NetPolice Precinct, ACDC Central

{EAX010}

[<<< From Science Labs: Navi Shop: In the shop <<<]

Having installed the upgrades inside a moving car, Eric hastily rebooted the PET to check nothing had been damaged. When Amy's image appeared on-screen his heart resumed beating.

"Everything okay?" he asked in concern.

"Yep! Everything checks out fine!" she replied gleefully, silently jiggling the back of her dress to confirm that everyone was okay.

"Now, when we get back to the precinct, I'll drop you off out the front," Stacey advised. "Please wait on one of the chairs out front until I come out. Don't pull out her PET, and under no circumstances are you to hologen, understand?" she finished with a raised voice.

Eric looked puzzled, as did Amity. "'Hologen'?" they repeated in unison. Amy looked to Eric, and Eric looked right back. Both wanted to know what the word 'hologen' meant, but neither wanted to be the one to ask the question.

"Don't cast your image out to the real world. Bad things might happen," Crony explained dismissively.

"Do you understand?" Stacey asked again, demanding an answer.

Eric looked sheepish as he realised he'd have to be the one to ask. "Umm, what exactly is 'hologen'?" he asked hesistantly.

Stacey laughed as she continued driving. "Hah, funny. No, seriously, don't do it, understand?"

Eric still had the same embarrassed look on his face, which Stacey noticed when she glanced at her rear-vision mirror due to his lack of an affirmitive answer.

"Well?" she asked again.

Eric turned away. "I... don't know what you mean," he admitted.

Amy was becoming annoyed at Stacey's lack of concern at Eric's genuine question. "He's not joking, you know. I don't know what that means either."

"Silly girl," came Crony's response, dripping with judgment. "How can you NOT know how to hologen? Your PET is CLEARLY equipped for it."

"Cool!" Amy quipped back. "There's a LOT of the functions in this thing that haven't been explained to me," she added. "It's not like the PET came with a manual that told me all the things it can do."

"I find that very convenient," Crony stated sarcastically. "In any case, if what you're saying is true, then you shouldn't be able to hologen anyway, so it won't be a probl-"

"Hold on," Amy interrupted. Curiosity and anger had led Amy to pull up her PET's schematics menu to try and work out what exactly she was being accused of missing. It hadn't taken her long to find the 'Transmission' menu, but alongside options she knew like 'Transfer' and 'Interface', to her surprise, there was one labelled 'Hologen'. "Well what do you know, there is a 'Hologen' option here," she commented.

"Of course. AS I SAID EARLIER, do not use it at the station," Crony ordered.

"Sure thing boss," she responded, grateful for the opportunity to get a cheeky shot off at the navi aggravating her. "But you see, we're not at the station yet, so there's no harm in me testing it out right now, is there?" Without waiting for a rebuttal, Amy activated the function.

Up to that point, Amy had been watching the entire car through the 3D camera monitor, but upon activating the feature marked 'Hologen', she found herself manifested as a physical entity interacting with the real world environment, as a shrunken representation of her natural being. The difference in size between Eric and herself was considerable, as she found herself sitting on her operator's left shoulder as a semi-materialised creature no longer than an adult handbreadth.

Eric didn't expect this, and freaked out at the appearance of an unexpected purple and cyan blob on his shoulder. With a high-pitched yelp he swatted it away almost instinctively, the same way a person bats at a spider, which caused Amy's projection to fly off his shoulder and onto the seat next to him.

"WHAT THE UNDERNET IS THAT?!" Eric cried in panic as tried to put as much distance between himself and the new creature.

Eric's sudden outburst distracted Stacey and caused her to veer out of her lane, almost making contact with another vehicle in the process. It was a good thing that the station was still two blocks away; Stacey had time to contain her rage at almost having a car accident until the car was parked outside the precinct. By this time Eric had recognised the form to be his navi, and felt somewhat stupid. "Sorry Stacey, that's my fault," he apologised.

"Just... turn it off, get Amy back into the PET and wait outside like I asked," she sighed. "DON'T let anybody see you using that PET."

Amy quickly ran her hands down the back of her dress to make sure that her passenger hadn't been hurt, but a corresponding tightening and releasing of two small hands on her chest gave Amy faith that all was well for now. There was no need to aggravate the situation further so Amy complied and turned off the feature, returning to the PET in the process. There was no denying that she was thrilled and intrigued by this 'Hologen' feature, and would definitely be using it again in the very near future.

As Eric got out of the car and walked down the path towards the main doors, he got a feeling of deja vu as he sat down on one of the benches. He'd been here only a few hours ago, worrying that Amy would be lost to him forever. She was now safe in his pocket, and everything had worked out okay. He just hoped that Stacey wouldn't be angry with him after that mistake in the car. Amy had created the situation by partially disobeying, so she might have to apologise as well.

Wait a minute.

Eric's mind quickly raced back to Stacey's comment only moments ago.

{{{...get Amy back into the PET...}}}

Stacey had used Amy's real name. Not Amity. She hadn't been around when Amy had told him that Amy was her correct name. How could she know to use it? WHY would she use it...?
Stacey was thrilled. To think she'd almost handed Amy back to Ax! No, Amy was exactly what she needed, a motivating force that was directing Eric towards positive changes. She moved through the station's corridors heading towards the SRD lockup, hoping to give Ax a giant hug for his troubles. There was a small skip in her step as she walked; she hadn't been this happy in a long time.

That happy sensation was short-lived, and died the moment she rounded the final corner as she came face to face with Ax and a female officer. The conversation wasn't pleasant.

"I don't see how that's my problem! I told you, call the delivery company!"

"Do you think I'd be here if I hadn't? They assure me that they remember a bright neon purple container being delivered here; you don't get a lot of those through the mail now, do you?!" the lady shouted as she placed another box on the counter, making six boxes in total.

The female detected Stacey's approach and turned to face her with a hateful glare. "Officer Bauersox. What an unpleasant surprise seeing you down here. Visiting your OLD friend no doubt," she sneered.

"Officer Enfield," she replied in a dismissive tone. "And to what do we owe the displeasure of your visit today? Aren't there enough people you can yell at in Inventory Control? You have to come down here and give the previous captain an earful too?"

"Oh, I think I'm justified," she seethed through her teeth. "There was an important package that came to the precinct three days ago, but it just MAGICALLY disappeared from our lockup!" she added, waving her hands in the air and ending the motion with a finger pointed squarely at Ax. "This giant oaf assures me that no such package came through, but the boys at the delivery company are telling me the same thing, so SOMEONE is lying!"

'Officer Enfield' turned to the large trolley sitting next to her and attempted to position its front end towards the corridor, as a squeaking sound cast from the trolley echoed down the hallway. "I got a rather nasty memo this morning from the district attorney. Someone from a fancy corporation is threatening legal action if we can't find the stupid thing, so now I have to write a ridiculously long report explaining that it disappeared somewhere along the chain of custody. It'll be an investigation that will go on for months!" she complained as she started pushing the trolley back the way Stacey had come.

"At least you'll be able to get your 15 seconds of fame on the news, right Roberta?" Stacey smirked as she walked past.

That taunt stopped the woman's march. In the blink of an eye she reached into the pile of boxes on her trolley, picked one up and thrust it into Stacey's chest, hurting Stacey in the process as her hands gripped the box to stop it from falling. Stacey keeled over in response to the attack as Roberta's hands returned to the trolley.

"Oh, so sorry about that. You seemed to have either missed my memos or just ignored them. But don't worry, I'll tell it to your face; if you don't get that pathetic antique back to Inventory Control by the end of the week, I'll write up a report and send it to the captain. Got it?" The squeaking sound of unoiled wheels resumed as Roberta left the area.

Still a little sore in her stomach, Stacey moved to the security fence desk and placed the box on it as she tried to massage the pain away. "I really hate her," she muttered to Ax.

"Don't worry, I'm sure there's a secret 'We Hate Enfield' fanclub here somewhere with lots of members," he replied in an effort to cheer her up. "I take it you didn't come down her to trade insults with Roberta though. And what was she talkin' about? What's in the box?" he asked, picking it up to inspect it.

"N-nothing important!" she stammered as she tried to snatch it back from Ax, but he was too fast and simply moved the box out of her reach.

"Oh, now I HAVE to know what's in it," he chuckled as he opened the seal to peek inside.

"Hey! It's illegal to open mail that isn't yours!" she cried out desperately.

"Well, aren't you in trouble then?" he laughed. As he pulled out a brand new custom PET his smile turned into a frown. "Wait, this is what you're gettin' in trouble over?"

"I don't want it," she grumbled. "My PET is just fine."

"Umm, no, it really isn't," he corrected. "Roberta's right; that thing was ancient when it was given to me. I just assumed you hadn't made it onto the priority replacement list yet. Here, give me your PET, I'll run the transfer now."

Stacey took a step back from the counter. "No, I don't want to."

Ax's head tilted to the side. She didn't want to upgrade to a PET that would give her a distinct operating and communicative advantage in the field? He scratched his head as he tried to understand what possible reason she could have to justify holding off on such an important upgrade. "Blondie, is there some reason you don't want to upgrade?"

Stacey's left hand instinctively moved to grip her right elbow. No, there was no valid reason she should want to resist what was a department directive. After all, Ax was right; the PET she'd been using was old, and certain network functions were indeed failing. It hadn't impacted her ability to serve yet, but that was just a matter of time. The truth was embarrassing, but she had no other reason to use as pretense.

"Well? I'm waitin'," Ax goaded.

"...It's the first PET I ever owned," Stacey finally admitted.

"And?" Ax replied. "So what?"

Stacey took the PET out of her pocket and held it up. "I'd never owned a PET until this one. It was my first PET. I was 30 years old when I got my first navi. Most kids get a navi as a gift during elementary school, but our family didn't have much money, as you know. We could barely afford to own a car. Even with the small funds they'd saved, I had to work almost full-time hours while at university just to get by. Luxuries like holidays and netnavis weren't even a thought to me, Mum or Dad. And you already know what happened when Eric finally harrassed my parents into getting..." her voice trailled off as she started choking on her words.

Ax had stepped to the side of the counter and passed through the security door so he could walk over to Stacey and embrace her with a hug. "Sorry Stacey. I didn't mean to bring up those bad memories."

"Sorry Huxley. I didn't mean to get all emotional on you. It's just... I know this shouldn't mean anything more than a hunk of metal, that Crony is my navi no matter what PET he's in. But still..." She wiped away a tear from her eye, desperate not to release the river that was waiting. "Holding this PET for the first time, it was the first time in 5 years I felt... normal again."

"Hey," Ax replied, brushing away the hair from her face so he could lock eyes with her. "I think you're forgettin' what's most important."

Stacey sniffled as a further attempt to hold back tears. "What?"

"Objects... things... none of it is important." He motioned to the desk he'd been standing behind with his right hand. "Why do you think I came down here after I had to step down as captain? It wasn't because I loved dealin' with parcels, I assure you."

"That's good, because you really suck at it, apparently," she joked whilst jabbing his stomach.

"Words hurt, Blondie," he muttered unamusedly. "ANYWAY... I did it because actions mean more than words. Than objects. Than things. When others are in trouble, people are always offering words of encouragement and well-wishes, but when it comes time for them to help out a person in need, to ACTUALLY help them, they'd rather throw their money and resources at a problem than give of their time and energy. When I was bein' forced to quit, I wasn't ready to stop helpin' out those in need. The position here was open, and they couldn't find anybody suitable-"

"They still haven't-" Stacey quickly inserted.

"-SOOO they let me take the role. And yes, I'm not the fastest or most intelligent at this manifest garbage, but I try my best. If I'm here, someone like yourself doesn't have to be. Hell, I used to run this whole place, remember?"

"I remember. You made me the person I am today."

"Okay, nobody can prove that in a court of law."

Both of them burst out in laughter as they hugged again.

"Objects... they mean nothing. Time, energy... memories... these are the most important things. What you do with them, even more so."

Those precious seconds felt like hours to Stacey.

"So, can I have your PET please?" he asked as he separated from her and began moving back to the counter.

With a slight hesitation she passed it to Ax. "Thank you Huxley. Really. For everything."

"There you go again with the gratitude. I just told you; good people give of their time and energy, not money and resources," he replied. "I thought I taught you that ages ago," he added as he took the new PET and moved out of her view behind a stack of boxes.

"Probably..." she sighed.

[>>> To ACDC Town: 3746 Boykin Road, Lower ACDC >>>]