Morph Eight: Serena's First Mission, Part 1
And that's what happened, Bakaguru," 0 explained into the laptop's screen. Inside the PKM Research and Development Sector, the engineer mused thoughtfully at the information he had been presented with, softly sipping on tea from a steamy mug on his desk. "It was
it was like nothing I've ever felt before. For what felt like eternity, time stopped just long enough for me to save 3."
Bakaguru wrinkled his acne-encrusted brow, and wiped his lips on his lab coat. "That's very abnormal, Golden Boy. I've never heard of something like this before. A ranger using a Pokemon ability? It's
unheard of." He scratched his chin. "Wait a moment," he answered. "It might be possible that you didn't stop time, but you just tapped into the fight or flight response."
"The flight or flight response?" 0 asked. "Never heard of it. What does it do?"
Bakaguru sighed and the flops of his cheeks swayed with his head. "The fight or flight response is a mechanism inside our nervous system. But, because you are not the smart ranger, I shall inform you of what it means via colorful, easy words."
"Shut up," the ranger retorted.
"I doubt you want that," Bakaguru countered. "Anyway, the fight or flight response is a sort of pumping up for fighting or running away. The body fills with adrenaline, and you perform one of those two reactions. You know how you hear of men being able to tear off jammed seat belts to save loved ones, or how a woman can remove chunks of rubble from a collapsed building that even a professional bodybuilder would find difficulty in displacing? The concept is the same." Having finished his scientific explanation, Bakaguru proceeded to enjoy yet another sip of his tea. "However, based on what you have explained to me, I do not believe this to be the case."
0 rubbed his forehead, and uttered a groan. "I figured," he replied. "But why'd you have to keep up with the boring science stuff if you knew that wasn't what was going on." 0 leaned into the screen. "Spill it. Is something wrong with me and Pi?"
Bakaguru shook his jelly head, his greasy hair swinging. "No. I cannot see any problem with your present status. However
I must still do further research on this phenomenon. Tell me, have you managed to duplicate the effect again?"
" 0 grinned. "Not really. I mean, it did only happen yesterday, and a lot of stuff happened yesterday. Plus, I don't think 3 is all that eager to go running in front of a bus again on the off-chance that it might work," the ranger explained. "Pi's pretty sure we used Agility, but it might be something else. I'll let you know if it happens again."
"Very good then," Bakaguru murmured. "Well, from what I can tell so far, I might be able to give you a hypothesis on what happened." Bakaguru reached for his tea, and took a slight draught before continuing. "Now, it is my understanding that you and your ranger spirit, the Pikachu, have a very, very close bond, correct?"
"That's right," 0 replied. "Pi and I have been tight for a very long time."
Bakaguru widened his smile. "Well, that might be the key," he said. "You see, when PKM Ranger status is reassigned to a new agent, that new agent will only have access to a uniform created with the ranger spirit and the morpher. In all the time we have had ranger technology, we have only had one exception, and that is you and your ranger spirit. Unlike most rangers, who are only capable of utilizing the standard equipment, you both were capable of manifesting a melee weapon immediately. Without a single download program installed from my labs. I think this can only mean one of two things, Gold."
0 arched his brow. "What are those?" he asked.
Bakaguru paused to adjust his eyeglasses. "Hypothesis one: the prior Golden Ranger, your predecessor, chose willingly to commit seppuku. Your positioning at the Contest was not accidental and, when he died, he transferred a previously unknown installed weapon in the event you would ever require it. Does that make any sense to you?" he asked.
"Actually, that does kind of make sense," 0 answered. "When I was an agent, all the old guy would ever do was bust my chops about my so-called destiny. Every single time I saw the guy he reminded me that his job would be mine one day. To be honest, it sort of got annoying after a while. But what's the second option, Bakaguru?"
At this, Bakaguru's eyes grew rather dim. "I am afraid the second option is worse, Gold. My second hypothesis is that your morpher is malfunctioning due to the strength of your bond with your ranger spirit. PKM agents to not usually utilize Pokemon, you are one of the few specialists. As a result, rangers are normally assigned a Pokemon to work with when they are promoted to the position. However, you are the exception. You and Serena. Thus, because of the strength of your bond, the Pokemon's abilities might be fusing with your DNA."
0 was still confused. "What does that mean?"
The engineer groaned with irritation. Instead of answering, Bakaguru lifted his cup and finished what remained of his tea. "Why must you be so unintelligent? All of you rangers, excluding Serena, are completely incompetent in thought processes!" He leaned into the screen. "It means, buffoon, that because of your strong bond with your Pokemon, the ranger spirit's abilities might be crossing over to you, such as the rather unique ability to move faster than the blink of an eye. And, at the same time, you are merging with your ranger spirit, which allowed it to form a weapon specifically calibrated for you without any need for downloading. Can I be any more clear, or do you require a picture book?"
"Okay, okay. I got the message," 0 retorted. "Why is it everyone feels the need to rip on me for doing the slightest thing wrong. I'm new to being a ranger, remember?"
"Because, Gold," Bakaguru explained, "you, despite your intensely novice experience, are also the highest ranking PKM Ranger. You are Agent 0, and with that comes a little thing called responsibility. You are supposed to know how your morpher works and you don't. You are supposed to lead your team yet Serena seems to be doing everything for you. By the way, I thought that I should mention that you did pathetically bad last night. I watched the tapes. I have not seen such a horrid demonstration of a ranger's abilities since you and Serena were assigned to retrieve 2 and 4 four years ago."
"Hey!" 0 barked. "We did the best we could in that situation. And if I recall, you didn't foresee what would happen either. You share as much blame as we do."
Bakaguru coughed loudly, though 0 knew he would never admit any fault occurred on his part for any reason. "Anyway, Gold, returning to our original point. I will continue research on your condition to determine its causes. Contact me immediately if there are any further developments. Especially in civilian form. The mere fact that you were capable of tapping into your Ranger Spirit's abilities is immensely interesting. Good day." The screen flickered for a moment, then Bakaguru's ugly face distorted into static, then Serena's screen saver. Briefly, 0 considered deleting the obnoxious photo she had of both of them, then decided it would be a better use of his time to look through 415's information.
0 opened the channel that connected him to Pi. "Anything interesting today?" the ranger asked, retrieving the disk from the folder's insides.
"As far as I can see, everything's quiet at casa de Birch, 0," the mouse reported cheerfully. "The family's up, and nothing suspicious is going on."
"Have you managed to find out anything about yesterday?" 0 asked.
0 mentally pictured Pi shaking its head. "I've been checking the morpher's database all day. So far, there are no irregularities in the system. No extra downloads. There's nothing wrong with it. But, about yesterday, I honestly can't even remember what happened. I just started shouting then
well, nothing. I heard a big crack, and that was kind of it."
"Do you think there was some kind of problem with what happened when I digitized you into the morpher?" he asked. "I already hate that we had to do that to you. I don't want to screw anything else up."
"Don't worry about it, 0," it said happily. "Nothing's gone wrong so far. So I'm a ranger spirit and you're a ranger. So what? I remember when you used to love the idea of being one of the spandexes."
0 plugged the computer disk into the laptop and waited for the computer to start loading the file. "That was a really long time ago, Pi," he muttered. The laptop opened the file which, to 0's surprise, had a password encryption. "Hey, Pi? Do you have any idea of 415 mentioned a password anywhere." He grabbed the loose folder and rifted through a few pages. "Just great. All this info and no way to get at it. I swear, the whole of PKM is starting to get on my nerves."
"You just don't have the best luck with women, 0," it replied sympathetically. "Worse than Brock, even. First May, then Serena, and now 415. Even Bakaguru seems to have it in for you. What have you done to deserve such terrible misfortune?"
"I've done something to some Legendary Pokemon that caused them to despise me and doom my relationships with women for the rest of my life," 0 muttered dismally.
"Yep!" Pi replied cheerfully.
At that very moment, a giant moan issued from the sleeping area Serena was currently occupying. "Well, the Snorlax is up," 0 muttered. "There's no way I'm going to be able to get any work done now. The eating machine wants breakfast." Sighing, the ranger rose from the table to rouse his partner with a microwave bento.
"Yeah?" 0 stuck the platter in the microwave and started to nuke it.
what's your beef with Serena anyway? So she likes you. It's not like that's a crime."
...Four Years Ago...
The forests of west Kanto are quite beautiful, especially just outside the small community of Pallet Town. You could see Pokemon everywhere, from the bugs that crawled across the earth to the bird Pokemon that soared through the trees. Amid all this, in a tiny clearing just outside the town, was a small cottage. It looked like something out of Norman Rockwell. Two storey, painted off-white with a slanted red roof, and a small black chimney poking out of the top. A picket fence separated a small garden of flowers and vegetables from the outside forest, along with what appeared to be a small plastic child house colored yellow. It was outside this house that a family was saying goodbye to one another. The man, clearly distinguished as the one departing, held a small briefcase in one of his hands. The other was wrapped firmly around his wife's thin waistline.
His wife, however, did not seem to mind the unnecessary attention, as she was blushing furiously. Wrapped in her arms was a small bundle with a tiny face protruding. The husband's left hand glittered with the tiniest bit of gold around his ring finger as he kissed her goodbye one last time.
"I promise, honey," he murmured into her ear, "it's just going to be for a couple of days. Just two days out kicking butt, and I'll be right back." The red did not die across his wife's face, if anything it intensified, as he continued to whisper exactly what he was planning on returning to.
"Yeah, right," she grumbled. "That is never going to happen. Not while Sarah's in the house."
"My mother can baby-sit one night," he countered and scooped both his wife and his daughter into his arms, and pecked the blushing woman's lips ever so gently. "It'll be fun, I promise. You'll love it."
If it were possible, he could have sworn he saw steam erupt from her ears. "Let me down this instant!" she ordered between giggles. He, albeit unwillingly, complied and set her down on the grass. "Just be glad we live out here, where no one can see when you do stupid displays like this. If you ever pulled this kind of stuff in the city, I'd die of embarrassment."
His grin grew wider and she giggled furiously. "Trust me, May. If we lived in the city, I'd do so much more
" He allowed May's reddened face to complete his sentence and chuckled. "Anyways, I'll make this up to you when I get back from this tournament. I'll take you out to that restaurant you love." A loud squeak issued, actually more like a whine, from the bundle wrapped in May's arms. Defiantly, against her mother's cooing for quiet, little Sarah poked her tiny head out into the world and butted her face in the direction of her father. "Give her here," he said and took the baby girl into his arms.
He smiled at the girl, and she smiled back, happy to be with her daddy. "Don't worry, baby Sarah. Daddy will be back before you know it. I promise." The girl squeaked in happiness as he bent down to kiss her brow, and she giggled. She seemed a little disappointed when he handed her back to her mother, but perked up again when May started tickling her stomach to induce laughter. "You two be good, okay? Sarah, behave for Mommy."
May cuddled the baby. "Don't worry about a thing, tough guy. Max should be stopping through tomorrow on his Kanto run. He'll be sorry he missed you on the way."
He shrugged. "Sucks to be him," he countered and chuckled. "Eh, I can train him some other time. It doesn't take a whole lot of effort for me to whip his butt in a match."
"Be nice to my brother," she retorted and feigned fuming.
" He reached under his shirt for his belt or, more specifically, what was on his belt. The small Pokeball unclipped easily from its holster. "I'll take Z to get to my plane, and I should arrive sometime tonight. I'll call you guys when I get there." He clicked the trigger button on the middle of the sphere. "Z, let's get going!" he shouted and tossed the ball into the clearing outside the picket fence. It exploded with red light and a giant, orange lizard emerged from the flash of red energy. It atomized and reformed into one of his most powerful Pokemon, and primary mode of transportation, Charizard. Easily twelve feet tall and significantly larger than the average Charizard, Z roared at its liberation from its Pokeball and beat its great, leathery wings. It did this only for a moment however, as it glanced down and noticed that Sarah was there, and quieted down quickly. It growled cheerfully at the family and Sarah giggled at its fearsome face.
"Ready to go, big guy?" the trainer asked his Pokemon. Z nodded its agreement and lowered its body to allow him to mount its back. The trainer put his fingers to his mouth and whistled for the second Pokemon he had with him, and his dearest friend. "Pi, let's get out of here! We gotta get rolling!"
In response, a small pet-like door at the foot of the house's door burst open and a vibrant yellow mouse stampeded in the direction of its best friend. The Pikachu launched itself, as it was accustomed to doing, and landed perfectly onto the man's left shoulder. He saluted his wife and his daughter one last time before he jumped up onto Z's back. The Charizard, used to much heavier weights, didn't seem to mind. Pi jumped up and latched onto its pointy head, securing itself by digging its little paws into Z's skull as gently as it could. Z grumbled with a little annoyance but ignored it.
"Kick it, Z!" the trainer shouted. In response, Z roared, smoke belching from its nostrils. Flapping its powerful wings, the muscular creature lifted from the ground in a manner very similar to a helicopter. He waved goodbye to his family until Z started to move, upon which he grabbed the Charizard's neck for dear life. Z roared one last time then shot off into the distance in a massive burst of speed.
The wind blew through his raven hair as everything began to transform into a giant blur. The trainer opened his briefcase, his thighs keeping a tight grip on Z's midsection. Inside the suitcase were a pair of goggles and what appeared to be a work jacket, both of which he retrieved. He put on the rough jacket to shield himself from the cold air from Z's speed and he put on the goggles to make sure that his eyes weren't hit by something in mid-flight.
"Hey, Z!" he shouted to the Charizard. The Pokemon acknowledged that it heard him with a quick roar. "We're meeting the chopper at the far south part of the forest, by the ocean! Take us down there!" In response, Z roared its confirmation and sped off even faster than before. In what seemed like no time at all, the trainer spied the black helicopter waiting for him at the outskirts of the forest. Z began to circle around and landed on the ground right next to the helicopter.
Next to the machine, two pilots waited dressed in black Kevlar, which couldn't have been comfortable in the warm weather. Both snapped off a salute as he approached and he returned it. "Agent 1076 reporting in," he announced. "Z can fly ahead and keep lookout. Pi will stay with us. Got it?" In response, the Charizard swept up its wings and propelled itself into the sky. 1076, along with Pi, boarded the helicopter with the two pilots, who started takeoff procedures immediately. 1076 chuckled as his Charizard sped off, clearly intent on showing up the pilots' skills.
"How we doing, guys?" 1076 asked. "Pass me those headphones. I hate loud takeoffs." One of the guys must have heard him, because he was passed a com-headphone immediately. He grabbed the microphone built into the headset. "PKM, this is Agent 1076. I've been picked up, and we're heading back for home. My Charizard is accompanying us, you'll spot it before you see the chopper. Z's always been faster then most of PKM's gear." The pilots didn't seem to like the comment, but Pi squeaked its approval. Z soon began an orange speck in the distance as it began to pick up speed and 1076 could tell that the pilots were attempting to keep up with the giant Charizard. It was actually kind of fun, considering how boring most chopper rides with PKM pilots were. In next to no time, though it was probably several hours, 1076 could see the skylines of the Orre desert, the hideaway for his secret organization and the real reason for his business trip.
"This is Poke 226," one of the pilots stated into his communicator. "We're almost home. Can you see the Charizard?"
The radio crackled its response. "Roger. We're flagging down the Pokemon. We've picked you up on the radar, you're about two kilometers away from the target landing point. Over and out."
"Got it," the second pilot replied and turned to 1076. "Welcome home, sir."
The agent grinned and shook his head. "I'll be back home when this is over with. I've gotta think of something to get my baby girl as a present." Sure enough, within a few minutes, he caught site of the headquarters, which appeared to the untrained eye to be a small-time cantina. As always, it has its closed sign on the door and there wasn't anyone nearby, so it was child's play to land the chopper in the concealed area behind the cantina.
"Sealed and confirmed. Poke 226, welcome home," said the mechanized voice once they had landed. 1076, along with Pi, were the first out of the transport vehicle.
Agent 1076 looked exactly like the posters of him portrayed him as. Wild, raven colored hair streamed across his face while his goggles shielded his eyes from the sands and winds of the Orre desert. His rough jacket, a PKM model with his rank sewn on the shoulders, was black with red trimmings, denoting his status as one of the top standard agents of PKM. 1076 retrieved Z's Pokeball and then turned over to the lizard. "Good work," he said to the Charizard. "We didn't even stand a chance, buddy." He clicked the trigger button on the ball and pointed it to the lizard. Z roared with pride one final time before it was digitized into red light and returned to its Pokeball to rest.
"So, let's go see 0, right Pi?" he asked the Pikachu. Pi nodded eagerly and hopped up onto his shoulder as the agent started down the hallway. "I wonder what he wants me to do this time. Must be important, to call me away from home on such short notice like this. Bet it's a really cool assignment."
The mouse agreed eagerly. 1076 was highly recommended for the most difficult assignments out of all the standard agents for his utilization of Pokemon, whose strength found rivals benefiting the Special Agent corps. Plus, he had celebrity status in most areas and could infiltrate the most difficult and exclusive regions of the globe. 1076 and Pi talked all the way to the briefing room, which wasn't too far away from the launching docks. PKM prided itself on efficiency, which meant agents needed to be ready at a moment's notice. That mandate was slightly more difficult for a married man like 1076, but he made it work through his special arrangement with the Golden Ranger. 1076 whistled as he waited for the briefing room's door to hiss its way open.
Two people waited inside. The first was a familiar face, the person who had brought 1076 into the organization. The Golden Ranger, a man never found without his mask, stood behind a desk in the large briefing room. The room was massive, and arranged so roughly thirty people could be briefed at the same time, though thankfully thirty people were not seated in the rather uncomfortable chairs in the room. Instead there was one person waiting, notebook in hand, a pencil in the other. 1076 saluted 0, who returned the gesture, and took a seat next to the woman with the notebook.
"Agent 1076," the Golden Ranger stated in his mechanical, synthesized voice. "Thank you for agreeing to take this assignment on such short notice. We greatly appreciate it." 1076 waved his hand at the thanks and awaited the instructions.
"Before I begin, I would like to introduce you to Agent 7423," the ranger said and pointed to the girl next to 1076. He glanced at her, as he hadn't really noticed what she looked like when he walked in. She was short, much shorter then he, with short white hair and emerald eyes. She appeared somewhat nervous and frightened, as she kept fidgeting every second or so. Her fingers were also trembling. She looked like a newbie.
"Hey," he said to her and offered her his hand. "I'm Agent 1076. Nice to meet you, 7423." She blinked, as she had difficulty keeping eye contact with him, but took his hand in a very weak handshake.
"N-nice to meet you too," she replied in a fluttery voice.
The Golden Ranger coughed, clearly feeling that they had had enough time to get acquainted. Both grew silent and faced forward to allow the ranger to continue. "This mission is heavily classified, 1076 and 7423. Discussion of the contents is expressly forbidden by the Council. Is this understood?" Both agents nodded.
"The Blue Ranger, Agent 2, and the Black Ranger, Agent 4, have both gone missing under assignment in the Orange Islands." At this 7423's hand tightened and her lips quivered. "The other PKM Rangers and myself are too pressed for time to handle this situation, so we are sending you, 1076, to retrieve them if alive or recover their morphers if they are dead. Is that understood?"
1076 nodded. "Got it. Request SA equipment for a mission like this. If there's someone out there with 2 and 4's morphers, I want every possible resource."
The Golden Ranger shook his head. "I cannot give you SA equipment for something like this." Just as 1076 was about to protest, 0 retrieved something from on the desk: a white wris****ch. "You are being authorized this instead, 1076." The Golden Ranger tossed the watch to the agent, who caught it casually and glanced it over.
"It is a PKM Ranger morpher, 1076," the ranger replied. "The decommissioned White Ranger morpher, to be precise. I was authorized by the Council to give you this, 1076, because it is my belief you are ready to join my team. The Council, however, has disagreed on that aspect, so this morpher is only for emergencies. Understand? Use it only if there is no other option."
1076 nodded. "I understand, sir," he answered and glanced at the morpher. "Pi and I will only use this if 7423 and I are left with no other choice."
The Golden Ranger seemed to smile. "Excellent. Head for the hanger, where a chopper is waiting for you. You will be given coordinates when you're in the air." Both 1076 and 7423 nodded and stood up in unison. 1076 tucked the morpher away into his work jacket and Pi boarded his shoulder as they rushed back to the hanger. His boots clunked against the ground and, to his surprise, 7423 seemed even more eager than he was to reach the helicopter, as she blazed past him. Not wanting to be outdone by a rookie, 1076 increased his speed, but even then was only just able to keep up with her on the way to the hanger.
Just as 0 had promised, a freshly fueled chopper was awaiting them. 7423 jumped straight into the driver's seat. 1076 did not approve. "Hey!" he panted, exhausted from their jog. "Get out of my seat, rookie. I'll be flying this thing." She didn't seem to want to argue, so she just hopped right over to the co-pilot's chair. 1076 closed the door and started the takeoff sequence immediately.
"Welcome, Agents 1076 and 7423," a nasally voice murmured through the communications system. 1076 recognized it and smiled. "It's a pleasure to be working with you both. Prepare for takeoff."
"Whatever you say, Bakaguru," he replied. 1076 punched in the ignition code. "This is
Hang on. 7423, what's the number on this helicopter?" He hadn't bothered to check the door. She shrugged and faced forward.
"It's 644," Bakaguru answered.
"Thanks." Into his receiver, 1076 muttered, "This is Poke 644, requesting permission to takeoff."
"This is Control Tower. Permission granted."
1076 grinned and glanced to his partner. "Ready, 7423?" he asked. She gulped and nodded eagerly. "Then let's go!" He started the chopper blades, and the chopper took off. Still with a smile on his face, excited about the mission, 1076 guided the chopper out of the hanger and into the bright Orre sun. Checking the coordinates Bakaguru was sending him, he oriented the helicopter to head due southwest, the location of 2 and 4's last sightings.
"So, what's the story, Bakaguru?" 0 asked as he set the machine on autopilot. "How'd two rangers get kidnapped? I thought 2 and 4 were supposed to be some kind of unstoppable duo or something. What happened?"
The radio crackled. "The official story is that they're MIA somewhere in the southern Orange Islands. Their morphers were last active on the Island of Corefo, which is where you two are heading now. Corefo is located roughly two hundred miles outside your current bearing, so you should be there in two hours at optimum speed. Be careful, agents."
"We will, Bakaguru," 1076 replied. "Thanks for the tips. Poke 644 over and out. We'll contact you when we land."
"Roger. 003 over and out." The radio died out so 1076 and 7423 had only each other to speak to all the long way to Corefo. The agent took off the headphones, as the cockpit was rather quiet, and turned to his new partner. "So, you're 7423, huh?" he asked the girl. "Why were you assigned to this mission?" She was a much more junior agent than he was; the seven-thousand agents were only in their first years, some only in their first few months. 1076 hadn't been in PKM long either, but he had managed to rise abnormally quickly in the ranks.
"I was assigned because of my family," she replied, not looking at him.
1076 nodded. "Is one of the rangers who disappeared your brother?" he asked.
She shook her head. "Both."
"Oh. Is that why you were assigned to this with me?" 1076 reclined his chair and rested his head. He waited a while, but for some reason 7423 didn't seem to be in the mood to talk. "Hey, kiddo, what's the matter?" he said and looked towards her hair. "Don't worry about Blue and Black. I'm sure that they'll be fine. Missions like this, usually the tracker on the rangers' morphers just got broken. I've done this before. This one time, we thought 1 got lost in a tsunami, it turned out he just wound up off course at a day spa." He chuckled.
He heard a giggle from her and knew he had hooked her in. "So
you're 1076?" she inquired and looked back at him. "You're a pretty laid back guy for such a high rank." She glanced at the white morpher he kept fiddling with. "And you're gonna be a ranger. Did you complete the course or something?"
He shook his head. "Naw. I was admitted into the PKM under special circumstances. I accidentally saved 0 and, well, the rest is history. I'm kind of a weird agent. 0 likes to call me an anomaly." He leaned to her and grinned. "Hey, want to know a secret?" he whispered.
She rolled her eyes. "What?" she retorted.
1076 pulled up his goggles. "Guess who I am." She peered into his face for a moment, unsure of herself, then her mouth widened in surprise.
"Yep." 1076 put his goggles back on. "The one and only."
"What're you doing here?"
He shrugged. "Right now, I'm making the world a better place. But other times
That's why I've gotta wear the goggles. PKM thinks I draw too much attention, and for some reason everyone seems to recognize me by my eyes. Plus, Pi's really good at espionage, so we make a good team." The yellow mouse nodded and hopped onto 7423's lap, clearly wanting to be scratched behind the ears. "I'm also one of the few agents that uses Pokemon in the field, making me really useful. It's why I have such a high rank."
"Me too!" she answered and pulled out a Pokeball from her pocket. "I only have one though."
"That's a good start," he said. "I carry five extra Pokemon with me, not counting Pi. I like to bring muscle, especially since I do most of my work undercover at Pokemon tournaments and stuff like that." He stretched out his hand to shake 7423's. "I'm 1076, like 0 said, but most folks call me the Golden Boy, or GB for short."
"I-I'm Serena," she said, and took his hand. "Serena Brine."
"Nice name, Serena. Much better than a number."