Welcome to another exciting installment of Spacemon, the tale of a Pokemon TRPG campaign! This is one of several loosely related one-off stories set between the events of the various Spacemon campaigns. You can get caught up on the entire adventure here!
“This is a glorious day for all of mankind, throughout the Galaxy,” the Director said to the crowd of people flooding the sun-baked streets of Malchion. The already bustling Federation city was even more crowded with tourism, with many dignitaries from across the Galaxy there in person to witness the grand commencement and opening of the Primary Research Institute, currently orbiting the planet.
It had been a few years since the crew of the Helix brokered an uneasy (and conditional) peace agreement with the Mewtwos, and Humanity was celebrating the first steps in its own path to redemption. Shane sat onstage alongside Dmitri, Alex, and H, who begrudgingly had worn pants today. There was an empty chair between them, reserved for Morgan, but she desperately didn’t want to be part of the ceremony — not if it meant being on television for the entire Galaxy to see.
The chairman finished his speech to a roaring applause and offered up the floor to the person who would pioneer and lead the Institute. H sprang up and made his way to the podium with purpose, his lab coat cleaner than usual.
After fiddling with the microphone for a bit and prolonging the hushed silence of the crowd, the cyborg finally spoke up. “You people expect me to give a speech. Frankly, I don’t see the point, but I’ll indulge you nonetheless.”
H straightened his lab coat before continuing. “I’m not a diplomat, I’m a scientist, and science is exactly what this research institute is dedicated to. Together, we will uncover the secrets of the Universe, and transcend Humanity into a new era of technology, ever striving for perfection in ourselves, our work, and our very reality. Thank you. End of story. Good night.”
H abruptly walked away from the podium, to a mixed reaction from the crowd. The Director, thinking quickly, took control of the podium and sheepishly tried to inspire the crowd again.
“That went better than expected,” Shane said quietly to H as he reclaimed his seat on the edge of the stage.
“Of course it did. What did you expect?”
“I expected it to be … longer.”
The festivities went on, as numerous influential researchers came to give speeches, or announce their honor of working in the new facility, or both. Eventually, the applause died down, and the crowds began filtering out of the cordoned-off area reserved for the announcement. A shuttle ride later, Shane stepped inside the ornate space station, admiring the shiny new atmosphere of it all, before a familiar military face approached him.
“Everything you hoped for?” Grand Admiral White asked.
“Admiral White?” Shane asked, surprised.
“Relax, kid, I’m retired.” White replied. There was a hint of relief in his voice, almost as if he was tired of the ongoing tensions with the Supremacy. “There isn’t much to look forward to after helping broker the biggest damn peace treaty in the history of the Galaxy, now is there?”
“I … I guess not, huh?” Shane admitted. “So what are you doing here?”
“The Federation pulled out all the stops for this; I’m just here to witness a job well done. I sure as hell hope it’s worth it.”
“I’m sure we’ll manage,” Shane said as he watched H haphazardly take inventory of many sciencey and … non … sciencey apparatuses in the main research hall. “But more importantly, about—”
“Your station? Don’t go thinking we forgot, now.” The Admiral strode his way towards a holographic projector and pulled up some specs on a very peculiar looking space station. “The base design is currently under construction, and as per your instructions, it’s entirely modular so you can expand it however you see fit, when the time comes.”
“This is … this is magnificent,” Shane said, admiring the blueprints.
“And you have a hell of a knack for acronyms, don’t you?” The admiral chuckled. “The Virtuous Observatory of Infinite Dimensions? I couldn’t have thought of that in a lifetime.”
“Well, I certainly look forward to working there,” Shane said eagerly.
“And I certainly look forward to what you lot can accomplish,” White said as he turned to leave. “I’m sure you heroes can make the Federation proud. God knows you already have.”
It turned out to be a big station. Even the initial construction felt gargantuan, especially for a single person walking about the wide open workspaces. The VOID itself was equipped with a series of powerful warp drives and enough materials for Shane to reasonably begin working on whatever projects he saw fit. The priority, though, would be getting the infrastructure up and running for a larger crew, and ensuring that the station was self-sufficient. That meant figuring out a way to make extended warp exposure viable, getting the crew quarters set up, checking and double checking the systems so nothing went wrong in warp space, leaving them stranded.
It also meant hydroponics.
Lots of the grunt work around the station could easily be done with machines or even low-level AI like what was currently possible, bar two individuals, but living things — like plants — required at least some level of attention that was impossible to automate.
He made his way to the biosphere on the “top” level of the station. Ideally, the station would be stratified by how deep in warp it was, but as of yet, Shane had no way of determining if such a feat was even possible. Opening the door, he walked out onto the lush fields, basking in the soft glow of a distant sun. Even now, before most of the plants had even grown much, it already looked beautiful. Shane pressed a button and the sprinkler system activated.
Despite his supposed history, Shane hadn’t actually done any gardening. And yet, the work came surprisingly easy. With all of the technology available in this day and age, it was less hassle trying to grow something as it was trying to keep something else from growing instead. Every few weeks, or when he needed a break from something elsewhere on the VOID, he would come here and find that somehow a new, undesirable strain of plant had taken root somewhere in the premises. Diligently, he removed the intruding flora, before relaxing in the most natural feeling place on the station.
That said, the station got ridiculously lonely at times. Even with his pokemon and the occasional message from one of his friends and former crewmates somewhere in the Galaxy, most of the time Shane couldn’t get over the fact that he was the only person there.
He couldn’t wait for some company to arrive.
Jacqueline “Jackie” Evinar sat fidgeting in the shuttle, barely containing her excitement as it began docking with the VOID. The Alliance woman was too young to have lived through the devastation of Harmonia, but old enough to idolize the heroes of that struggle with the Angels; due to her partial Sinai heritage she had to keep reminding her parents that’s not what they were called anymore. She looked around at the other rookie scientists who were eager to begin working alongside one of the legends from decades ago. Of all of the Helix’s crew, Shane was the one she looked up to the most — she remembered the first time she went to the museum and saw the actual ship, and what remained of the warp lab there — and she wanted to be just like the teleporting badass that the Spacenet depicted him as. Everyone at her university knew of him, herself included, and identified with the young kid. She knew most of the Spacenet had to be taken with a grain of salt, but that hadn’t stopped her from having a secret and unfulfillable crush on him.
I mean, if he’s even a kid anymore. It’s been what, almost 50 years? He probably has kids of his own at this point. The shuttle lurched as it came to a stop in the hangar, and everyone began standing up and gathering their belongings. She followed the crowd off the ship and into the lobby of sorts, admiring the sleek design of the station before stopping dead in her tracks along with the rest of the newbies.
Standing in front of them all was a blue-haired kid, just like all of the holo-exhibits and Spacenet depictions. That couldn’t be Shane, could it? A brief introduction from him confirmed their suspicions. Unfair! He looks just like he did decades ago! What the hell!?
“Ladies and gentlemen, scientists of the Federation, I’m glad you all could make it,” Shane said, interrupting many of the slack jaws in the audience. “I want to welcome you, as the first generation of researchers aboard this station besides myself, to the VOID. If you wouldn’t mind following me please.”
Jackie followed the other starry-eyed students from across the Galaxy as they all crammed into what appeared to be a large elevator at the far end of a garden that took up most of the visible station. That’s odd. If all of us are just gonna be working on plants in this tiny station, that’s gonna suck. I definitely didn’t sign up for that. “Where does this go?” she asked. “The station looked pretty small on approach; is an elevator really necessary?”
Shane smiled and pressed a button on a console in the center of the platform. “You’d be surprised.” Within moments, the corners of the platform began to glow a vibrant purple, and an ethereal barrier surrounded the elevator. There was no feeling of movement, the station they were in just seemed to melt away, replaced by what appeared to be a sprawling bunker. Jackie looked down all four of the visible hallways as they materialized and saw them disappear in a maze of doors and turns. Murmurs of confusion rose from the crowd, as all of them asked some variation of “what the hell just happened?”
“As you can see, most of the station itself is permanently anchored in warp space. This is the topmost layer, just above what ships usually use to travel long-distance without a gate, but functionally equivalent. If you look outside, you may even still see stars. There are currently three floors below us, each even deeper in warp. Should we need to go even deeper, new floors will be constructed to accommodate.”
Jackie’s head was already spinning, going over the implications. All of this was possible, theoretically, but actually seeing her thesis work applied like this made her absolutely awestruck. Actually standing here was an experience that was completely foreign to her, and she began to think of possibilities for future offshoots, applications, and advances.
“One thing I should warn you about, though. Extended periods of time spent in warp space does have a strong potential for adverse side effects. Breaks will be mandatory, and if you see someone struggling to cope, I recommend you help them upstairs for all of our sakes.”
Jackie emerged from her stasis pod physically refreshed, but mentally lacking. Grumbling, she made her way to the Garden Level and made herself some breakfast, joined alongside some of the other early risers. The pods were a blessing of technology: mitigating the effects of warp and providing the body with the amount of sleep it required to function optimally. From the user’s perspective, nothing was noticeable except for an eight-hour lapse in memory. Occasionally, she’d make her way to the warp recovery ward when it wasn’t in use for the chance to sleep in an actual bed. She missed being able to dream.
Across the table, two of the other scientists were joking around, talking about some harebrained scheme to prank the new recruits. She rolled her eyes and ignored them — they’d be gone soon if they kept that up. Integrity and professionalism were two of the things that PRI scientists prided themselves on.
A week into their training, several of the 50 initial recruits had been sent home, for medical reasons or poor behavior.
By the end of the month, only half the original staff remained, and the second wave of new recruits were coming in.
A year in, she was among the twelve elite scientists who were on the VOID since the beginning.
Soon there would be ten. She was glad to have made friends with the lucky ones.
Finishing her humble meal, she made her way in earnest to the lower levels, where she had been studying the unique properties offered in deep warp that were unavailable to the upper floors. Shane had shown her his custom-built gauntlet, and she found it incredible. A miniature warp drive capable of creating isolated tears in warp, portals to the deepest parts of warp and back for instant travel.
Jackie was one of the few interested enough to pursue this particular field, most of the rookies and other scientists were busy with gravity field manipulation and non-euclidean geometry (the station had enough of that to be sure). In addition, Shane seemed to trust her more than the others. When asked, he said nothing beyond the fact that she “reminded him of an old friend.”
Walking into the room, she was surprised to see Shane waiting for her, young as always. He had a stern look on his face, and Jackie couldn’t help but feel a sense of dread looming over her.
“I need to ask you something,” Shane said, standing up from the workbench he was leaning against.
“What is it?” Jackie asked, concerned. The door closed behind her and she positioned herself across the table from Shane instinctively. Her off-hand glided to her Pokéball just in case. She hadn’t needed them in a long time; she had traded away all but her favorite Gastly and Spearow. “Am I in trouble?”
“No, of course not,” Shane responded. “I was just wondering why you are here.”
“What to you seek to gain from working here? You are very driven and I can see that, but I want to know if it’s for the right reasons.”
Jackie hesitated. What do I want? I’ve only been here for a year, and I’ve already learned so much, I want to keep learning and exploring all the—
“That’s fine. Your silence speaks volumes,” Shane said, turning his attention to the various pristine instruments on the countertop.
“What, so now you’re a psychic? You didn’t even give me time to answer!” Jackie looked annoyed at the prospect of being ignored. She stormed around the table to face him and barely restrained from knocking the equipment from his hands (because they were hers and they cost a fortune). “How the hell do you think you can just ‘read’ people like that?”
“I don’t. I was looking for a practiced answer, and I’m glad you didn’t have one.”
“There was an attempted attack on the main branch of the Institute.” Shane looked deadly serious. He set down the device he was holding, a datapad showing an unpublished report about the incident. “This only just came to my attention, so I haven’t thoroughly vetted the researchers already on board, but better security measures are to be put in place.”
Jackie read the article, ignoring the conversation Shane was continuing to carry on. There was video, live feed of a series of massive explosions between the PRI Station and the surface, igniting a crimson hole in the sky. This is happening NOW. The blast radius looked devastating, as clouds of dust visible from orbit covered the planet. Digits were being added to the casualty projection with each passing second. Speculation was rampant about what sort of weapons were used and how they were launched from the surface without anyone knowing. But amidst all the chaos, one name stood out: Al Magenim. Supposedly, they were some shady organization claiming to be responsible, but nobody knew what the terrorists were trying to prove, or why they would even attempt such a catastrophe. It was only when she heard her own name that Jackie looked up from the datapad. Instinctively, she responded with a queried “Yes?”
“Now that you’ve had time to think, what’s your answer? What keeps you here?” She looked at Shane and saw that his expression was much gentler. Relaxed. Curious. Her mind, on the other hand, was still reeling from the devastation tion she just witnessed. She opened her mouth to attempt an answer, just as the doors opened.
The duo turned to see another scientist, about 3 months in, panicking. “Sir? We have a bit of a situation on Level 2. One of the psych researchers locked herself in the auxiliary generator room on that floor. We only just found out because she was screaming like a madman. Mad...woman. Whatever.” He swallowed, noticing the pair’s proximity, and became rather unsure of himself. “Am … am I interrupting something?
He was left without an answer as Shane and Jackie ran past him to the elevator, soon traversing the twisting halls of Level 2 with practiced ease. The struggle was over nearly as soon as it began. Jackie had heard of the exploits of the blue-haired boy, but seeing his skills in action was a bit … underwhelming. He jumped — well, shifted — into the room behind the mad scientist and, with a single Thunderwave, she was detained. It was strange for Jackie to witness, it was almost as if the world just momentarily forgot where Shane was supposed to be.
After the incident, he pulled Jackie aside to resume the conversation from earlier. “As I was about to say, with more and more people joining our team each month, we are getting to the point where I can’t oversee all of them. All of the Senior researchers are taking responsibility for recruits from the floors they’ve decided to work on, and you’re the only one regularly so deep in warp.”
“That being the case, it’d be hard to say no.”
Shane smiled, and began walking down the hallway to the elevator, motioning for Jackie to follow. “In that case, I’d like to show you something very few people have seen. Perhaps it will shed some light on your current research.”
The elevator shook violently as its two passengers held on to the interior guardrails, separated from the outside warp energy by what seemed like a relatively thin screen of reinforced glass surrounding them, barely visible, if at all. Purple particles of light danced around them on all sides, visible through the panoramic window, as they went deeper. Deeper. Deeper.
The blue-haired kid smiled as a familiar feeling washed over him. Jackie, on the other hand, barely struggled to contain her lunch as she was bombarded with the strangest feelings she’d ever felt. The platform they stood on seemed to expand indefinitely, and yet she felt a strong sense of claustrophobia. The entire ordeal was nauseating in a number of ways. The air lurched to a halt as they arrived at their destination, and Jackie promptly threw up in the paper bag she was thankful she remembered. After recovering a bit, she looked around and asked “Where … are we?”
Outside, it was impossible to tell. There was no light, not even the twinkling of the Warp she had learned so much about. It was cold, and dark, and she had the feeling that they both were being watched. Shane let go of the guardrail and approached the precipice. “This is the heart of the Warp, and the true namesake of this station. Welcome to the Void.”
A feeling of awe and insight filled the newcomer, but it was quickly replaced by trepidation. “This … this is nothing like the Warp upstairs. This is …”
She hesitated as she saw Shane hold his hand up to the edge, pressing against nothing as if it were solid. It looked as if he was calling out to something in the abyss. For the first time, Jackie noticed a tattoo wrapped around Shane’s forearm, its faint golden patterns swirling and spiraling down towards his palm in an almost tribal fashion, ending with Sinai script that wrapped around his wrist. He who is Everywhere is Nowhere.
Shane smiled with sadness in his eyes, and said, “It’s been a long time. There’s someone I’d like you to meet.”
Author’s Notes (The Other Guy): AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!
I am bad at planning things. This was originally intended to be written between series 1 and 2, outlining a minor NPC for the new game and the passing of responsibility from Shane to another. It took far longer than I had intended, mainly because I only really worked on it sporadically and even then was only inspired to add more every so often. The ending is the first thing I wrote, and everything revolved around it as I struggled to fill in all the relevant plot, working with the Dragonstorm and DisturbedShadow to hammer out the details in a way that was canonically consistent. Even now it seems like it’s just a bit too short — there’s a lot of minor things that I wanted to include, but found no way to fit them into the narrative in a reasonable fashion.
But hey. At some point you have to keep perfection from being the enemy of good enough. I’m done writing this piece and having ideas for it linger unused in the back of my head. Perhaps I’ll write another thing for Spacemon, but for now I feel like I’m good just editing things for Blueshift. That minor commitment to a fantastic alt-universe is something I can get behind.
Hope you enjoyed.
Editor’s Notes (DisturbedShadow): So, as The Other Guy said, this was intended to be thing in between the first series and the sequel series. That campaign is long underway, so while we didn’t get the benefit of having this written, all you readers will still get to since It’ll be a long while yet before those chapters start posting. The funny thing is that he intended this originally as a surprise eight profile (and yeah I can’t judge him for taking so long since I’ve still got two of those left to write over a year later), but once I had the idea for the Tales & Transmissions series, it made sense to rebrand it because it’s so far down the timeline. Just to give you an idea of timeline placement, the first couple of scenes take place a few years after the events of the original series, while most of the others take place almost 50 years down the line.
That does it for this story. 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 piece! You can also revisit past chapters, check out the rest of the Spacemon saga, join the Spacemon Discord server, or like our Facebook page to stay updated on all things Spacemon! Click here for the next exciting installment of Spacemon!