Thread: [Pokémon] Hackers [15]
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Old July 5th, 2012 (10:08 AM). Edited July 10th, 2012 by Cutlerine.
Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
Gone. May or may not return.
    Join Date: Mar 2010
    Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
    Age: 23
    Nature: Impish
    Posts: 1,030
    Ave! Another one of my strange little stories. This one will be updated less frequently than my main story, whatever that might currently be, but won't die, hopefully. I suppose it's a replacement for my last side-project, Coriolanus Rowland's Guide to Pokémon Husbandry, though it's nothing like it.

    As ever, I rate it 15 for darkness, violence, and swearing - this time in English, since apparently tastes change in the future.


    One – Prelude

    'There are three main types of illegal monster in the industry these days: modster, chimera and scratcher. Modsters are based mainly (more than 75%) on one creature, with modifications 'bolted on', as it were; chimeras are fluid blends of various organisms with no single one appearing to predominate; and scratches, most impressive of all, are beasts created wholly artificially, without using any existing code whatsoever.'

    Teeth. That was what you noticed first: a small cave full of teeth, as sharp and long as steak knives, all rushing towards your face at a hundred miles an hour—

    I leaped backwards, reflexively slamming the door shut as I passed through it; a second later, a long orange head tore through it like a rock through crêpe paper, and I had a split-second view of three bulging green eyes before I was off, running around the corner and back into the corridor as if the hounds of hell were after me.

    “What is it?” asked Jack. “Is it—?”

    “Definitely illegal,” I interrupted, gasping for breath and pulling out my gun. “Aim for the heart; it's probably got a—”

    I got no further: the monster broke free of the doorway with a colossal crack of splintering wood, and forced its immense bulk down the narrow passage towards us; plaster fell away in sheets and clouds from the walls and ceiling. Its jaws pushed through the dust and opened wide, and I saw the spark ignite behind the molars—

    “Don't shoot!” I yelled, but it was too late. Jack's bullet scored a bloody trail down the beast's tongue, snapping teeth and tearing flesh; it hit the back of its throat and all at once—

    —the monster's head exploded, its head flying apart in a storm of fire and bone. I threw myself to the left, hitting the floor hard and rolling out of the way as a wave of flame rushed through the spot where I'd been standing just moments before. It climbed the wall and spread out to fill the corridor in seconds, roaring louder than the beast it had come from; I climbed stiffly to my feet and screamed at Jack through the sheet of fire:

    “What did I say? What did I f*cking say? I said don't shoot!”

    “Sorry!” he yelled back from the other side. “I didn't see—”

    “I don't care! Just find a fire extinguisher – now!”

    I turned and ran down the corridor, searching for something – anything – to put the damn fire out; a couple of concerned residents, alerted by the noise and the gunshots, put their heads out of their doors to see what was going on – but I pushed past them, searching for an extinguisher. There had to be one somewhere...


    Just around the corner, I saw a reassuring red cylinder; I grabbed it and turned on my heel, snapping the tag off and readying the nozzle. The fire had encroached about three metres further down the hall in the interim; the oils in the beast's flame sac must have been the lingering sort. Sh*t. I hoped this extinguisher could handle it.

    “Here goes nothing,” I muttered, and clamped down on the handle.

    A gout of white foam sprayed out over the flames, and almost immediately the nearest wave guttered and died. The second, where it was hotter, was more resilient, and I used up most of the cylinder just getting the fire back to where it had started. Now I could see Jack again, fighting the fire on the opposite side with an extinguisher of his own, and for the first time I relaxed slightly; unless there was more fluid left in the monster than I'd thought, the flames were finished – and sure enough, a couple of minutes later there was nothing left but white foam and blackened bones.

    I dropped the extinguisher, rubbed my forehead and stared at Jack.

    “What did I say?” I asked.


    “No, Jack, what did I say?”

    “You said 'don't shoot',” he mumbled.

    “All right, so you heard me,” I continued with a savage intensity. “Then why, pray tell, did you shoot, blow its f*cking head off and almost get us both killed?”

    “I was already shooting by the time you said not to shoot,” Jack said quietly. He looked pretty ashamed of himself – and well he might. He'd almost burned down a whole block of flats.

    “You should've seen the flame sac igniting,” I told him. “Christ, I saw it and I know for a fact that your eyes are better than mine.”

    I was right and he knew it. He'd had the new Primaview models installed just last week – better than eagle, the adverts said. He ought to have seen the spark from a mile off.

    “Sorry,” he said. “It was stupid.”

    I sighed and shook my head. There was nothing to be gained from arguing any further. I glanced down at what remained of the monster and winced. There wasn't much left of it before the waist; the explosion had vaporised its neck and ignited the flame sac, which looked to have been just behind the sternum. I could make out some spine left, and a few ragged scraps of wing – but other than that, pretty much the entire front half of its body had burnt up.

    “Christ.” I sighed again. “Right, you call Chris and get what's left of this out of here and I'll call in the cleaners.”


    I called Denise and gave her our address, then hung up and waited for Chris; a moment later, he turned up with the stretcher.

    “Whoa,” he said, when he saw the body. “What the hell happened here?”

    “Someone thought it'd be a good idea to shoot out the flame sac,” I told him. “While it was igniting.”

    “Sh*t, dude,” said Chris, scratching his head. “OK, let's get this guy out of here.”

    The monster must have weighed about three hundred pounds, but between the three of us we managed to get it onto the stretcher; it wasn't easy, since none of us had any sort of strength mods. Myself, I hate the way they look. All those extra muscles make you look like a freak – well, more of a freak. It's not like I look all that normal.

    It took us about twenty minutes to get it down the stairs and out the doors. Nate was already waiting for us, with a skinny little guy in glasses and handcuffs, barely eighteen. Typical hacker, really – a geek who'd just stepped over the boundary into criminality. He had probably come quietly; maybe he figured he'd get a reduced sentence – not that there was any real chance of that. He didn't know it yet, but the arm of the law was a lot stronger and more unforgiving than we let on.

    As we came closer, the perp gave a little strangled cry and stepped forwards. Nate was about to pull him back, but I signalled for him to stop; I knew how the kid felt. I'd seen my work, my creatures, spread across the floor of an arena before, disfigured beyond all recognition, and I knew exactly how much it hurt. You hadn't lost any work; the code was always recoverable. But you'd lost a pet, a friend, and even if you built another with an identical skin it would never be the same. Not even the League could sequence a mind.

    “You...” The hacker stared at the remnants, then back at us. “You... you didn't have to do this!”

    “Kid,” began Nate, but I interrupted.

    “Leave it.” I returned my gaze to the hacker. “I know it hurts. But what did you think would happen?” I gestured at the corpse. “It always ends this way,” I said. “Them or you. What would you prefer?”

    “You bastard—!”

    “I know,” I said, keeping my voice level. “That's how I felt too.”

    He fell silent then, staring at me and wondering. There were tears in his eyes, I noticed – and why shouldn't there be? He was just a kid, just a stupid kid who'd messed around with some illegal genes and now...

    “OK,” I said. I had nothing else to say to him. “Let's get out of here.”

    We tipped the mound of burned flesh into the back of the van and got in the front; Chris and Nate went in the squad car with the perp, and we drove off towards the Gym. Jack was driving, so I closed my eyes and sat back, feeling the blood pound in my temples.

    It was going to be one of those days.


    Sixty years ago, there was still some yellow in Saffron. Now there was only grey.

    Then again, sixty years ago we didn't have consumer genetics. Sixty years ago the League was just the organisation that regulated Pokémon Training. Sixty years ago, my parents weren't even born and my grandfather was still in Wales, working as a lawyer.

    How the world had moved on.

    I looked out of the window and saw empty streets; this wasn't a good area of town, and the sort of people who lived here didn't like to advertise their presence. We passed at least two burned-out cars before we got to Cirton Bridge, where things started to look a little nicer; by the time we got to Penton, I felt like we were back in the civilised world again. There were people on the pavements, other vehicles on the roads, even the occasional Pokémon. I sighed with relief – it wasn't uncommon for League vans to be attacked in the rough districts, and though I could take fire-breathing monsters any day of the week, I preferred to keep on the handle end of guns.

    A Mr. Mime stopped us at the gates and held out a hand; I leaned out of the window and passed him my I.D. card. There was a curiously blank look of concentration on his face as he examined it, running his modified fingers down the data strip on the back, and I had to look away: I hated Mr. Mimes. The idea was that something that looked almost human would be the best model for a public servant, but I found it difficult to deal with them for that very reason. They were almost human, but not quite; the shape of the face, the unnaturally long, gangly limbs... All the little differences added up and you felt a shiver go down your spine when you looked at one.

    Eventually, the Mr. Mime nodded and gave me back the card, waving us through the gate. He hadn't made a sound throughout our entire encounter – hence the name. Mr. Mimes were built without mouths, just lips covering the blank skin of their face. Even the League baulked at creating something that could actually talk.

    We left the van in the underground car park, and Chris and Jack wheeled the corpse of the chimeric Charizard into the elevator to take up to the labs. Nate took the kid inside to await the machinations of justice, and I wandered back through the corridors to the office. The only part I played in the process was the capture or destruction of the monster we happened to be after. Beyond that, I had no job besides helping to unravel those cases that required my unique insight. Not that I had a problem with any of that; I was good at what I did, and it paid well enough. Sometimes I missed the creativity of hacking – it is an art, no matter what anyone tells you – but I didn't even think of complaining. The job that I had – hell, my status as a free man – was more than most hackers ever got from the League.

    The office – as so often – was deserted and I dropped into my seat with a sigh. I glanced out of the window and saw nothing remarkable, so I turned my gaze back to my desk.

    “Good morning, Riley,” I said, and suddenly a message in green light appeared on the desktop, read out by an eerily real-sounding voice:

    “Good morning, Gwyn. How can I help?”

    When it had come time to design biocomputers to be grafted directly onto the brain, scientists had tried to create something entirely thought-controlled; unfortunately, they failed to realise that almost no one had the iron concentration necessary to use such a device, and had to redesign it so that it made you hallucinate a GUI. I'd had my biocomputer for the last three years, a tiny subsidiary brain and wireless transmitter attached just below my pineal gland, and still hadn't worked out whether the voice it spoke with was male or female. Consequently, I'd christened it neutrally.

    “Connect to the network,” I said. “Search for any chimeras or modsters seen recently.”

    “Feeling violent?” asked Riley.

    “Just do what you're told.”

    I hated it when computers talked back, but it was inevitable: make something out of living tissue and it will develop on its own. Make a brain and it develops a whole personality.

    “Certainly, Gwyn,” replied Riley, and on the desk I suddenly saw a long list of times, areas and (where applicable) species designations. I flicked the list with a finger and it scrolled down, revealing more; it looked like about thirty chimeras and modsters had been spotted in the last twenty-four hours.”

    “Christ. There are more every day,” I muttered.

    “That would seem to be a logical conclusion,” agreed Riley. “If more were not produced, you would have no job.”

    “I meant more as in a greater number.”

    “Ah. That would be incorrect. Records state that the estimated number of illegal monsters has remained roughly constant for the past six years.”

    “I know, it's... it's a figure of speech.”

    “Yes, Gwyn,” said Riley, as it had done every single time it made that mistake for the last three years. I swear it was trying to piss me off.

    I returned my attention to the illusory list and poked one entry on a whim; the others disappeared and it grew to fill the desktop. Lines of text spread out beneath the title, and a picture flickered into existence on the right.

    “Modster,” Riley narrated as I read. “Base: Primeape. Rogue. Last seen nine hundred hours in Darkoi. Tissue sample recovered in skirmish at nine hundred hours in Darkoi; modified beyond recognition. Everstone usage recommended before engagement.”

    “It's heading for Turtow Hill,” I said, scanning the genetic data. “It's got a trace of genetic memory in the medial temporal lobe that we used to use to recover escaped monsters – some hacker called Wasp came up with it. Makes them run to the safehouse at Turtow Hill.” I frowned. “The League busted that place two years ago, though. How long has this Primeape been around?”

    “Its age is estimated at seven years.”

    Seven years... the Primeape must have been running wild for at least three. Once they'd discovered the League had got me, the hacking community had stopped using Wasp's homing instinct immediately; using Turtow Hill had no longer been an option.

    If that was the case, there was an interesting question here: why was the instinct only activating now? It should've been triggered immediately after the Primeape's escape.

    “Could there be conflicting instincts?” asked Riley. It had picked up a few tricks from me over the years.

    “Yeah, that might explain it,” I said, nodding. “If the hacker spliced in something that overrode the memory – or if the natural rage instinct from the underlying Primeape DNA overpowered it – I guess it'd act according to that. Then something happens – it gets hurt or something, I don't know – and for whatever reason Wasp's memory kicks in, its brain links safety and Turtow Hill, and it starts heading over. Going home.” I tapped the Primeape's data on the desktop. “Alert someone, get a team sent to Turtow Hill. If it was at Darkoi at nine, it'll get to Turtow around twelve.”

    What exactly could have precipitated the activation of the homing instinct wasn't clear, though. There weren't many around who really understood how the brain worked; the team behind the bio-computer had been some of the few who had an inkling. Genetic memories, while usually effective in creatures that were directed primarily by instinct, could easily be swamped and resurge unexpectedly.

    “Yes, Gwyn.” Riley hesitated. “Would you like to be on the team?”

    I thought for a moment. On the one hand, I'd probably be more use here in the office, applying my hacker's knowledge to the hunts for the innumerable illegal monsters in Saffron. I mean, that was what the League wanted me to do.

    On the other...

    “Yeah,” I said, standing up again and blinking hard to get rid of the Primeape data. “Yeah, I think I would.”


    Five minutes later, I was in another League van, heading west to Turtow with Chris and Monica; Jack had decided to sit this one out after his disaster with the Charizard, and Nate was still busy with the kid from the last case. Chris sat in the front with Monica, trying and failing to flirt with her, and I sat in the back with the stretcher and the cages, feeling vaguely trapped.

    “It is a mere illusion,” said Riley chirpily.

    “What the—?”

    I started and smashed my head into the wall.

    “Ah! The hell? I thought I turned you off?”

    “No. Would you like me to—?”


    Riley fell silent and I heard Monica call out:

    “You OK, Gwyn?”

    “Yeah,” I answered. “Just – my computer surprised me.”

    “All right.”

    I lapsed into silence, half-asleep, and was only roused from my thoughts when I heard the sound of someone being slapped from the cab.

    “Everything all right in there?” I called, a faint smile playing about my lips.

    “Just fine, Gwyn,” replied Monica. “Isn't that right, Chris?”

    “Uh... yeah,” he said, sounding considerably less than certain. “Yeah. Everything's fine.”


    There was a pause.

    “Yeah,” Chris said eventually. “Fine.”

    I smiled and shook my head. Chris had a Ph.D. in genetics and forensic science, and he still managed to be a complete idiot at least half the time. It was a complaint a worryingly large number of my associates at the Gym suffered from – I reckoned it had something to do with their sheltered upbringings. They probably grew up in East Saffron, where the most dangerous monster around was the occasional rat, or maybe a mosquito.

    “Where are we now?” I asked. The back of the van had no windows, to prevent anyone looking in or anything breaking out, and so I had no idea where we'd got to.

    “Cinter Bridge,” replied Monica. “Not long. Fifteen minutes now.”

    “OK.” I ejected the clip from my gun and took out the top cartridge, replacing it with a bright green duplicate – a bullet containing a tiny chip of demite, better known by the unofficial name of Everstone. On regular Pokémon, it prevented evolution; in modded ones, it did its best to do the same – with much more dangerous results. Since processes for its mass synthesis had been discovered last year, it had swiftly become the most useful weapon in the League's arsenal: it stripped out most of the added features on modsters with ninety per cent efficacy. Wing an eight-armed Ursaring with one and six arms would just melt off. Unless, of course, you were unlucky enough to be fighting a chimera, where the monster's differing genetic sources were so completely enmeshed that the Everstone did jack sh*t.

    I considered putting in a second cartridge for insurance, then decided against it and clicked the magazine back into place: one shot should be all I needed. Everstones were expensive; I didn't want to waste them.

    “So,” I heard Chris begin, but Monica cut him off.

    “Chris, I think you've dug yourself into a big enough hole now, hm? So just... shut up.”


    “I said shut up.”

    Chris fell silent again, and this time it lasted until we reached Turtow Hill. I pushed open the doors and dropped out the back of the van, blinking in the bright sunlight. Turtow was a pretty nice place now, since the hackers had left – seven streets of upmarket terraced housing, punctuated by the occasional corner shop. If I hadn't known that just three years ago this place had seen thirty-one dead and eighty injured in the biggest battle between League and hackers in Kantan history, I would have said it was pleasant; as it was, I couldn't escape the vague feeling that something unnameable with five legs was going to leap out from behind some bins and try to eat me.

    It took about three minutes for the street around us to empty. There was nothing sudden about it – it wasn't as if everyone suddenly turned tail and ran – but when I next looked around, I saw that the pedestrians had quietly left, that the cars were either stationary or simply gone. They knew what it meant when an indigo League van appeared. You got the hell out of there, or the monsters got you.

    “What now?” asked Chris.

    “I told you to shut up,” said Monica, slipping out of the van and slamming the door shut.

    “Yes, but we're here now and—”

    “Shut up!”

    Chris fell silent and folded his arms huffily, leaning against the side of the van. He looked at me, perhaps searching for sympathy, and got an amused glance; he harrumphed and stared off down the street.

    “Gwyn,” said Monica, “where are we looking?”

    “I don't think we need to look,” I replied. “The Primeape will be heading to right where the old warehouse was. After I told them about the homing gene, the League made sure that when they rebuilt the area, that spot was fortified.” I nodded at the corner shop across the street. “See that shop there? The Primeape will want to get in, and the only way is through the front. The back's six feet thick, made of concrete with Everstone paint on the back. Nothing in the city's getting through that.”

    “So it'll come round the front?”

    “Yeah,” I said. “And as soon as it does, we Everstone it, then kill it.” I paused. “Have you ever seen a Primeape before?”

    “A real one?”

    “No.” Who had seen a real one, these days? This was the forties; it wasn't uncommon to go through life and never see a Pokémon that wasn't synthetic. “I mean a legit one – or a modded one, I guess. They're all the same.”

    “No, I haven't.”

    I nodded and glanced at Chris.

    “What about you?”

    He opened his mouth as if to speak, then closed it carefully and shook his head.

    I sighed. OK, so Primeape weren't exactly common – but you'd have thought they'd have been trained to deal with them. When they did appear, you had to be prepared: they went apemuk with more gusto than Hannibal Lecter.

    “Primeape are a niche thing for hackers,” I explained. “And for legal Trainers, too. They don't take well to directions, and they're pretty much impossible to control. Basically, you point them in the direction of the enemy and give them half an hour to wind down afterwards. They're so full of adrenaline that they barely feel anything below life-threatening pain; they just go mental until they, or their opponent, is dead.”

    “Oh,” said Chris, visibly paling. “Nice.”

    “If you don't like it, you're in the wrong job,” said Monica sternly, though she didn't look quite as confident herself. “So you're saying we don't try and take it alive?”

    I nodded.

    “Unless you can get it in a sealed room and you have a hell of a lot of knockout gas, no Primeape's going to take a sedation. We Everstone it – if its file is anything to go by, we're going to need to – and then we do our utmost to replace its brain, heart and any other vital organs it might happen to have been given with lead.”

    “Sounds good to me,” agreed Monica, checking her gun.

    I looked at Chris.

    “What about you?”

    “Uh – yeah,” he said. “Sure.”

    “Glad we all agree,” I said. “Now—”

    I was interrupted by a distant thump, followed by a horrific noise halfway between an aggrieved squeal and an angry roar.

    “Well,” I said, flipping off the safety on my gun. “Looks like he found the wall.”

    Another thump, a crash, the sound of bone scraping along bricks—

    “The alleyway!” yelled Monica, her gun coming up and tracking around to the gap between the shop and the house next to it; it was the only point of passage between the shop's back yard and the street, designed for just this eventuality to direct monsters around to the front—

    A blur of motion, and a tangle of blackened skin and horn threw itself into the street, staggering to a halt on the pavement; it flung out one arm for balance and accidentally punched a lamppost sideways. For a moment, all I could do was stare – between the armouring, the extra limbs and the quills, this thing looked almost nothing like the species it had started life as – and then, before it had a chance to register our presence, I raised my gun and shot it in the chest.

    Immediately, it began to run towards me, not stopping even to roar its rage; three feet pounding the road and scraping up slivers of tarmac with claws ripped straight from a Pinsir. I didn't move: within three paces, it would falter and slow as the Everstone's taint spread through its system...

    The Primeape set a fourth foot down on the floor, and sped up.

    If I'd been just a fraction more arrogant, I'd have stood and stared, and got myself flattened by four hundred pounds of armoured monkey – but I wasn't, and so I leaped behind the van as it thundered past, snatching wildly at thin air. I shot it twice more in the back, which had exactly the opposite effect to the one I wanted: the modster dug in its feet and brought itself to a sudden stop, turning on its heel to face me with an ear-piercing squeal. It paused a moment to rattle its quills, making sure I knew just how badly poisoned I'd be after it punched me, and snarled out a warning gurk – which was just enough time for two more lime-green bullets to zoom into it from the right. One glanced off the angled bone plating above its ear and embedded itself in a wall; the other hit its shoulder and vanished.

    Instantly, the monster forgot about me and spun around to charge at Monica, quills akimbo; this time, it stumbled and fell after just a few yards, crying out in surprise. For a moment, it scrabbled weakly at the tarmac, trying to push itself upright, and managed to haul itself back onto its feet – but then it fell again, flakes falling away from its arms, and lay still.

    I took a few steps closer to it, keeping a wary eye on its hands. The Everstone had taken off a good deal of its muscle mass, but its fists were still the size of pumpkins. One good hit from that thing would snap a leg, toughened bones or no – and once I was next to it on the floor, incapacitated by pain, the Primeape would be able to kill me with or without its modifications.

    “Is it dead?” called Chris.

    I shot it, and it sprang upright in a blur of howling rage, leaving its extraneous limbs behind; without stopping to consider the new development, I flung myself back behind the van. A moment later, a massive fist slammed into its side, leaving a six-inch dent.

    “Nope,” I called back. “Still kicking.”

    The Primeape squealed again, and now it was more of a squeal than a roar: most of its modifications had been taken out by the Everstone, and aside from a few tenacious quills and bony plates, it looked almost natural. Unfortunately, it was still dangerous, and even more pissed than it had been a moment ago. Which was understandable, really – I doubt I'd be happy if I had three legs, two arms and half my muscles dissolved without due warning.

    “What do we do?” yelled Chris, firing wildly at the Primeape and opening up red splashes across its hide. It howled, wrenched its fist free of the van and charged him, dropping instinctively to all fours like a gorilla.

    “Sh*t!” I yelled, sprinting towards him. “Get out of the f*cking way!”

    Chris flung himself to the ground as the Primeape leaped up; it passed straight through where his chest had been a moment ago – and as it did so, Chris rolled onto his back and emptied his gun into the soft fur of its belly. It jerked, screamed and hit the ground hard, splashing in a thick red pool as it scrambled back to its feet.

    I reached Chris as it raised its fists and roared, bloodshot eyes seeking out the person who had hurt it; dragging him back to his feet, I aimed a couple of shots at the Primeape to keep it at bay and succeeded for the two seconds it took to get Chris out of the way.

    “Reload!” I hissed, dropping him on the pavement, and turned back to the action to see the Primeape barely a yard away from me, breath ragged, eyes bloody and hands outstretched—

    —and then it just fell, sliding gracefully from vertical to horizontal in one long motion and coming to rest with its forehead an inch away from my boots. I stared at the neat hole in the base of its neck, and looked up to see Monica standing there with a smoking gun. Then I looked back at the Primeape, and shot it in the back of the head until I ran out of bullets.

    “I think it's dead, Gwyn,” said Monica, walking over.

    “I'm feeling vengeful,” I replied, glancing at Chris. “How are you?”

    “I'm covered in Primeape sh*t,” he said sourly. He was as well – blowing holes in a monster's intestines while it's above you tends to do that to a guy.

    “Good to know.” I returned my gaze to the Primeape. “How long was it before the Everstone kicked in?”

    “I don't know,” said Monica. “Half a minute?”

    “Everstone doesn't work like that,” I said. “The longest it ever takes to activate is three seconds.”

    Monica stared. She got it: this Primeape resisted Everstone to a degree never before seen – and chances were, the hacking community had no idea about it, because it had been running wild for seven years. We needed to get it back to the lab, and make sure that no hacker could recover any DNA from the site: the last thing we needed was modsters that were resistant (or, God forbid, immune) to Everstone. It would be the thirties all over again.

    “I'll call in the cleaners,” she said, putting her gun away. “Good morning, Claire.”

    I saw nothing, but I knew that the same green text that had been on my desk was flashing before her eyes.

    “Get a full team,” I told her. “We can't leave a single cell for the hackers.”

    She nodded.

    “Send a message to the Gym,” Monica said to her computer. “We need a full team of cleaners at Turtow Hill as soon as possible. We've found a valuable mutation that needs to be banked.” She paused, doubtless hearing the computer's – Claire's – response, and then said, “Good. Shut down. They're on their way,” she added, looking at me.

    “OK.” I sighed and stuck my gun back in its holster. “Right. Let's get this thing in the van and get out of here. Chris?”

    “Yeah, yeah, I'm coming,” he grumbled, getting to his feet.

    “Quicker we do this, the quicker you can go have a shower,” I said brightly. “Now, you grab its arms, I'll grab the legs. Monica, if you can pick up some of those extra limbs over there, I think we'll be all set.”

    “The limbs? The decaying parts?"

    "It's all decaying, Monica."

    She looked at the main body of the Primeape, which bore evidence of having shed its flesh by the nastiest means possible.

    "Fair enough," she said, sounding resigned, and headed over to the nearest arm, grabbing it with such force that a chunk of necrotic filth fell off; groaning, she dropped it and looked balefully at the greasy brown stain on her hand. After a few minutes, Everstone started doing pretty nasty things to the flesh it attacked.

    “Don't forget the gloves!” I called cheerfully, and received a raised middle finger in reply. I smiled, and turned back to Chris – who looked like he was trying to decide whether or not he ought to be helping Monica. “I wouldn't,” I advised him. “I'm pretty sure she's not that happy with you right now.”

    “You're probably right,” he sighed, and grabbed the Primeape by the wrists. “Count of three. One... Two... Three.”

    We hauled the big beast up and into the back of the van – no mean feat, but considerably easier now that it'd shed a couple of hundred pounds of flesh. By the time we were done, Monica had got most of the rotting parts, and we spray-painted a big X over the spot where the Primeape had died to show the cleaners where to start from.

    “All right,” I said. “I guess we can go now.”

    “Finally!” sighed Chris, and started to climb back into the cab.

    “Stop right there,” Monica said, grabbing his shoulder and pulling him down again. “Aren't you forgetting how many Primeape cells are left scattered across the road?”

    "Oh, come on," he said. "I did this last time..."

    "Yes. You're also covered in Primeape sh*t, so it's not like I'm letting you in the van. Wait here and make sure no one interferes before the cleaners get back."

    He sighed again, and wandered back to the X without further complaint. I hopped in the front, and we headed off back to the Gym. The Primeape was dead, the cleaners were on their way, and, most importantly, it was time for lunch. After the morning I'd had, I felt I deserved it.

    For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
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