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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: 318
    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.
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      #27    
    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: 318
      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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        #28    
      Old January 5th, 2018 (8:43 AM).
      Delirious Absol's Avatar
      Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
      Call me Del
         
        Join Date: May 2015
        Location: UK
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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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        A glimmer of hope in a war-torn world - The End
        Cyberpunk fantasy meets Pokemon Mystery Dungeon - Glitched
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          #29    
        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: 318
          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
            #30    
          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: 318
            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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              #31    
            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
              Nature: Quirky
              Posts: 318
              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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                #32    
              Old January 19th, 2018 (5:03 AM).
              Delirious Absol's Avatar
              Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
              Call me Del
                 
                Join Date: May 2015
                Location: UK
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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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                  #33    
                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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                    #34    
                  Old February 2nd, 2018 (7:10 AM).
                  Delirious Absol's Avatar
                  Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
                  Call me Del
                     
                    Join Date: May 2015
                    Location: UK
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                    Posts: 318
                    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
                      #35    
                    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: 318
                      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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                        #36    
                      Old February 9th, 2018 (3:27 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 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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                          #37    
                        Old February 17th, 2018 (8:29 AM).
                        Delirious Absol's Avatar
                        Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
                        Call me Del
                           
                          Join Date: May 2015
                          Location: UK
                          Age: 33
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                          Posts: 318
                          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…
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                          Old February 21st, 2018 (5:54 AM). Edited February 21st, 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: 318
                            A/N - Now caught up with everywhere else! Thus ends Arc 3! Updates will go back to Fridays only! However, please bare in mind that there may be a temporary hiatus if I feel I need to progress further on Arc 4 before beginning to post it.

                            Chapter Thirty Eight

                            Socket barged through the doors to Proxy Prison, sandwiched between two pidgeot. She wrenched the filter mask from her face and stuffed it into her handbag. A small yelp of protest came from deep within it, and in one fluid motion Tweak leapt from her bag and landed with a jingle on the clean, tiled floor.

                            “I don’t know why you insisted on coming with me,” she grumbled.

                            He smoothed out the stringy fur atop his head and looked up at her with a beaming smile reminiscent of a creepy doll.

                            “I got curious,” he said. “Besides, all my crime dramas got canceled.”

                            She shook her head and followed after the leading pidgeot guard. “Flying here has put my fur on end. A shower won’t be enough to get this grime off me. Nothing will be enough.”

                            “You could shave?”

                            Socket resisted the urge to trample the chingling into mosaic art and instead focused on following her body guards through the winding corridors. It felt like it would never end. But at least, being a government facility, the prison had some level of cleanliness compared to the outside streets. The air was clean, the floors were mopped daily. But everything was grey.

                            The leading pidgeot paused beside a small, single door and stood aside for Socket.

                            “This is his office, ma’am,” he said.

                            “Really?” Socket took a deep breath and rapped on the door. “He’d better make this quick.”

                            “Come in!” The voice was irritatingly cheerful.

                            She shoved the door open, revealing a squat desk displaying a significant lack of organization. A stack of trays stood at one side, oddly empty save for one unopened envelope. Crumbs and sugar littered the paperwork while an empty donut container had found a second job as a pen holder (despite the plastic cup designed specifically for the job lying beneath a mound of newspapers.)

                            A grumpig sat with his feet on the desk, licking sugar off his paws. He looked up at her and smiled broadly. A smile intended to be warm but instead it lit a fire in her stomach that radiated out of her eyes, melting the smile back off his face.

                            “So sorry to drag you out here, Mayor Socket.” He lifted his feet off the desk and adjusted himself in a bid to appear more professional. “But it’s important you see all this first hand.”

                            She waved a paw at his office. “I hope whatever it is can be found in your dump.”

                            “Oh yes,” he said with a nervous laugh. “Some of what I want to show you is on the computer.”

                            “Really? And you couldn’t just email it to me?”

                            “Well… it’s kind of confidential, and given recent events…” The grumpig’s eyes wandered to the pidgeot then drifted down towards Tweak.

                            Socket followed his gaze to the grinning chingling and tutted. “You’re all excused. Allow me to talk to this officer in peace.”

                            The pidgeot guards retreated from the room, the last one holding the door open for Tweak. However, the tiny psychic type didn’t budge.

                            “Tweak?” Socket’s voice was laced with ice.

                            “Nah, I wanna stay,” said Tweak. “I’m taking notes.”

                            Socket didn’t even want to ask where he pulled his notebook and pen from.

                            She tutted and looked back up at the grumpig. “He’s fine. He won’t spill anything because he knows full well if he does he’ll be turned into an ornamental wind chime… A silent one.”

                            Tweak chuckled and waved his pen at her.

                            “You think I’m joking,” she said.

                            “I actually don’t,” said Tweak. “That’s why it’s funny.”

                            The grumpig shook his head and waved a paw. “If you trust him, Mayor, then I’ll take your word for it.”

                            Socket nodded to the waiting pidgeot and they let the door close silently. She turned back to the grumpig and her expression turned steely.

                            “So?” she asked. “What is it?”

                            He cleared his throat and ushered her towards his desk. When she didn’t move, he turned the computer monitor towards her, knocking several documents onto the floor.

                            “As you can see, we’ve been interviewing Troll.” He met her raised eyebrow and inclined his head on one side. “The croagunk? The one you had arrested for hacking?”

                            “I know you mean the croagunk,” she said. “I’m the one who asked you to question him. Get on with it.”

                            “Oh yes, well.” He turned back to the computer and scrolled through the masses of text. “He’s been pleading ‘not guilty’ since we got here. We’ve had an impromptu court case, but results have been less than reliable. So many have accused him of this crime but their reasons were… shaky at best.”

                            “Shaky how?” she asked slowly.

                            The grumpig stuttered and looked between her and the computer. Tweak bounced up and down, jingling euphorically.

                            “Oh! I know, I know!” he said. “They’re scared of you, Mayor!”

                            The grumpig paled and fixed one eye on the chingling. The hairs on the back of Socket’s neck stood on end, but she clasped her paws before her and forced a smile which only seemed to chill the officer even more.

                            “Well,” she said. “At least we know where their loyalties lie. Do continue.”

                            The officer shifted in his seat and continued scrolling through the text Socket was making every effort not to read.

                            “Given… that… reasoning,” he said, “we decided to run more thorough lie detector examinations. They met the same results as the ones given prior to the court case. Each plea he makes that he didn’t hack, and that he doesn’t even know how to, were shown to be true.”

                            “So he’s either a convincing liar or innocent,” said Socket.

                            “I’d go with convincing liar,” said Tweak. “We traced his number right back from the hacked systems.”

                            “Someone could have stolen his phone,” said the grumpig. “But it is very positive evidence. However, something else keeps coming up, which is partly why I’ve asked you to come here, Mayor.”

                            Socket raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”

                            “He keeps mentioning a pokemon’s name,” he said. “Keeps saying he ‘should never have trusted Surge’.”

                            Socket’s spine stiffened and she fixed the grumpig with a piercing glare. “Surge?”

                            “I know you’ve hired her,” he said. “That’s why I wanted to tell you. Given she’s a mercenary and had been working for Tracer, word must have got back to this croagunk. I don’t know what he means. Maybe he thinks she’s falsely turned him in for revenge or something. I get the impression he either hired her himself, or worked for her. Or both. I dunno but gut feeling says she’s got something to do with him being here.”

                            “Have you quizzed him on this?” she asked.

                            “Yeh, we’ve tried,” said the officer. “But it’s hard to ask questions to such a hazy clue, Mayor. He said he’s worried she traced hacking back to him. She’s apparently a Jack of All Trades, but he doesn’t know if she’s a hacker or not. Apparently the work she did for him was… well… assassination.”

                            “You’re saying she killed someone? I’ve hired some murderer?”

                            “Well…” The grumpig reached under his desk and pulled out a fresh box of donuts. “I’m not… entirely-”

                            “Are you seriously going to eat those in my presence?” Socket hissed.

                            He froze, paw half inside the box. “I’m sorry, Mayor. When I’m stressed, I eat.”

                            “Well wait! Now… do go on.”

                            He gently closed the lid and sighed. “It’s difficult to say, Mayor. The lie detector test for this particular interview tells us he’s telling the truth, but covering something up. He wouldn’t give the name of the pokemon he had assassinated. All he would tell us was it was a pirate. So, given your current law, not exactly murder given the pirate was turned in and the price was split forty-sixty, with Troll getting the short end of the deal. Apparently he’d had a bit of a dispute with the pirate, but again wouldn’t go into details. So it depends if you consider a personal dispute against a pirate murder, or a genuine turn-in of the bounty.”

                            She pursed her lips and tapped her claws along her arm. “That is something we can use against him to get to the bottom of this then… isn’t it?”

                            “Blackmail?” the officer asked.

                            Tweak looked up at her with a start, almost dropping his pen.

                            “How much do you trust this Surge, Mayor?” the grumpig asked.

                            “I trusted her when I hired her,” said Socket. “Although she did seem rather on edge. I could put that down to her merely being in my presence, but events have unfolded recently that have aroused my suspicion. There’s been a crisis in Binary City where a magnezone and his fleet were attacked by a heat laser, but I wasn’t sure if that was Hunter having obtained one, or if it were Surge since I gifted her one for the task of rounding up Wildcard Gamma. I was willing to push it aside until further evidence was obtained, but if Surge really isn’t to be trusted… if she actually did hack into government files… who was she working for then? Curiosity? Or has Hunter got her wrapped around his paw?”

                            “So you think it might have been her?” the grumpig asked. “She’s somehow traced the hacking back to Troll to cover her tracks?”

                            “There’s only one way to find out,” said Socket. “We have to trick the information out of him if he’s not willing to give every teeny tiny detail.”

                            “He might not know the fine details,” said the grumpig. “If he’s been framed, he’s not going to know how, or when, or why. Is he?”

                            “I say we find out if his plea that he can’t actually hack are really true, and leave that as our evidence,” said Socket. “Give him a task where the stakes are high. Something that drives the most motive to actually try to successfully hack into a government file. One that it doesn’t really matter if he sees.”

                            “Like last year’s air cleanliness records?” Tweak suggested.

                            “Exactly,” said Socket. “For Meta City.”

                            “And how do we drive him to do it?” the officer asked. “Reward him if he actually can? A cash reward?”

                            “No. That’s not driving enough,” said Socket. “He might merely shrug it off. A criminal can get his money another way, can’t he? No. I say we raise the stakes. If he can hack, he gets a reduced prison sentence. Ten years taken off, there and then. And if he fails, he dies.”

                            The grumpig dropped his donut box onto the floor, scattering sugar and sprinkles everywhere. Socket eyed the mess with malevolence and dug her claws into the soft flesh of her arm.

                            “But what if he actually can’t hack?” the officer gasped. “If he’s telling the truth, you’ll be sending an innocent pokemon to his death!”

                            “The stakes are a lie,” she said. “They’re to drive him. And I’ll be the one to give him the stakes because I sincerely doubt you could do it with a straight face. He’d see right through you.”

                            He trembled in his seat, the motion making his soft flesh jiggle. “Very well. Then… what are the real stakes?”

                            “If he’s telling the truth, he’s excused. Any motive to have that unnamed space pirate assassinated will be written off and he’ll be sent free. No ifs or buts. However, if he’s lying and he truly is the hacker, he’s to be put to death.”

                            The grumpig nodded slowly. “Okay, Mayor. We can arrange this. Let’s see, when can we run this test?”

                            He reached for his desk calendar, but Socket’s voice froze him to the spot.

                            “Now.”

                            “Now?” He snapped his head around to face her. “But Mayor, the room isn’t even set up. The test isn’t ready-”

                            “I said now,” she said. “I’m done wasting my time here. Get Troll and bring him to the exam room. I’ll have Tweak set up the files for hacking.” She rounded on the chingling. “Make it difficult. I don’t want any false results.”

                            “Aye aye, Ma’am!” Tweak saluted and tossed his note book up to her.

                            She caught it instinctively and stared down at the illegible scrawl. With a sigh, she stuffed it into her purse and followed the officer and chingling from the room.

                            ...

                            Several times Macro had almost dialed Surge. Several times he’d become too nervous and backed out. DL and Anchor sat watching in fascination while Matrix looked up from his game whenever Macro so much as twitched.

                            “I doubt she’s going to dial you,” said the ribombee. “You really need to get a wiggle on.”

                            Macro let out a flustered sigh and stuffed his computer back into his pouch. “Forget it. I’ll do it later. I’m too sore to put up with any of her tricks right now anyway.”

                            “What tricks?” Matrix and Anchor asked in unison.

                            Macro waved a paw. “Nothing you need concern yourself over.”

                            Anchor and Matrix exchanged glances.

                            “You thinking what I’m thinking?” Anchor asked.

                            “Maybe.” Matrix looked back down at his computer. “I was picking up some vibes off her. Maybe I might be able to learn a thing or two.”

                            “Seriously?” Anchor sat bolt upright. “Macro gets a girlfriend and you’re picking up flirting vibes?”

                            Macro jolted in his seat and stared at the granbull slack-jawed. DL looked between each pokemon in turn.

                            “Oh.” Matrix glanced up at Anchor. “Guess we weren’t thinking the same thing. I just assumed she was a prankster and it’s been a while since I last played a practical joke on one of you. I mean, you were both so easy it kinda got dull.”

                            Macro groaned and ran a paw down his face. “She is not my girlfriend.”

                            “Then what are you so nervous about?” Anchor asked.

                            “You haven’t met her.” Macro stood up and paced over to the door, faltered, then turned and walked back to his chair. “Man, I’m getting cabin fever being cooped up in this place. I just wanna get back to my ship.”

                            “That might be able to be arranged.” Jumper’s voice froze him before he reached his seat.

                            They all turned to look at the door. The frogadier leant against the frame, a small smile playing at his lips.

                            “I was worried I’d missed you,” he told Macro. “I went to your ward and when I saw you weren’t there I assumed you were off somewhere trying to find that disk.”

                            “I’m kinda planning it out,” said Macro. “Just waitin’ on Matrix to download me a map of every government building in this city.”

                            “And I’m totally not doing that right now,” said Matrix.

                            Macro fired him a glare but Jumper silenced him with a raised paw.

                            “You have no need for maps,” said Jumper. “I actually need to talk to you. All of you. You see…” His eyes drifted to DL then went back to Macro. “I’ve had some of my officers round up as many bugs as they can find in the orchard. It’s like watching the undead. There really is nothing left inside them, is there?”

                            “Nope,” said Macro. “And I’m gonna hazard a guess that unlike DL their personalities aren’t stored on disks somewhere.”

                            “I’m inclined to agree with you,” said Jumper. “But until we can get into Luma City and find out for certain how to rescue these poor pokemon, there’s not much we can do for them. A lot of research will be put into memory removal and installation, but until then, every bug will be collected and confined in cells for the foreseeable future.”

                            “All right, so you’ve got the bugs sorted. But what of the grass army and the twins?” Macro folded his arms and inclined his head on one side. “Has anyone even found their bodies? Will there be another attack? As far as I’m concerned, you’ve got your work cut out for you here, Gov.”

                            “He’s right.” Anchor sipped at a glass of water. “That army put up a fight. If it weren’t for Switch I don’t think we would have won that battle.”

                            Jumper looked over at the unconscious human and sighed. “Yes, I agree with you there too. That fight could have escalated into an even bigger disaster. Really, Wildcard, I honestly can’t thank you enough.”

                            Macro let out a small chuckle. “So. About them maps. You said I have no need for them, so what are you gonna do? Hand them to me as a thanks and let me run riot for a while? ‘Cos I’m all up for a bit of fun.”

                            “Not quite.” Jumper fixed his eyes on his. “I might have to cut your fun short, Macro.”

                            Macro kept his eyes on the frogadier’s paw as he reached into his belt pouch. Macro’s first thought was that he was reaching for a gun, but instead Jumper pulled out something tiny and black and held it out in his open paw.

                            “I know you were all up for searching for it,” said Jumper. “But my guards aren’t up for playing with you right now. I might as well cut your search short.”

                            Macro’s mouth went from a neat, stunned ‘o’ to a huge grin. He took the tiny disk in his claws and stared at it, half believing that at any moment he was going to wake up and it would just be a dream.

                            “You’re just giving me this?” he asked.

                            “Yes, but I still don’t think it’s thanks enough.” Jumper shrugged. “It feels more like I’m just doing the right thing. Seeing all those bug pokemon, while your friend DL here is on her way to recovery… who am I to stop her from making that recovery?”

                            “So you believe me?” Macro looked up at him and narrowed his eyes. “For all you know, I could be filling you with lies to acquire government secrets.”

                            “That thought did cross my mind,” said Jumper. “But I’ve met DL. While you were out, we had a little chat. She’s told me everything, and your stories match up. Well… what she can recall, anyway.”

                            Macro smirked and placed the disk in his belt pouch. “I think you’re a little gullible, Gov.”

                            “Perhaps. That makes my next offer a rather risky one.” Jumper fastened his paws behind his back. “Given all you have done for us, I want to personally offer you sanctuary in Cyan City.”

                            Macro let out a yell and Anchor dropped his glass, spilling water all over his lap. The vaporeon in the bed next to him almost leapt out from beneath the sheets. He fixed wide eyes on the occupants of the room and flopped back down onto his pillow. Anchor folded the sodden sheet over itself in an attempt to stop water spilling onto the floor.

                            “You serious?” he gasped.

                            Macro pointed at the frogadier. “You’re gonna offer us space pirates sanctuary? In a government run city?”

                            “I agree it’s a huge risk,” said Jumper. “But I’m hardly going to turn away pokemon who helped us avoid destruction, am I?”

                            “And what’s Socket going to say?”

                            “Socket doesn’t need to know.” Jumper’s expression turned steely. “Given what she’s done to DL, and what you are doing to help her, who do you think the good guys are in this situation?”

                            “Pirates ain’t good guys,” said Macro.

                            “That’s in the eye of the beholder.” Jumper fixed DL with a warm smile. “I think this one would be inclined to agree with me.”

                            “So do I.” The vaporeon’s voice came out weak. “No pirate would have risked being turned in just to save one city. Especially not one they’d planned to invade.”

                            Macro eyes flicked from Floppy back to Jumper. He opened his mouth to speak but no words came out. Instead he fell back into his seat and looked over at Switch.

                            Jumper smiled and shrugged. “See? I’m sure many others will agree, too. And don’t worry about your friend. My offer extends to him. He can safely recover here if you need to be on your way. I’ll contact you when he’s ready to be collected.”

                            Macro let out a dry laugh and shook his head. “And you seriously don’t think this offer is enough of a thank you…”

                            “I think you’re nuts,” said Anchor. “In a good way.”

                            Jumper laughed and turned towards the door. “I’ll leave you be. If I don’t see you before you leave, have a safe journey. I’ll be in touch, and remember. Don’t be a stranger.”

                            They watched the frogadier leave the room, then DL turned to Macro, her chocolate eyes sparkling.

                            “Is it weird that I want to cry?” she asked.

                            “Yes,” said Matrix.

                            “Ignore him.” Macro hugged his arms around himself and looked at the wall. “It’s not weird at all.”

                            “I don’t think you’re the only one.” Anchor wiped his eyes on his bed sheet then offered it to the pachirisu. “Here.”

                            A croaking laugh came from Floppy’s bed. “You pirates are as soft as butter.”

                            Macro snorted but didn’t look back at him. “Then be glad you’re not a bread roll.”

                            “Ah, don’t take offense.” Floppy laughed again. “It’s a good thing. Believe me.”

                            ...

                            Annie stared up at the huge pyukumuku ship. It looked a lot bigger than its framework had made it look. It stood proud in the back garden, fully fleshed out with an impact resistant shell and sporting what Trojan had assured her was ‘state of the art weaponry’. Of course, she couldn’t see it. It was inside the ship, rather than marring the pyukumuku’s appearance with bulky, ugly turrets.

                            Trojan pushed a button in the hull of the ship and an oblong door clattered open, falling towards the ground like a draw bridge. Annie’s eyes lit up, and a squeal of delight came from the fish bowl beside her.

                            “It’s so awesome!” Zip cried as he skittered over to the drawbridge. “I can’t wait to see inside!”

                            “Oi!” Trojan called at the goldeen’s tail. “Don’t you go splashing water everywhere now, you ‘ear me?”

                            “Whoa!” Zip’s voice came from the shadows. “It’s so cool!”

                            Web wiped a tea towel over her brow and turned her eyes onto Annie. “Are you seriously going to fly off in that thing?”

                            “Of course.” Annie placed a hand on her hip and grinned. “It’s the perfect ship for a rebellion.”

                            “I don’t know…” Web wound the towel in her paws. “It looks less like a ship and more like a shipwreck waiting to happen. I fear it’ll come down no sooner you get it into the sky. Where’s its wings?”

                            “Pyukumuku don’t have wings,” said Trojan.

                            Annie looked at Web and nodded towards Trojan.

                            “Have you even test flown it yet?” Web asked.

                            “Nope. That’s what we’re gonna do now.” Trojan turned to clamber into the ship.

                            “Really?” Web’s brow knitted into a frown. “With a child on board?”

                            “Hey, he climbed on first,” said Trojan.

                            “I want him off that ship,” said Web. “I need to know it can actually stay in the air longer than five minutes before I allow him, or Annie, onto that thing.”

                            “No can do,” said Trojan. “As soon as this thing is in the air, it’s stayin’ there. It’s not gonna be the easiest thing to land without a good mile to plan, at least.”

                            Web’s jaw dropped and she looked away. “I really don’t like this.”

                            Waveform strode from the house with a sack slung over his back. He gave Web’s shoulder a squeeze then strode past her towards the ship.

                            “You too?” Web gasped.

                            “Yup.” The decidueye paused by the drawbridge and tossed the sack inside to be swallowed up by the shadows. “I don’t plan on staying around here a day longer.”

                            Web’s eyes narrowed into slits. “Why is this so important to you?”

                            Waveform met her look head on and shrugged. “You come with us, you’ll find out.”

                            Trojan watched the decidueye climb on board then looked back at Web, her questioning gaze now fixed on him.

                            “Don’t look at me, I don’t know either,” he said. “I’m just glad there’s another sane ‘mon on board.”

                            The scrafty mounted the drawbridge and vanished inside the pyukumuku. Annie looked back at Web and smiled.

                            “Well, it’s been lovely,” she said. “But I’m gonna have to go head this rebellion now. Put the kettle on, we’ll be back by tea time.”

                            “No we won’t,” said Trojan. “We’re headed to Pulse City. It’s a three day round trip, provided this thing can actually move faster than a real pyukumuku.”

                            “Oh.” Annie scratched her chin and looked up at the night sky. “All right then. Three days. I’ll be needing that coffee.”

                            Her heavy feet clattered over the hollow iron sheet that formed the drawbridge door. When she reached the inside, she looked around at the ship and let out a long whistle. The paneled wall had been given a brisk coat of paint, but graffiti still showed through in parts. That, coupled with the low lighting, gave it a somewhat grungy feel. Her entire body tingled with excitement. She gave one last look over her shoulder at the skuntank, still standing staring up at the ship.

                            “You sure you don’t wanna see this?” Annie asked. “Last chance before we fly.”

                            Waveform placed a wing on her shoulder and steered her away from the door.

                            “Come on,” he said. “Web told me she won’t step paw in Pulse City. She left that side of her past behind years ago.”

                            “But we’re not space pirates,” said Annie. “We’re rebels.”

                            “They may as well be the same thing,” said Web. “Besides. You lot won’t survive five minutes in Pulse City. Especially not you, Waveform. You’re a bounty hunter, and a famous one at that! They’ll have your hide and turn your feathers into ink quills!”

                            Waveform sighed and opened his beak to speak, but Trojan appeared beside him and pointed a claw at the skuntank.

                            “Look!” he said. “You gonna come aboard this ship, or just stand there shoutin’ at us until we take off? ‘Cos if it’s the latter, you’re gonna wanna take several steps back. This thing uses thrusters to get into the air and I reckon it’s gonna make a jackin’ mess.”

                            Web shook her head slowly and took three steps back. Annie caught a glare off her as the drawbridge rose, then she was hidden from view as the door clattered into place.

                            “All righty then.” Trojan fell into a leather seat and struck something on the dashboard. “Let’s get this party started, shall we?”

                            Lights flooded the ship and Annie raised a hand to her eyes with a squeal. As she blinked the dazzle spots away, she looked around at the spacious cockpit. It was like viewing it from a new angle. A brighter, yet still grungy, angle.

                            “I’d find yourselves seats if I were you,” said Trojan.

                            Annie took the one beside the scrafty. Another leather chair. The other seats were rickety. Two plastic foldaway chairs screwed to the tinny floor. Zip found his spot in a heartbeat. Little supports had been fastened to the floor and they clamped over his mechanical feet firmly.

                            The engine flared to life, its roar filling the small space and shaking the entire ship so much the door rattled.

                            “Hey!” Web’s voice cried over the din. “Hey! Open up, I want in!”

                            Annie and Trojan exchanged looks and the human rose to her feet. The drawbridge door fell back abruptly, eliciting a squeak from the skuntank. She quickly regained her composure and fixed Annie with a glare.

                            “Thank you,” she said, pushing past Annie. “Quick, close it up before I change my mind again.”

                            Annie shrugged and pulled the door closed, then returned to her seat. Web took the only free chair beside Waveform.

                            “What made you change your mind?” Trojan asked without looking up.

                            “Oh, just the thought that all of you might be slaughtered in Pulse City,” she said. “You need someone with experience dealing with those sort of pokemon.”

                            “You mean Space Pirates? I’ve been dealin’ with one of those for years.”

                            Trojan pulled the steering stick back and the ship lurched into the air, silencing Web’s retort before it could leave her mouth.

                            Annie was thrust back into her seat, then left it as the ship fell back down again. Her stomach shot into her throat and she let out a loud cheer and threw her arms into the air. Another thrust sent them soaring higher into the sky.

                            “This is awesome!” she yelled over the engine. “Viva la rebellion!”

                            Zip cheered as well, waving his tiny fins.

                            The ship fell down again several feet before the thrusters blasted them back into the sky, higher and higher as the pyukumuku was raised over the rooftops.

                            Annie’s laughter filled the cockpit, drawing a glare from Trojan and a worried glance from Web.

                            “Anyway.” She stopped laughing as fast as she’d started and turned to address Web. “Glad to have you with us, Number Two.”

                            “Number Two?” Web and Trojan asked at the same time, the latter with a snort.

                            “Yeh,” said Annie. “Web’s always been my number two.”

                            “Really?” Trojan grumbled. “I thought if Waveform were your Number One, then second in command would be me.”

                            The ship leveled out in the air, slowly rising up towards the clouds. Heavy clouds, black against the deep blue sky.

                            “Don’t be ridiculous,” said Annie. “You’re my engineering officer.”

                            “Oh.” He shrugged. “All right then.”

                            “Then what am I?” Zip asked. “His assistant?”

                            “Oh no, no.” Annie twisted in her seat to face him. “You, little fish, are my Assistant in Rebellioness. I’m hoping I can count on you.”

                            Zip cheered again. “You can count on me for anything!”

                            Web groaned and ran a paw over her face.

                            Waveform looked down at her. “Having second thoughts?”

                            She shook her head and sighed. “No. I actually think I’ve done the right thing. Someone needs to keep all of you in check.”

                            ...

                            Macro had refused to go back to his room. Instead, he remained sat in his chair while the doctor checked him over. With a nod, the croconaw sat back and jabbed something into his computer screen that the mawile couldn’t see.

                            “You’re all clear to go,” he said. “Just take it easy for a while. Don’t stress your leg too much.”

                            Macro nodded and looked up at Anchor. The granbull sat on the edge of his bed, stretching his stiff limbs. More fur had been burned away than Macro had initially noticed. Bare patches mottled Anchor’s chest and right leg, but they didn’t look angry.

                            ‘Rich city medicine.’

                            Macro looked over at Switch, still lying unconscious. Was there really nothing they could do to bring him around before he went back to his ship?

                            Jumper kicked back from the wall and smiled at the space pirate. “I guess if you’re ready to leave, then this is goodbye?”

                            Macro snorted but a smile spread across his lips. “Can’t wait to get rid of me, eh Gov?”

                            “That’s not what I’m saying at all,” said Jumper, meeting his smile. “I actually hope you’ll come back and visit. I’d love to see how young DL is getting along with her memories.”

                            DL smiled and raised a paw to try and cover up the blush that dusted her cheeks.

                            “Well, if Switch is stayin’ here then it’s highly likely.” Macro rose to his feet, ignoring the helping paw from the croconaw. “All right, crew. Let’s beat it back to Wildcard Gamma.”

                            Anchor dropped to his feet, flinching with the impact. A look of concern crossed the doctor’s face, but it melted away when Anchor trudged past him to join Macro’s side.

                            Matrix buzzed beside the mawile’s head while staring at his computer. “The ship is parked above the hospital. I can get the ladder down to the roof if you want to exit that way?”

                            “Why?” Jumper inclined his head on one side. “You’re not escaping, you’re just leaving. You can use the street. No one’s going to stop you.”

                            “This is mighty alien, Cap’n,” said Anchor quietly.

                            “Embrace it,” said Macro. “Because I highly doubt this will happen again any time soon.” A light went on in his mind and he absently pawed at the empty holster on his belt. “What about our weapons? Those things ain’t cheap, yanno.”

                            “I have that covered,” said Jumper. “You can collect them at reception on your way out. They don’t generally allow firearms in the wards.”

                            Macro snorted and shrugged. “Ain’t like Pulse City hospital, that’s for certain.”

                            Jumper ignored his remark and led them to the door. Macro paused beside it, his eyes drifting back to the unconscious human.

                            “We’ll be back for you, Switch,” he said. “I promise you that. We’ll get you home. I never leave a job unfinished.”

                            As the door closed, his mind drifted back to Lossy and his stomach tied itself in knots. No. He never left a job unfinished, but it wasn’t often he failed at one either.

                            “Hey, Gov,” he said. “Give Lossy our condolences won’t you?”

                            “Of course, Macro,” said Jumper.

                            “And if we hear anything about the twins… well, I’ve got your number.”

                            Jumper chuckled. “I understand. I’ll keep you updated.”

                            A flood of relief spread through Macro’s body and he kept pace beside Jumper until they reached the reception. Before Macro could remind the Governor, he retrieved a bag from beside the azumarill, almost collapsing under its weight.

                            “I think you’ll find everything is in here.” He dropped it at the space pirate’s feet.

                            Anchor tugged it open and grinned, retrieving his gauntlets as though he’d not seen them in years. Once Macro’s guns were back in place he let out a small, satisfied sigh.

                            “I don’t really understand you space pirates,” said Jumper. “But I trust you won’t say anything of us dodging a weapon ban?”

                            “Nope,” said Macro. “Ran plenty of errands for those dodging the ban. You now know who to call if you need any parts or upgrades. Right?”

                            Jumper chuckled, giving a shake of his head, and steered them towards the exit. Matrix was on the ball, drawing the neon ladder down above the hospital’s doors.

                            Despite it being the crack of dawn, a small audience had gathered outside, their eyes on the sky as they stared at Wildcard Gamma in fascination. A group of children stood at the front, bouncing up and down as the ladder descended.

                            When Macro stepped outside, the audience broke into a cheer, and not the kind of cheer one hears when a bounty had been obtained. This one was genuine, happy, grateful cheering.

                            Macro stiffened and stared dumbfounded at the crowd.

                            “Okay,” he said. “This is surreal. I’m going home.”

                            He grabbed onto the ladder and climbed up a few rungs to allow Anchor and DL to join him. He gave one last look down at Jumper and smirked.

                            “Thanks for everything, Gov,” he said.

                            “No. Thank you, Macro.” Jumper returned his smile and saluted. The gesture almost sent the space pirate falling from the ladder. “See you again soon. I’ll keep you updated on Switch’s progress.”

                            Macro let out a nervous laugh and turned his eyes onto the hulking wishiwashi. The ladder ascended and Matrix landed gracefully two rungs above him. Within no time flat, they were back on board Wildcard Gamma.

                            The door closed behind them, but unlike the rest of his crew he didn’t look back down at the city. Not because he didn’t want to, but because he knew full well if he did he’d want to go back.

                            With a sigh, he drew the disk from his belt. “Well, I guess we’d better get this installed in you, eh DL?”

                            DL shifted uneasily and slumped into the cockpit. Before Macro could reach it, Cookie poked his head out of the kitchen door.

                            “You’re back!” His jovial smile fell and he looked at Anchor aghast. “What on earth happened down there?!”

                            “We’ll fill you in later,” said Macro. “It’s a long story.”

                            “Oh good. We haven’t had a night time story in a while.” Cookie waved his ladle. “I’ll make extra helpings just for that!”

                            Macro waved the slurpuff off and joined his crew in the cockpit. Anchor leant back in his chair with a sigh.

                            “Oh, it’s like putting on a second skin,” he said. “Where too, Cap’n?”

                            “I dunno yet,” said Macro. “I’m thinking Pulse City. Get some fuel, and maybe a burger at Moonlight Lounge.”

                            He handed the disk to Matrix and sank into his seat, kicking his feet up on the dashboard.

                            Soft, fluffy clouds drifted by, painted orange from the rising sun. It wouldn’t be long until Cyan City was far behind them.

                            “Whoa, Cap’n!” Anchor’s cry drew Macro out of his reverie.

                            He followed the granbull’s paw to something in the distance. Something squid-like flew away from them, its long tentacles pulsing back and forth behind it as it swam through the sky. It was nothing like Macro had ever seen.

                            “Think it’s another of Socket’s little victims?” Macro asked. “Something else to toy with since we took DL and her human away?”

                            “I dunno.” Anchor scratched his head. “What do you suggest we do?”

                            Macro nibbled on a claw as he watched the creature drift further away from them. None of them knew what it was, yet none of them had ever seen a human before either. Of course, Switch had been disguised as a talonflame. What if this was another human trapped in the form of some unseen pokemon?

                            “I say we catch it,” said Macro. “I ain’t letting Socket have the satisfaction of catching some other innocent creature.”

                            “We don’t even know if she wants this thing,” said Anchor. “I mean… there’s no government fleet pursuing it.”

                            “Catch it anyway.” Macro shrugged. “There’s every chance it wants to get back home like Switch does. Wherever home is. And what if she is trying to catch it? If we beat her again, then that’ll just add to the fun.”

                            “All right.” Anchor pushed the steering stick forwards. “Let’s catch the jellyfish thing.”

                            Matrix looked up from his computer. One paw held the jack lead, but DL had rose to her feet to join Macro’s side.

                            “It’s so beautiful,” she said. “Almost translucent. Look how the sun reflects off its body.”

                            “Anything in your data banks about this thing?” Macro asked her.

                            She shook her head, but her eyes wouldn’t leave the creature.

                            “Are you sure about this?” Matrix asked. “We don’t know what that thing even is.”

                            “If this has anything to do with Socket opening time and space,” said Macro, “then it’s probably a pokemon from another world.”

                            “But what if that world is hostile?”

                            Macro ignored him, keeping his eyes on the strange pokemon. Wildcard Gamma gradually caught up with it, and the jaws of the ship opened wide to trap the creature. In seconds, the tentacled pokemon was safely in their cargo hold.

                            “All right.” Macro slipped from his seat with DL in tow. “Let’s go see if we can talk to it. Find out where it’s come from.”

                            Matrix watched him, winding his antenna around in his paw so tightly Macro worried he might pull it off.

                            “You two ain’t goin’ alone, Cap’n,” said Anchor.

                            “I wasn’t planning on it.”

                            Macro paused by the door and looked back at the ribombee. His wings buzzed as he lifted himself off his seat.

                            “Matrix, you stay here with DL,” said Macro. “I might need you in the cockpit.”

                            Matrix shrugged and landed back in his seat with a plop. “Sure. I don’t even wanna know what that thing is. It looks like something from a horror game.”

                            Macro tutted then followed Anchor down the corridor towards the loot room. DL’s soft footsteps followed after them and Macro looked back over his shoulder at her.

                            “I told you to stay with Matrix,” he said.

                            She shook her head and slipped past him, catching up with the granbull. Macro muttered under his breath and plodded behind them until they reached the door. One scan of the mawile’s paw opened it and he slipped in ahead of them. Before they could reach the next door, a loud crash came from beyond it and the entire ship shook. Macro’s heart lurched into his throat and he flashed the next door open. Had the creature hurt itself? He raced down the stairs towards it. Another crash sent him rolling head over heels down the remaining steps until he landed in a heap at the metal door.

                            “Cap’n!”

                            Anchor dived down the stairs after him, but it was DL who appeared at his side first. She placed a warm paw on his shoulder and he looked up, meeting her eyes.

                            “I’m fine,” Macro muttered.

                            She took his paw and pulled him to his feet. Anchor stared at the door, his paws balled into fists.

                            “I dunno what to think of this,” he said. “Somethin’ don’t smell right.”

                            Macro took a deep breath and reached for the door panel. “Well, I’m giving this thing the benefit of the doubt. It’s probably terrified, and if it understands us then-”

                            The door slid open, revealing the vast cargo hold. The jellyfish creature swam in circles, but when it spotted them it froze in the air. Its tentacles drooped down beneath it, reminiscent of legs and arms.

                            Macro folded his arms and cocked his head to one side. “Not seen anythin’ like you before.”

                            A tinkly cry came from the creature, and it waved its tentacles in a fluid motion. Had it understood him?

                            “Are you a pokemon? Or a human?”

                            DL slipped past him, her eyes locked on the creature.

                            “Well, whatever you are,” said Macro, “Socket can’t hurt you here. So-”

                            A red glow emanated from the creature, reflecting from the walls of the cargo hold. Then like a flash it lurched towards them. Macro whipped DL behind him and span to the side, slamming his paw over the door panel. The door shut just before the creature reached them. It bounced off the metal with an almighty clang, leaving a huge dent protruding from the surface. Anchor’s eyes widened and he looked from the damaged door to Macro.

                            Clang after clang came from within the cargo hold. Macro clutched the pachirisu to his chest and shouted into his ear piece.

                            “Matrix! It’s hostile! Let it out and fire! Fire!”

                            The noise coming from the cargo hold was unbearable. His heart leapt with every crash and he screwed his eyes shut.

                            It seemed to go on for an eternity. Then it ended. The silence was almost deafening.

                            Macro looked up, his breath coming in heavy bursts.

                            “Did you hit it?” he asked Matrix.

                            The ribombee’s voice resonated in his ear, “Nah. I missed.”

                            “You missed?” Macro hissed.

                            “Hey, I might be able to use the controls in here, but I’m not a good shot.”

                            “All them video games didn’t teach you anything?” Macro sighed. “What’s happened to the creature?”

                            “It got away.”

                            Macro leant his head back against the wall and ran a paw over his face. The darn thing got away… Little claws dug into his chest and he opened his eyes again, meeting DL’s frightened chocolate gaze. All his fear melted away to be replaced with a burning battle spirit.

                            “Where is it going?” he asked Matrix.

                            “Pulse City.”

                            Macro’s heart sank. He exchanged glances with Anchor and the granbull nodded.

                            “We’ll beat it there, Cap’n.” He trudged up the stairs, flinching slightly on his burned leg.

                            Pulse City… Macro groaned and rubbed at his scar. What had he got himself into? He cracked an eye open, fixing it on DL’s terrified face. Her little nose twitched and she glanced away from him towards the damaged door.

                            His blood froze in his veins. Everything suddenly seemed a lot darker.

                            All this had started when he’d picked up that box. What would have happened if he’d left it? One thing was for certain. He’d be blissfully unaware.

                            But it was too late now. He was already in too deep.

                            She shifted again, feeling tiny under his paw. The scent of lavender wafted up from her fur, dusting away that dark cloud and stirring something else entirely deep inside his stomach. He couldn’t be doing with this. It frightened him. The wild emotions the pachirisu caused him were a cocktail of confusion.

                            His muzzle creased and he shoved her aside, marching up the steps towards the cockpit. He only paused to let her out of the loot room so he could make sure it locked behind her.

                            Once he reached the cockpit, he fell into his seat with a heavy sigh.

                            “Sorry,” said Matrix flatly. “Don’t ask me to fire the guns again.”

                            “Don’t worry, I won’t.” Macro turned his head to look at him. “Hurry up and get that disk installed on DL.”

                            “But…” DL stuttered and faltered in the doorway. “But I told you I don’t want it.”

                            “You’re having it!” he snapped. “The deal was we’d get your memories and in return you’d work for me. So you can stick to our deal and take them, and be flippin’ happy about it, all right?! Besides, the sooner you get them all back the sooner you’re done.”

                            “What’s that supposed to mean?” she asked.

                            “Wasn’t it clear enough?” He turned away from her and leant back in his seat. “Once all this is over, I want you gone.”

                            Macro could feel Anchor’s eyes burning into the side of his head.

                            “Where’s this come from, Cap’n?”

                            The granbull’s voice was quiet, but Macro was fairly certain the entire cockpit heard it. Nevertheless, he didn’t answer. He closed his eyes and tucked his paws behind his head.

                            “Fine.” DL’s voice wavered. “I’ll take my memories and then I’ll leave, if that’s what you want.”

                            Macro shrugged, but somehow her words stabbed him. It wasn’t her fault. None of this was her fault.

                            He cracked one eye open and caught her reflection in the window as she sat at Matrix’s feet. The ribombee plugged the jack in place and Macro let his eyes close again. Why was it so hard to apologize?

                            “This one looks rather big,” said Matrix. “It might take a while.”

                            No… it wasn’t fair. She said she didn’t want it, so why was he forcing it on her?

                            Macro licked his lips and ventured a glance back at them. But before he could say anything, DL’s entire body stiffened. The antenna behind her ear flashed erratically and her eyes turned lifeless. Then her mouth flapped open and closed at an alarming rate, throwing out a stream of nonsense.

                            Matrix dropped his computer and buzzed into the air, hovering as he wound an antenna round in his paw. His eyes traced over the pachirisu then he looked back at Macro.

                            Macro leapt over the back of his seat and dived to catch DL as she fell backwards onto the floor. Anchor rose to his feet, looking at each pokemon in turn.

                            “What’s happening?” Macro barked at Matrix.

                            Matrix looked from him to DL. “I… I don’t know.” He swooped from the air to snatch up his computer and his eyes widened. “It’s frozen.”

                            Macro stared up at him, his mouth hanging open. DL’s incomprehensible babble filled the cockpit, driving his anxiety sky high. He wasn’t a computer whizz like Matrix, but there was one thing he knew about computers… if they froze, they needed a reboot.

                            He grit his teeth together and reached behind DL’s head, flicking her switch into the off position. Her body went limp in his arms, but in the silence that followed he could hear his own heart beating. Racing at a mile a minute. He took a deep breath and switched her back on.

                            But she just lay there. Lifeless.
                            __________________
                            I believe in Jesus Christ my Savior. If you do too, and aren't scared to admit it, then copy and paste this in your signature.

                            A Fanfiction Author Who Dares to be Different
                            A glimmer of hope in a war-torn world - The End
                            Cyberpunk fantasy meets Pokemon Mystery Dungeon - Glitched
                            Fancy some Cyberpunk PMD action with space pirates? System:Reboot
                            Other Fics - SWC entry 'Rivers and Waterfalls'
                            'Where else can I find Del?' -FFnet/Wattpad
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                              #39    
                            Old April 6th, 2018 (1:23 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: 318
                              Sorry for the small hiatus. I'll be back to posting weekly now. Thanks for your patience =)

                              Part 4 - Reign of the Ultra Beasts

                              Chapter 39

                              Troll's face twisted as he stared at the computer screen. A combination of fear and anger. Sweat radiated off him in a cloud of stench that Socket could smell from her view behind the one-way window. His paw trembled over the touch screen panel, occasionally brushing against it and bringing up random text on the holoscreen.

                              The gothitelle's eyes wandered to the timer, not for the first time. Thirty seconds. The croagunk criminal had only thirty seconds left, and he was losing them rapidly. A small movement caught her eye and she watched a bead of sweat trickle down the back of his neck and over his hunched shoulders where it vanished into the modest chair cushion.

                              "I don't think he's got this." The grumpig officer took a bite out of his donut. It was a good thing the croagunk couldn't hear a word they said. "Either that or he's willingly throwing his life away."

                              Socket hmm'd and pursed her lips together. "Or he's on to me."

                              "I doubt that," said the officer. "You were pretty convincing. I don't even think our lie detectors could have given you away."

                              Socket hmm'd again then leant back in her seat. It creaked loudly and she leant forwards again, fearing the flimsy furniture would give way.

                              "Always told you ya should've got a job in acting." Tweak hopped from the donut box and shook himself loudly, sending sprinkles all over the table. "That snack should last me until tea time."

                              Socket recoiled and raised a paw to dust stray sticky strands from her velvet fur. "I brought you here understanding you were taking notes."

                              Tweak didn't so much as flinch at her warning note. Instead he beamed and nodded to her bag.

                              "I would, but you never returned my notebook," he said.

                              Socket shot him a leer and looked back out of the window. The timer let out a loud ring, snatching her attention away from Troll's trembling body.

                              The officer silenced it with a heavy paw then switched on his microphone.

                              "Time's up," he said. "Step away from the display."

                              Troll muttered something incoherent and pushed himself to his feet. He shuffled backwards from the computer and shot a leer at the one-way window.

                              The three pokemon flowed from the soundproofed room and gathered around the croagunk. He gave them a venomous look but didn't move from his spot. The three psychic types were a gentle reminder that he didn't need cuffs to be restrained. His severe weakness alone was his restraint, and he was greatly outnumbered.

                              The officer checked the display and nodded slowly.

                              "Looks like you failed," he said.

                              "Were a weird-ass test." Troll sneered at the mayor. "Those stakes spoke numbers that you want me dead. You know I ain't guilty, you just want to fry us poison types in your sick chair."

                              "I take no pleasure in killing you," said Socket. "Your plight is in your own paws."

                              "What you talkin' about?" Troll balled his paws into fists. "You know full well you could help us but you just don't wanna."

                              "I'd watch what you're saying when your life is in my paws." Socket folded her arms and locked her icy gaze on his, putting out the fire behind it. "You failed the test. You were meant to succeed."

                              Troll's lips curled into a sneer. "You're a real sicko, you know that?"

                              The officer turned his back on the computer and leant against the desk. "Every single attempt was a fail. You weren't even close. It's as though you don't even know the basics."

                              "And you do?" Troll rounded on the grumpig.

                              The officer shrugged. "I know a little. I have to, given this is my job. I couldn't even begin to hack government files, however. Those fire walls and barriers... That's advanced stuff."

                              "I feel like you three set me up." Troll clenched his teeth together and roared. "Right, fine! Take me back to the cell. Do me in. Do whatever you flippin' well want. Anythin's better than livin' in this toxic dump!"

                              "No." Socket moved towards him, daring not to breathe as the toxic sweat from his body permeated the very air around him. "You failed that test. That means only one thing."

                              "I'm a dead 'mon."

                              "Not at all. It means you weren't the one who hacked into my systems."

                              "Eh?" Troll's jaw went slack.

                              "You don't have a clue, do you?" Socket tapped her claws along her arm as she examined the dumbfounded amphibian. "This was a test. Of course you'd hack if your life depended on it. I needed to give you those stakes to get answers."

                              "So you tricked me?!"

                              He span to face her fully and the officer leapt back from the desk to her aid. Socket raised a paw and the grumpig backed down, standing no more than two feet away from her and the criminal.

                              "Yes, I tricked you," said Socket. "Your life is safe. But!" She froze his words before they left his mouth, leaving it hanging open like a victreebell's trap. "That doesn't mean you're off the hook. If you want a reduced sentence, you have to give me some answers."

                              "What answers?" The croagunk folded his arms and met her icy stare head on. "What could a humble little dealer livin' in the outskirts have to offer System's Mayor?"

                              "Oh, you could offer me many things," said Socket. "The location of every single wanted criminal living on System Ground, for example. The source off all your toxic sludge dens." A small smile spread across her lips and she stared at the croagunk until he cowered back from her. "But that's for another time. Right now I want you to tell me everything you know about Surge."

                              His eyes widened and he looked back up at her with a start. "Surge? What do you wanna know about her?"

                              "Given I've foolishly hired her," said Socket slowly, "I want to know everything."

                              ...

                              "I know I said I wanted you gone..." Macro's voice cracked. "But this isn't what I meant!"

                              It wasn't the first time he'd said it. He'd lost track of how long he'd been sat beside DL's bed watching her. Waiting for any sign she might wake up.

                              But there was none. The only thing that reassured him she was alive was her breathing. She looked just like she was sleeping, except there were no eye twitches. Nothing moved except her chest with every breath she took.

                              It pained him. His mother often told him to be careful what he wished for. He'd spoken off the cuff... and look what had happened.

                              He let his head fall into his paws and rubbed them over his face, trying to stem any tears. He wasn't even sure he had any left.

                              The door whirred open and he snatched his paws from his eyes, looking up to meet Anchor's concerned face. The granbull strolled across the room and his eyes went from Macro to DL.

                              "Not woken up yet?" It was a rather redundant question to ask.

                              Macro sighed and shook his head. He leant back in his seat and let his paws flop into his lap.

                              "I'm at a loss of what to do." He looked over at his computer lying on the bedside table.

                              Matrix hadn't a clue how to 'fix' DL. If it was an issue with the database, then it was a computer issue. But one that was out of the ribombee's expertise. If it required hacking into her to examine, there was only one pokemon he knew could possibly help them. And she'd not been answering his calls. It had been well over an hour since he messaged her to call him urgently.

                              "I think we're all at a loss," said Anchor. "If it's any consolation, Matrix has been tryin' to look for problems in the disks. But he says he can't see anything in the code that rings any warning bells. They all look alike. Nothing alien about them."

                              "It could be hidden amongst it, camouflaged," said Macro. "Anyone could have jeopardised the disk to get back at me."

                              "What makes you think they'd be getting back at you? It's DL's memories, not yours."

                              "Because I'm the one who wants them!" Macro's violet glare locked on Anchor. "Not her! I'm forcing them on her!"

                              "It ain't your fault, you got her best interests at heart. Right?" Anchor paused as he watched Macro sigh and look away. "You ain't seriously still thinkin' Jumper did this are you? Or someone else in Cyan City?"

                              "Yes. I am. It's where we got the disk from, and that frogadier went from refusing to give me the disk to rewarding me with it." Macro rubbed the bridge of his nose. "I shouldn't have trusted them so easily."

                              "Well I still don't think it were them," said Anchor. "What if they didn't even know there were something wrong with it? You said there were too many locations on that list to match the number of disks. What if this one were a fake one?"

                              Macro jolted. "You mean this could be the red herring?"

                              "Maybe. Or the right disk but coded wrong. Matrix thinks it could be something as simple as a typo in the data."

                              "How can someone's brain have a typo?" Macro asked sourly.

                              Anchor shrugged. "I dunno. We all so easily make them." When Macro said nothing, he went on. "Matrix described it like this. When you install a new operating system on your computer, if something goes wrong where it don't read right, it can cause the whole system to fail at start up."

                              "This failed while it was downloading."

                              Anchor scratched his head and sighed. "Look. He's tryin' to help. We all are. But we ain't gonna get answers without a thorough search. Have you found anyone who can help her?"

                              "I might have. But she hasn't got back to me."

                              "Ah. Well, let's hope she does soon." Anchor turned to the door, then paused to look back at Macro. Just A heads up, Cookie rang the lunch bell fifteen minutes ago. If you're quick, there might still be some left."

                              "I'm not hungry."

                              "All right." Anchor cleared his throat and tucked his paws behind his back. "But you also missed breakfast."

                              Macro shrugged his shoulders.

                              Anchor sighed and scratched his mohawk. "I know it ain't easy, but you have to eat something."

                              "I'll eat when I'm ready."

                              "Fair enough." Anchor slipped from the room, letting the door hiss shut behind him.

                              Macro leant back in his chair and groaned, running his paws over his face. His stomach was in knots. He couldn't eat anything if he tried.

                              Suddenly, the room filled with a jaunty jingle. He sat bolt upright and groped for his computer. He almost dropped it to the floor when he saw the name. 'Surge', perched above the dancing symbol of a ringing phone. He pressed it to his ear and answered as confidently as his worn out voice would allow.

                              "Surge! Finally."

                              "What do you want, Macro?" Her voice was so icy it sent chills through his entire body.

                              "I don't know what's got your gogoat," he said, "but I've not been messaging you for a chat. I actually need your help."

                              "Oh?" She paused and for a dreaded moment he thought she'd hung up. "It's gonna cost you."

                              "You don't even know what it is yet," he said.

                              "No, but I don't do favors."

                              He grit his teeth together. "I got that much from my last request."

                              "Anyway. What is it?"

                              "Remember that living computer I told you about?" His eyes went to DL. "We've been trying to retrieve her memory disks and... well, something's gone wrong with the third one. She won't wake up."

                              "You've killed her?" Surge didn't sound remotely surprised, and along with her choice of words, it stabbed at him.

                              "No. I..." He paused and choked back a sob. "I don't know!"

                              "How do you expect me to help? I'm not a medic."

                              "No, but you're a hacker, right? You can get into that... computer thing... in her head and find out what's gone wrong. Right?"

                              Surge sighed and he heard her scratch her ear. "I don't know. That kind of goes beyond my realms of expertise."

                              "So you won't do it?" He let his disappointment hang in the air.

                              "I didn't say that. But we're not talking about a computer here, we're talking about someone's brain. If anything goes wrong and I end up killing her, I'll be tried for murder."

                              "It's not murder if you're trying to save her life. How many pokemon die in hospitals during surgery or resuscitation? It's the same stinkin' thing!"

                              "No it's not. I'm not a doctor. It'll be malpractice."

                              Macro clenched his jaw together. "Let's not get into the legalities behind this, considering what's been done to her is already illegal! I'm asking you to help her as best as anyone possibly can!"

                              Surge was silent for a long while, and he heard the creak of a chair or bed as she moved on it.

                              "Okay, Macro. I'll help her."

                              His heart leapt into his throat with such force he almost left his seat. "You will? Oh man, you have no idea-"

                              "But it's not free."

                              His heart sank again and he slumped into the chair. "How much? Where do you want me to take you this time?"

                              "We'll discuss that when you get here. I'm in Pulse City, staying at number twelve Neon House. It's opposite Moonlight Lounge."

                              Before he could reply, she cut him off.

                              His arm went limp over the arm of the chair, still clutching his computer. He looked up at DL, still 'sleeping'.

                              He reached over and took her paw in both of his. Still warm. Still alive.

                              So, Surge would help her.

                              Somehow the idea filled him with both hope and dread.

                              ...

                              Surge stared at her computer, her claw still pressed over the spot the 'hang up' option had been. Macro's words still rang around her head.

                              He wanted her help, and he'd sounded desperate.

                              Everything she'd heard about Hunter, from long before her bounty hunting days, he'd never struck her as the kind of pokemon who'd genuinely care for another. And from the day he'd hired her, everything she thought she'd known had turned out to be a lie. Even his 'name'.

                              She stuffed her computer into her pocket and let out a long sigh. Her head was a mess. Socket had hired her to turn in the space pirate, even if it meant taking his life. If she didn't... well, Socket wasn't exactly the kind of pokemon you wanted to make angry. The thought alone left a bitter taste in Surge's mouth. Someone's life would be taken, and it would be Macro's or her own.

                              Yes, she'd help the pachirisu. But she'd be using her as bait for an elaborate trap.

                              ...

                              Tracer puffed on his cigar, his eyes fixed on the sky. Or what he could see of it through the yellow smog. He stood with his back against his office wall, the cool brick penetrating the heavy leather of his trench coat.

                              He'd seen it take off, that strange pyukumuku-shaped ship. That meant the human had left System Ground, and going off the state of the house, so had the pokemon she'd befriended.

                              She was up to something. Something he felt he needed to put an end to. But it hadn't felt right to catch her and turn her in.

                              '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?'

                              Her words had left him feeling cold inside. What was Socket planning to do? Was it really idle curiosity or something much more sinister? One thing was for certain. Something was going on in System, and his investigator instinct was itching to get to the bottom of it.

                              The door was thrown wide open and Widget strolled outside, struggling to fasten his mask over his face. He fixed a perplexed eye on Tracer and snorted, shaking the mask to the floor.

                              "I wanna call hypocrisy!" The eevee pointed an accusing paw. "You always tell me to wear a mask, and you aren't wearing one!"

                              Tracer blew out a stream of smoke, keeping his eyes on the sky. "I'm thinking, Widget."

                              "And the masks prevent that. Got it."

                              "It's not that." The delphox flicked ash onto the floor. "There's a lot to go over, and I needed to calm my nerves."

                              Widget sat down heavily and shook out his fur, briefly revealing the everstone embedded in his sternum.

                              "It stinks rotten," he said. "What happened overnight?"

                              "My guess is they dumped more waste in the back streets," said Tracer. "Even your mask wouldn't filter out the stench. Which you do still need to wear, by the way."

                              "I'll put mine on when you put on yours," said Widget. "Hypocrite."

                              Tracer glanced down at the eevee, receiving a playful grin. The delphox sighed and flicked more ash to the floor.

                              "This is about that human, ain't it?" Widget asked.

                              "Yes. I believe she's now in System Sky." Tracer looked back up at the yellow clouds. "How on earth we're meant to go after her now confounds me."

                              Widget made a thoughtful noise. "Surge has a ship."

                              "I know. But she's not been returning my calls."

                              "Keep mithering."

                              "That's not my style." Tracer took another drag of his cigar. "Nor is it hers to put up with constant badgering."

                              Widget let out a whiny sigh and sat back on his haunches to lean against the wall. "Well I'm at a loss."

                              "Join the club."

                              "You thought about hiring?" Defrag's head appeared around the door. Her nose twitched at the stench then almost retreated back into her face. "Okay, I was baffled enough when you used the term to begin with, but this is your idea of 'fresh air'?!"

                              "I needed to think," said Tracer. "And inside was too stuffy."

                              "At least the air is filtered." Defrag flicked her long ears back and fixed pink eyes on his. "Anyway. Like I was saying. You could hire a ship?"

                              "From who?" Tracer stubbed his cigar on the wall then pulled out another, prompting a raised eyebrow from the lopunny. "Ships are primarily a space pirate thing. Unless you're suggesting I ask Socket to lend me a government ship?"

                              "Couldn't hurt," said Defrag. "She's asked you to track this human down. If she still wants you to catch her, she needs you to get into the sky."

                              "Good point." Widget looked up at Tracer. "She does want this human, so I'm sure she'd be more than willing."

                              Tracer took a long drag of his fresh cigar and looked back up at the sky. Hiring a government ship? It wasn't an unreasonable request, given the circumstances. Of course, he'd need to lie a little. There was no way he was going to rush the human girl to Socket, not without better knowledge of what might befall the poor creature.

                              "Okay," he said. "It's a move I hadn't really considered. But I'm assuming Socket will lend me a ship given the human she's requested I catch for her has zipped off into the unknown."

                              "And you don't have wings," said Widget.

                              "Even bird pokemon can't fly all the way into System Sky, Widget."

                              "Do you even know how to drive one?" Defrag asked.

                              "As far as I know, air ships are pretty intuitive," said Tracer.

                              "All right, so long as you don't suddenly crash and burn."

                              Tracer shrugged and said nothing, fumbling in his deep pockets for his computer.

                              Defrag frowned at the dingy streets. "Well I've said my piece. I'm going back inside before my lungs rot."

                              "See ya later then!" The eevee watched the door slam shut then fixed Tracer with a grin. "So, we're hiring a ship, eh?"

                              Tracer made a grunt of acknowledgment and pulled up Socket's name on his computer, bracing himself for the potential earful he was about to receive.

                              "Ooh, this is so exciting!" Widget squealed and shifted his weight rapidly from paw to paw. "Can I drive?"

                              Tracer's cigar almost fell from his mouth and he cleared his throat before hitting the dial button. The eevee's sparkling eyes fixed on the side of his head. This all felt like a set up for potential disaster.
                              __________________
                              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
                                #40    
                              Old April 13th, 2018 (1:04 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: 318
                                Chapter 40

                                Sheets of paper littered Socket's desk. Every single note both the Proxy Prison officer and Tweak had scrawled had been transcribed on her computer and printed off for easier reading. Everything had been bullet pointed, listing each and every task Surge had completed. Well... every task that had wormed its way around the outskirts. Troll could only tell her what he knew, and given he desperately wanted that reduced sentence, he'd been a fountain of knowledge.

                                Assassinations. Burglaries. Illegal trade deals. Ship hijacking and scrapping. Bounty hunting.

                                Hacking.

                                There it was. The key crime. Surge was, in every sense of the word, a professional hacker.

                                And Socket had hired her.

                                'I never miss my target.'

                                Of course not. An assassin never would.

                                Her eyes wandered to the photo of the molten magnezone fleet poking out beneath a wad of discarded paperwork. There was only one logical answer Socket had for that scenario. As much as a bounty hunter like Surge would lust after a huge price tag on a space pirate, she'd deliberately missed her target and shot the magnezone instead. But why?

                                It was as clear as day now that Hunter had hired Surge to obtain information on Download Database, including the locations of her memory disks. But wasn't he just another client to the 'jack-of-all-trades'?

                                A soft knock at Socket's door drew her out of her deep, analyzing thoughts. She already knew who it was, and despite whether it was good news or bad, it still offered her a break.

                                "Come in," she said.

                                The door cracked open and Yobi slipped through a gap she thought was much too small for the raichu. The action reminded her of a muk sliding through a drain.

                                "What do you want?" she asked icily.

                                "It's done," he said.

                                "What's done?"

                                "The virus," he said. "I sent it out this morning."

                                That got her attention. She lowered her pen and steepled her paws together. "So Download Database is now disabled?"

                                "I assume so. I designed it so it would render her inoperable, but I don't know what affects it will have on her. I couldn't exactly test it, you see."

                                "So you have no idea if it's damaged Download Database or not?" Her eyes narrowed dangerously. "Seems rather irresponsible."

                                "I know, but there was nothing I could test it on. And I needed to make sure it got through Zero Day quickly enough to not damage them, either. They're already unstable as it is."

                                Socket huffed and retrieved her pen. "So long as Hunter is no longer able to follow our every move, then I can deem it a job well done. Now we just have to wait until Download Database is back in our paws."

                                Yobi shifted his weight from foot to foot. "And what of the human girl? Is she still part of this plan?"

                                Socket looked up at him again and frowned. "That human has a death sentence. Tracer is on that job, so she's out of my paws."

                                "You aren't wanting to use her, too, then?"

                                "I might do. It seems a fitting revenge plan. She'd be considered dead whatever the outcome."

                                "Good grief!" Tweak dropped his stamp and looked up at them. "All she did was hit you."

                                Socket's eyes flew to the chingling, locking him in a blazing fury. But all he did was laugh as he retrieved his stamp, returning eagerly to his work and all the while creating the most obnoxious jingle.

                                Socket sighed and shook her head, turning her attention back to Yobi. "Is there any way to find out what state Download Database is now in?"

                                He scratched behind his ear and fixed his gaze on the window. "Not really. The androids can't connect to her any more. I asked BackDoor to check and he's getting nothing. And with her tracking chip being disabled, she's not going to be easy to retrieve either."

                                "Well, that's Surge's problem."

                                Surge...

                                Socket looked back down at her paperwork, but the text just blurred together as her mind went elsewhere. She should probably fill Yobi in on their recent discovery... She shook her head sharply and blinked her paperwork back into focus.

                                "Our priority now is part two of my plan," she said. "If I have to wait any longer for a convenient android to fill me in on all the details, we'll never get started. So we may as well make progress while I wait."

                                "I'm guessing BackDoor is still doing a good enough job at keeping you updated on the progress?" Yobi asked.

                                She pursed her lips together. "He complains a lot. But as a temporary means, it's fine. And I mean... temporary."

                                Yobi nodded and took a step back towards the door. "I'll continue work on this new android then. That might speed things up."

                                "What's this one's function?" Socket asked.

                                A small smile tugged at the corner of Yobi's lips. "To keep pests at bay."

                                Socket looked up with a start. "So it's an anti-pirate weapon?"

                                "Of sorts."

                                Yobi gave her a wave and let the door close after him, leaving Socket to only wonder what exactly the raichu was up to.

                                ...

                                Wildcard Gamma pulled in neatly at Pulse City's docks, gliding between a gorebyss ship and another themed around an eelektross.

                                Anchor opened the hatch and mounted the neon ladder, which formed itself into a small staircase. But before he descended he looked back over his shoulder at Macro. The mawile stood trembling slightly under DL's weight. The small squirrel pokemon lay clutched in his arms, but despite her slight form she wasn't much smaller than Macro.

                                The granbull cleared his throat and scratched his chin with a claw. "You sure you don't want me to carry her?"

                                "I'm fine," said Macro. "Lead the way, I'll follow."

                                "You don't look fine," said Matrix as he buzzed over his head to follow Anchor off the ship.

                                Macro stifled a tut and slowly and carefully descended the neon steps. It took a lot of forward planning since he couldn't see very far past DL. He wobbled slightly on the second-to-last step. In a desperate bid of faith, he threw himself onto the docks and staggered forwards. Something tugged the back of his scarf and he yelped, finding himself dragged backwards into Anchor's steady paw.

                                "Whoa!" A warm body brushed Macro's foot as someone dived for safety. "Watch where you're stepping!"

                                Macro's eyes flew to the tiny form of Worm. The sewaddle leered up at him as he thumped his stubby tail on the floor. Macro clutched DL tightly, his heart hammering in his chest.

                                "Sorry," the granbull grunted. "That were a bit discourteous of me, Cap'n, but I ain't scoopin' you both off the bottom of the dome."

                                "But you're fine scraping me off the stinkin' docks?" Worm rolled his eyes. "No one thinks about us little pokemon. You're just a load of huge, stompy feet to us."

                                "That's why I fly," said Matrix.

                                "Anyway." Worm locked his eyes on Macro's. "I saw your ship coming in. Wondered if you fancied a drink."

                                Macro shook his head and pulled himself away from Anchor. "Sorry. I've got stuff to do."

                                "You sellin' that... erm..." Worm pointed a foot at DL.

                                "No, I am not selling her." Macro frowned. "What monster do you take me for?"

                                "Oh! It's organic?" Worm chuckled. "I'm sorry. I thought it were one of them fancy new androids and you were trading it for parts."

                                "Got your hopes a little high then, huh?" Macro turned his back on him and made for the street. "That new technology doesn't just drop out of the sky."

                                "One can hope." Worm wriggled after them, huffing and puffing as he struggled to keep up. "So. Drinks later, then? What, may I ask, is wrong with the girl?"

                                "Dunno."

                                Worm turned to Anchor but the granbull merely shrugged.

                                "Well, it must be serious if you're having to carry her like a hatchling!" said Worm.

                                "It's not something we can really talk about," said Matrix. "Anyway. You might want to let everyone know to keep their eyes on the skies. Something is heading this way and we're worried it might be hostile."

                                "Oh drat. It ain't that thing that's been attacking cities is it?"

                                Every muscle in Macro's body stiffened and he clenched his jaw. With all the chaos concerning DL, he'd forgotten about that alien creature.

                                "It's been attacking cities?" Anchor asked.

                                "Aye. It totally wrecked Favicon City," said Worm. "Pirates have since swooped in to loot the place dry, so don't get your hopes up. There's nowt left. As for the other cities, they've received... well... a glancing blow in comparison. I guess it pays to be prepared."

                                "Well, prepare yourselves," said Macro. "Once we've dropped DL off, we'll be back out to help you if you need it."

                                "Have you seen it?" Worm asked. "Is it as monstrous as the reports say?"

                                Macro's muzzle crinkled. "It looks like someone got a tentacruel, jellicent and ditto, merged them all together then gave it a rock hard shell. Thing trashed my cargo bay."

                                "You tried to catch it?! Are you a moron?!"

                                Macro grunted and marched on. "Sometimes I wonder."

                                Worm huffed and came to a stop, gasping to catch his breath. "Well. Someone's a martyr today."

                                Macro rounded the corner onto the main street running through Pulse City. The huge sign for Moonlight Lounge stood on his right. He scoured the building names and numbers on the opposite side of the road, searching for Neon House. It wasn't hard to miss. The large apartment block stood almost opposite the Lounge, and running up the side of the door was a control panel with a bell for each apartment.

                                He juggled DL in his arms, straining to reach the panel.

                                Anchor placed a paw on his horn, stopping him. "What number?"

                                "Twelve," Macro muttered.

                                Anchor's huge claw drowned the tiny bell, and a deep buzz came from the panel's speaker. Within no time, Surge's voice rang out at them.

                                "Who is it?" she asked.

                                "It's me," Macro responded.

                                Surge 'hmm'd' and clicked her tongue. "Hardly narrows it down."

                                "It's Macro. Let me in."

                                There was a painful pause, and Macro shuffled his feet as he stared up at the door. He half wondered if he should buzz again, then the door beeped and clicked.

                                Anchor wrenched it open, and Macro trotted inside, followed closely by Matrix. Macro paused, checking over the sign for the room numbers. Twelve was on the first floor. Since he was carrying DL, that meant he needed the elevator.

                                Anchor called it down and leant against the wall, folding his arms.

                                "You know, Cap'n," he said. "You've not told us much about this Surge. Are you sure we can trust her?"

                                Macro sighed and watched the elevator as it came down from the fourth floor. "She's helped me a few times. She's the one who fired the torpedo when we stole DL. I'd say we can trust her more than most other pokemon in this city."

                                Matrix looked up from his game with surprise, and Anchor scratched at his mohawk.

                                "She fired it? Well..." He cleared his throat. "Guess I don't need to worry, then?"

                                The elevator let out a cheerful chime and its doors rattled open. The lone light flickered, causing their shadows to dance over the peeling walls. As it rose, the entire cabin shook and Macro had to steady himself against the wall. When the doors opened again, the elevator wasn't quite in line with the floor and he had to lift his foot to climb out else risk sprawling over the already cracked tiles.

                                Number twelve was right beside the elevator. Macro let Anchor knock, his huge paw almost sending the door off its hinges. Surge answered, her eyes narrowed into slits. But her expression softened when she saw Macro and his unconscious burden.

                                "Bring her inside." She vanished back beyond the door.

                                No 'hello'. No pleasantries. She was as blunt as she had been on the phone. Macro sighed and followed the zigzagoon into her apartment. It was sparse of decoration, unless her weapons counted as such. Pots and pans lay in a heap in the sink and her bed was still unmade.

                                Anchor let out a long whistle and nudged Macro with his elbow. "You found a pretty one."

                                Macro grit his teeth together and gave Anchor a violet leer. He clutched DL tightly and trotted to catch up with Surge.

                                She tossed the sheet aside for him to set DL down. He slipped her onto the mattress and gently shoved her along so she was away from the edge.

                                "You've certainly got a lot of toys." Anchor looked over the vast array of weapons.

                                "They're not toys, so don't touch anything." She then turned to Macro. "So, you - What on earth have you got on your scarf?"

                                Macro looked down at himself and let out a long, pained groan. White powdery residue clung to his black and blue scarf in unsightly clumps reminiscent of fungus. Of course, none of his crew had said anything. Anchor was about as observant as a sock unless it concerned something he was interested in. Macro would like to say the same for Matrix, but he likely noticed and kept quiet for a laugh.

                                "It's caterpie silk." Macro beat it down and it flaked away under his paw, leaving behind grey marks.

                                Surge stared at him, her mouth slightly open as she watched him struggle to straighten the fabric back out.

                                He cleared his throat and waved a paw in dismissal. "It's a long story."

                                She shook her head and sighed. "Anyway. You said she froze? Something to do with a disk you installed."

                                "Yeh." His eyes went over to DL briefly. "But before we get into that, I suppose I should introduce you to the rest of my crew." He turned to look at Surge then nodded at the other two pokemon. "This is Anchor. He's my weapons expert, pilot and ship engineer. You already know Matrix."

                                "Oh yes." Surge leant back against the kitchenette counter. "I know the cute bug."

                                If Matrix was embarrassed, he didn't show it. He reached into his small bag and pulled out the disks.

                                "I've gone over these," the ribombee explained. "I can't find anything wrong with them. No discrepancies in the coding. My only assumption is there's a typo or missing command somewhere."

                                Surge took the disks and rifled through them. "There's nothing written on them to even say what they are."

                                "They're her memory disks," said Macro. "Socket obviously wanted to make them hard to find."

                                "And low key," Anchor added.

                                "They've also been locked," said Surge. "So no one can erase or write over them."

                                Macro took one of the square black disks off her and looked over it. Sure enough, the safety tag normally located in the top right corner had not only been moved into its 'lock' position, it had been broken away. A permanent measure often found on video games.

                                "That means if anything is wrong with this recent disk," said Surge, "whichever one it is, then it will be impossible to fix."

                                "That means it downloaded with an error?" Macro asked. "Or it was altered out of malice before the disk was finalized?"

                                "Or it's nothing to do with the disk." Surge shrugged. "Let me have a look over her before we jump to any conclusions. Don't touch that!"

                                Anchor's paw hovered over a large gun and he retracted it slowly to his side.

                                "I was just lookin'," he muttered.

                                "Look with your eyes." Surge took a deep breath and ran a paw over her face. "Seriously, if that misfires, the entire building is gonna come down around our ears."

                                Anchor took a step back from the gun, then rejoined Macro's side.

                                Surge sighed and shook her head, moving over to the bedside unit. Macro watched her like a hawk as she looked over DL. Then she opened a drawer and pulled out a long, black cable.

                                "It must be so strange to have a jack lead adaptor in your head," she said, more to DL than to the space pirates. She then turned to Macro. "Are you wanting to stay and wait while I do this?"

                                "I was planning on it." Macro folded his arms and inclined his head on one side. "How long do you think this is gonna be?"

                                "Yeh," said Matrix. "'Cos I might go to the Lounge and play games."

                                Surge tutted and attached the cable to her computer. "Abandoning your captain? Not exactly a loyal little bee, are you?"

                                "I'm used to it." Macro pulled up a chair beside the coffee table.

                                "If I have time, I'm taking advantage of it," Matrix protested.

                                "It could be a while," said Surge. "I'm going to treat what's happened to her as a computer crash and leave my tablet running a full diagnostic. You might want to help yourselves to drinks."

                                "I'm on it." Anchor marched over to the refrigerator and tugged it open. "Woo. Berry juice. Not a bad selection. Someone likes their vitamins."

                                Surge rolled her eyes.

                                "I'm guessin' Macro's on the pecha juice," said Anchor. "Can I get you anything, Surge?"

                                "Pecha for me, too, please," said Surge without looking up.

                                Matrix buzzed over to Anchor and helped him pour out five glasses. Anchor sat opposite Macro with a sickly green juice that made Macro's nose crinkle.

                                Matrix raised his glass and nodded. "I'll just finish this and be out of your fur. You know where to find me."

                                Surge said nothing. Too focused on her task, or plain ignorance. Macro couldn't decide.

                                He sipped his drink, keeping one eye on the zigzagoon. His heart was hammering as his mind ran through every single worse-case scenario that resulted in DL never waking up. Trapped in an eternal sleep.

                                A loud scream came through the window, causing Macro to drop his glass. Anchor let his drop to the table, splashing the worn wood with bitter juice. All eyes went to the window, and Matrix shot towards it like a yellow dart.

                                A cacophony of voices melded in the street below. Shouts, cries, screams.

                                "It looks like a riot or something," said Matrix.

                                Macro pushed himself to his feet and ran to join the ribombee. Anchor and Surge appeared on either side and Matrix opened the window, allowing them all to lean out to get a clearer view.

                                It wasn't a riot.

                                Pokemon were gathering weapons or belongings and making a beeline for the docks.

                                "Think our friend showed up?" Anchor asked.

                                "Looks like it." Macro pushed back from the window and turned towards the door. "Come on, crew. We're gonna head it off."

                                "Where are you going?" Surge demanded. "What 'friend'?"

                                Macro stopped by the door and looked back over his shoulder. "There's a monster on the loose. Probably some dimensional beast Socket's warped plan has let loose. It was heading this way."

                                "And you were going to tell me all this when?"

                                Anchor spread his paws and looked from the zigzagoon to Macro. "You didn't warn her? You warned Worm."

                                Macro waved his arm at DL. "Excuse me if it kinda slipped my mind!"

                                "How could it slip your mind?" Matrix asked. "It wrecked our cargo hold."

                                More cries came from the street, distressed and frightened mixed with angry and commanding.

                                Macro gave himself a mental shake and threw the door open.

                                "Look, I'll explain later," he said quickly. "But right now, I wanna help destroy that thing. It's our fault we let it go in the first place. Look after DL."

                                He darted from the door with Anchor and Matrix on his tail.

                                "Just don't ask me to shoot it this time," said the ribombee.

                                "Macro! Wait!" Surge's voice faded out as the space pirates vanished into the elevator.

                                ...

                                Pulse City was in an uproar. The streets heaved with pokemon of varying size and species. Some towered over Macro, stepping over his head and making him feel oddly vulnerable. Space pirates and residents stampeded back and forth, but most of them were heading towards the docks.

                                From the crowds and sirens, Macro guessed the docks was where the beast had been spotted. All the ships were crowded out, and pokemon shoved their way through to reach their respective ships. Some were pulling out, turning tail and heading into the vastness of System Sky.

                                Above them, the familiar shape of the strange jellyfish creature zoomed in on the horizon. So it hadn't reached them yet... Macro felt a flood of relief.

                                "Get to the ship," he told his crew. "We'll head it off and fire."

                                "So we're hunting strange, ominous creatures," said Anchor. "Gotcha."

                                Macro paused as he looked over the sea of scrambling bodies. "We just need to work our way through. I can dart between legs while Matrix can fly overhead. But you-"

                                "Nah, we're stickin' together," said Anchor. "I ain't losing you - or time - in all that."

                                The granbull scooped up Macro under one arm and barged through the crowd. The mawile waved his arms and shouted in protest, but was silenced by sparks flying from Anchor's flaming fangs. Pokemon darted out of the way as heat singed their fur, and they shot the space pirates looks of venom.

                                Macro raised his paws over his head, shielding himself from bumps and scrapes as Anchor powered his way through hard, scaly and thorny bodies. He didn't open his eyes until Anchor set him back down beside his ship.

                                "Made it," said the granbull. He ushered Macro onto the stairs. "What do you plan to do with the creature when we've shot it?"

                                "Well I don't plan on catching it again, that's for certain," said Macro. "I guess we just let it fall."

                                "But there's land beneath us," said Anchor. "What if it falls on someone, or crushes a building?"

                                "That's for System Ground to deal with." Macro fell into his seat and gestured to his crew. "Let's get this ship in the air and start firin'."

                                Anchor grumbled under his breath as the schooling wishiwashi fired to life. Wildcard Gamma pulled out of the docks and, unlike many of the other ships, turned towards the alien creature. Macro caught a glimpse of confused and angry faces staring up at them from the crowd below.

                                As they moved along the outer dome of Pulse City, the crowd thinned out. Larger space pirates herded the frightened mass towards the ships while the bolder of the group worked together to defend against the alien. Gathered on the outermost edge of the dome, space pirates of all sizes gathered, decked out in thermal suits and helmets. Frost clung to the light fabric and their breath misted over the surface of the perspex glass. Smaller pokemon aimed their lasers, waiting for the monster to draw close enough, while a massive aggron stood with a missile launcher resting on his plated shoulder.

                                The city turrets aimed towards the creature, lying dormant as the pokemon manning them waited to fire.

                                "Hope we don't get caught up in all that onslaught," Anchor muttered.

                                "Then make sure to dodge it," said Macro. "Hopefully they'll appreciate a helping paw."

                                Matrix eyed the small army and wound his antenna in his paw. "Seems a bit overkill."

                                "If that thing's been destroying cities, I worry this might not be enough," said Macro. "Just concentrate all our fire power on that... jellyfish thing."

                                Anchor brought Wildcard Gamma to a stop, turning to face the alien head on. The strange creature didn't appear remotely phased. It kept 'swimming' towards them at the speed of knot, its long tentacles pulsing back and forth.

                                "Should we shoot now, Cap'n?" Anchor asked.

                                "Wait a minute," said Macro. "Wait for it to get a bit closer. We don't want to risk missing and agitating it."

                                "If I were to hazard a guess," said Matrix, "I'd say it's already pretty agitated."

                                "Still," said Macro. "Give it a little time, then we can get a nice good shot in."

                                No sooner had the words left his mouth, a narrow laser beam shot past the ship towards the creature, glancing off its head. The jellyfish swerved to the side, bringing its tentacles up to lash out at its invisible foe. Then it turned towards the onslaught and darted towards them with alarming speed.

                                The entire small army went into an uproar, firing bullets, missiles and lasers right at the creature. It ducked and swerved, dodging the majority of them while the remainder hit its billowing tentacles and head frill.

                                "What are they doing?!" Macro roared.

                                "Guess your message didn't reach the turrets." Matrix rolled his eyes.

                                "I didn't send them a message!" Macro bit back.

                                "Exactly." Matrix turned back to his navigation system, silently winding his antenna in one paw.

                                The ship shook, lurching forwards and sending Macro sprawling onto the dashboard. A torrent of narrow lasers skimmed past the window, driving the creature to the right of Wildcard Gamma. Macro pushed himself back up, catching Anchor's concerned glance. The mawile swiftly buckled himself into his seat and sighed, shaking his head slowly.

                                "We're gonna go down in flames." He groaned and ran a paw down his face. "Just fire."

                                "Roger." Anchor's paws flew over a series of buttons on the dashboard, then he began to steer the ship forwards.

                                The familiar sound of the smaller wishiwashi snapping into place filled the cockpit, followed by a deep whir as they spun around the barrel of the ship. Bubbles flew out in a stream, exploding before they could reach their target. The impact blew the creature back and it floated on the spot, its eyeless face peering out at the bubble bombs as though it was reconsidering its actions.

                                "I don't think it likes it," said Matrix.

                                "Of course it doesn't," said Anchor. "They're bombs."

                                "Water type bombs," Matrix added.

                                "He's got a point," Macro told Anchor. "Get closer! Pepper that thing with them!"

                                Anchor silently drew the ship closer to the alien. Macro craned his neck around to try and get a view of the army. Their weapons flashed by the windows, skimming Wildcard Gamma's hull. But Macro's eye was drawn in by a flood of colourful ships pouring towards them from the docks. The lead ship was a gorebyss, followed by a magikarp and two basculin.

                                A grin spread across Macro's face. Back up. The more fire power aimed at that monster, the faster it would fall.

                                He turned back to the battle, just as another stream of bubble bombs flew from the ship's turrets. The strange creature doubled back then raised its tentacles. Hundreds of glowing rocks shot from it, striking the bombs before they could hit. They exploded on impact, drawing closer to Wildcard Gamma and creating a shock wave. The ship lurched backwards, right into the line of fire from the turrets.

                                Macro's seatbelt jabbed into his ribs as he jolted forwards in his seat.

                                "Oi!" He called over his shoulder, not that he could even see the pokemon manning the turret. "Watch where you're firin'!"

                                "That attack was power gem," said Matrix. "That creature is using the same attacks pokemon know."

                                Macro met the ribombee's eyes and he glanced away nervously, winding his antenna around in his paw so tightly Macro feared he might tug it off.

                                "You telling me that thing's a pokemon?" Macro asked.

                                Matrix shrugged and glanced out of the window. The strange creature was heading straight for them.

                                "Send out another bubble beam!" Macro told Anchor. "Even if it doesn't hit, it'll delay it getting to us. Then we can think up another plan."

                                Anchor gave a noncommittal grunt and the ship's turrets fired into action once more, spraying the beast with exploding bubbles. It reared back to counter attack, but the bubbles lit up with a blue light as a stream of ice flowed through them, hitting the creature head on. The gorebyss ship pulled up beside them, the long fin on its head glowing with a soft, silver-blue light. Once the attack ended, it faded out and a soft bubble surrounded the entire ship.

                                Fire then shield. One of those lasers that needed a bit of recharge time.

                                Macro turned back to the alien. It was still reeling from the laser attack. Frost clung to its head and right tentacles, and it flailed as it tried to dodge the slower bubble bombs as they exploded around it. Loud tinkling flew from an unseen mouth as it thrashed in the air, desperate to avoid the onslaught.

                                "I have an idea," said Anchor. "I'm gonna get behind it."

                                "What for?" Macro asked, aghast.

                                "I'm gonna herd it towards the army," Anchor replied. "Get it close enough that they can hit it with their weapons. Put it completely in the line of fire and see if it can handle all of that. If it works, it'll go down like a sack of rocks."

                                Before Macro could reply, Wildcard Gamma ducked to the side, drawing away from the gorebyss. The elegant ship took their previous spot and the fin atop its head began to glow softly, almost pulsing as it charged up its next aurora beam imitation.

                                The basculin ships seemed to have the same idea Anchor had. They came at the monster from the opposite side, the frowning faces of their ships screaming business. If they weren't going to herd it towards the army, Macro assumed they meant to tackle it head on. He doubted it, however. Ships that relied on physical, brute strength often didn't survive very long in the sky.

                                Wildcard Gamma drew closer to the creature's left, then fired another stream of bullets. It moved away from them, rather than towards the small army, putting it in striking distance of the basculin. The creature swung around in an arc, throwing glowing rocks straight at Wildcard Gamma. Several hit the bombs, while those that didn't struck the hull and window. Macro flinched back from the windscreen, raising his paws to shield his head. When he looked up, he was greeted by a spider web of cracks and a pitiful groan left his mouth. He'd have to deal with that later.

                                His eyes went back to the basculin ships. They were much closer to the beast now, and the furthest one opened its cargo hatch mouth wide. It sent out a stream of steaming water, all the while still moving towards it. The creature screeched as it skimmed its tentacles. A glancing hit, designed to drive it away from them. The other basculin opened its mouth in the same manner, but rather than fire a weapon, it instead snapped it shut with a speed that caused Macro to flinch.

                                Another screech came from the creature and it flailed, striking the ship with its tentacles. A stream of purple flowed from its wounded limb, raining down onto System Ground. The basculin span behind the creature, one of it tentacles clasped in the tightly closed jaws of its cargo hold like a tiny noodle.

                                "Alright," said Anchor. "Looks like it's workin'."

                                But the creature held on with one tentacle, hanging from the basculin ship's exit hatch. It pulled itself up as the ship slowed down, spreading out on top of it like a tiny hat.

                                Macro raised an eyebrow. What was the creature up to?

                                The basculin ship span on the spot, opening its jaws wide. It snapped them closed over the side of the other basculin, tearing a huge hole in the hull. The other ship retaliated with steaming water, missing its sudden foe and instead striking Wildcard Gamma on the nose.

                                "Oi!" Macro waved his paw. "What are you attacking each other for, you fools! Hit the creature!"

                                "I think it's taken over the ship," said Matrix.

                                The hostile basculin turned on the spot towards Wildcard Gamma, letting the friendly ship plummet towards the ground below. Macro's heart sank as he watched the ship vanish through the clouds. His eyes went back to their former ally. Through the basculin eye windows he caught sight of the pilot. An emolga, desperately trying to bring the ship under its control.

                                Matrix was right. The creature was controlling it somehow.

                                Its tinkly voice filled the air, and the ship opened its jaws. A stream of boiling water flew at Wildcard Gamma.

                                Anchor threw his weight against the steering stick and the ship lurched to the side, narrowly avoiding the attack. Steaming water skimmed the hull of the ship, followed by a stomach-churning crack. There went one of the turrets...

                                The gorebyss sent forth an ice attack, hitting the creature in the head. It flailed, smashing the head of the basculin and spraying purple acid over its head and windows. The corrosive liquid burned through the metal and the emolga went into a panic, rushing away from the ship's controls.

                                Wildcard Gamma launched another stream of bubbles, catching the creature's limbs and driving it from the basculin ship. It finally released it, letting the abandoned ship plummet through the clouds.

                                A small yellow and black shape leapt from it, followed by two other small pokemon. Their parachutes kicked in, drowning out their small bodies as they followed their ship towards System Ground.

                                "All right. New plan." Macro ran a paw over his face. "Don't let that creature touch my ship."

                                "Gotcha." Anchor fired up the turrets once more.

                                Bubbles flew at the creature before it could gather itself. It backed away from Wildcard Gamma, dodging some of the bombs but not quite getting out of the way of the attack. It was blown backwards towards Pulse City. The gorebyss ship closed in behind it, hitting it with another ice laser. The ice and bombs combined sent the creature like a ping pong ball right towards the army.

                                The waiting troop caught on, sending a torrent of weapon fire right into its bulbous head. Missiles, bullets and lasers struck home, blowing it backwards towards the waiting ships. Anchor didn't hang around, and neither did the gorebyss. All attacks concentrated on the creature, drowning out its cries. Then the attacks lessened off, and the tentacled monstrosity dropped like a stunned ducklett towards the world below.

                                "We did it." Anchor sat back in his seat and wiped a paw across his brow. "Wow. It took an army to stop that thing. What was it made of?"

                                Macro said nothing. He watched the creature vanish into the blackness, his claws digging into the dashboard. Anchor's words were spinning around his head, breaking him into a cold sweat. They'd saved Pulse City, but what city was below them exactly?

                                Never mind the creature alone falling on top of a city. It had followed two fallen ships. A sudden rain of shrapnel, bringing a brutal end to another city.

                                Save one, lose another. He hoped desperately that was the only monstrosity to come from Socket's toying with time and space.
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                                  #41    
                                Old April 14th, 2018 (11:35 AM).
                                Hyzenthlay's Avatar
                                Hyzenthlay Hyzenthlay is offline
                                 
                                Join Date: Nov 2012
                                Location: Aloft on my Loftwing
                                Nature: Jolly
                                Posts: 3,363
                                I just wanted to say, I really enjoy your work! It's hard to find quality Pokémon Mystery Dungeon fan fictions, but yours certainly make the cut! Unfortunately, I haven't had the time to sit and read them for some time.

                                Basically, I'm a big fan of your style! Glitched in particular was a unique take on PMD that deviated from the usual base plot of the games. Not that I mind them—in fact, I'm a sucker for traditional PMD plots! It's just that your work left a stronger impression on me. :)

                                Also, I totally nicknamed my Mawile after Pixel!
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                                  #42    
                                Old 4 Weeks Ago (6:30 AM).
                                Delirious Absol's Avatar
                                Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
                                Call me Del
                                   
                                  Join Date: May 2015
                                  Location: UK
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                                  Gender: Female
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                                  Posts: 318
                                  Quote:
                                  Originally Posted by Clover View Post
                                  I just wanted to say, I really enjoy your work! It's hard to find quality Pokémon Mystery Dungeon fan fictions, but yours certainly make the cut! Unfortunately, I haven't had the time to sit and read them for some time.

                                  Basically, I'm a big fan of your style! Glitched in particular was a unique take on PMD that deviated from the usual base plot of the games. Not that I mind them—in fact, I'm a sucker for traditional PMD plots! It's just that your work left a stronger impression on me. :)

                                  Also, I totally nicknamed my Mawile after Pixel!
                                  Thank you so much! I'm so glad you're enjoying it! =D And that's really sweet you named your mawile after Pixel!

                                  Chapter 41​

                                  BackDoor flew with his arms tucked behind his head, his eyes closed as he was deep in thought. TimeSkip’s flying was far from silent. His wings filled the air with a deep, droning buzz which was really beginning to grate on BackDoor. He snapped one eye open, fixing the odd onion-like android with a glare.

                                  “Can’t you fly more quietly?” he growled.

                                  TimeSkip said nothing, fixing its blank eyes on the vastness behind him.

                                  BackDoor turned his head to look over his shoulder, then looked back at the celebi.

                                  “There’s nothing there,” he said. “Have you picked up another time pocket?”

                                  Silence.

                                  BackDoor narrowed his eyes and clenched his teeth together. “All right, this has gone on long enough. I’m bored. Say something!”

                                  The celebi stared blankly ahead, the only sound coming from its rapid wing beats.

                                  BackDoor glided towards it, fixing his eyes on the celebi’s emotionless bug-like, glassy ones.

                                  “Hmm… not like you to disobey. I think you might have a problem,” he said. “Run a full diagnostics.”

                                  The celebi fluttered before him, still not looking at him.

                                  BackDoor let out a sigh and muttered under his breath. “I have to do everything, don’t I?”

                                  He reached behind TimeSkip and, clutching him under one arm, flicked the power switch with his free paw. He counted silently to ten then switched it back on again. The celebi flared to life, lifting its heavy head to look right at him.

                                  “Feeling better?” BackDoor asked. “Gonna speak to me now?”

                                  A spray of binary flew through the hoopa’s head and he shook it sharply, raising a paw to silence the celebi.

                                  “I don’t want your life story,” he said. “Run a full diagnostics then tell me what was wrong in a nutshell. ‘Kay?”

                                  The celebi fell silent and its glassy eyes went even more blank as its internal computer searched through every inch of its system.

                                  BackDoor leant back on his arms and yawned. Given the celebi android’s short life, it shouldn’t take too long to search through its data banks.

                                  He peered over his shoulder at the emptiness of System Sky. They were far away from any of the floating cities. Supposedly the perfect spot to search through time and space for a new System. TimeSkip hadn’t found a single suitable time pocket. They’d all been dangerously prehistoric or a mere hundred or so years ago. Any other worlds had been either empty or toxic. Searching for somewhere clean for Socket and her select elite to retreat into had got off to a bad start, and TimeSkip’s silence for the last… half a day?… had likely cost them some progress. He looked back over the celebi’s shoulder and sighed.

                                  “Don’t think I can be bothered going all the way back to see what you missed,” he muttered.

                                  Binary filled his head and he snapped back to reality.

                                  ‘Diagnostics complete. Ready to relay information.’

                                  “Shoot.”

                                  ‘Detected and repaired damaged communication components,’ said TimeSkip. ‘Damage caused by passing virus on route to Download Database. Successfully quarantined all traces and irreparable data.’

                                  BackDoor raised an eyebrow. “Passing virus? When did you pick up a virus?”

                                  ‘Damage dates back to around six thirty AM.’

                                  “Huh.” BackDoor scratched his head. “That’s about the time I got a headache. If it’s been sent to Download Database, I’m gonna guess Yobi’s used my network as a means to transfer it, and damaged you in the process. Maybe I should run a diagnostics on myself?”

                                  A million voices filled his head at once and he clasped both paws over his horns. With a groan, he filtered them out to make some level of sense.

                                  ‘P0ck3t f0uNd. L0c4Ti0N UNkN0wN. ReL4yiNG c0-0rDiN4T3ssssszz.’

                                  He looked back up at TimeSkip as a stream of numbers registered in his mind. “Guess a diagnostics will have to wait.” A large grin spread across his face. “Sounds like Zero Day have found another world.”

                                  ‘Affirmative.’

                                  “I say we go play with them for a little bit, huh?”

                                  The two androids doubled back then zipped towards the porygon-Z fleet’s co-ordinates.

                                  ...​

                                  Macro gave a quick glance over his ship. Blue paint peeled back from the hull, and the metal was melted away in parts. A huge hole graced where one of the turrets had been positioned, revealing the intricate wiring and water pipes. Anchor had confirmed that one of the small wishiwashi had been torn clean away from the turret belt. There was no retrieving that. They’d have to have another one built, or repair the damage and make do with a missing turret. The damage this time was immense compared to previous damage. His heart sank at the sight of it and he felt himself break out into a cold sweat.

                                  “I’ll deal with this.” Anchor dropped a heavy paw onto Macro’s shoulder. “You go check on DL.”

                                  “You sure you can fix this?” Macro gestured to the wishiwashi’s exposed innards.

                                  “I can sure give it a shot,” said Anchor. “I helped build the thing, after all. Pretty sure we can get the bits and pieces we need from Pulse City, if you’re fine shelling out for it. Worst case scenario, I’ll have to take a pod to the outskirts to gather scraps, and you’ll be stuck in Pulse City for a couple of nights.”

                                  Macro scratched his ear and brought his bank balance up on his optical display. Just over thirty thousand credits. Thankfully the winnings he’d received from their game of farkle had cushioned it out nicely. Still… space pirates could charge a pretty credit for scrap materials.

                                  “Have a hunt around.” He closed his display and gave Anchor a wave as he turned away. “You know where to find me.”

                                  Macro marched down the street with Matrix buzzing at his head level. He cast the ribombee a sideways glance then tucked his paws behind his head.

                                  “Part of me can’t believe we actually took down that thing,” he said. “If it weren’t for the damage to my ship, I’d think I’d dreamt it.”

                                  Matrix shrugged and pulled out his small computer. “At least it’s not posing a threat any more.”

                                  Macro snorted. “I dread to think what the pokemon living in the city below us are thinking right now. Because that wreckage will have obliterated it.”

                                  “It’s Baud City,” said Matrix as he thumbed his computer screen. “The damage is immense, and there’s been over a hundred casualties. Twenty are confirmed dead.”

                                  Macro grit his teeth together and flinched. More accidental lives he could add to his list.

                                  “But the damage is concentrated to the business district and coast line,” Matrix explained. “The apartment blocks on its outskirts are still intact. The antenna connecting it to System’s grid has received some level of damage, giving it a power outage for fifteen minutes. But that’s back online now, so I wouldn’t worry. The city itself is still intact. Somewhat.”

                                  Matrix popped his computer away, not a single look of remorse on his tiny face. Of course, that wasn’t to say he didn’t care. He was about as easy to read as a blank notebook.

                                  “I’m gonna get to Moonlight Lounge,” the ribombee explained. “I really wanna sink myself into Assassin Strike for a while.”

                                  Macro let out a small sigh and glanced away from him. “To be honest, I was hoping you’d come with me to Surge’s apartment.”

                                  “What for?”

                                  “I dunno. I… just don’t really wanna be alone with her.”

                                  Matrix rubbed beneath his goggles and looked up at one of the passing billboards. “All right. I’ll come with you for a few minutes.”

                                  “Make it thirty minutes and I’ll buy you dinner.”

                                  “What?” Matrix raised an eyebrow. “You’re being weird today.”

                                  “I just almost destroyed a city trying to save this one.” Macro stopped in the middle of the street and spread his arms wide. “Pokemon have died because I tried to stop that creature potentially destroying Pulse City. Forgive me if I seem a little off right now!”

                                  “Okay.” Matrix stared at him until he started walking again. “But I dunno what almost destroying a city has to do with Surge.”

                                  “She’s pushy,” Macro explained. “I’m worried if she goes too far I’ll end up doing something I regret.”

                                  “Like what?”

                                  “I dunno. Shoot her?”

                                  Matrix chuckled and paused to look over at Moonlight Lounge. “So if she gets too pushy, I get a free dinner? Guess I’m game.”

                                  Macro said nothing as he pushed the buzzer to Surge’s apartment. The zigzagoon’s voice came out from the intercom no sooner he took his claw off the button.

                                  “Who is it?”

                                  “It’s Macro. Let me in.”

                                  He thought he heard her tut before the buzzer rang and the door opened. He exchanged glances with Matrix then slipped inside, making a beeline for the elevator. The precarious contraption rattled its way up to her floor, opening its doors and revealing its trip-hazard of a step up onto the carpet.

                                  Surge was waiting for them at her door, a small frown creasing her cream and brown face.

                                  “I see you brought your cute bodyguard,” she said.

                                  “Eh?” Macro froze slightly and his jaw went slack.

                                  “I heard you from the window, moron.” Surge turned and marched back into her apartment, leaving the door wide open for the two space pirates.

                                  Macro followed behind her and his eyes went straight to the bed in the corner of the small apartment. DL lay on her back beneath the blankets, a long cable stretching out from the back of her head. The other end of which was attached to Surge’s computer tablet.

                                  “How is she?” Macro asked.

                                  Surge gestured for him to sit down and he pulled up a seat at the kitchen counter. Matrix landed atop it and sat with his long legs hanging over the edge. The zigzagoon didn’t look up from her computer, feigning interest in the contents of the screen.

                                  “I ran a full diagnostics,” she explained. “Her mind is filled with damaged files, and it’s great enough to render her unconscious. I’d actually call this some form of coma.”

                                  Macro felt his blood turn cold. He looked over at the pachirisu, seeming so small beneath the sheets. His heart ached. What had happened? A lump rose in his throat and he tore his eyes away, instead staring at his black paw as it contrasted with the nicotine-coloured kitchen counter.

                                  “She has a fully functional anti-virus system installed,” said Surge. “Which is sensible given the confidential information she’s been installed with. The diagnostics found a lock on those confidential files, which blocks her from accessing them. With a bit of tweaking, I’ve manage to give her access to that again.”

                                  “I’m not bothered about that,” Macro said through his teeth. “What’s happened to her?”

                                  “I’m getting to that,” Surge growled. “I thought at first the lock might have done something. Like it had locked her out of her own consciousness. But it’s not that. A bit more poking around revealed all the damaged files, most of which are memories tied with her self awareness and brain function. I believe those are contained on the second disk you installed. Her default could be likened to an android brain, only in data form and not physical in any way. My second suspicion was that they were competing and it had shut her down. It’s not that either. What I did find is actually very interesting.”

                                  She turned in her seat to face Macro and showed him the computer screen. He couldn’t make head nor tail of it, but Matrix leant forward on the kitchen counter to get a better look.

                                  “Wow!” the ribombee gasped. “Is that what I think it is?”

                                  “Depends what you think it is,” said Surge. “It behaves in every way like a worm.”

                                  “A worm?” Macro looked up at her, meeting her eyes briefly before she looked back at her computer. “Are you saying DL has a virus?”

                                  “That’s exactly what I’m saying.” Surge turned away from them again and pawed over the screen. “I had my doubts at first, but the anti virus she’s been installed with can’t detect it. It’s as though it’s been made specifically to override it. Automatic updates, even forced updates, won’t give her any antibodies to fight this virus. I tried to get rid of it myself. I even tried transferring it to my own computer, but it won’t budge. As such, I’ve had to quarantine it. To do that, I had to unlock her access to the Download Database and lock it away in there.”

                                  “Won’t it destroy those files?” Macro asked.

                                  Matrix glanced him out of the corner of his eye and wound his antenna in his paw. “Not if it’s quarantined.”

                                  “Matrix is right,” said Surge. “I’ve locked it away in one of the furthermost corners of that database. It’s stuffed inside a redundant file and locked up. I don’t know how it behaves, since I’ve not had enough time to study it. There’s every chance it will eat its way free. But I’ve done my best. My only other option was to completely wipe her, Download Database and all. That would have meant wiping out all her memories, old and new. But part of me feels you wouldn’t have wanted me to do that.”

                                  Surge cleared her throat and looked back up at the pachirisu.

                                  Wiping all her memories, old and new… that would have meant she’d have no idea who Macro even was. Surge had avoided it. The thought left Macro feeling a little warm, yet worried at the same time. If that virus got free, the same thing could happen again. He bit his lip, fighting back the urge to ask her to just go ahead with it. Was he being selfish?

                                  A heavy lump rose in his throat again and he turned in his seat so he was no longer looking at DL.

                                  “There’s an upside to this,” said Surge. “Given I had to unlock Download Database, you now have complete access to it. If you want to fight back against it, DL is your weapon. You’ll always be one step ahead.”

                                  Macro nibbled on his claw and gave Surge a sideways glance. “So what are you doing now?”

                                  “Re-installing all her memories in hopes it will repair the damaged files,” she said. “It’s my home-run swing before I resort to wiping her completely and starting fresh. But I don’t want to do that.” She looked up at him over her shoulder briefly. “Could you imagine being stuck with all these mechanical parts in your head and having no idea why?”

                                  “She currently doesn’t have any idea why,” said Macro.

                                  “No. But with access to the Database she might be able to find out why she was created.”

                                  Macro’s heart did a somersault. Were they really about to find out?

                                  “I think I’ve worked out which disk is which,” Surge explained. “I’ve not detected a virus on any of them.”

                                  “That’s a relief,” said Macro. “I was worried the recent disk had been tampered with.”

                                  “It definitely hasn’t,” she said. “I’m going to try and install the first two you did before we go for the most recent one.”

                                  Surge reached for one of the disks and slipped it into her computer. DL’s eyes flew open and stared blankly at the ceiling. The antenna behind her ear flared to life, flickering as it received the information from the disk. Macro was on the edge of his seat, his heart pounding in his throat. He dared not breathe, watching as Surge removed the first disk for the second. Not a peep came from DL. It was unlike the first times they installed the disks. She’d been awake. This time… why wasn’t she responding?

                                  As the second disk uploaded its information, everything seemed to go by so slowly, but the clock on Surge’s oven told him it had been merely ten minutes since they’d arrived and the first two disks had been re-installed.

                                  When Surge removed the disk from her computer, the light behind DL’s ear flickered and she stretched languidly, rubbing her paws across her eyes.

                                  Macro leapt from his seat, balling his paws into fists. His heart was hammering in his chest. Had it worked? Did she have her recent memories?

                                  She looked up at him and let her paw fall to her side as her chocolate eyes widened.

                                  “Macro?” She looked around the room. “Where am I?”

                                  His legs went weak. In his mind, he’d thrown his arms around her. But in reality he sank to the floor, clenching his paw so tightly his claws dug into his pads.

                                  “Oh, DL…” He grit his teeth together and looked up at her so sharply she recoiled slightly under the duvet. “Don’t you ever do that again!”

                                  Tears welled up in his eyes and he screwed them shut, turning his face to the floor. He felt them break free and he whisked a paw over his face, letting them soak into his fur.

                                  “What did I do?” DL asked quietly.

                                  “You did nothing,” said Surge. “Ignore him. He’s a grump.”

                                  She reached behind her for the third and final disk.

                                  “You’re installing my memories again?” DL asked weakly.

                                  “Yes.” Surge looked back at her. “How are you feeling?”

                                  “A little confused.” DL blinked her huge chocolate eyes and stared at the far wall at the foot of the bed. “I don’t know who you are, but I recognise Macro and Matrix. Also… I have some memories but it’s as though I can’t focus on them.”

                                  “That will be because of the virus. It’s corrupted the files Macro recently installed into you.” Surge popped the disk into her computer. “Brace yourself. If this works, they’re about to become a lot clearer.”

                                  DL clutched the duvet in both paws and cowered back behind it. Then her eyes went blank as the third disk spewed its information into her brain.

                                  Macro remained on his knees, gritting his teeth together so tightly it hurt. Part of him doubted it would work. The image of DL ‘malfunctioning’ was too crystal clear in his mind. He made a silent promise to her. If this failed again, he’d drop this mission. He’d let her have peace, and start afresh without those wretched disks.

                                  Her eyes refocused again and she let the duvet go slack. Surge reached across her and removed the jack lead, opening her mouth to speak. But before words could leave her mouth, DL let out a pained, terrified scream.

                                  Macro leapt to his feet and his paw flew to his laser. But it relaxed beside it as DL slumped forward, tugging the duvet up to her face.

                                  “I know now!” she wailed. “I know everything!”

                                  Everything…

                                  That was the disk she’d been terrified of.

                                  Macro crept over to her and perched on the edge of the bed.

                                  “She did this to me,” DL choked out. “She’s a monster!”

                                  There was nothing he could say. He reached out and pulled her into him, letting her head rest against his chest. Her paw wound itself into the fur of his shoulder and she let out a long, shaky sob.

                                  “I trusted her!” Her words were muffled into his scarf. “I trusted her and she took everything from me!”

                                  He fastened his arms around her and ran a paw over her back. “Well she can’t hurt you any more.”

                                  “No, but she wants me back.” Her words were interspersed with sobs. It pained him. “If she gets me back… she’ll use me like some machine…”

                                  “She won’t get you back,” he said. “I promise that.”

                                  “You don’t know what she’s done! What’s she’s planning!” Her entire body shook with violent sobs and coughs. “She’s insane. Absolutely insane!”

                                  ...​

                                  No more than fifteen years old.

                                  The young pachirisu sat at the back of the craft room, colouring in a recently drawn picture. The scene depicted was full of grass and berry orchards. Not that such scenes were prominent in System. She’d never been to System Sky. Never seen the orchards that grew in Cyan City.

                                  Two years she’d spent in the orphanage, although her memory as to why was hazy. Her parents had died, that much she knew.

                                  A small espurr shuffled over to her to grab a pencil box, his tiny paws barely reaching the edge of the table. She smiled down at him and plopped the pencil box gently into his outstretched paws.

                                  “Thanks, Loop,” he lisped before waddling over to the hatchling corner.

                                  The pachirisu gave him a warm smile before returning to her drawing. She’d barely put pencil back to paper when the old door creaked open. She craned her neck around, her eyes falling on the lithe form of a furret. Behind her stood a tall, dark pokemon. Her body was covered in a frilly black fur, adorned with white ribbons. Loop’s heart froze in her chest and her pencil clattered to the table, leaving a red scuff on the green grass of her orchard.

                                  “This is her,” said the furret. “Young Loop here has been with us for two years. None of her family are alive, so…”

                                  “Such an odd place for an electric type,” said Socket. “I thought she’d be in Botnet Orphanage. Not Meta City.”

                                  “Sadly they’re full,” said the furret. “After the accident-” her voice blurred, not coming into focus.

                                  Loop placed both paws over her ears, cowering over the table. What did the mayor want with her? She could feel her icy eyes burning into the side of her head.

                                  “I can offer her a home.” The gothitelle’s face melted into a warm smile. “I’ve been wanting a daughter.”

                                  Loop’s young heart did a backflip. Was she actually getting out? And to live with System’s mayor? Thoughts raced through her mind, not settling on one scenario. She’d made friends at the orphanage, but to have a normal life… go to a normal school…

                                  “I’ll have my PA deal with the paperwork,” Socket told the furret.

                                  “That’s not… ordinarily…” The furret backed down from Socket’s stare and nodded briskly. “That’s fine. I know you’re busy, and being the Mayor and all…”

                                  Before she knew it, Loop found herself being bundled into a sleek, black limo. A tiny chingling looked back at her from the driver’s seat, beaming through the bullet-proof glass separating him from the back seats. Driving was almost unnecessary. The orphanage was only a ten minute walk from the mansion.

                                  The first thing to greet her were a pair of intimidating pidgeot guards. Their beady black eyes watched her every move as Socket led her up the small staircase to the large, ornamental doors.

                                  “I’ll show you to your room.” The chingling flopped past her, his internal bell ringing with each small movement. “Socket’s a busy ‘mon.”

                                  “That won’t be necessary,” said Socket. “I’ll show my new daughter to her chambers.”

                                  “Seriously?” The chingling looked a little taken aback. “I don’t get this kind of treatment.”

                                  “You don’t need it. Now get back to work.” Socket stared at the back of the chingling, watching until he vanished around a corner. She then turned back to Loop and waved a paw for her to climb the stairs. “Come with me. It’s just up on the second floor.”

                                  The plush carpet cushioned her feet as she clambered up each luxurious step. Two flights and she found herself surrounded by closed doors. Socket led her a little way down the corridor and paused beside one of the identical doors, throwing it open.

                                  Loop’s breath was taken away. The room was just as ornamental as the rest of the mansion. A huge bed perched at one side, surrounded by four posts. The bed had its own curtains to match the ones over the window. Blue and white, trailing down to the smooth, polished wooden floor. She could almost see her reflection in the wood as she stepped inside. Her first instinct was to examine the wooden desk by the window, pulling out the little drawer.

                                  “There’s a pencil set in here,” she said.

                                  “Of course,” said Socket. “You like drawing, don’t you? I don’t want to deprive you of that.”

                                  She looked back at the gothitelle, all previous anxieties washed away. “Thank you.”

                                  “You’re welcome. I’ll leave you to settle in.” Socket stepped back from the door and began to pull it closed. “Oh. One more thing. Dinner is at seven. I’ll send Tweak to get you.”

                                  “Of course. I look forward to it.” Loop smiled as she watched Socket vanish behind the closed door.

                                  Almost three years went by, the first of which was pure bliss. Loop attended school and was picked up promptly each day by Tweak. Socket involved her in her work on Saturdays, showing her the ropes of being a mayor. The promise was one day Loop would take over, and she took it very seriously.

                                  Drawing was soon replaced by studying the laws of System until they were emblazoned in her mind. Air cleanliness, water dwellers, space pirates, prison sentences, crimes… her mind span. Once she’d finished school, she went straight into law.

                                  When she came home during her first break from Binary College, she couldn’t wait to relax in her own room. Being the Mayor’s daughter had been met with hostility and sleepless nights. She made her way to Socket’s office and knocked softly.

                                  “Come in.” The reply felt cold. Unwelcoming.

                                  She pushed the door open and shot one of her beaming smiles to the gothitelle. “It’s me. I’m back-”

                                  “Loop, finally.” Socket leant back in her seat and waved her paw towards a huge holoscreen display. “Meet my genius in science, Yobi.”

                                  Loop stepped into the room, looking warily up at the screen. The chubby face of a sparksurfer raichu peered curiously down at her.

                                  “So this is the young pachirisu I’ll be working with?” he asked.

                                  “Of course,” said Socket. “I expect good work from the both of you.”

                                  Loop turned her head to look at Socket and her paws went to her chest. “Science? I thought I was pursuing law.”

                                  Socket waved a paw. “Forget that. I need you to team up with Yobi. I have huge plans for System, and they don’t include law. Not at this early stage.”

                                  “But-”

                                  “No buts. I’ve already handed your notice into Binary College. You won’t be going back.”

                                  Loop’s heart sank. Part of her thought she’d be happy to see the back of Binary College. But no longer pursuing law… something she’d poured two years into…

                                  Little did she know her new direction of science was the start of a nightmare.

                                  Yobi’s lab was filled with all kinds of niknaks, from screws and bolts to robotic limbs. It was like a cybernetic morgue. He talked her through mechanics and computer coding, none of which made sense. What did stand out to her the most were the technicalities of dimensional travel. History books were thrown at her. Well… he called them history. To her, it was all mythology. Books on pokemon legends such as dialga and palkia, pokemon believed to control time and space. Celebi, hoopa… they came next. Glowing gateways into different worlds all made little sense to her.

                                  She voiced her concerns many times to Socket over dinner - it was becoming the only time they ever spoke - but the Mayor merely waved it off and changed the subject.

                                  So Yobi’s lessons went on.

                                  Why he was forcing this stuff into her head, she had no idea. She was beginning to wonder if Socket had hired a lunatic.

                                  Until one morning.

                                  Violent paws shook her awake and her eyes flew open. It was still dark, but the gothitelle’s blue eyes were glowing fiercely. She found herself lifted to her feet in a bubble of purple energy.

                                  Paralyzed.

                                  “What are you doing?!” Loop screamed. “Put me down!”

                                  “Not yet. You’re a part of this.” Socket lugged her down the hallway, leaving the pachirisu to thrash inside her bubble prison. “Besides. If I told you where we were going, you wouldn’t obey.”

                                  Tossed into a car and driven to the other end of Meta City. Her shouts fell on deaf ears as Tweak steered them through the busy streets. Once again, she was lifted into the air and lugged after the Mayor, to be dropped unceremoniously onto Yobi’s laboratory floor.

                                  The room was dimly lit, casting the lab in shadows reminiscent of a nightmare. Murky light reflected off a glistening metal trolley behind the raichu, lighting up sharp scalpel blades and needles.

                                  “It’s time,” said Socket. “Make it quick.”

                                  Yobi stuttered and rubbed his paws together, looking from Loop to Socket and back.

                                  “I still don’t understand,” he said. “Isn’t she your daughter?”

                                  “Yes.” Socket folded her arms. “I’ve told you repeatedly - that’s how it’s meant to look. Pokemon have seen me with her, almost every day. I think it’s safe to say we’ve eluded their suspicions.”

                                  Yobi rubbed the back of his ears and stared down at the trembling pachirisu. “If you’re sure there’s no one else-”

                                  “There’s always you.” Socket’s voice was laced with ice, freezing Yobi to the spot.

                                  “No, no. I can work with her,” he stuttered.

                                  “Good. Now get that database uploaded into her and let’s get on with our job.”

                                  “But… it’s a delicate procedure,” he said. “I’ve not got all the kinks worked out yet. It could spell disaster.”

                                  “You’ve been working on this for a year,” Socket spat. “Are you telling me you can’t download an entire database into a brain?”

                                  “Oh, I can… I’ve got the device made and everything. But-”

                                  “But what?”

                                  Loop’s heart was almost hammering its way out of her chest. She scurried backwards across the dusty floor, only to be stopped by another psychic bubble. Tweak’s grinning face stared back at her from the other side and he swung his whole body around, sending her back to the Mayor’s waiting feet.

                                  “Well, the thing is…” Yobi wrung his paws together. “She’s a bit of a… how do I put this… a strong personality. Do you really want all this confidential information uploaded into someone who could turn rebellious?”

                                  Socket scratched her chin. “You’ve mentioned this to me before. Several times, in fact. My answer remains the same. You can upload information, so why not remove it, too?”

                                  “And I told you that’s murder! You’re removing her very essence! You’re the Mayor, you can’t just take someone’s life away.”

                                  “What?!” Loop tried to climb to her feet, but it was like moving in a vat of glue.

                                  “Be quiet!” Socket waved a paw, silencing Loop’s voice in her throat. Then she turned back to Yobi. “She’d still be alive.”

                                  “Look. See it this way.” Yobi spread his paws. “What makes a pokemon is their personality. Without their memories and personality, they’re just… vegetables. You’re asking me to turn her into a vegetable. At least try to think up a legal loophole. How about I… I dunno… try to save all her essence to a disk? At least then, she’s still got it. It’s just… downloaded elsewhere.”

                                  “Fine. Download everything, save it, then upload Download Database. I want her wired to the BackDoor network before dawn tomorrow. Then we can get looking for a new world.”

                                  New world? Loop’s heart was hammering inside her chest. All that information. Hoopa, celebi, palkia and dialga… it hadn’t been for nothing.

                                  Socket strolled from the room with Tweak in tow. As the door closed behind her, Loop was released from her bubble. She stared up at Yobi, trembling from ear to toe.

                                  “Sorry.” He trapped her in another bubble and reached behind him towards the metal trolley. “I promise you won’t feel a thing.”

                                  ...​

                                  DL’s sobs lessened off, but the fur over her cheeks glistened with tears.

                                  That awful nightmare of a story filled Macro’s mind with vivid, horrific images he wished to lock away in a tiny box in the corner of his mind. Who would do that? Trick a child into a lie of security, just to use them as a tool in a warped, vindictive plan?

                                  DL’s trembling breath tickled the fur on Macro’s chest, and as she shifted against him the scent of lavender filled his nose. It left him feeling physically weak, but a fire ignited deep within him. His grip slackened and he let his claws trail over her fur as he fixed the headboard with a piercing, violet leer.

                                  “She’ll have to kill me before she can ever lay her paws on you again.” The words left his mouth before he’d even had time to process them.

                                  His paw faltered over her spine, but he didn’t take his eyes off the headboard. Her sobs had become a snuffle and she was stock still, her claws wound into the fabric of his scarf. He pulled away from her but she didn’t relinquish his scarf. She clutched it in her paws, her wide, glossy chocolate eyes flying around the room and settling on anything but him. They trailed over the wall, Matrix, Surge…

                                  Surge cleared her throat and rose to her feet to head towards the kitchen. Macro looked from the zigzagoon’s tatty tail to DL’s terrified eyes. His heart clenched in his chest and he let himself fall onto his bottom on the floor as he wiped his face dry.

                                  “I think we need to give… Loop, I guess?… time to come to terms with things,” said Surge.

                                  “Don’t call me that,” DL hissed. “Don’t you ever call me that.”

                                  “But it’s your name, isn’t it?” Matrix wound his antenna in his paw thoughtfully.

                                  DL gave her head a violent shake. “No. No, it’s not! The last pokemon to ever call me that was her. I don’t want anything to do with her. That name died that night.”

                                  “She’s right.” Macro stared down at his paws as he straightened out his scarf. “Nothing wrong with having two names. I do it.”

                                  “Yes, but your alias is to throw other pokemon off your scent,” said Surge. “If someone were to find a dead mawile, your chip would say ‘Macro’, am I right?”

                                  He snorted and waved the zigzagoon off. “Anyway. Let DL use whatever name she wants. I don’t blame her for wanting nothing to do with Socket. That mad Mayor has just given me another reason to see her fall.”

                                  “What’s all this about looking for a new world?” Matrix asked.

                                  DL trembled and fixed her gaze on the wall. “I’ll tell you later. I’m still coming to terms with it. Some things are blurrier than others. Like… I don’t have any memories prior to being in that orphanage. None at all. No idea what even happened to my family. But the details concerning her plan… I’m sure they’re in the database, but my own memories of them are hazy. Like I’ve repressed them.”

                                  “You probably have,” said Surge. “Give it time.”

                                  DL nodded and leant back against the wall.

                                  “Anyway,” said Surge. “Who wants tea? You’ve not told me about your fight with that monster yet, Macro. I could hear the commotion all the way out here.”

                                  “What monster?” DL’s voice wavered and she looked over at the mawile.

                                  “I don’t even know,” said Macro. “It was like some weird jellyfish thing. But it’s gone now. We took care of it.” He paused and scratched his scar. “Anchor’s currently repairing the damages.”

                                  Surge chuckled. “Did it wreck your ship?”

                                  “In a manner of speaking, yes.”

                                  “Monsters… So much has happened. I feel like I’m missing something.” DL shook her head then looked over at Surge. “I’m still unsure who you are. Is this your apartment?”

                                  “Yes, but I’m sure Macro can explain everything,” said Surge. “I’m just a helpful mercenary who’s expecting a fat paycheck after this.”

                                  “A paycheck for what?”

                                  Surge wiped her hands on a tea towel and turned back to DL. “You had a virus afflicting your memories. I dealt with it, and I don’t work for free.”

                                  “In that case, if we’re all done here,” said Matrix, “I’m gonna go play Assassin Strike for a bit.”

                                  “Hey, you promised me thirty minutes!” Macro barked.

                                  “Well, if Surge’s paycheck is as fat as she hopes it will be, I doubt you’ll be buying me lunch.” Matrix buzzed to the door and paused to wave over his shoulder. “Glad to see you up and about, DL. Buhbye!”

                                  The door slammed shut behind him, shattering Macro’s confidence. He cleared his throat and pushed himself to his feet.

                                  “Well.” He climbed back into his seat at the counter. “Guess I’d better explain everything, then?”

                                  DL shook her head. “No need. I actually think I could use a walk.”

                                  She clambered to her feet, her legs trembling as she struggled her way towards the door.

                                  “Wait.” Macro lifted a paw to stop her. “Don’t go alone. I’ll come with you.”

                                  “No…” She fixed one eye on him over her shoulder. “I don’t want to be a burden.”

                                  Her words stabbed him through the heart. He flinched and looked away from her. “You’re not a burden. Just wait by the elevator, and I’ll be with you as soon as I’ve paid Surge.”

                                  DL pursed her lips together and slipped through the door, letting it close softly behind her.

                                  Macro slid from his seat and reached into his pocket. “I have some cash, if-”

                                  Surge grabbed him roughly by the shoulder and backed him into the wall. He looked up with a start, opening his mouth to speak, but his words were silenced as she brushed her lips against his. He jerked his head back, but all that came from his throat was a feeble choke as something cold pressed against his chest. He glanced down, and his eyes widened slowly as he spotted the glowing rim of a laser right above his heart.

                                  Red.

                                  Red for fire.
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                                  Old 3 Weeks Ago (12:39 AM).
                                  Delirious Absol's Avatar
                                  Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
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                                    Join Date: May 2015
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                                    Chapter 42

                                    Macro’s breath froze in his throat. His entire mouth had turned dry, and his paws felt like useless, clammy lumps stuck to the end of wooden limbs. He couldn’t move.

                                    Sandwiched between the solid wall and the hostile nozzle of a laser. Its rim lit up, loaded. He could already feel the heat from its coil as it readied itself to fire.

                                    That was it. No way out, nowhere to run. As soon as she pulled that trigger, he’d be dead. There was no way he was living a blast of fire at such close proximity. He wasn’t fast enough to counter it. He daren’t even move. One twitch and she’d fire.

                                    That would be the end of him. He hadn’t stopped Socket. He hadn’t got Switch back to his own time line. He hadn’t fulfilled his promise to DL. He hadn’t even apologized to her, and at that moment he wanted to do that more than ever.

                                    The laser jerked, jabbing into his ribs, and Surge let out a strangled choke. His attention snapped from the laser to her face, but she wasn’t looking at him. Her lips curled back into a grimace, and her eyes were screwed tightly shut. The one ear he could see lay parallel to her skull, reminiscent of a scorned hatchling. Her paw trembled violently and she let out another choke, letting the laser clatter to the floor.

                                    “I can’t do it!” She flopped into him and he raised his paws to catch her.

                                    That breath finally left his throat, and he fixed the far wall with wide, violet eyes. He gave himself a mental shake and dragged his focus back to Surge. The zigzagoon sobbed into his scarf and wrapped her paw over his shoulder, her claws digging into his flesh. It felt a whole lot more intimidating than it should have done, given the circumstances.

                                    He took a steadying breath and turned her towards the bed, giving her a gentle shove until she was seated. Then he smoothed his scarf down and gave the laser a hefty kick. It skittered across the floor and vanished beneath her dressing table.

                                    “Gonna tell me what that was about?” he growled.

                                    She didn’t look up at him, just stared down at her paws. He caught a lone tear which vanished into her brown fur.

                                    “That job I took?” Her breath rattled as she wiped a paw across her eyes. “I’ve been hired to kill you.”

                                    “Let me guess.” Macro folded his arms and leant his weight on one leg. “Socket hired you?”

                                    She nodded weakly.

                                    “And that’s why you’ve been following me, ain’t it?” He let out a bitter laugh and shook his head. “It all makes so much sense now. Our ‘stalker’ vanished once we removed DL’s tracking chip. Threw you off the scent, huh? Bet you couldn’t wait to get me cornered behind these walls.”

                                    “It’s not like that!” she snapped. “I’ve spared your life three times now!”

                                    “Oh. Thanks.” He flashed a canine and glanced over at the window. “Gonna give me a chance to run before you give chase again? Never should have trusted a mercenary.”

                                    “Shut up.”

                                    “So. Should I just up and leave now? Get a head start?” He pointed at the door, then his eyes widened slightly and he wiped a paw across his mouth. “I wouldn’t be surprised if that sneaky little kiss of yours were an attempt to poison me.”

                                    “I’m not a poison type.” She fixed her pale brown eyes on his, fierce yet still wet with tears.

                                    “It’s a valid assumption. Given the enhancements you’ve had done to free up your paws so you can carry your weapons. Bet you couldn’t walk on four legs again if you tried.”

                                    “Will you shut up!” She tugged her bandanna from her head and wound it tightly in her paws. “Good grief, you could poison with your words alone.”

                                    “Well excuse me for being a little bit suspicious of the girl who just had a gun pressed against my chest!”

                                    Surge flinched away from him and stared blankly across the room. Fresh tears welled up in her eyes and her shoulders rose and fell as she desperately tried to calm herself.

                                    “Anyway,” Macro said, a lot calmer. “I’m off. Don’t think I’m giving you a single credit. I think attempting to take my life nulls any payment you were about to receive.”

                                    “No.” Her words froze him before he could turn away. “No, don’t go. There’s… a reason I can’t kill you.”

                                    He turned his head to frown at her. “And what’s that?”

                                    “I don’t… I don’t think you’re in the wrong.” Her green checkered bandanna was wrapped so tightly around her left paw it resembled a glove. “It’s murder. I can’t murder you. I couldn’t murder anyone, but you…”

                                    “Oh, I see.” He glanced up at the ceiling and sighed. “Paying you with ‘dates’ is starting to make a lotta sense.”

                                    She flinched and looked away from him. “This is why bounty hunters don’t generally form attachments. It makes our job a lot harder.”

                                    “Same could be said for space pirates.” He tapped his claws against his arm and inclined his head on one side. “And if I knew for a minute ‘bounty hunter’ was part of your title, I would have avoided you like the plague.”

                                    “You knew why I was in Pulse City, Macro.”

                                    He snorted and looked over at the door. It almost beckoned to him. He itched to leave.

                                    “Thing is,” she said, “I never thought it would even be possible that I’d ever fall for a space pirate.”

                                    He jerked his head around to look at her again, his mouth slightly ajar.

                                    “But you see,” she went on, “I need to cover my tracks. I had to take this job. I was worried sick that Socket was gonna suss out I was the hacker. She knows you’re responsible in some way, Macro. I couldn’t let her think for a minute that-”

                                    “So you were happy to kill me. Hot and cold, Surge. That about sums you up.”

                                    “No! I wasn’t happy to kill you! I’m still not!” She clenched her teeth together and shook her head violently. “I don’t want to kill you, but if I don’t-”

                                    “Leave it.” He waved a paw at her and turned towards the door. “You do have a choice, you know. You can continue this job and try to hunt me down - and I’ll fight back, believe me. Or you can drop it.”

                                    “Wait.” Her paw fastened around his wrist and he looked back over his shoulder at her, meeting her frantic eyes. “I can drop it. If you stay with me… one night… I’ll drop it.”

                                    His jaw went slack and he shook his head slowly. “Are you serious?”

                                    “Yes. I’ll drop it, then I’ll hide. Socket will have to scour all of System to find me. And you.”

                                    “Are you even aware of what you’re asking me?” he spat.

                                    “Yes,” she said. “Once night. That’s all I ask.”

                                    “Forget it. I don’t bargain my life like that.”

                                    He snatched his paw away and marched over to the door. As he pulled it open, he looked back at her. She stared down at the bandanna, slowly unwinding it from her paw. Those fresh tears fell free, but she wouldn’t look up at him.

                                    “It’s the pachirisu, isn’t it?” she said. “She got to you first.”

                                    “DL doesn’t have anything to do with it,” he said. “I warned you that you were playing a dangerous game, Surge. Now look at the state of you. Maybe you should quit. Don’t you think you’ve hurt yourself enough?”

                                    “In that case.”

                                    Her voice was laced with a warning. He paused with one foot outside the door and glanced back at her over his shoulder, his eyes narrowing dangerously.

                                    “As soon as you leave this room,” she said slowly, “we’re enemies.”

                                    “Fine.”

                                    “No more favors. That’s it. I’m not risking my life for you any more. I’ll track you across System like a shadow, and you’ll never see me coming.”

                                    “I have a radar on my ship. I’ll see you coming.”

                                    Surge chuckled and shook her head. “Did I mention your ship? I highly doubt you spotted me in Binary City, but you saw what I did to that magnezone and his fleet.”

                                    Macro’s jaw dropped. “That was you?”

                                    “Of course it was me. Let that be a warning to you that I never miss my target.” She let the bandanna drop to her lap and fixed him with a confident stare, betrayed only by her damp eyes. “Mark my words, Macro. Once you leave this building, the chase is on. I’ll give you an hour’s head start from the second your ship leaves the docks. Given the damages it’s taken, it’s only fair. But after that, Hunter becomes the hunted.”

                                    Macro leered at her for a moment, trying to work out any deceit behind her words. None. She looked as confident as her words sounded. He snorted and slammed the door behind him.

                                    No more favors.

                                    He could live with that.

                                    He shook himself sharply, trying to dislodge the lingering cobwebs that followed him from Surge’s ‘den’. As he marched over to the elevator, a sinking feeling hit his gut.

                                    “Darn it, DL. I told you to wait!”

                                    He rushed towards it and hit the button to call it back up to him. He stood with his arms folded, waiting for the ancient contraption to rattle its way up to him. He’d lost track of how long he’d been stuck in Surge’s apartment. It could have been minutes, it could even have been an hour. He hoped desperately DL hadn’t gone far. If she had, hopefully she’d be on his ship, safe.

                                    The elevator seemed to mock him with its slow, creaking doors. He forced his way inside before they’d opened fully and pressed the button to close them. They didn’t even meet, giving him an unnerving view of brick walls interspersed with the shadowy drop down the shaft.

                                    An echoey ping resounded before the doors rattled open. Had it made that noise before? He looked up at it curiously as he exited into the lobby, then searched around for DL. His eyes fell on the pachirisu waiting by the door. She shifted from foot to foot, peering out at the bustling street.

                                    “Decided to wait down here?” he asked.

                                    She glanced at him then looked back outside. “I followed Matrix but… I don’t know, I just didn’t fancy going into the Moonlight Lounge right now.”

                                    “Pity. I was gonna get some dinner.” He moved towards the door, holding it open for her to pass him.

                                    “You took a while,” she said.

                                    “Yeh, well. I kinda had to sort some stuff out.”

                                    “Like what?”

                                    “Leaving with my life intact for one thing.” He caught a confused look from her and chuckled. “Don’t worry about it.”

                                    “Well… I thought she seemed nice.” DL stopped in front of him and fiddled with her belt. “Listen, I’ve been thinking. I’m clearly a burden to you, and if it helps, I can look for someone else to work for. I don’t need the rest of those disks, but… I am wondering what happened to my parents. And there are a lot of pirates here who can-”

                                    “Wait.” Macro held up a paw. His heart was doing somersaults at every word and it was beginning to make him feel sick. “Slow down, DL. I don’t want you gone. I was just… upset.”

                                    “Upset?” She shook her head slowly. “You were upset with me. I could tell.”

                                    “It’s not you who upset me.” He scratched the base of his horn and glanced away. “Well… I guess it might be perceived as you, but the problem is all me, okay.”

                                    “I don’t think I understand.”

                                    “It’s simple.” He met her warm eyes and spread his paws. “I’m a jerk, okay? I get upset easily then I say things I don’t mean. I’m a total jerk.”

                                    “Are you trying to apologize?”

                                    “I guess I am, yeh.” He let his paws fall to his sides and sighed. “You’re not a burden. I’m just… this isn’t something I often admit to, but I’m absolutely terrified right now.”

                                    “Of Socket?”

                                    “Of everything! This time and space nonsense, a human showing up, that creepy monster we shot down.” He ran a paw over his head and hissed through his teeth. “Sometimes… all this stuff with your memories and BackDoor… it reminds me of it all, and I get scared all over again.”

                                    “So you’re scared of me…” She glanced away from him and wound her paws together.

                                    “No, I’m not scared of you. It’s this ridiculous situation. You’re innocent in all this. Just like me, you’ve found yourself pulled into it all. I should be helping you, not making you feel like trash.”

                                    “But you don’t have to help me,” she said quietly.

                                    “Who else is going to?” He bit his lip as she looked away from him, then threw his back against the wall with a groan. “See what I mean? I’m a total… argh…”

                                    “No,” she said quietly. “I am amongst space pirates. You’ve told me enough times they’re not nice pokemon. And I can’t exactly ask government officials or the police for help, can I? Since they all work for her.”

                                    The venom in her voice as she referred to Socket sent a chill down Macro’s spine.

                                    “Well I want to help you,” he said.

                                    “Do you?” Again, the tone in her voice chilled him.

                                    He bit his lip and stared past her. “Yes. I do. It’s just… Like I said, things frighten me. Not just all this nonsense with Socket, but… I told you a space pirate always looks out for number one, right? You never know who you can trust. So I have this shield I put up to stop myself getting hurt. You make me drop that shield, and it worries me.”

                                    She looked right at him, meeting his eyes. Any coldness behind them melted away and he had to divert his attention to the wall, fixating on a poster for Spiced Tapu Cocoa.

                                    “The last time I let anyone get close,” he said, “I ended up getting hurt. Badly. Not just emotionally, either. She thought I were too reckless, and I’d stopped a freaking garchomp from slicing her up with his iron claws.” His paw went to his scar and he sighed and shook his head.

                                    “So you push others away,” said DL.

                                    He nodded and folded his arms. “Yeh. It’s much easier to deal with pokemon I can’t stand, if I’m honest.”

                                    “Wow.” She let out a single laugh. “I’m not entirely sure whether or not to take that as a compliment.”

                                    “Don’t,” he said, looking straight back at her. “I’m a jerk. Just let me make it up to you, okay. I promise, if you still want my help, we’ll get the rest of your memory disks back. After that, if you want to work for me on Wildcard Gamma, you can. If not, then…” He shrugged. “Then you can go. It’s your choice, I’m not forcing you into anything.”

                                    She was silent for a moment, meeting his eyes. It took every nerve in his body to force himself to look back at her. It no longer felt like he was being plunged into chocolate fondue. It was more like drowning. Suffocating.

                                    She inclined her head on one side and nodded. “Call me crazy, but I think I still want your help. Afterwards, however, I think I’ll go my own way. That way, you still get shut of me.”

                                    Yep. Drowning.

                                    He looked away from her and nodded, trying to hide any pain behind a dry chuckle. “It’s a deal.”

                                    “Well, I guess we should get back to your ship.” She looked over her shoulder at the still bustling street. “I could use a nap.”

                                    “Seriously?” He raised an eyebrow at her. “You’ve been out cold since dawn.”

                                    “I know, but I’m oddly tired.”

                                    “I’m more hungry than tired.” It was a lie. He had no appetite whatsoever. “Since I didn’t have to pay Surge, my wallet hasn’t been sucked dry. So if you want some dinner-”

                                    “No thank you.” Her words sliced right through him. “I think I’d rather just have a nap.”

                                    He nodded and kicked himself back from the wall. “All right. I’ll message Matrix that we’ve gone back to the ship. Although I doubt he’ll have finished his game yet.”

                                    ...

                                    Government ships were rather intuitive in design. Widget had picked up the basics at the drop of a hat, so Tracer sat back and enjoyed the ride. Another thing that had struck him was how smooth and fast they were. They’d been flying for about a day and a half, leaving Meta City - and Socket’s scowling face - miles and miles behind them.

                                    The small cramped space didn’t do wonders for the back, however.

                                    Tracer stretched, his spine popping audibly. Widget flinched and looked over at him, his muzzle creased into a grimace.

                                    “Wowzers,” he said. “That can’t be good for you. Sure you ain’t getting arthritis?”

                                    The delphox tutted and scratched behind his ear. “It’s just the downside of sleeping in a chair. Man, I can’t wait to get out of this ship and stretch my legs. Why won’t they build sleeping quarters into these things?”

                                    “Because they ain’t long-haul ships.”

                                    Tracer scratched at the fur inside his left ear and yawned widely, then he reached into his inside pocket and pulled out his cigars. As he popped one between his teeth, he caught a raised eyebrow off Widget.

                                    The eevee rolled his eyes and looked away. “Good job we ain’t returning this ship, ain’t it?”

                                    Tracer almost dropped his cigar. “Pardon?”

                                    “Oh yeh. Sorry.” Widget laughed, creasing the green tattoo over his eye. “I guess I dreamt that conversation with you while you were sleeping. Yeh, we ain’t returning it.”

                                    Tracer removed his cigar from his mouth, still unlit, and let it rest in his paw on his lap. “Care to elaborate?”

                                    “Well, I was thinkin’,” the eevee said, rather quickly, “that since we’re chasin’ after this human and her crew, a government ship might stand out a little bit. So I kinda changed our course.”

                                    Tracer’s eyes narrowed as the reality of Widget’s words sank in. He already knew the answer, but he asked anyway, cautiously, “May I ask where to?”

                                    “Pulse City.”

                                    Tracer groaned and leant back in his seat, slapping his paw into his face.

                                    “Hey, don’t worry about it,” said Widget all too cheerfully. “We’ll sell this thing for spares and buy a better ship. One with beds, for one thing.”

                                    “You’re trading government property for a space pirate ship…”

                                    “Aye. Thought we could name it Undercover Shamus.”

                                    “That defeats the entire purpose of being undercover in the first place.”

                                    “Gotta admit though, the idea of an undercover detective flying around in one of them fish-themed ships is a pretty neat idea. Because this ship practically screams ‘arrested’.” Widget beamed at him then looked back out the window.

                                    Tracer sighed deeply and lit up his cigar, taking a long deep drag to calm his nerves. Socket was going to hang, draw and quarter them. She already wasn’t happy with him taking ‘the little ragamuffin’ on board. Now he was suggesting they sell the very ship she’d lent them. It wasn’t that he didn’t have a valid point. He did. And there was no way either of them could afford to buy a ship from space pirates without first making a decent amount of money.

                                    It was work. Maybe Socket would see it that way.

                                    He let his eyes close and fell back into his seat. “How long until we reach Pulse City?”

                                    “About fifteen minutes,” said Widget. “I just gotta throw up the cloaking device. I don’t want them sniping at us before we even reach the docks.”

                                    “Great. That leaves me with almost no time to try and blend in,” the delphox groaned.

                                    “Well I blend in fine!” said Widget. “You can borrow my scarf and wear it as a bandanna if you like?”

                                    “When did you last wash it?”

                                    Widget looked up at the ceiling in thought. “It was snowing.”

                                    “So more than six months ago.” Tracer ran a paw over his head. “Fine, I’ll consider it. Unless there’s something stowed away in one of the little cupboards.”

                                    The delphox rose from his seat to check the little drawers and doors in the far corner of the cockpit.

                                    “I also suggest dropping your cigars,” said Widget. “I sincerely doubt space pirates smoke those things.”

                                    Tracer’s tail drooped and he scratched his nose, grimacing slightly. “Fine.”

                                    Widget’s humming filled the small ship as Tracer rummaged through the drawers and cupboard. Tools and metal knickknacks for ship repairs filled one drawer, while others were empty or unexciting. Booklets and papers piled up around him in small heaps as he discarded them to search further back, most of which were user guides for the ship’s intricate weaponry. If they were going to sell the ship, then they should probably burn them. Tracer eyed them for a moment, mulling over the predicament before dismissing it and returning to his search. He was soon rewarded by a pair of mittens cut away around the claws. From the shape alone, he assumed they must have belonged to a pokemon such as electabuzz or orangaru. Either way, they didn’t fit him. But maybe he could use them…

                                    He grabbed the tool kit from the first drawer and pulled out a pair of tiny scissors. He soon began working away at one of the gloves, cutting it along the sides and removing the cut-off claws. He held his handiwork out in two claws and frowned at it. A long, floppy length of black cloth. What on earth was he supposed to do with that?

                                    “We’re arriving at Pulse City,” said Widget. “If you haven’t found anything by now, you’ll have to borrow my scarf.”

                                    “It wouldn’t take a pokemon with a good sense of smell to know it isn’t mine,” Tracer muttered under his breath.

                                    Widget laughed and hammered the dashboard with his paw. “I have you know I smell like daisies.”

                                    Tracer grabbed the rag in both paws and fastened it over his head at the back. As he returned to his seat, his reflection stared back out at him. His ear was cocked down to the right, and the former glove fastened like a badly fit bandanna. A thick tuft of orange fur stuck up in the middle of it like a candle flame. He licked his paw and tried to smooth it back to no avail.

                                    “Trendy,” said Widget.

                                    “Don’t be ridiculous,” said Tracer. “I look like a fool.”

                                    “I never said you didn’t.” The eevee flashed his canines in a playful grin then pointed a paw at a city in the distance. “Arriving at Pulse City in T-minus five minutes!”

                                    Tracer bit his lip and reached for his cigar. He didn’t have the heart to tell Widget that made no sense.

                                    As he puffed away, filling the cabin with smoke, he watched the neon city draw closer and closer. Obnoxious music filled the air filters, drumming against his ears. One of the turrets perched outside the glass dome turned as they passed by, following them closely. But it didn’t fire. Just a threat. Something to say ‘I see you’ even though the ship was invisible to the naked eye.

                                    Tracer raised an eyebrow at it and took a final drag of his cigar. So Pulse City had its own radar system. Duly noted.

                                    Unwilling to fire perchance it was a friendly ship. He expected to find the docks manned to the gills with armed pokemon waiting to see if the invisible ship was a threat. His heart was in his throat. As soon as the cloak went down, they’d be exposed as government officials.

                                    And Widget didn’t look remotely scared. In fact, he seemed to be enjoying himself.

                                    “All right!” The eevee turned the steering stick, spinning the ship around rather too fast in a bid to aim its nose at the docks. “We’re here! Get ready to leap off, ‘cos I’m lowering the cloak.”

                                    Just as Tracer had thought. Several imposing pokemon gathered at the docks, each with their own weapon. Varying sizes, but a majority of them a lot bigger than him. A tyranitar looked out at the sky, trying to spot any sign of an invisible ship, while a sceptile stood beside an aggron, keeping one eye on the ships while chatting to his companion.

                                    There wasn’t a single chance he was hanging around to see what happened when their ship was exposed. He leapt to his feet and made for the door, reaching behind him for his trusty stick. Widget struck the dashboard with a paw and back-flipped from his seat, landing beside him with a thud and a mechanical whine as his enhanced skeleton absorbed the impact.

                                    The door whirred open, letting in a cacophony of voices. Angry, curious. Clicks as weapons were raised and aimed towards the government ship. Tracer’s heart was racing as he warred with staying aboard it and leaping off into gunfire.

                                    Widget shot past him, landing heavily on the metal floor. A loud clang rang out, drawing all eyes to the small pokemon. One, an electivire, had rushed at the ship with his bionic arm raised, glowing and sparking with electricity.

                                    “Woo! Whaddaya think?” The eevee strutted along the docks past the sparking giant, his tail held high. He nodded to the golden ship and grinned. “Stole her myself.”

                                    The electivire’s eyes went to Tracer, and the detective nodded at him as he clutched his stick at his side. Refusing to relinquish it until the other pokemon put their weapons away.

                                    “I mean, it was just parked up but I saw a chance!” Widget went on. “Bet ya don’t see one of these very often, huh? Put her there!”

                                    He raised a paw to the tyranitar. The space pirate eyed the eevee skeptically, then lowered a rocky paw towards him. Widget slammed his paw down onto the tyranitar’s, causing the hulking pokemon to visibly flinch. Then Widget turned away to grin at the other waiting pokemon.

                                    It wasn’t a friendly gesture or clownish behaviour. It was a disguised display of strength, and the space pirates knew it.

                                    “Now,” he said, “refresh my memory. Who do I sell ships to around here?”

                                    “You’re selling this?” the aggron growled, although not in a threatening manner. He looked from the ship to the two detectives and back.

                                    “You bet I am,” said Widget. “I reckon pokemon would vomit cash for a ship like this! It ain’t often you see government weaponry for sale here, is it? Not your usual retro stuff, or bootleg junk.”

                                    “Squirt’s got a point.” The sceptile folded his arms and looked over at the tyranitar who was desperately trying not to nurse his paw. “We ain’t seen government weaponry here in years.”

                                    “So who does it go to?” Widget asked. “I’ve been away for a while, and I ain’t lugging this thing into the black market. It’s got a funny wheel.”

                                    Tracer stared down at the eevee. Still playful, but with a fire behind his eyes. How could he just outright lie like that? And so convincingly? Sure, a reformed criminal blended in a lot better in Pulse City than he himself did, but not once had Widget ever said he’d stepped paw in Pulse City. He’d kept all his conning and thievery inside Meta City and the outskirts.

                                    “I think you’re looking for me.” A sandslash stepped out from a hut beside the docks, narrowing his eyes on the eevee. “I trade in ships in these parts. You wanna sell that government ship, then I might have a deal for ya.”

                                    Widget grinned from ear to ear. “Fantastic! What are you offering?”

                                    The sandslash gestured for them to follow him, fixing the rest of the pirates with a leer. The curious group holstered their weapons - or in the electivire’s case, switched them off - then skulked away into the streets.

                                    “You might wanna cloak that.” The sandslash nodded to the golden ship.

                                    “Oh.” Tracer cleared his throat and pulled the keys from his pocket. “Of course.”

                                    He pushed a small button on the control key, and the ship vanished from view like rippling water.

                                    “Now, you’re not wrong,” said the sandslash as they entered his hut. “We haven’t ever seen a government ship here. Not in one piece, anyway.”

                                    Tracer’s nose crinkled as the sharp smell of oil tickled it, and he looked around the hut. Engine parts, wires and pipes adorned the walls, and heavy duty tools lay haphazard over the floor and the pirate’s desk.

                                    The sandslash fell back into a seat behind it and cleared some of the clutter aside with the sweep of a large paw.

                                    “It’s a good thing you didn’t show up any earlier,” he said. “You might’ve gotten torn to bits.”

                                    “Torn to bits?” Tracer resisted the urge to reach for a cigar.

                                    “Aye. Some weird creature showed up just outside Pulse City. Took four ships and a small army to take it out, and it didn’t go down without a fight. Took two ships down with it. Space pirates are calling it The Kraken.”

                                    Tracer scratched behind his ear and exchanged glances with Widget. “What did it look like?”

                                    “I dunno. Some mutant jellicent or somethin’.” The sandslash kicked his feet up on his desk and crossed one leg over the other. “Its remains are scattered over Baud City. Surprised you ain’t heard of it, actually.”

                                    “We’ve been pretty busy,” said Widget. “Stealin’ a ship ain’t easy, yanno.”

                                    “Yeah. I can imagine. Especially a government ship.” The sandslash scratched his nose. “In fact, we don’t get government weapons here very often at all anymore. Hunter were one of our main dealers, gatherin’ up guns and explosives. But he quit that job years ago. He just deals in small jobs now, occasionally gatherin’ weapon parts for our lasers. Nowhere near as insightful. Such a pity.”

                                    Tracer folded his arms and leant against the wall, careful to avoid knocking a saw down on himself. “I’d heard he’d dropped out of that. But I thought it were just a rumour.”

                                    “Guess you don’t spend much time in Pulse City.” The sandslash tapped his long claws on the desk. “Because such parts have been like gold showin’ up here.”

                                    Widget frowned slightly at Tracer and raised an eyebrow. Tracer took the hint and shrugged his shoulders, saying no more. Widget then turned back to the sandslash and inclined his head on one side.

                                    “So you’re interested in my little treasure, then?” Widget flashed a grin.

                                    “Aye. For a ship in good condition like that,” the space pirate scratched behind his ear as he looked past the eevee, “I think I can offer two hundred and fifty thousand credits.”

                                    Tracer’s jaw dropped, and a squeal came from Widget.

                                    “You aren’t serious?!” the eevee barked.

                                    “I would have offered more.” The sandslash shrugged. “But you said it has a funny wheel.”

                                    Widget sat with his mouth hanging open, staring dumbfounded at the sandslash. He shook his head sharply, his long ears flapping about on either side of his head, then laughed.

                                    “Oh boy,” he said. “The wheel let me down, eh? If it helps, I can fix it in no time flat.”

                                    Tracer scratched beneath his makeshift bandanna. Both he and Widget knew full well there was nothing wrong with the wheel. The ship was in perfect health. He wondered if Widget feared that and wanted to rush out and break it with a solid take-down attack.

                                    The sandslash waved a paw. “No need. I can fix a wheel. Is it a deal? Or do you want to try sellin’ it elsewhere? ‘Cos there ain’t no other ship dealers in Pulse City. I’m all you’ve got. Black Market will offer you peanuts for scraps. I doubt you’d even get one hundred thousand for parts.”

                                    Widget shrugged his shoulders. “Nah. It’s fine. I’ll take you’re offer. We’re actually looking for a new ship, if you’ve got one for sale?”

                                    “I’ve got two.” The sandslash rose to his feet and limped towards the back of the hut. “I keep them in my yard, if you wanna follow me?”

                                    Tracer kicked himself from the wall and followed Widget carefully through the obstacle course of ship parts. The yard opened out into a separate section of the docks. Two ships stood looking lost and alone in the vastness. One was in the shape of a feebass, while the other was modelled on an alomomola. Neither of them looked particularly appealing.

                                    Widget sat looking between the two and he raised an eyebrow, stretching the green chip-board tattoo over his left eye.

                                    “Is this it?” he asked.

                                    “Yep, this is all I’ve got in for now,” said the sandslash. “Both are in good, working order. I test fly them from time to time just to make sure.”

                                    “Both rather girly.” Widget sighed and flicked his tail. “Which one do you think, Number One?”

                                    Tracer jolted slightly. Number One? Another part of Widget’s crazy act. He looked up at both ships and let his left paw rest in his pocket.

                                    “Do they have beds?” It was an important question, given how much time they’d be flying.

                                    “The alomomola does,” said the sandslash. “Although it only has two rooms. A lot of pirate crews tend to build their own ships, or modify them. If you wanted me to upgrade the feebass into a milotic, I’d only charge you the excess from the trade. One hundred and forty thousand credits.”

                                    Tracer heard his bank balance scream.

                                    Widget shook his head. “Nah. That won’t be necessary. We’ll take the alomomola. How much is it?”

                                    “Hundred and seventy thousand,” said the sandslash. “But since you’re tradin’ that ship for it, I can do you a deal. Make it hundred and fifty. And I don’t often do deals, but I’m interested in that ship. I wanna know what makes their weapons so effective.”

                                    “All right, deal.” Widget closed his eyes in a smile and wagged his tail. “The change should fill her tank nicely.”

                                    The sandslash laughed and reached into his pouch, pulling out a small computer. “You’re overestimating how much she can hold, kid. What’s your bank code?”

                                    Widget’s ears drooped dramatically, but fortunately the sandslash didn’t see. He looked over his shoulder at Tracer with an imploring stare. In their line of work, both their names were known on System Ground. There was every possibility Pulse City would have heard them, and they wouldn’t react well to a pair of pirate hunters standing in their little haven. Tracer sighed and rubbed the bridge of his muzzle. So the eevee’s lie only went so far.

                                    He had to think fast.

                                    He pulled out his own computer and searched through his bank transfers, feeling the sandslash’s eyes on his.

                                    There. Defrag.

                                    He quickly read out the code, catching the space pirate’s nimble claws flying over his tablet’s screen. With a beaming grin, he said ‘Done!’ and popped the computer back into his pouch.

                                    Tracer let out a silent sigh of relief and slipped his computer back into his trench coat pocket. He’d have to explain to Defrag later and have her transfer the money to Widget.

                                    “I trust you know how to get the panel to recognise your chip?” the sandslash asked.

                                    “Oh yes,” said Widget. “That’s fairly basic.”

                                    “Then she’s all yours,” said the sandslash. “Enjoy sailing the skies, boys.”

                                    The two detectives watched the pirate vanish back into his hut. Once he’d gone, Widget looked up at Tracer and nodded.

                                    “That were some quick thinking,” he said.

                                    Tracer clenched his paws tightly and bent over, more from relief than frustration. “How could you not think that selling the ship would mean we might need-”

                                    “Hey.” Widget flicked his tail. “Did you think about it?”

                                    “No, but-”

                                    “Then don’t jab me.” Widget stood up and padded over to the ship. “Let’s get on this thing and hot-tail it out of here.”

                                    Widget’s paws flew over the panel, and the light turned from red to green. He nodded at Tracer to place his paw on it, and once he had the door whirred open. A musty smell greeted them instantly as stagnant air was blown out of the air lock.

                                    “Test fly from time to time my dewclaw.” Widget flopped into the driver’s seat and chuckled as he eyed the dashboard. “I’ve always wanted to drive one of these.”

                                    “You look oddly at home behind those controls,” said Tracer.

                                    “It’s just common sense at the end of the day. Not exactly science.”

                                    Tracer took the seat beside him and pulled a cigar out of his pocket. “I think we need to talk.”

                                    “Oh?” Widget didn’t look up. “What about?”

                                    “Did you outright lie back there, or have you been here before?”

                                    Widget shrugged. “Been lots of places.”

                                    “You never mentioned it.”

                                    “Yeh, well. It’s a pretty scary time of my life. I got caught trying to con a space pirate once. Sold him a dodgy laser and he dragged me all the way out here.” Widget flashed him a grin. “Had to con someone to take me back down to System Ground. Turns out space pirates are willing to do a few favours if you just throw your weight at them.”

                                    “Well, you can switch off your silver tongue,” said Tracer. “I’m uncomfortable hearing you lie like that.”

                                    “I’m uncomfortable doing it, to be honest.” Widget fired the ship’s engine up and looked around the cockpit. “Might need a quick top up. Wanna hop out and grab the hose?”

                                    “Sure, if you ring Socket and tell her you just sold her ship.”

                                    Widget let out a bitter laugh. “Not on your life. I think I’ve dodged execution enough times already. Besides, I’m sure she’ll understand when she finds out and discovers why.”

                                    “You mean after she skins you alive?”

                                    “She’ll have to get through you, first.” The eevee gave him a playful wink.

                                    Tracer sighed and pushed himself back to his feet. Part of him feared using his own credits would signal Pulse City to his presence. Or Socket, for that matter. Fortunately, the little machine didn’t work like that. All it cared about was getting paid, even if it did overcharge a little.
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                                    Delirious Absol Delirious Absol is offline
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                                      Join Date: May 2015
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                                      Chapter Forty Three​

                                      The pyukumyuku ship chugged through the sky towards Pulse City's docks. Its ungainly form turned in a bid to park between a gorebyss and relicanth. It ended up parking at an odd angle, leaving a sizable gap between the door and the docks.

                                      The exit hatch dropped open, flopping uselessly down the side of the ship. Annie peered over Trojan's shoulder and he let out a groan, slapping a paw against the hollow hull.

                                      "Guess we're jumpin'." The words had all but left Annie's mouth as she hopped over the edge of the ship and landed in a crouch on the metal docks. The almighty clang drew eyes from all directions, and an incineroar's jaw hit the floor as he stared at her.

                                      She rose to her feet and grinned. "Land ahoy!"

                                      Trojan landed beside her and eyed the space pirates, a frown creasing his discoloured face. "I don't like the look o' this."

                                      An electivire, his right arm entirely replaced with a robotic limb, stomped towards them with a tyranitar in tow.

                                      "What's this?" The electivire pointed a claw at Annie, but his question had been aimed at Trojan. "We already took down one monster today. Don't go draggin' another one into Pulse City."

                                      "I'm not a monster." Annie folded her arms and closed her eyes. "You are."

                                      "This isn't some school ground joke, dear," came Web's voice from the ship. The skuntank turned her head to the electivire. "I can assure you she's no threat. She's just a little lost."

                                      "Just a little lost?" The electivire waved a huge paw at her. "What is she? Ain't no pokemon I ever seen."

                                      "She's an archeops." Trojan's voice drew a confused sneer from the huge electric type.

                                      "A what?"

                                      "An archeops," Trojan repeated. "Apparently they can shape-shift."

                                      Annie puffed out her chest and grinned. "Name's Annie. Now where can we find some beds?"

                                      "What? You don't have any beds on your ship?" the electivire sneered.

                                      "Nope. 'Scuse me." Annie moved past him, pushing him aside with her hand. Her entire limb filled with static and she shook it sharply. "Wow. Tingly."

                                      A low growl came from the electivire and he turned his entire body to leer down at her.

                                      "Rather bold, aintcha?" he said.

                                      "Yup." Annie wiped her hand on her jacket and looked up at him, not a hint of fear in her eyes. "Now. Beds. Where do I find one?"

                                      The electivire's mouth hung open slightly, then it closed as he brought his jagged teeth together.

                                      "You ain't armed," he said quietly. He brought his bionic arm up, electricity bouncing off it like a storm cloud about to strike. "Foolish mistake."

                                      "Oi."

                                      The warning was quiet, but firm. Enough to drag the electivire's head around to spot the threat. Waveform leant out of the ship door, a green and red arrow drawn back on one of his vines. The entire lower half of his face was hidden behind a black neckerchief, and his red eyes were narrowed into slits.

                                      "Step away, and I'll let you go," he said. "Touch her, and I'll turn you into a pin cushion." He then nodded towards the tyranitar. "The same goes for your silent friend."

                                      The electivire looked from Waveform to Annie, then his eyes wandered over to Trojan. The scrafty placed a paw inside his trouser-like fur and wiped his other paw across his nose.

                                      "You wanna throw the entire docks into a brawl?" he asked.

                                      Web leapt from the ship door and landed daintily on the docks. Her tail fell over her back to rest on her head like the barrel of a cannon, but her expression remained soft.

                                      The electivire took a step back and nudged his companion. They both marched away, casting glances over their shoulders as they vanished beyond the ships.

                                      "Well done, crew." Annie turned to face them and beamed. "Shall we go look for beds now? Because I'm really tired and no one wants a grumpy Annie."

                                      Waveform leapt from the door, using his wings to steer himself over the docks. Zip let out a cry of delight, his entire contraption held steadily in the decidueye's talons. He placed him gently beside Annie and landed on her other side with a gentle beat of his wings. He'd completely abandoned his silver quiver, leaving it on the ship.

                                      He looked down at Web. "Can you recommend anywhere?"

                                      The skuntank shrugged her shoulders and let her tail relax behind her. "It's been a long time since I was last here. Things might have changed."

                                      "Then I suggest we ask someone," said Annie.

                                      "What the jack kinda idea is that?" Trojan scoffed. "You saw what just happened."

                                      "She has a point," said Web. "And I know where we can ask. We need to buy weapons anyway, so we'll pay a little visit to the black market."

                                      Annie yawned widely and shrugged. "I was gonna leave that until tomorrow, but all right. If you think it'll get us a bed sooner."

                                      They turned and marched down the docks. The incineroar turned his head to watch their every move, his jaw still hanging open.

                                      Web led the way through the bustling streets, trying her best to ignore the shouts of surprise from the space pirates. Annie strolled along sandwiched between Trojan and Waveform, while Zip skittered along ahead of her, casting wary eyes over the rabble of pirates.

                                      "Everyone's looking at me," he whispered.

                                      "That's because you're awesome," said Annie. "Keep walking, kid."

                                      The goldeen swallowed audibly and caught up with Web, trying to distract himself by engaging her in conversation. But the skuntank's mind was elsewhere as she eyed the passing buildings and billboards.

                                      Annie folded her arms and huffed as they passed a magmar who reached for his laser as soon as his eyes fell on her.

                                      "You'd think this lot had never seen a human before," she said.

                                      "Of course not," said Waveform. "None of us have ever seen a human. Or an archeops."

                                      "You're one of a kind," said Trojan.

                                      "I am pretty unique," she said.

                                      Waveform placed his wing around her shoulders and steered her away from a set of bared teeth. As she pulled back she realised they belonged to the enraged face of a kommo-o. The lanky lizard bounced on his feet then rushed at them, claws raised. Trojan brought his arm up in an arc and struck the kommo-o's jaw with a sickening crack. He went reeling backwards into an outdoor table occupied by a pair of cacturne, and sending playing cards flying into the air. They drifted down onto his dazed body like giant snowflakes.

                                      The two cacturne snapped their heads up and leered at the scrafty.

                                      He placed his paw into his trouser fur and tutted. "You guys head to the market without me. I'll be right here."

                                      Waveform shook his head and sighed. "Couldn't wait to get into a brawl, could you?"

                                      Trojan said nothing as he tugged a small electric saw from his fur.

                                      Annie let out a long whistle and found herself steered away down the bustling street under Waveform's wing.

                                      "We're going to lose Web at this rate," he said.

                                      The skuntank strutted on ahead of them, casting an occasional glance over her shoulder. Her jaw went slack slightly when she spotted Trojan and she shook her head. Regardless, she didn't stop.

                                      A large building spread across the road ahead of them, almost as though it was trying to look imposing. 'Market' was written across it in giant, green letters. Or it was meant to be. It was missing a 'k'.

                                      Voices rose to a crescendo inside, amplified by the bare walls. But they began to fade out as Annie strolled through the crowd with her entourage. Mouths snapped shut or hung open as eyes - surprised, confused, angry, scared and worried - all fixed on her. The entire inside of the market was like a cocktail of emotions, and it washed over Annie like a harmless wave.

                                      Web scanned the market stalls, eyeing the sellers and their goods. Many of them sold weapons, but the pokemon behind the tables did not look welcoming. As she turned her head to scan the fifth row of stalls, her shoulders jolted and she picked up pace, trotting towards the unmanned table.

                                      Or at least it looked unmanned.

                                      The pokemon behind it was rather… small. And green.

                                      The small bug tried to look as imposing as possible, narrowing his black eyes at the towering human. He glanced at Web and stretched up onto his back legs.

                                      "I think I recognise you," he said slowly.

                                      "You should do. I was in here almost every day," she said. "The name's Web."

                                      He narrowed his eyes thoughtfully then they snapped wide open. "Oh! Web! Yes… not a name that makes one dance with joy, I can tell ya. I recall you ripped me off more than once."

                                      "What? You scammed this poor bug?" Annie raised an eyebrow at Web and shook her head. "Shame on you."

                                      The skuntank shrugged. "Little Worm here scams his own fair share of pirates. The whole city does. But they don't like it when you scam them back."

                                      "What do you want, anyway?" he asked. "'Cos whatever it is, I ain't got it."

                                      "Weapons," said Web. "I can see you have quite a selection here."

                                      "Aye, but many of them don't have coils," he said. "You can take that little dispute up with Hunter."

                                      "Hunter?" Annie scratched her chin and looked up at the ceiling.

                                      "He's one of Pulse City's most wanted space pirates," Web explained. She turned back to Worm and smirked. "I guess he scammed you?"

                                      "Hunter's one of my main providers," said Worm. "But he did stiff me on some coils. I made him buy me a drink as compensation and I'm not done with him, either. He owes me several for that little stunt."

                                      "Friends, then?" Web shrugged. "We'll take four guns with all their parts."

                                      "That's ten thousand credits a piece, my fine lass," said Worm.

                                      "Ten thousand?!" Web's jaw dropped. "Who has that kind of money?!"

                                      "Space pirates," said Worm. "Cough it up."

                                      "Pay the 'mon," said Annie.

                                      Something creaked in her ear and Worm's eyes flew wide open. Annie glanced out of the corner of her eye to spot Waveform with an arrow held against his vine string.

                                      "What are you aiming an arrow at me for?" Worm squeaked. "Fine! Seven thousand each, and I go no lower!"

                                      Another creak.

                                      "Make it five thousand," said Annie.

                                      "Wait… what's with the change in attitude?" Worm stuttered. "All right, fine. Five thousand each. Just don't kill me."

                                      He sobbed and ducked behind his table.

                                      Waveform's vine snapped back into his feathers and he reached into his belt pouch. Two ten thousand credit bills landed on the table amongst the chaos of weapon parts.

                                      Worm jerked his head up and removed his paws from his leafy head. An audible sigh left his throat and he gathered the over-sized notes into his over-sized bag.

                                      "Four lasers." He fixed cold eyes on the two pokemon. "Grab 'em and go."

                                      Annie leant forward but Web beat her hand aside. She reached for two guns and quickly examined them, her expert claws flying over the tiny parts before dropping one of them into Annie's hands.

                                      "Put it in your pocket," Web instructed.

                                      She retrieved another two guns, checked them over, and handed one to Waveform.

                                      He waved a paw at her and turned his back to leave. "I don't need one."

                                      Web's jaw dropped and she chased after him with Annie and Zip in tow. "What do you mean you don't need one?"

                                      Annie faltered and looked back at the market stall. Zip skidded to a halt and turned to join her.

                                      "What are you waiting for?" he asked. "We're going to lose them?"

                                      "Oi, Worm." Annie marched back to the table, drawing the bug pokemon's attention.

                                      His entire body quivered and he looked away from her.

                                      "We need beds," said Annie. "Know anywhere?"

                                      "Moonlight Lounge," he said. "If that's too pricey, you want Fuchsia Avenue. Little place on there called Bricked Inn. Place is a dump but you can get a week's worth o' nights there for the price of one at Moonlight Lounge."

                                      Annie nodded and turned away. Zip's mechanical feet followed close behind her. She paused and glanced over her shoulder.

                                      "Which way?"

                                      Worm chuckled and looked up at her. "Newbie, eh? Follow the main road. You can't miss Moonlight Lounge. Fuchsia Avenue runs behind it."

                                      Annie gave him a wave and turned to march through the market. She pushed through a startled crowd of onlookers then bumped face first into a feathered torso.

                                      "What the-"

                                      She wiped a paw across her face and looked up into Waveform's scarlet eyes. He narrowed them slightly then his shoulders relaxed with a sigh.

                                      Annie raised a hand and pointed a finger towards the door. "I found us some beds."

                                      ...

                                      Tracer leant on the side of the alomomola ship, now docked amongst the other space pirate ships. Regardless of Widget's concerns, he finished off his cigar, puffing smoke into the clean air.

                                      "Pretty shoddy parking, huh?" Widget frowned at the pyukumyuku ship, situated at an angle so it was almost touching the relicanth beside it.

                                      Tracer stubbed his cigar out on one of the bollards and popped the remains in his inside pocket.

                                      "Given the creature driving it was likely not a space pirate nor a pokemon, I'm not surprised," he said.

                                      "What makes you think the human were driving it?" Widget asked.

                                      Tracer shrugged. "I'm not saying she was. Regardless, that ship and its crew are a hazard, and I'm loathe to leave Pulse City while they're still flying that monstrosity throughout System."

                                      The delphox kept his voice low so as not to drag attention from the surrounding space pirates. Occasional glances were fired their way, but given Widget's little performance earlier on, it was likely more envy or repressed admiration than suspicion.

                                      Tracer looked up from the pyukumyuku to the other docked ships. Standing huge and proud amongst the rabble was the familiar blue form of Wildcard Gamma. The schooling wishiwashi looked like it had seen better days. All its turrets were out, stationary around its middle. Every now and then, a muscular granbull appeared around the nose to stare at the ship before vanishing once again. Tracer had already been to see what he was doing. He was repairing a huge hole in the side of the ship where the detective guessed one of the turrets had been blasted away.

                                      Likely in that attack the ship dealer had told him about.

                                      He reached into his pocket for another cigar.

                                      "Want me to get you some pirate cigarettes?" Widget asked. "Because as far as space pirates are concerned, you look like a fool. A posh fool."

                                      "I'm not sucking on those vile sticks," said Tracer. "Let me mull things over, will you?"

                                      "Then do it on the ship."

                                      "I don't want to. It smells like sweat and wet fur." Tracer lit up his cigar and leant back on the ship's pink hull. "We have a predicament here, and I'm trying to work it out."

                                      "Whether or not to ring Socket and cough up that we stole her ship?" Widget whispered, snickering slightly.

                                      "You're enjoying this way too much for any sane 'mon," said Tracer.

                                      "I just love winding up Socket."

                                      "Well, one day, that might land you in the execution seat." Tracer removed his cigar and blew out a stream of smoke. "And I'm not willing to keep bending the truth to bail you out."

                                      "Then use bribery."

                                      "As much as I have suspicions about our lovely Mayor, I'm not going to bribe her. That's ridiculous."

                                      Widget shrugged his shoulders. "Then say nothing. Wait until we've apprehended the human girl. Socket'll be putty in your paws then."

                                      "You two keep mentioning a human." A huge, towering shadow fell over the two detectives. "And I'm gonna pretend I didn't hear you sayin' you're workin' for the Mayor."

                                      Tracer looked up with as much confidence as he could muster, while Widget let out a nervous laugh. An incineroar stood over them, leaning on the alomomola's nose. He scratched his whiskered chin, sending a small flurry of dandruff down onto his broad shoulder.

                                      "I dunno," said Widget. "Would it be completely out of the ordinary for Socket to hire a couple of space pirates to do her dirty work?"

                                      The incineroar seemed to consider this. Then he frowned, his striped brow furrowing.

                                      "Yes," he said.

                                      The word sent a chill down Tracer's spine.

                                      "Anyway, you mentioned a human," the space pirate went on. "I think I've seen one."

                                      "Really?" Tracer stubbed out his cigar on the bollard again and popped it into his pocket. "What makes you think that?"

                                      "'Cos there ain't no pokemon look like that." The incineroar tapped the side of his head with a claw. "I ain't no dense brick, delphox. I seen some weird creature with long black fur on its head walkin' through Pulse City with a water dweller on mechanical legs. And three other pokemon, but I don't remember what they were. I were too bothered by the strangeness of it all to really process everythin'. They came in that pyukumyuku there."

                                      Tracer followed his claw to the badly parked ship.

                                      "Yes," he said. "We saw them take off in that. Did you see where they went?"

                                      "They were headed to the Black Market." The incineroar folded his arms and leant back on the alomomola. "What's goin' on? Where did a stinkin' human come from?"

                                      "That's what I'm trying to find out." Tracer popped his unlit cigar back between his teeth then pulled out his computer. "I usually love puzzles, but this one has me pulling out my fur."

                                      "It ain't related to that weird squid thing everyone saw earlier, is it?"

                                      "Squid thing?" Widget's nose crinkled.

                                      "The Kraken," the incineroar said. "It's all over Pulse City's news. You can't have missed it."

                                      "No, we've heard about that." Tracer pulled up the relevant article. "As for whether or not they're linked…"

                                      His voice trailed off as he read over it. The picture was as clear as day. A huge, jellyfish-like creature with no face to speak of. It looked eerie. Almost ethereal, as though it didn't belong in System at all. Pretty fitting, given it didn't.

                                      In one of the photos, it was wrapped around a basculin ship, stuck to its head like a barnacle. The basculin had hold of another ship in its jaws, wrenching the metal away. There wasn't enough of the target to see the ship in detail as it was blocked out by Wildcard Gamma's spinning turrets.

                                      Someone had thought to photograph the fight rather than flee… That was some bravery. It meant there was evidence that something very wrong was going on in System.

                                      Tracer lowered his computer and tried to puff on his cigar, realising too late that it wasn't lit. He let out a small sigh and looked up at the incineroar.

                                      "You want to know what's going on," Tracer said. "That's understandable. Your city has fallen under attack, and now there's a rowdy human walking around in it."

                                      "Certainly were rowdy, aye," said the pirate.

                                      "What's your name, sir?" Tracer asked.

                                      The incineroar burst into laughter, sliding down the side of the ship. He caught himself before his tail hit the floor and shoved himself back to his feet.

                                      "Sir? Ain't no one called me sir since I were a kit." He took a few breaths to gather himself and wiped a claw across his eye. "Wow, you ain't no pirate. That's for sure."

                                      Tracer bit down on his cigar, bracing himself for the burly tiger pokemon to turn on him. But instead, the incineroar flashed him a toothy grin. Both unnerving and friendly at the same time.

                                      "Name's N0ize," he said.

                                      Tracer nodded and looked back down at the news article, looking over its photos again. "Very well, N0ize. How would you like to help us?"

                                      "Help you?" N0ize frowned and looked the two detectives up and down. His eyes lingered for a while on Widget. "You ain't pirates. You bounty hunters?"

                                      Tracer exchanged glances with Widget, noting the warning look in the eevee's eyes.

                                      "I can assure you we aren't bounty hunters," said Tracer. He dropped his voice to a near whisper, and N0ize had to cock his ears to hear it. "We're detectives, asked to track down that human you saw."

                                      N0ize's lip curled into a sneer and he looked away from them, folding his huge arms as he leant back on the ship.

                                      "Pair o' runners, eh? Snoopin' around. Knew somethin' smelled off 'bout you two."

                                      Widget flicked his tail and pulled his ears back, but if N0ize noticed he didn't perceive the eevee as a threat.

                                      "You honestly must be curious?" said Tracer. "That creature. Now a human. Something is amiss, and it might be threatening System."

                                      "Did the Mayor send you?" N0ize asked.

                                      "Did she send us to Pulse City?" Tracer tapped his computer on his paw. "No. She did not."

                                      "So you're here of your own free will? Just flew here in a government ship?"

                                      "Then sold it," said Widget. "Yes."

                                      N0ize roared with laughter and shook his head. "Mayor's own cronies sell her ship. Love it. You guys got guts, I'll give you that. Some real guts, just marchin' into space pirate territory. Couple o' little fuzzies like you."

                                      "And you're just stood here talking to us," said Tracer.

                                      "That's 'cos you guys puzzle me." N0ize scratched behind his ear. "Come here, and sell the Mayor's ship? Tells me you don't trust her."

                                      "Where'd you pick that up?" Widget asked. "Just from that?"

                                      "'Cos a space pirate's ship is his essence. It's his personality, right? Everything he stands for goes into that ship. You fly here in one of Socket's ships and sell it? It's like you're gettin' shut of her."

                                      Tracer wiped a paw across his nose and looked back down at his computer, but he wasn't really seeing it. The incineroar's words were ringing around in his mind.

                                      That CCTV footage. The human's words. A lab.

                                      "Are you going to help us or not?" Tracer's voice came out firmer than he would have liked, given the circumstances.

                                      He cast a wary glance to the large space pirate, but all that greeted him was a toothy grin.

                                      "Go on then," said N0ize. "Let's track down that human. But I don't work for free."

                                      Tracer readied himself to bring up his bank account. "What's your price?"

                                      N0ize grinned from ear to ear. "Information."
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                                      Old 1 Week Ago (1:07 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: 318
                                        Chapter Forty Four

                                        Macro smoothed down his clean fur, feeling a lot better after a good, long shower. He’d worried nothing would have been enough to get that experience off him. The battle was eerie enough, but Surge’s attempt at his life and following perverse request had left him feeling rattled and filthy. He shook the memory from his mind then turned to the wash basin. His scarf lay in a pool of bubbles, still soaking to remove the remains of caterpie silk. A quick rinse and drain revealed his attempts - well… third attempt - had been successful in getting rid of it all.

                                        Now he just had to dry it.

                                        With a defeated sigh, he resigned himself to the idea of being scarfless for a little while. He flashed open the washroom door and slipped out into the hallway, turning towards his room. A movement to his left drew his eye and he spotted DL on her way from the kitchen. She paused to look at him and raised a paw to wipe a smear of chocolate from beside her nose. That suggested to him she’d probably eaten more than she’d been making. Where did she put it all?

                                        “You look smaller without that on,” she said, nodding to the soggy bundle in his arms.

                                        He shrugged and absently smoothed the sodden article over his arm. Ordinarily such a sugar coated insult would have angered him, but somehow the sheer fact she’d said anything at all was a blessing in and of itself.

                                        “It’ll be dry and back on in no time,” he said.

                                        She made a little noise that might have been ‘oh’ and leant against the door frame, turning her head to look back at the cockpit.

                                        The attempts at small talk pained him. He grimaced inwardly and made his way towards his room.

                                        “Supper will be in ten minutes,” she called after him.

                                        He paused mid-step, but didn’t look back. One nod, then he pressed on towards his room. Whether or not she saw it he didn’t know.

                                        Once his scarf was tossed over the foot of his bed frame, he turned to leave and faltered. The black scarf he’d left drying on the frame previously lay in a crumpled heap just beneath the bed amongst the dust. One colour… well. If you discounted the grey clinging to the black fabric. With a heavy sigh, he left it and marched back towards the cockpit.

                                        Anchor’s seat was still empty. Loud clanging noises came from outside as the granbull repaired the ship’s damage, hidden completely from view. Matrix, however, was situated in his navigator’s seat. His tiny paw flew across the keyboard as Macro entered, chatting on some online community, and he fired a quick greeting over his shoulder.

                                        “Don’t shirk work,” said Macro.

                                        “Well we aren’t going anywhere,” said Matrix.

                                        Macro fell into his seat and rubbed at his exposed neck. The draft from the open door was unbearable. Wow, he felt naked.

                                        “We’ll be going somewhere soon enough.” He pulled his computer out of his pocket and brought up the list of disk locations. “As soon as Anchor’s done with the repairs, we can bid goodbye to Pulse City.”

                                        “You make it sound final,” said Matrix.

                                        “It might be.”

                                        The ribombee span his seat around and fixed him with a look of utter confusion. His eyes were impossibly wide, making his already tiny face look even tinier.

                                        “We’re not coming back?” he asked, calmly. “What did you do?”

                                        Macro sneered and looked back at his computer. “I didn’t do anything.”

                                        “Did you cheese off Surge?”

                                        “Turns out she isn’t an ally,” said Macro. “Drop it.”

                                        Matrix’s seat made a small squeak as he turned it back to the navigation system. Macro thought he heard him load up one of his retro games again.

                                        Macro scanned over the locations. Botnet City and Meta City both left a bad taste in his mouth. As he looked down at The Cache, his heart froze. Had the list always had that sun-shaped emblem behind it? And if so, why have it right at the bottom of the page? The way it was written, The Cache was printed right over it. None of the other locations so much as touched it.

                                        His ears filled with ringing and he dropped his computer onto the dashboard. Twisting in his seat, he caught Matrix’s eye. The navigator raised an eyebrow.

                                        “Someone’s jumpy.” He fluttered from his seat, the dull drone of his wings joining the obnoxious bell. “Woo, supper time!”

                                        Macro sank back into his seat and rubbed at his temples. What had gotten into him? He retrieved his computer, stuffing it into his pouch as he headed towards the kitchen.

                                        Anchor passed him in the hallway, wiping his huge paws with an oily rag.

                                        “Suppose I’d better get freshened up,” he said. Then he looked Macro up and down, a small frown creasing his features. “You alright, Cap’n? You look a little spooked.”

                                        Macro waved him off. “I’m fine. How much longer until we fly?”

                                        “We’re about done. I just have to check the repairs don’t mess with the turrets. I’ll fire ‘em up after supper and if they spin, we can go.”

                                        Macro nodded and tried his best to shrug off the black cloud hovering over him.

                                        “Fantastic. Sure you can’t do that now?” he asked.

                                        “I am pretty hungry,” Anchor grumbled.

                                        “Okay.” Macro really couldn’t shake that black cloud. “Let’s just have supper.”

                                        He tried to mask his anxiety by rubbing at his face with both paws, slowly making his way into the kitchen. Anchor’s warm paw fell onto his bare shoulder, freezing him in his tracks. Macro craned his neck around to look up into Anchor’s face. The granbull’s brow was furrowed so much so his eyebrows almost met.

                                        “You sure you’re alright?” he asked.

                                        Macro stared back up at him, open-mouthed. What was he supposed to say? That he felt awful about DL? Betrayed by Surge? Tell him everything that went on, and that they’d be fleeing for their lives?

                                        Surely he should tell them the latter.

                                        He pushed Anchor’s paw away and turned into the kitchen, taking his usual seat opposite DL. The pachirisu met his gaze briefly before reaching for a bowl of soup.

                                        Soup?

                                        Macro took a bowl and sniffed it cautiously. Not Cookie’s usual sweet supper, that was for sure. Instead it smelled savoury. And… was that nutpea he could smell? His mouth filled with saliva and he grabbed a spoon, almost knocking Matrix off his seat.

                                        “Easy, Captain.” Cookie chuckled as he leant over the table, holding a plate of steaming buns. “We have bread to go with it, too.”

                                        Macro’s nose twitched. There was the sweet stuff he was familiar with. Yet not a single layer of frosting in sight. Regardless, he grabbed one, still warm in his paws.

                                        “I thought we’d try something different,” said DL. “Somehow, I already knew this recipe. I guess it came with the recent memory disk.”

                                        Macro was going to respond, but his mouth was full of bread. Instead, Anchor lowered his spoon and beat him to it.

                                        “How are you handling that, by the way?” he asked.

                                        “The memories?” DL shrugged. “I think I’m past the shock. I’ve actually been doing some thinking.”

                                        “Cooking’s pretty good for that.” Cookie fell into his own seat and began pouring sugar into his soup. “I do a lot of thinking in this kitchen.”

                                        DL smiled at him warmly, her paws twitching slightly as she watched the slurpuff’s soup fill with sugar. Macro feared for a moment she’d start wrestling the dispenser out of Cookie’s paws.

                                        “It does help, he’s not wrong.” She turned to the other space pirates. “But… I’ve decided I do actually want all my memories back. So retrieving those disks isn’t in vain anymore.”

                                        “It was never in vain,” said Macro. “It’s in your right to have them.”

                                        She shrugged. “To me it felt like that. But I actually want to know what happened that landed me in that orphanage. Was I always there? Or did something happen to my parents?”

                                        Macro looked down at his soup as he spooned some into his mouth. “Valid questions.”

                                        “Do you remember anything else?” Matrix asked. “Anything related to… well, Socket’s crazy idea?”

                                        DL snorted, a sound that didn’t suit her remotely. The look of disgust on her face lit a fire in Macro’s chest and he remembered exactly why they were doing all this. Any child could have ended up in DL’s situation. Taken into a warm home and then deceived. Turned into an experiment.

                                        “Like I said, I remember all of it,” she said. “And then some. I have access to the Download Database again, and amongst all that is the very reason Socket even adopted me.” DL leant her head on one paw and poked at her bread. “She never wanted a child. It was all planned from the start. Adopt the oldest child in the orphanage, lure them into a false sense of security and get everyone familiar with them as her adopted child. Oh, lovely Mayor! Adopts a child in need! Once that was all established, when the child turns eighteen, her plan gets thrown into action. No one suspects a thing.”

                                        “So it was an elaborate trap?” Macro scoffed.

                                        Matrix wound his antenna in his paw and leant on the table. “I prefer the term ‘ruse’.”

                                        “’Trap’ sums it up nicely,” said DL. “It certainly felt that way towards the end.”

                                        “Something doesn’t add up though,” said Anchor. “You said you were turned in at a lab in Meta City. But we picked you up from some strange distribution centre at the edge of System.”

                                        DL’s eyes went distant and she scratched her jaw. “That would be The Cache.”

                                        Macro dropped his spoon into his bowl, splashing hot soup down himself and eliciting a small squeak of surprise from Matrix.

                                        DL jolted in her seat and fixed him with wide, chocolate eyes. “What’s wrong?”

                                        “Nothing.” Macro grabbed a towel from Cookie and dabbed down his creamy fur, now sticky with berry soup. “I’ve just heard of that place. It’s one of the locations for your memory disks.”

                                        “Oh.” She rubbed her nose and looked away from him. “Well I’m guessing it’s not a distribution centre like you believe. I think Yobi must have done something prior to me going there. Because that’s listed as the location I was ‘made’.”

                                        “Maybe he changed your data chip,” said Matrix.

                                        “Maybe. Because what I remember of that chip you had removed, the information doesn’t match up. It was just lies.”

                                        “Yeh,” said Macro. “If it were your original one from birth, it would have said ‘Loop’ and not ‘Download Database’.”

                                        “Why change it?” Cookie asked. “Wouldn’t it make more sense to leave it, cover their tracks?”

                                        DL pointed at the slurpuff. “He has a valid point. But… that chip was more for tracking. And given I wasn’t ‘Loop’ anymore, they changed it. It’s not uncommon for pokemon to change their names. Is it?” She gave Macro a pointed stare.

                                        He sank slightly in his seat and absently stirred his soup.

                                        “Well, in that case,” said Anchor, “if The Cache is that secret government building, I guess our next stop is Botnet City? Save the dangerous zones for last.”

                                        The mere name of the city left a bad taste in Macro’s mouth. He bit his lip and stared into his soup. It was a logical suggestion. They had a higher chance for success. But sooner or later, they’d have to visit Meta City and The Cache. Did it really matter what order they did it in?

                                        Everyone’s voices blended together as Macro mulled over their options and DL’s story. It felt like things were both falling into place and becoming more confusing at the same time. He barely tasted his soup, eating it more out of habit than anything else. Once he’d scraped the bowl clean, he pushed it aside and slipped from his seat. It was only then he realised that Matrix and DL had both vanished, and Cookie was already cleaning the dishes.

                                        Anchor leant back in his seat as he tipped his bowl to drain the contents, slurping loudly. With a satisfied sigh, he brought the bowl back down to the table and wiped a paw across his mouth. His eyes flicked towards Macro and he grinned.

                                        “Not wanting seconds?” he asked.

                                        Macro shook his head and pointed towards the cockpit. “I’m gonna go fire up our next location. You wanna check the turrets? Sooner we leave, the better.”

                                        The granbull stood up, his chair scraping across the floor like claws on a chalkboard. “May as well.”

                                        He followed Macro into the cockpit then flopped into the driver’s seat. Macro hesitated beside his own chair. DL was already buckled in, fiddling with the dashboard’s controls.

                                        “What are you doing?” he asked her.

                                        “Learning.” She looked up at him briefly. “If I’m going to become a space pirate I need to know how these ships work.”

                                        “You’ve already had weapons training,” he said.

                                        She shrugged. “Maybe I want to know how to drive? Or be a captain?”

                                        Macro grit his teeth together, but not out of anger. It was much clearer to him now. She really was considering leaving.

                                        Anchor, however, hadn’t picked up on that at all. He roared with laughter, slamming his heavy paw on the dashboard.

                                        “Careful, Cap’n,” he said. “Sounds like she’s plannin’ a mutiny!”

                                        Macro shook his head and fell into the seat beside her. He didn’t even bother with the seatbelt. He tugged his computer from his pouch and brought up the locations again.

                                        “Alright, here we go!” said Anchor. “One turret test comin’ up!”

                                        “Make sure Pulse City know what you’re doing this time,” said Matrix.

                                        Anchor muttered something under his breath, then the familiar clunks and clangs of the turrets firing into position echoed throughout the cockpit.

                                        Macro scrolled through the locations with a claw, reading each of them. Three down. Two more disks to go. Three locations remaining. Meta City and Botnet City looked imposing even in text. As he reached The Cache, that yellow sun symbol was still there.

                                        Maybe Anchor was right. Maybe they should just get Botnet out of the way.

                                        The turrets whirred, the racket drowning out the voices in the small cockpit and Cookie’s jovial singing. Macro continued to stare at the list of names, a rising dread filling his chest and making his pulse race.

                                        His eyes unfocused, then something flashed. He didn’t know what it was, but his first thought was that another pirate had fired at them. But there was no impact. No angry shouts, no retaliation from Anchor.

                                        Macro’s computer slipped from his paws, landing with a clatter on the floor. His paw went to his head and he groaned, clenching his teeth together. He couldn’t see a thing. Everything was just noise. Turrets, voices, singing. More voices. He became increasingly aware that someone was shaking him.

                                        He shook his head, trying to clear his vision. It didn’t hurt, not remotely. If anything, his head felt like a cloud. The ship came back into focus, save for some random dazzle spots. Every time he turned his head, they followed, like he was looking at a map of the stars. And there was one. Much bigger than the other, shaped like a sun.

                                        He turned to look down at DL, her eyes wide and fearful. Her paws were wrapped around his arm tightly and her shoulders rose and fell as she tried to calm herself. Over her shoulder he spotted Anchor and Matrix, both of them staring at him in bewilderment. Anchor’s jaw was slightly open and he cleared his throat before speaking.

                                        “You alright, Cap’n?” he asked.

                                        “Yeh.” Macro rubbed his eyes, trying to clear the dazzle spots. “Yeh, I’m fine.”

                                        “You sure? ‘Cos you look like you need a lie down.”

                                        “I said I’m fine.”

                                        Macro bent in his seat to retrieve his computer. It had landed just underneath the dashboard. As he looked over it for any damage, he realised the page was still open. His eyes fell on The Cache, still emblazoned on its sun symbol.

                                        And beneath it were its co-ordinates. Had they always been there? As he looked over the other locations they were blank. No co-ordinates, just The Cache. Something felt odd about it. Why write them down? Why give this place special treatment?

                                        “Put these co-ordinates in, Matrix,” he said. “Two, four, six, three, five, seven.”

                                        Matrix twisted in his seat and raised an eyebrow. “That doesn’t even make any sense.”

                                        “What are you talking about?” Macro turned to face him. “They’re right here.”

                                        He held out his computer to the ribombee. Macro knew nothing about co-ordinates, but his suspicions were rising about The Cache. And with his suspicions came curiosity. He was adamant more than ever to find that place, even if it meant searching the far corners of System to track it down again.

                                        Matrix frowned at his computer, flicking his antenna around in his paw. “There’s nothing there.”

                                        “Yes there is!” Macro snapped. He leapt from his seat and pointed over Matrix’s shoulder right at the string of numbers. “It’s right there!”

                                        Matrix shook his head. “I don’t see anything.”

                                        “Right there! Written beneath ‘The Cache’ in black numbers! Right here, in this sun shaped symbol thing!” He traced a claw around the symbol.

                                        “Sun?” Matrix narrowed his eyes and looked up at Macro. “Are you having an episode?”

                                        Macro’s jaw went slack and he stared at Matrix, dumbfounded. He couldn’t see it? Macro looked back down at the screen. There it was, as clear as day. A yellow sun behind The Cache. The co-ordinates, or what he thought were co-ordinates.

                                        Anchor and DL stood behind him on either side, both staring at the computer.

                                        “There’s nothing there, Cap’n,” Anchor said softly.

                                        Macro shook his head slowly. “But I see it.” He turned to DL. “Do you?”

                                        The pachirisu shook her head and looked back down at the computer. Silent. Pawing at her left ear anxiously.

                                        Was he going crazy?

                                        Macro swallowed dryly. No. He wasn’t going crazy. He could see it. He knew he could see it.

                                        “Put in those numbers anyway,” he told Matrix.

                                        “But they won’t work,” said Matrix.

                                        “Just do it!”

                                        Matrix muttered under his breath and turned to his keyboard, punching in those numbers. Macro watched with bated breath. It had to work. He had to know he wasn’t going crazy.

                                        The navigation screen zoomed out, showing Wildcard Gamma as a blinking green dot. Another dot flickered on the screen, up in the far north-east corner.

                                        Matrix let out a stunned ‘uh’ then looked at Macro over his shoulder. “It found it.”

                                        “They work?” DL gasped.

                                        Macro felt his head spin and he staggered backwards into Anchor. A chuckle left his throat as it sank in. He wasn’t going crazy. Or if he was, he looked a little saner for a while.

                                        “Well, I don’t know what’s going on,” said Anchor. “But I was about to send you to bed due to overwork.” He steadied the mawile back on his feet and looked him over. “Although I’m still considering it.”

                                        Macro waved a paw, still chuckling. “Let’s get a move on.”

                                        “You can certainly get a move on,” said Anchor, turning him towards the door. “Right to bed. I don’t think you’ve slept since DL passed out.”

                                        The pachirisu looked up at Macro with a start. He cleared his throat, wanting to bite back at the granbull. But he found himself being steered down the corridor towards his room.

                                        “Fine, I’ll sleep,” he said. “But you promise me you won’t let Matrix change those co-ordinates.”

                                        “I wouldn’t worry about that,” said Anchor. “I reckon he’s as intrigued as you are that they’ve worked. But I’ll bop him one if he tries, okay?”

                                        Macro strutted towards his room with Anchor’s paw on his back. The granbull didn’t relinquish his grip until they reached the mawile’s door. There, he turned him to face him and his large muzzle was set in a concerned frown.

                                        “Did you really see all that?” he asked. “Or were you pullin’ our legs?”

                                        Macro scratched his scar and looked away from him. That sun… it looked every bit like those dazzle spots. He hadn’t realised it straight away. And that dazzle was still on his vision, although not as bright.

                                        “Where’d that flash come from?” he asked Anchor. “The one that blinded me in the cockpit?”

                                        “What flash?” Anchor asked.

                                        Macro felt his heart sink. So no one had seen the flash or the numbers and symbol? “It went off right when you were testing the turrets.”

                                        Anchor shook his head then sighed. “I really think you need some rest.”

                                        “This has been happening a lot lately, Anchor.” Macro spread his paws. “I fall asleep then something blinds me and I see this sun symbol. Now I’m seeing flashes while I’m awake and stuff no one else can see?”

                                        Anchor’s eyes widened. “How long has this been going on?”

                                        “I don’t know, a few days?”

                                        “I think you might need to see a doctor.”

                                        “I ain’t seeing a doctor. Not yet, anyway. Since those co-ordinates worked…”

                                        Anchor scratched his mohawk and looked away from him. “Gonna be honest, Cap’n. That might’ve been a glitch.”

                                        “I don’t know,” said Macro. “But if they actually work, I might get some answers.”

                                        Anchor fixed him out of the corner of his eye. “You really think they might work?”

                                        Macro shrugged. “No idea. Let’s find out. Staple Matrix’s arms to his sides if he tries to change them.”

                                        Anchor chuckled and gave a salute. “You got it, Cap’n. Now get some sleep.”

                                        ...

                                        The outskirts of System Sky were completely devoid of life. If it weren’t for the porygon-z fleet drifting back and forth, BackDoor would have found it peaceful. He floated in the air with his arms tucked behind his head, reclining backwards as he watched the fleet work.

                                        A small group of them stood aside, rotating their heads back and forth as they eyed the dimensional pocket to the ‘unknown world’. Getting close to them would be nigh impossible. They’d already thrown a tantrum upon his arrival, worse than he was familiar with. Something about them seemed very amiss.

                                        Their movements were more erratic. What passed off as ‘limbs’ rocked back and forth dramatically, the gravitational pull almost throwing them completely backwards when they came to a stop. Then throwing them forwards again when they started moving. The strange, dramatic rocking reminded him of one of those bobbing bird toys that tipped into a glass as though it were drinking. But unlike those birds, their heads span. Sometimes doing a complete three-sixty.

                                        BackDoor tutted. He needed to get closer to that dimensional pocket and tear it open, then he could get as far away from the fleet as possible. The only issue was that it might come at the expense of his own limbs.

                                        He sat up and gave TimeSkip a nudge. “You wanna go over there and lure them away?”

                                        The celebi looked around silently, not absorbing a word he said.

                                        BackDoor sighed and drifted higher into the air. “Fine. I’ll do it. But if they try to blow me up, I’m using you as a meat shield.”

                                        As he floated towards Zero Day, TimeSkip followed close behind him. BackDoor rolled his eyes but kept his attention on the fleet. One wrong movement (from their perspective at least) would see him reduced to scraps.

                                        “All right, back up, Zero Day,” he said. “Let me open that gate.”

                                        One of the passing porygon-z span its head around and its pupils retracted into pin pricks.

                                        ‘Thr34T d3T3cT3d! Thr34T d3T3cT3d!’

                                        Their already distorted voices seemed to have exaggerated as much as their movements.

                                        “Calm down!” BackDoor snapped.

                                        The rest of the porygon-z followed suit, their heads spinning freely above their bodies as their distorted voices joined in.

                                        The hoopa sighed and faltered slightly just outside the fleet. Then he threw himself through the air and warped beyond them. Twenty eyes snapped onto him, pupils like dots.

                                        ‘R3m0vInG Thr34T. C0mm3Nsssss3 CL34NuP.’

                                        Before BackDoor could retaliate, beams of tri-coloured light shot at him. He threw himself backwards into a warp and sent himself back to TimeSkip’s side. The hoopa’s face twisted with rage and he removed the ring from his right horn. With one swift flick of a paw, the ring expanded above Zero Day, warping them away several feet. They span on the spot before looking back at him and moving slowly away across System Sky.

                                        “Morons!” BackDoor spat.

                                        The sheer limit of his abilities ground in his gut. If he’d been given Hoopa’s alleged full capabilities, he could have sent them outside System’s galaxy. He let out a low growl and span towards TimeSkip, his lips curling into a snarl.

                                        He waved a paw, distorting time and space. Small, black voids appeared and vanished quickly around the android’s body, dragging its limbs through them and twisting them into knots. A flash of light exploded from cracks along its metal body, reducing it to scraps that rained down into the ocean below.

                                        “There.” BackDoor beat his paws together and looked back at the spot the fleet had previously occupied. “That feels much better.”

                                        He drifted over to the dimensional pocket and eyed it curiously. Another world. ‘World - Unknown’. Curiosity gnawed at him and he removed one of his golden rings. He just had to see what was inside. Not just because he’d been made merely to find a new System, but because of that creature. What if there were more?

                                        He span in a circle, tracing a perfect ring in the air. It glowed with a yellow light and spread out, filling the inside with an ultraviolet mist. A grin spread across his face and he waited, keeping himself a safe distance from the portal. Through the ultraviolet mist he could see it perfectly. A world filled with strange flora. Glowing mushrooms, rocks that leaked out eerie light. A permanently dark sky lit up by a vibrant moon. And something moving. No… not something. Things.

                                        They were growing closer. All tentacles and billowing heads. More of those beasts! And they were coming right at him.

                                        He clapped his paws together and laughed, performing a backwards somersault. Tinkling voices reached his ears and one by one the beasts were launched through the gate. The first one paused, spreading out its tentacles as it took in its new world. Its companions joined behind it, looking equally as dazed. Then the first one launched itself towards BackDoor.

                                        The hoopa span out of the way and raised his paws.

                                        “Oi! Don’t attack me, I’m your new master!”

                                        The beasts tinkled at him, turning what he guessed were their heads to seek him out. How? They had no eyes to speak of. Wow, these things were intriguing.

                                        More came through the gate, some big, some small. But one of them looked vastly different. It landed amid the others with much less grace. It seemed bouncy, and colourful. The same shaped head, but filled with what he could only describe as candy sprinkles.

                                        Its body was lanky and lacked tentacles. Instead it appeared to have limbs. More colourful splodges adorned its body. It was as though the ultra beasts had absorbed a Mr Mime, turning it into one of their own.

                                        BackDoor laughed hysterically. So the tentacled beasts weren’t the only anomalies the gates could reveal?

                                        The creatures gathered themselves and headed down towards System Ground, their tinkling voices reaching out to each other. Guiding each other as they worked their way through the world. The odd bouncy ultra beast didn’t follow after them. It turned to look at BackDoor, then took off like a dart over his head.

                                        “That’s right!” BackDoor laughed. “Enjoy this world! Do as you please! We won’t be staying here long anyway!”

                                        He clapped his paws and turned back to the gate. Leave it open? Or close it? The atmosphere inside was completely useless to Socket. An eternal night would drive pokemon to the brink of insanity.

                                        He inclined his head on one side and stroked his chin thoughtfully. Then, with a drawn out ‘naah’, he zipped it shut.
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                                        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: 318
                                          A/N - Sorry for the short delay. I was away. Updates should return to normal from Friday.

                                          Chapter Forty Five

                                          The Bricked Inn squatted between two tall buildings along Fuchsia Avenue. One could have easily overlooked it if it weren’t for the old, wooden sign creaking in the artificial breeze.

                                          Annie had insisted on checking out Moonlight Lounge first, which her friends implored desperately against. And not just because of the price, it seemed. After Annie had terrorized about a hundred different space pirates using only her presence alone, Trojan had dragged her out by her collar, muttering something about ‘jackin’ humans being jackin’ impossible’ before he finally released her in a narrow alleyway.

                                          Annie pushed the old door to the Bricked Inn open, and a tinny sound rang out over her head. She ducked and skittered into the room, wafting at whatever it was that had made the intrusive sound. An ancient wind chime hung over the door. A tiny starly swinging back and forth between four hollow tubes, striking each one with a metal ball.

                                          “Calm yer ass,” Trojan muttered as he pushed past her towards the desk. “Don’t you think you’ve terrorized enough ‘mon today?”

                                          Annie stood up straight and beat down her blouse. Web caught her eye and raised an eyebrow before following the scrafty into the lobby.

                                          A dark-furred meowth sat behind the desk, her entire body trembling. Her whiskers quivered as she stared wide-mouthed at the human. Annie stared back at her and inclined her head on one side. The feline seemed to be about to faint.

                                          “Don’t worry ‘bout her,” Trojan told the meowth. “She’s with us.”

                                          “What…” the meowth gasped out. “What…”

                                          “I said don’t worry ‘bout her!” the scrafty snapped. “Can we book two rooms, or not?”

                                          The meowth reached under the desk, not taking her eyes off Annie, and pulled out a tattered folder. Even as she opened it, her wide eyes remained on the human.

                                          Trojan tapped the desk with his claws, loud enough to drag the meowth’s terrified eyes onto him.

                                          “S-sorry,” she sputtered. “I’ll… I’ll just check.”

                                          Annie felt a wing flop onto her shoulders and she tore her attention from the quaking meowth. Waveform stood beside her, keeping a close eye on the receptionist.

                                          “They’ll get used to you,” he said quietly.

                                          Annie shrugged, causing Waveform to remove his wing. “I’m not bothered if they get used to me. I’m going home anyway, once I get my hands on that Time Onion.”

                                          Waveform’s eyes widened slightly and he turned back to the receptionist. “Well, I’m sure we’ll find it. We just need to know where to look.”

                                          “We’re still starting a rebellion, right?” Zip’s small voice rose up from her right.

                                          She looked down at the glass bowl containing the goldeen. Those stitches still looked very red and sore but they didn’t seem to bother him at all. His tiny eyes sparkled, almost pleading.

                                          Annie simply shrugged. “Sure. Why not. Gotta stop these weirdos eating themselves, right?”

                                          Waveform’s paw fell over her shoulder and he let out a sharp ‘shh!’, giving her a violent jerk. Annie let out a yelp as she fell sideways into the decidueye.

                                          Zip’s laughter at her clumsiness lifted any suspicion from them, despite the fact the meowth was still as tense as a bow string about to snap. Trojan rolled his eyes at them and returned to whatever it was he was doing. Where had he got that pen from?

                                          He slammed it down onto the counter and the meowth took it, hiding it away under the desk along with the folder. She then turned her back on them, glancing over her shoulder occasionally to look at Annie. The meowth pulled over a stool and climbed onto it to reach a cork-board full of… keyrings?… behind her.

                                          “Here are your keys,” she told Trojan. “Don’t lose them, or it’ll be fifty credits each.”

                                          Trojan snorted and tucked them into his baggy fur.

                                          “Your rooms are on the second floor,” said the receptionist. “Check out is at noon.”

                                          He waved a paw at her then gestured for Annie and the other pokemon to follow him.

                                          Waveform ushered Annie ahead of him, all the while keeping an eye on the receptionist. Annie wanted to ask him what his problem was. What had the meowth done to deserve being stared at like that? Nevertheless, she forgot all about it as she climbed the stairs to the second floor.

                                          Trojan was already stood outside one of the rooms, twirling the keyring-like key-thing in his claws.

                                          “They’re opposite each other,” he said with a nod to the opposite room. “Made sure we weren’t split up. Here’s your key.” He handed the one he was twirling to Annie then narrowed his eyes. “Don’t lose it ‘cos I ain’t payin’ for it.”

                                          Annie frowned down at the black lump of plastic. “It looks like something you’d use to lock a car.”

                                          All four pokemon fixed her with equal looks of confusion. She looked up at them and glanced at each one in turn.

                                          “What?” she asked. “You never seen a car before?”

                                          “We aren’t that retro,” said Zip.

                                          Trojan nodded at the fish. “What he said. Now, get in your room and get some sleep.”

                                          The scrafty flashed his key fob at a panel beneath the door handle and it let out an audible click. He turned the handle and tried to push it open. The catch caught in the frame and he muttered under his breath, using his shoulder to barge the door open. The wood splintered slightly around the catch, but it eventually swung inward, revealing a room that looked like it hadn’t been slept in in decades.

                                          “So I guess I’m sharing with Web?” Annie turned to her room. “I hope she doesn’t snore.”

                                          “You ain’t sharin’ with Web,” said Trojan. “You’re with Zip and Waveform.”

                                          The scrafty waved a paw at the skuntank and she gave Annie a shake of the head as she followed him into the room.

                                          Annie raised an eyebrow. “What’s that about?”

                                          Waveform took her key fob and opened the door. It opened a lot smoother than Trojan’s had, but the room was in an equal state of sadness.

                                          “They’re married,” he told her.

                                          Annie looked up at him with a start.

                                          “You didn’t know?” he asked.

                                          “Hadn’t a clue.” She retrieved the fob and ducked under his wing to enter the room. “They bicker like-”

                                          “Like an old, married couple?” Waveform chuckled, which Annie thought was rather uncharacteristic. “They’ve been married for about ten years now. That’s why Web gave up being a space pirate. She wanted to stay on System Ground.”

                                          Annie sat on the edge of the bed. “Why didn’t Trojan just join her as a space pirate?”

                                          “His job.” Waveform leant against the door frame, inching aside as Zip scurried past him. “He didn’t want to leave his bar.”

                                          “Yeh, and that went to pot.” Annie yawned and stretched, flopping backwards onto the musty sheets. “This room is gonna give me a headache.”

                                          The decidueye strolled across the room towards the lone, pokey window. He hoisted up the blind and shoved the window open. Fresh air rushed into the room, clearing up the musty air like an obsession.

                                          Annie finally looked around the room. One bed. Single. One dressing table. Grey with dust and falling to bits. One chair. Three legs, the other lying against the wall. A crimson rug. Threadbare.

                                          “Who gets the bed?” she asked.

                                          Waveform turned and leant against the wall, searching the room with his scarlet eyes.

                                          “I don’t need a bed,” said Zip from beside the dressing table. “So I’m fine here.”

                                          Waveform turned to look at Annie then kicked himself back from the wall. “You take it. I’m going out for a while.”

                                          Annie watched him as he marched across the room towards the door. “Where to?”

                                          “I need to pick up a few things.” He placed his paw on the handle and gave her a nod. “Don’t worry. I’ll be back before dawn.”

                                          Annie yawned widely and let herself flop back onto the bed. “All right. But I can’t guarantee the bed will be free.”

                                          He said nothing. She didn’t even hear him move from the room. The only thing that truly betrayed his exit was the click as the door locked itself behind him.

                                          ...
                                          Tracer poked his head out of the narrow alley, watching the decidueye cross the street. The owl didn’t even look around him at the other space pirates. A black scarf was fastened securely behind his head and covered his silver-clad beak, making his crimson eyes stand out even more.

                                          Clever. Quite clever.

                                          Waveform had taken a huge risk coming to Pulse City and he knew it. A bounty hunter like himself would be a prime target and space pirates wouldn’t bat an eyelid at giving him a hard time. They might even have resorted to killing him. The scarf coupled with the lack of his silver quiver and arrows would remove suspicion from most, if not all, of the space pirates.

                                          Tracer warred with the desire to follow the decidueye and to stay true to his job. His curiosity was getting the better of him. Why on earth would Waveform so brazenly enter Pulse City with his reputation?

                                          Widget shifted beside him as he poked his head out around Tracer’s knee, dragging the delphox right back into reality. He became uncomfortably aware of the incineroar stood behind him, leaning back against the damp wall. Not remotely watching the events unfolding. Good. If he’d noticed Tracer’s interest he’d have pushed him for information on the decidueye’s identity. Tracer had already told the space pirate enough as it was.

                                          So long as that never got back to Socket, he didn’t have to worry.

                                          “What you waitin’ around for, fuzzy?” N0ize’s voice sent a chill down Tracer’s spine.

                                          He looked back over his shoulder at the space pirate, meeting his eye.

                                          “I think the coast might be clear,” said Tracer. “I was just waiting for her friend to leave.”

                                          “Y’ain’t followin’ him?”

                                          Tracer shook his head. “It’s not him I’m after.”

                                          “Fair enough,” said N0ize. “But you might’ve been able to punch him for information.”

                                          “I think you mean ‘pump him’,” said Widget.

                                          N0ize laughed heartily. “I really don’t, kid. I want information and someone ain’t willin’ to give it, I punch ‘em up.”

                                          Tracer wanted to reply with an ‘I can believe it’ but decided he much preferred his spine intact. Instead he nodded for the incineroar to follow him and slipped around the corner, hugging tightly to the wall.

                                          Widget, however, marched boldly down the street to the Bricked Inn, then vanished inside.

                                          “Kid’s got guts,” said N0ize, somewhat impressed. “Way more guts than you.”

                                          “I sometimes worry he has more guts than any sane pokemon should have.” Tracer shook his head and waved a paw at the open door. “Let’s just follow him inside.”

                                          Widget stood on his hind legs, leaning his forepaws on the reception desk. Only his nose poked over, but he spoke confidently to the dark furred meowth. The meowth squinted down at him, having to stand on her chair to see him clearly.

                                          Dark fur. One of the several changes a paw-full of pokemon had undergone when the types split. A result of a lack of steady sunshine and a drastic change in career path had resulted in the meowth being more suited to night time excursions. Tracer hadn’t seen one on System Ground, but finding one in Pulse City didn’t remotely surprise him.

                                          “So if you could tell us where she is,” said Widget, “I’d be very grateful.”

                                          “I’m afraid I can’t do that,” said the meowth. “It’s my policy.”

                                          “How about I pay you?” Widget went on. “Five thousand credits.”

                                          The meowth’s eyes almost spun in her sockets. Tracer even thought he saw the charm flash on her forehead, but it was more likely the light from a well-timed laser fire outside. Her lips curled into a smile and she chuckled as she fell back into her seat.

                                          “You know how to spin a bargain,” she said. “Make it seven thousand and I’ll even give you a key to her room.”

                                          Widget looked like he was about to reply, but Tracer placed a paw on his shoulder and made him back down.

                                          “I don’t think that’s necessary,” the delphox said around his cigar. “I’m sure she’ll let us in.”

                                          “You sure about that?” The meowth smirked. “You don’t look like space pirates.” She then looked up at N0ize and her smirk faltered. “He does. But you two? Not even in the slightest.”

                                          “Hey!” Widget protested. “I like to think I look more like a space pirate than my friend here.”

                                          “Which one?” the meowth asked. “The delphox? Sure.”

                                          Tracer removed his cigar and toyed with the urge to flick ash onto the floor. It went against everything he believed in, but if he went outside to do it that would only solidify the meowth’s accusations. So he flicked it right onto her desk.

                                          “I think you have us wrong,” he told her. “Now kindly tell us where we can find this strange creature who’s taken a room here.”

                                          N0ize chuckled and stepped up beside him, ramming his fist into his open paw. The meowth cowered behind her desk and did her best to disguise it by pulling out a tattered folder.

                                          She didn’t even need to open it. She spewed out the room number before she even got to the page, then tossed a key fob right at N0ize.

                                          The incineroar caught it and twirled it around his claw. “Thank ye kindly.”

                                          The malicious note in his voice pushed Tracer’s fur on end, making him oddly grateful for his long coat. They left the lobby and followed the meowth’s fractured directions towards the stairs.

                                          “That was fun,” said Widget. “We should do this more often.”

                                          “I am not becoming a space pirate,” Tracer muttered under his breath. “I think you need to get your priorities straight.”

                                          “Keep talkin’ like that,” said N0ize icily, “and you’ll find yourself shaved and tremblin’ in a gutter.”

                                          The delphox gulped as quietly as he could and trotted silently after Widget. The eevee found the room before they did and stood sniffing at the floor.

                                          “I think this is the one,” he said. “Smells like a skuntank rolled around on the floor.”

                                          Tracer puffed on his cigar as he eyed the door. It was definitely the right room. The faded numbers on the wood showed where the metal plates used to hang, until someone decided they’d rather steal them and melt them down into something else. He lifted his paw and knocked rapidly.

                                          Someone moved around inside, their feet clattering over the wooden floor. Something scraped against the door as though someone was desperate to claw their way out.

                                          “Argh, I can’t do it,” a young voice said. More clattering. “Annie! Annie, someone’s at the door.”

                                          Mumbles. Heavy footsteps.

                                          The door creaked open and the contrast of long, black fur around a pale, bald face stared back at them. She rubbed a hand over her green eyes and frowned.

                                          “I know you,” she said. “You’re that fox. What are you doing here? Waitaminute… Are you a clone?!” She looked left and right frantically and backed into her room.

                                          “I can assure you I’m not a clone,” said Tracer. “I’m here because I need to talk to you.”

                                          “You ain’t talkin’ to me,” she said. “I don’t talk to strangers.”

                                          N0ize stepped closer to Tracer, towering over him as he smacked his paws together.

                                          Annie stared up at him and her green eyes widened. “That’s a pretty big cloyster cat.”

                                          “What’s going on here?”

                                          The voice came from behind Tracer. He turned but struggled to see past N0ize. He caught a glimpse of purple fur and a fluffy tail spread out over a skuntank’s back.

                                          “We’re just here to talk to the girl,” said N0ize. “Nothin’ you need to concern yerself over. Wait… I know you. You’re Webber!”

                                          Web tutted. “I was hoping you’d have forgotten by now, you big lout. What are you doing hanging around with a couple of detectives? You changed sides?”

                                          “Hey, I’m just a curious bystander.” N0ize turned back to Annie and grinned at the amusement on her face. “Listen here. You’re gonna talk to these fuzzies, and I’m gonna listen. You understand?”

                                          “I don’t think so.” This voice was male, and a familiar scrafty stood behind Web, his paws tucked into his baggy fur. “You ain’t makin’ her talk. You’ll turn her over to the jackin’ mayor!”

                                          “I don’t have jack to do with the mayor!” N0ize roared. “I just wanna know why some lanky, bald creature is livin’ in System.”

                                          “I think we all do,” said Web.

                                          “Oi!”

                                          Annie dragged all their eyes back to her. She stood with her arms crossed and her lips pulled down into a perfect frown.

                                          “I have you know I don’t like being called ‘bald’,” she said. “Lanky, sure. But not bald. Nor just ‘creature’. I’m a human, okay. Well… now, anyway. But when I’m a human, it’s ‘human’. And when I’m an archeops, it’s ‘archeops’. All right? Not ‘creature’. Not ‘bald thing’. Not ‘weirdo’-”

                                          “We’ve never called you ‘weird’, dear,” said Web softly.

                                          “I heard him do it.” Annie pointed at Trojan.

                                          The scrafty shrugged at Web’s disapproving frown. “I was tired and grumpy.”

                                          “You’re always tired and grumpy,” said the skuntank.

                                          “Now,” said Annie firmly. “If it’ll get Mister Fox off my back, I’ll tell him whatever he needs to know. But I can tell you one thing for certain.”

                                          She stopped, making Tracer’s fur bristle. He removed his cigar and met her eyes dead on.

                                          “And what’s that?” he asked.

                                          She frowned. “I ain’t ever goin’ back to that mad mayor. She ain’t putting me in no lab. Capiche?”

                                          Tracer puffed on his cigar, fixing his amber eyes on hers. A mixture of craziness, fear and anger stared back at him. This wasn’t a creature he wanted to mess with, that was for sure.

                                          N0ize looked between the two and a loud laugh came from deep within his chest. “A lab?! So the mayor’s experimentin’ on living things now? Man, somethin’ makes me think I’m gonna love this.”

                                          ...

                                          When Macro woke up, it was dark. He rubbed a paw over his eyes and let out a long groan as he pushed the sheets off himself. The idea of staying in bed until the sun rose fluttered through his mind and he briefly considered lying back down and going back to sleep. Then he remembered those co-ordinates.

                                          His eyes snapped open, all sleepy fog expelled from his mind with the force of a typhoon.

                                          No, he couldn’t go back to sleep. He had to find out if those co-ordinates were working, and if so, where exactly they were taking them.

                                          He slipped from his bed and made for the door, being sure to grab his scarf and goggles on the way. His scarf was still damp, but he didn’t care. Light flooded the corridor as he stepped outside, the automatic signal triggering as it detected him.

                                          No one was awake?

                                          He’d never been up so early before. Matrix often put the ship into auto-pilot, but surely the ribombee would want to know if the co-ordinates were legitimate?

                                          Macro cautiously entered the cockpit, his nerves getting the better of him. The ship felt barren, and not a single member of his crew was awake. What time was it? He glanced at the navigation screen, first checking the time.

                                          Two in the morning.

                                          His heart sank and he warred with the desire to return to bed. But first, he needed to check where they were.

                                          Navigation systems were alien to him. All he really knew was that the green dot was his own ship, while red ones usually meant trouble. Large splodges indicating cities scattered over the screen, their names clearly marked. The fainter ones were System Ground, and most of them were behind them now, leaving nothing but a stretch of sea and the Analogue Isles far to their right. Only two of System Sky’s islands could be seen, one of which they’d just passed. He didn’t care to check the name. He was too bothered that the co-ordinates were taking them well out of System’s boundaries. Across the ocean. The vast ocean that seemed to have no end. Towards a block of coldness that would freeze the ship’s fuel and then send them to an icy death.

                                          Macro hugged himself as he watched the green dot travel over the blackness. Sure, they’d gone outside System’s boundaries before. That’s how they’d found DL. But something felt different this time.

                                          He pushed himself from the navigation system and turned towards the window.

                                          Blackness. Blackness dotted by stars.

                                          Not a city in sight.

                                          Wildcard Gamma’s own lights lit up ahead of them, revealing nothing. It all felt so empty.

                                          Macro pinched his upper arm tightly then stifled a yelp. Nope. He was definitely awake. He absently paced towards his chair and placed one paw on the back of it, searching the nothingness.

                                          Wait… Something was on the horizon.

                                          He squinted into the darkness, wondering if it were his imagination. But Wildcard Gamma’s lights danced over something far ahead of them. Whatever it was, it was moving. No… they were moving. Back and forth, like bright specks in the dregs of black coffee. He leant forwards, holding himself steady against his seat. They grew gradually clearer as Wildcard Gamma encroached upon them. Their forms becoming more defined. They appeared to be pokemon, but pokemon couldn’t fly freely in System Sky. The air was too thin, and too cold. They’d die of suffocation if the cold didn’t kill them first.

                                          One of them rotated its head, looking straight at Wildcard Gamma. Then it froze. The others froze beside it, their limbs flailing with… with what? Were they flying? No… it was irritation. Whatever they were, they weren’t happy to see them.

                                          Then it hit him. They weren’t pokemon at all. They were androids. Hundreds of them. All designed to look like the tried and failed Porygon Z.

                                          And they were not happy to see him.
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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'
                                          'Where else can I find Del?' -FFnet/Wattpad
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