A sallow pokemon sits on a steel table. Tiny needles, each connected to a wire, cover the top of its head. The wires snake back to a machine of indeterminate function, several feet high. Its eyes are closed. It looks dead, although it is breathing in shallow, slow breaths.

It is not noisy. There are the sounds of people moving around, but they are intent on their task. No one speaks.

An apple is placed on a second table.

Eyes watch intently.

There is the soft sound of quick typing. Electricity surges through the needles in the psyduck's head in a precise pattern. The apple trembles, then begins to rise. Several feet above the table, it halts and begins descending, and then, perhaps a quarter of an inch above the surface, the power lifting it abruptly vanishes and it thumps down onto the table.

"Impressive."

The lead scientist is skilled at self-depreciation, or perhaps intuition. "It doesn't have quite the range of applications you want yet, I know. But that's just a matter of equipment."

"And you're sure that can be overcome?"

"This is just the test version. We're intending to use far thinner wires in the helmet. This huge thing–" he gestures at the machine "–won't be necessary. The new wires will conduct the electricity more efficiently, so that less electricity will be wasted as heat. And we'll reduce the electricity needed in the brain itself, as the wiring will be closer to the correct nerves. The lowered voltage will allow for a smaller power supply. It should also reduce the number of cells killed by surplus electricity, extending the viable lifespan of the device."

"Is everything else finished?"

"The attack program is done. The target program isn't complete yet, but as you've just seen, it's quite accurate. And the subject shows no sign of waking up."

"Good."

* * *

Elliot hiked determinedly through the orderly forest, humming to himself. The path he walked on was an apparently simple one, made up of humble dirt. It was, however, strangely smooth and level, clear of roots and stones, and as unvarying in its width as a traintrack. Elliot had never seen anything different, so he did not find this strange.

He had not, in fact, seen much of anything. He was a new trainer, just ten years old, and he had been on his journey less than a week. This is the furthest he'd ever been from his hometown of Russet, and hiking along the rock-free, pressed dirt road, he was filled with a sense of adventure and maturity. His pace varied between brisk and leisurely, and he felt proud he wasn't tired by the walk.

He hadn't caught any pokemon yet. He carried one pokemon with him, a present from his parents. He had seen a few wild pokemon in the forest already, but hadn't attempted to capture them. He wasn't interested in rattata, pidgey, or poliwags.

Around noon, he decided to stop. There was undergrowth in this forest, but it grew in patches, thick, tightly bunched masses that more closely resembled regularly trimmed hedges than wild bushes. Like the uniform sized tree trunks, they were spaced widely apart, allowing them to be easily avoided. On the ground not taken up by bushes, which was a greater deal than one might think, a short layer of even, bright green grass grew. It was the same length as that on the lawns where he lived, and, like the grass there, covered every inch of spare soil, without even intermittent bare patches. The only part of the forest not covered by some form of vegetation, in fact, was the path itself, clear of even small fallen twigs and leaves.

So when Elliot stepped off the path, he did not need to fight through thin branches and thorns to travel. Instead, he stepped easily onto soft green grass, with the sun blocked by the thick tree branches well above his head. He felt grown-up, a trailblazer boldly going into wild, unknown territory.

The clearing he came to was picturesque. It had flowers - and, quite oddly, they were the same height as the short grass. There was a large, rounded rock in the meadow, the perfect size to sit on. Elliot did so. He rooted around in his backpack, retrieving a sandwich. Pulling back the wrapper, he took a big bite, chewed loudly, and swallowed.

He was about to take a second bite when he heard a pokemon moving in the tall grass at the edge of the field, and then saw the telltale waving of the grass' tips. He quickly stood, grabbing a ball from his belt. Without taking his eyes from the spot, he enlarged the Greatball.