[SS] REANIMATE
#1
REANIMATE

She wakes when the morning is still cool, quiet, and dark. Without looking, she reaches over with her right arm to her phone on the bedside table, and pulls it close enough for her blurry vision to focus on the time.

It’s 5:29 in the brief moment before it ticks over to 5:30, her alarm flashing onto the screen as the beginning whispers of its chimes start up. She disables it and rolls out of bed. Behind her, a small shadow also rises. The woman reaches to give the blue-gray Steel type a comforting pat. Red eye closes, the levitating, arm-like shape of the Beldum inclining affectionately into the touch before she pulls away.

The sparsely-furnished apartment is quiet, though she hears the sounds of the waking city beginning to rumble outside--the hum of engines, the closing of doors in the hallway as the inner-city folk headed to work before the congestion started on the roads. She grabs a bagel on the way out and down the stairs, holding it in her teeth as she locks the door.

There’s only one other person in the shabby little fitness room of the apartment complex. Jerry, their downstairs neighbor in 204, looks up at her from his perch on the battered elliptical as she enters, the sweat on the bald patch in his grey hair glistening as he moved his head.

”Morning, Alex, Iri,” he greets. His papery skin creases as he gives her a little bit of a smile. Iri lets out a small, metallic ringing sound in response.

”Morning,” Alex returns softly, before slipping in earbuds and taking to the treadmill, distractedly queuing up songs on her playlist as she lets the workout machine grumble pitifully to life. She catches herself in the mirror before she starts, putting fine black hair up into a ponytail. Alex twists the hair tie with her right hand, not bothering with the left--the joints in the fingers usually got caught up in either the hair or the tie, and she didn’t want to bother Iri with the task.

Jerry quietly leaves halfway through her run--later than usual. Iri watches him attentively, the iron ball that holds its analytic eye turning to follow him until he disappears. Alex notices that he moves a little more slowly than usual out the door, but attributes it to soreness from what was probably a longer workout than usual.

By the end of the workout, Alex feels a bit of that same soreness at the base of her left arm. Stiffly, she unstraps the arm, rubbing her left hand over the tingling stub at the shoulder with a relieved sigh. Iri drifts over, flitting side to side in the air almost a little anxiously. Alex checks the soft padding at the gray prosthetic’s base--a bit at the top has worn a little thin, rubbing the skin of the arm raw on the plastic. She tuts softly at it, shaking her head. It was a minor inconvenience, but one nonetheless.

***

It happened when she was twelve, while she and her parents were visiting a Safari Zone in the mountains. They were on a rocky outcropping with the rest of the tourist group, cameras out, watching two Bouffalant fight for dominance down in the grasses of a small plateau down below.

Alex distinctly remembers noticing the ferocity of their fight. The crack of the collisions rang like thunder up the cliff. Even from the distance, she could see their thick curls quivering as they absorbed the shock, and could feel the tremors from their impacts ripple through her bones.

The two behemoths circled around one another, lining up their charges to catch the other head-on every time. It wasn’t long before the larger one cornered the smaller one up against the bottom of the cliff. With its back against the wall, the smaller one’s size proved advantageous; this time, when its opponent charged, it danced out of the way.

It happened so quickly that none of them really even knew what was happening until it was over. The impact of the skull sent a shockwave thundering up the cliff that shook the compacted shale apart, shearing off in sheets of rock that poured down onto the earth like rain.

Alex’s parents had lost their balance when the sliding began, stumbling back hard onto their tailbones, and it was enough to pull them out of danger. Alex wasn’t the only one who fell--another family did, too, a family of five. She doesn’t remember hitting the ground, or the massive slab of rock that crushed her entire left arm beyond repair. Vaguely, she remembers a high-pitched wailing that she later learned were her own screams. Funnily, her first thought was of the Bouffalant, wondering if it was okay, but from there, she only remembers waking up in the hospital.

She didn’t realize anything was wrong when they brought her out of anesthesia. Even as she woke, she still felt like she could wiggle all of her fingers, and it wasn’t until she reached to scratch her itchy left shoulder that she felt the bandages around a couple of inches of what was left.

***

The machine sputters to life, the rumbling of the engine leaking easily into the cabin of the car. The morning is cool, but not cold. The concrete jungle of the city traps in too much of the summer’s day heat for it to all leak out overnight.

“Alright, Iri,” Alex chirrups, glancing over to the Beldum hovering in the front seat. She reaches over the console with a grunt to tug the leash clip attachment on the seatbelt over to Iri, snapping it onto the light blue collar nestled on the Steel type’s more narrow midriff.

The Beldum’s single red eye never wavers in its intense focus on Alex. She gives it a pat on the metal that sticks out over the eye, and the creature gives a soft, ringing hum. Alex smiles, and her mind instinctively reaches for that phantom feeling. Iri’s pupils shrink suddenly, and without skipping even a millisecond, the fingers of the prosthetic wiggle and clasp around the paddle for the windshield wipers, cleansing away the sap from the oak that sways in front of the brick apartment complex.

It’s only when they pull into the parking lot that Iri relaxes, dark spot of a pupil swelling slowly back to normal. The Beldum gives a soft, inquisitive chirrup, turning eye upwards to Alex, and the woman gives a smile and rewards the Pokemon with an affectionate pat on hardy side before hauling herself from the car. Driving always made the support Beldum nervous, and while its eyes didn’t move, Alex had the sneaking suspicion that it was watching all of the other cars on the road, too, prepared for anything.

Iri drifts quietly after Alex as she grabs her small backpack and heads into the squat welcome building of the Broadlake Zoo. The security guard, a short woman whose long blonde hair always shed and clung to her dark uniform, doesn’t skip a beat in her conversation with the high school desk attendant as she reaches to open the door. The words crescendo as they’re unlocked from behind the muted glass and out to Alex as she enters.

“--yeah, a lot’s changed since I’ve been there. Did you have Mrs. Betlam?” she queries the teen behind the desk. He gives a shrug and scratches a little at his cropped, curly hair, leaning languidly back into the rolling office chair. Summer’s just started, which is when Broadlake hires the high school interns looking for some kind of start. The new kid must be one of ‘em.

“Sounds kinda familiar, but haven’t had a class with her.” He notices Alex and her Beldum and sits up a little, as if remembering he has some sort of first impression to make. “Oh, hey there. I’m David.”

Alex pauses at the end of the wooden desk, pausing at the end of the wide, sloping U. “Alex,” she says. Iri’s eyes focus intently as she raises her left arm in a casual wave. The guy gives a little blink of surprise as he sees the prosthetic bits of the hand showing outside of the jacket’s sleeve, and though he’s polite enough to make a quick recovery, she notices. It’s one of the things she picked up on within the first couple of weeks after the accident. People treated you differently once they knew, so it was worthwhile to get the surprise over with to weed out the ones worth ignoring.

David’s eyes flash to the Beldum, putting the pieces together. “Who’s your friend?” he follows up good-naturedly, shuffling his brief moment of surprise out the door to keep things from getting awkward. She turns back to look at her levitating Beldum with a smile.

“Iridium, Iri for short.” Alex shifts  the weight of her backpack around with a fidgeting pull on her straps. “Nice to meet you.” Her voice trails as she turns back onto her path toward the back offices: a small, “staff only” door just before the start of the long glass hallway that bridged the pleasant moat that enclosed the zoo. A soft blue glow emanates from the pad elevated at the door’s side. Her hand falls onto it and it lights to identify her, and then the door slides open to allow her passage.

White tiles, white walls--the pearly planes are interrupted only by the shiny surfaces of stainless steel tables and gadgets. Pale cabinets hover over the counters, with glass windows giving a view into their contents.

A woman stands beneath the harsh glare of the LED lights. She wears a white lab coat, stark in contrast to the tight bun of black hair nested close against her head. “Sofia,” Alex greets, and her voice is followed quickly by Iri’s metallic chirrup, though the Beldum is careful not to allow the woman to distract it. Iri’s ready when Alex swings her dark backpack onto the ground, abandoning it to run over to the machine that Sofia stands over.

The short, dark-skinned woman turns to Alex with a smile that’s also reflected in dark olive eyes. She gives a little wave that quickly turns into a beckon. The wide, round machine is topped with a glassy bubble illuminated by blue light, and within, thin machine arms chisel at a long, flat hunk of rock in the center with pinpoint precision.

“How is it?” Alex asks Sofia, almost breathless as she leans carefully over the shield. Iri’s single black pupil carefully follows the swiveling arms within.

“It’s getting there.” Her heavily-accented voice is soft in volume, as if speaking too loud would disrupt the processes within. Alex smiles softly; she’s never heard the strong-spoken scientist yield like that before, but she doesn’t blame her. They were on the thin glass of a piece of monumental history for not just the zoo, but also for Broadlake as a city. A wrong step here might shatter everything they’ve worked for.

Sofia’s hand raises to point within and Alex’s eyes follow the gesture. “Look.” Alex already sees it--bit by bit, the bright blue lasers carve away the dark brown stone, revealing a brilliant, fiery orange amber. Their eyes meet, excited.

A mixture of live and ancient, Broadlake Zoo held a healthy host of impressive fossils. Their largest attraction was one of the most well-preserved Tyrantrum skeletons in the world, affectionately nicknamed Sue, housed in the fossil museum in the center of each of the type exhibits. More recently, as minor fossil revivals swept the nation with a museum’s critical breakthroughs, their small host of pettable, revived Kabuto and Omanyte had gained popularity as well. They’d gotten offers from major reanimators offering to buy Sue, but Broadlake had their own plans.

Their first big plan laid here, beneath the rock, encased in old amber.

Nobody had gone bigger than a Kabuto or Omanyte yet. Another reanimation facility had made headlines a week ago for managing to successfully revive a Lilleep. As far as they knew, they were the closest. Aerodactyl was already one of the most rare specimens to find preserved; a revival here would give them the grant funds they’d need to move on to even bigger discoveries. Alex had worked beneath Sofia for a couple of years now, but this was her first time being involved in something so ambitious; it was exciting, even if stressful. Even then, Alex was content to let Sofia reach for the stars, as she always had; Alex preferred analyzing samples, staying close to the animals, and doing the work that nobody else wanted to do.

They watch the lasers carefully shear away the rock for a few more moments. Then, the doors behind them open, and in walks the first of the other lab assistants. Alex checks her phone—eight o’clock. The lab will be swarming with people soon, so she gives Sofia a parting wave before ducking out to collect samples.

A few swabs would let them check in on the health of the Kabuto and Omanyte, and see how they were holding up to the hustle and bustle of the touchy environment they’d been placed in. She also needs cheek and fecal samples from the Passimian; they’d quickly quarantined one that came down with a cold but they needed to be sure the others didn’t contract it. They check the cell health of the Zebstrika daily, so she’d save that for last. Iri watches her quietly, attentively, as she goes about her day, helping where needed, and waiting on standby where it wasn’t.

***

She remembers, distinctly, when her parents told her that she’d be able to get a support Pokemon. Her first feeling was excitement, then fear; most Pokemon were banned as pets for a reason, and the licenses to get them were expensive. She remembers asking her parents, “Are you sure?” What if she got one she couldn’t control?

They were sure. Her parents didn’t want her to be known at school as the girl with the disability. They wanted her to be known as the girl with a Beldum. They didn’t want her to feel different.

Only particular Pokemon were chosen for support—basics, mostly, who showed mastery in the desired element but not enough to prove dangerous. Psychic types were the most common for amputees. They’d started using them after the first Great War, when veterans who had lost limbs came home and found difficulties re-adjusting to everyday life. They began training Pokemon who could telekinetically move the limbs and appendages of the prosthetics, reading their companion’s mind to mimic the response of their nerves with lightning precision—effectively turning the annoyance of a phantom limb sensation into a functional replacement.

It required a particular type of Pokemon, and a particular type of bond. When she went in for her first day of training, she was worried that Iri wouldn’t like her, or that she suddenly wouldn’t be able to remember that feeling of wiggling her fingers on her missing left arm. But when that little crimson eye turned toward her, focusing on her, she felt the Beldum’s presence immediately touch her thoughts, and she wiggled her fingers for the first time since the accident.

***

At the end of the day, she tries to pop back into the reanimation lab, but it’s locked. Sofia must have left early for the day. Alex climbs in her car with Iri and heads home. All the while, her head spins with excitement. With Iri’s focus, she unlocks her apartment, opening the bare room up to the light of the hallway. Immediately, she notices the flashing screen of the large 3D printer in the corner.

Alex closes the door, flicks on the light, and approaches the machine, crouching to reach in and carefully extract the white form within. Propped up on a thin base to support the print, the main form sweeps in a wide, shallow crescent, with the raised emblem that shares the same contours of her Steel friend.

“Look, Iri,” Alex says with a smile, turning the print to face her companion. The Beldum’s body rotates slightly in its levitating hover. An almost curious, metallic lilt rings from its form. “It’s you!” Alex points at the raised emblem, and the creature’s pupil follows it. Another small trill and Alex chuckles, turning the print to herself.

“We’ll need to sand it and chop the base, but it’ll make a nice shoulder piece.” She’s already got a paint picked out—a stylish, metallic blue to match her friend.

Even from the beginning, she’d never really been satisfied with the prosthetic arms she could choose from. It wasn’t until university that she even really thought about 3D printing in any way, shape, or form, when one of her friends in their Dungeons & Druddigons group used the CompSci building’s 3D printer to make small, custom busts of all of their campaign’s characters. She picked up 3D modeling for the printer on an open source software, and the first thing she printed was a small figure of Iri.

She glances at the tiny print where it sits atop her computer desk with a knowing smile. Honestly, it looked like garbage; she hadn’t sanded it, so it still bore the telltale ridges of a 3D print rippling across its form, and it was too small to accurately capture the roundness of Iri’s eye. From there, though, she’d started experimenting; printing and testing joints, balls, and other junctions, and finding what bases could support her prints. She made her own prosthetic four years ago, when she was 22, and hadn’t looked back. When she graduated, she’d pooled money with her parents to get one of the larger 3D printers on the market, similar to the one they’d had at school; perfect for printing her own prosthetics.

Alex plops down into her desk chair with the new shoulder, rolls to the computer, wakes the screen and starts up her playlist. Rhythmic, electronic beats bounce from the monitor’s speakers. Classical instruments weave between the synths. Quick, rapid, striking waves of sound, transitioning into slow and meandering tides of melody circling an inadvertent chorus of harmonizing chords. Iri floats about her, seeking out the angles that’ll let it see to properly contextualize her thoughts. Her left fingers click on the metal of the drawer handles as she pulls it open, fishes out a swath of sandpaper by only touch as her head bobs with the beat. She extracts pliers and a rag in the next two beats, taking it all over to the tile-topped counter next to the sink.

Clip. Alex severs the base. Scritch-scrritch. She smooths the first bit off to the rhythmic drum of the music. Occasionally, she dampens the rag in the sink, wipes it across the print to reverse the friction warming of the sandpaper. A rinse takes away the minuscule shreds of plastic lodged in the ridges from the sanding. She loses herself in the music and in the process.

Rhythmic, electronic beats bounce from the monitor’s speakers. Classical instruments weave between the synths. Quick, rapid, striking waves of—wait, wait. She glances over at the computer, rolling over, pupils flicking to the corner that shows the time. Yeah, about right—her three hour playlist has looped over again, making it oh-shit-already-nine-o-clock. The woman hits pause, sighs, and loops back to clean up the mess from the shreds and throw some leftovers into the microwave.

“I’ll just paint it tomorrow. Should’a warned me, Iri.” The Beldum tilts, blinks, but stays quiet. It hovers at her shoulder when the food comes out of the microwave, warns the fork in her left hand subtly away from the bits that are too hot to eat. A support Pokemon always learns a few tricks along the way.

***

She’s greeted by the familiar blonde security guard as she approaches the door, who gives her a smile and a nod. David taps away at the computer, but looks up as they walk in.

“Heya,” he greets, a little sheepishly. Alex notices that his eyes rove over her right arm, then her left, as if trying to remember which one it was, before very briefly lingering on the beige-colored plastic of the left’s fingers. Her lips purse at first, but she pauses at the opening of the desk before passing it.

“Wanna see?”

David blushes sheepishly, his posture shrinking inward on itself like a kid caught doing something he wasn’t supposed to. But Alex sees the excitement. “O-Oh, uh, yeah, if you don’t mind?”

She pulls up her sleeve, revealing the lightweight arm. There’s a slight flash of metal at the joints, where the supportive metal rods end at the joints. They gave the plastic the support needed to lift things, diverting the pressure to the more sturdy titanium. She’d scrapped it from one of her older prosthetics once it’d outworn its use.

“Whoaaaa,” David breathes, reaching out to touch it, but then pausing before reaching it and looking up. She gives him a nod, and he runs his fingers over the sanded print. His other hand runs through his cropped, curly black hair in disbelief. “Yooo, this is sick!” Then, his fingers catch on a small bit that’s been worn beyond the sanding. He notices the ridges immediately—something that Alex takes note of. “Whoa, did you print this?”

She grins. “Yeah, all mine.” That gets his attention even more, and his eyes turn toward the joints. She watches him, then asks, “You print?”

He glances up but then he detaches a little, shrugging his shoulders and averting his gaze. “Not really.”

Her brow raises skeptically, but she doesn’t push it beyond: “Let me know if you need a machine, I’ve got a five-by-five MakerBot at home, just gotta pay for the filament if you do anything big.”

David’s eyes light up. “Really? Sure!”

Alex nods and pulls back down her sleeve.

"Yeah, just let me know when you wanna swing by. You can just Venmo me for the filament, I can let you know how much it'll be if you let me take a look at your print."

"Totally, I'll let you know!" he chimes back. She and Iri offer a little wave with her left arm, pulling herself back toward the reanimation lab with a bit more of a bounce in her step than before.

The woman and her Beldum pass once more through the lab's sliding doors, arriving early as always to meet up with Sofia before the lab got too crowded. She walks in and finds the same scene as yesterday; Sofia hovering over the bulbous glass cover. This time, though, the robotic arms lay dormant, curled at their static resting place at the sides of the space within. And Sofia this time stands hunched over the metal frame of the machine, head hanging limply between her shoulders.

"Sofia?" Alex queries softly in her approach, her pace slowing as she takes it all in. The suddenly weathered-looking scientist casts her gaze back to the younger woman. Her features are etched into a deep, troubled frown. She nods her head back toward the semi-globe, beckoning her to see for herself.

Alex's eyes fall onto the skeleton within. Its pale yellow bones lay upon the same dust that it has been carefully and mechanically excavated from. The skull is the most impressive--a thick spike extends from behind the creature's crown. A wide, lower jaw filled with serrated teeth, impressively sharp for the fossil's age, hinges from the hooked upper snout. Her gaze flows down to its thick, durable rib cage and a horn that protrudes from between the joints of its wings, one that reminds her fleetingly of a saddlehorn--a thought she quickly rebukes herself for. The crest of the wings sport bony, three fingered claws. Or, rather, they're supposed to, because that's when she notices that the right wing isn't quite how it's supposed to be. It's shorter, almost comically so, more like the wrinkled and underwhelming arm of a Tyrantrum or a Tyranitar than the powerful wing of a flying beast.

A small part of her recoils at Sofia's disappointment. She casts her a sidelong glance, features a mixture of uncertainty and confusion and pain, the last of which she quickly wipes away. Sofia doesn't look up anyway. Alex plays dumb.

"What's wrong with it?"

"The wing. It won't be able to fly."

"So? It'll still be the first Aerodactyl revival. It's one of the only fossils intact enough. Look at it's teeth! And the claws on the other wing-arm! Those are incredible. And it looks like we've got all of the ribs?" Alex's head ducks to count them. "At a glance, I can't even tell how the thing died."

"A mudslide, one that it probably couldn't fly from," Sofia informs. The response elicits an exasperated sigh from Alex, who shakes her head and turns away. She moves to grab swabs, preparing to make her morning rounds for samples.

"It's not the end of the world, you know, just because some part of it isn’t perfect," she says as she collects what she needs. Sofia finally looks her way, realizing. Alex turns and fixes her with a quiet stare.

“You’re right,” Sofia says softly. “I’m sorry. I’ll have the crew map the musculature. We’ll give it what it needs and see from there.”

Alex just nods, then takes her supplies and goes, Iri drifting after her.

***

Metal fingers hover over static fur, tracing the stripes on the charged creature’s neck. Lightning leaps in bright, arcing sparks from the beast’s electrified mane, quivering up the length of Alex’s arm before being halted by the heavily-insulated hand of the prosthetic. The Zebstrika gives a deep snort. It tosses its heavy skull when she lightly pulls her fingers away, continuously and dramatically nodding its head until she brings the hand back. The creature releases another small, satisfied shock to the metal. Iri watches quietly but intently.

She’d insulated the prosthetic herself long before her job here. In junior high, touching an electric Bunsen burner in in the wrong spot during Mrs. Betlam’s sixth period lab had nearly knocked her flat on her rear, serving as a very tingly lesson on the importance of grounding oneself when you have an even somewhat conductive metal limb. On top of the base of the fingertips, the wrist was an insulated rubber joint, too. And the elbow, for good measure. She had removable rubber tips for the end of the fingers, too, if she needed them for something particularly sensitive; she had them tucked away in a small coin pouch at the bottom of her bag.

In college, a chemistry professor wouldn’t let her enter the lab with the prosthetic, even with the insulated tabs. In a low voice at the glass doors of the lab, he said it was a safety hazard. He’d already made it clear two classes ago that participation and lab experiments were 80% of the course’s grade.

“So what do you expect me to do?” she asked, voice icy and low and quiet. Iri floated beside her, with red eye was fixed on Alex, though its pupil flashed occasionally to the tall man standing closer than the woman--and the Beldum--were comfortable with.

“Excuse me?” he’d responded, indignant. “What do you think I want you to do? It’s a safety hazard. You can’t enter the lab with it.”

“I’m not sure what you want me to do about it.” She knew when he was implying from the beginning, but wanted to hear him say it--nothing made people uncomfortable more than making them say exactly what they meant, making them linger on their own words and really chew on what they were saying. Alex felt the eyes of her colleagues on the other side of the glass. Some on them combed through the two-sided lab instructions, as if they were going to get started working, but most of them had already flipped the informative page back and forth, then back again, and again, and again. Unbidden, heat rose up in her face, growing warm underneath the friction of their sidelong glances.

He stepped a little closer, casting his gaze briefly to the other students, who all quickly looked away. The professor twitched his lips like he was going to say something, then reconsidered. His weight shifted. He lowered his voice even more to say: “You’ll have to take it off to enter the lab.”

Alex pursed her lips. Her face was hot and her right hand was shaking, quivering without her permission. But her left was steady. Iri attentively responded as metal fingers balled into a fist. “You want the amputee to take off her arm to enter the lab?” Alex repeated his own words back to him slowly. She wanted him to boil in the temperature he’d set in his pot, fired by the heat he’d caused to burn in her face and in her heart.

At least this time he sounded uncertain when he said yes.

Alex simply turned and walked away. In the version of the story that she’d told her mom, and everyone else, she said that she’d marched straight to her ADA advisor and filed a report that would later get the professor fired. She always skipped the part where she walked away from the lab and to her dorm room and let the shame and anger wash over her like a searing tide.

Now, even in her dream job, she resists doing the same, fighting back the heat that threatens her cheeks as the doors slide closed behind her.

***

The next three days are a blur of excited commotion in the lab. They’d taken the appropriate DNA samples needed to start building and growing the Aerodactyl’s tissues on the bones, which meant the accelerated growth process could begin. Alex always finds this part incredible to watch: years of scientific data on a creature’s musculatures all coming together to a critical point, one where everyone would finally get to see which bits were right. It’s objectively fascinating to watch the cells do their work, slowly developing a creature right before their eyes. To some, perhaps it’s also a bit unnerving to see the equivalent of an already-grown beast developed in an artificial womb onto revived bone structures. But Alex can never quite get over her amazement at the way that nature, for millennia, had effortlessly accomplished from day one what it took them centuries of science to do: program and impart data in a way that could be read by the basic building blocks of life.

Already, there’s a murmur of concern that the deformed wing will keep them from testing if the wing structures were appropriate, since the Aerodactyl might not be able to fly, but Alex isn’t particularly worried about their accuracy; dragon and flying type Pokemon have given them more than enough insight on typical wing structures, and Aerodactyl’s was extraordinary similar to that of Noivern or Golbat’s.

At home, she works on painting or sanding some print or another, but she finds her mind wandering back to the Aerodactyl. Most of all, she drifts back to the thought of its wing, and to the bony, almost saddlehorn-like spike upon its back. Not to ride, but what if… to anchor? All three nights, she stays up sketching.

***

The enclosure is tucked far from the reanimation lab, off in the back of the Broadlake Zoo, coated in a copse of trees to muffle sounds and prevent prying eyes from both the sides and from above. Still mid-growth, the mobile cradle housing the Aerodactyl is wheeled there nearly at the crack of dawn on the fourth day. If it weren’t filled with so much excitement, energy, and strange attire, one might think it was a funeral procession: a long line of white lab coats and security guards trailing behind a large, wide, and covered cart, slowly progressing through the warming summer morning.

They wheel the reanimator into the monitoring building--a squat and unassuming-looking concrete building betrayed only by the large glass pane facing the inner contents of the enclosure, reflective from the outside but crystalline from within. The building looks out into the tree-covered aviary, its steel bars arcing like a ribcage dome, intentionally overgrown with shrouding ivy at the top. Large, LED lamps bolted to the inside of the bars help make up for the light they sacrifice for privacy.

He will be born here, in this cradle of science, with man playing god on the edge of discovery.

Alex stands in the observatory and looks out through the glass, hands on the rail that separates her from the window. Sofia approaches; Alex casts her a brief glance and a professional nod, then ultimately turns her gaze back outward.

The older woman stares at her for a moment, then sighs.

“I’m sorry, Alex,” she admits amongst the din of their colleagues bustling behind them, preparing for the revival. “You were right. It was really, really callous of me to say what I did--” At Alex’s quick look, she revises, knowing the woman’s propensity to make people truly reckon with themselves. “--to say that the Aerodactyl’s wing would hurt the project somehow. It doesn’t take away from what we’ve all done, like you said.”

Dark eyes flick over, then back, and then Alex nods. “I know. I forgive you.” A smile plays at her lips, and it mirrors on the other woman’s features. They exchange a little chuckle. Alex’s Beldum gives a soft, metallic trill, almost inaudible.

He breathes for the first time that day, beneath a shield of glass and science and love. The rest of the brain hasn’t formed enough to do much else beyond support his vitals, but the crew names him Horizon already anyway. They move his reanimator out to the center of the enclosure, exposing the equivalent of infantile lungs to the outside world.

***

Two days race quickly by. Sofia and the rest of the crew sleep in the lab, and Alex is half-tempted to join them--only the crowding keeps her from doing so. She suffices instead by arriving even earlier, hitting the apartment gym when Jerry arrives in the early morning, and leaving only right after he does. They keep Horizon under sedatives while the rest of his brain forms, and they know that he’s ready when they can watch his eyes twitch and roll underneath rocky lids. Eventually, they remove him from the reanimator, keeping him only on fluids.

“Check his vitals? Good? Alright, as long as he’s stable.” Sofia rushes around like a madwoman, hovering over observatory stations, pausing only long enough for her eyes to adjust to the screens. “Fluids? Make sure you didn’t dehydrate him when you started weaning him off… Alright, I know, I trust you, just nervous.” Alex trails in her shadow, double-checking, double-fretting, even if she looks calm enough.

“We’re bringing him up! What are you doing over here?” someone calls in Sofia’s direction, and she blinks, then nods.

“Right, right,” she says, pulling Alex excitedly to the glass. Outside, a full-suited vet hovers over him, pulling away a freshly-emptied syringe that’ll bring him from his slumber and quickly retreating.

Alex and Sofia lean on the rail in front of the glass, so close that they have to keep their breath low as not to fog the window. They can’t help but admire him. Horizon. Gray, saurian flesh stretched across powerful flying musculature, jaws bearing serrated teeth, shined to white. His good wing lays splayed across the dirt and grass, thin membrane almost translucent beneath the lights up above. The other lays curled as his side, held close like a treasured secret.

“He’s coming up,” comes the hushed series of whispers from behind them. They see it, then--the twitching of his long, whip-like tail, right at the tip, followed by the slight wiggle of left wingclaws. Sofia’s hand grabs Alex’s left hand on the rail in excitement, in anticipation, and metal fingers softly clasp back. Iri drifts close.

Horizon’s body twitches, a shudder running down the creature’s spine, and then amber eyes flicker slowly open, carefully at first, then quickly, blinking at the bright light. Slender neck quivers and tenses to tentatively raise large head.

Whispers and gasps trickle in from behind them. “Vitals still good, brain activity brightening.” Screens blossom with light as the creature in the enclosure begins to take it all in, finally beginning to wake. His left wing flexes against the dirt, stirring up a small cloud in the warm summer air, and then the right twitches against the ground soon after. “We have wing movement.” Horizon’s body wiggles a bit and then gives a large sway, as the winged creature pulls its legs out from beneath it.

He quickly falls back down, eliciting a mixture of a gasp and a chuckle from the collective crew behind them, but Sofia smiles softly. “He’s fine, he might not look like a baby, but he’s still got to learn the ropes.” The lead scientist’s anxious grip eases from Alex’s metallic hand. As if given permission, everyone finally breathes.

Horizon steadies himself on his legs and begins to shuffle. Sofia begins to walk, once again returning to the lead. “Make sure we’ve got food ready to come in through the slots, and water in the troughs.” Alex turns her head and watches the woman work, and she can’t help but smile, following quietly after her.

***

Sun sets on an exhausted Horizon curled in a corner of the enclosure, and an equally exhausted team settling in on a night of watching his vitals. They lower the lights inside of the observatory. The fluorescent blue of screens and monitors, scrolling data and charts, lights the room.

Alex finds herself again at the window, silhouetted against the dim lights that illuminate the enclosure. The metallic form of her Beldum floats beside her. Long body turns single red eye back toward Sofia as she approaches.

“He’s beautiful,” Alex says as she nears. They both watch him sleep for a bit, finding their first chance to take a break and breathe for the first time that day. The younger woman purses her lips, thinking for a bit.

Then: “Hey, you know...” Alex says, her words trailing off as her eyes sweep back to the enclosure. “I could... print a a wing frame for him. It’d be lightweight, I could fit it custom.”

Sofia blinks, eyes widening as she processes Alex’s words, a look that Alex recognizes as Sofia’s incredible mind scouring the possibilities. But the scientist’s features quickly relax.

“Nah,” she says, pushing back a lock of dark hair--a lock that had slipped from her bun in the chaos, “I think he’s be just perfect as he is.”

Alex nods, and so does Iri.

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K'sariya said she'd be fine with an In Depth on this, so claiming in my In Depth slot
Abras are so cute!
Joined URPG 1/28/2017!
Competitive Showdown player
TEAM A.C.T. ALL THE WAY
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