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I am fire. Fire is within me. I can feel it. Every day it burns, brighter, hotter, and I grow more powerful. Soon, I’ll be strong enough to scorch my enemies to ashes and nothing will stand in my way. But the flame inside of me has a price; a heavy price; because the fire burns in my chest, in the place where my soul should be. I am a monster.
“How is he, Dr. Henderson?” A man in a dark suit was tapping his foot on the ground, a nervous tic he couldn’t control.
“His condition is stable. Developing faster than a normal fetus, but that’s understandable, considering the circumstances.” The female lab technician was fairly younger than the man. Her hair was pushed back in a loose ponytail and her lab coat was left open, revealing a Death Metal t-shirt underneath. She did, however, have rubber gloves on and a face mask that hid her smile.
“Do you have a gestation count yet?”
Dr. Henderson placed one gloved hand on the incubator in front of her and knelt down, looking carefully at the developing embryo in its translucent shell. “Well, obviously, we can’t be completely sure, but judging from his accelerated growth rate and his physical appearance, I’d say about two more days at most.” In the shell was an embryo about the size of a newborn human infant. It had mostly human features, except that it hadn’t grown digits yet and it still had the remnants of a tail.
“How human will he look?” the man in the suit asked.
“When he hatches, he’ll probably look very similar to this, but with fingers, maybe toes and he’ll have a lot more hair. The tail may be shorter as well, as his GenMatch doesn’t have a particularly long tail.”
The man peered through the glass. “What’s the GenMatch on this one?”
“He’s a 059ARC.”
“Really? He looks a little bigger than the other ones.”
“If you don’t mind me saying, sir, the other ones died within 24 hours of hatch time.”
“Hmmm. Don’t let anything happen to this one. I have a feeling about him.”
The woman bit her lip. “I’ll do my best, sir, but survival rate is at 2.3%”
The man made a low sound, almost like a growl. “This one will make it through the first 24. After that, it’s on you.” He left the room and the woman peeled off her gloves and mask, which she discarded in a small trash bin in the corner. She stared after the man.
The man turned a left down the white, florescent lit hallway, and opened the door to his office. Once inside he locked the door behind him and sat down at his wide desk. He punched a number into the phone on his desk and waited until someone picked up the other end. “We’ve got twelve breathers, I think. Everything ready? Good. We’ll need it.” He slammed the phone down and leaned back in his chair. The next few days would be critical.
“Come on, you can do it!” Another crack ripped through the soft surface of the egg. The shell bulged out as the embryo within pushed against the surface. “Come on!” Dr. Henderson muttered. The hatching had been going on for three and a half hours. If an opening wasn’t made soon, the embryo inside would be too weak to break the shell.
The surface bulged again, this time even farther out. Several nurses were pacing around the table the egg lay on, occasionally murmuring to each other to get a biohazard disposal kit ready. Dr. Henderson bit her lip. This 059ARC had been her project and she was almost certain that she had figured out how to make this one survive, but as another minute pushed by with no sign of movement, she was quickly giving up hope. Just as she was about to declare the tiny embryo dead, it rocketed up and punctured the shell of the egg. Suddenly, its head was halfway out of the shell. Dr. Henderson’s heart leaped in her chest. “Please break through,” she begged it. Now the embryo had its whole head out, then its arms, then the rest of its body; it tumbled onto the table where it lay with its mouth hanging open, not breathing for a moment, before a nurse wiped the sac of fluid around its mouth away. It sucked in air, its chest rising in a deep breath, before squealing loudly. “He’s breathing…” she whispered. Then louder, “He’s breathing. Someone bring me a bottle, a tub, and his vacs!” The nurses scurried off.
Dr. Henderson picked up the squalling infant in her arms, being careful to support his head. With some effort, he lifted his head and sunk his tiny teeth into her upper arm. She winced in pain, but still held him gently. He has teeth, she thought. None of the others had teeth.
Just then, one of the nurses brought her a bottle filled with formula. She pressed it to the infants’ mouth and he latched on, eagerly nursing at the bottle. With his teeth otherwise occupied, she examined him carefully. He was larger than an ordinary human infant at about 11 inches long and he weighed at least 15 pounds. His bones were already very stiff and she could feel developed muscles beneath smooth skin and fur. The fur stretched from his head down his spine and to the end of his tail, and also bunched together in a mane around his neck. There were also cuffs of fur around each hand and foot. The fur was yellow, standing out against the deep red patch of hair on his head. At the end of his fingers and toes, he had something that was an odd cross between nails and claws, not to mention the teeth she had experienced earlier.
Reluctantly, she handed him to a nurse, who continued to feed him while she wrote down all of his abnormal features. She noted his canine-like ears half way up the top of his head and the length of his tail, a good two inches longer than the previous infants. His eyes made her shudder. They were a deep golden color, with odd, oval-shaped pupils. They seemed unnaturally intelligent as they watched her face, imprinting on her. Overall, the newborn looked healthy. At the bottom of her form, she noticed a box that said: Subject ID. 059ARC was already filled in, but next to it, there was another blank space. Hesitantly, she scribbled in the name Apollo.
“Apollo, come here.” My ears pricked up at the command and I jogged over to Miss Kelly. I sat at her feet and watched her patiently. “What is this?” she held up a picture of one of the scientists at the facility.
“That’s one of my friends,” I told her, my tail wagging.
“Very good,” she said and scratched me behind one of my ears. My tail thumped against the ground. “What about this?” Now she held up a picture of a grey, feline Pokemon. I resisted the urge to bark.
“That’s a Glameow, like Freyja.”
Miss Kelly frowned and I knew I had messed up. I whimpered. “Freyja isn’t a Glameow,” she told me, scolding, “She’s a hybrid like you. Glameow are Pokemon, part of nature. You’re both artificial.”
I nodded, my tail now resting in my lap. Miss Kelly sighed. “That’s alright. Just try to remember next time.” Now she held up a picture of a man dressed all in black, a bright red ‘R’ on his chest. The fur on the back of my neck stood up and I growled.
“Enemy!” I said loudly.
“That’s right,” she said. “This is a Bad Person.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out a cookie, which she handed to me. I moved to eat it out of her hand, but she frowned again and I remembered myself. Carefully, I grasped the cookie in one hand. It felt unnatural, but I lifted the cookie to my mouth and began to gnaw at it. Miss Kelly smiled as the Good Man in his black suit walked up. My tail began to wag again.
“How is he?” the man asked.
“He’s doing very well. Particularly bright for his age.”
The man rubbed his chin thoughtfully, staring at the hybrid with cold blue eyes. “Don’t forget, he already has the mental capacity of a ten year old. He’s three years old, but for a Growlithe, that’s different.”
“True, but… he’s half human.”
The man turned back to look at her. “Exactly. Don’t forget that. He’s not human and the sooner you learn that, the better off you’ll be.” He walked off.
I cocked my head to the side. Miss Kelly was shaking. “Can I go play with my friends?”
Miss Kelly jumped, as if she had forgotten I was there. She shook her head, trying to clear it. “Maybe after training, if you do good.”
“Okay,” I said excitedly, jumping to my feet.
I felt good as I stood at one end of the training field. The sky was a bright blue bowl stretching from one end of the horizon to the other. The sun was high in the sky and I felt warm. Heat pulsed through my body and I was ready to battle.
“Let’s do an easy one this time!” Miss Kelly yelled from the other side of the field. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a red and white ball, which she threw to the ground. There was a flash of red light and where the Pokeball had hit the ground, there was now a small Pokemon about a foot high that was an odd triangle shape. It was a mixture of black, yellow, and red, the bright colors making it easier for me to lock on to it.
“Start off with a Headbutt, Snorunt!” The strange ice Pokemon lowered its head and charged out at me. I jumped out of its path, barely avoiding the attack, and retaliated by tackling it and biting it on the back of the neck. It made an unpleasant screaming sound that sounded like wind howling through a canyon.
“Protect!” Suddenly, I was thrown off of my opponent by a large force field. I hit the ground with a thud, before rolling back on my feet. I crouched down, hands and feet on the field. As soon as the hard bubble around the Snorunt disappeared, I jumped back onto him and opened my mouth. Summoning the warmth I felt deep in my chest, I used an Ember attack. Bright flames erupted out of my mouth, burning the Snow Hat Pokemon. It screeched and finally, Miss Kelly returned it to its Pokeball. I collapsed on the soft green grass, exhausted.
“Good job,” she said and rubbed the spot on my back where I had fur. The black t-shirt I was wearing partially covered it, but some of the fur poked through the top and it felt nice to be pet. “You still want to go play with the other hybrids?”
I leaped up as if I had never been tired. “Yes!”
She smiled. “Who do you want to visit?”
I thought about it for a moment. Who would be fun to play with today…? “Let’s go see Loki!” I raced across the field in front of Miss Kelly, my tail streaming out behind me. It felt good to run. However, at a small hand gesture from her, I fell back by her side. It was usually best to do what she said. While it took much longer to walk to where Loki lived, it made Miss Kelly happy. Finally, we arrived at the small house. Every time we came out here, I stared at the Wall that separated me from everything outside my home. I vaguely wondered what was out there. I could hear the sound of cars on pavement and smelled such an incredible variety of things that I couldn’t pick out and identify any one scent. Ignoring the desire to try to climb the Wall, I instead walked forward and tapped my hand against Loki’s door. “Just a minute,” someone called.
I waited patiently until the door was opened by a small woman who looked alarmingly fragile. A pair of thin-framed glasses had slid down the bridge of her nose, and she looked startled, as though she hadn’t been expecting company. However, I didn’t have eyes for her. I was focused on the pair of green eyes glittering in the darkness behind her. The woman smiled weakly. “Hello, Kelly.” She didn’t seem to notice me at first, then realized why we must have come over. “Did Apollo come to visit Loki?”
“Yes, he wanted to come over to visit, if that’s alright,” Miss Kelly told her.
“Oh, that’s fine.” The woman seemed to slump over a bit, as if she had been forcing herself to stand up straight. She walked inside the house and we followed her, Miss Kelly shutting the door behind us. As the two adults went to the kitchen, I ran after Loki. By now, I could just see the edge of his tail around a corner. I quickly found myself lost in a maze of rooms, with very little light to see by. The house was kept dark, because Loki liked it that way. Lost in my thoughts, I didn’t notice him creeping up behind me. Then I was knocked over and I felt pointy little teeth digging into the scruff on my neck.
“Dead,” he said, his voice muffled by my fur.
I growled. “Fine, Loki. Now get off of me.” The weight on my back lightened and I flipped around to see my friend. He looked similar to me, except that his fur was almost entirely black, with a few streaks of red. Even the hair on his head was as dark as the night sky. His skin was incredibly pale and made his fur stand out in contrast. His tail was bushier than mine, and longer, by about a foot. He was barefoot, like me, but unlike me, he had nothing even close to fingernails and toenails. Instead, he had gnarled claws, and rather than just a set of canines, his whole mouth was filled with sharp fangs. He grinned, showing them off.
“As you wish.” His voice was heavy with sarcasm. “How are you today, Apollo?”
“I’m pretty good. It’s nice out.”
Loki scowled. “Blah. I can’t go out when it’s so bright.” As he talked, his tail twitched with agitation. “I wish it would get overcast again. That was nice.” He yawned, his pink tongue sticking out for a moment. “But you didn’t come to talk to me about the weather, and unlike what the humans think, you’re not just here to play.”
I wrinkled my nose. “Don’t call them that. It’s not like we’re any different.”
Loki grinned sardonically. “Of course not. We’re people, like them, just covered in fur.” He rolled his eyes. “Anyways, let’s not get into that argument. What did you come to ask me about?”
“Well… I’ve been having the dreams again.”
My friend raised an eyebrow. “Have they changed at all?”
I shook my head. “No. They’re the same. There’s a fire burning down all our houses and I hear people screaming. And I’m on fire. But I don’t hurt. Then I feel like I’m growing and getting stronger and I get so big I crack open the sky. That’s when I wake up.”
He considered this for a minute. “It sounds like it could be repressed memories of a lot of things. I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Don’t tell anyone else about them though. I feel like it would be unwise.”
Just then, Miss Kelly came into the room. “Oh, there you are. We have to head back home a little early. There’s a storm coming in.” I shuddered. I didn’t go anywhere in the rain.
“Will you carry me?” I asked.
Miss Kelly frowned. “You’re getting a little old, but… I guess so.”
She picked me up in both arms and as she began to walk back to our house, I fell asleep.
“Ugh,” I grunted as I rolled out of bed.
“Apollo! We’re going to be late!”
“I’m coming, Kelly!” I yelled back as I pulled on a pair of shorts and a dirty t-shirt. I glanced around my room. As usual, I couldn’t see the carpet; it was hidden beneath piles of dirty clothes and loose papers. Posters covered my wall, mostly of cars and a few rock bands I liked, but I had more than one of some girls in less than modest clothing. “Jesus Christ…” I muttered and slammed the door behind me as I walked out.
Kelly was in the front room, twirling her keys around one finger. Her hair was put up in a clip since she hadn’t had time to wash it yet today. Stupid emergency meeting. When she saw me, she sighed. “When are you going to cut your hair?”
I shrugged. “Why would I want to cut my hair? I have fur.”
Kelly rolled her eyes. “Never mind. Let’s just go before we get any later.”
“It’s not our fault they called this stupid thing last minute,” I grumbled under my breath.
We walked across the facility’s lawn. The sky was dark and it looked like rain soon. I really didn’t want to get stuck inside the main buildings, but it looked like I wouldn’t have much of a choice. Across the field were several small cottages, each with their own space; the homes of the scientists who worked here, along with the rest of the hybrids. In the middle, was a huge building that looked pretty damned similar to an Ivy League school. The first drops of rain started to fall and I picked Kelly up in my arms.
“Hey!” she protested.
“This is faster,” I said and took off running. It took me about a minute and a half to get to the main building and through the door from half a mile away. I was grinning as we stepped through the door and I set Kelly down. She brushed herself off and tried not to look like she had enjoyed it.
“Oh good! You’re here!” I was nearly knocked over as something small and furry tackled me, then started bouncing next to me.
“Hey, Freyja,” I said, winded.
She looked down at me, emerald eyes shining, and smiled, exposing canines a lot like mine. Unlike me, however, the ears on her head were much pointier and her tail wasn’t very furry. Instead, it was skinny and about as long as she was. She completely lacked feet, instead having huge gray and white paws. Her hands were a cross between normal human hands and Glameow paws. They had pads and were covered in fur. She was wearing a blue dress (with a hole cut out for her tail), which covered most, but not all of her ashy grey fur. She grabbed my hand and began to pull me down the hallway.
“We have to hurry, hurry, hurry,” she said rapidly as she pulled me along. Kelly just smirked and followed us. I wasn’t paying much attention to where we were going; the white tiled hallways all looked the same. At some point we reached a door and Freyja pushed both of us inside. In the room, there was a group of scientists, and ten kids. Well, they were all more like teenagers than anything, even though none of them were older than six. Behind each of them stood a scientist; their guardian. I looked around and spotted Loki sitting beside two empty chairs. I quickly took my seat next to him and Freyja sat beside me.
One of the scientists in the main group stepped forward and did a head count. “I think that’s everyone,” he said. “Alright.” He coughed nervously. “I’ve called this meeting, because I believe it’s time for you all to know the truth. You all know pieces of the story of your… births, as do your caretakers. However, you were not created without a reason, and that reason is almost upon us. The truth may be hard to hear, but it is necessary for your well-being and your survival.” He looked at each of us in turn. “About ten years ago, the founder of the Facility, Dr. Patterson, decided that it was in the best interest of the Facility to create a defense system; one that is unique to us and has no precedent. That defense system is you.” My ears twitched uncomfortably, but I had assumed this much. I wasn’t optimistic enough to think that we’d been created in the name of science or for the greater good. Glancing around the table we were sitting around, I saw that no one else looked surprised either. “Before we succeeded in making you, we had a few failed test runs. Finally, we realized one of the major problems. It was impossible to create hybrids with human eggs and Pokemon sperm, as humans lack the proteins required to form a Pokemon egg. Unfortunately, it is much easier to collect human eggs than it is Pokemon eggs, but with some perseverance, we managed to collect eggs from fourteen species of Pokemon. Two of those, Scyther and Sharpedo, failed outright. Later on, we realized that only mammalian and avian hybrids were possible, with a few exceptions.”
At his last words, everyone involuntarily looked over to Ceres, a Petilil hybrid. She looked almost human, except for a vaguely greenish shade to her skin and the leaves growing out of her hair. She blinked uncomfortably at the attention we were giving her. I quickly looked back at the scientist.
“After your births,” he continued, “Each of you was given to one of the lead scientists at this facility, preferably one who had helped in the birthing process. For example, Apollo was given to Dr. Henderson.” He gestured to Kelly. “These scientists raised you and trained you. Everything you have you owe to them. For the last six years they have been surrogate parents to you.” I felt a hand on my shoulder and knew it was Kelly’s. My tail started wagging slowly. “Now, however, is the time for you to say goodbye.” My tail stopped. The air was suddenly crackling with tension as the senses of twelve Pokemon hybrids and twelve humans were locked on to the scientist in front of us. Kelly’s nails were digging into my fur. The scientist continued on as if nothing had happened, “Now that you are all the equivalent of human adolescents, your training will continue elsewhere.” He stopped speaking and looked around. I growled deeply and he jumped around to look at me. I pushed my chair back and stood up.
“No,” I said. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Kelly stepped out from behind me. I realized I was a few inches taller than her. “You can’t just take them away from us.”
The scientist looked uncomfortable as the other hybrids began to stand up. “But it’s time for them to go. You’ve all known that they would be taken from you when they reached adulthood.”
I whirled around and glared at Kelly. “You knew!?” I was suddenly gripped by uncontrollable anger. I felt like my blood was boiling.
All of Kelly’s anger seemed to evaporate and tears sprung to her eyes. “Yes,” she said, looking at the floor. “They told us when you were born that they would take you eventually.”
“And you didn’t tell me!?” I couldn’t stand it. I was furious. I felt like I was on fire. Then I looked down and saw that my entire body was blazing. I growled and turned back to the scientist. All around the room, similar fights were breaking out. I saw Loki snarling and Ceres’ leaves were standing on end. Just as the fire became too strong to control, something hit me in the chest. For a moment I stood, stunned, and then I felt as though I were crumbling, like a sandcastle destroyed by the tide. There was a flash of red and then darkness.
To be continued....
FANCY SEEING YOU HERE, YOUNG GRASSHOPPAH.
First things first. Opening paragraph. WEIRD GRAMMAR. MADE ME ANGRY ON THE INSIDE. "But the flame inside of me has a price; a heavy price; because the fire burns in my chest, in the place where my soul should be." Icky. Try:
"But the flame inside me has a price, a heavy price--because the first burns..."
You could also use a colon after "price," but you don't strike me as a colon writer, so that might be a bad idea.
The semi-colons make the sentence look funky and avant-garde. And it's totally not. I don't think it was supposed to be. The flow works better if you connect "a heavy price" to the sentence logically, instead of separating it (which is what happens when you bracket it with semi-colons). ...The semi-colons are also arguably incorrect as-is. SO YEAH.
Now on to plot. I like this concept. I think I've mentioned that before. I would almost like it better if it were in third person, just so I could get the mental image of a furry human being lighting into a GIGANTIC TORCH. But you handle first person well, with a nice balance of emotion, description (which, by the way, nice juxtaposition to build the mental image of the main character without being all I LOOKED IN A MIRROR AND WHAT DID I SEE), and exposition.
I would say that you could definitely have drawn this out without having a pacing issue. The final moment is sortof a loss of childhood. He's grown up, he's loved--and now he's discovered that everyone around him has been marching him towards the gallows. I don't think he's perceptive enough to hone in on that idea in that particular moment. Too busy, y'know, being on fire. BUT, you could have stood to strengthen the emotional connection the reader felt to his childhood. 'n then played up the betrayal (beyond the "YOU KNEW" aspects and more into the "what this means to my life in one sentence" aspects).
Anyway, what I'm saying is, basically, a few more scenes from his childhood--not as long as the others--could have really done the story some good. Just, like, little snippets of him hugging Kelly, or playing with blocks, or learning things in the lab, or (if he discovers his fire powers earlier on) lighting something on fire. More of a kaleidoscopic feel than the currently linear time-jump progression.
Other than that little niggle of possibility, I gotta say, I like this. There's an uncertainty about it. Will he get away? He's going to be hunted, if he does. There's a cool plot. Will he get captured? Also a plethora of cool plot options. You can't really go wrong, here, unless you botch the execution of a good plot idea. AND I HAVE FAITH IN YOU. Neat prose, neat plot... neat, neat. Gimme moar.