The northern forest facility had remained untouched since Unit Sentry-100 had last entered. While it did not have the necessary freedom of movement to examine all of the present units without attracting attention from its guild-assigned compatriots or any additional subjects present, those that were immediately visible remained in the very positions they had been in over the past set of cycles.
This did not deter the guilds of Rift City from investigating the area. Unit Sentry-100 was ensuring upon each Pokémon taking notice of a fallen Porygon or Magnemite unit that the still-discarded machine was analyzed and declared inactive. To risk tampering with these units would inhibit Unit Sentry-100's primary function, as well as the immediate goal of the guilds to locate the lost keystone fragment.
"Hey, what's up with Glitch?"DATA UNAVAILABLE.
Subject Twerp's inquiry prompted a shift in ocular parameters, and Unit Sentry-100 regarded the form of Unit Glitch, now pressed low against the dusty floor of the facility. Tracks had been carved in the thin trail where the Genescect's legs and arms had scratched the dust away, and slight peals of metal dragging against tile rang out as the giant unit struggled to make itself as compact as possible. The position in which it folded itself resembled a child seeking cover in an earthquake.
"Stop! STOP!" VOCAL TONE IDENTIFIED - ACUTE DISTRESS. BIOMECHANICAL SENSORS ENGAGED.
The image of Glitch's solid armored shell faded nearly to obscurity, replaced by an array of red, orange and yellow lights that indicated the organic components of the unit's system. Within the chest cavity beat a heart not unlike those of the Pokémon subjects they were allied with. There was one distinct feature that separated Unit Glitch from the others, in that its heart was beating more rapidly than normal oxygen intake demanded for a creature its size. "They are in there! No way back- no way- no way-!!"UNIT'S HEART RATE APPROACHING CRITICAL DAMAGE THRESHOLD. IF EMOTIONAL BALANCE IS NOT REACHED, PULMONARY SHOCK IS ESTIMATED AT: 465.23 SECONDS.
Unit Twitch recited a binary warning message for its companion unit. MEMORY ACCESS IS PROHIBITED UNTIL MAINTENANCE IS COMPLETED.
The Magnemite unit disengaged its bionic sensors and sent out a light ping of electronic communication to Unit Twitch. The Z-model Porygon swiveled its head to regard the monocular machine.UNIT GENESCECT SHOWS MULTIPLE SIGNS OF ACUTE DISTRESS,
the Magnemite warned to its fellow unit. REVIEWING TROUBLESHOOT OPTIONS. SYSTEM SHUTDOWN-REBOOT CONFIRM/DENY?
Twitch chirped a denial. A FORCED SYSTEM RESTART WILL DAMAGE NEURAL NETWORK SYSTEMS. MENTAL THERAPY ADVISED. CONFIRMED. UNIT GENESCECT OPERATING PARAMETERS HAVE BEEN LOGGED.
"What IS up with them...? Sen, you know what has them spooked?"
A request for information from Subject Jace. These subjects did not understand the language of binary code, which was perhaps why the makers programmed the units to speak it. Unit Sentry-100 began to peruse its memory files, analyzing the available data on Unit Glitch's immediate status and a directory on systems matching the Genescect's make and model. Each directory search was halted by the security coding installed by the makers. No information was to be shared with Pokémon subjects except with express permission granted by a designated maker.GRAPHICS DISPLAY SHIFT - ERROR MARK. "ERROR. ACCESS TO DATA IS RESTRICTED."
"Ugh." Jace groaned and slapped a paw against his face. BODY LANGUAGE INDICATOR - EXASPERATION. SYSTEM SEARCH, PREVENTING OUTBURSTS. UNIT MUST NOT ENABLE VIOLENT OUTBURSTS.
"All right," said the Absol, "well at least you do know. Will they be okay then?"
Unit Glitch's voice had recovered from a slight breakup, voicebox degredation and continued hysteria mannerisms causing it to repeat the same phrase ad infinitum: "No way out, no way out".
Unit Twitch had encouraged mental therapy to restore Unit Glitch to proper functioning order. Subject Konjac had already returned to the side of the unit he had prior been riding atop, a hand rubbing gently on the machine's large hatchet head. The odds of Unit Sentry-100 being needed for restoration were in low values - directly engaging would increase the present bodies from 2 to 3, and likely exacerbate Unit Glitch's condition rather than aid in a recovery effort. "DATA SUGGESTS THAT UNIT GLITCH REQUIRES TIME TO STABILIZE MENTALLY."
Unit Glitch had not entered this state of panic until subjects surrounding them had entered the Moon Pool. Comparing this behavior to Unit Sentry-100's data logs regarding doorways matching this one, and the pschological profiles in organic subject logs, the cause was highly relative to the last known location of the makers. "EXPOSURE TO THIS AREA IS A LIKELY INSTIGATOR. UNIT MAY RECOVER IF REMOVED FROM THE VICINITY OF THE REGION CODENAMED 'MOON POOL'."
"He doesn't like the pool... I guess it makes sense that he's scared. But what about you?" Subject Twerp surveyed the pseudo-aquatic event horizon of the Moon Pool gateway. He turned his attention to the Magnemite with an expression of concern. "Will you be alright if we go in?"SUBJECT REQUESTS INTERNAL DIAGNOSIS. COMPLYING... ENERGY OUTPUT FROM THE GATEWAY HAS NO APPARENT EFFECT ON INTERNAL SYSTEMS. ALL ENERGY SIGNATURES IN SYSTEM MEMORY ARE WITHIN ACCEPTABLE PARAMETERS FOR PEAK OPERATING CAPACITY.
"INSUFFICIENT DATA. THE MOON POOL APPEARS TO HAVE NO SIGNIFICANT EFFECT ON ORGANIC OR INORGANIC FUNCTIONS."
Perhaps this was not the answer that Subject Twerp desired, if the expression on his face indeed matched with emotional mapping. "SUBTEXT VALUES INDICATE THIS WAS NOT THE NATURE OF SUBJECT TWERP'S INQUIRY. SHOULD THE ORDER BE GIVEN, UNIT SENTRY-100 WILL ENTER THE MOON POOL WITHOUT QUESTION. UNIT GLITCH'S REACTION IS BASED ON A FEAR RESPONSE, WHICH INORGANIC UNITS DO NOT POSSESS."
"Is he bein' tough?" Evals asked. "There's nothin' wrong with bein' scared." A perfectly reasonable response. Despite dialect differences, Subject Evals showed a rather fearless, if not analytical mind. It would be accurate to say that he had no knowledge of the lack of a fear response in nonorganic units.
"Well if you could be afraid," Twerp pitched in, "would you be right now?"
The unit did not have the ability to reflect instinctual patterns such as fear, bravery, and restlessness to its hardware and performance even in a hypothetical sense. However, a doorway that was apparently capable of performing such a cataclysmic event as seemed to be the case with the makers so long ago, coupled with the concept of 'fear of the unknown', made offering an answer which the subjects would appreciate a simple matter. "THERE IS A HIGH PROBABILITY."
The subjects of Team Premonition began to converse among themselves, doubtless in an effort to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of choosing to follow their guild leaders into the Moon Pool or remaining within the corroded facility of the makers.
This provided another opening for Unit Sentry-100 to engage with Unit Twitch."THESE PORTALS APPEAR TO OPEN ONTO A DIVISION OF SPACE UNREACHABLE BY NATURAL MEANS. THE MAKERS FORMALLY CALLED ANCIENTS MAY BE WITHIN."
Subject Twitch spasmed, a feature that was caused by the highly enhanced hardware fitted into its shell running more programming than perhaps was fully manageable. UNIT IS NOT TO DISBAND FROM PARTNER UNTIL DIRECT INSTRUCTIONS ARE SUPPLIED.
Perhaps then it was Unit Sentry-100 that should enter this foreign dimension. A report would have to be given to Units Glitch and Twitch as soon as any further indication to the whereabouts of the makers, or lack thereof, arose.I WILL RELAY ANY AND ALL INFORMATION THAT CAN BE FOUND.
"All right," Subject Jace announced, drawing Unit Sentry-100's attention away from the current investiagtion. "I guess we're going in." He paused to regard the Magnemite directly. "...All of us."COMPLYING.
"Wow. This place is a disaster!"
Deserrel hadn't been gone very long at all - she could barely keep herself inside of the Moon Pool for more than a few minutes. It did seem like a weird place, with trees growing all around like it was some sort of forest rolled up inside of a pipe, and where she could float a little in a few places. It was even kind of fun! But she was really more excited about getting to meet her new friends!
And when she came back to the abandoned lab, it struck her as pretty funny that she wasn't even paying attention to where she was when she woke up.
This place did seem familiar, in that weird way that most of her memories did. Like it was a place she had been to, but the first time she was really "seeing" it. Like it was never important for her to pay attention to what everything looked like, even if that sounded ridiculous - how else was she not going to get lost?
But what she could see for sure was that the place was a wreck. Anyone could see that a room with a broken walkway and a big pile of dirt in the corner where the ceiling had caved in was way past destroyed. But for the life of her she couldn't guess why. This place was meant to be safe, wasn't it? She had a bed in here after all. Or, well... a big tube where she was sleeping anyway.
So many parts of what she did remember were fuzzy, not the least of which was the makers... what they looked like, how they acted. She remembered that one or two of them liked to rub her head and call her "Dessie" or "Guppy", like she was a good friend. But to not remember their names or faces made her feel wrong. Guilty, even! How could she go and forget about someone who loved her?
Maybe the others could fill in the blanks. Her thin and narrow feet clattered on the cracked tiles that were still mostly in place on the floor as she hurried over to Jonathan and the bigger fellow who looked like a brother, or maybe cousin of hers. Her mouth curled in a happy smile - it was sad to know that the "old self" of hers wouldn't be able to wake up again, but maybe this other one like her could help fill in some gaps and explain that, or anything else that was slipping her mind.Genescect.
That name seemed to click in her mind, like a lost bit of knowledge had fallen into place.
"Welcome back, Deserrel." As she hurried closer, the female realized that Jonathan, the dark-furred friendly weasel creature was looking over the dust-covered pipes and hand tools left out on a table less than a foot away from her double. Or had been, at least, now that she was back in the lab room and he quit searching through the pile. "How is the Moon Pool?"
"Definitely different!" she exclaimed. "You can jump and stay up in the air longer than normal, and there's a forest on the other side that grows all the way around the sides until they're upside-down above you... it sounds so crazy, doesn't it?"
"Huh... yes, it does," Jonathan hummed. "That does explain why Jay and Tiva were so excited. I hope they can find the keystone in there, if that's where it's gone. But I'm sure the Ancients would have left a clue in here somewhere that would help more than going around hunting blindly for it. But that's neither here nor there at the moment..." He paused to rap one of his big claws against a hatchet-tipped tool that he had found on the table. The rusted metal broke apart almost instantly, and he scowled. "Humph. Nothing in here is in working condition, but I shouldn't be surprised." He turned his eyes over to the giant insect that had come back into the room. "Deserrel, if you'd sit down for me I can try to help clean you up a bit."
"Oh, sure. Thank you!" Deserrel sat down where she was standing, wrapping her arms around her knees to stay more balanced. The other one sat across from her, his back pressed against the table Jonathan had been scouring, with a little lizard boy at his side and the little pink-and-blue bird hovering around his head.Porygon-Z.
She shook her head a little bit; the thought seemed so dumb in the big scheme of things. Why couldn't she remember something more important than just what her cousins were called?
No wait, that wasn't right. Or was it? They were made to be like her, and not the way twins or triplets or whatever you called it came from their mother. Someone had put them together from pieces. The makers.
"Are the-e-e-ey coming bac-ck?"
She realized with a start that she had been staring at her lookalike without saying anything. Jonathan, who had been reaching over her shoulder, uttered a small gasp which prompted her to straighten and apologize. "Oh no, sorry Jonathan! I'll hold still from now on!" Silly her, getting so caught up in her thoughts! "Um, what did you say? Who is 'they'?"
The other one - the other Genescect looked past her, peering at the gateway of the Moon Pool, the door into the mystical floaty forest, and then his body shook and rattled the floor and the little lizard boy.
"Easy big guy!" he exclaimed. "There's nothing here that'll hurt us.""01010100 01101000 01100101 01110011 S 01100101 00100000 01100111 01100001 01110100 01100101 01110011 00100000 01110100 01101111 01101111 01101011 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 E 00100000 01101101 01100001 01101011 01100101 01110010 01110011 00100000 01100001 01110111 01100001 01111001 00101110 00100000 01010111 01101001 01101100 L 01101100 L 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 01111001 00100000 01110010 01100101 01110100 01110101 01110010 01101110 00111111"
Deserrel frowned. She... she could understand that. How was she able to understand that? It all sounded like a bunch of funny little noises that were even stranger than a baby's babbling. But it all fit together into a sentence somehow. "Huh. I don't... no, I don't think so."
"Well of course there's not!" the boy seemed to think she was talking to him. "I mean, there are a lot of you big guys and girls down here, but you're all so friendly. I've been keeping track here, too." He tapped on a page he was carrying with a small board to hold it steady. "We found forty-eight of you so far - nineteen alone that look like you and Glitch here - and none of you have been mean!"
"Ah, no, that's not what I mean. I was just telling him-"
Glitch's eyes flickered. It was like the battery behind them was going out. The crack in one of the dust shields made the light break up into tiny dots every now and then. His mouth was frozen in place, like his head was more of a helmet than a part of his body. He was unreadable, but she could feel a terrible sorrow coming from him. And she knew that he was afraid for the makers. She could sympathize with that; she knew that something terrible must have happened, based on what he, the other guild members, and that Porygon-Z had told her. The little pink one was trying to help him, but he and the lizard boy could only do so much.
...The battery? She realized she had been thinking about something that she didn't even understand. What the heck was a "battery"?
The moment of solemn communion with Glitch was broken when a fifth light appeared that should not have been there. A blue one in the shadows of the hall back behind Glitch. Not just a fifth light, a fifth EYE. One that vanished back into the darkness even as she lurched to her feet and raised her abdomen, the pressurized cannon on her back clicking into place over her shoulders and head and aimed straight down into the corridor. A signal bleeped out between her teeth, that strange foreign language that the little Porygon-Z was using."01001000 01001111 01010011 01010100 01001001 01001100 01000101 00100000 01000100 01000101 01010100 01000101 01000011 01010100 01000101 01000100 00101110"
Glitch reacted before she had finished saying the thing, shooting up to his feet as well and turning on his heel to aim his own cannon out the same way. Nothing moved, except for Deserrel as she made tiny, precise turns to adjust her aim. Something was in that corridor.
"What? What is it?" the boy exclaimed. "Did something spook you?"
The birdie chirped. "01100110 01101111 01110010 01100101 01101001 01100111 01101110 00100000 01100101 01101110 01100101 01110010 01100111 01111001 00100000 01100100 01100101 01110100 01100101 01100011 01110100 01100101 01100100 00101110"
She didn't like that. She could feel herself slipping, going numb... she suddenly felt exhausted, like all those long countless years of sleeping were catching up to her and wearing down her health even more. Her vision was already going... even as she slipped and crashed on her side against the floor, she barely noticed. Thankfully her armor was specially made to take worse hits than that.
Who did that eye belong to? She felt like it was important... that thing that she saw... but what was it she saw? Right now all she could see was the little pink-and-blue birdie nestling itself onto the crook of cousin Glitch's waist and abdomen. She would have yawned with how tired she felt, but her eyes were closed and she was completely dozed off before she could even make the effort.
She wanted to go home...