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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: 350
    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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      #2    
    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: 350
      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."
      __________________
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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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        #3    
      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: 350
        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.
        __________________
        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
          #4    
        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: 350
          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.”
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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
          Other Fics - SWC entry 'Rivers and Waterfalls'
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            #5    
          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: 350
            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.”
            __________________
            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
              #6    
            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: 350
              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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                #7    
              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: 350
                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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                  #8    
                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: 350
                  ...

                  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!”
                  __________________
                  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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                    #9    
                  Old November 24th, 2017 (7:34 AM).
                  Delirious Absol's Avatar
                  Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
                  Call me Del
                     
                    Join Date: May 2015
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                    Posts: 350
                    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.
                    __________________
                    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
                      #10    
                    Old December 2nd, 2017 (7:40 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: 350
                      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?”
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                        #11    
                      Old December 8th, 2017 (2:39 AM). Edited February 2nd, 2018 by Delirious Absol.
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                      Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
                      Call me Del
                         
                        Join Date: May 2015
                        Location: UK
                        Age: 33
                        Gender: Female
                        Nature: Quirky
                        Posts: 350
                        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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                          #12    
                        Old December 12th, 2017 (11:51 AM).
                        Delirious Absol's Avatar
                        Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
                        Call me Del
                           
                          Join Date: May 2015
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                          Posts: 350
                          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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                            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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                            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
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                              #14    
                            Old December 22nd, 2017 (9:23 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: 350
                              Chapter Twenty Six

                              Fortunately, Cookie knew a thing or two about first aid. The brown slurpuff sat with his tongue poked between his lips as he fastened the splints in place around Switch’s wing. The talonflame grimaced, but at least his screaming and groaning had come to an end.

                              Macro sat back in his seat, having turned it all the way around to observe Cookie’s first aid skills. No one would assume a chef would have a clue about binding bones, but with all the accidents he’d inflicted on himself it wasn’t much of a surprise.

                              Anchor had retired to his room for a lie down. Cookie’s first priority had been to stitch up the deeper of the two gashes. The second was merely a scratch in comparison. He didn’t think any damage had been done to Anchor’s internal organs, and neither did Anchor. But the pain killers had wiped him out and he’d fallen asleep before his head even hit the pillow.

                              Macro rubbed the bridge of his nose and stifled a groan, not for the first time. Things had taken a major whack, putting every one of his plans on hold. At least Switch had seen some of Raster Town to get an idea of how things worked in System. Now, Macro would have to take the bull by the horns and steer Wildcard Gamma himself if they were to have any chance of reaching Cyan Island in the next twenty-four hours.

                              “All done!” Cookie released Switch’s wing and stood up, beating his paws together. “Don’t go bumping it, okay?”

                              Switch eyed his wing cautiously and tried to fold it at his side. His face twisted with pain and instead he held it at a funny angle at his side, not quite completely tucked in place.

                              “Thank you,” he said, forcing a smile.

                              Cookie beamed. “No problem! I’ll get right on making some sitrus berry waffles! That should help us all feel better, right?”

                              With that, he waddled from the cockpit.

                              Switch tentatively flexed his wing and turned to look at Macro. Macro merely turned back to the dashboard, scanning his eyes over the complex controls.

                              “That thing was barely alive, was it?” Switch asked.

                              Macro looked over his shoulder with a start. “Huh?”

                              “The steelix,” said Switch. “It was barely alive.”

                              “It seemed pretty alive to me,” said Macro as he turned back to the controls. “But I don’t know for how much longer.”

                              “It didn’t even have teeth. It’s mouth was riddled with something else, instead.” Switch paused. “Is that was the toxic air does? Or is there some disease I’m not aware of?”

                              “It’s the air all right,” said Macro. “It rots the air ways, often resulting in tumors. That steelix were riddled with them.”

                              “Yet it still attacked you?”

                              “Yeah. Either it wanted to die, or it wanted the money from turning me in, maybe hoping it could afford the medical treatment to remove those tumors. Maybe even buy some bionic lungs.”

                              “Do they even exist?” Switch sounded mildly amused.

                              “Oh, there’s bionic everything,” said Macro with some disgust. “You name it, they’ve made it. Some wealthier types even shell out to have their organs or skeletons replaced with bionic versions.”

                              “I don’t see the point,” said Switch. “I mean, medically, sure, it makes sense. But pokemon just buy modifications?”

                              “Yup.”

                              “What if they have to evolve?”

                              “They can’t,” said Macro. “End of story. Need to use an everstone or they’d die a horrible death in the process.”

                              Switch tutted and shifted uneasily. “Why? I just don’t get it.”

                              “Fashion. Plus, if you lived in the rough areas you’d find loads of pokemon with bionic body parts. A lot of them are cowboy jobs as well. Pokemon take risks if they fear for survival. Weaker, unevolved sorts desire a quick fix to boost their strengths at the cost of their evolution. Worm is one of them. You might have seen him in Pulse City. He was young and foolish at the time. No idea what he’s had done, he’s never said, but he probably regrets the decision.” He paused. “That might be why he drinks so much.”

                              Switch shuddered and rose to his feet. “I’m gonna get to bed and sleep this pain off. Thanks for the nightmares.”

                              Macro chuckled dryly and watched the talonflame leave the room. It was just him now. Matrix was still in the kitchen ‘having a snack’. Macro was beginning to assume it was a three course meal. As for DL, he guessed she was helping out Cookie. He sighed and turned back to the controls. Still daylight, and they were wasting it drifting aimlessly in the air miles above Raster Town.

                              He shook his head and growled under his breath. “Where do I even begin?”

                              ...

                              Annie sat at the kitchen table, sipping at a bowl of berry soup. It was strangely bitter, and the bread to go with it was stale. But she was hungry.

                              Everyone else was silent, slowly tucking into their own meals. Web claimed she wasn’t the best chef, but Annie felt it impolite to agree. Instead, she said nothing. If there was one thing she remembered from her childhood, it was her mother telling her ‘if you have nothing nice to say, then say nothing.’ It had taken her several months to realise she didn’t mean literally say ‘nothing’.

                              The goldeen poked his head out of his bucket and fixed them all with a smile.

                              “Do you have any sitrus berries left?” he asked. “I’m really hungry.”

                              “You’re gonna have to ration that appetite, Zip,” said Trojan. “We barely have enough berries for dinner.”

                              Annie let her bowl clatter to the table. “Then we have to get more!”

                              “With what money?” Trojan scoffed. “I’ve been out of work for a month now, since my bar closed down. And as for him,” he nudged Waveform with an elbow, causing him to spill soup down his feathers, “he ain’t exactly turning up with pockets full either.”

                              “Space pirates don’t just drop out of the sky, you know,” said the decidueye.

                              “Space pirates?” Annie raised an eyebrow.

                              “Yes,” said Web. “Rebels of the skies. They steal, cheat, raid, even take lives.”

                              “They murder?”

                              Web flinched. “That’s a harsh way of wording it. They’re reckless. Accidents happen.”

                              “Webber should know about that,” said Trojan. “She used to be one”

                              Annie looked from Web to the other two pokemon, then counted things off on her claws. She looked back up with a start, turning her head back and forth between the skuntank and decidueye.

                              “Waitaminute,” she said.

                              “We have a weird relationship,” said Trojan before she could even ask her question.

                              “We all struggle to make rent,” said Web. “I’m no longer an active pirate. Haven’t been in two years. There’s a truce between us in exchange for helping one another out.”

                              Annie pointed a claw between Web and Waveform. “So I won’t have to pull you two apart, then?”

                              Web chuckled but Waveform picked up his bowl and closed his eyes.

                              “Her help is worth far more than the five hundred credits I’d get for turning her in,” he said.

                              Trojan grunted and folded his arms. “I’d saw my own leg off for five hundred credits. But I ain’t one to break a truce.”

                              Annie let her feathered limbs fall onto the table on either side of her bowl. “So life’s hard then?”

                              “You could say that,” said Web.

                              “I blame Socket,” Trojan scoffed. “Won’t help out anyone who can’t afford it. That’s why the outskirts have virtually turned to sludge.”

                              “Sludge, eh?” Annie scratched her chin. “Socket’s the mayor, right?”

                              “Yeh,” said Trojan. “The one you slapped.”

                              “Whoa!” Zip almost fell out of his bucket. “You slapped her?!”

                              “Oh, yeh, the grabby one.” Annie looked up at the ceiling in thought. “Then why don’t you just get a new mayor?”

                              “It ain’t as easy as that,” said Trojan.

                              “One would have to be voted in,” said Web. “And no one is brave enough to confront her.”

                              “All who have tried died trying,” said Waveform somewhat unemotionally.

                              “Hmm.” Annie pursed her lips. “Then we should try en-mass.”

                              Web and Trojan sat up bolt upright, the former with such force her chair teetered dangerously backward and she flailed her forelegs to right herself. Waveform’s bowl clattered to the floor, sloshing the remains of his soup all over the table and his feathers.

                              “We?!” Trojan spat. “You’re saying we should do something?!”

                              Annie shrugged. “You want to see an end to this struggle, right? Get a new mayor? I can offer to help you, since I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. At least not until I get my Time Onion.”

                              “Okay.” Trojan turned in his seat and waved a paw at her. “Firstly, I’d really like to know why you suddenly believe there’s a Time Onion. But more importantly, what the jack are you suggesting?”

                              “I’m suggesting a rebellion.”

                              Web’s jaw dropped, while Trojan merely stared at her. She could see Waveform beginning to tremble over his shoulder. Was he cold? She shrugged it off and picked up her bowl to swig more of her soup.

                              “Okay, Annie.” Web waved her paws as though trying to calm down a tantruming child. “You need to think about what you’re saying here. A rebellion would be… Well, it would be…”

                              Annie looked up and smiled. “Awesome?”

                              “Not… quite the word I was looking for,” said the skuntank.

                              “Look, you said space pirates are rebels of the skies, right?” said Annie. “And from what I’ve gathered, pirates are a problem. Like rattatas back in my world. Too many of them, so humans try to execute them. Like Waveform is doing with space pirates.”

                              “I don’t execute them,” said Waveform. “I turn them in.”

                              “That, to me, says there’s a lot of them.” Annie folded her wings. “So. We’d have a lot of potential pirates to get behind us. Overwhelm the mayor.”

                              Everyone fell silent, staring at her slack-jawed. All except Zip. He placed his flippers on the edge of his bucket and pushed himself up so he could meet her eye.

                              “I can help, too,” he said. “I… because of Socket’s silly law about eating us, I lost my mum and all my brothers and sisters. My dad was killed long before we even hatched. I never met him. I… I want to see an end to all this!”

                              He looked away from her to meet everyone else’s gaze, his huge eyes pleading.

                              Web placed her face in her paw and sighed.

                              “You know what you’re askin’, right?” Trojan looked down at Annie. “You’re suggesting we start a war.”

                              “I’m suggesting we start a rebellion.” Annie folded her wings again and locked her green eyes on his. “’Rebellion’ sounds cooler.”

                              Waveform gave Trojan a sideways glance. “She’s right. It does sound cooler.”

                              Trojan, just like Web, placed his face in his paw and sighed.

                              “Now, if we’re gonna recruit space pirates,” said Annie, “we need to think like space pirates. How do space pirates think?”

                              This question was directed at Web. The skuntank ran a paw through the fur between her ears and glanced away.

                              “How do they think? Wow that’s a tough one. Well…” She looked thoughtful. “They steal and cheat, like I said. And given the name, they fly around in ships.”

                              “Like boat ships?” Annie asked.

                              “No, not quite. But in tribute to their traditional sea-faring ways before they took to the skies, the ships are all marine themed. A majority of them being designed after fish pokemon.”

                              “Like me!” Zip puffed out his chest.

                              Annie leant her head on her wing claws and stared at Zip. “No offense, little fish, but I don’t really want a… girly looking ship.”

                              The goldeen pouted his bottom lip.

                              “It needs to be more imposing.” Annie sat back in her chair and turned her attention to the ceiling again. “Now what kind of marine pokemon would we use?”

                              “Well, if you want imposing,” said Trojan, “I’d suggest a sharpedo. Most imposing pokemon in the sea.”

                              “Or a huntail,” said Waveform.

                              “No, no! Kyogre!” Zip thrashed with excitement, spilling water onto the tiles.

                              “Kyogre don’t exist!” Trojan snapped.

                              Annie pointed a claw and her eyes widened. “Pyukumuku!”

                              Everyone went slack-jawed again.

                              “What’s imposing about a pyukumuku?” Trojan scoffed. “You poke them and they spit!”

                              “Yes! Spit like a rebel!” Annie laughed.

                              “Come on, if you wanna do this, be serious!”

                              “I am being serious!” Annie rammed her claws onto the table top. “We are having a ship designed to look like a pyukumuku! And y’all will like it!”

                              Trojan crossed his arms and sulked.

                              “Now, how do we make it?” Annie asked. “I guess ourselves, right?”

                              “You need the materials,” said Web. “Which are expensive, and we don’t have any scrap metal lying around.”

                              “You said pirates steal, though, right? So we’ll just have to get some.”

                              “Don’t go thieving,” said Waveform. “I’ll get the metal.”

                              The decidueye pushed his bowl away and stood up from the table, marching silently from the room.

                              “He’s gonna go turn in some pirates,” said Trojan with a chuckle. “Oh, the irony.”

                              “I never said we were space pirates,” said Annie. “We’re merely masquerading. You a good artist?”

                              He eyed her with a sideways glance and frowned. “I throw graffiti up around Spool City. So yeh, I’d say so.”

                              “And you can build things?”

                              “I’ve dabbled with engines here and there.” The scrafty tried his best to not look smug.

                              “Good. Design me my pyukumuku ship and I’ll make you my chief engineer.”

                              Trojan stood up so violently his chair fell backwards with a clatter and skittered across the floor. He stuffed his paws into his baggy trouser-like fur and stomped from the kitchen muttering something about pyukumuku under his breath.

                              Annie beamed and struck the table with both paws. “Meeting adjourned!”

                              Web stood up straight beside the bucket, holding a wet towel in her paws. Zip was diving up and down, splashing yet more water onto the floor with cries of ‘yay! Rebellion!’

                              The skuntank shook her head sadly. “I don’t know about this, Annie.”

                              Annie climbed from her seat, not taking her eyes off the larger pokemon.

                              “You want this mayor gone, right?” she asked.

                              Web rung the towel absently, draining the water back onto the tiles. “I think we all do.”

                              “Well then. Let’s ride this ship to freedom and clean air.”

                              With that, she strutted from the room to find something a pirate might wear. A space pirate wouldn’t look the part in a white hospital robe.

                              ...

                              It had taken Macro the whole of an hour to figure out how to firstly get Wildcard Gamma moving, and also how to keep it moving in a straight line. It didn’t help that Anchor’s chair was significantly lower down than his own, and he’d had to crank it up to its full height and stand on it in order to reach the controls. He muttered under his breath about size discrimination then fell onto his bottom, running his paw over his face. At least it was moving now, hopefully in the right direction.

                              There was absolutely no way he was going to try and figure out the navigation system, too. He wasn’t exactly oblivious when it came to computers, or maps, but he’d had enough for one day. It was moving in the vague direction of Cyan City. He’d worry more about getting it right on target later. Right now, he was emotionally and mentally exhausted.

                              With the hum of the engine as his only company, he found all those niggling thoughts clearing from his mind. Humans, time pockets, BackDoor, DL… It was like white noise, blocking out everything else and replacing it with peace. He began to feel himself being lulled to sleep. He shuffled down in the over-sized seat and closed his eyes, letting the dull drone drag him into a light slumber.

                              It was a seemingly uneventful dream that followed. Wildcard Gamma was flying through System Sky, but there was nothing there. No cities. No other ships. Just blackness. Despite the lack of anything, it all felt tranquil.

                              They flew along for what felt like hours, just cruising through the night sky. Random banter erupted between Anchor and Matrix, but it was nothing out of the ordinary. He was aware of Switch dozing behind them, and DL pressing up against his side, but nothing bothered him. Everything was just… ordinary.

                              Then something flickered in the distance like a star. Macro’s eyes flew to it, realising there had been no stars at all up until that point. Just one light, flickering in the darkness.

                              Then it grew, blinding him and sending him off his chair onto the floor.

                              His eyes flew open, and he found himself lying on the cockpit floor, his fur covered in a slick sweat. Yet that strange dazzling light remained on his vision, slowly fading out until it left a small dazzle spot that looked like the combination of a flower and a sun, its rays extending off it and alternating in size, narrowing towards the end like petals.

                              He rubbed his eyes to remove the lingering effects and pushed himself back to his feet.

                              What on earth was that? It had been like any other mellow dream up until that point. His shoulder hurt where he’d landed on it, and it pulsed as he strained to pull himself back into the driver’s seat. Maybe he should have lowered it first.

                              Forget it. He was gonna take his own comfortable seat, or go to bed. One or the other.

                              As he looked out of the window, he realised it was still daylight. A quick check of his computer told him it was growing closer to dinner time. He’d only been asleep a few minutes.

                              That didn’t make sense.

                              He rubbed at his eyes again and stared out of the window, shielding them from the brightness as the sun reflected off the surface of the fluffy white clouds.

                              Despite how much he tried to rub it away, he could still see that sun-like spot.
                              __________________
                              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
                                #15    
                              Old December 29th, 2017 (6:30 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: 350
                                Chapter Twenty Seven


                                Macro hadn’t slept again since that dream. He’d been wide awake, even after the sun had set. The dazzling light in his eyes had subsided, although it had taken a while. System Sky was now as dark as it always was at night, dotted with twinkling stars that he couldn’t help but obsess over.

                                It was just a dream. He knew it was just a dream. Yet every time a star caught his eye, he stared at it, nearly daring it to flash and dazzle him.

                                Just a dream.

                                One of the bedroom doors opened and he leapt in his seat, turning his head and straining his ears. Heavy footsteps. Anchor. Yet Macro’s fur was still on end.

                                The granbull yawned and strode into the cockpit, and his eyes opened wide when they fell on the mawile.

                                “Cap’n?” Anchor seemed to be questioning whether or not he was still asleep.

                                “Yeh, it’s me.” Macro turned and leant back in his chair. “I’ve been watching the cockpit. No sense in risking us crashing into a city.”

                                “You could always have set it on auto,” said Anchor. “Circle somewhere inconspicuously for a while, you know?”

                                “I don’t know how to set that up,” said Macro. “And Matrix had gone to bed before I could even think to ask him.”

                                “Coulda woke me, I’d have done it real quick.”

                                Macro waved a paw. “That was out of the question.”

                                “Anyway. You should get some sleep.” Anchor narrowed his eyes at him. “Otherwise you’ll be nodding off trying to fight off soldiers in Cyan City.”

                                That was a very good point.

                                Macro slid from his seat, mumbling a thanks to the granbull before marching from the room. He paused in the doorway and looked back over his shoulder.

                                “How’re your stitches?” The words surprised him as they left his mouth.

                                Anchor gave a belly laugh and shook his head. “I’m fine, Cap’n. I’ll be by your side tomorrow, fists ‘n’ all.”

                                Macro smiled and chuckled nervously before leaving the cockpit. He hadn’t even been asking that. For some reason, he’d merely felt the urge to check up on his first in command… without even thinking.

                                Was he turning paranoid?

                                He ran a paw over his scar and paused by the rest room. Maybe a shower was what he needed to clear his head.

                                Tugging off his belt, he strolled into the room and tossed it aside on the unit. Lavender scented water cascaded down, soaking into his fur, and he realised all too late he’d forgotten to remove his scarf. He cursed silently under his breath and wrenched the now-sodden black scarf from his shoulders and launched it across the room.

                                What had got into his head?

                                Once the shower was off, he collected his discarded garment under one arm and his belt under the other, and made his way to his room. Hopefully he’d remember which one it was.

                                Thankfully he did.

                                Once the scarf was hanging over the foot of his bed frame, he climbed under the sheets and tried to summon sleep.

                                Unfortunately, it didn’t come. His attempt was wrought with racing thoughts and much tossing and turning. After that dream, nothing felt normal. Things felt… different… and he couldn’t place what had changed.

                                Paranoia didn’t even seem an appropriate word to use.

                                The moment daylight leaked from his window, he abandoned all efforts to sleep and dragged himself out of bed.

                                His scarf was still soggy, and had even left a nice pool of lavender scented water on his tiled floor. He opened his draw to search for a spare and let out a groan. The only one left was worn and tattered. His first one, if he remembered correctly, and it smelled of must.

                                He looked over at the chair, still sporting the neatly-folded package Switch had given him. Black. With blue squares at either end, drifting away from their black and blue brick-like formation to meet in the middle as though they were being pulled apart by some invisible force.

                                Two colours wasn’t that bad.

                                He let out a defeated sigh and grabbed the new scarf, tossing it over his shoulders like he always did. It was a little longer than his chosen scarves, but nevertheless, it kept his tiny form neatly disguised.

                                He almost threw himself from his room, and stomped his way towards the cockpit. Anchor raised an eyebrow at him and fixed him with a look of concern.

                                “Wow, Cap’n. You’re up early.”

                                “Couldn’t sleep.” Macro climbed into his seat and fastened the seatbelt over his waist.

                                Anchor shook his head slowly and turned back to his controls. “Well, I sure hope you’re fit for battle. ‘Cos we’re almost at Cyan City.”

                                “I’ll be fine.” Macro brushed back a lock of long black fur from his eyes and sighed. “How long?”

                                “About an hour. Enough time to grab a quick breakfast, unless you wanna hover over the city for a while. Give us time to prepare.”

                                “No. In and out.” Macro leant back in his seat and disguised hugging himself as ‘folding his arms.’

                                “You all right, Cap’n?”

                                Dang. It hadn’t fooled Anchor in the slightest. Macro sighed again and shook his head.

                                “I’m fine. Let’s just get this over with, okay?”

                                “Really, Cap’n-”

                                “I said I’m fine!” He flashed his canines at the granbull.

                                Anchor shook his head and looked back out of the window. “If you say so.”

                                Macro couldn’t take much more. He unfastened his seatbelt and dropped from his seat, aggravating his sore shoulder. He’d completely forgotten about that.

                                The kitchen was filled with inviting smells and Cookie looked up with a start when he entered. He clutched a ladle in one paw, hovering it over a pan as it dripped melted chocolate back into it. Macro’s stomach rumbled and he grabbed his usual seat at the table.

                                “It’ll be a while yet,” said Cookie. “You’re up mad early!”

                                “Just serve me whatever’s ready first,” said Macro, slumping over the table with his head in one paw.

                                “Okie dokie!” Cookie began to spoon the chocolate sauce into a bowl.

                                Macro watched curiously. Was this some kind of new recipe, or a joke at his statement? He couldn’t tell.

                                The bowl was popped down before him, complete with a side of cookies.

                                The slurpuff beamed. “Chocolate dip with cookies! Bit of an improv, but… the sauce was ready first, so…”

                                Macro wasn’t going to complain. He was hungry and the combination sounded oddly tempting. He picked up one cookie - complete with its own chocolate chips - and dipped it into the steaming chocolate. One bite and he practically swooned.

                                Cookie let out a sigh of relief. “I was really worried you were gonna throw it back at me!”

                                Macro chuckled and waved the slurpuff away. “Get back to your cooking, all’s good here.”

                                Cookie waddled back to his stove and continued working away, stirring at something Macro couldn’t identify from the table.

                                As he moved onto his second cookie, the door opened and DL looked around, her nose twitching at the different smells. Her eyes fell on Macro and his ‘breakfast’ and she raised an eyebrow.

                                “That’s an odd combination,” she said. “Is it one of Cookie’s latest creations?”

                                “It is now!” the slurpuff quipped.

                                DL pulled up a seat and waved at the chef. “I’d like some too, please.”

                                “Coming right up!”

                                Macro stared at DL, his chocolate-coated cookie hovering mere millimeters from his lips. His appetite had been shot in the gut, replaced by some fluttery feeling he really didn’t want. He grabbed his bowl and plate of cookies, and headed straight out of the kitchen.

                                “Wait! Where are you going?” DL asked.

                                “I’ll eat this in the cockpit,” he said. “You stay right there and enjoy your breakfast.”

                                He didn’t see the pachirisu’s reaction. He didn’t want to. He just wanted to put as much distance between DL and himself as possible.

                                And if that meant spilling chocolate all over the ship’s controls, so be it. He’d explain to Anchor later.

                                ...

                                Cyan City floated miles below them, its vibrant lakes reflecting the blue of the sky. The lakes were by no means natural, but Cyan City tried to make them look as if they were. Surrounded with stone, they gave the pokemon-made structures a natural feel, and that was also aided by the berry bushes that grew in abundance, maintained by the clean air pumped up and filtered through from System Ground. Wild trees didn’t exist. Everything was cultivated, grown only in areas that had clean air and the pokemon willing to farm them.

                                As Macro dropped down on the neon ladder, the pokemon below came into view. Marill and azurill gathered around the lakes, harvesting berries into the backs of small trucks. Squirtle played in the lake along with froakie and mudkip. Totodile and croconaw basked on the rugged rocks.

                                Macro diverted his gaze to the horizon. Tall skyscrapers. A common sight. Above them rotated tall, white windmills, generating the city’s electricity via the air. Fortunately they generated more than the air conditioning used.

                                His feet touched the ground, hidden away from the working and playing pokemon. Anchor landed beside him and quickly checked his wrist computer.

                                “Location is right nearby,” he said. “It’s stored on the second floor of a storehouse. Usually stores berries and food produce. Bit of an odd location if you ask me.”

                                “Maybe Socket was desperate,” said Macro.

                                Anchor shrugged. “Maybe she thought it would throw you. Be a good disguise.”

                                “Or this place is the red herring.” Macro scratched his scar and sighed. “Oh well, we’re here now. Let’s get it over with.”

                                “What’s the rush?” Anchor fell into step behind him, glancing over at the workers beyond the bushes. “You seem rather hasty today.”

                                “I’m not hasty, I just want this job done.” Macro grit his teeth together. “Then we can finally get back to a normal life.”

                                “You’re talkin’ about DL?” Anchor asked. “Or Switch?”

                                “Switch doesn’t need these memories,” said Macro with some venom. “Nevertheless, I’ll be glad when we’ve got him back home, too.”

                                “This is all wiggin’ you out, ain’t it?” Anchor scratched at his stitches and his face twisted in a way that said he regretted it.

                                “Kind of.”

                                “Kind of?”

                                “Look, I don’t wanna talk about it.” Macro waved him off. “Forget it. Let’s focus, shall we? We’re gonna end up drawing attention to ourselves.”

                                Anchor fell silent, his heavy footsteps the only reassurance Macro had that he hadn’t bailed on him. The mawile clenched his paw beside his gun and looked over at the lake. No one had spotted them. Fortunately.

                                “Peaceful, ain’t it?” Anchor asked.

                                Macro looked over his shoulder. The granbull’s eyes were on the lake, his paws clasped behind his head.

                                “You wouldn’t think they were currently at war,” said Anchor. “Makes one glad it’s only on a small scale.”

                                Macro nodded but his paw didn’t leave his laser. If they got caught up in the water type pokemon’s war, he wanted to be prepared. He flexed his claws, keeping his ears and eyes open as they moved silently towards the city’s depths.

                                As they reached the end of their cover, he faltered, scanning the streets around the lake. It wasn’t as busy as Binary City. Few places were. But he had to remind himself he was no longer safe in System Sky. His reward had spread. Anyone could turn him in now unless they were a pirate.

                                That reminder left a bad taste in his mouth.

                                Anchor’s sturdy paw fell onto his back and nudged him forwards. The granbull’s eyes were on a young family across the lake - a mother slowbro ushering her two children along. Even if they spotted Macro they wouldn’t be able to keep up with him.

                                He darted from his hiding spot and paused at the corner of the road leading into the city. With his back pressed against the cold stone wall of an apartment block, he searched the road. Windows. Doorways. Only the odd pokemon, most of them heading away from the lake towards the centre of the city. Many of them carried re-usable shopping bags.

                                The city centre… that would be where they’d have the hardest time, he could smell it. His paw went to his pouch and he considered strongly adding the electric laser capsule to one of his trusty lasers. Water wasn’t exactly a weakness, but would it be ethical to add it? He didn’t need it. He always had his grass laser to fall back on if need be.

                                He cursed under his breath, drawing Anchor’s attention. Macro scratched his neck beneath his scarf. He’d never considered ethics before. Usually if he had a new laser capsule he’d use it, no questions asked. Or sell it.

                                Maybe he should sell it.

                                Flicking his right laser to grass, he marched down the road, keeping his eyes ahead but his ears open to his surroundings. The quicker they got to the facility the faster they could get the memory disk and leave.

                                Childlike laughter reached his ears, accompanied by the irregular hollow thud of a ball bouncing off walls. He glanced down a wide alley, spotted the culprits. A pair of oshawott twins chasing after an orange ball designed to look like a giant sitrus berry. Keeping an air of nonchalance, he crossed the road and put the giggling children behind him.

                                Then a sweet smell reached his nostrils.

                                His nose twitched and he raised his head to follow the smell. It was oddly irresistible, yet he couldn’t place it. Every building along the road was an apartment block. No bakeries in sight. No restaurants. His only assumption was that it was coming from a window or air vent. He tried to ignore it, but his nose kept going back to the air and his head turned almost involuntarily.

                                Anchor was in no better state. He’d turned a full one-eighty and stared back towards the alleyway.

                                “We should have packed snacks,” said Macro.

                                “It ain’t food, Cap’n.”

                                Macro licked his watering lips and returned to the granbull’s side. “What is it then?”

                                “You know when Cookie is in a real bad mood and starts to sweat?”

                                It wasn’t the most attractive image, but Macro nodded anyway.

                                “Well, it’s like that,” said Anchor.

                                “So someone’s baking pokepuffs. Let’s get a move on.”

                                It was easier said than done. All Macro wanted to do was retrace his steps to find the source of that smell.

                                “It ain’t pokepuffs,” said Anchor. “Like I said, it ain’t food.”

                                Macro looked up at him with a start. He hadn’t noticed earlier, but Anchor wasn’t all that interested in the smell itself. It hadn’t pulled him in like it had Macro. Anchor’s brow was furrowed as he stared back at the alleyway. He wanted to know what was causing it. No… he knew.

                                It was blindingly obvious now.

                                Macro’s paw shot to his laser and he pushed past the granbull.

                                “Wait, Cap’n.” Anchor grabbed his shoulder. “I’ll go help the kids. You go and get that disk.”

                                Macro looked from the alley to Anchor, then towards the city. A space pirate looks out for number one. He wasn’t going to get caught up in the water pokemon’s war. Besides, what would a grass type want with a pair of oshawott barely out of their eggs?

                                Yet he refused to relinquish his laser.

                                Anchor met his eyes and his jaw set in place. “Look. I know it ain’t what we usually do, but I can’t ignore kids in trouble, Cap’n. And I know-”

                                “We don’t look out for others,” Macro said, emotionless. “It only comes back to bite you in the ***.”

                                His eyes drifted again to the alley. To the source of that smell. Then he rolled his eyes and struck Anchor in the hip with his laser.

                                “Come on,” he said.

                                If he’d looked away fast enough he’d have missed the look of surprise that flashed across the granbull’s eyes. The larger pokemon followed him closely back towards the alley, keeping up with Macro’s brisk trot.

                                No more laughing. No more bouncing ball. Instead, the sitrus-like sphere lay motionless in the middle of the road. The scene was like something from a horror movie. As he stood staring at it, their laughter echoed in his head and sent shivers down his spine.

                                Whoever had taken them had either been incredibly stealthy, or invisible.

                                Then he realised that smell had gone. His spine stiffened and he looked up, fixing wide eyes on the back of the alley.

                                That smell had been a lure, like it had almost lured him in. Yet it had had little to no effect on Anchor. Targeted. The kids were targeted.

                                He grit his teeth together, letting out a low growl, and cocked his laser beside his head.

                                It was like the Analogue Isles all over again. A lone kid drawn in by an irresistible signal. A cry for help that had ended three lives and almost claimed two children.

                                Almost claimed his own.

                                He shoved the thought aside and focused on following the non-existent trail through the alley, being careful not to nudge the ball. Any sound would be detrimental, and he needed complete silence if he was going to pinpoint the kids’ invisible abductor.

                                Anchor snuffled and lifted his head.

                                “Keep going,” he whispered.

                                “You can smell it?” Macro replied.

                                Anchor nodded. “Trail’s faint, but it’s there.”

                                Macro gave a curt nod and pressed on, daring not to breathe. The end of the alley seemed oddly ominous, when just moments before it had been a place of fun. He half expected to see blood on the walls or hear a whimper coming from a trash can.

                                “Giga! Gigi!”

                                Macro leapt out of his skin, spinning on the spot to aim his gun towards the alleyway mouth. A dewott stood with her back to them, shouting into the streets. Great. The mother. He grimaced. Any chance they had of catching the culprit had been shot in the foot.

                                Anchor groaned and slammed a paw into his head.

                                “You deal with it,” Macro spat. “I’m gonna find those kids.”

                                Anchor pointed a thick claw at the dewott and his eyes widened. “You want me to go and talk to her?”

                                “Yeh. Use your words.” Macro turned his back on him and crept further into the alley.

                                “Okay.” Anchor was hesitant and he cleared his throat. “I’ll think of something to say. Shout if you need me.”

                                “You come straight back,” Macro hissed. “I ain’t doin’ this alone.”

                                ...

                                The young dewott looked close to tears, her paw clasped at her mouth as her black eyes searched the empty road. Anchor had no idea what to say to her. He moved slowly, keeping one paw raised as he reached her.

                                “Excuse me, ma’am.”

                                The dewott span on the spot and her eyes bulged. Clearly she wasn’t expecting to see a fairy type in Cyan City, let alone a space pirate. Her jaw dropped and her scream died in her throat as Anchor hushed her, waving his paws in a desperate bid to calm her down.

                                “Are you lookin’ for two kids?” he blurted out.

                                Her mouth snapped shut and she nodded, eying him suspiciously. Then she looked past him and her cold look melted as tears filled her eyes.

                                “That’s their ball…” Her voice choked. “Where are they?”

                                “That’s the thing,” said Anchor. “We don’t know.”

                                “We?”

                                Anchor waved her question away. “They were right there, playin’ as we passed. Then there was this smell. Almost drew my Cap’n away until I told him it weren’t food.”

                                “A smell?” The dewott looked up at him again and blinked her tears back. There was that look of suspicion again. “What kind of smell?”

                                “I dunno. A sweet one?”

                                Her eyes widened and she pushed past him, but he reached around and grabbed her by the arm.

                                “Let me go!” she barked.

                                “You go after them, you might ruin everything! Calm down! I’m tryin’ to help you here!”

                                “Help me?” Her eyes went from his face to his gauntlets and back. “Aren’t you a pirate?”

                                “I admit, ma’am, I ain’t exactly here with good intentions. But I ain’t heartless enough to ignore a pair of missing kids.” He paused, watching her eyes go from cold to tearful again. “Now. You gonna accept our help or not?”

                                “They’re my babies…” She glanced back down the alley and her voice croaked. “I guess I don’t have much choice. But who is this other mysterious pirate?”

                                “You know him as Hunter.”

                                Anchor raised an eyebrow as a look of fury flashed across her eyes, but it was quickly replaced by tears again as she fidgeted her paws together, looking back down the alley.

                                “He… he’s gone after them?” Her voice was hesitant.

                                “Yeh.” Anchor paused and cleared his throat. “You still want his help? ‘Cos I can nearly guarantee you those kids will come out of this alive.”

                                “How? He’s dangerous.”

                                “That’s exactly why. He might be crazy and take a lot of risks, but he gets the job done.” Anchor folded his arms and smiled. “You want our help or not? ‘Cos I need to get back in there. He’s relyin’ on my nose.”
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                                Old January 5th, 2018 (8:43 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 Eight

                                  Several times, Macro had considered turning around and going back. There was no sign of whatever had taken the twins, but he couldn’t shake the ominous feeling that something was very wrong. He’d told himself over and over ‘only look out for number one’ but his feet had kept moving forwards regardless.

                                  Not much time had passed at all when Anchor’s large feet crept over the near-spotless concrete floor to join him at the end of the alley. A wall stretched across at either end, with only a narrow gap between the row of buildings. Neat little trash cans stood at the back doors to the apartment blocks, but there was almost no space for a large pokemon to squeeze between let alone a waste disposal wagon.

                                  Anchor sniffed twice then pointed towards Macro’s right. “That way.”

                                  The mawile looked over his shoulder at the granbull, then spotted the petrified dewott behind him. Macro grit his teeth together and tutted before following Anchor’s indicating paw.

                                  “You brought her with you?” he scoffed.

                                  “Yeh,” said Anchor. “Ain’t gonna leave behind a terrified mum, am I?”

                                  “So long as she can watch her own back. I’m not carrying her.” Macro pressed his back against the cold stone wall and cocked his laser beside his ear.

                                  The dewott let out a sharp gasp and her black eyes flew to his readied weapon. Macro mentally rolled his eyes and began to crawl along the wall. Cyan City. Yet another place with a weapon ban. Well he wasn’t putting it away. A weapon ban didn’t guarantee anyone that whoever had kidnapped the oshawott twins wouldn’t be carrying any. Even if the kidnappers didn’t carry a weapon, a little ban wasn’t going to stop him shoving his laser right in their nose.

                                  Keeping all eyes forward, they crept along in silence. Well… save for the dewott’s erratic, rapid breathing. Every gasp grated on him and he felt his fur prickle. Surely she would give them away? He bit back the urge to snap at her and took in a steadying breath, focusing all his attention on the task at hand.

                                  The narrow passageway spread on towards a dead end, right before it would reach the lake. The building along Macro’s left ended at a low wall, and beyond that were a few berry trees, their branches reaching over the passage. Clearly in dire need of a good cutting back. Splintered twigs stuck out from the spindly branches, a hazard to the eyes for pokemon as tall as Anchor. Fresh pecha berries lay scattered along the ground, many of which had rolled up against the cold wall.

                                  Macro stepped forwards, unconsciously ducking beneath the branches, but something snapped beneath his feet, jabbing into his pads. He lifted up one paw and beneath it was a broken twig, its leaves still as green as those attached to the branch above him.

                                  Freshly fallen.

                                  Why would a tree deposit a living branch? Only strong winds could whip it off, and there’d been no strong winds that day.

                                  He trailed his eyes over the branch and reached up a paw for a closer look, but it was well out of his reach. He tapped Anchor’s hip with the butt of his gun and pointed up at the branch. The granbull understood immediately and tugged it down towards the mawile effortlessly. Macro grabbed hold of it and trailed a claw over the shattered twigs. Fresh sap was still leaking out of them. It wasn’t often he got a close look at a berry tree. They only grew in selected cities. But he was fairly certain it shouldn’t be freely leaking sap. Further along the branch the pecha berries were crushed and fell away at the slightest brush of a paw.

                                  “Someone’s been climbing this,” he said quietly.

                                  Anchor grunted in agreement. “That smell’s pretty strong here, too.”

                                  “So… that means…” The dewott wrung her paws together.

                                  “They’re probably on the other side of the wall,” said Macro.

                                  He shoved the side of his laser into his mouth and grabbed hold of the branch in both paws. Anchor gripped the branch tighter and fixed his wide eyes on the mawile.

                                  “Hang on, Cap’n,” he said. “Don’t be doin’ anything silly now.”

                                  Macro frowned and shook his head. He wasn’t going to risk speaking and dropping his laser. He wriggled up the branch, dislodging yet more berries, until his head was over the wall. The other side was nothing more than a berry field. Lush green grass dotted with vibrant trees each sporting its own variety of berry. Amongst the trees were other plants - flowers, small trees - so many he couldn’t even begin to name them. He was certainly no botanist. The wind whipped up and that sickly scent beat at him, and it took everything in his power to not let go and drop back down into the alley.

                                  The wind carried with it more than a smell, however. Voices reached his ears and he gripped tightly at the branch and strained to hear over the rustle of leaves.

                                  “… be done with this place before dawn.”

                                  “But what about these two?”

                                  “Keep ‘em. We’ll need something to make a getaway if we get caught first.”

                                  Laughter. Sobbing. At least… he thought it was sobbing.

                                  One of the larger plants moved and his eyes flew to it, then widened. He’d been very wrong. All the plants around the trees weren’t cultivated plants at all. They were pokemon. Each and every one of them. And the one that had moved was an ivysaur. He trailed his eyes over the orchard once more. A perfect hideout for a grass type army. Torterra and grotle; a herd of bulbasaur; bayleef; tangrowth and tangela. In the trees he spotted something else moving. A carnivine. Twigs snapped and fell down into the long grass and it dropped down so it was hanging upside down to say something to one of the bayleef. Macro grit his teeth so tight over his gun it hurt. He’d have bet his ship that was what had snatched the kids.

                                  He loosened his grip on the branch and shimmied back down it, then let go and landed in a crouch beside Anchor.

                                  “Anything?” the granbull whispered.

                                  “Oh yeh,” said Macro. “Think I found the twins.”

                                  The dewott let out a yelp and rushed towards the wall. Macro’s heart lurched into his throat and he grabbed her by the scruff, throwing her behind him. Before she could scream, his paw was over her mouth. He fixed a violet glare on her terrified eyes and spoke in a hiss.

                                  “Fool! There’s a whole army of grass pokemon on the other side of that wall! You leap over there, you’ll only get all of us killed!”

                                  Her eyes widened slowly as tears filled them. A choked sob came out of her throat, muffled by his paw.

                                  “So are you gonna be quiet?” he asked.

                                  She nodded.

                                  He pulled his paw back and wiped it down his scarf. “Right. What’s your name, dewott?”

                                  “It’s Lossy,” she choked.

                                  “All right, Lossy,” he said. “We’ve got quite a predicament in our paws. We can do one of two things. One - we alert whoever’s in charge here, which is my least favourite option since… you know… I’m a wanted ‘mon. Two - you co-operate with me and we rescue your kids safely with a few paw-picked friends of yours. Which one will it be?”

                                  The dewott stared at him for an uncomfortable amount of time. It didn’t help matters that he was already jumpy. Both he and Anchor were straining their ears to figure out what was going on beyond the wall. Finally, the dewott nodded.

                                  “Okay,” she said. “I’ll co-operate on one condition.”

                                  Macro visibly grimaced. “And what will that be?”

                                  “You get those grass types out of Cyan City.”

                                  Macro’s brows knitted together and he pulled the corner of his mouth back, flashing a sharp canine. She wasn’t serious? Two pirates chasing out an army of grass type pokemon? She had to have a screw loose!

                                  He waved his laser and turned away, marching back down the alley. “Not on your life.”

                                  “You’re just going to walk away?” Her whisper came out as a squeak and Macro jerked his head around to the wall. “You can’t just leave them! They’re kids!”

                                  Anchor stood over her, waving his paws to calm the seething otter down. It took everything in Macro’s power to not point his gun at her. It wouldn’t be remotely gentlemonly at all. Instead, he forced himself to stick it back into its holster and folded his arms.

                                  “Look, Lossy,” he spat. “What you’re askin’ is borderline impossible.”

                                  “Exactly. Borderline,” she said.

                                  He shrugged his paws. “I was being generous. It’s absolutely impossible.”

                                  “Then we take it to the authorities,” she whispered. “They’ll know what to do.”

                                  “Okay, I’ll make a deal with you.” Macro leant against the door frame of an apartment block and kept one eye on the spot by the overhanging branch. “We’ll swoop in there and rescue your tiny kids, then we’ll swoop off. You can alert the authorities and deal with your leafy invasion. All right? ‘Cos I ain’t playin’ no part in your little war.”

                                  “Except for a small rescue mission,” said Anchor.

                                  Macro nodded. “Except for a small rescue mission.”

                                  Lossy sighed and shook her head. “All right, fine. But if you helped get rid of them, then they might think-”

                                  “That you’d ganged up with some other type and got yourself a little back up?” Macro smirked and let out a chuckle. “Then what? The grass types on System Ground rise up and retaliate against Seed City ‘cos they think the fairy type has turned on them? That’s how full-blown wars start, Lossy. I ain’t playin’ no part in it. I’m already worth forty thousand credits. You think I really wanna crank that up?”

                                  He kicked away from the wall and began walking back towards the mouth of the larger alley. After a few steps, he looked back at the dewott. She still stood by the low hanging branch, rubbing her paws together while staring at the wall.

                                  Macro sighed and waved his laser at Anchor. “Grab her.”

                                  The granbull obliged, scooping up the dewott and placing a paw over her mouth to stifle her scream. He hushed her and trotted after Macro, keeping one eye on the orchard wall.

                                  Once they were back in the alley, Macro stopped again and holstered his gun.

                                  “Do you have a map of this city?” he asked Lossy.

                                  Anchor set her back down and stood between her and the route to the orchard. She looked up at him with a feeble whine and turned back to Macro, fixing him with a leer.

                                  “A map? What for?”

                                  “To scout out every route to and from the orchard, what else would I want one for?” Macro waved his arms in exasperation.

                                  “Well you are a pirate. Anyway, no. I don’t have a map.”

                                  “Then where can I get one?”

                                  Macro pulled out his computer and did a quick internet search for Cyan City. None of them were as detailed as he’d have liked. Just as he’d expected. This was going to be impossible.

                                  It was at times like this he wished he could fly to get a clear aerial view. If Switch wasn’t recovering from a splintered wing, he’d have messaged him to get his feathered tail down into the city and scout out the vicinity.

                                  He folded his arms and leant back against the wall. “Know any flying types who can help us?”

                                  Lossy shook her head and stared weakly at the road. “I… don’t have many friends.”

                                  “Huh.” He scratched his scar. “No one who can help us?”

                                  She shook her head again.

                                  Macro tutted. He found that hard to believe. But he wasn’t going to force her. They were just going to have to do this alone.

                                  Or he was, at least.

                                  “Anchor, get her back home,” he said. “Keep her sane. I’ll go and find a way into that orchard without being seen. See what they’re up to, and take it from there.”

                                  “You serious?” the granbull scoffed.

                                  “Deathly.” Macro met his frown with a leer. “I don’t want her doing anything foolish. Leave this to me. I’ll message you if anything goes wrong.”

                                  Anchor groaned and pushed back his mohawk. “Seriously, Cap’n. Don’t do anything crazy, all right?” He placed a paw on the dewott’s shoulders. “Come along, ma’am. Let’s get you a hot cup of tea or something, yeah?”

                                  Macro watched them go, feeling a cold chill wash over his body. Do this alone… why did it suddenly feel like a bad idea?

                                  ...

                                  Annie turned in her new outfit, trying to catch it in the right light. The waistcoat jacket came down to her hips. A little shorter than she would have liked, but it had belonged to a skuntank and they were a bit smaller than a human even on their hind legs. Somehow, Web had managed to acquire a pair of trousers. When Annie had asked, all the skuntank had said was that she’d just looked in the right place. The thread and needle lying on her bedside table told Annie that Web had been patching things up, and going off the colour of the thread it had been the trousers. They were baggy, which she liked.

                                  No shoes, however. She was walking around bare foot. She’d need to do something about that.

                                  The white robe had been fashioned into a frilly white shirt. She certainly had to admire Web’s sewing skills. The poor skuntank hadn’t slept a wink and kept yawning as Annie turned before the full-length wall mirror.

                                  “Not bad,” she said finally.

                                  Web paused mid-yawn and frowned slightly, but she hid whatever she had to say behind a nod.

                                  “I’m just glad it fits,” said Web. “I was a bit concerned the trousers would be too big, or too small to be honest. I’ve never made clothes to fit a human before.”

                                  “You’re good at it,” said Annie.

                                  That elicited a smile from the skuntank and she drew closer to Annie to look in the mirror.

                                  “I can’t sew to save my life,” said Annie. “Well done, Web. I might make you my personal tailor.”

                                  The skuntank laughed and turned back to her night stand. She gathered her sewing equipment up noisily into its tin container.

                                  “It’ll keep you warmer than that robe,” she said. “Just be careful not to tear it. I don’t think I could afford the fabric to make you anything new. I was fortunate enough to find the stuff to make the trousers.”

                                  Annie spun on the spot, wafting up the smell of dust and skunk. Her nose crinkled slightly but she forced a smile.

                                  “Don’t worry. I won’t go snagging it on any wire or anything,” she said. “Now. Is Waveform back yet?”

                                  “I’ve not seen him all morning,” said Web. “I don’t think he came back last night, either. He might still be trying to make some money to buy all the stuff to build your ship.”

                                  Web’s voice was thick with disapproval that Annie chose to ignore. She folded her arms and puffed out her chest.

                                  “Ah yes. My pyukumuku ship. Maybe I should go and look for him.”

                                  “I wouldn’t go out like that, dear,” said Web. “Not many pokemon would be quite as accepting as we are. You might cause quite the fright.”

                                  Annie waved a hand. “Fright schmight. I’m gonna go have a look for him. Rebellions can’t dither around forever.”

                                  “They also don’t happen overnight,” said Web. “They take time to plan.” She narrowed her eyes. “Carefully.”

                                  Annie gave another dismissive wave and strolled from the room, wafting away a cloud of musty skunk that she was convinced she could see. Oh well. Some fresh air might make it dissipate.

                                  As she strolled through the front door, she walked smack into a thick wall of putrid air. Her nose almost retreated into her face. Great, she’d almost forgotten about that. She wafted a hand before her nose and looked up at the sky.

                                  Daylight.

                                  Weren’t decidueye nocturnal?

                                  She shrugged and marched on, keeping her ears open and her wits about her. There was no sense in being careless.

                                  The cold concrete floor felt wet on her feet, but she trudged along regardless. Slight movements in passing windows drew her eye ever so fleetingly, meeting the retreating baffled faces of various colourful pokemon. She thrust her hands into her pockets and looked up at the passing buildings. Worn out. Boarded up. Covered in heavy graffiti and posters. Some leapt out at her, depicting the faded faces of various grumpy-looking pokemon beneath a red ‘wanted’ sign. Most of them rewarded a hefty price.

                                  Maybe that would be her one day?

                                  ...

                                  Tracer’s computer lit up with a bright dancing telephone as it rang away at him. One flick of his paw across the screen and the image expanded out into an anonymous black window. The voice that came out of it was hoarse and scratchy, and he pulled his ears back to reduce some of the awful grating.

                                  “Is this the detective office?” the voice asked.

                                  “Yes, you’ve reached Tracer.” They could have given him time to announce himself, he thought.

                                  “Oh good. ‘Cos I’ve just seen a terrifying thing walking around Spool City.”

                                  His ears flicked up again, and Widget leapt up to place both paws on his desk, straining to see the anonymous black box. Did he think they were going to show it? And wait… was his tail wagging?

                                  Tracer fired the eevee a disapproving look from the corner of his eye then turned back to the screen. He couldn’t see them, but there was always the chance they could see him.

                                  “What was it?” he asked. “A crime?”

                                  “A thing!” the voice replied. “Walked on two legs like some pokemon, but it looked like none I ever saw. Just strolled right past my house.”

                                  Tracer frowned and took a long drag on his cigar. Was this the human Socket had told him about? He couldn’t see it being anything else, unless there was a sudden invasion of humans.

                                  “About how long ago was this?” Tracer asked.

                                  “About five minutes ago,” said the voice. “If that.”

                                  “Please tell me your address? I’ll investigate.”

                                  “No chance I’m givin’ my address out to the fuzz,” said the voice. “But it was on Proxy Boulevard.”

                                  The delphox let out a stream of smoke and reached across to the screen. “I’m on it. Take care if you go outside.”

                                  “Ain’t goin’ outside with that walkin’ around!” The voice cut off, leaving behind nothing more than Tracer’s desktop wallpaper.

                                  Defrag turned her head to look at him and pushed back one of her long ears.

                                  “Do you need me to go with you?” she asked, somewhat hopeful.

                                  Tracer stood up fast, almost knocking his chair over.

                                  “No,” he said. “There might be more sightings. Take as many messages as you can, and search message boards and news sites to map this creature’s route to narrow down its whereabouts. There’s every chance we might not find it this time.”

                                  Tracer turned to the door and grabbed his trench coat and mask from the wall hooks. Widget, however, was almost out of the door.

                                  “Widget!” he barked. “Mask.”

                                  The eevee moaned loudly and turned to grab his mask from Tracer’s offered paw. Once they were outside, the delphox made a pointed effort to check Widget had put his on properly.

                                  “I’ve told you a billion times,” Widget whined. “I’m immune.”

                                  Tracer looked up at the roof of his office as they moved away from it. “I refuse to believe you until I have hard, scientific evidence.”

                                  Widget spread one paw. “I am ‘hard, scientific evidence’!”

                                  “Keep your voice down,” Tracer told him. “We’ve got a human to find.”

                                  Widget mumbled under his breath and trotted to keep up with Tracer’s long strides. His paw steps were deceptively loud for his small frame. Both a blessing and a curse depending on the situation, and right now they gave away any indication that at least one pokemon was about to turn the corner.

                                  Proxy Boulevard stretched out on either side, curving around the bend to their left where it would inevitably end in Proxy City, where it also began. The once spectacular road linked all three outskirt towns of Meta City, but despite its presence it was rarely active. Very little transport passed through, mainly because most of the pokemon couldn’t afford it, and those that could avoided the outskirts like the plague. As such, it had sadly fallen into disrepair.

                                  “So this is the place it was spotted?” Widget asked, looking back and forth.

                                  “Allegedly.”

                                  Tracer reached around his back to check his stick was still properly stored within the thick fur of his tail. Then he pressed on, moving slowly along the boulevard.

                                  Boarded up buildings and tatty houses spread on either side in typical outskirts fashion, but just because they were boarded up didn’t mean they were uninhabited. That meant whichever house it was that had spotted the human was impossible to say.

                                  The wind picked up, followed by a noise like a cracking whip. Tracer leapt to the side and instinctively reached for his stick, then berated himself. It was only a torn poster flapping in the wind.

                                  Widget chuckled, which the delphox returned with a glare through the green glass of his goggles. It wasn’t like him to be jumpy at all. This human nonsense had got to his head. He placed his stick back in his tail and continued his way down the boulevard with an air of nonchalance.

                                  On the other side of the road, two small scraggy bolted around the corner from a side road. The front one stopped with his back pressed against the building and waited for his friend to catch up, before they turned and raced along the boulevard. The look of sheer terror on their faces was enough to twig Tracer in.

                                  “I think we’ve found our human,” he told Widget quietly.

                                  Guess he needed his stick after all.

                                  He considered reaching for it, then decided against it. He might just need both paws free.

                                  The two detectives ran across the road, but neither scraggy looked up. He spotted the two children run into an alley where he greatly hoped they actually lived and wouldn’t end up trapped if the human gave chase. Who knew what this creature was capable of?

                                  He retraced their footsteps and slowed down when he reached the side road. A quick glance down it solidified his fears. There stood the human, but not in the white robe it had previously been wearing. Now it was kitted out to look like a space pirate.

                                  His muzzle creased with confusion and he watched curiously as the gangly creature strutted along the road, eying up the various posters, most notably the ‘wanted’ ones. Dressed as a pirate… checking out the wanted posters. Regretting a life decision? Or just plain curious? Or… like Surge… masquerading?

                                  He shook his head and motioned to Widget to wait. Carefully he crept along, keeping both eyes on the human. With his long strides, he soon caught up with them. Reaching out, he grabbed it by the arm and reached behind him with the other paw for his stick.

                                  “Sorry,” he said. “But I’m afraid you’re coming with me.”

                                  Before he’d finished his sentence, the human snapped its head around and fixed him with a pair of baffled green eyes. Then it shouted in a feminine voice;

                                  “Stranger danger!”

                                  One large furless paw swung around, clasped into a fist, and struck him in the side of the jaw. Spit flew from his lips and coated the inside of his mask, and he flew sideways into the wall. Pain radiated through his shoulder, and his stick clattered to the floor where he’d been standing.

                                  “Wretched human!” Widget roared.

                                  The eevee launched himself full throttle at the retreating ape-like creature. All Tracer could do was watch as he nursed his sore jaw. The impact had fractured the filter on his mask, and putrid air flowed through it like a faucet.

                                  Something flashed through the sky and Widget dropped his haunches as he desperately tried to break.

                                  “Whoa!” he shouted. “I’m immune to disease, but not arrows! Who’s throwin’ stuff?”

                                  The eevee looked up and Tracer followed his eyes. A decidueye shot down towards him, talons bared, but instead he grabbed the human and whisked her away out of Widget’s reach.

                                  Waveform… Tracer shook his head. He knew that pokemon. He was a mercenary. Tracer had reached out to him before he found Surge, but the decidueye blatantly refused to help him.

                                  “Hold on,” Waveform told the human.

                                  She reached up one slender paw to fasten around the owl pokemon’s leg, then with the other… she gestured something by her face right at Tracer. Something juvenile. And stuck out her tongue.

                                  After that, they were gone.

                                  Tracer pushed himself to his feet, keeping his paw fastened firmly over the broken filter on his mask. His eyes never left the spot the decidueye had appeared.

                                  Widget rejoined his side and looked back at the still quivering arrow.

                                  “Almost hit me he did,” he said. He looked up at Tracer and raised an eyebrow. “You all right?”

                                  “Yes, fine. She broke my mask is all.” He sighed and turned on the spot. “Let’s get back to the office.”

                                  “Want to borrow my mask?” Widget asked. “Unlike you, I don’t need it.”

                                  “Thanks for the offer, but yours might be a little small, my friend.”

                                  “All right.” Widget paused and glanced back at the silver weapon. “I might grab that arrow. Consider it evidence.”

                                  “Evidence?”

                                  “Yeh!” said Widget. “He tried to assault a long arm of the law!”

                                  “I don’t think you’re using that right. But whatever. Take it.” Tracer looked back over his shoulder at the silent street. He was still rather dazed, but one thing was seriously bugging him and he wasn’t going to dispute the eevee’s interest in the arrow. “I am wondering, though, what on earth Waveform wants with 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'
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                                    #17    
                                  Old January 10th, 2018 (6:56 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: 350
                                    Chapter Twenty Nine

                                    Annie barged through the door and stomped into the kitchen, leaving mucky footprints on Web’s freshly mopped floor. Waveform followed her closely, having neatly hung up his quiver beside the door. Annie then flopped into a chair, and Web watched with regret as the human kicked her feet up onto the table.

                                    “You’ll never believe this,” said Annie. “Some fox tried to grab me!”

                                    A soft glug came from the bucket as Zip rose up to the top, his mouth gaping open.

                                    “Grab you?” Web asked.

                                    “Oh, I’d believe it.” Waveform fell down in a seat beside Annie. “He’s a detective. Probably been asked to hunt you down.”

                                    “I’m more surprised he tried to grab her,” said Web. “Tracer isn’t exactly one to spare a flamethrower.”

                                    “Wait, you know this fox?” Annie asked. “What’s he doin’ grabbing at a defenseless girl in the streets?”

                                    “Trying to take you back to Socket, I’d reckon.” Waveform took two glasses of juice from Web and shoved one towards Annie. “Get that down you. It’ll stave off some effects of the air.”

                                    Annie eyed the brown ‘juice’ with suspicion, then sniffed it. Chocolate? What?

                                    “I don’t know what you were doing outside like that anyway,” Waveform scoffed. “You don’t exactly blend in.”

                                    Annie’s attention drifted to the opaque yellowed window.

                                    “Looking for you,” said Web. “That’s what she told me, anyway.”

                                    “I was?” Annie looked around with a start, then scratched her chin. “Man, I’ve forgotten after all that kerfuffle.”

                                    Web’s brow knit together with concern and she looked from Annie to Waveform. “How did it go, anyway?”

                                    “I made two thousand five hundred credits throwing two space pirates behind bars,” he said. “And every credit went on materials for the ship. All of that should be here by dawn.”

                                    “Every credit?” Web asked.

                                    “Yeah. I just hope it’s enough to meet Trojan’s expectations.”

                                    “You never thought to wait and ask him?”

                                    Waveform narrowed his eyes. “Could you have personally guaranteed me I could have put all those credits in a jar and no one would have touched them?”

                                    Web sighed and glanced away. “We do have bills to pay…” She shook her head then looked back up at Waveform. “You could have considered that, at least.”

                                    “Like I’ve said before, space pirates don’t just drop out of the sky into my lap! If we’re gonna get this thing built-”

                                    “Why is this so important to you?” Web asked.

                                    Waveform necked the contents of his glass and slammed it down onto the table, then he rose to his feet and marched from the kitchen.

                                    Annie watched him leave then turned and met Web’s grey eyes. The skuntank sighed again and reached across the table for the discarded glass.

                                    “It is pretty important,” said Annie.

                                    Web looked up sharply, still sprawled across the table.

                                    “The ship,” Annie added.

                                    The skuntank shook her head and scooped up the glass. “I don’t know why you want to start a rebellion so badly, either. I’m hoping some sense comes out of all this, because clearly Waveform can see something I just can’t.”

                                    “It would help us marine pokemon,” said Zip. “So I can see good in it.”

                                    “I guess,” said Web. “I mean… there’s always a risk that law could get out of hand.”

                                    “It’s already out of hand!” said Zip. “And I want to help stop it.”

                                    “Oh no,” said Web sadly. “A nice young boy like you isn’t going to get into a rebellion. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you.”

                                    “Hey, hey,” said Annie before Zip could retaliate. “Numbers are numbers. The kid wants in, he’s on board.”

                                    “Oh really?” Web turned and gave her an exasperated look. “And how do you suggest he moves around? You know… in case we have to run to safety?”

                                    Annie scratched her chin again and met the goldeen’s pleading gaze. No legs… that certainly was a predicament. She stood and retrieved the bucket, splashing water in her attempt to lift it.

                                    “Oh, come now,” said Web. “Where do you plan to take him?” As Annie left the kitchen, Web’s voice called after her, “The rest of the house isn’t water proof!”

                                    The bucket was oddly heavy. Annie staggered up the stairs and paused at a closed door. Techno music blasted from it, and a dim light spread out from the gap beneath. She placed the bucket down and knocked twice.

                                    The door jerked open and Trojan’s tired eyes leered at her from the green-lit room. Then the colour changed to a red. Then a purple. Annie craned her neck to see over his shoulder. Some strange light sat beside his desk, smoothly changing colour.

                                    “What do you want?” he snapped.

                                    Annie turned her attention back to him and pointed to the goldeen.

                                    “He needs legs,” she said. “Can you make him legs?”

                                    The scrafty looked from Zip then back to Annie. “You kidding me?”

                                    “Nope. Kid needs legs.” Annie turned from the door and waved. “I’ll leave him with you. Talk things over, okay?”

                                    “I’m already designing your wimpy ship!” Trojan snapped.

                                    She paused on the stairwell and pointed a finger at him. “Don’t you hate on pyukumuku. I’ll make you eat those words.”

                                    Trojan’s leer fell away and he reached up with one paw to rub at his head fin. He watched Annie trudge down the stairs then looked back down at Zip.

                                    “She’s right, you know,” said the goldeen. “Pyukumuku might not do much, but they sure are prickly!”

                                    ...

                                    Macro was seriously beginning to question his sanity.

                                    He stood with his back to the wall, keeping one eye on the low branch with his ear pressed up against the cold stone. All that reached him were muffled voices, but that was enough evidence to prove the grass army was still there. Climbing over the wall was out of the question. If they’d come armed, they would very likely have the weapons to deal with him. Ground, most likely. And the presence of torterra amongst them was very unnerving. An earthquake from one of them would be enough to take him out and drag the wall down with him… if it didn’t also reduce one or two of the apartment blocks.

                                    Sticking close to the wall, he scurried along it with one paw on his laser. It had to end somewhere. There had to be an entrance to the orchard. If he had to guess, those grass types hadn’t come via the lake like he had. There were too many of them for that. Their ship would have dropped them in the orchard itself, or some other secluded place. The entrance could be on the other side of the orchard, which was too far away for his liking. He wanted to get this over with quickly and report back to Anchor. Come up with a plan to get the twins back safely.

                                    The more he followed the wall, the longer it seemed to get. Looking back over his shoulder didn’t alleviate the feeling, either. It wasn’t until he reached another narrow alleyway forking from his right that he realised the orchard wall extended all the way out to the lake. So it was right behind the apartments. Perfect cover, unless someone were to look out of their window and spot the grass types, and with the trouble he’d had doing so, the grass army could rest assured that each one of them was camouflaged amongst the trees and bushes.

                                    Finally, the wall came to an end, curving neatly away from him along an empty square. On the far side of the square stood a town hall, and it was surrounded by empty market stands. A conveniently placed sign told any passers by that the next market day was two days away. Three a week, selling locally made produce. He could almost smell the cakes and pies that would be filling the stalls, amongst other bits and pieces.

                                    He tore his eyes from the empty stands and focused on following the wall. More branches poked over the top and swung down into the market square. Some of them contained tempting berries and his paw reached up towards a red cheri. He’d never seen one so big. DL would have loved that on a cake. He flexed his claws and let his paw fall back to his side. No. It didn’t feel right. Even if he did take it, it wouldn’t survive in his pouch. It would just be a waste.

                                    Not to mention a sticky mess.

                                    Something moved overhead rustling the leaves and his eyes flew to it. Munching away on one of the cheri berries was a caterpie. What was a caterpie doing in Cyan City? Was it with the grass army? No, impossible. It wasn’t a grass type. The grass type pokemon resented them almost as much as they resented the water and fire types. Obviously the bugs had moved in to help themselves to the berries, benefited only by their small size. Easier to hide.

                                    He shook his head and hugged the wall until he spotted something sparkling in the distance. A gate, caught in the noon sunlight.

                                    Keeping himself low and his steps light, he scurried along the wall until he reached the gate. He stopped with his back against the wall and gave the gate a once over.

                                    Locked.

                                    He wasn’t getting in there easily. If he used his lock pick, not only would the grass army hear him, he’d be stood around long enough for them to see him, too. He grit his teeth together and peered beyond the gate. Now he knew what he was looking for, it was easier to see the grass pokemon. A pair of tangela stood a good way away, poking around the bushes with their tentacle-like vines. Closer to him was a grotle, also poking about in the bushes. What were they doing? Raiding?

                                    A razz berry bush just beyond the gate rustled and he ducked aside, craning his head around to peek through the silver bars. What emerged rolling backwards on a fat berry wasn’t a grass type. It was another bug. A weedle. The orchard must have been infested by bugs. He looked over at the grotle again. An ivysaur strolled towards the turtle pokemon on its hind legs carrying something in its paws. A white box.

                                    The grotle opened it eagerly, and several caterpie rushed out of it, drawn to the bush like magnets.

                                    Macro’s eyes widened and trailed over the hundreds of berry trees and bushes. This wasn’t just some invasion with the intension to fire lasers at any water types they saw. No… it was biological warfare. The grass army intended to wipe out Cyan City’s food source, forcing the water types into a famine. It was hardly a subtle move, either. Those poor oshawott twins would likely die if the army was caught. He had to warn someone before the situation got wildly out of hand.

                                    He looked back down at the weedle, now lying on its back with the purple razz berry clasped between its tiny legs. Something wasn’t right about it. Sure, bug types had a large appetite. Especially ones that would be classed as a larval stage. But there was something very wrong he couldn’t quite put his claw on.

                                    It was too far away to grab. He had to lure it somehow.

                                    He turned away from the gate, creeping back down the wall towards one of the low-hanging branches. A pecha tree lay not too far away, and was too high up to grab. He crouched down then jumped, snatching at the branch. His paw closed over the leaves and he was left hanging as his other paw flailed for one of the berries. A long green shape dropped from the leaves and struck him on the face. Stifling a yelp, he dropped and landed hard on his bottom. The green thing fell away from him and landed on its back, flailing four button-like legs.

                                    A caterpie.

                                    Well, it wasn’t the weedle, but he only needed one specimen to prove his point.

                                    He scooped up the bug and rose to his feet, glancing left and right over the wall. Muffled voices, nothing frantic. He’d not been spotted, thankfully. He turned and retraced his steps along the wall, clutching the writhing bug to his chest. Not a squeak came from it. Silent, mute, no voice. What on earth was wrong with it?

                                    It seemed to take forever to reach the alley that lead back to the main road. Once he was inside it, he pulled out his pocket computer, keeping the bug locked firmly under his left arm. It only rang twice before Anchor’s voice spoke oddly loudly into his ear.

                                    “Cap’n?”

                                    “Where are you?” Macro demanded.

                                    “Apartment to the left of the alley where those little kids went missing.” Anchor answered. “Where are you?”

                                    “Just in that alley.” The caterpie began to struggle and Macro almost dropped his computer in an attempt to control it. “Meet me at the door.”

                                    Before Anchor could respond, Macro hung up and pushed his computer back into his belt pouch. With both paws, he locked the caterpie tightly against his scarf. Soggy string flowed from what he guessed was its mouth, winding around his arms and creating a sticky waterfall of web down his scarf. Macro stared down at the mess, then followed the white strands along the floor, all the way back to the end of the alley. The thread vanished around the corner. Wretched bug had left a trail!

                                    He tutted and stuffed the caterpie into his scarf head first, wrapping the fabric firmly over is head where it began to bulge with sticky string. Clutching it tightly, he trotted to the main road and turned sharply left. The apartment door flew open and Macro almost collided with Anchor’s torso.

                                    “Whoa!” The granbull caught him with both paws and pushed him back, checking him over once then looking over his shoulder. “Were you chased or somethin’?”

                                    “No, I wasn’t chased! What do you take me for?” Macro pushed past him into the lobby and made a beeline for the elevator.

                                    “What do I take you for?” Anchor scoffed. “You often end up in trouble. What’ve you got hold of?”

                                    “What floor?” Macro stepped into the elevator, but Anchor beat him to the panel, selecting the third floor. “And I’ve got a bug.”

                                    “Contagious?”

                                    Macro fixed his violet eyes on the granbull’s and pulled back his scarf from the caterpie. Thread pooled out onto the floor, and Anchor took a step backwards to avoid it.

                                    “What did you pick that up for?” Anchor asked.

                                    Macro tucked it away once more, stifling its silk-spewing.

                                    “I can explain when we get to Lossy’s apartment,” said Macro. “If you wouldn’t mind cleaning up that mess, that would be great. Darn bug’s been leaving a silk trail.”

                                    Anchor rolled his eyes and silently scooped up the sticky mess.

                                    The elevator pinged and Macro strolled out, pausing to look back at Anchor. He rose to his feet, grimacing at the white sludge coating his paws. Most of it had come off the tiles, but there was still a nice patch of silk clinging to the surface. Not noticeable unless one knew what they were looking for, but it wouldn’t be very pleasant on a pokemon’s feet.

                                    Anchor deposited the silk into a trash can then nodded for Macro to follow him. “It’s this way.”

                                    Macro trotted after him, trying in vain to stop the thread from leaking through the gaps in his scarf. Anchor stopped at the fifth door along and knocked twice before slipping inside.

                                    Soft blue carpet greeted Macro’s feet, a welcome change to the cold tile. Lossy sat behind a coffee table, sipping at a steaming cup. Her eyes widened when she spotted him and immediately went to his silk-leaking scarf. She let the cup clatter onto a metal coaster and rose to her feet.

                                    “What on earth is that?!” she gasped.

                                    “Caterpie.” Macro let the green bug drop onto her coffee table in a pool of silk, where the spewing finally came to an end.

                                    Lossy stared down at it, mouth agape.

                                    “Again,” said Anchor. “What are you doin’ with a caterpie?”

                                    “I found it in the orchard,” said Macro. “The grass army is releasing bug pokemon that are just devouring berries and leaves.”

                                    Lossy looked up at him slowly. “You aren’t serious?”

                                    “I’m deathly serious,” said Macro. “Why else would I have carried this sticky thing back with me?” He pawed feebly at the silk clinging to his scarf. “This is never gonna come out…”

                                    Anchor dropped to his knees to get a good look at the caterpie. His brow knit together as he watched the bug turn its head to look around the room.

                                    “We have to tell someone,” said Lossy. “We can’t just let bug pokemon roam in the orchard! Unless we reason with them… We do have two common enemies.” She scratched between her ears. “Which makes me wonder why the grass types would have formed an alliance with them? They hate bug pokemon.”

                                    “I wouldn’t think it’s an alliance,” said Anchor.

                                    “What makes you say that?” said Macro.

                                    “Well, this thing’s as empty as DL when we got her, Cap’n.” Anchor looked up at him. “I mean… look at its eyes. They’re lifeless.”

                                    Macro squatted beside Anchor, watching the caterpie’s black eyes. No sparkle. Blank. Unchanging. Its antennae twitched at every movement in the air, but it was clear it was looking for something. Or sniffing for something.

                                    “But it panicked,” said Macro.

                                    “You don’t need to have a personality to panic,” said Anchor. “It’s basic survival.”

                                    “So you think they removed its personality like DL?” Macro growled.

                                    “Not quite.” Anchor reached across to the caterpie and moved a claw before its eyes. They didn’t even move to it. “I’d say they’ve gone even further. There’s nothin’ left in this thing other than primal instinct.”

                                    Macro stood up so quickly Lossy squeaked. “What is wrong with this stinking world?!”

                                    “Calm down, Cap’n! We don’t want to get all of Cyan City into an uproar!”

                                    “I’d say that’s exactly what we need.” Macro rounded on Lossy. “Who’s in charge here? I want to show them exactly what that grass army is doing not only to your city but to the bug types as well.”

                                    “But…” Anchor lowered his voice. “But what about your bounty, Cap’n?”

                                    “Sod it.” Macro folded his arms and leered down at the green caterpillar. “We’ve got bigger things to worry about right now. If this grass army has unleashed a biological warfare on this orchard, what’s to stop them doing it elsewhere? A famine in one city can easily spread to a famine across System. I’m willing to risk my own life to stop an all out war before it starts.”

                                    Anchor’s eyes widened. “Are you serious? I don’t think I’ve ever heard you talk like that. What changed?”

                                    “I realised this could affect more than one measly city.” Macro fixed him with a sideways glare. “I happen to live in this world. I don’t wanna live through a war!”

                                    Anchor sighed and shrugged his shoulders. “And here I thought you were just being humble.”

                                    Lossy sat back down heavily, staring blankly at the bug pokemon. Anchor looked down at her and placed a paw on her shoulder.

                                    “You all right, ma’am?” he asked.

                                    “I’m… just a bit shaken up.” Her voice wavered and she diverted her gaze to the closed door. “First my kids… then space pirates… an invasion… bug pokemon… I don’t understand what’s going on any more. And what’s this DL you were talking about? No personality?” She looked back down at the caterpie and her face paled.

                                    “DL doesn’t concern you,” Macro said bluntly. Then he pointed at the bug pokemon. “This, however, does. Now tell me… who’s in charge?”

                                    “Give her a rest, Cap’n.”

                                    “No.” Macro swatted his large paw away and turned back to Lossy. “I want you to contact them.”

                                    Anchor sighed again and retrieved the dewott’s cup from amongst the silk. “I’ll make you another coffee.”

                                    Macro continued to stare at her, meeting her terrified eyes. DL’s voice echoed in his head. ‘You really need to remember your p’s and q’s.’

                                    He sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose between his thumb and index claws. “Can you contact them? Please?”

                                    Something dropped in the adjoining kitchenette and shattered off the tile floor. Anchor’s mohawk stiffened along with his spine and he glanced at the mawile over his shoulder.

                                    Lossy looked up at Macro and her eyes softened slightly. “I can, but I’m still feeling rather shaken. If you wouldn’t mind getting me my phone… it’s on the kitchen counter.”

                                    Macro flexed his claws and turned away from her. Just like she’d said, her small touchscreen phone lay on the counter beside a vase of faux flowers. As he reached for it, he caught Anchor’s bemused stare.

                                    “Are you feelin’ all right, Cap’n?” he asked.

                                    Macro frowned and aimed the phone at him. “Shut up.”
                                    __________________
                                    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 January 12th, 2018 (10:04 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: 350
                                      Chapter Thirty

                                      Lossy led Macro and Anchor all the way to the town square. Macro clutched the writhing caterpie to his chest, enveloped in his scarf, as his mind stretched back to the events that had followed in the dewott’s apartment. His mouth was dry and he licked his lips as he looked around the square. Her phone conversation had been somewhat shaky and had avoided mentioning her helpers were space pirates at all costs. She’d only spoken to the Governor’s assistant, promising a call back after he’d passed on the news. Then not even ten minutes later, the Governor himself rang back, demanding to speak to Lossy and her two ‘helpers’ without asking for any further information over the phone.

                                      Macro was dreading what this Governor’s reaction would be. Given he only had authority in Cyan City, his power and influence paled in comparison to Socket’s. But he’d still be the first line of contact should she want to find out what was going on in Cyan City.

                                      The Governor’s office was situated at the edge of the market, being the main focal point of the square, especially since the market was closed for the day. Beside the building sat a police station that was rather unimpressive in comparison. Cyan City’s flag fluttered atop the Governor’s office in the artificial breeze, depicting a rain drop against a deep azure sky.

                                      The door was unguarded from the outside. A quick scan of the wall told Macro there were cameras, and not the stealthy hidden kind that some government bodies used. The white-shelled, black-eyed cameras looked like something out of an old sci-fi movie, and they fixed the group with a suspicious stare. He even saw the camera lenses focus.

                                      Lossy rang the buzzer and waited. The voice that followed was familiar. Gritty, like the one he’d heard back in her apartment.

                                      “Hello?” it asked.

                                      “It’s Lossy,” she replied. “The Governor asked to see me?”

                                      “Oh yes! Hold on one second.”

                                      The voice cut out then the buzzer gave a deafening ring. Macro leapt as the lock clicked up and he hugged his writhing scarf tightly. His heart was hammering in his chest but he did his best to hide it, boldly following the dewott into the lobby.

                                      A large bibarel stood behind the counter and he removed his reading glasses to get a good look at them.

                                      “So you’re the young lady who called?” His gritty voice didn’t remotely suit him.

                                      He looked up from Lossy to eye Macro and Anchor, and his eyes narrowed as he squinted at them. Maybe he needed the glasses for more than just reading?

                                      “You two don’t look like water types,” he said. “Are you here with this young lady?”

                                      “Yes,” said Macro all too quickly.

                                      His heart was still hammering. He was beginning to fear that the secretary’s hearing made up for his poor eyesight and he’d actually be able to hear it.

                                      “Very well.” The secretary reached for a pen and notepad. “I’ll need you three to sign in.”

                                      Lossy took the pen and glanced back at the two space pirates.

                                      “I-” she stammered. “I’ll sign in for all three of us, okay?”

                                      “That is fine.” The bibarel sat back in his chair and replaced his spectacles.

                                      Macro kept a close eye on him, but he didn’t look back up from his computer. Once Lossy was done, the bibarel retrieved the notepad and pushed a buzzer on the desk.

                                      “You have-” he read over the notepad. “Lossy here to see you. And…”

                                      He trailed off and looked back up at Macro and Anchor. A look of realization began to cross his face, but before he could say anything more, the Governor’s voice rang out from his speaker.

                                      “Fantastic! Send them in right away.”

                                      “Okay…” The bibarel cleared his throat. “It’s just through those double doors. Room Two A.”

                                      Macro met the secretary’s gaze, but Lossy grabbed him by the elbow as she mumbled her thanks and steered him alongside her towards the Governor’s office.

                                      Two A was exactly where Macro would have expected it to be. The words ‘Governor Jumper’ were even printed in gold over the window.

                                      Lossy knocked twice and a deep voice from beyond the door instructed them to ‘come in’. Two simple words that chilled Macro to the bone.

                                      A lithe frogadier hunched over a low desk, decorated to resemble an old mahogany antique. But like most antique-style furniture, Macro could easily guess it was made from plastic and chrome. He looked up when they entered and his yellow eyes went from worried to furious to plain confused in a split second.

                                      “Lossy, right?” he asked the dewott. Then he look up at her two companions. “Why, may I ask, are you accompanied by Hunter of Wildcard Gamma?”

                                      “Because…” She wound her paws together and her eyes flitted from Macro to Anchor. “Because they helped me… They… They know what happened to my children…”

                                      “And… let me guess…” Jumper let his pen drop to the table and sat back in his chair. “That writhing thing leaking silk is the caterpie you were telling me about?”

                                      Macro’s eyes snapped to his writhing scarf. He’d been clutching it so tightly the caterpie had begun to protest violently and a gap had opened in the folds, letting sticky silk flow out onto the linoleum floor like a faucet.

                                      “Oh right… yeh.” He chuckled nervously and pulled the fabric back from the caterpie’s head. “Yeah, it’s-”

                                      The frogadier waved his paw. “Don’t say anything, Hunter. Lossy told me everything. Let me look at it.”

                                      Jumper’s voice was laced with venom. It pushed Macro’s fur on end and he had to bite back a sneer. He took a confident stride forward and deposited the sticky caterpillar right onto the Governor’s paperwork. He folded his arms and took a step back, letting a smirk spread over his lips. At least it covered up the fact he was deeply regretting folding his arms over his immensely sticky scarf.

                                      Jumper sighed and tried to rescue some of his paperwork from beneath the silent bug.

                                      “Wipe that smile off your face, Hunter,” he said. “You should know full well the risk you’re taking being here in Cyan City.”

                                      Macro snorted. “If I weren’t here, you’d have no idea that grass army was in your City. Or that they’re releasing bug pokemon to attack your orchards.”

                                      Jumper narrowed his eyes at him and shook string from one of his files. “That is the only reason I’m not throwing you behind bars. Now… I think I know full well why you’re here. Socket warned me you might show up. Nevertheless, right now… I hate to say this, but… I’m in your debt.” He raised a paw before Macro could chip in with a snippy comment. “But don’t go demanding anything off me. All you’ve done is alert me to something that would have become obvious in a day or so. I can pay you back by letting you keep your freedom and get out of this city. If you’re not gone by nightfall, my word will no longer protect you and you’re back to being free game. Understood?”

                                      Macro snorted and turned his back on the frogadier. He struck Anchor in the lower back with his paw.

                                      “Come on, Anchor. Let’s get that disk and scat.”

                                      “But…” Lossy clutched her paws together and looked between the space pirates and the governor. “My children…”

                                      “Don’t worry, Lossy,” said Jumper. “Cyan City’s army will deal with the grass threat and rescue your children.”

                                      Macro paused by the door and fixed the Governor with a sneer. “You send an army in there guns blazin’, those kids are as good as dead.”

                                      Lossy let out a wail and fell heavily into the nearest chair. Jumper looked up at Macro with a start and his eyes narrowed dangerously.

                                      “I think my army knows what they’re doing, Hunter,” he said. “Don’t you go scaring a worried mother with your lies!”

                                      “They ain’t lies,” Macro retorted. “I’ve seen enough combat to know things can go from bad to worse. I heard with my own ears that army is keeping those kids as a bargain to get away.”

                                      “Murder is illegal and punishable by death,” Jumper said slowly. “I sincerely doubt that a law abiding army-”

                                      “Law abiding?! Yeah right! Look what they’ve done to that caterpie then tell me they wouldn’t hesitate to murder a couple of kids!”

                                      Lossy sobbed loudly and her face fell into her paws.

                                      Jumper met Macro’s leer for a long, painful moment, then sighed, letting his pen drop beside the caterpie. His eyes went to the bug, watching as it scanned the room with its blank, black eyes.

                                      “Maybe there are risks,” he said. “But I can assure you we will get those kids back.”

                                      “Yeah?” Macro pulled the door open. “Let’s see who gets there first, then.”

                                      Jumper narrowed his eyes again. “What are you saying, Hunter?”

                                      “I’m sayin’ I never leave a job unfinished.”

                                      With that, he let the door slam shut behind him.

                                      ...

                                      Socket’s office filled with digital ringing, penetrating her sound filter which was primarily thrown up to tune out Tweak’s incessant jingling. She frowned at the chingling bouncing in the corner of her office while he leafed through and stamped her paperwork, then brought up her holoscreen. Yobi’s tired face filled it and he looked up from his indescribable nicknacks to address her.

                                      “Good afternoon, Madam Mayor,” he said.

                                      “Good to see you out of your sick bed, Yobi,” she said. “What are you ringing me for, exactly?”

                                      “To be honest,” he looked back down at his work, “to let you know I’m out of my ‘sick bed’.”

                                      Socket did not appreciate his air quotes. She steepled her paws together and narrowed her eyes at him.

                                      “You look just as dreadful as you did before you fainted,” she said.

                                      He gave a dry laugh but didn’t look up from whatever he was attacking with his screwdriver. Part of her wondered if he was imagining whatever it was to be her face. Not that she cared.

                                      “Someone has to make these things,” he said. “Besides, I’m still trying to work out the kinks in that worm you want me to send to Download Database.”

                                      “Oh yes, the worm.” She let her paws drop onto her desk and leant back in her chair. “When will that be ready?”

                                      “Like I said, it has kinks,” he said. “Obviously we don’t want it to kill the host. But we do want it to incapacitate her and make her easier to retrieve.”

                                      “I am less concerned about retrieving that pachirisu than I am Hunter. I just want that nuisance of a pirate to stop meddling in my plans.”

                                      “Then the virus is a win-win,” he said. “It will incapacitate her, we can retrieve her along with Hunter and his goons, and it will also prevent him working around her database to access confidential files.”

                                      “Tweak already dealt with that,” she said. “Download Database’s reach is severely limited.”

                                      “Doesn’t mean she can’t be hacked around,” said Yobi. “If there was a surefire way to stop other pokemon from accessing databases, hackers would have been powerless centuries ago.”

                                      Socket snorted, then covered up the rather unfeminine sound by scratching her nose.

                                      “I know it sounds ridiculous, but believe me,” said Yobi. “There’s a massive risk. We definitely need to either retrieve the pachirisu, or shut her down until we manage to obtain her. The worm will do both. Not only will it shut down the database, it will also allow us to track her down.”

                                      “Yes, since the last tracker was destroyed,” said Socket. “I hired a mercenary to track down Hunter and her last update was less than reassuring.”

                                      “Well.” Yobi scratched behind his ear with an oily paw, leaving an unsightly black streak on his orange fur. “Unless they have some means of detecting, isolating and destroying a worm, then this method will be much more reliable than a little tracking chip.”

                                      “Fantastic news.” Socket steepled her paws again and leant forwards on her elbows. “When will it be ready?”

                                      Yobi cleared his throat and shot her a fleeting glance. The kind he often gave her before he fled a room.

                                      “I already said, it has some kinks.” His voice came out with as much haste as a rapidash trying to escape a tsunami. “That last episode of mine cost me some serious time, but I’ll keep working on it, and as soon as it’s ready, I-”

                                      Socket raised her paw to cut him off. “You will make sure you rest, young man. I don’t want you to lose yet more time with another fainting episode. You understand me?”

                                      Her dagger voice caused his eyes to widen, and he closed his mouth tight and nodded.

                                      “Yes, Madam Mayor,” he said. “I understand completely. I’ll set this android aside and get to working on the worm as my number one priority.”

                                      Before she could even ask what importance the new android served, he vanished, and her holoscreen retreated into its desk entirely of its own accord.

                                      She sat back in her seat and sighed, rubbing at her forehead with one paw. “Stupid technology.”

                                      ...

                                      It certainly wasn’t dawn when the materials arrived. It was more like dusk.

                                      Cold wind whipped at Annie’s hair as she stared up at the skip of scrap metal. Sheet upon warped sheet of varying grey, splashed here and there with the occasional neon colour. Most of which was marred with rust.

                                      Waveform crouched on the edge of the skip with admirable balance. He rifled through the jagged sheets, the sharp edges snagging and snipping at his brown wing feathers. He didn’t seem to mind, or notice. One or the other. Finally, he turned his sharp eyes onto Annie and Web.

                                      “It’s all here,” he said. “All three thousand five hundred credits worth.”

                                      Web stifled a sigh. “You paid all that for this?”

                                      “In all fairness,” he said, “it isn’t a lot of money for sheet metal. But it got enough scraps to build the entire shell of a ship.”

                                      “And what about all the parts that will make it work?” Web asked. “An engine? Steering controls? Fuel? Not to mention the paint it will take to get this looking like…” She waved a paw.

                                      “A pyukumuku,” said Annie.

                                      The skuntank shrugged and looked back up at Waveform.

                                      “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” he said. “While the rest of you are building this ship, I’ll keep hunting pirates. We’ll hopefully have enough for the remaining parts before too long.”

                                      “You’ve said a billion times that space pirates don’t just fall out of the sky!” said Web. “What about the necessities? You can’t keep wasting all those credits on a toy that might not even fly!”

                                      “Oh, it’s not a toy,” said Annie.

                                      Web turned her large head to face the human. “Annie, could you please go inside and see what Trojan is up to?”

                                      Annie shrugged. “Sure. Maybe he’ll let me see what designs he’s come up with.”

                                      Web watched the human stroll into the house, then look around as though she’d lost her way before finally finding the stairs. Web turned back to Waveform who was once again rifling through the tatty sheet metal.

                                      “Waveform, I think we made a huge mistake taking in a human,” she said.

                                      “Really? Because I think it was a fantastic decision,” he said.

                                      “I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not.”

                                      “I’m not being sarcastic.” He straightened then glided down to the ground with one silent beat of his wings. “It was just what we needed to get a jump start on dealing with Socket.”

                                      “What is your issue with the Mayor?” Web asked. “The environmental conditions don’t even directly concern you. You could easily be living in luxury inside Gear Village yet for some reason you choose to live in the slums hunting down space pirates!”

                                      He said nothing as he tossed a stray, and somewhat heavy, sheet of metal back onto the heaving pile. It teetered precariously at the top before sliding into place with a sound like claws on a chalkboard.

                                      “Seriously, Waveform. What is it? You’ve always been shrouded in mystery and I think it’s about time you told us what’s going on before dragging us - and a child! - into your ominous plans.”

                                      “That water dweller doesn’t need to come with us,” said Waveform.

                                      “But he wants to,” said Web. “And the last I heard, Trojan was designing him a pair of legs! He’s much too young to have mechanical enhancements!”

                                      She watched with despair as Waveform dragged the skip on its creaking wheels towards their home’s rickety gate.

                                      “Oh, where are you taking all that?” she asked with exasperation.

                                      “What? You think I’m leaving this on the street?” he scoffed.

                                      She opened her mouth to speak, but instead she shook her head and sighed. Leaving it on the street would certainly solve her problems. Or delay them. But it would certainly be a waste of three and a half thousand credits.

                                      “Fine,” she said. “Lock it in the back garden. Maybe it will rain and finish off rusting it all away.”

                                      The decidueye snorted and turned his back on her, dragging the skip behind him effortlessly.

                                      “Do you really think we can trust her?” she asked.

                                      He paused by the gate and fixed his vermilion eyes on hers. “You’re the one who let her into our home.”

                                      “It was pity,” she said. “Besides… I can’t decide if she’s unwell or if all humans are a bit loopy.”

                                      “Oh, she’s unwell.”

                                      He turned away from her again and pushed the gate open, dragging the rattling skip behind him.

                                      “How do you know that?” she asked. “You’ve never met a human before. None of us have.”

                                      He said nothing. Her only answer came in the slam of the gate, splintering around its already worn hinges.

                                      She shook her head again and dragged herself into the house. Between Annie and Waveform, her sanity was being plucked limb from screaming limb. A good hot cocoa was what she needed right now.

                                      And a lie down.

                                      ...

                                      Defrag sighed at her computer as she brought up yet another article on a potential ‘monster’ sighting. There were certainly a lot of them, most of them concentrated at the northern end of System Sky. Yet not one of them matched the description Tracer had shown her of the human. Either winged, looking every bit like an archeops; or gangly and ape-like with very little fur.

                                      These sightings, however, looked nothing like either. Neither winged nor gangly. Each sighting described a creature that resembled a tentacruel or tentacool, or even frillish in some descriptions. Part of her deeply wondered if Tracer had been wrong. Maybe the human had more than one pokemon form, and the second was aquatic, and not an extinct pokemon at all.

                                      Or maybe it was. An extinct pokemon they knew nothing or very little about. Jellyfish pokemon didn’t have skeletons. They didn’t fossilize. There was every possibility that a prehistoric pokemon could have been terrorizing the northern most point of System Sky, then vanishing back into the darkness.

                                      But there was no ocean in System Sky. So this monster’s presence made no sense. Were there flying jellyfish?

                                      She pursed her lips together as she skimmed over the article, all of it information she had already read elsewhere. Attacks on the northern cities. Three pokemon dead from toxic stab wounds. Her eyes trailed down to the related news headlines below.

                                      Jellyfish attacks Favicon City. Is this the water dwellers’ revenge?

                                      She mouthed the words as she selected the headline. Once again, it was all news she’d read before. Favicon City was one of two that had been attacked, and sported two casualties. But this time, something else accompanied the article.

                                      A photograph.

                                      The blurred picture looked every bit like a jellyfish, but she wouldn’t have said it looked like any pokemon she was aware of. It had twelve tentacles of varying length on either side of its body, in perfect symmetry. Two at the sides and two at its ‘rear’ were longer than the others. Almost gangly… was this actually the human?

                                      She stared at it, trying to work out whether or not it fit the description - and somewhat crude drawing - that Tracer had left her with. (Due to confidential reasons, he hadn’t wanted to leave a screen shot of the CCTV footage.) It didn’t remotely fit. It didn’t even match her mental image of it. Yet there was something oddly human-like about it.

                                      She ran a paw over one of her long ears as she stared transfixed at the odd jellyfish. No. It wasn’t the human. This was something else. Something more threatening than a creature from another world assaulting the mayor.

                                      Whatever it was, it was attacking System Sky.
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                                      Old January 18th, 2018 (9:18 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: 350
                                        Chapter Thirty One

                                        The sun was well into setting as Macro and Anchor skulked by the orchard. Macro had resorted to hiding himself inside a razz berry bush, and much to his irritation the tiny thorns kept catching in his fur and the leaves clung to his sticky scarf.

                                        “Can you hear anything?” he asked.

                                        Anchor grunted. “Yeh. You.”

                                        Macro tutted and turned his violet eyes back onto the iron gate. There was no sign of grass pokemon beyond it. They’d long since retired to their tents, hidden out of sight. Or maybe they’d left Cyan City. If they’d left… then that meant they’d took the children with them.

                                        The mawile pushed himself out of the bush and plucked thorns from his thick fur. He never took his eyes off the gate. Slowly he crept towards it, and the bush behind him rustled as Anchor climbed out from it. Macro threw his back up against the wall and drew his laser. He didn’t know if he’d need it, but having it ready would save vital time. And lives.

                                        He strained his ears, but not a whisper came from beyond the wall. Carefully, he edged closer to the gate. The branches were motionless, but in the rapidly dimming light he could see a lone caterpillar pokemon - a caterpie or a sewaddle going off the colour - dozing amongst the lush leaves of a sitrus tree. So they slept? It made sense, given DL’s need to sleep. But he hadn’t expected it. He’d expected a horde of ravenous, untiring, empty caterpillars munching their way through Cyan City’s food supply. He didn’t even know if they could evolve. If they could, the consequences could be disastrous.

                                        He turned his eyes back onto the orchard, searching frantically for any sign of the grass army amongst the shrubs and trees.

                                        Nothing.

                                        “Can’t see a thing in this light,” he snorted.

                                        “Yeh,” said Anchor quietly. “It would be a lot easier if I’d remembered my heat tracker.”

                                        “You don’t have it?” Macro saw Anchor shake his head. The mawile rolled his eyes. “Moron.”

                                        Something warm fell on his shoulder and his mouth flew open, releasing an involuntary scream. It echoed around the square and his eyes flew to his assailant.

                                        Lossy stood stock still behind him, her black eyes impossibly wide. Her sleek fur bristled like a brush and she stared at him, her breath coming in quick bursts.

                                        Anchor stood behind her, his eyes and ears trained on the orchard. Macro followed his gaze while trying to calm his racing heart.

                                        Silence.

                                        Where was the grass army?

                                        “I’m sorry,” Lossy whispered. “I… wanted to know if you wanted… somewhere to sleep.”

                                        Macro slapped his paw into his face and groaned. This dewott was going to be the death of him.

                                        Sleep wasn’t a bad idea, but if the grass army was sleeping then now was a good time to sneak into their camp and rescue the twins.

                                        He rounded on the dewott and flashed his canines.

                                        “I don’t want sleep,” he hissed. “Now let me do my job.”

                                        She snatched her paw back and clutched it to her chest. With a curt nod, she took a step away from him, and her eyes flitted to the orchard.

                                        “And go home,” Macro added as he turned back to the gate. “I don’t want you slowing me down by getting yourself caught.”

                                        “I can’t,” she said. “It feels so…”

                                        She glanced over her shoulder at the apartment blocks and her eyes welled with tears.

                                        Macro sighed and shook his head. “Fine. Then stay hidden somewhere. Sleep in a bush or something.”

                                        He turned to the gate and reached into his pouch for his lock pick. Another scan of the orchard beyond confirmed there were no nearby grass types. His pick flew expertly into the lock and within seconds it flicked open with a loud snap. The gate creaked open on its hinges under his paws, creating an ear-splitting screech that made him freeze in his tracks.

                                        The caterpillar pokemon nearby raised its head and looked around. Macro braced himself for the wretched thing to let off an alarm, but instead it moved towards the nearest sitrus berry like a magnet to metal.

                                        He let out the breath he’d been holding and squirmed through the narrow gap the gate had left him. Then he shot into the nearest bush like a dart.

                                        Silence.

                                        The orchard was oddly silent, almost eerie. Nothing but a slight breeze could be heard, rustling through the branches of the trees and stirring the leaves. The rustling sounded like the flapping of hundreds of wings, and each gust sent a chill down Macro’s spine. He leapt as the gate creaked open to allow Anchor inside. The granbull’s pink body was visible through the bush’s branches, but he didn’t join Macro in the bush. Instead he skulked beside it, sniffing the air. Macro could tell by the way he was snuffling that he’d picked up on something.

                                        He reached for his laser and his arm brushed across cool, damp leaves and they shifted beneath his touch. He froze and looked down at his right, his breath still in his throat. What he’d dismissed as wind became more apparent that it was the soft, deep breathing of a sleeping pokemon. Almost invisible amid the foliage, the sleeping ivysaur’s ribs rose and fell with each deep breath.

                                        Macro didn’t know much about grass type pokemon. Some were definitely nocturnal, such as oddish. But most needed to photosynthesise as well as consume berries. With no sun to warm their leaves and, in the case of the ivysaur, blood, then it would be unlikely that they’d be awake. If he was correct, then that explained the leafy reptile’s hiding.

                                        Macro took a deep, steadying breath and reversed out of the bush, not taking his eyes off the ivysaur. As his feet touched soft grass, he finally let out the breath and looked up at Anchor. The granbull raised an eyebrow at him then turned back to the orchard. Macro swallowed dryly and trotted around the bush to join his side, keeping a paw clasped over the butt of his laser.

                                        “There’s an ivysaur in that bush,” he whispered.

                                        Anchor looked down at him with a start, then over at the bush his captain had just scurried from. His nose twitched again as he sniffed the air, then he scratched it with a broad claw.

                                        “It makes me wonder how many are left here,” Macro whispered as he looked up at the branches. “Because this orchard was teaming with grass types earlier on.”

                                        His heart pounded. Any one of those bushes or shrubs could be attached to an unsuspecting and invisible pokemon. He was fortunate enough he only ran into an occupied berry bush. If he’d taken up refuge in a tangrowth’s vines, he’d be crushed half to death by now.

                                        He tapped Anchor with the barrel of his gun. “Let’s find those twins.”

                                        Soft grass rustled beneath their paws as they pressed their way through the orchard. Macro paused beside each bush, carefully analyzing it before pulling aside the branches. Every one he checked was nothing more than a razz or bluk berry bush, but most of them contained one or two sleeping pokemon. Mostly chikorita and bayleaf. One bush even contained a leafeon.

                                        He paused beside a massive orchid to check it for any small, sneaky grass types and his breath caught in his throat as his eyes trailed up it. It was no flower. Closer inspection revealed it to be bug-like, but it was also no bug. Long, petal-like limbs folded neatly over equally petal-like legs. Yet he knew full well those ‘petal-like limbs’ were as deadly as a scyther’s scythes. The lurantis slept soundly, its antennae twitching at every sound. He desperately hoped it wouldn’t wake up. He had nothing in his arsenal to deal with grass pokemon, let alone something as volatile as a lurantis.

                                        Anchor ushered him on with a paw on his back and Macro tore himself away from the dangerous grass pokemon. Every step felt like he was treading on egg shells. Three tiny cherubi sat huddled beneath a cheri tree. Clever. Very clever. Beside the cheri tree slept the torterra he’d seen earlier. In its branches lay a roselia, while a tropius slept beneath it. How had he missed all this from outside the orchard? Now he knew they were there, they were as clear as day.

                                        Almost half way around the orchard, and he’d seen no sign of the oshawott twins. No sign of a tent. He bit back the urge to call out for them. That would be suicide, and would likely also result in the death of those kids.

                                        The two pirates froze as something caught their eye. Movement to their left. Beside a tangled bush Macro guessed to be a tangela sat two squat pokemon. An oddish and a gloom. Both were deeply involved in a game of chess. Each piece was lit up green as they floated over the holoscreen of a pocket computer. Macro tutted under his breath. The night watch. It had been too easy to skulk about the orchard unseen. If those two were awake, then they were probably guarding something. The twins? He could hope so. But with the size of their army, he couldn’t exactly go in guns blazing.

                                        He nodded to Anchor and trotted towards the shadows of a tree, carefully checking they were vacant first. A quick survey of the branches confirmed their safety and he pressed his back against it while keeping one eye on the oddish and gloom.

                                        Anchor joined his side and folded his arms as he frowned at the two pokemon.

                                        “Any ideas?” he asked Macro quietly. “’Cos we’ve dealt with large armies before, but nothing to this scale.”

                                        Macro bit his lip. “I’ll be honest… I’m seriously rethinking my method.”

                                        Anchor jerked his head to look down at him. “You are?”

                                        “We can’t deal with this alone,” said Macro. “You’ve seen the size of them. They’re perfectly camouflaged.”

                                        “They wake up, they’ll be sluggish,” said Anchor.

                                        “Sluggish or not, one stun spore and we’re easy prey.”

                                        “Then what do you suggest we do?”

                                        Macro sighed and threw a paw in the air. “Message Matrix. See if he has any ideas. Failing that…”

                                        He trailed off, watching the two pokemon playing chess. Surrounded on all sides by a grass army he felt helpless. He could only remember two occasions he’d felt helpless. One, he was puny kid surrounded by a squad of dragon type pirates, desperate to defend his friend. The other… he hated even thinking about it.

                                        No… he wasn’t a helpless kid anymore. But those two oshawott were.

                                        He took a step forward, reaching for his second gun. But before his paw reached it, something snaked its way around his wrist and up his arm. His eyes snapped to it, but the green tentacle wormed its way around his chest and tightened before it reached his throat. He turned to reach out to Anchor, but his paw faltered. The granbull was surrounded by green tentacles, leaving only his legs and eyes visible. The owner sat atop his head, its large green mouth spread in a grin peppered with long, green, bristle-like teeth.

                                        A carnivine.

                                        Macro’s violet eyes narrowed into a leer.

                                        The fly trap pokemon pulled him in towards him, slamming his back hard into the tree. A low purr came from deep within his throat and he moved his maw closer to the two pirates.

                                        “You two have a fine set of sharp teeth,” he said as he wrapped his vine around Macro’s muzzle. “Now tell me. Is it just me, or should all water type pokemon be treated as water dwellers? I mean… they’re the same, right? They need water to survive. Much more so than we do. And we’ve all gotta eat, so I say we just farm those berry-loving suckers.”

                                        The carnivine’s words pushed bile up into Macro’s throat and it took everything in his power to not bite down hard on his slimy vine.

                                        “You agree with me, right?” The carnivine’s voice was laced with venom. “Because why else would a pair of fairy type space pirates be skulking around a berry orchard in Cyan City? Certainly not intervening with Luma City’s plans, no, no, of course not. That would be… really… very… foolish.” With every final word, his vines tightened, crushing his prey.

                                        The carnivine’s breath stunk of rotting meat. Macro feared he would be sick. He wriggled one of his paws to rotate his laser and pressed the trigger. Whatever laser was set didn’t matter. It would be enough to startle the carnivine so they could break free of its wretched, strangling grip.

                                        A flash of green sent Macro’s heart plummeting. Grass. It was enough to sear the fly trap’s dangling vines. Enough for his grip to loosen and for Anchor to break free. But Macro was snatched back into the carnivine’s body to be entangled in a death grip. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a flash of red as Anchor’s canines lit up, but it went unnoticed by the grass pokemon. However, the flames only flickered briefly. A reflex. Anchor knew full well if he hit the carnivine with a fire attack it would harm his ally.

                                        “So you are here to meddle in our plans,” the carnivine hissed. “Well…” He paused to sniff Macro’s head and chuckled. “Let’s just say that little Hunter has become the hunted.”

                                        Anchor smashed his gauntlets together in a shower of sparks. The sound drowned out anything he said before he raised his fist and brought it down onto the carnivine’s jaws. Acid leaked from his needle-like teeth and splattered over Macro’s fur, acting as a conductor to carry the sparks over his own body.

                                        The mawile tugged the stunned vines free and staggered from his grip. His entire body tingled as electricity coursed through him and he struggled to catch his breath. Each one came in a raspy burst and he rubbed a paw over his scar to try and get some feeling back in his face.

                                        Anchor lunged past him, snapping his canines down onto the carnivine in a torrent of flames. The orchard lit up red and orange for a brief second before the flames fizzled out.

                                        The carnivine lay in a heap of sparking, smoldering vines, each one twitching like a sack full of rattata kits.

                                        “I think…” Macro’s voice croaked and he cleared his throat. “I think I’m gonna stick with what I said earli-”

                                        A cloud of dust engulfed him, choking off his sentence, and he collapsed to the floor. His eyes remained open long enough to see the oddish rush Anchor, only to be met with his sparking gauntlet and sent rolling through the sky like a shuttlecock.

                                        ...

                                        Wallpaper peeled off the wall, blackening in the intense heat. Hot flames licked at Macro’s fur and thick, black smoke curled up and filled his senses. His body shook as he choked, forcing himself to his feet. There wasn’t a drop of moisture in the small room. Even his mouth felt bone dry, and his eyes stung. But somewhere, there was sobbing. A child… trapped in the deadly flames.

                                        The only door sat beyond the ring of fire, as black as the heavy smoke. His only option was the window. Somehow, the ring of flames hadn’t reached it. It was as if they were being held back by some invisible force.

                                        He made a beeline for it, but before his paws touched the window sill, that sobbing intensified into a panicked screech.

                                        Of course… the twins!

                                        He snapped his head around to focus on it. Beyond the flames, he saw a movement. Someone sat huddled in the corner, small and pale. As they looked up, they fixed a pair of chocolate eyes on his.

                                        No…

                                        He pushed himself back from the window, searching the room for a way through. There was no way he was leaving her.

                                        The antennae behind the pachirisu’s ear began to flash between blue and orange and her paw flopped onto the dry ground. One word flew from her mouth, sounding oddly warped.

                                        “Jump.”

                                        He stood watching her. Watching as the antennae blinked from orange to red and those chocolate eyes slowly closed. He shook his head, bracing himself to run through the flames. There was no way he was leaving her. She wasn’t going to die in this furnace. But his feet fought to move forwards as something pulled him towards the window.

                                        He turned to face it, to fight back, but light blinded him. A strange, soothing light. The heat from the flames cooled as they were forced back, and he felt himself dragged from the window.

                                        Green grass rushed up to greet him, faster and faster. It spread out like a mattress, curling and coiling into a fluffy green cloud.

                                        Macro sat bolt upright, launching the suffocating duvet across the bed. His heart was racing and he looked around the tiny room. No flames. No grass. No blinding light. But once again, that odd sun-like dazzle spot occupied his vision, distorting the blue cheri blossom wallpaper.

                                        His duvet shifted and he snapped back to it, reaching for his laser. It fell away from its heap to reveal Anchor’s surprised face, and he looked at Macro with a twinkle of amusement.

                                        “Aren’t you too old for night terrors, Cap’n? ‘Cos I always thought pokemon grew out of them as they got older.”

                                        Macro rubbed the base of his horn and frowned. “I don’t have night terrors.”

                                        “Well, it were somethin’ nasty.” Anchor folded the duvet back onto the bed. “You were screamin’ DL’s name before you woke up.”

                                        Macro’s face heated up and he diverted his gaze to the closed door. His paw absently rubbed at his arm. Despite the dry heat in his dream, his fur was sopping wet. His heart was also still racing.

                                        He turned back to Anchor and cleared his throat. “What happened? Where are we?”

                                        “You got doused with spore and it put you into a right deep sleep.” Anchor retrieved the magazine he was reading which Macro noted was about orchard care. “After I wiped the floor with those two night watchers I carried you back to Lossy’s apartment, since you were in no fit state to fight.”

                                        Macro frowned and his claws wound into the bed sheet. “We were in a berry orchard! Just force a chesto berry down my throat!”

                                        Anchor snorted and looked up at him. “Can’t say the idea didn’t cross my mind, but what was to stop them tossing another spore our way? Grass types are tricky, Cap’n. You were right. We need more pokemon to take them down and rescue the kids. Hopefully that oddish and gloom don’t rat us out, but that’s a golden dream right there. Those twins could already be in trouble, especially if they think they’re what we were after.”

                                        Macro muttered under his breath and slipped from the bed. A flicker of light caught his eye and he span towards the window. Light blue curtains billowed in the gentle breeze.

                                        “It’s daylight?!” He turned on the spot to face Anchor.

                                        “Aye,” said the granbull without looking up from whatever article he was reading. “You slept the entire night.”

                                        “Why couldn’t you have woken me?!”

                                        “Spore.” Anchor shrugged. “Besides. I think you needed the sleep, if I’m honest. Not to mention we need a plan.”

                                        Macro sighed and closed his eyes. Of course. They did need a plan. Two lone space pirates running into an army camp guns blazing was the epitome of a suicide mission.

                                        Unfortunately, he didn’t know enough pokemon who would be willing to help him.

                                        The door opened and Lossy stood in the corridor rubbing her paws together. Her face was pale beneath her white fur and her eyes were bloodshot.

                                        “There’s been another incident,” she said. “Cyan City’s army have apprehended a fire type pokemon. It looks like… the grass army might have formed an alliance.”

                                        “Unlikely,” said Macro. “You might have just found a stray. The three of you are at war, after all.”

                                        She shook her head. “I don’t know. They found the talonflame flying over the orchard where you found that caterpie.”

                                        Macro’s eyes widened and Anchor dropped his magazine.

                                        “Talonflame?” they asked in unison.

                                        “Yes,” she said. “They’re holding him in the cells. What are we going to do?”

                                        Macro exchanged glances with Anchor and the granbull stood up.

                                        “You think it’s Switch?” Anchor asked.

                                        “If it is,” said Macro, “I’m gonna kick his feathered tush all the way back to Wildcard Gamma.”

                                        He made for the door and Lossy stood aside to let him past.

                                        “You might know him?” she gasped.

                                        He looked back over his shoulder. “There’s a fair chance I do. And if it’s who I think it is, he’s meant to be recovering on my ship. Did they say if he was injured?”

                                        “Yes, but they think it was from their battle.”

                                        “That cinches it then.” Macro waved a paw at her and marched down the corridor. “I’m gonna go get him. Where’s this holding place?”

                                        “At the police station,” she said. “But erm…”

                                        He paused and his ears twitched as she sniffed a couple of times.

                                        “I think,” she said slowly, “that you should have a little shower first.”

                                        He looked down at his fur, still damp from his nightmare. His drying fur was definitely beginning to let off quite the doggy smell. With a sigh, he turned into the bathroom.
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                                        Old January 19th, 2018 (5:03 AM).
                                        Delirious Absol's Avatar
                                        Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
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                                          Join Date: May 2015
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                                          Chapter Thirty Two

                                          There wasn’t enough coffee in the whole of System to quell Annie’s headache.

                                          The constant clattering from down the hall had kept her awake most of the night, and she’d developed quite the banger as a result. She lay sprawled on the table in a mass of feathers and irritation, watching the long fluffy purple skuntank tail as it swished back and forth while Web clattered around the kitchen. The sound was like a marching band, striking away at tin drums. Annie clenched her sharp teeth together and clawed at her head, letting out a pitiful groan that oddly enough caused the skuntank to freeze on the spot and cast her a wary glance.

                                          “Is everything okay?” Web asked.

                                          “Just dandy,” Annie hissed.

                                          The skuntank watched her for a moment, then turned back to her task… at a much quieter pace. The sweet sickly scent of stewing overripe berries filled the air in a mist of steam, creating a sticky condensation over the yellow windows.

                                          Annie closed her eyes, feeling herself begin to drift off into a light doze. But she was rudely awakened by yet more clattering, followed by a shrill excitable voice. Her eyes snapped back open and she raised her head to berate the noise-maker.

                                          A happy, gold and white face beamed at her from the doorway. Zip floated in a glass bowl, held up on a metal frame. Three long, mechanical legs spread out at even angles from beneath the bowl, while inside the water in a rubber shell was a steering stick. If she removed the mechanical components, the bowl wasn’t entirely dissimilar to the kind humans kept their aquatic pokemon in when they weren’t inside their pokeballs. In all fairness, it was rather small. Not much exercise space.

                                          Zip didn’t appear to mind this, however, as he nudged the stick forward and the legs skittered across the floor with all the grace of a tap-dancing araquanid with three left feet.

                                          “Look at me!” he squealed. “I have legs! I’m a land pokemon now!”

                                          “Now, now.” Web turned towards him and placed her paws on her hips. “You might well be on land, but you’re still a water dweller. I won’t have any accidents while you’re trying to find your land legs. Calm down in that thing.”

                                          Zip skidded to a halt and beamed at the skuntank. She returned his smile and waved a paw.

                                          “Darn it, kid. Can’t resist that smile.” She turned back towards the stove. “Join us at the table and I’ll dice you up some berries.”

                                          The goldeen cheered and turned his device towards the table. The long mechanical legs flailed at a seat, and he teetered dangerously backwards. Deciding to give up, the bowl lurched forwards, sloshing water onto the floor. He shoved the chair to one side, its feet screeching on the floor and echoing around Annie’s pounding head. Zip gave the archeops a beaming smile and waved a fin.

                                          “Good morning!” he quipped.

                                          Annie grunted and propped herself on a wing-elbow while she swigged at her scalding coffee. It took every ounce of restraint she had to resist pouring it into the kid’s bowl.

                                          “Not a morning ‘mon?” Zip asked.

                                          She snorted and took a smaller sip. “On days like this, I can’t stand anyone.”

                                          “Tell me about it.” Waveform slumped into the seat beside her and shot the goldeen a glare as he eyed his contraption. “So it was you making all that racket?”

                                          Zip’s smile fell and he sank to the bottom of his bowl. “I’m sorry… but at least now I’m more helpful to you, right?”

                                          The decidueye shrugged and reached across the table for the newspaper. “I suppose. It certainly beats carrying you around.”

                                          Web craned her neck around to eye the three pokemon. “Where’s Trojan? He never misses breakfast.”

                                          “Probably sleeping,” said Waveform.

                                          “Aye, he said he wanted some rest,” said Zip. “We were up most of the night!”

                                          “So was I,” Annie scoffed.

                                          Waveform grunted and shook the newspaper open.

                                          “You could always go back to bed,” said Web. “No one is forcing you to stay awake.”

                                          “Sod that,” said Annie. “If I go back to bed, my whole sleeping pattern is gonna go to whack. And that’s gonna help no one in this… what was I running again?”

                                          “A rebellion,” said Waveform.

                                          “Oh yeh, that.” Annie slumped forwards and groaned. “It feels like there’s a rock slide in my head.”

                                          Waveform let out a gasp and the newspaper almost fell out of his wing fingers. Annie looked up at him with a start, which she regretted as she placed a claw on the side of her head.

                                          “Hey, it ain’t that bad,” she told him. “It’s just a migraine.”

                                          “Not that.” Waveform waved her off and lowered the newspaper to the table. “This. There’s been some… beast thing… attacking Favicon City.”

                                          “Favicon?” Annie scratched her head and looked up at the ceiling. “Think I had one of those when I was a kid.”

                                          She followed one of the decidueye’s fingers to a blurry photograph. Some blob-like thing hovered in the air above a skyscraper, its tentacles reducing the formerly splendid building to rubble while pokemon ran for their lives.

                                          “You know what?” she said. “Some people really have nothing better to do than stand around watching a disaster taking photographs, do they?”

                                          The owl pokemon fixed her in a glare.

                                          Web crept behind Annie to look over her shoulder, and Zip’s mechanical feet trotted over the floor as he joined them around the newspaper.

                                          “What is that thing?” Web asked. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

                                          “Looks like a tentacruel,” said Zip. “But… they can’t fly.”

                                          “It looks like a hoax photo to me,” said Annie. “A convincing one. But until I can see what that thing is, I’m sayin’ nothin’.”

                                          “The descriptions they have,” said Waveform, “liken it to a tentacruel or frillish. But it apparently has no face to speak of, and is a silvery colour.”

                                          “Is it ‘mon made?” Web asked.

                                          “Witnesses said it looked organic. It was last sighted heading south-east from Favicon City.”

                                          Web’s paws fell to her sides and she glanced out of the window.

                                          “They say at the speed it was traveling, it could be at Meta City within three days,” Waveform went on.

                                          Annie looked up at Web and shrugged. “Wouldn’t worry. By then our ship should be built, right? Besides, is it really gonna wanna live in this toxic swamp?”

                                          Web said nothing as she wound her paws in her apron.

                                          “You all right, Webber?” Waveform asked. “You’ve gone awfully quiet.”

                                          “It’s heading towards pirate territory,” she said quietly.

                                          Waveform raised an eyebrow. “Well, you’re not in Pulse City any more. We’re here on System Ground.” He sighed and retrieved his paper. “Besides. If they all bail on the place, they’ll be easier to round up, won’t they?”

                                          She glanced at him and cleared her throat as she beat the creases out of her apron. “I guess.”

                                          Annie watched her as she strutted back over to the stove and idly stirred the steaming pot of berries.

                                          “We could head it off,” she said.

                                          Waveform shot her a look out of the corner of his eye, and Web’s spine stiffened. She looked back at Annie with a look of concern.

                                          “Head it off?” she asked.

                                          Annie nodded slowly, if only to avoid jiggling her aching head. “Yeh. We’ll get that ship built and shoot that… blob thing… out of the sky.”

                                          “I wouldn’t be so hasty,” said Waveform. “Not only are space pirates never to be trusted, that ship of ours is never going to be up in the air in less than three days let alone enough time to head it off at Pulse City.”

                                          Annie gave him a sly smile. “You underestimate me, Mister Form.”

                                          Waveform dropped his paper and looked down at her with an unreadable expression, and a snicker came from the stove.

                                          Annie slipped from the table with her coffee mug clasped tightly in her right claws. She sipped at it as she waddled from the room towards the stairs.

                                          “Wait for me!” Zip skittered from the room.

                                          “What about your berries?” Web called after him.

                                          “Later! I’m needed to build this ship!”

                                          The two remaining pokemon watched them leave, and Waveform let out a long sigh.

                                          “She’s got pretty high expectations,” he said.

                                          “And you want to start a rebellion with her,” said Web. “I suppose there’s worse captains, eh?”

                                          “Oh, she won’t be captain,” said Waveform.

                                          “I’d be wary of challenging her. I think she’d put up the fight. Besides.” Web placed her paws on her hips and smirked. “You’d probably end up with a high rank regardless. She seems to have taken a shine to you.”

                                          Waveform raised an eyebrow and his beak fell open before twisting into a confused frown.

                                          Web chuckled again and turned back to the stove. “Eat your berries, Mister Form.”

                                          ...

                                          The police station was ablaze with chaos. Crowds of water pokemon surrounded it, their voices mashing together in a crescendo as they demanded the talonflame be done away with. The look of fire behind millions of eyes made Macro visibly bristle.

                                          He began to march towards the crowd, but Anchor grabbed the scruff of his scarf and tugged him backwards.

                                          “Don’t be hasty, Cap’n,” he said. “That crowd will have your neck.”

                                          Macro glanced up at him and brushed dried string-shot from his scarf. It flaked away beneath his paw but left an unsightly grey residue.

                                          “Then what do you suggest we do?” he asked. “That crowd is huge. We can’t even get close enough to the station let alone inside it without being seen.”

                                          “I have an idea.”

                                          Macro almost leapt out of his skin. He fixed Lossy with a raised eyebrow and looked from the heaving crowd to the dewott and back.

                                          “You have an idea?” he snorted.

                                          She nodded slowly. “You have a huge bounty on your head. I could pretend to be apprehending you and get you through that crowd.”

                                          “And who’s to say they won’t tear your head off to get his?” Anchor nodded at the mawile.

                                          “That’s a rather morbid metaphor, Anchor,” Macro muttered.

                                          Anchor folded his arms and grunted. “It made my point.”

                                          “Listen to me.” Lossy wound her paws together, cowering slightly as she scrutinized the crowd. “Everyone in Cyan City knows each other. I doubt they’d try to hurt me, or cause a fuss as I get you through. I can’t speak for everyone, though, so I know it’s a risk, but…”

                                          Anchor sighed and rubbed his snout. “It’s all we’ve got. I’m with the dewott.”

                                          Macro rolled his eyes and tried to smooth out his creased and unsightly scarf. “All right. Get us through, before they end up roasting Switch or something.”

                                          “It would increase my chance of getting you there successfully if I used one of your lasers against you,” she said.

                                          Macro’s spine stiffened and he fixed Lossy with a glare. “I’m sorry?”

                                          “Everyone knows you have a grass laser,” she explained. “That crowd is full of water type pokemon. They’d be even more unlikely to start anything if they thought I’d shoot them with it.”

                                          Macro frowned. “But you’re a meek little dewott.”

                                          “I’m also a mother. I’d do anything to get my babies back, and everyone here knows they’ve been taken now. It’s all over the papers.”

                                          Macro rolled his eyes and let his paws drop to his sides. “Fine.”

                                          He stuffed one of his lasers into her paw, the action alone leaving him feeling breathless as though someone had taken one of his lungs. As the cold nozzle touched his back his blood turned to ice and he instinctively raised both his paws.

                                          “Move,” she said softly.

                                          Macro kept one eye over his shoulder as he slowly walked towards the crowd. Anchor kept steady pace at his sides until he came to a sudden stop and looked down at his paws.

                                          “You’re probably gonna wanna hold onto these,” he said, removing his gauntlets.

                                          The dewott took them gingerly and tucked them under one arm. Despite the determined look on her face, she staggered slightly under their weight. Regardless, she pressed Macro forwards with the nozzle of the laser.

                                          The mawile bit his tongue, reluctant to voice his discomfort. Was this really just an act? The look in her eyes and the pressure of his laser against his spine certainly made him doubtful.

                                          Hundreds of eyes shot their way as they approached the crowd. Leers and scowls fixed on the space pirates, then traveled over to Lossy and her threatening laser. Her assumption was correct. Pokemon stepped back and parted to let her through, but not without the green flash of envy.

                                          Macro resisted the urge to meet their eyes. More so because he was scared they’d see fear behind them. His pulse was racing, and it only worsened with every nudge from his own weapon.

                                          The police station loomed before them, and the taut face of a blastoise leered down at them. When he spotted Lossy and the laser, his muzzle twisted into a sneer.

                                          “Turning in the pokemon who were apparently ‘helping’ you?” he scoffed. “Trusting filth like that…”

                                          “Just let me see Governor Jumper,” she said bluntly.

                                          “He’s busy with the talonflame,” said the blastoise. “Besides, what makes you think I’m gonna let you march in there with an armed laser?”

                                          “If I remove it, he’ll use the other one against me and run,” she said.

                                          The blastoise’s eyes locked onto Macro’s for a painfully long second. Then his large paw stretched down towards him and he wagged a claw.

                                          With a sigh, Macro reached to his right holster and plonked his laser into the blastoise’s calloused paw. His trusty weapon looked tiny as it was whisked away, leaving him feeling helpless. He reminded himself over and over he didn’t need his lasers. He was more than capable of dealing with other pokemon with his own attacks. He’d dealt with threats the size of the blastoise officer. He’d even thrown them.

                                          “If I hand over this one,” Lossy said after she’d handed the blastoise Anchor’s gauntlets, “he might still fight back. My aquatic attacks won’t do anything to him.”

                                          “Then I’ll take him through,” the blastoise said with a smile, but Macro could see the smirk hidden behind it.

                                          Lossy wasn’t exactly blind either. Her tiny nose creased and the butt of the laser clicked as she tightened her grip. Macro’s fur stood on end and he gave her a wary glance. One misfire and she’d blow a hole in his torso.

                                          “Fine.” The blastoise sighed and threw the door wide open. “Make it quick.”

                                          Macro staggered forwards as Lossy jabbed him in the spine. Biting back a remark, he strutted towards the door. He caught a sneer from the tortoise pokemon before it slammed shut behind him, drowning out the ruckus from the crowd.

                                          Macro glanced back at the dewott. “Okay. We’re inside. You can put my laser down now.”

                                          She jabbed it into his back once more and he flinched, almost jogging along the corridor. He looked up at Anchor with wide, pleading eyes, and mouthed the words ‘help me’. The granbull gave him an apologetic shake of the head and kept pace beside him as Lossy marched them towards Jumper’s office.

                                          The office door was shut, and Macro found himself sandwiched between it and his laser as Lossy leant over him to knock politely. His muzzle crinkled as he shot her a sideways leer at the sheer irony.

                                          “Come in,” came Jumper’s muffled voice.

                                          She pushed the door open and marched the two pirates ahead of her. The frogadier was sat beside a floatzel, and the governor’s expression switched from frustration to confusion to surprise then did a full loop back to frustrated. He cleared his throat and sat back in his seat, while the floatzel reluctantly discarded the paperwork he’d been slaving over.

                                          “What is this?” The floatzel waved a paw at the two space pirates.

                                          “It looks like two pirates didn’t leave the city when I told them to,” said Jumper. “What a foolish mistake.”

                                          The floatzel leant towards him and muttered, “Governor, I hate to question you-”

                                          “If you wouldn’t mind,” said Jumper, “could you leave me to deal with this for a few minutes?”

                                          The floatzel reluctantly rose to his feet and left the room, pausing to fire Macro a disapproving sneer. Once the door had closed - well, slammed - Jumper turned back to the pirates and a painful silence washed over the office.

                                          “I thought I told you two that you could leave safely provided it was before nightfall.” His eyes snapped onto Macro. “Clearly you didn’t listen.”

                                          Macro folded his arms and shrugged. “I think you’ll find we just didn’t do it.”

                                          “You know what I think?” Jumper leant forwards on the desk and steepled his paws together. “I think you should watch your mouth while you’re at the mercy of your own gun.”

                                          Macro glanced back at Lossy over his shoulder. “We’re in. You can put it down now.”

                                          The dewott’s paw trembled, but she kept the laser pressed into his spine. Her eyes were fixed on the frogadier, sparkling with tears.

                                          “Do you think…” Her voice cracked and she visibly restrained herself from looking at the two pirates. “Do you think the grass army would trade them for my children?”

                                          Macro’s jaw almost hit the floor. Every word that popped into his head came out of his mouth as a strangled gasp, and his violet eyes flew to the dewott with stunned accusation.

                                          “After all we’ve done for you?!” he roared.

                                          “You didn’t get them back,” she whimpered. “I want my babies!”

                                          “We’re supposed to be here to clear Switch’s name, not sever my head!”

                                          Jumper was oddly silent as he watched the three pokemon. He leant his chin on his steepled paws and looked at each of them in turn. Finally, he let out a sigh and sat back in his seat.

                                          “To be honest, Lossy,” he said, “I understand your suggestion, but I highly doubt this army of grass types would see forty thousand credits a good substitution for bringing an end to an entire city. It might seem a lot of money to an individual, but it doesn’t go far.”

                                          The dewott’s arm slackened and she let the gun fall to her side. Her eyes went to the floor and her shoulders shook with sobs.

                                          In one fluid motion, Macro snatched his gun from her grip and popped it safely into his holster. The weight sent a wave of relief through him and he let out a satisfied sigh. It was swiftly washed away when he met the frogadier’s cold eyes, freezing him to the spot.

                                          “You said you want to clear someone’s name?” Jumper paused and tapped his paw on the table. “I sincerely hope you don’t mean that talonflame…”

                                          “Why not?” Macro asked. “I thought it would be a relief to you to learn that the grass army aren’t liaising with Magenta City.”

                                          “No, but it would mean that yet another space pirate has invaded Cyan City.”

                                          Macro folded his arms and smirked. “Switch ain’t a space pirate. He’s a client.”

                                          Anchor leant towards him and whispered in his ear. “Don’t give too much away, Cap’n.”

                                          “I ain’t stupid, Anchor.”

                                          “I think you’ll find my hearing is impeccable,” said Jumper. “But, I guess locking an innocent pokemon behind bars is a crime in itself. If you can vouch that this talonflame is not in any way associated with the grass army’s invasion, then I suppose I can let you meet him.”

                                          The frogadier rose and marched passed them towards the door. Macro watched him move, but his eyes met Lossy’s and his fur bristled like a ferroseed. He grit his teeth together and waved a clenched paw.

                                          “Tryin’ to trade my life!” he barked.

                                          Lossy stiffened and took a step back, her eyes going to the door. “I’m sorry! I… I just want-”

                                          “I don’t want to hear it,” Macro hissed.

                                          Jumper cleared his throat. “Excuse me. But there’ll be no fighting here. Lossy, you are free to go. You two.” He pointed at Macro and Anchor. “You come with me.”

                                          Macro watched the dewott skulk off, then followed Jumper out of his office. The frogadier paused to lock up then gestured for the two space pirates to follow him down the narrow corridor.

                                          “We caught him early this morning,” said Jumper. “He was flying over the city just before dawn. One of my officers shot him out of the sky with a water pulse, and he appears to have injured his wing in the fall.”

                                          “If it’s Switch, he didn’t hurt it when he fell,” said Macro. “Unless he landed awkwardly. He hurt himself in a battle with a steelix in Raster Town.”

                                          “What on earth were you doing in Raster Town?” Jumper looked back with some surprise then shook his head and waved a paw. “Never mind. I don’t think I want to know.”

                                          He paused at another door and unlocked it. It led into another corridor lined with cells. Each one was closed off with a sheet of shock resistant plexi-glass. Scowling faces, most of which belonged to water types, leered back at them. Macro counted three prisoners, separated by empty cells, until they came to the one containing a talonflame. The disgruntled bird sat huddled in a corner, and his yellow eyes lit up when he saw the space pirates.

                                          “Macro!”

                                          “Macro?” Jumper looked down at the mawile.

                                          The space pirate said nothing as he watched Switch skitter across the floor to reach the glass.

                                          “I thought I was done for!” the talonflame gasped. “They think I’m assisting some army with an invasion!”

                                          Macro frowned and tapped his claws along his arm. “You’re supposed to be on my ship. What about your wing?”

                                          “I’m fine, honestly!” The way Switch held his left wing didn’t spell ‘fine’. “I whacked it a bit when I fell. Anyway, Matrix sent me.”

                                          Macro slammed his paw into his face. “Why would he send a wounded pokemon?!”

                                          “I insisted,” Switch said quickly. “Anchor sent message that he needed his heat tracker, and I came down here to deliver it. But… well… it was confiscated.”

                                          Macro exchanged glances with Anchor and sighed. “If you’d just remembered to bring it yourself…”

                                          Anchor shrugged. “I’m sorry, Cap’n. But I thought it would be necessary to help find those kids.”

                                          “We also wanted to confiscate his watch,” said Jumper. “But when we tried, he had a panic attack. Convinced us it’s a medical implement.” He leant against the cell and fixed Anchor with a frown. “So the weapon belongs to you? I already told you this invasion is being dealt with. Cyan City’s army is planning a line of defense, and those two oshawott will be rescued. I’m reluctant to say you can’t leave after what you’ve done, but at this rate I fear you never will and I will have to contact Socket. Turn all three of you in.”

                                          “What?!” Switch almost collapsed with shock. “No! Please! I told you, I can help you!”

                                          Jumper turned to Switch and shrugged. “If you’re innocent, I’m sure she won’t harm you.”

                                          Switch trembled from head to foot but he never took his eyes off the frogadier.

                                          Macro’s heart was in his throat. He raised a paw to get the governor’s attention. “That won’t be necessary. We’ll finish what we came here for and be out of your fur.”

                                          “I don’t have fur,” said Jumper. “And besides. What makes you think you’re getting your paws on that disk? I was informed it’s confidential information. Leave, otherwise you’ll face a lot worse than being turned over to Luma City.”

                                          The reminder of Lossy’s threat chilled Macro to the core and he tore his eyes off the frogadier. His jaw tensed and one of his canines poked from his lips.

                                          “I’m not goin’ anywhere,” he said. “I’m takin’ that disk back. It doesn’t belong to you, or Socket. As for you.” He pointed a claw at Switch. “You’re getting your feathered tush out of this city!”

                                          Switch ruffled his feathers. “You think I’m leaving this place knowing there’s an army here causing trouble that I can deal with very well?” He spread his wings, flinching slightly. “I already told them I can help but they won’t believe me! Instead they now want to throw my life into Socket’s paws!”

                                          Jumper ran a paw down his face. “One fire and flying type isn’t going to stand up against an entire army of grass types!”

                                          “And neither is an army of water types! They’d wipe you out before you even stood a chance! I’ve spent years helping other pokemon, I know what I’m doing! Let me help!”

                                          Anchor looked down at the flustered frogadier. “How long has this been goin’ on?”

                                          “Since morning,” said Jumper.

                                          “Years, eh?” Macro chuckled. “Interesting. Okay, how about this?” He turned to Jumper. “You take Switch’s help, and loan Anchor and me a couple of flying lasers. We’ll wipe this grassy threat off the face of Cyan City.”

                                          “And what makes you think we have weapons here?” Jumper asked. “We’re under a weapon ban.”

                                          A small smirk tugged at Macro’s lips. “How do you plan on taking on this army? ‘Cos like Switch pointed out, they clearly have the upper paw.”

                                          Jumper’s expression fell and he tapped his fingers on his arm rapidly. A small sigh flew out of his lips and he rolled his eyes.

                                          “Fine. We’re armed,” he said. “Like I said, we can handle this.”

                                          Macro chuckled, then burst into fits of gleeful giggles. He fell into the glass and stretched out a paw to hold himself upright.

                                          “A law breaker workin’ inside the law!” he gasped. “I love it!”

                                          Jumper narrowed his eyes dangerously. “I strongly suggest you stop that, Hunter, or you’ll find yourself behind glass.”

                                          Macro took a few deep breaths to calm himself and stood with his back to the glass. He fixed his playful smirk on Jumper and grinned.

                                          “I think we’re at an impasse,” he said. “You’re holding weapons outside of Socket’s knowledge, while we’re trying to not be caught by her goons. You turn me in, I spill the beans. You let me do my thing, we tell no one and you’re safe.”

                                          Jumper pursed his lips and stood silently analyzing the mawile. For a painful moment Macro really wished he could better read an opponents’ motives.

                                          “I don’t like that,” Jumper said suddenly. “I’m not going to just let you roam free and take government property. You’ve already gone against my orders by staying here. If you want to ‘do your thing’ and escape with your lives, you can start by pulling your weight. I’ll loan the two of you a flying module each and you can assist us in rescuing those twins and removing the threat from this city. Only then will I let you three go free, and only if the oshawott brothers are rescued unscathed.”

                                          Macro tutted and crossed his arms. “That’s hardly fair. What if they’ve already harmed them? Ain’t my fault.”

                                          “That is unavoidable,” said Jumper. “But if they are harmed in the process of you rescuing them…”

                                          Macro waved a paw. “Pish posh. We’ll get them out. But my price for this job-”

                                          “Is your life,” said Jumper. “All three of your lives.”

                                          Macro’s eye flew to the nervous talonflame. A few of his feathers had come loose and lay scattered on the ground.

                                          “For the time being,” said Jumper, “I’m going to put the two of you in your own cells. I have to run things by the tactical officer first. Make sure no one tries to earn themselves a quick credit by going after your bounty.”

                                          “You can assure that?” Macro asked.

                                          “Of course. I’m the ‘big cheese’ here. My word is law until Socket overrules it.” Before he unlocked the nearest empty cell, he turned to Macro and held out a paw. “Laser.”

                                          Reluctantly, Macro handed over his laser. Once again it left him feeling exposed and vulnerable. The cell door beside Switch opened and he was marched inside.

                                          “Great,” said Anchor. “This will be the first time someone’s put me in a cell.”

                                          “Thank your stars it’s only temporary,” said Macro as he watched Jumper lock the glass door.

                                          “So if we lose this…” came Switch’s small voice. “What do we do? Flee?”

                                          “There’s a higher chance of us losing in battle than there is being turned over to Socket,” said Anchor.

                                          “You guys fret too much,” Macro spat, sinking to the floor. “Don’t worry, we got this.”
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                                          Old January 26th, 2018 (9:31 AM).
                                          Delirious Absol's Avatar
                                          Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
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                                            Join Date: May 2015
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                                            Chapter Thirty Three

                                            If there was something Macro had learned from his short time in the the cell, it was two things. Firstly, prison food was disgusting. Secondly, the cells were oddly quiet.

                                            Not a peep came from the other criminals locked inside them, but Macro wasn’t sure how much of that was down to the glass muffling them out. Even Anchor’s deep voice was slightly hindered by the cell’s structure.

                                            There hadn’t been much to discuss, and Macro was finding himself growing increasingly restless. He paced back and forth with the taste of twice-fried potatoes and berry stew in his mouth, he tried to work out whether or not it was a trick. Was Jumper really going to use them to fight their battle, or was he secretly being turned over to Socket for his bounty?

                                            He turned on the spot to march the other way for what must have been the hundredth time, but the ground moved beneath his feet, sending him half-running, half-falling across the cell. He landed face down on the tiled floor with an ‘oomph’, then as he looked up he became aware of a deep rumbling. The noise shook the very glass and he pushed himself up on his paws, straining his ears to pinpoint the noise.

                                            Then it stopped as quickly as it had started.

                                            The rumble was replaced by sirens and the roar of voices as their cell-mates tried to work out what had just happened.

                                            One pair of red eyes fixed on him as the golduck opposite pushed himself to his knees. He rubbed a paw over his head and grimaced.

                                            “Did you have somethin’ to do with that?” he asked. “You sneaky pirates plant a bomb somewhere?”

                                            “What makes you think I’ve done anything?” Macro placed a paw on his chest. “I’m stuck in this cell!”

                                            “Could be liaising with the grass types,” said the golduck. “I mean, you have a fire type ally! Who’s to say you’ve not sided with both of them and are conspiring against us?”

                                            “I agree.” Macro couldn’t see the speaker from where he was sat, but their voice was feminine. “They could have been hired. As far as I know, space pirates will do anything for a quick credit.”

                                            Macro flashed his canines and leapt towards the glass, pausing with both paws pressed up on it. He strained to see the speaker so he could bite back at them, but the door to the cells flew open, drawing all eyes towards them. Jumper’s flat feet flapped on the floor as he quickly checked on each and every prisoner. Voices erupted again, each one warring to be heard over the other.

                                            “What was that?!” Macro roared, echoing the same question everyone else had thrown at the frogadier.

                                            He ran past them to check the rest of the cells before he finally trotted back, waving his paws.

                                            “Silence!” he shouted.

                                            The frantic voices ebbed out and Jumper cast Macro a sideways glance before turning to the rest of the cells.

                                            “There’s been an explosion,” he said. “One of the store houses has been attacked. We’re working on rescuing any survivors, but we believe it’s the work of the grass army.”

                                            “A suicide bomber?” Anchor asked.

                                            “We believe so,” said Jumper. “But it’s still too early to be certain.”

                                            “I reckon it were a space pirate,” snorted the golduck.

                                            Jumper ignored him and turned his attention to the swinging doors. “Sadly, I don’t even think the police station will be safe for much longer. If this persists, we’ll be sending you all down to Proxy Prison until this blows over.”

                                            As he left the cells, the locked up pokemon whined in protest.

                                            Macro choked at the idea. Proxy City with it’s putrid air… He could personally guarantee no one in this cell deserved that.

                                            ...

                                            The setting sun painted the sky with an orange hue, reflecting off the discarded sheets of metal. They lay about the yard in a haphazard fashion, reminiscent of jagged teeth. Annie clutched a mug between two claws, trying not to spill it as she waddled out into the cold air.

                                            Trojan sat astride the frame of their ship, hammering the scrap metal into shape around it. So the frame was complete. It was big, but not as big as she’d pictured it. If the frame was any indication, all of them could stand on top of it, which meant inside would be pretty cozy.

                                            She sipped her coffee, watching the scrafty with a smirk.

                                            “Looks good.”

                                            He leapt at her voice, almost falling off the frame. The hammer clattered to the concrete, bouncing then landing hard on one of the metal sheets. He cursed under his breath and slid from the ship, landing in a squat and pausing only to fire the archeops a leer.

                                            “Zip said you were making progress,” she said. “I have to admit, I had my doubts.”

                                            He snorted and snatched up the hammer. “What are you doing out here anyway? I came out here for some peace and quiet.”

                                            She stretched out her right wing claws. “I thought I could lend a hand.”

                                            “I don’t need a ‘hand’.” He turned his back on her and clambered back up onto the frame. “Get back inside and start planning your rebellion strategy or something.”

                                            She pursed her lips together and watched as he began hammering away. The racket reignited her headache and for a moment she did consider going back into the house.

                                            “You know what?” she said. “I feel like you’re unhappy.”

                                            He froze, the hammer still held in mid-swing. His eyes narrowed as they locked onto her.

                                            “You think I’m unhappy?” he said dangerously. “Well, what makes you think that?”

                                            “You’re moody,” she said. “And I know a thing or two about being moody. I was takin’ medication for it for years! I bit the doctor on more than one occasion. He told me that wasn’t healthy, and for two months I had to wear a muzzle. But anyway, that was all this.” She waved at her feathered form then shrugged. “I got a better handle on it. Wanna know how I did that?”

                                            “Not really.” He turned back to his work and brought the hammer down in three heavy swings.

                                            Annie frowned and leant against the wall. “I’m gonna tell you anyway. I told myself, ‘Annie, you need to stop biting the doctor. He’s only trying to help.’”

                                            Trojan turned to look at her slowly, his eyes narrowed but this time with curiosity and confusion. He let the hammer slide to the floor then cleared his throat.

                                            “You’re the doctor in this crazy scenario, aren’t you?”

                                            Annie sipped her coffee but she kept both eyes locked onto his.

                                            “There’s one difference here,” he said. “I don’t bite.”

                                            “You don’t need to bite with teeth,” she said. “You can bite with words, too.”

                                            He let out a long sigh and waved a dismissive paw. “Whatever. Pass me the hammer.”

                                            With a giggle of glee, Annie set her coffee mug down on the window sill. She scurried across the yard, almost scrambling on her wing claws, and retrieved the hammer. Trojan watched with amusement as she almost collapsed under its weight in a bid to lift it up to him.

                                            Once it had been snatched from her claws, she flapped her wings to lift herself up onto the frame. By the time she was sat behind the scrafty she was breathless.

                                            “What do you want me to do?” she asked between gasps.

                                            Something above them fluttered and flew away with a noisy flap of wings, dragging the archeop’s attention, but Trojan didn’t seem to notice it.

                                            “Go back inside and grab my diagram.” He didn’t even look back at her. “I think I left it on the kitchen table.”

                                            ...

                                            The thud of a soft body colliding with the window, followed by Defrag’s squeak of surprise, made Tracer drop his cigar. He let out a sigh of exasperation and retrieved the burning stub before it set fire to the carpet.

                                            Widget clambered out of his seat and went to open the window.

                                            “What is it?” Tracer asked.

                                            Limbs smacked at the concrete, followed by a lot of ranting and swearing. The eevee leant out of the window then dragged himself back inside, depositing a small zubat onto the carpet.

                                            “Did… did someone just bite me?!” the zubat shrieked.

                                            Tracer sighed again and looked down at the stunned bat.

                                            “Java,” he said slowly, “I thought I told you to enter via the mail box?”

                                            “I missed it.” The zubat twitched his right ear and grunted. “Echolocation is off.”

                                            The delphox scooped up the small zubat and set him down on the windowsill. Like all zubat, he didn’t have any feet to speak of, so he propped himself up on his wing claws. He turned his head slowly to face the delphox and twirled his ears around to fix on him. Completely blind, he pinpointed Tracer by sound alone.

                                            “I got some news for you,” he said. “That human you asked me to follow? Well… she’s up to something.”

                                            “I thought as much.” Tracer let out a stream of smoke. “What is it?”

                                            “They’re building a ship,” said Java. “Not just her, but the whole group she’s stayin’ with. Reckon Waveform’s got something to do with it. I heard him buying scrap metal not too long ago, but I didn’t think much of it.”

                                            “Why on earth would a human want to build a ship?” Tracer asked.

                                            “Isn’t she staying with an ex space pirate?” asked Defrag. “Maybe she’s returning to the skies and taking the human with her?”

                                            “Hey, that’s not necessarily the case,” said Widget. “We don’t know much about humans. Maybe she’s stuck and wants to get back home?”

                                            “You’re both leaping to conclusions,” said Tracer. “Java, did you gather a reason as to why this human wants to build a ship?”

                                            “Aye,” said Java. “Some other ‘mon she were with… Trojan I think he’s called… said something about her planning a rebellion.”

                                            Tracer dropped his cigar again, but it landed on his desk this time, scattering ash all over his paperwork and fur. He beat himself down then retrieved it calmly.

                                            “A rebellion?” Tracer frowned at his computer screen. “So Waveform is backing a rebellion now?”

                                            “It was only a matter of time before pokemon began to rebel,” said Defrag. “I mean, look at the state of these outskirts.”

                                            “Nevertheless, we can’t allow it.” Tracer stubbed out his cigar and turned fully to Java. “Thank you, Java. I shall pay you as promised.” The delphox reached into his pocket and pulled out his palm computer. “I think we agreed on four thousand credits?”

                                            “Yeh, we did,” said Java.

                                            “Well, I’m gonna make it five thousand,” said Tracer. “After that nose dive into my window, I really think you aught to put this towards getting your hearing fixed rather than funding your organized crime gang.”

                                            His voice was laced with warning, but the zubat merely shrugged it off. “Ain’t nowt wrong with my hearing, fox.”

                                            Java spread his wings and launched himself off the windowsill, curving in a neat arc towards the door. He missed the mail box by a foot and smashed into the solid woodwork.

                                            Tracer rose with a sigh and scooped up the dazed bat, then he threw the door open and tossed Java into the evening sky. He fluttered off without a word of thanks.

                                            ...

                                            Cyan City’s tactical team was huge, and not just in number. Macro couldn’t even see over the shoulder of the bibarel in front of him. His paw twitched beside his empty holster. Only one of his lasers had been returned - the one Jumper had confiscated - and inside it was just one laser module. Flying. His trusty ground, grass and water modules had been taken from him, and to make matters worse, the laser the blastoise officer had taken had also not been returned. Leaving him with only one. He deeply hoped he wouldn’t find himself outnumbered in battle, because as things stood he could only aim at one head.

                                            Between the mass of bodies, he caught the glimpse of a feraligatr marching back and forth with his paws clasped behind his scaly back. A large belt hung at a lopsided angle, weighed down by a gun that made Macro’s look like a hatchling’s toy. His huge mouth flapped open and closed as he spoke loudly, each syllable showing two rows of sharp, white teeth.

                                            “As you all well know,” he boomed, “Out in the orchard there’s an army of grass types. We don’t know how far they’ve penetrated Cyan City. Like most grass pokemon, they look like plants. They can camouflage themselves with ease. That’s how they managed to sneak into the storehouse and slaughter everyone in there with one explosion. No survivors, not even the culprit. We managed to round up two miscreants shortly after, before they invaded yet another storehouse, but before we could get them behind bars, they died. Each one had some kind of detonator hidden in their bodies that killed them at the push of a button, destroying their vital organs.”

                                            Macro’s blood turned to ice. That news hadn’t reached them.

                                            “Did you know about that?” he whispered, looking up at Switch and Anchor.

                                            The two pokemon shook their heads, keeping their eyes on the marching feraligatr.

                                            “Obviously we’ve not been able to press them for information,” he said. “Several caterpillar pokemon have been retrieved from the orchard, and the damage to food supplies is increasing vastly. That’s why we need this problem wiping out. Don’t be scared to shoot to kill, because they’re most certainly not. This has gotten wildly out of paw and needs to be brought to an end now.” He fixed the group with a commanding glare and pointed one claw to the ground, before returning to marching back and forth. “You’ll be broken into three groups. One will take the orchard and wipe out any plant that moves. The other will patrol the lake with the same instructions. The third group will take the city, splitting up into threes to pick off those that get cocky and venture out of the grassy areas. Listen for your number, because I’m gonna split you all up in the next five minutes.

                                            “But first thing’s first. You all know there’s three space pirates in this army. Governor Jumper tells me to tell you all you’re to keep your paws off. If it weren’t for them, we’d have found out about this a lot later, and by then it might have been too late to save the orchard and the oshawott twins. You’ll co-operate with Hunter and his friends and let the Governor deal with him. You hear me?”

                                            A few grumbles radiated through the army and one or two leers were shot Macro’s way, but he did his best to ignore them. His paw found his laser and he kept both eyes on what he could see of the feraligatr as he broke them into teams.

                                            Macro found himself stood between Anchor and an empoleon. He eyed the large penguin pokemon warily, noting the orange hue from the setting sun reflecting off his bladed flippers. This was the imposing pokemon the feraligatr had put in charge. The one Macro was meant to listen to and take orders from. He suppressed a sneer and took note of the rest of their group. There was a number of wartortle and prinplup, a pair of politoed and an alert-looking vaporeon. There was also a quagsire who he couldn’t help worrying was going to go down like a sack of rocks. Why on earth would they send a quagsire to fight an army of grass pokemon?

                                            He gave himself a mental slap. Almost every single pokemon in Cyan City was weak to grass, but the quagsire was a perfect choice to send into battle against fire types. That dual water and ground typing would go far in that scenario, yet crumple under a razor leaf from a grass type.

                                            “Listen up!” The empoleon’s voice snapped Macro from his reverie. “For those who don’t know, I’m Sergent Heatsink. In less than five minutes, we’ll be marching down to the orchard. Our mission is to rescue the oshawott twins. That. Is. All. Understood?”

                                            Loud replies of ‘yes sir’ came from everyone except Macro and Anchor. Switch, however, had fallen into character.

                                            The empoleon leered at Macro then turned to Anchor.

                                            “I’m of the understanding you have a heat tracker,” said Heatsink.

                                            Anchor nodded. “That I do, yes.”

                                            “Use it,” said Heatsink. “It will be a valuable tool in uncovering hidden hostages.” He turned to Switch with an unimpressed scowl. “Switch, right?”

                                            “Yes sir.” Switch saluted with his wing.

                                            “Let me make one thing clear,” said Heatsink slowly. “I don’t trust you. I trust you less than I trust these pirates, and I wouldn’t even trust them to handle my own droppings. You’re here for one reason only, talonflame. As a means of dispatching grass types who prove problematic. Now let me introduce you to Floppy.”

                                            He waved a flipper at the vaporeon. The aquatic dog stood to attention, his glassy black eyes sparkling, but his mouth was turned into a frown as he kept Switch in his sight.

                                            “Floppy is my sniper,” said Heatsink. “He’s more than equipped to deal with a nuisance like you. He’s never missed a hydro pump, and he can shoot a pidgeot out of the sky with a water pulse. You understand, bird?”

                                            Switch nodded with as much confidence as he could muster, but every feather on his body had stood on end.

                                            Heatsink turned to the rest of the group and barked a command to move out.

                                            Macro and Anchor marched along, trapped between the wartortle and politoed. No one paid them much attention, but Switch found himself right behind Heatsink with Floppy on his tail. Macro’s heart went out to him, and he hoped deep down that Switch wouldn’t find himself on the receiving end of the vaporeon’s sniping attacks.

                                            It seemed to take forever to reach the orchard. Once again it was plunged into the darkness of night. Silent, yet deadly.

                                            Heatsink used his bladed flippers to cut the padlock off the gate. He caught it in his other flipper before it had chance to hit the sidewalk and wake the entire grass army.

                                            Anchor frowned into the shadows, his brow creasing around his heat tracker.

                                            “They’re definitely in there,” he said quietly. “But… there seems to be less of them this time.”

                                            Heatsink turned his head to look at him. “You think there’s less?”

                                            Anchor shrugged. “They could be further back, or I’m misrememberin’. Last time I didn’t have this, you see. But we passed loads of grass types. I’m warning you now, though, the berry trees and bushes are swarmin’ with bugs.”

                                            Heatsink grunted his acknowledgment and pushed the gate open. “Well, let’s hope this is an easier job than I’m fearing. Once we’re in, we stick together. Don’t you pirates go marching off on your own, or I won’t hesitate to shoot you. Understood?”

                                            “Understood.” Macro saluted then let out a snicker.

                                            Heatsink narrowed his eyes at him, more than enough of a warning to nuke the mawile’s rebellious spirit, and went on ahead into the orchard.

                                            Just like the last time, it was difficult to tell the plants from the pokemon, but Macro kept an eye on Anchor. Heatsink kept pace beside them, watching the granbull more than his surroundings. He had the same idea as Macro. With his heat tracker, Anchor could easily tell the plants from the pokemon.

                                            Macro let his eyes wander over the dark orchard. Anchor was right. It did look like there were much less grass pokemon than there were previously. He froze at the spot he’d seen the tropius. Not there. Of course, it could be sleeping elsewhere. But nevertheless, the lack of grass pokemon left him feeling anxious. Where were they? Somewhere else in Cyan City? Or had a majority of them gone back home to Luma City?

                                            “There’s one.” Anchor’s whisper seemed oddly loud.

                                            Macro and Heatsink followed his claw to a large bush.

                                            “It’s inside there,” he said. “From the shape of it, I’d say it were a snivy or servine.”

                                            Heatsink waved a flipper and a wartortle joined his side. At the Sergent’s command, the wartortle drew their gun and fired at the bush. Macro didn’t see what it was, but he was certain it was no laser. A soft yelp came from the bush and after a moment’s pause, the wartortle ran forward. They fussed around the bush then staggered back, dragging a long, reptilian form after them.

                                            A servine.

                                            The empoleon stared down at it then grunted. “Well done, pirate. You were right.”

                                            Anchor grinned and tapped a claw against his heat tracker. “Nice to know it works, eh?”

                                            “Apprehend this grass type,” Heatsink told the wartortle. “We’re gonna want him for questioning.”

                                            The wartortle stooped and fastened shackles over the servine’s short limbs. Heatsink turned away from them and cast his eyes over the orchard.

                                            “Any more?” he asked Anchor.

                                            The granbull shrugged. “It’s hard to pick them out from all the bugs, Sergent, but like I said. There seems to be less.”

                                            “Alright, then let’s keep moving. We need to find these twins.”

                                            Heatsink marched on ahead and Macro hesitated for a second before following him. Something seemed wrong. Why were there less grass types than before? Red flashed beside him and he looked up at Switch, his beak twisted in a frown. The servine had been placed across his shoulders yet the talonflame didn’t buckle under his weight. The wartortle that had shot it walked beside him, his gun still held in his paws.

                                            Fear tactics.

                                            Placing the grass type on Switch would serve nothing more than to terrify the servine. One overheat and he’d be well and truly toasted. Macro’s lip curled up into a sneer. He couldn’t help thinking that in this pointless war all three factions were the same.

                                            “Hang on.” Anchor’s large paw swooped down to block the empoleon. “There’s a tangrowth that way.”

                                            “Tangrowth, eh?” Heatsink scratched his head. “That’s gonna take at least two sedatives. Hit it with three to be safe.”

                                            He turned and left the wartortle to fire at the sleeping pokemon. Three shots in quick succession. Macro heard each one go off and the soft thud as the first hit home.

                                            A rustle of vines drew their attention back to the bushy pokemon. It rose, stretching out its vine-like arms as the second one hit it. Its arm struck the ground, paralysed and the tangrowth crumpled to its knees. A loud cry came from its hidden mouth, slightly muffled by all the vines covering its body. But it was as clear as day.

                                            “Help!”

                                            Then it hit the ground, just before the third shot struck it in the back.

                                            Silence, save for Macro and his allies’ panicked breathing.

                                            Floppy appeared beside Switch, searching the darkness with his glassy black eyes. His breath came out cold, misting in the air and peppering Switch’s wings with frost that melted no sooner than it appeared.

                                            Yet nothing came.

                                            Heatsink shook his head and turned away, waving a flipper at the fallen tangrowth. The wartortle took the message and rushed to shackle him with two of the prinplup and the quagsire. The latter was more to help lift the huge tangly beast than anything else.

                                            Macro followed after Heatsink and Anchor, keeping a tight grip on his laser. He couldn’t remember drawing it, but there was no way he was putting it back in its holster now. Every single rustle of leaves or grass set his fur on end. His heart had gone into overdrive, trying to hammer its way out of his rib cage. All he wanted to do was bolt from the orchard and never come back.

                                            Something long and green fell down beside his head and he let out a shrill squeak. He leapt back and aimed his laser at it, but before he could fire, a quick stream of water struck it like a bullet. The green pokemon swung back and forth before his eyes like a pendulum.

                                            A caterpie.

                                            That’s all it was. A caterpie, suspended on a strong, sticky thread.

                                            Macro silently berated himself and lowered his gun. But there was something different about the caterpie. It hung there, silently, its body changing colour and consistency.

                                            It was evolving.

                                            Genetically modified, and it had no everstone.

                                            Heatsink let out a grunt and looked up at the tree. Whatever berries it contained were now few and far between.

                                            “Things are evolving, huh?” said Anchor. “That means this situations gonna get a lot worse real quick.”

                                            “You’re telling me,” said Heatsink. “I think I might borrow your talonflame friend and have him pick the lot off.”

                                            “They’re living things,” said Switch. “I’m not killing them.”

                                            “They’re barely alive anymore, bud,” said Macro. “You’d be doing them a favor.”

                                            Switch snorted and fixed Macro with a golden leer. “I’m not harming them. It goes against everything I believe in.”

                                            “Keep your voices down,” Anchor hissed.

                                            Macro and Switch looked up to meet matching glares from Anchor and Heatsink. The granbull nodded ahead of them. A large patch of razz bushes. The look in Anchor’s eye told him there was something… maybe even plural… lurking in those bushes.

                                            Then Anchor’s eyes widened so much so he almost lost his heat tracker. He nudged the empoleon and pointed, drawing his attention towards Macro. No one said a word.

                                            The mawile gulped and looked up at the tree above him. The caterpie - now a metapod - still hung there, still swinging. The branch it was attached to dipped and two long vines reached down towards him. He brought his laser up to meet them, but it was knocked from his grasp. The vines looped down, one over his arm and the other around his neck.

                                            “Well… what do we have here?” The voice was nightmarishly familiar. “You came back? And look, you brought me lots of watery snacks.”

                                            The carnivine’s grinning face appeared upside-down before Macro’s, each word breathing out a smell like rotten meat. Once again, Macro wanted to be sick, but any efforts to do so were suppressed as its vine tightened around his neck.

                                            And no one was doing anything about it.

                                            He strained to look behind him, but all he saw were a twitching Switch lying in a crumpled heap with Floppy the vaporeon beside him, his legs tangled in vines reminiscent of those that belonged to a tangrowth.

                                            No…

                                            He screwed his eyes shut and used his claws to prise himself free, to no avail.

                                            “Just so you’re aware,” the carnivine breathed, “I’m not afraid of your flaming bird friend, no. Especially not now my allies have dealt with him. You should be more careful, shouldn’t you? More quieter? Especially since not all of us are diurnal.” He twisted his head to aim a grin at Heatsink.

                                            The empoleon took a step back, trying to avoid the tangrowth’s vines as they reached across the grass towards his feet. His left flipper brushed against something and he leapt aside, his eyes fixing on a moving flower. Two vileplume and a gloom stepped out of the shadows, their tiny eyes reflecting the moonlight.

                                            Anchor lifted a foot and brought it crashing down onto one of the vines as it snaked between his legs. Its owner shrieked from behind Macro and the vine retracted, but the one beneath the distracted Heatsink tripped him and brought him to the ground with an almighty crash. The flower pokemon scattered, filling the air with an awful stench that made Anchor choke. Heatsink soon found himself wrapped up in a cocoon of vines, cutting off yells of protest as they stifled his beak.

                                            Anchor aimed his laser at the empoleon and fired. Small flames shot through the air as it ignited the offensive pollen around them. The flying energy sliced through the vines, eliciting another shriek from their owner and freeing Heatsink from its embrace. He rounded his laser on a spot behind the carnivine, but the carnivorous plant grinned, tightening his hold on Macro until he choked. It was becoming harder and harder to breathe.

                                            The carnivine tutted and waved one of his free vines. “I’d be careful if I were you. Unless you want me to snap his neck?”

                                            Macro’s violet eyes opened impossibly wide, fixing on Anchor’s.

                                            “I might just do it anyway,” said the carnivine. “I mean, you did both hit me the last time. It was embarrassing. But… I think this is more fun. Pokemon will do anything to keep their lives. I might see what I can get you all to do.” A dry chuckle. “Drop your weapon, granbull.”

                                            His mocking laugh filled the air.

                                            Tears welled up in Macro’s eyes, but he had no free paw to wipe them away. He looked down at Switch, still twitching as he fought off a stun spore. Floppy lay in a tangle of vines, and not far from him were the prinplup and wartortle, all of which were trapped under vines or fighting off paralysis. He met Anchor’s gaze again, sending him a silent plea for help, but Anchor only returned his look with an apologetic shake of the head. He let his laser fall to the floor and took a step back. Macro’s heart sank.

                                            It was useless.

                                            Any minute now, he could die.

                                            For the first time in a long time, Macro felt absolutely helpless… and it terrified him.
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                                            A glimmer of hope in a war-torn world - The End
                                            Cyberpunk fantasy meets Pokemon Mystery Dungeon - Glitched
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                                              #22    
                                            Old February 2nd, 2018 (7:10 AM).
                                            Delirious Absol's Avatar
                                            Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
                                            Call me Del
                                               
                                              Join Date: May 2015
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                                              Chapter Thirty Four

                                              Macro flailed, raking his claws over the carnivine’s strangling limbs. Bleeding welts appeared over the vines, but all the carnivine did was laugh. Each deep laugh breathed putrid breath in his face and he gagged.

                                              “You know what?” said the carnivine. “This is fun! All I have to do is hold you here until the boss is done with his plan. I think I might take my time.”

                                              Macro opened a violet eye, fixing it on the carnivine’s grinning face. Plan? What plan? A lone canine poked out of Macro’s lips in a sneer.

                                              “Is this to do with the twins?” he choked.

                                              “Twins?” The carnivine turned to face him fully and his lips curled up, widening his grin further. “Oh, you mean those water babies? Oh no, they’re but a bargaining tool.” He chuckled. “Although there’s no saying we’ll hold up our end of the bargain. Is there?”

                                              Macro’s fur stood on end. Oh how he wanted to claw the carnivine’s limbs off and put an end to that sinister grin.

                                              “You sick freak!” The shout had come from Heatsink. He dragged himself to his feet, still choking on the pollen. “They’re only children!”

                                              “Now now.” The carnivine waved a vine and tutted. “With that attitude, I might just kill your ally.”

                                              “Go ahead.” Heatsink shrugged. “I couldn’t care less about these space pirates. My job is to rescue those oshawott twins, not baby sit some punk teenagers.”

                                              Macro fixed the empoleon in a violet leer, but all words were choked off before he could spit them out.

                                              The carnivine let out a thoughtful purr and turned to look down at the rest of Heatsink’s army.

                                              “You might not care about Hunter,” he said slowly. “But what about the rest of your allies? I’m guessing the talonflame is pretty key to you, yes? Or is he just another space pirate?”

                                              Heatsink said nothing, his gaze fixed on Floppy and the pile of incapacitated water soldiers. The carnivine didn’t need words, however. A deep chuckle came from his throat and he lifted a vine to wave at the surrounding flower pokemon.

                                              “Take the water types away,” he said. “I’m sure Root will want to deal with them later.”

                                              The vileplume and her army closed in on the prinplup and wartortle, and all Heatsink could do was watch. If he put one claw wrong, the whole of his army, including Macro and his team, would be wiped off the face of System.

                                              In Macro’s peripheral vision, Switch moved. It wasn’t a large movement, but enough to catch the mawile’s attention. He remained frozen in the carnivine’s grip, but he saw the talonflame lift his head weakly to look at him. His beak opened slightly and Macro groaned inwardly, half expecting him to aggravate the situation. To whine or throw some snarky comment.

                                              A flash of flames streamed from his beak and struck the carnivine’s offending limb. The carnivine howled, slackening his grip enough for Macro to duck and dive out of the way.

                                              He spun his horn in a wide arc, striking the carnivorous plant right in the cranium. He went flying from the tree, his vines snapping the branch from its trunk. Macro snatched up his laser and aimed, firing a stream of air right at the carnivine. It struck him before he hit the ground, slicing through his limbs. The heat from the laser ignited the lingering pollen which engulfed his entire body in a quick burst of flames.

                                              Macro turned to the rest of the grass army, clutching the laser in both paws. His lip curled up in a sneer and he narrowed his eyes, looking at each one in turn.

                                              “Anyone else want to meet my little friend?!” he roared.

                                              Anchor retrieved his own laser and joined Macro’s side, keeping it fixed on the vileplume. The flower pokemon didn’t move a muscle, frozen in place with what Macro hoped was fear. Floppy’s spasming body was merely a foot from her own.

                                              However, the vileplume vanished under a torrent of soil. It covered half of Floppy and peppered Switch’s feathers with soggy, brown clumps. The talonflame let out a cry of protest and sputtered, shaking his stiff limbs to remove it. The vines entangling Floppy’s legs snapped away, allowing the vaporeon to leap to his feet. He sprayed his body with water to remove the dirt then looked up with some surprise.

                                              Macro and Anchor followed his gaze and the mawile’s jaw dropped. Marching towards them, dragging a stunned tangrowth, was the quagsire.

                                              “Torrent!” Heatsink said with some surprise. “Where did you get to? I thought you were caught with the rest of us.”

                                              “Sorry, Sergent,” the quagsire replied. “I’d spotted this big old oaf a while back, recovering from the sedative. I’m not sure we hit him with enough tranquilizers, so I waited to take him out.”

                                              “And you also took out the vileplume and her gang,” said Heatsink. “Well done.”

                                              Macro stared down at the pile of soggy mud. The vileplumes large petals were just visible beneath the mound. One mud shot and the quagsire had taken out a small army of grass types. A pokemon he’d previously doubted to be of any use in this battle. A pokemon he’d completely forgotten about.

                                              He chuckled and let his laser fall to his side.

                                              “Has something amused you, Hunter?” Heatsink asked.

                                              Macro looked up at the quagsire’s confused face and smiled. “I completely underestimated you.”

                                              Torrent blinked a few times then shrugged. “I do my best.” He lifted a pair of cuffs, dragging the tangrowth up by one leg. “What shall I do with him?”

                                              Heatsink crouched beside the mound of mud and began to dig out the vileplume.

                                              “We’ll take him back to the cells with the rest of them,” said Heatsink. “We’ve got a lot of questions to ask. Right now, however, you can start giving cheri berries to your stunned team mates.”

                                              The quagsire didn’t need telling twice. He handed the cuffs to Macro then rifled through his bag for solutions to the paralysis.

                                              Macro stared at the cuffs then back at the quagsire. His first stop had been Switch, and the talonflame took the cheri berry gratefully. Macro’s heart sank slightly as he realised Switch was the only reason he’d managed to get out of that carnivine’s trap.

                                              Before the quagsire could even draw out the first berry, an audible, nauseating pop resounded in the air. Heatsink let out a yell of surprise, then a groan.

                                              “Not again…” He dragged the vileplume aside.

                                              Blood trickled from her mouth, and her face was frozen in a state of terror.

                                              “We’re not gonna get a single word out of these, are we?” Heatsink muttered. “Guess we’ll need to sedate them until we can remove the detonators, then make them talk. Otherwise they’re all gonna off themselves.” He paused and muttered under his breath, “This is just makin’ me even more suspicious.”

                                              Anchor placed a paw on Macro’s shoulder and nodded into the shadows.

                                              “He’s got a point. I’m gonna look for that carnivine,” he said. “If he survived that attack, then I think we’ve got some questions to ask him. I can’t say I liked what he were sayin’.”

                                              “Me neither.” Macro tapped him on the arm as he passed. “Watch your back. There might be more. And make sure he’s not detonated himself, either.”

                                              He turned away from the granbull back to Switch and cleared his throat. The talonflame looked up at him and lowered his berry.

                                              “Thanks,” said Macro. “You really saved my hide there.”

                                              “Well, you already saved my life.” Switch shrugged and took another bite of his cheri. “I’m just returning the favor.”

                                              ...

                                              Tracer looked up at the run-down house, straining to see through its murky windows. He hadn’t needed to get a location off Java. He knew where most pokemon lived in Spool City, it was part of his job.

                                              He turned his eyes to the door, deeply regretting that he couldn’t smoke a cigar around his mask. Something gnawed at him. Something that said this was going to be a rather tense confrontation. He quickly exchanged glances with Widget then raised a paw and rapped on the door three times.

                                              Shuffling footsteps came from beyond it, then it creaked open, revealing a pale face surrounded by long black hair.

                                              “Oh,” said the human. “Good morning, Mister Fox.”

                                              Tracer’s eyes widened behind his mask. He hadn’t expected such pleasantries.

                                              Her eyes went to Widget. “Who’s the puppy?”

                                              “Puppy?” Widget’s fur bristled over his hackles.

                                              Tracer raised a paw to his muzzle to stifle a laugh and cleared his throat.

                                              “Pardon me, but I’m afraid we’re not here on a visit,” he said. “I’ve had a little information given to me and I need to investigate it.”

                                              “Oh?” The human raised an eyebrow.

                                              A series of footsteps marched over the wooden floor, one of which sounded oddly mechanical. Two pokemon joined her, one of which was a goldeen encased in a glass bowl, held up on mechanical legs. Tracer wanted to say something, but the other pokemon’s words cut him off.

                                              “Who is it, Annie?” The familiar face of a female skuntank appeared over her shoulder.

                                              Unlike many of her kind, she didn’t always carry her tail over her back. Something that had become a bit of a trademark back in her pirate days. When she spotted Tracer, she placed a protective paw over the human’s shoulder and pulled her back from the door.

                                              Tracer frowned slightly, but it went unseen. “Sorry to intrude, Webber, but I’ve heard you’re building a ship in your back yard. Is this correct?”

                                              Web said nothing, but Annie’s face split into a huge grin.

                                              “That’s right, it’s mine,” she said, with way too much pride.

                                              “Why on earth would you want to build a ship?” Tracer asked. “You’re not planning on joining the space pirates, are you?”

                                              “Well, the truth is-” The human’s words were cut off as Web placed a paw over her mouth.

                                              Web looked up at him and her eyes turned serious. “She merely wants to go home.”

                                              Annie rolled her eyes to look at the skuntank then pushed her paw away from her face. A smile spread over her lips, then split into a broad grin.

                                              “Oh right, yeh.” She turned back to Tracer. “Yeh, I wanna go home. Ship’s gonna take me back.”

                                              The goldeen chuckled, covering his mouth with his fins.

                                              Tracer’s brow furrowed and he stared at Annie for a good long minute.

                                              “Lies,” muttered Widget.

                                              “Where?” Annie leant past the door and looked up at the brightening sky.

                                              More footsteps came from inside the house. The stairs, if Tracer’s mental map of the place was correct. He reached into his tail and fastened his claws over his trusty stick.

                                              “I’m afraid I’m going to have to take you in for questioning,” he said. “All of you. Also, Socket has requested I bring the human in to her, and I can’t very well leave without her.”

                                              Web’s face turned pale and she locked her claws over Annie’s slender arm. Annie, however, didn’t look remotely phased.

                                              “Socket’s the creepy gothitelle, right?” she asked. “Nah. I have no interest going back to her.”

                                              “I’m afraid it’s not your decision,” said Tracer.

                                              The door was yanked wide open and Waveform stood there, his vines pulled back into a bow string. Tracer yanked his stick from his tail, but before he could ready it, an arrow whizzed through the air and shot it from his grip. Widget let out a yelp of surprise and leapt to stand before the delphox.

                                              Tracer’s eyes locked onto the decidueye’s and they both frowned.

                                              “You’re taking her nowhere.” If words could poison, Waveform’s certainly would have.

                                              “Chill out, man.” Annie placed a paw on Waveform’s wing and looked back at Tracer. “Listen. That mayor said something about taking me to a lab. I spent years with four white walls around me. I ain’t bein’ locked in no lab. Capiche?”

                                              Tracer blinked. Lab? He shook his head slowly, but Annie had interpreted it as a denial. Her eyes narrowed, sending a chill down his spine. She waved a paw at Web and the skuntank shoved the door. Just before it was flown shut, the goldeen reared up in his bowl and sprayed a torrent of water, soaking the delphox’s ears.

                                              “Meat eater!” he barked.

                                              The door slammed with such force it shook the windows.

                                              Tracer shook the water from his ears and muttered under his breath.

                                              “Oh no you don’t.” Widget lowered his head and rammed his right fore-paw onto the ground. “We’ve got a job to finish.”

                                              He sprang forwards, launching himself towards the door.

                                              “Widget.”

                                              Tracer’s voice brought him to a halt and he turned back, but the weight of his body sent him rolling towards the door. His head and shoulders collided with the wood and he let out a stunned ‘oomph!’

                                              The door creaked open again and Annie stared down at him. “Yes?”

                                              “Close the door!”

                                              The voice was deep but the owner went unseen as the door was yanked from her grip. It slammed shut with such ferocity it almost sent Widget sprawling into the street.

                                              “Ouch!” he whined, rubbing the back of his head with a paw. He looked back at the house and pouted. “That hurt.”

                                              Tracer retrieved his stick and placed it back into his thick tail.

                                              “Are you all right, Widget?” he asked.

                                              “I’m fine. Just slightly concussed is all.” The eevee pulled himself to his feet and shook out his fur. “You know what? I think we should climb into their garden and check out this ship anyway.”

                                              “I was thinking the same thing.” Tracer eyed the flimsy fence. “Do you think it would hold us?”

                                              “No.”

                                              “I didn’t mean at the same time.”

                                              “Neither did I.”

                                              Tracer raised a claw to his chin and stared at the fence, calculating roughly how high it was, and from the shape of the house how much space would be on the other side. Even if he couldn’t get over himself, he could send Widget in to take some photos.

                                              “Widget,” he said. “I’m going to lift you over the top.”

                                              “You are not trapping me in a psychic bubble,” the eevee protested.

                                              “I’m afraid I’m going to have to. I can’t climb over it, and I can’t lift myself. And if we try to climb it, or go through it, they’ll hear us.”

                                              Widget met his eyes, silently protesting. Tracer knew if Widget had his way he’d just charge through the flimsy wood no matter how much of a racket it made. The eevee let out a sigh and shook his head.

                                              “Fine,” he said. “Just… be gentle, okay?”

                                              “Always.” Tracer retrieved his stick and with one flick engulfed Widget’s small form in a large purple bubble.

                                              Widget yelped and whined as he was lifted over the fence as slowly and carefully as Tracer could. He deposited him on the other side and released him, the bubble giving a purple flash that flowed through the cracks in the fence. Tracer peered through it, spotting Widget trembling on the other side.

                                              “Pull yourself together,” Tracer hissed. “It’s just a little psychic bubble, not water.”

                                              Widget looked back at him over his shoulder. It was impossible to see through his mask, but Tracer just knew he’d stuck his tongue out at him. The eevee’s fur leveled out and he skipped off towards the back yard, vanishing around the narrow corner.

                                              Tracer’s heart was in his throat as he waited, keeping an eye on both the street and the garden fence. He could hear the tell-tale click of the camera application on Widget’s computer and his small paws plodding over the concrete floor. The occasional flap of wings came from somewhere unseen, likely zubat or murkrow lurking about around the roof tops.

                                              Then there was a shout.

                                              Tracer span to face the fence as tiny footsteps grew louder. Heavier ones followed, and Widget’s powerful body crashed through the fence, splintering the rotting wood into tiny pieces. Shards peppered Tracer’s fur and he ducked to shield himself. Widget landed before him and turned to bolt down the street.

                                              “Run!” he cried.

                                              Tracer shot after him, but not without glancing over his shoulder. A scrafty gave chase, waving his fist. He didn’t pursue them for long, though. He was more distracted by the destroyed fence.

                                              Tracer followed Widget into an alleyway where the eevee finally came to a stop to catch his breath.

                                              “Did you get the photos?” Tracer asked.

                                              He stood with his back to the damp wall and looked back onto the main street. The scrafty had definitely stopped chasing them, but he didn’t know if he’d pick up the chase again.

                                              “Oh, I got them all right.” Widget’s eyes sparkled behind his mask. “Java was right. They’re definitely building a ship.”

                                              “Hmm.” Tracer rubbed his chin with a paw. “I still don’t understand why a human would want to build a ship.” He looked up at the sky, the sun now leaking through the smog. “It makes me wonder what city Socket found her on.”

                                              “Humans don’t exist in System, Tracer,” said Widget. “Besides. Didn’t that human mention something about a lab?”

                                              “She did, yes.”

                                              “Maybe she found herself in this world and Socket wants to run some tests on her. You know… like an autopsy to see what humans are like on the inside.”

                                              “Your imagination frightens me,” said Tracer.

                                              Widget chuckled and shook his head. “You can’t say I’m wrong, though, can you? Why else would she want to take her to a lab? To give her a job?”

                                              “’Dangerous and unstable’.” Tracer quoted Socket’s words as he scratched behind his ear. “I’m really worried your suspicions, despite how warped, might contain some element of truth.” He sighed. “This makes me rather apprehensive to hand her over to the mayor without knowing any more details.”

                                              “So what are you gonna do?” Widget asked. “Question Socket about her intentions? Because if she knows you’ve botched up two chances to turn her in-”

                                              “The first of which I was assaulted, don’t forget that.”

                                              Widget shrugged. “Whatever. You botched up two chances.”

                                              “So did you.”

                                              “Yeh, but she already hates me.” The eevee chuckled and looked up at him. “You’re still in her good books. Wanna keep it that way? ‘Cos I’d be wary of admitting you’ve messed up twice.”

                                              Tracer sighed and rubbed at his ears some more. They still felt damp. He really wanted to remove his mask and light up a cigar. Maybe it was time to head home? He glanced back down the alley then turned his back on it.

                                              “I think I want to catch that human for myself,” he said. “Then I can question her about where she came from, work out Socket’s intentions, and see what this ship is really for.”

                                              “Good plan,” said Widget. “But you’re gonna need a pretty big net ‘cos I doubt she’d come willingly.”
                                              __________________
                                              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 February 8th, 2018 (7:41 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: 350
                                                Chapter Thirty Five

                                                What was left of the grass army was now safely behind the impenetrable glass of Cyan City’s prison cells. Jumper paced back and forth, examining each of them through the glass. The tangrowth still looked groggy from the sedative. It had taken a long time to wear off, and in that time the small detonator that had been placed inside him had been removed. The trigger for it was in his back tooth, and that had also been removed. Unseen to all of them, beneath his heavy coat of vines, his jaw was still swollen from the process.

                                                The only other surviving members of the mob that had attacked them in the orchard were a pair of oddish, both of which had been knocked unconscious by rocks hidden inside Torrent’s mud shot attack, and the carnivine who was recovering from severe burns. Surgery had revealed the detonator had actually malfunctioned under the heat and would either be unable to detonate, or would do so itself at some point with or without his wishes.

                                                The servine they’d apprehended had detonated himself just like the rest of them, taking any answers he might have had with him.

                                                Macro leant against the barrier between two cells, watching the frogadier as he plodded back and forth with his paws clasped behind his back. Anchor had gone for dinner with Switch, Heatsink, and some other members of the force, but the only appetite Macro had was for answers.

                                                That carnivine had given him a hard time, memories of which would join his nightmares of fire for years to come. But during all that, he’d made the fatal mistake many gloating evil masterminds made. He’d spoken.

                                                Somewhere in Cyan City was a pokemon named Root, and that Root was up to something, all while using poor Lossy’s terrified children as a bargaining tool. However, despite their efforts, the carnivine was now silent. No more information. Nothing more about Root, the oshawott twins… nothing.

                                                There was a chance the carnivine couldn’t speak after his injuries, however. But he’d still been smirking. Even after he’d realised his detonator had been removed. That smirk told them one thing. He thought the grass army had won, and with the rate the information was coming at, they very likely had.

                                                “There’s one thing that concerns me, Macro.” Jumper came to a halt and turned to face him. “And that’s the sheer number of grass types you said was allegedly hiding in that orchard. It vastly outweighs those we’ve managed to find - living or dead.”

                                                Macro shrugged. “I remember a tropius, ivysaur… there’s every chance my mind were playin’ tricks on me. I don’t have fantastic night vision.”

                                                Jumper sighed and looked through the glass cell at a cowering oddish.

                                                “Look,” said Macro. “We might not know how many are in this city, but there are some things we do know.” He counted them off on his claws. “Giga and Gigi are missing, and their lives are likely at risk. Your orchard is full of bugs munching away your food source. Your store houses are under threat since you’ve already been struck by suicide bombing grass types. And there’s some pokemon called Root who’s got a master plan behind all of this. So whether or not the orchard is or was teaming with grass types, your city is still in pretty bad shape right now.”

                                                Jumper leant against the glass and sighed, rubbing his face with a paw. “You’re right. The numbers don’t matter, it’s the effects. Two tiny lives are at stake… in fact, the entire of Cyan City might be at stake, but that doesn’t matter right now. We can always grow more fruit, but we can’t just bring those little twins back if anything happens to them.”

                                                Macro shook his head. “Nope. That you can not.”

                                                The frogadier rubbed his chin and stared at the floor. “We need to find out who this Root is and what he’s doing. But we don’t even know what species of pokemon he is.”

                                                “He’s an ivysaur.”

                                                The tiny voice almost sent Jumper flying into the opposite cell. Both Jumper and Macro snapped to look at the trembling oddish huddled into the furthest corner he could fit into.

                                                “So you can speak?” Jumper gathered himself together and folded his arms. “You were less than willing to earlier.”

                                                “You mentioned those twins,” said the oddish. “I didn’t want anything to do with that. I’ve got kids of my own! It was all Spider’s idea. He twisted Root’s leg and the pair of them decided to…” He trailed off and looked back at the floor. “That’s all I’m sayin’. They’ll kill me if I say anything else.”

                                                “Who’s Spider?” Jumper demanded.

                                                The oddish said nothing, keeping both of his tiny eyes fixed on his equally tiny feet.

                                                “I’m gonna guess it’s the carnivine,” said Macro. “He didn’t seem to have any concerns about their wellbeing.”

                                                Jumper made a thoughtful noise and turned back to the oddish. “Is he right?”

                                                The oddish trembled and diverted his gaze to the wall beside him.

                                                Jumper tutted and took a step back. “I’m going to take that as a yes. Macro?”

                                                The governor turned to face Macro and the serious look in his eyes made the space pirate’s jaw drop slightly.

                                                “I have a proposition for you,” said Jumper. “As you’re aware, my army is at a disadvantage. That became apparent in the orchard. Fortunately, Torrent is a quick thinker, but he only managed to wipe out a small number of the oddish line. If your initial suspicions are correct, there may very well be a lot more grass types in this city than it currently appears. Yes, we have weapons that can deal with it, but I do think we need more help than I initially realised.”

                                                “So you want more of my help?” Macro inwardly frowned at the thought.

                                                “Yes,” said Jumper. “You, Anchor, and your talonflame friend. You could all be of valuable use to me in this regard, and I will reward you for your help.”

                                                “You’ll give me that disk?”

                                                Jumper shook his head slowly. “That is not mine to give. But believe me, the reward will be heavily in your favor.”

                                                “Gotta say, Gov,” said Macro slowly. “That disk is more valuable to me than anything else you can offer.”

                                                “Why do you want it so badly? What pleasure can it possibly give you?”

                                                “Well, other than cheezing off Socket, not much.” Macro paused as he mulled over whether it was actually time to tell Jumper the truth. “Remember that caterpie I brought to you?”

                                                “Yes, vividly.”

                                                “Well.” Macro shrugged and met the frogadier’s eyes. “I got someone like that on my ship.”

                                                “And you think a disk containing government data can help her?” Jumper tutted. “Seems a little far-fetched.”

                                                “It doesn’t contain government data,” said Macro. “It contains her memories, and I’m trying to get them back.”

                                                Jumper’s spine stiffened and his eyes widened slightly, but it was soon replaced by a frown.

                                                “Don’t be ridiculous, Macro,” he snorted. “Why on earth would Socket have her memories stored on a disk?”

                                                “I’ll let you think about that for a while.”

                                                Macro waved his paw and turned to the double doors, but any hope of a dramatic exit was destroyed as the ground surged and threw him off his feet. A deep rumble cut through the air, followed by sirens and a whole lot of shouting.

                                                Jumper stooped beside him, offering a paw to help the groaning space pirate back to his feet.

                                                “What on earth was that?” Macro mumbled. “Another attack?”

                                                “Sounds like it.” Jumper rose to his feet and leapt through the doors.

                                                Macro followed close behind him, quickly checking his laser was still in place at his right side. The lack of his second weapon still left him feeling rather defenseless, and his heart pounded as he followed the governor through the police station’s well-lit corridors.

                                                The nightmarish smell of burning met his nostrils and he snorted to try and remove it. Something somewhere was on fire, and the image that filled his mind made his stomach lurch.

                                                As they exited onto the streets, the smell grew stronger. Water pokemon gathered in the square, their voices a crescendo over the panic as a group of larger pokemon raced onto the scene. Small, green forms scattered across the square, causing yelps and screams from the onlookers as they rushed for safety. A gap in the crowd revealed a pair of turtwig, a grotle and several bulbasaur.

                                                Jets of water and shimmering ice erupted over the square, scattering the grass types and causing the onlookers to dive back indoors where they could view the chaos from the safety of a window.

                                                Jumper stood with his arm before Macro, holding him back as he surveyed the situation. The small grass types dodged and dived to avoid the water and ice attacks thrown at them from Cyan City’s police force. Wartortle retreated into their shells as they launched themselves into spinning attacks, bouncing off their targets and knocking them sideways. Ice engulfed two of the bulbasaur, sending them crumpling to the ground. A neatly fired water pulse knocked a servine off his feet, his long body acting as a trip wire to one of the grotle.

                                                The prinplup that had struck him wore a smug smile, but it was wiped off his face as a large, green pokemon struck him in the back of the head, using him as a launch pad as he went soaring over his own army. The ivysaur landed on all fours at the head of his group, laughing triumphantly as he rocketed towards the end of the square.

                                                Macro’s muzzle creased and he sneered. Root. He reached for his laser and pushed Jumper’s arm aside.

                                                “After him!” Heatsink entered the scene and pointed with his large flipper. “Don’t let him get away!”

                                                The ivysaur glanced back at the army then threw his head back. “Spider!”

                                                Air whipped up around the square as the sound of heavy, flapping wings came over the roofs of the buildings. A tropius dropped down before Heatsink and his comrades and fixed the group with a devious smile. The air was filled with a sweet smell, overpowering the water type pokemon.

                                                Macro clasped his paw over his muzzle and dragged Jumper back into the police station, slamming the door behind him. He fired a leer out of the tiny window then turned back to the governor.

                                                “You all right?” he asked.

                                                Jumper nodded and rubbed his head. Good. At least he was still in control of his faculties. Macro looked back out of the window. He couldn’t see much, but he could hear the crescendo of voices dying out as the pokemon retreated back into the city. All under control of that tropius’s sweet scent. The very same smell that had lured Giga and Gigi away. The same smell that had almost fooled Macro.

                                                “He’s getting away,” Jumper muttered.

                                                “No he ain’t.” Macro reached for his laser and strained to see more of the square from the tiny window. “You got another exit to this place? ‘Cos I wanna sneak up on that ivysaur.”

                                                Jumper nodded and placed a paw on Macro’s shoulder.

                                                “Come with me. You can use the fire exit.”

                                                Macro shot one last leer at the door and turned to follow Jumper through the police station’s network of corridors.

                                                “Any idea where he might be going?” Macro asked. “Got any food stores that way? Any places he might target?”

                                                “There is one food store,” Jumper explained. “But that way is mostly residential housing.”

                                                Macro snorted. “I might need a map.”

                                                “I’ll be your map,” said Jumper.

                                                Macro snapped his head around and fixed him with wide, violet eyes. “You’ll what?”

                                                “You really think I’m letting you go alone?” Jumper laughed. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

                                                “So you don’t trust me?” Macro crossed his arms and tutted.

                                                “Far from it.” A small smile spread across Jumper’s lips. “I wouldn’t trust even one of my own ‘mon to walk into a battle on their own. Everyone needs a little back up, Macro.”

                                                ...

                                                Switch swerved out of the way as a hydro pump narrowly missed him. The square had erupted into chaos, filled with disoriented water types scrambling to dodge the tropius and his allies while also squabbling amongst themselves. The sickly smell permeated the air, and he threw more embers into the fray to burn the aromatic spores before they reached him.

                                                To make matters worse, he’d long since lost sight of Anchor. That left him a lone fire type amongst a rabble of confused and angry water types.

                                                Another stream of water shot towards him and he barrel rolled through the air, giving it a wide berth. He miscalculated how far he was from the nearby tower block and his right wing bashed the window, shattering the glass. He rolled through it into a neat room, the shards slicing at his feathers and digging into his flesh. His face twisted in a grimace, and let himself fall onto the carpeted floor.

                                                A shriek came from behind him and he turned his head to spot a cowering buizel beside a book case. Her entire body trembled and she didn’t take her wide, petrified eyes off him.

                                                “Apologies, ma’am,” he said, giving her a wink.

                                                But it only served to make matters worse as she opened her mouth wide, letting out a shrill scream. A torrent of water flew at him and he ducked. The stream flew straight through the window, dislodging bloodied shards of glass and sending them raining down onto the mob below.

                                                Switch knew when he wasn’t wanted. He hopped onto the window ledge and launched himself into the sky. His left wing complained, but he tuned it out, desperate to find Anchor or Heatsink in the rabble.

                                                The tropius was unmistakable, towering over many of the water types. What had the ivysaur called him? Spider? Something metal covered his right eye, with an antennae-like protrusion sticking out like the nozzle of a sniper rifle. Occasionally it would light up, reminding Switch of the antennae behind DL’s ear. Was he being controlled in some way?

                                                Spider’s palm leaf wings fluttered, whipping up those sickly spores to further disorient Heatsink’s army and the lingering residents. The more disoriented they were, the easier they were to attack, and many of them found themselves trampled beneath the tropius’s feet or struck with a blade of air from his long, powerful wings.

                                                Switch didn’t know much about tropius, but he knew enough about plants to know the wings weren’t the source of the sweet scent attack. Plain leaves didn’t smell sweet.

                                                “Think, Switch,” he said. “What do you know about tropius?”

                                                He wracked his brain, thinking back through his history in System. No… he was fairly certain he’d not met any tropius. Not even when he explored the exotic Analogue Islands. They were filled with exeggutor, oricorio in their various forms, kecleon, toucannon, and ice type vulpix. If tropius lived there, he’d not encountered any.

                                                Maybe back in his time in the human world…

                                                He swerved to dodge another water attack sent his way, only to move right in front of Spider’s air slash. It struck him square in the chest and he was sent barreling down into an open dumpster. He spat fruit peels onto the floor and wiped a feather across his beak. The sweet taste of overripe berries still coated his tongue, but knowing where they’d come from made him want to vomit.

                                                Wait… fruit…

                                                His eyes flew to what he could see of the tall grass type. His graceful neck rose above the heads of the water types and he raised his huge feet to bring them crashing down onto those smaller than him. But what stood out to Switch were the banana-like fruit hanging just below his jaw.

                                                A grin split the talonflame’s beak and he fluttered out of the garbage to the ground. That was it. Many, many years ago he’d tried that fruit, and the one thing he remembered about it was its sweetness. He’d actually not liked it, much preferring nanab berries.

                                                If he were to guess, that would be the source of the tropius’s sweet scent. If he could remove them, the attack would be brought to an end. He just had to get close enough to burn them away. Then he could focus on that antennae.

                                                In two wing beats, he was back in the air. He pushed himself higher until he was above the roof tops and hovered there, searching the ground below. His keen eyesight could pick out each individual pokemon in the crowd, every single movement they made. Water types mixed with grass, but the grass types were unaffected by the sweet scent. They sent their vines and leaves whipping through the air, bringing down the defenseless water types with ease. There in the midst of the crowd he spotted a familiar face. Floppy, struggling against the attacks of his allies and the grass army. The vaporeon had seen better days, and aimed each of his ice attacks at his comrades rather than Spider or any of the other grass types. Switch could almost guarantee one hit of an ice beam would bring the giant crashing down.

                                                A few feet away from Floppy lay Heatsink, tangled in vines and providing a trip hazard to those who were too disoriented to see the empoleon, while also posing as a barrier to those much too small to clamber over him. Switch’s heart sank. He’d really hoped Heatsink had withstood the tropius’s attacks. Where was Anchor?

                                                He turned his head left and right, searching the crowd for the granbull. A hint of pink caught his eye and he span to get a better view. Anchor stood between two prinplup, fighting off an azumarill. The two penguin pokemon weren’t of much help though. One of them tugged at the granbull’s mowhawk while the other was too busy attacking the wall behind them.

                                                Switch shook his head and tucked his wings to his side, swooping like a dart towards Anchor. As he drew closer, the granbull’s frantic eyes locked onto his. His long canines lit up with fire and he roared. Switch stopped short of him and beat Anchor’s face with his wings. Then his body heated up with an intense fire, and radiated it over the crowd. Spores turned to cinders, raining down around the water pokemon. It only affected a small radius, however. Spider’s disorienting spores would soon fill in the gap.

                                                “Switch?” Anchor’s voice came out dreary, like someone who’d been woken from a deep sleep.

                                                The talonflame grabbed him in his talons and lifted him from the crowd, carrying him high into the sky. Anchor didn’t protest, he just hung there, watching the city square shrink away beneath them.

                                                “What happened?” he asked.

                                                “That tropius is using sweet scent to disorient everyone,” Switch explained.

                                                “Then why weren’t you affected?”

                                                “I was for a short while but I burned them away trying to attack someone else,” said Switch. “I’ve been watching Spider’s movements since then, and I think he’s being controlled by that antennae over his eye.”

                                                “Spider?” Anchor blinked and looked up at him.

                                                Switch nodded. “I believe that’s what the ivysaur called him. But that doesn’t matter. He needs stopping if we’re going to turn this battle around.”

                                                “And how do you suggest we do that?” Anchor’s voice came out clearer now, the effects of sweet scent leaving his system. “We can’t get close enough to him without-”

                                                The strange antenna by Spider’s face flashed over and over until it turned orange, holding the light steady. He opened his mouth wide and roared. The orange light flashed, expanding out over the city square. Buildings exploded and water pokemon were blown backwards, their bodies smashing into stone walls where they were crushed under the rubble.

                                                Switch’s beak fell open and he dropped towards the ground. Anchor let out a shout, bringing the talonflame back around. He steadied himself in the air, keeping his wings beating so he could hold both himself and the granbull airborne.

                                                “Well,” said Anchor. “That ain’t no antenna, is it?”

                                                Switch shook his head slowly. “What on earth is it?”

                                                Whatever it was, it was flashing intermittently again, like a beacon in the dense dust cloud. Spider focused all his attention on flapping his wings and sending up more spores. The crowd he was fighting had significantly diminished. Many lay crushed under rocks, and the grass types now wildly outnumbered the remaining water types. Switch could no longer see Floppy or Heatsink. Dust filled the square, too thick in parts and he deeply hoped they’d survived whatever that was.

                                                “It looked like a solar beam,” he said.

                                                Anchor nodded. “It’s an amplifier.”

                                                “A what?”

                                                “A type of weapon,” Anchor explained. “They’re typically used for beam attacks like hyper beam and solar beam. They absorb the energy required and build it up until it hits maximum capacity, often to two or three times the original strength of the move.”

                                                “Then what do we do?” Switch asked. “Can we defeat a pokemon like that?”

                                                “We can try, but I recommend doing so between recharges. We can either take out the amplifier, which means his solar beams might be a lot more frequent. Or we can try to take him out. Use our fire attacks while avoiding his sweet scent. Given we’d need to get up close for that, I might not be of much use to you.”

                                                “I can keep burning the spores away?” said Switch.

                                                “That’s all well and good, but I’d quite like you to hit this Spider guy if I’m honest,” said Anchor.

                                                “All right,” said Switch. “Well, here’s my plan. As rushed as it is.” He swerved to dodge a stray water pulse sent their way from the dust cloud below. “I drop you behind Spider, or on his back, and you aim your fire fang at his fruit. Take them out, you stop his sweet scent.”

                                                “You sure about that?” Anchor grumbled.

                                                “No, but it’s all I’ve got right now. I’ve watched him. His wings don’t create the smell, he fans it out with those. So it has to be generated somewhere, and that’s my best guess.”

                                                Anchor grunted and gave a curt nod.

                                                “Well then,” he said. “I can give your plan a try, but while I do that make sure you keep hitting him. Hard. Take out the amplifier if you have to, otherwise Cyan City will be reduced to rubble before night fall.”

                                                “Right. But first we need to get close enough,” said Switch. “And I have a plan. You see the green leafy shields beside his eyes? They would create a blind spot. Once we’re towards his rear, he won’t be able to see us.”

                                                Anchor nodded. “I hadn’t considered that. Good spot. But how do we get there? He sees us, we’re stomped.”

                                                “If I can use the dust cloud, it will cover us. Hopefully enough that he won’t see us until it’s too late.”

                                                “The dust cloud?” Anchor looked up at him and grinned. “Smart. I like it. Were you a ninja once or somethin’?”

                                                Switch chuckled and shook his head. “No, but I’ve been in enough battles to know how to use terrain to my advantage. Now… I hope you’re ready.”

                                                “I was born ready.”

                                                Switch winked at Anchor then tucked in his wings. He swooped down, keeping them above the dust cloud. At its thickest point, he whipped the cloud up with his wings to surround them. The dust filled their nostrils and Switch fought the urge to choke. Instead, he breathed out slowly, and kept his golden eyes trained on the shadowy form of the tropius.

                                                His long neck twisted away from them, and Switch could see the antenna-like weapon blinking yellow. Slowly. Spider raised his wings and beat them, sending the dust cloud away from him. The light blinked faster, pulsing like a heart beat.

                                                The sun.

                                                Switch glanced towards the sky. Overcast. Not a ray of sunshine in sight. He stifled a chuckle and followed the dust cloud to Spider’s side. Just like Switch had predicted, the leaves on either side of Spider’s face blocked out most of his peripheral vision.

                                                Switch swooped up towards his back, getting Anchor as close to the tropius’s neck as he dared. The pair exchanged nods, and Switch let go.

                                                The granbull landed at the base of Spider’s neck. The entire of Spider’s body went rigid, his wing beats freezing in mid flap. He craned his neck around, his face twisted with rage and confusion.

                                                “Now!” Anchor roared.

                                                Switch watched as the granbull launched himself up the tropius’s neck. Then Switch arced towards his head, flexing his talons to grab the amplifier. With two pokemon attacking him from either end, Spider didn’t know where to focus his attention first. He swung his head around to dislodge Anchor while trying to catch Switch in his jaws. His large wings distorted the air, making it difficult for Switch to fly. He twisted himself in mid air, stretching out his left talons to grab the amplifier. They locked over the protrusion, but Spider snatched his head back. The nozzle slipped from his grip, unharmed, and Spider brought his head back around in a brutal swing. He struck Switch in the chest, knocking all wind out of him. He flew backwards towards Spider’s rear and crashed into the ground. Pain jolted through his back and his wings lay spread-eagled at his sides.

                                                The tropius bucked, bringing his hind feet up into the air, then crashing back down onto Switch. His eyes opened wide and a silent scream escaped his beak. He screwed his eyes shut again, bracing himself for impact. A scream split the air and a thud echoed by his right ear. He snapped his eyes back open and a sigh of relief left him. Spider’s rear end was coated with ice, and he saw his head swinging on his neck as he flailed, trying to dislodge Anchor as he held onto his throat with his flaming jaws. The yellow fruit that hung from Spider’s neck were ablaze, and the flames spread over the leaves on his head and ears. Terrified grass pokemon stood back from him, watching with their mouths hanging open. The braver ones sent razor leaf and vine whip attacks up at the flames to try and beat them out, even if it meant the fire spreading to their own bodies.

                                                Switch pushed himself to his feet, wheezing heavily. A lithe form stood beside him and he looked up to see which pokemon had come to his aide. Floppy stood panting with his left fore-paw raised, his livid eyes fixed on the tropius. His blue fur was peppered with dust and blood, and deep, crimson rivets ran along his shoulders and back. Even his right ear was torn, dripping blood onto the dusty floor.

                                                “Thank you,” Switch gasped.

                                                “Don’t thank me just yet,” said Floppy. “The battle isn’t over.”

                                                A huge roar came from Spider and he reared back onto his hind legs. Switch realised with horror that his wing beats had cleared a gap in the dust. The amplifier lit up orange and fired another beam into Cyan City, but it arced backwards as Spider bucked, cutting through one of the sky scrapers like butter. Rubble rained down around them, and both Switch and Floppy leapt aside to avoid it. Some of the grass types were less fortunate, their wails of terror almost deafening.

                                                Switch skidded to a halt and turned back to the chaos. The dust was thick and heavy, but he could still make out Spider, bucking and swinging as he tried to dislodge Anchor’s fangs from his throat.

                                                “We need to end this,” said Floppy. “Otherwise they’re going to destroy the entire city.”

                                                The vaporeon lowered his body and breathed out another ice beam. This one struck one of the frightened grotle standing back from the tropius. Ice exploded over his body, freezing his scream before it could leave his lips.

                                                Floppy fired Switch a sideways glare. “Pull yourself together and lets turn this battle around.”

                                                Switch nodded and fluttered into the air. His body heated up as flames danced over his feathers. Drawing closer to the tropius and his allies, he kept one eye on Floppy. The lone vaporeon raced into the thick of the grass army, throwing his ice attacks at them in quick succession. Vines struck his fragile body, sending him crumpling to the floor.

                                                Then Switch dropped, letting the heat race from his feathers in a violent heat wave. The last thing he heard were the grass army’s frantic screams, then his own as Spider’s hulking, blazing carcass landed right on top of him.
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                                                Old February 9th, 2018 (3:27 AM).
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                                                Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
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                                                  Chapter Thirty Six

                                                  Macro could still hear the commotion coming from the square, and it was far behind him. Screams, crashes, explosions… He ventured a glance over his shoulder, spotting the thick dust cloud over the tops of the tower blocks. What on earth was going on back there? Were Anchor and Switch okay? He swallowed dryly and joined Jumper’s side.

                                                  “I think he went in here,” said the frogadier.

                                                  “You serious?” Macro scratched his nose. “It’s an apartment block.”

                                                  “I know,” said Jumper. “That’s what worries me. Why’s he gone into an apartment block?”

                                                  “You sure you ain’t mistaken?”

                                                  Jumper looked hesitant as he eyed the huge white building. “I don’t know. But I’m sure I saw him enter through the door.”

                                                  “It’s card key activated, right?”

                                                  “Yes.”

                                                  Macro placed a paw on his hip and stared at the card key panel. Had the ivysaur hacked it? That was always a possibility. He pulled out his pocket computer and held it up to the panel.

                                                  “What are you doing?” Jumper asked.

                                                  “There’s two answers to that question,” said Macro. “Firstly, I’m checking to see if there’s any damage or evidence left behind from someone busting through its coding. Secondly, I’m hackin’ my way in.”

                                                  “You’re not just going to run in guns blazing?” Jumper snorted. “I thought that was more your style.”

                                                  “As much as I get a thrill from combat, I don’t quite like buildings burning down around me.”

                                                  “I find that quite hard to believe, given your reputation.”

                                                  “Really?” Macro fired him a sideways glare. “You ever been in a burning building?”

                                                  Jumper was silent for a moment, then he sighed. “Well, I guess I’m more equipped to putting out a fire than you are.”

                                                  “Aye. Water lasers are pretty shoddy when it comes to dousing flames.” Macro scrolled through the jumbled text on his computer screen. “They can make a charizard run for the hills, however. Aha!” His face lit up with a grin. “Looks like you were right, Gov. Some sneaky fool’s cracked their way in, and done a bad job of it n’all. It’s about as obvious as a burglar leaving a smashed window and upturned bedroom.”

                                                  “Are you saying you could have done a better job?”

                                                  “Eh, I ain’t no hacker. I’d have made a mess n’all.” Macro paused and gave the frogadier a sly smile. “Besides, I like other pokemon to know I’ve visited. Means they’ll know I’m on to them.”

                                                  The card panel beeped and the doors rattled open along their runners.

                                                  “Wretched grass type has wrecked the doors,” muttered Jumper.

                                                  “No, that was me.” Macro pocketed his computer and laughed. “Told you I do a shoddy job.”

                                                  “Seriously,” Jumper groaned. “If you weren’t offering to catch this criminal, I’d make you pay for the damage.”

                                                  Macro chuckled and trotted into the building. The walls were as white inside as they were outside, and chrome hand rails ran up the sides of the stair wells. Typical of most buildings the stairs were a little too high for Macro to scramble up. He eyed them warily then turned on the spot until he found a sign for the elevator.

                                                  “No idea what floor he might have fled to?” Macro asked Jumper.

                                                  The governor scratched his head and sighed. “Not a clue. I’d take the stairs and ask for witnesses.”

                                                  “I can’t climb those stairs.” Macro tried to hide any sign of regret. “We’ll need to take the elevator.”

                                                  “But he could get past us if he knew we were following him.”

                                                  Macro shrugged. “If he knew we were taking the stairs he could just as easily take the elevator.”

                                                  “Split up?”

                                                  Macro met the frogadier’s eyes. Sincere. Did he actually trust him? The thought made Macro feel a little funny inside, and it wasn’t exactly a bad kind of funny.

                                                  He cleared his throat and diverted his gaze to the stair well. “I guess I could take the elevator if you can handle the stairs. You ain’t much taller than me, so…”

                                                  “I can jump. Also.” Jumper reached under a panel beside the stair well and flicked a switch. The far left of each step popped open and let out a smaller step, increasing their number but making the climb much more manageable. “We don’t discriminate in Cyan City.”

                                                  Macro’s face split into a smile and he folded his arms, fixing the frogadier with one eye. “System Ground could learn a thing or two from you.”

                                                  “So.” Jumper inclined his head on one side, but he met Macro’s smile with one of his own. “Which are you taking? Stairs or elevator?”

                                                  “Hmm. The elevator does bring its own element of surprise,” said Macro. “And I gotta say, I don’t think witnesses are gonna be all that willing to talk to me, and I’m not too happy talkin’ to them either. Price on my head and all that jazz.”

                                                  “So I’ll take the stairs then?” Jumper nodded. “In that case, take care, Hunter.”

                                                  “You too, Gov.” Macro pulled his laser from its holster and flicked it around in his claws. He turned his head towards the elevator and nodded. “I’m gonna go straight to the top and work my way down. My guess is he might be waitin’ for a ship.”

                                                  “Well, if you chase him down we can corner him. Here.” Jumper reached into his belt pocket and whipped out a card. “This is my contact information. You spot him, you call me.”

                                                  Macro frowned slightly then reached into his own pouch. He tugged out a small notepad and pen, then scrawled out his own number before exchanging it with Jumper’s.

                                                  “Likewise,” he said. “See ya in the melee, Gov.”

                                                  The mawile turned and sprinted to the elevator, that funny feeling still heavy in his gut. As much as it made him feel warm inside, part of him wanted to get rid of it. In his line of work, trust often led to pain.

                                                  The elevator doors slid open silently and he slipped inside. As he watched them close after him, he caught Jumper’s lithe blue form bounding up the stairs two at a time. He silently wished him luck and braced himself for the inevitable battle, watching each number light up as the elevator carried him towards the roof top.

                                                  Ten, eleven, twelve…

                                                  The chime as it reached his destination made him jump out of his skin. He berated himself for being a nervous wreck and held his gun to his chest as the doors opened. Cold air beat his face, carried down the drafty corridor. A set of grey stairs ran up towards a door that betrayed the modern look of the apartment block. The alarm bar across it was locked in place, keeping the door firmly shut despite the breeze.

                                                  Macro’s first thought was to seek out the panel that would adjust the stairs, but the small flight was already equipped for smaller pokemon. An emergency feature to save time should the building need to be evacuated. He hopped up them and paused at the door, listening for any sign of life. With one kick, it flew open, an the alarm resounded throughout the entire apartment. He cursed under his breath and turned away from the roof top. No one had been through that door. If they had, the entire building would be in an uproar.

                                                  Unless…

                                                  He peered out onto the roof. Empty. Carefully he closed the door and let the alarm bar fall back into place, but the siren kept on blaring out regardless. If Root had no idea he was being hunted, he did now.

                                                  Grumbling under his breath, Macro bounded back down the stairs and made for the stairwell beside the elevator. This time there was a panel, and he pushed the lever to adjust the stairs to his liking. As convenient as it was, it wasn’t exactly a time saving method, nor a silent one. Maybe for the next flight he’d slide down the hand rail.

                                                  Before he reached the next level, voices reached his ears. He paused and peered through the railings, watching a sea of colourful bodies flooding down the stairs. The entire building’s water pokemon population were fleeing for their lives, but one voice rang out clearer than the others.

                                                  ‘…orderly fashion. I repeat, make your way to the ground floor exit in an orderly fashion.’

                                                  Macro smirked and looked up at the speaker poking out of the corner of the ceiling. Jumper was a quick thinker to use Macro’s blunder with the alarm to his advantage. There was also no way Root would risk trying to blend in with the water types. That ivysaur would be lurking somewhere, most likely taking advantage of the evacuated rooms.

                                                  Macro waited for the final stragglers to leave the floor then hopped over the last few steps. His heart sank as he looked down the corridor at the row of apartments, noting the neat bends as the corridor forked off to the left and right.

                                                  Huge.

                                                  Where did he even begin?

                                                  He considered bringing up a map of the apartment block for easier navigation, but doing so would cost valuable time. Instead, he raced down the corridor, pausing to check each room. As he reached the third one, he wished desperately he had a heat tracker. It would make searching for a hidden pokemon a lot easier.

                                                  He faltered at the end of the corridor, turning his head left and right. Both corridors looked identical, save for a wreath of artificial berries nailed to one of the doors. Both ended at a dead end, complete with a large window looking out over the rooftops of Cyan City. Keeping his ears pricked, he checked the rooms on the left, then the right. Nothing in any of them.

                                                  As he retraced his footsteps, he muttered to himself, feeling his heart sink further and further. Somehow, the whole thing felt like a wild zangoose chase.

                                                  The double doors swung wildly as he raced through them. He grabbed onto the hand rail and spun himself down the stairs. Each flight had been adjusted after the evacuation, making things a lot easier. He leapt over the last few steps onto the eleventh floor, then the building shook. He lost his footing and landed in a sprawl, his snout smooshing onto the tiled floor. The tremor subsided as suddenly as it had happened, and Macro lifted his head, rubbing his snore nose with a paw. His gun had skittered towards the wall and he scrambled to retrieve then climbed to his feet.

                                                  “What on earth was that?” he asked as he looked around.

                                                  Light flickered up the stairs and he leant through the railings to look at the corridor below. One of the lights was blinking on and off erratically, damaged by the sudden shock. His mind leapt to explosion. Two of the storehouses had already been attacked. But why an apartment block? Was there a storehouse nearby, and the towering building had been caught in the aftermath?

                                                  He turned away from the stairs to search the rooms, but as he reached the double doors his nose twitched. The faintest smell of smoke…

                                                  He looked back at the stairwell. That flickering light seemed even more sinister now. If he could smell smoke, the building might be on fire. Had the explosion come from the apartment block? Had it even been a bomb, or a weapon’s misfire?

                                                  He clutched his laser tightly and gave one last glance down the corridor. If the building was on fire, he couldn’t exactly stay inside it. He tutted loudly and spun towards the stairs, taking two at a time. The smell of smoke grew heavier, confirming his suspicions that it wasn’t coming from outside. Each corridor he passed seemed to beckon, mocking him for not seeing his job through to the end. They could mock him all they wanted. He wasn’t going to stay in a burning building, and neither was that ivysaur. It would be suicide for the both of them.

                                                  His feet skidded over the tiles of the fifth floor and his eyes widened with fear. Heavy smoke billowed up from the fourth, curling up towards the floor above him. How had he not noticed that? His heart hammered in his throat and he glanced down the corridor. Dead ends at either end. One flight of stairs for the entire apartment block. How was that even possible?

                                                  Of course… water types. They could fight fires as they escaped. But if one end collapsed…?

                                                  He shook his head and threw himself into the smoke. Something crashed into him, sending him sprawling onto his back. The jagged edge of a step struck him in the back of the head and he yelped, almost dropping his gun. A gasp came from above him, and a heavy paw pressed into his chest. Macro blinked his eyes, bringing them back into focus. The grinning face of an ivysaur stared down at him and a dry chuckle came from his throat.

                                                  “Boy oh boy!” the ivysaur laughed. “This is my lucky day!”

                                                  Macro snorted and tried to push the reptile’s huge foot away. “I’d hardly call being stuck in a burning building your ‘lucky day’.”

                                                  “Oh, I do. Because everything is going according to plan. Create a distraction, and flee to the roof top where Spider will come and get me. But look at this! I run into forty thousand credits on the way!”

                                                  The ivysaur roared with laughter, his peppery breath spraying Macro in the face. Spider. That was the tropius the ivysaur had called on for back up. Not the carnivine as Macro had first thought.

                                                  “Let me guess,” said Macro. “Root, right?” He chuckled and lifted his paw to aim the laser at the ivysaur’s ribs. “Today ain’t as lucky as you thought it might be. Not for you, anyway.”

                                                  Root’s eyes flashed towards Macro’s laser. The ivysaur’s left paw smacked Macro’s arm aside and pinned it, sending his laser tumbling down the stairs. Root’s leering face locked back onto Macro’s and split into a smirk.

                                                  “I don’t think so, little mawile,” he said.

                                                  The building shook, sending the ivysaur sprawling on top of Macro. Pain radiated through his ribs and his head smashed into the step yet again. He groaned and shoved Root up off him, but his heavy paw didn’t leave his chest.

                                                  “Look,” Macro groaned. “This whole building is gonna go up in flames, and if it does neither of us are gonna get paid.”

                                                  “Paid?” Root laughed. “So Cyan City got so desperate they hired a space pirate? Such filth…”

                                                  “Filth?” Macro’s muzzle creased and he fixed his dazed eyes on Root in what he hoped was an intimidating glare. “You turn innocent bug pokemon into mindless eating machines and you think you have the right to call the pokemon in this city ‘filth’?!”

                                                  Root laughed and shook his head. “Anyone who hires someone like you to do their dirty work is filth. Turning some wretched bugs into tools is nothing compared to what you do, shrimp.”

                                                  Tools? Macro grit his teeth together so tight it hurt. That was it. That ivysaur had drawn his last straw. Macro braced himself, pulling his feet up to his chest. Every step beneath him jabbed his spine, but he screwed his eyes shut trying to ignore the pain. Then he brought his feet into Root’s gut.

                                                  The ivysaur grunted and staggered back. Then his mouth formed a neat ‘o’ as he fell backwards away from Macro. Root hit each step with a grunt, and Macro pushed himself up, rubbing the back of his head as he watched the ivysaur land in a sprawl on the floor beneath him. Macro’s laser lay only three steps away. He snatched it up, wincing as a searing pain stabbed through his back. He made a mental note not to lie on stairs ever again.

                                                  Root staggered to his feet and fixed Macro with a glare. But the glare melted away into a snicker and the grass pokemon bolted away from him towards the floor below.

                                                  Macro stuttered, teetering on the steps as he watched the ivysaur vanish into the black smoke.

                                                  “Wait!” he roared. “What are you doing, you moron?!”

                                                  Smoke filled his mouth and nose and he choked, beating it away from his face with a paw. The urge to give chase and the desire to race to the roof and wait for Wildcard Gamma to pick him up warred inside him. He was meant to stop Root, and leaving him would mean he’d left a job unfinished. Surely the ivysaur wouldn’t race blindly into flames? He must have another plan. Maybe he was trying to lure Macro into the flames to weaken him, but in doing so that would only weaken himself. Right?

                                                  Macro tutted and backed away as smoke billowed up towards him, smoky tendrils reaching out like deadly claws desperate to grab his throat. Orange flames licked at the walls, creeping their way up towards the fifth floor. Shadows danced and strobed over the white walls. He could feel the heat licking at him, warming through his thick coat and causing his paws to break into an uncomfortable sweat.

                                                  He became very aware of his breathing. Quick and frantic. He took a step back, not taking his eyes off those flames. Deep in his mind he could hear the cries of a frightened child. His whole mouth turned dry and he took another step back, bracing himself to run.

                                                  Then he heard Root laugh. Faint. Swallowed up under the roar of flames.

                                                  Macro shook his head violently, shaking himself back to reality.

                                                  No.

                                                  No, he had a job to do. He couldn’t just let Root get away. Besides, Jumper wanted him alive. Root was taking a huge risk and there was no way Macro was going to throw his job, to cause Cyan City to lose out on getting answers to this attack and putting an end to this ridiculous type war.

                                                  He clutched his laser tight in his damp paw and carefully descended the stairs. The tiles were hot on his feet, he couldn’t stand on them for long. He kept close to the rail to avoid the crawling flames, raising a paw to shield his face. A groan escaped his lips as his horn began to heat up and he warred with the urge to run back up the stairs and make a beeline for the roof top.

                                                  He reached the double doors and his paw faltered at the handle. Fire doors. He could see the blaze beyond them, burning like an inferno. He turned his head slowly at the flames creeping up the stairwell. Fire door. Inferno.

                                                  Back draft.

                                                  His mouth curled into a smile and he chuckled.

                                                  “Well played, Root,” he muttered. “But not today.”

                                                  He turned away from the doors and carefully crept towards the stairs. Smoke rose up them, but less than the previous floor. So the fire had been started on the fourth floor? Then that meant, hopefully, the blaze would be less and he’d actually manage to make it out.

                                                  But of course, fire spreads.

                                                  He stopped at the doors to the third floor apartments. One of them was wide open, flames licking down from above it like living, burning stalactites.

                                                  Deadly. Dangerous.

                                                  His mind once again filled with blazing flames and sobs. He shook his head sharply and fixed his eyes on a point beyond those flames.

                                                  “Come on, Macro,” he said. “You got this.”

                                                  He ducked through the door, feeling the heat lick at his horn, spreading through it towards his head. He screwed his eyes shut and staggered into the corridor. Once he opened them again, he was safely on the other side.

                                                  Well, safely was stretching it a bit.

                                                  The fire behind him was spreading across the ceiling, and two of the doors behind him were already ablaze. The other rooms would very soon meet the same fate. And ahead of him, where the corridor broke off into two, was filled with black smoke.

                                                  First thing was first, he had to find the one Root was hiding in.

                                                  He crept along the corridor, laser in paw, and pushed each door open as he passed. Some of them were locked and wouldn’t so much as budge. The closer he drew to the smoke, the hotter it became. He feared very soon he’d have to turn and go back. He ventured a glance over his shoulder and swallowed dryly. The flames had already claimed another door, and the fire doors had learned the meaning of irony. His only other option was to bust a door down and take a leap of faith from someone’s window. He wondered if Root had already done that, leaving him to burn with the building. Then he’d come back, collect his remains and half of his bounty. It was probably a more attractive idea than putting up a struggle in a blazing building with a stubborn pirate who knew how to fight his own battles.

                                                  The next door he checked moved inward. Second from the end. The heat was intense and it was giving him a killer headache.

                                                  His violet eyes searched the room, squinting through the smoke that filled it no sooner had the door opened. By the window he could just make out the leafy back of an ivysaur.

                                                  “Found ya.” Macro’s voice came out as more of a groan than he’d intended, but his loaded laser made his point.

                                                  Root looked back at him, his face twisted with fear and rage. But he said nothing, just turned back to the window. Macro followed his gaze. The window overlooked the square, and the end of the square was ablaze, just like the apartment block. Water pokemon stood around it, firing their attacks to beat back the flames.

                                                  A dry chuckle escaped Macro’s throat and he readied his laser at Root.

                                                  “Spider burned down with the rest of your army, huh?” he mocked. “Your plan backfired? Guess that means there’s no one to come and get you.”

                                                  Root rounded on him and flashed his sharp canines. “I don’t need anyone to come and get me.”

                                                  “No. But you and I both know if you jump from that window the only way you’re leaving Cyan City is if someone scrapes up your remains and sends you back to Luma in a coffin.”

                                                  Root glanced left and right, then took a step back.

                                                  “Come with me,” said Macro. “I’ll get us both out of here. No one has to die.”

                                                  “No.” Root extracted his vines from the bulb on his back. “I guess they don’t.”

                                                  Macro’s first thought that Root might be offering to lower them both into the streets was quickly filed under ‘foolish expectations’. The ivysaur reached into his belt and whipped out a tiny laser, much more advanced than the one Macro held. He aimed it at the door, firing a beam that chilled Macro’s fur and peppered it with ice. It struck the door, blasting it shut and freezing the card key panel.

                                                  Macro glanced at his shoulder, the ice now melted away into tiny droplets over his fur. The card panel thawed just as quickly. Macro grit his teeth together. Such a sudden change in temperatures would have destroyed that in an instant. They were both trapped. The only way to escape the inevitable inferno was to leap from the window.

                                                  He met Root’s grinning face. The ivysaur threw his head back and laughed. Laughed so hard he had to lean against the wall to stop from falling over.

                                                  “I guess they don’t,” he repeated. “But we’re gonna. I’m taking you with me, Hunter. If I can’t have forty thousand credits, no one’s gonna have it. They’ll be sending us both away in urns, not coffins! That is… if they can separate us from the rubble.”

                                                  More laughter. Hysterical. Mad.

                                                  Macro seethed and aimed his laser at the ivysaur. He didn’t want to fire. Root was no use to them dead. But all Jumper had given him was a flying laser, and the heat of the blaze had already done enough damage to the both of them.

                                                  “Look!” Macro snapped. “If we co-operate, we can get out of here alive. Surely you don’t want to die, right?”

                                                  “Oh, I was always prepared to,” said Root, somewhat calmly. “Any good space pirate knows the captain always goes down with his ship, right?” His face split into a sinister grin. “It’s the same principle.”

                                                  “It’s nonsense. There’s nothing for you to die for here, is there?”

                                                  “My legacy.” Root spread his arms wide. “Cyan City is gonna suffer for years! Those bugs will become cocoons. They’ll breed. They’ll create more mindless eating machines! If things go well, Cyan City will be no more. They’ll have lost, and I’ll have won. Magenta City is already dealing with their own infestation.”

                                                  “Magenta?” Macro’s chest lurched and he almost dropped his laser.

                                                  “Yes,” Root said calmly. “I guess you could think of them as a test run.”

                                                  He really was mad. This whole war between the three types was pointless.

                                                  “Why are you doing this?” Macro asked. “You’re making innocent bug pokemon suffer for the sake of your own dumb war.”

                                                  “Bugs are pests! They’re no better than the water dwellers!” Root roared. “Besides. Do you think it’s easy to watch Cyan City flourish? Watch them grow food for free, while Luma and Magenta suffer? Magenta were better off than we were, however. But grass types should be able to grow food in our own wretched city! However, it weren’t easy. We had to order everything. We put our heart and soul into trying to prepare orchards, but nothing would take. Every ounce of dirt we ordered from System Ground were toxic, and Cyan City wouldn’t help us out. They told us we could buy from them. They’d offer us a good price.” Root spat onto the floor and it sizzled away. “You can blame them for the war.”

                                                  “Who fired the first shot?”

                                                  “Huh?”

                                                  “I’ll blame whoever fired the first shot,” said Macro.

                                                  “You think allowing us to starve isn’t firing the first shot?”

                                                  Macro shrugged. “They offered you a good price, right? Cheaper than System Ground?”

                                                  “We didn’t need a price, we needed charity!”

                                                  “Charity?” Macro shook his head. “I understand charity, but can you really say you needed it? Or just wanted it?”

                                                  Root curled his lip in a sneer. “You know nothing, filth!”

                                                  Macro’s paw shook, making it hard to aim his laser. He grabbed it in both paws and aimed the nozzle towards Root’s head.

                                                  “So all this warranted a war?” Macro spat. “A war where others are killed, pokemon have their identities taken from them… and you kidnap two little children?!”

                                                  Root threw his head back and laughed. “Oh, the children!”

                                                  “Where are they, Root?! They didn’t need to be a part of this!”

                                                  Root fixed his eyes on Macro’s and the corner of his mouth tugged up into a smirk. “Dead.”

                                                  Macro’s paws slackened, lowering his laser so it was aiming at the ivysaur’s feet, and his jaw dropped. “You killed them?”

                                                  Root shrugged. “They served their purpose. I had no more need for them.”

                                                  “You killed them?! Two little kids?!” Macro regained his steady paw and aimed it back at Root’s head. “I have every right mind to end your life right now.”

                                                  The ivysaur smirked. “Go on. Shoot. Add to the inferno!”

                                                  “No,” said Macro. “Because unlike you, I’m not a monster.”

                                                  Another tremor shook the floor, less violent than the first one. Macro looked over his shoulder at the closed door, the solid wall. Embers glowed around the wooden frame, smoldering and crackling, sizzling away what was left of the moisture from the ice.

                                                  “That was the fourth floor coming down.” Root’s voice drew his attention, and a smirk crossed the ivysaur’s face. “Won’t be long now until this one follows. Or the ceiling above us rains down, trapping us. Well… trapping you. This… monster… will already be long dead.”

                                                  Macro shook his head. “I’m not going to kill you, Root. We’re both gonna climb out that window, and the Governor can deal with you. And you can explain to that poor, worried mother exactly what happened to her innocent children.”

                                                  “No chance. I ain’t talking to no water types.”

                                                  Root grinned, then there was a nauseating sound. A pop. Blood trickled from between his teeth and he crumpled to the floor. Macro watched as the ivysaur’s eyes rolled back into his skull.

                                                  “Drat.” Macro looked back at the door. Flames had begun to lick away the woodwork as they fought their way into the small apartment. “Drat!”

                                                  He rushed to the window and threw it open. The glass felt hot and it cracked under his paws. He leant over the ledge, trying to judge the distance to the ground below. The third floor… he wouldn’t survive a drop like that. He fumbled in his pouch and pulled out his computer and Jumper’s contact card. His paws were shaking so much he punched the wrong number in twice. He swore loudly and tried to focus, keeping one eye on those creeping flames. Finally, he got it right. The ringer sounded in his ear, going on for far too long for his liking.

                                                  “Hunter?” Jumper’s voice sent a wave of relief through his body.

                                                  “What took you so long?” Macro shrieked. “I’m trapped on the third floor. I’ve got a window open but all I can see is a crowd below me. There aren’t even any fire fighters.”

                                                  “They’re tackling the inferno on the south side of the building,” said Jumper. “Which side are you on?”

                                                  “No clue.” Macro looked back outside, searching the opposite building for anything that might serve as a landmark. “There’s a sticker on the window opposite me for a band called Giga Impact.”

                                                  “That doesn’t help me, Hunter,” said Jumper. “Is there a street name or anything?”

                                                  Macro tried his best not to scold the frogadier. He craned over the window ledge again and squinted into the streets. Smoke was billowing from a window below him, making it hard to see the road below.

                                                  “I can’t really see it,” he said. “There is a street sign. I think it says… Aqua Street.”

                                                  “Aquaring Court,” said Jumper. “I’ll send someone around to you as fast as -”

                                                  The ceiling above Macro caved in and he let out a squeak, leaping aside and dropping his computer. Plaster and wood came raining down on him, dragging with it a small, blazing arm chair. It crashed to the floor, tearing a huge wooden beam free. It landed right across Macro’s thigh, pinning him to the ground. The arm chair’s leg struck his computer, crushing the screen and cutting off all contact from Jumper.

                                                  Macro stared at it, his eyes widening as he watched the chair burn. Flames spread from its peeling fabric to the wooden floor, creating a trail that cut off his only escape route. He reached forwards and tried to lever the wooden beam free, but it wouldn’t budge.

                                                  He turned back to the window and shouted at the top of his lungs one word he hadn’t cried in years.

                                                  “Help!”

                                                  Flames licked down from the gaping hole in the ceiling and he craned his head back to look up into it. The foot of a bed teetered right above his head. His entire throat tightened and he placed a paw to his chest. He scanned the room for something, anything, that might get the wooden beam off him. His eyes fell on his laser lying a mere arm’s stretch away. He leant across for it, his claws brushing its butt and pushing it further away. With a shout, he threw himself forwards. Every muscle in his side screamed, and he clenched his jaw to stop himself from screaming with them. He grabbed the tail end of his gun and snatched it back, aiming it at the wooden beam. One shot could either go incredibly well, or incredibly badly.

                                                  He closed his eyes and fired. The wood splintered, and sharp air tore through his flesh. He screamed and dragged himself free, throwing the splintered wood aside. He placed a paw on the wall and pushed himself to his feet, limping away from the threat of the falling bed.

                                                  Over the crackling and popping he heard a roar. Not a vocal roar, but a roar of power. His eyes flew open and his heart did a somersault. Water gushed through the window, pushing back the flames and soaking the small armchair through to its framework.

                                                  “Hunter!” The voice came from outside. “Hunter, can you hear me?!”

                                                  He staggered over to the window and looked down. Jumper stood beside the blastoise he’d previously argued with. The huge officer and a fleet of wartortle aimed their attacks at the building, concentrating on Macro’s fiery prison. A smile split his face and he leant against the window frame.

                                                  “I’m afraid I’m a bit stuck, Gov!” he called down.

                                                  “Don’t you worry, Hunter,” said Jumper. “We’re gonna get you down. Hover! Over here!”

                                                  White wings beat down from above him, wafting away the smoke. A graceful swanna swooped towards the window, but her back was already occupied by a dewott.

                                                  Lossy.

                                                  Macro felt his heart break. He couldn’t even look at her. No one needed to have to tell a mother her children had been mindlessly killed.

                                                  He climbed onto the swanna’s back behind her, choking as fresh air filled his lungs, and watched the ground rise up slowly below them.

                                                  “Macro?” The dewott’s voice was weak, shaken. “Did you find my children?”

                                                  He couldn’t answer. He bit his tongue, keeping his attention on the street below.

                                                  “Macro?”

                                                  His eyes welled up and he took in a trembling breath. With a shake of his head he said, quietly, “No. I didn’t find them.”
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                                                  Old February 17th, 2018 (8:29 AM).
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                                                  Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
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                                                    Chapter Thirty Seven

                                                    Socket tapped her foot irritably. Yobi’s look of concentration as he worked on some hidden computer on the other side of the holoscreen made her blood boil.

                                                    “Well?!” she snapped.

                                                    He jerked his head around to look at her and scratched behind his right ear. “It’s gonna take a little more time, Madam Mayor.”

                                                    “If we want to stop that pesky mawile from interfering,” she said slowly, “then we need to shut down Download Database!”

                                                    “I know, I’m working on it!” Yobi’s eyes widened at Socket’s purse-lipped leer and he quickly backtracked. “I mean… these things don’t happen overnight, Madam Mayor. I could work faster, but… you’re making me sleep, and-”

                                                    “Are you implying this is my fault?”

                                                    “No!” He waved his paws frantically. “No, not at all. It’s just… okay. I’ll have it out before tomorrow morning. I’ll pull one all-nighter, get this virus sent through Zero Day to Download Database and then I’ll sleep until lunch. If… if that’s okay with you?”

                                                    “That’s perfectly fine by me provided you actually get it finished!”

                                                    The sparksurfer raichu’s long ears flopped back and forth as he nodded. “I will get it finished. I promise you that.”

                                                    “Good. Be sure that you do.”

                                                    Socket flicked off the holoscreen before Yobi could even bid her farewell. She didn’t need farewells.

                                                    “That was rather rude,” said Tweak.

                                                    Socket turned her head to look at the chingling. He was bouncing and jingling around on his desk, stamping through Socket’s reams of paper work. A pile she thought was much too large and overdue for an efficient assistant.

                                                    “Excuse me?” she asked.

                                                    “I said it was rather rude,” said Tweak. “Didn’t even say goodbye or nothin’.”

                                                    “That slacker doesn’t need to be shown manners.” She stomped over to the window, keeping one eye on the busy chingling. “And watch your mouth, Tweak. Otherwise I’ll be looking for another assistant, as well as another scientist.”

                                                    Tweak dropped the stamp he was holding and looked up with a start. “You’re looking to replace Yobi?”

                                                    “Not yet. But if he fails to get this virus out before lunch time tomorrow, I shall be. His experiments have let me down too much already.”

                                                    “In all fairness,” said Tweak as he gathered up his stamp, “part of that failure was your own fleet.”

                                                    “Well, they’ve been decimated by that creature BackDoor dragged through, haven’t they? So I have to look for new ones anyway.”

                                                    “Oh yeh, what’s become of that creature? Ultra beast, he called it, right?”

                                                    “Last I heard, it’s now making its way towards Pulse City.”

                                                    “Pretty dangerous thing since it’s already destroyed Favicon City,” said Tweak. “Aren’t you going to stop it?”

                                                    Socket’s lip curled into a half smile and she chuckled. “Why would I stop it? It’s not exactly threatening one of my cities right now, is it?”



                                                    The swanna landed outside Cyan City’s hospital and lowered herself to the ground to allow Macro to disembark. Jumper hopped off first and offered a paw to the mawile. Macro took it hesitantly and carefully clambered down. He winced as he landed too heavily on his wounded leg and staggered into Jumper.

                                                    “Careful.” Jumper steadied him on his feet and placed an arm around his waist. He then turned to address the swanna. “Thank you, Hover.”

                                                    Hover nodded and took off back into the sky with one graceful flap of her wings. Macro watched her go and let out a sigh, which only made him choke into his paw.

                                                    “Oh to be able to fly,” he croaked.

                                                    “Come on.” Jumper encouraged him towards the hospital doors. “Let’s get that leg looked at. I’m also rather concerned you might have inhaled too much smoke.”

                                                    Macro hopped along beside the frogadier. “How do I tell her, Gov?”

                                                    “Hmm?” Jumper looked at him out of the corner of his eye.

                                                    “Lossy,” Macro went on. “How do you tell a mother her kids have been killed?”

                                                    “We don’t know that for certain,” said Jumper. “All we have is the word of a deranged criminal.”

                                                    “And he ain’t in any state to talk now, is he?” Macro sighed again. “What sort of nutter kills themselves when they’re cornered?”

                                                    “The kind that don’t want to talk.” Jumper pushed the doors open and led Macro into the lobby.

                                                    He caught the eye of an azumaril behind the desk, who let out a squeak of surprise when she saw Macro.

                                                    “I need to get this ‘mon emergency treatment,” said Jumper. “Smoke inhalation and a possible broken leg.”

                                                    “It ain’t broken, I can walk on it,” said Macro. “It just hurts. A lot.”

                                                    “That doesn’t mean it’s not broken.”

                                                    “No, it does not,” said the azumarill. She pressed a button on her head set and spoke quickly yet clearly into it. “I need a stretcher at A&E stat. I have a pokemon with a possible broken leg.”

                                                    Macro let out a long sigh followed by another irritated cough. He waved Jumper off and slumped into the nearest seat.

                                                    “Look, Gov,” he groaned. “Just let me get back to my ship.”

                                                    “I can’t do that,” said Jumper. “You’ve helped us out a lot, and I’m not going to send a wounded ‘mon away. You can consider this part of your payment.”

                                                    Macro raised an eyebrow. “Payment? You’re gonna pay for all this? I do have health insurance, you know. Pirate health insurance, but it still works.”

                                                    Jumper laughed and fell into the seat beside him. “Insurance or not, I’m not letting you pay a single credit. So stop complaining and let the doctors do their work.”

                                                    Macro grinned and shook his head. “I can’t decide if you’re being overly generous or just plain foolish.”

                                                    “Maybe a bit of both?” A loud ringing came from Jumper’s belt and he scooped out his pocket computer. A swift push of a button revealed a disheveled empoleon. “What is it, Sergent? You’re on video phone.”

                                                    “How many listeners?” HeatSink asked.

                                                    “Just myself, Hunter and the receptionist.”

                                                    “All right. Well, the battle has died down in the square now, Governor,” said HeatSink. “But… we’ve lost several lives. We’re just dragging out the survivors now. Two grass types have been apprehended. A bayleaf and snivy. Both of them are unconscious, but we can’t guarantee they aren’t gonna blow themselves up once they come around.”

                                                    “Rush them to the hospital and we’ll have their explosives removed,” said Jumper. “Is there anything else? You look anxious.”

                                                    “Yes. There is.” HeatSink scratched his head and glanced to the side. “That talonflame… I’m not sure if I want to say this out loud since anyone who overhears might get a bit of a shock.”

                                                    Macro leant over Jumper’s shoulder so he was in the camera. “What’s happened to him? He didn’t get killed, did he? And what about Anchor?”

                                                    “No, they’re both fine. They’re rather wounded, however,” the empoleon explained. “But… how much do you know about this Switch, Hunter?”

                                                    Macro frowned. “Quite a lot. He’s a client. I’m tryin’ to help him out.”

                                                    “So you know he’s not… exactly… a talonflame?”

                                                    “What are you talking about, Sergent?” Jumper snapped. “Make your point!”

                                                    The doors into the hallway swung open and two croconaw waddled into the lobby dragging a large stretcher. The front one raised an eyebrow when he saw Macro, then looked over at Jumper as if prompting an explanation.

                                                    “I’m sorry, Sergent,” said Jumper. “I have to go. The doctors are here with a stretcher.”

                                                    HeatSink let out a flustered sigh. “All right. I’ll call you back.”

                                                    “Give it fifteen minutes,” said Jumper.

                                                    “Well, we might see you there, actually,” said HeatSink. “We’re bringing all casualties over. Pokemon or otherwise. Got a few soldiers here who fainted from shock.”

                                                    Jumper pocketed his computer and fixed Macro with wide eyes. He shook his head slowly and sighed.

                                                    “How much have you not told me?” he asked.

                                                    Macro shrugged. “Some cases are confidential. Besides. You heard. Some soldiers ‘fainted from shock’. Wanna be counted in that number, Gov?”

                                                    He pushed himself from the chair and as soon as his feet struck the floor he crumpled under his own weight. The doctors rushed to his side to lift him up before he could even blink.

                                                    Jumper followed the doctors into the corridor as they wheeled Macro away on the stretcher. The mawile peered past the croconaw’s shoulder to catch the governor’s attention.

                                                    “I can tell you everything if you promise me you won’t faint,” said Macro.

                                                    Jumper shrugged and clasped his paws behind his back. “Going off what I know so far, I can assume this friend of yours is not a pokemon. Knowing that, I’m still standing, aren’t I?”

                                                    “Yeh… I’m wondering if that’s really a good thing.”

                                                    “Well, Hunter…”

                                                    “Macro.”

                                                    Jumper raised an eyebrow and stared down at him.

                                                    “Call me Macro. Hunter’s just an…” Macro waved a paw. “An alias.”

                                                    “Really? Well… Macro.” Jumper smiled. “If I was an easy fainter, I wouldn’t exactly be cut out for this job. And given the recent events - empty bugs, sudden space pirate invasions, and a raid from a psychotic grass army - I think I’m all ready for alien creatures disguising themselves as pokemon.” He pulled his computer back out of his pocket and waved it at Macro. “Given three of your crew, including yourself, are going to be held in this hospital for a little while, it makes sense to alert the rest of your crew. Don’t you think?”

                                                    Macro flinched as the stretcher was thrust through another set of double doors. “I would, but I kinda lost my computer in that blaze.”

                                                    “I can always contact them, or you could use my computer. It’s up to you.”

                                                    Macro tucked his paws behind his head and yawned, evoking another coughing fit. He wanted to wrench his scarf from around his neck and throw it.

                                                    “I’m afraid I can’t help you,” he said. “I don’t know my ship’s number. I always had it on speed dial.”

                                                    “What about your crew?”

                                                    “Same again. Speed dial.”

                                                    Jumper pursed his lips together and stared down at his computer. “Well, I suppose Anchor will be arriving here soon enough. Other than that, we could try to hack your ship’s computer? It seems only right to let everyone know their Captain and two of their friends are safe, but stranded for a while.”

                                                    Macro stared at him, then flinched again as he was thrust into a large and rather white ward.

                                                    “I suppose it might actually sway you into giving me that chip if you met DL,” he said. “So go ahead. Hack away.”

                                                    Jumper chuckled and tucked his phone back into his pouch. “You’re rather optimistic. I’ll leave you in their capable paws and be back shortly.”

                                                    The croconaw doctors watched him leave then turned back to Macro.

                                                    “Broken leg, huh?” The larger one leafed through a clip board. “Shame it ain’t a broken spine.”

                                                    Macro’s heart hit his stomach. Why he’d expected everyone to suddenly be as welcoming as Jumper was a mystery. He glanced to the door, gauging the distance and trying to work out if he could actually run for it. But before he could push himself up, the large croconaw snapped his claws.

                                                    “Grab the x-ray machine,” he told his colleague. “Let’s see what we’re working with.”

                                                    ...

                                                    Annie threw the back door open and let out a loud yawn.

                                                    “Wow! Got so much done today.” She flopped into a chair at the kitchen table and stared across at the glass bowl.

                                                    Zip didn’t look up at her. He floated with his tongue poking between his lips, scrutinizing the contents of a sheet of lined paper.

                                                    “What have you got there, little fish?” she asked.

                                                    Zip looked up with a start then beamed. “I’m working on our rebellion action plan!”

                                                    Web waddled into the kitchen clutching a towel in her paws. “Oh, he’s been working on that all afternoon! Waveform has been helping him with it.”

                                                    “Huh.” Annie scratched her head and looked up at the door. “Where is the big old bird?”

                                                    “Having a nap.” Zip looked back down at his ‘action plan’.

                                                    “Mind if I have a look at that?” Annie reached across and took the sheet. The writing it contained was completely illegible to her. “What language is this? Sanskrit?”

                                                    “It’s our language, dear,” said Web. “Can’t you read it?”

                                                    “No. I wasn’t taught… whatever this is.”

                                                    “But you speak it well.”

                                                    “Yeh, I really don’t understand how that happened.” Annie turned the page left and right. “How do I read this?”

                                                    “I can read it to you.” Zip splashed in his bowl. “Put it back down, okay?”

                                                    Annie placed the sheet back onto the table.

                                                    “Wrong way.” Zip laughed. “Turn it one-eighty.”

                                                    She twisted it round then sat back in her seat. She waved a hand at him then steepled her fingers together, much like an executive starting a meeting.

                                                    “Right, so, the first thing is we build the ship!” Zip raised a mechanical leg to tap the paper. The motion sent him toppling backwards and he let out a surprised ‘whoa!’

                                                    Web gasped and dropped her tea towel, rushing to help him. But Trojan rounded the door and caught the bowl before it could shatter on the kitchen floor. Zip was pushed back to his mechanical feet with much grumbling from Trojan.

                                                    “Good grief, kid!” the scrafty scoffed. “Watch what you’re doin’ on them legs! ‘Cos I ain’t buildin’ you another mech.”

                                                    “Sorry.” Zip sank in his bowl. “I’m useless, aren’t I? That’s why you all eat us water dwellers.”

                                                    “I don’t eat meat,” said Annie. “I prefer my fruit and veg. Better for the bowels.”

                                                    “I eat whatever I can get my paws on,” said Trojan. “But I ain’t gonna eat Zip. Ain’t got enough meat on his bones anyway, since he hardly ever eats anything.”

                                                    A small smile played at the goldeen’s lips. “You’re funny.”

                                                    “I’m bein’ serious.”

                                                    “He’s right, Zip,” said Web. “None of us are going to eat you, and if I had it my way, none of us would ever eat meat. But beggars can’t be choosers in this world, dear. Besides, you don’t eat much. It worries me. If you don’t eat your berries, those wounds are just going to get more and more angry.”

                                                    Annie’s eyes went to the stitches on Zip’s side. They did look rather red. She reached over her shoulder for Web and nodded to the goldeen.

                                                    “Shall I force feed him?” she asked.

                                                    Web laughed and shook her head. “I’ll liquefy them into his water if I have to.”

                                                    “I’ll eat!” said Zip. “But I’m just busy. This is important. So… we finish the ship. Then, once we’ve got it flying, the first thing we should do is get weapons. I suggest Pulse City for that, since weapons are banned everywhere else. Right?”

                                                    “Not everywhere,” said Trojan. “Waveform gets his arrows from somewhere.”

                                                    “He’s the one who suggested Pulse City,” said Zip. “Well, after that, we start recruiting more pokemon for the rebellion. Adverts, marches, city talks-”

                                                    Annie opened one eye and fixed it on him. “Recruiting?”

                                                    “Of course!” said Zip. “It only makes sense. How can you start a rebellion with such a small number?”

                                                    “The ship is small,” said Annie. “Too small for more than…” She counted on her fingers.

                                                    “Five, dear,” said Web. “May I chime in?”

                                                    “Of course!” said Zip with a smile.

                                                    “I think going around promoting a rebellion would be much too risky.” She pointed a claw at the goldeen. “And you, sir, are not just too young for all this. But you’re also wounded. You should be focusing on recovering.”

                                                    “No!” Zip splashed in his bowl. “I’m helping out with this rebellion! It’s important to me. If we can stop pokemon eating water dwellers-”

                                                    “I know, dear, but-”

                                                    “Let me finish!” He paused and wiped a fin over his eye. “My family were killed! I want to stop more families being torn apart like mine for the sake of meat! I’m being a part of this and you’re not going to stop me!”

                                                    The kitchen fell into silence, save for the bubbles wildly flowing from Zip’s gills. A smile spread across Annie’s face and she pointed at the goldeen.

                                                    “This fish got fire!” she said. “I like your plan, little fish. But can I suggest a few tweaks?”

                                                    “Of course!” said Zip.

                                                    “Okay. First, you take your berries. I don’t want a sick member on my team, okay?”

                                                    “Okay!”

                                                    “And you need rest. You look like you haven’t slept. Even rebels need to sleep.” Annie paused and scratched her head. “Also, put fund raising on there. Ship might need maintenance.”

                                                    “I’d suggest odd jobs,” said Trojan. “Not sure how many pokemon are gonna fund a rebellion.”

                                                    “Add that too,” said Annie.

                                                    Zip stared at the paper then looked up at Trojan. “Please could you write it for me?”

                                                    Trojan sighed and grabbed the pen and paper.

                                                    “Now sleep,” said Annie. “Chop chop. Move them legs.”

                                                    Zip chuckled and skittered from the room with a cry of, “Aye aye, Captain!”

                                                    “Well done,” said Web. “I’ve been trying to get him to rest all day. Those wounds are starting to look pretty angry. I had to change his water earlier and it’s not easy to find clean water around here.”

                                                    Annie turned in her chair to address the skuntank. “Which berries are best to fight infections?”

                                                    Web scratched behind her ear and dropped her voice to a whisper. “I’m gonna be honest with you, Annie. All we’ve got are sitrus and none are good for infections. He needs medicine.”

                                                    Annie responded with a rather dramatic whisper, “Where we gonna get that then? Doctors? Hospital?”

                                                    “We can’t really afford it.” Web shrugged. “All we can do is try our best and hope his body is strong enough to fight it off.”

                                                    Annie grunted and grabbed the sheet from Trojan. Not that she could understand the contents.

                                                    “Well, we’ve got a rebellion to focus on,” she said. “Hopefully the little fish will make our point. Meat is bad. The mayor is bad. The whole world is bad and needs a reboot.”

                                                    ...

                                                    White light blinded Macro when he opened his eyes. For a brief moment, the sun-shaped dazzle spot spread across his vision and he let out a small groan. With his right paw he rubbed at his eyes, pushing himself up with his left.

                                                    No pain.

                                                    He looked down at his injured leg, hidden beneath a bed sheet. How long had it been since the croconaw doctors had put him under? He’d remembered having to breathe in loads of oxygen to clear his lungs before they could even do it. The oxygen tank still stood next to his bed, patiently waiting for its next patient. His leg, however, no longer hurt.

                                                    “Rich city medicine, eh?” He chuckled and whipped the duvet away.

                                                    “Yeek!”

                                                    He jerked his head around and fixed wide, frantic eyes on the small shape picking herself up off his bed. DL sat up in a plastic chair and rubbed her paws over her eyes.

                                                    “What are you doing here?” he gasped.

                                                    “Sorry.” She yawned and stretched languidly. “We got a call and… I’m not sure how long I’ve been here, they don’t have clocks in this place.”

                                                    “Yeh.” Macro scratched his head, realising with anguish that his goggles were missing. “They mustn’t want patients complaining about the time dragging.”

                                                    He reached for his belt, realising that was also missing. His eyes flew around the room then landed on DL. The pachirisu held out his belt and goggles while wearing a small smile.

                                                    He took them gratefully and fastened his goggles back around his head.

                                                    “The frogadier also asked me to give you this.” DL held out a pocket computer in both paws.

                                                    Macro eyed it suspiciously. It was smaller than his previous one, and looked more modern as well. Not a space pirate issue at all. He took it and turned it around in his paws.

                                                    “Is there something wrong?” DL asked.

                                                    “Just worried he might have had a tracking chip installed, is all,” Macro answered.

                                                    “I can’t see why he’d do that. You helped out his city.” DL paused and scratched behind her ear. “Besides. Matrix already checked it over. There’s nothing suspicious about it at all. It’s just a new computer to replace your broken one.”

                                                    “Oh. Well in that case.” Macro fired it up, going straight to the settings. It connected to his visor with ease. Every ounce of information backed up onto his visor synced to the little computer. A small smile spread across his lips. “Back in action.”

                                                    He brought the time up on his optical display and chuckled. It worked like a charm. It was already almost supper time. That meant he’d been out for about three hours. He tucked it into his pouch and kicked his legs over the edge of the bed.

                                                    “Where are you going?” she asked.

                                                    “Leaving,” he said.

                                                    “You can’t just leave!” she gasped. “You need to be discharged!”

                                                    He shrugged. “Don’t care. I can’t hang around here. I’ve still got to retrieve your memory disk.”

                                                    “About that.”

                                                    He looked up at her, but she was staring at her paws.

                                                    “I don’t think I want it,” she said. “I appreciate all your help, but… I really don’t want to remember why I have this database in my head. If I find out I actually offered, or that I even worked for a pokemon wicked enough to even do something like this-”

                                                    “DL.”

                                                    She looked up and met his gaze, momentarily freezing his breath in his throat. He looked away and coughed into his paw.

                                                    “I’m getting it back regardless,” he said. “You have every right to have your memories. They’re who you are. Besides, you might be an innocent victim in all this. If you are, that could cost Socket her position as Mayor! Anyone who does something like that to another pokemon against their wishes-”

                                                    “But what if she had my permission? That makes me as guilty as her!”

                                                    “Who in their right mind would offer themselves up like that? Voluntarily become some mindless computer?”

                                                    “Exactly,” said DL. “Someone who was insane? A psychopath? A convict offered an alternative to death?”

                                                    Macro frowned and looked down at his paws. “You seem far too innocent for that.”

                                                    “Of course I do,” she said. “I only possess a sense of self and my likes and dislikes.”

                                                    “You also have a personality.” He kicked himself off the bed and landed on his feet, flinching as a shock of pain radiated up his left leg. “Drat. I guess rich city medicine isn’t perfect, huh?”

                                                    “I told you they need to discharge you first,” said DL. “You haven’t had a final examination yet.”

                                                    Macro waved her off and marched over to the door. He paused with one paw on the handle and looked back at her.

                                                    “Switch is still here, isn’t he?” he asked.

                                                    “Yes. I visited both him and Anchor before I went to find you. They’re on the same ward.”

                                                    “Which one?”

                                                    “Ward Eight.” She slipped from the chair and joined him at the door. “I’ll lead you, but you must promise to have a final examination before you leave.”

                                                    “I ain’t promisin’ anything.” He barged through the door. “If I can get that disk easily I’m gonna do it.”

                                                    “Even though I just told you I don’t want you to?”

                                                    “Yes.” He faced her and folded his arms, meeting her frown with his own. “Look, sweetheart. If, say, in two weeks time you decide you do want all your memories back, you’re gonna regret not taking an easy opportunity like this.”

                                                    She sighed and glanced away from him, raising a paw to brush at her ear. The action reminded him of Matrix and he raised an eyebrow.

                                                    “Fine,” she said. “Go get the wretched disk. But I don’t want it.”

                                                    “That’s my girl,” he said with sarcasm. “Now which way do we go?”

                                                    She tapped his elbow and turned right out of his room. He followed behind her, casting his eyes over the various posters and diagrams of bone fractures and physio exercises. Before long, she’d stopped at an elevator.

                                                    “It’s just up on the next floor,” she explained. “I doubt Switch will be ready to leave any time soon, but Anchor might be. His wounds were less serious.”

                                                    “What kind of wounds?” Macro asked.

                                                    “Third degree burns,” said DL. “Both of them. Although… Switch has taken some heavy damage from his fight. He could barely speak when I saw him.”

                                                    Macro’s spine stiffened and he blinked a few times as he processed the first part of her sentence. He’d barely even heard the final part.

                                                    “Are you kidding me?” he gasped. “Switch is a fire type!”

                                                    “Well… yeh…” DL rubbed at her arm as she watched the numbers change above the elevator. “But his human form isn’t.”

                                                    Macro’s jaw went slack. Of course. He hadn’t considered that. What had happened in that battle exactly? Why had the foolish human decided to reveal his true form?

                                                    The elevator’s oddly cheerful chime dragged him out of his thoughts and he followed DL inside the glass chamber. He found himself staring out of the window behind them at Cyan City’s streets as the elevator carried them up to the next floor.

                                                    The door hissed open and DL placed a paw on his shoulder. He looked back and met her eyes, filled with concern. She said nothing as she led him out into the corridor. He was immediately assaulted by the sharp smell of disinfectant. It made his nose almost retreat into his face.

                                                    “Wow.” He clasped a paw over his muzzle. “I don’t think they need to worry about germs surviving in the air here, never mind the floor!”

                                                    “What you’re smelling is the creams they use on the burn patients.” DL pushed open the nearest door. “We’re here.”

                                                    Macro strolled into the room, catching Matrix’s bright eyes. He waved a slender arm then returned to whatever game he was playing on his pocket computer. Macro looked over at the occupied beds. Anchor and Switch lay opposite each other, while the only other patient was a vaporeon Macro recognized as Floppy. The granbull looked up and waved, flinching slightly. A huge patch of his pink fur had been burned away to reveal angry, red flesh. The damage spread from his elbow to his collar bone.

                                                    “Good to see you standing,” he said. “Jumper told us you’d broken your leg.”

                                                    “It healed.” Macro stopped beside Switch’s bed. “What on earth happened to you?”

                                                    Switch lay in his human form under a light sheet. His skin looked dry, cracked and angry in blotchy patches and part of his floppy brown fur had been burned off the side of his head. The human was asleep, his mouth and nose covered by an oxygen mask. The canister pumped away beside him noisily.

                                                    “He won’t say anything,” said Matrix. “He’s been out cold for hours.”

                                                    “Aye, he’s lucky to be alive.” Anchor pushed himself up and flailed for his pillow.

                                                    DL rushed to help him, placing the fluffy pillow against the wall so the granbull could lean back against it.

                                                    “Thanks, DL.” He grinned widely then turned back to Macro, his grin melting into a frown. “That Spider. He had us all under the influence of sweet scent. I tell ya now, Cap’n, it’s a dangerous tool in the wrong paws. It doesn’t just make targets easier to hit by luring them in. Whatever he were doin’… it were sendin’ us mad, Cap’n. We were attacking each other, ourselves… I don’t know if that’s what it usually does or if it’s been genetically enhanced. But Switch figured it out and managed to snap me out of it. But it weren’t the only tool that tropius were using. He also had an amplifier for solar beam. Half the city is lyin’ in ruins.”

                                                    “That’s an overstatement,” said Matrix. “I calculate the damage to be about fifteen to twenty percent.”

                                                    The other three pokemon fixed the ribombee with identical frowns. He looked up and wound his antennae around in his paw.

                                                    “What?” he asked. “It is.”

                                                    Anchor sighed and turned back to Macro. “Anyway. The battle escalated into a blaze. We needed to shut down Spider’s sweet scent attack at its source, so while I did that Switch tried to get rid of the rest of the army. But once Spider went down, he fell. Landed right on top of Switch and took down more buildings with his amplifier. The impact struck Switch’s watch and morphed him into his human form, right before rubble bounced off his ribs. If he were still in his talonflame form, he’d be dead, Cap’n. That accidental blunder saved his life. Just cost him a few broken ribs, fractured arm and a punctured lung.”

                                                    “And a few burns,” added Matrix.

                                                    Macro looked back down at Switch. An innocent human, trapped in another time-line and almost died. Macro had heard of the butterfly effect. One small change to history could have a huge impact on the present. He had no idea what would happen if Switch wasn’t sent back to his own time. Would losing his life change history, and as a result alter the present? One of the biggest events in their history - one Macro had believed to be only fiction - had already been rectified before Switch came through the time pocket, and he’d played a huge part in it. Allegedly, so had Macro’s ancestors. But what other events had Switch been involved in? If he really was close friends with Macro’s ‘great times fifty grandparents’, how much of an impact would accidentally changing history have on his life? His heart lurched into his throat and he launched his gaze towards the window.

                                                    “You all right, Cap’n?”

                                                    Macro looked over at Anchor. The granbull scratched his mohawk as he cast his eyes over him curiously. Macro became aware he was breathing heavily.

                                                    “Yeh.” He sat down in a chair beside Switch’s bed. “Yeh, I’m fine. Just… having a little wake-up slap.”

                                                    “Really?” Matrix raised an eyebrow. “What about?”

                                                    “Just… we really need to get Switch back to his own time-line,” Macro explained. “Soon. With little to no margin for error.”

                                                    “Is that even gonna be possible?” Anchor asked. “I mean… we don’t even know how Socket is opening these gateways. Do we?”

                                                    “No. So we need to find out.” Macro folded his arms and leant back in his seat. “I suggest we do some more snooping around.”

                                                    “None of us know how to hack,” said Anchor.

                                                    “I have the most computer skills out of all of us,” said Matrix, “and even I don’t know.”

                                                    “And DL’s access to the BackDoor project has been blocked.” Macro looked over at her and sighed. “Guess we either hire a hacker or pay Socket a visit.”

                                                    “I ain’t ‘visiting’ the Mayor,” said Anchor. “I’m with hiring a hacker. Who did you hire the last time?”

                                                    Macro scratched beneath his goggles and stared blankly at the wall as he weighed his options. Memories of those weird ‘dates’ were still fresh in his mind. Somehow he really didn’t want to ask Surge to perform another hacking job…
                                                    __________________
                                                    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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