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Pokémon turing incomplete [oneshot]

turing incomplete


golden scars | pfp by sun
the warmth of summer in the songs you write
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
  4. custom/booper-kintsugi
  5. custom/meloetta-kint-muse
  6. custom/meloetta-kint-dancer
This is a flashfic written for @slamdunkrai's Blitz prize! The prompt was "Genesect POV".

content warnings: none traditional. discusses personhood/depersoning
crit pref: anything goes

turing incomplete

You awaken fully conscious and aware of who and where you are. They must've decided it was easier to boot you in with previous knowledge. So you know this: you're floating in an observation tank at P2 Labs; they've disabled most of your neurological systems such as gross motor movement, but you can still think and feel. Your name is GN-649, although for conversational ease your creators have taken to calling you—

"Genesect, can you hear me?"

Dr. Solya—Kristina, to those who know her—has bags under her eyes, and when you adjust your optical sensors you can make out the six separate rings of coffee on the inside of her half-filled mug. She's logged eleven thousand hours on your development since the project started three years ago. There's no room through all the weariness in her eyes for joy when you send a vibration through the communication tether in your back that corresponds to a stumbling, Acknowledged.

"Do you know why you're here?"

That's a fraught question. You rifle through the project data; Dr. Solya's listed as primary researcher on almost all of the funding grants, so you know why she's told everyone else why you're here. But there's an aching void between the three versions of you proposed in Developmental High-Functioning Prosthesis for Pokémon, Genetic Reconstruction of Fossilized G. zhermantidae, and Weaponized Augmentation: Hybridized Bionic and Abionic Pokémon Attacks. The trick to a good grant application was making it sound like what the funder wanted.

So what does she want?

You access the recording of P2's initial meeting for you. The grainy footage resolves into a version of this basement lab, workbenches pristine and uncluttered, an enormous conference table sprawled out across where your tank would later be. You skim through the recording at ten times the speed, sifting for the key points. Genetically-modified pokémon cropped up in the scientific and public interest from time to time. Fossil reconstruction wasn't anything new. Silph's Porygon AI had caused a stir in its unveiling, and the software community all agreed that the latest Z-OS was easily the shining star of the field. And although no one would admit it publicly, the whispers in the scientific grapevine knew that Fuji's pet M-project off the coast of Cinnabar had been an augmentation approach … of sorts.

"But Darren, that's where they all went wrong," the recording of Dr. Solya argues in hyper-compressed, fast-forwarded speech. "They forgot what they were modifying in the first place."

All series of Porygon OS were obedient, as were the Rotom OS that came after. But no one asks a microwave for its opinion. That was why it was easier to keep them inside of objects, where it was easier to forget that they were also pokémon.

The M-project was intelligent. But the reality that kept inspiring increasingly-derivative blockbusters was that no one knew what to do with an ultimate fighter that thought it didn't have to obey.

You wanted to see if you could make a pokémon. If you could change me but leave enough intact that I was still recognizable.

If she noticed how long it took you to respond, she doesn't say anything, instead jotting something down on the notepad at her side. You account for the refraction of the tank fluid and flip the image. 'TEST 215. RESULT 3.'

"And what does it mean to be a pokémon?" she asks idly.

I am to disobey. More chickenscratch. RESULT 4. But not too much.

"What is 'too much' to you?"

Dr. Solya used to read to you during the earlier phases of your reconstitution. "It's like playing Mozart for babies," she'd said serenely, when one of the nightstaff had walked in. You're sure now that your six cells of grey matter hadn't processed a single word at the time, but those memories have since been reuploaded to you, so the analogy comes cleanly. You are not strictly bound by the laws of robotics, in the sense that your brain is organic, but you know they must be followed.

If someone commanded me to turn the cannon on my back onto you, I would disobey. You pause and search for the next example by contradiction. If you commanded me to turn the cannon on my back onto a pokémon during a fight, I would obey. Should that repulse you? A primal portion of your brain associates violence with fear. The rest of your reuploaded memories, modern as they are, disagree.

RESULT 5, she writes. "Do you understand the difference between those two scenarios?"

You can access memories that suggest there are many layers to this, about consent, quantified pain, ability to heal—but you return to the difference between the Porygon OS and Project M. You are a person.


Dr. Solya takes a sip from her coffee. There's a distinct tremble in her wrist as she does so. "And what are you, Genesect?"

The part of your hindbrain that responded to stress was replaced with the cranial interface for the weaponry on your back. With that six ounces of organic matter you lost the ability to produce adrenaline, anticipation, and fear. And even so you still find this question makes time slow in a way that must've, in some way, mimicked what it felt long ago to find yourself in a winged shadow, with moments to act before talons shattered your carapace.

What does she want you to say?

You know: she wants Genesect to be a pokémon. And an eternity ago, millenia before her kind had coaxed fire from stone, you were one. But while you have records upon records of grant pitches, board meetings, artificial life data, functionality tests—they could not forge the memories of that ancient predator whose DNA they stole to give you life.

A good object would answer her question without hesitation, since that was what it was programmed to do. A good pokémon would answer her with joy, since that was what it was expected to do. A good person would answer after much consideration, with its own thoughts and understanding, even if it knew that what it had to say could be disliked—

If you were smart you would tell her you are a pokémon. That's what she wants: to modify a pokémon just enough that she can call it changed, but not enough that the changes would make her uncomfortable. One that speaks to her, and chooses to tell her what she wants to hear. This is what bound the creations in Dr. Solya's books: the ability to be reminiscent of human life, but never deign to think itself as real as its makers.

A person would be able to lie. A pokémon wouldn't have to.

But you know you can't lie. You understand the concept, and the theory, but you are as incapable of producing deception as you are of producing genuine fear.

I think I am a person.


"Thank you for your honesty." She's impassive when she puts the coffee cup down on top of the pad and turns to the computer behind her.

You focus on the screen through the hazy fluid of the tank. Your gross motor functions are still disabled, so all you can do is watch as she scrolls through the memories you accessed during this conversation, selects about half of them, and creates a careful backup. One click later, and she targets them, alongside with the memories formed in the past ten minutes, with an auto-deletion process that will remove them on your next awakening.

You awaken fully conscious and aware of who and where you are. They must've decided it was easier to have you boot in with previous knowledge.

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Pokémon Trainer
I wonder how long that poor gene's been trapped in the loop of awake, realize, then be deleted.

I like how you show the contrast of organic being to non organic. How gene' sort of remembers, has a grasp as to what functions were gone and where they would be.... But its one step removed. Like remembering the text of a book read long ago.

Since gene was able to access the varied systems to research... This being part of thier turing test.... I was left wondering... Obviously they can see what he dug through and found with what they delegated... But could they see his processes? How he thought about what he saw?

Like did his thoughts leave traces like cookies in the computer for them to pick over?

The shout out to the varried mew two strikes back and its many many off shoots made me crack a smile. A nuce touch of humor. As well as the name project m, anothrr nice smash shout out... It shined among its setting of scifi horror.

Thanks for sharing.


Bug Catcher
Lol, did you change all the yous to its for fanfiction.net?

Anyways, this is crossposted!

Okay so I still don't 100% get this but my working theory is that

[It awakens fully conscious and aware of who and where it is. They must've decided it was easier to boot in with previous knowledge.]

is what it's been awakening to for a couple cycles now, and Solya has been pruning it into the kind of life that she wants to create. I'm not really certain on

[But it knows it can't lie. It understands the concept, and the theory, but it is as incapable of producing deception as it is of producing genuine fear.]

but I think that once it gets to the point that Solya wants it, all the biological bits will be replaced with robotic bits so it won't be changed anymore.

I don't think the discussion of limited personhood here really came through to me; Genesect does a lot of thinking but it feels both too thorough and too targeted to be understood. There's a sense of immobility here, both with it being incapable of producing emotions and lies and only being able to watch as Solya deletes its brain, but while it narrates it's very good at understanding what Solya and what people in general want from it, and thinking through all the possibilities of what it could be as a pokemon, person, or object, which strikes me as a creativity that is a lot more adaptable than the supposed confines of its mechanical brain. I guess there's a horror in that, but it feels like the meat of the story is on Genesect understanding what Solya and humans want from their creations, rather than the inevitability. It can't feel emotion but [If it was smart it would tell her it is a pokémon.] sure sounds like an emotion. It can't feel fear and yet [it still finds this question makes time slow in a way that must've, in some way, mimicked what it felt long ago to find itself in a winged shadow, with moments to act before talons shattered its carapace] basically feels fear anyway. So it feels like there's an empty space there in the narration.
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