Clickbait Soapboxing

Someone on Twitter said:

I am guilty of deliberately stating things in a bold & provocative form on here in order to stimulate discussion. Leaving hedges & caveats for the comments section. On net, I think this is better than alternatives, but I’m open to being convinced otherwise.
And I finally felt the urge to write up thoughts I’ve had about what I’ll call “clickbait soapboxing” for the past year or so. A disclaimer is that I feel like I could write a whole book on this sort of thing, and will inevitably have more complex thoughts about what I say here that comes off as simple.
Also, I’m not super confident I am right to feel so strongly about how bad it seems, and also also, I personally like many people (like the above poster) who regularly do this.
But I don’t feel at all confident that people doing it are tracking all the effects it has, and they certainly don’t seem to acknowledge it. So this seems maybe like it’s useful to say explicitly.
First off, some of these are clearly a “me” thing. For example, I have trouble trusting people to be as capable of “actual” vulnerability or sincerity when they don’t put effort into representing their thoughts accurately. It feels, at best, like a shield against criticism: “I was  wrong on purpose!”
But I know others struggle with inhibition/social anxiety: “I’d rather speak boldly, knowing I’m wrong in some way, than not speak at all!” Which, yeah, makes sense! But are you planning to ever address the root cause? Is it healing, or cope/crutch? (Not judging, I really don’t know!)
In any case, there are still externalities. Illusion of transparency is real! Typical mind fallacy is real!

Should you care? shrug What makes us care about anything we say in the first place? Just don’t motte-bailey “communicating for self-expression” or “processing out loud” vs “sharing ideas and learning” or “talking about True Things.”

As for me (and maybe others out there like me), the effects include things like thinking:
“Did this person actually change their mind? Do they actually believe the more nuanced thing? Or are they just backpedaling due to getting stronger pushback than expected?”
As well as:
“Are they actually interested in learning and sharing interesting ideas? Or are they optimizing for being interesting and getting followers?”
“If they misinform someone, would they care? Would they do it on purpose, if it got them likes and subscribes?”
I don’t make judgements like these lightly. These are just thoughts that I have about people, possibilities that seem ever so slightly more likely, the more I see them engage in sloppy or misleading communication practices.

Val writes well about a sense of “stillness” that is important to being able to think and see and feel clearly. I think the default for news media, social media, and various egregores in general are to hijack our attention and thought patterns, channel them into well-worn grooves.

And I have a hard time feeling trust that people who (absent forewarning/consent) try to trigger people in any way in order to have a “better” conversation… are actually prioritizing having a better conversation? It seems like the same generators are at work as when an organization or ideology does it.

And all this is, in my view, very clearly eroding the epistemic commons.
Humans are social monkeys. Loud emotive takes drown out nuanced thoughtful ones. People update off massively shared and highly upvoted headlines. Far fewer read the nuanced comments.
And very few, vanishingly few, seem to reliably be able to give themselves space to feel when they’re thinking, or give themselves trust to think when they’re feeling. I certainly don’t always react gracefully to being triggered.
So why shrink that space? Why erode that trust? Are you driven more by worry you won’t be able to speak, or fear you won’t feel heard? And then, fear you won’t feel heard, or anxiety your views won’t be validated?
I dislike psychoanalysis, and I definitely don’t assert these things as sure bets of why people do what they do. But it’s what bubbles up in my thoughts, and it’s what inhibits trust in my heart.
And all this also acts as a bit of an explanation to those who’ve asked me why I don’t use twitter much. By design, it feels antagonistic to giving people space to think and feel; writers unless they pay money, and readers unless they fight an endless war of attrition against things trying to eat their attention and turn them into balls of rage and fear.
I’ve no reason to make such a system work, and I’m uninterested in making it work “for me.” In my heart, that feels like surrender to the same generators destroying public discourse, and leads otherwise thoughtful and caring people to being a bit less so, for the sake of an audience.

Chapter 126: Interlude XXVI – Where the Heart Can Bloom

Chapter 126: Interlude XXVI – Where the Heart Can Bloom

The glow on the horizon is like a beacon in the dark, guiding me through the night. Minds pass through my awareness, fleeting and simple. A cluster of rattata. A noctowl flying silently toward them. A sentret hanging from a nearby tree.

But despite its brightness on the horizon, when we reach the town, it is little more than a ranger outpost, a pokemon clinic, and two markets, one for trainers and one for the few dozen houses around them.

[We are between some of those houses and the moon.]

I consider arguing with Survive that it’s extremely unlikely we’d be notable from this distance even if seen. But it costs little to be safer, and so I shift our trajectory a little.

(Can we dip into a dream?) Thrive asks. (No one’s awake down there, even if they’re Sensitive it should be fine!)

[I don’t object, so long as we don’t project anything.]

I send a signal of acknowledgement, then merge with one of the minds in the house below. It’s not deep in dream, just vague flickers of emotion, some exciting chase mixed with nostalgic love. But it still delights Thrive, who begins narrating a story to go with the sensations.

(She’s a retired ranger, reminiscing about years long past, lost friends she faced many dangers alongside… she’s remembering the danger of facing a dragonite, of standing firm for the sake of those she loves…)

Thrive trails off as the mind leaves our range, and no others are around to merge with instead. The path from the town winds its way up and around hills, past one secluded cabin after another, until we reach the right one, prepared emotionally to just pass by, I have a dozen times before…

But there’s a mind inside. A human mind, and a pokemon sleeping nearby…

(He’s here!)

[It’s good he’s safe. But make sure there’s no one else around, in case it’s a trap?]

I put my impatience aside, and do a circuit round the cabin. I use the minds of nearby pokemon to sweep the area with a variety of senses, for strange smells or sounds or shapes, anything that might indicate dark humans or pokemon prepared for an ambush.

Nothing. I hurry back to the cabin, and a quick merger lets me see and feel through Fuji’s eyes and body, to know for sure that he’s safe and calm and sitting at a table, writing with some tea beside him.

As soon as I merge with him, there’s a sense of… ease. Ease of loneliness. Ease of some faint stress, ever present but available. It’s almost like returning to the mind of one of my comforters, whom I still miss dearly. Like returning to childhood, false as the safety of that childhood was.

I only linger a moment in that feeling before projecting: Fuji.

He startles, and then smiles wide, joy filling him to mirror mine, and for a while, further words aren’t necessary as I levitate closer. We share in mixed relief and gladness, in each other’s freedom and safety, no words necessary.

But under the joy, and the relief… concern. Not for the moment, but in anticipation, fear of potential disaster…

What’s happened?

“It can wait,” Fuji says, out loud at his table. I sense his frustration, that even now, they can’t enjoy their time together. Resentful of the world, not leaving me alone… particularly at…

Sabrina has… a message for me?

“It can wait,” Fuji says again, with more certainty. “Come inside? We can have tea, and you can tell me about your travels.”

I expect new cautions or objections from Survive, but it has grown in the past months, much as its predecessor, Doubt, had. Less reflexively suspicious, more capable of calibrated risk assessments… and it has integrated some of Trust’s memories and priorities, recognizing Fuji as an ally. Thrive, meanwhile, sends a pulse of eagerness. We have not had tea since our first and only meeting with Fuji in Lavender, months ago.

I lower myself to the doorway, and Fuji is already there, opening it, smiling as he welcomes me inside, then closes the door and wraps his arms around my torso.

A hug. Such a simple thing, felt many times through others’ bodies. Only a few times before, with mine. Fuji is not a tall man, rising only to my chest, and I move carefully to place my hands against his back, conscious of my own strength, even exhausted as I am.

He did not need to speak, simply letting me feel his affection and gladness through the merger. I sent him the same, until at last we parted, and I followed into the cabin’s main chamber.

The cabin is rudimentary, but warmed by the cyndaquil sleeping in the stone hearth, its flame warming a teapot. There are only two chairs, one of which is a stool, tall enough to be comfortable for me to sit on, my scarred tail stump just long enough to reach the ground and provide balance opposite my legs.

“You’re well?” Fuji asks as he lifts a kettle suspended above the cyndaquil’s fire.

I am. Physically.

He approaches with a mug, eyes move to my tail, and I sense his pity, along with his hope. With the right medicines, strong enough potions applied directly to the damaged tissues… apparently this sometimes works. But it would take many injections and applications over a prolonged period of time, and he doesn’t wish to raise the possibility until later.

All this passes through his mind in a moment, after which he puts my cup down and pours me some tea. “And otherwise?”


“From traveling?”

Yes. I collect my thoughts, but they are still hard to make legible. And other things. So many minds, so many dreams, so many fears. I have merged with thousands of humans since leaving the lab, and while none have been nearly as deep, the weight of them all, the breadth of their differences… it weighs on me.

I feel his concern, curiosity, compersion… and wistfulness. He wishes for that, to feel some of what his fellow humans are like more intimately. Some of it is loneliness, but the rest is a sense of alienation that’s only gotten worse over time, the way he’s always felt them as something of a mystery. A point of bonding between us.

I send some of that through, and he responds with warm acknowledgement, and appreciation.

“If you don’t mind my asking.” I send warm acceptance. “Has one of the other things been battles?”

I only hesitate for a moment, and only because I want to preserve the calm and comfort. I let the silence linger a little longer, to be eased by it a little longer, and then simply send, Yes.

His hands tighten around the grip of the teapot. He pours some more into his cup, then sets it down. “Humans?”


Relief. “What happened?”

I consider explaining, but do not know where to begin. I could list events in sequential order, bring up each pokemon and how the fights progressed…

But words would not be enough. The unique struggles of each battle, which led to new beliefs and ideas within my parts…


I can show you.

He lifts his cup to his lips, sips. I try to do the same, but my mouth cannot comfortably fit around the lip, and it is too hot for my tongue to lap it up.

He sets his cup down, then settles back in his chair, and closes his eyes. “I’m ready.”

I extend the merger, search back through my memory, then begin…

The machamp was strong, but a simple nudge to the leg at the wrong moment sent it tumbling. It recovered quickly, yet still only reached me because I allowed it to. Fists swung, awash in the light of its aura, but more telekinesis robbed them of their strength, and they barely moved me.

I struck, leg snapping out to slam my foot into its muscled stomach with a blow that sent it sliding back.

(This is easy. We can win even without our abilities!)

[An unnecessary risk. A strong enough blow to the head or joint…]

(We’re faster.)

Thrive was right. The machamp’s fists moved like pistons, but its body was like a lumbering snorlax by comparison.

(If we time our strikes with a proper feint…)

It’s decided, and following the decision came movement, contact.

Lunge, turn, kick. The impact traveled through my leg, into my core, and I tried to use the momentum to leap back out of reach again… but its fists still caught my thigh, one-two-three-four sharp blows. Pain erupted, so bad it was hard to move the leg, but I still retreated by kicking off hard from my other, throwing myself back to increase the distance between us.

[We should Recover.]

(We don’t need to!)

[We would be able to Recover even against a Dark pokemon!]

(Some pokemon can prevent healing!)

The machamp charged, and Thrive flowed through me, the two of us working together to leap up from one foot and twist, turning to kick the side of the machamp’s head.

I landed on my injured leg, which buckled, forcing me to catch myself on my hands. The machamp was sent sideways, its arm also catching it as it fell to a knee. It tried to rise… and fell again, disoriented.

I leapt for another kick, hands lifting to block the return punch. The fist struck my forearms so hard it felt painless at first, just pressure that sent me sailing through the air, but I had landed the kick as well, and the machamp’s head snapped up. I watched as it fell onto its back.

Fresh pain registered as I hit the wall of the cliff behind me, then more as I landed on both legs, and then I finally felt the blow to my arms, a deep, almost nauseating hurt. I crouched for another few painful heartbeats, waiting… but the machamp continued to lie still, and I finally allowed myself to heal.

Within a minute the pain faded to nothing, and I stood, then lifted away to gather my bag from the nearby cliff before flying in the direction of the next city, senses open wide for any sign of another opponent…

I let the projection fade, for a moment, and Fuji lets out a long breath as his senses reassert themselves. I worry, suddenly, that it may have been too painful a memory to share, too intense…

“No! It was thrilling, in a way. I’m doubly glad you’re okay, knowing so intimately what you’ve been up to. And… you have a new tulpa.”

I do. Thrive is a descendent of Flourish, and nudges me to try new things, to learn, and also to enjoy life, even with the risks involved.

Fuji smiles. “I’m glad. I worried you might forget that entirely, once you began on your mission. Hello, Thrive. It’s a pleasure to meet you. And hello again, Survive. Thank you for helping keep Mazda safe.”

(Hello, Dr. Fuji! Thank you for the tea!)

[Hello, Doctor. Thank you for all you’ve continued to do for us.]

“Of course. It’s my honor, and privilege.”

They both also feel happy to be acknowledged.

Fuji smiles, and sips his tea, looking deep in thought. I lap at mine, now warm enough to enjoy the subtle flavors. “Why didn’t you use your powers? I could sense it, somewhat, around the… edges of the memory. But I couldn’t make it out. Preparing yourself for something?”

Preparing, yes. May I show you more?

“Please do.”

Another memory, then, from not long after that…

The Lucario was not as physically strong as the machamp, but it was quicker, tougher, and—

I leapt to the side as it thrust a hand out again, the spike on its fist gleaming before a beam lanced out to pierce the tree I’d been standing in front of. Its other fist thrust out in the direction I moved, and a faintly glowing wave of energy shot straight toward me… and when I leapt again, it followed.

[What the hell is that?!]

(It’s so cool! How do we do it?)

Thankfully, unlike the light beam, this attack exists on a dimension my kinesis could reach. A second of thought was all it took to rob the sphere of half its power, and its contact was painful, but not debilitating. I struck back with a kinetic blast, but the lucario weathered it just as well through inherent resilience.

(This isn’t working. We need to fight dragon with dragon.)

It’s not a dragon. Nor are we.

[Steel pokemon weaknesses are Fire, Ground, and Fighting—]

(—so it’s a Fighting pokemon that’s vulnerable to Fighting attacks!)

[Can we do those?]

(We were created to kill gods! We can do anything!)

I merged with the lucario, as deeply and quickly as I could, dodging its continued attacks all the while. Sight came quickly, as did proprioception..

Its intention to attack was clear, but the how was still too foreign, and this time the beam of light punched a hole through my thigh.

The pain was blinding, but only for a moment as Survive partitioned the perception of it, then initiated healing. Thrive, meanwhile, was frustrated by the beam, wanted it to just stop

The next time the lucario began the same mental motions, Thrive flowed through the merger and projected a partition around them. The lucario went still, arm out, trying to connect mental dots over a gap that wasn’t there a moment ago.

It was enough time to merge even more fully, and by the time it started to recover, I could more clearly track the flow of its thoughts, the shift of its awareness through its body, focusing heat/energy/life/force through—

(Yes, there! I have it—)

The partition dropped, and our arm snapped out to fling the same energy forward from our core that the lucario sent toward us—

—dispersed in part by a kinetic wave from Survive—

—but still left us gasping in pain, while the lucario collapsed in a heap from our attack.

I slowly straightened, breathing hard. The attack took something… vital, to use. Depleted it, but not in a way that could be healed by psychic recovery. But it seemed likely to restore on its own, if it’s something other pokemon can use repeatedly.

Nicely done, Thrive.

(With what?) Joy from the praise. (Specifically?)

The… offensive amnesia, to disable its ability to use the Steel attack.

(Yeah, that worked better than I thought it would! I don’t think it would last for long, though.)

It lasted long enough. Survive, thank you for the pain and recovery partitions.

[Of course, Prime. I am getting better at prioritizing through pain. But I believe there are better methods to prevent damage in the first place…]

My psychic blasts hit one after the next, sending the rhyperior skidding back little by little before its feet dug into the rock to arrest its movement. Its arms rose to shoot another volley of stones up at me, faster than I could levitate out of the way. Bursts of kinetic force helped deflect some, and a triple layer of barriers prevented broken bones, but those that impacted were still disorienting.

[We’re using too much energy recovering and refreshing barriers. I suggest retreat if we’re hit three more times.]

Noted. Ideas?

(I have one!)

[If it’s what I think it is—]

(It’s the perfect target. Why keep trying to get through its thick skull when we can literally just get through it?)

[—it’s too risky. Direct damage through projection would be symmetrical, and the research said psychic recovery isn’t reliable for damage to the brain.]

Their conversation didn’t distract me from shaping a new counter attack in an upward funnel, and I unleashed the kinetic wave through it from beneath the rhyperior. Stone cracked around its feet before it lifted into the air, then went tumbling off the cliff.

(Right, or we can do that.)

A double-bang echoed around the mountain before I could relax, followed by a crack. Rather than continuing to fall out of my psychic range, the rhyperior’s mind was still in it… and getting closer, moving up toward me little by little.

(Did it just—)

Blast itself toward the mountain and start climbing, yes, I think it did. I levitated out over the edge of the cliff to watch its ascent, then shaped and released another kinetic blast… which failed to dislodge it. Soon it was back on solid ground and taking aim again.

[We’re not maneuverable enough in the air.]

(Maybe time to—)

Another rock clipped my foot, sending me into a tumble, and I aimed the funnel levitating me down to shift into a swerving glide, then landed in a crouch that narrowly avoided another fired boulder.

(—stop holding back?)


I considered what we’ve learned so far, and found I was unsatisfied. Still too easy, and reliant on us being able to win at range.

(So let’s do it from up close!)

[I believe our agility will allow us to strike with minimal risk while on the ground.]

I considered for only another moment, then agreed by dropping the partitions.

We learned a lot about aura, or ki, from merging with the right trainers after fighting the lucario. Thrive and Survive merged with me, enhancing my ability to move and focus my aura at the same time. We leapt over a wave of upturned earth and dodged a boulder spreading it through our legs rather than toward our palms—

—until we reached touch range—

—backstepped to dodge the boulder at the end of its tail as it swung—

—took another step forward—

—sidestepped the arm that came crashing down—

—and kicked its shin with a sweep so powerful its massive, stone body rotated mid-air.

The rhyperior’s roar of pain was more of a croak, and I quickly leapt back as it slammed into the ground. Cracks had formed over its body from the blow to its leg, and as it shuddered and tried to stand, I shaped another psychic blast that sent it tumbling far over the edge.

[They can survive terminal velocity falls,] Survive helpfully added, just before we heard the distant thud. [Though it will likely be unconscious, after that strike.]

(That was great! Now let’s try it on the real thing!)

It took a while to find a tyranitar—

a note of alarm, from Fuji

—that had wandered far enough from Mount Silver’s caves to ensure that no other pokemon would join the fight. Levitation had proven too unwieldy to dodge most ranged attacks, but for a sneak strike it was still ideal, and we needed to test our power safely, first.

Weeks of practice while traveling from place to place spreading the warning dreams allowed me to build the burning energy in my core, and sending it out of my palms in a shimmering rush no longer left me as drained. A moment later the tyranitar stumbled as it was struck…

…then straightened, scales bristling as sand pours out with its roar in an expanding storm.

(Well, that’s disappointing.)

[This is why we test things safely first.]

(Fighting attacks should be effective against both Rock and Dark pokemon!)

[Doubtless why the possibility of learning to manipulate it was not in any of our training at the lab. We’re still relatively weak, particularly with this sort of attack.]

A second blast into the heart of the localized sandstorm didn’t end it. I could do one more before reaching my limit, and once it hit, the sand stopped billowing around as the tyranitar fell with a crash.

We need to be able to get it in one…

The second tyranitar was so far and high in the mountains that the cold seeped into my bones as I levitated above it, palms cupped together. Its color was different from the last, a paler green with a purple stomach, and it was alternating between pulverizing the side of a mountain with sharp, echoing blows that led me to find it in the first place, and feasting on the gravel that was left afterward.

It didn’t take meaningfully longer to concentrate the energy into a denser projectile, but it did take more focus, even with my tulpas. The stronger compression gets harder with each heartbeat, as more and more aura goes into the sphere… until it all releases in a rush that left my limbs shaking.

The aura was so bright it cast wildly swinging shadows around the terrain as it erratically bobbed a jagged line toward the tyranitar…

…and struck the ground to the side of it.


[That was even more disappointing.]

The tyranitar swung around as if it sensed the near miss, then turned and scanned the area until it spotted me floating mid-air… and roared a challenge, dark energy gathering in its maw.

[…We should go.]

We did.

…and then I withdraw slightly from Fuji’s mind, let the memories fade so Fuji can recover. He takes a deep breath, then lifts his cup to his nose for another, slower one, before taking a sip. I drink more of my own, grounding myself in the present.

“You’ve been learning to protect yourself against Dark pokemon,” he finally says, with pride. “All on your own. Pardon, Survive and Thrive. Not entirely alone. I’m glad.”

It is a necessary step, and part of the need to grow generally stronger. But even that latest memory is from months ago, when I still traveled around to spread the dreams.

“Ah, I see. What have you been doing more recently?”

I merge more deeply again, asking the question without words, and when he agrees…

The murkrow’s talons raked across my arm just before my aura knocked it out of the air,


I did, avoiding the next two and using my kinesis to move more sharply through the air than they can as I focus more aura…

The houndoom were wary as they circled me, fire dripping from their muzzles, two of their number already on the ground…

…electricity crackled through the air as my kinesis flung two pikachu up and away, partitions blocking the pain as I recovered through them…

…dark claws and gleaming ice tore through my hamstrings, and the sneasel danced away before my aura-filled leg could strike it…

I sense his mind settling around the answer, putting the pieces of the pattern together, and stop sending new memories. His mood has changed, and after he recovers enough to drink again, I gently ask, Do you understand?

“I do,” he whispers. “You’re also preparing to try to kill the Stormbringers.”

I am.

“Because you were made to? Because it would make you happy, or give you purpose?”

I hear his voice rising, can feel his anguish, his fear that I will destroy myself for the sake of Giovanni’s mission. I set my cup down, and wish I could smile as I meet his gaze, feeling the lack of facial muscles from muscle memory that isn’t mine.

Instead I send him warmth and gratitude and reassurance, as I say, No. I will do it because this is my home too.

His eyes shine, and he looks away. Pride. Fear. “You don’t have to stay in Kanto.”

I meant this world.

“They don’t threaten the world!”

But the unown god does.

He closes his eyes. “And you want to fight it?”

[We do not want to—]

(Speak for yourself!)

[—but if we don’t…]

Who else can?

Fuji’s head hangs. He breathes in and out. His fingers grip around his mug, then release it.

Finally, he nods.

I stand from the chair, and lower myself beside him, taking him carefully in my arms as a tear drips down my cheek. I know you do not want to lose another child. It means much to me, that you see me this way.

His arms are warm around me, and his care is warmer. He takes a few watery breaths, then sighs. “It’s hard to live with this fear again. A decade of it hasn’t made it any less sharp. But it is your life, always, to do with as you want. I can’t wish anything more or less, for you.”

Thank you. That means just as much, if not more. I grip him tighter, for a moment, and then release, and return to my seat. But there’s no need to worry yet. I know I am not yet ready to face any of them. Now. Tell me what’s happened?

Fuji runs a hand over his bald spot. “Many things. You’ve learned about ‘Team Rocket?'”

It lingered on the minds of many, when I flew over Goldenrod.

“I figured, since people stopped getting the dreams.”

I wanted to understand what move this was, before taking any more risks. Do you understand it?

“I don’t, nor did Sabrina sufficiently explain it.”

A mild pain in my chest. She came to you, then?

“She did.” Fuji looks away. “I left her alive.”

Some of the pain eases. Thank you.

“It was not just for you. But I won’t take any choices away from you, if I can avoid it.”

I can sense the deeper meaning to those words, and the fears he fought to hold to them. Worry that I would be manipulated, despite everything. Worry that he would also be an avenue for manipulation. What else did she say?

He sighs. “That she didn’t know about your illness, of course. That she regrets her role in your confinement, and understands it was wrong. And that she is ‘hedging her bets,’ against Giovanni. Whatever that means.”

[Perhaps she is creating off-roads, contingency plans…?]

Perhaps. Do you believe her?

“I believe she has regrets, at the very least.” There’s sadness, there, mixed with anger and a grudging pity. “And… she misses you. It’s easy enough, to believe that.”

The pain in my chest has grown again, and I close my eyes, seeing her face in the dark. Memories of her smile, changing with her face over the years. Memories of her voice, both in my head and through my tank and finally through the air.

I miss her mind almost as much as I missed Fuji’s.

Warmth surrounds my hand, and I gently squeeze his fingers. I breathe until the pain starts to fade, and Fuji simply sits with me, and waits.

(Drink some tea?)

I nod, and do so. It is lukewarm, but still a refreshing novelty, and the pain fades a little more. Fuji releases my hand, and brings the kettle to refill our mugs before refilling it, and dropping some berries beside the cyndaquil from a pouch beside the fireplace.

Thank you. I lap some more, the combined temperatures settling somewhere hot without being scalding. What was her message?

“That’s… not from our meeting. There’s more, before I get to that. You’ve heard of Miracle Eye?”

His mood is apprehensive, and in a few moments his thoughts have traced through the relevant pathways…



I stand, tail lashing from side to side. This is real?

Fuji’s face is forcefully relaxed, but I can feel his worry, and a deep helplessness. The words come out as if forced. “If it’s fake, it would be a massive conspiracy. Much larger than the ones needed even for your creation and imprisonment. But—”

I begin to pace, energy coursing through me. Thrive and Survive are wordless, radiating simple desire, in total agreement.

We want this.


I need this.

“And if it’s a trap?”

[The benefits are too great to ignore.]


[But we can be cautious. We won’t rush into anything.]


I’ll be careful. It seemed the source wasn’t Sabrina, and others can do it?

“Yes. By now there are at least a dozen trainers in Kanto with pokemon capable of it.”

Then I’ll find one of them. If this didn’t come from Giovanni, if it’s truly something he could not predict… it may be the answer.

Fuji is still apprehensive. No, he’s afraid. “The answer to…”

How to face him again.


My creator.

No longer immune to my powers. No longer a mystery, unable to be trusted.

The thought is seductive, exhilarating. Blood pumps through my body as something I thought was forever beyond my reach is suddenly, potentially, achievable.

“Is it truly that important, to you?”

Fuji’s whisper draws my attention back to him, and I can feel his despair.

He believes this will be the end of me, one way or the other.

I step toward him, and put my hands on his shoulders. He’s gotten so much older, since our time in the lab. Older, and frailer. It grieves me to see it. Trust in me. I won’t do anything foolish.

“He could nearly convince an arbok to bite its own tail. I wish you could be free of him.”

Perhaps this is a way I could be.

Fuji passes a hand over his face, but nods. I feel his apprehension shifting in a new direction…

There’s more?

He nods, and squeezes my arm. I release him, and he takes out his phone, touches it a few times, then turns to show me.

“Hello, regions of the world.” Sabrina looks… tired. Poised, but also defeated, in some deep way. “I apologize for this interruption to your day or night, and will try to make this address short and to the point…”

I gently take the phone from him, and sit, eyes glued to the screen as Sabrina’s voice continues coming out of its tiny speakers. It’s nothing like merging with her mind would be, but the small device is the first connection I’ve had to my old friend and teacher in nearly a year.

“Finally, I have a message for the Dreamer themself…”

A mixed thrill of excitement and dread runs through from my head to my feet, and I have to relax my grip on the phone before I crush it. She’s talking about me, in public… to me…

[Breathe, Prime.]

I breathe, and listen, as she acknowledges my efforts, with the dreams. As she thanks me for them.

And as she blames me, inadvertently, for whatever happened to her student. Or what he might do.

“Thank you all for your time. Be safe.”

I freeze the picture on her face, emotions stirring and thoughts whirling. After a moment I replay the message, paying more careful attention to the word choices.

“…fragmentation of his sense of self…”

“…I hope psychics around the island, and world, take the risk seriously…”

(Is she talking about us?)

[If our merger with this “Rowan” led to something like tulpas, or showed him the way to create them…]

(That wouldn’t be our fault!)

[No. But others may not see it that way.]

I’m less concerned about whether I’m blamed, and more concerned with the possibility that the unown have infected Rowan. Or rather, that the mad god behind the unown have…

“…any help you can offer…”

She wants my help.

Or she wants me to reach out to someone else, like Agatha. The first person I’d sent the warning dream to, with a mind that surprised me with its strangeness. I could visit her again, while she’s awake this time. Let her know about my new discoveries regarding the unown, assure her I have nothing to do with Rowan… and no ideas on what might be happening…

(I have ideas!)

You do?

(Of course!)

“Thank you all for your time. Be safe.”

I pause the video again, then hand it back before I was tempted to listen to it again, this time just to hear her voice. When?

“Two weeks ago.”

And nothing else has happened, since?

“Not that I’m aware.”

[Maybe it’s too late. Maybe it’s better if we just… ignore it.]

(No! We could learn so much if we meet Rowan! We should find him!)

What are your thoughts?

“I don’t know anything more than—”

Then what are your intuitions? I trust you to be an advisor, one with different knowledge and experience over much more time. Trust me to decide for myself, rather than worrying about your influence over me.

I’ve surprised him. He didn’t expect me to be… “wise.” The thought is rueful, given my name, and he feels a mix of chagrin and pride, for underestimating me. I send back warmth and amusement.

“My intuitions are… confused. I don’t know how to identify them, what makes them intuitions and not simple fear. And my fear is that even if Sabrina is closer to her own kind of freedom now than she was a year ago, a smart, adaptive schemer could use even that as part of his manipulations.”

If it is a plan by Giovanni, it would be an easy one to unravel. The true danger would only come from a potential meeting he could predict.

Fuji straightens. “I can act as your messenger.”

More warmth fills me, and I share it with him. You could. It’s a useful possibility to keep in mind. But there are too many people involved for him to be prepared for contact from all of them.

“You won’t go to Agatha either, then?”

Not right away. I can’t observe her thoughts directly without alerting her of my presence, but I can learn from those she meets with, and those they meet with.


He tries to make the word neutral, but his resignation and hope are loud in my mind, and I quickly reassure him with my own feelings before I make it explicit. If you would have me, I’d stay for a while, to rest and talk more.

His relief and joy fill me, and he smiles. “Of course. I’ll make some food, and put on the sheets… you haven’t slept on a mattress before, have you? I hope it’s comfortable… come, let me show you your room…”

I follow him letting some of my tiredness return to fill my attention. A place I can rest, truly rest, with my guard down… another thing I’ve feared I’d never have.

It is good to have a home.


Fuji is the best.

He’s love and kindness and support and encouragement and all the things that make Prime feel better, and more confident, and braver. Even Survive agrees Fuji is great, which is a relief! We get along pretty well, especially compared to how our “older siblings” fought all the time, but it’s nice when we don’t have to constantly argue against each other. Instead we can be on the same team!

Even more than usual, I mean, which is great! Everything’s better when we work together.

After arriving at Fuji’s we spend days just relaxing and eating different foods and talking and reading poetry and listening to music. Music! I’ve missed music so much, despite never getting to listen to it myself outside of memories, or faintly in the distance sometimes in big cities… I can’t really dance since I’m just a tulpa and Prime doesn’t want to try dancing but I’m allowed to twirl our tail sometimes when I’m excited and I give it a lot of twirls while we listen to the music. It gives me so many ideas about what other kinds of music we could listen to, and what sorts of attacks could be made using sound as a medium, and how we might learn to sing at some point…

Prime got sad when I suggested that. I think they still have hangups about not being human. But we’ll get over those, over time! We can always learn and grow, and if all else fails, we can probably even learn to change our body! That would be so cool. But not to become human, because most humans wouldn’t want to be human either, if they could become something better. Like not having to sleep! Sleep is the worst, or it would be, except being tired is even worse than sleep is, so it’s good to get enough sleep.

Oh, we also read a lot! Fuji showed us this story he sort of helped write, and it’s about us! Or Prime, at least, before he had any of us. It seemed a new kind of sad and lonely, somehow, reading it from the outside instead of living it through memories! Prime cried. It felt painful, but also good, and it was so great to experience all these new complicated challenging things! Fuji is so great. We should stay here forever.

Except not forever, obviously, because there’s so much to do! We need to get stronger, and there’s so much more of the island we haven’t explored, and so many pokemon we haven’t fought, and so many more people we haven’t met (through merging with them, even if it’s really shallow)… oh it’s so exciting to think about meeting Agatha or Sabrina or anyone else, really! We need to figure out the unown threat, of course, just flying around killing any we see won’t really solve anything, but also meeting others and maybe navigating traps and learning to get along will all be so fun! And if some turn out to be enemies we’ll actually get to test ourselves! Survive gets really anxious when we talk about that but we’ve prepared a lot, and if we’re not prepared enough, we’ll learn from that and prepare more next time!

Unless we die or get captured, which would be bad, yeah. But it’s also what makes things exciting!

We go on short flights around the cabin at night, making sure no dangerous pokemon are around, but this place is pretty far from the wilds and there are barely any pokemon here, let alone any strong ones. It’s strange not seeing anything more dangerous than a noctowl for days, and we’re almost getting good enough to dodge their attacks while levitating! Soon we’ll fly better than any Flying pokemon, and be ready to face the Stormbringers!

Well, after we also learn some other stuff. Fire is still tricky. Electricity is even more tricky. I feel like we can sort of handle ice, after so much time in the mountains, but Survive thinks until we’ve survived a blizzard we shouldn’t think we’re prepared. I said that was a great idea and Survive was really smart for suggesting it, but Survive didn’t seem to agree.

Eventually a week passes, and I start to get restless. MIRACLE EYE is still out there waiting for us to learn it! But Prime and Fuji want to talk about lots of things that might happen because of the story that was written, and whether we should talk to people like Leaf Juniper. Fuji says it would be bad to endanger her, and Prime agrees, but she sounds like someone we could be friends with! It makes me sad that we might not make a friend out of fear, and me saying so made the others sad too, but they still think it’s better not to right now.

Still, it’s okay, because Fuji is our friend and parent and Prime is so much happier after just a little while here, so much more relaxed. Prime has laughed more times in the week since we’ve arrived (17) than in the months since I was made (3) and that is great! We should laugh more, and I should get to twirl our tail more, and we should try singing sometime because even if we’re bad at it we can get better and then we’ll have another fun thing to do while we fly around!

They also talk lots about less fun things like what might happen because of the unown research. Some of it is exciting, but a lot of it has Prime pretty worried. Prime thinks about sabotaging them sometimes, but is not sure if it’s the right decision. Fuji said it’s too risky, and Survive agreed. Sometimes it feels like everyone else is just way too scared of everything. How are we going to learn and grow without taking some risks?

Meanwhile we’ve learned to make tea and cook eggs and change bed sheets (it took a while to learn to rest on a bed but it was so comfortable once we found a good position with enough pillows) and even start to write some poetry! Which was after we learned to type on a keyboard with extra big keys so we could press just one at a time with our hands instead of telekinesis, which is an interesting new experience even if it’s less efficient. Fuji was so thoughtful for getting that. He’s amazing. We should stay here with him forever.

But no, we should go soon, really, and come back soon! We’re so much better rested now than we’ve ever been, it feels so good, like we could run for hours without getting tired, or fight three tyranitar at once! We should find another tyranitar and beat it with just ki strikes. It won’t help against the Stormbringers but maybe it will against the unown god! Who knows what that thing will be like? I have lots of ideas. Survive and I talk about them sometimes but Survive seems much less happy about it. Still, I’m glad they’re around, and I know they’re glad I am too. They even said our survival likelihood has gone surprisingly higher since I was made! I told them I loved them too.

After almost two weeks Prime seems nearly as ready to go as I am, and we hug Fuji and cry a little more and thank him for everything. It’s hard to leave because he’s crying and it makes us cry more to think of him being here alone but we promise we’ll be back soon and he promises he’ll have the room ready whenever.

He’s the best. We love Fuji so much it hurts. We hope he’ll be okay.

But we have to find out what’s happening in the world, and that means maybe talking to Sabrina, who we also love so much it hurts, in different ways. There’s one city we haven’t ever been to, and we finally go there now, dipping into people’s minds at night until we find trainers who go to Sabrina’s gym, finding more and more people through their relationships until we reach those who see Sabrina somewhat regularly, who think about meetings with her.

It’s dangerous flying through cities, so many people are still awake even super late at night and there are some even riding pokemon around in the air. Luckily we can detect most of them in time to stay away, but we wait for cloudy nights to dip too deep and find more people to merge with besides those in the tallest buildings. A few turn out to be Sensitive, but most of those are left with a fleeting feeling of not being alone.

Prime is worried that if Rowan was badly affected by our merger with him, we should be more careful about merging with others. The memory of hurting others when we first merged with them in the lab is still painful. But so long as we don’t merge with other psychics we’re unlikely to cause problems, and we can detect if others are psychic by the way their minds…

…(Who is that?)

The others immediately focus on what caught my attention, and we float closer, though it’s unnecessary for a deeper merge. Which we don’t do, because the mind is clearly psychic. But we can pick up a lot without “really” merging, much more than humans can, and from this mind we’re picking up…

Another mind.

(It’s a tulpa! He has one like us!)

Not like us, Prime corrects. The structure is… different. More fluid, almost more equitable. It’s fascinating…

(We have to learn how he did that, we could learn so much from merging with him! I could do the offensive amnesia thing—)


No. It would not be right, even if we could know it’s safe. But I believe I know who this is.

(Who?!) I race back over and through all our memories, focusing more on parts I don’t normally pay as much attention to… (Oh! Red Verres!)

[He knows Miracle Eye. Perhaps we… should merge with him, just for a moment, if we can find him training?]

Perhaps. If there’s anyone at risk of the same thing that happened to Rowan, it’s him. But if it was merger with an unown hive that caused Rowan’s madness, or a combination of other factors…

(Yes? We can try?) I want the merge so bad we could learn MIRACLE EYE and new partitions and even if he notices us and knows we’re not human maybe we can make a friend since he’s friends with Leaf Juniper who wrote the story—

For now we watch, and wait. There are still others we can learn from, and perhaps approaching Agatha first would be better. But—

(But after that, maybe we’ll try?)


I twirl and swirl our tail as we float far above the building.

The future is looking bright.