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System:Reboot (PMD)

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
tries not to imagine what a dead skuntank smells of

does so anyway

dies a little XD;

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?”
Lazy like a fox, that one.

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.”
It's certainly interesting, getting to explore all the little ethical quandaries that come along with the matter of uploaded consciousness along with these guys.


So. Now we've got a celebi-bot in the picture. A celebot, if you will. Meanwhile the description of BackDoor being relatively "chatty" just makes me all the more curious about what (who??) said thing actually is, apart from somethign that can apparently help aforementioned celebot through timespace anomalies.

[spoil]Hoopabot, maybe?[/spoil]
 

Cutlerine

Gone. Not coming back.
An intriguing little glimpse at Macro's past this time; I wonder if we'll learn more about this mysterious fire from that previous run-in with Socket. I'm sure we will, given time. Anyway, the point is that it's nice to let the pace slacken and show us a part of Macro other than snark and lasers for a while. It rounds him out very nicely.

I'm not sure I'm convinced by his worries that other pirates will hunt him down if he accidentally kills DL, though. Like, even if there's no distinction between accidental manslaughter and murder under System law, which seems dubious in and of itself, surely they just … wouldn't know? It's not like he needs to tell them or anything. And while I can see that you're trying to keep death out of it, it seems implausible that pirates wouldn't be understanding of how people can be killed by accident, given the extreme amount of violence that seems to characterise their lives, even if they did somehow find out.

On the same note – Socket went to such extremes to technically not kill DL that it seems odd that she'd give Surge licence to kill Macro, let alone admit to being ready to carry out an execution herself. A plot to trap and get rid of Surge after she's no longer useful? I can't put my finger on quite how that would work, but that seems the most likely option, I guess, given that all your previous characterisation of her makes it impossible to believe she'd be careless enough to have someone murdered and especially to admit to it.

Frustrating. He was beginning to run low on scarves.
Nice. It's hard to look cool when people keep beating you up, huh. :p

The pidgeot frowned, but it wasn’t aimed at her. He stood aside and pushed the door open with his large wing.
I don't know how far you intend to anthropomorphise your pokémon – I know you have Surge up on her hind legs – but just in case you did want to let their shapes dictate their movements, I have to point out that usually birds use their feet and beaks to manipulate objects, rather than their wings. In a PMD fic these things are kinda flexible, because you sort of map a lot of human behaviour onto these very inhuman creatures, but I thought I'd mention it to give you the option.

“I am not old! I’m forty two!”
Missing a hyphen in 'forty-two'.

“The government facility will be teaming with pokemon!”
That should be 'teeming' rather than 'teaming'.

And an interesting cyber celebi (cylerbi?)! It looks like the whole breaking spacetime thing is finally getting properly underway; that's got to be the kind of thing that has consequences. I look forward to seeing what those turn out to be!
 
Last edited:

DeliriousAbsol

Call me Del
Thanks for all the feedback guys!! =D

On the same note – Socket went to such extremes to technically not kill DL that it seems odd that she'd give Surge licence to kill Macro, let alone admit to being ready to carry out an execution herself.
I might have to double check, but I think I did mention earlier on that there is a death sentence, and to deter pirates being killed by outside parties the bounty is docked, leaving execution only to government officials. Another loophole for Socket to get rid of pirates, I guess, without having streets and skies filled with mindless slaughter.

Thanks to all who pointed out typos etc. I'll get around to fixing them at some point!

Chapter Thirteen​


Macro couldn’t even think in straight lines. His mind kept drifting to the updates DL had received. It wasn’t simply the eeriness that surrounded Socket’s probing into time and space that bothered him, but his mind had leapt to the assumption they could send something to her to remove her memories again. Of course, without something to store them on then it would be classified as murder. They had no idea Matrix was merely copying the files to her brain, which Macro felt was basically cloning her but that was a matter to worry over for a different day.

What bothered him the most was things no longer felt secure. He felt even less secure about the flickering dot that kept appearing just outside their radar, and his mind was reeling. Socket clearly must want the pachirisu back? She wouldn’t happily leave her ‘living computer’ in the paws of a pirate?

He gnawed on a claw as he glanced over to Matrix’s navigation screen. The ribombee was sat with his head resting on his arms, sprawled out before the screen and watching the red dot as it drifted off their radar yet again.

“Are we any closer to Binary City?” Macro asked.

“We’re close,” said Matrix. “But I’m apprehensive to let you leave with that other ship tailing us.”

“Fire at it?”

“I’m not happy with that either, especially since the last time a ship followed us, it saved our hides.”

DL made a thoughtful noise. “I do not recall that event.”

“You were in your box,” said Anchor.

“I see.” She nodded slowly. “Then it would be unwise of me to offer advise on this situation.”

“You have advice?” Macro asked, rather more surprised than he’d have liked to have sounded.

DL turned her head to look at him. “Oh yes. I’m equipped to plan out tactics to deal with complex situations.”

“Oh really?” He narrowed his eyes slightly and let his paw drop to his lap. “Then go ahead. What’s your advice?”

“Well… when you leave the ship, you always leave Matrix and Cookie on board. So if you were to disembark, then you’d be spread out. The ship would be able to be defended, and you two would be smaller targets. If someone were to plan an attack, they wouldn’t be able to target all of you.”

“Huh. I’d never thought of it like that.”

“That surprises me, to be honest.”

Macro flashed his canines in a scowl. “Is that a jab at my intelligence?”

He chose to ignore the snort that came from Anchor, instead keeping the pachirisu’s oddly honest eyes locked on his.

“I am not equipped to calculate your intelligence,” she said. “But it does seem like common sense to me.”

“Well, maybe you’ve not noticed but Matrix isn’t exactly the best at ship combat,” said Macro. “He’s my navigator. Anchor is the one who deals with combat.”

He gestured a paw towards the granbull who merely shrugged.

“I do my best,” he said.

“Then my next assessment,” said DL, “is that you take Matrix or myself and leave Anchor to deal with the ship.”

“No way!” Macro raised his paws and shook his head. “I know Matrix can kick tail if he wanted to, but like I said. He’s my navigator. As for you, since Socket clearly wants to retrieve you, you stay on board.”

“That isn’t a bad thing,” said DL. “I was made for Socket after all.”

Macro let out a derisive snort. “You have so much to learn, DL.”

“I am equipped with encyclopedias that cover ninety eight percent of System’s history and biology,” she said. “What makes you say I have a lot to learn?”

He raised an eyebrow and his jaw fell open slightly. Even Anchor’s expression reflected his own. With a sigh, he ran a paw over his scar.

“If you’re designed to be connected to BackDoor,” he said, “then why did she feel the need to fill your head with encyclopedias?!”

“Convenience, I assume.”

“This just solidifies my theory that you’re a glorified toy.” He let out a small growl. “Someone needs to kick that gothitelle from one end of System to the next.”

“That is a rather violent solution,” said DL.

“It was a metaphor.”

“Then may I suggest a less violent one for you?”

Matrix chuckled and Macro shot him a glare. The ribombee diverted his attention back to the navigation screen and pushed himself back into his seat.

“I agree with DL,” he said. “You two should just disembark and go looking for the next disk. If she’s equipped to deal with complex situations, then maybe she can work out your weapons system?”

The pachirisu nodded. “That sounds like a sound solution to this dilemma.”

Macro grit his teeth together and swiveled in his seat to face the windscreen. “Fine! Anchor, show her the ropes. Then we’ll drop down into Binary. Matrix.” He pointed a claw at the navigator. “Get us as close to the government facility as possible.”

Matrix nodded and turned back to his screen, bringing up a smaller window to key in the co-ordinates. He let out a small ‘huh’ and gave the mawile a sideways glance.

“I believe,” he began, “that this facility is actually a huge entertainment centre. Cinema screens, gaming arcades, clubs.”

“So it’s not offices?” Macro asked.

“It’s not clear if they even exist, but if they do they’re upstairs. I’ll send the map to you and you’ll see what I mean.” His tiny paws flew across the holoscreen and Macro’s computer beeped. “I used to go to Binary City a lot as a hatchling, and if I’m right then this is one of the places I used to frequent.”

Macro brought the map up on his optical display and groaned. Matrix wasn’t wrong. The facility was huge and contained a multiplex, gaming arcade and even a club or two. Even if he’d wanted to avoid guards at night, there were still going to be obstacles as soon as they stepped paw into the facility.

Anchor nudged him with an elbow. “Hey. Look on the bright side. At least you don’t have to pick any locks.”

...​

Binary City was lit up with bright lights from street lamps to flashing neon signs over casinos and arcades. Music blared from doorways and hidden speakers, each one advertising each individual entertainment centre. Electric pokemon swarmed in the streets, moving from one attraction to the next, oblivious to the two space pirates. Macro nimbly dodged a flaafy clutching a large plush chinchou under one arm as he tried to keep up with his larger ampharos brother. The mawile felt static spread through his horn as it briefly brushed the flaafy’s wool and he reached around to beat it away to no avail. It had already caused his thick, yellow fur to stand on end, making him look like a jolteon hybrid.

“Don’t draw attention to yourself, Cap’n.” The granbull’s voice drew Macro’s eye to him.

Anchor looked over the various signs and animated billboards and his muzzle crinkled slightly at the animation loop of a lopunny swinging a pair of nunchaku above the door to a combat centre. Seeing pokemon using weapons wasn’t unusual given the current state of society, but seeing it shown so boldly, animated or not, was a blatant smack in the face to the government authorities who wanted to ban such things. Considering Binary City held a massive government facility made it unclear whether or not it was a rebellious attitude or mere pokemon type favoritism. After his experience with the electric army at the unnamed building they’d found DL, he was leaning towards the latter.

Yelps and flashes of electricity filled the combat centre and Macro thought he heard the tell-tale whoosh of a water laser firing.

The busy road ended at the entranceway to a huge towering building that spread out on either side to merge with the buildings around it. The top half was filled with small windows that suggested they were either office blocks or apartments. The bottom half’s windows were filled with posters or replaced with animated billboards - the kind that let light in but didn’t let light out and thus destroy the display. Either way, each poster made it clear what the stores contained. Games arcades, trading card arenas, casinos, combat tournament rooms, clubs, karaoke bars… the list went on.

But right beside the door stood a poster with red text contrasting over a yellow back ground. ‘Binary City is a peaceful district. Leave all conflicts to the police force. Breaking this rule will result in a ten thousand credit fine.’

Anchor snorted. “Maybe this won’t be as tough a job as I was fearing.”

Despite the sign’s ‘reassurance’, Macro still felt somewhat uneasy.

They slipped through the door past an overweight electivire enjoying a triple scoop ice cream cone and entered what could only be described as utter chaos. If they’d had any fear pokemon might target them and turn them in, it was swiftly washed away. Electric and normal type pokemon bustled in all directions, many unable to make up their minds where to visit first. Much to his surprise, a few other pokemon types flowed around the building, their large eyes taking in everything it had to offer, paying no heed to any other passers by. Stores displaying panels of the latest collectible cards were surrounded by hatchlings and adults alike. The shrill voice of a tiny eevee begging his jolteon father for the priciest promo card could be heard over the rumble of voices and Macro grit his teeth together. Those games had always gone over his head. Each new set was just another con to draw money out of the most adoring of fans. The fact they could be played on VR machines was an immense feat, and he caught the glimpse of one over the shoulders of a pack of elekid and pikachu watching their sentret friend while a pair of pom-pom oricorio cheered them on.

Macro found the nearest escalator and stood on the moving stairs, watching the crowd shrink below him. Modern electro-pop music boomed from a casino on his right and he let out an involuntary squeak. A holographic chansey waved at him from the doorway, waving a sign that said ‘boost your chance with happy hour’. The music fizzled out and the egg-shaped pokemon closed her eyes and hopped from foot to foot before vanishing into thin air. He turned his back on the door and wound towards the next escalator. The obnoxious music started up again, this time with a different tune, and he caught sight of a holographic meowth tossing coins into the air. Once again, the same sign for ‘happy hour’ flashed above its head showering the pokemon with golden credits.

“This life doesn’t appeal to me at all,” Macro muttered to Anchor.

The pink bulldog pokemon nodded and folded his arms, watching the stores drift by. Neon lights flashed across his purple mohawk, tinting it with all the colours of the rainbow.

Macro distracted himself by bringing up the map, subtly so as not to draw attention to himself (although that wasn’t exactly difficult since everyone else’s attention was on the various amusements). The next disk was held in one of the smaller rooms, but it was difficult to work out what exactly they were. Once again, it was locked away. That was all it said. Locked away. No indication whether it was a safe or merely locked behind a door. The room it was located in was on the third floor. That meant they needed to ride up another escalator.

The second floor was filled with clubs which Macro felt was a bit unfair to those that didn’t have the privilege of living in one of the upstairs luxury apartments and would likely be dragging themselves home after a night out.

The two space pirates faltered slightly before the next escalator. Very few pokemon were using it, and most of the ones that were came down from the one that ran parallel to it. Macro stepped aside as a furret shot past him to head up the stairs, laughing as she threw an apology at an electabuzz over her shoulder. The yellow and black mammal shook his head and leant against the wall of the glass elevator. He fixed the two space pirates with an amused smile and shrugged.

“Women, eh?” he said.

Anchor grunted with agreement and looked after the furret. “Aye.”

“She’d forget her tail if it weren’t attached.” The large electric type frowned slightly and his eye drifted to Macro. “Do I know you?”

“Nope.” Macro tugged at Anchor’s paw and steered him towards the escalator. “We’re new to this establishment.”

“Huh.” The electabuzz folded his arms and smirked. “Well, you should join us for a drink at Chatty Chatot’s later. You seem like just her type.”

Macro hid a grimace behind a smirk of his own and tugged Anchor after him with a mutter of ‘maybe later’. Once they were out of the electabuzz’s view, he let out a sigh of relief. Thankfully that stripy beast hadn’t recognised him from a wanted poster.

He threw open the door at the top of the stairs and strolled out into open air. He blinked his violet eyes in amazement and stared aghast at a stretch of false grass dotted with round plastic tables each one sporting a vibrant sun umbrella. A pair of meowth and a skitty eyed them curiously then returned to their conversation as they enjoyed their tall, pink drinks. Macro stood aside once more as the furret rushed passed him again to return to her friend.

From the outside, he hadn’t seen this balcony. That meant it must have been at the back of the building, hidden from view of the shopping and entertainment streets. His eye wandered to the buildings around them, all of which looked like apartment and office blocks. Although a few of them sported their own posters and bright, animated billboards. Shrill screams reached his ears, almost drowned out by the city noise, and he trotted over to the balcony edge and looked down into the streets. This area of the city was much more suburban and he spotted a group of electric type pokemon standing around a wide river that fed a lake perched in the entertainment centre’s vibrant yet fake garden. A galvantula tugged on an electric web, dragging it out of the water with the help of his bipedal allies. The water dwellers held inside the net flailed and splashed as electricity coursed through their bodies, their vibrant, colourful fins waving in protest. Macro flinched and turned away, clearing his throat as he tried to dispel the wretched image.

Anchor’s paw fell heavily on his shoulder and he briefly looked up at his large friend.

“Let’s see where we’re meant to be going then, hey?” he said.

He checked his map again and let out a small groan. The room was on this floor… that meant the disk was held in someone’s apartment.

That meant this building didn’t hold a single office room. Whoever was in charge of the disk both worked for Socket and lived in Binary City. He frowned slightly as he took in the various apartments and their communal garden. He could only have dreamt of being able to afford a place like this.

He strolled across the balcony, the fake grass soft on his paws like a carpet. Once they were out of ear shot of the three cat pokemon, he looked up at Anchor and shook his head.

“We need to get into one of these rooms,” he said quietly.

Anchor’s ears pricked up with surprise and he looked over at each of the clean, white, numbered doors. Some of them even had hanging baskets filled with silk or painted metal flowers. Real flowers hadn’t grown in System for such a long time that owning real ones was a luxury even for the most wealthy of pokemon.

His map told him the disk was held in the sixth room along. He counted them as he passed and hesitated outside room number twenty six. So much for not needing to pick locks.

“Oi!”

Macro froze and glanced to the side. The voice had sounded oddly robotic. A deep hum of electricity rose to a crescendo and he spotted the metal squat sphere of a magnezone floating towards him with all the speed of a jet. A pack of magnemite and magneton bobbed along beside him and he drifted to a halt behind Macro and Anchor.

Living metal. One of few pokemon that looked like they’d been crafted by pokemon, but they weren’t remotely androids. Like every other pokemon they had internal organs, although these consumed electricity rather than fruit or meat. They had no mouths to speak of, so all their vocalisations came from a hidden speaker on their bodies.

The magnezone narrowed his eyes and aimed his magnets forwards. They were much too big for an ordinary magnezone. Some enhancement he’d had… Macro felt a tug on the steel in his horn. He locked his legs and frowned back at the magnezone.

“What’s your problem?” he growled.

“We’ve been alerted to two space pirates roaming the premises,” the magnezone explained. “My records tell me it is you two. Hunter and one of his crew from Wildcard Gamma. We’re to take you into custody.”

Macro stifled a chuckle but a small smirk tugged at his lips. “So you’re the fuzz? Except… not very fuzzy?”

The magnezone’s eyes narrowed into slits and he increased the pull on his magnets. Macro felt his feet leave the floor and Anchor grabbed him around his waist before he flew into the floating police ‘mon’s grasp.

“There’s no sense in resisting,” the magnezone droned. “You’re wanted dead or alive. Even if we just have to take your head, we will.”

The surrounding magnemite and magneton span in the air, generating an electromagnetic field that almost pulled Anchor off his feet. Macro let out a shrill scream as it tugged on his horn, dragging him closer and closer to the magnezone.

These wretched electric types. His ground laser was useless against magnezone and its family. Their ability to levitate completely countered their weakness to it. He grit his teeth together and tried to catch Anchor with a glare.

“Do something!” he roared.

“If I let go of you, you’ll be whisked away!” The granbull tightened his grip on the mawile’s waist. “Although I’m a bit worried you’re gonna get torn in two at this rate…”

The magnezone muttered something that to Macro was incoherent electronic babble and edged closer to him, grabbing his horn in his magnets. The mawile found himself tugged into the air, wrenching him clean from Anchor’s grip. The pink bulldog cursed loudly and looked around for something to strike the hovering hunk of metal with. But there was nothing. At this height, Anchor couldn’t even strike the magnezone with a fire fang. All he could do was watch helplessly as Macro was lifted away and the other magnet pokemon moved in to surround him, their bodies sparking maliciously.

...​

Surge ducked behind the edge of the apartment housing, her laser clasped in one paw. The magnezone officer had lifted Macro off the ground, holding the flailing mawile two feet over Anchor’s head. The poor granbull’s body jerked as electricity coursed through him.

If the magnezone apprehended the space pirates then she wouldn’t see a single credit. She pulled the laser towards her chest and watched the officers as they did her job for her. The police force, even though linked to Socket, were a separate entity from the Mayor’s officials. She controlled soldiers, not the police. If Surge interfered, then it wouldn’t go too heavily against her.

After all, she had been asked.

All she had to do was catch every single one of them in a blast. If she hit Macro, she hit the magnezone, and took out a chunk of the smaller magnets in the process.

She aimed her laser, keeping both eyes open and locking them on the frantic mawile. She’d heard every word the giant magnet pokemon had said. Dead or alive. They’d have pulled him apart to get the bounty if they had to, but fortunately it hadn’t come to that. His long, yellow fur billowed around him, revealing his slim black legs as he frantically kicked at the magnezone. The sight made her feel sick to the stomach. She pressed a claw to the trigger and the trim of her laser lit up red. Dead or alive…

Her heat lurched into her throat and she shifted her aim, pushing hard on the trigger. A flash of red shot from it, lighting the white walls up with an orange glow. The laser seared through the magnemite and magneton before it engulfed the magnezone, melting his hull away. A deep, electronic screech filled the air and she pressed her paws over her ears, ducking back behind the wall. The magnezone crashed to the ground along with several of his crew, and the remaining smaller magnets buzzed as they shot blindly back through the door to the escalator or flocked over the balcony to the streets below.

Her mouth was dry as she looked back over her shoulder at the massacre. Macro stood beside the fallen magnezone, his violet eyes wide as he looked from the molten pokemon to the direction the attack had come from. She could even see his shoulders rising and falling as he tried to catch his breath. She flinched away from the sight and stuffed her laser back into her belt. Her heart was racing and she placed a paw to her chest, taking steady breaths to try and calm it.

She couldn’t do it… she couldn’t shoot him. Yet she’d so easily taken down the police officer. She let her head fall into her paws and screamed silently into her lap. Shoot the criminal, claim the bounty. It was a simple job. What had got into her?
 

Ambyssin

Winter can't come soon enough
DL turned her head to look at him. “Oh yes. I’m equipped to plan out tactics to deal with complex situations.”

“Oh really?” He narrowed his eyes slightly and let his paw drop to his lap. “Then go ahead. What’s your advice?”
Well, that’s oddly convenient. Actually, that’s probably in line with DL fulfilling her “primary function,” if we’re going with the computer metaphors here.

Macro let out a derisive snort. “You have so much to learn, DL.”

“I am equipped with encyclopedias that cover ninety eight percent of System’s history and biology,” she said. “What makes you say I have a lot to learn?”

He raised an eyebrow and his jaw fell open slightly. Even Anchor’s expression reflected his own. With a sigh, he ran a paw over his scar.
I just have to say your dialogue for DL is so on-point. It’s beautifully robotic, and that makes her literal interpretations of everything the pirates say hilarious. Great integration of the whole “robots don’t get sarcasm,” stuff.

And I like the idea of a massive Vegas-esque entertainment city sitting out in the solar system.

Anchor snorted. “Maybe this won’t be as tough a job as I was fearing.”
And now everything’s going to go terribly. Way to go Anchor. Sure enough, a Magnezone and Magnemite security force are on the scene (appropriate for PMD, I suppose). I was enjoying seeing Anchor and Macro awkwardly mingle about in a shopping mall/apartment complex. But I guess it would have been boring to drag that out for too long. Still, it was good for a few laughs.

These wretched electric types. His ground laser was useless against magnezone and its family. Their ability to levitate completely countered their weakness to it. He grit his teeth together and tried to catch Anchor with a glare.
I’m assuming either they’re using Magnet Rise or you’re just disregarding abilities and the basis of, well, the Magnezone family actually floating. I’d appreciate knowing which one it was. :p

And oooh, Surge is having a bit of trouble here. Wonder if she’ll be running into Macro next chapter or not? Guess I’ll just have to wait and find out. Great job!
 

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
A deep hum of electricity rose to a crescendo and he spotted the metal squat sphere of a magnezone floating towards him with all the speed of a jet. A pack of magnemite and magneton bobbed along beside him and he drifted to a halt behind Macro and Anchor.

Living metal. One of few pokemon that looked like they’d been crafted by pokemon, but they weren’t remotely androids. Like every other pokemon they had internal organs, although these consumed electricity rather than fruit or meat. They had no mouths to speak of, so all their vocalisations came from a hidden speaker on their bodies.
Pokémon biology is fascinating. Doubly so when it pertains to pokémon that, well. Seem distinctly non-biological. Neat stuff.

Wow, that sure was a close one for Macro, huh? And that had to suck, too, being yanked around by the horn. I imagine it's a lot like getting your hair pulled, only worse. Much worse.

Though maybe not as bad as what happened to the magnezone. :p That's GOTTA hurt. Wonder how many of those electric organs were on display after that...
 

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Four chapters to review, let’s do this!

First of all, some badass action from Macro and Anchor in Scanner City. I do gotta echo the sentiment that the brawl with the fighting-types was a lot more intense than dealing with the security in the building. But at the same time, I can see how spending a ton of money to keep a full staff 24/7 would be a right pain. Also, I don’t believe Socket knew that he was going after the disk yet. I’m betting that the other four won’t be near as easy to recover. Especially now that Socket definitely knows what he’s angling for. And the revelation that one of the disc locations is a decoy is another complicating factor.

I’m quite fond of the subtle ways that you’ve modified DL’s behavior after the first disk was installed. It’s not complete night and day, but there are lots of little differences, even though she doesn’t view herself as having changed.

Ok, I would not call it laziness at all that Matrix copied the data rather than transferred it. xD That’s just being practical! Always keep backups! Although I supposes it’s a bit different when we’re talking shards of a person’s mind. And they do bring up a good point later of what that means for disposing of the disks later, since that means they’ve basically made a copy of her. But so long as her consciousness is restored and the copy data is just sitting on a disk, not being conscious, I don’t think anyone could object.

I can’t decide whether Socket is in the dark on Surge’s betrayal, or if she knows, and that’s the reason she’s insisting on having Surge do this job. Either way… man, Surge didn’t exactly do the greatest job selling herself. Maybe it’s just that the scene was from her POV, so we saw all her nervous tics, but it sure seemed to me that she’s a much better hacker than actor. Really hoping Socket doesn’t suspect her now because she’d be screwed

And now DL has access to the TimeSkip program? Craaaap, that can’t be good. Or rather, I guess it would be nice if Matrix actually does get to snoop. But not so great if it gives anyone in Socket’s command the ability to remote into DL herself! Here’s hoping not…

Loved the description of Binary City by the way. So much flavor! It really felt like a living, breathing city with all the depth of culture you’d expect from an entertainment mecca. Plus all the random details of the miscellaneous passers by.

And man, oh man, Surge… xD What are you doing? Letting yourself get charmed by a pirate? I thought you were a professional! Still, it’ll be interesting to see where this leads as she gets even further too deep. Especially since she already knows via hacking that her current client is, uh… not exactly the most well-intentioned.

~Chibi~;249;;448;
 

DeliriousAbsol

Call me Del
Thanks for all the awesome feedback, guys!! =D You rock!!

I’m assuming either they’re using Magnet Rise or you’re just disregarding abilities and the basis of, well, the Magnezone family actually floating. I’d appreciate knowing which one it was. :p
That's me being a derp. Magnezone and its family float. They SHOULD have levitate! So... let's just pretend they do... for the sake of this plot XD

I've read over this chapter like I do with all the others, but I'm a bit spaced out with a head cold. So... if there are any embarrassing typos or errors, please let me know and I'll fix them asap.

Chapter Fourteen​


The magneton police officer had been reduced to a molten mass. One of his magnets still rotated, although Macro wasn’t sure if that was more to do with his inner mechanisms still ticking away or if he was somehow still alive. One thing was for certain. Whatever had hit him wasn’t an attack from a fire pokemon. There had been no flames in that beam. It was definitely from a laser. But who would have rescued him?

The mawile grit his teeth together and clenches his fists so tightly his claws dug into his paw pads. Whoever had shot the magnet pokemon had likely killed him. That was murder and it would likely fall on his head since he was stood right next to him, completely unscathed (save for a little electrocution.)

“Did you see who did it?” he asked Anchor.

The granbull shook his head. “No. But we need to get rid of the bodies otherwise this place is gonna panic. It only takes one pokemon to send the entire building into an uproar.”

“Good plan.” Macro moved over to the door and pulled out his lock pick. “Just keep an eye open in case someone’s competing over us.”

Anchor grunted a noncommittal reply, but Macro didn’t see his reaction. He shuffled away under the weight of one of the metal bodies and soon a huge splash emanated from the lake below. Macro eyed his lock pick and turned to where he expected to see a lock, but instead was greeted with a key card panel.

“Darn rich pokemon.” He reached into his pouch and pulled out his pocket computer. “Not had to use this method in a while.”

The application was simple enough to launch, but holding the computer steady while it streamed incoherent code over the screen was another thing entirely. He kept his back to Anchor and one eye on the doors next to him. Cheerful feminine voices rose over the silence and Macro’s heart lurched into his throat. He looked back at Anchor to see him tossing the last of the magnemite over the edge of the balcony to plummet into the lake. He hoped desperately its falling steel carcass hadn’t hit any of the water dwellers. The grass where they’d been lying had been burnt completely away, revealing concrete slabs beneath it.

Three dainty pokemon turned the corner - a flaafy, buneary and dedenne - and they eyed the granbull curiously as he stood with his back to Macro, obscuring the mawile from view. The dedenne eyed the grass and whispered something that went unheard to her two friends.

Anchor craned his head back slightly to shout at the door, “Come on, man! They’ll be out of watmel cider at this rate!”

The three pokemon raised their eyebrows at him and the flaafy covered her mouth and snickered as they strolled past towards the escalator.

Macro tutted and shook his head. “You think they serve watmel cider in a place like this?”

“It was the fanciest drink I could think of,” Anchor grumbled.

The door jerked open and a stocky pikachu stared back at them then looked from Macro to the small computer tablet hovering over his card key panel. His face melted from confusion to fear then anger in an instant. Macro grinned and let out a nervous laugh.

“What’s goin’ on here?!” the electric mouse shouted in a voice oddly deep for his size.

“Routine room check,” said Anchor.

Before the pikachu could reach for a small laser perched on a shelf beside the door, Anchor’s large paw swung down past Macro’s face to strike the pikachu between the ears. The rodent’s tongue poked out from between his lips and he crumpled to the ground. The laser skittered across the laminated floor to vanish beneath a squat sofa. Anchor rubbed his fist with his other paw.

“You really can’t touch these pokemon without getting a static shock, can you?” he grumbled.

Macro stepped carefully over the fallen pikachu and scanned the room. It was immaculately tidy down to the coffee table that sported an open can of soda perched on a rubber coaster. The wall mounted television was still on, playing a teenage soap drama and the music coming from it was enough to depress Macro there and then. He reached for the remote, perched neatly on the arm of a leather arm chair, and switched it off before setting the remote back in place.

“Now…” He turned and looked around the room. “If I were an important, confidential disk hiding in someone’s apartment… where would I be?”

“Not in a safe,” said Anchor. “’Cos it doesn’t look like this guy has one.”

Macro peered under the arm chair cushion, revealing nothing more than a few crumbs. He dropped onto all-fours and checked beneath the chair. Nothing.

“I’ll check the bedroom,” said Anchor. “Might be in his drawer of ties and scarves or something.”

Macro muttered his acknowledgment and rose to his feet to look around the room again. The glass topped coffee table was very inconspicuous and sported no hiding places. He scurried across the room, checking over the movie shelves that adorned the wall beside the television. It would take a long time to go through every single case and he decided to leave that as a last resort and continue his search for a secure place the pikachu might have hidden the disk.

He paused to remove two photos from the wall one by one, half expecting to find a hidden safe but he ended up being bitterly disappointed. It never was that simple in real life.

“Nothin’ in there.” Anchor strolled from the bedroom and held out his paw. “Found this tiny key in his drawers though. Thought whatever it was for might have been stored under the bed, but all he had under there was folded up gym equipment.”

Macro took the key and eyed it curiously. It was ridiculously small. Much too small for Anchor to have used with his massive paws.

“It must be for something,” said Macro. “I’ll keep having a look around. You go through all his movie boxes perchance he’s hidden it in there.”

Anchor looked over at the spread of shelves and let out a long whistle. “Quite the movie buff, eh?”

The granbull strolled over to it and plucked the first one from the shelf while Macro continued his hunt around the apartment. It wasn’t unreasonable to suspect the pikachu might have hidden the disk inside one of those cases. Movies were all on small disks these days, far out-dating the use of USBs, and they looked very similar to the ones DL’s memories were stored on. However, Macro didn’t want to sit and go through every single box without first exhausting every other possible hideyhole.

The mawile opened and closed cupboards and drawers in the kitchen, revealing nothing more than crockery, silver utensils and cleaning equipment. Despite the amount of plates, cups and glasses, the refrigerator was oddly bare. Just a bottle of oran juice and a block of moomoo cheese. He let it close of its own accord and turned back to the living room. Surely he’d missed something…

He gave a glance to Anchor who was sat cross-legged on the floor opening one case after the next and decided to re-check the bedroom. There had to be something they’d overlooked.

The bedroom was just as tidy as the rest of the apartment and one wouldn’t even have noticed Anchor had gone through it. Macro checked through the drawers again, finding nothing more than ties, scarves and a pair of virtual reality goggles. His eye drifted over to the bedside table which contained only a pocket computer and a coaster. The computer was kept safely inside a leather sleeve. He scooped it up and tried to open it, failing as it latched on a hidden lock.

“Aha!” A grin split across his face.

He brushed over the front of the case, removing the near invisible circle leather flap from the tiny keyhole. The little key fit inside perfectly and with one turn, the lock snapped open. The LCD screen lit up as soon as the cover left it, showing a female pikachu standing amid a cherry blossom rain. There was nothing suspicious at first glance. The inside cover contained pockets that little sheets of paper poked from. Macro pulled them out carefully one by one, but they were nothing more than notes and website passwords. As he pulled out the final one, something fell from it and landed on the bed. A small, square disk that once again had nothing written on it. His heart leapt into his throat and he scooped it up with a cheer.

“I’ve got it!” he said as he bolted back into the living room.

Anchor looked up from his nest of movie cases and raised his eyebrows.

“Oh good,” he said. “I’ll just put all these back then message Matrix.”

Macro joined him, stuffing the movies back onto the shelf as neatly as he could. The pikachu was already beginning to stir and he rubbed a yellow paw across his head.

“Don’t worry about being immaculate,” said Anchor. “He had them in alphabetical order and I ain’t messing with that. He knows we were here, and he’ll have the headache to prove it.”

The granbull grabbed Macro in one paw and he yelled in protest as he was clutched to the large pokemon’s chest. Anchor leapt over the pikachu and made for the little outdoor dining area. It was completely empty now. The meowth and skitty that had occupied it previously had long since left. Even their glasses had been cleared away.

The two space pirates looked up at the sky, searching for the hull of Wildcard Gamma amongst the spread of white, fluffy clouds. Some of them showed a tint of grey, threatening to pelt System Ground with rain.

“Oi!” The pikachu staggered over to them, his red cheeks sparking fiercely.

A chill ran down Macro’s spine and he stiffened, looking from the yellow rodent to the sky and back. “Hurry up, Matrix!”

He heard the flash of the beam ladder before the blue schooling wishiwashi came into view through the heavy clouds. His eyes remained fixed on the sparking pikachu rushing at them with his paws balled into fists. The electric rodent’s feet hammered the floor as he launched himself towards them, electricity spreading all along his fur as he readied a volt tackle.

Anchor grabbed Macro by the horn and yanked him upwards as he kicked off the balcony towards the beam ladder. His large paw grabbed the bottom rung and he threw Macro up towards the next one. The pikachu roared and sent out a stream of electricity towards the two pokemon. It caught Macro just as his claws fastened over the rung and every muscle in his body locked as it coursed through him. It didn’t last long but it was enough to make him realise he never wanted to be hit by a thunderbolt on the ground. He spotted the pikachu seething and waving his fists but he vanished from view as Wildcard Gamma rose back into the clouds.

...​

Matrix looked up at the two pirates and a smirk spread over his lips. “Nice hair do.”

Macro absently smoothed down his prickly fur to no avail and scowled. “Shut up, Matrix.”

“I take it that pikachu zapped you?” The ribombee turned back to his navigation screen and tapped in co-ordinates that meant nothing to Macro.

“What makes you ask that?” he scoffed.

Despite the pikachu’s attack, the only effect it had left behind was an uncontrollable static that made his fur stick out like a frightened jolteon’s. No amount of smoothing was going to sort it out any time soon. DL eyed him curiously and he could almost see her looking over different solutions to his staticky problem.

He turned back to Matrix and frowned at the radar screen. “Did you have any problems with our stalker? Any surprise attacks?”

“Nope, none,” said Matrix. “They vanished, actually. We’ve not seen them since.”

“I never had to use the ship’s weapons,” said DL. “But at least I now know how to use them should we face any problems in the future.”

“Fantastic,” said Macro.

“Did you manage to get the disk?” Matrix asked.

“Of course we got the disk.”

“Good.” Matrix fixed him out of the corner of his eye and smirked. “Otherwise your new plush toy hairdo would be in vain, right?”

Macro slammed the disk down beside him and fixed his violet eyes on the smaller pokemon’s black ones. The ribombee didn’t so much as flinch. He took the disk and reached for his computer.

“Okay, DL.” Macro turned to the pachirisu. “Matrix is going to install more data into you. You’re gonna let him do it.”

She blinked a couple of times then nodded. “Okay. If that is what you wish.”

She took the cable and plugged it in herself, then sat down at Matrix’s feet. The little bug pokemon fired up the disk and once again her pupils expanded until they took over most of her large, chocolate eyes. It wasn’t as alarming as the first time, but it still made Macro feel anxious. If something went wrong, she would probably be irreparable. He leant against the back of his seat on one elbow, keeping his full attention on DL. Seeing her sat there like that, she really did seem artificial. If he hadn’t had confirmation she actually was a living, breathing pokemon he’d have wondered if he’d been mistaken.

Finally, her eyes returned to normal and she blinked once. Twice. Then stood up, the cable still fastened into the back of her skull. She turned her head left and right, looking around the cockpit as though she’d never seen it before in her life. A look of confusion spread across her face and her chocolate eyes widened slightly.

“Where am I?” she asked.

Macro raised an eyebrow and pushed himself away from his seat. “Wildcard Gamma. The same place you’ve been for several nights now.”

“Wildcard Gamma…”

She spoke the word as though she was tasting it, staring blankly at the floor. Then she looked up at him and he took a step back. It wasn’t a blank, unreadable stare, or the curious look of a lifeless android. It was one of worry. Someone who wanted answers. Someone who truly had no idea where she was or who she was with.

“I’m sorry,” she said as she took a step towards him. “I don’t-”

The cable went taught and she reached a paw around to the back of her head, feeling over the jack lead. Her eyes became impossibly wide and the skin beneath her white fur lost every trace of colour. She let out a scream and crumpled to the floor, where she was promptly sick. Her eyes rolled back into her head and she lay sprawled on cockpit floor.

Macro took another step back, more so to avoid getting any vomit on his fur. But he couldn’t take his eyes off her. Yes, the disk had worked, but he couldn’t help feeling responsible that he was the one who’d done this to her. This terrified pachirisu was partly his fault…

Anchor leapt to his feet. “I’ll go and get the mop bucket.”

The granbull raced from the cockpit towards the wash room, narrowly avoiding Matrix as he maneuvered around DL’s unconscious body. Macro caught the ribombee’s eye and he glanced from DL and back while winding his antennae around one paw.

“I think we need to get her to her room,” Matrix said.

Macro nodded stiffly and stooped to remove the cable from her skull. With Matrix’s help, they both managed to lift her and carry her down the corridor.

“I think we can safely say the disks work,” said Matrix.

“Yeh.” Macro tried to avoid looking at DL, instead intently focusing on moving backwards towards her room. “But I’m starting to wonder if that’s really a good thing.”

...​

It was already dark by the time Tracer and Widget reached Binary City. The entire rear of the prestigious entertainment centre had been cordoned off, and the delphox leant against one of the bollards as he puffed on his cigar.

Paramedics were still busting around as they lifted the metal bodies into the ambulance, but Tracer was convinced they’d be well and truly dead by now.

Melted.

The magnezone officer and his small fleet of magneton and magnemite had been melted. A sudden blast of heat that he assumed would have come from a laser. Even a flareon’s flamethrower didn’t get hot enough to melt a pokemon in one flash like that. But from what he’d been told, there’d been no damage to the surrounding structures to suggest it had been a prolonged attack, so the officials had written it off as a sudden blast of heat. Tracer completely agreed with them.

He removed his cigar to flick ash onto the cobbled floor, watching as the last of the melted steel types were tossed unceremoniously into the back of the ambulance.

“Grim, eh?” said Widget.

“That’s an understatement if ever I’ve heard one,” said Tracer.

“And they’ve no idea who did it?”

“Oh, they have an idea.” Tracer took another drag on his cigar. “A pikachu said his apartment got raided by Hunter and one of his goons. They swatted him before he could even act.”

“So they think it’s him?” Widget’s tattoo crinkled as he frowned. “I didn’t think he had a fire laser.”

“That’s not to say he hasn’t acquired one.”

“But he doesn’t need one, does he?”

“His trademark attacks wouldn’t work on a magnezone. So I’m not ruling it out.”

“And why toss them into a lake?” Widget asked. “Didn’t he practically lead a protest against ‘murdering’ water dwellers five years ago?”

“I don’t know why you’re using air quotes when you’re against them being used for food yourself.”

Widget shrugged. “It’s a grey area.”

“Well. If he needed to hide them quickly…” The delphox looked up at the balcony three floors above them. “Then throwing them into the lake is the easiest way to go about it.”

“I would’ve just bust a door down and tossed them into some random apartment,” said Widget.

Tracer eyed his wagging tail and shook his head. “I hope desperately that’s just a fictitious scenario you’re dreaming up.”

“Of course it is.”

“Let’s have a check over the balcony, shall we? They might have missed something.”

Widget leapt to his feet and followed Tracer across the park towards the building. A bibarel stood aside from the door to let him inside. He wasn’t sure why a bibarel would have been called out with the paramedics since there hadn’t actually been a fire, but he guessed it was best to play it safe just in case. The beaver pokemon frowned slightly and stretched out his paw towards Tracer’s cigar.

The delphox stared at it for a moment then stubbed it out on the wall before tossing it into the nearest trash can. As the doors slid shut behind him, he heard a small spray of water as the bibarel rinsed the ash off the stonework.

The escalators and elevators were still working with pokemon crowding around them as they tried to get to their entertainment destinations. Most of the shops were now closed with only a couple of arcades open that weren’t major gambling areas. A snorlax towered over the smaller pokemon, keeping a watchful eye on the crowds. He wore a yellow and black sash over his shoulders, a clear indicator that he wasn’t there for a night out. Security was important in places like this and the more imposing the pokemon the better.

Tracer flashed his investigator badge at the crowd around the elevator and moved through them into the glass shell. A few other pokemon flowed in after him, their warm bodies increasing the temperature in the cozy confines. It stopped more times than he desired on it’s way to the balcony, exchanging pokemon on the way.

Much to his surprise, the apartments weren’t under strict investigation. The burnt patches of fake grass had a string of yellow tape around them, held up on plastic bollards and leaving enough space for pokemon to move past. Although the larger species would have had a harder time doing so.

Tracer left Widget to sniff over the ground as he checked over the walls around the burnt grass. No damage to the door to indicate a break in, but from what he’d gathered Hunter had been using his computer to bust through the card key lock. Just as he’d been told, there were no burn or heat marks on the walls. Just the grass where the officer’s white hot body had landed.

“Hey, Tracer?”

Widget’s large, brown eyes stared at him from the corner of the outdoor dining area.

“What is it?” Tracer asked.

“Right here…” Widget lowered his nose to the fake grass. “I can smell Surge.”

Tracer raised an eyebrow and strolled over to him, his long trench coat billowing in the soft breeze. The area looked innocent enough, but the eevee’s nose never lied.

“What do you think she was doing here?” Widget asked.

Tracer scratched behind his ear and let out a small breath. “She’s taken a job for Socket.”

“Yeh? But why would she be here? Binary has a good reputation with Meta City.”

“I don’t think she was here primarily to do something in Binary City.”

Widget looked up at him out of the corner of his eye, keeping his nose to the ground.

“My guess,” said Tracer. “Is that she’s been told to take out Hunter.”

The delphox’s eye drifted back to the yellow tape and burnt grass.

“You’ve got that look in your eye again.” Widget sat down heavily. “You’ve sussed something, haven’t you?”

Tracer scratched his ear again and sighed. “I’m just thinking… that it wasn’t him who fired that laser.”

“You think it was Surge?”

Tracer was silent as he mulled this over. The shot had been clean enough to not touch any of the building. It was a purposeful, targeted shot. He let his paw fall to his side and slide into his deep pockets.

“She’s a good shot,” he said. “I’ve seen her work many times. It’s always been on point.”

“Aye,” said Widget. “She often shoots to stun.”

“Exactly.” Tracer leant against the wall and pulled out another cigar, placing it between his teeth and lighting it with a quick flame from his nose. Thin smoke curled up from the end, rising into the twilight air. “So why would she miss Hunter and take out an entire magnezone fleet?”
 

Ambyssin

Winter can't come soon enough
-Disposing of a dead body. I feel like we’re in a crime story or something. Complete with Anchor standing guard and trying to distract people (and not working in Pikachu’s case). That bit about the fancy drink got a laugh out of me, as did the casual use of Static.

“I’ll keep having a look around. You go through all his movie boxes perchance he’s hidden it in there.”
That second sentence seems like it should be split.

-Well that was overall the most benign search of an apartment I think I’ve ever seen by a group of renegades. But, it does create contrast to the action-packed quest to get the first disc and I do appreciate that it’s something completely different. Because variety is the spice of life, or something like that.
-I’m surprised at just how much of a butt monkey status Macro seems to have considering the price on his head. For that matter, I wouldn’t have expected a Pikachu living in a cushy apartment in some ritzy town to actually be able to harm Macro. But, eh, I guess I’m reading too into it.
-Oh wow… looks like DL is basically getting hard reset by those disks. It’s a little bit terrifying, though I would’ve liked to see her getting a bit more worked up/freaked out before passing out, since usually it’s the process of getting super worked up like that that causes you to, uh, shutdown. Also, curses with the cliffhanger! I want to see what happens to DL when she wakes up. XP

“I would’ve just bust a door down and tossed them into some random apartment,” said Widget.

Tracer eyed his wagging tail and shook his head. “I hope desperately that’s just a fictitious scenario you’re dreaming up.”

“Of course it is.”
I think it’s time to bring in the private investigator psychiatrist. Widget’s making me nervous…

-Well, Tracer’s a better detective than I give him credit for. He jumps to the (sort of correct) assumption the instant Widget gets a trace of Surge’s presence. Now I’m guessing these two will be tailing our pirate heroes? In any case, it does look like they’re leaning more toward main character status, because I wasn’t sure before.
 

Cutlerine

Gone. Not coming back.
I like the creative use of the magnet pull ability with the magnezone cops! Also the reference to the proud PMD tradition of magnezone being, for some reason, police. I feel like the immunity to the ground laser is somewhat weird, though – like, it seems to conflate a physical inability to hit them with a ground move (because of magnet rise) with an elemental resistance to the type of damage inflicted by the laser, and these things don't seem to logically connect to me. But I appreciate this is kind of a weird point to translate from a game mechanic into actual fictional lore, so I wouldn't worry about it too much. Something that's maybe stranger is that Macro has apparently never considered the fact that he might face magnezone cops in the electric-type zone, although of course Macro isn't the best at looking before he leaps, so it's not actually that unbelievable. :p

And then, Surge! The level of dramatic irony there is delicious; as a reader, it's very clear to you that Surge was never going to see her contract through, and yet Surge herself never seems to suspect at all until the moment when she finds she can't do it. That's rather nice.

Having the disk hidden in somebody's apartment seems … unwise, for want of a better word. Given how important it is, I feel like any benefit gained from it being somewhere unexpected would be outweighed by the incredibly low security. But perhaps there's more going on here that we're not aware of yet.

Quite a dramatic reaction DL had to that second disk. I was curious about what it would be like, putting slices of her personality into her one at a time; I'd even thought that maybe the crew would decide that that was a terrible idea and wait to plug in her completed personality in one go, so as not to cause unnecessary trauma. But it looks like we're going the interesting route.

Socket clearly must want the pachirisu back? She wouldn’t happily leave her ‘living computer’ in the paws of a pirate?
I think I see what you're going for here, with that kind of insistent questioning going round and round in Macro's head, but I think it might need rephrasing to work better – neither of these sentences are phrased as questions, despite being punctuated as such, which gives them a rather strange feel. If you rephrased them to sound more like questions – e.g. 'Socket must want the pachirisu back, surely?' – that wouldn't be an issue any more.

as they stepped paw into the facility.
It looks like you've merged 'set foot in' and 'stepped into' into one thing here. Should probably be 'set paw in the facility'.

The yellow and black mammal shook his head
This is another of those times, like with the jangmo-o being called 'the reptile' and so on, where you get strangely clinical in your efforts to avoid repetition – honestly, at that point it's probably more jarring to call him 'the mammal' than it is to just say 'electabuzz' again, although if you really wanted to avoid repeating it, 'the electric-type' would feel more natural.

That was murder and it would likely fall on his head since he was stood right next to him, completely unscathed (save for a little electrocution.)
Since the bracketed clause is part of the sentence and not separate, the period ought to fall outside the brackets.

The grass where they’d been lying had been burnt completely away, revealing concrete slabs beneath it.
That seems kinda irresponsible on the part of the galvantula – and sort of strange, too; shouldn't there be soil or some kind of substrate underneath grass? Unless it's one of those things where it's like concrete with holes in that grass grows through, but that's not enough to give the illusion of a lawn for a garden. Or no, never mind; later on in the chapter you specify that it's fake grass – but it might be nice to know that here, so that it doesn't seem odd at the time.

The cable went taught
You have 'taught' for 'taut' here.

But from what he’d been told, there’d been no damage to the surrounding structures to suggest it had been a prolonged attack, so the officials had written it off as a sudden blast of heat.
'Written it off' makes it sound like they're just discounting the whole thing, which I don't think is the impression you're aiming for – maybe 'so the officials had decided it must be a sudden blast of heat' would avoid that?
 

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
You know what? I really appreciate the fact that this chapter went fairly smoothly for our protagonists. Why? Because it was smooth-sailing in the short-term, but has the potential to cause some seriously bad repercussions later. Those cops getting toasted is no joke. And whether Macro or Surge gets charged with it, either way it’s not likely to end well.

And I think I’m starting to see why Tracer and Widget are POV characters now. If they’re gonna be tied up in Surge’s betrayal (either helping her, or hunting her down) I expect them to get pulled into this chain of events a lot more from now on.

Both Amby and Cutlerine already mentioned it, but that was quite the dramatic reaction DL had. I’m guessing the previous disc was memories related to her opinions and preferences, whereas this one was short-term memories relating to her situation. Which would explain why it made her immediately realize something was wrong. Makes me wonder what the other two will be.

That’s all for now. Keep it up!

~Chibi~;249;;448;
 

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
Welp. Yeah that's the thing about getting your mind and memories back in installments: you might learn things before you regain the knowledge or ability to handle them. It'll be interesting to see how future re-uploads affect DL. Maybe the next one will balm things a bit for her. Or maybe it'll make things even worse for her.

It'll also be interesting to see how her reaction to the disk might impact their willingness to go after any others. :B
 

DeliriousAbsol

Call me Del
Sorry about the delay on this!! It slipped my mind!! A head's up that due to family commitments this week, it may be late again. Likely Saturday if I can get it proofed for then.

I think it’s time to bring in the private investigator psychiatrist. Widget’s making me nervous…
'Delightfully crazy'? XD

'Written it off' makes it sound like they're just discounting the whole thing, which I don't think is the impression you're aiming for – maybe 'so the officials had decided it must be a sudden blast of heat' would avoid that?
Thank you =)

I'm glad the previous chapter and DL's reaction were met with positivity. I was a little concerned the lack of difficulty Macro and Anchor faced might not have gone down so well! Thanks for all the feedback. I really need to assign some time to comb through previous chapters to fix typos lol.

...

Chapter Fifteen​


Macro perched on the edge of a foldout chair in the dark bedroom. The only light came from the crack around the door, slowly dwindling as the rest of Wildcard Gamma made their way to bed. Every movement DL made startled him, but he refused to leave. Leaving a frightened pokemon, unconscious or not, just didn’t feel right at all. Anchor had offered to take over and give him the chance to get to bed, but he couldn’t sleep. He’d tried a few times on the little chair, but his mind just wouldn’t shut up.

He glanced over at the pachirisu huddled beneath her duvet. At some point she’d snuggled down into it but she’d been sound asleep. He was surprised she’d fallen asleep straight after passing out with sheer fright. She’d not woken up and panicked again, just… gone from one state of unconsciousness to the next. It had worried him, but he put it down to the computer in her brain. Some kind of safety feature that kicked in when the computer ‘crashed’. A gentle reboot.

She stirred again and mumbled something, clutching the duvet in one paw. The light on her antennae flared to life, creating an eerie blue shadow up the wall that flickered in rhythm with it. He’d not noticed before, but the light was formed of two tiny LED bulbs, one stacked atop the other, and they both flickered out of sync with each other until they finally settled into one solid blue light. Her eyes opened slightly and she stirred again, blearily searching the room. Then they snapped wide open and locked onto the mawile. She tugged her duvet up to her chin and opened her mouth to scream, but Macro raised his paws and shushed her, glancing over at the door. He rose to his feet, but it only served to worsen the situation and she frantically glanced around the room, nearly becoming one with the duvet as it tightened around her small body.

“Look, it’s okay,” he said.

She fixed her gaze on him again and a look of recognition flashed across her chocolate eyes. They softened as she relaxed enough to relinquish the duvet. Macro’s heart did a somersault and he diverted his gaze to the wall.

“Where am I?” she asked.

“Wildcard Gamma.” He lowered himself back into his seat and fidgeted his paws together. “Don’t you remember?"

“I… I think so.” She ran a paw over her ears, finding the antennae and visibly cringing. “What did… why… they’ve done something to me…”

“They? Who’s ‘they’?”

“I don’t know. I don’t remember…” Her eyes magnified as they filled with tears and she fell back into the pillow. “They’ve put something in my head.”

Tears flowed down her face and soaked into the cotton pillow case. It was barely visible in the dim light, but he could see the damp patch spreading over the surface as she buried her muffled sobs into it.

“At least maybe now you’ll stop wanting me to deliver you to Socket,” he said bitterly.

She pushed herself up on one elbow and wiped a paw across her face. “What?”

“You don’t remember?” he snorted.

“No? Wait…” Her eyes went distant and she flinched slightly. “I do remember…”

“So you do have memories?” he asked.

“Yes, I remember waking up in the cockpit. I remember you, Anchor, Matrix and Cookie. I know I’m supposed to be a computer linked to BackDoor, but I don’t know why whoever put this computer in my brain did that.”

“Do you have any memories prior to that at all?” Macro spread his paws slightly. “Like who you are? Your name?”

She shook her head slowly. “No. None.”

“Where you came from?”

She shook her head again and pushed herself up, adjusting the pillow against the wall so she could lean against it.

“Do you know what BackDoor is?” Macro ventured.

“I’ve no idea what that is,” she said. “Or where I came from. All I know is I’m linked to BackDoor and there’s some entity called TimeSkip looking for time pockets. I received a couple of small updates while you were in Binary City.”

“Matrix never mentioned that,” he said.

Of course, that was no surprise. When he’d returned to his ship, their main priority had been installing her memories and then everything had taken a dramatic turn. He stared down at his paws clasped over his black scarf.

“They were nothing much,” she said. “Just locations and failed discoveries.”

Failed discoveries… a small wave of relieve flowed through him. Reading about the time gap Socket’s team had managed to open still felt like a bad dream. The memory of it made him want to turn the light on.

“So you’re a space pirate?” DL’s voice made him visibly jump.

“Yeh.” His voice came out surprisingly cautious. “All of us are.”

“There’s some information in my mind about Wildcard Gamma. Apparently the leader - Hunter - has a large price on his head. Is that you?”

He looked away from her towards the door. “It’s an alias.”

“Alias. Interesting.” She paused for a moment, winding the duvet around her paws. “You have quite a list of crimes. It makes you sound evil.”

“Well, that’s their opinion,” he said. “Space pirates have it hard living outside Socket’s wretched rule. What’s your opinion?”

“What memory I have of you has you as abrasive, rude and a liar,” she said. “But not evil. I mean… you’re helping me get my personality and memories back, and you don’t need to do that.”

He let out a single, dry laugh. “Maybe I’m just trying to annoy Socket.”

“Maybe you care.”

“Well. Wrenching the personality out of a living pokemon just to turn them into a computer really cheesed me off.” He slipped from his seat and began to move towards the door. “I need some sleep. Will you be all right?”

“I should be.” She tugged the duvet up to her chin again and stared down at the spot her feet poked through. “I think I’ve calmed down a bit.”

He nodded and placed a paw on the panel beside the door. It slid open with a quiet hiss.

“Can I get you anything?” he asked without looking over his shoulder.

He heard her shuffle on the bed. “No. No, I’m fine.”

“Are you sure? You missed supper.”

She was silent for a moment then she shifted again. “I’m fine. I don’t have an appetite right now.”

He nodded again and strolled from the room, letting the door slide back into place behind him. In all fairness, he didn’t have much of an appetite either. He let himself into his own room and prepared himself to fall into a dreamless sleep. Or so he hoped.

...​

Shrill ringing cut through Socket’s office and the holoscreen above her desk flashed into place. Socket turned away from the window, fixing the display with a frown. Who could it be at this hour? The city was barely awake. The horned head of a hoopa turned left and right as he tried to find her in the room and for a moment she considered staying where she was out of his limited line of sight.

“Where is that stupid psychic type?” he hissed.

“Oh, I do hope you’re not referring to me?” Socket strode across the room so she was standing before the screen. “And if not, that is a very rude thing to say about Tweak.”

The chingling looked up from his seat, his tiny face twisted with confusion that looked oddly innocent on him.

“I’m sorry, I don’t get it,” he said.

The gothitelle ignored him, folding her slender arms as she stared into the green and yellow eyes of the hoopa.

“What do you want, BackDoor?” she asked. “I’m busy.”

“What, staring out of the window again?” A grin split his face and he let out a laugh that didn’t even shake his body. “I think this is a bit more important than city watching.”

Socket’s eyes narrowed into slits. “Humour me.”

He raised a grey, mitten-like paw in a one-sided shrug and closed his eyes. “TimeSkip found something.”

“Oh really? I thought that onion monstrosity’s discoveries had all been failures.”

“Not this time. It managed to scour back into… what was it? Prehistoric times?”

“Humans existed in prehistoric times?” Socket gave him a dangerous leer. “I wanted you to reach back one thousand years ago.”

“Hear me out, alright? You want some computer host to replace that pachirisu? Well how about this?”

He scooted to the side, revealing a bipedal lizard wrapped in golden chains. Three electric type pokemon struggled to hold it in place as it thrashed around. She couldn’t hear their yelps of protest, but one of them shouted something that was nothing more than a murmur to her.

BackDoor’s grinning face filled the holoscreen once more. “Found you a little tyrunt.”

“It is still a pokemon,” she said bluntly. “Unless you’re going to tell me it’s a human in pokemon form?”

He laughed again and shook his head. “It’s a pokemon with a brain the size of an oran berry. It’s not exactly got rights like the ones in your world. It’s as irrelevant as a water dweller.”

“And you expect me to fit a computer in that berry brain?” She tapped her claws along her arm. “Not to mention hiding an extinct creature from the prying eyes of Meta City’s civilians!”

He rolled his eyes and groaned. “Fine! I’ll send the stupid reptile back. But this is taking forever!”

“Then hurry up and find me a human!” she barked. “One in pokemon form so I don’t have to hide it!”

“You know, this wouldn’t be an issue if you’d just held on to that pachirisu,” he said.

“Don’t you dare speak to me like that, BackDoor. I had you made. I can just as easily take you apart and remove your personality core.”

The hoopa folded his arms and fixed her with a chilling glare. “You can’t do that from there, though, can you? Silly, mortal limitations. Let’s see…” His eyes moved past her to a spot over her shoulder. “I can see a nice little world right behind you, filled with unbreathable air. I could send you there from where I’m floating.” He removed the gold ring from his right horn and admired it. “That’s a fun little thing about being digital.”

The entire of Socket’s mouth turned dry but she hid it behind a wry smirk. “You know full well I had nothing to do with Download Database being stolen.”

“Really? Who’s job is it to round up space pirates?” he scoffed.

“I’ve got that under control,” she said with a smile.

“About time. If it weren’t for him, I’d be able to get back to my job rather than scouring time and space for humans.”

“Then if you want to get back to your job, speed things up!”

“Tell that to TimeSkip. Not me.” He reached up a paw to the top of the screen and fixed her with a mocking grin. “BackDoor out.”

The screen flicked off and vanished back into the desk. She tapped her foot irritably and dug her claws into her arm.

“Arrogant android,” she said. “Why did I give that thing a personality?”

“Because you’re lonely?” Tweak suggested.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” she said as she moved back to the window. “Companionship grates on me. It’s little wonder I keep you around, but unfortunately you’re a necessary thorn in my side. If I removed you, I’d just bleed out paperwork.”

Tweak’s tinkling laughter filled the room and she grimaced.

“I don’t know why you didn’t just implant a detonation chip in him,” he said. “My grandmama always said there may one day be a threat of a robot uprising.”

“Ridiculous theory. Besides, a detonation chip is too risky. I need him in one piece to finish this job, then I’ll think about scrapping that stupid android for spares.” She paused and let out a sigh. “I need news from Surge about Hunter’s demise and fast.”

“I don’t understand why you’re stressing over retrieving Download Database so much,” said Tweak. “I mean… you’re looking for a new host.”

Socket pursed her lips together. “She was expensive. It would be much more cost effective to transfer her files directly, rather than start new.”

“Is that even possible? He’s already retrieved two memory disks, and BackDoor erased the more crucial information to stop Hunter discovering it.”

She tapped her claws over her arm again and stared blankly out of the window. Tweak had a point… Download Database was likely useless now. The repairs may end up being just as expensive as creating a new database.

“Nevertheless,” she said. “I want it back. I’ll just have to hope that Hunter hasn’t messed it up too much.”

...​

Macro stretched and yawned widely as he left his bedroom. He’d barely slept a wink and the dark rings under his eyes betrayed it to anyone who looked at him. If it weren’t for the bell blaring away for breakfast, he would have tried to stay in bed all morning, but his stomach gnawed at him the instant he began to think about food, joining the obnoxious bell in its rude wake-up serenade.

Anchor and DL were already perched around the dining table, DL now in her own little seat that Cookie must have recently acquired from storage, tucking in to the slurpuff’s usual morning pancakes. Wait… Macro’s eyes fell on a new plate sat beside the steaming fluffy berry circles. Waffles?

He grabbed his seat beside DL and immediately snatched one up, then poured syrup all over it.

“Someone’s got a sweet tooth this morning,” said Anchor.

Macro grunted a noncommittal reply and stuffed a fork of sticky waffle in his mouth.

“You look like you were up all night,” the granbull went on.

“Couldn’t switch my brain off,” said Macro.

“Maybe you need an off switch like DL?” Anchor reached across the table to nudge her, but all he got in return was a chocolate glare. “Sorry… too soon?”

“I think it’ll always be too soon, Anchor,” she said. “I don’t think I’ll ever be okay with having a computer in my head.”

Matrix buzzed into the dining room and fell into his seat opposite Macro. His large black eyes lit up and he reached across the table for the plates.

“Who requested waffles?” he asked.

“That would be DL!” Cookie fell into his seat with a plop, clutching a plate of steaming pancakes and waffles. “She told me they’re her favorite so I just had to make them.”

The pachirisu’s yellow cheeks turned as red as a pikachu’s.

“I might have found myself a new helping paw in here.” Cookie beamed.

“Well, I can help where I can.” DL lowered her fork and looked around at the table. “That leads me to say… Just because you’re helping me retrieve my memories, I don’t want to be treated like a patient or a client. I want to help, too.”

Macro frowned and swallowed his mouthful. “Help how?”

“With retrieving those disks,” she said. “And when I’m not doing that, I’ll help Cookie in the kitchen.”

“It’s dangerous work, DL,” said Anchor. “You’ve seen what’s happened to us the past two trips. I got poisoned, Macro got his *** whupped by primape -”

“I did not get my *** whupped!” Macro seethed. He pointed his fork at DL. “Besides. You have no combat experience. At least not to my knowledge.”

“Basic self defense is on this computer thing,” she explained. “I could help in some way, and you could always teach me.”

“That would just slow us down.”

“Please!” She leant towards him, her chocolate eyes impossibly wide. “I want to help! I don’t want to just be useless, left on this ship all the time!”

He shook his head slowly and placed his fork back on the table. “You’re not useless. Anchor taught you how to use the ship’s defenses. You can help Matrix with that.”

The ribombee wound his antennae around his paw and looked from DL to Macro and back.

“Believe it or not,” he said slowly. “I do actually know how to use the ship’s weapons.”

Macro’s eyes flew wide open and he stared at Matrix aghast. “What?”

Matrix shrugged. “I get bored. I mess around with things sometimes. I could steer this ship if you wanted me to. Not well, but I could do it.”

“So you’re saying you don’t need DL?”

Matrix shrugged and returned to his breakfast.

Macro sighed and let his head fall into his paws. “Way to help me out, dude.”

DL stared at him for a moment then gave him a small nudge. He lifted his head again to look at her and a warm smile spread across her face.

“So are you going to let me help?” she asked.

He sighed again and rubbed at his scar. “Fine. I’ll teach you how to fire a laser.”

She did a small fist pump and whispered “Yes!”

Macro shook his head and jabbed his fork into his waffles. “I guess our first stop is Pulse City then, so we can buy you one.”

After they’d finished their breakfast, they left DL to assist Cookie with the dishes while the rest of them migrated into the cockpit to make preparations for Pulse City.

Macro fell back into his seat and rubbed his face, trying to clear the grogginess away. His mind just didn’t want to function and all he wanted to do was fall asleep right there and then, which didn’t sound like a terrible idea.

“Pulse City is a fair way away,” said Matrix. “We’ve been looping a figure-eight over the Backbone Mountain all night. It’ll take the best part of a day to get there.”

Macro waved a dismissive paw and yawned. “Whatever. We’ll just enjoy the ride.”

He opened his eyes and looked down through the window at the rocky peak stretching out for miles on either side below them, breaking the clouds where it dare reach high enough. The Backbone Mountain was another clean place, and naturally so. As such, it was a criminal offense to set up home there. Somehow, it had become a protected reserve, and only authorized pokemon were allowed to enter. No cameras, no sketch books, no drinks or anything that could produce litter, no live broadcasts or documentaries. Government pokemon only.

It was impossible to see it in detail from so high up, but rumor had it that the Backbone Mountain contained the last of the natural trees in all of System.

Macro didn’t believe it.

The Backbone Mountain shrank below them as Wildcard Gamma moved up through the clouds, leaving System Ground behind. Macro kicked his feet up on the dashboard and tucked his paws behind his head, watching the fluffy clouds pass by them, contrasted dramatically against a deep blue sky. It was beautifully silent. The only sounds came from the navigation system as the radar refreshed rhythmically. He felt his eyes fall shut and an erratic dream played out in his mind, living out the cockpit as Anchor and Matrix exchanged playful banter.

Suddenly, DL’s voice cut through them as she strolled in with a tray of cookies. “Something’s wrong.”

Macro turned sharply to look over the back of his seat. The first thing he noticed about DL was there were no cookies. Secondly, the antennae on her head was flickering orange below the steady, blue light.

“Retrieving information from TimeSkip.” The voice came out as emotionless as it had the previous morning.

Her pupils dilated and she slid down against the door, staring blankly at the windscreen. Despite having witnessed it before, it was still alarming. Macro watched frozen from his seat as that orange light pulsed erratically.

“Information received,” she said. “Location revealed as System, exactly nine hundred and ninety two years ago. Relaying co-ordinates.”

A string of numbers flew from her mouth that were meaningless to Macro. Her eyes still looked wrong. Even her posture looked wrong. The computer in her head had taken over completely, using her as nothing more than a means to relay information.

The orange light blinked out with one final flicker and her lifeless eyes filled with confusion as she pushed herself back to her feet. Her breath began to come in quick bursts and she steadied herself against the wall with a trembling paw.

“What just happened?” She began to shake from ear to tail. “It was like… something was speaking in my head…”

Macro let his chin rest on the back of his chair. TimeSkip… co-ordinates… Why did Socket want to use this pachirisu to scour time and space for humans? What was she wanting to do, exactly?

Matrix’s paws flew over the screen, drawing Macro’s attention and his heart lurched into his throat as he watched the ribombee key in new co-ordinates.

“What are you doing?!” Macro shrieked, flying from his chair.

“Checking out what this TimeSkip is,” he said.

“Not a chance!”

Macro rushed to the screen and collided with Matrix’s flailing fist. Despite the tiny size, it packed quite a wallop on his jaw. A look of momentary despair crossed the ribombee’s features when he realised what he’d done but it quickly melted away as he rubbed his bruised knuckles in his other paw.

“We are not meddling in Socket’s creepy plan!” Macro told him as he absently rubbed his jaw. “Return the co-ordinates to Pulse City and forget about all this TimeSkip and BackDoor nonsense.”

“We can’t do that when she keeps getting updates from them,” said Matrix. “If we track down this TimeSkip then we can destroy it. DL will be freed from its random updates and we can hopefully all get some peace.”

“I’m with Matrix,” said DL.

Macro jerked his head round to her. She was still trying to catch her breath, leaning against the door as she wound her paws together.

“If we destroy it,” she said, “then not only will it leave me alone, but it won’t be able to do… whatever it is it’s meant to be doing.”

He opened his mouth to retort but all words fell dead on his tongue when he met those pleading, chocolate eyes. His jaw snapped shut again and he placed a paw to his forehead and groaned.

“She has a point, Cap’n,” said Anchor. “Poor mite’s suffering ‘cos of this.”

DL shifted awkwardly and diverted her attention back to the passing sky.

Macro’s muzzle creased and he looked away from her back at the navigation screen. Wildcard Gamma was moving in the opposite direction to Pulse City at a breakneck speed, and to make matters worse, someone was following them again. He briefly considered calling out the ship’s bubble missile launchers to deal with that nuisance.

“Fine.” He returned to his seat and kicked his feet back up onto the dashboard. “We’ll follow these co-ordinates and destroy TimeSkip. But after that, I want nothing to do with Socket’s crazy plan. Understood?!”

“Understood.” Matrix and DL spoke simultaneously, the latter oddly enough with a salute.

Macro sighed and leant back in his seat. He had a horrible feeling he was going to regret this.
 

Ambyssin

Winter can't come soon enough
It had worried him, but he put it down to the computer in her brain. Some kind of safety feature that kicked in when the computer ‘crashed’. A gentle reboot.
Or maybe it was a ‘system reboot?’ Ah? Ah? I’ll shut up now. :p

“Do you have any memories prior to that at all?” Macro spread his paws slightly. “Like who you are? Your name?”

She shook her head slowly. “No. None.”

“Where you came from?”
DL’s surprisingly calm about this. Or maybe that’s the programming in her head keeping her in some sort of semi-sedated state. Because I’d totally be freaking out if I was her.

He let out a single, dry laugh. “Maybe I’m just trying to annoy Socket.”

“Maybe you care.”
D’awww, DL’s totally Macro’s little morality pet right now. Although, Macro was a pretty noble space pirate before. He’s just getting dragged a bit more to the heroic side. Though everything’s not all that black and white.

“What do you want, BackDoor?” she asked. “I’m busy.”
She has a Hoopa AND a Celebi. Oh, well, the space-time continuum is totally ****ed now. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along!

“Then hurry up and find me a human!” she barked. “One in pokemon form so I don’t have to hide it!”
I know this is the same universe as Glitched (which I’m slowly trying to catch up on) but it maaaaay be helpful to give a bit more background on the fact that there were/are(?) humans in System. Y’know, in case someone like me comes along in the future and tries to read this w/o having read Glitched. That way we don’t get totally lost.

“Arrogant android,” she said. “Why did I give that thing a personality?”

“Because you’re lonely?” Tweak suggested.
Makes sense. It’s the same reason Dr. Wily and Dr. Eggman give their robots personality!

-And now, ooooooh god, they’re going to try and confront an android Celebi. I guess that's really where this part's overarching title is coming from. This can only end spectacularly. I’m gonna predict either A) collapse of space-time or B) DL have a big heroic moment to save Macro. We’ll see how wrong I am soon enough!
 

DeliriousAbsol

Call me Del
Makes sense. It’s the same reason Dr. Wily and Dr. Eggman give their robots personality!
I had never considered that D= But I love Sonic, and thanks to the Worlds Collide series Archie did, I also like Mega Man lol. But yeh... that makes a lot of sense.

Or maybe it was a ‘system reboot?’ Ah? Ah? I’ll shut up now. :p
Part of me wants to see how many times this joke can come up XD

D’awww, DL’s totally Macro’s little morality pet right now.
I love writing their interactions, it's crazy XD

...

Chapter Sixteen​


The glowing, golden light beckoned, spanning in a perfect circle around a swirling black and ultraviolet mist. The talonflame’s wings pushed on towards it, drawing ever closer. Something wasn’t right. His mother had always told him curiosity killed the meowth, but he couldn’t just leave it. It was his job to keep System safe, and if this was a threat then it needed to be inspected and promptly dealt with.

But something was very off. That glowing light… its eeriness unnerved him. Anomalies in System were few and far between and they rarely brought anything good.

That perfect circle of golden light… whatever it was, it was deliberate. It had been put there. A trap? He faltered, keeping both eyes on the centre of the swirling mist. It didn’t look like a trap. There was nothing to suggest it as such. But it had definitely been made. Perfect circles were rarely an accident. Something was familiar about it, but he couldn’t place it.

Perfect golden circles. Filled with a swirling darkness.

He shook his head sharply and beat his wings hard, pushing himself further towards the anomaly. He couldn’t back out now. If it could harm his home, then it needed to be gotten rid of, and if you wanted to get rid of something then you needed to know what it was. You couldn’t treat the disease with just a guess. You’d end up doing more harm than good.

Another wing beat and he paused, hovering a mere two feet away. It was impossible. He couldn’t see a thing beyond that mist. He narrowed his eyes and turned them onto the golden ring of light. Was it moving towards him?

A shrill screech left his beak and he looked back down at the world below, minuscule like a toy town. It was falling away from him at an alarming pace. Whatever that black mist was, it was dragging him in!

He beat his wings to turn back towards the earth, aiming each beat towards the strange ring. But the earth still fell away from him. He craned his neck to the right and his golden eyes widened as he watched his tail feathers vanish beyond that swirling darkness. His beak opened again, letting out another scream. A terrified scream he’d not heard come from himself in many, many years.

...​

System Sky’s cities were long behind Wildcard Gamma, leaving them with nothing but a stretch of deep, dark blue. Fluffy grey clouds spread out below them, kicked up into small wisps by the ship’s tail fin.

Macro kept one eye on the fuel gauge. None of them had thought to top up before embarking on such a ridiculously long journey and it was well below half. Matrix had reassured him their continuous loop over the Backbone Mountain hadn’t been demanding and had therefore used up very little, leaving them with an ample supply to last them the trip, but that didn’t take into consideration any potential combat they might find themselves in.

Not to mention their stalker was on their tail yet again.

The suspicious red dot flew along behind them, keeping their distance. He wondered if it was Surge following them, but that thought just made his head spin. If she’d been hired for another job, then she wouldn’t be wasting her time following him around. Whatever the case, he wasn’t sure the tailing ship was even friendly, and unlike Surge wouldn’t leap to their aid. That could leave them stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Something twinkled on the horizon and he squinted to get a better look at it. Golden. Another government fleet? He pursed his lips in thought. Maybe Socket had got a head start on them. That sneaky gothitelle.

“Can we speed up?” he asked Anchor.

The granbull pushed the steering stick forwards and Wildcard Gamma surged through the sky. The golden specks grew larger, forming the smooth, streamline shells of Socket’s prized fleet. But there was something else ahead of them. Something glittering gold miles beyond the ships.

“Do you see that?” Macro pointed a claw.

“Aye,” said Anchor. “Wonder what it is? Another ship?”

“It’s too big for that,” said Macro. “I’m wondering if it’s what they’re aiming for.”

“Only one way to find out,” said Anchor.

Macro placed a claw between his teeth, gnawing the sharp tip away. Something about that ring made him feel anxious. If Socket really was tearing holes in time and space, they could very well be staring at one.

“We may be hard pressed to beat them, though,” said Anchor. “We’ll need our cloak up, and that might drain the rest of our fuel.”

Macro shook himself back into reality and leant back in his seat.

“We always beat her,” he said. “So take the risk.”

“If you’re sure,” said Anchor. “Let it never be said I didn’t warn you.”

Macro sighed and ran a paw over his face. “If we’re quick, then it might survive the flight.”

The granbull shrugged and his paw flew over the dashboard to activate the cloak. Gradually they inched towards the golden fleet, and with each stretch the intricate details over their shimmering hulls became clearer.

“We just lost our stalker,” said Matrix. “They’ve deliberately fallen behind.”

“Probably scared of the fleet,” said Macro.

DL leant on the dashboard beside Macro, her white fur brushing against his. He snatched his arm back into his side and glanced at her, but her attention drifted from the gauge to the government fleet.

“I’m running some calculations,” she said, “and I think we might just make it.”

“Well, that’s a relief.” Macro leant his elbow on his arm rest and placed his chin in his paw. “I hate losing to Socket.”

“Have you ever lost to her?” she asked.

“No. But I know I’d hate it if I did.”

“There was that one time in Raster City when she hid those explosives,” said Matrix.

“Yeh, but I managed to track them back down into Seed City and kick all their tails,” said Macro. “I got them explosives and made a fortune.”

DL looked at him out of the corner of her eye. “You make it sound like you did it all yourself.”

Anchor snorted but said nothing, and Macro gave a nonchalant shrug.

“Wildcard Gamma is pretty much one entity,” he said. “We all have our own part to play.”

“Just like a schooling wishiwashi.” DL nodded. “I think I get it now.”

Macro gave her a playful grin and turned his attention back onto the fleet. They were almost upon it now, and not one of the ships had noticed them. Anchor steered Wildcard Gamma to the left, bringing it around to the side of the fleet to zip straight past it. Macro kept one eye on the nearest ship. Small. They were so small compared to his ship, designed solely for quick excursions with the barest of essentials on board. They weren’t designed to be lived in.

Whatever was ahead of them had formed into a large, golden ring, shimmering about a mile ahead of the fleet. It swirled with an eerie ultraviolet mist that didn’t spread out from beyond the ring. It was as though the golden halo contained it, refusing to let such an abomination leak out into the deep blue sky.

A small movement came from the nearest gold ship and Macro’s eyes snapped to it. The top had opened up and the nozzle of a canon laser turned on its axis to take aim at Wildcard Gamma. His eyes widened and he reached across to nudge Anchor a little too harshly.

“They know we’re here!” he shrieked. “They’re gonna fire! Unleash the school!”

Anchor didn’t need telling twice. The smaller wishiwashi cannons snapped into place around his ship and a deep whir filled the hollow body as they rotated around them. Wildcard Gamma turned on the spot to aim the small fish-shaped cannons and a large bubble collided with the golden ship’s neon laser. The explosion blew them both backwards, knocking the fleet off course.

Wildcard Gamma turned slowly and chugged towards the golden ring, leaving behind a trail of bubbles that exploded one by one no sooner did the nose of one of the ships come into contact with it.

Macro threw his arms in the air and cheered, eliciting a squeak of surprise from DL and an eye roll from Anchor.

He turned on his seat and waved a fist at the rear of the cockpit. “How do you like that?! You can never beat me!”

Anchor let out a small sigh. “I really worry one day your mouth is gonna land us all in trouble.”

Macro, still laughing, sat back in his seat and kicked his feet up onto the dashboard. “You’re a pirate, Anchor, you’re supposed to welcome trouble! Live on the edge!”

“On that note,” said Matrix, “you might wanna fasten your seat belts. There’s a missile heading our way.”

“Eh?”

Macro turned his head to look back at Matrix, but he let out a protest as DL’s warm body climbed up beside him and dragged the seatbelt across them both. His lips curled into a sneer but it was soon wiped away as the missile struck the right side of his ship.

“Tell me you threw up the shields!” he said.

“Of course I did,” said Anchor. “I also dropped the cloak since it’s fairly pointless right now. But the shield doesn’t exactly hold off missiles.”

Macro groaned and slid down in his seat. That would have left a mark, and possibly a dent.

Wildcard Gamma sent out another stream of bubble bombs, blowing back the opposing fleet further, but the telltale whistle of another missile penetrated the ship.

“Take it out!” Macro screeched.

“I’m tryin’!” Anchor roared.

His large paws worked fast and the missile never struck home, but the impact from the counter attack sent the hulking wishiwashi surging sideways, throwing Macro across his chair and crushing his rib cage between the sparsely padded arm and DL.

The pachirisu mumbled an apology as she righted herself and quickly checked over the seatbelt.

Macro’s eyes flew back to the window and widened as he let out a rather loud expletive.

The golden halo of light spread out on either side of them, swirling with a black mist that leaked ultraviolet light. It was oddly silent, but the effects could be felt throughout the ship. Anchor fought with the steering stick, shouting profanity at it as it refused to turn the ship around. Whatever the golden ring was, it was pulling them in.

“I think this is some kind of black hole,” said Matrix, in a way Macro felt was wildly unhelpful.

All the mawile could think to reply with was, “You think?!”

Wildcard Gamma’s engine roared as Anchor tugged the stick towards him and twisted it. The huge ship turned with it, but the swirling anomaly’s drag was too strong. The larger end of the ship was pulled back towards it, filling the windscreen with a terrifying, swirling, unknowable demise.

Macro screwed his eyes shut and grit his teeth together. He couldn’t watch. Whatever happened to them, he just didn’t want to see it. His paws balled into fists over his knees, and he could feel DL trembling beside him.

This was it.

This was how he was going to die.

A loud scream reached his ears and his eyes flew back open. It hadn’t come from any of his crew mates, but his first thought flew to Cookie. However, it had come from the wrong direction. The swirling anomaly spewed forth a flurry of red and black feathers, beating back and forth as their owner tried desperately to return to whatever the ring contained. But it was instead thrown towards the ship. For that one fleeting moment, the pull lessened and Anchor was able to steer Wildcard Gamma away.

The mist surrounding the flapping mass subsided and a talonflame flew forth from it, its beak hanging open in a state of silent terror. Its eyes flew straight to the ship and that scream filled the cockpit again before the large bird pokemon turned and flew back towards the golden ring.

But in a flash, the ring vanished. The swirling black and ultraviolet mist was replaced with the deep blue sky. The talonflame flew in place for a moment then shook its head and darted away from them and through the spot the ring had occupied.

Wildcard Gamma lurched to the side and the windscreen was filled with golden metallic bodies as the fleet took after the talonflame.

Macro gave himself a mental shake and slammed his paw onto the dashboard.

“After them!” he said. “Socket ain’t getting her paws on that talonflame!”

Anchor pushed the ship forwards. His large paws were still trembling but the ship moved along smoothly, gradually picking up pace as it trailed after the fleeing fleet.

“What do you plan to do with the talonflame?” DL asked.

Macro shrugged. “No idea, but Socket clearly wants it. If it came from another world like I’m guessing, maybe I’ll just hold it for ransom to pay off my bounty and regain some sense of security in this wretched world.”

The pachirisu gave him a sideways glance and brushed her blue fur back from her eyes.

“You’re kidding, right?” she asked.

Macro shrugged again and leant back in his seat. “It’s a pokemon eat pokemon world out there, DL. When you live outside the law like we do, you do what you can to survive.”

Her nose crinkled and she looked away from him. “I’m not sure I like that.”

“Do you like what Socket had done to you?” he asked. “’Cos I’m gonna guess you were living inside the law before then.”

She avoided his eyes, keeping her attention on the golden hulls of the government ships.

“This world is a state,” Macro told her. “You need to pick a side - Socket, or the outlaws. If you don’t like what we do, then I can always drop you back on System Ground and you can fend for yourself. Anchor, fire!”

A series of bubbles filled the windscreen and flew towards the fleet, blasting them aside and ripping a clean path through them. The talonflame was just ahead of them, fighting off a stream of sparking, metallic chains. They fastened around his wings, pinning them to his sides. He plummeted towards the ground until the chains went taught and hung there, swinging like a feathery pendulum.

“What do you suggest we do now?” Anchor asked.

Wildcard Gamma was still trudging along at a breakneck pace. It didn’t leave Macro much time to think. He reached across the dashboard and slammed his paws over the display. The nose of the schooling wishiwashi began to slowly rise, cutting off the bottom of the windscreen and what he could see of the talonflame.

The fleet’s turrets turned on them, the nozzles lighting up with a dangerous neon green light. The chains holding the talonflame broke like butter beneath the wishiwashi’s jaws. Macro’s eyes flew towards each of the threatening cannons and he swallowed drily.

“Hyper drive,” he said.

“This close to the fleet?” Anchor raised an eyebrow. “You’re kidding, right?”

“Turn the ship and hit hyper drive!”

Anchor shook his head and tugged the ship to the right. It lurched forwards, pushing them all back into their seats. The fleet bounced away from them and shot past in a golden streak, then they were gone.

...​

Wildcard Gamma slowed a little too much for Macro’s liking. His eye flew to the fuel gauge and his heart sank like a lead brick.

“Oh no…” He placed his face in his paws and sighed.

The gauge was nearly at zero, and they were miles away from Pulse City’s fuel station. Not many stations would be happy to cater to such large flying vessels, let alone a space pirate.

“Guess we didn’t really think this through,” said Matrix.

“Don’t be silly, Matrix,” said Anchor. “None of us coulda seen that little escapade coming.”

“Our stalker is back as well,” said Matrix. “Just broke their own hyper drive right next to us.”

Great. That didn’t bode well at all.

“What do you suggest we do?” DL asked.

Macro spread his claws and stared blankly through the windscreen at the rapidly darkening cloudscape.

“Take a pod?” Anchor suggested. “And start making plans for Wildcard Delta?”

Macro’s heart sank even further and he looked around at his ship while letting out a low groan. Did he really have to leave his beloved ship to plummet to a watery demise?

A sharp thunk of something hitting metal reverberated through the cockpit and he sat upright and looked over at the door. Anchor frowned and scratched the base of his mowhawk.

“What was that?” he asked.

Macro unbuckled his seatbelt and slid off his chair. “Wait here and prepare to activate the escape pods.”

“Hang on, Cap’n!” Anchor reached out a paw to stop him. “You’re checkin’ it out alone?”

“I won’t allow that,” said DL.

Macro looked at each of his crew mates, ending with Matrix who met his eyes while twirling his left antennae in one paw.

“A captain always goes down with his ship,” said Macro. “And it’s my responsibility to make sure you all get off it safely. Make sure you take that talonflame with you as well. No sense in stopping Socket taking it only to let it fall into the ocean with Wildcard Gamma, is there?”

Anchor snorted and balled his fist. “I’m waitin’ right here in case you need back up. Alright?”

“Fine.” Macro looked back down at the ribombee. “Matrix, take DL into the cargo hold and prepare to escape with the talonflame. Anchor will be with you shortly.”

The mawile fired the granbull a violet glare then left the cockpit. He opened the air lock’s inside door and before he could even open the outer one he could already feel the temperature difference. The door opened and he poked his head out, clenching his teeth together as the chill cut through his fur and shocked his lungs with every breath. Frost lined the blue hull of his ship, creating a web across each of the tiny windows.

He squinted against the wind and brushed back a lock of black fur that whipped up to obscure his vision. Right at the tail of Wildcard Gamma flew a ship shaped like a tympole. A long pipe extended from its side and attached to the other end, perched atop the tympole’s back, was a small, bipedal form with a very familiar ragged tail. Unlike himself, she’d decided to wear a helmet and padded suit to cut out the freezing air. Attached to her back was an oxygen tank that allowed her to breathe a bit better amidst the low air pressure, but the overall get up made it look more like she was preparing for a space excursion.

“Surge?” The wind drowned out most of his voice.

He crept from the door and scrambled onto the wishiwashi’s main fin. She looked up as he drew closer and her muzzle twisted with fright. She pulled back from the pipe spilling red liquid down towards the ocean below. The tart stench of fuel hit him like a wet flannel and he took a step back. The zigzagoon reached out a paw, flailing helplessly several feet away.

“Get back inside!” Her voice was barely audible over the wind. “You’re going to fall to your death, you moron!”

Macro shook his head and used his paws to steady himself as he climbed across the broad fin. “Not until you tell me what you’re doing.”

He thought he saw her sigh and she returned to her task. “I hacked into your ship’s computer and saw you were low on fuel, so I followed you back from…”

She trailed off, but he didn’t think it was purely because the wind was drowning out her voice.

“How on earth did you hack into my ship’s computer?!” he spat.

“A hacker has her ways.” She removed the pipe and fixed her brown eyes on his. “That should last you to Pulse City. Be more careful next time.”

She released the pipe and it retracted into itself, flying back towards her own fuel tank. She disconnected it and clambered down towards her ship’s door.

“Wait! Surge!”

She looked back up at him, but her expression was unreadable.

Macro gestured back to the door. “You saw us take that taloflame, right?”

“I did.”

“It came out of that ring.” He paused and scratched his head. “Don’t you… wanna find out where it came from?”

“You’re inviting me on board?” she asked.

He shrugged. “You did just help me out.”

“Sorry, Macro,” she said. “You don’t want me on your ship.”

She vanished inside the tympole and its door whirred shut behind her.

Macro shook his head slowly and turned as carefully as he could, retracing his steps along the wishiwashi’s fin. Getting back into his ship was much easier than climbing out and soon he was back on board. The air lock hissed shut behind him and as the next door opened, he let out a yelp of surprise.

Anchor’s eyes widened slightly and he looked from the mawile to the door and back.

“Everything all right?” he asked.

“Fine.” Macro pushed past him. “Someone just stopped to give us fuel.”

“You’re kidding, right? Who’d help us?”

“I’m as confused as you are.” Macro scratched his head and looked back up at his friend. “I guess we should check on that talonflame.”

Anchor grunted and followed Macro down the corridor. Tiny paw steps and a deep buzz told him DL and Matrix had not only ignored his orders, they’d grown a little too curious and decided to join them, but he said nothing. Part of him appreciated the extra backup, even if it did mean his navigation system was unattended for a little while.

The stairs towards the cargo hold were situated inside Wildcard Gamma’s loot room. Shelves holding various weapons adorned the walls, many of which were long out of service and beyond repair. Amongst them were artifacts he’d taken over the years, from valuable badges and coins to government ship parts. At some point, they’d be worth selling. Each door to the stairs needed one of the crew’s paw prints to unlock it. The stairs were badly lit and Macro had to squint to see where he was going. He nearly walked into the door and muttered under his breath as he opened it out into the cargo hold.

The wishiwashi’s maw was fastened tightly shut, preventing anyone from entering or leaving, but the panel to open it lay on the right side of its jaws. The talonflame was oddly silent, lying on its side in a tangle of chains that pinned its wings to its body. When it saw them, its beak flew open and it let out a scream.

“What do you want with me?!” The voice was male. “Where am I? What was that… thing?!”

Macro moved over to him and began tugging at the chains. “You’re in System.”

“System?!”

“Yup. To be exact, you’re in System Sky.”

The talonflame’s beak hung open and his golden eyes widened. “What?”

“As for what that thing was,” Macro went on, “it’s apparently a tear in time and space. And those golden ships? They’re the bad guys.”

“So that makes you the good guys?”

Macro laughed and stood back up. “No one in System can be called a ‘good guy’.” He turned to Anchor and nodded to the feathered pokemon. “Think you can break these chains? I don’t even know where to begin.”

The granbull moved over to the talonflame and the bird cowered slightly as his massive fists reached down and tugged the chains apart. He let out a grunt and the golden links snapped audibly. They fell away from the talonflame and he pushed himself to his feet, stretching out his wings with a grateful sigh.

He looked from Anchor to Macro. “Thanks.”

The mawile shrugged. “Whatever. So, where did you come from?”

“I came from System,” the talonflame explained. “Although… I don’t remember there being huge, flying, metal wishiwashi.”

“So I was right. It was a tear in time and space.” Macro scratched his scar.

“Things just got real,” said Matrix.

Macro shrugged again and closed his eyes. “I guess we need to get you back, then, huh?”

“The ring vanished, though.” Matrix twirled his antennae. “Right?”

The talonflame grimaced and looked over at the closed jaws of the ship.

“We’ll figure a way.” Macro folded his arms. “If Socket’s tearing time and space open, we’ll just make her send him back.”

His paw went to his laser and the talonflame followed it, his eyes widening slightly again.

“So what’s your name, big guy?” Macro asked.

“It’s Switch,” answered the talonflame.

“Switch, eh?” Macro grinned. “Since you’re not from here, I guess telling you my real name doesn’t matter, does it? I’m Macro, and this is my ship, Wildcard Gamma.”

The talonflame raised an eyebrow and looked over at the rest of the crew. His eyes wandered to a strange, rather retro-looking digital watch around his right ankle.

“Well,” he said. “I guess if we’re being honest, and this really is System, then I don’t need to hide myself, do I?”

He reached a claw to the watch and pushed the only button it sported. His entire body expanded and stretched out, filling up a majority of the cargo hold. Sprawled on the floor in the same space the talonflame had occupied was a strange bipedal creature that left Macro at a loss for words. The mawile’s jaw fell open and he crumpled to the ground onto his bottom.

The strange creature - Switch - ran a hairless paw through a mop of red and brown fur on the top of his head and sighed. In fact, it was the only fur Macro could even see. The rest of his body was clothed in a brown flight jacket and a pair of black, baggy pants with way too many pockets for any sane pokemon to have. A long, thin black scarf trailed down his back in a way that said it was there for fashion more than for function.

He opened his golden eyes and met Macro’s violet ones, reflecting his confusion. A thud behind him told him someone had fainted, and from the sound of it, it wasn’t Anchor. The granbull stood beside him silently. His large mouth opened and closed as he attempted to find words but his eyes kept going to the ceiling thoughtfully, as if he was worried any words he chose might offend the strange… pokemon?… sitting before them.

Macro shook his head slowly, not taking his eyes off Switch. “What are you?”

Switch raised an eyebrow and leant back slightly. “What am I? I thought this was System? …I’m a human.”
 

Ambyssin

Winter can't come soon enough
-And it looks like this Android Hoopa, aside from being a troll, is also incredibly creepy! Poor Talonflame… unless that’s who I think it is…

Macro threw his arms in the air and cheered, eliciting a squeak of surprise from DL and an eye roll from Anchor.

He turned on his seat and waved a fist at the rear of the cockpit. “How do you like that?! You can never beat me!”

Anchor let out a small sigh. “I really worry one day your mouth is gonna land us all in trouble.”

Macro, still laughing, sat back in his seat and kicked his feet up onto the dashboard. “You’re a pirate, Anchor, you’re supposed to welcome trouble! Live on the edge!”
It’s been awhile since we’ve had Macro’s bravado show through. It’s so infrequent that I had almost forgotten that was an element to his personality. Actually, further than that, there’s the plan to possibly random off the Talonflame. Seems like a contradictory action on his part, considering Socket clearly wants DL and Macro’s keeping hold of her. Why not just do the same with the Talonflame too? He can probably turn Talonflame against Socket quickly.

-Also, hi Surge. Here to bail Macro out again, are we? I don’t think she’s all that committed to Socket’s contract, considering she’s now blown two perfectly clear opportunities to capture him. She’s pretty much just a stalker right now, just like the crew says. :p

“As for what that thing was,” Macro went on, “it’s apparently a tear in time and space. And those golden ships? They’re the bad guys.”
Macro shrugged again and closed his eyes. “I guess we need to get you back, then, huh?”
Yup, see, why even have Macro muse about holding the guy for ransom when he very clearly doesn’t intend to do that at all? Was it for laughs? Cause if so I think I read that part wrong.

“So what’s your name, big guy?” Macro asked.

“It’s Switch,” answered the talonflame.

“Switch, eh?” Macro grinned. “Since you’re not from here, I guess telling you my real name doesn’t matter, does it? I’m Macro, and this is my ship, Wildcard Gamma.”
Okay you can’t call it “not exactly a sequel” when you drop a character from your previous story right into the thick of things. That most definitely falls under the “sequel” category. Or at the very least it’s a “daughter story.” Well at least I’m far enough in Glitched that I know who Switch is! Still, what a shocking twist. Now I want to know how Switch is gonna factor into all of this? Or if he’s just a glorified cameo.
 

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
HI SWITCH :D Of course Socket and co. are after the guy. A human that doesn't have to look the part. The perfect candidate for her effed-up plans.

Looks like I was right about there being a hoopabot in the mix, too. With appropriately terrifying abilities to boot, if what he threatened Socket with is any indication. Said gothitelle better watch him. It looks like she has a loose cannon on her hands.

[spoil]My belief about Macro's ancestry still stands, incidentally. It just appears as though there's quite a few more generations between than I'd expected![/spoil]
 

Cutlerine

Gone. Not coming back.
What memory I have of you has you as abrasive, rude and a liar
Man, he's had that coming for a while now; I'm glad someone finally told him. :p But I appreciate how it comes at a time when he's actually at his most caring yet. It's kind of sweet, and the contrast is really satisfying.

Chapter fifteen marks an interesting break from the disk-hunting thing, too -- I did think initially that just going after the five disks sounded like a relatively simple plot, and was expecting something to come up as a complication, but somehow it never actually occurred to me that, you know, the big old evil plan you introduced early on would actually be relevant. Not my reading comprehension's finest hour, I have to say. Anyway, I really like that interesting complications are starting to arise.

until the chains went taught
That should be 'taut' there.

And then, the surprise return of Switch! I suspected as soon as a talonflame was introduced, of course, especially given time travel had already been introduced, but it was still a nice surprise that he was introduced at all. It makes great sense to bring him back, what with TimeSkip and the hunt for humans, and I look forward to seeing what use you make of him here. Really, this is a pretty good couple of chapters; there's a lot of interesting development happening here, and it comes just as things were starting to settle into a rhythm, too -- so excellent timing, keeping Macro on his toes (to say nothing of your readers). Definitely anticipating whatever you've got coming up next!
 

DeliriousAbsol

Call me Del
And then, the surprise return of Switch! I suspected as soon as a talonflame was introduced, of course, especially given time travel had already been introduced, but it was still a nice surprise that he was introduced at all.
HI SWITCH Of course Socket and co. are after the guy. A human that doesn't have to look the part. The perfect candidate for her effed-up plans.
I have to admit, I was a little worried introducing him XD I'm glad he's been met with positivity!

Yup, see, why even have Macro muse about holding the guy for ransom when he very clearly doesn’t intend to do that at all? Was it for laughs? Cause if so I think I read that part wrong.
You never can quite tell with Macro. Was it a joke? A fleeting plan in his mind? Was he testing DL's reaction?

Truth be told, he was voicing a potential idea I'd had which I decided might not work (so there's no spoilers in me admitting that). But it suited his anti-hero personality to have him say something that could be hurtful, so I alluded to it. Maybe it didn't work? =/ Not sure... I'd like to know more opinions on that.

Okay you can’t call it “not exactly a sequel” when you drop a character from your previous story right into the thick of things. That most definitely falls under the “sequel” category. Or at the very least it’s a “daughter story.”
Yeh, it's not easy trying to avoid a 'sequel' feel when you introduce a character from the previous story. Whereas the plot isn't a sequel, and you don't need to know prior events since they're explained somewhat, the feel I was going for is kind of how 'Mattimeo' is to 'Martin the Warrior' in the Redwall series. You don't NEED to read 'Martin the Warrior' to understand the lore behind the following stories, but you can if you want to.

I understand where you're coming from, however, and I think the term I'll use is 'not quite a sequel', or 'daughter story' since I quite like that =D

If it does end up feeling too much like a sequel as things progress, I apologize. I am pretty much pantsing the whole thing, but none of my ideas directly relate to the events in Glitched.

Chapter Seventeen​


A human? A human was sat in his cargo hold? Macro blinked in bewilderment. Switch hadn’t moved an inch since he’d declared such a statement. He stared back at the mawile, matching his open-mouthed, wide-eyed expression.

So humans existed. He had living proof. Maybe Socket wasn’t as crazy as he’d thought.

He didn’t look like he’d expected humans too, however. The old fairy tale books he’d read as a hatchling depicted them as some strange passimian-nuzleaf hybrid with a pair of lightly furred paws with incredibly long fingers that could have given a galvantula leg envy. What he had sat before him looked nothing like any pokemon he’d ever seen. The closest would be a sawk or throh, but that would have been stretching things a bit.

Macro shifted so his paw was resting on his hip and Switch jolted, his eyes flying to the mawile’s laser. Macro forced a grin and let out a small laugh.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “I ain’t gonna shoot ya.”

Switch closed his eyes as he sighed and leant back on his paws. “That’s a relief. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pokemon with a weapon before. I feel like I’ve entered an alternate universe or something.”

“I wouldn’t know about that,” said Macro. “I mean, according to folklore, humans used to exist here. Apparently. Can’t say I ever believed it. It was just all nonsense told to gullible hatchlings.”

“Well, I was always skeptical.” Anchor turned and scooped up an unconscious Matrix. “I mean, if they all went back through that Fracture thing, then there wouldn’t be any fossils left. Would there?”

“The Fracture?” Switch looked up at the granbull. “So that happened here?”

“I guess so,” said Macro. “Ten centuries ago.”

“Ten…” Switch’s eyes went distant and he mouthed something quietly that sounded a lot like maths. “Wait… one thousand years ago?!”

“Hit the nail on the head there, pal.” Macro turned towards the stairs. “Suppose we’d better get you back quickly then if you’re gonna have any shot at getting back through that Fracture thing to your own world, eh?”

“I think you’re mistaken,” said Switch. “We already closed the Fracture years ago.”

Macro turned and raised an eyebrow. “Eh?”

“Allow me to help,” said DL. “Whereas one thousand years is an approximation, that tear reached back nine hundred and ninety two years ago. Not one thousand.”

“So you’re saying that tear was post-Fracture?” Macro asked her.

“Going off what he’s said, apparently.”

“Wow.” Macro folded his arms. “Socket got pretty lucky to pull a straggler through.”

“I wouldn’t call myself a straggler,” said Switch. “But the humans have definitely gone back home. Well… most of them.”

“Then why didn’t you?”

“I didn’t want to. System became my home and there was so much I hadn’t seen. Still haven’t seen!”

Macro rolled his eyes and scanned the stairwell door open. “More fool you for wanting to stay in this world. If I had the chance to leave, I’d go willingly. And I doubt I’m alone in that, either.” He waved a paw at the human and cleared his throat. “You might want to ‘bird up’ again. Not everywhere on my ship is as wide as this cargo hold.”

Switch reached for his watch which was now around his right wrist, and at the press of a button shrank down into the winged form of a talonflame. The sight tied Macro’s stomach in knots.

“I don’t think I’m ever gonna get used to that,” he said.

Anchor went ahead of Macro, cradling a mumbling Matrix in his arms. DL followed close behind Macro, her silent paw steps drowned out beneath the skittering claws as Switch scrambled after them.

“I never have liked narrow corridors,” he said. “So, you said this is your ship?”

“Yup. Wildcard Gamma,” said Macro.

“Gamma?” Switch made a small chuckle. “What happened to Alpha and Beta?”

“We don’t talk about Alpha and Beta,” said Macro.

Anchor’s mowhawk swayed from side to side as he shook his head.

“Oh…” said Switch. “I was actually just joking.”

The door into the loot room opened and Macro kept one eye over his shoulder, watching the talonflame’s golden eyes scan the room with awe. He said nothing, however, as they passed through it into the main body of the ship.

“This is where the bedrooms are,” Macro told him. “I’ll sort you one out later. I’m sure DL won’t mind lending a paw?”

The pachirisu shook her head.

“You want me to stay on your ship?” Switch asked.

“Well, I hardly think System is acclimated to humans at this present time,” said Macro. “And since Socket is after you for reasons I’ll explain shortly, then I think you’re safest with a bunch of space pirates. Don’t you?”

“Space pirates?” Switch took a small step back.

Macro placed his paws on his hips. “They have space pirates in your time line?”

“They had ocean pirates,” said Switch. “Out by the Analogue Islands.”

“Isles.”

“Pardon?”

“It’s the Analogue Isles,” said Macro.

Switch frowned. “What difference does it make?”

“None whatsoever. But it’s what everyone calls them. Besides, you don’t want to go there.” Macro turned and continued down the corridor. “This room on the end is the washroom. Opposite is the kitchen and dining area.”

Cookie’s brown face peeked around the door and beamed when he saw Switch. “Someone else new for dinner? Good job I’ve made plenty, huh?”

Switch gave him a warm smile and followed Macro into the cockpit.

“And this is where all the action takes place,” said Macro.

“It’s also kind of where we all hang out,” said Anchor as he set Matrix into his seat.

The ribombee rubbed his head and looked around slowly. “When did we get back into the cockpit?”

Macro pulled himself up into his seat and kicked his feet up onto the dashboard. “Any questions?”

“Yes, a few, actually.” Switch looked around the room. “Firstly, you don’t have enough seats to match your crew numbers.”

“Well, you and DL are fairly new,” said Macro. “We can get that looked into once we can afford it.”

Switch visibly flinched. “It’s not very safe, though, is it?”

“The life of a space pirate isn’t at the best of times. If we find ourselves in combat, hunker down and close your eyes if it’s too much for you.”

“Combat? I thought pokemon fought using their elemental attacks and you’re in a ship armed with little guns.” Switch raised an eyebrow. “Why are you carrying weapons?”

“They’re to counter our weaknesses,” said Macro.

“You’re weakness is fire.” Switch was thoughtful for a moment then a small smile tugged at his beak and he winked. “Does that mean it’s a water pistol?”

Macro met his smirk with a frown. “Are you sassing me?”

Switch’s golden eyes widened and he shook his head. “No! Not at all. I was just making a joke.”

“Another? You do that a lot.”

Switch shrugged and cowered into himself. “I’m sorry. I’m just nervous. I mean, I got dragged through a porthole into another world! And not for the first time, either!”

Macro stared at him then rolled his eyes and sighed. “Fine. I get you’re anxious, but seriously. Relax. If time and space is being torn open, I’m sure you’re world will be opened up again soon enough. Besides, DL should know that as soon as it happens.”

“Oh yeh. That reminds me.” Switch ruffled his feathers and turned his eyes onto DL. “Why does a pachirisu have an antennae and socket? Is she a robot? Because if so, then that’s pretty advanced and phenomenally life-like compared to what I’m used to.”

“DL is actually a pachirisu,” said Macro. “As for her… enhancements… we’ll… you ready for a bit of a shock, Switch?”

“I think the one I’ve had is large enough, thank you.”

“This one is actually about you.” Macro narrowed his eyes and swiveled fully in his seat. “You see, there’s a reason you’ve been dragged into another time line. And I don’t think you’re gonna like it one bit.”

...​

Socket paced back and forth in her office with her paws clasped behind her back, keeping the split holoscreen in her peripheral vision. The worried, chubby face of Yobi greatly contrasted BackDoor’s amused expression.

“So let me get this straight.” She rounded on the screen and Yobi cowered behind the panel of his handheld. “You found a pocket that reached back almost ten centuries ago… and Hunter interfered again?”

The sparksurfer raichu nodded briskly. “But in all fairness-”

“What did he take this time?” she asked.

“A talonflame,” said Yobi.

BackDoor folded his arms and closed his eyes while the raichu glanced away from the screen.

“A talonflame,” Socket repeated. “Or a human?”

“Well, erm…” Yobi shuffled in his seat. “It’s hard to say.”

“Weren’t a pokemon,” said BackDoor. “That’s for certain.”

“So it wasn’t a pokemon?” Socket tapped her claws over her arm and narrowed her eyes at the raichu.

“Nope,” said BackDoor. “My scan data came back all wrong. Everything about it - its heat signature, brain waves, chip data - all wrong. If I were to hazard a guess - and it’s a fairly educated guess - I’d say what your little vermin took off with was in fact a human.”

Yobi flinched and sank down in his seat so only his ears were visible.

Socket rubbed the bridge of her nose between two claws. “So you’re telling me that Hunter has taken off with a human? My human?!”

BackDoor raised his stubby paw. “Along with your living computer. Yes.”

Socket rounded on the hoopa. “You’re not helping!”

“Hey, you don’t pay me to be an agony aunt,” he said.

“I don’t pay you at all.”

BackDoor folded his arms and grinned. “Yeh. We really need to talk about that. Your employee care is absolutely shocking.”

The fur on the back of Socket’s neck stood on end and she pursed her lips together, fixing the grinning hoopa in a vicious leer before rounding back on the quaking raichu.

“That space pirate really is the mothim in my honey,” she muttered. “How has he beaten me? How did he know where to look?”

“That’s because there’s one little flaw I’m trying to work around,” said Yobi quickly. “Download Database receives information from the other artificials in the BackDoor network.”

“So he gets live updates from wherever these gates open?” Socket closed her eyes and seethed. “Is there any way you can remove Download Database from it?”

“Not without obtaining her,” said Yobi. “As a safety precaution, we deliberately designed Download Database so it could only be disconnected from the user’s end. That way, if someone were to obtain one of the artificials then they couldn’t disconnect Download Database and the host could be used to track down the missing artificial, however Download Database can disconnect other artificials from the network, blocking their access to confidential information.”

“That’s a neat little oversight you forgot to inform me about.” Socket spoke with a dangerous air that made the raichu cower and BackDoor break into hysterical fits of laughter. “What, may I ask, do you plan to do about this?”

Yobi glanced to the side. “Like I said… I’m trying to work on something.”

“Then work faster!” She tapped her foot rapidly and frowned. “I trust an investigation into the human’s whereabouts, along with finding a replacement, are in action?”

Yobi nodded with such ferocity his ears flopped back and forth. “Oh yes! Already I’ve copied the program from TimeSkip into Zero Day, and they are being deployed to all corners of System Sky as we speak!”

“Urgh, not Zero Day.” BackDoor slammed a paw into his face. “Whenever I communicate with those things it’s like having a million voices in my head all vying for first place.”

Yobi glanced sideways at the adjoining screen. “I admit there are problems, but I can assure you they are as stable as we could possibly get them in the limited time-”

“Enough!” Socket stamped her foot. “You had ample time! Will it still work? That’s the question!”

“Oh, it’ll work.” Yobi forced a smile to counter his doubtful tone. “And with so many out there scouring for dimension and time pockets, we should find a replacement in no time.”

“And of the current human?”

Yobi shrugged and immediately regretted it. He cowered back from Socket’s glare and cleared his throat.

“We’ll…” He stuttered. “We’ll have someone track-”

“Forget it.” Socket tapped her arm irritably. “I’ll get my mercenary on it. You just focus on doing your job. As for you.” She looked back at the hoopa who grinned widely and met her glare. “Keep a close eye on TimeSkip and Zero Day. Make sure you’re there in no time flat to open up those pockets and grab anything that comes through before that nuisance space pirate.”

He saluted and blinked out, the holoscreen spreading into a full high definition image of Yobi’s terrified face. Socket leered at the raichu and pursed her lips.

“What are you waiting around for?” she spat. “You’re dismissed! Go!”

The screen blinked out before the pokemon could even remember to salute. The gothitelle turned away from the screen to look out of the window. Even from this distance she thought she could see the hull of Wildcard Gamma in the sky, but it was nothing more than a large, grey cloud.

She turned back to the holoscreen and tapped through her contacts list until she found the one she was looking for. It jingled out a jaunty tune while the dialing icon danced from side to side, a little too cheerful for her liking, until it cut out and was replaced with the concerned face of a zigzagoon.

“Socket?” she asked. “How can I help you?”

“Surge,” said Socket. “How is the pursuit of Hunter progressing?”

Surge scratched her ear beneath her bandana and glanced away. “He keeps slipping out of my grip.”

Socket pursed her lips together. “Shame. He’s interfered with my work yet again, so I’d appreciate it if things sped up a bit. Is the laser not reliable enough for you?”

“Oh, it’s fine!”

“Did you miss your target?”

“I never miss my target.” Surge gave her a reassuring smile. “Just give me a little more time and he’ll be behind bars before you know it.”

“Make sure he is,” said Socket. “Dead or alive.”

She hung up and Surge’s face vanished back into the desk. Once again, she turned back to her window and strolled over to her own desk. Her claws brushed a pile of paperwork and she slid the top sheet aside to reveal the morbid photo of a molten magnezone.

I never miss my target!

Of course, there was no evidence to state that Surge was responsible for the massacre of a magnezone’s police fleet. The fact it coincided with Hunter’s raid on yet another data chip did leave a bitter taste in her mouth, and gave her doubts. Had the mawile acquired a fire laser, or was Surge actually responsible? She needed to get onto interrogating that stubborn croagunk.

She looked away from the photo and stared up at the sky. Space pirates. The very bane of her existence, costing her countless hours of sleep.

It was going to be a long night, and the office was oddly quiet. She wished desperately Tweak would hurry up with her coffee.

...​

Switch had been silent for some time, sitting with his beak hanging open as he stared at the floor. Macro’s explanation had long since ended and he was growing restless, much like the rest of his crew. Anchor hummed to himself as he watched the sky roll by; DL sat against the wall a few feet away from the talonflame looking rather shaken up; Matrix, however, had loaded up a retro eight-bit tennis-style game on his computer, minimizing the navigation system into the top right corner.

“This is all a lot to take in,” Switch finally said, although not for the first time. “This Socket… you said she’s mayor of System?”

Macro nodded. “Yup.”

“And she’s wanting to do to me - or any other human - exactly what she’s done to DL?” Switch nodded to the pachirisu who flinched at the sound of her name.

“Except, unlike her, Socket can legally destroy your memories and personality,” said Macro. “So if I were you, I’d keep your human form on the down-low.”

Switch closed his eyes and sighed. “So if this is System… it’s many many years ahead of my time line and very few even know humans ever existed here. I have my suspicions on why she wants a human, but… why go out of her way to get one?”

“If I were to guess,” said Anchor, scratching his chin, “I’d say it’s ‘cos back then, humans generally were stuck in a pokemon form. They aren’t pokemon, though, so turning them into a living computer would be legal and the perfect disguise.”

Switch spread his wings in a shrug. “But why not just build an android? Why use a living computer?”

“Androids can malfunction,” said Macro. “They also need charging up and regular maintenance. You can just feed a biological body and let it sleep. Much more cost effective.”

Anchor nodded to Macro. “Got brains, this one.”

“Well, it’s abhorrent!” said Switch. “What if she doesn’t just stop at me, either? What if she decides to farm back into the pre-Fracture time line and drag all the humans through?”

Macro scratched the base of his horn and exchanged glances with Anchor and Matrix.

“I hadn’t thought of that,” he said.

The other two shook their heads and Matrix returned to his game.

“Socket doesn’t have much of an opinion for any species she sees as having a lower status,” Macro went on. “Humans would mean nothing to her, just like the water dwelling pokemon. I wouldn’t be surprised if she does farm humans through to this time line just like they yank those water dwellers out of their homes.”

Switch’s beak fell open. “What does she do with the water dwellers?”

“Turns them into meat,” Macro spat.

Switch turned so pale Macro feared he might faint. The talonflame raised a wing to his face and closed his eyes.

“I… I can’t even process that,” he said.

“What?” Macro scoffed. “They didn’t eat meat in your time line?”

“No, they did not.” He tucked his wing back to his side and met Macro’s glare. “Which fool altered that law? Because the way I see it, it’s cannibalism.”

“I don’t know,” said Macro. “That law was in place long before I hatched. Just be glad you ain’t a fish.” He turned back towards the windscreen and kicked his feet up. “Besides, you have a healthy outlook on that matter. I won’t have any cannibals on my ship.”

“Speaking of ships.” Matrix drew the mawile’s attention. “That stalker of ours is back.”

Macro muttered under his breath and pulled himself from his seat, watching the blinking red dot on the screen. Was it Surge again? If so, then why was she following him so intently? There was no saying it was, however. It could be anyone after his head.

“Stalker?” Switch peered over the ribombee’s shoulder.

“Aye,” said Macro. “It happens a lot. Even more so as of late.”

“You said this DL was meant to go to Socket,” said Switch. “Have you considered they might be tracking her somehow?”

Macro looked up into Switch’s golden eyes then glanced towards DL. She stared back at him, still huddled against the wall. A tracking chip? No, he’d not considered that.

“Every pokemon in System has a data chip,” he told Switch. “It contains your name, hatch date, species, gender, age, place of birth. All that stuff. But it can't track your movements. Tracking chips are illegal, they go against pokemon rights. Surely Socket wouldn’t break the law, right? Since DL is still a pokemon? She still has her rights.”

“Can you scan her chip?” Switch asked.

He expanded out into his human form again, eliciting a small squeak from Matrix, and reached into one of his many pockets to pull out a large pocket computer that he needed both hands to hold. In one fluid motion, he ran it past DL’s small body and looked down at the screen.

“Same kind,” he said almost to himself. “It still scans.”

“They’ve been using them for decades,” said Macro. “We all have one.”

“Yes, but hers is strange. It has her name as Download Database. Is that her real name? Because it sounds odd even for System.”

Macro and Anchor peered down at the screen. Even Matrix abandoned his game to hover over the human’s head. On the screen were the details one would expect from a chip scan. It had DL’s gender, age, even her photograph. It had Meta City as her place of hatching and residence, which surprised Macro since Meta City was primarily inhabited by psychic and normal type pokemon. Most other species were shunned unless they shared a type with one of the other two and treated it as their primary type.

“Does this look authentic?” Switch asked.

“Pretty much,” said Macro. “Except…”

“I don’t like it,” said Matrix. “Her name is her computer name, right? And Meta City as her place of hatching? Electric types don’t live there.”

Anchor grunted and nodded. “Sounds like a cover-up to me.”

“It’s either been modified or faked.” Matrix scratched between his antennae. “With all the ships that have been following us, I’m leaning towards the latter.”

“All right.” Switch placed his computer back into his pocket. “Do you have a medical kit?”

“Why would my ship have a medical kit?” Macro asked. “We’re not doctors.”

“For emergencies?”

“You’re planning on removing her chip, aren’t you?” A small smirk tugged at Macro’s lips. “Not in my cockpit, pal. I ain’t cleaning up any blood.”

“Wait, what?” DL hugged her fluffy tail to her chest. “You’re wanting to operate on me now?”

Macro placed a paw on his hip. “What’s the problem?”

“I’m still trying to come to terms with everything you’ve just said!” She shook her head. “Humans… living computers… and now you think I’m being tracked?”

“All that stuff about humans and computers should have been in your databases,” said Macro.

“Well it wasn’t!” said DL. “Not in such details! I don’t know anything about what her plans are prior to obtaining her beloved computer, but it’s like… I’m just some prototype until something ‘better’ comes along! A waste! She removed everything about me… for this?” She waved a paw at Switch.

The human frowned slightly and pushed the button on his watch, returning to the smaller and more agreeable form of a talonflame. Regardless, DL just cowered behind her tail and stared at the wall.

“I don’t think she likes me,” said Switch.

Macro grunted and climbed back into his seat. “We’ll head to Pulse City. She can have the chip removed there easy peasy. Then we’ll figure out what to do with you, Switch.”

The talonflame shuffled over to Anchor’s other side and gazed out of the window with his beak slightly ajar. Floating cities sped past them amongst the fluffy white and grey clouds, all the while with their stalker following at a steady pace behind them.
 
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Ambyssin

Winter can't come soon enough
He didn’t look like he’d expected humans too, however. The old fairy tale books he’d read as a hatchling depicted them as some strange passimian-nuzleaf hybrid with a pair of lightly furred paws with incredibly long fingers that could have given a galvantula leg envy. What he had sat before him looked nothing like any pokemon he’d ever seen
Okay I am genuinely curious what the heck System's stories about humans are like if that's the impression Macro had of this. Bonus chapter, maybe? :3

“Ten…” Switch’s eyes went distant and he mouthed something quietly that sounded a lot like maths. “Wait… one thousand years ago?!”

“Hit the nail on the head there, pal.” Macro turned towards the stairs. “Suppose we’d better get you back quickly then if you’re gonna have any shot at getting back through that Fracture thing to your own world, eh?”

“I think you’re mistaken,” said Switch. “We already closed the Fracture years ago.”
To quoth that old guilty pleasure sprite comic, Bob & George, "Time travel, man." But I'm glad this gives us a sense of just how far-removed from Glitched's events Switch is before he's made to be a fish out of temporal water. And it's... about as long as I was expecting. Which, of course, makes me wonder what Switch was up to in the interim of course. That's the peril of special guest characters, you risk having them the steal the spotlight. XD

“Gamma?” Switch made a small chuckle. “What happened to Alpha and Beta?”

“We don’t talk about Alpha and Beta,” said Macro.
Alas, poor space pirate ships. We hardlynever knew ye. *plays taps on xylophone*

If time and space is being torn open, I’m sure you’re world will be opened up again soon enough.
"Your world," on that one. Also, I like how nonchalant everyone is about this whole situation. Like, Switch has already had this happen once before, so he gets with the program quickly. And the rest of the crew just shrugs it off because they've got DL so they have a build-in solution to the problem, in a manner of speaking.

Socket rounded on the hoopa. “You’re not helping!”

“Hey, you don’t pay me to be an agony aunt,” he said.

“I don’t pay you at all.”

BackDoor folded his arms and grinned. “Yeh. We really need to talk about that. Your employee care is absolutely shocking.”
BackDoor might just be my favorite of the "villainous" lot. He's got so much sass and makes every scene with Socket entertaining.

The whole scene with Socket does a nice, succinct job of explaining why DL is so important in Socket's plans and, yeah, that's a serious programming error they made there. But they can't take it back now. I am curious as to which Pokémon Zero Day is emulating. My guess is it's another mythical, but BackDoor's comments also make me think Unown swarm for some reason.

Good to see Switch hates Macro right off the bat. Although, given where I am in Glitched, he was rather detached. So, he's clearly undergone some sort of character development that I'll need to find out about. I'm also amazed he's the one to deduce DL's data chip is a fake one. You'd think Macro might be paranoid about something like that, considering Surge can keep tailing him. Poor DL. Hope something goes right for you soon.
 

Cutlerine

Gone. Not coming back.
This is an interesting one, all right. I'm interested in the plot development, of course, but I think it's actually a bit weaker than the preceding chapters; there's an instance or two of really quite inelegant prose, and a fair few plot elements that I'm not sure I'm convinced by. I'll start with a good example of those inelegant bits.

The fur on the back of Socket’s neck stood on end and she pursed her lips together, fixing the grinning hoopa in a vicious leer before rounding back on the quaking raichu.
There's a lot happening in this sentence – so much so that a lot of it is contradictory; how can she purse her lips together and leer viciously simultaneously? – and also some of it is constructed slightly weirdly; you might conceivably fix someone 'with a vicious leer', although not 'in' one, but I think you'd 'round on' someone rather than 'round back on' them, even if you are returning your attention to them after momentarily turning to someone else.

Onto the plot oddities: it seems a bit of a weird leap for Socket to jump to suspecting Surge of killing the magnezone. Just because Surge has a fire laser, she finds herself thinking she might have done it, when it seems more logical for her to think “ah, well, perhaps Macro or one of his crew got hold of a fire laser and we need to update our intelligence accordingly”. I don't really think Surge has given her any reason to believe that she might not be wholly on Socket's side – or if she has, it isn't really been obvious enough that this feels like an intuitive leap on Socket's part.

I'm also not sure I totally buy Macro's argument that androids are less efficient. Android tech seems so far advanced in this world as to make them essentially indistinguishable from organics – and like, building a network of supercomputers to track down fractures in reality and pull humans through from other dimensions seems way less cost-efficient than building androids, especially since Socket had to build a bunch of androids anyway in order to get hold of the humans in the first place.

Finally, I'm not really convinced by the tracking chip thing. Okay, so maybe it's illegal to use it to track someone – but am I to believe that nobody has ever used it to try and track Macro, the most wanted pirate around, anyway? I'd think that even scrupulously legal Socket might stoop to that, given that she's sending mercenaries after him to bring him in dead or alive. It feels like something introduced to facilitate this plot point with DL, but it doesn't quite gel with what we already know of how the world of this story works. If Macro and his crew had had theirs removed or somehow rendered inert via electromagnetic pulse or something, I guess that would make sense, or if it was just a tracking chip implanted into DL during the computerification process, that would make sense too, but as it is I think it strains credulity a bit to believe that no one has ever tried to track Macro with it just because it's illegal and that Macro has never considered it a problem.

So yeah. A few things here I'm not sure are quite convincing. Maybe there are good in-universe explanations for all of them, but if there are, I've missed them, which might be an indication that they're not quite laid out as explicitly as they might otherwise be. Which is not to say that there isn't anything to like here – I'm still enjoying the story, and I'm interested to see how Switch is going to figure into the unfolding situation between Socket, DL and Macro, but I do think that there are a few things here that might benefit from a bit of tidying up and clarification.
 
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