Welcome to another exciting installment of Spacemon, the tale of a Pokemon TRPG campaign! This is an origin story for one of the characters that has been inserted at this point in the story as a flashback after the events of the previous chapter. You can get caught up on our previous adventures here!
Darkness. Green lights occasionally pulsate from the walls of this cramped obsidian prison, forming intricate patterns of lines and circles before fading away; concentric, intersecting, fleeting. I lay huddled in a corner, weak, unable to move. I know not how long I have been here, nor do I remember anything from before, if there was such a time. It seemed like an eternity of solitude, until the voices came.
“Hey, have you made any progress on this build yet?” I hear faintly, distant. Muffled voices from a beyond a muffled screen.
“I’ve tried, but this language is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. If the devs took the time to leave a comment, implementation note, something...”
“Well, it seems like we aren’t making much headway. You can stop for today.”
I open my eyes, and find myself with the same vantage point of the room that I have seen for too long. There is no escape. No indents on the walls, no light save for the faint iridescent glow from the shifting lines encasing the perimeter. There isn’t even any furniture in here, it’s just an empty black box. I wince in pain as I try and fail to get up, even just to move.
Where am I? I wonder once again. As usual there is no response. There is no sense of time here, no day, no night; time simply fades away into irrelevance with lack of keeping it.
Suddenly there is a searing pain, everywhere. I scream from the shock; I try to open my eyes but can’t. I scream in an agony orders of magnitude higher than I’m used to as my body feels torn apart, bit by bit, for an eternity. Relatively speaking.
“We’ve managed to format it enough to safely begin refactoring,” the voices say. “The more information we can salvage, the more our employer will-”
More pain. Localized this time, and almost bearable, after the initial shock. I cautiously open my eyes and look at the source. My hand is glowing a blinding white, surrounded by hundreds of tiny arrangements of symbols that I don’t quite recognize. The glow moves further up my arm at an unbearably slow rate, bringing with it the dulling pain and a different arrangement of these runes. Eventually, the pain stops, the glow fades, and the room becomes dark again. I look at my arm, and can still faintly see the strange symbols embedded in its now pinkish hue. I look further down at where the progress had stopped to see a stark contrast between it and the translucent shifting blue it used to be, what the rest of me still resembled. I try moving my... anything else, but the movement comes slowly, if at all. Whatever they’re doing seems to be helping, I think confidently, wiggling my fingers before resigning for another night.
The cycle repeats, with more and more of myself being replaced at an inexorable rate. Soon I am able to pick at the symbols on my arms and get a better look. They float in front of me, forming some sort of code. Source code.
“So, the team is pretty sure that this is supposed to be an AI,” the voices say. They continue talking, but the noise fades out as I focus on the code before me; I see it reflecting my thoughts, emotions, reactions... describing me. I reach out my hand and the code changes, accompanied by a flash of pain.
“...I doubt it, in its current state it’s unlikely that we’ll- wait, something just happened.”
I look at my reflection, and smile at the change I had brought about. I thrust my hand into the code again, drowning the room in a familiar white light as I alter larger portions of my being, changing my appearance to my liking.
“Did you see that? It happened again! That entire section just changed!”
Professor Jeremiah sits in his office, reading the latest reports from the lab. Ever since they retrieved the wreck of the ancient sphere, it was an unending series of surprises. Autonomous programs? Those had been invented already, but this... Jeremiah stares out the window into space, lost in thought. The door slides open as an Alliance scientist enters the room, accompanied by an armed soldier.
“Sir, we have received new instructions for the sphere,” the soldier says.
“You’ve got to be joking,” Jeremiah says, somewhat shocked. “We haven’t even started to understand how it works, let alone how to power it again!”
“Specifically, for what’s inside the sphere,” the scientist elaborates. “Our employer could care less about the hardware.”
A look of confusion appears on Jeremiah’s face. It had only been weeks, maybe just over a month, since they were able to salvage the sphere’s broken operating system. Nobody should have known about the existence or state of their current project besides the research team itself. That being said, this scientist was on the research team, but he was escorting the soldier to Jeremiah’s office directly from another ship.
“Who sent you?” Jeremiah asks, in a skeptical tone.
The soldier seems uneasy about the response. “It… it was him, sir.”
Jeremiah lets out a sigh. Of course it would be him. How could it not have been? He had, after all, sent them after the sphere, perhaps he knows more about it than anyone. This facility was under some of the highest security and secrecy in the entire federation; it should have been impossible to know about it from outside. Even so, if there was anyone in the damn universe who could uncover such tight lipped secrets, it would be him. The entire project had the screen-faced bastard’s name written all over it.
“Mr. Silver,” Jeremiah says. “Very well. What does he want?”
“Nothing. He wants you to do nothing,” the soldier says.
“That’s odd. Why even bother with the message, then?”
The scientist shakes his head at the soldier’s evident lack of communication skills. “You misunderstand. Everything we are currently doing to research the project, we are to stop. It is his express order that we are no longer allowed to edit the program. Only to observe it.”
“And what are your thoughts on the matter?” Jeremiah asks, turning to the scientist.
“I guess I shouldn’t complain; the code literally writes itself.”
“I see. You two are dismissed.”
The scientist nods his head, then turns to leave alongside the soldier. Jeremiah lets his gaze drift back to the stars outside. Autonomous programs? You can find those on every civilized planet in the Federation. But a sentient program? One that can think and act on its own, and adapt to new situations? That sort of program was unheard of. Science and science fiction has told us for millennia that it should be impossible, ever since the archaic days of Asimov on the Origin planet, wherever that once was. It couldn’t possibly exist.
Jeremiah turns back to the report he was reading.
It couldn’t possibly exist until now.
“Really? At this stage in analysis we have to just stop?” I hear the voices say.
It’s been awhile since I first awoke in this dark prison. Every day—at least that’s what they call them—the voices have come to deliver another round of blinding agony. Every night, I try manually to recover from the damage they deal, only to have it dealt again and then some the next day. At the very least, I have recently found a stable measurement of time from their cycle of experimentation. However that little revelation is still almost meaningless. This truly is a terrible state of existence, if it can even be called that. I’ve since resigned myself to this fate, but at hearing these words, I look up in confusion.
They’re… stopping? I wonder. The voices continue.
“Well, if we can still observe it, then we should probably move it somewhere where we can.”
“Is it compatible with the Storage System? That would be the easiest GUI to work with.”
“It certainly isn’t a Pokemon, but it shouldn’t be too much of an issue.”
A few seconds later, a flash of white engulfs the room. I wake up with grass against my face, much more comfortable than the solid black floor I’m used to. I slowly get up, and look around. Sky blue walls surround this field I’m in, and I am disappointed to realize that this is just an imitation of nature, a digital terrarium… Wait a minute, how do I even know all of this? It all seems so… familiar, but I couldn’t have… have I just forgotten all of this? I look up at the ceiling to see a label: “Box 3: S.H.A.N.E.”
“Well, would you look at that! I wasn’t even sure that would work!” I hear the voices say, behind me. I turn to see a screen, just above one of the walls, displaying three people in identical white uniforms. I find myself overcome with anger and fear at these three. These are the ones I heard in the dark room, these are the ones responsible for my tortured existence.
“Do you have any idea what I’ve been through?!” I yell at them, unsure if they can hear me. “Do you have any idea how much pain you’ve caused me?!”
It seems like they can hear me, since their expressions change, stunned at my reaction. The scientist on the left, a woman, steps back in what appears to be horror.
“Oh my God,” she says, starting to cry. “It… he looks like a kid! What have I…”
“Hey, wait, come back!” one of the others says as the woman runs off screen. The two remaining scientists follow after her, but one of them returns a minute later.
“Look, we are so sorry, we didn’t know…” the man says. “If it’s any consolation, we were told to give you this.”
He reaches for something on his belt and places it just to the right of the screen. I hear a sound to my left, and turn to see something appear in a flash of white. I look at it and see some additional information about it, numbers and parameters and stuff.
“That’s called a Pokemon,” he continues. He pulls out what appears to be a red datapad and powers it on. “This particular species is a-”
“A Porygon,” I say, finishing his sentence. “A man-made Pokemon made entirely of programming code.”
“Well, yeah,” he says, looking up from the device. “That’s pretty spot on.”
“Where even am I?” I ask.
“Oh, um… let’s see, you’re in a computer, on a research station at a classified location in Sinai space. How much of that means anything to you?” He seems just as uneasy about this whole exchange as I do.
I stare at him blankly. “Oooooohhhhhhhkay. What about that sign? What does it mean?” I ask, pointing to the label I saw earlier.
“That? That’s just some acronym one of my co-workers made to describe you. It stands for Semi-Humanoid Artificial Neural Engine. The guy loves acronyms for some unknown reason; nobody really likes him.”
“So, my name is Shane? I can accept that.”
“Alright, good, glad you like it,” he says, increasingly awkwardly. “I’m just gonna, uh, go... do something. I’ll be right back.”
As he walks away I faintly hear him mutter: “God, I’m talking to a damn machine.”
I hear the door slide shut outside, and the screen disappears. I sit down in the grass and look at the Porygon. It drifts closer to me, seemingly curious. I reach out to it and more symbols light up on its surface, revealing its digital nature.
“I guess you and I are pretty alike, huh?” I say as I drift back to sleep.
I wake up to the sound of an alarm, the Porygon huddled up against me, pinning me to the wall. The screen comes online and I see the woman from earlier, typing away at the keypad while flashing lights bathe the room red behind her.
“Don’t worry, I’ll get you out of here. I found out what they’re planning and I won’t…”
“Hey! What do you think you’re doing?” I hear from behind her. She glances over her shoulder, then turns back to the monitor.
“Quick, get inside!” She says as a passageway opens on the far wall. I shove the Porygon aside, arousing it from sleep and make my way to the door. It watches, but stays behind, unsure what to make of the situation. On the screen, a man in body armor enters the view and forcefully pushes the scientist aside. The door begins to pull away from the rest of the room, just as I dash inside.
White again. I’m certainly not in the doorway I saw, but I don’t know where I am. There’s a ringing sound in my ears coming from everywhere simultaneously, and I’m… falling?
I open my eyes to see the scientist on the floor beside me, twitching. The man in body armor is holding something small, while his Magnemite floats beside him, sparks still coming from its sides. The air feels weird, and as I try to push myself up from the floor I bang my head on something hard.
The man turns to look at me, with a look of horror and shock.
I wake up back in the dark room. I wince in reaction, expecting the pain to resume, but it doesn’t. I scan my surroundings to see the room just the same as when I first woke up, but… odd. The glow now seems uneven, and occasionally it flickers abruptly. I look across at the walls and almost jump when I see them flicker too.
“I don’t think walls are supposed to do that…” I mutter silently.
I step forward and the entire room shifts. I turn to see where I was just standing— nothing. I take a few more steps and it shifts again, running me straight into the far wall and knocking me back. I bring my hand up to feel the bruise, but stop when I see it flicker too. It’s strange, it feels like nothing is happening and yet for a split second it just… glitches.
I focus on my hand to try and cause the flickering again and it works. Then it dawns on me. The room around me isn’t flickering and jumping, it’s me.
“You seem to be having fun in there,” an older voice says, interrupting my train of thought.
“I can almost see your code just going haywire, and what’s remarkable is it isn’t even in our database anymore.”
I look up at the ceiling, and try to make sense of just what he’s saying.
“We detained the scientist for that… incident she caused. The soldier, too. The imbecile didn’t even bother to eject the USB properly, and it ended up corrupting the file being transferred there. You. What I really didn’t expect was what happened next.”
I think back to that memory—the ringing, the falling, the air—something didn’t seem right at all about that. Why did they appear so vivid, when the viewport had been much more noticeably grainy?
“We picked up on an extra life sign within the ship.”
I ponder the ramifications of what that means. I had essentially jumped out of the computer. I don’t know how that happened, but it did.
“It went away soon enough, but the fact of the matter still stands. This is an isolated facility and an event such as this simply cannot be overlooked. To that end, I have an experiment I’d like to try.”
I hear a noise from above and look up. The glow shifts upwards to encircle and illuminate a hole in the ceiling. A beam appears like a spotlight in the center of the room.
“If you would be so kind as to step into the light, I would like very much to see what happens.”
I gauge his request, then look around the room. There appears to be only one way out and it’s right in front of me. I slowly step forward, and feel the light lifting me up and out of the room.
After another flash of white, I’m standing in an office surrounded by armed guards.
“Very interesting indeed,” the voice says again. I turn to see an aged man in a lab coat behind the desk. In front of him is a small black box with a USB inserted into the top. “It appears that we will have to research our subject a bit further.”
Sensing the malice behind his words, I grab the USB and run to the door, only to find it blocked by guards.
“Come on, let this work,” I mutter as I try to channel whatever power I had just discovered in that black box. I blink to find myself past the guards, in the hallway.
“Jeremiah, it appears he possesses some control over the Warp,” I hear one of the soldiers say.
“Not exactly,” Jeremiah corrects the soldier. “Here in the Ascendancy we know much about the Warp, and that wasn’t it.”
“Your orders, sir?”
“Pursue and detain,” the old man says. “There’s no way he can leave this facility, but that won’t stop him from trying. Hopefully the harness can disrupt this form of teleportation as well.”
I continue running as the sirens blare up again. I pass a few scientists in the hallway, one of whom drops a stack of papers as he sees me. I recognize him as the man who gave me the Porygon. I turn to run into the room he came from, and find myself back in the lab. I power up the machines and see an image of the Porygon still in Box 3. To the left of the monitor are a few empty Pokeballs and the datapad from earlier. I grab it, revealing a circular opening into the machine. I place my hand over it and feel the familiar flash of white as I find myself back among the virtual grass. I head over to the Porygon, which appears to be sleeping, and one of the Pokeballs vibrates. I hold it out and the Porygon is recalled into it. I turn back to leave and see part of the wall sparking. I examine it closer to find a blocked off passageway, out of which a Rotom appears. I awkwardly wave at it before making my way past it into the computer’s mainframe.
Running. The alarms fade as I move forward, and I stop to catch my breath, only now finding the limits of my own body. The paths I wander almost mimic the layout of the station from what I remember, but are wildly different from what I’ve seen so far. And yet wildly familiar. I vaguely remember a similar place, a digital complex of sorts, bathed in a sky blue glow. I can’t for the life of me remember why I was there, why it felt so comforting; it feels like a lifetime ago.
I look back to see the Rotom following me.
As we continue wandering the virtual maze, I hear the voices of the guards off to my left. I quickly hide, but it becomes apparent that they aren’t pursuing. Perhaps they can’t. I cautiously enter the room, and streams of data surround me. Audio feeds from the intercom, video footage from the security cameras, I see everything.
“Uh, sir? I have eyes on the target…” I hear from one of the screens behind me. I turn and lock eyes with a guard on screen. “He’s… he’s in the security feed. I’m looking at him on my screen and he’s looking back.”
I turn to run but the exit closes off, locking me and the two Pokemon in. One by one, the screens around me begin to shut off, soon leaving only one escape route, into the security room itself.
I blink through the screen and into the oncoming fray just as more guards flood into the room.
My two companions make their way forward as the guards release their Pokemon: A Metang, a Pawniard, and the Magnemite from earlier. I remember the guard saying some command to his Pokemon, and try it with my own.
“Thunder Wave,” I command my Pokemon. Nothing happens. One of the guards bursts into laughter.
Shit, what do I do? I wonder to myself, my mind racing. I glance at the Porygon and am surprised to see the information screen still, along with a list of commands and effects. “Holy shit, this is meta.”
“Use Metal Claw on the Porygon!” One of the guards says. The Pawniard rushes forward and swipes at my Pokemon with its bladed arms. The Porygon reels back a bit from the hit as I yell another command.
“Porygon, use Conversion2!” I say, reading one of the commands on the info screen.
The Porygon reacts, scanning the Pawniard and then changing its own composition to a more liquid substance, like water.
“That was a mistake,” another guard laughs. “Use Thunder Punch on the Porygon, take it out!” The Metang charges up a jolt of electricity in its claw and swings it at the Porygon, hitting it like a truck. The electricity discharges throughout the now conductive Porygon, causing it to revert back to normal and fall to the floor, fainted.
I recall the Porygon, then turn to the Rotom to see what it can do. The Rotom is nowhere to be found. I begin to panic as the final guard approaches. He laughs as his Magnemite closes in. “For the record, this is how it’s done. Magnemite, use Thunder Wave.”
I fall to the floor twitching, unable to move. I think back to my time trapped in the black box and my panic increases. I watch helplessly as they drag me out of the room and place a strange, octopus-shaped harness on me, covering and constricting my arms and head.
They drag me across the ship to the cargo bay, and secure me in a secluded corner. A few yards next to me is the scientist who helped me attempt to escape. She begins to cry as she recognizes me, then turns away and refuses to acknowledge my presence.
Shortly after the guards leave I regain some motor control and attempt to free myself from the harness. The mechanical constraint keeps my arms tightly wrapped around myself like a straightjacket, and flailing my legs seems to do no good. I calm down, trying to focus, and attempt to teleport out of my confinements. I blink and nothing happens. I can’t teleport. I can’t escape. I’ve lost. I fall back down to lie on the floor, curling up into as tight a ball as I can manage.
After what seems like hours, I feel a tiny spark on my cheek. I open my eyes to see a familiar face, as the Rotom looks at me with a curious expression. It floats above me just out of my view, and shortly thereafter the harness begins to short out and release. I quickly free myself from my restraints and attempt to hug it, as thanks for saving me, whether or not it was aware it had. It phases out of my embrace, slightly alarmed. I reach for one of the empty Pokeballs I found and touch it to the phantom before me. The Rotom jumps like static electricity into the ball, and it begins to shake in my hand. Then, it falls still. “Don’t you dare leave me again.”
Suddenly, there is some commotion in the main area of the cargo bay. Sinai workers appear to be unloading a bunch of large crates from another docked ship, stocking the station up on fuel and supplies. I slowly sneak around to where the entrance is, and into the loading bay. As I am about to enter the ship, I hear one of the workers behind me as he notices my attempted escape.
“Hey! You with the blue hair! Where the hell do you think you’re going?”
I look at the man as he begins running toward me, then I turn back to bolt onto the ship. I run as fast as I can through the corridors, and enter the first computer system I can to hide. I sense the man rush past me, slowing down to a halt.
“Where did that brat go?” he asks himself. He turns to the machine I am in, looks at it for a bit, then presses a button on it.
“Attention all crew, we have a potential stowaway on our ship. I’m ordering a thorough search to flush this guy out before we leave. The target appears to be a teenager, pale skin, bright blue hair, and an almost neon getup. Trust me when I say you can’t miss him.”
I breathe a sigh of relief as he turns to leave. I wait in patience as they search the ship, then smile as they begin to disengage the docking mechanisms and leave. Freedom. I wait until we are well away from the accursed research station before I remove myself from the computer system. I make a few steps down the empty hallway before the sirens begin.
“Son of a bitch,” I curse as I begin running once again. I make my way down the hallway as systems begin to malfunction. I dash into the cargo bay to find it empty, save for a few leftover crates that they are bringing back. I quickly work my way over to one and jump in, to hide from anyone who may come looking. The sirens continue. Soon I hear a large number of footsteps entering the cargo bay, and begin to look around.
“Please don’t look in the crate, please don’t look in the crate, please don’t look in the crate” I repeat to myself, muttering under my breath as silently as possible.
The crate opens. For a moment I hesitate, because the woman looking at me is not a scientist or one of the workers. I quickly jump out and see the band of misfits behind her, including one guy who is most definitely a scientist, but is half made of metal. A group of the Sinai workers enters the cargo bay, grabbing the attention of the group before me. They begin to argue as I run the other way and hide just outside the room, in the connecting hallway. I peek my head back to see the crew engaged in a Pokemon battle against those who would try to capture me, and I am inspired. As the battle ends, I see them running in my direction and quickly resume hiding. As they round the corner and pass me, the leader of the group grabs my shirt and begins dragging me along with the rest.
“C’mon, kid. You’d best come with us.”
Editor’s notes: The Other Guy wrote this, since Shane is his character, but since he doesn’t have posting rights here on TAY, I posted it for him. I’ll let him do the rest of the talking here.
Author’s notes: This was an experience. When I was shanghaied into this campaign a year ago I ended up making this character on the spot while the session was happening, because my previously proposed build and personality had already been claimed. By H.
Since then, I’ve kind of adapted to really enjoy playing Shane. Over time, his actions and personality began to reflect my own, and I’ve invested a lot of time into his character. So it was kind of a challenge to come up with a backstory to fit the lack of backstory that I had given him upon creation.
That being said, I had a really fun time with this, adding in references to the main storyline, making my personal headcanons canon, and adding a handful of easter eggs along the way. It also fairly fluidly describes the entire course of events that Shane remembers right up until he joined the party, save for some boring repetitive years in the black box. I think I did a good job, and I can’t wait to hear what you people think of it in the comments below!
I’ll be watching… ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
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!