Anima Ex Machina: Six
What are you doing?

There were a variety of things that made Bill McKenzie famous. First was the fact that his inventions, while stubbornly defiant of the laws of physics, made life immensely easier for the average trainer. Second was, naturally, the fact that he was simultaneously the youngest and possibly most eccentric inductee into the Pokémon Symposium, what with the whole host of rumors about what went on while he was locked away in his monastery-like lighthouse.

Third was his uncanny ability to figure out what a pokémon was trying to say.

It should be noted that this ability was by no means psychic. At its heart, it wasn't particularly extraordinary either. Bill simply liked to make it seem like it was an incredible talent by withholding the fact that what he was doing was one part paying meticulous attention to minute details, one part analysis through inductive reasoning, and two parts making a bunch of really lucky guesses. And as anyone in Goldenrod City could attest, if there was one thing a McKenzie was other than a clever bastard, it was lucky.

Unfortunately, luck always came in two varieties: good and bad. For example, Bill's father, who made his fortune from the card flipping machines (and, for that matter, conning trainers out of coins by offering to teach their pokémon perfectly ordinary moves), usually had good luck. Meanwhile, Bill's luck liked to fluctuate wildly. Normally, his guesses were good. The rest of his luck, however, was bad. That should have been obvious enough to him with the fact that he woke up as something definitely not fully human, but for reasons he couldn't possibly begin to define, he found himself wobbling into the laboratory past his room. At once, Professor Oak turned his eyes on him.

"Bill, what are you doing?" he asked. "Take cover!"

He shook his head. "No, I can do this."

Pressing forward, he stared at the other alien. As soon as both of them were in the room, the electric-type stopped and crouched. Abel crept closer to the steel-type, studying him with steady eyes.

Bill swallowed and cleared his mind. He watched Abel's movements, taking note of how low the electric-type held himself and how slowly he walked. He observed the way Abel's face looked and how hard his expression was. His ears strained to listen to the creature's low growl. Finally, when he gathered enough information, he ran through everything he knew about body language to match what he was seeing to similar expressions he had seen on the field. After only a couple of minutes, a conclusion entered his mind.

"You're scared," he murmured.

Abel whined, the sound hitting a series of low, long notes. When he was in range, he stopped, staring at Bill like a kicked puppy.

"Is that all?" Bill grinned. "You don't have to worry. You're safe now."

Abel looked down. "Mmm... mmmaaaa... mmmooooh..."

Bill raised his eyebrows. It was obvious to him that the creature was trying to communicate, but he couldn't imagine what he was trying to say or why he couldn't simply speak. After all, Bill had no trouble in that department. Still, considering all the other signs he'd seen so far, he decided to take it to be a sign of worry. With this in mind, he extended a hand and placed it lightly on Abel's shoulder.

"I know all of this is disorienting, but it's okay. We can get through this."

Blinking, Abel grasped Bill's wrist and pulled his hand into his field of vision. Bill smiled and turned his arm to let Abel look at the palm.

"See?" he said. "I'm just like you."

Abel looked up, eying Bill's face for a while. "Maaaasssss..."

The electric-type released Bill's hand and looked towards the groups of people gathered in the corners of the room. His face distorted into a scowl as he brought his sparking hands up in front of him. Roaring, he fired a bolt of electricity towards one of them. Bill stumbled backwards at the boom of the attack while the group surrounding Abel's victim screamed and scrambled to get out of the way. The victim himself froze, his body completely rigid. Electricity coursed through him before he finally dropped to the floor.

"What are you doing?!" Bill demanded.

Ah, that is a rather interesting question, the voice in his head drawled. What is he doing? Could it be, perhaps, that you misinterpreted his intentions?

Abel turned to the other group. Oak flung a hand upwards, and the group surrounding him immediately pulled the triggers on their tranquilizer guns. Darts flew towards Abel, but before they could hit their mark, the alien surrounded himself with a field of blue electricity. Seconds later, lightning bolts went in every direction, leaving dark patches where they landed. An intern who couldn't move out of the way quickly enough froze as blue light surrounded him, and the room quickly filled with the smell of metal and cooked flesh.

"What?" Bill whispered.

Is it that difficult to see? the voice continued. The creature you call Abel is not reacting in fear. Rather, I would say bravery. You see, he is not attacking out of self-defense. He is attacking... The voice paused just long enough to let Bill hear another crack of electricity. ...to free you.

More shots rang out, and once again, Abel deflected them with his field of blue electricity. Bill stared in the meantime. His thoughts were on the voice, and slowly, he began to realize that it wasn't actually him. Glancing downward at the red jewel in his chest, he trembled.

"You!"

The jewel flashed once in response. Me. You were not my first choice for a host, but you will do. Now, do you wish to protect your friends?

Although Bill shrank at the idea of getting help from, of all things, an alien in his head, his answer was quick. "Yes, of course!"

Then, do as I say, and trust me. Stand.

Shakily, he pushed himself against the side of the console and onto his feet. Abel glanced backwards just as he fired off another round of electricity. The electric-type grunted and waited.

When you said, "I'm just like you," the voice told him, Abel mistook that as a sign that you feel as if you are being held prisoner as well. So, the solution is clearly to help him escape.

"Why would I do that?!" Bill whispered.

Would you rather fight him?

Bill clenched his teeth. He didn't even have to vocalize an answer to the parasite. Walking forward, he let his actions answer for him.

"Stop!"

Around him, the scientists and interns had raised their guns again. Abel surrounded himself with electricity and, without even waiting for them to shoot, blasted bolts in every direction. Bill gasped and yanked one of the chairs away from the console before ducking behind it. A tendril of electricity hit it, and he held his ears over the sound of the resulting bang. The smell of something burning filled his nostrils. Glancing at the crowd in one of the corners, he watched three more of his colleagues straighten and clench their mouths shut when their bodies became engulfed in blue electricity. Seconds later, all three fell to the ground and didn't stir.

The sound of another roar directed his attention back to Abel. Without any other warning, the creature turned and darted for the door. Bill, realizing that it would be a bad idea to lose the electric-type, stood and walked as quickly as he could after him.

Oak turned his attention away from the door as soon as the XP-650B disappeared into the hallway. With several electrocuted team members and only a handful of tranquilizer darts left, he had to rethink his strategy. He could only wonder where the guard growlithe were, but a cold feeling in his chest told him to expect the worst. Taking note of what he had left to defend the institute, he was about to direct the remaining scientists and interns into regrouping and heading towards the hall. However, he stopped when he noticed that Bill had already reached the threshold and was hobbling quickly out of the room.

"Bill, where are you going?" he asked.

Oblivious to Oak's question, Bill focused completely on getting out of the room and into the hallway. Because of this, he didn't absorb the sound of the tranquilizer guns firing, and he certainly didn't notice Oak falling to his knees. The only thing he sensed was whatever lay in that corridor.

Outside, the smell of something burning grew stronger, and it didn't take long for Bill to figure out why. Abel left a path of destruction both up and down the hall. To the left, in front of the laboratory that formerly held the electric-type, the door lay with one side blackened around the edges. Part of it tilted upwards with a white-clad arm poking out from beneath it. A spot of blood stained the wall, and from that, Bill could only guess how Abel's victim ended up under the door. Around it, the bodies of both humans and several growlithe lay, all of them with red blisters on whatever parts of their bodies charred clothing or fur didn't cover.

To the right was a somewhat less violent scene. His interaction with Abel at least bought most personnel time to escape. What was left behind was a handful of security personnel. Some of them were humans. Their suits, once completely blue, now bore scorch marks, and the rest of each officer looked no better. Many of them had mouths clenched shut and eyes permanently widened. Their bodies were red with burns and blisters, and they lay limp on both sides of the hall. The growlithe near them were slumped in a similar fashion, with their forms motionless but their wide eyes fixed on the ceiling.

Bill didn't have time to check to see if any of them were alive. He could hear the crack of electricity and the howl of growlithe further down the hall. Inside his chest, he felt something warm.

For the sake of preparation, what techniques can you normally use?

He furrowed his eyebrows, trying to focus on remaining upright as he passed another door. "Techniques?"

Yes. What attacks. What moves. How does your kind engage in battle?

Bill would have stopped and stared, had he not been concentrating on his own movements. Instead, he frowned.

"I was human."

And?

An uncomfortable feeling crawled across Bill. It wasn't that he was starting to get a bad feeling about all of this. It was that the bad feeling that was already there was getting more urgent. Nonetheless, with Abel on the loose, he had a feeling he didn't have much of a choice but to cooperate with the parasite. After all, it was a parasite. It had to keep him alive at whatever cost because it needed him to survive.

...Right?

Bill?

"Humans don't fight pokémon directly," he finally said. "They have other pokémon fight for them."

Is that so? Interesting.

He felt as if something cold slithered into his head, and only then did he stop. With a yelp, he grabbed his head and closed his eyes.

"What are you doing?!" he hissed.

Teaching you. You are far too slow, and you will need a way to defend yourself.

Cringing, Bill tried to resist, but he felt the cold object push into his mind. He couldn't even scream; his mouth clenched shut against his will. Turning, he put his hands on the wall and smacked his forehead against the white plaster.

Get out of my head! he thought.

In Bill's opinion, it was bad enough that the parasite was inside his mind, speaking to him with his own voice. This situation was a step beyond that. Now, the parasite held his brain, and there was nothing Bill could do to force it out. Instead, he stood there with his forehead pressed against the wall. Eventually, he could feel something warm pass from it to him -- something that felt like a small amount of electricity. He could swear he heard a hum in his ears, like someone was whispering to him too low and too quickly for him to understand. After a few moments, the parasite withdrew, and Bill was left with every part of him feeling clammy and dirty.

That is all I can give you.

Bill opened his eyes. His mouth was released, and as soon as it was, he gasped.

"What did you do to me?"

I told you. I taught you something. Now, walk.

Pushing away from the wall, Bill stumbled backwards a few steps and came to a stop. He blinked and looked down at his feet. Something felt different about them. Turning, he tested his step and found that it felt natural now. He no longer felt like he was going to pitch forward or backwards with each step. Instead, his feet spread easily and accepted his weight. Pushing off the ground, he launched himself into a short run.

"I can walk," he whispered.

Yes. The subconscious part of your mind simply needed to be taught how to use your feet. Now, what else did I teach you?

Pausing at the question, Bill searched his mind for any new information. For a second time, something clicked. With a blink, he held up one of his hands and stared at it.

Very good. You will need to know that later, I can assure you.

Before he could ask what the parasite meant, a flash of light appeared near him. Yelping, Bill stumbled to avoid Abel. The creature sped past and stopped to crouch in front of him and stare at him inquisitively.

"Abel!" Bill exclaimed.

"Maaaasss?" he hissed.

Forcing a smile, Bill replied, "Sorry. I'm following you. Don't worry."

He turned to walk further down the hall, but there stood a jynx. Stopping short, he raised his eyebrows.

"Where did you come from?" he asked. "Abel, were you running from this?"

The jynx moaned as her lips began to glow. Puckering her lips, she launched herself forward. As Bill stepped backwards, Abel didn't hesitate to react. He balled one of his hands into a fist and pulled it back. Sparks flew from his knuckles as he lunged and swung his arm into an arc. The jynx had no time to dodge; before she realized she was being attacked, the punch connected with her stomach and lit up the hall. Howling, she flew backwards to land with a heavy thud several feet away.

There was no time to celebrate. Behind them, Bill could hear several pairs of feet running towards him. Turning, he saw Professor Nettle, the girl he knew as Sienna, and several large interns surrounding them. The small army stopped a short distance away from Abel and Bill. As soon as she stopped, Sienna casually held up a tranquilizer gun and put her free hand on her hip. Her purple eyes fell on the jynx, and she responded with a smirk.

"Well, Professor Nettle, so much for your plan," Sienna drawled.

With a flick of her wrist, she let a black tulip slide from under the sleeve of her free arm. Bill eyed it warily as she brought it to her lips and slipped her gun in a holster beneath her lab coat.

"Wait," he said. "Just let us go. Professor, he can kill us all, but he won't if--"

Nettle raised an eyebrow. "He's intelligent."

"Mm-hmm," Sienna replied. "Not at all like Pandora or Abel. Giovanni will adore this."

"Giovanni?" Bill whispered. "Who...?"

Sienna glanced at him with a childlike smile. "Did you already forget? I told you all about him two weeks ago."

Bill stopped. He thought back to that haze of a memory just before he slipped into unconsciousness. That girl looked familiar to him, and the more he thought about it, the clearer her face became.

The lab. The Plexiglas tube. The black-petaled flower in her hand. Her laugh. While he could only remember bits and pieces, he recalled enough to know exactly who she was. Scowling, he took a step back and extended his claws to his sides.

"You!"

Sienna laughed. "Wow, you really are as smart as they say you are! Now, why don't you come quietly? I promise Giovanni will give you the treatment you deserve!"

Hearing Abel's growl next to him, Bill shook his head. "I wouldn't even if I could. Now, please, stand aside! Abel will kill all of you if we don't let him go!"

"Is that so?" Nettle asked. "And what are you planning on doing as soon as you escape with a sociopathic pokémon, Bill?"

He backed away. "I... I hadn't really..."

"Hadn't really thought things through?" Nettle replied with a frown. "Once again, no less. Professor Oak commended you for your intelligence, and when it comes to your observations, I can't disagree. However, when it comes to strategy--"

"Are you done?" Sienna asked as she crossed her arms.

Nettle turned her head. "Hmm? Oh yes. Go ahead."

"Right."

Sienna grinned and extended her arm to point the tulip towards them.

"Agents," she said, "attack!"

Each member of the army flicked their lab coats back to reveal gas masks hooked to one side of their belts and vials of blue liquid resting in holsters on the other. Grabbing both at the same time, the army held the masks to their mouths and noses and threw the vials onto the ground. Abel darted forward with a screech, careening into the crowd as the bottles hit the tiled floor and shattered. As soon as the blue liquid within them touched air, it turned into a thick, white cloud of smoke.

In the meantime, Bill wasn't so quick to react. He was already caught off-guard by the ambush, but on top of that, he didn't know what to expect from the liquid within the bottles. So, he found himself coughing and sputtering in a botched attempt to avoid breathing in the cloud. His eyes watered, and he stared through the mist at the silhouettes of the interns. Something was emitting bright light and sparks. People were screaming. He could hear Sienna bark muffled orders, but he suddenly found that he couldn't make sense of what she was saying.

To his alarm, he realized he couldn't make sense of much of anything at all. His body suddenly felt extremely heavy, and the world was beginning to spin. Dropping to his knees, he held his head.

Bill? the parasite asked. What is this?

He didn't respond at first. He could only stare through the fog at the light that Abel was emitting. Something exploded, but he couldn't tell what it was. All he could tell was that a hole suddenly appeared in the ceiling, and rain was falling through it.

It sounded like thousands of tiny explosions to him.

Bill?

He felt very tired. That was when he knew what he was breathing in.

"Issleeping... sleeping gaah," he murmured.

Sleeping gas? What is that? Bill?

He couldn't respond. His eyelids felt heavy, and he found that he couldn't even kneel anymore. Noticing that the ground looked oddly comfortable to him, he slipped to the floor and curled up on his side. Above him, a bright light appeared.

An angel? he thought.

As he closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep, he could feel pairs of hands grabbing him, both inside his mind and outside his body.

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