Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Nine Now Posted]
“Go!” Solonn shouted at the terrified creature who cowered before him—the creature who had almost become his prey. He watched as the zigzagoon sprinted fearfully away through the tall grass, sickened by himself as he thought of what he had nearly done.
“Well, that certainly was magnanimous of you,” said a bright, jovial voice.
Surprised, Solonn turned at once to see whom and what had just spoken. He was met with the sight of a feathered, blue-and-gray dragon hovering in midair a short distance in front of him.
The dragon introduced himself as Jal’tai, a latios. After Solonn had introduced himself in turn, Jal’tai inquired as to what had brought him to this area, having never seen Solonn around before. Solonn told him of how he had fled from human abductors in Lilycove and was just trying to lie low until he could find some means to return to his home across the sea.
Jal’tai offered him a place to stay in a city in the west where he could be safe and comfortable. Solonn hesitated to take him up on the offer, reluctant to go into another human city. Jal’tai assured him that the place that he had in mind was nothing of the sort. After a few more moments’ consideration, Solonn accepted Jal’tai’s offer and followed him westward through the forest.
Upon arriving at their destination, a place which Jal’tai identified as Convergence, Solonn couldn’t help but notice certain familiarities about the city—familiarities which contradicted the latios’s assurances about it.
“Jal’tai, I thought you said this wasn’t a human city…”
“Yes, I most certainly did,” Jal’tai responded. “And on closer inspection, you might realize that indeed, just as I stated, this is not a human city. Here in Convergence, pokémon and humans live and work as equals.” He smiled proudly. “I’m the man in charge of this city, you see, and I would not have it any other way around here.”
The last of the latios’s statements took a moment to fully register in Solonn’s brain. “…Wait, did you say you were in charge here?” he asked incredulously once it clicked.
Jal’tai nodded, still beaming. “Yes, that’s correct,” he said. “I am the mayor of this fine city. Convergence is my pride and joy—a testament to the equality of all peoples. You see… in the cities owned and ruled exclusively by humans, pokémon are second-class citizens—if even that.” His features gave a brief flash of disgust. “But here, pokémon are afforded the same rights and opportunities as humans. They may own properties like those the humans own. They may learn to operate the vehicles invented by humans if they so wish. Our academy offers them the same education that humans receive and training for those who wish to enter occupations that elsewhere may only be held by humans.
“My hope is that the rest of the human world will learn from Convergence’s example, that they will see that they can and should live alongside pokémon in harmony and equality. This community may very well be the starting point for the greatly-needed change in human-pokémon relations—perhaps then, pokémon will be respected by humans, rather than disregarded, exploited, and abused as we have all too often been in the past. Now do you see what makes Convergence great?”
Solonn could only nod in response, still quite absorbed in thoughts of what Jal’tai had just told him about the state of relations between humans and the other peoples of the world, in the latios’s claim that pokémon were such non-entities in the eyes of humans.
Jal’tai offered to take him to lunch at a local restaurant then, and he accepted. Along the way, he was shown how the pokémon citizens of Convergence were able to utilize the technological conveniences invented by humans to go about their everyday lives—a privilege that they would be denied in the human world, according to Jal’tai.
Once they had reached the restaurant and had been served their respective meals, Jal’tai spoke further about the apparent schism between humans and other intelligent species.
“As I was saying,” the latios said as he paused momentarily in his enjoyment of his fish platter, “the way pokémon are perceived by humans desperately needs to be changed. Did you know that most humans do not realize—or else deny—that pokémon are intelligent beings?”
Solonn looked up from the steak that had been served to him, which still lay untouched due to the glalie’s internal conflict with his own sensibilities. “…No,” he responded, sounding quite troubled at this information. “No, I didn’t know that.”
Jal’tai nodded sadly. “It’s true. The majority of humans regard pokémon not as people, but as mere animals,” he told Solonn, a distinct touch of vehemence coloring his words and seeming to shine in his eyes.
“Gods… How could they see us that way?” Solonn wondered aloud.
The dragon sighed sorrowfully. “I have been trying to figure that out myself for many years now, to no avail, I’m afraid. All I know for certain is that they must be made to see the truth if pokémon are to receive the treatment we deserve from their kind.”
Jal’tai resumed his meal then, leaving Solonn to muse on all that he had just learned. It disturbed and saddened him to think of how poorly humans apparently regarded pokémon. At the same time, however, he thought of Morgan—she hadn’t fit the portrayal that Jal’tai had given of humans as uncaring and disregarding of pokémon. She had always treated Solonn and the other pokémon who lived with her with respect instead of as inferiors. If she could respect pokémon, then perhaps the humans who didn’t could learn to do so, as well… maybe, Solonn considered, there was hope for the relations between humanity and the rest of the world’s peoples.
At length, Solonn finally managed to force himself to take the meat that he had been given. Shortly thereafter, he found himself becoming quite tired with an unusual and alarming suddenness—he suspected that the trials of the prior evening were finally taking their toll on him. When he mentioned this to Jal’tai, the latios told him of a nearby hotel where he could rest and brought him there right away.
Solonn fell into a profoundly deep sleep just as soon as he was given a suite in which to stay, and he remained asleep until late in the following morning when he was awakened by a series of loud, shrill beeps followed by the sound of a computerized voice.
“Receiving message,” the voice said coolly.
Solonn only distantly noted those words, not quite absorbing them, as he was still emerging with an effort from his sleep. He was slightly more awake and aware when another voice arose; he recognized it at once as that of Jal’tai.
“Solonn? Are you awake?” the latios asked.
Stifling a yawn, Solonn rose from the floor and turned toward the source of Jal’tai’s voice, but saw no one there. A second later, as his brain finally finished awakening, he spotted the paging device that sat on the nearby table, and remembered being told that he could use it to call Jal’tai—apparently it also worked the other way around.
“Yeah, I’m awake,” he answered finally.
“Good, good,” Jal’tai said brightly. “Is it all right if I come and pay you a visit?”
“Hm? Sure, go ahead,” Solonn said nonchalantly.
“Ah, very well, then,” Jal’tai said. “I’ll be right up in a moment.”
“Connection terminated,” said the computerized voice again, and with another beep, the device shut itself off.
Very shortly thereafter, that same voice spoke up again, this time to announce the arrival of a visitor. Bright green light blossomed from a tile on the floor near the wall, then faded as Jal’tai materialized within the suite.
“Good morning,” the latios said amiably. “How are you feeling today?”
“Meh, just fine, I suppose,” Solonn answered. “Still a little tired, but other than that…”
“Hm,” Jal’tai responded, nodding. “Well, I’m glad to hear that you seem to be on the mend. I was quite concerned about you yesterday, you know,” he said, his tone serious. “I feared you wouldn’t even remain conscious through the trip to this hotel. Never in my life have I seen someone drained of energy so suddenly and completely… those humans in Lilycove must have put you through a most dreadful ordeal, indeed…”
Solonn only made a small, wordless, affirmative noise in response.
“Well, at least you did manage to escape from those scoundrels,” Jal’tai said. “You’ve certainly been spared a most unpleasant fate… Do you have any idea what their motives might have been in taking you, what they might have had in store?”
Solonn hesitated to answer. Yes, he did know why he had been taken—and in the wake of learning such, he was particularly wary of speaking of that very thing that had gotten him into such a situation in the first place.
However, he did wonder how much danger there could actually be in confiding in Jal’tai. It wouldn’t be the first time that he had trusted his secret with another—he had deemed both Morgan and Sei to be safe to confide in, and as he thought about it, he still felt that that had been a sound judgment, even considering what had happened the day before. After all, his abilities had only gotten him into trouble in Lilycove due to completely external forces stumbling upon his secret, something that might not necessarily have happened under different circumstances even given the fact that he had chosen not to hide that secret from Morgan and Sei.
Neither of them had not come across to him as being untrustworthy, and Solonn was finding himself of the mindset that Jal’tai didn’t, either. Ever since he had met him, the latios had been speaking of his disapproval of unjust treatment and exploitation of pokémon—he seemed like one of the last people who would ever make Solonn sorry to reveal his abilities to him.
Solonn got the feeling that if he told Jal’tai to keep the secret, he would do so. And since Jal’tai was this city’s leader, perhaps he had authority enough in this place to help ensure that none of the wrong people happened upon the secret themselves.
So, feeling fairly secure in doing so, Solonn went ahead and told Jal’tai of the reason why he was targeted for abduction.
“They wanted me…” he began, “because I can do something that apparently very few pokémon can do… I can speak to humans. In their own language.” He sighed bitterly. “The humans who tried to take me wanted to show me off because of it, as a freak,” he told Jal’tai, that last word more hissed than spoken.
Jal’tai’s expression became dramatically sterner as he stared back at Solonn in the wake of the glalie’s admission. “Sickening,” he hissed, his voice low and rather ominous-sounding. “Absolutely deplorable… what you possess is a gift; you should be honored for it, not exploited…”
Fury radiated almost tangibly from Jal’tai as he hovered in place for a moment, his features contorted with clear disgust. At length, he drew a long breath, seemingly trying to calm himself, and released it on a sorrowful sigh. “I’m afraid such troubles come with the territory of the talents you possess,” he said soberly, closing his eyes and folding his hands. “I know it all too well myself…” He met Solonn’s gaze directly, his eyes staring pointedly into those of the glalie. “It is true that exceedingly few possess the Speech—the ability to communicate universally. As such, I thought I would likely never find another who shared this ability in common with me.”
Solonn stared speechlessly back at Jal’tai for seconds on end. Like Jal’tai, he had not been expecting to come across another person who shared his linguistic abilities. As Jal’tai’s revelation sank fully into his mind, he was left without a doubt that his assessment of the dragon’s trustworthiness had been right on the mark. Jal’tai was a kindred spirit—if anyone could be trusted, Solonn reckoned, it was him.
“So, this thing… this ‘Speech’, as you called it… it’s gotten you into trouble, too?” Solonn asked, earning a nod from the latios in response. “Was the trouble with humans?”
“Not exclusively,” Jal’tai answered, “but mostly, yes. Hence the need for a bit of deceptiveness unto the outside world on my part, I’m afraid… Observe…”
Solonn gave the latios his attention, having no idea what to expect from him. As he watched, a strange, shimmering light surrounded Jal’tai, blurring and consuming his form until it was completely unidentifiable. The mass of light brightened momentarily, then began to take shape once more as it faded.
Once the light was gone completely, Solonn saw that the latios that had been in that very spot had apparently gone with it. An elderly, goateed human in a brown suit stood there instead—one whom Solonn recognized at once as being the man pictured on the sign at Whitley’s.
“This is how I appear to the citizens of Convergence, as well as those with whom I do business outside of town,” he said. “To them, I am known as the human Rolf Whitley—I virtually never work under my true identity. I lament that I must appear to the people as something and someone I am not—it should not have to be this way, but the unfortunate fact is that it is a necessity of my work.
“You see, as a pokémon who can speak human languages, humans may look upon me as a curiosity—a freak, as you so aptly put it,” Jal’tai explained, his tone carrying clear distaste. “They will not listen to or respect something that they regard in such a demeaning way. However, as a human who can speak pokémon language, I am not seen as a freak, but merely gifted. It’s a shameful double standard, but it’s the reality for people like us, I’m afraid.”
With another brief shimmering of light all around him, Jal’tai resumed his true form. “So, you see, that guise is the means by which I am able not only to live with my gift in peace but to also utilize it to do good in this world.”
He turned toward Solonn. “You know, this place, this embodiment of all that I believe in… it could not have been made possible were it not for my possession of the Speech,” he then said. “Because this is a community for both pokémon and humans, its leader must be able to deal with both equally. Thus this office demands the Speech, meaning that there are very few who could take care of this city’s needs.”
An unreadable expression suddenly over took the dragon’s features, but Solonn was given little time to look upon it or to wonder about it before Jal’tai turned away from him. A very long and rather awkward silence followed.
Eventually, Jal’tai turned back, his expression distinctly uneasy. “Solonn…” he began, “I would like to know if…” He faltered, seemingly unable to complete the sentence. “No,” he said in a subdued tone a moment later, “no, I just couldn’t ask such a thing of you…”
Solonn’s brows drew together, the light in his eyes flickering slightly in concern. “…What is it?” he asked. “What are you talking about?”
Jal’tai only gazed back at him for a time, looking almost guilty. He hesitated momentarily before answering, and even once he did respond, he spoke with clear reluctance.
“I’m… well, I’m not a young dragon anymore,” he said quietly. “I won’t be around to take care of this city forever… I love Convergence, Solonn,” he all but whispered. “I worry for its future… I don’t know what will become of this place without me. Who will watch over this city when I’m gone?”
Solonn didn’t know how to respond to that at first. Then he realized just what the latios was saying. “Are… are you saying you want me to take your place?” he asked, his eyes wide.
“Well…” the latios responded with something of a delay, “as I said, only those who are blessed with the Speech, as you and I are, are qualified to guide and maintain this community. And as I also mentioned, I had not expected that I would ever find another such person… I have been fretting over the matter of who could possibly take my office after me—and what might become of Convergence and its mission if no one suitable could be found…”
Quite overwhelmed, Solonn suddenly felt the need to sit down. “…I don’t know what to say…”
“I don’t imagine I would, either, were I in your position,” Jal’tai said quietly.
“I mean… I understand what you’re worried about, but… are you sure there’s no one else you could ask?” Solonn asked, finding it difficult to get the words out.
“I honestly can’t say for certain,” the latios answered, “but the odds are very much against it.”
With every passing second, Solonn found himself feeling more cornered by the matter. How the guilt had overtaken him so swiftly and strongly, and precisely where it had actually even come from, Solonn could not guess, but there it was, present and undeniable. He understood and cared about Jal’tai’s dilemma… but still…
“…I don’t know…” he said guiltily, “…This is not a minor matter—I mean, you’re thinking of putting me in charge of an entire city?” He shook his head in disbelief. “Jal’tai… I don’t know if I have it in me…”
“There’s no need to worry where that is concerned,” Jal’tai said softly. “I assure you that you would be adequately educated and prepared to take up these responsibilities.”
The latios’s already troubled expression suddenly became even moreso. “Solonn… there is one more thing I need to tell you before you commit yourself one way or another to my offer,” he told the glalie, his tone grave. “I demonstrated the way that I disguise myself as a human in order to live and work with the Speech safely. You would have to take on a human identity as well if you were to take my office. But since you are not endowed as I am with the power to project a mirage over yourself… well, you would have to come by your disguise by a different means. The only other method by which you could pass for a human… is to actually become one.”
Last edited by Sike Saner; 10-19-2011 at 07:40 PM.