Part 103: Episode XCVII: The Death of EgoEpisode XCVII: The Death of Ego
Let's stop fretting about and finally get to infiltrating the Hojo Research Lab to... something, something... Nicolai...? It's still quite vague what our objective is supposed to be when we find the smug prick. He's been fairly sufficiently punched already and Yuri and the gang don't know about the whole trying to extract Astaroth experiment so... Yeah. Just winging it still.
Music: Hatred ~ Hojo Research Institute
I don't know. There was the thing with the mutant dog the other day. Last week, it was that rampaging man-giraffe we had to put down going wild in the gymnasium.
I still need to send Fred's wife some flowers. That was a rough way to go... I never knew a giraffe's neck could come down that hard.
And don't even get me started on those poisonous razor kittens that got loose last month.
<shudders> I'm still afraid of getting near vents after that mishap. They just tore that poor recruit into a pile of hamburger meat. That haunts my dreams still. So this time...?
There were strict orders from the top. No mishaps this time! Jeez, playing around with all this research. They really need to get their thinking straight!
The two soldiers wander off. Meanwhile, at the unattended gate to the secret government research laboratory that they leave wide open...
<gasps> You sound like an old busy-body!
It's called reconnaissance, thank you very much!
Is that Russian for snooping?
<rubs beard> Yeah...
Take a look over there.
Come on! Let's give it a try!
I'm sure they'll have armor sized to fit a handful of adults, a giant, a squat old man, a twelve-year-old kid and a wolf.
...I wasn't being ser--you know what? We'll figure it out.
Don't ask me why this time we need to careful sneakily infiltrate this facility using disguises. I do recall not long ago we just marched right onto a Japanese navy battleship and immediately started flipping out beating the shit out of everyone with no problem.
Sound of soldiers getting their asses kicked.
Unfortunately, the rest of the team is jammed into the Yuri pocket dimension on the field so we, sadly, don't get to see Joachim ripping through half his armor or Gepetto with Anastasia on his soldiers trying to look like a full-sized man or Blanca trying to walk around like a human in armor. They'd better keep that part with Red XIII pretending to be a soldier standing upright and Barrett bursting out of a sailor uniform in the future Final Fantasy VII Remake installment.
In we go through the unlocked front door to the unattended lobby. The receptionist must be out to lunch. Or was eviscerated by a Tyrant in one of the many lab accidents and they're still interviewing a replacement. You know how it goes in these super science labs. Anyway, around the corner we find...
You're Stag Team, right? The guards for the underground lab? You'd better get down there quick. Use the elevator.
Word of advice. If you hear the alarms go off and screaming alongside roars coming from the labs, go run for the emergency stairs. The elevator tends to break down when things go sideways. Just empty your magazine into a wall to make it look like you fought back before retreating. It looks better on the after-action reports.
Yeah. ...I'll keep that in mind.
The gang enters the elevator and heads below to the underground labs. Meanwhile...
The Astaroth separation experiment is about to begin.
<steps forward> What is it, master? Are you not feeling well?
No, I'm fine. I was just thinking about the past.
About the past...?
Lt. Col. Kawashima, killed in Shanghai. I realized my life was changed the moment I met her.
I was sent over to China as a simple geologic analyst. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that my life would take the path it has.
I only dabbled in books about the occult back then, having never seen magic with my own eyes. Now, look at me... I can shoot telekinetic blasts and teleport. I make secret pacts with wizards in exchange for forbidden ancient tomes. I try to harness the power of dark gods locked within men's souls. Yes, my life was forever changed...
Do you have... regrets?
<steps closer and frowns> Master...
She yearned to live in the same manner that Yuri does. To live life freely, no matter what the cost. To hold fiercely onto your own beliefs... She said that anyone could do it if they tried.
She wanted so much to join his party and go on adventures across the continent. She even came up with her own win pose in anticipation of joining. But... it never happened...
Now I realize it's much, much more difficult than I thought.
But Master, you have your own strong beliefs. For example...
The path I walk... There are sometimes I truly fear it.
I sometimes wonder... Am *I* the baddie...?
<turns away from Ouka> ......
Music: Faith or Fate ~ Kato
I've been working for Minister Ishimura, helping him reach his goals. But all along, I've had my own goals in mind. I've just been using him. And during that time, I've learned to lie and cheat. And kill...
But the one thing I haven't learned is how to forget my pain, my sadness.
Sometimes I wish I just died when the city was annihilated. In truth... I don't even know how I survived that... Or why... Mostly the how...
The Yoshiko Kawashima that died in Shanghai was the master's true love...
I'm... being too emotional.
Perhaps I should start a journal to vent. Keeping this pain pent up while dabbling in forbidden sorceries is not healthy...
My Master feels pain because of all his memories?
I-I feel jealous of her...
My face, my voice, everything. I'm just a poor copy of her...
Oh... oh y-you knew... about that...? Huh... that was not supp--oh...
Despite my enhancements, I am still a poor replica...
E-enhancements... yes... there were... anomalies in your body's creation in the che
My combat enhancements, master.
Right! Right, of course... But...
Don't say that. You are my creation. Pure, untainted. You are no mere copy!
It's fine! ...I don't mind being a substitute for her.
Kato turns to face Ouka.
My only wish is to be of use to my Master. To be near my Master, to spend time with my Master.
That is all that I wish for... All that I want...
Somehow they managed to make the fact that Kato created a clone of his dead crush, gave her DD breasts, stuck her in skin-tight battle armor, and forced her to refer to him only as Master and obey his every order even CREEPIER by... making it so she KNOWS she's a clone of Kato's dead crush. Kato this is a bad look, man. A bad look.
Music: Hatred ~ Hojo Research Institute
Meanwhile, the rest of the gang have ridden the elevator to the underground laboratory basement. All there is to do here is head straight ahead. The large double doors on the mini-map there are locked at the moment. When we head into the door at the end of the hall we find...
And by that I mean run back in here and seal the door behind you. That'll buy us some time if another creature breaks loose and rampages. We're already short-staffed after that sonic emitter experiment went haywire and liquefied the heads of Weevil Team. They're not paying us enough for this post. I'm filing a complaint.
And with that, our whole subterfuge with the disguises comes to an end. Yep. We did that just to get past two guards on an elevator and one guy hanging out in the break room. That may not have been worth the effort to make a quiet entrance. But, you know. We already did a stealth dungeon and nothing is going to beat sneak wolf.
What are they trying to do to Nicolai?
Before Yuri can answer, the lights go dark and switch over to red-tinted emergency lights. We need to swap over to auxiliary power on non-essential devices if we're going to get some dangerous super science done today, after all.
He he he... This time we'll achieve separation!
Fire up the video cameras! I don't want to miss documenting one instant of his agony. It is a thing of beauty... He he he.
The science of it, I mean.
Of... course, sir...
<starts tapping buttons and turning dials on console>
A bell rings and a woman's voice comes over the announcement loudspeaker as the device begins shocking Nicolai's balls again.
Beginning Astaroth separation, Round II. Subject's pulse, blood pressure within acceptable parameters.
Testicular integrity holding at 79%.
Aaaah! Aaah! Ahh!
The machine deactivates.
Subject is unconscious. Brainwaves have entered delta stage.
Testicular integrity holding at 63%.
Blood pressure going down.
Fire separation beam now!
Starting separation beam.
Well, that's certainly going to burn the hair off his chest. But let's be real. Nicolai is about as hairy as a Ken doll under that frock.
70 percent until ego degeneration.
Testicular integrity holding at 63%.
We don't need further updates on that status, Helen! The experiment has moved to the next phase!
Search time remaining, two minutes.
That should be plenty.
Astaroth spirit confirmed in sub-cortical matrix.
Start tracking. We must grab it before it goes subconscious.
It's entering sub-cortex B2. It's very active.
Kato wanders into the experiment control room and begins to observe.
So, monster, you've become quite comfortable in this soul, eh.
Entering sub-cortex B3!
45 percent until ego degeneration.
Inflammatory remarks on subject's appearance or manner of speaking will cause undue stress if further ego degeneration occurs.
That's irrelevant. Continue!
What are they doing with that?
At least they stopped shocking his balls. That didn't look too fun.
What are they saying anyway?!
I don't know. I hear them talking, but I don't understand a word of it!
...Why would I know the first thing about science?! The only science I know is physics and the force a punch does to a face.
30 percent until ego degeneration.
Are you still unable to remove it?!
Matrix too diffuse. Can't find the nucleus.
Doctor. That's enough. We're going to lose him.
<shakes head> If we fail now, it will be six months before we get another chance at this.
It was only a fluke it took merely a day to reset the experiment this time.
<grabs Hojo's shoulder> You'll going to kill him again if you don't stop!
<knocks his hand away> Shut up, you ignorant buffoon!
This is science! SCIENCE! What do you know of SCIENCE?! Have you ever extracted a dark entity from a human psyche before?!
...No. But neither have you yet.
That is... irrelevant!
10 percent until ego degeneration.
Target has penetrated subconscious.
That's fine! I'll have my monster! Screw his damned ego!
Nothing can stop the pursuit of SCIENCE!!
Catastrophic system failures overloading equipment when throwing safety measures to the wind in pursuit of your horrible, uncontrollable monsters. Or as they refer to it in secret underground laboratories -- Tuesday. They're serving tacos in the facility cafeteria for lunch. Get there quick before the recently summoned eldritch beast with a thousand maws from the darkest recesses of the planes of madness greedily devours them all and all souls on the mortal plane.
Predictably, all the lab equipment immediately starts shorting out and catching on fire as the lab assistants start freaking out.
<motions to the staff> Turn off the power! The experiment is over! Do you hear me?
That was an order! Turn off the power! This is finished.
<distressed pantomime at fire>
<sigh> I'll do it myself...
Kato yanks the power deactivation lever two feet away.
What the hell are you doing, Kato?!
Don't you know, Doctor?!
I don't know about your field of science. But I am quite studied in the occult.
His ego was the only thing containing the monster. Now it's been released.
What did you say?!
To put it in precise scientific terms, doctor... You just fucked up. Badly.
Heh. Ha ha ha.
Whoa. Look, his face has changed!
Nicolai's ego... It's been swallowed up...
I've been there before... It sucks. I had to dig a grave for my ghost dad for six months inside my head. Not somethin' I'd recommend.
You foolish pathetic mortals...
A squad of Steel Soldiers run into the experiment test chamber and aim their weapons at the possessed Nicolai.
You foolish pathetic mortals... I can't thank you enough for finally ridding me of that annoying human. He was so intensely boring.
The relentless smugness despite his unending failures. The endless jealous lust for a woman he barely knew. It was enough to make me vomit into his very soul.
It can't be!!
He's been taken over by Astaroth!
Music: Strain ~ Assault
Nicolai-Astaroth has learned the Special Eyes technique from Albert Simon. While that would merely knock someone tough like Yuri through a few train cars. Generic soldier men?
...A tad bit harsher a reaction.
Astaroth easily frees himself from his restraints and floats down to the ground.
OK. Perhaps I have, as you said, fucked this up.
You have keen observational skills, doctor.
I have been brought back to this world solely to lead it into the fiery gates of hell!
What...?! What is the meaning of this... mutant ape nonsensical response?! Am I speaking in the wrong tongue to these insects?! Argh. Human languages. So bothersome. I will enjoy exterminating them all.
The Mutant Apes immediately appear on the scene.
No... I don't think I'll be wasting my time with you.
<looks to his left> You can come out now.
Yuri and the gang shuffle out from the back room. Not that they were hiding. They were all gawking out a huge open window where Kato or Hojo really should have been able to see them.
How you doing, bright eyes?
You are a stubborn fool.
<motions to Nicolai> It sounds like someone here woke up on the wrong side of the bed.
Heh. I get it, though. I'd be cranky too if I woke up and I looked like such a douchebag.
<scans the room> Okay, who's first? Who wants to dance?
Yuri, I know you're trying to act tough, but I think we're all on the same side against the demonic guy.
That is correct.
Are you dense?
Tch. Whatever. Ruin my cool line. Jerks.
Sadly, I have other business to attend to.
C'mon, don't be like that. I came to see you.
Terrific. Another jackass that can teleport. Can everyone not on my team just teleport now?
<bow> Yes, master!
The Mutant Apes teleport away.
<looks around> Huh? Hey! Hey! Is everybody leaving?!
You see! Everyone can do a teleport! I bet even that creepy little nerd up there watching us can do it too. This sucks!
Kato turns to leave as well. He's at least kind enough to leave the room before teleporting.
Hmph. Doctor, we're going after Astaroth. Deal with things here as you wish.
W-wait a minute!
We should leave too!
She's right. We've got to go after Nicolai!
<scratches head> Hmph! This is not looking good!
I'm going to be pissed if we have to slog through another flying fortress at the end of the day.
The party runs out of the test chamber. Meanwhile...
You'll pay. I won't let you get away with ruining my experiment.
I'll show you! I'll show you all... the power... of SCIENCE!
Video: Episode 97 Highlight Reel (You should watch this.)
Hojo Research Lab Concept Art - This looks like the building where I went to Junior High.