Welcome to another exciting installment of Spacemon, the tale of a Pokemon TRPG campaign! This is the sixth entry in a multi-part anthology series where each entry follows a different character in the Spacemon universe. You can get caught up on our previous adventures here!
Meta sat in H’s lab aboard the Helix, rewatching the the recording of her brain operation that the cyborg had provided for the seventeenth time. Specifically, the portion of the surgery that had occurred after Dmitri had put her to sleep with … whatever bizarre psionic power he had. If she had watched the entire ten hour operation back that many times, it would have taken the entire week. No, the young hacker did not have time for that. She only really cared about the part she had not watched as it happened. She would have liked to have been awake for the entire thing, but putting her to sleep had saved her life, so she couldn’t complain too much. She only had to be inconvenienced by watching the final moments of the surgery over and over again, analyzing every movement of her surgeons’ hands, just to make sure H hadn’t put anything extra into her head and that the bomb had been properly disarmed instead of reprogrammed as he had insisted be done before the surgery began.
“I trust that you are satisfied with this video record,” the cyborg said, suddenly appearing at Meta’s side. “That everything went smoothly. That I—”
“That you didn’t try to reprogram the bomb in my head to suit your needs?” Meta interrupted him. She cast a sideways glance at the cyborg, then moved her eyes back to her Pokedex’s screen. “Assuming you haven’t tampered with this video file, then yes, I am satisfied.”
“Wonderful!” H exclaimed. “While I would have preferred to do things my way, my companions once again outvoted me. As misguided as they may be, I agreed to their wishes. Now it is up to you to prove that this was not a mistake. You have shown yourself to be quite useful so far — more than I can say for some people on this ship — but your trustworthiness … ah, yes, that is another matter entirely.”
The cyborg continued to speak, but Meta stopped paying attention. She had considered simply interrupting him, allowing the conversation to progress, but part of her was quite curious as to how long he would continue to speak if she remained silent. Would H’s rambling reach some sort of conclusion, or would he go on forever?
This cyborg, while similar to I in appearance — as well as in thought processes to a certain extent — was quite different from the man who had held her captive, who had put a bomb in her brain. H was a puzzling individual and Meta wasn’t quite sure what to make of him. There was something about him that was, quite frankly, intriguing … in more ways than one.
Meta couldn’t help but look the peculiar man over as he continued his rambling speech. H wasn’t bad looking, and his numerous cybernetic augmentations made him even more attractive to her. In particular, his unique DNA augmentation that was noted in his medical file was what intrigued her the most. It was cutting edge technology, a true marvel of cybernetics the likes of which the hacker had never seen before, the perfect harmony of technology … and biology. She was quite interested in getting a closer look.
“... And, furthermore, I believe that we can achieve great things. Your knowledge of computers will work wonders for advancing my scientific endeavors, assuming you are trustworthy, of course. I hope that my not reprogramming the bomb inside of your brain will allow you to see that I am trustworthy, and your trusting of me will enable my trusting of you as you will have shown your trustworthiness.”
Before their conversation could continue any further, the other members of the Helix’s crew walked in. “Let’s go, H,” Shane said, motioning the cyborg to join them.
“Right,” H said, walking over to the group with a sense of his purpose. “Where are we going?”
“To the hospital,” Morgan said, as if the cyborg should have known the answer to that question already. “We have to see how Minerva is doing.” She then turned her gaze toward Meta. “And you,” she began. “We’ve been talking, and we have agreed that you should pay for Minerva’s medical bills. It is your fault she’s in the hospital in the first place.”
“What, do I look like a credit mine to you?” Meta asked.
Morgan folded her arms. “I’m sure you’ll figure something out.”
“—which cybernetically augment the the body on a cellular level, modifying the DNA itself to direct the cells to begin producing nanomachines.”
“Fascinating,” Meta said. “Tell me, how exactly do these augmentations get the cells to do this?”
She was answered with the sound of liquid sloshing around as Dr. Armstrong took another swig of whisky straight from the bottle, followed by a stream of incoherent speech. Meta let out a long, drawn out sigh. She would not be getting anymore answers out of the Alliance scientist at the moment. She had been lucky to get as much out of him as she did. The man was … difficult to speak with, to say the least.
“Guess I’ll have to go over it myself,” Meta grumbled as she effortlessly connected her Pokedex with Dr. Armstrong’s computer terminal and downloaded the detailed technical readouts of H’s unique technorganic augmentations. The technology was truly amazing and she was eager to learn everything there was to know about it.
Meta stood up and exited the Alliance scientist’s lab, then made her way to the cargo bay and down the loading ramp. Pouring over all that information would be an activity for later. Right now, Meta needed to get off the Helix for a while and stretch her legs … and give her mind a break from the dull company of the ship’s auxiliary crew.
“Might as well get those credits while I’m out here,” Meta said to herself. The hacker reached for one of her Pokeballs, then released her Magnezone. She jumped up on top of the metallic Pokemon, and the two flew off in the direction of Harmonia’s more commercial districts.
Meta fiddled around with her Pokedex as she walked along a footbridge suspended above Harmonia’s lower skylanes, crossing between two elevated storefronts. The hacker had already siphoned more than enough credits to pay for Minerva’s medicals bills from the automated pay registers from several stores in the area. She was actually a bit disappointed by how easy it had been. All she had to do was “trick” the registers into accepting a negative payment value, and then they had transferred the credits right to one of the several “cracked” Pokedexes in her possession.
Anyone who actually cared about security would have accounted for such an obvious trick, but it seemed that mass-produced Alliance tech was just as cheap as the Spacenet made it out to be. And now Meta was bored again.
Meta glanced down over the railing at the skylane traffic below as she neared the far side of the footbridge. Her attention was immediately grabbed by a slight sync delay in the signal bots. “Talk about a lack of optimization,” Meta said as she watched the skycars in the lane waste valuable seconds waiting for a signal change when the intersection ahead was clear. Sure, a short delay would provide a safety buffer against reckless skycar pilots, but this one was obscenely long. It was rather infuriating.
“Someone needs to do something about that.” Meta glanced over at her Magnezone floating along beside her. “Magneto, get me down there.”
Wind rushed through Meta’s hair as she soared along beside the skylane traffic on the back of her Magnezone. Moving from signal bot to signal bot along the particular lane she had chosen to follow, Meta hacked in and adjust the timing on the signal changes, creating the most optimal pattern of changes from intersection to intersection, while also taking into account allowing a suitable delay to provide a safety buffer — not to mention making sure her modifications remained mostly undetectable in order to prevent some idiot from undoing her work.
As she continued along her path, something became abundantly clear to the young hacker; Alliance digital security was terrible, at least when it came to public infrastructure. The ease at which she was able to access the signal bots’ code and make changes would probably be rather alarming to the average citizen. They were easier to hack into than the signal bots back on her homeworld of Xiou, and that was saying something.
After one last adjustment to a signal bot, Meta reached the end of the lane she had been following. The lane in question had been a complete straightaway from where she had begun to follow its path. It had continued in the same direction right up until this point, where a huge building stood in its way and the lane forked off in separate directions along either side of the building.
A large holo-sign on the side of the structure captured Meta’s attention; it read STARBOUND SECURITY SOLUTIONS. That alone wasn’t enough to intrigue her, but it advertised this particular private security corporation as one of the largest in Alliance space, and that they were contracted to coordinate Harmonia’s planetary defense network … right out of this very building. Because that was totally a smart thing to advertize right on the side of building.
Her previous endeavor complete, and needing something else to keep herself entertained, Meta decided to check it out. “Let’s see what sort of fun stuff they’ve got going on here,” the hacker said as she directed her Magnezone to fly up along the outside of the building.
Meta sat on top of her Magnezone, which was magnetized to the wall in a small nook on the outside of the Starbound building, browsing through the private security company’s network. It really hadn’t been that much more difficult for her than hacking into the traffic signal bots, not that cyber-infiltration was ever particularly challenging for Meta. Most anything the hacker could do was preventable by actual security implemented by people who actually knew what they were doing, simply exploiting vulnerabilities left by sloppy programmers, so it was a bit amusing to her that a corporation whose business was security didn’t properly secure their computer systems. Any cybersecurity expert worth their salt would know to look for those vulnerabilities, and get rid of them. Although Meta supposed that a lot of these Alliance private security organizations were more focused on advanced military hardware as opposed to software. Judging from what she had seen of their systems so far, Starbound was more worried about defending the planet from physical threats than cyber threats.
There was definitely some interesting stuff in there. What intrigued Meta most was the orbital defense grid. It was pretty impressive, if she was being honest; a network of advanced tracking satellites and orbital platforms mounted with powerful anti-ship weaponry that could easily repel an attacking fleet. It made sense for a planet as economically important as Harmonia to have that kind of firepower protecting it.
Meta did have one criticism, however. While the defense grid was impressive from a hardware perspective, the software left much to be desired. For one thing, the cybersecurity was just plain awful. Meta was outside Starbound’s headquarters on the planet’s surface, accessing the network connecting the various components that were in orbit. Then there was the way the grid tracked and prioritized targets. It would work okay enough for ships, especially a smaller number, which was fine considering it was unlikely the Romanov Supremacy could manage to get a whole fleet this deep into Alliance space.
Meta’s particular issue was that she knew that an attack on Harmonia by ships wasn’t the thing Starbound needed to be worried about. She knew what I was capable of, and more importantly, she had read everything that her new crewmates and their Red Suns allies had on Mr. Silver … and the dangerous Pokemon-Human hybrid that had been developed under his careful guidance. Harmonia’s planetary defense network was not optimized to deal with that. Assuming that it had the firepower to actually deal with that, Meta would find a way to make it happen from a software standpoint. She did need a way to pass the time after all.
“What if we try tracking psychic signatures,” Meta mused aloud as she theorized how to go about optimizing the defense grid to deal with an attack from the newest threat to the Galaxy. “Wait a minute, what am I thinking? That would target every ship’s psychic navigator. I’ll have to be a bit more specific with my parameters.”
A few moments later, Meta had something she thought would work. The limited data she had to work with was just enough to give her an obvious method of tracking her very particular target. Based on the first encounter her new crewmates had with the creature, Meta knew that scanners detected it as very small ship with an extremely powerful warp signature, so that’s what she had the grid look for.
That was just step one. A method of accurately prioritizing targets meant nothing if the available attack options weren’t used in the most optimal ways to deal with the specific threat. Rockets were no good, because the being in question could easily toss them aside with telekinesis. The heavy laser turrets, Meta determined, were the best choice to strike with first, hopefully being enough to bring down the creature’s barriers. Then the orbital platforms would hit with their powerful railguns, plasma cannons, and—
“What’s this?” Meta cut off her own train of thought, her attention captured by a particular tool in the defense grid’s arsenal.
It seemed Starbound was working with some pretty serious tech: experimental heavy warp cannons. Meta had seen warp-based weaponry on a smaller scale before in the form of heavy weapons used by infantry — in fact, she had seen some of those warp cannons lying around the Red Suns base — but she hadn’t really heard about this kind of large scale version. Of course, the technology existed and would certainly work at that size … it was just very expensive. If anyone was going to fund it, though, it would be a corporation like Starbound.
“This changes everything,” Meta decided. Warp-based weaponry seemed like it would work very well against this particular foe better than anything else the defense grid gave her to work with.
“If a bunch of these are fired at the same point at the same time, it would really pack a punch. Just a few minor adjustments here, and … oops.”
Excited at the prospect of working with such awesome tech, Meta distracted herself and made a slight error. She quickly realized she had triggered several of the warp cannons to fire at the same point in space. After quickly remedying the problem, the hacker pulled up a video feed from one of the orbital platform to see the result.
“At least I know that it works now,” Meta said to herself as she examined the temporary spatial distortion she had caused.
Over the next several minutes, Meta made a few more adjustments to the defense grid to make sure it would do exactly what she wanted when the time came, then worked on covering her tracks. She didn’t want some idiot to find her modifications and undo them. She also needed to make sure that no one figured out what had caused the warp cannons to “misfire.” And then she was off. She rode her Magnezone down the side of the building, then began the journey back to the Red Suns’ base. It was better not to risk sticking around much longer, and surely her new crewmates would be back by now.
Author’s Notes: Glad to finally get this one done. When first selecting characters to expand upon with Profiles, Meta was an obvious choice. She was an very interesting character who didn’t get a whole lot of time to shine. The question, however, was what exactly to do with her Profile. There were a number of points to consider, the first of which was to choose where to put it on the timeline. It didn’t make sense to do it before her introduction in Tempore Ex Machina, and between parts would have been a bit weird. After that series wouldn’t have worked either as Meta was I’s prisoner. It had to be somewhere after she joined up with the Helix crew, and with Shane’s free warping ability everything after Harmonia basically happened one thing right after another … except for the one week the ship spent chilling on Harmonia. It was literally the only window where we could fit this thing it.
With the timeline placement figured out, the next challenge was figuring out what to do with it. I’ll admit, I was originally a bit intimidated with writing Meta, but after the practice I got in Blueshift, and figuring out a writing style that worked to capture the essence of her character, it turned out to be a bit easier that expected. The main challenge was figuring out what to write about given all the constraints. DragonStorm initially suggested writing about Meta getting the credits for Minerva’s medical bills, and have the Helix crew ask her to pay for them to make the flow of the next few chapters better, but we agreed that it would be too easy a task for her to focus the whole piece on it. At some point DragonStorm suggested having Meta play with the planetary defense system to entertain herself, and in the end that’s what I decided to focus on. We had a few other ideas we decided to incorporate as well. I thought it would be fun to show Meta interacting with some of the other NPCs on the ship. I thought about including interactions with Bill and Diane as well, but it flowed better with just Armstrong. DragonStorm also had the idea of showing Meta’s interest in H so that their future interactions seemed less out of the blue. I have to say, it all came together quite nicely.
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!