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?”
“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.