The secret level of Lysandre Labs doesn’t live up to Malva’s hype. After she lets me in (hinting, as she leaves, that this fulfils her end of some kind of shadowy bargain Looker made with her), I find that it is laid out in exactly the same way as the main floor of the complex, though with most of the rooms blocked off and disused, and is guarded only by a couple of scientists and the members of the Lumiose Gang, who were apparently hired as security on Emma’s recommendation. Their leader, Nix, is stationed outside a storeroom waiting impatiently for his shift to end, and suggests that we rummage through the place together to see what it is that’s so important for him to protect. Truly, Nix, you are a model of professionalism; I, an unauthorised intruder in your workplace, will gladly help you loot the storeroom you were hired to guard. The stolen Pokéballs are here, along with Xerosic’s notes on the “Expansion Suit,” which has four major functions. Two are comparatively innocuous: it grants its wearer superhuman strength and the ability to change his or her physical appearance at will (using technology based on the natural abilities of Ditto and Kecleon). It also contains a remote transmitter that allows the suit to be controlled from the comfort of the lab while the wearer is kept unconscious, which explains Emma’s behaviour while acting as Essentia, but makes me wonder why Xerosic didn’t just… y’know, build a robot. What does the unconscious ‘pilot’ contribute here? Perhaps the control is intended as a failsafe in the event that an operative goes rogue on a mission, which, given the kind of people that Xerosic tends to associate with, is a distinct possibility.
Then there’s the fourth function. “A hacking cable on the neck piece allows the wearer to upload a computer virus to Pokéballs and override their systems. This provides access to control the Pokémon. The virus also magnifies the Pokémon’s power.” Wait, wha- how…? What? Hacking the Pokéball makes the Pokémon more powerful? How is that even supposed to work? I… guess if it’s implied that the Pokémon are stored as data then you could just program the virus to edit the data, but what makes a Pokémon ‘powerful’ is a multifaceted and highly subjective thing. Notice that I find this so bizarre that I am entirely passing over the implication that control of the Pokéball grants control of the Pokémon, no questions asked, which would normally occasion multiple paragraphs of inane claptrap on my part. We’re talking about altering dozens of physiological parameters (physical strength of various different muscles, reaction times, perception, durability of skin and bone, mental processing speed, countless bizarre things specific to different species like a Fire-type’s core temperature or a Psychic-type’s telekinetic strength), many of them linked to brain chemistry, in ways that could be crippling or even fatal if pushed too far – and he’s written a computer program that will automate this process, applying it to any individual of any species on the fly? If it actually works, which I suddenly doubt, then this is either Nobel Prize-worthy stuff or some kind of magic. And if you can do all that, reliably and safely, why stop there? Couldn’t the same technology be used to give Pokémon moves and abilities they wouldn’t normally be able to obtain, or even change their species? Yes, I answer on Xerosic’s behalf; yes, I think it probably could.
According to his notes, Xerosic initially envisioned having Emma test the suit while conscious, but hit an unexpected snag. Emma is not a trainer in the normal sense of the word and owns no Pokémon – apparently he somehow forgot to mention in his job ad that this was a requirement. As a stop-gap measure, Xerosic took on the role of Emma’s instructor, and let her use his own Pokémon while testing the Expansion Suit, but found that his normally disciplined, ruthless Crobat and Malamar became playful and easily distracted while in her care. In order to get anything done at all, he had to use the suit’s remote link capability to put Emma to sleep and control Essentia himself. While the tone of his notes is normally clinical and his intentions are plainly malevolent, Xerosic does seem to be genuinely concerned for Emma’s safety in these trials, even suspending further experimentation after the incident with Looker in the alleyway because he was no longer certain she would be unharmed (although Emma herself reported only that she had had a nightmare). She’s turning him soft.
Nix is disappointed that there are only Pokéballs and documents in the storeroom, since he promised Looker he would never take another person’s Pokéball again (the implication, I can only assume, is that if there were anything else there he would gladly swipe it). To his delight, however, a bell sounds to signal the end of his shift, and he leaves immediately. “Be sure to shut the place when you go!” he says cheerily to the unauthorised child in the top secret room he was assigned to guard. Something tells me the Lumiose Gang just aren’t cut out for honest work. As he leaves, Xerosic enters the room and walks right past me, muttering to himself about the failure of his remote control and whether he could strengthen his grip on Essentia without hurting Emma. Suddenly realising who I am, he decides that defeating me will prove that his project has been a success and calls Essentia. This is the kick-off for a whole string of battles with the robot ninja, using all of the Pokémon she has brought against me so far in sequence. Essentia is supposedly ramping up the potency of her Pokéball jack’s virus with every defeat, but exactly what effect this is having, if any, is unclear. Three battles in, Looker and Mimi arrive and attempt to wake up Emma, but Xerosic crows that he, not Emma, is the one controlling Essentia, and turns his remote up to eleven. Essentia keeps fighting, this time with Xerosic’s own Malamar and Crobat, but becomes incoherent and appears to be in terrible pain. Looker continues to evoke The Power Of Friendship, to no avail – Essentia is paralysed by her internal struggle. Xerosic stares, wordless, as she clutches her head and screams. Eventually he gives a hint of a sigh and says “remote control… power down. Deactivate.”
And just like that, everything is okay. Emma wakes up with a loud yawn and takes control of the suit, apparently no worse for wear and slightly disappointed to learn that Xerosic is ending their trials and won’t be requiring her services any longer. That, apparently, is that, and Emma, Mimi and I are dismissed to go and get something to eat while Looker talks things over with Xerosic. In a cutscene in Looker’s office, Xerosic obligingly confirms that Essentia, under his control, was behind both the vandalism of the art museum and the recent Pokéball thefts. He praises Emma’s talent, dedication and vision, claiming that his research could never have succeeded without her, but firmly denies that she bears any responsibility for her actions while unconscious in the Expansion Suit or even that she has any memory of them. Looker formally instructs Xerosic to accompany him to the police station once he has everything in order… and then invites him to dinner, because he is Emma’s friend.
Ohhhhh no. NO no no. Looker, I let you adopt the homeless gang leader, and I let you invite her psychotic friends over for play-dates, but you are not going to Disney your way out of this one. This man is legitimately evil and insane, and his obvious affection for Emma does not excuse his wanton exploitation of her for criminal ends – which, need I remind you, is far from the worst thing on his record! And this is coming from ME!
What do you mean “I’m not even in this scene”? I’m the narrator of this play-through, thank you very much!
A couple of days later, when Looker is supposed to be ending his fake hospital visit, Emma and I receive a letter from him, in which he confesses to Emma his Interpol allegiance and his real reason for being in Kalos: to apprehend Xerosic. With his mission accomplished, it’s time for him to return to… wherever the hell he comes from. To me, he leaves his precious code name, “Looker,” and to Emma and Mimi, he leaves the office, so that they will always have a place to live.
You’re… leaving me your… code name?
Oh, HELL no; I am NOT going to rule Kalos with an iron fist burdened with THAT piece of $#!t. Emma, Mimi and I split up to find him and prevent this atrocity. Following a tip from Nix, I visit the art museum, where the damaged painting has been restored. Whoo. Meanwhile, Xerosic contacts Emma to summon us all to Lysandre Café. When we arrive, Looker is questioning him to make absolutely sure all of the Pokéballs stolen by Essentia have been returned. Their train is about to leave, and he is anxious to make sure there are no more loose ends. Well, sorry, Looker, you missed one – and she’s here to confront you about it. Emma demands to know why he has to leave, and then suggests that she and Mimi go with him to continue as his assistants. That… wait, that might actually work; he has already started training her, right? But no – Looker is so anxious to get rid of Emma that he decides to promote her to head of the Looker Bureau on the spot just to have an excuse to leave her behind. Emma, to her credit, sees through his bull$#!t immediately and turns to me for support. “Emma, please,” Looker cuts in, “I must ask you to respect the necessity of my decision. Chris understands perfectly why I must go. It is the way of partners. He is my partner. We understand each other.” Why, that little-!
“No way. Listen, Looker, leaving a lonely sixteen-year-old hobo in charge of a private detective agency because you can’t take responsibility for your recent insane decision to adopt and employ her may only make you the second-worst person in this room-”
“And which one of us would be the first, your imperial majesty?” Xerosic asks innocently.
“…okay, make that the third-worst person in this room, but-” Mimi gives a discreet little cough to draw my attention. I sigh. “The fourth-worst…” I glance at Emma, mentally weighing her recent actions as Essentia and her probable record as an inner city gang leader. “…you know what? F#$% it; do whatever you want.” I slouch grimly over to a chair, muttering “you’ll all be my slaves one day anyway.”
“Well…” Xerosic murmurs, “I suppose that answers that question.” He turns to Emma and offers her a gift – the Expansion Suit, minus its remote control function, as well as his Pokémon partners – so that she can become a masked superhero and defend Lumiose City from evil. And then, just like that, they’re off. Emma, vibrant soul that she is, shakes off her melancholy and pledges to do her best to keep her home safe as the new head of the Looker Bureau.
Wait… Xerosic said he took out the Expansion Suit’s transmitter (and, well, he easily could have been flat-out lying, but let’s assume for the sake of argument that he was sincere), but he said nothing about the Pokéball jack. That, I’ve got to assume, is still in there, with all its nebulously defined, potentially horrifying, and tremendously versatile functions. And now Emma has it. Emma who,need I remind you, is a sixteen-year-old street gang leader. Emma whose best friend is a telepathic cat who hates adult humans. Emma who in a few short weeks earned the respect, the admiration even, of one of the most dramatically evil villains in the history of the Pokémon franchise. And… come to think of it, do we have any proof, beyond Xerosic’s word, that Emma had no control over her actions as Essentia?
I see no way this could possibly go wrong.