There are a lot of questions about Lucrecia’s culpability for the part she played in the Jenova project and all of them seem to be frustrated by a mandate that she come across as a reasonably sympathetic or tragic character, probably thanks to her connections to Vincent. Even if I were so inclined to pay attention to it, I think Dirge kind of skimmed over the point entirely by situating her life’s work in something completely unrelated.
I think it’s the extent to which she’s shown as a suffering, penitent figure that leads to the impression that she somehow isn’t as responsible for what happened as Hojo is - that she was coerced, that her relationship with Hojo was terrible, and that she might have been saved if she’d just left to be with Vincent earlier.
I tend to find that the least interesting interpretation, probably because it affords her the least agency, and relegates her most to a figure in Vincent’s tragic backstory. I don’t think it’s nearly as interesting that she so strongly regrets her complacency rather than the choices she made.
The other two scientists on the Jenova Project unquestionably made their choices consciously. One of them, Professor Gast, never demonstrates any regret aside from implicitly through his involvement with Ifalna, and is still afforded sympathy and humanity from the story, to the point that the project is often thought of as mostly Hojo’s responsibility.
In some ways I think Lucrecia’s denied the same complexity. They want her to be sympathetic and her guilt to be believable, and so they skirt her feelings on her participation altogether, thus creating this ambiguity. I think it’s absolutely a gender thing - Lucrecia making the same choices as her peers will somehow be read as different, particularly as she carried the baby, and I don’t think the writers knew that of the fans so much as felt that way themselves.
At the end of the day, Lucrecia does not spend a lot of time rubbing elbows with good people; Vincent might be better than Hojo, but he was still a corporate assassin. I think it’s really only fair to assume that she was at least as morally dubious as the company she kept.
Some things from Professor Gast’s photo collection:
1. Late forties - with Shinra Snr at one of the first official meetings of ‘Shinra Inc’, a foundling organisation branching out from weapons development into energy production. Young Robert Shinra was just about the most handsome, charismatic businessman alive, and nobody, least of all Gast, had any doubt that his would become a household name in time (for better or worse).
2. Mid fifties - with Isabella, Gast’s second child to his first wife, and fourteen-year-old Hojo. After being displaced from Wutai, Hojo gained the necessary references to apply to university in Junon by doing a summer internship with Gast. Hojo lived with Gast’s family during those three months, though never did win the children’s affection.
3. Early sixties - visiting Bugenhagen at Cosmo Canyon and seeing Seto’s first child, Nanaki.
Imagine how hearing about Sephiroth must have felt to Aeris. She leaves Midgar in search of answers about herself and what it means to be an Ancient and the first and only person she learns of who shares her experience is a mass murderer with delusions of grandeur, seeking the very same Promised Land. The Nibelheim sequence must carry an entirely different sort of horror for her.
Suppose as well that she knows her father was Professor Gast, the man who put the wheels to all this in motion. The only thing to suggest that she doesn’t know is that she never mentions it to the party - but then, there is a lot that Aeris never tells us.
There’s a tendency in environmentalist stories to treat technology, industry, and the products of human ingenuity and curiosity as inherently oppositional. It’s a message I’m glad this game veers away from.
Nature can be a destructive force; science can produce marvels, romantic and beautiful as anything. More importantly, the two can harmonize. It’s a false dichotomy and you don’t really need to choose between one or the other. The problem is exploitation, a selfish and short-sighted attitude, and that can be expressed with a meteor as much as with a mako reactor.
The machines in Cosmo Canyon were presents of Dr. Gast.
Wrapped up in the planet’s strange notions surrounded by Shinra-made machines…
Science and the planet lived side by side in that old man’s heart.
(Just found this in the FF7 script. Nice little canon tidbit about Gast that’s easy to miss.)
“Hmm… actually, you might be cut out to be a scientist.”
Surrounded by the clinks and loud pumps of the reactor’s inner workings, listening to The Failure – that one spot tainting a years-long clean record – behind him asking one question after another, Hojo couldn’t help but be reminded of Gast – how he always, always plucked and pried until he reached to a conclusion that satisfied him.
Gast… how he hated that man.
Even after the major discovery of Jenova, even after many researches conducted, Gast wasn’t pleased. He never accepted a result of any experiment Hojo made, after all, constantly telling him to try and try again.
“Something is wrong.”
“Frankly, I think you’re being overly paranoid, and that’s coming from me.”
The smile Gast had at his remark never reached his eyes, returning to check the retrieved remains of Jenova as if possessed.
Hojo remembered himself scoffing, not seeing what had the man so worried, and so utterly assured of his work.
Jenova wasn’t a Cetra.
That was the error, the one Gast was sure it existed, while he was sure that it didn’t. A failure of judgement on his part.
“The cells act as a virus, it’s dangerous to proceed further.”
“It’s too late to turn back.”
“We don’t know what this is, Hojo.”
He was too prideful to admit that, however.
“And? What would it matter?”
The sheer disappointment in Gast’s eyes affected him more than it should, and it made him hate the man even more, for always being on the right and looking down on him – even dying.
It was the same look The Failure – his own failure of misjudgment and haste in concluding – was giving him, pity mixed with disgust upon learning that he was Sephiroth’s father, the one who suffered the most at his hands.
“Treat Sephiroth like the child he is, Hojo, we took enough from him.”
Now, he felt the same as he did back then, the mistake he swore he’d never make once again repeated.
Hojo knew if Gast was still alive, he wouldn’t have quickly labeled Cloud Strife a Failure. It made him loath himself more than anything, to have that man gaining the upper hand even beyond death.
Oh, how he fell, and how weirdly funny it was to not being able to take it anymore.
Sephiroth must be laughing from where he was, finally seeing him breaking down.
The door opened and shut behind me quicker than I could turn around. Jolted from interpreting my fresh NMR readouts, I was about to scold the careless person for forgetting to knock when my eyes locked onto Ifalna’s. Hers were full of worry, and the initial annoyance I felt vanished instantly.
“Dr. Faremis,” she began. I inwardly cringed, disliking the formality I hadn’t heard from her since we first met. She was well aware that I preferred Professor Gast from my peers and employees, Gast from those closer to me. Such as herself.
“I’m sorry to barge in like this, but…we need to talk. I, well, I really couldn’t think of anyone else to come to. Not…about this.”
I had never seen her like this before, and stood unconsciously as my concern grew. She was usually quite calm, and sharper than most interns we’ve had in the department. Even Hojo picked up on her affinity for working with biological materials, getting tissue and plants we had thought lost to come back with unprecedented vigor…. She was impressive.
I quite enjoyed her company.
“What’s the matter? Here, have a seat,” I moved around my office desk and gestured to my own chair—a bit more plush than the other two I had pushed up against the wall, “Can I get you anything? Some water?”
“No, I’m fine,” she sighed and took a seat by the wall anyway. I was glad to see her at least regaining her composure, and I leaned against my desk idly.
“Where to start…” she mumbled, tapping her index fingers together.
“I’d give you suggestions if I had any idea what has you worried,” I half-joked, and received a serious look as reprimand.
“All right, I’ll just come out with it. Well…you know how I have always wanted to work with the tissue from Jenova, and with the SOLDIER project?”
I nodded, holding back a smirk. She wasn’t really worried about her future career here in the Science Department, was she?
“Hojo took me to see the specimen earlier this week. He said he was curious how I would react to it.” I raised an eyebrow at that, but she continued hurriedly, “I wasn’t sure what he meant—surely he just meant how grotesque it looks in that chamber, that horrid thing—but it could be that he suspects that I…or that it isn’t…”
I sat in the chair beside her, smiling a bit now. “Now I know the specimen isn’t in the best condition, but really, this Ancient is thousands of years old! She holds so many clues to the physiology of the race. ‘Grotesque?’ ‘Horrid?’ Really, dear, as a scientist you should expect these things. She’s not beautiful because of how she looks, no, but she’s beautiful because of what she is! An Ancie—”
“That thing is not an Ancient,” she snapped, eyes flaring in anger, “…Cetra, I mean, not ‘Ancient’. We’re called Cetra, dammit.”
She gasped a little, turned her eyes from the floor to my rather shocked expression, and then looked back down again. I thought I could see the beginnings of tears forming, and reached for her hand. I purposely ignored the fact that she had slipped and called herself a, what was it?, ‘Cetra’. Clearly seeing Jenova in the Reactor had bothered her more than I would have imagined.
“I’m…afraid I don’t entirely understand. Jenova? Not an Ancient? What in the world made you think that?”
“Jenova will never leave our memory. The calamity of the skies, by the gods, you’ve dug it up.” She looked at me again, perhaps looking for a spark of understanding or belief. I’m afraid I disappointed her.
“Professor, please,” she squeezed my hand a little, “I know how it sounds, but I can prove it to you. I can. First, however, you have to understand that Jenova is not of the Cetra, not the last Cetra being remaining. …I am.”
I could feel her hand trembling slightly in mine, and I knew that regardless of whether it was true or not, she honestly believed what she was saying. And if itwas true…
“Ifalna… forgive me for being skeptical,” a flicker of distrust shone in her eyes, and I quickly finished my sentence, “But! But I’d be very interested in the proof you have of these claims.”
She was quiet for a moment, and I wondered if she’d attempt to drop everything she’d said so far and never mention it again. A part of me would have liked that, so it could be completely sure of her mental stability. Another part of me, the part of me that had grown to care deeply for her, that part believed her.
“Thank you. While I don’t entirely know what Jenova is, I do know what I am. I…I’ll be right back.”
Her hand slipped our of mine as she left the office as quickly as she entered, leaving me to stare at the wood grain patterns in the door.
Ifalna was staring over my shoulder as my eyes darted from the familiar blood and tissue analysis of Jenova samples to the unfamiliar molecules in her own. Occasionally even the boring human control sample would get a look from me.
“Your sample must have been tainted,” I concluded, only to get smacked in the back of the head. I straightened my glasses and turned to her. She gave me an apologetic, if annoyed, look.
“Run it yourself if you don’t believe me! I’ve done it several times on different machines. This is the consistent result.”
I furrowed my brow, still not ready to commit to her belief that she is a living, breathing Ancient. I looked hard at the samples again, noticing an interesting tidbit I had first overlooked.
“Ifalna…all three of these samples were ran on the same date, close together in time. How did you gain access to tissue samples from Jenova? You don’t have that kind of clearance.”
She looked at the door, but rather than look somewhat guilty (my first assumption had been that she had swiped my own pass card during our most recent date), she looked afraid.
“No, I don’t. That’s why…I didn’t run those samples,” she looked back at me, “I found these results in Dr. Hojo’s office.”
“How did you get in there?” I asked, honestly surprised. She gave me an exasperated look, as though that should be the last thing on my mind.
“It doesn’t matter. Look, after he took me to the reactor, I left pretty quickly. He stayed behind. I knew I had some time before he’d return, so I decided to look around his office. I wasn’t trying to get to anything official, I just had to know if he knew that I wasn’t human. Obviously he does, Gast, and that’s why he took me to the reactor in the first place, don’t you see?”
I was attempting to take all of this in at once. Really, I was. The discovery of Jenova had rocketed me back to the top of the scientific community as quickly as my invention of Mako electricity had a couple of years earlier. The discovery was amazing because of our assumption that she was an Ancient…something Shinra could use. If she is not an Ancient, if she is something indeed terrible like Ifalna seems to think, if Ifalna is…
It was as if the tomes we had filled with information regarding the Jenova Project all crashed on my head at once. A lie? Was it all a flaw? Is Sephiroth some grave mistake? If he is not part Ancient, that dear, serious boy, then…
“Professor,” Ifalna said, and I realized then she had said my name a couple of times already. I blinked and glanced at her.
“While I was there I saw…a bit of correspondence between Dr. Hojo and President Shinra. My name is not mentioned, but…there was talk of Hojo having found a live ‘Ancient’. One that could, perhaps, lead the company to the Promised Land faster than Sephiroth.”
“Are you sure? A project like that would surely have to go through me first. He wouldn’t go over my head to Shinra,” I said, even though I was growing less sure about that by the moment.
“He knows about us, Gast. He knows you wouldn’t allow me to be taken off to the Midgar labs, away from you, where I can be pushed and prodded and forced to do whatever Shinra commands of me. Find the Promised Land? No Cetra would tellShinra something like that. …but they will try to make me. Shinra will give Hojo the authority to do whatever he wants to me. Anything for the company’s gain.”
“No!” I stood as I pounded my fist on my desk for emphasis, “This is ridiculous. You must have misread. Without me, there would be no Shinra Electric Company! My word is final in this department!”
“You’re angry because you know it’s true,” she said simply, “I…I don’t know what’s going to happen to me, now. Once President Shinra gives the word—”
Her voice trailed off, and I began pacing. I did not like how this scenario was falling so quickly into place.
“Clearly I need to talk to Hojo. Now.”
“No, don’t!” Ifalna jumped up quickly and grabbed my wrists, “Then he’ll know that you’ll try to stop him. He’ll take me sooner, with force if necessary.”
“President Shinra, then.”
“The result will be the same.”
“I should at least try to…” I started, but she just kept shaking her head.
“Gast, I…I have to leave. I’d like it if you came too. I’m afraid if I disappear all of the sudden there might be repercussions on your part.”
Though I had a feeling the conversation was leading up to this, it still unsettled me when she said it. Leave? Ifalna? I didn’t want her to go. I wanted to put Hojo in his place and tell President Shinra that a project involving Ifalna would be ludicrous. But that would have been my reaction before I was aware of the big picture.
Leave? Me? …us? Leave my projects, my career, my life work? Leave Sephiroth to Hojo alone? Who would the boy go to, just to talk? Who would sneak him chocolates and Shinra “Materia” Jawbreakers?
I knew then that Sephiroth was the largest tie I had truly keeping me with Shinra. I had known for a long time their science had gone corporate, and had even considered once after a particularly bad meeting joining Bugenhagen in his research. But I knew she wasn’t talking about merely retiring or joining a different lab. She was talking about hiding.
“Wait, just…wait a minute. I certainly don’t want you to go, but I…I mean these NMR sheets just printed, and I need to…. There’s Sephiroth…”
She pursed her lips before saying, “I’m leaving tonight. I had hoped that you would, but if not…well, I guess this is goodbye.”
Ifalna leaned forward and kissed me gently, tears in her eyes. Goodbye? My heart was beating quickly now. No, no, not goodbye, this was completely illogical, and—
She let go of my wrists and no doubt would have headed out the door had I not grabbed her hands instead.
“Wait,” I sputtered, mind racing. She looked at me hopefully, and I sighed, “I have an idea. I…I have to be sure all of this isn’t just getting blown out of proportion. I have some vacation days I can spend. We’ll go together, okay? We won’t tell anyone where, but I will leave a note explaining our absence. That way it won’t look as suspicious. After a couple of days, I’ll call President Shinra and talk with him about all of this. How does that sound? If you’re right, we’ll be out of reach, and you’ll be safe.”
Ifalna considered this, eyes darting back and forth. I was sure she was running through several possible instances of how this decision could go. Finally she looked back at me and smiled.
“All right. As long as we can leave tonight. I’ll feel so much better just being away from here. Away from…him.”
I leaned forward, touching my forehead to hers. Our noses brushed, and I smiled. If anything, if this entire day was some sort of delusion of mine or hers, a vacation away with Ifalna was sounding delightful.
“Shh, after tonight I promise you won’t have to worry anymore. I’ll never let anything happen to you.”
Whew! Sorry about falling off the planet a bit there.
Had a very busy and full two weeks, between madness at my day job and madness in the rest of my life, and I fell out of the habit of doing art-that’s-not-comic. Yeek, I hate when that happens, the sudden busy. Getting back into the swing of things by coloring (and slightly tweaking, with permission) a sketch drawn by my best bud zoe1718 of Profs Gast and Hojo from Final Fantasy 7. She ships them both and oh man, I love her fanfics about it. So much.
Very soothing to work on. :3
I promise, Hojo’s wearing shorts. XD They’re there.
Inking a pencil sketch: a sure-fire way to suck all the life out of it, I swear. Especially if you’re me. I’m so good at that these days.
Ah well. It’s a thing! And it’s not too bad, especially for a quick doodle, although I may come back to this one, or at least these characters. It’s a thing for zoe1718 who’s been on a fanfic spree about Professors Hojo and Gast and… she’s got me a bit hooked on her particular vision of these two, to a point that I can’t even understand. XD; Younger Gast is based on a drawing she did a while ago, and then for fun I aged them to make sure I was getting them right. Pretty close?