Crono looked up abruptly in the direction of this howl of his name in a distinctly female, distinctly Marle-like voice.
As he noted the blonde-haired fury hurling itself across their Top Secret Superhero Lair (located deep below the dungeons of Guardia Castle, where it would remain free from the prying eyes of men and beasts, if one really saw such a difference between these two esteemed and goodly classes) and at him, he noted curiously that he had had several dreams begin this way, and wondered idly if this would be a good dream, or a bad dream.
All wondering came to an end as, seconds later, he braced for impact, caught Marle easily, and set her down on the floor again.
"Crono!" she exclaimed again, slightly calmer this time. "Munkustrap and Victoria are here again!"
Crono rolled his eyes in irritation.
"Yeah, I know how you feel; I'm getting a little tired of them, too. Especially Munkustrap. Victoria's kinda cute, and anyway, she just sort of bats at tassels and wraps her legs around her head, but Munkustrap's a huge know-it-all! You believe a guy when he tells you that he's your official source of information in the grand struggle of Good and Evil, and he lets it go to his head!"
Crono blinked several times, then made a motion for Marle to continue.
Now Marle blinked several times, trying to nudge her train of thought back onto the tracks.
"Oh, right! I think Magus and Lucca are up to something! Apparently, back in the past, there have been children piloting strange robotic exoskeletons, stalking someone who may or may not be name John Fogerty, and who may or may not have written a song that may or may not be called 'Bad Moon Rising'."
Crono sighed, shaking his head. Back in the past, he thought. Marle's not one for a lot of detail, is she?
Marle patted his shoulder sympathetically, utterly misunderstanding his dismay, as they moved to their Top Secret Superhero Sofa, vaguely resembling a very long egg with a section cut out to accommodate the cushions of deep blue.
Marle frowned as they sat.
"So, what's with the egg sofa, anyway?"
Crono shrugged somewhat defensively. If Marle couldn't understand his decorating taste, he wasn't going to explain it to her! She'd already gotten her way about creating this ridiculous hideout, with all these machines that neither of them knew how to use and were mostly just rejects from Taban Ashtear's workshop and a few broken bits from Lucca's room that they had snagged on their last visit, and its concrete walls with tube lights stapled up to resemble the interior of a computer, and – oh, right; that had been his idea.
Still, it was only fair compensation for the damn spandex he'd been running around in for the last week since they'd last seen Lucca and Magus. It had been incredibly embarrassing to supervise the rebuilding of the partially demolished prison, wearing this bizarre get-up, complete with its cape, and had been even more so to show up to several important diplomatic meetings this way.
And the fact that Marle had done it, too, was scant consolation, since she hadn't seemed embarrassed at all.
At this point, Crono became aware that Marle was watching his curiously, somehow looking incredibly adorable in the dim green and blue light of the Top Secret Superhero Lair Located Deep Below the Dungeons of Guardia Castle Where it Would Remain Free From the Prying Eyes of Men and Beasts.
"Um, Crono? Are you okay? Your eyes got really glazed-looking, and your expression got really angry all of a sudden. Is something wrong?"
Crono shook his head innocently, and once again motioned for Marle to continue.
"Right! The kids with robotic exoskeletons stalking that person who may or may not be named John Fogerty and the writer of 'Bad Moon Rising'! Do you think Magus and Lucca have something to do with it?"
Crono hesitated for a moment. Would it be lying to simply say that yes, he was fairly certain that Magus and Lucca had something to do with it instead of revealing that he had seen several massive boxes containing all sorts of strange things that he imagined were necessary for the construction of any good robotic exoskeleton, being delivered to the Ashtear home earlier that week, only to be snuck away from the Ashtear home in the Epoch by two cloaked and bickering figures at a point in the week later than then, but earlier than now?
As Marle's expression grew curious again, Crono nodded agreeably that yes, he did suspect that Magus and Lucca were somehow behind this.
"I'm glad you think so, too, Crono," Marle proclaimed, bouncing from her seat and striking a dramatic pose. "But even yet, it is not too late to bring our fallen comrade, Lucca, back to the flock and reinstate her as the hero she was born to be!"
Crono gawked at the slim, pink-clad shape, one slim, pink-clad arm extended into the air triumphantly, and wondered helplessly if she'd been spending too much time with Glenn or something. Still, if he didn't want to be effectively cut off from the never-ending quest to produce an heir to the throne – along with lots and lots of practice – it would never do to be unsupportive of his wife.
Thus, Crono nodded as enthusiastically as if he'd meant it. He opened his mouth to ask exactly what the situation was, but in an uncanny show of the way that young couples often become able to read one another's minds, Marle hurried on.
"So, this is the situation: the kids in those robot thingies have been watching the guy who may or may not be named John Fogerty, but not really closely. We're not sure if this means that Magus and Lucca aren't seriously pursuing him yet, or if the kids they bribed into it with shiny things just aren't very good at stalking people. As far as we can tell, the man who might be Mr. Fogerty hasn't been seriously threatened yet."
The redheaded young man nodded thoughtfully. If Maybe-Fogerty hadn't been threatened yet, there might still be time to talk Lucca out of her nefarious – but weird – plot to rob the world of one of its greatest works of human achievement! But how to best contact Lucca…?
"What's worrying me," Marle spoke up suddenly, her chin in her hand, "is the best way to get in touch with Lucca."
Uncanny, Crono thought, staring at Marle in amazement.
"I think we should head straight to Magus' castle," Marle continued. "That's probably where they're working from. I doubt she'd be carrying out her evil plans from her mom and dad's place. Mr. Ashtear's pretty clueless, but I doubt even he'd miss something like that going on."
And Mrs. Ashtear's just plain scary when you cross her, Crono thought with an internal shudder.
"And," Marle added, grimacing, "Mrs. Ashtear would notice right away, and she's scary when you make her mad. Well, speaking of Mrs. Ashtear, I'm going to go see her and ask if she knows where Lucca's been. Maybe if we bring it up, she'll talk to Lucca about it."
With that, Marle turned, cape billowing out behind her, and scurried toward the elevator leading back up to ground level.
Crono watched her go, his expression still amazed.
"Did her dad know she could do that?!"
The young woman turned, bewildered and annoyed at this shout in a high, light, feminine voice from the doorway of her bedroom where she was trying to enjoy a few nice, peaceful, Magus-free moments.
"Oh, hey, Marle," she greeted unenthusiastically, sliding from the stool in front of her drafting table. Sure, Marle wasn't as overall tiring as Magus was – here Lucca permitted herself an internal wolfish grin at the thought of her personal favourite way Magus had to tire her out – but she was tiring enough that Lucca simply didn't feel like being dragged into conversation right then, or into anything else but a nice, warm bed. With the intention of sleep, she hastily added silently before shaking herself off and continuing. "What's up?"
"Lucca," Marle began, striking a dramatic pose as several Guardian soldiers scampered into the room and began waving little paper fans to produce a breeze for their queen's cape to billow dramatically in. "Crono and I are aware of your evil scheme—"
"Of course you are," Lucca snickered, crossing her arms and leaning sideways against the wall, "We told you about it last week when we broke out of the dungeons."
"Stop interrupting, Lucca! I'm trying to be dramatic!" Marle whined, stomping her foot petulantly.
"It's not working," Lucca informed her kindly, surveying the girl's big, long-lashed bright green eyes, bouncy red-blonde ponytail, and predominantly pink superhero costume. "Let's face it, kid; we're both just too cute to be properly dramatic."
"It's a hard life," Marle said with a complacent glance over her shoulder at her reflection in the mirror bolted to the door.
Both girls sighed sighs that were only partly mournful. Then Marle seemed to remember something with a start.
"No! You will not distract me with witty dialogue and pretended camaraderie! Lucca, if you do not cease in your evil plot, Crono and I will be forced to do battle with you!"
"With the low budget in this story?" Lucca muttered, chin cupped in her hand in a decidedly impatient posture. "Not bloody likely. We might get some bad dialogue and a pillow-fight, but that's being optimistic."
Then she sighed.
"Look, Marle, it was nice to see you, but I'm tired. I've had a stressful week. I just want to take a nice, long shower and go to bed, okay?"
"Okay, fine," Marle huffed, turning on her heel and storming from the room. At the doorway, she turned. "But think long and hard about my words, Lucca, because sins must always be atoned for!"
"Someone's been bitten by the drama bug," Lucca reflected grimly as Marle swept grandly downstairs and then squealed giddily as Lara Ashtear offered her a cookie. "So, apparently the drama bug doesn't cure a sweet tooth. Oh, who cares? Time for bed," she concluded.
However, it seemed as though nothing could be that easy for the unfortunate Ms. Ashtear. Just as she was about to yank her shirt up over her head and cast it aside, she noticed something slightly amiss.
"Ack!" she shrieked, leaping back. "Why are there two mysterious faces peering in through my bedroom window?!"
"Oh, crap! You think she saw us?" the figure on the right yelped.
The figure on the left sighed and rolled its nearly obscured eyes.
"Yeah, I'd say she did."
"The boss is gonna kill us!"
"No, 'the boss' is gonna kill you," the other figure corrected. "I am 'the boss', remember?"
"Oh, right," the shape on the right said cheerfully.
"Look, let's just get out of here before she tires of our witty dialogue and throws a shoe or something at us."
"And just when it was starting to get good! She almost took her shirt off!"
"A shoe?!" Lucca exclaimed after their retreating backs. "I'll have you know, I'm one of the most skilled gun-women in the world! I would not sink to hurling footwear when I've got my Wondershot stashed right by my bed!"
Then she frowned.
"Hold on; my room's on the second floor. How were they peeking in my window? Who else do I know who can do that? Oh, hey, Magus," she concluded absently as another figure appeared at her window.
"What are you doing?" he asked grumpily, climbing into her room as she lifted the window for him.
"I'm trying to figure out who those two men were just now."
"Men?" he asked, stiffening.
"Yeah; there were two guys peeking in my window just a second ago."
"I don't know," he said with a forced calm. "But whoever they are, they'll be dead very, very soon."
"Oh, can the caveman act," she requested, annoyed. "I'm just trying to figure out who could have sent them. I mean, who do I know who can levitate and makes a habit of doing so outside of peoples' bedroom windows?"
Magus gave a long, long-suffering sigh as he glanced at the window through which he had floated half a minute ago.
"You're obviously very tired. You should go to sleep immediately. We have a big day tomorrow, after all. If we work to our capabilities for the entire day, we'll be ready to put your plan into action by the end of the week."
"Yeah, I'll get to bed," Lucca assured him easily. "I just want to do a few minutes of gloating."
He permitted himself a quick, proud smile as her eyes narrowed and she began drumming her fingers together and murmuring her evil glee, and then turned, opened the window, and vaulted lightly over the sill and out.
End Notes: All my chapters are filler lately! Angry noises! What's going on?!
Please excuse that little outburst, and tell me what you thought of grumble yet another filler chapter. Geez…this is going to end up about thirty chapters if I don't get it moving soon. :o)