Welcome to another exciting installment of Spacemon, the tale of a Pokemon TRPG campaign! This is an alternate universe story with one key difference that shifts the entire narrative in an interesting way. You should get caught up on our canonical adventures here first!
The Helix’s cargo bay fell silent as H lay sparking on the floor. The heavily damaged cyborg moved slightly as he struggled to sit up, but Arlon put his foot down on his chest, pushing him back down.
“I’m sorry it had to come to this, mate,” Arlon said, aiming his pistol right at H’s forehead.
The cyborg stared right back at the the Red Suns’ leader with his glowing green eyes, arm reaching toward the bounty hunter. “Look, you can drop the act. Bravado is nice and all but we both know you aren’t actually going to—”
Arlon pulled the trigger, cutting H’s words short with a shot right between the eyes. He fired another few shots, just in case, before stepping away from the cyborg’s lifeless body. Now for the other one, the mercenary thought. Without a moment to waste, Arlon turned and pointed his pistol at Meta. The hacker slowly put her hands up, a look of resignation on her face. “Don’t think I’ve forgotten about your little stunt, luv,” Arlon said. “Give me one reason why I shouldn’t blow your bloody brains out right now.”
“You might as well just pull the trigger,” Meta said calmly. “I’m gonna die anyway.”
That wasn’t the answer I was expecting.
“What makes you so certain?” Shandra asked, walking over with Alex by her side.
Meta pointed to her head. “Because I put a bomb in me,” she said. “Set to explode one week from now if I don’t return to him, and if I return empty handed, he’ll blow it anyway.”
“That’s terrible!” Alex gasped.
“Yup,” Meta replied. Arlon detected a frustrated tone in her voice.
“Hold on a minute, luv,” the Red Suns’ leader said. “How do we know this isn’t another one of your tricks?”
“I’ve seen how you operate.” Meta glanced over at H’s lifeless body. “Believe me, I know there’s no way I can talk my way out of this one.”
“Then why mention this now?” Arlon asked. “Why not bring it up sooner? If there really is a bomb in your head, we would have been happy to take it out for you. From what I’ve seen of I, he was probably just going to kill you once he got what he wanted.”
“I was under the impression that he was looking for an …” Meta paused for a moment, seemingly searching for the right word. “An assistant. I figured my odds of survival were higher if I returned to him successful than if I had to rely on someone else to remove this fucking thing.” She pointed to her head again. “Not to mention the fact that I wasn’t sure if you would even stand a chance against him … but maybe I was wrong about that.” Meta glanced over at H’s body once more.
Arlon lowered his pistol. For the first time since returning to the Helix, the mercenary felt like Meta was actually telling the truth. “Alright then,” he said. “Let’s see if we can’t get that bomb out of your head. I know someone who can help.”
Arlon inhaled as he stepped off the Helix, glad to be breathing fresh air again — if the semi-polluted air of Harmonia’s industrial district could be called fresh. In any case, it was nice to be back on solid ground. Walking around the side of the ship, the Red Suns leader was greeted with the sight of Rena running over to meet him. Moments later, the two mercenaries were locked in an embrace.
“It’s about time you got back,” the Parisian sniper said.
“Something big came up, and we got a little sidetracked,” Arlon told her. “I hope you didn’t miss me too much.”
Rena laughed and playfully hit Arlon on the shoulder. “Me? Miss you? Of course not.”
Arlon simply chuckled. “Well, I trust you’ve been keeping the men in line,” the Red Sun’s leader said.
“Of course,” Rena replied. “Matthias has been working on analyzing ze data we pulled from Mr. Silver as you requested, and ze others ‘ave been mobilizing ze fleet in preparation for dealing with zat … thing.”
“Excellent,” Arlon said. “Has Matthias found anything useful yet? A way to beat that bloody thing?”
Rena’s expression turned serious. “I think zat you will want to look at what ‘e’s found so far.”
By the look on Rena’s face, Arlon got the sense that he wasn’t going to like what he saw. “It’s bad, isn’t it?” he asked.
Arlon let out a long sigh. “As if this bloody day couldn’t get any worse.”
Rena’s expression shifted to one of concern. “Did something ‘appen?”
“That’s one way to put it.” Arlon shook his head and ventured from the landing pad, motioning for Rena to follow. “Walk with me. We’ve got a lot to discuss.”
Bright, sterile lights shone in what appeared to be a very recently repurposed space, now transformed into an operating room. Meta sat on a stack of crates off to the side checking her Pokedex, and occasionally glancing around the room before making a few more keystrokes.
One of the security cameras in the hallway, separated by a wall of glass, silently powered itself down as Dr. Armstrong and several members of the Red Suns, including the large Romanov man who had been introduced as an explosives expert by the name of Kiril Zhukov, entered the room in surgical attire.
“It’s about damn time, boys,” Meta said as she slid off the crates and approached one end of the operating table.
“Sorry for wait,” Kiril said, still putting on a set of rubber gloves. “With so little time, it is hard to find experts on surgery, let alone brain surgery, who know enough about explosives or augmentation that they can help with this.”
“I didn’t know you were a surgeon,” Meta said, slightly impressed.
“AHEM,” Armstrong interrupted. “Nevertheless, due to the nature of this surgery, We can’t risk putting you under. You will be given local anaesthetics, but you’re going to have to be awake for the entire operation.”
“I wouldn’t let you operate on me if I wasn’t awake for it. Already made that mistake.”
“Do you have any requests to pass the time? The operation is expected to take upwards of ten hours.”
Meta contemplated for a while, judging her options and her trust. “Get a screen in here and show me the surgery as it’s happening. That’ll keep me far from bored.”
“Are … Are you sure?” Kiril asked “I mean I’m not phased by it anymore, but you may get a bit… squeamish at the sight of your own…”
“Believe me, I can handle it,” Meta said, glaring at the imposing bomb expert. Without breaking eye contact, she hopped up to sit on the central operating table, and said, “Now, shall we get started?”
Thud, thud. Thud, thu-thud, thud.
The sound of Shandra’s fists pounding against the sandbag hanging in the warp lab seemed to echo through the entire room. Not that Shandra noticed; she was far too focused on beating the bag with all her might. In her mind, she pictured that it was H. After everything the Helix crew had been through with the cyborg, she couldn’t believe H had betrayed them.
Thu-thud. Thud, thud, thu-thu-thud.
Part of her was glad that H was gone. The cyborg had been unstable at best … and completely insane at worst. Another part of her was a bit sad. She had never been particularly fond of H, but she had to admit he had been a great asset to the team who had saved their asses on more than one occasion. Most of all, Shandra felt angry. Now, more than ever, the team needed to stand together, but it only seemed like they were tearing each other apart. And now another one of them was dead.
As she raised her fists up to strike the bag again, Shandra suddenly heard the door to the warp lab slide open. Wiping sweat from her brow, Shandra turned to see Alex entering the lab. Despite the rage she felt burning inside her, she couldn’t help but smile at the sight of her girlfriend. “Hey,” she said, walking over to hug Alex.
Returning Shandra’s embrace, the Sinai girl greeted her with a kiss on the cheek. “Are you busy?” she asked.
Shandra glanced over at the sandbag for a moment before turning back to Alex. “No,” she said. “What’s up? Shandra frowned, noticing a worried expression on Alex’s face. “Is everything alright?”
“I … well … no,” Alex said. “No, I’m not …”
“This is about H, isn’t it?”
Alex nodded. “I just don’t understand why he betrayed us,” she said.
“But you were right to suspect him. You saw something was wrong … and I didn’t believe you.”
“I know, but … I just can’t shake this feeling … My finger was on the trigger, but I couldn’t make myself do it. I couldn’t kill him. I hated him, but … but …”
“But he was part of our crew?” Shandra offered.
Alex nodded again, her eyes beginning to tear up a bit. “First we lost Morgan, and then H turned on us … I don’t want to lose anyone else.”
Shandra pulled Alex into a tight hug. “I know the feeling,” she said. “And I don’t want to let anything tear this crew apart any further.”
Alex leaned her head against Shandra’s chest and squeezed her even tighter. “Thank you,” she said. “Thank you for being here for me.”
“Of course,” Shandra said. “I’ll always be here for you … No matter what.”
Meta watched the screen anxiously as the team of surgeons poked around inside her head, working through disarming the individual explosive nodes that had been implanted into her brain. The brain bomb I had designed was, as Kiril had put it, a nasty piece of work. With the aide of the cyber-weapon recovered from the Galactic Governance Conference, the surgical team had identified twelve separate armed triggers and their associated explosive nodes, each wired directly into specific regions of the brain, designed to blow if just one was tampered with … at least if it wasn’t done delicately. With that in mind, they had made the decision to disable the explosive device instead of flat out removing it.
So far, things had been been going smoothly … relatively. There were a few minor mishaps near the beginning, such as Kiril being a little overzealous with the microlaser and nearly triggering the second node, but, for the most part, the surgical team had been doing a good job.
That didn’t mean that the situation was any less tense for Meta. Several hours into surgery, the hacker was still watching her surgeons’ moves intently. She couldn’t afford to miss a single thing. Her mind was her single most important possession, and there was no way she was going to let anyone tamper with it. Not again.
Meta was at least glad that progress was being made, however slow. By this point, she had been sitting there for a very long time, but the end was finally in sight. She watched as the eleventh node was disabled and the explosive component removed.
“This one seems to be wired to one of the regions of the brain that regulates sleep,” Dr. Armstrong observed as the surgical team moved on to the twelfth, and final, node.
“Isn’t that a bit of a design flaw?” one of the surgeons, a Genevan software and cybernetics specialist called Matthias, asked. “Couldn’t just going to sleep trigger it?”
“I can’t say specifically how I designed this bomb,” Armstrong answered. “But, knowing him, I do not believe he would design it in such a way.”
“I guess you have a point there,” Matthias said. “But, in any case, I’m sure our friend here will be able to sleep soundly knowing her brain won’t explode.”
Meta rolled her eyes. “I can still hear you, you know,” she said. She didn’t appreciate the terrible humor.
“Please, try to refrain from speaking too much,” Armstrong warned. “We don’t know what might cause this thing to go off while we are working on it.”
Meta closed her mouth and let the surgeons resume their work. She watched a pair of hands, which by this point she knew belonged to a Red Suns medic, move the ion scalpel towards the final node. He pressed the blade to the metal, but he applied too much pressure and cut deep into the node’s casing.
“Careful!” Matthias cried out in dismay. “I thought you were supposed to have steady hands.”
“I’m a field medic, not a fucking brain surgeon,” the medic growled.
Suddenly, the light on the node began flashing rapidly. “This is not good,” Armstrong said, his voice tense.
“Do not move even single muscle!” Kiril stressed. Meta held her breath as she watched all the surgeons’ hands freeze on screen. She could feel the sweat dripping down her face.
“Nice work,” Matthias said. “You’ve killed us all.”
“I don’t know how else you expected this to go.”
“This is no time for argument,” Kiril reprimanded his subordinates. “We must deal with this quickly.”
“Mr. Zhukov here is right,” Armstrong agreed. “We don’t have much time, and I an not sure what to do. Any sudden moves could trigger the explosive.”
“Hold on a second,” Matthias said. “You said this trigger is connected a part of the brain that regulates sleep, yes?”
“Yes,” the doctor answered.
“Then why not try putting her to sleep?”
“That could kill her,” Kiril replied. “And us.”
“Well, if we just stand around talking, then we’re as good as dead anyway,” the medic countered. “What do we have to lose?”
“He’s right,” Arlon’s voice sounded over the comms from the adjacent room the others were observing from. “Do it! Dmitri, get in there!”
“Wait, WHAT?!” Meta shouted. She struggled to stay still as Dmitri entered the room. “NononononononoNONONO!” Dmitri raised his hand to direct his psionic energy at her, and she experienced what felt like a wave washing over her.
Then everything went black.
Author’s Notes: So this chapter was started shortly after the last one, but it certainly took a hell of a long time to finish it. So, yeah, H is done for. It was left kinda ambiguous at the end of the last chapter, but I think it was pretty clear where this was going. The direction this went next was based off discussions that were had about Chapter 5 and Chapter 6, as mentioned in the notes last chapter. I remember saying during the sessions that in the right circumstances Arlon would have killed H, so it was just a matter of creating those circumstances. But there was more discussion at the time about how that would have affected things. The behind the scenes plan was that if H died in that plot arc, he would take over running Meta, and DragonStorm would have had Meta decide against betraying the crew. So that’s how we wrote it here. In light of H being killed, and her being found out, she came clean about the whole bomb situation.
This really shifted a lot of things for the opening of this chapter. For one thing, the Helix didn’t go on a crash course to Harmonia without a pilot as Minerva was unharmed. So it was just a nice landing at the Red Suns’ base and no manhunt on the planet’s surface … just right to the surgery. I did take the time here to show some reactions to H’s betrayal and progress the romance between Alex and Shandra. And I threw some setup for next chapter with a brief interaction between Arlon and Rena.
As for the surgery, the team is a bit different as H is dead. I brought in Matthias from Seeing Red for the cybernetics, plus some other unnamed Red Suns. I had been thinking of introducing a medic character for them, so it made sense to do it here. It didn’t make sense to have a bunch of the same surgery scene from the original in the beginning, so I retold it through recap, referencing things that wouldn’t have changed, such as the error Kiril made early on. Telling it from Meta’s perspective made it interesting too. But there was a part where H made an error near the end, so we replaced it with a new surgeon making a new error, and since we’re not grouping chapters by session … we left it as a cliffhanger. We’re steadily leaving the canon further and further behind, so who can say what Meta’s fate shall be?
That does it for this chapter. As always the Spacemon gang and I will be monitoring the comments to foster discussion and answer any questions. Feel free to give feedback and critiques of the writing so I can improve it for the future, or just leave a comment with what you think about what went down in this chapter or what you think might happen next! You can also revisit past chapters, check out the Spacemon Appendix which is a repository of information on all the lore and characters of Spacemon, or like our Facebook page to stay updated on all things Spacemon! Click here for the next exciting installment of Spacemon: Blueshift!