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System:Reboot (PMD)

Cutlerine

Gone. Not coming back.
Lots of interesting stuff happening this time, huh? Flesh-housed computer, more drama aboard Wildcard Gamma – I actually have to follow Negrek here and ask why everyone is so tolerant of a captain who is so consistently contrary and snappish – and some nice insights into the way System works. It's certainly interesting that the psychic-types seem to take a managerial role and the electric-types are more like the enforcers; I guess I maybe ought to have expected the former, but the latter was a surprise – I had it in my head that fighting-types would obviously be the civic muscle, but I'm always down with my expectations being confounded with neat worldbuilding.

Surge turned up again too, as I thought she would, and now it really feels like the story's found its feet; you can see the plot taking shape, a set of conflicts and tensions (and fun lasery fights) starting to loom in the characters' future. This is going to be fun, I can tell. So much so that I actually didn't really take much in the way of notes to do with sentence structure and stuff – I just found myself reading on and on, enjoying it too much to stop. I'm going to pretend that this constitutes a critical response by saying that it's a sign that you're doing things well and congratulating you on it.
 

DeliriousAbsol

Call me Del
Negrek - Thanks, I'll fix those last two pointers. Not sure on the complicated sentence myself, I might invest in something like Grammarly to help me with that. It'll take some thought. Thanks for pointing it out =)

Cutlerine - Thank you so much! =D

Chibi Pika - Thanks! =D Socket is pretty intimidating. If someone has 'chameleon abilities' it means they're good at blending in. So pretty good at adapting and changing to situations. It's not an enhancement, more a professional trait helpful for her work.

...

Chapter Six​

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

That pachirisu…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Rise and shine, sweetheart,” he scoffed.

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

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

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

“The first pokemon I see is meant-”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Incorrect.”

“The password is ‘Socket’.”

“Incorrect.”

“The password is ‘number one’?”

“Incorrect.”

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

“Incorrect.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Care?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Double.”

“Double?!”

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

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

“Can’t say,” said Macro.

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

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

The sewaddle chuckled and waved his tail for the mienshao.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Fourty thousand credits,” the scrafty replied.

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

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

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

“Deal.”

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

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

“Drinks?” he asked.

“Watmel juice,” Macro replied.

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

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

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

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

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

“I am where it counts,” said Macro.

“And a date doesn’t count?”

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

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

“So you are a hacker?”

“Yes. It’s one of my many talents.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, it’s tempting.”

“Then what’s stopping you?”

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

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

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

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

She chuckled softly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Surge made a thoughtful noise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So what’s your price?” he asked.

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

“So you’re not a professional hacker?”

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

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

She grinned and stuck the fry in her mouth.

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

“Forty thousand credits.”

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

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

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

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

She really was on his last thread.

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

She scoffed and popped another fry in her mouth.

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

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

He sighed again and shook his head. “It’s a dangerous game you’re playing, Surge.”
 
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Cutlerine

Gone. Not coming back.
Aw, Matrix is just adorable, isn't he? And it definitely seems like the plot's revving up now. I have to say, I wasn't expecting Matrix and Surge to bump into each other quite so early on, but I don't think it's a bad thing that they did, just a different thing.

Some things now that felt like they didn't quite work for me, mostly to do with the politics of that bar scene. It seems weird that there's apparently no such thing as selling someone out in exchange for amnesty or protection; I mean, even in states that are comparatively less corrupt than System, bargaining with thieves and pirates to get hold of particular targets is a thing that occurs. And Socket certainly seems desperate enough to retake the computer and capture Macro that she'd consider that sort of approach; there has to be a point where just raising bounties starts having less of a motivational effect. It's not a huge oversight, I think, but it does stand out as odd given how solid and meaty the worldbuilding usually is with this story. I also find myself slightly less than convinced about Macro's interaction with Surge. You've made it clear that he's pretty impulsive and doesn't always think his decisions through, but it seems excessively risky to hire Surge right away, knowing nothing about her, just because he thinks it will be difficult to find another one who'll work for him – a judgement that I'm not sure is warranted, given that a higher bounty equals higher acclaim, which I would have thought would attract a certain kind of person.

A little typo thing: the waiter tells Marco the booth will be 'Fourty thousand credits', which should be 'Forty thousand'. I think that's all that I caught, though, so good work there!
 

DeliriousAbsol

Call me Del
Some things now that felt like they didn't quite work for me, mostly to do with the politics of that bar scene. It seems weird that there's apparently no such thing as selling someone out in exchange for amnesty or protection
Just to answer this, the government in System, namely Socket, does not and will not co-operate with space pirates. If she has in the past, they don't remotely trust her and for good reason. It was mentioned earlier on, I believe, that if one turns another in for the bounty they will also be killed. However, that is not to say things may not change as the story progresses. She did just make Macro's reward available to System Sky inhabitants, whereas it was only on System Ground. Your comment reminded me of a potential event I was mulling over a while back. I probably only thought of it once. We'll see. If it's out of character for Socket, it won't work, unfortunately ;)

As for Macro trusting Surge, dude takes some serious risks to get what he wants...

Chapter Seven​

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s still savage.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, and I would have to obey.”

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

She blinked. Twice. Then gave a polite nod.

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

“You’re not?”

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

She nodded again and stared at the floor.

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

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

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

“I am programmed to obey,” she said.

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

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

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

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

“Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Macro continued down the corridor past the washroom until he reached the sleeping quarters. Three doors spanned it on either side, and the end one on the left was his, right by the loot room. He eyed the other rooms reminding himself that two of them were free. He’d have to assign one to Download Database, unless she was happy enough sleeping in a wooden crate.
He pushed his room open and threw himself onto his back on his bed. The sheets were still bunched up from the previous night and pressed into his lower spine. He shuffled until he’d managed to move them from underneath him and kicked them right to the end of the bed. He then slipped his belt off and placed it carefully on his night stand. One day, he’d end up forgetting to put one of his lasers back into safety and blow a nice hole in his mattress…

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

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

“Who is it?” he asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So I’m pathetic and stupid?”

He grimaced. Maybe not every word.

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

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

“You’re rude and a liar,” she said.

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

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

The door clicked shut, rather too politely. He rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling. ‘Weird’ didn’t even begin to describe it. He could totally understand where Matrix was coming from.

Everything about that ‘pachirisu’ was wrong. Was there anything he could do to train this computer to behave like an actual pokemon? Or was he stuck with data strolling around his ship inside some hapless pachirisu’s body? It wasn’t like she’d asked to be put inside there. It wasn’t her fault the pokemon had had her identity stripped away. He closed his eyes and took in a deep breath. His chest still hurt. Maybe he was ice cream intolerant? He rolled onto his left, facing the wall, and let his computer drop to his pillow. Maybe a good nap would clear his head?

...​

Singing. Who was singing?

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

Surge.

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

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

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

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

“You just woke me,” he said.

“It’s one in the afternoon.”

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

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

“That was fast,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So what is this BackDoor doing exactly?”

“It’s looking for dimensional gateways.”

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

“Macro?”

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

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

“I… I’m not sure.”

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

“Yes, I’m quite clear on that.”

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

“So her personality is retrievable?”

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

“Does it say where they are?”

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

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

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

“Macro, you’ve heard of humans?”

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

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

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

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

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

“You don’t sound well.”

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

“You’re still going after them?”

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

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

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

“Macro?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It wasn’t a dream. The whole bonkers, convoluted, dangerous and deadly plan was one hundred percent real. And he had been dragged right into the thick of it.
 
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Cutlerine

Gone. Not coming back.
The plot thickens! I'll be interested to see why exactly Download Database was worth the trouble and expense of creating; it feels like in a society where computers and devices are this pervasive, nobody would really think twice about some new mechanical stuff being installed in Socket's offices or whatever. It's also quite telling that Download Database was created the way it was, by staying within the letter of the law but without the spirit of it – that certainly fits what you've shown us of Socket's personality. I do think it's a bit weird that what she had done to the pachirisu didn't break any laws at all, though – surely in a world where it's possible to remove someone's mind and store it digitally, there has to be some kind of legislation around that sort of thing? Either way, I appreciate the character touch.

I look forward to finding out what exactly Socket wants with humans, too! It seems like an awful lot of effort to break into another dimension just to find more bodies to turn into computers when there are already a bunch of bodies in your own dimension, so I'm sure there's more there that we haven't been told yet. I always like a mystery.

A little thing: you're missing a line break between the paragraph beginning 'Macro continued down the corridor past the washroom' and the next one. That's really only a formatting thing – I didn't pick up any sentences that stood out to me as really jarring or oddly phrased this time around. Nice work!
 

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Ohhh man, I know I said Macro found the plot before, but he’s really found the plot now. Can’t believe I let myself fall two chapters behind, but I’m back in time for things to really start heating up.

So first: Surge. I’m super intrigued by her. Unlike the pirates, she actually is in a position to turn in Macro. But she doesn’t want to do that. And while yes, part of it is that she finds him charming, I think that she’s also intrigued by what Macro’s gotten himself into. And figuring out what’s going on is worth more to her than turning him in.

Second: Macro. What really stands out to me is just how disgusted he is by the fact that the Pachirisu got cyber-lobotomized. I mean, he’s so dedicated to figuring this out that he was willing to pay 20,000 credits! That’s crazy! He is definitely not just a selfish pirate in it for the money. This is seriously important to him. Wonder how his crew will react when they find out just how much money he’s shelling out for this mystery, without much of a return on investment in sight...

That said, regarding DD herself… While it’s clear that she’s not the Pachirisu, I still have my suspicions that she’s not just the System equivalent of Siri or Cortana. My money’s on her being an evolving AI. Not just because that would be more interesting from a narrative perspective (letting her develop a personality as time goes on) but also because if she really is just an ordinary piece of software, then why the heck would Socket have needed to go to all this trouble? Why make a computer that can pass as a living being without the AI to match? Of course, we have no clue yet even why Socket wants a legion of human bio-computers, or why Pokémon aren’t suitable for the job, so it’s still too early to theorize on that one.

But man, I love me a good suspense fic, and the conspiracy in this one is rapidly getting deeper. Can’t wait to see where this is gonna go.

~Chibi~;249;;448;
 

DeliriousAbsol

Call me Del
Thanks for all feedback, guys! =D I do read it, despite not always responding individually, and I totally take things on board. I'm so glad you're enjoying this. Knowing that makes me more keen to keep writing, and faster updates may come very soon as I'm well into the 20s now.

Chapter Eight​


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drat. Surge had been right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s barbaric,” said Anchor.

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

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

“Exactly.”

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

“Yup.”

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

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

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

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

“All historical documentation held within System,” she said. “I can even get online to cross reference if desired, but the facts are there.”

“Historical documentation…” Macro chuckled and scratched his scar. “You mean books? That’s no proof, sweetheart. There’s no physical evidence of humans ever existing in System. No fossils, no photographs. Nothing.”

“All humans were transformed into pokemon,” she explained. “Then they were all sent back to their own world through the Fracture that engulfed Seed City. Only one remained in System at the time. He could switch back and forth between a talonflame and human at will.”

“Yeh? Then where is the physical proof?”

“There is none. It is believed if he passed away, he did so in the form of a talonflame.”

“Exactly.” Macro kicked himself back from the wall and turned towards the kitchen. “Hatchling stories. Legends and myths.”

“Incorrect. My sources count it as valid information.”

“Okay, let’s say humans did exist.” His words were laced with a growl. “Why does she want them, exactly?”

“To expand BackDoor’s reach.”

“And what is BackDoor doing? Because I don’t imagine this all comes to an end once humans are found.”

“I cannot answer that,” she said. “That information is not accessible to me.”

Macro blinked. Well, that was convenient. A nice little cover up for Socket should Download Database fall into the wrong paws.

“So she doesn’t even give you a reason for stealing your personality,” he said flatly. “She did all this to you… and doesn’t even bother to give you access to her reasoning?”

“My existence is to serve and to obtain information from BackDoor on demand.”

“Face facts, pachirisu!” He rounded on her, lowering his nose to hers. “Socket had your personality wrenched out on the basis of chasing down some legend because she wants to bypass her own stinking laws!”

She didn’t even step back or blink, returning his stare with a blank, chocolate brown one that almost chilled him.

“Why don’t you feel anything?!” he roared. “You’re in a stolen body yet you just don’t care!”

“You’re angry. That’s detrimental to your own wellbeing.” The pachirisu diverted her gaze to the doorway and her eyes grew distant. “Searching for calming suggestions.”

Macro threw his arms in the air and marched from the room. “Forget it! I’m gonna get some dinner. I’ll be in the kitchen if anyone needs me.”

“That is a good idea,” said Download Database. “The slow burning nutrients injected into me for transportation are running low. I should eat also.”

Macro felt his fur bristle down his back. He refrained from looking back as the pachirisu’s light, heavily-furred footsteps followed him across the corridor to the large kitchen.

Cookie waddled from an open cupboard to the stove and froze, staring at Macro over his shoulder. His round face lit up and his tongue poked out between his teeth.

“I saved you some breakfast and lunch and put the two together!”

“Fantastic.” Macro fell into a seat and flinched as Download Database climbed into Matrix’s usual seat opposite him. “What is it?”

“Chocolate chip pancakes and fruit coolie with payapa and tanga berry sandwiches.” The slurpuff dropped a plate before him and stood back with a huge smile.

Macro’s heart soared and he grabbed his knife and fork to dig in.

“This is what you eat?” Download Database’s voice froze him and he glanced up at her with a frown. “This is not a healthy balanced meal. Pancakes and coolie are high in sugar and the berries have been fried to within an inch of their life.”

“So?” Macro growled.

“You are meant to have a good balance of vitamins and carbohydrates for the body to function at optimal efficiency. Fresh berries are much healthier than those that are cooked. Even stewed berries are healthier than fried. If you want to cook them first, steaming is the best method as it locks in more vitamins. Throw it away. I shall make you a healthy meal.”

She rose to her feet and moved over to the stove where she promptly moved Cookie’s steaming pan of stewing berries and sugar.

“Wait!” Cookie waddled over to her with his paws outstretched. “Leave it alone! This is my kitchen!”

She stared down at him over the steaming pan. “Your cooking skills are inefficient. Allow me to show you.”

Cookie stamped his foot and his eyes filled with tears. “But I love cooking! I’m a professional chef!”

“You are young.”

“You can be a professional at fourteen!”

“Professionals make more than just sweets.”

Macro kept one eye on the squabbling pokemon as he stuffed a forkful of pancakes into his mouth. A small smile played at his lips and he lifted his plate to head back into the cockpit, leaving their bickering voices behind. At least she’d be entertained and out of his way for a while.

...​

Socket waited patiently as the dialing tone rang out from her holographic computer screen. After the third ring, the familiar face of a delphox appeared on screen - or what one would assume was a delphox amongst the thick cloud of smoke that surrounded most of his features.

“Good afternoon, Detective Tracer,” she said.

“What is it, Mayor Socket?” he asked, somewhat boredly.

“I have a favor to ask of you,” she said. “It’s too confidential to go into details, but I am under the impression you have a mercenary working for you?”

“Yes, I do.” He blew out a stream of yet more smoke and flicked the remains of his cigar off the screen. “It’s the easiest way to track down space pirates.”

“Quite the chameleon, I understand?”

“She gets the job done.” He paused as he lit up another cigar. “Is this favor from me or her?”

“I would like her contact details,” said Socket. “I think a mercenary is exactly what I need right now.”

“Given recent developments, I’m guessing you want Hunter round up quickly?”

“You catch on quick.”

“I’m not exactly one to sniff at forty K, Madam Mayor.”

She pursed her red lips together and rested her chin on her steepled fingers. “Can you do this favor for me, or not?”

“If you’re taking my merc off me to round him up, I want a cut of the price,” he said. “Surge and I have a deal. Every bounty she earns from rounding up pirates gets split forty/sixty. She gets the bigger cut, otherwise she walks.”

“Tell me, Mister Fox. Why would she stay working with you if she could get one hundred percent?”

“You see, there’s a little thing called ‘team work’.” Tracer blew out another cloud of smoke that completely obscured everything except the tips of his ears. “She isn’t the only one rounding up pirates. We all get a cut, and she gets the bigger one.”

“Very well. Will you send her my way?” Her voice was calm, but her eyes remained hard.

The delphox wafted some of the smoke away to clear the screen and leant back in his seat, keeping his amber eyes on her.

“Do I get a cut?” he asked.

“That is up to… Surge, is it?”

He nodded.

“Well. It’s not up to me,” she finished.

He was silent for a moment, not taking his eyes off her.

“I don’t really have a choice, do I?” he asked.

Socket shook her head slowly.

“Very well,” he said. “I’ll send you her contact details.”

The video cut out, and almost immediately the program beeped, bringing up a string of numbers followed by the name ‘Surge’. As she keyed them in, she cast a quick glance over her shoulder at the chingling.

“How are you getting on there, Tweak?” she asked.

“Oh, I think I’m nearly done!” His cheerful voice rang off the walls. “Every bit of sensitive information concerning BackDoor is now blocked from Download Database’s access.”

“Good. Any wiser on who our little hacker was?” She stared at the string of numbers and tapped her claws on her desk.

Tweak chuckled, his bell grating in his throat. “Whoever it was did a good job, but they’re not better than me. I’ve traced it right back to their phone number. Want me to read it out to you?”

Socket’s lips pulled up into a smirk. “Definitely.”
 

DeliriousAbsol

Call me Del
Chapter Nine​


Macro leant on the back of Matrix’s chair, holding his computer so both the ribombee and Anchor could see it. His claw slid over the flat screen, scrolling through the tidy list of text.

“This is every location where they’re storing Download Database’s memories,” he told them. “In detail, down to what floor the disks are on. We can expect each one to be heavily guarded.”

“Five locations?” Anchor took the tiny computer in his large pink paw. “So there’s five disks?”

“Yup.” Macro straightened and folded his arms. “If we’re gonna restore her, then we need to hunt them down.”

“One of them is in Central Meta City,” said Matrix. “Which one do you want to go to first?”

“The closest.”

A soft shuffle behind them drew his attention over his shoulder. Whatever Anchor had said didn’t register in his mind. Download Database appeared in the room, pausing beside her wooden crate, giving the three space pirates a quick glance. No curiosity. No pausing to ask what they were doing. She just… existed.

“Cap’n?”

He looked up into the granbull’s confused face. “Huh?”

“I said the nearest is Scanner City,” said Anchor. “Not even a six hour flight from here.”

“But it will still get us there in the dead of night,” said Matrix. “Around one or two AM.”

“That’s perfect,” said Macro. “There’ll be less pokemon on the streets.”

“I wouldn’t bank on it,” said Anchor. “Scanner City is fighting pokemon territory. Those ‘mon are party animals.”

Matrix’s tiny face split into a grin and he stifled a chuckle as he turned back to his navigation desk. His paws swiftly keyed in the co-ordinates.

“I guess it doesn’t really matter then.” Macro leant back against the ribombee’s chair and frowned at the pachirisu. “First thing’s first, we’re gonna have to give you a name.”

“My name is Download Database,” she said.

“Not for long.” He brought up the commands on his phone and scanned over them. “Let’s see. Rename Download Database Zero Zero One.”

“Understood,” she said. “Awaiting new name.”

Macro looked back up at her, meeting those lifeless, chocolate eyes. It felt no different than giving a name to a stuffed animal. What on earth was he going to call her? Download Database was too much of a mouthful and he was growing tired of it. He scratched at his scar and fixed his attention on the wall to his right.

“Let’s see,” he muttered. “How about… DL?”

An acronym, of sorts. At least it was shorter.

“Rename Download Database as DL?” she asked.

“Yes.” He closed the file on his computer and stuffed it back into his pouch. “DL.”

“Understood. Download Database Zero Zero One is now known as DL.” Her huge eyes closed in a rather long blink and she stared at him for a moment. “You appear calmer. That is good.”

He waved her off and climbed into his seat beside Anchor, kicking his feet up onto the dashboard.

“Why DL?” Anchor asked.

“Because I wanted to pick two letters from her codename,” Macro answered. “And I didn’t like DD.”

“Fair enough,” Anchor grumbled.

“Prepare us for takeoff, Matrix,” said Macro.

“We’re leaving?” DL shuffled over to him. “Do you want me to go into standby for the journey?”

“Nah, you’re good.”

“Then can I at least be of service? I have good navigation abilities.”

“We already have a navigation officer,” said Macro. “Maybe you could help Cookie in the kitchen? Besides, you might like this trip. We’re going to get your memories.”

“My memories? But… they’re useless junk data. They’ll only serve to clutter my databases.”

“Yeh, well-”

A beep came from his pouch and he lazily brought up the details on his optical display, stifling a yawn. A message from Surge… another push of the button on his ear piece opened it and he let out a low groan.

‘If you’re going to repay me with that date, then we’d better go now. I have to leave before sunset, and I’ve no idea how long I’ll be.’

“Delay take off.” He leapt from his seat and trotted out of the cockpit.

“Where are you goin’?” Anchor called after him.

“It’s business. I’ll be back soon, don’t worry. DL, I’m leaving Anchor in charge.” He grinned at the other pirate and gave him a mock salute over his shoulder.

“I’m afraid helping Cookie is not an option,” DL told the granbull. “He threatened to cook me last time.”

Anchor sighed and his seat creaked as he leant his weight back into it.

Macro leapt from the exit hatch and almost landed on the zigzagoon. She took a step back and grinned at him, but something was missing. A sparkle? She didn’t look right, anyway.

He straightened his back and leant against the blue hull of his ship.

“You wanna go back to Moonlight Lounge?” he asked.

“I was thinking more an outdoor session this time.” She linked her arm in his and steered him off the docks. “Crispy Crepes is a nice spot at this time, I hear.”

“That sounds like more ice cream,” he said. “I think I’m still recovering from my ice cream coma.”

“Then what do you suggest?” She fixed him with a small smile.

“Cornn dogs,” he said. “Dockside does some good ones. You should try their shuca and babiri berry sauce.”

“Well… you’re buying.”

He grit his teeth together and steered her along the docks towards a stand with a red neon sign that said ‘Dockside Dogs’. The plusle and minun brothers moved back and forth behind the counter, serving up cornn dogs into pre-cut rolls and slapping berry dressings on top of them to satisfy their hungry customers.

Macro narrowly avoided an aggron’s large feet and pushed Surge ahead of him into the queue. When he was a hatchling, his mother had always told him a gentlemon puts ladies first, but he’d never really had time for that nonsense to put it into practice. At least he’d not forgotten it.

He leant back against the crowd control rail and cast Surge a sideways glance. Rather than eyeing up the menu she stared out at the vast deep blue outside the dome, her eyes distant as she watched a golden magikarp ship trundle into the docks.

“Something on your mind?” he asked.

“Hmm?” She looked round at him then forced a smile as she stared back out at the sky. “Oh. Not really. I just have a new mission to get to, that’s all.”

His muzzle crinkled into a frown but he occupied himself with moving forward in the queue. After the slightly overweight gabite, they were next.

“That’s why you’re in such a rush then?” he asked. “Must be pretty important.”

“It’s completely confidential, that much I can tell you.” She joined his side and nodded up at the menu. “Chople and salac for me, please.”

Macro reached into his pouch for his credits and snorted. “That’s a weird-*** combination.”

“And shuca and babiri isn’t?”

“Nope. Babiri makes it super spicy and takes an edge off the bitterness. One of the perks of living with a chef.”

He placed their orders and watched as the two small rodents busied themselves in preparing the freshly fried cornn dogs. He found himself wondering what remarks Download Database would come up with if she witnessed the spectacle. She’d probably bristle at the sight of all the grease and the plusle and minun’s grimy uniforms.

The minun handed them their orders and wiped his paws on his apron before calling for the next customer.

Macro strolled away towards the dock rail and leant forward on it as he tucked into his cornn dog. They’d gone a little heavy on the babiri and it made his tongue tingle. It tasted like spite. Yet another space pirate who was envious of his hefty price tag.

Surge let out a satisfied sigh and licked sauce from her lips. “You weren’t wrong.”

Macro grunted. “I can’t believe you’ve never been there. How long have you lived here?”

“I don’t live here,” she said quietly. “I’m a mercenary. But if you must know…” She shifted so she was facing him. “About a month.”

“Let me guess. You lurk about until you spot your target and try to catch them when they leave?”

“Exactly.”

He took another bite of his meal, trying to ignore the burning heat that filled his mouth. There was something nagging at him about this zigzagoon. Why be so open with him about being a mercenary? Especially one who targeted space pirates. He stared at his cornn dog, watching as the sauce trickled over the bun and onto his paws. A mercenary who chose a target and tried to catch them when they left Pulse City…

“It was you.” He launched the remains of his meal into the nearest trash can, startling a nearby weedle. “It was you who followed us!”

She sighed and leant forwards on the rail.

“You’re plannin’ on turnin’ me in.” Despite his blistering rage, he kept his voice low. He folded his arms and sneered. “Is that what all this is? Some kind of trick?”

She shook her head. “It’s no trick.”

“Then what is it, Surge?”

“I don’t know. One minute I’m trying to catch you, the next I’m taking out one of those government ships.”

His jaw fell open. Words wanted to form but they died before they could even string sentences in his mind. That torpedo… she’d fired it?

“I… really need to get to this job. At this rate they might not pay me.” She pushed herself back from the rail and ran a paw over her ears. “Listen… thanks for the dinner and… date.”

Macro stared after her, his mouth agape. Her ragged tail hung limply behind her, trailing over the ground. She’d fired the torpedo. Why on earth would a mercenary hired to round up pirates fire at a government fleet? He ran a paw over his face and trudged back to Wildcard Gamma. Things were just getting more and more confusing and it was giving him a headache.

...​

Tracer strolled through the toxic streets of Server City, his paws shoved into his trench coat pockets. Every breath he took was amplified in his own ears by his mask’s noisy filters. The breeze caught in his open grey coat and it billowed out behind him, almost catching his small eevee companion. Widget didn’t flinch, however. His attention was fixed on their surroundings, keeping an eye open for trouble makers. Server City, like the rest of Meta City’s outskirts, was home to the majority of System’s poison pokemon. Dark types also called it home, but they preferred to lurk around Spool City after a feud with Proxy’s muk and grimer gangs.

The delphox checked his pocket computer once more, making sure he’d got the address right. This was where Socket wanted him to be, he was certain. He looked up at the squat, grimy buildings and unkempt abandoned office towers and frowned.

“Something wrong?” Widget’s voice was muffled by his mask.

“I’m just making sure I’ve got the address right,” Tracer answered.

“Croagunk right?”

“Yes. But they like damp places.” Tracer placed his computer back into his pocket and stared up at the high rise building perched between a convenience store and a boarded up unidentifiable shop. “Why would he live in an apartment block?”

Widget shrugged his shoulders which gave a small, mechanical whine. “Lack of options?”

“Well.” Tracer reached into his thick tail and pulled out his wooden stick. A small flame ignited at the end as it touched the air. “Let’s just hope he’s not got backup.”

“Oh, I’m prepared for backup.”

Widget laughed heartily and took a step back as Tracer powered a psychic blast through his flaming stick. The door flew inward off its hinges and he strolled inside with Widget close behind him.

The apartment block was dingy and stunk of amonia and mildew. Maybe it was damp enough for a croagunk after all?

The low lighting made it difficult to see, and Tracer’s flame cast flickering shadows along the heavily graffitied walls. As they climbed the stairs, one of the lights flickered on and off erratically, creating a grating noise as the bulb struggled to stay lit.

“What floor is it?” Widget asked.

“Third.” Tracer replied while dodging a suspicious puddle.

As they climbed the stairs to the third floor, something moved on his peripheral vision. He glanced back over his shoulder at a small, green bug pokemon slowly dropping on an invisible thread. A spinarak, likely fallen out of his web while he slept. He kept a cautious eye on the spider pokemon, watching it rotate slowly in the air.

Two of the third floor corridor lights were broken, leaving only the central point lit up. The worn and battered doors, each one coated in spray painted slogans and artwork, made the rooms behind them look abandoned. All except the third one along on his left. Light leaked out from underneath it and he could hear someone moving around inside.

Tracer paused by the door and rapped a paw on it.

“Who’s there?!” a voice growled out at him.

“Santa Paws!” shouted Widget.

Tracer raised an eyebrow at the eevee who returned it with what he could assume was a grin since it made his eyes sparkle. The door was thrown open and a croagunk pointed a laser straight at the detective’s face.

“Dontcha think I’m too old to be belivin’ in Santa Paws?” The amphibian narrowed his eyes and cocked his weapon.

Tracer sighed and readied another psychic blast from his stick, but before he could fire it, Widget launched himself at the croagunk into a full-body take-down. The two pokemon rolled across the floor of his apartment, crushing wrappers and other trash until they hit the far wall.

The delphox kept his stick raised as he followed them into the room. Widget stood above the fallen croagunk, his eyes alight with glee. As usual, the eevee hadn’t taken so much as a scratch from the collision. His skeletal modifications had absorbed the shock perfectly.

“Well,” said Tracer. “I can count on you to get a job done, can’t I?”

He reached into his pocket for his cuffs.

“What’s goin’ on in ‘ere?”

The two detectives looked up at the door, meeting the frown of a scrafty. His red mowhawk-like fin had a green tinge to it and his face was covered with a cheap surgical mask. Its efficiency showed in his labored, rattly breathing. His large eyes went to the croagunk and then flashed with rage. Within two strides he was almost on top of the two detectives.

Tracer flicked his stick round and pulled its hidden trigger. A flash of sparkling pink light fired out of the end of it, lighting up the dingy apartment. The scrafty flew back from him and landed in a crumpled heap in a pile of poffin wrappers.

“Dang it, Tracer,” Widget sighed. “Couldn’t leave him to me, could you? Had to use your flippin’ gun.”

The eevee gave his stick a begrudging glance then moved over to the fallen pokemon. His loose trouser-like skin had fallen down around his knees and revealed part of his tail.

“We taking them both in?” Widget asked.

“Socket only wants the croagunk.” Tracer snapped his cuffs onto the amphibian’s wrists and hoisted him over his shoulder. “Cover me in case any more thugs show up.”

“Sure thing!”

Widget trotted from the room and glanced up and down the corridor before making for the stairs. He froze at the bend and frowned.

“Drat.”

Tracer paused behind him and stared down at the ocean of spinarak. If that little green bug had been sleeping, it definitely wasn’t any more. And its entire family stared up at them from a sea of tiny, black eyes. Towering over the small spiders and flexing its mandibles was an ariados.

Tracer raised his stick and the flame flared. “Get ready to run.”

“It’s party time!” Widget laughed and threw himself into the air. “Just don’t burn my tail, okay?”

The tiny eevee crashed down onto the bug pokemon, the vibrations shaking the stairs. He pounced from bug to bug until he reached the next flight of stairs. Before Tracer could reach him, the ariados lunged at him, her jaws pulled back in a hiss.

“Terribly sorry, ma’am.” The delphox unleashed a flamethrower, blowing the arachnid back down the corridor. “But you’re interfering with police work.”

Tiny feet rapped across the wooden floor as the remaining spinarak gave chase. Threads shot from their mouths and struck the walls where they clung like glue, narrowly missing Tracer’s bushy tail. Some of the spinarak used the threads to propel themselves past him and two landed just before him before launching more threads right at his face. He ducked, but one of the string shots caught his wrist and yanked his paw free from the croagunk, sending the unconscious amphibian to the ground.

The spinarak chuckled and threw itself towards him, poison dripping from its jaws. Widget’s brown blur struck the bug mid-air and crashed it into the wall, sending chips of plaster raining down onto the floor.

Tracer beat white dust from his coat then scooped up the croagunk.

“That was a narrow escape,” he told Widget.

“Sacrifice speed for strength.” Widget strolled past him and gave him a quick glance over his shoulder. “It’s served me well so far.”

Tracer shook his head and followed the eevee from the apartment block. He gave the croagunk a pat on the shoulder then sheathed his stick.

“I’m afraid, young chap, that your hacking days are over.”
 

Cutlerine

Gone. Not coming back.
Some interesting clarification regarding Socket this time! I like this particular kind of officious, letter-of-the-law-and-not-the-spirit villain; that's a type you don't see too often, and honestly that's kind of a shame -- as you prove here, there's a lot of good stuff to be done with them and this slippery sort of mastery of technicalities. I think the detail you go into here when Macro and company sketch out what they think her plan is definitely works to solidify the view we've got of her character, and goes some way to making some of what initially seemed weird about all this intelligible -- she's just that precise, that dedicated to finding the one technically legal loophole. Interesting.

And apart from that, the plot's really starting to thicken now, isn't it? A conflict of heart and orders for Surge, which is an old set-up for a character's story but one which I have to admit I do have a fondness for; some actiony detective legwork for Tracer and Widget -- and well placed, too, after several chapters that have mostly been talky instead of fighty; and the finalisation of Macro's plans to go and retrieve the pieces of the mind that used to occupy Download Database's body. Things are heating up fast now, and I can't wait to see where it's all going.
 

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Alright, got two chapters to catch up on!

I'm actually really surprised that Macro's crew just took it for granted that they're gonna go steal DL's memory disks. Not that I think they'd protest too heavily, but I would have thought they'd at least talk about it first like "should we do this?"

Anyway, I'm realizing that I was probably off-base regarding DL, and that the computer mind she currently possesses isn't exactly a separate entity with its own AI. Just that the computer we've met is her, minus the memories and personality. Which now means I'm extremely curious what she'd be like if she got those back. A full thinking, feeling Pokemon, but with the lightning-fast processing of a computer and the information access to boot. That'd actually be pretty cool. And yet... not suitable for whatever Socket is doing, since she specifically needed the memories and personality removed. Hmm...

And of course, right as we would learn what the heck is even the point of this project, her access to those files gets revoked. But it's no fun if we get all the answers straight away. :p Plus, it'd be extremely suspect if they didn't have a way to limit her access.

That scene with her antagonizing Cookie was pretty funny. I'd actually like to see them cook together and have him learn how to make more kinds of foods. :D

Now then, I was wondering how you were gonna handle the fact that humans very much did exist, and why they were considered a myth now. But on second thought it makes perfect sense. They were all turned into Pokemon. And it's been a thousand years. Of course those stories would be pretty suspect at this point.

Wondering what the deal was with Tracer arresting that Croagunk hacker. I suspect we'll find out soon!

~Chibi~;249;;448;
 
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DeliriousAbsol

Call me Del
Ahh! Thanks guys, you guys are awesome =D I'm so glad you're enjoying this!

That scene with her antagonizing Cookie was pretty funny. I'd actually like to see them cook together and have him learn how to make more kinds of foods
I love that he threatened to cook her XD I'm not sure how well that would go down, but it would be pretty entertaining!

Chapter Ten​

Scanner City pulsed with industrial dance music that penetrated Wildcard Gamma before they even pulled in to land. Lights filled the streets, dazzling Macro's eyes as he descended on the ladder. Anchor shielded his eyes with a paw and grunted.

"This city could use a dimmer switch!" he said.

"I couldn't agree more," said Macro.

The mawile squinted into the bustling street, noting the various clubs and bars heaving with pokemon to such a degree they spilled outside. His feet touched the ground in an alley and his hip brushed a trash can. He frowned and beat moisture from his fur, quickly checking over the offending item. Clean, unlike the Meta City outskirts. And not home to a trubbish, either.

Anchor landed in a crouch behind him and sniffed the air.

"Stinks of beer," he said.

"At least it's not toxic," said Macro.

"May as well be."

Anchor followed him out of the alley into the bustling street. Loud shouts came from one of the bars and a primape threw his overflowing glass at a hawlucha's head. The fighting type bird pokemon ducked, letting the glass shatter against the wall. Alcohol rained down on him and the primape fumed, stomping his large feet in a tantrum. A machoke burst out laughing, only to be silenced by a hitmonchan's gloved fist.

The rowdy group barely seemed to notice the two space pirates as they passed by, but a pair of pangoro cast them identical leers. Neither made a move, or alerted their drinking companions. Macro glanced them out of the corner of his eye, keeping his paws well away from his lasers. They knew the two fairy types were more than capable of taking them down en-mass.

Macro brought up his optical display, showing an intricate map of Scanner City. Matrix had dropped them off relatively close to the government facility holding DL's first memory disk. What contents it held were a mystery to him, but if it would help her then he wanted to get it. The order she received them in was irrelevant.

The blinking light on his map told him he needed to keep going straight. The facility was in the city square, and was the main focal point of the area. It was where the city's law and order was kept in… well… order.

Another glass exploded against the wall mere inches from him and tiny shards of glass struck his legs and feet. He looked over at a monferno and emboar, the latter crashing his hooves together as his snout creased into a frown.

"Filthy space pirate!" the monkey snarled. "What'cha think yer up to, strollin' around our city?"

Macro sneered. Fire types. Typical. One of the types that resisted their fairy attacks while obliterating him in the process. His left paw found his laser but he didn't draw it. He kept his eye on the two fire/fighting pokemon as they continued making their way forward. If they launched an attack, there was every chance the other fighting types would join the fray, especially those who were more fired up like the primeape, type disadvantage or not.

"Keep moving, Cap'n."

Anchor steered him along with a paw on his back, clenching the other one at his side so the sharp claws poked out of his gauntlet. The muscles in the granbull's body were taut, but he kept both eyes on the road, pointedly ignoring the rabble as they made their way through.

A glass exploded at Macro's feet followed by a jeer from the monferno, and his fur bristled. His claws fastened around his laser and he battled the urge to whip it out and fire at the offending fire types. Stomping hooves rushed at them and the mawile snatched himself from Anchor's grip and span to face the onslaught.

Three fire types surrounded them and Macro's muzzle pulled back into a sneer. Great. They'd found a friend. He eyed the combusken with caution hidden behind a mask of disgust.

"I think I'd quite like forty thousand credits. What about you, boys?" The monferno laughed and tossed his glass into a nearby dumpster. "Let's show this runt who's boss around here, eh?"

He smirked and balled his paws into fists. Heat radiated from them and Macro took an unconscious step back right into the emboar.

"Would ya look at that?" the pig pokemon scoffed with mock surprise. "The little pirate's scared!"

"How about we settle this?" The monferno flashed his sharp canines. "Fair fight. No guns."

Macro tutted and flexed his claws against his laser's handle. No guns… then it wouldn't be a fair fight.

"Back off, bro," Anchor growled. "We're here on a job. We'll soon be out of your fur."

He steered Macro from the group, but the emboar reached down and grabbed the mawile by his horn. Macro yelled and whipped out his laser, firing a blue beam right into the emboar's stomach. The large pokemon released him as he went rolling backwards down the street, bowling over a pair of scraggy and a mankey who let out screams of protest.

Macro couldn't help but chuckle as the small, ragged white monkey leapt onto the emboar's head and stamped his lanky feet.

"Oi!" The monferno snarled. "I said no guns!"

He brought a blazing fist down towards the mawile. Macro ducked and hot fire licked at his fur. He fired his laser between the flaming monkey's legs right at the combusken. The giant chicken leapt aside, but the monferno let out a grunt as electricity coursed along his body and sent him flying in a graceful ark away from Macro and into the opposite bar's window. Glass exploded in a cascade of flames, the orange hue lighting up the glass shards as they danced along the tarmac floor.

The combusken hissed and launched a flamethrower from his beak, missing Macro by a hair's breadth as he rolled to the side. His paw struck warm flesh and he stumbled, falling flat onto his back. The emboar grunted and pushed himself up, keeping an eye on Macro as a sinister smile spread across his snout. The mankey was still atop his head, clawing at his flesh as he shrieked profanities. The emboar reached up and flicked the primate aside then turned his attention back onto Macro. Before the giant boar had a chance to ready an attack, Anchor's fist collided with his head, knocking him back down to the ground. Then the large bulldog threw himself at the combusken, hitting him in mid-air and crashing him into the floor.

"You go get that disk!" he roared. "I'll deal with this lot!"

Macro tutted and ducked past him. "You have to be kidding me?"

"Nope! I'll meet you there in like five minutes."

Macro shot him a leer over his shoulder and bolted down the road towards the square. Two machamp rushed out of a bar and cut him off. The larger of the two looked over his head at the battle and his brow furrowed. He opened his mouth to speak as the other one raised his four fists. Macro grabbed the aggressive one, locking his jaw-like horn around his ankle, and brought him up in an arc over his head. The machamp's body collided with his brother and the pair of them rolled into a heap of limbs in the middle of the road. A trio of scraggy faltered right behind them, but the two primeape accompanying them bounded over the fleshy obstacle and pounced onto the mawile.

Macro roared as he tried to shake them off. One of them wrapped both arms around his horn, locking it shut and dragging him backwards under his weight. The other primeape fastened his paws around his neck, shrieking incoherently as its claws dug into the flesh of his throat, slowly cutting off his air supply. Macro twisted his arm so his laser nozzle was jabbing into the ape's stomach. It was still set to water, but it should do enough damage to at least get the offending pokemon off him. He squeezed the trigger and fired.

The primeape flew away from him and Macro's mouth opened in a scream as his sharp claws raked over his throat. A sizzle of electricity resounded behind him with a sickening thud, and the ragged ape went flying over the buildings ahead of him like a baseball. The other was tugged free and sent soaring after him.

Anchor yanked Macro to his feet and shoved him along, covering his back in a flailing fury of fists and electricity.

Macro's paws pounded the floor as he propelled himself over the tarmac. He kept his laser clasped in his right paw, ready to pick off any more fire types. More primeape burst from a bar, followed by a hitmonlee who's elastic legs swung down towards Macro as the slender fighting type cartwheeled over the heads of the angry apes. He brought his horn up into his stomach, sending him rolling into Anchor's waiting fists. Then he grabbed two of the primeape in quick succession, throwing them back into the bar. One of them leapt over his head, crashing his paws down onto the base of his horn. The mawile let out a grunt and keeled forwards, but he kept pressing on. His eyes unfocused with the impact and he tried to blink and rub at them to correct it. Another impact struck his jaw and he flew sideways until his body struck cold stone. He didn't get the chance to get a good look at his assailant as they were soon thrown back into the bar they came from by Anchor.

The mawile dragged himself back to his feet, ignoring the pulsing pain in his jaw. He retrieved his laser which had clattered into the road during his tumble, and took off after Anchor. The granbull had cleared the path of yet more primeape, leaving them in a sizzling heap on the doorstep of a bar. Someone pounded against the door, desperately trying to force their way out past the heavy, unconscious, hairy bodies.

Finally, the road spread out into a large square surrounded by mechanical trees. The lack of buildings provided a clear view of the dome over the city. Stars twinkled beyond it, and against the black sky he could just make out Wildcard Gamma circling overhead. The blue hull was almost camouflaged against the dark sky.

Perched right at the edge of the square stood a monolith of a building. A large digital clock spread over the highest, central peak. Its deep grey and chrome structure intimidated the other buildings, leaving it as the only one spread over the entire east side of the square. Not even a road had space to fork from it. More buildings spread around the west edge, broken up only by a road sheltered under a bridge that joined two eateries.

Nothing gave away the identity of the grey building. It reeked of government activity. Even its colours reminded him of Socket. Whatever went on in there was a mystery.

"I reckon we'll have a tough time when we get in there," said Anchor.

Shadows fell over the square and the two space pirates looked back at the road of clubs and bars. Primeape and mankey had climbed onto the roofs, perching at the edge as they fixed the two fairy types with vicious leers. Machamp, machoke and the hitmonchan and hawlucha stood barring their access back into the road, matching the primate's glares.

"Think we'll have a tough time when we come back out, too," said Macro, turning his attention back to the building. "Well. What are we waiting for?"

He pulled his lock pick from his pouch and began jigging it in the building's front door lock. Anchor stomped away from him, moving up and down the grey structure. The lock was less than co-operative and it took some force to bust open. With the loud ping that echoed around the silent square, he was convinced he'd broken it.

"Ain't no way round the back without going through the gate," Anchor said as he rejoined Macro. "So there's no easy way out if we get stuck around there."

Macro cast a cautious glance to the fighting pokemon standing like sentries in the streets and atop roofs. He wanted to believe the walls meant no pokemon could get into the back easily, either. But walls were nothing to an agile fighting type. If they got stuck, they'd be sitting duckletts, and he had no idea how many more pokemon waited on the other side.

He pushed the door open, holding his gun in his free paw.

Darkness.

He squinted and moved slowly inside, Anchor close behind him. The only noise that reached his ears was their breathing and an engine humming somewhere. A sharp smell of oil stabbed his senses and he covered his muzzle, desperately trying to see through the darkness. Inky black. Just like oil.

His paw groped over the wall for a light. A flash, and the entire room flooded with a white light that bounced off the brilliant, white walls.

Anchor peered down at him, his large paw pressed over a light panel. He removed his paw and nodded ahead of him, drawing the mawile's attention to the double doors that spread across the blank hallway. No stairs off to their left or right, just a set of double doors with no windows. Macro felt his fur stand on end all along his spine.

The large fairy type motioned for him to stand flat against the wall, then strode past him and stood beside the doors, nudging one of them open. A torrent of flames flew down it, the heat licking at Macro's fur and lighting the walls up with a sunset orange. Once it fizzled out, the mawile aimed his gun through the doors and fired. A yelp split the air followed by a thud as a heavy body struck the tile floor.

The two space pirates moved through the door, Anchor staying ahead. He checked over the fallen blaziken and waved a paw for Macro to follow him close to the wall. Dark doors stretched down the corridor, and half way flashed a green sign for the stairs.

Macro checked his map, the green overlay vibrant against the ivory walls. The information Surge had sent him told him the disk was contained in the IT room on the second floor, locked inside a safe. The code was a mystery to him, it hadn't been provided. He wondered if the zigzagoon could have obtained it if she'd searched hard enough.

The stairs wound half way up, leaving a brief level of flat and a blind spot. As they turned around it, the leering reptilian face of a kommo-o loomed before them. His lips pulled back from a row of sharp, dagger-like teeth, and his body bounced up and down, every large scale on his body crashing down like a cymbal. Macro covered his ears and fell backwards into Anchor. The granbull roared and cowered over the smaller pokemon, his large paws pressed into either side of his head.

Macro's eyes snapped back open, fixing on the huge, gaping mouth of the scaly dragon. He leapt out from beneath Anchor and swung his horn right into the kommo-o's open maw. Teeth shattered against his horn and the clanging fizzled out into an erratic clash as the dragon rolled away from him.

The kommo-o gathered himself quickly, rolling onto all-fours. His muzzle creased in a sneer, flashing his broken canines. He wiped blood from his mouth and opened it wide, sending out a stream of flames. Macro ducked beneath them, flinching as they brushed over his horn. Anchor grunted and threw himself over his head, landing in the thick of the dragon's fire. His pink fur was singed black around his shoulders and ears, but he brought his sparking gauntlet down into the kommo-o's head. Once. Twice.

The kommo-o's jaws locked around Anchor's wrist, digging into his flesh. He grimaced and brought his head into the reptile's nose. He yelped, releasing his fist. Anchor brought it back down for a third crack to his jaw. The large reptile keeled sideways, his tongue lolling in the air as he crashed into the floor with an almighty clatter.

Anchor beat himself down, sending up small puffs of soot, and stared down at the large lizard.

"Put up a fight, this one," he said as he nudged the reptile's large foot with his own. "The last time you were up against a kommo-o, you took it down in one hit."

"Yeh, well." Macro moved past him to check the door. "Last time I had enough time to think and enough space to catch it with a 'play rough'. This time, I had to resort to an 'iron head', instead."

Anchor slumped against the door and let out a ragged sigh. Macro looked up at him, one paw resting on the door's handle.

"You okay?" he asked.

"I think that guy poisoned me." He rubbed at his wrist and glanced down at the unconscious dragon.

Macro frowned and turned back to the door. "I didn't bring supplies. Call Matrix and ask him to pick you up. I'll go on alone."

"Screw that." Anchor dragged himself from the door and shoved it open. "I can hang on. I ain't no invalid."

"All right…"

Anchor frowned at the hesitation in Macro's voice and trudged down the dark corridor. Macro followed after him, his claws fastened tight around his laser. Dim light flowed in from the square through narrow windows, creating long shadows across the far wall. Each room they passed was just as dark as the ones on the ground floor. Macro wondered how much light the building got during the day. It felt depressing, despite the white walls. At least on this floor it didn't stink of oil.

A soft ring came from his ear piece and a green dot flashed steadily on his map overlay. The IT room was on their right. He paused by the door and peered through the dark window. Lights flashed from a machine against the far wall, and one of the holoscreens was lit up with a dim, grey light. He guessed the kommo-o had been using it since he couldn't see any other pokemon in the room.

He shoved the door open and slipped inside before Anchor. Not a pokemon in sight.

"Pretty lax on guards for a government digs," said Anchor.

"I'm not gonna complain," said Macro.

He scurried across the room towards the flashing machine and checked over it for any sign of the safe. It was connected to something. An alarm, or every computer in the room. If it was the latter, then it was pretty retro. Most computers had built-in hard drives to keep them compact, and almost every scrap of data was saved to a wireless network called The Stars.

Anchor's breathing was coming in raspy bursts as he paced around the room, keeping one eye on the door while searching for the safe. Whatever the kommo-o had injected into him was rapidly taking effect.

"She definitely said in here?" he asked.

"Yup." Macro moved along the wall, feeling for a light switch. "That's not to say they haven't moved it, however."

Anchor let out a snort. "That would be a waste of time."

"I know. So keep looking."

The granbull returned to the door and slammed his paw into the light panel, filling the room with light. Macro raised a paw to shield his eyes and gave Anchor a thankful nod. He searched around the room with his eyes again and they lit up as a huge grin spread across his face.

"I found it!" he cheered.

He dived across the room back to the flickering machine and stared up at a huge white, cast iron door set in the wall. It was no wonder he hadn't seen it. In the dark, it looked like any other area of wall. It lay flush beside the machine. The dial to unlock it was hidden behind a lock shield that could be easily pushed aside by any paw.

"Could I borrow you, Anchor?" he said. "I need to stand on your shoulders to reach this."

"You can't use a chair?" The granbull wiped a paw across his forehead, scattering beads of sweat onto the tiled floor.

Macro looked him up and down then cast a solemn look around the room.

"They all have wheels," he said. "I can't exactly stack them."

"All right." Anchor trudged over to him and lifted him onto his shoulders. "Make it fast."

The mawile shoved the lock guard aside and eyed the ancient contraption. All safes were much the same. A large, rotatory lock that you had to turn in a highly specific combination. They'd been around for centuries and hadn't evolved much at all. Why change something that worked?

It certainly made his job easier.

He pressed his ear to the cold metal and turned the lock, listening for the tell-tale clicks. They were usually formed of eight numbers. That was something that had changed. The codes had become longer, leaving more time for the authorities to catch thieves in action.

Two down. The room was oddly silent, unnerving. He wanted to listen for any oncoming attacks, but he needed all his attention to remain focused on the safe. He glanced down at Anchor as he slowly turned the dial. The granbull was still visibly sweating and he looked like he was going to keel over at any moment.

Three clicks.

"Take my laser," he told Anchor. "In case anyone runs in."

The larger pirate reached up to Macro's belt and pulled his right laser free. It seemed tiny in his massive paws, but it would get the job done.

Five clicks.

A shadow fell over them and he instinctively looked over at the door. The kommo-o… he tutted, keeping all his attention on the safe. Six clicks.

The large reptile filled the room with his clanging scales, the obnoxious sound reverberating off the bare walls. The machine beside them began to sizzle and its lights went out, along with the fluorescent bulbs sending down a shower of tiny shards. They cut into Macro's flesh and he flinched, straining to ignore the jabbing pain.

Anchor raised his laser and fired, striking the kommo-o on the chest. It was enough to stop the clanging, but it left Macro's ears ringing. He barely heard the seventh click. He pressed his ear and left shoulder flat against the door, turning the dial carefully.

The kommo-o regathered himself, flashing his broken canines. This reptile's insistence was becoming ridiculous. Before he could clang his heavy scales together once more, Anchor fired another water laser into his face. The reptile shook his head, his large scales grating together like claws on slate.

Eight clicks.

The lock lifted and Macro pulled it open, revealing disk after disk, each tiny chip-card sorted into plastic boxes. His heart sank. Where would he even begin? His eyes flashed to the dragon pokemon and he narrowed his eyes. First thing was first, he needed to get rid of the distraction.

He threw himself off Anchor's shoulders and vaulted the computer desks one by one until his horn locked around the reptile's throat. He swung him over his head twice then launched him from the room. His large body struck the wall and he slid down it, unconscious.

Macro marched back over to the safe, beating his long fur down with his paws.

"Right," he said as he looked over the stacks of plastic boxes. "Now to sort through all this mess."

Anchor reached up and pulled the top-most box down. On it was written 'miscellaneous'.

Macro took it and muttered under his breath, "Smart ***."

It only contained five chip cards, each one clearly labeled with a number. All but one. One was entirely blank. He turned it around in his claws and looked back down at the disks labeled one to four. Only one memory disk was stored in each facility. It only made sense that the disk Socket would have sent to them would be the unlabeled one. Why make it clear which disk it is, if she wanted to keep it away from DL?

Nevertheless, he pocketed the lot, stuffing them into his pouch.

"All right, let's get out of this dump." He stuffed the empty box back into the safe and slammed the heavy door.

Anchor handed his laser back. The handle was sweaty and Macro absently wiped it on his scarf before holding it ready at his side. He bolted from the room, pausing in the doorway. The door to the stairs flew open, revealing the blaziken and two passimian. Macro tutted. Where had the two apes come from?

Flames lit up the corridor from the blaziken's beak and Macro ducked back into the room. Once they'd fizzled out, he poked his head around the door and fired his laser, striking the large rooster on the beak. He wiped at it with his claws and shook his head, taking a step back.

The two passimian shrieked and rushed at him, throwing their heavy, round berry stones. Macro ducked and bolted away from the stairs, searching his map for the nearest exit. Each stone bounced off the walls and the monkey pokemon snatched them back with acrobatic leaps, catching them in their tails and sending them down towards the two pirates.

Anchor smashed one aside with his gauntlets, the electricity splitting it like a tamato berry.

The map flashed the next exit, revealing it to be at the end of the corridor, but it led out to the back of the building. The mawile tutted. That was the one place he didn't want to go. He quickly fired up a message to Wildcard Gamma with their estimated co-ordinates and pounded the floor with his feet, propelling himself away from the passimian and blaziken.

More flames lit up the corridor, baking the air and searing across his shoulders. He heard Anchor grunt behind him and he quickly fired another water laser at the blaziken. This time it hit one of the passimian, knocking him out of the air mid-leap. The blaziken merely leapt over his fallen comrade, bringing a blazing foot down towards Anchor. Macro turned one-eighty and pulled out his second laser, firing two streams of blue into the blaziken's torso. The large bird crashed onto the floor, the impact knocking the air out of his lungs.

The second passimian leapt over the giant rooster, his mouth open wide and revealing two rows of sharp teeth. Anchor swung his arm towards him and the ape's jaws locked over his gauntlet. The primate shrieked and fell back, wiping a paw across his mouth and fixing the two space pirates in a vicious leer.

Macro turned and kept running, reaching the door before the three pokemon could pick themselves back up. The back stairs were as white as the rest of the building, lit up with an emergency light that flickered weakly. He kicked the bar over the door, setting off the building's alarm. It whirred ominously and the entire building woke up as every light leading to the emergency exits flared to life.

Just like Anchor had predicted, the back of the building was barred off with high walls. Sat at the far end of the courtyard was a large tank painted with a red flame and the words 'danger'.

Oil.

Macro's face split into a grin and he turned his back on it to face the blaziken and his two allies. More pokemon vaulted the wall. Mankey, primeape, hawlucha, hitmonchan… but each one of them froze as the mawile aimed his laser at the tank.

Fear flashed in their eyes and many of them took a step back, bracing themselves to run. Even the blaziken. The flames on his wrists fizzled out and he raised his claws to his chest.

"Come on then!" Macro roared. "What are you waiting for? Or are you too scared?"

The blaziken's beak pulled up into a sneer. "You wouldn't do it. You'd blow us all up."

Macro chuckled. "You underestimate me."

Anchor doubled over beside him, placing his paws on his knees, but the look he gave him was filled with scepticism. Macro winked and looked back up at the group of fighting pokemon. Several of the mankey vanished back into the streets and he couldn't see a single hitmonchan any more. The blaziken looked from Macro to the tank and back. Useless. All their attacks were useless. The only ones they could use that would do anything to the mawile were fire attacks, and not one of them was going to risk that next to a flammable tank of oil. Macro threw his head back and laughed, a hysterical laugh that drew another glance from the granbull. One hit, and the entire thing would go up in flames. The damage a tank that size could do would be devastating.

Neon pink flashed on his vision and he reached up to grab the ladder. He fixed the fighting pokemon with a grin, keeping his laser focused on the tank as the ladder whipped the space pirates back up towards his ship. The blaziken's roar filled the air and he stamped his feet on the ground along with the mankey and primeape. Macro laughed again and sheathed his laser, just in time for Wildcard Gamma to draw them inside.

One memory disk down. Four more to go. This was going to be too easy.
 
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Cutlerine

Gone. Not coming back.
Your world continues to be really satisfyingly meaty. I like all those little vignettes you drop in of pokémon fighting and drinking and just generally living their lives in the background of the story; sometimes in stories you get the feeling that the only people around are the protagonists and everyone else is just like a cardboard cutout, but you definitely capture the vigour and noise of background life in this story.

Then of course you get into the action, and it's pretty much non-stop right the way through to the end of the chapter – which is no mean feat, honestly. There are a couple of brief lulls, but you have a knack for not letting the action slow down, so that even while Macro's trying to get through the lock there's still fighting going on in the background. It's the mark of a really good action story that when the action starts it keeps on going and doesn't let up for anything, I think, and this fic definitely delivers on that front.

This time around I do have some notes, however! I've been a bit light on concrit recently, for which you'll have to forgive me. Here are some thoughts by way of making up the shortfall. One, the fermented berry juice that Anchor mentions at the start feels like something that would have a shorter and more commonly-used name that people would use to refer to it – it's like someone in our world smelling wine and saying “huh, this smells of fermented grape juice.” To make it seem more natural, you could have him use that word, whatever it might be, then perhaps have Macro sniff and notice the odour of fermented berry juice within the narration itself, which would let you explain what the drink is while keeping the dialogue natural.

I think also the reference to the hawlucha as 'The fighting type bird pokémon' seems a bit overlong; 'The bird pokémon' or 'The fighting type' would work better. In the same paragraph, you also misspell 'primeape' as 'primape', and in the next paragraph you've got 'en-mass' instead of 'en masse'. I also feel like the connection between that sentence and the previous one is a bit unclear – when you say '[t]hey knew the two fairy types were more than capable of taking them down', it at first seems like it's Macro and Anchor who know this, until you get halfway through and realise you mean the pangoro.

During the fight with the fire-types, you have a couple of words confused for similar ones. You say that Macro 'span to face the onslaught', which I think ought to be 'spun to face the onslaught' – 'span' is a noun to do with measurement, 'spun' is the past participle of 'spin'. There's also a line about Macro sending the monferno 'flying in a graceful ark', which should be 'flying in a graceful arc' – 'ark' is the biblical boat, and 'arc' is a curve.

I have to admit, I was also kind of confused by the way this segment just sort of accumulated more and more combatants – all these other pokémon rush out of bars to join in, and you're kind of left wondering (a) how they knew this fight was happening over the noise of everything and (b) why they bothered to jump in when it seems like most of them have no stake at all in this fight. I guess mankey and primeape are just plain mean and will fight anything for any reason, but machamp and hitmonlee, for instance, don't necessarily strike me as species that necessarily fight mindlessly.

I do also think that maybe you go a bit far when trying to avoid repeating 'the kommo-o' during the sequence in the facility – 'the reptile' and its variants all sound weirdly clinical and detached, and I don't feel that repeating the species name or even just the relevant pronoun would actually hurt the flow of the narration all that much. The same can be said of 'the ape' for the passimian, and so on.

The same part made me wonder why it is that only Anchor and Macro ever seem to bring weapons, though – everyone else relies on their natural powers, which are considerable but which always seem to be trumped by Anchor's power fist and Macro's lasers. I can't really see any reason why they wouldn't have weapons, especially when they're guards at a government facility where state secrets are being kept under lock and key, and you've already established with the part about Macro stealing parts for lasers that there are ways for even the general public to get hold of these weapons.

All that said, it's exciting to see the plot really taking off like this. There's one disk recovered, but of course, this story being what it is, I expect that the others aren't going to be so easy, and that there are going to be some considerable complications yet. Looking forward to your next chapter!
 
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Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
The muk snorted, sending a purple snot bubble onto the hem of Macro's scarf where it dripped to the floor to join the rest of the grime.
Just when I thought muk couldn't get any nastier. XD;

Macro muttered under his breath and lugged the massive trash can all the way to the wash room. It felt like a trek but it was situated almost opposite the kitchen and dining room. Unfortunately it wasn't the best place to have a septic tank.
I'll say. Blargh. DX

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

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

“Well, the windows are all barred up and I have no patience to saw through them.” The lock snapped and he stuffed the needle back into his pouch. “Would make way too much noise anyway.”
...Of course I have to wonder if he means saw with an actual saw or saw with those horns.

He set his laser to grass and fired at the swampert, blasting him backwards into the wall where he lay, dazed.
Interesting tech. Of course here I sit wondering precisely how a multi-type gun works, and all I can come up with is something to do with type gems?? I'm possibly way off but whatever. Is a cool gun, is what I'm trying to say.

'Market' was all it said. Well… 'mar-et'. The green 'k' had fallen off at some point.
Pfff. Makes me think of the Walgreens sign in town that, for the longest time, read "Wreens" at night.

...Come to think of it,I believe it still does. XD

The amount of stress evolution caused on the body would disagree with enhancements. They couldn't evolve like a standard pokemon could. They stayed the same size forever. The everstone was no fashion accessory, it was meant to stop him exploding.
Lovely.

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

"And sewage!" said Macro. "Don't forget sewage!"
Hey Macro. If we're splitting hairs, technically sewage is covered under "food waste". :p

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

It seemed too easy.
Yep, they're boned. :B

"Engage Schooling and fire back!" he commanded.

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

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

He nodded. "I can't pay you if I don't make any money, Surge. Socket won't pay me if she doesn't see any success, and pretty soon my account is going to run dry."
Oh lovely. So Surge and co. are working for Socket... ssssssort of. Working for someone who happens to work for her, anyway, and I guess ultimately it wouldn't matter too much to her who Tracer's employers actually are, I suppose? Idk. Surge intrigues me. I haven't managed to figure out her motives quite yet and that Intrigues Me.

At any rate, every time Socket gets mentioned I get all the more curious as to what, exactly, she even is.

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

Anchor snarled at him over his shoulder. "Flimsy?! You wanna try and prise this open?!"
Well, he is a fairybug. Of course he's going to respect metal a good deal more than wood when it comes to security.

Mechanical trees wavered in the growing breeze while windmills turned above the tall buildings, their blades picking up speed as they turned every gust into valuable electricity.
Mentioning mechanical trees will always cause me to think of this.

The gothitelle folded her arms as her attention turned to the sky. Where was it? What was taking so long?
So that's what Socket is! Cool beans.

Their bar grub was one of the best in Pulse City and they made a killer nutpea and occa burger.
...That actually sounds pretty good.

He eyed the other rooms reminding himself that two of them were free. He’d have to assign one to Download Database, unless she was happy enough sleeping in a wooden crate.
Somehow I suspect she totally would be.

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

She sighed audibly. “All right. But promise me that’s all you’ll do.”
There is pretty much no way that is all he's going to do, regardless of how bonkers getting deeper into the matter would be. Enjoy the ride, Mr. Mawile. :B

Cookie waddled from an open cupboard to the stove and froze, staring at Macro over his shoulder. His round face lit up and his tongue poked out between his teeth.

“I saved you some breakfast and lunch and put the two together!”
His timing. Complete with the goofy blep face. I love it. XD

He stared at his cornn dog, watching as the sauce trickled over the bun and onto his paws.
If he knows what's good for him at all he'll avoid rubbing his eyes anytime soon.

Tracer shook his head and followed the eevee from the apartment block. He gave the croagunk a pat on the shoulder then sheathed his stick.

“I’m afraid, young chap, that your hacking days are over.”
Heh. Yeah I figured Surge wasn't gonna let anything lead back to her.

Macro's eyes snapped back open, fixing on the huge, gaping mouth of the scaly dragon. He leapt out from beneath Anchor and swung his horn right into the kommo-o's open maw. Teeth shattered against his horn
OW

"I think that guy poisoned me." He rubbed at his wrist and glanced down at the unconscious dragon.

Macro frowned and turned back to the door. "I didn't bring supplies. Call Matrix and ask him to pick you up. I'll go on alone."

"Screw that." Anchor dragged himself from the door and shoved it open.
Oh man, careful dude...

One memory disk down. Four more to go. This was going to be too easy.
And fate = well and truly tempted. :p


I love the actual frell outta this setting. I think these guys could be doing just about anything (within reason!!) in a setting like this one and I'd still be hooked, but as it happens this is a legitimately interesting plot going on here. I will absolutely continue following this. :D
 

Ambyssin

Winter can't come soon enough
Okay, so my cyberpunk experience doesn’t really extend past seeing Blade Runner once and casually playing the Deus Ex series. But I love me some Ratchet & Clank: Future, and that has space pirates. So the blurb alone got me invested. Let’s see what we’re dealing with, here!

Overall, I’m enjoying this a lot. While it took a little while for the main plot to take off, I didn’t mind it because you used interesting scenarios to introduce me to the pirate crew. I haven’t read terribly many PMD-esque fics, but it’s also unique (at least for me) that we’re starting off with an experienced team that knows how to work together (even if they get on each other’s nerves). I also like that there are small scenes and descriptive bits to make the different cities (on different planets? I wasn’t really sure about this.) and their inhabitants stand out from one another. But those scenes never dragged on too long. The focus stayed with Macro (unless one of the other major players was taking the spotlight, of course).

One thing that struck me as a bit unusual is that there’s a bit of a zig-zag to the narration. Cutlerine explains it better than me, I think. For battle scenes, you choose to use a really varied vocabulary. And that extends into descriptions of new places. But that makes other narration, like stuff accompanying dialogue, or the crew just doing menial tasks, stick out like a sore thumb.

Ch 1
-First thing that strikes me is the description of Proxy City. The grungy aesthetic is made perfectly clear within the opening few paragraphs. No sunshines and rainbows here.
-So, I’m gonna guess Proxy City lacks much of a police force. Otherwise, the Wildcard Gamma’s appearance should’ve caused a scene. Alternatively, it’s movie logic.
-The crew’s introductions convey characters traits right off the bat. Anchor’s a cheeky bloke, Matrix seems very dry and blunt, and Macro seems to be the “straight guy” at the moment.
-Weapons with typing attributes are very cool. It brings to mind games with weapon crafting like Borderlands. I’m assuming that was intentional, b/c the crew so far brings the vault seekers of the first two Borderlands games to mind.
-While this introductory chapter is mostly humorous in tone, I do like that you have some underlying worldbuilding and the mention of an ambiguous threat (Socket) to cast a bit of a sinister tone over this introduction.

Ch 2
-You waste no time in taking steps to distinguish Wave from Proxy. I did like that Macro and Anchor acknowledged the city’s cleanliness and admittedly would’ve liked to see more of that as opposed to a few paragraphs of narration giving an overview. I think I’m just spoiled by games that have “mission control” characters to give bits of dialogue like that.
He flashed his optical display on and brought up a map of the interior, conveniently provided by Matrix. Three floors. The first was mostly factory and staff facilities. The second floor was all factory and the third and final, admin and storage. Macro tutted loudly and scouted out the nearest elevator.
Oh, is this a little shout-out to Batman’s Detective Mode from the Arkham games? That’s what it felt like, anyway.
-Liked the action scene in the factory, and there was just enough banter to keep things broken up without getting too ridiculous. I got a laugh out of Anchor carrying Macros up the stairs, too.
“Drat,” Anchor muttered. “Didn’t hear them coming over all this kerfuffle.”
I have a hard time believing Anchor knows what “kerfuffle” means. It’s the pirate stereotype, but that doesn’t seem like the right word choice for the “tough guy/brute.”
-Ooh, I wasn’t expecting that bit of bravado from Macro there. Goes to show the crew’s dynamics aren’t picture perfect. I wasn’t expecting them to be, but it’s a good tidbit of characterization.

Ch 3
-Sleazy, unregulated, criminal city? Sounds good to me! And now we’re adding in cybernetic “enhancements” of a sort? Not the type of thing you’d expect in Pokémon, but I like me some Deus Ex, so it’s no problem with me. I do like that you added the dangerous tint to it in that Worm’s enhancements are dangerous and the Everstone is needed to keep him alive. Having Anchor get enhancements of his own could liven things up down the road, especially since Macro doesn’t like them.
-At this point I don’t know if Surge will make a reappearance, but I hope she does. Her attitude strikes a good contrast to Macro’s.

Ch 4
-Minor space combat time. I do like the clever-ish use of a trash belt. It’s like trying to lose someone in an asteroid belt, but safer (and slimier).
-And now we have this nebulous government of Socket’s showing up to create a bit of tension between Macro and Anchor. Though, Anchor still insists on going with him into the weird gov’t building. It’s a strangely touching moment, but effective b/c it shows that the two care for each other despite their bickering.
-Yay, spaceship combat! I must commend you for a creative use of Wishiwashi schooling, and I laughed at the Carvannha torpedo tidbit.
-Overall the chapter was great! Some suspenseful snooping, a bit of action against government spooks, intrigue with the stalking ship, and Macro’s and Anchor’s up-and-down moments all had me wondering what was going to happen next.

Ch 5
-Well, didn’t take long for Surge to reappear. Looks like she’s not much of a pirate after all. Instead, she’s in the pocket of our supposed antagonist. I didn’t see that one coming, so nice work on that little twist. And it adds quite a layer of intrigue to her character, since she basically torpedoed her handler’s cronies.
-Meanwhile, didn’t take long for the crew to open up the TOP SECRET gov’t package. And, huh, I guess this is where the fic’s title comes from? Wow, adding to the list of things I didn’t expect, it looks like we’ve got us an augmented Pokémon! And one with a positronic brain, no less. I just like how casually that scene plays out. The narration and dialogue describing Download are succinct, and it works very well.
-And we finally meet Socket! I wasn’t expecting a Gothitelle, honestly, but it’s another lesser-used Pokémon species, so I’m not complaining. This scene effectively does a good job of making me dislike Socket. It’s made pretty clear she’ll do whatever it takes to get what she wants.

Ch 6
-Okay, even if Macro’s password guesses were pretty obvious, they were hilarious. Nice to see he thinks Socket’s a selfish jerk with an overinflated ego. And, while I know it’s creepy, I just love how Download Database basically has this childlike innocence about her (b/c her memories and emotions were stripped from her, and that’s terrible). It just presents such a stark contrast to the pirate crew, all of whom are pretty jaded.
-That dat scene though. Both Macro and Surge seemed like they were trying to play each other here, but neither one really got a leg up over the other. Though it seems like they’re both going what they want to some degree, I’m very curious how it plans to play out. At this point, I still don’t have a solid read on Surge. She doesn’t seem all that loyal to her job, but for all I know she could be faking it.

Ch 7
-Ouch. So, even though Macro is weirded out by Database, he has no trouble ordering her around. Like, there isn’t even narration that says he feels a bit guilty? Okay then. I guess he was just trying to get Database sit still or something. Oh, wait, nevermind, looks like she calls him right out on it. But then Macro goes ahead and says he’s nothing to apologize for. Maybe chapter 5 shouldn’t have made Macro seem pissed by what happened to Download if he’s going to treat her badly. It’s even stranger since he about-faces later in the chapter and now seems determined to restore her… humanity? I’m gonna go with that. Maybe try to make the narration or dialogue a bit clearer earlier in the chapter as to where Macro stands on Database?
-Anyway, moving on from that, we finally get the intel on Database. I wasn’t expecting Surge to be honest with that report. But it sounds like a massive conspiracy! Dimensional warping and computer units and the possibility that one of those dimensions involves humans? Totally nuts… and a pretty cool concept to frame as your overall plot.

Ch 8
-We have some further (ominous) buildup on this nebulous “Backdoor.” I like the name. It makes me think of unauthorized access into something like a database. Perfectly in-line with the cyberpunk theme. And I appreciate the slight worldbuilding with the human stories. Having Database explain them in her computerized manner is a unique way to lore dump (compared to a stereotypical RPG-esque story). Also, funny scene b/w Cookie and Database there.
-Hoo boy, to further ramp up the tension, looks like Surge might get put on Socket’s payroll. Would be interesting to see if/how she’s able to play both sides of this game. She’s quite the charmer, but it remains to be seen.

Ch 9
-Well, the reveal that Surge stalked Macro in space was done and dusted with pretty quickly. I was expecting more of an outburst from Macro, but Surge seems to have settled him down pretty quickly.
-I’m not entirely sure what the point of that scene was with Tracer and Widget. It was enjoyable to read, don’t get me wrong (Widget was super adorable), but I’m not really sure how it factors into the overall story at this point.

Ch 10
-Aww yeah. We got a rave city? *turns on “Rocks Like This”* And apparently a bar fight to boot. Looks like Socket raising Macro’s bounty led to trouble in no time flat. I liked some of the unique narrative descriptors given to the bar brawl scene, particularly “hot fire licked at his fur,” and, “flying in a graceful ark.”
-In general, I did get the sense that this was a much more dangerous mission than the previous ones the crew had done. Sure, the bar fight wasn’t intentional, but Macro got pretty hurt, and the Kommo-o managed to poison Anchor, and didn’t even go down when I expected it to. Although, shouldn’t Macro not have been affected at all by Clanging Scales? Or are you handling type effectiveness differently in this universe? In any event, it was a very thrilling escapade, with an equally thrilling escape. It even brought some of that bravado Macro displayed back in chapter 2. I thought it was a good callback and a nice take on a “calling your bluff” type of scene. I also liked the subtle mentions of the poison wearing down Anchor. They never interrupted the flow of the battle and made me wonder if the big guy would go down or not.
-With that said, given they were supposedly infiltrating one of Socket’s government bases, I was a bit surprised at what seemed like the relatively low-key security. Given this is a futuristic space setting, and given how badly Socket wants to keep the data discs from falling out of her hands, I would think she’d arm her facility a bit better. Maybe you’re going to up the threat level later on? But I was expecting security cameras, laser turrets, electrical grids, and maybe some lock-on weaponry that key into the pirates. The fact that random bar brawlers seemed to pose more of a threat to Macro than Socket’s security was a bit weird. Unless they’re clueless grunts, in which case, you might want to slip in something mentioning how they’re not super-elite security and have no idea what they signed up for. Just food for thought.

Overall, it’s a swashbuckling good time so far (I’m sorry I promised myself I’d go through this without making a pirate joke but I couldn’t resist). Can’t wait for more chapters!
 

DeliriousAbsol

Call me Del
Thanks so much for all the feedback, guys!! =D I'm totally stoked at the response for this story!! I'll do some personal responses, which will be followed by the next chapter =D

I love the actual frell outta this setting. I think these guys could be doing just about anything (within reason!!) in a setting like this one and I'd still be hooked, but as it happens this is a legitimately interesting plot going on here. I will absolutely continue following this.
Wow thanks!! =D I love reading your reviews. Guaranteed a giggle, and it gives me an insight to your reactions! I'm so glad you're enjoying this!

I do also think that maybe you go a bit far when trying to avoid repeating 'the kommo-o' during the sequence in the facility – 'the reptile' and its variants all sound weirdly clinical and detached, and I don't feel that repeating the species name or even just the relevant pronoun would actually hurt the flow of the narration all that much. The same can be said of 'the ape' for the passimian, and so on.
And my desperate attempt to avoid repetition backfires XD thanks, I'll bare that in mind!

n concrit recently, for which you'll have to forgive me. Here are some thoughts by way of making up the shortfall. One, the fermented berry juice that Anchor mentions at the start feels like something that would have a shorter and more commonly-used name that people would use to refer to it – it's like someone in our world smelling wine and saying “huh, this smells of fermented grape juice.”
I got a little chuckle out of that. Very good point! XD

The same part made me wonder why it is that only Anchor and Macro ever seem to bring weapons, though – everyone else relies on their natural powers, which are considerable but which always seem to be trumped by Anchor's power fist and Macro's lasers.
That's the weapon ban. Some places will have weapons, and I'll have to make an active point of remembering that. As for Scanner City lacking weapons, it also made more sense for fighting types to be physical. But I think I'm forgetting a bit, tbh. A bit of an edit should fix that for areas I've overlooked.

Oh, is this a little shout-out to Batman’s Detective Mode from the Arkham games? That’s what it felt like, anyway.
I've honestly never played them! (I'm more of a Marvel fan =D) I was just using a bit of a game universe map technique lmao. But it's pretty cool you pointed that out. Is that how it works in those games?

Although, shouldn’t Macro not have been affected at all by Clanging Scales? Or are you handling type effectiveness differently in this universe?
That's an oopsie on my part, I'll be honest. However, I probably would have used it regardless anyway, if I'd been aware of its typing. I was mainly using it for noise disruption, and Macro does still have ears. Taking damage from a dragon type attack would be a major booboo if I'd done that, and I'd have to fix it lmao. I think the noise would bother anyone, though. Like a marching band going past clanging cymbals. Talk about a headache.

Overall, it’s a swashbuckling good time so far (I’m sorry I promised myself I’d go through this without making a pirate joke but I couldn’t resist)
Go ahead, bring them on ;)

...

Chapter Eleven​

Macro strolled into the cockpit and adjusted his goggles which had become askew at some point during their frantic get-away from Scanner City. Matrix twisted in his seat and fixed him him with a somewhat blank yet curious stare he felt only the ribombee could manage.

“Did you get it?” Matrix asked.

Macro smirked and reached into his pouch, and pulled out the five tiny disks.

Matrix’s large eyes widened and he took them. “You got them all?”

“Nope. But one of them has to be it.” He eyed DL’s wooden crate and frowned when he saw her huddled up inside. “What’s she doing in there?”

“Sleeping.” Matrix thumbed through the disks then slipped one into his pocket computer. “I’m gonna check them all. We don’t want to fill her with useless data. Where’s Anchor?”

“Raiding Cookie’s medical berries. He got hit by a toxic from a kommo-o.”

The ribombee looked at him over his shoulder. “Is he all right?”

“He should be. He just needs some pecha berries and a good rest.”

“Huh.” Matrix turned back to his computer. “You look pretty beat up yourself.”

Macro absently rubbed at the marks on his neck and flinched. It still felt sore. So did his shoulders and upper back.

“Those fighting types put up a fight,” he said. “I might see if a shower fixes it.”

“It might, but it won’t make your fur grow back.”

Macro faltered in the doorway and cast a glance back at the ribombee. How much fur had he lost?! He rushed to the shower room and paused before the mirror, and tutted. Matrix had been over-exaggerating. The long fur beside his face had been singed slightly and around his upper arms had been singed black, with just a small patch by his elbow completely burned away. The black would wash off after a shower and just look a little tatty for a while.

He pulled his scarf off, flinching as the movement seared his shoulders. It sported a considerable tear where the primeape had clawed him, and given it’s dark colour it was difficult to see if it had any blood stains. Frustrating. He was beginning to run low on scarves. He tossed it onto a chair with his goggles, belt and lasers and switched on the shower, letting the hot, lavender-scented water cascade over him.

It stung the scratches on his throat and he screwed his eyes shut, letting himself sink down on the tiled floor. The hot water soothed the throbbing that had started in his shoulders and back. He’d taken way too much of a beating, and not just from other pokemon’s attacks but his own. Some of those fighting types were heavy. Throwing them was a task in itself. But the sheer number of them… If it weren’t for Anchor, he likely wouldn’t have come out of that brawl alive. Law or not, primeape and mankey weren’t known for their merciful outbursts. When they rampaged, they did so violently. The best case scenario, he’d be thrown behind bars and whichever pokemon handed him in would be rolling in his bounty while Scanner City were awarded a badge of honor.

He ran a paw over his aching head and watched as the black marks were washed to a pale brown. That bounty… the only reason he had it was because he was the face of Wildcard Gamma. Nothing he’d done could have been accomplished on his own. He was small but gutsy. Many dragon, dark and fighting types feared him because they couldn’t do anything to him. He didn’t have Anchor’s physical strength or Matrix’s intelligence. He just knew how to aim and fire a gun, how to pick locks, how to be sneaky. It was all typical pirate stuff. The only reason his reward was so high was because he’d annoyed Socket… on more than one occasion. One instance wasn’t even planned. To this day he could still see that fire, see himself fleeing as though he was nothing more than an onlooker.

He didn’t know how long he sat there, letting the heat from the shower soothe the pain away. As he stood back up, water flowed from his long fur and soaked the floor as he shook himself dry. Violently enough to shake those thoughts away before he left the washroom.

He swung by his room to grab another scarf and wound it around his neck and shoulders as he strolled back into the cockpit.

“Still no sign of Anchor?” he asked Matrix.

“He poked his head around the door to say he was going to bed.” The ribombee looked up at him and wound a paw into his antennae. “You were in there a while.”

Macro shrugged and reached for one of the tiny disks. “Did you find out which one it is?”

“Yup.” Matrix picked one up, the one that didn’t have a number inked on it. “This one. It’s full of jargon and doesn’t have a title or anything. But from what I can understand of computer code, it’s definitely to do with her.”

He nodded towards the pachirisu and Macro looked around at her instinctively. She was still sleeping, her chest rising and falling softly with her head leaning against the side of the box. He grabbed the jack lead and moved over to her.

“Fire up the disk,” he said.

“You’re waking her?”

“I want to get the ball rolling,” he said. “And I’d rather do it before I head to bed. I’m beat, and I don’t want this looming over me.”

“All right, if you say so.” Matrix turned his seat and stuck the disk into his computer.

Macro grabbed DL’s shoulder and shook her gently. “Hey. Wake up.”

Her eyes fluttered open and, as usual, she rubbed a paw over them and fixed him with her blank, chocolate brown stare.

“My internal clock tells me it is not morning,” she said. “Is there an emergency? I hear no alarm.”

“It’s not an emergency.” Macro reached behind her neck with the jack lead. “I just need to download something onto you.”

“My faculties do not allow that,” she said. “It will compromise my programming.”

“Tough. You belong to me. Co-operate.”

She fixed him with a sideways stare as he pushed her forwards to plug the jack into the socket at the base of her skull. Matrix buzzed over to them and placed the USB end into his pocket computer.

“This should only take a moment.” He scratched the base of his antennae and frowned at his computer. “I really hope this works.”

He tapped the computer screen and DL’s chocolate gaze broke as her pupils became impossibly wide. Macro sat back with one paw on the floor, staring at the pachirisu in horror. They hadn’t just killed her? He shook his head, his mouth unable to form words.

Matrix caught his attention with a sideways glance. “It’ll take five minutes.”

Macro reached up and groped for the bug’s computer. “Stop it!”

“I can’t stop it,” Matrix said calmly. “I’m uploading data. It’ll end up corrupting if I break it off now.”

Corrupting… All Macro could do was watch DL helplessly as she slumped forward on her knees, fixing the wall of her crate with a blank, unseeing stare. His heart hammered behind his ribs. She was alive. Empty, but alive. If they killed her trying to give her back her memories, then he could add the highest of crimes to his already extensive list.

Then watch his bounty double again. Even the worst of pirates wouldn’t stand for that crime. Everyone would be after his head.

DL’s eyes fluttered again and refocused, lighting up briefly as she came back to reality. She stretched and yawned widely as though waking up from a deep sleep.

“I think we’re done,” said Matrix. “You can disconnect her now.”

Macro gave him a wary glance then reached over to remove the jack lead. DL didn’t so much as flinch. Had it even worked?

“I appear to have received an update,” she said. “My processes are flagging it as ‘junk data’. Quarantining.”

“No!” Macro grabbed both her shoulders and turned her to face him, fixing his violet eyes on hers. “Do not quarantine it!”

She blinked a couple of times then nodded. “This update appears to be important to you. Understood. Force-stopping quarantine.”

He fell back onto his bottom and let out a sigh, running his paws over his face.

“I need a good sleep,” he said. “I think I’m going to call it a night.”

“Likewise.” DL shuffled back into her crate. “Sleep is necessary for optimum cognitive function.”

He watched her as she shifted to get comfy and leant her head against the side of the crate. Crate. She was still sleeping in that splintered eyesore of a crate.

“Come with me,” he said. “I’ll sort you a room. We have two spare.”

She looked up at him with what he thought might have been confusion, but her eyes were still blank. “A room? My box is ample room enough.”

“It isn’t,” he said. “You need a bed, just like any other pokemon.”

“I’m a computer. Do you give your computer a bed?”

“Don’t get snarky with me, DL.”

“I don’t understand snarky. It was merely a question.”

He grabbed her paw and tugged her to her feet. “You’re having a room like a normal pokemon. Now come with me.”

He exchanged a flustered glance with one of Matrix’s curious ones and dragged the pachirisu from the cockpit. Wildcard Gamma contained six bedrooms, four of which were occupied. Loud snores came from the first room on the right, beside the washroom. Cookie preferred to be there as he could quickly wash up before he entered the kitchen. Only his alarm could wake him. Macro often wondered if he could sleep through a blitz since he’d slept through horrific turbulence that woke the rest of the crew and had them in a panic, but if his alarm went off he’d be up and cooking within ten minutes.

Macro stopped at the room opposite his and pushed the door open. A quilt lay folded on the bed, its former white now a musty grey. He grabbed it and shook it out, sending a cloud of dust into the air. He coughed and turned his head back, and DL let out a small sneeze from the doorway. She wiped a paw over her nose and looked from him to the duvet.

“I can sort this out,” she said. “It’s okay.”

“No.” Macro let the quilt fall to the floor and moved over to the bed, tugging the draw open. He rubbed at his shoulder then pulled out a blue and white quilt cover. “I’ll deal with it. It’s the least I can do after letting you sleep in a box.”

“Crate,” she corrected. “And it was what I came in. I was happy there.”

“You wouldn’t know happy if it leapt up and smacked you on the nose,” he said. “But we’re working on that.”

He tossed a pillow case onto the bed and started stuffing the quilt into the cover. DL moved over to the bed and joined him, placing the pillow inside the case. His shoulder complained again and he stopped to rub at it, clutching the quilt in one paw.

“You appear to be in pain,” she said. “You should lie down.”

He grunted and returned to stuffing the quilt cover, but she took it from his paws and set it on the bed.

“I can help,” she said. “I know basic back massage.”

“Not a chance! Besides, I don’t allow girls in my room. Gentlemon’s pride.” He reached for the quilt, but she beat his paws aside. He narrowed his eyes in a leer. “Seriously, DL!”

She picked it up, keeping her eyes on him as she neatly straightened out the quilt. “You don’t need to be in your own room for a massage. Even the floor would suffice. Besides, I can continue here. I know what I’m doing.”

“Whatever.” He raised his paws and moved from the room. “Do what you want. I’m going to bed.”

He stormed across the hall to his own room and slammed the door. That pachirisu… he fell face first onto his bed and groaned. All they’d gone through for that disk and it had made virtually no change to her whatsoever. Junk data. That’s what she’d called it. Was it even worth continuing? He seriously doubted it.

Five disks. Five disks of ‘junk data’. Was there a chance Matrix was wrong and they’d obtained the wrong one?

He heard his door open and soft paws pad across the room. He cracked an eye open, fixing on the white torso of the ‘living computer’.

“I thought I told you I don’t allow girls in my room,” he said.

“The door is open,” she replied. “Besides, you said ‘do what you want’, and I want to help you. It’s in my programming to serve.”

“Persistent, aren’t you?” He let out a sigh and closed his eye. “Fine. If it’ll shut you up.”

The mattress sank beside him and she brushed her paws over his back, shifting his scarf out of the way.

“I didn’t think mawile had stripes,” she said. “But you have two. Such anomalies are not in my files.”

He cracked an eye open, but he couldn’t see her from the angle she was sat at. Two brown, horizontal stripes like a pikachu. His scarf usually covered them. He gave a shrug and let his eye close again.

“It’s a birthmark,” he said flatly.

“Oh, I see. I’ll make a note of that.”

He began to mutter something under his breath but it was cut off as she dug into his shoulders. He grit his teeth together, but the pain ebbed away in seconds as his sore, tense muscles relaxed. He nuzzled into his pillow, and as she moved her way down his back he found it hard to focus on the issue of those disks any more. His mind went blank, and he instead drifted off into a deep sleep.

...​

The cell gate slammed shut and the croagunk pushed himself up onto his knees, fixing the delphox with a leer.

“I told you I did nothin’!” he roared.

“That’s not what I was told.” Tracer leant back against the opposite wall and stared at the frog pokemon through the bars. “Your pocket computer’s number came up. The hacking was traced back to you.”

“But it wasn’t me!”

“Can’t help you. Evidence is evidence.”

“You just don’t believe me ‘cos I’m a poison type!” said the croagunk. “You posh psychic types are all the same! Snobby do-gooders! You have a death wish walkin’ through the outskirts, delphox.”

“So you’re saying you’re not a do-gooder?” Tracer tutted softly as he shook his head. “Not exactly helping your case, are you?”

The croagunk pulled his lips back in a snarl and Tracer rolled his eyes.

“Like I said, I can’t help you. I’m not in charge any more. You’re out of my paws.” Tracer kicked back from the wall and waved a dismissive paw. “Appeal to your attorney.”

“You think I can afford a freakin’ attorney?! I live in the outskirts!”

The croagunk’s rant faded as the door to the cells shut. Tracer exchanged glances with Widget and the eevee beamed, creasing the neon green microchip pattern around his left eye.

“Same old sob story, eh?” he asked.

Tracer shrugged and leant against the wall as he lit up a cigar.

“They always plead innocent,” he said. “I just worry what might happen if one of them is actually crying the truth, and no one will listen.”

Widget shrugged his shoulders. “That might have happened a billion times already and we’d never know.”

“Poor kid can’t even afford an attorney.” Tracer blew out a cloud of smoke and looked back over at the closed door. The prisoner’s shouts were muffled and incoherent through that iron structure. “Nothing in place for him to gain one either. They only take a guaranteed payment, so it’s Socket’s word against his. He’s screwed.”

The eevee’s nose crinkled in thought and he shrugged again. “Oh well. Back to the slums for us then, eh?”

Tracer grunted and stubbed out his cigar on the wall before popping it into his trench coat pocket. He pulled out their masks and fastened his back over his face, making sure there were no gaps around the rubber edging before following the eevee towards the air lock.

When it opened, air blew out through a vent, keeping all the toxins between the main doors and those that separated them from the toxic streets of Proxy City. Meta Prison had stood in the outskirts for many years, serving as a threatening monument that kept crime down in that particular city. The other two outskirts were a nightmare in comparison.

Tracer looked up at the dingy, grey building. Behind it rose one of the bright chrome and white skyscrapers of Meta City and the branches of one of the capital’s many mechanical trees. One would think the edge of Proxy City would be cleaner than the rest. How the capital was cleaner than the outskirts that stood so close to it was a mystery. Those trees did their job, but they did it in a very localised fashion.

He turned his back on the prison and joined Widget across the road where he sat waiting patiently. His eyes sparkled up at him through his mask and he fell beside the delphox’s side, keeping pace with him all the way back to Spool City. It was a long walk. One that made him glad of his companion and his trusty laser stick.

...​

When Macro opened his eyes again, the room felt bright. Soft sunlight flowed through his blind and he slowly pushed himself up. His shoulders complained, but not as much as they had been doing the previous evening. He rubbed at his left shoulder and turned, and his sheet fell down over his hips. He fixed it with a raised eyebrow. Definitely no recollection of having pulled it over himself when he fell into bed. It must have been DL…

He looked over at the closed door and kicked the sheet off. Even if she had covered him over, he was still wearing his scarf and belt, although both his lasers had been set on his night stand. He popped them both back into their holsters and strolled from his room, stretching as he entered the hallway. Refreshed, not the slightest bit groggy. It had been a good night’s sleep, he couldn’t deny that.

The sweet smell of pancakes flowed from the kitchen, drawing him in like a beacon. He fell into his usual spot at the table, near oblivious to the pachirisu who’d taken up Matrix’s spot opposite him yet again. He reached for the steaming pile of pancakes and froze, fixing her with a confused look out of the corner of his eye.

“Sleep well?” she asked.

“Yes?” The hesitation in his voice seemed to take her by surprise.

“Are you asking or telling me?”

“I slept fine.” He slipped two pancakes onto his plate and reached for the cheri sauce.

Anchor held his heaped fork just before his mouth as he looked from the living computer to Macro and back.

“Have I missed something?” he asked.

“Nothing.” Macro poured the sauce onto his pancakes. “Isn’t Matrix joining us this morning?”

“Ooh, the night owl came in here just as I started cooking!” Cookie grabbed his own plate, already stacked with pancakes and butter. “I often wonder if he even sleeps.”

“He sleeps,” said Anchor. “And snores. I’m in the room beside him, I should know.”

“So long as we’ve all slept well, that is good.” DL reached over for the plate of pancakes. “I understand you are not all computers, but the brain does need to shut down and recharge otherwise you might crash.”

The three space pirates watched the pachirisu as she poured cheri sauce over her breakfast. Cookie trembled so violently the berry atop his head jiggled from side to side. She lifted a fork of fluffy pancake dripping with sweet, red sauce and popped it into her mouth. Macro visibly flinched, expecting another outburst of lectures, and Cookie’s chair dragged across the floor as he scooted as far away from her as his distance from his plate would allow.

DL’s eyes lit up and she leant back in her seat with the fork still in her mouth. She threw herself back towards her plate and began devouring the cheri-soaked pancakes with a vigour that almost put the slurpuff to shame.

“Erm…” Macro tapped the side of his plate with his fork and glanced at the granbull and chef, exchanging equally confused expressions. “Are you okay, DL?”

“Hmm?” She looked up and wiped cheri sauce from her cheek. “Yes. Why?”

“You just… seem to be enjoying your breakfast.”

“Quite a lot,” Cookie added. “You might give yourself indigestion at this rate.”

“Oh.” She looked back down at her plate and loaded her fork up again. “I’m sorry, cheri berries are my favourite. I’ll slow down.”

Favourite…

Macro stared at her in bewilderment. She had a favourite? After her lecture about sweets the previous day, she now had a favourite? He chuckled and caught a small grin from Anchor before they both tucked into their own breakfast.

A favourite… so the memory disk had worked. It wasn’t a lost cause after all.

...​

Surge pulled her tympole ship up outside the huge white mansion in the centre of Meta City. White, clean, with a garden filled with artificial topiaries and grass. Two large mechanical trees stood at either side of the pristine courtyard. The zigzagoon felt it a shame to walk across it, almost worried her feet would leave dirty prints on the pale paving flags that lined the neat pathway. As she reached the door, the two pidgeot standing sentry fixed her with their tiny, black eyes.

“State your purpose,” one of them said.

“Socket requested me,” she said. “My name is Surge.”

The huge bird kept his eyes on her as he spoke into his mouth piece. “Someone called Surge is here for Socket.”

“Ooh!” The voice was oddly shrill, almost bell-like. “She’s cool. Let her in!”

The pidgeot frowned, but it wasn’t aimed at her. He stood aside and pushed the door open with his large wing. She thanked him, feeling both their eyes on her as she strolled inside.

It was equally white with the odd painting along the wall. Not one of them was of a single pokemon, all depicting landscapes of Meta City throughout the decades. The oldest one dated back two hundred years ago, when they first erected the mansion and the mechanical trees. It was titled ‘Cleaning Up Our Act’.

A bell chime reached her ears, growing louder as whatever carried it rounded the corner. She frowned into the foyer, but the only pokemon she could see was a furret sat behind the desk while talking quietly on the phone.

“Surge, I guess?”

She looked down at her feet into the beaming face of a chingling. The tiny bell pokemon barely came up to her knee.

“This way!” He flopped away from her, his tassel-like hair bobbing with each bounce.

He led her around the corner and down another corridor with yet more paintings. Each one was a different area of Meta City, artfully taken so as not to show even the smallest hint of the outskirts. The city’s various pokemon species filled the streets, mostly made up of normal and psychic type pokemon but with the odd dual-type scattered here and there. Nevertheless, each picture had a cheerful air to it. Its cleanness was emphasized as it even depicted the alleyways between the tall chrome and white buildings.

The chingling cleared his throat and Surge froze, looking back over her shoulder. He stood beaming at her from beside an open door.

“Just in here,” he said before flopping inside.

She followed him slowly, peering around the door at the tidy office. A computer desk stood at her right, empty despite the holoscreen glowing brightly in the air. A container filled with pens stood beside it next to an open note pad. Ahead of her sat Socket behind her desk and she looked up as she entered. A gothitelle, her entire black torso covered with white ribbons. Each one was a part of her body, but the ones around her dramatically tufted ears were not. Her red lips curled up in a smile that, despite looking friendly, sent a chill through Surge’s body.

“Come in, come in!” Socket rose and moved over to her, extending a slender black paw. “Surge, right?”

The zigzagoon took her paw and shook it once before the gothitelle let it fall back to her side. She turned away from her and returned to her desk.

“Please,” she said. “Take a seat.”

Surge sat opposite her, giving the room one more glance and spotting the chingling sat by the window at the left of the office, almost hidden behind his own holoscreen.

“As you may be aware,” Socket said, steepling her paws together, “I’ve called you here to run a little errand for me. I do understand you’re a mercenary by trade?”

“Yes.” Surge resisted the urge to lean back in her seat. “But I’m a little curious as to why you would want to hire a mercenary?”

“You hunt pirates.”

The bluntness of her statement almost knocked Surge off her seat.

“I’ve had a problem lately that needs… correcting.” Socket locked her with a sapphire stare. “Lately my databases have been compromised. It started when something was stolen in transit to me.”

Surge’s spine stiffened but she kept her expression blank as she stared back at the gothitelle. Surely she hadn’t traced the hacking back to her? Her paw pads began to sweat and she absently wiped them on her lap.

“I don’t know if you’ve heard about it?” Socket asked.

Surge licked her lips and glanced at the window behind her. “I don’t think it’s been in the news.”

“Oh it has,” said Socket. “Although the contents have been kept secret. Just a notification of a theft of government property by a thief I am sure you’ve heard of. Anyway, what bothers me the most is the data that was taken after. But whether or not the hacker is in contact with the thief is a mystery. He’s behind bars now, I’ve had that dealt with.”

Surge let out a long breath. Her decoy number had worked.

“The job I have for you,” Socket said as she reached for her note pad, “is to help me retrieve this item of mine and put the pirate Macro behind bars.”

“What about the rest of his crew?”

“Oh, you can arrest them if you like, but they’re just goons who follow the lead of a psychopath.”

“Psychopath?” Surge raised an eyebrow.

“Don’t you think so?” Socket’s blue eyes widened with surprise. “His list of crimes is immense. Robbery, arson, con artist, monslaughter… to name a few. That doesn’t add up to a sane pokemon, does it? And to go so far as to steal government property?”

Surge scratched behind her ear. “I guess.”

“Don’t you want the job?” Socket worded it as a question, but the warning note behind it chilled Surge to the core.

“I’ll take any job so long as it pays.”

Socket’s lips turned up into a smile and she turned the note pad so Surge could read it.

“Everything is detailed on here,” the gothitelle explained. “Your pay, should to you take the job, is the forty thousand credit bounty on Macro’s head, plus an extra forty thousand for completing the task. Another twenty thousand will go to Tracer and his group as compensation for loaning you out to me, so you don’t have to worry about them for the time being.”

“So it totals at one hundred thousand credits?” Surge scratched at her ear again as she read over the details.

“As you can see, I’m desperate to get that mawile behind bars. The item he stole from me contains a tracking chip which you can use to retrieve it. For now, I’ve called my soldiers off. They have bigger things to be dealing with right now, and I’d like to keep them in reserves, so this all falls on you. I hope that’s not an inconvenience?” The gothitelle paid no attention to Surge’s apprehensive head shake. “I’ll even loan you a laser that will allow you to incapacitate him.”

“So a ground laser?” Surge looked up to meet the mayor’s eyes.

“I was thinking fire,” said Socket. “Will you take the job?”

Surge looked down at the details again. Arrest Macro… she couldn’t deny it made her feel sick. But a job was a job, and if she turned it down it would only arouse suspicion from the gothitelle. She needed to cover her tracks, and if she was found out to be the culprit behind harvesting that information…

“I’ll take the job,” she said.

“Excellent.”

Socket unlocked a drawer in her desk and pulled out a red laser module. She slid the slender cylinder towards her and Surge took it, turning it in her paws.

“I trust you’re familiar with how those work?” Socket asked.

“Of course.” Surge pulled her own laser out of its holster and opened the back, slipping the fire module inside to join the other two it contained.

“Oh, and one other thing.” Socket leant forward on her elbows and steepled her paws together again. “Macro is wanted dead or alive. For you, Surge, the full payment stands either way.”

Surge looked up with a start. “You mean…?”

“Yes. I imagine that pirate would put up quite a fight.” She leant back in her seat and folded her arms. “So if it comes to it, don’t be afraid to kill him. You’ll still get every last credit.”

“But… wouldn’t it still be classed as murder?”

Socket shook her head slowly. “We’re going to kill him anyway. You’d just be saving the authorities a job. They’ve got a lot to deal with anyway.” She admired her claws and fixed Surge with another chilling smile. “I don’t suppose this will be a problem to you?”

Surge’s mouth had gone dry. She cleared her throat and slid off her chair.

“No,” she said. “I’ll get the job done.”

“I’m glad to hear it.” Socket rose to her feet and moved around her desk to steer Surge from her office. “I’ll be in touch to see how things are progressing. Please don’t let me down. Tracer could only speak highly of you. I expect your best work.”

“One more question,” said Surge. “What is this item you want me to retrieve?”

“Just a computer,” said Socket. “We’ll retrieve it from his ship once he’s out of the way. Don’t worry yourself.”

Just a computer? Surge looked up at the gothitelle, catching another smile off her as she closed the door. A cheerful ‘bye!’ from the chingling echoed through the woodwork as it closed, blocking the office from sight. A light flashed above her and she looked up at the door, noting the blinking red light of one of the flat, black surveillance cameras.

Her paw went to her laser and she turned from the room, fixing her eyes on the exit. It was just another space pirate round up. It wasn’t like she was a stranger to those. Her claw brushed over the smooth trigger and she stormed from the mansion, startling one of the pidgeot as she marched past him down the manicured path.

One hundred thousand credits.

She took a deep, steadying breath as she made a beeline for the gate.

Dead or alive, it was just another round up.
 

Ambyssin

Winter can't come soon enough
-I do appreciate a slight explanation about that bar brawl. Seems like some of the fighting-types were just extraordinarily quick to anger. It still feels out of place, but it is nice to see Macro reflecting on that bounty, and attributing his “success” to his crew. See, he really does like them!
-Looks like that disc didn’t do anything to DL. She’s still as robotic as ever. But Macro seems firmly in the camp of wanted to help her at all costs now.
He cracked an eye open, but he couldn’t see her from the angle she was sat at. Two brown, horizontal stripes like a pikachu. His scarf usually covered them. He gave a shrug and let his eye close again.

“It’s a birthmark,” he said flatly.

“Oh, I see. I’ll make a note of that.”
My “this is an important point, file it away, dummy!” sense is tingling.
-I’m not entirely sure what the point of the prison scene was. I mean, yeah, it tells us that Surge was able to pin her hacking on someone unrelated, but I’m not sure it required two separate scenes to handle. I’m not complaining, it was some nice worldbuilding. But given the important events last chapter, you’d think they’d be the sole focus here.
Favourite…

Macro stared at her in bewilderment. She had a favourite? After her lecture about sweets the previous day, she now had a favourite? He chuckled and caught a small grin from Anchor before they both tucked into their own breakfast.

A favourite… so the memory disk had worked. It wasn’t a lost cause after all.
-Ah, okay, so it did work. Personally, it might’ve been better to not break this and the first bit up with the prison scene. Especially since the scene right after it involves Surge. I guess alternating things works fine too. I just found myself more invested in knowing what would happen w/ Macro and DL.
-Well then, looks like Surge might be falling into the “Nothing personal, it’s business,” routine soon. I am genuinely curious how this is going to play out for her.

Nice job and enjoy your vacation.
 

Jirachi100

Kirby Fan
I've been reading this but haven't said anything before because I'm not very good at thinking of stuff to say.

Oh, but the part about Marco having stripes reminds me of Vector in Glitched. Wait a minute, I think I have an idea of why he has those...

Edit: I know it's too late to fix typos now (It's been over a week) but... I just realized I didn't type Macro.
 
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Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
I was briefly ??? when it was mentioned that Macro had been clawed by the primeape. Then I remembered those things learn fury swipes. And scratch, for that matter. Primeape is actually pretty terrifying when you think about it, but then again that's pretty much true for all pokémon, isn't it.

He’d taken way too much of a beating, and not just from other pokemon’s attacks but his own. Some of those fighting types were heavy. Throwing them was a task in itself.
Nice bit of realism there!

For now, I’ve called my soldiers off. They have bigger things to be dealing with right now, and I’d like to keep them in reserves, so this all falls on you.
"Bigger things". Well, that's ominous. Something to do with opening the door to humanland, I suppose?

I get the feeling that disk #1 planted more personality seeds in DL than we've seen so far. Maybe not many more, but idk. I just suspect there'll be another surprise or two before the crew gets their hands on another disk--if they do, of course.
 

DeliriousAbsol

Call me Del
Thanks for all the feedback guys!! =D Sorry this is a little late. By the time we got back yesterday, I was shattered. I'm just glad I was able to update today XD

Part Two - Rifts in Time and Space

Chapter Twelve​


The sun’s rays lit up the sky of Spool City, highlighting the smog a nauseating yellow. The gentle rays warmed Tracer’s ears and tail and made him sweat under his trench coat. Widget plodded along beside him, humming a muffled tune beneath his mask. Their journey from Proxy Prison had been somewhat uneventful, only drawing a minor conflict from a group of nidoran and nidorino. A quick blast from his stick had put an end to that no sooner had it started.

He checked the time on his pocket computer, which clouded over with a fine mist. Ten thirty am and a message off Defrag asking what he wanted for breakfast.

Widget came to an abrupt stop and cocked his left ear. Tracer followed his glance to the opposite side of the street. One of the alleyway doors was open and a small pokemon shuffled about behind the trash cans. Or a small group. It was impossible to see. Whatever it was managed to lift an adult skuntank and toss him or her into a skip. A few seconds later, the door slammed shut, leaving the motionless pokemon behind.

“Another one?” Widget asked.

Tracer strolled over to the skip, keeping one ear on the door. The skuntank was well and truly dead and had an awful smell about it - although skuntank often had an awful smell. The massive skunk’s tail was no longer curled over his head in typical skuntank fashion but instead lay draping over the edge of the beaten skip. His mouth was wide open, near impossible to close around all the tumours that lined his gums and tongue.

The delphox reached inside and pulled him out, letting his heavy body fall over his shoulders. Widget visibly grimaced as he glanced up into the skunk pokemon’s gaping jaws.

“This is getting ridiculous now,” he said. “They know this air can kill them so why do they refuse to wear masks?”

“Not all poison types are stubborn, some just can’t afford them.” Tracer stumbled out of the alley and followed the road towards his office. “Call Central Meta and tell them to send an ambulance.”

“Bit late for that.” Widget pressed a paw to his ear piece and his optical display flew into place over his right eye.

“We can’t just leave him in a trash can though can we?” Tracer sighed and shook his head. “He’s still a pokemon, criminal or not.”

“Okay, I get - Yo! Is that Central Meta Hospital?” Widget skipped on ahead of him, his long tail bobbing behind. “Yeah, it’s Tracer PI’s Agency. We’ve found another body.”

Tracer could almost see the frown on the receptionist’s face, and not just at Widget’s lack of a telephone manner. The eevee’s voice became a drone as Tracer looked over at the passing buildings. Small faces peered out at him, mostly stunky and scraggy, all wearing a mix of concern and anger. Bodies turning up like this were becoming more and more frequent and the outskirts’ attitude was beginning to reflect it. Very few of the pokemon living in the slums could afford a half-decent funeral.

Widget looked back over his shoulder, his eyes sparkling. “Said they’ll be at our office in a few minutes, so we better make it snappy. They said to leave him outside and they’ll dispose of him safely.”

So that meant incineration. At least he wouldn’t be left to fester in some skip. Tracer adjusted the skunktank over his shoulders and followed Widget along the empty road. His office wasn’t far. Just another turn and it was on his right, sat beside a club that at the present time was closed. His eyes fell on a slogan painted over the worn door of his office and he let out a groan.

‘Shove off shamus’.

He’d have loved to think the most unnerving thing about it was the missing comma.

The skuntank’s body slipped to the floor and he situated him against the wall out of the way. He looked up and down the street for any sign of an ambulance or disposal truck then ducked into his office as quickly as he could. Cool air blew over him, pushing the smog back outside, and he closed the door and removed his mask. Widget practically shook his off and sent it flying across the room to strike the filing cabinet.

Defrag looked back at them over her shoulder and her nose creased into a frown.

“I took the privilege of fixing this room’s filter,” she said. “I don’t know about you, but I was getting rather tired of breathing that air.”

Tracer fired a glance at the humming mechanical monstrosity above the window and dropped into his seat at his computer.

“Dare I ask how much it cost?” he asked.

The lopunny shrugged. “Nothing. I hit it a few times and it started working.”

Widget burst out laughing and struck his desk with his paw. “That’s genius! I love it!”

“It’s temporary,” said Defrag. “We should really look at getting it repaired properly. And maybe install an air lock?”

“It’ll cost a pretty credit to get someone from the metropolis to look at it,” said Tracer. “As for an air lock, don’t you think we get enough hate?”

“Well unlike you two I am neither immune, or too old to care.”

Tracer looked at her with a start. “I am not old! I’m forty two!”

“Older than me…”

Widget slumped onto his desk in laughter.

“Besides, Widget is not proven immune to the toxic air,” said Tracer. “And until we know for certain, he will continue to wear a mask.”

The eevee snorted and leant his nose on his forelegs. “Spoil sport.”

Tracer fired up his computer then lit up a cigar, puffing smoke into the air which was sucked up by the noisy air filter.

“Did I see you carrying a skuntank?” Defrag asked.

“Yeh. There’s been another death.” He flicked ash into his ashtray and brought up the outskirts news site. “We’re gonna need to be extra vigilant in case the poison types try to rebel again. It’s hard enough to contain that to the outskirts as it is, and it will be even more difficult without Surge’s help.”

“Surge? Has she left us?”

“For now. Socket snatched her up.” He leant back in his seat and stifled a sigh. “I’ve no idea why.”

“Pirate hunting, I assume?” said Defrag. “Hunter’s been a menace lately and I guess she wants him caught before the entire of System scrambles for his price tag.”

“It’d be a short-lived scramble.”

“If it gets much higher, there’ll surely be casualties? Pokemon will do anything for a quick credit.”

Tracer shrugged and scrolled through the news. A soft shuffle outside drew his attention to the window, and he caught the flashing red and blue lights of a medical truck. No siren. Nothing to draw attention to its presence except those lights, and he was fairly certain they only flashed to let him know they’d been.

Like every other ‘meaningless event’ inside the outskirts, this would be another death swept under the rug. He wouldn’t be surprised if soldiers outside Meta City were increased to keep the ruffians out, and that would swiftly be disguised as crowd control by another major event like a battle tournament or a concert.

He blew out a stream of smoke and turned back to his computer screen. The outskirts news website was an underground site that had very little recognition outside the metropolis. It would take all three of them to control any leak of this news to the major sites, confining it only to the underground. They’d take the entire website down if need be, and it wouldn’t be for the first time.

...​

Macro leant on the dashboard between Anchor and DL, his brows knit together as he looked at the destinations containing the remaining four memory disks. Scanner City had been ticked off, and was certainly one of the most imposing on the list. No where near as imposing as Meta City, however. That disk was unfortunately held inside Socket’s own mansion, and several times he’d mulled over whether or not it was worth just getting it out of the way.

The other areas were Binary City, Cyan City, Botnet City and some place called The Cache. All clean, not a single area toxic. Typical locations for government facilities. Well… one would expect, whatever The Cache was. Add in the fact there were five disks and one had already been retrieved, the list of five remaining locations led him to believe one was a red herring.

“I really can’t make up my mind,” said Macro.

“I’d suggest Botnet or Binary,” said Anchor. “Both are a similar distance from us.”

“But Meta is much closer.”

“Eh. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather save that until last.”

“Snap,” said Matrix.

“I don’t understand why you are doing this,” said DL. “Why are these memory disks so important?”

“Did you enjoy your breakfast?” Macro asked.

“Oh I did. It was lovely.”

“Then that’s why this is important.”

DL scratched behind one of her blue ears. “But… what does me enjoying my breakfast have to do with anything? Everyone needs to eat, even living computers.”

“Given your roasting of Cookie the other day over only baking sweets,” said Macro, “I’d say your drastic change in attitude is evidence enough that these disks actually work.”

“Oh… you’re correct.” She paused and stroked her chin with a claw. “Should I destroy this detrimental data?”

“No!” Anchor and Macro both span to face her.

She took a small step back and clasped her paws together. “Understood. Keeping new files.”

“Good grief.” Macro rubbed his temples and leant forward on his elbows. “At this rate, she’ll end up damaging all our hard work.”

“We still have the disk,” said Matrix. “If she erases it, then I’ll just put it back.”

“You can do that?” Macro asked. “You didn’t just move the data?”

“I copied it. Takes less time.” Matrix wound a paw in his antennae and eyed the pachirisu cautiously. “I guess my laziness paid off, huh?”

Macro licked his lips and looked from the ribombee to DL and then back to his list.

“Well,” he said. “I’m not sure if duplicating the data then destroying the disks afterward counts as murder or not… since the original pokemon would have been restored?”

Anchor scratched his mohawk and grunted. “I’m not sure ‘bout that either.”

“I suppose we can deal with it when the time comes.” Macro eyed the city names once more and slammed his paw on the dashboard. “Let’s start with Binary City. It’s an entertainment district. How hostile can that be?”

“Electric types,” said Anchor. “Eh. I guess my gauntlets won’t be much use there then, hey?”

“No. We’ll only have my ground laser to hand, and that’s not great for inner city combat. So let’s hope they’re not too hostile.”

Anchor rolled his eyes in a way that told Macro he knew he’d just fire it off anyway. The mawile huffed and shoved his computer back into his pouch.

“Set co-ordinates for Binary,” he told Matrix. “We’ll make a start as soon as it gets dark.”

“In an entertainment district?” Anchor sniffed. “All right…”

“What? You think we should do it during the daytime?” Macro asked. “The government facility will be teaming with pokemon!”

“And so will the streets at night. And at the moment, if you don’t sport the same type that’s rampant in those cities, you’re gonna get looked at funny. Or worse! And you,” he poked Macro in the chest, “have a price on your head.”

The mawile shoved his claw aside and frowned. “I know that! But I’d rather deal with civilians than Socket’s goons!”

Anchor shrugged and leant back in his seat. “It’s your choice. But this is System Ground. I know the reward applies everywhere except Pulse City now, but you’ve not been safe down there for years. They’ll be scrambling just to get at your neck.”

Macro snorted and twirled his laser around in his paw. “Let them try.”

“Excuse me,” said DL. “But this does not sound safe. I suggest you come up with a better solution.”

“What? Have them mail the disk to me?”

“If it will make things easier.”

Macro mentally smacked his head on the dashboard. “Look. This is the best way to retrieve that disk. So we’re going to infiltrate the facility in Binary City at night time when there are less soldiers manning the building!”

“In before Socket raises night time security,” said Matrix.

Macro closed his eyes and shrugged. “She wouldn’t do that. She’d have to pay out more wages. And she’s no idea when or where we’re going to strike next.”

“All right.” Anchor adjusted himself in his seat and tugged the steering stick, turning the ship almost a full one-eighty. “Night time raid on Binary City it is.”

Wildcard Gamma chugged through the sky and Macro kicked his feet up on the dashboard, watching the fluffy clouds roll by below them. Far on the horizon, he could make out the edge of one of the tri-cities, but which one it was he couldn’t say. He was fairly certain it wasn’t Cyan City, since that was well off their radar. That just left Magenta or Luma.

DL shifted beside him and a flicker of blue light drew his attention. The antennae behind her right ear flickered erratically and she fixed a blank stare on the far window.

“Obtaining information from the BackDoor network,” she said.

Macro raised an eyebrow. “Eh?”

“TimeSkip has awakened.” She placed a paw on the back of his seat. “Updating.”

The pachirisu’s grip slackened on his seat as her pupils dilated and he had to grab hold of her wrist to stop her from slumping to the floor. Her antennae flickered blue and a tiny orange light lit up in the center. He looked up at his crew mates who watched the pachirisu with concern and, in Matrix’s case, fascination.

“Updating?” Macro gasped.

“Yeh…” said Matrix. “I didn’t know she could do that.”

“Neither did I! What does that mean?”

“I think,” said Anchor as he scratched his head, “that it means we have a direct connection to whatever this BackDoor nonsense is.”

“My urge to snoop is tingling,” said Matrix.

“We’re not snooping!” Macro tugged on her arm, pulling her up so she was leaning on his chair. “Whatever BackDoor is, it’s just further evidence that Socket is a psycho.”

His heart lurched into his chest and he warred with the urge to just let DL collapse to the floor. Somehow he’d forgotten she was linked to some unheard-of network that solely existed to tear holes in time and space. His knowledge of it still felt like a dream and the eeriness was dragging him back in to that living nightmare.

DL straightened and let her paw relax over the back of his chair. “Update complete. TimeSkip connection installed.”

The three space pirates eyed her cautiously and Macro cleared his throat and looked back out of the window. He had no desire to learn what TimeSkip was and he desperately wanted to forget the whole thing had even happened. He placed a paw to his chest, trying to calm his racing heart.

“Cap’n?” Anchor’s brow furrowed. “You all right?”

“I’m fine.” Macro’s voice came out embarrassingly shaky. He cleared his throat and kicked his feet back up onto the dashboard. “Just keep flying.”

...​

Socket stood beside the sparksurfer raichu scientist, eyeing the green onion-like android curiously. It looked like it was merely sleeping, its large head lolling against its chest. A pair of bug-like wings that looked much too small to carry it sprouted from its back, almost matching the long antennae above a pair of large eyes. Was it a bug, plant or mammal? She couldn’t even begin to explain it. All she knew was it was a mere android that bore the same abilities as the extinct pokemon it was meant to represent.

“Are you sure this is what a celebi looked like?” she asked the raichu.

Yobi looked up from his personal computer long enough to give her a reassuring nod. “We scoured several text books and fossil records. I can tell you for certain we’re on point.”

“It just doesn’t look like the colourful character from my childhood picture books,” she said.

“Picture books tend to make caricatures of extinct specimens, Madam Mayor. I can assure you this is the closest you’re gonna get to an actual representation of a celebi without resurrecting one from a fossil.”

“Is that possible?”

“Maybe one day.”

He pushed a paw into the touch screen’s display of a green button and the small bug-like onion mammal lifted its large head. A pair of glassy black eyes flickered open and fixed emotionlessly on the two pokemon.

“Does it speak?” Socket asked.

“Nah. No vocal chords. It’s only way of communication is via code through the network.” Yobi brought up a detailed map of System Sky on his computer. “Unlike BackDoor, who has turned out to be rather chatty, this one will merely send co-ordinates to the time pockets it’s intended to seek out. Then BackDoor will join it and tear them open.”

“I thought celebi could travel through time themselves. Why does it need BackDoor to do its job?”

“Celebi could, allegedly. But we can’t emulate that.” The look on the raichu’s chubby face told her he wanted to add something else that may have resulted in him being tossed telekinetically across the room. “This should work. We’ll have a bigger chance of scouring deeper into time pockets with TimeSkip’s help.”

The gothitelle scratched her nose as she stared down at the odd little android. A time traveler that couldn’t time travel. It seemed a little pointless. She let out a sigh and moved her paw to her hip as she shifted her weight onto one foot.

“All right. Wire it up to the network and send it out there,” she said. “We’ll see exactly what this ‘TimeSkip’ can do.”

The warning note in her voice made the raichu’s spine stiffen and he instinctively hopped up onto his tail to hover above the ground. His yellow cheeks turned a deep crimson and he masked his embarrassment behind his computer as he punched in a complicated code Socket couldn’t even be bothered to try to understand.

“Give it a few minutes,” he said. “I’m just connecting it now.”

The blinking antennae behind the celebi’s right antennae flickered blue and orange and the android became even more still than it was previously. Socket watched boredly as its large pupils moved forward like a telescope. Then they snapped back and the celebi rose into the air on its tiny wings, buzzing with all the ferocity of a yanmega. It turned and zipped towards the window.

Yobi let out a yelp and beat the android to it, throwing it wide open. The celebi soared past him, making a sharp turn towards the sky. Yobi pressed his back against the wall and slid down it, his chest rising and falling like a pair of bellows.

“Quick thinking,” said Socket. “If that thing had smashed my window, I was going to dock your pay.”

The raichu met her eyes and a flash of panic lit up behind them. She tucked her paws behind her back and strolled from the room. It was about time for a cup of chesto coffee.
 

Ambyssin

Winter can't come soon enough
-Oog, okay that initial Skuntank’s description made me a bit queasy. In a good way, I guess? Actually, that whole opening scene was rather bleak. Although it was peppered in with some witty back-and-forths from Tracer’s (can’t say that w/o thinking of Overwatch, sorry) crew to prevent it from being nothing but doom-and-gloom. As far as the overall narrative, I’m not really sure what purpose this scene serves other than to remind us Surge is working for Socket now. Is Tracer’s team going to be a sort of secondary group that we focus on in on? I’d be down for that. Again, just curious if/how they’ll play into things with Macro’s crew.
-Bwa ha ha ha! Matrix just copied that data over because he’s lazy? That’s hilarious! Please do more stuff like this in the future, buddy.
-Actually, speaking of interesting, I didn’t realize a location was a red herring. That could definitely make for a tense time later on.
DL straightened and let her paw relax over the back of his chair. “Update complete. TimeSkip connection installed.”
Oh boy I can already feel the space-time continuum cracking like a bowl of rice krispies that just had milk added to it.
-A Celebi android. Socket made a Celebi android. What could possible go wrong? *in before everything goes belly-up*

I'm guessing judging by this part name that stuff's about to go down here. If my space-themed video games have taught me anything, tearing open the space-time continuum will just collapse the universe or something. So I'm interested if that's the direction things are going or if you'll be doing things slightly differently.
 
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