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Rogue Code (Continued)

Quote:Continued from Big Apple, 3PM

Ditto's majestic wings beat the virtual air, propelling him high above the information superhighway, or so Enigma called it. Pidgeot's form allowed the duplicitous informant to ride on his back, but there was no trusting her. She was only here because she knew where the rogue soldier had gotten to, and even then that was a tenuous reason. Ditto was fully prepared for another betrayal; perhaps she would lead him into a corrupted area of the Dataverse, trapping him for all time; an ambush may be prepared, ready to leap out on command to kill him; he had no inkling. Ditto had tried transforming into a psychic type in order to read her mind, but either his powers were on the fritz or Enigma knew how to deflect his intrusions.

Indeed, even now, Ditto's real body sat inert at a Coruscant terminal, his brain plugged into the Dataverse, enabling his consciousness to virtually occupy it. Enigma was in a similarly exposed position, but she wasn't one to leave things to chance. She would have some sort of backup or escape plan. Yet Ditto had forced her to the terminals and made her show him the way with brute strength. Unless she had a contingency for being kidnapped, she wouldn't have had time to organise anything. Ditto should at least be safe.

In any case, all he knew was that to trust Enigma was suicide.

And yet there they were, cutting through the sky that didn't really exist, a black river flowing in both directions, random streams diverting off on tangents, leading further into the bowels of the Dataverse. Ditto didn't like being in here. It felt strangely surreal, having his consciousness pumped into a set of ones and zeroes. He felt present in the same way as if in a dream; he was there, but not altogether tangible. The Dataverse did an admirable job of simulating gravity and movement, but there was something in every step, in every flap of his wings that just felt ... wrong. Ditto didn't want to tarry in this digital realm longer than he had to. It made his already foul mood even worse.

"Pfft! Dammit, can you not grow these stupid feathers?" Enigma whined, pulling on the luxurious yellow and pink feathers that crested Ditto's head.

"Stop putting your face in them and it won't be a problem!" Ditto snapped. He still hadn't completely settled after their run-in at the warehouse. If she had held out a second longer when he had her in his Machamp bear hug, there would've been a good chance that she would be dead by now. "If you'd rather walk, I can turn upside down."

"Oh yes, you talk tough. But if I'm a splatter on the highway, I'll be kicked back out into the real world and you won't be finding your AWOL soldier now, will you?" Ditto couldn't see her, but he could feel that damn smug grin that Enigma wore whenever she won an argument against him.

Once I've got my mobile Dataverse device, all bets are off.

Ditto increased his altitude to fly over the top of a monstrous building that jutted out of the ground, wielding such importance as to divert the information superhighway around it, the two roads rejoining on its other side.

Ditto looked down as they soared overhead. "What is that?"

"The Dataverse Library," Enigma said, unimpressed. "A lot of data in there. Maybe even all data ever."

Ditto humphed. "Sounds like your sort of place."

"Not the sort of information I deal in." A silent moment went by, then, "hey, I've been meaning to ask ... how did you do that trick back at the warehouse? Your clone?"

Ditto laughed. "Do you really think I'd divulge that information to you, of all people? Not a Vanillite's chance against an Arcanine."

"I don't know what that means," Enigma said. He decided not to enlighten her.

"So what can we expect when we run into the rogue soldier?" Ditto asked.

"What you'd expect," Enigma said. "Tough, trained in combat, well armed, strong convictions. It'll be hard talking him down, and even harder beating him down."

They continued on their lazy path in the skies until Ditto felt a tap on his back.

"See that road going north east?" Engima said. "Follow it."

Ditto veered right and shadowed the curve of the off ramp. An archway housed a blue, fluctuating portal a short distance from the main highway, and the traffic passed through. Nothing appeared out the other side of the archway; indeed, there was no road after it.

"Through there?" Ditto asked.

"Through there."

Ditto flattened his wings against his sides and dove. The wind whipped about his aerodynamic form, his crest feathers flailing wildly. He felt Enigma's fingers tense and wrap painfully around tufts of his feathers as they fell like an arrow at the end of its flight. It smarted a little, but Ditto grinned internally at Enigma's discomfort. It was petty and vindictive, but dammit Ditto was enjoying himself.

As the rooves of the vehicles on the road zoomed up to meet them, Ditto flared his wings and hooked into effortless sailing, entering the portal.

The shimmering, water like surface of the portal faded from Ditto's vision. Through the other side, a sprawling city appeared before them. Ditto spread his wings and rose on the simulated air currents, leaving the traffic to roll on.

The city wasn't very impressive. The entire segment, or program, or application, or whatever, seemed to be built solely for this run-of-the-mill place. Ditto skirted around its edges, inspecting. A densely populated city, but industrial, polluted, lacking in presentation and detail that would make it seem like a decent place to live. A grimy, crowded concrete jungle. Why would anyone want to visit such a place when anything could be done in a digital world?

Ditto's wing cut through a cloud of smog billowing from a steel mill chimney. "This is where the elusive soldier is hiding? It doesn't appear to be all that clandestine."

"There's a lot more garish places than this, be sure of that," Enigma said, coughing. "It's little to do with where he's hiding and more to do with how he's hiding."

Ditto reminded himself of the importance of staying on guard. "Elaborate."

"We're in the Dataverse. We're here, as in a virtual representation of ourselves, and for most people they appear here as their mind believes them to look in the real world. But if you know some tricks, you can physically enter the Dataverse while looking like someone completely different."

"Nifty skill," Ditto said, "but that wouldn't explain why the Empire couldn't find the soldier. Surely a fleeting avatar modification wouldn't be enough to throw off their trackers."

"Entering physically doesn't technically make you an avatar. You are here, so you are you. But you're right. It isn't enough. Let's just say that he ... had help."

Ditto grunted. "From you?"

Enigma chuckled. "No. Not from me."

"I know your name is Enigma, but you don't have to live up to it whenever you're asked a question."

"Look, just know that when we find him, we're going to encounter resistance."

"Really?" Ditto said. "And here I was thinking he'd just hand himself over."

"He's in hiding with a dangerous bunch," Enigma said. "And that's ignoring the fact that the soldier himself is not to be underestimated. This is not going to be an easy fight."

Ditto didn't answer, but he thought as much. He was confident, though. His powers were slowly returning; with each day, a new form returned to his suite of choices, opening up new avenues of combat. A soldier with some nerdy friends wouldn't stand up to the ultimate power of Ditto.

"So, can we go to him now?" Ditto asked. "I want to get in and out of here as quickly as possible. There is still too much to be done in the real world."

He caught himself. Real world? Kanto was the real world. The Omniverse was some twisted perversion he had been forced into. In no sense should he consider it 'real.'

Enigma's voice was cold and low. "I have a feeling he might be coming to us."


"Missile! Over there!"

Ditto looked around. "Over where? I can't see where you're pointing!"

"Three o'clock and down!"

Ditto adjusted his gaze and a silver cylinder spewing fire and smoke rushed towards them. Ditto banked hard to the left, Enigma's grip on his feathers ripping at the stems. He felt the heat and wind of the missile roast over his exposed stomach as he regained control and swung around. The missile continued off into the distance.

"What the hell was that?!" Enigma screamed. "You almost threw me off!"

"Oh yes, sorry," Ditto said absently, his keen vision scanning the landscape beneath, searching for the beginning of the rapidly fading smoke trail. "Next time I'll be sure to fly directly into a rocket to avoid flustering you for three seconds."

She didn't respond. Point: Ditto.

The ground below was littered with skyscrapers and high rise apartment buildings. The smoke trail hinted at the position of their attacker, but the second missile really helped Ditto nail the spot.

Much more alert this time, Ditto swerved from the projectile's trajectory and dove down. Pidgeot's enhanced vision picked out every little detail from such a distance that Ditto wondered why he didn't transform into the bird Pokemon whenever he needed to find something. On top of a apartment building, dropping a rocket launcher to the ground to reload it, was his foe.

Ditto spread his wings outwards and coasted to the roof. Enigma hopped off immediately, a scowl written into her face. Ditto didn't care; he had more important things to concern himself with.

"You there," Ditto said. "Seems you have a problem with my aerial sightseeing tour."

His attacker hoisted the bazooka onto his thick, metal arm and aimed down the sights. His prosthetic red eye glistened in the light.

It was the bounty hunter he encountered on Tier 1.5.

"A talking bird, huh? Funny. A much smaller bird told me you might be here. Maybe you know her?"

Ditto looked around. Enigma was gone.

[Image: jimsig.jpg]

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