Call me Del
Chapter Fifty Five
Macro couldn’t help but feel relieved that he’d been removed from the drip. Sat back against a pillow, he sipped at what must have been his third cup of tea that morning.
Switch sat beside him in one of the many plastic chairs situated around the room, comfortable in his human form. None of the doctors were phased by his appearance. From what little he’d said since he’d arrived, Macro guessed he’d been walking around the entire city featherless.
Macro glanced at the time on his computer, and not for the first time. Thirty minutes had passed since Switch had walked in, all smiles and sunshine. Yet whenever Macro glanced him out of the corner of his eye, he looked bothered. Sad. Lonely? Whatever it was, he covered it up with a smile or one of his winks and what had been an awkward, fractured conversation about Macro’s ‘recent injury’.
“Okay.” The mawile sighed and adjusted himself painfully so he could place his half-drunk still piping-hot tea back onto his bedside table. “I have to ask. Why are you walking around Cyan City with your human out?”
Switch raised an eyebrow and let out a confused ‘huh?’
Macro gestured towards him with a paw. “This. I thought you’d be staying as a talonflame. You know… since there are no other humans in System?”
“That’s where you’re wrong.” Switch sipped at his own cup. “There’s one other human in System.”
Wildcard’s conversation with Solgaleo came back to Macro and his eyes widened slightly. “Oh… Oh yes, there is, isn’t there? They escaped from Socket.”
“A female,” said Switch. “Apparently she’s also been sighted as an archeops, and she’s not shy about it either. In fact…” He fastened both hands around his cup and leant forward on his knees, staring blankly at the closed door. “I know who she is.”
“Oh?” It was Macro’s turn to raise an eyebrow. “A friend of yours?”
“No, but we were both in the same hospital when we first entered System. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to stabilise her form. Only one watch was made, and it wasn’t by a doctor. The only reason I have it is because it turned out to be a failed experiment.”
“What? And they couldn’t make two?”
“Didn’t want to.” Switch shrugged. “Besides. This other human is very… mentally unstable. It’s believed to be from her condition. That being unable to stabilise it sent her mad. But… If it was that, it was a very immediate thing. I doubt even with a stabilising watch she’d have been allowed out of her cell.”
“I think that’s pretty rotten, if I’m honest. How can they be so sure?”
Switch shrugged his shoulders. “Apparently her form is pretty stable now, somehow. And she punched the mayor.”
Macro sputtered laughter, sending jolts of pain through his chest. He clasped his paw over it and took a few steadying breaths. When he looked up again, Switch was on his feet, staring down at him with a fearful look of concern.
“I’m fine,” Macro wheezed. He stifled another wave of laugher, twisting his lips into a smirk. “Just… the thought of someone actually punching Socket really tickled me.”
Switch slumped back down into his seat and let his face fall into his hands. His floppy red and brown hair fell between his fingers, masking what little Macro could still see of his face.
“What’s the problem?” Macro asked. “I said I’m fine.”
“If I’d been there,” Switch muttered, “we could have handled those kartana.”
“What are you talking about?” Macro spat. “Those things are deadly.”
“Not entirely.” Switch looked up again but he remained hunched over his knees. “They’re apparently grass and steel type. One overheat from me and they would have been reduced to cinders. No threat to anyone.”
“You’re talking about killing them? We’re meant to be getting them home!”
“How?! They can cut through iron!”
Macro shrugged and looked away, clutching his claws around his duvet. “I don’t have it quite figured out yet.”
“No, your last attempt to ‘figure it out’ almost got you killed!” Switch paused as Macro flinched at his words. “And where was I? Left here in Cyan City, forgotten about.”
“You were recovering!” Macro swiftly regretted raising his voice. He screwed his eyes shut and huddled back into his pillow.
“Well…” Switch stared at him pointedly. “Now the shoe is on the other foot.”
“What? You’re gonna leave me here? Fly off and try to wipe out those kartana?”
“Not exactly. I’m going to wait for you to recover and help you wipe out those kartana.”
“We’re not wiping them out. We’re getting them home.” Macro flashed a canine. “And until you can get that into your thick skull, I won’t tell you a single other thing about this mission.”
“Too late.” Switch sat back and tucked his hands behind his head. “Your crew already have.”
Macro’s jaw dropped and he stared back at the human, speechless.
“So unless you can find a box that they can’t cut through,” Switch went on, “I’m stumped as to how we’re gonna get them back into their own world. Because I doubt they’re going to listen to reason.”
“We could bait them?”
“How? Dangle you in front of them like a carrot?”
Macro visibly flinched and fired Switch a glare. “What?”
“I dunno, I just thought they might want to finish you off.” Switch winked and looked back at the door. “I’m sorry. I’m just a little bitter that the only time you even bother to come back here is when your crew is dragging you half dead across System Sky.”
Macro closed his eyes and sighed. It was inevitable Switch would feel that way. How was he meant to explain that Cyan City was the safest place? He’d almost died. His loss could alter history, affect the present in unimaginable, unpredictable ways.
“I promised we’d get you home,” he said. “You really think we weren’t gonna come back for you?”
“It was getting that way. But… I kept myself busy.” Switch pulled his computer out of his pocket and scrolled over the screen. “I’ve been looking into where the twins might have been taken, since no one has found their bodies. And the bug types are being rehabilitated and studied in hopes they can get some identity back. So I’ve been assisting there, too.” He glanced up briefly. “It pays well.”
Macro let out a non-committal grunt. “We were gonna come back. One of the Z Crystals we were given is meant for you.”
“I believe you.” Switch looked up from his computer and let it fall into his lap. “Just remember I’m more useful to you on your ship than hidden away in this city.”
“But they’ve needed you, right?”
Switch shrugged. “I’ve just been making myself useful, really. Helping clean up after that invasion, doing detective work… I’d much rather be trying to get myself back home.”
“Well, once I’m out of here, we can sort that out, can’t we?” It was becoming a strain to talk. Macro reached for his teacup, claws barely reaching it.
Switch leant forwards and handed Macro his cup before rising to his feet. “I’ll let you finish resting. I need to get back to the station anyway. Floppy will be wanting his break.” Macro watched him cross the ward and he paused at the door. “Take care of yourself. Don’t do anything foolish. It’ll take a while for those wounds to heal, even with Cyan City’s advanced medicine.”
With that, he slipped out of the room.
Macro sighed and sipped at his tea, now almost tepid. He considered downing it, but the effects of three cups of tea and several glasses of water were really beginning to take their toll on him. He discarded the cup back onto the table and carefully swung himself over the edge of the bed. His eye went to the bucket tucked underneath it and his muzzle creased in a grimace.
No. Not today.
It might have been a private room, but it wasn’t an en-suite. Not being attached to that drip was a real blessing. It meant he wouldn’t have to drag it after him.
He dropped to the floor with a grunt and staggered to the door, peering out into the hallway. Switch was already long gone, and the only other pokemon he could see was a cleaner. A minccino. One of the few normal types he’d seen in Cyan City. He wouldn’t stop him.
Macro placed a paw to his chest and walked as carefully and as evenly as he could to the rest rooms. Fortunately only a stone throw a way. They were as brightly lit with florescent lighting as the rest of the hospital, reflecting off the porcelain with a blinding intensity he felt ashamed to admit he’d grown used to. The biting smell of bleach and floral air freshener meant the minccino had recently cleaned everything until it shone. The yellow slip hazard cone was still situated in the middle of the floor, fortunately not providing a trip hazard.
He briefly considered resigning himself to the bucket but shook it off. Not when he knew for a fact DL was due to visit him within the next ten minutes. Knowing his luck, she’d be early.
Every movement was a chore, and the slippery floor didn’t help. He moved at a snails pace to the nearest convenience and caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. It was either the lighting, or he looked pale. He couldn’t tell. Sure he’d lost a lot of blood, but they’d given him a transfusion to replace it so that wasn’t an issue. Maybe it was the food? He’d grown too used to Cookie’s cooking or something. He sincerely doubted he was still in shock.
He grimaced as he turned himself away towards the door, grateful for the automatic flush feature. There was no way he’d be able to stretch for one. Washing his paws was enough of a chore.
As he paced slowly back into the hall, the smell of cleaning alcohol biting at him, he scratched a claw over his scar. Rose petals wafted up from his paw, or they may as well have done. Everything just smelled wrong. Oh how he yearned for his ship.
When he staggered back into his room, DL spun on the spot to face him, almost scaring him out of his skin. His chest complained and he pressed a paw against it as he made for his bed.
DL caught him and helped him back upon it, her face turning from worried to angry in an instant.
“What on earth are you doing?” she scolded. “I thought you’d gone and left!”
“I had to use the bathroom,” he grumbled. “Like any normal ‘mon.”
DL pursed her lips together and glanced down away from him towards the floor. He knew where she was looking and he rolled his eyes, expecting a lecture. Instead, she picked up a plastic bag from the chair.
“I brought you lunch,” she said. “I know you’re sick of hospital food.”
“You’re a star.”
He tried to push himself up, suddenly feeling a lot more alert. She stopped him so she could adjust his pillow and let him sit back against it. Once she was satisfied, she returned to rummaging through the bag. Her tail was held high over her back, ears forward and nose crinkled slightly as she occupied herself with her task. Seeing her like that made him feel warm inside.
“I know you like your nutpea and occa burgers, but they didn’t have that,” she explained. “They did, however, have nutpea and occa sandwiches. Not quite the same, but-”
“It sounds great.”
She looked up at him and smiled, then held out the neatly wrapped sandwich. He took it from her in both paws, meeting her eyes briefly.
“Do you need me to open it?” she asked.
“I think I’m okay.”
She nodded and scooped more items from the bag, setting them on the fold over table the doctors generally reserve for plated meals. From the variety she laid out before him, she may as well have been organising a buffet. Fruit cups, jelly, cakes, sweet bread, cereal bars, and a couple more sandwiches. She caught the baffled look on his face as he sat with his sandwich half way to his mouth.
“Yeh…” She chuckled and looked over the spread. “I went a little crazy.”
“Well, at least I won’t be going nuts over the bland food anymore.” He took a bite from his sandwich and nearly swooned.
She sat in the chair beside him and reached for a sandwich of her own, which from a glance may have been cheri jam.
“Switch visited today,” he told her.
“Yes, he said he was planning to.”
“He’s pretty wounded we left him here,” Macro explained. “I guess I should have called him.”
“Ideally.” DL stared at her sandwich thoughtfully then took a bite.
“So you think I did the wrong thing?”
She shrugged and swallowed her mouthful. “We were busy. I mean… you probably never really found time… a lot has been going on.”
“Why do I feel like you’re giving me the same explanation you gave him?”
“It’s difficult,” she said through an exasperated sigh. “We’re meant to be helping him. So leaving him here seemed sensible. He almost got killed.”
“Exactly.” Macro took another bite of his sandwich. “If he got killed, how would it affect us? Now, in this time-line?”
She looked up with a start, the surprise marred slightly by a streak of jam across her nose. “What exactly are you worried about?”
“You’ve heard of the butterfly effect, right?”
“If he really is connected to my ancestors, then if something happened to him… what would happen to me? That’s just one example. There’s also issues with System, too. How much of an impact did one human staying in System have on the rest of history? It’s hardly a trivial matter living with an alien species, is it? You just have to look at what the Ultra Beasts are doing to understand that.”
DL stared down at what little was left of her meal. “I hadn’t really considered that.”
“Neither had I until he almost got killed.” Macro took another huge bite of his sandwich.
“I guess we need to be careful, don’t we?”
The room fell into a heavy silence and Macro felt his appetite being pulled away from him. Regardless, he resigned to finish the majority of his sandwich before discarding the remains into the waste paper basket.
DL licked jam off her paws and looked from him to the small table. “Which cake would you like?”
“None right now, thank you.”
“Okay, maybe later then?” She leant forwards and scooped the rest of the ‘buffet’ into her shopping bag. Her paw faltered over a heavily iced cake and her claws flexed.
“If you want one, have one,” he said, masking a chuckle.
She made a thoughtful noise and glanced back at him over her shoulder. “Maybe later.”
“That’s some restraint.” He tucked his paws behind his head, grimacing with the effort, and leant awkwardly back against his pillow.
“I was… hoping to share that one with you.” She placed the cake carefully in the bag then looked over at him. “If it hurts, don’t sit like that!”
“It’s not so much pain as stiffness.” He moved his arms back in front of him and tried to stretch them out, flinching visibly. “It’s my lung and ribs that hurt.”
“You’re probably stiff from the surgery.” She watched him lean forwards, then she sat up with a start and reached under her seat. “That reminds me, I got your scarf repaired.”
He looked over his shoulder at her then sat upright again. She pulled his scarf out of another plastic bag and unravelled it. The damage was barely noticeable, save for where the neon blue pattern didn’t quite line up.
“It got quite cut up in that battle,” she said sadly. “I had it cleaned and repaired. You will barely be able to tell when it’s on.”
“Thank you,” he said.
“I guess you don’t want to wear it in bed, but it’s here for when you want it.”
She folded it neatly and carried it over to the bedside table where she tucked it away in its lone drawer. As she returned to her seat, she eyed him stretching again. Her paw went to her ear and she sat back down, glancing towards the door.
“I feel a bit awkward offering this,” she said. “But if it’s really bothering you, I can help ease the tension out?”
He stared at her, but she wouldn’t meet his eye, instead nervously glancing around the room particularly at the door.
“I know I’ve done it before, but I didn’t have my memories or my personality then,” she said. “So if you think it would be too… weird…”
“Hey, it helped the last time.” He diverted his gaze to the far wall. “It might help again, so…”
“Okay. I’ll be sure to avoid your damaged ribs.” She perched on the edge of his bed and reached up to his shoulders. “But if this hurts at all, you tell me. I don’t want to make things worse.”
He chuckled dryly and rolled his eyes. “Yes doctor.”
If she responded, he didn’t see it. She fastened her paws over his shoulders and squeezed them together, working into his muscles. His eyes fell shut as he felt the tension being slowly worked out. If anything, it was less the surgery that had caused the tension and more recent events wrecking havoc on his stress levels. Lying in bed for the past two days hadn’t helped matters either.
“I’m still curious about these markings.” She trailed a paw down his back then lifted it back up to his right shoulder.
“I haven’t a clue either,” he said. “My mother had them too. She always said it’s cos she thought we might have a pikachu in our family tree. But if that were the case, why don’t more pokemon have odd markings?”
She let out a small laugh and began working down his back, widely avoiding the left side. “I don’t think you’ve ever mentioned your mother.”
“Yeh, I don’t like to think about it.”
“Really? Did something bad happen?”
He was silent as his mind went back to his childhood, and he hugged his arms around his knees. “She was really sick. She died before I even left school.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” DL faltered and he felt her claws brush through his fur as she sat back slightly. “We can change the subject if you want?”
He shrugged. “I was a jerk of a kid. I just wish I’d done more. Not long after she passed I became a space pirate, for crying out loud.”
“And I guess that’s when you met Digit?”
“Yeh.” He paused and cracked an eye open. “What happened to her, anyway? I’ve not heard from her since she showed up to drag Anchor off for dinner yesterday.”
“She’s still here.” He winced as she dug into his right shoulder and she muttered something about him having a knot. “She’s lurking around the police station. She can’t go very far since she used your ship to get here.”
The tone in her voice told him he was better changing the conversation. He glanced over his shoulder, but all he could see was the white of her paw.
“Any news about the Ultra Beasts?”
“Don’t worry about them,” she said. “Focus on getting better. Then you can go back to worrying and maybe we can even try out those Z-Moves.”
“That sounds like a plan.”
“It would also be a good idea to give Switch his when we do. I’m sure he’ll be happy to practice with us.”
She trailed her paws down his back and he let his eyes close again. Not worrying. It was easier said than done, especially when he knew full well that strange creatures from other worlds were destroying System and killing pokemon. He’d almost added to that list of casualties himself. He took in a deep breath, noting the awful stab in the left of his chest. How long would it take him to recover from that? Would he be going back into battle before he’d fully recovered?
His mind snapped back to DL, her paws still trailing up and down his back. But it wasn’t so much a massage any more than her claws combing through his fur, starting at his waist where it grew longer to form his skirt then all the way up to the shorter fur around his shoulders. It stirred up odd bubbles in his stomach and he straightened, raising his right paw to grab her left. He twisted to face her, meeting her warm eyes. Chocolate fondue that he could get lost in. As she stared back at him, it made every bubble pop one after the other. She was close enough that he could feel her breath on his muzzle. She slipped her paw out from his and reached up to his face, brushing back a lock of black fur.
The door flew open and she leapt back from him like a hatchling from a hot stove hob. Jumper strolled into the room and looked from each of them back to Macro.
“You’re looking much better.” Jumper turned back to DL and gave her an apologetic smile. “Would you mind excusing us for a moment? I have something I’d like to discuss in private.”
DL muttered an apology and adjusted Macro’s pillow before gathering her bag and trotting towards the door. She paused in the doorway to give Jumper a pointed look.
“Don’t stress him out with bad news,” she said.
“Oh, I can assure you it’s good news,” he said.
“That’s okay then.” She slipped from the room, letting the door close quietly behind her.
Jumper turned back to Macro and cleared his throat. “She seems rather highly strung.”
“It was the other way around before.” Macro fell back against his pillow and tucked his arms behind his head, much easier this time. Then he raised an eyebrow at the frogadier. “What do you want, Gov? Is it really good news?”
“It depends on your perspective.” Jumper leant against the wall and folded his arms. “I am under the impression you are no longer welcome in Pulse City?”
“No, I’m not. Socket raised the stakes.” Macro narrowed his eyes at him. “Why?”
Jumper cleared his throat again and diverted his gaze to the window. “Your problem with pirates trying to claim your bounty may be very short lived.”
“What are you getting at, Governor?” Macro’s voice came out as a growl.
“One of those Ultra Beasts has set up home there,” said Jumper slowly. “The city is being reduced to ruins.”
That’s how that creature was burned into Tracer’s memory.
Huge. Towering over the buildings. A haunting scream echoing as it blasted the city to oblivion.
And what had Tracer done? Screamed at them to run. N0ize hadn’t needed telling twice. He pulled his ship away and leapt into hyperdrive, leaving Pulse City and its inhabitants to the mercy of the monster.
Tracer lay on musty sheets, his arm plastered over his eyes. The dull drone of the engine melded with Widget’s snores and a deep rumble he assumed was one of the space pirates. Given he’d shared a room with N0ize not two nights before, he assumed the racket belonged to him.
The delphox let his arm fall to his side and stared at the black ceiling. Blackness. Nothingness. The space pirates’ choice of decor didn’t make him feel any better. He pushed himself up and slumped forward, all energy failing him. His eyes felt heavy, yet sleep wouldn’t come to him. All he kept seeing was that monster. Mortified at the thought of leaving hundreds of pokemon to make their own escape, or to fight against it.
He was meant to stop crime. Put the needs of other pokemon first. And what had he done? He’d ran.
He reached into his trench coat and pulled out a cigar, ignoring the scorning mental voice that followed. What N0ize didn’t know didn’t hurt him. He leant back against his pillow and lit it up, watching as a trail of glowing embers trickled from it to land harmlessly on his warm fur. Well… if he did accidentally light the sheets on fire, at least they’d add some light to the pitch black room.
A soft yawn came from the floor and Widget’s eyes fluttered open, fixing on Tracer. What dim light his cigar gave off reflected off the eevee’s eyes, amplified by some hidden device, and shined back at him like a pair of tiny torches. Something that only worked in dim lighting, making up for the pokemon’s lack of night vision.
“Still can’t sleep, huh?” Widget asked before yawning again.
“No.” Tracer puffed out a ring and lost sight of it as it drifted slowly away from him. “I was hoping this might soothe me to sleep.”
Widget rolled onto his back and stretched his legs towards the ceiling. “I think you said that about an hour ago, too.”
So time was going by that slowly? Tracer took another drag and narrowed his eyes at the shadows. He needed off this ship. He needed to know what was happening in Pulse City. But the news hadn’t updated since the previous morning. For all he knew, it had been reduced to a floating hunk of steel and rock. Raining its remains down onto Baud City. As if that city hadn’t suffered enough already.
He pulled his tablet computer from his inside pocket and checked their progress. The intricate interactive map told him they were flying away from Spool City in a vague northerly direction. Either they were drifting aimlessly, or Annie was on the move again. Fortunately after their fright, they’d picked up her location. She’d been lurking in the outskirts for some unknown reason, and rather than drop in they’d stayed above the clouds and waited for her to make the first move. Unfortunately his computer didn’t tell him where she was.
He let his arm flop to the bed, where the tablet shone its weak light towards the ceiling. It lit up a portion of his face and cast erratic shadows against the drapes.
“I need to get off this ship,” he said with a sigh.
“Aye.” Widget sat up and scratched behind his ear with a hind foot. “I’m gettin’ cabin fever.”
Tracer swung his legs over the edge of the bed and rubbed the bridge of his muzzle between two claws. “If we don’t land soon, I’m grabbing a parachute.”
“It’ll be a long way down.” Widget grinned from ear to ear. “Count me in. It sounds fun.”
Tracer let out a bitter laugh and shook his head, looking over at the weak light slowly making its way through the heavy curtain. “I guess it’s dawn.”
“Guess so.” Widget yawned so wide his jaw popped. “Mind if I open the drapes? I wanna see the clouds again.”
The eevee rose to his hind feet and whisked the curtain aside. A deep orange glow reflected off the surface of the wide, fluffy clouds, paling to a golden glow at the edges. Tracer had to hand it to the space pirates. They got to see sights like this almost every day. New clouds. New locations. New sunrises.
He sighed, blowing out a stream of smoke that almost seemed to merge with the dramatic skyscape. A new dawn. Yet sadly, many pokemon wouldn’t get to see it.