A GLITCH(-Tech) IN TIME: Part 1

A Glitch Techs story / © 2020
by Stephen R. Sobotka

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Disclaimer! - This is a fan fiction, based on characters, settings and situations from the Nickelodeon-made and Netflix animated series "Glitch Techs"; created by Eric Robles & Dan Milano. This has been written solely for other fans of the series to enjoy, not to gain profit for the author. All characters, with exception of any that I have created for these stories, are ™ and Copyrighted by Nickelodeon & Netflix, and are used without their knowledge.

Please don't sue, since this was done as a tribute to the spirit of the original animated show.
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Author's Note : My first fic in the universe of Glitch Techs! Hope everyone is ready for this, because this is hopefully going to be a ride and a half! Kudos to the support of Hinobicord and Glitchcord, and as well as Dan and Eric and all of the Glitch Techs staff and cast for their continued support of the fan community!

With that said, Let's get this show on the road! Enjoy! - SRS

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# xOx #

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Glitch Tech HQ Main Level,
HInobi Games: Store #20221
City of Bailey...

"W-w-welcome back, Techs!" BITT said. "C-c-congratulations on your successful mission! Please I-i-insert your gauntlets i-into the Main Repository to offload captured Glitches a-and c-c-claim your X-P!"

Hector and Miko stepped up to the creche, and placed their gauntlets into the reception-jacks. The two teen-aged Glitch-Techs were exhausted - their white-and-blue uniforms were heavily smudged and dingy - yet they looked proud as the transfer of data flowed into the Main Core. "Ay, this day was a doozy, Partner," Hector said. "I don't think taking down video-game goons and Plixel monsters is ever gonna get old!".

"You're telling me," Miko said. "I-!" She paused, as an error-sound rang out from her gauntlet. "Huh? What's with the-?". She removed her hand, looking at the metal and plastic unit wrapped around her forearm. The view screen was lit up with a magenta-hue and a warning icon in bright red. "Hey? What's wrong here? BITT?".

The floating robot-construct with the emoji-styled face blinked, then hovered closer to Miko's upheld arm. "Scanning . . . .".

Hector removed his own gauntlet from the socket, and stared at his friend. "Que? Miko, is something wrong?".

"I dunno. BITT? What's the 'sitch?" Miko asked.

BITT turned off his scanner. "P-p-processing . . . ! Error! Device has m-m-mal-malfunctioned. There appears t-to-to be a mis-alignment in the focusing matrix, and the d-d-data inside cannot be extracted!".

"Malfunction?" Miko growled softly. "How? I've been like, super-extra careful with this thing!".

"You sure about that?" Hector asked, crossing his arms and snorted. "Did you let Ally swallow it, again? Or try to use it to bounce a basketball off the mid-court?".

Miko glanced at him over her shoulder. "Of course not! I'm telling you . . . I'm never letting anything happen to my Baby, ever." She turned back and gave her gauntlet a scowl.

"Well, something happened to it. Otherwise, why would BITT say there's a malfunction?".

Miko sighed gustily. "Geez, I wonder how long this has been like this?". She looked thoughtful for a moment. "Come to think of it, the last time we went out to bag more Glitches before today, my aim felt a bit . . . off!?".

"Off?" the tall Hispanic kid cupped his chin, thinking for a moment. "You know, you did seem to have some trouble hitting your marks, Miko.". He stepped closer and twisted her arm so the gauntlet's view screen faced him. "I mean, I thought it was due to the frenzy of the fight with that last Plixel-beast-.".

"I know, but we had five other fights - FIVE, Fives! - yesterday," Miko said. "And three of theme weren't all that bad, really.".

Hector looked at the hovering robot. "Can you tell the cause of the damage?".

"S-s-sorry, but I cannot do m-m-more than a tertiary scan," BITT stated cheerfully. "In-depth analysis is b-b-beyond my root function.".

From behind them, a rough-sounding voice said, "If your gear has gotten that bad, this quickly, the problem could be more than what you can believe it to be.".

Miko and Hector turned, seeing the Hinobi-Tech branch leader, Phil, standing there. "So, what could it be?" Miko asked.

Phill made a 'gimmie' gesture with one hand, so she removed her gauntlet and let him examine it. "It's like a LOT of the tech we use around here. Good when everything works, buuuuut . . . let it get the slightest bit off kilter," he explained. "You're looking at a lot of potential problems.".

"I thought they made this tech to be really tough? I mean, you pretty much repaired her gauntlet with a few keystrokes before, right?" Hector asked.

"Mm, we usually expect an average Glitch-Tech to put their gear through a lot of abuse. Restoring the physical hardware isn't that hard. Provided it's relatively intact, component-wise," Phil said, giving Miko a hard look. He went on to say, "It'd take a HUGE destructive force to make any gauntlet irreparable.". He tapped a few times on the display screen, and frowned as he turned the unit over in his hands. "Well, this unit shows no signs of major external damage, so . . . I'd wager the problem's on the inside.".

"Inside?" both Miko and Hector asked.

"Yeah, it's either the main board, the HCP, or the something in the OS. The core programming code itself.".

Miko groaned. "Ugh! So what can I do now? Can't I get a new one?".

"Honestly," Hector asked, "Can Miko get a replacement gauntlet, Phil?".

BITT replied before their boss could, stating, "Please Note! Until the d-d-data can be downloaded from your current unit, a replacement Level-One Gauntlet c-c-cannot be requested!".

"BITT's right." Phil said. "Besides, if we were to issue you a replacement, we'd need to put your current employee account out of the system, then re-register your personal data, and . . . well, it's just a major hassle. So, unless you want to really go through all of that, and lose all the XP you've earned recently . . .?".

"Aagh! No!" Miko said.

"Well then," Phil said, as he handed it back to her. " You've only got one last option left. Best go take it to our troubleshooter.".

Both Hector and Miko blinked. "Troubleshooter? Who's that?" Miko asked.

Phil arched one eyebrow. "Right, I keep forgetting you two are still new. Russell Stepan." he explained. "Guy we recruited some years ago. Major Code & Systems Programmer. He's a whiz when it comes to Plixel tech.".

"Umm, is he good?" Hector asked.

"Oh, believe me! Tracking down trouble on our tech? You couldn't find anyone better.". He pointed down towards a hallway facing away from the lobby. "Has his own office near the Warehouse Section, in the Repairs shop. Recommend you take your gear to him. Oh!". He paused, and turned to gesture towards a large stack of boxes sitting on a nearby pallet mover. "Some new supplies arrived for him today. Best take care of two things at once. Here.". He tossed the pallet's control to Miko, who managed to catch it without dropping her gauntlet. "Go see him and drop that off. If he finds a means to fix it, come back afterwards.". Turning away, Phill said over his shoulder, "I'll have a new assignment for you when you get back.".

As they watched him go, Miko groaned before looking at Hector. "Nertz!"

Hector said, "Well, I guess we've got no choice this time, Partner.".

Miko groaned. "Aagh, fine! Let's go get this over with!"

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# xOx #

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With the stacked pallet mover in tow, the duo walked down another access hallway, until they arrived at a pair of double-doors with a sign that read "REPAIRS'' over an intercom box. Hector reached out to touch the talk-key. "Hello? We're here to see the . . . troubleshooter?".

Miko leaned past Hector and spoke into the pick-up, adding, "We've also got some deliveries for you, too! A lot of boxes!".

There was a moment of silence, then a gruff, young voice replied, "Please be standing clear of the doors.". Stepping back a bit, the pair watched as the two nearest doors cracked open, then slid aside with a hiss of released pressure. Opening, they exposed a wide, deep compartment beyond the entryway. The voice sang out from the speaker again, "Come in, mind the shelves.".

The two stepped over the threshold - Miko steering the pallet mover in behind - and were taken in by the sheer size of the room. As large, if possibly bigger than the Main Lobby and the Simulation Room combined; huge lights from the ceiling revealed rows of tall, metal shelves that were packed with boxes, crates and modular drawers filled with parts and gear. Service analogs - some small as BITT, while others as big as a forklift - were shifting and sorting much of the inventory as could be seen.

"Wow!" Hector said, twisting around to take it all in, as they walked down a central aisle. "This must have a ton of Hinobi tech in here!".

"Hype-Hype," Miko replied. "Bet most of this is for the store-front. This all can't just be for us Glitch-Techs! Can it?".

"Well, I-?" Hector started to reply, but was cut off when a small analog buzzed around them, coming to a halt in mid-air as they both stopped in their tracks.

"You are the person requiring my aid, Ano?" the same gruff voice said, coming from the analog's speaker-grill.

"Um, actually, my partner is . . . the, ah, person in this case," Hector said. "She's got a malfunction with her gauntlet, and Phil said you could fix it?".

The analog's "eye" shifted towards Miko, who held up her right arm to show it, watching as The analog's optic swept over her damaged gear. A sound, like a snort, burst from the speaker. "Ach, člověče! Please follow my drone now.", the voice said, as the analog whipped around and started flying deeper into the compartment.

"Well . . . that was unexpected," Miko muttered as they set off after the flying analog. "Did you catch what that 'bot said?".

"Uh-uh," Hector said. "Sounded, well . . . like Russian?".

"More like something from the Czech-Republic," Miko countered. She saw the look Hector gave her, and replied, "What? My dad's grandfather was Czech! We always loved to listen to Dědeček Kuba tell stories when I was younger.".

The pair eventually came into an open space between the shelves, where a pair of half-circle desks sat back-to-back, under a lower-hanging ceiling light. Odd crates, open boxes, and other office accessories lay scattered on and around them, while a pair of computers took up the one side with two big monitors. The other side had a collection of hardware, tools and storage drawers stacked there, with a pair of lights clamped to the edges of the desk's work area.

Seated behind the desk, was a husky young fellow with reddish-blond hair that was tied behind his head in a loose, short ponytail. Wearing a pair of coveralls with the Hinobi "H" on the sleeve, he was peering at something that looked like a Hinobi console core; his hands were covered by insulating gloves, while he held a long-nosed tool, probing inside the core with it.

"Um . . . hello?" Hector asked. "Are you the-?".

"Dobrý den," the person interrupted him, never taking his eyes off of the component in his hands. "Hello. I am Russell. Troubleshooter. A moment . . . I must finish this. Then, I will check your malfunction.".

Hector and Miko looked at each other, frowning. "Gee, doesn't seem like a very sociable guy, does he?", Miko asked her partner.

"Well, he's clearly into his work," Hector observed with a weak laugh.

Sitting back, Russell sighed at the component, before putting the probe down and reaching for another tool. "You also have my weekly delivery, Ano?". He made a commanding gesture to some shelves a short distance behind them. "Parts go to the lower shelf. Game accessories, on the left side. Other boxes, right side, prosim? Might as well keep busy until I am finished here.". He moved to apply the tool to the component - which made a violent spark and hiss - and jerked back with a scowl. "Odstřelil technologie! Why must you be so difficult?".

"Hey!", Miko said archly. "We brought you your delivery, Fine! All I want is my gauntlet checked out, so I can get back to stomping Glitches!".

Russell grunted, before tossing the tool aside to snatch up another one. "Will work on the gauntlet after I finish with this." he said. "In order to make up for time, you will help by shelving boxes. Idle hands are the devil's accomplice.".

Before Hector could reply, Miko growled and stormed up to the front of the desk. "Look! We're not here to do your work for you!," she said, planting her fists against the desktop. "If you want these stored, the least thing you can do is get off your lazy bum and help, too!".

"Miko!" Hector said sharply.

"What!? We're supposed to do the work he's supposed to do?" Miko asked. "It's not like he's doing our job for us-!". Her tirade was cut short by the sudden BANG!; as a pair of hands slapped the desk, making both her and Hector turn to look at Russell.

The red-haired young man was glaring at Miko, but he didn't utter a word. Instead, he shoved himself away from the desk, and appeared to be moving in his seat from behind it. As he came around into the clear, both of them stared in shock as they realized he was seated . . . in a wheelchair, with his legs encased in white, metal braces that ran from his thighs down to his feet.

"Uuha-ahhhh, oh," Miko said meekly, stepping back as Russell pivoted his chair to face her. "Um, I think I said something completely out of line, didn't I?".

Russell snorted. "You did.". He looked over at Hector - who flinched and gave him an apologetic look - then fixed Miko with a searching, scathing look. "Lazy is not in my job description. I have a condition that limits my time standing and is easier to use this!" he said, slapping the side of his 'chair. "Now, if you would be so kind, to help with my deliveries-?!".

"Ah, sure! Sure! No problem-o!" Hector was quick to say. "We'd be happy to help you out! C'mon, Miko! Muévete," he said in an undertone, giving Miko a pointed nudge towards the pile of boxes.

"Okay, fine! Guh!" She started to turn, but skidded to a halt when she felt a large hand on her shoulder.

"Wait, please . . . your gauntlet," Russell said, pointing to it. "Since your timing has interrupted my regular work-.".

"Oh . . . o-kaaay, just . . . just don't do anything risky, please?" Miko asked, removing the gauntlet and handing it gingerly to him. She watched as Russell turned back to his desk - staring for a moment as he flipped it over to stare at it - then sighed as she turned around to help Hector unload the boxes. They had barely moved a few of the larger ones, when a pair of large analog-drones suddenly appeared; using their paired gripper arms to begin lifting the boxes up to the higher shelves. "Woah!".

"Well, looks like we won't be at this for too long," Hector said. "With their help, in any case.".

In fact, the boxes were sorted and shelved securely in mere minutes; thanks to the lifter analogs. By the time the last box was settled, a soft, commanding sound came from the direction of Russell's desk. "Come. You two!". They turned and moved to stand in front of the desk, just as Russell - using something that appeared to be a test device, with wires plugged into Miko's gauntlet from several open panels - used a lighted, magnifying arm to peer down into the unit's case. "Kecy! You, stubborn, little-!".

"Ah, are you finding the problem, Sir?", Hector asked.

Randall snapped his head back, shoving the lens aside before he blew out his cheeks in exasperation. "Ach, pro lásku boží! This is what comes of never listening to the advice I give!". He reached for a nearby box, rummaging around inside with one hand, while he picked up a micro-torch with the other. "Is unsure how long they let this go, but . . . Blázen! Is certain the reason for your malfunction, erm . . . ?" He looked up, fixing both of them with a slightly embarrassed expression, just as he removed what looked like a couple of microchips from the box. "Your names, prosim?".

"Oh! I'm Miko, and this is Fives, my partner," Miko replied.

"Hector's my name, but they call me Hi_5," Hector added.

"Hi . . . Five? Miko?" Russell paused, then blinked. "Me_KO? Winner of the latest Smash tournament?".

"Well, Fives made the shot, with my ball, actually," Miko replied, sounding pleased that her name was recognized. "You could say we both won that time. Heh!".

Russell tipped his head, then nodded with a small smile. "Someone to finally put the vaunted chlapec Mitch Williams in his place?".

"Well, um . . . after a fashion, yeah." Hector said with a meek chuckle.

Russell snorted. "Good.". He turned his attention back to the gauntlet, reaching in to pry out a couple of chips, before replacing them with the ones he'd acquired.

Miko's face filled with panic, as she bounced on her toes for a bit. "Hey-hey, wait! Don't pull out anything vital, here!".

"Relax, these are not memory-chips," Russell stated, moving the micro-torch inside the opening; making a few, light-blue sparks float out from within. "Gauntlet is Tech Level-1. This particular model is standard issue to all new Techs. Apart from being basic gear, it also is tough as iron anvil. If a bit . . . more susceptible to damage." He grunted softly. "It also has not received a new hardware upgrade since I last spoke to Manager Phil . . . some six years ago.". He trailed off, muttering crossly to himself as he continued to work with the chips.

"That's . . . a pretty long time," Miko drawled.

"Wait, these need hardware updates as well as the software?", Hector asked.

"Not necessarily," Russell said. "Oft times, gauntlet systems will update when not in use. Is nature of Plixel construction". He looked up and gave them a lop-sided smile. "However, some time interactions with Glitches can cause some form of firmware corruption. Much like this unit."

Both Hector and Miko looked at each other with wan expressions. "You think-?" Miko asked.

"When it was swallowed by Ally?" Hector finished with a groan. "Don't see any other reason, Miko.".

"Allie?" Russell asked; his accent rolling the name around like dice in a cup. "Whom is this, Allie?" he asked, setting the torch aside to turn towards a computer terminal.

"Um, Ally is my companion pet," Miko said. "She was a Glitch we acquired, after we stopped a major Glitch Monster from smashing a neighborhood!". She grinned, then gave him a half-apologetic look as she added, "She, ah, sorta swallowed my gauntlet, after she knocked it loose.".

At that, Russell snorted. "That, would do it.". He began tapping a sequence of commands with the keyboard, grunting softly as the data rolled across his monitor screen. He paused as he checked the connection from the terminal to Miko's gauntlet. "Fortunately, restoration is not difficult.". He pressed the Enter-key, and the gauntlet began to hum and glow. Before Hector and Miko's astonished eyes, the unit rose up from the desktop; wires disengaging, as panels and ports snapped closed, and the unit hovered in the air as its touchscreen winked off, then back on with the universal Hinobi "H" logo in its center.

Russell reached out and nimbly plucked it out of mid-air, turning it around to peer into the touchscreen with a nod of satisfaction. "There. Is repaired. You should be able to retrieve all recent XP and Glitch entities stored in the last seventy-two hours.". He handed it to Miko, who was smiling with relief.

"Oh, thank-you-thank-you, Thank You!", she said, hugging the gauntlet to her chest. "The Precious is BACK!".

Russell chuckled softly. "Excitable girl, isn't she?" He asked, looking at Hector.

"You have NO idea," Hector said. "So, everything's good to go now?".

"Indeed," Russell said, but he quickly raised one hand to point at Miko; who was just stopping in place, during her victory dance. "However, you will please monitor your gauntlet for the next seven days!". His expression was stern, and both Miko and Hector froze in place. "Each time you download XP and captured Glitches, you will request a Virtual Scan of your unit. Double-checking for any deviance, Ano? Is only way to be certain this will not malfunction again.".

"Virtual Scan, every day for the next seven," Hector said. "Got it! We can't thank you enough for this.".

Russell made a phsst!-sound, waving one hand in dismissal. "Is my job to fix what's broken. Save what became corrupted, Ano?". He nodded before turning away to lift the long-forgotten core from where he'd left it. "Now, leave me. I have quite a few units to repair before my shift is over." He paused and fixed them both with a last look. "Remember. Scan that gauntlet every day, for next seven!".

"Understood, Sir! I won't forget it. Promise!" Miko flipped him a salute, turning to follow Fives as they headed for the exit.

As they walked back along the rows of shelves, Hector made a whew!-sound. "Man, that was . . . interesting! I guess this Russell fellow doesn't get out much.".

Miko gave a half-hearted chuckle. "Yeah, well, I guess being tied up with all of this repair work and stocking-?" She half-turned back, watching as Russell wheeled himself away from his work station, and rolled towards a doorway neither of them had noticed. As he opened the door and rolled into the room beyond, she added, "Well, he did help us out." She looked at her gauntlet and smiled. "That has to count for something!".

"Yeah, well, c'mon partner," Hector prompted. "We've got to download your XP, and get ready for another mission!".

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# xOx #

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Glitch Tech HQ Main Level,
Several Days Later...

"Okay, Techs, Listen up and Listen good!"

Phil stood before the main display in the center of the central chamber, with several Glitch Techs - Miko and Hector included - standing in a loose cluster in front of him. BITT was floating nearby, linked into the holo-display as the GM started speaking.

"We've got a real doozy of a Glitch to deal with this time," He said, gesturing with his coffee mug towards the display; which was filled with the wire-frame image of a Glitch. "We've only ever seen a couple of these before now, and according to the information BITT could recall from the archives . . . a-heh. This sucker's not going to be a cakewalk." His last words ended on a derisive note, as he shot a side-eye glance at Mitch.

Snorting softly, Mitch Williams said, "Whatever. There's no Glitch we can't handle, here!".

From the side, Miko said, "Two words, dingleberry: Chomp Kitty!"

At that, Mitch shuddered and shot her a glare. "Never, mention, that, THING, again!".

"Hey, cool it down, you two! We need all the info we can, IF we're going to take this thing down as a team. Remember?" Hector said, fixing both of them with a glare.

"Pfft! Whatever!" Mitch growled.

"So, what exactly are we dealing with here, Boss?" Hector asked.

"In short, this is a Mapper Glitch, but it isn't your garden-variety Mapper Glitch."

"Ooookay, like the Castlestein Glitch . . . but, how is it different?" Bergy asked.

"Tertiary scans have I.D.-ed it, and it appears to be based on an old Hinobi game called Evulstar," Phil said. "The objective of that game was to stop clusters of minions and robot-ships from mining crystals from floating asteroids in space. If they collected enough crystals, they could build a section of the Boss, a massive star-base called Evulstar. Once it was completed, you had to destroy it before IT destroys you.".

"Forgot to mention this, in passing," Mitch sniped, "the Boss is immune to the blaster attacks used by the player's star fighter. And if you get anywhere near it? It's a practical insta-death!"

At that, Bergy qualled. "Oh no!"

"Which means that we can't be certain of WHAT will happen if the Glitch makes contact with a live person," Phil said flatly. "Also, pretty sure your Gauntlet's blasters aren't going to affect it, either. So, we're going to take all the precautions with this one!".

"Sooo, if it's not affected by blasters, just how DO we stop it?" Miko asked.

"The base strategy we should go with, appears to be similar to the one the game has the player use," Phil explained. "Use your star fighter's blaster to mine the asteroids for crystals, which your star fighter can convert into Cluster Bombs. Get enough of those, and you can literally bomb Evulstar back into pixel-dust."

"Now that's . . . really old-school!" Mitch groused.

"Hey, if it works, what more can we do?" Hector asked. "Besides, you heard Phil. If this thing is immune to our usual bag of tricks-?"

"S-seriously! We're g-g-gonna need every advantage we can g-get!" Bergy stated.

Phil nodded. "You got that right. This is a top-tier Glitch, so we're not going to just leave this to one Tech alone. We're going in with two teams. Each team will have a specific task; Either to run interference against the mobs to keep them from building the Boss to its complete form, or to mine crystals for Cluster Bombs to weaken it so we can ultimately contain its core program."

BITT spoke up to explain further, "Each Glitch T-t-Tech will be given a special upgrade t-t-to their Glitch-Tech gauntlets!" A wire-frame image of a Tech Gauntlet appeared on the holo-field; with an animation following as BITT continued. "Th-th-this special modification app, will reconfigure a P-p-Plexil construct around you, forming into a scaled c-c-copy of the game's player-operated s-s-star fighter!".

"Each star fighter will have the same systems that the game counterpart has: laser cannons to shoot the weaker mobs and 'mine' the asteroids we find. Jet boosters to get away from hazards, and it should be sturdy enough to protect you from the in-game environment," Phil said. He turned and added with a warning tone, "Trouble is, we're not dealing with ordinary sprites here, people. The environment will be packed with all the standard mobs from the game - minions, space tanks, demon-fighters, and so forth - but, it will also have Quasar Traps, Gravity Pits, Repulser Fields, and a slew of other things that will eat you for lunch! So treat this operation with extreme care! Avoid all re-mapped elements at any cost. Got it?".

"Sounds like a good plan!" Hector said.

"And, you do love your plans, right?" Haneesh said, giving Hector a wink.

"Sooo, who's going on whose team?" Zahra asked.

"BITT? You got that roster-selection mapped out?" Phil asked his robot assistant.

"Analyzing c-c-Current Glitch-Techs present . . . .", BITT said. A soft Hinobi-tone! preceded his reply. "Assignments are now complete! Teams Miko & Fives, and Zahra & Nix w-w-will operate in offensive mode, while Teams Mitch W-w-Williams & Haneesh and Bergy & Chris will m-m-mine for Cluster Bombs!".

Phil nodded and smiled - in spite of the groans and excited cheers from the Techs - as the roles were assigned. "BITT and I will be providing support and backup as needed, and we'll deploy a good dozen or so new recruits to perform crowd control to keep the stooges at bay." He turned and got everyone's attention. "Okay, Techs, we know the strategy and what parts we've got to play! Everyone suit up, get your gear set, and head for the vans. We're moving out right now!"

"P-Please insert your gauntlet into the main c-c-console be-be-before you depart," BITT said. "A last ch-check of all systems is re-re-required, before downloading the Star fighter a-a-App!"

As each Tech passed the main console the room, they paused briefly to do what bit had said. "C'mon! We're not going to get anywhere unless we move, now!" Mitch said.

As Hector and Miko were taking turns at the console, Miko snorted, "Sounds like the dingleberry is feeling it, today!".

"This is a big mission, Miko," Hector said, removing his gauntlet and stepping aside for her. "I'll get the van revved up! Hurry up and we can join the others!".

Miko watch him head off. "Don't worry! I'll be right behind you," she said. She started to put her hand into the reception-jack, when she heard Phil and Mitch shouting across the way. "Eeesh, does he ever stop?" She turned back and had her hand half-way into the reception jack, when Hector called out, "C'mon, Miko! We're gonna be last at the site unless we get moving!".

"Right, coming!" She removed her hand, shrugged and ran off towards their van.

Unaware of the small flicker of red that appeared on her gauntlet's touchscreen . . . .

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# xOx #

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Number 23, West Concorde Street,
City of Bailey...

The collection of Hinobi tech-vans sat clustered around the corner house; with several Techs already having fanned out to case the surrounding block. A few had found some stragglers out and about, and they were quick to 'reset' them, so to keep them out of trouble.

Phil's van had been placed at the head of the home's driveway, where it was now sitting with a round antenna dish erected on its roof. He was looking on with Nick, who was ushering the now-brain blanked family that had been huddled outside the infested house into the back of another van. "Re-checked with the family's head of household, Boss," Nick said to Phil. "No one's left inside. They were lucky to get out before the Glitch completely co-opted the premises."

"Well, that's one thing in our favor." Phil made a face as he studied the readout on the open console now erected on the side of his van. "Has every Tech gotten the star fighter app downloaded?"

From one side, BITT chimed, "A-a-Affirmative! All Techs present have r-re-re-ceived the app for the mission, as p-p-planned!"

"Good. Now, get everyone on the Teams assembled! I want no stragglers when we breach the Mapper's enviro-boundary."

"All teams accounted and ready, Boss!" Mitch said, striding up with Bergy and Chris following. "Let's go kick some Glitch-tail already."

Nick spoke up before Phil could reply, saying, "I don't recommend we just charge in there," he added with a side-look in Mitch's direction. "Not without a full scan of what we're up against."

"Augh! We know what's in there!" Mitch groused.

"Yes, but we don't KNOW what's in there with the Glitch itself," Nix returned. "There could be environs we're unprepared for, minion Glitches . . . a dozen or so other things I'd care to mention.".

"Okay, no more arguing!" Phil snapped. He turned and tapped a series of commands into the console. "I'm getting a scanner array set up, but I can't run it, and support you guys in real-time IF things get hairy!"

"Don't worry," Mitch scoffed. "Even if this Glitch seems like a big deal, we've got the strategy AND more than enough Techs here to-." A sudden cry of alarm cut Mitch off to the quick. "What was that?"

Whipping around, Phil and the others stared in the direction of the house, which was flickering like an out of tune TV channel: all pixellated and wobbly, like it was out of synch with reality. To one side, a couple of Techs were lifting a fellow Tech from the ground and quickly carrying them towards another of the vans, that had been set up for Field First-Aid.

"What happened?" Phil demanded.

"It's Joan!" One of the Techs carrying their prone comrade said. "She was trying to do a localized scan of the house, and something zapped her through the walls when she got too close!"

"Is she hurt!?" Nix asked.

"She's stunned . . . we think," the Tech replied, helping to lift the injured Joan into the back of the van. "We'll know more when we use the medical kit!"

Phil inhaled deeply, before scowling at Mitch - who had the temerity to look concerned as well. "This isn't going to go well, if someone else gets hurt!" He turned and tapped his headset, opening a local-comm circuit. "All Techs! Do NOT go near that house! Not until we've breached the barrier field and are ready to go in!"

At that, Hector and Miko, along with Zahra ran up to their position. "What happened?"

"One of the crowd control noobs got hurt, getting to close to the house!" Mitch said, scowling.

"Oh no!" Bergy gasped.

"Okay, that's it!" Phil raised his gauntlet and keyed in a series of commands quickly. "I'm going to head a reserve team to help out, once we've breached the barrier."

"But, if you do that, who's going to run the scanner? We need that to give us a heads-up when we're inside that place!" Mitch stated.

"Do we have a back-up in mind? Zahra asked.

"I've got a 'back-up' already in mind," Phil said firmly, as he peered down at his gauntlet's view screen. When a comm-chime sounded, he said, "Contact Repair Shop!"

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# xOx #

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Repair Shop & Stowage, Glitch-Techs HQ . . . .

Seated at his interior office desk, Russell was looking over a picture in a frame when a strident sound at his workstation in the main room got his attention. "What is . . . ? Wait. That's a field-tech alert!" He wheeled himself out of his office, over to the side of his large desk where a phone-relay unit sat. Thumbing the "accept" key, he said into the open mic, "Repairs?".

"Russell! This is Phil! I've got an Alpha-stage situation here, and we need YOUR help!"

Blinking, Russell recovered from the shock of surprise, before asking, "What do you require, Boss?".

"Get to the mission terminal in Central HQ and set up for a sensor-array boost!" Phil said urgently. "I'll also need you to stay on-station to help monitor ALL input from our array as well as ALL Techs frequencies! We're dealing with a MAJOR Mapper Glitch, and I want NO Surprises when we get inside the building it currently occupies. We are NOT losing a single Tech during this one, understand!?".

"Understood! On my way!". Releasing the key, He turned and started to head out of the bay; pausing only when he caught sight of a Glitch-Tech gauntlet, lying on one of his rarely-used worktables nearby. He grimaced, but changed direction briefly to scoop the gauntlet up. He slipped it on, flexing his fingers in the glove before he turned and headed out of the bay.

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# xOx #

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The two Tech teams were clustered around Phil and BITT, waiting for the word to come through, when one of the axillary Techs ran up. "Good news, Sir," they said to Phil. "Joan's shaken but recovering. Looks like the beam was only meant to stun, not kill."

"Whew! That's a relief," Zahra said.

"Good to know, but I still want a fifty-yard buffer zone around that house," Phil said. "This Glitch is probably trying to keep anyone out, until it finishes construction. So, no one but the Tech Teams are going anywhere near it. Understand?"

"Yessir! We'll pull back and keep the area clear from any lookie-loos!" The Tech ran off to see that the remainder of the CC-team understood the order.

"Now, if Russell would report in, we can get this taken care of," Phil muttered.

"Well, it might take him a while to get from the Repair Shop," Miko offered.

"Depends on if his chair ran out of batteries," Mitch growled.

"Hey! That's just rude!" Miko scowled at Mitch.

"Can't help it. That second-stringer never could do anything-!"

A burst of a digital comm-signal from the command-van's console cut him off. "HQ to Field Team? Russell here! Am on station, and am synched to your portable array. Commencing power boost . . . I have all Tech frequencies locked into my monitor!"

Phil grinned with a purpose. "Good to hear, HQ! Stand by, we're about to breach the Glitch's barrier to initiate scan!" He turned and motioned to the collected teams. "Everyone, get ready and stand by!" As they moved aside, he looked to BITT. "BITT, fire the dispersion anchors. Let's get an opening in that barrier field!"

BITT floated over to where a set of large, bulky apparatus were propped up; aimed at the wide, side wall of the house. "Engaging M-M-Main Dispersion Cannon! Firing in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1!" At that, the two devices lurched back with a pair of loud WHUMP!-sounds, and two shell-shaped objects rocketed towards their target. A few feet from the surface of the wall, they separated into twin, elliptic-shaped devices that slapped against the wall and held fast. Then, a ripple-beam of blue arched from each device; forming a wide rectangle shape that wavered, as the surface of the wall appeared to vanish amid a dark field of energy, which was broken up by random clusters of color and light.

"We h-have a successful b-b-breach!" BITT reported.

"Okay, Techs! Reserves form on me," Phil said. "Tech Teams, Gauntlets UP! Move in and let's take that Glitch!"

From the one side, Hector turned to Miko, Zahra and Nix and made a encouraging motion with his fist. "Okay, team! We're on point! Let's clear the way for the Mining Team!" He turned and keyed his gauntlet. "Activate Star fighter-Mode!"

On the other side, Mitch glared at the others on his team. "We're not letting this Glitch stick around for much longer! So, we're getting those Bombs quick, and ending this mission just as fast!" He also made a gesture with his gauntlet. "Power up!"

The two teams were quickly surrounded by Plixel energy, as their individual star fighters formed around them. In short order, the construct's engines flared to life and send them surging towards the open apature. Amid the rocketing ships, the sound of Miko's encouraging cheer could be heard over the comms: "Let's take this Glitch, Guildies! Waa-HOOOO!"

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To Be Continued . . . .

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