Team Dawn Chasers | Errand #6
Recalling A Memory
Tierra sighed with relief as she dipped her ear in the river. The cool water conducted heat away from her burn, and she could almost feel the swelling reduce by the second. While she did this, I was busy preparing some aloe vera leaves the guild nurses had given us. I cut off the ends under the water, and cracked open the hard shell to reveal the gel inside. I then took a cloth, and dabbed a little of the aloe on the end of it, just as Tierra removed her wounded limb from the water. She winced in pain as I applied the medicine, her skin screaming from the unwanted contact, but the soothing gel quickly numbed her nerves. Once all the aloe was gone, I unwrapped a length of gauze bandage and tied it loosely around her ear, trying not to put unwant pressure on the burn. Finally, I pulled one last present from the guild out of my bag: a small bottle of blue and green painkillers made from Oran and Rawst berries. As I lifted the block up to her mouth, she stuck out her tongue and eagerly accepted it. "How's it taste?" I asked her. As she chewed the block, her face twisted into a grimace. "Eugh! Bitter and dry..." She said. Despite this, she smiled, letting me know that she was feeling much better, which was a very welcome feeling. Tierra had always bent over backwards for me, so it was nice to finally help her for once.
Truth be told, we were rather enjoying the day off. The guilds hadn't done a proper dungeon run in a long while, and especially with the massive influx of new recruits, they were taking ample time to make sure affairs were in order. We weren't complaining, though. The guild nurses had told us that second-degree burns took at least two to three weeks to heal, so as far as we were concerned, they could take all the time they wanted. Besides, it gave us time to get to know Andalusst a little more intimately. We'd been so busy since we first came here that we hadn't really had a chance to explore, and take the place in. Part of me believed that some downtime was good in that sense; that slowing down might allow us a better perspective, and to help avoid future failures. It also held another advantage: the chance to start forming connections. No matter how small, people always needed help of some sort, and by fulfilling that need, we could potentially make many allies. The guild referred to this type of unofficial work as "errands", and not only did they approve of it, but also downright encouraged it, offering star coins for any reported acts of kindness. After our failure in the forest the days prior, easy, low-impact work like that was just the thing we needed to get our confidence back up, and little did we know as we walked back to town, but our first boost was literally just around the bend.
Following the river's curves, we eventually spotted a Meowth talking to a Metang in the fields. What caught my eye about this pair was that the Meowth was sporting a large pair of glasses and a lab coat far too heavy for this weather. There was no mistaking that he belonged to the Researcher's Guild, but I couldn't help but wonder why he was so far from the labs. He didn't have any equipment on him, which meant he wasn't doing field work, so my next thought was that perhaps he was asking around for help. Sure enough, the more I scanned his brain waves, the more I realized his mind was filled with inquiry, and after letting Tierra know about my hunch, she agreed we should sieze the opportunity. We approached the two, and when the Meowth noticed us, he offered a surprised, but welcoming greeting. "Oh! Hello! How are you?" He asked.
"Doing alright." I replied. "Are you a researcher?" I asked him.
The Meowth smiled as he adjusted his glasses. "Heh. How could you tell?" He said, thinking about his coat. "On that same note, though, based on the hat, I take it you two are Explorers?" He asked. We nodded in confirmation, and his smile widened. "Ah, that's good! I actually have an errand for you, if you don't mind." He said.
"Sure thing! What do you need?" Tierra asked.
The Meowth pointed at the Metang beside him and said, "I was just talking to 337 here about this. I'm currently doing research on automaton Pokemon. Many of them live among us, but we know so little about them. Hence, I've been trying to gain a better understanding of them as our peers. What are their hobbies? Their interests? Their goals, dreams, and common desires? In sorts, I see it as a way to maybe help ease the fears some of our residents still have about The Guardia...er, Altas; that if we show them that automatons aren't so different from us after all, they might be more open-minded and forgiving for what happened. You know?" He said.
"Okay. So you us to go chat with some Voltorb?" I asked him.
"Essentially, yes. I can only talk to so many Pokemon by myself, so the more the merrier." He replied.
Now my mind started racing. We'd met many Pokemon over the past few days, but none of them were automatons, meaning I didn't even know where to start. Wandering around until we just happened to meet one seemed awfully inefficient, and I was pretty sure if there were any at the Researcher's Guild, this Meowth would have thought to ask them already. Then I realized it: "Well, have you talked to Atlas himself yet?" I asked him.
The Meowth raised his hand, as if to answer, but this routine action was cut short by the sudden realization that I had just opened his eyes to a brand new possiblity. "No...I have not..." He said. "...but that's absolutely genius! Where better to start than the big baseline, himself? He should be around the base of the Tower. Would you like to come along?" He asked.
Of course we did, but before we could answer, 337 raised one of his limbs and said, "Actually, can I come as well? I've been meaning to meet Atlas for some time, and ask him a few questions of my own."
"Of course!" The Meowth replied. "Interactions between you two might be even more illuminating. Thanks for the help, 337!" He said.
"Please, call me Lee." The Metang replied.
It felt like a surprisingly short walk to the Tower, and sure enough, Atlas was standing diligently at its base, barely even reacting as we approached. This was the first time Tierra and I saw The Guardian up close, and even though it wasn't nearly as large as the Trevenant we had met the day prior, its size didn't matter. Atlas seemed to have a certain presence about it; an aura of sorts that made merely being in its company a feat of courage. You could tell simply by looking at it that this was an unbelievably strong individual, probably capable of moving mountains if it wanted to. And yet, there it stood, commanding that immense power to stay still, silent, and steady as a rock. Our little group was overcome with a unanimous feeling of awe and respect, and it took the Meowth several seconds to work up the courage just to call the giant's attention to us. "Uh...excuse me! Atlas! Can we ask you a few questions!?" He called out.
Atlas slowly turned what could be considered its head towards us. Somehow, its blank gaze made being before it even more intimidating, and its many lights flickered on and off as it spoke. "Of course. What do you wish to know?" Its words resonated in a flat, emotionless tone, which boomed through the air with unusual clarity. It was as if it could control the sound itself, artificially focusing its full impact on our position without it echoing through the surrounding area. For lack of a better term, it truly felt "mechanical"; produced by a means we couldn't fully understand, but presented in a way we could easily comprehend. "Goodness..." I thought. "Even this thing's VOICE is powerful!"
Nevertheless, we had a reason to be here. I took a deep breath, and began asking. "We'd like to know more about you!" I said loudly.
"A common inquiry these days." Atlas responded.
The Meowth was a bit more specific in his approach. "What we mean is, we'd like to know more about you as an individual; not just your origins or abilities!" He said.
The lights on Atlas' "face" started to blink in a different pattern than before, as if to indicate its train of thought had shifted. "I will answer to the best of my ability. Just bear in mind that, as previously stated, my memory is fragmented." It said.
I cut right to the chase. I wanted to make up for my stumple at the beginning of the conversation. "That's fine! We're just wondering: how do you like to spend your time!?" I asked.
Without missing a beat, Atlas responded with, "Guarding the tower."
I know Atlas probably didn't mean it at the time, but the monotone nature of his voice made the response seem blunt, and hammered in how poorly I was driving this investigation. Social encounters were never really my strong suit, and now I was 0 for 2 when it really counted. I was determined not to strike out, though, and follwed up with, "...uh...well, imagine a situation where you didn't have to guard the tower! What would you do then?"
Again, Atlas' response was quick and simple. "I would write." It said.
This made me curious. My sarcastic side wanted to know where he'd find a pencil big enough to fit his hands, but for the sake of the errand, I held back any jokes. "About what?" I asked.
"About myself. Records of everything I know and understand as the truth right now." Atlas said.
Now the Meowth was curious. He seemed utterly puzzled at these words, and made the next move in the conversation. "Uh...pardon me for asking, but...why? Your memory is incredible! In fact, we've used it as a backup for all the applications and records the entire guild has received since the incident! Why would you need a written record?" He asked.
"Actually, I think I can answer that one." Lee said. We turned to face him, and while I wasn't used to reading binary brains like his, his face told us this was a more serious matter. He took a second searching his mind for the right way to put this, making sure the exact meaning of what he wanted to get across was clear. "Okay. Think of something you believe in. Something you feel about very, very strongly; possibly to the point of defending it to the death. Now imagine if someone could take that belief away from you. Imagine that they could do it discretely, without asking your permission, and remove it so completely, that if you were to meet your past, un-altered self, you two would probably disagree to the point of violence. This is the threat you face when your mind can be re-written." He said.
Our whole group was silent. Thoughts darted back to the incident; how Atlas had no recollection of the terror he had caused, and was more than willing to make up for it after. But Lee still wasn't done with his explanation. "Take me for example. You know how Metang are formed, yes? We come into being when two Beldum fuse together, but the catch is that I am my own individual; a separate life from the ones that brought me into the world. Who were these Beldum? What are their stories? Where are their families? What were their goals, hopes, and aspirations? And why did they throw it all away to create me? Was I supposed to do something? Were they in love? Or was it all just an accident? I don't know. These memories were discarded upon my construction on the grounds that they were unnecessary. Junk data. So because of stories like mine, writing an autobiography is actually a very common practice among automatons. It's the underlying fear that we could power back up on any given morning as a different Pokemon than the one we were the night before. It's the hope that maybe that Pokemon will find those records, and learn the truth." His gaze then turned to Atlas, who continued to stare down with his slowly blinking lights. "You know all about that, though, don't you?" He asked.
For the first time, Atlas paused. It's as if it was having trouble going back and remembering the events of the incident, or rather, that it didn't want to remember. However, after a second or two, it replied with a simple, "Affirmative."
After this, we parted ways with Atlas. Lee decided to stay behind a while, and talk with The Guardian a bit more, while Tierra, the Meowth, and I all walked back into town. "Well...now that was an enlightening exchange..." The Meowth said.
I felt like I had let our client down. We had come there to help him prove how much mechanical Pokemon were similar to biological ones, only to help reinforce the differences. I couldn't help but apologize. "I'm sorry." I told him.
To my surprise, though, his mind lit up, and a wave of positive emotions surged forth. "Oh, no! Don't be sorry! That was the most fascinating conversation I've had since I started!" He said, as he turned towards us, and stopped in his tracks. "In fact, at its core, this has raised a question that all of us have to ask ourselves eventually: 'What does it mean to be alive'?" The Meowth adjusted his glasses, and his smile widened, like a child ready to present a report he was very proud of to his teacher. "Think about it from both sides of that situation. What if you had the power to essentially brainwash any and all Pokemon that might pose a threat to you, and force them into being docile, without them even knowing. At first you might think, 'Of course! It's for their own good! They don't know any better, so I should benevolently choose the solution that doesn't involve violence! They'll thank me for it later.' But then you think about how many 'heretics' have been locked away. How many 'lesser' kingdoms and entire civilizations have been enslaved and assimilated by another, 'correct' one's beliefs. Do you really think it's the best solution now?" He asked.
The Meowth continued on, his mind racing with brand new thoughts. "Confronting the automaton conundrum is asking the question of how we view the value of free will, and thus, teaches us something about ourselves. For let's go back to Lee's example, and put ourselves in those Pokemon's situation; a situation where everything you love and care about is being threatened, and your only options are either to give up who you are and were going to be to survive, or enter a battle to the death to protect them. Which would you choose?" He asked.
My mouth opened, as if to give a response, but then I was stopped by a realization: there was no "right" answer to this question. It seemed easy at first, but would I stick to my guns if actually put in that kind of situation? Or would I be willing to cave if it meant holding on to what really mattered? What did really matter? It made me seriously reflect, but before I could reach an ultimate conclusion, Tierra spoke up. "I'd go down fighting." She said.
The Meowth smiled, and rummaged through his coat pocket for something. "So would I." He said, as he pulled out a single star coin and handed it to us. "Here. For your help." He said. I eagerly accepted the coin, and placed it in my bag. Suddenly, though, the Meowth's mind shifted. He had snapped back to reality, and realized he was missing something important. "Oh! By the way: I don't believe I've properly introduced myself yet, have I? The name's Alexander, and I work for the Researcher's Guild. It's been a pleasure to work with you two!" He said, extending a paw in greeting. I accepted it, and heartily returned the gesture. My lips cracked into a genuine smile. After everything we had gone through recently, we'd finally done something right, and made an unquestionably positive impact by our own efforts alone. We'd made a new friend, gained a little more pocket money, and contributed to a guild we didn't even belong to. For the first time in what felt like an eternity, things were finally looking up.
Team Dawn Chasers | June Explorer's Tasks 2 and 3
Errand Number: #6
Date Issued: 7/18/2014
Date Due: 7/22/2014
The team is slowly recovering, but that doesn't mean they can't still do some good. What can they learn from the Pokemon around them right now?
It is not enough to live together in peace, with one race on its knees.
1 Star Coin
I learned things from writing this story, like how to harvest raw aloe vera, and how to properly treat a burn. Also, did you catch how the pokeblock was the proper colors and flavors for the berries used to make it? And how Tierra hated its dry taste due to her Adamant nature? Yeah...I tend to go a little nuts when it comes to making sure my worlds make sense.
Dawn Chasers Application: fav.me/d7kudo4