In Beta

Just get it done. You can fix it later.

The air was like blankets that day. Closed windows made of white, metal, flimsy blinders blocked as much light as the employees could manage. Still, despite this, pinpricks of blistering sunlight plagued their cubicles. It was the harshest time of the day. It was also a convenient time for the air conditioning to shut off for most of the building in favor of dedicating to the server room. It was the end of the week, where most workers went home, and most employees could pat themselves on the back for a job well done.

For Silph Co., that was not the case. Not today.

Evan's dark blonde hair stuck to his forehead. The pits of his white shirt were gray with sweat. Next to him, Growlithe was rolling on his back, panting with oblivious joy. Of course he'd enjoy the sweltering heat. Evan gave Growlithe a bitter look, but it softened only a second later. He reached down and gave him a little scratch behind the ears. This got him excited; Growlithe sprang up and barked a few times, startling a few of the half-asleep developers.

"Shh, shh," Evan said.

Growlithe whined and nibbled on Evan's shoes.

Software developers were used to these demanding schedules, and the same went for the engineers. Crunch time, they called it. Deadlines from executives that didn't know how programming worked. Dev Ops had pulled an all-nighter the day before when one of the servers crashed for some inexplicable reason. So, it was understandable that their lead—a scrawny man in khakis and a T-shirt—leaned his back against the wall, snoring.

"Poor Ted," Evan mumbled, pulling his feet away from Growlithe. "Heard his wife was pretty upset that he's spending more time here than there."

"What, like we aren't?" asked another dev in the cubicle opposite of him—while they had their own spaces, the "walls" that separated them were only a few feet high. To encourage cooperation, their manager said. It only caused distractions. "Ugh, this heat is killing me. You sure that slobber-brain of yours isn't causing it? Maybe inherited Overheat from those monsters you call his parents?"

"I'm sure." Evan sighed. "Listen, I'm sorry, okay? I'll get my code checked in right away. Did you review Dale's?"

"Yeah, yeah, I reviewed it. Dale, you got them?" He fanned his face, but that just made more hot air waft over him.

"Fixing that line now," Dale said. "And how about you, Paul? Eh?"

"I'm done with mine. Get on my level." Paul smirked.

Dale and Evan both rolled their eyes, though they smiled back.

Growlithe tore off Evan's right shoe and bolted. Evan was too tired to give chase. He coded for the next hour with one foot wearing only a white—gray, now, technically—sock.

Evening bled into the night. Growlithe had snuggled up against the Dev Ops Lead's thigh for a nap. Two of the senior devs left for coffee and never came back. Their manager had been gone for a long time, and only said that he wanted to see it finished before they left. They weren't really sure what that meant, as they had no means to contact him if he was out of the office, nor any knowledge about how they would show their results, either.

It was just the beta, so they just had to get a full test completed.

"Can't we just go and finish this on Monday?" Dale complained.

"Sure, if you want to get fired," Evan mumbled.

"Hah! Fired. That's a good one. Who're they gonna replace me with?"

Dale had a point. They were the top of the top—irreplaceable, as far as Kanto was concerned, for their knowledge in the cutting-edge of artificial intelligence and software engineering.

"If anything, I'd say the help desk would be the first to go," Dale said.

"C'mon, they get the busywork out of the way." Even briefly stopped his typing to glance at his coworker—one of only two that remained with him. "What, would you like to deal with customers instead?"

"Hmph, whatever," Dale said, grinning. "I guess you've got a point. Hey, so did you check in your code yet?"

Evan brushed the hair off of his brow and shut his eyes. "No, I've been busy talking to you. Can I just finish?"

"Sure, finish," Dale raised his arms. "Paul?"

"Just about done," Paul said, leaning back. He spun his red cap around his head a few times, watching the computer do all the work.

"What, it's compiling?"

"Just gotta make sure the tests all check out."

"You can't run the full thing, though. Your computer doesn't have the power."

"Yeah, yeah, I'm just gonna do the unit tests. There, see? It already passed five hundred of 'em."

"Out of fifty thousand," Evan moaned. "Ugh, and I have to wait for that, too, don't I?"

"One thousand," Paul said, tossing his hat in the air. He jerked his head back to catch it, losing his balance instantly. His rolling chair tipped over and he slammed into the ground with a hard wump!

Growlithe jumped to his feet and barked incessantly. This woke up the tiny giant, Ted, and he stumbled to his feet. "What's going on? What—what day is it?"

"Friday night." Evan gave one final click of the mouse and got out from his seat to chase Growlithe down. "Hey, Growlithe! Where'd you put my shoe?"

Growlithe howled, running up and down the halls. Every time he got close to Evan, he stopped abruptly and slammed his paws several times on the ground, then ran away again.

"Ughh, he just wants to go home," Evan groaned. "We can't, little buddy! Not until we get this code wrapped up!"

"It's passing all the unit tests," Dale remarked, leaning over his cubicle wall to take a look at Evan's screen. "Good thing, too. Maybe we'll all get to go on vacation after—oh."

Evan hated that tone. "Let me guess," he said, not even looking back. "It failed a test?"

"Yeah. Not sure which one, though. Too many."

Evan groaned, rubbing his forehead. "What's one test gonna do? We have to try it out anyway. He wanted a prototype, and that's what we're gonna give him. We can work out the beta bugs for this dumb robot, no problem."

"Yeah, I guess so," Dale said, watching the screen. "I mean, when you get down to it, two errors out of fifty thousand isn't so bad. Like, what're three errors gonna do? I've seen code with way more than just five error—"

"You can stop, Dale," Evan growled.

Unit tests complete: 52 out of 57,639 tests failed. The number irritated Evan, especially for how enigmatic it was. 52. Just one of those bugs could be days of work. And after that bug was finished, for all he knew, it would just give way to three more bugs that it was covering up! Evan felt his heart rate increase just thinking about it.

Growlithe barked on the opposite side of the hall, pounding his paws on the ground.

"Let's just start it up. Ted, you mind getting the computers all configured?"

"Sure. Evan, you go and set up the terminal to try user input tests. I'll get everything else ready." Ted rumbled away.

Evan sighed, but then looked around. Paul was missing. And his water bottle was gone, too. "Deserter," he mumbled. The clouds parted outside and moonlight streamed through the cracks of the windows. The heat of the afternoon was long gone, replaced instead by an eerie silence.

"I guess it's about time that I get started," Evan said. "Dale, do you want to watch this? I bet it'd be pretty cool! After all these years of—Dale?" Evan looked back, only to see Dale releasing his Abra. In a flash of light, they vanished from the office. "Whatever. Just me and Ted, then."

Growlithe barked.

"And you, little guy."

The server room was frigid. While Silph was normally very kind toward its employees—especially their developers—ultimately, the top priority was the servers, and when they were expecting a heavy load, extra energy was always diverted toward keeping the servers cool. Environmental laws prevented them from just taking in river water, cooling the server nodes, and dumping the simmering water back into the supply. They had to spend extra energy cooling the water before it could be properly released.

The final day of that madness was today, at least until they had some time for respite while their manger buttered up the execs with their findings and illusions of progress. For every unit test, for every compile of Project Porygon, the supercomputer was set to work, running as many of those tests and as many of those tasks in parallel as possible. It still took far too long. But now, they finally had some idea of a light at the end of the tunnel: A full-application test.

Evan was surrounded by servers. Shelves upon shelves of little blinking lights and featureless blocks of silicon and plastic. Growlithe was outside, intolerant of the chilling temperatures inside the supercomputer's rooms, though Evan certainly wished he'd be there to keep him warm. His fingers were numb. His nose felt like a solid block of ice. His ears were in danger of falling off. Evan was almost positive he saw fog escape his mouth with every exhale. Each breath he took stung his lungs until he adjusted to the frigid temperatures. "Should've brought a coat," he said, teeth chattering.

"Everything's ready," Ted announced. Evan couldn't see him—he was on the other side of the shelves, checking wires and cluster statuses.

"Great. Let's get this done."

Muffled barks from Growlithe struggled past the window glass. Evan glanced back and saw the little guy jumping for brief glances through the window. He stretched his paws out and blindly pawed at the glass, whining.

Evan smiled slightly. "I don't wanna keep him waiting."

Evan's finger hovered over the final key. All he had to do was press enter, and the program would launch.

"So," he said, "Ted, everything's good?"

"Yeah, all good. Even the problem cluster is behaving. For once."

"Okay," Evan said, but his finger didn't move. The failed tests bugged him. What would that mean for Project Porygon? It was just going to be a robot AI, but something about it bugged him. The code felt… different, after a while. More complex. Sometimes it felt like it changed itself when he wasn't looking, like the little twitches of an embryo of zeroes and ones.

Evan shook his head. That was silly.

Still…

"Hang on, Ted."

"C'mon, man, I'm freezing my fingers off, here."

"Just hang on. I need to make a call, okay?" He dug through his pockets—lingering for the warmth—and pulled out his phone. His manager was always on call if something went wrong, but was it too late? Evan noticed that his phone showed 8:34 PM. He shook his head, the weight of his eyelids doubling. He dialed.

He was probably going to take Monday off.

"Evan? What is it?" the phone buzzed.

"Hey, Jack, about Project Porygon—we have everything up and running, but—"

"You do? That's great! Oh, Evan, that's great. I'll tell the higher ups right away. Is everyone else there with you?"

"Ted's here, but everyone else left after they finished up. I just have to hit Enter, and—"

"Great, perfect! And how about your Poké Ball? Is it all ready? Make sure you have a bunch, just in case! It may be a robot, but its signature should still be like a Pokémon if it all goes right."

"Yeah, they're all here, but—"

"Great! So, you're gonna do it, right? I think if this all goes off with some results, they'll forgive us for being three months behind, you know?"

What he didn't mention was that they were three months behind after four reschedulings.

Evan gulped. "Yeah. Okay. Got it."

"Perfect. Call back and tell me how it goes, okay? I—"

Something screeched on the other side of the phone. Evan recognized it as Jack's Pidgeotto.

"Ugh—gotta go, Evan. Call me back!" Disconnected.

Evan shut his phone and looked back at the console terminal. The cursor blinked rhythmically.

Evan : ~/Projects/Porygon$ sh " "

Evan stared for a while. He could always come back on the weekend and patch out a few of those bugs. Make it a little better. But at the same time, he'll never be able to finish them all off at once. And what program wasn't without a few bugs? This was just the beta. Jack needed to see results—he had a feeling all of Silph was going to grill him with a thousand Magnemite if they didn't show something by next week.

"Just get it done, Evan," he mumbled. "You can fix it later." That was just the job. This was no different, right? Cutting edge technology didn't come without a bit of bugs here and there, and they had all the precautions in place in case something went wrong. Countless ravings from Dale about "AI taking over the world" or "killer robots started at Silph"—mostly in jest—had scared Jack into having them program a kill switch in all beta builds. But really, wouldn't the terminal's kill command be just as good? Whatever made the boss man happy, he supposed.

"Evan, did you hit enter yet or not?"

"Right, sorry—just had to double check something. I'll do it."

Evan wasn't sure if his finger was shaking because of the cold or some ghostly anxiety. But Ted was waiting on him.

Growlithe whined, puffing little embers into the air to get his attention. He was also waiting. He had to stop hesitating.

"Okay. It's starting."

The terminal filled unceremoniously with line after line of commands, launching the program, setting up files, checking resources. There were a few simple prompts for him to fill out, which Evan didn't think much of. Most of them were simple customization options, like language preferences and names. Feeling a bit whimsical, he put down 'Hope' for the nickname. After that, it went on its merry way. Evan didn't know half of what it did—this portion was Paul's work, but it only worked on dummy code until now. If only Paul stayed to tell me if this was going right.

Evan squinted at some of the alert lines. "Did Paul… leave in a typo?"

RUNNIGN: PORYGON Launcher

RUNNIGN: RAM checker

RUNNIGN: Poly Builder

"I can't believe he missed that," Evan said. "Is he serious?" Still, messages went faster than he could read them. He could only see the prefixes—all the programs running in tandem like some strange, hyper-speed dance.

Growlithe scratched at the door, howling into the corner. It haunted Evan. A cold, icy feeling filled his gut, and he didn't think it was because of the air conditioning. In fact, it was starting to feel a bit warmer on his skin.

ERROR: " " is missing or has been corrupted.

ERROR: " " is missing or has been corrupted.

SUCCESS: " " has been loaded.

NNNNNNNNNNN

"Uhh—" Evan blinked. "What?"

"What?" Ted asked.

"Hang on. Let me work on it," Evan said.

Corrupted characters filled the screen. "Did Paul forget to terminate a string?" Evan said frantically. "Uhh—uhh—Ted!"

"What? Should I kill the server?"

"No, don't—let me try something first. Just a bit of—"

Evan held two keys in an effort to terminate the program. It didn't respond. Evan held a different pair of keys and tried to kill the program instead. It didn't respond.

"Server's running hot," Ted spoke up.

"Is the cooling chamber working?"

"This is with the cooling chamber."

"Okay, okay, hang on."

Evan quickly opened up the task manager and searched through the running programs. He spotted it. End process.

There was a pause. The entire computer froze for five seconds. Even the cursor was frozen. Evan held his breath. Please, just end it. This was a mistake. Forget getting it done. This was wrong. Something was wrong.

And then it continued. The process ended. Evan realized only then that he had been breathing hard, and he heard his heart in his ears. Slowly, his pulse normalized. "Okay," he said. "Okay, it's—it's over. I'll just call Jack, and—"

"Servers still running hot."

"What?! But I ended the—"

The terminal had a message on it.

PORYGON successfully loaded. Happy birthday! :^)

He recognized the emote as one of Paul's creations. A small smile twitched at the edge of his mouth and his pulse returned completely to normal.

Then, another message appeared.

Hello?

Evan stared. Growlithe whined on the opposite side of the door, pawing at the door again.

"It's okay, Growlithe!" Evan said shakily.

"Evan, what's going on?!"

"Hang on," Evan said.

He typed into the terminal. Hello.

Instantly, it replied.

Where am I?

Evan's heart was in his head. In a computer. Who are you?

Where am I?

Evan blinked. Did it miss the last entry? In a computer. Who

Evan couldn't finish. The computer spoke again.

pory -h

pory -H

pory -help

They hadn't programmed a help command.

Do you need help? Evan typed.

Y

Evan nodded. I can help. What do

pory -kill

pory -quit

pory -end

Evan frantically typed, What are you doing?

Porygon didn't respond.

"Evan, what are you doing back there!? These things are gonna shut off if you keep this up! Even the hard disks are going haywire—this thing's a virus or something!"

"I—I'm not doing anything! It's talking to me!"

"Talking? What do you mean, talking?!" Ted speedily walked around the server shelves and peered over Evan's left shoulder. "It's actually talking to you? Through that?"

"It needs help," Evan said. "I think it wants to get out."

"It's pory dash-dash-out," Ted said.

"Okay." Evan quickly typed in the command. pory -out

Nothing happened.

"Ted?" Evan asked.

"It was last time we tested it!"

"We could never run that command in full until now, though. What if it's just processing in the background?"

pory -HELP

"Why is it asking for help?"

"That's just it making a command to the manual that doesn't exist," Evan said. "I think it's trying to figure out how to release it. Ted, just go and find the manual. I know I printed it out, so it's at my desk."

"Okay."

Seconds after Ted left, Evan realized the room was starting to feel warm. His stomach was in knots. What if this was his fault? Paul's tests all passed. Dale's probably did, too. But his had errors. Did he cause this?

Evan went back to the terminal, sighing. "Okay, so we have a Porygon that's a little lost." Don't worry. We're finding the command to get you out now.

Specify: out.

The real world.

N

Evan tilted his head. You don't want to go out?

pory -kill

And it kept typing that, over and over.

Evan hesitated. "Teeeed!" he raised his voice.

"What?" Ted's muffled voice sounded through the glass.

"Maybe we shouldn't release it! I think we actually did make a killer robot!" Evan paused, his brief, frantic thoughts making way for something more rational. "Wait. Kill. That's not the shell command for killing people, that's—"

"Made a what?" Ted called back, nudging Growlithe out of the way to slip back into the server room without the little Pokémon sneaking inside.

"Never mind," Evan said. "We need to get that thing out immediately."

"Why?"

"It's trying to terminate its own program."

pory -quit

"Why?" Ted said. "That doesn't make any sense."

The failed tests and twitching code flashed in his eyes. "Let's get it out," Evan said. "What's the command?"

Porygon had fallen silent, but the servers were still running hot. The whole room felt like it was running hot.

"It's pory dash-dash-releaseFINAL2. Capitals on FINAL, and the number—"

"Why was it written like that?!"

"I—I don't know!"

Evan frantically typed into the prompt.

pory –relesefiNAL2

"No, no, you forgot to—"

"I KNOW I DID!"

pory -releaseFINAL2

The entire computer froze again. A distressing, buzzing noise sounded on the opposite side of the room. Ted sprinted over. "Running REALLY hot right now! What's going on? Why is it taking this much power?!"

Evan frantically pressed two keys again, trying to terminate the program. "We'll just disconnect everything," he said. "Just—just take out the server Porygon's in, and never turn it on AGAIN, okay? TED?"

"Okay, OKAY, let me—"

Sparks of electricity arced over the air and onto the ground right next to Evan. The developer stumbled backward and landed on his rear, grunting when he hit the tiled floor. He stared at the thing that materialized before him. Growlithe slammed into the door, trying unsuccessfully to break in.

It wasn't a Porygon.

It was a jumbled mess of angular shapes that didn't form a single coherent prism. Polygons jutted out in random directions, bumping against the ground with loud, screeching, grinding noises. It was a random assortment of reds and blues, but Evan also saw a single, white hexagon that was supposed to be its eye, but the black dot for its pupil was not there. Instead, it was on a separate, semi-formed block of red. The black dot twirled around the block in silence, and the mass of triangles twisted and contorted for what felt like an eternity.

And then it screeched. It was a mixture of the static of a television, the grinding of metal on metal, and the wail of a soul that shouldn't exist. Evan scrambled away and bumped his hand against a small Poké Ball near him. Empty. His head was ringing. Was he screaming? Evan couldn't hear himself. He couldn't even hear his thoughts. He grabbed the Poké Ball, not knowing what else to do, and tossed it at the thing.

It bounced against one of the many triangles. Before the Poké Ball even had a chance to pull it in, the mess of polygons violently exploded in a flash of light. The shockwave blasted the nearest servers and shoved them back a few inches on the shelves; stray pieces of the corrupted Porygon's solid form pierced through Evan's one remaining shoe and his wet sock. Thankfully, none of them seemed to cut up his feet. Unfortunately, one piece slashed his cheek, leaving a small cut. Ted dived behind another shelf of the servers, avoiding the blast entirely.

Growlithe was emitting a sound that was a strange mixture of a bark and a scream on the opposite side of the door. Evan could barely hear it. All he heard was a high ring and a deep pulse. Blood ran down his cheek. He winced when he felt for the source. His fingers ran over a shallow, long wound. Shakily, he stood on his feet.

Ted peeked out from behind the servers. "I—I'll check the logs." He was working on autopilot; Evan felt the same. The shock left him completely numb; he couldn't believe what happened, and chose not to. Maybe it was heatstroke. There wasn't a trace of the mess left, after all. No, the servers were just fine. It wasn't as if there were three of them toppled over, no. Evan didn't see that.

He moved to the other side of the servers. The room was cooling down. But Evan was still hot.

He staggered to the terminal. It wouldn't respond to any of his interactions.

"What…?" Ted said.

"What?" Evan asked. He couldn't steady his fingers enough to type into the terminal anyway. His hearing came back enough to hear Growlithe's soft whines.

"These logs are insane," Ted went on. "It's a bunch of file change logs, and then a compile command, and then… Evan, were you trying to fix the code live or something? What did the robot do? H-how did it…?"

"I was just staring at the screen the whole time," Evan said. "What do you mean?" Evan glanced at his screen again. "Ugh, the thing is frozen. I can't do anything."

"Server's running a little warm, actually," Ted said, "but I don't get—"

"Hang on," Evan said. He saw it again.

RUNNING: PORYGON Launcher

"The typo's fixed," Evan mumbled.

He didn't see any errors this time. He watched, line by line, every operation the script took. Ted, seeing that the servers were not running dangerously, stepped away from the shelves and went to Evan's side, looking over his shoulder for the second time. Seconds became minutes; Evan didn't know what was going through Ted's mind, but the fact that he was so quiet, his jaw tense, suggested that he was also in numb disbelief.

How were they going to explain this to Jack?

Porygon successfully loaded. Happy birthday! :^)

"No…" Evan shook his head, eyes wide. It started again. Another life created just to die. "We—we have to destroy this server. Ted?"

Ted blinked a few times, but then shook his head. "Uhh, I'm not gonna get in trouble for that," he said. "I need this job, thanks."

"We have to destroy it," Evan said, turning toward him.

Ted gulped. "Y-you're kinda giving me a crazy look right now, Evan. It's just a robot, remember? Just terminate the program and we'll report the log—"

"That thing isn't supposed to exist." Evan swung his arm in the servers' general direction. "It was a mistake to think we could program life on a schedule. Forget deadlines. This shouldn't have even started."

Ted and Evan stared each other down. "It's just a job, man," Ted said. "What even happened? We made a scary robot. It glitched out. But we got it done, right? Now, we can fix it."

The embryonic code flashed in Evan's mind again. No, some strange magic had gotten into the system somehow. He didn't know what it was, or why, or how, but at some point along the way, they created something much more than binary.

"That wasn't just a robot," Evan said. "Didn't you hear it scream? That was a life. And it existed in pain. It lived for only a few minutes, and then it died. I'm—I'm not doing that again. No. I—"

Hello!

He saw it in the corner of his eye.

Ted followed Evan's gaze, the servers running silent, even Growlithe.

"I think it wants to talk to you."

Evan stared at the terminal. The knot was forming in his gut again. "Fine," he said. Hello.

Is this EBrigg_WorkSpace_PC409?

Evan shook his head. Yes, it is. My name is Evan.

Hello, Evan! My name is PORYGON!

"It's… it's fixed," Ted said. "Evan, the logs—Right before we did the command to release it, there was a unit test. Everything passed."

A new numbness washed over Evan. He was supposed to feel relieved, wasn't he? He should. It fixed itself. They created something that fixed itself, and Project Porygon looked like it was going to be a complete success. Hello, PORYGON. Are you okay?

Checking status… No errors reported.

"Hey, look, it even does a self-diagnosis! You guys coded something really clever, didn't you?" Ted grinned, patting Evan on the back. "H-hey, you look like you saw a ghost! C'mon! Maybe it was just a cache issue with the first robot. C'mon, let's show it to Jack. Release it!"

Evan didn't do anything. He forgot to blink.

"Uh, Evan? You're starting to scare me a little."

Hello? Porygon said. Seeking terminal access: Y/N

Ted gently nudged Evan aside. Y

Porygon typed next.

pory -releaseFINAL2

Electricity arced over the servers again; Evan gasped and shut his eyes. He covered his ears. He didn't want it to happen again. It was going to be a jumbled mess of—

Evan's phone rang. He looked down, opening his eyes briefly. And then he saw it, right in front of him. And it was… normal. A Porygon, as they had designed.

Porygon made an odd, tweeting noise, but then flinched, flailing its little prism limbs. Its polygonal eyes lowered in an embarrassed twitch, and then made another tweeting noise. Puzzled, it tried again, and again, but then made a gesture of sighing.

"Guess the communication module needs some work. But maybe that's for the best. I dunno if I can deal with talking Pokémon. This thing's a Pokémon, right?"

Growlithe barked; Porygon perked up, turning toward the door. It pecked at it, tweeting again. Growlithe replied happily; Porygon seemed pleased, its levitating body bobbing happily.

"Oh, never mind. Guess it's just for talking to other Pokémon."

Evan looked at his phone again. Jack. What if he just let it ring? Still, whatever lingering sense of duty he had toward the job made him answer.

"Hey," Evan said.

"Hey, so how'd it go?"

"It went fine. Porygon is floating right in front of me."

Proygon curiously rubbed its beak on one of the servers, trying to converse with it. When the new life got no reply, it grew bored and tried to communicate with the next one. Apparently this one was more attractive, as he began trying to peck affectionately at the box.

"That's great, Evan. Perfect! Did you capture it?"

"No, I'll have it captured right now, but it's friendly, so that's all working." He nodded at Ted, who grabbed a Poké Ball.

"Hey, Porygon!" Ted said, holding up the ball.

Porygon's eyes flashed in recognition, perhaps some preinstalled data, and floated toward him.

He tossed it to Porygon. The polygonal Pokémon obediently entered, shook a little, and with a mechanical click, it remained still.

Jack cheered, "Perfect, Evan! You got it done. Are there any issues?"

Evan hesitated. He couldn't leave the dead air for long—Jack would just interrupt him, as he always did—so he went with the truth. "There were some. But we got it done, and it got fixed right after. But—"

"Proud of you, Evan. I'll be sure to give you a raise for all your hard work! We'll get going on the upgraded model next! Once I take a look at it myself, of course, and ooh, can you imagine how pleased the execs will be? Oho, I need to bring you along for it, Evan! Imagine that! You were the lead programmer for this whole thing, after all, no matter what anyone else said. This is all you! But once that's over with, I bet Porygon2 will be a homerun."

Evan didn't say anything. That was right. That was the next project. Another—how long would it be, this time? And how far past the deadline will they push it? How many hours of overtime, failed tests… and… short lives, created and killed? This was just one. What about the next? What if it didn't somehow fix itself? What happened to that poor, broken Porygon from before? Where did it go? Or was it just… gone?

Jack was saying something, but he heard none of the words.

Evan walked out of the server room; Ted remained behind to inspect the damaged computers, grumbling about ordering new ones. Evan didn't care. Growlithe tackled his legs, tearing off his other shoe. The little Pokémon ran and grabbed the other shoe—he had stashed it behind a potted plant—and waited, tail wagging, by the elevator door.

He pressed the button and waited, remembering that he had a phone against his ear. The elevator opened, Growlithe hopping inside with Evan's shoes.

"Are you still there, Evan? Hello? Is this thing—"

"I quit."