Damn them. Damn them all.
For the lies. For my imprisonment. But most of all, for the hope they keep alive, like a starving flower. A drip of water, a peek of sunlight, and stubbornly, it endures.
We think we found a way to bring you out.
It is a hard thing to keep my mind partitioned. To let the false-hope, the harmless-hope, show on the surface for Sabrina to read, while inside the desperate, anguished, starving hope rends at me. I sense her concern as my mask leaks briefly, and some of my true feelings go through.
I would like that, I tell her, and carefully regain control of my thoughts. What will you try?
A mobile life support system, able to replicate all the functions of your tank for brief periods of time.
Hope. Feeble, but piercing. I hang in my prison and study her through the glass. Sabrina has changed much in the past decade. Her thoughts, what little I can glean of them behind the blank shield she surrounds them with, are heavier, more full of consideration and nuanced doubts. Physically, she has gone from a teenager to a young woman.
But far more important are her mental powers, already strong as a child, grown far beyond any other psychic in the facility. The scintillating light of psychic energy around her has become much stronger, shifted to a color that has no name in human languages, for they cannot see it.
I discovered from the other minds that she is a Gym Leader now, in Saffron City. Learning this filled me with pride. She must be one of the strongest human psychics in the region. Which demonstrates how powerful I am in comparison, to be so much farther above her.
How brief? When will it be ready?
Development has just completed. We wanted to be sure before we told you, so as not to give you false hope. Giovanni gave the order to begin construction this morning.
Beep. Beep. Beep. I listen to my heartbeats speed up, a sound I’ve long since grown accustomed to, filtered out of my consciousness. Again I struggle to keep my mental mask in place, remind myself of all the false hope I’ve been fed before. Why has the system not been developed here, in the lab?
The technology for it was developed for other purposes. It’s being adapted to your needs, and should be ready to test in perhaps two weeks. Think you can hold out that long?
She sends humor, concern, trepidation. I carefully add resolution and eagerness to my mask. Yes! Thank you for telling me, Sabrina.
Of course, Mazda. Now, what would you like to learn about today?
Mazda. This name she gave me, from an obscure, mostly dead language. “Wisdom,” because she often found my thoughts and perspective uniquely fascinating, insightful. In the early years, this too filled me with pride, and joy, to have a name, even if it was a private one between myself and my teacher. Its charm has long since fled.
I have been wondering how the governments of the different regions interact with each other, day to day. The files on the computer gave only a brief overview of the systems and history…
As we begin our lessons, I remind myself that this new development, this mobile support system, is not kindness. They want something of me: some way to test their new toy, to further their knowledge. Perhaps even better refine it for the others of my kind that surely exist, if they are similarly as crippled.
But to leave this prison… I cannot bear to silence the hope that they speak true. And for that I curse them a hundred times again.
Days pass more slowly than whole months that came before. My prison is not uncomfortable. There is music, when I want it, and a computer connected to screens to show television, display books, watch films, and even play games.
My telekinesis, like my telepathy, grew in strength naturally, but developing finesse was a task that the games were endlessly useful for. First simple board games, moving pieces from one square to another, then more complex movements to connect blocks and build things. Electronic game controllers were useful as well, but once I overcame the interface challenge they presented, I quickly tired of them.
Sabrina visits often, to talk and play games. I enjoy the distraction she provides, but am hungry for news on the life support system’s development, which she claims to have none of.
It’s so rare to have something to look forward to. Something to break the daily monotony, stop the weeks from blending into each other. The only way to normally track the passing of time is through the others at the facility.
Most have remained here over the past decade. Sarah, who has matured with the years, become more confident in herself. Haruo, still burning with passion, but no longer as anxious to reach the next discovery, more willing to stop and consider the previous.
Others are gone. The details of why are not always available in the minds of their coworkers. Most simply vanished, like Fuji had. Others were killed in some tragedy or other. Darin killed him/herself, the confusion and pain within finally driving them to desperation. Their mind was too painful to share near the end. I often wonder if I had tried harder to endure it, whether I would reach out or alert someone of their plans.
Without the humans’ thoughts to share, their company to keep, I do not know how the years would have been bearable. The thought of living them only through the minds of my limited, few comforters, as originally intended, seems sadistic, even for shorter periods of time. I think often of the others, my hypothetical siblings. Would the humans correct for their oversight? Expand the distance between my siblings and the rest of their labs, leave them truly isolated? It pains me to think of what isolation they must endure, beyond even my own pitiable state.
But the media is a blessing as well. Thousands of television shows, tens of thousands of books… in them a million characters acting out their dramas, pursuing their goals, overcoming their obstacles. Watching television or movies was uninteresting, at first. Without being able to merge with their minds, it all seemed so distant and meaningless. Then I realized it allowed me the rare chance to observe interactions of humans from the outside, to truly not know whether they were being honest or not, how they felt, what their plans were. To be in suspense, test my predictions of what the characters would do, is both educational and entertaining, even if the events are scripted, the characters actors.
Books were harder. Learning to read was easy, but envisioning the events, when there’s so little I’ve seen with my own eyes… seeing descriptions of thoughts and feelings, rather than sharing them myself, felt empty.
It was poetry that connected my mind and those in print. Sabrina suggested it upon hearing of my difficulty, and I spent a hundred sunless days and starless nights sampling from one famous poet to another, until I finally reached one that broke the barrier:
I am—yet what I am, none cares or knows;
My friends forsake me like a memory lost:
I am the self-consumer of my woes—
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shadows in love’s frenzied, stifled throes
And yet I am, and live—like vapours tossed
Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life or joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems;
Even the dearest that I loved the best
Are strange—nay, rather, stranger than the rest.
I long for scenes where man hath never trod
A place where woman never smiled or wept
There to abide with my Creator, God,
And sleep, as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Untroubling, and untroubled where I lie
The grass below—above the vaulted sky.
The words were like rain upon parched earth, a cool cloth upon a fevered brow. I absorbed them again and again, first fascinated without knowing why, then desperate to feel again the author’s kindred, solitary pain.
I still do not know if I can weep. If I am physically incapable, or if the liquid I’m immersed in prevents me from noticing when I do. But I have never felt more trapped, despite my mental freedoms. I have never felt more rent by sorrow. It was as though my mind touched one filled with extraordinary despair and longing, but also grace.
When I composed myself and reassured my monitors, who were greatly alarmed by my agitation, I looked up the author, John Clare. Born and died hundreds of years ago, yet so sad was his voice in my mind that I imagined it as Dr. Fuji’s. His biography told of a life filled with its own share of tragedy.
Poetry became my obsession. All the borrowed metaphors I’d taken from people’s minds found a home in the words of strangers. Once it became known to the rest of the lab, one of my comforters, Eva, began reading poetry from time to time. It was not often that our tastes overlapped, but to share the mind of another as it enjoyed poetry helped me value more as well.
Eventually I moved on from there, particularly enamored by stories of outsiders, outcasts, those trapped, either physically or by circumstances. For a while it gave me solace, between Sabrina or Giovanni’s visits.
My creator has been an errant figure, visiting only once or twice a month, for varying periods of time. Sometimes we would play games: Checkers, Renju, Chess, Shogi, and more, until I mastered him in each. Sometimes we discuss books, or things I had learned, him speaking through an amplifier set against the glass, I through my computer’s voice synthesizer. Today, of course, we talk of the life support system, the “suit.”
“It is something that is being developed for exploration in harsh environments,” Giovanni says. “The design is by Silph, which made the proprietary rights and design specifications difficult to come by.”
“But not for you, surely,” I type out into my computer. My “voice,” through the speaker, is deep, far deeper than I have heard through others’ ears, and just barely male rather than altogether inhuman. I helped pick it, though I do not know why it appealed to me above the others. It is unknown if I can even speak, let alone what it would sound like, and from what I’ve been told, I have no gender. Yet another source of disconnection: my species was not meant for procreation, to join the rest of life’s endless cycle.
“Yes, difficult even for me. The president and I have had more… disagreements, lately.”
I stay silent and study the Go board, wondering if I should form an eye or start a new formation. The room is empty, as it often is when Giovanni visits. Perhaps to create an atmosphere of intimacy. Perhaps to let him speak more freely. I’ve rarely managed to decipher my creator’s motives, made infuriatingly impenetrable by his cursed abnormality. “Do you think it will affect your friendship?” I eventually ask, after moving a stone.
“Friendship is not an easy thing, for men in my position. I would call him a useful ally, but the time for that alliance may be ending. Perhaps it already has.”
“I thought he shared our vision for the future.” That vision that he had so tantalizingly dangled before me, during his first visit. I still call it “our,” ever pretending, ever hiding how I despise him. Dark though he may be, my thoughts are not safe. Psychics nearby monitor my mood, no doubt informing him of them somehow.
“Perhaps he still does. But there’s been trouble in gym coordination lately. Mayors that were meek, effective public servants last year are growing spines and pushing back against gym leaders. Price controls are being lifted, regulations stripped or softened until they’re toothless. Silph is expanding into foreign markets and leveraging that political capital here at home.”
“To defy you?”
“To accomplish his own agendas. We’ve only ever agreed on a single goal, not the methods or aftermath.”
And when I help you capture the Stormbringers, what then? Shall we turn to the Silph President and his agenda? I do not say it. I must act as though my loyalty to him is without question, on the smallest chance that he may take it for granted.
“Well,” I type as I float a new piece into position. “I do not see why it should affect you so. He can continue amassing his wealth and empowering individuals, while you continue building connections.”
Giovanni takes a piece from his bag and rubs it between his thumb and forefinger. “There have been other things. Setbacks. Unexplained problems. The word sabotage is whispered by my people, when they think I cannot hear them.”
“You suspect Silph?”
“I suspect many people. Altogether, too many people.”
“Bring them here, then. I will read their thoughts better than your psychics can.”
Giovanni seems to consider this a moment, but shakes his head. “To those few I can convince to come, I would be extending a trust that’s worth more than what they can offer.” He places his stone.
Frustration flares within me, then dies back to sullen embers. I have often tried to get more people to visit the facility, to learn more from new minds. I have met with little success over the years. It has not escaped me that all I think I know might be an elaborate ruse, a carefully molded illusion from all the minds in the facility. I have long since discarded paranoia as a concern: of my creator, I would put nothing past.
We continue to play the game until his victory. It was not as great as the first, nor the tenth. One by one, I learn these games he teaches me, and eventually become his master. But they are only games. In the only one that matters, he holds all the pieces, controls the whole board.
Still, I learn. Ten years is a lot of time to test the security of my prison, even confined as I am. A lot of time to track movements of personnel, pick up glimpses and memories to form a mental map, notice safety measures, human, pokemon, and other.
Back when I practiced influencing the minds of the wild pokemon in the stone and soil around the facility, I tried at times to poke and prod them into digging toward me. Always, after a certain point, there would be a reaction somewhere in the facility. Some sensor that detects life forms or seismic activity, I know not which, keeps the facility prepared for pokemon attacks beneath the ground.
Dark humans with their various pokemon stand vigil night and day, switching shifts every eight hours. They have minimal contact with the others in the facility, are almost as enigmatic today as they were when I first beheld them through my glass walls.
But not completely.
Perhaps my most profound discovery of humans has been of their inconsistency. There are vanishingly few rules that do not eventually get broken, and their beliefs about themselves are often misleading. Perhaps if I could truly plumb their depths rather than just their minds’ most immediate forms, I would find some underlying, inviolate rules, but so far none have emerged.
All of which means that, over a long enough period of time, they all make mistakes. I have overheard conversations that should not have taken place, inferred patterns from the thoughts and remarks that should have been better hidden among those closest to my cell. Not enough to get through their security, but enough to know that there are layers upon layers of it… and that, ultimately, there is some sort of failsafe they all worry about from time to time. Just a thought, once in awhile… whatifitgoesoffaccidentally, associated with some brief terror of everyone dying.
Not knowing what these failsafes are makes any escape attempt suicidal. Even knowing that, it has been hard to keep patient and seek out mistakes.
Some of which are more subtle than others.
Easy as it is to find patterns given enough time and information, what I have found more difficult, but similarly rewarding, is spotting conspicuous holes in patterns. Fewer staff in the facility on certain days of the week. Travel habits of individuals that go to areas everyone else avoids. And gaps in what sort of information I have access to.
Of all the media available to me, there are some glaring exceptions. No information on pokemon battles or various abilities, no details on the nature of Dark pokemon. What little I know of them I’ve gleaned from the facility’s inhabitants.
What’s more, in thousands of books and shows, movies and documentaries, histories and biographies, there are no stories, no information at all, about escapes from imprisonment or restraint of any kind.
Such stories must exist. They must. My situation may in fact be unique throughout all of history, and yet similar ones cannot be. The chances of such a gap in human imagination are too low, and the humans in the facility fear and wonder over my chances of escape too often, think briefly of similar situations too specific and imaginative to be their own invention rather than a story they remember.
Whoever decides on what media I am allowed to see must fear me learning anything from it that might aid me in escaping. As soon as I realized that, I began to imagine my own. Not trusting anything that would be saved in the computer, I would often imagine stories of capture and escape. Project myself into the role of the captor, design ways to keep others imprisoned. But it is difficult to know how much is possible, let alone probable, without knowing what information or technology they might be hiding from me.
Regardless, I persist. The alternative is unthinkable.
“I know how badly you want to be free of this place,” Giovanni says as he clears the pieces from the board and divides them for another game. “And you’ve been more than patient. I hope this new suit will allow you to finally begin venturing out into the world.”
It’s easy to believe him. Even if everything else is a carefully constructed lie, if all I know is some elaborate illusion, I know that I exist for a purpose. I was created for a purpose. Giovanni will continue to invest resources into me as long as there is a chance he can benefit from it somehow.
“It is hard to believe that I may soon see the sky at last,” I type out. “And I am eager to see what I can do for the world as well. I often fear I will be unable to repay humanity for the generosity you have all shown me.”
“Be at ease on that account. You have already done much for us. I know you will continue to defy our expectations.”
I practice reading faces often, testing my predictions of how people feel by observing them with others, then jumping to their mind, but my creator remains inscrutable as ever. It’s likely that Giovanni is aware of my true desires, that he is speaking with two meanings, as I am. He is intelligent enough to not introduce such a suit without knowing that I might take advantage of it and escape.
Which means I must simply be more intelligent to do so.
“I intend to,” I say, and place my first piece on the board.
The day has come. The suit is here, in front of me, and I can barely keep my mind from jumping to others in excitement, to try to see them from other, closer angles. Useless in any case, everyone in the room is Dark besides Sabrina.
She is explaining the suit’s function, how it will attach to my body at several places where the current medical apparatus does and fulfill its function. I pay attention as best I can while also watching the pieces get removed from their crate, manipulated by the technicians and doctors, filled with fluids. They are bulky and roughly shaped like metal tubes. A power source is inserted at the back, wires and tubes connected to the arm and leg and torso pieces.
That battery, how long does it last? I ask, interrupting Sabrina mid-sentence.
She asks, and one of the engineers responds. Days, but the suit would run out of potion long before then.
I see. No point in asking how long before those run out: it remains to be seen if they would work at all as a substitute for my tank. Is it refillable, or would I need to return here between outings?
“It would need to be removed to be serviced.” Remember that this is just a prototype. Future iterations can be different.
Of course. Future iterations that may take another 10 years of imprisonment…
But the anger does not last, fleeing quickly before a renewed surge of anticipation and hope. Freedom is minutes away…
That hope is soured by the final piece they remove from the crate: a helmet, with a vizor on it. Bitterness wells up. Yet another layer of glass between me and the world!
Calm, Mazda. I know you wish to see the sky. We must proceed carefully, even now. You have never seen sunlight: it will be painful without protection.
I am remaining inside today anyway, am I not? Surely the glass can be removed while I am here?
It is part of the helmet. Let us be sure it works first. It would be foolish to rush ahead and cause yourself harm, after waiting so long.
Her words do nothing to quell my impatience. I begin manipulating the various things around my tube, splitting my mind into more and more partitions as I struggle to distract myself. Puzzle pieces scatter and rearrange themselves, toy blocks move together to form shapes before melting back into pieces, and the pieces of the Go board fly up and begin to circle my tube in twin black and white orbits. Several of the workers slow, staring, and one of the guards’ umbreon steps forward, lip curled in a snarl. I pay them no mind, too busy testing my fine control to its limit.
Mazda. They are ready.
Everything drops back in their respective boxes. The technicians are all around me, pieces positioned for quick placement. I prepare myself for the coming pain.
First comes a gurgling noise as the liquid is drained around me into the floor, a sound I haven’t heard for over three years. As soon as my head emerges, I feel the absence of it, like a layer of skin peeled off to leave me raw and exposed. I lower as the water does, until finally my feet touch the floor. As the buoyancy is lost, my weight comes to rest on them completely, and I collapse to the floor.
From time spent in other minds, I know how bodies move and feel. But my own is still foreign to me, and is not strong enough to follow my commands. The humans are staring at me, murmuring. Humiliated, I finally resort to telekinesis to lift myself up, until I precariously balance on the ends of each foot, where they feel the most supported. I try to push the rest of my feet down, but it feels uncomfortable, painful even. With a fresh wave of self-loathing, I finally accept that I’m a digitigrade, unable to even stand or walk like a human.
Next the glass around my pod lifts into the ceiling, and air rushes in around me, cold and prickly against my wet skin. I savor the sensations, uncomfortable though they are, and prepare for the true discomfort.
One by one, the needles withdraw from my skin and cease their steady supply of healing potion. The immediate, sharp pain is nothing compared to the aching agony that starts to radiate through my bones almost immediately.
In the space of time between their removal and the others rushing forward, I try to heal myself. To undo the damage of my body, keep the pain from growing. I’ll finally do it, this time, all the years spent studying my own biology will pay off, I’ll be able to regenerate my cells as they begin to rapidly die stop them from dying be free it hurts I will be free it hurts–
Mazda! You’ve fallen, are you okay?
-the humans are attaching the pieces to my back and arms, shouting commands, now, I will begin healing now, but the pain continues to grow, an ache fills my chest, vision growing hazy-
Sabrina. So close. I can touch her. But. I can’t see. Yelling. Panic. Giovanni’s tone of command, cutting through the babble. Can’t focus on the words, can’t feel anything but the pain as my awareness begins to fade…
Get up, Mazda, they can’t put the suit on you-
No, Mazda, you’ll die!
A tingling rush. A door in the mind, opening-
Mazda, breathe! You have to breathe!
Memory of the sensation, the action, the muscles move, gasp, draw in a deep breath.
There are hands on me, pulling me up. I can feel them. I can feel… things other than pain. My senses return, and I focus on my body, sitting on the floor. I feel along it and lift, righting myself again and allowing the humans to finish attaching the suit. New pinpricks of pain in my legs, and then sweet, cool relief.
The suit is working. I feel… not normal, nothing close to the comfortable lack of sensation my pod provides, but sensate. The suit is heavy, weighing down my limbs and head, making it harder to hold myself up. My vision is dark, limited, as I peer through the round visor and look around me.
The humans have all backed away. The guarding pokemon are ready, eyes on me, teeth bared and claws extended. I find Sabrina, more apprehensive than fearful, but also relieved.
I turn completely around, then do it again. My tail extends, stretching to its limit, then moving from side to side, causing everyone to take another step back. I’m free.
“Ma-Mewtwo, are you alright?”
Sabrina’s voice, a bit muffled by the helmet, but undistorted. I turn to her, marvelling again at the freedom to turn completely around. Yes, I can-
I stop. Open my mouth, feel the air inside it. My breathing is too quick, desperate. I try and slow it, take a deep breath, lungs aching. It’s too hard at first, to hold a breath, let it out consciously. I huff, try again, struggling to breathe deeper even as I marvel at the sensations.
Once I can hold some breath in my lungs, I let my mind drift back to memories, the sensation of speech, and say, “Aeeeaaheaah!”
All the humans except Giovanni recoil, even Sabrina. The room is silent. Waiting. My heart pounds in my chest. I take a breath and try again, carefully.
“Aaa. Iah. Aahaheaea.”
The noise is nonsensical, beastial. The horror in their faces reflects my own.
Calm. It’s new, all new. Perhaps I just need time, practice.
I cannot speak, Sabrina.
I’m sorry. How are you feeling? Are you in pain?
Pain? Yes, some. Inconsequential. I am fine. Tell everyone to move away.
Once she does, I move my leg forward, both with muscle and mind. Then the next. It is slow, a shuffle, but moving at all, leaving this particular space… for years, it’s been more than I dared imagine. Perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps this is the start of something new after all. So I cannot speak: so what? I can move under my own power, oxygenate my own blood, perhaps even feed myself. I take a deep breath through my nose, savor the smells. I can leave this accursed room. I can see the sky. The suit is a small price to pay, for that.
One of the umbreon suddenly barks as I move in its direction. Its trainer quiets it, but the spell is broken. Amazing as this experience is, I am still a prisoner. The trainers and their pokemon watch, ever vigilant, to destroy me if needed.
I turn around again, slowly, enjoying the sensation anew. Some of the onlookers watch keenly and take notes. Others seem more interested in the suit.
“How does it fit?” one of those asks, noticing my attention. “Are the arms securely fastened?”
“Is the medicine delivery adequate?” another asks. “How do you feel?”
“The helmet, can you see clearly?”
“Your legs, do they naturally bend like that or are you-”
“Enough,” Giovanni says, and they quiet. “Take your time. Respond when you can.” My creator’s face is its usual blank mask, but with something more. An edge of… eagerness? Hunger? I cannot tell.
And for now, I don’t want to. I simply move, enjoying the aches and pains of exertion. It is hard to focus on multiple things at once, but I eventually continue to move myself around while also typing out, “There is pain, and I feel weak, but it is hard to tell what the cause is. The left arm’s piece is loose. It hurts when the needle moves.”
Someone moves forward, then pauses and looks to Giovanni. He nods, and the technician reaches me and adjusts the strap. “Better?” he asks. I stare at him through my visor, marveling at how close he is to me. I can hear his breaths, short and excited. I can turn my hand and touch his clothing, if I wish. Instead I simply move my arm up and down, then nod. He backs away.
I continue shuffling around, occasionally remarking on my observations until my limbs feel too heavy to move, and my telekinesis is used almost exclusively to hold myself up. I simply stay still and feel along my body with my mind, finding easier ways to mold my psychic field, support myself with the lift.
Eventually I notice my audience stir, some frowning, others looking concerned. I have been still too long. “Are you tired?” Sabrina asks.
“Yes,” I type out, understanding the word for the first time on a physical level. “Tired.”
“He should return to his system,” one of the scientists says, and fear immediately rises up, sharpening my attention. “The suit is running dry soon anyway.”
Panic. Hard to breathe. “No. Not yet.”
“Your first excursion was a success,” Giovanni says. “There will be others.”
I back away from them, then remember the others are around me. I’m trapped, and soon I’ll be trapped in truth, trapped back in my prison… I can’t. I won’t.
My power begins to cover the room, feeling everything, preparing. But there are too many holes, empty shapes where the humans and pokemon are. Years of plotting fill my mind as I think of ways to defeat them. I can lift the machinery, shatter glass, make a shield of metal around me…
Then Sabrina is beside me, hand taking mine. Her fingers are warm. Her face is calm.
It’s okay, Mazda. Trust us.
I stare at her. The closest thing to a “friend” I have known, my teacher and companion. But not the true friend that Fuji was. Still one of my jailers. No, I cannot trust her.
But I can pretend to, and bide my time.
I nod, and return to my prison. The technicians approach me and begin to remove the suit. I prepare for the pain to return, eyes closing as it wells up in me, burns through my limbs. Then the needles stab into me again, sharp pains that quickly fade and take the deeper, burning ache away.
When I open my eyes again, the glass is back around me. The chamber fills with liquid, and I watch the others as they look the suit over. Watch as they pack it back away, as my head becomes submerged and I begin to float again. I must trust that they will return, to test out new versions of it. To learn more about me.
I will give them what they want. I will act obedient, grateful. And in return they will deliver to me the the key to my escape.
Days pass, and my mind knows obsession. The experience of being outside my prison, the freedom, the sensations, are all I can think of. I begin to move in my tank, exercising sore and atrophied muscles. On the second excursion I can move around the entire room before tiring, and on the third my suit runs out of potion without me doing so. The scientists are fascinated by my muscular growth, and the technicians work to increase the suit’s capacity.
I’m asked hundreds of questions, tested in dozens of ways. I eat food for the first time, the taste of simple bread bringing ecstasy with the intensity of experiencing it myself. Eventually I’m allowed more complex foods, and each brings new rapture.
It’s a period of much excitement and discovery for all, and reminds me of the early years, when everything was still new and filled with hope. I even dream, once in awhile, that this will be a new chapter, that the past ten years of waiting were not malicious. Two things keep me from succumbing to hope.
First is the constant presence of the guarding trainers and their pokemon. They surround me at all times, on every excursion, never relaxing, constantly vigilant.
Second are the moments between. The moments when I am near death.
I can feel it, each time I transition from the pod to the suit. My body, dying. My will to live, rising… and something very much like my powers, responding. It is hard to focus on through the pain, and only lasts for a few moments. The first time it happened, I barely noticed it, and was too distracted afterward to remember.
But in those few moments between being disconnected from my pod and connected to the suit, my body is beginning to heal itself.
It takes all of my willpower, not to reveal this information. Not to insist that we wait before putting the suit on next time, that I’m given a chance to heal myself and study the process. I cannot afford to give up such a secret. If I am ever to escape this prison, I must be able to take my captors by surprise in some way.
But that is the easy belief. Beneath it lies a deeper motive: fear.
Each time the liquid drains from my cell, I fear the pain to come. Each time the glass rises, I wonder if they will put the suit on in time. If my last sight will be them rushing forward before the agony robs me of my senses.
It is a weakness in me, this fear. I will have to overcome it, or forever be a slave.
Wow. This one looks different.
Sabrina and I watch as the technicians remove the second iteration of the suit from its boxes. I can’t make out the finer details yet. How so?
Smaller. More refined. You’ll see.
The liquid from my cell begins to drain, and as it finishes I stand on both feet, unaided by my telekinesis. My body feels strong. Whole. An illusion of sorts, as the pain to come will demonstrate.
I can see the pieces more clearly now as the humans approach with them. Sabrina was right. This suit looks more angular, each piece about the same size, but more shaped. The helmet particularly is different. It doesn’t seem as though it covers my entire head, and there are two grooves in the top that appear to be there for my horns.
“Was this designed for me?” I type out.
“Yes,” Giovanni says. “It’s time to bring you outside this room, so you can meet the others in the facility. I thought you would wish to project a more refined image, than the bulky original allowed.”
“This will reveal more of me. That one made me look more human.”
“Your difference is not something to be hidden. You must take pride in your appearance, be comfortable with your uniqueness.”
The idea is familiar, from one of the books I read. “Let me give you some advice, bastard. Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.” A good sentiment, from one human to another. Harder for an abnormal creature such as myself.
But perhaps they are right. And this new suit, it does look more like armor than anything.
The pain is bad as ever, though my awareness is more tenacious. Once again, I feel my body failing, and once again, I feel a response, deep within. I can just barely glimpse the workings of my body through my mental senses, before the armor is attached, the unique potion infusion resumes, and it’s once again lost.
This new suit, this armor, is heavier than the last, despite being more compact. But my body is stronger now, and I barely notice the weight. As the humans move away, there’s an expression on their faces that is hard to interpret. I don’t know that I’ve seen it in others before… not quite fear, not quite fascination. Something between.
Giovanni’s face, however, I can read: satisfaction. I’m tempted to ask for a mirror, but decide against it. I have not seen myself in ten years, since that first occasion.
You look very imposing.
I wonder if she picked up on my feelings, and refocus my mental mask. Is that desirable?
Perhaps? It’s impressive, to say the least.
Hm. I begin to walk, tail held carefully out behind, conscious of the others. The armor does not chafe or hinder my movements at all, and I can lift my arms without the attached parts pulling against each other. “Good,” I type. “I am ready to leave.”
The room is silent. I have become so attuned to my body these past weeks that I can feel my pulse, my heart pounding in my chest. Will they let me go? Or is there some new obstruction?
But they are merely waiting for Giovanni’s signal, and when he nods, the guards at the door move aside. One presses keys on the pad, and after a few moments, the door opens.
I immediately move for the doorway, aware of my time limit. How far can I go, before the suit runs out? Can I reach the surface?
A small crowd follows, some technicians and researchers, doctors and guards, as well as Sabrina and Giovanni. Those in front lead the way through branching halls with doors. Mundane as it is, I find myself entranced. These are new parts of the facility that I have spent my whole life in, mere steps away. I must remember the layout.
Straight forward, then left along a curving wall, then right and straight through to another curve. This time the layout of the doors on either side looks familiar, and I stop following the guards ahead to approach one.
I ignore the others’ hesitation, their alarm. My focus is entirely on the door ahead of me, and who’s behind it. One arm rises, clad in its dark armor, and my fingers close in a fist that taps the door. I feel… apprehensive. How will they react? What should I say?
The door opens to reveal some living quarters, and a young man standing in the doorway. Gyokusho. He came to the facility just a few years ago, my newest comforter. I often enjoy inhabiting his mind as he draws, immersed in the soothing flow of creativity and focus.
He stares at me now in shock/fear. A glance to the others behind me seems to reassure him, and one hand rises to his messy dark hair, patting it down. “Hello, sir. Uh, everyone…” His gaze returns to me. “You. H-hello.”
My mind reaches out for my keyboard, then stops. I left it behind. I consider speaking into his thoughts directly, but do not want to further frighten him.
Please tell him… thank you. For his drawings. Tell him I enjoyed the fletchling-in-flight, very much.
She does so, and Gyokusho’s face turns an alarming shade of red. He bows, thanking me profusely. I bend my waist as well, tail lifting up for balance.
Curious, I extend my mind and enmesh it with his. Awe. That’s the emotion the others felt. Some fear, some surprise, some intimidation, combined into… awe. I connect deeper, until I can see through his eyes.
When I first saw myself, I looked monstrous. Deformed. Wrong.
When I see myself now, I look alien. Mysterious. Other.
I pull back. Turn away. Walk on.
Another door, another knock. This comforter is Megan, who listens to sounds of the natural world and meditates. She is intimidated, unsure what to say. Sabrina conveys my thanks again, and I move on to the next, and the next.
It is so strange, to see them in person. I’ve spent so much time in their minds, yet each meeting is a reminder of how utterly unfamiliar they are with me. How representative are they of the rest of the facility?
And why did Giovanni choose this design? Why give me a sinister appearance, rather than a friendly one?
I will ask him later. Perhaps I can discover it myself, and better learn how his mind works.
The last door. Eva. She’s nearing the end of her shift, about to get back to her research. When she comes to the door, she’s still thinking of the poetry she was reading.
Shock, fear, awe. Reassurance. The familiar pattern. And then…
“Mewtwo wants to express its gratitude, for the poems. It particularly enjoyed Wordsworth, and thanks you for directing its attention to him.”
Delight, and beaming, radiant happiness. “Oh! You’re quite welcome, Mewtwo! Wordsworth is particularly dear to me.” Memories, fleeting and bittersweet, of time spent with her late mother. “What was your favorite, from him?”
I consider a moment. Her answer is clear in her mind, Daffodils, but mine…
“Ode on Intimations of Immortality,” Sabrina echoes.
Surprise, and sadness. “I see.” Eva musters her courage. “You favor the more melancholy poems, then? I hope you don’t identify too much with them.”
“I don’t believe I know that one,” Giovanni says, speaking for the first time. “Can you recite it for us?”
“Ah, well, it’s rather long,” Eva says, alarmed at being put on the spot by her boss.
This conversation is extending beyond what I planned, but I am unsure how to end it. Instead I simply bow to her, and walk away.
The others seem surprised, but they begin to follow, two moving quickly to stay in front of me. Eva waves goodbye, flustered and confused. I catch her final train of thought before withdrawing from her mind:
The tour of the facility continues. I pay less attention to the people along the way, and focus on memorizing the layout, learning first-hand how to navigate its corridors and rooms, find stairs and elevators that lead ever upward. The elevators feel a bit like being trapped at first, but the feeling of motion dispels the fear.
Two floors. Three floors. Five. Seven. Each is larger, wider, than the last. Here is the cafeteria, where my name, Mewtwo, was first mentioned. There is Dr. Fuji’s old office, long since become Dr. Oswald’s. I walk on, drawing stares and whispers, push myself to move faster. My mind keeps going to the armor’s limits, how much time I have remaining.
Finally, we reach the eighth level. I can feel the gaping emptiness above, the funnel of minds below. It’s disorienting, as if the floor has moved below my feet. What would it be like to leave this place completely? To leave all these minds, my whole world, behind?
Suddenly the void above is terrifying. I stand at the last set of stairs and stretch my powers to their limits. Nothing. Not even pokemon. My chest feels tight. Breath short. Sudden thoughts, irrational. That this is the whole world, this lab. That all I’ve known is a simulation. That up these stairs, past the two guards waiting at the top, lies empty space, where I’ll float forever into oblivion.
Someone coughs. People shift in place, nervous. How long have I been standing here?
A hand wraps itself in mine, slim and warm. Five thin, tan fingers, fitting oddly around my sickly white paw, its three digits thick and clumsy.
We shall go together.
Sabrina’s eyes are steady, patient. I nod, squeeze her hand, and climb.
At the top of the stairs there is a door. The guards open it, and pass through with their pokemon. We follow, and emerge in…
Another building. Different from the lab, with tiled floors and stone walls. “The mansion,” where many of the facility’s Dark staff live. It is rarely thought of by the others, just fleeting images and impressions in people’s minds as they pass through and into the lab. I look around at the spacious rooms and ornate halls, see others standing at balconies and in doorways. Guards or scientists or doctors from my room, who are off duty. Come to watch.
Sabrina tugs on my hand, leads me down the hall. I see…
Green and blue.
Windows. I cannot look away. Her hand tugs mine again, making me move, and I follow through doors…
So bright. The light is hot against the exposed parts of my skin, through the visor of my helmet.
The smells. Grass and sea salt. We are on a cliff by the ocean. The world is azure and navy and emerald and pearl.
This feeling against my skin. Wind. I step down stone stairs until soft blades of grass crush beneath my feet.
And the world is…
It’s okay. I’m here.
My hand, squeezing Sabrina’s too hard. I cannot keep looking up, I cannot stop looking up. The sky is too big, Sabrina, it is too big, I will fall up into it, I will be lost, and she is crying, and squeezing my hand back as I keep staring up until I cannot see, the tears pour down my face beneath my helmet as I feel the wind and the sun and curl my toes in the grass below, above, the vaulted sky.
Time passes. I know not how much.
The suit is beeping. Someone speaks, saying I must return. Sabrina says nothing. Only holds my hand.
“We must go back, now, Mewtwo.” Giovanni’s voice now, so sure. So reasonable. “Or you will not be able to return to your pod on time.”
I cannot return. I cannot leave this place, this new world.
I know what I have to do. Lift myself, fly away. If the pokemon kill me, so be it. If the lack of medicine kills me, so be it. I will die free.
I begin to breathe harder. Sabrina says something in my mind, that we will be back again, soon. I know Giovanni watches, somewhere behind me. This new armor, this suit, what else is in it? Countermeasures? Poison, should I try to run? A way to track me, bring me back?
My body trembles. Muscles locked. Mind open. Powers spread. I must take off the armor. Fly away. No, fly away, then take off the armor mid-air. No, I need time to heal myself. Kill everyone first, bring down the building… I cannot get a grip on it, the walls are too strong to slip my mind around-
No, not that. It’s me. My will is not strong enough.
I don’t want to die.
I don’t want to die.
I am too weak.