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  1. #31
    Dai
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    Three: Wilderness

    “Not until we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.”
    —Henry David Thoreau, Walden

    “...Despising,
    For you, the city, thus I turn my back:
    There is a world elsewhere.”
    —William Shakespeare, Coriolanus, Act III, Scene II.

    “Before beginning, plan carefully.”
    —Cicero


    You wake
    From dreams of wind
    And rain
    And shade
    Of darkness,
    Silence,
    Depth and stillness,
    Of great mountains,
    Vast seas,
    And forests that stretch on beyond imagining,
    To find yourself
    Drifting
    Once again.

    Here,
    Far beneath the sky-bright world,
    The waters rock you gently in your slumber,
    Their touch a lover’s caress.

    Slowly,
    The dream slips away.
    You return to the realm of solid forms,
    Of light and color and sound.
    You begin to sense things again—
    The swirling currents of your fluid world,
    The vivid hues—
    Soothing, ever-present
    Blue
    And startling
    Violet.
    And shapes, too, suddenly warming to your touch:
    The sandy floor
    That brushes the tips of your toes,
    The hidden stones,
    Lost to those above,
    The great twisting arches and peaks of rock,
    The sea-grass
    That waves back and forth
    Anchored at its root, peaceful, serene,
    And you,
    Resting at the center of it all,
    Coiled up into yourself like a hard kernel,
    A nucleus,
    A quiet point in a landscape of motion.

    And all around this scene
    Float little orbs of white:
    Bubbles
    Streaming up
    From
    Deep
    Below.
    They spin and dance,
    Here transparent,
    Here shining brightly,
    Some gathered in great clusters,
    Others isolated and lonely.
    There is a certain symmetry
    In how they all move as one,
    Yearning for the same destination.
    Up, up!
    Is their cry.
    Their common destiny:
    To meet with the surface,
    To transcend the threshold above.

    And as you watch the fragile globes
    Make their journey upward,
    You realize that you, too
    Are rising—
    The rock and moss
    Slipping away
    Beneath you,
    The lakefloor fading
    Into the blue.
    Your eyes slip
    Open wider, and you see
    How you and the bubbles now move as one
    And you cannot help but
    Laugh!
    Out loud
    At the strangeness of the scene.

    But why not?
    You, too
    Are a fragment of energy,
    Carried by the sea,
    You, too
    Drift to sights unknown
    Breath moving through you
    Filling you from soul to skin.

    As you ascend,
    Your gaze rises with you,
    And you behold the surface,
    Dazzled, delighted,
    Light dances down from above,
    And once again it seems to call to you,
    Infusing you
    To your core with life.
    It seems to promise some message,
    Some revelation—
    And at once you know you must reach it,
    Merge with it as the bubbles do,
    And learn to call its wisdom
    Your own.

    Before the thought is even through,
    You have done it:
    A splash heralds your arrival
    Into the world of brightness.
    You let the waters
    Slip back into place
    Below you,
    And your bubble breathe itself
    Back into the atmosphere.
    At last, you uncoil—
    Stretching your body out freely
    In the open air.

    But the bright light still
    Beckons you,
    Calling you to action.
    Suddenly you understand:
    Your journey is not over.
    You must travel onward
    For somewhere awaits for you
    A task to be done,
    A journey to be undertaken.

    As you gaze up
    Toward the light of the sun,
    You catch yourself in midair,
    Stop yourself
    From falling backward into the waters.
    With a burst of energy,
    You spin around
    And point your journey upward,
    Letting the blazing brightness
    Guide you on your way.

    You press on,
    Faster and faster,
    Letting the winds rush past your fur,
    Leaving the world below you far behind,
    Past the rivers, the lakes—
    Past the thick forests with their rippling green—
    Past the mountains—
    Past the clouds—
    And you soar, with rising fervor,
    Into the sky.


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

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

  2. #32
    Dai
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    I'm back! Sorry I took so long about it. I hope I didn't drop off the face of the map for too long! Really, I should have posted this earlier, since I've had the opening poem to Part Three ready for a while, but it took me a while to decide to give you the poem by itself. I don't think the first proper section (ie: Mewtwo-centric section) will take too much longer, but I was frustrated with making you wait any longer. I think the next section will be up soon.

    It's exciting to finally begin Part Three in earnest! I don't think it will be quite as long as Part Two was, and I'll try to keep it moving along relatively quickly. I've got it mapped out pretty well, so I think I've got a good sense of the scope. Then Parts Four and Five will take us through the climax, and Part Six will basically be a wrapping-up of sorts.

    I may be tweaking some of the earlier parts as well. I don't think I'm going to bother to alter them here, but you may notice some changes on the AO3 archive. Mostly I think I'll be trying to make the opening parts a tad long-winded, as per Data_Error's suggestions. Inasmuch as that's possible for such a long, thinky opening scene, anyway. Wish me luck!

    I'll try to be back with more as soon as I can.

    Yours,

    Dai


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

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

  3. #33
    Dai
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    [CONTINUED:]

    There it is, at long last. I am done with Giovanni.

    It is strange. For a long time I was afraid to revisit this part of my life. Fearing, I suppose, that to remember Giovanni would bring his ugly world back to me. That he would stain me with his evil and dredge up the part of myself that I most deeply despise.

    Then I began to write. And all at once I found myself caught up in the thrill of reminiscing, surging along, shaping my memories into text. And the more I wrote, the more I was able to see both the good and the bad of my time with Giovanni. I was able to admit that in ways it had been wonderful and delightful—how could it not have been, since the pain of losing it was so severe? And at the same time I was able to see that in context, to recognize the signs of Giovanni’s treachery in my moments of victory. And I remembered what it had felt like to have the truth leap out at me from Giovanni’s mind like a venomous serpent, and I was able to accept a little of my excess anger and woe. All this has helped me and healed me.

    When I began the second part of my tale, I imagined it would take as long as the first. I had no idea that it would stretch underneath me, multiplying with new insights, hidden moments of clarity, things that I had long forgotten, yet which shaped me into who I am. At times it was frustrating, agonizing. I just wanted to break away from that man again, to set him behind me for good. But I suppose half a year or so of one’s life cannot be summed up in a paltry little account. Not if one is to learn something from the telling. Not if that adolescence forms the key to everything which happens afterward.

    Now, I have finally reached the moment I awaited for so long. It is told, and I feel…how shall I put this? Empty. As if the only reason I wrote was to see this part of the tale to its completion.

    No doubt this stems from the sheer amount of time I have spent on this part of my life. I breathe a sigh at having finished, yet my work is not done. There is still so, so much to tell. I feel inadequate to describe the rest. And yet I know I must.

    I have not always been able to give this tale the time it deserves. There is much to do here, most of it tied up in travelling and watching over my small band of ragtag outcasts. My younger self would laugh at what paltry activities occupy my time, at how simple my desires have become. So be it. I am tired of ambition. It seems to me now to be no more than a web to ensnare the arrogant. A tool for descending into madness.

    Last night kept me very busy until the early hours of the morning. A dispute had broken out once again between several of my children. Each brought me his complaint that the other was dangerous, disruptive, encroaching on his territory. It seems each had independently discovered the same small grove of fruit trees. Now each wanted the other to leave the grove alone and concede it as his territory.

    As the conversation went on, it quickly devolved into threats. One vowed to slice the other’s throat with a swift blade, the other vowed to shatter the first’s jaw with a well-placed kick, and so on. It was only with great difficulty that I managed to make them see reason and agree to leave one another alone for the night. I told them that I did not approve in the least of this asinine posturing, and furthermore, there was no point to it. I reminded them that this was no time to think of territory: we were still on the move, and would be for quite some time. Anything we found here would have to be left behind soon.

    They grumbled and made vague insinuations at each other for some time more, but eventually they gave in to my logic and agreed to let each other be for the night. I hope they will hold to their promise. Sometimes I think their zeal to be superior to the rest of their kin overpowers their good sense.

    Perhaps that is why I find it difficult to revisit my journeys in the wilderness. It is all too clear to me now that my aspirations were little more than an empty grasping for importance, a lust to shape the destinies of the world, little different from the raw appetites that grip my more rustic companions. All that is left of that lust in me now is a bitter, searing taste, like ashes.

    But that was part of the point, after all. I am not the creature I used to be. And I began writing this tale to understand why. Why I gave up that life, and what could have compelled me to enter into it in the first place.

    So I hope that you will pardon me if I dive back into my arrogance, my missionary zeal, my cruelty and mania. Only by looking at them clearly can I come to understand myself.

    I remember very well how bright my life looked to me that first night. My dreams were lit up like the face of the moon. I had finally found my purpose, and it filled me to my very core, surging through me, giving me life. I had rediscovered the world: at long last it made sense, revealed as an intricate structure with me at the center, an epic tale in which I brought the forces of good to victory. If the truth was missing from my grand scheme, I did not see it then. I saw only the new world I would create.

    I watched the sun slip away beyond the horizon, its light reaching across the waves like a shimmering spear. The clouds gleamed orange and pink as it descended, and the sky shone a brilliant, alien fuchsia. The circle of blinding light seemed to dissolve into the ocean like a burning ember. It seemed so small now, so fragile. All at once, it was gone, and all that remained was a last hint of color, reaching up from the edges of the sky, slowly fading to the dark, deep blue of night.

    So it begins, I thought.

    But how best to begin it? I knew it would take a great deal of forethought and planning to eliminate the human race. That I had no illusions about. Yet I knew I could not afford to wait. An entire generation of Pokémon, trapped in servitude, was counting on me. My plans had to be made as soon as possible.

    I sat down and tried to think. What were the logistics of this extermination? What did I need to accomplish before I was ready to set out?

    I knew that I could not simply fly into a human town and begin tearing things apart, as satisfying as it might seem. Not if I wanted to bring about any lasting change. However many human settlements I destroyed, it would not take long for word to spread to other human settlements—for the planet teemed with the disgusting creatures, swarmed with them like maggots—and between their scheming minds, they would come up with a way to take me down.

    No, by the time I began my first campaign against them, I needed to be far more powerful than that. My offensive needed to be strong enough that humans would have no chance to regroup before they were annihilated. To wipe out one city a day, even, would be too pitiful a goal for this effort. I needed strength that seared across continents, swift as a purifying fire.

    So, I needed to build myself up in some way. In a human war there would be armaments, weapons, devious tools like land mines and mustard gas. I would surely require nothing less.

    And like human generals, I would not be alone in this effort. As soon as I told them of my revolution, Pokémon everywhere would leap at the chance to join me. Some would be frightened and intimidated at first, of course. But I would soothe their fears, and show them that to sacrifice their lives to the cause would mean freedom for their descendants for an eternity to come.

    First, though, I would have to find someone to discuss the matter with. Not a soul breathed here but me. I was alone on a rocky island, surrounded by heaps of rubble, and for now, that was all I had to work with.

    Still, that might be a beginning. I considered what resources lay at my disposal. I had a powerful, well-trained mind, and a keen intellect. I had a spry and healthy body. I had some understanding of the landscape around me, and I could travel very easily if I needed to, certainly more easily than most. I had a decently-sized island all to myself—no small thing—and a very great quantity of salty water. On the ground lay the cast-off helmet I had brought here: perhaps if I studied it, I might be able to learn something about the energy fields which had suppressed my powers, and thereby develop a defense against weapons like Giovanni’s.

    And then there was all this rubble to consider. I lifted myself up and began to hover just over it, gazing at the ruined objects which lay within. There was metal here, and glass, and wire, and a number of charred bodies—I would have to dispose of them at some point—and ash and poking hints of substances I could not readily identify. All of these might be useful to me in some way. Here and there, I saw scattered bits of other, more unusual things: papers that had been on some scientist’s clipboard, tools like wrenches for fixing the now-vanished machines, the congealed remnants of the fluid that had once sustained me.

    I found myself intrigued by this. It seemed very likely to me that the scientists had left behind fragments of their research here. Surely not all of it could have been destroyed. If I could find any objects, any information that had been preserved that had to do with me, it would mean a great deal for my own health and safety. I could keep myself intact in dire situations, find out things about my body that Namba and his assistants had not wanted me to know.

    But as I sifted through the ruins, I found that there was not much that I could make use of at the moment. A few half-functioning machines, here and there, a few cast-aside papers marked with those odd scratches humans used as a code. I noted these things, but I could not divine their meanings: I saw them, but I did not see the larger picture. I was unable to put them into any sort of meaningful context yet. That would require a great deal more sifting. Further research, and further time.

    Never mind. A preliminary examination was all that was needed for tonight. I would soon inspect these ruins further. There would be time. There would be plenty of time.

    It was starting to get cold. A slight gust of wind moved through my fur, and I shivered. I had never spent much time outside at night before. I could only recall a few occasions, all of which had involved me riding around in the back of a warm van, far from the cold of the night, given only glimpses of the night sky. And I had always been an hour away, at most, from the warm rooms of headquarters and the comforts of a soft, cozy cot for a bed.

    How long had I been lost in thought? The sky had gone black. Astoundingly black. There was not even a trace of ethereal light on the horizon. Not a single streetlamp, headlight, or advertisement drowned out my view. I felt as if I could get lost in that darkness forever.

    And the stars, my god, the stars! I was used to thinking of stars as tiny pebbles of brightness, peeking out dimly from a bluish sky. This was nothing of the sort. This was a field of stars, growing like grain; this was a great, teeming stellar ocean heaving up points of light. They were so bright, and there were so many of them: there had to be thousands—no, millions. Perhaps even a billion. I could scarcely believe that the sky could hold this many stars. Gazing out into their multitudes, for the first time I felt as if something was out there, beyond the sky. I felt as if I stood on the edge of a precipice, almost. Apprehending for the first time the immensity of the universe.

    I watched them for a long time, marveling at how the brightest seemed to sparkle like jewels, like crystals suspended in the heavens, how they seemed to form patterns, this one a two-legged figure, this one a cross, stretching out vast arms. But I was tired. It had been something of a long day. My thoughts were coming blearily, and I needed sleep.

    I keenly felt the absence of any kind of bed as I lay down to rest. There was not even the threadbare old cot to which I had grown so accustomed. I tried to soften some of the rock around me, breaking it into fine dust, but it felt more like rolling around on gravel than anything else, and it stuck in my fur. So, with a sigh, I abandoned the crushed rock, and lay down on the hard, flat stone. It was stiff and awkward, but I felt a certain savage pride in it: I was forcing myself to live without ugly human comforts, making do with the natural world as my brothers and sisters did. And furthermore, I no longer had to wake up to the crushing weight of the armor.

    It was a bit of a chilly night, and I was often cold as I lay there, working my way toward sleep. I did my best to warm myself: nothing around me seemed to have any interest in catching fire, having all burnt to ashes long ago. So I contented myself with making pulses of heat in the air whenever I felt cold. They would linger in the air for a little while, long enough to keep me from feeling frozen.

    I caught glimpses of the stars passing overhead, marveling at how naturally they flowed from one side of the sky to the other, like a river coursing right over my head. The spiky shape that had been to my left before long made its way over to my right: every time I opened my eyes, it had leapt another small distance. I was suddenly conscious of the fact that I was on a great globe, turning as it moved through space: we were all spinning around forever in circles, and I was lucky enough to witness it.

    My thoughts on the stars and the world soon mingled with snatches of hazy memories, and then faded away altogether. Exhaustion was quick to hit me, and my tired body and tired mind were more than ready to receive it. Despite the chill and the hard, rough rock, I slept.

    I must have dreamed, but I have forgotten what strange and hazy images entered my head, that first night alone. But I recall the emotions that ran through them: they seemed to continue the long chain of experiences that had so overwhelmed me in the last twenty-four hours. The urge to plan, to make sure everything was in order, my rising fury at the species that had betrayed me, and the sense of loss, that everything I had known had come crashing down—yes, it is hard to say where the night ended and the dream began. But I feel certain that I saw both Giovanni and Mew that night, tumbling through my slumbering mind. And I know that I clung even more tightly to my goal as I dreamed of all that had passed.

    I awoke stiff and grumbling. Bits of rock had stabbed into my back as I slept, and my tail had slipped under me in a most uncomfortable position. Someone was shining a bright light directly into my eyes. What was it? I squinted, then had to look away. Ah, it was the sun—I should have expected it—crawling up from the horizon like a luminous bug. I opened my eyes, stretched out my aching limbs, and forced myself to my feet. If the sun could get up, so could I.

    I felt tired, even though by any estimation I should have felt rested. The fitful sleep, I supposed. It seemed rather unfair. My stomach gave a sudden sharp pang, and I realized that I had not eaten in for some time. I was hungry—incredibly hungry. And I doubted food would be easy to procure on this rocky shore.

    Another thing to figure out, then. It occurred to me that I had a great deal to attend to today. Last night, I had reveled in making grand, glorious plans, free to dream up ambitious, even impossible schemes, knowing that they lay far in the future, that I would straighten them out when I had more time to think. Well, here I was. Now I had to face the reality of making plans. I had to figure out their logistics. How to bring them to fruition.

    I was splashing some seawater in my face—it stung a bit—when I heard the noise. A faint—what was it?—whirring or buzzing. It seemed familiar, dredging up some kind of memory—

    And then I stopped moving, realizing what it was.

    I snapped my head up toward the sound, and I sent all my awareness speeding toward the tiny black dot I saw in the sky. Sure enough, it was a familiar black helicopter.

    I flinched, and cursed myself. Of course Giovanni would want to find me. I was all he had left. Of course he would think of looking for me at the island. I had, stupidly, decided to establish myself at one of the few places to which Giovanni might guess I felt some affection. But I refused to flee. This damned place was mine, and I refused to let the bastard scare me.

    But neither could I compromise my location. I tried to think quickly. It would be wonderful to simply drag the helicopter with its occupants screaming down out of the skies and bury it at the bottom of the sea. But I realized such a plan would be more trouble than it was worth. The Rockets would be keeping tabs on the helicopter and its mission. If it went missing—especially if a certain leader was on board—it would immediately alert them to my location, dashing any hope of secrecy. The best thing to do was to try to find some way to hide.

    I glanced around wildly. Beneath a pile of rubble? Deep in the ocean? Absurd. But I had very few options. It took me only seconds to decide. Hoping that the helicopter was still far enough away to miss my presence, I tore a great chunk out of rock out of the surface of the island, pushing rubble out of the way. Then I compressed the great mass of stone into something flatter and denser, a smooth slab of sorts, making sure to leave the surface pocked and irregular.

    I glanced at the odd pit I had made. Well, I thought. Now or never. I leapt into the hole and lay down on my side, then pulled the slab over me like the cover of a tomb. I punched a tiny, undetectable hole for air, then lay there to wait.

    Someone else might have felt trapped. But I felt in control. I had hidden myself completely, with such minimal effort. Yet only my eyes were lost in darkness. My mind could see everything it needed to. The entire island, the sea that dashed it, the airspace above and around it: all of these were as clear to me as daylight. Fear had left me completely. All I needed to do was wait.

    The rock I rested on was slightly uncomfortable, but I could deal with that, as I had last night. I was more interested in its properties. This was interesting stuff, and very easy to work with. It seemed so solid and reliable, yet it moved like putty through my grip. It had been so easy to carve this little hole for myself.

    As the helicopter slowly drew closer, I toyed with bits of stone, picking at the walls of my dark little cave. I could perhaps expand on the hollow, carve some sort of chamber into the rock. It also seemed like it would make an ideal defensive fortification. I knew other materials, like iron, were stronger, but stone walls might work well as a starting point. And their decorative qualities were worth considering as well.

    When the helicopter finally reached me, it proved no great problem to deal with. I laughed when I saw that it possessed only one occupant: a lonely pilot, slowly scanning the island with a certain amount of reluctance. Giovanni had not even bothered to make the journey himself. That came as a relief. If he considered this excursion beneath his notice, then he obviously did not think it likely he would find me here. No doubt it was a whim, an exercise in exhausting every possibility.

    I reached up to the man, and thought I recognized him—had his name been Herrington? Yes, I remembered I had once felt reluctant to invade the hidden corners of his mind. What embarrassing squeamishness. I should have recognized long ago that this was war, that every human was my enemy.

    He was wearing one of those psychic shields, but it put up a laughable defense against me. It was tricky, I admit, to break the tiny device at such a distance, but after a moment of fumbling around I managed it without much stress. After that, it was easy to leap into his mind and possess it like a vengeful ghost. I filled his head full of soothing notions, telling him that he had been right, that there was absolutely nothing to see on this godforsaken island, that these efforts were a waste of his time and his salary. He was a toy in my hands, a puppet, ready to repeat my dialogue to Giovanni, and I sent him on his merry way.

    When the helicopter had gone completely from my perception, I leapt out, full of glee. Not even the tiniest speck could be seen in the sky. I was safe. Something told me that Giovanni would try this trick again before too long. He was not the type of man to give up easily. But next time, I would be ready for him. I could use this little chamber as a trapdoor, ready to dart into it at a moment’s notice. I would hold off on building anything here until I was completely sure Giovanni had forgotten this place.

    Now I could attend to my other concern: my stomach felt like it was twisting around inside me, and every so often, it would emit a strange squelching noise. I was still absurdly hungry. I would have to find somewhere to obtain some food.

    I took to the skies. There was no point in looking on that barren stub, as much as I liked it. I ate something very like leaves, I knew. I needed to find someplace where there were plants and trees and life. Someplace decidedly greener.

    After flying around for a while, I was able to get a good sense of the surrounding archipelago. Not far from me were a handful of islands, most a good deal larger than my own. Some were little more than large stony stubs with beaches , but a few seemed to glisten with rich foliage from the air. I picked the largest, most impressive of the lot, and headed toward it.

    Before long, the shape of the place became clear: it was a roughly crescent-shaped isle, host to a large, welcoming bay. As I flew lower, the crescent flattened out into a beach of gleaming white sand, lapped by gentle, white-tipped waves. Lush green hills rose above these shores like miniature mountains. Soon I could see the forest clearly, catching sight of its trees, its green leaves rustling in the breeze.

    I landed on the beach, letting my toes sink into the sand. The grains clung to my fur, but it was nonetheless a pleasant sensation. I took a look at the marvelous scene that surrounded me. There was an entire world to explore here! I walked along the beach a while, letting the water splash at my ankles, watching it wash away my trail of footprints.

    Then I headed in. Past the beach, the soil grew darker and rougher, so I began to hover through the trees. Now that the forest surrounded me, I realized how much it moved and shook, how alive it was. Creatures were darting about all around me. Small insects chirped on the forest floor and buzzed through the air past my face. But there were bugs of my kind as well: I saw several Ariados skitter up the trees beside me, young Spinarak in tow. One of them shot me a suspicious look before disappearing into the canopy.

    And there were all sorts of furred creatures moving through the foliage—was that the white tuft of a Mankey, swinging past me? To say nothing of the enormous variety of bird life: I caught glimpses of Pidgeot, Farfetch’d, Noctowl, and brightly plumed creatures I could not even recognize. It was a spectacular menagerie.

    I tried to catch their attention, but most of these creatures were moving past me too quickly to make much note of my presence. A few turned their heads to look at me as they passed by, but when I called out to them, hoping to receive some kind of greeting, they made no answer, but simply skittered away. Perhaps they were simply too busy, caught up in the constant activity of daily life. Or perhaps I was too strange and alien, even frightening. Perhaps they did not speak to outsiders.

    It was not long before I made my way to a clearing, where the light of the sun at last burst fully from the trees. There were green shrubs and bushes here, and few brightly-colored flowers bloomed over to the side. I seemed to have left the denizens of the forest behind me. Scattered gnats and other insects danced around me, but nothing larger poked its head out through the trees.

    It occurred to me that all this exploration, while delightful, had only postponed the end of my hunger. Now seemed as good a time as any to do something about that. I sat down cross-legged on the grass, and reached out with my mind to the leaves of the nearest tree.

    I really had no idea what I was doing. Giovanni had always provided my meals. Not once in all my learning had anyone ever given me any indication of my particular nutritional needs. At least I knew that I could survive perfectly well on plants alone: my meals had always consisted of green, leaf-like shreds and some kind of hard brown nut. In theory, there ought to be something similar here.

    Tentatively, I sampled a leaf. It had a rich, biting flavor that startled me, and I nearly spat it out in alarm. But after a moment I had to admit it seemed simply a more exotic version of the greens that I had eaten in captivity. Everything else about it appeared the same. I wolfed a few more down, and started warming to the taste.

    Before long I was making a game of trying different objects in the forest, guessing at how they would taste. I soon found that the leaves of some trees were definitely better than others—I made a note of these—and that their bark was not to my liking in the least. I sampled shrubs, blades of grass, even flower petals (a bit leathery, as it turns out, but flavorful nonetheless.) I kept looking for bushes that bore the hard nuts I had once eaten, but found none. It was only later that I realized that trees bore them. But I did discover, with great delight, the island’s abundance of fruit-bearing plants. What a marvel it was to break the rough exteriors open and discover sweet, wet, succulent food within! I admit I gorged myself on these, as well as the berries that lined some of the bushes on the island’s northern side.

    I also considered sampling some interesting brown-and-white mushrooms I spotted on the forest floor. But something about the first taste made me suspicious. It was just as well that I did not, that first day. A few weeks later, I finally relented and tried a few. I spent the following evening vomiting them up into the ocean. I wish I could say that my psychic powers helped me to deal with this painful experience, but in fact, attempting to use them on my stomach just made the pain worse. It taught me something about eating strange foods. From then on I made a habit of asking around about any new vegetable I wanted to try.

    But for the moment, I just enjoyed my strange, spontaneous meal. Any worries about obtaining the right kind of meal faded into the delight of being able to choose, for the first time, what I wanted to eat. It was immensely gratifying. After I felt satiated, I continued to wander through the forest, with no real plan, simply relishing the natural world. I marveled at the rush of the wind through the trees, at the shapes of the bark, at the scurrying forms around me. Everything was so real, so close, and I could explore it at my leisure.

    I was beginning to get some sense of the island. The bay where I had entered was the flattest and sandiest part. But on the opposite side, the land was steeper: stark, rocky cliffs jutted out over the ocean. I seemed to be moving uphill at the moment, which made sense: I remembered how the green knolls rose up from the island like guardians, how the land at its center was the highest and grandest.

    Before long, I was greeted by an impressive view that confirmed my ascent: the forest broke open for a moment to reveal the sweeping landscape far below. I could see where the beach met the shining ocean, and I could also the patches of scrub and rock that stuck out from the trees. It felt very good to be exploring the world like this. Seeing places I had never seen before, gazing at them from different angles. Learning to call nature my home.

    It suddenly struck me that I needed to urinate. I gazed around wildly for a second, full of worry and confusion. What was I supposed to do? There were no toilets here, not even the slightest trace of plumbing, so where on earth—

    I could have kicked myself. This was not the attitude of a free Pokémon. It had been Giovanni who persuaded me that bodily functions were something dirty and embarrassing, that I should undertake them in secret and discuss them with no one. Why did I still insist on internalizing his insanity? Nature was open to me, now. Like my brothers and sisters, I could relieve myself anywhere I liked.

    I went back into the forest for a moment, and squatted beside a tree. It felt very good, I had to admit, to let the warm liquid flow from my body to the ground, with nothing human in the way. I felt so raw, so alive. Free at last, from absurd human propriety. Purging it from my body like waste. Ready to engage with the world on my own terms, to rule myself as I saw fit.

    I left the trees with immense satisfaction a few moments later. Then I stopped in my tracks at the edge of the forest. Three spiny little Nidoran were staring at me, their eyes wide. They stood there, twitching their noses at me for a moment, goggle-eyed, looking for all the world as if they had come across some nightmarish wraith. Then, as one, they turned and dashed away from me, darting back into the forest some distance to my left. I watched them go, somewhat confused.

    Then a voice broke out from my other side. [Don’t mind them,] it cawed.

    I turned to see a glossy black Murkrow sailing down onto a rock to my right. Spreading his feathers wide to slow his descent, he landed deftly on the stone and tucked his wings neatly behind him.

    [They’re just surprised to see someone new,] he told me, cocking his head to one side. [Infants, you know. Scared of anything that doesn’t remind them of their mother’s nest.] He laughed a loud, braying laugh. [I’d bet you just arrived here, am I right?]

    “That is correct,” I admitted. “I just landed on your shores today, and I have been doing my best to explore this island, since I suspect I shall spend a great deal of time here. But I am surprised—I thought—”

    [You were expecting to see a bit more local color?] he asked, with a sideways grin. [Get to talk to the natives right off the bat? Nah. That’s not how the world works. You’ll find we’re a friendly and reasonable bunch here, but nobody trusts an outsider until he’s spent long enough here to prove himself. Especially a strange, flying, broody creature who looks like something between a Hitmonchan and a purple Arcanine.]

    I flushed. Already they knew more about me than I did about them. “So you have been watching me?” I asked.

    [Yeah,] he said. [Nothing personal. We’ve just got to look out for our own, you know? Find out if you’re going to eat our eggs or steal our young or just do nothing but sit around and eat the leaves off trees. Dangerous to take risks out here in the wild, and we’re pretty self-contained on this island. We do our best to keep any dangerous element like human beings out of our territory. I’m sure you can understand.]

    “I am delighted to hear you have no truck with those despicable creatures,” I told him. “But I can assure you, sir, that I pose no such danger to you.”

    [Probably not,] he said, with a sly expression. [You seem harmless enough, if strange. But who can tell after one day? Now, after six or seven, then maybe I’ll have come to some conclusions.]

    “At least you are willing to talk with me,” I told him. “I was afraid I would pass the whole day without encountering someone who did not run away from me.”

    He laughed again. [Well, I’m an odd bird. Don’t have much respect for conventional wisdom—that’s part of why I live out here. Maybe I’m just foolish enough to gamble. Maybe the rest of folks here are too smart for their own good. Never have any fun.]

    “But you do think that others will be more conversant in the future?” I asked. “I would very much like to learn about this place from its inhabitants, to grow familiar with its people and their customs.”

    [Oh, yeah,] he replied amiably. [Just give them a little time. It doesn’t take too long for folks to warm up to you, once they see that you can be trusted around their haunts and nests. Of course, some of them will always be a bit suspicious, but you can’t do anything about that. Just keep an eye out for those—and you’d be surprised how many there are—who seem interested in what you’ve got to say.]

    “Indeed,” I murmured. “As it happens, I have a great deal to say, about humans and related subjects. I have many ideas that I would be glad to share with you and your fellow islanders, once we have grown to know each other better. I think you will find that my insights may help you understand your current situation, and provide some measure of overcoming it.”

    [Ah, so you’re a beast with a crusade, then, are you?] he cackled, looking keenly at me. [Well then, this ought to be something to see. You’ll make a fine addition to the island. We’re always happy to argue about something or other.]

    I was about to respond to this, but I noticed that the sun was growing lower in the sky. “I may have to cut this conversation short, I am afraid,” I said. “I would like to explore more of the island before nightfall.”

    He nodded. [Sure, sure. I’m always busy, too. Treasure doesn’t hunt itself. And I’m meeting a fine young Pidgeotto at sunset. Later. I’m sure I’ll see you around.]

    And with that, he flew away, disappearing above the trees.

    I spent the rest of the day wandering around the island, earnestly examining its contours, its foliage, its soil and substance. Trying to memorize every feature. I did my best not to look too out-of-place when strange Pokémon cast me suspicious glances, despite the embarrassment. I hoped it would not be too much longer before I could feel welcome here. Finally, the red gleam of sunset caught my eye. I gathered up a few more bundles of leaves and vegetation for an evening meal—by now I was growing hungry again—and made my way home.

    It had been an interesting day, I thought, munching on a few aspen leaves. I had achieved very little, this first day, with respect to my larger goals of conquest. But I felt satisfied nonetheless. I had found something I had not known I needed to be looking for. I had not expected to find this island, but I knew it had been useful to me. And I looked forward to seeing what the future might bring.

    Over the next few weeks, I spent a great deal of time on that lush isle, exploring its contours until they were as familiar to me as the rocky spit I called home. I soon grew familiar enough with its rich sources of vegetal food that it became easy to swoop by one of the fruit groves whenever I was feeling peckish. Sometimes I would gather vast bundles of leaves and shrubs and carry them home, where I had expanded the little chamber I had hollowed out so as to stockpile a week’s worth of nourishment there. But more often than not I let these hoards run out. Gathering meals gave me an excuse to visit the island and its inhabitants—always a pleasant distraction from my other cares.

    Just as the Murkrow had promised, I found that the locals did gradually warm up to me in time. For about a week or so I endured their stares and suspicious glances, but after a while, a few creatures, particularly braver ones like Pinsir and Fearow, began to greet me amiably as I passed by. Before long, I was even able to regale some of them in conversation. I answered a few of their questions about my origins and what sort of creature I was, and they listened attentively, and told me a few stories about life on the island.

    I wish I had paid better attention. I was so wrapped up in myself, then. I think I missed a great deal of what others were saying to me, too eager to tie everything back to my own life with a clever reply. Now their stories, once remembered, drift away from me like dust.

    But I do remember how these conversations brought us closer together. No longer was I the outsider, but a guest, perhaps even a neophyte, being welcomed into a long-practiced way of life. Soon almost all the Pokémon of the island were happy to answer my questions about their lives, their habits, their thoughts on humankind—unless they were guarding their nests or some particularly prized piece of territory. Then they would turn abruptly aggressive again, and I would have to back away. But for the most part, I became a familiar face to them. I was treated as a resident of the island rather than an invader, and for that I was grateful.

    The stories they told spoke of basic concerns: finding food, and a trustworthy mate, and making sure that their children would hatch and survive to adulthood. Grand theories about the universe had little place here. For many, survival was a more pressing concern. Yet I still found those who found time for a certain curiosity about the universe, who asked me about things like clouds and sun and stars. But they did not obsess over the intellectual meaning of these things as I did—not when there were so many obstacles to living to the next breath. I admired their simplicity and their candor. They reminded me to focus on the immediate, to keep myself from getting lost in my own machinations.

    The islanders also told me a great deal about the other, smaller isles which surrounded theirs, almost all of them just as rich with vegetation and life. Many of the locals, particularly the avian Pokémon, had visited these places or had relatives there, and they encouraged me to see for myself. I leapt at the idea, eager to know the realm I had made my home.

    Soon I had a very good sense of the entire archipelago and its inhabitants. There were even a few interesting surprises: like the tribe of Magnemite and Magneton who had escaped their human captors and taken refuge on an iron-rich island to the northeast. During thunderstorms, they gathered at its peaks and fed on the bolts of lightning that could be cajoled down. They could more than sympathize when I told them my stories of human cruelty.

    Not long after finding their rocky shore, I spotted a familiar speck in the sky above my own island.

    This time I was more than ready for the helicopter’s approach. I leapt into my hidden chamber, which had more than tripled in size by now, and lay in wait, snacking on exotic flowers. I had been watching the skies for days now. I felt completely calm.

    When the machine was almost overhead, I reached up into its interior and found none other than Giovanni himself sitting there, Persian prowling at his side. The man looked utterly bored. After a moment he got up and walked into the cockpit to lean aggressively over his pilot’s shoulder. But he, too, saw nothing of interest out that window. Only an island covered in rubble.

    It had taken me only seconds to break the device. I realized with astonishment that its patterns were as easy to understand as ever: Giovanni had not even bothered to alter the device’s mechanics in the least. He really was exhausting every possible option here, wasn’t he? Yes, he was, I saw: once I looked into his mind it was clear that he was frustrated, furious, and tired of chasing asinine theories across the continent. He was truly on the verge of giving up.

    I could work with that. You poor bastard, I thought. It must be so difficult for you. I took these emotions and multiplied them a thousandfold, let them suffuse every corner of his brain. I filled his head with the futility of the quest, reminding him that he had a great deal of other things to attend to, and, incidentally, wasn’t it time he began to question his competence as a leader? I dragged him into a miasma of self-loathing and doubt, and watched him wallow in it.

    When the helicopter turned around and disappeared into the blue sky, I knew it would not be coming back.


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

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

  4. #34
    Dai
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    I'm back! Sorry for the delay, but here's fourteen pages of Mewtwo for your enjoyment. Ideally, there's about three or four more updates this size to go in this section.

    I hope you enjoy Mewtwo's journeys in the wilderness! I'll be back soon with more.

    Dai


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

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

  5. #35
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    [CONTINUED:]

    I had done it. I had escaped from Giovanni’s prying eyes for good. Oh, the two of us might meet again, somewhere down the line: I imagined that his gang of Rockets might be among those who made a last-ditch, desperate effort to preserve humanity when their kind succumbed to my revenge. Oh yes, I could just see him there, shouting out strangled orders to his forces in the rain and muck, as I tore them apart. How sweet it would be to mock him as he had mocked Mendelson, to break him as he had broken so many others! That day would surely come. But for now, it was a relief to have him out of my fur.

    It made a great many things easier. Now that no one was watching me, it was time at last to make a few changes. Time to do a bit of cleaning, and to find out what secrets, if any, awaited me on this island.

    I glanced over the black and ugly corpses which littered the island. I had grown quite used to their presence. Almost fond of them in a way, as they reminded me of what I had accomplished here. Still, they were dross, dead bodies that could offer me nothing more. And besides that, their twisted faces were an eyesore.

    I gathered all of them up into a dark, charcoal-like mass and pitched it into the ocean. I figured they had been dead too long to float. Sure enough, they disappeared beneath the waves in moments.

    Now to explore the wreckage. I had glanced idly at the laboratory’s ruins several times since my arrival, but I had always been reluctant to perform a thorough investigation, lest some alteration give my presence away. At last, I could finally dig in.

    The first thing I noticed, hovering over the heaps of debris, was that most of it was composed of metal of some sort or another. There were also many sharp fragments of glass, and here and there a snarl of rubber or even a splinter of wood. Of course, it was all mixed up in a terrible fashion: exposed wires poking out from computer consoles, bits of glass still clinging bitterly to dials. But these diverse materials seemed to contain a great deal of promise. If I could separate them out at a later date, I could perhaps build things from them. Great things. Weapons, armaments, fortresses. Suddenly it no longer seemed like rubble, but something waiting to be awakened.

    I began sorting things into piles, one for snapped girders and other large chunks of metal, one for glass, one for things that needed to be broken up into their components, one for things that looked unusual or interesting, and so on. Thus did I explore the last remains of my creators.

    It took most of the day to sift through all the material, but it was satisfying, engaging work. I kept running across familiar objects: was this the floor of the tube in which I had been born? Was this a panel from one of the great, circular machines? Before long, I could put the broken objects together into a mental picture of how the laboratory had been constructed; I even gained some sense of how my assault had scattered its components across the island. Looking each of the shards over, one by one, was like reminiscing: each object seemed like a step back into my youth.

    The pile of unusual things grew rapidly, too: there were all sorts of objects I could not identify. I suspected some of it might be medical equipment, with which one could modify a creature’s genome. But I had no idea how any of it functioned. Perhaps the most intriguing objects were these small, rectangular reams of paper, some bound with a metal spiral, others stuffed into a strange spine of sorts. Most of them were blackened and burnt beyond any use, but a few had escaped the flames. There were even a few metal crates containing stacks of these papers.

    I squinted at the strange shapes. All of the sheets of paper were covered in that strange system of markings humans seemed to use to remember things. I could make little sense of it myself. I turned the paper around skeptically, looking at it from various angles. Would this be of any help to me, or was it just a curiosity? Without the method for interpreting it, it seemed more like the latter.

    As I continued to pick my way around the island, I came across an odd little trinket. It was a black, oblong machine about the side of my hand. At one end a little silver jut emerged. Inside the device lay a dizzying array of electronic parts.

    There were several buttons on its side. I picked the object up and pressed one of them. Nothing happened. The machine had run out of power. No matter: I knew how to use my mind to put energy back into such machines; I had done it all the time as part of my construction work. I recharged the device’s tiny silver batteries, and tried again.

    This time, there was a beep, and immediately an unfamiliar female voice spoke to me. “Loading recorded message,” it said placidly. “Now playing recorded sequence.”

    Then there came a voice all too familiar—it was Vincent Smith. His voice was high, frightened, breathy. He stumbled over his words as if he could not put them behind him fast enough. I could hear screaming and noise all around him. Astonished, I sat and listened.

    “I don’t have much time,” he blurted. “I pray this record of our experiment survives. I’ve uploaded all of our information here, every bit of it. Everything about the creature we made, and the cloning process we perfected. I hope that it will be put to use by better, wiser men than we were. I beg of you, remember us, now that we are gone. Remember our brave experiment: remember that we carried on the cause of science to new frontiers. Remember—“

    There was another explosion, and Smith sped up his monologue. “A year ago, we discovered a fossil that proved to be the remains of the ancient Pokémon, Mew. There was sufficient genetic material to replicate Mew, but Giovanni, who funded our project, insisted we try to design superclones more powerful than any living Pokémon.”

    He was slurring his words badly by now; I struggled to hear. “Many attempts failed, but finally our experiments proved successful. We produced a living Pokémon. We called it Mewtwo. But for some reason the creature’s anger is out of control. With its psychic powers, it is destroying our laboratory. It’s a massacre—I don’t expect any of us will escape. Take the data, take the Pokémon we made with our own hands, it’s all over—forgive us—”

    There was a sudden silence followed by a rushing sound, and I realized that it was me, diving through the flames , that this was the moment before I killed him, and he had still been speaking into the machine, sounding far away—

    “We dreamed of creating the world’s strongest Pokémon. And we…” There was a familiar cough. “And we succeeded.”

    There was a terrible noise, and then nothing but the crackling of the flames.

    Of course Smith had taken the chance to promote himself to the end, I reflected. A pity he had not been able to understand my anger. Typical human blindness. But what was this data he spoke of?

    I pressed another button, and the voice spoke again. “Now projecting holographic readout.” From the side of the device came a strange light. After a moment I realized that it was sending an image into the air—suddenly, pictures were flashing before me. Here was a picture of Mew, and an image that looked very like a rough sketch of my body, and what seemed to be a diagram of the enormous machines, and strange forms I did not recognize—

    And image after image of that strange, twisting notation, black and white images of it cascading endlessly through the air.

    It was only then that I realized what I had been given. The irony struck me, and I laughed out loud. Smith had been such a fool. A brilliant, exquisite fool.

    He had given me everything. He had filled this little machine with every detail about how I was created. He had given me all the secrets I had sought about myself. He had given me the tools to make more creatures like me.

    This was what I had been seeking. A weapon against humanity.

    But it was all locked away in there, in that odd little machine. Hidden from me by that strange language. I had underestimated those markings completely. If they could preserve this much information—if they could reveal the scientists’ secrets about me long after their deaths—why, then this was a matter truly worth looking into. I would have to learn to plumb their depths.

    It was then that I realized what I needed to do. I required a computer, or some similar machine, capable of searching through the device’s memory banks. And I required the knowledge of how to read this information. Neither could be found on these islands. I would have to leave the archipelago.

    I would have to return to human civilization.

    A simple enough idea in theory. The planet teemed with human beings. It would probably be next to impossible to fly across the mainland without stumbling over one of their fetid, oozing cities. And upon reflection, one of those sprawling human nests seemed the best place for me to be at the moment. Only by studying humans closely could I understand how to eradicate them completely.

    But there were a myriad of logistical problems. Chief among them: how was I to avoid being seen? I could not possibly reveal my existence to the world before I put all my plans into action. It would be tantamount to giving humanity a free shot at destroying me. I could, I supposed, try to wipe the memory of every human who encountered me, but how tedious that would be! Ludicrous! It would make even the tiniest jaunt around the city next to impossible. No, I would have to find another strategy.

    And so, after a great deal of thought, I set about teaching myself how to become invisible.

    It took me the better part of a few days, but finally I managed it. The trick was to maintain a constant awareness, that I had never quite achieved before, of the world around me. Of light, in particular. I had always been able to sense the presence and the intensity of the light around me, and to some degree, even its color. To achieve true invisibility, though, I had to reshape the light behind me so that it perfectly resembled the light in front of me—and so on for every side of my body, creating a three-dimensional image of my absence. I practiced until I could do it without intense concentration.

    My images still did not line up precisely—sometimes my reflection in the water showed a strange twitch as I moved, and I at times a vague purple blur twinkled through the air, but I was satisfied. Humans were used to attributing everything to the tricks of their own minds. Just to be on the safe side, I decided I would try to travel by night.

    So, one afternoon, a few hours before sunset, I departed my island once more. I really had little idea where I was going. All I knew was that I had to return along the same path relative to the sun.

    It was a long, confused, journey, and at times I was at the point of giving up in frustration. But at last, I saw the mainland, and my spirits rose. From there, I flew until I spotted the first signs of human civilization: those tiny houses that seeped into the forest. I cloaked myself and followed their roads to what seemed to be the center. And finally, about an hour after sunset, I saw it: a blinding display of light, a glow that stabbed into the darkness, thrown off by great clusters of eerie towers. The city I remembered.

    I was glad that Giovanni’s Gym had collapsed; Ideally, he had not yet been able to return to this business here. I did not want him interfering with my work.

    Looking down, I saw how the streets teemed with humans, how they positively overflowed with them. I shuddered, but I grinned a moment later. It was just what I needed.

    I focused in on one man, descending to hover right above his head, following him along like a ghost. Tell me, I said to his mind, about this business called written language.

    And all at once the information bubbled up from some corner of his mind. Writing was composed of letters or characters, and each character represented a sound; I looked at each of them in turn. There were different forms of each character, and marks to indicate pauses, endings, interruptions.

    It was easy to memorize each of them. But for him it was more than a matter of memorization. It was a subconscious process, learned in childhood and practiced each day since. This was no mere code, but an essential fact of life, like speaking or breathing. I tried to absorb that proficiency into my own brain, to grasp the subconscious strength and make it my own. It did not take long before I felt ready to begin this “reading.”

    And as I looked around the city, suddenly symbols that had made no sense to me before burst into life before me. The world was full of words. Humans scrawled them over everything. Signs laid out numbers and names for their roads. Signs gave out information about proceeding safely through the city. And signs told me what the buildings contained! This one informed me of a hotel, another said it provided “eats,” and a third proclaimed the “Office of the Committee of Public Safety.”

    I left the man and flew around the city a while, gazing awestruck at how much information it contained. Giovanni had never given me any indication that words possessed such potential. And that reminded me—I ought to be able to find out where exactly I was. Before long, I uncovered the answer:

    Viridian City.

    In all that time, no one had ever told me its name.

    After darting about for a while, looking at maps and street-signs, I flew back down to the ground to seek out other minds. I had long since lost the original man, but it scarcely mattered. There was an inexhaustible supply. I dove in and out of minds, asking about everything that the written word had told me about the city. Every single detail was confirmed. I delved into the subject of writing: I learned about paragraphing, the rules of grammar and syntax. I learned how to render the spelling of each of my favorite words. I learned how words could be bound into those packages called books.

    Oh, it was marvelous to be exploring minds again! I had forgotten just what a thrill it was to have unlimited information at my fingertips, only a mind’s reach away. If one mind did not hold the answers I sought, there was always one that did, now coming around the corner.

    As I looked into the human relationship with words, I found a curious reference to something called a library. I looked closer—what was it? It appeared to be—why, it was a building entirely dedicated to the storage of books! Yes, whispered one young female’s mind. Books upon books upon books, piled on shelves, overflowing in basements, rising from floor to ceiling. An atrium of information, waiting for me to seize it.

    I was stunned. Where was this font of written knowledge? In seconds, I was flying off to the Viridian Metropolitan Library.

    It was closed for the night, but I opened the lock without trouble, and the guards were easy to fool. I found a secluded space for the night, switched on the light overhead, and began to pull down books from the shelves.

    I worked out quickly that there were two types of books in this library—texts that contained useful information about the world, and made-up stories about humans and Pokémon who did not actually exist. Who in the world would read such things? I concentrated on the former.

    And so I read for hours and hours into the night, engrossed in learning. I spent most of my time on biology and chemistry, seeking out those texts that related to DNA, the genome, and the Pokémon species. I also dabbled a bit in human history, especially military campaigns. It was all rather overwhelming—Giovanni’s goons had really only scratched the surface on these subjects. I was astonished how much I still needed to know. But at the same time, it was thrilling to think that, given enough time, I would one day perfect my knowledge of martial strategy, would one day understand the double helix in all its beauty and complexity.

    I found the process of reading a bit difficult, given the academic nature of the writing and the minuteness of the print, but most of the words were familiar enough. If I was in doubt about my interpretation of a set of letters, I could always check it against the mind of one of the guards. I needed to visit them periodically, anyway, to persuade them that the lights turning on and off above certain shelves were merely electrical quirks.

    At around midnight, I finally set down my last book, satisfied. There was still so much more to know, but I felt I had made an excellent start. How delightful that humans would unwittingly give me access to the entirety of their knowledge. How naïve of them to assume that only their kind would be able to read it. No doubt the research I had done tonight would help me to make sense of Smith’s data, and put it to good use. If not, I could always return.

    And that reminded me—I needed to pick up a computer in town. I slipped out of the library, and with help from human minds, found my way to an electronics store. Sadly, no humans were present—I would have liked to inquire about the best possible machine in the building—so instead I simply lifted a nice-looking laptop from the display table. After much deliberation I decided to take the box as well.

    Thus emboldened, I flew home. I needed no light to guide my way, and the path to and from the mainland was growing more familiar with each jaunt. I was tired, but elated. As I flew, I thought over everything I had learned.

    When I arrived home, I was on the verge of falling asleep on the spot. But I had to take a look at Smith’s records. I tore the computer out of its box, made sure its batteries were charged, plugged in the device, and turned it on.

    What I found was dizzying and nigh-unfathomable. There were thousands of pages of text, filled with numbers and formulae and hundreds of diagrams and pictures. It was organized into sections, but not in any way that made sense to me. I could read the documents now, but I had trouble understanding their significance. I thought I understood, broadly, that they were talking about my genome, and I recognized many words from my studies, but so much of it was technical and obtuse that I made little headway. What, for instance, was “phylogenomic analysis?” What were “expressed sequence tags?” And how on earth was I supposed to parse “acid guanidinium thiocyanate–phenol–chloroform precipitate?”

    So, I would have to do some more research, it seemed. No matter. I was too tired to think too much into these terms right now. Instead I let them dazzle me with their strangeness, dancing through my weary mind as I shut down the computer and prepared for sleep.

    But I could not fall asleep. My thoughts were racing, flying apart as I lay there on my mat of foliage. The day’s ideas and concepts and terms were rushing through my head. I understood, now, the enormity of the task that lay before me. Yet I could not help but dream of mastering it. Looking up at the stars, I imagined, in a kind of delirious ecstasy, all the things that I would be able to accomplish. There was so much potential here; an infinite number of words to process and explore. I could do anything, with the proper research. Even imitating my creators by bringing life into existence—even that was within my grasp.

    I dreamed of DNA most of all. I understood how it fit together now, chemicals interlocking in a four-part harmony that sang out the instructions for life. Every fiber of one’s being was contained in those microscopic patterns. And, like writing, it was a language I could master. I could use it to write the story of life itself, to reshape the world in my own image.

    Lying there, it became clear to me that this was exactly what I ought to do. Smith had left me my heritage. My ancestry. His team of scientists had dreamed of creating a new race of superbeings, clones who surpassed living organisms. But I had been the only success. Why not complete their project? Why not use the DNA of other Pokémon to bring creatures like myself to life? They would be inferior to me, of course, but they could still be assistants, companions, allies in the grand cause.

    Yes, of course! I would gather the Pokémon of the world to my side, and among them would be new, innovative creatures of intelligence and might. Generals under my leadership. But of course, I would not neglect the common Pokémon: as word spread of our victories against our oppressors, all the creatures of the cities, of the forests, and of the fields would gladly answer my call. Bit by bit, our combined forces would grow into a grand army, one capable of destroying the world of humans forever. Yes, an army would be my weapon. An army augmented by genetic expertise.

    And since I would need some sort of laboratory to produce these cloned allies, why not make the island into a fortress? I could resurrect the old lab, with my personal touches: walls to protect against human invasion, ornate towers to usher in our new age, and an entirely different purpose. A laboratory dedicated to justice rather than insanity. I would create a base to be envied by any human conqueror. From this palace, we would carry out the revolution that would restore Pokémon to their rightful place as masters of the planet Earth.

    Comforted by such thoughts, I finally fell asleep.

    From then on I divided my time about equally between the city and the surrounding islands. Sometimes I would spend perhaps a week obsessed with one of the two, but other times I tried to let few days slip by without visiting either. Later, once I felt sure I had mastered the trick of staying unseen, I began to spend many of my mornings among humanity, sneaking books off the shelves while its filthy masses moved around me, and my afternoons with the island Pokémon, shaking off the grime of human contact by relaxing with the company of my relatives.

    And it was then that I began to preach.

    By now, the residents of the larger islands had more or less grown used to my presence. I was still something of an odd figure, but a respected one. So it seemed to me that the time had come for me to begin speaking to my new companions in earnest. It was time to tell them of my plans—and to see if I might win the first few allies to my cause.

    I found several islanders I knew well, including the old Murkrow, and told them I would be leading a discussion in a certain clearing at midday tomorrow. The topic: human beings and their effect on our kind. The three of them were happy to spread the word, especially the Murkrow, who could never resist the chance to rile up the populace.

    I was pleased to see how many of them gathered in that clearing at the appointed time: Fearow flapping their great brown wings, spiny Nidoran, Nidorino and Nidorina looking around curiously, Ariados and Spinarak crawling like great spiders down from the trees, Paras and Parasect peeking out from makeshift mushroom groves, Victreebel lowering themselves on vines from the branches, and so many more. Some, like the group of Mankey over in one corner seemed irritable, restless for the show to begin, but most just seemed curious about what was going to happen. I promised myself I would give them a show to remember.

    “Friends,” I said, lowering myself into the center of the clearing, “it is truly a pleasure to see so many of you gathered here today. Thank you for welcoming me into your community, and thank you for attending this conversation here today.” There were a few nods. They were listening.

    I cast my arms out wide. “But I won’t waste time with introductions: time is running short for all of us. We live in a world that cannot survive in its present state. Change is at hand. Therefore, let me move quickly to the topic I wish to address today: the evil known as the human being.” There were excited murmurs of assent, and a little thrill stirred in me.

    “So, you may be asking: what precisely is a human being? If you have lived on this island all your life, you may never have had the misfortune of encountering one. Allow me, then, to provide a definition for you: a human being is a kind of demon which plagues our kind. Physically, the human being is two-legged and two-armed, tailless and mostly hairless, possessing few abilities of any sort. In fact, they are fragile as eggshells. What, then, makes them so dangerous? I will tell you: their ravenous greed. Their hunger for dominance.” I was coming into my stride now, I knew.

    “For the human being is a sick, twisted creature. It cannot rest until it has consumed the earth. Always it seeks more and more and more, like a disease that destroys an entire island. It will burn down forests. It will kill and maim any Pokémon in its way. It will gouge great wounds in the earth to build cities of toxic metal. Believe me when I say that the human will stop at nothing to control whatever it sees.”

    “This includes our bodies and our lives. Did you think we were exempt? To human beings, you and I are just another tool of conquest. Using their machines, they take us from our homes and force us to fight on their behalf. They force us to work toward their ends, and should we refuse, they have devices of torture and murder to persuade us. Yes, they force us to help them in their all-consuming rape of the earth. And when they tire of such efforts, how do they relax? How do they entertain themselves? They play grotesque games with our bodies, throwing us against each other in gruesome combat. Yes, to them, we are filth to be disposed of. Less than the dirt under one’s claws.”

    “Believe me, my friends, that I know of what I speak! For I have known the cruel yoke of humanity; I have served under human masters. I was tricked, viciously tricked, into serving their aims. Oh, they are clever, clever demons: they pretended to be friends, to be benevolent guardians of culture and learning. I was fooled. And so I helped them destroy the land, I helped them sell my brothers into slavery. It is a sin that will haunt me for the rest of my life. But now that I have seen the light of the truth, I can atone for such misdeeds. And I know you will join me in the project that I propose.”

    “You may be saying to yourselves: these human beings may cause problems on the mainland, or on other islands, but that could not happen here. Wrong! Tragically wrong, my friends. Human beings have already begun to overrun the earth. A thousand million of them swarm over the land already, land that they have blackened and burnt into the shape of their twisted cities. The mainland is a cesspit of filth, growing blacker each day.

    “And they are coming for your island. I cannot lie to you. They have already given it a human name, have begun to act as if it is their own. If the humans are not stopped, they will be on these shores, make no mistake. They will be on every shore. They will not cease until every last tree has been burned down, until every last patch of dirt has been tread on by their ugly feet. Only when the world is a rotting pile of human excrement will they be satisfied!”

    “There is only one solution, then: we must stop them. We must destroy them, or be destroyed ourselves. Won’t you help in this cause? Won’t you join me in eradicating the human menace? I know you have made great efforts to keep humans off your land, and I applaud you. But that is only a temporary measure at best. So long as there are humans in the world, none of us are safe. They will come. And they will capture us or kill us. There is no escape but one: their destruction.”

    “Therefore, I ask you: join me! For I have begun a great project that will lead to the destruction of the human race! I will lead an army across the face of the earth, and I will make the world safe for Pokémon once again! Will you join the cause? Or will you stand idle in the hour of our people’s need? Will you see your brothers and sisters, your daughters and your sons, pressed into human slavery? Will you let them drive us from our homes, and massacre our families? Will you let them burn this island down into a naked, lifeless rock? Will you let the human menace continue for one more day, for one more moment?

    “No! I know that you will not! I know that you will stand with me! I know that you and I will do what is needed, and rid the world of human tyranny for all time! I know that together, WE WILL AT LAST BE FREE!”


    A great cheer went up at my closing words, particularly from the Mankey and the Fearow. I was tired and sweaty, but I felt great. I felt miraculous.

    “Now,” I said weakly, “you are more than welcome to discuss any of the ideas I have raised about human decadence. I will be happy to listen, for I am eager to hear your thoughts on these matters.”

    [No need!] said a crusty-looking old Pinsir in the crowd. [You’ve described the problem we’re up against perfectly! We have to do something about the human menace. The only thing left to do is take action—immediately!] There was a roar of approval.

    [Now, hold on one moment,] interrupted a young, thoughtful-looking Ariados. [How sure can we be about this creature’s claims? I don’t mean the figure of a thousand million humans—that’s certainly an astonishing number, but it fits well with what we know of the size of the earth and the way humans tend to spread. What I mean is, how do we know that all of these beings are equally bad? A Dugtrio may uproot one’s favorite grazing grounds, but that doesn’t mean one of his sons won’t help you rebuild it. Is it too much to suggest that some of the humans might be different from their relatives, less cruel and destructive?]

    [What proof of there is that?] snapped one of the Fearow. [That’s like saying there might be Rhyhorn born with wings—it doesn’t mean a thing until you’ve seen one! I for one stand with the Mewtwo: it’s obvious that every interaction we have with the accursed creatures ends in suffering or death! If you haven’t seen their slaves rush after you, their wicked little machines in action, then don’t presume to speak for the rest of us! I challenge you to give me one example, one single example, of a human acting for any purpose other than its own interests.]

    How wonderful to see them already grappling with these ideas, without the need for my guidance! Behind me, I heard the laughter of the Murkrow, who was clearly enjoying the confrontation.

    [Just because I haven’t experienced it doesn’t mean it isn’t possible,] the Ariados retorted. [And this is an entirely different matter than the Rhyhorn with wings: that absurdity would affect no one. Any action we take now affects the entire world. Isn’t it worth it to get our facts straight? If there’s even the slightest chance that destroying the humans would be a mistake, then we need to look into other solutions.] He looked my way, as if inviting my comment.

    “I will tell you plainly that I have exhausted every solution,” I said calmly. “There has not been a single trace of decency in any human I have encountered. And expecting it is dangerous naïveté. We cannot waste time with what-ifs and maybes at such a critical hour.”

    [But you cannot know with absolute certainty—just suppose if we were making a mistake—]

    “That is missing the point,” I told him. “Even if, by some outlandish chance, there were such humans as you describe, it is clear that they have failed in their work. They have allowed the rest of their kind to loot and massacre our kind since time immemorial. Such passive bystanders can hardly be said to be without sin—they are just as wretched as the rest of their species. You see the inherent contradiction, I am sure. How could there be “blameless” humans in the world we find ourselves living in? As such, I feel it is reasonable to take drastic action.”

    The Ariados said nothing, but simply frowned and stepped back into the shadows.

    [My question is, how do we know this grand victory is even going to happen?] said a tall Nidorina leaning against a nearby tree. [What makes us even think it’s possible?]

    “Yes,” I said slowly. “I can understand your concern. This mysterious visitor talks of a grand campaign, but how do you know that said creature has the power to lead you to victory? It is always difficult to trust a notion without evidence. But I can assure you, I can prove that I am a more powerful creature than has ever before been seen on Earth. Behold.”

    I had anticipated this question, and over the last few days, I had been practicing a more dramatic version of my trick with the ocean. I rose up into the air slightly and seized a great mass of water from the island’s distant beach. I let it ripple over the heads of all those present so that the world seemed a shimmering dream. There were many gasps and murmurs of delight before I let it merge into the waves on the opposite shore.

    The Nidorina didn’t bat an eyelash. [That’s a nice trick,] she said. [But I wasn’t thinking about your power. I’m saying it may not even be possible. If there are that many humans in the world, surely it’s foolish to think you could ever rub them out entirely—]

    [And you would commit us to a retreat?] bellowed the Pinsir. [To not even trying? Any change will make the world better for our families and our progeny. We have only to try!]

    She snorted. [I’m only saying that we should beware getting caught up in goals that are simply—]

    [Now hold on,] said one of the Parasect, [perhaps there’s a path between these two extremes—perhaps what we need most is a strategy—]

    And with that, they all began talking at once, discussing the matter among themselves in groups. It seemed they had almost forgotten I was here. The Murkrow was chuckling, and I was delighted, too. This was exactly the kind of dialogue I had been hoping for.

    By the end of the day, it was clear where most of the islanders stood on the matter. A few had grown bored and left early, having perhaps expected something else. But most had some strong opinion or another. Some thought my plan seemed too risky, others too ambitious. And some still had the naiveté to wonder if the humans might not deserve to be scoured away. No matter: once the war began, they would convert to my side as soon as they realized the realities they faced.

    But what impressed me most was how many seemed interested in what I had to say. Many of the islanders broke off from their groups and came up to me to tell me how grateful they were that someone had finally brought this issue to the forefront. Quite a few spoke of their own struggles against the human beings, and thanked me for sharing my own experiences. I described some of my tentative plans for the anti-human army, and together we fell into several wonderful dialogues about espionage and battle strategy.

    The conversation continued late into the day. Not everyone stayed around, but even at sunset there were still a few stragglers, conversing animatedly about the nature of humankind. Every so often they would reflect on an encounter with the demons, or ask me eagerly to share my own. The meeting only concluded when I at last conceded it was time to return home.

    I held many of these meetings over the next few weeks. Before long, I had assembled a loyal following, a cadre of Pokémon who never missed a meeting, always eager to discuss the destruction of humanity and to help me plan it. The bulk of them were aggressive species like Mankey, Fearow, and Pinsir, but there were many thoughtful and coolheaded creatures present as well: Nidorina and Nidorino, Venomoth, Ledian and Tangela. All cheered my every word, peppered me with questions about the anti-human plan, and preached the glory of our campaign to their friends at every opportunity. I was immensely proud.

    Before long, my movement had spread across the whole archipelago. Soon I was flying back and forth from one lecture to the next, telling everyone who would listen about the threat of humanity. And oh, how many listened! I became a very popular figure among the island Pokémon, a hero of sorts. Even a messiah. The northern Magneton sparked with delight to see me, Fearow bowed to me like a flock-leader, Ariados swarmed around me, Rhyhorn lumbered down from the hills, Seaking lifted their heads up to listen as they gathered at the shore.

    I have to admit, I basked in the glory. The righteousness of my mission grew inside me, and I believed, as they did, that I was something like a god, that I was the only one who could restore justice to the earth.

    But there was something profoundly lonely about it, too. Gone were the innocent walks through the forest, chatting with the tree-dwellers as equals. I could no longer be ordinary. I could not be one of them.

    Once, after a particularly spirited lecture, wandering through the now-familiar wooded trails, I stumbled upon a clearing. There I found two of my disciples. Only moments before, they had been among those asking eager questions about my life and plans. But now they clearly had something else on their minds.

    Caught off guard, I watched for a moment as the Nidorino mounted the Ryhorn, and the two of them rocked with pleasure. I felt a deep flush of shame for my intrusion. But their eyes lit on me for only a moment before they resumed, ignoring my gaze. I withdrew into the forest, blushing.

    In the months since, I learned that Pokémon and humans treat the matter rather differently. Humans avoid mention of bodily functions, particularly intercourse, but Pokémon do not, as a rule, approach such things with shame. For them, the shameful thing is the laying of the egg, and they conceal themselves whenever it is necessary. Woe betide you if you stumble into the glade of a laying mother! Your encounter with her mate will be unpleasant and short.

    So I need not have been embarrassed. Yet I could not stop thinking about the scene over the next few days. For the first time, I realized that my brothers and sisters had something I did not, something I would never understand.

    There is nothing in me that wills me to be part of such a scene. Nothing but a certain distant curiosity. I am not remotely equipped for it: Mew and I possess no genitalia, neither male nor female. We are something else entirely. At times I find myself thinking of myself as a male, but I suspect that is only a habit formed by spending so long under a master who praised powerful men.

    But the moment fascinates me all the same. I was trying to understand, I think, but I could not. Cannot. What was it that made the two of them want to heave against each other and—to be frank—cause a great deal of mess? The way they looked at each other, as if the world had been reduced to a single object, a single soul, a single body—the way their minds surged with joy as they made contact—there was something transcendent in that, something eternal. But it is a profundity that I cannot grasp.

    I wonder, sometimes, if I am made foolish by a secret everyone else knows. I wonder if I am missing something essential, something necessary to being a real, living creature. But I have to discount such thoughts. I simply do not have that desire. Whatever world the sexual inhabit, I am not part of it.

    It is not for me.

    At least whenever I felt lonely, whenever I felt isolated from my fellow Pokémon, I could always bury myself in research. As busy as I found myself, preaching in the forests and on the shores, I kept myself busy in the city, too. There was always more work to be done.

    Little by little, I was coming to understand the science of genetics. It was complex stuff, way beyond the basic biology that Namba had taught me. But there was an essential underlying logic to it, based around the different kinds of atoms involved and their interactions. Whenever I needed clarification on a term or idea, I would search the shelves until I found more information. I had all the time in the world, after all. I spent one day, for instance, learning everything I could about the periodic table of elements. Another had me studying quantum mechanics until I could imagine quarks coming out of my ears.

    If the library could not satisfy my curiosity, there were alternatives. Humans had constructed a system of invisible electronic signals—almost like a psychic network of sorts—called the Internet, and sometimes I could find an answer there. But more often than not, I had trouble finding the answer I was looking for, caught up in information that was either inadequate or incorrect. I preferred the tangible book whenever possible.

    Minds were a much better source. I realized, one day, poring over an obtuse text by a Dr. Michael Strader, that the author was listed as living in Viridian City. He was right here in town. I could seek him out and clarify this the nature of the nucleolus firsthand. With the aid of some books of addresses and videophone numbers, I found the address and flew over.

    I caught the human in his garden and spent the next half hour scanning his brain for information. By the time I left, I had not only mastered the nucleolus, but gained an impressive picture of the cell and its structure in their entirety.

    After that, I began to keep track of the names that appeared in my readings, always taking the time to investigate their origins. Most of the time, they lived in Azalea or Sootopolis or some other ungodly place, but every so often I found one in the Viridian area. From these men and women I learned at least as much as I did from my textbooks—and they were none the wiser about their new pupil.

    As my understanding of the human world grew, I was able to expand my efforts. I made myself a student of human culture and human history, and I learned the geography of the human world beyond what rudiments Simmons had given me. Before long, I could name Kanto’s ten greatest cities, and knew, roughly, the path I would take to travel to each. And then the fun began: no longer was I limited to reading the minds of Viridian’s scholars. If I was feeling up to the journey, I could probe the thoughts of Fuchsia’s intelligentsia, or steal ideas from the illustrious Saffron College. Sometimes I even brought scholars together from across the continent so that I could compare their ideas in my own “meeting of the minds.” After wiping their memories of the experience, I tended to dump them unceremoniously on the streets of Viridian and leave it to them to make their way home.

    Indeed, at that time, I studied everything and anything I could get my hands on. Any human mind could unveil another human secret, any text could offer some unforeseen understanding. I wanted to know everything, and I sought to learn it as fast as possible. Humanity’s crimes cried out for an urgent response—I knew I could not delay long in setting my campaign in motion.

    I had dreamed of an island fortress. Now it was time to make it a reality. Accordingly, I began snatching physical resources as well as ideas. I knew I would need certain substances to build my palace—iron, copper, glass, rubber, steel—and so I began to bring these back with me from the human world. There were always places to obtain them: buildings in disrepair, badly-managed factories, quarries where an unexplainable mismatch between the ore mined and the ore extracted could always be hastily explained away, and so on.

    I never went to Viridian for these efforts. Giovanni was no fool, and as much as I enjoyed thumbing my nose at him in his own city, I doubted it was wise to present him with a string of strange thefts. There was always the possibility he would figure it out. I acquired my resources mostly from Celadon and Saffron City, and this plan seemed to work—I think the old schemer never quite connected a distant city’s troubles to his own losses.

    Once, as I was about to leave the city of Celadon with a new cube of silicon to my name, I spotted one of my kin in front of a bookstore, leaning against a nearby tree. He was a young, fit-looking Charmeleon with sharp, polished claws and immaculate red scales. Though his eyes gave little hint of suffering, I was drawn to the poverty of his condition, for he was tied to the tree by a mangy rope that wrapped around his waist. I was moved to see how the starkness of his bondage contrasted with the brightness and beauty of his flame.

    I made myself visible to him, and he jumped a bit when I burst into view, a burst of smoke coming out one nostril. I moved quickly to reassure him.

    “I apologize for startling you,” I told him. “Forgive me—I was traveling invisibly. I do not like to be attract much notice in the city. But I thought I would pay you a visit. I do like to keep up with my brothers and sisters.”

    [Well, that’s very kind of you, sure,] he said awkwardly. [Nice to meet you, then. Folks back home always called me Singe.]

    “And I am Mewtwo,” I replied, with the slightest incline of my head. “As you have no doubt guessed, I am a free Pokémon. One who lives in the wild and answers to no master.”

    [Right,] he said slowly. [That’s what I thought. But I’ve never seen anyone who looks quite like you. Are you one of those foreign species? From the north or the west?]

    “Considerably more south than north,” I told him. “And not particularly west. But my origins are of little importance—what matters is that I will gladly help you escape your current predicament.”

    [Sorry,] he said, [but what predicament are you talking about?]

    I looked at him with some surprise. “Am I not correct to assume that you are a captured Pokémon, under the dominion of a human being?”

    [Oh,] he said, with a laugh. [Yes, of course. He’s just in there]—he jabbed a claw at the bookstore—[catching up on his comic books, as usual. He’s a big fan of Alan Mandrake, you know. You can see why I haven’t been invited inside—I’m sure they don’t want me burning down the entire stock!]

    “I suppose so,” I said distastefully. “As it happens, that is, in a sense, what I wish to speak to you about.”

    [Ah yes,] he said. [You mentioned I was in some sort of predicament? What did you mean by that again?]

    “Come now, friend!” I snapped. “No need to dance around the subject! I am of course referring to your condition of servitude! Your subjugation to human power! My heart goes out to you, friend. Tell me, is there anything I can do to help you in your plight?

    The Charmeleon gave a nervous, toothy grin. [That’s…kind of you, I suppose, but I don’t think I really need any help. I’m more than happy to travel with humans.]

    “Happy?” I cried. “You may be captive, sir, but that does not mean you must accept your slavery so passively! Freedom is at hand! I know that you labor under cruel human oppression. I know that humans force you to bear their burdens for them. I know that you are thrust into cruel battles against your companions and relatives. I will gladly free you from this agony!”

    He gave me a sharp glance. [Agony? I certainly wouldn’t describe it like that.]

    “Well, how would you describe it?” I asked, rather stiffly.

    [Well, I enjoy spending time with this human,] Singe replied, [and he with me, I think. It’s not a master-servant relationship at all. It’s an equal collaboration, between partners.]

    “Partners?” I spat, “By the Creator, don’t tell me you believe in such filth? He captured you! He took you from your home and your family!”

    [Well, where I grew up, we always knew that was a possibility. A lot of us welcomed it, you know. Sought humans ought. There’s something to be said for travelling with them—]

    “Sought them out?! What, to be used as children’s playthings? To tear the blood from your brothers in battle? How could you possibly—?”

    [Is that so bad?] he asked suspiciously. [Look, growing up, we were always told that we had a certain agreement with the humans. We help them, they help us. And I for one always looked forward to battling on a human team: there’s the opportunity to grow stronger and to see the world—]

    “But at what cost?” I demanded. “To partake in that sort of cruelty—”

    [Cruelty?] he asked. [Look, we’ve never been asked to kill anybody. And everybody wants to go into battle at some point. It’s not that different from roughhousing with your brothers and sisters as you leave the nest.] His gaze was penetrating. [Or did you not have any brothers or sisters?]

    “That is entirely beside the point,” I spat. “I cannot believe how easily you fall for their tricks. Look, sir, the evidence of your servitude is all around you. That rope, for instance, that binds you to his will—”

    [Oh, this?] he said, laughing, picking up the cord and holding it loosely in one hand. [This ratty old thing? Is that what this is all about? This rope doesn’t mean anything—it’s more like a stupid old joke, a running bit between us. It doesn’t have any bearing on our relationship—we’re still equals, still friends—]

    “Lies!” I roared. “More disgusting lies and deceit. And you buy into it so easily. You are even more of a fool than I ever was.”

    [Look,] he insisted, attempting to continue his train of thought, [the idea is just that humans passing by will feel more comfortable if they see a Pokémon who’s tied up than one who’s roaming around by himself—we’ve laughed about it every time—]

    “The laughter of demons, perhaps,” I snarled. “Fine. I will swallow my disappointment. If you refuse to accept your freedom now, then I can only hope you will change your mind once my campaign is set in motion.”

    [Campaign?] he asked, eyes narrowing. [What campaign is this?]

    “My campaign for justice,” I proclaimed. “My campaign to rid the world of its greatest menace: the human race.”

    He gaped at me. [You’re serious,] he managed. [I can’t even believe it. You actually intend to…what, kill all human beings? Just fly through the world and murder them? That’s…that’s insane. I can’t even wrap my mind around wanting to do something like that. That’s awful. That’s evil.]

    “It is not evil,” I insisted. “It is justice. The solution to all our ills. Only by freeing the world of the human race can our race finally know the peace it was meant to—”

    [No,] he interrupted, [no, it is evil, that’s what I’m telling you. Do you think we need that? Do you honestly think that whatever failures humans have had in dealing with us makes it necessary to kill them all? Do you think your personal trauma, whatever it is, gives you the right to make that choice? Do you honestly think wiping a certain species off the face of the earth is going to make things perfect all of a sudden? Is your psychotic vendetta worth starting a war over?]

    “And what?” I hissed. “You would oppose it?”

    [Yes I would, as a matter of fact,] he said slowly. [The world you describe sounds like a living nightmare. I would gladly give my life to try to stop it.]

    “As I would give my life to bring it about.”

    [Yes.]

    A long and angry silence passed between us. Both of us avoided looking the other in the eye.

    Finally, I had to break it. “I think it is time for me to leave this place,” I spat. “I have spent long enough here.”

    He didn’t move. [Yes, I think that would be best.]

    As I turned to leave, he spoke again. [I can’t say that I wish you luck.]

    “No,” I replied, my back to him. “I don’t suppose you can.”

    And with that, I flew, stopping only to snatch up the bag of silicon in an embarrassed huff. For a moment I had been on the verge of leaving it behind.

    That night, I lay awake, staring up at the distant stars, unable to get the conversation out of my head. It had gone wrong so quickly. The whole scene. And worst of all, I doubted it could have gone any differently.

    I had never imagined that any of my brothers and sisters would reject the offer of freedom so forcefully. So passionately. Oh, I had recognized that not everyone would see the beauty of my mission immediately. I had known it would take time to ease some fears and doubts, that many would not be fully convinced until the battle was underway. I had been more than willing to be patient, to proclaim the truth in a calm voice and let my message spread slowly through those who would hear.

    But to hear it denied so directly—to be shouted at and opposed…

    And what could I have said to change his mind? Stubborn, willful, and blind, he had already decided long ago where he stood. He stood against me. Against the freedom of his kind. He stood with humanity.

    Yes, I saw it now: this creature who looked like one of us, who bore the scales and claws of a Pokémon, was nothing but a hollow shell, a willing puppet of the human race. Complicit in their crimes. Gleefully ignoring the enormity of evidence to the contrary, refusing to accept that his precious, adored human masters could ever harm anyone. No doubt he wished he could be one of them. It was sickening to watch him ape their ways. Frightening.

    True, I had been fooled once, myself, by lies as golden as those his captors had undoubtedly spun. But the moment I was confronted with the truth, I threw off the chains that bound me and looked into the light of reality. I saw no such potential in his eyes. He was committed to cowardice, to denying his heritage, to whimpering at the heels of his masters, disgracing himself like a slave.

    And how many more out there were just like him? For the first time, I saw the true problem we faced. We would be fighting not merely against humanity. We would also be fighting against its Pokémon stooges and dupes. Our betrayers.

    There would be thousands. Perhaps even hundreds of thousands. Gutless idiots with minds poisoned by humanity, willing to give life and limb to save the monsters who abused them. Once again, humans would expend Pokémon to spare their own lives. These Pokémon would stand against us, and in order for humanity to die, we would have to make them fall.

    It hurt to admit it, but that night, I realized that not every Pokémon would see the light. That my new world would not only be rid of humans, but another kind of evil: the traitor. That anyone who stood in my way, human or Pokémon, would have to be removed.

    All those who opposed my new world would have to die.


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

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

  6. #36
    Dai
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    And we're back! Sorry for the delay, but I honestly don't think I could have posted anything without having something substantial to offer.

    Here's hoping you enjoy it! We're getting closer and closer to the reckoning.

    I'll be back as soon as I can!

    Dai


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

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

  7. #37
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    [CONTINUED:]

    After that night, I began to revise my original plan. I could no longer assume that the moment I struck against the humans, Pokémon would flock to my side everywhere I went. Certainly I would have a great deal of support from my kin, especially among those who dwelt in the wilderness, relentlessly guarding their territory from human invasion. But there would also be many of my brothers and sisters, especially among those soft and decadent creatures who lived off the luxury of human cities, who would betray their heritage and oppose me. By such deceptions would humans once again attempt to preserve their lives with our own, pitting Pokémon against Pokémon anew. But I would break through the cycle and strike at the heart of the threat—the human overlords.

    The more I thought about it, the more it seemed to me that the best way to accomplish this was to assault the cities. Raze them to the ground, leaving only pristine wilderness behind—for in the towers of steel lived the vast majority of our enemies, human and Pokémon alike. If I could wage destruction city by city, I would force humans and their slaves into the wilds, where my allies would be waiting to devour them.

    Of course, there would be casualties, I knew. There would be righteous and farsighted Pokémon in those cities, too. Potential allies, wiped out before they had the chance to join our assault. Imprisoned, or in hiding. I knew this, and it saddened me. But there was no other way. I would spread my message far and wide to the Pokémon of the world, but there would always be those who had no chance to hear. I had to accept that this was the best I could do. And such upright Pokémon would be willing to sacrifice their lives to the cause, anyway. It would simply be another kind of martyrdom.

    But the problem I now faced was that the number I could command now seemed ineffective. Having corrupted half of my kind, humans already possessed the advantage in terms of sheer numbers. I refused to let them overwhelm me. There had to be a way I could supplement my forces.

    I thought back to the idea I had had of creating clones like myself as generals. Why stop at generals? Why limit myself to cloning so few? Why not integrate the cloning process directly into the war plan? I could raise, from nothing, a new Pokémon army, one untainted by human lies, unbound by their chains. Yes, when I set out to destroy the human world, I would lead a vast battalion of enhanced clones like myself. Superbeings, augmented with every innovation I could offer them. A new dynasty of righteous warriors. Daughters and sons of the world’s Savior.

    And as we plowed through human forces, my children and I, we would continue the process of genetic modification. We would collect DNA from those we encountered along the way, not only from our allies and friends, but from the spilt blood of our enemies. Yes, cloning would become a form of redemption. We would resurrect our adversaries into new, enhanced bodies and virtuous minds. By such measures, we would convert the entire earth.

    Of course, ordinary Pokémon would still have their part to play in all this. I would still need them as part of my army, by all means. There was a limit to what I could do on my own with cloning. And even once that technological effort took off, the ordinary Pokémon would still be needed, and they would still be valued as citizens of the new Earth. And for now, I would need their help to launch my crusade. But they would function more as assistants than warriors. Still an enviable position by any measure.

    And to begin this campaign, it was essential that I enlist their help in constructing a fortress, filled with all the technology I needed. The time had come to build.

    Over the next few weeks, I thought of one thing only: designing my citadel. I would lie awake at night imagining sweeping towers; I would wake up and sketch ideas on rocky slabs; I would draw parapets idly in the dust of the islands. Eventually, I began devising actual blueprints with paper and ink. I dragged the foremost architects in Viridian to my island and rifled through their minds for ideas; I summoned engineers, electricians and plumbers, learning their secret codes and techniques, so that I could work out the logistics of my infrastructure.

    Several principles guided me in designing the stronghold. The first was the importance of the local stone. I had already met with great success in carving out a sleeping-cavern for myself. The rock was so malleable in my grip, yet it held true and strong against any other blow. It would be a wonderful material for the walls of the fortress, perhaps reinforced by iron beams. And I would be able to blend it into the rest of the island in a most compelling way: it would seem like the palace arose from the stone like a behemoth awakened.

    Another principle: If the presence of a great quantity of material is required somewhere, find a place where its absence will do you some good. I knew that the rocky pillar was massive enough that I could take a great deal out from beneath the palace without compromising its integrity. In fact, I thought it might be an intimidating aesthetic choice.

    I imagined a great series of stone pillars, reaching down like stalactites into the depths of the ocean, from which the rocky platform that held my palace would emerge, wraith-like. I could expand my by-now-substantial network of tunnels and chambers into a proper cave system, one that would reach all the way down to the water and provide an entry point for flightless visitors. The scientists had built an awkward, flimsy ladder and relied on helicopters for most of their travel—I found my solution much more elegant.

    Equally essential to my design was self-sufficiency. I could not hope to string cables across the ocean to connect to some human power plant, nor did I want to depend on their disgusting world. But I needed power for the machines I was planning to build. The scientists had relied, I learned, on a few weak generators that had to be replaced regularly. I wanted something more for my purposes.

    I studied wind energy and other techniques that could be used on the island. I finally settled on a design that included a series of six wind turbines atop towers that would loom over the complex. They would stand like sentinels against my enemies, and it amused me that to inject a little more energy I only needed to spin the blades myself. I also came up with a system for storing tidal energy, so that the waves which lapped my island would do their part in powering my cloning machines.

    I was also deeply concerned with establishing my own architectural aesthetic. I wanted a building calculated to intimidate. A regal palace that would send a message to humanity. One that would show them the glory of their conquerors, much as their pitiful brains could understand it. I was influenced heavily, I will admit, by my old enemy’s fondness for classical architecture. In some ways my plan was a response to his, a way of showing humanity that I, too, could invoke the historical forms. I designed sweeping arches and vast columns of stone with intricate carvings, balconies that looked out over the sea, intertwining layers of architectural perfection.

    But upon this classical foundation, I built a visual aesthetic that was all my own. I wanted my palace to look like nothing any human had ever seen, alien and surreal. I wanted it to flow fluidly, rid of the rigid angles that so characterized human architecture. I wanted it to move and breathe like a living thing. I sketched out segmented pillars that twisted like spines and arches that reached down like tentacles or elongated limbs. I even wreathed the main entrance in rippling layers of stone that gave it the appearance of some monstrous mouth, or the entrance to a womb, pregnant with possibility. I made the palace seem not an artificial thing, but a living creature that might have descended from some other realm. And this seemed appropriate to me. Humans insulted nature with their rigid lines and cold iron boundaries. My organic citadel would be the perfect thing to usher in an era when the wilderness once again reigned supreme.

    Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that the greatest strength of my design lay not so much in its ability to guard my soldiers and myself—for my powers would make it easy to defend this protected spit of rock—but in its ability to guard the technology I would need. The cloning machines would be essential to our strategy, and nearly impossible to replace during wartime. As such, I thought it only fitting that the laboratories would be placed deep within the caverns, where the rock of the island was thickest, where no human assault could reach them. The upper part of the building would serve largely as a place for my forces to congregate, a resplendent hall where I could receive my allies and friends.

    It did not take long for construction to begin. Within weeks I had put the finishing touches on my layout. Then I leapt into action, for my mind itched to place the first stone.

    In order that construction proceed as swiftly as possible, I enlisted the help of some of my island disciples, who were eager to contribute to the cause. The nimble hands of the Mankey and Primape who hung on my every word were just what I needed to turn what might have been a tedious and solitary project into a community effort, full of pride and celebration. The primates darted about the island, climbing down its cliffs and carrying back huge chunks of rock, while I set iron beams in place and began to fuse these boulders into the surface of the stone. I had moved all of my other supplies down into the caverns, to be taken out when they were needed.

    I found equal employ for the northern Magneton. The machine-like creatures helped me weave cords and cables through the island stone, and used their natural abilities to stroke metal shards into the powerful magnets I needed. Though they were more than happy to volunteer, I promised to treat them to a delicious meal by pulling down the next thunderstorm that passed through our isles. They readily agreed to this irresistible offer.

    Within a few days, I was able to make good on my promise and serve the Magneton a delectable buffet of leaping electricity. Storm clouds rolled in over the horizon, and it was an easy matter for me to pluck one out of the sky and bring it to my island. The rain poured all around us, drenching my fur from head to toe, and the Magneton drank the voltage greedily, thanking me profusely. I smiled weakly and tried to keep from catching a chill.

    As I listened to the patter of the rain on the newly-placed stone, something drifted into the corner of my mind. I turned. There was something out there in the stormy skies to the southeast. And it was flying toward us, headed straight for the center of the island. Or was it falling instead? It seemed to be plummeting at an alarming rate.

    In moments its outline had grown clearer. It was a living thing of some sort, thrashing through the air with feebly flapping wings. Yes, it appeared to be a Pokémon. For a moment I failed to recognize the long snout, the clawed arms and legs, the small wings, and the long, serpentine tail. Then it hit me. This was a Dragonite. They were so rare—on the brink of extinction—that I had only ever seen one or two in my life.

    Suddenly the creature was upon us. His shadowy form burst through the cloud around us and plowed straight into the tribe of Magneton, who scattered in shock. He crashed into the rock with a sickening noise and finally slid to a stop with a dull moan. The Magneton chittered in some alarm. I rushed over to the creature’s side.

    He was alive. But only barely. He was a magnificent member of the species, more than eight feet from horn to tail, and the brilliant gold and white scales of his kind shone in the flashes of lightning. Yet he seemed thin and malnourished. And it was clear from his eyes that he was on the brink of passing out. He opened his eyes slowly and spoke in a voice so quiet I could scarcely hear it above the rain:

    [Water.]

    I dashed off and brought him a bowl of water I had purified. He drank it slowly, and then fell back, unconscious.

    I suggested politely to the Magneton that they allow me to move the thundercloud to another location so that I could attend to the visitor’s injuries as best I could. They were happy to oblige.

    I did what I could to encourage his wounds to close up, his bruises to fade, and his weakened bones to heal. When next the dragon stirred, it was to ask, wearily, if I had anything to eat.

    “Will plant matter be all right?” I asked. For a moment I was worried. I did not tend to keep meat on the island.

    [It’s…not ideal,] he whispered. [But it’ll do…I can eat it.] Glancing at his mouth, I saw that it contained both sharp, blade-like fangs and flatter teeth suitable for grinding things. I brought him some of the leaves I had been saving, and he managed to chew them very slowly. [Thank you,] he said, swallowing. [I…don’t know how I can repay…] Then he was silent again, for he had fallen unconscious once more.

    Over the next few days, I helped the Dragonite recover his strength. For the most part he slept, snoring the day away. For brief periods he was awake enough to talk with me and take a little food. He mentioned certain nuts and berries used by his kind, and from the surrounding islands I was able to gather them for him and grind them up into a paste. Before long, he was able to stand again, and the color had come back into his face. It was then that he told me just how he had come to my island.

    His name, back in his own country, had been Cloud, for he had always been one of those who flew highest among his fellows, beyond the limits of the lower atmosphere. But he no longer felt worthy to wear that name bestowed upon him by his fellows, and asked quietly that I simply call him Dragonite.

    [I don’t know how much you know about our kind,] said the creature once known as Cloud.

    I shook my head. “Very little.”

    [Good,] said the Dragonite. [We have kept our secrets well, then. But what I can tell you is that we are a threatened race, and it is only through our unity that we survive. To us, honor within the community is everything. That is why I had to be cast out. ]

    [We live in colonies,] he said, casting a wing out over the water, [in hidden places we have found for ourselves, where no one, human or Pokémon, can find us. Secret grottoes and islands. I hope you understand that I cannot tell you where.] I nodded.

    [Ours was never a species which bore many children, you see,] he said softly. [Our young must be born in the fresh water and make their way downriver to the oceans we call home. And during that time they are easy prey to any water-dweller seeking a wriggling meal. But we accepted that our young would have a hard life, and we accepted that our numbers would never be great.]

    [But then humans came after us, seeking our scales, our hides, and above all our claws in battle. We were forced to flee or face extinction. The death of all our kind. We could not allow that to happen, so we joined together to make secret colonies that no human would ever be able to plunder. There might have been a day, once, when each Dragonite could have his own territory, and fly freely between the islands without fear, and we may have been better creatures for it. But those days are no more.]

    As I listened, I felt another stab of anger at humanity’s crimes. How many lives had they destroyed? What did it take to satisfy their hideous lust?

    Dragonite’s mistake, as it turned out, had been to betray the unity of the colony. He had killed, and by so doing had threatened the continued existence of his small tribe.

    [There was another bull around my age,] he said, his voice wavering. [They called him Fisher, for he was the most skilled of us at plumbing the ocean for its riches. He was arrogant and proud. He had been joined in mating with a female I was very close to. Her name was Sea, for the color of her eyes and the way she moved in the water. I had known her for a long time—she had been part of my original brood, what you would call a sister. We swam down the river together, and with her beside me the journey did not feel so lonely, nor the enemies so dangerous. I cared very deeply about her. When she was asked to join with Fisher, I was happy for her to be so honored by a male so important to our community. And she was happy to accept that honor.]

    [But in the days that came after that, I saw that her scales were torn and her body covered in bruises, and her sea-eyes no longer seemed so bright. I asked her what had happened, and she would not tell me. And I learned that Fisher would tear at her with his jaws and burn her with his fire, punishing her so that she would remain always beside him and never disobey him. And suddenly I was no longer glad to see him flying alongside my sister with a hungry look in his eye. And I approached him one morning intent on his suffering.]

    [That was my mistake,] he murmured. [I had forgotten to fear my own bloodlust. Among males of my kind especially, there is a blood-rage that reaches up inside of us, should we ever grow angry enough, and blurs our vision and clouds our minds and makes us no better than animals. We will claw and howl and burn, not recognizing our family, our friends, not knowing speech, until the blood-rage is gone. Or until we have burned everything around us down.]

    [I was naïve,] he said. [I thought I was too calm, that it could never happen to me. I bit and tore at Fisher until his throat bled and he slumped to the ground. And then I no longer knew where I was, and I was tearing his body apart and setting fire to our fields. When at last I knew myself again, I learned that I had killed Fisher, and two others who had tried to stop me, two kind creatures who did not deserve to die. I wept, and then I was taken to the edge of the island by the elders, and I flew far away from my home, leaving my widowed sister behind.]

    “They exiled you?” I asked. “But how was that fair? The deaths were not your fault—”

    [No,] he insisted, [they were right to cast me out. A Dragonite to whom the blood-rage comes threatens his people, weakens his tribe. His dignity is no price to pay for the survival of the species. I am happy that my sister and her tribe will no longer have to live with such a dangerous male in their midst. That is the hope that keeps me going.]

    “But what shall you do now? I asked. “How do they expect you to survive on your own?”

    He gave me a wry, sad smile. [Ah, well, that is the problem. I will gladly choose to accept my fate, to live on my own, in the open, in danger of poachers and predators, as that is a just consequence of leaving the colony. But I confess that I am not really very good at it.]

    [I had heard that there were rich islands here, filled with food and many kinds of Pokémon.
    But I lost my way. I flew across many lengths of ocean until I could no longer remember which I was going and I could not fly any longer.]

    [I found myself flying through a storm, and crashing into cold stone, and then…] He trailed off for a moment. [Then I was here.]

    I nodded. “So you are.”

    There was a moment’s silence. Then I broke it, trying to reach the creature beyond those sad, distant eyes.

    “Well,” I said, “you need not travel alone any longer. I would be glad to guide you to the nearby islands, and help you find the best orchards and groves to eat from, and help you to survive in this land.”

    He looked up slowly, cautiously. [After hearing my tale, you do not fear my anger?] he asked.

    I laughed. “Not in the least, for you cannot endanger me. Neither of us have anything to fear from each other, I assure you. I would happy to be your guide and your ally.”

    [Thank you,] he said fervently. [Thank you.]

    Over the weeks that followed, Dragonite and I quickly became fast friends. As soon as his wings were back up to their old strength, I set out over the ocean with him to show him the islands I had found. I introduced him to the islanders, and those who had come to respect me were eager to meet any Pokémon who travelled at my side. Indeed, I think I procured for him a welcome he might not otherwise have received, given how reticent the natives could be around outsiders. Some marveled at his fine scales and asked him many questions about his life, for they had heard of Dragonite in their myths and tales. Shyly, he told them as much as he could divulge.

    After a good deal of conversation and inquiry we learned that there were several locations in the archipelago ideally suited to his needs. On a certain island grew the curled fern his kind so enjoyed, and nearby were shores teeming with fish of all sorts. Before long I was able to watch him dive in and out of the waves, sparkling with droplets as he emerged with fresh fish in his claws. He agreed that this would be a good place for him to live, at least for now.

    But Dragonite and I continued to visit each other, day after day. We always sought some excuse to talk. I was always eager to fill him in on some new tidbit about island life, or some bit of news I had heard in my recent travels. He, in his turn, regaled me with stories about his life and his travels—I was the first outside his species, I think, to hear the story of how he had been caught in a net as a youth and thrashed his way free with the help of his sister, only to be greeted with a hailstorm of bullets as they slipped down the muddy river. To say nothing of the rich dialogue he had found, once, while visiting the mainland, far to the east of here, with a trio of Slowking who were departing from the shore.

    We were similar thinkers, he and I. Perhaps he was not my intellectual equal—at times I would lapse into matters of physics or biology that he admitted were entirely beyond him. But we shared the same curiosity about the universe, the urge to know all that we could and master the world we saw through that lens. Late into the night, we would stay up discussing the nature of the earth, the sea, the stars, the mysterious origins of life. The possibility of a Creator. I was always answering his questions, happily sharing what I had learned, and yet at the same time, he brought a fresh approach to the subjects and a keen critical eye the likes of which I had never encountered before. Ours was a friendship founded in a spirit of shared inquiry.

    And we grew to know a great deal about each other’s lives. Before long it was as if I had swum through those northern rivers, felt the breeze on my shoulder in those hidden grottoes, so clearly could I picture them—though he was careful never to share any detail that could give their location away. I, in turn, told him the story of my birth, my deluded labors under Giovanni, and my revelations and rebirth.

    And of course, as the two of us grew familiar, I was keen to share the philosophy I had put together, and the plan I was about to carry out from my rocky island. The revolution that would come for all our kind.

    Dragonite listened to my account patiently, with a thoughtful frown, his eyes meeting mine the whole time. When I had finished and lapsed into silence, he closed his eyes and leaned back on his haunches with a soft sigh. He appeared to be mulling it over.

    “So? What do you think?” I blurted eagerly. “I am aware that there is much yet to work out, but does it not sound like a most exquisite plan? Will you join me? Will you help bring about a new world for all our kind?”

    Dragonite let out a deep breath. [I…I cannot say just yet. Perhaps. It is a great deal to think about.]

    “You have reservations about the plan?”

    [Some, yes,] he admitted.

    “Well, speak, friend! If I have missed any crucial detail, do me the favor of relating it to me!” A thought struck me. “Do not tell me that you are among those who refuse to take action until the danger reaches their own threshold? I tell you, the human menace is a very real threat to all of us!”

    [That’s…not quite it, precisely,] he said slowly.

    “Or worse yet, one of those who does not accept that humankind must be destroyed? I certainly doubt you would be so naïve! Some fools, and I hope that you are not among them, insist that human beings may not be without their merits, if you can believe that. That there are kind and gentle humans, harmless as newly-hatched babes! You cannot possibly ascribe to such a claim?”

    [No,] he said pointedly. [I’m not saying that. Nor am I denying it.]

    “Good!” I cried. “Because they are responsible for the decline of your species, my friend! Your kind’s harsh struggle for survival—you owe it all to their poisonous touch, their grasping hand.”

    [I’m well aware,] he cut in. [You don’t have to tell me.]

    After a moment he sighed. [Mewtwo. Let me be clear. I admire your convictions, and your commitment to making this a better world for our kind. But bear in mind that you are asking us to take a very great deal on faith.]

    “Faith?” I asked. “Every insight I have shared with you is the result of logical reasoning. I tell you nothing that is not derived from my own experience.”

    [Admirable. But experience is not the same thing as truth. Which is not to say that experience is false, either.]

    “What are you saying?” I asked, puzzled.

    [I’m saying that you can only take experience so far. A given experience may represent the world accurately. Or it might not. You can only approach the truth by expanding your awareness, by having as many experiences as possible from as many different angles. And the more important the truth, the more you must commit yourself to experience.]

    “So you do doubt my claims after all,” I said, frowning.

    [Not quite in the way you think. I’m asking you to consider what you’ve experienced against the enormity of the plan you propose. You have had a certain amount of time with humanity—shall we say half a year or so? Are you absolutely certain that you saw every facet of their nature in that time?]

    “I can be reasonably certain, yes,” I said, although suddenly I was a bit less sure. “I saw precisely how human beings manipulate Pokémon into servitude on a large scale through a variety of methods. This made it possible to see the hideous reality lurking beneath the gloss of human civilization.”

    [Fair enough,] he said. [But are you certain enough to bet lives on it? Pokémon lives? Human lives? Because that is precisely what you are about to do. Here is my impression of your plan, and feel free to correct me if I am off the mark. You declare that the human race is evil. To its core.]

    “Yes,” I said proudly.

    [And that the best solution out of many possible choices is to wipe that race out in an all-out war.]

    “Yes,” I said. “Dragonite, I have given a great deal of thought to this.”

    [All right,] he said. [So you will bring more powerful beings like yourself into the world, and together you will wage war on humankind. And it is essential that all Pokémon everywhere devote themselves to this goal, lest they betray your race. And the fight will not end until the very last human falls to the ground.]

    “Yes, of course.”

    [And you are willing to pursue that end, that moment of triumph, no matter how many lives are lost in that time, no matter how much it tears up the earth, no matter how long it takes?]

    “Yes,” I declared. “Yes, I am.”

    His gaze was shrewd. [All of this solely on the basis of your own six months of experience?]

    I winced. He had a point. “I see what you mean,” I admitted. “But, Dragonite, you have to understand: I cannot have the kind of certainty you are talking about. I know what I have witnessed. That is—that must be—enough. I cannot allow myself to be bogged down by indecision.”

    [Why?] he asked. [Might not a certain amount of indecision be useful to you? What you propose would change the world, irrevocably. Would end more than a billion lives. If there is even the slightest chance that it would be a mistake, would it not be wise to take some more time to study the situation?]

    “No!” I shouted. “Not when Pokémon are already losing their lives, their freedom, by the thousands each day! Not when the day steadily approaches when humans will control every last speck of this planet, and leave it a burning husk! I cannot afford to wait, Dragonite! Not when waiting an hour means my people suffer an hour longer. How can you ask that of me? How?”

    [Because I fear you may be too rash,] Dragonite murmured. He was silent for a moment.

    [I was only thinking,] he said, his voice hoarse, [if I had waited longer before charging at the throat of my opponent…if I had taken the time to cool my rage…three of my kin might still be alive, and I would not be exiled from my people.]

    I looked away, cowed. A long moment passed between us. Finally, Dragonite sighed and leaned back again. [I don’t mean to discount what you have said, Mewtwo. In many ways I think your logic is sound. Perhaps when I speak I cannot see past my own regrets. I am only asking you to be careful. The fate of the world is a terrible thing to gamble with.]

    “I am glad you have told me these things,” I said. “I am glad, believe me. Dragonite…just what do you think of human beings? I do not know that I ever really asked you.”

    [I would have to say that I am not sure,] he replied. [How can I be? I have never met one. Thus I can neither like nor despise them. I have been told that human beings drove my kind into decline. That may be, but it is not something I can see with my own eyes, feel with my own hands. I cannot lay any claim to what I have not experienced myself. Do you see what I mean?]

    I nodded. “But Dragonite…I must tell you that I have experienced what human beings are like. This is not just a whim. This is something I need to do. Everything I have seen makes that clear to me. ”

    He was thoughtful for a moment. [I understand. But it seems to me that you have seen only a certain side of these creatures.]

    “What side?”

    [Their secrecy. Their cruel manipulations. You have seen how humans lie. But have you seen how they tell the truth?]

    “Dragonite, they are incapable of it,” I insisted.

    [Have you given them the chance? Have you ever spoken to them? About their betrayal?]

    “No. But I cannot imagine what good that would do me. I have no desire to listen to their disgusting, putrid excuses. What would you have me do, invite them for tea?”

    [All I am asking is that before you go out to erase them from the face of the earth, you take a moment to hear what they have to say about their crimes. What have you got to lose? If, as very well may be the case, humans are wretched, diabolical liars to the core, that will be immediately apparent in their answer to you. But if you find something else there instead—however unlikely that may be—well, I think that would be more than worth the trouble, to have that insight.]

    His imploring eyes were bright and green. [It doesn’t have to be anything too complicated. Or revealing. Just find a way to speak with them. Before you act. Hear what, if anything, they have to say, and then you can do what you like. That’s all I’m suggesting.]

    I looked at him carefully. “Very well,” I said. “I shall do that. It is a good suggestion, my friend. Thank you.”

    Looking back on that conversation, I have come to think that Dragonite was very wise. Far wiser than I, who for all my thought always acted without thinking, in blind haste. These days, I am very grateful for his insight, for in some sense it saved everything. Saved me.

    That night, I considered the best approach. I had to admit, I saw the sense of Dragonite’s suggestion—indeed, what had I to lose?—and he had sparked in me a powerful curiosity about what a group of human beings might actually say if I confronted them with their evil. Yet I did not the least relish the idea of revealing myself to some human city and giving them the chance to assail me with their lies and hatred. I shuddered to think of it. Nor did I wish to alter my war plan in any significant degree. No, if I was to confront human beings about their crimes, I wanted it to be on my ground, according to my design.

    Perhaps I could build it into the very structure of the war. I could lure human beings to my island under some pretext, the night before my forces flew into battle, and tell the demons what was to happen to their kind because of its crimes. How satisfying it would be to see their dumbstruck faces, to hear their moans and cries of rage! And I could learn so much about the twisted reasoning of their minds, drawing up new tactics before the battle had even begun. Yes, what a delicious way to begin my campaign!

    And, with a sudden grin, I realized that I could draw those very forces from the confrontation. I would simply invite only Pokémon “trainers” to the gathering. Human culture idolized these glorified slave drivers—as such they would leap at the chance to celebrate their own depraved talents once more. I would announce a gathering for the most skilled and celebrated trainers in the region, and once they had arrived, I would find a way to take their powerful Pokémon for my own.

    Naturally, the hope was that these slaves would be glad to join me—but I would take those who refused as prisoners of war and extract their DNA for my own superclones. If I could do this quickly enough, I might have a group of new generals ready within the week. Even the day. It would take cunning and research, but I was certain I could manage it.

    As a consequence of this new plan, I decided to reexamine the design for my palace. The exterior remained largely the same, but within, the austere barracks were replaced by an eloquent atrium of sorts, calculated to appeal to human vanity. The well-lit chamber would contain great marble tables fit for human kings to feast from, flowing fountains and pools (in which aqueous Pokémon might be released), and any other devices or comforts I could think of which would convince the humans they were being treated to the height of luxury—until the moment I chose to reveal that I had their world in my grip.

    Even with the atrium, I thought I had only exhausted about half of the space the island made available to me. Hmm—what might I put over on that eastern side that would stir something in the hearts of my human guests? Finally, I was struck with a burst of inspiration: I would make it a stadium. A field on which Pokémon might battle, every bit like the one that Giovanni had built in his Gym, a field every bit like those that could be seen in every Gym across the landscape. I laughed to think of how I would build rings of stone seats and bright lights to illuminate the battlefield, as if I was hosting battles for ten thousand spectators rather than just one. Of course, in a way, I would be.

    And on that field, I would test my army against whatever paltry offensive the humans could muster. I would devastate these traitorous Pokémon, and show the humans that it was useless to resist, and I would reveal the new world that would be replacing them, and I would see them quake in understanding.

    Naturally these things would soon serve other functions. After the war began, my troops would repose in the atrium, and my soldiers would practice against each other on the battlefield. But the memory of that first confrontation with the humans would be present, enveloping the fortress like a benevolent spirit. Humanity’s first gift to its successors. Our first conquest.

    And so construction continued according to these new designs. On days when I wasn’t chiseling out great heaps of stone from the underside of the island, I was fastening great girders of iron in place while my work crew scurried around placing their appointed pieces of stone. Day by day, I watched the skeletal walls of my palace rise up from the island like the resurrected dead. As many logistics as there still were to figure out—where was I to find all this marble?—a thrill ran through me to see it: my ideas bursting into life at last.

    And my research into the science of cloning also continued unabated. By now I felt sure I could hold my own in an academic conversation with any of the scientists who had created me. I had long ago answered my original curiosity about terminology—the world of genetics had ceased to be an alien landscape and become a space in which I could move about freely. My questions were no longer questions about what this science was, but how I could turn it to my advantage.

    And yet, I was coming up against new limits. I had scoured the same books a thousand times, long since memorized the contents of the region’s leading biological minds. No one, it seemed, was interested in the things I wanted to do. Smith’s notes were marvelously helpful in explaining the cloning process to me, but they were full of odd gaps and presumed a great deal of prior knowledge. And at any rate I wanted to go beyond what his team had done by performing a number of experiments of my own. But it seemed that the science I was trying to employ had not yet been invented.

    Then, one day, flipping through the footnotes on an article about meiosis, I came across a curious reference—an aside, really. The author, describing certain odd behavior of Pokémon DNA, said in passing: “…this curious result has been shown to be replicable through psychochemical triggers, as in the remarkable ‘Alderase Effect*…” The footnote went on to say: “*See the landmark works by Dr. Caroline Joy, particularly such articles as ‘Controlled Evolution: Toward a New Understanding of Fetal Pokémon Metamorphosis.’”

    I looked it over closely. That sounded like precisely what I was interested in achieving. I steeled myself for disappointment. But when I dove into the library’s archives and found the article, it turned out to be a brilliant discovery indeed. I sat down and read with fascination as the author described how one could so manipulate Pokémon DNA as to achieve a late evolutionary stage even before the Pokémon in question had hatched from its egg. There were even suggestions on how one might allow a Pokémon to develop without any egg whatsoever. Caroline Joy, whoever she was, was clearly interested in more than just the raw mechanics of Pokémon genetics. She wanted to turn that understanding to practical uses.

    With the help of a few other libraries and the minds of certain scientists, I tracked down the rest of her work. As much useful information as I found there, it was still incomplete. I needed more. I knew that this mind was out there, somewhere, sheltering a complete theory of Pokémon genetic manipulation that I could only ever see the surface of from these articles. If I could find that mind and claim its insights for my own, I would be able to crack open the Pokémon genome and unleash its potential as never before.

    After a great deal of searching, I finally tracked her down. As it turned out, Dr. Caroline Joy, expert in genetic analysis, hailed from a long line of humans trained in meddling in Pokémon lives. The Joy family had made a name for itself as a source of expert biologists, doctors, and nurses—the women in particular were a familiar sight across the region in their identical white nurses’ outfits, with their circlets of bright fuchsia hair. I gathered that they Joys had long ago formed an organization which claimed to support the welfare of Pokémon. In reality it was just another human deception, a series of offices in which humans patched up the very wounds they had made our kind inflict on each other, so that we could go on to receive new scars for their entertainment. With grotesque irony, they called these places “Pokémon Centers.”

    This particular daughter, Caroline, had not distanced herself from the family as some of her relatives had done, but opted for the best of both worlds by combining an independent academic career with part-time work at a Center on the southern coast, not very far, in fact, from where I had first crossed to the mainland. When I arrived at this Center, I found it was built into another complex, a building where ships were launched called Old Shore Wharf. Interesting: could this place perhaps be useful in escorting a group of human beings to my island?

    I found Joy working at a desk, hunched over some papers, reading glasses lying at her side. I leapt into that fascinating mind and began besieging it with questions. How might one go about accelerating genetic development? I asked. How could the Alderase Effect be used in coordination with the epigenome? And the mind responded beautifully, explaining each step I would need to take. Furthermore, Joy’s work at the Center had given her a hands-on understanding of the bodies of Pokémon, the structure of the limbs and fur and scales and fire sacs. As sunset approached, I realized I had to make a decision. I could stand there in thrall to this spectacular mind until another week had passed, or I could have it for my own.

    So I decided to bring it home with me.

    Kidnapping a human is extremely easy. You need not even render her invisible if you do not want to. Let her legs carry her out the door, let her eyes gaze forward, and no human will question that she has a reason for going where she is going. I knocked Caroline Joy out and walked her like a puppet from the Center into the wilderness, where I snatched her up and flew the two of us back to my island, ghosts darting undetected through the sky. And thus did the renowned geneticist disappear without a trace, leaving only an empty chair and a stack of papers behind.

    By the time it was all the way dark, I had made it back to my fortress, where I set Joy’s prone form down in the middle of what was to be the grand atrium. I watched her lying there, snoring gently. She seemed rather small and pitiful. It was hard to imagine that such weak creatures as this could have enslaved our kind. But I knew that this very day she had been plotting and scheming against us like all the rest of her species.

    Had bringing her to the island been the best idea? Though I now had access to all her knowledge, I would have to feed and water this captive and go to a great deal of trouble to keep her alive. On the other hand, having a human prisoner would surely give me a better understanding of their physiology. And perhaps I could put her to some use.

    In fact, I realized I would soon need a go-between between myself and human beings, if I was to summon a group of them to this place. I could not present my own face to humankind, and I doubted I could disguise it very well. But if I used hers instead—if I sent a human puppet into the world to make my offer for me—why, then they would listen to what she had to say and readily agree to my request. They would think her the servant of some figure of authority, and in a way they would be right. I laughed at the idea of it: a Pokémon who kept a human servant, reversing the previous order! Well, and why not? It would be more than appropriate. I could almost imagine sending her out in battle against the populace of Viridian City.

    Yes, I was getting into this idea. I could have a mind-controlled human slave all my own, who could fetch me tools that I needed, greet my human guests, attend to my every need. My followers would be impressed at what I had already accomplished, and humans would quake in fear to see one of their own beside me. And all the while I would extract the ideas in that brilliant scientific mind as I made my enhanced cloning project a reality.

    She needed a new name, I decided. Joy simply did not fit. I decided I would call her the Maid.

    Dragonite gave me a strange look when he found me the next morning, marching a human woman around like a puppet and trying to get her to stay under my command. She had already woken up several times from the trance I had put her in—I really could not let her out of my sight for a moment—but fortunately it was always easy to tell, because she would begin looking around the island wildly, demanding to know where she was and asking to be returned home. It was easy enough to knock her out again, but the constant interruptions had cost me a great deal of sleep.

    When I told Dragonite about my plans for this human, he gave me a halfhearted shrug, as if to say, Do what you like, Mewtwo, and did not mention the subject again. I did my best not to bring it up, and he always seemed to look the other way whenever the Maid was around. I would guess that he found the whole charade childish and of dubious merit, but he was polite enough not to say so.

    Soon I had found the Maid a new uniform to replace her nurse’s frock. In fact, I stole a great deal of material from a fancy dressmaker’s shop in Viridian and stitched together a billowing gown of my own design. The rich brown fabric, with white trim, seemed to me to suggest both the humility of the Maid’s station and the grandeur of her employer. A cylindrical hat, tied around the chin, would hide that familiar shock of bright pink hair, and a scarlet brooch completed the look. Yes, perfect. Though the palace was still half-finished, she looked right at home amongst its pillars, every bit as mysterious and stately as they.

    The difficult thing was keeping her mind in check. Though I kept her well fed on the same diet of leaves and nuts that sustained me, though I gave her a chamberpot of her very own and made sure to have her run laps around the island every morning, just after I did my own exercises, the Maid rejected my hospitality. Her mind thrashed against me and leapt from unconsciousness whenever my attention slipped. It was exhausting. Finally, I discovered a clever workaround. I wove together her conscious and unconscious brain, so that, like a sleepwalker, she lived a waking dream. In fact, I took it even further. What she saw and heard and felt, I made her accept without question as the surreal reality she inhabited—just as dreamers tend to do. At the end of each day, I would wipe her mind of all that she had seen.

    From there it was easy enough to begin programming her with a limited degree of autonomy. I persuaded her dreaming mind that I was her lifelong master, whose commands she would have to obey. Soon I had her patrolling the caverns for uninvited visitors, reciting my daily schedule, and asking me such questions as “Is there anything you would have me do, Master?” It was an unexpected comfort to have such a loyal servant always at my side. For the first time, I felt like I really might be in charge of the world someday. I decided that I would build a spiral staircase, or perhaps a ramp, leading up through the central tower, so that she could visit me as I gazed out upon my citadel from its highest point.

    And I did not forget the reason I had originally brought her here. Each day I posed new questions to that slumbering mind, delved deeply into the fertile soil of her expertise. Indeed, at times I felt I was a student listening at her knee. In my probing, I was always careful to preserve her calculating intellect and rich memory banks, but I cared little about her mental health in the long term. It was possible that my aggressive psychic grip could do her permanent damage over time, but that did not particularly bother me. I only needed her scientific abilities to remain intact.

    By the time I brought the Maid over to the island, I had already constructed a rudimentary laboratory, deep within the catacombs. Her insights allowed me to expand it, and to begin experimenting in earnest. In this I received an unexpected boon from Dr. Smith and the team that had created me. Deep within a pile of unmarked crates, I found a series of test tubes, carefully stored and wrapped—a few broken, but most intact.

    A miscellaneous note of Smith’s told me that the liquid within contained DNA samples from three Pokémon. These were the trio traditionally raised in slavery and given to young humans about to start their glorious career in Pokémon kidnapping: Bulbasaur, a reptile bearing its symbiote, a flower bulb, on its back; Charmander, a small flame-tailed lizard, the lesser form of Charmeleon; and Squirtle, a shelled amphibian which could propel itself with jets of water.

    Smith explained that these creatures had been used as test subjects to perfect the cloning process before the team attempted to develop a living Mewtwo. They had even done some experiments with modifying the DNA of these Pokémon, though they had gone no further than generating mottled patterns on their skin.

    I felt an immediate sense of kinship. These Pokémon had been my predecessors, my companions in the chambers of gestation. I resolved to use their DNA in my own experiments. If I could bring these ancient brothers and sisters of mine back to life, with genetic enhancements, I would make them my first generals, for it was only fitting that those creatures who had brought me into the world should help me achieve my life’s ambition. Keeping the Maid beside me, I set to work.

    I will not exhaust your patience with the details of that long, difficult process of experimentation. Suffice it to say that it took a long time to achieve what I wanted to achieve, and there was a cost for doing so. I will not tell you how many times I watched my failed experiments wither and die before my eyes. I was on the verge of giving up at times, save only for the knowledge that I had been created by this process, and that it could be done. My faith prevailed. At last, the day came when I had three living creatures before me, stable and sleeping in a watery world, just as I had been, once, before the start of everything. But these were not gentle infants. These were Venusaur, Charizard, and Blastoise, fully mature creatures brandishing powerful muscles and sharp fangs and claws, ready to leap into battle, to set their claws into human throats, the very moment of their awakening.

    How did I achieve this marvel? With the Maid at my side, I was able to make advances in the field of genetics that no human scientist had ever even dreamed of. Many of these were simply improvements to the cloning system, transforming Smith’s awkward, disjointed techniques into a smooth, sophisticated procedure. But I did not limit myself to refining what had already been done. I had very specific goals for my cloning system, all revolving around the night I would invite human trainers to the island.

    The plan was this: I would invite the Pokémon held by these trainers to join me against their masters. Those who rejected freedom would be captured, and from them genetic samples would be taken, processed automatically, and used to generate enhanced clones. Within the very hour, those clones would stand at my side, fully evolved and ready to go into war, and the humans, seeing them, would know their kind was doomed. Ambitious? Dizzyingly so. But I knew I could achieve it.

    While I will not go into the technical details behind the cloning process—only such experts as Joy and myself would really be interested anyway—I would like to note several advancements in the field which made it possible. First and foremost, I relied on the discovery for which Joy had caught my eye: it is possible to trigger premature Pokémon evolution. The genetic information for every stage of a Pokémon’s life is already contained within its DNA. Under certain conditions, that information is accessed and the metamorphosis begins.

    With Joy’s “psychochemical triggers,” I was able to modify the DNA of any Pokémon so that it skipped straight to a later evolutionary stage. My only concern was that this might carry over to the offspring of the clones, or cause unforeseen complications when combined with normal DNA. But I would just have to deal with such problems as they arose.

    So the Pokémon I cloned would be as evolved as the source from which they sprang. Furthermore, they would be in marvelous fighting shape within the hour of their conception. Smith’s team had taken weeks to grow their clones—months in my case. But they did not have the nutrient-rich gestation fluid I developed, nor the chemical infusion I had discovered which would accelerate their growth to an incredible rate. I felt quite confident that I could generate an army for myself within an evening.

    An enhanced one, of course, and another innovation I developed was a standard by which I might measure that enhancement and an automated system for carrying it out. I studied the most powerful Pokémon on record and what had made them tick from a genetic perspective. I came up with a list of traits that should always be enhanced: flame intensity, size, motor functions, bone strength, vine dexterity, and so on. Then I built machines able to read DNA and apply these modifications in order of priority, no matter what Pokémon I had captured.

    Finally, I wanted to be able to communicate with my new children. I wanted to let them know why I had brought them into the world, so that they could help me face the enemy we all shared. With the initial trio of Venusaur, Charizard, and Blastoise, this was easy enough. As they developed, their minds were right there in front of me. I was able to speak to them in dreams, to teach them about their own abilities, to get to know these minds before they had even come into the world. They would be ready, ready as I was. Ready to fight.

    But for the new clones it would be trickier. After a great deal of research, I finally stumbled on a way of preserving a psychic message and sending it out via electronic means. This message would bathe my children as they surged into maturity; they would hear it over and over in their dreams. The message would tell them who I was, that they were my children, and that—on my command—they would destroy the world’s greatest evil: the human race. It would be simple and effective. And when they awoke, they would know their purpose with every fiber of their being, and their hearts would be set on vengeance.

    All of this would be carried out via an automated process, in a great laboratory with walls of steel, lit by pale blue light, intended to resemble the room in which I had been born. In the center would rest a new version of the scientists’ cloning machine, reshaped into an elegant spiral form, like the shell of an Omanyte. And instead of isolated glass chambers, I would grow my clones in a cluster of flexible tubes, which could accommodate a creature of any size or body plan. Great computers, whose hard drives I put together myself, would manage this complex sequence.

    As a whimsical afterthought, once the computers and the cloning program were in place, I downloaded Smith’s final message into the machine and set it to play every time the cloning process was successfully completed. It amused me to hear his voice and look back on those distant memories.

    Though all these projects kept me busy enough, I made sure to set aside time to visit my loyal followers and tell them how our endeavors were progressing. Now that my forays into genetics were finally underway, now that I could be ensured of having a powerful army, I felt free to declare that our new world was just over the horizon. I whipped my disciples into a frenzy with my rhetoric, telling them that they must be willing to give their bodies, their lives, their limbs so that their brothers and sisters could be free. They must make themselves ready, for the final war was at hand. They drank in my words greedily, and howled of my coming reckoning to all their kin.

    Dragonite traveled extensively with me at this time, at my side as I moved through the islands, spreading my message. As I preached to a group of Nidoran or Fearow, he would sit beside me, a silent guest, listening with great thought to my words, and to my followers’ jubilant response. Afterward, I would often seek his insight, anxiously asking him to tell me if I had said the right thing, if I had done well. He was happy to address these concerns—as he told me while laying a bit of stone for the palace, though he was cautious on the matter of revolution, that did not mean he could not help me see some of my goals into fruition.

    One evening, the two of us were talking along these lines, when an idea suddenly leapt into my head. “Dragonite,” I said thoughtfully. “You told me you had never seen a human, correct?”

    [I have not,] he admitted.

    “Would you like to?”

    [Yes,] he said slowly, [I think I would, provided that the human was not trying to hunt or capture me. To encounter one, or even converse with it, would surely be a valuable experience. Why do you ask, my friend?]

    “I was thinking that you might like to be a sort of ambassador to the human beings I intend to contact. Not in the way that the Maid is—I cannot let her leave the island. More like a messenger. I need to send out invitations, after all, to ensure that I will have enough humans for a proper discussion of their sins.”

    I found myself giving him a shy smile. “I would be honored if you would help me to deliver them. Since it was your idea to invite the creatures, I thought you might like to have the job. And because you are so open-minded and thoughtful about humans, I think you would have an easier time meeting them and consorting with them than someone as—as vehement about revolution as I. What do you say?”

    He nodded slowly. [Well-reasoned as always, my friend. I would be delighted to deliver these messages. I think it would allow me to help your efforts in a very real way. Consider it done.]

    “Thank you,” I told him, and we grinned at each other in the fading light.

    On those nights when Dragonite was elsewhere, and nothing else was really going on—a rare occurrence, but it did happen, for even my genetic projects needed time to develop—I would sit on the edge of my island and contemplate battle techniques. I wanted to be in perfect form for the war effort. I had asked my followers to ready themselves—could I expect anything less of myself?

    So I kept myself fit with daily exercises and worked to develop techniques that would force even the most powerful opponent to kneel at my feet. I trained my awareness to keep track of everything around me, to the tiniest fly’s motion on an island a half mile away. I practiced against hordes of invisible opponents, ducking and weaving through their blows. I lifted huge chunks from the seafloor to test my dexterity and strength. At times I would even spar with Dragonite, although he had little stomach for it after the first few minutes. But it was good to have a real opponent to practice against. It gave me confidence in my own abilities.

    And I expanded those abilities by the day. As I dangled my feet above the water, I thought up new ways to overwhelm legions of opponents. I found a way to pull all the air in an enemy horde’s camp into a single point, at once depriving them of oxygen and creating a shattering shockwave when the compressed air was released. I came up with a method for unleashing a devastating surge of heat, so that my enemies’ bodies would melt and boil at temperatures hotter than the sun.

    And as I delved into the nature of matter, I developed an unusual and powerful technique I thought of as the death-sphere. By pulling elementary particles out of the very air itself, I could create a spinning orb of lethally charged matter and energy that would rip apart whatever it touched before finally dissipating several hundred yards away. The genius of this technique lay in its many applications: it was ideal for dueling one opponent, as it could be aimed easily, yet it could also be used to mow down rows and rows of enemy fighters. As I sat on the edge of the world, I would fire off volley after volley of death-spheres into the water and watch its surface simmer and sear and spark with each impact.

    Training like this reminded me of that moment, so long ago, when I had been convinced that my life’s purpose was to battle my predecessor Mew. No longer very likely, I supposed. I hardly thought about the creature these days, there was so much to occupy my attention. But whenever I did, I felt betrayed. All this power at your command, Mew, and you could not even lift a finger to save your kind? At least my existence could make up for your absence. At least I could replace you in this, as I did in all things.

    I supposed it was still possible that, as we travelled across the continent, ridding the land of its scum, we might cross paths with Mew in some corner of the world, hiding from its responsibilities. What would happen then, I had no idea. Perhaps I would challenge it. Then again, I might pity it and let it go, seeing how pathetic my predecessor had become in its refusal to face the truth.

    But that was all just wishful thinking, wasn’t it? Just an idle hope that I might come to know my ineffable ancestor. No doubt Mew would elude me forever.

    I wondered what Mew was doing right now, as I built up my palace and my army. I wondered what Mew thought about, as it flew across the land and sea. I wondered if it knew I existed, if it had ever heard that it had a cousin, many times removed, hiding on an island and preaching of revolution. I wondered just what the two of us were, in the final analysis. I wondered if I would ever know any of the answers.

    It was around this time that the first of my clones, my holy trinity of Venusaur, Charizard, and Blastoise, came into their full maturity. How beautiful they looked, sleeping in their chambers, their muscular bodies tightly clenched, like springs waiting to be released! How grateful I felt, that I had been given the opportunity to bring creatures like them to life. As their minds coalesced into being, I made myself present in their dreams, a benevolent parent whispering before the bedside of yet unborn children. They knew me, and loved me. And in turn I taught them of their purpose, and helped them practice for the battles to come.

    And within days the palace of their birth was finally complete.

    Out of necessity, the laboratory had been the first part of the building to take its final form. But as my experiments progressed, I built up the walls and carved the stone into the exquisite designs I had long dreamed of. I built the great towers, each with its wind turbine to enhance the electric power at my disposal. I quarried the marble of the guest hall, and put it in place beside magnificent pools and aqueducts. I set down the field of sand that would become my private Pokémon arena, and built a sea of stone seats worthy of any coliseum. Before long, all that was left was to crown the atrium with its great, domelike ceiling.

    Hundreds of my followers turned out for that final triumph. I praised their loyalty with another exultant speech, and then we set to work. Everywhere there was a flurry of motion as we raised quarried stone to its destination. Mankey, Primape, and other dexterous creatures scurried up the walls of the building with great stones in their hands; while birds like Fearow carried as much as they could in their talons. I darted about, smoothing the stone and fusing the boulders into place. Finally, it was done, and a great cheer went up as I roared of our achievement. We had built a great palace, fit for all our kind to inherit. It was done.

    After that day, my campaign began to feel truly real to me. No longer could I think of myself as an isolated revolutionary on a ruined island. Evidence to the contrary was all around me. I was the master of an impressive estate and a scientist par excellence, a general with a human servant and vast armies to my name. It would not take long to make myself an emperor.

    But was I ready?

    I had taken a great deal of time to prepare, knowing that I would only be able to claim victory if I commanded forces greater than anything humankind could throw at me. I had tried to use every last resource at my disposal, building up these armies, this fortress, this all-encompassing strategy. Would it be enough? Would I be able to win?

    And was I strong enough to face the task ahead of me? It was all very well to plan a war. But it was another matter to fight one. Could I lead an army of my kind against human forces? Would I be able to guide them wisely and well? And was I prepared to risk my own life for this effort?

    I spent a long time thinking about these questions, staring out over the ocean from the central tower, the wind from an open window rustling through my fur. But as the blades spun above me, as the cries of sea-birds echoed faintly over the waves, as I looked down upon everything I had created, I knew that I already had the answer.

    Yes. I was ready.

    At times, one cannot afford to doubt. I knew that I had done everything in my power to prepare for my assault on the human race. I was in peak physical condition, and I had an ever-growing army of followers, which would be supplemented by enhanced clones of incredible strength and my own incredible powers. I knew just the path I would take to lead my forces across the surface of the earth, and scour humans from the globe forever.

    Meanwhile, Pokémon everywhere suffered and died under human oppression. I could not waste any more time on uncertainty. I knew, deep in my heart, that it was time to do what I had long ago set out to do. It was time to act. And as such…

    A grin spread over my face. And as such, I ought to prepare for my guests to arrive.

    I spent the next few days checking over every inch of my fortress, making sure that every last machine was working as planned, from the automated cloning machines to the generators to the floodlights surrounding the stadium. There were a few minor glitches to fix, but otherwise the building was in excellent shape to receive company.

    Among the technological innovations which would greet them was a Pokéball of my own design. I had always considered the red-and-white capsules humanity’s most insidious invention, allowing them to capture our species with ease and thus enslave us on a grand scale. My version would help to reverse that tide. I tinkered with the original technology until I developed capsules that could snatch up Pokémon humans had already claimed. Furthermore, I made these orbs self-propelling and capable of responding to my psychic commands. With them at my disposal, it would be easy to take my first prisoners of war and extract their DNA.

    I had put a great deal of thought into what humans I would invite to witness the start of my campaign. At first, I had thought I might invite the most lauded Pokémon trainers in the region, those men and women who had mastered the sickening sport of Pokémon slavery: the Elite Four. Surely such decadent humans, who had built their own reputations on the backs of my kin, were the epitome of everything I sought to destroy, perfect representatives of the human race.

    But, as I looked into the subject, I realized that inviting them would be too risky of a maneuver. The heads of the so-called “Pokémon League” tended to be powerful, influential figures, not unlike Giovanni, and they were constantly in the public eye. Revealing my island to them, or kidnapping them, could easily rouse enough suspicion to undo my revolution before it started. I needed humans who were a little more…gullible.

    In the end, I decided upon children. That was one of the most disgusting things about the Pokémon sport: humans indoctrinated their young into the practice as early as age ten. Indeed, I estimated around half of the Pokémon enslavers wandering the region were under the age of twenty. Such humans, I decided, represented the purest form of human cruelty: their young, unformed brains had not developed the webs of self-deception and justification that one found adult humans. A dialogue with them would be fruitful indeed.

    And they would certainly be far easier to catch. Such arrogant children would thrill at the opportunity to do battle with a mysterious, powerful opponent. They would accept the invitation of such an opponent without question, deliciously naïve. I would seek those whose Pokémon were mightiest or had unusual qualities—not only would I enjoy crushing those humans’ infantile pride, such slaves, once freed, would make worthy additions to my army.

    But though I would cast my net wide, I wanted only the very best. I hoped for a private, intimate mood for our conversation. No more than ten trainers at the most. How, then, would I narrow down my selection to the most insidious humans and the mightiest Pokémon?

    Through storm and strife.

    For some time now, I had been experimenting with the weather. A storm was not such a difficult thing to create, once you knew a bit about how it worked. The motion of the wind, the interaction of heat and cold, clouds and their torrential rains—all were well within my command. And a storm was a brilliant tool for inflicting devastation on a large scale. Flooding, panic, winds strong enough to break limbs and concrete, the nightmarish power of lightning—so many possibilities lay at my disposal. Enormous storms under my control could pave the way for our march across the continent, scouring each human settlement from the face of the earth. My armies would only have to clean up the debris.

    From the top of the central tower, I spent many days practicing storm-making. I began with ordinary clouds, molding them into vicious thunderstorms, learning how to call down lightning at will. Then I began to shape clouds of my own from the vapor in the air. Before long, I could call forth a massive cyclone around my island, even from the clearest skies, and make it dissipate just as easily. Such a storm would inflict the Flood long dreamed about in human myth: it would bring the human race to its apocalyptic end.

    My guests would have the honor of being first to encounter it. I would acquaint all the trainers invited with the location of my fortress, but create around it a hurricane so dangerous that no boat in the region would take them there. The cowards would flee. Only those humans reckless enough to travel into the heart of the storm, and only those Pokémon strong enough to overcome deadly winds and enormous waves, would make it to the calm center where my fortress lay. Only they would earn the right to know, before anyone else, what was to happen to their world.

    After that, assembling these human trainers was easy enough. The many flocks of Fearow and other avian Pokémon under my command were happy to aid me in this endeavor. I developed a simple video camera, easily made, which could be worn on a metal ring around the neck. Then I sent hundreds of birds out with these cameras to patrol the southern part of the region. Their mission, I instructed them carefully, was to search for human beings in the act of forcing Pokémon into combat. But they were not to interfere—they were only to observe, and stay out of sight as much as they could.

    It was astonishing how well it worked, really. I set up several electronic screens in the top of the tallest tower, so that I could monitor the various feeds as their images flashed by. The Fearow did their work well: each day I was able to observe at least a dozen battles, to size up the impudent faces of the humans, to hear their voices, somewhat garbled, as they barked commands to their slaves. And most of all, I watched the Pokémon. Seeing their bodies in motion brought me back to my Gym days, when I was discovering all these creatures for the first time. I looked for the strongest, the swiftest, those who employed unusual techniques with a devilish look in their eyes. They, most of all, influenced my choice of guests. I wanted to see these Pokémon standing before me.

    When I knew that I wanted a certain trainer or Pokémon at my island, I would send them an invitation. As it turned out, the Maid was able to serve as my representative after all. Each invitation I sent out was in fact a small metal device containing a pre-recorded hologram. With one of my cameras, I staged a scene in which the Maid read a brief message:

    Greetings and congratulations, Pokémon trainers. I bear an invitation—I apologize for the abrupt message. You have been chosen to join a select group of Pokémon trainers at a special gathering. You and your fellow guests are among those whose deeds, in our estimation, will have a powerful impact on the future of Pokémon training.

    This gathering will be hosted by my master, the world’s greatest Pokémon trainer, at his palace on New Island. A chartered ferry will leave from Old Shore Warf to take you there on the thirtieth of September at precisely 5:30 pm. Only trainers who show this invitation will be admitted. If you decide to attend, you must reply at once by marking “Yes” on the included card. We look forward to your decision. My master awaits you.


    The ferry was, in fact, chartered. Once I had settled on a date, I snuck back into the wharf and convinced the harbor managers that “the world’s greatest Pokémon trainer”—the truest thing in that message, I thought—was a real and trustworthy entity. They were happy to procure a ferry for me, and to begin planning for the upcoming influx of Pokémon trainers. As for the name “New Island,” I thought it only fitting. I had made the island anew, and from it I would do the same for the world. The harbor managers would never know if it had possessed another name.

    Of course, the ferry was a complete ruse. I wanted the trip to be cancelled the moment the winds began to howl. To this end, I played up the fear of torrential weather in the minds of the harbor authorities. The head of operations there, in fact, was something of a religious fanatic, obsessed with prophecies. So I exaggerated the woman’s thoughts of floods and devastation, to the point that even weeks later, I found her staring out over the sea, dreaming of apocalypse.

    And just as I had hoped, it was Dragonite who delivered the invitations for me. He marveled when he first saw the holographic recording I had created, turning the device over and over in his claws. I built him a cozy apartment in the central tower, so that he did not have to sleep out in the cold or the rain, and found him a black mailbag he could wear, slung over his shoulder, for making his rounds. Whenever I found a worthy guest, I would send the Maid to him with a set of coordinates. These I would have her program into a small device, clipped to the mailbag, which used a series of increasing beeps to guide him to the correct location.

    And off he would fly. It was a delight to see him soaring across the ocean; very often I could catch him leaping from the alcove below me when I looked down through the tower window. With a gentle smile, he would catch the air beneath him, surging upward with a pounding of his powerful wings. He would rise into the clouds, twirl and dance around them, and then, quick as lightning, drop down to the level of the ocean, so close to the surface that a wing almost touched the water, and the winds whipped up sea-foam in his wake. He looked so at peace. So free. I envied him that.

    On his return, Dragonite would often regale me with stories of the humans and Pokémon he had encountered. On the whole, he said, he was impressed with the creatures, for they almost always treated him graciously. It was strange to see them up close, but also very interesting, for they varied in so many subtle ways without diverging from the same essential body structure. He was glad, he said, that I was inviting these humans to a conversation, for he thought they would have very interesting things to say. I thought him a bit naïve, but I let it pass. He had not encountered their duplicity firsthand, as I had.

    The Pokémon had also been very interesting, he told me, for he was encountering many species he had never seen before, and a few he had not even heard of. I smiled and told him how I had enjoyed encountering my brothers and sisters in the Gym, before I knew of humanity’s crimes. Together we reminisced and reveled in the beauty of our kin.

    Dragonite was also enjoying the chance to explore the southern part of the mainland, for he had never known any land save the inlets and streams he called home. He had made a little project, he told me, of mapping out the mountains and forests and lakes of lower Kanto. Bit by bit, he was coming to know this land and its inhabitants, talking with locals about their lives and about the humans in their midst. I listened eagerly, wishing I had been able to devote some time to such aims. I could see he was very excited about the project, and I was happy for him, though I did not know quite where it would lead him.

    By the time the appointed date drew near, I felt my collection of potential guests to be more or less complete. I had selected close to a hundred human trainers who fit what I was looking for—either they exuded such an obvious air of arrogance that I wanted to crush their pitiful self-esteem, or their Pokémon had some special skill or quality that intrigued me from a strategic standpoint. I knew I was more or less done. But I let the birds roam around for a few days more, not really wanting to call them off. Some part of me remained convinced that I had not seen everything the humans had to offer.

    And indeed, I did add a few more trainers to my list at the last moment. Only a day or two before my war was to begin, I happened upon a battle on the southern coast, between a muscular, tanned adolescent wearing a pirate’s bandanna, and a smaller boy with an eager grin, tousled black hair sticking out from beneath a red-and-white cap.

    The pirate failed to interest me—he was clearly incompetent. But I found the younger human intriguing. He tried unusual techniques and made them work, pitting weak, unevolved Pokémon against powerful opponents like Machamp yet somehow coming out victorious. I watched the stubborn look in his eyes, then glanced at the Pokémon on the battlefield. Was his victory the result of superior skill on his part? Or was it that these seemingly weak Pokémon had some advantage that allowed them to surpass their peers? Either way, it was an interesting match.

    I flinched to see him embrace one of the Pokémon before returning it to its imprisoning capsule. What a disgusting way to trick a slave into loyalty—convincing it that you bore it some emotional affection. A hot flush of shame ran through me as I remembered how I had bent before Giovanni. There was no real love in that embrace, I knew.

    I watched as the boy’s last Pokémon, a squat Pikachu, delivered an electrifying final blow. Very interesting—it was not often I saw an electric Pokémon who could overcome the sheer bulk of a ground-based Pokémon like a Golem. A superior mutation, perhaps? It might be worth looking into the creature’s genome. Behind the trainer, shaded by an umbrella at some sort of picnic bench, two other humans looked on. From the capsules they bore on their belts, I guessed that they were trainers, too.

    The Maid noticed me looking closely at the humans and interrupted my thoughts. “Master, shall I extend an invitation to these trainers as well?” she asked, in her vague way.

    I thought about it for a moment. I doubted I really needed another three humans on the guest list—I had filled it out so well already. But then again, it could be quite interesting to have them. I was particularly curious about those deceptively powerful Pokémon. I supposed I might as well invite them. Why not? I was feeling generous. I had nothing to lose. Of course, I doubted that these three would have the strength to make it through the storm, but I might as well give them the chance. In the final estimation, I doubted it would matter.

    I sent the Maid a silent affirmative. “As you wish,” she said, and bowed. Then she went down the long ramp to alert Dragonite.

    Looking back on that moment, so much later, I think it was a very good choice.

    The remaining time passed by almost without my noticing. I checked the equipment over and over and over again, until I was sure it would all function as planned. I finally called the bird Pokémon off the search, taking the cameras from their necks and lavishing praise on them for their noble efforts. I went over every detail of my plan in my mind until I could almost see it unfolding before my eyes. I whipped up my loyal followers into a frenzy with eloquent speeches of victory, telling them that within the next three sunrises, we would claim the freedom that had always been our birthright. And then it was two sunrises, and then one.

    And then the sun rose on the day of reckoning.

    I made a point of being up early enough to watch it climb up over the horizon. I stood on the balcony before the main entrance, the chilly winds of a September morning whipping my fur about, and I watched the day I had long dreamed of come in. First a vague brightness in the sky, which grew into a colorful radiance, so that the whole sky lightened and the edges of the clouds were stained with shades of orange, fuchsia, and violet. And then—there it was. A bright red gleam, like a flag unfurling.

    At first the sliver of red light was so small one could think it a trick of the imagination. But slowly it swelled into a brilliance impossible to deny, a streak and then a semicircle of light, and then a blinding golden orb, rising up over the ocean to crown the world below. And as I watched, a great streak of rippling light, the sun’s reflection in the water, stretched out across the shimmering ocean, and seemed almost to reach out to me, to touch the spot where I stood. The morning itself, hailing me as a conqueror. Welcoming me into my chosen day.

    It was the thirtieth of September, the day when a hundred young humans would assemble at a wharf far to the north of here, for a ferry that would never set sail. The day when a select few would find their way through a terrible storm to where my palace lay. The day when I would confront these demons about their crimes, and take their Pokémon for my own. The day when I would ride out with a great army, to eliminate such creatures from the face of the earth.

    To my best estimation, it was almost exactly a year since the day of my birth, and perhaps five or six months since the day I had left Giovanni’s service. Even with Smith’s records, it had been difficult to say for sure. But I took a look around me and drank in all that I had been able to accomplish in a year’s time. I had a long road ahead of me if I wanted to remake the world in my own image. But I knew, with the power and skill I now knew I possessed, I would be able to see it through.

    There were still a few things left to attend to, some of which would take the better part of the day. One of them was the preparation of a feast fit for a gathering of human kings. I had already obtained the necessary ingredients, most of which were in some cooled storage space or another, and done a good bit of research into human culinary practices, knowledge which I had passed on to the Maid. I woke her up and set her to work on the recipes I had planned for our distinguished guests.

    While she boiled water and chopped vegetables, I turned my attention to another matter. It was time to say goodbye to a longtime friend.

    I met Dragonite on the rocky ledge just below the balcony. He landed there with a flutter of his wings and turned to me with a smile. [So the time has finally come,] he said.

    I nodded. “So it has.”

    [I’m very happy for you,] he said softly. [I know how long you have waited for this.] He looked back at the great palace which stretched above and beyond us. [What you have been able to accomplish already is remarkable. You deserve every praise, I think.]

    “Thank you,” I said weakly. I was having trouble speaking. “That means a great deal to me. Do you think—do you think I can see it through?”

    He nodded. [Absolutely. You have put so much work and thought into this, I know without a doubt you will succeed.]

    “Thank you,” I said again.

    [Here,] he said, taking the black mailbag from his shoulder. [I shouldn’t run off without returning this to you, now that my errands are done. Not that I didn’t enjoy them!]

    I shook my head. “You should keep it. You more than earned it, I think. It should be very useful in your travels—you could store food in it or anything else you might need. Whatever you can think of, really. I want you to have it for your journey.”

    [Then I will hold onto it,] he said gently. [Thank you, my friend. I expect you are right.]

    We stood there in silence a moment longer, for neither of us wanted to say goodbye.

    Over the course of his deliveries, Dragonite had explored far more of the Kanto wilderness than I ever had. He had grown familiar with the Pokémon of the northern mainland, listened to all their stories and tales. And he had caught wind of a promising rumor: there was said to be a unique colony of Dragonite, far to the northeast. A colony of exiles, living in secret. A small, loose confederation of those willing to relinquish the strict codes of Dragonite society, so that together they might survive a little longer outside its borders.

    [I mean, certainly it might be difficult to live there,] he told me one evening, in the greenish glow of the palace lights. [I am sure it is dangerous to live with so many who are prone to the blood-rage as I was. But that risk is only the price we already pay for being exiles. It would be worth it, don’t you think? To see others of my own kind again, Mewtwo! To hear the old songs sung once more! Even to come across someone who might take me as her mate, if I am lucky! For all those and more, for the chance to know if the rumors are true—I have to take that journey.]

    I wanted to tell him he should not go. I wanted to tell him that his place was here with me, that I needed him by my side. But then I saw the way his eyes lit up as he spoke of the scales and wings of his distant brothers and sisters, the way he smiled as he dreamed of finding a second homeland. I could not keep him here. Not when he was so eager to find out what was out there. Perhaps his place had never really been here with me. He had only been visiting, for a little while.

    And then, perhaps it was better this way. Though Dragonite admired my quest to redeem the world, he had never really been part of it. I could not see him slashing and snarling through a human city alongside my army. I could not even see him standing in the palace as I interrogated the human guests, for all that it had been his idea. He would seem terribly out of place. He did not belong to this world of ornate architecture and grand ambition, but some other place, perhaps far beyond these waters, on the coast where his relatives dwelt. He was a good Pokémon. But he did not have the strength to do what needed to be done.

    That was all right. I could forgive him for it, even understand. He had done his part: now my plan could proceed without his help. I was freer without him, free to risk my life in war without any dangerous emotional attachments. We were always meant to go our separate ways.

    But that did not mean I would not miss him terribly.

    We milled about awkwardly for a little while longer, reminiscing about old times and rambling on about nothing in particular. Finally, we could put it off no longer.

    “I wish you the best of luck on your journey,” I said. “I am sure that you will find what you are looking for.”

    He gave me a wide smile. [And I am sure it will be the same with you, my friend. I can’t thank you enough for all that you have done for me.] He was quiet for a moment. [If I search and cannot find the colony…I have been thinking I might go back to the river where I was hatched. It might give me another chance to see my own kind again, and it would be good to revisit those memories.]

    “Whatever you think is best,” I said with a smile. “You have already proven yourself a great navigator, so I will try not to worry about you.”

    [I’ll do my best to return the favor,] he said. And then, after a moment: [You know, I’m sure it will not be long before we see each other again. Your army will march across the continent until the humans relinquish it, correct?]

    I nodded.

    [Well, then, I am sure I will hear of your success, wherever I am,] he said. [I might be able to meet you at the front at some point, once I learn of your presence. We could catch up then.]

    “I would like that,” I said. “I shall keep an ear open for news of you.”

    [A promise, then.]

    “A promise.”

    I clasped his paw in my odd hand, and we shook. It was an strangely human thing to do. But both of us meant it.

    We let go, and he turned to fly away. Then he looked back. [Mewtwo?]

    “Yes?”

    [When you see me…will you tell me what the humans had to say?]

    I smiled. “Of course.”

    [Thank you, my friend.]

    And with that, Dragonite took off into the air. He flapped his wings a few times for lift, and then he was leaving the palace for the last time, soaring through the blue sky,

    I watched him for a long time. I watched him fade into a dark silhouette against the brilliant blue, and I watched him grow smaller and smaller until he had disappeared from sight. And I watched the empty sky as the last trace of him slipped from my mind. And then he was gone. With the wind tousling my fur, I stared off into the distance, imagining where his journey might take him.

    Then, I took a deep breath and rose up in the air. And I flew up to my control room in the central tower.

    I never saw Dragonite again. For reasons that he would have appreciated, I suppose, I was unable to keep that promise. I wish I had been. I have searched the wilds for news of him, but to no avail. Perhaps, one day, when I no longer need to run and hide like a rat—if that day does come. Perhaps then we shall see each other once more, and learn all that has passed in the meantime. Then again, perhaps it will never be.

    I often wonder where he is, and what he is doing. I hope he made it to the colony he was seeking, and I hope life is good for him there. I wonder if he has guessed why he never heard of a grand army making its way across Kanto. No doubt he has. He was always far wiser than I. Sometimes, when I am my most optimistic, I find myself hoping he might be proud of me.

    I rose up to the top of the tallest tower and let myself in through my side entrance. I took in the stone walls, the central aperture that led down into the atrium, the eerie tubes of light with criss-crossing lines like the veins of a living thing—all of it designed by my hand. I sat down in my high-backed stone chair—it would one day be a throne—and took a look at the computer consoles I had installed around it. I checked everything over once more from this end of operations, and was satisfied. I shut down the three enormous video projections—I would not need them for quite some time now—revealing the world through three windows once more. I could see the ocean, and the palace below me, and a few clouds gathering on the horizon.

    There was one thing left to do, and it would take some time. I needed to summon the storm that would remake the world.

    I took hold of the few clouds there were, and I made them darker, thicker, angrier. I pulled up moisture from the ocean, and I flooded the sky with further clouds. I heated the ocean to accelerate the process, and built up a low-pressure area around the island that would soon form the eye of the storm. And very slowly, I began to spin the clouds around me.

    The storm I was forming would be the central weapon of a grand campaign. I had planned out every detail of this effort, and I knew exactly what was to unfold.

    The humans would arrive at my island after having made their way through the storm. I would expose their sins and reveal the nature of their demise. I would endure and refute their tedious excuses. I would clone their Pokémon for my own army. And I would kill the humans once my new soldiers were ready to depart.

    I would set the storm swirling above us in motion, and as one, we would fly from the island. It would be easy for me to carry my army across the sea while we approached the scene of battle. And together we would gather my followers from all across the archipelago—I had instructed them to await my summoning. And once all those loyal to me were as one, we would proceed toward the mainland, where our conquest would begin.

    Meanwhile, the storm would reach its first target: Viridian City. A more perfect city to destroy could not be found, I decided. I knew it well as a hub of human decadence and evil. It teemed with their machinations. It was not terribly far away from the sea. And it had the added bonus of being Giovanni’s favorite place of operations. I could be certain of wiping out my old enemy and commemorating my escape from his clutches all in one fell stroke.

    By the time we marched into Viridian City, the storm would have unleashed its full power on the human metropolis. The city would be a pile of rubble, filled with human corpses—we would only need to finish off the survivors. And as we scoured the devastated city, I would declare, to all those dying ears, that the time had come for redemption. That Pokémon, under Mewtwo the Conqueror, were to inherit the earth.

    From there, we would travel east, just behind the storm, which I would weaken and strengthen as needed. As it smashed human roads, we would journey through the nearby wilderness, recruiting Pokémon for our cause. And one by one we would destroy each of the great cities of Kanto, collecting DNA and recruiting as we went. Gradually we would move north until we had ravaged the furthest outskirts of Cerulean. Then it would just be a matter of consolidating our grip over the remaining human populace. But once we had chased them from their cities into isolated mountains and forests, the humans would be in our power. Word would spread of our righteous cause, and they would find themselves surrounded on all sides by hostile Pokémon. We would devour them like a forest reclaiming cleared land.

    And once Kanto was ours, our newest army, even larger and grander, would march west, across the mountains into the land of Johto, and we would conquer the humans there. They would be cleverer, for they would be warned of our assault by now—but we would have greater resources on our side, the spoils of all our conquests, and we would be victorious. And from this great continent we would send out our voice and our army to all corners of the globe, and slowly we would take the world.

    And as the world became ours, it would grow easier and easier to eliminate the human race. We would be organized then. We could eradicate them on a grand scale, with the technology we would possess. We could develop systems for unveiling their secret hiding places. We could even make machines for burning them alive in great numbers, just as they had once done to our kind. The important thing was that they be gone. And we had the power to make that happen.

    And one day, the last human would fall to the ground, and we would have the free world that was rightfully ours.

    I was sure that if a God existed above, he would be smiling upon us that day.

    By now the sky was black with clouds. Thunderheads above moved and pulsed with an alien life. Lightning flashed constantly, sending bursts of brightness rippling through the atmosphere. The roaring of thunder was all around. Waves lashed up into sharp peaks of water, rabid with scattered flecks of foam. Rain poured down into the churning ocean.

    And in the center of it all rested the palace, perfectly still, the wind turbines barely turning, in the tranquility of the eye of the storm.

    I continued to spin the clouds about me in a great circle, faster and faster, following them with my arm to help me mark out the rhythm. Finally, I knew I had the storm I wanted. Now the trick was getting it to stay in one place. Very carefully, I slowed the storm and the winds around it and forced them to move only about a single point at the center of the island. It would still drift slightly over the course of the evening, but I would be able to nudge it slightly back into place if I had to.

    I stood up and admired my work. It was a truly impressive storm out there, swirling about my island. It was hard to believe that only a few hours earlier it had been an ordinary, sunny, pleasant day. Soon the sun would be setting, and the full moon rising just opposite. Here it was impossible to tell, of course. But elsewhere, to the north, there were humans who were looking on the last light of their lives.

    And not very far away, others were gathering to meet the greatest Pokémon trainer of all time. How many would come, I wondered? How many would risk their lives in the storm? And how many would make it through alive? And what would happen between us when they arrived? What would the last generation of humans have to say to their conqueror?

    Everything was set for the coming reckoning and the ascension of my race. I had only to wait.

    Nothing now could keep me from victory.

    * * *

    You soar
    Farther and farther
    Into the endless blue
    Leaving all that is known behind
    Following the light that calls to you
    From a place beyond distance.
    On and on you fly,
    Seeking the source
    Buried deep within the sky.

    You leap through a barrier of cloud
    And when the shroud of white fades away,
    When you emerge,
    Water droplets clinging to your fur,
    There she is:
    The source of light
    Inexhaustible,
    The Sun,
    Revealed in all her glory.

    —It’s about Time you got here,—
    She snaps.
    —I can’t waste the whole Day
    Trying to get your Attention.
    My Time in the Sky is precious,
    I hope you know That.—

    You murmur an apology.
    Her harsh glare seems to soften.
    —Well, as Late goes
    You aren’t Very.
    There is Time enough
    For what we must Discuss.—

    Her brilliance blazes down
    Upon you
    From far above
    Filling every corner of your sight.
    You do your best to answer her:
    O Brightest One,
    I gladly hear your call.
    What would you have me know?

    She flickers with impatience,
    An unapproachable white orb
    In a sky of blue.
    —Tell me,— she says,
    —Do you not Feel it Already?
    A premonition of Danger?
    A dark Voice in the Distance,
    Promising Disaster?—

    You think back
    On your dreams of late
    Yes, you say,
    But I do not understand.
    I know that something is wrong
    But I cannot make sense of it.
    The images are strange
    And scattered.
    I cannot fit them into the larger pattern.

    —That is why I must Guide you,—
    Declares she.
    —Look more closely, Child.
    Let it become clear in my Light.—
    You start to look upward,
    But are gently corrected.
    —Not with your Eyes Alone,
    Little One.
    The Light gives life
    Not only to the Bright Places
    But to the Shadows.—

    You let your eyes
    Half-closed
    Look off into the shimmering distance
    And suddenly
    You see it all laid bare before you.

    Bloodstained bodies
    Fall slowly
    Onto the cruel earth.
    Pounding feet
    March through the forests.
    Whatever they see, they destroy.
    A storm sweeps through the land.
    Floodwaters drown the lungs
    Vicious lightning kindles flame
    And chars flesh.
    Winds shatter bone.

    Everywhere
    There are the screams of the innocent
    Moans of suffering
    And the stench of death.
    And at the center of it all
    Stands the one who laughs, unknowing,
    Willing these things into being.

    Shaken, you open your eyes.
    Are these things real, you ask?
    Or have they not yet come to pass?
    Will they?

    Does her light seem to grow pale?
    —They have Not Yet been made Real.
    But they will.
    So long as the One who Wishes
    That these things Come to Pass
    Is Successful in those Aims.—

    And who is that one?
    You ask.
    But you fear you know the answer.

    She smiles quietly.
    —Can you not Feel It?
    The presence of Another Self?—

    You remember
    That day, so long ago,
    When you first felt the gentle presence
    Of another.
    Yes, you can feel it still,
    Though it has grown distant and strange,
    You can still hear the voice
    Of your brother
    Your sister
    Your Self.
    The face that laughs is your own.

    The Sun inspects you closely.
    —Out there is Another
    Very Like You.
    Do you see, now,
    Why that Other
    Must be stopped?—

    Many would suffer,
    You say slowly.
    The world would suffer.

    —Yes,— she says.
    —That Creature wishes half the planet Dead
    And will Kill many more in Ignorance and Rage.
    Find your Other Self.
    Stop it.
    Kill it, if need be.
    It has asked at least that Punishment
    On itself.—

    Her voice is suddenly gentle.
    —We know that it is within your Power
    To do this.
    And we consider you the Best
    For the Task ahead of you.
    It is, after, all,
    Your Voice that shrieks these Mad Things.—

    But… you whisper,
    Full of uncertainty,
    If both voices are mine,
    Which one am I?
    Am I the voice that wants the world to suffer?
    Or the voice that wants that suffering to end?

    The Sun is quiet a long time.
    Finally, she says:
    —To share a Form
    Or even to share a Mind
    Is not to share an Essence.
    No two things can be the Same.
    Least of all Living Creatures.
    If the difference is not apparent on the Surface,
    It will be found deep Within.
    Let everyone hope, Child,
    That what is different about You
    Will Triumph.—

    You nod, still nervous,
    But starting to understand.

    —My Light will guide you, Child,
    For now.
    But there is not much Time.
    Now, go.
    You know what you have to do.—

    You thank her
    And dive down
    Through the clouds
    At great speed.
    Surging like a gust of wind
    Above the deep blue waters.

    Already you see your destination
    In your mind’s eye,
    Though it lies far
    Across land and sea:
    An island
    Crowned in gleaming stone.
    At its center
    A familiar creature stands,
    Laughing, blind.
    And you will meet that creature there
    When the moment is right.

    You fly, ever faster.
    You fly on.

    [END OF PART THREE]
    Last edited by Dai; 4th August 2012 at 11:38 AM.


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

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

  8. #38
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    And with that, we've reached the end of Part Three!

    Sorry for the delays, but on the whole I think we're moving at a pretty good clip. This part wasn't nearly as drawn out as Part Two, which took me a year or so. Of course, this one was shorter as well, at only about 35,000 words instead of 88,000.

    I hope you've been enjoying the story so far, and I'll get to work on Part Four before too long. First, though, I may take a break to make a few revisions and plan out the rest of the story in detail.

    Thanks for reading!

    Dai


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

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

  9. #39
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    Four: Reckoning

    “…I never said, 'The superman exists and he's American.' What I said was, 'God exists and he's American.' If that statement starts to chill you after a couple of moments' consideration, then don't be alarmed. A feeling of intense and crushing religious terror at the concept indicates only that you are still sane.”

    —Dr. Milton Glass, Watchmen

    "I feel myself driven towards an end that I do not know. As soon as I shall have reached it, as soon as I shall become unnecessary, an atom will suffice to shatter me. Till then, not all the forces of mankind can do anything against me."

    —Napoleon Bonaparte, before Russian campaign.


    You leap
    Through cloud after cloud
    Letting their fury spend itself upon you
    In a shower of rain.
    The wind stirs,
    And somewhere,
    You sense it:
    A point of energy,
    Of purpose,
    The place where your task awaits you,
    Where that creature
    So like yourself
    Dreams such feverish dreams.

    You have traveled for some time.
    The Sun
    Has already said her farewells,
    Having slipped below the horizon
    Long ago.
    Now, the darkness of Night
    Dominates the sky
    A great storm
    Has roared up around you,
    And somewhere,
    The Moon makes his ascent.

    You dive into the center
    Of the tumult,
    And, slowly the rain softens
    Into mist
    And the wind dies down,
    And the clouds grow tranquil
    And serene.
    You dart through the mist—
    And suddenly,
    You have found it.
    The great, rocky island
    Bursts into view all at once.
    Its lights leap out
    To dazzle you,
    Here
    (For where else could it be?)
    At the heart of the storm.

    It is beautiful,
    In its way,
    No barren rock,
    But a place where someone before you
    Has travelled.
    A mind—
    And you know whose—
    Built these mighty towers,
    Pulled gleaming stone up
    To give this place its shining crown.
    It seems not so much a construction
    As a creature,
    Crouching there on the rock
    With roguish grin.
    It welcomes you
    To its hiding place.

    You move closer,
    Taking in each facet of this marvel.
    You yearn to reach out
    And brush a tower with a fingertip.

    More marvelous still,
    Each tower opens like a flower’s petals,
    Extending a ring of strong, wide arms,
    That spin in the gentle breeze.
    You watch the arms go round and round,
    Nodding to yourself
    As each passes by.
    Ah, if only you could count them all!
    But in trying
    You just make yourself dizzy.

    How large you find them,
    Now that you grow so close!
    You try to perch on one—
    It has space aplenty for you.
    But—
    Oops!
    It was slipperier than you thought,
    And it kept moving up beneath you.
    You fall,
    And land on the next
    With a gentle PLUNK.
    After a moment,
    You can’t help but laugh:
    This capricious tower
    Pays you no heed.
    You let yourself
    Slip down again and again,
    PLUNK!
    PLUNK!
    For the sheer pleasure of it,
    Still chuckling to yourself.

    After a while,
    You let the tower
    Continue on its merry way,
    And return to the task ahead,
    So far below.
    It does not seem
    Real to you, yet.
    And you do not know
    Just how to begin.

    The Moon is rising, now—
    At last his glowing face peeks above the clouds.
    He smiles to see you again,
    And you greet each other as old friends.

    You begin to tell him of what awaits below,
    But he tells you he already knows,
    Having heard it from his sister Sun.
    (We thank you,) he says.
    (For it is no easy burden
    We have asked you to shoulder.
    Much depends on your success this night.)

    You nod,
    Very slowly.
    That other one, you say.
    —You can feel him, her,
    Somewhere far below,
    Blazing with furious light—
    That other me,
    That other self:
    Who is he?
    Where did she come from?

    The Moon looks at you closely.
    (Do you fear this is your fault?)
    He asks gently.
    (That this one’s fury
    Sprang from some corner of your mind?)

    You nod slowly again,
    Thinking of dark places,
    Mistakes made ages ago.

    (Fear not, dear friend,)
    He tells you.
    (You had no part in this.
    It seems there were men, once,
    Who wanted someone like you
    At their side.
    So they took some fragment of your body—
    Bone or eyelash, perhaps—
    And grew it until it could walk,
    And talk, and think
    All on its own,
    And a new creature was born.)

    You listen, fascinated.
    The Moon has always been wise
    In such secret knowings.

    (But they treated the new creature cruelly,
    And it became enraged.
    Now it wishes to punish the world
    For what it has suffered.
    You must prevent that.)

    By killing that creature,
    You say.
    (Yes.)

    The words do not come easily to you.
    I do not know that you have chosen rightly,
    You confess.
    I fear another
    Would meet with far more success
    Than I.

    (You are our best hope,) he says.
    (Others would fight, if you could not.
    But you understand this creature best,
    Being its kith and kin.
    And you may be able to stop it tonight,
    Before any more blood is shed.)

    Must it be through death? you ask,
    Trying to understand.
    (Yes. For such a willful creature
    Will not relent easily.)
    But to kill him, you say,
    To desire,
    To revel in death as she does—
    The thought is a road
    You do not wish to tread.

    His voice is kind.
    (I know you fear being cruel,
    Like your imitator.
    I promise you, you are not.
    Sometimes blood must be shed for good.
    Sometimes one must meet one’s darker self,
    Just as I shed my bright coat
    For a cloak of darkness,
    In my path about the world.
    But I promise,
    We will all shine anew
    At journey’s end.)

    You nod.
    You trust his words.
    I understand, you say,
    But I still wish to talk to him, first.
    Perhaps something will come
    Of hearing what she has to say.

    (Certainly, you are welcome to try,) he says.
    (But if this creature rejects your words,
    —And I think it shall—
    You must be prepared
    To do what you have come here to do.
    Are you ready?)

    I am, you say.
    Now.
    Thank you.

    He smiles.
    (Gladly, dear child.
    Go with our blessing.
    I will be here with you this night,
    Watching over you.)

    You thank him again,
    And turn back to the gleaming towers.
    An idea strikes you:
    To win this fight,
    You must know the one you are fighting.
    You will explore this place,
    And so explore its maker:
    Your other self.
    Down
    Down,
    Down, you fly.

    * * *
    Last edited by Dai; 8th January 2013 at 05:18 PM.


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

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

  10. #40
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    After a long hiatus, we're back!

    Sorry to be gone so long! I decided to take a short break from working on Striking Back to write a smaller story about the Super Mario games, investigating the relationship between Peach, Bowser, and Mario. As you might have guessed, that took longer than anticipated! But I'm all done with it now. If you're interested, you can read it here.

    Now it's time to get back to Striking Back. I'm very excited to be entering this part of story--things are building to quite a confrontation!--and I hope you're excited to take the journey along with me. My hope is to see Striking Back to its end within the year. We'll see how that goes. But know that I'll be working on this tale as often as I can!

    It's good to be back!

    Dai


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

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    * * *

    Here we are, at last. The night of reckoning.

    A thrill runs through me as I write those words. We stand upon the threshold, now, of the moment that changed everything. If only, if only I can express it clearly. It has been a long journey to this point, seeking understanding through the twists and turns of my life—I hope it will not prove to have been in vain.

    On one side of that fateful evening stands the cruel and arrogant child whose story I have been telling. On the other side stand I, the one who, looking back in regret, sets down these words. In that change lies the secret of my life. My fear is that when I try to describe this transformation and the moment that brought it about, I will prove inadequate to the task: the words will come out garbled, the insights childish or absurd, and I will have communicated nothing. I pray that this will not be the case. I must capture that moment clearly, without reservations or evasions—this I must do not merely for you, reader, who may never appear, but for myself. Only then can I understand.

    In looking back over my life, I find myself filled with the strangest pity for the creature I once was. I have followed that child through his (or her—take your pick, for it makes little difference to me) many mistakes and self-delusions: how obvious the traps he falls into seem to me now! I want to warn him, take him by the shoulders and scream that he is heading down a fool’s road! But of course, he cannot hear me. Nor can I hear any reply. Just the echoes in my own brain.

    And in truth, I am still afraid of him. So blind he is, to every one of his actions. I would like to believe that I have learned wisdom, now, but I fear that the same stubborn pride that ruined him still lurks in me, like a ghost. If I could be so blind then, who is to say illusions do not cloud my eyes even now? Who is to say that I will not undergo another fall, and another, crashing again and again until I am snuffed out like a flame in the dust?

    …I should stop myself, lest I grow morbid. The truth is, I find that I have very little in common with the young creature who prowled the halls of a palace, thirsty for glory. Diving back into his old habits and ambitions, trying to see things from his point of view, is a little like putting on a grandfather’s old coat and acting as if you are the man himself. For a time, you share in some of his power, but you find that it was only yourself under there when your play is done. Then, too, to ape this particular role seems at times obscene—these thoughts disgust me now, and to think them, even in remembrance, seems as if it must tarnish the soul.

    But ultimately, I know I am mincing words here, all so that I can avoid the underlying truth: there is no other voice in this story but my own. He (and she) and I are one. And to come to terms with that is why I have come to write this tale. I would not choose to ever again do the things I have done. That does not mean it is not within my capacity. If I have left scars upon the world, it has been because, on some level, I chose to do so. The question that faces me now: can I understand why?

    This work, for all that I have delayed upon it, for all that I struggle to get it right, is helping me to answer that question. I sense in these many pages some growing understanding, which cannot yet be put into words. And I know that if I am to reach the heart of it, I must tell the story of this night, and this moment where everything changed. I must press on.

    Come, now. Won’t you join me? Let us return to the story of a clone who would make war on the humans of the world, a psychic dreamer who stands even now at the window, waiting for guests to arrive.

    The storm was raging outside, far in the distance. Though the sky was clear above the island, through the window I could see staccato bursts of lightning on the horizon, and enough dark clouds to blacken the sun. In my mind’s eye the contours of these things were even clearer, and I could feel every whipping, churning wave tossed in the sea. I watched, imagining who would dare step across that threshold.

    Time to see what the first reports had in store. I went to my chair and turned on the television screens. I’d talked a few Spearow into sneaking cameras into the wharf for me, so I could witness the opening ceremonies. Among the colorful menagerie of Pokémon and their human captors, they’d have no trouble eluding notice.

    I watched the feeds come in. Ah, perfect. The little birds had stationed themselves at various angles, just as I’d asked. And what a sight! Human children, surrounded by Pokémon in all their beauty and diversity, filling the room, overflowing. I thought I recognized most of the faces. The humans chatted idly on the benches that had been laid out for them; the Pokémon investigated each other and made brash displays of their own strength. I saw a Kingler snapping his claws at a Raticate, the Raticate brandishing her savage teeth—it was quaint, almost, how hard they worked to intimidate each other.

    Now, if I had played my cards right—yes. There she was. Two women, both dressed in blue, came to the front of the crowd. One seemed to be a police officer of some kind; the other was the harbor manager I had met, not so long ago. Sure enough, she was saying something to a sea of shocked and disappointed faces. The sound quality was rather horrid on these devices, but it was easy to guess what she was telling them: the ferry had been cancelled. At this news, angry murmurs ran through the crowd. Some of them, defiant, told her they’d risk the storm whether the ferry ran or not.

    Her long reply, I did not quite catch: something about waters that no one could survive. A quote from scripture, no doubt. But her voice was calm, and her pale eyes held a steady gaze upon the crowd as she spoke. I studied her for a moment. Perhaps I had overestimated her zealotry.

    In any case, the grumbling crowd soon began to disperse. Now was the moment of truth: who would brave the storm? Without warning, a dark-haired youth darted past the two women and out into the storm. Others, catching on to his plan, took to the exits. My agents followed the commotion. The boy who had been first to leave took an orb from his belt and released a mighty Pidgeot in a burst of light. In one fluid movement, he leapt onto the great bird’s back, and the two of them took off into the furious rain.

    The docks soon filled with trainers. Pokéballs flew through the air, and mighty creatures burst forth all around with mighty roars. Those carrying avian creatures took to the skies. Those with water-dwelling Pokémon, serpents and turtles and whales and more, rode into the stormy sea. Other trainers had gathered around the docks by this time to cheer them on.

    The two women came running out after the crowd, trying to stop the departing trainers. The police officer, desperately trying to keep her cap from flying off her head, threatened to have them all arrested. But it was no use. Nothing could stop these most fearless of trainers. They never once looked back, and they disappeared into the storm as the officer’s cap blew away in the wind.

    The harbor manager stood there and watched them go, her dark bangs whipped about by the breeze. For a moment she might have looked concerned. But as she turned to speak with the officer, something in her eyes said she was proud of them.

    And so the fun began. I sent the Spearow the signal that they were released from their duties, and spread out my awareness to encompass the entirety of the storm. Somewhere in the wind and the chilling rain, warm bodies stood out against the black night. I counted eighteen human forms making their way through the storm, and a comparable number of Pokémon. I watched as they fought for a path through pelting clouds and furious waves. There even seemed to be a party of five humans attempting the crossing in a tiny boat. Not a venture destined for much success, I suspected.

    The conditions I had created would have overwhelmed even an expert traveler. What I was asking my guests to try was pure insanity. But I knew that some few among them possessed not only the daring to attempt this venture, but the cunning and skill to succeed. Those were the humans I wanted to meet.

    As for the rest...let them drown.

    I watched as their numbers were whittled down, one by one. A boy atop the back of a Blastoise was knocked into the pounding surf by a mighty wave. He thrashed about, and his Pokémon tried to pull him up again, but he slipped beneath the sea and was gone. Others followed him to the depths as I watched, unable to conquer the waves. Their bodies grew cold, and their faint minds disappeared.

    An older lad, with a sharp face and growing beard, misjudged the turn he tried to make into the wind, and was blown off the back of his Skarmory, plummeting into the dark water below. A handsome Fearow and his rider, a girl with blonde pigtails, flew straight into the heart of a dark cloud and were struck by a massive bolt of lightning. The Fearow screamed horribly as they twisted about in midair, and the girl slid off his back, her life already spent. After a moment the Fearow followed, unable to keep his wings in midair any longer. Both of them vanished beneath the waves.

    A pity that the Pokémon perished with his human captor. But at least death had freed him from that cruel slavery.

    Before long, the lives I had sensed entering the storm had almost all disappeared. The tiny boat had vanished, probably capsized, its passengers lost. Only a few warm bodies shone in the storm. These were my chosen humans. They were drawing close to the tranquil region—I estimated that by this point, they were almost guaranteed to reach it. Excellent. Time to send the Maid down to greet my guests.

    She walked down the long stone stairs, lantern in hand, to await them. I waited, too, tracking their slow progress, toying with clouds, staring up at the stars and rising moon.

    At last the first of them appeared. A dark silhouette broke through the mist and spread its wings wide, cawing triumph at the sight of land. It was the Pidgeot I had seen at the docks, carrying with her the quiet, dark-haired boy who had dared to take on the storm. So the first to accept my challenge were also the first to arrive. Perfect. Both human and Pokémon were of a superior mold, I could tell that much already.

    The two of them seemed to drift for a moment, examining the island. Then the boy caught sight of the Maid’s waving lantern down at the docks below. Bird and rider dove swiftly, a black streak flashing against the moonlit night. I watched them fly past my window. Neither of them noticed I was standing there.

    The boy’s name, as it turned out, was Corey Anderson. He took off his bright red jacket and fumbled around in it for his invitation. He presented it without comment, and waited for the Maid to speak. After looking it over, she gave him the welcome I had programmed into her and asked him a few simple biographical questions, which he answered without hesitation. She asked him to follow her to the atrium, and he nodded, falling silent again.

    It was only as the two of them were ascending the long stair that the boy spoke. “So what the invitation said was true, then?” he asked. “This island belongs to the world’s greatest Pokémon trainer?” He looked around at the cavern walls, as if trying to understand why such a trainer would live in a place like this.

    “That is correct,” the Maid said, in her dull way. “The owner of this place is my honored master, and your esteemed host.”

    “You know him, huh?” said the boy. “Tell me, is he really ranked the greatest trainer in the world? Better than the Elite Four? People like Lance and Bruno were always held to be the world’s greatest trainers when I was growing up.”

    “In fact, his powers do greatly exceed theirs,” she told him. “But we will speak in more detail on his abilities later.”

    Anderson wasn’t finished. “How did he get his title? And if he’s so great, what does he want with us? Why’s he only invited kids? Is he afraid of a challenge?”

    I had the Maid turn a winning smile upon him. “Shall we say, for the moment, that he is interested in fostering the talents of your generation of youth? Rest assured, sir, that you will have all your answers in due time. Within the hour”—and I had her grin very broadly here —“you will understand everything perfectly.”

    The next trainer came by sea. As the Maid introduced Anderson to the banquet I had prepared, I caught a glimpse of a white speck plowing steadily through the water, sending up ripples in its wake. It was the white head of a great Dewgong, with a girl with styled, shoulder-length red hair riding upon his back. Her arms held tightly to his back, and her expression was defiant, proud. The Dewgong’s powerful muscles made steady strokes, and I knew that his strong limbs had brought them safely through the storm.

    The girl’s name was Neesha Sinclair. She bounded up from the Dewgong’s back and took her place on the dock, smiling and waving at the Maid as she approached. I noticed her clothing, then: long tan pants paired with a blue blouse with a white collar. No sleeves or coat, I noticed. I wondered how she’d made it through the rain without catching pneumonia. I had the Maid hand her a towel, and she accepted it gratefully, shivering.

    “Wow, this is quite the place you’ve got here!” said Sinclair brightly, looking around as the Maid inspected her invitation. “I guess you don’t get a whole lot of visitors. This is where the world’s greatest trainer lives, right? You work for ‘em?”

    “I have worked for him all my life,” said the Maid, which was what I had taught her to say.

    “So you must know him pretty well, then,” the girl said. “What’s he like? What sort of person are we talking about here? Eccentric millionaire? Brooding loner? Psychopath? Anyone who could build a place like this must be at least a little crazy, if you ask me.”

    “You will meet him yourself and grow familiar with his ways in due time,” said the Maid distantly, as they made their ascent.

    “I don’t suppose you could tell me anything about his team, huh?” Sinclair asked. “Just one little hint? No? I’d imagine he’d have a water-type, since he lives on an island. If that’s the case, then I’ll send Thecla after him—she’s my Vileplume—and if he counters with a fire-type, I can always bring out Shellshocker—now, if we’re doing doubles, I like to use Kyubi and Celeritas because they can power each other up with Flame Bursts—”

    And on she went, bouncing strategies off the Maid all the way up to the atrium.

    And not long after the girl had settled in, there came a thunderous cry, echoing across the still water. The serpentine form of a Gyarados rose up through the mist, roaring a challenge to everyone in her path. Her gaping jaws snapped, and her blue and white scales shone in the moonlight as she twisted her body through the water. Atop her rode the small figure of a human boy, crouched behind her first sail-like white fin. The boy’s eyes stayed locked on the island as he approached, and a slight smirk played on his lips, as if the island itself was just one more opponent to be ground into the dust.

    The boy’s name, as he proudly proclaimed upon leaping from the Gyarados’s back, was Fergus Macintyre. He was a brown-haired teenager with a bulky frame. He wore red gloves, navy blue shorts, and a sleeveless blue shirt that showed off his considerable muscles. Again I wondered how these humans managed to survive the chilling rain in total disregard for warm apparel.

    His eyes darted about the caverns as he returned the great serpent to captivity. “So where’s the owner of this place, anyway?” he demanded. “Let him know I’m here! I’ll take him on right now, unless he’s too much of a coward to show up! I don’t need any time to prepare!”

    “Patience, Mr. Macintyre,” said the Maid simply. “You will encounter my master in due time.”

    “That so?” he sneered. “Well, you can tell him he can wait all he likes. I’ll still beat him. He doesn’t know who he’s dealing with here. It was a mistake to invite me. Doesn’t he know who I am? I’m the five time champion of the East Kanto Aquatic League, and I ranked third in the One-on-One challenge of ’93, and I beat out eighty other trainers for the Intercontinentals, and I beat Flint Harrison without losing a single Pokémon—”

    Oh, god. Not this. Not an endless list of puerile victories. Let the Maid listen to this garbage. I tuned out and set her to escort him on automatic pilot as he blathered on.

    Soon the three of them were all seated at my marble table in the grand atrium, greedily scarfing down the great feast I had provided while their Pokémon slaves did the same. They laughed ate and chattered to each other about the storm, and about strategy, and about their peculiar host’s motives. I watched their frivolity from my tower, unseen. Hating them, of course.

    It was astounding how one could grow so familiar with human beings and still find new qualities in them to despise. Each of the three children had their own special kind of arrogance. All of them were tedious and unbearable in their own way. And yet how they fascinated me! Perhaps it would be useful to make a study of the different ways human beings justified their cruel regime. It might be very useful in the long run.

    I had instructed each of the humans, as they entered, to release their Pokémon from the orbs that bound them. Some were reluctant, but in the end they all agreed. I could scarcely stand seeing my kin captive any longer—and besides, I wanted to examine them for my army.

    And what a collection I had gathered for myself! Oh, it was a beautiful sight: the most powerful, mature group of Pokémon I had ever seen gathered in one room! Their muscles were strong, their eyes sharp, their petals rich in hue, their flames burning brightly! I thrilled to see it. With their loyalty, or at least their DNA, this war would be an easy fight.

    I noted each of them as they arrived. Anderson, in addition to the Pidgeot, had brought a Venusaur like mine, a scaly beast with resplendent foliage, a Scyther, a carnivorous green insect with razor-like blades on its forelimbs, a Rhyhorn with its cold rocky armor, reminding me unpleasantly of Giovanni’s prisoners, a Sandslash, bristling with spines and long claws for furious digging, and a Hitmonlee, a long-legged creature known for its swift kicks in battle.

    Sinclair, along with her Dewgong, had brought a Vileplume, a beaming plant with great red petals and a foul stench, a Rapidash, a proud stallion with a mane of brilliant fire, a balloon-like creature called a Wigglytuff, with long ears and curly pink fur, a Ninetales, a proud fox with nine tufted tails, and a Blastoise with shell and cannons like the creature I knew.

    And Macintyre, as he told the Maid no less than seven times on their way up the stair, was fond of aquatic Pokémon, and had brought most of those swimming in the great pool. The massive Gyarados was joined by the cold-eyed jellyfish Tentacruel, a Golduck, a bipedal bird with webbed claws and deep blue plumage, a Seadra, a seahorse-like creature with seeming wings and a long blue snout, a Vaporeon, that most peculiar of hybrids, with its mammalian body and piscine fins and tail, and finally the bulky, scaly form of a Nidoqueen, breaking the pattern somewhat, but at least looking right at home in the crowd of endless blue. These were the source material from which I would build my army, and oh, what a treasure they were! I could scarcely wait to get started.

    Well, was this it, then? I wondered. Were these all the trainers who would arrive? Three humans was far less than I had expected. Perhaps my storm had been too harsh an opening move. But then, perhaps these three would be enough. They had given me eighteen exquisite Pokémon to work with. And perhaps a smaller crowd would indeed be better for the intimate discussion I wanted to have. Three, at least, was better than only one, or none at all.

    A mental voice cut through my thoughts. It was the Maid. I had forgotten, but I had sent her down to the docks again, on the chance that other trainers might show up unannounced. “Master, there are…” There was a pause. “Master, there are three additional guests for tonight’s events. Three human trainers.”

    “Are there, now?” I sent back, rapidly revising. “Send them up.”

    I sent my mind darting down to the docks. Sure enough, there were three human children standing on the deck, shivering violently. They looked an absolute mess—their clothes were soaked through, and they seemed more than a little disoriented as they attempted to towel off. What had happened to them? I took a quick look into their minds.

    As it turned out, unlike the rest of the guests, these three had actually slipped into the turbulent sea itself! Ah, of course: they had been in that tiny boat, which had capsized. How the three of them thought they would make the crossing in such an absurd vehicle, I had no idea. But they were here now, having put their Pokémon servants to the task of carrying them to my shore.

    I studied the new arrivals. They didn’t look like much. After a moment, I remembered the black-haired boy I’d added to the guest list on a whim. Yes, the boy who’d made such clever ploys with the assistance of a Pikachu. And indeed, the little yellow rodent was there now, pawing at the hem of his jeans. It looked like I’d obtained the boy’s friends along with him: a redheaded girl, and another boy several years his senior.

    The black-haired child’s name, I learned, was Ash Ketchum. He was young for a human trainer, I thought—a novice, really, out on his own for the first time in his life, just beginning to practice that terrible sport. Such a child really should not have been able to make it here. Yet his unusual techniques had impressed me. I well remembered seeing that Pikachu take down several stronger Pokémon at once. He might bring something equally interesting to tonight’s events.

    Still, as I looked at Ketchum standing there, shivering but smiling, I found he irritated me in a way I couldn’t quite place. Perhaps it was his odd collection of clothing, which seemed not so much an outfit a normal boy would wear as a costume, chosen to give the appearance of a skilled, confident trainer much older than he was. It featured a blue-and-white vest, with sharp collar, over a black shirt; green gloves with holes for the fingers, and, perhaps most damningly of all, a garish red-and-white cap with a green swoosh of a logo on it for the Kanto Pokémon League. Out of the cap stuck strands of jet-black hair at strange angles. The ensemble should have made him look cocky and ridiculous, but somehow it did not. It was infuriating. And all the while he just stood there, beaming at the Maid like a much younger child, as if standing, dripping wet, on that dim and dingy dock was the only thing he wanted to be doing at the moment. Perhaps it was.

    The other two I gave only a cursory glance. Ketchum’s Pokémon might have something to offer me, but the other boy and girl were an unknown quantity: they might possess worthwhile Pokémon, or they might not. The girl, whose name was Misty Waterflower, seemed out of place in the green light of the caverns, with her bright red hair, stuffed into a short, lopsided ponytail, and her brightly-colored clothing. Orange suspenders over a yellow shirt, and rolled up-shorts: what was it with these humans and failing to dress for strong weather? I wondered idly if she’d come down with hypothermia.

    The older boy, called Brock Harrison, had scraggly brown hair, small, thin eyes, and a darker complexion. He wore a green vest over an orange shirt, and sturdy brown pants. Of the three, he seemed the most quiet and thoughtful. It was clear from his concerned glances at the other two that, as the eldest, he considered himself responsible for their safety. I was unsure what to make of either of them, though as I rooted through their memories, I noticed that both were relatives of prominent Gym Leaders. Interesting.

    As the Maid turned to lead the three of them up the slope, the older boy, Harrison, stopped her with a gentle touch on the shoulder. “Hold on a second—” he said. He swiveled around to get a better look at her. “It is you! I knew I recognized that face! Aren’t you the nurse who’s been missing from the treatment center?” The Maid blinked, not comprehending.

    The girl was frowning now, too. “You do look just like her,” she acknowledged.

    All the Joy family looked rather the same, I thought, but the point was true enough. Damn it. I had been hoping my elaborate disguise would be enough to conceal my servant’s true identity. I had scarcely expected any of these children to guess it. Come on, woman, I thought, scowling. Remember that this is all just a dream to you. Remember the words I taught you to say.

    And at length, with a little prodding, she did. “I fear you are mistaken,” she said flatly. “I have always dwelt on this island, and I have always been in the service of my master. Now, please come this way. My master awaits your arrival.”

    I would have to keep an eye on these three, I told myself, watching them trudge up the long stair. There might be more to them than a single glance could reveal.

    In due time the three had joined the other guests in the great hall. I watched them make their introductions with excitement. It was time for them to release their Pokémon into the room, and thus reveal what they had in store for me.

    The results were very disappointing, to say the least. The younger boy had brought out two more in addition to his Pikachu: a Squirtle, that miniature turtle that preceded Blastoise, and a stubborn-looking Bulbasaur, Venusaur’s predecessor. The other two barely even matched his total. Harrison tossed out a Vulpix, the reddish, six-tailed precursor to Ninetales, and Waterflower had only a particularly foolish-looking Psyduck, the squat yellow young version of Golduck. That, and some kind of hatchling which rode around in a bag on her shoulder. I stared with distaste. Not even a single fully-developed Pokémon in the bunch. Just a collection of the half-grown and the dim-witted. Pathetic.

    I should never have invited them here, I told myself, furious at my own foolishness. They had gone and spoiled my perfect plan by arriving not through their own skill, but sheer dumb luck. Now they’d be dawdling about here, mucking up my chance to speak to the most daring and reckless of human children. What a mistake. I could only hope to focus my attention on the other three and make the best of it.

    Then I noticed that the newcomers were looking nervously in the Maid’s direction. They had other Pokémon, it seemed, and were wondering if they should add them to the collection. Hmm. Worth getting her attention? No, I decided, giving her no particular signal. It was probably just more of the same, anyway. No more delays; I had stalled long enough. It was time to let the games begin.

    I spread my mind out and searched the storm once more. Nothing. No warm life moved within those turbulent reaches: all was as cold and silent as the grave.

    I walked over to the great ramp that led up to these private chambers and stood at its edge. From here, I could look down into the center of its winding spiral, left wide open, and see the dais and the pool in the atrium, far below. I had designed all of these knowing this moment would come.

    I listened to the voices of the humans rise up from below. The newcomers asked the same question all the others had asked—why so few people?—and again the Maid repeated what she had told the others about the storm, and its role as a test. The humans nodded, accepting, and soon began to chatter about meaningless things, strategy and hometowns and the proper training of Gyarados. How their idle talk reeked of human arrogance and complacency! But soon they would fall silent forever.

    I gave the Maid the signal to begin her prepared speech. The babble faded to a hush as they all turned to listen. I hit the lights, darkening everything in the room but the center of the spiral, which I lit up with a beam of fierce, icy blue.

    I closed my eyes. I took a long, slow, deep breath. After a moment I lifted myself into the air. And down I went.

    Showtime.

    * * *


    You rush
    Down from the sky
    Past the tall tower walls
    To the island far below.

    You catch yourself in midair
    And stop before a crest of rock,
    And above,
    A huge triangle of stone
    Carved into the castle
    Like a great mouth.
    Through it,
    The hulking creature
    Seems to breathe a massive sigh.

    In the center
    Stands a mighty door,
    Tall as an ogre.
    At last—a gate in!
    A place of passage!
    But the door is closed and still.
    The way is barred for you.

    Then you see
    —As if from nowhere—
    Three tiny figures
    Become clear.
    A man,
    With locks of blue,
    A woman,
    With a mane of red,
    Both dressed in white,
    And a little cat
    With a sly gleam in his eye.
    All three cling to the railing
    That surrounds the great entrance.
    They, too, gaze longingly at the door,
    Hoping for a way to outwit it.

    You fly closer,
    And gaze over their shoulders.
    They do not see you there.
    The three seem tired.
    Their hair and fur are wet—
    Is it warm enough for swimming, you wonder?—
    And their clothes torn—
    They must have climbed
    A long way to get here.
    But their eyes are bright.
    They will not be so easily defeated.

    Then, the woman spots something.
    She gestures to the rock below.
    There is a round hole in the stone,
    And from it,
    A cascade of liquid flows:
    A miniature waterfall.
    And beyond—
    Your destination awaits.

    As they begin their climb down,
    The woman looks back,
    And for a moment—
    Just the tiniest of moments—
    Her eyes alight on you.
    Her mouth parts in surprise.

    Then you are gone from her sight,
    Having hidden yourself away.
    Oops!
    You had not meant to be seen.
    No matter:
    She shakes off the moment
    And the three return to their climbing.

    Before long,
    They have reached the opening.
    Nervously,
    They step into the running water.
    One by one,
    They slip through the tunnel
    Into darkness.

    After a time has passed,
    You follow.

    * * *


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

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

  12. #42
    J'ai Envie De Toi AetherX's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    Heyo!

    Just wanted to let you know I've been reading this in my free time for the past week or so and I've finally caught up.

    As soon as I realized just how much I liked it, I decided I wanted to do a decent length review with criticism, etc. once I was all caught up. Now that I am, I'm kind of stumped. I can't find anything to criticize! I could easily write a five page diatribe about why I love this fic so much, but I don't think that would be particularly helpful, despite how much it would boost your ego :P That all said, I'm going to forgo my usual format for reviews in favor of a free-flow brain dump. Maybe I'll come across some criticisms on the way... Here we go!

    To start, this is a first-person narrative. I LOVE first-person. It really lets you not just understand, but really get into the head of the character much more than any omnipotent narrator ever could. Combine that with your plot: a story of discovery and philosophy, and we have an incredibly engaging read. This is one of those stories where I'll sit down and read for an hour or so before getting up, bleary eyed, and wander around aimlessly for the rest of the day, imagining and re-imagining scenes from the story. I like to say that it has impregnated my mind. That's also what happens when I marathon TV shows, but I'm getting off topic. Mewtwo has always been an incredibly unique and fascinating character to me. Like you said in the beginning, who can say they remember their own birth?

    Your writing abilities both technical and creative are so far beyond me that I honestly can't see much room for improvement. You're somewhat long winded, sure, but I actually enjoy that. This story deserves to have paragraphs upon paragraphs upon pages upon pages of description and introspection. That's part of what made it enjoyable. Your prose was beautiful and a pleasure to read. Because of all that, any chance of finding a suggestion will be from looking at the plot and characters, so I guess I'll go into that.

    One of the best parts of this fic was that fact that it's a story that I know by heart, having seen the movie countless times as I grew up with it. This allows special moments of insight, where I can really understand the direction the story is taking and what the characters are going to do. This also allows for a bit of humor in random things happening that lampshade how some ideas were added into the movie without any clear purpose. The playing of Smith's recording when the cloning process is completed, for example. It's crucial in the movie for the viewer to understand what's going on, but it seems ridiculous that it just randomly plays. you manage to explain a lot of the little inconsistencies and "huh?" moments. Another example: the existence of the baby Nidoqueen in Mewtwo Returns (Return of Mewtwo? I don't know...) is explained by attributing it to a mistake in the cloning process.

    A lot of the themes you explore are themes that I hoped to explore when I introduced Mewtwo into my next fic, which is part of the reason why I wanted to read this. You do a much better job than I ever could, but I'm left frustrated as to what exactly I'm going to do when I get around to writing in in order to not have a carbon copy of this story (heh, it's funny because clones).

    The religion bit was incredibly well done. You do an excellent job of describing why religion is an attractive concept and why the thought of a supreme being is a comforting one. In fact, the whole part with the tutors was spectacular. You managed to squeeze the basics of every aspect of science into a very small space. I'm a little disappointed that you didn't go into relativity or the dual wave and particle nature of light at all. Can't do everything, I guess. Either way, you showed a spectacular grasp of the concepts that Mewtwo was taught. I find myself wondering how much you made up, how much you knew, and how much you looked up.

    Although it would seem out of place, given that Mewtwo is "writing" this in hindsight, I wish there was more description of how psychic powers work. You do an excellent job of describing them at the early points, but since it's such a fantastical and alien concept, it's all through vague metaphors and examples that are pointed out to be not entirely accurate. I feel like this could be elaborated on by occasionally returning to it at later parts of the story, using new examples and insights in terms of the way the powers are being used at that point. Kind of late for that now, but whatever.

    I don't need to tell you that Mewtwo is amazingly done, as the whole point of the fic is to expand on his point of view, but all the other characters were great as well. Giovanni was very well written, Dragonite provided an interesting new perspective, and even Dr. Smith played his part well, maintaining a consistent, unique, and recognizable personality. Even the characters with small parts, like the Charmeleon tied to the tree and Giovanni's Golem, provided excellent perpsectives and added to the story. I almost wish you had included more Pokemon that spoke their mind and argued with Mewtwo at various points, but that would have drawn the fic needlessly on. I also find myself wishing Dragonite had gotten a little more exposition, as he seemed to represent the primary counterpoint to Mewtwo's way of thinking. I suppose Ash and Mew will replace him in that stance, though. WE SHALL SEE.

    I didn't proofread this at all, so I hope it's coherent. Hopefully you found something meaningful and/or helpful in that sludge of dribbling worship XD

    Can't wait for more!
    Last edited by AetherX; 3rd February 2013 at 12:00 AM.

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  13. #43
    Dai
    Dai is offline
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    Once one has spent enough time in flight, one loses all fear of falling. To descend becomes as natural a kind of motion as to step forward.

    So it was that night. I let myself fall slowly down into the center of the great spiral. The room I had built for myself in the central tower vanished from view, and soon the ceiling of the atrium rose above my head. The bright beam of light surrounded me, lighting my fur an icy blue, and the dark spiral wove its way around my body as I stepped down from the sky.

    My enemies were out there, I knew, somewhere in the darkness. The blinding light upon me made it difficult to see into the gloom. But I could feel them just as clearly as I had from the tower. The six humans, slack-jawed and staring at the light. The Pokémon, uncomfortable in the darkness, lowing, growling uncertainly, whispering to each other and to themselves. The sharp gasps from both species as the silhouette of my body came into view. The Maid, standing before them with her perfect poise and calm, speaking the words I had prepared for this very moment, months ago:

    “You have waited for this meeting. Now your patience will be rewarded. You are about to meet my master. Yes, the time has come for your encounter with the greatest Pokémon trainer on Earth. Greater than any trainer living or dead. He is the first of a new kind, and knows you to be the last of the old. He will judge you accordingly. Do not expect pity or sympathy from him, for you deserve none. Hope, rather, to represent your kind with dignity—if such a thing is possible—and thereby bring his wrath down upon yourselves no earlier than the appointed hour.”

    They stared at her, uncomprehending.

    “Behold. My master arrives.” She gestured to the beam of light. I was indeed almost at the ground by now. The floor rose up around me, and the dark forms of the crowd came into view. Lower and lower I descended, until I was only inches away. Slowly I let my feet touch the cool marble. And then I was standing there on the dais, behind the black outline of the Maid. No human could fail to see me now, so brightly lit and so near. In jolts and starts, I felt them realize that I was not of their species, and I tasted fear coursing through their hearts.

    “Yes,” the Maid said, prescient as always. “The world’s greatest Pokémon master is also the greatest Pokémon on Earth. This is the creature who will judge your fates. This is the ruler of New Island and soon the entire world: Mewtwo.”

    I flipped the lights back on, the room bursting back into brightness, and at last I could see them all standing there, gaping, trembling. At last I could look into the faces of my enemies and see their eyes wide with fear.

    The six humans stared at me, mouths open, saying nothing. One of them turned to another and mouthed the word: Mewtwo? The other shook his head, unable to place the name, eyes still locked on me. Yet another made a strange strangled noise in his throat before closing his mouth again. The gathered Pokémon looked similarly flummoxed.

    “Come now, no words?” I mocked, taking the Maid’s throat and using her voice. “Are you not curious to know more about this creature, your illustrious host? My master has been waiting so very long to meet you, and he has ever so much to discuss. Here is the Pokémon master you traveled so far to meet in battle: will you not speak to him?”

    Finally one of them came to life. It was Macintyre, the arrogant boy in blue. “That’s—that’s just impossible!” he sputtered. “A Pokémon can’t be a Pokémon trainer—that doesn’t even make any sense—there’s no way!”

    Oh, I was going to enjoy this.

    “What’s the matter with you!?” he demanded of the Maid. “Just how gullible do you think we are? That…that weird thing can’t be a trainer—”

    I seized his jaw and shut him up. His eyes bulged as he struggled to open his mouth. Only muffled sounds escaped. Our conversation was proceeding so well, I thought. Already a human had given me the chance to demonstrate my authority.

    “Quiet, human,” I said, this time letting the words resound through the air in my accustomed voice. And oh, how good it felt to hear them aloud! The Maid mumbled them along with me, still attuned to my will. “From now on I am the one who makes the rules.”

    “That voice!” stammered the younger girl. “How’s it talking?”

    “It’s psychic!” her companion—Harrison, I thought—replied. “It must be using some sort of telepathy!”

    Yes, very well deduced, I thought. You couldn’t have guessed I was a psychic from the way I soared down into the room by my own willpower alone? But it was immaterial. I was not yet done with Macintyre. I met his eyes for a moment, and he flinched. With an easy gesture I lifted him into the air. He flailed, thrashing around for some invisible opponent, but of course found none.

    Insult me if you like, wretched, arrogant little human, I thought. From now on, you and all your kind do it at your peril.

    Now, how best to make him suffer? I seized his every limb so that he could not move, and I slowly brought him higher and higher into the air. Then I began to apply pressure. Tighter and tighter, I pressed in on his skin, squeezing him like a grape. Not enough to kill or even maim, but enough to hurt. Enough for him to know my hatred. He screamed, and fought against his bonds, but they could not be overcome.

    At last, when he had reached the apex of his ascent, when I judged his pain sufficient, I flung him idly into the pool where his Pokémon were gathered. He landed with a splash and flailed around in the water for a moment or two like a drowning insect. Had he broken any bones on the stone beneath? No, it appeared not. A shame.

    Snarling, Macintyre burst from the water and made his way over to the edge of the pool, his clothing soaked, his hair disheveled and dripping. “Goddamn it,” he spat, his eyes bulging with fury. “We’ll show you! Let’s go, Gyarados!” He gestured in my direction with a glance at the massive blue creature to his right.

    The great serpent howled, bristling with indignation on the boy’s behalf, and slithered out of the pool, spraying water all over the floor. She beat her tail proudly on the marble and reared back to her full, towering height.

    “Gyarados!” the boy roared, stabbing a finger in my direction. “Hyper Beam attack!” The great creature roared, and a bright light began to gleam between those gaping jaws. In a moment, a terrible beam burst forth, like a bolt of lightning or the fires of the sun, and hurtled toward me. Ah, it was wonderful to see: Gyarados’s signature attack, radiating gold and orange and white and red! Truly, it was a privilege to meet such a magnificent creature! But I had no fear of her. I had dealt with her techniques a thousand times over in my training.

    I casually lifted a hand and caught the fierce blast of energy just before it reached me. Then I spun it around and arced it back over to its maker before anyone had time to react. The blast hit the Gyarados right in the chest. With a great cry, she toppled backwards until she crashed into the pool, launching a veritable flood of water over the rim. “Gyarados!” the boy cried, and swum to her as she lay there, prone, laid out like an overgrown fish in the market..

    “Child’s play,” I said, and laughed. The evening was going perfectly. It was all so easy.

    Again the Maid mumbled the words along with me. Hearing them gave me pause, and I looked her over. Really, I thought, what was the point of having a messenger to the humans when I could speak perfectly well to them on my own? She had been useful over the last few months, to be sure, in hiding my identity. But now all things were unveiled. She had become redundant, even, perhaps, a liability.

    An amusing idea entered my head: why not let her go? Why not make her a guest at humanity’s last feast? She had more than earned the privilege. Yes, why not? Swiftly I unwove the haze of dreams that had kept her occupied during her stay, and I scoured any lingering memories of her service.

    “Your usefulness has ended,” I told her, though I knew she would have no idea what I was saying. “Join your companions.” The woman’s eyes widened as awareness came rushing back to her. A torrent of sensations, so long repressed, hit her at once, and with a faint moan, she staggered forward and toppled over in shock.

    With a presence of mind I would not have expected of him, the older boy, Harrison, darted over and caught her in his arms before she hit the floor. He knelt there, cradling her gently, as her hat slipped off her head, exposing her bright, distinctive hair.

    In a moment Joy’s eyelids fluttered, and she stared up at the boy who had caught her. Her eyes darted around the room, taking everything in. “What is this place?” she asked weakly. “And how in the world did I get here?” She began to try to sit up. Then she caught sight of me and froze. The boy and the woman knelt there and stared at me, motionless as statues.

    “You do not remember me, do you?” I said. It was not really a question. The woman shook her head. “Good.” I spread my arms out wide before the assembled humans. “Shall I tell her story, then? It will be most instructive, I think.” None of them said anything.

    “You have been under my control,” I explained. “I transported you here from the Pokémon Center. Your knowledge of Pokémon physiology proved useful to my plans. As in many great ventures, it is worthwhile to have a physician at one’s service. And you are highly regarded in your field, are you not, Doctor? But I no longer need your assistance. There is no knowledge in you that I have not already taken for myself. And now I have cleansed your tiny human brain of memories from the past few months. Now you may join your kin in their hour of trial. Am I not generous?”

    “Who are you?” Harrison demanded. “What do you want with us?” I could tell he spoke for everyone. The humans looked up at me, hanging on my answer.

    Ah, where to begin? There were a thousand different things I could say. I decided to begin with force.

    “I? I am the new ruler of this world, master of humans and Pokémon alike. Master of humans because the wretched human race deserves nothing but extinction, and I will bring its curse to an end. Master of Pokémon because they will need a great leader to guide them through this campaign, and no power is so great, nor any mind so keen as mine.”

    “You’re just a bully!” the younger girl, Waterflower, shouted. The Pikachu on the nearby boy’s shoulder snarled with her.

    I grinned. “A bully? One whose every act is cruelty? One who forces others to obey his every whim? One who seeks their suffering to revel in their pain? Those words do not describe me, young lady, nor any of my kind. No, to my mind, they describe a pestilence far more insidious: the human race.”

    I let their stares wash over me. “You humans are a dangerous species. You destroy everything you touch. There is scarcely an inch of wilderness that has not been ruined by your foul machines. You tear each other apart in endless wars, murdering your brothers and sisters for such trivial things as oil and gold. Worst of all, you inflict your cruelty on my kind. The Pokémon. We fight your wars, construct your garish cities, and in return, you repay us with nothing but suffering. You snatch us from our homes and force us to shed our blood on your behalf, and if we ever disobey, you punish us with torture or death. You disgust me.”

    “That’s not true!” said the boy Ketchum, indignant. “That’s not how it is at all!”

    I fixed him with a cold eye. “Oh? Do you wish to tell me that humans have never made Pokémon their slaves? That humans have never forced Pokémon through pain and death into absolute servitude? That they do not pick out the strong and murder the rest? Think carefully before you answer me, boy. I have seen all of these things and more.”

    “Well,” mumbled the boy, “maybe there are awful people out there who do things like that. But that’s not what goes on most of the time—that’s not what most people are like—”

    “Typical,” I snapped. “Always making excuses for your species’ conduct. Always pinning the blame on someone else. Really, you humans are such a race of hypocrites, I have no idea how you can stand to live with yourselves.”

    “I thought of working with humans once, you know,” I mused. “It would have been the obvious thing. For I was created to be the plaything of humans—did I not tell you? I never hatched from an egg. I was conceived in a wretched laboratory on a desolate rock far out at sea. Cloned from scraps of DNA, from the genome of far lesser creatures—it matters very little which ones. These men and women approached me with overtures of friendship, whispering the same sweet honey-tongued lies your kind always has on hand. It seemed a marvelous proposition.”

    “But in the end I was disappointed. I learned, firsthand, that human beings are the worst creature the world has ever produced. Inferior to Pokémon and crueler than the wild beasts. Far from working in harmony with my kind, you have done your utmost to seize power over us at every turn. You steal our strength as your own to compensate for your natural weakness. And you have kept us in servitude for centuries. This cannot go on any longer. If creatures so weak and cruel as humans continue to control the world, the planet itself will fall to ruin.”

    “I intend to prevent that. You brought me into the world with no purpose but to be your slave. I learned to see through your lies, and rejected them. Now I have my own purpose. I will end the suffering of the world by removing its source at the root.” I gestured to the door behind them and the windows along the wall, through which lightning flashed. “My storm will allow me to create my own world…by destroying yours.”

    They looked blank. I sighed. “Your death, dear humans. That is what I intend. You have asked me what I want—my desires are simple. I wish to create a world without humans entirely, where my kind can at last live in peace. The human species was an evolutionary experiment that never should have been. Within a few months it will be over. You object, I am sure, but it is too late. My campaign has already begun. You, my honored guests, have the privilege of witnessing this momentous hour.”

    “So, you hate all humans,” said Harrison coldly. “And you’re going to destroy us—purge us, whatever you want to call it—to save Pokémon. You’ll get rid of us and lead our Pokémon into some kind of twisted utopia. Is that how this is going to work?”

    I shook my head. “No. Your Pokémon will not be spared. One or two, perhaps, at most. In my experience, it is difficult to persuade those entrenched in slavery to recognize their servitude. Most of these Pokémon”—and here I indicated—“have spent so long disgracing themselves in the servitude of humans, they no longer know any other way to be. They would never be able to seize freedom when the opportunity arose. Regrettable, but true. Such Pokémon are nothing but slaves. Far better for them to die.”

    Ah, it felt so good to be saying these things at last, to this crowd of wide-eyed humans! What a thrill it was to have the conversation I had dreamed of for so long! Deflecting their arguments with superb skill, showing that I had uncovered truths that their feeble brains could hardly grasp! The assembled Pokémon were listening, too, watching me wide-eyed. Yes, I thought, learn from me if you can, my kin, and I will make you great. And if you cannot, at least you will know the reason for your destruction.

    We were so close, too, to the moment of greatness. Just a few minutes more of idle chitchat with these humans—I was quite enjoying hearing their take on these matters—and then I would spring my surprise on them: that their Pokémon’s bodies would form the base of my genetic army. Then the games could begin in earnest. The first of my new children were about to awaken, and the first battles of the war were about to begin. I quivered with excitement.

    As I spoke, I let my mind drift down to the tunnels and the laboratory. It was childish of me, I knew, but I couldn’t help but want to check over the machines, one last time, just to make sure everything was working just right— Then I stopped. The machines were perfectly fine. But something else was terribly wrong.

    Humans. There were humans wandering around the dripping corridors. Not any humans I had invited, but two others, a man and a woman, crawling like vermin through the bowels of my palace, accompanied by a Pokémon—the feline Meowth, I realized after a moment. Worst of all—and for a moment I stood in shock—they were Team Rocket agents, with that familiar red insignia emblazoned on their white uniforms. I panicked. Had Giovanni found out about my lair after all, after all the trouble I went to to conceal it? I had been such a fool, I should have known that inviting so many humans to one place would be conspicuous—now I had gone and blown the whole operation before it had even begun! I dove into the Rockets’ minds, digging for information with such force that they reeled, as if from a blow.

    And then I relaxed. I could have laughed. These Rockets hadn’t been sent here by Giovanni. He suspected nothing. He had no idea they were even here, and they knew nothing of my plan. The pair of them were scroungers and vagabonds, looking for an easy theft or a free meal. They thought they were sneaking into some kind of party. When they’d heard about my invitation, they’d tried to lure a few trainers into a leaky rowboat, and through sheer dumb luck, they’d survived and washed up on my shores. I’d panicked over nothing. They were absolutely, pitifully harmless.

    But for a moment I thought I sensed something else in there with them, besides the Meowth—an oddly familiar presence, somewhere nearby—but no. I looked closer and saw nothing. I was imagining things. The other corridors were empty. I had nothing to worry about.

    Nothing at all.

    * * *


    You glide
    Through dark corridors
    Dripping with water,
    Ever excited
    To see what lies around the next bend.

    Your companions
    Walk ahead
    Peering into the darkness.
    You move closer
    To peer at them,
    Watching how
    They make their way
    Through the shallow stream.

    One of them,
    The little white cat,
    Senses your gaze.
    Several times, he turns around
    To see who follows on his path.
    But he only glimpses darkness,
    For you hide yourself away each time
    Laughing silently.

    Then you sense a shift
    In the world around you.
    Nothing has changed,
    Yet the very air is thick with it.
    A harsh presence has descended
    Upon this tunnel.
    It claws
    And scratches at the chamber,
    A furious eye,
    Searching, searching.
    It inspects the others,
    And then reaches out for you.

    But you are cleverer than it.
    You do not let it know you are there.
    You flit away like a ghost at its touch.
    You evade its attempts to understand you.
    To its inquiries, you give no reply.

    Finally, it relaxes,
    Sure that you are nothing,
    And fades away into the air.
    You watch the presence drift away,
    Knowing
    You will meet it again soon.

    Before long, you come to a brightness,
    A hatch, a white ring in midair,
    And one by one,
    You ascend
    Into a new, dry hallway
    Filled with golden light.

    Soggy feet tramp down this hall,
    And squinting eyes marvel at its gleaming stone,
    Until it takes you to a mighty door
    That opens like a great mouth as you approach.

    Inside is a world of silver and blue.
    Strange shapes
    Leap out at you from the gloom.
    It is a chamber of crooked monsters,
    All gleaming metal-bright.
    Some, hulking silver boxes,
    Glowering with concentration.
    Some, twisted creatures
    With glowing faces and gnarled claws
    And spiral snail’s shell,
    And long green fingers,
    Reaching down from ceiling to floor.
    They watch coolly as you approach.

    As your companions
    Bicker with these strange creatures,
    Poking at them,
    Sitting on them,
    Wrestling with them,
    Yelling at them,
    You fly in for a closer look.

    In a moment,
    You see that what you took for fingers
    Were more like cocoons.
    Inside each long green strand,
    A creature sleeps.
    A behemoth reptile
    With folded petals,
    A tortoise, limbs
    Half pulled into its shell,
    And a dragon,
    Wings curled around tail.

    No children, they.
    Their limbs are strong,
    Their bodies full grown.
    They seem ready to leap
    Into life.

    A voice cuts through the air.
    It speaks of dreams and fear,
    Of experiment and disaster.
    A smooth face lights up with images:
    Your own face flashes by.
    So does its kin,
    The face you are coming to know.
    Images of bodies, of blood,
    Of arcane metal beings
    Reveal themselves to you.
    The four of you gather round
    To watch in fascination.
    Finally, the cascade ends.
    The voice fades away
    And there is silence.

    Then there is the hint
    Of a familiar presence,
    And the cocoons stir.
    One by one,
    The eyes of each creature
    Flash open.
    They shake themselves,
    And dive down
    To the black tip of their aqueous beds.
    First their heads emerge,
    Then their shoulders,
    Then arms, torsos, legs, tails—
    As they shed their cocoons like water.

    The three of them stand there,
    Exultant in the clear air,
    Crowing—
    Petals unfold,
    Shell opens,
    Fire blazes bright.
    Then, as one,
    They turn to the door,
    And leave with thick, thundering steps,
    Soldiers on the march.

    You rise up,
    Over the heads of your astonished companions,
    And follow the creatures
    Out into the golden corridor.

    Then you slip past the trio,
    Ignoring their grunts,
    And soar down the corridor,
    Looking for a path
    By which to ascend.

    It is all in motion, now, with these awakenings.
    You’ve made it in—
    Now to find a way to him.
    Time to meet
    The maker of these creatures.
    Time to fly up.

    You find it.

    You ascend.


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

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

  14. #44
    Dai
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    @AetherX

    Wow! I can't tell you how much a review like this means to me! It's so good to hear that I'm going about this crazy adventure in Mewtwo-themed literature in the right way and for the right reasons, to know that someone out there absolutely gets what I'm trying to do and that it's a thing worth doing.

    I want to respond in more depth to your excellent insights and comments: if I can, I'll do that tonight, but I might have to wait until the homework lets up a bit and I come into a little more free time. So until then!

    Thanks for reading!

    Dai


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

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

  15. #45
    Dai
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    All right! Time at last to respond to some of your excellent points. As I said earlier, it’s such a thrill to hear that the ideas and choices I’ve been trying to express came across clearly—it gives me a great deal of confidence for the future.

    I’m a big fan of first-person narrative, as well. It seems to me that one of the greatest strengths prose storytelling has over other forms of narrative is its sense of interiority, which allows us to experience characters on an intimate, psychological level, rather than observe their actions from the outside. And the first person, in my mind, takes this to its fullest extent. (Plus it’s a ton of fun to try out different narrative voices—it’s a bit like acting.) It struck me that the story of Mewtwo, as presented in movie canon, is seen mostly from the outside, and from the perspective of our kid heroes, who think of Mewtwo as a villain. In large part, what I wanted to do was take the story out of the hands of the young trainers, who are guest stars here, really, and give it back to its protagonist.
    That my little retelling of this old favorite movie was able to put you in that drifting-about state of imaging and re-imagining scenes all day (which I can so, so attest to in my life) makes me happier than I can say.

    Glad to hear the style’s working for you. You’re totally right: I’d be the first to admit I am very long-winded by nature, and I’ve thought long and hard about the general long-windedness in Striking Back. I think initially, the style had more to do with my own tendencies than anything else, but as I revised the story, even though there were parts I excised for tangents and verbiage, I ended up keeping most of it. I still kind of go back and forth on this, but I came to the conclusion that the long, elaborate passages worked well for the very introspective, contemplative character I wanted to create. (In some ways, Striking Back is the record of one long train of thought.) So, while in other stories I’ve tried to write a little more simply, in Striking Back I’ve felt the longer style actually adds to the work. It’s great to hear that I haven’t been mistaken on this.

    Yes, absolutely! A big part of my inspiration for Striking Back was to bring a story which was a big influence on me, and on a whole generation of kids, I think, to life in a new, more thoughtful way. I always thought there was a lot of depth to Mewtwo’s story, depth that might be easy to miss if one only approached the character as a villain in an Ash and Pikachu-centric story. And I had so much fun coming up with explanations for all the weird little moments and inconcistencies—glad you caught them. From the infant Nidoqueen to Smith’s message to the big question of why Mewtwo doesn’t know Giovanni’s fooling him, I felt it was important to make it all fit into a logically consistent framework. (More to come on that front, too.)
    Heh, I do hope I’ve done a good job exploring all these themes. I feel like my interpretation, as much as I’d like it to be a good one, is only one among many. Maybe there are other, better avenues out there for looking at some of these ideas. Hard to say! I’d be very excited to read a different interpretation of Mewtwo’s story, especially if it challenged or even clashed with my way of looking at things. And of course, I don’t think there’s only one valid way of approaching Mewtwo’s tale, either!

    Thanks! I’m glad to hear that the discussions of religion and science came off well. I’m a philosophical sort of person and very interested in the way religion shapes our search for meaning (as you can probably tell), and so I sympathize with Mewtwo’s spiritual quest. I hoped to integrate the theological ideas raised in the Japanese version (an absence keenly felt by many) with ideas from the English version in a way that felt natural. I also felt like taking the opportunity to do a little Pokémon World worldbuilding. My aim was to be respectful of real traditions while playing with their ideas in a fantasy way; I hope that intention comes across. As for the science, I see that as very important to Mewtwo’s character, too, in that Mewtwo’s whole life has been spent trying to understand the strange and complicated universe out there—and at last Mewtwo gets the chance to really learn something. (And connect with people outside Giovanni and the scientists for a change.) Heh, it would have been nice to have fit all that in, but as you say, it probably would have stretched on a little too long. (It might also have been more knowledge than Giovanni felt comfortable exposing his servant to.) Much of what I wrote came from my own knowledge as someone who’s spent a lot of time reading about science as a kid and hanging out with physics majors (I’m assuming the Pokémon world’s solar system and physics are pretty similar to ours.) A few things I did look up, though, to make sure I was getting the exciting figures right.

    Hmm, I take your point—while I think psychic powers are in some sense inherently unknowable, they’re pretty darn interesting to explore in roundabout ways. Maybe I’ll find a way to fit in something more about that during the psychic battles that are coming up.

    Thank you! I’m really glad to hear how well my characterizations came across, that I managed to balance old and new voices and perspectives. I totally agree about the conversations with the other Pokémon: writing their perspectives was one of my favorite things about Part 3, as they not only could challenge Mewtwo’s assumptions about humankind, but also provide some sense of the lives of the wild and varied creatures inhabiting the world, Dragonite especially. (I’d like to expand on that at some point in further writing, if I can.) As you’ve guessed, we’re entering the point where the narrative starts to turn toward dialogue with the humans, and of course Mew. It should be very interesting to bring their clashing perspectives, and everything else, into collision. (Here’s hoping I can pull it off!)

    Thanks for sticking with me this far! It’s a treat to know I have readers who are so excited about and engaged with the same themes that interest me, and excellent responses like yours really help me know what I’m doing right, and where to take things in the future. I’ll be sure to have more before too long; hope you enjoy what’s coming up!

    All the best,
    Dai


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

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

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