The "daycare" sure was bizarre. Everyone had followed Luka in, either unwilling to split up or just as curious about it.”So I was really hoping that this would just be a Daycare for the important people working past this security checkpoint but looks like that was pretty foolish of me”
Minda broke the silence to comment on the cycling ring they were looking at. ”I mean what even is this? They’re rotating eggs?”
she asked before hissing with annoyance as the center of the room flashed brightly, blinding her to whatever was going on in there. "Hey, they're holding Pokéballs!"
Pit pointed out, finger indicating the line of people queuing into the center room. As he said it, he seemed confused. Weren't Pokémon outlawed in Midgar? "And that light kind of looks like... wait..."
After a beat to put two and two together, Pit's eyes widened and he whipped around to face the other three. "You think this could be where they make the P-Types...?! It's practically right out in the open, I was expecting some kind of secret lab or something!"
Luka looked aghast. “If that’s true…well, I’d shudder to think of the implications. Things might be a lot different than we thought.” His face tightened as he squinted past the cyclists toward the Daycare’s center structure, trying to make out more details. “I know we’re short on time, and not in great shape for any more fights, but do you think we should check it out?”
Sakura shrugged nervously. She had ducked behind a nearby desk. ”I mean, it’s pretty creepy. But aren’t we kinda screwed if we get caught?”
She asked. ”There’s dozens of people in here.”
That had not escaped Luka’s notice, but he seemed less afraid than one might think. “The question is, how many of them are combatants. I don’t see any weapons out there. Just eggs.” He put one hand to his chin. “With all the eggs around, plus equipment or other stuff precious to their operation, just the threat of us wrecking the place might be enough that we could get in and out unscathed.” Luka looked up at the others. “Your call.”
Pit couldn't say the lack of weaponry meant there were no fighters around, after all if they really were fusing with Pokémon then they'd be able to shoot lightning, fire, and all kinds of other things. But Luka made a good point that the powers that be may not want to risk damaging the daycare in a fight. More than that, though..."We definitely have to check it out!"
Pit said, fighting to keep his voice down. "What if they're fusing people against their will? We can't just leave them. Plus they're killing a bunch of cute little baby Pokémon!"”Even if they can’t risk fighting back, they can still raise the alarm”
Midna pointed out, but not to shut things down ”So I suggest we go in there like we’re meant to be there. If we’re luck these people won’t have had time to have heard we’re enemies of the state yet.”
After a moment spent thinking, Luka nodded. “That’s not a bad idea. Even if this place creates the P-types that join Psych-OSF, it seems more like a Shinra deal than an OSF one. Chances are they didn’t receive orders from the brass.”
With the majority in favor, the team got moving. They strolled into the Daycare at a measured pace, making no attempt at stealth. Even if they had, the outer track of this room was well-lit and lacked hiding places, especially given the number of bikers essentially on high-speed patrol. In fact, when the Seekers crossed paths with the cyclists, they barely acknowledged the newcomers’ presence. They just steered around to give them a wide berth so as not to endanger anyone; clearly, they were already doing everything their jobs required of them. A short time later, everyone reached the entrance to the Daycare’s center structure. With no doors in the way, everyone inside could see everyone outside and vice versa, but if the people in line for fusion looked nervous, it wasn’t because of the Seekers. Luka guessed that didn’t know how things were run around here either, and that they amounted to little more than patients at a doctor’s office.
Without raising any aggression or alarms so far, the team could enter and scope out the central chamber. In truth, it really did look like a doctor’s office, at least in part. On one side of the aisle, four operating chairs surrounded by medical instruments machines were spaced out evenly, and against the wall was a smaller chamber about four times the size of a phone booth, elevator off the ground and featuring a sort of spigot that made it look almost like a giant gumball machine, albeit with pitch black walls and a door instead of glass. On the other side of the room, the walls were lined with a number of large cells, stacked up all the way to the ceiling with walkways around each row, accessible by personal lift. These ones featured darkened glass that the newcomers couldn’t see through, as well as a pipe system leading toward a handful of hoppers, each of which contained several eggs. There were four PCs
arranged in this part, and in the center stood a big desk covered in papers, ledgers, and computer screens. Nobody was sitting there currently; instead, the doctor was helping a subject into a chair. The subject looked young, with short dark hair, and to Midna at least he looked just a tiny bit familiar. Once seated comfortably, he offered the pokeball in his hand to the scientist, and right after he accepted it he happened to see that the Seekers had arrived.
“Good evening,” he greeted them, his voice calm and affable. He was a pale man, with slicked-back platinum blonde hair accentuated by a very long cowlick, half blue and half red, that wound around his head almost like a halo. He wore glasses, gloves, and a long white lab coat with blue and red triangle patterns scattered across it. In addition to being somewhat barrel-chested, he had large, fluffy, bulky white wings on his back. All in all, while he looked every bit a professional scientist
, he was also unmistakably avian
-or perhaps even angelic- in appearance. “I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure. My name is Colress. What can I do for you?””Ilia”
the princess lied with a tone of casual authority she had never used with the Seekers, one which despite this seemed both well practiced and trained. She deliberately flicking her Flygon tail behind her to draw a glance of attention to her fused nature as she continued ”My associates wanted some reassurances that everything you are doing here is-”
she paused, flexing her fingers as she made a show of search for the right words, before concluding ”-for the greater good”
The smiling scientist pursed his lips, his eyebrows raised slightly. There was a trace of laughter in his eyes as he discreetly glanced at Luka, who was trying not to wince.
Sakura stood up straight with her hands at her side, hoping the uniform she wore lended their whole group a little more respectability and believability. ”That’s right.”
She said. ”...They’re with the Board of Ethics.”
Sakura added, taking a moment to search for the right words.
“Interesting. I wasn't aware of any such entity. I do tend to absorb myself in my work, though, so who knows,” Colress replied after a moment, his manner and tone unruffled. “If that's your sole concern, then, well, yes. Without the shadow of a doubt.” After sliding the pokeball into his pocket, he crossed his arms, his expression still one of polite neutrality. “I’ll admit that isn't a very informative answer, though. A single word isn't liable to convince, well, anyone. Is there anything else the, ah, ‘Board’ would like to ask? I'm quite happy to speak candidly, you know.””We do have a tendency to be forgotten in such a large organization, so no offense taken”
Midna replied, seamlessly playing along with Sakura’s addition to the combination of joke and ruse, before agreeing ”and yes, it will take more than that. You could start by talking us through your process. From the outside looking in you’ve got a pretty unorthodox looking set up in here, so some clarification would be appreciated to clear up any possible misunderstandings”
Still looking amused, Colress complied. “Well then, I must be sure to do the best I can. Let's see…” He put his hand to his chin, thinking about a way to describe the operation simply but effectively. “In brief, this is a clinic where the supernatural animals known as Pokemon are cohabitated, bred, raised to adulthood, and then harvested for their spirits. These spirits are then used in transfusions for people like young Souta here to grant them various abilities.” He tousled the nervous-looking boy's head in order to help calm him down.
He then turned his attention back to the newcomers, his expression curious. “I understand how this may seem distasteful. However, have you considered the meat industry? How much beef, chicken, fish, and pork it takes to sustain a city like Midgar? If you never see it firsthand it's easy to ignore, but every burger and filet is an animal that died so that we could live. As per the same regulations, we ensure that every animal is completely unconscious so that none suffer.”
Colress crossed his arms. “There's also the medical industry. How many millions of lives have been saved by medicines developed through animal testing?” Glancing over toward the patients in line with a sympathetic look, he continued. “And consider Midgar itself. A city fraught with constant danger. Laden with institutions few can trust. If the life of one animal can give you the power to protect your home, your family…not to mention the ability to access Psynet, I believe it's a worthwhile trade.” He nodded toward Midna’s tail. “Wouldn't you agree?”
Alright, so they weren't killing baby
Pokémon, and Colress made a good point. Pit wasn't at all sure about the level of a Pokémon's sentience (in his experience some were and some weren't?), so the thought to bring that up didn't cross his mind at all. What Colress hadn't addressed so far was the people element to the operation here.
The group's pretense was flimsy, and though at first Pit tried to keep up with it by crossing his arms, doing his best to appear authoritative, and letting the others do the talking, now he gave that pretense up."What about him?"
he said, gesturing to the boy named Souta, then to the line of people at large. "What about them?
"Having a Pokémon and fusing is illegal, but you've got both going on right here! And civilians fighting Others is illegal too, so it's practically like forcing people to join!"
He turned away from Colress, facing the people yet to have fused. "Is that something you all signed up for? On your own, or because you didn't feel like you had a choice?"
Put on the spot, the queued patients looked uncomfortable, which allowed Colress to step in. “Why don’t we answer your questions in order? It’s true that it’s illegal for citizens to own psychic-type Pokemon or perform fusion themselves. Why do you think that is?” His questioning gaze seemed to invite Pit to slow his roll and think. “It’s because of the inherent risk. In the city, psychic-type Pokemon will suffer because of ambient psynet overload, and either shut down or go berserk. As for fusion, what do you think would happen if ordinary people could obtain potentially unlimited power through murder?”
He crossed his arms. “Think of it like a gun. If anyone could get a gun without any kind of official process whatsoever, and then use it to easily obtain more guns, it would be anarchy. By strictly controlling fusion, we limit who can get a gun, how many one can get, and also establish records so that if anyone misuses their gun, we know exactly who it was and can take action.” He shrugged. “It’s natural that those who wish to protect Midgar by joining Psych-OSF would want power to do so, but recruitment is by no means required.” Nodding at the patients, he reached his conclusion. “Everyone here is here because they want this. If they feel like they didn’t have a choice, it’s not because we’re forcing them, but because it is a terribly cruel world we live in. One where everyone needs a little help to survive.”"Urk..."
Pit wasn't good with dealing with rhetoric. He struggled for a response, but Midna stepped in for him.”That sounds very logical and thought out, which does raise the question as to why all this was a secret in the first place? Given the total moral catastrophe that the previous version of this project was, you have to understand that the board is just a little skeptical that the justification you now need to give public is all there is too it”
Midna, whos tongue hurt from biting it, now relaxed her jaw to responded to the sales pitch they’d just been given, before asking ”For one but are people aware of all the side effects? The way fusion changes not just the body but also the mind, and as well as the way that fusion always comes with negative effects as well as positive ones? For two, there is the issue that Midgar is only a small part of this cruelly crafted world. Will non-citizens entering the city for the first time be able to apply for this if they have fused before arrival? The same goes for those who arrive with psychic pokemon companions, are they seized, detained, and processed?”
A lot of the references to things like animal testing, factory farming and gun control had gone way over her head, but the issues she had brought up, oh she was very intimately familiar with them.
Sakura just stood there, arms at her side, watching the discussion unfold. Suppressing her nervousness, she still thought that this was a bad idea. Maybe she was just being cynical for once, but this Colress guy didn’t look like he bought their disguise at all. She gripped at the legs of her pants. ”You Board of Ethics people sure ask a lot of questions.”
She said. As for her thoughts about what Colress said, it all sounded about right to her, but what did she know? They were here to place down a sneaky teleporter and now there were witnesses to them coming in here.
Her remark seemed to bring a smile to the scientist’s face. “Why, you took the words right out of my mouth, young lady,” Colress said breathlessly, holding his hands up in a helpless manner. “That was such a barrage, I can scarcely even begin to respond. I’m all for a friendly debate, but is the ‘Board’ more invested in asking questions, or receiving answers?” His tone was jocular. “A verbal firefight is liable to sow needless confusion and panic, and I’m no orator.”
Colress sighed wearily, putting a hand to his head with a pained expression. “You know, this brings to mind a certain group of animal rights activists. Extremely uninformed, especially about the big picture, yet more than happy to rock the boat at every turn. Could you imagine if such people were to infiltrate a restricted area like this, posing as Shinra employees? Why, I’d have to ask them for their IDs.” He shook his head, as if to say perish the thought
. “To see the world in black and white like that…I’m almost envious.”
After shaking his head, the scientist produced the pokeball he’d pocketed earlier. “I’ve enjoyed this ‘meeting of the minds’, but it’s been a long day. We have just a few more treatments before we’re done, and I’d rather not keep these folks here any longer than need be. Nor bother them needlessly. If you have any other questions, please direct them to my boss, Professor Hojo. Now, if you don’t mind leaving me to my work…” Colress smiled. “I certainly don’t mind leaving you to yours.”
At this, a somewhat nervous Luka stepped forward and spoke up. “We understand, Dr. Colress. We’ll leave you to it, thank you for your time.” He tentatively reached up to take Midna by the hand and gently pull her back in the direction of the exit.
She let herself be pulled away, Midna simply had a last word it seemed, and it was one that had nothing to do with ethics and that was simply that ”Not to worry, I’m sure we’ll have words with him soon enough”
before striding away, tail swishing behind her. Then she paused, and half turned to ask ”But I’ll leave you with this: who would win in a fight, a soldier with some of a pokemon's power, or a soldier and a pokemon who fight side by side?”
before continuing without waiting for an answer.
Once they'd all left, Pit let out a heavy breath. He seemed agitated, but uncertain."Aw man, what should we do?"
he wondered aloud, shifting from foot to foot. "You think they're all really volunteers in there? But we know they're using the P-Types for evil, so we could... shut it down? But..."
Pit looked up at the tower, so close by now. He sensed the hesitation Sakura had been giving off since they spotted the place, on top of the lies Midna had told to avoid a straight up confrontation, so maybe going gung-ho would be stupid if it meant they were caught before getting to Arahabaki. But leaving it alone felt wrong too, on behalf of both the people and Pokémon involved."Argh, what should we do?!"
he repeated, vigorously scratching his head with both hands while trying to force the answer to manifest in front of him. His golden laurel ended up a little lopsided, and remained silent.
Luka looked conflicted. “Right now, we should focus on Arahabaki and the Guardian. They’re our primary concern. If we should be doing anything about Colress, it should be counting ourselves fortunate we ran into someone who cares more about his work than about us.”
Sakura nodded. ”Seriously.”
Sakura said. ”We’re so close to the home stretch, Pit-kun.”
She was very eager to face the Guardian. The idea of screwing it up at the last second was a stone in her stomach.
Pit closed his mouth tightly, biting back the "buts" he could think of. It was times like this when he was unsure of what the best course of action was that he was most thankful to have his friends and allies' voices in his ear, since he didn't have Palutena's. One quick internal struggle later and the angel sighed. "You guys are right. Beating the Guardian will help everyone, and we can... always come back and make sure everyone's alright after that!"”We also know what the head of the snake is called now, and Professor Hojo sure seems to have a lot of bodies we’d be able to deal with in one fell swoop if we have that word with him”
Midna pointed out with a flex of a briefly clawed hand.
As the Seekers left the Daycare, a bright surge of prismatic light from the facility’s central chamber prompted Luka to look back over his shoulder one last time, his misgivings clear on his face, before he closed the door behind him.