|Where Angels Lose Their Way
Author: The Heartless Wanderer PM
Run-of-the-mill college girl Angela Whitney decides one day to get away from it all by playing one of her favorite Square Enix role-playing games. She gets more than she bargained for, however, when she finds herself not just playing the game, but living it. The problem is... in this world, the swords, axes, fireballs, and assorted wildlife can actually kill you. OC-insert.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Fantasy - Words: 7,191 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 1 - Published: 06-20-12 - id: 8239088
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Full Summary: Sometimes the heart calls out so strongly to an idea or a concept that it actually becomes real. Sometimes, when a heart "connects" to such a thing, an individual might be swept away, taken from their mundane life and placed in some other when and where, far removed from the secure drudgery of the real world.
Those who are become "Interferences."
This is the story of such a one: run-of-the-mill eighteen-year-old Angela Whitney. Having been driven up the wall by such concerns as college finals, a disloyal ex-boyfriend, and petty family drama, she decides one day to get away from it all by playing one of her favorite Square Enix role-playing games. She gets more than she bargained for, however, when she finds herself not just playing the game, but living it.
The problem is… in this world, the swords, axes, fireballs, and assorted wildlife actually can kill you.
The Interference Reports – File #1
WHERE ANGELS LOSE THEIR WAY
The Heartless Wanderer
- V -
Disclaimer: Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross belong to Square Enix and all relevant business partners, as do all characters and concepts therein. They even have all the appropriate little "TM" symbols and everything. This fanfiction author makes no claim otherwise and is not making or intending to make any monetary profit off of this fan-work (profit of the ego, on the other hand, is fair game).
Alexander Karsath, the overall concept of The Interference, and related concepts and characters are the intellectual property of Newbie-Spud (utilized and/or referenced by this story with his permission, of course).
Angela Whitney is an original character and the intellectual property of the Heartless Wanderer.
~ I ~
"To Get Away From It All"
To understand just why Angela Whitney became an Interference that night, one must first understand why she was reluctant to get out of bed that morning. "Reluctant" really is a killer understatement, by the by. She would have gladly just turned off her alarm clock, rolled over, and drifted back into the blissful blankness of dreamless sleep had she not happened to own a very large, slobbery animal that rarely allowed her such liberty in the morning.
"Ggh… GAAAH! Dippy! Bad dog, bad! You do not — jump — on — WAAAAH!"
Her protest was less than eloquent, owing the very large St. Bernard that had not only pounced on her as she slept, but startled her so effectively that she tumbled right on off the bed and onto the smooth hardwood of the floor.
And right onto her bum, as usual. Whenever she fell, it tended to be on that. On the plus side, it was padded… but on the other hand, rather awkward when one wanted to massage the pain away. Having no qualms against doing so in front of her dog, Angela groaned and stumbled upright, rubbing her posterior with one hand and her eyes with the other. The infernal canine sat panting happily on her extra-soft mattress and just looked so bloody cute sitting there with its tongue lolling off to one side and those innocent puppy-hound eyes that she just couldn't stay mad at him no matter how hard she'd fallen off the wrong side of the bed.
Serendipity was the dog's incredibly pretentious name, courtesy of Angela's incredibly pretentious mother. Being quite a bit less pretentious in all respects, Angela had shortened the dog's name to "Dippy." She had also developed a habit of wearing pants rather than skirts, bought several expensive video game consoles, adopted an "eat until you drop and then work it off" policy towards food and dieting, as well as a mass of other patently un-stereotypically-ladylike things. Her incredibly pretentious mother was incredibly intolerant of her incredibly atypical daughter, and Angela secretly loved every second of it.
Like now, for example: she was wearing shorts and an extra-large Fullmetal Alchemist t-shirt instead of the prissy little silk nightgown her mother wanted her to wear. A year or so ago, she had been forced to fold when her mother made a fuss about such things. Now, having crossed the Imaginary Line, she could be as obstinate as she had damn well wished to be since the age of six.
Her bleary eyes swept her own appearance in her bedroom mirror and she scowled, remembering the shouting contest of the night before. That had been about shorts… and in all honesty, her shorts weren't really that short. It wasn't as if she were wearing micro-shorts that might as well be bikini bottoms, like some comic-book women she could name. She was just wearing shorts. They even fit her old high school's dress code length requirement, unlike all the other girls who'd gone to that school and been allowed to wear shorts… in other words, all the other girls who'd attended that school. Except the odd nerd or two, she supposed, Angela hadn't really kept track…
Wrenching her eyes away from the mirror and her brain away from her current train of thought, Angela proceeded to gather up her choice of clothes for the day and made her way to her bedroom's shower after shooing the dog off of her bed and out the door… she had wanted to shut it the night before, but even her recent ugly break-up with Jason hadn't curbed her mother's insipid desire to be absolutely sure there was nothing naughty going on in her bedroom, something that even her transition to legal adulthood hadn't convinced her mother to relent on. The annoying thing was, her mom's smothering ways weren't nearly grating enough to outweigh the benefits of living in such a well-to-do household, given the economy at the time (which was abysmal… Angela was still looking for a job that wasn't Kentucky Fried Chicken). Angela would have liked nothing more than to be shut of this house for good, to live away and apart from her prim-and-proper soccer-mom and that utterly whipped toady she called "Dad," even if it meant —
Halfway through the act of unstrapping her sleeping bra, Angela frowned and crinkled her brow in confusion. She had been about to think, even if it means leaving my brother alone with these cretins for another two years. But that was preposterous; she didn't even have a brother.
- V -
It was, blessedly, the last day of class for the week. It was also the day she took her most practical class. Angela being a bit of a computer nerd, that meant it was the least arduous to sit through. Unfortunately, class on Thursday was always followed immediately by work, which meant she trudged through the rest of the day and didn't get a decent slice of down-time until past nine.
It also meant she'd have more than enough time to think, which was something she didn't feel like doing at the moment. Whenever she found the time to think, her thoughts would inevitably work their way around to Jason again. Seriously, to think she'd been so devoted to that… that creeping son of a… no, no, stop thinking about that, she berated herself in vain.
Bad enough that she'd been forgiving enough to give him a second chance the first time he'd cheated on her, worse that he'd had the absolute gall to blame her for not meeting his "needs…"
The worst part was, she might have even been willing to give him that, too! It wasn't as though she hadn't thought about it or wanted it… but now her train of thought (this was at about 5 P.M., meaning she still had a good three-plus hours of brooding time to wade through whilst serving up chicken to faceless strangers) drifted back on over to that old-fashioned shrew who placed such ungodly restrictions on her. And to Angela's own decision to give her mother this one thing, since she seemed so passionate about it. All in all Angela thought she should be commended for her patience, what with not blaming her mother for the implosion of her latest romance… but if she were honest with herself, she'd just say she was too pissed off at Jason for acting all understanding when in fact he had no qualms against fooling around behind her back in the "interim" between then and whenever he got some from Angela herself…
…Are there really STILL three hours left? is the pitiful internal moan that cuts across her thoughts at this point in the day.
That was when she decided that she wasn't going to study for her finals that night, nor was she going to brood, nor was she going to do anything even remotely related to the real world until at least three o' clock in the morning. The moment she got home, she thought, she would pick out a game to lose herself in and binge on Cheetos until the Sandman himself bashed her on the head with a cudgel. She didn't want to study, or to think, or to have any protracted parent-child confrontations. She just wanted to get away from it all.
In later years she would look back on that moment and laugh her head off. "Be careful what you wish for" didn't even cover half of it.
- V -
Her room had never looked so beautiful to her as it did at the end of that day, or at least, that's how it felt to her at the time. Perspective is funny like that; what you take for granted on any old day might seem a godsend when approached from the back-end of twelve hours' unbroken moping.
The first thing she did was give Dippy a big, slobbery hug (the slobber being provided by Dippy, of course). Then she kicked off her shoes, dropped her purse off at the side of her bed, and made a beeline for the small cabinet underneath her flatscreen, wherein her modest video game collection was stored. It was here she finally paused, finding it hard to choose exactly which game to play.
She knew only that she was in the mood for a role-playing game — the kind of sit-back-and-relax sort of game that always helped her unwind. In all honestly, she was crap at action games. She played them from time to time, had soft spots for Devil May Cry and Half-Life in particular, but she couldn't play them gracefully to save her life. This was particularly ironic because she was a martial arts student in the real world, and quite a good one if she did say so herself, considering she'd been at it for less than two years. That was the one un-ladylike thing that her mother could get behind, learning how to protect one's chastity. It always came back to that with her — but why was she letting that thought go off on a tangent? She wanted to forget about that shit for a while… anyway, an action game would just annoy her. And as much as she liked platformers and puzzle games, she wasn't in the mood for jumping and the only puzzle game she had on hand was Catherine.
Considering recent developments, playing Catherine at that moment might've been tantamount to psychological suicide. Best steer clear of that one, she decided… although the mental image of Jason scurrying like a sheep up a harrowing tower of stone blocks while a giant mutant vagina with teeth tried to devour him was an amusing one to dwell upon, she did admit.
So, then… role-playing games…
Well, there were the Final Fantasy games (she owned them all, of course, even that travesty called X-2), but for some reason none of those appealed to her at the moment. She wanted to play something a little less… overplayed, actually, and she had most certainly overplayed these! Her eyes skimmed the titles on the disc cases and she mentally ticked one off after another… the Wild ARMs series; nah, not in the mood for the "wild west" overtones or craptastic translations or new-fangled HEX-based combat… the Xenogears and Xenosaga games; too much cutscene. (But that reminds me, she thinks absently as she moves on to the next title on the shelf, I really should pick up Xenoblade Chronicles one of these days.)
She passed over Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King after considering it for a solid minute. As appealing as that game always was, she was in the mood for a more "revolutionary" combat system. She passed over Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne with an additional realization that she didn't want to have to do twelve hours of level-grinding. And then it hit her.
Duh. The most recent role-playing game she'd played was Chrono Trigger, anyway, and its sequel was not only innovative, but designed to require no level-grinding at all. Grinning in anticipation, she slid a thick two-disc CD case out of its place in the stack on the far left of the cabinet, taking a moment to admire the character renders adorning the front before turning it over and skimming the summary and screenshots on the back. For old time's sake, you understand.
A Timeless Adventure, read the heading above the following summary:
Twenty years after the events in Chrono Trigger, a new set of adventurers are preparing for a battle that will surpass space and time…
Alas, it was only a "Greatest Hits" copy of the game. She loved this one well enough that she'd be happy to have owned a mint-condition black-label edition purely for the hell of having one. Perhaps she would frame it and mount it, coupled with a never-removed-from-box copy of Chrono Trigger and an import copy of that old text adventure, Radical Dreamers? Yeah, that sounded nice. And then she would erect a shrine around them and bask in their radioactive excellence…
Shaking her head ruefully at this nerdish musing, Angela shut the cabinet door and turned on her HDTV. As she slipped the first disc of Chrono Cross into the disc-slot of her slim-model PlayStation 3, she reflected on how under-appreciated this sequel actually was amongst the fanbase (in her mind, at least). It was true, she would gladly admit, that the game's plot-dumping exposition amounted to a poorly-paced story, and it was true that its legion of one-dimensional party members couldn't compare to the seven unforgettable adventurers from the original. And yeah, it was a major bummer that the entire Chrono Trigger party seems to have been utterly shafted in the happy-endings department off-screen. Hell, Lucca (Angela's favorite character from the first game) went and got herself abducted and most likely murdered before the sequel even starts!
Feh, Angela grumbles internally. It was the one plot point that she simply couldn't forgive in this game. More than once, she had yearned for a way to bring Lucca back from the dead, like, if the game allowed Serge to cart one of Norstein Bekkler's clones back in time to the burning orphanage and trick Lynx into abducting the fake or something. Alas, no such option existed in the game… but apart from that and a few badly-executed gameplay mechanics, Chrono Cross was good times. It certainly helped that talking to townsfolk was quite a bit more interesting than in a lot of other Japanese RPGs.
Angela realized that she had been staring at the console's XMB screen for almost a minute and blushed at her own silent geek-out. You know what, she mused, maybe I should try my hand at reviewing games like this. Give myself an outlet for all that pent-up geekiness. Yeah, that sounds like an idea…
Brushing a lock of hair out of her eyes, she double-checked the Memory Card Utility to be sure that the right card was selected, and then she fired up the game.
So at what point did she leave this boring old universe and find herself inexplicably stranded in the El Nido Archipelago, you ask…?
Heh. Why do you even need to ask? It was the intro FMV that did it, of course… that and "Scars of Time." To her dying day, Angela Whitney would never again play a video game without shoes on, especially if it happened to have a killer intro music track.
- V -
The elevator carries them higher, higher, at a ponderous pace, grinding loudly as it rises. Serge blinks — once, twice, three times — and tries to remember where he is or how he'd gotten here. He can't remember either, but in a hazy sort of way, the answers to those two questions seem irrelevant at the moment… thoughts to consider at a later time and date. Tapping her foot impatiently behind and to the left of him is the lady thief with the deep blue eyes and blonde, sectioned ponytail, clad in scant clothing and red mini-jacket, armed with a single curved dagger sheathed in a purple scabbard at the front of her belt.
Behind and to his right is another woman, not quite as physically attractive but pretty in a more down-to-earth kind of way. Her dark-red hair hangs almost to her shoulders in a simple yet pleasing way, parted so that it almost but didn't quite fall in a sleek curtain over her left eye. She had the look of a woman who preferred a hearty appetite and a healthy dose of exercise over dieting, and although she was armed with a finely-crafted longsword sheathed at her side, Serge somehow knew that she did her best work without a weapon. Her clothes are the odd thing: she wears a pair of black shorts with a simple yet elegant dark-green-and-white top, both of which are unlike any garments that Serge has ever seen anywhere in Arni Village or even Termina.
The elevator grinds to a halt before a wrought-iron gate with a dragon motif, which slides open almost as loudly as the elevator had climbed; Serge winces at the noise, hoping no enemies are nearby to hear it… but, wait, what enemies? Serge grips the handle of his dual-bladed "swallow" a bit harder, betraying his apprehension. Who is he supposed to be wary of here, exactly? Again, however, when he tries to actually think about it, the question suddenly seems unimportant…
His two companions charge ahead before Serge can reassert his focus, jogging halfway up the hallway before coming to a halt as they realize that Serge isn't following. The two women turn to face Serge, the thief-girl scowling impatiently while the redhead folds her arms across her chest and quirks an almost knowing eyebrow.
"What is it, Serge?" she asks. Oddly, he has a feeling that the question is rhetorical. "You look like you're, I dunno, having a bit of a déjà vu episode, or something."
Serge blinks, then scratches at the back of his head, just underneath his bandana. "Actually, Angela," he admits (the name comes to his lips unbidden, and he instantly knows it to be the correct one), "that's exactly it. I feel like I've, I dunno, been here before. In a dream, or…"
"Oi!" snaps the thief-girl. "C'mon Serge, Angela! You're wastin' time!" Clenching her fists, she whips around and crouches low in a stance almost suited to combat. "Just you wait, Lynx!" she shouts down the hallway in a fury. "Today's gonna be the day of reckonin'! Say yer prayers… not that it'll do ya any good!"
The thief-girl straightens up, throws her head back, and lets out a long, loud, victorious laugh.
Angela slaps a palm to her face and groans. "You know, Kid," she says, in tones of restrained exasperation, "we might've had a better shot at taking Cat Bastard down if you'd resisted the urge announce our presence half an hour before we catch up to him. Just a little food for thought."
Ah, so the thief-girl's name is "Kid…" again, Serge instantly understands this to be correct.
Kid's only response to this criticism is an annoyed glance over her shoulder and the middle finger of her right hand. Angela casts a long-suffering look back at Serge and says, "We'd better get moving before our friend streaks off without us, Serge. I get the feeling there's no stopping her at this point."
"Damn STRAIGHT!" yells Kid. And she promptly takes off down the right-hand fork in front of them. Without preamble, Angela pursues her. Serge, his previous disorientation all but forgotten, shakes his head and sprints off after them.
Kid and Angela don't get far, however; the right fork hits a dead end within seconds, in the form of a small, railed balcony overlooking a peculiar, crystal-like black pillar. Serge comes to a stop just behind Angela, who mutters in a bored sort of way: "Another one of those, huh…"
"Bugger!" swears Kid, leaning over the rail and scowling at the sheer distance between herself and the ground below. "So close and yet so far…"
Serge instantly perceives that the bizarre crystal pillar is a switch of some kind, and that he would need to trigger it in order to move forward. "Come on," he says, turning to face the way they'd come. "There must be a way down there. We just have to find it."
"And this is why I just love dungeon-crawling to bits!" Angela responds, her voice a false chirp of mock-happiness. The three adventurers move as one, returning to the fork and proceeding down the left-hand path.
They emerge onto a stone catwalk and slow momentarily at the site of the curving, intertwining route ahead of them. Serge's eyes linger for a moment longer than the others' on the purple, circular platform at the center of this convoluted chamber —
"It's simpler than it looks at first blush, guys!" Angela says, moving ahead of the other two. Then she points to another passage on the level almost directly below their current position. "Look, I think that door down there might take us to the crystal! This way!"
"I tell ya…" Kid grouses as they follow Angela onward and up a small set of steps. "I'm jus' not even gonna question this girl's crazy sense o' direction anymore…"
"Hey, Angela —" Serge blurts out on a sudden impulse his brain just can't translate at the moment. "Have… you been here bef—"
But he stops dead in his tracks and completely forgets his question, as a large, humanoid machine of yellowish metal stomps into their path from the downward staircase ahead, followed by a twin. A split second to register the danger, and Serge springs forward, bringing his swallow to bear.
Angela's opening act is less graceful, being a frightened squeak and an ungainly sideways dodge as the first of the two robots swings a heavy arm at the place where her skull had been a moment before; growling in frustration, Angela stumbles backward into a more secure stance and draws her sword. Her martial arts are useless against these things!
Kid draws her dagger as a matter of reflex but instantly focuses on a flashier means of attack: focusing on the magic of one of her allocated Elements, she thrusts her free arm palm-first in the direction of an advancing robot and a pair of whirring, circular blades of wind fly out of nowhere, shearing directly through the target's arms and legs as though the yellow metal is cheddar cheese. The dispatched robot's counterpart reacts in time to swerve out of the way and onto the platform, now level with Serge's party, but before it can fully raise its arms to strike at the prepared swallow-wielder, Angela attacks.
Her awkwardness from before seems to have been a result of being caught off-guard, for now she is a quite graceful. She sprints toward the robot's flank and swings her sword, a passable attack but more an attempt to put the robot off its footing and scatter its attentions. When Serge blocks the robot's swinging arms with his swallow, Angela's second slash knocks the robot slightly off-balance. It teeters back and to the side, a small stumble toward the stairs it has only just managed to clear —
A smirk curling his lips, Serge spins into a heavy swing of his blade, and spins true. His mythril swallow hacks at the robot's unsteady ankles, causing it to topple head-over-arse back down the stairs. It lands with a crash, and before it can force its top-heavy frame into a sitting position, Angela delivers the coup de grace.
"You… stay down!" she roars, leaping down the steps and thrusting her blade into the sentinel's mechanical face. The blade pierces the left eye and sinks halfway to the hilt; the robot's arms twitch in a spastic manner — one, two, three, four times — and then it moves no more. Panting, Angela wrenches the blade out of its now-defunct victim, practically flying backward the moment it comes free. Her butt lands smack on the stone corner of the third step up, and she lets out a pained yelp.
"Christ!" she blurts out, pushing herself up and rubbing at her aching backside. "This would be a helluva lot easier if we could all agree to stand in line and take turns smacking each other, or something. Damn it, but that smarts…!"
Kid chuckles a bit, possibly at the image of the three of them standing in line and taking turns to attack and defend… but likely just at Angela's umpteenth arse-first landing. She slips her dagger back into its scabbard and sweeps the area with her eyes, trying to pick out whatever pathway Angela had been attempting to lead them down. "Right, I see where this is goin'!" the thief declares at last, but then scowls as her eyes are drawn skyward by a rustle of distant movement.
"Bats," she growls spitefully. "Why is it always bloody bats…?"
"We can — ow — slip past those without a fuss, I think, if we're quick and careful," Angela suggests.
"Then we'll just have to be quick and careful," Serge replies, stepping past the two women and taking point once again. Angela is competent and all, but he doesn't want her crashing into any more guard 'bots…
The three sprint off, Serge in the lead and Kid bringing up the rear. Angela keeps pace in the middle despite showing more noticeable signs of fatigue than her companions. They pass through a doorway, turn sharply and make their way through another, and then they're back in the main chamber again. There's one tense moment where it looks like a small fleet of bats might have noticed them, but they duck under a stone walkway and sprint full-pelt for their target passageway before the monsters recover from their initial surprise.
Slowing to a stop in front of the crystal pillar, Serge is struck by how much taller the thing looks up close.
"Well," Angela says, her breath labored from exertion. "Here we are. In front of the last… effing… switch. At least, I think it is. Possibly. Hopefully."
Kid is the first to step up, walking to the stone pillar and placing her right palm flat against the stone tablet at its base. A low, echoing sound emits from the device, filling the chamber up and causing the hairs on the back of Serge's neck to stand on end. Then, it fades — along with the pillar. Now, both the sound and the crystal are just not there anymore.
"Taking a shot in the dark," Angela says lightly, "I'd bet this switch has something to do with the big, round, magical-looking platform at the middle of the big, epic, maze-like looking chamber we just left. Any takers?"
"I ain't stupid enough to make that bet," Kid snorts. "C'mon, mates, let's get back to the big, round, magical-looking platform. That bastard Lynx is so close I can practically taste his feral stink…"
"Well, that's not disgusting at all," deadpans Angela. Serge stifles a laugh. These two…
The three adventurers make their way back into the main chamber and this time slip past the bats without alerting them, but the moment Serge crests the last set of stairs between him and his destination, he's greeted by two more guard robots… who have their backs to him.
The corners of his mouth twitch upward and he just barely restrains himself from laughing out loud. A glance over his shoulder and a subtle motion of the head convey to his comrades that he intends them all to pound these foes into the stone before they have a chance to react; Kid answers with a smirk, Angela with a thumbs-up. And then they attack.
Serge takes the one on the right by himself, having the largest weapon of the bunch; opening up with a powerful downward swing that cuts across one of the robot's shoulders, he follows up with a second, horizontal slash and then concludes this flurry of attacks by launching a fireball at the robot's torso, point-blank. Reeling from the initial onslaught, the sentinel is thrown from its feet by the fiery explosion before it has a chance to fully turn 'round. Satisfied that his mark is out of the game at least for the moment, Serge takes a deep breath to steady himself after the strain of spellcasting, and turns his attention to his allies.
Kid takes the initiative, of course: launching two quick, light slashes across her opponent's metal face, she succeeds in disabling its optics. Angela follows up from the side with an upward swing of her sword that catches the robot under its arm but doesn't quite cut through the shoulder joint. The sightless robot swings one arm outward in the direction from Angela's sword had struck, and despite Angela's timely evasion manages to clip the girl on the shoulder. As Angela grunts in pain and backpedals, Kid taps into her Element Grid once again and attempts to catch this robot with a Fireball of her own.
But the robot is focused solely on its auditory sensors now, and hearing the roar of the flame spell, it holds its bulky arms up in front of its upper body and sets its feet more firmly aground. The fireball shoots from Kid's outstretched palm into a perfectly-prepared defense, which the sentinel barely takes a step back to hold.
Serge rushes forward and attempts a slice with his swallow blade, but is forced to turn aside at the last moment by another quick, light swing of the robot's arm. Then —
"Dammit, you box of bolts, just DIE!" shouts Angela, who then is engulfed in a glowing aura as she attempts her own Element casting. Jabbing her palm out in front of her as the others had before, Angela's magic manifests not as blades of wind or a ball of fire, but a pure-white beam of luminescence. The white-elemental Photon Ray takes its target not in the face but in the legs, blasting the support out from beneath the bulky sentinel and leaving it wide open to Serge's dual-blade finisher.
"I hate Cybots," Kid says nonchalantly, returning the dagger to her belt. Angela sheathes her longsword and grunts an incomprehensible affirmative; their almost non-stop progress though this building is really starting to wear on her, now…
"Angela," Serge asks, "do you need a break? We can take a few minutes to rest up, if you really need it."
Angela looks tempted, but Kid huffs in annoyance. Serge can tell that the thief is barely containing her own objection to the idea of stopping for even a minute, and from the way Angela's eyes flick over to Kid at the sound, it seems she knows it, too.
"I'm fine," Angela says reluctantly. "I just don't quite have the same endurance levels you two have, that's all. At any rate, I don't think we have that much further to go… call it a hunch." The turns toward the purple, circular platform at the center of the chamber, which is now not only a stone's throw away… but is faintly glowing. "Shall we?" she puts in merrily, but it's obvious her good cheer is forced.
"If you say so," Serge responds with a shrug. Kid sprints past the redhead, shooting Angela a brief look that might be gratitude. One by one, the three of them step onto the glowing circle.
Serge is surprisingly unsurprised when the three of them are enveloped in upward-moving waves of light… and then swept up through them, through the ceiling itself, and then even further than that. Their surroundings blur past as they shoot skyward like bullets, and then so suddenly and abruptly that they should have been snapped like twigs by sheer sudden death of momentum, they come to a complete stop.
"Whoa!" Angela ejaculates, stumbling in place as the warp spell ends. Serge and Kid, likewise, almost lose their footing; that particular elevator ride was a bit more exciting than the last one.
"Oi! What the bloody hell just happened?" Kid demands of thin air, her ponytail whipping too and fro as she turns in place. "What are we doin' out here?" she asks, and indeed, Serge realizes, they are standing not in the dank dark of the dungeon they had just traversed, but in the open air beneath a clear sky.
With a surprised gasp, Kid runs to the side of the circular platform on which the trio now stands, leaning out over the knee-high barrier between her and… a really, really long drop. "Wow! Bugger…!" she exclaims. "We're so high up! Is this thing floatin'?"
Angela, too, steps up to the edge of the floating platform and looks down, but steps back almost immediately, looking a bit queasy at the sight. "Yeah… I think this is that floating structure at the top. You know, the one we saw from outside? Which probably means…"
Angela turns her head, looking to the path ahead.
"…that Lynx and the good General are just through those doors…"
Serge and Kid glance at each other in surprise, and then turn their eyes to the pair of grand stone doors that Angela had indicated. Looking at these doors, Serge is suddenly struck with a sense of foreboding, and finds himself frozen in place, unable to lift a foot to move forward. Kid takes a few steps past him, but Angela is watching Serge now. The expression on the latter's face is inscrutable…
Seeing that neither of her companions has moved to follow, Kid casts an annoyed look back and says, "Oi, Serge! You alright, mate? What, are ya havin' another crazy flash of déjà vu?"
"I… I don't know," Serge answers honestly, his eyes sweeping the design of the door mere yards ahead, the only path that remains to be taken.
"Well, get it together! Who knows what's up ahead, so just stay on yer toes, eh?"
"Yeah, Serge," Angela says, a bit softer than she usually speaks. "Let's… let's just get it together and get this over with…"
Serge shoots the girl a puzzled look. Get what over with? Why does that statement seem to imply so much more than it says? …But Kid is right; this isn't the best time to be all dazed and confused. Serge's expression hardens into one of determination and he nods once, saying nothing. Then, he strides past his companions and stands before the door.
He barely notices the two women as they take up positions at either side of him, loses track of the howling wind as he prepares to step through that door. He closes the remaining distance, coming to a halt inches away from their goal… and then the door before him seems to distort…
The world vanishes in a flash of white light, and suddenly Serge is in an unfamiliar room, standing before an unfamiliar scene… living in an unfamiliar body. Angela is beside him, clutching at his shoulder, which doesn't seem to have quite the right build anymore, and she's whimpering, muttering something that sounds like an apology. Serge can't make out the words. And in front of them, sprawled on the ground face-down, blood pooling out from somewhere around her stomach… is Kid…
The thief's murderer stands bold as brass over her prone form, Kid's own dagger dripping blood in his hand… Serge's eyes sweep up this man's form, taking in the familiar shoes, familiar clothes, familiar face — a cold, cruel smirk lifts up the corners of this monster's mouth as Serge looks on — and in a white-hot blaze of pure horror, Serge sees the truth.
The murderer is Serge himself…
- V -
A distant voice disturbed the fog of sleep. Normally this would be unwelcome, but sleep didn't seem so comforting right now, for some reason.
"Good morning, Serge!"
Reaching for the source of the voice with an effort of will, Serge struggled to pull himself out of that uneasy haze. But he couldn't quite… who was calling him?
"Come on, sleepyhead! Get up!"
And suddenly he became aware of the dim light that permeated his closed eyelids, and opened them.
He was no longer on that floating platform, or even anywhere near that twisting dungeon fortress. Rather, he was back in his bedroom in Arni Village. Serge would have laughed, but the grogginess got in the way. It had all been a dream. He hadn't… he hadn't murdered anyone…
Heaving himself up into a sitting position, Serge stretched his arms out wide, swung his legs out over the side of his bed, and stood up. His room was small, circular, and exposed to the world on one side save for the heavy curtains draped over the sturdy wooden rails that divided his sleeping quarters from the outside world. The air was that sort of pleasant warmth one feels under the shade of a large tree in the summer, the smell of the ocean so constant a presence in his life that he didn't even notice it was there. Standing up, Serge dragged his feet over to the curtains and tugged them open, letting in the light.
His mind was still on the dream as he gazed out over the ocean, smiling a bit at the sight of the familiar red-haired girl in the dress standing constant guard over the happy-go-lucky children swimming in the ocean. His eyes lingered on his girlfriend, Leena, for a few moments more. It occurred to him that he was forgetting something important, but the image of that thief-girl's bleeding form prone on the ground (…what was her name again…?) seemed to be branded onto his retinas. Looking instead to the sky, Serge noted that the sun was almost directly overhead.
Damn it! he cursed in his mind. He'd really overslept today… and he had a feeling that was a bad thing, although he couldn't quite recall what he was supposed to be doing today that might have required him to wake up early. Stepping over to his bed, Serge got down on his knees and rummaged around beneath it, withdrawing his arm only when he had retrieved his money pouch, the two hundred gold coins he had saved up within.
Serge got dressed in record time and retrieved his copper swallow, his weapon of choice: a large dual-bladed butterfly sword not unlike a kayak paddle. He would need it today… provided Leena didn't flay him alive for sleeping in, of course.
For as he had clothed himself, he had finally remembered just what he had promised to get for Leena this morning.
Serge slipped his modest Element Grid into the front pocket of his shirt and stepped through his bedroom door, seeing his mother busy with lunch. She looked up at the sound of his approach, and fixed him with a stern look that Serge really didn't need in order to grasp the gravity of his predicament.
"Good morning, Serge," she said. "You're finally up. The sun's already reached high noon."
Serge scratched at the back of his head, looking anxiously toward the door. "Good morning, mom. Sorry, I can't stick around, I need to get going."
"That's right, you do need to get going," said Marge (for that was his mother's name). "Didn't you have plans to meet up with Leena this morning? She came by a few hours ago to see if you were up, but you, young man, were still off in never-never land."
Serge suppressed a groan with difficulty.
"You shouldn't break promises like that," Marge advised her son gravely. "Girls can be pretty scary if you make them angry!"
Don't I know it! Serge thought, but didn't say. He settled for a sheepish grin. Apparently satisfied that her bonehead child had gotten the message, Marge returned to her food preparations. Serge left the house at a jog.
And elsewhere, at that very moment — in another world that was so close and yet so very far away from the fishing village Serge knew as home — a college girl named Angela Whitney awoke with a start.
Author's Note: And so it begins. Originally I had intended to inject more detail into Angela's real-world life, but it occurred to me that "character-dumping" all of that at the very start wouldn't do this story any favors. So I simplified that part and decided to cover the dream sequence in the first chapter rather than the second one. I hope the result satisfied.
Any constructive feedback will be appreciated. Reviews of a less wordy nature will also be appreciated, of course…
This story, by the way, should be considered an alternate-timeline universe from Newbie-Spud's own Interference fanfiction. It may pretend to exist in the same multiverse at some point, but it really doesn't. It is completely and utterly non-canon.