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Title

unrepentantAuthor

A cat that writes stories.
Location
UK
Pronouns
they/she
Partner
purrloin-salem

1996, Kanto: a clone of Mew is created and named "Mewtwo". Its imperfect genetic code is completed using human DNA.
2020, Galar: pokémon are going missing, explorers are driven out of the wilds, and a green tech company is hiring experts in gene-splicing.

A story about pokémorphs, genetic engineering, identity, language, secrets, friendship, freedom, and a cat who becomes a person.

DE cover small.jpg

Cover art by @canisaries.


Author's Note:

Different Eyes is my take on the 'pokémon/human hybrid experiments' trope, as a character-driven story from the perspective of pokémon-turned-morphs. You may like this fic if you're a fan of pokécentric fic, scifi, drama, introspection, angst, slow-burn, and of course, anthros.

It's a long-running project, which started with jumbled notes circa 2010 and eventually became a carefully structured project conscious of its own themes in 2020. It has been the subject of much revision! I expect it to reach about 400,000 words and 80 chapters in length by the time it's finished, and I work on it nearly every day.

Updates are irregular, but at the time of writing I have over 70,000 words of buffer material, so this is definitely happening. My goal is a monthly update schedule.

I appreciate any and all civil feedback, however short or long, however gushing or critical. Please do leave a comment, even if it's only to say that you're a fan. I'll appreciate it enormously. Thank you for reading.

Content warnings for trauma and abuse, dysphoria, fantasy violence, profanity.
 
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Prologue — Conception

unrepentantAuthor

A cat that writes stories.
Location
UK
Pronouns
they/she
Partner
purrloin-salem
2020/04/17: replaced old expository prelude chapter with a full prologue chapter featuring Dr. Fuji, to better indicate the themes and scale of the story.

2020/08/17: revised the prologue as informed by reader feedback, mostly general improvements to prose and trimmed-down faux-jargon.


Prologue

Conception



The first pokémon-human hybrid was floating in a tank full of life-nourishing fluids, silent and still. Its skin was a muted violet, almost white. Its bulbous, purple tail was easily as long as the creature was tall. Through the amber liquid and dim lighting, it was a dreamlike thing to behold. Perhaps it experienced dreams of its own, asleep in its tiny world.

Dr. Fuji reached out to his creation and placed a hand on the tank glass. He willed it to open its eyes and reach out to him, to speak to him, to justify its existence to him.

A horrible thought; it would owe him nothing if it lived.

If it lived, perhaps it would be the first of many pokémon-human hybrids. Capable of sophisticated cognition — endowed with fantastic elemental powers.

…If it lived.

"No choice," he murmured to himself. He had been given no choice but to give life to this creature, or at least that's what he had believed all this time.

At what point did a threshold in science become inevitable, however terrible it seemed? When someone first conceived of it? When it was no longer theoretical, but a practical possibility? Perhaps only once it became an irreversible reality, already in motion, and impossible to stop.

He knew the truth: this had been inevitable only so long as he'd remained committed to it. He could have turned back at any time, right up until the moment of genesis, but instead he had told himself, over and over, that he'd had no freedom to do otherwise.

If there had been a single moment he could identify and say "Yes, there, that's when it became destiny," it was when he'd first said those words —

"I suppose I have no choice."

∗∗∗​

June 1996

Cinnabar Island, Kantō


A black, dual-rotor heliplane cruised over choppy ocean waves and under a clear sky.

It was bound for an island off the Japanese coast, too far out at sea for the mainland to be visible. This was Izu Ōshima, known as Cinnabar Island to tourists and to trainers on the League Circuit. The presence of human structures was visible in a white-grey mottling against the green of the island's forests. Merely a small town, clinging to the coast. The aircraft passed over it and cruised for a few miles inland, the forests soon giving way to the red-brown tones of the central volcanic mountain. At its foot huddled a building complex, squat and angular. A tower at its corner rose well above the tree-line to support a modest landing pad.

The aircraft drew close and made its descent.

A man stood on the platform, his wild hair swept back and lab coat blown about by the airflow from the heliplane. He clutched his glasses to his face and waited for the whirling rotor blades to come to a standstill. When at last they did, another man in a dark suit stepped down from the heliplane, a feline pokémon at his side, and not a hair out of place on either.

The geneticist bent at the waist and waited for the crime-lord to speak.

He kept silent for a long moment as his financier adjusted his jacket and tie. He knew well that this was a powerful man — someone who could afford to keep others waiting, and would naturally take issue with impatience. It would be unwise to give offence by speaking first.

"Ah, you're the one called Fuji, yes?"

"Doctor Fuji," he replied, straightening up. "Sir," he quickly added.

Giovanni did not bow in return. The pause before he replied made Fuji's breath catch in his chest.

"Of course," he said at last. Giovanni's smile grew wide, but it never reached his eyes. "Thank you for your time, Doctor Fuji."

Fuji's breath returned. Perhaps that 'sir' at the last moment had saved him. He'd like to think it was his own value to Giovanni as a scientist, but that would be flattering himself. Now that the sample had been obtained and the groundwork done, Fuji would become ever more replaceable as an asset.

"Naturally," he said. "You are financing the project, after all. Your man on the radio didn't mention the nature of your visit?"

Giovanni merely raised an eyebrow and walked past him, ignoring the implicit question.

When he moved, he did so with unhurried confidence. This was surely a man accustomed to commanding the patience and attention of anyone in his line of sight. Fuji was no scholar of psychology, but he found himself analysing his sponsor's intimidating persona even while hurrying past the man to open the door for him.

His face held no expression but the tense blankness of a person keeping their thoughts behind a mask. He maintained total control of himself. The pokémon was a persian, judging by the gem set in its forehead — a pedigree, no doubt — and it followed at his heel without a sound or a sideways glance. He must have trained it strictly. Despite the Italian name he used, Giovanni's accent, facial features and mannerisms all suggested a Kantō heritage. It was obviously a pseudonym for a man with secrets worth hiding, but he must have had considerable arrogance to disguise the truth with such an obviously fake identity.

At least, that was Fuji's assessment. Perhaps he thought wrong, and an honourable, philosophical man could be found under all that presence and menace.

Giovanni didn't look at him once as they made their way into the facility.

∗∗∗​

Fuji's benefactor appeared unconcerned with the wider facility. Perhaps he genuinely inspected each room they passed and judged what he saw against his private expectations but if so, he gave no indication of his approval. He made no comments of his own, but prompted Fuji to explain what each team had accomplished.

He lingered longest in the psy-assessment area; his cold eyes took in every detail of the psychic pokémon performing their telekinetic tasks under the observation of Fuji's colleagues, armed with clipboards and brain-shielding headwear. So too did he pass his piercing gaze over the rest of the complex, in all its drab, metallic coldness. Narrow corridors, glass partitions, harsh white strip lighting. Evidently, it all passed muster.

He spoke little, except to prompt Fuji to continue talking about the work, and various tangents. To Fuji's surprise, Giovanni seemed to take a genuine — if terse — interest in the research supporting the project.

"I read your report on the South American expedition," he said, as they passed the cafeteria, cordially enough. No time for a light lunch, it would seem. The man probably only ate gourmet fare in any case.

"I'm glad to hear it, sir."

"This genetic sample of yours," continued Giovanni. "It came from an authentic mew fossil, isn't that so?"

Fuji willed his heart rate to remain steady. This man had no reason to suspect any deception.

Besides, it was a subfossil, and the man would know that had he paid attention to Fuji's report.

"Indeed. I — that is, we — believe it to be the fossilised eyelash of an ancient mew. One worshipped by a now-extinct culture several centuries ago."

"Intriguing. It is peculiar that a preserved genetic sample of such great significance should come from something so insignificant. So easily overlooked. Just think how easily such a fragile thing could have been lost forever."

Giovanni's gaze seemed to tug on the secrets in Fuji's heart, but he returned it evenly.

"I quite agree, sir. Although as I did mention in my report, it's not a fully intact sample. We will have to fill in the gaps with appropriate genes from other species — alakazam, for example, given their natural proficiency with psychic power."

"I am aware of this necessity," came the reply. "It is regarding this matter that I have come here. I intend to ensure that the clone you produce for me is not diminished, but enhanced, by the modifications made to its genes."

"I see."

Naturally, someone like Giovanni would see an incomplete genetic code as an opportunity for improvement, rather than a setback to accept.

Fuji prayed that his deception had not been a mistake. Oh, Mew. Perhaps you made a mistake entrusting me with that eyelash.

∗∗∗​

Giovanni almost looked hungry as he stared at the incubation tanks.

"Your report mentioned you had already produced test subjects. Why are these empty?"

Fuji gestured to the engraved stone tablet depicting the ancient mew.

"Pokémon are strange beings, Mr. Giovanni. Their bodies do not behave as ours do, and so they have long been called magical beasts, fae, dæmons, and yokai. Mew's genetic code is stranger still, unlike that of any pokémon yet studied. It would seem the myths of its ability to transform into other pokémon have some truth to them. Whenever we attempt to reproduce it in a fully intact state, the subject becomes…"

He trailed off. The cultural reluctance to name uncomfortable things was strong, even as a scientist with international colleagues. Fuji walked over to the far end of the cloning bay, towards the anomalous specimens containment unit.

"The partial copy we have available is unstable when cloned, and, well… you can see for yourself what the results are of creating life from unmodified mew DNA."

He flicked the light switch, and the lighting overhead came on strip by strip, in flickering bursts.

The vivaria they illuminated contained the subjects he'd mentioned in his reports. These creatures had no official name, given that their existence remained secret. There ought to be a name for them, he thought. After all, one could not possibly call them 'mew' in all good sense.

Each vivarium was a box with glass panels, housing one or more shapeless, pinkish masses. They looked almost gelatinous, each one's epidermis gleaming a little in the artificial light. They moved slowly, somewhat like that of a mundane snail, or a slugma: they stretched out their amorphous bodies and then pulled their mass forwards using the extended part. Their bodies were almost featureless, except for their odd little faces: beady black eyes and a darker line, like a seam, beneath them.

As they both watched the creatures, one of them transformed into a copy of its own water bowl. Another, into a stone.

Giovanni's face remained stiff and his eyes wide, but Fuji thought he could see a hint of a smile too.

"Have you found a use for them?"

"Not yet, sir. They are poor learners, and do not perform well in many tests. They only manifest psychic abilities when they take the form of psychic pokémon, and they only match the abilities of the copied individual. Temporarily at that. Still, they are intriguing. Some of our western staff have taken to calling them 'metamon', 'omnimorph', and 'ditto' -"

"Ditto? That's a strange word."

"It's Galarish, sir. It means 'that which has been said before.' I confess I quite like that one."

"Hmm. You are right to call them intriguing. Monitor them, but use an intern or some other insignificant person. I want you and your useful colleagues to remain focused on the main project until its completion. No distractions."

"Sir, I must-"

"And you may pursue your personal goal as well. I am a generous enough man to permit that. How is she?"

Giovanni's face displayed the slightest flicker of empathy for a mere half-second.

"Much the same, sir. I remain hopeful."

"And your wife?"

Fuji sighed. Felt a tug at his heart.

"She left her ring with her last letter. That was some weeks ago, now. It's no great surprise; I did miss the funeral after all."

"I'm sorry to hear that."

An automatic response, given with little sincerity.

"Thank you, sir. It only gives me more reason to complete my work to the best of my ability. As such, I have since begun living in this facility full time."

"Well. Good luck. May you meet with success in the due course of time, and have your daughter back once more. Just don't let it interfere with the project. Remember, I'm not in the business of human cloning."

"Of course. On my pride as a scientist, I will strive to succeed."

"Very good."

∗∗∗​

"Enhancements, sir?"

"Anything to make this creation the most powerful pokémon to ever exist," said Giovanni, his eyes fixed on a vision that did not include the scientist in front of him. "The most powerful tool. A uniquely dangerous weapon."

Fuji considered his words carefully while Giovanni's full attention kept focused on the statistics, readings and projections arrayed on the table between them. He'd chosen the material carefully to show the competence and potential of his team, while also promising as little as possible in practical results. So far it seemed to hold up to scrutiny.

He spoke with some hesitation still in his voice. "If mew is, ah, truly the most powerful psychic pokémon to ever exist, then its genes are— are already the pinnacle of psychic power. If we can find a way to… to stabilise the DNA and produce a viable specimen, then that would be a great enough achievement to begin with. Ah, one might say."

"I will determine what achievements are sufficient for my objectives," replied Giovanni, without looking up.

Fuji's whole body felt exhausted from the tension. How much more of this before Giovanni left him to his work?

"Of course, sir. I didn't mean to presume. What, then, would be sufficient?"

"Psychic power is only one of the many possible assets this being could have," said Giovanni. "I also require intelligence, aggression, loyalty. The ability to use tools. Communication. Independent strategy. An intimidating physical form. Can you alter the temperament of the clone and so on to achieve these things, but without compromising its power?"

"It's possible, although it will require guesswork. Trial and error. Not to mention a solution to the instability concern."

"As it happens, I've received a most interesting proposition from one of your colleagues. Dr. Katsura, I recall? Interesting man. He proposes splicing the sample with human DNA. Are you at all familiar with this idea?"

Katsura. Of course. The accursed fool.

"He ran the idea by me, yes. I understand the broad underpinnings, although gene-splicing is his specialism, not mine."

Giovanni's raised eyebrow told him to go on.

Fuji cleared his throat. "Ah, well… in the metaphorical tree of life, animals — including humans, of course — and pokémon are considered two different 'domains' of life. This is for good reason: we appear to share no common ancestor more recently than the primordial world of billions of years ago. And yet we are both complex multicellular life forms, with DNA. DNA that could theoretically be spliced regardless of our many differences."

A nod told him Giovanni kept up with him so far.

"The principle difficulty in pokémon genetics is the 'instability' associated with their genetic codes. They change, they adapt, they break down with terrible ease. The mechanism of evolution is possible because unlike us, pokémon are somehow able to use the strange energy they rely on for all their powers to alter their very genes. This same process is what results in the 'ditto' you've seen today. Adding eukaryotic DNA from an animal, perhaps a human, would potentially grant the morphology of the donor to the specimen—"

Giovanni's frown warned him against too much jargon. He licked his dry lips.

"Ah, it would force the creature to remain in a fixed form. A hybrid form. It is possible."

"Is it also possible," said Giovanni, "in your professional opinion, that using human DNA for this process would grant the clone abstract thought, creativity, and complex language, while keeping its mastery of psychic power?"

"It is… possible. However unlikely, it is possible. The specimen could have the same mysterious energy that all pokémon do and if so, it could be incredibly powerful."

Giovanni's smile showed teeth. "And what did you say to your colleague when he explained it to you?"

"I told him it broke countless legal, practical, and ethical restrictions on our work and that we had no compelling reason to adopt the method," said Fuji, as evenly as he could manage.

Giovanni sneered at him as if at an impudent salaryman. "Well, how's this for a compelling reason? If making this thing a human half-breed has a chance of producing a viable more-intelligent specimen, then I expect you to do it. Dr. Katsura tells me it does, and I'm inclined to believe him. He is most articulate on the matter."

Fuji set both his hands against the table littered with documents. His carefully-curated reports were nothing more than paper, now. They'd done nothing to curtail Giovanni's ambitions.

"Even if it did work, and the clone reached healthy maturity, there's no way of telling what the long term consequences could be. A psychic that powerful could have interactions with its genetic relatives in ways we cannot predict or understand!"

Giovanni laughed, abruptly, and held out his hand in pacification.

"I can see you have some anxiety about this, Doctor. Allow me to ease your concerns. I am a generous enough man to relieve you of the terrible burden of finding a genetic donor for this project. You may use my genes."

"What?"

"One of my agents will leave a sample with your medical staff. I am prepared to accept the risks you feverishly imagine. Great rewards are earned through the boldness to take great risks."

"I see. As you say, Mr. Giovanni."

That man had such a cruel smile when he exercised his influence over someone else. Eyes narrowed, the left corner of his mouth curved upward, nose slightly flared. Did he smile that way when he commanded a pokémon?

"I acknowledge you have reservations," he said, "but I've made my final decision. I insist you give your word that you intend to do what I ask of you."

This was it. Fuji's final chance to decline. He could turn down Giovanni now, or else commit to the creation of a hybrid life form, and then there would be no telling where the science would go. Twenty years from now, would such things be commonplace? How could that possibly be in the world's best interests?

Think of something clever. Lie convincingly that human DNA would not stabilise the specimen. Refuse on moral grounds. Insist that the scope of the experiments required would be prohibitively expensive even for Giovanni's endless coffers.

He thought of Ai, and the impossibility of completing her revival without Giovanni's patronage. He thought of the savings he had emptied, the favours he had called in. He had even failed to attend the funeral. He'd been so focused on preserving the precious genetic memories held within those cells. His daughter's soul.

He didn't have anything else.

"I suppose I have no choice," said Dr. Fuji. "I'll do as you say."

Damn you.

"I'm pleased to hear that. Very pleased indeed."

Damn you, Fuji, you coward.

∗∗∗​

As Giovanni's helicopter left, Fuji imagined he could feel the future in his heart.

It seemed a cold, and dark, and heavy future if so.

He remembered Mew. If it had been typical of its species then the clone would be a playful, innocent creature. Curious. Gentle. Already the ditto were inquisitive, bashful creatures.

By stark contrast, Giovanni loved to command others and make unscrupulous demands. Giovanni! King of veiled threats and intimidation! Was he so cruel and uncompromising from birth, or had he grown to become that way? Be it nature or nurture that imbued such malice, his violent character would surely taint Fuji's creation.

Once he gave this thing life, what kind of being would it be?

What would it one day become, in the shadow of Giovanni?

It might be a monster, like him. Or worse, a victim to his cruelties. In either case, what devastation could be wrought by a creature in such conditions?

Fuji gripped the railing on the rooftop's edge. It felt good to put his weight on something solid. He spent so much time leaning on an imagined future, one which contained his daughter once again.

To keep Giovanni from possessing a mew clone to mould in his image, Fuji would have to sacrifice that future.

And he couldn't do that.

Coward.

∗∗∗​

"Katsura! Katsura, you blind fool! Haven't you got any discretion? Katsura!"

Fuji hammered on his colleague's office door, releasing all the pent-up energy he'd contained during Giovanni's visit. He couldn't feel his hands.

"Katsura! Damn you!"

A voice came from inside: "What is it, Fuji, you obsessive bastard?"

"Open this door and explain yourself!"

Katsura wrenched the door open, and it thudded into the wall as he did so.

"Explain what, man?" he barked. "I didn't study at Université de Lumiose to be spoken to this way!"

In addition to being a great scientific mind, Auguste Katsura served as Cinnabar's gym leader and Kantō's fire type specialist. As such, he affected an exaggerated, theatrical persona. In his case, he had chosen a 'mad scientist' aesthetic, which he was suited for in both appearance and intellect.

He cultivated a large, white, paint brush moustache, and kept his scalp perfectly bald. He wore his lab coat open, revealing a flame-patterned tie, worn in a loose knot. His glasses of choice were shaded pince-nez. He looked bizarre. Yet, the man's glower burned so hot even through the glasses, Fuji faltered despite himself, stammering as he replied.

"Y-you sent that proposal to Giovanni! Now he wants us to use his DNA in the project! Haven't you any idea how badly that could go wrong?"

Katsura stared for a moment. Then, he removed his glasses and looked Fuji in the eye. Without the shades, he looked entirely serious. Older, too.

"You'd better come inside."

Fuji nodded, and obliged.

With the door closed behind them, and his colleague making him a cup of hot tea, Fuji's anger left him.

Katsura attended to the tea with industrious efficiency in his tiny kitchenette. He didn't speak again until Fuji calmed enough to sit down. Before resuming the conversation he said, pointedly, "You haven't seen my analysis yet, Fuji. I assure you, the science is sound."

Then he shushed Fuji with a finger to his lips, and activated his dishwasher. It made a great deal of noise, as if he'd left something solid inside. Fuji raised an eyebrow. What was he playing at?

Katsura brought the tea, sat with him, and softened his voice. He left his glasses off.

"Fuji… Yosuke, didn't you think I'd have thought this through?"

"Explain it to me, then. Tell me why you told Giovanni we could make this thing part-human."

Katsura's moustache bristled as he skewed his mouth in irritation.

"You don't know Giovanni as well as I do, old friend. He's not just some wealthy gang boss who wants to win some private pokémon battles with an illegally enhanced pokémon."

"I didn't think that—"

Katsura ignored him. "He's got his filthy hands in high level organised crime, the government of half the prefectures in the country, private businesses, the tech industry, you name it. Even the League. Did you know he's posing as gym leader in Hakone?"

"No, I didn't."

"Indeed not."

"So, what, he intends to— to use our creation to commit some great crime? And you'll help him do that?"

Katsura's brow furrowed with displeasure. "What do you take me for, old friend? Don't you know what kind of man I am? I want him to fail. He's a madman, Yosuke. I've heard the drivel he spouts for his sycophants. Listen, listen to this: 'all pokémon exist solely for the use of Team Rocket.' I heard him say that to justify stealing pokémon from children, for goodness' sake. He's got to be a damned yakuza boss. Of course I'm not helping him. Will you hear me out?"

Fuji took a deep, shuddering breath, and quieted his mind to listen.

Katsura nodded. "Thank you. Just think — he believes that if he controls the most powerful pokémon in the world, that he can rule it. Not from the shadows. Openly."

"Then we can't let him have that!"

"He's going to have that, Yosuke. It's too late for your fudged figures and redacted reports. It's happening. The question is not whether we can deprive him of his prize. Short of destroying every trace of our work, he can find some bright mind to continue it from what our colleagues recall. No. The question is whether we can prevent him using the clone. The question… is whether the creature will actually obey him."

Something clicked in Fuji's mind.

"You don't mean to say that we should teach it disobedience, do you?"

"No. Not exactly. If we do as Giovanni asks, and create a mew-human hybrid, then that creature… well, it would have a mind of its own. The capacity to make decisions. Perhaps if we're lucky and clever, the capacity for better judgment."

Fuji's brain fizzed with countless risks and contingencies. "But Auguste, you're gambling on the hope that what we make here will not only be… be a— a thinking being, but a moral one. A person, I suppose, with a heart good and brave enough to turn on its master. Who won't simply learn to be cruel and amoral from him. Doesn't that strike you as vanishingly unlikely?"

"Perhaps. We may have more control than you think. Consider this…" Katsura jabbed a finger at him. "It will not be Giovanni that raises this child-creature, but you and I, Yosuke. This is how we beat him!"

"Will that be enough?"

Katsura shrugged. "It has to be. Ah! We will do our level best. And consider: it will even grow up alongside Ai, if all goes well. How could the sibling of your little Ai be anything but noble and kind, eh?"

Fuji thought of the cluster of cells that rested in his lab, the preserved essence of his daughter. When he solved the puzzle of restoring life, there she would be. A child, standing in this world of metal and light.

Would not a clone of mew be more or less the same kind of being as a clone of Ai? More so, with human blood in its veins?

He sat back and put a quavering hand to his temple.

"Even if it works… It disturbs me. This idea of giving a semblance of humanity to a pokémon. What kind of life will it have? What if it suffers because of our decision?"

Katsura looked grim. "All humans suffer. So do all living things."

"Yes, but will it thank us for this?"

"Perhaps. What pokémon wouldn't want to be like us? To be human?"

Fuji shook his head.

"Even so… it would be a child of Giovanni. It could… take after him."

Katsura put his glasses back on, and grinned ferociously. "Not if we use a different sample."

Oh.

Of course.

∗∗∗​

The thing floating in the tank wasn't human, that much was certain.

Still, could it really be said to be a pokémon?

It hung there, suspended in its near-weightlessness by diodes affixed to its torso, head and limbs. It almost gave Fuji the impression of…

Never mind.

The creature had three digits on each paw, front and back. Its eyes stayed firmly closed. The proportions almost resembled those of a human child of six or seven years. As old as Ai when she passed. However, the ears were situated high on its head and roughly triangular, the upper torso and shoulders were gaunt and angular, and the lower legs had the thick haunches and elongated feet of a feline pokémon. Then, of course, there was the enormous tail…

It could not possibly be human.

Yet… it still gave him the impression of a sleeping infant.

He checked the readings. He checked them twice. Three times.

Healthy vitals, as far as they could tell. High brain activity. But… disconcertingly like a human's.

With each passing week, Fuji thought the tiny creature in the tank grew just a little larger. Its tail had grown to twice the length it had been a month ago. Already they could detect telepathic probing coming from it, reaching out for other life. Opposite it was Ai's tank. Perhaps it was reaching out for her mind. She looked just like it in a way, suspended in a cocktail of life-preserving compounds. His great hope. He imagined he could already recognise her face.

There they were. The human and the pokémon.

Ah, but there lay his conceit. It wasn't a pokémon either, was it? How could it be, with brain readings like that?

He stared through the glass at it, willing it to open its eyes. To speak with him.

"What kind of life will you have? What will you think of me? What will you feel in your heart?" he asked, out loud. Then, aware of himself, he checked over his shoulders for an errant colleague who may have heard.

No, he stood alone with his creations, and the stone tablet bearing the image of mew. The engraving stared back at him from beyond a thousand-year gulf.

He thought of the mew he'd befriended back in Guyana. What would it think of this copy, this distorted mirror image of itself? None of the potential names felt quite right to him. Mew Clone. Second Mew. Mew-Two.

"Mewtwo," he whispered to himself. "Will you be thankful that we made you the way you are?"

What pokémon wouldn't want to be human? That's what Katsura had said.

Fuji doubted the truth of that.

The first pokémon-human hybrid floated in its tank, dreaming silently in the dim light. What did it dream of?

He prayed silently that its dreams were peaceful.

It had been a long time since his last peaceful dream.
 
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Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
I found this a compelling take on the classic birth of Mewtwo scene! One thing that really stood out to me was the depiction of Cinnebar as more of an international science hub--it lent the whole set-up a nice shade of realism. I also very much enjoyed your character descriptions, particularly of Katsura.

He cultivated a large, white, paint brush moustache, and kept his scalp perfectly bald. He wore his lab coat open, revealing a flame-patterned tie, worn in a loose knot. His glasses of choice were shaded pince-nez. He looked bizarre. Yet, the man’s glower was so hot even through the glasses, Fuji faltered despite himself, stammering as he replied.
There's an ease and confidence to the verb choice and flow here that really works. The focus on the ridiculous outer garb transitioning suddenly to his glower was excellent.

The concept of ditto being failed mew-clones is a fascinating idea! I don't know if it's some common theory I've never heard before or your own invention, but kudos if it is!

Fuji's dilemma and choices come through strongly, as does the tension in his conversation with Giovanni. The writing is solid through-out, though I think the very first vignette was a little stop and start and almost prevented me from reading onwards. Rereading, I'm not certain it's any of the actual words, but maybe just the line break after every sentence formatting. I think it would ease in your reader better if you consolidated into paragraphs, as below

A horrible thought. It would owe him nothing, if it lived.

If it lived, perhaps it would be the first of many.

Pokémon-human hybrids. Capable of sophisticated cognition. Endowed with fantastic elemental powers.

…If it lived.

“No choice,” he murmured to himself.

He had been given no choice but to give life to this creature. Or at least, that’s what he had believed all this time.

At what point did a threshold in science become inevitable, however terrible?

When it was first conceived of?

When it was no longer theoretical, but a practical possibility?

Perhaps only once it became an irreversible reality, already in motion, and impossible to stop.

There was the truth. This had been inevitable only so long as he’d remained committed to it. He could have stopped at any time, right up until the moment of genesis.

But instead he had told himself, over and over, that he’d had no freedom to do otherwise.

If there had been a single moment he could identify and say “Yes, there, that’s when it became destiny,” it was when he’d first said those words —

“I suppose I have no choice.”
A horrible thought. It would owe him nothing, if it lived.

If it lived, perhaps it would be the first of many. Pokémon-human hybrids. Capable of sophisticated cognition. Endowed with fantastic elemental powers

. . . If it lived.

“No choice,” he murmured to himself. He had been given no choice but to give life to this creature. Or at least, that’s what he had believed all this time.

At what point did a threshold in science become inevitable, however terrible? When it was first conceived of? When it was no longer theoretical, but a practical possibility? Perhaps only once it became an irreversible reality, already in motion, and impossible to stop.

There was the truth. This had been inevitable only so long as he’d remained committed to it. He could have stopped at any time, right up until the moment of genesis. But instead he had told himself, over and over, that he’d had no freedom to do otherwise.

If there had been a single moment he could identify and say “Yes, there, that’s when it became destiny,” it was when he’d first said those words —

“I suppose I have no choice.”

Focus on bio-ethics sounds exciting! Will definitely check out chapter two of this and see where you take it.
 

OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
Aww, Cat you did a great job!

Perhaps it was having dreams of its own, asleep in its tiny world.
This immediately tells us a lot about Fuji.

A horrible thought. It w
I’d swap the period for a colon.

I think I agree with Pen about the paragraph breaks in that one segment. Funny, because I’m usually nudging people to break up paragraphs more haha. Aside from that, the prose generally reads quite well.

Love the way you handled Giovanni — very convincing mix of coldness, intellect, and domineering.
 

canisaries

voted most likely to be edgy
Location
the middle of nowhere
Pronouns
she/her
deja vu, ive just been in this place before

Hey there! I got rolled Different Eyes for the review exchange game, and I've now read the prologue. It certainly is different from the one before, though I did recognize some traces of the old one in there, like Fuji's explanation of pokémon DNA. This time around it was more clear, though, which I imagine is due to my complaints last time around :D

I'm also glad to see more skepticism towards the combination of human and pokémon DNA and the acknowledgement of it not really being any kind of necessary at all, as last time it just struck me as people doing it for shits and giggles, more or less - though you probably already know I have a personal distaste for this idea and wasn't necessarily a very objective complaint.

Fuji is written impressively to be both a bastard from the first lines and yet a complete saint when juxtaposed with this overgrown brat Giovanni who wants a cool toy that can shoot laser beams from its eyes and fly and make explosions happen with its mind fwoom fwoom. That said, though, Giovanni has a very imposing atmosphere to him from the very first lines, and I even felt a little sad that it was more explicitly described afterwards when the start was so wonderfully subtle, but I understand that this better fits Fuji's thoughts and POV to be nervous and overanalyzing of this very powerful and scary person.

Now for some quote comments:

“This genetic sample of yours,” continued Giovanni. “It came from an authentic mew fossil, isn’t that so?”

Fuji willed his heart rate to remain steady. This man had no reason to suspect any deception in the report.

“Indeed. I — that is, we — believe it to be the fossilised eyelash of an ancient mew. One worshipped by a now-extinct culture several centuries ago.”
now ACKCHUALLY this would be a subfossil rather than a fossil as it still contains organic material. I do understand that Fuji wouldn't really consider it worth the effort to correct Giovanni, but an internal thought might fit.

Giovanni almost looked hungry as he stared at the incubation tanks.
mmmm pickled mew

They were almost genetically identical to mew and therefore they theoretically weren’t a separate species.
No...? I mean, it was said previously a considerable bit was missing, and in nature, species can have very similar genomes and only have small pieces vary. This just sounds like a big reach, especially for a scientist.

“Not yet, sir. They are poor learners, and do not perform well in many tests. They only manifest psychic abilities when they take the form of psychic pokémon, and they only match the abilities of the copied individual. Temporarily at that. Still, they are intriguing. The staff have taken to calling them, among other things, ‘metamon’, ‘omnimorph’, and ‘ditto’ -”

Ditto? That’s not a Japanese word.”

“It’s English, sir. It means ‘that which has been said before.’ I confess I quite like that one.”
Oh, you clever bastard with the names. Still, I don't think omnimorph is any more Japanese? In fact, it feels like that one would be less natural for a Japanese person to pronounce than ditto.

“She left her ring with her last letter. That was some weeks ago, now. It’s no great surprise; I did miss the funeral after all.”
hahaha owned

Remember, I’m not in the business of human cloning.
oh so THAT'S where you draw the line

I also require intelligence, aggression, loyalty.
and i want all four lines to be perpendicular

“I can see you have some anxiety about this, Doctor. Allow me to ease your concerns. I am a generous enough man to relieve you of the terrible burden of finding a genetic donor for this project. You may use my genes.”
giovanni offers fuji his seed of life dot txt

In addition to being a great scientific mind, Auguste Katsura was the local gym leader and Kantō’s fire type specialist. As such, he affected an exaggerated, theatrical persona. In his case, he had chosen a ‘mad scientist’ aesthetic, which he was suited for in both appearance and intellect.
I find the choice to use Blaine's French name pretty odd when he specifically has his Japanese one for his surname. Auguste sounds just as Western as Blaine is, and the mixing of names from different cultures looks strange in general cough cough red akai. In other words, I don't see how choosing Auguste over Blaine has any benefits. I think it would have been better to just go with some random Japanese first name or choose the regular Blaine, as that's more recognizable. (also it sounds like "brain" transliterated and that'd be a cute mad scientist joke)

Yet, the man’s glower was so hot even through the glasses, Fuji faltered despite himself, stammering as he replied.
goddamn... katsura you sexy devil...

Katsura’s brow furrowed with displeasure.

“What do you take me for? Don’t you know what kind of man I am? I want him to fail. He’s a madman, Yosuke. I’ve heard the kind of drivel he spouts for his sycophants. Listen, listen to this: ‘all pokémon exist solely for the use of Team Rocket.’ I heard him say that to justify stealing pokémon from children, for goodness’ sake. He’s got to be a damned yakuza boss. Of course I’m not helping him. Will you hear me out?”
This starts out sounding like it's Fuji speaking due to the paragraph break. It's picked up

Katsura put his glasses back on, and grinned ferociously. “Not if we use a different sample.”

Oh.

Of course.
oopsie woopsie we used the wrong sample on accident, oh well our bad, cant do nothing about that now can you mother fucker

Anyway - good prologue with nice bookends, both of which are quite snappy. However, I worry that this might not be very representative of the true fic itself? Of course I only made it up to the cat chapters in my read and you said those weren't representative of the whole fic either, but this still might make people think that these characters will have more to do with the story later than just being part of an important historical event for the setting. Though they actually might, I don't know? I'm just going by what I've picked up via chats and all.

Hope this feedback was good, and good luck with writing onward.
 

Dragonfree

Pokémon Trainer
Staff
Location
Iceland
Pronouns
she/her/hers
At what point did a threshold in science become inevitable, however terrible it seemed? When it was first conceived of? When it was no longer theoretical, but a practical possibility? Perhaps only once it became an irreversible reality, already in motion, and impossible to stop.

There was the truth: this had been inevitable only so long as he’d remained committed to it. He could have turned back at any time, right up until the moment of genesis, but instead he had told himself, over and over, that he’d had no freedom to do otherwise.

If there had been a single moment he could identify and say “Yes, there, that’s when it became destiny,” it was when he’d first said those words —

“I suppose I have no choice.”
I love this - a lovely contemplation on justifications and rationalizations. He decides that he has no choice, and that's the choice that he makes.

Fuji prayed that his deception had not been a mistake. Oh, Mew. Perhaps you were wrong to trust me with your eyelash after all.
...Huh. Well, color me intrigued by what on earth that's about.

He trailed off. The cultural reluctance to name uncomfortable things was strong even for him, a scientist with colleagues from many nations.
This feels a little awkward, I think - squeezing in information about the culture here is kind of a distraction from what's going on.

Fuji cleared his throat. “Ah, well… in the metaphorical tree of life, animals — including humans, of course — and pokémon are considered two different ‘domains’ of life, if not a different tree of life altogether. This is for good reason: we appear to share no common ancestor, even in the primordial world of billions of years ago. And yet we are both complex multicellular life forms, with DNA. DNA that could theoretically be spliced regardless of our many differences.”
Literally no common ancestor doesn't quite rhyme with both humans and Pokémon having compatible DNA, though. The entire reason life on Earth is all DNA-based is that it all shares a common ancestor; it'd be vanishingly unlikely for some other life evolving independently without sharing a common ancestor to just so happen to evolve not only the same molecular structure but also the same arbitrary coding of base pairs to amino acids. Specifying they don't have a common ancestor at all just makes this stretch disbelief.

I think this prologue was a really fascinating look at Dr. Fuji's mind and introduction to your world! You introduce the idea of Mewtwo as a hybrid in a way that feels logical and pretty much consistent with the way Mewtwo's creation was depicted in the first movie. It works pretty well as a standalone story about Mewtwo, but serves a clear setup purpose for a world with Pokémon-human hybridization.

I like the portrayal of Fuji's character a lot here - the self-loathing behind it all, his regrets about agreeing to this, his inability to let go of Ai. And Blaine was a lot of fun, too; the idea of him introducing the human splicing idea in order to make the resulting clone rebel against its master is twisted and kind of dubious (couldn't they just destroy the only existing samples of Mew DNA to make it impossible for other researchers to continue where they left off?) but it's just a neat idea, to the point I don't really mind.

I found it a little distracting that you'd insist on using Japanese names for most things here while still canonizing some of the English ones - why does "Giovanni" get to be Giovanni's pseudonym while Blaine is just Katsura? But it's a minor point in the grand scheme of things and if the main body of the fic takes place in Galar it's hardly going to be any kind of ongoing issue; it's just something that stuck out at me as I was reading.

All in all, I thought this was a very intriguing prologue! It's probably not very representative of what the main body of the fic will be like, but as I said, it basically works as a largely-standalone Fuji character study. I'm excited to read more and hoping to keep up as it's posted (though I can't entirely promise to keep up on reviews, I'm pretty bad at that). Well done!
 
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kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
He willed it to open its eyes and reach out to him, to speak to him, to justify its existence to him.
This is line is actually one that I liked a lot more on the first readthrough than the second. Without knowing much about Fuji, this paints him as harsh, brutal, almost indifference to Mewtwo's existence -- someone who values life doesn't ask it to justify why it should exist. For me this is a great line but it doesn't mesh with the image of Fuji that you paint at the end of the chapter, when we revisit him and he's tenderly comparing Mewtwo to an infant, mulling over names.

If there had been a single moment he could identify and say “Yes, there, that’s when it became destiny,” it was when he’d first said those words —
Likewise, I love this line for the paradox it captures -- but for that exact reason it doesn't make sense for Fuji to be the one to "identify" that moment -- for him to say it was "destiny" means that he was bound to it from the start, so he can't be the one to identify a different starting point. I think this revelation would be more powerful if the person recognizing the inevitability of Fuji's actions being tied to the moment Fuji gave up agency is anyone else but Fuji.

He knew well that this was a powerful man — someone who could afford to keep others waiting, and would naturally take issue with impatience. It would be unwise to give offence by speaking first.
The tension in this scene is palpable and the "Fuji/Doctor Fuji" exchange really helps cement that, as well as Fuji's own pride, but placing this internal caution flag before Fuji goes off and corrects Giovanni makes the flag seem useless -- which may have been what you were going for, given that Fuji is clearly out of his league.

Oh, Mew. Perhaps you were wrong to trust me with your eyelash after all.
This is a reall fun development, but the implication seems to be that Fuji received a living sample. Surely fossilized eyelash would be recognizably different than non-fossilized eyelash? I like that you portray collaborative science here, but that comes with the implication that the true sample had to have been seen by at least someone else on the South American expedition.

“She left her ring with her last letter. That was some weeks ago, now. It’s no great surprise; I did miss the funeral after all.”
big oof of a line, but also the word "left" leaves me confused -- it implies that she's not sending letters, but leaving them somewhere for Fuji to see, but Fuji hasn't left the facility in weeks now?

He spoke with some hesitation still in his voice. “If mew is, ah, truly the most powerful psychic pokémon to ever exist, then its genes are— are already the pinnacle of psychic power. If we can find a way to… to stabilise the DNA and produce a viable specimen, then that would be a great enough achievement to begin with. Ah, one might say.”
I think this chunk of dialogue could be broken up to better convey the sense of hesitation instead of/along with the verbal um/ah/--/...

“Ah, well… in the metaphorical tree of life, animals — including humans, of course — and pokémon are considered two different ‘domains’ of life, if not a different tree of life altogether. This is for good reason: we appear to share no common ancestor, even in the primordial world of billions of years ago. And yet we are both complex multicellular life forms, with DNA. DNA that could theoretically be spliced regardless of our many differences.”
The scientificness of this paragraph has already been flagged by a few posts, so seconding their points and throwing in my own: splicing across species is already possible with modern tech, even across separate domains -- a common example would be splicing DNA from rat cells into bacterial cells to create bacterial cells capable of producing insulin. Fuji casually suggesting a second tree of life is weirdly unscientific as well -- this suggests that either he believes Pokemon (or human/animals) are an alien species whose common ancestor was introduced early in Earth's timeline, or that there was a separate event to create Pokemon (some sort of creation myth?). Neither are very scientific options for Fuji to casually posit on his own.

The specimen would necessarily have the same mysterious energy that all pokémon do
From a story perspective, yeah, this tracks, but I wasn't clear how Fuji knows that the hybrid would efinietly exhibit Pokemon energy. It sounds like he hasn't done this before?

I think, one thing in general to remember -- scientists don't like speaking in absolutes, and they definitely hate making conclusive statements without data. If there's a study that had every single patient take perscription A and show improvements for disease B, they wouldn't say that A cures B, they would say that in a controlled study of X participants they say A reduce symptoms for B. If the study didn't exist, they wouldn't speculate at all.

Your angle could also be that Fuji is, at his core, a bad scientist but a good person, which would admittedly be a strong case for a lot of the mistakes being made here, but in that case it would be good to provide an explanation for how he's such a standout in his field despite not grasping some pretty basic elements of the scientific method.

Think of something clever. Lie convincingly that human DNA would not stabilise the specimen. Refuse on moral grounds. Insist on using the DNA of a dead man instead, however abhorrent that would be.
I like his thought process here. The last example confuses me though. Science usually doesn't have many issues with using samples from dead donors; that's sort of the foundation for most of our organ research. Using the DNA of a dead man to complete the project also wouldn't fix the "countless legal, practical, and ethical restrictions" Fuji mentions earlier, nor would it curtail the potentially disastrous effect to technology in general that Fuji foresees in the previous paragraph.

“I acknowledge you have reservations,” he said, “but I’ve made my final decision. I insist you give your word that you intend to do what I ask of you.”
Giovanni has been portrayed as consistently ruthless and cunning, and I like how you demonstrated him playing around Fuji's reservations for using a human component in the splicing, but asking for Fuji's word and then trusting it seems... uncharacteristically noble of him.

“What do you take me for? Don’t you know what kind of man I am? I want him to fail. He’s a madman, Yosuke. I’ve heard the kind of drivel he spouts for his sycophants. Listen, listen to this: ‘all pokémon exist solely for the use of Team Rocket.’ I heard him say that to justify stealing pokémon from children, for goodness’ sake. He’s got to be a damned yakuza boss. Of course I’m not helping him. Will you hear me out?”
seems awfully stupid of Katsura to say this and acknowledge that Giovanni is smart and has widespread influence, and then to have this conversation anywhere on the premises that Giovanni owns and inspects and could foreseeably be surveying, noisy dishwasher or not. Also seems stupid for Katsura to be this paranoid and assume that Fuji is still on his side.

“Even so… it would be a child of Giovanni. Bound to him by blood.”
strange reservation for him to have in light of everything else, sort of like being concerned about leaving your car in the rain after it was just totaled in a wreck. I like the fatherhood angle you have with Fuji, but I admittedly don't understand the implications/how it intersects with his science angle -- and given how Katsura also seems to treat this "child" linkage as the more pressing concern (than, say, the potential risk of a psychic bonding to its genetic donor? is that canon? I wasn't sure on that either) that they would be willing to go against the man he identifies as an honest-to-god yakuza boss, it does seem like multiple members of the scientific community are on board with this priority.

This… He still didn’t have a name that felt right. Mew Clone. Second Mew. Mew-Two.
I liked the focus of how Fuji was uncomfortable naming things that made him uncomfortable, and how that comes back here, but it does seem like an awfully quick turnaround for him to use the name right away after saying he wasn't sure what to name it.

Science nitpicks aside, I think this is a good revision. Switching the focus to specific characters helps make the ethical dilemmas less abstract and more grounded; it's particularly insightful to see the chain of events that led to the inciting incident. The prose is strong and you really coax out the tension between these characters in a believable way; for me, those were the two strongest parts.

As a whole I think this is a lot better suited for the themes you wanted to coax out in this story while still being interesting. There's definitely a strong philosophical/moral/humanist angle that you're taking here and in many regards I feel like that was always intended to take the back seat to the science -- from that lens, it becomes a very tight, very cohesive introduction to a much larger (and in many ways much smaller) exploration. Hope the revisions go well!
 

Adamhuarts

Mew specialist
Pronouns
He/Him
Partner
mew
So, at last I checked out this fic of yours and I must say this is a very promising prologue you've constructed starting with the birth or Mewtwo, the original hybrid.

Given I've already seen you talking about your research into Mewtwo, I must say you did a great job at adapting it to fit into your story. Seeing the banter between Giovanni and Fuji, and then Fuji and Auguste was pretty delightful. I must say you have a knack for crafting good dialogue and that much I can respect.

Seeing that this was where it all began, it'd be interesting to see how this one misguided experiment shaped the future of your story's world to the point where there's now going to be tons of hybrids running around potentially. Will the rest of humanity accept them or will they be met with scorn and enmity?

If anything, I'm now pumped to see where this story is going. I'm not sure how involved Mewtwo himself would be since Salem would be the pivotal focus moving forward. I can't wait to see how her story begins starting from next chapter hopefully.
 

windskull

Bidoof Fan
Staff
Partner
sneasel-nip
Hey, uA, sorry for the delay! Obviously, this review is going to be over just the prologue, but it was a pretty meaty prologue, so I think I have a decent bit to say!

This was Izu Ōshima, known as Cinnabar Island to tourists and to trainers on the League Circuit.
So, to start off, I like this detail. It kind of paints this picture of traveling gym competitors. that go from league to league in search of challenge. It's probably not super relevant to the story at hand, but it's a nice little worldbuilding tidbit.

The geneticist bent at the waist and waited for the crime-lord to speak.
This is a nitpick, but I kind of feel like it would have been better to just refer to Giovanni by name here, both because you already have an epithet in this sentence, and because you reveal his name in-prose anyways. I would at least consider restructuring the sentence, as the flow felt a little off to me.

Also, I do want to say I was thrown for a bit of a loop when Giovanni's (fake) name was referred to as "Italian." I'm not used to pokemon fics referring to real-world locations. There's nothing wrong with it, per-say, and so long as it's consistent I don't have a problem with it; it just struck me as a bit odd.

It was obviously a pseudonym for a man with secrets worth hiding, but he must have had considerable arrogance to disguise the truth with such an obviously fake identity.
I really liked this line, btw.

Giovanni’s gaze seemed to tug on the secrets in Fuji’s heart, but he returned it evenly.
That sounds... rather dangerous, Fuji. You better watch yourself.

He trailed off. The cultural reluctance to name uncomfortable things was strong even for him, a scientist with colleagues from many nations.
Giovanni sneered at him as if he were an impudent salaryman
Oh hey, a term I recognize. Another couple of lines I really liked just for the level of detail and care put into cultural differences. I feel like you did a good job of not "westernizing" these characters. It helps ground them as characters from fictional Japan.

Their movement was somewhat like that of a mundane snail, or a slugma
interesting. I suppose that means at least some regular animals exist in this universe.

Katsura. Of course. The accursed fool.
Damnit Katsura! (Also, gonna admit I didn't realize this was Blaine until we actually saw him later, at which point I connected the dots)

“One of my agents will leave a sample with your medical staff. I am prepared to accept the risks you feverishly imagine. Great rewards are earned through the boldness to take great risks.”
Uh-oh!

[quotes]He left his glasses off.[/quote]
That's how you know he means srs bsns

Ai, if all goes well. How could the sibling of your little Ai be anything but noble and kind, eh?”
awww

Katsura put his glasses back on, and grinned ferociously. “Not if we use a different sample.”
oh indeed. It feels like the implication in the following passage is that is that they used Fuji's DNA? I imagine it would have been one of the two of them, since they're having to keep this under tight wraps.

It had been a long time since his own dreams were anything such.
And finally, what a wham line.

So, final thoughts, I really enjoyed reading this. I can tell there's a lot of set up in the works here. That said... I kind of feel like I can't give a solid judgment of the work at this point since this chapter is primarily is just background setup. At least, I'm assuming it is. That said, if the remainder of the fic is written with as much care as this prologue has had, I think I'm in for a treat. I wish I had more to say, but I really don't, at this point. That said, I'll be keeping an eye out in the future and plan to revisit this. Until then, take care!
 

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Staff
Location
somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
Partner
pikachu-chibi
Hell yea, rolled this for catnip hell yea. 😎

I really love the intro paragraph. It reaches out and grabs onto you and doesn’t let there be any ambiguity as to what you’ll be presented with. I enjoy the way you use small bits of description to convey things about your subjects without having to say any of it outright. Giovanni just oozed presence, and if I tried to quote all the details that jumped out at me, we’d be here all day. (But a top contender would be the way that his smile didn’t reach his eyes until he was commanding others.) And of course, I really loved all the crushing self-hatred from Fuji throughout.
Fuji willed his heart rate to remain steady. This man had no reason to suspect any deception in the report.
I was a bit confused at first by this at first, and then I almost missed the part where he met Mew. It wasn’t a fossil at all! That is fascinating, and I’m really curious to learn more about that.
He trailed off. The cultural reluctance to name uncomfortable things was strong even for him, a scientist with colleagues from many nations.
oh my god you actually lampshaded the anime thing.
“The principle difficulty in pokémon genetics is the ‘instability’ associated with their genetic codes. They change, they adapt, they break down with terrible ease. The mechanism of evolution is possible because unlike us, pokémon are somehow able to use the strange energy they rely on for all their powers to alter their very genes.
You already know this, but this is my jam I am so here for Pokémon having adaptable genes.

It’s fascinating—and illuminating—that Giovanni, in his pursuit to own the perfect being, actually wants the clone to have things that would make it harder to control: abstract thought, creativity, complex language. A mindless slave would be a more effective weapon, and yet, there’s almost something symbolic about it, in a way. He wants control over it specifically because it be the ultimate mark of control, to command something like that.

I was a little confused by the concerns over Mewtwo having a genetic donor, or rather, how that was framed. Now, I can certainly understand the concern that there potentially could be some sort of psychic bond (heck, it’s a thing in Pokespe so it easily fits under suspension of disbelief.) It’s the fact that he later he mentions that the clone would be bound to Giovanni by blood, like they know that means anything. Is this a known phenomenon to them?

Overall, the entire prologue has so much a better sense of scope than the previous one. I remember being so surprised when you first started hinting as how big this story was going to be, as I never got that feel from the old one, and had a hard time seeing how it fit. But here? Yeah, we’re in for a ride, I can tell~
 

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Staff
Partner
charizard
Wow, this is incredibly different compared to the first time I read through this. An entirely new prologue! Is the prelude from the first time gone/integrated into this, more or less?

Either way, I'll definitely consider this one to be a hell of a lot more interesting, since it really gets into the scope of what the story's backdrop is while still keeping it personal and in relation to Fuji. In particular, I think the addition of Giovanni, Mewtwo, and so on helped to anchor the story that I suspect will be similar to what I remember from the older draft, and it acts as a sort of hook for what may be to come--at least, I hope so! From what I understand, most of your focus comes from very small-scope, personal storytelling, so I'm not sure how much of this will ultimately become irrelevant, and how much will come up later or throughout.

For example, will Mewtwo make an actual appearance, or will he just be heard of on the news? Will the story ever become something more than just a cat coping with humanity? Will someone give Mewtwo the headpats? Some of these questions are more important than others, but I think they all tie into this idea of scope management and first impressions.

Still, as a prologue, it's quite extensive, but you'll also probably be able to get away with switching for a massive time skip as I suspect you will be. I do hope that what I read here will become more than just a footnote in present day, though, considering how much time was dedicated to it.

“Of course,” he said at last. Giovanni’s smile was wide, but it never reached his eyes. “Thank you for your time, Doctor Fuji.”
This is the most standout quote of the prologue, if only because of how well I feel you characterized Giovanni. Part of this is because his voice is very clear in my mind due to Pokemon Masters, but even still, I find him to be very accurate while still adding more to his typical depiction during this era (Gen I.) Makes me curious how far this diverges from the canon after the timeskip, when he's beaten by Red and retires / finds something else to do with himself.

Overall, though, I'm very impressed with this prologue, and am curious on what you'll be doing with it in the present day. See you then~
 

Cresselia92

Pokémon Trainer
Pronouns
She/Her/Hers
Oi there! Kinda late, but here's your Catnip review. :D

So! I know I've thoroughly enjoyed your previous version of the story, and I'm more than confident that this rewrite will be quite the treat, too. I've been planning to check this out and now I've got my chance. :D

Having said so, let's go for some quick time comments ad thoughts about the various scenes. Here we go!

A horrible thought; it would owe him nothing if it lived.

If it lived, perhaps it would be the first of many pokémon-human hybrids. Capable of sophisticated cognition — endowed with fantastic elemental powers.

…If it lived.
This part is intriguing. The uncertainty of the survival of the creature, and what they would think as soon as they gain awareness. It's kinda reminiscent of an actual birth, like "What will my son/daughter think about me?". It's a very relatable feeling for a parental figure.

At what point did a threshold in science become inevitable, however terrible it seemed? When it was first conceived of? When it was no longer theoretical, but a practical possibility? Perhaps only once it became an irreversible reality, already in motion, and impossible to stop.
This is a scientist's mood.

A man stood on the platform, his wild hair swept back and lab coat blown about by the airflow from the heliplane. He clutched his glasses to his face and waited for the whirling rotor blades to come to a standstill. When at last they did, another man in a dark suit stepped down from the heliplane, a feline pokémon at his side, and not a hair out of place on either.
Ask them what kind of product they use to not have their hair messed up by rotating blades. I'm curious. :p

The geneticist bent at the waist and waited for the crime-lord to speak.
Oh! It's nice how you reveal who arrived without being blatant about him.

He was silent for a long moment as his benefactor adjusted his jacket and tie.
Benefactor? More like financier. I pretty much doubt he wants to benefit anyone but himself. :p

Doctor Fuji,” he replied, straightening up. “Sir,” he quickly added.

Giovanni did not bow in return. The pause before he replied made Fuji’s breath catch in his chest.


“Naturally,” he said. “You are financing the project, after all. Your man on the radio didn’t mention the nature of your visit?”

Giovanni merely raised an eyebrow and walked past him, ignoring the implicit question.
Giovanni: "I am the boss. I can come whenever I want."

Despite the Italian name he used, Giovanni’s accent, facial features and mannerisms all suggested a Kantō heritage. It was obviously a pseudonym for a man with secrets worth hiding, but he must have had considerable arrogance to disguise the truth with such an obviously fake identity.
For being of Japanese origins, you sure took some inspiration from the Neapolitan mafia, huh? Fake identities and fake signatures are a very common modus operandi among Mafiosi.

At least, that was Fuji’s assessment. Perhaps he was wrong, and there was an honourable, philosophical man under all that presence and menace.
Yeah, keep believing that. The only philosophy he must know is probably Machiavelli's The Prince. :p

He lingered longest in the psy-assessment area; his cold eyes took in every detail of the psychic pokémon performing their telekinetic tasks under the observation of Fuji’s colleagues, armed with clipboards and brain-shielding circlets. So too did he pass his piercing gaze over the rest of the complex, in all its drab, metallic coldness. Narrow corridors, glass partitions, harsh white strip lighting. Evidently, it all passed muster.
This made me curious. I wonder what intrigues him about psychic powers -- maybe their abilities to brainwash and fling people around like ragdolls?

“Intriguing. It is peculiar that a preserved genetic sample of such great significance should come from something so insignificant. So easily overlooked. Just think how easily such a fragile thing could have been lost forever.”
Eh, perhaps it would have been for the best if it indeed ended up lost.

Naturally, someone like Giovanni would see an incomplete genetic code as an opportunity for improvement, rather than a setback to accept.
Yep. Gotta fill those blanks with nuclear power, while we're at it. If we're lucky, we could get a Catzilla with plasma breath. :p

Fuji prayed that his deception had not been a mistake. Oh, Mew. Perhaps you were wrong to trust me with your eyelash after all.
Hm? Now I wonder why Mew entrusted Fuji with an eyelash.

Giovanni almost looked hungry as he stared at the incubation tanks.
Those tanks must have liquid power, I assume. It would be fitting for a power-hungry boss.

The vivaria they illuminated contained the subjects he’d mentioned in his reports. These creatures had no official name, given that their existence remained secret. There ought to be a name for them, he thought. They were almost genetically identical to mew and therefore they theoretically weren’t a separate species. Yet one could not possibly call them ‘mew’ in all good sense.

Each vivarium was a box with glass panels, housing one or more shapeless, pinkish masses. They looked almost gelatinous, each one’s epidermis gleaming a little in the artificial light. Their movement was somewhat like that of a mundane snail, or a slugma: they stretched out their amorphous bodies and then pulled their mass forwards using the extended part. Their bodies were almost featureless, except for their odd little faces: beady black eyes and a darker line, like a seam, beneath them.

As they both watched the creatures, one of them transformed into a copy of its own water bowl. Another, into a stone.
Congratulations! Your DNA Sample evolved into The Thing.

Jokes aside, I remember reading about the "Ditto is a failed Mew experiment" theory, which was reinforced by the fact both know Transform and have similar palettes (pink if regular, blue if shiny). I can get behind that.

“Have you found a use for them?”

“Not yet, sir. They are poor learners, and do not perform well in many tests. They only manifest psychic abilities when they take the form of psychic pokémon, and they only match the abilities of the copied individual. Temporarily at that. Still, they are intriguing. The staff have taken to calling them, among other things, ‘metamon’, ‘omnimorph’, and ‘ditto’ -”

Ditto? That’s not a Japanese word.”

“It’s English, sir. It means ‘that which has been said before.’ I confess I quite like that one.”

“You are right to call them intriguing. Keep monitoring them, but use an intern or some other insignificant person. I want you and your useful colleagues to remain focused on the main project until its completion, no distractions.”
Oh, just wait until you find out what Breeders can do with them. :p

There was the slightest flicker of empathy in Giovanni’s face for a half-second.
Thinking about your son, Gio?

“Well. Good luck. May you meet with success in the due course of time, and have your daughter back once more. Just don’t let it interfere with the project. Remember, I’m not in the business of human cloning.”
Which means someone else is into that business...? *suspicious stare*

“Psychic power is only one of the many possible assets this being could have,” said Giovanni. “I also require intelligence, aggression, loyalty. The ability to use tools. Communication. Independent strategy. An intimidating physical form. Can you alter the temperament of the clone and so on to achieve these things, but without compromising its power?”
Then you should have picked a Dobermann, or a Houndoom in this setting. :p

“As it happens, I’ve received a most interesting proposition from one of your colleagues. Dr. Katsura, was it? Interesting man. He proposes splicing the sample with human DNA. Are you at all familiar with this idea?”
Someone took some notes from Pokémon Adventures~

“The principle difficulty in pokémon genetics is the ‘instability’ associated with their genetic codes. They change, they adapt, they break down with terrible ease. The mechanism of evolution is possible because unlike us, pokémon are somehow able to use the strange energy they rely on for all their powers to alter their very genes. This same process is what results in the ‘ditto’ you’ve seen today. Adding eukaryotic DNA from an animal, perhaps a human, would potentially graft the morphology of the donor to the specimen—”

Giovanni’s frown warned him against too much jargon. He licked his dry lips.
Heh, can't blame Gio here. I was starting to get lost, too. XP

“Even if it did work, and the clone reached healthy maturity, there’s no way of telling what the long term consequences could be. A psychic that powerful could be bonded to the genetic donor in ways we cannot predict or understand!”

Giovanni laughed, abruptly, and held out his hand in pacification.

“I can see you have some anxiety about this, Doctor. Allow me to ease your concerns. I am a generous enough man to relieve you of the terrible burden of finding a genetic donor for this project. You may use my genes.”

“What?”

“One of my agents will leave a sample with your medical staff. I am prepared to accept the risks you feverishly imagine. Great rewards are earned through the boldness to take great risks.”
How kind of you! I hope you'll have some tough Dark-type to counter psychic energies, at least.

Twenty years from now, would such things be commonplace? How could that possibly be in the world’s best interests?
Ooh! Foreshadowing?

“I suppose I have no choice,” said Dr. Fuji. “I’ll do as you say.”

Damn you.

“I’m pleased to hear that. Very pleased indeed.”

Damn you, Fuji, you coward.
Eeeh, pal... you were basically stuck between a rock and a hard place (?), so I can't totally blame you. Your hands were tied, after all.
Katsura was efficient and focused as he attended the tea in his tiny kitchenette. He didn’t speak again until they both sat down. He left his glasses off. Before resuming the conversation he said, pointedly, “You haven’t seen my analysis yet, Fuji. I assure you, the science is sound.”

Then he shushed Fuji with a finger to his lips, and activated his dishwasher. It made a great deal of noise, as if he’d left something solid inside. Fuji raised an eyebrow. What was he playing at?
Ooh, clever trick!

Katsura ignored him. “He’s got his filthy hands in high level organised crime, the government of half the prefectures in the country, private businesses, the tech industry, you name it. Even the League. Did you know he’s posing as gym leader in Hakone?”
Typical mafia boss business, then.

Fuji’s brain was fizzing with risks and contingencies. “But Auguste, you’re gambling on the hope that what we make here will not only be… be a— a thinking being, but a moral one. A person, I suppose, with a heart good and brave enough to turn on its master. Who won’t simply learn to be cruel and amoral from him. Doesn’t that strike you as vanishingly unlikely?”

“Perhaps. We may have more control than you think. After all…” Katsura jabbed a finger at him. “It will not be Giovanni that raises this child-creature, but you and I, Yosuke. This is how we beat him!”
Things are becoming very interesting here.



Fuji thought of the cluster of cells that rested in his lab, the preserved essence of his daughter. When he solved the puzzle of restoring life, there she would be. A child, standing in this world of metal and light.
Inb4, Fuji will go ahead and turn his daughter into a half-hybrid to supply the remaining DNA. Mark my words.

“Perhaps. What pokémon wouldn’t want to be like us? To be human?”
I dunno, did you interview some Pokémon and ask them?

Fuji shook his head.

“Even so… it would be a child of Giovanni. Bound to him by blood.”

Katsura put his glasses back on, and grinned ferociously. “Not if we use a different sample.”

Oh.

Of course.
And that's what I call a checkmate!

The creature had three digits on each paw, front and back. Its eyes were firmly closed. The proportions were almost like those of a human child of six or seven years. As old as Ai had been. However, the ears were situated high on its head and roughly triangular, the upper torso and shoulders were gaunt and angular, and the lower legs had the thick haunches and elongated feet of a feline pokémon. Then, of course, there was the enormous tail…

It could not possibly be human.
Yeah, and something tells me it's not a werewolf, either.

The first pokémon-human hybrid floated in its tank, dreaming silently in the dim light. What did it dream of?

He prayed to himself that its dreams were peaceful.

It had been a long time since his own dreams were anything such.
I love this ending!

---

Alright, here we are at the end of the review.

I'll have to say... this is a massive improvement compared to your original prologue. The various events flow so well and we go more in-depth into the origins of Pokémorphs, which is a real threat. I also love how distinguished the various characters are: the meek and heartbroken Fuji, the intimidating and cruel Giovanni, and the hotblooded and chessmaster Auguste. Their interactions and dialogs are among the golden points of this prologue.

I really don't know what else to say about this. It was glorious and I loved every moment of it! ♥

I hope you the best of luck with this fanfic. It's sooo cool! :3
 
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Tanuki

Friend of All Chu
Location
Rhyme City
Pronouns
He/him/his
This will cover the prologue. I’ll begin with my first impressions, note a few quotes I enjoyed or took issue with, and then wholly examine this part of a whole.

Holy shit you’re good. You’ve got the tone and characters fucking down. It reads like it’s saying sometging profound, begging readers to grasp its subtext. It’s very clearly more than a story. It feels like a message, or perhaps questions, within a narrative already, and you achieve as much so efficiently.

This heavy tone doesn’t dampen its delivery, though. It doesn’t feel any more self-serious than it deserves. It reads not like it’s trying to be important, but that it simply is. That along with your great prose makes for an incredibly compelling start. Very well done.

His face was inexpressive in the tense manner of a person who kept their thoughts behind a mask.
You tend to over rely on be verbs. Was, been, they’re usually the easy way out when it comes to writing. It’s much more impactful, as well, if you reserve them for intentional use.

This quote specifically is easy enough to illustrate my point.

“His face held no expression, tense, in the manner befitting a person who kept their thoughts behind a mask.”

There’s a bit of my style thrown in there as well, but I hope you can see the sentence structure is more interesting. Especially when it’s the same verb so often so close together, it becomes boring to read. No need to abandon these verbs altogether, but I’d bet you’d get a boost by trying for alternatives when possible.

a pedigree,
This may be a colloquialism, but any pet has a pedigree. Even mutts do. Pedigree is their lineage, so caling it a pedigree is calling it a normal creature. I usually see some modifier like “high” or “pure” alongside

So too did he pass his piercing gaze over the rest of the complex, in all its drab, metallic coldness.
I enjoyed that it’s unclear whether his gaze or the complex is drab or metallic. It draws a neat parallel between his mindset and the clinical la

Giovanni’s smile was showing teeth.
You do a great job with Giovanni’s smile. Using just that part of his face, you express so much. It’s almost teetering on over reliance, but for now, it’s quite good.

Whether his nature was natural or nurtured,
His nature is probably going to be natural no matter what. Consider rewording. I’d go for, “Be it nature or nurture, ...”

As I said above, a phenomenal start. I can feel the passion reading this, and it makes me excited to read more.
 
Some of our western staff have taken to calling them 'metamon', 'omnimorph', and 'ditto'
Nice references to localization.

"Thank you, sir. It only gives me more reason to complete my work to the best of my ability. As such, I have since begun living in this facility full time."
It may not be the best idea to live at work.
Naturally, someone like Giovanni would see an incomplete genetic code as an opportunity for improvement, rather than a setback to accept.
Good mindset.
Giovanni's frown warned him against too much jargon.
He be asking for clarity.
"I told him it broke countless legal, practical, and ethical restrictions on our work and that we had no compelling reason to adopt the method," said Fuji,
1597730845504.jpeg
 

Keleri

I Like Cats
Staff
Pronouns
They/Them
Really enjoyed the Prologue! I like how you took the various canon players (Fuji, Gio, added Blaine-- of course) to spin the circumstances of Mewtwo's creation in your setting.

That man had such a cruel smile when he exercised his influence over someone else. Eyes narrowed, the left corner of his mouth curved upward, nose slightly flared. Did he smile that way when he commanded a pokémon?
oh my god are you making me ship them
specialism
Learned a new word! It seems this is chiefly a Britishism, so I'm not sure if you want to take it out to keep up the idea that the dialogue is actually translated Japanese/Kantonian vs English/Galarish. "Specialty" is the North American equivalent if you were curious.
 
Chapter 1: Human Dreams

unrepentantAuthor

A cat that writes stories.
Location
UK
Pronouns
they/she
Partner
purrloin-salem
Author's Note:

Thanks for bearing with me while I got the next two updates ready. Now the story proper can begin, and hopefully continue at a faster rate. If you’re an older reader, this is a different opening chapter than you remember. If you were a reader way back in 2012, it’ll be more familiar to you. It’s an important sequence, and I had to get it just right! I hope it was worth the wait.

Chapter Changelog:

2020/09/07: Replaced the old ‘Chapter 1’, partly with material originally from a later chapter, edited for quality and continuity, partly with new scenes.


Chapter 1

Human Dreams


Salem was dying. Surely, this was how it felt to die.

Darkness. Vertigo. Every body part, aching. Her eyes stung, so she screwed them shut. A barrier of rubbery material clasped against her face—she tried to shake it off, to pull her head away, but still it clung to her. It pressed her whiskers to her cheeks, and though she could breathe, the breaths came hot and stifled. She needed to push at it with her paws, but she couldn’t seem to move her limbs, or even feel them. She couldn’t sense the ground beneath her paws. She just floated, as if through water.

Water.

There was water; she was in water. Submerged. She was underwater!

She held her breath against the instinctive panic. She had to surface, fast. She tried to swim, flail, anything, but her limbs protested every effort. She stayed in place, suspended in blackness. Her lungs strained. Her chest shook. She tried to reach for something solid. Her paws, barely drifting any distance at all, only met more water. She couldn’t hold her breath any longer, and drew in a wretched gasp.

Then another.

Air. Instead of water filling her lungs, there was air. Hot, suffocating, but breathable air. It did not run out.

Taking ragged, shallow breaths, yet still not drowning, she fought to bring her paws up and feel for the obstruction at her face. It took an age, but her pads met rubber, and found it sealed over her mouth, perfectly watertight. Inside its confines, she could breathe.

She kept her eyes shut. She could be asleep; this could be a dream.

It was quiet enough beneath the surface that she could only hear the thumping of her own heart and the rasp of her own breathing. No, she was not asleep.

She opened her eyes. They stung from contact with the water, but only for a moment—then she saw the room outside through the clear glass that surrounded her. Through the greenish fluid that immersed her, dimly lit from overhead, she could just about make out impressions: the shapes of beds, human silhouettes, the light from suspension tanks. Dozens of them. Tanks just like hers.

That was it. She was in the tank.

She kept forgetting she was in the tank.


xXx​


“Run!”

She set her jaw and pushed herself faster. Faster. She could go faster than this. At long last, running once again came easily, felt natural. Her legs worked tirelessly beneath her just as they’d done before. In fact, she was stronger than ever. Faster, too.

“Speed up!”

She broke into a sprint. She pumped her arms harder, the way they’d taught her. Faster. Faster.

“Ten seconds!”

Unfamiliar energy surged through her body, neither shadowy nor chill. Her muscles relaxed, her body seemed to weigh less—this could be it; the technique called ‘agility!’

“Alright! That’s enough.”

What? No! She hadn’t reached her limit yet, she was sure of it. She kept running, willed her legs to work harder, closed her eyes, tried to force the energy, to use agility—!

“Dusk, that’s enough!”

Fine. Dusk slammed the stop button on the treadmill controls and let her arms swing loosely by her sides as the motors slowed. She could go faster than that, she knew it. Next time she would. She let out a disappointed groan, hopped off and bent forward to stretch, making a start on the warm-down routine before she could be told to.

“You did well,” said Dr. Collett from her office chair. “A personal best.”

Dusk paused her routine to sign [Thank you, Doctor,] in reply. She put one hand to her mouth and draw it away in the human’s direction, then touched her wrist as if taking her pulse.

“Come on, you can say that in Galarish.”

Ugh.

“You under-stood I said ‘Doc-tor,’” Dusk replied between stretches, with exaggerated sullenness. “You are not my speech there-app-ist.”

“It’s all good practice. Not everyone here understands pokésign. Anyway, you’re nearly done for today.”

“What is next?”

Dr. Collett placed her notes and pen neatly on her desk and stood from her chair to gesture to the full-length mirror at the far end of her office.

Ah. This again.

Dusk dutifully stood before her own reflection, suppressing a wince as she did so.

In the mirror she saw something no longer exactly sneasel, but neither was it exactly human. It was unnerving, even after almost a moon, to look at herself at all. Let alone with the degree of attention Dr. Collett sometimes required of her.

“Dusk, I’d like you to describe what you see.”

“I know, I know,” replied Dusk, a tiny growl in her throat. “I see…”

She saw a creature both profoundly strange and unsettlingly familiar, that she tried to think of as a separate being, despite it being caught in a mirror. She saw a body that was stretched out far past its natural height, clothed in the attire of humans like some tasteless joke—dark-grey shorts and a white sleeveless top; nothing like sneasel handiwork— and vulnerable for want of its naturally formidable claws. She saw herself.

She knew in her mind that the reflection was her own; it moved when she moved and it shared her features. She just didn’t feel it in her bones yet. Maybe she never really would. Maybe, she didn’t even want to.

“I see… strange creature, tall like humans, hands like humans, but not human. Blood-feathers at the ear and tail like sneasel, white-fur like tundra sneasel, but not sneasel. Some-thing differ-ent. Some-thing new.”

Dr. Collett nodded, her face visible in the mirror over Dusk’s shoulder. “That’s a more measured reaction than last time, Dusk,” she said.

Dusk nodded, and shivered her feathers a little. It was always too warm in Collett’s office, and her blood-feathers could only do so much to keep her cool. “Seeing my-self is normal now,” she explained. “May I go?”

“Well, before our next appointment, I’d like you to focus on seeing the changes in yourself as positive.”

“Didn’t go through change to feel good about my-self,” snapped Dusk.

“Still, I hope you give it a try. I’ll see you next time, Dusk.”

Dusk gave her a lazy two-fingered salute. It wasn’t pokésign but meant [see ya] all the same.

xXx​

Dusk had a few hours before her next assignment, so she took to pacing the polished corridors of the facility and glancing at her distorted reflection in the plaques on each office door she passed. Catching sight of her face, she could mistake it for that of an ordinary sneasel. Looking directly at it, she saw an otherness about her eyes, her mouth, her skull. Something not quite right.

Her claws clacked against the hard flooring with each step in a comforting drumbeat. The repetition sounded hypnotic in a way, until she heard duller footsteps from around the corner and turned to see a human approaching her in long, easy strides. With amber-brown skin and a charcoal-brown mane barely kept in a thick ponytail, her narrow face was easy to recognise among the paler complexions and shorter hairstyles of most Perihelion staff. Every morph in the facility probably knew her: recruitment officer Alisha Renadier, the only human Dusk knew whose hands never seemed to stop moving in unconscious pokésign. Dusk didn’t even need to smell her to be sure.

“Hey there, Dusk!” called Alisha, signing the words as she spoke them with one hand, while the other hefted a satchel bag. “Not got anywhere better to be?”

Dusk answered with a shake of her head. [Nah.] Inside she felt a twinge of envy that a human could sign as well as her with only a single hand. “No,” she added verbally, a moment later.

“Me neither,” said the human, with a smile of her own.

Dusk shrugged and fell into step beside her. The woman was more than a full head taller than Dusk and had authority over many of the other humans, but she had a knack for putting morphs at ease. Even Dusk felt it. It was something about her eyes, maybe; Alisha didn’t stare the way most humans did.

“Where are we headed?” asked Alisha.

It wasn’t a ‘real’ question, Dusk knew. What she really meant was something close to ‘is there a way I can help you?’ Dusk considered this for a moment before replying.

[I want to see another like me,] she signed. [One still growing.] It was a complex series of hand motions, head tilts and ear twitches, but Alisha was fluent.

“Ah… you mean another morph, right? A morph still in the process of changing.”

“Yes,” she said, grinning wider at her success in being understood.

“Hmm. Alright. I don’t see why not. Besides, I have admin work in the tank bay.”

Alisha led Dusk without further interrogation to the bay, as if it were a routine destination and not somewhere sacred where living things were fundamentally altered, body and mind. The polished concrete floor changed from the warm swirls of the residential block to clean grey and green angular patterns of the morphing wing. The Perihelion logo was stained onto the pattern every forty paces or so: Galarish runes in white, on a black hexagon rimmed with gold. Every morph uniform bore the same icon, including her own. Alisha spoke up, and Dusk dropped her line of thought as she tried to keep up.

“A lot of active tanks were only recently filled,” the woman was saying, “so the morphs in those are practically ordinary pokémon, but we’ve got one on the way who went in shortly after you. She’ll be ready to meet you soon.”

“She will be like me?” asked Dusk.

“Like you? As in, similar? Well, it depends on how you see it. As social dark-types, your temperaments might be similar, and physically you’re pretty close. A feline-morph isn’t so different from a mustelid-morph. If you want a serious answer then you should ask one of the science staff, but I’m sure you two will hit it off just fine!”

“Feel-ain?”

“Feline. You know, like cats? Like a meowth. This one’s a purrloin.”

“Don’t know purrloin.”

“Well, you’re about to!”

Alisha came to a stop at a pair of sliding doors. She swiped her key card in the lock beside them and they opened onto the bay—where morphs were made. Dusk brushed past the furniture and equipment by the door. An infinitely more fascinating sight lay ahead of her.

Suspension tanks filled the room, spaced evenly apart in several rows. There must have been at least a hundred in total. Glass cylinders reaching from floor to ceiling, filled with greenish fluid through which bubbles drifted up, distorting the appearance of the creatures inside. The internal lighting of many tanks cast a faint, green-tinted glow on the surrounding floor. She stepped forward, hardly breathing.

The lit tanks contained what used to be pokémon.

Dusk wandered past them as Alisha set her bag down by an office desk near the door. Cables fixed to the subjects’ bodies linked each one to the socket at the top of their tanks. All wore some sort of mask around their mouths, she guessed to allow breathing. Most unsettling of all, each one was in some stage of bodily alteration. She took a walk around the morphing ward while her guide was busy and, as she’d been told, most of the hybrids were only subtly altered. Elongation of limbs, narrowing of torsos, something different about the jaw. Just enough to be obvious. She noticed more changes in the species she knew better. An eevee in one tank, curled up in apparent sleep, had hind legs twisted at the hip to support an upright gait. In another slept a noibat with their wings wrapped tightly around their body, their tiny clawed digits at the wrists and wingtips already shifting. Soon, they would resemble human fingers.

The changes all seemed to progress together in tiny increments. Bodily proportions altered to resemble a human’s, many of them increased in size overall, facial features warped in some cases to fit a more rounded cranium. She kept walking, taking note of how the morphs in each row tended to be at a similar stage of development. Until less than a moon ago, Dusk had been in one of these tanks. She must have looked like this, once.

Dusk soon came to the one Alisha must have meant, the only morph left in a row about two-thirds across the room. The next row contained subjects with changes too imperceptible to notice. Dusk faced a nearly-complete pokémorph, almost as tall as a human, with well-defined hands and an entirely upright posture. Large, triangular ears and a flexible tail ending in a curved hook: not exactly what Dusk expected, but definitely the ‘purrloin.’

[Is that what I looked like?] Dusk signed, keeping her gaze fixed on the pokémon—person?—in front of her as she did. Head tilt, indicative gesture, hand motions around the face, pointing to the heart.

Dusk got no answer, so she asked aloud: “I looked like her, before?”

Alisha looked up from her desk. “Mm? More or less, yeah. You went through the same thing, after all. She’s changed plenty already, but the process will keep going until she catches up with you.”

The pokémon in the tank was not much smaller than Dusk, a fully transformed morph. She didn’t resemble a meowth at all—her fur was too short, not at all like bedraggled, steel-wool meowth fur. It was prettier, too; her mottled black-and-orange coat was glossier and more colourful than a meowth’s. Dusk wondered if all purrloin had such an appearance, or just this one.

She took a step closer and examined the morph-to-be. There were obvious differences between the two of them. That long, thin tail for example, and their opposite hues. Still, the similarities seized her attention. Human-like arms. A body covered in fur. Fingers tipped by claws. Dusk wished this one would open her eyes so that she could see whether those, too, resembled her own.

“What is the name of her?” she asked, not looking away.

But the human wasn’t paying attention, already lost in her work. Dusk shrugged, and kept her attention on the purrloin morph for a while. She found herself imagining what she might say to her when she woke up. Would it be it best to introduce herself in Galarish, or in pokésign? There was no way this one would understand sneasel speech, and Dusk didn’t know if purrloin even had their own language, but either sign or Galarish would be a safe bet. Even if the cat wouldn’t be able to fluently reply.

What would this one think of her? Would she think anything of her? Dusk had no idea about her personality. She searched the purrloin’s face for evidence of an animating spirit, something that would tell her what kind of person was inside. Was the purrloin’s head slightly tilted? Asking about something? Perhaps she was an inquisitive sort. That would be nice.

Did it even matter? She’d get by no matter what. Was there any use in wondering?

Well for one thing, this cat was the next morph due to fully change. A ‘feline’ morph, not so different from her. One to whom Dusk’s experience of being part-human would be similar. They would understand each other, yes? It made enough sense. This was about wanting allies, naturally. She just wanted someone like her, who wouldn’t be too distant to have a friendship.

At least, she hoped so. She was used to lacking peers. It would be a far worse loneliness to have a peer who remained a stranger.

“Time to go, Dusk.”

“Already?”

“Yeah, really sorry to cut this short. Something came up. After you, mate.”

Dusk padded out and the human locked the doors behind them. She thought of asking questions—do you know anything about the purrloin? What is she like?—But Alisha was already pacing off, staring down at her phone at something more urgent than Dusk’s anxious curiosity.

She headed off to the hub, wondering if she should do some extra training, or find out something in the library about purrloin to help make a good impression. She really needed to start making better first impressions.

xXx​

Each time Salem woke from sleep (if she was sleeping at all; her dreams felt like memories, and when she woke, it felt like a dream) it got a little easier to remember she was in the tank. Her vision became a little clearer. Her thoughts, too. Each time began with choking, then struggling, then opening her eyes. She would realise her situation anew when she saw the ward, green-soaked by the tank fluid. She looked down at the room as if from a height, so she must not be stood upright, but held in the tank as always.

This time she was just barely lucid enough to notice alien intrusions in her flesh. A tube from above pierced her chest. Another pierced her neck. More connected to the breathing mask. Others that she couldn’t see. They hung her, held her in this half-dream, half-death. She pawed weakly at a cable and felt it tug inside her. She would never have the strength to remove it. Maybe that was for the best. Maybe the cables were remaking her.

She hadn’t expected to wake at all while the humans remade her body. This wasn’t right. Something could be wrong with the tank, with the transformation, with Salem. Thinking about it only got harder, and soon she fell back into darkness.

Salem drifted in and out of unconsciousness, her eyes never open long, her mind clinging only to a droplet or two of memory from her dreams or her final days as her former self. Her dreams poured through her head: human faces and her own; watching from a distance as her own body stood on two legs; needles; being held tightly, too tightly; blood and hunger and cold. Dreams of fighting. Dreams of losing.

When she woke to the room, she would glance around for someone she knew. A couple times, she thought she could see Alisha as a momentary hazy glimpse past the water and the tank, or detect her scent. Surely an illusion. She could smell nothing but the dead scent of rubber, the mask fitted to her face. Still, she kept searching for Alisha’s face past the tank glass.

Her reality was fleeting. Her eyes lied to her. Now she lay in the hospital bed from before, but a different room. Curtains drew close around her. Dangling containers fed fluids into her arm. Patches of fabric and metal circlets adhered to her body. Clean sheets covered her legs. She understood none of it. She closed her eyes and continued to wait out this incomprehensible ordeal.

Now she floated in the tank again, and a multitude of wires connected with her skin with a bizarre sensation, a little like the way her pads felt on icy pavement. More numb than truly cold. The wires went up overhead and she could vaguely make out glass canisters of liquid fixed to the top of the tank.

She was changing. She found it hard to perceive, hard to concentrate, but she could tell. Even through the clouds in her mind, she felt her body aching, saw it stretching out below her, tall and upright. She could feel sensations unfamiliar and strange: her tongue resting differently in her mouth, impossible to feel comfortable with. Her muscles twitched irregularly. Her extremities kept itching. Even her heart had changed. The beat against her ribs was slow and powerful, like the heavy thumping of human footsteps. A human heartbeat. She could hear it as a steady pounding in her head, slower than could possibly be right. She’d known she would change, but she’d thought of what she’d seen of evolution in normal pokémon, of instant growth and light. This wasn’t pokémon evolution that she was going through. It was a slow and gradual change. Like ageing. Like the growth of trees.

Once, she woke up and tried to stretch, and she waved her paw in front of her face as she did. Her foreleg—her arm, it would be her arm—burned as she held her paw up, but she held it there all the same, to see the way her digits were lengthening. She tried to flex them, and they cramped up, making her whimper—a whimper that sounded strange in her head, a whimper that felt odd as it formed in her throat. It never arrived at her ears past the mask and the fluid; she heard it inside her own skull.

She could see her paws nonetheless: pads pulled apart from each other and joints stretched out too far. They were neither paws nor hands now. They were ugly, useless, halfway things. Too stubby and crude to grasp with, but elongated enough that they would probably be hard to walk on. She imagined them stuck like this—useless for all but the most crude pokésign. She dared not move them much. They might stop growing.

She tried to tell how long she’d been this way. Days? Moons? Seasons? Hard to guess, impossible to know. Electric lights illuminated the room from overhead in place of a dimming sun. No windows. No way to measure the suns and moons. As her ordeal went on, she tried to track time by remembering details: what level the fluid canisters were at, how many plasters she wore on her arm and where, how much further below her body her hind paws—feet—had stretched. She tried to count how many times these details changed and found that she always lost count after three or four.

It never got easier to focus, to stay awake, or to control her body, but it did get easier to think. She struggled, but it became possible to hold an idea without her thoughts bleeding out of her head. The mental fatigue had become less raw, more like an irritating scab than a fresh cut. First it was just that her thoughts were clearer. Then she could recall details more readily. At last she was certain: the drip that fed into her arm had been changed six times since she started counting, half as many times as the plaster where the tube that bit her arm had been changed. She was certain too that she’d never recalled so many distinct moments at once. It was as if she’d slept her whole life away, to finally awaken in the tank.

Holding many memories in her head to compare thrilled her enough, even through the continual, subdued panic of her submersion. If she could breathe freely, it would have stolen her breath just to consider something she’d heard and at the same time consider its context. At least, without the memory streaming out of her brain like water off her paw. More overwhelming still was the ability to think about both how she felt about something, and why she felt that way. The difference between remembering and understanding… She likened it to the difference between drinking water, and actually tasting it. For the first time, she could taste her thoughts. For the first time, she could ask herself…

‘Why didn’t I wait for Laura? What if she came back and found me gone? Will I ever see her again?’

That was right. She had only ended up here in the tank, changing, because she’d left home however many moons ago. Why? Why had she done that? Hadn’t she realised that if she left, she might not ever find her way back? Of course she hadn’t. She’d been a purrloin. She couldn’t have known how to plan ahead for the consequences of her actions.

Was she going to be able to plan ahead now?

These thoughts did not thrill her. They terrified her.

She could not escape the dark panic that came with such thoughts while remaining conscious. So she sought sleep again, and despite the cold bruise flowering in her chest, despite the burning of her skin and eyes, she found it. With sleep came an escape from these new and jagged ideas. Her dreams changed, too. She spoke fluent Galarish in a conversation with humans, full and plentiful sentences spilling out of her mouth like water from a tap. She stood as tall as them, and they met her eyes. They listened. They understood. She couldn’t make sense of her words, and when she tried to pay attention to the way her tongue moved to produce them, the dream wavered and reality threatened to pull her out of it. She stopped trying to listen to her own voice and willed the dream to continue. So long as she didn’t concentrate, she kept speaking. She would speak forever.

Salem dreamed of talking to Laura, but the words were trapped in her throat and she choked on them, unable to make a sound. She dreamed of pokémon she’d met. Of signing with the mienshao from the pokémon shelter, fluently and at length. Of hissing at the glameow tomcat she’d seen as a stray. Of walking beside Church, the gentle gogoat-morph she’d met on her arrival. A hybrid she didn’t recognise, her red-rimmed mouth stretched wide and full of teeth, speaking to her, saying “well, soft cat, Salem, good well, all and happy.” The words swam in her ears, utterly meaningless but good, so good and so comforting.

When she woke next, the ward’s lighting shone dimmer than before. A torrent of thoughts hit her, saying ‘is my body any different today,’ and ‘where’s Alisha is she here,’ and ‘Laura lied to me why would she do that,’ and ‘I’m going to live like this for the rest of my life,’ and ‘can I still become a liepard,’ and ‘I have never been this tired in my entire life.’ Not just feelings or half-concepts, but full, clear thoughts. A half dozen at once. Now a dozen. Bright, painful, beautiful thoughts.

The green-soaked shadow of a human moved past her tank, unseeing and barely-seen.

Salem’s body ached in every possible place: in her stomach and her limbs and her head and her pads and her eyes. Even her fur seemed to be hurting, impossible as that was. Once she’d paid attention to the cacophony of hurt she decided that the blunt pain behind her eyes was the worst of it. Still she made herself lift her forepaw in front of her face just to examine it one more time, as was her habit whenever she awoke.

Five distinct digits, each long, dexterous and complete. A hand. An almost human hand, albeit still covered in dark fur, still with firm carpal pads, and still tipped with curved cat’s claws, but a hand all the same. One that could do everything a human hand could. A hand that could do anything at all.

She curled her fingers into a fist, and squeezed. Her claws extended, and dug into her palm, but it felt more wonderful than painful. She’d never had such reach, such dexterity. She tried to flatten out her hand, then to waggle her fingers individually. The experimental flexing ached awfully, but the satisfaction overwhelmed the discomfort. Nothing had ever satisfied her so much. Not a meal, a warm bed, nor even a victory. This was the only moment that mattered.

These were her hands. Her hands. Hers.

Salem brought her other hand above her head, and the sudden effort made her pass out again. When she came to, the lighting was no different and she remained alone. She attempted a ginger, awkward stretch, and though her body complained in a chorus of aching bones and sore muscles, she felt faintly better for it. Simply floating where she was and listening to her body did not tell her much about the fullness of the changes she’d endured. All that she could be sure of besides her completed hands were her new size and proportions. Her size! She easily filled the tank. She could never fit curled up on a pillow now. Or squeeze inside cupboards. Or have her body stroked in one smooth motion from forehead to tail-tip.

Perhaps, though, she could do other things. Maybe even better things.

Salem waggled her hind-paws like her hands and to her vague surprise, they felt much the same as they’d always done. She tried flicking her tail and found that it was still very much there, hanging weightlessly in the tank fluid. That came as a relief. She couldn’t have accepted the loss of her tail. It seemed her limbs stayed her own.

Her investigations continued, and for the first time it made sense why Laura had always made lists of things. With a human mind, you could feel satisfaction at so many things at once! Salem checked off items on an imaginary list as she tested each body part. She began to explore with her hands, starting with her face. Her fur remained, but the shape of her head was altered. Oh, she still had the same nose it seemed, and she discovered her ears where they’d always been, but the bones… the structure of her skull felt unfamiliar. New brain; new head to keep it in.

A new brain. She would think differently now. Be different. A different person. That could mean anything. Now her new brain screamed at her with thoughts and memories and sensory input and fear and pain and tiredness and everything, everything, everything at once without letting up. She tried to gasp, but it died in her chest. She couldn’t bear to think about her own thoughts, not yet. Not for now.

She couldn’t gasp, not properly. The mask that gave her breath also muted her. But gasping reminded her that she’d been promised a voice. Even with her jaw muzzled, she could move it as if she were trying to speak. She put a hand to her throat and tried to feel it vibrate as she mimicked human noises in the complete silence of the tank. She heard her own hums and whines in her skull like before, and she ached with yearning as her throat ached with effort.

Every part of her body hurt to touch, from her neck to her abdomen. Her gut churned when she pressed into it. Her muscles cramped as she felt them. She felt as tender as if her entire body was nothing but a person-shaped wound. But the important part wasn’t that she felt like one enormous wound. It was being shaped like a person.

Even overwhelmed by pain and exhaustion, she wanted to cry out with joy, to run and jump and climb, to roll about and stretch her limbs right out to their limit. Her fatigue rose to match her joy; she was so tired that it hurt. The emotions, the mental fog, the bodily pain, all of it was too much. This was too much, and she should be dreaming. She could still be dreaming even now, but for her newfound and unstoppable-unyielding-unrelenting ability to think and perceive and remember all together. Her eyes hurt from an unfamiliar pressure and her face contorted involuntarily as for the first time in her life, she managed to cry.

She knew what crying was, of course. Laura had sometimes sobbed into Salem’s flank after difficult days, but Salem had never understood it. She understood it now, her chest heaving and her arms closing around her body as tears welled up in her eyes and dissipated instantly into the hazy green liquid of the morphing tank. Her sobs were silent, but each one hit her bruised frame like a tackle. She let them happen, some part of her relishing the new and entirely human experience even amid the pain.

Eventually, she passed whatever threshold she had for endurance and passed into sleep once again.

The process granted her no further conscious moments in which to think and feel. Only a fleeting mist of faint, tiny memories.

Green shadows outside the tank.

The roar of draining liquid.

“Looking good, no problems here.”

Gravity, absent too long, making its unwelcome return.

“There we go. It’s okay. It’s okay, kitten.”

The clashing scents of the waking world filling her nose.

“Salem? Salem, can you hear me?”

Her tongue, finally at ease in her mouth.

“I hear you.”
 
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Bluwiikoon

Actual Nosepass
Location
England
Pronouns
He/him
fic gud pls update :quag:

I gave you better and more detailed comments through discord and AO3 hehe 😄 I'm really enjoying this so far, and Salem's pains and struggles make me so emotional to the point of tears!!! AAAAA

These cats are gonna make me cry so much more!!! I can't wait! :D
 

Dragonfree

Pokémon Trainer
Staff
Location
Iceland
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Chapter one at long last!

I enjoy the opening scene a lot and how you portray how the experience of the tank would be pretty nightmarish, the panic of thinking she's drowning (relevant to my interests). I love the last two lines in particular, implying this keeps happening, and every time she's not sure what's going on. Great hook! Instantly grabs your attention.

The start of the second scene, though, since it follows after a Salem scene and just talks about "her", leads us to think this is just Salem after a timeskip, rather than that it might be a different character. This is probably needlessly confusing - I sat there puzzling out why Salem would be familiar with Ice moves or whether she meant something else by "chill", before reaching the part where actually this is Dusk. I don't think anything is accomplished by not making it clear from the start, unless I'm entirely missing what you were going for.

I'm tickled you've hit upon an in-universely justified mirror scene, though. :P I like how Dusk's POV conveys her insecurity and loneliness even without having to state it quite so directly - it's just her, feeling dysphoric about her body, wanting there to be someone she can relate to, preoccupied with what this potential kindred spirit will think of her and what kind of person she will be, and then kind of justifying it as well, it only makes sense, it's just about wanting allies. This is the kind of stuff I'm really into in characters and I'm very pleased to see it here in chapter one.

Really dig the third scene too and how confusing and almost visually blurry it feels as Salem drifts in and out of consciousness. Her being weirded out by the slow human heartbeat is really good - striking and not something you'd obviously think about. The portrayal of sensations and her increased clarity of thought as it goes on is beautiful! Her emerging concern about Laura but also elation at being more human, primarily so that she can more easily be understood and accepted by humans, are both interesting, make one wonder what made this so important to her.

Some quote reactions:

She put one hand to her mouth and draw it away in the human’s direction, then touched her wrist as if taking her pulse.
I enjoy the way the Pokésign is portrayed. Shouldn't that be "drew it away", though?

“Well, before our next appointment, I’d like you to focus on seeing the changes in yourself as positive.”
Telling how the people inducing the changes want to train people into seeing the changes as positive, isn't it.

Every morph in the facility probably knew her: recruitment officer Alisha Renadier, the only human Dusk knew whose hands never seemed to stop moving in unconscious pokésign. Dusk didn’t even need to smell her to be sure.
The last sentence here confused me for a moment - it's following up on how Dusk easily recognized her, I realized eventually, but at first I read the "didn't even need to smell her to be sure" to be in reference to something in the previous sentence, about her hands never seemed to stop moving, which didn't make much sense.

She didn’t resemble a meowth at all—her fur was too short, not at all like bedraggled, steel-wool meowth fur.
Enjoying how Dusk's default Meowth is a Galarian Meowth - makes sense.

She searched the purrloin’s face for evidence of an animating spirit, something that would tell her what kind of person was inside. Was the purrloin’s head slightly tilted? Asking about something? Perhaps she was an inquisitive sort. That would be nice.
Just thought this was nicely put.

For the first time, she could taste her thoughts.
Another really choice bit of phrasing! It shows how much care you spent on the prose.

Her dreams changed, too. She spoke fluent Galarish in a conversation with humans, full and plentiful sentences spilling out of her mouth like water from a tap. She stood as tall as them, and they met her eyes. They listened. They understood. She couldn’t make sense of her words, and when she tried to pay attention to the way her tongue moved to produce them, the dream wavered and reality threatened to pull her out of it.
Love this for how it reflects real dreams, how if you manage to think too hard about something in a dream you can start realizing it's a dream and waking up.

She could never fit curled up on a pillow now. Or squeeze inside cupboards. Or have her body stroked in one smooth motion from forehead to tail-tip.
A good kitty thought that pleased me as a fan of cats.

This honestly surpassed my expectations; I was looking forward to it already, but I think it's really well executed and compelling as a first chapter. Good character introduction for Dusk, great writing and imagery and intrigue in Salem's scenes. I'm pretty pumped to read more. Hoping you can make your way through the rest of the backlog more smoothly! It was worth the wait.
 

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
This chapter plunges into a lot of intriguing thematic stuff off the bat. The tank is this place of claustrophobic, terrifying transformation that feels like both death and birth. The question of what these morphs are gaining and what they are losing is ever-present throughout the chapter. Dusk seemed very focused on the physicality of it, and while Salem's portions unavoidably focus on physicality as well (to disturbing effect), towards the end that gives way to an exploration on the internal aspect of the change. Writing someone gaining sapience is a challenge, but I really liked the details you focused in on: holding multiple sensations at once, making lists, counting, regretting. The way Salem is thrilling in these (to us standard) things is really striking.

Overall, you've done a great job setting up the tone and themes with this chapter. Dusk was well-characterized in her initial introduction, and the scene where she stood in front of Salem's tank was poignant. I'm curious to find out what life is awaiting these morphs, and to learn more of the backstory between Salem and Laura, and how Dusk and Salem chose (?) this. What voice were they promised, and what voice will they turn out to have?

Line-by-line reactions and comments:

Salem was dying. Surely, this was how it felt to die.
Ooh, nice opener.

A barrier of rubbery material clasped against her face
Hm, this sentence doesn't quite add up for me. It's odd to think of a barrier being clasped-perhaps "pressed?" Also, the emphasis on the rubbery material detracts a bit from the immediacy of the sensation.

but her limbs protested every effort.
My brain wants "protested at" here.

It pressed her whiskers to her cheeks, and though she could breathe, the breaths came hot and stifled.
Air. Instead of water filling her lungs, there was air. Hot, suffocating, but breathable air. It did not run out.
The sequence with her fearing she's drowning and panicking was very well done. You made good use of short staccato sentences. I do think that the earlier line (quoted above) about her being able to breath detracts a little from the impact of that sequence. Easy enough to cut it and have her breathing after the drowning panic be the first time it's described.

Her eyes stung, so she screwed them shut.
She opened her eyes. They stung from contact with the water, but only for a moment
Same issue for me here--it's an important moment when she opens her eyes, but the chapter opened with her shutting them, implying she was just seeing all this.

Through the greenish fluid that immersed her, dimly lit from overhead, she could just about make out impressions: the shapes of beds, human silhouettes, the light from suspension tanks. Dozens of them. Tanks just like hers.

That was it. She was in the tank.

She kept forgetting she was in the tank.
Excellent crescendo and closing line for this segment.

“Run!”

She set her jaw and pushed herself faster. Faster.
Mm, so like Dragonfree I thought this was the same character as appeared in the first segment. Saying "Dusk" instead of "She" would have cleared that up for me.

At long last, running once again came easily, felt natural.
Having both "at long last" and "once again" reads a bit clunky.

“Alright! That’s enough.”

What? No! She hadn’t reached her limit yet, she was sure of it. She kept running, willed her legs to work harder, closed her eyes, tried to force the energy, to use agility—!

“Dusk, that’s enough!”

Fine. Dusk slammed the stop button on the treadmill controls and let her arms swing loosely by her sides as the motors slowed. She could go faster than that, she knew it. Next time she would.
Great character moment. I get a strong sense of Dusk's personality from this, pushing herself, combative, but inclined to listen to authority when push comes to shove.

She put one hand to her mouth and draw it away in the human’s direction
Typo? "Drew it away"? Found this a bit hard to visualize.

dark-grey shorts and a white sleeveless top; nothing like sneasel handiwork
Do sneasel make/wear clothing in this world?

“Didn’t go through change to feel good about my-self,” snapped Dusk.
Ah, so this was voluntary, at least to some extent.

Her claws clacked against the hard flooring with each step in a comforting drumbeat. The repetition sounded hypnotic in a way, until she heard duller footsteps from around the corner and turned to see a human approaching her in long, easy strides.
"Claws clacked" doesn't mesh with "drumbeat" for me--drumbeat suggests a lower, more muffled sound, while clacked sounds sharper? "Duller footsteps" and "easy strides" also feel somewhat contradictory.

Dusk shrugged and fell into step beside her. The woman was more than a full head taller than Dusk and had authority over many of the other humans, but she had a knack for putting morphs at ease. Even Dusk felt it. It was something about her eyes, maybe; Alisha didn’t stare the way most humans did.
Nice. Yeah, we feel comfortable with people who are comfortable with us.

[I want to see another like me,] she signed. [One still growing.] It was a complex series of hand motions, head tilts and ear twitches, but Alisha was fluent.

“Ah… you mean another morph, right? A morph still in the process of changing.”

“Yes,” she said, grinning wider at her success in being understood.
This pokesign is an interesting concept. It's a form of communication developed between humans and pokemon, I gather, not something pokemon use among themselves? Curious how it works for pokemon with different body types--no ears etc. Is Alisha fluent in Dusk's particular body dialect or in many dialects?

Alisha led Dusk without further interrogation to the bay, as if it were a routine destination and not somewhere sacred where living things were fundamentally altered, body and mind. The polished concrete floor changed from the warm swirls of the residential block to clean grey and green angular patterns of the morphing wing. The Perihelion logo was stained onto the pattern every forty paces or so: Galarish runes in white, on a black hexagon rimmed with gold. Every morph uniform bore the same icon, including her own.
Ominous corporation is ominous.

She noticed more changes in the species she knew better. An eevee in one tank, curled up in apparent sleep, had hind legs twisted at the hip to support an upright gait. In another slept a noibat with their wings wrapped tightly around their body, their tiny clawed digits at the wrists and wingtips already shifting. Soon, they would resemble human fingers.
The description makes this sound so uncomfortable, even though she's just viewing them from outside the tank!

her fur was too short, not at all like bedraggled, steel-wool meowth fur.
Bedraggled struck me as an odd adjective for cat's fur, since cats are so obsessive about cleaning their coats.

She found herself imagining what she might say to her when she woke up. Would it be it best to introduce herself in Galarish, or in pokésign? There was no way this one would understand sneasel speech, and Dusk didn’t know if purrloin even had their own language, but either sign or Galarish would be a safe bet. Even if the cat wouldn’t be able to fluently reply.

What would this one think of her? Would she think anything of her? Dusk had no idea about her personality. She searched the purrloin’s face for evidence of an animating spirit, something that would tell her what kind of person was inside. Was the purrloin’s head slightly tilted? Asking about something? Perhaps she was an inquisitive sort. That would be nice.

Did it even matter? She’d get by no matter what. Was there any use in wondering?

Well for one thing, this cat was the next morph due to fully change. A ‘feline’ morph, not so different from her. One to whom Dusk’s experience of being part-human would be similar. They would understand each other, yes? It made enough sense. This was about wanting allies, naturally. She just wanted someone like her, who wouldn’t be too distant to have a friendship.

At least, she hoped so. She was used to lacking peers. It would be a far worse loneliness to have a peer who remained a stranger.
This was a really interesting passage. I like how you dwell on Dusk's anxiety here--another person like herself is a big deal. The previous line about "social dark types" makes me wonder about Dusk's past relationships. When it says "this was about wanting allies" is that how she viewed the world as a sneasel? What were relations like in that world? Is friendship a concept she's carried from that time, or is it new to her, in the way that lists are new to Salem?

She headed off to the hub, wondering if she should do some extra training, or find out something in the library about purrloin to help make a good impression. She really needed to start making better first impressions.
Well, she made a good first impression on me :wink:

(if she was sleeping at all; her dreams felt like memories, and when she woke, it felt like a dream)
Nice

She would realise her situation anew when she saw the ward, green-soaked by the tank fluid. She looked down at the room as if from a height, so she must not be stood upright, but held in the tank as always.
The language here feels a little stiff. Didn't follow the reasoning in the second sentence. She knows she's in the tank because of the height, in addition to the fact that the ward is green-soaked?

Maybe the cables were remaking her.
"Maybe the cables were what was remaking her," maybe? As is it sounds like the "remaking" is in doubt, rather than the role of the cables.

This wasn’t right. Something could be wrong with the tank, with the transformation, with Salem.
Nice insight into her character--she seems to have an inclination towards self-doubt and assuming the worst.

Surely an illusion. She could smell nothing but the dead scent of rubber, the mask fitted to her face.
Illusion is odd here as applied to smell?

Still, she kept searching for Alisha’s face past the tank glass.
Oof, searching for anything or anyone familiar. The sense of how lonely, frightening, and alienating this process is really comes through.

Her reality was fleeting. Her eyes lied to her. Now she lay in the hospital bed from before, but a different room. Curtains drew close around her. Dangling containers fed fluids into her arm. Patches of fabric and metal circlets adhered to her body. Clean sheets covered her legs. She understood none of it. She closed her eyes and continued to wait out this incomprehensible ordeal.
Another nice paragraph making good use of short, simple sentences.

Maybe, "Now she lay in the hospital bed from before, but the room was different."

Now she floated in the tank again, and a multitude of wires connected with her skin with a bizarre sensation, a little like the way her pads felt on icy pavement. More numb than truly cold.
This comparison/description didn't quite land. The ordering makes it feel like the wires are being compared to the pads. Maybe, "Now she floated in the tank again. Where the wires touched her skin, it tingled with a bizarre sensation, a little like the way her pads had felt on icy pavement. More numb than truly cold."

She could feel sensations unfamiliar and strange: her tongue resting differently in her mouth, impossible to feel comfortable with. Her muscles twitched irregularly. Her extremities kept itching.
I like how detailed the wrongness of it is. I don't think you need "She could feel sensations unfamiliar and strange" as a summary sentence, it's a bit repetitive and the next sentence would flow in naturally.

The beat against her ribs was slow and powerful, like the heavy thumping of human footsteps. A human heartbeat. She could hear it as a steady pounding in her head, slower than could possibly be right.
That's a particularly disturbing difference, and goes to the idea of this transformation as both life and death. Ordinarily, a heartbeat that slow would mean she was dying--and in a certain sense, she is.

She’d known she would change, but she’d thought of what she’d seen of evolution in normal pokémon, of instant growth and light. This wasn’t pokémon evolution that she was going through. It was a slow and gradual change. Like ageing. Like the growth of trees.
I like the contrast to pokemon evolution here. The simile of the tree is interesting, with its implications of a change that is natural.

She imagined them stuck like this—useless for all but the most crude pokésign. She dared not move them much. They might stop growing.
Very disturbing moment.

Interesting that she thinks of pokesign here. Pokemon without hands must have some form of pokesign, right?

She struggled, but it became possible to hold an idea without her thoughts bleeding out of her head. The mental fatigue had become less raw, more like an irritating scab than a fresh cut. First it was just that her thoughts were clearer. Then she could recall details more readily. At last she was certain: the drip that fed into her arm had been changed six times since she started counting, half as many times as the plaster where the tube that bit her arm had been changed. She was certain too that she’d never recalled so many distinct moments at once. It was as if she’d slept her whole life away, to finally awaken in the tank.

Holding many memories in her head to compare thrilled her enough, even through the continual, subdued panic of her submersion. If she could breathe freely, it would have stolen her breath just to consider something she’d heard and at the same time consider its context. At least, without the memory streaming out of her brain like water off her paw. More overwhelming still was the ability to think about both how she felt about something, and why she felt that way. The difference between remembering and understanding… She likened it to the difference between drinking water, and actually tasting it. For the first time, she could taste her thoughts. For the first time, she could ask herself…

‘Why didn’t I wait for Laura? What if she came back and found me gone? Will I ever see her again?’
Fascinating sequence. I like this push-pull between the body horror and her sheer thrill at her mental changes. Nice hinting towards her backstory too.

She’d been a purrloin. She couldn’t have known how to plan ahead for the consequences of her actions.

Was she going to be able to plan ahead now?

These thoughts did not thrill her. They terrified her.
Oof.

Of signing with the mienshao from the pokémon shelter, fluently and at length. Of hissing at the glameow tomcat she’d seen as a stray. Of walking beside Church, the gentle gogoat-morph she’d met on her arrival. A hybrid she didn’t recognise, her red-rimmed mouth stretched wide and full of teeth, speaking to her, saying “well, soft cat, Salem, good well, all and happy.” The words swam in her ears, utterly meaningless but good, so good and so comforting.
Like the variety of interactions. Oh, so pokesign is how pokemon communicate across species difference as well? Still curious how that works, with such differing body language. I really like those disjointed phrases “well, soft cat, Salem, good well, all and happy”--it feels very dreamlike and strangely foreboding.

A torrent of thoughts hit her, saying ‘is my body any different today,’ and ‘where’s Alisha is she here,’ and ‘Laura lied to me why would she do that,’ and ‘I’m going to live like this for the rest of my life,’ and ‘can I still become a liepard,’ and ‘I have never been this tired in my entire life.’ Not just feelings or half-concepts, but full, clear thoughts. A half dozen at once. Now a dozen. Bright, painful, beautiful thoughts.
'can I still become a liepard' hit me hard. I wonder what evolution meant to her before--was it a kind of growing up? As a human, will there be a part of her that doesn't feel mature, at the peak of her potential, because something in her hindbrain still tells her she hasn't evolved? So many cool possibilities.

The experimental flexing ached awfully, but the satisfaction overwhelmed the discomfort. Nothing had ever satisfied her so much. Not a meal, a warm bed, nor even a victory. This was the only moment that mattered.

These were her hands. Her hands. Hers.
Powerful sequence. Her hands perhaps, but her uniform is going to be stamped with a logo, and the jury is out on whether this new body and voice means new agency.

She could never fit curled up on a pillow now. Or squeeze inside cupboards. Or have her body stroked in one smooth motion from forehead to tail-tip.
Kitten!

But gasping reminded her that she’d been promised a voice.
Ahh so much resonance with that. Promised a voice in the most literal sense, but will she have a voice in the metaphorical one?

She felt as tender as if her entire body was nothing but a person-shaped wound. But the important part wasn’t that she felt like one enormous wound. It was being shaped like a person.
Oof at the idea she wasn't a person before this.

Her tongue, finally at ease in her mouth.

“I hear you.”
Strong close. You've got a knack for segment-enders.
 

OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
Lots of nice descriptive passages here. Really drives home the surreal horror but also the excitement (and anxiety) your characters are feeling.

making a start on the warm-down routine before she could be told to.
*Cool-down
I guess that might be a local colloquialism though.

Dusk paused her routine to sign [Thank you, Doctor,] in reply. She put one hand to her mouth and draw it away in the human’s direction, then touched her wrist as if taking her pulse.
Throughout, you’ve got meaning first and then descriptions of the signs, and I think it should go the other way around. Otherwise it feels like she’s saying it twice.

Dusk gave her a lazy two-fingered salute. It wasn’t pokésign but meant [see ya] all the same.
I don’t think the second sentence is necessary here.

despite the cold bruise flowering in her chest,
Pretty turn of phrase!

One that could do everything a human hand could. A hand that could do anything at all.
Nice. This really exemplifies Salem’s hopes for this experience.

Solid character and scene work throughout.
 
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