Re: Communication (PG-13)
(CONTINUED FROM LAST PAGE)
Jal’tai winced. He then turned the most wounded expression that Solonn had ever seen upon the human. It did nothing whatsoever to bring down the fear and outrage that was growing clearer by the second in Solonn’s eyes. “Please, my dear boy… please… you must believe me when I say that I never wanted to cause you suffering. My course of action was for the sake of mercy, and, yes, it precluded your choice. For that, I am sorry, Solonn, sorrier than I could ever adequately express. But it had to be done. I need you, Solonn.”
For a moment, Solonn had nothing to say to the latios, remaining silent save for the rasping of his long, hard breaths, his shoulders trembling from the violence of his respiration. He merely maintained an unforgiving gaze straight into the eyes of the creature who had subjected him to this change and torn him from his mother element, feeling fresh tears making his way down his face as he thought once more of what he had lost. At length, he closed his eyes and allowed his head to sink to his chest, his hair almost completely veiling his face, and he remained this way for a very long moment.
Finally, he lifted his head and opened his eyes, and he turned an incredibly cold, penetrating stare upon Jal’tai, his brows drawn tightly together, the already severe lines of his angular face sharpening further. “You’re no different,” Solonn said, his voice uninflected save for the places during that statement where it threatened to break. “You want to use my abilities to serve your purposes. You seek to exploit me, Jal’tai, just like the humans did in Lilycove. You are no different from them.”
The latios pulled his head back as if the human before him had just taken a swing at him. His eyes widened dramatically, then narrowed sharply. “How dare you!” he hissed in outrage. “There is a tremendous difference between myself and those—” In lieu of a word, Jal’tai chose to describe the abductors of Lilycove with a short blast of acrid-smelling, sickly-yellow dragonbreath over his shoulder. “I,” he went on, his voice dripping with indignation, “respect you.”
“You respect me?!” Solonn said sharply, incredulously. “Is that why you’ve lied to me and subjected me to a physical transformation without my consent? Is that why you insult my intelligence by expecting me to just sit here and swallow everything you say after that?”
Solonn shook his head. “No, Jal’tai. There is no reason why I should listen to you, not when you’ve been dishonest from the moment we met.” The birth of a sudden suspicion flashed across his features. “Answer this, Jal’tai: if running the city required me to be made human, why didn’t the same job require that of you?”
“Because you can’t do this,” the latios said simply, and with another rippling shimmer, the dragon was gone. Sitting there instead was an elderly, goateed human man, one whom Solonn recognized immediately as the man pictured on the sign at Whitley’s.
“This is what the citizens of Convergence, as well as those with whom I do business outside of town, see when they look at me,” Jal’tai said. “And this—” He suddenly sounded the part of the old man, too, with the human language to match. “—is what they hear. To them, I am a human by the name of Rolf Whitley. Under this guise, I became a very important, albeit not widely recognized figure in human society. In addition to being the mastermind behind the Convergence Project, Rolf is also a very important senior member of the International Pokémon League. I could not have attained that kind of power and the resources that come along with it in my true identity as a pokémon.”
Jal’tai reassumed his latios form. “Now, under less demanding circumstances, I could simply apply a mirage to you, too. In fact, when we entered Convergence and when I brought you into this hotel, I presented you just as you now appear. However, the method does have its limits, limits that make it impractical as a full-time, twenty-four-seven solution. For one thing, I cannot maintain a mirage over you from a distance, and not much of a distance, either. You would have to remain within the sphere of my psychic perception, which in my old age is, I’m afraid, quite small. I think we can both agree that it would be quite impractical for me to follow you like a shadow everywhere you go, right?”
Solonn gave him a look that suggested that he was not even inclined to agree with Jal’tai on the sun being bright and the night being dark.
“Furthermore,” Jal’tai said, “it is not enough to merely look like a human. You must support the image you present accurately in the physical sense, as well. You must feel like a human. What if another human wanted to shake your hand? You would have to be able to offer one that he or she could clasp, one that he or she could feel. Now, while I am able to produce ‘solid’ mirages, as I use for my own needs in portraying a human, I’m afraid it is outside the scope of my abilities to project a ‘solid’ mirage over you and keep some kind of mirage or cloak over myself at all times. And it would be necessary for me to conceal my true identity somehow if I were to remain near enough to you at all times to maintain your disguise; again, being what I am, I must not let just anyone see me about. Furthermore… I will remind you of the fact that I will not be around to conceal your identity forever. Therefore, the only feasible way for you to meet those particular demands of this position was for me to subject you to the transfigure technique.”
Jal’tai sighed very heavily, lowering his head slightly and passing a talon backwards over it as if raking it through hair in another curiously human gesture. “Solonn… do you not recognize how very important it is to the future of the world that the Convergence Project is kept alive and running? This community must be maintained, for it is a shining example of the fact that pokémon and humans can and should live and work as equals, that anything they can do, we can do, too. It’s an example sorely needed by the world. The state of relationships between humans and pokémon desperately needs to be changed. Solonn… did you know that most humans do not realize—or else deny—that pokémon are intelligent beings?”
Solonn only stared back with wild eyes. His throat worked, but he did not answer.
“I didn’t think you were aware of that,” Jal’tai said softly, reading Solonn’s blank silence correctly. “It’s true, though. The majority of humans regard pokémon not as people, but as mere animals.” Potent vehemence rose up through his voice at those words, and it danced within his eyes, almost seeming to set them alight. “That is why they will only respect one of their own kind,” the latios said. “Hence the unfortunate need for our façades.”
Solonn was silent for a moment after Jal’tai finished speaking. He appeared to be deep in thought. Then, with a look in his eyes that spoke both of dawning epiphany and the prelude to a volley of fresh accusatory barbs, he said, “You said you needed me—me, specifically, because I have ‘the Speech’, as you called it…” A hint of disgust played about his features, telling of how he found the name that Jal’tai had pinned on his abilities to be utterly ridiculous. “You said that the person in charge of this city has to have this ability—it’s necessary because the person running this city has to be able to communicate just as well with both humans and pokémon, because the job requires you to deal with both, do I understand right?”
Jal’tai blinked in surprise, and then his features relaxed into an expression that looked equally relieved and impressed. “Yes, that’s correct,” he confirmed.
But to the latios’s surprise, Solonn shook his head. “No, Jal’tai. There was another way. Telepaths, Jal’tai,” he said. “Telepaths can make anyone understand them, including humans. How can you have not even considered this? You’re probably a telepath yourself!”
Jal’tai lowered his head slightly and sighed. “That would certainly be very convenient if it were a truly viable option, but unfortunately there are reasons why it cannot be one. There is no shortage of people in this world who are mistrusting, even fearful of psychics and the abilities commonly associated with psychics, including telepathy. Their insecurities and superstitions make those of any species who would have to rely on telepathy to communicate far less than ideal candidates. Convergence and its mission will not be accepted by as many as is needed by this world if its leader is one to whom so many would not listen.”
<Even with our measures to respect their privacy in place, many species still do not trust us.> Sei Salma’s words echoed in Solonn’s memory, and a twinge of guilt for forgetting the plight of her people struck him. At the same time, however, he found that he couldn’t help but also find sympathy for those who were wary of psychics—the notion of another creature being able to reach and affect his mind was harder for him to abide by when he thought of that latios having trespassed there so recently.
After a moment of desperate scrambling, his mental faculties managed to scrape together another possible argument. “The unown-script, what about that?” he asked. “Both humans and pokémon understand it—and everyone here is made to learn it…”
Jal’tai tried to speak then, but Solonn pressed on, something fierce in his expression. The human was now all too certain that he’d found proof that Jal’tai had not had to do this to him, and that certainty stoked his fury to new heights. “Any human who knows the unown-script could have been your replacement, and there are plenty of those here because knowing unown-script is mandatory here.”
Solonn’s face was contorted almost grotesquely by anguish and outrage at this point; he looked positively deranged. “You didn’t need me,” he said. It could have been any of them! You didn’t need me!” he cried, sounding almost hysterical.
“Solonn… you must get a hold of yourself,” Jal’tai said, sounding genuinely concerned for Solonn—however, there was also the slightest hint of a warning along the edges of his voice. “Calm down, please…”
But Solonn was inconsolable. “You didn’t have to do this to me! You didn’t need me!” he practically shrieked, spit flying from his mouth, his face red with fury.
Jal’tai let out a long, slow exhalation and met Solonn’s feral stare with an expression like that of a parent who has finally lost the last shred of patience for a child’s behavior. “I said, calm down,” he said, rising into the air to look down upon the human with displeasure. There was an ominous gravity to his voice that hadn’t been there before, a far cry from the jovial tone that he had once used with Solonn.
Jal’tai raised his talons, then brought them swiftly together and pointed them at Solonn as the latios’s eyes suddenly blazed with a fuchsia light. At once, the human’s eyes went massively wide with shock, and he began gasping madly at the air as if suddenly unable to breathe.
“I cannot have you losing your mind, Solonn,” Jal’tai said gravely. “Not when you have such a demanding future ahead of you.”
Solonn could only stare back in mortal terror at Jal’tai as the latios’s telekinetic onslaught continued, preventing his lungs from filling. His vision was failing, growing dark around the edges and hazing out of focus, and he could feel a smothering oblivion beginning to consume his mind. He was certain that was about to die.
But before he could succumb to the lack of air, Jal’tai relented. Solonn immediately took a massive, involuntary gulp of air, pain exploding within his chest as his lungs refilled themselves harshly. His body immediately slackened, slumping over against the dresser, his head hanging low. After several more sharp, gasping breaths racked his aching ribs, he weakly raised his head to look up at the latios, his face a pale, sweat-drenched mask of pure, primal terror.
Jal’tai regarded the former glalie with a potent, displeased glower. “I’m very disappointed in you, my boy,” he said heavily. “I had thought you would understand the crucial importance of this project. This is about something far greater than you, Solonn. This is about the future of our world, a better future. An equal future. Without our efforts, pokémon will never get the respect and dignity in the eyes of humans that we deserve.”
He set himself back down on the floor before the traumatized human, who immediately shrank further into the corner from him. The latios sighed, the sound carrying equal measures of exasperation and seemingly earnest sorrow. “You must accept your destiny, Solonn,” he said quietly. “You must realize that you were blessed with the Speech for a higher purpose.”
He laid a talon on Solonn’s arm in an attempt to console him; Solonn immediately flinched at the contact but didn’t have the strength to resist further. “Please, Solonn. This is a most wonderful and important calling that has chosen you… you should be honored, Solonn. At the very least, you should recognize that losing your head over this is not going to make things any different for you, and it’s not going to make things as they were. You must find the serenity to accept this. Please…” he said, squeezing the human’s arm gently, “do not make me have to pacify you again. I told you that I never wanted to cause you suffering, and I meant it…”
The latios sighed sorrowfully again and rose back into the air. “Now, to answer your earlier questions regarding unown-script—as I was attempting to do then, but you wouldn’t allow me to get a word in edgewise—it is true that unown-script is mandatory for all citizens of this city to learn. However, it is not required learning in the rest of the world. As the mayor and as part of the Convergence Project, you will frequently have to deal with outsiders, both human and pokémon, with whom you will have to be able to speak on their terms. A human who possesses the Speech is the only one who can speak freely to all peoples, to whom all peoples would listen. Hence you are as you are. It is as simple as that. So you see, I do need you, Solonn.”
Jal’tai cast a glance off to his right, toward the bedroom. “In time, I hope you will be able to see things more clearly. Until such time, I’m afraid you will have to remain in this suite. I will give you the code to exit the room using the transport tile when I feel you are ready to re-enter society as a human, and I will gladly speak more with you in order to help you prepare for your future duties, but only once I can be sure that you have regained your composure enough to listen to me. For now, though, I think you could do with some quiet time alone to relax and contemplate your destiny.”
Jal’tai’s eyes once again took on the fuchsia glow that accompanied his telekinesis, and once again, he applied the psychic force to Solonn. However, he merely used his powers to gently lift Solonn from the floor this time. Panic showed plainly on the human’s face; he desperately wanted to be released from Jal’tai’s telekinetic hold, but it was just too strong. He could not put up any sort of a struggle against Jal’tai’s power.
The latios guided him through the air, bringing him into the suite’s bedroom, then set him down upon the bed. “Be at peace, my dear boy,” Jal’tai said in a warm, paternal tone. He relinquished the light in his eyes and his hold over Solonn along with it. Then a golden light blossomed around him. A second later, it faded, and Jal’tai was gone.
Solonn lay there where he’d been placed, alone now but finding no comfort in his solitude. Jal’tai was gone for now, but in making his exit through teleportation, he had revealed that he could return at any time, without any warning—knowledge that only added to the miseries that had already been inflicted upon the human.
He felt a pang of anguish as he thought upon what he had become and what he could no longer be. With his identity and element gone, he was certain that there was now no returning to the life that he had once known. Even if he could escape from this suite, this prison, this city and the one to whom it belonged… what then? As far as he could figure, he couldn’t go back to anyone that he once knew, neither Morgan nor his own kind—or what had once been his kind—back in Virc-Dho. None of them would recognize him now, and he couldn’t imagine that they would believe that he was not as he appeared, that he was the pokémon whom they had once known, just trapped in a human body now…
Solonn moaned softly as if in defeat. Trembling, he drew his arms and legs up against his chest in a fetal position, almost as if trying to collapse into himself and disappear, and broke into tears once more as he fully realized the impact of this new reality. His life as he had known it was over.
Next time: Jal’tai wants to begin grooming his replacement as soon as possible. His replacement has other ideas… See you then!
- Sike Saner
Last edited by Sike Saner; 10-18-2011 at 08:51 PM.