"Nothing More Than Feelings: Part 3"
Author's Note: Well, I saw Leroy and Stitch when it aired on the Disney Channel, and with the end credits was a full list of experiments. Experiment 432 is really named 'Tonic', and since I don't want to change Emma's name in some lame plot twist, I've decided that this is an AU fic. Makahi, Kohi, and any other non-canon experiments who aren't Emma belong to HeMeleNoLiloLover.
Emma did indeed go outside. Before Jumba or Lilo could stop her, she had slipped out the back door and into the back yard. She didn't want to talk to Jumba, or anyone else, but she wasn't sure if it would be smart to stray too far from the house. Heck, she wasn't even sure which planet she was on! It wasn't as if Jumba had ever tried to teach her anything of any value, and all she knew was what she was programmed to know. She could speak Turian very well and she was fluent in English, but she knew nothing about the planets those languages came from. She made a quick survey of the yard, and hid in a clump of ferns to collect her thoughts. Her mind wandered, and she found herself thinking back on her creation and what had led to her dehydration...
It was like being thrust out into the cold after drifting in a limbo of warmth and comfort for an indeterminate amount of time. Experiments obviously did not come into being the natural way, and the only womb they existed in was a mechanical one; the time they spent in that place normally spanned only a few hours as their accelerated growth programs took effect. After that, the nutritional fluid was drained from the capsule, and the experiment would remain coiled in a ball on the 'floor' of its confinement, neither alive nor dead. Mentally she objected to the cold, but physically she could do nothing but lie there, helpless. She didn't breathe and she had no pulse, but somehow she was aware. She couldn't even cry out in pain when she was suddenly bombarded with a high level of electricity. Her heart stuttered twice, then began to pump at a somewhat regular rhythm as it got used to beating. She could hear someone laughing, but it sounded like it was coming from far away. She drew in a deep breath, and let it out in a relieved sigh as the pain stopped.
"Have I done it?" someone said.
The experiment slowly uncoiled, flexed her tail, and yawned before staring fixedly at the face of her creator.
Anticipation. Greed. An odd sort of tenderness. She blinked slowly as she realized that these were not her own emotions she was experiencing. In her mind she saw a lizard-like experiment with a rather cruel look on her face, and she instinctively knew that she was seeing herself. Or, rather, her creator's idea of what she would be like. "I...I am...to be used?" she asked hesitantly.
The large creature with two large eyes and two small eyes raised his fists in triumph. "YES! She is exactly as I had planned for her to be!"
The experiment was not reassured. There was something about the glint in his eye that she didn't like, and she knew that he had something planned for her. She also knew that he was sure to tell her, so she kept silent and waited to see what he would do.
When he was finished gloating, the man looked down at her and said slowly, as if talking to a child, "You are Experiment 432. I am Jumba Jookiba, your creator, and you are owing your existence to me. Your primary function is being 'emotional exploitation'. Do you understand?"
Silence. Then, "Yes..."
"Good!" Jumba rubbed his hands together and turned away, grinning. He did something she couldn't see, and once more she was hit with an energy source. It was warm, but it wasn't painful this time.
"What are you doing to me?" she asked.
"Am charging your molecules." he said, "Is very important, otherwise there is distinct possibility that you will be suffering fatal malfunction. We don't want that, now, do we?"
When Jumba was finished with that, he let her out of her capsule and placed her in a room that was mostly comprised of windows. Jumba's lab was on a large asteroid, and at the moment it was turned so that sunlight was able to reach the building. The experiment gave a joyful squeal when she saw a bowl of strange fruits, and dug in with gusto; her first meal. She was feeling more energetic by the minute, and she realized that standing in the sunlight heated her blood. She raised her face to the sun and closed her eyes, sighing blissfully. There she was kept for almost a week to build up her strength, and she was pretty much left to her own devices.
It was over all too soon. Jumba interrupted her calm existence and brought her to a room. There, sitting on a cot, was another native of the planet Quelta Quan. This one was a female, and she was glaring balefully at Jumba.
"What is being this nonsense?" she demanded.
Jumba resisted the urge to roll his eyes, and didn't bother to answer her. He looked down at his newest experiment, and said, "Read her thoughts."
432 nodded, ignoring the woman's angry words that were directed at Jumba, and concentrated. It was hard to penetrate the miasma of rage and disgust that boiled on the surface of the woman's psyche, especially since the little experiment found herself fighting the sudden urge to turn around and take a chunk out of Jumba's leg, but eventually she managed it.
The images that came to her were confusing at best; childhood tantrums, first love, loss of first love, favorite teachers as well as hated ones. A Queltese wedding, to Jumba, of all people! Love turning to impatience, then to hate when he proved to be a distant husband, locking himself away for hours to 'waste his time and her money' on 'stupid scientific projects'. Then, finally, her demanding a divorce.
432 blinked, and slowly looked up at Jumba for instructions on what to do next. She was rather shaken by what she had seen and felt, and she only knew one thing for sure. She never wanted to go through that again!
"What are you looking at me for?" asked Jumba, pointing to the woman who could only be his ex-wife. "Tell her what you saw."
432 went wide-eyed, and so did the woman.
"Tell me what?" she demanded.
432 stared off into space for a time, then shook her head. "No..."
Jumba picked her up by the tail, and dangled her upside-down in front of his face. "NO?"
"I don't want to..." 432 told him shakily.
"Wanting is not issue here! You will do as I tell you to do!" Jumba roared. "I created you for a purpose, and you will be fulfilling that purpose!"
His anger washed over her like a shower of scalding water, and her head began to throb as the woman became uneasy. Too many feelings...
The rage was stronger than anything else, and 432 decided that Jumba needed a lesson. She would give him a taste of what he had planned for his ex-wife. Her face became blank as she searched his mind, and she noted that her headache got much worse as she exerted herself more strongly.
After a long silence, Jumba turned 432 upright and set her down on the floor. "Well? What is being holdup?"
"I have a question." said the experiment. When Jumba grunted, she asked, "Are you happy?"
"Wha', me?" he looked confused.
Jumba scratched the back of his head, and shrugged. "Why would I not be?"
"Well, the fact that you're so isolated. And your father." 432 said.
Jumba quickly picked her up, and turned to his ex-wife. "Leave! Tell no one about this!"
The woman got to her feet and snorted. "Nothing has changed. You still are wasting my time." she said coldly, walking out of the room with her nose in the air.
432's teeth rattled in her head as Jumba shook her. "When I created you to be looking into minds, I did not intend for you to look into my mind!"
When he stopped shaking her, she went on as if she had never stopped speaking. "Your father. He was a cruel man, and he treated you harshly. He told you that no one would want to be your friend if you kept on with your little...experiments. Mixing chemicals, making models, and so on."
"No! This is what you made me for! This is what you wanted!" she shouted.
"Not on me!"
If she could separate her own feelings from his, she wouldn't have gone on. All she knew was rage, and she didn't even realize that it wasn't her own rage at this point. "Your mother died of an incurable illness, prompting your wish to become a doctor of both science and medicine. Your father remarried soon after, and you were ignored after that."
Jumba's heart was beating faster, and he was shaking. He felt like he couldn't get enough air. The experiment reacted similarly, and this frightened both of them. Jumba shook his head violently, and yelled, "Shut up!"
"You...still face...constant solitude, whether or not you want it...And a part of you doesn't. You...you just don't know how to accept kindness." 432's voice became quiet as the rage merged with shame and grief, and she finally had a horrifying realization of what she had done.
"Stop it, stop it, STOP!" he dropped her, covering his ears.
The experiment curled up in a corner, shaking in distress, and Jumba continued, "I created you for to be emotional exploiter, and you are having the gall to use this on me?"
"I...I just wanted you to understand what it is you want me to do..." she whispered. "I didn't mean...I'm sorry..."
Jumba still didn't realize that 432 wasn't merely able to use a person's emotions to get at sensitive information; she was also able to feel these emotions as if they were her own, giving her a much deeper understanding of things than he had meant for her to have. He thought she was being willful and disobedient, but she just couldn't help it. What he saw as an unwarranted personal attack was really anything but. She could no more avoid feeling other people's emotions than she could avoid breathing. It was literally a part of her makeup.
"Sorry? Yes...you are sorry. A sorry waste of genetic material! A failure!" he yelled, his pain coming out as anger. "And disobedient failures are doomed to being dehydrated!"
Back to the Present
Emma, a wiser (though not by much) Experiment 432, sat up and forced herself to push those thoughts from her head. She still harbored some anger for Jumba, but she couldn't bring herself to hate the man. He was...different, somehow. Something had changed him, mellowed him. What he had done to his wife, and what his wife had done to him, was in the past and none of her business. Emma had felt his anger when he was yelling at the child, but she knew that his anger wasn't directed at Lilo. And, most surprisingly, she sensed that he loved that little girl like a daughter. How much time had passed since she was dehydrated? Jumba didn't look much older, but his species aged so slowly it was hard to tell.
"432!" Jumba was calling from nearby. "Come out, I am needing to speak with you."
Emma didn't answer.
"432!" Jumba yelled, beginning to sound angry. Jumba was either very tolerant or very quick to anger, depending on the circumstances. Emma surmised that being ignored was enough to heat his temper, and she had seen enough of it for one day.
"My name," she said calmly, still sitting in the ferns, "is Emma."
"Larger girl is wanting me to talk to you." Jumba said stiffly, sweeping aside the curtain of leaves with his foot and squashing them flat, revealing his missing creation.
Emma stared quietly up at him, taking in the way he scowled and how uncomfortable he was. His body language alone told her that he would rather slam his fingers in a sliding glass door than speak with her. "There's nothing to talk about."
"Well, what do you want me to say to her?" he demanded. He had to be talking about Nani. "She is able to be spotting lies by way of eye contact. And Jumba is having more than enough eyes to incriminate..."
"What do you want me to say?" she asked, genuinely at a loss.
"Eh..." Jumba frowned and scratched his nose as he tried to think of something.
"It doesn't matter." she told him, turning her back. "I'm leaving."
Jumba was much quicker than he looked, and he had her in his grasp before she could react. He held her up in front of his face by her back fin. "Actually, you are not."
"Ow! That hurts!" She swiped at him with her claws, but missed him entirely. "Oh. That's why you picked me up this way..." she grumbled.
"Yes, and 432 cannot be biting either." he said, and she bared her teeth briefly. "Now...You are remembering day when Jumba dehydrated you?"
"I'm not interested in reminiscing." she told him, looking away. 'Please, just let me go...'
Jumba ignored this, but transferred her to his other hand, holding her by the back of the neck this time. This wasn't painful at all, and her unhappy demeanor lessened somewhat. "No, but things are needing to be said anyhow. I was wr..." he scrunched up his face a little, and tried again. "I was wr...I was wrrr...Not right."
Emma wanted to stay angry, but since she could detect a lie better than Nani ever could, she knew he was telling the truth. Her anger melted away. "Thank you. And I was 'not right' too. I meant what I said, back then. I am sorry."
Jumba shifted uncomfortably, and said, "Little girl is wanting you to stay. Stay out of Evil Genius noggin, and I won't bother you."
Emma nodded. "That's fair enough." she said, keeping it to herself that she never wanted to explore his thoughts again. "Put me down, then. I won't run."
Jumba put her down, and went back inside without another word. Emma watched him go, then looked at the crushed ferns. The ferns that served as her hiding place were now as flat as leaves pressed in a scrapbook, so she got to her feet and went out to lie in the sun.
She was pleasantly warm and almost asleep when she felt someone shaking her. "What? Lilo...What's up?"
"We're watching a movie, you wanna join us?" asked Lilo.
Emma cocked her head and looked confused. "What is a movie?"
"Uh, well, it's pictures that, uh, move..." Lilo giggled weakly and shrugged. "C'mon, I'll show ya. Stitch got to pick."
"Oh?" Emma looked at Stitch.
"Ih! 'The Goonies'!" he replied, then tried unsuccessfully to deepen his voice. "'Hey you guyyyyyyyyyys!'"
"Ummmmm...Okay?" Emma stepped slowly away from him, unsure what to make of his behavior. Lilo put a hand on her shoulder and led her back into the house.
"It's just the cut version they show on the Disney Channel sometimes; Nani doesn't let me watch movies with bad stuff in it, so she recorded it last time it was on. It's about these kids who find a treasure map in the attic, and they end up getting chased by bad guys who want the treasure too. It's pretty cool." said Lilo.
Emma nodded automatically, but she had no idea what they were talking about. As she came inside, she saw Kila look up at her, then turn away. Emma took a seat on the floor near the other end of the couch, and hugged her knees to her chest as she watched.
"Hey Kila," said Makahi, "You think we can get Jumba to do the 'Truffle Shuffle'?"
Pleakley picked up a handful of popcorn, and stuffed it into Makahi's mouth. "That's enough out of you, you!" he said primly.
Emma, who had been trying to follow the plot of the movie, peeled her eyes away from the television and looked over to see what they were arguing about. Pleakley saw her looking at him, and quickly sat back. "What's the matter?" she asked.
"Nothing, nothing at all." answered Pleakley, "Nothing whatsoever on my mind, no sir! Nothing to read up here." he tapped the side of his head, then blurted out, "Stop looking at me!"
Emma whipped her gaze away from him, startled, and mumbled an apology. She heard crunching sounds as the others shared a huge bowl of popcorn, and her stomach began to growl. Apparently, watermelon didn't stay with you very long. She stood up and shyly took a handful of popcorn, asking, "What's this stuff?"
Scorn and annoyance from Jumba and Kila. Emma felt herself beginning to blush, embarrassed that she didn't know as much about her surroundings as they did.
"It's popcorn." said Lilo. "Try it, you'll like it."
Emma tasted it, and found that she did. She couldn't properly enjoy the movie, however, because she sensed that Kila was paying more attention to her than to the television. Emma forced herself not to look away from the screen, but Kila's suspicion was beginning to upset her. Not only that, but she envied the way everyone interacted with each other. She could never be a part of that, simply because she had seen how people reacted to her when they realized what she could do. She got up and walked out of the room, feeling even worse when she felt relief coming from Kila. 'They'll never trust me, and I don't blame them...'
When the movie was over, Lilo suggested that they go into town and see if they could find Emma's one true place.
"Is a waste of time, little girl." said Jumba, "432 is flawed creation, whose 'one true place' is in dehydration unit."
Kila shot him an annoyed look, remembering how he had treated her when she proved to be a disappointment and almost got dehydrated herself. Even so...Seeing how Emma seemed to look through people, rather than at them, she wasn't sure she disagreed.
Lilo hid a smirk, and gave a dramatic sigh. "Oh well...I guess she'll just have to move in with us..."
Jumba turned a funny color, and moved to the head of the group. "Daylight is burning! Let's go!"
'If his last name was Subtle, his first name would be Not...' thought Emma as she brought up the rear. She let her mind wander as she followed them, her eyes on the ground in front of her, and she accidentally bumped into Kila's back when the other experiment stopped at a crosswalk. "Oof!"
"Watch it, you!" snapped Kila, "You are vanting to end up as street pizza?"
"No, sorry..." mumbled Emma, rubbing the back of her neck and looking embarrassed.
"Stupid..." Kila walked forward when the 'Walk' signal appeared, and Emma followed. "Vhat, you must walk near me? Go walk with Makahi!"
"I'm sorry." said Emma.
"I'm walking with Kohi!" protested Makahi.
"Look, I'll just walk way behind everyone, how's that?" asked Emma, exasperated.
"Don't fall behind, Emma." giggled Lilo, "Come on!"
Emma stayed still for as long as it takes a person to count to ten, then followed. She was feeling worse and worse, her head throbbing and her heartbeat steadily increasing. They were surrounded by dozens of people, each of those people experiencing different emotions, and each of those emotions was bombarding Emma's sensitive brain. Soon little snippets of thoughts began to filter through, in spite of her efforts to hold them at bay.
'Why won't my parents let me rent this? It's not fair!'
'I love him so much...'
'I wonder what's for dinner...'
'Gaaah, where's the bathroom?'
' 'I am the very model of a modern major general, I've information vegetable, animal and -' '
'I hope I don't look fat in this...'
'Creepy little mind-reading lizard...' from Kila.
Emma clutched her head and groaned softly. She barely heard Lilo ask her if she was okay, and she managed to nod. They continued on, and the thoughts were coming faster and faster.
'...the coolest game ever...(static)...that dumbass...(static, static)...'London Bridge is falling down'...wearing my outfit...(static)...wow, I love Stephen King...'falling down, falling down, falling, falling, falling'...(static)...gonna have to finish it in study hall...does that guy have four eyes?...I wish I had her hair...I wish I had his car...(static)...I wish...I wish...I wish...'my fair lady'...'
Emma suddenly grabbed her head and fell to her knees with a blood-curdling scream. "Get out of my head!" she wailed, drawing many a startled look. Kila went wide-eyed, and took several slow steps backwards. Jumba looked startled as well, for he didn't know just what was wrong with Emma. He had created her to sense emotions, not feel them, and he didn't realize that she had gone into a sort of mental overload because of it. What he did know was that something was definitely wrong with her, and it wasn't just that she was willful. He took a concerned step forward, but that's all he did. He was at a loss.
Lilo was at her side in a moment, gently shaking her. "Emma! Emma, what's wrong?"
"I..." Emma looked up. "I have to get away from here..."
Stitch tugged on Lilo's arm, and said, "We...go...home now."
Emma almost laughed bitterly. Home? What was that? Besides, as much as she wanted to, she couldn't move. She gasped slightly as she felt herself being lifted into the air, and she looked up to find herself in Jumba's arms. She was too 'out there' to protest, and she made no sound as he carried her one-armed to his chest like a bowling ball.
"One true place finding will wait another day." he said.