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WildBoots

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. custom/moka-mark
  2. solrock
Summary:
I'm sorry to put this on you, he typed, but I need your help.
(This is so sad—Porygon, play Despacito.)

Rating: PG+
Some cursing, some illegal activity.
Like my other stories, this one is set in a somewhat grittier version of the pokemon world where all trainers start traveling at age eighteen instead of ten.

Genres:
Crime, friendship

Status:
COMPLETE, 4.5k

Other notes:
Written in response to the prompt "someone pulls their last con."

I am open to constructive feedback! I'm already aware of a few areas where I need to make small changes--simply haven't gotten to it yet!--but I'm not offended if you point them out again.

--


Training Data

Judd took a leisurely slurp of the sludgy, half-frozen coffee, buying time while he shaped Georgia Day in his mind. Her Trainer Network feed gave him plenty to go on: georgia_wanders shared mostly photos of sunsets, flowers, or selfies with her pokemon, always with an artsy filter and a caption in Kalosian. At the top of her page was a quote from a pop song: the road is long, my darling / but keep your face to the sun. Very typical suburban Kanto girl shit. No battle videos, which spoke volumes. He could tell she was reaching for influencer status, but she didn't post often enough or draw enough attention when she did. Most of the comments on her posts came from one user, GlitzyMitzy, and were geotagged to Cerulean—a lot of miss you, sis, and get it, girl!

He and Ding were gonna get this girl, easy.

Today, with Judd at the wheel, Georgia needed money. Reasons weren't hard to invent: she'd lost her wallet. She'd spent all her money on clothes or some shit. But Judd needed a real tear-jerker, an emergency. I'm sorry to put this on you, he typed, but I need your help. A couple thugs caught me in the alley and took everything. I don't have money to get home and I don't know what to do.

With a self-satisfied smile, Judd leaned back in his chair. He spoke into the mic on his earbuds. "What do you think, Ding?"

The porygon appeared in the bottom left of Judd's screen, pixelated wings spinning in place. The animation was much smoother since the update last week, and her responses came faster now too: Found four news articles tagged Kalos and containing the word thug. Suggestion: Équipe de Flare thugs.

"Smart bird," he said, keying in Team Flare. Sprinkling in current events made the story more plausible. "Thanks, Ding."

She wasn't done. Did you mean: everythign?

Judd took another drink of coffee slush while he considered that one. The details were fussy, but he liked having to think to make himself sound like someone else. It made him feel powerful. He was careful about his own typos, but it was usually a good idea to side with Ding when she made suggestions. While he'd been ordering his drink, she'd been analyzing the message history between georgia_wanders and GlitzyMitzy. She probably knew Georgia's text habits better than Georgia did.

"Sure," he said. "She's desperate, typing fast."

Ding made the change for him before he could lift his hands to the keys. He felt the urge to hug her—thinking how the sound of her drivers reminded him of a purring cat—but he'd have to wait until later.

Technically, bringing her in at all was against the cafe's rule about keeping pokemon in their balls. He sat with his back to the far wall where no one could look over his shoulder; and even if someone did catch a glimpse of his screen, Ding wouldn't register as a live pokemon to most people. But staff would probably notice if he brought her out of the laptop in her hard-light form. He also had to admit it was much easier to communicate with her when she went digital and reappropriated the laptop's word-processing software. In hard-light mode, she was all keypad tones and chiptune—no good for getting work done. So, she'd stay in.

For now, he "pet" her with the cursor, and her on-screen avatar emitted a shower of hearts. That had been added in the update, too. Judd couldn't keep the goofy grin from his face. His sweet, smart pixel-bird.

After that, Ding didn't offer additional suggestions, so Judd sent copies of the message to GlitzyMitzy and a couple other promising accounts. Then he sat back, sipped his drink, and waited.

This had been a good week so far, so he was relaxed. Last week he'd come up empty, but a good week more than made up for a bad one. And bad luck rarely lasted, especially now that he'd switched to social media projects. Convincing someone to part with their money took more work, but the passwords were easier to get. And new trainers and their cheerleaders were always too ready to believe in something too good to be true.

Like the idea that, with enough elbow grease, anyone could be successful as a trainer. Even a skinny kid from a not-so-great part of Viridian. He had to admit the League had gotten him good with that scam.

Wincing, Judd remembered the day Jabjai finally evolved into a beedrill. For weeks, he'd carried the cocoon in a sling across his chest like an actual baby, and then—a burst of light gave way to wings. He was the first trainer he knew who'd fully evolved a pokemon, and he made sure everyone at every pokecenter knew it.

Idiot.

The new Jabjai was whip-fast and relentless ... until he wasn't anymore. They outpaced the bellsprouts and poliwags of the world. But by the next gym, Judd's peers had caught up and then some. No matter how much work they put in, Jabjai didn't make any more big gains. He'd peaked.

Judd wondered where Jabjai was now—hopefully living his best bug life somewhere out there. Then again, wild beedrill weren't known for having long lifespans. Judd pushed the thought away. Letting his pokemon go had been the best thing for them. Better than forcing them to acclimate to apartment living and trying to train them not to scratch Mom's furniture.

If he really thought about it, Judd was doing the best thing for these trainers, too. They'd have to face reality sooner or later, and he was saving them a couple steps. He was basically providing a service: they paid his fee and he taught them a valuable life lesson. Unlike the rockets, he even left them with all their pokemon. For someone like Georgia, whose family could afford to send her to Kalos for her journey, a couple hundred dollars probably wasn't even that big of a deal.

At an electronic chime, he sat up again, surprised to get a reply so quickly. Oh. Mom wanted him to please pick up butter on his way back from work. She was baking, she added, but he understood it was also part of his penance for moving back home. A way to make him pull his weight.

Mom had welcomed him back home, saying it had been too quiet without him anyway, and of course he could stay as long as he needed. But she was also constantly asking if he had decided on schools he might want to apply to—earnest and smiling and tight-clenched. Judd couldn't blame her for wanting him out of the house. He hadn't exactly come home bearing trophies, just three sorry little fighters, two badges, and one suspended license.

And Ding.

Ding was the beginning and the end of all Judd's problems. If he hadn't been caught trying to hack his way through the Vermillion City gym, he wouldn't have had to move back home at all.

Or would he? Maybe that dream would've bled out over several months instead of hemorrhaging all at once. He saw no legitimate paths that would take him forward. Not in the gym, where the electronic gates forced him past trainer after trainer until his team was worn down, and he always fell short of getting his chance at the gym leader himself. How was that fair? If he'd been able to evolve Farah, his nidorina, then he might've had a chance. But the more they'd lost, the less money he'd had to invest in the evolutionary stones and vitamins and potions necessary for a strong and healthy team. So they'd kept losing.

Playing by the rules hadn't done him any favors, that was for sure. Eventually, he would've slid back to square one regardless. Besides, he was better at this.

Cracking his knuckles, Judd leaned over his laptop and pulled up apartments in West Celadon again, just to see what had changed. A month's rent in a Celadon apartment the size of a refrigerator box cost more than he'd ever made in a month of battling. He was close now though. A few more good days and he'd have enough saved up to last him a couple months. Enough to start. If he were willing to stay in Viridian, he could easily find a bigger place—and sooner. But that felt like settling, not like freedom. He wanted to get far away, someplace nice.

And freedom was expensive.

His apartment search was interrupted by a message from Ding: I found something interesting.

"I bet you did," he said, continuing to scroll.

The Porygon: Wingdings base programming was data collection and management. In a way, that was still what Ding did, only now she was after very specific data: passwords, credit card numbers, and account information. Every so often she would give out a jingle and let Judd know what she'd found, almost as if seeking his praise.

"Go for it, Ding-a-ling. Let's see what you got."

There was a brief silence, presumably while the porygon rearranged ones and zeros into readable text, and then she announced: Chat log dated May first.

Text filled the screen.

GlitzyMitzy (22:11 p.m.): She doesn't get a pass for that. She broke girl code. You don't deserve that.

georgia_wanders (22:11 p.m.): I know, I know.

georgia_wanders (22:12 p.m.): But maybe it wouldn't have happened if I had stayed. I'm the one who left him behind, you know?

GlitzyMitzy (22:14 p.m.): Listen—a cheater is always going to cheat. He would've done it whether you were here or Kalos or another planet. You didn't make him. He made his own choices.

GlitzyMitzy (22:15 p.m.): Honestly, they deserve each other. Let them cheat on each other next time.

georgia_wanders (22:17 p.m.): Yeah ...

georgia_wanders (22:18 p.m.): It just really freaking sucks. :(


Judd spotted the problem immediately, the proximity of "pass" and "code." Ding's algorithm had guided her towards what she thought might be a password. It didn't happen often, but Ding did occasionally present him with a chunk of gibberish. He couldn't begrudge her for trying.

"Don't worry about that, Ding. It's not important." He clicked away from the apartment listings and checked Georgia's inbox. Nothing yet.

The porygon pinged again. It sounds like: cheating sometimes hurts people, but that's not important. Is that correct?

Judd stared at the screen. That was definitely new. He wondered if he should pull up Ding's settings and suss out what exactly had been in the Wingdings 2.0 package.

Then a message from GlitzyMitzi appeared onscreen: Where are you right now? Are you safe?

His heart raced the same way it always had at the start of a battle. With a glance at Ding's icon, a green dot over her head indicating she was ready to go, Judd brought his hands up to the keys. At the pokecenter, he answered for Georgia. He thought for a moment and added, It's pretty far from where I'm staying, though.

Isn't it three in the morning over there? What are you doing out so late, Gigi?


That was a good question. Likely, the real Georgia Day was dead asleep right now, or at least she should be. Then he thought of the chat log Ding had pulled, suddenly glad for her earlier mistake. I met someone, and we went out for drinks. I was on my way back to the hostel.

He didn't walk you home?!

Judd chuckled at her indignation, thinking how Mitzi sounded an awful lot like ditzy. The next words came easily, pulled from conversations he'd overheard in pokecenters countless times: I had my pokemon. I didn't think it would be a big deal.

Is your team okay?


He paused to think. Saying no would be more dramatic for sure and might drive her to send more money faster, but it would also be more to juggle. She might push harder to get police involved—a waste of his time.

Before Judd could decide, GlitzyMitzi fired another response at him: They didn't take Eclat, did they?

He wondered if she was testing him. "Ding, can you run a search for that on the profile?"

The porygon swiveled her wings and then faded out of view.

While he waited, GlitzyMitzy pinged him again. Gigi? Talk to me. He wasn't worried about losing her attention. In fact, he thought with a smile, he should let her sweat a little, force her to become more reactive.

After a minute, Ding flickered into view again. Result 1 of 15 for Éclat. A window popped up, showing a version of Georgia with longer hair and a fennekin tucked in her arms. The caption read, Tête-à-tête with Éclat, my new best girl. Probably not a trick then, but he'd have to avoid naming the species—too hard to tell what evolutionary stage it was in now.

Sorry. Had to talk to the nurse. She's okay. Hurt but recovering, he typed.

Out loud, he muttered, "Alright, enough small talk already ..."

As Georgia, he wrote, I'm more worried about how I'll get home without money. Then he sipped at his drink, smirking in anticipation, and watched the three little dots that indicated GlitzyMitzy was typing.

After a long pause, she answered, I should be able to call a taxi for you from here. Gimme the addresses of the pokemon center and the place you're staying.

Judd's smile crumpled into a scowl.

As he hammered out his rebuttal, Ding prompted him, Did you mean: Thanks so much, Mimi. I really appreciate it.

"Right, right, right." He took a deep breath and allowed himself a smile. "Thanks, Ding-a-ling. I appreciate it."

Ding rained animated hearts and played a couple seconds of his favorite song (Glitch City by m1ss1ng_n0). She really was such a smart bird.

Judd typed, Thanks so much, Mimi. I really appreciate it. I'm worried about tomorrow though. I don't have a way to get more money until they send me a new card.

Did you cancel your cards yet?


He rolled his eyes, even though she was nagging him about an imaginary problem. Yes, I did.

Okay, good.


Judd didn't hesitate—it was time. The only way to get what he wanted was to demand it and to keep the pressure on. If you could send just a couple hundred dollars, that would last me until my new cards come. As an afterthought, he added, And then I can pay you back!

GlitzyMitzi was quiet for a moment.

He messaged again: The girl at the front desk said you can wire funds directly to the pokecenter and they'll give it to me in cash. Then he gave her the magic string of numbers. Of course, the code he gave her directed to the transfer machine in the corner of the coffee shop by the front door, here in Viridian City. But she wouldn't know that.

She still didn't reply, so he fired off another message, remembering to use the nickname Ding had pulled up. Sorry to ask, Mimi. This really freaking sucks. Sad face. Why not—two sad faces.

Finally, GlitzyMitzi asked, Which center is that?

Judd lied smoothly, poised with the answer in one of his open tabs. The Rue Moret pokecenter.

There was another pause. That's Lumiose City, right?

He double-checked the map—Ding had already pulled it up. Yes, 11th District.

I thought you were in Shalour City this week.

He hissed a string of curses, typed, deleted it, and started again. There was a change of plans. I was meeting ....

"Ding?"

The porygon processed in silence for a moment. Then she piped up, I found something interesting, and opened up the page of another trainer. Her profile picture showed her and Georgia with their heads together.

"You're a rockstar."

I met up with my friend Sariah who's staying here.

Judd waited, but GlitzyMitzy didn't answer. No three little dots—nothing.

After a moment, he typed, Mimi? Are you still there?

When he went to take another drink, he got only an empty sucking sound. He chewed on the straw instead. It was hard to keep calm when the money felt tantalizingly close.

Don't leave me all alone! :(

Georgia's anxiety was fictitious, but Judd was starting to worry for real. He couldn't tell if Mitzi had left her computer to get her wallet ... or if she had finally wised up. With each second that passed, he became less confident it was the former.

Judd leaned back in his chair with a sigh. "Ding, you know any jokes while we wait?"

The porygon icon idled for a moment, and then a pixelated lightbulb appeared above her head. Joke (n.)—something said to cause amusement or laughter, especially a story with a punchline.

"Thanks anyway."

He chomped on his straw, flattening it into the smallest shape possible.

Mimiiiiiii ...

Probably, it was time to disengage before he wasted any more time. Though it wasn't like any of his other marks had responded yet ... He was about to ask Ding to help him start trawling for more passwords when GlitzyMitzy returned.

Why don't I send the money to your Trainer Network account, she said. Even if you don't have your physical license, the pokemon center staff should be able to match your face to the account and let you withdraw the money.

Judd squinted at that for a moment and then broke out in a grin. She thought that was enough to keep the money safe? "You know where to move it to, right, Ding?"

She played a little jingle in his earbuds and sent him a smiley face.

"Alright, then get ready."

To GlitzyMitzy he said, OK. That makes sense.

Do you think $400 will be enough?

Judd glanced at the time in the corner of the screen. They'd been talking for about half an hour. Not a bad hourly rate!

This time he remembered his manners. Thanks so much, Mimi. You're a rockstar.

Okay, answered Mitzi. I'll send it in just a second.

He leaned forward, eagerly watching the screen. When a pop-up window prompted, User "GlitzyMitzi" is trying to send attachments, he immediately clicked to accept.

The screen went white.

"Uh ... Ding?" Heart pounding, Judd stabbed at the emergency shutdown hotkeys, but nothing changed.

A pair of blue dots blinked into view in the center of the screen and then, with an animated flourish, became a pair of eyes. They winked. Then text scrawled across the screen: Kiss my circuits, script kid! The words repeated over and over, wrapping until they filled the entire screen, except for the eyes.

Judd reached for the keys and immediately felt an electrical shock. He couldn't touch it. At another jolt, this time from his earbuds, he jerked back involuntarily. The earbuds yanked out of his ears, but not before the laptop slid forward and toppled off the table. A beat after it hit the floor, there came a second loud crack, and Ding rematerialized among fizzling lights. Judd thought he heard staticky laughter underneath it all. His hair stood on end.

All eyes in the previously quiet cafe turned toward him. Judd ignored them and knelt next to Ding, who lay on top of the computer under the table. "Ding-a-ling? You okay?"

Something was wrong.

Gingerly, he lifted the porygon's body to press it to his chest—and her head stayed behind. Judd froze. How did that happen? What did that even mean for a creature made of data and light? Was she—?

But when he picked up her head in his other hand, the insides of her eyes spun like a program loading cursor. Under her plastic-like shell, lights still pulsed. So she was okay. Probably.

They had to get out of here.

He jammed his laptop into his backpack, wincing because it was hot to the touch. Then he swung the bag over his shoulders, scooped up both pieces of Ding, and scrambled out the door. Unsure where else to go, he made his way home.

Mom wouldn't return for a few hours, so Judd laid Ding on the kitchen table, aligning her head and body with care. Her eyes still swirled with loading circles. At least she didn't seem to be getting worse? Not that you could get much worse than decapitated.

For now, he decided to let her system try to sort itself out—dubious as that sounded, even to him—while he took stock of the situation. The laptop was utterly fried. Cracks webbed the screen and several of the keys had actually melted together. He supposed he could still open it up and see if any of the internal components were salvageable, but he wasn't counting on it.

Judd turned his back to the ruined computer and reached for his phone instead. By the time he pulled up the search engine, he realized he had no idea where to begin. He didn't even know if he should take Ding to a pokecenter or a repair shop ... or whether he should take her anywhere. How much much would their scans reveal of what he and Ding had been doing together?

He stole a glance over his shoulder at Ding. No, he couldn't leave her like that. He had to bring her ... somewhere ... and he would just have to figure out how to sidestep the consequences.

As Judd was pulling up directions to the nearest pokecenter, he heard a chime and a whirring behind him. He turned in time to watch Ding rise slowly and spasmodically off the table, her head levitating in place over her body.

"Hey, Ding-a-ling. Are you ... okay?"

His phone vibrated. Helło, r3gištered ûser Judd¡ Welcome to P0rYg0n: WingDing, _Edition Z.0! I åm Ding, your cyb3rnetïc friend¡

The sight of the garbled text made Judd feel nauseated with guilt and worry. Was this some kind of virus? He took a deep breath. There had to be a backup of her system files on the cloud. Something.

At the same time, he had to marvel: he had also never known Ding to be able to send messages from a device she hadn't jumped inside.

While he was puzzling through that, Ding sent a second message to his phone. I f0und somêthing interesting.

"Um."

With a mechanical whir, she drew herself up. Her head tottered jerkily to one side and then the other. She messaged, Kn0ck, knoç k.

Judd stared at his phone then back at his twitching porygon. He finally managed, "What the fuck?"

Did Ÿou mean: who's th3re¿

"Okay. Who's there?"

Õran.

Was she serious? Another thought hit him: had she been stuck looping his joke request this entire time? Gods, she was shot, and he only had himself to blame. She'd done her best for him, and in return he'd gotten her blitzed by a rotom—because what else could it have been?

"Oran who?" he answered glumly.

Oran y0u glad I'm nøt dead¿ said Ding. Then she made a high-pitched whooping sound, and her head spun a full one-eighty degrees.

He spluttered a single laugh, surprised more than amused.

Without a pause, Judd's phone buzzed again. Kńock, knøck.

This time he answered obediently. "Who's there?"

D¡ng!

Ah. Her overcooked system had reached its joke-researching limits. Judd sighed. "Hi, Ding."

She shuddered in place and beeped. D¡d you meÃn: D1ng who?

"Sorry. Ding who?" He tried to pull up the route to the pokecenter again, but the messages from Ding kept interrupting.

Ding-dong, she announced and then emitted a chime like a doorbell. The text kept scrolling. It's me, Ding (your cyberńetįc fri3nd). I am at your do0r, inviting yoü outs1de.

"You ... want to go outside? We can do that." The pokecenter was only a short walk away.

No, Judd, Ding messaged, it was a j0ke.

Judd's mouth hung open. He had never seen her so chatty, not without prompting, and not ... like this. Where had she gotten the idea to change the joke?

Another thought flickered through his head: was this Ding? Had something else hijacked her system? And now it was in his phone, too.

"I'm so screwed."

Ding stared at him—or, at least, turned in his direction. Her head slowly drifted upside-down. Querÿ, came the message on his phone. How māny Juddš doęs it take to scr3w in å lightbułb?

"No, no—Ding. Stop. I'm being serious." He caught himself and sighed. Ding was all messed up and here he was scolding her. In a gentler voice, he said, "You just relax, Ding. I need to figure some things out."

He couldn't do jack shit without a laptop. Even a junker would be several hundred dollars at the very least, and that was after whatever it cost to fix Ding. Did he even have enough for that? He had no idea. And if he couldn't work in the meantime …. Judd groaned, dropping his face into his hands. "How am I gonna pay for any of this shit?"

At another ping on his phone, Judd raised his head.

Ding offered, I found som3thing intēresting¡

This time the message included a link, which took him to a page about white hat hackers—people paid to hack companies to help them improve their security. At least, he supposed, she hadn't stalled out in an endless loop of jokes. He shook his head in disbelief. "Where did this come from?"

Did you m3an: good 1dea, Ding¿

Judd opened his mouth, shut it again. He felt light-headed. "I'm not sure if we should do anymore hacking. I don't want you to get hurt. Or, more hurt."

W3 hurt peoplè.

She'd said something about that earlier, hadn't she? Yes, this was definitely Ding. And she was probably right. Judd swallowed and looked away, unable to argue. "Yeah."

For a moment, the only sound was the whir of Ding's processors.

Quėry: we coūld h3lp people & balanc3 the deficit. Is that cørrećt?

Ding hovered closer and watched over Judd's shoulder as he read her message. She met his gaze, the lights in her eyes flashing off and on. He couldn't remember her asking him for anything before. When he finally opened his mouth, he knew better than to say anything other than, "Good idea, Ding."
 
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kintsugi

golden scars
Location
the warmth of summer in the songs you write
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
  4. custom/booper-kintsugi
Genres:
Crime, friendship
was there ever really any doubt tbh

I liked this one a lot! Porygon intersecting with digital security, scams in the online era, and a dose of social media/influencer shade! I really like how Judd's plan fails when he's trying to impersonate someone via what he can glean from her social media--it's like making a mask based off of another mask; he's playing telephone with her personality. Lots of meta layers on that one. Ding is also really cute and it's a lot of fun watching them interact, how she tries to help him do his job better, how she tries to help him do his job worse lol.

At the top of her page was a quote from a pop song: the road is long, my darling / but keep your face to the sun. Very typical suburban Kanto girl shit. No battle videos, which spoke volumes. He could tell she was reaching for influencer status, but she didn't post often enough or draw enough attention when she did. Most of the comments on her posts came from one user, GlitzyMitzy, and were geotagged to Cerulean—a lot of miss you, sis, and get it, girl!
Really effective scene-setting on this one. I immediately get the sense of Judd being judgmental, a little of Georgia, the sister. Lowercase italics song lyrics, why you gotta call me out like this.

He was careful about his own typos, but it was usually a good idea to side with Ding when she made suggestions. While he'd been ordering his drink, she'd been analyzing the message history between georgia_wanders and GlitzyMitzy. She probably knew Georgia's text habits better than Georgia did.
hahaha analyzing thousands of words of someone's text to extract typo habits who would EVER

The new Jabjai was whip-fast and relentless ... until he wasn't anymore. They outpaced the bellsprouts and poliwags of the world. But by the next gym, Judd's peers had caught up and then some. No matter how much work they put in, Jabjai didn't make any more big gains. He'd peaked.
Oooh, this was an interesting concept and I love seeing it in fanfic. Reminded me of Butterfree, haha--what do you do with pokemon that evolve early and can never catch up? It's fun seeing some of those meta-commentaries about which pokemon we choose to use vs which pokemon we actually like coming into effect in a fictional setting; seems like Judd has similar justification for ditching his weaker members to get stronger.

Judd spotted the problem immediately, the proximity of "pass" and "code." Ding's algorithm had guided her towards what she thought might be a password. It didn't happen often, but Ding did occasionally present him with a chunk of gibberish. He couldn't begrudge her for trying.
<3 d'awww

He didn't walk you home?

Judd chuckled at her indignation, thinking how Mitzi sounded an awful lot like ditzy.
I didn't read indignation here? Wasn't sure if this was intentional--Judd arrogantly misreads the situation, reads Mitzi as stupid, reads her doubt as indignation--but the single question mark really strikes me as doubt, while exclamation mark/interrobang would be more readable as anger.

He messaged again: The girl at the front desk said you can wire funds directly to the pokecenter and they'll give it to me in cash. Then he gave her the magic string of numbers. Of course, the code he gave her directed to the transfer machine in the corner of the coffee shop by the front door, here in Viridian City. But she wouldn't know that.
hahaha classic scam step where he does the long con and then ruins it by immediately oversharing a ton of information that most people wouldn't know send me $500 amazon gift cards thank YOU

Oran y0u glad I'm nøt dead¿ said Ding. Then she made a high-pitched whooping sound, and her head spun a full one-eighty degrees.
oh my god BABY

Quėry: we coūld h3lp people & bałanc3 the deficit. Is that correćt?

Ding hovered closer and watched over Judd's shoulder as he read her message. She met his gaze, the lights in her eyes flashing off and on. When he finally opened his mouth, he knew better than to say anything other than, "Good idea, Ding."
I wanted just a bit more development to get to this point? I see why this experience might get Judd to stop scamming, since he can see the consequences that his actions has on people he cares about (even if he ignores the consequences his actions have on the people he's scammed LOL), but I don't really see the shift for why he'd go into white hat hacking as a way to help--he's very self-focused in all of his motivations for journeying, etc; the shift to suddenly wanting to act on behalf of others doesn't really feel consistent with the rest of the things he'd shared.

But this was a ton of fun! I liked this new angle into the pokeworld, how different professions might evolve/adapt if they had pokemon at their sides and if the journeying concept led people to rely more heavily on social media to communicate. Gud scam. <3
 

WildBoots

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. custom/moka-mark
  2. solrock
Thanks for the kind words, you angel.

and a dose of social media/influencer shade!
Haha, throwing it right back at myself because I’m on social media C O N S T SA N T L Y.

he's playing telephone with her personality.
This is an excellent way to phrase it.

Really effective scene-setting on this one.
Ah good to hear! I worried it was too much.

Reminded me of Butterfree, haha
Definitely! Pulled some inspiration from @Dragonfree in that section for sure!

I didn't read indignation here? Wasn't sure if this was intentional--Judd arrogantly misreads the situation, reads Mitzi as stupid, reads her doubt as indignation--but the single question mark really strikes me as doubt, while exclamation mark/interrobang would be more readable as anger.
Good point! Not sure why I shied from the interrobang here in a fic that I literally dumped in every weird character I could.

hahaha classic scam step where he does the long con and then ruins it by immediately oversharing a ton of information that most people wouldn't know send me $500 amazon gift cards thank YOU
Yeah in my way-too-thorough research on email scams I concluded ... most of them are obvious and stupid. But people want to accommodate and assume the best of others, especially when their emotions are being toyed with. He’s not very clever, but he (usually) doesn’t actually have to be.

I wanted just a bit more development to get to this point?
I don’t disagree! I’m surprised no one else has called me out on that, actually. I need to make a better transition into Jabjai as per Pen’s comments on AO3, so I’ll think harder about this too. My knee-jerk thought is ... well he’s not really into the idea, just placating Ding. (Little shit.)
 

Flaze

Don't stop, keep walking
Location
Chile
Pronouns
he/him
Partners
  1. infernape
Catnip review time!

I think what I liked most about this one shot, and something I hope to take away for myself, is that more than it trying to tell some kind of complicated story it's more of a window into a character's life during a specific moment in their lives. Judd's definitely at a state where he's just trying to do what he can in order to find some form of direction and he's lashing out at his bad luck by trying to screw others that "surely have it better than me so it's not like I'm doing something bad". That's not to say all black hats do it for that, some are definitely in it for the thrill, others just don't really have anything else they can see themselves doing or want to do.

Either way, I thought it was a fun way to explore a character and I have to admit that I'm not used to seeing pokemon stories that are more cyber focused like this one, I've always thought porygon as a pokemon was really versatile because it acts as a bridge between reality and the net, so the way in which you show Judd using Ding came off as really fresh for me.

Also I really liked how seamlessly you world built at the start of the story, nothing major, just giving us little details here and there on Judd's activities, the conditions that led to him being where he was and so on, I especially liked how you hinted at the ways in which journeying and social media blended together.

And now for some quotes!

If you really thought about it, Judd was doing the best thing for these trainers, too. They'd have to face reality sooner or later, and he was saving them a couple steps. He was basically providing a service: they paid his fee and he taught them a valuable life lesson. Unlike the rockets, he even left them with all their pokemon. For someone like Georgia, whose family could afford to send her to Kalos for her journey, a couple hundred dollars probably wasn't even that big of a deal.

This, like I mentioned above, give us a lot more insight into Judd's mindset and how he rationalizes stealing money from people. He feels that life was unfair to him, and in a way he might be right, but he uses that to justify doing the same to others. Since life is shit, might as well just make the most of it right?

For now, he "pet" her with the cursor, and her on-screen avatar emitted a shower of hearts. That had been added in the update, too. Judd couldn't keep the goofy grin from his face. His sweet, smart pixel-bird.

I thought this was sooo adorable! and in general Judd's and Ding's interaction were one of the things that really sold the oneshot for me, you never, or at least I've never, see porygon be this emotive in stories and having it behave as laptop tamagotchis is just perfect in my opinion, plus it shows us that regardless of what he's doing Judd does have a heart and things he cares about, which also applies to his relationship with his mom, or what little hints we got of it.

But the more they lost, the less money he had to invest in the evolutionary stones and vitamins and potions necessary to keep a team strong and healthy. So they kept losing.

Again, pretty interesting worldbuilding detail you put here. Outside of exploring how most trainers don't really make it past a certain point in their journey, you also touch on a topic that I think not many writers actually focus on. How tough it probably is to spend. Even if we say that staying at pokemon centers is free, that still doesn't take into account other expenses. Of course, most official pokemon media tend to ignore the whole "You win/lose money in battles" in favor of just making them a sport people engage in for funsies. But still, cool detail.

Judd stared at the screen. That was definitely new. He wondered if he should pull up Ding's settings and suss out what exactly had been in the Wingdings 2.0 package.

Love, love was added in that las update, Judd.

The porygon icon idled for a moment, and then a pixelated lightbulb appeared above her head. Joke (n.)—something said to cause amusement or laughter, especially a story with a punchline.

Best joke.

A pair of blue dots blinked into view in the center of the screen and then, with an animated flourish, became a pair of eyes. They winked. Then text scrawled across the screen: Kiss my circuits, script kid! The words repeated over and over, wrapping until they filled the entire screen, except for the eyes.

As a programmer, I would absolutely shit my pants if this happened to me. Also I'm probably dumb for not realizing it was a rotom till after Judd mentioned it.


Well, my highlights aside. I really liked this oneshot and I liked your writing style through out, it's not too heavy, flows very well and you strike a good balance between humor and more serious moments that make it hard to lose motivation. I'll have to keep taking a look at your repertoire.
 

WildBoots

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. custom/moka-mark
  2. solrock
@Flaze I’m so glad you liked it! If you liked Ding, you should check out Time & Tide by Cutlerine (on Serebii). It features an exceedingly cute porygon I took inspiration from.
 

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Staff
Partners
  1. charizard
  2. milotic
Here for Catnip! (Sorry for being close to the deadline)

This was a short and sweet take on a more villainous (bit of a strong word, all things considered) duo, actual partners in crime! I don't have a whole lot to comment on mechanics wise because I think it was well put together, though I will say that the first half of the story dragged more than the second half did. You definitely spent a lot of time going over the background of the character, the justifications and self-rationalizations for them getting into the career they did, why, how, and ultimately what led them to this snapshot. But near the middle of that backstory, I felt like I already had a good enough picture of what was going on, and I feel like some of it could have been left to implication rather than being outlined so meticulously, especially for a short story like this.

The second half, though, was great, and I don't really have much I'd want to change about the pacing. The scam going wrong, the very clear fact that it seemed like his victim was getting wise to what was going on, and the resolution coming from his partner in crime, seemed like a very satisfying way to move their arc forward while still giving enough closure for the context of the short story. I think that the virus causing an evolution into Porygon Z was also a clever way to go about that transition!

As someone who took courses in cyber security and so on, this whole premise of the scam was executed really well, and adding a Porygon to do the spear phishing was really cleverly done! This sort of targeted scamming practice is usually something you'd only save for high-profile targets, but the way it's so easy for a Porygon to do the same thing and actually hijack an account makes a ton of sense. I remember you approaching me about something like this, and ultimately found a way to work around the technicalities, and I'll say that you did it well! I can't think of any "but why didn't" factors that can't be handwaved by app incompetence or a user foregoing optional security options like 2FA or ip checking.

Overall, good short story that got the point across. Thanks for the read!
 

Equitial

Ace Trainer
Pronouns
he/him
Partners
  1. espurr
  2. inkay
  3. woobat
  4. ralts
For now, he "pet" her with the cursor, and her on-screen avatar emitted a shower of hearts.

"Baby baby cute love the porugon" <--- note I took while reading this story.

I loooooved Ding. I'm realizing I love these kinds of one-shots that focus on the bond between a human and a specific species of Pokemon. Human/Pokemon relationships are some of my favorite aspects of the franchise and mmmmm, reading this kind of story is like enjoying a hot cup of cocoa. I always love the authors' takes on how certain kinds of Pokemon work, and Ding is no different. I loved this quirky lil computer mon. I enjoyed how she expressed affection and how smart she was in her own way. I've always liked Porygon; they're unique among the franchise. This was a lovely interpretation of the species that I won't soon forget.

I was so worried for Ding in this moment, but I also liked how her troubles were described. This passage really stuck out to me while reading:

Gingerly, he lifted the porygon's body to press it to his chest—and her head stayed behind. Judd froze. How did that happen? What did that even mean for a creature made of data and light? Was she—?

But when he picked up her head in his other hand, the insides of her eyes spun like a program loading cursor. Under her plastic-like shell, lights still pulsed. So she was okay. Probably.

They had to get out of here.

As for the human in this story, he has no sense of humor. I mean come on, this is hilarious:

Judd leaned back in his chair with a sigh. "Ding, you know any jokes while we wait?"

The porygon icon idled for a moment, and then a pixelated lightbulb appeared above her head. Joke (n.)—something said to cause amusement or laughter, especially a story with a punchline.

Okay, but no really. For someone who's a thief and otherwise looks down on most people, I sympathized with Judd. His genuine affection for Ding carried the story, and it was great to see how he bounced off of her.

I liked the characters, but parts of the story felt off to me. The transition to Judd recalling his old Beedrill was very abrupt.

And new trainers and their cheerleaders were always too ready to believe in something too good to be true.

Wincing, Judd remembered the day Jabjai finally evolved into a beedrill.

I was extremely confused at first; I had to re-read the paragraphs a few times before I realized what was going on. I also think that that backstory was too lengthy for a oneshot. It kinda put the whole story on pause; it illustrated why Judd was doing what he was, but that could have been conveyed in less words I think.

I was also perplexed by the ending. My first thought was that you had only uploaded part of the story, somehow??? It feels more like the story stopped, rather than having an actual conclusion.

Anyway, I really liked Ding-a-ling.

He felt the urge to hug her—thinking how the sound of her drivers reminded him of a purring cat—but he'd have to wait until later.

I want to hug this story too.
 

WildBoots

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. custom/moka-mark
  2. solrock
Thank you, @Namohysip & @Equitia for giving this lil one-shot some of your time! (And, no, you weren't late, Namo!)

As someone who took courses in cyber security and so on, this whole premise of the scam was executed really well, and adding a Porygon to do the spear phishing was really cleverly done! This sort of targeted scamming practice is usually something you'd only save for high-profile targets, but the way it's so easy for a Porygon to do the same thing and actually hijack an account makes a ton of sense.
This was the part I was most worried about when writing it, so I'm glad to hear it landed! Fix it with duct tape a pokemon is a fantastic solution to many problems.

I loooooved Ding.
Ding might be one of my favorite characters I've written this year. I spend a lot of time with grouchy, angry characters, so it was a delight to give some brain space to this sweet lil bean. Glad you liked her, too.

I hear what you're both saying about the pacing of the first half! This fic isn't high on my to-edit list, but when I get to it, I'll definitely give that some consideration. I also agree about the sudden jump to the beedrill flashback--Pen had pointed that out, too. I've got some thoughts about smoothing over that transition but haven't gotten to it yet. And I can't disagree about the ending either! 2020 has been a year of learning how to write better endings. Part of the issue here is that I was hitting my word limit. Now that the event is over, I can take a little more room to wrap things up. I'm not totally sure how I'll modify it yet, but I totally hear you there.

Thanks again for your thoughts! ❤
 
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IFBench

Rescue Team Member
Location
Pokemon Paradise
Partners
  1. custom/chikorita-saltriv
  2. custom/bench-gen
  3. charmander
Very interesting choice for protagonists! A scammer duo of a human and a Porygon!

I like the little detail of Ding mistaking a correctly spelled word for a typo. Very nice touch.

Nevermind! It was on purpose! Very interesting, seems these two are even including purposeful typos to seem more convincing.

Aw, the petting scene was adorable.

Seems Judd was a former trainer, judging by the Beedrill part. I wonder what lead him to a life of crime? Seems like he doesn't think the trainer lifestyle is sustainable going by the phrasing of "face reality sooner or later" in the next paragraph.

Ah. So repeated gym failures is what lead him to this. Makes sense.

Seems like Ding might be starting to grow conscious of all this, going by that cheating line.

Oh dear. Seems this scam is really hurting these people. I feel sorry for them.

And looks like this might all have been a ploy to catch Judd, or at least sabotage him.

Seems Ding was caught in the crossfire. Oh no. The head becoming detatched from the body does not bode well.

The laptop's utterly busted, too. I really like the description of this part, with the cracks webbed across the screen and the keys melted together.

Oh boy. Seems Ding's become a Porygon-Z! I really like the glitchy effect of their dialogue!

Heh. Seems Ding finally learned a sense of humor! And got a change of heart!

I really like how the story ends. They're still doing what they enjoy, but now they're trying to help instead of hurt.

Overall, I really enjoyed this! Seeing the Pokemon world from the perspective from a scammer was really neat!
 
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