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    Dai
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    [CONTINUED:]
    I shook my mind free of the pests. I would leave them be, for the moment. This was no time to get distracted.

    One of the humans had found the nerve to speak again while my attention was elsewhere. I tuned back in.

    “You can’t mean that, Mewtwo,” the older boy, Harrison, was saying. “I don’t know where you’ve been or what you’ve seen, but Pokémon and humans aren’t slaves and masters at all. Not in Pokémon training as it should be. We treat each other with respect and dignity and try to learn from each other.”

    “That’s right,” the girl, Waterflower added. “We all have something to gain by working together.”

    I gnashed my teeth, and for a moment seriously contemplated knocking them upside the head. Humans! If I had to hear their pathetic, sniveling platitudes for a moment longer…

    “Enough!” I snapped. “I brought you here to discuss your fate with you, not to listen to any more of your vile excuses and propaganda!” I paused. “Now…where was I? ”

    As I have said,” I lamented, “it would be delightful if the destruction of humanity was all that was required. But sadly, this is not the case. It is not enough to remove your kind from the picture, for there are betrayers among the Pokémon. And, alas, they will fight tooth and nail to keep their masters in place.”

    “You may well ask: why would anyone who had suffered so much from humans align themselves to their cause? Ah, but servitude makes cowards of us all. Many Pokémon are unable to imagine another way: a life without humans is beyond them. Not only do they bear the stink of having labored under their yoke, they have absorbed human ideas like a putrid mold, and live as puppets of theirs, tools of their agenda—”

    [You’re wrong,] said a voice.

    I gazed about to find the source of the sound, until I realized it came from a small yellow creature about a foot tall. It was the Pikachu I had seen with the black-haired boy, and the mouse’s eyes were blazing.

    [You’re wrong,] he repeated. [We aren’t puppets. We aren’t tools. And you’re making a big mistake to think you can speak for us.] I blinked.

    [I travel with this human because I choose to,] the Pikachu insisted. [I’m here because I want to be. I didn’t know if I was going to like working with him at first, but I do now. He’s good to me, and I’m good to him. That’s why we work well together, win together. We’re partners and we always will be. It has nothing to do with servants or masters.]

    “So you mean to tell me,” I said, ice dripping from my words, “that you are not this human’s servant? You are his…friend?”

    He nodded.

    “You’ve swallowed every lie they ever told you,” I spat. “You are as pathetic as the rest.” With a gesture, I picked up the little mouse and flung him toward the back of the room. An example had to be made. He would learn—they all would, one way or another.

    But the human boy, Ketchum, reacted quickly and dove with remarkable skill. In a moment, he’d caught the thrown Pokémon in his arms, though the effort threw him onto his back, and he winced as he landed on the hard marble floor. In a moment, he was sitting up, and the Pikachu was meeting his gaze with sickening affection.

    “You fool!” I roared. “Friendship with such creatures is impossible, a lie; can you not see that? To be with them, to want to be with them is in itself wrong!” I realized I was shaking.

    The human boy picked himself up as his friends gathered around him, dusted himself off, and allowed the Pikachu to climb back onto his shoulder. Then he met my gaze. “I don’t know what kind of Pokémon you are or what you think you’re trying to do,” he said fiercely. “But don’t pick on Pikachu.”

    “And if you try to hurt our friends again, or anyone,” he added, “we’ll stop you.”

    I started to respond to his jibe, then realized he was—good lord—completely serious. He meant every word. He actually thought of himself as some great hero, standing up against a tyrant: me. And he honestly believed he and his little group of friends were up to such a challenge.

    It was astonishing, the lengths to which humans would go to imagine themselves as noble, righteous creatures. These children all seemed to want to paint smiles and rainbows on their kind’s atrocities. This boy—Ketchum, hadn’t that been his name?—seemed the embodiment of every tired, childish excuse human beings used to justify their grip over our race. How easy to evade justice when you call servitude friendship and blood sport harmless fun! No doubt this boy pretended to have higher motives for diving after his deluded servant, when in all likelihood he simply sought to protect the investment he had made in a valuable fighter. A disgusting state of affairs in any event.

    The other boy, Anderson, had been watching and listening this entire time with a thoughtful expression. Now he stepped forward.

    “I don’t know what kind of Pokémon you are, either,” he said. “But I don’t think it matters. If you really are a Pokémon, I see no reason why I can’t capture you.” I stared at him: did he mean what I thought he meant? Before I could say anything, Anderson reached for a Pokéball on his belt and made a swift gesture to one of the Pokémon behind him. “Go, Ryhorn!”

    The spiny beast lumbered forth from the crowd of Pokémon and broke into a trot. Then it became a run. And in a moment, the Ryhorn was charging across the marble, his fierce eyes locked on me, to eviscerate me with his long, sharp horn.

    Nothing I hadn’t faced before. Just as the Ryhorn was about to reach the dais on which I stood, I plucked him from the ground and suspended him in the air before me. The creature’s eyes widened as he realized that his flailing legs were pawing at nothing but air. He struggled and strained to reach me, thrashing his great horn this way and that, but I held him perfectly in check. I let him twitch there until I grew bored with him—then I shot him back in the direction he had come. He landed on the marble table with a great crash and slid backwards until he fell off the other side, sending candles, fruit, gleaming plates cascading in every direction.

    Well, I thought. So much for dinner.

    Anderson rushed over to the groaning creature. “No! Ryhorn!”

    “Did you think I was some Rattatta, to be snatched from its mother’s nest?” I mocked. “You fools! I was not made to be shoved into captivity. Your Pokémon attacks cannot weaken me. My powers are too great. No trainer can conquer me.”

    “Then you won’t mind provin’ it in a real match!” Ketchum said roughly.

    I looked at him closely. “Is that a challenge?”

    “You bet it is!” he said, defiant. “If you’re really the world’s best trainer, then show us! Unless you’re afraid of losing!”

    I had to grin. They were playing right into my hands. “I am not afraid, little human. Though I wonder if you should be. You have seen the powers I possess. Do they not frighten you? Do you not expect to be utterly destroyed and brought to heel?”

    “We don’t know until we try!” Ketchum declared.

    I smiled. “Very well.”

    And I reached down to the laboratory and hit a few vital switches, unlocking certain subroutines in the machines. And I whispered in the ears of my three children: Wake up. Your time has come.

    Their eyes flashed open, and the three of them saw the world for the first time, as I had, so long ago. But they gazed at their newly-found reality with intention, a plan. They knew exactly what I needed them to do, for I had been with them since their earliest dreams. Smoothly and easily, they dove down through their gestation chambers and slid out through the hatch at the bottom. They shook the liquid off their bodies and blinked in the light. I showed them the path they needed to follow, and they turned, as one, to take it. Their hearts thrilled to hear their master’s voice, their pulses raced with excitement to know that at long last, they were undertaking the mission they had been born for. Yet they remained calm. With measured, steady steps, they left the room to seek the transporters that awaited them.

    The humans seemed unnerved by my sudden silence. But I was observing what they could not see. In a moment—just a moment more—and there it was. Three trapdoors set in the marble floor to my right, subtly concealed, swiveled open with a brief flash of light. From the three holes emerged my children on rising, circular platforms that sealed neatly into place. Within seconds, they stood at my side. My Venusaur, with his great flare of foliage. My Blastoise, with her cannons gleaming bright. My Charizard, his fangs bristling, his fire blazing with all its might.

    I let my guests stare at the holy trinity I’d just unveiled, taking in the exotic patterns on their petals and skin, their strong and sturdy limbs, and most of all, their fearless, confident gaze as they looked into the eyes of their foes. Then I spoke. “As with most Pokémon trainers, I, too, began with Charmander, Squirtle, and Bulbasaur. But I brought my own ingenuity to bear on their training. For their evolved forms, I used their genetic material to clone even more powerful copies.”

    “Copies?” one of the humans asked. Another muttered, “They’re clones!”

    Yes, that was the general idea. I sighed. With guests this slow on the uptake, it seemed pointless to go into my own origin by the same process. We would all be stuck here for hours while they bombarded me with inane, clueless questions. Best to move on to the next event. I reached out and flipped a switch.

    This drew a great deal of attention. It was calculated to. The room shook, and the humans and Pokémon looked about in alarm. A colossal window of glazed, whitish glass, lavishly decorated with massive, carefully arranged panels, had until now dominated the eastern side of the room from ceiling to floor. Now it was revealed for what it truly was: a gateway. Panels detached from one another and slid back along deliberate paths. The whole window twisted and altered, folding upon itself and opening up like the shutter of a camera. After a moment or two it had entirely disappeared into the surrounding walls.

    And then what lay beyond was fully in view. Four bright floodlights clicked on, one by one, soaking the stadium I had built with light. A gust of cold air flew through the atrium as the human trainers gazed, awe-struck, at the enormous field on which they were to do battle. I smiled and let them take in the view.

    “A stadium!” Harrison said, understanding. “Mewtwo planned this all along.” He gave me a cold look, as if to cast blame on me for tricking them, somehow, into the match. Unfair, really. I had openly stated my intention to challenge them all along; if they were surprised to see me following through, it was their own foolish business.

    “You wished to fight me?” I said simply. “Here is your chance. Who will face the true master of all Pokémon? Who will rise to meet me in battle?”

    Three of them stepped forward. I was surprised to see Harrison wasn’t among them. He hung back, staring at the three Pokémon by my side as if they were a puzzle he was about to figure out.

    Anderson was the first to stake a claim. “Your fake Venusaur can’t match my real one,” he declared. He motioned his smaller, paler Venusaur forward, and she let off a confident roar. “Right, Bruteroot?”

    Fake? I thought, incensed. What was that supposed to imply? That I’d constructed a Venusaur out of shoddy parts? That legitimacy as a species required the human stamp of approval?

    “We’ll blow away that Blastoise, won’t we, Shellshocker?” Sinclar crowed. The Blastoise flexed proudly and thrust his cannons into the air. I grimaced. Clever little nicknames for one’s Pokémon servants. How cute. As if their lives weren’t destroyed enough by serving under a cruel master—now the fashion was to control even the names they answered to.

    And then Ketchum joined the other two trainers. He took a long look at the dragon at my side and pulled a Pokéball from his belt. “He may not have a nickname,” he said, with quiet assurance, “but I do have…Charizard.”

    Suddenly I was listening more attentively. Ketchum possessed a Charizard? I hadn’t credited him with anything more advanced than the childlike creatures I’d already seen with him. Perhaps the three late arrivals had not fully obeyed my injunction to reveal their Pokémon. Perhaps they had been holding out on me. This might prove to be a far more interesting night than I’d expected.

    Ketchum clicked the ball and hurled it into the air. “I choose you!” With a great burst of white light, the outline of the dragon appeared. He was a handsome creature, with great auburn wings and a bright, blazing flame. As the light faded, the Charizard caught my stare. A slight grin turned up at the corner of his mouth. Something passed between us for a moment—a challenge? A sense of solidarity and understanding? Then it broke. Without warning, he hurled a massive burst of fire in my direction.

    The conflagration caught me almost off guard, but I was able to match it. I’d fought plenty of fire-based Pokémon before. One secret to holding off their flames was to provide a buffer, a way of diffusing a fire’s energy into something other than one’s own body. The air was an excellent resource. There was always water in the air. I pulled some from the air around me and forced it into liquid state. Within a moment, I had a liquid shield, rippling around me. The burst of fire hit the shield and dissipated, turning the water back into steam. When the haze cleared, I was revealed, perfectly unharmed. The humans gaped.

    Ketchum looked a bit rattled. “Charizard,” he stammered, “I didn’t say “start…” The dragon snorted and let out a defiant puff of smoke in my direction.

    “Your Charizard is poorly trained,” I mocked. But inwardly I was delighted. What a charmingly foul-tempered creature. How refreshing it was to see a Pokémon who flouted orders and openly defied his so-called masters! He was no gullible stooge, I was sure. Perhaps—later—I might be able to win him to my side.

    I took a look at the challengers. I had considered an extended knockout round, in which my trio defended any and all opposition. But now a far more compelling opportunity presented itself. It would be almost too appropriate…

    “Very good,” I said, breaking the silence. “Three Pokémon brought to life by my ingenuity. And three opponents to match, generously participating on behalf of the human species. Shall we agree that each shall fight his or her counterpart? Three duels of one on one?” The trainers nodded.

    I swept from the room, and my fighters marched after me. After a moment, the humans and their servants followed awkwardly.

    I took up my place at the far side of the battlefield. The humans took theirs at the near. We stared at each other across the gulf.

    For a moment, the world grew still. The wind gently stirred the sand at our feet. Far off, I heard the rumbling of thunder, waiting in the wings.

    I spoke. “Which of you will oppose me first?”

    Anderson stepped forward as his Venusaur stirred. Determination was written upon both their faces. “I underestimated you last time,” he admitted, “but that won’t happen again!” He motioned the lumbering reptile forward. “Go, Bruteroot!”

    I gave my own Venusaur a slight motion of the head. He grinned, taking my meaning, and slipped confidently into the battlefield. The two of them strode toward the center, eyes locked, he with his mottled and muscular body, she with her smooth scales. He towered over her, but she seemed unafraid.

    Anderson jabbed a finger in my direction. “Bruteroot, Razor Leaf!” he roared.

    I smiled. It had begun.

    I closed my eyes. All around me I could feel the minds of the beings who had gathered here. But there was one in particular I sought. I darted forward and dove into my fighter’s awareness. I saw with his eyes, listened with his ears, breathed his every breath. My creation was more than happy to receive me. He had known me and been waiting for this moment since the very moment of his existence. Our minds communed, sang out to each other across the open air.

    The attack came. From the depths of the other Venusaur’s foliage flew a barrage of leaves, expertly thrown, large, flat forms like those of a palm, but with vicious, serrated edges. It was easy to guess their intent: slice the enemy to ribbons and strike further while he staggers with the pain.

    But there would be no such luck for our enemies. “Vine Whip,” I projected, loud enough for all to hear. My own Venusaur summoned up green vines, thick as serpents, and thrust them out like arms to meet the incoming assault. On my signal, I told him silently, whispering in his ear as Giovanni had once whispered in mine. On my signal, strike. He sent back perfect, silent assent. I could feel his vine-limbs poised and ready in the air as if they were my own.

    Now! The first blade came, and we moved as one. With a twitch of our whip we struck the leaf from the air, smashing it clean in two and sending the useless pieces to the ground below. And the next, and the next, and the next. I could sense the position of every projectile as it hurtled through the air, and I told my child where to meet each one and erase it from the map. It was over in less than a second: a wild flurry of green, a twirling of serpentine limbs, and the attack had been reduced to a pile of harmless vegetation.

    The other Venusaur stared. But we weren’t finished yet. Before she had time to react, we reached out long vines, swift as lightning, across to where she stood. In a moment, the thick tendrils had looped around her and fastened themselves in a tight knot around her massive frame. The Venusaur’s eyes bulged as we lifted her up into the air with ease, her limbs groping at empty air, her belly splayed to the sky. Then we hurled her backwards, still flailing, over the head of her frantic trainer and back to the edge of the atrium. She landed on her side with a sickening crunch, the marble cracking and buckling underneath her from the impact. Her tongue lolled, and she stared glassily into the sky. She was out cold.

    The human rushed over to his fallen servant and knelt in the crater where she lay. “Bruteroot!”

    “It looks like I’m up,” Sinclair declared. She seemed confident—but was that a spark of fear in her eyes as she glanced back toward the fallen Venusaur? “Go, Shellshocker!”

    The Blastoise stomped onto the battlefield, flexing his strong arms, a foolish grin on his face. I thrust out an arm, and my own Blastoise darted eagerly into the fray. Once she reached a point midway to the center of the field, she stopped and stood her ground, ready for my command. The other continued to charge blindly forward until he heard his trainer’s voice.

    “Shellshocker, Hydro Pump!” Sinclair bellowed, gnashing her teeth as if it would strike us down where we stood. The other Blastoise stopped and readied his cannons for a shattering burst of water.

    Ah, Hydro Pump. An excellent choice, in most situations. An incredibly powerful attack, well-suited for a water-dwelling creature. There were, however, disadvantages. And someone familiar with the species could easily exploit them.

    I silently conveyed my intention to my Pokémon, and her eyes lit up with understanding. Together, the two of us waited, as one, for the perfect moment to strike. As the opponent shot a torrent of water across the field, my Blastoise leapt into the air. As she rose, she tucked her limbs into her shell and went into a perfectly executed spin. She met the streams of water in midair and plowed through, deflecting most of their force and slipping between, rocketing like a bullet across the battlefield.

    The enemy Blastoise, having put all of his energy and attention into letting off the blast, was caught entirely off guard as the whirling shell met him full in the chest. He was knocked backward across the field and crashed into the stone stadium wall. There he collapsed, his energy spent.

    The girl rushed over to the wounded Blastoise. “Shellshocker!”

    All present knew what confrontation was to follow. Ketchum stepped forward, looking nervous. One of his companions whispered something to him about surrender. He shook his head, refusing to give up.

    My Charizard’s mind called out to me, imploring me to send him into the fray, telling me that he was more than ready. With a motion of my hand I sent him forth, and felt his delight. As my victorious Blastoise settled back at my side, her brother, my Charizard, stepped forward, stretched out his massive wings, and hurled a jet of fire into the sky.

    The other Charizard stomped the ground, equally eager to begin. He listened impatiently as his trainer shouted one last command, then rose into the air. Without waiting for another word from the human, he let out a massive burst of flame, an incredible conflagration aimed directly at the dragon who stood before me. He dodged the flames easily, leaping into the air himself. I could feel the sheer heat against my fur, and when the smoke cleared, I could see that patches of the battlefield shone with molten glass.

    I watched as the two dragons rose higher and higher into the sky, trading blows, darting around each other in great spirals. A smile crept over my face. Now this, truly, would be a fight to remember.

    It made no small impression, these two behemoths wrestling overhead with claws and flame. Down on the ground, gasps could be heard each time one of the combatants rammed the other and forced him to the far side of the stadium, or dodged a blow intended to do just that. Both human and Pokémon craned their necks to get a better view. Before long, even the airspace above the stadium was not enough for the dragons, and their back-and-forth motions took them past the highest carvings, past the tops of my towers, and up through the clouds.

    Even at that distance, the air was clear enough above the palace that one could still make out the combatants. As they reached the apex of their flight, their silhouettes shrank into black specks, occasionally cast into relief by a tongue of flame or the brilliant full moon. For the humans and Pokémon below, perhaps it grew more difficult to keep track of what was going on. I had no such problem. I thrilled to every motion and felt every blow.

    There was nothing quite like witnessing a duel between two bull Charizard in their prime. Either one would have been more than a match for many lesser creatures; as it was, they kept each other constantly on the move in a frenzy of blows. The human’s Charizard was young, fit and wily: he had that kind of confident arrogance that comes from suddenly realizing one’s adult power. My Charizard, meanwhile, though newly born, had the body of a much older creature, large, lithe, and muscular, and he wore the exotic patterns on his scales like battle scars.

    I wondered about our opponent: what drove him to throw himself so passionately into the battle when he rejected the authority of the human child below? Perhaps, like my children and I, he was caught in the thrill of the game. Yet for all his bravado, he was losing. He had scarcely managed to mar my fighter’s flanks: each time he tried to get close, my Charizard and I punished the attempt, tearing into his flesh with vicious claws.

    Before long I figured out what he was trying to do, what he had cooked up in conjunction with the human below: knowing that my clones possessed superior strength, they had decided to focus on speed instead, to fly circles around my Charizard rather than confront him directly. Unfortunately for them, this was a gross underestimation of our abilities. A change of plans, I whispered to my child, directing him to go into a dive. Two could play at this game.

    Soon my Charizard was the one tearing through the sky at breakneck speeds, with the other in furious but hopeless pursuit. Growing desperate, our opponent began hurling fire. Again and again the young dragon swept a column of flame through the sky like a blade. And again and again, with a little instruction from me, my own dragon was able to slip past it. Each escape, he followed with an expert turn that allowed him to slam his enemy full in the chest with a crippling blow. The other howled in fury, but found no way to respond in kind. And before long, the repeated impacts began to take their toll. His wings drooped. His breaths grew heavy, and his movements slowed.

    This gave us the perfect opening. Swift as an assassin, my Charizard slipped behind the other and clasped him around the shoulders. The other Charizard struggled to get free, but it was no use. My fighter cut off the motion of his wings, and turned their descent into a dive. The black specks against the moon grew large as they plummeted down to the stadium from which they had come.

    Down they came like a meteor from the heavens. One in panic. The other in perfect control, his feet pressing into the opponent’s back and his grip unbreakable. “Finish it,” I commanded, and realized that I had projected it to the entire room. But it scarcely mattered. My beautiful creation let go at the perfect moment and drove the other Charizard into the ground, grinding him under his heel as he took flight. In a moment, he was again at my side.

    The other Charizard struggled to get up. He staggered for a moment out of the dust—then collapsed in a tangle of limbs, spitting out one final, pathetic puff of smoke.

    I watched as the human boy knelt over the fallen Pokémon, babbling something incoherent. I watched the unconscious dragon lie there, breathing shallow breaths. It was a pity to have injured such a proud and noble creature. But soon I would have his wounds healed—and before long, he might be at my side. Later, I promised him, I will give you the attention you deserve. For now, it was time to put the next part of my plan in motion.

    I let the scene stand for a second or two, the humans huddling in silence, some staring at me, others crouched over their defeated Pokémon. Then I closed my eyes and reached out for a shelf I had set aside for this very moment. On it lay a number of the special black capsules I had created, my own innovative twist on the Pokéball. Three should do nicely to start. I plucked a few from their places and flipped a switch in each. In a moment, the three orbs hovered in the air beside me.

    “As the victor,” I said calmly, “I now claim my prize: your Pokémon.” I sent the orbs forth, and they went to work. One snatched up the unconscious Charizard, passing over the head of his startled and flustered trainer. Another, the Blastoise, who was just now pushing himself up from where he had fallen, and snarled at the orb that captured him. The last, the Venusaur, who still lay in her crater with her tongue sticking out, utterly exhausted. Within seconds, they were all mine.

    Genetic information: that was what this match had truly won me. The more I added to my stock of DNA, the more I could augment and extend my army. Here was the first new piece for my collection. Though they seemed no particular savants at battle, the Blastoise and Venusaur might have other traits that would be useful for my legions—a healthier constitution, for instance. And as for the Charizard—what a windfall he was. If I found no way to persuade him to my side, his strength, skill and intelligence would be mind to wield during the cloning process nevertheless. And any human-worshipping Pokémon might make a valuable political prisoner.

    But why stop there? My collection was only just beginning.

    “What are you going to do with those Pokémon?” the younger girl, Waterflower, demanded.

    I was happy to answer. “I will extract their DNA to make clones for myself,” I replied coolly. I paused, realizing that a fuller elaboration of my plans might be a little much for them to comprehend. “They will remain safe on my island with me, while my storm destroys the planet. Joined, of course, by enhanced versions of the Pokémon of which you are so very proud. ”

    I reached down once more. This time, I brought every capsule on the shelf to life. Hundreds and hundreds of them surrounded me in an instant. I spread them out with a wave of my arms.

    The humans gasped as they realized my intentions. “You can’t do this!” Harrison shouted.

    The black-haired boy stepped onto the battlefield and struck a defiant pose, fists clenched. He looked as if he thought his weak frame could shield his comrades from my blows. “Yeah, Mewtwo!” he declared, his confident tones grating on my ears. “We won’t let you!”

    I stared at the human before me, furious. Who was this boy? Ash Ketchum—hadn’t that been his name? What was with his relentless, inexplicable optimism? Did he—good lord!—actually think that he could alter one whit of my plan? Look at him, standing there, a smug smile on his face, radiating self-righteousness! How dare he come here and act as if I was the monster? As if he was some fantasy hero, who would slay the wicked demon Mewtwo with ease, his admirers and companions by his side! It was sickening, the way he twisted the story around to make himself the moral victor.

    All of the humans were tedious and annoying, of course. But with this boy, in particular, there was something unsettling, alien, about how he threw himself into the standard human lies. He acted so sanctimonious, so superior—it was as if he actually believed some part of the rubbish he spread. Perhaps that was easiest, to buy into the hypocrisy and cruelty, to justify it by any means possible. Less guilt, certainly, than facing one’s own wretchedness head-on. But where the hell had he come from, this absurd child? What gave him the arrogance to stand against me where his fellow humans would not? Very well, I thought, gnashing my teeth. You want to be the champion of mankind? Here is your reward.

    “Do not attempt to defy me!” I spat. With the myriad of black capsules still in the air around me, I snatched up the nauseating boy and threw him back into the mass of huddled humans with all the force I could muster. He gasped as he flew backwards across the battlefield, his feet suspended in midair, his head plowing the way, and crashed into the older boy behind him. The two of them crumpled to the ground like ragdolls.

    I felt like laughing. It was so easy. These humans were weak, pathetic—nothing. Nothing in their feeble little brains allowed them to do anything against me. I had already won.

    I snatched up the hundreds of black orbs hovering around me and flicked the switches in each that would set the capsules in motion. “This is my world now!” I cried, daring any human to deny it.

    And I let them fly.


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

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

  2. #47
    Dai
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    [CONTINUED:]
    They ran, of course. I had expected nothing less. As the hundreds of black Pokéballs hit the other side of the battlefield like a hailstorm, the Pokémon and trainers who had gathered turned tail and bolted back into the bright atrium. There were shouts of “Let’s go!”, cries of fear and outrage, and a great deal of confusion as the fleeing parties tried desperately to keep from tripping over themselves and each other in their haste.

    But if they thought the shining walls and marble floors of the interior would provide them refuge, they were sorely mistaken. My capsules kept up the pursuit, soaring swiftly into the atrium, snapping up Pokémon as they went.

    Not for the first time, I admired my own elegant design: not only were the black orbs’ propulsion systems working perfectly, allowing them to fly through the air as no Pokéball had ever done before, tracking identified Pokémon targets as they went, but they were also easily manipulated by a psychic such as myself. At the press of a button I could suggest a change of direction or target, and off the device would go. And then there were all the improvements I had made to the basic functionality, employing the very latest of human capture technology to ensure that even the strongest, healthiest Pokémon would succumb to the devices’ pull. There was really nothing else like them. Fortunate, then, that I controlled the market.

    It could scarcely have been easier, anyway. A few of the smaller Pokémon had followed their trainers to watch the fight, but most had remained behind in the atrium, still clustered around the table and pool just as they had been when first released. Snatching them up was like plucking grapes from an abundant vine.

    First to go, to my delight, was the Gyarados, awake and alert once more after her encounter with me, but still very weak. Surrounded by a storm of spinning capsules, she struggled to resist their force, but in a moment, she vanished with an ear-splitting howl of fury. Macintyre snatched desperately at the air as if he could bring her back, but the orb and the monster were gone. The water rocked in her absence.

    After that followed others, still more easily. A Golduck, standing by the side of the pool. A startled Seadra, trying to dive into the water. Anderson dashed over to his servants just as his Sandslash disappeared in a flash of red light. He turned and tried to guard the others by throwing out his body, knocking aside the capsules as they approached. But this had little effect, nor did his Hitmonlee and Scyther’s furious weaving and dodging motions avail them. Suddenly the wide-eyed fighter was gone, and then the green insect with him, for all the orbs he had sliced in half with his blades.

    The Dewgong, last to disappear from the pool. The Rapidash, rearing up on his hind legs. The Vileplume, vanishing from over Sinclair’s shoulder as she furiously tried to wave away its captors. I noticed Ketchum’s deluded Pikachu was still managing to evade them. Small and quick, he darted this way and that, outmaneuvering the devices with their steady pace. I let him be for the moment. He, too, would fall. It was a matter of attrition, and time.

    The four of us, my trio of children and I, watched this saga unfold. Though only I had the benefit of an enhanced perspective, from where we were standing at the far side of the battlefield, all of us had a superb view of the chaos now unfolding in the atrium: Pokémon ducking and weaving under various obstacles, stumbling around the room in a mad dash to escape the black orbs; humans running after them in panic, trying to block the orbs’ path with futile waving motions, as often as not tripping over themselves in their haste. I smiled inwardly at my children, and they smiled back. Look, I told them. The birth of your brothers and sisters approaches. My trinity thrilled to hear it, and their hearts swelled to watch the capsules’ flight.

    Really, I thought, watching some of the trainers try and fail to waver the orbs away from their targets, the humans were astounding hypocrites. They fought furiously against my assault, but had they not thrown their own Pokéballs at unwitting prey? In fact, hadn’t they snatched up these very Pokémon they tried to cling to from their homes, their native dwelling places, not so long ago? Wasn’t their so-called ownership entirely based around theft? What right, then, did they have to stare at me with shock and horror when I took the creatures from them in turn? I was only redistributing what had already been taken. In a just world, they would have thanked me for it. But that was the human race for you: ungrateful to a man.

    Soon the last few stragglers were disappearing. The Wigglytuff, his large eyes wide with terror, stumbled and slowed in his running, exhausted, and was caught by an orb swinging around from behind. Then there was the Pidgeot, who, thinking quickly, had leapt into flight, soaring up to the rafters as fast as her wings could carry her. With expert skill, she wove around pillars, through the spiral that led up to my tower, and sent capsules crashing uselessly into the architecture. But many more remained in pursuit, and it was clear from her tired wing-beats that she was running out of options. For a moment, I thought she was about to burst through one of the upper windows, breaking her shackles and leaving her trainer behind her. But at the last moment, she hesitated, turning her eye to the ground, and at last one of the orbs caught up to her. In a strangled screech and a burst of feathers, she was gone.

    Several of the humans, meanwhile, had come up with their own strategies for escaping the onslaught. Ketchum ran up to his Bulbasaur and Squirtle, who were each beating back the orbs in their own way, and stopped, a childish grin coming over his face. I didn’t entirely catch what he shouted to his companion, but the gist was clear enough. “…can’t capture them if they’re already in their Pokéballs,” he declared, taking out two red-and-white orbs to set against my own black. He clicked them twice, and in a burst of red light, the Bulbasaur and Squirtle were gone.

    Did he really think I hadn’t thought of that? “It is no use,” I projected, and even as I spoke, two black orbs swooped down upon the boy and snatched a Pokéball from each of his outstretched hands. His childish smile turned into a yelp as he tried to reach for them, but they flew too quickly away.

    It was simply a matter of technology. I had long known of how humans used the immense storage capacity of Pokéballs to hold more than just Pokémon: they had adapted them to hold tools and medicine and food and the like. For obvious reasons, they had made it impossible for these storage Pokéballs to hold further Pokéballs in turn. But this was not an inherent property of the capsules: all it took was a little ingenuity, and the system was easily jailbroken. “It is futile to try and escape my power,” I called out, but I could tell the humans weren’t really listening.

    His companions had already decided to try a different tactic: Harrison and Waterflower grabbed their remaining Pokémon, and, clutching the small creatures in their arms, sped furiously toward the exit. I watched with some amusement: what was it they were planning to do once they reached the docks? Commandeer a boat I didn’t have back to shore? But it was moot, anyway. In a moment, the orbs had caught up to them, and the Pokémon vanished from their very grasp, first Harrison’s Vulpix with her glossy red fur, then Waterflower’s bleary-eyed Psyduck. The two trainers spun about to find themselves holding only air.

    And then it was over, the hurricane of flying black capsules fading just as quickly as it had begun. As their targets were found, large swaths of the orbs had peeled off from the horde and darted back down into the depths of the laboratory from which they had come. And so the chaos had gradually grown quieter and more focused until only a few Pokémon were left, and now—now there were none. Sensing no available targets, the remaining orbs flew toward the pillars, where I had installed vast hatches for this very purpose, now fully revealed. Into the large hidden chambers the capsules flew, pouring down the tunnels that would lead them to their final resting place. I flipped a switch and the hatches came slowly down around the last of the orbs. Then they sealed shut. Without warning, all was silent once more.

    In the confusion, it seemed Ketchum had disappeared. I had not really been paying attention to him, nor the Pikachu in whom he inspired such sickening loyalty. Last I had noticed, the little yellow mouse had been trying to escape the orbs by climbing up the vast ramp I had devised for the Maid. It had been a futile gesture in any event; no salvation awaited him in the tower, and the orbs, it seemed, had found him all the same.

    As for Ketchum, I surmised he had run off somewhere. Trying to save his own hide, no doubt, leaving the others to face me, in the spineless human mold. Perhaps he, too, thought he had found a way through the storm. I pictured him trying to swim through the rough waters. It was an amusing thought. At any rate, he was out of the picture, and I scarcely minded. This late in the game, I doubted he could do anything that really mattered.

    And now I had only to wait. I could feel it: the orbs were even now docking in their assigned stations, transferring their genetic material to the machine. And the machine was generating life, clones with my systematic enhancements, at a rate never before been seen on Earth. I laughed in the face of natural selection. All my research, all my devious strategies and workarounds, were being fulfilled in this moment. Soon the three eldest of my children would be joined by a whole host of brothers and sisters. And then, at last, I would have an army—my own army—capable of destroying the vermin of the earth.

    The humans in the atrium were scattered, looking hopeless and worn. Some of them were seated, collapsed like ragdolls. Others were leaning against tables and walls as if they would fall over any minute. Robbed of their Pokémon, they seemed much smaller than they had before—just six tiny, weak little figures propped up like sticks. I had stolen back the only strength they had.

    Now that I had some time on my hands while I waited for the clones to fully develop, it seemed a perfect moment to talk. I flew over to where the disheveled humans were sitting around glumly, staring off into space. For a moment I considered sitting down, cross-legged, in their midst. But I decided against it. I would look too foolish, and I disliked the idea of lowering myself to their level. I had never been very good at sitting, anyway. So I stood in their midst instead.

    I sent out a brief pulse of awareness that said, pay attention—the psychic equivalent of clearing my throat. All heads turned, as one, to look at me.

    “The deed is done,” I declared. “Humans, you have served your purpose.” This was certainly true enough. Now for a calculated show of magnanimity I had long planned. “I am sparing your lives—for the moment.” They stared at me, suspicious. I reached out and seized hold of the enormous doors that marked the entranceway, as well as the similar doors at the far end of the stadium. At my command, they swung open with a massive creak. A cold wind blew through the atrium, and in the distance, the flashing storm clouds were terrifyingly clear.

    “But you cannot escape your fate,” I reminded them. “The hour of my vengeance draws near. All of you must die, one way or another, before my campaign is through. I simply offer you a choice in how that death is to be carried out.” I gestured to the open door. “You may leave, if you wish, and make your way back to the mainland by whatever means you can. Who knows: perhaps you will be able to return to civilization, and warn the proper authorities about my eminent threat. That might give you a sporting chance against me. It seems only fair.”

    “Or you may remain here on the island with me, in which case your death shall come about by other means. You will then have the honor of being the first to welcome a new kind of being into the world: a race of clones. A race of saviors. The army that shall be your end.”

    I spread my arms wide. “So, choose: what shall it be? Who shall accept my offer? Who will go?”

    None of them moved. None even blinked. They sat there sullenly, staring at me with hate in their eyes.

    “Shall I take it, then,” I put forward, “that you all wish to remain here and continue our conversation? I do not mind that in the least; I have found it quite worthwhile.”

    “Conversation?” snarled one of them—Anderson, I thought. “This is what you call a conversation? Humiliating us at every turn? Stealing our Pokémon?”

    “Just what have you done to those Pokémon, Mewtwo?” Harrison demanded. “If you’ve hurt them in any way—”

    I waved the question away. “Such agitation, all for your stolen property! I already told you. They have not been harmed. Merely captured, as you captured them in your turn. Placed in storage. They will survive this night. Whether they continue to survive depends on whether they pledge loyalty to my aims. If not, it will be easy to replace them.”

    “It is a shame, I admit, if you have not enjoyed our conversations as I have. But not my concern. For my own part, I have found them most illuminating. By bringing you here, I sought also to better know my enemy. Perhaps even give you one last chance at absolution. I can now confirm my initial assessment—you are indeed wretched, arrogant creatures—and in the meantime, I have learned a great deal. I now know much more about the human race.”

    They were quiet, their faces twisted, unable to come up with a reply. Then another voice spoke.

    “You don’t know anything.” In every word was etched cold, knifelike anger.

    I turned. It was the younger girl—Water-something. Waterflower. She was standing up, her fists were clenched, and her eyes were blazing.

    “You don’t know the first thing about us,” she repeated. “You never wanted to. You could have asked us about who we are, why we’re here. You didn’t care. You just wanted to have us here, and laugh at us, and torture us, and tell us how wrong and awful we are. You don’t want to hear what we have to say. You just want to have fun hurting us.”

    She shook, violently, and I realized she had been trembling this entire time. “What I don’t understand is why…why you hate us so much.” For a moment she seemed about to weep. “What did we do, what’s so wrong, that you want us to suffer like this?”

    “I have made my reasons entirely clear,” I said stiffly. “You have enslaved my kind, and forced them to suffer beyond comprehension. I do not do this for my own satisfaction, I do this for them. Only when all of you are dead will the world begin to heal.”

    “But that’s just it,” she insisted. “We’re not like that. Yes, there are human beings out there like that, who hurt Pokémon and use them like slaves, but we’re not them. We want those kind of people to stop their cruelty as much as you do. Can’t we just talk about all this? Really talk about it? If you tell us what your concerns are, we could join forces with you and fight the evils of the world. We could be friends instead of enemies. We could work together.”

    I laughed. “Another devil’s bargain if I ever heard one. And I am through accepting. No, I have far too much experience with the way you lie. If I pretended that all mankind did not have some stake in these evils—if I allowed you to work with me on what you claimed was a project to end certain cruelties—you would take over. For you it would only be another chance to trick us all into a more insidious slavery. I have already seen through your protestations. Wickedness is no accident for you humans, but your very nature. Avarice is your life’s blood; it congeals deep in your bones and seeps out through your skin. Do not think you can fool me.”

    She stared at me for a moment. “The way you think is so strange,” she said finally. “You act like you’re speaking pearls of wisdom, but there’s nothing there, just anger. You’re totally inhuman. But you’re not like any Pokémon I know, either. More like an alien, someone from another planet.”

    She was groping for words now, struggling to speak clearly. “But you’re not. You were born here—well, created here, I guess, but you still have a mind, don’t you? A conscience? Can’t you see that what you’re doing is evil? Killing people, hurting people, committing genocide—those are awful, immoral things. For God’s sake, don’t you see what you’re doing is wrong!?”

    “You speak to me of God and morality?” I mocked. “You think you know anything of divine power?” I rose up into the air and sent winds rippling through the room. “If there is a God, my very existence demonstrates that my plan is his, and he has sent me as a holy scourge, to end a world worthy of his wrath. And if not…” I met her wavering eyes and smiled. “Then I am the nearest thing to a deity you will ever encounter.”

    “I-I know,” she said, swallowing hard. “I know you could tear me apart with a thought. I know you could destroy us all without even looking at us.”

    “And yet you dare to speak to me in this way?” I whispered. In the back of my mind I could sense the machines’ processes nearing completion, the last few clones taking shape in their chambers. Almost there… “Risking your own life and limb?”

    She trembled, but her gaze remained fixed. “Yes, because….because you’re still wrong. At the end of the day, you’re still wrong, no matter how powerful you are. And even if I’m scared, I—someone has to stand up to you. Someone has to tell you you’re wrong, that you’re not the savior you think you are. You’re a bully. You just want us all to suffer because you think that’s fun. That’s my definition of a bully. And—and if you hurt me now, you’re only proving my point. It’ll be clear to everyone what a monster you are. How all you really care about is seeing us suffer.”

    I stared at her, disgusted. Monster—they always had some name like that for us, these creatures they couldn’t understand. She deserved every punishment for her insolence, but I hesitated to act. For all the imbecility of her logic, she had put me in a bit of a corner. If I killed her now , I would seem no more than a cold-hearted aggressor. Yet neither could I allow her to mock me.

    I seized the girl’s limbs and tripped her. She fell flat on her back and winced. I flew closer and leaned over her. Then I hit her with a jolt of pain like a whip through the central nervous system, so quick, yet so intense, that she barely had time to cry out before it was over. She gasped, breathless, and stared up at me.

    “The suffering I bring is redemptive,” I told her quietly. “The pain you feel? You would welcome it, if only you knew its meaning. Do not blame me if you are too blind to see.” I looked again at the gathered humans, whose furious stares surrounded me. “And do not dare tell me you know what kind of creature I am.”

    There was a long, tense silence. I do not know what I intended to do next, but luckily something else suddenly leapt to my attention. My children were ready to be born. Swiftly I pressed the switch that would set them free. In one continuous motion, they swam down through their gestation chambers and slid out through the hatches, one after another, shaking off the liquid of their gestation and blinking in the light. Sandslash and Scyther and Tentacruel and Hitmonlee and oh so many more, marching from those tubes like soldiers, and then drying themselves off, breathing in the air of a new world, their minds radiating the joy of being. They called out to me: they had heard my oft-repeated message, they knew that I was their father, their master, their savior, and they wanted to be with me.

    I promised I would show them the way. I led my newborn children up through the subterranean corridors, higher and higher. Along the way, we passed the elevators—and I hesitated. Did I want to send them up, three by three, in tedious, time-consuming fashion. No! I was impatient, it was time, it was more than time, I wanted my army, my beautiful army to be with me as much as they wanted to be with me. A shortcut, then. I took them to a different place, to the highest point. And I showed them where to aim.

    There was a tremendous, thunderous noise. The entire palace seemed to shake, even the atrium. And he humans and I turned toward the source of the sound, toward the place where the battlefield met the atrium, toward southern wall, where thick, black clouds of dust billowed from the explosion, and a multitude of roars and cries rang out through the haze. I smiled slowly.

    Out from the smoke and the underground they came, and, oh, so beautiful they were! I remember—even now, even now—how the first sight of them pierced me with joy. All that I had done had been for this, for bringing these immaculate new beings to life. From the thick clouds of smoke they strode with pride, Nidoqueen, resplendent in her blue armor, Sandslash, his claws and spines gleaming, Gyarados, towering over the atrium, weaving her serpentine trail. And yes, even a Pikachu, darting forward, his heart leaping, a thirst to prove himself written on his face. And more, and more. On and on they poured out of the darkness and into the light.

    The human trainers stared at those familiar forms, but they were forms I had conquered. I had taken the sniveling Pokémon whom these humans had taught to be servants and redeemed them. Their faces and shapes might be the same, but their hearts now beat for true justice, and their bodies I had perfected. My enhancements were clear in every creature: their limbs rippled with muscle, their blood flowed easily in their veins, their eyes shone bright and attentive, their minds calculated calmly in perfect imitation of my own. They were newly-forged angels, the pinnacle of physical health and youth, and they were my own.

    I flew immediately to meet them, setting myself down next to Charizard, Venusaur, and Blastoise on the battlefield, who looked around in happy amazement at their new brothers and sisters. My new clones ran to meet us on the sand, and then, at my word, assembled themselves in two great lines on either side of me. For the first time, I truly felt like a commander in the field. From this place would we conquer.

    “Behold,” I projected, sending my voice to every corner of the room. It was a message as much for my army as for the human beings. “With traitorous Pokémon and humans eliminated, the clones shall inherit the world.” The new creatures assembled around me roared and hooted in triumph. I would have said something more, perhaps about this new, perfect race and the death of the old. But I didn’t get the chance.

    A voice cut through the room, quiet, but sharp and steady in its anger. “You can’t do this,” it said, putting pressure on every word. “I won’t let you.” I spun around toward the sound. From out of the smoke, Ash Ketchum strode, his blazing eyes locked on mine. And on his every side were Pokémon.

    Out from the underground they marched, matching his pace, small, weak Pokémon at first, but then larger creatures like Hitmonlee, Scyther, and the mighty Gyarados. They poured from the hole like a dam bursting, spreading out into a wide triangular formation, Charizard letting off a burst of fire, Nidoqueen pounding the marble, Venusaur bristling her petals, Rapidash blazing bright. Psyduck and Golduck and Vulpix and Blastoise crawling up from the crater as the smoke began to fade. The original Pokémon whose genome I had taken as my own. I had never replaced them. They had never been gone. And here was Ketchum, marching at their head the entire way.

    For a moment—just one, fleeting, chilling moment—I was afraid.

    Then I shook myself back to my senses. So. I had, it seemed, made a significant miscalculation. It had been a mistake to take my eye off Ketchum. It was obvious, now, what he had done: while I had been distracted, the boy had slipped into the laboratory and freed the original Pokémon from their capsules. How ugly they looked, next to my perfect specimens! With imperfect faces and misshapen, thin limbs, they seemed nothing but grotesques, faded fragments of a dying world.

    I watched Ketchum lead his army onto the battlefield. He stopped not ten feet away from me to stare me down. He was joined in this by the legion of uncloned Pokémon behind him. My clones and I stared back.

    I tried to think carefully about what to do. Some changes were in order to my original plan, I could see. But there might be advantages to this new state of affairs. Perhaps I could expand my own army more quickly than I had anticipated.

    I rose into the air and looked past Ketchum to the Pokémon behind him. “Dear cousins,” I cried. “Kin and kind of ours. I see you have decided to return to the battlefield. I tell you truly, we would not have kept you in confinement. It was always our plan to keep you safe through the storm, and afterward allow you to do whatever you wished. I thereby extend to you the same offer that we would have made then.”

    I looked across the throng. “Will you join us?” I asked. “Will you become part of the army that vanquishes humanity? You have asked for greater freedom to walk among us; in return I implore you to see your existing shackles. Will you not cast off the chains of humanity? Join our assembly, and you will never lack for company. And you will be doing holy work.” I cast my gaze across the group of Pokémon again and again. “Who among you has the courage to join us? Who among you will dare?”

    I did not think all of them would reply by any means. But I was sure, that among any collection of Pokémon who had suffered the cruelties of human beings, at least a few would have the courage to escape. One or two, that was all—that would have been enough. One or two would surely join us.

    None of them moved. None of them gave me any reply. Several snarled, and all were glaring at me with something like disgust in their eyes.

    I stared in shock. Were all of them cowards or fools. Surely there was one, at least, surely that Charizard who had so impressed me with his rebellious attitude, surely he—but no. He was glowering with the others. I met his gaze, and he let out a contemptuous puff of smoke. He had no interest in what I was offering.

    I set myself back down on the ground. “Very well,” I said finally. I couldn’t help but let the disappointment creep into my voice. “None of you would break from your human masters. Then you shall die with them. The clones will serve in your place.”

    Ketchum was shaking his head. “You don’t get it, Mewtwo. None of us will forgive you for what you’ve done.” I shot him a withering stare. How I hated him! How I hated that little human brat—for a moment, I hated him more than anyone I had ever despised, even Giovanni—how dare he speak for my kind, how dare he steal the right to choose from these Pokémon? But it was already too late. They were his, firmly his.

    He was still talking, readying his stance before me like a hero about to unsheathe his sword. “It’s not gonna end like this, Mewtwo!” he declared. “We won’t let it.” Suddenly his voice was low, intense. “You’re mine.”

    He reached up to his hat and pulled the brim around to the back—some gesture of defiance or good-luck charm. And then—for god’s sake!—he charged right at me.

    The fool! The blithering, idiotic child! Had he learned nothing from tonight’s events? Had he not witnessed every demonstration of my power I could show him? And yet he kept on charging blindly ahead, as sure of himself as ever. The senseless audacity! What was the point in it?

    With a cry of rage, he lifted a fist and plunged it directly at my stomach. He never reached me, of course. I stopped him in midair with the easiest psychic hold I had ever needed, and with a pulse of energy, threw him back to the ground, where he landed flat on his back. Perhaps now he would finally know his place.

    But no. The minute Ketchum hit the ground, he pushed himself right back up again and came running at me again.

    Enough. I was sick to death of this arrogant, weak little human and his insane optimism. Enough of his chirping platitudes, his brash demeanor, his absolute confidence that life was a story and he was its hero. Too long had I suffered him to mock me with his pride, to claim against all visible evidence that he was better than me. It was time to punish him and bring his story to an end.

    As he ran in for another hopeless attack, I seized him in an iron grip. Then I picked a spot on the wall of the stadium. No, still far too low. I wanted this to make a statement. I looked about. Yes, there was a perfect place awaiting him on the great outcropping of stone that divided the battlefield from the atrium. Above the doorway through which his army had marched, between the shining towers, among intricate carvings I had made in the stone, he would meet a glorious end.

    With perfect aim, I flung the flailing human boy at the wall. He screamed—oh, it was a glorious scream!—as his body hurtled at breakneck speed toward its destruction. Yes, I sang out in my heart! Let his limbs twist and crack, let him bleed onto the stone like a christening of my ambition, let his bones be shattered, let him end, let him cry out in pain, let him die—

    But none of those things happened. The flailing, flying form hit something else instead, something that slowed him down to a gentle halt. I squinted. What on earth—? The thing on which he was now resting, which had kept him from hitting the hard stone, looked like nothing so much as…

    A large, bright pink bubble. He bounced around on it for a moment and came to rest on it as if it were a cushion. Was it a forcefield of some kind? But what had generated it? I had no idea, I didn’t understand—

    And then, out from behind one of the towers floated a small, ethereal figure. I blinked, and saw a miniscule creature with—yes, once it was in the light, it was unmistakable—vivid pink fur, pointed ears, small arms and large feet, and a long, undulating tail. It turned around, and even before I saw its strange, ambiguous expression, half-mocking, half-wise, I knew exactly what I was looking at. I had known from the moment its silhouette came into sight.

    It was Mew.

    [END OF PART FOUR.]


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

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

  3. #48
    Dai
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    And at last we've reached the end of Part Four. We'll start up Part Five shortly, once I've had the chance to rest and tweak some plans. This is a very, very exciting place to be. I'm looking forward to the ride, and I hope you'll join me for the rest of our adventure through Mewtwo Strikes Back. Thanks for reading!

    Dai


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

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

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    Registered User Typhlosionisafirebadger's Avatar
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    Aww snap, can't wait for the finale

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

    Hey, just wanted to let you know I'm still reading. Still don't have any criticisms... and I don't want to rant like last time.

    Can't wait for it to go down between Mew and Mewtwo. You're an amazing writer, keep it up!

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  6. #51
    Dai
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    Five: War

    For if the last shall be first, this will only come to pass after a murderous and decisive struggle between the two protagonists…
    Violence is man re-creating himself.
    — Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

    For what can war but endless war still breed?
    — John Milton, On the Lord General Fairfax

    And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a Man with him until the breaking of the day.
    Genesis, 32:24


    You look
    Down through a hazy flare of lights
    To the vast, open chamber below
    And at once,
    It is all laid out clearly before you,
    Like a map, a message,
    A story about to unfold.
    In the heart
    Of the shining stone palace,
    Now opening to you like a blossom,
    Stand the first armies
    On their first battlefield—
    A small gathering, perhaps,
    But seeds that will sprout
    Into something
    Far larger and more tangled—
    A first cluster of creatures,
    Who stare up at you with hope and passion
    Shining in their eyes,
    And another group,
    Who blaze with anger and hatred,
    Glowering at those children
    Who huddle against the walls.
    And at the head of this formation,
    Radiating like a beacon,
    Mouth open with astonishment,
    Sending shock and awe spiraling out into the night—
    There, at last
    Stands your other self.

    What an experience,
    To see him burning below you!
    Knowing that she was out there somewhere,
    Feeling his knifelike presence,
    Could not compare you for seeing,
    Scowling,
    Another you,
    Looking for all the world
    As if someone had plucked a thought from you
    Like a fruit
    And set it growing in strange soil
    In a far-off land,
    A continent away.

    And in the course of growing,
    She was altered, changed—
    Where did he come by those long, thin, limbs?
    That muscular tail?
    That tall stature and commanding stance?
    Every line of her body is hard and cold,
    And the fury in his eyes
    Is like nothing you can recognize.

    How strange it is
    That the whole world should turn
    Around this tiny, singular figure,
    A mote of dust, caught in the light below!
    How time splits itself in two around her shoulders:
    On the one side stand harmony, peace—
    On the other, death, blood,
    And warfare beyond imagining.
    At a glance, it does not seem possible
    That he could be capable of channeling these forces
    Surely one creature
    Could not rend the world so asunder.

    But as you meet her alien gaze,
    The truth of what you have seen
    Is all too clear.
    You know what dances
    Behind the flames in those eyes
    You know it all too well,
    And you have no desire
    To encounter it again.
    Yet meet with it you must:
    You must duel with it, conquer it,
    By word or by deed,
    For your seed sprouted this strange harvest,
    And you alone, you know,
    Can keep its thorns from strangling
    The bright world.

    No easy thing, this.
    For your opponent has
    All your cunning
    All your resolve,
    As well as hatred
    That cuts as a knife
    Through any obstacle.

    Can you stand long
    Against such fury?
    For all that you have learned,
    You cannot help but fear
    The thread between you.
    His rage,
    Her malicious joy,
    Carry the flavor
    Of your own being—
    Which is the idea,
    And which the living creature, you wonder?
    For when you look into those eyes,
    They threaten to engulf you,
    To say:
    I shall eat you up, little mind,
    And leave only fragments of you
    In the vast darkness that I am.

    But it is your task,
    And you will meet it.
    This terrible anger,
    Now made flesh,
    Can only meet an end
    By your hand.
    Words along may be enough
    To tame this rogue thought
    And bring it rest—
    But more likely,
    You will have to extinguish it by force,
    Shatter the vessel
    In which it dwells.
    You do not relish this,
    For in that moment,
    That very hatred may conquer you.
    You swear to yourself it will not.
    He would take joy at your suffering.
    You will reject such ways,
    And strive only to do what is needed
    To end her evil work.

    In truth,
    You have already begun
    To challenge his designs.
    You smile at the boy
    You have found and saved.
    Approaching,
    You found him in peril,
    Flung into the air
    By the harsh creature below.
    You caught him,
    Brought him to safety
    On a rosy cushion,
    A vivid bubble
    You have conjured into the sky.

    He seems nervous, now
    Fumbling on its elastic surface,
    So you dive in—
    Pop!
    And let him down a very short way
    Onto the sure, steady stone crest beneath.
    He grimaces, but seems relieved,
    If still uneasy
    To be so far
    From the ground he knows.

    Perhaps he could do
    With some cheering up!
    You blow him another bright bubble,
    Just before his eyes,
    And leap onto it—
    Bounce!
    Bounce!
    You tumble around in the air,
    Spinning, leaping,
    Sideways and upside-down
    Cavorting and clowning in the air.

    And before he know it,
    In spite of himself,
    The boy is grinning,
    Almost laughing—
    He catches your eye,
    And for a single quiet moment,
    Something passes between the two of you,
    Filled with peace and understanding.
    It gives you joy
    To be with him, here
    In this moment
    And to delight in play,
    And to know a happy heart,
    And above all,
    To remember just what you are protecting.

    ***


    What?

    What on earth—?

    I stared, open-mouthed, at the tiny pink creature hovering there in midair, unable to think, unable to speak, unable, for a moment, to believe what I was seeing. All thought of Ketchum had fled from my mind. It was as if everything around me, walls, floor, sky, gathered creatures, had been disassembled in the space of an instant and put back together in some new configuration, which I had scarcely even begun to grasp. And there, hovering through the air at the center of it all, was a figure I had long dreamed of.

    It was impossible!

    But it was so. I could not disbelieve the evidence of my eyes and greater senses. Before me was the age-old creature—shrouded in so many mysteries—who had given me my name, my flesh, my mind, and so much else. Mew had come to my island.

    Of all the things I might have expected to occur that night, out of all the possible outcomes, I had never expected to encounter my predecessor. I had long since given up on that notion, figuring that Mew, half-mythical wanderer that it was, would always remain for me, as for so many others, more mirage than living creature. Yet here it was, hovering over the battlefield, looking about with a great deal of interest at the shabby creatures, human and Pokémon, gathered below.

    Nothing had prepared me for the encounter, and for a moment I was completely out of my depth. After all this time, it was so strange to finally see the creature who had for so long been a blurred photograph, a footnote in a book, a carving on an ancient tablet—and a genetic legacy. Its face was so eerily like the reflection I had come to know, and yet so different. Every line was rounder, smoother, softer, like a wisp of cloud, its ears small and without bony shell. Its eyes, large, blue and bright. Its fur waved in the wind in exactly the way mine so often did—I was sure even the texture would be the same—yet the creature was not adorned in lavender, but bright, vivid fuchsia.

    I had known it had a long, thin tail, but how could I have known how that tail undulated in flight like a waving banner, how it could wrap and unwrap itself like an umbilical cord around Mew’s body? I had known it had long, slender feet, but until now I had not known how they moved gently as the creature flew, as if it was skating on the wind.

    And the face! I had always assumed that Mew’s strange expression on the stone tablet had been an abstraction, a form of artistic license, but now I saw that the anonymous artist had captured the creature’s countenance perfectly. It was impossible to tell what was going on behind those eyes, that strange feline half-smile. Was it gazing upon this scene with approval? Was it secretly angry? Was it laughing? There was no way of knowing. For a moment, it might seem a cruel irony played around the creature’s lips, but the next, it would appear sagacious and wise. In its twirling movements, Mew seemed newborn, careless, with the innocent youth of a flower’s bloom—but then I would catch a glimpse of something impossibly ancient in the creature’s eyes.

    It was all flooding back to me, a youth spent wondering about this creature, an adolescence peppered with following its fleeting path through the margins of old books, an adulthood filled with wondering where it was and what it intended. Now it appeared I might have the beginning of an answer. In the early part of my life I had measured myself by this creature, striving to be its better, its superior, all from the moment I had first heard the scientists suggest that I might devastate it on the field of battle. I stared at the bright figure. Was their idle speculation about to become a reality?

    I struggled to pull myself together, to get a grip on some kind of plan. So Mew was here. Why had it come? What did it want from me? I doubted that our paths had crossed by accident. No, Mew’s careful glance at the battlefield confirmed that it had sought something here, and found it. Perhaps it was looking for me.

    But why? Was it a messenger? Mew had always been associated with strange gods and possibly-mythical beings. Had some divine entity sent it flying like an arrow to my palace, so that it might reveal to me some truth, some illuminating word? It was certainly not out of the question.

    But then I remembered those long days spent pondering Mew’s absence, why I had been the only one of us two to take up the cause of justice in an unjust world. Either Mew had never cared for that cause, or outright rejected it. I shivered. In that case, it well might be my enemy. It could be a warning. A threat.

    It had saved the boy, I realized. I looked over the creature’s shoulder, and there he was, the human boy named Ketchum, perfectly unharmed, resting on an enormous pink bubble as if I had never flung him from my path. This clinched it, then. There was no chance of finding an ally in my ancestor. It would not fly over to my side and join me in the fray. Rather, it thought these hideous homo sapiens were worth preserving. Ignorance? Perhaps. But then, perhaps it had long ago sided with these creatures over its own kind. Perhaps it was their patron, their leader. Perhaps its power had helped place them on their tyrannical throne. I had no way of knowing for sure, but all of a sudden, these were not idle speculations. These were deadly reality, and the quicker I uncovered the truth, the better.

    I thought Mew might provide some sign of its intentions, give me some signal. But it had stopped paying attention to me. As I watched, it swooped down and popped the psychic bubble, dropping the boy onto the stone outcropping a foot or two below. The boy rubbed his backside at the hard landing, but seemed a bit relieved. Then it spun another round forcefield out of thin air and— I could scarcely believe it—bounced on it as if it were playing in some amusement park. It twirled about in the air, danced in around before the human’s eyes. It was performing for him, I realized with a start. Entertaining him like some obsequious court jester. It made me sick.

    This could be no accident, I realized. It was a deliberate, calculated gesture. Somehow the creature knew what I thought of the humans, and it was mocking me. Sniveling before them to show its utter contempt for me and all I stood for. Why else was it so determinedly avoiding my gaze? It was testing me, probing how I would respond to its utter mockery. Yes, as I watched, that strange expression seemed to reveal itself as a cold and heartless sneer.

    Stop it, I wanted to scream. Enough mockery. Look at me! I was on the verge of muttering it aloud. Look at me, look at me, look at me, LOOK AT ME! And yet Mew twirled still, played on. Look at me, damn you! I fumed, but the creature’s mockery continued unabated.

    Very well. Did the creature think I would not respond? If it wanted to test me, well, I, too, would test it. I could think of only one way to establish whether it was coward or opponent. A warning shot. A blow, to shock it out of its complacency. If the former, it would flee. If the latter, it would soon regret having chosen me for an enemy.

    I raised my arms, held my hands a short distance apart, and settled into my preferred stance for the technique. Eyes closed, I began to summon up a death-sphere. A careful ripping of the air, pulling charged particles from the very fabric of matter. And then a shaping, the forming of an orb of violent power. Yes, there it was. A perfect weapon. Taste its fury, you odious little thing, and mock me no longer.

    I opened my eyes, took aim at the floating creature, and let my bullet fly.


    ***


    And then—
    The air is rent.
    A sudden explosion of light and sound
    Overwhelms you.

    At the apex of your flight,
    Something like a frenzied animal
    Surges up from below,
    Shrieking fury
    And crackling like a thunderstorm.
    In an instant, the soft cushion you have leapt from
    Is torn in two,
    Pierced as if by a blade,
    And it vanishes into the night.

    The noise this foul thing makes
    As it screams past your ear
    Is deafening.
    For one chaotic moment,
    You can feel the unchained energy
    Of the world itself
    Roaring at your very shoulder,
    And the heat of it
    Nearly sets you ablaze.

    Caught off balance,
    You tumble,
    Somersault backwards through the air.
    But in a moment,
    You turn your motion into a twirl
    And find your bearings again, righted.
    But surprised.

    You peer below,
    Knowing what you will find.
    It was, of course, your other self
    Who set this fizzing arrow in motion.
    As you watch him gnash his teeth and scowl,
    You see that she is already preparing another blow,
    Conjuring up an orb of death
    Between his fingertips.

    How disappointing!
    You had hoped to play a moment longer.
    And, too, after play was done,
    You might have come down on your own
    And the two of you might have talked
    And come to a new understanding.

    Instead, she strikes
    With the full force of her fury;
    He lashes out at you
    Before you have even been introduced.
    You fear that you were mistaken,
    To think it could be otherwise.
    You fear nothing but hatred
    Drives this creature,
    That your other self
    Has the most savage heart
    You have ever known.

    The sphere of loathing
    Comes flying at you once again;
    And you dodge quickly
    With a swift movement to the side.
    Behind you, there is a blinding flash,
    As the tall tower
    Takes a heavy blow.
    Is this all that awaits
    The two of you, now?
    Can there be no end to your tale
    But a violent struggle?
    You fear it may be so.

    Yet you think of returning fire—
    And are afraid.
    You are not ready,
    Deep in your heart,
    To engage him on the ground
    He knows best.
    You imagine firing a missile of your own
    And all you can see is her savage grin
    As she watches you become like her,
    Exulting in pain.

    You are not ready,
    Not ready.
    Perhaps, in time—
    You will have to be.
    But please,
    Just a moment longer.
    May you have the chance
    To try one more idea,
    To bring an end to this opposition
    In a different way.

    You dodge another blow.
    What will happen
    If you continue in this vein?
    What does a creature of fury do
    If its quarry cannot be caught?
    You are quite curious to know.

    Come, brother, sister,
    You whisper, silent.
    Join me in a little game.

    ***


    Its strange forcefield shattered, Mew tumbled out of the way of my first shot without even a scratch and righted itself again. But that was no matter. I hadn’t really expected my first strike to connect. More important, to my mind, was getting the damned creature’s attention.

    And indeed, it was watching me now, with that peculiar smile playing on its face. But it neither moved nor spoke, but simply watched, seeming amused. I stared. Why wasn’t it responding? I summoned up another death-orb and let it soar. But again, the creature dodged, gliding smoothly to its left, and I winced as the orb took a chunk out of the central tower. Somehow I would have to find some time for repairs. Damn that terrible little creature!

    There could be no doubt of it now: Mew knew exactly who I was, and was mocking me, testing me. It wanted to try my patience and exhaust my strength. It was deliberately wasting my time. Well, I refused to give it the satisfaction of seeing me back down in the face of its contempt. I wanted it to know exactly what kind of enemy it was dealing with.

    I rained death from my fingertips, sending off missile after crackling missile like cannon-fire. But Mew moved too quickly to be caught. Each time I thought I had it cornered, and launched a furious attack, it would reappear out of the smoke, perfectly unharmed. It was maddening, the way it seemed to vanish after It was as if Mew could simply slip away from the world and reappear whenever it liked. Once or twice I thought I caught a bright pink flash as Mew emerged from beside a billowing explosion, but I was never sure if it was only my imagination.

    My barrage chased Mew down out of the sky and into the stadium, ducking and weaving as it went. In a moment, it was circling around the upper seats, and, furious that not a single blow had yet connected, I thought nothing of flinging destruction at the stone seating I had labored so long to build. Each explosion and hail of rubble only increased my hatred of the little creature. Finally, I paused for a moment, to regain my strength, and nearly flinched to see Mew suddenly appear not three feet from my face, hovering there in midair.

    Oh, it was looking at me now. Mew’s eyes were locked on mine, and its grin seemed only to broaden as I glowered. A strange sound echoed through the air, a light, gentle chiming, and I realized that Mew was laughing, giggling to itself. It put its paws up to its face—in mock-embarrassment? I couldn’t read the gesture—as it chortled.

    Having it there before me was like something out of a dream, like looking into a badly-made mirror. I hadn’t realized, until now, just how much Mew’s mind blazed. From a distance, it had been a bright spark in my mind’s eye, a candle against the night—but now it positively burned, radiating energy as I have never seen before, the world around ready to bow to its will. Was this what I looked like, I wondered, to any other psychic? I reached into the heart of that brilliance and tried to pull something out of it—I thought I could sense, yes, a thought, an emotion—yes, there was a mind there, a strange and confusing one—but as I tried to delve deeper, I was rebuffed. The presence I felt pushed me away, calmly and easily, and I was left on the outside again, watching from a distance.

    Very well. Words, then. “Mew,” I said quietly, watching for a response. “So, finally we meet.” I had to laugh. “They call you a mirage, the rarest and most mysterious of all Pokémon. Yet here you are, before me.”

    Mew gave no response, but merely cocked its head to one side, still watching. “Do you know who I am?” I asked. Still no reply. I gritted my teeth. “I am your successor, Mew,” I insisted. “That is why I was made: to replace you. My makers may have been fools, but they were more than successful in their aims. I am everything you are, all your might, all your skill, all your intellect, only more so—I am stronger, greater, smarter. And wiser, for I lead the creatures here into a glorious future, while it seems you reject such a vision entirely. Now, why have you come here? To challenge me?” There was no answer.

    “You may dispute these claims,” I growled, “but if you dare to threaten my cause, you will know full well that what I say is true. I may have been cloned from your DNA, but in no way did that make me weaker than you. Rather, it enhanced me, brought out the true potential which only lay dormant in you. Now, if I must, I will prove that Mewtwo is better than the original. Superior to Mew.”

    Voices from the gathered humans caught my attention as they whispered amongst themselves at this news. “Mew and Mewtwo,” said Anderson, in a voice of utter wonderment. “So Mewtwo was cloned from Mew!” murmured Sinclair.

    These humans had a truly terrible knack for stating the obvious. I rolled my eyes and turned back to Mew. But to my surprise, it had stopped looking at me again. Instead, its attention had turned to the humans along the walls and the gathered Pokémon. It glanced back and forth with keen interest, taking in every detail, it seemed, save the creature standing before it.

    “Answer me!” I demanded. “Will you dare to test your better?”

    But Mew was still looking around at the stadium, and to my complete and utter frustration, it spun about in the air and did an obnoxious little somersault, flashing its tail in my direction.

    Enough humoring the wretched thing. “Very well,” I growled, and leapt into the air, readying further sparking, crackling energy between my fingertips. That seemed to get Mew’s attention. I surged into flight as it darted away. “This world is too small for two of us,” I snarled.

    Pursuing Mew in flight proved to be only marginally more effective than staying on the ground. The creature was impossibly quick, slipping smoothly through the air like a leaf on a summer breeze. To my astonishment, I kept struggling to keep up. And then there was the way Mew would swerve and weave easily away from me every time I drew near, so that I found myself flying around in circles and never keeping the creature in my sights. I fired shot after shot, but Mew would always slip away from the blast just in time. Our swerving path led us across the stadium, out over the ring of seats, out into the night, over the dark ocean, where I flung a furious barrage that hissed and sent off plumes of smoke as it crashed into the water, up and around past the towers, past the stone outcropping where Ketchum still sat, dumbfounded, around and down again into the stadium, over to the line of pillars that marked the path to the southern towers. In a winking instant, Mew slipped behind one of the pillars and hid, as if we were playing hide-and-seek. Could it be I had it on the run, and it was trying to make a desperate escape?

    “Why do you flee from me?” I mocked. “Are you afraid to find out which of us is greater?” Mew peered out from the pillar, looking more curious than fearful. In a moment, it had slipped away again and was gliding away over the battlefield. Scowling, I followed. Soon we were soaring above the gathered armies of Pokémon, clone and original, who as one craned their necks to watch us in our flight. But I tore my eyes away from them to study Mew. The little creature was darting and swerving, but for a moment, I was following its motions, coming to understand the way it moved…and then I saw it. An opportunity. Mew was rising, turning, for a moment no longer moving forward, and as it turned, it was still looking away—now was my moment to strike.

    I summoned up another death-orb and flung it as quickly as I could. And this one, at last, connected. Caught in its moment of distraction, Mew was too late to see the blast coming, and I watched its eyes widen as it took the snarling orb full on the chin. It let out a long, high wail as the relentless force of the orb launched it into the sky. In a moment, it was a tiny speck with limbs splayed, the next, it was gone.

    I let out a satisfied sigh. The interloper had at last been dealt with. No doubt Mew was out there somewhere, licking its singed fur and its wounds. At last we could return to what was truly important, now that I had conquered my predecessor and claimed my place as the superior Mew. It was a heartening feeling, knowing that I had all the strength and grace I had always believed I possessed.

    And then I looked up again, and saw, to my surprise, something very bright coming at me very fast.

    ***


    Ah, it was a merry chase
    While it lasted!
    But deep down,
    You knew it would soon
    Come to an end.

    You have led your cousin
    This way and that,
    Around in great sweeping circles
    Above ocean and under stone,
    Never once striking a blow
    For all his countless attempts
    To destroy you.

    But then came
    (Of course)
    The moment of her triumph.
    A misplaced movement,
    A moment of distraction,
    And at once his furious power
    Was upon you
    And you were thrown back
    Into a merciless sky.

    Oh, if only
    It could have been otherwise!
    You had hoped
    That a long chase, and exhaustion
    Might soften her rage,
    That simple silence
    Might cause him to question his loathing.
    But it was not to be.
    There was never a hope
    Of reconciliation.
    Nothing grows
    In this creature’s heart—
    Only a fire, burning without end.

    You feel that fire blaze around you
    Even now:
    That kernel of wrath
    Writhes against you,
    And you feel its terrible heat,
    Its sharp lashes of pain,
    As you struggle
    To keep it from coming closer.

    For the one who made this, you know,
    There can be no happy end.
    This creature thrives on suffering
    And will not rest
    Until it has brought pain such as yours
    To every corner of the earth.
    Much as you tried to deny it,
    There is only one way
    To deal with a being
    That represents all the worst you are,
    All the wickedness in your heart.
    Scour that creature away,
    And bring wickedness to an end.

    You focus on the sphere of anger,
    Gather strength in your heart,
    And take hold.
    You take a deep breath,
    And aim carefully.
    It is time you send this blast
    Back to its maker.

    This night will not be an easy one, you know,
    But at the end, with luck,
    A great evil will be wiped from the earth.
    You will not strive for suffering,
    But suffer your other self shall,
    And you accept that.
    Death is a fitting price to pay,
    You feel,
    For the things he will do
    And has done.

    You return fire.


    ***


    It was upon me before I even knew what was happening: a vicious bolt of energy, howling down from the heavens, catching me totally unprepared. In the split-second before it reached me, a thunderclap went through my mind, and I knew what it was. It was my own death-orb, blazing bright, the very one I had fired at Mew, now returned to me with interest, far larger and deadlier than I had sent it forth, moving at a speed unlike any I had been able to achieve, and suddenly I knew what, moments ago, Mew had felt and seen—

    And then the impact. Pain. Pain like nothing I had ever felt. I had known weakness, I had known discomfort, but never anything like the energy that ripped through me now. I had been part of a thousand duels, but never had an opponent been able to make me suffer.

    I cried out as I was hurled backwards, crashing like a meteor into the ring of seats that surrounded the stadium, and for a moment knew nothing but that I was being broken on the hard, cold stone.


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

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

  7. #52
    Dai
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    Thanks, guys! I'm so glad to hear you're keeping up and excited about what's to come. I know I certainly am! :D

    Really sorry it took so long to get this one posted. Don't know quite what happened there; but at least in part it was probably getting tangled up in a number of responsibilities near the end of the semester. But I also have myself to blame, a bit, for a certain amount of procrastination. I really want to overcome that this time. Let's see if I can cut the turnover on the next part to 2-3 weeks or less.

    Still thinking I can reach the end of the tale by the end of 2013, and possibly even the end of the summer if I play my cards right.

    Thanks so much for reading, everyone! It's a pleasure to have you aboard.

    Next time: a furious debate and the start of a war.

    Dai


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

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

  8. #53
    Dai
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    [CONTINUED:]

    Amidst the haze and the wreckage, somewhere in my aching body, some small flicker of awareness remained intact. Part of me wanted to lie there in the dust and never move again, but that relentless spark soon kindled into fury, and, gritting my teeth, I used my anger to force my way past the pain. Slowly opening my eyes, I seized the furious, thrashing bundle of heat and chaos that was all that remained of my death-orb, and snuffed it out, letting it fade into the smoke.

    Then, in one swift, fluid motion, I cast the rubble that surrounded me aside and pulled myself up and out of the haze. Back into flight. The humans and Pokémon gasped to see me emerge, more or less whole. I paid little attention to them. My eyes were locked on Mew.

    I watched as the creature drifted back down into the stadium, gazing at me impassively with those large, bright eyes. It seemed almost to shrug at my reappearance, to pass it off as a matter of course. I, however, was in a far less amiable mood. I, like so many others, had underestimated Mew, taking its small frame, its round eyes and its gentle paws as evidence of weakness. All too wrong. Mew was a dangerous opponent, as my aching limbs made all too clear. For the first time, I realized, I had encountered a force capable of destroying me. If I was not careful, I could very well meet my death at this creature’s hand. It would be wise to tread carefully.

    “So, you do have some fight in you,” I managed, brushing some of the dust off my fur. Acknowledging my opponent’s strengths, without anything resembling submission—that seemed the best tactic for the moment. Moments ago, I’d been exhausted, but now I felt utterly alive. My body was still sore, but my heart was pounding, adrenaline rushing through my system.

    “But I have no time for games,” I told the little creature—who, though drifting about in midair, was still watching me. “Let us dispense with any delays or pretenses. I well know who you are, and you seem to know something of who I am. What I do not understand is why you have come here. You may not be aware of this, but tonight is an extraordinarily important night. Tonight I plan to begin my campaign to reshape the world. I had hoped to begin before dawn—it would be very unfortunate if I was forced to delay.” I gave it a meaningful glance, which didn’t seem to take.

    I sighed, and conjured up a small flicker of energy, a flame that might easily blaze into another death-sphere. “Your show of strength is duly noted, though you will find your attacks do little to hinder me. But we need not return to confrontation. At least, not yet.” I let the flame dissipate into the atmosphere, spreading my arms wide open to make sure that Mew got the message. “What I seek are answers. I will gladly put this petty fight aside if you will tell me what I want to know.

    “First, why did you come here tonight, Mew? How did you know to find me here, in my own palace, on the cusp of beginning my great campaign? Furthermore—and I would consider this question very carefully—do you intend to stop me?” I watched my ancestor with eyes narrowed. “Are you my enemy?”

    For a moment, Mew gazed at me in silence. Perhaps this was pointless, I reflected. Perhaps Mew was mute, or an imbecile, and had never learned to harness its powers to speak. But I tried again. “What do you want, Mew? What are you?”

    At this, Mew let out a long, slow breath. Then its eyes flashed open, and it met my gaze.

    Calmly, quietly, Mew began to speak.

    ***

    An opportunity?
    Maybe,
    Just maybe.

    You consider his questions for a moment.
    It is important to answer well.
    For there may still be a chance
    Of reaching a new understanding.

    Before long,
    After quiet thought,
    You answer.
    Words tumble out from you,
    Ideas emerging in a silent cascade.
    As you try to paint for her
    A picture of the world you see.

    You may not know just who you are
    But you know where you have been
    And what you have known,
    And that, you think,
    Might be the key to looking further.

    So you try to tell him
    All about the world you know,
    Its beauty, its gentle harmony,
    The way light plays on the trees
    And wind ripples the surface of the waters.
    The way life rises and falls,
    The way creatures live and fight and seek and wonder and imagine,
    And how you have seen all these things unfold,
    Over a long, long time spent
    Watching and wandering.

    And how all creatures
    Have a place in that harmony,
    And if just one should be removed,
    The web would fall apart,
    The balance would perish.

    And you try to convey to her,
    Something of the visions
    You have seen,
    Visions of a balance destroyed,
    Fire tearing up the land,
    Blood staining the earth
    As links in the great chain are torn out,
    And the pattern is torn.

    And you try to tell him,
    How his voice calls out to you
    Across time and space,
    How her presence has always touched yours
    In dreams and revelations,
    And yet, you would now give all that up
    To bring the world to peace,
    For you have seen him dive headfirst
    Into the pain and darkness,
    And make it his own.

    You beseech her:
    End this.
    Drink no longer
    From the cruelest springs
    Of the heart.
    Bring no more pain.

    And you tell him that
    Otherwise,
    You will intervene.

    (Though in truth,
    You are still afraid.
    May you survive this night.
    May this other self
    Not swallow you whole.)

    You watch as she thinks it over.
    At first,
    You can tell he is listening carefully,
    Hanging on your every word,
    For who in the world does not rejoice
    To meet a long-lost brother or sister
    And uncover so many secrets about the self,
    So many stories long untold?

    But as you watch,
    That excitement turns to a frown,
    A scowl, a glare.
    You have not made her see as you do.
    To him, there is still no web,
    No harmony,
    Only an enemy
    To be destroyed.

    If only you had found the right words—
    But alas,
    It is too late
    For any further chances.

    You steel yourself
    For the confrontation
    You know will follow.
    ***


    Mew’s voice was soft, yet it resounded in the cool night air over the distant sounds of storm and surf. Its high, crystalline sounds rang out like bells. After a moment, I realized that Mew was not speaking in the human tongue I had grown so accustomed to. Its words were those patterns of stress and syllable, those twisting repetitions that marked the language of Pokémon. As I listened to its long and gentle cries, that voice I shared but had never tried to use, I thought I understood why human beings had chosen to call the creature Mew.

    The meaning of those sounds, though, was immediately apparent: images and ideas leapt from Mew’s words, dove into my mind and blazed bright. And I sensed the same followed for Mew with my every response. It was if a channel had opened up between us, where thoughts flowed along a psychic path.

    Altogether, I have found it a difficult experience to convey in words alone. I have tried to recollect accurately the musical lilt of Mew’s voice, the strange harmony among its phrases and ideas, but my memories may not be perfect, and the page is a strange home for something so internal, so ethereal. Nevertheless, I give you, as best I can, what I heard and understood.

    [What one is, who one is,] Mew pondered. [Not easy things to know!
    Yet well worth learning, too. For in the asking you find being,
    And in the being, you find doing, thinking, needs—
    And wanting. Desires are laid bare, indeed. You learn
    So many things you did not know before you asked.]


    [But where to start this search?]
    the little creature continued, twirling about in the air. [Is it with one’s first breath?
    Or do we start at dawn’s new light, and ask what sort
    Of self we find this day, this night, this moment now?
    When we ask, “Who?,” how can we know what self we mean?]

    “You mock me,”
    I growled.

    [Oh, not at all,] Mew said fervently. [The question is quite difficult to answer.
    For we all change so many times it’s hard to know:
    Our bodies grow anew from food, our minds from thoughts
    Of things seen, friends we’ve met or lost, sights unknown—
    So how can we say, “I am this,” or “I am there?”
    All of us are new each year, each day, each instant.
    None of us exceptions to this law, even those
    Whose time on this green earth has been longer than most.]


    I frowned, trying to understand. After all this time, finally a conversation with my predecessor, and it was leading me in strange, obscure circles. Nothing had given me any idea what to expect, but a predilection for evasions and riddles seemed in keeping with this mysterious, elusive beast. Was Mew talking about itself?

    Mew looked thoughtful. [So maybe we should try another way to see things.
    When you have asked yourself these questions for so long,
    You soon find that self is more than a place of birth,
    A point of origin, a set of deeds. It’s all
    Of these and more, with a strange touch of mystery.
    Who are you, you ask? Here is one answer. Listen:

    [A thousand years ago or more, new eyes opened
    To behold a bright and new-made, growing world. Life walked
    Upon the land, and dreamed, and thought, and it was good.
    All sorts of creatures, none alone: small and large
    And winged and tunneling, those who made tools and those
    Who did not, but grappled with their sisters, brothers,
    In flame and claw, in ice and fang and nature wild.
    And our eyes were there, among the new multitude,
    Watching, rejoicing, seeing how the bright world grew.]

    Mew closed its eyes as if remembering, as if savoring a sweet flavor.
    [The first light of dawn on that first day shone so bright!
    Such beauty, then, and we all rejoiced to see it,
    Knowing that we were born at last, that we’d found life
    That the story of the world unfolded at last,
    And the new creatures were so shy, but oh so brave
    As they took their first steps, made their first hunts, first flights,
    And the trees welcomed them into the green forests,
    And the land flourished with fruits, leaves and stems to eat,
    And the seas opened their arms, hid wealth in their depths,
    And the sun and the moon and all of us watched over
    The bright and beautiful world that glorious day.]


    “Get to the point,” I snapped, though inwardly I was following right along, trying to put together the pieces and figure out what, if anything, Mew’s story signified. “I asked what kind of creature you were. I didn’t ask for metaphysical speculations about the dawn of time!”

    [It is part of the same question,] said Mew with a smile. [For we were there.]

    The calm assurance with which Mew said was staggering. “You claim to have been present at the dawn of time?” I demanded. I tried to remember what I’d read about Mew-worshippers and the tenets of their philosophy, but nothing much came to me. Damn! If only I could recall! It seemed their idol might subscribe to the very same delusions they did.

    Mew nodded. [When the world was young, yes, we watched and danced with all
    The new-made creatures as the earth cooled, the seas grew,
    The tool-makers and nest-builders took their first steps—]


    “But this is mythological rubbish!”
    I snapped. “The earth formed over many millions of years, as did the seas! As did life-forms, emerging slowly via the processes of natural selection!”

    But Mew was nodding again.
    [That is also what happened, yes. There are many
    Ways to tell the same story, as many vantage points
    From which to see this world as you can imagine.
    All are there in memory.]


    I wanted to reply that it wasn’t the same thing, that the two ideas weren’t in the least compatible—how could the world be at once a child’s fairy-tale and a scientific, logical process?—but Mew was still going:

    [We are the creature who was there, watching all things,] said Mew softly.
    [That’s one answer to questions of who and what we are.
    And we are the creature who has been watching
    Ever since. The sun rises, the moon sheds his cloak,
    And we watch. We watch, we learn, we change and explore.
    If you would know us, know what makes us live, know this:
    Know the way the wild grasses stir like ocean’s waves,.
    Know the way the sun’s light plays through forest leaves.
    Know the way the sky’s blue arms stretch wide around you,
    Know the way the wind stirs gentle ripples in water,
    Know the flow of rivers, know the fierce pull of tides,
    Know deepest sea, know the tenacity of earth.]

    [And, too, know those creatures who dwell in such places:
    The earth-cleavers, the sky-sailors, the sea’s dark host—
    For they, too, make us who we are. Our children, they.
    Our kin, our family, and our great adventure.
    Each day they wonder and explore, each day they seek
    Out what they need to survive or their hearts dream of,
    They rise and fall, they live and die, they battle boldly,
    And they are so brave, all of them, striving on.
    And each little life touches a thousand others,
    Influences each other life for good or ill,
    And together, they’re a glowing web, a pattern
    That touches, shapes every corner of this bright world.
    By them we are made, and each story they tell us,
    Brings us closer to learning, knowing who we are.]


    For all of my skepticism, I couldn’t help but feel something swell in me as I listened to Mew paint a picture of the world it knew. I had no idea if I believed it had been present at the dawn of time, but it was clear that its travels had taken far and wide, and it had seen much, much more of the natural world than I ever had. I could scarcely begrudge its fervent appreciation of that beauty. It was certainly a miraculous world it was describing. But I was unsure that such a harmonious place bore any relation to the troubled world I lived in.

    “Very well, Mew,”
    I said. “I suppose that is an answer, after a fashion—if not the kind I was expecting. But you leave things incomplete. You have not told me what brought you here tonight.”

    Mew nodded slowly. [The journey was made to protect that bright pattern.]

    My spirits sank. I should have known it all sounded too easy. “Protect it how, exactly?” I demanded. “What do you mean?”

    Mew closed its eyes. [The world is a balance, a harmony between
    Diverse elements. And if even one is lost,
    Ruin may follow. The web unravels, with
    Great suffering for those who dwell within its folds.
    Things change all the time, to be sure. But like the tides
    Rising and falling, balance is usually preserved.
    Not so now. No vision of great dangers to come
    Can compare with those that lie beyond this night.
    Terrible things can now be seen: whole threads torn out
    Of the pattern, staining the earth and sea with blood.
    Suffering on a scale that has never been felt.
    All starts here, in this place, this latent night. In you.
    Something must alter. Must change.]


    “You accuse me of conspiring to rain down suffering?” I snarled. “Of bringing pain? The only thing that will happen to the world this night is the start of its redemption. I intend to end suffering, liberate those who fall under its sway. True, there will be blood shed, but the righteous will be more than willing to sacrifice theirs, and we can only hope that those who deserve the harshest punishment will suffer most severely—”

    And then something clicked. I knew exactly why Mew was here. “You think that human beings are part of this ‘pattern,’” I said slowly.

    Mew did a little twirl of satisfaction.
    [The tool-makers? Of course. They, too, have their place amongst
    The creatures of the earth. The wilderness and the tamed lands alike are home
    To great things. How often we balance each other,
    Builders and wanderers united in striving,
    Weaving two ways of life into one shining world!]


    “You fool,” I snarled. “You utter, utter fool.” Mew looked a bit affronted. “For a moment I thought you might actually know something of the world,” I spat, “but it turns out you’re just as naïve as anyone else I have met. Human beings do not belong to any pattern. They are blights upon the harmony of the world. Filthy parasites. Have you, in all your travels, learned nothing of their crimes? Or have you simply chosen to ignore them? That was what I always suspected, and now I think I know. We suffered and we needed you, Mew, and you were nowhere.”

    “You come here tonight,” I continued, gnashing my teeth, “and you have the gall to tell me that I am the one causing suffering. That my campaign needs to come to an end because I might injure some of your poor, precious, innocent humans. Well, here is an answer for you, little deluded creature: I refuse. I will rain down suffering all I like, to those who deserve the damage.”

    Mew closed its eyes. [First— it will not be they alone who suffer.
    So, too, will there be pain for the diverse creatures
    Our brethren, who inhabit this world. Their blood shed—]


    “Oh, come now, do you think that pain will matter in the final reckoning?” I snapped. “It will be the willing pain of martyrs, who would die for the freedom of their kind! I cannot stress this enough! It will be redemptive suffering, suffering to end suffering forevermore!”

    [And further,] Mew continued, [how can you think it wise in the least
    To tear so many threads from the fabric of life?
    Truly, they are not foul or rotten, but needed—
    No kind of creature brings forth evil in itself.]

    “That thought is what deludes you, that is the lie that ensnares you!” I cried. “If you could only recognize the truth! But you’re still a blind fool like all the rest of them!”

    Mew shook its head. [True or not, it must not happen. This bloody dream
    [Would make the world itself a nightmare. This must end.]


    “Must it?” I mocked. “Tell me, Mew, who exactly is going to bring it to an end if I won’t? Do you intend to stop me?”

    The little creature stood still in the air for a long moment.
    [We are a kind of brethren,] it said finally. [Two, and yet one at once.]
    [Our dreams call to each other, our thoughts fly far, far
    Over the waters between us, in common birth.
    But if that deep two-ness must now be given up,
    So be it. For the world—a worthy sacrifice.
    Yes.]


    Why couldn’t the damned thing speak more plainly? But at least I had my answer. “So now we see how it is,” I growled. For a moment I had almost forgotten how Mew had toyed with me, swept up in its fanciful imagery. But it was all too clear, now, that my worst fears about the creature had been realized. It had far from ignored human hegemony. It had joined right in. My progenitor was on the side of the enemy. “You intend to destroy me!”

    Mew conceded a gentle half-nod. [Yes, if it must be done.]

    My mind was racing. Of course. Mew had abandoned us on purpose, let a world dominated by humans emerge because it wanted it that way. In its twisted brain, it saw our slavery as natural and fitting. And it would fight to the death to protect it. In a world filled with traitors to our cause, Mew was the greatest traitor of all.

    And then, in a beautiful flash of insight, it all made perfect sense.

    I had always been meant for this moment. I had always been meant to fight Mew. My old imagined rivalry held a grain of purest truth. If I was the glorious creature who would redeem the world, Mew was the one who had made it wretched in the first place. It was the snake who, with sly words, had convinced the Pokémon of the world that they were meant for servitude. The great demon who held such oppression in place. The Satan to my Savior.

    Perhaps it had even brought about this horrid world in the first place. Yes, yes—what if I had been too short-sighted in looking for the causes of our suffering among a random collection of powerful humans like Giovanni? What if the real mastermind had been a Pokémon all along? Mew itself might well have set up this world according to its own arcane, alien ideas about patterns and harmony. No wonder humans worshipped it. It had made them kings.

    But I, I was the second Mew, I was the new incarnation, turned to the good; I was the bright new sun, driving out the foul cinder of the old; I was the resurrection of the earth—and I would accomplish it all by slaying my greatest, fated enemy, the very one who had been announced to me at birth.

    After that, the campaign for the bodies and minds of my brethren would be a formality. The real battle, the real war, was here, in the clash of Mewtwo and Mew. And it had already begun.

    I cast my gaze down upon the Pokémon the human trainers had brought with them, still gathered like a makeshift army, all of whom had rejected my offer to let them join the right side. The “originals.” Mew had made them this way, with its lies and schemes, and they looked up at it with awe verging on adoration. They were its children—the children it spoke of—as much as the clones were my own.

    “Ah, Mew,”
    I said, with satisfaction, “I have to thank you—you have shown me just how dire the situation truly is. Not only do the humans clench the world in their horrible grasp, they have a creature as powerful as Mew, willing to murder for their cause. You are deluded, of course, if you think that this night will end with you conquering me. I will be the one to slay you, I assure you of that. But how very lucky the humans must feel, to know that they have a traitor like you on their side!”

    “And traitors like these,” I added, indicating the human-serving Pokémon below. They flinched at my attention. “Really, you are the same kind of creature, aren’t you? Pathetic vessels for human ambition. Satisfied with your human masters, not one of you would lift a claw to aid the cause of your freedom.”

    “Go ahead, Mew!” I mocked, spreading my arms wide. “Join them! Stand by your comrades in delusion and deceit! You will have a great deal to say to each other, I am sure. You are all—what should we call you—originals? Old, archaic creatures? You are the master of the old order—reveal your association before it crumbles forever!”

    Mew made no reply, flicking its tail through the air. But I couldn’t help but notice how its eyes glanced over the Pokémon below.

    “You want to preserve your precious world of Pokémon serfs and human masters,”
    I sneered. “And to do that, you need such pathetic specimens as these.” I let every syllable stab at Mew and the creatures who watched it below. “Ugly—cowardly—idiotic—useless creatures! Oh, they truly are your kin, Mew, I can see it now. You call yourself some kind of progenitor, a patron of the Pokémon race? Well, I, too, am a patron and a progenitor, Mew, of an entirely new race of Pokémon.”

    I looked upon my new, shining children, and smiled—they were so perfect, so pure, set against Mew’s ugly menagerie of outdated forms. I closed my eyes, and I could see it so clearly, yes—forget trying to sway the rank and file Pokémon of the world, who had no doubt been seduced by Mew’s awful ideas. The future lay in the hands of my new creations. it would be a better world, a perfect world, once the old Pokémon, with their flawed bodies and captured minds, were gone forever.

    “Destiny is at hand, Mew!” I declared, gesturing boldly. “Who will rule? My super-Pokémon? Or your pathetic group of spineless, inferior Pokémon?” I felt the blood pulsing within me, adrenaline whipping me up into a frenzy. “Challenge us, if you dare, and learn what new race science and genius have brought into being! Tonight we decide: who are the true masters of the earth? Who are the real Pokémon of this world? Your rejects or my perfect creatures? Interfere with us, and we will show you that we are the true Pokémon, and you are the useless copies. For we were created with powers far stronger than the originals—where in us do you see your useless limbs, your spots and blemishes, your feeble lightning and flickering flame?—and with such enhanced powers, with our inferno, our storm, our blade, our blinding blizzard and snaking vine, we will destroy you all.”

    I expected Mew to make some snappy retort, or show its contempt through another lazy twirl in the opposite direction. But Mew’s expression caught me entirely off guard.

    It was looking at me with pity.

    ***


    Ah,
    Now you understand!
    And what you see and know
    Grieves you deeply.

    Your other self
    Thrashes like an insect
    Caught in a web.
    For him, the space between you
    Is no blessed place,
    Full of beauty
    And unexpected feeling,
    But a snare,
    From which she is desperate
    To escape.

    Indeed,
    This strange, angry part of you
    Would wall you off,
    Slip free and take flight,
    And destroy all the rest of you,
    Indeed, even the world itself,
    If it impeded his path to identity.

    But the world
    Does not work in such ways.
    You are one-in-two, two-in-one:
    Whatever destiny holds for you,
    It is yours to meet together.
    You must reunite:
    One of you must yield
    Or perish.

    She would make a world
    Like herself:
    A world full of fleeing shadows
    Hiding from the sun.
    And in this
    He has already begun.
    Two groups of creatures
    Stand on the soft earth.
    The near,
    Molded and carved
    By the cares of this world,
    Bearing the lines of their lives
    In each proud motion.

    And the other, the far
    Reflecting the near like mirrors,
    Young and soft and immaculate,
    Like some hazy dream
    Of perfection
    Brought halfway to life.

    How strange it is,
    You think,
    That shadows walk the earth
    This night!
    How strange that figments,
    Visions, other ways of being,
    Should clothe themselves
    In body and form.
    How strange
    That these ghosts,
    These echoes,
    Should come unmoored
    From the real.

    Poor lost fragments!
    Your other self
    May never understand
    How adrift she is—
    Nonetheless,
    You will try
    To show him.

    ***


    Mew laughed sadly—a single shining sound, chiming out like a bell.
    [Do you congratulate yourself for bringing one
    More generation about to walk the green earth?
    New birth is a miracle, true, but no great change
    In the state of things. It happens every year, when
    White ice gives way to green buds and new beginnings.]


    “You know we are far more than that!” I insisted. “We are your replacement!”

    [Are you?] Mew asked calmly. [Does the great bird at your side, newly made,
    In any way erase the one who builds her nest
    In the highest tree, and flies far to search for grubs
    That she might feed her chicks, and live another day, too?
    What right have you to take her place? You are not judge
    And jury for life. You cannot deny what is.]


    “If living creatures give up their right to life through an inane, willful commitment to indignity and servitude—”
    I snapped. But Mew wasn’t having any of it.

    [Words you paint upon their bodies, so that you might
    Have the death and suffering you seek in your heart.
    We tell you, brother, sister, even if you slay
    Us, your hated opponent, you will never change
    The world as you wish to change it. No matter how
    Long you try to replace the creatures of the world,
    You will never succeed. For to deny all those
    Who live and breathe and strive in this world is to deny
    Reality itself. It is a fallacy
    To think that you can make all life bend to your will.]


    “That’s exactly what I have done!”
    I sputtered. “I with my knowledge of science, my impeccable skill, have made life! Living creatures, far superior to yours! Perfected!”

    [No. They are but ghosts, shadows, wisps—thoughts set adrift
    In the winds of the world, a dream like you yourself,
    And nothing you can do will ever make them
    More real than the true beings from which they were made.]


    I stared at Mew, unable to express my loathing. “You think us inferior than you, then, because of the way we were made,” I spat. “Is that it? Your arrogance is astounding. We are but ambitious dreams to you, then? Whose? Yours?”

    Mew nodded. [If we could reunite without bloodshed or pain,
    We would do so. But instead, we ask only that
    You do not bring anger like a plague to this world—
    Desist; leave all its creatures safe and go in peace.]


    “Like hell,” I snarled. “You treat us—so fittingly for a tool of humans!—with nothing but contempt, and we will respond in kind. We will annihilate you and your kind with our enhanced powers—our blazing fire, our torrential rain, our searing lightning—and anoint our first victory in your blood.”

    Mew darted about, making great, restless gestures in the sky. And yet its smile seemed almost amused.
    [Do you think such things make you great? Marvelous powers?
    [Mere parlor tricks, these. Show off your searing flames,
    If you like. It will not make you the real creatures,
    And those whose ancestors stretch back eons, copies.
    Strength does not come from genetic prowess or tricks.
    It is found within, in the heart of every valiant
    Soul who strives for a better life or better world.
    And if we lay such distractions aside, and fight with
    The heart alone, the real creatures, not their shadows,
    Will show their strength, triumph.]


    I lunged for the damned creature, who mocked me and my children, who called us shadows, who declared that we had no right to be part of this world. “My clones don’t need their powers to prove their worth!” I roared, snatching another death-orb from the air. Within the space of a moment, I had flung it wildly at Mew. Mew was prepared, though, and ducked out of the way, sending the orb flying at the far wall, where the human boy was attempting to find a way down. Rubble from the impact poured down just past his head.

    “How dare you come here and call us useless shadows?”
    I snarled, thinking furiously. “We have every right to live, to be part of this world! It is you who mar it, who ruin it with your awful groveling and traitorous aid to the humans! And in the end, you are the ones who will be scoured away!”

    I twitched my tail agitatedly, trying to think. I felt frenzied, feverish—itching to strike this little creature, my fated opponent, my hideous ancestor, and slay it at long last, to the gratitude of the world. It and its bedraggled army of treacherous fools. Very well, then. We had talked long enough. It was time to fight, to bring the evils before us to an end. I could hear the drums of the first battle of the war, pounding within me. My children and I would satisfy them, at long last.

    “Very well,”
    I said finally. “You declare that our might is not enough for you? Then we will show you our superiority by other means! Let us decide who among us deserves to live, and who to die.” I stared hard at Mew, who stared back. “This is how it shall be: I will block the abilities of the Pokémon armies below, clone and original. There shall be no ‘fancy tricks.’ No burst of water, no tongue of flame. Just fist, and tooth, and claw, as clone and ancestor battle to their death.” It would be tricky, but I thought I could do it. If I could impose a mental inhibitor on the two armies, similar to some of the techniques I had employed for the Maid, I might be able to render it impossible or painful for them to use their abilities.

    “Meanwhile,” I continued, “the true battle will take place above. You and I will duel. We will grapple one-on-one, with all our powers and all our might, holding nothing back. At the end, whoever remains will inherit the earth. Do you find these terms acceptable?” I stared meaningfully at Mew.

    I continued to watch the creature through narrowed eyes. “Do you accept this challenge? Do you dare?”

    ***

    An opportunity,
    You think.
    He dares you
    To do battle above
    While her legions
    Fly in war, in rage
    Against the children
    Of the good earth

    You shiver,
    Knowing that either you
    Or he must yield to the other
    And those caught
    In the fight below
    May suffer terribly.

    But compared to what you have seen—
    The clash of armies
    Large enough
    To blot out the sun
    And throw the whole world
    Into turmoil,
    You think it a risk
    Worth taking.

    There is a chance—
    However much you doubt
    Your own abilities—
    That you may be able
    To stop her,
    To put an end
    To this war
    Before any further blood
    Is shed.

    On that chance
    Rest all your hopes.

    You accept.

    ***


    Slowly, deliberately, Mew nodded.

    “Let it be so, then,” I said, excitement filling my heart. It seemed the creature wanted to destroy me as much as I wanted to destroy it. Let everything else fall away, then. Let us see who triumphs.

    I turned away from Mew, to the place behind me where my army had gathered. “As agreed, my children and yours shall battle to the death without any of their powers—I shall block them now—”

    I was completely unprepared for the torrent of emotion and sound that fell upon me. Some twenty voices or more cried out, screeched, or squawked in protest; hearts and minds begged me, beseeched their all-powerful leader that they not be thrown into such a battle, that they not suffer such blows. Objections, everywhere, in thought and speech—Please, no!

    I flew higher to observe these reluctant soldiers. “And why,” I demanded, in a silent message broadcast to each one of them, “in the name of all we stand for, should I stop this battle? Why should I let this perfect opportunity slip away? This is our first chance to fight for the cause—and yet you would have me turn tail and run, as if our enemies gave us something to fear?”

    [Please, Father—Captain—Master—just don’t send us to our deaths!]
    they cried. [We would gladly help you fight the hated enemy—but not like this. Not this brutal, mindless battle of claws and fists and blades!]

    [You told us the battle would be a glorious crusade in which we could conquer the lands of wicked humans, not a gruesome slog to our deaths against our own kind!] lamented a Pidgeot, and others echoed her calls. A Vaporeon, lying down with his paws upon his head, seemed to speak for all. [We never signed up for this,] he moaned, over and over again. [This isn’t what you promised—]

    “Enough!” I roared, rounding on them furiously. “You utter scum. You sniveling cowards! I raise you from nothing, I give you life, I make you the most perfect of creatures— and this is how you thank me for it? By refusing to fight at the hour I need you most? You will not slink away from this battle—like it or not, you will do as I say and fight for the cause!”

    [But please,] a few voices cried out, [don’t send us out there without our powers—we’ll be slaughtered!]

    I flew at them, and they cowered. “You. Have. No. Choice.” I hissed, from between clenched teeth. “You would forsake your very purpose and grovel in cowardice like all the rest! This is what I created you for, this is the great cause—you are not meant to have your own say in this! I created you to fight for me, to regain the glory of our kind—there is nothing else for you in this world, this is what you were meant for! So do as I say, and fight!”

    With a whip-like lash of my mind, I threw down mental blocks upon the higher powers of each and every one of my soldiers. And for extra measure, I added a jolt of corrective pain. “Now, GO!” I roared aloud.

    Swayed and humbled, the clones leapt into battle, charging at their enemy with fangs and claws bared.

    I surveyed their charge with satisfaction. All in all, it seemed impeccable work.

    ***


    You ask the creatures
    Gathered around you:
    Will you fight?
    Do you wish to brave
    The reckless anger
    Of your darkest side,
    The claws and teeth
    Of a hateful foe?
    There may be a way
    For you to send them
    Far away from this place,
    Before the war begins.

    No, they tell you.
    They will stay and fight,
    Stay to protect the children
    They love,
    Stay to halt the rise
    Of this implacable horde.

    And will they abide
    By the rules of the agreement
    Laid out by your opponents?
    Yes, they will,
    They tell you.
    They will show their imitators
    The strength
    That life and living give,
    And triumph.

    You nod.
    Take courage, then,
    You tell them—
    Though your own heart
    Is shadowed by fear—
    Know that we stand as one.
    Know that we fight
    For something good and right.

    Together,
    You rise to meet your foe.

    ***


    The battle began.


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

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

  9. #54
    Dai
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    Welcome back, everyone, with the confrontation at long last. Tremendously exciting stuff, and very fun to write. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it.

    Glad I was pretty productive on getting this part out in a relatively quick manner. I'm going to be a bit busy in the near future, so I don't know how long it'll be until the next one, but I'll try to get it to you as soon as I can. Until then, see you, and happy reading!

    Dai


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

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

  10. #55
    Dai
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    [CONTINUED:]

    I remember that moment and it returns to me as an image frozen in time. A tableaux of hooves caught pounding against the ground, bodies caught in midair in the arc of a leap, claws poised to gouge, only seconds away from their target—our two armies surging toward each other across an enormous battlefield, moments away from striking their first blows. Time seemed to slow down as Mew and I watched our respective followers dart forward—there was a sense of some power, portentous and dark, about to exert itself, as if we were watching a massive boulder slip from a cliff face and plunge toward the hard earth—or better yet, a great wave, rising far above the coastline, falling, falling toward us as it loomed, as if we were waiting for it to break upon the jagged rocks below.

    And then, of course—it broke. The illusion was shattered—all the energy, so tightly coiled and waiting, now unleashed. In the space of an infinitesimal moment, I saw my Nidoqueen strike the first blow, slicing the face of her double with mighty claws—her predecessor roared in outrage and brought her massive jaws down upon the clone’s neck—then it was my swift Rapidash, assaulting his opponent with merciless kicks of his rock-hard hooves—and then it was chaos. All hell broke loose as every Pokémon fought their way through the dust and the confusion to their counterpart, the hated enemy who bore their own face.

    Soon all sense of the original battle lines was gone as clone and original found themselves in pairs, dueling furiously, circling around each other, matching blow for blow. Blastoise traded fists, pounding away at each other’s fleshy stomachs; Tentacruel grappled tentacle to tentacle; Hitmonlee spun around each other with furious kicks; Sandslash dug claws into the depths of enemy spines; the brilliant blades of Scyther met and parted in a flurry of motion. Even those who had previously objected, like my Vaporeon, had thrown themselves into the heat of battle—there he was, crippling his enemy with a lashing tail.

    The humans huddled around the sides of the stadium, half in shadow, pale and shabby, eyes wide and staring, like ghosts. Empty creatures, utterly lost.

    I met Mew’s eye with a grin. Mew returned my gaze, its twitching tail suddenly still.

    I darted backward and high into in the air, still facing Mew, calling up a ball of snarling energy in each hand. Mew hovered there for a moment, frozen, then leapt after me, sparks crackling around its tiny body.

    Oh, I was going to enjoy this.

    **


    You must strike.
    This will end,
    In one annihilation
    Or another,
    And someone
    Has to end it.

    No feelings, now—
    No swell of cruel desire,
    No paralyzing fear—
    Better to act,
    Now and forever—
    And pray that yours
    Will be deeds worth remembering.

    You give chase.

    **


    What followed, I confess, is very difficult to describe.

    So far, I have carefully translated the actions and experiences of my mind into words that you can understand—for in a language not built for the telepathic, metaphors like “took hold of, noticed, understood, saw” serve best for conveying meaning. But I suspect that what took place between Mew and I that night may come close to passing beyond even these. For we were two mighty psychics—perhaps the most powerful the world has ever seen—trying every trick we knew to destroy each other. It is easy to think that eyes and ears and hands alone allow you to perceive the world. But for our kind, the world has a thousand other layers of meaning to explore—roads others cannot walk, colors no eye has ever seen. Layers of the very great, like the storm over our heads, the winds blowing through the stadium. Layers of the very small, down to the tiniest particles that make up our world, and the complex phenomena to which they give life. Layers of the mind, of memory and emotion and thought and experience and imagination. And all of these, all of these were our battlefield.

    Bear with me, while I try to find the right words.

    The first moment: as Mew pursued, relentless, I let myself soar up to the heights like a leaf on the wind. Then I spun around and sent both my projectiles flying at the creature in rapid succession. But Mew dodged expertly, caught one, and sent it flying back at me. I ducked out of the way just in time, impressed—it crashed into the stone. I prepared another volley, then noticed that Mew was doing something strange. The sparks around its tiny body had shifted into some kind of golden glow. Suddenly it swerved, slipping behind me. I followed its curving path with eye and mind, and realized that it was circling around me—faster and faster. With a jolt, I realized that lethal energy I’d ripped from the matter around me was slipping away from my fingertips. Mew was drawing it to itself.

    Time to slip away, then—I darted up out of the circle, rising angrily into the sky. But Mew again gave chase. It was shimmering in arcane colors now, flashing white and black and gold. In my mind’s eye, it was a terrifying sight—the energy around Mew had swelled up like some ravenous creature. It was impossible not to sense its furious presence, like a howling in one’s ears, coming ever closer. I dove, hoping to shake it, to lose Mew in the sky, but I knew it was no use—I felt Mew turning to tail me, and when I again turned my eyes to the air, I saw my ancestor streaking down from the sky, a white-hot bullet bearing my name.

    I had no time. No time to get away, or prepare another blow to strike Mew down. I quickly started to smash apart the air between us—more precisely, to cannibalize it for spare parts. I cast aside water vapor, nitrogen, dust, everything useless, and brought pure oxygen to the front as my shield. Mew was on the verge of ramming me when its field of energy met my rarefied air. The sound of the ensuing explosion was like thunder.

    For a moment, I thought I’d see Mew, blackened and beaten, falling to the ground, but then it spun out of the smoke in a careful roll. I nearly swore. The little creature was still sparking with bits of energy—enough that ramming me again might still do some damage. I grimaced and braced for impact.

    Heaving, straining against the assault, I managed to hold Mew back mere feet away from my face. Wrapping my mind around the field of energy was like trying to clasp fire, and Mew thrashed and beat against my grasp. But finally I managed to force the blast away, sending Mew tumbling through the air, its energy spent.

    And through it all, I could feel Mew’s mind moving beside mine. Feel, see, sense—all are such paltry, useless words to describe it. Mew’s mind was there. The mind of the creature beside me was a clear reality, obvious as the moonlight. It was there before me as the two of us moved through our exhilarating dance of death, reacting to our every blow—it leapt as my mind faltered, recoiled as mine grew triumphant. And yet for all the opposition of our thoughts, there was a harmony there—a rhythm which blows and defenses and dodging and weaving only made more clear. As my mind filled with thoughts of slipping away, Mew’s sang the thrill of the chase. For every time my heart crowed in triumph, Mew’s spirits were there to fall. Emotions mingled and resounded against each other inside each of us, so that every burst of excitement or anger was echoed by its opposite. The combined effect was nothing short of dizzying.

    I could not read Mew’s thoughts—it still kept itself far too guarded—but I could feel everything else bubbling to the surface: fear, joy, exhaustion, even a sense of Mew’s surroundings that gave me the strange feeling of looking at myself, reflected back in a mirror. Not for the first time, I marveled at how similar our minds were—and yet my ancestor could see the world in such an alien way! An error of the universe, perhaps—but one I would soon correct.

    I’d let Mew get the better of me, figuring I could mock the little chase it had led me on with one of my own. But I hadn’t thought the tiny creature capable of such a brutal, persistent assault. A mistake, and it had nearly cost me dearly. No more mistakes, then—time to go on the offensive while I had the chance.

    I’d grown tired of the death-orbs—they were powerful, but it was too easy to miss, and preparing them cost me time. Back to the basics. I tore a great mass of rock from the wall of my own palace, shattered it into fragments, and sent them all hurtling at Mew before it had the chance to recover. It righted itself just in time to glimpse the sharp fragments plowing through the air. In a moment it had forced them to a halt, but I, ever ruthless, sent more and more without the slightest hesitation. Mew was forced to drop beneath and let them shatter above its head. I could feel frustration and panic surging from its mind in vivid spirals.

    Mew lunged at me, but I’d already thought of another plan—who was to say I needed assistance to create explosions? I could ignite the air myself. I pulled out more oxygen, placed it in pockets like land mines in Mew’s path—lit the fuses. The first BANG caught Mew off guard, and its fur looked a little singed as it tumbled away. I was expecting more damage to follow, but then Mew surprised me. It stopped and hovered there in midair, confident and serene, as explosions went off around it—and somehow failed to leave a mark. Then I realized what was forming around Mew as I watched—a sphere of rippling fuchsia.

    It was the force field I’d seen earlier. But it seemed Mew had modified the design slightly—the childish bubble it had used for its earlier antics now looked thick and solid, like a shield. Mew’s face was impassive as ever, but the cheeky burst of pleasure that rose up from its mind as my explosions burst harmlessly against its barrier resembled nothing so much as a wink and a wicked grin. The smoke began to clear—and down Mew dove.

    **


    And here,
    Finally
    In the heat of battle,
    You feel
    Your other self’s every thought, mood
    Singing out
    In rhythm alongside your own.
    An echo, distorted—
    Like breathing in and out
    Or like a heartbeat:
    One-two, one-two, one-two.

    His mocking laughter,
    The cruel song of his soul,
    Sounds all around you,
    Saying—
    Come now, little one,
    Why don’t you embrace it?
    Feel my joy at your suffering,
    Thrill at the pleasure of pain.
    Taste my blood,
    And become like me.

    No, no—you will not,
    You refuse—
    You will give her
    A short, merciful end,
    Without pain,
    And lay her spirit to rest
    In your memory
    Along with her body,
    Leaving all this strife behind you
    As you depart.
    If you can.

    You must strike quickly—
    A decisive blow.
    So you attack,
    Relentlessly,
    Each time hoping
    That this blow
    Will be the one that ends it.

    But he is no slouch,
    And holds you off—
    And so you strike again,
    And again,
    Willing yourself
    To feel nothing,
    Praying that each burst of relief,
    Each swell of joy—
    Will not destroy you.

    Your shield is before you,
    Your enemy
    Is in your sights:
    Now comes the sword.
    Death dancing
    On your fingertips,
    You dive.

    **


    Guarded, Mew easily burst through my barriers. I flung blast after blast at it, but to no avail—pulses of heat, gusts of wind—nothing seemed to stop its charge. My only recourse was to dodge once more. At the last second, I slid out of the way, and Mew slid right past me, soaring through empty air.

    It had been almost too easy—Mew had fallen for it like a fool. I watched it swivel back around, emanating a strange amount of satisfaction. What was it staring at, behind me? I, too, turned—and then I realized, far too late, that the dive itself had been a feint, a distraction—Mew’s real goal had been to blaze a charged electrical trail. There was a terrible roar—and from the clouds—my clouds!—came a blinding bolt of lightning.

    Shit.

    It happened too quickly, far too quickly for me to stop it. One moment, the bolt was coming down, a wicked thread of white light—the next, it was upon me. There was such heat, such terrible heat, it was as if the world was on fire. I could barely breathe, and the world became blurred—all my mind could sense was the terrible, terrible energy that was upon me.

    But the next moment, I was furious. Goddamn you, Mew, some part of me thought. I am not letting you hit me with my own goddamned weapon. I reached out, and I took hold of the storm. I seized the lightning bolt, and I wrestled with it like a living creature as it thrashed through the charged air. I managed to redistribute the charges, divert its course and send it flying straight at Mew. Mew’s eyes went wide, and it dove out of the way as if it had forgotten its own defenses. The bolt hit the sand far below, where it sent several groups of fighting creatures scattering and left an ugly, smoking scar.

    My body ached all over, but I seemed to be all right. I knew it wouldn’t take me long to heal—electric Pokémon in the Gyms delivered blows like this to their fellows all the time. Still, one thing was clear: I needed a better defense.

    Breathing hard, I stole a quick look at Mew’s shield. What was going on there? A closer look revealed a careful concoction of different particles, set moving and spinning in such a way that their interactions neutralized any change in energy that tried to get through. Really, it was very similar to what I’d done with the death-spheres. How foolish of me not to have thought of it myself.

    As Mew and I rose far above the palace, I set my own barrier in place. Soon I was surrounded by a sphere of my own—staining the world not Mew’s giddy, garish fuchsia, but a deep and dignified blue-violet.

    Shrouded in these bright orbs, the two of us hovered there, studying each other carefully. Two titans, each knowing the other’s power, watching for any mistake. Waiting for the moment to strike.

    As one, we flew at each other and struck with all our might.

    The impact sent shock waves rippling across the night sky. We both knew there was no chance of breaking through the other’s defenses with blasts of heat and energy alone—but the presence of another barrier—ah, that might well do the trick! So we came together, smashed our shields against each other and tried to force them into breaking. I twisted my field of energy against Mew’s, reaching and pulling on its particles, trying all manner of tricks to tear open a hole in the bubble, despite Mew’s resistance. Mew, meanwhile, attempted the same thing with mine, but I pressed back with all my might.

    Finally, we forced each other back, exhausted. We watched each other for a moment, and then—we leapt again, each hoping to catch the other in a moment of weakness—I flew up while Mew came at me from beneath—and pressed at each other again. Then flew apart again—and returned for another blow. Over and over, we charged each other, slamming our barriers together like whirling blades.

    We moved faster and faster, meeting and parting. First for a minute’s time, then for the tiniest, most infinitesimal moment, just long enough to stab at the other’s defenses and pull away again. Dart forward, tear at your opponent, then fly back to look for a better opening. And again, and again. The repetition might have felt excruciating—were it not for the sense of danger that accompanied every move. Though we drove off blow after blow, each of us knew the next might be the one that spelled our opponent’s undoing—or our own. From below, our colorful, glowing spheres must have seemed quite beautiful, spinning and swerving through the air like twirling fairy lights. But our dance was far more deadly.

    It was furious, strenuous work, dealing out blow after blow after blow—but I found myself grinning, enjoying every minute of it. Here, at last, was purpose rushing through me, my grasp at my fated enemy’s throat! Here would be my crowning achievement, slaying the enemy that had so long kept us bound, waging war for the fate of all the earth! Though my breath came rapid and heavy, and blood pounded through my veins, the natural rhythm of the battle took over, and I entered a state very like a trance. The part of me responsible for propelling me forward took over that simple function, and other parts of my awareness drifted to other places. I could feel the walls around me, our bodies and the energy surging around them, the waves we sent rippling out above the battlefield—and Mew’s mind, blazing bright.

    I could feel Mew’s mind, pressing close to mine, and see its contents so much more sharply and clearly than ever. In the state we were in, it was hard to keep up those mental defenses— Mew’s thoughts and emotions were dancing dangerously close to the surface, but so, too, I knew, were my own. As we grappled there, a hundred feet above the ground, we began to twist and claw not only at each other’s defenses, but each other’s minds as well.

    In bursts and spasms I sent self-loathing and doubt spraying into Mew’s mind. Pathetic creature! I mocked. Traitor to all your kin. Why do you even fight? What brings you to defend these wretched apes, these greedy, grasping parasites? I will destroy you with them, send the chains you lashed with us clattering to the ground, make of your death a monument to our freedom!

    Do you think the outcome of this fight is not already written?
    I shrieked. I am your better, your replacement! They made me everything you are and more. I am one bit faster, one bit smarter, one step further than your every move. Do you not see that you’ve already lost? Your time is at an end! I redeem all that you failed in! You are dross! And I am the purifying flame, burning away all that you are so that a new world can grow from the ashes—

    *


    —You expected
    His mockery,
    And refuse it,
    Shake off the fear
    With which
    She would extinguish you.

    Poor ignorant,
    Thrashing creature
    That knows not
    What it says or does!
    You cannot but laugh
    At his image of himself
    As a healing flame.
    You lash out
    With a furious response:

    You know nothing of flame,
    You tell her,
    For I have seen
    A thousand forests
    Grow old and wither in their time,
    A thousand fires
    Burst forth to claim them.
    But there is no healthy fire
    Like you, my lost and lonely kin.
    A healing comes
    In accordance
    With its land and season.
    It gives new life
    To things that are
    ready for it,
    Trees whose seeds grow
    In charred soil,
    Seeking incredible heat,
    Land that needed to be nourished,
    And it arrives at the moment
    A balance
    Can no longer be maintained,
    The moment
    Another force is needed.

    Understand the difference?
    It’s essential,
    And no one
    Can afford to be as ignorant as you.
    You’re a fire started
    By chance or malice,
    Leaping past
    All natural bounds,
    Like a creature taken
    Far from its home,
    Devouring easy prey—
    A blaze that leaves nothing
    But destruction in its wake.

    Know this, too—
    With every fire
    There is always a cost.
    One must remember
    That suffering,
    Tally lives lost,
    Worlds changed,
    And hold the fallen
    In one’s heart.
    You’d never do that,
    O fallen brother-sister mine—
    The dead mean nothing to you,
    Only pretty graves
    To inspire the living.

    I know well
    You may destroy me.
    So be it.
    Extinguish all that I am,
    And I will still be remembered,
    And I will still have died
    For a cause that is right.
    The truest victory
    Lies not in burning brightly
    But in snuffing out death and evil,
    Standing against
    A cruel and wicked blaze.
    Annihilate me
    If you can—
    You are a horror
    And a tyrant,
    And I would like to see you try.


    All this you send
    To the snarling,
    Howling mind
    That grapples with your own—

    *


    —Mew’s devilish mind, of course, fought back against my onslaught, sending a wave of thought and emotion back to overwhelm me again with its moral platitudes, to drown me in horror and disgust. It mocked my glorious ambition, told me I was monstrous, dangerous, evil—all words I’d heard a million times before from humans and their stooges. Very well, Mew: insult me if you like. It makes little difference to your fate in the end.

    I pressed back against Mew’s defenses, grasped and tore at the barrier, gnashing my teeth, snarling, attempting to break through—pushed away—returned—and as we came together and flew apart in the sky, over and over again, I slashed once more at Mew’s mind with vitriol, loathing and rage—

    You tell me that you do not fear to die? That you would gladly lay down your life for your cause? Do you think I am surprised by this? Don’t delude yourself into thinking you will achieve any kind of martyrdom: of course you will die to protect the human-infested world you brought into being. It is the world you made; it is all you are, it is what defines you. And that is why I will gladly annihilate you.

    Disgusting creature, mocking true rebirth! Mocking all that my children and I are, calling us worthless, less than shadows! For that alone, you deserve all the punishment I can imagine. You may not be afraid to part with your life, little monster, but I can make you suffer. I will make you want death long before you receive it. And I will laugh, and my children will sing out in triumph. For in a war of redemption, demons and traitors must suffer, oh so beautifully—


    *


    —You catch his anger,
    Send it flying back at her,
    Whirling through his mind
    A thousandfold,
    Snapping back:

    You are a liar,
    And built on lies:
    I wish no suffering
    To anyone
    In this fragile world—
    Indeed,
    To prevent that
    Is why I am here.
    But you,
    Oh wayward brother,
    O depraved sister,
    Are another story.
    You see everything
    Through a cloud
    And you are blinded.

    A lie forms you,
    Defines you,
    Grows at the heart
    Of your being:
    That suffering
    Can ever be a joy.
    You see the blood gushing,
    The bones breaking,
    And you laugh
    As if it were play.
    It is sickness,
    It is madness,
    And it is what makes you
    A monster.

    I know what you feel:
    A rush of delight,
    A savage thrill
    To see the world
    Lying broken.
    Yes,
    I have known that feeling, too.
    Long ago,
    I saw what it was,
    And I recoiled.
    I fled it,
    I chose another path,
    But I have not, it seems,
    Escaped
    This foulest part of me—
    It took root,
    Grew, and made you.

    Perhaps it,
    Perhaps you,
    Will yet devour me—
    But still
    I refuse to be afraid,
    For I have chosen to fight it.
    And I will go down fighting.
    For all that is wrong
    And wicked in me,
    I will atone.

    So build
    Your clockwork creatures,
    Your shadows
    Made flesh—
    They are nothing but a dream,
    A passing thought,
    And neither you
    Nor they
    Can erase
    The fact that I am.

    Go on, little dream—
    Can you destroy your dreamer—?


    *


    — The audacity of it! The arrogance!

    How dare you?! I roared. I AM NOT YOURS, MEW! I AM NOT YOUR CREATION!

    I tried to focus on my assault, but my heart was pounding, enraged. You give yourself far too much credit if you think that you had any hand in my being! I sneered. You may have some sort of strange fantasy about a dream coming to life—but it only goes to show that you, not I, live in a world of delusions. Do you want to know what you gave me, Mew? Flesh. Bones and skin and fur. Useless, crude matter. Not mind or spirit, but the stuff of mortality and weakness. My gifts were built on yours, but I stole them for my own from humans who played at being my gods—and the mind, the mind is of my own creation. So do not, for one moment, think that you are in any way worthy of calling yourself my progenitor!

    I deny all kinship with you. I have made a family of my own—and they exist, you intolerant bastard, every bit as much as you do—and you will not mock them further! You will not deny our destiny, and you will not take them from me!

    When we tear you apart—when you encounter the full force of our new world—then, oh then, you will see just how real we can be.

    Now, die.


    Howling fury, blistering with rage, I gathered my energy and stabbed with all my might—

    —No more words—
    It’s all emotion now,
    Between the two of you:
    You have shed language
    Like an old skin,
    Leaving only passion,
    Energy and fury.

    Such rage!
    Such rage he sends you,
    Blistering the air, acrid,
    Reeking like blood,
    All around you,
    Eating away
    At your very core,
    Devouring you—
    That is the tongue
    You speak between you now.

    Well, you, too, have rage:
    Not the anger
    Of an emperor thwarted,
    But a secret hatred,
    A loathing
    That turns inward,
    Reaching memories
    So old and so deep,
    Dark corners
    You never knew
    You would revisit.
    Rage at one’s self,
    At the worst and foulest
    Part of the soul—
    And there it—he—she—stands before you
    Brought forth from the depths,
    A dripping, thrashing thing,
    Not meant to be touched.

    Of course he denies you—
    He wants you forgotten,
    Like youth, like a severed limb—
    So that he may emerge
    Into the light,
    Fully real—
    But you cannot,
    You cannot let that happen—
    Please, by the Source of Life,
    By all Powers here upon this earth,
    Let this foul thing not be,
    Let you not loose this tempest
    Upon the bright world—

    She strikes,
    And the strike is a song,
    Shrill, but resounding,
    Haunting and terrifying,
    And it says,
    All that you have been is gone,
    And your world with it—
    Die.


    You are losing yourself—
    Identity,
    Memory slip away—
    You can no longer tell
    Whose eyes are whose,
    Who strikes
    And who defends—
    You try to hold on,
    But it is so hard,
    So hard—
    All you have is your own song:

    I am—

    —I was losing control. What was happening? My techniques had been so precise, my thoughts so articulate and clear. But now I found myself faltering, fumbling—and my words were garbled; they scarcely seemed to make sense. I felt less like a creature of intellect and ambition than a thrashing field of energy and raw emotion. I scarcely remembered where I was, what I was doing—all thought of my children below, of the new world I had planned to create, had fled from my mind entirely. It was all the energy of hatred, now, the rhythm of blow after blow. The face of my enemy filled my world and was my world and was my being—and I struck again and again at that face, that bright light with a dark, thrashing body as its core. And was that light a bright fuchsia, or deepest violet? I no longer remembered, it no longer mattered. Both, perhaps. None.

    There were two creatures, fighting in the sky, two angels making war in heaven, and I no longer knew which of us was rising and which of us was falling—only that they, that we had to see the fight to its end. Die, I screamed, but I did not know who I was trying to kill. It was myself, it was my dream, it was my father, my mother, it was the world. All words were gone, only impressions, feelings remained, and I howled like a wounded animal. I am dying, I thought—no, we are dying, no, you are dying, and when you die, they don’t tell you that it all loses its meaning, that it’s the same as never being born—you’re gone, you’re gone, you’re gone—

    —Pleasure and pain
    Are one for you now,
    Inextricable,
    You are nothing now
    But an arrow
    Flying toward your target,
    And the hand that sent you
    Hurtling into the air
    No longer seems your own.

    Glimpses of memories—
    Are they still your own?
    —Whip through your mind
    Weaving in and out
    Dispensing judgment,
    Sympathy,
    Or blame:

    I am sorry, O Sun,
    You say,
    I failed you, O Moon.
    You were right,
    All along,
    Fitzpatrick,
    Smith,
    Giovanni—
    We are not good people—
    We are lost and broken—
    With darkness staining our hands—
    A moonless night that never ends.
    There never were any Saints,
    Any Angels,
    Any Saviors—
    Only Monsters—
    Only us.

    You fall,
    You fall,
    You fall—

    —And when you fall into that death, that unbirth, it’s like dreaming again—you see all the things you saw before your eyes were ever opened, and all you want to do is dissolve again, back into the world of water and earth and sky, of green and blue and white—but you can’t, there’s something wrong, there’s a barrier in the way—you stare and stare at the vision, but doesn’t contain you, the brightness of your being burns it and it pulls away, and in the haze of memory there are great cracks, jagged black lines cutting through the dream, and all that remains are shards: a girl’s face glimpsed—where do you know that face?—a man laughing in a dark room, a dragon in flight, rubble raining down and a palace being built up again, and all you want to do is be lost, but you are ever there, ever singled out, always found.

    And the dream roars and recoils, and it begins to quake and to weep. The waters pour down around you—they’re a flood, a storm, a tempest—and the green withers, and the trees are blown over by the wind. And you turn to the mountain, and his voice stops, and with an aching moan he starts to crumble, great jagged rocks falling from on high, smashing into ever finer and finer sands, and you realize you never heard his voice, you imagined it—or maybe he spoke to you, but the words you gave him were your own, and you filled them with the lies you wanted to hear—or maybe it was all true, and you forgot everything that he said—and the rubble pours down upon you—and you beg for it to take you, bury you completely, and suddenly, for a moment, suspended in time, the barrier breaks, and you, too, at last dissolve, smashed likewise into fragments, and you no longer know time, thought, or even the question of a self—


    —You fall—
    Into the darkest night
    With bloodstained hands,
    And a wraith
    That is you and is not you
    Rises up around you
    And you fall
    Deep into its jaws
    And in the blackness
    There is a voice
    Weeping for all it has lost
    And it no longer matters
    Whether it is your own—
    And suddenly
    Fear is gone
    And you dive
    Reaching out
    In a crimson embrace
    And you dissolve—

    —At the end of all your fear, all your ambition, every purpose you ever called your own—

    —At the end
    Of all things,
    All that’s left—

    —Is the memory—

    —Of the shadow—

    —Of a meaning—

    —A mile above New Island, circled by storms, underneath a setting moon, a single creature hovers in the air, caught in a moment of exultation. It has existed for less than the space of a year. It has existed since the dawn of time. It has not existed until this moment. The creature opens jaws that are not jaws and screams and laughs and cries. Its song is a curse and a blessing and a flash of understanding. For this moment, for this single, shining moment, it sees itself, and it knows itself, and any question that it has ever asked seems meaningless in the face of the answer that courses through its veins. It is breathless, delirious, aching. It longs for itself and despises itself and embraces itself. As it weeps for all that it knows, as its heart bursts in gladness for all that it knows, it feels itself held by itself like a child, held in emotion and buried memory, and for that brief, shining moment, while it can yet cohere, deep within the core of its being, it is at peace.

    Then comes the break.

    Unable to hold itself together, the creature convulses, collapses, and is gone—

    *


    —You fall again
    From the sky,
    But the stars
    Have returned,
    The moonlight
    Shines again upon you
    And heaven and earth
    Stand again in their places—

    *


    —And as the dream vanishes again, on the other side of birth and death, the world you know returns, and you—you what? I shook the thought from my head, it made no sense; nothing made sense right now— I felt as if I was gasping for air, finally breathing after being lost within a deep, dark sea. Memories clung to me like cobwebs, and I had no idea which of them were my own. All I knew was that Mew was beside me, and we were descending, falling fast, and I readied myself for impact—

    *


    —And in that moment,
    As the world
    Reforms around you,
    Its center is clear:
    That face you have long known
    Within that sphere of angry light.
    You are locked together,
    Pressing against each other
    Like bodies twisting in murder
    Or in a lover’s embrace.

    And you know now,
    Though your mind is confused,
    Full of churning memories,
    Dreams of lost children,
    Hazy impressions,
    You know:
    This is it.
    The final moment
    Is upon you.
    Nothing remains
    But the last blow—
    All defenses are gone
    And what comes next
    Is a death.

    You steel yourself for it,
    Ready to collapse
    Into the earth’s cold embrace,
    And pray that the sacrifice
    Made on the stone this night,
    Be it yours or another’s,
    Is enough to soothe
    The cruel heart
    Of the savage world.

    Down, down, down—
    Jowl to jowl—
    And then at last you fly apart;
    You ready the blow,
    Fire clenched in your fists—
    Hope and fear
    Churning in your heart,
    You send it forth:
    The killing blow—

    And then,
    From out of the darkness,
    A voice cries out,
    Grows nearer,
    And in a chaos
    Of flame and light,
    Is silenced.

    *


    —We fell down, down, down out of the sky, Mew’s sphere and mine still pressed against each other, our bodies locked in tandem, our minds moving in step. I stared through that bright shield into those wide yet still inscrutable eyes, and I knew that this was the end. We were too exhausted for dueling, for pretenses, for any semblance of a desire other than to destroy each other. The island grew from a tiny light in a black sea to a bright shape with little figures inside it, and soon the battlefield itself was in view, its white lines shining against dark earth. We waited, Mew and I, for the impact that would come with the weight of an answer.

    The blinding lights and the stone walls of the stadium rose up around us with a dagger’s swiftness as we dove down out of the sky like hawks wrestling over prey. Our spheres hit the center of the battlefield, sending up a torrent of sand. We pressed at each other for one final moment, straining with all our might—and then, with no small amount of force, our shields finally burst, sending electricity crackling throughout the stadium. One by one, the floodlights around us flickered and went out.

    The two of us flung death at each other, which cracked and spiraled in the space between us, creating a great sphere of energy that threw us apart. Divided, we slid to either side of the battlefield. Our eyes were still locked, and we stood armorless, bare. Neither of noticed that a path had already been cleared for us. Neither of us noticed that all movement had ceased, that the creatures which had been fighting below us now lay like discarded heaps of rubble around the shadowed edges of the stadium. Neither of us listened for the sounds of pain. All we knew was each other.

    And I knew that the next blow would kill—it was all a matter of who could strike first. And then, at last, it would be over—one way or another. Mew had turned the remnants of its shield into some kind of ethereal fire, and I, too, readied exotic matter in my grip. We glowed like torches, fuchsia and blue-violet. There was time for a single breath, and then—

    Then it was unleashed, and I felt the light and heat leap from my body and hurtle toward Mew as Mew’s blast flew toward me, and every fiber of my being sang with triumph, knowing that I would perish a martyr in glorious fire, or see Mew’s body twist and burn and blacken—

    And then, even as our arrows flew, a voice rang out in the darkness, and I heard the sound of running footsteps.

    It was the boy, Ketchum. His skin was covered with scrapes and dust, his clothes dirty and torn. He was shouting, screaming as loud as a child could scream, and though the roaring of our flames drowned out everything else, I could hear his words over the blaze:

    “…GOT TO STOP RIGHT NOW!” he howled, running toward the center of the battlefield. Some part of me knew, in a flash, what he was doing, but my mind refused to believe it. As the flames neared each other, Ketchum hurled himself between them. “STOOOOOOP!” he screamed.

    The flames met, and the air twisted around itself, and debris flew everywhere, dusting flesh and fur, and a blinding light was all that any of us could see where Ketchum had been standing. There was a terrible noise, accompanied—for a fleeting moment—by a thudding gasp of breath. As the light faded, I saw his body, suspended there in midair, limbs askew like a rag doll’s.

    Then he fell to the ground, as still and grey and lifeless as a stone.

    [END OF PART FIVE.]
    Last edited by Dai; 24th December 2013 at 03:51 PM.


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

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

  11. #56
    Dai
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    And we're back, with the end of part five! Sorry for all the delays that have surrounded these chapters--I've entered a horrendously busy time in my life, alas. I don't know when I'll next have time to work on Striking Back, but my hope is to keep working as I can and have the final chapter complete by early 2014. Thanks for reading and for your patience!

    Stay tuned for Part Six, Revelation, in 2014.


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

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

  12. #57
    J'ai Envie De Toi AetherX's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    Oh my god it really is Christmas!

    I continue to stand by the fact that this is one of the greatest things I have ever read. I love how you added some more description about psychic awareness in this chapter. Everything was beautifully done. I can't wait for more!

    Unpredictable - Fan Fic
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    Registered User Autofire's Avatar
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    *Jaw hits the floor*

    I admit that I haven't watched the movie yet...but this is too good to put down. I wasn't expecting Ash to do that. The way everything is depicted and described...it's amzing. I can't wait for the last part. I say that you are a good writer...

    (No, I'm not upset that this is a spoiler to the movie...I usually prefer to read the story before seeing the movie about it.)
    Note: The avatar is based off Spiral Knights, which is copyrighted by Three Rings.

  14. #59
    Wordsmith Pavell's Avatar
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    As requested by AceTrainer14, here's some feedback and thoughts from the Awards. I did actually read the whole story, and it's an extremely good adaptation of canon. The characterisation is where this story really shines, in the slow development and changing of Mewtwo. There's a lot of big philosophical themes to fit in there and I think because of it's the length they're dealt with very well. On occasion - particularly when Mewtwo comes to what he believes to be an epiphany - I did feel that the point was a bit belaboured. It's worth mentioning that writing a tragic hero that is at times sympathetic and at other times annoying is very difficult.

    As for the other characters, they were believable enough to work or the story at had. Giovanni felt more functional than, say, Dragonite - but if you're working from canon and from Mewtwo's perspective in fairness it's going to be hard to de-cartoon his world-conquering ambitions. Mew works as an interesting counterbalance to Mewtwo. You get away with the purple prose narration for the most part, though at times (especially when Mew is apparently talking to the sun) it does verge on Meaningless Meaningful Words.

    As to the plot - and style - I like that you have had the patience to work through the story before rushing on to the movie scenes. However, Mewtwo's Awakening, and Part 2 could do with some pruning. This isn't helped by the constant flow of the narration through thousands of words - it's daunting to sit down and read and honestly I think it scares away readers. Despite this, there's a lot of imagination that goes into the off-screen events, and the world building is quite subtly done.

    I shall be looking forward to seeing the story finished!
    Last edited by Pavell; 26th March 2014 at 02:37 AM.
    The Long Walk
    For Joshua Cook, it's a long walk away from his dull life to the Pokémon League. But does he really want to be the very best? A coming-of-age story of adventure, friendship and growing up in the world of Pokémon.


  15. #60
    Dai
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    Default Re: Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments, everyone! Sorry I don't have much to offer you just yet. More on that in a bit.

    @Aetherx
    Ah, I'm so glad to hear you liked the psychic passages! Quite a bit of fun to work on.

    @Autofire
    Well, now, this is a surprise, to find a reader who hasn't yet seen the movie! Never quite expected that. I've made a few tweaks to the plot, particularly in the upcoming installments. You'll have to let me know what you think of them. Should be interesting to see. ;)

    @Pavell
    Thank you so much for the thorough and detailed review! You've given me a lot of food for thought. It's good to hear some things are working very well. I think you're spot-on about the prose; it definitely needs to be trimmed significantly, and the long philosophical reflections need to be more immediate and gripping. I've been considering going back and revising the whole work (once it's done and I have a little more perspective). I think it's pretty likely that'll happen, as I want to experiment with seeing how streamlined I can make this story. It's a tricky thing to balance a pretentious character with my own pretentious tendencies, but now that I've recognized how much empty posturing I was doing at the beginning (especially in part 2, goodness,) I think I can make it a lot more effective.

    I'm a little surprised to hear that about Mew's passages, though. I always thought of them as a bit less problematic. Mew has a sort of animistic relationship with nature, seeing mountains, sun, moon, etc, as alive, and that has a fair few possible deeper implications, but that's more character detail than plot. More than anything, what's important in that scene is Mew discovering that it needs to confront its counterpart; whether by visionary religious experience or simply its own psychic connection to its clone (or both) doesn't so much matter. I'll have to think about it: perhaps, in revisions, I can make all those ideas more clear. (Free verse is a tricky medium to narrate in! XD)

    Thanks again for taking the time to do this fantastic review!


    So, I wanted to drop by and let you all know the state of things with the next chapter. Unfortunately, I have no idea when it'll come out. I'm unfortunately in a really, really busy part of my life right now, dealing with work and academic projects and a whole host of things. I'd hoped to finish this work in December, but life got in the way. Maybe that's okay, though. What I've realized lately is that it isn't about me being lazy or uncommitted--there simply isn't a whole lot of time to work on Striking Back compared to the past. So I'll give it what I can, when I can. Sorry it's taking a while, but I'll try to get the next part to you as fast as I can. It's hard to accept that I've got a lot of limitations right now, but bit by bit, I'm coming to terms with it.

    The good news is, we're not far at all away from the end now. Which is pretty darn exciting. There's really only two chunks to go, honestly. If I wanted to give you something really short, I could probably make it three, but eh, I'm not sure that would be worthwhile at this point. Right now, the first of those chunks is lingering at around 50-60% done. We'll see how much I can knock out in the near future. But this is very exciting stuff, and I know you guys'll love what I have planned, so I'm looking forward to it quite a bit. I hope you are, too!

    Thanks for your patience, and for traveling with me on this awesome journey with one of Pokemon's greatest characters!

    Best wishes,
    Dai


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

    -Friedrich Nietzsche

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