Anima Ex Machina [R]
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January 2nd, 2009 (8:28 AM). Edited September 30th, 2009 by JX Valentine.
Your aquatic overlord
Apologies for how late this is, guys. Next chapter should be up a bit sooner.
(Therefore, the lords sent Adam from the Garden of Eden.)
Bill awoke first to the sounds of people. At first, he could only hear a murmur of people, but gradually, the voices increased in volume until he realized many of them were either shouts or voices crackling from radios. Something beeped and whined every so often, and hundreds of feet tapped across linoleum.
He flinched. Someone above him seemed to notice this.
"Sir, he's waking up."
The radio crackled. "You have your orders."
Slowly, Bill opened his eyes to find himself staring at a pair of black boots. With steady breaths, he turned his head to look up towards the faces of the four soldiers standing above him. Each one wore the green helmets emblazoned with the national flag – a red leaf on a white background. Every face was pale and expressionless, the eyes blank.
Right about then, he realized each one of them had a rifle. He sat up with a start.
"What's going on?" he murmured.
The soldier directly in front of him was the first to speak. "Adam, by order of the National Defense Forces, you are hereby to be apprehended and quarantined in the Hoenn Region."
Bill scrambled to his feet, and immediately after, he stopped and stumbled backwards. His head swam; the soldiers became fuzzy, blurred images weaving back and forth. Seconds later, the floor came up to meet him again. Around him, the soldiers merely backed away to give him room, but none of them so much as flinched.
"If necessary, we will use force," the first soldier stated. "It is advised you cooperate."
Rubbing his head, Bill squinted as he turned over and supported himself on his opposite hand and knees. Past the legs of the soldiers, he caught sight of a pile of rocks, arranged neatly like the face of a cobblestone street. A slick coat of red covered a few of the stones.
Suddenly, Bill remembered.
"Professor Oak," he murmured. He looked up and over his shoulder. "Professor Oak! Where is he? I need to—"
He stopped short. Turning over, he gasped and tried to back away, but he felt the muzzle of a gun against his back. Unable to go further, he stared with wide eyes at the soldier directly in front of him. In one of her hands was an ultra ball. Its black and white shell gleamed in the lighting of the laboratory.
For the second time since he awoke, Bill scrambled to his feet. This time, although the world wobbled around him, he maintained his balance with a wince.
"What is that?" he demanded. "What are you doing with it?"
The soldier said nothing as she posed herself to throw it.
Opening his eyes, Bill stepped back. "Wait! There must be some mistake!"
"No mistake," the soldier beside him drawled. "We're here to detain the XP-494B known as Codename Adam, on orders of the National Defense Forces."
Bill shot a confused glance towards the second soldier. "Then you have made a mistake! My name is—"
Before he could finish the sentence, he felt something hit his shoulder. A split second later, he saw a flash of red light, followed by nothing at all.
There was no sense of time there. It was a space, but it wasn't a place. The black was tangible. The body was not. There were no hands, no feet, no head. Just… black.
Voices. There were voices outside.
Every other moment, Bill had a vague memory of a place outside this darkness, with color and sound. He vaguely remembered being able to touch his hands, to hear his own voice, to smell the air. But those memories felt like another dream, a patchwork of haze and color.
It took him awhile – how long, he couldn't tell – before he realized someone was there with him. The someone came in the form of a presence, something pressing in on his being with a sense of warmth.
He wanted to speak, to address it, but for whatever reason, he felt like he couldn't. The thing intertwined itself with him.
Why do you not escape?
His being shifted in response and reached outward to press the walls of the ball. They felt like the rock walls of a planet's heart, with layers upon layers of earth and stone pressing down on him on all sides. A force as strong as gravity pressed him into its center, and for the life of him, he couldn't force himself outward, past the thick layers of the orb and to the outside world. Part of him wondered if he wanted to escape at all. The place was cramped and dark, but it was safe – not the cold unknown beyond its surface.
The presence seemed to read his actions. When it spoke, it had only a disappointed murmur as a response.
It was fading away, intending on leaving Bill in the darkness. Desperately, he reached out for it, grasped part of it to keep it from escaping entirely. It came back and brushed him with a warmth.
Are you certain you wish to have me as your companion? Not many reasonable people would.
Bill twisted his essence around the other mind.
Very well, then. I will stay with you. Do you know, though, that this cage was not built for more than one creature?
At once, Bill fell still. The presence wrapped around him.
How right you are. Just wait, child. It is one of your old sayings that goes, "All good things come to those who wait."
Someone opened the ball, and Bill found himself in a field. The bright lights nearly blinded him, and he winced as he wondered briefly if real pokémon got used to that sudden dash of brightness. Blinking, he felt the dream fade like an old photograph until it was gone completely from his mind. What was he thinking about?
A crack alerted him to the fact that he wasn't alone. Looking back, he saw a gardevoir with a band emblazoned with the red leaf of the NDF's logo around one arm and the ultra ball that captured him between her green hands. Her eyes glowed with blue light, and the ball, in its blue aura, split apart until it broke down into dust. Letting go of the tiny cloud of dust, she watched it rain onto the green grass at her feet. Bill stood, uncertain of what to make of the broken ball.
Before he could decide, she turned and started walking south. As she moved further away, a blue glow began to surround her body. It took a moment for Bill to realize what was about to happen.
"Wait! Don't go!"
He started forward, reaching a hand out to grab one of Gardevoir's, but he was a moment too late. Just as he neared her, she vanished, teleporting to parts unknown. Bill's hand closed around empty air.
A shudder of fear ran down his spine, and he looked up to get his bearings. The place was totally unfamiliar to him. It was a field fringed on its northernmost edge by rows of buildings. To the south and east, a sparkling, blue river wound under a bridge and out of sight, beyond a forest that shielded the east and part of the north from view. To the west, there was nothing but another forest.
For a long moment, Bill stood in the middle of the field as his mind scrambled to find a name that matched the place. A breeze blew across his skin, and despite its warmth, he wrapped his arms around himself and realized he felt incredibly naked and vulnerable in the open. Figuring a town was just as good a place as any to begin an investigation, he started trudging northward.
It took awhile for him to realize it was oddly quiet. A few steps away, he stopped and turned. His eyebrows furrowed as he turned this fact over. No birds cried in the forests or overhead. No field pokémon chattered in the tall grass. Not even a water pokémon disturbed the surface of the river. Everything was still. Silent.
Drawing in a breath, Bill tried to run for the town. Several times, he tripped over his own feet or stumbled and crashed into the ground, but his mind was in a whirl of panic. The place was
open. Something was definitely wrong there, and he knew it.
The sun was directly overhead when he finally reached the first row of buildings – small, squat structures along the edge of the city. His claws scratched on the cement as he bolted from dirt paths to civilization, and his eyes flicked frantically from building to building in search of some sign.
Eventually, he realized the city was empty too. Slowing to a stop, he looked around himself cautiously. No one was on the streets. Not a single person, not a pokémon, nothing. Panting to catch his breath, Bill felt himself grow cold as he stared at the desolation. Slowly, he walked down the street, peering into windows and down alleys in search of anyone. Once again, he wrapped his arms around himself in growing fear.
Behind him, someone knocked over a garbage can with a loud bang. Bill jumped and turned just in time to watch full garbage bags pour out of an alley he'd just passed. Moving towards it, he peered down the walkway to spot two people running away from him. Gasping at the fact that this was probably his only means of help, he started forward, only to stumble over trash bags. His claws ripped them open easily, and in seconds, Bill was sprawled across the ground with garbage strewn at his feet. Looking up, he saw one of the people hesitating, glancing over her shoulder with blue eyes. Her distinctive, pink loops identified her easily as a Nurse Joy, despite the fact that she wasn't in uniform. She shielded the other person, a child, from view as she stared back at Bill.
Scrambling to his feet, Bill held out a hand. "Wait. Don't run away."
With a sharp cry, Nurse Joy pushed the child forward, launching the two of them into a run. Bill took several steps to follow them, but as they turned a corner and darted out of sight, he stopped.
"It's no use," he murmured to himself.
He lowered his hands and bent his head to examine his own sharp claws. Closing his eyes, he realized the exact problem. He needed a way to look more human, but with nothing but himself – no money, no identification, not even a human appearance to help him – where would he be getting anything remotely worthy for a disguise?
Before he could dwell any further on his own question, a sweet and sour smell floated into his nostrils. Wincing, he shuddered and tried to assume it was merely the garbage. However, soon after he settled on that decision, he heard a shuffle. Jumping slightly in surprise, he whirled around to find himself face-to-face with an Officer Jenny. Before he could get a good look at her, she yelped sharply and swung her arm – one that wielded a nightstick – at his head. The club hit the side of his skull with a crack, and seconds later, he felt himself receding into his mind.
By the time he hit the ground, he was already gone.
Bill didn't open his eyes, but he awoke with a small gasp, followed by a shiver. A groan rumbled from his throat. His body felt cold, nearly numb.
"—shouldn't jump to conclusions like that. Maybe we can learn something from it."
He squirmed at the sound of the voices. They filtered into his ear as a low murmur at first, but as he returned slowly to consciousness, the voices grew louder until it became a roar of chatter all around him. He clenched his teeth, trying to ignore the voices, but they pounded through his already aching head. Nausea followed soon after. The noise threatened to drown him. It felt stifling, disorienting.
"How can we learn anything from this thing? You've seen what they can do!"
"We can't keep it here! What'll happen if it breaks out?!"
"What if it calls more?! Oh God, what if there's more of them in the city?!"
"We've got to take it to the edge of the city and let it go. That's the only way we can be safe."
"Are you a dumbass or what?! If you let it go at the edge of the city, it'll think we can't fight it and come back to finish us off!"
"Then what do
"We've gotta kill it!"
Bill groaned again. The noises were too much. His head throbbed with pain, and all he wanted was peace and quiet. He tried to lift a hand to rub his aching skull, but something stopped him. Slowly, he opened his eyes.
"Oh my God, it's awake!"
Immediately, Bill winced.
Oh, please, no…
Despite his mental prayers, the voices around him rose in a series of screams and shrieks. He winced and shuddered, praying for it to stop as he squirmed. Something clung to his body, limiting his movements and keeping his back against something cold and hard. Eventually, he forced himself to open his eyes just enough to spot a chain wrapped tightly over his front. With a gasp, he pushed himself forward as if in the hope that the chain would break if he pushed it hard enough.
Unfortunately, this seemed to only make the shouting and screaming grow louder. He flinched, unable to bear much more of the noise. Each second it continued, he felt himself slipping, drawing back into his mind, and there, he heard a growl.
The growl ceased, and the screams and shouts died away. Bill felt the pain in his head recede slowly until his mind could clear. He panted softly as he opened his eyes and looked up. In front of him, he saw crowds of people standing at the foot of the cement pedestal he sat on. Between the crowd and him, he could see the blue back of an Officer Jenny.
"No one is going to be killing this thing unless you want me to book you for animal abuse!" she shouted into the crowd.
Immediately, the chatter resumed. Bill winced and tried to stand, but the chains kept him tight against the slab of granite and bronze at his back, with no room to slide without grinding his back against the raised letters of the monument.
One of the townspeople raised his head. "What're you saying? That we just keep it here and wait for it to break out and kill us all?!"
The crowd shouted in agreement. Officer Jenny turned her head to glance at the entirety of the crowd. Her feet shuffled backwards with uncertainty. Behind her, Bill cringed, bowing his head and bringing his knees close to his face.
"Please stop…" he whispered.
Their voices drowned out his. He felt himself grow dizzier as the sounds assaulted his ears. Closing his eyes, he summoned his strength and his voice.
"Please stop!" he repeated.
His voice sounded sharper than he meant, but it got the effect he wanted. The people fell silent. Opening his eyes, Bill lifted his chin to find the entire crowd staring at him with pale faces. Even the Jenny had to turn her head and gaze in surprise at him over her shoulder.
"Please," he said, softer this time. "Please listen. I-I apologize for disturbing all of you. I don't want to hurt any of you. Believe me."
"He can speak?" one of the townspeople murmured. "Can they all do that?"
"I don't know," one of the other people replied. "They usually don't stop to talk."
"They usually don't stop at all, especially not to be caught," a third added.
Officer Jenny furrowed her eyebrows as she turned to face Bill. She held a nightstick in her hands, but after a moment of thought, she slipped it back onto her belt.
"You can talk, so you'll answer our questions, right?" she asked.
Slowly, Bill nodded. He couldn't imagine why he
"Good." Jenny tilted her head. "Let's start with the basics. Why are you here?"
"It was the first place I found," he replied. "I wandered here from the field near here. I apologize if I'm not welcome here. I didn't realize—"
Jenny tilted her head. "You're from there?"
Bill lowered his eyes slightly. "No. I was left there."
"By your kind?"
Jenny's voice was low, and one of her eyebrows raised. Bill looked up, blinking at the sound of the question.
"Well… I suppose you could say that," he said.
A low murmur ran through the crowd. Bill glanced at them, shifting uncomfortably under the metal chains and the sound of their confused voices.
Jenny held up a gloved hand and waited for their silence to speak again.
"Where are they now?" she asked.
Bill pressed himself against the monument. "Who?"
Jenny frowned. "Your kind. The other ixodida!"
"Ixodida?" Bill tried once again to stand. "I… I don't understand. Ixodida?"
The murmur bubbled through the crowd again.
"It doesn't know what it is," one of them rasped. "How can that be?"
Bill flicked his tail, scraping it against the bottom of the pillar. He wasn't used to be called an it, but then again, he couldn't blame them for the confusion anyway.
Jenny ignored the murmuring. She was far too busy studying the captive carefully.
"Ixodida," she repeated. "That's what the people in Littleroot are calling you and the rest of your kind."
Bill's eyes widened as he snapped his gaze towards Jenny. "The rest of my kind? There's more of…?"
"What the hell kind of game are you playing?!" one of the townspeople shouted.
Immediately, Bill cringed at the voice. He looked towards the crowd to see a large man ambling forward. Jenny pulled her nightstick from her belt and brandished it towards the man. That hardly stopped him, and he drew himself just a few inches away from Bill. A meaty hand lashed out, and Bill felt a rough grip close around his metal-and-flesh throat. He gagged as he struggled against both the chain and the hand.
"I don't care if you
a monster," he growled. "We could easily kill you if you don't stop bullmukting with us. Tell us the truth. Are there or aren't there other ixodida in this city?"
Bill's eyes widened as he felt the grip around his neck tighten. Jenny holstered her nightstick and loomed over the man's shoulder. She bent slightly to wrap her gloved hands around his arm.
"Get off, Thompson! Let go! Now!" she shouted.
The man's blue eyes narrowed. "Answer me! Are there other ixodida in this city?!"
Jenny stepped back and drew a gun from a holster at her hip. Her coffee-colored eyes narrowed as she swung her arms upward to point the gun at Thompson.
"Let go! I'm warning you!" she snapped.
Contrary to Bill's own expectations, Thompson completely ignored the police officer. Instead, his other hand followed the first, and soon, Bill found himself unable to breathe. His eyes seared with tears as he gagged and struggled to free his arms in order to fight back, but he could do nothing but stare into the man's face. Eventually, he moved to shake his head, twisting his neck under the large hands.
Suddenly, Thompson yelped and stumbled back, tearing his hands away from Bill's neck. Bill's body spasmed in a coughing fit as he strained to catch his breath. His vision blurred from the tears and his efforts as he lifted his chin enough to observe Thompson. The man knelt at the foot of the pedestal with his hands held in front of him. Screams tore from his throat, and the crowd backed away in horror. Jenny holstered her gun and rushed to his side, peering over the man's shoulder at the deep gashes across his palms.
Panting, Bill sat in shock. He could feel something trickle down the armor along the sides of his neck – something that dripped from the edges of each plate. The scent of blood wafted into his nose, and he squirmed uncomfortably. Around him, the people spoke in hushed whispers. Some clung to one another. Others ran from the scene into the darkness of the city. Jenny lifted her head and scanned the remaining.
"Nurse Joy!" she cried.
A few moments passed before a young woman with her pink hair in loops pushed her way through the crowd. Her loose, green jacket was familiar; Bill had seen it on the woman as she rushed down the alley earlier that day. Behind her, a young girl followed closely but stopped at the edge of the crowd and let go of Joy's pale hand. As the nurse stepped closer to Thompson, the girl stood in plain sight. Bill took one look at her, and instantly, he froze. He knew her – the pale face, the green hair pulled into a pair of tight buns on the sides of her head, everything about her. She was taller than he remembered, but the loose-fitting clothes she wore (black and purple shirt over a pink, long-sleeved shirt; red, knee-length skirt over rainbow tights; black rain boots) made her look small and frail. Around her neck, a small, silver pendant glinted in the lights around the monument. Even that was familiar. He remembered clearly the day he gave it to her.
But the eyes were what drew his attention. He and the girl looked vaguely alike, but it was the eyes people said the two of them shared. Hers were deep, dark brown, and wide – full of water and emotion, like the glimmer of fear she felt then. Those eyes were their father's, their ancestors', hers, and his.
Right then, Bill realized he was holding his breath and let it out in a rush. His body was shaking, and although he was staring directly at the girl, he mentally tried to will away her image, tried to convince himself she wasn't actually there.
His lips and voice moved in a mumble. "R… Ro…"
By then, Joy knelt beside Thompson and took his hands in hers. She bit her lip and listened to his whimpering for a moment as her blue eyes stared deep into the cuts. Then, with a sigh, she stood.
"They'll need stitches," she said. "Come on. If we hurry, we can fix you up in the pokémon center."
With that, she and Jenny stooped to pull Thompson up by his arms. He whimpered again but rose to his feet without much of a resistance. Slowly, Joy turned him and started guiding him back towards the crowd.
"Hopefully, this will teach you not to jump into action so quickly," Joy whispered.
When Joy's back was turned, Bill finally calmed himself. Taking a deep breath, he watched as the girl tore her eyes away from him and stumbled towards Joy quickly.
Before she and the nurse disappeared into the crowd, Bill opened his mouth. His voice followed quickly after, louder than he intended.
The girl stopped. The crowd fell silent. Even Nurse Joy had to pause and turn to stare at the creature chained to the monument. Bill struggled to stand up, eventually succeeding in pushing himself into an awkward stoop. He stared at the girl, who gazed back at him with large, frightened eyes.
"Rosie," he murmured. "It's me. Bill."
She turned slightly, but he could see from where he stood that she was trembling. Her eyes filled with tears, and she inched closer to Nurse Joy. Bill could feel his heart drop slightly. He realized she couldn't recognize him.
So, without taking his eyes off her, he added two more words.
Although the NDF troops were still investigating and aiding the rebuilding of the complex, Polaris Institute stood quietly in the darkness of Cinnabar's night. The surviving scientists were recovering in their respective dormitories and the medical wing, and the troops occupied the dormitories of the dead or dismissed. For once, the halls were quiet, unmoving.
In the director's office, one of the few members of Polaris was still awake and working. The computer on the desk hummed quietly, but its monitor was shut off. Its user, Professor Nettle, stood behind the desk, her eyes turned to the screen on the wall behind her. Her hands were folded neatly in front of her, and her face was expressionless as she waited for the Committee's response.
"According to the reports we've received from the NDF," a shadow at the end drawled, "Adam has been transferred to the Hoenn Region. We did not order this."
The leader nodded. "I realize this, but the military has been known to ignore our requests. We could only have hoped we would have had more time before they would realize we had Adam, but the incompetence of the janitorial staff of Polaris Institute have prevented this. Security must be increased, and we expect the staff to be thoroughly analyzed."
Nettle nodded, but she said nothing in response.
"In the meantime," the leader said, "we should hope the device has been installed properly."
Nettle straightened. "I took the liberty of planting the monitoring device sometime after Adam defeated the second XP-494B."
For a long moment, the leader merely listened carefully, nodding as he took in the information. "Is it functional?"
Before Nettle could respond, a shadow at the other end of the line interrupted. "According to the information link between us and Polaris Institute, yes. We've already received a tracking feed that places his location in Mauville City. Additionally, we are currently recording both biological changes and environmental stimuli. Everything he experiences, we will know. It's only a matter of time before we find XP-494's weaknesses and their queen."
Again, the leader nodded. "Very well. Professor Nettle."
She perked up at the sound of her name. This was the moment she was waiting for.
"It is not necessary for you to monitor Adam's movements, but if you wish, establish a team to record the same information we're receiving through this feed," he said.
Nettle nodded. "Does this mean…?"
The leader nodded. "In light of Professor Oak's return to Pallet Town for recovery, we currently have no director for Polaris Institute and can spare no one to send to you. Given the productivity of your particular team – even after the infection of one of its members – we have determined that you are the most capable leader and thus the best candidate. Therefore, we hereby appoint you as director of Polaris Institute."
With a nod, Nettle repressed a smile. "I understand, and I'll do my best to work to your expectations."
"We expect nothing less," the leader responded. "Report to us in a week with your progress."
Before she could respond, the screen went blank. For several moments, Nettle stared at the screen to ensure that the Committee had disconnected. Then, reaching behind her, she tapped a key on the computer's keyboard. At once, the screen flashed on, and on it, the image of a dark-haired man in a tailored, orange suit leaned back in a chair. Dark eyes glared at the screen as a large hand stroked the head of a persian next to him. Nettle turned to face the screen with her posture straightened and stiffened.
"Were you able to hear that conversation, sir?" she asked.
His stern expression broke into a smile that slithered across his face. "Yes. You've done well so far, Professor Nettle."
She bowed. "I aim to please you, sir." She looked at the screen. "I await your next orders."
"Of course." His hand rested on the cat's head. "Once the National Defense Forces withdraw from the institute, you will contact headquarters to have one of our own enter to collect a specimen of XP-494A. In the meantime, half of your team will raise form A. The other half will continue to monitor form B to send information directly to our laboratories."
Nettle bowed. "Yes, sir." She looked up. "If I may ask, wouldn't it have been more convenient to keep Adam in this institution?"
The man shook his head. "From what I understand of your reports, Adam is too human. Perhaps if we test him to his full extent in the wild, we may find a way to break him and control him."
"Test him, sir?"
He nodded. "Yes. There are already agents in Hoenn. They will test him when the time is right. In the meantime, wait to infect another victim. Doing so this soon will attract unwanted attention, but perhaps it would be to our benefit to create another form B to observe the power of a specimen under our control. Understood?"
Nettle bowed again. "Yes, sir."
"Very well." His hand moved across the purring cat's head once more. "Get to work, Professor Nettle. The glory of Team Rocket relies on your findings."
With that, the image of the man vanished with a click, and the normal desktop returned. Nettle closed her eyes for a moment before reaching to the keyboard to tap a key. The screen went blank at her command, and she opened her eyes to glance at it for a moment. Then, without a word, she walked to the door, opened it, and passed into the darkness of the hallway beyond it. Even in the middle of the night, she had work to do.
Professional ninja. May or may not actually be back. Here for the snark and banter at most.
Need some light reading?
Anima Ex Machina
(Chapter 20 now available)
The Leaf Green Incident
(SWC 2012 winner)
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