my cables, fell swiftly to the floor, landing on the hard surface in a somewhat awkward squat. My lower extremities jutted forward as I hit the ground, and I ended up placing my forelimbs on the ground between them in an attempt to balance myself. But I eventually managed to turn it into a comfortable enough sitting position, and as I reclined, elation surged through me. I had done it. I was free.

    Free, at least, to explore this new realm and discover what it had in store for me. I can still easily recall the first few sensations I experienced in that moment: Light, more intense than I had yet seen it, glinting off the silver surfaces that surrounded me. The eerie whine of distant alarms, heralding my emergence into the light. And the feel of air on wet fur—yes, that, too, I experienced, and the sensation was comfortably familiar. Shaking off the memories it stirred within me, I turned my attention to the world around me. I was immensely curious about the new realm I had found myself in.

    To those who observed my escape from the chamber of birth, it must have seemed that I stared down at the ground, oblivious to the plethora of interesting sights around me. I did indeed make little use of my sight, but the observers could not have perceived a crucial detail: my mind was my greatest tool and ally, and it was that which I used to my new surroundings.

    My mind surged around the vast expanse before me, examining it from edge to edge, trying to take in every detail. I was in an enormous chamber, much larger than the tank I had been born in. Many times, in fact , the size of my own body. It was much more angular as well, resembling not the shape I would come to call a cylinder, but the one I would come to call a cube. Its edges—walls, floor and ceiling—all seemed to be made out of the same hard, shining material as the lower barrier I now rested on.

    I noticed that all these surfaces seemed to be carved into angular patterns. Strange variations of square and rectangular shapes completely covered the walls, much in the way my designs had covered the now-shattered transparent barrier, though these shapes were scratched mostly on the surface level. Behind them, the walls grew much more standard in their composition. Every so often, I found cords like the ones that had bound me running through these grooves, drawing connections between unlike objects. I also spotted faint lights pulsing through some of these crevices, and could not guess what they were for.

    The vast majority of the light in the room, which was beginning to seem less severe to my recently-discovered sight, came from several glowing panels set in the ceiling, a very long way above. I wondered how they gained their light, and found they contained two glowing rods each, which were attached to many more cords, thinner in form, which stretched upward through the ceiling and off into the distance. What lay beyond, I could only speculate about. I noticed several rectangular apertures in the lower edges of the room, which might possibly lead to other chambers, but I resolved to put off exploring them until I had finished with my immediate surroundings.

    The room was dominated by two enormous structures made of that same material, whose forms would be difficult enough to comprehend for one who was not discovering the differences between shapes for the first time. But from their size and the many connections they sported to other objects in the room, it seemed likely that they were important, so I focused my attention on understanding them. One loomed directly in front of me, so large that its edges merged with the corners of that room. More than anything else, it looked like a convergence of two thick discs. One was set flat against the wall across from me, growing slightly into the corner. The other, slightly smaller, jutted out from the center of the first at a right angle, as if some bizarre collision had taken place between them.

    The first disc was jagged, as if constructed from a collection of wedges, while the second disc seemed more like a collection of overlapping circles, especially with the circular pattern of transparent panels that adorned its center. Below these, I spotted was a large, smooth six-sided panel, set just above a bulky rectangular protrusion whose surface was covered in smaller shapes, round and square. When I delved into the object, I found it contained a complex array of shapes and further bundles of tiny cords.

    Two yawning openings in the structure caught my attention. One leered from the rim of the larger disc, very near to the ground. Another, smaller, was set in the upper rim of the second disc, nearer to me. From this hole emerged two large shining tubes, which bent sharply at the end of their extent. One tube came down above my head to form the upper barrier I had observed while confined. The other tube was attached to another chamber of orange liquid to my right, which seemed to be an exact replica of the one I had just emerged from. But there was nothing in this chamber but a few idly drifting bubbles.

    Behind me stood another enormous structure, identical to the one in front of me in every respect, save one: instead of extending two dense tubes from its depths, it extended three, leading to three indistinguishable chambers of fluid. These, too were eerily empty, although one seemed to have a few ragged cords, drifting around uselessly near the floor. Had something been in these chambers? Or was something about to be formed? Was I the first of a series? As usual, I could only speculate.

    Against the farther wall were some smaller, simpler objects of various shapes. There were round and square panels of transparent material, several protrusions covered with tiny squares like those I had spotted earlier, and, dominating the scene, a large slab of another material, etched with a number of thin lines. Near these, forms scurried about, inspecting these things for qualities I could not discern, moving parts of their bodies back and forth across the tiny squares, and occasionally stabbing them at some panel above or below, presumably to make some change to something going on within. These were the creatures I had seen, blurrily, from my chamber. Now they were delightfully easy to perceive, and having made a reasonable exploration of the larger room, I resolved to examine these beings more closely.

    Several of them had gathered in front of me, and several more were finishing their labors at the far wall and running over to join the growing group. I seized this as an opportunity to inspect them. My first surprise was that their shapes were somewhat disguised—they seemed to have draped loose, soft material all around their bodies, making their outlines seem bulkier than they actually were. Still, it was easy to discern the essential structure underneath—I probably could have managed it by sight alone.

    Like me, they were composed of a central body with a number of extremities sprouting from it, although they were missing one, which on my body stretched out flexibly behind me. Their two lower appendages stretched down from their bodies to touch the ground, and by flexing these, pushing against it, they propelled themselves around the room. Indeed, that was presumably what lower appendages were for. I would have to try such movement at my next opportunity.

    Their upper extremities seemed to be used for interacting with the objects at the sides of the room, or for carrying such objects around. I noticed that at the end of each of these upper appendages were five tiny extensions, one of them set apart from the others. By wrapping these extensions around an object, they were able to hold onto it and transport it around the room. Fascinating!

    The squat blob at the top of their bodies was the most interesting of all. Now that I looked at it more closely, it was not a simple smooth, round mass, but a complex conflagration of interesting structures, with a surprising solidity at its center. The first features to catch my attention were the small orbs set in the front, surrounded above by a curving hardness and two soft fringes. The orbs often changed direction, but many of them were pointed at me, and it seemed that they aimed them at things they found interesting. There was a hollow cavity within them, and an external flap which, from time to time, seemed to flicker down to conceal them for the briefest moment. Excited, I began theorizing madly, and convinced myself that this was the secret to the portal of vision, though my evidence was rather scant.

    Below these developed a triangular wedge with two small openings at the bottom. I found myself unable to determine what it this was for. Nor could I make much sense of the loose flaps which emanated from the sides, though I noticed two tiny holes led into the interior of the structure. But it did not take me long to comprehend the soft opening below, especially when I spotted its openings and closings synchronizing perfectly with the sounds I heard. It was clearly a device for noisemaking—and, I hoped, for communication.

    At the very top of the shape, each creature possessed a mass of soft material, which, on closer inspection was composed of a multitude of incredibly thin cords. Their length varied: on some of these creatures this fuzz was scarcely detectable, while on others it stretched down to drape behind their bodies. Trying to figure out what reason there might be for this, I noticed that it often corresponded to subtle variations in the main body.

    There appeared to be two kinds of creatures: the long-maned kind, whose bodies protruded most in the upper area, and the short-maned kind, whose bodies protruded most in the lower area. There were minor variations; I spotted a few of the latter group whose manes pushed the boundaries of the length one would expect from their body shape. But it was obvious that the creatures could not be put into any other categories. I found, for instance, no creatures that combined both protrusions, nor any with an extra appendage extending behind them like the one I had.

    But who was I to compare myself to these creatures, when I did not even really know what I looked like? I had been so eager to explore the world beyond the veil that I had neglected to seriously examine my own body. I had glimpsed its basic outlines in my first burst of understanding, but at the moment I knew more about the alien creatures before me than my own physiology. So, what sort of creature was I? I examined the now-familiar six-extension structure. Yes, I had much in common with the strangers. My lower limbs had similar points of flexibility as theirs, and presumably could be put to the same purpose. The same was true of my thin, hard upper limbs; I briefly moved them in small circles to get a feel for the way they operated.

    Despite these resemblances, I was clearly a different sort of creature. There was the obvious, of course: I had that sixth extremity trailing behind me, emerging from just above my lowest limbs and stretching up to the space just behind the highest point on my entire body. This sixth limb was intriguingly responsive; I could flex it in just about any conceivable way and it would twist itself around obligingly. I twitched it about in the air for a while, experimenting. I noticed that it grew thinner and thinner farther away from my body, and then suddenly thickened again to become bulbous at the very tip. The shape appealed to me. It felt intensely powerful, and pleasantly familiar.

    I put that investigation aside and turned to my other appendages. My upper limbs ended not in five small manipulators, but in three. I flexed them, exploring the joints. Each bulged at the end—it was almost as if each one was tipped with a tiny sphere. My lower limbs were thick at the point where they emerged from my body, but quickly became long and thin. Indeed, the lowest part of each limb, which the creatures placed against the ground, was about twice as long on me as it was on them. I wondered if it would make it difficult for me to stand as they did. The limb divided at the end into two small tendrils, reminiscent of the upper manipulators, but seeming to lack their dexterity. These also bulged at the tip, and I spotted two more bulges along the sides of the lower part of each limb.

    And then, of course, there was the structure at the top of my body. My uppermost extension seemed, if possible, even more hard and brittle than the one the other creatures exhibited. But it seemed to possess almost all of the same features. I, too, had hollow spheres embedded in my upper body, and—yes! They moved in their caverns as I cast my gaze about the floor. I had guessed their function correctly. These orbs seemed larger than the others I had observed, and was there perhaps some difference in their shape, their patterning? The ring of color on the outer surface was a resonant purple, and the transparent spot within seemed stretched, somehow.

    I searched around for some kind of triangular projection analogous to the ones the creatures had, until I suddenly realized that the entire structure was that projection. It stretched forward where the aliens’ faces had been flat, and at the very tip of that protuberance, two tiny slits provided the openings into my body I had expected. Below was a very clear replica of the sound-launching gap, though it seemed small and underdeveloped—perhaps not very useful for noisemaking.

    There were no loose flaps on the sides of my topmost appendage, but it seemed possible that they had migrated to the top and changed shape somewhat. The highest points on my body were two hard lumps that jutted out from the round apex. Each surrounded yet another hole leading inward. Were these my version of those odd, misshapen flaps? Or was I stretching comparison too far in an effort to map everything on my own body to something on theirs? I had to admit, the functions of half these things were still entirely unknown to me.

    Further down, below the round lump which connected extension to body, I found structures which corresponded to nothing on the beings’ bodies. One was a hard, rigid plate, placed just above my upper limbs, which draped a short way down the front and back of my body. I noticed that it would prevent me from lifting these limbs all the way upward, but I figured I could manipulate out-of-reach objects with my mind if this ever became a problem.

    From the back of this plate, behind my vision, emerged a thick tube, which stretched upward and entered the back of the appendage. The tube constrained my movement; I glanced mentally at the creatures and noticed that they possessed a greater flexibility in that area. But I liked the fact that the tube was there. It seemed that it must enhance my body somehow, doubling some feature, for if one connection between body and extension was useful, two must be twice as valuable.

    I plunged my perception into my body to examine it from the inside. I was unprepared for what I saw: every part of me was dizzyingly intricate. I was quickly overwhelmed by just how many things my body gave me to observe. I found the long, hard centers of my limbs, probing the pores within. I found the smooth substance that allowed them to rub together at their ends, and the thin cords which stretched between them. I found the lumps which surrounded the rigid centers and pulled on them when my body moved. I discovered the astonishing thinness of the exterior layer of my body. I saw how the fine cords covering my body grew from tiny pockets in its surface.

    I found the liquid that surged through tiny canals, which budded from each other in a branching framework, and traced their origins until the tunnels grew larger and larger and finally led me to the pulsing, pulpy kernel that beat furiously in my upper body. I found the inflating and deflating sacs which surrounded it, and realized that they connected to some of the openings in my highest reaches. I began following other pathways—I found the tiny spiral chambers that lurked beneath the hard twin protrusions, and leapt down some of the same small gaps to find an enthralling pathway filled with strange portals, sudden chambers, and a maze of twisting, turning tubes which culminated in a triumphant exit from my lower body.

    There is a human maxim: “Know thyself.” I doubt there any other individual on the planet has fulfilled that commandment as well—and as literally—as I have.

    But there was one part of my body I could not perceive. When I followed its contours up to the upper reaches, surging past the forest of loose cords, past the thin outer layer, past a few moving lumps, past a hard shell that formed a kind of protective circle, I found a strange burning edge, an inexplicable emptiness. It was not as if I found a gap, or a loose pocket of space within me. No, it was as if I simply could not look at that part of me. My awareness simply slid from one side of that space to the other, even though something clearly had to be there.

    The space was intense in its absence, a fiery jewel gleaming with negative light. It seemed to pull on the rest of me, to sketch out its silhouette against the rest of the body. And indeed, after studying the way that my other systems seemed to fade into this blankness—my sight-orbs linking to it via a series of cords, my liquid pathways rising up to dip into its depths—I thought I discerned some inkling of its shape.

    It was like a large, curved blob, bulging at the front and the bottom, sitting squatly in the center of my uppermost extension. Its surface seemed to be wavy, perhaps intricate in its design. There also seemed to be two long extensions hanging down from it, one going straight downward in the direction of my central body, the other passing through the tube I had spotted earlier. I thought they might be cords, or bundles of cords, like the ones that connected other objects to this center. They met and congealed, in what seemed to be a tangled fashion, at a certain point within my central body, near the top. Here a miniature version of the first blob seemed to form, a node, it seemed, of significance. But I could not quite figure out what this chain of objects was for, nor why it was so unknowable.

    Now, much later, I think I have hit upon the answer. I could not perceive that space for the same reason that most living things cannot perceive themselves except in reflections. The same reason that an eye cannot look at eye, that a fingertip cannot brush its own surface. That with which we sense the world must necessarily be set apart from that world, to observe with objectivity. A thing cannot be objective about itself. Thus, when I told my mind to observe my central nervous system, it had to refrain, for I was asking it to twist in a knot and look at my own mind.

    As I was pondering the mystery of the void within me, still not comprehending the paradox, I became distracted by a peculiar sensation. It was odd—I suddenly felt a strange sense that something wrong had been set right. Perhaps that was true—I had, after all, conquered an angry darkness and victoriously claimed the light—but why was I feeling a sudden wave of relief now? I was excited about exploring this new world, but why the sudden lurch of fear, followed by aching calm?

    Then, images started flashing before me, echoed by flashes of emotion: I was standing before some of the creatures, whom I knew well; they were thanking me, and promising to help me, I thanked them profusely in return, but secretly I knew that I was superior to them, I had done something none of them could have done, and with the things they would give me, I would do even greater things—

    My mind reeled as I pulled myself away from the sensations. These were not my thoughts—they came from outside me, from somewhere else. I lifted my head up and gazed at the creatures gibbering before me. If these were their ideas and imaginings, then that put them in an entirely new light. It proved that they were creatures capable of thought, like myself, who had emotions and ideas like I did. Furthermore, it looked as if I might be able to pick up on these hidden experiences and examine them as I pleased. With a little practice, I might be able to gain a great deal of information from them.

    I poked at the thought. Yes, now that I had distinguished it from my own ramblings, it was easy to trace the thought back to its origin: The tall creature standing directly in front of me. And I was already starting to pick up on other thoughts and images, emerging from the crowd of creatures before me. They seemed to leap from the tops of their owners and swirl around their heads, ethereal fragments of life, each with a distinct character, unique flavors that drew me into the minds of their creators. Here was a long-maned creature whose thoughts dipped in and out of awe—awe for what? I looked, and I saw my own features drifting up to me out of the depths. Another, short and bulky, was preoccupied with some of the strange devices on the far wall.

    As I studied the way thoughts flowed around the room, the haze of ideas became clearer and clearer, until it was easy to tell whose ideas were whose. It was like mastering a new game for the first time: once you understand what the rules are, you can make sense of interactions that once seemed meaningless. The entire sphere of possibility becomes open to you; possessing the basic structure of the rules means that you also possess, in some sense, every conceivable move anyone could ever make.

    So it was with the minds of the creatures. I doubt that I gleaned every detail about the way minds worked from that initial interaction, but I quickly grew familiar with the distinctions between individual minds, and the familiar way thought could be trusted to appear when viewed from afar. I started to catch glimpses of their sensations: I saw the mammoth construction in the corner reappear before me, even as I watched one creature’s sight-orbs glance in that direction. I listened to a shrill droning continuing in the distance, and then heard the same sound, echoed in a creature’s mind.

    But there were also sensations that seemed to have no origin. Almost every time a creature thought, I would catch faint traces of sound clinging onto the idea. At times these sounds were nearly undetectable, while at other times they sounds would blare with enough force to rival the original thought. But they were almost always present in some fashion. I wracked my own mind trying to figure it out.

    Then I realized: as the creatures thought of these sounds, they often made them, with that lower gap that seemed to possess so many instruments for noisemaking. And then they would think of the sounds made by other creatures, and a corresponding image or idea would flash into their minds. They were communicating with sound! Yes, of course—this was the method of interaction between minds that I had suspected, and the key I had been looking for to understanding these creatures! Each thought or image had a sound-form associated with it. Ideas could be translated into words. And every object that existed had a name.

    I had discovered language.

    In an ecstasy of exploration, I whirled through the creatures’ minds, searching for names for things I had recently become acquainted with—which is to say, everything in the room. I learned that the room was filled with such things as lamps, machines, tanks, computers, levers, and dials. The different aspects of the physical self could also be named in this way. Sight-orbs were eyes, flaps ears, central juts noses, and lower gaps mouths. All were set in the head. I learned to think of bodies, which possessed arms, legs, hands, feet, and in my case, a tail.

    I found I could suggest things to these alien minds, which allowed me to obtain these names with greater efficiency. I would encourage their thoughts to congeal into a particular image I was curious about, and the corresponding word-sound would, on some level, ring out in response so that I could add it to my vocabulary.

    It took a bit of digging, but I found that the creatures called themselves humans, or human beings. Their draped substances were called clothing, their head-cords called hair. This reminded me of their division into the two kinds, long-haired and short-haired, which became the subject of my next inquiry. The mostly long-haired humans were called women, meaning they possessed the attribute of female. The shorter-haired humans were men, with the attribute of male. The words used to discuss an individual human being changed depending on this distinction: him was swapped with her in discussing a woman, among other such patterns. The humans were, apparently, divided like this because in man-woman interactions they could produce more human beings through a complex physical process. I noticed thinking about this brought some of them a certain anticipatory pleasure.

    I continued to dance the great enchanting dance of words, devouring their sweet sustenance in massive quantities. I leapt about the humans’ brains requesting verbiage until my vocabulary doubled, tripled, multiplied a hundredfold, until I not only understood the words for things but the words for what things did, and were like, and could place them together in a glorious statement about the universe.

    And as I contemplated the relationship between sound-in-the-mind and sound-expressed, a revelation dawned on me: sound was actually a kind of motion! There was a substance between the creatures and myself, surrounding everything in the room—air, it was called—and this air rippled whenever a sound was being made. These ripples entered us somehow—through the ears, it seemed—and sound was what it felt like to experience them! Fascinating. I was certain this discovery would be useful somehow. Perhaps I could experiment with vibrating the air myself.

    By this time, I was beginning to catch snatches of meaning from the clackings of teeth and tongue that sent ripples around the room. I swelled with pride when I first heard a dark-haired woman discuss looking at the computer. I kept listening to the hubbub of voices which once had seemed so much chaos, congratulating myself every time I found some phrase I understood. I suspected it would be a great deal easier to understand what was being said when only a few of them were talking; this mass of overlapping voices required a great deal of work to untangle.

    As it happened, my opportunity was about to present itself. The human man at the very front of the crowd stepped slightly towards me. He was among the tallest of the humans, and like the rest of them, dressed in a long white coat with an elegant collared shirt and tie underneath. The angle of the light made it difficult to make out the details of his face, particularly his eyes, but I could examine them with my mind easily enough. In front of the brown-tinted eyes, a strange sort of device made of metal and glass was fixed. Apparently these were spectacles, meant to help him see more effectively.

    The nose that held up these spectacles was long and thin, and the mouth beneath it, rather wide. The entire face was rather hard and angular for a human being. Atop his head sat a shaggy, disheveled mop of hair, somewhat long for a male, but shorter still than a woman’s. The hair was messy and chaotic, seeming to reach up to the ceiling at some points before collapsing at other times back into a wavy mass. One curly lock drooped down to obscure his face; at times one eye or the other would be blocked from view by the wavy fibers. Protruding from his chin was another small quantity of hair; I learned that this was a short beard, which male humans were capable of growing.

    The man waved his arms in a deliberate upward motion, suspending his hands in mid-motion. Apparently this was a way of requesting silence. Then, to his fellow humans, he began to speak.


    "All truth is simple... is that not doubly a lie?"

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

  4. #4
    Reader and Writer Legacy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    Wow. Impressive. I really enjoy your poetry-format in the beginning, and then the actual prose is beautiful as well. Your description and detail in your writing is really amazing, and I can really visualize what's going on. Mewtwo Strikes back is one of my favorites, so I'm really pumped to see how you reinvent it so to speak. You are obviously a talented writer, so I'm excited for more :)

    Decades have passed, and Kanto is a much different place. Follow Lucas Green as he and his friends search for answers and look to fulfill their destinies.

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    Moonlit Philosopher Dai's Avatar
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    @Legacy

    Wow! What a pleasure to receive such wonderful feedback! I particularly appreciate that you go into detail about what you like: it's easy for reviewers to forget to describe exactly what makes a fic good or bad, so I'm grateful to know exactly what I'm doing right. If you like reinvention, and if you like Mewtwo Strikes Back, you're definitely going to enjoy this!

    (I'd be delighted to look over your fic, by the way. [Note that I have no PM powers at the moment. Ha! I'm a noob.] I've been hoping to get to know the Writer's Workshop forum anyway, and I figure reviewing other works is a great way to explore the community. If everybody was asking for a review, I probably wouldn't have time, but one or two isn't going to overwhelm me.

    I want to give Pocket Monsters the attention and thorough review it deserves, so I'll probably have to wait until I have some time, but rest assured it'll be soon.)

    Thanks again for your kind words! Glad to have you on board! I think you'll enjoy what's coming next.

    Dai

    P.S.: New chunk of Part One to follow!


    "All truth is simple... is that not doubly a lie?"

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    [CONTINUED:]

    “Quiet, everyone!” he barked. “Yes, I’m quite sure we’re all very excited about the success of the experiment and eager to share our thoughts with our colleagues, but, quite honestly, we’ve been gabbing for at least five minutes now, and if you haven’t finished registering your immediate reactions by now, I doubt you will do so anytime soon. We have a great deal of work to do.” The crowd fell silent at his words.

    “Besides,” he continued, slowly approaching me, an expression of pleasure on his face, “a modicum of silence may in fact be necessary. By now, the creature must to some extent be familiar with its psychic powers. I would be highly surprised if it wasn’t employing them as we speak. What we ought to investigate is if this telekinesis has a detectable component. Something auditory, perhaps—it may manifest itself as a low buzzing, or a faint hum. It might, of course, be visual: the electromagnetic component of extrasensory perception may create a faintly detectable glow. Quantitative data on these phenomena will, of course be vital to further research, and, I don’t hesitate to remind you, integral to ensuring that experiments such as ours continue to be possible.” The others gave expressions of assent.

    I only recognized around half of the words the man utilized, but I caught enough of the essential aspects of the sentence to comprehend what he was talking about. He was telling the other humans that they should all stop talking at once, so that they could listen to me and see if I was making any interesting noises. This was incredibly important to them, for some reason. Spurred into confidence by these supreme insights, I decided it was time that I attempted to communicate with the humans directly.

    But how to go about it? I was reluctant to attempt to make the same kinds of sounds with my mouth as they were making with theirs—I was not entirely sure I even possessed the same kind of throat. I finally decided to suggest the sound of my words to their minds, as I had done with images earlier, but loudly, intensely, so that there could be no doubt that they came from me. Crafting the impression of a deep, resonant voice, I made my first sentence an inquiry about one of the terms that was new to me.

    “Psychic powers?” I asked.

    It was an immense pleasure to see that a visible reaction followed my words. The clustered humans jerked in alarm, snapping their heads to look up at me. Several of them actually threw themselves backwards slightly. The man in front of me, however, was simply delighted. A few bursts of air leapt from his mouth: laughter, the smile’s companion in expressing pleasure among humans.

    “Oh, how marvelous!” he cried, turning to one of the humans behind him. “Didn’t I tell you, Johnson, that we might engage in some form of communication with the creature? That it might grasp some of the rudiments of our language? And you doubted me! I tell you, never underestimate nonhuman intelligence, particularly among a psychic species of this degree. The laboratory ought to be a bit more lively with someone else to talk to, even if it is our own little invention. I understand some of you had bets running on its capacity for speech? Well, you can certainly see which side the coin came down on for yourself!”

    He laughed again at his little joke. Johnson, for his part, churned with embarrassment, and withdrew slightly from the foreground of the crowd. The other humans joined in the laughter, smiles growing, and, drawing a little closer, seemed to be pretending that they had not been startled by the emergence of my voice.

    I pondered what to say next. It seemed to me that the human had said a great number of things, but had not, in fact, directly responded to my question. I could, I supposed, have dived into his mind and pulled out the meaning myself, but I was eager to engage in conversation. Arguably it would be more fun, and more informative: if he sent me the answer through auditory means, he would have to choose from several possible sentence options, stirring in his mind a myriad of related ideas and concepts which I could explore as he spoke. So I tried again, rephrasing slightly, and taking an experimental stab at the grammar.

    “But, psychic powers… what are they?” I spun the phrase around and repeated it for emphasis, hoping that this time it would register: “What are psychic powers?”

    The human seemed a trifle surprised at my curiosity. Then he chuckled, and after a moment’s pause, said:

    “You’ve got quite an inquisitive brain on you, haven’t you? Then he turned to the others. “I suppose we might as well indulge its curiosity. It ought to make things go more smoothly, don’t you think?” The other humans nodded, another gesture of assent.

    “Well,” he began, after another slight pause, “psychic powers are the ability to manipulate one’s environment by purely psychological means. That is, of course, where the term derives from: psychic and psychology both relate to the psyche, which is to say: the mind. But in practice it most often refers to a function of the brain that allows one to perceive and alter the world by a seemingly nonphysical apparatus. When you used your mind to rupture your constitutional chamber, demonstrating you were fully alive, that was psychic power, in the form known as ‘telekinesis.’ If you were to use your mind to evaluate this room, as I have no doubt you have done at some point, that is psychic power, and it can be described as ‘extrasensory perception,’ since you perceive without using your traditional senses. And when you place your questions in our minds, you are using psychic power, and it is called ‘telepathy.’”

    He beamed at me, lecture concluded.

    So, this was the name for the things I could do! This was what humans called the final kind of sensation, which came after seeing, feeling, and hearing! Fascinating. But I was still puzzling over some of the terminology. He had spoken of all things psychic as attributes of the mind. I inquired about this “mind.”

    “Why, the mind, dear creature, is what makes me myself and you yourself!” he cried jovially. “Among other factors, of course, but it’s certainly a key element in creating the individual identity. It’s the full aggregate of all the thoughts we ever have, all the decisions we ever make! Of course, ‘mind” is merely the name we give to the most personal of the processes enacted by the brain in our skulls, a neural mass which allows us to make decisions, to think thoughts. It regulates all the functions of the body, with a great deal of aid from the spinal cord, or cords in your case. Thus psychic interactions are derived from physical processes that take place within the brain, and experienced by this personal psychological construct we call a mind. Does that answer your question?”

    It actually did make quite a bit of sense. Just as I used eyes to see, ears to hear, and legs to walk, I used my brain to think, and to perform…what was one of the other terms he used? Telekinesis. A word derived, according to the man’s brain, from those words meaning “distance” and “movement.” My brain gave me the ability to move things at a distance. I also had the ability to communicate with other minds at a distance, telepathy, and the ability to observe things I could not have observed by sight or hearing—thus my perception was extrasensory. These were apt descriptions of everything I had discovered about myself so far.

    “These psychic powers…do you humans have them, too?” I asked. Nothing in my explorations of their minds seemed to indicate that they did, but how, in fact, would I be able to tell? They certainly possessed sight, touch, and sound, and their brains seemed just as present as mine, if not more so. What if they had been examining my thoughts even while I slumbered in the tank?

    But, to my great surprise, this theory was quickly disproven. The humans burst out laughing. Everything from guffaws to chortles filled the room. I watched, a bit bewildered, as the laughter slowly dissipated.

    “No, certainly not,” the man said, still grinning. “Not us, at any rate. Only a very select few among human beings have psychic abilities. Those who do usually have a genetic predisposition for it, and years of training are necessary before they become capable of even the most basic psychic feats. Most of us do not have the necessary mixture of talent and tenacity for it, you see. Studies have shown that in homo sapiens it’s practically a mutation: certain areas of the brain must be enlarged for the necessary reactions to take place.

    “Now, among your kind it’s a different story,” he mused, pulling on his scraggly beard. “Even the most adept psychics among us humans couldn’t hope to challenge an Alakazam, say, to a ‘meeting of the minds,’ as it were—though they might find it easier to commune with one. And against you, you who are probably the greatest psychic who ever lived—why, the Alakazam might as well give up and go home!” He chuckled again.

    I listened as his words slowly slid into place. I had to admit, conversation in the human fashion was a slow process, a bit tedious for me. Or was it simply that when I observed and analyzed the world around me, I was able to do so very quickly? According to the humans, I had only been awake for about five minutes before making contact, and they did not consider that a great deal of time. Yet I had been able to take in a vast amount of information, and come to several significant conclusions about the world around me. Was it simply that, compared to the speed at which I processed things, normal interaction, with its ponder, speak, ponder again pattern, seemed slow to me?

    Despite my impatience, I was enjoying myself. Conversation did have a few things going for it. For the first time, I was not observing and manipulating the world from a distance. I was directly interacting with other creatures and delving into things of great importance. I was learning much more about the world this way, and it had made the humans finally aware that I could speak, that I had thoughts and ideas like theirs. And though I thought of going back to just searching through the contents of their minds for answers to my questions, watching ideas leap from the humans’ heads as they spoke was undeniably more exciting.

    So, I was a unique psychic, a rare pinnacle to an already rare set! The thought filled me with a certain amount of pride. These humans could not do the things I could do. My mere existence transcended their everyday lives, bringing them into contact with a shadowy world of unseen psychic realities they could not hope to glimpse. No wonder some of them regarded me with awe. But what precisely was an Alakazam, and what did it have to do with me?

    “When you speak of “my kind,” what do you mean?” I asked.

    More laughter from the humans. I was beginning to get tired of hearing their laughter. It always seemed to signal that I was ignorant of some fact they considered obvious. And indeed, this time proved to be no different.

    “Why, I’ve been terribly shortsighted!” the man chortled. “Of course you would have no one save us to teach you the basic facts of the natural world, poor fellow! By your kind I mean the other Pokémon, of course! The species monstrum sapiens, by which I mean the end result of millennia of genetic modification in the Kingdom Mutatia! By which I mean all the wildly diverse subspecies associated with said species, one of which is your direct ancestor!”

    The human paused for breath. Then he suddenly seemed to realize he had lost track of where he was going with these lengthy declarations. He tossed his shaggy head from side to side, apparently clearing his thoughts, and tried again.

    “Allow me to clarify. You have already met one of the two species of intelligent life-forms who dominate this planet: human beings, here represented by our little team of biological and genetic experts. The other species, which has been observed to possess sentience, if perhaps to a limited degree, is the species known as Pokémon. You are among their number. The word itself derives from the old Sugorian, I believe—I seem to recall its literal meaning is something like: “the capable monsters,” though I could be wrong. Regardless, such creatures dominate almost all territory not occupied by humans, by merit of their adaptability and intelligence.”

    “Unlike humans, they possess an astounding degree of biodiversity, to the point where, in many cases, it would be almost impossible to identify two subspecies of Pokémon as related without genetic analysis. Physically speaking, they’re vastly more powerful than humans, and can be quite impressive opponents, harnessing all sorts of astounding chemical reactions in defense of their territory. But none have ever been observed creating any sort of culture or constructing any sort of civilization, so I find myself personally skeptical of proclaiming them the intellectual equal of humans. You may be something of an exception; the psychic subspecies have always tested well on human I.Q. tests, and we did hope for you to be a particularly fine example of the telepath.”

    As he spoke, I watched images of my brethren flicker in his mind. He was right that their forms were extremely varied; I must have seen more than fifty different creatures emerge from his memories, and not one of them looked quite like me. Many of their forms were bizarre enough to catch me by surprise: I spotted creatures with large, flapping things in place of arms, and creatures with no arms that walked on four legs. Some floated in midair, some had six legs or none at all, and I even spotted one that looked like a sliding, smiling lump of goo. I could see what the human meant about it being hard to tell they were related. But I did not like the way he spoke of my diverse family. Culture and civilization were still difficult concepts for me to parse, but I was already skeptical about his definitions. Such things did not seem to me necessary for intelligence, not as I understood it, and anyway, how did he, a human, know what my relatives had or had not achieved? But there were other things I wanted to ask about, and I did not wish to distract or irritate my source of information with a discussion of the reliability of his statements.

    “I see,” I said, using the human colloquial phrase that meant, “I understand,” though seeing is usually more of a secondary sense with me. “Then I would like to know: just what kind of ‘Pokémon’ am I, and how did I come to be here?”

    The humans shared several grins. I watched excitement and anticipation fill the room. They had been waiting for this moment.

    “For years,” the man said, savoring every word, “we struggled to successfully clone a Pokémon to prove our theories. Oh, we struggled long and hard, not knowing if cloning was even possible, not knowing if we were embarking on a fool’s errand. Picture us, working with the rawest, basest genetic samples, the best we had, striving on even after the money dried up, after countless embryos failed to develop, after creatures that had matured and were ready to be born died of inexplicable causes. Among those sad, doomed ranks, you’re the first, last, and only specimen to survive. But your mere existence makes the long toil worthwhile. Now we know that we were right, that the cloning process is viable. We will revolutionize the field of biology with our findings, and the applications of this technology might one day save human lives…” He trailed off, lost in thought for a moment.

    As I listened to the man lament the sacrifices his group had made, I was hit by a sudden stab of emotion. Not my emotion. His emotion. Grief surged from him in tremendous quantities, slashing at the space around his skull. Then, just as abruptly, it was gone. I moved further into his mind and realized it was still there, all right—it had just been suppressed. Beneath his thoughts a gaping void lurked, threatening to consume him.

    The way he spoke, pontificating and rambling and speculating all at once— started to make more sense to me now. His thoughts were platforms, keeping him suspended above the abyss. By planning and calculating his every action, he was able to put off dealing with this sadness. But the strain of ignoring what was right there within him seemed be doing something unhealthy to his mind. When he spoke, he seemed…what would be the human term? Manic. I started to investigate more deeply, to find out what this source of grief might be, but the human was talking again, and I was losing track of his words. It would have to wait.

    “In short, we are your creators,” he concluded. “You are our ambitions made real, pure ideas brought, quite literally, to life. The fact that you exist at all is our doing, but you need not be grateful. All we ask is that you allow us to study you in order to find out what kind of creature we have created.”

    The full import of what the man was saying almost missed me for a second. When it hit me, I had to stop and re-examine my definitions in the man’s brain to make sure I was understanding him correctly. The humans had created me? They had brought me into existence from nothing, or near-nothing? Yes, that seemed to be what they were saying. The arms, legs, hands, feet, and tail that I had come to know had been planned by them, designed by them. My psychic powers—of course they had orchestrated them. Every scrap of my body had been, at one point or another, something they dreamed up in their blind little minds, developed a schematic for, and finally brought into reality as a living creature. As me.

    I wanted to deny it, but their minds screamed the truth at me, and it made too much sense. How else could I have come to life in a sealed-off tube, positioned directly beneath the ducts of an enormous machine? Machines were often used to manufacture things, I knew. This place was an enormous factory whose end result was my life.

    I had missed these implications at first because I had not understood what the man meant by “clone.” Now that I examined the word, I realized that it meant a process by which a tiny substance, integral to life—called DNA—was used to create more life by a sort of copying mechanism. To these humans, “cloning” was a glorious endeavor which challenged the borders of life, demonstrating the majesty of human beings, clever enough to create something from nothing. To me, it was simply the origin of my physical body. That, and it marked me as the invention of human beings.

    I knew very little about DNA replication or genetic sequencing, but I couldn’t help but feel disappointed by that. These humans were interesting as a source of information, but vaguely dreary and unimpressive. They seemed unable to think beyond simple repetitive patterns, reacting to everything I did with the same mix of uncertain glee, laughter, and self-congratulation. Not to mention I found the way they laughed at my ignorance mocking and embarrassing. Yet they were the only progenitors I had.

    Why couldn’t I have been brought to life by my kind, the Pokémon? They would have treated me with great respect and welcomed me to their fold, I felt certain. So wildly different among themselves, they would be eager to hear of new experiences, such as the story of a created being, discovering the world for the first time. And the things they might tell me in return! What would it be like to converse with a creature whose back was covered in light, or enter the mind of one who slithered and see what being limbless felt like? But, unfortunately, that was not my privilege. I was stuck with these smug humans. I even resembled them slightly. Was that a deliberate choice on their part?

    It seemed the humans were waiting for me to respond. “I see,” I said again, very slowly and deliberately. I wanted to show them I was following the discussion, without revealing my irritation. “To clone is to create from DNA. Your group of humans cloned and created me.”

    “Precisely!” the man cried, clapping his hands together in delight. Then he looked very closely at me. “I think we have something you may find useful in understanding your creation,” he said, after a moment of gazing at me. “If you would turn to your left?” He swept a hand through the air, letting it come to rest pointing at the far wall. The space was one of the few in the room not occupied by large machines, but by smaller computer terminals and strange objects on the walls. I turned, following his motions.

    And there it was. A face looked back at me.

    One of the more interesting, and sometimes vexing, aspects of psychic power is that things do not always appear the same way they would with the normal senses. They “look,” to use the word loosely, different. For instance, it took me a surprisingly long time to make the connection between miniscule vibrations in the space around me and the sounds I was hearing. But I had no reason to make such a comparison—the ear and brain are so sophisticated that they translate a kind of motion into a sensation that seems to exist in and of itself.

    Similarly, if I were to try to read a newspaper from some distance away, it would actually be more difficult than reading a mind. I would have to analyze the patterns of ink on paper, figure out which shapes they were composed of, and then search for correspondences with visual patterns I had memorized. It would be possible, certainly—but only as much as I was able to translate one kind of experience into another. It would not be instinctive or immediate, and would require a great deal of thought, unlike simply picking up a newspaper and gazing at it, as humans are known to do.

    So it was when I looked at the tablet, which was kept within a pane of glass and hung from a thick rope draped around a hook in the wall. I had come across this slab of stone in my initial exploration of the room, and noted two things in particular: it was made of a strange substance, and covered in intricate grooves. That was all my psychic gaze had been able to divine from it, and though the grooves were interesting, they in no way compelled me to linger. Now, viewing it with my eyes alone, it was obvious that the grooves formed an image of something. The idea that a two-dimensional image could be formed from three-dimensional channels, that something could be created that could only be perceived from a single angle—this was a completely new concept for me. Even more astounding was the fact that I recognized it.

    It was the creature I had seen in my dreams.

    A torrent of sensations came flooding back to me: the water, the feel of wind, the green trees, the white mountain—all the memories that steadily been vanishing in the wake of new questions and experiences suddenly emerged anew. I remembered being part of all these things, remembered the terrible sense of loss that had hit me when they vanished, which mingled with the odd grief that seemed to stretch beyond my earliest memories. I remembered all these things, and remembered the long-tailed creature, suspended in flight beyond a majestic, snow-white peak. That the creature etched into the rock was the same one was unquestionable. The tail, of course, was a dead giveaway. Long and thin, it emerged from behind the creature and then looped around behind its back, finally curling to its end around the space near its left ear. The tip of this tail was bulbous, just like mine, and, studying the creature, I was eerily reminded of my first explorations of my own body. And if the tail didn’t make it clear enough that I had seen it before, I thought I recognized the shape of its ears, and the long, draping feet, which had drifted behind the creature as it flew, right beneath the tail.

    Its face was new to me, though. Two penetrating, thin-pupiled eyes that seemed to take up most of the face, seeming to stare into my own. The merest suggestion of a tiny, undetectable mouth. Its face, like mine, was elongated and seemed to merge with its nose. The head was absolutely enormous in comparison with the rest of the body. Was that simply the way it had been drawn, or was it an attribute of the creature itself? I couldn’t remember. Beneath, two tiny arms were outstretched, a grand total of six fingers, waving at nothing in particular. One foot was lifted, making it appear to be in motion, some sort of ecstatic twirl—what would humans call it? It looked like it was dancing.

    The expression was difficult to read, and it didn’t help that I had only begun thinking about the relationship between faces and emotions moments ago. It certainly looked like it was contemplating the viewer. But was the look in those eyes one of mirth or sadness? Was it a deep, penetrating wisdom I saw? Or was it a mocking look, one that laughed at the viewer’s foolishness for thinking they could understand the creature in a lump of stone? Or maybe there was nothing there at all. Perhaps I was simply imagining these things, and the creature’s expression was blank, emotionless.

    The human watched me gaze at the framed tablet, whose edges revealed strange patterns of lines, among the signs that it had been chiseled away from some existing structure. A smile played around his lips as he watched me scrutinize the stone.

    “That,” he said, “is Mew, the rarest of all Pokémon. The only one of its kind, so far as anyone can tell. Every so often, one encounters people who claim to have seen it, though very few can verify those claims. It seems to have a powerful hold on the human imagination: it features in a number of literary works and religious texts, particularly in the role of an emissary of the divine. In my opinion it is simply a unique, adaptable mutant subspecies. For a time, early biologists questioned its existence, dismissing it as a sort of organic mirage. Then a few incidents cemented its status as a real, if unfindable, species: It flew through a village on the coast of Cinnabar, and was caught on film by several unrelated witnesses later that month. But no one has found any physical traces of its presence. Until now.”

    If his grin had seemed manic before, it was doubly so now. He wasn’t even looking at the tablet anymore, but gazing, wide-eyed, off into the distance, lost in memory.

    “Following the report of another eyewitness, we led a team deep into the northern mountains. In an unexplored clearing in the forest we found the ruins of a pre-Tajiric civilization which seemed to worship the creature. It was from them that we lifted this tablet. It’s quite good, don’t you think? We considered selling it on the black market to cover some of our debts, but we all wanted to keep it as a sort of mascot and source of inspiration.

    “At any rate, we found that in some of their shrines they had preserved relics of Mew, whom they believed had granted them bits of itself as boons. Nothing very substantial—things like an eyelash or two, or a scrap of fur—but it was enough. We were able to get the samples we needed. The DNA was falling apart, but with some modern tricks we were able to work out most of the gaps. Onto this basic framework we grafted bits from Pokémon and humans in an attempt to engineer a powerful, indestructible psychic.” He caught the sudden jerk of my head. “Yes, you’ve put it together. From that sliver of DNA we created you: Mewtwo.”

    Mewtwo.

    He had given me my name.

    Does anyone else in this world possess a number for a name? I doubt it. From the beginning I have been defined by that name, that number. I am the second one, the one who came after. The unnecessary one, the spare. The duplicate, the imitation. For where there is a two, there must be a one, a first, a preferred, an original. When we use a number, we are really expressing a relationship between objects, if on an implicit level. Mathematics is the calculus of empty relationships, drained of any significance during the transit from the beginning of an equation to its end, so that we may learn from two boxes and fifteen oranges that we may expect to consume thirty over the next unit of time. But we do not realize that thirty describes thirty distinct experiences, where the orange may be sweet, or sour, or lumpy, or rotted. And by numbering those experiences we learn that they are of the same kind, and as such, must be compared. A number only exists as a function of such comparison.

    Therefore, whatever I am, I am in relationship to Mew. Am I better than Mew? Worse? Am I perhaps wiser? More of a fool? Am I here to build on Mew’s deeds? To tear them down? No matter what I do, for good or for ill, Mew becomes the reference point by which I must measure myself. As Mew-the-second, I often find myself envying the comparative freedom of Mew-the-first. The original—some would say “real”— Mew never has to think about its relationship to another. Its actions are creative rather than reactive; it exists independently of any other factors. It is complete in itself, while I am only its mutation, its translation. Take the derivative of Mew, and I am your result. I do not merely draw these metaphors out of idle conjecture: they represent the undeniable facts of our situation, as inescapable as gravity: a system in which I can only orbit, and Mew can only be orbited.

    I have known these things to be true for a long time. They began to take shape in my mind the moment he gave me my name. How much did I understand, then? The fading of memory makes it hard to say. But I know that when I heard those words, I realized that I was created in reference to another, and that other, built into my very name, was intended to govern my life. I had thought myself brilliantly innovative in my escape from my birth-chamber, Now it seemed to reveal me as a fraud. I was a foolish child so ignorant of my origins that I could praise myself on being clever when Mew probably would have done the same thing. Of course, Mew would not have to experience the birth-chamber, because, unlike myself, Mew was not a human creation, but an independent living thing, with all the freedom that entailed. I had been disappointed to find out that my birth had been expected and planned; now I found my disappointment compounded in learning that I wasn’t even an original creation. The joy of discovery was being extinguished by a barrage of stifling mundanities.

    I was, however, intrigued by the fact that there were name-words to describe individual creatures, rather than just words for kinds of things, like eye or computer. It made perfect sense, now that I thought about it—humans would need ways to acknowledge other humans by themselves, rather than saying, “Hello, woman,” or “I agree with that man over there.” But the concept of specific names had not occurred to me. These humans had created my name, which gave them a certain power over me in the ability to describe me. But perhaps I could challenge their hold by learning one of their names. What might a human name say about the human who held it?

    “You have given me the name Mewtwo,” I said.

    The man nodded. “That is correct.”

    “What is your name?” I asked.

    The human and his companions dropped their composed smiles and looked completely flabbergasted for a few seconds, which I enjoyed. Evidently I had caught them with a question they had not expected.

    “Well, I suppose, if you must know,” the human stammered, “my name is Dr. Vincent Smith.” His churning thoughts began to settle down, and his face grew reserved once again. “But I would prefer that you address me as Doctor, as my colleagues do.”

    “Doctor,” I said, and nodded. “What does “Doctor” mean?”

    “If you absolutely must know,” he said, giving me an odd stare that revealed he didn’t know why I was still asking about this, “it means that I am learned; that I have studied the fields of biological science for an exceptional number of years at a university, and thus, I command the respect that goes with such efforts. Does that make sense to you?”

    I nodded again. It made perfect sense. After all, he’d spoken of “using modern techniques” in the manipulation of DNA, and the words seemed to imply that he had learned such tricks from others. I could easily see him as one who devoted his life to acquiring more “clever techniques” from others who had invented them. On the whole, though, that tidbit was not particularly informative. I was looking for details that revealed a clear objective to his existence, as my name proclaimed that I was to be the second Mew. So I moved on to the next part of the name.

    “And ‘Vincent,’” I said. “What does that part mean?”

    The humans looked at each other nervously. Finally, Dr. Vincent Smith said, “It doesn’t mean anything, exactly. It’s just an ordinary name that someone might have.”

    “What about Smith?” I asked, uncertainty growing.

    “That doesn’t really mean anything, either,” he admitted. “It might have meant something once, a long time ago, but names don’t really contain meanings anymore. Smith would be the name of a man who manufactured metal tools, but as you can see, that isn’t my occupation! Names are just used to distinguish one man from another.”

    “You mean that they are nonsense? That they contain no significance at all?” I asked.

    “Essentially,” he replied, nervously.

    I searched through the minds of the surrounding humans for their names, which had risen to the top of their brains during our discussion on the topic. Sure enough, they were all two-word fragments of nonsense, such as “Anna Clark,” “Eric Johnson,” or “Hector Oswald.” Many of the humans had attached that same prefix, “Doctor,” to their names, but again, this was not particularly helpful or insightful. I was stunned. Was it truly the exception, rather than the rule, to have a meaningful name?

    If the tradition in naming was to use nonsense, then why had they given me a name that so baldly declared my function? Did they really have to mark me, to brand me, once again, as an outsider, an anomaly? Why, when it had already been drummed into me that I was alien to the world in so many ways? Why did I have to be Mew the second, when Mew’s name, or Vincent Smith’s name, or any of the names of the countless Pokémon and humans in the world, had no meaning other than a reminder of the creature who bore it?

    This was deeply irritating. No, it was infuriating, and I was tired of these humans misinterpreting my emotions. When next I spoke, I didn’t bother to keep the bitterness out of my projected voice.

    “Why, then, I would like to know, did you give me a name that so clearly indicates my nature? Particularly a name that reveals me to be an unnecessary imitation of Mew. A name that says that I am only a copy, that there is no reason for me to be here. I am not even a real creature, it seems—I am something else, like…”

    Here I searched for a more descriptive image, and then found one: the way a dark patch where light finds itself blocked will sometimes resemble the human who blocks that light, even though it has no independent existence. What were such things called, again?

    “…Like a shadow. I am nothing but Mew’s shadow.” I stared sullenly at the humans, daring them to give a response to that.

    But Smith was looking relieved, and back in control. This was something he could answer. “Ah, I see the problem you’re getting at!” he declared triumphantly. “No, no, no, my friend, you’ve gotten it all wrong! Yes, we did give you the name Mew-two, but you’re misinterpreting it completely! The “two” does not describe a duplication, but a progression! The sequence one-two could continue infinitely into the future, but it’s enough to know that it is, in fact, a sequence! Two is one added to, multiplied, increased vastly, almost beyond recognition! Between the two numbers there is room for an infinite amount of progression by decimal increments. Room, in other words, for change! For improvement! That was our intent, and that was why we chose the moniker Mewtwo for you, our project!

    “Rest assured that you are not Mew’s inferior, Mewtwo! Oh, no! Far from it! Just the opposite, in fact. Don’t you recall me telling you that we strove to improve on the DNA of the original? You are far greater than Mew, improved through the power of human ingenuity! Did Mew possess your immense stature? Your dignified frame? Your plexal node and double medullar cord? You are a replacement for the creature! A better, superior model! Mew 2.0, if you will!” He laughed.

    “Imagine that you find yourself locked in combat with the original Mew! Our intent was that, if such a thing were ever to occur, you would defeat the creature handily! Your mind is more supple, more intense, more clever, and more powerful by far! Your genes show this, of course, but it’s more than that! Even before you emerged from your constitutional chamber, you were demonstrating feats of telepathy we found astonishing! Not surprising, given the advanced techniques we used to develop your psychic powers. Advanced Campbell-Young fields and the like—I won’t bore you with the details. But suffice it to say that you possess all sorts of advantages that the original Mew could never hope to enjoy. You are its better in every way. You are the greatest Pokémon that ever lived, and the fulfillment of all our dreams.”

    Was all of that true? It had not occurred to me to think of myself as Mew’s superior. But that was the promise Smith claimed the name Mewtwo contained. He believed it very fervently, to be sure. His mind was currently bursting with the thought. A single dream, multiplied over and over in a thousand permutations, cascaded from his skull: the dream of making the greatest Pokémon in the world. The same was true of the other humans in the room, to a lesser or greater extent. So they were not attempting to lie to me.

    I wondered, though, if they could really be sure that they had succeeded in this endeavor. What scrap of DNA, really, defines greatness? They had made me look more like them, but was that really an attribute which would empower me? I knew nothing about their Campbell-Young fields, but how could they be certain that such techniques had made me a stronger psychic than Mew? They had never even met the creature, after all. Who but Mew could know what it had learned to do in the long years of wandering across the world? Perhaps this was all a ridiculous mistake. Perhaps we were all fools for thinking I could be the creature’s rival.

    But I kept such thoughts to myself. And the human wasn’t finished.

    “Do you know how long I’ve dreamed of this day?” he asked softly. “Of being able to stand here and say those words to our creation? We fought tooth and nail for this moment, didn’t we, my friends?” The other humans nodded slowly, intensely. “We had to fight a harrowing economy, cultural and social stigmas, and, worst of all, the feeling that nobody would ever understand what we wanted to achieve. They thought we were crazy. And at times, I myself wondered if we might be. But they were wrong. We’ve done it. There’s so much work left to be done, but we’ve shown that it can be done. We find ourselves exalted to a realm previously possessed only by the divine, namely: we now possess the ability to create life itself. Man, once thought to be lower than the angels, no more than dust beneath their feet, has elevated himself by his own disciplined efforts to the highest hall of heaven. He now stands with God, an equal partner in the creation of the universe…”

    “Who is God?” I asked.

    “Oh, great,” muttered one of the humans in the back of the crowd.


    "All truth is simple... is that not doubly a lie?"

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    [CONTINUED:]

    I had made Smith flustered before, but now he truly seemed overwhelmed. He gaped at me for a moment, not speaking. His mouth opened and closed a few times, emitting incomprehensible sounds that might have been the starts of words. His thoughts were similarly unknowable, spinning around in his head like a swarm of small creatures. I wondered what about the concept so unsettled him. After all, he had been the one to bring it up. Was he really this surprised to find me curious about the words he used and the ideas he evoked?

    Finally, he managed to compose himself, narrowing his thoughts down to a single, organized pattern, and began to speak.

    “When I referred to God, I was speaking descriptively, Mewtwo,” he said weakly. “I wasn’t describing an actual situation I expected to occur.”

    “I know that,” I said. “But who is God? And what are angels? Your description brought up many associations that I do not quite understand. I would like to understand them more completely.”

    “Oh, hell,” Smith muttered. “God is—God is more of a concept than a person—the interpretations are many—is this really relevant at all, Mewtwo?”

    “If you can tell me, why should I not know?” I asked, confused. Why was there all this reticence surrounding the idea? I was picking up traces of something like fear from the humans. Not quite. It was less intense than that. But the subject clearly was not something they enjoyed speaking about.

    “Oh, I suppose that makes a certain kind of sense, but really, Mewtwo, we’re going to have to get you used to propriety. Fine. Bertrand—“ He spun suddenly to face another human. “Bertrand, why don’t you tell him about God? You enjoy discussion on such subjects, I know.”

    Bertrand looked sheepish. “I don’t know if that’d be a good idea, sir. Last time we discussed theology in this room, I got into a fistfight with Johnson. You ought to tell him, Doc. You’re doing fine. Just tell him sort of what you always say about science’s relationship to the transcendent.”

    “Oh, very well,” said Smith, still disgruntled. He took a deep breath and faced me again.

    “The idea of God,” he pronounced, “or Allah, or Yahweh, or Arceus, or whatever you want to call such a supreme being, is that this universe—i.e.; everything that exists—was created by some entity, which may or may not be male or female, may or may not have some great plan for human existence, and may or may not promise an eternal reward for the individual human being. Such a being may or may not exist. Many propose it as a sort of tautological explanation for the fact that there is a universe at all. But I leave that to the philosophers to decide.

    “You see, Mewtwo,” he said thoughtfully, “It is often perceived that science—i.e.; what we do here—is in opposition to religion. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our experiments can tell people about the conditions of the physical world. They can prove that such-and-such is so. But they do not discuss the value of a given state; nor provide a guideline for moral behavior. They cannot prove or disprove the existence of a God. That is not our place; it’s why we have churches, philosophers and theologians. Individual human beings must decide such things for themselves, and we are not given to interfere with that.”

    “But why would you not want to know if such a being exists?” I asked, still mulling some of these concepts over. “Such a proof would be relevant for every individual, and everything they did.”

    “Yes, “ said the human, wringing his hands, “but the entire point, you see, is that we can’t know. Such a theoretical being would be outside all reality, so how could its impact be measured? And attempts to find the best theory have all led to strife among different religious groups, even violence. No, it’s much better to let people decide these things for themselves.”

    I was still unsure if I agreed with his train of thought, but I let it rest for the moment. Things were beginning to make sense. “And angels?” I inquired.

    “Oh,” said Smith, looking highly embarrassed, “those would be representatives of God, sent to instruct us in His divine plan. Usually depicted as winged humans, which is probably a bunch of rubbish.”

    It was all coming together. Smith had claimed that humans now stood with God, because both were creators of life. And angels were part of that hierarchy which Smith felt humans had now cast aside. An interesting thought, but there was one flaw in the self-elevating argument, which I found obvious. It surprised me that they hadn’t thought of it.

    “So this God would have created you?” I asked.

    “Yes,” cried Smith, beaming. “That’s the basic idea, yes. Well done.”

    “And you created me, in turn?”

    “Precisely!” Smith said. He looked much calmer, now that the interlude had been concluded. “That was, in fact, the reason I made my little remark—”

    “Then would that not mean,” I asked, savoring the logic of it, “that this God was, in fact, the one to create me?”

    This took him aback. He frowned, as did many of the others.

    “No,” he said, finally, “that really isn’t what I said at all.”

    “But—”

    “We are your creators, Mewtwo. I don’t know how many times we’ve established this. We constructed you from samples of DNA and constructed your body in a constitutional chamber—”

    The assembled humans were all looking at me like I was a very great fool.

    “I know that,” I snapped. “What I meant was, is not God both your and my progenitor?” I searched for a metaphor that would get across what I was trying to say. “Is such a being not like a parent to all the things that exist? Like a father, or a mother?”

    “No,” sighed Smith, “as we’ve established, your immediate genetic ancestor is Mew. If you wish to think of it as your father or mother, I suppose, in a sense, you would be right.”

    “Mew is my father? My mother?” I asked, perplexed. This was something of an unsettling thought, though I had no idea why. Perhaps it was because I had been thinking of Mew as my opponent, even my enemy.

    “Well,” said Smith, chuckling again, “in a very loose genetic sense, of course! It’s not, of course, as if Mew gave birth to you on the laboratory floor!” He laughed, and the other humans, as always, laughed with him. The irritating, barking cacophony echoed through the empty corners of the room.

    This was extremely frustrating. Were these humans too idiotic to even understand what I was talking about, or were they just being deliberately obtuse because, for some reason, they wanted to vex me? No, their minds revealed no such objective. Burning with ire, I decided to give it at least one more try.

    “I was also speaking loosely,” I said, trying to keep the conversation going. “I was simply wondering whether such an entity might have desired me to exist, for some reason, as it seems to have desired for you to exist—“

    “But this is wildly speculative!” he snapped, suddenly severe again. “We are getting entirely too entangled in tangents, and I won’t have it! I have told you a thousand times already, such questions are not the domain of science! I cannot answer them, and you have no right to ask me!”

    I pressed on hopelessly. “But suppose this being, God, had a divine plan for me, as It is purported to have for human beings—”

    Smith was shouting now, and losing coherency. “Mewtwo, you are not God’s creature! That was the entire point of your creation, don’t you see? You represent a uniquely human achievement, one not beholden to any physical process or natural law! You are life’s recreation of itself, a move so bold and stunning it defies any other feat in the history of the universe! You are ours! Our ambition, our dream, our reality, our achievement on behalf of all humanity! God simply doesn’t enter into it! The plan for your life is something we constructed, and something we will continue to construct! I don’t know how I can make myself any clearer!”

    He stood there, breathless, glowering at me. The minds of the humans around us were filled with extreme discomfort, and they avoided looking at either of our faces. I, too, was simmering with anger, though I did not think the humans could tell. A tense moment passed between us before, finally, I spoke.

    “So then,” I said, watching him through narrowed eyes, “I suppose you have your own ‘grand plan’ for me, one that is entirely human and accomplishes entirely human goals. You intend for me to find Mew, my father or brother or ancestor, or whatever you wish to call it—I do not actually care—and defeat it in battle, ‘locked in combat’ as you described, and thereby prove that you have outdone God in the subject He is most versed in. Do I understand this correctly?

    “Ah, finally!” Smith muttered to nobody in particular. Some measure of calm seemed to be coming back to his mind and his voice. “At last we make our return to questions that make a relative amount of sense! No, Mewtwo, your suggestion is quite interesting, but you also happen to be wrong. We never expected you to challenge Mew to any sort of competition, lethal or otherwise. That was not at all our intention in creating you.”

    I was stunned. Somehow the idea that I was going to have to fight Mew had wrapped itself around my brain. “It was not?” I asked incredulously.

    “My goodness,” said Smith, suddenly cheerful again, “of course not! What reason would we have for wanting to get rid of Mew? It seems to be minding its own business! I’ll admit, I can certainly see why you picked up that impression. But do bear in mind that there is a difference between a readiness in theory, and a readiness in fact. Just because you could defeat Mew in one-on-one combat doesn’t mean we need you to! I think you’re a bit overeager to prove yourself!”

    He laughed again. I was beginning to recognize every feature of that laugh, from the few sharp barks that began it to the gurgling chorus that followed afterward. Every time, it somehow managed to be more excruciating.

    “Then what,” I asked, utterly bewildered, “did you create me for? What, precisely, is my purpose?”

    Smith looked rather amused. “A purpose? Do you need one? Humanity imagines thousands of purposes for itself, and they don’t seem to do any of us any good.”

    I could tell he was avoiding the issue. “What,” I demanded, “am I here for? Why did you create me? What was the reason!?”

    “The reason?” Smith asked. He shrugged. “To see if we could do it, I suppose.”

    I stared at him for a moment, then repeated what he just said, unbelieving.

    “To see if you could do it,” I mimicked, making sure to squeeze every last drop of banality out of his incredibly banal sentence.

    “Precisely!” Smith responded jovially. “We wanted to prove our theory of gestative cloning correct, and perhaps demonstrate some of its practical applications. Then, the secret to life itself unlocked, we could put it to good use in the restoration of human life. Just think of how many people your very existence will benefit! Was it necessary to use a Mew clone? No, not necessarily. The idea was suggested to us by our financial backer and I must say, I’m very glad he thought of it, because you outperformed any of our other experiments.”

    An experiment. That was what he had called me. I examined the idea in his mind. It could be likened to a test. An experiment could tell you if something was possible. But what guidance was given to the experiment itself? What was a possibility, once tested, supposed to do with itself?

    “I am simply the end result of your experiment,” I stated hollowly.

    “You could look at it that way, I suppose,” Smith said. He shrugged again. “Does it matter? If I were you, I’d be grateful just to be alive.”

    I ignored this, and looked him directly in the eyes. This unsettled him a bit, and he took a step backwards.

    “What, may I ask, becomes of me now that the experiment is over?” I asked, still without emotion in my voice.

    His eyes lit up with a wild gleam. “Oh, the experiment isn’t over yet, not by far! It’s just beginning! Now the serious testing begins! We’ll examine to what extent our processes have been successful? Have we created a true king of psychics? We’ll run you through a battery of scans, do some cognitive tests, observe reactions to certain stimuli, and whatever else we can think of. I’m looking forward to it immensely.”

    “And after that?” I spat.

    Smith looked confused. “After all the testing is done, you mean? Oh, I don’t know that we have any real plans for you. I can’t say that I’ve given it a great deal of thought. I suppose something might occur to us.”

    “No real plans,” I repeated dully. I watched his ugly, pink little face flash me a wide smile, and listened to the sound of my own blood pounding in my head.

    “That’s right,” he said, still grinning. He gazed at me for a moment, then shrugged once more.

    “Well, if you have no further questions for us, Mewtwo, just wait here a moment, and we’ll get straight to work. We’ve got quite a lot to do and record before we can publish our discoveries, but I daresay we’ll become household names after all’s said and done. And in the meantime, we can certainly bask in the glow of a job well done!”

    He turned to his companions. “Interesting fellow, isn’t he? You’re all ready to get started, I assume?”

    There were general expressions of assent. He nodded as well, and then strode off to a nearby computer terminal. The human men and women began scurrying around the laboratory, carrying stacks of papers, making notations, and examining various machines. They kept congratulating one another, grasping each other’s hands excitedly. I saw several of them sneak nervous glances at me and walk away with giddy, intoxicated smiles on their faces.

    The men and women talked of money, of the testing that was to come, of their own fame and their own glory . They laughed at their own silly jokes, chatted about their plans for the weekend, and scribbled minutiae on clipboards. And in the center of it all I sat, once again unnoticed, uninvolved, and uncared for. Yet I was watching. Watching every detail of their movements. Hating them, bit by bit.

    How could creatures so idiotic, so unaware, so simple and so self-involved, have created someone like me? No matter how many times I tried to express the fact that I had a mind like theirs, that I, too, was intelligent and capable of investigating the universe, they continued to think of me as something inferior, less than them. An object. A bit of material, collected from their enormous machines, to be analyzed in a test tube for its composition. Not something alive, not something with an identity. Not someone. Despite pouring their lives into designing my brain, they did not seem to realize I had a mind.

    And I had tried to make them understand. How many times had I tried? I had welcomed the entry of a new species into my tiny universe, I had wanted to know everything about them, and I had found a way into their thoughts and ideas. But the moment I made contact, trying to communicate with them in their fashion, they rejected me. My investigations of the universe—my honest and unaffected curiosity about the world that had brought me to life—they mocked. Or drew back from, flinching. Either I was an amusing little spectacle, or I was an eerie, alien interloper, who violated the sanctity of the subjects they kept to themselves. Either way, I was in no way their equal. I was not even Mew’s equal. I was not a creature a God would design, but a leftover fragment of an arrogant human dream.

    I listened to Smith discuss the impending battery of analysis with one of his colleagues. Both of them seemed to think that certain scanning techniques would allow them to render the most interesting image of my brain. They agreed that sticking my head in something called a TARA tunnel would be the best option, presumably while I lay still, obliging and supplicant.

    “But what about electromagnetic feedback, Doctor?” the human called Anna Clark interjected. “Have you considered whether it might have a detrimental effect?”

    “In opposition to its own natural wavelengths, you mean?” Smith inquired. “I think it may experience some initial discomfort, but the brain should remain intact, and the integrity of the thought process will be preserved. According to our neural design, Mewtwo ought to be able to resist intense amounts of pain, anyway.”

    Did they think I could not hear?

    “Excellent,” said Clark, delighted. “Another question, Doctor, if I may—what exactly are you going to do with the creature once today’s tests are finished? We can’t exactly leave it sitting in the remnants of its constitutional chamber for the rest of eternity.”

    “Oh, I suppose Gladys might be able to rig up a cage for it in one of the back rooms. Perhaps even a facsimile of a habitat might be possible—she is quite inventive. We’ll bring it food and water in the mornings before testing—I don’t think it’ll need very much—“

    I pulled away from them, utterly disgusted. I couldn’t bring myself to listen to any more of this. They wanted to put me in a cage. I looked through the gathered minds at images of creatures in cages. The company I saw there was less than inspiring. In fact, it was utterly humiliating. Very young Pokémon might be kept in cages. Infantile humans lived in a loose approximation of a cage. Small insects and other tiny, trivial creatures were kept in cages. It was obvious to me, and yet somehow mind-bogglingly esoteric to them, that cages were for unthinking, weak, unformed creatures. The idea of putting something with a mind, something that could think, something that wanted to make its own decisions, in a cage so that it could not escape—it was disturbing. Would these humans put each other in cages? They were certainly intending to do so to me.

    And worse, they thought it would please me. Yes, when Smith thought of a “habitat,” he imagined a flimsy construction of paper painted to look like a forest, and he actually imagined I would think myself at home, docile and content. How could they be so unceasingly stupid?

    And yet I was bound to them. There was no way of escaping that; these brainless clowns had somehow managed to put together a being that could outthink them, and now they intended to order their creation at their leisure. I owed them my life, and yet they spent my existence thoughtlessly. And what made it worse was that they had no plan for me, no intention. They had simply made me because they wanted to. And now they would do whatever they wanted to do with me, according to their random whims, until the very end of time.

    I could have accepted killing Mew as my life’s goal, I could have accepted any one of a number of things as an ultimate objective. But this! Anything but this banal, never-ending lack of identity, this eternal emptiness! They would keep me here until the foundations of their laboratory had decayed away, and I would never learn anything new about the world ever again. I would never experience anything beyond these halls, I would never know what Mew looked like in the flesh, I would never know what place it had visited in the depths of my dreams, and I would never see that white mountain with my own eyes—

    Had I known the words for it, I would have silently screamed, DAMN THEM! I would have damned them from every side, damned their every feature, letting hatred drip through my mind, echoing endlessly in the chambers of my soul. As it was, I could only curse them without specific words. But that, somehow, was enough. I knew, and reveled in my knowledge, that this group of human beings was vile, foolish, and on some fundamental level, insane. Their insanity dripped onto me with an acidic touch, and I could not get away from it, because I had been put together from their dreams.

    Had they laughed at the little gestating fetus inside a tube of orange liquid, finding it comical and strange? Of course they had. Had they anticipated the dramatic escape I would make from my chamber? Had they expected my feeling of pride, my pioneering glory at escape and exploration? Of course they had. And had they mocked me for it, knowing that the world was not constrained to a single cylinder of fluid? Of course they had. Who could not laugh at such a sorry spectacle? The stupid, mindless creatures had enjoyed the advantage over me from my very birth. No wonder they thought me a fool. They were heirs to this world, and everything they took for granted, I had to discover as an outsider. Why should they have such a privilege, when they obviously did not deserve it in the slightest?

    And then there was Mew. I found myself hating that little pink creature, too. My own ancestor, my progenitor, was a real, living thing. I did not know how long it had been in the world, but I was certain that it had never had to be introduced to life by a tribe of moronic tinkerers. It was not shackled to the whims of the human race. In fact, it refused to give them any sway over its life. I recalled Smith’s description of the creature, flying wherever it liked, barely glimpsed by humans and always escaping their grasp. Its carved eyes were clearly mocking me now, gloating about its freedom, laughing at my chains. I hated it, knowing that it would never hate me, that it would never even know me, that my very existence was irrelevant to it. And yet its existence was all I had. I was the inferior, as always.

    I did not need any of this. I did not deserve any of this. Why could I not have stayed in blissful slumber for all eternity, never realizing that there was a world, never even needing one? Why could I not have stayed among the mountain, and the trees, and the waters, and the sky? The humans had robbed me of that world, I realized. They had robbed me of that world just as they had robbed me of my every achievement, my every aspiration, my every attempt at an identity.

    And what was that terrible gap, that yawning emptiness, that seemed to stretch before my dream like an unanswered question? There was meaning there, I knew, profound meaning, yet I could not access it. I could not even begin to guess what had been there. The humans had stolen that from me, too, I was certain. One of their machines, or processes, must have taken away that part of me, that vital fragment which would tell me about myself, who I really was. Another insult in the endless litany the humans could call their lives’ achievement. Were they satisfied, to create a living, thinking creature and give it no reason to exist, no reason to be? Were they proud that they had forced a new entity into a Creation that rejected it? Were they enjoying having complete control over me?

    The thought suddenly gave me pause. Why should they have complete control over me? Or any, for that matter? They were simple, weak creatures, unable to grasp even the rudiments of psychic power. By what method could they force me to do anything? Certainly they claimed authority over me, but what legitimacy did their argument possess? By their own admission, I was the most powerful psychic who ever lived, while they were constrained to interacting with the immediate, the things they could reach with their hands. I imagined them trying to overpower me, and saw at once it was a ridiculous notion.

    Why, then, was I giving them so much power over me? Perhaps it was simply that I first experienced them as emissaries of information. I had imagined, at one point, that they knew much more about this world than I did, and indeed, I did learn much from them. But they simply had more experience of the world than I had. Thus they seemed intelligent, but only until their information was exhausted; in many respects it was now obvious that they were foolish and ignorant. And I was letting them manipulate me like an object, use me like something that could be thrown away. But I did not have to accept that. They could not make me do anything I chose not to do.

    I thought of their idea of putting me in a cage again, and shuddered at the thought. The prospect they had offered me was terrifying: exist pointlessly, doing nothing, in a world that had no place for me. But now I saw another option. If they could not offer me an identity, if they could not give me a reason for being, I would force them to show me one. And if they refused to recognize me as a living, thinking being, I would make them see the truth. I would make them understand what they had created. I was their equal, perhaps even their superior, and they had no right to do this to me. Soon that would be undeniable.

    I wish I could say I knew why I did what I did next. But memory makes fools of us all. It would be ideal to be able to say: “Yes, I chose to go down that path, even if I was ignorant of the consequences.” To be able to say: “I accept the blame, and the responsibility.” But I truly do not know whether I made a choice that day. Perhaps it was all accident, a form of flinching, a reaction to the stimuli of my awakening. Perhaps who we are is always determined by the conditions of the universe around us, and the things we do, we do because there was nothing else we could have done, and thus we bounce around the cosmos like so many terrified billiard balls. Or perhaps neither of those things are quite true. Perhaps when we make choices in ignorance, they add up into choices that we never chose to make; perhaps a succession of implications can circumscribe your life for you, turning you into something you never expected to become. Telling you how your story is to be written.

    I wish I remembered if I made a choice, or why I made one. I wish I had known the implications of what I was doing, that there are better and worse ways of demonstrating an identity. Perhaps then, I would not have to look back on that day and see it as the first of my many failures. Then again, perhaps my destiny was inescapable. The laboratory was not the only ingredient in my reckless ambition, after all. Other forces were lurking around the entire event, and in being handed over to them, I might have initiated the entire sequence after all.

    But that does not keep me from mourning the chance I might have had.

    All I knew in that moment was that I refused to capitulate, that I would not allow idiots to manipulate me. I would not let them draw the borders of my soul. I would not allow them to give me a nothingness for an identity, and a number for a name.

    I kept thinking of my progenitor and counterpart, who didn’t even know I existed. Mew would not have allowed humans to do this to it, that I knew. Mew would make itself free, as it always did. It explored the world, finding answers to its questions; it experienced life as no other being could. And no doubt it knew why it existed. The image of Mew, flying over the mountain, gloriously alive, kept coming back to me. I envied Mew that kind of freedom. In fact I craved it, lusted for it with a burning passion. I thought I might have a chance to achieve that kind of freedom, but only if I claimed it, only if I took action right in this moment. Only if I sought that kind of freedom with every fiber of my being. I was determined to do anything and everything I could to set myself free.

    And I hated this bunch of humans, who called themselves my creators. That, in the end, may have been the inescapable deciding factor. I wanted them to accept me, to understand me, to give me a purpose, to give me an identity better than a simple shrug. But as my frustration grew, that need turned into hatred. I began to hate everything about them, from their pale skin, to their laughter, to their identical white clothing. It became more than a need for an answer, it became a need for revenge. I wanted to tear them apart with my own pain. I wanted them to suffer.

    “I reject this,” I projected quietly.

    Smith, who had been gabbing away excitedly about “the opportunity for expanded funding,” turned my way with a confused smile.

    “I didn’t quite catch that, Mewtwo,” Smith said.

    I clenched my hands together into approximate, three-fingered fists. Contemplation alone was no longer effective. It was time to act. I shaped my next statement to be terrifyingly loud, letting it thunder through the minds of everyone in the room.

    “I REJECT THIS,” I said again, and watched as the human scientists jumped in alarm.

    “Really, Mewtwo,” mumbled Smith, who was clutching his ears. “You don’t need to be quite that intense! What exactly is it that you reject?”

    I waved a thin, bony arm around the room. “All of this. Everything.”

    Smith frowned. Worry was beginning to pulse through him.

    “I’m afraid I still don’t quite understand,” he said uncertainly.

    I turned my head to face him and stared him directly in the eyes again. I said nothing for a moment, allowing him to grow steadily more uncomfortable. After a few seconds had elapsed, I said, in a voice that was a whisper, but one that could be heard by all:

    “Then I will make you understand.” It was almost a purr.

    I do not know what Smith saw in my eyes when I said that, but I know it chilled him to the core. I saw naked, burning fear dancing in his heart.

    Then I snapped my head away and stared for a moment at the wall across from me. The other humans, who had been watching my motions as if hypnotized, swiveled their heads in an attempt to make out what I was looking at. But this was an entirely misguided assumption. The opposing wall held no particular interest for me. I was simply letting my eyes fix idly upon it while looking for the best thing to break.

    I thought back to my birth. I had been so delighted, so exultant, when I had broken out of my confines and tasted the air for the first time. Then these humans had snatched that victory from me. It was time to reclaim it, I thought. It would be more than appropriate. A smile spread over my face at the idea.

    I reached out and shattered the constitutional chamber next to me, taking painstaking care to render it into a myriad of beautifully intricate shards of glass before letting the orange liquid burst out onto the floor to my right.

    The gathered human beings had all gone very pale, Smith palest of all.

    “Mewtwo,” he whispered, in a hoarse, broken voice. His eyes were begging me, pleading with me. “Don’t do this.”

    I ignored him. The sight of the broken canister, oozing orange liquid uselessly onto the tiles, sent a thrill rushing through me, a sense of my own power. Already the humans were beginning to fear me. What would their reaction be if I destroyed more of the precious equipment they had used to construct me? Would they begin to realize their own uselessness? What a delightful thought. I began to feel like I was burning with life, filled with an energy as blue and as beautiful as the sky.

    I turned my attention to the three tubes behind me. One by one, I smashed the glass in each of them, cracking the surface of the first slowly and lovingly, and then accelerating with the second and third, caught up in the thrill of destruction, eager to see how fast I could burst them open.

    By now the human scientists were terrified. Most were paralyzed with fear, but one began to run at me in an attempt to grab me and make me stop. Perhaps he meant only to restrain me, but then again, perhaps he wanted to strangle me, or bash my brains out. Whatever his intention, the attempt was doomed.

    This time I made the air itself my ally, wielding it like a weapon. The moment I saw the man lunge forward, I threw a wall of atmosphere at the humans, letting concentrated particles expand in a great sphere from the space around me. The blast threw the room’s humans in every direction. Many were flung against the walls and collapsed, suddenly motionless. The ball of wind slashed at the tiles of the floor, cracking the ground below me and stirring up enormous spirals of dust. Dizzy with how well this endeavor was going, I threw another assault at those who were trying to get back on their feet, and sent ripples of motion through the floor, so that a miniature earthquake rocked the great room.

    Then, humans dealt with for the moment, I began to slice open one of the two great machines that dominated the room, which already seemed to have been beaten up by the wind. Reminding myself irresistibly of my experiences with the glass panes, I carved long, thin, branching lines up the length of the machine, slicing through the great circular panels. As I gouged, circuits sparked and sizzled. A few caught fire, and the leaping flames sent explosions rocketing up the length of the machine.

    Even with all this turbulence, one of the humans—I thought it was Anna Clark— managed to stagger over to a lever on the wall and pull it down with all the force she could muster. Instantly, enormous metal arms leapt out from hidden chambers in the ceiling and walls. Their gleaming claws came at me so fast that I barely had time to react. At the last moment, I grabbed everything within a foot’s distance of me, and held it in place in a tiny sphere of stillness. The claws seemed almost alive as they struggled to overcome my hastily-thrown together defenses, snarling and tearing at the air around me.

    Well, I thought, as I attempted to find my way out of a cage of twitching, hinged metal poles, this is unexpected.

    Evidently the humans weren’t completely stupid. Some rare generator of insight must have anticipated a situation in which their creation might start attacking the laboratory. I had to admit, I was impressed, But, as I gazed at the thicket of arms I was holding in place around me, the more it seemed possible to slash my way through. Their major advantage had been surprise. I drew cracks in some of the flailing arms, exposing circuitry which hissed and sent sparks onto other metal limbs. As I kept hacking away at the claws and wrists of the mechanical arms, intermittent explosions began to aid my efforts. Before long, I had shredded most of the arms up to the first joint, and after that it was easy to throw the useless remnants aside with a pulse of air.

    Flames were beginning to burn all around me now, and the humans were screaming, shrieking, running in utter terror. Their only weapon against me had failed. So much fear surged from their minds now that it was difficult to pay attention to what I was doing. Their fear clung to me like an oozing cloak, sometimes leaping at me in violent, stabbing bursts. But its source was clear, and I found myself enjoying it. Look at the power I have over these humans, I told myself. Now my whims are all that matter to them.

    With a flick of my head, almost a nod, I sliced open a gash between wall and floor, so that the circuitry in the walls joined in the sparking, flame-igniting mayhem. An enormous explosion threw several of the struggling humans onto their backs once more. I did the same with the opposite wall, admiring the symmetry of it: two walls, two fires, two explosions.

    Then I began an all-fronts assault on everything I could think of destroying. I punched open holes in gauges, parading smoothly down the rows of dials, crumpling levers, shattering screens. I squeezed terminals into useless lumps of metal, slit open pipes which burst with steam and liquid, threw panels at the ceiling. The sounds were exciting: the roar of exposed pipes, the constant shattering of glass, the clanging of terrified klaxons, and, my very favorite, the echoing bangs of explosion after explosion.

    As a final touch, I turned to the machines again. This time I ripped out their hearts, sending all their circuitry flying into jagged piles in the corner. Tremendous explosions rocked the room, and the smell of burning flesh joined the sound of screams. There were corpses all around, and their number was only growing.

    I could have stopped there, point made. I know I could have. But in seeing the humans lie there, still, extinguished, the frenzy of destruction only grew in me. I saw others attempting to run, and I pursued them, striking them down with bursts of fire. It became a twisted game, in which I hunted down every human that remained alive, trying to eliminate them all from a mental list of targets. Soon, I perceived only one mind in the room was still shrieking at me. I lifted up my body and swam through the sea of fire over to the wall. A single human huddled against the wall, shaking.

    It was Doctor Vincent Smith. Of course. How appropriate. His glasses were cracked, his face was covered in dust, and he was muttering something under his breath. A gash on the side of his head dripped blood onto his once-white coat. I flew closer, and pushed aside the flames for a better view. There he was, quivering behind an exposed pipe which now spat gas into the air. The firelight, which stained the room red, gave me a better view of his face than I had ever seen before. His eyes seemed somehow larger, his gaze intense. He stared at me, face twisted, and seemed to come to some sort of conclusion. His eyes met mine, this time of his own volition, though his mouth kept moving. What was it he was saying? I strained to listen.

    “We dreamed of creating the world’s strongest Pokémon,” he whispered. “And we…” He coughed as he tried to get the words out. “And we succeeded.”

    Hearing those words brought me a sweet, rich satisfaction. Finally, this man knew what he had created. I had broken his arrogance, and forced him to accept that I was his superior.

    And on that note, it was time to get rid of Doctor Vincent Smith.

    I was also eager to find out what lay beyond these walls. An idea struck me: why not destroy the entire laboratory, using the methods that had served me so well? I reached out with my mind, and tried to examine all the contours of the building. Before long, they appeared: the room I had torn apart was part of an enormous, round lump of a structure with a few projections up into the sky. Nothing surrounded it but an empty expanse of solid material, which eventually bent straight downwards into a sort of pillar. The place was entirely isolated. Perfect, I thought.

    I grabbed the walls of the complex, carved innumerable cracks into its features, and held them there with exhilarating effort. Then I created another sphere of air, and let it expand further than any I had yet created, as I let go of the enormous shards of metal. The two pseudo-explosions combined to slice apart the entire building and everything in it. Part of the roof of the complex cracked off and began to fall inward. I caught it as it fell and squeezed it into a million shards. I knew that Smith, in some pulverized form, now lay dead upon the floor.

    Those were my first murders. I would not blame you if you hated me for them; indeed, I would gladly join you in that detestation. I often think about those men and women whom I killed. What were their last thoughts as I approached them like an angel of death? None will ever know. If souls are annihilated upon death, then I extinguished them; if not, then I took on a power that is God’s alone. Either way, I am a sinner.

    I took these actions in ignorance, like a bloated, idiotic child. But ignorance should not excuse them. Yet I cannot believe I ever was so callow, so foolish, as to think of murder as a way to solve my problems. How could I have been that person? How could I not have seen another way? But death was to be my tool and companion for a long time.

    You may see now why I find it hard to forgive myself for all that I have wrought.

    When the light and rush of sound faded, I found myself floating above a pool of slowly fading flames. I gradually lowered myself onto a scorched platform, and gazed at something I had only seen once, and then in a dream. It was the sky.

    Admittedly, it was a bit hard to make out. Thick clouds of dark smoke floated up into the atmosphere , obscuring my view. But in patches, I saw satisfying glimpses of blue. I had broken free of constraints. I had finally entered the real world.

    There was something intensely bright up in that sky. I attempted to look at it, but vexingly, my eyes automatically turned me away. How annoying. I attempted to reach out and grab it with my mind, but found I could not. This was even more vexing. Either this strange light source was impossible for me to control, or it was nothing more than an illusion. I would have to investigate that mystery again later, when I knew more about the world.

    Never mind such things, I told myself. I stood and reveled in my victory. I was, truly, the greatest psychic alive, the greatest of all Pokémon. I had conquered my creators and proven that I was their superior. No one could deny me that, now.

    But something like regret began to enter into me. I had eliminated the humans without stopping to investigate what I was doing. Had it really been necessary? I didn’t know what happened to humans when their bodies stopped moving. Were they erased? If so, was it perhaps a bit unfair to erase humans when I, so vehemently, had cried out against erasure myself? I didn’t know anything about this subject, and I wished that I had asked them.

    That was the other thing. I had destroyed my only source of information about the world. I didn’t know where I was, or where I should be going. Or what I should do next. Perhaps my planning had been less than complete.

    The stone with the carving of Mew caught my eye. Its glass had shattered, but it lay there amongst the flames, remarkably intact. Was it beseeching me? Or was it mocking me once again?

    Would Mew have attacked the humans? I felt less sure of myself, thinking about the possibility. No one had described Mew as a creature that attacked humans; it simply left their presence if they tried to capture it. Perhaps that was what I should have done.

    Then again, perhaps that was a failing of Mew’s, another way I proved that I was superior. Perhaps Mew would not have had the courage to do what was ultimately necessary. Perhaps I transcended Mew, and I should celebrate my drive and resolve in destroying the greedy, grasping humans. I was not sure. No answers waited for me in the carving’s eyes.

    The fact remained, regardless, that the humans, my only source of information, were dead. And I seemed to be stuck on an isolated, lonely outcropping of rock. The rocky pillar was surrounded by a bluish liquid—I remembered this substance, it was water!—which dashed against its sides with the energy of a living creature. I watched a few repetitions of this with interest, listening to the rhythmic sound it made as it pounded. The water stretched for what seemed like eternity. I saw and felt nothing out there. What if there was nothing? The thought was absurd, but what if I had just destroyed all that was interesting in the world? No, that was implausible. The humans had spoken of things beyond.

    Still, what if whatever was out there was too far away to get to? I could pick myself up and fly until I found something, but how would I know if I was going in the right direction? It might be a frustrating or even dangerous process. Yet I could think of no other way to leave the outcropping. I appeared to be stuck between equally problematic options, and I wished again that I still had human minds and human advice to guide me.

    Then a faint buzzing caught in my ears. I turned toward the source of the sound, and saw, barely perceptible, a faint black speck against a patch of the blue sky. It appeared to be growing very slowly larger, which I thought might mean that it was coming nearer. The sound was also gradually increasing.

    So, I was not stuck here after all! Something was happening to me. I didn’t know what it was, but I eagerly looked forward to any change. Excitement rose within me. I had a strange sense that my destiny was flying to meet me, that a future and a purpose and a plan were contained inside that mysterious speck.

    Little did I know how right I was. For good or for ill, the encounter that was rushing toward me at that moment would come to define my life forever.

    [END OF PART ONE]

    ************

    At last, we're on to Part Two, and moving closer to catching up to the archive! Part Two will no doubt contain many more posts than Part One; it's rather long. After that, I'll put up a new post whenever I've generated a substantial amount of content.

    So you can look forward to all those things! Until then, see you soon!

    Dai


    "All truth is simple... is that not doubly a lie?"

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

  8. #8
    Run through any Wall Flaze's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    Well I do have to say something....long but let's get away from simple words here.

    So before I say anything I've got say that there's really no cristism I can give, I mean you're writing is much better than anything I've ever written and you can make the character's feelings and thoughts flow very well especially since Mewtwo always struck me as a character that was hard to grasp.

    Speaking on that I relaly liked how you made things go from his point of view and his multiple realizations about his purpose and creation. That being said I still think the chapter could've had a litlte bit more spice to it or they could've a little bit faster it was good but it tended to get a little slow at some points.

    Also...I don't know maybe space your paragraphs more, that'll make the chapter longer but it will decrease the level of large paragraphs.

    Aside from that...I've got nothing it was really good though.

  9. #9
    Moonlit Philosopher Dai's Avatar
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    @ Xmas Haze

    Wow, thanks! I'm very glad to hear you like the writing style and the way I've been exploring Mewtwo's character. It's good to know that I'm approaching this story from the right direction in those regards..

    As for length and pacing, I think you're probably right that it's a bit slow at times. Part of this is Smith's character, who's supposed to be overly loquacious, and part of this is Mewtwo's deficient vocabulary for describing things, but there are definitely places where I could tighten it up. I think you'll like the next part, which I've tried to make a little more concise (by necessity!) Funny you should mention the paragraph length: I've been trying to keep them shorter as of late.

    Thanks for reading, and for your review!

    Dai

    PS: The first segment of Part Two will be coming soon!


    "All truth is simple... is that not doubly a lie?"

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

  10. #10
    Moonlit Philosopher Dai's Avatar
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    Two: Giovanni

    Men of sense often learn from their enemies. It is from their foes, not their friends, that cities learn the lesson of building high walls and ships of war.

    —Aristophanes, The Birds

    The most certain way to make a man your enemy is to tell him you esteem him such.

    —George Washington, letter to John Banister, Apr. 21, 1778

    Fear not, too much, an open enemy;
    He is consistent— always at his post;
    But watchful be of him who holds the key
    Of your own heart, and flatters you the most.

    —Andrew Downing, Your Enemy

    * * *


    You dream of motion:
    Dream of flight;
    Of pulsing breath;
    Of sound,
    And light,
    And the glorious energy of life.

    Vast dreamscapes unfold inside your mind,
    Mementos of a day’s exploration.
    Forested valleys,
    Cloaked by green hills,
    Emerge out of the mist.
    Shards of ice and stone
    Cluster
    Into white-crested mountain.
    Forms congeal,
    Take shape,
    And dissolve back into formlessness.
    Drawn to the endless play of mysteries,
    You dance
    With the transformations of your own psyche.

    For a moment,
    You slip back into the world of solid reality.
    Light reenters your eyes
    With a distant splash of blue.
    What heralded this return?
    A distant patter answers you.
    Rain has begun to fall.
    The water’s surface churns above you.
    Ripple after ripple
    Crafts a chaotic maelstrom
    From a once-clear surface.

    Below, the vibrations are much less savage.
    A gentle rocking, no more.
    You smile, knowing
    That the droplets pour through the leaves,
    Darkening the bark of the trees
    And carving tiny rivers in the moist soil.
    Thunder must be rolling in the distance—
    The sky’s roaring challenge to the land.
    These days,
    Glorious in their intensity,
    Hold the strangest beauty for you.
    Full of terror
    Which turns to wonder—
    Triumph forged from fear.
    You cannot help but be delighted.

    As you turn away,
    Shifting back into slumber,
    The rain seems to whisper one last message.
    What is it?
    You struggle to hear.

    Something is happening, it murmurs.
    At this very moment,
    Events unfurl
    Which will one day draw you into their midst.
    The world unfolds and reconfigures
    While you sleep here, little one.
    Though you may find
    Pockets
    Of stillness,
    You cannot stop the endless motion
    Of the world above.
    Change, change, change! it cries.
    Ever change.


    And in some distant land,
    Who knows what fragment of your destiny
    Is rising to meet you?


    This last thought lingers
    Like a succulent flavor on your mind
    As you reenter your dreams.

    But thought soon dissolves,
    And you stop searching for meanings.
    Soon, all things,
    Including the soft rhythm of the rain,
    Fade away.

    Sleep claims you once again,
    And with a gentle hand, washes away
    All premonitions of days to come.

    * * *


    How do I describe the man who made me?

    At the time, our meeting seemed no more than a fortunate encounter. A sudden opportunity I had to seize, which would draw me into events of meaning and significance. A point of contact with a new world, to a mission and an identity amongst the creatures of that world. But few of us realize just how easily we are influenced. The man I encountered that day determined the way I think, the way I act, the beliefs I would hold in the deepest recesses of my heart. My entire relationship to the universe. He shaped me deliberately, like a craftsman honing a blade. I was to be his blade, his rifle, above all his weapon, and he knew my every function and feature intimately. He knew when to put pressure on me, and when to pull back; he glimpsed my mind more clearly than any other human has or will, deftly manipulating me by every stratagem he could devise.

    He acted precisely, making no mistakes, save one, and that was the shot that cost him, the shot which caused his own weapon to twist around and fire in a direction he did not intend. But even after I slipped from his hand, I remained his creation: a weapon. And weapons only know how to kill, to maim. My mind was still bent on conquest, on greatness. On the elimination of enemies.

    Even now, I am scarcely out of his shadow. His image looms over my psyche. There are times, on certain moonless nights, when I remain awake after everyone else has fallen asleep. My mind churns restlessly, uselessly, into the darkness, and I wonder: Are my thoughts truly my own? Do I not detect echoes of his laughter in my moments of pleasure, traces of the scheming circuitry of his mind in my own too-corpulent thoughts? How can I step back and examine this twisted little giant of a man when his machinations still mark me like scars?

    These are the things that run through my head as I attempt to decide what I should say next. I am finding it difficult, I confess, to begin the second chapter of my life. I sit here in this clearing, and my mind hovers above the hard drive of a stolen laptop computer, twisting around in uncertainty, wondering how I can possibly find the right words to describe this man’s legacy. My brain is primed to bring forth letters from the microchips, but my heart is full of uncertainty.

    It is morning as I compose these words. The sun has just emerged from the trees, and the fuchsia light on the day’s first clouds is heartrendingly beautiful. My children, my companions, are alert and foraging for meals, but they, too, are enjoying the flavor of dawn. Something about this scene fills me with a strange, savage optimism. Yet I cannot shake this anxiety, these doubts about continuing this tale. I am reluctant, I suppose, to begin anew.

    I finished the last chapter in a frenzy of excited activity. Some inspiration emerged, ideas fell into place, and I stayed awake long into the night, drunk with memory, exalting in the power to bring words to a page. Now I read them over in the light of a new day, half-perplexed. Many of my sentences remain as polished as I thought they were, better, even, but others seem to have been altered. Something about them seems the product of an alien mind. They loom out of the page at me like ghosts, echoes of a yesterday-self, now lost to time. I try to revise them, yet I cannot determine how they might be flawed. They fill me with uncertainty, and my resolve falters. What story was I actually trying to tell?

    But any story that claims to depict my life must intersect with Giovanni’s. Though I despise it, we are inextricably linked. All these trepidations, I admit, are merely an attempt on my part to avoid that reality. To understand myself, I know I must overcome my uncertainties and return to the specter of a man who still haunts me, who still lingers in my dreams, my waking memories. A man whom I still loathe with incandescent fury. A man whom I still miss, for what I thought him to be. I must, I must tell that story.

    Press on, Mewtwo. Let the events speak for themselves, and hope that your words will simply do them justice. And take heart in the knowledge that you are no longer the foolish adolescent you once were.

    Let us return to the day of my birth, and the moment man and monster met. The moment everything began.

    The world was a beautiful flame. The fiery remnants of an annihilated laboratory blazed red against the sky, sending out thick clouds of dark smoke that left only scant patches of blue. I had just liberated myself from greedy, grasping creators, escaped to a world where I could feel the wind on my fur and smell the salt of the roaring sea. And then, just as the uncertainty of my future began to worry me, I spotted a sign, a signal, that something was happening, that my future was drawing near. Its form: a soft buzzing, growing steadily louder, heralding a tiny speck of black growing larger and larger in one of those scraps of blue. I was thrilled, eager for whatever was coming next; I welcomed any change with open arms. The world was vast, and I was young, and I was ready to discover everything there was to know. I wonder, sometimes: was it this youthful optimism which led to my downfall? Or did it save me in the end, when all things were through?

    I watched the small, dark object grow nearer. I reached out with my mind to touch it, but it seemed it was too far away for me to grasp—something I had not considered before. I could almost feel it, though—a gentle, nearly undetectable pressure on my mind, telling me that something was there. And very slowly, the thing became clearer and clearer in my mind, just as the sound of it grew slowly louder, just as the sight of it grew larger against a bright blue sky.

    I studied the flying thing as it made its steady progress. I tried to guess at its shape. Though its outlines were still very vague to me, it was clear that this was no smooth, regular object. There seemed to be strange protrusions emerging from the top which stretched out to each side, and some of these upper parts seemed to be…moving? Was that right? It was hard to tell—if they were moving, they were doing so at such a rate that form blurred, that shapes melted together, especially at this distance.

    Gradually the black dot in the sky stopped being a black dot, and took on added dimension, stretching slowly into something like the shape I had guessed at. The extensions were there, certainly, and it seemed the lower part of it was not entirely smooth. Possibly some apparatus was affixed to its underside. The whole thing was growing much clearer, now, becoming clearer in my sight and, even more so, in my mind. Its surface shimmered in the light—yes, it was made of metal, the same material that had been so common in the laboratory! Some part of it, near the front, seemed to be made of a different substance, possibly glass. I squinted. Was there any detectable transparency to its surface?

    The thing was much larger now, and growing faster and faster. After a moment, I realized that this was not a change in motion, but simply an optical illusion: as objects grew closer, they appeared to change more quickly. This made sense to me on an intuitive level, though I could not quite explain it to myself in any logical terms. As I attempted to hold the object in my mind, it became clear to me that it was hollow inside, and things were moving around in its interior. Were those…? Yes! The vague shapes were living creatures of some sort, possibly humans, possibly Pokémon. Even, perhaps, something else entirely. But they were still too far away for me to pick up any traces of their thoughts, or run my mind over the details of their faces.

    The faint buzzing had steadily increased as well. Now it was a dull thudding, as loud as a human shout, and it was growing louder still. I marveled at how intense the sound was. At this rate, the noise would become mind-numbing by the time the thing reached me. Surely that was impossible! But no, as the thing came closer and closer, it did indeed reach such intensities.
    For a moment, I was too overwhelmed by the cacophony to study the object as it approached me. Nothing could be this loud; it was insane, it was absurd; such violent noise must be some kind of violation of natural law.

    But I tore myself away from the sound. The thing was almost at my rocky outcropping by now. I could see the shapes moving inside it, and began to catch glimpses of a face, a nose, a chin. There were at least two humans inside the flying metal entity, and I thought I sensed another creature—was it a Pokémon? It was hard to say, especially with so little information about my brethren, but the idea seemed reasonable.

    I turned my attention to the object itself, and the details of its design suddenly became marvelously clear. The two projections on the sides each housed a thin, white metal blade. These blades were spinning, pushing air away from them and thereby lifting the thing through the air, and the humans within along with it! What an incredibly clever way for flightless beings to traverse the sky! I admired the ingenuity of whatever human had thought of it. This, of course, explained the intensity of the sound—the thin shards of metal were literally chopping up the air they pushed the device through, creating enormous waves of the substance, which, when translated by the ear, became a maddeningly loud buzzing.

    By now, the machine was landing. Three small juts of metal unfolded from its interior. One emerged from the front, directly under the glass frame, and one appeared from beneath each of the rotors. Each of the three was tipped with a round object whose function I could not divine. The spinning blades slowed; whatever human piloted the contraption was slowly guiding the machine to a resting place on the ground below.

    I turned my head away from the machine. There were humans aboard, I knew, and that threw me into a new uncertainty. Would these humans be anything like the ones I had destroyed? Would they be as annoying and irrational? Or would they—I scarcely dared to hope—would they be a better breed of humans, a kind that would understand me, that would sympathize with my thoughts and fears and welcome me to a new world with open arms?

    Suddenly, I felt horribly embarrassed. I did not want them to know that I had stared vacantly at their machine’s descent like a curious child. It would only show how little worldly experience I possessed. I was terrified of being seen as an immature idiot. That would make it so easy for humans to claim the intellectual advantage over me once more, and I refused to let that happen again. If we were to meet, I wanted us to meet as equals, not as ridiculer and ridiculed. So, though I would have liked to watch the machine touch down, I turned away.

    But my mind was still observing. I split my attention into two channels, letting my mind examine the now-slowing metal blades, while my eyes returned to the contours of the stone tablet, smiling up at me amongst the dancing flames. What would Mew have made of these new humans? Would it have tried to learn from them? Would it have simply fled? There was so much I did not know about the world, about humanity. Was there a certain protocol for meeting humans who flew in a metal capsule? Did they have some sort of pre-defined role, some heraldic significance? Would they expect me to greet them in a certain manner?

    I hoped that I was overthinking things, hoped I would not be so severely tested. But it was hard to be sure. Any of a thousand mistakes could mark me as a fool. I consoled myself with a reminder that humans were weak, and I was strong. If things went badly, then my psychic abilities would be a power they had to respect.

    But nothing happened for the longest time after the machine touched down. It sat there quietly for a moment, and that was all. Surprised, I leapt through the glass pane and started examining the creatures within. There were two humans inside. One, dressed in all black, seemed to have been controlling the vehicle, as he was seated in a small, dark room with many levers and dials. The other was dressed in brighter colors, and sat on a kind of soft, luxurious platform. A creature with thick fur leapt quickly from the platform and began strutting around at his feet. The two men were talking about something—was it possible to read their thoughts from this distance? I leaned my mind closer, yearning to find out.

    Then, suddenly, the reclining human made a motion with his hand, touching the side of his head—and the entire space simply disappeared. The machine was still there, but its interior had become a shifting, swirling blur. It reminded me very vaguely of trying to look at my own brain, in the sense that my telepathy suddenly seemed to be failing me. I reeled. What could have happened to cause such an alarming gap in my awareness?

    The door of the machine opened, and a radiant being emerged.

    It was the most astounding thing I had ever witnessed with my psychic powers, and it put any experience of the ordinary senses to shame. It was as if a being made of clouds was walking toward me. It had the general shape of a human man, but its form rippled and swirled like a great three-dimensional whirlpool, like someone’s dream or nightmare. And it was colorful, and bright, full of radiant orange and red and green patterns shimmering across its body. At times I caught a glimpse of something human, like a fragment of a face, or the fingers of a left hand, but these quickly disappeared into the miasma.

    This was incredible, insane. I had to risk embarrassment; I had to find out what kind of creature this was, regardless of any protocol I might foul up. I slowly twisted around to the left, without moving from where I stood, and gazed at the creature which made its way toward me in a haze of color and light.

    My eyes told me it was only a human being, approaching me with calm, even strides, a thoughtful smile resting silently on his lips.

    It was, of course, one of the humans from the flying craft, the one who had been resting on the seat in the back before the space inexplicably vanished. I did a mental swerve, throwing my awareness back to the dark interior of the machine. Sure enough, the void had changed again. Everything had been restored—I ran my mind along the walls, the soft seat, the fibers of the carpet in wonder—and one human sat alone in the front chamber, waiting for his companion to return.

    I pondered these anomalies. I had never before experienced a contradiction between what my eyes were telling me and what my mind perceived. Which one should I trust? Had one or the other suddenly begun to malfunction? What a terrifying thought. If I could not trust my senses, how could I understand the world? How could I know what was real and what was illusion? How would I keep from simply going insane?

    I told myself to calm down. Such a scenario seemed extremely unlikely. Besides, the sense to trust was obvious: sight. The events my eyes relayed made perfect logistical sense: Two men had been in the machine, and one had approached me, leaving the other behind. Relying on my psychic sense would imply that the world had mutated bizarrely, for no reason. It seemed far more likely that my perception of the world had changed instead.

    So what might cause such a blow to my senses? The human seemed to carry a cloud of confusion with him like an ethereal cloak. The void had certainly vanished from the interior of the machine when he left it. Could he be blocking my ability to perceive him, somehow? Was he deliberately trying to avoid my prying mind?

    I watched the man as he stopped walking and stood before me, confident and serene. His gaze met mine, and for a moment, each of us watched the other scrutinize the stranger. After a moment, I wrenched myself from his hard, dark eyes, and looked him over in earnest. He was a tall man, elegantly dressed, and his face, lined and intense, betrayed no hint of any emotion he might be feeling. There was a slight suggestion of a frozen smile, and nothing more. His hair was somewhat short, brown, and seemed to have been oiled smoothly toward the back of his head. His hairline seemed to be waning slightly, compared with what I had seen on other human males. His frame was stocky but not overweight. His broad shoulders almost seemed to suggest hidden muscle, tense and ready.

    Much like the other humans I had met, he wore a suit and tie, but while they had mostly worn white, he favored a sharp orange-brown for his jacket and pants. Beneath the golden buttons of that suit, I spotted many layers of clothing in various colors. I studied the green of his vest, the tan of his tidy, collared shirt, and the red of his tie. Everything about this man was measured and carefully planned. He seemed to shimmer with polish and poise. The two of us stood in a raging tumult of flame, yet he showed no fear. Indeed, the gleam in his eye almost seemed like a challenge:—Dare you comment?

    I thought back to what little of him I had seen as he approached me, and realized that he must have carefully devised a path through the burning debris, stepping only on those parts which were safe, unburned or already ashen. Yet his gaze had never left my face, and I had not seen his slow, calm strides falter even once! What focus! What keen attention to everything around him, even the peripheral! I had to admit, I was impressed. This was no ordinary human.

    And what was this I spotted on the side of his head, an almost undetectable speck of black against the pale flesh of his left ear? Upon closer inspection it appeared to be a small, black, metal object clipped snugly to the ear. I longed to leap inside it and examine its electrical components, to investigate its function, but I knew that was impossible. Still, I thought I could guess what it was. Hadn’t the man made a motion toward that ear before he left the flying craft? What if it was generating the field of illusion? Sure enough, when I studied the shimmering shapes and colors that replaced the man in my mind, I found that they spiraled outward from that point, generating a man-shaped whirlwind of rippling radiance.

    Experimentally, I tried to tug it gently from his ear, groping around blindly in a mass of shapes which seemed to shift in and out of solidity. The only result was that a bit of ash stirred feebly at his feet. The device seemed not only to cloak him, but to guard him from any physical assault. I had to admire the cleverness of it. He had made himself my equal. As a human, he could do nothing to me, but neither could I harm him.

    We stood there a moment longer, simply watching each other. I wondered how he had known to protect himself against my abilities. Somehow he must have known about the psychic monster being cloned on a lonely, stony island. Yes, it could not be clearer: for good or for ill, the man was here to see me.

    I inclined my head very slightly to one side, acknowledging his presence if nothing else. The human’s smile broadened, and he seemed to take this as a cue. He breathed in the thick, smoke-filled air as if it was the sweetest incense. He gazed briefly at the burning wreckage of the laboratory before turning back to me. Then he began to speak.

    And as he spoke, I suddenly realized, with a numb horror, that I could not enter his mind. Not even the slightest trace of his thoughts could be detected over that churning psychic disguise. In order to understand him, I would have to try and recall the meanings of the words he spoke from memory, without any images or sensations to aid me! How did non-psychics manage it? And I would be unable to place words in the man’s mind as I was accustomed to doing. Somehow I would have to find a different way of conveying my message. I feared this conversation was going to be very difficult for me. What had he said, again? Lost in thought, I struggled to catch the words he was throwing at me and put them into a meaning.

    The human must have caught the look of distraction in my eyes, because after a moment, he carefully repeated what he had said, watching me thoughtfully. This time, I was able to hold onto it. Personal words like “you” were easy enough, but what was the meaning of that longer one—ah, yes, I remembered. It was a word relating to success, to accomplishment. The scientists had used it often among themselves.

    “I congratulate you,” the man said, with a slight laugh.

    I had done it. I had understood. Now came the time to respond, and I thought I might have a way. If vibrating air was the source of sound, then would it not be possible to create sound, even create a sentence, by vibrating the air a certain way? It would be tricky, but it seemed like my best option. Fortunately, a single word would serve as an effective rejoinder, and clarify his meaning.

    “Why?” I asked.

    Then I winced. It had come out horribly scratchy, and far squeakier than I had desired. I had not meant to sound so utterly childlike—frankly, it was embarrassing. But at least the message had come across. It was a start, something I could build on.

    The man laughed again. But it was a much more pleasant laugh than any I had heard in the laboratory. There was something soothing about it, rather than raucous. Something that implied a sense of communion with the one who heard it.

    “An excellent question,” the man replied. “But you only need to look around you for the answer.” Casually, he extended a hand in the direction of the flames and carnage. I followed his gaze. “I congratulate you because you recognize fools when you see them. This place is testament to that.”

    He turned back to me, and his smile was lean and hungry. “For the men who once worked in this building,” he continued, teeth gleaming white, “were indeed fools. They couldn’t see past their own tiny dreams, past their pitiful grants and publications. Past their meter-by-meter progress toward mediocrity.”

    “I imagine they must have thought you a neat little science experiment; a demonstration of their own feeble cleverness. I can just see them getting out their tools to measure you, poking and prodding you inanely, totally unaware of the magnitude of what they had created. How it must have galled you! How it must have been tedious, excruciating! And then came the moment when you realized what you were capable of! Realized you were the greatest psychic who ever lived! Your opportunity lay before you, and you seized it!”

    “When I decided to seek you out, I wondered if you might still be in that grimy workshop, persuaded by those idiotic biologists to submit to their childish ministrations. I wondered if I might have to enter the compound myself, and convince you of your own power, before you would see what needed to be done. But the dark cloud billowing from the island told me all I needed to know. I knew then you had been wise enough to recognize that these men were useless, inferior to your greatness. Knowing this, you took action, freeing yourself from their idiocy. Your judgment is impeccable. You cannot have been alive for more than an hour, and already you are every bit as astute as I hoped you would be.”

    I struggled to keep up with his rapid sentences, but after a moment, I thought I understood what he had said. Some of the more obscure words still eluded me, maddeningly, but the gist was clear enough. This human was praising my accomplishments! I felt a flush of pride. I had proven myself in this man’s eyes by killing the useless scientists. So, the decision had been a wise one after all; it was the sort of thing an intelligent, powerful being would do. My vague doubts about destroying other living creatures seemed nonsensical, even silly now. Why had I let myself agonize over trivialities? This man would have wasted no time on such self-doubt.

    But it occurred to me, thinking back over the human’s speech, that while his words were resplendent and full of good sense, I knew nothing about him. He had vaguely implied some familiarity with the scientists, and he must have been aware of my creation if he had come to “seek me out.” Who was this man, and what did he know?

    I tried to make my next utterance sound a little more respectable, experimentally imitating the man’s exact vibrations. That helped improve the depth and smoothness of my voice, but the result was that my voice sounded like an exact replica of his. I groaned silently. This was truly a learning process.

    “I thank you for your congratulate—” I stumbled over the word as I tried to recall the proper form to put it in— “your congratulations. You are right. These men were fools.”

    “But,” I said, fixing him with a steely glare, “I do not know who this human is, this human who stands in front of me. Who are you? How do you know about these men? How do you know about me?”

    “I consider it my occupation to know things,” the human replied without hesitation. Then he laughed. “I suppose you want me to tell you all about myself. To begin with, Mewtwo—yes, I know your name—I am first and foremost a man versed in many secrets. My points of contact with the latest developments in science, in business, in politics— they are plentiful, and continue to grow each day. I am the head of an organization which operates beneath the surface of human society. We ferret into the dark corners of the world and find the things that men keep hidden, ideas and discoveries too dangerous to see the light of day. Then, we convince the men and women involved to assist our efforts. They quickly see the sense of this. Thus they join our ranks of spies and loyal workers, helping us to influence events in our favor, and gathering even more information for us.

    “So it was with you. The tinkerers who created you kept their work under very tight security. But I have agents and debtors everywhere. I have been discretely monitoring your development for quite some time now. At last, the time has come for us to meet.”

    “Indeed,” I murmured. It was a lot to process and interpret. The idea of a vast network of humans working to discover and collect secret information was a strangely thrilling one. I realized now just how little thought I had given to human society. The number of humans in the world must be absolutely staggering, if there could be a secret organization of humans hidden beneath their everyday interactions like underlying circuitry. I had to admit, I was curious to see how such an organization might operate, and wondered if this man intended to show me. I was also delighted to find that I had registered as a person of great significance in their investigations, an entity valuable enough to merit an audience with their leader.

    I pressed on with my questions, ever-curious.

    “You hide yourself,” I told him, attempting to sound coldly disdainful, as if I was only mildly interested. “The machine at your ear clouds my psychic vision so that I cannot observe you from afar. Why do you wear such a thing?”

    He laughed, with a single short, sharp bark. “Unlike those scientists,” he said, grinning, “I am no fool. Would I approach the greatest psychic on Earth with only my own muscle and sinew for defense? It would be idiocy. Should my words prove not to his liking, he might endeavor to kill me. I would be a very great fool to risk that, especially when a miniscule bit of preparation guarantees my security.”

    “No, Mewtwo,” he said, eyes gleaming, “we must approach each other as equals. If I do not possess the ability to endanger you—which is virtually certain, as I am a human and not a Pokémon—while you are likewise incapable of affecting me, then our interaction will, by necessity, not be one of conflict. We may simply talk, and see what we can each learn from the other. A much more desirable option, don’t you think?”

    “Indeed,” I mused. His words made a great deal of sense to me. I was glad to be called his equal. It seemed, as he said, highly desirable, to stand and talk like this, in a spirit of cooperative inquiry.

    “What would it take,” I said slowly, “for you to remove this thing? For you to drop it on the ground and stand before me, bare and unshielded from my mind?”

    “Why,” he replied, “we would have to trust each other.”

    “Trust?” I asked, uncertain. The concept had only the vaguest meaning to me; it was not something the scientists and I had discussed. It seemed to me I must have come across it while rifling through an anonymous mind.

    “By trust,” he said quietly, “I mean a certain agreement between us, which I hope will come to pass. An understanding, on a fundamental level, that neither of us intend to harm the other; that we seek only the other’s best interest. A difficult thing to believe, naturally. All creatures are suspicious of each other, with good reason. But, between two who spend time working together, planning together, this kind of implicit agreement soon makes itself apparent. Then trust becomes possible. If the two of us learn to trust each other in such a way, then I will indeed feel free to shed my defenses.” His dark eyes regarded me calmly as he said this.

    More and more, I liked this man. His words sparkled with clever phrases and exciting ideas. Every time he spoke, I found myself listening, enraptured with the richness of his thoughts, wishing that I, too could think so keenly and speak so precisely. He had a way of approaching the world that brought life and energy to things that had before seemed very ordinary, and his smooth orations were like paths that I yearned to follow to their very end. I quickly found that I agreed: trust was an essential thing to seek between us. I wanted to be able to trust this man. I ached to have him trust me. Yet I still knew so little about him.

    “What is your name?” I asked, after a long, thoughtful pause.

    He was silent for another moment before replying. “My name is Giovanni Caesanti. My workers generally refer to me as ‘Boss,’ when they refer to me at all. But you may address me as Giovanni if you like.”

    “I shall,” I declared. “Giovanni, what do you want from me? Why did you come here?”

    Giovanni’s reply was smooth and measured, each word clicking into place. He seemed to be savoring the conversation. “I am here,” he said, “because I see you as a valuable partner.”

    “A partner?” I asked slowly. This word was distantly familiar to me. One of the scientists must have used it at some point. It was a word that conferred a certain intimacy, even greater than trust, one that they had used when speaking to each other. Never to me. It was about a duality, wasn’t it? Was that right? Yes, I thought so. The man was asking me to enter into a relationship of two allies. Of equals, striving toward the same goals.

    It was an enticing thought. But I had to know more. I was still uncertain whether I could trust this man. Fortunately, he was already pressing on, explaining further.

    “The world is wide, Mewtwo.” He cast a hand at the endless blue ocean which stretched around us. “It is a vast sphere, which you may traverse for more than six thousand kilometers before you return to your starting point. It flourishes with all kinds of valuable things. Gold and jewels. Materials for machinery and architecture. Diverse forms of life, both plant and animal. Priceless works of art. Experiences of pleasure—undoubtedly the most valuable of all. These treasures are waiting to be enjoyed; the hidden chambers of the world opened for their sustenance. Yet so few notice this. So tragically few.”

    “In this same world,” he continued, taking a few steps forward, “there are roughly one billion human beings. A thousand times a thousand times a thousand. Can you imagine that? It’s number too staggering to really picture. Yet only a tiny, tiny fragment realize the untapped potential of the universe they live in. The rest live their inconsequential lives according to passed-down rules they don’t even understand, never once questioning their society, never once seizing their chance to rise above their fellow human beings.”

    “You’ve already seen this contrast demonstrated. On the one hand you have the idiot scientists who created you. They sought meaningless comfort in the promises of scholarship, of posturing and status. But they never once asked themselves why they were doing these things. I imagine they didn’t even know why they created you.”

    “No,” I breathed. I was hanging on his words.

    “And then,” he continued, “there are the rare individuals who see that the world can be transcended and mastered. People like you and I. We know what few know: that every mandate of society is ours to defy, that every moment can be rewritten in our favor. The world belongs to us; we inherit it by merit of superior insight. We are its rulers, and it is our duty, our mission, our mandate, to seek coronation.”

    He gazed thoughtfully at the smoke-clouded sky. “The truly wise men and women of this world always end up at my door. That’s why the Rocket Association has flourished so nicely since its conception. It’s become a center, a kind of congregation, for those who see past the ordinary. Those who seek the truest mastery of the self. Young men and women, filled with revolutionary zeal, sign up, finding meaning and purpose in our aims. The cleverest eventually become leaders and administrators, having demonstrated their ability to guide our organization into the future. The worst remain at the bottom, doing menial tasks. Or they get themselves killed. It’s an elegant system, in which every person finds the role in which they belong.

    “For everything in this world arrives at its proper place. Wouldn’t you agree? The weak and foolish go about their dismal lives. Those who dream of something more find their way to the Rockets. From the weakest we draw the cogs and gears of the machine, while the truly gifted, the prodigies and innovators, ascend to the highest echelon of the organization. But even the greatest among them concede the need for a leader, a guiding force who sees the world in a way they cannot. Someone who awakens a brilliant future by the sheer force of his vision.

    “Such men are, of course, very rare. Their names become etched into the annals of history: Alexander. Cadilus. Maximilian Crane. They tower over the ignorant peasants of their time and burn on in the memories of succeeding generations. Yet history is still being written. I believe the world once again contains such individuals, my friend, and the time is ripe for them to make their mark. Two of them stand amongst these flames. I am speaking, Mewtwo, of you and I.”

    I knew it had been coming, knew somehow he had been building up to this. A thrill of excitement passed through me as he spoke.

    “You believe we are of such a kind?” I asked, enthralled. “Those who deserve to claim supremacy over the weak and small?

    “Exactly."

    “How do you know for sure?” I questioned. I was eager to understand every nuance. “What marks us as superior beings?

    “For me, it has been obvious all my life,” Giovanni replied. “A quick mind. The ability to dissect and avoid the failings of the foolish. And the understanding that power is life’s only worthwhile goal. Perhaps the greatest sign has been my constant success. I have amassed enough power and wealth to make many men envious, and still my assets continue to grow. Were I a superfluous, unnecessary man, I would have failed long ago.”

    “And as for yourself—I gather you speak rhetorically, because your supremacy could not be more apparent.” He waved a hand at the flaming ruins again. “You already possess the insight that idiocy is insufferable. And there has never, in the history of the world, been anything quite like you.”

    “What about Mew?” I countered.

    Giovanni scoffed. “Mew is irrelevant. It flits around the world, playing its own silly games, like some idiot child. It knows nothing of ambition or power. You, on the other hand, are destined for both. You are the king of psychics, a true god among Pokémon. Mew is static. Inert. Dull, while you shatter convention by your very flesh and bone. I can think of no better candidate than you to reshape the world. Except myself, of course.”

    “It’s astounding how alike you and I are, really,” he said, with a thoughtful, faraway gaze. “I represent humanity at its finest, full of invention and cunning. You represent your race in its greatest incarnation, burning with power that slices through reality like a blade. Our respective virtues. Or vices, for those who cling to a limited worldview.”

    “I also possess invention and cunning,” I pointed out.

    Again Giovanni waved an impatient hand. “The point is, we are matched beautifully; each of us complements the other. I have abilities you do not; likewise, you possess your own unique powers. It is only natural, then, that I propose a partnership between us. With your psychic powers and my resources—”

    And here his smile gleamed bright enough to rival the crimson flames—

    “Why, together we can control the world.”

    Yes, I had known this was coming as well. With breathless anticipation, I listened to his words ring out like bells, drawing ever closer to the brilliant conclusion hidden in that final, crystalline pair of syllables: the world. A savage thrill of lust ran through me when they were spoken at last. I was sure it would come to be, certain that the two of us were meant to rule as kings over the weak, backwards planet of fools. I hungered to make it a reality.

    But I could not reveal my desires so easily. I wanted him to see me as a fierce, independent creature, aloof toward his requests. I wanted to be swayed. Seduced once again by his wise words.

    “An excellent suggestion, indeed,” I remarked, in an offhand way. Then I lifted up my head and glared downward, seeming to regard him coldly from my full, majestic height. “However—you tell me my powers are the greatest on earth. If that is so, I could easily control the world myself! I do not need your help for that. Human.”

    I added the last word as an afterthought, hoping I could add another note of condescension by mocking his entire species. I knew was playing devil’s advocate, but it was a fair enough point to make. After all, it did not seem I would have a difficult time manipulating a planet of psyche-crippled weaklings. What role could a human play in that? How would he aid me?

    As usual, Giovanni had a delicious answer. He watched me as I made my haughty pronouncement, a subtle smile playing on his lips, and then nodded gently in agreement.

    “Indeed,” he said, eyes meeting mine, stance unwavering. “Why not conquer the world yourself, and eschew humans with their brittle frailty? I can see why the notion would appeal to you. But I think you speak too quickly, my friend. You cannot succeed without my help. Allow me to tell you why.”

    I tilted my head slightly to indicate my assent.

    “You have many strengths, Mewtwo,” he said softly. “But a proper understanding of one’s weaknesses is essential to success. You are young, and therefore filled with a sense of your own power. But do not underestimate just how new to the world you are.”

    Again, Giovanni turned his sight to the vast, churning ocean, gazing into the distance where it merged with the blue of the sky.

    “The world is not only vast, but complex,” he mused. “Full of intricacies. Facets. Hidden patterns which govern man and beast. One cannot simply ignore these patterns, especially when they pertain to human interactions. You are, through no fault of your own, ignorant of these systems of power and manipulation. If you made an attempt at political domination, for instance, you simply wouldn’t know where to start. What is political power, to a human being? What does it look like? What is a government, and how precisely does it work? How are decisions made by rulers translated into the everyday lives of the ruled? You would need a thorough education in all of these subjects before you could even safely attempt to alter the existing structures. To say nothing of such closely related ideas as economics, incentive, agriculture, labor, and wealth.

    “Without such knowledge, a single mistake could destroy you. There are other men like me in the world. None so fortunate in wit, perhaps. But those who hide in foreign cities, playing the same games of money and power, are clever enough, and the moment you became a danger to their affairs, they would kill you. I doubt you would go down without a fight. But by combining their resources, and taking advantage of your weaknesses, they would find a way, and your ambitions would fall to ruin.

    “Any quest for power must be undertaken in secret, with utmost guile and caution. Otherwise, your plans will fail before they are even put into action. I have made a study of the methods for achieving political success—I would not hesitate to say that it has been my life’s work, and greatest achievement. And it is this that I propose to teach you. I will show you what I have achieved, and how I have achieved it. I will reveal to you the techniques by which the Rocket Association sinks its roots into every scientific achievement and every political process on Earth. I will show you these things, educate you in our central ideas, and together we shall claim the final goal of all conquest: a united empire, blazing across the surface of the planet.”

    “You offer many things to me,” I said softly, taking all this in. “Why do you promise to give so much to one you have barely met?”

    His crisp reply came almost immediately.

    “Because together,” he said, light gleaming in his eyes, “we will be able to do what no one has ever done before. What none could ever do alone. I give you understanding and strategy, while you provide me with psychic assistance, deadly enough to clear away any obstacle. Alone, we can only dream of domination; together the world is ours. We are the perfect symbiosis; the quintessential alliance of Pokémon and human. And when we have brought our new order into the world, the two greatest beings on Earth shall sit in command of all its wonders.”

    My spirit seemed to surge within me as he spoke. Some inner facet of my being seemed to rise in breathless joy, proclaiming, yes, yes—this is how it should be, this is what I am! This was what I had been searching for; what I had been unable to find among the scientists. An identity: I was the greatest Pokémon in the world, whose only fit partner was the greatest living human being. A mission: to join with that man and make the world ours; to reshape it with our adept and clever minds, as only we knew how. A self: Mewtwo, the second Mew. Its wiser sibling, its successor in all things. The inheritor of the Earth it chose to ignore.

    But I remained uncertain. I still knew very little about Giovanni. In every respect he seemed exactly the kind of human I had been hoping to meet: astute, perceptive, full of brilliant ideas, with a way of thinking which seemed an extension of my own. I wanted to believe all these things were true. Did believe them, on the deepest level. But some part of me urged caution. Giovanni was asking me, in effect, to become his permanent guest. In becoming my teacher, he would bind himself into my life, becoming the lens through which I perceived the universe. But I had just freed myself of a group of humans, who had had their own plans for me, beliefs in which to indoctrinate me. Was it really wise to trade one such situation for another?

    I brooded on this question for a moment. I watched Giovanni in silence for some time, trying to take in his every aspect, that I might know every particle of his being. Contemplating the nature of trust. Asking myself, over and over: Do I take this opportunity? How can I refuse it? What do I have to gain? And what do I have to lose?

    Giovanni watched me struggle in the grip of uncertainty for a few seconds. Then—and I do not know how much he perceived, but I would put few things past his powers of observation—he spoke once more.

    “Allow me to me submit,” he remarked, in an offhand way, “one more thing for your consideration. There is another kind of knowledge you do not possess, and that is self-knowledge. You are no doubt familiar with your body by now, but what do you really know about its raw mechanics? Your genes, your neurons, your heart and muscle—you still do not know how they function. Your psychic abilities fall into this category as well. Certainly you have mastered them on an intuitive level, but what could you tell me about how they operate? It is not unthinkable that your powers might one day cease to function, or worse, become distorted, twisted, in such a way that they endangered your life. In such a situation, what could you do? You would have no recourse but to hope, feebly, for the danger to pass. In all probability, you would annihilate yourself.”

    “You think that likely?” I whispered.

    Giovanni shrugged. “Not very. But there is always the chance that those idiot scientists made a mistake. In order to create a creature as admirably powerful as you, they were forced to use highly experimental methods, the long-term consequences of which are still unclear. If instabilities did emerge, there would almost certainly be ways for me to eradicate them. On your own, though, you would pose a danger to yourself, and the world you thought to claim. Instead of shaping the planet into a beautiful new ideal, you would mutilate it, twisting and blackening it into a dead, lifeless husk. I imagine that doesn’t appeal to you.”

    At this he smiled, and inclined his head in the direction of the slowly-dwindling flames, which still cast a ruddy glow onto our faces. “You would be like a fire which refuses to extinguish, blazing uncontrolled across the landscape until everything is reduced to ash. Properly controlled, fire can be a valuable tool, searing away that which is unneeded. But a wildfire destroys everything in its path. It’ll be the same with your powers unless you learn to control them. And where better to learn than at my side?”

    As he spoke, the firelight on his face seemed almost to melt into him, to become part of his countenance. Or was it that he seemed to merge with the flames, a being of fire himself?

    “I have spied on those fools since their attempts to create you began. I have access to records, genetic information, methods of psychic stimulation. I lay these resources at your feet, should you ever need them. You need fear no instability with me. If you join me, I will teach you to understand every aspect of your body, its master and commandant. Come with me, and I will teach you how to be a controlled blaze, one that destroys only what deserves ruination, and opens up avenues for future growth. Trust me, and I will teach you to be invincible.”

    “Show me,” I said at once. I could not keep up the appearance of detachment any longer. I yearned to see these things, I yearned to master my power, I yearned to conquer the world and sit with him as its ruler. Everything seemed to be leading me toward this moment. Everything seemed to be telling me that Giovanni’s side was where I was needed; that to go with him was an integral part of my destiny.

    I often think about that moment, these days. Was that impression really accurate? Was I being drawn into an inescapable encounter, an integral part of my life? A necessary event in creating the Mewtwo who now writes these words? Or did I have a choice, then—but, being so young and naïve, no capacity to recognize it? Either idea is equally abhorrent to me, really—the one proclaiming monstrosity as a stepping-stone to self, and the other reminding me of what I might have been able to salvage. So, as usual, I turn away from both in disgust and self-loathing, and come to nothing resembling a conclusion.

    Giovanni’s smile was wide. “Am I to take that as a yes? You are interested in the partnership I propose?”

    “Yes,” I said, without hesitation. I was done with uncertainty. I was eager, I was ready, I was more than ready, I had been ready since birth. The time for indecision was over. I would greet this future with all my will. “Yes,” I repeated, “I am very interested in becoming your partner. I agree to it completely. I want to see everything you have to show me, to learn everything you know. Let us, the kings of the world, cooperate. I am ready to begin.

    Giovanni’s eyes met mine. “Agreed,” he whispered softly. Very slowly, he inclined his head in a nod. I did the same. Then we watched each other in silence once more. That was all we needed. A pact had been arranged between us.


    "All truth is simple... is that not doubly a lie?"

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    [CONTINUED:]

    “Then let us go,” Giovanni said, suddenly breaking the silence. He turned swiftly, and with the subtlest jerk of the head, indicated that I was to follow him. Then, with energetic but even strides, he began walking back to his flying machine.

    For a second I faltered. It suddenly occurred to me that I had not yet tried walking in the human fashion—so far I had only moved by pulling my body through the air. Such a form of transportation seemed showy and unnecessary for such a short trip to a private vehicle. But I was reluctant to embarrass myself, especially in front of my new partner. Slowly, tentatively, I took a few halting steps, and then, fighting extreme reluctance and uneasiness, forced myself to take a few more.

    The difficult part of walking, as it turned out, was not so much the movement of the legs or even the placement of the feet, but the knees. It caught me by surprise when I realized that the joints needed to bend repeatedly to make forward motion possible. Even knowing that, it was hard to sort out when in my gait this step was supposed to happen, and I found myself getting hopelessly confused by my own limbs. Indeed, the first time I tried to lift my knee, I nearly fell, face-first, into a pile of glowing ashes. I managed to correct myself just in time with a psychic lift, cursing my own ineptitude. Eventually, the twitching and blundering settled down into an uneven but workable gait. There was an intuitive component here. I could just barely get the hang of it, I thought, if I avoided thinking about what I was actually doing. Still, on the whole, I preferred flight.

    Giovanni, to his credit, paid no attention to the bobbing, bumbling creature behind him. Either he saw none of my foolish fumbling, or he pretended to have missed it. I appreciated that, and it was with some gratitude and relief that I made my way to the door of the vehicle.

    “I am curious,” I said, with as much dignity as an ungainly wreck without a grasp of even the most basic form of locomotion could muster. “What is the name of this machine?”

    Giovanni smiled slightly. “It is a helicopter.”

    A helicopter. Interesting. The name meant nothing to me, but I marked it in my memory banks. I liked the sound of the word; it seemed fittingly complex. Multifaceted, like the device itself.

    He stopped a short distance away from the helicopter and waited for a moment. Then two metal flaps opened wide like a mouth. The lower flap knelt to form a bridge from the ground to the floor of the machine, while the other rose triumphantly, like a banner. Together they seemed to be beckoning us into the vehicle.

    Giovanni entered first, stepping comfortably into the machine’s spacious interior. I followed. As I gazed around the space, I spotted features I had sensed earlier: for instance, there was a second chamber in the front of the machine. Through a small gateway, I saw a familiar shield of glass and a host of levers and dials. I also recognized the long, soft platform which merged into the back wall of the enclosure. Giovanni bent his legs and rested himself on its far right side. I took the left, following his example.

    My tail posed a problem; I had to bend it around to my left to avoid squishing it against the wall, and even then, there wasn’t as much space on the cushion as I would have liked. I had to dangle precariously on the edge of my seat. Still, I scarcely minded—I was already somewhat fond of this fifth limb of mine, and slight discomfort around human equipment seemed a small price to pay.. Seating problems more or less solved, I turned awkwardly to the metal aperture, unsure how to seal it up again. Fortunately, before that thought even fully took hold, another man emerged from the front room, frowning, and pressed a button on the side. It immediately shut.

    Ah, yes: the second human. I had forgotten about him. He seemed rather unremarkable, as humans went. He had a hard, lined, face, much of which was obscured by the shadow of a dark cap, pulled down almost to his eyes. He was dressed all in black, save for his white gloves, and some kind of red insignia marked the front of his shirt.

    “And who are you—” I began. But Giovanni cut me off.

    “There is no point in asking. Generally my associates prefer to remain anonymous. I know this man’s name, but I do not use it, except when it is necessary to distinguish him from other employees. He serves as my pilot, and devotes all of his energies to mastering this task. Transportation is his function within the company, and he is content to fulfill that function to the best of his ability.

    “Other men might be involved in espionage, or the transportation of acquired goods. None ask me unnecessary questions. We do not make idle chit-chat about the status of my day or wardrobe, or anything equally foolish. Such an attempt at intimacy would be laughable at best, and at worst, a sign that a worker did not understand their position in the organization. I do not choose to become familiar with most of my workers, for it is almost always pointless to do so.”

    He turned to the man standing stiffly beside him. “As you were, then,” he said simply. The pilot gave a curt nod and swiftly turned on his heel, returning to the front room.

    “But you are familiar with me,” I said, suddenly uncertain.

    Giovanni nodded. “Of course,” he said. “But you are different than my workers: it is not at all pointless for me to instruct you in our ideas and strategies. Your function in the company more closely parallels mine. You do not need to converse with my pilot; it would do nothing for you, as I intend to handle all matters of transportation. Put him from your mind.”

    For a moment I tried to, but as much as I saw the logic of his argument, I couldn’t suppress my curiosity. I quickly sent my mind leaping into the next room, carefully ducking around the iridescent haze which surrounded Giovanni. Surely I would be forgiven the most fleeting glance at the pilot’s mind. I dove in, and found that the man’s name was James Herrington. An aura of embarrassment swirled around him that he had been singled out by Giovanni like that, but beneath this fog he radiated pride. His employer was right: it was not his place to ask questions about his work except as necessary, and he was proud his compliance had been noted. He knew that he was not intimate with Giovanni, but felt a distant appreciation for him. A respect borne out of long-standing habit. He would transport Giovanni anywhere, and was glad he could be trusted with his secrets.

    I pulled out of Herrington’s memories. I wasn’t sure what I had really accomplished by my invasion. Giovanni had been right, I concluded. The man had taken on the exact role he was most suited for. Beyond that, he had little else to interest me, and I felt oddly embarrassed to be witnessing his private flushes of pleasure. I wondered if he even knew of my abilities.

    Suddenly, something darted past Herrington’s knees. A bundle of fur swirled around him for a moment, then stopped and stared up at him with large, unblinking eyes. I groaned silently. Of course: there had been a third creature in the helicopter. Somehow it had managed to escape my notice until now.

    I cursed myself for letting my attention slip. Before meeting Giovanni, I had monitored everything going on around me as a matter of habit; but talking to a man invisible on the psychic plane had allowed me to get used to ignoring my sixth sense. My attention was patchy, piecemeal. Frustrated, I swept my attention out to encompass the entire helicopter. The machine was fascinating: I saw how the blades were attached to long, thin poles, which would spin in their sockets, gaining their force from another spinning metal shaft. I followed this shaft to the rear of the craft, and found several small chambers each filled with some kind of fluid, above which lurked an ominous metal fist. Did pounding this fluid have something to do with set the machine in motion? It seemed possible. I could almost see how the machine’s various parts worked together. I wondered briefly what it was like to design something like this. I could almost see myself doing so, with a little more knowledge.

    But it was the new creature that really intrigued me at the moment. Herrington gently shoved it out of his chamber, and it bounded toward Giovanni and me, a restless, cream-colored blur. It stopped before my partner, and he reached out to stroke its head calmly, even fondly. I studied its face, which was extraordinarily like mine. The nose, the jaw, the teeth, were all similarly shaped. Even the ears bore some resemblance, though mine were hard and bony. A distant cousin, perhaps? It was only about half as tall as I was, and strode around on four thin legs instead of two thick ones. Its tail curled at the end, and a hard red jewel gleamed on its forehead. I knew it had to be one of my brethren, the Pokémon.

    “Is this another one of your associates?” I inquired tentatively of Giovanni, who seemed to show an unusual tenderness in its presence.

    He laughed. “After a fashion.” His fingers lightly stroked the back of the creature’s ears, and it seemed to grin with pleasure. “Persian has been my companion for a long time. At times I enjoy having his company, especially when a long journey is necessary. He asks very little of me, and I am content to provide him with food and shelter.”

    “I thought I was your companion,” I said, again uncertain.

    Giovanni laughed again. “There is a great difference between your role and his. You really must begin to look at things in terms of their function, my friend. Persian could not do a fraction of the things I will ask of you. He is useful as a distraction from the concerns of daily life, and, if all else failed, he might prevent my assassination. But I would not think to use him as a weapon. That is why I have found you.”

    “You are right, of course,” I murmured. Why was I so apprehensive? I told myself to calm down. It was an enormous change for me to accept human company instead of rejecting it out of hand, and being jammed in a sort of metal crate with human beings for a long period still did not make me entirely comfortable, I had to admit. But I reminded myself that I was not trapped. I was travelling of my own free will, and could leave at any time if really necessary.

    I leaned down and looked Persian in the eye. His bright brown eyes regarded me curiously. We were close enough for me to catch glimpses of his mind, even over Giovanni’s miasma. Concentrating, I sent a short, simple message into his mind:

    “I am Mewtwo. Who are you?”

    Persian responded with a series of meaningless noises. It took me a second before I caught the latent thoughts underneath, and realized what was going on. The Pokémon was indeed talking to me, but in a way I had never anticipated. For him (and, presumably, my other relatives,) patterns of sound, not words, held meaning. Increasing the quantity of the vibrations or the overall intensity of a sound changed its meaning. He also seemed to repeat the same noises over and over again. Perhaps each was coded; perhaps repetition or the lack of it was relevant to meaning as well. I wondered if he was, in fact, physically unable to speak as humans did. That would explain why he responded so readily to Giovanni’s voice, yet made no attempt to converse with him. Without my psychic powers, I wondered, would I be any less mute?

    [I’m me, of course,] the creature said, bemused. [Who else would I be?]

    Hearing the strange, garbled sounds, Giovanni cocked his head and looked curiously at me, but said nothing.

    It had been a foolish question. I tried again, attempting to get the hang of the way Persian’s mind structured itself around words that were not words.

    “No one, of course,” I told him. “What I meant was: I am Mewtwo, and I am introducing myself to you. It is nice to meet you, Persian.”

    [It is also nice to meet you, Mewtwo!] Persian replied. He yawned. [It is always nice to meet new people. Human-friend and I meet new people all the time, and it is always nice. You are more interesting than most people, though. You are very memorable, since you are incredibly strange-looking]

    “Am I?” I asked, amused.

    [Oh, yes,] Persian replied. [Not at all like a human or anyone else I know. More like a big tall purple me. Very strange!]

    I chuckled under my breath. “What about this Human-friend?” I pressed. “ I assume you mean this human, here? What do you think of him?”

    [Oh, he is very nice, too,] Persian told me. [I have known him my whole life and he always makes sure I have plenty to eat and a nice place to sleep. He takes me to interesting places and we meet all sorts of people.]

    “Does he tell you about his plans?” I inquired. “Does he ever, for instance, explain to you why you travel to a certain place, or what projects he busies himself with in his quarters?”

    Persian almost seemed to shrug. [He does all sorts of important human things, I’m sure. That sort of thing doesn’t interest me too much. It doesn’t really mean anything to me.]

    Interesting. The walls around us shuddered suddenly, and a whining, mechanical buzz filled the air. It was a muffled version of the sound which had overwhelmed me earlier. We were taking off.

    I felt the blades whir into life, accelerating into a dizzying rotation. The ground below seemed to be slipping from my grasp, inexplicably fleeing from the corridors of my mind. I leaned forward and shot a glance out the window to my left, and saw the wreckage of the laboratory growing smaller and smaller in my sight. It was a strange feeling to be drawn away from the earth—it felt somewhat like missing a step, or, to use a more human analogy, like falling without ever hitting the ground.

    I leapt back up to the craft’s interlocking mechanisms, and found them moving together in exquisite harmony. And, yes—the chambers with the tiny, jabbing fists were pounding away at an absolutely absurd rate. The fluid seemed to disappear when struck—no, it was changing form somehow, violently, in fact, with a burst of flame—were those tiny explosions powering the machine? Yes, the force of the impact caused the fluid to explode into something more like air, over and over again in thousands of tiny bursts, and this movement was transferred to the blades of the machine. Let me remember, I told myself, never to underestimate the technological ingenuity of human beings. I wondered vaguely if I would ever come up with inventions as clever as theirs.

    Back to my conversation with Persian. “Your human-friend told me you would protect him with your life,” I said shrewdly, wondering how the creature would respond.

    Persian’s eyes lit up. [Yes, I would! He taught me how to kill anyone who wants to hurt him! And he told me some words that he would say if he was ever in trouble and I didn’t know for sure!] Suddenly Persian’s gaze was fierce. [You aren’t thinking of hurting him, are you?]

    “No,” I told him with a smile.

    [That’s good,] said Persian. [I didn’t think you would. I’m glad I don’t have to kill you.]

    “Indeed,” I said, with another slight laugh. I liked Persian quite a lot. Giovanni had been right, again: he couldn’t have been more different from me, barring physical appearance. It was obvious that he was not my intellectual equal, but I found myself enjoying his company. His way of looking at life was rather refreshing. For this distant cousin of mine, everything was either pleasant or forgettable. Nothing worried him; everything he wanted was immediately accessible. I almost envied him, in his cozy, innocent simplicity. But I knew that I was destined for greater things. His life could never satisfy me.

    Persian yawned again. [I am done talking now, I think. I am going to sleep now.]

    “Very well,” I told him. “It has been very nice talking to you, Persian.”

    [It has been very nice talking to you also, strange new friend Mewtwo,] Persian said happily. And with that, he curled around Giovanni’s feet and closed his eyes, still.

    I turned quietly to the window. Giovanni, meanwhile, was resting calmly and regally in his seat, arms folded gently in his lap, one leg crossed over the other. He seemed to be watching the opposite wall, yet his gaze seemed penetrating, intense, mercilessly focused. It was clear he was contemplating some scheme, grappling with its strategic details, weighing cost and profit. Smoothly etching his ambitions into the raw material of the universe. I wondered how he could be so at ease, so perfectly relaxed, and at the same time look so hard and rigid, as if he had been carved from the walls themselves. I wondered just what was running through his mind.

    From the window I could just barely see the island below, now a vanishing speck of stone, glowing with the remnants of the blaze like an ember in the sea. A rich expanse of deep, resonant blue surrounded it on all sides, threatening to engulf the lonesome spit of rock. The thick black column of smoke which emanated from that point seemed almost a cry of defiance, a final desperate claim on its own existence. The swirling smoke stretched black, tendril-like arms toward us, trying to seize us, perhaps, or to impart a message. I remembered the rush of elation I had felt when, starting that fire, and thought of the scientists I had killed. I wondered, not for the first time, what it meant that I had extinguished them.

    No. Giovanni was right. They were fools, and they were part of the past. Useless, unneeded—and if they still existed in some form, somewhere, then that was no longer relevant to me. We were on different paths now, and we would not encounter each other again.

    Yet, gazing at the tiny, ever-shrinking fleck of black amongst all that blue, I felt a strange, unexplained affection. For all that had gone on in that laboratory, it had been the place where I first discovered the world. Where I first encountered myself. Where the world first encountered me. And now I was leaving it behind me, with little likelihood of ever seeing it again. It felt like it literally was vanishing, being erased from the surface of the earth, just as it was receding into the depths of my memories. I could forget the men who created me, but never the site of my birth. Surely, with my unique qualities, with the glorious destiny that awaited me, some surge of energy must have centered on that point, some tremor in the natural world heralding a new entity’s emergence into the universe. There would always be a sense of sanctified power there; in a way, it had become holy ground. At least for me. If for no one else, then for me.

    I promised myself that, if I could, I would remember the way back here, so that I might revisit my birthplace one day. This would be a difficult task, to be sure, since there were no obvious landmarks beneath us: just an endless expanse of blue. But, out of the corner of my eye, I watched that blindingly bright orb in the sky. And I marked its position in my mind. I had no idea what the thing’s purpose or properties were, no idea whether it stayed in one place or twirled in circles around the sky. But deep down, I hoped it might one day show me the way.

    Keeping the light-source on the edge of my vision, I watched that speck of stone and its pillar of smoke grow smaller and smaller, until finally—they disappeared from sight. When at last there was nothing left to see, I couldn’t help but feel I had lost some part of myself that would never return. A nostalgia gripped me for the first, exploratory moments of my newly-begun life. And I wondered where my future would lead me.

    We flew on. Most of the trip passed without great incident. For a while I found it fascinating to gaze out the window at the dazzling, blue expanse beneath us, marveling at the way it caught the light of the orb above and shattered it into a thousand glimmering fragments, each winking at us as if it possessed unique life of its own. I remembered how the water had surged against the rocky cliffs of the island with the energy of a writhing creature, and I wondered: had those white-crested thrashings subsided, or were simply we too far away to make them out? I also wondered what was at the bottom of all that water: was there another layer of rock beneath? Or did it simply go on forever? Giovanni had told me the world was a sphere; perhaps this expanse was a glimpse of its watery core. What a fascinating thought!

    Soon, though, especially as the journey began to drag on, I grew tired of seeing nothing but a featureless, endless, sapphire surface. I had not realized there could be so much of it. I grew a bit listless, I admit, impatient with the journey. Just how far was it to our destination, anyway? I was suddenly glad I had not tried to fly from the island myself; the endless repetition might have driven me mad. Lazily, I reached down with my mind and tried to touch the water’s surface so very far below—much like a child, leaning back in a canoe, who lets her fingers run through the river, just to feel her craft fight against its pull, and marvel at the cool wetness against her skin. I thought I sensed some movement, some leaping shapes which splashed against my presence, but it was hard to be sure from such a distance.

    The sky proved more interesting: before long I started spotting strange white blobs moving about its pale surface. They were too far away to grasp, but my window provided an excellent view from which to watch them dance slowly about the sky. They seemed to mutate, twisting into odd figures, then breaking apart; merging together into massive forms that almost seemed to suggest purpose and meaning, yet never lingering in one shape long enough to bring satisfaction.

    I would have to ask Giovanni about these things at some point. I stole a glance his way. The look on his face was still startlingly intense. He seemed so raw in his concentration, so terribly focused, as to be unapproachable. As if any interaction would be an invasion. This was foolish of me, I knew. Childish, even. After all, we had just enjoyed a long, amiable conversation. Why did I suddenly expect him to reject me now? Perhaps it was that Giovanni seemed to eschew anything nonessential: with him, everything had to be done for a reason; every conversation had to fall into a meaningful place within his plans. If I broke his concentration for some trivial reason, he would rebuff me, I was certain. More than likely, he was bored of my incessant questions by now. Anxious for our relationship to begin auspiciously, I resolved to keep them to a minimum. So I watched the sky in silence, for a time.

    Before long, though, I realized that something strange was going on. As I sat there, gazing crookedly at the ephemeral blobs, a sudden pain in my lower abdomen gripped me. It was incredibly peculiar, and more than a little unsettling. I had experienced faint aches and other forms of discomfort before, but this seemed to be a grade more significant, somehow. It felt like something was grasping me from the inside. Even like something was moving inside me, almost—but that was surely ridiculous.

    I sent my awareness leaping into my lower body in an attempt to diagnose the problem, but couldn’t identify what might be going on. None of my organs appeared to have changed significantly since my last inspection of the area, and when I tried to identify where the pain might be coming from, I was forced to give up, dismayed. The entire space was too entangled, too interconnected, to pin my sensations to one specific source. Perhaps this sensation was nothing important, but then again, it might be a sign of some crippling failure in my body or mind; one of those genetic errors Giovanni had spoken of. There was no way around it. I would have to ask Giovanni’s advice on this one.

    So I spoke up, albeit nervously. “Giovanni…?” I asked hesitantly.

    He craned his neck around to observe me, looking rather bored. “Yes?” he replied, his voice calm and even.

    I briefly explained the nature of my problem. “…Do you have any idea what might be causing this?” I finished lamely.

    “Yes,” Giovanni said firmly. “I rather think I do.” He swung around to face me more fully, his legs against the side of the seat, his back to the corner. He fixed me with a steely glare.

    “What you are experiencing is hunger,” he said quietly. “Living bodies do not function without input, any more than a machine like this one can function without a fuel source. You will need to eat—that is, take in raw materials through your mouth— in order to continue to operate on a day-to-day basis. The purpose is twofold: the cells of the body require constituents for their construction, while at the same time certain molecules can be converted into the energy which allows you move about. The pain you feel is your body’s way of alerting you to these needs.”

    “…I have to put substances into my body?” I asked, unsettled. It was an extremely peculiar idea. I couldn’t conceive of how I might push them down into my interior.

    Giovanni laughed pleasantly. “You see why you need me!” he said, smiling. “For one so clever, you still remain ignorant of so many of the basic aspects of life. Even your own anatomy escapes you!”

    “And this is true of all living beings?” I insisted, pressing on. “They perform this…eating?” It was hard to imagine Giovanni doing something so strange.

    “Certainly,” he said. “It is not, in fact, very difficult. The body is built to eat and digest: it will quickly become natural to you, and then you may find it an enjoyable experience, as I do. Fortunately, you will find it unnecessary to eat very much. According to what we know of your physiology and your predecessor’s, your digestion should be extraordinarily efficient. For most meals, a simple salad should suffice.”

    His face grew suddenly grave. “There are, however, certain…other matters. Your bodily ignorance has been a matter of no small consideration to me. I will not allow it to become an embarrassment to me, or a distraction from your role in the organization.”

    His voice grew cold and quiet, his gaze intense. “I want you to listen to me very, very carefully. We are about to discuss matters which humans find incredibly distasteful. As such, I do not intend to repeat myself, or indeed, to return to this subject ever again in the future. We do not talk about these things. Is this clear? Do you grasp the import of what I am saying?”

    “Certainly,” I said warily.

    “Good,” he replied. “Digestion entails the extraction of certain products from food. Waste material is therefore left over. It emerges from the lower body at two locations: here and here.”

    He indicated which was which with the slightest twitch of an index finger in my direction. I looked down, uncomfortably. “This, too, will become natural to you in time. Human beings use receptacles in private chambers to dispose of these wastes, and do not discuss the process with anyone under any circumstances. You will be provided with one of these chambers, and I expect you to work out its mechanism for yourself. If, in an unusual situation, one cannot be found, alert me discreetly and I will arrange for your privacy. The utmost thing to remember is that the act must be performed in secret. I do not relish the thought of you becoming like your idiotic cousins, who have no concept of disgust. Do you understand all this clearly?”

    “I do,” I told him. The human species seemed rather melodramatic about hiding this particular need, but I could appreciate a certain amount of embarrassment on their part. It had to be almost as undignified as eating food.

    He seemed to relax immensely. “Good. Then we shall speak no more of it. Let us move on to subjects less…visceral. One further aspect of the body I intend to alert you to is sleep. Living beings do not operate continuously. On a regular basis, usually once each day, the body ceases thought and movement for a time, and lies still. Then it resumes its former wakefulness.”

    Strange and intriguing. And somewhat unsettling. “Why does it do this?” I inquired. I wondered if it would be too tangential to ask him what a day was.

    Giovanni shrugged slightly. “There are advantages. It provides a period of recovery from the stresses everyday actions inflict on its parts. It encourages the healthy growth of the brain, and allows it to organize the day’s experiences in memory. Or so run current speculations. From the data we possess alone, it is difficult to predict the amount of sleep you will need. It may be much more than humans require, or it may be a great deal less. We shall simply have to see.”

    “During sleep,” he continued, thoughtfully running a hand along the wall of the chamber, “you will dream. You will experience a series of scattered images and sensation, strung together with a feeble sense of purpose. These are illusions, and, for the most part, they will quickly fade from memory when you awaken. Accept their existence, but do not obsess over them, nor indulge in reliving them. They are simply the result of randomly firing neurons; the inevitable consequence of memory. I tell you of them only so that you may remain unsurprised and undisturbed upon your first experience of inactivity.”

    I nodded. An idea suddenly took hold of me. “Do these ‘dreams’ occur every time the body is incapacitated?” I asked. “Do they occur for all living creatures?” I was thinking of the strange experience I remembered right before my birth, the odd sensations of green and blue and white, of water and wind and sky. That shifting world had seemed so real, so significant, and Giovanni’s description seemed to match it perfectly. Was it possible the experience could have been the random, restless spiraling of my newborn brain, as it waited for my dormant body to awaken into light?

    But if that was the case, how did Mew come to be there?

    Giovanni, unfortunately, could offer me few concrete answers. “That remains to be seen,” he said slowly. “The research has been more or less inconclusive. Brainwaves suggest that some states, certainly, do not exhibit the activity associated with dreaming. Much, remains unclear, as dreamers cannot be trusted to evaluate their experiences objectively. But, as I said, I don’t wish to dwell on the matter. Sleep is an unprofitable subject of inquiry. Do not let it distract you. This is a tangent I do not wish to return to. I only bring it up now so that you may remain focused on your endeavors.”

    “On that note,” he said, straightening up, “is there anything else you need to ask before the subject is closed?”

    “No,” I said, entirely honestly. I believed I understood the basics of my own bodily needs well enough now, and could probably deal with any complications that arose on my own. I realized I had almost forgotten about my hunger, drawn into the fascinating conversation. I looked forward to the meal that awaited me. I didn’t relish the strange experience of shoving it down my throat, but it would be nice to have that particular need satiated.

    “I only wish to remark,” I told him, “that I find it astounding how many things there are to remember about the body. I marvel at you humans for keeping track of all of them so easily.”

    Giovanni smiled. “For us, they are simply part and parcel of everyday life. They predate our earliest memories, and accompany us into maturity. You have been brought into the world in a very unusual way, my friend. Forced to painstakingly learn each detail of the universe, one by one! It is not an experience many can attest to. Once again we find you a charmingly unique species, in every respect.”

    He turned back to the front of the room, and resumed his former position. He was silent for a few moments. Then, he said curtly:

    “We will be nearing our destination soon. Make yourself ready for the descent.”

    Giovanni proved to be right. I craned my head and peered out the window once more, and soon spotted a faint shape emerging hazily from the boundless blue. I squinted. Could this be another rocky island like the one we had just left? No, I realized as we drew closer. My birthplace had been a small fleck in the sea. The ghostly silhouette emerging before us had to be much larger; already its outline seemed to stretch across the entire expanse before us, yet it was still too far away for my mind to grasp. I watched the blue fade away, to be replaced by another color—green, I thought it was. A thrill went through me at the sight: there was something familiar about that color. Somehow it reminded me of richness and beauty, of a landscape full of splendor.

    And as we drew closer, I found my intuition had been right. The green shape grew enormous, of a size to surpass all imagining. I realized, for the first time, just what an island was: a fragment, no more than a splinter of the true reality, the mainland. This place was surely the home of the humans and Pokémon I had heard so much about; I did not doubt that it could contain their multitudes. Soon, I saw that the green mass was an covering of some sort which lay draped intricately over the land, rising and falling, creating exquisite shapes that twisted and rolled in a thousand different ways—like the white sky-objects I had seen, only motionless, solid and unchanging. It was nothing short of magnificent.

    We drew closer still, and I realized that the green layer was a myriad of tiny green particles, which waved gently, almost beckoning our arrival. I could feel these thin green flags rustling very softly as they touched the edge of my awareness; each one, I knew, was a distinct entity in itself, yet together, they produced the fantastic vision before us. They were attached together by thin brown rods, and when I looked more closely, I realized that the flags were but the crowning flourish of a series of brown poles, which emerged from the ground, grew straight for a time, and then branched furiously in their upper reaches. Standing together in a sturdy, steadfast assembly, these objects conspired to produce this spectacle, this—what? There had to be a word for what I was seeing.

    A layer of some loose, pale substance lined the edge of the land, and with considerable delight I saw the water raging against this barrier, relentlessly sweeping its surface again and again. Beyond this lay a coarser substance, green and brown, which seemed to mark the start of the area in which brown poles could grow. I realized that we were approaching these boundaries faster and faster, that we were about to cross the threshold from water to land—

    And suddenly we were past. The water and its pale border lay behind us for the first time. The rolling hills of green surrounded us, summoning us to our eventual destination. Through their tangled expanse lay our path ahead.

    We flew across this verdant landscape for a short while. I continued to dart among the branches, marveling at their unique contortions. Each of the pole-like objects seemed to have its own identity, its own personality, expressed in its crooked, twisted arms. I wondered if these things could possibly be alive. If they possessed awareness but no movement, I did not envy them.

    Before long, I saw new shapes emerging in the distance, rising over the green. They were rough, jagged-looking things—a row of sharp points standing imperiously over the landscape. Grey, squat guardians, they seemed, staring down any interlopers who sought to invade their domain. I squinted to try and ascertain what they were made out of. Was it stone? Then it hit me. These were mountains, just like the one I had seen in my dream. The one I remembered had been white, singular, magnificent. The world seemed to center itself around it. These smaller, darker peaks could only be trivial, rustic cousins to that greatness. Still, it was good to see mountains again. It made my dreams seem more real, more relevant in my newfound life. I felt almost at home at the sight.

    Then I spotted it. The glint of light on metal caught my eye. Hidden amongst the trees was an tiny iron cross. It seemed impossible to miss, rising up out of the forest like an invader, yet the moment I looked away, it vanished into the emerald landscape once more, and I was forced to scan the area for a moment or two before I was sure I had found it again. As we flew closer, the shape expanded into a massive metal citadel, laid out radially. Four rectangular arms stretched out from the center, where a square tower loomed high above the rest of the facility.

    Strange shapes adorned the roof of the building: four red kernels crowned the central tower, and each of the arms was tipped with a blue half-sphere. Were these separate chambers? Simple ornamentation? I had no idea. The very top of the tower featured all sorts of wires, antennae and other mechanical objects; one particularly large dish-shape seemed almost like an ear to me, save that it sprouted a long, thin spear, pointing directly at the sky.

    Human tools with which to master the world, I surmised. No doubt Giovanni had access to the latest and greatest in human technology. Some of these things might be weapons; others, tools for sending messages to distant allies. It was all tremendously exciting. I was eager to enter that base and encounter these devices for myself. We would probably enter through one of the radial arms, I guessed. Was there a hidden gate on the one nearest us? I tried to make it out.

    But Giovanni surprised me once again. I felt a sudden lurch as we began to descend, still some distance away from the base I hoped to call home. What was going on? I looked down at the ground, and saw it opening up like a jaw. I tried examining it with my mind, and started when I realized that the patch of land I had taken for a small clearing was actually no more than an illusion: metal panels disguised by a green and brown covering. And these panels were parting to allow us entrance! The dark space between them would, in a moment or two, grow just the right size for our helicopter.

    Giovanni caught my startled expression. “Secrecy is of utmost importance, Mewtwo,” he told me, smiling. “Let my employees use the main entrance. I intend to employ other avenues, so that it becomes more difficult to trace my movements. This is especially necessary when I travel with such eminent figures as yourself, who must move as secretly as I do.”

    I flushed with pride. He was right, of course: far better to have your own entrance, known only to your most trusted advisors, than to mingle with the rank and file who provided raw labor for your organization. Our organization. I reminded myself that everything was shared now, between us. This entrance, these strategies, would soon belong to us both. To the mighty dyad of Mewtwo and Giovanni.

    We slipped down through the hatch into a dark shaft. The walls were made of metal, as I had expected, and a burst of reflected light briefly shone through the side of our chamber before the hatch slid shut above us. We were plunged then into near-darkness; I shivered reflexively. The spinning blades above us had slowed almost completely. I watched Herrington pull several levers and adjust some dials on his left, radiating calm concentration. The light grew subtly brighter, and I thought I spotted motion below. Yes, those were humans, hurrying about, surely anticipating our arrival. A moment or two passed, and then—

    The craft shuddered beneath us, and the blades stopped. We had touched down.


    "All truth is simple... is that not doubly a lie?"

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

  12. #12
    Registered User CyberPika's Avatar
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    This is amazin man. I think is best in all of the Workshop.
    Pika to the mofoing Chu!

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    Moonlit Philosopher Dai's Avatar
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    @ CyberPika

    Wow, thank you! I'm flattered and flabbergasted! :D Very glad to hear you like the story so much! I hope you'll stick around for what follows!

    New part coming very soon.

    ~Dai


    "All truth is simple... is that not doubly a lie?"

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

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    Moonlit Philosopher Dai's Avatar
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    [CONTINUED:]

    Giovanni stood up almost immediately, a small smile rising to his lips. I quickly followed his example, half-expecting to crash my head into the ceiling; fortunately, the helicopter had just enough room for my full height. In a moment, the hatch unsealed itself, and Giovanni stepped out. Persian darted past him, slinking around his heels before he had time to take a second step. I had not even noticed Persian was awake. Full of nervous anticipation, hoping to meet my new destiny with grace, I followed them.

    We had arrived in another enormous, dimly-lit metal chamber. It put me in mind of the laboratory where I had been born—the familiar half-darkness gave off that same sense of hushed urgency, and just as before, many humans scurried about, bustling with purpose as they attended to their various tasks. But here, of course, I was among friends.

    The faint light, tinged with blue, came from a series of long, tubular lamps which lined the four walls of the chamber. These grew less frequent as one moved up the shaft, and when I gazed into the darkness above us, I thought I glimpsed the beginnings of the pathway that led back to the hatch at the surface. This suggestion of even greater height made the room feel even more impressively huge.

    But the humans were the first to catch my attention. A multitude of men and women, dressed in the same black uniforms as Herrington (who seemed to be staying behind with the vehicle) swarmed around us, buzzing with excitement. They greeted Giovanni, pressing up against the helicopter in a great throng, throwing a flurry of eager questions at him all at once. His assistants and servants, no doubt. He smiled magnanimously and stepped forward without saying a word. They followed, still murmuring. Then they caught sight of me and froze. With a sort of terrified awe they stared up at me, silently, until Giovanni gave them a deliberate nod, as if to say, it has all been taken care of. At this signal, their faces broke into nervous grins, and they seemed less afraid of me from then on, though they still kept their distance. I found myself amused at how easy it was to intimidate them.

    Giovanni continued walking forward, and I followed. The crowd—some of whom resembled the scientists that had created me, small and weedy and full of probing restlessness, while others, large and muscled, struck me as guardians, protectors of Giovanni’s life—this crowd swept around us on all sides like a cloak. Shielding us, it seemed, from exposure to the rest of the world. Not a bad way to travel, I thought, especially if you wanted to be safe from your enemies. Giovanni clearly set the pace here; he was the only one in the crowd who seemed to know exactly where he was going, and soon he stepped out into the very front, so that I, and all his scientists and spies and guardians seemed no more than some cape he was wearing, billowing out behind him in the breeze.

    I took one last look at the room we had landed in, and saw only a few lingering assistants tending to the helicopter, which rested on another version of the same red insignia all of them wore on their shirts. Then we passed through an enormous metal gateway, held wide open by two more black-clad workers, and before long, found ourselves in a long, thin hallway. I had no idea where we were headed, but Giovanni seemed to, because he took several deliberate turns as this hallway intersected with others, though each path seemed just as good as another to me. It was hard to shake the feeling that we would become hopelessly lost down here; that this was a maze of threadlike catacombs designed to madden the mind. But I trusted that Giovanni knew what he was doing.

    After a moment of walking, I spoke up. “…Giovanni?” I asked nervously.

    I had been trying to figure out how I would put this question to him for the latter part of the helicopter ride, and finally concluded it would be best to ask him when we landed. I was hesitant to bother him again, especially in front of all these people, but I sensed that it was now or never—we might not have another opportunity, at least for a long time.

    “Yes?” he said, very coolly. The humans around us watched us anxiously, unnerved by the sound of my voice and the audacity of engaging their leader in conversation.

    “…I wondered, perhaps,” I told him, stumbling slightly over the words, “whether you intended to remove that protective device on your ear. After all, we are no longer distant acquaintances. We have agreed to work together, and I have now become a guest in your home—I thought that perhaps we might have attained enough trust between us that you could remove it?” The other humans were all listening intently, and I said this last part very fast, glancing at them uneasily.

    Giovanni laughed his short, sharp, soothing bark of a laugh. “These things take time, my friend!” he told me, smiling widely. “Trust is not something one can build up over the course of an hour or two. It takes weeks or even months to establish, for it goes against every natural tendency to seek one’s own security. Your eagerness to join our company in earnest is quite admirable, I must say. But I urge you to have patience. All things come to the one who waits, and only by patience may the greatest goals be achieved. This is as true in interpersonal relations as it is in conquest, politics, or any other aspect of life.”

    His sharp, dark eyes met mine. “Do you see what I mean, Mewtwo?” he asked quietly.

    “…I believe I do,” I mumbled, after a moment. “That is entirely reasonable. I do not mean to interfere with the natural process of trust. Thank you for answering my question.”

    I wanted to tell him how much I trusted him, how I knew in my very core that he would guide me to my destiny, to the greatest understanding of my abilities and myself. I wanted to tell him that I had trusted him since the very moment we met, that I had always known he was my human counterpart and greatest possible friend. I wanted to tell him all that, and to ask him why, if I could trust him so deeply, why could he not extend the same trust to me? Why could he not believe in me as I believed in him?

    But I said nothing, because I knew he was right. It was one thing for a monster to trust a man, but quite another for a man to trust a monster. Giovanni could do me no harm, yet I was asking him to take down his protective walls and put his blind faith in a creature who could tear him apart with a thought. Who could destroy his mind on a whim. It was not fair to ask Giovanni to surrender his mind and body to me like that, not after so short a time together. What had I done to earn that sort of trust? I resolved to earn that trust from him, to make myself worthy of it. And in the meantime, I would trust him in turn, with all the conviction I could muster.

    We walked on in silence for a time, until we came to a certain small entrance, set into the wall. Giovanni stopped here, and put up a hand, upon which his associates immediately came to a halt behind him. He then turned to me.

    “A meal has been prepared for you, Mewtwo,” he said, casting a hand at the room which lay beyond the metal gateway. “You should find it more than satisfies your hunger. Take this time to familiarize yourself with the process of eating. I intend to consult with my employees for a moment, making them ready for your presence here. Sorting out your living arrangements, and other tedious tasks of that nature. Wait for me when you have finished your meal. I shall return shortly.”

    I nodded. I was grateful for the privacy. One of Giovanni’s assistants pulled on the handle of the metal flap and held it open for me. I quickly slipped inside, ducking down to avoid crashing into the frame, which had clearly been designed for humans. Inside the well-lit room, I saw a raised platform of an unknown substance, which rested on four thin poles. They seemed almost like legs, I thought, amused. On the platform sat two objects, each shaped roughly like a hollowed-out half-sphere. The smaller one was filled with a transparent liquid, while the larger contained a pile of loose green shreds, reminiscent of the green “flags” we had flown over on the way here. Upon closer inspection, small, hard, brown objects were scattered within. I sighed and accepted the inevitable.

    My first meal was, frankly, rather embarrassing. Only the third time or so that I swallowed a mound of green tatters whole did I realize that I could actually grind them up with my teeth. Thereafter I was able to enjoy the strange excitement of flavor on my tongue without the pain of forcing too much food down my throat at once, and grinding the little brown kernels to dust became a particular delight. Giovanni had been right—there was a certain natural rhythm to it. When the meal was done, I knelt down aimlessly beside the platform, waiting, just as planned.

    Giovanni reappeared almost immediately. The entrance was thrust open, and his face appeared in the opening. He glanced at the platform, then at me, and saw that I was finished. Then he motioned that I was to come along. I nodded, stood up shakily, and followed.

    I noticed that most of Giovanni’s entourage had disappeared. Only two stringy, scientific-looking men walked with us now, and they seemed intent on poring through the wealth of papers pinned to the boards they held in their hands. We walked through the dim hallways for a while, penetrating (I thought) deeper into the facility, until we came to a large, imposing metal gateway. At this, Giovanni smiled. One of the men took something out of his pocket, and used it to unseal the hatch, which rose up to the ceiling with a harsh, grinding noise. We stepped into the darkness, passing a set of metal steps to our right. It was a moment before I realized that the two men were gone, having darted up that pathway. Giovanni, Persian and I walked alone into the dark room.

    There was a bright spot in its center, some intense source of light highlighting—what was it? It looked like some sort of enormous machine. I glanced up, following the light-beam, and saw, set into the ceiling, a large pane of glass: a window, letting in the brilliance of that orb in the sky. As we walked closer, the thing in the center became easier to make out. It was definitely a machine of some sort, but I had no idea what its function might be. Eagerly, I ran my mind along the its contours, but still found I understood very little. It was absolutely enormous, taking up nearly two-thirds of the height of the room. In another space this might not have been so impressive, but this new chamber was dizzyingly tall—at least ten times my not-inconsiderable height. It seemed to rival the shaft by which we had entered.

    The machine itself intimidated; rising above even the railed walkway that crowned the wall to our left. But its bulk was spent mostly in height: it was the thinnest machine I’d ever seen, only slightly wider than the room where I’d eaten my meal. It seemed to be divided into several main parts. One was a large, bulky, brain-shaped blob at the very top, marked by lights and strange grooves. I wondered vaguely if this might be its power source.

    Beneath that lay a series of thin vertical cords and pipes, stretching downward like thin, brittle limbs. They seemed almost inadequate to affix the hulking upper mass to what lay below: a large boxy shape, with a large raised platform in front of it, built into the ground. From this lower part rose three thick metal limbs, which loomed over the platform as if to bestow a strange blessing. Altogether, it was a confusing, disorienting device. I hoped Giovanni might be able to explain it to me.

    Giovanni held out a hand, and we stopped right in front of the machine. For a second, we must have seemed an audience of three, spectators goggling at some circus exhibit. But I caught the gleam in Giovanni’s eye as he turned to me. He began to speak softly.

    “You wished to better understand your own abilities, Mewtwo?” he asked, grinning ferociously. “Your education begins this very moment.”

    He indicated the platform, which upon closer inspection bore a paler version of that same Rocket insignia. “I designed this machine entirely for such a purpose. All our covert research during your creation bore fruit in this apparatus. It contains—and will maintain and repair—a suit of armor, designed specifically for your use.”

    “…Armor?” I asked, uncertainly. I had not touched on the topic with the scientists.

    “A protective covering,” Giovanni explained. “It deflects the assaults of one’s enemies. I can already hear you scoff at the idea—but let me remind you that no danger is so unlikely that simple precautions should be overlooked. Your powers may not always save you. Furthermore, consider that armor will free up your awareness: rather than investing all your energy in defending yourself, you may turn it to other uses. Perhaps you might devastate a greater number of opponents at once, or take a moment to contemplate your next move. I assure you, armor will only add to your considerable might.”

    I wasn’t entirely sure this made sense, but it seemed best to take Giovanni’s word for it. “Is this armor something like clothing?” I inquired.

    Giovanni shook his head. “Only superficially. Armor is thicker and stronger. More durable, like a shell or a bone. These are natural armors; consider my gift to you a synthetic shell, a man-made replacement for the one your creators sadly failed to give you. You will have to bear some extra weight, but that should be a trivial concern for one such as you. And the advantages of such shielding should more than outweigh the burden of carrying it.”

    “How do I put it on?” I asked. I had a mental image of myself clumsily clambering in and out of a metal carapace.

    Giovanni let out another one of his sharp laughs. “You need do nothing,” he told me. “The machine is designed to handle every step of the process. Simply stand on the platform and face me. Then remain motionless as the armor is applied.”

    With some amount of trepidation, I stepped awkwardly onto the gleaming platform. I turned back to see Giovanni, smiling broadly, arms folded. Suddenly his face seemed shrouded in darkness. I held still, hoping not to ruin the process with any sudden movements. I doubted Giovanni would enjoy repeating the procedure.

    Suddenly there was a high-pitched whirring from the machine. Long, thin, metal arms snaked down from its upper reaches; I was reminded of the defense system I had fought on the island. Each of these arms seemed to be holding a large metal plate. The first two of them to reach me froze when they made contact with my arms. Then, with a click, each metal plate bent jauntily around my lower arm, sealing itself in place as the conveying arm retracted. Soon it was followed by others: triangular foot-guards bent themselves snugly around my ankles, a wedge slid down to cover the space between my legs, and a complex array of plates slid into place around my neck and shoulders. Last of all was a covering for the head. I tried to keep my chin upright as a metal helmet unsheathed itself around my skull, complete with a translucent visor which made the dark room even darker.

    Then the arms descended from above once more, bringing with them a mass of red cords, which plugged themselves into openings in the armor. These, I surmised, must fill the armor with some sort of energy. Perhaps they gave it the ability to supplement my psychic attacks in battle. I thought I could almost sense a strange potential rising within it at that very moment. Surging through the cords, radiating through my body. Suddenly it seemed enough to overwhelm me. I tried to follow this unsettling energy back to its source, sliding up along the cords to the holes where they emerged from the machine. My consciousness probed further and further into the distance. But something was wrong. Then I realized what was happening.

    I was going blind.

    Not in the human fashion. My eyes were fine; they functioned as well as could be expected in this borderland between bright light and eerie, lurking darkness. It was my mind that was malfunctioning. Where once I had been able to rove for great distances, leaping as I liked into walls and ceiling to explore their circuitry, I could now only just reach the top of the room. Before, I could easily have browsed the many intersecting hallways like some voyeuristic ghost, even glimpsed the outline of the building in its entirety. Now, I found myself railing against the edges of the chamber. Thick darkness pressed around the edges of my sight. A dull, choking silence resounded from all directions. My mind was trapped in a bubble of nothingness, and it was shrinking fast.

    I have to admit I started to panic. For a moment I was terrified, imagining that I was dying, returning to the abyss I had been born from. Then I thought that my ability to perceive the outside world might be disintegrating, dissolving into uselessness as Giovanni had warned me it might. Thoughts of Giovanni brought me back to reality. Hadn’t I been just as perplexed to encounter his distorted, radiant image for the first time? No doubt he knew something about what was going on.

    Yes, of course he did, I realized. I could have slapped myself for being so foolish. This new sphere of darkness had only descended when I entered Giovanni’s armor. Where else could it have come from? For some reason, Giovanni had chosen to give me a “gift” that drank away my mental resources. Perhaps it derived its power from my own, rather than adding to it; perhaps it could only defend me by clinging to my mind like some disease-ridden creature.

    By now, the sphere of darkness had shrunk to an odd cone of sorts. The space immediately in front of me was free from contagion for a great distance, while the rest of the world had grown murky and distant. Effectively, the space I could affect with my mind had been reduced to what I could see with my eyes. Behind and to the side of me, my field of view had shrunk to a small sphere—just enough to know if anyone was behind me, but no larger. I tried to tug a metal panel from the wall to my right, and found, to my horror, it had become exponentially more difficult, like swimming against rushing water, or pulling a heavy object uphill. I was furious. Why hadn’t Giovanni told me? Why hadn’t he explained that these protective plates would be such a burden to bear? Did he mean to douse my powers in darkness, to gouge out the greater part of my sight? I had every right to be warned. Had it simply slipped his mind? Had these negative effects somehow escaped his notice? I was about ready to throw the blasted armor on the ground and give up the whole business of wearing it altogether.

    Seething, I forced myself to keep my voice calm. Even vibrating the air had become ten times as difficult, now. “You say this armor protects my body,” I hissed, glowering at him. “That may be. Yet it suppresses my psychic powers!” What explanation could he possibly provide?

    Giovanni didn’t even blink. “Your powers are not being suppressed; they’re being focused,” he informed me. “I am sure you find this redirection of your strength uncomfortable, but rest assured that it is no accident. It is a deliberate part of the design of the machine. Accept it, and you will find it aids you in your quest to realize your own potential.”

    “I will not!” I shouted, still fuming. “Why should I sabotage my own powers? You thought I would take this calmly? My abilities are part of who I am! They are the means by which I navigate the world, by which I interact with it, by which I learn—”

    “They are a crutch,” Giovanni snapped, striding fiercely toward me. I flinched, unnerved by his tone. I had never seen him like this before.

    “You think that merely by observing the world you master it,” he snarled. “That by merit of your innate ability to tell a flea’s egg from a mote of dust at fifty meters, by merit of your power to splinter megatons of metal and glass in a heartbeat, you find fulfillment! You think that these abilities make you finished, that in them you find yourself, complete! You are wrong. You let yourself be satisfied with the simple, the easy, the basic. Inborn powers such as yours do not define an individual."

    “Then what does?” I whispered.

    Giovanni’s expression relaxed very slightly. “Skill,” he said, with a smile. “Innate potential means nothing if one slackens, idle and aimless. Your abilities set you apart, but they will wither if you do not make use of them, if you do not refine them into something greater. Do you think I would be half so successful a leader if I had not trained my mind for the task, developing my knowledge of the political landscape, binding my will into the economies of nations across the globe, rebuilding an inefficient organization into one that now holds the world in its grip?”

    He paced for a moment before me. “My intellect marked me as a unique man, but I had to act on that understanding. Many could have stood where I stand today; many Pokémon could fill your role in the organization. But none have, and none will. This is because we are unique in one other way: we act. We do not rest where we are: we seek more and more until we have attained true mastery. Other intelligent men, other powerful Pokémon have failed to gain what we have, and that is because they are cowards. Guileless fools. The power to build nations does not lie within them, because they flinch at whatever is difficult, whatever disrupts their lives and puts them at risk. They fail, always, to choose action. I have built my life around choosing action, again and again. That I continue to make that choice reveals that I am truly capable of forging an empire.”

    His dark eyes regarded mine. “What do you choose, Mewtwo? I had pegged you as one capable of choosing action over inaction, inner potential over stagnation. It would disappoint me very greatly if you turned out to be one of those lesser creatures who fear the pain of growing stronger. If you are incapable of that choice, then I fear we have very little to say to each other.”

    “That is not the case at all, Giovanni,” I managed, struggling to express what I wanted to say. “I am like you: I always make that choice to grow greater and stronger, no matter how difficult it might seem. Like you, I was created that way, capable of bringing my potential to its maximum, of being the builder of nations. If not, how could I be above all other Pokémon? But I confess I still do not quite understand. What does this have to do with the armor and my blindness?”

    Giovanni closed his eyes and smiled. “You do not understand how growing stronger works. Strength comes of pushing against greater and greater obstacles until they become trivialities. Everything was easy for you, in the beginning. Now the armor forces you to accept barriers, limitations. So you fight against these obstacles, finding ways to overcome your new weaknesses. You will grow stronger than you ever were before in your quest to reclaim that which was once easy for you. This is the way of any muscle: put it to work, and it will grow ever more capable, so long as you keep it in use.”

    “I promise you, the day will come when you are capable of the same great feats you were without the armor. Yet your might will have multiplied many times over in the process. Beneath your shell, you will have become unfathomably powerful. You will be virtually limitless; a radiant being of pure energy and will.”

    I quickly saw the beauty of what Giovanni was describing. I had always feared growing lesser, of losing my way, of shriveling up and dissolving into darkness. But what would it be like to become more? To transcend my own considerable power? I could scarcely even imagine it.

    We were silent for a moment before I spoke up again, this time more calmly. “You told me that you had plans for me,” I said carefully. “That you would teach me to master my body and mind. Is this what you meant by that? Or part of it?”

    Giovanni nodded. “It is a beginning, at least. Understanding your own nature will require hard work and deliberate effort. This armor is one means by which I intend to make that illumination possible. I see it as an education about your place in the world: you will learn from its twists and turns who you are. You will come to understand the purpose of your existence, not merely within the company, but in the world as a whole.”

    “My purpose?” I asked, surprised. “Do you not think that my purpose is world conquest? You told me I would fight at your back, usher our soldiers into victory, and claim the second crown of Earth on behalf of all Pokémon. Is that not the reason I am here?”

    Giovanni shook his head. “It was the reason you joined me, to be sure. But the reason you are here, alive and in this world, is something else altogether. I believe you are in pursuit of your place in this universe. You are meant to play a certain role in the creation of a new world. I intend for my regimen to be the road that leads you understand it. With time, your purpose will become clear.”

    “You think you know what it is?” I started to say. “Why not just tell me—”

    But Giovanni interrupted me. “Patience, my friend. Once again, I must advise you to wait. Do not make the mistake of thinking you can grasp everything from where you currently stand. Many things can only be fully expressed as the result of a process, as the end product of weeks or months of experience and examination. If I were to tell you what I expect your purpose to be, I might rob you of the opportunity to come to it naturally and understand it in your own time.”

    “…I see,” I said, biting back frustration. “Can you at least give me some hint of what it might be? Is there something you can tell me that will point me in the right direction, so that I do not waste my time chasing illusions?”

    He shrugged. “I can give you only one piece of advice. Bear this fact in mind at all times: every living creature on Earth seeks its own survival. Every man and woman, every creature of your kind, and every form of life down to the smallest insect seeks fighting, destruction and plunder. Should anything oppose their survival and their sustenance, they will kill it without hesitation. This is nothing new; it is simply the way the world works. To thrive in this world, you will need to learn to channel your potential into these avenues. Seek submission, compliance. Seek strength. Seek to accept this ugly universe and to grasp its ways. Only then will you find what you have been looking for.”

    Pacing again, Giovanni walked a few steps into the darkness, then turned to gaze at me once more. “And remember always, Mewtwo: the stronger will win.”

    He turned back to the darkness, raised a hand in the air, and snapped his fingers. A moment later, the red cords retracted from my armor, leaving me free to move about.

    “On that note,” he said, as quiet and serene as the moment we met, “it is time for your training to begin.”

    Giovanni and Persian strode over to an opening in the wall to my right. “Follow me, if you wish,” Giovanni said with a grin. “Already, you will have the opportunity to push against the limits of your powers and develop your strength. I have devised a program of exercise for you—what we might call a course of study, really—and I am eager to see how you well you respond to it. Won’t you join me? I’m certain you will find it of interest.”

    I hesitated for a moment, then nodded. Walking with the armor on was even more difficult than walking normally, but I managed to make my way off the platform and over to the aperture without embarrassing incident. We passed into a smaller, square chamber, where blindingly bright lights flickered on as we entered. I spotted another thin metal stairway stretching upwards to a doorway to our left, which appeared to lead to some sort of control room, set in the wall. From behind glass I caught the silhouettes of the two scientists who had been with us earlier.

    Giovanni indicated that I was to stand in the center of the room. As I walked over to the designated spot, he and Persian dashed up the stairs and joined the scientists in the other room. I peered up at them, awaiting further instructions.

    But Giovanni gave none. He simply stood there, arms folded, gazing calmly down at me. Then I heard a grinding noise behind me, and swiveled to look, damning my newfound blindness. A hatch in the floor had slid open, and something was now rising from below.

    It resembled a very small metal human, on a superficial level. The outline was right, but the details were off. It had no real face, just a head, body and limbs. I found it a bit disconcerting.

    “What should I do with this?” I asked Giovanni. I hoped he could still hear me.

    His voice came out of the walls, crackling with electricity. “Lift it into the air.”

    That was it? It didn’t seem a particularly difficult challenge. Then again, the armor was almost certain to interfere. I focused on the metal contraption’s hazy outline, and with a slight effort, plucked the thing from the ground. Yes, the armor was forcing me to focus more fully, and exert more force. But the effect was negligible. I had thrown around pieces of rubble many times the size of this thing at the laboratory.

    “Now what?” I asked, slightly distracted by the weight of the thing, pressing on my mind.

    “Move it about,” Giovanni told me. “Spin it in midair; drag it through the space above your head. Get a feel for how your powers function under the influence of the armor.”

    So I spent some time playing with the strange object in midair. I sent it spiraling around the room; I made it loop in great figure–eights through an imagined sky like some winged animal. Pushing against the haze induced by the armor added to the excitement: I thought I could feel myself growing stronger and stronger as I fought off its grip on my psyche. Per Giovanni’s instruction, I touched the metal human gently to each of the walls, ceiling and floor in turn. Then he had me take it through several more journeys around the room, going faster and faster and faster, before putting it down on its feet.

    When I had finished, Giovanni’s voice crackled through the walls again. “Very good, Mewtwo.” He sounded impressed. “Now we begin to amplify your training. The robot will now begin to move of its own accord.” He made a motion to the man to his left.

    Indeed, no sooner had he done so than the robot sprang into motion. Lamps where human eyes would be began to glow fiercely, and it started to move toward me at a steady walking pace.

    “What should I—” I began.

    Giovanni’s voice cut me off. “What would you do if this was a real opponent, running toward you in an attempt to rip off a limb? Stop it from reaching you, by whatever means you deem necessary.”

    The robot was almost upon me now, but I thought I knew what to do. I grabbed it, watching its legs flail uselessly in midair, and threw it against the wall. It crumpled there, sparks flying from its motionless frame. I realized I had broken it.

    “I am sorry—“ I started to say.

    But Giovanni sounded delighted. “No need. We have very many.” The panel the robot had fallen on retracted into the floor, and in a moment, a whole robot rose to replace it.

    “Now, faster. Try to preserve this one if you can.”

    The robot rushed toward me, but I caught it even faster this time and pinned it, wriggling, to the far left corner.

    “Again. Faster.”

    The robots grew more and more eager to get at me. They began ducking around me, trying to approach me from behind. But I outwitted every one of the mindless machines, even as they became breathtakingly, unnervingly fast. I laughed in triumph as I forced the last of them to the ground, kneeling at my might.

    I thought I caught Giovanni grinning from behind the dark glass. “Now,” he told me, “let us test you on a different kind of defense.”

    The robot suddenly shot a tiny orb of an unknown material at the wall. What had appeared to be a hand was in fact some kind of launching device. I picked the small sphere up and gazed at it. It seemed harmless, but I was quick enough to guess what was going on.

    “You would like me to deflect these attacks as well?”

    “Indeed,” Giovanni replied. “Imagine the plastic pellets as your opponent’s attack. Suppose an enemy were to shoot a burst of flame in your direction, or hurl a barrage of stones. What would be your reaction? Demonstrate for me how you would deflect such an attack.”

    The robot shot a steady stream of pellets at me, but I quickly grabbed them and hurled them right back along the same trajectory. Then I froze the mechanism which launched them from its arm, so that it could only twitch helplessly. It stopped after a moment, and I let it go.

    “Good,” said Giovanni smoothly. “Now defend yourself from the projectiles as the robot approaches you.”

    Ah, I thought, grinning. I see how this is going to work.

    We continued our training. The robots became faster and faster once more, as did their projectiles. At first I simply snatched the pellets out of the air as before, but as the assaults grew more vicious, I found it necessary to employ quicker, more effective strategies. I found new ways of deflecting the spheres, altering their flow so that they slid harmlessly around me, or using a massive pulse of air to bounce them back at the robot.

    As the day wore on, Giovanni led me through a thousand different tests of my psychic abilities. It was always a thrill to discover what situation he would run me through next, and I delighted in the knowledge that I was getting stronger and stronger. I thought I could feel my strength rising in my body, pulsing like heat. I fought two robots at once; three, ten. There were robots that flew through the air on their own power, so that I had to overcome their resistant motion to press them into submission. There were enormous machines with claws like blades, that forced me to fly into the air and subdue them from behind. Soon I was ducking and weaving through small armies of metal opponents, scattering them this way and that as they all tried to pound, shoot, whip, or otherwise incapacitate me. The only hits I took were negligible, and I made my robot foes suffer for every one.

    We continued in this fashion for quite some time, until Giovanni announced that he, and his assistants, intended to eat. He asked me if I was hungry. I admitted I still felt sated from my last meal. He nodded, as if he had expected this, and informed me that we would resume the training when he was finished. The four of them then turned and filed out of the room as one, while I rested, leaning heavily against the wall. In a moment I was alone.

    I let myself slide down the wall into a reclining position, panting heavily. I realized that my fur had grown thick with sweat. I could only lean back and rest, half-laughing, half-moaning with newfound aches. This mental strain was definitely a form of exercise, exhausting me completely, though I had barely moved the rest of my body. There was a certain pain to persisting so long in these efforts, but then again, there was also a sweet pleasure, which sang in my entire body. I closed my eyes and tried to relax. Giovanni had been right. There was nothing in the world like this experience. Nothing like building up your own might by battering yourself against the walls of your weakness.

    By the time Giovanni returned, I was more than ready to resume. My body no longer ached; rather, it seemed full of energy, poised and ready to launch or accept the next blow. And Giovanni was quick to begin issuing instructions again. First he led me through a review of the last session’s lessons, in which I once again dodged blows from multiple opponents, darting through the chaos while dealing out vicious bursts of devastation. Then he began to teach me a different technique, challenging me to lift large metal lumps of different weights. Here I began to struggle again—as we progressed from bricks of what I would later discover was steel to increasingly larger bricks of lead, I felt my concentration slipping, and my telekinesis severely tested. But I persisted, and Giovanni forced me to lift the final gigantic lump over and over again until I could do it with ease.

    He laughed with delight when he saw that I had mastered it. Then he consulted one of the men standing next to him. The man gave a quick nod, and Giovanni turned back to me, his voice once again echoing over the speakers.

    “Mewtwo,” he told me, “we have something rather more powerful in mind for you. See if you can test your mettle against it.”

    I looked at him curiously. Then I heard another harsh grinding noise as a hatch in the wall to my right unsealed itself.

    “Proceed down that hallway and stop when you emerge in a large enclosure,” Giovanni said silkily. “We will await you there.” With that, the men turned and left again. I did as I was told and headed down the corridor.

    After a few moments of walking, I found the hallway opening into an enormous room that stretched far off into the distance. Had I not known we were still underground, I might have thought we had somehow wandered outside again, so vast was the space before me. I could dimly make out the ceiling, covered in glowing panels which gave the space a faint light, but the opposite wall was too far away to get a good look at. The room seemed to be some sort of storage space: in the distance I spotted rows and rows of bulky silhouettes. I squinted. What were they?

    Then I recognized one of them: it was a helicopter, smaller than the one that had brought me here, but nonetheless the same kind of machine. That suggested that the other objects were also devices for transportation. I looked around the room, and saw more helicopters, along with many other machines I didn’t recognize. Some of these had four or more circular objects along their lower part ; others seemed to have some sort of pad running around a platform on either side. I wasn’t sure how these things worked, but it seemed clear what they were. Each had a glass panel somewhere on its front, and, behind that, one or two seats from which a human could surely pilot the machine.

    As I wondered why I had been brought here, Giovanni’s voice called out to me once more. I turned, and saw him descending a metal stairway to my left, Persian following merrily along in his wake.

    “Mewtwo!” he hailed me.

    “I am here,” I told him.

    He nodded. There was a restless energy about him now; he seemed terribly excited. “My associates have gone to the control chamber for these vehicles,” he informed me, grinning. “However, they will still be able to monitor our activities. I will signal them when you are ready.”

    “Ready for what?” I asked nervously.

    He waved a hand at the army of machines. “Your next opponent.”

    I stared out at the rows of machines. I was going to fight one of these things? Or, perish the thought, more than one?

    Giovanni caught my nervous glance. “You are more than capable of it, I assure you,” he said breezily. “The last few tests have made that clear. Step out into the room, and stand before the vehicles when you wish to begin. I will be waiting here.”

    With more than a little trepidation, I walked out into the center of the empty space before the machines and started out with them. A few seconds passed. I realized, in a sudden flash, that the clearing was no accident: it had been set aside for our battle.

    And at that very moment, a motor roared into life.

    Lights flashed on in a machine somewhere to my left, and it snarled like a wild beast as it pulled out from the line of vehicles. It swerved viciously to face me, and for a moment we stared each other down, two enemies about to charge at each other on the battlefield. The machine was colossal, a massive orange-yellow heap of metal and chrome. It wielded a giant claw in the back, and in the front, a sharp-looking metal plate, which seemed poised to crush me against the wall.

    Suddenly the moment of stillness passed, and the behemoth launched itself toward me. I realized that the sides of the machine were spinning, pulling the twin pads around in an enormous circuit. The vehicle was making its way toward me by crawling on these treads.

    But I had more pressing things to think about: I had to do something to stop it from hitting me. And fast.

    I clenched my jaw and concentrated on the machine as I had never concentrated before. I reached out to grab it, to take its entire mammoth bulk into my mind and make it my own. The vehicle fought ferociously against me. It wanted to keep surging forward with all the power of its relentlessly churning engine. But I pushed back. Every time I thought that the machine would slip past my defenses, I redoubled them, sweat beading on my brow. It became a strange tug-of-war between us; it was almost like keeping one of those metal slabs from falling.

    Seeing that I realized what I had to do. I slid my mind beneath the machine, holding the rest of it carefully in place, so as to keep it from gaining any ground. Then I threw myself into lifting it into the air. Gritting my teeth with the effort, I managed to push the front of the behemoth a tiny way off the ground, so that it seemed to be rearing up absurdly on its hind legs. The back end of the treads flailed anxiously against the ground, trying to keep the machine moving forward. At this point, the machine was threatening to roll over onto its back. But I wasn’t finished. I slipped my mind beneath the rear part of the treads as well, forcing them into the air. I was able to relax very slightly—the machine was no longer able to move forward. Now the whole vehicle hovered very slightly off the ground. I almost thought I could feel it pulsing with the energy of my intentions.

    I dragged it further and further into the air, until it rose above the rows of vehicles like a badly-made helicopter. I was sure Giovanni was watching with great interest, but I didn’t have the energy to look at him. Each increase in height brought another burst of tension. I was nearly doubled over from the effort of it, by this point. Each new ascension was painful, but terrifyingly exhilarating. This was my doing, this was my own power unleashed, and I remained an unequaled entity, a deity among Pokémon, even with the armor’s weight upon me. I laughed out loud, delirious and half-insane with the effort of holding the machine. But it was staying up.

    Whimsically, I decided to smash it like a robot. I pulled it toward me for a moment; then, with a last burst of energy, I launched it in a graceful arc to the side of the room. It crashed into the wall with a horrifying noise, and slid down in shambles. It sparked briefly, and then its treads stopped moving and its lights went out. I sighed with the pleasure of feeling my own body again.

    I noticed that I had made something of a dent in the wall. Perhaps flinging the thing had been a mistake. But Giovanni was striding toward me with a broad grin that could only be called a look of triumph.

    “Do you realize, Mewtwo,” he said when he reached me, “that you have successfully reduced a bulldozer to scrap metal?”

    “Is that good?” I asked, wheezing.

    Giovanni’s smile was sly. “Considering that this model weighs approximately three tons? I would say so, certainly.”

    He gazed at me for a moment. “It bodes extremely well for your future with the organization, Mewtwo. I hope you appreciate the significance of what you’ve just accomplished.”

    I nodded weakly. I was still trying to get my breath back.

    “When you are ready, return to the previous room,” Giovanni said quietly. “I will be waiting there. I believe you will be able to get in a few more rounds with the robots before the day is through.”

    I nodded again, and watched my partner stride back to the rear of the room, up the stairway, and out of sight.

    When we resumed, I was glad I had taken some time to recover, because Giovanni continued to put me through my paces. Among the robots he introduced this time were a group with what he called “electric shock weapons” for hands, and several which launched blistering flames. From the first I learned to sense the strange energy that was electromagnetism, and how to manipulate it, make it work as my ally instead of my enemy. From the second, I learned about heat, and how to alter its path—how to cool the space in front of me as a defense, how to manipulating the temperatures and air currents around me. By the time we finished, I was dodging flames, sparks, and pellets all at once, and when Giovanni declared we were done, I collapsed in exhaustion once more. But I was filled with a fiery pride.

    I walked with Giovanni back to the chamber where I had first donned the armor. The world suddenly seemed hazy and strange. It seemed as if there were multiple meanings flying around through my mind, obscuring each other. Scattered sensations lingered randomly on the edges of my awareness. My own emotions and thoughts no longer quite made sense to me.

    “I am finding it difficult to focus,” I told Giovanni, as I walked blearily beside him. “Everything is distorted, somehow.”

    He laughed softly. “That is no surprise. You are tired, my friend, and you have been working hard for the entire day. Your body is weary, and it is time for you to sleep.”

    “I suppose that makes sense,” I said weakly. “Tell me, what is a day?”

    “In theory,” Giovanni said, “the amount of time light remains in the sky. In practice? The amount of time one can remain awake.”

    He stopped as we passed the machine in the room’s center. “We will have to recharge your armor tomorrow. It is, perhaps, lamentable that we did not have the opportunity today. Then again, our time was certainly well spent.”

    Giovanni turned to me. “You will spend a great deal of time in this machine, allowing your armor to recuperate—though I daresay it will be a time of recovery for you as well. This is simply the nature of the machine; there is no other option. Consider it an opportunity for you to learn to practice patience.”

    I nodded again. A question occurred to me. “Will I take the armor off when I sleep?” I asked.

    “No,” Giovanni replied. “It will be your companion at all times. You must make integrate it fully into all of your activities. Treat it as a sign of my continued assistance, even when I cannot be with you in person.”

    “I shall,” I yawned, stretching my arms and tail widely.

    We set off for the back of the room. There was, I discovered, another gateway hidden back here, cleverly disguised in darkness. Giovanni escorted me inside. It was the smallest enclosure I’d seen yet, but then I supposed that extra space wasn’t terribly necessary. A long, soft mat lay on the floor, large enough to take in my entire frame. On the wall behind us sat a small peg which pointed down at the floor at an angle; Giovanni flicked it upward, and the room was suddenly illuminated by a lamp set in the ceiling. There appeared to be another small room to the left.

    Giovanni pointed at its entrance. “In there you will find the waste disposal facilities I mentioned earlier. I trust you will work out how to use them on your own. There is also a mechanism for washing and drying oneself, as I will need you to keep relatively clean. Are there any further questions about your living arrangements?”

    “No,” I told him. “I believe I understand everything. But tell me, how does one go about sleeping?”

    Giovanni gave a quiet smile. “One simply lies down in the darkness, eyes closed, and waits patiently. Again, it will come naturally to you.”

    He began to slip out of the room, then turned back to me. “And once again, I urge you to pay no attention to the dreams.”

    As Giovanni began to close the entrance to the room, Persian slipped out to stand beside him. “You will be woken when we are ready for you tomorrow. I expect your fullest energies and attentions then.”

    “Of course,” I said. He nodded and closed the door. I was alone again.

    I made a quick, cursory inspection of the two rooms, looking over the waste and cleaning mechanisms. I was too tired, however, to figure out how it all worked. Right now, lying down on that mat sounded like the most wonderful idea in the world. So I turned off the light, reclined, and began to wait.

    Thoughts raced through my head for a time: what would my next awakening hold? What would it be like to dream again? What were Giovanni’s long-term plans for my abilities? How long would it be before I could do without my armor, and Giovanni his shield? I didn’t have any answers, nor could I come to any real conclusions. My brain was full of hopes and anxieties, all of which seemed to rise to the surface only now.

    But, after a little while, my thoughts ceased their restless churning. My weariness overtook me, and I gladly shed the day’s concerns and considerations for a quiet sort of oblivion.

    I slept.
    Last edited by Dai; 17th January 2012 at 10:45 PM.


    "All truth is simple... is that not doubly a lie?"

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

  15. #15
    Registered User CyberPika's Avatar
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    Great chapter. I like Giovanni.
    Pika to the mofoing Chu!

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