Author's Notes: At long last, we're back! I took some extra time off to write a bit ahead in this arc, and I think it's starting to come together pretty nicely. Nothing like a regular update schedule in the future, unfortunately, but we shouldn't see any more big breaks like this.

Thanks to everyone who left comments on the last chapter! Mal, several people have expressed interest in the other stuff that was on that computer, so maybe I'll do an extra that goes into it a bit later. And Coatl, I put my reply in the guestbook... Definitely a goal of mine for before the next chapter is to get a proper way to comment on the fic going on my site, since I think the current system's pretty silly. But for now, that's where it is.

Now, let's go to Orre!

Chapter 36

Your hover-scooter whines as it labors up the side of a dune, displaced sand whirling in its headlight as the anti-gravity thrusters keep it hovering just above the ground. It would be kind of cool, you guess, if you had it back in Kanto. Even this blocky thing, a bland white with peeling decals on it, goes way faster than the bikes most trainers get, and the anti-grav rings on the bottom light up a pretty blue.

Here in Orre, though, you're always going to be comparing it to real hover-cycles, the ones they have in movies, which roar and zoom and belch smoke and occasionally explode when driven into walls at high speed. They also require a special license to drive, and Mewtwo refused to wait for you to find someone that you could be who also had one. So here you are, stuck as Jade Winstead with nothing but a kiddie hover-scooter to use.

Let me out.

And that. That. Mewtwo's been doing that for almost two weeks now. Your grip tightens on the handlebars. "Mewtwo, we're not even half an hour away from Gateon Port." If you turned and looked over your shoulder you'd see it sprawled behind you, a scattering of lights like glowing, multicolored jewels.

Let me out.

He's being even more obnoxious today, now that you've finally made it to Orre. He must sense freedom at hand.

"Not until we're past Agate Village at least," you say. You don't actually need to talk out loud; Mewtwo could as easily pluck the words from your brain. But it's more satisfying to speak, especially as you've really had no one to talk to, in the conventional sense, since you left home. Now more than ever you miss Togetic, and Duskull, and Rats, and everybody.

Mewtwo still won't say where they are. Best that they stay safe, he said before you left home, like either of you believed he wasn't withholding them just to be a jerk.

Let me out.

Nearly two weeks of that, most of them spent cooped up on a boat. You wanted to fly, but you'd never get Mewtwo on a plane, not with security like it is. You spent as much time as possible out of your cabin, on the deck where you could smell the ocean and feel the sun on your face. Absol was around a fair amount, too, but you still spent far too much time locked up with the clone, trying to fall asleep with him whispering at you from the dark. Waking up again later to find yourself mouthing the same sentence, over and over.

Let me out.

You scowl and twist the handlebars forward so the cycle's little motor goes "rrrRRRR" and accelerates a bit. It's the only sound, out here in the desert, and there's no light but the headlight and the green glow of the GPS and the stars and crescent moon above. The desert stretches out in rolling purple-black waves, dunes on dunes broken here and there by jagged spires of rock.

It would be lovely if you could be alone, inside your head as well as out, to enjoy it.

Let me out.

"Mewtwo, when we get there! It's only supposed to be two hours. You know what would happen if anybody saw you."

Who would see me out here? One or two at most, traveling like you are. One or two could easily be dealt with.

"Mewtwo, no." Your stomach clenches. You know exactly what he means when he says "dealt with." "When we get there."

"There" is an old Cipher facility where they supposedly made shadow pokémon. You'd seen stuff about shadow pokémon on TV, but not much, so you spent a lot of the boat ride on your pokédex, looking for information about them and about Orre in general.

This Cipher building should be sitting abandoned, no doubt long ago picked over for clues. Still, though. It's one of the few Cipher bases you know of, and it's the kind of place Mew's in, somewhere full of machines with harsh, clinical lighting. Maybe there's more going on in the desert than people realize.

Let me out.

You grit your teeth and try to accelerate more, and another dune falls away behind you.

You had pictures of the factory, of course, but it's almost unrecognizable at night, looming overhead rather than safely confined to a small screen. The old smokestacks give it away, two of them leaning, now, threatening collapse. They stick up over the mountain behind the building, while the angular mass of the place itself could have been just another crag, unnaturally smooth but no shape that your mind would register as "building", either.

You stare up at it as you let the hover-scooter purr to a halt, and now Mewtwo is just an eager, wordless pressure on the back of your skull. No excuse to keep him cooped up now, and both of you know it. He spills out of the master ball in a burst of light, then sweeps towards the building while you linger behind, entranced.

The Cipher factory's a hulking dark mass, diamond-shaped like a normal building that got tossed up onto one of its corners. A long, long ramp rises up to the front door at the diamond's bulgy middle, far up above the ground. Below the ramp metal plates form a kind of maze around a central platform, dark chasms dropping between them to the unseen desert floor. Just looking at the place gives you the shivers—apprehension, yes, but also excitement. Now here's a real villain's lair. None of Team Rocket's hiding underground; Cipher doesn't care who sees it, gleefully flaunts its evil.

Mewtwo's fur practically glows in the starlight as he makes his way up the ramp. He stops in front of a chain-link fence blocking off the actual entryway. It's festooned with signs you can't read from here but know must say things like Keep Out, No Trespassing, Danger.

If anybody's working here now they're being awfully discreet, you think as you climb slowly up to join the clone. Drifts of sand and rubbish have collected in the corners of the angular metal maze, and the building itself is dark and completely silent.

Nevertheless, we check, Mewtwo says, and the fence parts for him, bulging in as though punched by a giant fist, wires sprong-ing back in twisted curls, leaving a perfect opening for Mewtwo to glide-walk through.

"Mew-two," you hiss, scurrying after. It's nothing to worry about, probably, no way for people to connect a busted fence with Mewtwo, but you're so used to secrecy that such a blatant lack of care brings on involuntary horror.

Mewtwo doesn't acknowledge the feeling, nor the even more urgent one that follows when he does for the doors what he did for the fence. There's no one here, Mewtwo says to your unspoken fretting over what if he accidentally blasts something important, or even a person hiding out here, someone who might be able to tell you if Cipher has Mew.

"What's the point of being here, then?"

Mewtwo doesn't answer. Instead he begins to glow, really glow, purple light spilling from his fur. He steps into the dark hole he's created and swiftly recedes, like a diver sinking down into the black well of the deep. If you hesitate any longer you're going to lose him completely.

You wish you'd come here in daytime. Cipher's weird factory is windowless, its metal hallways made for cold fluorescent light. Mewtwo's flash casts hard shadows from exposed wires and bits of broken furniture, the dark shifting and sliding in weird shapes as he moves. What scientific fixtures are left are all dark screens and glassy dials pointing to zero.

It's not much like the lab on Cinnabar. That still had lights, even at night when when almost everyone had gone home. And there was Mewtwo. You could feel the buzz of his psychic field, knew he was somewhere in the building, watching, hating you. But this is different, see, you never had these kinds of machines on Cinnabar, it was all medical equipment, not lasers and cranes and stuff. And now you know where Mewtwo is, you don't have to guess, to feel him lurking. It's not the same at all.

Will you stop thinking about that? Mewtwo snaps. He stops in front of a sliding metal door stuck two-thirds shut. It shudders, scrapes open to halfway, then sticks again. The thrum of psychic energy rises, and the door trembles, then abruptly slides the rest of the way with a shriek of metal on metal. Mewtwo ignores your unease and passes through, glowing bright.

"There's nothing here," you say, following with your eyes on the floor so you don't have to stare into Mewtwo's glow. At least everything important is gone, just empty cabinets and tumbledown shelves left. The warning stickers still clinging to some of them make the child wonder nervously who took the radioactivity, the biohazard, the caustic—was it Cipher, or the police, or common looters? Who has the poison now?

And you would claim humans aren't evil, Mewtwo says, striding along the remains of a conveyor belt, following it deeper into the facility. Here they are, feeding pokémon along an assembly line, just another product to be sold. Just another tool. So much more useful than normal pokémon.

Mewtwo takes to banging on the equipment as he goes past, bursts of telekinesis striking metal cabinets with hollow booms that echo down empty corridors. They gave their broken pokémon away to trainers, to normal trainers, what you would call innocent, and they didn't even notice! Give them a pokémon with no spirit, who will do nothing but obey orders, who has lost all sense of themself, and they couldn't tell the difference! They thought it was normal! And what does that mean for all the other pokémon, the ones who weren't shadowed, the ones those trainers supposedly loved so much?

You walk behind Mewtwo, breathing in his anger. He's right in a way, you suppose. And more than that, he distracts you from the memories that threaten to creep in from the ruined lab around you.

And where did they go? Mewtwo roars. His next strike does more than boom, crumpling a section of metal wall. They took my mother, and where did they go?

You doubt you'll find the answer here. Under Mewtwo's pulsing anger is your own hollow dread for months or years of scouring the desert with him muttering in your head.

Oh, don't be so pathetic, Mewtwo snaps. The group that ran this place is called Cipher, is that right? Another coalition of humans that preys on pokémon. And they're gone now, supposedly. But Team Rocket was supposed to be gone, too. Not all of Cipher was found, is that right? We can start there.

Mewtwo knows exactly everything you do about Cipher, lifted the information from your neurons rather than the page. So he knows that, yes, the majority of Cipher's administration remains at large. But, "Mewtwo, they're hiding. Everybody's been looking for them. If it was easy, someone would have caught them already."

We haven't been the ones searching, Mewtwo says, his cold determination threaded through with a faint strain of pride. Ahead, rickety metal stairs lead up to an open hatch, one that shows a purple-blue patch of sky.

Mewtwo disdains the staircase, launching himself into a leap that goes on and on as his telekinesis carries him upwards. You hesitate at the bottom, then float up after him, not as smooth in the air but enjoying the opportunity to flex your psychic abilities. It's kind of fun, floating around like this, even if you get tired fast.

Mewtwo stands at the edge of the roof, looking out over the desert and wind-scoured juts of rock that rise up into mountains. A kind of ziggurat stands behind him, like this place is some sort of temple. You don't want to think about what would have been worshipped here.

Yes, it's rather elaborate, isn't it? You can feel that Mewtwo's cold, the night wind cutting through his thin fur, but he makes no move towards shelter. I was thinking I would scour it from the earth, but perhaps I'd rather keep it. We need somewhere to base ourselves, somewhere private. And it would be fitting, wouldn't it? Making use of the ruins left by the ones who thought they could make use of me.

"Really? This is where you want to stay?" the child asks, shivering for both of them.

Mewtwo stands in quiet contemplation of the shadowy desert landscape. The scientist, Professor Krane. I think we will go to see him first, he says at last.

"I don't think he knows anything about where Cipher's hiding. He got kidnapped by them once. They aren't friends."

I know. But supposedly he knows more than anyone about these "shadow pokémon," Mewtwo says. I have some questions for him.

You grimace. Poor Professor Krane. "I'll go back to Gateon Port, then. We can go to his lab tomorrow morning."

Why go all the way back there? This place is ours now. You can sleep right here. You don't even get to protest before Mewtwo's mind pushes you down, down, turning everything heavy and distant so you don't even realize you've fallen until you feel cold metal against the side of your face. And then you have little choice but to sleep.

The sun's high by the time you wake from enforced slumber, hot and sweating and disoriented. Mewtwo's just where he was last night, sitting now with his tail wrapped around his body. Some people might believe he'd been there the whole time, meditating or whatever it is he does, but you aren't fooled.

"You can't do that, Mewtwo!" you yell.

I'm quite sure I can, actually, the clone says, and he feels bored, not even self-satisfied or anything. You seem to think you control my entire life. I hardly think you get to complain about a few hours' rest.

You reach for the master ball on your belt only for your arm to lock up painfully, halted by empty air and psychic force. "This is why I don't want to let you out! I can't trust you. What were you doing? It was something I wouldn't like, wasn't it?"

I was enjoying getting to breathe actual air and see the world with my actual eyes! Mewtwo snarls. You're no better than a human! Keeping me locked up because it's not convenient to you for me to get to live my life—

"It's not inconvenient. You kill people! That's bad, and if you keep it up people are going to figure out you're here, and when they do—"

I killed nothing. Nothing! Not one single wretched human!

"Is that real, or is it a lie? I can't trust you, Mewtwo, I can't—"

Absol walks out from the shade of the ziggurat. Your heart leaps, and it takes you a moment to realize some of your relief is actually coming from Mewtwo. "Absol!" you say. "Take the master ball, Mewtwo won't let me—" The clone stops your voice in your throat.

Absol stands looking between the two of you, Mewtwo calm and unruffled, you with eyes bulging and muscles straining against his psychic grip. "I thought the two of you had work to do. Why are you fighting?" she asks.

"Of course we do. The creature's holding things up, complaining about nothing," Mewtwo says. He's speaking normal pokéspeech now, instead of mind to mind, and his words come out blurry. He obviously isn't comfortable using his voice, and his psychic field prickles with embarrassment and anger when you notice.

You struggle furiously against Mewtwo's hold, but he keeps it clamped firmly in place. Absol turns towards you. No doubt she can read what's going on in the strained expression on your face. "Do you think you should use your power against your sibling like that?" she asks Mewtwo.

His shock lands on you like an icy bucket of water, but it's supplanted by your own smugness a moment later. Mewtwo thought Absol would back him up, but of course not—she's your friend, after all.

And now Mewtwo's angry again. "Do you think it's right for that thing to keep me locked up in the dark? I'm defending myself. If I didn't stop it, it'd have me back in that master ball in five seconds, and who knows when it would let me out again?"

"That's true." Absol's deep red eyes stare straight at you. "Do you think it's right to keep your brother caged?"

Now it's Mewtwo's turn to blossom with smugness. You throw yourself against his hold again, indignation burning hot in your chest, pointed words fighting for release from between cramped jaws. That's not how it is! It's not caging, it's just—

"Your sibling doesn't seem able to answer," Absol says. There's a long pause. Finally your face feels less tight, and your tongue can move freely in your mouth. Everything below your neck is still frozen, though; certainly your fingers can't twitch any closer to the master ball.

"Absol, he's still doing it," you say, and she turns to calmly look at Mewtwo instead.

Resentment simmers like acid inside your skull, and you slump a little as Mewtwo's psychic grip releases. Your fingers do twitch, now, but you stop yourself from going straight for the master ball. You're not going to prove Mewtwo right.

You already have.

"It's rude to talk so Absol can't hear you," you say, and only smile wider when Mewtwo yells furious insults into your head. For whatever reason that makes you the new target of Absol's glare. "Absol, he knocked me out and went off and did something by himself last night. I can't let him out if he keeps doing that. He kills people. And it's bad," you add hastily. "I mean I know you say if they were supposed to die then it's okay, but that's not why he's doing it. He wanted to kill the great Nathaniel Morgan the whole time we were on the island—"

"And I should have! This creature is endangering everything, letting humans get close to it. I am not going to let that thing—"

"I'm not endangering anything! The great Nathaniel Morgan can't stop us. And anyway, he's important. I remember. That's why you made me save him earlier." You can't resist shooting a grin at Mewtwo. That's your trump card, and something Mewtwo didn't know.

"That human isn't important," Absol says. "However, needless killing will not help you find your mother."

It's not needless! Even the creature understands that humans can't know where we are or what we're planning. Or it would, if it weren't blinded by sentiment.

"I don't know what that means, but you're wrong."

"Both of you," Absol says, and she actually sounds annoyed. "You won't succeed if you fight like this. Why can't you work together?"

"He has to stop bossing me around all the time!"

"It can't keep me trapped! It doesn't control me!"

Time passes. "Well, what do you want us to do, Absol?" you ask at last, realizing her silence is a prompt.

"It's true that Mewtwo cannot be seen. That means he must either allow himself to be confined to the master ball, or he must remain elsewhere out of sight while you work." Absol shouldn't be able to feel the simmering resentment Mewtwo exudes, but her pause is eerily well-timed. "Am I correct?"

"Yes," Mewtwo says sulkily, and you realize the sulkiness is all in your own head. The clone's actual words are weirdly uninflected. He sounds a bit like Absol that way, but Absol's emotions are subtle, not nonexistent. "But that thing won't let me out even when there isn't any danger. I won't stand for it. I'm sick of being down in the dark."

"Also true," Absol says. "What, then, if we agree that you will always be released in the evening and allowed to remain out until the next morning, unless there is pressing danger? And other times, when you are safe, as well. But always in the evening, guaranteed. Is that acceptable?"

"Yes," Mewtwo says at last, still petulant.

"Only if he doesn't go off and do anything on his own, or mess with me," you say.

"I believe that's fair," Absol says. Her look invites Mewtwo to agree.

"And how am I supposed to be assured the creature will actually let me out?" the clone asks.

"I'll make sure that all involved keep their word," Absol says. "Is that acceptable?" This time she gets reluctant agreement from you and Mewtwo both. "Excellent," she says, and you know she must feel like she's solved the whole problem, just like that. But you still don't trust Mewtwo, and it's not like Absol could actually stop him if he decided not to cooperate. "Now, were you going to go somewhere?" Absol asks.

"We have to go to a place near Gateon Port. That means Mewtwo has to go back in his ball."

"There is no one out here!" Mewtwo snarls for the millionth time.

"Does he need to go with you?"

"Yes. I want to ask questions. I have to be there when the creature speaks to Professor Krane."

"Then perhaps your brother can remain out for as long as it is safe."

"Anybody could be riding around out there. He should stay in the master ball the whole way." Absol doesn't say anything, and as time stretches on you realize she expects the two of you to actually work this out yourselves. It's so annoying when she acts like she's your mother.

I can't believe she's taking your side, Mewtwo hisses inside your brain.

She doesn't believe me about how terrible you are, you think at him as hard as you can. She's going to be watching, so you'd better not try anything or she'll probably say to never let you out again.

She probably wouldn't, honestly, and in your opinion she's been way too lenient with Mewtwo. She wasn't the one who had to deal with him on the ship, who'd eventually give in to his complaints and let him out for a bit, in the cabin where no one else could see. He mostly celebrated having physical form again by stretching and taking up the entire room, knocking things over with his tail and using the cabin fixtures as exercise equipment without concern for what he broke.

You didn't need that, nor the fear that he wouldn't actually go back into his ball. One time he paralyzed you and left you stuck for over an hour, cramping and unhappy and with no choice but to listen to him ranting about how unfair his life was and everything he'd do to the people responsible if he only got the chance. Absol can claim she'll stop him from doing that again, but it's not like she can actually do much but get stern with him.

"Now, are you ready to leave?" Absol asks.

The child holds the master ball up, pointedly, at Mewtwo. He says acidly, For now, maybe. But the guardian won't always be there to protect you.

With him inside the master ball, the psychic pressure shrinks—doesn't go away entirely, of course, but you can breathe easy again and even start to enjoy the morning sweeping across the desert. It's kind of pretty, the ragged teeth of the mountains dappled by sun and deep shadow, the smooth humps of dunes subtly changing color as they spread out towards the horizon. "We really shouldn't leave right now. Not until the sun's gone down. It's too hot."

"Then will you not let your brother out?" Absol asks.

You stand looking out over the desert for a couple minutes longer. Well? Mewtwo asks.

"I changed my mind," you announce. "Let's go." And with Mewtwo fuming at the back of your mind, blessedly small, you turn and make your way down through floors of broken and abandoned machinery, more pathetic than anything with dusty sunlight shining in through chinks in the factory's cladding, and out into the desert.

Several hours later, you remain Jade Winstead, but you have a new backstory: you're a journalist from the Saffron Times, hoping to inform the Kantoan public about an issue people outside Orre know almost nothing about. You didn't know anything yourself, after all, until you started your research.

You've also discovered Jade Winstead has an abiding dislike of receptionists. The one in Professor Krane's lab keeps making up problems like needing an appointment, or the professor being busy all day, or could she see some ID? If you hadn't literally seen Professor Krane go into an office down the hall you might not have gotten to see him today at all. Now he's standing right in front of you while the receptionist hangs onto the door-frame, panting.

"I'm so sorry, Professor," she gasps. "I told her you were booked, but she just ran..."

"Ah." Professor Krane blinks at you from behind thick glasses. He's a bit stooped, with thick, dark hair like some alien organism attacking his head. He reminds you of Leonard Kerrigan a lot. "Well, what Judy said is true. I can't speak to you right now, but I'm sure she'd be able to help you find a better time."

"No, it has to be today!" you say. "I have a—a big deadline for a contest worth a lot of money!"

"Left it a bit late, haven't you?" says the guy whose desk Professor Krane is standing by.

"Well..." Professor Krane looks between you and the red-faced receptionist. "I was going to do some upgrades to the Purification Chamber this morning. Perhaps we can talk while I work? This will be quick, won't it?"

"Yes, quick. Very quick."

"Okay. Then, Earl, if we could reconvene in half an hour?"

"Yeah, yeah, go on," the man at the desk grumbles into his coffee.

"This way, then," Professor Krane says with a smile for you. He's the only one smiling, actually. The receptionist in particular is going an angry, splotchy red-white. You hold your head high as you go past her. Professor Krane said it was okay.

"I like your lab," you say out in the hallway. It's all glass and high ceilings, and somehow manages to feel light and airy despite an abundance of metal and cold tile. And the trees! You can see them through the big glass bubble at the front of the building, green shadows against the sun. They're real trees, not the bushy kind that normally grow out in the desert but oaks and maples other great-big broadleaf trees, and their roots clutch earth covered in real, thick grass. Professor Krane isn't nearly as famous as Professor Oak, but the child thinks maybe he wants to be, or at least wants to bring some of the prestige of Kanto and Johto out here to a little region that doesn't even have its own League.

"Thank you." Professor Krane beams. "I've worked very hard on it. Now, this is the Purification Chamber, just in here." It's a room choked with computer equipment. In the middle is a round platform surrounded by VR projectors.

"Can I try it?" you ask.

"Of course! Well, the interface, anyway. It wouldn't do to try digitizing you and actually putting you in the chamber," Professor Krane says, still smiling. "Please, stand on the platform there. The routine will begin automatically."

You step onto the platform, and whirls of hazy light like stylized musical notes spin around the projectors. The room falls away, and you find yourself standing in what seems like endless empty space, the faint suggestion of walls and floor outlined by glowing geometric patterns. Three-dimensional projections of pokémon slowly orbit you.

"So I imagine you know what the Purification Chamber does," Professor Krane says, voice echoing over the quiet, abstract music that fills the place.

"Yes. It makes shadow pokémon go back to normal," you say. There are a bunch of numbers floating near the "ceiling," along with little graphs and statistics that mean nothing to you. You point at one and the interface changes, brining up a display with icons representing pokémon standing in a circle and... dancing? The music's changed to something peppy and upbeat.

"That's right," Professor Krane says. "Shadow pokémon have blunted emotional responses, and over time the areas of their brains responsible for regulating emotion can actually atrophy. The Purification Chamber analyzes the brain activity of normal, healthy pokémon and attempts to create similar patterns of activation in the brains of shadow pokémon, rejuvenating atrophied neural pathways. I would give you a demonstration, but thankfully we've purified all of the shadow pokémon Cipher produced, so we don't have any more to work with. Do you have any questions about the Purification Chamber?"

"Umm, can you turn it off? The music is really annoying."

You idiot, don't provoke him, Mewtwo hisses, but Professor Krane laughs.

"Yes, of course." The VR interface fades away, a faint haze of musical notes hanging around the VR projectors for a few seconds before dissipating entirely. "We've also found some elements of music therapy to be useful in the purification process, and the assisting pokémon seem to enjoy dancing, so..." Professor Krane spreads his hands with a sheepish smile.

You don't think you'd want to dance to that, much less for hours on end.

"So what questions did you have for me? Don't mind me, I'm just looking at some numbers, here," Professor Krane says. He sits on the edge of a desk, pecking at the computer sitting there and examining its screen over the rims of his glasses.

"Um," you say, but Mewtwo steps in to supply you with a question almost immediately.

What exactly is a shadow pokémon? What makes it different than a normal pokémon?

"Ah." Professor Krane smiles absently after you repeat Mewtwo's question. "Going to start off with the big one, are we? If you find somebody who knows the answer to that I'd dearly love to speak with them."

"But you studied them so much! And you built the Purification Chamber! How can you not know?"

"Well, we can observe shadow pokémon's symptoms and come up with ways to treat them without really knowing why they are the way they are. Shadow pokémon seem unable to express emotions besides anxiety and rage. They have an unquestioning drive to follow orders, and they produce "shadow" attacks that are effective against all known pokémon types. Obviously some component of being a shadow pokémon is mental—I was telling you how their brains can change.

"But there's more to it than that. In addition to using shadow attacks, they seem to have difficulty processing the infinity energy they're exposed to in battle—they can't learn or grow nearly as fast as normal pokémon. But we don't know what the source of those differences is, whether mental changes somehow alter energy metabolism, or vice versa, or if there's something else entirely underlying it all."

So he doesn't know how Cipher made shadow pokémon? Mewtwo asks sharply. He doesn't know what it did to them?

"Oh, no, no, definitely not," Professor Krane says. "No, the only high-ranking members of Cipher that have been captured are management types. We really need to get ahold of some of their top scientists, especially Lovrina. The techs that were apprehended could describe how the machines they used worked, or what their part in the process was, but it hasn't been enough to get a sense of what was going on big-picture-wise."

Why hasn't anyone found them? How could they all just disappear?

"Ah." Professor Krane's mouth thins to a flat line, and he gives the keyboard a couple particularly aggressive jabs. "If you weren't aware, I'm afraid that Orre's law enforcement isn't exactly known for... competence. Probably something you'll want to research for your article. But even with the best police in the world it would be hard to find someone in Orre. It's impossible to monitor all the desert, we barely have maps, and most of those are out of date... There are loads of little caves and crannies... It's just full of hiding places. Good for criminals, bad for everyone else."

And no one has any idea where they went? None at all? You clench one hand at your side, squeezing hard to try and burn off some of the anger Mewtwo's sending your way.

"I certainly don't. I'm sorry. Of course I'd tell you if I knew, of course, but..." He shakes his head.

What about our mother? Mewtwo demands. What about Mew?

"Mew?" Professor Krane frowns and looks up from the computer. "Why do you ask?"

"Umm, no reason. I just like Mew... And it's rare... So..."

Professor Krane studies you for a second before answering. "Well, I guess there were some rumors about Mew being in our desert a while back, but I never saw it myself. Did you think there was some connection with shadow pokémon?"

"No, no, nothing like that. I was just asking." Is he mad because he wants to be talking about his own work all the time?

Worthless, Mewtwo snarls to himself. Worthless, ignorant human.

Since he either doesn't have any more questions or would rather be angry than ask them, you go with one of your own. "How did people deal with shadow pokémon before the Purification Chamber?"

And yes, Professor Krane brightens up at that. "Well, the purification process has to do with emotion, of course, but memory may be even more important. Shadow pokémon respond strongly to scents, and scent is heavily linked to memory. That may also help explain why Celebi's shrine helps with—"

Celebi? Mewtwo demands, and you lose track of Professor Krane's monologue as the clone goes on, He comes out to this place? Where there aren't even any trees?

"Hmm? Oh, the shrine's in Agate Village. It was built long before Orre became a desert. Some people think it might be part of why Agate is so green. For whatever reason, shadow pokémon that visited the shrine showed remarkable recovery. That was part of my inspiration, actually. I wanted to create a machine that could do what the shrine could do, but anytime, anywhere, and fast. Otherwise, what would happen if shadow pokémon began appearing in other regions or, Gods forbid, Cipher did something to the shrine?"

This is excellent, Mewtwo says. Celebi will help us find my mother. We need to find this shrine.

You blink. Professor Krane's staring at you. "Umm," you say nervously.

"I said, is that all?"

Mewtwo's still purring to himself about his new plan. He's excited; he's gotten what he wants. But you're still curious. "Do you think there's going to be more shadow pokémon? Is that why you're still working on a way to help them even though Cipher's gone?"

"That's what everyone asked when we started designing it in the first place. They thought Cipher was done for good. And then, two years later, look what happened. We're in the same situation today. Supposedly the ringleader's been dealt with, but most of the higher ranks are still at large, and their tech's still out there, too. It would be naive to think it won't show up again somehow." Professor Krane takes a deep breath and continues in a much more upbeat tone, "Also, we're researching the interactions between emotion and infinity energy in pokémon. Perhaps we can develop treatments for ailments besides shadowfication, maybe even treatments that will work on humans. That's the kind of thing I have to say to get money," he adds a bit sheepishly.

"Pokémon dance, and people are not sick anymore?"

Professor Krane's smile is visibly strained. "It's research. The idea is to find out."

Enough of this. We're done here, Mewtwo says. We need to meet Celebi.

"That sounds pretty weird, but good luck," you say graciously. "That is everything I wanted to ask. Thank you."

"It's no problem. I would say stop by anytime, but," this time Professor Krane's smile is definitely genuine, "you really should make an appointment first."