Author's Note: Hiya! You might not think so from the beginning, but this is about a Chrono Cross character, namely Grobyc, set ten years before the game, telling how and why he became a cyborg. It's probably not the real story, but hey, it's fanfic, not gospel, so who cares? ^_^ Not really any spoilers. And I always wanted to write a fic with Lucca in it, after playing Chrono Trigger. The 'other' names for Grobyc and Luccia - Gyadarun and Lutianna - are their real names in the Japanese version. Any characters you don't know are mine, though Luccia really did have a brother. ^^; I hope you like this! I'd love comments; I don't get very many on anything... enjoy!
By Amanda Swiftgold
Most people never know it is their last day when it dawns. Like puppets on strings they are danced into death by the fingers of Fate, by the hands of gods and men. They begin their day as ever and are walking quietly into oblivion by the time it is through.
It was no different for one soul in particular - a soul belonging to a young man of twenty-six who was living in the expanding city-empire of Porre. The day of his death he woke slowly with the rays of the sun in his face, covering his dark eyes with the back of one hand until he was used to the light.
The woman lying next to him stirred at little at his movement but didn't wake. He was glad; being used to solitude, he wasn't very comfortable with her constant presence yet, and as long as she stayed asleep he could pretend that he wasn't married to her. Her name was Kyulene. She had long bluish-black hair that was braided back messily, slim dark fingers draped casually over her pregnant belly as she slept. She had a small smile on her face, as if she knew a secret he didn't.
Perhaps he could admit affection for her, if pressed. She was one of the few who had come after him, playing games, inviting him into her empty house, flirting and then pushing him away. This went on until he grew angry and kicked in her door, threw her down and simply took her right then. She didn't protest, but he wouldn't have cared if she had.
Afterwards, when he was on his way out, she'd come up behind him and smacked him in the head with a frying pan. She'd tied his hands to the leg of the cast-iron stove and, smiling that same small smile, did what she wanted to him - it was then that she became interesting, and made him come back again where he would have gone on. But he'd never wanted to marry her.
He gave her a rueful glance as he shoved the blankets aside, swinging his legs over the bed's edge, the warmth from the window falling on his pale face. Even though she was interesting she was still supposed to be just another roll in the hay, yet before he knew it her belly had grown big and her father was marching him toward the cathedral with the barrel of a shotgun pressed against the back of his head. And so it was that he had a wife to support and a child soon to be born and less and less money every day. He still had to pause and think for a moment in order for the realization to stick in his mind.
The man had never had any problem finding a bed to share for a night, or maybe two nights if she happened to catch his fancy. He was not hard on the eyes, sure enough, and he had an air about him that made a woman think he might make a difference in her life, that he might sweep her off her feet and give her the sky. And so he did, but only as long as it pleased him, and then he was gone as he had come, merely a ripple in the fabric of humanity with a broken heart under his heel.
His appeal could be attributed to one thing. He had the kind of voice that made a person think of heaven - as if he were an angel visiting mortal earth, if not for the raggedness of his clothes, or the dirt that smeared his pale-white face. All thoughts of angels flew at the sight of him, despite the attractiveness of his features and the dancer's grace of his thin, muscular form. It took a leap of faith, or at least a good imagination, to believe this man had spent a minute on the other side of the pearly gates, and the people of Porre had in general neither faith nor imagination. The place had grown from village to city in only ten years, its military growing just as fast, fed on blood, the spoils of war. The rich found new prosperity and were content to leave the rest in the dirt.
Even the man with the voice of an angel.
His name was Gyadarun, quite a mouthful for someone who had become out of necessity a laborer, a being with callused hands created by day to day living. Then again, it was hard to expect anything as mundane as a plain name from him when he'd spoken. A person never forgot that sound once they heard it, which was an unfortunate thing for a man trying to be a thief.
Gyadarun only stole out of necessity, because naturally one who stood out so much could not master the art of thievery, of fading into the crowd and gliding though shadows like a second skin. His hair was the tarnished color of copper and he was taller than most other men. And then if he spoke-
He had twice as many sudden enemies as those who admired him in passing, wondering what sort of person hid behind the dark almond-shaped eyes. Many were content to note his differences, sneer at his tattered clothing and lack of wealth, and then simply file away the memory of this person in the recesses of the mind. But most saw in him something they didn't have; they saw a man who didn't care what people thought of him, and for this freedom they lacked they hated him.
Pulling on pants, two thin shirts and worn boots, he bound back his hair with a leather tie, slid a dagger in his sleeve, and prepared to go to the market square in order to steal food for the new family he'd never wanted. It was a day that had begun just like any other.
Gyadarun stood for a moment in the beam of sunlight piercing its way through the window of his small hut, his wife yawning and awakening near his side, on the day that he would die.
He was returning home from the factory where he worked to assemble weapons for Porre's war machine, as much a fuel for the city as wood or coal. The merchants were closing their booths, busy with their work, and although he'd already gone and brought back food that morning he was tempted to do it again as he passed, to save himself the trouble the next day. One hand casually closed around a small, bruised apple, sliding it into a pocket, another snagging greens from the edge of the counter. Coolly confident, he walked on as if he owned the road and the sky and the whole world around him parted before his feet.
And then intruding came a shout and a kick that sent him tumbling to the ground. As soon as he hit he sprang to his feet again, yet arms snaked around his neck holding him firmly, twisting his wrists back behind him. He felt his dagger taken from his sleeve, tried to pull away but failed. He was dragged out of sight into an alley and thrown to the hard-packed dirt. Slowly, yet with an odd calm, wiping blood from his nose, Gyadarun looked up at his attackers.
There were four of them, as varied as men are, filled with the bravery that a group gives an antagonist. Two were merchants and two others simply there for the fun. They knew he had stolen from them, and he could not deny it. There were laws, and procedures, and guards who would imprison him.
But Gyadarun was not just any struggling worker stealing food from the market stalls of Porre. He was arrogant, and he was strong. He deserved something much different than any other caught thief would receive. He would have to be brought down to their level.
So they took from him his voice.
In the darkness of an alley, on unforgiving ground between homes of people who saw and looked the other way, four men descended on one, fists and cudgels and one stolen dagger falling as they would. He felt the blows from all directions, twisting in anguish, attempting to tear himself free. But he was only one man, no angel, simply flesh and bone and blood and a scream, an echo of a single moment in time.
With a kick of a heavy hobnailed boot and the swing of a staff they smashed his jaw, shredding his tongue on the shattered edges of his own teeth. No more voice to invoke images of otherworld - now just involuntary cries of pain, wordless protests like the uncomprehending whines of a beaten puppy. Now he was simply a man, dripping red and broken, with the world crashing in on him rather than at his feet. But this was not enough, not for the price of greens, or apples.
Take his hand for the things he stole, that he might not steal again. Hold it, don't let him go, one strong cut will get through the bone! Hurry, he's kicking away, get his leg so he won't run, aim for the knee - that's it, there's a good one! Watch him bleed, so voiceless and human; no angel in this one, just scraps, just filth. How funny - listen, he's trying to scream! Here, take his arm, hold tight, feel it tear in two, rip it with these strong, honest hands. Wait, I have an idea! Don't just break it - here, hand me the knife, that's right, just cut his arm off! Feh, what a cheap blade; c'mon, cut through, there we go! Drop it quick, before it stains your shirt any more. The wife's gonna have a fit when you come home with those red spots.
Look at him lying there bleeding, his arm thrown away near his feet. He's good for nothing now, not to steal, not to work; just let him beg, at the mercy of good folk, beg for food no longer tasted, beg without words without voice without sound.
They left him then to die, left the tools of their labor strewn around the sculpture of torn flesh and snapped bone they had fashioned, his skin marbled with cuts and bruises, broken, beaten, crushed. They walked away as though nothing strange had happened, for nothing had.
And Gyadarun looked through the mist of plasma-red anguish and saw. He felt the ground beneath his skin and the stickiness of unnoticed helpless tears, heard the thrumming noise of his existence, and prayed for it to cease. He prayed to the gods for deliverance from his pain.
But gods do not answer the prayers of thieves rendered in pieces across alleyways, blood and earth in quiet desperate harmony.
Even if they once possessed the voice of an angel.
For gods are deaf to the fallen and to soundless pleas in still crystalline nights, and men are the puppets of gods and men and Fate; so sometimes a role does not end with the drawing of the thick curtain of velvet black
"This way, ma'am," the soldier said in a casual, polite tone, his gaze drifting over her body lazily, taking in her rounded stomach and confident posture, lingering on the swell of her breasts beneath her blouse.
Angry, yet sure that protesting would only bring her trouble, Kyulene ignored his looks, following the soldier further inside the large guardhouse building. She was nervous, apprehensive, for her husband had not come home, then as it grew dark a guard had been sent to fetch her. She was sure he had been caught stealing, and was torn between a worry for him and a hope that she too would not be punished for his crime.
She was led down a long hallway and into a small room, tensely twisting the ends of the red shawl she wore around her shoulders. It was a clean white color although dimly lit, with odd equipment blinking at her from the sanitized counters. She looked around as the soldier left, shutting the door behind her, feeling small and insignificant, before her gaze fell upon the man standing next to a long padded table covered in lumpy cloth. He was of medium height with a sharp face, his hair curly and shining a deep purple hue.
"You are Kyulene, iz that correct?" he asked her. She nodded, and he continued, "My name iz Andrei. I verk in this lab. Vell, in charge of it, I should say."
She raised a thin eyebrow at both his statement and his odd accent, keeping her hands on her shawl near her neck almost defensively. She'd always had a kind of confidence, but this place seemed to drain it away from her as if to store it in neat little packages. "Lab?" she asked softly. "Why am I here?" She swallowed a little before continuing, "Is this about my husband?"
The man named Andrei laced his fingers together, turning away from her momentarily. "That depends, Kyulene, if this iz your husband."
Still looking away, he gestured to the table he stood next to, and biting her lip she came up beside him, staring down at what she could see now was clearly a body covered by the cloth. Tubes and wires went from various stands and machines, running underneath the covering. "He's dead," she stated, wondering whether it was shock or preparedness that made her react so calmly. "You could have told me at the house," the woman murmured as if in a daze. "I shouldn't be walking so much in my condition"
Andrei shook his head, pulling back the blanket. "No, he iz not dead."
Kyulene gasped unintentionally, drawing away from the sight of the man on the table. The tubes and wires were connected to him, plunging underneath his skin and into his nose, making his chest rise and fall with mechanical precision. His skin was so pale it was translucent, showing off the bruises and cuts covering him with high definition.
"Iz this your husband?" he asked.
She continued to stare down at the man on the table, one fist clenched tensely. Most of his face and body were covered in bandaging; it was wound especially thickly where his left arm had been, but she could tell exactly who he was. She jerked back suddenly as he opened his eyes to look up at her. It was then she noticed a new bright blue mark tattooed upon his forehead, the curving symbol of one convicted of thievery. Lowering her gaze, she murmured, "Yes, this is Gyadarun. How how did"
Andrei stroked his chin thoughtfully. "I believe he vas caught stealing from vendors in ze marketplace," he told her. "He vas left in alley, but soldiers found him and brought to me."
Kyulene could not take her eyes away from the dark, blank ones of the man she'd married who was lying broken on the table before her. Their depths were locked on her, a kind of plea swimming in the darkness of his irises. She didn't know what he was asking, trying to say without his voice, the voice that had awoken her passion. "Are you going to heal him?" she asked, resting her hands on her belly and rubbing a knuckle with her thumb. "You can heal him?"
"Ve could," he agreed, "but I do not think that ve vill."
"What?" she returned softly.
The scientist Andrei straightened, piercing her with a stern gaze she did not return, unable to break away from the force of her husband's wounded stare. "Assume that ve heal him and return to you. He vill not be fit for verk, and you vill have to care for him." He raised an eyebrow in her direction, adding, "I am assuming also that the fact he vas stealing, you cannot afford to do this."
Her expression darkened, for this was true. She was fond of Gyadarun, but unwilling to devote the rest of her life tending to a man who had hated her for becoming pregnant and tying him down. Especially if it meant dying of starvation as well; her father would never take her back in
"What would you have me do, then?" she asked, finally turning toward the man. "If you don't heal him, I think he will die. You see that I will have a child soon. With my husband dead, how can I support my child? If you do heal him, still, how can I support him, myself, my baby?" Kyulene frowned. "Either way, I cannot win."
Andrei spread his hands in a disarming gesture. "It iz not hopeless as you think. If you allow us to keep him, then ze Porre government vill provide money for your family as long as you live. Ve are not heartless, madam."
She felt a weight lift from her heart then, but as she looked at the man on the table she felt a sliver of doubt enter in its place. "Keep him, you say? For what?"
"It iz complex," he said dismissively, waving his hand. "Just know he vill forever be useless to you now. Affection alone vill not keep you alive in ze years to come. Please, take ze sensible path and leave him vith us."
Gyadarun's eyes were screaming at her, begging, caught in a high-pitched frequency that was out of synch with the slow mechanized rise and fall of his chest. But her mind was telling her that what Andrei offered made sense to accept, and so she slowly untied the shawl around her shoulders, draping the large red cloth over his face to block away the unsounded wails. "Goodbye, Gyadarun," Kyulene said quietly. "All right, then. If you wish to have him, he is yours."
The man smiled, nodding once. "You make ze right choice. Do not vorry, madam, you vill be taken care of."
"Thank you," she said, letting him with the light pressure of a hand on her lower back guide her toward the door. She looked back over her shoulder once before the latch clicked shut behind them, shutting her husband away forever.
In the satiny silence remaining, the man on the table laid in his body's prison and waited for consuming darkness.
"Ah, Doctor Ashtear!" Andrei said brightly as he swung open the door. "So glad you could make it. It iz pleasure to meet you."
The woman snorted, adjusting her round black glasses over her eyes. " 'Make it' indeed!" Lucca scoffed. "I was practically dragged here by your soldiers. What do you want with me?"
The man smiled at her. "My younger sister Luccia has told me much about you, Doctor. I look forward to verking vith you on this project."
"Luccia?" she asked. "I don't-"
"Forgive me," he interrupted, "but you vould know her as Lutianna. She iz very impressed with your verk and changed her name to be more like yours. I think it rather suits."
She peered at him, discerning the family resemblance. "Ah, yes, the young lady who wanted to be a scientist. And you are?"
He bowed slightly. "My name iz Andrei. I called you here, Doctor, for your assistance on a project of mine that I am preparing for ze Porre military"
Lucca narrowed her eyes, crossing her arms in front of her chest. "I'm sorry, but I have no interest in military projects. You dragged me away from the children for this?"
Andrei frowned a bit. "You do realize you vill be paid for your verk, Doctor Ashtear? I am certain they vill not miss you for a little vhile."
She made a doubting noise, glancing around the lab, which was brightly-lit and prepared for work. She didn't like Porre's methods of expansion, but she also could not resist a scientific challenge. "What sort of project is this, then?"
His eyes lit up with a sort of fire she had seen before, especially in the eyes of the man's eighteen-year-old sister. She had been a kind of student to Lucca, so she supposed that it ran in the family. "See, ze human body iz such a frail thing, Doctor," he began.
"Please, just call me Lucca," she put in, seating herself on a tall chair next to a counter covered in equipment. He nodded and sat across from her, suddenly animated and enthusiastic.
"Vell then - Lucca, you have already introduced so much in ze past ten years in ze field of robotics," Andrei enthused. "Vat if ve used such technology to augment ze strength of a human? There are so many possibilities."
Leaning back against the edge of the counter, she ran her fingertips along the smooth edge. "Cyborgs," she muttered, remembering the future and the things she had learned. "It is possible"
He nodded emphatically. "Oh, I know it iz possible. In fact, I've already done it."
"Hmm?" she asked, straightening again. "Then what do you need me for?"
Andrei waved a hand. "Oh, those vere simple augmentations using animals. I vish to complete a human prototype."
The short woman stood, shaking her head. "I don't find that very ethical, you know. Do you expect someone to volunteer?"
His smile was a little off as he turned, pointing to a lab table across the room. "Two veeks ago ve procured ze body of a thief. He vas attacked - dismembered, actually - by ze vendors he vas trying to steal from. Ve have kept him alive and prepared him for ze surgery." He looked back to gauge Lucca's reaction, his voice gaining a proud tone. "Come, see."
Not saying anything, she followed him back toward the table, thinking the question over to herself. It would be a great chance to advance the field of science by using her knowledge to help Andrei create his cyborg. However, she knew that he would be used for military purposes; merely another weapon created to overthrow other cities and kingdoms on the Zenan Continent.
A human killing machine.
Yet the money would be so helpful at the orphanage and then she could buy everyone new clothes get Kid that bracelet she'd been wanting and more materials for her inventions
Once again Andrei flipped the sheet away from the form on the bed, displaying his creation-in-progress. The man on the table looked as if he were asleep, yet Lucca could still see the lesions from the beating, could tell from the shape of his face that half his jaw was missing, and his arm. If they didn't augment him, what else was left for his life but death? Wouldn't that be more merciful, or would it be crueler than that which was planned?
All of this ran through her mind, yet the only thing that came out of her mouth was, "He's blue."
"Ah, yes. I developed a serum that vould aid his flesh in accepting ze implants as connatural matter," the purple-haired man explained, "but unfortunately it turned his skin that revolting shade." Andrei shrugged. "Iz the least of my vorries."
"Mm-hmm," she agreed, tapping her finger against her lips. The pigment was concentrated more heavily around his eyes and fingernails, she noticed, examining the hand that lay at his side. It almost gave him the look of eyeliner. "What are your plans, then?"
He also gained a look of concentration, his eyes watching the readings on his machinery, gauging heartbeats and breathing rates, measuring the life of a man who had none to measure. "I intend to replace ze jaw, here," he said, pointing briefly with long, slender fingers, "and arm. Enhancements to ze knees and legs vill also be necessary." He smirked momentarily. "I vas also thinking of integrating laser filaments into ze hair."
"Weaponry," she said seriously, and after a long look he nodded.
"Doctor Ashtear Lucca, I need your help," he said. "I still need to make ze augmentations more permanent, and there are other areas of difficulty as vell. Vill you aid me in this project?"
She sighed wearily, looking down at the man on the table. He would become a weapon, perhaps, but what Andrei had planned would save his life, and she was not equipped to judge if either of these outcomes was worth the price. "Very well," she said. "I will help you."
The work took longer than either of them thought it would, and Lucca was forced to stay in Porre for the duration of the project. She was thankful her parents could take care of the children at home, but she missed them terribly and knew they were missing her too.
As long as she focused only on her work in the lab and didn't think about her home, she managed to even start enjoying her time there, a little. And now that it was drawing to a close, she enjoyed it even more.
She was surprised at how well the undertaking had gone, actually. Andrei, whatever else he might also have been, was a brilliant scientist, and between the two of them they had managed to come up with answers for any of the problems that cropped up as they worked.
All the augmentations that were planned were completed, reconstructing the damage that had been done when the man had been attacked and adding extra lethal power to his lithe form. He didn't remember anything that had happened before, either due to the attack or through some deed of Andrei's, and Lucca was sure that it was probably better that way.
However, she had noticed something that Andrei was doing that was bothering her. He would speak to the man, their creation, as if trying to implant orders into him, trying to abort any flicker of personality he started to display. When she was alone with him she treated the cyborg as she would one of the children, encouraging him to speak or do anything that the other scientist hadn't previously told him to.
The both of them sat inside the Porre soldiers' practice gym and watched the cyborg now, Lucca rapidly and almost unconsciously taking notes on her clipboard as they observed him in motion, practicing punches and kicks on a hanging bag. He was deathly focused on his routine, performing it as perfectly as it had been shown to him.
"You know, I almost envy him," the curly-haired man said to the woman beside him. "Thanks to our cellular verk, he vill remain young as he iz now for a very long time. If his mechanical parts are maintained, he vill have a sort of immortality."
"Hmm," she said; it had been something she'd thought of before. "I don't know if I'd like that. People aren't meant to be immortal."
She was expecting an argument, but to her surprise he abruptly changed topics, making her wonder a little. "Vell," Andrei said to Lucca in a concluding tone, "it looks like our verk here iz about finished. All that iz left iz to hand him over to ze trainers and ve have a success on our hands."
She nodded, not pausing her flurry of notes. "I agree, it's time. It's almost a shame," she said, "but I'm glad. I want to go home."
"I know," he said, smiling and getting to his feet. She accepted the hand he offered to help her up, straightening out her tunic and tucking her notes under an arm. "Finish up and come here!" he called out to the blue-skinned man, waving an arm briefly.
Lucca frowned thoughtfully, suddenly reminded of something else that had been bothering her during the time they had been working. "Andrei doesn't he have a name?" She couldn't believe she hadn't thought to ask this before, but she'd fallen into the same complacency. It was there, written in many places on her clipboard, in her own handwriting: Subject. There was no name.
The man shrugged, watching as, not out of breath in the slightest, the cyborg pulled out of a punch and turned to walk toward them. "I heard it vonce, but have forgotten since then. I am sorry."
"He needs one," she said, and he nodded disinterestedly.
"Give him vone, if you vant. Lucca, vill you take him back to quarters? I am going to report our conclusion and request ze trainer."
Acquiescing, she beckoned the quiet man to follow her as the scientist left in another direction. Even though he had not been violent around her, Andrei, or any of the other lab workers, she still felt a little apprehensive in his presence, despite knowing she could defend herself adequately. After all, she had helped to defeat Lavos
She watched him as they walked, unable to help but marvel at what she had helped to create. He was very tall, his coppery hair helping to add to that height as it now swept upward off his head. She had to admit that he looked awfully strange, adding that with his skin color and the occasional metallic flash of light reflecting off the metal of his jaw and arm. A fashion disaster, Marle would call it. Lucca suddenly felt a new pang of loss. She missed seeing her friends too, for she had been even longer away from her and Crono than she had from her parents and the children.
"So," she began conversationally, "I will be leaving soon. You've come along remarkably, you know, and we think it's time you left the lab and started training." If she'd had her way he wouldn't be trained to kill at all, but she had no say in the matter. "What do you feel about that?"
The man did not answer, matching his strides to her much-smaller ones, and Lucca sighed to herself. Whatever Andrei had done, it was sticking well. He never answered her unless it was a question about fighting or one with a definite, direct answer. This never stopped her from trying, though.
"What is my name?" she asked him, angling her gaze upward to look at him and adjusting her glasses with a finger.
"The-Lucca," he answered easily, his face emotionless, and she nodded with an encouraging smile. Andrei had mistakenly taught him people's names as he was teaching the cyborg the names of things like 'the desk' and 'the chair', and so he always referred to them with that extra signifier even though she'd tried to get him to stop. Once he learned something he never forgot it for a minute, that was for sure.
Pausing for a moment to sort her thoughts, she continued, "And what's your name?"
There was silence from him then, and she scowled, jerking the door to the lab hallway open in annoyance. It had been a long shot, but still
Lucca hated making up names. She always felt that she was bad at it, and that they were either not creative enough, or too silly. When she'd found her 'baby sister' in the forest, she had spent months trying to think up a name for the child, and had eventually just ended up calling her Kid, as she had been before then. She didn't have months to think of one now, either.
"All right, answer me this, then. Who are you?" Absolute quiet. She cursed inwardly. "Fine do you know one thing about yourself? What are you?" she interrogated fiercely.
Her emotion seemed wasted on him, but after a pause he replied, "A-cyborg."
She felt her lip curl; that answer didn't give her a lot to work with at all. And yet, it was exactly what he was. Thanks to Andrei, or his superiors, or someone, the man next to her had no personality or character whatsoever. She remembered Robo - he had nothing human in him, and yet he was more of humanity than this blue-skinned weapon.
They arrived in the hall in the lab section where the scientists and their assistants lived, and stopped in front of the door to the man's room. He stood and watched her with enigmatic dark eyes as she thought for a while, then smiled a little. "Wait here," she said, striding off a short way down the hall and quickly unlocking her own temporary quarters. In a minute she had returned, carrying something, and with another smile opened the door for him, closing it as he followed her in.
Lucca held up the satiny red cloth, trying her last resort. When she'd come across it in the lab, Andrei had told her that this had been left by the man's wife. Knowing that he'd had one made her stop and think for a long time about what she was helping to do, but that dilemma had been taken care of long before this. "Do you recognize this at all?" she asked him, actually reaching out and taking his hand and pressing the fabric into it. "It belongs to you."
Slowly, he held it up, looking at it closely, and then shook his head at her, remaining silent. Sighing once more, Lucca sat down on the edge of the bed, leaning her head in her hands. As if in imitation, the cyborg sat down as well next to her, still holding the cloth, since this was the only piece of furniture in the room. He seemed to be wondering what she wanted but as usual did not voice anything he might be thinking.
"Well," she said brightly, "I tried, but I guess the only thing to do is give you a name myself."
She was a little surprised as he turned his head in her direction, asking, "A-name?"
"I can't just keep saying 'hey, you' forever, you know," she said, trying to explain something that she shouldn't have had to explain. "I have a name, Andrei has one, everyone has a name. I mean, you know the names of things. I can't believe you haven't even given yourself one yet. How do you refer to yourself?"
He gave her a blank look, and she put her hands on her hips, sitting higher up by sliding one knee up underneath her so it was balanced on the edge of the bed. She was going to have a talk with Andrei about this; how had she not noticed this problem before? There was something about the man and the fact that he didn't even seem to know about his own existence that made her heart feel as if it were tearing into pieces. She hated herself then, hated knowing that she'd even had a little part in creating someone without a soul.
"Okay, look. I'm really bad at this, but hey. How about Grobyc? It's just 'cyborg' backwards, but it works, you know. At least until you can figure out a better one yourself." Lucca found herself smirking a little. At least she hadn't tried doing that to the name 'Kid'.
Waiting for a reaction, she received none, so she stood up entirely, placing herself directly in front of him. "Remember this," the woman announced, tossing her short, straight hair a little, knowing he would. "You are Grobyc then. That's your name. That's who you are. If I say it, you know I'm talking about you, to you. Understand?" She pointed at him, gently tapping the middle of his chest with her finger. "Grobyc, do you understand?"
She watched as a puzzled expression crossed his features, and ever so gradually he raised his hands, the left one shaped of metal, the right one of flesh, still unconsciously clenching the blood-colored scarf. He flexed his fingers, first one hand, then the other, simply staring at them. She felt her breath catch in some kind of anticipation; it was like when she was watching the children, waiting for their first words, first steps.
"Grobyc-understands, the-Lucca," he told her, his face resuming its usual passive stoniness, yet she nearly leapt for joy at that one display of emotion she had been able to provoke in him. She didn't even care that he wasn't using the pronoun.
"I really am Lucca the Great!" she announced, grinning. "Oh, I wish I'd thought of this sooner. There's not going to be any time now since the project is over." She stopped herself short, tapping her chin in thought. "There really isn't any time. You're going to be on your own soon." She trusted him on his own about as far as she would trust one of the little ones at home, but what could she do? He would simply do exactly what Andrei told him to, kill whoever he was ordered to
Her eye caught on the cloth he was holding, and gently she tried to tug it out of his grasp. He let go without any resistance, and she shook it open, looking at it. It had belonged to his wife, but now he would probably never know a woman's touch again, never know what love was, if he had ever known before. One more thing she had to feel guilty for.
"Here," she said, "this might help a little. You're going to get weird looks wherever you go, but maybe this" Sliding behind him on the bed, Lucca with a little hesitation reached around, drawing the cloth over his nose and mouth and tying it behind, effectively hiding the shine of his artificial jaw with the crimson drape. Scooting back around, she scrutinized the effect. "Gives you color," she said, eyeing the sleeveless navy jumpsuit he wore.
The 'conversation' was decidedly one-sided, but for some reason she wasn't tiring of it. She had often babbled at him before while she worked, just to have someone to talk to even though he rarely answered her questions. Now that she was going to be leaving, she wanted to have as much of an effect on the cyborg as possible, in the hopes that he could be something more than just a tool.
Lucca tapped her foot, her voice getting serious. She felt as though there so much of lost time to be made up for. "Grobyc, I don't know what Andrei tells you to always remember," she said. "I don't even think I want to know. But if you can do one thing for me, let it be this: don't follow the orders you don't want to follow. You you have to have an opinion. You have to judge for yourself. You are not a machine!" she said emphatically, feeling a curl of satisfaction rise inside her as her words yet again provoked a reaction. "You have a right to choose whether or not to follow those orders!"
"The-Lucca, Grobyc-does-not-understand-this," he replied; she watched as his fingers twitched and he held them up to look at again, as if reassuring himself of his existence. "How-can-Grobyc-do-this-and-also-do-what-the-Andrei-says? These-orders-are-in-conflict. Which-one-does-Grobyc-follow?"
For a moment she could only think of the sound of his voice, for she had never heard him say so much at once before. It was only slightly muffled by the cloth across his lips, and very metallic and monotone. She knew he couldn't achieve much inflection thanks to the fact that they had been forced to rebuild his tongue along with his jaw during those surgeries - she was happy they'd even managed to make it so he could talk at all. Yet for some reason she could hear something else when he spoke; it was the vague echo of a lost thing.
"He tells you to always do what you're told, doesn't he?" she said, hanging her head a little. "Always kill who you're told. Don't even think of anything else."
"Yes, that-is-what-he-says," he said promptly in confirmation, even though she hadn't really been asking him the question.
She looked for something to hit and ended up kicking the wall. It bruised her toe through her soft boot and didn't make her feel any better. "Damn you, Andrei," she muttered under her breath. "You just had to stamp out his entire soul, didn't you?"
Lucca knew she could leave now, if she wanted. Simply wash her hands of the entire thing and go back home to her family. In fact, that was what she was going to do, but first she had to try one more thing. One more, and then it wasn't her problem anymore. What could she do, otherwise? She'd not paid attention at the start to the development of his personality, and it was too late now. Too late to make much of a difference. Too damn late.
"I can't tell you that you have to listen to me and not him," she said finally, turning back to face him. He watched her with his even, emotionless gaze as she continued, "I can only tell you this, and hope you can do it. You have to decide. You belong to yourself, Grobyc, not to Andrei or me. You might end up working for the Porre military, but you don't belong to them either. Decide who you will follow and why you will follow them. Make it a good reason, something important to you. That's all I can say. All right?"
He started to say something, but as she saw the movement under the cloth she reached out and put her finger on his lips, shaking her head, her straight purple hair swishing softly against her cheeks. "I know you understand," Lucca said sadly. Forcing herself to smile, she turned and walked to the door, opening it and leaving before she dug herself any deeper.
She had the children at home to get back to. This one was out of her hands.
Lucca Ashtear was completely exhausted by the time she returned to her home south of Guardia. It was nighttime by the time she dragged her feet down the long path and put her key in the lock. She had pushed herself harder than she should have on the journey home, but now it was finally over. Her heart leapt inside her.
The trip back had not been uneventful, at least where her mind and conscience was concerned. About halfway through her trip, she had been sitting in the commons room of an inn with a drink, resting her feet, when a Porre soldier on leave had arrived. She had listened to the soldier talking to the bartender, and what he'd described made her blood run cold.
There had been an 'accident' at the lab.
Andrei was dead; his back had been broken and his ribs shattered; he had been murdered in broad daylight, in the middle of a crowd, and gasped out his last breaths in a pool of his own blood. No one had dared to help him.
Grobyc had killed him.
And she knew, both in her heart and in her head, that her parting words to him were the only reason that he had done it.
Weary, cold, she turned the knob, closing the door behind her. The house was dark, with her parents and all the children asleep. As much as she wanted to see them, to let their bright voices and warm arms chase away her chill, she would let them rest, and surprise them in the morning.
She had been responsible for the death of her student's brother. How was she going to tell Lutianna - no, she was Luccia now. How could she tell someone who worshipped her so that she had taken Andrei away from her?
Sliding her fingers under her glasses and rubbing her blood-shot green eyes, Lucca quietly went up the stairs to her room, lighting a lamp and dropping her bag on her bed. She plopped down in the chair at her desk, putting her head in her hands, feeling tears spring up at the corners of her eyes. Why did it have to be so hard? Why couldn't she find all the answers? She was supposed to have them all.
Lucca didn't hear the creak of the door as it opened, or the sound of small feet on the wooden floor. "Sis!" Kid cried, launching herself at the woman. Recovering from her surprise, the scientist held the six-year-old close, burying her face in the girl's messy blonde hair. "You're home, you're home, you're finally home!"
"Shh," she whispered quietly. "You'll wake everyone up, Kid." She sniffled back her tears, giving her 'sister' an extra squeeze. "It's so good to be back."
The girl angled her face upward, her huge blue eyes full of concern. "Sis, why are you crying? Aren't you happy to be home?"
She smiled; the sound of the girl's voice was doing wonders to lift her spirits. "Of course I am," she reassured her. "It's not that."
"Then what?" she asked, leaning her slight weight on the woman's thigh.
She shook her head, searching for the words. "I saved a life," she tried to explain, tousling Kid's hair with her free hand.
"I don't understand. What's sad about that?"
Lucca stared at the floor, unable to respond. "I don't know either," she finally replied; after all, even midwives to the descent of angels are powerless to explain their fall.