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Salvage

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Negrek, Nov 1, 2012.

  1. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    DreamSayer

    Thanks for taking the time to read all this and leave a review! Let's dive right in.

    I'd say that's pretty accurate, yeah. :p

    As a few people have said, it's not a problem if you dislike, or even hate the protagonist. I mean, as long as it doesn't too much detract from your enjoyment of the story. I'll be interested to hear whether your opinion on it ever changes.

    More an obsession than anything else, I suppose! And yes, the protagonist doesn't treat Titan all that well, here especially, despite saying repeatedly that he's its friend.

    Hmmm, not quite either, I don't think? One of the inspirations I had in wanting to write this story was to take a character that would be off the charts on a Mary Sue test, with all kinds of powers and special traits and relationships to canon characters, etc., but then try to play it in a way that they wouldn't come off as a Mary Sue. Though there was some element of wanting to explore what would happen if you really did give a kid all these ridiculous upgrades, I suppose. (Children fighting to save the world: generally bad idea, imo.)

    No, generally I'm not aiming for "touching" if one of the characters is going on about murdering people. XD It's true, the way the protagonist destroyed the computer was pretty extra and not the most efficient way to go about things... but it does have a little tendency to panic or rage more or less at the drop of a hat, heh.

    I'm glad you like Leo! He hasn't gotten a lot of love, heh. He does appear more in the second half of the story.

    FWIW, the cop is actually Officer Feldhorn. We'll see more of him eventually, too!

    Thanks, I'm glad you like him! It's true, I do find Nate a ton of fun to write. I'm always pleased when people like him, he's one of my favorites.

    Interesting! The flashback chapter is definitely long, primarily because I didn't think the story would make too much sense without giving a fairly full account of that period for Mew and Sara. Like, I could have restricted it to a line or scene or two along the lines of, "I was part of the expedition that found Mew and was at the lab when Mewtwo was created," but I thought that would be unsatisfying and perhaps raise more questions than it answered. I think this chapter could stand a little trimming though... to try to keep it focused on information the reader is going to find interesting and relevant.

    Oh no, Mew is DEFINITELY more powerful than the protagonist. We haven't really gotten a chance to see her in action, but she did only give it a piece of her power. Overall the protagonist is less strong than it is flexible; it can adapt well to a lot of situations, and excels in one-on-one sorts of fights, but bring more opponents in and its advantage starts to erode. It can take Red's pikachu one-on-one for example, but if it had to fight both Pikachu and Charizard at the same time, it would have a great deal of trouble.

    Haha, yup! It's definitely a hypocrite on top of everything else. I get why you found the battle anticlimactic, I think... cheating tends to take a lot of the tension out of situations like that. It makes wins feel cheap and too simple.

    Nope, no good guys here! I've had fun writing a story where Team Rocket are (occasionally) the "good guys," or where they act more noble than the protagonist itself.

    In general Mew can do anything the protagonist can do and more, so yes, she could mess with her brain in the same way. And sure, the protagonist could change its brain so that it would think rather differently... but why? It's convinced it's awesome!

    We'll learn how Red captured Mewtwo later in the story! For now, the only hint I'll give is that, given how powerful Mewtwo is, there's no way Red could have beat him in a contest that relied on power!

    Well, Nate does say something to that effect at least once or twice. XD

    Softboiled and other healing attacks use primarily the target's own energy to work. It basically accelerates the body's natural healing process: think about a broken bone healing in a few seconds instead of a few weeks. All the effort your body would ordinarily put in to make repairs is concentrated into a very brief period of time, which is probably going to make you pretty tired! Nate had a lot of injuries to deal with, which would have ordinarily needed a prolonged healing process. Making it all happen super fast took a ton out of him, which is why he loses weight the way he does: his body has to burn some of his fat stores in order to provide enough energy to complete the healing the softboiled sets off.

    Softboiled and so on aren't usually a problem for pokémon because they have much more energy to spare than humans. Even so, you couldn't just keep spamming softboiled on something without consequences.

    I'm glad you liked Nate's reunion with his pokémon. The reveal of how much they mean to him and how he relates to pokémon in general was one of my favorites in the first couple arcs, so it's always nice to see that people enjoyed it.

    It's true, the protagonist's character development is quite slow, particularly in the earlier chapters. There's only so much time it can spend as a total jerk before people get exasperated with it, for sure, and I think the number of chapters that go by without much sign of progression may be too much for a lot of people. Unfortunately I'm not sure whether there's any way I can accelerate it given the constraints of the plot, but hopefully you'll start to notice signs of the protagonist being less of a jerkface.

    Hmm, what made you think it let them win?

    I'm always surprised by how much people like Alice, heh. I'm glad you enjoyed the battle and the personality of the pokémon! The raichu was a character concept I'd had in mind for a while and wasn't sure what to do with, so it was nice to be able to bring him into the story here. And yes, if the story were about Alice it would definitely be a bit more relaxing. XD Perhaps some other time, eh?

    I'm really tickled that you figured out it was Leo who was behind the League summons right away like that! I think most people were surprised to see him return here... as far as I know you're the only person who guessed it was him before he actually shows up again in the story. It's true he can't do much to stop the protagonist here, but it's definitely accruing a lot of bad karma. I assure you it's all going to come due someday.

    Haha, yes, guilty. They're such handy field moves! Surf in particular I actively tried to tone down how often it was being used in the League matches, but yeah, it's still such an easy go-to. I'll try to watch the prevalence of earthquake in the future quietly shoves latest chapter out of sight while whistling innocently. The issue is that there aren't a ton of generally-useful spread moves that can replace it--it's usually the most powerful and reliable option.

    I modeled the tournament on the League tournaments seen in the anime, which don't include Elite Four fights. How it works is mentioned a little bit in the chapter where Leo's reintroduced. Basically, anybody with the requisite gym badges can challenge the E4 whenever they like; it's a separate thing from the tourney. Whoever wins the tournament gets pride of place, though, and a special "priority" change to challenge the Elites right after the tournament wraps up.

    Oh, it definitely occurred to him. XD Taking the protagonist at its word on anything is a bit surprissing, yeah, but if it was lying (about Eskar giving it anything), then he still can't really do anything about it, one way or another. He doesn't have any good alternatives to trust.

    Haha, well, I didn't think it would be tremendously realistic for him to be suddenly reformed after one conversation or anything like that. It's hard to make a commitment and completely rework your life from there. So, baby steps, eh?

    To me it makes sense that it can mix and match abilities because it can also mix and match the elements of its physical form--for example when it's basically human-looking but grows big salamence claws or what have you. When it uses an ability that relies on biology, its biology does have to change to compensate. Like, it could be a charmander with the rough skin ability, but to do that it would have to become a charmander with literal rough skin, like, physically. A lot of abilities don't have a biological analog that's readily observable, though, like motor drive, so being an off-type pokémon with that ability is basically invisible.

    The protagonist definitely couldn't beat Mewtwo by transforming into a legendary pokémon. Not only is Mewtwo stronger than a lot of legendaries, but the protagonist isn't able to copy the special abilities of pokémon it turns into, so it would never be as powerful as the original incarnation--and like any pokémon, there are levels and relative skill disparities to take into place. Transforming into a pokémon doesn't automatically make the protagonist as strong as that pokémon, because it's still limited by its own skill at battling (not the best, as you've noticed) and the amount of energy it has to work with (i.e. its level). Like, if it turned into Mewtwo himself, Mewtwo would still handily kick its ***.

    I probably haven't done a great job of indicating the limits on the protagonist's power. Therre are plenty of things it doesn't do because it can't like, as Ambyssin suggested, turn into a joltik to better traverse the League building's air ducts, but it simply doesn't do them so it's not clear that it wouldn't be an option in the first place. I find it interesting that you say there's nothing really to challenge the protagonist in this story, because I thought I'd been erring on the side of too much challenge, too much failure, rather than too little! Like, the protagonist loses against Nate, against Team Rocket (in the ambush), loses Mewtwo to the Rockets in Viridian, loses to Nate's pokémon, and loses the battle against the League opponent it ends up screwing over (albeit offscreen). Even when it wins, the outcome's generally pretty close and it only scrapes by with the help of something underhanded. Did those failures just not seem significant compared to the successes? Do you think that they're unlucky breaks or that the protagonist was intending for those things to happen (e.g. let Mightyena win)? What I'm going for with the protagonist is "has a ton of power but doesn't know how to use it properly; actually kind of sucks," so it's not good that you see it as more or less invincible.

    Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed the story, and particularly the battles; I'm very proud of my battles, so it's nice to know that they don't drag on and become boring. I hope some of your problems with the protagonist will be amended as the story goes on, too.

    And thank you for writing such a wonderful comprehensive review! I really enjoyed reading it, and you brought up lots of excellent points, especially with regards to the portrayal of the protagonist. I seriously appreciate it.
     
  2. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Stuck in Alola?

    Gotta love Mewtwo pointing out the irony of Nate looking to him for help purely for selfish reasons. Also, his reaction to being abducted is surprisingly calm. I was expecting far more threats of bloody murder. My god has this fic really got me thinking that dark?

    Yeah, Eskar still clearly hasn't stopped being any less creepy. In fact, it's worse now that she's got Nate in the Sableye equivalent of a choke hold. I can't say I wasn't expecting to her to try for Mewtwo's Master Ball. Pretty predictable double-cross, but it's phrased so creepily I can't tell how insincere Eskar is.

    In case we needed reminders Mewtwo's a widdle kiddie. D'awwww. Actually, I saw a similar tactic pulled in a webcomic that Mewtwo was in (spacing on the name) so it's funny to see the same thing appear again.

    Oh, snaps, the Rocket Boss is finally make a return after all this absence. Just when it looked like MC was finally in the clear. I must admit it's strange seeing Mewtwo fighting with his fists and tail like that. I clearly haven't played enough Pokken Tournament.

    Welp, that didn't last long. Now Mewtwo's in Team Rocket's hands. Good going, MC. Ya dun goofed.

    Never mind. Absol ex machina! I'm not complaining. Didn't I say Absol might be my favorite character and I'm extraordinarily biased? Even she realizes there's no time for any snide remarks.

    There's a serious level of franticness with this whole battle scene that hasn't really popped up since MC was tailing Mewtwo to the Rocket bases several chapters back. In fact, it may be more frantic. Especially the part where the MC is flying through a veritable smorgasbord of different attacks. The psychic dampeners only add to the panic, since this time around they apparently cannot be dealt with. Even whatever ridiculous attack the MC whipped up there (Precipice Blades, maybe? It wasn't all that obvious) didn't do the trick.

    At least there's a happy(?) ending to things here. MC got away and is back at Cinnabar. It's a bit of book-ending, since the whole story started here. Of course, things are inverted. Gone are MC's "friends," with Mewtwo and Nate being here in their place. Not sure if that's a good trade off for them. Only time will tell, I guess.
     
  3. DreamSayer

    DreamSayer Dreamzone Trainer

    Well, this brings us to the final conclusion to this arc, with double crosses, double zigzag zags, double circles... Okay, I'll stop now. You did well in showing how prepared Team Rocket was for MC with the psychic dampening machines and practically ganging up on them with so many Pokemon like that. However, it's kind of weird they didn't consider the fact that the mc could fly overhead. You'd think they'd have a bunch of gravity using Pokemon hidden around the place, but I'm sure that's just a minor oversight that didn't make the story suffer. With things as they are now, I wonder how character dynamics will change from this point.

    Okay, maybe I overestimated mc's capabilities a bit, but some of those scenarios weren't as a result of the mc not being strong enough, but simply not smart enough. I was looking at Mc based on what they're truly capable of doing. It can heal quickly with moves like synthesis (that one doesn't even require any energy use from the user, but the sun), earthquake most opposition, hyper beam the others, these are things Mc can do if they want to, and that was what I based my judgment on. Sure, Superman has lost some fights, but he could destroy planets at his peak. That's the kind of what I was trying to say.
     
  4. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    Okay, but holy **** when is Nate gonna have a total mental breakdown and "I give up on life" moment because steelix isn't happening and neither is anything else he wants, probably. ;_;

    Nah, but we really didn't see much reaction from him in terms of not being able to retrieve steelix after all, which I understand is partly because of the quick pacing of the chapter and other imminent dangers looming overhead. He did seem resigned when Team Rocket was going to take him away, which was interesting, and then, he was angry at the child for taking him away from Team Rocket. Granted, he's always angry with the child, but he has no real future in Team Rocket, either. So to me it says something that he'd choose Team Rocket over the child, who's at least willing to keep him alive and functional.

    Again, the pacing in this chapter was quick, but nothing felt confusing, too rushed, and there were lots of little details scattered throughout so as to not forget anybody. Mad props for Absol's entrance to save the day in regards to Mewtwo, lol. I'm sure she'll return soon just to anger the child, as usual, though for once, the child actually seems content. Nothing went right but it's content. I think that says something, too - it very clearly likes to be in control and likes everything to go as planned, but this very much didn't. This time, the outcome is what mattered most.

    I disagree with DreamSayer and actually thought the psychic dampers did take in account the fact that the child could fly. They brought plenty of flying-type pokemon and pokemon that could shoot long range attacks, and the child couldn't quite teleport until it flew to a high altitude. I guess that was an oversight in the end, but I think Team Rocket was planning on being so well prepared that they wouldn't have to worry about the child flying past the psychic damper threshold.
     
  5. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    I love how incredibly few effs Mewtwo gives for Nate's blustering and swearing. And how Eskar gives even fewer. It just makes Nate's pottymouth all the funnier.

    There was a fleeting sense of **** close your eyes cloSE YOUR EYES... on my part, as if she were touching me instead. Not that closing one's eyes would likely do me or Nate any good whatsoever, but yeah.

    I like the idea of Mewtwo's tail being prehensile, or at least somewhat prehensile.

    Between this and the description of his speaking voice, I definitely get the impression of something who's legitimately unused to the whole audible speech thing., which of course he'd be.

    Well that's an adorable image. Tenta-hat! I like seeing ways to make hella aquatic pokémon more viable out of the water, especially when said ways look like this sort of thing.

    The getaway scene was appropriately chaotic. And the MC just voiping off to bed and leaving Nate to his noise was just such a that-character thing to do that I had to smile. :D
     
  6. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Holy HELL that was a chapter. And probably one of my favorite chapters in recent memory. Plus it finally got me to do the thing where I need to go to bed but I can’t stop reading. I think that’s a first for this fic!

    I really liked getting to see what Team Rocket is fully capable of when they’re ready and waiting and mean business. I mean, we got a little bit of that back when the child was cornered on the way to Indigo, but that was a lot more chaotic and harder to parse, and I spent half the fight thinking the child was just paranoid and imagining its attackers as Rockets. xD; But here there was nothing to distract from the fight, and the chaos flowed beautifully, weird as that is to say. And I love how solidly the Rockets took control of the situation by having psychic dampers! I gotta admit, that’s a tech that never even crossed my mind, (and that’s even considering that teleport blockers have played a critical role in my fic!) Seeing Mewtwo without his powers was just wild. And how royally screwed over the protag was by not being able to teleport.

    Also hot damn Nate is still unable to catch a break, ever. xD I know we all love to torture our OCs but damn. (Ahh, not that I’m one to talk with what I’ve got coming up.) Eskar gets special focus here. She’s been creepy before, sure, but she always had to hide it behind a mask of cordiality. And it’s really hard to pin down what’s different here, because there’s still that delightfully faux-politeness at work (“look what you made me do!”). But there’s an undercurrent of “yeah, we all know the jig is up, whatever will you do?” that somehow makes it more creepy than if her demeanor had totally changed following the reversal in power dynamics between them. If that makes any sense at all.

    Anyway, loved it. I get the feeling things are gonna take a mighty huge turn very soon. You’ve hinted that we’re about to figure out what this fic is really about, and I can’t wait.

    ~Chibi~;249;;448;
     
  7. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    I've been without my computer quite a bit over the last two weeks, so progress on the next chapter has been slow. I think what I'll aim for is to have the next chapter out for the 'fic's fifth anniversary, which is November 1st. That will finish off the first half of the story, so after a break for NaNo I can start in on the second half in December.

    This means that either I'll post Chapter 34 on November 1st, or, if I have to break the chapter in half, I'll try to post the first half around October 18th, and then the second, again, on November 1st. However, I'm not too pleased with how the chapter's looking right now; it's still a real mess. Worst case I have to split it and post the first part on Nov 1, then the second sometime later in November. One way or another, though, I will have a new chapter of some sort ready for the anniversary!

    Speaking of which, Coatl, a reader on FFN, also made some nice fanart to celebrate the 'fic's fifth birthday! Mewtwo appears!

    So, a little longer than I'd hoped for new content, but not too long (especially given the wait times for some of the chapters in this story, cough). In the meantime, review replies!

    Ambyssin

    I love having Mewtwo turn other people's words and thoughts back on them. He's such a jerk!

    Here he wasn't too bothered by being abducted, as such. He never wanted to be with Red in the first place.

    If you ever remember the name, let me know! I'm always up for checking out a fanfic/comic/whatever that features Mewtwo.

    I had fun going the physical attack route with Mewtwo... though obviously the games/anime place a lot of emphasis on his psychic abilities, he's got fine physical stats, too, and of course you want your superweapon to be able to fight well even if his primary abilities are nullified. (Haven't played much Pokken myself. Don't own a Wii U or a Switch.)

    I enjoyed having her pop up to actually help out for once, heh. Team Rocket was ready for psychics, but not for darks!

    The protagonist used an earthquake, followed by lava plume, to try to knock out the dampers. Precipice blades would have been cool, though--wish I'd thought of that.

    Yeah, there's basically a reversal of situation here that the protagonist will reflect on, too. Good outcome or bad, I have a feeling its new houseguests are going to wear out their welcome very rapidly. XD

    Thanks for reviewing! Hopefully you'll enjoy the conclusion to this arc.

    DreamSayer

    It's true, Team Rocket was definitely more worried about the protagonist's ability to escape by teleport than it getting away by more conventional means, like running/flying. Mostly they thought the overwhelming number of pokémon they brought to handle it would be able to physically restrain it and prevent it from escaping without something like teleport.

    Buuuut in retrospect throwing something in there with, like, mean look or the shadow tag ability would have made a lot of sense for them, wouldn't it? Hrrrrmph.

    Ah, I think I gotcha. Superman is actually what I'm kind of trying to go for here, albeit from a slightly different angle... Superman's practically invincible and can take on basically anyone in a fight. So what limits him isn't his abilities, but rather his morals, his attachments, the limits he places on himself: he might be able to punch a building to smithereens to get at an enemy, but if there are innocent bystanders in that building, he's not going to go that route, etc. Here the protagonist has incredible power, but its limitation is instead in its ability to use that power optimally. It isn't tremendously bright, and it has a tendency to get overemotional and lost in rages, etc.; it can easily be outsmarted or brought down by anything that doesn't bow before raw, brute force, tbh. What I want to try to get across is that it's very powerful, but not invincible, and that its real weakness is that it's honestly kind of clueless and, well, a kid.

    Thanks for reviewing and taking the time to expand more on your thoughts from the last review! I've really enjoyed getting your take on this story.

    diamondpearl876

    Quiiiite possibly once he finds out that steelix isn't happening. Going for Steelix has kind of been what's sustained him ever since, well, he lost Steelix in the first place, and after that, what will he have left?

    Yup, his conversation with Mewtwo got kind of cut off before it could really get going. He is NOT letting Mewtwo or the child off the hook on that, for sure.

    Well, it's not so much that he'd choose TR over the child as he can be glad not to have ended up with TR while also still being super pissed at the protagonist for having screwed him over and basically thrown him to TR in the first place. He also doesn't trust its intentions in rescuing him--it might have something nearly as bad, or worse, than TR did in mind for him.

    Glad to hear it! I know the previous TR pile-on chapter could get confusing at points, so it's nice to hear that this one came together better.

    Thanks, that was a fun little bit for me.

    Yeah, it's actually feeling kind of good about things right now. After all the stress throughout the League tournament, it seems like things turned out more or less okay in the end.

    Pretty much. They intended to overwhelm it with force, and they came very, very close to succeeding.

    Thanks for the review! People are making me feel even worse for Nate than I did before. Sorry, amigo, but I'm afraid it's not going to get any easier...

    Sike Saner

    Poor Nate. He tries so hard to be tough, and he still can't get any respect. XD

    Oooh, excellent. If readers get even a little bit of second hand eye scream from that scene, I'll consider it a job well done on my end!

    Huh, I actually hadn't even entertained the idea that it wouldn't be. But I guess cats don't have prehensile tails, so...

    Thanks, I really enjoyed writing the ending bit. It felt like a very "them" moment for both of those two.

    I don't even know where I first came up with the tentacool-hat idea, but I loved the image waaaay too much and was very happy to have the opportunity to actually use it this chapter.

    Thanks so much for the review! You picked some good bits out of this chapter.

    Chibi Pika

    Huh, I wasn't expecting this chapter to be a particular favorite, but I'll definitely take it! Especially if it kept you reading past bedtime--I may be mostly fuelled by the tears of unfortunate readers, but I'm also happy to subsist on their stolen sleep-hours, mwahahahaha.

    Yeah, at this point people are starting to wise up to what the child's capable of, so it can't rely on just walking into a place and having people use completely ineffective strategies against it because they have no clue what it is. It's fun developing the ways in which people would have to deal with the child as well as how it's going to get out of its various scrapes (or not). Glad the action here flowed better for you than in the last Rocket ambush chapter, too!

    Haha, I've actually been reflecting on this recently. There's less break-having than I really intended, tbh... I agree that the poor guy really deserves a rest. Perhaps a nice day at the beach? (In my defense, he's the one who always goes looking for trouble...)

    Yeah, Eskar definitely showed her true colors here. Or, rather, that she'd always been showing her true colors and she'll stay exactly the same whether she's complaining about the quality of the gemstones she's been provided with or like totally threatening to gouge some guy's eyes out for her amusement. She's a fun character to write, and I'm glad people have enjoyed reading about her, too.

    Thanks for the review! I'm really glad you enjoyed the chapter, and I hope you enjoy what's coming up, too. The story does indeed take a big turn as we head into the second half!
     
  8. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    So here we are in the middle of November!

    ...so.

    In the end I clearly didn't manage to post anything on the first after all, which honestly, given my chapter-posting history, is 100% in-character and appropriate for the story's anniversary. Ultimately I decided I was just going to post the entire thing, and damn how long it was, but that was going to be about 17,000 words and didn't get edited by the first at all. Then, last week, I decided that actually there was a reasonable break point more or less exactly in the middle, and I should in fact change my mind and break the chapter there after all, which would let me finish the editing and post it before I left on my camping trip!

    ...then I accidentally fell asleep and woke up at four AM and then had to go to the airport to spend a few days in the desert without internet.

    Which brings us to today, and the actual release of Chapter 34! The upside of all this is that Chapter 35 is actually in the final stages of editing as well and will be posted in two weeks. And the 'fic is now slightly more than five years old! Thanks to everyone who's supported the story over the years, whether by reviewing or talking to me about it or even just reading and enjoying for themselves. I'm still blown away by the positive reception this weird and rather massive story's gotten. I've had a huge amount of fun writing and posting it over the past few years, and while I hope it won't take another five years to reach the end, I do hope you'll continue to enjoy the story and especially the ending when it finally comes. Thanks, all, for reading.

    Chapter 34

    The child takes its time about returning to the beach. It's not like the great Nathaniel Morgan's going far. It follows his footprints into the jungle and finds him sitting by a small stream, eyes focused on nothing-distance while he fiddles with a splinter of wood jammed into his handcuffs' lock, manipulating it without being able to see it.

    "How long have you been doing that?" the child asks. The great Nathaniel Morgan comes out of his daze with a start and lets out a heartfelt string of curses when he realizes the motion snapped his lock-pick off in the mechanism.

    "Stay the fuck away from--oh my God, put on some fucking clothes!"

    The child frowns. "Why? It is hot."

    "Because your face is freaky enough, I really don't want to know about all the rest of you."

    "Why do you care? I have not been wearing clothes for the past two weeks."

    It takes him a moment to work that out. "Yeah, but you were all looking like a pokémon and shit, it ain't weird. Besides, infernape have, like, fur. They ain't really naked. So grow some fur or some shit." The handcuff chain clinks as he gives his hand an awkward wave.

    "It is hot," the child repeats. "And I did not come out here to talk about this."

    "So why the fuck did you, then? And don't think for one fucking second you can con me in on another one of your batshit schemes. We're fucking done, get me?"

    "I know. I do not want to work with you anymore, either."

    "Then why the fuck am I here?" the great Nathaniel Morgan snaps. He's glaring at the child like it's hideously inconvenienced him somehow, instead of saved his life. It's not like it was expecting gratitude, definitely not, but it can't suppress an annoyed frown.

    "Because Eskar went back on our deal, so she should not get to have what she wanted."

    "Like I fucking told you she would," the great Nathaniel Morgan mutters. The child carries on over him.

    "Besides, you were distracting me."

    "I was what?"

    "Now, come on, unless you want to sit around in the jungle all day. You can stay at my house if you want. I do not know how long it will be before Absol gets back."

    "Your house?"

    "Yes." What kind of question is that?

    The great Nathaniel Morgan snorts and looks away, like he might catch sight of the place between the trees. After a moment he says, "You got a healing machine in this fucking house of yours?"

    "No. But I have potions and stuff."

    "That ain't good enough," the great Nathaniel Morgan snaps. "They need a healer."

    It needs a second to figure out who "they" are, but the child supposes he's right. They did get hurt pretty bad, fighting Pikachu. "Fine. I will take them to a pokémon center," it says, and reaches for the great Nathaniel Morgan's pokéballs.

    He clumsily twists away, showing broken teeth. "Go get one."

    The child snatches its hand away, stung, and grits its teeth against an angry retort. It's not worth arguing. It only takes a few minutes to teleport to Cinnabar and find a portable healer; most trainers rely on pokémon centers and potions, but scientists and diplomats and everybody who wants to go to the deepwilds needs one, and a lot of older trainers like the convenience of having one at home. The child does have to be more careful about snagging one than usual, though; other humans can be just as bad as the great Nathaniel Morgan about clothes.

    The child dumps the healer on the ground in front of the great Nathaniel Morgan, resolved to let him figure it out himself. But then he takes ages to even get his pokéballs in it, working against clumsy handcuffed arms. The child steps towards him. The great Nathaniel Morgan jerks away so violently he nearly falls over, but the child manages to catch the handcuff chain anyway and shatter it with a pulse of energy. The great Nathaniel Morgan throws his arms out to either side before he goes over for real.

    He spends a moment vigorously massaging his arms, stretching them one at a time while staring narrow-eyed at the child. Whatever his suspicions, he punches the healer's "Go" button as soon as the machine shows green, its solar battery charged, and then he's trying to pry the top up even while it's playing its cheery finished jingle. A second later his pokémon are standing in front of him.

    "Raticate," the great Nathaniel Morgan says, "are you--?"

    Raticate turns his back on his trainer and starts grooming a shoulder, which the great Nathaniel Morgan must decide means he's fine. The great Nathaniel Morgan turns to Mightyena, who's already staring at him, tense and alert with tail up straight.

    "What happened to you?" she says.

    "You okay?" the great Nathaniel Morgan asks, running his fingers through the fur along Mightyena's jaw. She stares into his face, which is half covered in crusted blood, one eye starting to swell shut. Then she whirls on the child, fur bristling.

    "You! What did I say I would do if you hurt my trainer?"

    "I didn't do that."

    "Hey!" The great Nathaniel Morgan gets to his feet. "Mightyena!"

    "I'm sure you didn't," Mightyena rumbles, taking a stiff-legged step towards the child. "I'm sure you being here is a total coincidence!"

    "Mightyena! Stop!" the great Nathaniel Morgan barks in a classic trainer voice, loud but not desperate, stern rather than angry. Mightyena freezes, then throws a brief glance at him before dashing into the jungle.

    "Mightyena!" The great Nathaniel Morgan stumbles a couple running steps after her, but she's already gone.

    "I'll go, I'll make sure she doesn't get in trouble," Raticate stammers, and then he vanishes after her.

    "He said he is going to make sure she does not get in trouble," the child says while the great Nathaniel Morgan hollers, pointlessly, after Raticate as well.

    He rounds on the child. "What lives out there?" he demands. "What kind of pokémon?"

    "Uhh, oddish, and some tangela," the child says, caught off-guard. "There are some geodude up on the mountain, and krabby by the beach. Nothing scary. Those two have nothing to worry about," it adds once it realizes why he asked.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan stares into the trees where his pokémon disappeared. "So, are you coming with me? Or do you want to stay out here until Absol shows up with Mewtwo?" the child asks.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan sighs. "The damn absol ain't coming, Freak. Team Rocket's got ahold of her by now. You want to come up with another one of your wacky plots to get Mewtwo back, you'd better get cracking. And this time I ain't fucking going along with it, so don't even bother fucking asking."

    "They will not catch her."

    "Oh, yeah? Real damn confident, ain't you? What makes you so sure, Freak?"

    The child shrugs. "Because she is Absol."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan snorts and starts stripping off his jacket, which comes away stickily. The bottom's all shredded from your talons, which cut through his shirt and the skin under it, too. All down his stomach is dark with blood. But the child's sure they're just big scratches, nothing bad, not like when it was actually trying to hurt him. Most of his injuries are from fighting with the Rockets, even if the claw ones are the biggest.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan's oblivious to the child's scrutiny. He looks down at the broken lengths of chain dangling from his now-useless handcuffs. "Almost dislocated both my thumbs trying to get these bastards off," he mutters.

    "Do you want a softboiled? You look like you need healing."

    "No!" the great Nathaniel Morgan barks. "Fuck no. I am so done with your shitty healing shit. Or did you forget about the part where it nearly fucking killed me?"

    "It will be fine. You are not hurt that bad this time."

    "Fuck off," the great Nathaniel Morgan says, and the child clenches a fist against a hot burst of anger. "Graveler? Where are you going?"

    The child forgot about Graveler completely. She's been doing as she usually does, standing off to one side and watching calmly while her teammates have meltdowns. Now she's trundling off into the jungle herself.

    "I'm going to the mountain," she rumbles.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan watches her go, scratching at one of the cuts on his face. "Well, okay. Whatever," he grumbles. And when he catches the child's look: "So where's this fucking stupid house thing?"

    "It is not far. Are you sure you do not want--?"

    "Fuck no. Get moving already. I done enough standing around in the motherfucking jungle."

    Well, if he wants to wander around all bleeding, let him. The child follows the great Nathaniel Morgan's footprints back to the beach and then walks the curve of the shore. It ignores the sounds of the great Nathaniel Morgan struggling behind--he was the one complaining like the child was too slow.

    It's not a long walk, anyway, to reach the inlet where the child's house was built. Presumably it's a good place for tying up boats, but the child wouldn't know; none have visited since it got here, and what part of the pier hasn't been washed away is warped and brittle from long days in the sun.

    "Whoah," the great Nathaniel Morgan says as the child's house comes into view. "Damn. That's your place?"

    "Yes," it says, grinning despite itself at the awe in his voice.

    "It's fucking huge!" the great Nathaniel Morgan says. "But, uh..." The child turns to look back at him, and he flicks an uneasy glance in its direction. "I mean, you really live there? It looks like some kinda fucking haunted house or some shit. Like, it's fucking falling apart."

    "Yes, of course I live there. A tree fell on it a few years ago, that is all. It does not matter. I just do not use those rooms."

    "Yeah, that's... totally fucking reasonable, right. So how in the fuck did a freak like you end up with a goddamn mansion and, what, your own fucking private island?"

    "Somebody on Cinnabar used to own it, but they died. Now it is mine."

    "Definitely fucking haunted," the great Nathaniel Morgan mutters. He stares at the child's house with an odd expression, like maybe he's kind of sad, maybe, or maybe walking made him feel all those nasty bruises. The child doesn't bother trying to figure it out and runs on ahead again. The great Nathaniel Morgan might not be a great audience, but there's still something exciting about getting to show off its home. It's never had a real human visitor before.

    The child sprints up the saggy front steps and waits while the great Nathaniel Morgan creaks up after it. Even skinny like he is now, he still manages to be louder than the child. He's so stompy all the time.

    The child hurries on inside, but the great Nathaniel Morgan doesn't follow. The child looks back to find him staring at the faded bloodstain on the stoop, the place it stood when it came back with Thunderstorm. "Do not worry, that is not my blood," it says. "Now come on. Do you want to sleep or not?"

    The great Nathaniel Morgan doesn't look up from the old stain, but he reaches out to catch the screen door before it can slap shut. He takes a cautious step inside, his eyes roaming like he's expecting something to jump out and bite him. "It's fucking dark in here," he says. "Don't you ever turn on a fucking light?"

    "I do not need to. You can if you want. The switch is right there."

    Most of the bulbs still work. The wallpaper's blue even in the orangey light of the lamp; it's been so long since the child even bothered to look that it didn't remember. It's blue with some funny designs on it, like leaves and some kind of shield. But there isn't anything interesting in here.

    "Come on, come on. The rooms are this way," the child says, racing on deeper, light-footed on a path it knows by heart. The great Nathaniel Morgan follows at a distance, swearing and tripping over things.

    "Jesus Christ, it's like some kind of bullshit ninja training thing, like you gotta make it to the other side of the room without tripping over a shitty toy," he grumbles, kicking aside a dusty vaporeon plush. "I nearly broke my fucking neck on those goddamn tiny cars out in the hall."

    "Do not mess with my toys!"

    "I don't want to fuck with your shitty toys, they keep trying to fucking kill me!"

    "Would you keep it down? Some of us have work to do."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan jumps at the unexpected voice. "Holy fuck! What're you doing here?"

    Leonard Kerrigan stands in the door to the study, his porygon-Z floating just behind. It scoots out of sight when it catches the child looking--it tried to defend its trainer, back when the child first brought him here, but then the child punched it through a wall, and it's been avoiding the child ever since.

    "See? I told you I did not kill him! I have been feeding him and everything!"

    "I suppose if you consider a package of uncooked hot dogs and one cupcake a meal."

    "Well of course I was not going to give you both cupcakes. The other one was for me," the child says.

    "Oh. Uh, well, I guess it's nice to see you with, uh, pants on this time," the great Nathaniel Morgan says with a crooked sort of smile.

    "Mmm," is all Leonard Kerrigan says, and the long silence seems to make the great Nathaniel Morgan anxious.

    "Look, just what in the fuck is he doing here?" he snaps.

    "He is a hacker! He is hacking the computer we got from Team Rocket," the child says. "So we can find out where Mew is and go save her!"

    "Yes. Well. At the moment what I'm trying to do is find unpatched vulnerabilities in the computer's software, which has been difficult without being able to look anything up on the internet."

    "No internet for you. I am not stupid."

    "So you keep saying," Leonard Kerrigan says dryly. "I need you to go back to the library, unless your accomplice here is going to be in charge of fetching things. Maybe I can finally get some books without having to listen to fifteen minutes of complaining and then spend an hour giving precise instructions on where to look for it." He holds out a scrap of paper with a list scribbled on it, offering it to the great Nathaniel Morgan and the child in turn.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan recoils like Leonard Kerrigan's holding a viper. "Fuck no! I ain't your fucking gopher!"

    "No? I thought fetching things was the only thing Rocket grunts were good for."

    "I will take care of it," the child grumbles, grabbing the list and stuffing it in a pocket to deal with later. "Get back to work."

    "Yes, I suppose I'll go back to staring at a blank screen until you bring me those books and I can actually continue my work," Leonard Kerrigan says blandly. The great Nathaniel Morgan's brow creases in a frown as he watches Leonard Kerrigan disappear back into the study.

    "Okay, you can pick a room," the child says. "Mine is the one right at the top of the stairs, and I think Leonard Kerrigan took the one at the far end of the hall, so not those. But any of the other--"

    "Whoah, whoah, hang the fuck on. You know I'm totally fucking stoked to check into the fucking Hoarder Hotel, here, but how long is this gonna take? I told you, I'm done with your bullshit. You lost Mewtwo, and that means you ain't got no way to know where Steelix is, so we're done."

    "Absol will bring Mewtwo soon. Then you can talk to him and leave whenever you want."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan snorts. "Yeah, sure." But he rubs his face with a hand, staring down the hall and its long line of doorways with a wistful expression on his face. He must be tired, and the child doubts he really wants to sleep out on the ground. "One night, okay? Your fucking absol doesn't show up tomorrow, I'm out."

    The child shrugs. "Fine. I do not want you hanging around here, either."

    "Cool. Fuck you," he says, and picks his way down the hallway, slipping on a rogue marble despite his care and having to grab the wall to save himself. The child waits until a slamming door confirms that he's made a selection, then wanders out to the living room, where it curls on the couch to watch television.

    It's almost funny. Somehow the child's friends have gone, and its house is full of enemies instead. It draws its knees up to its chest while the light of a Transformozords rerun flickers across its face, not really paying attention. At least Absol will get back soon. With Mewtwo. So it will have friends again.

    The child hugs its knees tighter against its chest and tries to concentrate on what it's watching. Yes. Friends. It will be good to be with friends again.

    --​

    The child wakes in groggy stages the next morning, slowly coming to realize that what it's hearing is television-noise. The sun's barely risen, flashing golden through the trees, and the child fumes, lets itself stomp as it goes to see what's happening. There's only one person who'd put the TV on that loud when other people are trying to sleep.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan's sprawled luxuriously across the couch with what looks like the child's entire stock of milk and cereal arrayed around him, messily crunching through an overflowing bowl of Sugar Rowlets while he watches the news. Raticate's curled up by his feet with his own box of cereal, eating food and cardboard indiscriminately.

    "Why could you not get up this early when we were supposed to be battling?" the child snaps.

    "Oh hey, Freak," the great Nathaniel Morgan says with a hideous gap-toothed smile. "Morning to you too. Couldn't sleep so great in your fucking haunted mansion, I guess. All kinds of weird rustling and running feet and shit. Fucking creepy."

    "It is not haunted. Those are just wild pokémon and animals and things. They live in some of the empty rooms." Rats used to keep them away, but they must have come creeping back. The child heard them, too, lying awake last night. Waiting.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan leans back with his arms behind his head, looking entirely too content for someone covered in half-healed cuts and one eye blacked shut. "Ain't a bad TV you got here, Freak. Been thinking I might get one exactly like it."

    The child scoffs. "It is so big you would never be able to steal it."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan smiles lazily and murmurs, "Try me."

    On television the newscaster says, "The whereabouts of Mewtwo remain unknown. Prime Minister Arai addressed the region earlier today, urging gym leaders to remain on high alert and emphasizing that the regional government would be working closely with the Indigo League to recover the super-clone.

    "Although Team Rocket has denied any involvement in the incident, calls for inquiry have resumed after the revelation that the trainer whose pokémon assaulted Red may have had ties to the team."

    A picture of the great Nathaniel Morgan, looking especially sinister with one of his nasty smirks on his face, appears on screen. The real thing lets out a whoop of laughter. "Look at that, I'm fucking famous! All those losers back at base can suck it." He grabs the box of Sugar Rowlets and pours them directly into his mouth, cheeks bulging grotesquely as he chews, watching the newscaster discuss his exploits with undisguised amusement.

    The child hovers beside the couch, watching footage of its own battle against Blastoise with growing unease. "Great Nathaniel Morgan, there was something I wanted to ask you about the battle against the Champion," it blurts at last, but the great Nathaniel Morgan waves it off.

    "Later. First, me and Raticate gotta talk."

    Raticate raises his head from the cardboard carnage in front of him, ears flicking in surprise. The great Nathaniel Morgan scrabbles for the remote to turn off the TV and sits up straight, his perverse amusement falling away.

    Nervousness clutches the child's stomach, and it wishes it hadn't spoken up. It really, really doesn't want to get caught in the middle of another fight between the great Nathaniel Morgan and his pokémon, and it already knows things are going to turn bad when Raticate says, "This is about the battle with Pikachu, isn't it? You really want to hear me say it? Fine. You were right. I wasn't strong enough. I lost. Are you happy now?"

    The great Nathaniel Morgan scowls at the child while it hesitates. If only someone else could be his stupid translator. The child repeats Raticate's words, fast, trying to get it over with.

    At least the great Nathaniel Morgan stops glaring at it after that. It's Raticate who gets his look of open-mouthed shock. "No! I mean, Jesus, no, that ain't it. I'm talking about the thing where you wouldn't come back when I told you to. What the fuck was up with that?"

    "Like I said, Nate, I wasn't strong enough. I wanted to keep fighting, but you were right, it didn't make a difference. Are we done?"

    "No," the great Nathaniel Morgan says. Raticate's staring pointedly at the blank television screen instead. "Listen," the great Nathaniel Morgan says, "you can't do that shit, okay? It's dangerous. Like, you could've fucking died."

    "Oh, get over it, Nate. I'm not going to die in some stupid tournament match."

    "Accidents happen," the great Nathaniel Morgan says firmly. "And they happen especially when you're dealing with something like that goddamned Pikachu. And even if you didn't die, you could've ended up really hurt, like paralyzed for real or something. That's why I told you to return, get me? It wasn't safe. Like, that's the entire fucking reason I'm there, to make sure you don't get hurt. So when you don't listen, it's like what am I even fucking there for, you know? Like what's the point?"

    Raticate shifts a bit, tucking his front paws under his body with his chin resting on the edge of the seat cushion. "You don't get it."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan sighs and leans back into the couch. "Get what?"

    "It's not the same for humans. You don't battle. But for pokémon, being strong is everything. If you want anyone to take you seriously, if you want to live somewhere nice, if you even want to eat, sometimes, you have to be able to fight, and you have to be able to win. So if I can't, what good am I?"

    "What? It ain't like that, you're way more than--"

    "And you know, raticate are weak pokémon," Raticate says blandly. "Fine for starting trainers, but they're no good for high-level competition. Newbie trash. What kind of trainer brings a raticate to the championship?"

    "Don't be fucking stupid," the great Nathaniel Morgan says. "I mean, you were fighting Red. He has a fucking pikachu, and everybody knows those aren't for serious trainers. But he's still motherfucking terrifying."

    Raticate looks at him sidelong, whiskers tilted up in the beginning of a smile. "Oh, so there are some kinds of pokémon that aren't meant for serious trainers?"

    "What? No, that's not what I--"

    "Face it, Nate. You need strong pokémon, and I'm a raticate. I can work really hard, and I'll get better, but I'm always going to be weak. And if I can't fight, if I can't win, then..."

    "That's bullshit!" the great Nathaniel Morgan snaps. "It don't matter. Even if you never won a single goddamned match, I wouldn't care."

    "Oh, really? When you were in Team Rocket, what would have happened if you failed a job because you couldn't take out a guard or a trainer who got in your way? Or what if you got hurt because your pokémon couldn't protect you? If you can't do your job, you don't get paid, and if you don't get paid, we all don't eat. You need strong pokémon."

    "Well, Rocket feeds you as long as you don't fuck up too many times," the great Nathaniel Morgan says automatically, then shakes his head and goes on, "And anyway, it don't matter. Like I said, you're fucking amazing. Ain't nobody lasted as long as you did against Pikachu. Nobody!"

    "Sure, maybe. But it's always going to be harder for me than for other pokémon. I mean if you had, oh, if you had a metagross, and you put the same amount of effort into training it as you do for me, it would be way stronger than me by now. You probably could have beat Pikachu with your own team, if you had a metagross instead of a raticate."

    "But I don't want a metagross!" the great Nathaniel Morgan says, an edge of hysteria in his voice. "Only rich assholes use those!" He hesitates, then gathers an unresisting Raticate up in his arms.

    "I'm sorry, buddy," the great Nathaniel Morgan says, rubbing his fingers through Raticate's fur. "I had no idea... I didn't know it meant that much to you. I didn't mean nothing by it, I swear. And if I ever said anything, or if I ever, if I ever did anything to make you think I'd only like you if you were strong or shit like that, I'm sorry, I swear I didn't mean it. I swear I wouldn't care even if you were a lardass who ate all my food and napped in the sun all day." A brief smile passes across the great Nathaniel Morgan's face as he's privy to some amusing mental image. "And that would be the best thing, wouldn't it? To not have to fight no more?"

    Raticate hangs in the great Nathaniel Morgan's arms, ignoring his trainer's stroking. "It's nice of you to say that, Nate, but this is how it is. Pokémon battle. It's what we're for. And if you're not good at battling, then you're not a very good pokémon, either."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan sighs and hugs Raticate close under his chin, staring at the wreckage of half-empty cereal boxes strewn across the table. "This is... a lot more than I thought, Raticate," he says. "We need to talk more later. We gotta talk." But for a second his gaze slides over to you, and you know he must be thinking the same thing you are: there can't be any later, not like this. Because he's leaving.

    "Nothing to talk about, Nate."

    "Later. But right now, I need you to promise me you won't ignore me when I tell you to return again, okay? I'm only gonna do that when it's serious, so if you don't... If you do like you did against Pikachu, I can't do it, okay? I can't have nobody risking their life for me. If I say it's time to stop, you stop, okay? Promise me."

    "Nobody's risking their life--"

    "Please," the great Nathaniel Morgan says. "I'm serious, Raticate. I can't do it. If you're gonna be like that, we can't work together. Simple as that."

    "Fine," Raticate says at length. "Whatever you say, Nate."

    "You mean it? Because if you're just saying yes now to get me off your--"

    "Yes, Nate, I promise," Raticate says. He squirms out of the great Nathaniel Morgan's embrace and crawls back to his spot on the couch, turning his back on his trainer. "Or are you going to tell me you don't trust me to keep my word now, either?"

    "Thanks, Raticate," the great Nathaniel Morgan says softly. He sits there watching Raticate for so long that the child starts to consider how best to sneak off without getting noticed. Finally the great Nathaniel Morgan says, "It's okay to fight, you know, if you want to. But it's okay to stop, too."

    Raticate doesn't say anything, and at last the great Nathaniel Morgan gets up to leave. After a moment's indecision the child hurries after, only for the great Nathaniel Morgan to stop at the screened door. He hooks his fingers into the edge of the screen while he stares through it to the beach and the ocean beyond.

    "Great Nathaniel Morgan..." the child says when he doesn't do anything but stand there for a few minutes.

    "And what about you, huh?" the great Nathaniel Morgan says. "Why the fuck did you flip out against that Blastoise? You shoulda had things in the bag." He turns towards the child, and now it looks like he's properly feeling his injuries. "Just please Christ don't tell me it somehow has to do with your weird daddy issues or whatever the fuck, I can't even deal with more of that bullshit right now."

    "That is what I wanted to ask you about," the child says. "Did you notice anything strange about the blastoise? Or the rest of the Champion's pokémon?"

    "No," the great Nathaniel Morgan says. "I mean, they're freaky strong and all, but I already knew that."

    "Not that," the child says. "They did not talk, I mean I think they did not know how, I tried but they would not say anything to me, and they were all weird and like they did not even feel pain or anything!"

    The great Nathaniel Morgan shakes his head slowly. "No. I mean, I guess they were quiet and all, but it's like a serious match, most people ain't gonna talk much. And sure, they tanked pretty fucking well, but--"

    "And when I looked at Blastoise like with aura he looked all wrong! Like he was rotting or something. So I thought... he might be a zombie. And then he bit me..."

    The child's expecting the great Nathaniel Morgan to make fun of it for that, is prepared to say it's not stupid, it totally made sense, but the great Nathaniel Morgan just rubs the back of his neck slowly, face slack and vacant with thought. "Never heard of nothing like that, Freak. And I mean, sure, I guess Red's pokémon were kinda weird, be he's kinda fucking weird, and I don't think it means nothing."

    "I saw! There is something wrong with them, all of them, and I think the Champion, too. And I was thinking, what if Mewtwo--"

    "Oh, Jesus. Like I even give a shit if that bastard has aura cancer or whatever the fuck. Long as he gives Steelix back I don't give one single ounce of a fuck what else." The great Nathaniel Morgan examines the child a moment. "So the blastoise bit you, but you didn't get, like, sick or nothing, did you?"

    "No. But I do not get sick anyway, so that could be it. It was dumb to be afraid, I just got freaked out because I have never seen anything like it."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan nods slowly, expression still abstracted. "Well, it's weird, I guess, but ain't our problem, right? God knows I hope I never see Red again in my fucking life."

    "I guess not," the child says. The great Nathaniel Morgan nods.

    "I'm gonna go find Graveler," he says. "She's rolling around out there, I can hear her."

    The child can hear her, too, or feel more than hear, a rumble through the ground like heavy equipment moving somewhere not far off. Sometimes the jungle rings with the gunshot crack of a snapped tree, the ripping noise of something tearing through vegetation.

    "Go on, then. You said you are leaving tonight?"

    "At the latest. If that Absol actually fucking shows up, I'm getting Steelix, and then I'm gone."

    "Okay," the child says. It stands watching by the door until the blare of the TV makes it jump, then hurries back to the living room to wrestle a box of cereal from Raticate before there's nothing left at all for its breakfast.

    --​

    The child's on the couch again while the light outside turns orange-golden and the shadows grow, watching TV with a kind of desperate inattention. Despite itself, it might be worried. It knows Absol isn't going to get caught by a bunch of Rockets--if absolutely nothing else, she would have seen that, would have warned the child. But maybe she got hurt, or maybe even Mewtwo's done something. Maybe he decided he didn't need the child after all and would be better off on his own.

    All the while the child keeps expecting to hear the great Nathaniel Morgan's footsteps as he comes to demand that it take him back to the mainland. It's so busy listening for him that it doesn't even notice Absol until she sweeps past the couch. She doesn't acknowledge the child, either, doesn't even slow down. The minimized master ball between her teeth sets up a mosquito whine of psychic energy at the back of the child's skull.

    "Absol," the child says, grinning, and reaches down to dig its fingers into her ruff. She turns and gives it a polite "were you talking to me?" look. "They didn't catch you!"

    "No." There's something smug in the way her eyes scrunch up, a bit of amusement or a smile. The child has to smile itself, relieved and exasperated at the same time. Not that it had ever really been worried. Absol is just Absol.

    The child takes the master ball and cups it between its hands, feeling vaguely ridiculous hunched over and staring at it. "Mewtwo?"

    Finally, he grouses, and though it comes freighted with annoyance and resentment, his tiny, squeaky voice makes the child work to suppress a laugh. Let me out.

    The child swallows its amusement. In its head plays a memory of the great Nathaniel Morgan, breathless and desperate: Don't let him out!

    "Mewtwo, do you know what happened to the Champion's pokémon?" the child finds itself asking.

    What? Impatience crackles in his mental voice. This isn't more of this zombie nonsense, is it?

    "So you didn't do anything to them? You don't know... what happened?"

    Do something to those morons? What would be the point? Now let. Me. OUT.

    The child traces little circles on the master ball's shiny top but keeps its fingers far away from the release button. Absol watches closely, inscrutable. Is this some kind of test? "Thank you... for not telling the great Nathaniel Morgan about his steelix," the child says at last.

    Hilarious, isn't it? the clone says, and his amusement fills the child's head, the kind of feeling it gets when it thinks of something funny at an inappropriate moment. So desperate and hopeful without the faintest clue what's actually going on. It's almost a pity. It would have been entertaining, seeing how far we could make him go to get his precious pokémon back, but in the end it's better that Team Rocket take him.

    The child's starting to feel nauseous, Mewtwo's good humor clashing weirdly with its own unease. "Mewtwo..."

    You did WHAT? the master ball roars at it, so loud the child flinches even though Mewtwo still sounds like he's on helium.

    "Eskar lied! I couldn't just--"

    Yes, you could, you absolute imbecile. And then you brought the human here. Here! Now let me out. Let me out!

    "But Mewtwo, it doesn't matter. He's all alone and sick anyway, he can't do anything! Besides, it... it would be fun, wouldn't it? Like you said. We can make him do whatever we--"

    You absolute moron. He knows about this place now. He already knew too much about you, and me, and Mew, and now you go and hand him even more? Let me out.

    "What are you going to do?" the child asks, and it can't tell whether its heart is pounding with fear or with the gift of Mewtwo's anger.

    I'm going to correct your mistake, obviously, the clone says. The human has served its purpose. It's not safe to keep around. I thought Team Rocket would take care of it, but no, you had to interfere. Now let me out.

    "No!" the child says, with a wild glance at Absol. She looks back blankly. Of course. She can't even hear what Mewtwo's saying. Mewtwo's curses echo inside the child's skull. "Tell me where my pokémon are! Then I will let you out."

    You're going to ignore me? Mewtwo rants back. You sit there and let that Rocket walk around free and leave me imprisoned? Have you forgotten what that human's done? What all of Team Rocket's done? To us? To our mother?

    "Stop it!" Tears tickle the corners of the child's eyes, and it's gripping the master ball so hard the muscles stand out in its wrists. "Stop being mean! Just tell me where my pokémon are, you know you'll need to eventually, Mewtwo, we have to have them. Please--"

    Let me out! the clone bellows back, tinny and high-pitched. You worthless creature! You think I'm being mean and that justifies imprisonment? You don't have any idea, you've never been in a pokéball--

    "Stop it!" the child screams, and hurls the master ball across the room, so hard it dents the far wall. The clone's raging cuts out abruptly, too far away now to feel.

    Absol presses up against the child's leg, looking up at it with narrowed eyes. "Are you all right?"

    The child pants, trying to get its equilibrium back. It doesn't want to try and explain to Absol, doesn't want to start some kind of argument, but with a flash of resolve it knows what it does want to do. It wipes its eyes with the back of one hand and marches across the room to retrieve the master ball.

    Mewtwo beams seething anger into its head, but it ignores that and all Mewtwo's blistering mental invective while it carries the master ball out onto the beach. The great Nathaniel Morgan isn't far away, napping in the shade at the edge of the jungle while Raticate and Mightyena play down by the water.

    The child doesn't even have to wake him up. Mewtwo's anger sweeps out in front of it like a wave, and the great Nathaniel Morgan sits up before the child can even reach him, frowning groggily. "The fuck do you want?" he snaps.

    The child holds the master ball out to him. "Absol brought Mewtwo. He won't say where our pokémon are."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan leans forward, eagerly snatching the ball away from the child. "We'll just see about that," he growls, and the child stands back to watch the master work.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan is the most stubborn, annoying person the child knows, so if there's anyone who can out-frustrate Mewtwo, make the clone finally give up and tell the child where to find its pokémon, it would have to be him. At worst it thinks they might kind of cancel each other out, their unpleasant personalities colliding and annihilating each other like some kind of cosmic event. But while the great Nathaniel Morgan's in top fuck-you form, Mewtwo acts like he doesn't care about the human's threats, his taunts, his endless string of curses. Finally the great Nathaniel Morgan's reduced to screaming and shaking the master ball impotently. "You sick bastard, if all you're going to do is sit in there and fuck with me, then fine, you can fucking rot!"

    I can't feel that, you know, Mewtwo says, and the great Nathaniel Morgan shakes him even more viciously, then slams the master ball down in the sand. The great Nathaniel Morgan crosses his arms, drawing his knees up to his chest and directing a furious scowl out across the ocean. The child, disappointed, picks up the now smugly-bubbling master ball and tosses it away, not so far that it's out of sight, but far enough that it can't hear Mewtwo and vice versa.

    "What the fuck is this?" the great Nathaniel Morgan fumes. "First he acts like if we even think something he doesn't like he's going to pop out of there and fucking murder us, and now he's going on like if not for us he's never going to see the fucking sun again."

    "He was bluffing the last time," the child says, giving the master ball a disapproving look. "There is no way he can break out of there. It is a master ball. That is the entire point."

    "Oh, yeah. It is, ain't it?" The great Nathaniel Morgan rests his chin on his arms. "How the hell did Red catch the bastard in the first place, is what I want to know. Mewtwo would've felt him coming a mile off, wouldn't he? He'd know what the master ball was. He could've like psy-crushed it from a thousand yards or some shit. So how the hell'd he end up caught?"

    The child hadn't really thought about it, but now with what it's seen of Red, and his pokémon... maybe that had something to do with it.

    "Musta just packed enough heat to knock Mewtwo out, then pulled the ball out of storage real fast and clocked him with it," the great Nathaniel Morgan says. "Woulda taken more than just his team, though. Even that Pikachu would be pretty easy for Mewtwo to beat."

    "They always say Red did it by himself."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan waves the words away. "Yeah, yeah, they say."

    The child realizes the great Nathaniel Morgan is watching his pokémon. The play-fighting between Raticate and Mightyena's escalated to real fighting, sand spraying in all directions and ribbons of dark energy twisting through the air. After a few minutes some winner must be decided because Raticate comes limping over to the great Nathaniel Morgan, who digs a couple of potions out of his backpack--those are the child's potions, it realizes sourly--and passes them over without comment.

    "A guy could get used to this, Freak," the great Nathaniel Morgan says, looking out at the ocean, then up into the palm fronds overhead, swaying and clattering in the sea breeze.

    "It is my island," the child says warningly. "I thought you were going to leave."

    "No point. Mewtwo's got Steelix, right? So ain't going nowhere else is gonna help me find him." The great Nathaniel Morgan sighs. "Less you're saying you're gonna kick me out, that is."

    "Yes, Mewtwo does have your steelix," the child says immediately. "And I guess you can stay for a little bit. As long as you are not annoying." But what are the chances of that?

    "Works for me," the great Nathaniel Morgan says. "You need me around anyway to keep an eye on Kerrigan, since you fucking suck at kidnapping. And I would know, you know?"

    "I do not," the child says and, narrowing its eyes. "How did you even get away last time, anyway?"

    "Ah, yeah, that was pretty good, wasn't it?" the great Nathaniel Morgan says cheerfully. "Bet if I was you, I'd really want to know, too."

    "Very funny," the child says. It picks up the master ball, cradling the black hole of anger gingerly between its hands. "If you keep annoying me, I am going to send you back to the mainland, and good luck finding your steelix then."

    "Guess I better pack," the great Nathaniel Morgan says, but smiling like it's a joke.

    "I mean it," the child replies, trying to shove Mewtwo's thoughts aside. The clone keeps blasting it with all the reasons it should murder the human right here and now, or even better let Mewtwo out to do it himself. The great Nathaniel Morgan raises a hand in acknowledgement, or perhaps a gesture of sarcastic farewell. After moment of thinking about punting him to some remote corner of Kanto the child decides it doesn't care enough, and besides, letting the great Nathaniel Morgan hang around can't be the worst decision ever if Mewtwo hates the idea that much. It holds the master ball delicately, as if hot, and goes back down to the house to think of what to do next.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2017
  9. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Stuck in Alola?

    So I think I can confirm that the MC is most child-like in their behavior whenever they're in the child form. The opening was pretty funny, because I feel like "I don't wanna wear clothes cause it's hot," is pretty spot-on logic for, like, a toddler or something. And then the kid's lack of logical responses to Nate's points were great backup (especially the "Because she's Absol" bit).

    I may be wrong on this, but these read to me like you accidentally slipped into the second person narration style.

    Leonard says what we're all thinking! XD

    On the flip side, it's always surreal seeing Nate's genuine concern for his team. Of course, the cursing doesn't exactly make it all that heartwarming. But you can tell he's got a heart of sorts. Warped and twisted, but definitely there.

    Just wanted to pick out this tidbit because it struck a familiar cord. I've seen this logic used in Nuzlocke comics before, to justify the whole "agreeing to battle for a human," bit. Alternatively, it's an antithesis to Team Plasma's "You people treat Pokémon like slaves!" logic. And man, Raticate's totally on the mark about the Route 1 newbie fodder stuff. Now I feel guilty for boxing my Zigzagoons, Bidoofs, and Yungooses.

    Somebody get Steven Stone a Burn Heal! Not a fan, or did you just put that in for fun?

    Think you meant to italicize this, yes?

    As for Mewtwo's and Absol's reappearance... oh god, is he implying that Nate's Steelix is actually dead? Well, that would be a real kick in the teeth (oh wait, he's already broken all of those). And then the MC starts to hardcore argue with Mewtwo. It's like an older brother bullying a younger sister or something. Guess they're really siblings after all. You do still do a good job of giving Mewtwo a childish tint to his arguing, even though he's making more sense than the MC right now. I also like how you tease me of the possibility that the whole Phazon possession stuff with Red could have played a role in Mewtwo's capture. Now it makes me really curious what the deal is.
     
  10. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    Huh, interesting. I hadn't really thought that there was much difference between how the child acts when in human form versus pokémon form, but we're 2/2 so far in people mentioning it in comments on this chapter. :p

    And yeah, I have a bit of fun with the child-logic. Absol's basically the protagonist's surrogate parent, so even though it finds her exasperating, she also has a kind of god-like status in its mind.

    Somewhere in there, for sure! One thing he and the protagonist can agree on is that they love pokémon... but they probably would have to pretend they totally don't agree, because ugh, they don't want to be like that guy! XD

    I wasn't thinking about the parallel when I was writing the scene, but during edits I did notice the Nuzlocke connection, yeah. I kind of hate the scene that's common in a lot of Nuzlockes where one/more pokémon dies, then all the rest of the pokémon have to comfort the trainer and say that them continuing to train (and thus risk getting more mons killed) is what so-and-so would have wanted, don't let their death be in vain, etc. I'd at least like to think most people would be uncomfortable putting others in a situation where they might die! So I guess this was a little commentary that kind of got slipped in.

    No commentary here, though. I like Steven fine, but Nate definitely doesn't.

    Nah, Mewtwo has absolutely no idea where Steelix is. So he might be dead, but Mewtwo wouldn't know that.

    They absolutely do squabble like siblings! That's the one constant in this fanfic... squabbling. :p And we'll definitely hear how Mewtwo was captured eventually, though I don't think it will be anything like what people expect, heh.

    And thanks for the corrections! I had a lot of problems staying in second person for this chapter, and I don't know why. Next one's probably going to have some of the same issues creep in, too. -_-; And thank you for taking the time to review! I hope you'll enjoy the next part of the chapter, too.

    --

    No real updates here, since like I said the next chapter is more or less complete and will actually release on schedule assuming I have internet that day, which I might not because I'm going camping again soon, but we'll see. In the meantime I'm hard at work on NaNoWriMo, which I had to start around two weeks late because I was working on these danged chapters during the beginning of the month. help me im dying It's going well enough!
     
  11. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    Author's Notes: And here we go! End of the first part of the story. Feel free to try and imagine this one combined with the last to form one mind-meltingly huge chapter if you like.

    I'd also like to give a shout-out to symcbean, Steve Barnes, and Simon B on StackExchange Information Security for helping me figure out what Leo should be up to this chapter.

    Chapter 35

    After a couple days the child realizes that letting the great Nathaniel Morgan stay was basically the same as inviting a wild animal into its home: now he knows there's food and shelter here, he's never going to leave.

    Food in particular is a problem. The great Nathaniel Morgan complains constantly when he doesn't have any, but whenever the child goes out and buys some he eats it all within a few hours and starts complaining again. The only thing he won't touch is stuff for the pokémon, but when the child tried buying some cookies and claiming they were for Raticate and Mightyena he went and ate them anyway. He's so annoying.

    Aside from eating or saying he wants to eat, all the great Nathaniel Morgan seems to do is sleep. The child keeps finding him passed out in front of the television, on the beach, in the kitchen, wherever it goes. The child doesn't know whether to be grateful that he isn't awake and causing trouble or annoyed by how boring he is. At least he stopped making a fuss about clothes once the child took to wearing the smiling-mantine swim trunks it uses when it's pretending to be a deep-sea explorer.

    Raticate seems to enjoy crawling into the house's nooks and crannies just as much as Rats, but fortunately he doesn't bother Rats' actual nest. The child's caught him nearby more than once, up on his hind legs and sniffing the air like he's trying to suss the place out from a distance. The child hopes he stays away; Rats would be furious to know there'd been another raticate climbing around in there.

    Meanwhile Graveler stays out on the mountainside, rolling down and climbing up over and over again. The great Nathaniel Morgan says that's just how she is, sometimes pokémon do weird shit and at least she seems like she's having fun, and also not to fu‌cking wake him up if that was all it wanted to ask. And Mightyena--Mightyena shows up for meals, wolfs down her food, and leaves. She and the great Nathaniel Morgan ignore each other whenever they end up together, and the child thinks they're both trying to make sure that's rare.

    "I can't just not feed her," the great Nathaniel Morgan says one dinnertime when he catches the child watching her. "She ain't never been in the wild before. She don't know how to get grub on her own."

    "She asked me to help with that, so we've been practicing on stuff in the jungle. It's not hard. She'll get it pretty quick," Raticate says. He only realizes his mistake when the great Nathaniel Morgan stops chewing and stares. "I mean, that's good, right? If she wants to live in the wild some day, she has to know, and if something happens now she can--"

    "Yeah. Of course. It's fu‌cking great," the great Nathaniel Morgan says. He throws down his fork and abandons nearly half his dinner, and Raticate's too miserable to even eat the rest for him.

    Sometimes the child finds the great Nathaniel Morgan with the master ball, either yelling at it or sitting with it next to him, head in hands. He doesn't sleep when the master ball's around. The child thinks it might have been a bad idea to give him the ball in the first place, and that he shouldn't keep trying to argue with Mewtwo, but the great Nathaniel Morgan wouldn't listen if it tried telling him that.

    It's not like the child's own conversations with the clone go any better. At breakfast: "Why are you being so stubborn? I'll let you out as soon as I get my pokémon back. Not telling me just means you have to stay in your ball longer."

    And if you would just let me out, you would have your precious pokémon back in no time at all.

    "That's what you say, but what you do is leave me behind and go off and kill people. You know I'll keep my end of the deal. I don't know that about you."

    Very true, Mewtwo muses. After all, you're so trustworthy you lied to the human and the sableye both to get what you wanted out of them.

    The child grits its teeth. "You can read my mind. You know I'm not lying about this."

    From inside here? I'm lucky to catch a whisper of a thought. You could be plotting to throw this master ball into the ocean and I'd never have a clue.

    The child tries again out on the beach, its feet buried in the sand and the master ball resting on a mound next to them. "You didn't even ask my pokémon if they wanted to stay with me or not. Keeping them locked up somewhere in their pokéballs isn't giving them their freedom at all."

    What would be the point of asking? They've been brainwashed into thinking they want what you want.

    "Brainwashed? Are you serious?" the child snaps. "So if they disagree with you, it's not what they really think, they must be brainwashed, is that it?"

    No. They might disagree for their own reasons. Then they'd just be wrong.

    And in the evening when the child's bored by the news and waiting for a commercial break: "I'm a good trainer, Mewtwo. You know I am. You can see it! You can see how much I care about my pokémon. I miss them. There is no reason for you to keep them from me."

    A good trainer, Mewtwo muses. Caring about them is what makes you a good trainer? Caring is all you need?

    "No, I mean, there's more to it than that. But I'm nice to them, and I listen to them, and I don't make them do anything they don't want to do."

    So you would never, say, keep one of them confined to their pokéball if they didn't do what you want--

    The child hurls the master ball at a wall and doesn't bother going back to pick it up. Absol brings it over after a few hours and leaves it humming smugly to itself by the child's side. Reluctantly the child picks it up and stuffs it in the desk drawer where it normally resides, then wanders off to think about anything else.

    So Mewtwo's bad, and dealing with Leonard Kerrigan's hardly better. He's who the child's really waiting on--it can't go anywhere until he's finished and it knows where it actually needs to go. But he's never working when it looks in on him.

    "How is this even hacking?" it demands, glaring at the books and printouts scattered across the carpet--things it brought, stuff it did, when Leonard Kerrigan's the one who's supposed to be working on this. The human's typing away on the laptop the child got for him, which it figures is safe enough without his special hacker programs or an internet connection. The child looks at his screen. "What is with all of these dumb black boxes? There should be graphs and pictures and moving things!"

    "How exactly would an animation be helpful?"

    "I do not know, that is just how it works. How do you not know this? You should at least have something 3D by now."

    "I suppose this is what I get for not studying at the PokéStar School of Computer Espionage," Leonard Kerrigan says blandly.

    "I am starting to wonder whether you are a real hacker," the child says warningly.

    "Don't you have anything better to do?"

    And the problem is the child really doesn't. It leaves Leonard Kerrigan to his supposed real, actual hacking, but every time it sits down to do something else it's up again five minutes later, pacing, walking up and down the beach, feeling like it has to move but not knowing where to go. It can't pay attention through a full episode of even Transformozords, and it can't play with Absol, not really; she seems to be mad at it about something, but of course she won't explain why or how to make it better.

    So in a way the child's glad to see the great Nathaniel Morgan awake and lurking in the kitchen when it comes in to check the fridge, which is empty again. An argument with him is at least something to do.

    "You know, you could totally hold tours here, Freak. Like, show people all the crazy alien artifacts and shit," the great Nathaniel Morgan says, gesturing at the crowded countertops, the stack of pots he had to move to take a seat at the table. "I mean, what the fu‌ck is this, anyway?" He holds up a gleaming metal instrument, all toothy gears and flywheels.

    The child shrugs. "I think it is for turnips."

    "The fu‌ck is a turnip?"

    "I do not know, some kind of egg, maybe?"

    The great Nathaniel Morgan shakes his head and puts the thing down next to an unplugged countertop grill and a juicer with an intimidating number of buttons. "Point is, even if you did find you a fu‌cking turnip, you couldn't fling it or whatever the fu‌ck because your entire goddamned kitchen is full of bullshit."

    "It is not bullshit! It is cool!"

    "Freak, you don't even know what half this shit does. Like this." He waves a handheld thing with two paddles.

    "That is a garlic press, obviously," the child says, then does a double take. "Wait, no, that is a garlic press..."

    "Yeah, that's what I thought."

    "But it was only $19.95!" the child says. "And the turnip thing was free!" It looks around, almost wistful. It really has forgotten half the cool stuff in here. "Absol says I am not allowed to buy more things off TV, though. One time she came through here and a stack of stuff fell on her. She did not get hurt, but it made her fur go all poofy."

    Leonard Kerrigan appears in the doorway, silent as a wraith. "Looking for grub?" the great Nathaniel Morgan asks.

    "I figured this would be my best chance to see one of you two accidentally light yourselves on fire," Leonard Kerrigan says, sounding bored as ever. "I am hungry, though. Were you planning dinner? Please tell me it's not hot dogs again."

    "I made dinner," the child says. "He just would not eat it."

    "It wasn't dinner, it was a fu‌cking dead seagull you dumped barbecue sauce on."

    You child narrows its eyes at him. "How can you not like barbecue sauce?"

    "I will make dinner," Leonard Kerrigan says with a sigh. "If you're willing to bring me some real ingredients, anyway. I don't have many recipes that call for coconuts and long-dead wildlife."

    "You ain't gotta do that," the great Nathaniel Morgan says. "I know how to work a fu‌cking microwave."

    "That's exactly what I was afraid of," Leonard Kerrigan says, and the great Nathaniel Morgan flushes. The child's curious despite itself. He does computers, and he can cook, too?

    "Okay, do it," it says. "What do you need?"

    --​

    Leonard Kerrigan's list takes the child to parts of the store it's never visited before, where they sell the raw bits humans use for cooking like they do on TV. The child doesn't recognize most of them and wanders around reading all the signs, trying to guess what everything is and amusing itself by taking bites out of things when nobody's looking.

    By its third trip back for clarification the child gets the sense Leonard Kerrigan regrets volunteering. "I couldn't find a 'basil.' Is that some kind of fruit?"

    "No, it's a leaf. It should be with the other herbs"--he winces--"I mean the, the small... green... things," he amends.

    In the end the child manages to gather everything Leonard Kerrigan needs and is relegated to lurking at the kitchen table. The great Nathaniel Morgan's there, too; he put out some food for Mightyena and Raticate, and now he's sitting backwards in one of the chairs, watching Leonard Kerrigan work with chin propped up on hand.

    Leonard Kerrigan clears a space on the counter and digs out plain pots and pans the child didn't know it owned. He picks up some kind of mixing device, examines it closely, then sets it carefully aside, like it's a thing unearthed from someone's bottom dresser drawer.

    And then he gets started. It's not as exciting as a cooking show, watching the little piles of chopped food bits transform into something recognizable. The child tries to do its part by offering withering criticism on Leonard Kerrigan's efforts, but goes ignored. In the end, though, the child gets to eat the final result, which is maybe even more fun than watching someone get angry and start throwing knives. "This is actually really good," it confesses with mouth full. "What is it?"

    Leonard Kerrigan smiles thinly. "Vegetarian lasagna. And thank you, I suppose. It's not my favorite recipe, but it can't be worse than your idea of food."

    "There is nothing wrong with hot dogs. They are normal," the child says. "And I still hate you."

    "The feeling is mutual."

    "And you had better finish hacking that computer soon. Everybody is waiting on you. If it turns out you are stalling..."

    "Yes, yes, you'll kill all my friends and family. You've been entirely clear," Leonard Kerrigan says, sounding alarmingly casual about it. "There's a vulnerability in the software that generated the hard drive's encryption key. It's easier to break than it should be, but it will still take time for the factorization to complete. A day or two, perhaps."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan snorts."What kind of shitty hacker are you? You just gotta get a password, right? Can't you guess a bunch of random numbers and letters until you find the right ones?"

    Leonard Kerrigan gives him a withering look. "I suppose if you had a few thousand years to spare that would be an option."

    "Or, like, can't you get it off the fu‌cking cloud?" The great Nathaniel Morgan waves his fork vaguely. "Like, break into some fu‌cking government computer and have your fu‌cking botnets hack all the passwords with their, with their RAM and stuff. And then it's all, like, in the cloud, right?"

    "You don't have the faintest idea how computers work, do you?"

    "'Course I do! They work by electricity! Duh!" the great Nathaniel Morgan says, smug. "I ain't fu‌cking stupid."

    "Clearly not."

    "Do you not want your dinner?" the child asks. Its own plate is nearly empty, but the great Nathaniel Morgan's barely touched his lasagna.

    "Nah," the great Nathaniel Morgan grunts. "I fu‌cking hate vegetables."

    "Excuse me?" Leonard Kerrigans raises his eyebrows.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan turns a dark scowl on him. "I said I don't like no fu‌cking vegetables. Got a problem?"

    "No, no, it's just..." Leonard Kerrigan chuckles. "You won't eat vegetables, really? What are you, five years old?"

    "Fu‌ck you, old man. I know you gotta eat like spinach and shit for your prostrate or some bullshit, but I can eat whatever the fu‌ck I want."

    "I suppose there's no reason to worry about your health when you're probably going to get knifed in a dispute over a card game before you turn thirty anyway. Truly I envy your carefree, hedonistic lifestyle."

    "Yeah, well, envy my fu‌cking dick, you shit-eating prick."

    "Oh, dear. It seems I've touched a nerve," Leonard Kerrigan says, folding his hands on the table and looking at the great Nathaniel Morgan like he's a mildly interesting insect. "Honestly, I can't believe Team Rocket's been giving us trouble with stolen pokédexes. When this is who they're employing, really? Some thug who can't even read? That's what's getting past our security?"

    The silence that follows is broken by the rasp of the child's fork trying to scrape the very last bit of the cheese off its plate. This dinner turned out way more interesting than it expected.

    "The fu‌ck do you mean? Of course I can fu‌cking read," the great Nathaniel Morgan says.

    "Is that so? I suppose that explains why you nearly jumped out of your skin when I asked you to pass me the book on cryptography. That would be hard, wouldn't it, if you couldn't read the titles? And you wouldn't help with my list--because you couldn't read it, am I right?"

    "No, I'm just allergic to fu‌cking chores. This is such bullshit! I can damn well read!"

    "Well, that's easy enough to verify." Leonard Kerrigan picks up an empty Sugar Rowlets box that didn't quite make it to the trash. "What does it say right here?"

    "Fu‌ck you! I don't got to prove jack shit!" the great Nathaniel Morgan roars.

    "Mmm. Yes. That certainly shows me," Leonard Kerrigan says, and goes back to eating his lasagna as calmly as though they've been discussing the weather. Meanwhile the great Nathaniel Morgan's clutching his silverware in fists like he's ready to plunge it into Leonard Kerrigan's neck any second.

    "You think you're so fu‌cking smart," he snarls, "sitting over there all high and mighty and shit. Well, I was living on the streets while mommy and daddy were probably still driving you to your fu‌cking flute lessons. I took care of myself--I always fu‌cking took care of myself, and I am six fu‌cking times the man your ballsless ass is. I mean, look at you." He spreads his hands. "You probably do, like, yoga or some shit."

    "Perish the thought," Leonard Kerrigan says blandly. "But oh, my, the streets. The streets. We all have our little sob stories, don't we? We all have so many reasons why it wasn't really our fault. Tell me, was it the streets that signed you up for Team Rocket? Was it the streets that made you throw in with this shapeshifting... character? Was it"--he makes air quotes--"'the system?'"

    "Fu‌ck you!" the great Nathaniel Morgan screams. "What the fu‌ck would you know? You fu‌cking think you know the first fu‌cking thing--"

    "Do you really just put 'fu‌ck' in front of some arbitrary number of words every sentence? Is that supposed to be intimidating?"

    The great Nathaniel Morgan dives at Leonard Kerrigan, knocking plates and silverware in all directions. Leonard Kerrigan falls completely out of his chair, and he and the great Nathaniel Morgan roll around on the floor trading blows.

    The child perches on the edge of the now-crooked table and settles in to watch the fun. The great Nathaniel Morgan would probably have the upper hand most days, but he's still sick and already bleeding from reopened wounds. Leonard Kerrigan's holding his own, but it occurs to the child that if he gets too hurt he might not be able to hack anymore. With some disappointment it jumps down and pries the great Nathaniel Morgan off him.

    "Come on, come on, knock it off. I need him to do actual work," it says. The great Nathaniel Morgan struggles against it, and it tosses him so he skids across the floor and almost hits the far wall.

    He's up in a moment, chest heaving and licking a split lip, but the child rises up, too, big as it can, and stands between him and Leonard Kerrigan.

    "I said get out of here," the child says. The great Nathaniel Morgan looks between it and Leonard Kerrigan, trembling, then wheels and storms off, slamming the door behind him with even more shattering force than usual. The child's left alone with Leonard Kerrigan, who's still on the floor, feeling around for his glasses.

    "You made him mad," the child says.

    Leonard Kerrigan smiles tightly, but when he pokes at a bruise blossoming across one cheekbone it morphs into a grimace. "Yes, well," he says, putting his glasses back on, squinting, and removing them again to clean them on his sweater vest, "it was hardly difficult. It's not hard to handle someone like that if you aren't intimidated by the bluster."

    "Well, whatever. It was cool."

    "Mmm. Well, I'll leave the dishes to you, then, shall I? I have work to do." Leonard Kerrigan pulls himself up by way of the table and hobbles stiffly for the exit.

    "Yes, you do," the child says, but he's already gone.

    It's weird, the child thinks as it sits eating the great Nathaniel Morgan's portion of lasagna off the floor. It turns out Leonard Kerrigan is actually kind of cool. It probably should have known--he's a hacker, after all. But it would never have thought he could win a fight against the great Nathaniel Morgan.

    Humans. They're always surprising the child. It hunts around for more food, but there's nothing left but scattered crumbs. It should ask Leonard Kerrigan to make dinner again sometime.

    The child sits back and considers the door for a while, lost in thought. Then it gets up and pads out, onto the beach and into the jungle, up the incline to the top of the little mountain on the island's western tip. It's honestly more of a big hill, an ancient volcano ground down round and domestic with only tumbled chunks of volcanic stone, covered in lichen and netted by tree roots, to mark what it used to be.

    Graveler sticks out at the top of the mountain, a boulder conspicuously out of place. Her four hands feel across the hillside around her, searching for loose rocks, which she pops into her mouth with apparent relish. The great Nathaniel Morgan sits beside her, staring across the ocean towards One Island.

    "What are you doing?" the child asks him.

    "Watching the motherfu‌cking sunset," he says, muffled. Only his eyes and nose are visible above his arms, which are crossed atop his knees.

    "The sunset is that way," the child says, pointing west to where the horizon's beginning to flush pink. One Island is south. The great Nathaniel Morgan doesn't even glance away from it.

    The child sits down next to him. "You lost to an old guy!" it says cheerfully. "And you really cannot read? No wonder they kicked you out of school, you are even stupider than I thought."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan doesn't laugh with it, though, and after its guffaws peter out the child begins to realize that the great Nathaniel Morgan might not find those things so funny. "Well, it does not matter anyway," the child says at last. "I guess you do not have to be good at those things to be a good trainer."

    "Yeah, sure," the great Nathaniel Morgan mutters, "And I'm supposed to be a good trainer, am I?"

    "Well, you have five badges. You cannot be completely terrible."

    "What fu‌cking badges?"

    "Yours," the child says. Leonard Kerrigan didn't hit him on the head, did he? "The ones on your pokédex."

    "The pokédex is stolen, you motherfu‌cking idiot. Those ain't my badges."

    "Oh." The child doesn't even have time to feel dumb, or angry, before the great Nathaniel Morgan goes on.

    "Yeah, I thought I was gonna do the whole badge thing, once, be a master, all that shit." The great Nathaniel Morgan addresses the ocean, though at least now he's actually facing the sunset, skin glowing red in its light. "So I decided to challenge Sabrina, 'cause like, that's the gym in Saffron and all." He looks at the child out of the corner of his eye. "And I lost."

    "You lost to Sabrina? But your first pokémon is even a dark-type, how did you--?"

    "I don't want to fu‌cking talk about it." The great Nathaniel Morgan huddles down in his arms as if cold, but it's sticky humid, even with the growing shadows and the ocean breeze. "So that's who you decided you wanted to fight for you in the Pokémon League, Freak. Some fu‌ckup who couldn't even get one badge with a type advantage." He leans his arms on his knees again. "And now his starter fu‌cking hates him and his raticate's got who knows what kind of issues and he fu‌cking lost his steelix and Team Rocket's after him and the League and everything is..." The great Nathaniel Morgan lets the unfinished thought hang there.

    Graveler stops combing the hillside for rocks and turns to her trainer. There's a long pause for what might be thinking, and then she reaches over and pats him on the back, or that's what the child thinks she was going for. Most back-pats aren't audible, though, and they don't almost knock a person forward on their face. The great Nathaniel Morgan endures Graveler's affection with clenched teeth. "Th-thanks, Graveler," he says weakly, blinking tears from the corners of his eyes. She makes a satisfied grunt and returns to chewing a piece of old tephra with the air of someone who's finally settled an important matter. The great Nathaniel Morgan watches her finish it, then picks up a rock from beside him and offers it to her. Graveler accepts it graciously, then sets it aside and selects another one within reach.

    "Well, so what?" the child asks while the great Nathaniel Morgan tries to rub his back without being too obvious about it. "About the badges. You won the League tournament, didn't you? You even nearly beat the Champion. Nobody who was a bad trainer could do that."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan snorts. "Freak, you know damn well it was only you cheating your ass off that got us anywhere in the tourney. I didn't have nothing to do with it."

    "Not true. You beat Aanya Singh all by yourself, didn't you? Even her salamence! The point is, I was right. I told you we could win. And we did."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan makes a noise that might be the beginning of a laugh. "Sure, Freak. Whatever you say."

    "Of course it is whatever I say," the child says smugly. The sunset's in full force now, reflecting deep red and orange off the waves.

    "Do you want food?" the child asks at last.

    "What?"

    "Since you did not want what Leonard Kerrigan made. And also I kind of ate your part already." The child can tell the great Nathaniel Morgan's trying not to smile, and is offended. But nonetheless: "So if you want me to get you some other kind of food I can."

    "You can keep your seagulls, Freak."

    "Or you can be a jerk about it and get nothing."

    For whatever reason it takes the great Nathaniel Morgan a couple minutes, but at last he says, "I mean, sure? I ain't gonna turn down free grub. Especially not with this chick sitting here stuffing her face right in front of me." He does smile then, and rubs the ridge above Graveler's eyes. She rumbles something indistinct and dismissive.

    "Okay. Come on, then. It is getting dark." The child's on its feet immediately and hops impatiently in place while the great Nathaniel Morgan cleans a stray bit of dirt out from under Graveler's brow-ridge. He gets up slow and stiff, and the child can tell he's trying not to show how much it hurts. He starts openly massaging his back once Graveler's out of sight.

    "Oh Jesus, my ribs," he squeaks.

    "So are you and Leonard Kerrigan enemies now? Do you totally hate him?"

    "Well, he's a prick, that's for damn sure," the great Nathaniel Morgan says. "And listen, Freak... I know you're all about this guy fixing that computer and finding stuff about Mew and whatever, but every time I check on him he's just got like all these words and numbers and shit on the screen, like there ain't even no graphs or nothing. Are you sure he's a real hacker?"

    The child sighs and walks on ahead until the lights from the house show through the trees, bright yellow against the darkness.

    --​

    A couple days later the child lies flopped across its bed, bored and half in a doze, when the great Nathaniel Morgan comes clomping up to bother it. "There you are, Freak. Look, would you go see what the fu‌ck Kerrigan wants? He's been bit‌ching at me to go get--whoah."

    The child opens its eyes and gives him a look, inviting him to recognize that it was enjoying a nap and it would be in his best interest to walk away now, but the great Nathaniel Morgan isn't paying attention. Instead he's staring around the room. "Holy shit. What the fu‌ck is all this?"

    "What do you mean?"

    "I mean did a tornado hit a flea market in here or something? What is all this shit?"

    "Mostly clothes."

    "Okay, but why the fu‌ck do you have like eight billion different shirts and shit? Like why the fu‌ck do you need all this?"

    "If you are going to be somebody, it is not enough just to look like them. You have to wear the right things, too. I mean, you cannot be an astronaut without a spacesuit, obviously."

    "And you got one, don't you?" The great Nathaniel Morgan's gaze goes to a hatstand in one corner, from which hangs a space helmet with a gold-mirrored visor. The suit itself might be somewhere under the child's bed.

    "Of course. And pirate hats and armor and dresses and lab coats and cowboy boots and everything."

    "Huh." He nudges a discarded water pistol with his foot. Props spill out of dresser drawers and the open closet, feather boas slithering down from crowded dresser-tops and hats, shoes, belts scattered on the floor. The great Nathaniel Morgan smiles to himself as he says, "So, what, you spend your free time going around pretending like you're some fu‌cking fairie princess or whatever the shit with those hugeass sparkly wings on?"

    "Sometimes. You want to play?"

    "What? No, I want you to go see what the fu‌ck Kerrigan wants so he'll shut the fu‌ck up already."

    But the child has the perfect idea. It jumps off the bed, suddenly not tired in the least, and start digging through the clothing on the floor, searching for--ah, here it is. "You can be the evil king. Here." The great Nathaniel Morgan starts backing up, but the child's too fast for him, draping the old purple bedsheet over his shoulders like a cloak. "And here, you have a crown, too." It's black wire with huge fake gemstones on it, all spiky and nasty-looking, exactly like a bad king would have. The child drops it on the great Nathaniel Morgan's head while he's trying to shrug out of the cloak.

    Immediately he reaches up to adjust it. "Ugh, it's all poky. Come on, Freak, give it a re--"

    "Here, here, your scepter!" The child shoves it into his hand, a wrapping paper tube painted yellow with big glittery gold sequins and a xatu head on top that the child made out of papier-mâché. The beak broke off at the tip, but otherwise it looks good.

    "What the fu‌ck?" the great Nathaniel Morgan says, staring at the thing in his hand as though not completely sure how it got there. The child dives under the bed to rummage. It's never gotten to play pretend with a human before. Absol and Rats usually won't even let the child dress them up. But now it can do a story that needs two people, which means: "I'll be the hero who overthrows you and saves the kingdom! En garde!"

    The child shakes a scarf off the end of a sword and jabs the point into the great Nathaniel Morgan's chest. He looks down at it with a faint smile on his face. "Yeah? So, what, I'm a fu‌cking evil king now? What the fu‌ck do I even do?"

    "You kill people and throw them in dungeons and have them tortured and oppress them and stuff. How do you not know that?"

    "Oh, yeah? I dunno. Sounds kinda boring to me," the great Nathaniel Morgan says, swinging the scepter so it hits the underside of his free palm with a steady whoonk whoonk whoonk. "I mean, fu‌ck, if I were an evil king, I'd make sure everybody knew I meant business. Like, screw the murder, I'd just, I dunno, make everybody do math homework all the time or some shit."

    "What? No, no, that is not allowed."

    "Evil king, remember? I don't give a shit about the rules. So let's see, I'd... Oh, I'd say no late-night TV 'cuz you need sleep for, like, growing or some shit, and I'd make everybody clean their fu‌cking rooms because seriously, this shit is crazy."

    "You cannot do that! That--that is not how it works!"

    "And I'd ban ice cream and make it so people had to eat broccoli every day."

    The child stares at him. "You are horrible." Gathering its resolve, it jabs him harder with the sword. "You cannot make me! I am the hero, and I am going to kick your evil butt!"

    The great Nathaniel Morgan grabs the sword, the foam blade bending under his fingers, and gives the child a taunting smirk. "That so? With what, your pure-heartedness or some shit? You're the one all acting like making people do homework is worse than killing them."

    "But all evil kings kill people and stuff, everybody knows that. You are coming up with extra things all on your own. You do not want to be bad like everybody else, you want to be more bad. That is why I am going to stop you!"

    The child wrenches the sword sideways and out of the great Nathaniel Morgan's grasp, then smacks him on the shoulder with it, not hard, but with enough force that he flinches away. A flurry of slashes puts him on the retreat.

    "Ow! Fu‌ck! Okay, okay, I'm fu‌cking slain or whatever the fu‌ck, knock it off!"

    The child gives him a couple extra smacks just to make sure he gets the point, then raises its sword in victory. "I win! The kingdom is saved and everybody is happy!"

    "Yeah, yeah, you're the fu‌cking hero." The great Nathaniel Morgan takes the crown off his head and drops it on the child's. It lets out a yelp, trying to shove the crown up out of its eyes. And it is poky, ugh. "We done, then? Because seriously, Kerrigan's got a major stick up his ass and I don't want to deal with it. We can play pretendy games later, okay? Just go see what the fu‌ck he wants."

    "Later?" The child drags the crown off its head and throws it on the bed, the sword going next to it. "Really? You are not going to run off or anything?"

    "Me?" The great Nathaniel Morgan leans against the doorframe, smiling like he's forgotten all about his missing teeth and tapping the end of his scepter idly against the wall behind him. "Running off on you? I got no clue what the fu‌ck you're talking about." The child narrows its eyes at him. "Nah, seriously, Kid, it's fine. Go on, get moving."

    The child goes past slowly, watching him the entire time. He doesn't move, and the child charges off down the corridor. Probably it won't take long to deal with Leonard Kerrigan anyway. And it has been a while since it checked on him. It should see what he's up to, remind him he doesn't have long before it gets angry.

    "What do you want?" the child demands the moment it enters the computer room.

    "Ah, it's just you. I thought a herd of elephants was loose in the building," Leonard Kerrigan says. The child's about to say something mean back, but the computer screen catches its eye. It's blue, empty blue, not showing a log-in prompt anymore.

    Leonard Kerrigan notices the child's interest. "It's cracked. As you can see," he says. "Now, if you'd take me home, please."

    "Not now. I have to look." It's forgotten everything but the computer. It's going to find out, finally, where to go next.

    "Oh, I see," Leonard Kerrigan says icily. "And just when might you be able to spare a moment?"

    "When I am ready," the child says firmly. "What if there are more passwords on the files? I might still need you." It pushes past him to grab the mouse, squinting into the bright cathode screen. Leonard Kerrigan might say something else, standing there behind the child, but it ignores him. It has work to do.

    There's just one folder on the desktop, "mewtwoincidentfiles," and then folders in that folder, dozens of them, plus a big text file, "mewtwoincidentreport.rtf." The child clicks around a bit, excitement curdling to dismay as it uncovers files on files, subfolders with more subfolders inside, hundreds of them. They're clearly organized, but not in any system the child understands. Where's the stuff about Mew? Where does it say where she is now? Is it really going to have to sit and sift through all of these and hope it doesn't miss anything important?

    It opens documents at random, anything with a promising filename. There are scanned notebooks from scientists, equipment lists, spreadsheets and images and kinds of files the child doesn't recognize, which open into gibberish symbols packed tight on the screen. It opens a video at random, which turns out to be of a surgery done on Mew. The child closes it again immediately, swallowing rising nausea. This is going nowhere.

    It starts over, opens the text file this time and notes with dismay that it's over two hundred pages long. The table of contents is nearly three pages just on its own, but there at the bottom of the list: "Index of Files." It only takes the child a couple seconds to confirm that the file names mentioned match the ones on the other folders. It's still a lot, but at least it won't have to actually open each file to know what's inside. The child shifts in its cramped computer chair and tries not to think about how long this is going to take.

    The child reads bits of the big report on and off between trawling files. Somehow, even though it's about what happened in the Cinnabar lab, it's nothing like what the child remembers actually going on. It's weird, but kind of interesting, and makes a nice break from scanning through other files--sometimes, those are too much like the memories.

    Final incident report on Project Mewtwo, presented to the executive council March 12th 1999

    Prepared by Clarice Acheson, chief advisor, Eleanor Fairchild, acting head of Research and Development, and Xi Meidi, lead admin of Saffron District

    Some of the files the child knows it can skip. There are expense reports, personnel listings, tax documents, all the bureaucratic cruft of running an evil empire. The child scrolls and scrolls, searching for a clue.

    There are scientific documents of all kinds, both raw data and written-up reports. The child tries to read some of these, but puzzling through all the unfamiliar words makes it horribly tired. It settles instead for marveling at pretty graphs and pictures, even diagrams for different kinds of psychic dampers that show how they go together. The child barely understands any of it, but it's fascinating in the same way as the big report: here are people looking at Mewtwo and seeing numbers, behaviors, chemistry and psychology and big words, when in the child's memory the clone is fear that knots its stomach up for weeks, nightmares and screaming and blood on cold white walls.

    Technological advances in the late eighties, especially in the field of pokémon biology, led to a wave of investment in research and development. Team Rocket as a whole realigned towards investing in new technologies rather than traditional enterprises such as real estate and construction. This flurry of spending produced fantastic returns, with the most impressive achievement being the master ball.

    Although only a prototype, with the repossession of Silph Co. and push for mass production several years off, a pokéball that could contain any pokémon seemed to cry out for a pokémon no other pokéball could contain.

    There are e-mails. The index itemizes them meticulously, down to the embarrassing and indiscreet, exchanged by people who perhaps forgot that anything sent from Institute addresses would be recorded.

    Here are innocuous complaints about superiors, increasingly annoyed reminders to finish a report, fill out a form, send that recommendation letter, please. Here are excited e-mails about discoveries made, theories crafted.

    Here's a message to Rocket leadership in Saffron about "recent staff vacancies." We have had several departures in the past month, despite frequent reminders about company expectations...

    Here are e-mails from the child's parents.

    That Team Rocket would need to create such a pokémon, not merely find one, seemed clear. Even legends have been tamed, and while the master ball would make it substantially easier to capture such powerful pokémon, doing so would not be a truly revolutionary advance. Several Rocket projects were already developing bioengineering methods for creating enhanced pokémon, and the success of Porygon and Metagross showed just how far technology for manipulating infinity energy had come.

    What Giovanni called for, then, was a new species, one more powerful than any known pokémon and tailored specifically for use as a weapon. It would be more than just a technological triumph or a devastating addition to the team's arsenal; it would also be the ultimate proof of man's dominion over pokémon: we would create a pokémon far superior to any nature could produce, and it would exist only to serve us.

    They aren't the child's parents, not really. They were Sara's parents, that other child, the one who died. Still, the child stares at the file names for a long time.

    It doesn't open them. They're not important.

    It was decided almost immediately that the weapon would be psychic-typed. Psychic-type pokémon are, with incredibly rare exception, predators. They require an energy-rich diet to fuel their large, complex brains. However, the abilities that allow psychic-types to find prey, to injure and even kill from a leisurely distance, at the same time expose the psychic to its prey's thoughts and feelings. How can a psychic hunt when forced to feel its prey's fear, experience the pain caused by its own attacks? How can a psychic kill if must die alongside every one of its victims?

    Most pokémon have evolved ways to infer what others think, to mirror their actions and model their emotional states. Psychic-types, on the other hand, require an absolute sense of self in order to remain distinct individuals amidst the foreign minds that brush against their own. Despite experiencing others' thoughts and feelings, they must recognize them as outside themselves rather than share in them. In a psychic's mind, the separation between "self" and "other" is absolute. More than any other kind of pokémon, then, psychics are naturally inclined towards the task of killing without remorse.

    Medical reports about Mew's pregnancy, dietary experiments with the infant Mewtwo, new Institute policy that interactions with the clone be performed in shifts of no more than two hours... no, no, no.

    Here's a message from one researcher to the project head, a member of the Rocket occupying force, begging to be released from the project, offering money, offering knowledge. He never got a reply--no point sending mail to a dead man.

    This folder has a series of videos.

    Psychic Dexterity Exam 001: A tiny Mewtwo floats near the center of the room, and a scientist approaches cautiously to offer the clone a bucket of blocks. With halting, wobbling imprecision Mewtwo sorts and stacks them by color and size.

    Psychic Dexterity Exam 055: the scientist, in heavy protective gear, presents a waist-high Mewtwo with a bin of puzzles, interlocking rings and blocks of wood and Rubik's cubes scrambled to colorful messes. Mewtwo sweeps them into orbit without even a gesture. They spin and scrunch and untangle all at once, Mewtwo's glowing eyes fixed on the experimenter the whole time.

    Psychic Dexterity Exam 108: Mewtwo, full-sized, stands in front of delicate contraptions of glass and wire, intricately knotted and then tangled up with one another, a crazy mass of filaments that the child's eyes can't even take in. Mewtwo ignores them, and the instructions blaring over the speaker in the room, and stares into the camera, and stares, and stares, until the child closes the video.

    No. This is not... what it wants. It needs to stop looking at these kinds of things.

    The ability to share others' experiences is matched by psychics' ability to project their mental states onto those around them. Stimulating foreign neurons is what allows psychics to cause sleep, pain, or even the illusion of speech. However, without careful training a psychic's passive thoughts and mood are also broadcast, typically causing similar emotions to arise in their "audience." Over time, people and pokémon routinely exposed to a psychic's mental field will "learn" to think more like the psychic, and this effect is more pronounced the more powerful the psychic in question is. The Mewtwo project sought to create a psychic of unprecedented power, but its executors failed to consider that they would also be creating a pokémon with unprecedented ability to influence its handlers.

    The child shouldn't be wasting time on all this useless information, the records of people who don't matter, who are all dead anyway. But it keeps opening files, even ones it knows won't be about Mew, and reading or watching in what might have begun as curiosity but is now something else. The child isn't enjoying itself, but it can't seem to stop. Sterile white walls surround, and it's trapped, doubly trapped in two sets of memories.

    The only way out is to keep going. Maybe when it remembers everything, when it's lived it all again, maybe then it can finally rest.

    Perhaps if the scientists working on Mewtwo had projected confidence and reassurance, convinced the clone that it was a valuable asset with a place on Team Rocket, they could have earned its loyalty. As it was, fear of Mewtwo's power, fear of displeasing Giovanni, fear for their lives and their families--most researchers were not members of Team Rocket, and we will later call into question the means used to control them--fear permeated the environment in which Mewtwo was raised. The clone absorbed it from foreign minds and learned to fear in turn. From this fear came hatred, a hatred the clone fed back into the people around it. And so their fear increased, and so too did Mewtwo's' hatred, negative emotions feeding on and amplifying one another. This led to impaired decision-making on the part of project staff, panic, madness, and would ultimately precipitate the project's tragic end. It almost certainly damaged Mewtwo beyond the point of usefulness as well.

    But there's no end to the memories. The child could go down and down forever, but there will always be more. It lives the same scenes again and again, more vividly than ever now with all these stories to remind it of what was genuinely forgotten, what it had never actually known.

    The intern who was always kind to it, who was a friend--she was a Rocket, one of the first to infiltrate the facility. And the scientist who fell first to Mewtwo, the first one killed--he had a name. It was Andre. The child (Sara, the other child) had never known. But now it does. It has no choice.

    But there is an end. There is a bottom to the memories. Tucked in deep, far out of sight, is the child's mother. It opens, reads, and then suddenly realizes it's reading and not actually in the lab, returns to the present all at once, having found what it didn't even remember it was looking for.

    It reads the last sentence, the last word. And stops. And for some time, it does nothing at all.

    "Hey, Freak."

    The child turns from the computer, and it can feel the turn, muscles cramping all down its neck and back. It's hunched forward over the keyboard, eyes gritty and aching from staring at the screen. It doesn't know how long it's been looking at this file. It feels like even if it focused properly it wouldn't be able to read the words anymore.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan hovers in the doorway, shadowy and blue-tinted in the computer screen's light. "Uh, what's up?"

    "What he means to ask is when dinner is," Leonard Kerrigan says from behind the great Nathaniel Morgan. He pushes his way in, and the great Nathaniel Morgan shrinks away from him, becoming one with the doorframe. "Personally, I'd rather you just sent me home. That would be one fewer mouth to feed, wouldn't it?"

    "Later," the child says with a dull flare of irritation. It's hard to concentrate on them with its head still full of the past. Before it didn't have words to talk about what happened in the lab, and now it has too many: they play over and over in its head, narrating dead horrors while it's trying to haul itself back into the present.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan asks, "You find what you're looking for?"

    "Mew is in Orre." The child shudders, because somehow saying it makes it real, and all the hopelessness that's been gnawing a hole through its middle threatens to escape at last.

    It can't even say Orre, not really. Team Rocket doesn't know. There aren't many files on where Mew went--"reclamation of the primary asset," in their own dry words. There were sightings in Sevii, but they panned out to nothing, with remarks about how unfortunate it was that the searchers, given the opportunity to redeem themselves by finding one little pokémon, failed in even that much. So they're dead, claimed by Cinnabar's curse, and what good is that?

    The only other useful file was a report from an information-gathering mission in Orre. Team Rocket was curious about Team Snagem's pokéball-hijacking technology, and the rumor that Mew was spotted wandering the desert was a footnote. That's all: the mere suggestion that Mew might have been in Orre a few years back, the best information the child could find on the entire computer. It even knows she isn't "out wandering the desert" now--its dreams show that much, at least.

    "Orre?" The great Nathaniel Morgan frowns. "Didn't you say she was with Rocket? Ain't no real Rocket ops in Orre, shit, we got standards."

    "She is not with Team Rocket."

    "I thought your bullshit dreams--"

    "They show some place like the lab on Cinnabar. That is all I know."

    "What? And you got Team Rocket from that? Did you think they're the only outfit with, like, tech? What, was Giovanni there, like, pointing to a huge 'R' on the wall? Oh my God." The great Nathaniel Morgan shakes his head. "All this time we were--you fu‌cking destroyed Viridian because--Jesus. Of fu‌cking course. I should have known."

    "Shut up." The child is not going to cry in front of these two. From shame and hopelessness it kindles anger, and it feels good to be angry. Being angry means it isn't frightened and helpless like a human child, or a like a god impossibly trapped and alone. The child is neither of them. It's strong. And the humans had better not forget it.

    Leonard Kerrigan laughs. "Oh, this is too wonderful. I knew you two were completely incompetent, but am I to understand you murdered over fifty people on a misunderstanding?"

    "You shut up too!"

    Somehow that only makes him laugh harder. "Truly, you're a criminal master--a master, hah, a m-m-master--"

    "You had better stop laughing," the child says, taking a step forward.

    Leonard Kerrigan doesn't back up, and he doesn't stop, either.

    "This is your last warning." The child's voice comes out big, and it takes another step forward. It hopes he'll keep going, that he'll give it a reason to fight. He thinks the child is some kid he can push around? It'll show him. No one is ever going to lock it up again. No one is ever going to ignore it, treat it like it's stupid, ever again. The child's heart beats loud in its ears, and power thrums in its chest, just waiting for release.

    "Hey, maybe you oughta--" the great Nathaniel Morgan mutters to Leonard Kerrigan, who cuts right across him.

    "Or what?" he says, tears standing out in his eyes from his laughing fit, mouth still trying to pull up into a smile. "I thought you might still need me for some menial task or other. I hope not, because at this rate I'm going to die of laughter."

    The child crosses the room in two steps, growing as it goes so it doesn't even have to reach up to grab Leonard Kerrigan's throat. "I said shut up! I said shut up!"

    He gurgles a bit, but that's better, at least. The child squeezes tighter on his neck while he tries to thrash his way out of its grip. Now he remembers, doesn't he? Now he remembers what happened the last time he met the child. And it wasn't half as mad then, was it?

    "Holy shit!" The great Nathaniel Morgan grabs the child's shoulder, and it shrugs him off without taking its eyes from Leonard Kerrigan's face. "Don't kill him! Jesus Christ, don't kill him, please don't kill him!"

    He tries again to pull the child away, but it switches to a one-handed grip and grabs his arm. A sharp sideways twist, and the child hears the bone crack. The great Nathaniel Morgan's eyes go wide, and he offers no resistance when the child shoves him away.

    But he did distract the child for a moment. It tightens its hold on Leonard Kerrigan's throat, annoyed. It could squeeze hard and crush his windpipe, but that would be easy, wouldn't it? Let him realize he has no chance, that the child's much too strong. Let him realize he's dying long before it happens. Let him know fear. Let him know dread. Let him know his own helplessness.

    The child isn't helpless anymore. It never will be again.

    Leonard Kerrigan's tries to say something. He makes noise, at least. He's clawing at the child's arm, but it doesn't even feel his pathetic scratches. It doesn't know if the pulse in its fingers is its own or his. It leans closer to him, smiling, smiling. How does it feel to be weak? How does it feel to be small?

    "Look, just let him go, okay?" the great Nathaniel Morgan says. He stands off to one side, cradling his broken arm. "I mean, if you want to kill him later, then, then whatever, but for now just let him go, okay? Let him go and let's talk. It'll be okay, let's just--"

    A clatter of claws outside and Raticate charges in, Mightyena close on his heels. They need a moment to take in the scene, and that moment is long enough for the child to prepare, so that when Raticate jumps it kicks him straight into his trainer. The two of them go down in a heap, the great Nathaniel Morgan making a high-pitched noise when he lands on top of his broken arm.

    The child throws Leonard Kerrigan into the wall and lunges to grab the pokéballs off the great Nathaniel Morgan's belt while Mightyena rushes to check that he's okay. She rounds on the child, lips pulled all the way back from her teeth, then turns red and disappears. So does Raticate, still trying to disentangle himself from the great Nathaniel Morgan when his every cautious movement seems to make the human cry out in pain.

    It's just the great Nathaniel Morgan left. He cringes away from the child, tears leaking from the corners of his eyes. "Don't--" he starts, raising his good hand, and the child slams a confusion into his brain. His eyes roll back, and he collapses in a faint.

    The child strides back to Leonard Kerrigan, who huddles at the base of the wall, coughing and coughing and holding his neck with both hands. He tries to run but can't even get up to a crouch.

    The child stands over him, looking down, and thinks it should feel triumphant. It should be enjoying this. But somehow the moment's passed. Leonard Kerrigan's lost his glasses, and his hair's standing up in crazy mats, showing the place where he's going bald, and his stupid sweater vest is torn. The child can't muster up any feeling but contempt. This is the kind of person who thinks he can control the child? It isn't even worth the effort to finish strangling him.

    But the child can't have him telling anyone about its home. It grabs Leonard Kerrigan by the collar of his vest, and with a thought it's away.

    Autumn's bite replaces the mugginess in the air. Trees crowd in around the child, mountains rise in the distance. This is the deepwilds near Viridian, where the great Nathaniel Morgan's Rocket friends made their attack. The child thinks it'll take Leonard Kerrigan a while to get back to civilization, but as he's so smart, the child's sure he'll be fine. It drops him in the leaf litter and teleports home.

    What to do with the great Nathaniel Morgan? The child looks sourly at his slumped form. Why did he have to get in its way? He didn't need to get hurt.

    A faint rumble distracts it from its thoughts. The floorboards tremble under its feet, and an ugly old farfetch'd planter shudders off a shelf and shatters. For a confused second the child thinks the volcano's woken up, that an echo of Cinnabar's eruption has come to claim it after so many years. But a look around finds no sign of Absol, and a second later Graveler comes smashing through the far wall. The child throws itself aside, and she barrels past, stopping with amazing precision before she can blast into the next room. She uncurls and turns to face the child with all four hands clenched into fists.

    The child blasts a hydro pump at her, but she grabs one of the boards sent flying by her entrance and raises it as a shield, deflecting the burst of water. That keeps her on the defensive long enough for the child to get to the great Nathaniel Morgan, grab her pokéball off his belt, and recall her.

    Late to the party, the child thinks as it looks down at Graveler's pokéball. Heard her trainer yelling from halfway across the island and got here as fast as she could, didn't she? Of course she did. Of course she did.

    The child gathers up Mightyena and Raticate's pokéballs, too, then takes hold of the great Nathaniel Morgan and teleports. The next second it's standing in the clearing near Saffron where it camped out before, the one whose boulder is now a misshapen, slaggy lump. When the great Nathaniel Morgan wakes up, he'll know exactly where he is.

    Good. Let him look at the boulder and remember what the child's capable of. Let him realize he's lucky it didn't kill him, which would have been the easiest thing ever.

    After a moment's hesitation, the child throws the great Nathaniel Morgan's pokéballs down in the dirt next to him. They deserve each other, and besides, it's not like it could've gotten any use out of his shiftless pokémon anyway.

    A thought brings the child back to the computer room--or not the computer room anymore. Graveler flattened the thing when she came through the wall, and now it's just a bunch of crushed circuit boards and splintered plastic.

    Sadness rises up in the child so suddenly it almost chokes, and it crouches down by the ruined computer, staring hopelessly into its busted metal and wiring. What happened? It didn't mean to hurt anybody, but it was just angry--they made it so angry, they should have left it alone, it told them to leave it alone. But now it's just the child in the big old house, alone with the sound of the waves and the ruined computer and maybe Absol out there doing who knows what.

    Orre. It has to go to Orre. Even if it doesn't know how to begin, it has to find Mew. Those other people... they don't matter. They were just getting in its way.

    The child sits for a while with head in hands, fingers dug deep in its hair, thinking. Not being sad. Finally it gets up and goes into the study, fancying that it can feel the prickling psychic tension even before it opens the desk drawer that contains the master ball.

    The child holds the ball close to its face, cupped in both hands, and says, "Mewtwo. I need your help."
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2018
  12. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    Because the character limit for the forum used to be lower, Chapter 35 was originally split across two posts. This post contained its second half, and is currently being retained only as insurance against the potential for character limit shenanigans in the future.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2018
  13. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Stuck in Alola?

    I find this especially hilarious, because the MC could just be an actual deep-sea explorer (or Pokémon) if they wanted to.

    Mewtwo and the MC are reaching sitcom couple levels of arguing here. In which Mewtwo always gets the last word and the MC's response is, for lack of a better word, hilariously childish. Also, I got a real kick out of Leonard schooling the MC over their belief in Hollywood hacking. And the MC's lack of understanding of proper nutrition. I mean, you'd expect that of a kid. But they take it to new levels, I tell ya what.

    Leonard is really the only sane man in this scenario, isn't he? Dear god, the poor fellow. Living in some twisted nightmare version of The Odd Couple. With murder.

    Thank you Leonard you wonderful, wonderful character. XD

    On the other hand, look! It's a sorta, kinda, touching moment. Nate's actually opening up about all his crazy insecurities to the MC. While it's nice to see a bit of humanity on the part of them both, given the relatively comical attitude of the chapter so far (and the fact that past moments have just led to them going back to hating each other), it didn't really have that heartwarming sense to it. Especially since it got followed up with another Hollywood hacking gag. XP

    And we finally get some more (objective) details on the whole Mewtwo bit. So he was a Rocket production and Giovanni was overseeing it, confirmed. But is this the first instance of the MC's name from their previous life popping up? Can I start calling them Mewra or Sarew, then? I'm gonna do that, because MC is just getting on my nerves. b<.<

    Huh, y'know, that's a pretty interesting way of framing it. And one that (whether intentional or not) has some real-world foundations. Because there's are mirror neurons out there (still being investigated) that, at least in the animal world, causes some degree of mimicry. And it can extend to feelings too. So it's almost like those are what a psychic-type can take control of.

    Orre hype! Whoop whoop! Actually, I don't know if there was any foreshadowing about this fact whatsoever. If there was I missed it. So, that was quite the unexpected swerve. As is the whole realization that all the tangled Rocket mess that Mewra weaved was basically for moot. And then that leads to Mewra totally losing it and attempting to viciously (but non-fatally) dispose of their current assets. I get the feeling that, at the very least, Nate'll be back, though. He's like gum on the sole of your shoe. Can't get rid of it no matter what you try. So, yeah, it was definitely a heck of a sudden turn, and a nice cliffhanger for the end of the "first part." Kind of one of those, "TV shows knows it has another season, so it's teasing the audience," bit. But there have been a few of those popping up round these parts as of late. XD
     
  14. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    Not much news on the writing front. Still working on getting the next arc to where I want it before I start releasing chapters. Miror B. happened. We'll see if he makes it to the final cut. That's about it.

    In the meantime, replying to Ambyssin...!

    One of the very first old, old early scenes I wrote was actually the protagonist doing a partial Lugia transform and going for a deep-sea swim. It does enjoy swimming and exploring the ocean, but it also likes to pretend to be a human explorer, which means it needs proper attire! (Which, when you're wandering around hundreds of meters down, is definitely swim trunks...)

    They might even be worse than the protagonist and Nate, tbh. Mewtwo's just too smug.

    He really is, and even he's not doing a fantastic job of keeping it together. XD

    Someone had to call him out on it sooner or later. You're not fooling anybody, Nate!

    Ah, I'm sorry to hear that the humor undercut the emotional impact of that scene. I didn't want it to get too sentimental, but I may have been a bit too flippant with it.

    Yup, mirror neurons are what I was going for when writing this, although obviously boiled down to a sort of pop-culture representation.

    There was only a tiny bit, and as far as I'm aware literally nobody picked up on it, so it's no big. In general, the "twist" should be as much a surprise for the readers as it is for the characters. My stories do tend to take a lot of abrupt turns like this.

    That's an excellent way to describe him!

    I hope you end up enjoying the Orre portion of the story. I'm still not totally sure how it's going to play out, so all I can do is hope that readers will enjoy it in the end!
     
  15. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    Chapter 34:

    I love Graveler. Admirable creature. Or maybe enviable's more the word. Insofar as someone whose trainer's been in hot water with the Rockets can be envied, I mean.

    You know something else that sucks to step on? Plastic dinosaurs. Not quite lego-tier but pretty darn close.

    Yeah Leonard, have some freaking manners when it comes to cupcakes, gosh.

    Such snark. I'm becoming kind of fond of him.

    Chapter 35:

    That's so cute. God help anything in her path, though. :p

    I like that policy. Just shove him away in a frickin' drawer, like a sock. Socktwo.

    I'm going to suddenly start laughing sometime this evening and this is going to be why.

    I love him. Therefore, he's probably ****ed. :B

    I love him.

    Pfff, awww.

    What a neat little detail. Makes sense, too.

    Orre! :D This makes me preposterously happy. Looking quite forward to it.
     
  16. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    hi yes it is me, here to catch up after forever.

    Chapter 34

    Ugh, this is sweet. The child still won't admit it has some soft spot for Nate, but even still, its loneliness is obvious in these chapters. It clearly wants close relationships and to maintain them, but there's too much chaos and too much always going wrong for that, it seems.

    This is probably one of the few times Nate expresses real... gentleness toward his pokemon, for lack of a better word. I get the feeling it's because things are relatively calm and boring right now. I mean, everything in that house is a ticking time bomb, but yeah, there's more downtime than there ever has been, I think. It seems to be finally dawning on him that even without the child, there's a lot of issues stemming from him, his past, and so on.

    I like this description a lot. And as expected, Mewtwo's an ******* about everything, but he's still got all the power, so everyone feels trapped. XD The scenes where they just throw his ball at the wall are great. The tension just keeps rising and rising until the child damn near snaps at the end.

    Chapter 35

    Leonard Kerrigan makes his reappearance, eh? Can't say I'm surprised. He's a smug little ****, too, which is great. XD Though I do think there are several spots like here where it's said he sounds uncaring and casual about things. It's a bit repetitive, and more often than not, it's a bit too on the nose.

    Oh, good grief. Leonard Kerrigan is just asking for trouble. For all the stuff he's done, Nate's got enough on his plate at this point, and I'm rooting more for him than Leonard Kerrigan by the end of this. XD

    Heh, what did it expect? That all that work would just produce a document with one sentence: "Mew is in Orre" or something?

    This... hit hard. It really shows how, well, different the child is, even though it wants to fit in and have friends.

    I'd say it undermines everything that's happened so far to know Team Rocket had little to do with all of this (unless I read this wrong), but such a complicated story with fantastic, engaging characters just makes everything that happened, well, worth it. And honestly, it's just like the child to be so impulsive that this big of a blunder would be revealed way down the road. D:

    Super excited for Orre. <3
     
  17. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    Still chewing away at the next arc. I definitely have enough material for the first couple chapters of it, but the meat of it is still taking shape, and I'd rather hold off on posting them until I'm confident that not too much is going to shift around. In the meantime, I think I'll aim to post an extra or two on my birthday in mid-February and look to release the next chapter in early March, and from there hopefully settle into my usual roughly once every month/two posting non-schedule.

    Pretty sure at least one extra's going to be on pokémon biology, but as ever let me know if there's anything else you'd like me to do an extra on, whether it's some kind of world-building topic or something about a particular character, etc.

    Sike Saner

    She's been around long enough that not a lot gets her excited, heh. I guess there are some advantages to having a heart literally made out of stone.

    Those would be terrible! Anything small and plastic with projecting bits. The protagonist's house is like a minefield.

    Leo was a lot of fun to write in these chapters. Unfortunately he won't be appearing much in the rest of the story.

    He definitely deserves it. Go to your drawer and think about what you've done!

    I hope I'm not that predictable! [size=small]He's totally ****ed.[/size]

    She tried! Poor Graveler, rocks are so much sturdier and easier to comfort.

    Thanks for taking the time to catch up and let me know your thoughts! I hope the Orre arc lives up to your expectations.

    diamondpearl876

    Haha, well, the good thing about this fic is my update speed means you never have to worry about running into a huge backlog of chapters. >>;

    I definitely wanted to get across the sense of the protagonist being lonely and having, honestly, kind of a sad life in these chapters. It's living in a mansion... that's falling apart because the protagonist has no idea how to maintain it, nor any real interest in doing so even if it did. It has its own private island... Meaning that it's incredibly isolated from the rest of the world, and humans especially. Prior to the beginning of the story it had been spending years living in squalor with its three pokémon and an absol who's only there like 25% of the time plus the television for company. It's no surprise that it's no good at humans, I think. :p

    But if it wants to change any of that it probably needs to make it a priority rather than this whole Mew business, for sure.

    This is something that I wanted to do a lot more during the League arc, but unfortunately there was a lot going on and already the chapters were getting pretty bloated, so I cut a lot of scenes that were just Nate + his pokémon. This chapter was supposed to have more of that, too! It's unfortunate, because being able to communicate a lot better with his pokémon was definitely a big thing for Nate, and like you said, it's led him to reassess his relationship with them (and they've obviously brought some of their problems with him/his issues to light, too!), but I don't think it really comes across in the story as well as I'd like. Would really like to do more of it, not sure where to put it.

    I'm glad you like it! And Mewtwo is loads of fun to write. So difficult to argue with not just because he's obstinate, but also because he's often right, to some extent, it's just that he's a total *** about being right and he tends to take things to inappropriate extremes. There will be a lot more of this in upcoming chapters, heh.

    It's true, I probably went too heavy on his nonchalance. I think it tends to be clear from his dialogue that he's deadpanning anyway.

    The sad thing is that if Leo and Nate had actually cooperated, they probably could have figured out a way to escape, and Nate could've stolen Mewtwo or something as leverage for getting his Steelix back. Not that that would have actually gotten him any closer to getting Steelix back, the poor guy, but he would have thought it would work. But no, Leo's more interested in nursing his grudge than cooperating, so they both end up screwed over. *jazz hands* Human nature!

    No, but if Team Rocket did still have Mew, the protagonist would have expected to find more files dealing with what happened to her after the "incident," and just much more iformation in general, since they'd presumably still be generating it.

    I'm glad it didn't end up being too much of an anticlimax, heh. But while TR doesn't have Mew, they also do want Mew, and Mewtwo, and possibly also the other weird whatever-it-is that's knocking around with Mewtwo atm. They may only have been involved based on a blunder on the protagonist's part, but they're INVOLVED now, and I doubt we've seen the last of them. (Although, fun fact, in the original version of the story the last time TR appeared was the protagonist's misadventure in Saffron Base; things have definitely changed a lot!)

    It's great to see you again. Thanks for reviewing! I'm excited for Orre, too, and I hope you enjoy what's coming. spoilers it's more suffering and angst
     
  18. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    It's my birthday! And, as promised, I have a couple of extras for you, miraculously actually posted before midnight EST. I also have an announcement: I plan to release the next chapter of the actual story on March 12th. This is a bit later than I would have liked, but since I'll be on a family vacation in the first week of March and thus obligated to do, like, ~family things~, I probably won't have a great deal of time to devote to getting the chapter ready for posting.

    The first extra isn't really a proper extra at all, but a scene that I decided to remove from Chapter 35. I was hoping to fit it into a later chapter, but after working ahead for a bit I don't think that's going to work. Upon reflection I'd rather have it in the story than not, so I'm retroactively adding it back to Chapter 35. I'll update the chapter to incorporate it in a moment, but for your convenience I'll also put it in this post so you don't have to go digging back through the chapter to find it:

    A couple days later the child lies flopped across its bed, bored and half in a doze, when the great Nathaniel Morgan comes clomping up to bother it. "There you are, Freak. Look, would you go see what the fuck Kerrigan wants? He's been bitching at me to go get--whoah."

    The child opens its eyes and gives him a look, inviting him to recognize that it was enjoying a nap and it would be in his best interest to walk away now, but the great Nathaniel Morgan isn't paying attention. Instead he's staring around the room. "Holy shit. What the fuck is all this?"

    "What do you mean?"

    "I mean did a tornado hit a flea market in here or something? What is all this shit?"

    "Mostly clothes."

    "Okay, but why the fuck do you have like eight billion different shirts and shit? Like why the fuck do you need all this?"

    "If you are going to be somebody, it is not enough just to look like them. You have to wear the right things, too. I mean, you cannot be an astronaut without a spacesuit, obviously."

    "And you got one, don't you?" The great Nathaniel Morgan's gaze goes to a hatstand in one corner, from which hangs a space helmet with a gold-mirrored visor. The suit itself might be somewhere under the child's bed.

    "Of course. And pirate hats and armor and dresses and lab coats and cowboy boots and everything."

    "Huh." He nudges a discarded water pistol with his foot. Props spill out of dresser drawers and the open closet, feather boas slithering down from crowded dresser-tops and hats, shoes, belts scattered on the floor. The great Nathaniel Morgan smiles to himself as he says, "So, what, you spend your free time going around pretending like you're some fucking fairie princess or whatever the shit with those hugeass sparkly wings on?"

    "Sometimes. You want to play?"

    "What? No, I want you to go see what the fuck Kerrigan wants so he'll shut the fuck up already."

    But the child has the perfect idea. It jumps off the bed, suddenly not tired in the least, and start digging through the clothing on the floor, searching for--ah, here it is. "You can be the evil king. Here." The great Nathaniel Morgan starts backing up, but the child's too fast for him, draping the old purple bedsheet over his shoulders like a cloak. "And here, you have a crown, too." It's black wire with huge fake gemstones on it, all spiky and nasty-looking, exactly like a bad king would have. The child drops it on the great Nathaniel Morgan's head while he's trying to shrug out of the cloak.

    Immediately he reaches up to adjust it. "Ugh, it's all poky. Come on, Freak, give it a re--"

    "Here, here, your scepter!" The child shoves it into his hand, a wrapping paper tube painted yellow with big glittery gold sequins and a xatu head on top that the child made out of papier-mâché. The beak broke off at the tip, but otherwise it looks good.

    "What the fuck?" the great Nathaniel Morgan says, staring at the thing in his hand as though not completely sure how it got there. The child dives under the bed to rummage. It's never gotten to play pretend with a human before. Absol and Rats usually won't even let the child dress them up. But now it can do a story that needs two people, which means: "I'll be the hero who overthrows you and saves the kingdom! En garde!"

    The child shakes a scarf off the end of a sword and jabs the point into the great Nathaniel Morgan's chest. He looks down at it with a faint smile on his face. "Yeah? So, what, I'm a fucking evil king now? What the fuck do I even do?"

    "You kill people and throw them in dungeons and have them tortured and oppress them and stuff. How do you not know that?"

    "Oh, yeah? I dunno. Sounds kinda boring to me," the great Nathaniel Morgan says, swinging the scepter so it hits the underside of his free palm with a steady whoonk whoonk whoonk. "I mean, fuck, if I were an evil king, I'd make sure everybody knew I meant business. Like, screw the murder, I'd just, I dunno, make everybody do math homework all the time or some shit."

    "What? No, no, that is not allowed."

    "Evil king, remember? I don't give a shit about the rules. So let's see, I'd... Oh, I'd say no late-night TV 'cuz you need sleep for, like, growing or some shit, and I'd make everybody clean their fucking rooms because seriously, this shit is crazy."

    "You cannot do that! That--that is not how it works!"

    "And I'd ban ice cream and make it so people had to eat broccoli every day."

    The child stares at him. "You are horrible." Gathering its resolve, it jabs him harder with the sword. "You cannot make me! I am the hero, and I am going to kick your evil butt!"

    The great Nathaniel Morgan grabs the sword, the foam blade bending under his fingers, and gives the child a taunting smirk. "That so? With what, your pure-heartedness or some shit? You're the one all acting like making people do homework is worse than killing them."

    "But all evil kings kill people and stuff, everybody knows that. You are coming up with extra things all on your own. You do not want to be bad like everybody else, you want to be more bad. That is why I am going to stop you!"

    The child wrenches the sword sideways and out of the great Nathaniel Morgan's grasp, then smacks him on the shoulder with it, not hard, but with enough force that he flinches away. A flurry of slashes puts him on the retreat.

    "Ow! Fuck! Okay, okay, I'm fucking slain or whatever the fuck, knock it off!"

    The child gives him a couple extra smacks just to make sure he gets the point, then raises its sword in victory. "I win! The kingdom is saved and everybody is happy!"

    "Yeah, yeah, you're the fucking hero." The great Nathaniel Morgan takes the crown off his head and drops it on the child's. It lets out a yelp, trying to shove the crown up out of its eyes. And it is poky, ugh. "We done, then? Because seriously, Kerrigan's got a major stick up his ass and I don't want to deal with it. We can play pretendy games later, okay? Just go see what the fuck he wants."

    "Later?" The child drags the crown off its head and throws it on the bed, the sword going next to it. "Really? You are not going to run off or anything?"

    "Me?" The great Nathaniel Morgan leans against the doorframe, smiling like he's forgotten all about his missing teeth and tapping the end of his scepter idly against the wall behind him. "Running off on you? I got no clue what the fuck you're talking about." The child narrows its eyes at him. "Nah, seriously, Kid, it's fine. Go on, get moving."

    The child goes past slowly, watching him the entire time. He doesn't move, and the child charges off down the corridor. Probably it won't take long to deal with Leonard Kerrigan anyway. And it has been a while since it checked on him. It should see what he's up to, remind him he doesn't have long before it gets angry.

    "What do you want?" the child demands the moment it enters the computer room.

    "Ah, it's just you. I thought a herd of elephants was loose in the building," Leonard Kerrigan says. The child's about to say something mean back, but the computer screen catches its eye. It's blue, empty blue, not showing a log-in prompt anymore.

    Also, the next post contains a worldbuilding extra on pokémon biology... part one. It's long enough as is, so I'm going to save topics like the pokémon language and pokémon ecology for a later extra. Note that it does include a section on pokémon reproduction. It's decidedly not graphic, and pokémon sex is pretty unsexy anyway, but if it makes you uncomfortable you're of course free to skip it. It was also written in the course of around five hours since I decided at the last minute to scrap it and rewrite it completely (protip: don't do this), but I think this version is much better. I hope you enjoy.

    This also brings the total number of replies in this thread up to 218, which is fitting. Enjoy the birthday updates, and I'll see you in March with, finally, the first chapter of "part two."

    Also check out the great fanart Dragonfree did of the protagonist with its Captain Rubina Roth action figure! What an innocent, wholesome child enjoying some light-hearted play.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2018
  19. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    An Introduction to Pokémon Biology
    by Dr. Laurel Basswood​

    What are pokémon? Are they animals with magical powers? Emissaries of the gods? Wayfarers from some other world entirely?

    The nature of pokémon has fascinated us since ancient times, when worship of the creatures that could call lightning, fire, and ice, bring rain and sunshine alike, was often intermingled with fear at their immense power. It's only recently that scientific advances have given us the tools to truly explore how pokémon work and what makes them so different from mundane animals like you or I.

    Many questions remain, and the field of pokémon research continues to grow, leading to innovations like the pokéball and the PC storage system. This chapter will introduce you to the basics of our current understanding of pokémon biology, as well as a glimpse of what remains unknown.

    Pokémon and Infinity Energy

    Pokémon have numerous seemingly-supernatural abilities. They can cause earthquakes, tidal waves, and localized hurricanes at will, easily multiple times per day. They can take damage that would easily kill a human and, after a couple hours of rest, stand up and withstand the same again. They can be stored as data, transmitted across the globe, and reconstructed somewhere new without loss or discomfort. All of these characteristics stem from the power source shared by all pokémon, which is known as infinity energy.

    As the name suggests, infinity energy seems like an almost unlimited resource that pokémon have found away to tap into. The amount of energy available to them is almost absurd: just one of a pikachu's thunderbolts contains enough energy to power a typical home for weeks. Pokémon can transmute, and perhaps even create, new matter out of infinity energy alone, a feat that requires more energy than is contained in a modern nuclear warhead. With so much energy at their disposal, pokémon are capable of feats that seem magical.

    The scientific definition of "pokémon" is any organism that can use infinity energy to produce attacks. It was written like this, instead of "any organism that can use infinity energy," to exclude organisms like apricorn trees that have a limited ability to manipulate infinity energy. Even some humans show signs of being able to detect, or have limited ability to work with, infinity energy. Only pokémon, however, are able to metabolize infinity energy and use it to fuel the spectacular battles for which they're so well-known.

    Pokémon represent a kingdom of life. While many appear to be animals, and animals are certainly their closest relatives, in a biological sense they're radically different, easily as distant from animals as animals are from amoebae or algae. Some biologists argue that they should be classified as a new domain instead, which would suggest an even more dramatic difference, but since their cellular biology remains essentially the same as that of other eukaryotes, most taxonomists have rejected the idea.

    Infinity energy itself remains poorly understood. We don't know what generates it, how it exists in the environment, or even how much of it there is. It represents some fraction of the universe's dark energy, energy that must exist in order for our observations of the universe line up with our current understanding of natural laws, but which we have been unable to characterize. Some people suggest that "aura," a concept of life energy that persists in many human cultures, is simply an ancient term for infinity energy, and that those people sensitive to it can identify parts of the environment where it naturally resides. Alternatively, aura may simply represent one kind of infinity energy phenomenon, one particularly familiar to fighting-types.

    What is clear about infinity energy is that it exists on a spectrum, like visible light and radio waves. Pokémon can metabolize infinity energy at frequencies clustered around one or two peaks--why not more? No one is sure. Where these peaks lie determines a pokémon's primary type alignment and thus how the pokémon interacts with all different frequencies of infinity energy. At this point, eighteen different types have been identified--regions of the infinity energy spectrum that have distinct physical properties. However, it is likely that more types exist, and we simply haven't found enough pokémon that utilize them to make a positive identification.

    In addition to being able to absorb infinity energy from the environment, all pokémon also emit a small amount of infinity energy. These pulses contain information about a pokémon and are what devices like a pokédex read when analyzing a pokémon's characteristics. The infinity energy that a pokémon passively emits is referred to as its energy signature.

    The most remarkable feature of a pokémon's energy signature is that it contains a complete description of the biological organism. That means that if a pokémon's energy signature is known, its body can be reconstructed from that information alone. This is what allows pokémon storage in pokéballs and similar devices: the pokémon's physical form is broken down, but since its energy signature remains intact, it can be reconstructed on the fly. The pokémon can also be interacted with in its pure-energy state, which is how healing machines and technical machines operate on pokémon lying dormant in their pokéballs.

    Overall, the ability to metabolize infinity energy is a true biological revolution, one that has allowed pokémon to diversify at an incredible rate and invade a huge number of ecological niches. Although such revolutions are rare, we might compare the ability to metabolize infinity energy to the ability to metabolize oxygen. Originally, life was purely anaerobic--not only could early organisms not use oxygen, it was actively toxic to them. Most had no way to even detect its presence, in the same way that mundane animals are totally blind to infinity energy's existence. When microorganisms appeared that not only resisted oxygen's damaging effects, but could use it to generate abundant chemical energy, they rapidly rose to prominence. In the same way, we've seen pokémon spread across the globe and develop into a multitude of forms, with every sign that we'll be seeing new and even more spectacular pokémon species arising in the future.

    Pokémon and Battling

    One of the first thing that springs to mind when thinking of pokémon is pokémon battles, the spectacular contests of strength that have become such an important part of our popular culture. It's appropriate that battling takes center stage when talking about pokémon, as all pokémon share a drive to battle as deep-seated as their need to eat, sleep, and reproduce.

    This is because infinity energy accumulates inside a pokémon's body, and unless it is discharged and reduced to safe levels, it will begin to interfere with a pokémon's biological functions and even its physical integrity, a condition known as energy intoxication. The primary way for a pokémon to discharge built-up infinity energy is by using attacks, although battling as such isn't necessary. Simply attacking an inanimate object will discharge excess energy as well as attacking another pokémon, but battling conveys physical benefits, which we'll talk about in the "Pokémon Growth and Evolution" section, as well as social ones.

    Given the importance of battling to pokémon, it's no wonder that pokémon are well-adapted to withstanding the injuries that result. They use infinity energy both to reduce the damage suffered by their physical bodies and also to accelerate their bodies' healing abilities. The faint pokémon undergo when severely injured functions similarly to a coma in humans, a condition that forces the pokémon to stop fighting, moving, or otherwise putting itself at further risk while its body heals. Unlike a coma, however, faints are typically brief and carry little danger to the pokémon. A fainted pokémon will usually revive and be back on its feet within a couple of hours, even in the complete absence of medical treatment.

    However, while fainting carries little risk in and of itself, it's a dangerous condition in the wild because it leaves a pokémon completely vulnerable to opportunistic predators, even mundane animals that typically leave a pokémon well alone. For this reason, wild pokémon almost never battle to the point of fainting, and in fact most battles last for only one or two exchanges of attacks before one combatant flees or surrenders. Some pokémon societies even use fainting as a punishment; one of the beedrill swarms near Viridian is known to gang up on individuals who have committed particularly heinous crimes, such as dishonorable murder or betrayal of the swarm, and force them into fainting. The unconscious offender is then left outside the swarm's territory under the assumption that something will come along to kill and eat it, the most dishonorable death of all.

    This makes the relatively sustained, brutal fighting seen in trainer battles an anomaly to most wild-caught pokémon. There are analogues; some pokémon cultures carry out ritualized battles that result in fainting, typically when determining leadership of their particular group or to assign mating rights. In these cases a fainted pokémon will be watched over by close friends or family until it recovers.

    In such cases the pokémon is essentially trusting others with its life, a role that a trainer takes on when caring for pokémon that have fainted in battle. Naturally, many wild pokémon find fainting a terrifying prospect, and the thought that the person watching over them while in such a vulnerable state is a child they barely know doesn't help matters. For this reason trainers are advised to battle gently with fresh-caught pokémon until enough trust has developed that pokémon won't be afraid to faint when under their trainer's care. Even in high-level competitive matches, many trainers prefer to concede when it becomes clear that they've lost, rather than subject their pokémon to the trauma of fainting.

    Pokémon Growth and Evolution

    One of pokémon's most well-known abilities is evolution, a radical change from one form to another. Of course, this isn't evolution in the biological sense, but instead a kind of metamorphosis, similar to the change from a caterpillar to a butterfly, but much more rapid and dramatic as a result of drawing on infinity energy.

    While battling, pokémon discharge their infinity energy reserves in order to create attacks. However, battle also exposes pokémon to infinity energy released by their opponents. Pokémon absorb small quantities of this energy, which raises their overall infinity energy capacity. Over time, then, they become capable of creating more powerful attacks simply because their reserves of infinity energy grow larger. The amount of infinity energy that a pokémon can store is called its level, which can easily be recognized by pokédexes and other devices capable of reading energy signatures.

    The exposure to other pokémon's energy also influences how pokémon metabolize infinity energy in general. A pokémon that encounters a lot of fire-type attacks, for example, will over time grow resistant to them. This sort of specialization is rare in trained pokémon, which battle highly varied opponents, but common in the wild. For example, pidgey and pidgeotto living in Viridian Forest are known to be less susceptible to electric attacks than those living near Route 1 or Route 2. Some high-level trainers exploit this phenomenon by seeking out repeated battles against particular kinds of opponents, thus developing their pokémon to have specific battle skills rather than accumulating them at random over time.

    Once a pokémon's reserves of infinity energy have grown large enough, it may have enough energy available to evolve. This is the most common form of evolution, recognized by trainers as pokémon evolving once they reach a certain level. However, some species are able to fuel evolution using external sources of infinity energy, the most common of these being the famous "evolution stones." New evolution catalysts are being discovered all the time. The evolutions enabled by exposure to "evolution helpers" can also occur without them if a pokémon can build up enough infinity energy on its own, but typically the requirement is so high that even pokémon battling with trainers will never be able to reach it.

    Although older pokémon naturally tend to be at a higher level and evolutionary stage than younger pokémon, level and evolution aren't directly linked to maturity. How fast a pokémon levels up and evolves is entirely down to how much it battles, which has more to do with its personality and how often it has the opportunity to fight than it does how long the pokémon has been alive. In the care of a trainer a larvitar may evolve into a tyranitar in a scant few years, at which point it will still, mentally, very much be a child; on the other hand, a wild larvitar may live for decades and be considered a well-respected adult without evolving even once.

    Finally, it's worth noting that there are downsides to a pokémon increasing its energy capacity. While this makes it more powerful in battle, it also forces the pokémon to battle more often in order to burn off enough energy to remain healthy. And battling more often in turn leads to more growth. This can cause problems in the wild especially, where changes in environmental conditions may cause previously-stable sources of battle opponents to dry up unexpectedly. It also can make it difficult for trained pokémon to transition back to the wild life, as they've come to rely on having a steady stream of opponents to fight against.

    Pokémon Reproduction

    Pokémon reproduction fascinates pokémon researchers and schoolchildren alike. Some pokémon pairings, such as the infamous skitty and wailord, seem like they should be biologically impossible. The matter isn't helped by confusing terminology, which suggests similarities between pokémon and animals that simply don't exist. The "eggs" pokémon hatch from bear no relation to the eggs produced by animals, and although some pokémon resemble animals, they emphatically are not. There's nothing bizarre about pokémon like ponyta and rapidash emerging from eggs because, although they appear mammalian, they are anything but.

    In fact, pokémon lack reproductive organs entirely. A pokémon's sex is determined solely by whether or not a pokémon can produce eggs in its final evolutionary stage: if it can, it's female, and if it can't, it's male. The sheer number of pokémon species that appear to lack the ability to create eggs at all indicates how poorly the human concept of biological sex maps onto pokémon as a whole.

    A pokémon egg is an energy construct similar to a substitute. The fact that it superficially resembles an animal egg, which arises from a specialized cell or cells, is purely a result of convergent evolution. Like animal eggs, pokémon eggs protect an embryo and provide it with nourishment while it develops. Pokémon make eggs the same way they generate attacks--indeed, "make egg" might as well be classified as an attack, simply one where whether or not a pokémon can use it is important in matters of reproduction. This raises the possibility that a pokémon might be able to learn to create eggs, thus "changing its sex." There are reports of such sex changes in some wild marill populations, but very little research has been done on this subject as of yet.

    A pokémon egg is a thin layer of shell wrapped around a dense core of infinity energy contributed by the female parent. To fertilize the egg, the other parent strikes it with an attack, exposing it to their own energy signature. In many species the attack used is specialized and not utilized except for purposes of reproduction, but this is not necessary; any attack that won't outright destroy the egg will do. One way or another, the "male" parent's energy signature combines with the "female" parent's energy signature embedded in the egg to produce a new energy signature that represents the offspring that will develop. How the energy signatures integrate with one another is a mystery, although there's clearly some element of randomness involved, since no two offspring of the same parents will be identical.

    After an egg has been fertilized, an embryo will form inside, consisting at first of a few cells but growing rapidly through multiple rounds of cell division. The infinity energy provided by the parents kick-starts this process but is rarely enough to see it through to completion. An egg therefore needs to absorb additional infinity energy from the environment before it can hatch.

    Some pokémon simply abandon their eggs with no more than a cursory attempt at hiding them and keeping them protected from the elements--evidently there's enough ambient energy in most environments that an egg left alone can gather enough to complete development and hatch. However, an egg will hatch faster the more infinity energy it is exposed to, and thus many pokémon will carry their eggs with them so they can benefit from the raised levels of infinity energy caused by pokémon battles. Attacking an egg as though it were an opponent usually doesn't work, as standard battle attacks would destroy it, but keeping the egg in the proximity of active battles will dramatically decrease the amount of time it takes to hatch. Eggs carried by pokémon trainers, who may engage in multiple high-level battles per day, can hatch in days or even hours, rather than the weeks typical of eggs in the wild.

    Because pokémon reproduction requires no actual exchange of biological material--all biological information being encoded in the infinity energy the parents provide--pokémon with radically different body plans are perfectly capable of producing viable offspring. However, most pokémon are incapable of breeding with at least some other species. These reproductive differences, which lead to the formation of what trainers call "egg groups," are a result of differences in infinity energy metabolism rather than differences in body plan.

    However, there is one pokémon capable of reproducing with all known pokémon species: ditto. Ditto's fecundity is a result of its highly advanced ability to manipulate infinity energy, which allows it to create energy constructs with diverse properties. This is necessary for reproduction with certain "genderless" species that typically don't use eggs at all. Rather than fertilizing an egg, for example, voltorb and electrode create new voltorb by irradiating deactivated pokéballs with infinity energy. Artificial pokémon like golett and Beldum® likewise require some kind of initial "body" to bring to life with infinity energy, as they lack the biological processes necessary for embryonic development. Unlike other species, ditto can not only produce eggs but also simulacra that pokémon with highly specialized reproductive modes will find adequate for breeding.

    The lack of physical barriers to breeding between highly divergent pokémon species means that speciation happens much more slowly among pokémon than among other organisms. In fact, based on the classic definition of species as a group of organisms capable of producing fertile offspring, pokémon are actually all a single species, and the various forms we refer to as species would more accurately be termed sub-species or strains. Although aside from ditto there is no one pokémon that can reproduce with any other pokémon, there is usually some path that will allow the two to indirectly reproduce; a mudkip can't breed with an aron, but an aron can breed with a treecko, which can breed with mudkip.

    However, the presence of egg groups does suggest that pokémon are diverging from one another. It may be some time yet, but we should eventually see pokémon that aren't able to reproduce with all their diverse contemporaries, and this in turn will probably give rise to entirely new forms of life capable of metabolizing infinity energy.

    Pokémon Genetics and Epigenetics

    Given the extreme permissiveness of pokémon reproduction, a biologist would tend to expect that pokémon genomes are highly similar. This is true. Rather than relying on genetic information to account for their huge diversity, pokémon are much more governed by epigenetics.

    It's not uncommon for animal genomes to encode multiple radically different body plans. A caterpillar is, in a physical sense, very little like a butterfly, and the honeybee genome produces not only the small, sexless workers but the also relatively huge, reproductively active queen. As previously discussed, pokémon evolution is essentially the same as an insect's metamorphosis, and is achieved in the same way: rather than by altering the underlying genetics of the organism, changing how those genetics are expressed.

    Unsurprisingly, given the wildly divergent body plans exhibited by pokémon, epigenetic differences are concentrated in regions containing master regulators that are responsible for the pokémon's general physical organization during development. By contrast, the regions of the genome that control infinity energy metabolism, what might be called the essence of what makes a pokémon a pokémon, is highly conserved between species, both at a genetic and expression level. There are small differences that probably account for such features as a pokémon's typing, the rate at which it can increase its infinity energy capacity (how fast it "levels up"), and so forth, but overall this system is essentially the same from one species of pokémon to another.

    Pokémon attacks are probably the best-understood example of epigenetic control in pokémon. As far as scientists have been able to determine, every single pokémon encodes the genetic information necessary to produce any kind of attack. The subset that it can actually utilize is determined entirely by the levels of expression of the relevant genes, which ones are activated, and which repressed. This varies between species and also between individuals of the same species. A pokémon can inherit an attack from one or more of its parents, for example; in addition to the genetic information that they provide to their offspring, much of their epigenetic information is also preserved. Technical machines, which manipulate a pokémon's energy signature directly, can undo the repression of certain genes and thus allow a pokémon to access new attacks. Even exposure to a pokémon that can use a particular attack, referred to as a "tutor," can at times cause an epigenetic shift and make a pokémon suddenly "learn" an attack it couldn't previously wield.

    Of course, there are some pokémon that lack genetic information entirely. Artificial pokémon like Porygon®, Beldum®, and baltoy have physical but inorganic bodies. Their status as organisms is complicated by the fact that they are, in some cases, able to reproduce with truly biological pokémon. Such pokémon are fascinating because they retain so many key pokémon characteristics, despite having entirely different origins: they use familiar pokémon attacks, have recognizable typings, and can even understand and produce the universal pokémon language.

    This suggests that pokémon are more strongly influenced by infinity energy than by the biological information inherited from their distant ancestors. Indeed, many scientists believe that pokémon are evolving away from having physical forms entirely, moving towards becoming pure-energy beings. Ghost pokémon may be an intermediate stage in this process. Although they have physical bodies that retain familiar biological features, they lack the systems necessary to sustain biological life, instead being animated primarily by infinity energy. It's been suggested that ghosts only have physical manifestations at all because they allow them to interact with our familiar world of matter. In the future we may encounter pokémon species that eschew this ability entirely--or such species may already exist, roaming the wild but undetectable by all our current means of searching.

    Conclusion

    Pokémon are fascinating and mysterious creatures, and our understanding of them remains rudimentary at best. It's clear that infinity energy lies at the heart of what makes pokémon both so mysterious and so successful, and it's perhaps infinity energy that we understand least of all. I hope this introduction has given you an idea both of what we know about pokémon and how much more we have to discover. In later chapters we'll consider the relationship between pokémon and mundane animals in greater detail. How might pokémon have arisen from creatures like you and me? How do they interact with their environment? And, ultimately, how have they been shaped by their relationship with humans?
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2018
    unrepentantAuthor likes this.
  20. Keleri

    Keleri I pinch.

    Happy Birthday Negrek!! Omg, I love your Pokemon Biology meta so much, I think this is canon for me when I'm not doing my bonkers Soulsverse business. I'm totally going to swipe the bit about the EV-training-like factor of becoming resistant to certain types by repeated exposure. EPIGENETICS. swoons

    The addendum to Chapter 35 is great. STOCKHOLM SYNDROME. Poor Nate.
     

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