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Old June 2nd, 2017 (8:03 AM).
Delirious Absol's Avatar
Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
Call me Del
     
    Join Date: May 2015
    Location: UK
    Age: 33
    Gender: Female
    Nature: Quirky
    Posts: 327
    A/N - Firstly I would like to say that this is not exactly a sequel to Glitched. It is, however, set in the same universe just... many, many years later. There are references to the events in Glitched (so it's spoilerly if you did decide you wanted to read it) but it doesn't require you to know those events prior to reading this, so it can stand alone.

    I also intend for this to be a rather long story. Almost an epic. So all being well, you're in for a long, action-packed and (hopefully!) fun ride! =D

    Disclaimer (applies to entire story) I do NOT own Pokemon or any of its critters!


    Blurb - Notorious space pirate Macro makes a living doing odd jobs and stealing items to sell for a marked up price, but when he steals Download Database - a living computer - he finds himself unwilling pulled into a conspiracy bigger than his own ego. Pirates can be heroes, right?


    Part One - Living Computer

    Chapter One

    Proxy City stank. Even with the mask filtering the air it stank. Macro resisted the urge to abandon the box he was carrying to tighten the straps over his muzzle further.

    The young mawile strutted along the barren streets, clutching the cumbersome metal crate in both paws. Beside him a tall granbull plodded heavily along, carrying his own crate as though it contained nothing but feathers. His purple mohawk poked up between his curved, pink ears, blowing backwards slightly as they walked against the breeze. He couldn't see Anchor's face through the heavy, beak-like brown leather mask, but he could hear his breathing loud and clear through the noisy filter. He wondered briefly if they needed a good clean.

    They rounded a corner, narrowly avoiding a stream of muck along the gutter that the sheer sight alone made Macro's stomach turn. A low, dingy building came into view. Despite its height - one floor, two at a push - it was massive. A low, long spread. Likely a former estate for the less fortunate who couldn't afford the luxuries in the more prestigious cities.

    Macro finally deposited his crate on the floor, careful not to drop it in the gutter's toxic stream. It would probably burn through the metal and damage the contents - if it could even damage them in the first place. He whisked his foot out of the way as the crate toppled onto its base with a clatter and looked up at the building.

    "Careful!" Anchor stopped behind him, his huge shadow making the dingy building look even more unwelcoming. "That stuff leaks they'll be after our necks!"

    Macro tutted and pressed a claw to the button on his ear piece. A flash of green shot across his vision and the array of text told him that this was the place. He strode over to the worn and somewhat slimy door and struck the same claw onto the buzzer. Greasy. He stifled a grimace and wiped it off onto his black scarf. A mistake he was soon regretting since he'd only just laundered it that morning.

    "Who's there?!" The voice sounded as sticky as the door.

    "Wildcard," Macro replied. "We've got the package you ordered."

    The door was almost wrenched off its hinges, revealing the lumpy face of a muk. The immense pokemon looked like he couldn't fit through the door, but these creatures could slide through the smallest of gaps. Despite the mask, Macro was certain the stench just got worse. He made a mental note to check their efficiency when he got back on board his ship.

    The muk's large eyes bulged out of his head when he saw the crates. "Just two?!"

    One slimy arm whisked past the mawile, catching his scarf and leaving a rather unsightly streak of purplish-grey. This time he did grimace, but it was hidden well beneath his mask. Good. The muk would probably have eaten him for breakfast.

    Well... supper, at this time.

    "It's all we could get," Anchor told the muk. "They keep those places under high security these days. We've got a price on our heads, you know that."

    "Don't care." The muk turned his eyes onto the granbull then looked back down at Macro. "I specifically requested three. I'm only paying half."

    "Half?!" Macro seethed. "You should pay two thirds at least!"

    The muk snorted, sending a purple snot bubble onto the hem of Macro's scarf where it dripped to the floor to join the rest of the grime.

    Macro's muzzle crinkled into a frown, but it went unseen. "Two thirds. Call the rest of it a commission fee."

    "Fine. Take your two thirds, runt." The muk ignored Macro's leer. He reached inside his body and pulled out a flat, metal card. It expanded out into a holographic display of text that to Macro was backwards. "You space pirates make me sick. Commission fee my left foot."

    Macro wanted to explain that the muk had no feet, but he didn't want to be the first pokemon to discover they actually had by receiving one to the face. His scarf was filthy enough. A small beep came from his belt pouch and he switched on his optical display again, checking his credits balance with professional speed. Yup. Two thirds. And an insult. One of the drawbacks of being able to leave little notes with deposits. He pretended he hadn't seen it.

    "Pleasure doin' business with ya!" Macro shoved his metal crate forwards. "Two crates of black sludge. Enjoy."

    "Aye!" Anchor placed his own crate atop Macro's, blocking out the muk's seething face. "Remember us to your friends."

    The muk threw a string of toxic profanity the mask was completely unable to filter out. Macro turned his back on the squat building and carefully hopped over the brown stream. Anchor fell into step beside him and clasped his large pink paws behind his back.

    "You know," he said, his voice slightly muffled by his filter, "if you get any more shrill, Cap'n, you might get mistaken for a staraptor."

    Macro met the granbull's eyes with a violet leer.

    "You sassin' me?!" Macro hissed.

    "See, this is exactly my point," Anchor went on. "You need to watch your tone. Use your inside castle voice."

    Macro clenched his paws together. Oh, how he wanted to ignore the dog's jibes. He jerked his head towards the sky. "Shut your yap, Anchor, and call my ship."

    The granbull chuckled and tapped a complex pattern across the screen of his wrist computer.

    Macro folded his arms and resisted the urge to lean against the boarded up shop he'd stopped beside.

    "Stupid slime ball called me 'runt'," he said.

    "Well... don't take this the wrong way, cap'n," said Anchor. "But you do know you're a little..."

    "You say short, I'll crack you one with my horn."

    Anchor chuckled and folded his large arms.

    "I don't know why Meta City won't just employ these filthy pokemon," said Macro. "It'd solve a lot of problems. I mean, they practically eat pollution."

    "Yeh," said Anchor. "They also poop it back out again afterward, and it's even more toxic after passing through their bodies."

    Macro shrugged. "So? At least they could dispose of it much more cleanly. Pass it into a sewage system rather than flooding through Proxy's streets."

    Anchor gave a non-committal grunt and looked down at his wrist computer. Macro glanced up at the brown sky, noting the familiar hulk of Wildcard Gamma as it slowly moved above them. His eyes wandered back to the boarded up buildings and sludge-filled streets, scanning over the unreadable shop signs and ragged posters that fluttered in the light breeze. One of them sported the face of a mawile with a jagged scar over his muzzle. 'Wanted. Hunter. Ten Thousand Credits.'

    "I wonder what this city used to be like?" he said. "Before it became this."

    "Probably like the ones in System Sky," said Anchor. "Pubs, bakeries, clubs, factories. All that jazz."

    Flash after flash of pink shot down behind Anchor in a familiar ladder of neon lights and he leapt up, grabbing onto one of the higher rungs. It immediately began to shoot back up into the sky and Macro bolted towards it, grabbing the lowest rung before it was yanked out of his reach.

    "Would you stop doing that?!" he shrieked at the granbull.

    Anchor laughed heartily. "See? What did I tell ya? Shrill!"

    The neon beam ladder dragged them both upwards towards the blue belly of Wildcard Gamma. The giant schooling wishiwashi-themed ship dominated the sky above Proxy City, casting its giant shadow down onto the rundown buildings miles below them. The ladder's beams blinked out one by one, allowing the ones below it to take one step after another towards the opening. Anchor dragged himself aboard before his beam reached it, then he stretched down a paw towards Macro.

    The mawile's paw was dwarfed inside the granbull's claws and he was lifted effortlessly into the hatch. It hissed shut behind them and Macro let the panel beside the inside door read his paw print. The door opened with a sucking sound as air rushed out of it, blowing his fur back. Once they were both safely inside the confines of Wildcard Gamma, he instinctively went to wipe his paws down onto his scarf and froze, instead shaking them off and checking over his yellow fur. Dusty. Or grimy. He couldn't really tell. He snorted and yanked the mask off his face, taking a deep breath of clean air before turning into the narrow corridor leading to the cockpit.

    "Another successful mission, eh?" Anchor said as he removed his own mask.

    "It could've gone better." Macro rubbed at the jagged scar over the left side of his muzzle. "Anyway, at least we can afford to eat for the next couple of months."

    "That's what I like to hear!" The jovial voice came from the kitchen.

    Macro glanced over at the door, meeting the beaming eyes of their chef, Cookie. The brown slurpuff licked his lips and gave the two pokemon a happy nod.

    "Welcome back then, Captain!" he said. "I'll have supper ready soon! I made berry pancakes!"

    Macro's mouth involuntarily filled with saliva and he turned his back on the slurpuff, raising his hand in a wave.

    "I'll be waiting for the bell," he said.

    Cookie chuckled and his feet shuffled over the floor as he returned to the kitchen. The slurpuff's shuffling feet were drowned out by Anchor's hulking footsteps as he fell in step beside the mawile, all the while humming a cheerful tune as they strode into the cockpit.

    A lone ribombee sat by the navigation system with his back to them, watching the array of green and red blinking across the black holographic screen. He reached behind him to hand Macro his brass goggles that matched the bug pokemon's own.

    "Thanks, Matrix," Macro said as he took them.

    It always irked him how he couldn't wear them with those horrible masks. They weren't even a necessity, he just liked wearing them, much like he did his scarf. He yanked the black scarf from his neck and strutted over to the two seats at the front.

    "What gets out muk and grimer stains?" he asked.

    "Fire," replied Matrix.

    Macro let out a frustrated sigh and tossed the scarf into the nearest trash can. The stench of muk wafted up from it and he realised bitterly that he'd have to toss the contents of the bin into the septic tank. He hoisted it into his arms and wobbled towards the corridor.

    "You may as well shower while you're at it," said Anchor.

    Macro craned his neck around to leer at him, but the granbull was sat in the cockpit with his back to him. He hoped he'd caught his leer in the window's reflection.

    "We'll be breaking the atmosphere soon," Anchor went on. "So brace yourself. Don't slip or anything."

    Macro muttered under his breath and lugged the massive trash can all the way to the wash room. It felt like a trek but it was situated almost opposite the kitchen and dining room. Unfortunately it wasn't the best place to have a septic tank. He held his breath as he opened it up and lobbed the entire trash can inside before slamming it shut and activating the air purifier.

    Another quick examine of his fur told him he did indeed need a shower. His thick, yellow coat was likely holding half of Proxy City's putrid air not to mention muk slime and whatever else he'd picked up from the streets.

    He removed his goggles and utility belt, setting them safely on the side and double checking his twin laser guns were set to safety. There was no sense in risking a hole torn through the side of his prized ship. He stepped into the shower and the water cascaded down on top of him, making him wonder once again why on earth he'd chosen it to be lavender scented.

    ...

    One shower and fresh scarf later, Macro strode back into the cockpit. Anchor instantly stood up and moved past him, momentarily considering giving the mawile a friendly pat on the shoulder and reconsidering it. The stink of city air wafted from his pink fur as he made his way towards the wash room. Macro flopped into the seat beside the driver's chair and kicked his feet up onto the dashboard.

    "What's our next target?" he asked Matrix.

    The ribombee glanced up at him and cleared the radar screen to bring up a string of 'job requests' - most of them simply targets for looting. Macro felt a flood of relief that the next job wouldn't be another trek into the filthy outskirts of Meta City.

    "Machine shop raid," Matrix read out. "Ice types want laser gun components and the government have shut down their factories."

    "It was only a matter of time," said Macro. "The ice type has many weaknesses and Socket just wants to keep that fear inside us all."

    "Well, they're probably not gonna be too happy with you striding in there to offer them the parts," said Matrix. "You're a steel type. They might see you as a threat. You'll be blasted with fire and ground lasers before you can even blink."

    "For the price I'm gonna charge 'em, it's a risk I'm willing to take." Matrix nodded towards the computer. "Tell 'em Wildcard's on it and we'll raid the nearest machine shop." He hesitated and squinted at the tiny text near impossible to read from his seat. "What city are they in?"

    "Boolean."

    "Good. One of them flyin' ones. That means it's got clean air."

    "The machine shop we're targeting is on System Ground, however."

    Macro's heart sank so quickly he lost his appetite. His head dropped into his paws and he let out a long groan.

    "Don't worry, though," said Matrix. "It's in Wave City. Much less toxic so you can wear your goggles."

    "Fantastic. Program it in and let's go and get some lunch."

    Matrix's small paws flew over the holographic screen, and he buzzed out of his seat just in time for the supper bell to ring. Cookie's jovial voice called to them from the kitchen, ringing out louder than the bell. The chubby slurpuff waved a chocolate-coated ladle at them and bobbed back through the kitchen door.

    The low table was heaped with berry pancakes, smoothies and various toppings including chocolate drizzle. Macro hopped into a chair and piled up his plate, being sure to go extra heavy on the chocolate.

    "Ah, my nose is twitching." Anchor strode into the kitchen wearing a massive grin as he toweled off his mohawk.

    He fell into a seat opposite the mawile and reached for the plate of pancakes.

    "Just what I need after a hard day," he said. He looked over at Cookie. "You got any jaboca berries to go with it?"

    Cookie's nose crinkled in a frown. "You're kidding, right?"

    Anchor shrugged and reached for the bottle of nomel juice.

    "How long until we reach Wave City?" Macro asked Matrix.

    Anchor looked up with a start and licked nomel off his claws.

    "About six hours," said Matrix. "Much less if we speed up but I imagine you'll want a rest and to wait until the early hours of the morning?"

    Macro nodded. "Definitely."

    "What's goin' on?" Anchor asked.

    "We're raiding machine parts," Macro explained. "Ice types had their laser factory shut by Socket's reign of tyranny."

    "Another one?" Anchor tutted and cut into his pancakes. "Poor lot. What'd she go and do that for?"

    "Same reason as all the other times. Fear factor," Macro said bluntly.

    "They'll be wiped out at this rate. Things are bad enough out there with this flippin' divide as it is. World's already a war zone. It's like she just wants to make things worse."

    "Well, we'd best be prepared then," said Macro. "I doubt it'll be an easy job either. Busy bodies everywhere. You're gonna need to use your fists."

    Anchor grunted and stuffed a fork of pancakes into his mouth. "I'll be sure to pack 'em then."
    __________________
    I believe in Jesus Christ my Savior. If you do too, and aren't scared to admit it, then copy and paste this in your signature.

    A Fanfiction Author Who Dares to be Different
    A glimmer of hope in a war-torn world - The End
    Cyberpunk fantasy meets Pokemon Mystery Dungeon - Glitched
    Fancy some Cyberpunk PMD action with space pirates? System:Reboot
    Other Fics - SWC entry 'Rivers and Waterfalls'
    'Where else can I find Del?' -FFnet/Wattpad
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      #2    
    Old June 8th, 2017 (12:58 PM).
    Delirious Absol's Avatar
    Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
    Call me Del
       
      Join Date: May 2015
      Location: UK
      Age: 33
      Gender: Female
      Nature: Quirky
      Posts: 327
      Chapter Two

      System Ground looked like a toy town from Wildcard Gamma’s exit hatch. Macro held on to one of the neon rails as he watched Wave City slowly move beneath them. From this height he could clearly make out the froth of the ocean as it lapped at the docks and cliff faces. Windmills turned in the wind miles out from the coast, and in the center of Wave City blinked the data antennae, flashing red and green and red and green as it received and sent out its signal across the whole of System.

      “You ready?” Matrix’s voice rang loud and clear in his ear piece.

      “Ready when you are,” Macro replied.

      “All right. Then I’m gonna slow down enough for you to jump. I’ll have to keep the ship moving though, otherwise they might open fire at us.”

      “Roger.”

      “Open fire, eh?” Anchor clutched tightly to his own rail, causing the spikes on his gauntlets to poke out. “Bring it on. We’ll see who’s left laughin’.”

      Macro chuckled drily and readjusted his goggles over his eyes.

      The ground slowed and Macro waited a few moments until he spotted a wide enough space to drop into. It wasn’t impossible to see in the dark. Lights dotted the city, casting a dramatic array of shadows across the artificial grass. When the City Square appeared beneath them, Macro dropped. Wind whisked past his ears and whipped his scarf up around his face, drowning out the repetitive ‘chink’ as each rail flashed into place above them.

      Within seconds, his feet were on solid ground. Anchor dropped down beside him into a crouch and the pair of them looked up as the neon ladder flashed back up to the hatch.

      The granbull let out a long whistle as he diverted his attention to the tall, white and platinum buildings around them.

      “Been a while since I’ve seen a city this clean,” he said.

      Macro made a grunt of agreement. “I still wouldn’t drink the ocean water, though.”

      He quickly checked the map on his optical display and motioned for Anchor to follow him. The narrow streets were lifeless save for the bright, animated billboards that filled huge sections of wall on every building they passed. Each one was an advertisement for bands, clubs, drinks and the latest games. Many of them came with audio - a catchy, electronic tune or a catch-phrase to further drum the advert home.

      What made Wave City radically different from the poorer, toxic towns of System Ground wasn’t just the clean and tidy buildings and artificial grass. It was the lack of toxins in the air. Standing like silent sentries between the street lights were artificial trees. Structures of iron with flat, metal plates to serve as leaves. Operated solely on solar power, they drew in the contaminated air and blasted it back out again through filters. A hidden mechanism stored up electricity to keep them running during the night and overcast days, but the idea of solar powered air filters had left pokemon feeling uncertain about the trees’ efficiency. Despite the skepticism, they’d certainly held up for the past century or two. The air was breathable and as such allowed berry plants to be grown, but they were never as healthy as those grown in System Sky.

      “Here it is.” Macro stopped beside a large factory sporting a billboard for the next Assassin Strike VR game.

      The building looked no more out of place than the school or apartment blocks. The only difference was the water wheel turning slowly as water was gathered from the ocean and cascaded down on top of it from a neatly hidden pipe. Situated by the docs, the factory generated all the power it needed from the ocean. The clean energy promotion in Wave City went strongly in its favour to clean up the air, but not every city was so inclined to make that step. In most cases it was too late, anyway. Proxy alone would take many years to clean up.

      The water wheel creaked and groaned as it rotated, and water splashed back down from it, forcing it under the shallow tide.

      “I doubt this factory is empty,” Macro said quietly. “Otherwise they wouldn’t have the wheel running.”

      “Night staff?” Anchor grunted.

      Macro nodded and moved slowly around the factory’s perimeter. Long windows protected by heavy iron bars rose up for three floors and not one of them appeared to have a light on. If there were any night staff, then they were probably just guards sat in a security room somewhere. That meant they probably knew he was there, but he couldn’t see a security camera anywhere.

      He paused and craned his neck up towards the roof. No camera. At least not a visible one. A high profile place like a weapons factory would be using a stealth. One that recorded not only video but audio as well. Full colour, high definition…

      He rejoined Anchor from the other side and stared up at the iron doors. He wanted to say it wouldn’t be easy, but once they were inside, it would be fun and games. Grab the loot, foil the guards and run. It’s not as if they didn’t know him. Wildcard Gamma and its captain were known everywhere. He could already picture the guards reaching for their lasers to fend them off, maybe even calculating the bounty they’d receive for turning him in to the authorities.

      A smirk spread across his muzzle and he chuckled. He wasn’t about to give them that pleasure.

      “All right.” He reached into his pouch and pulled out a long, black metal needle. “Let’s get this over with.”

      “Front entrance, eh?” Anchor nodded as he watched the mawile jiggle the needle in the lock. “I like it.”

      “Well, the windows are all barred up and I have no patience to saw through them.” The lock snapped and he stuffed the needle back into his pouch. “Would make way too much noise anyway.”

      With a hefty kick, the door swung inwards and Macro reached for his laser. They were immediately met by three large pokemon rushing straight at them. The first was a machoke followed closely by a swampert. Macro let out a small laugh as he readied his laser and ducked beneath the machoke’s flailing fist. He brought his horn up beneath the fighting pokemon’s chin where it struck him with a sick crack and sent him soaring over his head. He set his laser to grass and fired at the swampert, blasting him backwards into the wall where he lay, dazed.

      Macro turned back to Anchor who was stood over the machoke and a floatzel. Both were sparking dangerously, as were the gauntlets on his fists. He looked back up at Macro and nodded, stepping over the two fallen guards.

      “I doubt that’s all of them,” said Macro. “Be on the look out.”

      He flashed his optical display on and brought up a map of the interior, conveniently provided by Matrix. Three floors. The first was mostly factory and staff facilities. The second floor was all factory and the third and final, admin and storage. Macro tutted loudly and scouted out the nearest elevator.

      “We need to go up to the top,” he said.

      “Seriously?” Anchor called the elevator. Twice. Three times. “Not workin’.”

      Macro tutted again and made for the stairs. Each one almost came up to his chin. A silent insult hidden away under the stature of the factory’s chosen employee criteria. He scrambled over each one as Anchor plodded effortlessly up them beside him. After the first half-flight, the mawile was practically gasping for breath. He flinched as a loud siren blared from a speaker above his head, followed by an ear-splitting ring that competed with the siren and almost shook the very foundations.

      “Come on, Cap’n.” Anchor sighed and shook his head. “Don’t take this the wrong way, now.”

      The granbull stooped and picked him up, hoisting him onto his shoulder. Macro bit back a snide remark and resigned himself to being lugged up the next flight and a half. The third floor sported a set of double doors with an alarm bar across them. It was kind of redundant with the noise the building was already making.

      Anchor set Macro back down and flexed his knuckles, pushing the lethal spikes out from his gauntlets. Macro quickly brushed himself down and readied his laser. There was someone on the other side of those doors, he could smell it.

      The granbull smashed the door open, adding to the crescendo of alarms as the bar shattered beneath his fists. Two lombre leapt out from the splintered wood and landed between them, each of them raising their claws as they braced themselves to attack. During a time where the fire, grass and water type pokemon were constantly at each other’s necks, lombre had a hard time fitting in, being forced to choose between grass or water as their primary element. These two had decided to blend in with the water types of Wave City as a pair of limber grass/water guards for the very factory Macro and his team planned to raid. How convenient.

      “Great,” Macro snarled. “My weapon can’t do nothin’ to these two.”

      “Snap,” said Anchor as he flexed his gauntlets. “Gonna have to use force, Cap’n.”

      Macro span, swinging his horn at the nearest one. The lombre leapt into the air and kicked himself back from the ceiling. The lily pad on his head lit up with a purple light and he spiraled back down towards Macro for a nasty zen headbutt.

      The mawile narrowly dodged it and caught him in the back with his horn, sending the lombre rolling down the stairs. He turned to grab the other lombre in his jaws but a torrent of steaming water shot up the stairs and nipped his foot and fur.

      “Yowch!” He leapt backwards, swatting at his singed toes to remove the burning water.

      The lombre zipped in front of him, cutting him off from the twin as it backed Anchor into a corner. The granbull’s sparking gauntlets collided with his assailant’s jaw but it only caused the grass/water pokemon to frown and nut him with a zen headbutt. Anchor grunted and slumped to the floor. Now free from the gauntlet-wielding granbull, the lombre rounded on Macro.

      “Great,” said Macro. “Got you both now, have I?”

      He felt the wall against his horn and he faltered as both leering lombre advanced towards him. He raised his gun, turning the dial from grass to water then to ground. The only three in his arsenal. He’d never considered he might need a flying laser before. He filed a mental note to upgrade just before the gun was violently swatted from his paws. It clattered to the floor, releasing its catch and sending a shockwave into the ceiling. Plaster tore free and rained down upon them, crashing onto the head of the closest lombre. Macro coughed as the dust filled his throat and he placed a paw over his muzzle, raising the other to shield his head from the debris.

      The remaining lombre was lifted from his vision and tossed aside like a pokedoll. Anchor’s face loomed over him, sporting a black eye and a crooked tooth. He thrust Macro’s laser back into his paws.

      “We weren’t meant to bring the whole place down!” He grabbed Macro’s arm and dragged him through the splintered doors.

      “I’m not the one who dropped it!” Macro retorted.

      “But you took the flippin’ safety off though, right?”

      “I was trying to defend myself!”

      The granbull skidded to a halt half way down the corridor and eyed a heavy, cast-iron door. “Think this is it.”

      It wasn’t the only room in the corridor. It had about five or six before it ended at another set of double doors that led to some unseen, hidden location Macro couldn’t be bothered fussing over.

      Now well and truly fed up, he aimed his ground laser at the heavy door. If it worked on steel type pokemon, it would have no problem against an iron door. His suspicions were rewarded as the laser tore a hefty hole through the structure, shredding the iron into jagged points that curled inwards around a perfectly formed circle hole.

      Beyond it lay stacks of wooden boxes, each one named with the component they contained in nice, red letters.

      Macro grinned from ear to ear. “Bingo!”

      He leapt through the hole and scurried over to the crates, eying up their contents. Barrels, fibre amplifiers, filters, lasers of varying type concentrations. Ice types wanted enough to counter their many weaknesses. That meant they wanted water, ground, fire, psychic and flying lasers. He pulled a thick, leather bag from his pouch and began throwing them in by the pawful. Anchor stood by the door, waiting as the mawile scurried about in the storage room adding filters, barrels and other bits and pieces to his bag. It wasn’t long until he needed to fill a second bag which Anchor threw at him in exchange for the first.

      Once both were loaded up, they eyed the doors to the stairs warily. That ceiling had finished caving in, but it had left quite the obstacle course. The alarms were still blaring away and voices could be heard over them from either side as what he could only describe as an army clambered over the rubble on the stairs.

      “Drat,” Anchor muttered. “Didn’t hear them coming over all this kerfuffle.”

      “Well we’ve got what we need,” said Macro. “Let’s head to the roof and call Matrix.”

      Easier said than done when the main stairs were out of action. He quickly checked the map and confirmed the double doors behind them led to the emergency exit. A narrow flight of stairs running down to the back door and up to the roof.

      He nodded to Anchor, tossed the bag over his shoulder and bolted for the emergency exit. The granbull fell in step behind him, effortlessly carrying the second bag. The stairs were quickly flooding with various water type pokemon led by a blastoise. The hulking tortoise sent two jets of water at them from the cannons protruding from his shell. Macro let out a squeak as he dodged between them and sped for the stairs heading up. A cracking sound followed by a grunt told him Anchor had given the blastoise a nasty crack before making a bid for freedom.

      “Ready your gun, Cap’n!”

      The granbull relieved him of his bag and hoisted him onto his shoulder before leaping up the stairs two at a time. Having no free arms to message Wildcard Gamma, he instead barked into his wrist computer. Hopefully the chaos wouldn’t drown it all out and leave them stranded.

      Macro swiveled so he was facing the army and fired off grass lasers at their feet. Not striking to stun or to kill. Just to hold back. The blastoise leered up at them from the head of his water army, his left eye squinting as his cheek swelled in a ruby red bruise. Wartortle, marshstomp and prinplup gathered behind him and the blastoise flashed his sharp teeth in a snarl.

      “Follow them!” he roared.

      The smaller pokemon raced over the stairs but one or two were caught in Macro’s firing line and sent rolling backwards down the narrow stairwell.

      Anchor fired his fists at the lone door atop the stairs, shattering the alarm bar. It was useless. There was enough noise going on in the factory as it was.

      Macro dropped from his shoulder and skittered across the roof, searching the dark sky for any sign of his ship.

      “Try again!” he told Anchor.

      Alarms still blared from the building, filling the entire city. Below them, pokemon had gathered in the streets to watch the spectacle, and the ocean behind them was filled with tiny lights from chinchou and lanturn. That ruled out escaping into the water.

      The army flooded out onto the roof, followed closely by the blastoise captain. The hulking tortoise leered at them and aimed his water cannons.

      “You’re cornered,” he snarled. “Give it up, Hunter, and drop those stolen weapons.”

      Macro snorted and raised his paws. “I ain’t holdin’ them.”

      The blastoise’s lips curled back from his teeth. “Is this some kind of joke to you?!”

      “A joke?” Macro laughed. “What do you take me for? Some performing mankey? This is simply a job, pal.”

      “It’s theft!” The blastoise shook his head but his snarl never fell. “You’re wanted all across System, Hunter, now turn yourself in or we’ll have to take you by force! And I mean by force.”

      The water army braced themselves behind him, several of them moving in to the blastoise’s flanks.

      “Oh, you can try,” said Macro. “You always try, but you never catch me.”

      A heavy shadow fell over the building and all eyes looked up at the large belly of the schooling wishiwashi ship. Neon bars flew down in the pink light ladder right above Anchor’s head. The blastoise roared and fired his hydro cannons at the two pokemon. Anchor leapt for the ladder, taking hold of one of the higher bars and beginning is ascent towards the ship. Macro dodged the water and ran backwards, throwing himself over the edge of the building with a maniacal laugh.

      “Whoa whoa!” Anchor barked. “Reverse!”

      The ladder shot down from the ship in a repeated flash of pink, competing with the yellow flash from the ocean as the water dwellers prepared their electrical attacks. The granbull’s gauntleted paw flailed feebly until the ladder was close enough to Macro for him to grab the bottom rung. It immediately began to ascend back up and Anchor let out a long sigh.

      “You moron!” he roared. “What do you think you’re playin’ at?!”

      Macro was still laughing as he looked back out at the factory. The ocean below was still flickering yellow as static electricity bounced across it amongst the chinchou and lanturns’ lights. Many more were still gathering, but it was too little too late. Try as they may, the water army’s attacks fell short of the ladder, carrying the electricity from the ocean only to have it fizzle out mere feet away from their targets. Each torrent lit up with a rhythmic red as the alarm light blared from the factory’s roof. Red had always meant danger, and they’d narrowly escaped it. It was one of the closest calls he’d ever had and his heart was racing.

      He ran a paw over the base of his horn and shook his head, his body still shaking with laughter. When they were safely inside the hatch he propped himself up against the wall as he tried to steady his breathing.

      Anchor stared down at him and dropped the bags onto the floor.

      “Anyone would think that blastoise were right,” he said. “That this is some kind of joke to you.”

      Macro took a couple of deep breaths and looked out through the hatch window. Wave City rapidly shrank beneath them as the ship re-entered System Sky.

      “You taunted him, Macro.” Anchor’s reflection folded his arms. “You always taunt them then you go and do something stupid! He’s right, ain’t he? It’s just a massive joke!”

      “The only joke is this pathetic world and its ruler.” Macro turned from the window and waved a paw behind him. “Grab those bags, Anchor. We’ve got a job to finish.”
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      A Fanfiction Author Who Dares to be Different
      A glimmer of hope in a war-torn world - The End
      Cyberpunk fantasy meets Pokemon Mystery Dungeon - Glitched
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        #3    
      Old June 17th, 2017 (12:10 AM).
      Delirious Absol's Avatar
      Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
      Call me Del
         
        Join Date: May 2015
        Location: UK
        Age: 33
        Gender: Female
        Nature: Quirky
        Posts: 327
        Quote:
        Originally Posted by Bardothren View Post
        Pokemon meets Cowboy Bebop. Did I die and go to heaven?

        There's a few places where your grammar slipped - one that caught my eye was when you were describing the solar-powered air filters. That in mind, I'd rate what you have so far a solid A. Can't wait to see more.
        Thank you!! =D I really need to pick up Cowboy Bebop again lol.

        ...

        Chapter Three

        Two sacks of laser components. Two bulging sacks.

        Macro sorted through them, neatly arranging the lasers, barrels, filters, gears, screws, coils and heat elements into piles. There wasn't enough parts to meet the laser types. He'd gone a bit overboard with those. But seeing the parts laid out on his cockpit floor left him feeling tickled pink with glee.

        "How many do you think we should give them?" Anchor asked.

        "I'm thinkin' forty percent," said Macro. "Forty percent of the lasers. That means they get all the coils and most of the heat elements, and that leaves us with enough to sell on the black market."

        Matrix picked up one of the coils and turned it around in his paws. "So that means we're taking a trip back to Pulse City?"

        "Of course," said Macro as he gathered the items between two bags. "We need to refuel and clean out the septic tank 'n' all that jazz."

        "That's cool," said Matrix. "I wouldn't mind checking out Assassin Strike anyway."

        "We're not swinging by Boolean first to drop these off?" Anchor asked.

        "As much as I'd like to do it all in one go, I'm not sure our fuel will last that long," said Macro. "I don't wanna be stranded anywhere."

        "Suppose it makes sense. Just make sure you lock the rest of them away. Some of those pirates have got sticky paws."

        "You know I'm always careful, Anchor."

        The granbull snorted.

        "Anyway," said Macro. "It'll be a nice change of pace to stop somewhere where less pokemon are after my head. Load up Pulse City, Matrix."

        The ribombee returned to his spot by the navigation screen and keyed in the co-ordinates for Pulse City. Wildcard Gamma's location blinked on the screen as it rapidly zoomed out to reveal an intricate map of floating cities spreading across a void of black.

        "Head due east," he said.

        "Due east." Anchor stood and flopped into the driver's seat. "Gotcha!"

        Macro hopped into the seat beside him and kicked his feet up onto the dashboard. The ship turned slowly then surged forwards, pushing him back into his seat. He buckled himself in and tucked his paws behind his head. With Wildcard Gamma's speed and efficiency, it wouldn't be too long until they reached Pulse City. He gazed out of the window at the passing stars blinking in the distance before they streaked by like silvery threads as his ship swam through the black sky.

        ...

        Pulse City loomed before them, its abstract, jagged structure further emphasized by the array of neon lights that dotted its various entertainment districts. 'Docks' was sprawled over the entrance and was already filled to bursting with fish-shaped pirate ships. Wildcard Gamma slowly and carefully pulled in beside a gyarados, more so to avoid chipping the wishiwashi's paintwork than to prevent an encounter with a violent, moody pirate. Macro really didn't want to add another fresh layer of paint to cover a careless scuff on his prized ship.

        The mawile hopped out of the exit hatch and landed in a crouch on the dirty docks. Despite the clean air that was in abundance in System Sky, space pirates weren't generally known for their cleanliness and care for nature. There were no wind farms up here, either. They were few and far between in System Sky due to the dramatic change in atmosphere that rendered air unbreathable unless on one of the islands where it was filtered to a safe level inside their plexiglass domes. Most cities got their energy from System Ground. Pulse City did just that… illegally. It wasn't unknown to the law enforcers, either. They'd do something about it if Pulse City weren't so dangerous. On more than one occasion the rogue city was plunged into darkness as the wireless signal leading up to the island was cut. On more than one occasion, Pulse City's biggest and baddest were sent down to the wind farm to 'fix things'. Eventually, the officials gave up and resigned to the illegal tapping of power.

        The dock opened out into the neon-lit city streets. Pokemon of varying species stood outside the bars and clubs, talking loudly amongst themselves and laughing as frothy beer spilled over filthy glasses.

        Matrix paused at the fork in the road and nodded to his right. "I'm gonna hit the games arcade."

        "All right, pal," said Macro. "We'll see you in the lounge later."

        The ribombee rose into the air and buzzed away into the busy street.

        Macro gave Anchor a tap on the arm and marched down the central fork further into the vibrant city. Music blared from doorways, creating an incomprehensible racket as the mix of sounds clashed that somehow some pokemon actually managed to dance to. Or just leap up and down bashing into one another. One 'dance' had got a little out of hand as a skuntank sunk his teeth into the throat of a vigoroth. The sloth pokemon swung his arms and sent the large skunk soaring overhead to crash into a lamp post. The bulb blinked out as the skuntank's eyes rolled back into his head and he slumped to the ground.

        Macro strolled past him without batting an eye, keeping his attention on the sign in front of him. 'Market' was all it said. Well… 'mar-et'. The green 'k' had fallen off at some point.

        The bustling building roared as he strode through the door. Pokemon leant over stall tables shouting and bartering with the owners or squabbling as they fought over the prized items. Eyes fell on Macro and Anchor as they cut through the rabble, gazing curiously at the leather sack strung over the granbull's shoulder. Expressions turned to fascination or disgust, and in some instances fury, but the pirates kept their distance. The bounty didn't apply in System Sky. Only on System Ground, and pirates were never rewarded by the government anyway. Reputation was all that mattered in Pulse City and Wildcard Gamma had that in buckets.

        Macro spotted his target stall. A low table manned by a sewaddle. The caterpillar pokemon sported a torn leaf over his head and his left eye was misted over with what looked like a cataract but was actually a thin layer of everstone. The small pokemon was one of many that had undergone cybernetic enhancement. Whatever he'd had done, it was internal. The everstone was a necessity for such enhancements and the pokemon chose where to wear it. Many opted to have it placed into their bodies in some way so they wouldn't lose it, and Worm had chosen to have it placed in his eye. It might have cost him part of his vision, but the benefits outweighed the negatives. The amount of stress evolution caused on the body would disagree with enhancements. They couldn't evolve like a standard pokemon could. They stayed the same size forever. The everstone was no fashion accessory, it was meant to stop him exploding.

        "Good morning, Worm." Macro slammed his paws onto the table, grabbing the sewaddle's attention.

        Worm's eyes widened briefly with surprise and he cleared his throat. "Not seen you in a while, Macro. What you been up to?"

        "Business." The mawile nodded to Anchor. "We've got some stuff to sell you."

        Worm huffed and he restrained himself from staring at the leather sack. "'Bout time. I'm runnin' dry here."

        "Well, I think you'll appreciate this."

        Anchor tossed the leather bag across the table and its contents spilled out beside the sewaddle. Heat elements and lasers pattered across the floor, and Worm curved his tail to stop them rolling under the table behind him. He let out a long whistle and stuck his head into the bag.

        "Weapon parts!" He chuckled.

        "Yup. And I'll do you a deal," said Macro. "Ten thousand credits for all that."

        "Five."

        "Seven. And I go no lower."

        The small caterpillar sighed and flicked on his optical display. A sheet of green appeared over his right eye and he tapped at something Macro couldn't see from his position. The mawile's pouch beeped and his own display fired up of its own accord. An override. Worm knew what he was doing and he wanted Macro to be sure he'd actually paid. It saved accusations from pirates who'd lie in an attempt to scam.

        Macro laughed and switched his display back off. "Pleasure doin' business with ya."

        "As always." Worm began placing the parts on his table that were immediately predated upon by keen buyers. "No coils though. Not that I can see anyway."

        "Sorry," said Macro. "They're all spoken for, I'm afraid."

        "Can't spare any?" Worm asked. "I'll have a demand when pokemon get a look at all this."

        "Nope." The mawile shrugged. "I've got a business to run and if I cut them out I lose a profit."

        "What profit? You steal it all."

        "A one hundred percent profit." Macro folded his arms and frowned at the bug pokemon. "If I sell some to you, I lose out."

        Worm looked up at him and met his frown head on. "I'll give you seventy percent per coil."

        Macro waved a paw at him and turned away.

        "Eighty!" the sewaddle called. "Eighty-five!"

        Macro looked back over his shoulder as he strolled away. "Look! If I get any more, I'll send 'em your way, right?"

        Worm seethed silently and continued laying the parts on his table while trying to deal with the sudden rush of customers. Coils or not, those parts would fly off his stall. Laser parts often needed replacing, especially those custom built with the growing rise of a weapon ban.

        "I'm gonna go get Matrix," Macro told Anchor. "I'll meet you back at the ship."

        The granbull let out a grunt. "I was hoping to check out CyberTechnics before we took off."

        "You're gonna buy bootleg technology?" Macro scoffed.

        A weavile shot him a leer from a bar doorway and flexed his mechanical claws. Macro suppressed a chill down his spine and pretended he hadn't noticed.

        "Pirates' gotta make a living somehow, Cap'n," said Anchor. "Besides. You should know yourself some of it's raided from System Ground."

        "Yeh, well." Macro cleared his throat. "Just make sure it doesn't explode on my ship. I don't want to be dealing with another fire. You saw what happened to Wildcard Beta."

        Anchor laughed and strode away from him down a narrow alley. "You're the one who won't shell out for a fire extinguisher, Cap'n. Ain't my fault."

        Macro crinkled his muzzle and waved the granbull off as he followed the wider road around to the games arcade. The familiar, huge sign appeared above the tall buildings with Moonlight Lounge printed on it in giant, red letters against a white backdrop. The pixelated image of an inkay stood beside it with its tentacles raised, poised to strike.

        Walking through the doorway was like walking into a cavern blocked up with a wall of stuffy, sweaty air. He dodged under the feet of a tyranitar, causing the large pokemon to side-step and slosh beer onto the floor. The monstrous, armored beast flashed his canines at him and stomped over to a low table to join a fraxure and vigoroth. The pair fixed the mawile with identical glares as they took their drinks from their tyranitar companion, and the small dragon pokemon took a huge bite from something that used to be some kind of water dwelling pokemon. The sight turned Macro's stomach and he pointedly averted his gaze to the rest of the lounge.

        Glares and leers ran rampant amongst the occasional nods and smirks, but all of them washed over Macro like water off a ducklett's back. He found Matrix sat at an arcade terminal with a VR headset completely hiding his antennae. Whatever he could see was shown in first person on a large, holographic screen mounted on the wall. The ribombee was deeply engrossed in the game as his tiny paws raced over the control pad. Ordinarily, the game would be played with gestures and body movements but in such a crowded place it was common sense (and the laws of health and safety) to play them with a control pad. Such laws remained in Pulse City after the abundance of casualties that had resulted from senseless leaps and bounds from the larger pokemon who could see nothing of reality through their headsets.

        Matrix wasn't alone, however. Three female pirates stood watching him, transfixed. Their attention drifted frequently from the screen to the small bug pokemon. Two of the girls were familiar to Macro as Matrix's 'fangirls'. The young froslass and illumise stood unnecessarily close while a completely unfamiliar bipedal zigzagoon leant against the game terminal on one elbow. The brown, sleeveless waistcoat she wore was immaculate - likely new - and just barely covered her belt and laser gun. A black and green checkered bandana covered her right ear and almost fell over her eye. She brushed it back when she saw Macro and a smirk tugged at the corner of her lips.

        "Friend of yours?" She nodded to the small bug.

        Macro let out a snort and slammed a paw down on the back of Matrix's chair. He didn't so much as flinch.

        "I wouldn't go so far as to call him a friend," he told the zigzagoon. "You ready, Matrix?"

        "Just a sec." Matrix leant forward slightly in his seat as he smashed one of the buttons frantically.

        The zigzagoon chuckled and turned so she had her back on the machine. She folded her arms neatly, but her eye never left the mawile.

        "I was gonna ask for his number," she said. "Then you showed up."

        Macro snorted. "I wouldn't bother wasting your time."

        "On him or you?"

        "Either of us." Macro's eye drifted up to the game display as a set of claws sent a druddigon's head rolling across the tarmac floor. "I'm too busy, and despite being eighteen, I'm not even sure Matrix here even knows what a girl is."

        "I know what a girl is, Macro," the ribombee retorted.

        "Yeh? Well you don't act like it."

        Matrix merely shrugged.

        "Anyway," Macro went on. "Wrap this up. Anchor will beat us back to the ship at this rate."

        "It's not a race," said Matrix. "Pull up a seat while I finish this level."

        Macro sighed and leant on the back of Matrix's seat. No, it wasn't a race, but he wanted to refuel and hurry to Boolean City before it went dark. Again.

        "Macro, right?" He heard the zigzagoon shuffle against the computer. "The name's Surge."

        Macro looked up at her. She was still watching him, still wearing that smirk. He didn't know why she was introducing herself. He didn't even know the names of the other two girls, and he could have bet his goggles that Matrix hadn't a clue either. Even if they'd told him, it would have gone through one ear and straight out the other.

        He grunted as he turned back to the computer screen.

        "Well, isn't that interesting." She chuckled and shook her head. "I've seen your posters everywhere. So you use an alias? You've got quite the bounty on your head."

        Macro's fur began to stand on end. He really didn't like where this was going. He reached over the chair and took the controller from Matrix's paws.

        "Hey!" The ribombee removed his headset and span his head around to look at him.

        "We're leaving." Macro tossed the controller onto the seat beside him and turned to march away.

        Matrix shook out his antennae and fluttered after him, his wings creating a dull drone in the din of the lounge.

        "You can't have a little patience?" Matrix whined.

        Macro continued marching forwards, repressing the urge to check for both his lasers. It wasn't unheard of for a pirate to risk turning in another for a quick credit, and he was convinced he could still feel the zigagoon's eyes on him. He wouldn't feel as anxious if he'd seen her around before. New pirates came and went, but an unfamiliar face poking around and pointing out his bounty had left a bitter taste in his mouth.

        He took in a deep breath of outside air, refreshing after the stench of sweat and beer that filled the lounge. His feet kept moving along with a will of their own as he retraced his steps back to the docks. Matrix flew silently along beside him, occasionally glancing at him out of the corner of his eye.

        Every pirate they passed had a threatening air about them now. Crimson leers and flexed claws burned into him from bar doorways and outside tables, every tiny movement causing his eyes to flit towards them like a magnet to steel.

        Matrix let out a long breath and shook his head. "Is something wrong?"

        "Yeh," he said. "That zigzagoon fangirl of yours was asking too many questions."

        "She was only trying to have a conversation with you."

        "How long have you been a pirate for?" Macro locked the ribombee in a violet stare.

        Matrix shrugged. "I dunno. Two years?"

        "Well I've been one for a lot longer. I know what goes on in their heads. It's always money and survival. Making a profit. Looking out for Number One. No matter at what cost."

        "So you didn't trust her."

        "I didn't trust her as far as I could throw her." Macro paused and glanced back over his shoulder. "Which would be pretty far, believe me."

        Matrix chuckled and adjusted his goggles on his head. They'd been shunted at a quirky angle from the head set making him look like a cartoon.

        When the familiar, blue hull of Wildcard Gamma came into view, Macro felt a weight lift off his shoulders. Anchor was already stood beside it, tapping his foot as he stared at the fuel pipe. His nose twitched and he gave a curt nod as he took a step back from the ship.

        "I thought I'd save you the job," he said. "Clean out is done. Just have to wait for the fuel tank to fill now."

        He looked up at Macro and the mawile did a double-take. Anchor's right eye was covered by a silvery circle of glass encased in a silver frame. Leather straps looped over his right ear, holding the device in place.

        "So you fell for one of CyberTechnics' new fads?" he scoffed.

        Anchor grunted and looked back down at the pipe. "It's a heat tracker. I've been wanting one for like a month now, and after my share of today's profits, I could finally afford one."

        Macro shook his head slowly and climbed up the neon ladder to board his ship.

        "How long until we're fully fueled up?" he asked.

        "Fifteen minutes," said Anchor.

        "Great. Matrix, set co-ordinates for Boolean." He watched the ribombee zip past him. His next sentence came out a lot quieter, and he was convinced not even Anchor heard it. "I'm gonna have a lie down."
        __________________
        I believe in Jesus Christ my Savior. If you do too, and aren't scared to admit it, then copy and paste this in your signature.

        A Fanfiction Author Who Dares to be Different
        A glimmer of hope in a war-torn world - The End
        Cyberpunk fantasy meets Pokemon Mystery Dungeon - Glitched
        Fancy some Cyberpunk PMD action with space pirates? System:Reboot
        Other Fics - SWC entry 'Rivers and Waterfalls'
        'Where else can I find Del?' -FFnet/Wattpad
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          #4    
        Old June 23rd, 2017 (12:01 PM).
        Delirious Absol's Avatar
        Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
        Call me Del
           
          Join Date: May 2015
          Location: UK
          Age: 33
          Gender: Female
          Nature: Quirky
          Posts: 327
          Chapter Four

          "Cap'n! Cap'n!"

          Macro's eyes fluttered open and he pushed himself up, letting the light blankets fall off him onto his knees. Anchor stood in his bedroom doorway, scratching absently behind his left ear.

          "What is it?" the mawile asked as he rubbed a paw over his eyes.

          "I'm sorry to wake you," Anchor said. "But Matrix says we're being followed."

          If Macro wasn't awake before, he was now. He swung his legs over the edge of his bed and slipped to the floor, grabbing his goggles off his night stand.

          "What do you mean followed?" he scoffed as he marched from his room.

          "Navigation system's picking up on another ship," said Anchor. "It's blinkin' away like no one's business. He said it's been like that since shortly after we left Pulse City."

          "So it's another pirate?"

          "Either that or someone lurking around, waiting to tag onto a familiar ship. I mean, the price on your head is hardly small, Cap'n."

          Macro snorted and marched down the corridor towards the cockpit. Cookie's round face peered at them from the kitchen as he licked berry sauce off his ladle.

          The cockpit was filled with beeping. Matrix shot them a glance from his spot at the navigation desk and watched Macro as he fell into his usual seat at the front.

          "What's going on, Matrix?" he asked. "Anchor says we're being followed?"

          "'Stalked' would be the better term," the ribombee explained. "I tried to lose them by taking a huge detour towards Cyan City, but they followed us the entire way. They even waited when I pulled over for a few minutes, drifting around absently. I thought they were going to land in Cyan, but after I set off, they tailed after us again."

          He pointed at the flashing red dot on the screen. Just a dot. No description of the ship, no indication of its size. Nothing to say if it was government, rogue, or space pirate. It could be anyone. For any reason.

          "Is it the same ship?" Macro asked. "Are you sure of that?"

          "Who else could it be?" Matrix shrugged. "Why would two different ships follow us so closely?"

          "Tag team?" Anchor suggested.

          "That makes it the same pokemon, technically," said Matrix. "The fact is, we're being followed. And we're not even at Boolean City yet. What do you suggest we do?"

          Macro stared at the navigation screen and pursed his lips together. They had means in place for times like this, but they used a lot of fuel and there was no saying they'd have enough to get back to Pulse City for a top up after their visit to the frozen floating city.

          "We need a plan A and a plan B." He turned in his seat to face the window. "Speed up and try to lose it. Failing that, throw up the cloak."

          "The cloak won't take us off their radar," Matrix explained.

          "No, but they won't be able to see us," said Macro. "And there's no saying they even have a radar, especially with how closely they're following."

          "Fair point." Matrix leant his head on his paw and sighed. "Let's just hope you're right."

          "What about plan C?" Anchor asked as he pushed the accelerator stick forwards slowly.

          "We don't use plan C unless they start to fire," said Macro. "It'll burn through fuel like fire through an abomasnow."

          Anchor laughed and struck his paw on the dashboard.

          Wildcard Gamma sped forwards, the lights from the passing cities streaking by beside them. Macro craned his neck around to see the navigation display. The red, blinking dot fell further and further back. But then… it sped up itself. Tailing them like a little hatchling.

          He grit his teeth together and tutted.

          "Plan B?" Anchor asked.

          "No, not yet. It uses too much fuel," said Macro. "Just keep going."

          The incessant beeping filled their ears as all eyes remained on either the lights streaming by or the navigation display. That blinking, red dot tailed after them at a steady pace, matching their speed perfectly. It didn't fall behind or draw closer. If Macro hadn't been so sure it was a deliberate attempt to follow them from Matrix's description, he'd have thought they'd accidentally towed another ship behind them.

          "Hang on." Anchor grabbed the steering stick in his right paw and pulled it towards him. "I've got a plan."

          The ship moved upwards, pushing Macro back into his seat and causing a little yelp from Matrix as he slipped from his chair.

          "What are you doing?" Macro squeaked.

          "Driving through a trash belt," explained the granbull. "See how much they like that."

          "Well, I don't like it! You'll get my ship dirty!"

          "I'll be careful. Anyway, it's only a bit of old paper and food waste."

          "And sewage!" said Macro. "Don't forget sewage!"

          As the ship leveled out, a stream of trash filled the world outside. Metal objects, fluttering sheets of old paper and indescribable sludge spread out like a hideous river. Macro's nose crinkled at the sheer thought of the smell and he considered grabbing his mask. No sooner had they seen it, it filled the window. Paper clung to the glass and blew off again, leaving behind sticky marks that pushed bile up into the mawile's throat.

          Anchor grunted and cast him a sideways glance. "Sorry, Cap'n."

          Macro threw a paw over his face and slumped back into his seat with a groan.

          "I think it's working," said Matrix. "They're hesitating."

          Macro spread his claws to see the blinking dot hovering further behind them. It arced to the side, edging towards the outer circumference of the radar.

          "It looks like we're losing them," Matrix said.

          "Anchor?" Macro turned to face the dog pokemon. "How big is this trash belt?"

          "Miles," he replied.

          "Then if they try to go around it, we'll have lost them." Macro grinned and rammed his fists onto the dashboard. "Great plan! You're a genius, Anchor!"

          The granbull chuckled and shook his head. "All in a day's work, Cap'n."

          He pushed the accelerator forwards again and the ship lurched ahead, gradually picking up speed until the trash belt was nothing but an unpleasant memory and an unsightly smear on the windscreen.

          ...

          A vast, frozen landscape spread out before them, freezing Macro's feet to the bone. He hugged his scarf around himself and looked up at the tall, silvery buildings. Windmills turned slowly high above them, caught in the brisk breeze. Their lights lit up the darkening sky like silver and yellow stars.

          "Any idea where this Cipher Frostwall is?" His breath misted in the air and he rubbed his paws over his arms.

          Anchor punched a stubby finger over his wrist computer, grunting with frustration at its unresponsiveness.

          "Not far," he finally answered. "Follow this road round and it's down a narrow alley just off it. We've not landed too far away, thankfully."

          "Good. Because I'm turning into an icicle."

          Anchor grunted again and crossed his arms over his chest as he fell into pace beside the mawile.

          "I thought you resisted ice attacks," he said.

          "I do," said Macro. "But I think as little of winter as a hibernating ursaring."

          "Then I guess you won't be vacationing here any time soon then?"

          Macro shuddered as the wind bit through his fur and he trudged on through the frozen wasteland. The granbull's feet crunched over the snow effortlessly, leaving deep, clawed paw prints beside the deep crevice Macro was leaving as he forced his way through. It melted against his fur, soaking through to his legs until they began to feel numb, but he resisted the urge to ask the much taller pokemon to carry him on his shoulder.

          The road continued on past various shops, many of which were now closed. The only one open was a butchers displaying the poor, skinless bodies of various marine pokemon, each one sporting a hefty price tag. The smell turned Macro's stomach and he dug his claws into his arms as he forced himself past it.

          A narrow alley forked off to their left, surrounded by piled up snow drifts that made the opening much narrower than it should have been. Anchor went first, slightly widening the gap as the mawile clambered after him. The building they sought stood at the end of it, squatting beside a wall topped with barbed wire. Jagged icicles hung from the wire and spread out onto the porch above the door like daggers. Or teeth. Cold droplets dripped from them and one landed down the back of Macro's neck. He stifled a squeak of shock and disgust and instead raised his paw to ring the bell beside the door.

          "Who is it?" a female voice spoke clearly back at him.

          "Hunter," he said. "We got what you asked for."

          "Wait a moment."

          Macro tapped his left claws on his right arm as he stared at the door. The sound of dripping behind him was leaving him on edge and his soaked fur was growing more and more uncomfortable despite the shelter the porch provided.

          The door cracked open and a round face peered out at him. Blue and white with a beard of ice. A beartic.

          "Hunter, eh?" The deep, masculine voice certainly didn't belong to the pokemon who'd answered his call.

          Macro forced a grin and nodded to his large companion. "We've got the parts you requested."

          "So it's you who took the request?" The beartic stifled a chuckle. "Didn't expect one of System's most wanted to brave Boolean City after Socket's crack-down on us. How much do we owe you?"

          The beartic took the heavy sack from Anchor and opened it to peer inside. Macro didn't need to examine it again to double check the value. He'd done that enough times already. A grin split his face, and he leant against the porch door and immediately regretted it.

          "Twenty thousand credits," he said.

          The beartic looked up at him and his muzzle crinkled so much his lips pulled back from his teeth, sending a further chill through Macro's already frozen bones.

          "Twenty thousand stinkin' credits for one sack of weapon parts?!" he roared.

          Macro forced himself to stand up straight and he felt Anchor draw closer to him.

          "Hey, I risked my hide to get those parts!" Macro retorted. "They ain't exactly easy to come by, or obtain. I think you'll find there's equal number of coils in there to fit each and every other piece to. You've got enough for…" The mawile threw his paws in the air and shrugged. "For like… twenty guns."

          "A thousand credits a piece…" The beartic spat and it froze on the porch as soon as it touched it. "Lasers sold for six hundred a piece."

          "Yeh, and now there's a ban." Macro shrugged again and he heard Anchor ram his fist into his open paw twice. "Call the rest a commission fee."

          The beartic's eye warily went to the granbull and he placed the sack of weapon parts behind him out of sight. His paw went to his belt and Macro was relieved to find he wasn't pulling out a gun but a pocket computer. The huge mammal didn't even look at it as he tapped at the holographic screen. Instantly, the mawile's pouch beeped and he switched on his optical display.

          Twenty thousand five hundred credits.

          "You overpaid," he said flatly.

          "You're honest." The beartic stepped back into the building and pushed the door closed enough that only his muzzle was poking out. "I wanted to check exactly who I was dealing with. Keep it."

          The door slammed shut, whipping up cold snow and shaking two of the icicles free. They smashed onto the concrete beside Macro and tiny shards clung to his yellow fur.

          "Why did you tell him he overpaid?" Anchor asked.

          "In case he knew." Macro tapped him on the paw and steered him away from Cipher Frostwall. "I didn't want an army of pokemon his size chasing after me. I think we've been chased enough today, don't you?"

          Anchor laughed heartily and folded his arms. "Sure. Shall I call Matrix, or do you wanna sight-see?"

          Macro snorted and looked away from him, his eyes drifting to the now near-black sky. Wildcard Gamma's shadow appeared above them, even darker yet only just visible to the trained eye. The neon pink ladder cut through the darkness, cascading down towards them with its familiar electronic 'chinks' as each one fired into place. The thought of being back on board his beloved ship already made him feel warmer.

          Something else in the sky caught his eye and he looked up to his left. Three more shadows. Smaller. Heading right for them. His violet eyes widened and he edged closer to Anchor.

          "Something wrong?" Anchor followed his gaze and his body stiffened. "Oh ratattas. That's not who was stalking us, is it?"

          The ladder appeared just above Macro's head and he reached up and grabbed onto the lowest rung. Anchor took hold of one seven rungs up and stood with his feet just above the mawile's head. It whipped them up towards the exit hatch and cold air roared past his ears. But his eyes never left those three ships. They deviated to the right of Wildcard Gamma, spreading out slightly. Pointed. Golden.

          He vanished into the exit hatch and it hissed shut behind him, closing out the freezing air. He took in a few deep breaths and shook water from his fur and scarf.

          "Did you get a good look at them?" Anchor asked.

          "Yes." Macro opened the inner door and stepped onto the ship, moving against the blast of warm air that blew yet more droplets from his body. "They weren't pirates, that's for certain."

          "Government."

          Macro nodded and felt his fur bristle. He marched into the cockpit and cast Matrix a look that froze the tiny bee pokemon to his seat.

          "Did those ships show up on your radar?" he asked.

          The ribombee nodded and his eyes drifted back to the monitor. Three blinking dots, arcing away from Wildcard Gamma until they reached outside of the radar's range of detection.

          Anchor scratched the base of his mowhawk as he watched the display. "They're not our stalker, that's for certain."

          "No," said Macro. "They're not." He moved over to his seat and sat down heavily. "Follow them."

          "What?!" Matrix and Anchor rounded on him.

          "I said follow them. I want to know what three of Socket's ships are doing over Boolean City right after a weapon ban."

          "Surveillance?" Anchor growled.

          "Surveying what? They've already got the place secure. They're clearly not after us, either."

          "I think we should count our blessings they didn't even see us," said Anchor. "If they did, they'd be whaling on us! You're wanted dead or alive, Macro!"

          "The bounty's higher if I'm alive." Macro kicked his feet up onto the dashboard and strained out his scarf onto the floor. "They're up to something. Follow them."

          Anchor let out a flustered breath and shook his head as he fell into the driver's seat. "All right. But I'm throwing up our cloak. We ain't getting caught by Socket's lot. I'm too young for that nonsense."

          Matrix cleared his throat and looked over at them. "I think that's a good idea. Because our stalker's come back."

          ...

          The yellow ships kept ahead of them, almost vanishing into the blackness. Wildcard Gamma kept them in sight and on their radar as they followed them across System Sky. Macro's eye drifted to and from the fuel meter as the ship held up its cloaking device, making them invisible to the naked eye. Whether or not Socket's ships had radars he had no idea. If they did, surely they'd know they were being followed? Nevertheless, they kept moving onward in a steady line right towards the desolate areas of System Sky.

          "Where are these guys going?" Anchor asked as he kept one paw on the accelerator to keep the ship at a steady speed.

          "Oh, I've no idea," Macro chuckled. "But I can't wait to find out."

          Anchor fired him a sideways leer. "This is just some kind of game to you, ain't it?"

          "It's not a game, but it's fun."

          "Fun? I'd hardly call chasing a government fleet 'fun'! I was always under the impression space pirates and the government stayed out of each other's way unless the law called for it."

          "We're always against the law."

          "Not all of them, Macro. Stealing, breaking and entering, trespassing. Yeh, sure. But this might very well result in murder if they start firing at us and we fire back."

          "Well, as far as I'm concerned, they break that law themselves every day since they stripped the rights right off the backs of the water dwellers."

          "So you're saying you'll fight back and kill these pokemon?"

          "I'm not saying that at all. You're twisting my words, Anchor." Macro tucked his paws behind his head and kept his eyes on the golden tails ahead of them. "But if they pick a fight with us, I'll fight back. Not shoot to kill, just stun. But I won't be taken guilty if their ships can't take a hit and crash."

          Anchor's brow furrowed and he leant forwards in his seat. "Hang on. Hang on a stinkin' second, what's that?"

          Macro squinted into the distance and let out a stunned 'huh'.

          Standing black against the horizon was a squat structure, not dissimilar to one of the floating cities only a lot smaller. Red and green flickered one after the other above it, indicating it was still on System's grid, whatever it was.

          "How are we doing, Matrix?" he asked. "Does it say what this place is?"

          Matrix 'hmm'd as he pawed at the holographic display.

          "It's not on any maps," he said. "I should also tell you our stalker is still behind us, although a lot further back now."

          So they had a radar then… Macro rubbed at the base of his horn and sighed. This could end up messy. Part of him wanted to turn back but the other part was incredibly curious and wanted to know not only what those ships were up to, but also what this place was.

          "Bring her in to land," he said.

          Anchor shot him a surprised glance but he pushed the steering stick forward, bringing the ship in for a land beside the huge, squat structure.

          As they drew closer, the anomaly revealed itself to be a building. One huge building sat atop an island just like the other floating cities. But why would a lone building accommodate a floating island? Macro frowned and leant on the dashboard to get a better look. The golden ships vanished out of view into a tunnel below the structure. He briefly considered following them, but his ship would likely get stuck in that narrow opening.

          "You might need to bring her over it and let us out that way," he said.

          "Nah," said Anchor. "I'm looking for a safer, more secluded spot. I'm not getting us fired at."

          "The cloak is up!"

          "It won't be for much longer if we don't wanna end up stranded, Cap'n."

          Macro looked down at the fuel meter. It was already down to half. The increased speed and use of the cloak had cost them greatly, leaving them with just more than enough to get back to Pulse City for a re-fill. That was if they didn't need to fight and keep using the ship's cloaking device.

          "All right," he breathed.

          He watched the building drift by as Wildcard Gamma drifted slowly along beside it, following the jagged circumference around the small, squat island. What windows the building had were dark. Not a single light on behind them, at least not that he could see. He also didn't see a single door. His heart sank at the possibility that the only entrance was the one the golden ships had taken.

          All the way around the building was a short stretch of flat land that reflected the antenna's red and green light. Sheet metal. The building itself was concrete and iron, and the single most dull and boring building he'd ever seen. Nothing indicated what it was other than the presence of those ships. If he'd come across it by accident he'd have dismissed it as abandoned.

          But he'd have still wanted a good look. An isolated building, as boring as it might be, still piqued his curiosity.

          The ship followed the sharp bend and the huge windscreen fell upon a short dock poking out from the far end. And just at the end of that dock, a set of double doors leading into the building. Or out of it, depending on what they were primarily used for. He guessed out.

          "Let me out there." Macro pointed at the docks.

          Anchor didn't even nod. He dragged the large wishiwashi ship towards the docks at a slugma's pace. Macro folded his arms and rapped his claws against his arm as he watched the passing building. His ears twitched as Matrix began to hum, his boyish voice wavering as he fidgeted in his seat.

          Finally, the nose of the wishiwashi reached the docks and Macro leapt from his seat. His still-damp fur had left a wet patch on the leather and it stuck to it, tugging a few looser tufts free. He beat himself down as he rushed out of the cockpit for the hatch.

          "You ain't going alone, Cap'n." Anchor trudged after him, checking the straps on his heat tracker.

          "I'd expect nothing less." Macro reached the hatch and pushed the button for the ladder.

          The ground wasn't too far below him. He could easily have jumped. Three rungs and his feet touched cold metal. He scanned his eyes over the building - large but squat. A single story tall. The pokemon it contained must have been huge. He guessed tyranitar or rhydon. Maybe even aggron. All of them spelled bad news for him and his crew, regardless. They were all capable of dealing with fairy types, even if it was tyranitar's weakness. He pushed the thought to the back of his mind and made for the double doors.

          Locked.

          He tutted and folded his arms as he looked the doors up and down. No visible alarm, but if it was a secret government building then it had to have one hidden somewhere, most likely the other side in the form of a bar running across it.

          He reached into his pouch and pulled out his lock pick.

          Anchor shifted behind him as he jiggled the slender metal rod around inside the lock. After a few twists and turns, the lock snapped open and he forced his claws between the two doors and tugged it open.

          Silence.

          He let out a sigh of relief. Part of him had been worried prising the lock open wouldn't be enough.

          "I see cameras," said Anchor.

          Macro looked up at him and followed his gaze to the roof of the building. They'd not been easy to spot at first glance, but hidden below the roof were black, concave sheets of glass tucked away in the shadows. Not quite hidden cameras, but hidden enough to say 'we're watching you'.

          He swallowed drily and ducked into the building. Anchor's heavy footing was oddly quiet as he followed closely behind him. The building stood in complete darkness. Not a sound came from further ahead. The only sounds were their footsteps and breathing and the occasional sniff from Anchor as he scouted out whoever might be lurking ahead.

          Macro stretched out a paw as the corridor grew darker and his claws brushed against wood. His eyes snapped to the object and he could just make out a large wooden box not much bigger than himself. He rummaged in his pouch and tugged out a tiny flashlight. The LED bulb submerged the box and a small patch of wall behind it in a soft, white light. Macro squinted at the wooden crate. It was like any other shipping crate except it lacked an address or destination. All it had written on it in red words were two short sentences. 'This way up' with an arrow pointing towards the ceiling, and 'confidential'. It was the second word that made Macro break into a smile and practically bounce with glee.

          "All right, Anchor. Grab it. We're off."

          The granbull didn't so much as question him. He grabbed the box in both paws and stomped after him back towards the dock. Macro cast a glance back over his shoulder as he reached the door, looking past Anchor into the shadows. Nothing.

          It seemed too easy.

          He stepped back out onto the docks and made for the neon ladder.

          "All right, lets get that crate on board and -"

          A jolt of electricity bounced before his toes, freezing him to the spot. He looked up to his left and grit his teeth together as he saw a heliolisk rushing towards him, his eyes completely covered by a strange, long eyepiece Macro recognised as an old-fashioned heat tracker. The device was cumbersome in that it sacrificed the use of both eyes for heat targeting while compromising the ability to spot non-heat-emitting threats.

          Such as an iron beam.

          Macro leapt back towards the doors and tore the alarm bar free, bringing it down in an arc towards the heliolisk. The large lizard spread out his frill and hissed, sending another jolt of electricity at both Macro and Anchor. Macro dodged and brought the bar up in an arc towards the reptile's chin while Anchor was engulfed in the electricity, dropping the crate to the floor with an almighty clatter.

          The bar struck home, sending the heliolisk arcing backwards into the wall of the building. Macro span towards Anchor and barked commands at him until he pulled himself together and grabbed the now cracked crate. He pushed the granbull towards the hatch and glanced back down the docks. More pokemon had emerged now, not a single aggron or tyranitar amongst them. Most of them were electric types. A raichu, ampharos and electivire rushed towards them amongst a small pack of stoutland.

          A low growl rose from Macro's throat and he followed Anchor into the hatch, giving the granbull a small shove so the door could close behind them. The ship shook as electricity engulfed it, knocking it sideways and causing both pokemon to slide back into the corridor.

          "Matrix! Move it!" Macro screeched as he rushed back to his seat. "Pulse City!"

          The ribombee keyed in the co-ordinates while Anchor, now relieved of the crate in the middle of the cockpit floor, shook out his stiff limbs before taking his seat. He wobbled as the ship took another hit and the lights flickered ominously. Something had clearly been fried and Macro hoped deeply it wasn't too crucial.

          The granbull steered the ship back up into the air, arcing back with such ferocity that it shoved them back into their seats and sent Matrix sprawling against the wall. Macro made a mental note to teach the ribombee the proper use of a seatbelt. The crate rushed out of the cockpit, followed by a shrill shriek from the kitchen.

          "I don't like this, Cap'n!" Anchor's voice came out hoarse.

          The mawile was too busy focusing on what was in front of them to fully realise that he was talking about the very thing he was seeing. Not three, but seven of those gold ships soared around the corner, firing red lasers at Wildcard Gamma.

          "Engage Schooling and fire back!" he commanded.

          Anchor obeyed, his nimble paws flying over the dashboard as he pressed at various buttons. The reassuring sound of the tiny wishiwashi escape pods popping out from their hold caused a small smile to play at Macro's lips. They didn't just serve as an emergency escape. He heard them clanking into place, creating a large ring around the main ship, then a deep whir as the tiny fish began to spin. A torrent of blue bubble-like bullets flew at the golden ships and exploded on impact, blowing back the front-most ships and sending them off balance.

          It gave them enough time to turn Wildcard Gamma and begin to retreat. There was no need to keep fighting.

          Another red laser clipped the ship's tail and Macro slammed his paws into the dashboard.

          "We need to engage hyperdrive!" he said. "Otherwise they're gonna blow the ship's fins and tail off!"

          "That's what you're worried about?!" Anchor roared.

          The Schooling ships fired another jet of bubbles, striking the assailing ships and knocking one of them out of the sky to land atop the squat building. The electric pokemon below were focusing all their efforts on shocking Wildcard Gamma, aiming for the bubble-firing weapons.

          Anchor gripped at the accelerator with such ferocity his knuckles turned white. His muzzle creased with frustration as he set the ship to fire once more.

          "Why aren't we in hyperdrive?!" Macro shrieked.

          "Because we're too close to their ships!" Anchor barked back. "The shock will end up knocking them out of the sky and there's nothing but ocean below us! Do you want your bounty to go up? 'Cos it will at this rate!"

          Macro clawed at his own face and let out a frustrated growl. If they wanted to get away from this, he had to take things into his own paws. He leant across the dashboard and grabbed hold of the accelerator.

          "Hey!" Anchor brought his spare fist down on top of Macro's horn. "You're gonna get us all killed!"

          "I'm gonna get us out of here!" he roared back. "And don't strike me! It's mutiny!"

          "Mutiny my tail!"

          "Stop fighting!" Matrix screamed. "We've got bigger things to worry about! That stalker of ours is back!"

          Macro twisted his head in Anchor's arms to look over at the ribombee. He released his grip on the granbull's left ear as he stared at the red dot behind them… slowly moving to their right. A shrill hissing sound permeated the cockpit and all eyes went to the windshield as a torpedo shaped like a grinning carvannah dived into the group of golden ships, striking the central one and exploding in a violent shock wave. Wildcard Gamma was blown backwards, away from the fleet and past the assisting ship. All they saw was a flat, rudder-like tail as the small blue ship arced upwards and zipped out of sight above their heads.

          Macro shook his head sharply and climbed back into his seat.

          "Hyperdrive!" he commanded. "Quick!"

          Anchor obliged, turning Wildcard Gamma away from the building and thrusting the accelerator forwards with all his weight. The ship lurched, plunging the cockpit into a deafening silence, and Macro found himself forced back into his seat with such intensity he through the fabric might swallow him.
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            #5    
          Old June 30th, 2017 (8:01 AM).
          Delirious Absol's Avatar
          Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
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            Join Date: May 2015
            Location: UK
            Age: 33
            Gender: Female
            Nature: Quirky
            Posts: 327
            Chapter Five

            The small tympole ship drifted slowly down into Spool City. Filthy, yellow grime coated the windows that from the outside served as the tadpole pokemon's eyes but from the inside were a crucial means to see where one was going. With barely enough time to kick the ship's hover panels into place, the underbelly struck the tarmac then shot back into the air as they kicked in, allowing it to finally come to a smooth stop.

            Surge swore under her breath as she snatched her mask from the glove compartment and strapped it over her face, leaving her bandana in place. She climbed into the air lock and waited for it to close behind her before opening the exit hatch. Air blasted out into the city as it hissed open, almost knocking her off her feet. She staggered out into the grime-filled streets, catching a glare from a nearby trash can. The garbordor inhabiting it ducked back under the lid, letting it clatter back into place.

            The zigzagoon locked her ship and cast her eyes left and right. She'd landed right in one of the main roads with not a single vehicle in sight. Not even a hover-board to speak of. With the vast number of poison types that decided to live in the outskirts of Meta City, she found it odd to not see a single means of transport. Her tympole ship stood out like a sore paw pad at the best of times in System Ground and she briefly considered moving it closer to her destination.

            Nah. No one would be able to get inside anyway.

            The dingy road wound round into an alleyway and she stepped over spilled bin bags, deeply wishing the mask would filter out the putrid smells of rotting fruit and meat along with other waste that assaulted her senses. The narrow alley opened up into another main road - the one she'd hoped to actually land in. Between a boarded up shop filled with torn posters and a club sporting a neon pink animated billboard stood a ragged little office with no sign to mark it. A sign would only cause the place more abuse than it already took.

            She stuck her key in the lock and ducked into the room, trying not to choke on the smoke. A tall delphox looked up at her from a high-backed office chair and he removed his cigar from his mouth to puff out a stream of smoke before finally addressing her.

            "You took your time."

            Okay, so addressing her wasn't the best term to use. The zigzagoon marched past him and leant against a beaten filing cabinet.

            "I'm sorry, Tracer." said Surge. "I got sidetracked."

            "Clearly."

            The other two occupants in the room glanced at her from their stations beside their computers. Defrag the lopunny flicked her ear back as she returned to her work while the eevee, Widget, was too occupied with whatever message board he was currently browsing.

            "Where did your little endeavor take you?" Tracer asked.

            "I was following Wildcard Gamma, like you asked," she said. "They don't live in Pulse City, you know. It took them a few days to actually show up."

            "Did you manage to apprehend their captain?"

            "You mean the sexy mawile?" A smirk tugged at her lips and Tracer's glare bounced off her harmlessly.

            "Don't speak about Hunter like that," he said flatly. "I hired you for your chameleon abilities, not your flirtatious nature. You were meant to catch him off guard and bring him in, just like you have done with several other space pirates."

            "Well, I'm afraid I lost him."

            Tracer rolled his eyes and flicked the ash from his cigar into an overflowing ashtray.

            "Wildcard Gamma has some kind of cloaking mechanism," she said. "I was able to track them most of the way but they must have noticed and hit hyper drive. I lost them somewhere on the outskirts of System Sky."

            "Outskirts…" Tracer scratched behind his ear. "There's nothing there."

            Surge snorted. There was no way she was telling the detective she'd lost the ship at some kind of secret government base. Or that she'd fired at their fleet and took one of them out. She had no idea what had come over her at the time and the sheer memory of it turned her pads clammy. She absently wiped one down the fur of her chest and glanced over at the blackened window.

            "You really need to get your air filter fixed," she said. "You'll make yourselves sick in all this smoke."

            Tracer merely grunted but Widget fired her a cheeky smile.

            "Some of us are enhanced to not get sick," he said.

            Surge glared at the eevee then sighed. "Well, I think I'm going to get some rest. It'll be nice to sleep somewhere quiet for a change."

            She opened the door to a cleaner, much less smoky area of the tiny building.

            "Don't get too comfortable." She glanced over her shoulder at the delphox. "I'm sending you right back out in the morning."

            "Back to Pulse City?" She wasn't sure why she asked. She knew the answer.

            He nodded. "I can't pay you if I don't make any money, Surge. Socket won't pay me if she doesn't see any success, and pretty soon my account is going to run dry."

            Surge gave a dry laugh. "Well, I'll keep trying to apprehend Hunter then, shall I? It'll be fun to play around with him a bit more."

            "Don't take your time."

            The door closed behind her and she stared at its dusty window. Tracer's ears were clearly defined beyond it, probably listening for her. Always listening.

            Socket wouldn't pay him if she didn't see any success… she wouldn't pay him at all if she knew the mercenary he'd hired had attacked her fleet and blown up one of her ships. Surge tugged at her waistcoat and made her way towards the stairs. She needed to keep that wrapped up in a neat little bow.

            ...

            Wildcard Gamma trundled along at a steady pace, making its way through the space pirate district a few miles outside of Pulse City. Colourful neon lights flickered from the smaller floating towns that surrounded it, their antennas rhythmically blinking red and green against the dark, star-filled sky.

            Anchor strained against the crowbar as he prised open the wooden crate. Despite the crack in the side, it was impossibly difficult to open. Macro had considered using his horn to chew through it but he feared he'd damage whatever was inside.

            "Come on, Anchor!" He clenched his paws together and bounced on his toes. "Put your back into it!"

            The granbull flashed his sharp teeth as he threw himself against the metal rod. Wood splintered and groaned until the wooden panel began to peel free, revealing a row of sharp, silver nails.

            "Whoever made this," he grunted, "really didn't want it to be opened by anyone but the one receiving it."

            Matrix wound his antennae around in his paw and leant back into his seat. "If that were the case, why not put it in a code-controlled metal crate than some flimsy wooden box?"

            Anchor snarled at him over his shoulder. "Flimsy?! You wanna try and prise this open?!"

            The ribombee shrugged and diverted his gaze back to the crate.

            Anchor roared and rammed his shoulder into the rod. It flew free from the box and Macro yelped and ducked as the crowbar soared over his head and clattered onto the dashboard. The mawile's eyes widened as he looked from the metal rod to Anchor.

            "You nearly shattered my window!" he squeaked.

            The granbull merely grunted as he used his paws to tug the rest of the panel free. It fell to the floor, the row of nails running around it reminiscent of some kind of deadly trap.

            Macro moved around it to look inside the box. A gasp left his throat completely of its own accord and he raised a paw to scratch at the long fur around his ear.

            A small pachirisu sat with her back against the crate, her head lolling against her chest. A small, silver antenna stuck out from behind her right ear topped with what he guessed was an LED bulb. A jack lead with a USB adapter lay curled up neatly beside her. Deep buzzing cut through the silence as Matrix hovered between them to get a closer look.

            "What is she?" Anchor asked. "An android?"

            "I've no idea," Macro reached into the box and ran his paw over the back of her head. "I'm guessing she has a switch or something."

            All he felt was fur until his claws touched cold metal at the base of her skull. His first instinct was to yank his paw back. It felt unnatural. Some pokemon had modifications that were alien to their own bodies, but to have something embedded into one's skull was a ghastly idea. What made it worse was it felt like some kind of socket. He mentally reminded himself she was merely a robot and kept pawing around for a switch.

            "Are you sure it's a good idea to switch it on?" Matrix asked.

            "I dunno, but I'm curious," Macro explained. "I wanna see what it does. Besides, if it does work, we could make a fortune selling it! Androids are pretty rare."

            "Rare?" Anchor scoffed. "I ain't even seen one before, or heard of anyone selling one. Robots, sure, but androids are too advanced. I mean, look at her. I could swear she's breathing."

            "Probably just some kind of standby feature." Macro poked his tongue out between his lips as he felt around the socket again. "Ahah!"

            His claws flicked over a tiny button that clicked away from him. The antenna behind the pachirisu's ear lit up with a soft blue light. She shifted and he sat back and watched as her eyes fluttered open. Her long black lashes contrasted with her white fur, and as they lifted revealed a pair of chocolate brown eyes. She raised a paw to rub at them then ran it through the long, blue fur between her blue ears.

            "I'm still in this box?" She stretched and yawned widely. "Due to the damage, it is clear you didn't use the release feature."

            "Release feature?" Macro looked up at the box.

            It was a different view from the inside. Still wooden, still a crate, but attached to the ceiling was a metal catch. He grunted and pushed himself to his feet. He'd have needed a special scanner for that. Something to trigger it to fall open. The entire crate would have spread neatly on the floor, no force needed.

            "It's amazing!" Anchor gasped. "So lifelike!"

            The pachirisu rubbed at her eyes again and looked up at each of them in turn until they landed on Macro.

            "I'm guessing you are Socket?" she asked.

            The three space pirates stared back down at her with identical expressions of surprise.

            Anchor leant in towards Macro and whispered, "Why does she think you're Socket?"

            Macro felt a smirk tug at his lips that swiftly became a grin and he doubled over with laughter.

            "We took a parcel that was supposed to go to the freakin' mayor?! Oh, this is too perfect!"

            The pachirisu blinked. "You're taking me to Socket?"

            "What?" Macro swiftly regained his composure and wiped a tear from his cheek. "Sure. We're taking you to Socket."

            The pachirisu nodded and stared at the wooden wall before her. His heavy sarcasm had rolled straight off her.

            "Then if you please," she said, "could you reboot my system then shut me back off? The first pokemon I should see should be Socket."

            "Well, that ain't gonna work, is it?" Macro raised a paw and shrugged. "First pokemon you saw was me."

            "My inbuilt FAQ tells me that a reboot is sufficient to perform a short-term memory wipe."

            Anchor shifted uncomfortably. "Cap'n, this is freaking me out."

            Matrix nodded slowly and landed back in his seat, his cream face oddly pale.

            An android meant to be delivered to System's mayor. That explained the government fleet around that strange, squat building. Whatever it was, it clearly manufactured these androids. Or distributed them. Maybe even both. Macro watched the pachirisu as her large eyes remained fixed on the inside of the crate. What was Socket wanting with an android? Didn't she have enough pokemon working for her? Obtaining an android right after issuing yet another weapon ban while the pokemon were engaged in a low-key civil war… Unless she had a love of gadgets, then something wasn't right about this.

            "I don't wanna switch you off," he said.

            The pachirisu's eyes snapped up to meet his while Anchor let out a groan.

            "Please switch it off," the granbull whined. "We know it works now, so let's board it back up and-"

            Macro swatted the wooden panel back out of his large paws. "No. We're leaving her switched on."

            The pachirisu blinked a few times. "But-"

            "But nothing," said Macro. "How much time can a reboot wipe from your memory?"

            "Searching." She stared blankly at the crate's interior again. "Thirty two minutes and twelve seconds."

            "Wow." Anchor nodded slowly. "That's rather precise."

            "Then how about this," said Macro. "You remain on for another… twenty five minutes. Have a walk around, spend some time with us, then we'll shut you back off again and deliver you to Socket."

            Anchor's brow knitted together and he fixed Macro with a sideways look, but he didn't say anything despite his mouth opening and closing slightly as he looked back down at the pachirisu.

            She stared down at her paws, her nose twitching as her eyes unfocused.

            "Come on," Macro whined. "It must be cramped in there, right? So why not stretch…" He waved his paw up and down at her. "Whatever it is you have."

            "Whatever I have?" She looked back up at him and inclined her head on one side. "What a funny thing to say."

            "Wires then, or whatever it is you things use as muscles."

            He stooped and grabbed her by the wrist, causing her to let out a little yelp. As he tugged her to her feet, any words he'd been planning on saying died on his tongue. Something wasn't right at all. She was warm. One could liken that to the mechanics whirring away, but what was really odd was the quick pulsing against his paw. He stared down at it, dumbfounded.

            "Is there a problem?" she asked.

            He licked his lips slowly and spoke, but he didn't look away from her tiny wrist. "You're alive?"

            "Of course I'm alive. I'm a living computer."

            His eyes narrowed and snapped back up to her, making Anchor and Matrix jump but the pachirisu didn't so much as flinch.

            "What's your name?" he asked.

            "My name is Download Database."

            "And what were you made for?"

            "That is confidential. I can only divulge that information with a password."

            He released her wrist, letting it fall to her side and took a step back. Her eyes sparkled with life, but there was nothing else behind them. No identity. No curiosity. The look she gave her surroundings was nothing more than a way of taking in information.

            This was a living creature, and there was nothing there. That explained the socket in the back of her skull. It was a means to download and upload information. Whoever had made her had taken everything, including her very identity, and replaced it with a computer.

            If Socket had asked for this, then she was sick.

            Anchor shifted slightly behind her. "Are you alright, Cap'n?"

            Macro grit his teeth together and marched past her towards his room, slamming his door behind him so it shook the entire ship.

            ...

            Socket stared out of the wide window at the bustling streets of Meta City. Mechanical trees wavered in the growing breeze while windmills turned above the tall buildings, their blades picking up speed as they turned every gust into valuable electricity. The repetitive jingling that filled her office would have grated on anyone else, but she'd tuned it out. It meant work was being done.

            The gothitelle folded her arms as her attention turned to the sky. Where was it? What was taking so long?

            "Madam Mayor?"

            She looked over her shoulder at the door. A sparksurfer raichu stepped inside, his eyes flitting from left to right. He wasn't exactly an unfamiliar face in the capital, but he twitched like a hatchling who'd been separated from his mother.

            "What is it, Yobi?" she asked.

            "I'm afraid I have some bad news," he said. "It's about Download Database. I'm afraid-" He gulped as her eyes narrowed into slits. "I'm afraid it's been stolen."

            The jingling came to a halt and the tiny head of a chingling looked up from the desk at the far end of the office. His tiny eyes practically sparkled with glee as he looked from the raichu to her and back.

            "Stolen?" she asked. "How is that possible?"

            "It was Wildcard Gamma," said Yobi. "They followed our fleet to the laboratory."

            "Followed?"

            He ducked back towards the doorway and waved his paws in a desperate attempt to quell her rising anger.

            "There was only three of us!" His words raced out almost as one. "We couldn't have fought them! Our radar told us we were being followed, but the ship was cloaked! We weren't even sure who it was. The best plan was to let them follow us and regroup at the lab. Fight back, all ships and pokemon! We didn't know it was Hunter, Madam Mayor. He took the crate and-"

            The raichu rose into the air in a bubble of purple light and his breath rushed out of his lungs as his back struck the wall.

            "You lost Download Database?!" she roared.

            The orange rodent pokemon stuttered as he struggled to release himself from her psychic attack.

            "Is it connected to the network?!" she demanded.

            He nodded stiffly.

            "So you're telling me," she began slowly, "that my top secret project is in that mawile's sticky paws?!"

            The purple bubble vanished and the raichu crumpled to the floor. He rubbed at his neck and diverted his eyes to the wall, falling briefly on the fascinated chingling.

            Socket's lips pursed together as her mind ran over every worst case scenario. Whatever pokemon ended up with the living computer in their paws would realise soon enough that it lacked every essence that made it an individual being.

            "What of the pachirisu's memories?" she asked.

            "We removed them," he croaked. "Everything. Saved to a disk, just like you asked."

            "Destroy it."

            Yobi's eyes widened and he stared at her, aghast. "But… that's murder."

            Socket clicked her tongue and glanced away. "Of course it is."

            "Why do you want it destroyed?"

            "In case it's retrieved! I want that computer in complete working order as designed, at least until we can find a more… convenient tool." She paused. "Which I am now all the more anxious to do after this little setback."

            "All right." Yobi rubbed at his neck again and cleared his throat. "We could break it up? Hide it all. That way, her personality survives and-"

            "If you think that will work, then do that."

            "Sure thing."

            "I also want you to limit what information she has access to," she said. "I don't want that mawile selling on confidential information."

            Yobi scratched his ears and coughed. "I don't… that might not-"

            "Don't let me down, Yobi." Her voice was laced with ice that chilled him so much his fur stood on end. "Now retrieve that computer. And make it quick. I've already lost valuable time."

            The raichu rose to his feet and bolted out of the room, his large paws sliding over the loose rug as he scrambled into the corridor.

            Socket turned to face the chingling and he returned her look with a wide smile.

            "Cut that out, Tweak," she said.

            The little bell-like pokemon laughed, an odd tinkle that filled her office and made her fur bristle.

            "I want new posters printing, and an update on the wanted list," she said. "Increase Hunter's bounty up to forty thousand credits and have the reward apply in System Sky. That mawile will be behind bars before weekend."

            She tucked her paws behind her back and moved over to the window. Tweak's hyper jingling resounded off the walls, but once again she tuned it out, keeping her eyes on the sky.

            Wildcard Gamma… that ship would be stripped down for parts. Slowly. And she was going to enjoy every second of it.
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              #6    
            Old July 7th, 2017 (5:15 AM).
            Delirious Absol's Avatar
            Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
            Call me Del
               
              Join Date: May 2015
              Location: UK
              Age: 33
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              Chapter Six

              Macro’s sleep had been oddly dreamless, and as he woke up it took a moment or two for him to actually remember getting to his room.

              That pachirisu…

              Faint light penetrated the curtain and he kicked the sheets off and snatched up his small, pocket computer. Nine AM. He’d slept the whole night away.

              Muttering under his breath, he strutted over to the door while fastening his belt back around his waist. Somehow, he’d managed to fall asleep with his goggles on and they pressed uncomfortably against his horn. He shunted them about until they felt a lot more natural and tripped into the cockpit.

              “Careful, Cap’n.” Anchor lifted the wooden panel and propped it against the wall beside the door. “Still trying to get things straight in here.”

              “Where is she?” Macro scanned the small room until he spotted Download Database huddled inside the splintered box.

              “She’s been in there all night,” Anchor explained. “Shut herself down shortly after you went to bed.”

              “Well… about twenty minutes after,” added Matrix. “Apparently she’s programmed to obey orders.”

              Macro reached behind the small squirrel pokemon’s neck and flicked the power switch. Her antenna flashed blue and she looked up groggily.

              “Rise and shine, sweetheart,” he scoffed.

              She blinked up at him and rubbed a paw across her eyes. “Are you Socket?”

              Despite looking tired, her voice came out with as much energy as it had the night before.

              “No, I’m not Socket,” he spat. “And you’re gonna answer me some questions.”

              “The first pokemon I see is meant-”

              “Yeh, I know. You’re meant to see Socket. Whatever.” He crouched down beside her and frowned into her brown eyes. “Now, tell me. Why did they remove your identity? What were you made for?”

              “I can’t divulge that information without a password.”

              “Yeh I know. Let’s see.” He scratched his head thoughtfully. “How about ‘password’?”

              “You’re meant to start it with ‘the password is’,” she told him.

              He sighed and ran his paws over his face. Never simple.

              “Fine,” he said. “The password is ‘password’.”

              “Incorrect.”

              “The password is ‘Socket’.”

              “Incorrect.”

              “The password is ‘number one’?”

              “Incorrect.”

              Macro stood up and threw his paws in the air. “The password is ‘Socket rules’?!”

              “Incorrect.”

              He roared and tugged at the long fur on his head. “This is impossible!” He rounded on the ribombee. “How are your hacking skills?”

              “Virtually non existent,” answered Matrix. “Why?”

              “Because I want to know why this pachirisu was killed and had a computer installed into her brain!”

              “Oh, I have not been killed,” said Download Database. “All my identity and memories have been removed safely and are stored in an undisclosed location.”

              Macro stared at her, dumbfounded. “You don’t even care, do you?”

              “Care?”

              “Yes, care.” Macro folded his arms and inclined his head on one side. “What else did they do? Remove all your emotions as well? You’re just some… emotionless, empty, pathetic husk used as a stupid computer?”

              Her nose crinkled. “I understand your words are intended to hurt.”

              “Yeh.” A small smirk spread across his face. “Feel anything?”

              “I’d have to see my facial expression to discern that.” She looked around the wooden crate. “Does anyone have a mirror?”

              “All right, I’ve had enough,” said Macro. “I’m going to get some lunch. Anchor, refuel. Matrix.” He pointed a claw at the pachirisu. “Watch her.”

              “You want me to watch her?” Matrix glanced from Download Database to Macro and back.

              “It’s either that or I leave her with Anchor and you can go and be fawned over by your fangirls.”

              “Fangirls. That word is new to me,” said Download Database. “Deciphering… A formerly derogatory term now widely accepted in fandom communities. Used to describe a girl who acts in an excitable fashion when engaging in, talking about or nearby their obsession. Often enjoy shippings and writing fanfiction.”

              The three space pirates were quiet as they stared, blinking, at the pachirisu.

              “Wait,” said Matrix. “You think they write stories about me?” He stared down at his paws then shrugged. “I hope I’m still cool.”

              Macro blinked a few times then waved the pokemon away as he marched from the room. “I’ll be back after breakfast.”

              Cookie poked his head out of the kitchen door as he passed. “I already made us breakfast.”

              “Sorry, I need some air. And I need to find someone.” Macro gave the chocolate-scented slurpuff a nod. “Save me the leftovers for lunch or something.”

              Cookie gave him a weak smile. “I’ll try but I can’t promise anything.”

              Pulse City was as busy as it always was, although the neon signs weren’t as dazzling in daylight. Smells of alcohol were replaced by baking. Bread, sweets and meat filled the air and the store fronts were teaming with hungry pokemon who were ready to begin their day.

              Macro’s destination was the Moonlight Lounge. Their bar grub was one of the best in Pulse City and they made a killer nutpea and occa burger.

              As he strolled through the lounge, cheerful expressions turned to ones of hunger when eyes fell on him. The tyranitar he’d seen the day before sat by his usual table and sipped at his drink. The other two pokemon who’d accompanied him were no longer present, but it didn’t change the expression of self-confidence behind the monstrous pokemon’s eyes.

              Macro shrugged it off and climbed onto a bar stool where he waved down the mienshao. The fighting pokemon gave him a nod of acknowledgment and continued serving his current customer.

              “Good morning, Macro.” Worm’s familiar voice drew his attention.

              The sewaddle sat on the bar, holding a small shot glass in a stubby paw. He gave Macro a sleepy smile and took a swig of his drink.

              “Morning, Worm,” Macro replied. “Not at your stall today?”

              “Day off.” The caterpillar pokemon dropped his empty glass onto the counter and lowered his voice. “I dunno if you’ve noticed, but there’s been a little change that concerns you. A lot.” He paused. “A big change, actually.”

              “Oh?” Macro looked around at the lounge again, noting the glares fired his way.

              “It don’t concern us pirates though, so I wouldn’t worry your little self,” Worm went on. “But that bounty on your head, it’s gone up.”

              Macro stared down at him and raised an eyebrow. “By how much?”

              “Double.”

              “Double?!”

              Macro covered his mouth and looked around again. Most of the space pirates were still watching him, but it became clearer what it was. It was jealousy and anger. The higher the bounty the more revered the space pirate. Well… revered was a funny way of putting it. It meant competition. A pirate with a higher tag was doing better than those with a lower one, and despite how much was on their head, a pirate could never turn another one in. Every single one was wanted, whether they had a poster saying so or not. If they turned one in, they’d only be handing themselves over in the process. That meant certain death. Every one who was turned over found themselves on death’s row, that’s why ‘dead or alive’ applied. It was the only instance a pokemon was allowed to kill another, and the lower price for a dead pirate was meant to deter that and leave it to the officials. The high marks sparked jealousy and anger because it was still coveted, and the only way to get it would be to hire a mercenary and split the cost in a way that often went against the pirate’s favor.

              Worm laughed and shook his head. “What did you do to cheese Socket off so much that she cranked up your bounty?”

              “Can’t say,” said Macro.

              He watched as the mienshao moved along to serve a pokemon who’d arrived after him. Great, even the bar tender was jealous of him. He leant his head on his paw and wondered if it was worth just going back to his ship and eating some of Cookie’s pancakes.

              “Well, it must have been pretty bad,” said Worm. “I mean, twenty thousand was pretty high as it was. To increase it that much… wowzers, Macro. Even turning you in dead would rack up a hefty price!”

              The sewaddle chuckled and waved his tail for the mienshao.

              “Well, if it isn’t the most wanted pirate in System.” Two hairy arms landed on the bar beside him and Macro looked up into the grinning face of a female zigzagoon. “Good morning, Hunter.”

              Macro’s brow furrowed and he pushed himself back from the bar. “I think I’ll have breakfast on my ship, Worm. See you around.”

              “Hang on, mister.” Surge grabbed his arm and pulled him back into his seat. “I haven’t bought you a drink.”

              “I don’t want a drink,” he answered flatly.

              “Don’t worry, I’m not gonna spore it. Sit down.”

              Macro sighed and fell back into his seat. “What do you want?”

              “I want to know what you did to land yourself on Socket’s red list.” She helped herself to a bowl of dried nutpea berries and nudged the bowl towards him.

              Macro stared up at her, his mouth slightly ajar. Red list wasn’t a term pokemon commonly used. It wasn’t necessarily known outside of hacker circles, and whether or not someone was on that list was definitely not made public. He frowned.

              “What makes you think I’m on her red list?” he asked. “Are you just assuming?”

              She chuckled and popped a nutpea into her mouth. “I have my ways.”

              “Hacker, hey?” He laughed and turned so he was comfortable in his seat. “Maybe you can buy me that drink.”

              “Maybe you can buy me one, too!” Worm waved his empty shot glass.

              “Interested now, huh?” Surge smirked and locked her light brown eyes onto Macro’s. “If you want to know more, I should tell you I’m not comfortable talking about sensitive matters in such… crowded… situations.”

              Macro glanced around at the bar again. He really didn’t like where this was going, but if he wanted answers he really needed to use her hacking skills, or find another hacker. With the looks he was getting and all the pricked ears around him, finding another complying hacker wouldn’t be easy. He turned back to the zigzagoon and lowered his voice enough that even Worm couldn’t hear him.

              “If I did want to hire you to do some hacking,” he said, “how much would it cost?”

              “Depends,” she said. “But I think a date should suffice.”

              Macro suppressed a sigh and leant his head on one paw. “A date?”

              “Yes. You know. A quiet restaurant where we can talk things over, flirt a bit, and you pay.”

              So things had taken a turn from being bought a drink to having to pay for a meal. The amount of fuel Wildcard Gamma used was hardly trivial, or cheap, and they’d burnt through a full tank in less than twenty four hours. Could he even justify a meal with this sly zigzagoon? He let out that sigh and brought up his account balance on his optical display. Just over thirty thousand credits, not excluding his crew’s wages.

              “All right,” he said. “One date. And I choose.”

              “Remember, it has to be quiet, or I tell you nothing.” She finished with a smirk.

              Macro flashed his canines. “I’m not taking you back to my ship.”

              “I’m not suggesting that. But I hear Moonlight Lounge has some private booths.”

              His heart sank. They were hardly cheap, but he really needed a hacker if he was going to get any answers out of that pachirisu. And if he shelled out for a booth he could still get his burger. Win, win. At a price…

              “Fine.” He slid off his stool and kicked it aside. “Come with me.”

              “Oh! Oh!” Worm wriggled over the bar towards him. “Can I join you?”

              “No,” said Macro. “I don’t really need a third wheel.”

              “Dang.” The sewaddle sank onto his stomach. “Gets pretty lonely here.”

              Macro turned his back on him and slipped past Surge, whipping his paw out of her reach as she tried to grab it. He stayed ahead of her as he made his way around to Moonlight Lounge’s restaurant. A scrafty wearing a red and white waiter’s uniform leant against the entrance and his eyes narrowed into a leer when he spotted Macro.

              “I’d like to book a booth,” Macro told him.

              “Fourty thousand credits,” the scrafty replied.

              Macro sneered and the fighting pokemon raised his paws and laughed.

              “I’m kidding!” the waiter said. “It’s two thousand for a booth plus a thirty percent tip on all dishes and drinks.”

              “I’ll make it fifty percent if you stay away after you’ve delivered our meals,” said Macro.

              “Deal.”

              The scrafty grabbed two menu tablets and led them across the restaurant. The red and white theme continued on with checkered floor tiles and red wooden frames around the individual booths, each with their own door. They all had windows, but Macro understood they were meant to be sound proof. Pirates often booked them out to make deals they didn’t want prying ears to overhear. It didn’t stop lip-readers trying, however.

              They stopped by a booth two down from the back of the restaurant. The waiter opened the door and let them inside before whipping out his notepad.

              “Drinks?” he asked.

              “Watmel juice,” Macro replied.

              The scrafty snorted but he didn’t look up from his pad. “It’s customary to let the lady order first, but I’ll ignore that.”

              Surge laughed and shook her head. “I’ll have the same.”

              “All right.” He popped his pad into his uniform pocket. “I’ll be back shortly.”

              After the door closed, she gave Macro a sly smile.

              “Not very courteous, are you?” she said.

              “I am where it counts,” said Macro.

              “And a date doesn’t count?”

              “I’m only here with you because I want information,” he said. “I want to know, first, how you found out I’m on the red list.”

              “I found out this morning,” she said. “I saw a new wanted poster demanding double your previous bounty and wanted to know what you’d done to annoy Socket so much. So I poked around her wanted lists.”

              “So you are a hacker?”

              “Yes. It’s one of my many talents.”

              “Many talents, eh?” Macro folded his arms and sank down against the red leather seat. “So you ain’t no ordinary pirate?”

              “Pirates can have more than one talent,” she said. “But if you must know, I’m a mercenary.”

              Macro’s muzzle creased into a frown. “A pirate mercenary?”

              The warning laced into his tone didn’t phase her in the slightest. “Just a mercenary.”

              “And you’re hanging around Pulse City?” He sat up straight again and jabbed a claw into the table. “If you’re a merc, wouldn’t you rather be turning me in than demanding I take you on a date?”

              “Oh, it’s tempting.”

              “Then what’s stopping you?”

              The door opened again, revealing the scrafty balancing a tray on one arm. Surge didn’t take her eyes off Macro as she accepted her drink. He met her eyes with a steely stare, the pair of them sitting in silence until the scrafty shuffled uncomfortably from the booth.

              “A mercenary can take on more than one job,” she said. “And you seem rather interested in my hacking skills.”

              Macro took a sip of his drink as he mulled her words over. He placed the glass back on the white table with a clatter and leant back in his seat.

              “You’re gonna ask for more than forty K,” he said.

              She chuckled softly.

              “Well, I hate to let you down,” he said. “But that’s more than my current bank account.”

              Surge swirled her drink around in her glass, keeping her brown eyes locked onto his violet ones. “You do leap to assumptions, don’t you?”

              “Well what else do you want?” He picked up the menu tablet and scrolled through it until he found his nutpea and occa burger.

              “It depends what you want,” she said as she copied him. “I’m guessing you’ve got yourself into something rather sticky.”

              “You could say that. Given Socket’s reaction, at least. I happened to steal something that was intended to be delivered to her.”

              “You stole government property.” A seductive smirk curled across her lips. “Talk about going too far.”

              He snorted and set his menu aside. “You have no idea what it is. If you did, it’d make your skin crawl.”

              “Try me.” She met his gaze again and leant back in her seat.

              “All right. It’s a living computer.” He stared back at her blank expression. “Every single ounce of personality has been removed from this poor pokemon and replaced with a computer. In my opinion, that borders on murder.”

              Surge made a thoughtful noise.

              “She even has an antenna sticking out of her head,” he went on. “I know cybernetic modifications aren’t exactly uncommon in System, but still. What was she planning? That’s what I want to know.”

              “So you want me to poke around the government’s confidential project files?”

              “Yes. I want to know everything. What this ‘Download Database’ is supposed to be designed for, why, and what the passwords are to get this ‘living computer’ to co-operate with me.”

              “You’re not delivering it to Socket, then?”

              Macro snorted at her playful smirk. “Not in the slightest. My original plan was to sell it on the black market, but doing that to a living pokemon who hasn’t the faintest clue is almost as bad as selling a child into slavery.”

              There was a pause as the waiter came in carrying their burgers. Once he’d left, Macro cast a glance at the closed door then turned back to Surge, watching as she picked up her fork and stabbed it into a fry.

              “So what’s your price?” he asked.

              “What you’re asking me to do is incredibly risky,” she said. “Poking around government files could land me on the red list myself.”

              “So you’re not a professional hacker?”

              “I never said that. I get hacking requests quite frequently, but it’s not a safe job, Macro. One mistake and I could end up with a bounty on my head that rivals yours.”

              “Hah. That’d take some of the pressure off me.”

              She grinned and stuck the fry in her mouth.

              “So what’s your price?” he asked again.

              “Forty thousand credits.”

              “I told you that’s more than my bank balance,” he growled. “How about twenty thousand? That’s what you’d get for turning me in dead.”

              She nibbled on her fork and gazed up at the ceiling. “How about twenty thousand and you take me on another date?”

              Macro sighed and picked up his burger, taking a huge bite. This zigzagoon was on his last thread.

              “Besides.” She gave him a sly smile. “You’ve not upheld your side of the bargain for your first request yet. I thought I said this date was meant to have some flirting involved.”

              She really was on his last thread.

              “Listen, Surge. I might be a space pirate, but I’m still a gentlemon.”

              She scoffed and popped another fry in her mouth.

              “Flirting messes with feelings,” he said. “Especially when you don’t mean it.”

              A small smile tugged at her lips. “Humor me.”

              He sighed again and shook his head. “It’s a dangerous game you’re playing, Surge.”
              __________________
              I believe in Jesus Christ my Savior. If you do too, and aren't scared to admit it, then copy and paste this in your signature.

              A Fanfiction Author Who Dares to be Different
              A glimmer of hope in a war-torn world - The End
              Cyberpunk fantasy meets Pokemon Mystery Dungeon - Glitched
              Fancy some Cyberpunk PMD action with space pirates? System:Reboot
              Other Fics - SWC entry 'Rivers and Waterfalls'
              'Where else can I find Del?' -FFnet/Wattpad
              Reply With Quote
                #7    
              Old July 14th, 2017 (5:05 AM).
              Delirious Absol's Avatar
              Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
              Call me Del
                 
                Join Date: May 2015
                Location: UK
                Age: 33
                Gender: Female
                Nature: Quirky
                Posts: 327
                Thanks for your feedback, Bardothren =) Hopefully this chapter will clear up some questions.

                Chapter Seven

                Shouts and screams came from the ship and Macro readied his laser as he dashed into the cockpit. He released it back into its holster and shook his head at the two pokemon rolling on the floor.

                “Please release me,” Download Database said, rather too calmly. “I must shut down and wipe my short term memory.”

                “No!” Matrix half-growled. “It’s too creepy!”

                “What are you two doing?” Macro leant against the door frame and folded his arms.

                Both pokemon looked up at him and Matrix sat back, revealing that the pachirisu had her arms bound to her sides with the jack lead she’d been boxed with.

                “I’m stopping her shutting down again,” Matrix explained. “It weirds me out seeing a living pokemon like that.”

                “Correction,” said Download Database. “I’m a living computer. Shutting down is a necessity to conserve power and organise data.”

                Macro looked down at her. “So you admit you’re not a living pokemon? You have, in fact, been killed?”

                “No, the pokemon I used to be has not been killed. I am merely borrowing her body.”

                “It’s still savage.”

                “I’m afraid I do not understand.” She wriggled until she was sat upright and fixed him with emotionless, brown eyes. “Please release me. I must shut down and wipe as much memory as possible. I will sadly remain with… forty six minutes of useless data. This unfortunately cannot be rectified without the right command.”

                “Too late for you then, isn’t it?” Macro stifled a laugh. “No. You can stay tied up. There’s no point in shutting you down.”

                “But I must clear my memory as Socket absolutely must be the first pokemon I see.”

                “Again, it’s too late.” He frowned. “Why must she be the first one? Can you tell me that, at least?”

                “It’s an imprint function. The first pokemon I see is the pokemon I serve and have devoted loyalty to. At the moment, that pokemon is you.”

                “Oh!” His eyes widened and he rubbed at his chin. “So I could tell you to do anything then? Absolutely anything?”

                “Yes, and I would have to obey.”

                “That’s convenient.” He paused and a smirk tugged at his lips. “Stay switched on.”

                She blinked. Twice. Then gave a polite nod.

                “And stop this Socket nonsense,” he added. “Because there’s no way I’m taking you to her.”

                “You’re not?”

                “No. With the amount she increased my price by, she’s clearly up to something. You’re no mere toy to her.” He frowned at her blank expression. “Understood? You cut it out, and I’ll untie you.”

                She nodded again and stared at the floor.

                Macro moved over to her and tugged the cable free. She flexed her arms and rose to her feet while Matrix watched warily from the navigation desk.

                “So she’s not gonna shut down?” he asked.

                “No,” said Macro. “Not if she’s true to her word.”

                “I am programmed to obey,” she said.

                Macro looked up at Matrix then stood. “There you go. She won’t freak you out any more. Happy?”

                Matrix nodded slowly and twirled one of his antenna in his paw.

                “I do, however, require sleep,” she said. “But that is a different thing entirely. Something this living body requires.”

                “Wait a minute… Does that mean we have to feed you, too?” Macro asked.

                “Yes.”

                “Huh.” He scratched at his ear and tutted. “I should have thought of that before I ordered that sundae.”

                “Did someone say sundae?!” Cookie trotted into the cockpit and licked his lips.

                “Good timing.” Macro nodded over his shoulder at the pachirisu. “One more mouth to feed. Think you can handle that?”

                “Ooh!” Cookie eyed her curiously. “I might have to triple my recipes.”

                “For one more pokemon?” Macro raised an eyebrow. “She’s not even that big!”

                “Yeh.” Cookie rubbed the back of his head. “Hmm… double then?”

                Macro waved a paw in dismissal. “You work it out. I’m gonna have a little nap.” He rubbed at his chest as he strode from the cockpit. “I’m starting to get some epic heart burn.”

                “Story of my life.” Cookie trotted back into the kitchen, grabbing his apron from the door as he passed.

                Macro continued down the corridor past the washroom until he reached the sleeping quarters. Three doors spanned it on either side, and the end one on the left was his, right by the loot room. He eyed the other rooms reminding himself that two of them were free. He’d have to assign one to Download Database, unless she was happy enough sleeping in a wooden crate.

                He pushed his room open and threw himself onto his back on his bed. The sheets were still bunched up from the previous night and pressed into his lower spine. He shuffled until he’d managed to move them from underneath him and kicked them right to the end of the bed. He then slipped his belt off and placed it carefully on his night stand. One day, he’d end up forgetting to put one of his lasers back into safety and blow a nice hole in his mattress…

                He reached into his pouch and pulled out his pocket computer, staring at the clock ticking seconds by on its flat screen. It hadn’t taken long for Surge to pull his number out of him. She had needed it, after all. He wondered how long it would take her to get the information he needed, then he’d block all her future calls if need be. He let his arm flop over the edge of the bed, keeping a firm hold on the computer. Within seconds he was staring at it again, pawing through the various useless apps he’d installed over the years.

                A soft knock at the door snapped him out of his daze and he raised his head to look at it.

                “Who is it?” he asked.

                “Download Database.” She pushed the door open before he could tell her to go away. “Matrix has made something clear to me. You owe me an apology.”

                His brow knit together and he pushed himself up so he was sitting. “For what?”

                “For offending me,” she explained. “He informed me that is what I was feeling after you called me an ‘emotionless, empty, pathetic husk’ and ‘stupid computer’.”

                His jaw fell open and hung there. All he could do was stare at her. Was she serious?

                “Well?” She inclined her head on one side. “Are you going to apologise?”

                Looking into her emotionless, empty eyes unnerved him. No. He wasn’t sorry. Everything he’d said was true. There was nothing… nothing… inside this pachirisu except empty data and an ability to speak. She could do the exact same thing as a computer tablet’s voice command and helper feature. The only difference here was it was using the body of a living being.

                He flopped back onto his bed and went back to scrolling through his computer apps. “I’ve got nothing to apologise for. I meant every word.”

                “So I’m pathetic and stupid?”

                He grimaced. Maybe not every word.

                “I understand.” She turned from the door then faltered. “By the way. You said you were going to have a nap. You lied.”

                He turned his head slightly to look at her. Her back was turned but she had one eye fixed on him over her shoulder.

                “You’re rude and a liar,” she said.

                He snorted and blankly thumbed over his tablet screen. “And you’re programmed to obey me.”

                “Yes. I am programmed to obey. Nevertheless, Matrix told me to make my feelings known. I’ve done that. Have a nice nap.”

                The door clicked shut, rather too politely. He rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling. ‘Weird’ didn’t even begin to describe it. He could totally understand where Matrix was coming from. Everything about that ‘pachirisu’ was wrong. Was there anything he could do to train this computer to behave like an actual pokemon? Or was he stuck with data strolling around his ship inside some hapless pachirisu’s body? It wasn’t like she’d asked to be put inside there. It wasn’t her fault the pokemon had had her identity stripped away. He closed his eyes and took in a deep breath. His chest still hurt. Maybe he was ice cream intolerant? He rolled onto his left, facing the wall, and let his computer drop to his pillow. Maybe a good nap would clear his head?

                ...

                Singing. Who was singing?

                Macro rubbed his eyes and pushed himself up onto his elbow, trying to work out where on earth that music was coming from. His pillow was lit up like a torch. He reached down to block it out, but instead his paw found his computer tablet and he snatched it back, noting the name on the screen.

                Surge.

                It all came barreling back down on him. Breakfast. Socket. Download Database.

                He grabbed his phone and croaked a ‘Hello’ into it.

                “Wow, you sound wonderful,” came Surge’s voice, rather too heavy on the sarcasm.

                He cleared his throat and adjusted his pillow so he could sit back against the wall.

                “You just woke me,” he said.

                “It’s one in the afternoon.”

                If he’d thought to switch it to camera mode, she’d have seen him shrug.

                “Anyway,” she said. “I got the information you need.”

                “That was fast,” he said.

                “I take pride in my work. I don’t leave my clients waiting around for too long.” He thought he heard her smile. “Unless they’ve wriggled into my bad books.”

                “I guess I should count myself as one of the lucky ones?” He paused and rubbed at his scar. He couldn’t deny he was rather nervous. “So what have you got for me?”

                “It turns out you were right,” she said. “Socket is up to something, and stealing that living computer may have been the best thing for System as a whole.”

                “What?” He laughed. “You trying to tell me I’ve saved the world?”

                “No. Not yet.” There was a small pause and he heard her take in a sharp breath. “Download Database, as the computer is called, is part of a larger network called BackDoor.”

                “Huh. Is that being sent over the city antennas?”

                “No. BackDoor is not entirely different from the living computer, except it has a personality. Of sorts, anyway. It’s completely artificial. Download Database isn’t the only computer linked to the network, either. It’s filled with creatures that aren’t biological. She’s the only biological component, designed merely to fit in with pokemon kind without drawing attention to Socket.”

                “So what is this BackDoor doing exactly?”

                “It’s looking for dimensional gateways.”

                In the silence that followed, Macro found himself wondering if he was actually still asleep and the conversation wasn’t even happening. He glanced around at his room. Everything felt strange, dreamlike. No… eerie. Like something was very wrong and he was about to wake up at any moment after a rather unpleasant nightmare.

                “Macro?”

                Surge’s voice snapped him back to his computer and he took in a shaky breath.

                “Are you all right?” she asked. “You went quiet.”

                “I… I’m not sure.”

                “I know this is hard to take in. I’ve read over this information three times to make sure I’m reading it right. You know how murder is illegal in System?”

                “Yes, I’m quite clear on that.”

                “Well, they’ve skirted around it with Download Database. Every single scrap of her personality and memories, everything that makes her who she is from her likes and dislikes to her fears and dreams, has been downloaded from her brain and stored on a disk. But after she fell into your paws, they’ve been broken up and placed onto five different disks and scattered throughout System to make it harder for whoever ends up with her to obtain them.”

                “So her personality is retrievable?”

                “It is, but you’re gonna have a hard time getting them. Each one is in a different government facility and those are heavily guarded. If you try to get them back then you clearly have a death wish.”

                “Does it say where they are?”

                “I have a list. I’ll send it to you along with the list of commands you wanted.”

                “You… you said something about dimensions?” His voice wavered again. Part of him was deeply uncertain he’d even heard her right.

                “Yes, I did. What I told you about the living computer and murder law-dodging is completely relevant to that. She’s a prototype.” She paused and he heard her scratch her head, or ear, or face. “Macro, you’ve heard of humans?”

                “I have. They’re fictitious. Make up part of System’s mythology.”

                “Well, Socket believes they exist.” She paused again. “That’s what BackDoor is trying to find. They’re scouting out dimensional gates and opening them. Not just to other worlds, but to other time lines, and it looks like they’ve had some success. They managed to open a gate that showed them the same room they stood in thirty minutes prior to the test.”

                He actually pinched himself. It hurt. Could you feel pain in dreams? He really wanted to wake up.

                “Macro, this is huge! If they’re doing this, then you’re already in too deep. I feel I’ve made a massive mistake in telling you all this.”

                “No… no, you’ve not.” His voice really wavered.

                “You don’t sound well.”

                “It’s just heart burn.” It wasn’t heart burn at all. He felt faint and the room was beginning to spin. “Look… send me the locations for her memories.”

                “You’re still going after them?”

                “I have an empty husk of a pachirisu walking around my ship, Surge. Every ounce of her personality has been stolen from her and I’m going to do everything I can to steal them back.”

                She sighed audibly. “All right. But promise me that’s all you’ll do.”

                He bit his lip so hard it hurt. Did she honestly think he was going to interfere in whatever Socket was doing? It was bonkers. It couldn’t be real. Humans didn’t exist. They never had, there was no proof of that. Zero proof. Allegedly they had, but then they’d all miraculously gone back home from the same dimensional tear they’d been dragged through. It was absolute tauros poop.

                “Macro?”

                “Did you find out exactly why she wants to find humans?” he asked.

                “I didn’t delve that deeply,” said Surge. “To be honest, I got scared. All I know is she wants to turn them into computers like the pachirisu, but what purpose they serve is a mystery to me. I don’t think I even want to know. The passwords for Download Database should allow you to find all that out if you’re desperate to know. She’s got a computer in her brain, after all.”

                Macro ran a paw over his face and let out a long sigh. What was Socket up to? One thing was for certain. There was no way she was getting her paws on Download Database.

                “I’m getting her memories back,” he said. “Then I’m done with this nonsense. Humans do not, and have not ever, existed in System. If what you’ve told me is even remotely true, Socket is clearly insane. You’ve seen what she’s done to this pachirisu, or read it at least. You have to agree?”

                She made a ‘hmm’ and rapped her claws on what sounded like a desk or table. “I can’t say I disagree with you. Anyway. Now I’ve done all this, can we make another date?”

                “Send me the information first, then we’ll talk.” He hung up and sank down against the wall.

                His chest felt strange, like someone had fastened an elastic band around it. If he’d still been wearing his belt he would have torn it off in hopes it would alleviate it. Anxiety? Fear? Whatever it was, he didn’t like it. Usually a bit of a shock gave him a buzz to keep fighting.

                His computer chirruped at him and he stared down at Surge’s name again. This time it was an email. He opened the attachment with a growing sense of dread.

                It wasn’t a dream. The whole bonkers, convoluted, dangerous and deadly plan was one hundred percent real. And he had been dragged right into the thick of it.
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                I believe in Jesus Christ my Savior. If you do too, and aren't scared to admit it, then copy and paste this in your signature.

                A Fanfiction Author Who Dares to be Different
                A glimmer of hope in a war-torn world - The End
                Cyberpunk fantasy meets Pokemon Mystery Dungeon - Glitched
                Fancy some Cyberpunk PMD action with space pirates? System:Reboot
                Other Fics - SWC entry 'Rivers and Waterfalls'
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                  #8    
                Old July 21st, 2017 (8:24 AM).
                Delirious Absol's Avatar
                Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
                Call me Del
                   
                  Join Date: May 2015
                  Location: UK
                  Age: 33
                  Gender: Female
                  Nature: Quirky
                  Posts: 327
                  Chapter Eight


                  Macro had read over Socket’s plan so many times he’d lost count, and it made less and less sense with each read. He stuffed his computer back into his pouch and fastened it back around his waist as he left his bedroom. Lunch time had long since passed and a quick check of the time told him Cookie would have dinner ready soon.

                  Three different voices came from the cockpit, including the flat, lifeless voice of Download Database. Macro reminded himself of the commands Surge had sent him, many of which were engraved in his mind after his obsessive reading. Some were completely useless to him, such as the ones to connect her to BackDoor or the other individual components that made up the artificial mob scouring System’s furthest most remote corners.

                  Amongst the list of commands was the password that would force her to tell him why she was created, and it was the first one that sprung to mind as soon as he spotted her leaning against the wooden crate, her blank eyes fixed on Anchor as he told her what each of the controls on the dashboard did.

                  “The password is ‘back door’.” Macro’s voice drew all three pairs of eyes towards him.

                  “That is correct.” Download Database turned so she was fully facing him. “What do you want to know?”

                  “How did you get that information, Cap’n?” Anchor asked.

                  “I hired a hacker.” Macro turned back to Download Database, but he could see Anchor’s confused and questioning look out of the corner of his eye. “Don’t worry yourself, Anchor. You’ll still get paid. Now, tell me, Download Databse. Why were you created?” He knew. He knew exactly why, but some part of him hoped deeply that Surge was pulling his leg.

                  The pachirisu continued to face him, but she wasn’t seeing him. Her eyes had gone elsewhere, searching through the endless amounts of information stored inside her head.

                  “Download Database was created as an information receiver for the project BackDoor. It is meant to accompany Socket to keep her up to date on progress as dimensional gateways are discovered and opened across System.”

                  Drat. Surge had been right.

                  His head felt fuzzy and he let it flop into his paw. Matrix and Anchor sat on his peripheral vision, their mouths agape.

                  “Dimensional gateways?” Matrix asked, rather too confidently.

                  “Is this pachirisu trolling you?” Anchor asked. “Did you use the wrong password or something?”

                  “No.” Macro rubbed at his temples. “What she’s said is true. Like I said, I hired someone to find out for me, and I just wanted to check everything she’d told me was fact.”

                  “Of course it’s true,” said Download Database. “I am programmed not to lie.”

                  “Then if Socket is doing this,” said Matrix, “what does it mean for System?”

                  “She’s looking for humans,” said Macro.

                  Anchor roared with laughter. “Humans don’t exist!”

                  “I’m aware of that,” Macro scoffed. “This pachirisu is apparently a prototype. Socket wants to make more of them, but using pokemon isn’t ethical, or efficient, because in order to loop around ‘murder’, they have to keep their personalities alive. All of hers are stored on disks.”

                  “That’s barbaric,” said Anchor.

                  “It is, but at least she can get them back.” Macro folded his arms and leant back against the door frame. “Not exactly efficient since it could ruin Socket’s plans. If they were destroyed, she wouldn’t be able to, and the risk of losing her would be removed.”

                  “And humans aren’t pokemon.” Matrix wound his antenna in his paw. “So destroying their personalities doesn’t count as murder, as our laws wouldn’t apply to them.”

                  “Exactly.”

                  “So let me get this straight.” Anchor scratched the base of his mohawk. “Socket honestly thinks humans exist somewhere, and is tearing open dimensional gates - which, believe me, I think is a load of guano - in an attempt to find something that allows her to bypass our laws?”

                  “Yup.”

                  “What do you think?” Anchor turned his seat to face him. “You don’t believe in humans, do you?”

                  “Of course not! It’s all legends and myths.”

                  “Incorrect.” Download Database looked at each of them in turn. “My database contains facts on human existence and activity in System.”

                  “Facts?” Macro sneered. “Where did you get these ‘facts’?”

                  “All historical documentation held within System,” she said. “I can even get online to cross reference if desired, but the facts are there.”

                  “Historical documentation…” Macro chuckled and scratched his scar. “You mean books? That’s no proof, sweetheart. There’s no physical evidence of humans ever existing in System. No fossils, no photographs. Nothing.”

                  “All humans were transformed into pokemon,” she explained. “Then they were all sent back to their own world through the Fracture that engulfed Seed City. Only one remained in System at the time. He could switch back and forth between a talonflame and human at will.”

                  “Yeh? Then where is the physical proof?”

                  “There is none. It is believed if he passed away, he did so in the form of a talonflame.”

                  “Exactly.” Macro kicked himself back from the wall and turned towards the kitchen. “Hatchling stories. Legends and myths.”

                  “Incorrect. My sources count it as valid information.”

                  “Okay, let’s say humans did exist.” His words were laced with a growl. “Why does she want them, exactly?”

                  “To expand BackDoor’s reach.”

                  “And what is BackDoor doing? Because I don’t imagine this all comes to an end once humans are found.”

                  “I cannot answer that,” she said. “That information is not accessible to me.”

                  Macro blinked. Well, that was convenient. A nice little cover up for Socket should Download Database fall into the wrong paws.

                  “So she doesn’t even give you a reason for stealing your personality,” he said flatly. “She did all this to you… and doesn’t even bother to give you access to her reasoning?”

                  “My existence is to serve and to obtain information from BackDoor on demand.”

                  “Face facts, pachirisu!” He rounded on her, lowering his nose to hers. “Socket had your personality wrenched out on the basis of chasing down some legend because she wants to bypass her own stinking laws!”

                  She didn’t even step back or blink, returning his stare with a blank, chocolate brown one that almost chilled him.

                  “Why don’t you feel anything?!” he roared. “You’re in a stolen body yet you just don’t care!”

                  “You’re angry. That’s detrimental to your own wellbeing.” The pachirisu diverted her gaze to the doorway and her eyes grew distant. “Searching for calming suggestions.”

                  Macro threw his arms in the air and marched from the room. “Forget it! I’m gonna get some dinner. I’ll be in the kitchen if anyone needs me.”

                  “That is a good idea,” said Download Database. “The slow burning nutrients injected into me for transportation are running low. I should eat also.”

                  Macro felt his fur bristle down his back. He refrained from looking back as the pachirisu’s light, heavily-furred footsteps followed him across the corridor to the large kitchen.

                  Cookie waddled from an open cupboard to the stove and froze, staring at Macro over his shoulder. His round face lit up and his tongue poked out between his teeth.

                  “I saved you some breakfast and lunch and put the two together!”

                  “Fantastic.” Macro fell into a seat and flinched as Download Database climbed into Matrix’s usual seat opposite him. “What is it?”

                  “Chocolate chip pancakes and fruit coolie with payapa and tanga berry sandwiches.” The slurpuff dropped a plate before him and stood back with a huge smile.

                  Macro’s heart soared and he grabbed his knife and fork to dig in.

                  “This is what you eat?” Download Database’s voice froze him and he glanced up at her with a frown. “This is not a healthy balanced meal. Pancakes and coolie are high in sugar and the berries have been fried to within an inch of their life.”

                  “So?” Macro growled.

                  “You are meant to have a good balance of vitamins and carbohydrates for the body to function at optimal efficiency. Fresh berries are much healthier than those that are cooked. Even stewed berries are healthier than fried. If you want to cook them first, steaming is the best method as it locks in more vitamins. Throw it away. I shall make you a healthy meal.”

                  She rose to her feet and moved over to the stove where she promptly moved Cookie’s steaming pan of stewing berries and sugar.

                  “Wait!” Cookie waddled over to her with his paws outstretched. “Leave it alone! This is my kitchen!”

                  She stared down at him over the steaming pan. “Your cooking skills are inefficient. Allow me to show you.”

                  Cookie stamped his foot and his eyes filled with tears. “But I love cooking! I’m a professional chef!”

                  “You are young.”

                  “You can be a professional at fourteen!”

                  “Professionals make more than just sweets.”

                  Macro kept one eye on the squabbling pokemon as he stuffed a forkful of pancakes into his mouth. A small smile played at his lips and he lifted his plate to head back into the cockpit, leaving their bickering voices behind. At least she’d be entertained and out of his way for a while.

                  ...

                  Socket waited patiently as the dialing tone rang out from her holographic computer screen. After the third ring, the familiar face of a delphox appeared on screen - or what one would assume was a delphox amongst the thick cloud of smoke that surrounded most of his features.

                  “Good afternoon, Detective Tracer,” she said.

                  “What is it, Mayor Socket?” he asked, somewhat boredly.

                  “I have a favor to ask of you,” she said. “It’s too confidential to go into details, but I am under the impression you have a mercenary working for you?”

                  “Yes, I do.” He blew out a stream of yet more smoke and flicked the remains of his cigar off the screen. “It’s the easiest way to track down space pirates.”

                  “Quite the chameleon, I understand?”

                  “She gets the job done.” He paused as he lit up another cigar. “Is this favor from me or her?”

                  “I would like her contact details,” said Socket. “I think a mercenary is exactly what I need right now.”

                  “Given recent developments, I’m guessing you want Hunter round up quickly?”

                  “You catch on quick.”

                  “I’m not exactly one to sniff at forty K, Madam Mayor.”

                  She pursed her red lips together and rested her chin on her steepled fingers. “Can you do this favor for me, or not?”

                  “If you’re taking my merc off me to round him up, I want a cut of the price,” he said. “Surge and I have a deal. Every bounty she earns from rounding up pirates gets split forty/sixty. She gets the bigger cut, otherwise she walks.”

                  “Tell me, Mister Fox. Why would she stay working with you if she could get one hundred percent?”

                  “You see, there’s a little thing called ‘team work’.” Tracer blew out another cloud of smoke that completely obscured everything except the tips of his ears. “She isn’t the only one rounding up pirates. We all get a cut, and she gets the bigger one.”

                  “Very well. Will you send her my way?” Her voice was calm, but her eyes remained hard.

                  The delphox wafted some of the smoke away to clear the screen and leant back in his seat, keeping his amber eyes on her.

                  “Do I get a cut?” he asked.

                  “That is up to… Surge, is it?”

                  He nodded.

                  “Well. It’s not up to me,” she finished.

                  He was silent for a moment, not taking his eyes off her.

                  “I don’t really have a choice, do I?” he asked.

                  Socket shook her head slowly.

                  “Very well,” he said. “I’ll send you her contact details.”

                  The video cut out, and almost immediately the program beeped, bringing up a string of numbers followed by the name ‘Surge’. As she keyed them in, she cast a quick glance over her shoulder at the chingling.

                  “How are you getting on there, Tweak?” she asked.

                  “Oh, I think I’m nearly done!” His cheerful voice rang off the walls. “Every bit of sensitive information concerning BackDoor is now blocked from Download Database’s access.”

                  “Good. Any wiser on who our little hacker was?” She stared at the string of numbers and tapped her claws on her desk.

                  Tweak chuckled, his bell grating in his throat. “Whoever it was did a good job, but they’re not better than me. I’ve traced it right back to their phone number. Want me to read it out to you?”

                  Socket’s lips pulled up into a smirk. “Definitely.”
                  __________________
                  I believe in Jesus Christ my Savior. If you do too, and aren't scared to admit it, then copy and paste this in your signature.

                  A Fanfiction Author Who Dares to be Different
                  A glimmer of hope in a war-torn world - The End
                  Cyberpunk fantasy meets Pokemon Mystery Dungeon - Glitched
                  Fancy some Cyberpunk PMD action with space pirates? System:Reboot
                  Other Fics - SWC entry 'Rivers and Waterfalls'
                  'Where else can I find Del?' -FFnet/Wattpad
                  Reply With Quote
                    #9    
                  Old July 29th, 2017 (3:29 AM).
                  Delirious Absol's Avatar
                  Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
                  Call me Del
                     
                    Join Date: May 2015
                    Location: UK
                    Age: 33
                    Gender: Female
                    Nature: Quirky
                    Posts: 327
                    Chapter Nine


                    Macro leant on the back of Matrix’s chair, holding his computer so both the ribombee and Anchor could see it. His claw slid over the flat screen, scrolling through the tidy list of text.

                    “This is every location where they’re storing Download Database’s memories,” he told them. “In detail, down to what floor the disks are on. We can expect each one to be heavily guarded.”

                    “Five locations?” Anchor took the tiny computer in his large pink paw. “So there’s five disks?”

                    “Yup.” Macro straightened and folded his arms. “If we’re gonna restore her, then we need to hunt them down.”

                    “One of them is in Central Meta City,” said Matrix. “Which one do you want to go to first?”

                    “The closest.”

                    A soft shuffle behind them drew his attention over his shoulder. Whatever Anchor had said didn’t register in his mind. Download Database appeared in the room, pausing beside her wooden crate, giving the three space pirates a quick glance. No curiosity. No pausing to ask what they were doing. She just… existed.

                    “Cap’n?”

                    He looked up into the granbull’s confused face. “Huh?”

                    “I said the nearest is Scanner City,” said Anchor. “Not even a six hour flight from here.”

                    “But it will still get us there in the dead of night,” said Matrix. “Around one or two AM.”

                    “That’s perfect,” said Macro. “There’ll be less pokemon on the streets.”

                    “I wouldn’t bank on it,” said Anchor. “Scanner City is fighting pokemon territory. Those ‘mon are party animals.”

                    Matrix’s tiny face split into a grin and he stifled a chuckle as he turned back to his navigation desk. His paws swiftly keyed in the co-ordinates.

                    “I guess it doesn’t really matter then.” Macro leant back against the ribombee’s chair and frowned at the pachirisu. “First thing’s first, we’re gonna have to give you a name.”

                    “My name is Download Database,” she said.

                    “Not for long.” He brought up the commands on his phone and scanned over them. “Let’s see. Rename Download Database Zero Zero One.”

                    “Understood,” she said. “Awaiting new name.”

                    Macro looked back up at her, meeting those lifeless, chocolate eyes. It felt no different than giving a name to a stuffed animal. What on earth was he going to call her? Download Database was too much of a mouthful and he was growing tired of it. He scratched at his scar and fixed his attention on the wall to his right.

                    “Let’s see,” he muttered. “How about… DL?”

                    An acronym, of sorts. At least it was shorter.

                    “Rename Download Database as DL?” she asked.

                    “Yes.” He closed the file on his computer and stuffed it back into his pouch. “DL.”

                    “Understood. Download Database Zero Zero One is now known as DL.” Her huge eyes closed in a rather long blink and she stared at him for a moment. “You appear calmer. That is good.”

                    He waved her off and climbed into his seat beside Anchor, kicking his feet up onto the dashboard.

                    “Why DL?” Anchor asked.

                    “Because I wanted to pick two letters from her codename,” Macro answered. “And I didn’t like DD.”

                    “Fair enough,” Anchor grumbled.

                    “Prepare us for takeoff, Matrix,” said Macro.

                    “We’re leaving?” DL shuffled over to him. “Do you want me to go into standby for the journey?”

                    “Nah, you’re good.”

                    “Then can I at least be of service? I have good navigation abilities.”

                    “We already have a navigation officer,” said Macro. “Maybe you could help Cookie in the kitchen? Besides, you might like this trip. We’re going to get your memories.”

                    “My memories? But… they’re useless junk data. They’ll only serve to clutter my databases.”

                    “Yeh, well-”

                    A beep came from his pouch and he lazily brought up the details on his optical display, stifling a yawn. A message from Surge… another push of the button on his ear piece opened it and he let out a low groan.

                    ‘If you’re going to repay me with that date, then we’d better go now. I have to leave before sunset, and I’ve no idea how long I’ll be.’

                    “Delay take off.” He leapt from his seat and trotted out of the cockpit.

                    “Where are you goin’?” Anchor called after him.

                    “It’s business. I’ll be back soon, don’t worry. DL, I’m leaving Anchor in charge.” He grinned at the other pirate and gave him a mock salute over his shoulder.

                    “I’m afraid helping Cookie is not an option,” DL told the granbull. “He threatened to cook me last time.”

                    Anchor sighed and his seat creaked as he leant his weight back into it.

                    Macro leapt from the exit hatch and almost landed on the zigzagoon. She took a step back and grinned at him, but something was missing. A sparkle? She didn’t look right, anyway.

                    He straightened his back and leant against the blue hull of his ship.

                    “You wanna go back to Moonlight Lounge?” he asked.

                    “I was thinking more an outdoor session this time.” She linked her arm in his and steered him off the docks. “Crispy Crepes is a nice spot at this time, I hear.”

                    “That sounds like more ice cream,” he said. “I think I’m still recovering from my ice cream coma.”

                    “Then what do you suggest?” She fixed him with a small smile.

                    “Cornn dogs,” he said. “Dockside does some good ones. You should try their shuca and babiri berry sauce.”

                    “Well… you’re buying.”

                    He grit his teeth together and steered her along the docks towards a stand with a red neon sign that said ‘Dockside Dogs’. The plusle and minun brothers moved back and forth behind the counter, serving up cornn dogs into pre-cut rolls and slapping berry dressings on top of them to satisfy their hungry customers.

                    Macro narrowly avoided an aggron’s large feet and pushed Surge ahead of him into the queue. When he was a hatchling, his mother had always told him a gentlemon puts ladies first, but he’d never really had time for that nonsense to put it into practice. At least he’d not forgotten it.

                    He leant back against the crowd control rail and cast Surge a sideways glance. Rather than eyeing up the menu she stared out at the vast deep blue outside the dome, her eyes distant as she watched a golden magikarp ship trundle into the docks.

                    “Something on your mind?” he asked.

                    “Hmm?” She looked round at him then forced a smile as she stared back out at the sky. “Oh. Not really. I just have a new mission to get to, that’s all.”

                    His muzzle crinkled into a frown but he occupied himself with moving forward in the queue. After the slightly overweight gabite, they were next.

                    “That’s why you’re in such a rush then?” he asked. “Must be pretty important.”

                    “It’s completely confidential, that much I can tell you.” She joined his side and nodded up at the menu. “Chople and salac for me, please.”

                    Macro reached into his pouch for his credits and snorted. “That’s a weird-ass combination.”

                    “And shuca and babiri isn’t?”

                    “Nope. Babiri makes it super spicy and takes an edge off the bitterness. One of the perks of living with a chef.”

                    He placed their orders and watched as the two small rodents busied themselves in preparing the freshly fried cornn dogs. He found himself wondering what remarks Download Database would come up with if she witnessed the spectacle. She’d probably bristle at the sight of all the grease and the plusle and minun’s grimy uniforms.

                    The minun handed them their orders and wiped his paws on his apron before calling for the next customer.

                    Macro strolled away towards the dock rail and leant forward on it as he tucked into his cornn dog. They’d gone a little heavy on the babiri and it made his tongue tingle. It tasted like spite. Yet another space pirate who was envious of his hefty price tag.

                    Surge let out a satisfied sigh and licked sauce from her lips. “You weren’t wrong.”

                    Macro grunted. “I can’t believe you’ve never been there. How long have you lived here?”

                    “I don’t live here,” she said quietly. “I’m a mercenary. But if you must know…” She shifted so she was facing him. “About a month.”

                    “Let me guess. You lurk about until you spot your target and try to catch them when they leave?”

                    “Exactly.”

                    He took another bite of his meal, trying to ignore the burning heat that filled his mouth. There was something nagging at him about this zigzagoon. Why be so open with him about being a mercenary? Especially one who targeted space pirates. He stared at his cornn dog, watching as the sauce trickled over the bun and onto his paws. A mercenary who chose a target and tried to catch them when they left Pulse City…

                    “It was you.” He launched the remains of his meal into the nearest trash can, startling a nearby weedle. “It was you who followed us!”

                    She sighed and leant forwards on the rail.

                    “You’re plannin’ on turnin’ me in.” Despite his blistering rage, he kept his voice low. He folded his arms and sneered. “Is that what all this is? Some kind of trick?”

                    She shook her head. “It’s no trick.”

                    “Then what is it, Surge?”

                    “I don’t know. One minute I’m trying to catch you, the next I’m taking out one of those government ships.”

                    His jaw fell open. Words wanted to form but they died before they could even string sentences in his mind. That torpedo… she’d fired it?

                    “I… really need to get to this job. At this rate they might not pay me.” She pushed herself back from the rail and ran a paw over her ears. “Listen… thanks for the dinner and… date.”

                    Macro stared after her, his mouth agape. Her ragged tail hung limply behind her, trailing over the ground. She’d fired the torpedo. Why on earth would a mercenary hired to round up pirates fire at a government fleet? He ran a paw over his face and trudged back to Wildcard Gamma. Things were just getting more and more confusing and it was giving him a headache.

                    ...

                    Tracer strolled through the toxic streets of Server City, his paws shoved into his trench coat pockets. Every breath he took was amplified in his own ears by his mask’s noisy filters. The breeze caught in his open grey coat and it billowed out behind him, almost catching his small eevee companion. Widget didn’t flinch, however. His attention was fixed on their surroundings, keeping an eye open for trouble makers. Server City, like the rest of Meta City’s outskirts, was home to the majority of System’s poison pokemon. Dark types also called it home, but they preferred to lurk around Spool City after a feud with Proxy’s muk and grimer gangs.

                    The delphox checked his pocket computer once more, making sure he’d got the address right. This was where Socket wanted him to be, he was certain. He looked up at the squat, grimy buildings and unkempt abandoned office towers and frowned.

                    “Something wrong?” Widget’s voice was muffled by his mask.

                    “I’m just making sure I’ve got the address right,” Tracer answered.

                    “Croagunk right?”

                    “Yes. But they like damp places.” Tracer placed his computer back into his pocket and stared up at the high rise building perched between a convenience store and a boarded up unidentifiable shop. “Why would he live in an apartment block?”

                    Widget shrugged his shoulders which gave a small, mechanical whine. “Lack of options?”

                    “Well.” Tracer reached into his thick tail and pulled out his wooden stick. A small flame ignited at the end as it touched the air. “Let’s just hope he’s not got backup.”

                    “Oh, I’m prepared for backup.”

                    Widget laughed heartily and took a step back as Tracer powered a psychic blast through his flaming stick. The door flew inward off its hinges and he strolled inside with Widget close behind him.

                    The apartment block was dingy and stunk of amonia and mildew. Maybe it was damp enough for a croagunk after all?

                    The low lighting made it difficult to see, and Tracer’s flame cast flickering shadows along the heavily graffitied walls. As they climbed the stairs, one of the lights flickered on and off erratically, creating a grating noise as the bulb struggled to stay lit.

                    “What floor is it?” Widget asked.

                    “Third.” Tracer replied while dodging a suspicious puddle.

                    As they climbed the stairs to the third floor, something moved on his peripheral vision. He glanced back over his shoulder at a small, green bug pokemon slowly dropping on an invisible thread. A spinarak, likely fallen out of his web while he slept. He kept a cautious eye on the spider pokemon, watching it rotate slowly in the air.

                    Two of the third floor corridor lights were broken, leaving only the central point lit up. The worn and battered doors, each one coated in spray painted slogans and artwork, made the rooms behind them look abandoned. All except the third one along on his left. Light leaked out from underneath it and he could hear someone moving around inside.

                    Tracer paused by the door and rapped a paw on it.

                    “Who’s there?!” a voice growled out at him.

                    “Santa Paws!” shouted Widget.

                    Tracer raised an eyebrow at the eevee who returned it with what he could assume was a grin since it made his eyes sparkle. The door was thrown open and a croagunk pointed a laser straight at the detective’s face.

                    “Dontcha think I’m too old to be belivin’ in Santa Paws?” The amphibian narrowed his eyes and cocked his weapon.

                    Tracer sighed and readied another psychic blast from his stick, but before he could fire it, Widget launched himself at the croagunk into a full-body take-down. The two pokemon rolled across the floor of his apartment, crushing wrappers and other trash until they hit the far wall.

                    The delphox kept his stick raised as he followed them into the room. Widget stood above the fallen croagunk, his eyes alight with glee. As usual, the eevee hadn’t taken so much as a scratch from the collision. His skeletal modifications had absorbed the shock perfectly.

                    “Well,” said Tracer. “I can count on you to get a job done, can’t I?”

                    He reached into his pocket for his cuffs.

                    “What’s goin’ on in ‘ere?”

                    The two detectives looked up at the door, meeting the frown of a scrafty. His red mowhawk-like fin had a green tinge to it and his face was covered with a cheap surgical mask. Its efficiency showed in his labored, rattly breathing. His large eyes went to the croagunk and then flashed with rage. Within two strides he was almost on top of the two detectives.

                    Tracer flicked his stick round and pulled its hidden trigger. A flash of sparkling pink light fired out of the end of it, lighting up the dingy apartment. The scrafty flew back from him and landed in a crumpled heap in a pile of poffin wrappers.

                    “Dang it, Tracer,” Widget sighed. “Couldn’t leave him to me, could you? Had to use your flippin’ gun.”

                    The eevee gave his stick a begrudging glance then moved over to the fallen pokemon. His loose trouser-like skin had fallen down around his knees and revealed part of his tail.

                    “We taking them both in?” Widget asked.

                    “Socket only wants the croagunk.” Tracer snapped his cuffs onto the amphibian’s wrists and hoisted him over his shoulder. “Cover me in case any more thugs show up.”

                    “Sure thing!”

                    Widget trotted from the room and glanced up and down the corridor before making for the stairs. He froze at the bend and frowned.

                    “Drat.”

                    Tracer paused behind him and stared down at the ocean of spinarak. If that little green bug had been sleeping, it definitely wasn’t any more. And its entire family stared up at them from a sea of tiny, black eyes. Towering over the small spiders and flexing its mandibles was an ariados.

                    Tracer raised his stick and the flame flared. “Get ready to run.”

                    “It’s party time!” Widget laughed and threw himself into the air. “Just don’t burn my tail, okay?”

                    The tiny eevee crashed down onto the bug pokemon, the vibrations shaking the stairs. He pounced from bug to bug until he reached the next flight of stairs. Before Tracer could reach him, the ariados lunged at him, her jaws pulled back in a hiss.

                    “Terribly sorry, ma’am.” The delphox unleashed a flamethrower, blowing the arachnid back down the corridor. “But you’re interfering with police work.”

                    Tiny feet rapped across the wooden floor as the remaining spinarak gave chase. Threads shot from their mouths and struck the walls where they clung like glue, narrowly missing Tracer’s bushy tail. Some of the spinarak used the threads to propel themselves past him and two landed just before him before launching more threads right at his face. He ducked, but one of the string shots caught his wrist and yanked his paw free from the croagunk, sending the unconscious amphibian to the ground.

                    The spinarak chuckled and threw itself towards him, poison dripping from its jaws. Widget’s brown blur struck the bug mid-air and crashed it into the wall, sending chips of plaster raining down onto the floor.

                    Tracer beat white dust from his coat then scooped up the croagunk.

                    “That was a narrow escape,” he told Widget.

                    “Sacrifice speed for strength.” Widget strolled past him and gave him a quick glance over his shoulder. “It’s served me well so far.”

                    Tracer shook his head and followed the eevee from the apartment block. He gave the croagunk a pat on the shoulder then sheathed his stick.

                    “I’m afraid, young chap, that your hacking days are over.”
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                      #10    
                    Old August 4th, 2017 (7:26 AM).
                    Delirious Absol's Avatar
                    Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
                    Call me Del
                       
                      Join Date: May 2015
                      Location: UK
                      Age: 33
                      Gender: Female
                      Nature: Quirky
                      Posts: 327
                      Chapter Ten

                      Scanner City pulsed with industrial dance music that penetrated Wildcard Gamma before they even pulled in to land. Lights filled the streets, dazzling Macro's eyes as he descended on the ladder. Anchor shielded his eyes with a paw and grunted.

                      "This city could use a dimmer switch!" he said.

                      "I couldn't agree more," said Macro.

                      The mawile squinted into the bustling street, noting the various clubs and bars heaving with pokemon to such a degree they spilled outside. His feet touched the ground in an alley and his hip brushed a trash can. He frowned and beat moisture from his fur, quickly checking over the offending item. Clean, unlike the Meta City outskirts. And not home to a trubbish, either.

                      Anchor landed in a crouch behind him and sniffed the air.

                      "Stinks of fermented berry juice," he said.

                      "At least it's not toxic," said Macro.

                      "May as well be."

                      Anchor followed him out of the alley into the bustling street. Loud shouts came from one of the bars and a primape threw his overflowing glass at a hawlucha's head. The fighting type bird pokemon ducked, letting the glass shatter against the wall. Alcohol rained down on him and the primape fumed, stomping his large feet in a tantrum. A machoke burst out laughing, only to be silenced by a hitmonchan's gloved fist.

                      The rowdy group barely seemed to notice the two space pirates as they passed by, but a pair of pangoro cast them identical leers. Neither made a move, or alerted their drinking companions. Macro glanced them out of the corner of his eye, keeping his paws well away from his lasers. They knew the two fairy types were more than capable of taking them down en-mass.

                      Macro brought up his optical display, showing an intricate map of Scanner City. Matrix had dropped them off relatively close to the government facility holding DL's first memory disk. What contents it held were a mystery to him, but if it would help her then he wanted to get it. The order she received them in was irrelevant.

                      The blinking light on his map told him he needed to keep going straight. The facility was in the city square, and was the main focal point of the area. It was where the city's law and order was kept in… well… order.

                      Another glass exploded against the wall mere inches from him and tiny shards of glass struck his legs and feet. He looked over at a monferno and emboar, the latter crashing his hooves together as his snout creased into a frown.

                      "Filthy space pirate!" the monkey snarled. "What'cha think yer up to, strollin' around our city?"

                      Macro sneered. Fire types. Typical. One of the types that resisted their fairy attacks while obliterating him in the process. His left paw found his laser but he didn't draw it. He kept his eye on the two fire/fighting pokemon as they continued making their way forward. If they launched an attack, there was every chance the other fighting types would join the fray, especially those who were more fired up like the primeape, type disadvantage or not.

                      "Keep moving, Cap'n."

                      Anchor steered him along with a paw on his back, clenching the other one at his side so the sharp claws poked out of his gauntlet. The muscles in the granbull's body were taut, but he kept both eyes on the road, pointedly ignoring the rabble as they made their way through.

                      A glass exploded at Macro's feet followed by a jeer from the monferno, and his fur bristled. His claws fastened around his laser and he battled the urge to whip it out and fire at the offending fire types. Stomping hooves rushed at them and the mawile snatched himself from Anchor's grip and span to face the onslaught.

                      Three fire types surrounded them and Macro's muzzle pulled back into a sneer. Great. They'd found a friend. He eyed the combusken with caution hidden behind a mask of disgust.

                      "I think I'd quite like forty thousand credits. What about you, boys?" The monferno laughed and tossed his glass into a nearby dumpster. "Let's show this runt who's boss around here, eh?"

                      He smirked and balled his paws into fists. Heat radiated from them and Macro took an unconscious step back right into the emboar.

                      "Would ya look at that?" the pig pokemon scoffed with mock surprise. "The little pirate's scared!"

                      "How about we settle this?" The monferno flashed his sharp canines. "Fair fight. No guns."

                      Macro tutted and flexed his claws against his laser's handle. No guns… then it wouldn't be a fair fight.

                      "Back off, bro," Anchor growled. "We're here on a job. We'll soon be out of your fur."

                      He steered Macro from the group, but the emboar reached down and grabbed the mawile by his horn. Macro yelled and whipped out his laser, firing a blue beam right into the emboar's stomach. The large pokemon released him as he went rolling backwards down the street, bowling over a pair of scraggy and a mankey who let out screams of protest.

                      Macro couldn't help but chuckle as the small, ragged white monkey leapt onto the emboar's head and stamped his lanky feet.

                      "Oi!" The monferno snarled. "I said no guns!"

                      He brought a blazing fist down towards the mawile. Macro ducked and hot fire licked at his fur. He fired his laser between the flaming monkey's legs right at the combusken. The giant chicken leapt aside, but the monferno let out a grunt as electricity coursed along his body and sent him flying in a graceful ark away from Macro and into the opposite bar's window. Glass exploded in a cascade of flames, the orange hue lighting up the glass shards as they danced along the tarmac floor.

                      The combusken hissed and launched a flamethrower from his beak, missing Macro by a hair's breadth as he rolled to the side. His paw struck warm flesh and he stumbled, falling flat onto his back. The emboar grunted and pushed himself up, keeping an eye on Macro as a sinister smile spread across his snout. The mankey was still atop his head, clawing at his flesh as he shrieked profanities. The emboar reached up and flicked the primate aside then turned his attention back onto Macro. Before the giant boar had a chance to ready an attack, Anchor's fist collided with his head, knocking him back down to the ground. Then the large bulldog threw himself at the combusken, hitting him in mid-air and crashing him into the floor.

                      "You go get that disk!" he roared. "I'll deal with this lot!"

                      Macro tutted and ducked past him. "You have to be kidding me?"

                      "Nope! I'll meet you there in like five minutes."

                      Macro shot him a leer over his shoulder and bolted down the road towards the square. Two machamp rushed out of a bar and cut him off. The larger of the two looked over his head at the battle and his brow furrowed. He opened his mouth to speak as the other one raised his four fists. Macro grabbed the aggressive one, locking his jaw-like horn around his ankle, and brought him up in an arc over his head. The machamp's body collided with his brother and the pair of them rolled into a heap of limbs in the middle of the road. A trio of scraggy faltered right behind them, but the two primeape accompanying them bounded over the fleshy obstacle and pounced onto the mawile.

                      Macro roared as he tried to shake them off. One of them wrapped both arms around his horn, locking it shut and dragging him backwards under his weight. The other primeape fastened his paws around his neck, shrieking incoherently as its claws dug into the flesh of his throat, slowly cutting off his air supply. Macro twisted his arm so his laser nozzle was jabbing into the ape's stomach. It was still set to water, but it should do enough damage to at least get the offending pokemon off him. He squeezed the trigger and fired.

                      The primeape flew away from him and Macro's mouth opened in a scream as his sharp claws raked over his throat. A sizzle of electricity resounded behind him with a sickening thud, and the ragged ape went flying over the buildings ahead of him like a baseball. The other was tugged free and sent soaring after him.

                      Anchor yanked Macro to his feet and shoved him along, covering his back in a flailing fury of fists and electricity.

                      Macro's paws pounded the floor as he propelled himself over the tarmac. He kept his laser clasped in his right paw, ready to pick off any more fire types. More primeape burst from a bar, followed by a hitmonlee who's elastic legs swung down towards Macro as the slender fighting type cartwheeled over the heads of the angry apes. He brought his horn up into his stomach, sending him rolling into Anchor's waiting fists. Then he grabbed two of the primeape in quick succession, throwing them back into the bar. One of them leapt over his head, crashing his paws down onto the base of his horn. The mawile let out a grunt and keeled forwards, but he kept pressing on. His eyes unfocused with the impact and he tried to blink and rub at them to correct it. Another impact struck his jaw and he flew sideways until his body struck cold stone. He didn't get the chance to get a good look at his assailant as they were soon thrown back into the bar they came from by Anchor.

                      The mawile dragged himself back to his feet, ignoring the pulsing pain in his jaw. He retrieved his laser which had clattered into the road during his tumble, and took off after Anchor. The granbull had cleared the path of yet more primeape, leaving them in a sizzling heap on the doorstep of a bar. Someone pounded against the door, desperately trying to force their way out past the heavy, unconscious, hairy bodies.

                      Finally, the road spread out into a large square surrounded by mechanical trees. The lack of buildings provided a clear view of the dome over the city. Stars twinkled beyond it, and against the black sky he could just make out Wildcard Gamma circling overhead. The blue hull was almost camouflaged against the dark sky.

                      Perched right at the edge of the square stood a monolith of a building. A large digital clock spread over the highest, central peak. Its deep grey and chrome structure intimidated the other buildings, leaving it as the only one spread over the entire east side of the square. Not even a road had space to fork from it. More buildings spread around the west edge, broken up only by a road sheltered under a bridge that joined two eateries.

                      Nothing gave away the identity of the grey building. It reeked of government activity. Even its colours reminded him of Socket. Whatever went on in there was a mystery.

                      "I reckon we'll have a tough time when we get in there," said Anchor.

                      Shadows fell over the square and the two space pirates looked back at the road of clubs and bars. Primeape and mankey had climbed onto the roofs, perching at the edge as they fixed the two fairy types with vicious leers. Machamp, machoke and the hitmonchan and hawlucha stood barring their access back into the road, matching the primate's glares.

                      "Think we'll have a tough time when we come back out, too," said Macro, turning his attention back to the building. "Well. What are we waiting for?"

                      He pulled his lock pick from his pouch and began jigging it in the building's front door lock. Anchor stomped away from him, moving up and down the grey structure. The lock was less than co-operative and it took some force to bust open. With the loud ping that echoed around the silent square, he was convinced he'd broken it.

                      "Ain't no way round the back without going through the gate," Anchor said as he rejoined Macro. "So there's no easy way out if we get stuck around there."

                      Macro cast a cautious glance to the fighting pokemon standing like sentries in the streets and atop roofs. He wanted to believe the walls meant no pokemon could get into the back easily, either. But walls were nothing to an agile fighting type. If they got stuck, they'd be sitting duckletts, and he had no idea how many more pokemon waited on the other side.

                      He pushed the door open, holding his gun in his free paw.

                      Darkness.

                      He squinted and moved slowly inside, Anchor close behind him. The only noise that reached his ears was their breathing and an engine humming somewhere. A sharp smell of oil stabbed his senses and he covered his muzzle, desperately trying to see through the darkness. Inky black. Just like oil.

                      His paw groped over the wall for a light. A flash, and the entire room flooded with a white light that bounced off the brilliant, white walls.

                      Anchor peered down at him, his large paw pressed over a light panel. He removed his paw and nodded ahead of him, drawing the mawile's attention to the double doors that spread across the blank hallway. No stairs off to their left or right, just a set of double doors with no windows. Macro felt his fur stand on end all along his spine.

                      The large fairy type motioned for him to stand flat against the wall, then strode past him and stood beside the doors, nudging one of them open. A torrent of flames flew down it, the heat licking at Macro's fur and lighting the walls up with a sunset orange. Once it fizzled out, the mawile aimed his gun through the doors and fired. A yelp split the air followed by a thud as a heavy body struck the tile floor.

                      The two space pirates moved through the door, Anchor staying ahead. He checked over the fallen blaziken and waved a paw for Macro to follow him close to the wall. Dark doors stretched down the corridor, and half way flashed a green sign for the stairs.

                      Macro checked his map, the green overlay vibrant against the ivory walls. The information Surge had sent him told him the disk was contained in the IT room on the second floor, locked inside a safe. The code was a mystery to him, it hadn't been provided. He wondered if the zigzagoon could have obtained it if she'd searched hard enough.

                      The stairs wound half way up, leaving a brief level of flat and a blind spot. As they turned around it, the leering reptilian face of a kommo-o loomed before them. His lips pulled back from a row of sharp, dagger-like teeth, and his body bounced up and down, every large scale on his body crashing down like a cymbal. Macro covered his ears and fell backwards into Anchor. The granbull roared and cowered over the smaller pokemon, his large paws pressed into either side of his head.

                      Macro's eyes snapped back open, fixing on the huge, gaping mouth of the scaly dragon. He leapt out from beneath Anchor and swung his horn right into the kommo-o's open maw. Teeth shattered against his horn and the clanging fizzled out into an erratic clash as the dragon rolled away from him.

                      The kommo-o gathered himself quickly, rolling onto all-fours. His muzzle creased in a sneer, flashing his broken canines. He wiped blood from his mouth and opened it wide, sending out a stream of flames. Macro ducked beneath them, flinching as they brushed over his horn. Anchor grunted and threw himself over his head, landing in the thick of the dragon's fire. His pink fur was singed black around his shoulders and ears, but he brought his sparking gauntlet down into the kommo-o's head. Once. Twice.

                      The kommo-o's jaws locked around Anchor's wrist, digging into his flesh. He grimaced and brought his head into the reptile's nose. He yelped, releasing his fist. Anchor brought it back down for a third crack to his jaw. The large reptile keeled sideways, his tongue lolling in the air as he crashed into the floor with an almighty clatter.

                      Anchor beat himself down, sending up small puffs of soot, and stared down at the large lizard.

                      "Put up a fight, this one," he said as he nudged the reptile's large foot with his own. "The last time you were up against a kommo-o, you took it down in one hit."

                      "Yeh, well." Macro moved past him to check the door. "Last time I had enough time to think and enough space to catch it with a 'play rough'. This time, I had to resort to an 'iron head', instead."

                      Anchor slumped against the door and let out a ragged sigh. Macro looked up at him, one paw resting on the door's handle.

                      "You okay?" he asked.

                      "I think that guy poisoned me." He rubbed at his wrist and glanced down at the unconscious dragon.

                      Macro frowned and turned back to the door. "I didn't bring supplies. Call Matrix and ask him to pick you up. I'll go on alone."

                      "Screw that." Anchor dragged himself from the door and shoved it open. "I can hang on. I ain't no invalid."

                      "All right…"

                      Anchor frowned at the hesitation in Macro's voice and trudged down the dark corridor. Macro followed after him, his claws fastened tight around his laser. Dim light flowed in from the square through narrow windows, creating long shadows across the far wall. Each room they passed was just as dark as the ones on the ground floor. Macro wondered how much light the building got during the day. It felt depressing, despite the white walls. At least on this floor it didn't stink of oil.

                      A soft ring came from his ear piece and a green dot flashed steadily on his map overlay. The IT room was on their right. He paused by the door and peered through the dark window. Lights flashed from a machine against the far wall, and one of the holoscreens was lit up with a dim, grey light. He guessed the kommo-o had been using it since he couldn't see any other pokemon in the room.

                      He shoved the door open and slipped inside before Anchor. Not a pokemon in sight.

                      "Pretty lax on guards for a government digs," said Anchor.

                      "I'm not gonna complain," said Macro.

                      He scurried across the room towards the flashing machine and checked over it for any sign of the safe. It was connected to something. An alarm, or every computer in the room. If it was the latter, then it was pretty retro. Most computers had built-in hard drives to keep them compact, and almost every scrap of data was saved to a wireless network called The Stars.

                      Anchor's breathing was coming in raspy bursts as he paced around the room, keeping one eye on the door while searching for the safe. Whatever the kommo-o had injected into him was rapidly taking effect.

                      "She definitely said in here?" he asked.

                      "Yup." Macro moved along the wall, feeling for a light switch. "That's not to say they haven't moved it, however."

                      Anchor let out a snort. "That would be a waste of time."

                      "I know. So keep looking."

                      The granbull returned to the door and slammed his paw into the light panel, filling the room with light. Macro raised a paw to shield his eyes and gave Anchor a thankful nod. He searched around the room with his eyes again and they lit up as a huge grin spread across his face.

                      "I found it!" he cheered.

                      He dived across the room back to the flickering machine and stared up at a huge white, cast iron door set in the wall. It was no wonder he hadn't seen it. In the dark, it looked like any other area of wall. It lay flush beside the machine. The dial to unlock it was hidden behind a lock shield that could be easily pushed aside by any paw.

                      "Could I borrow you, Anchor?" he said. "I need to stand on your shoulders to reach this."

                      "You can't use a chair?" The granbull wiped a paw across his forehead, scattering beads of sweat onto the tiled floor.

                      Macro looked him up and down then cast a solemn look around the room.

                      "They all have wheels," he said. "I can't exactly stack them."

                      "All right." Anchor trudged over to him and lifted him onto his shoulders. "Make it fast."

                      The mawile shoved the lock guard aside and eyed the ancient contraption. All safes were much the same. A large, rotatory lock that you had to turn in a highly specific combination. They'd been around for centuries and hadn't evolved much at all. Why change something that worked?

                      It certainly made his job easier.

                      He pressed his ear to the cold metal and turned the lock, listening for the tell-tale clicks. They were usually formed of eight numbers. That was something that had changed. The codes had become longer, leaving more time for the authorities to catch thieves in action.

                      Two down. The room was oddly silent, unnerving. He wanted to listen for any oncoming attacks, but he needed all his attention to remain focused on the safe. He glanced down at Anchor as he slowly turned the dial. The granbull was still visibly sweating and he looked like he was going to keel over at any moment.

                      Three clicks.

                      "Take my laser," he told Anchor. "In case anyone runs in."

                      The larger pirate reached up to Macro's belt and pulled his right laser free. It seemed tiny in his massive paws, but it would get the job done.

                      Five clicks.

                      A shadow fell over them and he instinctively looked over at the door. The kommo-o… he tutted, keeping all his attention on the safe. Six clicks.

                      The large reptile filled the room with his clanging scales, the obnoxious sound reverberating off the bare walls. The machine beside them began to sizzle and its lights went out, along with the fluorescent bulbs sending down a shower of tiny shards. They cut into Macro's flesh and he flinched, straining to ignore the jabbing pain.

                      Anchor raised his laser and fired, striking the kommo-o on the chest. It was enough to stop the clanging, but it left Macro's ears ringing. He barely heard the seventh click. He pressed his ear and left shoulder flat against the door, turning the dial carefully.

                      The kommo-o regathered himself, flashing his broken canines. This reptile's insistence was becoming ridiculous. Before he could clang his heavy scales together once more, Anchor fired another water laser into his face. The reptile shook his head, his large scales grating together like claws on slate.

                      Eight clicks.

                      The lock lifted and Macro pulled it open, revealing disk after disk, each tiny chip-card sorted into plastic boxes. His heart sank. Where would he even begin? His eyes flashed to the dragon pokemon and he narrowed his eyes. First thing was first, he needed to get rid of the distraction.

                      He threw himself off Anchor's shoulders and vaulted the computer desks one by one until his horn locked around the reptile's throat. He swung him over his head twice then launched him from the room. His large body struck the wall and he slid down it, unconscious.

                      Macro marched back over to the safe, beating his long fur down with his paws.

                      "Right," he said as he looked over the stacks of plastic boxes. "Now to sort through all this mess."

                      Anchor reached up and pulled the top-most box down. On it was written 'miscellaneous'.

                      Macro took it and muttered under his breath, "Smart ass."

                      It only contained five chip cards, each one clearly labeled with a number. All but one. One was entirely blank. He turned it around in his claws and looked back down at the disks labeled one to four. Only one memory disk was stored in each facility. It only made sense that the disk Socket would have sent to them would be the unlabeled one. Why make it clear which disk it is, if she wanted to keep it away from DL?

                      Nevertheless, he pocketed the lot, stuffing them into his pouch.

                      "All right, let's get out of this dump." He stuffed the empty box back into the safe and slammed the heavy door.

                      Anchor handed his laser back. The handle was sweaty and Macro absently wiped it on his scarf before holding it ready at his side. He bolted from the room, pausing in the doorway. The door to the stairs flew open, revealing the blaziken and two passimian. Macro tutted. Where had the two apes come from?

                      Flames lit up the corridor from the blaziken's beak and Macro ducked back into the room. Once they'd fizzled out, he poked his head around the door and fired his laser, striking the large rooster on the beak. He wiped at it with his claws and shook his head, taking a step back.

                      The two passimian shrieked and rushed at him, throwing their heavy, round berry stones. Macro ducked and bolted away from the stairs, searching his map for the nearest exit. Each stone bounced off the walls and the monkey pokemon snatched them back with acrobatic leaps, catching them in their tails and sending them down towards the two pirates.

                      Anchor smashed one aside with his gauntlets, the electricity splitting it like a tamato berry.

                      The map flashed the next exit, revealing it to be at the end of the corridor, but it led out to the back of the building. The mawile tutted. That was the one place he didn't want to go. He quickly fired up a message to Wildcard Gamma with their estimated co-ordinates and pounded the floor with his feet, propelling himself away from the passimian and blaziken.

                      More flames lit up the corridor, baking the air and searing across his shoulders. He heard Anchor grunt behind him and he quickly fired another water laser at the blaziken. This time it hit one of the passimian, knocking him out of the air mid-leap. The blaziken merely leapt over his fallen comrade, bringing a blazing foot down towards Anchor. Macro turned one-eighty and pulled out his second laser, firing two streams of blue into the blaziken's torso. The large bird crashed onto the floor, the impact knocking the air out of his lungs.

                      The second passimian leapt over the giant rooster, his mouth open wide and revealing two rows of sharp teeth. Anchor swung his arm towards him and the ape's jaws locked over his gauntlet. The primate shrieked and fell back, wiping a paw across his mouth and fixing the two space pirates in a vicious leer.

                      Macro turned and kept running, reaching the door before the three pokemon could pick themselves back up. The back stairs were as white as the rest of the building, lit up with an emergency light that flickered weakly. He kicked the bar over the door, setting off the building's alarm. It whirred ominously and the entire building woke up as every light leading to the emergency exits flared to life.

                      Just like Anchor had predicted, the back of the building was barred off with high walls. Sat at the far end of the courtyard was a large tank painted with a red flame and the words 'danger'.

                      Oil.

                      Macro's face split into a grin and he turned his back on it to face the blaziken and his two allies. More pokemon vaulted the wall. Mankey, primeape, hawlucha, hitmonchan… but each one of them froze as the mawile aimed his laser at the tank.

                      Fear flashed in their eyes and many of them took a step back, bracing themselves to run. Even the blaziken. The flames on his wrists fizzled out and he raised his claws to his chest.

                      "Come on then!" Macro roared. "What are you waiting for? Or are you too scared?"

                      The blaziken's beak pulled up into a sneer. "You wouldn't do it. You'd blow us all up."

                      Macro chuckled. "You underestimate me."

                      Anchor doubled over beside him, placing his paws on his knees, but the look he gave him was filled with scepticism. Macro winked and looked back up at the group of fighting pokemon. Several of the mankey vanished back into the streets and he couldn't see a single hitmonchan any more. The blaziken looked from Macro to the tank and back. Useless. All their attacks were useless. The only ones they could use that would do anything to the mawile were fire attacks, and not one of them was going to risk that next to a flammable tank of oil. Macro threw his head back and laughed, a hysterical laugh that drew another glance from the granbull. One hit, and the entire thing would go up in flames. The damage a tank that size could do would be devastating.

                      Neon pink flashed on his vision and he reached up to grab the ladder. He fixed the fighting pokemon with a grin, keeping his laser focused on the tank as the ladder whipped the space pirates back up towards his ship. The blaziken's roar filled the air and he stamped his feet on the ground along with the mankey and primeape. Macro laughed again and sheathed his laser, just in time for Wildcard Gamma to draw them inside.

                      One memory disk down. Four more to go. This was going to be too easy.
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                        #11    
                      Old August 10th, 2017 (9:47 PM).
                      Delirious Absol's Avatar
                      Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
                      Call me Del
                         
                        Join Date: May 2015
                        Location: UK
                        Age: 33
                        Gender: Female
                        Nature: Quirky
                        Posts: 327
                        Chapter Eleven

                        Macro strolled into the cockpit and adjusted his goggles which had become askew at some point during their frantic get-away from Scanner City. Matrix twisted in his seat and fixed him him with a somewhat blank yet curious stare he felt only the ribombee could manage.

                        “Did you get it?” Matrix asked.

                        Macro smirked and reached into his pouch, and pulled out the five tiny disks.

                        Matrix’s large eyes widened and he took them. “You got them all?”

                        “Nope. But one of them has to be it.” He eyed DL’s wooden crate and frowned when he saw her huddled up inside. “What’s she doing in there?”

                        “Sleeping.” Matrix thumbed through the disks then slipped one into his pocket computer. “I’m gonna check them all. We don’t want to fill her with useless data. Where’s Anchor?”

                        “Raiding Cookie’s medical berries. He got hit by a toxic from a kommo-o.”

                        The ribombee looked at him over his shoulder. “Is he all right?”

                        “He should be. He just needs some pecha berries and a good rest.”

                        “Huh.” Matrix turned back to his computer. “You look pretty beat up yourself.”

                        Macro absently rubbed at the marks on his neck and flinched. It still felt sore. So did his shoulders and upper back.

                        “Those fighting types put up a fight,” he said. “I might see if a shower fixes it.”

                        “It might, but it won’t make your fur grow back.”

                        Macro faltered in the doorway and cast a glance back at the ribombee. How much fur had he lost?! He rushed to the shower room and paused before the mirror, and tutted. Matrix had been over-exaggerating. The long fur beside his face had been singed slightly and around his upper arms had been singed black, with just a small patch by his elbow completely burned away. The black would wash off after a shower and just look a little tatty for a while.

                        He pulled his scarf off, flinching as the movement seared his shoulders. It sported a considerable tear where the primeape had clawed him, and given it’s dark colour it was difficult to see if it had any blood stains. Frustrating. He was beginning to run low on scarves. He tossed it onto a chair with his goggles, belt and lasers and switched on the shower, letting the hot, lavender-scented water cascade over him.

                        It stung the scratches on his throat and he screwed his eyes shut, letting himself sink down on the tiled floor. The hot water soothed the throbbing that had started in his shoulders and back. He’d taken way too much of a beating, and not just from other pokemon’s attacks but his own. Some of those fighting types were heavy. Throwing them was a task in itself. But the sheer number of them… If it weren’t for Anchor, he likely wouldn’t have come out of that brawl alive. Law or not, primeape and mankey weren’t known for their merciful outbursts. When they rampaged, they did so violently. The best case scenario, he’d be thrown behind bars and whichever pokemon handed him in would be rolling in his bounty while Scanner City were awarded a badge of honor.

                        He ran a paw over his aching head and watched as the black marks were washed to a pale brown. That bounty… the only reason he had it was because he was the face of Wildcard Gamma. Nothing he’d done could have been accomplished on his own. He was small but gutsy. Many dragon, dark and fighting types feared him because they couldn’t do anything to him. He didn’t have Anchor’s physical strength or Matrix’s intelligence. He just knew how to aim and fire a gun, how to pick locks, how to be sneaky. It was all typical pirate stuff. The only reason his reward was so high was because he’d annoyed Socket… on more than one occasion. One instance wasn’t even planned. To this day he could still see that fire, see himself fleeing as though he was nothing more than an onlooker.

                        He didn’t know how long he sat there, letting the heat from the shower soothe the pain away. As he stood back up, water flowed from his long fur and soaked the floor as he shook himself dry. Violently enough to shake those thoughts away before he left the washroom.

                        He swung by his room to grab another scarf and wound it around his neck and shoulders as he strolled back into the cockpit.

                        “Still no sign of Anchor?” he asked Matrix.

                        “He poked his head around the door to say he was going to bed.” The ribombee looked up at him and wound a paw into his antennae. “You were in there a while.”

                        Macro shrugged and reached for one of the tiny disks. “Did you find out which one it is?”

                        “Yup.” Matrix picked one up, the one that didn’t have a number inked on it. “This one. It’s full of jargon and doesn’t have a title or anything. But from what I can understand of computer code, it’s definitely to do with her.”

                        He nodded towards the pachirisu and Macro looked around at her instinctively. She was still sleeping, her chest rising and falling softly with her head leaning against the side of the box. He grabbed the jack lead and moved over to her.

                        “Fire up the disk,” he said.

                        “You’re waking her?”

                        “I want to get the ball rolling,” he said. “And I’d rather do it before I head to bed. I’m beat, and I don’t want this looming over me.”

                        “All right, if you say so.” Matrix turned his seat and stuck the disk into his computer.

                        Macro grabbed DL’s shoulder and shook her gently. “Hey. Wake up.”

                        Her eyes fluttered open and, as usual, she rubbed a paw over them and fixed him with her blank, chocolate brown stare.

                        “My internal clock tells me it is not morning,” she said. “Is there an emergency? I hear no alarm.”

                        “It’s not an emergency.” Macro reached behind her neck with the jack lead. “I just need to download something onto you.”

                        “My faculties do not allow that,” she said. “It will compromise my programming.”

                        “Tough. You belong to me. Co-operate.”

                        She fixed him with a sideways stare as he pushed her forwards to plug the jack into the socket at the base of her skull. Matrix buzzed over to them and placed the USB end into his pocket computer.

                        “This should only take a moment.” He scratched the base of his antennae and frowned at his computer. “I really hope this works.”

                        He tapped the computer screen and DL’s chocolate gaze broke as her pupils became impossibly wide. Macro sat back with one paw on the floor, staring at the pachirisu in horror. They hadn’t just killed her? He shook his head, his mouth unable to form words.

                        Matrix caught his attention with a sideways glance. “It’ll take five minutes.”

                        Macro reached up and groped for the bug’s computer. “Stop it!”

                        “I can’t stop it,” Matrix said calmly. “I’m uploading data. It’ll end up corrupting if I break it off now.”

                        Corrupting… All Macro could do was watch DL helplessly as she slumped forward on her knees, fixing the wall of her crate with a blank, unseeing stare. His heart hammered behind his ribs. She was alive. Empty, but alive. If they killed her trying to give her back her memories, then he could add the highest of crimes to his already extensive list.

                        Then watch his bounty double again. Even the worst of pirates wouldn’t stand for that crime. Everyone would be after his head.

                        DL’s eyes fluttered again and refocused, lighting up briefly as she came back to reality. She stretched and yawned widely as though waking up from a deep sleep.

                        “I think we’re done,” said Matrix. “You can disconnect her now.”

                        Macro gave him a wary glance then reached over to remove the jack lead. DL didn’t so much as flinch. Had it even worked?

                        “I appear to have received an update,” she said. “My processes are flagging it as ‘junk data’. Quarantining.”

                        “No!” Macro grabbed both her shoulders and turned her to face him, fixing his violet eyes on hers. “Do not quarantine it!”

                        She blinked a couple of times then nodded. “This update appears to be important to you. Understood. Force-stopping quarantine.”

                        He fell back onto his bottom and let out a sigh, running his paws over his face.

                        “I need a good sleep,” he said. “I think I’m going to call it a night.”

                        “Likewise.” DL shuffled back into her crate. “Sleep is necessary for optimum cognitive function.”

                        He watched her as she shifted to get comfy and leant her head against the side of the crate. Crate. She was still sleeping in that splintered eyesore of a crate.

                        “Come with me,” he said. “I’ll sort you a room. We have two spare.”

                        She looked up at him with what he thought might have been confusion, but her eyes were still blank. “A room? My box is ample room enough.”

                        “It isn’t,” he said. “You need a bed, just like any other pokemon.”

                        “I’m a computer. Do you give your computer a bed?”

                        “Don’t get snarky with me, DL.”

                        “I don’t understand snarky. It was merely a question.”

                        He grabbed her paw and tugged her to her feet. “You’re having a room like a normal pokemon. Now come with me.”

                        He exchanged a flustered glance with one of Matrix’s curious ones and dragged the pachirisu from the cockpit. Wildcard Gamma contained six bedrooms, four of which were occupied. Loud snores came from the first room on the right, beside the washroom. Cookie preferred to be there as he could quickly wash up before he entered the kitchen. Only his alarm could wake him. Macro often wondered if he could sleep through a blitz since he’d slept through horrific turbulence that woke the rest of the crew and had them in a panic, but if his alarm went off he’d be up and cooking within ten minutes.

                        Macro stopped at the room opposite his and pushed the door open. A quilt lay folded on the bed, its former white now a musty grey. He grabbed it and shook it out, sending a cloud of dust into the air. He coughed and turned his head back, and DL let out a small sneeze from the doorway. She wiped a paw over her nose and looked from him to the duvet.

                        “I can sort this out,” she said. “It’s okay.”

                        “No.” Macro let the quilt fall to the floor and moved over to the bed, tugging the draw open. He rubbed at his shoulder then pulled out a blue and white quilt cover. “I’ll deal with it. It’s the least I can do after letting you sleep in a box.”

                        “Crate,” she corrected. “And it was what I came in. I was happy there.”

                        “You wouldn’t know happy if it leapt up and smacked you on the nose,” he said. “But we’re working on that.”

                        He tossed a pillow case onto the bed and started stuffing the quilt into the cover. DL moved over to the bed and joined him, placing the pillow inside the case. His shoulder complained again and he stopped to rub at it, clutching the quilt in one paw.

                        “You appear to be in pain,” she said. “You should lie down.”

                        He grunted and returned to stuffing the quilt cover, but she took it from his paws and set it on the bed.

                        “I can help,” she said. “I know basic back massage.”

                        “Not a chance! Besides, I don’t allow girls in my room. Gentlemon’s pride.” He reached for the quilt, but she beat his paws aside. He narrowed his eyes in a leer. “Seriously, DL!”

                        She picked it up, keeping her eyes on him as she neatly straightened out the quilt. “You don’t need to be in your own room for a massage. Even the floor would suffice. Besides, I can continue here. I know what I’m doing.”

                        “Whatever.” He raised his paws and moved from the room. “Do what you want. I’m going to bed.”

                        He stormed across the hall to his own room and slammed the door. That pachirisu… he fell face first onto his bed and groaned. All they’d gone through for that disk and it had made virtually no change to her whatsoever. Junk data. That’s what she’d called it. Was it even worth continuing? He seriously doubted it.

                        Five disks. Five disks of ‘junk data’. Was there a chance Matrix was wrong and they’d obtained the wrong one?

                        He heard his door open and soft paws pad across the room. He cracked an eye open, fixing on the white torso of the ‘living computer’.

                        “I thought I told you I don’t allow girls in my room,” he said.

                        “The door is open,” she replied. “Besides, you said ‘do what you want’, and I want to help you. It’s in my programming to serve.”

                        “Persistent, aren’t you?” He let out a sigh and closed his eye. “Fine. If it’ll shut you up.”

                        The mattress sank beside him and she brushed her paws over his back, shifting his scarf out of the way.

                        “I didn’t think mawile had stripes,” she said. “But you have two. Such anomalies are not in my files.”

                        He cracked an eye open, but he couldn’t see her from the angle she was sat at. Two brown, horizontal stripes like a pikachu. His scarf usually covered them. He gave a shrug and let his eye close again.

                        “It’s a birthmark,” he said flatly.

                        “Oh, I see. I’ll make a note of that.”

                        He began to mutter something under his breath but it was cut off as she dug into his shoulders. He grit his teeth together, but the pain ebbed away in seconds as his sore, tense muscles relaxed. He nuzzled into his pillow, and as she moved her way down his back he found it hard to focus on the issue of those disks any more. His mind went blank, and he instead drifted off into a deep sleep.

                        ...

                        The cell gate slammed shut and the croagunk pushed himself up onto his knees, fixing the delphox with a leer.

                        “I told you I did nothin’!” he roared.

                        “That’s not what I was told.” Tracer leant back against the opposite wall and stared at the frog pokemon through the bars. “Your pocket computer’s number came up. The hacking was traced back to you.”

                        “But it wasn’t me!”

                        “Can’t help you. Evidence is evidence.”

                        “You just don’t believe me ‘cos I’m a poison type!” said the croagunk. “You posh psychic types are all the same! Snobby do-gooders! You have a death wish walkin’ through the outskirts, delphox.”

                        “So you’re saying you’re not a do-gooder?” Tracer tutted softly as he shook his head. “Not exactly helping your case, are you?”

                        The croagunk pulled his lips back in a snarl and Tracer rolled his eyes.

                        “Like I said, I can’t help you. I’m not in charge any more. You’re out of my paws.” Tracer kicked back from the wall and waved a dismissive paw. “Appeal to your attorney.”

                        “You think I can afford a freakin’ attorney?! I live in the outskirts!”

                        The croagunk’s rant faded as the door to the cells shut. Tracer exchanged glances with Widget and the eevee beamed, creasing the neon green microchip pattern around his left eye.

                        “Same old sob story, eh?” he asked.

                        Tracer shrugged and leant against the wall as he lit up a cigar.

                        “They always plead innocent,” he said. “I just worry what might happen if one of them is actually crying the truth, and no one will listen.”

                        Widget shrugged his shoulders. “That might have happened a billion times already and we’d never know.”

                        “Poor kid can’t even afford an attorney.” Tracer blew out a cloud of smoke and looked back over at the closed door. The prisoner’s shouts were muffled and incoherent through that iron structure. “Nothing in place for him to gain one either. They only take a guaranteed payment, so it’s Socket’s word against his. He’s screwed.”

                        The eevee’s nose crinkled in thought and he shrugged again. “Oh well. Back to the slums for us then, eh?”

                        Tracer grunted and stubbed out his cigar on the wall before popping it into his trench coat pocket. He pulled out their masks and fastened his back over his face, making sure there were no gaps around the rubber edging before following the eevee towards the air lock.

                        When it opened, air blew out through a vent, keeping all the toxins between the main doors and those that separated them from the toxic streets of Proxy City. Meta Prison had stood in the outskirts for many years, serving as a threatening monument that kept crime down in that particular city. The other two outskirts were a nightmare in comparison.

                        Tracer looked up at the dingy, grey building. Behind it rose one of the bright chrome and white skyscrapers of Meta City and the branches of one of the capital’s many mechanical trees. One would think the edge of Proxy City would be cleaner than the rest. How the capital was cleaner than the outskirts that stood so close to it was a mystery. Those trees did their job, but they did it in a very localised fashion.

                        He turned his back on the prison and joined Widget across the road where he sat waiting patiently. His eyes sparkled up at him through his mask and he fell beside the delphox’s side, keeping pace with him all the way back to Spool City. It was a long walk. One that made him glad of his companion and his trusty laser stick.

                        ...

                        When Macro opened his eyes again, the room felt bright. Soft sunlight flowed through his blind and he slowly pushed himself up. His shoulders complained, but not as much as they had been doing the previous evening. He rubbed at his left shoulder and turned, and his sheet fell down over his hips. He fixed it with a raised eyebrow. Definitely no recollection of having pulled it over himself when he fell into bed. It must have been DL…

                        He looked over at the closed door and kicked the sheet off. Even if she had covered him over, he was still wearing his scarf and belt, although both his lasers had been set on his night stand. He popped them both back into their holsters and strolled from his room, stretching as he entered the hallway. Refreshed, not the slightest bit groggy. It had been a good night’s sleep, he couldn’t deny that.

                        The sweet smell of pancakes flowed from the kitchen, drawing him in like a beacon. He fell into his usual spot at the table, near oblivious to the pachirisu who’d taken up Matrix’s spot opposite him yet again. He reached for the steaming pile of pancakes and froze, fixing her with a confused look out of the corner of his eye.

                        “Sleep well?” she asked.

                        “Yes?” The hesitation in his voice seemed to take her by surprise.

                        “Are you asking or telling me?”

                        “I slept fine.” He slipped two pancakes onto his plate and reached for the cheri sauce.

                        Anchor held his heaped fork just before his mouth as he looked from the living computer to Macro and back.

                        “Have I missed something?” he asked.

                        “Nothing.” Macro poured the sauce onto his pancakes. “Isn’t Matrix joining us this morning?”

                        “Ooh, the night owl came in here just as I started cooking!” Cookie grabbed his own plate, already stacked with pancakes and butter. “I often wonder if he even sleeps.”

                        “He sleeps,” said Anchor. “And snores. I’m in the room beside him, I should know.”

                        “So long as we’ve all slept well, that is good.” DL reached over for the plate of pancakes. “I understand you are not all computers, but the brain does need to shut down and recharge otherwise you might crash.”

                        The three space pirates watched the pachirisu as she poured cheri sauce over her breakfast. Cookie trembled so violently the berry atop his head jiggled from side to side. She lifted a fork of fluffy pancake dripping with sweet, red sauce and popped it into her mouth. Macro visibly flinched, expecting another outburst of lectures, and Cookie’s chair dragged across the floor as he scooted as far away from her as his distance from his plate would allow.

                        DL’s eyes lit up and she leant back in her seat with the fork still in her mouth. She threw herself back towards her plate and began devouring the cheri-soaked pancakes with a vigour that almost put the slurpuff to shame.

                        “Erm…” Macro tapped the side of his plate with his fork and glanced at the granbull and chef, exchanging equally confused expressions. “Are you okay, DL?”

                        “Hmm?” She looked up and wiped cheri sauce from her cheek. “Yes. Why?”

                        “You just… seem to be enjoying your breakfast.”

                        “Quite a lot,” Cookie added. “You might give yourself indigestion at this rate.”

                        “Oh.” She looked back down at her plate and loaded her fork up again. “I’m sorry, cheri berries are my favourite. I’ll slow down.”

                        Favourite…

                        Macro stared at her in bewilderment. She had a favourite? After her lecture about sweets the previous day, she now had a favourite? He chuckled and caught a small grin from Anchor before they both tucked into their own breakfast.

                        A favourite… so the memory disk had worked. It wasn’t a lost cause after all.

                        ...

                        Surge pulled her tympole ship up outside the huge white mansion in the centre of Meta City. White, clean, with a garden filled with artificial topiaries and grass. Two large mechanical trees stood at either side of the pristine courtyard. The zigzagoon felt it a shame to walk across it, almost worried her feet would leave dirty prints on the pale paving flags that lined the neat pathway. As she reached the door, the two pidgeot standing sentry fixed her with their tiny, black eyes.

                        “State your purpose,” one of them said.

                        “Socket requested me,” she said. “My name is Surge.”

                        The huge bird kept his eyes on her as he spoke into his mouth piece. “Someone called Surge is here for Socket.”

                        “Ooh!” The voice was oddly shrill, almost bell-like. “She’s cool. Let her in!”

                        The pidgeot frowned, but it wasn’t aimed at her. He stood aside and pushed the door open with his large wing. She thanked him, feeling both their eyes on her as she strolled inside.

                        It was equally white with the odd painting along the wall. Not one of them was of a single pokemon, all depicting landscapes of Meta City throughout the decades. The oldest one dated back two hundred years ago, when they first erected the mansion and the mechanical trees. It was titled ‘Cleaning Up Our Act’.

                        A bell chime reached her ears, growing louder as whatever carried it rounded the corner. She frowned into the foyer, but the only pokemon she could see was a furret sat behind the desk while talking quietly on the phone.

                        “Surge, I guess?”

                        She looked down at her feet into the beaming face of a chingling. The tiny bell pokemon barely came up to her knee.

                        “This way!” He flopped away from her, his tassel-like hair bobbing with each bounce.

                        He led her around the corner and down another corridor with yet more paintings. Each one was a different area of Meta City, artfully taken so as not to show even the smallest hint of the outskirts. The city’s various pokemon species filled the streets, mostly made up of normal and psychic type pokemon but with the odd dual-type scattered here and there. Nevertheless, each picture had a cheerful air to it. Its cleanness was emphasized as it even depicted the alleyways between the tall chrome and white buildings.

                        The chingling cleared his throat and Surge froze, looking back over her shoulder. He stood beaming at her from beside an open door.

                        “Just in here,” he said before flopping inside.

                        She followed him slowly, peering around the door at the tidy office. A computer desk stood at her right, empty despite the holoscreen glowing brightly in the air. A container filled with pens stood beside it next to an open note pad. Ahead of her sat Socket behind her desk and she looked up as she entered. A gothitelle, her entire black torso covered with white ribbons. Each one was a part of her body, but the ones around her dramatically tufted ears were not. Her red lips curled up in a smile that, despite looking friendly, sent a chill through Surge’s body.

                        “Come in, come in!” Socket rose and moved over to her, extending a slender black paw. “Surge, right?”

                        The zigzagoon took her paw and shook it once before the gothitelle let it fall back to her side. She turned away from her and returned to her desk.

                        “Please,” she said. “Take a seat.”

                        Surge sat opposite her, giving the room one more glance and spotting the chingling sat by the window at the left of the office, almost hidden behind his own holoscreen.

                        “As you may be aware,” Socket said, steepling her paws together, “I’ve called you here to run a little errand for me. I do understand you’re a mercenary by trade?”

                        “Yes.” Surge resisted the urge to lean back in her seat. “But I’m a little curious as to why you would want to hire a mercenary?”

                        “You hunt pirates.”

                        The bluntness of her statement almost knocked Surge off her seat.

                        “I’ve had a problem lately that needs… correcting.” Socket locked her with a sapphire stare. “Lately my databases have been compromised. It started when something was stolen in transit to me.”

                        Surge’s spine stiffened but she kept her expression blank as she stared back at the gothitelle. Surely she hadn’t traced the hacking back to her? Her paw pads began to sweat and she absently wiped them on her lap.

                        “I don’t know if you’ve heard about it?” Socket asked.

                        Surge licked her lips and glanced at the window behind her. “I don’t think it’s been in the news.”

                        “Oh it has,” said Socket. “Although the contents have been kept secret. Just a notification of a theft of government property by a thief I am sure you’ve heard of. Anyway, what bothers me the most is the data that was taken after. But whether or not the hacker is in contact with the thief is a mystery. He’s behind bars now, I’ve had that dealt with.”

                        Surge let out a long breath. Her decoy number had worked.

                        “The job I have for you,” Socket said as she reached for her note pad, “is to help me retrieve this item of mine and put the pirate Macro behind bars.”

                        “What about the rest of his crew?”

                        “Oh, you can arrest them if you like, but they’re just goons who follow the lead of a psychopath.”

                        “Psychopath?” Surge raised an eyebrow.

                        “Don’t you think so?” Socket’s blue eyes widened with surprise. “His list of crimes is immense. Robbery, arson, con artist, monslaughter… to name a few. That doesn’t add up to a sane pokemon, does it? And to go so far as to steal government property?”

                        Surge scratched behind her ear. “I guess.”

                        “Don’t you want the job?” Socket worded it as a question, but the warning note behind it chilled Surge to the core.

                        “I’ll take any job so long as it pays.”

                        Socket’s lips turned up into a smile and she turned the note pad so Surge could read it.

                        “Everything is detailed on here,” the gothitelle explained. “Your pay, should to you take the job, is the forty thousand credit bounty on Macro’s head, plus an extra forty thousand for completing the task. Another twenty thousand will go to Tracer and his group as compensation for loaning you out to me, so you don’t have to worry about them for the time being.”

                        “So it totals at one hundred thousand credits?” Surge scratched at her ear again as she read over the details.

                        “As you can see, I’m desperate to get that mawile behind bars. The item he stole from me contains a tracking chip which you can use to retrieve it. For now, I’ve called my soldiers off. They have bigger things to be dealing with right now, and I’d like to keep them in reserves, so this all falls on you. I hope that’s not an inconvenience?” The gothitelle paid no attention to Surge’s apprehensive head shake. “I’ll even loan you a laser that will allow you to incapacitate him.”

                        “So a ground laser?” Surge looked up to meet the mayor’s eyes.

                        “I was thinking fire,” said Socket. “Will you take the job?”

                        Surge looked down at the details again. Arrest Macro… she couldn’t deny it made her feel sick. But a job was a job, and if she turned it down it would only arouse suspicion from the gothitelle. She needed to cover her tracks, and if she was found out to be the culprit behind harvesting that information…

                        “I’ll take the job,” she said.

                        “Excellent.”

                        Socket unlocked a drawer in her desk and pulled out a red laser module. She slid the slender cylinder towards her and Surge took it, turning it in her paws.

                        “I trust you’re familiar with how those work?” Socket asked.

                        “Of course.” Surge pulled her own laser out of its holster and opened the back, slipping the fire module inside to join the other two it contained.

                        “Oh, and one other thing.” Socket leant forward on her elbows and steepled her paws together again. “Macro is wanted dead or alive. For you, Surge, the full payment stands either way.”

                        Surge looked up with a start. “You mean…?”

                        “Yes. I imagine that pirate would put up quite a fight.” She leant back in her seat and folded her arms. “So if it comes to it, don’t be afraid to kill him. You’ll still get every last credit.”

                        “But… wouldn’t it still be classed as murder?”

                        Socket shook her head slowly. “We’re going to kill him anyway. You’d just be saving the authorities a job. They’ve got a lot to deal with anyway.” She admired her claws and fixed Surge with another chilling smile. “I don’t suppose this will be a problem to you?”

                        Surge’s mouth had gone dry. She cleared her throat and slid off her chair.

                        “No,” she said. “I’ll get the job done.”

                        “I’m glad to hear it.” Socket rose to her feet and moved around her desk to steer Surge from her office. “I’ll be in touch to see how things are progressing. Please don’t let me down. Tracer could only speak highly of you. I expect your best work.”

                        “One more question,” said Surge. “What is this item you want me to retrieve?”

                        “Just a computer,” said Socket. “We’ll retrieve it from his ship once he’s out of the way. Don’t worry yourself.”

                        Just a computer? Surge looked up at the gothitelle, catching another smile off her as she closed the door. A cheerful ‘bye!’ from the chingling echoed through the woodwork as it closed, blocking the office from sight. A light flashed above her and she looked up at the door, noting the blinking red light of one of the flat, black surveillance cameras.

                        Her paw went to her laser and she turned from the room, fixing her eyes on the exit. It was just another space pirate round up. It wasn’t like she was a stranger to those. Her claw brushed over the smooth trigger and she stormed from the mansion, startling one of the pidgeot as she marched past him down the manicured path.

                        One hundred thousand credits.

                        She took a deep, steadying breath as she made a beeline for the gate.

                        Dead or alive, it was just another round up.
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                          #12    
                        Old September 16th, 2017 (6:43 AM).
                        Delirious Absol's Avatar
                        Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
                        Call me Del
                           
                          Join Date: May 2015
                          Location: UK
                          Age: 33
                          Gender: Female
                          Nature: Quirky
                          Posts: 327
                          I am so sorry for my delay in updating this. I forgot my password and it took way too long to actually change it. I kept locking myself out of PokeCommunity, so much so I lost motivation to keep trying =( Oh well, I'm back now lol.

                          Part Two - Rifts in Time and Space

                          Chapter Twelve


                          The sun’s rays lit up the sky of Spool City, highlighting the smog a nauseating yellow. The gentle rays warmed Tracer’s ears and tail and made him sweat under his trench coat. Widget plodded along beside him, humming a muffled tune beneath his mask. Their journey from Proxy Prison had been somewhat uneventful, only drawing a minor conflict from a group of nidoran and nidorino. A quick blast from his stick had put an end to that no sooner had it started.

                          He checked the time on his pocket computer, which clouded over with a fine mist. Ten thirty am and a message off Defrag asking what he wanted for breakfast.

                          Widget came to an abrupt stop and cocked his left ear. Tracer followed his glance to the opposite side of the street. One of the alleyway doors was open and a small pokemon shuffled about behind the trash cans. Or a small group. It was impossible to see. Whatever it was managed to lift an adult skuntank and toss him or her into a skip. A few seconds later, the door slammed shut, leaving the motionless pokemon behind.

                          “Another one?” Widget asked.

                          Tracer strolled over to the skip, keeping one ear on the door. The skuntank was well and truly dead and had an awful smell about it - although skuntank often had an awful smell. The massive skunk’s tail was no longer curled over his head in typical skuntank fashion but instead lay draping over the edge of the beaten skip. His mouth was wide open, near impossible to close around all the tumours that lined his gums and tongue.

                          The delphox reached inside and pulled him out, letting his heavy body fall over his shoulders. Widget visibly grimaced as he glanced up into the skunk pokemon’s gaping jaws.

                          “This is getting ridiculous now,” he said. “They know this air can kill them so why do they refuse to wear masks?”

                          “Not all poison types are stubborn, some just can’t afford them.” Tracer stumbled out of the alley and followed the road towards his office. “Call Central Meta and tell them to send an ambulance.”

                          “Bit late for that.” Widget pressed a paw to his ear piece and his optical display flew into place over his right eye.

                          “We can’t just leave him in a trash can though can we?” Tracer sighed and shook his head. “He’s still a pokemon, criminal or not.”

                          “Okay, I get - Yo! Is that Central Meta Hospital?” Widget skipped on ahead of him, his long tail bobbing behind. “Yeah, it’s Tracer PI’s Agency. We’ve found another body.”

                          Tracer could almost see the frown on the receptionist’s face, and not just at Widget’s lack of a telephone manner. The eevee’s voice became a drone as Tracer looked over at the passing buildings. Small faces peered out at him, mostly stunky and scraggy, all wearing a mix of concern and anger. Bodies turning up like this were becoming more and more frequent and the outskirts’ attitude was beginning to reflect it. Very few of the pokemon living in the slums could afford a half-decent funeral.

                          Widget looked back over his shoulder, his eyes sparkling. “Said they’ll be at our office in a few minutes, so we better make it snappy. They said to leave him outside and they’ll dispose of him safely.”

                          So that meant incineration. At least he wouldn’t be left to fester in some skip. Tracer adjusted the skunktank over his shoulders and followed Widget along the empty road. His office wasn’t far. Just another turn and it was on his right, sat beside a club that at the present time was closed. His eyes fell on a slogan painted over the worn door of his office and he let out a groan.

                          ‘Shove off shamus’.

                          He’d have loved to think the most unnerving thing about it was the missing comma.

                          The skuntank’s body slipped to the floor and he situated him against the wall out of the way. He looked up and down the street for any sign of an ambulance or disposal truck then ducked into his office as quickly as he could. Cool air blew over him, pushing the smog back outside, and he closed the door and removed his mask. Widget practically shook his off and sent it flying across the room to strike the filing cabinet.

                          Defrag looked back at them over her shoulder and her nose creased into a frown.

                          “I took the privilege of fixing this room’s filter,” she said. “I don’t know about you, but I was getting rather tired of breathing that air.”

                          Tracer fired a glance at the humming mechanical monstrosity above the window and dropped into his seat at his computer.

                          “Dare I ask how much it cost?” he asked.

                          The lopunny shrugged. “Nothing. I hit it a few times and it started working.”

                          Widget burst out laughing and struck his desk with his paw. “That’s genius! I love it!”

                          “It’s temporary,” said Defrag. “We should really look at getting it repaired properly. And maybe install an air lock?”

                          “It’ll cost a pretty credit to get someone from the metropolis to look at it,” said Tracer. “As for an air lock, don’t you think we get enough hate?”

                          “Well unlike you two I am neither immune, or too old to care.”

                          Tracer looked at her with a start. “I am not old! I’m forty two!”

                          “Older than me…”

                          Widget slumped onto his desk in laughter.

                          “Besides, Widget is not proven immune to the toxic air,” said Tracer. “And until we know for certain, he will continue to wear a mask.”

                          The eevee snorted and leant his nose on his forelegs. “Spoil sport.”

                          Tracer fired up his computer then lit up a cigar, puffing smoke into the air which was sucked up by the noisy air filter.

                          “Did I see you carrying a skuntank?” Defrag asked.

                          “Yeh. There’s been another death.” He flicked ash into his ashtray and brought up the outskirts news site. “We’re gonna need to be extra vigilant in case the poison types try to rebel again. It’s hard enough to contain that to the outskirts as it is, and it will be even more difficult without Surge’s help.”

                          “Surge? Has she left us?”

                          “For now. Socket snatched her up.” He leant back in his seat and stifled a sigh. “I’ve no idea why.”

                          “Pirate hunting, I assume?” said Defrag. “Hunter’s been a menace lately and I guess she wants him caught before the entire of System scrambles for his price tag.”

                          “It’d be a short-lived scramble.”

                          “If it gets much higher, there’ll surely be casualties? Pokemon will do anything for a quick credit.”

                          Tracer shrugged and scrolled through the news. A soft shuffle outside drew his attention to the window, and he caught the flashing red and blue lights of a medical truck. No siren. Nothing to draw attention to its presence except those lights, and he was fairly certain they only flashed to let him know they’d been.

                          Like every other ‘meaningless event’ inside the outskirts, this would be another death swept under the rug. He wouldn’t be surprised if soldiers outside Meta City were increased to keep the ruffians out, and that would swiftly be disguised as crowd control by another major event like a battle tournament or a concert.

                          He blew out a stream of smoke and turned back to his computer screen. The outskirts news website was an underground site that had very little recognition outside the metropolis. It would take all three of them to control any leak of this news to the major sites, confining it only to the underground. They’d take the entire website down if need be, and it wouldn’t be for the first time.

                          ...

                          Macro leant on the dashboard between Anchor and DL, his brows knit together as he looked at the destinations containing the remaining four memory disks. Scanner City had been ticked off, and was certainly one of the most imposing on the list. No where near as imposing as Meta City, however. That disk was unfortunately held inside Socket’s own mansion, and several times he’d mulled over whether or not it was worth just getting it out of the way.

                          The other areas were Binary City, Cyan City, Botnet City and some place called The Cache. All clean, not a single area toxic. Typical locations for government facilities. Well… one would expect, whatever The Cache was. Add in the fact there were five disks and one had already been retrieved, the list of five remaining locations led him to believe one was a red herring.

                          “I really can’t make up my mind,” said Macro.

                          “I’d suggest Botnet or Binary,” said Anchor. “Both are a similar distance from us.”

                          “But Meta is much closer.”

                          “Eh. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather save that until last.”

                          “Snap,” said Matrix.

                          “I don’t understand why you are doing this,” said DL. “Why are these memory disks so important?”

                          “Did you enjoy your breakfast?” Macro asked.

                          “Oh I did. It was lovely.”

                          “Then that’s why this is important.”

                          DL scratched behind one of her blue ears. “But… what does me enjoying my breakfast have to do with anything? Everyone needs to eat, even living computers.”

                          “Given your roasting of Cookie the other day over only baking sweets,” said Macro, “I’d say your drastic change in attitude is evidence enough that these disks actually work.”

                          “Oh… you’re correct.” She paused and stroked her chin with a claw. “Should I destroy this detrimental data?”

                          “No!” Anchor and Macro both span to face her.

                          She took a small step back and clasped her paws together. “Understood. Keeping new files.”

                          “Good grief.” Macro rubbed his temples and leant forward on his elbows. “At this rate, she’ll end up damaging all our hard work.”

                          “We still have the disk,” said Matrix. “If she erases it, then I’ll just put it back.”

                          “You can do that?” Macro asked. “You didn’t just move the data?”

                          “I copied it. Takes less time.” Matrix wound a paw in his antennae and eyed the pachirisu cautiously. “I guess my laziness paid off, huh?”

                          Macro licked his lips and looked from the ribombee to DL and then back to his list.

                          “Well,” he said. “I’m not sure if duplicating the data then destroying the disks afterward counts as murder or not… since the original pokemon would have been restored?”

                          Anchor scratched his mohawk and grunted. “I’m not sure ‘bout that either.”

                          “I suppose we can deal with it when the time comes.” Macro eyed the city names once more and slammed his paw on the dashboard. “Let’s start with Binary City. It’s an entertainment district. How hostile can that be?”

                          “Electric types,” said Anchor. “Eh. I guess my gauntlets won’t be much use there then, hey?”

                          “No. We’ll only have my ground laser to hand, and that’s not great for inner city combat. So let’s hope they’re not too hostile.”

                          Anchor rolled his eyes in a way that told Macro he knew he’d just fire it off anyway. The mawile huffed and shoved his computer back into his pouch.

                          “Set co-ordinates for Binary,” he told Matrix. “We’ll make a start as soon as it gets dark.”

                          “In an entertainment district?” Anchor sniffed. “All right…”

                          “What? You think we should do it during the daytime?” Macro asked. “The government facility will be teaming with pokemon!”

                          “And so will the streets at night. And at the moment, if you don’t sport the same type that’s rampant in those cities, you’re gonna get looked at funny. Or worse! And you,” he poked Macro in the chest, “have a price on your head.”

                          The mawile shoved his claw aside and frowned. “I know that! But I’d rather deal with civilians than Socket’s goons!”

                          Anchor shrugged and leant back in his seat. “It’s your choice. But this is System Ground. I know the reward applies everywhere except Pulse City now, but you’ve not been safe down there for years. They’ll be scrambling just to get at your neck.”

                          Macro snorted and twirled his laser around in his paw. “Let them try.”

                          “Excuse me,” said DL. “But this does not sound safe. I suggest you come up with a better solution.”

                          “What? Have them mail the disk to me?”

                          “If it will make things easier.”

                          Macro mentally smacked his head on the dashboard. “Look. This is the best way to retrieve that disk. So we’re going to infiltrate the facility in Binary City at night time when there are less soldiers manning the building!”

                          “In before Socket raises night time security,” said Matrix.

                          Macro closed his eyes and shrugged. “She wouldn’t do that. She’d have to pay out more wages. And she’s no idea when or where we’re going to strike next.”

                          “All right.” Anchor adjusted himself in his seat and tugged the steering stick, turning the ship almost a full one-eighty. “Night time raid on Binary City it is.”

                          Wildcard Gamma chugged through the sky and Macro kicked his feet up on the dashboard, watching the fluffy clouds roll by below them. Far on the horizon, he could make out the edge of one of the tri-cities, but which one it was he couldn’t say. He was fairly certain it wasn’t Cyan City, since that was well off their radar. That just left Magenta or Luma.

                          DL shifted beside him and a flicker of blue light drew his attention. The antennae behind her right ear flickered erratically and she fixed a blank stare on the far window.

                          “Obtaining information from the BackDoor network,” she said.

                          Macro raised an eyebrow. “Eh?”

                          “TimeSkip has awakened.” She placed a paw on the back of his seat. “Updating.”

                          The pachirisu’s grip slackened on his seat as her pupils dilated and he had to grab hold of her wrist to stop her from slumping to the floor. Her antennae flickered blue and a tiny orange light lit up in the center. He looked up at his crew mates who watched the pachirisu with concern and, in Matrix’s case, fascination.

                          “Updating?” Macro gasped.

                          “Yeh…” said Matrix. “I didn’t know she could do that.”

                          “Neither did I! What does that mean?”

                          “I think,” said Anchor as he scratched his head, “that it means we have a direct connection to whatever this BackDoor nonsense is.”

                          “My urge to snoop is tingling,” said Matrix.

                          “We’re not snooping!” Macro tugged on her arm, pulling her up so she was leaning on his chair. “Whatever BackDoor is, it’s just further evidence that Socket is a psycho.”

                          His heart lurched into his chest and he warred with the urge to just let DL collapse to the floor. Somehow he’d forgotten she was linked to some unheard-of network that solely existed to tear holes in time and space. His knowledge of it still felt like a dream and the eeriness was dragging him back in to that living nightmare.

                          DL straightened and let her paw relax over the back of his chair. “Update complete. TimeSkip connection installed.”

                          The three space pirates eyed her cautiously and Macro cleared his throat and looked back out of the window. He had no desire to learn what TimeSkip was and he desperately wanted to forget the whole thing had even happened. He placed a paw to his chest, trying to calm his racing heart.

                          “Cap’n?” Anchor’s brow furrowed. “You all right?”

                          “I’m fine.” Macro’s voice came out embarrassingly shaky. He cleared his throat and kicked his feet back up onto the dashboard. “Just keep flying.”

                          ...

                          Socket stood beside the sparksurfer raichu scientist, eyeing the green onion-like android curiously. It looked like it was merely sleeping, its large head lolling against its chest. A pair of bug-like wings that looked much too small to carry it sprouted from its back, almost matching the long antennae above a pair of large eyes. Was it a bug, plant or mammal? She couldn’t even begin to explain it. All she knew was it was a mere android that bore the same abilities as the extinct pokemon it was meant to represent.

                          “Are you sure this is what a celebi looked like?” she asked the raichu.

                          Yobi looked up from his personal computer long enough to give her a reassuring nod. “We scoured several text books and fossil records. I can tell you for certain we’re on point.”

                          “It just doesn’t look like the colourful character from my childhood picture books,” she said.

                          “Picture books tend to make caricatures of extinct specimens, Madam Mayor. I can assure you this is the closest you’re gonna get to an actual representation of a celebi without resurrecting one from a fossil.”

                          “Is that possible?”

                          “Maybe one day.”

                          He pushed a paw into the touch screen’s display of a green button and the small bug-like onion mammal lifted its large head. A pair of glassy black eyes flickered open and fixed emotionlessly on the two pokemon.

                          “Does it speak?” Socket asked.

                          “Nah. No vocal chords. It’s only way of communication is via code through the network.” Yobi brought up a detailed map of System Sky on his computer. “Unlike BackDoor, who has turned out to be rather chatty, this one will merely send co-ordinates to the time pockets it’s intended to seek out. Then BackDoor will join it and tear them open.”

                          “I thought celebi could travel through time themselves. Why does it need BackDoor to do its job?”

                          “Celebi could, allegedly. But we can’t emulate that.” The look on the raichu’s chubby face told her he wanted to add something else that may have resulted in him being tossed telekinetically across the room. “This should work. We’ll have a bigger chance of scouring deeper into time pockets with TimeSkip’s help.”

                          The gothitelle scratched her nose as she stared down at the odd little android. A time traveler that couldn’t time travel. It seemed a little pointless. She let out a sigh and moved her paw to her hip as she shifted her weight onto one foot.

                          “All right. Wire it up to the network and send it out there,” she said. “We’ll see exactly what this ‘TimeSkip’ can do.”

                          The warning note in her voice made the raichu’s spine stiffen and he instinctively hopped up onto his tail to hover above the ground. His yellow cheeks turned a deep crimson and he masked his embarrassment behind his computer as he punched in a complicated code Socket couldn’t even be bothered to try to understand.

                          “Give it a few minutes,” he said. “I’m just connecting it now.”

                          The blinking antennae behind the celebi’s right antennae flickered blue and orange and the android became even more still than it was previously. Socket watched boredly as its large pupils moved forward like a telescope. Then they snapped back and the celebi rose into the air on its tiny wings, buzzing with all the ferocity of a yanmega. It turned and zipped towards the window.

                          Yobi let out a yelp and beat the android to it, throwing it wide open. The celebi soared past him, making a sharp turn towards the sky. Yobi pressed his back against the wall and slid down it, his chest rising and falling like a pair of bellows.

                          “Quick thinking,” said Socket. “If that thing had smashed my window, I was going to dock your pay.”

                          The raichu met her eyes and a flash of panic lit up behind them. She tucked her paws behind her back and strolled from the room. It was about time for a cup of chesto coffee.
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                          A glimmer of hope in a war-torn world - The End
                          Cyberpunk fantasy meets Pokemon Mystery Dungeon - Glitched
                          Fancy some Cyberpunk PMD action with space pirates? System:Reboot
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                            #13    
                          Old October 13th, 2017 (6:56 AM).
                          Delirious Absol's Avatar
                          Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
                          Call me Del
                             
                            Join Date: May 2015
                            Location: UK
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                            Gender: Female
                            Nature: Quirky
                            Posts: 327
                            Once again, I couldn't log in. I think I've worked it out now. I'll try to catch up on here asap. Updates might be fairly frequent for a while. Sorry for the inconvenience!

                            Chapter Thirteen


                            Macro couldn’t even think in straight lines. His mind kept drifting to the updates DL had received. It wasn’t simply the eeriness that surrounded Socket’s probing into time and space that bothered him, but his mind had leapt to the assumption they could send something to her to remove her memories again. Of course, without something to store them on then it would be classified as murder. They had no idea Matrix was merely copying the files to her brain, which Macro felt was basically cloning her but that was a matter to worry over for a different day.

                            What bothered him the most was things no longer felt secure. He felt even less secure about the flickering dot that kept appearing just outside their radar, and his mind was reeling. Socket clearly must want the pachirisu back? She wouldn’t happily leave her ‘living computer’ in the paws of a pirate?

                            He gnawed on a claw as he glanced over to Matrix’s navigation screen. The ribombee was sat with his head resting on his arms, sprawled out before the screen and watching the red dot as it drifted off their radar yet again.

                            “Are we any closer to Binary City?” Macro asked.

                            “We’re close,” said Matrix. “But I’m apprehensive to let you leave with that other ship tailing us.”

                            “Fire at it?”

                            “I’m not happy with that either, especially since the last time a ship followed us, it saved our hides.”

                            DL made a thoughtful noise. “I do not recall that event.”

                            “You were in your box,” said Anchor.

                            “I see.” She nodded slowly. “Then it would be unwise of me to offer advise on this situation.”

                            “You have advice?” Macro asked, rather more surprised than he’d have liked to have sounded.

                            DL turned her head to look at him. “Oh yes. I’m equipped to plan out tactics to deal with complex situations.”

                            “Oh really?” He narrowed his eyes slightly and let his paw drop to his lap. “Then go ahead. What’s your advice?”

                            “Well… when you leave the ship, you always leave Matrix and Cookie on board. So if you were to disembark, then you’d be spread out. The ship would be able to be defended, and you two would be smaller targets. If someone were to plan an attack, they wouldn’t be able to target all of you.”

                            “Huh. I’d never thought of it like that.”

                            “That surprises me, to be honest.”

                            Macro flashed his canines in a scowl. “Is that a jab at my intelligence?”

                            He chose to ignore the snort that came from Anchor, instead keeping the pachirisu’s oddly honest eyes locked on his.

                            “I am not equipped to calculate your intelligence,” she said. “But it does seem like common sense to me.”

                            “Well, maybe you’ve not noticed but Matrix isn’t exactly the best at ship combat,” said Macro. “He’s my navigator. Anchor is the one who deals with combat.”

                            He gestured a paw towards the granbull who merely shrugged.

                            “I do my best,” he said.

                            “Then my next assessment,” said DL, “is that you take Matrix or myself and leave Anchor to deal with the ship.”

                            “No way!” Macro raised his paws and shook his head. “I know Matrix can kick tail if he wanted to, but like I said. He’s my navigator. As for you, since Socket clearly wants to retrieve you, you stay on board.”

                            “That isn’t a bad thing,” said DL. “I was made for Socket after all.”

                            Macro let out a derisive snort. “You have so much to learn, DL.”

                            “I am equipped with encyclopedias that cover ninety eight percent of System’s history and biology,” she said. “What makes you say I have a lot to learn?”

                            He raised an eyebrow and his jaw fell open slightly. Even Anchor’s expression reflected his own. With a sigh, he ran a paw over his scar.

                            “If you’re designed to be connected to BackDoor,” he said, “then why did she feel the need to fill your head with encyclopedias?!”

                            “Convenience, I assume.”

                            “This just solidifies my theory that you’re a glorified toy.” He let out a small growl. “Someone needs to kick that gothitelle from one end of System to the next.”

                            “That is a rather violent solution,” said DL.

                            “It was a metaphor.”

                            “Then may I suggest a less violent one for you?”

                            Matrix chuckled and Macro shot him a glare. The ribombee diverted his attention back to the navigation screen and pushed himself back into his seat.

                            “I agree with DL,” he said. “You two should just disembark and go looking for the next disk. If she’s equipped to deal with complex situations, then maybe she can work out your weapons system?”

                            The pachirisu nodded. “That sounds like a sound solution to this dilemma.”

                            Macro grit his teeth together and swiveled in his seat to face the windscreen. “Fine! Anchor, show her the ropes. Then we’ll drop down into Binary. Matrix.” He pointed a claw at the navigator. “Get us as close to the government facility as possible.”

                            Matrix nodded and turned back to his screen, bringing up a smaller window to key in the co-ordinates. He let out a small ‘huh’ and gave the mawile a sideways glance.

                            “I believe,” he began, “that this facility is actually a huge entertainment centre. Cinema screens, gaming arcades, clubs.”

                            “So it’s not offices?” Macro asked.

                            “It’s not clear if they even exist, but if they do they’re upstairs. I’ll send the map to you and you’ll see what I mean.” His tiny paws flew across the holoscreen and Macro’s computer beeped. “I used to go to Binary City a lot as a hatchling, and if I’m right then this is one of the places I used to frequent.”

                            Macro brought the map up on his optical display and groaned. Matrix wasn’t wrong. The facility was huge and contained a multiplex, gaming arcade and even a club or two. Even if he’d wanted to avoid guards at night, there were still going to be obstacles as soon as they stepped paw into the facility.

                            Anchor nudged him with an elbow. “Hey. Look on the bright side. At least you don’t have to pick any locks.”

                            ...

                            Binary City was lit up with bright lights from street lamps to flashing neon signs over casinos and arcades. Music blared from doorways and hidden speakers, each one advertising each individual entertainment centre. Electric pokemon swarmed in the streets, moving from one attraction to the next, oblivious to the two space pirates. Macro nimbly dodged a flaafy clutching a large plush chinchou under one arm as he tried to keep up with his larger ampharos brother. The mawile felt static spread through his horn as it briefly brushed the flaafy’s wool and he reached around to beat it away to no avail. It had already caused his thick, yellow fur to stand on end, making him look like a jolteon hybrid.

                            “Don’t draw attention to yourself, Cap’n.” The granbull’s voice drew Macro’s eye to him.

                            Anchor looked over the various signs and animated billboards and his muzzle crinkled slightly at the animation loop of a lopunny swinging a pair of nunchaku above the door to a combat centre. Seeing pokemon using weapons wasn’t unusual given the current state of society, but seeing it shown so boldly, animated or not, was a blatant smack in the face to the government authorities who wanted to ban such things. Considering Binary City held a massive government facility made it unclear whether or not it was a rebellious attitude or mere pokemon type favoritism. After his experience with the electric army at the unnamed building they’d found DL, he was leaning towards the latter.

                            Yelps and flashes of electricity filled the combat centre and Macro thought he heard the tell-tale whoosh of a water laser firing.

                            The busy road ended at the entranceway to a huge towering building that spread out on either side to merge with the buildings around it. The top half was filled with small windows that suggested they were either office blocks or apartments. The bottom half’s windows were filled with posters or replaced with animated billboards - the kind that let light in but didn’t let light out and thus destroy the display. Either way, each poster made it clear what the stores contained. Games arcades, trading card arenas, casinos, combat tournament rooms, clubs, karaoke bars… the list went on.

                            But right beside the door stood a poster with red text contrasting over a yellow back ground. ‘Binary City is a peaceful district. Leave all conflicts to the police force. Breaking this rule will result in a ten thousand credit fine.’

                            Anchor snorted. “Maybe this won’t be as tough a job as I was fearing.”

                            Despite the sign’s ‘reassurance’, Macro still felt somewhat uneasy.

                            They slipped through the door past an overweight electivire enjoying a triple scoop ice cream cone and entered what could only be described as utter chaos. If they’d had any fear pokemon might target them and turn them in, it was swiftly washed away. Electric and normal type pokemon bustled in all directions, many unable to make up their minds where to visit first. Much to his surprise, a few other pokemon types flowed around the building, their large eyes taking in everything it had to offer, paying no heed to any other passers by. Stores displaying panels of the latest collectible cards were surrounded by hatchlings and adults alike. The shrill voice of a tiny eevee begging his jolteon father for the priciest promo card could be heard over the rumble of voices and Macro grit his teeth together. Those games had always gone over his head. Each new set was just another con to draw money out of the most adoring of fans. The fact they could be played on VR machines was an immense feat, and he caught the glimpse of one over the shoulders of a pack of elekid and pikachu watching their sentret friend while a pair of pom-pom oricorio cheered them on.

                            Macro found the nearest escalator and stood on the moving stairs, watching the crowd shrink below him. Modern electro-pop music boomed from a casino on his right and he let out an involuntary squeak. A holographic chansey waved at him from the doorway, waving a sign that said ‘boost your chance with happy hour’. The music fizzled out and the egg-shaped pokemon closed her eyes and hopped from foot to foot before vanishing into thin air. He turned his back on the door and wound towards the next escalator. The obnoxious music started up again, this time with a different tune, and he caught sight of a holographic meowth tossing coins into the air. Once again, the same sign for ‘happy hour’ flashed above its head showering the pokemon with golden credits.

                            “This life doesn’t appeal to me at all,” Macro muttered to Anchor.

                            The pink bulldog pokemon nodded and folded his arms, watching the stores drift by. Neon lights flashed across his purple mohawk, tinting it with all the colours of the rainbow.

                            Macro distracted himself by bringing up the map, subtly so as not to draw attention to himself (although that wasn’t exactly difficult since everyone else’s attention was on the various amusements). The next disk was held in one of the smaller rooms, but it was difficult to work out what exactly they were. Once again, it was locked away. That was all it said. Locked away. No indication whether it was a safe or merely locked behind a door. The room it was located in was on the third floor. That meant they needed to ride up another escalator.

                            The second floor was filled with clubs which Macro felt was a bit unfair to those that didn’t have the privilege of living in one of the upstairs luxury apartments and would likely be dragging themselves home after a night out.

                            The two space pirates faltered slightly before the next escalator. Very few pokemon were using it, and most of the ones that were came down from the one that ran parallel to it. Macro stepped aside as a furret shot past him to head up the stairs, laughing as she threw an apology at an electabuzz over her shoulder. The yellow and black mammal shook his head and leant against the wall of the glass elevator. He fixed the two space pirates with an amused smile and shrugged.

                            “Women, eh?” he said.

                            Anchor grunted with agreement and looked after the furret. “Aye.”

                            “She’d forget her tail if it weren’t attached.” The large electric type frowned slightly and his eye drifted to Macro. “Do I know you?”

                            “Nope.” Macro tugged at Anchor’s paw and steered him towards the escalator. “We’re new to this establishment.”

                            “Huh.” The electabuzz folded his arms and smirked. “Well, you should join us for a drink at Chatty Chatot’s later. You seem like just her type.”

                            Macro hid a grimace behind a smirk of his own and tugged Anchor after him with a mutter of ‘maybe later’. Once they were out of the electabuzz’s view, he let out a sigh of relief. Thankfully that stripy beast hadn’t recognised him from a wanted poster.

                            He threw open the door at the top of the stairs and strolled out into open air. He blinked his violet eyes in amazement and stared aghast at a stretch of false grass dotted with round plastic tables each one sporting a vibrant sun umbrella. A pair of meowth and a skitty eyed them curiously then returned to their conversation as they enjoyed their tall, pink drinks. Macro stood aside once more as the furret rushed passed him again to return to her friend.

                            From the outside, he hadn’t seen this balcony. That meant it must have been at the back of the building, hidden from view of the shopping and entertainment streets. His eye wandered to the buildings around them, all of which looked like apartment and office blocks. Although a few of them sported their own posters and bright, animated billboards. Shrill screams reached his ears, almost drowned out by the city noise, and he trotted over to the balcony edge and looked down into the streets. This area of the city was much more suburban and he spotted a group of electric type pokemon standing around a wide river that fed a lake perched in the entertainment centre’s vibrant yet fake garden. A galvantula tugged on an electric web, dragging it out of the water with the help of his bipedal allies. The water dwellers held inside the net flailed and splashed as electricity coursed through their bodies, their vibrant, colourful fins waving in protest. Macro flinched and turned away, clearing his throat as he tried to dispel the wretched image.

                            Anchor’s paw fell heavily on his shoulder and he briefly looked up at his large friend.

                            “Let’s see where we’re meant to be going then, hey?” he said.

                            He checked his map again and let out a small groan. The room was on this floor… that meant the disk was held in someone’s apartment.

                            That meant this building didn’t hold a single office room. Whoever was in charge of the disk both worked for Socket and lived in Binary City. He frowned slightly as he took in the various apartments and their communal garden. He could only have dreamt of being able to afford a place like this.

                            He strolled across the balcony, the fake grass soft on his paws like a carpet. Once they were out of ear shot of the three cat pokemon, he looked up at Anchor and shook his head.

                            “We need to get into one of these rooms,” he said quietly.

                            Anchor’s ears pricked up with surprise and he looked over at each of the clean, white, numbered doors. Some of them even had hanging baskets filled with silk or painted metal flowers. Real flowers hadn’t grown in System for such a long time that owning real ones was a luxury even for the most wealthy of pokemon.

                            His map told him the disk was held in the sixth room along. He counted them as he passed and hesitated outside room number twenty six. So much for not needing to pick locks.

                            “Oi!”

                            Macro froze and glanced to the side. The voice had sounded oddly robotic. A deep hum of electricity rose to a crescendo and he spotted the metal squat sphere of a magnezone floating towards him with all the speed of a jet. A pack of magnemite and magneton bobbed along beside him and he drifted to a halt behind Macro and Anchor.

                            Living metal. One of few pokemon that looked like they’d been crafted by pokemon, but they weren’t remotely androids. Like every other pokemon they had internal organs, although these consumed electricity rather than fruit or meat. They had no mouths to speak of, so all their vocalisations came from a hidden speaker on their bodies.

                            The magnezone narrowed his eyes and aimed his magnets forwards. They were much too big for an ordinary magnezone. Some enhancement he’d had… Macro felt a tug on the steel in his horn. He locked his legs and frowned back at the magnezone.

                            “What’s your problem?” he growled.

                            “We’ve been alerted to two space pirates roaming the premises,” the magnezone explained. “My records tell me it is you two. Hunter and one of his crew from Wildcard Gamma. We’re to take you into custody.”

                            Macro stifled a chuckle but a small smirk tugged at his lips. “So you’re the fuzz? Except… not very fuzzy?”

                            The magnezone’s eyes narrowed into slits and he increased the pull on his magnets. Macro felt his feet leave the floor and Anchor grabbed him around his waist before he flew into the floating police ‘mon’s grasp.

                            “There’s no sense in resisting,” the magnezone droned. “You’re wanted dead or alive. Even if we just have to take your head, we will.”

                            The surrounding magnemite and magneton span in the air, generating an electromagnetic field that almost pulled Anchor off his feet. Macro let out a shrill scream as it tugged on his horn, dragging him closer and closer to the magnezone.

                            These wretched electric types. His ground laser was useless against magnezone and its family. Their ability to levitate completely countered their weakness to it. He grit his teeth together and tried to catch Anchor with a glare.

                            “Do something!” he roared.

                            “If I let go of you, you’ll be whisked away!” The granbull tightened his grip on the mawile’s waist. “Although I’m a bit worried you’re gonna get torn in two at this rate…”

                            The magnezone muttered something that to Macro was incoherent electronic babble and edged closer to him, grabbing his horn in his magnets. The mawile found himself tugged into the air, wrenching him clean from Anchor’s grip. The pink bulldog cursed loudly and looked around for something to strike the hovering hunk of metal with. But there was nothing. At this height, Anchor couldn’t even strike the magnezone with a fire fang. All he could do was watch helplessly as Macro was lifted away and the other magnet pokemon moved in to surround him, their bodies sparking maliciously.

                            ...

                            Surge ducked behind the edge of the apartment housing, her laser clasped in one paw. The magnezone officer had lifted Macro off the ground, holding the flailing mawile two feet over Anchor’s head. The poor granbull’s body jerked as electricity coursed through him.

                            If the magnezone apprehended the space pirates then she wouldn’t see a single credit. She pulled the laser towards her chest and watched the officers as they did her job for her. The police force, even though linked to Socket, were a separate entity from the Mayor’s officials. She controlled soldiers, not the police. If Surge interfered, then it wouldn’t go too heavily against her.

                            After all, she had been asked.

                            All she had to do was catch every single one of them in a blast. If she hit Macro, she hit the magnezone, and took out a chunk of the smaller magnets in the process.

                            She aimed her laser, keeping both eyes open and locking them on the frantic mawile. She’d heard every word the giant magnet pokemon had said. Dead or alive. They’d have pulled him apart to get the bounty if they had to, but fortunately it hadn’t come to that. His long, yellow fur billowed around him, revealing his slim black legs as he frantically kicked at the magnezone. The sight made her feel sick to the stomach. She pressed a claw to the trigger and the trim of her laser lit up red. Dead or alive…

                            Her heat lurched into her throat and she shifted her aim, pushing hard on the trigger. A flash of red shot from it, lighting the white walls up with an orange glow. The laser seared through the magnemite and magneton before it engulfed the magnezone, melting his hull away. A deep, electronic screech filled the air and she pressed her paws over her ears, ducking back behind the wall. The magnezone crashed to the ground along with several of his crew, and the remaining smaller magnets buzzed as they shot blindly back through the door to the escalator or flocked over the balcony to the streets below.

                            Her mouth was dry as she looked back over her shoulder at the massacre. Macro stood beside the fallen magnezone, his violet eyes wide as he looked from the molten pokemon to the direction the attack had come from. She could even see his shoulders rising and falling as he tried to catch his breath. She flinched away from the sight and stuffed her laser back into her belt. Her heart was racing and she placed a paw to her chest, taking steady breaths to try and calm it.

                            She couldn’t do it… she couldn’t shoot him. Yet she’d so easily taken down the police officer. She let her head fall into her paws and screamed silently into her lap. Shoot the criminal, claim the bounty. It was a simple job. What had got into her?
                            __________________
                            I believe in Jesus Christ my Savior. If you do too, and aren't scared to admit it, then copy and paste this in your signature.

                            A Fanfiction Author Who Dares to be Different
                            A glimmer of hope in a war-torn world - The End
                            Cyberpunk fantasy meets Pokemon Mystery Dungeon - Glitched
                            Fancy some Cyberpunk PMD action with space pirates? System:Reboot
                            Other Fics - SWC entry 'Rivers and Waterfalls'
                            'Where else can I find Del?' -FFnet/Wattpad
                            Reply With Quote
                              #14    
                            Old October 19th, 2017 (5:28 AM).
                            Delirious Absol's Avatar
                            Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
                            Call me Del
                               
                              Join Date: May 2015
                              Location: UK
                              Age: 33
                              Gender: Female
                              Nature: Quirky
                              Posts: 327
                              Chapter Fourteen


                              The magneton police officer had been reduced to a molten mass. One of his magnets still rotated, although Macro wasn’t sure if that was more to do with his inner mechanisms still ticking away or if he was somehow still alive. One thing was for certain. Whatever had hit him wasn’t an attack from a fire pokemon. There had been no flames in that beam. It was definitely from a laser. But who would have rescued him?

                              The mawile grit his teeth together and clenches his fists so tightly his claws dug into his paw pads. Whoever had shot the magnet pokemon had likely killed him. That was murder and it would likely fall on his head since he was stood right next to him, completely unscathed (save for a little electrocution.)

                              “Did you see who did it?” he asked Anchor.

                              The granbull shook his head. “No. But we need to get rid of the bodies otherwise this place is gonna panic. It only takes one pokemon to send the entire building into an uproar.”

                              “Good plan.” Macro moved over to the door and pulled out his lock pick. “Just keep an eye open in case someone’s competing over us.”

                              Anchor grunted a noncommittal reply, but Macro didn’t see his reaction. He shuffled away under the weight of one of the metal bodies and soon a huge splash emanated from the lake below. Macro eyed his lock pick and turned to where he expected to see a lock, but instead was greeted with a key card panel.

                              “Darn rich pokemon.” He reached into his pouch and pulled out his pocket computer. “Not had to use this method in a while.”

                              The application was simple enough to launch, but holding the computer steady while it streamed incoherent code over the screen was another thing entirely. He kept his back to Anchor and one eye on the doors next to him. Cheerful feminine voices rose over the silence and Macro’s heart lurched into his throat. He looked back at Anchor to see him tossing the last of the magnemite over the edge of the balcony to plummet into the lake. He hoped desperately its falling steel carcass hadn’t hit any of the water dwellers. The grass where they’d been lying had been burnt completely away, revealing concrete slabs beneath it.

                              Three dainty pokemon turned the corner - a flaafy, buneary and dedenne - and they eyed the granbull curiously as he stood with his back to Macro, obscuring the mawile from view. The dedenne eyed the grass and whispered something that went unheard to her two friends.

                              Anchor craned his head back slightly to shout at the door, “Come on, man! They’ll be out of watmel cider at this rate!”

                              The three pokemon raised their eyebrows at him and the flaafy covered her mouth and snickered as they strolled past towards the escalator.

                              Macro tutted and shook his head. “You think they serve watmel cider in a place like this?”

                              “It was the fanciest drink I could think of,” Anchor grumbled.

                              The door jerked open and a stocky pikachu stared back at them then looked from Macro to the small computer tablet hovering over his card key panel. His face melted from confusion to fear then anger in an instant. Macro grinned and let out a nervous laugh.

                              “What’s goin’ on here?!” the electric mouse shouted in a voice oddly deep for his size.

                              “Routine room check,” said Anchor.

                              Before the pikachu could reach for a small laser perched on a shelf beside the door, Anchor’s large paw swung down past Macro’s face to strike the pikachu between the ears. The rodent’s tongue poked out from between his lips and he crumpled to the ground. The laser skittered across the laminated floor to vanish beneath a squat sofa. Anchor rubbed his fist with his other paw.

                              “You really can’t touch these pokemon without getting a static shock, can you?” he grumbled.

                              Macro stepped carefully over the fallen pikachu and scanned the room. It was immaculately tidy down to the coffee table that sported an open can of soda perched on a rubber coaster. The wall mounted television was still on, playing a teenage soap drama and the music coming from it was enough to depress Macro there and then. He reached for the remote, perched neatly on the arm of a leather arm chair, and switched it off before setting the remote back in place.

                              “Now…” He turned and looked around the room. “If I were an important, confidential disk hiding in someone’s apartment… where would I be?”

                              “Not in a safe,” said Anchor. “’Cos it doesn’t look like this guy has one.”

                              Macro peered under the arm chair cushion, revealing nothing more than a few crumbs. He dropped onto all-fours and checked beneath the chair. Nothing.

                              “I’ll check the bedroom,” said Anchor. “Might be in his drawer of ties and scarves or something.”

                              Macro muttered his acknowledgment and rose to his feet to look around the room again. The glass topped coffee table was very inconspicuous and sported no hiding places. He scurried across the room, checking over the movie shelves that adorned the wall beside the television. It would take a long time to go through every single case and he decided to leave that as a last resort and continue his search for a secure place the pikachu might have hidden the disk.

                              He paused to remove two photos from the wall one by one, half expecting to find a hidden safe but he ended up being bitterly disappointed. It never was that simple in real life.

                              “Nothin’ in there.” Anchor strolled from the bedroom and held out his paw. “Found this tiny key in his drawers though. Thought whatever it was for might have been stored under the bed, but all he had under there was folded up gym equipment.”

                              Macro took the key and eyed it curiously. It was ridiculously small. Much too small for Anchor to have used with his massive paws.

                              “It must be for something,” said Macro. “I’ll keep having a look around. You go through all his movie boxes perchance he’s hidden it in there.”

                              Anchor looked over at the spread of shelves and let out a long whistle. “Quite the movie buff, eh?”

                              The granbull strolled over to it and plucked the first one from the shelf while Macro continued his hunt around the apartment. It wasn’t unreasonable to suspect the pikachu might have hidden the disk inside one of those cases. Movies were all on small disks these days, far out-dating the use of USBs, and they looked very similar to the ones DL’s memories were stored on. However, Macro didn’t want to sit and go through every single box without first exhausting every other possible hideyhole.

                              The mawile opened and closed cupboards and drawers in the kitchen, revealing nothing more than crockery, silver utensils and cleaning equipment. Despite the amount of plates, cups and glasses, the refrigerator was oddly bare. Just a bottle of oran juice and a block of moomoo cheese. He let it close of its own accord and turned back to the living room. Surely he’d missed something…

                              He gave a glance to Anchor who was sat cross-legged on the floor opening one case after the next and decided to re-check the bedroom. There had to be something they’d overlooked.

                              The bedroom was just as tidy as the rest of the apartment and one wouldn’t even have noticed Anchor had gone through it. Macro checked through the drawers again, finding nothing more than ties, scarves and a pair of virtual reality goggles. His eye drifted over to the bedside table which contained only a pocket computer and a coaster. The computer was kept safely inside a leather sleeve. He scooped it up and tried to open it, failing as it latched on a hidden lock.

                              “Aha!” A grin split across his face.

                              He brushed over the front of the case, removing the near invisible circle leather flap from the tiny keyhole. The little key fit inside perfectly and with one turn, the lock snapped open. The LCD screen lit up as soon as the cover left it, showing a female pikachu standing amid a cherry blossom rain. There was nothing suspicious at first glance. The inside cover contained pockets that little sheets of paper poked from. Macro pulled them out carefully one by one, but they were nothing more than notes and website passwords. As he pulled out the final one, something fell from it and landed on the bed. A small, square disk that once again had nothing written on it. His heart leapt into his throat and he scooped it up with a cheer.

                              “I’ve got it!” he said as he bolted back into the living room.

                              Anchor looked up from his nest of movie cases and raised his eyebrows.

                              “Oh good,” he said. “I’ll just put all these back then message Matrix.”

                              Macro joined him, stuffing the movies back onto the shelf as neatly as he could. The pikachu was already beginning to stir and he rubbed a yellow paw across his head.

                              “Don’t worry about being immaculate,” said Anchor. “He had them in alphabetical order and I ain’t messing with that. He knows we were here, and he’ll have the headache to prove it.”

                              The granbull grabbed Macro in one paw and he yelled in protest as he was clutched to the large pokemon’s chest. Anchor leapt over the pikachu and made for the little outdoor dining area. It was completely empty now. The meowth and skitty that had occupied it previously had long since left. Even their glasses had been cleared away.

                              The two space pirates looked up at the sky, searching for the hull of Wildcard Gamma amongst the spread of white, fluffy clouds. Some of them showed a tint of grey, threatening to pelt System Ground with rain.

                              “Oi!” The pikachu staggered over to them, his red cheeks sparking fiercely.

                              A chill ran down Macro’s spine and he stiffened, looking from the yellow rodent to the sky and back. “Hurry up, Matrix!”

                              He heard the flash of the beam ladder before the blue schooling wishiwashi came into view through the heavy clouds. His eyes remained fixed on the sparking pikachu rushing at them with his paws balled into fists. The electric rodent’s feet hammered the floor as he launched himself towards them, electricity spreading all along his fur as he readied a volt tackle.

                              Anchor grabbed Macro by the horn and yanked him upwards as he kicked off the balcony towards the beam ladder. His large paw grabbed the bottom rung and he threw Macro up towards the next one. The pikachu roared and sent out a stream of electricity towards the two pokemon. It caught Macro just as his claws fastened over the rung and every muscle in his body locked as it coursed through him. It didn’t last long but it was enough to make him realise he never wanted to be hit by a thunderbolt on the ground. He spotted the pikachu seething and waving his fists but he vanished from view as Wildcard Gamma rose back into the clouds.

                              ...

                              Matrix looked up at the two pirates and a smirk spread over his lips. “Nice hair do.”

                              Macro absently smoothed down his prickly fur to no avail and scowled. “Shut up, Matrix.”

                              “I take it that pikachu zapped you?” The ribombee turned back to his navigation screen and tapped in co-ordinates that meant nothing to Macro.

                              “What makes you ask that?” he scoffed.

                              Despite the pikachu’s attack, the only effect it had left behind was an uncontrollable static that made his fur stick out like a frightened jolteon’s. No amount of smoothing was going to sort it out any time soon. DL eyed him curiously and he could almost see her looking over different solutions to his staticky problem.

                              He turned back to Matrix and frowned at the radar screen. “Did you have any problems with our stalker? Any surprise attacks?”

                              “Nope, none,” said Matrix. “They vanished, actually. We’ve not seen them since.”

                              “I never had to use the ship’s weapons,” said DL. “But at least I now know how to use them should we face any problems in the future.”

                              “Fantastic,” said Macro.

                              “Did you manage to get the disk?” Matrix asked.

                              “Of course we got the disk.”

                              “Good.” Matrix fixed him out of the corner of his eye and smirked. “Otherwise your new plush toy hairdo would be in vain, right?”

                              Macro slammed the disk down beside him and fixed his violet eyes on the smaller pokemon’s black ones. The ribombee didn’t so much as flinch. He took the disk and reached for his computer.

                              “Okay, DL.” Macro turned to the pachirisu. “Matrix is going to install more data into you. You’re gonna let him do it.”

                              She blinked a couple of times then nodded. “Okay. If that is what you wish.”

                              She took the cable and plugged it in herself, then sat down at Matrix’s feet. The little bug pokemon fired up the disk and once again her pupils expanded until they took over most of her large, chocolate eyes. It wasn’t as alarming as the first time, but it still made Macro feel anxious. If something went wrong, she would probably be irreparable. He leant against the back of his seat on one elbow, keeping his full attention on DL. Seeing her sat there like that, she really did seem artificial. If he hadn’t had confirmation she actually was a living, breathing pokemon he’d have wondered if he’d been mistaken.

                              Finally, her eyes returned to normal and she blinked once. Twice. Then stood up, the cable still fastened into the back of her skull. She turned her head left and right, looking around the cockpit as though she’d never seen it before in her life. A look of confusion spread across her face and her chocolate eyes widened slightly.

                              “Where am I?” she asked.

                              Macro raised an eyebrow and pushed himself away from his seat. “Wildcard Gamma. The same place you’ve been for several nights now.”

                              “Wildcard Gamma…”

                              She spoke the word as though she was tasting it, staring blankly at the floor. Then she looked up at him and he took a step back. It wasn’t a blank, unreadable stare, or the curious look of a lifeless android. It was one of worry. Someone who wanted answers. Someone who truly had no idea where she was or who she was with.

                              “I’m sorry,” she said as she took a step towards him. “I don’t-”

                              The cable went taught and she reached a paw around to the back of her head, feeling over the jack lead. Her eyes became impossibly wide and the skin beneath her white fur lost every trace of colour. She let out a scream and crumpled to the floor, where she was promptly sick. Her eyes rolled back into her head and she lay sprawled on cockpit floor.

                              Macro took another step back, more so to avoid getting any vomit on his fur. But he couldn’t take his eyes off her. Yes, the disk had worked, but he couldn’t help feeling responsible that he was the one who’d done this to her. This terrified pachirisu was partly his fault…

                              Anchor leapt to his feet. “I’ll go and get the mop bucket.”

                              The granbull raced from the cockpit towards the wash room, narrowly avoiding Matrix as he maneuvered around DL’s unconscious body. Macro caught the ribombee’s eye and he glanced from DL and back while winding his antennae around one paw.

                              “I think we need to get her to her room,” Matrix said.

                              Macro nodded stiffly and stooped to remove the cable from her skull. With Matrix’s help, they both managed to lift her and carry her down the corridor.

                              “I think we can safely say the disks work,” said Matrix.

                              “Yeh.” Macro tried to avoid looking at DL, instead intently focusing on moving backwards towards her room. “But I’m starting to wonder if that’s really a good thing.”

                              ...

                              It was already dark by the time Tracer and Widget reached Binary City. The entire rear of the prestigious entertainment centre had been cordoned off, and the delphox leant against one of the bollards as he puffed on his cigar.

                              Paramedics were still busting around as they lifted the metal bodies into the ambulance, but Tracer was convinced they’d be well and truly dead by now.

                              Melted.

                              The magnezone officer and his small fleet of magneton and magnemite had been melted. A sudden blast of heat that he assumed would have come from a laser. Even a flareon’s flamethrower didn’t get hot enough to melt a pokemon in one flash like that. But from what he’d been told, there’d been no damage to the surrounding structures to suggest it had been a prolonged attack, so the officials had written it off as a sudden blast of heat. Tracer completely agreed with them.

                              He removed his cigar to flick ash onto the cobbled floor, watching as the last of the melted steel types were tossed unceremoniously into the back of the ambulance.

                              “Grim, eh?” said Widget.

                              “That’s an understatement if ever I’ve heard one,” said Tracer.

                              “And they’ve no idea who did it?”

                              “Oh, they have an idea.” Tracer took another drag on his cigar. “A pikachu said his apartment got raided by Hunter and one of his goons. They swatted him before he could even act.”

                              “So they think it’s him?” Widget’s tattoo crinkled as he frowned. “I didn’t think he had a fire laser.”

                              “That’s not to say he hasn’t acquired one.”

                              “But he doesn’t need one, does he?”

                              “His trademark attacks wouldn’t work on a magnezone. So I’m not ruling it out.”

                              “And why toss them into a lake?” Widget asked. “Didn’t he practically lead a protest against ‘murdering’ water dwellers five years ago?”

                              “I don’t know why you’re using air quotes when you’re against them being used for food yourself.”

                              Widget shrugged. “It’s a grey area.”

                              “Well. If he needed to hide them quickly…” The delphox looked up at the balcony three floors above them. “Then throwing them into the lake is the easiest way to go about it.”

                              “I would’ve just bust a door down and tossed them into some random apartment,” said Widget.

                              Tracer eyed his wagging tail and shook his head. “I hope desperately that’s just a fictitious scenario you’re dreaming up.”

                              “Of course it is.”

                              “Let’s have a check over the balcony, shall we? They might have missed something.”

                              Widget leapt to his feet and followed Tracer across the park towards the building. A bibarel stood aside from the door to let him inside. He wasn’t sure why a bibarel would have been called out with the paramedics since there hadn’t actually been a fire, but he guessed it was best to play it safe just in case. The beaver pokemon frowned slightly and stretched out his paw towards Tracer’s cigar.

                              The delphox stared at it for a moment then stubbed it out on the wall before tossing it into the nearest trash can. As the doors slid shut behind him, he heard a small spray of water as the bibarel rinsed the ash off the stonework.

                              The escalators and elevators were still working with pokemon crowding around them as they tried to get to their entertainment destinations. Most of the shops were now closed with only a couple of arcades open that weren’t major gambling areas. A snorlax towered over the smaller pokemon, keeping a watchful eye on the crowds. He wore a yellow and black sash over his shoulders, a clear indicator that he wasn’t there for a night out. Security was important in places like this and the more imposing the pokemon the better.

                              Tracer flashed his investigator badge at the crowd around the elevator and moved through them into the glass shell. A few other pokemon flowed in after him, their warm bodies increasing the temperature in the cozy confines. It stopped more times than he desired on it’s way to the balcony, exchanging pokemon on the way.

                              Much to his surprise, the apartments weren’t under strict investigation. The burnt patches of fake grass had a string of yellow tape around them, held up on plastic bollards and leaving enough space for pokemon to move past. Although the larger species would have had a harder time doing so.

                              Tracer left Widget to sniff over the ground as he checked over the walls around the burnt grass. No damage to the door to indicate a break in, but from what he’d gathered Hunter had been using his computer to bust through the card key lock. Just as he’d been told, there were no burn or heat marks on the walls. Just the grass where the officer’s white hot body had landed.

                              “Hey, Tracer?”

                              Widget’s large, brown eyes stared at him from the corner of the outdoor dining area.

                              “What is it?” Tracer asked.

                              “Right here…” Widget lowered his nose to the fake grass. “I can smell Surge.”

                              Tracer raised an eyebrow and strolled over to him, his long trench coat billowing in the soft breeze. The area looked innocent enough, but the eevee’s nose never lied.

                              “What do you think she was doing here?” Widget asked.

                              Tracer scratched behind his ear and let out a small breath. “She’s taken a job for Socket.”

                              “Yeh? But why would she be here? Binary has a good reputation with Meta City.”

                              “I don’t think she was here primarily to do something in Binary City.”

                              Widget looked up at him out of the corner of his eye, keeping his nose to the ground.

                              “My guess,” said Tracer. “Is that she’s been told to take out Hunter.”

                              The delphox’s eye drifted back to the yellow tape and burnt grass.

                              “You’ve got that look in your eye again.” Widget sat down heavily. “You’ve sussed something, haven’t you?”

                              Tracer scratched his ear again and sighed. “I’m just thinking… that it wasn’t him who fired that laser.”

                              “You think it was Surge?”

                              Tracer was silent as he mulled this over. The shot had been clean enough to not touch any of the building. It was a purposeful, targeted shot. He let his paw fall to his side and slide into his deep pockets.

                              “She’s a good shot,” he said. “I’ve seen her work many times. It’s always been on point.”

                              “Aye,” said Widget. “She often shoots to stun.”

                              “Exactly.” Tracer leant against the wall and pulled out another cigar, placing it between his teeth and lighting it with a quick flame from his nose. Thin smoke curled up from the end, rising into the twilight air. “So why would she miss Hunter and take out an entire magnezone fleet?”
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                                #15    
                              Old October 27th, 2017 (11:33 AM).
                              Delirious Absol's Avatar
                              Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
                              Call me Del
                                 
                                Join Date: May 2015
                                Location: UK
                                Age: 33
                                Gender: Female
                                Nature: Quirky
                                Posts: 327
                                Chapter Fifteen


                                Macro perched on the edge of a foldout chair in the dark bedroom. The only light came from the crack around the door, slowly dwindling as the rest of Wildcard Gamma made their way to bed. Every movement DL made startled him, but he refused to leave. Leaving a frightened pokemon, unconscious or not, just didn’t feel right at all. Anchor had offered to take over and give him the chance to get to bed, but he couldn’t sleep. He’d tried a few times on the little chair, but his mind just wouldn’t shut up.

                                He glanced over at the pachirisu huddled beneath her duvet. At some point she’d snuggled down into it but she’d been sound asleep. He was surprised she’d fallen asleep straight after passing out with sheer fright. She’d not woken up and panicked again, just… gone from one state of unconsciousness to the next. It had worried him, but he put it down to the computer in her brain. Some kind of safety feature that kicked in when the computer ‘crashed’. A gentle reboot.

                                She stirred again and mumbled something, clutching the duvet in one paw. The light on her antennae flared to life, creating an eerie blue shadow up the wall that flickered in rhythm with it. He’d not noticed before, but the light was formed of two tiny LED bulbs, one stacked atop the other, and they both flickered out of sync with each other until they finally settled into one solid blue light. Her eyes opened slightly and she stirred again, blearily searching the room. Then they snapped wide open and locked onto the mawile. She tugged her duvet up to her chin and opened her mouth to scream, but Macro raised his paws and shushed her, glancing over at the door. He rose to his feet, but it only served to worsen the situation and she frantically glanced around the room, nearly becoming one with the duvet as it tightened around her small body.

                                “Look, it’s okay,” he said.

                                She fixed her gaze on him again and a look of recognition flashed across her chocolate eyes. They softened as she relaxed enough to relinquish the duvet. Macro’s heart did a somersault and he diverted his gaze to the wall.

                                “Where am I?” she asked.

                                “Wildcard Gamma.” He lowered himself back into his seat and fidgeted his paws together. “Don’t you remember?"

                                “I… I think so.” She ran a paw over her ears, finding the antennae and visibly cringing. “What did… why… they’ve done something to me…”

                                “They? Who’s ‘they’?”

                                “I don’t know. I don’t remember…” Her eyes magnified as they filled with tears and she fell back into the pillow. “They’ve put something in my head.”

                                Tears flowed down her face and soaked into the cotton pillow case. It was barely visible in the dim light, but he could see the damp patch spreading over the surface as she buried her muffled sobs into it.

                                “At least maybe now you’ll stop wanting me to deliver you to Socket,” he said bitterly.

                                She pushed herself up on one elbow and wiped a paw across her face. “What?”

                                “You don’t remember?” he snorted.

                                “No? Wait…” Her eyes went distant and she flinched slightly. “I do remember…”

                                “So you do have memories?” he asked.

                                “Yes, I remember waking up in the cockpit. I remember you, Anchor, Matrix and Cookie. I know I’m supposed to be a computer linked to BackDoor, but I don’t know why whoever put this computer in my brain did that.”

                                “Do you have any memories prior to that at all?” Macro spread his paws slightly. “Like who you are? Your name?”

                                She shook her head slowly. “No. None.”

                                “Where you came from?”

                                She shook her head again and pushed herself up, adjusting the pillow against the wall so she could lean against it.

                                “Do you know what BackDoor is?” Macro ventured.

                                “I’ve no idea what that is,” she said. “Or where I came from. All I know is I’m linked to BackDoor and there’s some entity called TimeSkip looking for time pockets. I received a couple of small updates while you were in Binary City.”

                                “Matrix never mentioned that,” he said.

                                Of course, that was no surprise. When he’d returned to his ship, their main priority had been installing her memories and then everything had taken a dramatic turn. He stared down at his paws clasped over his black scarf.

                                “They were nothing much,” she said. “Just locations and failed discoveries.”

                                Failed discoveries… a small wave of relieve flowed through him. Reading about the time gap Socket’s team had managed to open still felt like a bad dream. The memory of it made him want to turn the light on.

                                “So you’re a space pirate?” DL’s voice made him visibly jump.

                                “Yeh.” His voice came out surprisingly cautious. “All of us are.”

                                “There’s some information in my mind about Wildcard Gamma. Apparently the leader - Hunter - has a large price on his head. Is that you?”

                                He looked away from her towards the door. “It’s an alias.”

                                “Alias. Interesting.” She paused for a moment, winding the duvet around her paws. “You have quite a list of crimes. It makes you sound evil.”

                                “Well, that’s their opinion,” he said. “Space pirates have it hard living outside Socket’s wretched rule. What’s your opinion?”

                                “What memory I have of you has you as abrasive, rude and a liar,” she said. “But not evil. I mean… you’re helping me get my personality and memories back, and you don’t need to do that.”

                                He let out a single, dry laugh. “Maybe I’m just trying to annoy Socket.”

                                “Maybe you care.”

                                “Well. Wrenching the personality out of a living pokemon just to turn them into a computer really cheesed me off.” He slipped from his seat and began to move towards the door. “I need some sleep. Will you be all right?”

                                “I should be.” She tugged the duvet up to her chin again and stared down at the spot her feet poked through. “I think I’ve calmed down a bit.”

                                He nodded and placed a paw on the panel beside the door. It slid open with a quiet hiss.

                                “Can I get you anything?” he asked without looking over his shoulder.

                                He heard her shuffle on the bed. “No. No, I’m fine.”

                                “Are you sure? You missed supper.”

                                She was silent for a moment then she shifted again. “I’m fine. I don’t have an appetite right now.”

                                He nodded again and strolled from the room, letting the door slide back into place behind him. In all fairness, he didn’t have much of an appetite either. He let himself into his own room and prepared himself to fall into a dreamless sleep. Or so he hoped.

                                ...

                                Shrill ringing cut through Socket’s office and the holoscreen above her desk flashed into place. Socket turned away from the window, fixing the display with a frown. Who could it be at this hour? The city was barely awake. The horned head of a hoopa turned left and right as he tried to find her in the room and for a moment she considered staying where she was out of his limited line of sight.

                                “Where is that stupid psychic type?” he hissed.

                                “Oh, I do hope you’re not referring to me?” Socket strode across the room so she was standing before the screen. “And if not, that is a very rude thing to say about Tweak.”

                                The chingling looked up from his seat, his tiny face twisted with confusion that looked oddly innocent on him.

                                “I’m sorry, I don’t get it,” he said.

                                The gothitelle ignored him, folding her slender arms as she stared into the green and yellow eyes of the hoopa.

                                “What do you want, BackDoor?” she asked. “I’m busy.”

                                “What, staring out of the window again?” A grin split his face and he let out a laugh that didn’t even shake his body. “I think this is a bit more important than city watching.”

                                Socket’s eyes narrowed into slits. “Humour me.”

                                He raised a grey, mitten-like paw in a one-sided shrug and closed his eyes. “TimeSkip found something.”

                                “Oh really? I thought that onion monstrosity’s discoveries had all been failures.”

                                “Not this time. It managed to scour back into… what was it? Prehistoric times?”

                                “Humans existed in prehistoric times?” Socket gave him a dangerous leer. “I wanted you to reach back one thousand years ago.”

                                “Hear me out, alright? You want some computer host to replace that pachirisu? Well how about this?”

                                He scooted to the side, revealing a bipedal lizard wrapped in golden chains. Three electric type pokemon struggled to hold it in place as it thrashed around. She couldn’t hear their yelps of protest, but one of them shouted something that was nothing more than a murmur to her.

                                BackDoor’s grinning face filled the holoscreen once more. “Found you a little tyrunt.”

                                “It is still a pokemon,” she said bluntly. “Unless you’re going to tell me it’s a human in pokemon form?”

                                He laughed again and shook his head. “It’s a pokemon with a brain the size of an oran berry. It’s not exactly got rights like the ones in your world. It’s as irrelevant as a water dweller.”

                                “And you expect me to fit a computer in that berry brain?” She tapped her claws along her arm. “Not to mention hiding an extinct creature from the prying eyes of Meta City’s civilians!”

                                He rolled his eyes and groaned. “Fine! I’ll send the stupid reptile back. But this is taking forever!”

                                “Then hurry up and find me a human!” she barked. “One in pokemon form so I don’t have to hide it!”

                                “You know, this wouldn’t be an issue if you’d just held on to that pachirisu,” he said.

                                “Don’t you dare speak to me like that, BackDoor. I had you made. I can just as easily take you apart and remove your personality core.”

                                The hoopa folded his arms and fixed her with a chilling glare. “You can’t do that from there, though, can you? Silly, mortal limitations. Let’s see…” His eyes moved past her to a spot over her shoulder. “I can see a nice little world right behind you, filled with unbreathable air. I could send you there from where I’m floating.” He removed the gold ring from his right horn and admired it. “That’s a fun little thing about being digital.”

                                The entire of Socket’s mouth turned dry but she hid it behind a wry smirk. “You know full well I had nothing to do with Download Database being stolen.”

                                “Really? Who’s job is it to round up space pirates?” he scoffed.

                                “I’ve got that under control,” she said with a smile.

                                “About time. If it weren’t for him, I’d be able to get back to my job rather than scouring time and space for humans.”

                                “Then if you want to get back to your job, speed things up!”

                                “Tell that to TimeSkip. Not me.” He reached up a paw to the top of the screen and fixed her with a mocking grin. “BackDoor out.”

                                The screen flicked off and vanished back into the desk. She tapped her foot irritably and dug her claws into her arm.

                                “Arrogant android,” she said. “Why did I give that thing a personality?”

                                “Because you’re lonely?” Tweak suggested.

                                “Don’t be ridiculous,” she said as she moved back to the window. “Companionship grates on me. It’s little wonder I keep you around, but unfortunately you’re a necessary thorn in my side. If I removed you, I’d just bleed out paperwork.”

                                Tweak’s tinkling laughter filled the room and she grimaced.

                                “I don’t know why you didn’t just implant a detonation chip in him,” he said. “My grandmama always said there may one day be a threat of a robot uprising.”

                                “Ridiculous theory. Besides, a detonation chip is too risky. I need him in one piece to finish this job, then I’ll think about scrapping that stupid android for spares.” She paused and let out a sigh. “I need news from Surge about Hunter’s demise and fast.”

                                “I don’t understand why you’re stressing over retrieving Download Database so much,” said Tweak. “I mean… you’re looking for a new host.”

                                Socket pursed her lips together. “She was expensive. It would be much more cost effective to transfer her files directly, rather than start new.”

                                “Is that even possible? He’s already retrieved two memory disks, and BackDoor erased the more crucial information to stop Hunter discovering it.”

                                She tapped her claws over her arm again and stared blankly out of the window. Tweak had a point… Download Database was likely useless now. The repairs may end up being just as expensive as creating a new database.

                                “Nevertheless,” she said. “I want it back. I’ll just have to hope that Hunter hasn’t messed it up too much.”

                                ...

                                Macro stretched and yawned widely as he left his bedroom. He’d barely slept a wink and the dark rings under his eyes betrayed it to anyone who looked at him. If it weren’t for the bell blaring away for breakfast, he would have tried to stay in bed all morning, but his stomach gnawed at him the instant he began to think about food, joining the obnoxious bell in its rude wake-up serenade.

                                Anchor and DL were already perched around the dining table, DL now in her own little seat that Cookie must have recently acquired from storage, tucking in to the slurpuff’s usual morning pancakes. Wait… Macro’s eyes fell on a new plate sat beside the steaming fluffy berry circles. Waffles?

                                He grabbed his seat beside DL and immediately snatched one up, then poured syrup all over it.

                                “Someone’s got a sweet tooth this morning,” said Anchor.

                                Macro grunted a noncommittal reply and stuffed a fork of sticky waffle in his mouth.

                                “You look like you were up all night,” the granbull went on.

                                “Couldn’t switch my brain off,” said Macro.

                                “Maybe you need an off switch like DL?” Anchor reached across the table to nudge her, but all he got in return was a chocolate glare. “Sorry… too soon?”

                                “I think it’ll always be too soon, Anchor,” she said. “I don’t think I’ll ever be okay with having a computer in my head.”

                                Matrix buzzed into the dining room and fell into his seat opposite Macro. His large black eyes lit up and he reached across the table for the plates.

                                “Who requested waffles?” he asked.

                                “That would be DL!” Cookie fell into his seat with a plop, clutching a plate of steaming pancakes and waffles. “She told me they’re her favorite so I just had to make them.”

                                The pachirisu’s yellow cheeks turned as red as a pikachu’s.

                                “I might have found myself a new helping paw in here.” Cookie beamed.

                                “Well, I can help where I can.” DL lowered her fork and looked around at the table. “That leads me to say… Just because you’re helping me retrieve my memories, I don’t want to be treated like a patient or a client. I want to help, too.”

                                Macro frowned and swallowed his mouthful. “Help how?”

                                “With retrieving those disks,” she said. “And when I’m not doing that, I’ll help Cookie in the kitchen.”

                                “It’s dangerous work, DL,” said Anchor. “You’ve seen what’s happened to us the past two trips. I got poisoned, Macro got his *** whupped by primape -”

                                “I did not get my *** whupped!” Macro seethed. He pointed his fork at DL. “Besides. You have no combat experience. At least not to my knowledge.”

                                “Basic self defense is on this computer thing,” she explained. “I could help in some way, and you could always teach me.”

                                “That would just slow us down.”

                                “Please!” She leant towards him, her chocolate eyes impossibly wide. “I want to help! I don’t want to just be useless, left on this ship all the time!”

                                He shook his head slowly and placed his fork back on the table. “You’re not useless. Anchor taught you how to use the ship’s defenses. You can help Matrix with that.”

                                The ribombee wound his antennae around his paw and looked from DL to Macro and back.

                                “Believe it or not,” he said slowly. “I do actually know how to use the ship’s weapons.”

                                Macro’s eyes flew wide open and he stared at Matrix aghast. “What?”

                                Matrix shrugged. “I get bored. I mess around with things sometimes. I could steer this ship if you wanted me to. Not well, but I could do it.”

                                “So you’re saying you don’t need DL?”

                                Matrix shrugged and returned to his breakfast.

                                Macro sighed and let his head fall into his paws. “Way to help me out, dude.”

                                DL stared at him for a moment then gave him a small nudge. He lifted his head again to look at her and a warm smile spread across her face.

                                “So are you going to let me help?” she asked.

                                He sighed again and rubbed at his scar. “Fine. I’ll teach you how to fire a laser.”

                                She did a small fist pump and whispered “Yes!”

                                Macro shook his head and jabbed his fork into his waffles. “I guess our first stop is Pulse City then, so we can buy you one.”

                                After they’d finished their breakfast, they left DL to assist Cookie with the dishes while the rest of them migrated into the cockpit to make preparations for Pulse City.

                                Macro fell back into his seat and rubbed his face, trying to clear the grogginess away. His mind just didn’t want to function and all he wanted to do was fall asleep right there and then, which didn’t sound like a terrible idea.

                                “Pulse City is a fair way away,” said Matrix. “We’ve been looping a figure-eight over the Backbone Mountain all night. It’ll take the best part of a day to get there.”

                                Macro waved a dismissive paw and yawned. “Whatever. We’ll just enjoy the ride.”

                                He opened his eyes and looked down through the window at the rocky peak stretching out for miles on either side below them, breaking the clouds where it dare reach high enough. The Backbone Mountain was another clean place, and naturally so. As such, it was a criminal offense to set up home there. Somehow, it had become a protected reserve, and only authorized pokemon were allowed to enter. No cameras, no sketch books, no drinks or anything that could produce litter, no live broadcasts or documentaries. Government pokemon only.

                                It was impossible to see it in detail from so high up, but rumor had it that the Backbone Mountain contained the last of the natural trees in all of System.

                                Macro didn’t believe it.

                                The Backbone Mountain shrank below them as Wildcard Gamma moved up through the clouds, leaving System Ground behind. Macro kicked his feet up on the dashboard and tucked his paws behind his head, watching the fluffy clouds pass by them, contrasted dramatically against a deep blue sky. It was beautifully silent. The only sounds came from the navigation system as the radar refreshed rhythmically. He felt his eyes fall shut and an erratic dream played out in his mind, living out the cockpit as Anchor and Matrix exchanged playful banter.

                                Suddenly, DL’s voice cut through them as she strolled in with a tray of cookies. “Something’s wrong.”

                                Macro turned sharply to look over the back of his seat. The first thing he noticed about DL was there were no cookies. Secondly, the antennae on her head was flickering orange below the steady, blue light.

                                “Retrieving information from TimeSkip.” The voice came out as emotionless as it had the previous morning.

                                Her pupils dilated and she slid down against the door, staring blankly at the windscreen. Despite having witnessed it before, it was still alarming. Macro watched frozen from his seat as that orange light pulsed erratically.

                                “Information received,” she said. “Location revealed as System, exactly nine hundred and ninety two years ago. Relaying co-ordinates.”

                                A string of numbers flew from her mouth that were meaningless to Macro. Her eyes still looked wrong. Even her posture looked wrong. The computer in her head had taken over completely, using her as nothing more than a means to relay information.

                                The orange light blinked out with one final flicker and her lifeless eyes filled with confusion as she pushed herself back to her feet. Her breath began to come in quick bursts and she steadied herself against the wall with a trembling paw.

                                “What just happened?” She began to shake from ear to tail. “It was like… something was speaking in my head…”

                                Macro let his chin rest on the back of his chair. TimeSkip… co-ordinates… Why did Socket want to use this pachirisu to scour time and space for humans? What was she wanting to do, exactly?

                                Matrix’s paws flew over the screen, drawing Macro’s attention and his heart lurched into his throat as he watched the ribombee key in new co-ordinates.

                                “What are you doing?!” Macro shrieked, flying from his chair.

                                “Checking out what this TimeSkip is,” he said.

                                “Not a chance!”

                                Macro rushed to the screen and collided with Matrix’s flailing fist. Despite the tiny size, it packed quite a wallop on his jaw. A look of momentary despair crossed the ribombee’s features when he realised what he’d done but it quickly melted away as he rubbed his bruised knuckles in his other paw.

                                “We are not meddling in Socket’s creepy plan!” Macro told him as he absently rubbed his jaw. “Return the co-ordinates to Pulse City and forget about all this TimeSkip and BackDoor nonsense.”

                                “We can’t do that when she keeps getting updates from them,” said Matrix. “If we track down this TimeSkip then we can destroy it. DL will be freed from its random updates and we can hopefully all get some peace.”

                                “I’m with Matrix,” said DL.

                                Macro jerked his head round to her. She was still trying to catch her breath, leaning against the door as she wound her paws together.

                                “If we destroy it,” she said, “then not only will it leave me alone, but it won’t be able to do… whatever it is it’s meant to be doing.”

                                He opened his mouth to retort but all words fell dead on his tongue when he met those pleading, chocolate eyes. His jaw snapped shut again and he placed a paw to his forehead and groaned.

                                “She has a point, Cap’n,” said Anchor. “Poor mite’s suffering ‘cos of this.”

                                DL shifted awkwardly and diverted her attention back to the passing sky.

                                Macro’s muzzle creased and he looked away from her back at the navigation screen. Wildcard Gamma was moving in the opposite direction to Pulse City at a breakneck speed, and to make matters worse, someone was following them again. He briefly considered calling out the ship’s bubble missile launchers to deal with that nuisance.

                                “Fine.” He returned to his seat and kicked his feet back up onto the dashboard. “We’ll follow these co-ordinates and destroy TimeSkip. But after that, I want nothing to do with Socket’s crazy plan. Understood?!”

                                “Understood.” Matrix and DL spoke simultaneously, the latter oddly enough with a salute.

                                Macro sighed and leant back in his seat. He had a horrible feeling he was going to regret this.
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                                Old November 3rd, 2017 (2:39 AM).
                                Delirious Absol's Avatar
                                Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
                                Call me Del
                                   
                                  Join Date: May 2015
                                  Location: UK
                                  Age: 33
                                  Gender: Female
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                                  Posts: 327
                                  Chapter Sixteen


                                  The glowing, golden light beckoned, spanning in a perfect circle around a swirling black and ultraviolet mist. The talonflame’s wings pushed on towards it, drawing ever closer. Something wasn’t right. His mother had always told him curiosity killed the meowth, but he couldn’t just leave it. It was his job to keep System safe, and if this was a threat then it needed to be inspected and promptly dealt with.

                                  But something was very off. That glowing light… its eeriness unnerved him. Anomalies in System were few and far between and they rarely brought anything good.

                                  That perfect circle of golden light… whatever it was, it was deliberate. It had been put there. A trap? He faltered, keeping both eyes on the centre of the swirling mist. It didn’t look like a trap. There was nothing to suggest it as such. But it had definitely been made. Perfect circles were rarely an accident. Something was familiar about it, but he couldn’t place it.

                                  Perfect golden circles. Filled with a swirling darkness.

                                  He shook his head sharply and beat his wings hard, pushing himself further towards the anomaly. He couldn’t back out now. If it could harm his home, then it needed to be gotten rid of, and if you wanted to get rid of something then you needed to know what it was. You couldn’t treat the disease with just a guess. You’d end up doing more harm than good.

                                  Another wing beat and he paused, hovering a mere two feet away. It was impossible. He couldn’t see a thing beyond that mist. He narrowed his eyes and turned them onto the golden ring of light. Was it moving towards him?

                                  A shrill screech left his beak and he looked back down at the world below, minuscule like a toy town. It was falling away from him at an alarming pace. Whatever that black mist was, it was dragging him in!

                                  He beat his wings to turn back towards the earth, aiming each beat towards the strange ring. But the earth still fell away from him. He craned his neck to the right and his golden eyes widened as he watched his tail feathers vanish beyond that swirling darkness. His beak opened again, letting out another scream. A terrified scream he’d not heard come from himself in many, many years.

                                  ...

                                  System Sky’s cities were long behind Wildcard Gamma, leaving them with nothing but a stretch of deep, dark blue. Fluffy grey clouds spread out below them, kicked up into small wisps by the ship’s tail fin.

                                  Macro kept one eye on the fuel gauge. None of them had thought to top up before embarking on such a ridiculously long journey and it was well below half. Matrix had reassured him their continuous loop over the Backbone Mountain hadn’t been demanding and had therefore used up very little, leaving them with an ample supply to last them the trip, but that didn’t take into consideration any potential combat they might find themselves in.

                                  Not to mention their stalker was on their tail yet again.

                                  The suspicious red dot flew along behind them, keeping their distance. He wondered if it was Surge following them, but that thought just made his head spin. If she’d been hired for another job, then she wouldn’t be wasting her time following him around. Whatever the case, he wasn’t sure the tailing ship was even friendly, and unlike Surge wouldn’t leap to their aid. That could leave them stuck between a rock and a hard place.

                                  Something twinkled on the horizon and he squinted to get a better look at it. Golden. Another government fleet? He pursed his lips in thought. Maybe Socket had got a head start on them. That sneaky gothitelle.

                                  “Can we speed up?” he asked Anchor.

                                  The granbull pushed the steering stick forwards and Wildcard Gamma surged through the sky. The golden specks grew larger, forming the smooth, streamline shells of Socket’s prized fleet. But there was something else ahead of them. Something glittering gold miles beyond the ships.

                                  “Do you see that?” Macro pointed a claw.

                                  “Aye,” said Anchor. “Wonder what it is? Another ship?”

                                  “It’s too big for that,” said Macro. “I’m wondering if it’s what they’re aiming for.”

                                  “Only one way to find out,” said Anchor.

                                  Macro placed a claw between his teeth, gnawing the sharp tip away. Something about that ring made him feel anxious. If Socket really was tearing holes in time and space, they could very well be staring at one.

                                  “We may be hard pressed to beat them, though,” said Anchor. “We’ll need our cloak up, and that might drain the rest of our fuel.”

                                  Macro shook himself back into reality and leant back in his seat.

                                  “We always beat her,” he said. “So take the risk.”

                                  “If you’re sure,” said Anchor. “Let it never be said I didn’t warn you.”

                                  Macro sighed and ran a paw over his face. “If we’re quick, then it might survive the flight.”

                                  The granbull shrugged and his paw flew over the dashboard to activate the cloak. Gradually they inched towards the golden fleet, and with each stretch the intricate details over their shimmering hulls became clearer.

                                  “We just lost our stalker,” said Matrix. “They’ve deliberately fallen behind.”

                                  “Probably scared of the fleet,” said Macro.

                                  DL leant on the dashboard beside Macro, her white fur brushing against his. He snatched his arm back into his side and glanced at her, but her attention drifted from the gauge to the government fleet.

                                  “I’m running some calculations,” she said, “and I think we might just make it.”

                                  “Well, that’s a relief.” Macro leant his elbow on his arm rest and placed his chin in his paw. “I hate losing to Socket.”

                                  “Have you ever lost to her?” she asked.

                                  “No. But I know I’d hate it if I did.”

                                  “There was that one time in Raster City when she hid those explosives,” said Matrix.

                                  “Yeh, but I managed to track them back down into Seed City and kick all their tails,” said Macro. “I got them explosives and made a fortune.”

                                  DL looked at him out of the corner of her eye. “You make it sound like you did it all yourself.”

                                  Anchor snorted but said nothing, and Macro gave a nonchalant shrug.

                                  “Wildcard Gamma is pretty much one entity,” he said. “We all have our own part to play.”

                                  “Just like a schooling wishiwashi.” DL nodded. “I think I get it now.”

                                  Macro gave her a playful grin and turned his attention back onto the fleet. They were almost upon it now, and not one of the ships had noticed them. Anchor steered Wildcard Gamma to the left, bringing it around to the side of the fleet to zip straight past it. Macro kept one eye on the nearest ship. Small. They were so small compared to his ship, designed solely for quick excursions with the barest of essentials on board. They weren’t designed to be lived in.

                                  Whatever was ahead of them had formed into a large, golden ring, shimmering about a mile ahead of the fleet. It swirled with an eerie ultraviolet mist that didn’t spread out from beyond the ring. It was as though the golden halo contained it, refusing to let such an abomination leak out into the deep blue sky.

                                  A small movement came from the nearest gold ship and Macro’s eyes snapped to it. The top had opened up and the nozzle of a canon laser turned on its axis to take aim at Wildcard Gamma. His eyes widened and he reached across to nudge Anchor a little too harshly.

                                  “They know we’re here!” he shrieked. “They’re gonna fire! Unleash the school!”

                                  Anchor didn’t need telling twice. The smaller wishiwashi cannons snapped into place around his ship and a deep whir filled the hollow body as they rotated around them. Wildcard Gamma turned on the spot to aim the small fish-shaped cannons and a large bubble collided with the golden ship’s neon laser. The explosion blew them both backwards, knocking the fleet off course.

                                  Wildcard Gamma turned slowly and chugged towards the golden ring, leaving behind a trail of bubbles that exploded one by one no sooner did the nose of one of the ships come into contact with it.

                                  Macro threw his arms in the air and cheered, eliciting a squeak of surprise from DL and an eye roll from Anchor.

                                  He turned on his seat and waved a fist at the rear of the cockpit. “How do you like that?! You can never beat me!”

                                  Anchor let out a small sigh. “I really worry one day your mouth is gonna land us all in trouble.”

                                  Macro, still laughing, sat back in his seat and kicked his feet up onto the dashboard. “You’re a pirate, Anchor, you’re supposed to welcome trouble! Live on the edge!”

                                  “On that note,” said Matrix, “you might wanna fasten your seat belts. There’s a missile heading our way.”

                                  “Eh?”

                                  Macro turned his head to look back at Matrix, but he let out a protest as DL’s warm body climbed up beside him and dragged the seatbelt across them both. His lips curled into a sneer but it was soon wiped away as the missile struck the right side of his ship.

                                  “Tell me you threw up the shields!” he said.

                                  “Of course I did,” said Anchor. “I also dropped the cloak since it’s fairly pointless right now. But the shield doesn’t exactly hold off missiles.”

                                  Macro groaned and slid down in his seat. That would have left a mark, and possibly a dent.

                                  Wildcard Gamma sent out another stream of bubble bombs, blowing back the opposing fleet further, but the telltale whistle of another missile penetrated the ship.

                                  “Take it out!” Macro screeched.

                                  “I’m tryin’!” Anchor roared.

                                  His large paws worked fast and the missile never struck home, but the impact from the counter attack sent the hulking wishiwashi surging sideways, throwing Macro across his chair and crushing his rib cage between the sparsely padded arm and DL.

                                  The pachirisu mumbled an apology as she righted herself and quickly checked over the seatbelt.

                                  Macro’s eyes flew back to the window and widened as he let out a rather loud expletive.

                                  The golden halo of light spread out on either side of them, swirling with a black mist that leaked ultraviolet light. It was oddly silent, but the effects could be felt throughout the ship. Anchor fought with the steering stick, shouting profanity at it as it refused to turn the ship around. Whatever the golden ring was, it was pulling them in.

                                  “I think this is some kind of black hole,” said Matrix, in a way Macro felt was wildly unhelpful.

                                  All the mawile could think to reply with was, “You think?!”

                                  Wildcard Gamma’s engine roared as Anchor tugged the stick towards him and twisted it. The huge ship turned with it, but the swirling anomaly’s drag was too strong. The larger end of the ship was pulled back towards it, filling the windscreen with a terrifying, swirling, unknowable demise.

                                  Macro screwed his eyes shut and grit his teeth together. He couldn’t watch. Whatever happened to them, he just didn’t want to see it. His paws balled into fists over his knees, and he could feel DL trembling beside him.

                                  This was it.

                                  This was how he was going to die.

                                  A loud scream reached his ears and his eyes flew back open. It hadn’t come from any of his crew mates, but his first thought flew to Cookie. However, it had come from the wrong direction. The swirling anomaly spewed forth a flurry of red and black feathers, beating back and forth as their owner tried desperately to return to whatever the ring contained. But it was instead thrown towards the ship. For that one fleeting moment, the pull lessened and Anchor was able to steer Wildcard Gamma away.

                                  The mist surrounding the flapping mass subsided and a talonflame flew forth from it, its beak hanging open in a state of silent terror. Its eyes flew straight to the ship and that scream filled the cockpit again before the large bird pokemon turned and flew back towards the golden ring.

                                  But in a flash, the ring vanished. The swirling black and ultraviolet mist was replaced with the deep blue sky. The talonflame flew in place for a moment then shook its head and darted away from them and through the spot the ring had occupied.

                                  Wildcard Gamma lurched to the side and the windscreen was filled with golden metallic bodies as the fleet took after the talonflame.

                                  Macro gave himself a mental shake and slammed his paw onto the dashboard.

                                  “After them!” he said. “Socket ain’t getting her paws on that talonflame!”

                                  Anchor pushed the ship forwards. His large paws were still trembling but the ship moved along smoothly, gradually picking up pace as it trailed after the fleeing fleet.

                                  “What do you plan to do with the talonflame?” DL asked.

                                  Macro shrugged. “No idea, but Socket clearly wants it. If it came from another world like I’m guessing, maybe I’ll just hold it for ransom to pay off my bounty and regain some sense of security in this wretched world.”

                                  The pachirisu gave him a sideways glance and brushed her blue fur back from her eyes.

                                  “You’re kidding, right?” she asked.

                                  Macro shrugged again and leant back in his seat. “It’s a pokemon eat pokemon world out there, DL. When you live outside the law like we do, you do what you can to survive.”

                                  Her nose crinkled and she looked away from him. “I’m not sure I like that.”

                                  “Do you like what Socket had done to you?” he asked. “’Cos I’m gonna guess you were living inside the law before then.”

                                  She avoided his eyes, keeping her attention on the golden hulls of the government ships.

                                  “This world is a state,” Macro told her. “You need to pick a side - Socket, or the outlaws. If you don’t like what we do, then I can always drop you back on System Ground and you can fend for yourself. Anchor, fire!”

                                  A series of bubbles filled the windscreen and flew towards the fleet, blasting them aside and ripping a clean path through them. The talonflame was just ahead of them, fighting off a stream of sparking, metallic chains. They fastened around his wings, pinning them to his sides. He plummeted towards the ground until the chains went taught and hung there, swinging like a feathery pendulum.

                                  “What do you suggest we do now?” Anchor asked.

                                  Wildcard Gamma was still trudging along at a breakneck pace. It didn’t leave Macro much time to think. He reached across the dashboard and slammed his paws over the display. The nose of the schooling wishiwashi began to slowly rise, cutting off the bottom of the windscreen and what he could see of the talonflame.

                                  The fleet’s turrets turned on them, the nozzles lighting up with a dangerous neon green light. The chains holding the talonflame broke like butter beneath the wishiwashi’s jaws. Macro’s eyes flew towards each of the threatening cannons and he swallowed drily.

                                  “Hyper drive,” he said.

                                  “This close to the fleet?” Anchor raised an eyebrow. “You’re kidding, right?”

                                  “Turn the ship and hit hyper drive!”

                                  Anchor shook his head and tugged the ship to the right. It lurched forwards, pushing them all back into their seats. The fleet bounced away from them and shot past in a golden streak, then they were gone.

                                  ...

                                  Wildcard Gamma slowed a little too much for Macro’s liking. His eye flew to the fuel gauge and his heart sank like a lead brick.

                                  “Oh no…” He placed his face in his paws and sighed.

                                  The gauge was nearly at zero, and they were miles away from Pulse City’s fuel station. Not many stations would be happy to cater to such large flying vessels, let alone a space pirate.

                                  “Guess we didn’t really think this through,” said Matrix.

                                  “Don’t be silly, Matrix,” said Anchor. “None of us coulda seen that little escapade coming.”

                                  “Our stalker is back as well,” said Matrix. “Just broke their own hyper drive right next to us.”

                                  Great. That didn’t bode well at all.

                                  “What do you suggest we do?” DL asked.

                                  Macro spread his claws and stared blankly through the windscreen at the rapidly darkening cloudscape.

                                  “Take a pod?” Anchor suggested. “And start making plans for Wildcard Delta?”

                                  Macro’s heart sank even further and he looked around at his ship while letting out a low groan. Did he really have to leave his beloved ship to plummet to a watery demise?

                                  A sharp thunk of something hitting metal reverberated through the cockpit and he sat upright and looked over at the door. Anchor frowned and scratched the base of his mowhawk.

                                  “What was that?” he asked.

                                  Macro unbuckled his seatbelt and slid off his chair. “Wait here and prepare to activate the escape pods.”

                                  “Hang on, Cap’n!” Anchor reached out a paw to stop him. “You’re checkin’ it out alone?”

                                  “I won’t allow that,” said DL.

                                  Macro looked at each of his crew mates, ending with Matrix who met his eyes while twirling his left antennae in one paw.

                                  “A captain always goes down with his ship,” said Macro. “And it’s my responsibility to make sure you all get off it safely. Make sure you take that talonflame with you as well. No sense in stopping Socket taking it only to let it fall into the ocean with Wildcard Gamma, is there?”

                                  Anchor snorted and balled his fist. “I’m waitin’ right here in case you need back up. Alright?”

                                  “Fine.” Macro looked back down at the ribombee. “Matrix, take DL into the cargo hold and prepare to escape with the talonflame. Anchor will be with you shortly.”

                                  The mawile fired the granbull a violet glare then left the cockpit. He opened the air lock’s inside door and before he could even open the outer one he could already feel the temperature difference. The door opened and he poked his head out, clenching his teeth together as the chill cut through his fur and shocked his lungs with every breath. Frost lined the blue hull of his ship, creating a web across each of the tiny windows.

                                  He squinted against the wind and brushed back a lock of black fur that whipped up to obscure his vision. Right at the tail of Wildcard Gamma flew a ship shaped like a tympole. A long pipe extended from its side and attached to the other end, perched atop the tympole’s back, was a small, bipedal form with a very familiar ragged tail. Unlike himself, she’d decided to wear a helmet and padded suit to cut out the freezing air. Attached to her back was an oxygen tank that allowed her to breathe a bit better amidst the low air pressure, but the overall get up made it look more like she was preparing for a space excursion.

                                  “Surge?” The wind drowned out most of his voice.

                                  He crept from the door and scrambled onto the wishiwashi’s main fin. She looked up as he drew closer and her muzzle twisted with fright. She pulled back from the pipe spilling red liquid down towards the ocean below. The tart stench of fuel hit him like a wet flannel and he took a step back. The zigzagoon reached out a paw, flailing helplessly several feet away.

                                  “Get back inside!” Her voice was barely audible over the wind. “You’re going to fall to your death, you moron!”

                                  Macro shook his head and used his paws to steady himself as he climbed across the broad fin. “Not until you tell me what you’re doing.”

                                  He thought he saw her sigh and she returned to her task. “I hacked into your ship’s computer and saw you were low on fuel, so I followed you back from…”

                                  She trailed off, but he didn’t think it was purely because the wind was drowning out her voice.

                                  “How on earth did you hack into my ship’s computer?!” he spat.

                                  “A hacker has her ways.” She removed the pipe and fixed her brown eyes on his. “That should last you to Pulse City. Be more careful next time.”

                                  She released the pipe and it retracted into itself, flying back towards her own fuel tank. She disconnected it and clambered down towards her ship’s door.

                                  “Wait! Surge!”

                                  She looked back up at him, but her expression was unreadable.

                                  Macro gestured back to the door. “You saw us take that taloflame, right?”

                                  “I did.”

                                  “It came out of that ring.” He paused and scratched his head. “Don’t you… wanna find out where it came from?”

                                  “You’re inviting me on board?” she asked.

                                  He shrugged. “You did just help me out.”

                                  “Sorry, Macro,” she said. “You don’t want me on your ship.”

                                  She vanished inside the tympole and its door whirred shut behind her.

                                  Macro shook his head slowly and turned as carefully as he could, retracing his steps along the wishiwashi’s fin. Getting back into his ship was much easier than climbing out and soon he was back on board. The air lock hissed shut behind him and as the next door opened, he let out a yelp of surprise.

                                  Anchor’s eyes widened slightly and he looked from the mawile to the door and back.

                                  “Everything all right?” he asked.

                                  “Fine.” Macro pushed past him. “Someone just stopped to give us fuel.”

                                  “You’re kidding, right? Who’d help us?”

                                  “I’m as confused as you are.” Macro scratched his head and looked back up at his friend. “I guess we should check on that talonflame.”

                                  Anchor grunted and followed Macro down the corridor. Tiny paw steps and a deep buzz told him DL and Matrix had not only ignored his orders, they’d grown a little too curious and decided to join them, but he said nothing. Part of him appreciated the extra backup, even if it did mean his navigation system was unattended for a little while.

                                  The stairs towards the cargo hold were situated inside Wildcard Gamma’s loot room. Shelves holding various weapons adorned the walls, many of which were long out of service and beyond repair. Amongst them were artifacts he’d taken over the years, from valuable badges and coins to government ship parts. At some point, they’d be worth selling. Each door to the stairs needed one of the crew’s paw prints to unlock it. The stairs were badly lit and Macro had to squint to see where he was going. He nearly walked into the door and muttered under his breath as he opened it out into the cargo hold.

                                  The wishiwashi’s maw was fastened tightly shut, preventing anyone from entering or leaving, but the panel to open it lay on the right side of its jaws. The talonflame was oddly silent, lying on its side in a tangle of chains that pinned its wings to its body. When it saw them, its beak flew open and it let out a scream.

                                  “What do you want with me?!” The voice was male. “Where am I? What was that… thing?!”

                                  Macro moved over to him and began tugging at the chains. “You’re in System.”

                                  “System?!”

                                  “Yup. To be exact, you’re in System Sky.”

                                  The talonflame’s beak hung open and his golden eyes widened. “What?”

                                  “As for what that thing was,” Macro went on, “it’s apparently a tear in time and space. And those golden ships? They’re the bad guys.”

                                  “So that makes you the good guys?”

                                  Macro laughed and stood back up. “No one in System can be called a ‘good guy’.” He turned to Anchor and nodded to the feathered pokemon. “Think you can break these chains? I don’t even know where to begin.”

                                  The granbull moved over to the talonflame and the bird cowered slightly as his massive fists reached down and tugged the chains apart. He let out a grunt and the golden links snapped audibly. They fell away from the talonflame and he pushed himself to his feet, stretching out his wings with a grateful sigh.

                                  He looked from Anchor to Macro. “Thanks.”

                                  The mawile shrugged. “Whatever. So, where did you come from?”

                                  “I came from System,” the talonflame explained. “Although… I don’t remember there being huge, flying, metal wishiwashi.”

                                  “So I was right. It was a tear in time and space.” Macro scratched his scar.

                                  “Things just got real,” said Matrix.

                                  Macro shrugged again and closed his eyes. “I guess we need to get you back, then, huh?”

                                  “The ring vanished, though.” Matrix twirled his antennae. “Right?”

                                  The talonflame grimaced and looked over at the closed jaws of the ship.

                                  “We’ll figure a way.” Macro folded his arms. “If Socket’s tearing time and space open, we’ll just make her send him back.”

                                  His paw went to his laser and the talonflame followed it, his eyes widening slightly again.

                                  “So what’s your name, big guy?” Macro asked.

                                  “It’s Switch,” answered the talonflame.

                                  “Switch, eh?” Macro grinned. “Since you’re not from here, I guess telling you my real name doesn’t matter, does it? I’m Macro, and this is my ship, Wildcard Gamma.”

                                  The talonflame raised an eyebrow and looked over at the rest of the crew. His eyes wandered to a strange, rather retro-looking digital watch around his right ankle.

                                  “Well,” he said. “I guess if we’re being honest, and this really is System, then I don’t need to hide myself, do I?”

                                  He reached a claw to the watch and pushed the only button it sported. His entire body expanded and stretched out, filling up a majority of the cargo hold. Sprawled on the floor in the same space the talonflame had occupied was a strange bipedal creature that left Macro at a loss for words. The mawile’s jaw fell open and he crumpled to the ground onto his bottom.

                                  The strange creature - Switch - ran a hairless paw through a mop of red and brown fur on the top of his head and sighed. In fact, it was the only fur Macro could even see. The rest of his body was clothed in a brown flight jacket and a pair of black, baggy pants with way too many pockets for any sane pokemon to have. A long, thin black scarf trailed down his back in a way that said it was there for fashion more than for function.

                                  He opened his golden eyes and met Macro’s violet ones, reflecting his confusion. A thud behind him told him someone had fainted, and from the sound of it, it wasn’t Anchor. The granbull stood beside him silently. His large mouth opened and closed as he attempted to find words but his eyes kept going to the ceiling thoughtfully, as if he was worried any words he chose might offend the strange… pokemon?… sitting before them.

                                  Macro shook his head slowly, not taking his eyes off Switch. “What are you?”

                                  Switch raised an eyebrow and leant back slightly. “What am I? I thought this was System? …I’m a human.”
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                                  I believe in Jesus Christ my Savior. If you do too, and aren't scared to admit it, then copy and paste this in your signature.

                                  A Fanfiction Author Who Dares to be Different
                                  A glimmer of hope in a war-torn world - The End
                                  Cyberpunk fantasy meets Pokemon Mystery Dungeon - Glitched
                                  Fancy some Cyberpunk PMD action with space pirates? System:Reboot
                                  Other Fics - SWC entry 'Rivers and Waterfalls'
                                  'Where else can I find Del?' -FFnet/Wattpad
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                                    #17    
                                  Old November 10th, 2017 (6:11 AM).
                                  Delirious Absol's Avatar
                                  Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
                                  Call me Del
                                     
                                    Join Date: May 2015
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                                    Gender: Female
                                    Nature: Quirky
                                    Posts: 327
                                    Chapter Seventeen


                                    A human? A human was sat in his cargo hold? Macro blinked in bewilderment. Switch hadn’t moved an inch since he’d declared such a statement. He stared back at the mawile, matching his open-mouthed, wide-eyed expression.

                                    So humans existed. He had living proof. Maybe Socket wasn’t as crazy as he’d thought.

                                    He didn’t look like he’d expected humans too, however. The old fairy tale books he’d read as a hatchling depicted them as some strange passimian-nuzleaf hybrid with a pair of lightly furred paws with incredibly long fingers that could have given a galvantula leg envy. What he had sat before him looked nothing like any pokemon he’d ever seen. The closest would be a sawk or throh, but that would have been stretching things a bit.

                                    Macro shifted so his paw was resting on his hip and Switch jolted, his eyes flying to the mawile’s laser. Macro forced a grin and let out a small laugh.

                                    “Don’t worry,” he said. “I ain’t gonna shoot ya.”

                                    Switch closed his eyes as he sighed and leant back on his paws. “That’s a relief. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pokemon with a weapon before. I feel like I’ve entered an alternate universe or something.”

                                    “I wouldn’t know about that,” said Macro. “I mean, according to folklore, humans used to exist here. Apparently. Can’t say I ever believed it. It was just all nonsense told to gullible hatchlings.”

                                    “Well, I was always skeptical.” Anchor turned and scooped up an unconscious Matrix. “I mean, if they all went back through that Fracture thing, then there wouldn’t be any fossils left. Would there?”

                                    “The Fracture?” Switch looked up at the granbull. “So that happened here?”

                                    “I guess so,” said Macro. “Ten centuries ago.”

                                    “Ten…” Switch’s eyes went distant and he mouthed something quietly that sounded a lot like maths. “Wait… one thousand years ago?!”

                                    “Hit the nail on the head there, pal.” Macro turned towards the stairs. “Suppose we’d better get you back quickly then if you’re gonna have any shot at getting back through that Fracture thing to your own world, eh?”

                                    “I think you’re mistaken,” said Switch. “We already closed the Fracture years ago.”

                                    Macro turned and raised an eyebrow. “Eh?”

                                    “Allow me to help,” said DL. “Whereas one thousand years is an approximation, that tear reached back nine hundred and ninety two years ago. Not one thousand.”

                                    “So you’re saying that tear was post-Fracture?” Macro asked her.

                                    “Going off what he’s said, apparently.”

                                    “Wow.” Macro folded his arms. “Socket got pretty lucky to pull a straggler through.”

                                    “I wouldn’t call myself a straggler,” said Switch. “But the humans have definitely gone back home. Well… most of them.”

                                    “Then why didn’t you?”

                                    “I didn’t want to. System became my home and there was so much I hadn’t seen. Still haven’t seen!”

                                    Macro rolled his eyes and scanned the stairwell door open. “More fool you for wanting to stay in this world. If I had the chance to leave, I’d go willingly. And I doubt I’m alone in that, either.” He waved a paw at the human and cleared his throat. “You might want to ‘bird up’ again. Not everywhere on my ship is as wide as this cargo hold.”

                                    Switch reached for his watch which was now around his right wrist, and at the press of a button shrank down into the winged form of a talonflame. The sight tied Macro’s stomach in knots.

                                    “I don’t think I’m ever gonna get used to that,” he said.

                                    Anchor went ahead of Macro, cradling a mumbling Matrix in his arms. DL followed close behind Macro, her silent paw steps drowned out beneath the skittering claws as Switch scrambled after them.

                                    “I never have liked narrow corridors,” he said. “So, you said this is your ship?”

                                    “Yup. Wildcard Gamma,” said Macro.

                                    “Gamma?” Switch made a small chuckle. “What happened to Alpha and Beta?”

                                    “We don’t talk about Alpha and Beta,” said Macro.

                                    Anchor’s mowhawk swayed from side to side as he shook his head.

                                    “Oh…” said Switch. “I was actually just joking.”

                                    The door into the loot room opened and Macro kept one eye over his shoulder, watching the talonflame’s golden eyes scan the room with awe. He said nothing, however, as they passed through it into the main body of the ship.

                                    “This is where the bedrooms are,” Macro told him. “I’ll sort you one out later. I’m sure DL won’t mind lending a paw?”

                                    The pachirisu shook her head.

                                    “You want me to stay on your ship?” Switch asked.

                                    “Well, I hardly think System is acclimated to humans at this present time,” said Macro. “And since Socket is after you for reasons I’ll explain shortly, then I think you’re safest with a bunch of space pirates. Don’t you?”

                                    “Space pirates?” Switch took a small step back.

                                    Macro placed his paws on his hips. “They have space pirates in your time line?”

                                    “They had ocean pirates,” said Switch. “Out by the Analogue Islands.”

                                    “Isles.”

                                    “Pardon?”

                                    “It’s the Analogue Isles,” said Macro.

                                    Switch frowned. “What difference does it make?”

                                    “None whatsoever. But it’s what everyone calls them. Besides, you don’t want to go there.” Macro turned and continued down the corridor. “This room on the end is the washroom. Opposite is the kitchen and dining area.”

                                    Cookie’s brown face peeked around the door and beamed when he saw Switch. “Someone else new for dinner? Good job I’ve made plenty, huh?”

                                    Switch gave him a warm smile and followed Macro into the cockpit.

                                    “And this is where all the action takes place,” said Macro.

                                    “It’s also kind of where we all hang out,” said Anchor as he set Matrix into his seat.

                                    The ribombee rubbed his head and looked around slowly. “When did we get back into the cockpit?”

                                    Macro pulled himself up into his seat and kicked his feet up onto the dashboard. “Any questions?”

                                    “Yes, a few, actually.” Switch looked around the room. “Firstly, you don’t have enough seats to match your crew numbers.”

                                    “Well, you and DL are fairly new,” said Macro. “We can get that looked into once we can afford it.”

                                    Switch visibly flinched. “It’s not very safe, though, is it?”

                                    “The life of a space pirate isn’t at the best of times. If we find ourselves in combat, hunker down and close your eyes if it’s too much for you.”

                                    “Combat? I thought pokemon fought using their elemental attacks and you’re in a ship armed with little guns.” Switch raised an eyebrow. “Why are you carrying weapons?”

                                    “They’re to counter our weaknesses,” said Macro.

                                    “You’re weakness is fire.” Switch was thoughtful for a moment then a small smile tugged at his beak and he winked. “Does that mean it’s a water pistol?”

                                    Macro met his smirk with a frown. “Are you sassing me?”

                                    Switch’s golden eyes widened and he shook his head. “No! Not at all. I was just making a joke.”

                                    “Another? You do that a lot.”

                                    Switch shrugged and cowered into himself. “I’m sorry. I’m just nervous. I mean, I got dragged through a porthole into another world! And not for the first time, either!”

                                    Macro stared at him then rolled his eyes and sighed. “Fine. I get you’re anxious, but seriously. Relax. If time and space is being torn open, I’m sure you’re world will be opened up again soon enough. Besides, DL should know that as soon as it happens.”

                                    “Oh yeh. That reminds me.” Switch ruffled his feathers and turned his eyes onto DL. “Why does a pachirisu have an antennae and socket? Is she a robot? Because if so, then that’s pretty advanced and phenomenally life-like compared to what I’m used to.”

                                    “DL is actually a pachirisu,” said Macro. “As for her… enhancements… we’ll… you ready for a bit of a shock, Switch?”

                                    “I think the one I’ve had is large enough, thank you.”

                                    “This one is actually about you.” Macro narrowed his eyes and swiveled fully in his seat. “You see, there’s a reason you’ve been dragged into another time line. And I don’t think you’re gonna like it one bit.”

                                    ...

                                    Socket paced back and forth in her office with her paws clasped behind her back, keeping the split holoscreen in her peripheral vision. The worried, chubby face of Yobi greatly contrasted BackDoor’s amused expression.

                                    “So let me get this straight.” She rounded on the screen and Yobi cowered behind the panel of his handheld. “You found a pocket that reached back almost ten centuries ago… and Hunter interfered again?”

                                    The sparksurfer raichu nodded briskly. “But in all fairness-”

                                    “What did he take this time?” she asked.

                                    “A talonflame,” said Yobi.

                                    BackDoor folded his arms and closed his eyes while the raichu glanced away from the screen.

                                    “A talonflame,” Socket repeated. “Or a human?”

                                    “Well, erm…” Yobi shuffled in his seat. “It’s hard to say.”

                                    “Weren’t a pokemon,” said BackDoor. “That’s for certain.”

                                    “So it wasn’t a pokemon?” Socket tapped her claws over her arm and narrowed her eyes at the raichu.

                                    “Nope,” said BackDoor. “My scan data came back all wrong. Everything about it - its heat signature, brain waves, chip data - all wrong. If I were to hazard a guess - and it’s a fairly educated guess - I’d say what your little vermin took off with was in fact a human.”

                                    Yobi flinched and sank down in his seat so only his ears were visible.

                                    Socket rubbed the bridge of her nose between two claws. “So you’re telling me that Hunter has taken off with a human? My human?!”

                                    BackDoor raised his stubby paw. “Along with your living computer. Yes.”

                                    Socket rounded on the hoopa. “You’re not helping!”

                                    “Hey, you don’t pay me to be an agony aunt,” he said.

                                    “I don’t pay you at all.”

                                    BackDoor folded his arms and grinned. “Yeh. We really need to talk about that. Your employee care is absolutely shocking.”

                                    The fur on the back of Socket’s neck stood on end and she pursed her lips together, fixing the grinning hoopa in a vicious leer before rounding back on the quaking raichu.

                                    “That space pirate really is the mothim in my honey,” she muttered. “How has he beaten me? How did he know where to look?”

                                    “That’s because there’s one little flaw I’m trying to work around,” said Yobi quickly. “Download Database receives information from the other artificials in the BackDoor network.”

                                    “So he gets live updates from wherever these gates open?” Socket closed her eyes and seethed. “Is there any way you can remove Download Database from it?”

                                    “Not without obtaining her,” said Yobi. “As a safety precaution, we deliberately designed Download Database so it could only be disconnected from the user’s end. That way, if someone were to obtain one of the artificials then they couldn’t disconnect Download Database and the host could be used to track down the missing artificial, however Download Database can disconnect other artificials from the network, blocking their access to confidential information.”

                                    “That’s a neat little oversight you forgot to inform me about.” Socket spoke with a dangerous air that made the raichu cower and BackDoor break into hysterical fits of laughter. “What, may I ask, do you plan to do about this?”

                                    Yobi glanced to the side. “Like I said… I’m trying to work on something.”

                                    “Then work faster!” She tapped her foot rapidly and frowned. “I trust an investigation into the human’s whereabouts, along with finding a replacement, are in action?”

                                    Yobi nodded with such ferocity his ears flopped back and forth. “Oh yes! Already I’ve copied the program from TimeSkip into Zero Day, and they are being deployed to all corners of System Sky as we speak!”

                                    “Urgh, not Zero Day.” BackDoor slammed a paw into his face. “Whenever I communicate with those things it’s like having a million voices in my head all vying for first place.”

                                    Yobi glanced sideways at the adjoining screen. “I admit there are problems, but I can assure you they are as stable as we could possibly get them in the limited time-”

                                    “Enough!” Socket stamped her foot. “You had ample time! Will it still work? That’s the question!”

                                    “Oh, it’ll work.” Yobi forced a smile to counter his doubtful tone. “And with so many out there scouring for dimension and time pockets, we should find a replacement in no time.”

                                    “And of the current human?”

                                    Yobi shrugged and immediately regretted it. He cowered back from Socket’s glare and cleared his throat.

                                    “We’ll…” He stuttered. “We’ll have someone track-”

                                    “Forget it.” Socket tapped her arm irritably. “I’ll get my mercenary on it. You just focus on doing your job. As for you.” She looked back at the hoopa who grinned widely and met her glare. “Keep a close eye on TimeSkip and Zero Day. Make sure you’re there in no time flat to open up those pockets and grab anything that comes through before that nuisance space pirate.”

                                    He saluted and blinked out, the holoscreen spreading into a full high definition image of Yobi’s terrified face. Socket leered at the raichu and pursed her lips.

                                    “What are you waiting around for?” she spat. “You’re dismissed! Go!”

                                    The screen blinked out before the pokemon could even remember to salute. The gothitelle turned away from the screen to look out of the window. Even from this distance she thought she could see the hull of Wildcard Gamma in the sky, but it was nothing more than a large, grey cloud.

                                    She turned back to the holoscreen and tapped through her contacts list until she found the one she was looking for. It jingled out a jaunty tune while the dialing icon danced from side to side, a little too cheerful for her liking, until it cut out and was replaced with the concerned face of a zigzagoon.

                                    “Socket?” she asked. “How can I help you?”

                                    “Surge,” said Socket. “How is the pursuit of Hunter progressing?”

                                    Surge scratched her ear beneath her bandana and glanced away. “He keeps slipping out of my grip.”

                                    Socket pursed her lips together. “Shame. He’s interfered with my work yet again, so I’d appreciate it if things sped up a bit. Is the laser not reliable enough for you?”

                                    “Oh, it’s fine!”

                                    “Did you miss your target?”

                                    “I never miss my target.” Surge gave her a reassuring smile. “Just give me a little more time and he’ll be behind bars before you know it.”

                                    “Make sure he is,” said Socket. “Dead or alive.”

                                    She hung up and Surge’s face vanished back into the desk. Once again, she turned back to her window and strolled over to her own desk. Her claws brushed a pile of paperwork and she slid the top sheet aside to reveal the morbid photo of a molten magnezone.

                                    I never miss my target!

                                    Of course, there was no evidence to state that Surge was responsible for the massacre of a magnezone’s police fleet. The fact it coincided with Hunter’s raid on yet another data chip did leave a bitter taste in her mouth, and gave her doubts. Had the mawile acquired a fire laser, or was Surge actually responsible? She needed to get onto interrogating that stubborn croagunk.

                                    She looked away from the photo and stared up at the sky. Space pirates. The very bane of her existence, costing her countless hours of sleep.

                                    It was going to be a long night, and the office was oddly quiet. She wished desperately Tweak would hurry up with her coffee.

                                    ...

                                    Switch had been silent for some time, sitting with his beak hanging open as he stared at the floor. Macro’s explanation had long since ended and he was growing restless, much like the rest of his crew. Anchor hummed to himself as he watched the sky roll by; DL sat against the wall a few feet away from the talonflame looking rather shaken up; Matrix, however, had loaded up a retro eight-bit tennis-style game on his computer, minimizing the navigation system into the top right corner.

                                    “This is all a lot to take in,” Switch finally said, although not for the first time. “This Socket… you said she’s mayor of System?”

                                    Macro nodded. “Yup.”

                                    “And she’s wanting to do to me - or any other human - exactly what she’s done to DL?” Switch nodded to the pachirisu who flinched at the sound of her name.

                                    “Except, unlike her, Socket can legally destroy your memories and personality,” said Macro. “So if I were you, I’d keep your human form on the down-low.”

                                    Switch closed his eyes and sighed. “So if this is System… it’s many many years ahead of my time line and very few even know humans ever existed here. I have my suspicions on why she wants a human, but… why go out of her way to get one?”

                                    “If I were to guess,” said Anchor, scratching his chin, “I’d say it’s ‘cos back then, humans generally were stuck in a pokemon form. They aren’t pokemon, though, so turning them into a living computer would be legal and the perfect disguise.”

                                    Switch spread his wings in a shrug. “But why not just build an android? Why use a living computer?”

                                    “Androids can malfunction,” said Macro. “They also need charging up and regular maintenance. You can just feed a biological body and let it sleep. Much more cost effective.”

                                    Anchor nodded to Macro. “Got brains, this one.”

                                    “Well, it’s abhorrent!” said Switch. “What if she doesn’t just stop at me, either? What if she decides to farm back into the pre-Fracture time line and drag all the humans through?”

                                    Macro scratched the base of his horn and exchanged glances with Anchor and Matrix.

                                    “I hadn’t thought of that,” he said.

                                    The other two shook their heads and Matrix returned to his game.

                                    “Socket doesn’t have much of an opinion for any species she sees as having a lower status,” Macro went on. “Humans would mean nothing to her, just like the water dwelling pokemon. I wouldn’t be surprised if she does farm humans through to this time line just like they yank those water dwellers out of their homes.”

                                    Switch’s beak fell open. “What does she do with the water dwellers?”

                                    “Turns them into meat,” Macro spat.

                                    Switch turned so pale Macro feared he might faint. The talonflame raised a wing to his face and closed his eyes.

                                    “I… I can’t even process that,” he said.

                                    “What?” Macro scoffed. “They didn’t eat meat in your time line?”

                                    “No, they did not.” He tucked his wing back to his side and met Macro’s glare. “Which fool altered that law? Because the way I see it, it’s cannibalism.”

                                    “I don’t know,” said Macro. “That law was in place long before I hatched. Just be glad you ain’t a fish.” He turned back towards the windscreen and kicked his feet up. “Besides, you have a healthy outlook on that matter. I won’t have any cannibals on my ship.”

                                    “Speaking of ships.” Matrix drew the mawile’s attention. “That stalker of ours is back.”

                                    Macro muttered under his breath and pulled himself from his seat, watching the blinking red dot on the screen. Was it Surge again? If so, then why was she following him so intently? There was no saying it was, however. It could be anyone after his head.

                                    “Stalker?” Switch peered over the ribombee’s shoulder.

                                    “Aye,” said Macro. “It happens a lot. Even more so as of late.”

                                    “You said this DL was meant to go to Socket,” said Switch. “Have you considered they might be tracking her somehow?”

                                    Macro looked up into Switch’s golden eyes then glanced towards DL. She stared back at him, still huddled against the wall. A tracking chip? No, he’d not considered that.

                                    “Every pokemon in System has a data chip,” he told Switch. “It contains your name, hatch date, species, gender, age, place of birth. All that stuff. But it can't track your movements. Tracking chips are illegal, they go against pokemon rights. Surely Socket wouldn’t break the law, right? Since DL is still a pokemon? She still has her rights.”

                                    “Can you scan her chip?” Switch asked.

                                    He expanded out into his human form again, eliciting a small squeak from Matrix, and reached into one of his many pockets to pull out a large pocket computer that he needed both hands to hold. In one fluid motion, he ran it past DL’s small body and looked down at the screen.

                                    “Same kind,” he said almost to himself. “It still scans.”

                                    “They’ve been using them for decades,” said Macro. “We all have one.”

                                    “Yes, but hers is strange. It has her name as Download Database. Is that her real name? Because it sounds odd even for System.”

                                    Macro and Anchor peered down at the screen. Even Matrix abandoned his game to hover over the human’s head. On the screen were the details one would expect from a chip scan. It had DL’s gender, age, even her photograph. It had Meta City as her place of hatching and residence, which surprised Macro since Meta City was primarily inhabited by psychic and normal type pokemon. Most other species were shunned unless they shared a type with one of the other two and treated it as their primary type.

                                    “Does this look authentic?” Switch asked.

                                    “Pretty much,” said Macro. “Except…”

                                    “I don’t like it,” said Matrix. “Her name is her computer name, right? And Meta City as her place of hatching? Electric types don’t live there.”

                                    Anchor grunted and nodded. “Sounds like a cover-up to me.”

                                    “It’s either been modified or faked.” Matrix scratched between his antennae. “With all the ships that have been following us, I’m leaning towards the latter.”

                                    “All right.” Switch placed his computer back into his pocket. “Do you have a medical kit?”

                                    “Why would my ship have a medical kit?” Macro asked. “We’re not doctors.”

                                    “For emergencies?”

                                    “You’re planning on removing her chip, aren’t you?” A small smirk tugged at Macro’s lips. “Not in my cockpit, pal. I ain’t cleaning up any blood.”

                                    “Wait, what?” DL hugged her fluffy tail to her chest. “You’re wanting to operate on me now?”

                                    Macro placed a paw on his hip. “What’s the problem?”

                                    “I’m still trying to come to terms with everything you’ve just said!” She shook her head. “Humans… living computers… and now you think I’m being tracked?”

                                    “All that stuff about humans and computers should have been in your databases,” said Macro.

                                    “Well it wasn’t!” said DL. “Not in such details! I don’t know anything about what her plans are prior to obtaining her beloved computer, but it’s like… I’m just some prototype until something ‘better’ comes along! A waste! She removed everything about me… for this?” She waved a paw at Switch.

                                    The human frowned slightly and pushed the button on his watch, returning to the smaller and more agreeable form of a talonflame. Regardless, DL just cowered behind her tail and stared at the wall.

                                    “I don’t think she likes me,” said Switch.

                                    Macro grunted and climbed back into his seat. “We’ll head to Pulse City. She can have the chip removed there easy peasy. Then we’ll figure out what to do with you, Switch.”

                                    The talonflame shuffled over to Anchor’s other side and gazed out of the window with his beak slightly ajar. Floating cities sped past them amongst the fluffy white and grey clouds, all the while with their stalker following at a steady pace behind them.
                                    __________________
                                    I believe in Jesus Christ my Savior. If you do too, and aren't scared to admit it, then copy and paste this in your signature.

                                    A Fanfiction Author Who Dares to be Different
                                    A glimmer of hope in a war-torn world - The End
                                    Cyberpunk fantasy meets Pokemon Mystery Dungeon - Glitched
                                    Fancy some Cyberpunk PMD action with space pirates? System:Reboot
                                    Other Fics - SWC entry 'Rivers and Waterfalls'
                                    'Where else can I find Del?' -FFnet/Wattpad
                                    Reply With Quote
                                      #18    
                                    Old November 16th, 2017 (1:32 AM).
                                    Delirious Absol's Avatar
                                    Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
                                    Call me Del
                                       
                                      Join Date: May 2015
                                      Location: UK
                                      Age: 33
                                      Gender: Female
                                      Nature: Quirky
                                      Posts: 327
                                      Chapter Eighteen

                                      BackDoor hovered at a safe distance from the fleet of porygon z as they traveled back and forth in the blackness of System Sky’s north east corner. He had no idea what Yobi had been thinking when he designed Zero Day. The raichu had clearly incorporated the old data from the lone ‘Porygon’ of many centuries past, along with its upgrade ‘Porygon 2’ who sported a much sleeker design than its retro eight-bit predecessor. However, these things looked like they’d had their limbs pulled part, held in place by nothing more than an electromagnetic force. Their heads flopped and lolled about above their bodies, capable of turning a full three-sixty as they surveyed the area. Their three limbs seemed attached, but the two at the front moved around their torso along some invisible track. Much like BackDoor, their antennae was hidden away inside them, most likely their ‘tail’ which bobbed about like a rudder, steering the monstrosities through space.

                                      One of them turned its bird-like face onto him, fixing him with crazed yellow eyes ever so briefly before turning back to inspect some blank canvas. To anyone else, it was merely looking around, but he’d received its message loud and clear.

                                      D1m3nsssssi0n L0kated. W0rLd - unkn0wn.

                                      Ridiculous things couldn’t even speak properly. It sounded like some kind of incoherent, high-pitched buzz like a bug pokemon trying to speak with only its wings.

                                      What do you mean ‘world - unknown’?’ he shot back.

                                      Th4t isssszz f0r y0u t0 inssp3kt. 0ur j0b isss d0n3.

                                      The rest of Zero Day bobbed backwards and their bodies jerked erratically, sending their heads spinning with an audible whir. Their tinny voices chimed in ‘d0n3! Itssss d0n3!’ over and over until BackDoor was forced to grit his teeth and rush towards them, waving his paws in protest.

                                      “All right! I get it! Back off!”

                                      The porygon z turned their heads simultaneously towards him and their eyes swirled with a yellow light.

                                      Thr34t d3t3kt3d! Thr34t d3t3kt3d!

                                      Tri-coloured beams shot from their faces straight at him and he let out a small yelp and dropped below them.

                                      “Cut that out!” he barked.

                                      With a wave of his paw, Zero Day were swallowed in a shadowy void and reappeared several feet away. Their bodies and heads still jerked unnaturally but they turned tail and drifted further away through System Sky.

                                      Silence filled his mind once more and he turned back towards the ‘unknown world’.

                                      “Morons,” he muttered.

                                      The government fleet that had been waiting a good mile away at least began to move in, their golden hulls glittering in the starlight. Curiosity had clearly got the better of them, venturing closer regardless of the risk Zero Day’s impromptu return might pose. Those things were like carvannha, savaging anything that encroached on their territory that wasn’t one of them. It was like their eyes just couldn’t recognise what their mechanical brains could.

                                      BackDoor span in a circle, cutting into the ‘unknown world’ with a golden light. It spread out into a glowing ring and the inside immediately softened into a watery substance. It swirled slowly, picking up speed until it gave off an ultraviolet light. His face split into a large grin and he bobbed backwards away from it, just in time for the fleet to arrive and snap up whatever unfortunate creature dared to come through it.

                                      Any idea what world this is?’ a disembodied voice called from one of the ships, right into his head.

                                      No clue,’ he replied. ‘Just like the other countless times.

                                      Well, I don’t know about you, but I really hope it’s not prehistoric times. I really don’t want to wrestle with a tyrunt again.

                                      BackDoor rolled his eyes. ‘It was one tiny dinosaur! Good grief!

                                      Tiny?! I have you know that thing could have smooshed me with its foot!

                                      BackDoor couldn’t help but laugh. A tiny electric rodent, crushed beneath the foot of an extinct creature. It was perfect.

                                      Tinkling laughter came from the void almost matching his own. The hoopa’s humour died in his throat and his grin slowly melted away. A long, silvery tentacle reached from the tear, followed by another, then another. A couple of the government ships fell back while one dared to draw closer, the nozzle atop it glowing with a pink light.

                                      BackDoor?’ the voice that reached him this time was different, deeper. ‘We don’t like the look of this. Do you think you can close it?

                                      Another tentacle snaked through, groping at the emptiness around it. BackDoor bobbed closer, but before he could reach it, a silvery white mass broke through, spreading itself out as the vortex propelled it forwards into something akin to a tentacruel. The jellyfish-like creature let its tentacles droop back down again and it remained stationary as it tried to take in its surroundings, although how was a mystery since the creature lacked any visible eyes.

                                      BackDoor threw himself backwards and grinned once more, clapping his mitten paws together.

                                      “Are you guys seeing this?!” he shrieked. “This is awesome! So awesome!”

                                      Flashes of pink flew from the closest ship, striking the creature on its head. It raised one of its tentacles to deflect the next blast then brought it down onto the ship. Metal creaked and splintered as the tentacle snaked around it, crushing the ship until it was unrecognizable. The golden vehicle was launched over the heads of the remaining ships, many of which turned tail and fled, leaving their comrades to deal with the aberration.

                                      BackDoor clapped his paws again and pointed at the jellyfish. “Are you seeing this?! She’s got to use this one! She’s got to!”

                                      He laughed jovially and turned his back on the monster. Its tinkling cries filled the air as the fleet took aim, shooting at its head and flailing limbs. Socket’s face filled the space before BackDoor and he grinned widely.

                                      “What is it, BackDoor?” she scoffed. “This had better be good, I was just having my supper.”

                                      “Oh it’s good, all right! Look at this!” He pointed a paw behind him and Socket’s expression turned from pensive to shock. “I think we’ve found you a winner!”

                                      ...

                                      Socket watched in sheer horror as the tentacled beast decimated two more members of her fleet. The ships that got too close to the void in their bid to stop the creature were whisked out of System Sky into the unknown. Every chain thrown at the monstrosity was torn to shreds and fell harmlessly away. The beast’s tinkling voice filled her office with a deafening intensity. BackDoor’s face was twisted into a euphoric grin as he looked from Socket to the massacre and back.

                                      “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” he said. “My data readout tells me it’s some species of pokemon!”

                                      “It’s not one I’ve ever seen!” Socket gasped out. “Send it back this instant!”

                                      “Aww come on!” The hoopa’s feigned pout turned her blood cold. “Give this thing a chance! I’d say it’s a billion times better than a human. They’re more like super pokemon!” He rubbed his chin with his paw. “No, hang on… I can do better than that… ultra beasts!”

                                      “You told me it’s a pokemon,” she said. “Whether or not it’s from our world, the law would still apply! Just because it’s alien doesn’t create a loop hole! Send it back! Now!”

                                      Her eyes widened as something beyond the monstrosity tore her attention from the massacre. Tentacles reached out from the void, flailing as another jellyfish creature was dragged from its world into System Sky. The fleet reeled back from it into the first one’s flailing limbs and one of the ships was swallowed up into its hidden maw.

                                      “Ooh, another one!” BackDoor clapped his mitten-paws. “They must be some kind of race. Whatever they are, they’re super amazing. Not like pokemon at all. I don’t care what my read out says, I like them!”

                                      “BackDoor, listen to me,” said Socket. “Those things are dangerous. Even you are at risk. Stop them, and send them back.”

                                      He rolled his eyes and sighed. “All right, fine. Ruin all my fun.”

                                      The hoopa shot towards them and span in a corkscrew up their lashing tentacles, binding them in place with a golden thread. With a ‘hup!’ he tossed the first one back through the glowing gate. The next one met the same fate, soaring after its comrade.

                                      BackDoor turned back to Socket and folded his paws. “There. You happy now? No ultra beasts for you!”

                                      She stared over his shoulder and pointed a claw. One of the creature’s tentacles reached back out from the void. The golden thread fell away like water as the beast was expelled once more. Its flailing limb swung down into the side of BackDoor’s head and he vanished briefly from the holoscreen’s display. He turned his frown onto the creature but it span away from him and took off into the blackness of System Sky.

                                      “Why didn’t you close the gate?!” Socket shrieked. “Quick! Before the other one comes back through!”

                                      BackDoor shot towards the void and snapped his claws. The void closed with a sucking sound just as another tentacle reached through. Tinkling screams filled the air as the tentacle was cut away, leaving a stream of purple blood as it dropped towards the ocean below.

                                      The hoopa let out a whistle and looked after the escaping creature. He turned back to Socket and grinned widely.

                                      “Oops?” He shrugged.

                                      Socket’s nose crinkled in a frown. She clenched her paws so tightly her claws cut into her pads. The little wretch…

                                      “Oops?” she spat.

                                      He shook his head and gave her a chilling smile. “We all make mistakes.”

                                      ...

                                      Pulse City’s hospital ward was a small building situated just outside the busiest part of the city centre. It was an area reserved for helping the space pirates inhabitants, mostly consisting of apartment blocks, hotels and small super markets. Despite the contrast with the bustling entertainment centre and black market, it managed to blend in by keeping the same atmosphere. Billboards advertising the latest gadgets and video games were spammed over the tall buildings. Even the hospital had its own fair share of adverts. The walls were painted chrome and black, and the inside lacked the pristine white of the rest of System’s hospitals. In fact, it was grey. Clean (shockingly) but grey.

                                      Macro perched on a seat just outside the minor surgery ward, leaning forwards on his knees as he kept one eye on the closed door. Anchor sat beside him humming to himself while scrolling over the screen of his wrist computer. Matrix had refused to stay, agreeing with Switch that hospitals made him uncomfortable so the pair had instead gone to the Moonlight Lounge to play Assassin Strike.

                                      Hospitals made Macro uncomfortable as well, but he was adamant to stay. There was no way he was going to let DL wake up to find herself alone in the oppressive place. If it weren’t for her overreaction to having a small incision made in her left arm, they wouldn’t have had to put her under in the first place. They would have been in and out by now with just a few stitches and the reassurance they wouldn’t be able to be tracked any more. But no, she just had to be terrified of sharp objects.

                                      The door opened and the smiling face of a mienfoo peered out at them.

                                      “All done,” he said. “She’s starting to wake up but she’ll be groggy for a while.”

                                      Macro grunted and pushed himself to his feet. The two space pirates trudged into the ward after the surgeon. The mienfoo nodded to the sleeping pachirisu who looked impossibly small in the large, low bed. No discrimination in Pulse City, everything had to be accessible to everyone. That meant all beds were designed for pokemon the size of a tyranitar and as such they drowned the smaller species.

                                      “Here it is.” The mienfoo held out his paw. “We removed the old chip like you asked and replaced it with a new one using the details you gave me.”

                                      The tiny microchip lay between his paw pads, both inconspicuous and ominous at the same time. Macro took it in his claws and held it up to the light.

                                      “Huh,” he said. “Looks every bit like your everyday chip.”

                                      “I think that’s the point,” said Anchor, still messing with his wrist computer.

                                      “Well, it’ll be no use to Socket anymore,” said Macro. “Just a few minor adjustments and it’ll never work again.”

                                      He dropped the chip to the floor and stamped on it.

                                      It stared back up at him without so much as a scratch.

                                      The mawile frowned and tried again. And again.

                                      “What is this thing made of?” he said. “Steelix hide?”

                                      Anchor brushed him aside and rammed his paw into the tile. When he stood back up, the microchip lay crushed to dust.

                                      “Huh…” Macro scratched his scar.

                                      Anchor nodded at him. “You’re welcome.”

                                      “What was that noise?” DL’s groggy voice was somewhat incoherent and she sat up slowly, rubbing at her head.

                                      “Don’t worry,” said Macro. “It was just Anchor being a brute.”

                                      The granbull didn’t look up from his computer. “Well, I am good at it.”

                                      A small smile played at her lips and she turned her sleepy brown eyes back onto Macro’s. Warmth spread through his chest as though someone had dipped his heart in chocolate fondue.

                                      “How are you feeling?” His voice came out oddly weak and he diverted his gaze to the wall.

                                      DL sat up fully and brushed her blue lock of fur back from her eyes. “I have a bit of a headache.”

                                      “That’s normal,” said the mienfoo.

                                      Macro had almost forgot the surgeon was there. The fighting pokemon busied about beside the pachirisu as he filled a glass of water. She gratefully accepted it and gulped it down loudly.

                                      “I’ll have them send in some light breakfast,” he said. “And I’ll check on you again later on. Okay?”

                                      Before any of them could respond, the mienfoo trotted from the ward and the doors swung loosely back and forth behind him.

                                      “Refreshments aren’t a bad idea, actually.” Anchor finally looked up from his computer and turned to Macro. “Do you want anything?”

                                      Macro narrowed his eyes. “You’re seriously gonna buy something from that overpriced hospital cafe?”

                                      Anchor shrugged. “I’m parched. Besides, hospitals have gotta make money somehow, Cap’n.”

                                      “I think they’ve made enough off us.” Macro folded his arms. “That procedure was alarmingly expensive and DL doesn’t exactly have health insurance.”

                                      The pachirisu sank down into the sheets and glanced towards the wide window.

                                      “All right, fine. I’ll meet you at Moonlight Lounge.” Anchor stomped towards the door.

                                      The huge double doors swung back and forth with much more force than the mienfoo’s exit. It crossed Macro’s mind to stop them before they broke their hinges but DL’s plaintive whimper drew his mind away from them.

                                      “I’m sorry,” she said.

                                      “For what?” he asked.

                                      “That you’ve had to pay for this…” She absently rubbed at the invisible stitches. “I… I’ll pay you back.” She clenched her jaw and glanced back to the window. “Somehow…”

                                      “Look.” Macro moved over to her and flopped into a small plastic chair. “You don’t have to pay me back. It wasn’t much.”

                                      “You said it was ‘alarmingly expensive’.”

                                      He grimaced. She’d even used air quotes.

                                      “I will pay you back,” she said. “But… I don’t have money. How about I work for you?”

                                      He looked up with a start. “Work for me?”

                                      “Yes. But rather than pay me, just keep everything until it’s completely paid back.”

                                      “So… you want to be a space pirate?” He raised an eyebrow as she nodded then looked back down at his paws. “Wow. I guess I really do need to get you a gun.”

                                      “I can pay you back for that, too,” she said.

                                      “Don’t bother. I’m sure I can get one without paying. I might have to chase up some favors.” He slipped from the seat and gave her what he hoped was a reassuring smile. “I’ll be back in an hour or so. Hopefully by then the doctor will have discharged you.”

                                      “I hope so.” She hugged the sheet to her chest and glanced around the room. “I don’t really like hospitals, and this one is oddly grey.”

                                      “Really?” Macro looked up at the bare walls. “I rather like it. Much less blinding when you’re coming out of a deep sleep.”

                                      She chuckled, causing a small smile to play at his lips. He waved and pushed himself through the swinging doors.

                                      His first stop would have to be Moonlight Lounge. He strongly doubted Worm would want to return any favors after he’d refused to sell him any coils. And even if he did sell him a gun, if he knew the sewaddle like he thought he did then it would very likely be missing its key component as a way of getting back at him.

                                      Macro glanced over the pirates he passed, grouped in doorways engaged in drunken banter or bickering. A majority of them were rock, ground or dragon type pokemon with a couple of scrafty and scraggy mixed among them. Some of the pirates fixed him with a pointed glare that he met with as much confidence as he could muster. None of them made any advancement. The dragon types wouldn’t have stood a chance and the rock and ground types knew exactly what lasers he was packing.

                                      Moonlight Lounge was as busy as it always was. Voices and sweat hit him like a wrecking ball no sooner he stepped through the door. He spotted Worm’s small green body on the bar instantly. The bug pokemon had his nose buried in a shot glass while the stunky runt sat beside him cheered him on.

                                      “Good morning, Worm.” Macro leant on the bar beside the sewaddle.

                                      Worm looked up from his shot glass with a start and frowned. “You just ruined my record.”

                                      “By two seconds!” The stunky sipped at his own drink and smirked.

                                      Macro raised an eyebrow at Worm. “I thought you already beat that last month.”

                                      “Well, it doesn’t hurt to better yourself.” Worm nudged his glass towards the bartender. “Same again, Bit.”

                                      Macro waved the mienshao before he could scurry away. “Occa and shuca cocktail for me.”

                                      Worm’s brow furrowed and he tapped his tail on the counter. “I hope you’re not expecting me to pay, Macro.”

                                      The mawile waved a paw and closed his eyes. “Never expected that for a second.”

                                      “Good. ‘Cos you’re buyin’.” Worm jabbed Macro in the chest with a stubby leg.

                                      The mawile absently brushed down his scarf and reached into his pouch just as the bartender returned with their orders. He slammed a ten credit bill onto the bar and Worm chuckled.

                                      “You’re too easy sometimes.” The sewaddle pawed at his glass. “Or… are you just after something?”

                                      Macro let out a single laugh and sipped his drink. “Maybe.”

                                      “Oh, here we go. You stiff your old pal on coils that pirates have been demandin’ off me, even throwing threats, and now you want something.”

                                      Macro sipped his drink again. “You didn’t manage to get hold of any?”

                                      “No. I did not. Those things are like gold these days.”

                                      “So there’s no sense in me cadging a laser off you then?”

                                      “What do you want one for?” Worm eyed him up and down then frowned at his belt. “You already got two. Or are they in need of replacing?”

                                      “It’s not for me.” Macro picked up his drink and scanned over the bar. “Guess I’ll snoop somewhere else. See you later, Worm. Good luck beating your record.”

                                      The sewaddle tutted and turned back to his glass. The little stunky’s cheers started up and then were drowned in the chaos of the lounge.

                                      “Oi, Macro!”

                                      Macro stopped and looked around at the various pokemon. A familiar pink paw waved at him from a shaded booth. The small table was rather crowded. Anchor sat between a gabite and magmar while a bisharp sat a safe distance away on a metal stool. Any sign of bitterness had vanished from Anchor’s face, but Macro put that down to his beer.

                                      He recognised the gabite as a Moonlight Lounge regular, but the magmar and bisharp were completely unfamiliar. A pile of dice lay scattered in the middle of the table along with credit coins and bills.

                                      “We’re playin’ farkle,” Anchor told him. “You in?”

                                      A slow smirk spread across Macro’s face which he hid behind his glass. Farkle… that might be an opportunity to win a few credits and maybe con one of the other players out of a laser. He looked over the strangers again, trying to work out what their lasers might be. He could rule out the bisharp. His paws were blades, rendering a laser completely useless. If he used any modified weapons they’d be cutting ones.

                                      “All right.” Macro pulled himself up into the chair beside the gabite, spilling some of his cocktail on the leather seat much to the land dragon’s disgust. “Count me in.”

                                      The magmar’s beak twisted into a sneer and he tapped the pile of credits. “You want in, you pay.”

                                      Macro reached into his pouch. He didn’t often keep loose credits on him. He’d have to make sure he won if he was going to stay in the game long enough to get what he wanted, and he could guarantee the magmar would have it. He met the fire pokemon’s eyes and tossed a ten credit bill onto the pile, all the while keeping his own personal dice hidden in his paw.

                                      “Cheapskate,” the magmar muttered as he gathered the scattering of dice together.

                                      Macro pretended he hadn’t heard him, but kept his eyes on the magmar as he tossed the white dice across the table. They clattered, rolled and bounced until they came at a stop near the small pile of credits. Two fours, two twos and a three. The magmar’s snout creased and he shot Anchor a leer as the granbull jotted down the magmar’s score.

                                      Macro chuckled under his breath. Ones mattered in this game, as did fives. And it was preferable to roll three or more of any number, although those were the most preferable.

                                      The bisharp went next, neatly flicking the dice up onto one bladed claw and tossing them into the air like tiny pancakes. They pattered across the table, revealing a score of three sixes and two ones. The steel type thrust a blade into the air in a cheer and scooped the dice along to Macro.

                                      “Full house,” said Anchor. “Nice.”

                                      The bisharp closed his eyes in a smile.

                                      Macro pursed his lips together as he took them into one paw. Using his trump dice right now was too much of a risk. He would have to rely on sheer luck.

                                      He rolled the dice across the table and watched in anticipation as they landed on two fives a one and two fours. Well, it wasn’t terrible.

                                      He set the one aside and re-rolled the rest of the dice. Three fives and a four. He could re-roll the four… but it probably wouldn’t do much good. He banked the fives and passed them along to the gabite.

                                      The gabite completely failed his throw, not rolling a single scoring dice. He slammed them down before Anchor who had his own turn. After successfully rolling four threes and a one, he let out a sigh and waved a paw at the bisharp.

                                      The bladed pokemon scooped all the credits towards himself with a gleeful squeal.

                                      Macro narrowed his eyes and leant his head on his paw. If he was going to stand any chance of winning this and conning the magmar out of his laser, he was going to have to up his game. He wondered how long he could go without using the trio of loaded dice. He kept them locked in his fist, holding them so the sixes were against his paw. Hopefully that would send the weights towards them and roll him a constant nice set of ones when the time came.

                                      Three turns and a lot of trash talking later, Macro was down fifty credits, despite the win on his third go. He begrudgingly watched as the bisharp scooped his winnings together and poured them into his bag.

                                      “Off already?” the magmar grunted.

                                      “Places to be,” said the steel type. “Besides, I don’t want to risk losing a decent streak.”

                                      Macro quickly checked the time on his optical display. It had almost been an hour since he left the hospital. He really needed to get back and collect DL. He let out a sigh and watched as Anchor passed the dice along to the magmar.

                                      “Come on! Give me some hot dice for once!” The magmar unleashed the dice onto the table and rammed his paw into his face as each and every one stopped on an unscoring number. “You have to be kidding me!”

                                      Macro laughed and leant across the table to retrieve them.

                                      “This really isn’t your day is it?” he quipped.

                                      “It ain’t yours either,” said the magmar. “And it really won’t be at all if you don’t watch that mouth.”

                                      Macro caught the gabite’s leer as he silently chewed on the end of a thin bone. Where had he got that from? Macro didn’t even want to know.

                                      The mawile quickly threw the dice, slipping his own in with sleight of paw. The real dice remained clasped in his other paw and he watched with anticipation as three dice showed ones and the other two showed fours. He snatched the two fours back, deeply relieved that they were considerably lighter than the three he’d been holding. That meant his loading had worked. He tossed them, landing on a five and another one.

                                      Macro fist pumped the air with a ‘yes!’ and gathered the dice back jubilantly. The gabite and magmar groaned audibly. Macro subtly switched out the three heavier dice for the originals as he pushed them towards the dragon pokemon.

                                      The gabite snorted as he took the dice. “If you’d not been doing such a sloppy job, I’d be suspicious.”

                                      Macro chuckled and tucked his paws behind his head, watching as the five dice bounced along the table to land the gabite on a one, three fives and a six. The dragon took the opportunity to re-roll the six, landing himself another five. He shoved them towards Anchor with a grunt.

                                      The granbull didn’t even look up at Macro as he had his own roll, which he completely failed. He leant across the table and shoved the winnings towards Macro with his left arm. The mawile snatched it up with glee and tossed fifty credits into the middle of the table.

                                      “Oh come on!” The magmar threw his arms in the air. “How am I meant to meet that?”

                                      “I’m out.” The gabite leant back in his seat and looked up at the ceiling. “I ain’t wastin’ another credit.”

                                      Macro felt a smirk spread across his face. “You could always bet your weapons?”

                                      “Sod that,” said the gabite. “You fairy types are the bane of my existence. I ain’t travellin’ around without protection.”

                                      “Me neither.” The magmar met Macro’s eyes with a frown. “What use would mine be to you anyway? You already have water and grass lasers.”

                                      Macro shrugged. “Can’t hurt to have a backup. Besides.” He grinned. “Don’t you want to try and win everything back?”

                                      The magmar met his grin with a scowl. With a defeated sigh, he reached into his belt and tossed a green-tinted laser into the middle of the table. Fifty credits from Anchor joined it and the magmar took the dice and tossed them into the air.

                                      They rained down in a combination of three sixes and two fives.

                                      Macro’s heart hit his stomach. He stared at the dice with his mouth ajar.

                                      “Full house! ’Bout time!” the magmar roared.

                                      He shoved the dice towards Macro.

                                      The mawile gathered them together, switching them out for two of his own dice as subtly as he could. He had to play it safe and make sure his score wouldn’t come across as remotely suspicious. Three ones on his first turn might raise some eyebrows and earn him some pointed claws (and maybe even a new scar). He might very well roll three ones in the end result. But if he couldn’t roll something else decent to best the magmar’s score then he was going to lose miserably, and miss out on getting a free laser.

                                      He grit his teeth together and tossed the dice, scoring two ones, two fours and a three. He gathered the unscoring dice, slipped out one for his remaining loaded dice and rolled again. The dice pattered across the table, landing at another one a four and a six.

                                      With a heavy sigh, he took the four and six and clenched them in his paw. The magmar was beginning to look worried, and all three pairs of eyes were on him now. He tossed the dice into the air and let them fall. One of them span on its corner for a moment before landing flat beside the other scoring dice. Another one and a six.

                                      A huge grin spread across Macro’s face and the magmar threw his arms into the air with a roar.

                                      Macro quickly retrieved the pile, dragging the dice back towards him. With a quick and practiced sleight of paw, he gathered them up, switching out for the real ones and tossed them towards Anchor.

                                      “Well done, Cap’n,” said the granbull.

                                      Macro chuckled as he poured the credits into his pouch. “Pleasure playin’ with ya!” He slipped from the seat and tossed the laser in his paw. “And thanks for the new toy.”

                                      “You’re leaving?!” The magmar rose to his feet and heat radiated from his body. “I don’t think so. You’re gonna give me a chance to win that back.”

                                      “No can do,” said Macro. “I won it fair and square. Besides, I gotta get back to the hospital. I’m picking someone up.”

                                      “Can’t do that with broken arms.”

                                      The magmar reached down to grab Macro by the horn, but Anchor’s huge paw slammed down on his assailant’s. The magmar took a step back, meeting the granbull’s cold eyes.

                                      “Fine,” the magmar spat. “Whatever.”

                                      The fire pokemon fell back down in his seat, drawing an apologetic look from the gabite.

                                      “Go quick,” Anchor whispered to Macro. “I’ll meet you back at the ship.”

                                      Macro turned to leave but was stopped as Anchor added;

                                      “Oh, and Cap’n?”

                                      He looked back over his shoulder.

                                      “I want my money back,” said Anchor close to his ear. “Can’t say I approve of you using your deceiving ways against your own crew.”

                                      Macro winked and turned to trot from the lounge.
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                                        #19    
                                      Old November 17th, 2017 (3:01 AM).
                                      Delirious Absol's Avatar
                                      Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
                                      Call me Del
                                         
                                        Join Date: May 2015
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                                        Chapter Nineteen


                                        The holoscreen’s ringing display vanished to be replaced with Yobi. He didn’t look up straight away, too busy faffing with whatever he was building. Socket tapped her foot irritably and cleared her throat, dragging the sparksurfer raichu’s attention from his work to her. His heavily ringed and bloodshot eyes widened slightly and he stuttered.

                                        “Apologies, Madam Mayor.” He brushed the unseen item aside. “You caught me at a bad time.”

                                        Socket narrowed her eyes and he glanced away, immediately regretting his words.

                                        “I think you’ll find this is much more urgent,” she said. “That foolish robot you built has gone and unleashed what I can only describe as a potential catastrophe on System.”

                                        “Potential?” he asked.

                                        “So word hasn’t got back to you from my decimated troops?” She folded her arms and met his confused look with a leer. “I believe BackDoor’s name for the abhorrent creature is an ‘ultra beast’. A pokemon from another world that went berserk and trashed several of my ships. He managed to get them both back into their own world, but one escaped just before he closed the void.”

                                        “So it was an accident?”

                                        “Oh I’d be more inclined to say the silly android wanted to keep one as a pet! I wouldn’t be remotely surprised if he actually allowed the to creature escape.”

                                        Yobi scratched behind his ear and sighed. “What did this thing look like?”

                                        “What does that matter?!”

                                        “It matters a lot if we’re going to retrieve it, Madam Mayor.”

                                        She grit her teeth together and seethed. “A rather out-of-place alien that resembles some kind of mutant tentacruel.”

                                        The raichu nodded his understanding and glanced towards his work.

                                        “How do you suggest we retrieve it?” she asked. “Since it’s your silly invention that went and released the wretched beast.”

                                        He scratched his ear again. “If it’s too dangerous to send your own troops, then… we could use Zero Day?”

                                        “Zero Day are far too busy searching for time pockets.”

                                        “Well, if you can hang on another few days I’ll have this android up and running and it can track down this creature and apprehend it.”

                                        “Apprehend?”

                                        He raised his paws and shook his head. “Only until BackDoor sends it back.”

                                        “And if he refuses?”

                                        “Short his circuits.” Yobi retrieved his work along with a screwdriver. “Unfortunately that’s our only option since you requested he not have an ‘off’ switch.”

                                        She pursed her lips together and spoke with a dangerous air that set the raichu’s fur on end.

                                        “Are you insinuating that this is my fault Yobi?”

                                        He looked up with a start and shook his head, but his eyes gave away his answer. “No… not at all, Madam Mayor. This is just an unfortunate accident.”

                                        “I hope for your sake you aren’t lying.” She tapped her claws along her arm. “And what of Download Database? Any joy in cutting her off from the network?”

                                        “Like I said, it can’t be done. But… I do have an idea.”

                                        “Humor me.”

                                        “We install a worm.” He looked up again and put down his screwdriver. “One that shuts her down until it’s removed, which should be long enough to retrieve her. No damage to her brain or the Download Database.”

                                        Socket looked down at her feet and nodded. “How long will that take?”

                                        “It might take a couple of days to make a harmless worm,” he said.

                                        “We don’t have a couple of days.”

                                        “But speeding things up could be risky.”

                                        “Set your little project aside for now and let’s focus on getting that space pirate out of my fur.”

                                        Yobi yawned and dropped his screwdriver. “I’ll do what I can.”

                                        “And get some sleep,” she added as she hung up.

                                        ...

                                        The tiny onion-like form of TimeSkip glided elegantly a good couple of meters or so ahead of BackDoor. The tight curves it took as it followed the invisible signal given out by the time pockets were proving difficult for the hoopa to maneuver. He let out a growl and zipped along to cut the celebi off before it took yet another turn.

                                        “Just point,” he said.

                                        The celebi fixed its lifeless eyes on his and raised a gangly limb, pointing one of its stubby claws to the spot behind the hoopa’s head.

                                        He turned on the spot and let out a ‘huh’. TimeSkip slipped past him and darted ahead another few feet before stopping beside the invisible time pocket.

                                        BackDoor grinned and zig-zagged over to it. A ring of light spread out, filling up with the swirling ultraviolet mist. Then he dropped his paw, staring into the nothingness.

                                        “How many years back did you say this is?” he asked.

                                        TimeSkip sent a spray of binary code into his mind that translated to ‘One thousand and seven years.’

                                        “So there’d be humans back there, right?” He frowned and folded his arms. “From the databases I have, not many humans could fly like that talonflame we dragged through. They’d all be on the ground.”

                                        TimeSkip merely met his eyes but said nothing.

                                        “So… opening time holes in the sky is…” He waved a paw. “Pointless.” He chuckled and shook his head. “Socket’s such a moron.”

                                        The celebi looked from the swirling void to BackDoor.

                                        “You know what? I’m gonna decide you agree with me.”

                                        The hoopa span in the air, closing the void. He turned back to TimeSkip and placed a mitten paw on his chin as he turned his attention to the ocean below.

                                        “When System was apparently filled with humans, they were sick. That meant they would have filled hospitals, right?”

                                        TimeSkip bobbed over to his side and followed his gaze to System Ground.

                                        “Every time pocket we open reveals the exact same place but at a different time,” he said. “Yeh, they might very well drag things through with gravity, but if we want more accuracy then we’re gonna have to break some rules.”

                                        TimeSkip looked up at him again. Its eyes were as emotionless as its limited binary voice. Even if it did have something to say, it could do nothing more than answer a few basic commands.

                                        BackDoor placed a paw on its head and laughed.

                                        “Come on, TimeSkip. We’re gonna visit Central Meta Hospital. The chances of finding a human there would be boosted greatly.” He waved a paw, bringing up a small swirling vortex. “Socket’s gonna love us when we hand her a hoard of humans, right?”

                                        He grabbed TimeSkip’s paw and dragged it after him into the swirling ultraviolet light. The vortex closed behind them, reopening just above Meta City.

                                        The streets were bustling with life as pokemon went back and forth from shops and office blocks. Right in the centre stood Socket’s mansion. Work and home. The hoopa lifted his head to look beyond it. A mile or so beyond her office stood Central Meta Hospital. There was no saying the hospital would be the same one it was one thousand years ago, and if it were there was no saying the layout would be the same.

                                        Another vortex and the two androids were floating above the pristine white building. Sirens filled the air as two ambulances pulled out of the parking lot and hovered along the streets before rising into the sky. They didn’t see the two androids, but BackDoor watched curiously as the ambulances vanished beyond the skyscrapers.

                                        He turned his attention back to the hospital, scanning over the vibrant signs. Each department was colour coded. Red for accident and emergency. Purple for quarantining contagious diseases. Neither of those would be likely to take him to the humans, and Socket would have his head if he brought back a contagious pokemon and unleashed an epidemic into System. He chuckled, briefly considering doing that just for the fun of it.

                                        “What department do you think we want?” he asked the celebi.

                                        TimeSkip looked up at the sign but, as usual, said nothing.

                                        BackDoor let out a groan and slammed his paw into his forehead. “This is so boring! It’s huge! Where am I meant to go?”

                                        Searching for time pockets.

                                        The binary took him by surprise. TimeSkip’s eyes glazed over with a flat, green light, and the celebi’s wings hummed as it moved forwards over the large building.

                                        Pocket detected.

                                        The celebi took off like a dart.

                                        “Finally!”

                                        BackDoor did a small somersault and zoomed after the celebi. It was no easy feat to keep up. Why the silly onion fairy couldn’t move in a straight line was anyone’s guess.

                                        ...

                                        DL’s smile lit up the small ward. Macro faltered in the doorway and absently trailed his claws over the hilt of the ‘new’ laser poking out of his belt pouch.

                                        “The doctor says you’re ready?” he said.

                                        DL nodded enthusiastically and trotted to his side. “You’re a bit later than you said.”

                                        “I got caught up in something.”

                                        He turned and strolled from the room, leaving the pachirisu to catch up with him.

                                        “What’s the plan now?” she asked.

                                        “We’re meeting Anchor and the others back at the ship, then we’re gonna track down your next memory.”

                                        She fell into pace beside him and scratched behind her ear. “Really?”

                                        “You seem nervous.” He gave her a sideways glance. “What’s wrong?”

                                        “I… I’m a little anxious.”

                                        “Really? I thought you’d want to get your memories back.”

                                        “I do, but…” She wrung her paws together. “I’m worried I’ll remember… this whole…” She pawed at the antennae and grimaced.

                                        “I doubt you’ll remember having that put in. They wouldn’t have done it while you were awake.”

                                        She shook her head. “Not that. The part leading up to it. Why? Did I agree to it? Or was it forced on me? That’s what I don’t want to know.”

                                        He stared at her for a moment then looked away to push through a door.

                                        “I doubt you’d have agreed to it,” he said. “I mean, who would want their entire memory wiped? Some memories, sure, we all have things we wish to forget. But the whole thing? No sane pokemon would want that.”

                                        “Who’d want any memory wiped?” DL asked. “I mean… they make us who we are, right? You learn from mistakes, so if you forget them then you’ve not learned anything.”

                                        Macro looked at her again and his fur prickled as the image of a blazing building filled his mind. He shook his head sharply and barged out onto the street, letting the cold air wash over his body.

                                        Her thickly furred feet pattered over the paving flags as she rushed to catch up with him. “Is something wrong?”

                                        “I just want to get back to Wildcard Gamma,” he said. “If you don’t wanna get left behind, then keep up.”

                                        She muttered something under her breath as she joined his side again. “You can be really cold sometimes you know.”

                                        He chuckled. “You learn fast.”

                                        “Do you usually push others away? Or is it just me?”

                                        “Oh, it’s not just you. Space pirates aren’t nice pokemon, DL.” He spread his arms and span on the spot, fixing her with a playful smirk. “And you want to be one! How about that?” He turned and marched on ahead of her. “The general consensus is you look out for Number One. Your crew, significant other - should you choose to have one - and the safety of others all comes second. Or last, depending on your general world view.”

                                        “And what’s your world view?”

                                        He stopped and turned to face her. His eyes trailed from hers to the antennae poking out behind her left ear and he frowned.

                                        “What do you think?” He turned and marched on again. “You might not have much memory of the world, DL, but Socket and those who reigned before her ruined it. The laws were meant to make things better but instead turned into an epic disaster. If you’re too poor, you die. If you live in the water, you die. If you turn your back on the law and try to do something about it, you die. That’s where space pirates came from. We all decided we’d had enough and founded our own little civilization. Believe it or not, it grows every day but they also get caught every day and put to death.” He grunted and tucked his paws behind his back. “I’d like to say it can’t get any worse, but it can. Sooner or later, System Ground could be left to rot and those who can afford it will move to the skies and leave those who can’t stranded to die in their own waste. And what if meat eaters decide they’re bored of only munching on water dwellers and beg for more variety? What will it be next? Plant pokemon? Bugs? Or those who only eat berries?”

                                        “I wouldn’t worry about that,” she said.

                                        “Then rightly worry!” He walked backwards so he could face her. “I might be a steel type but I still have flesh like the water dwellers. And so do you!” He pointed. “You eat meat?”

                                        She shook her head.

                                        “Good.” He turned to walk forwards again. “’Cos there’s no room for meat eaters on my ship.”

                                        DL was silent for a while, but she kept her distance, no longer desiring to walk beside him. He balled his paws into fists so tight his claws pricked his pads. There really was no need to lash out at an innocent pachirisu, especially not one who’d fallen victim to Socket’s craziness.

                                        “Then why don’t you do something about it?” she asked. “Why doesn’t someone stop her?”

                                        He relaxed his paws and let them fall at his sides. “You really think it would make a difference?”

                                        “As far as I’m aware, it only takes something small to make a difference.”

                                        “Really? Well. If someone took out Socket, someone else would come along to take her place. And believe me, it’s gonna take something bigger than a space pirate to make a change to this rotten world.”

                                        “Then we should all work together.”

                                        “Socket’s already dealt with that one, DL. Is there anything about division in those files of yours?” He cast her a glance over his shoulder. “’Cos getting pokemon to work together ain’t gonna be a task for the faint hearted. Not even in Pulse City. There’s division here, too. Other types are merely tolerated.”

                                        Her body stiffened and her eyes flew wide open. She looked around at the buildings and space pirates then trotted to join his side. It was as if she hadn’t even realised she didn’t share the same type as him.

                                        He sighed and shook his head, turning the corner to step onto the docks. The giant schooling wishiwashi stood proud beside a barboach ship. Anchor busied himself beside Wildcard Gamma, his head stuffed inside a hole in the hull.

                                        “What’s the problem?” Macro asked.

                                        The granbull stood up suddenly and a huge clang echoed from the ship. He ducked out, rubbing between his ears.

                                        “Cap’n!” He grinned weakly. “Think you might’ve given me a headache.”

                                        “What are you doing poking around inside the ship?” Macro asked.

                                        Anchor turned back to the hole and aimed a tiny LED flashlight at its innards. “Checking for damage. I’ve been a little concerned after that fight at the secret government building where we found DL. But it looks like nothing got damaged, which is a relief. Just a loose wire that connects to the lights.”

                                        “Will it take you long to fix it?” Macro asked. “I’d like to get going.”

                                        “I ain’t riskin’ fixing it after two ciders, Cap’n. Besides, the hull needs repainting. We took a nasty scuff.”

                                        Macro followed Anchor’s paw towards the tail of the ship. The blue paint had been scratched away to grey, taking a chunk of the final ‘D’ in the vibrant red ‘Wildcard Gamma’ away with it. He groaned and shook his head.

                                        “So we’re staying in Pulse City tonight?” he asked.

                                        “Looks like it,” said Anchor. “Nice excuse to eat out at least. Might wanna let Cookie know. Something sweet is coming out of that fan so he might be expecting us for dinner. I’ve already made reservations at the Moonlight Lounge.”

                                        “When did you do that?”

                                        “About five minutes ago when I realised there was a loose wire.”

                                        Macro tutted and pulled out his computer. One quick message to Cookie was all it took to bring the brown slurpuff to the entrance hatch. He peered down at them with the saddest look Macro had ever seen on the chef, and he’d been there when Cookie had burnt a batch of chocolate waffles. He was less upset about his missing fur.

                                        “You’re really not having lunch here?” he whined. “I’ve made a cheri and chocolate gateau!”

                                        Macro scratched his head and looked back at the bustling street. DL on the other paw licked her lips and fidgeted on the spot.

                                        “Sorry, Cookie,” said Macro. “More for you, huh?”

                                        The slurpuff beamed and nodded his head. “I guess so!”

                                        “Take the night off.” Macro waved a paw. “Put up your feet and relax. Maybe join us in the Lounge?”

                                        Cookie stiffened and glanced over his shoulder. “Erm… Too many pokemon for me, I’m afraid.”

                                        “All right.” Macro shrugged. “See you later then.”

                                        The door began to hiss and DL trotted towards it with a cry of, “Save me a slice!”

                                        A small smile tugged at Macro’s lips as he watched the pachirisu. She caught his eye and a look of bewilderment crossed her eyes.

                                        “What?” she asked.

                                        Macro shook himself and his mind went to the laser in his pouch.

                                        He scanned his paw to open the door. “Come with me.”

                                        She followed him up the small neon ladder. Macro caught a raised eyebrow off Anchor as the door hissed shut again behind them.

                                        “You said you wanted to work for me,” said Macro. “Well I got you a laser.”

                                        “Really? That was quick!”

                                        “I got lucky really.” He stopped by his room and paused to look over his shoulder before opening the door. “But it’s no use unless you have a belt.”

                                        He threw the door open and strutted over to his night stand. Fortunately he had two spare belts just in case. DL wasn’t much smaller than him, so one of his belts should fit. He pulled one out and checked it over before turning back to her. She was waiting in the doorway, casting her eyes over his sparsely decorated room.

                                        “You could have come in,” he said.

                                        “You don’t allow girls in here.”

                                        He shrugged and strolled over to her. “Fair point. But it’s not like I was sleeping.” He handed her the belt and took a step back. “That should fit.”

                                        She looped the belt around her slender waist and clipped the buckle together. It slipped at an angle over her left hip and she jigged it about to no avail.

                                        “Hmm…” she said.

                                        “We can always get it altered.” He reached into his pouch and pulled out the laser, flicking open the back to check the contents. “This has water, grass and electric. But… Since you are an electric type, I doubt you’ll need the electric one.”

                                        He slid the yellow cylinder out and handed her the gun. She turned it around in her paws then popped it into the holster on her right. It tugged the belt down towards her right hip and she chuckled.

                                        “I guess it wouldn’t hurt to get it altered.” She fixed him with a beaming smile. “Thank you.”

                                        He cleared his throat and placed a paw on her shoulder to steer her out of the doorway, letting the door close behind him.

                                        “Let’s get some lunch,” he said. “I’m starving.”

                                        ...

                                        Surge was growing increasingly agitated. The signal she’d been using to follow Wildcard Gamma had been cut off, leaving her at a huge disadvantage in her pursuing of the ship. It had ended at Pulse City, and thankfully the giant wishiwashi was still parked in the docks.

                                        A huge granbull moved away from it, dusting his paws down and smoothing out his purple mowhawk. One of Macro’s crew, she guessed. If he wasn’t boarding the ship then that meant it was going to be parked up for a fair bit longer. She’d just have to wait, and hope she never lost track of it.

                                        With a deep sigh, she leant back in her seat and ran her paws over her face. Twice she could have killed Macro, and twice she’d failed. What on earth was wrong with her? She’d had crushes before, but they’d never interfered with her work.

                                        She spread her claws and peered through them at Pulse City’s neon streets. Maybe it was because she knew what that ‘living computer’ actually was. She knew that Download Database was in safe paws.

                                        No… that wasn’t it. Macro kept interfering in government business. He had to be stopped before he went too far. But how far was too far? Had it already surpassed that? Whatever those government fleets were doing at that dimensional gate was disrupted. Whatever they had pulled through was stolen. But were they going too far?

                                        She let out a loud groan and sank even further into her seat. “I can’t be doing with this!”

                                        She unbuckled her seatbelt and slipped from the leather chair towards the hatch. A good drink might sort her head out. She just deeply hoped she didn’t run into Macro in the bar. Maybe it would be best to find a different, more low key pub.

                                        Her eyes fell on Wildcard Gamma and her mouth turned dry. Another deep sigh escaped her lungs. Of course, she’d lost the tracking signal.

                                        Nope, that ruled that out. She needed to keep him in her sights.
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                                          #20    
                                        Old November 20th, 2017 (6:50 AM).
                                        Delirious Absol's Avatar
                                        Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
                                        Call me Del
                                           
                                          Join Date: May 2015
                                          Location: UK
                                          Age: 33
                                          Gender: Female
                                          Nature: Quirky
                                          Posts: 327
                                          ...

                                          Chapter Twenty


                                          Moonlight Lounge was still heaving with pokemon of wildly varying sizes. Macro and DL slipped unnoticed between the feet of a rhydon and ducked through the crowd towards the far end. A wide sofa sat at the edge of a stained carpet. The familiar illumise that often accompanied Matrix wherever he showed up in the Lounge was stood right beside the sofa. The ribombee wasn’t wearing the virtual reality helmet this time, however. Instead he was cheering on his companion, Switch, who was acting like he’d never worn a VR set before in his life.

                                          Macro stopped behind the sofa and leant across it. “First timer?”

                                          Switch flapped his wings and shouted something at the holoscreen, oblivious to the mawile’s presence. Matrix looked over his shoulder and gave Macro a small smile.

                                          “I’m guessing so,” he said. “But… he’s doing a better job than I am.”

                                          The ribombee turned back to the screen and wound his antennae in his paw. A swift wing beat from Switch sent the virtual head of a tyranitar rolling away down a metallic mountainside.

                                          “Pokemon play stuff like this?” DL asked.

                                          “Yeh,” said Macro. “Pretty popular with the younger generation.”

                                          “Huh.” She ran a paw over her right ear. “It doesn’t appeal to me at all.”

                                          “Take her away, Macro,” said Matrix. “She’s killing my buzz.”

                                          DL chuckled and Macro pushed himself back from the sofa.

                                          “We’re actually gonna get some lunch,” he said. “Wondered if you were ready to join us?”

                                          Switch raised his talons to his head and wrenched the helmet free. He shook out his feathers and turned his head to look at Macro.

                                          “Lunch?” he asked. “I could eat.”

                                          “That got your attention did it?” Macro tutted.

                                          Switch shook his head again to smooth the last straggling feathers out and hopped from the chair with a little flutter, an unusually beguiling gesture for a large raptor.

                                          The dull drone from Matrix’s wings cut through the mishmash of voices as the group made their way over to a table tucked away in a quiet corner of the lounge. Only two other pokemon occupied the corner. A pair of rattata, one of which had fallen asleep, sprawled across their table with his glass clasped in one paw.

                                          Macro climbed onto the seat at the free table, trying his best not to look the other rattata in the eye. A look of greed had crossed his face and he eyed Switch cautiously while keeping one eye on the mawile. He swigged the last of his drink before clambering down and strutting over to the bar.

                                          DL scooped up the tattered and slightly damp menu and shook it open. “What do you recommend?”

                                          Macro shrugged. “I don’t know about you, but I’m having my usual. Occa and nutpea burger and fries.”

                                          Switch leant over her shoulder and the bridge of his beak creased. “Quite a varied menu.”

                                          “It isn’t bad,” said Macro.

                                          “Oh, I’m not impressed,” said Switch. He raised a claw and jabbed it into the damp card. “What’s this? Flambe seaking fillet?”

                                          Macro let out a long ‘oh’ and leant across DL so he could speak quietly. “I guess they didn’t eat meat in your time then?”

                                          “No they did not!” Switch’s eyes opened impossibly wide and he turned them back onto the menu. A look of realisation crossed his young face. “You mean… this is actually meat from a pokemon? That’s disgusting!”

                                          Macro threw himself across DL who let out a squeak of surprise, and clasped his paws over the talonflame’s beak.

                                          “Keep your voice down!” he hissed.

                                          He looked back over at the opposite table. The dozing rattata had woken up and rubbed a paw over his groggy eyes. He fixed them on Macro’s table and let out a dry chuckle.

                                          “Hey, how ‘bout that? Hunter’s gone and got ‘imself a hostage.” He looked over at the empty spot beside him and his grin fell. “Hey… where’d my brother go?”

                                          The rattata slipped from his seat, sloshing what was left of his drink down his chest, and staggered away from the table. He searched the crowd briefly before it swallowed him up and drowned out his near-incomprehensible shouts.

                                          Macro released Switch’s beak and the talonflame brushed his wing feathers over it.

                                          “So this is normal?” Switch asked. “You pokemon eat each other now?”

                                          “Are you telling me humans never ate meat?” Macro asked quietly. “Because the fairy tales I’ve read tell me otherwise.”

                                          Switch’s beak hung open slightly as his eyes narrowed into slits almost as dangerous as the glinting end of his beak. Macro shuffled in his seat and retrieved the menu from DL.

                                          “Does my reaction look like I eat meat to you?” he spat.

                                          “I guess not,” said Macro. “So those stories were wrong then?”

                                          “Not exactly,” said Switch. “But some humans are vegan.”

                                          “The same could be said for this world, too,” Macro explained. “And not a member of my crew would touch so much as an egg.”

                                          “But this is wrong,” said Switch. “Do you see no issue with this? You’re the same species! It’s cannibalism!”

                                          “Of course I see an issue with it! But unfortunately the current mayor doesn’t. You wanna do something about it, then take it up with her.”

                                          “I think I will! I’m surprised no one else has already!”

                                          “They have.” Macro turned his violet eyes onto Switch. “They all died.”

                                          Switch’s beak snapped shut and he stared back at Macro. Then he sighed and sank slightly in his seat.

                                          “What’s happened to this world?” he asked.

                                          “How much time have you got?” Macro folded the menu and placed it back on the table. “’Cos explaining it’s gonna take a while.”

                                          DL fixed Switch with a pitiful gaze. “I’m still learning myself.”

                                          Switch sighed and ruffled his feathers. “I don’t think I want to eat here.”

                                          “Believe me, you want a vegan diet then you’re gonna have a hard time finding anywhere,” said Macro. “Best place I can suggest is Luma City, but it’ll take about a day to fly there in my ship and I’m hungry now.” He paused then added, “Although Cookie might appreciate some company if you wanna go back to my ship.”

                                          “I don’t know…” Switch looked around at the bar and shuddered. “I want to go back home.”

                                          “Well, that ain’t happening any time soon is it?” Macro shoved the menu at him. “You have three choices. You choose something off here that doesn’t have meat in it, you go back to my ship and eat cake - although I’m not promising there’ll be any left, Cookie has a huge appetite - or you starve. You pick.”

                                          Switch eyed the menu as though he was suspecting poison then took it in his left talons. DL took it back off him and gave him a warm smile as she spread it open on the table for them both to view it. Whatever they said to one another didn’t reach Macro’s ears, drowned out by the drone of voices.

                                          Macro leant back in his seat and rubbed at his temples.

                                          “Culture shock.”

                                          He turned to face Matrix, but he was watching DL and Switch while winding his antennae around his paw.

                                          “That’s what it is,” he said. “He’ll get over it, just like we all have.”

                                          Macro tutted and folded his arms. Get over it… he wouldn’t have worded it quite like that.

                                          He took the opportunity to fire all their orders over the bar as a brief breath of fresh air. After all their meals were delivered, they sat around the table tucking into them in a complete, awkward silence. It made his occa and nutpea burger taste oddly bitter, although that was also likely the work of some jealous chef yearning for forty thousand credits.

                                          Anchor flopped down into the seat opposite them, clutching a plate in one paw and half a toastie in the other. The smell of grilled root vegetables and sour sauce made Macro’s nose crinkle. The granbull took a bite out of his meal and looked at each of them in turn.

                                          “Wow. Somethin’ happen while I was away?” he asked.

                                          Macro looked up from his burger and wiped the back of his paw across his mouth.

                                          “You took a while,” he said. “I thought you were right behind us?”

                                          “I took the chance to have a shower,” he said. “Was greasy under that panel.”

                                          “Is something wrong with your ship?” Switch asked.

                                          “Loose wire,” said Anchor. “Also discovered one of the turrets has taken some damage. Just exterior stuff,” he quickly added before Macro almost fell off his seat. “Both will take a jiffy to fix, but it’ll have to wait until later. My head’s still feeling fuzzy.”

                                          “At this rate, we might not leave until morning,” said Macro. “Can no one else fix it?”

                                          “You trust anyone else to repair your ship?” Anchor snorted.

                                          Macro hugged his arms across his chest and diverted his gaze to the red wall. No… no, he did not.

                                          DL shifted beside him and raised her arms as she stretched languidly.

                                          “That was good,” she said.

                                          Macro spun his head around and his eyes flew wide open when he spotted her empty plate. “Did you inhale that?!”

                                          Anchor laughed and struck the table repeatedly with a broad paw. “Gotta appreciate a girl who likes her food, eh Cap’n?”

                                          “I think I’d like something sweet,” she said. “I’m feeling rather tired.”

                                          “You could take a nap?” Matrix suggested.

                                          She shook her head. “It’s much too early for that.”

                                          “Best time,” said Anchor. “You nap later in the day, then you won’t sleep well tonight.”

                                          “The doctor told me it’s normal,” she said. “I’m still getting the anesthesia out of my system, and I don’t really want to sleep the day away. I’ve not spent that long with my memories yet.”

                                          Macro tapped his claws on the table and spoke cautiously. “By memories, you mean…”

                                          “I really want some cheri ice cream,” she said.

                                          Macro sighed and waved a paw. “All right. I’ll take you for ice cream. Switch, shuffle out.”

                                          The talonflame scooted along the leather seats and plopped onto the floor, allowing DL and Macro to clamber out.

                                          “But you’ve not finished your burger,” Anchor said with some surprise.

                                          “I’ve lost my appetite,” said Macro. “And I’m fairly certain someone’s soaked it with jaboca berry juice.”

                                          “Ooh!” Anchor’s eyes widened and he dragged Macro’s plate towards himself.

                                          “I’ll meet you back here in a bit,” said Macro. “Since we’re gonna be stuck here a while, we might as well watch a movie or something.”

                                          “I’m on it!” Matrix pulled out his pocket computer.

                                          Macro grabbed DL’s elbow and steered her through the crowd towards the door, blatantly ignoring the sneers thrown his way. Fortunately there was no sign of the magmar he’d conned the laser out of. Good. He really wasn’t in the mood to be dealing with any conflict.

                                          “So where are we going?” DL asked as they stepped outside.

                                          “Totally Rad Ice,” he said. “It’s not as awesome as it sounds.”

                                          “Hmm. But they do cheri ice cream, right? How many parlors are there?”

                                          “Three. But this one is affordable and probably the only place that won’t mess up my order.”

                                          “So they’re friends?”

                                          “Not exactly.” He shrugged. “But I did introduce them to Cookie.”

                                          “Oh!” DL chuckled. “Then I imagine he buys a lot from them.”

                                          “Sometimes. He’s a good chef. He taught them about flavor combinations and their sales exploded.” He folded his arms and smirked. “They paid well, too.”

                                          She crinkled her nose in confusion. “I thought you said it wasn’t as awesome as it sounds?”

                                          “It isn’t,” he said. “It’s just a dockside ice cream stand. Not your luxury, five-star ice cream parlor with sundaes and crepes.”

                                          The small ice cream stand stood beside Dockside Dogs, the blue and white awning stretching out to provide shelter from the sun. Although it wasn’t exactly a sunny day. Only one other customer stood before the shop, waiting patiently for his ice cream. Beside the shop stood a statue of a vanilluxe, a common occurrence at ice cream parlors. Vanilluxe’s pointed body and slushy head was said to have inspired the use of cones to serve ice cream.

                                          A young cubchoo peered down at Macro and beamed widely.

                                          “Macro!” he said. “Great to see you. What can we get you?”

                                          Macro nudged DL forward. She stared up at the menu and pointed a delicate claw.

                                          “Cheri and chocolate please?” she said.

                                          The cubchoo nodded energetically, the long dangle from his nose swinging harmlessly. He shouted to his companion, a snorunt, who eagerly got to work.

                                          “Nothing for you?” the cubchoo asked Macro.

                                          The mawile folded his arms and stared at the long menu. It couldn’t hurt.

                                          “Mago and razz berry,” he said.

                                          The cubchoo called out his order then stretched his paw down to take his credits. Macro held out a credits bill which the cubchoo snatched up with a small cheer.

                                          “Made my day,” he said. “It’s been awful quiet.”

                                          The snorunt appeared with their ice creams and the pair took them and turned towards the docks. DL gave the two ice pokemon a cheerful wave and trotted to Macro’s side.

                                          “You really need to remember your p’s and q’s,” she said.

                                          “Sorry?” He raised an eyebrow.

                                          “Please and thank you,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard you say either.”

                                          He shrugged. “I don’t ever think about it.”

                                          He leant on the rail, staring out at the mass of blue dotted here and there with themed ships. One shaped like a gorebyss turned to pull into the docks whereas several were moving away.

                                          “You should be more aware of it,” she said. “You come across as rude and you’re only going to make more enemies with that attitude.”

                                          He waved a paw at her. “Pish posh. It’s not like I haven’t got loads already.”

                                          “Well, it’s never too late to correct your attitude.” She leant beside him and lapped up a trail of cherry before it dripped over the end of her cone. “This is good. You sold them short.”

                                          He chuckled and licked at his own ice cream. “You clearly haven’t had one of Moonlight Lounge’s sundaes.”

                                          She smiled and leisurely tucked into her snack. Macro turned back to the ocean of marine-themed ships drifting through the calm sky. For a rare moment, he actually felt peaceful. No one would have assumed a single one of those ships was at odds with another. In most instances, it wasn’t the case. Pulse City might have been classed as a dangerous place, but at least a majority of the space pirates actually got along in spite of type differences. Although very few tended to mingle in their ships. Most ships carried a mono-typed crew much like his own.

                                          “You know, they said they couldn’t remove this.”

                                          DL’s voice snatched him out of his reverie. She pawed at the antennae behind her right ear while her other paw held what was left of her cone. The smile on her face had vanished and she let her arm flop back onto the rail.

                                          “You… asked them to remove it?” he asked.

                                          “Not immediately. It seems to be the only way I can get my memories back. But… I don’t want it forever.”

                                          “No, I can understand that.” He watched a trickle of mago ice cream drip onto his black paw.

                                          “It’s rooted into my brain,” she said. “They told me if they remove it then it could do some serious damage.”

                                          He shrugged. “Then I guess you’re stuck with it, unfortunately.”

                                          “But I don’t want to be stuck with it,” she said. “It’s distorting and hideous.”

                                          “Don’t be ridiculous.”

                                          “But it is! It’s horrible, and it makes me look hideous.”

                                          “You’re not hideous, DL.”

                                          She fell silent and he could feel her chocolate eyes burning into the side of his head. He waved a paw and sighed.

                                          “Besides,” he said. “A lot of pokemon have modifications like that. Some even do it to give themselves a more realistic experience playing games. You’re not exactly out of place.”

                                          She sighed. “It’s just so alien.”

                                          “I don’t know.” He let his arm flop over the edge of the rail and his ice cream fell free and flopped down into the glass dome. “Drat. Anyway… think of the positives.”

                                          “What positives?” She laughed bitterly. “You can turn me off at the flick of a switch.”

                                          “Well… I’m not saying that’s positive. But you have access to a computer in your head. Not many can claim that without plugging themselves in first.”

                                          “How is that positive?”

                                          “You have access to some kind of encyclopedia, right?” said Macro. “That could be pretty useful at say a quiz.”

                                          “That’s cheating.”

                                          “If it’s in your head, it’s knowledge as far as I’m concerned.”

                                          She laughed again and stuck the last of her cone in her mouth. “Thanks for the ice cream.”

                                          He shrugged. “Don’t mention it.”

                                          Silence fell over them again and he stared back out at System Sky. Memories… if it weren’t for Socket, DL wouldn’t be having to go through this. Nothing he could say would take that wretched technology out of her head.

                                          She stiffened beside him and he snapped his head around to look at her. The antennae began to flash orange and green and her large eyes turned distant.

                                          “Retrieving information from TimeSkip.”

                                          Her body went limp and he leapt across to catch her before she struck the floor.

                                          “Information received. Location - System. One thousand and seven years ago. Relaying co-ordinates.”

                                          He crouched onto the floor, letting DL lie against him as he pulled out his pocket computer. His memory was nowhere near as good as Matrix’s, but he tried his best to punch in the co-ordinates. As the map on his screen pinpointed the location, his heart sank. Meta City? That was where Socket was located. If he’d got it right, the time pocket was right inside Central Meta Hospital. There was no way he could beat her from where he stood. His arms flopped to his side and he looked down at the disoriented pachirisu. She ran a paw over her eyes and pushed herself away from him as she stared out at the vast blue sky. He followed her gaze and swallowed dryly. He’d have to let Socket have this one.

                                          ...

                                          BackDoor chuckled as he floated before the swirling black and ultraviolet hole just outside its gravitational pull. The excitement was too much. Beyond that time pocket there could be hundreds of humans. One of them should surely satisfy Socket’s desires. As for the others… well, she could make a whole army of living computers.

                                          The smile fell from his face and he turned a glare onto TimeSkip.

                                          “What’s taking so long?!” he screeched.

                                          The emotionless android didn’t even look at him. He wasn’t even sure it was looking at the time pocket. Probably just existing like empty androids did.

                                          He folded his arms and pouted. They’d already been waiting an eternity for the hospital ward to vacate. Whatever the room was, it was empty save for a bed. The walls were peeling, too. Crammed with shelves filled with various medical equipment. One would think they’d take better care of a storage room. He had no sense of smell to speak of, but he could imagine one who did would be assaulted with various chemicals and cleaning fluids.

                                          A female scream reached his ears, followed by incoherent shouting from deep beyond the swirling mass. He clapped his paws together eagerly and drifted away from it. The swirling mist distorted and filled with a gangly shape. Whatever it was, it shifted back and forth between gangly and winged, growing ever larger the closer it got to their world. His eyes narrowed in confusion. That hadn’t happened before. Usually things stayed the same shape. Had they made some kind of critical error?

                                          With a loud yell, the form solidified and flew from the hole, landing sprawled on the pristine white floor. Gangly, winged, gangly. Then it looked up at him. Long black fur surrounded a naked face. Two green eyes locked onto him with a look that made him burst into sporadic laughter.

                                          “What are you laughin’ at?!” she shrieked.

                                          The hoopa’s mouth snapped shut and twisted into a smirk. “Looks like we found a human. Wahay! High five!” He span to face TimeSkip and raised a paw.

                                          The celebi merely stared at him through lifeless black eyes. BackDoor frowned and turned back to the human.

                                          “Spoil sport,” he said. “Ruin all my fun.”

                                          The human’s form melted down into the winged form of a prehistoric archeops. Sharp teeth sneered at him and she twisted her reptilian head around to look at the swirling mass. It blinked out with a strange sucking sound and her jaw dropped.

                                          “Sorry.” BackDoor shrugged. “Guess you’re stuck with us.”

                                          She looked back at him, breathing heavily. Her form changed back into that of a lanky human girl but her posture was every bit as primal as the previous pokemon form she’d sported.

                                          “Stuck with you?” she gasped. “Where am I?!”

                                          “System,” he said. “Only one thousand and seven years later.”

                                          Her jaw dropped again and he laughed.

                                          “You mean…” She sat up and flopped onto a feathered bottom, raising a claw to her jaw as if she wasn’t even aware her form had changed. “You mean I time traveled?”

                                          “You could say that.”

                                          “So… I’m a time traveler?” She looked down at her feathered body and made a thoughtful noise. “Always thought I was an archeops. Maybe they got it wrong, huh?”

                                          Her eyes grew distant and she kept saying the words ‘time travel’ and ‘archeops’ over and over until the words began to blend together. At one point he was fairly certain she’d said ‘time archeops’.

                                          BackDoor blinked his eyes in confusion. What on earth had they got hold of? He exchanged glances with TimeSkip and shrugged.

                                          “Oh well,” he said. “I’m afraid you’re coming with me. I ain’t waiting for another human, you’ll have to do.”

                                          She looked up with a start as he span in circles around her, fastening her interchanging limbs in place with gold strands. She let out a yelp of surprise as she was tugged into the air.

                                          “What are you doing with me?!” she screamed. “Put me down! This instant! Wait…” She paused. “What day is it?”

                                          “Come on, quick!” he snapped at the celebi. “Before someone sees us!”

                                          They zipped from the small window, too small for their charge who’s head bounced off the window frame. His laughter drowned out her screams and protests and he even did a small somersault in the sky, waving her around like a ball and chain.

                                          “I think you’ll quite like your new home,” he told her. “Socket’s got big plans for you!”
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                                          Old November 24th, 2017 (7:34 AM).
                                          Delirious Absol's Avatar
                                          Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
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                                            Join Date: May 2015
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                                            Chapter Twenty One


                                            “So this Socket has opened another time pocket?” Switch asked. “Much like the one I came through?”

                                            “I’d say it’s exactly like it,” said Macro.

                                            Wildcard Gamma and their two clients sat huddled in one of Moonlight Lounge’s entertainment rooms. Eleven rooms occupied one floor, each one with its own screen that allowed the space pirates to choose between a selection of movies and video games. Even karaoke. Macro sat with his feet up on the table and his paws tucked behind his head, staring at their current sci-fi drama movie more so than actually watching it. He wasn’t even sure any of them were actually watching it.

                                            Switch shuffled in his seat and ruffled his feathers. “I’m not sure how to take this.”

                                            “None of us are,” said Macro. “Until yesterday I didn’t even believe humans actually existed.”

                                            “And now there might be an army of them,” said Anchor.

                                            “That’s highly probable,” said Switch. “Central Meta Hospital was filled with humans in comas. One thousand years on, you might have a cure for that now.”

                                            “A quick search of my records,” said DL, “tells me the hospital was also home for victims of a fatal virus.”

                                            Switch shrugged. “I wouldn’t worry about that. That might have been a huge issue back then, but the entity responsible for it doesn’t exist in your time line. They’d likely just be cured as soon as they passed through the time pocket.”

                                            “That’s good,” said Macro. “We don’t have to worry about an epidemic.”

                                            Switch said nothing as he huddled further down into his seat. All eyes were on the movie but Macro wasn’t sure any of them were really watching it.

                                            No, he wasn’t going to worry about an epidemic. Socket wanted humans, and if she’d managed to successfully drag any through then her rabid search across time and space might finally come to an end. Of course, there was always the possibility her search could go the other way, literally. If she sent something or someone back to the Fracture’s time-line, she could change history. Make it so humans were more readily available.

                                            A cold shudder ran down his spine and he hugged himself, trying to focus his paranoid mind on the movie and not on his swirling thoughts. There was no way she’d want to re-write history. How would that benefit her? No… she had other plans. She wanted to do something with the humans. He wanted to find out what and put an end to it.

                                            “How many humans do you think she could have taken from that time line?” Anchor asked.

                                            Switch shrugged and let out a sigh. “I’ve no idea. It could be one, it could be hundreds. All I know is the hospital was struggling to find room. It sparked a lot of hate between humans and pokemon, and was seen as an invasion more than an accident.”

                                            “That’s not exactly fair!” Anchor scoffed.

                                            Switch chuckled dryly and shook his head. “You might have been singing a different song if you lived back then.”

                                            The granbull huffed and folded his arms. “Little judgmental there, Switch.”

                                            “Believe me, I met a lot of perfectly nice pokemon who were wary of humans. I’m sorry if I sounded judgmental, I was going from experience.”

                                            Anchor shrugged. “Forget about it. Maybe you’re right.”

                                            “I guess it’s easy to be wary,” said Matrix, who’d been rather silent since they entered the room. “I was wary of DL at first. Something alien can be unsettling.”

                                            “Yeh, and you fainted when Switch transformed.” Macro chuckled.

                                            “Hey!” The ribombee frowned. “I’m surprised no one else did!”

                                            “You went rather pale yourself,” said Anchor.

                                            Macro felt his face heat up and he looked away from the granbull, catching a nod off DL. He grit his teeth and went back to the movie. He’d completely lost track of what it was about.

                                            “I’m beginning to think,” said Switch, “that something huge is going on here. I don’t know enough about this world, but I do know that Socket needs to be stopped.”

                                            “That ain’t gonna be easy,” said Macro. “It would take an army, and hers is pretty big. She’s got electric pokemon backing her somehow. I’m wondering if that’s how she got her paws on DL.”

                                            The pachirisu stiffened at her name and fixed her chocolate eyes on him. “You think I worked for her?”

                                            “No idea. But I’m sure we’ll find out when you get more of your memories back.” Macro turned back to Switch. “Nevertheless, if you’re not prepared, you’re gonna die. Simple. With a weapon ban throughout System, you’re gonna stand no chance against her army.”

                                            “I shouldn’t need a weapon,” said Switch. “None of you should! You’re pokemon, you’re born with attacks. You learn them as you grow! Weapons are unnatural! Don’t you think that’s what she’s trying to teach you with this ban?”

                                            Anchor roared with laughter and struck his paw on his knee repeatedly. “Teach us?! She uses them herself! Her army’s fleet are equipped with laser turrets!”

                                            “And I’ve seen her goons firing lasers before now,” said Macro. “Those who don’t carry them don’t work for her directly.”

                                            “Well, I don’t plan to use a weapon,” said Switch. “I can take care of myself just fine.”

                                            “Really?” Macro raised an eyebrow and leant back in his seat. “You’re a flying type, right? Also fire type. That means your major weakness is rock. One stone edge and you’re as good as dead.”

                                            The bridge of Switch’s beak creased and his yellow eyes narrowed into slits. Macro met his leer head on and shrugged.

                                            “I’m right, aren’t I?” Macro asked. “I strongly recommend you equip yourself with some leaf blade talons. Scour the black market tomorrow and see what Worm can do for you. Failing that, someone else might sell them. Either way, I wouldn’t go anywhere in System unprepared, especially if you’re planning to fight back against Socket’s army.”

                                            “Leaf blade talons?” Switch spat. “And what do you suggest I do about electric and water types?”

                                            Macro ignored his heavy sarcasm and shrugged. “Use your imagination, eh?”

                                            The door cracked open and a drowzee peered inside. He was oddly wobbly and almost spilled his drink over his waistcoat. The room fell into silence as the psychic tapir looked over them each in turn, lingering on DL for a moment before turning his head to look at the movie.

                                            “Androids Dreaming?” he asked in a heavily slurred, deep and dreary voice. It made him sound sleepy, and his words made Macro’s fur stand on end. “Mind if I join you?”

                                            “It’s a free country,” said Switch.

                                            The space pirates fixed the talonflame with equal looks of surprise, but he didn’t return them. He continued to stare at the screen, his beak held tightly shut.

                                            “Cool.” The drowzee stared at his glass and then looked over at the table. “I’m gonna get another beer. Save me a seat.”

                                            The door slammed shut after him, making Macro jump slightly. Burning anger rose in his chest and he rounded on the human.

                                            “Free country?!” he spat. “You just invited another space pirate to join us?! Do you even know where you are?!”

                                            “No,” said Switch. “I don’t. This isn’t the System I know. This is some alien universe, and I think there’s a lot you’re not telling me.”

                                            “Really? I think we’ve told you a lot. What do you want to know, exactly?”

                                            “Maybe you could start with what exactly is going on? Why is there a weapon ban? Why were you in exactly the right place at the right time to stop Socket obtaining me? Because the way I see it, after seeing this city and the way the pokemon act here, it’s pretty obvious you’re not the good guys.” His eyes narrowed. “A weapon ban, in my opinion, is a good thing. Maybe the good guys are those in charge of this world, and you’re just a bunch of anarchists.”

                                            Macro flashed his canines and rose to his feet, reaching for his laser.

                                            “No!” DL’s soft paw grabbed his wrist. “Stop it!”

                                            His paw relaxed and he sighed, but his violet glare didn’t leave the talonflame. “You’ve seen and heard what she’s trying to do and you think she’s the good guy? I told you! There are no good guys. You pick a side, and you fight for it.” He paused and frowned. “Now which side is it gonna be? If I were you, I’d choose carefully.”

                                            Switch rolled his eyes and hopped from the seat. “I need some time to think.”

                                            Macro watched as he pulled the door open with his beak and strutted from the room. The door closed behind him with an ominous click, and the mawile fell back into his seat with a sigh. He rubbed the bridge of his nose and groaned.

                                            “Making more enemies,” said Anchor. “Well done, Cap’n.”

                                            “He started it,” Macro hissed.

                                            “I dunno. I’d say it’s fairly even.” Anchor picked up the remote and cranked the movie’s volume up. “Let’s just unwind for a bit, shall we?”

                                            Macro leant his head back on the headrest and stared at the screen. Nonsense. It was just a load of nonsense.

                                            DL shifted beside him and he turned his head to look at her.

                                            “Were you really going to shoot him?” she asked, somewhat disappointed.

                                            Macro shrugged and turned back to the movie. “Only if he struck out first. Like I said, you need to look out for number one. You don’t, you die.”

                                            Anchor grunted with agreement. “Sadly that’s the case.”

                                            ...

                                            “Knock knock!”

                                            Socket looked up from her desk and stared aghast at her closed office door. That voice… what was BackDoor doing in her office? She didn’t have much time to ask as the door flew open with a cry of ‘Special delivery!’ followed by a white-robed gangly mass. It struck the floor with a cry of protest and pushed itself up to leer at the floating hoopa android.

                                            BackDoor burst into fits of giggles and struck TimeSkip on the back with a mitten-like paw. The onion-like pokemon lurched forwards under the impact, but its expressionless face didn’t give away any sign of discomfort.

                                            Socket turned her attention from the two androids to the creature sprawled on her floor. No longer a pile of limbs, it was instead covered with rugged yellow and blue feathers. Reptilian eyes fixed on Socket’s and it pulled its lips back from a row of sharp teeth. Vicious, but she could rest assured it was tightly fastened in glowing chains.

                                            “What is this?” she asked.

                                            “A human,” said BackDoor.

                                            No sooner had he said it, the reptilian bird changed form to that of a lanky bald creature who’s only visible fur congregated at the top of its head and fell down over its face and shoulders like an ebony waterfall.

                                            “A human?” Socket stood up and moved around her desk to get a better look at the creature. It shifted once again into its feathered form. She rounded on BackDoor and hissed. “You flew over Meta City carrying this?! Did anyone see you?!”

                                            BackDoor shrugged. “Don’t know, don’t care. Fact is you now have a human. We can finally get the ball rolling and move on with our plans!”

                                            “They’re my plans, BackDoor. You are merely a tool.”

                                            The hoopa shot over to her with such speed she took a step back. He waved his paw and a golden ring stretched out just behind the human. Black mist swirled inside it, lit up by ultraviolet light.

                                            “If I shoved you through there, you’d die in seconds.” BackDoor grinned and looked down at the spot between her and the human. “Oh. And there’s another right beneath your feet.”

                                            A cold chill ran down Socket’s back. She cleared her throat and looked back down at the human.

                                            “I guess… this is suitable,” she said.

                                            The swirling mist disappeared to be replaced with her familiar office. BackDoor folded his arms and nodded.

                                            “I should hope so,” he said. “Took us long enough to find one of these things.”

                                            Tweak’s jingling echoed over the room as he flopped towards them, stopping mere inches from the human’s reptilian face.

                                            “Looks like an archeops,” he said. “Those things are extinct, right?”

                                            Socket’s heart plummeted towards her feet. Of course. She hadn’t considered that. The strange pokemon form the human kept taking was prehistoric. Extinct. As out of place in System as the human species itself. She slapped a paw to her forehead and groaned.

                                            “This won’t do at all,” she said. “It will stand out like a sore paw pad!”

                                            The human roared and thrashed in an attempt to sit up. “I’ll give you a sore paw pad if you don’t get these wretched chains off me!”

                                            Socket narrowed her eyes. “Don’t you talk to me like that. I’m the mayor of System and while you’re here you’ll listen to and obey me. Understood?”

                                            “Crystal.”

                                            Socket straightened her spine and stared down at the human. That didn’t even make any sense.

                                            “Anyway, tell me,” Socket said slowly. “Why do you keep changing form? Is it some kind of self defense? Are you trying to break free?”

                                            “Of course I’m trying to break free!” Her form switched again to the archeops. “As for this. Well… it’s a sickness. I was in a hospital before that goof snatched me.”

                                            Tweak snorted laughter and looked up at BackDoor. “She called you a goof.”

                                            BackDoor’s nose crinkled and he leered at the human. “Yeah. I’m not impressed. I might send it back.”

                                            “No!” Socket raised a paw and shook her head. “No, leave it. We’ll keep the human. I can work something out. Tweak, fetch me Yobi. He might know something about this form changing issue.”

                                            “Roger!” Tweak raised a tiny paw in salute.

                                            BackDoor watched the chingling flop from the room and turned back to the human. A wide smirk tugged at the corner of his mouth as she switched rapidly from her human form to the archeops and back.

                                            “You think… you can fix this?” she gasped. “’Cos I really hope so. This is exhausting.”

                                            “I can imagine,” said Socket. “What is your name, human?”

                                            “It’s Annie.” She pushed herself up as best she could until she was sat on her knees. The golden chains still surrounded her limbs, fastening her arms around her chest in a way that was reminiscent of a straight jacket. “So let me get this straight. You’re gonna fix me… then send me home?”

                                            “Home?” Socket scratched behind her left ear. “I’m not sending you anywhere. You’re going to work for me in return for…” She waved a paw at her, “repairing this.”

                                            Annie switched back to her archeops form and fell sideways. Her long tail thrashed the floor as she flailed in a blind rage.

                                            “For goodness sake, BackDoor!” Socket snapped. “Release her!”

                                            BackDoor mumbled under his breath as he snatched the chains away. They vanished under his touch, melting away from Annie like butter.

                                            “Ruin all my fun,” he scoffed.

                                            Annie pushed herself up and checked over her feathers, which vanished to be replaced by the long sleeves of her white robe. She looked up at Socket and BackDoor and gave a curt nod.

                                            “Thanks,” she said. “Been a long time since I was in confines like that. Didn’t care for it at all.”

                                            “Well you’re out of them now,” said Socket. Her eyes flicked to the door as it creaked open. “Ah, Yobi. Come see what we’ve found.”

                                            “Tweak told me it’s a human?” The sparksurfer raichu joined her side and his mouth fell open when he spotted Annie. “That… that’s a human? Looks like an archeops to me.”

                                            “Give it time,” said Socket.

                                            The feathered form flickered like a bad connection, revealing the gangly limbs of the robed human, before settling on the archeops once more. Yobi stuttered and Socket looked down at him.

                                            “Can you fix this?” she asked.

                                            His yellow cheeks had turned pale, and he scratched at one of them anxiously. “I don’t know. It sorta reminds me of that issue some ditto have.”

                                            “I was thinking the same thing,” said Socket. “Impostor ditto aren’t always in control of their ability.”

                                            “There’s only one problem.” Yobi’s voice ended in a squeak as Annie’s human form took over. “Ditto are rare, so that means their help is rare. Since they can’t breed, they’re… well, they mitosis and even then, that’s an odd occurrence. Their bodies are completely different to ours, even prehistoric ones. So there’s no saying the stuff that helps them will help… well, her.” He nodded at Annie.

                                            “We could at least give it a shot,” said Socket. “Get me the medication and we’ll try it.”

                                            “It might take me a while,” said Yobi.

                                            “Then get it before morning.”

                                            Yobi pursed his lips and backed towards the door, not taking his eyes off the shape-shifting human. As he reached the door, he turned and hopped onto his tail, zipping down the corridor out of sight.

                                            Tweak whined and looked up at Socket. “Wish I could do that.”

                                            “Now.” Socket looked back down at Annie. “About you. I think it’s best if we get you a private room somewhere. We can’t exactly book you into a hospital since there are no humans in System.”

                                            “None?” Her eyes widened. “I thought System were full of them. Did they lie?”

                                            “That was back in your time line,” said Socket. “Here, there are no humans.

                                            “Huh.” The archeops scratched her head with a wing claw. “Interesting.”

                                            Her eyes drifted to the open door and she muttered the word ‘interesting’ over and over in the following silence. Socket shifted from one foot to the other and followed the human’s gaze to the door.

                                            “Well,” she said. “Fortunately I have a spare room in this building that you can borrow for the time being. Come with me.”

                                            She strolled towards the door and ducked as BackDoor and TimeSkip took off over her head. She rounded on the two androids and scowled.

                                            “You two need to get back to work!” she barked.

                                            “Not a chance!” BackDoor waved a dismissive paw. “I wanna see how this unfolds.”

                                            Socket tutted and shoved past the two androids. Realizing Annie wasn’t following her, she looked back to find the human still kneeling on the floor while winding a lock of black hair in one finger, her white robe spread out around her like a pool of snow.

                                            “Annie!” Socket snapped.

                                            She looked up with a start and blinked her green eyes.

                                            “Come on. Do you want help or not?” Socket turned and marched from the room.

                                            ...

                                            It was oddly dark when Macro opened his eyes. The movie room was almost empty. Only Matrix and DL accompanied him, and Switch hadn’t come back since he’d stormed off. None of them had any idea what had become of the talonflame. There was also no sign of the drowzee. He’d been oddly silent during the film, innocently sipping at his seemingly endless supply of beer while casting the occasional glance in Macro and DL’s direction. Not wanting to draw attention to himself, Macro had stayed put, relying on the safety of his crew. There was no chance of Anchor letting the drowzee anywhere near him, and either the tapir had known that or he’d simply just wanted to watch the film. Nevertheless, he was now gone, leaving the three sleepy pirates alone with the movie’s ending credits.

                                            Matrix stretched and yawned so wide his jaw clicked. “Well, if you’re now up, I think I’m gonna head to bed.”

                                            “I think I might follow you.” Macro rubbed his eyes. “I can’t believe I fell asleep with that drowzee here.”

                                            “Yeh.” Matrix looked around the room with a start. “We think he influenced it.”

                                            Macro’s eyes flew wide open and he looked down to check his weapons and pouch. Everything in place, and as for his pouch, DL was using it as a pillow. Her long, thick tail curled up to her chest and her right paw wound into his long leg-fur. His own paw hovered above her uncertainly as he tried to work out how exactly to deal with the situation.

                                            “I doubt he’s done anything,” said Matrix. “Anchor and I had a good look around and everything’s still here. Drowzee just… have that affect on others.”

                                            “Huh?” Macro looked around at him then nodded. “Yeh, sure.”

                                            “I mean, they eat dreams.” Matrix buzzed sleepily into the air and yawned again. “He might have just been hungry.”

                                            “Anchor might know what went on.” Macro turned back to DL and let out a sigh between his teeth. “I need to wake her up somehow. I’ll meet you back at the ship.”

                                            Matrix buzzed over to the door then paused to look over his shoulder. “Take care, all right? I don’t know where that drowzee went.”

                                            Macro waved a paw at him before he slipped through the door to leave him alone with the sleeping pachirisu.

                                            To the untrained eye, she looked just like any other pachirisu. White and blue fur, thick curly tail. No one would have suspected she had any modifications from his angle. The antennae was hidden completely behind her right ear, and the jack socket was so small it was barely noticeable until she turned her back.

                                            Her nose twitched and she curled up smaller, burying her face into her tail and tightening her paw around his fur. Part of him really wanted to dislodge her, jump up and make a bee-line for the door. The other part, however, was transfixed by the low, blue light reflecting off her glossy fur. Every small curve of her body seemed to be highlighted by it. It was little wonder the drowzee kept looking in their direction. Any sensible male would be attracted to such a beautiful creature.

                                            That was it, wasn’t it? The drowzee had been after something the entire time. Deep, burning anger rose in his chest and his paw fall onto her shoulder almost of its own accord. He jumped, snatching back his offending paw. The motion snapped her awake and she released his fur to brush her own out of her face. He leapt to his feet and glanced over at the door, trying to mask his sudden embarrassment and anger behind a mask of nonchalance.

                                            “What happened?” she asked. “Where’s everyone gone?”

                                            “Bed,” he said. “The movie’s over. We’re going back to the ship.”

                                            She pushed herself up while she yawned and stretched. “All right. Just give me a minute.”

                                            “Now, DL,” he hissed.

                                            She fixed her chocolate eyes on his and he diverted his gaze to the holoscreen. It was still on. A quick flick of the remote sorted that out.

                                            “What’s the problem?” she asked.

                                            “The problem is, like I’ve said before, space pirates aren’t nice pokemon. Now get back to the ship.”

                                            She slipped from the chair, muttering under her breath as she left the room. He held the door open, watching as she vanished into the ladies rest room. She couldn’t wait until they got back? It was like she was just trying to wind him up.

                                            A shadow fell on the wall as someone rounded the corner, and he looked up into the confused face of the drowzee. The wobbly pirate was clutching yet another glass of beer, but in his other paw was what looked like a blue cocktail, complete with tiny umbrella. He looked past Macro into the movie room and his long face fell.

                                            “Hey,” he said in that deep, dreary voice. “Where’d the pretty pachirisu go?”

                                            Every hair on the back of Macro’s neck stood on end and he flashed his canines, watching as the drowzee slipped into the room for a good look around. He let the door slam shut behind him, separating him from the drowzee, more so for the tapir’s sake than his own.

                                            No. Space pirates were not nice pokemon.
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                                            A Fanfiction Author Who Dares to be Different
                                            A glimmer of hope in a war-torn world - The End
                                            Cyberpunk fantasy meets Pokemon Mystery Dungeon - Glitched
                                            Fancy some Cyberpunk PMD action with space pirates? System:Reboot
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                                              #22    
                                            Old December 2nd, 2017 (7:40 AM).
                                            Delirious Absol's Avatar
                                            Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
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                                              Chapter Twenty Two


                                              Blue paint sloshed over the hull of Wildcard Gamma, filling in the unsightly metallic grey scuff that marred the poor ship. Macro hung from the fin by a thick rope, and while clutching the other end of it tightly in his paw, the other paw worked away running the roller over the ship’s side. It would take a while to dry before he could repair the name. Part of him wanted to ask Matrix to do that, since he could fly. But he wasn’t entirely sure he could trust the ribombee’s artistic skills to perfectly match the chosen font.

                                              He loosened his paw enough to lower himself, careful to not burn his pads on the rope’s rough surface. Using his feet, he dragged himself along the ship’s hull to reach the farthest end of the scuff. Another quick flick of the roller and it was soon filled in.

                                              “All right there, Macro?”

                                              He froze and turned his head to look down at the speaker. Switch stood on the docks, stretching his neck out to his full height to look up at him. A small smile played at his beak, and beside him sat a paper bag.

                                              “Huh.” Macro turned back to his work. “Didn’t think I’d be seeing you again.”

                                              “Yeh, I wanted to apologize,” said Switch. “I said some horrible things. Do you have stripes on your back?”

                                              The surprise in the human’s voice almost made Macro drop his paint roller. He’d almost forgotten he’d removed his scarf to avoid getting it covered in paint. He cast Switch a glance back and scooted backwards to neaten up an area the rope had unfortunately smudged.

                                              “It’s a birth mark,” he said. “I’ve had it since I hatched. My mum had the same exact thing. I don’t care about it.”

                                              “Huh… A friend of mine has the same markings,” said Switch. “Only his are dark blue. He’s a meowstic. His mate is a mawile. I wonder if you’re related?”

                                              “I don’t really care,” said Macro.

                                              “Really? Because they’re great friends of mine,” said Switch. “They just had a kid of their own before I got sucked in here. They made me an uncle. If you are related, then that would make them you’re… I dunno… Great Times Fifty grandparents, and me your Great Times Fifty uncle.”

                                              Macro raised an eyebrow. “Great Times Fifty?”

                                              “Hey, I’m trying to apologize here,” said Switch.

                                              Macro snorted and absently painted over the already re-painted section. “You’re no uncle of mine, Switch.”

                                              “Come on, Macro! I need your help. I don’t have a clue where I am,” said Switch. “You say it’s System, but to me, it’s not. At least, it’s not the System I know. One minute I’m in this world filled with green and forests with floating islands and hover boards. Sure, there are similarities but… from what I can gather, it’s wildly different. Pokemon eat meat, there’s a mayor, space pirates, ships… the closest thing to a ship where I came from was my friend’s flying car! Nothing else flew except flying type pokemon and ancient drifting continents!”

                                              “And that warranted accusing me of the bad guy?” Macro scoffed. “After I saved your hide n’all?”

                                              “You told me there are no good guys,” said Switch. “And from the information I picked up last night, I’m inclined to agree. But it doesn’t mean there can’t be any.”

                                              “Everyone keeps to themselves,” said Macro. “You should do that, too.” He finished filling in the bare patch and turned to look down at him again. “What do you mean ‘information’?”

                                              “I chatted to some guys,” said Switch. “Tried to find out what on earth is going on here. Turns out you have quite the price on your head.”

                                              “That’s what I get for annoying Socket.”

                                              Macro tossed the paint roller towards the paint pallet, missing by a mile and leaving a nice blue smear on the docks. Using both paws, he shimmied his way down the rope. It was no easy task. His side kept bouncing off the hull as he swung back and forth.

                                              Claws dug into his bare shoulders and he let out a yelp, releasing the rope to grab at his assailant’s legs. With two beats of his wings, Switch was back on the ground. As soon as Macro’s feet touched the docks, Switch released him and landed at his side.

                                              “Sorry, I didn’t mean to alarm you,” said the talonflame. “But the way you were swinging, you would have got yourself covered in paint and ruined all your hard work.” He winked, taking Macro quite by surprise. “By the way, here.”

                                              He reached into the paper bag with his beak and pulled out a wad of neatly folded fabric. Macro took it cautiously and looked it over. It was a black scarf, the ends of which were decorated with a checkered blue pattern. Towards the end of the design, the blue squares thinned out as though they were being dragged apart, losing control of gravity entirely to drift towards the middle of the scarf.

                                              “I bought it as an apology,” said Switch. “I just assumed you liked scarfs since you wear one all the time. This one has a bit more colour. I thought it matched your lasers’ blue trim.”

                                              Macro stared down at it for a moment before meeting Switch’s golden eyes. “How did you buy it? I don’t imagine you came here with a pocket full of credits.”

                                              “I joined some guys in poker last night,” Switch explained. “One of them was rather generous and offered to lend me some so long as I gave him half of my winnings if I won. Not only did I get the information I wanted, I got lucky and won four thousand. That left me with two thousand after I’d honored my end of the deal.”

                                              “A generous space pirate?” Macro couldn’t help but laugh. “I think he was using you as an extra paw at winning.”

                                              Switch shrugged. “Well it worked in both our favours.”

                                              “Colour isn’t usually my thing.” Macro kept his eyes on Switch’s, but the talonflame merely smiled.

                                              Macro sighed and turned back to the paint pallet. He tidied the roller away and gathered up his familiar all-black scarf, tossing it around his shoulders twice so the long length fell down both his front and back.

                                              “You weren’t wrong,” said Switch. “Everyone here thinks very little of Socket.”

                                              “That opinion is pretty rampant on System Ground as well.”

                                              “From what I gather, most areas down there are toxic.” Switch paused. “What happened?”

                                              “Destruction,” said Macro. “Pollution. You name it, it happened. There ain’t a single tree left in System except for cultivated berry orchards, and even they’re rather limited outdoors. The air near the cities just kills them.”

                                              “Why wasn’t something done sooner?”

                                              “I tell you what.” Macro rounded on him and placed a paw on his hip. “You travel back six hundred years ago and ask the first mayor what exactly he was thinking. All right? Because all this followed him and his laws about pollution reduction. Dumped it in the outskirts of Meta City and things backfired ridiculously. My personal opinion was that it was all down to discrimination. He just didn’t like poison types.”

                                              “And what about this law about meat?”

                                              Macro tossed the paint pallet into his tool bag and dusted down his paws. He fixed Switch with a raised eyebrow.

                                              “You didn’t raise that during your little game did you?” he asked.

                                              Switch shook his head. “Not while one of them was munching on a fillet, no.”

                                              “Well, that was down to the next mayor,” Macro explained. “Allegedly there was a famine. Pollution reduced where berry orchards could grow, and there was a month long drought that killed off a lot of trees and bushes. Desperate for food, pokemon looked to the ocean. Seaweed and other plants didn’t have much appeal, so they turned on the water dwellers. Since they spend all their life in the water, they weren’t seen as helpful to the community. So they ‘made them helpful’. Since then, the rule stayed.”

                                              Switch’s beak was clasped so tightly shut Macro feared for a moment it might break. The talonflame let out a sigh and shook his head.

                                              “It’s ridiculous,” he said.

                                              “Like I said. You wanna put things right, you take it up with the mayor. I can personally guarantee you that you won’t come out of it in one piece. Keep your head low and just get on with things until we can get you back to your time line.”

                                              Switch nodded and scooped up the tool bag before Macro could grab it.

                                              “I can promise you something, though,” said Switch. “When I do get back, I’ll make sure everyone understands turning to the ocean is not an option.”

                                              Macro stared at him, dumbfounded. “You’re going to try and change the future?”

                                              Switch nodded again.

                                              Macro burst out laughing and took the bag from Switch’s beak. “That’s a good one!”

                                              He turned and clambered up the neon ladder towards the entrance hatch.

                                              “I’m serious!” said Switch.

                                              “So am I!”

                                              ...

                                              It had been a rough night in the mansion. Socket’s new ‘guest’ had complained throughout the most of it, expressing great distress at her constant form changing. The gothitelle had begun to wonder if she’d been putting it on. Nevertheless, she didn’t want to lose the human, so she’d made Tweak her personal butler. All night, the chingling had been back and forth carrying trays of water and biscuits, supplying blankets, removing blankets, guiding Annie around the mansion whenever she’d wanted to use the facilities. At one point, he’d had to check the wardrobe for monsters. Either Annie was a fantastic actor, or she’d seriously believed something was in the wardrobe. Between that and her frequent muttering and word-vomit, Socket was beginning to wonder if the human was in complete control of her faculties.

                                              It didn’t matter. After her form had been stabilized, every essence that made up her individuality would be removed and destroyed, leaving Socket with an empty, prehistoric shell.

                                              She really needed to work out how on earth she was going to hide an archeops, or pass it off as ‘normal’. They’d not been seen in System for thousands of years. How had the pokemon reacted a thousand years ago when a human took on that form? Since it was a human, it likely didn’t have the same impact as a living fossil being discovered on a remote island.

                                              Socket stared down at the human as she lay asleep in the large bed. Black and white sheets bunched up around her legs, exposing her bare feet. One arm lay sprawled along the pillow, reaching out over the edge of the bed towards the night stand. The other arm lay over her chest. Loud snores flew from her wide-open mouth in a way that would put a tyranitar to shame. For a brief moment, Socket considered grabbing the other pillow to stifle the wretched noise. However, the desire was shattered as Annie’s form changed, shrinking slightly and replacing the snores with a snarl as she turned over.

                                              Plop; jingle; plop; jingle. Tweak wriggled through the ajar door, which opened wide after him as someone followed him into the room.

                                              “Yobi’s here!” he cheered.

                                              Socket craned her neck around to look at the raichu. “About time. Did you get the medicine?”

                                              Yobi ducked as BackDoor and TimeSkip darted in over his head, the hoopa letting out a squeal of glee.

                                              “What are you doing here?” Socket asked him. “You two are supposed to be working.”

                                              “Hey, I ain’t missing this.” BackDoor folded his arms and nodded at the human. “I wanna see how this plays out.”

                                              Socket sighed and turned back to Yobi. “You really need to be more assertive over your creations.” She gave a nod to the androids.

                                              He raised a transparent blue, plastic jar and jiggled it. Its contents rattled around inside softly and he set it in Socket’s waiting paw.

                                              “She should try two a day at first,” he said. “Ditto are a lot smaller, and one tablet probably won’t do the job.”

                                              “Well, let’s try it then.” Socket leaned forward and poked the archeops in the shoulder. “Oi. Annie. Wake up.”

                                              Annie grumbled and tugged the duvet higher with her claws.

                                              “Annie!”

                                              Socket took hold of her shoulder and shook her rather abruptly. Annie’s reptilian head spun round, her eyes flashing, and white teeth snapped at the gothitelle’s paw. Socket snatched it away and took a step back, checking herself for any signs of injury. Fortunately, there were none. She ignored BackDoor’s irritating laughter and fixed her blue eyes onto Annie’s.

                                              “That was uncalled for,” she said.

                                              “So was waking me.” Annie’s form changed right as she was brushing a paw over her head. A look of confusion crossed her face and she tugged at the black strands of disheveled hair. “I was having a good dream, too.”

                                              “Sorry to disturb you,” Socket said, unemotionally. She shoved the jar at the human. “Take two of these. They’re meant to keep your form steady.”

                                              “So this will fix me?” Her form changed once more as she unscrewed the lid.

                                              Socket held her breath, watching the archeops swallow two tablets then reach for her glass. Her form snapped back to human again and she necked the remaining tepid water. With a satisfied sigh, she released the glass to clatter back onto the night stand and looked down at herself.

                                              “I feel different,” she said.

                                              “Different how?” Socket’s eyes trailed over the human’s gangly limbs and black hair, fearing the worst.

                                              “Like… well, it’s like when you get hiccups then suddenly they’re gone.”

                                              Socket’s nose crinkled and she pouted her bottom lip. It was an odd way of wording it. It was rather easy to forget you’d even had hiccups.

                                              “Is this it?” she asked Yobi. “It’s worked?”

                                              “They work pretty quickly,” he replied. “I’d say, going off what she’s said, that her form has settled.”

                                              “So she’s stuck like this?!” Socket spat. “What am I supposed to do, Yobi? Dress her in a onesie?!”

                                              The raichu’s mouth opened and closed as he struggled to find words. “Erm… Well… She does need to take them once a day to remain-”

                                              “So we wait?”

                                              Annie kicked her legs over the edge of the bed and stretched. A huge smile spread across her face and she picked up the jar of tablets.

                                              “Can I keep these magic pills?” she asked.

                                              “They’re not magic,” said Yobi. “They’re medical. And yes. I have a repeat prescription, actually-”

                                              Socket snatched it from his grip and eyed it over. “Fantastic. So I’ll be sure to give them her once a day, and hope she stays in the form of a pokemon!”

                                              “I dunno,” said Annie. “I quite like this form. It’s awkward running around with wings.”

                                              “Well you don’t blend in at all,” said Socket.

                                              “Really?” BackDoor asked. “I think it’s a lot more fun this way, personally.”

                                              Tweak looked up at Socket and blinked. “Shall I go find a onesie?”

                                              Socket fixed him with a leer. “Tell me, Tweak. What do you think?”

                                              “I’m thinking charizard or infernape. Back in a tick.”

                                              He turned and flopped from the room, his jingling bell fading away while Socket groaned inwardly.

                                              “He has a point,” said BackDoor. “She does have the figure to pull off an infernape.”

                                              Socket bit back the urge to threaten the hoopa with dismantling and turned back to Annie. The human examined each of her limbs as though seeing them for the first time. Her green eyes seemed to take up half of her face as she slowly turned her hand back and forth.

                                              “It’s so cool,” she said. “It’s not changing!”

                                              Yobi let out a sigh of relief and flopped sideways into the wall. He wiped his brow with a paw and smiled, chuckling to himself.

                                              “Are you okay, Yobi?” Socket asked. “You still appear to be sleep deprived.”

                                              He shrugged. “I’m fine. So… what’s next? You want to bring her to my lab, or-”

                                              “Lab?” Annie looked up with a start.

                                              Socket’s wide eyes narrowed on the raichu and she launched him backwards in a psychic bubble.

                                              “Fool!” she snapped.

                                              “Look.” Annie slipped from the bed and adjusted her weight on either foot. “I appreciate the help n’all, but I’m kinda plannin’ on leaving here now. So… if you don’t mind.”

                                              She reached for the pill bottle, but Socket snatched it away. The gothitelle met Annie’s raised eyebrow with the sweetest smile she could muster.

                                              “These things work both ways, dear,” she said. “I helped you, now if you wouldn’t mind returning the favour and helping me-”

                                              Annie raised her arm and in a flash brought it down against the gothitelle’s jaw. Pain exploded through Socket’s face. She flew sideways and hit the floor in a sprawl, sending the pill bottle into the air. Annie reached out and caught it in one hand, and quickly checked it over for any sign of damage. BackDoor let out a gleeful squeal then burst into fits of laughter that bounced off Socket as she tried to process what on earth had just happened.

                                              “No thanks,” said Annie. “I don’t do paybacks.”

                                              She stepped over the stunned mayor and slipped though the door, not meeting the raichu’s concerned eye.

                                              Socket pushed herself up and shook her head sharply so her long ears bounced off her cheeks. Her jaw pulsed where the wretched human had struck her, and she rubbed at it trying to soothe it away. As realisation slowly washed over her, her fur began to bristle.

                                              “That was awesome!” BackDoor roared. He wiped an imaginary tear from his eye and nudged the silent celebi. “Did you see that? Oh my… I would have paid to see that!”

                                              Socket turned her livid, icy stare on him. “Shut up, BackDoor! We have work to do.”

                                              “Oh great.” His smile fell and he threw his paws into the air. “You’re gonna make us look for another human, aren’t you?”

                                              “No. I want that one retrieving. She’s going to pay for this.” She pushed herself to her feet and turned towards the door. “Yobi, pull yourself together and retrieve her. The guards will have stopped her at the door, so she shouldn’t get very far. BackDoor-” She turned on the hoopa. “Commence stage two of my plan.”

                                              His eyes lit up with glee and a huge grin spread across his face. “Stage two? About time!”

                                              Before she could even begin to throw the finer details at him, he was out the window with TimeSkip in tow.

                                              Socket turned back to the door where Yobi was still sprawled against the wall. She frowned and tapped her foot.

                                              “Yobi?”

                                              He fixed his bleary eyes on hers and cleared his throat. “Sorry, Madam Mayor. I think… I might be…”

                                              He pushed himself to his feet and staggered from the room, almost tripping over his own tail.

                                              She groaned and followed after him, tugging her pocket computer from her waist pouch. “Security! I need a strange creature apprehended. Do not be alarmed, but do not let down your guard either-”

                                              “Sorry, Mayor.” The voice that came from her computer sounded awfully terrified. “Whatever it was, it left the mansion moments ago. Two of my men fainted at the sight of it. I’ve had to call an ambulance. It’s just me on the door now…”

                                              Socket bit her lip and trotted after Yobi. Before she could reach him, he slumped to the floor onto his front. She stopped at his side and bent down to shake him awake, but she snatched her paw back as his shoulder nearly burnt her. A fever?

                                              “Has the ambulance arrived yet?” she asked.

                                              “Not yet, Mayor.”

                                              “Then when it does, tell them there’s a casualty up here, too.”

                                              “Roger!”

                                              She groaned and sank to her bottom, and threw her computer onto the tiled floor. “Great! Now what am I meant to do?”
                                              __________________
                                              I believe in Jesus Christ my Savior. If you do too, and aren't scared to admit it, then copy and paste this in your signature.

                                              A Fanfiction Author Who Dares to be Different
                                              A glimmer of hope in a war-torn world - The End
                                              Cyberpunk fantasy meets Pokemon Mystery Dungeon - Glitched
                                              Fancy some Cyberpunk PMD action with space pirates? System:Reboot
                                              Other Fics - SWC entry 'Rivers and Waterfalls'
                                              'Where else can I find Del?' -FFnet/Wattpad
                                              Reply With Quote
                                                #23    
                                              Old December 8th, 2017 (2:39 AM). Edited February 2nd, 2018 by Delirious Absol.
                                              Delirious Absol's Avatar
                                              Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
                                              Call me Del
                                                 
                                                Join Date: May 2015
                                                Location: UK
                                                Age: 33
                                                Gender: Female
                                                Nature: Quirky
                                                Posts: 327
                                                Part Three - Invasion

                                                Chapter Twenty Three

                                                Tracer stepped out of the mini market, clutching a fresh cigar in two claws while his other paw tucked the newly bought pack into the inside pocket of his trench coat. Clean air washed over him and he took in a deep breath of it before reaching for his lighter. Widget scratched behind his ear with a rear paw then looked up at him with a little grin. Before the eevee could speak, a loud ring came from Tracer's pocket.

                                                The delphox reached inside and pulled out his pocket computer. Socket. He let out a long sigh and stubbed out his cigar on the wall of the building before answering. It was better than letting it burn away to nothing.

                                                "Yes, Mayor?" He recoiled slightly from the screen. Oddly enough, she had an ice pack pressed against her jaw. "Have you had a tumble, ma'am?"

                                                "No, I have not had a tumble," she snapped. "I'm ringing you as a last resort, Tracer. I know you're terribly busy rounding up space pi - wait a moment. Are you in Meta City?"

                                                Tracer glanced around at the high buildings and clear sky then nodded. "Yes. Not too far from your office if you want me to meet you there?"

                                                "No. No, that won't be appropriate at all. You are meant to be in the outskirts! What are you doing in my city?"

                                                "Buying cigars," he said. "They don't sell them in the outskirts, and I'm not reducing myself to those thin, vile sticks they try to pass off as cigarettes."

                                                Socket sighed and removed the ice pack from her face to reveal a rather large, red bump around her jaw.

                                                "Please tell me you didn't bring that ragamuffin of an eevee with you?" she groaned.

                                                Tracer glanced down at Widget who returned his look with raised eyebrows. He flinched away and looked around blankly at the buildings. To cover his tracks, Tracer pretended he was doing nothing more than trying to locate the source of a convenient siren.

                                                "Of course not," he said. "What can I do for you?"

                                                "Can anyone else hear this call?" she asked.

                                                "I can lower my voice."

                                                "Good. Do that. Now listen, this is of dire importance, Tracer, and under no circumstances are you to let this out." She paused to retrieve a fresh ice pack off Tweak. "A human has found their way into System. I tried to apprehend it, but it attacked me, as you can see."

                                                Tracer raised an eyebrow and leant back against the wall. "A human? Are you sure you're not sick, Mayor?"

                                                "No, I am not sick. They attacked me, then escaped into the streets. Goodness knows where they are now. Two of my guards fainted and the one who didn't is receiving expensive therapy to deal with the shock! Before some unfortunate catastrophe unfolds, I need to you apprehend this human and bring it back to me."

                                                "All right." Tracer scratched his ear. He didn't remotely believe the gothitelle's nonsense. Too many late nights, that's what it was. He sighed. "What does it look like?"

                                                "At the moment, an ape-like creature with long black hair, wearing a white robe."

                                                "At the moment?" he repeated.

                                                "Yes. At other times it looks like the prehistoric pokemon, archeops."

                                                Widget let out a loud laugh and shook his head. "She really has gone mad."

                                                Socket's face fell and she dropped the ice pack. "You did bring that ragamuffin with you!"

                                                Widget grimaced and mouthed a quick apology to Tracer. The delphox shook his head and sighed.

                                                "Sorry, Mayor," he said. "Go on. Human. Archeops."

                                                "You don't remotely believe me, do you?" she said. "Well, that can be easily rectified. I am going to forward you the CCTV footage. It may aid you in your search. Do be careful. We have this creature listed as 'dangerous and unstable'. Also be aware I will pay you well for your services. We'll cover that in the email."

                                                The image cut out and Tracer lowered his computer with another sigh. She really did sound like she believed it, and if she was willing to send him CCTV footage then something must have happened. Maybe something that had been completely misunderstood? A rogue attack from another psychic type pokemon inflicting the gothitelle with an illusion. Maybe even a rogue zorua or zoroark had invaded the mansion disguising itself as a monster the mayor had described as a human. Those things were grotesque in pictures.

                                                His computer beeped and he opened up the email. One video file, marked with the current day's date. He crouched down enough for Widget to see and lit up his cigar as he waited for it to load.

                                                The image was crisp, showing every detail of colour in the sparse room. The same date stood in the top right corner, joined by seconds rolling by beside the time. Under the green and white sheets was some kind of bird, but it wasn't a bird for long. It switched to some strange creature sprawled on the bed, snoring loudly. Socket strolled in and stood there, watching it. Tracer raised his eyebrow and removed his cigar to puff out a stream of smoke.

                                                "If this is an alien creature," he said to Widget, "then why has she given it a bed?"

                                                The eevee shrugged. "Peace offering?"

                                                Tracer grunted and continued watching the video. The creature's form changed again shortly before the room filled with several other pokemon. Two of them he'd only seen in paintings. Legendary. What were they doing there? Socket leant forward to touch the creature and it span around to bite her.

                                                "Certainly hostile," said Widget. "Pretty cool looking though, huh?"

                                                Tracer said nothing as he watched the rest of the video. They'd given it some form of tablet, and after it took it, it sat in its white-robed form, stable. Then, it attacked. Smacking the gothitelle right across the jaw before taking the jar of tablets and strolling from the room. So it had wanted the tablets. Whatever it was, it clearly had no control over its shape-shifting ability. Had the tablets fixed that?

                                                The pair watched the video one more time, then sat in silence against the shop's cold, stone wall. The video footage itself had been hard enough to digest. From the nature of the transformation, it wasn't a zoroark. Or, if it was, they were highly skilled. But why would a zoroark have wanted the tablets? Most of Meta City was filled with psychic types. Even those strange legendary creatures accompanying Socket were rumored to have been psychic type. A zoroark could have made short work of them all. So what was this creature doing? What was Socket doing?

                                                "So," Widget said, dragging the delphox back into reality. "That's a human?"

                                                "Seemingly."

                                                "Doesn't look like any of the ones I've seen in history books." He paused. "The archeops is pretty on point, though."

                                                Tracer 'hmm'd and scrolled through the email. The price Socket was willing to pay was certainly generous. Maybe she was aware how dangerous the human really was, and knew he'd be risking his life. Nevertheless, things didn't add up. Why would she give a dangerous creature a bed? Why show him if it was secret? Why lie? Of course, she hadn't lied outright. She'd said she'd apprehended the creature. That meant taken into custody. Bed or not, it was in her custody at the time. But still… was she helping it? Trying to coax it out of posing a threat by being welcoming? Or was it something much more sinister?

                                                "Are we taking the job?" Widget asked all too keenly. "'Cos this has got me pretty excited, I must admit."

                                                "Yes. We're taking the job." Tracer sent out a stream of smoke then flicked ash into the drain. "But I am beginning to wonder," he said slowly, "if Socket has told me the entire truth."

                                                ...

                                                Annie trudged through the dirt-ridden streets. It was a stark contrast from the bustling city. Enough to make one wonder if they'd stepped through yet another porthole into another world.

                                                It also stunk.

                                                Boarded up buildings made up the most of the scenery, their yellowing stonework marred with various posters. Outdated concerts; clubs; products; video games; wanted criminals. All of it was covered with graffiti. A lot of it was insults aimed at the mayor, some of which still dripped with fresh paint.

                                                She kept her eyes forward, scanning the route ahead. It was quiet. Good. She had grown tired of the looks and screams from the pokemon in the city. Their obnoxious voices had given her a headache. Despite the stench, it was a nice change of pace.

                                                Blinds across the road rattled and she caught a round face staring out at her, but it didn't linger long enough for her to get a good look. The blinds whizzed shut, blocking out the peeking tom.

                                                She folded her arms and pouted. "How am I supposed to get back home?"

                                                She stood still, mulling over the recent events. If she was in the world she'd left, only later, and pokemon didn't know what humans were… did that mean they eventually did go back home? She scratched her chin and looked up at the yellow-tinted clouds.

                                                "So I time traveled… if I'm a time archeops then I should be able to get back myself." Pause. "One would think. Now how do I do that?"

                                                Her hand found the pill bottle in her pocket. Magic pills that held her form. All she needed to do was time it right then she could hold the form of the archeops and work out how to get back.

                                                Something shuffled ahead of her. Whimpering. Someone was crying? Whatever it was, they were limping. Or crawling. She couldn't tell.

                                                She crept forwards, following the sound to a building slightly taller than the rest. Wooden steps ran up to the door that stunk of rot, and looked like something had turned them into a snack then given up. The whimpering came from beneath them. A small, fish-like creature floundered and flopped, dragging itself along the damp ground. Its eyes were screwed shut, and it was leaving behind a trail of red.

                                                Annie stooped and grabbed it in both hands, lifting it up to her face. The creature yelped and opened its eyes, which widened slowly as it took her in.

                                                "What are you crying for, little fish?" she asked.

                                                Its mouth dropped wide open and it let out a panicked scream. She looked back over her shoulder, turning her head left and right.

                                                "What? Is someone following me?" she asked.

                                                "What are you?" The fish's voice was male, young. A choked sob came from his throat. "Don't eat me!"

                                                Annie frowned down at the orange and white fish. "Eat you?" Her eyes fell on the red lacerations in his side. "Oh… I thought you'd crashed into some paint."

                                                He shook his head, wincing with the effort. "No. I'm trying to get home…"

                                                She lowered him slightly to eye the buildings. "Which one is your home?"

                                                "The river," he said. "I live in the river…"

                                                His voice was awfully weak, and growing weaker with each passing moment. Of course. Fish. River. It all made sense. The poor creature needed water. She tucked him under one arm and trotted along the road past the rotting stairs. If the fish was going to stand any chance at living, then she was going to have to find him water. Any kind of water. Enough to transfer him in.

                                                Her mind lurched back to that blind and she turned one-eighty and made her way back to the house. It wasn't too far away. She found it instantly, since that round, orange face was staring out at her again. It vanished, but she reached the door and banged on it with such force it shook.

                                                No answer.

                                                She took the handle and forced it open, almost walking straight into the orange pokemon. Loose skin hung around his waist like baggy pants, and a sickly pale red mowhawk stood erect in the middle of his head. His sleepy brown eyes narrowed at her and he raised a paw to shove her away.

                                                "Get out!" he snapped. "I don't know what you are, but we don't want you here."

                                                She held up the fish. "I need water for this."

                                                "Go find your own water!" he growled. "We're on short supply here. I ain't givin' out charity!"

                                                "But he's dying," she said. "Just give me some water so I can take him back home."

                                                The baggy pokemon's leer fell away to be replaced by surprise. He opened his mouth to speak, but all that came out was an 'uhm'.

                                                "What's going on, Trojan?" Another pokemon strode into the hallway.

                                                This one Annie recognized. A skuntank. Her long tail wasn't carried along her back like she'd expected from pictures. Instead it was dragged behind her like a purple carpet. She eyed Annie curiously. Fearlessly, actually. Then her eyes went to the fish.

                                                "Did I hear you right?" she asked Annie. "You want to help that goldeen?"

                                                "Goldeen?" Annie looked down at the fish. He was panting, now. His little gills fluttering back and forth. "Is that what you are? Well, yes. He's lost, like me. I want to get him back home."

                                                The skuntank frowned slightly, inclining her head on one side. "It looks like he escaped from the fishery."

                                                "Fishery?"

                                                "That's where they turn pokemon like your goldeen friend there into food." She looked up at Annie. "Meat, to be precise."

                                                Annie almost dropped the goldeen. "Pardon?"

                                                "Meat," the orange pokemon, Trojan, spat. "You know what that is? Or are you an oblivious vegan?"

                                                "Oh, I know what meat is. But I've not tasted any in years." Annie looked down at the goldeen again. His eyes were wide open, almost bulging from his head. "Doesn't seem very nice here, though." She turned to the other two pokemon. "How would you like being turned into kebabs and burgers?"

                                                The skuntank looked up at Trojan and nodded to the stairs behind him. "Get her some water."

                                                Before Trojan could mount the stairs, a firm "No" stopped him in his tracks.

                                                Yet another pokemon, this one resembling a tall owl, strolled from the room behind the skuntank. The most alarming thing about him was the silver, ornamental sheath over his beak which ended in a vicious point.

                                                "The water we have will kill him in a heartbeat." The owl reached behind Annie's head with his wing for a metallic quiver of arrows and threw them over his shoulders. "I'll get some from the river. Hopefully he'll survive long enough."

                                                "Oh, come on, Waveform." The skuntank sighed. "You take that quiver everywhere. What you really need is a bucket."

                                                He fired her a glare over his shoulder. "I'll get one from the outhouse." He nodded to the goldeen. "Patch his wounds and keep him moist."

                                                Trojan folded his arms and huffed. "Guess I'll go and find some thread and needles then." He clambered up the stairs, muttering to himself. "Helping a flippin' water dweller. What a joke."

                                                The skuntank nodded for Annie to follow her into the kitchen. A large wooden table stood in the center, surrounded by chairs. Six in total. The sink was overflowing with dirty crockery and the work top looked like it needed a jolly good scrub. Annie flopped into one of the seats and set the goldeen on the table.

                                                "Wait! Wait!" The skuntank rose up onto her hind legs, clutching a towel in her forepaws. "Lift him back up. There'll be blood everywhere."

                                                There certainly was blood everywhere. The towel did a good job at soaking it up, and the goldeen was set back down on top of it. His eyes were screwed shut as his breaths came in shallow bursts.

                                                "How long ago did you find him?" the skuntank asked.

                                                "Shortly before I came here," said Annie. "I don't know how long exactly. Maybe seven minutes and thirty two seconds. I know I'm a time archeops, but… I don't know about time details."

                                                The skuntank's brow knit together and she opened her mouth to speak, but was cut off as a small tin clattered onto the table. Trojan threw himself down into a chair and leant back, pushing the seat onto two legs as he kicked his feet up onto the table.

                                                "What the jack is a 'time archeops'?" he scoffed.

                                                "An archeops who can travel through time," Annie explained. "Although I don't recall trying. I'm trying to get back to my own time, but I haven't the foggiest how."

                                                The two pokemon exchanged glances.

                                                "Well, maybe you can explain a bit more once we've helped this goldeen," said the skuntank. She reached for the tin and clawed it open. "My name is Webber - Web for short - and the grump there is Trojan. The decidueye who just left is Waveform. We're the only three pokemon that live here." She looked up at Annie while clutching a fine needle between two claws. "What's your name?"

                                                "Annie." Annie paused. "I think."

                                                Trojan raised an eyebrow. "You think?"

                                                "Well, I'm considering changing it to Time Archeops."

                                                "Forgive me for saying this," said Web. "But you look nothing like an archeops."

                                                "I don't at the moment, no." Annie took some thread from the box and began to unwind it. "I go between forms. Right now, I'm a human. Pretty stabilized thanks to these magic pills I got off the mayor."

                                                She pulled the tub from her gown pocket and slammed it onto the table.

                                                Trojan's large eyes widened. "You got those off the mayor?!"

                                                "Yeh. She gave them to me. Said they'd hold my form."

                                                "Just… gave them to you?"

                                                "Well, she wanted something in return. So I gave her a good clobbering and now I'm here." She pointed to the needle in Web's claws. "You might wanna sterilize that. Got any fire?"

                                                "Yes… right." Web shook herself and looked over at Trojan. "Light?"

                                                Trojan reached into his baggy pant-like fur and tossed a lighter over to Web. A small smile played at his lips and he chuckled.

                                                "You clobbered the mayor?" he asked.

                                                "Darn right I did," said Annie. "I don't do paybacks. Besides, something didn't smell right. She had this weird look in her eye. Hungry. Made me paranoid."

                                                She craned her neck around to look over her shoulder at the wall. The window was awful grimy. She could barely see through it. Oh well.

                                                "Have we got any sitrus berries, Trojan?" Web asked. "He's gonna need some if he's gonna survive."

                                                Annie looked back round at the skuntank. She'd pulled the goldeen closer as she stitched up his wounds. Most of them were concentrated on his right side, and the formerly off-white tea towel was dyed a bright red.

                                                "You don't think he'll survive?" Annie asked.

                                                Web shook her head. "I wouldn't hold your breath, girl. He's lost a lot of blood."

                                                "Huh." Annie leant back in her seat and tucked her arms behind her head as she watched the skuntank work. "How's he supposed to get back home if he doesn't survive?"

                                                "In an urn," said Trojan bluntly.

                                                "Don't be ridiculous," said Annie. "How's he meant to swim around in an urn? Way too small."

                                                Trojan raised an eyebrow and pushed himself back up in his seat. "Are all humans off-key like you?"

                                                "Trojan!" Web snapped. "Don't be rude."

                                                He snorted and stood up. "I don't have time for this. Once the goldeen is fixed, both he and the… time archeops… can get the jack outta here. I want nothin' to do with any of them."

                                                "'Either'," Web corrected. "Make yourself useful and grab some sitrus berries from the larder."

                                                He snorted and stomped from the room.

                                                "Don't take it personally, girl," Web told Annie. "He lost his brother last week."

                                                "That was careless," said Annie.

                                                The skuntank frowned slightly and snipped off the loose thread. "I'd hardly call it careless. He was awful sick. This air does no favours for the body." She paused. "You said you arrived yesterday?"

                                                Annie nodded, and Web's muzzle creased in thought.

                                                "So you really aren't from here?" she asked cautiously. "You haven't a clue what's going on?"

                                                "Nope!" Annie yawned widely. "Don't rightly care, either."

                                                "Oh, I think you'll care." Web began sewing up one of the goldeen's smaller wounds. "You seemed rather upset that pokemon eat meat. To be honest, I'm not keen, but beggers can't be choosers. If you got those pills off the mayor, then I'm assuming you were in Meta City. So you'll have seen the difference between Spool and Meta."

                                                "Yeh, it stinks here," said Annie.

                                                Web chuckled. "Proxy City smells a lot worse, believe me. But anyway, the air is poisonous. Ideally you're meant to wear a mask, but I severely doubt they filter out everything."

                                                "But you're a poison type, right?" Annie asked. "So it wouldn't bother you."

                                                "Doesn't matter," said Web. "It affects everyone, whether you're grass, poison or steel. It's pollution. A poison in its own right in that it kills everything. If you're exposed to it for long enough, you'll eventually get cancerous tumors afflicting your lungs and air ways."

                                                Annie scratched her nose. "Huh. That doesn't sound pleasant."

                                                "Far from it." Web cut the thread and examined the goldeen's remaining wounds. "They don't look as bad. They'll heal on their own, given time. But a freshwater fish like this isn't going to survive long here."

                                                She waddled to the sink and washed her paws. The water that came out was tinted with a faint yellow. Web grabbed another tea towel and wet it thoroughly. This was tossed gently over the goldeen, and the skuntank joined Annie at the table.

                                                "It's not the best water," she said. "But I don't want him to dry out."

                                                Trojan stormed back in and tossed yellow berries onto the table. They bounced about, clattering onto the floor and bouncing off walls. Annie shrieked and dived under the table with a cry of "Bakudan!"

                                                "There's your berries," said Trojan. "Now I'm goin' out for a bit. Don't you dare follow me."

                                                Web gathered them up, casting Annie an apologetic look.

                                                "Seriously, Trojan!" she said. "And don't go graffitiing the detective's office again!"

                                                Annie crawled out from beneath the table and pulled herself back into her chair. She grabbed one of the sitrus berries and examined it carefully.

                                                "I know these," she said. "They gave them to me at the hospital. Sour things, these."

                                                "They do the job," said Web. "Hopefully they'll perk him up, but… anyway. Where is it you're going?"

                                                "No clue." Annie set the berry back down. "I was looking for a way to get back home. But I guess I have to wait until the tablets wear off then I can change back into an archeops and try to re-enact what I was doing before I ended up here."

                                                "Well, I certainly hope you manage." Web paused her peeling of one of the orange fruit. "I've never met a human before. But I have heard stories. If you're from a different time, is it the same world as this one?"

                                                "System? Aye."

                                                "Before you go anywhere," Web said slowly, "would you mind telling me what it's like?"

                                                Annie chuckled and leant back in her seat. "I'm afraid I didn't see much outside the white walls of a mental ward."

                                                Web sighed and finished peeling the fruit. "That's a shame. I'd like to know if it really did have trees everywhere, and how clean the air was."

                                                The door opened again and the decidueye strolled in, sloshing water over the edge of a green bucket.

                                                "Got this from the river," he said. "Should be okay for a goldeen, right?"

                                                "Perfect," said Web.

                                                She dropped the fruit to retrieve the bucket, but Waveform pushed past her to place it beside the worktop. Instead, Web scooped up the goldeen and popped him into the water with a soft 'plop'.

                                                "He won't drown, will he?" Annie asked.

                                                Waveform looked over his shoulder at her and narrowed his eyes. "He's a fish."

                                                "Doesn't mean he can't drown," said Annie.

                                                Waveform shook his head and sighed.

                                                "Did you run into Trojan?" Web asked him.

                                                "Yeh. Told me this human hit the mayor," he said. "Well… 'clobbered' was the word he used."

                                                Annie yawned and stretched, drawing another look from the decidueye. Something flashed behind his eyes. Curiosity? No… Whatever it was, it made her a little nervous. She masked her fidgeting with another yawn.

                                                "You have anywhere to stay?" he asked.

                                                Web looked up at her, waiting for an answer.

                                                Annie scratched her nose again in thought. "I don't think so."

                                                "Then she can stay here," said Waveform. "Fine by me, anyway."

                                                "I was hoping you and Trojan might agree to that," said Web. "At least until her friend here is fit to leave."

                                                "The little fish isn't my friend," said Annie. "I don't have friends. I was trying to help the lost fish get home, that is all."

                                                Web smiled and a small chuckle left her nose. "That's what friends do, girl."

                                                Annie waved a hand and stood up. "Whatever. I'm tired. Is there a bed? Or do I have to sleep in hay?"

                                                "There's beds." Web moved past Waveform towards the door. "Come with me, girl. I'll show you around."
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                                                Old December 12th, 2017 (11:51 AM).
                                                Delirious Absol's Avatar
                                                Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
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                                                  Join Date: May 2015
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                                                  Chapter Twenty Four



                                                  Two disks down and three to go. That’s what Macro kept telling himself as he looked over the list of four remaining locations. Botnet City, Cyan City, Meta City, and The Cache. Since he’d hit two and retrieved two disks, he was getting dangerously close to eventually hitting the red herring. If there even was one. There was always the possibility Surge had been incorrect in discovering there were only five disks.

                                                  His eyes lingered over Meta City for a moment. The huge red cross on his internal map. Even the name reeked of danger, and after DL’s revelation that yet another hole had been torn in time and space right in the centre of it, he was even less inclined to venture there. Surely Socket knew DL could pinpoint these rifts. What if she’d simply been trying to lure him in?

                                                  “Struggling?” Switch poked his head around the cockpit door.

                                                  Macro looked up at him and sighed before turning back to the list of cities.

                                                  “You could say that,” he said.

                                                  The talonflame strutted into the room and peered over his shoulder. Heat radiated from his feathers and Macro found himself instinctively feeling for his laser.

                                                  “I’d like to see Cyan City, personally,” said Switch.

                                                  Macro snorted. “You’ve been here for what… a day? And you already have a list of sight seeing destinations?”

                                                  “Not exactly,” said Switch. “Back home, I spent a lot of time in a place called Cyan Island. A drifting continent. You know them, right? They float over System, and I’m guessing it’s been moved to a city status now. I want to know what changes have been made.”

                                                  Macro raised an eyebrow at him over his shoulder. “Drifting continent? Don’t be ridiculous. Cyan City, like every other city in System Sky, is an artificial slab holding towering skyscrapers above the clouds. It can’t go anywhere. It’s encased in a perspex dome like everywhere else up here.”

                                                  “So what’s happened to the drifting continents?” Switch asked. “Are they barren now?”

                                                  “There are no ‘drifting continents’,” said Macro. “Rumors and legends like you humans and that Fracture nonsense.”

                                                  “You still don’t believe the Fracture even happened?”

                                                  “Oh, I believe it now, but it’s still nonsense. If it weren’t for the fact I’d managed to obtain a human, I’d still think it were all fairy tales.”

                                                  Switch let out a sigh and ruffled his feathers. “Then what happened to Cyan Island?”

                                                  “I haven’t a clue. Some say they crashed and that’s why they don’t float any more. But there’s no evidence to support that.”

                                                  “Then… has anyone searched the oceans? They had engines in them, Macro. And they were huge! They couldn’t just vanish. There must be remains somewhere, right?”

                                                  Macro stared at him for a moment, then flicked his computer off and stuffed it back into his pouch.

                                                  “All right, Switch, I’ll make you a deal.” He shifted his weight to one foot and pointed a claw at the talonflame. “I’m gonna show you System Ground, and you can see for yourself this ain’t your world no more. All right?”

                                                  Switch frowned but said nothing, keeping his golden eyes on Macro as he moved out of the cockpit.

                                                  The mawile poked his head out of the exit hatch, squinting in the bright sunlight. Anchor was still fiddling with the small wishiwashi turret, whistling a jaunty tune as he worked away with DL sat beside him. The pachirisu’s nose was streaked with grease, and she clutched a spanner in her paws, watching the granbull intently.

                                                  She looked tiny compared to the large, pink bulldog, but she wasn’t the least bit intimidated by him. With the belt around her waist she didn’t look out of place either, and at some point she’d acquired a green neckerchief that did look out of place amongst her blue markings. Sunlight reflected off her white fur with an almost dazzling intensity. Macro tore his eyes away and cleared his throat to address the granbull.

                                                  “Almost done, Anchor?” he asked. “Kinda wanting to fly soon.”

                                                  “Yup,” said Anchor. “Just gotta fasten this panel back in place. It got a bit bent, so it’s tricky, but we’re nearly there.”

                                                  DL looked up at Macro and smiled. That smile alone flooded his chest with warmth, killing any retort on his tongue. He snatched his head back inside the hatch and leant back against it. With a sigh, he tugged his goggles free and ran a paw over his face.

                                                  “I really need to do something about this,” he muttered.

                                                  ...

                                                  “Where do we even find a human?” Widget asked.

                                                  The eevee skipped along beside Tracer, his mask completely hiding his face. It was near impossible to tell if he was joking or genuinely curious without seeing that cheeky glimmer in his eye.

                                                  “I’ve no idea,” Tracer answered. “And since we’re forbidden to interview anyone about this, then finding its trail is going to be incredibly difficult.”

                                                  “Didn’t Socket’s guards faint at the sheer sight of it?” Widget asked. “’Cos I’d say we just look for a trail of stunned and terrified civilians.”

                                                  “I’m beginning to wonder if you’re being sincere.”

                                                  Tracer stopped at his office and opened the door. Defrag didn’t even look up from her desk, too focused on whatever task she was occupied with.

                                                  “Of course I’m being sincere!” Widget hopped on his toes with enthusiasm.

                                                  Before he’d even fully entered the office, he started to remove his mask. Tracer slammed the door quickly in a desperate bid to prevent the eevee from being poisoned. Despite Widget’s claims to be immune to sickness, he was taking no chances.

                                                  Widget looked up at Tracer then nodded to Defrag. “We telling her?”

                                                  “Telling me what?” The lopunny flicked her long ear back to look over her shoulder.

                                                  Tracer shook his head at Widget and sighed. The eevee gave him an apologetic grin and slinked over to his desk. Tracer flopped heavily into his chair and turned on his computer.

                                                  “There’s been… a problem in Meta City,” he explained. “But it’s top secret and if I tell you, it must not leave this office.”

                                                  Defrag turned her chair fully to face him and crossed her legs. “Go on.”

                                                  “I trust your professional attitude, Defrag-”

                                                  “But not enough to tell me before Widget spilled the beans,” she retorted.

                                                  Tracer rubbed the bridge of his nose and sighed. “Let me finish, please.”

                                                  “No. I get a little tired of being left out of your investigations.” She folded her arms and her nose creased in a frown. “You do this all the time. It’s like I’m just some kind of desk jockey to you.”

                                                  “You are not a desk jockey, Defrag. You’re admin. You do the administration work, which is just as, if not more, important!”

                                                  “But it’s less fun.” She paused. “Now tell me, what’s going on?”

                                                  “There’s a human in System,” said Widget.

                                                  Defrag stared over her shoulder at him. Widget picked up his cup and sipped at it with all the nonchalance he could muster.

                                                  “Don’t insult my intelligence, eevee,” she said dangerously. “We all know humans don’t exist.”

                                                  “He’s not lying.” Tracer pulled out his computer, along with a fresh cigar, and opened Socket’s email. “See for yourself.”

                                                  Defrag took the computer and the room fell into silence as she watched the footage. Any sound had been muted out, but the image was as clear as day. A shape shifting human, lying in one of the mayor’s rooms, resulting in the gothitelle being assaulted.

                                                  Once it had played out, Defrag lowered the computer to her lap and met Tracer’s eyes.

                                                  “Is this some kind of joke?” The waver in her voice betrayed her anxiety.

                                                  “Oh, it’s no joke.” Tracer gently retrieved his computer from her grip. “Socket sent me the footage herself. She seemed very intent on catching this shape shifting human. Evidence states that its highly dangerous, as you’ve seen for yourself.”

                                                  “If it were dangerous, why not kill Socket?”

                                                  Tracer shrugged and lit his cigar. “Maybe they simply didn’t want to? Either way, assaulting a figure of authority tells me its dangerous and has no fear or respect for those around it.”

                                                  “And did you see the way it just left the room?” Widget feigned a shudder. “Terrifying.”

                                                  “You’re not remotely scared,” Defrag snorted.

                                                  “Nope,” said Widget. “Crazy human? Bring it on.”

                                                  “You think it might be crazy?” Defrag asked.

                                                  “Of course! Did you even see it? It has crazy written all over its face!” Widget took another swig of his drink. “Either that, or they just have no emotion whatsoever.”

                                                  “History states humans were indeed emotional beings,” said Tracer.

                                                  “Ordinarily, I’d be inclined to correct you that they are in fact fairy tails,” said Defrag. “But after seeing that, I don’t know what to believe any more.”

                                                  Tracer blew out a stream of smoke and leant back against his desk. “You don’t think it’s enough evidence?”

                                                  “It could easily be fake,” said Defrag. “I mean, we have the technology to create convincing videos. The only thing that makes me think it might even remotely be real is the fact that Socket sent it to you, and asked you to capture this creature.”

                                                  Tracer shrugged. “Then I guess we’ll have to accept that, for the time being, there’s a potentially dangerous creature living in System. We’ll have to be extra careful, and make it our number one priority to catch it.”

                                                  “’Our’?” Defrag asked.

                                                  “Yes, ‘our’. You are every bit as involved as Widget and I. I want you to scour the internet and dig up every shred of evidence you can about where this human is located. Sightings, hoaxes or otherwise. Suspicious damage, crimes, missing pokemon. Anything that might lead us to this creature’s whereabouts.”

                                                  Defrag pursed her lips and glanced sideways at her computer. “So, yet again, I’m to remain in the office?”

                                                  “Not indefinitely.” Tracer turned his chair so he was facing his desk. “I’ve no idea how powerful this creature is. We might well need your assistance in the field.”

                                                  ...

                                                  The ship was finally ready to go, with Cyan Island as the next main destination. Macro stood beside his chair, watching Pulse City turn out of their field of vision as Wildcard Gamma pulled out of the docks.

                                                  Cyan Island may well be their next destination, but there was something he desperately wanted to do first. That was prove to Switch that the world he knew was no more. Any sign of the ‘drifting continents’ that were rumored to have once filled System’s skies were gone.

                                                  Macro hadn’t believed in them. He hadn’t believed in any of it, and the human’s constant yammering about things of legend were really beginning to grate on him. If showing him what state System now lay in would shut him up then he was more than keen to do so.

                                                  Raster Town. That was the destination he’d chosen. It was one of - if not the most - worst places on System, almost tying with the Analogue Isles. A smirk tugged at his lips and he glanced over at the navigation desk. It would be dawn by the time they arrived at Raster Town. Somewhat safer than it would be at night. Somewhat.

                                                  Switch huddled in the corner of the cockpit with his wings slightly spread. The motion of the ship turning clearly unsettled him. Macro had never considered a flying pokemon wouldn’t like traveling in a flying vehicle, but in some way it made sense. Having no control over the movements, and only having two legs and a pair of wings to balance with, he could only begin to imagine the difficulties.

                                                  DL strolled into the cockpit, yawning widely. Her fur was still damp from her late shower. Either she didn’t know how to use the fur drier or she couldn’t be bothered with it. Her fur stuck out at funny angles around her shoulders, and crinkled around her ears. Somehow, she still managed to pull off the look.

                                                  She clambered up into his seat and he looked down at her, forcing a leer.

                                                  “Why do you insist on stealing my seat?” he grumbled.

                                                  “I’m not stealing it, I’m borrowing it,” she said. “Besides, there’s plenty of room.”

                                                  “It’s the captain’s seat,” he said.

                                                  “You’re not using it.” She fastened the seatbelt around her waist and leant back, keeping her melted chocolate eyes on his. “Would you rather I fall about, instead?”

                                                  “She has a point,” said Switch. “You really could use two extra seats.”

                                                  “I’d vouch for three,” said Matrix. “We’re picking up new pokemon at an alarming rate recently.”

                                                  “We have no room for any more,” said Macro. “We’ve already filled the two spare bedrooms we had. If we pick up anyone else, we’d have to share.” He frowned. “And I’m not sharing with Anchor.”

                                                  “Don’t worry ‘bout that, Cap’n,” said the granbull. “I don’t quite fancy sharing with you, either. You’re a cover hog.”

                                                  Anchor met Macro’s glare and laughed, striking the dashboard with his paw.”

                                                  “You can’t talk to me like that,” said Macro.

                                                  “Why?” Switch asked before Anchor could even throw a playful retort. “You talk to everyone else like that.”

                                                  “Because I’m the captain.” Macro rounded on him and his right paw fondled the handle of his laser. “You need to watch it, human, or you’ll find yourself on the receiving end of my water laser.”

                                                  “Water pistol.” Switch smirked then winked.

                                                  Macro opened his mouth to throw a remark but caught DL’s concerned face in his peripheral vision. Instead, he let out a sigh and ran a paw over his face.

                                                  “I’m getting a headache,” he said. “I’m gonna get to bed. And don’t anyone dare disturb me.” He threw this last comment at the pachirisu.

                                                  She sank slightly in his seat, but that concerned expression never fell. Was she worried for him or for Switch? He didn’t know, and he didn’t want to know.

                                                  “I’ll be back out before dawn.” He stomped from the cockpit.

                                                  “What if we need you?” Anchor’s voice froze him at the door.

                                                  “Define ‘need’,” said Macro.

                                                  “Erm… government fleet attack?”

                                                  Macro snorted. “Throw up the shields and fly fast. Maybe tie Switch down so he doesn’t break anything.”

                                                  As he stormed down the corridor, he heard Switch ask Anchor in a wavering voice;

                                                  “Does he mean bones or computers?”

                                                  Macro slammed his bedroom door behind him and threw himself onto the bed, flinching as the handle of his right laser jabbed him in the kidney. He wriggled out of his belt and tossed it unceremoniously onto his chair. With a groan, he fell onto his back and pressed his paws over his face. Things were beginning to get rather confusing.

                                                  Ordinarily, he wouldn’t help anyone directly. Space pirates took on jobs - heists, for the sake of a better word. His jobs had always consisted of raiding machine and weapon parts to sell on the black market or to clients; obtaining information about the state of an area; invading government buildings to obtain maps for those who wanted to raid it but wanted low risk (and taking the things they wanted in the process).

                                                  Having unfamiliar pokemon on board was never part of the question. Switch’s situation was beyond unusual, and as for DL, obtaining her memory disks could have been described as heists in their own right.

                                                  DL…

                                                  Scratch that. Things were becoming ridiculously confusing.

                                                  He was beginning to get rather worried - no, scared - that he was developing feelings for the pachirisu. Feelings brought pain. He needed to nip that in the bud and fast.

                                                  Space pirates always looked out for Number One.

                                                  If he was going to stop things growing any more confusing than they already were, he needed to do something about DL. Of course, he couldn’t just let a pokemon without her memories walk around System on her own.

                                                  He groaned again and dragged his claws down his face. That was the gentlemon talking. After all her memories were retrieved, that was it. She had to go.

                                                  ...

                                                  Wildcard Gamma chugged along in the sky at a steady pace. The cockpit was awfully quiet, but it also meant it was much less tense. Macro was still in his room, refusing to come out. Not that anyone had even dared to wake him for fear of laser retaliation. DL was still sat in his seat beside Anchor, watching the world outside with a look of awe. Anchor hummed to himself, carefully steering the hulking mass of a ship through the darkening sky. Matrix monitored the navigation screen, or at least that’s what he was meant to be doing. The radar had been minimized to occupy a quarter of the screen while he played some strange retro game Switch hadn’t seen in years even inside his own time line.

                                                  The talonflame squatted down in a corner, fearing he’d be tossed back and forth around the ship like the pixel ball on Matrix’s screen, but things were going so smoothly it was like they weren’t moving at all.

                                                  “Everything seems…” Switch cleared his throat as he thought over how to word things. “Very relaxed.”

                                                  “Mm-hmm,” said Anchor. “We have our orders, and now we’re simply sticking to them without claws at our back.”

                                                  Switch chuckled and looked over at the door. “Can I ask you something?”

                                                  “Ask away.”

                                                  “Is he always so… strict with you?”

                                                  Anchor burst out laughing and struck the dashboard with a heavy paw. DL leapt slightly in her seat and watched the dog’s arm warily.

                                                  “That’s a funny way of putting it,” said Anchor. “But I’d keep your voice down. Don’t go blaring that around the Cap’n.”

                                                  “I’m serious,” said Switch. “The way he talks to you makes me wonder why you stick around.”

                                                  Anchor fell silent, the jovial smile melting from his face. DL looked up at him curiously, while Matrix wound his antennae in his paw and looked at each of the other pokemon in turn.

                                                  “It’s a long story, Switch,” Anchor explained. “I can tell you, but… if I hear his door open, I’m gonna stop. You all right with that?”

                                                  Switch cast a cautious glance into the hallway, then nodded.

                                                  “Okay. Prepare yourself.” Anchor pushed the steering stick forwards then looked over his shoulder at the talonflame. “This crew ain’t always been the way it was, you know. I met Macro a long time ago. Six years ago, to be exact. Was only a wee kid at the time, myself.”

                                                  “Kid?!” Switch’s eyes flew wide open. “How old are you?”

                                                  “Sixteen.”

                                                  “Pull the other one!”

                                                  Anchor roared with laughter again and looked away. “Nope. I tell no lie, Switch.”

                                                  “Then how old is…” Switch fell silent, fearing the mawile might respond to the sound of his name and cut off the granbull’s story. So he merely nodded down the hallway.

                                                  “The Cap’n’s older than me by like… three years, I think. I lose count. Too many crew members and I don’t do numbers.” He paused as he steered the ship past a high cloud. “Anyway, like I said. It’s not always been this way. He used to belong to another crew, quite a mixed one. Can’t remember the name, but when I met him there were just him and a young lass named Digit. Pretty little buneary, she was. Think he were soft on her.”

                                                  DL’s ear twitched and she looked up at the granbull.

                                                  “Anyway,” he went on, “When I met Macro, it was in Seed City. He were stealin’ sheet metal from one of the supply depots. I were gonna stop him initially, but when I spotted his lasers I knew he were a pirate. Terrified, I decided to help him. Carried several sheets back into one of the surrounding villages. Can’t remember its name. Him and his friend were fixin’ up a ship, see. Looked like a magikarp and he’d named it Wildcard. Pretty basic thing. Not one of them knew how to build a vehicle, and suffice to say the ship never even took off. Burst into flames, actually. We put it out and I told him I’d design the next one. That’s when Wildcard Beta came along. He designed it, decided he wanted a huntail ship. Went with his alias. Way back then, he went by the name Hunter everywhere. It were the name given to him by his former captain.

                                                  “He told me exactly what happened. They’d been on a raid in the Analogue Isles, but run into another pirate fleet. This was all dragon types, and they decimated the ship’s crew. In a bid to save Digit, Macro had got hit really bad by the leader - a garchomp wearin’ steel claws. Almost lost his eye. But he managed to fight him off and get Digit to safety. After that, they decided to set up their own crew, but first they needed a ship.

                                                  “I were pretty moved and scared, if I’m honest, but I decided to join them. Personally, I felt he’d kill me if I didn’t. But of course, I learned really soon he’s got a heart bigger than he shows. Sadly, that weren’t enough for Digit. Thanks to Macro’s wiles, they were often at odds, and after a rather… unfortunate heist… she decided he couldn’t take things seriously. Like everything was a joke. He takes too many risks, I’ll admit, but she couldn’t take it any more. So she up and left, leavin’ us down a navigator. Neither of us can navigate to save our lives, so we put out some feelers in Pulse City, and that’s where we found Matrix, lurkin’ in the Moonlight Lounge.”

                                                  Matrix released his antennae and nodded towards the kitchen. “Cookie wasn’t too far behind, either. We needed a cook.”

                                                  “Could burn water, our Cap’n,” said Anchor. “And I hate to cook.”

                                                  Switch chuckled and gave another glance down the corridor. “So… you see through that icy exterior.”

                                                  “Right through.” Anchor gave him a warm smile. “Give it time, Switch. He ain’t all bad. To be honest, he ain’t got a bad bone in his body. Besides, someone has to keep him sane. I often fear if I weren’t around, he’d take one risk too many and be dead in less than a week.”

                                                  Switch nodded. “Makes sense. We all need someone.” He paused, his mind going to the mental image of a huntail ship. “So… what happened to Wildcard Beta?”

                                                  Anchor took in a sharp breath through his teeth. “We don’t talk about Wildcard Beta.”
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                                                  Old December 15th, 2017 (7:55 AM).
                                                  Delirious Absol's Avatar
                                                  Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
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                                                    Join Date: May 2015
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                                                    Age: 33
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                                                    Chapter Twenty Five


                                                    As Wildcard Gamma descended below the clouds, the temperature inside began to escalate. The air conditioning whirred as it tried to keep the occupants cool, and Matrix buzzed his wings rapidly to keep his own body temperature down. The only one who had no complaints was Switch, huddled in the corner keeping his eyes on the windscreen.

                                                    “I think we’re here.” Macro stood and motioned for the talonflame to follow him.

                                                    “Five more minutes,” said Matrix. “We’re still passing over the desert, but the town is right ahead of us.”

                                                    Macro nodded his acknowledgment, but went to the hatch anyway. It would take five minutes just to get set up. He reached into the cupboard inside the hatch and pulled out two masks. One for himself, one for Switch.

                                                    “What are these for?” Switch asked as he eyed the offered mask.

                                                    “Air’s toxic,” said Macro. “You breathe that stuff in, you’ll die in days.”

                                                    The talonflame didn’t need telling twice. He took the mask and tugged it over his head with his talons. Macro fastened his in place, watching the large raptor struggle to get the mask on. It was certainly not designed for a bird, despite the beak-like nose piece.

                                                    Macro reached up to help Switch fasten it around his head, and he gave it a quick check over to make sure there were no gaps. It was actually a little on the small side.

                                                    “Thanks.” Switch’s voice came out muffled and he shook his head sharply.

                                                    “Don’t dislodge it,” Macro scoffed as he returned to fastening his own mask in place. “You don’t want any of that air getting in.”

                                                    “You said it’s toxic.” Switch turned the green glassy eye covers on him. “So surely you’d be immune, right?”

                                                    “Doesn’t work like that. It’s not toxic like say a nidoran or a salazzle. It’s pollution. Even a poison type doesn’t wanna breathe that stuff in.”

                                                    “But surely grimer and muk would thrive?”

                                                    Macro shook his head. “They still have to breathe, Switch. That polluted air rots the lungs.”

                                                    “So it’s uninhabitable?” Switch asked.

                                                    “Completely.” Macro leant back against the cupboard and looked out through the small window. “Pokemon cleaned up in places like Meta and Seed City. So efficiently that the local grimer and muk began to transform. With no sewage left to eat, they had to eat garbage instead, but then the civil war struck and all poison types were shunned to the toxic outskirts. Those transformed grimer and muk died out in mere days. You’d think something would adapt to be able to survive in those areas, but nope. No life can live in it.”

                                                    Matrix’s voice echoed out over the intercom. “Arriving in Raster Town now. Get ready to drop.”

                                                    Anchor strode into the hatch and grabbed a large mask from the cupboard. It was over his face in seconds and he braced himself behind Macro.

                                                    “You’re joining us, too?” Switch asked the granbull.

                                                    “Of course,” said Anchor. “Wouldn’t leave my Cap’n to fend for himself in the desert of all places.”

                                                    Macro said nothing, but his jaw clenched tightly shut. Fire and ground types. Bane of his existence.

                                                    He grabbed the neon pink ladder and plummeted towards the barren landscape. Hot air assaulted his body and his pads began to sweat. Switch zipped past him like a red dart, but the ladder picked up speed, passing the talonflame and hitting the ground before he even had time to land. Anchor dropped down behind Macro and the pair of them looked up as Switch swooped gracefully down beside them.

                                                    The sand was red hot on Macro’s pads and it wasn’t even noon yet. He dreaded to think how hot Raster Town got during the middle of the day. He could already feel himself weakening.

                                                    “So this is Raster Town?” Switch hopped in a circle as he took in the scene. “The sky is yellow!”

                                                    “That’s the pollution,” said Anchor. “I wouldn’t worry yourself over that. What you need to worry about is what’s on the ground.”

                                                    Switch looked down then followed Anchor’s eyes towards the town.

                                                    They were right on the edge of it. Squat sandstone buildings dotted throughout the small town, many of them boarded up. It was a common sight in the outskirts of Meta City. Raster Town was one of the furthest towns away from the capital, and just like the outskirts it couldn’t afford to keep shops open. Mainly because it struggled to fill them with produce in the first place.

                                                    Only a small number of pokemon were awake. Macro spotted a young larvitar scurrying about in the dusty streets with no sign of a parent. A few feet away on a rock outside the town, a salandit lay basking beside a gabite. Early risers. Neither of which he wanted a run-in with.

                                                    Macro tapped Switch on the wing and nodded past the basking reptiles.

                                                    “Follow me,” he said.

                                                    Switch looked around warily and hopped after the two space pirates. Keeping one eye on the two sunbathing lizards, Macro led the talonflame around them. What he wanted to show him lay at the end of Raster Town. One of the very reasons it fell into such disrepair, if legends were to be believed.

                                                    A huge hulking mountain rose out of the ground, surrounded with small boarded-up houses and shops. Only one or two of the buildings even had pokemon living in them. The mountain, however, was barren. Dotted with ruins and the remains of blackened trees. Cacti had taken up growing over it, supported by the dry and sandy terrain.

                                                    “This,” Macro said, “is what is believed to be the remains of a ‘drifting continent’.” He raised his paws in an air quote.

                                                    Switch stared up at it, his eyes wide behind the glass protectors.

                                                    “This?” he stuttered. “Why didn’t they get it flying again? Why leave it?”

                                                    “I’m not even completely convinced it was one,” said Macro. “But, if what they teach us in history books has any truth behind it, there are three of these mounds. Two of them are in the ocean. This one is said to have crushed half of Raster Town. Apparently they’d crashed once before, and they got them back in the air again. But when they crashed down about one hundred years later, they were deemed too dangerous and stripped of their mechanical parts. Rumours covering up a pile of tauros poop if you ask me.”

                                                    Switch ducked beside the mound, trying to peer inside a tiny cave.

                                                    “I don’t believe you,” he said. “What really happened to them?”

                                                    “Is this not one?” Macro asked.

                                                    Switch flapped his wings and rose up to inspect higher up.

                                                    Macro sighed and shook his head. “I really thought this would put him to rest.”

                                                    “He doesn’t belong in this time line,” said Anchor. “I think we need to get him back and fast.”

                                                    “I agree. And then he’ll be out of my fur.”

                                                    A deep rumble shook the ground and Macro staggered backwards into Anchor. Sand exploded beside them and he looked up with a start, right into the gaping jaws of a steelix. The metal snake roared, revealing row upon row of lumpy alien growths. Not a tooth in sight. The stench of death and decay poured from its mouth, permeating the vents on Macro’s mask and causing him to gag. The large spikes along the metal snake’s segmented body rotated like a windmill, filling the air with a deafening grating screech.

                                                    Macro pressed his paws over his ears and moved behind Anchor. He really needed his gun, but that screech was too much to bare.

                                                    “Look out!”

                                                    Switch darted down from the mound, his body glowing orange with intense heat and distorting the air around him. He collided with the steelix, the pair of them exploding in flames. The steelix opened its mouth wide and roared as it surged sideways. Switch arced up into the air and swooped back down for a second attack.

                                                    Macro and Anchor leapt apart in a bid to avoid the intense heat radiating from the talonflame. Macro reached for his gun, quickly loading up his ground laser.

                                                    “I’m gonna blast this thing back into the hole it came from!” Macro barked.

                                                    “Don’t be too harsh, Cap’n,” Anchor warned him. “He’s sick.”

                                                    “Sick or not, he attacked us first.”

                                                    Macro aimed his laser, firing out what looked like a stream of sand and dirt. It vanished as it collided with the steelix’s body, and Switch recoiled back with a squawk of surprise. The huge metal snake hit the ground, throwing up a cloud of dusty sand. Switch screeched and flew backwards, shaking his head violently.

                                                    Macro swore under his breath and fired off another stream. There was no way any sand got through the bird’s mask. It was impossible.

                                                    The steelix rolled backwards with the impact, his long tail flailing like a bludgeon. It came crashing down sideways, right towards the disoriented talonflame.

                                                    “Switch!” Anchor roared. “Move it!”

                                                    The granbull leapt towards him as Macro readied another shot to fire at the steelix’s immense tail. His shot missed by a hair’s breadth. Anchor collided with Switch head on, ramming him into the ground. He grunted and rolled backwards, pulling Switch out of harm’s way.

                                                    The steelix’s bludgeon of a tail came crashing down, and Switch let out a shriek of pain.

                                                    Anchor sat bolt upright, clutching his stomach with one paw. Macro let his gun fall to his side. There was no way the talonflame had been hit? Was there?

                                                    Macro stepped warily to the side. Switch flailed, flapping on his back as he strained to pull himself away from the steelix. That heavy tail had landed on the tip of his wing, pinning him to the ground.

                                                    Anchor stood up, keeping his paw clasped to his stomach. He shoved his other paw beneath the steelix’s tail and lifted. Tendons showed in his arm as he strained beneath its weight, but it wouldn’t so much as budge. He moved his arm from his stomach, leaving a tiny trail of blood as it trickled from his claws, and tried to hoist the tail up with both arms to no avail.

                                                    Macro raised his laser again and aimed it about a foot from the talonflame’s pinned wing.

                                                    “Stand aside, Anchor.”

                                                    Anchor looked back at him, confusion reflecting behind the green glass of his goggles. He looked from the laser to the talonflame and cautiously returned to Switch’s side.

                                                    “Brace yourself, Switch,” said Macro. “I’m gonna have to blast you free.”

                                                    The talonflame seized his frantic flapping and snapped his head around to fix on Macro’s laser. His golden eyes opened wide with fear and his entire body froze.

                                                    Macro fired.

                                                    Sand and dirt exploded beneath the steelix and talonflame, blowing the latter into the air with the intensity of a geyser. The steelix rolled sideways, creating a trail of dust that blocked out the sight of the mound and run-down town.

                                                    Switch squawked, flapping his wings helplessly as he tried to right himself. He came down on his back and turned in the air, using his wings to glide the rest of the way. Regardless, he still hit the ground with some force and he grunted with the impact. He skidded forward slightly, marring his underside with a sandy yellow-brown.

                                                    Anchor stood up slowly, his paw once again clasped to his gut.

                                                    “You all right, Switch?” he asked.

                                                    Switch winced and turned sideways, lifting his wounded wing cautiously. The effort alone caused him to whine. He rolled onto his back, using his talons to switch his form back to that of a human. Then both hands clasped around his ankle as he let out a rather loud scream.

                                                    Macro looked up with a start, checking the unconscious steelix and making sure no one in the town could see them. Switch was making a lot of noise despite the mask that must have been suffocating him. A gabite sat outside one of the bars, his neck straight as he listened to the racket. Fortunately he hadn’t seen them, thanks to the angle of the mound.

                                                    “Change back!” Macro demanded.

                                                    Reluctantly, Switch released his ankle and pressed his watch, shrinking back down to a talonflame. Anchor dropped down beside him and checked his wing, much to the human’s complaints.

                                                    “He’s broke it,” he said. “We’re gonna have to get back to Wildcard and fast.”

                                                    Macro rolled his eyes and tugged his computer from his pouch.

                                                    “Matrix?” he said into it.

                                                    The ribombee didn’t reply with his voice. Instead, the words ‘is there a problem?’ appeared on the screen, followed by a smiley face.

                                                    It was no time for a smiley face.

                                                    “Yes, there’s a problem!” Macro snapped. “I’ve got a wounded talonflame and I’m pretty sure Anchor’s wounded as well. Send down the ladder.”

                                                    ‘Just a moment’ was the ribombee’s response.

                                                    Macro sighed and stuffed his computer back into his pocket. He eyed the two wounded pokemon and shook his head. How on earth were they meant to get Switch back up there if Anchor only had one free arm to hoist himself up?

                                                    He pulled his computer back out again and said into it, “Maybe come down yourself, too, with some rope.”

                                                    Moments later, the neon ladder flashed into place with metallic ‘chinks’. It appeared long before Matrix did, and Macro had long since finished discussing his plan with Anchor.

                                                    The mawile kept a wary eye on Raster Town. So far, no one had ventured from it, and the steelix was still unconscious. Macro was beginning to worry he’d accidentally killed the huge steel snake, but due to the consistency of its body it wouldn’t be easy to check without standing by its head, and there was no way he was putting himself anywhere near its deadly mouth.

                                                    Matrix landed beside them and unwound the rope from over his shoulder.

                                                    “I hope there’s enough,” he said. “What do you plan to do with it?”

                                                    Anchor released his abdomen, revealing two deep gashes just below his ribs. When Switch noticed them, he poured out a string of apologies interspersed with grunts at his own pain.

                                                    Anchor ignored them, instead hoisting the talonflame onto his shoulders. Macro grabbed the rope and fastened it around Switch’s wings and body, tying him firmly in place over the granbull’s back.

                                                    “All right,” said Macro. “That should at least get him on board the ship. You go first, just in case anything disastrous happens.”

                                                    He fired another glance at the town as Anchor mounted the ladder, leaving Macro to grab the bottom two rungs. Matrix zipped up ahead of them, and once he was inside the hatch the ladder began to ascend.

                                                    “I’m really sorry,” Switch gasped out.

                                                    “Don’t worry about it,” said Anchor. “It’s only a scratch.”

                                                    Macro snorted at the granbull’s response, his eyes going to the ground as he followed several drips of crimson blood. ‘Scratch’ his left foot.

                                                    ...

                                                    Annie stared up at the slatted ceiling, clutching the duvet over her chest. She had no recollection of falling asleep in such a strange room. It smelled damp and a little of feces. She glanced under the cover. Nope, she was good. The smell must have been coming from the bathroom. Oddly enough, she knew where that was, but the bedroom was rather unfamiliar.

                                                    Things slowly came back to her as she perched on the edge of the bed, stretching her arms until her shoulders and back popped. This wasn’t a cell. It was a house that belonged to some weird pokemon. Ones that didn’t want to fill her up with tablets so she’d stop rambling about the colour of the walls.

                                                    Tablets!

                                                    Her eyes flew to the blue container perched on a dresser, right beside a glass of yellow-tinted water. The water was rather warm and had a funny earthy smell to it. Not exactly palatable, but it would do. Her plan began to come back to her. Time travel. Time archeops. Wait until the effects of the tablets wore off before taking another one, and hope she’d secure the feathered form of the exotic reptile bird thing.

                                                    She tapped her foot in irritation and looked over at the window. The pair of yellowed curtains billowed as wind whipped through the cracked windows. Daylight. It was totally daylight. So why was nothing happening?

                                                    There was a soft rap at the door, followed by it moving inward with an audible, complaining creak. A rather gentle face peered in. Purple and white, with thick fur around her jaws. She stood almost bipedal as she held the doorknob in one large paw. A skuntank. Web. That was it.

                                                    “You’re awake,” she said. “That’s good, I was a little worried you might still be dozing. Are you free?”

                                                    Annie looked from the skuntank to the pill bottle and back. With a shrug, she stood up and carried the bottle and glass of tepid ‘water’ with her as she followed Web down the creaking stairs.

                                                    “It was touch and go most of the night,” said Web. “Up until around three AM when the little guy finally opened his eyes. Then things were much easier.”

                                                    Annie inclined her head on one side as she tried to absorb the skunk pokemon’s words. Her answer came in the form of a bucket beside the kitchen sink. Trojan - she recognized the scrafty - tucked into what appeared to be sandwich with some berry filling. His eyes went from the bucket to Annie and he frowned.

                                                    “You snore,” he scoffed. “Really loud, n’all. Kept me up for hours.”

                                                    It was then that Annie noted the dark rings under his eyes. Not exactly something she wasn’t accustomed to, herself. She shrugged off the scrafty and went over to the bucket. Peering up at her from beneath the off-colour water were the wide, slightly bugged eyes of a goldeen. His lips curled up into a smile and he flicked his tail, splashing water spray over the edge of the bucket.

                                                    “Hi!” he said. “You’re the one who helped me yesterday!”

                                                    “Yesterday.” Annie looked up at the ceiling and raised a finger to her chin. “Yes. You’re that little fish.”

                                                    “Thanks to you, I’m healing! My name’s Zip! What’s yours?”

                                                    Annie stood up straight and stared down at him for a moment longer. The stitching on his side certainly looked like small zips.

                                                    “It’s Annie,” she said. “At least… I think it is.”

                                                    “You think?” He chuckled.

                                                    “It’s been a long time. I’ve probably forgotten and warped it over the years.” Pause. “Or made it up entirely.”

                                                    Trojan took a huge bite out of his sandwich. “You’re not entirely sane, are you?”

                                                    Annie turned to Web and nodded at the bucket. “He needs to be in the river like a normal fish. Where is it?”

                                                    Web blinked a few times and eyed the bucket warily. “The river… would not be safe for him right now. In his state there’s no way he could escape the nets set for water dwellers.”

                                                    “Nets?”

                                                    “Yes. Pokemon catch and eat them.” She looked up at Annie, her eyes wide with confusion. “Have you forgotten what we talked about last night?”

                                                    “Maybe.” Annie paused and looked over the skuntank’s shoulder. “So he can’t go back in the river. That means you have a fish in your kitchen.”

                                                    Web laughed and shook her head. “I really don’t mind. And I’m sure both Waveform and Trojan are okay with it, too.”

                                                    Trojan snorted. “Kinda in the way, but whatever.”

                                                    A strange feeling began to surge through Annie’s body, making her fingers tingle. She clenched them tightly and glanced around the room with quick movements, like she was trying to track a yanma.

                                                    “Well. I’ll leave him in your hands then.”

                                                    Her limbs exploded with yellow feathers and the room suddenly grew larger. She hit the floor with a yelp. Wait… no, that was Web’s yelp. The skuntank fell back from her, and her face grew so pale it made her nose look white. Trojan even dropped his sandwich.

                                                    Annie looked down at her feathered body and leapt to her feet with a cheer.

                                                    “They wore off! The pills wore off!”

                                                    She scrambled up to the table and scooped up the tablet bottle. Her scaly claws fumbled with the container until she managed to prise the child-locked lid free. Two tablets were all she needed. Two to fasten her in the form of an archeops, provided she didn’t change last minute and stick to the non-time-traveling human form.

                                                    She grimaced slightly at the taste of the tepid water, but once the tablets were washed down she slammed the glass back onto the table top with a satisfied sigh. Then she spread her wings and looked down at herself, waiting.

                                                    One.

                                                    Two.

                                                    Nothing.

                                                    She was still an archeops.

                                                    A grin spread across her face, flashing two rows of sharp teeth.

                                                    “Space!” she shouted. “I need space!”

                                                    She scrambled from the kitchen on all fours, her claws skittering over the wooden floor. The stairs were nothing in her archeops form. She scrambled up them like a lizard until she reached her room.

                                                    Space. There was ample enough of that in the sparse bedroom.

                                                    “Now what was I doing,” she asked herself slowly, “when I time traveled?”

                                                    It was a good question. She’d been doing a lot of things. Talking to herself, answering questions that had come up in her mind. Arguing with herself when her mind told her the answers were wrong. Discussing the wall colour. White was such an abrasive colour, and it was everywhere in that cell. Eating. Yes, she’d had some berries.

                                                    Leaping.

                                                    That was what she’d been doing.

                                                    Whenever she took on that bird’s form, she liked to see if she could fly. She’d been leaping, her form changing intermittently in the process. The archeops could leap higher than her human form. So it must have been that. She’d been an archeops, leaping around until she’d leapt so high she’d managed to change time lines. That must have been it!

                                                    So she leapt.

                                                    Back and forth in the bedroom, flapping her undeveloped wings and gaining some level of altitude. Her head struck the dangling light fitting, and it swayed back and forth dangerously. She didn’t care. She needed to be higher.

                                                    She stopped and looked over at the window. The roof. Maybe she should try the roof.

                                                    She scurried to the window, prising it open against its stiff latch. It barely moved an inch.

                                                    “Stupid window!” she snapped. “Let me out!”

                                                    “Annie!”

                                                    She froze and turned her head to look over her shoulder. Web stood in the doorway, her face twisted with concern. Trojan stood behind her, chewing on his sandwich with a look of amusement.

                                                    “What are you doing?” Web asked softly.

                                                    “Trying to time travel,” Annie said, as though it was the most obvious thing ever. “It’s how I got here, right? I jumped around and here I am.”

                                                    “I don’t think it’s that simple,” said the skuntank. “Come down from the window before you hurt yourself.”

                                                    “No! I need to get higher! I leapt super high before I got here!”

                                                    “Leave her.” Waveform appeared behind Web, and Trojan stood aside wearing a disgruntled expression on his face. “If she wants to leap higher, then let her. It might be rather enlightening for her.”

                                                    Web looked up at the decidueye, and her eyes widened as realization fell on her. With a nod, she looked back at the archeops.

                                                    “Fine. You take her to the roof the safe way,” said Web. “I don’t want her falling out of the window or cutting herself on glass. We’ve had enough casualties under this roof to last a lifetime.”

                                                    “I’d hardly say one fish is gonna last you a lifetime.” Annie hopped from the bed and turned to Waveform. “So you’re taking me to the roof?”

                                                    The decidueye appeared rather nervous, but he nodded regardless.

                                                    “How are your wings?” he asked. “Can you fly?”

                                                    “Kinda. I more hop and flap around.”

                                                    “Like a hatchling.” He reached down and placed his wing feathers over her shoulders. “Come on. I’ll carry you if I have to.”

                                                    “This I’ve got to see,” said Trojan.

                                                    Annie trotted after Waveform, following him down the stairs. He went straight out of the door, grabbing his quiver on the way. She thought she heard Web tut.

                                                    The decidueye stopped just outside the house and looked up at the roof.

                                                    “Follow me,” he said.

                                                    In one graceful bound, he spread his wings and lifted himself towards the roof. Not a single sound came from his wings. Deadly silent. It almost gave Annie chills.

                                                    She shook out her own feathers and leapt after him, flapping her wings constantly to try and stay airborne. She didn’t even make it to the second story window before she crashed back down to the ground, knocking the wind out of herself with the impact.

                                                    “Try again!” Waveform called.

                                                    She shook her head sharply and tried once more, this time reaching the window before crashing back down like a sack of spuds.

                                                    Before she could stand back up, a set of talons dug into her back and she let out a surprised yelp as she was lifted from the ground. Waveform carried her effortlessly up to the roof and let her go on the slippery tiles. She had to dig her claws into them to stop herself from sliding off.

                                                    He towered over her, locking her in a vermilion stare. It wasn’t aggressive, impatient or threatening yet somehow she found it oddly intimidating.

                                                    “Try here,” he said. “There’s no ceiling blocking your reach of the sky.”

                                                    Annie pushed herself up and looked up at the clouds. Her entire body was trembling with the effort of holding herself in place. There was no saying she wouldn’t slip to her death. But if she didn’t try, she’d never get back.

                                                    And if she could do this, she could go anywhere.

                                                    She relaxed her claws and, with her back legs, sprang straight up. Her wings were nowhere near as developed as Waveform’s, but she beat them as hard as she could, sending herself over his head and landing in a sprawl behind him. Her claws slipped over the tiles and she clawed at them until she managed to scramble back onto the peak. Then, another leap, sending her back over his head to the other side.

                                                    All the while, he watched her, turning his head almost one-eighty as she leapt back and forth. Every time she slipped, he tensed up and raised his wings ever so slightly.

                                                    After her seventh attempt, she landed behind him, gasping for breath.

                                                    “What am I doing wrong?” she asked herself. “I’m a Time Archeops!”

                                                    “You’re not a ‘Time Archeops’.” He reached down and tugged her to her feet, turning her with both wings to face him. “I think we’ve proved that, don’t you?”

                                                    She blinked at him, meeting his somewhat intimidating vermilion eyes.

                                                    “Then explain how I got here,” she said.

                                                    “You said you were leaping,” he said. “What else happened?”

                                                    “I got sucked through a smoky mist,” she said. “Then someone took me to the mayor.”

                                                    “Who?”

                                                    She shrugged. “I don’t really remember. Some creepy guy and something that looked like an onion.”

                                                    He stared at her, unblinking, for an uncomfortably long time.

                                                    “Did you ever stop to think,” he said slowly, “that this ‘creepy guy’ and ‘onion’ might have had something to do with it?”

                                                    Huh.

                                                    She glanced away at the vast array of rooftops.

                                                    “Because,” he said, “as much as I struggle to believe it, there’s drawings of a pokemon that looks like an onion that is said to be able to travel through time.”

                                                    She looked down at herself then met his eyes again. “I do not look like an onion!”

                                                    “Not you!” He took a deep breath and shook his head. “It’s some pokemon called Celebi.”

                                                    “Huh.” She raised a claw to her chin and looked up at the yellow sky. “Then if I want to get back, I need to get my claws on this onion.”

                                                    “I’d say so.”

                                                    “Waveform, right?” She met his eyes again and set her jaw. “You gonna help me?”
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                                                    A Fanfiction Author Who Dares to be Different
                                                    A glimmer of hope in a war-torn world - The End
                                                    Cyberpunk fantasy meets Pokemon Mystery Dungeon - Glitched
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