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“Medical research!”

Mewtwo froze, glowing hand outstretched toward the floating human’s chest—still poised to blast him halfway to the northeast Kanto coast with a single mental flex. A Pikachu was clinging to his shirt, huddling over his heart with eyes squeezed shut.

Slowly, Mewtwo’s hand stopped glowing. But it didn’t let go yet. “Explain.

The human gasped in a breath as the pressure Mewtwo was exerting on his body to keep him floating loosened, then automatically kicked his legs as if trying to stay aloft as he felt gravity take hold of him again. Mewtwo wasn’t going to drop him. Not yet, anyway.

“J—just outside Ryme City, in Sinnoh,” the human said. “There’s a lab! They want—”

Mewtwo’s skin prickled at the word lab. “I am not interested in being experimented on by humans again.” It raised its hand. The human yelped as he jerked another few feet in the air.

Listen to him!” the Pikachu cried. “He’s not here to hurt you, I promise! Please!

Mewtwo hesitated, ruminating on the Pikachu’s request. The pair had approached it with words instead of attacks, and with none of the complicated machinery designed to entrap and ensnare that the likes of Team Rocket and their many subsequent bounty hunters tended to throw at it. Mewtwo could have chalked it up to cockiness—but the human wasn’t even carrying poké balls. Not even one for the Pikachu. The only machinery he had on him was a cell phone.

They weren’t here to catch it.

Slowly, Mewtwo lowered the pair—and then dropped them, from three feet up, to the muddy bank of the Cerulean River. The human landed hard and groaned; Pikachu squealed in surprise.

Very well. I will listen,” Mewtwo said. “Explain your research—and why I should want anything to do with it.

“Nnh…” The human sat up, lifted his arms, and grimaced at the mud covering them from elbow down. “Not—not my research. I was—hired, by the guy funding it. You’ve heard of Howard Clifford?”

No.

“Ahh. Great. Well, he’s uh, he’s this—big, idealist philanthropist type guy—it’s that whole archetype, the benevolent futurist billionaire thing, you know the type—”

I do not.

The human stopped, mouth partway open, caught mid-sentence and unsure how to go on now. “Right. Well, I'm—I’m sure you’ll meet him, if you decide you want to come. Anyway, he wants to make medicine from the genes of Pokémon, that can be used on both humans and different Pokémon. Stuff like, uh, uh… identifying the genes that are altered when Wailmer turns into Wailord, and injecting them into Grotle so they get way, way larger when they evolve.”

Mewtwo tilted its head. “Why would they do that?

The human opened his mouth. Then stopped with his mouth open again, brow furrowed, and thought about that. “You know, I—I don’t actually… know why they did that. I think I was, uh, busy gawking at the ginormous Torterra when they explained the whole… purpose, of that specific project.”

It didn’t matter, ultimately. Mewtwo’s skin was prickling again, at this talk of genes shuffling between Pokémon as casually as scavengers trading berries, and its instincts were telling it to go hide.

Hide where, though? The human had done what few others had done before: tracked Mewtwo down to its hidden sanctuary, an unobtrusive mountain cave hiding in the shadow of Mt. Moon. Mewtwo’s fault for being so being so merciful to other explorers who’d passed through. If it showed mercy to this one as well—and, at this point, it supposed, it would—then its location would be known to this benevolent futurist billionaire the human had mentioned, and who knew how many others would be sent after it. And soon Team Rocket would learn of its location again. This sanctuary was no longer safe for Mewtwo—and it wouldn’t be safe for any of the other Pokémon in it, either, if Mewtwo didn’t leave it behind for good.

For a moment, Mewtwo was furious at the human for discovering it.

It forced itself not to act on its rage. But the Pikachu sensed the rage all the same, fixing Mewtwo with a hard look, his cheeks crackling.

You have accomplished a feat that very few humans have ever achieved, in tracking me down on purpose,” Mewtwo said. “To have done so, you must know a great deal about me. You must know what I am—what I come from.

The human hesitated, the nodded. “Little—little island near Cinnabar, right? A cloning experiment? Sponsored by a gym leader with ties to organized crime.”

I am far beyond a mere ‘cloning experiment.’ Tell me: do I look like a Mew?

“Well, I can’t say I’ve ever seen a Mew, but—” The human stared at Mewtwo for a long moment, taking in its height, its oddly fused fingers, its strange bony sternum, its misshapen double neck, “—but no, you… don’t exactly look like the cave art.”

I am Pokémon gene splicing. I am what happens when humans try to improve upon Pokémon—when humans snip DNA apart like so many little lengths of rope and knot them back together. I should not be.

“Hey now, that’s pretty harsh on yourself—”

And there should not be other things like me,” Mewtwo said firmly. “I do believe you both came here with good intentions. But your intentions mean nothing in the face of the abominations you’re asking for.

The human stared at Mewtwo a moment longer, hard—this time, not like he was taking in its body, but like he was looking for something deeper. Mewtwo didn’t like that look. It felt… penetrating.

“Hey.” The human’s voice was softer now. “Listen.” He slowly got to his feet, brushing excess mud off his rear. Pikachu scampered up to his shoulder and settled there. “You’ve… you’ve had bad experiences with humans. Especially humans in labs. Especially especially humans in labs talking about genes. I get that. I understand why you wouldn’t want to go back to one. I wouldn’t blame you or judge you in the slightest for completely rejecting anybody coming up to you to talk about anything that’s got to do with humans in labs with genes.” He paused. “But I hope you’ll consider not rejecting it. Because there’s a lot of people and Pokémon out there, right now, every day, suffering—from injuries they won’t recover from, from diseases we don’t have cures to—and the Pokémon Comprehensive Laboratory in Ryme City is trying to change that. You can’t im—”

He stopped, face twisting, swallowed hard; Pikachu fussed with his hair for a moment until he’d collected himself. “You can’t imagine what it’s like,” he said, voice hoarser than it had been just a moment earlier, “what it’s like, watching someone you love—waste away, and die. From an illness that there’s no cure for yet.”

Telepath though Mewtwo was, it had never been much of a mind reader; and what skill it had once possessed had atrophied to nothing under Team Rocket’s tender care. It was a very weak empath at best. But it didn’t need to be strong to feel the sudden miasmas of decade-old grief leaking from the human, like poisonous gas from a Koffing’s craterous pores.

It drifted closer to the human, equal parts intrigued and pitying, feet inches above the muddy riverbank. “You speak from experience?

The human shrugged with his un-Pikachu-occupied shoulder. “Do you know what cancer is?”

I’ve been told I am a cancer,” Mewtwo said. “A Mew who’s more tumor than healthy tissue.

The human let out a startled laugh. “Well—that shows you can survive it, right? That’s more than most people can say. Imagine what that would be like—being made of cancer, but never dying from it.” He sniffed hard, shook his head, and collected himself again. “Listen, I uh—I didn’t come to talk about my life. Sorry. But—Howard’s poured a lot of money, manpower, and poképower into tracking you down. And he’s done it all because he believes, sincerely believes, that something in your genes—your weird, part-prehistoric-demigod, part-manmade-mishmash genes—holds the key to making life a whole lot better for a whole lot of sick folks. I don’t get the science behind it, but he’s got people who do—and to them, you’re not Wailord genes in a Grotle. You’re everything.”

Mewtwo glanced away from the pair, considering the proposition uneasily. As much as it reviled the thought of returning to another lab… had it not been working, for years, to undo the things that Team Rocket had done to it? The damage that had been done to its soul—if it had such a thing—its mind, if not. For years, now, it had been fighting to unlearn all that Team Rocket had taught it about where a Pokémon’s worth comes from, and the supremacy of power, and the dynamic of master and tool between human and Pokémon. Mewtwo was not the same Pokémon that had fled from Viridian City so many years ago.

Maybe it was time, too, to unlearn its fear of white coats and the smell of sterilized steel.

Maybe it was time to see if it could redefine how it saw its own genes—not as slap in the face of the natural order, but as a gift to the world.

It wanted to be a gift.

I am… proficient, in genetics,” Mewtwo confessed. “I have conducted my own experiments in augmented cloning. You’ve come to ask if I’d offer my body to medicine. I can also offer my mind.

The human blinked at it. “Augmented cl—what, what-what, what kind of augmented cloning?”

Mewtwo cringed in shame. “Enhancing a Pokémon’s strength. For battle. Augmenting their innate special powers.

“Wh…” For a moment, the human just stared. “Th—yeah! Yeah, that's—that’s fantastic. Hey, the PCL’s got some Froakie it tries out all its new discoveries on—Froakie adapt really well to new DNA, apparently—you can show them what you’ve got, see if they think it’s useful?”

Mewtwo nodded hesitantly. “My procedures don’t allow for genes to be inserted into already-living Pokémon. I’ll have to clone new ones.

“Maybe they’ll be able to help you figure out how to put it in living Pokémon? Froakie evolve a couple of times, it should be easy to get the genes in them.”

Perhaps. If they’re willing. If they’re volunteers.” It would have to ask them, personally—all the Pokémon in the facility—if they’d volunteered. If even one hadn’t…

“So, that’s a yes, right?” the human said. “You’re in? Gonna come help make the world a better place?”

Provided I will be treated like a volunteer, not a test subject,” Mewtwo said, “yes. I’m in.

“Yesss.” The human performed a slow fist pump.

Pikachu cheered, then beamed up at Mewtwo. “Thank you. You’ve made my partner really happy.

Partner. Not trainer, nor owner, nor master. “I would not have given him a chance had you not vouched for him.” It would not have given a chance to any human who didn’t have a human to vouch for them; but it had found that Pikachu tend to be particularly good judges of character.

“Wh— Are you talking to—?” The human pointed to the Pikachu on his shoulder.

Of course. Did you think I, a Pokémon, am only capable of communicating with humans?

The human paused. “No! No, of course I didn’t. I just, didn’t think about— He vouched for me?”

Mewtwo nodded. The human smiled at Pikachu. “Aww. That’s the sweetest— Hey, buddy. Fist bump.” He held his fist up. Pikachu leaned forward, planting both hands on his knuckles; sparks snapped between them.

This facility is in Ryme City?” Mewtwo asked. “Can you describe the neighborhood so I can find it? Preferably from a bird’s eye view.

“Oh, no, don’t worry about— Howard said if I actually found you, he could send a charter flight. We get to ride to Sinnoh in style.”

I see.” Rich, ran his own science lab, could summon up airplanes at his convenience… Mewtwo had yet to met this Howard, but it was already uneasy at the thought of his power. It seemed like a very familiar power.

But he wasn’t using his power to design the world’s most powerful Pokémon; he was using it to cure diseases.

And Mewtwo wasn’t going to be one of his possessions; it was going to be a volunteer. A volunteer who had been asked to come, by a human and a Pikachu who’d approached with words instead of weapons. It would be a volunteer. Perhaps even a scientist.

That thought also made it uneasy.

“Ugh, the mud’s starting to crust on me.” The human shook his hands. Not much mud came off. “You mind if we head back into town so I can wash off in my hotel?”

Mewtwo wasn’t fond of the idea of venturing into Cerulean City. It glanced to the side. "There’s a river right here.

"Well yeah, but—I don’t want to walk back into town with soaking wet pants.”

You could take them off.

The human’s face screwed up. “Thaaat’s not going to work for a human.”

Mewtwo waited for him to explain why. He didn’t. Maybe it was an instinct. One must respect other species’ instincts, even if one doesn’t understand them.

I will wait, then. At the entrance to the cave.” Mewtwo raised higher, preparing to leave for its shelter. It would perhaps be its last opportunity to visit the cave for a long time. “When you’re ready to go to Sinnoh, come find me.

“Yeah. Okay.” The human nodded. “And—thanks, Mewtwo.”

Mewtwo nodded. Then, slowly, spoke: “Thank you. For all of my life, the means of my birth have been a… a burden to overcome. I have lived my life striving to prove that I have worth in spite of how I was made. I think… it will be good to learn whether, despite all the horrors I went through—and committed—some worth can be found in me because of how I was made. I appreciate this opportunity, human.

The human looked surprised. “Wow. That’s… You’re kind of a deep guy, Mewtwo.”

I have a lot of time to think,” it said. “And the most powerful brain on the planet.

The human huffed a laugh. “Hey, before I go—you don’t have to call me 'human.’ I shoulda introduced myself earlier, but, you know—” He held one hand up, first two and last two fingers pressed together, and imitated the gesture Mewtwo had made when it levitated him into the air. “The name’s Harry. Harry Goodman.”

Hairy Good Man,” Mewtwo repeated dubiously. “I have seen hairier humans.

“No, it's— That’s spelled H-A-R-R-Y,” Hairy said. “No I.”

Mewtwo nodded slowly. “I can’t read.

The human stared at it. Then shook his head slightly. “I don’t know why I assumed you could.”

Now that they’d been properly introduced—and now that Mewtwo had spilled more of its inner life to a human in thirty seconds than it had to anyone else in the past decade—Mewtwo was more than ready to be alone. To prepare itself for a trip to Sinnoh. To the lab. “Go.” It gestured with its head in the direction of Cerulean City. Its highest roofs could just barely be seen over the trees beyond the river. “I’ll be waiting.

“Right, right.” Hairy turned toward Cerulean City; then turned back around again, in the direction of the nearest bridge back across the river, far in the opposite direction. He sighed quietly. Pikachu craned his head, checking for wild Pokémon along the route ahead.

Mewtwo gently lifted him up—he yelped in surprise—carried him over the river, and sat him on his feet on the opposite bank. “Oh—thanks!” He waved.

Mewtwo nodded again; then floated there, and watched, as Hairy headed back toward town. Pikachu turned to watch Mewtwo over his shoulder until they were gone.

Walking into a lab of its own free will. (Medical lab, it reminded itself again. Medicine, not power.) It hoped it wasn’t making a mistake.

It hoped its genes would help people.