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MEW-CHILD: Ch.4: Degrees of Separation

by NonAnalogue

NonAnalogue Mel drops in on the mysterious group Genesis. What's their goal? Why do they care so much about the Mew-child?
If Mel had been asked a few weeks prior what words came to mind when she thought about weird people in off-white robes, “surprisingly ripped” would not have been at the top of the list – as it was, it only barely crept in at number 93 on the list, right above “open-minded” and right below “fantastic cooking skills”. Nevertheless, two of the bigger people surrounding her had grabbed her, each taking one arm, and, with no apparent effort, had carried her up to sit on the table that the leader had been marching across only a few moments earlier. They loosened their grip and Mel yanked her arms back, shooting pointed glares at the two of them, plus anyone else within range.

As if to add insult to injury, a third person, much smaller, picked Repeat up and lobbed him at Mel, where he landed on her lap with a squelch. She put a finger to her lips as she sensed a smart remark welling up from inside him.

The woman in the purple coat parted the crowd with a wave of her hand and marched to Mel, planting herself squarely in front of her. “How unexpected. It is a pleasure to meet you. My name is Degree Absolute. I would say ‘welcome’, but I normally reserve that for people who don’t fall in through the ceiling,” she said, looking Mel up and down with the slightest hint of a smile.

“Not like I meant to,” Mel spat. “Not my fault you decided to set up shop in a place that was half-destroyed.”

“So much the better. Surprise visits are often the most fruitful. Now, as far as you are concerned, my would-be spy, I expect the reason for your visit isn’t that you support our cause, hm?”

Mel narrowed her eyes and pushed her glasses further up her nose, endeavoring to make the motion look as disrespectful as possible. “Aside from what I already heard, I don’t even know what your cause is. All I got is that you’re some kind of weird group that’s got it in for the Mew-child.”

“Tsk tsk. How minimizing. There is so much more to Genesis. If you would?” Degree asked, holding out one hand, gesturing at one of the dozens of interchangeable people surrounding them.

“Yes, ma’am!” came a single voice from the crowd. Mel couldn’t immediately see who it was. “We are a religious order, ma’am. One that venerates the holy Mew, ma’am. The progenitor of all that is living, all that has lived, and all that will live, ma’am!”

“Then…” Mel stopped, squinted, and tried to rearrange the words in her head. No matter how she ordered it, what she’d heard didn’t make sense. “Then why, for the love of— why are you trying to kill Mew’s kid?!”

Degree gestured with her other hand this time, picking someone else out from a different part of the crowd. This time, the voice wove up and down throughout their words, underscoring the person’s advanced age. “Yes, ma’am! The so-called Mew-child is not holy. There is no divinity in its blood, ma’am. Any spawn of a perfect being will be imperfect, and so the Mew-child should be destroyed, so it does not wallow in its deficiencies any more than it needs to.”

“You see?” Degree said. “It is an act of mercy.”

“But—but—” Mel sputtered. “That doesn’t make any sense! Didn’t you say that Mew is the ‘progenitor of all that is living’ or whatever? Doesn’t that mean that everyone’s imperfect? Shouldn’t everyone be destroyed, then?”

As one, the crowd shook their heads, apparently well-practiced in countering that particular argument. “This one goes to anyone who wants to answer,” Degree said.

Hands from all over the crowd flew into the air.

“Hm, let’s see… Galia, you can field this one.”

“Yes, ma’am!” came yet another voice, this one definitely much younger than the rest – a child. Mel shivered. “All of the rest of us – humans, Pokemon, everyone – we are imperfect, yes. But we are made to be imperfect. It is part of who we are. The Mew-child is a legend. It should be perfect. And yet it is not. This contradiction is intrinsic to its very being. It cannot escape it. And so, it should be put out of its misery.”

Icicle chills ran down Mel’s back. She could feel the exact same emotions from every person in the room: an empty sort of elation, plus the unshakeable confidence she recognized off of people who could never be convinced away from their path. Wait, she thought. There’s one that’s different. It wasn’t Degree Absolute, who had all of the same feelings as everyone else, only amped up by a factor of ten. There was someone else.

Mel scanned the crowd. Then she saw her. A familiar face.

A familiar face that she’d last seen keeping her from sleeping at the hospital.

A familiar face that winked at her and mouthed the word ‘now’.

“Well, learning about your terrifying sect has been fun,” Mel said, wearing a manic smile. She clapped her hands together and jumped to her feet. “But I think it’s right about time for me to hit the road, soRepeatdoyourthingandfast!” She tossed Repeat into the air and started running. Repeat focused his gaze on the biggest guy in the room and began shifting; before he hit the ground, he wore the guise of a man who, not to put too fine a point on it, could have cracked walnuts in between his abs. His strides were longer than Mel’s and he easily overtook her, plowing through the crowd, throwing people to the ground left and right, and, most importantly, clearing a path. The door leading out was closed, but Repeat didn’t even bother to slow down; he simply lowered his head and rushed the door with his shoulder, blowing it wide open.

“Good job, Repeat,” Mel said in between breaths as they booked it away from the warehouse. She knew that if she looked backwards, she’d see a crowd of people that was altogether too large on her tail, and she suspected that even making it into town wouldn’t slow them down. They’re probably all marching in time, too, because they’re creepy like that. “Saved our hides back there,” Mel continued out loud. “You can change back now if you want.”

“You don’t need to tell me twice.” Repeat used his chiseled legs to spring into the air; he shifted back to his natural state and fell neatly into Mel’s arms. “I don’t know how you do it, to be honest. There’s something really unsettling about being human.”

“Think they just call that anxiety.” They ran past the tea shop too quickly to even savor the aroma and barreled through the tourists ducking in and out of the Network Center to send messages back home to their loved ones. Just past the Network Center was the dock, where Mel could just barely see a ferry…

…pulling away from the island.

“No!” Repeat yelled; he’d caught on to the plan as soon as he’d transformed in the first place. “We can’t just sit around and wait for the next one!”

“I don’t plan to.” Mel lowered her center of gravity and started running faster. “Get ahead of me. Get on the boat. I’ll catch up.”

Repeat knew better than to argue this time. “Got it, chief.” He shifted into the form of a Spearow he saw perching on a nearby rooftop and took off, making a beeline for the ferry.

Mel didn’t even bother going inside the ferry station. She took one look over her shoulder, confirmed everything she’d been worrying about, and jumped straight into the ocean herself.

The common wisdom about the Sevii Islands was that traversing the waters between them was almost impossible unless a boat was involved; the seas were too rocky and choppy to be able to make it through them safely otherwise.

Common wisdom and Mel were not, however, on speaking terms.

Mel slingshotted around rock after rock, narrowly missing each one; waves threatened to push her completely underwater, but she pushed through them instead. Her glasses spun off of her face, swept away by the current, but even her nearsightedness didn’t stop her; she could see a white blob in the distance where the ferry was supposed to be, and that was all she needed. The ferry had slowed down to a near-stop; she didn’t know if they’d seen her or if Repeat had somehow convinced them to wait, but she wasn’t about to complain. Powerful strokes propelled her forward, and in the back of her head, she made a note to thank her parents for starting the swimming lessons early in her life.

With a metallic thud, Mel slapped her palm against the side of the ferry. She trod water for a minute, catching her breath. She couldn’t see the shore from where she was, but nobody was following her.

“Hey!” Repeat’s voice came from the deck, and along with it came one end of a rope. “Get up here so we can leave, chief!”

Mel wound the rope around her hand, let out a relieved breath, and hauled herself up.

The Seagallop line of ferries were not large, at least not by boat standards, but this one was moving in the right direction, or at least a direction that wasn’t “back to One Island,” and Mel wasn’t asking for anything more. After showing her pass to the conductor, she let her ponytail down and wrung the water from it, then fished through the backpack she kept on her back at almost all times for her spare pair of glasses. The backpack was waterproof; it only took falling into the ocean once to rectify that mistake.

With her glasses on, Mel could just barely see back to harbor. The amethyst of Degree Absolute’s coat among a sea of off-white jumped out at her.

Degree Absolute was waving at her.

The meaning was clear: “We’ll be seeing you again.”

Mel sighed and slid down to the floor, her back against a wall. A puddle slowly grew around her as the water dripped off of her clothes. “That’s two groups we gotta keep an eye on now, Repeat.”

“We already knew we had to watch out for these guys, boss,” Repeat said, once again wearing his own face.

“Yeah, but now we know that this bunch is certifiably bad news. I didn’t know what their deal was going in, but I didn’t expect ‘kill the Mew-child because it’ll be happier that way’ to be what we got. And you saw how that Degree Absolute woman was conducting them all like she was a teacher, right?”

“Yes, boss,” said Repeat patiently, “I was there.”

“At least now we’re outta the frying pan.” Mel closed her eyes. “Wonder if I can get a nap in before we end up… wherever we end up.”

Repeat blobbed off around the corner, towards the stern of the ferry. “That sounds good to me, chief. I’m going to take a look around.”

Mel didn’t know how long her eyes had been shut, or even if she’d fallen asleep at all. A rustling of fabric and a spike of happiness in her mind brought her back to the present, and she slowly opened her eyes.

There was a face directly in front of her face, which jump-started her brain faster than the coffee she drank every morning. Mel flew up, wavering on her feet and only barely catching her balance. Once she had a chance to breathe, she took in the details of the person watching her.

She was small, and she looked like she might start laughing at the slightest provocation. Her clothes were mismatched and beaten up, and Mel realized that she must have been wearing them underneath the robe that she’d last seen her in. “Hello, Nia,” Mel growled.

“Hiya, kid,” said Nia, flashing a gleaming grin. “Fancy seeing you here.”

Mel rolled her eyes and leaned on a railing that ran along the deck, turning away from Nia and looking out over the ocean. She could see a few of the other Sevii Islands in the distance, not that she would have been able to say which ones. “I should be the one saying that. What in the world were you doing with all those Genesis weirdos?”

“Do you remember what we talked about in the hospital?” Nia asked. “This is going somewhere, I swear, so don’t think I’m over here blowing you off or something.”

“I mean, yeah, of course I do. You knew about the bad juju that was brewing. You warned me about it.” Mel frowned at some of the water running down her face and, in the light of the setting sun, began tying her hair back up. “Cults and other nasty groups, you said. And wouldn’t you know it, a week later, I run into some kinda revived Team Rocket and these Genesis dweebs. So that brings me back to ‘what were you doing there?’ Only now I think I’ve talked myself into believing that you actually are one of those Genesis dweebs, so you better start talking fast.”

Nia pressed a hand to her temple and let out a bark of laughter. “You’re definitely some kinda pill, Mel. Nah, it’s nothing like that. I just hear lots of rumors. You know, idle talk. Happened to catch word of some real sketchy types holed up in the abandoned warehouse outside of town, so I snuck in incognito-like to see what was going on. How was I supposed to know you were in the area?” She considered that statement, then smiled and added, “Though once you were involved, it was a pretty safe bet things were gonna start getting wild, right?”

“Yeah, yeah. Laugh it up.”

“Look, I’m just glad to see you’re doing okay,” said Nia. “That’s all.”

“Well, I’m doing fine.” Mel crossed her arms, still carefully looking away from Nia. “So unless there’s anything else, sounds like we’re done here.”

Nia held her hands up and backed up a step. “Whatever you want! Just thought I’d check in after everything that happened. I’ll leave you alone.” She took another step away. “Be seeing you, Mel.” Then she disappeared.

As the sun sank below the horizon, the ferry approached the dock. Mel hadn’t moved from her spot on deck, watching the island approach.

“Hey, boss,” Repeat said as he approached her. “I found out where we ended up.”

“Yeah? Which island is this?” Mel asked. She could make out a few landmarks – a tower, as tall as the Pokemon Tower in Lavender, stood in the distance, and the island stretched out in the other direction towards what looked like a winding canyon trail – but she didn’t know which island they matched up to. She didn’t want to pull out the guidebook; she and boats had a spotty history when it came to books and the keeping dry thereof.

“It’s Seven Island, from the sound of it.”

“And what’s the non-awful name for it?”

Repeat fixed her with a stare, but when he realized she was serious, he relented. “Quest Island,” he said.

The name didn’t mean anything to Mel; it wasn’t one of the more famous islands. Chrono Island, at least, had a high-class, albeit exclusive, resort; Floe Island was notable for being the hometown of former Elite Four member Lorelei. But Quest Island wasn’t ringing bells. Maybe I could sneak a look in the guidebook really fast, Mel thought, but then she remembered the sight of her childhood copy of Past Lives by Emm Dosent sinking into the ocean and decided against it.

Mel didn’t have to wait long either way. Once the ferry docked, it emptied out quickly; there apparently weren’t many people going to Quest Island. She found a chair in the ferry station and sat, motioning for Repeat to sit next to her.

“So. Quest Island,” Mel muttered under her breath as she pulled her guidebook from her bag. She spread it out on her lap and flipped almost all the way to the back, past all the rest of the numbered islands. “‘Seven Island, small even by Sevii standards, only has a few attractions; because of this and because of Seven Island’s distance from the mainland, it doesn’t see nearly as much tourism as the rest of the archipelago. Most travelers here visit the Trainer Tower to the north; equal parts training opportunity and sports event, it’s host to a timed gauntlet of Pokemon battles that get broadcast out to the rest of the island through their local radio station. If you clear the gauntlet and make it to the top, you could win a special prize.’”

Mel made a face. “Surely that can’t be it,” she said, turning the page. “The only thing on this island worth seeing is a tall gym? Come on.”

“They don’t even talk about the canyon?” Repeat asked, scanning over the page himself. “That’s odd. It looked like a major landmark.”

“I didn’t see anything… oh, no, here we go. ‘The Sevault Canyon, to the south of town, is well-regarded by locals, but due to its harsh terrain, visiting it is not recommended. If you do reach the other side, you’ll find the Tanoby Ruins, where ancient hieroglyphics are said to come to life, but much about the area remains shrouded in mystery.’” Mel flipped the page again. “And that’s it. For real this time. Now they just start talking about some of the ferries the islands use. Guess we better find our way back to one of the other islands, because it’s not sounding to me like there’s a lot going on here.”

“Wait, wait.” Repeat waved a pseudopod vaguely in the air. “Something in there stuck out. What was that bit about the ruins?”

“Huh? Oh, with the hieroglyphics coming to life or whatever? Sounds like that weak flowery language they always throw into these guides when they don’t know what else to say.”

“Maybe… but what if they’re being literal?”

Mel shut the book and arched her eyebrows. “Like, you mean, they actually come to life? What kinda cave drawings are… coming to life…” She slumped forward, resting her forehead against the book’s cover. “I’m an idiot. Of course they’re being literal. They’re talking about Unown!”

Repeat made a motion that would have, on a body with fingers, been something like a snap. As it was, it just made a quiet squishing noise. “And if there are Unown there, then we might find Professor Silktree there too.”

“Because he’s the guy who founded the research station out in the Ruins of Alph,” Mel finished. “So he’s obviously in the weeds for Unown.” She lifted her head and stared at the ceiling, scarcely caring about the sterile fluorescent lights shining into her eyes. “There it is. All fits together. Looks like we know what we need to do.”

“Don’t worry, boss. How bad could the Sevault Canyon be?"
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