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Frontier Town The Wanderin' Zera

"Well, congratulations!" Ghaspius grinned without a care in the world. "The people love y'all, and want you to be Mayor, Mister... um, 'Dayle'! What campaign are ya runnin' on?"

He turned his head to Gerome and nodded. "Show us that place when ya get the chance," he whispered.
"I'm gonna save the town from the looming threats! I'm gonna prepare us for the Psychic War!" Dayle claimed. "And you! you, you Ghost, will be invaluable. And so will Psychics who have aligned with our cause!" He pointed at a random patron who stared at Dayle like he was a wild deer who wandered into town. fascination and perturbance.

"Gerome! Ya gotta help me campaign!"

Gerome stared. The Machoke's pleading eyes were wide and, as usual, a little crazy.

"...I'd love to," Gerome said, "but... I'm going with my family to Novelux soon. A real shame. Isn't that right?" He eyed the Wayfarers with a subtle look in his eyes that said 'HELP. ME.'
Dave stared at the stickers. This guy was running for mayor? This guy? God help Frontier Town.

"Yeah, uh, Gerome was just telling us about that. Going to see his family. No time." He squinted at Dayle. "Why exactly do you think there's going to be a 'Psychic War'?"
"Why not? It's obvious, ain't it?" Dayle said.

"Don't encourage him," Gerome said. "You're crazy, Dayle. What would your ex wife think?"

"She was nothin' but supportive, I tell you!" Dayle said. "When I visited her this morning, she immediately tossed me out of the house and said, Dayle, you go and get those stickers out of my house!" He smiled proudly. "She wants me spreadin' it all around the town! Gerome, you're gonna see a whole new Frontier Town when I become mayor--nay, a whole new Forlas, free of the underground Psychic saints...!"

"...Good luck, Dayle," Gerome said. "...As for you. I'll be following you to Novelux. Sure. Why not. I'll even wash my bowtie."
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Underground Psychic Saints. Was he... Was he talking about Mewtwo? The one who according to Nova was supposedly in a secret underground lair and also secretly the boss of some criminal organization in another universe, but also was absolutely definitely only there to learn about the fucking power of friendship?

Dave's head only hurt more with some idea what the fuck Dayle was talking about. Why did the obvious dumb-as-brick nutcase have to be referring to something with some kind of vague grounding in reality. "Yeah, uh, we're going there too. All just going to Novelux. Big happy trip to see Gerome's family. Can't help you. Good luck with your, uh, stickers."

He clambered off his stool. "Thanks for the drinks."
Grace felt her right eye twitch.

It was... far from easy to do anything that would bother Grace enough to make her feel like yelling at someone, but staring at this absolute  buffoon that she'd previously not met had put him on her very small "do not like you" list.

Sitting at the top of that one currently was Alexander.

"Aha... well, Dayle, was it?" Grace said with a thin smile. "I wish you all the best for your campaign."

She hoped someone else was running.

"But we can't help you. As, ah, Wayfarers, wouldn't it be odd for us to start backing someone in an election? You'll have to fight this one yourself. But... good luck!"

She finished her drink and grimaced at Gerome. "And I hope you enjoy the visit! Let us know if you need anything, okay?"
Who on earth...? Psychic war? Steven narrowed his eyes at this Dayle fellow's wild accusations. 'Interesting,' Steven thought to himself, 'that such a momentous occasion didn't get a mention in the quarterly psychic-type newsletter...'

Although... Right. The election. Yet another reason to pay Lucien a visit once they left the the Zera. Hopefully with Dayle out of their collective hair, and Gerome's.

Steven sat frozen, one hand gripping his drink, following Dayle's antics only with his eyes. It seemed the Machoke hadn't registered his presence yet. Maybe Dayle didn't realize he was part psychic-type? It was better to not test that theory, though, and hold his metaphorical tongue. Imagine the Machoke's horror when Steven's voice projected into his mind. No, it was better to keep quiet and wait for Dayle to bluster his way back out of the bar. For all their sakes.

He sent a fleeting glance Gerome's way that hopefully communicated equal parts exasperation and admiration that Gerome managed to deal with this kind of nonsense on a regular basis.
The Wayfarers made their polite leave, and Gerome nodded at them. Dayle stormed off with vigor and valor, gods help the town.

Gerome sighed to himself and looked over all of his cleaned glasses. It was time to start locking up for his departure while away. Maybe he could have his assistants help run the place on a skeleton crew and limited services while he was away. That was a good idea.

"Alright," he muttered. "Guess Novelux saves the day. Gonna do all I can t' avoid election season..."

Hopefully, when he came back, it wasn't going to be in front of Mayor Dayle.

The very thought terrified him more than Cipher and the Covenant combined.

Ch05: Lab Experience (Dave and Gladion)
Now that he had his helmet off, more of the places in Frontier Town felt open to Gladion. The ability to eat and drink easily in public was nice. He'd never actually been to most of the establishments here, aside from at the team meeting. But he wasn't here for drinking, he had a reason to be here. Albeit something of a half-baked one. Through the door, he felt tempted to just turn around and leave, that maybe he hadn't considered this well enough. But he couldn't just walk in and leave, so he went up to the bar.

He spotted his target, Dave. One of the Wayfarers he hadn't spoken to much, but who he knew from the lab. Now he just had to... talk to the guy. Figure out what his deal was. Or chicken out and sit there doing nothing.

"Hey, Dave. How you holding up? You know, after the lab and whatnot."
Dave looked up from his drink at the sound of a voice. It was... Gladion. The Type: Null chimera, the one who'd shed his helmet at the Cipher lab, all quiet determination to save his Shadow reflection.

"Hey," he said, lifting his glass. "Yeah, uh, lab wasn't so bad. Escorting the prisoners was worse. I imagine you heard about how we all got attacked on the way, big fucked-up Shadow tentacles that ate one of the Cipher admins, big fucking burning tsunami of corrosive Shadow?"
"Ah..." (Yeah, alright, that would be worse.) "I knew the escort was attacked, and one of the admins... but it. But I think I was lacking some of the sense of scale there."

Gladion grimaced, chastising himself internally for gunning for what was probably the worst possible topic right away.

"You seem to be taking it well, at least. You used to this kind of stuff back home? Personally pretty outside my depth, outside knowing what a Null is."
Dave raised his eyebrows. "Not exactly. I'm a geneticist. Came to the lab in the hope of getting a clue about their methods. Although I have had religious zealots try to murder me back home, so there's that."

There was an unpleasant taste in his mouth; he washed it down with a chug of whiskey. "How about you? In my universe the Type: Null chimera was just something I heard about on the news as a kid, but you're making it sound a bit more involved than that."
Gladion raised a brow in concern. “Sounds like… an interesting life. Guess there’s nothing to be done about it here, but good luck dealing with it back there.” Hope you don’t get shot or something like that.

The idea of Dave hearing about the yet-to-break-in-his-time news about Nulls as a kid took him aback. He understood that time didn’t line up between worlds but it still felt wrong to be talking to someone decidedly older than him only to realize that they were probably born a decade or so after him. The fact it was a span of time that was comprehensible made it feel stranger, because he had to wonder if his world had a child Dave…

“I’m sure that’s what it’ll be to a lot of people once the public finds out where I’m from. I just happen to be related to the project’s original head. They grew parts for the chimeras with a lot of the same techniques used for meat. Some were genetically engineered, though less than you might assume. The most interesting part is probably the type-changing. Maybe you’ve heard of Oricorio, the migratory birds who change their typing to suit their ecosystem. They’re the basis for most of that part.” He ran a talon through his feathers, as if to highlight his bird credentials.

“Then… Some stuff happened.” Gladion looked away, His voice shifting towards the bitter. “Project head bit it, replacement fucked it up. Seriously, that guy was a cartoon facsimile of a human being. Then the helmets got added hold a suppression system for the issues with the technology he added. I kind of… stole one and ran. They were gonna get frozen, it’s… a long story.”

Gladion tilted his head and gave Dave a curious look. “What’s your interest in it? Scientific curiosity?”
Dave tilted his head back at Gladion. Sounded like this whole history was indeed a lot more colorful over there, in an entirely different way from how it was colorful in Nova's world. Growing parts of it separately? Stealing one and running? "Huh. Well, in my world there wasn't anything that dramatic involved. It was just some of the first widely publicized breakthrough work on gene splicing in Pokémon. With the primitive methods they had back then, the chimera itself was pretty sickly and didn't live long, but the fact it was possible at all served as a proof of concept for further research. The methodology had evolved a lot by the time I was majoring in genetics, and we spent more time studying the more recent and sophisticated trials, but it did get a nod in the textbook." He paused. "Mind, in my universe Pokémon aren't sapient. These weren't experiments on people. Need to clarify that in this place."

He debated how much more to say. "But yeah, I specialized in gene splicing. I could tell you some story where seeing Type: Null on TV was the inspiration for my future career, but honestly at the time I'm pretty sure I wanted to be a fucking astronaut or something."
A horrified look crossed Gladion’s eyes. “Oh. Okay.”

He couldn’t quite bring himself to look Dave in the eye. “They’re not exactly sapient where I’m from either, but in Null’s case, still really intelligent. I’m sure that wasn’t the case in your world. Would’ve been… needlessly cruel.”

Gladion didn’t know where to go with the conversation. This subject was making him uncomfortable, so he looked for other thoughts. ‘You wanted to be an astronaut? Well, my father went to space too!’ flitted through his mind, but it was too macabre and he didn’t have it in him to explain. Being already in a mood as he was, he’d probably cry or something embarrassing like that.

“If that was an early prototype, I guess you’ve gotten further since then? If you guys were able to create a single genome for something as… physically diverse as a Null, and that’s now considered primitive, must’ve been some impressive stuff since.”
Well, Gladion had sure had a reaction to that. Dave watched him warily as he looked away - and yet he then went on to continue talking about genetics. Maybe he was just uncomfortable about the origins of Type: Null specifically. Made sense it hit a bit close to home when he was one, he supposed.

"Yeah, well, at least in my universe Pokémon genes are surprisingly composable. Not exactly perfect, but turns out that, say, you can basically isolate the genes involved in building a particular organ or body part or other feature and transplant them elsewhere and in theory, if you do it right, it'll sort of work. Maybe not completely, but you recognizably get the right feature, even if it winds up a bit weird-looking. The really interesting stuff is..." Was this risky territory with him? Eh. "...You can actually sort of do it with humans as well. As in, transplant Pokémon genes into a human embryo. It's a bit more complicated, you need to sort of make them compatible, but I managed to figure out that one. We haven't gotten too much further than that, but the hope is that this general work on making Pokémon biology translate to human biology could get us shit like the benefits of rapid Pokémon healing but for humans. Some very exciting work."
Gladion appreciated Dave jumping to the new topic without asking any other questions. “Huh. That’s fascinating. You did that?” (Honestly, sounded like Mewtwo stuff to him, but that was supposed to predate Null stuff so they were probably a vegetative husk that imploded under its own psychic pressure or something.)

It was an interesting subject to think about, too. “Sounds like an interesting project. And probably a nightmare to research with all the various approvals you’d need. Guess I have that kind of stuff to look forward to if I end up in the field. How far have you gotten in testing that stuff? I can only imagine it’d be hard to trial.”
Oh? Gladion was also considering studying genetic engineering? Dave relaxed his posture a bit, sipping his whiskey. "Well... It all got a bit sidetracked. Because once we had the proof of concept, some group decided to get up in arms about the notion of destroying the modified fetuses. And, long story short, now we've got eight children with Pokémon features, and most of my time's going into figuring out how to make life better for them or fight the dickheads determined to discriminate against them. I've read some papers picking up from my work, but not too much further progress. Maybe when the kids are grown I can get back to it, assuming I'm not still trying to get this idiotic law against them reversed by then. Kind of takes over your life."
Gladion’s eyes widened. That was a hell of a story. “You were able to do that? And… they’re alive? That’s…”

What, incredible? Scientifically, it was. He found the whole concept insanely impressive in a vacuum. But these were people, and it sounded like Dave had scienced himself into a legal nightmare.

“Augh. I don’t know what to call it. I don’t know what I’d even think without the legal nightmare. And that part is… I guess it’s the unsurprising part of the whole story. The more time I spend here, the more I resent our species.”
He had to admit it was nice to speak to someone who had any sense of the sheer fucking level of achievement the existence of the Pokémorphs represented. That bit really tended to get lost in everything else, with the vast majority of people.

Dave shrugged. "Eh. It's not like cowboy world doesn't have its problems, what with all the human supremacy and the racism. People are kind of shitty on average, wherever you go, even if they're wearing Pokémon skins. You've just got to live with it and do what you can to stay afloat in the sea of bullshit." He took another sip. "But yeah, they lived. Were in pretty decent health, as far as that goes. Until the aforementioned religious zealots killed two of them."
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