CHRONO TRIGGER CULMINATIONS
by
Jerm

Chapter 1


Summer was ending.

The reconstruction of Guardia Castle continued unabated. The main floor and basement were long finished. The kitchen and dining hall, being a priority, had gone first and were now filled with cooks and their chef, as if nothing had happened. The upper floor was only a couple of weeks away from joining the levels below it, though the sleeping quarters had been finished already under the same circumstances as the kitchen. Only the towers and parapets remained on the list for longterm repair.

And while fall was around the corner, the summer season continued unabated. The sun shone down, giving its warmth to the castle's denizens and, coupled with a cool breeze, created the perfect working weather. Dozens of soldiers and workers took advantage of this to double their efforts in the rebuilding, trying to remain on schedule. They would alternate their shifts between groups so some could eat and sleep-and just enjoy the day-while fresh workers replaced them. The pattern had become automatic to them in its repetitiveness.

But it was necessary. While this day was nice, the promise of an approaching fall reminded them that not every day would be such. The queen had issued an order that the castle and town of Truce be completely rebuilt before winter set in. And after the brief, tumultuous reign of Pret, the nation of Guardia gave Nadia's orders a lot more respect than they normally would their ruler.

Far above the castle, a single bird broke from its flight pattern and descended to find a spot to rest. It dropped gracefully and perched on a link of the chain that held onto the drawbridge at the front of the castle. None of the hurried workers paid it mind, so the bird immediately took to the task of preening itself. But rest was not all it was here for.

For lots of people usually meant lots of discarded leftovers. Its avian eyes scanned the treeline surrounding the castle, to the shade where some soldiers had taken their meals. It spotted several potential targets and began to wait for a morsel to find enough distance for the bird to make a quick grab. The bird hunched slightly, picking out its prey...

Only to be distracted moments later as Lucca made her way out of the castle gates carrying a loaf of bread and some sort of picket sign slung over her shoulder. Chewing a piece of the bread already, she glanced at the bird as she passed by, then did a double-take.

"Oh, hello there," she greeted the bird as she slowly laid the sign down so it leaned against her hip, "Hungry?"

She tore a piece off of the loaf and slowly offered it to the bird in a show of some bizarre hope that the bird wasn't afraid of people. But the bird wasn't having any of that. It quickly turned and took flight, leaving a dejected Lucca behind. She signed and ate the piece herself, then slung the sign back over her shoulder and carried on towards her original destination.

The bird gained altitude and then leaned, aligning itself to a southward flight. The wind picked up, allowing the small animal to simply hold out its wings and glide. It was no seagull however, and it would beat its wings periodically during its flight. Soon it was hovering over Zenen Bridge and the dozens of people who crossed it.

Trade and travel between Porre and Truce had once again resumed normal levels as the economy of Guardia climbed its way out of the pit that war and corruption had dug. And many of the visitors from Porre were helping in the rebuilding of Truce as well. The kingdom's unity was beginning to shine through once more.

The bird made another turn after it passed the bridge, now heading southeast. Towards Fiona's Forest. Soon the bridge disappeared as the mountains of Denadoro overtook the horizon. The bird crested over the peaks and dove down towards the forest that lay in the valley. Its home was here and was a sure spot for food, albeit food that was much more mobile. As the forest spanned out below it, it searched out a spot to make its initial landing. The bird finally found a place that satisfied it and dove once more, disappearing into the greenery.

The trees of Fiona's Forest shifted and waved in the strong winds that had brought the bird, the leaves rattling noisily as they battled the air. Sunlight shone from a cloudless sky and streamed its way through the canopy to heat the woodlands below. A warm summer day was being enjoyed here as well.

But in the midst of the forest, one tree stood out. Against the sea of green was a single spot of red. A sign that this beautiful summer was indeed slowly ending. The wind seemed to hit this tree twice as hard. The leaves, already preparing to depart, had an almost tentative grasp on their home. And then it happened.

A single leave tore off and the wind stole away with it. Fall had officially begun.

The leaf gyrated and spun as the wind played with it, taking a northeastern path towards the ocean. It wrapped around the mountains and was soon out to sea. It trekked across the endless blue, sometimes hovering just inches above the water, but its descent always reversed by a new gust. The sky was an endless blue sea itself and the leaf took to it in much the same way it played with the water.

Soon land could be seen again as an island approached. The leaf turned and traced the shoreline northward. A bridge approached now and it made a beeline for the structure. Soon the leaf reached the bridge and, satisfied with itself, did a pirouette over it.

It was then handily batted away by the well-aimed swing of a picket sign.

Satisfied, Lucca popped the last bite of bread in her mouth and began to dance her way across the rest of the bridge towards her home, treating the sign as though it were her dancing partner. Warm weather always put her in a good mood.

xxxxx

"Knock, knock!"

Cid looked up from the book he was reading and glanced towards the front door, wondering if his ears were playing tricks on him. Half sure it really was Lucca, he prepared to close the book and check.

"Bam! Bam!" Lucca yelled a little louder, removing any thought that he was hearing things, "I am pretending I am banging on your front door, Cid! Open it!"

Cid shut the book and quickly tucked it into the bookcase, "Why don't you just really knock?"

"My hands are full," Lucca informed him, "I need you to open the door."

"I'm coming, hold on," Cid rounded the table and reached for the door, swinging it open.

There was no sign of Lucca outside, however. In the literal sense, at least. Instead, his eyes were drawn down to be greeted by another sign entirely, a flat square board nail into a stake that had been quickly stabbed into the dirt.

"Lucca and Sid's Gadget Repair," he read the sign out loud, then rolled his eyes, "You misspelled my name, you know."

"Nope, Crono did," Lucca announced, appearing from the side of the door with a flourish, "He's the one that made it. He also misspelled 'gadget' but I had him fix it."

"Well, why didn't you tell him to fix my name, too?"

"I thought it was funny," Lucca pulled the sign out of the dirt and stepped inside her house, "What'd you get done while I was away on business?"

Cid shut the door as she passed him and made as if to strangle her behind her back before replying with a more level tone, "I just organized everything into their own piles for now, you didn't tell me where they would end up."

Lucca glanced around and finally noticed the organized clutter that surrounded them. Various piles of junk and the few inventions that actually worked. Truth be told, she had left in a bit of a hurry and her instructions to him had been brief at best. So instead of trying to turn the accusation around on Cid, she thought out the blueprints to her plan.

"Alright then," she tossed the sign down on the table, "Let me get a mental picture here and we can get started. And I'll tell you how my trip went as we go."

xxxxx

"Hey, help me move this!"

Cid looked up from his position in the doorway, a large piece of metal and electronics bundled in his arms. Lucca was standing across the room beside the bookcase, looming half again as tall as she was. She was casually leaning against it, although obviously winded. He quickly discarded the junk in a move very close to dropping it. The machinery struck the ground with a dull and muffled ring as Cid half-stepped, half-tripped over it on his way to help Lucca push the bookcase away from the corner of the room.

"Careful with that, Cid," Lucca chided him, "That junk today will be something useful someday later... when I get around to messing with it."

Cid gave a brief look back at the pile, as if he could tell from where he was if it was still in functioning order. "Sorry," he replied shaking his head, then changed the subject, "Why are we moving this?"

"We'll pile the pieces in the corner," Lucca jerked her head back to indicate the corner behind her, "The bookcase was in the way."

"Ah," Cid nodded knowingly, "That's not very organized."

"Eh," Lucca shrugged off his accusation, "We're running out of room already."

"Maybe we could just throw some of it away, then," Cid offered as he stepped beside her.

"No," it was a simple answer, but she offered it with little room to argue.

Lucca absentminded wiped her hands on the shins of her pants. They were still oily from the process of digging up all the spare parts in the house. The job was foreseen to be dirty, so she had changed into a dark brown shirt and pants before they began. Not only did they go well with her hair, any stain on them would be near invisible. On the flipside, Cid was wearing the same clothes he had worn all day: a normal gray shirt and dark blue pants. Getting his clothes dirty wasn't as much a worry to him.

They both put their shoulders into the bookcase, grunting with the effort. To reward this, the fixture began to slowly slide away, making a noise of wood scraping on wood as it grated across the floor. Both of their feet began to slip as the bookcase attempted to resist the pushing.

"How far do you want this then?" Cid asked in a strained voice, as he switched his position to lean on the bookcase with his shoulder.

The new position wasn't working and Cid was forced to switch back to his hands. Lucca lowered her head, giving the object an extra hard push, then replied, "Just a few feet, we don't need too mu-"

Before she could finish, the bookcase tilted away from the wall and began to topple over. "Ah, great," Cid muttered, running around to try and hold it up.

He wasn't fast enough however, and he jumped out of the way quickly as the bookcase fell over at his feet with a loud and dominant thud. Several small thuds accompanied it as the books merrily deshelved themselves under it.

"Damn it," Cid's voice was frustrated, and he gave the bookcase a small kick before bending over to try and lift it back up.

"My fault," Lucca said, squatting down to help, "I should have known it was too tall and too narrow for any real balance... Could have at least moved the books out, too."

Cid and Lucca pulled, lifting the now empty bookcase up into the air. When it was tilted at chest level, they spun their hands around and hefted it over their heads. Cid began to step forward to push it back up against the wall, but Lucca stopped him, "Hold onto that, I've got to get the books out of the way. Don't need to be stumbling all over them with this heavy thing over our heads."

She released the bookcase, nearly causing Cid to lose his hold and drop it onto her. Cid replanted his feet, managing to hold it for the moment. Lucca ducked under him and began to push and toss books out of the way in a casual manner.

"By the way," Cid began, trying to force his mind away from the concept of dropping the bookcase, "You talked with Crono and Marle while you were at the castle, didn't you?"

"Yeah, briefly," Lucca replied with a quick nod before turning back to the pile of scattered books.

"...And?" Cid pressed, hoping the question would have segued into something.

"And what?" Lucca asked oblivious to his intentions, then shook her head as her memory hit, "Oh, that!Yeah, I told them about it."

A little over a month had passed and everything had been returning to normal in the wake of the spectres. Cid had finally been feeling secure in acting on Marshall's last will, where he had asked Cid to reclimb Death Peak and find his sword, to reclaim it. He was hoping that Marle and Crono would be able to help him with supplies to get ready for the trip.

Cid fought down the urge to let go of the bookcase as she continued to draw out her answer without actually answering him. Instead he pressed her again, keeping his tone level, "I ask again, what did they say about it?"

"They said 'no'," Lucca deadpanned as she continued to toss the books away before focusing on a titleless hardback.

"They said what?" Cid was taken aback at the answer.

Lucca shook her head and gave a short laugh, "They said 'yes', Cid. What did you think they'd say?"

"Okay fine, stupid question," Cid retreated and decided to change the subject a little, "I still haven't decided when to go, though."

"Yeah, I told them. They said whenever you were ready, it's up to you," Lucca assured him as she tucked the book under her arm and stood back up, "Okay, let's get this guy back on his feet."

Together, the two managed to lift the bookcase back against the wall. After it was upright once more, Lucca held the remaining book up towards Cid, "What's this? It's not mine that I remember."

Cid picked it from her hand and flipped through the blank pages. His memory slowly brought the answer to his lips, "It was something I got for a special project a while back. I'd almost forgotten about it."

"Which was?" Lucca asked curiously, bending over to start putting the books back where they belonged.

Then she remembered that they were to finish moving the bookcase first. Groaning, she dropped the books and walked back over to the side of it, patting Cid's back as she passed to get his attention. He lazily raised his head and followed her, "I was thinking about being a writer, in a way. Marshall's life was so intriguing; I was planning on putting it to paper... before he died..."

"Would he have-" Lucca paused in her question as she began pushing once more with Cid following suit, "-let you?"

The bookcase slid much more easily this time, creeping along the floor much faster, the weight of the books removed.

"Maybe," Cid tried to shrug, but failed, "He's done so much for me, I felt like this would be a good way to repay him."

"I don't know," Lucca seemed dubious, "Some people prefer to forget certain things, he seemed like one of those people."

The bookcase reached a spot Lucca was satisfied with and she stopped pushing. She dusted off her hands, knocking out several splinters, and walked around Cid to start collecting the fallen books. Cid knocked his knuckles against the bookcase, congratulating it on not falling over again, and followed suit, "I don't know. I guess that's why I haven't started it yet. I was hoping first I could-"

"Wait," Lucca said suddenly, stopping Cid, "They need to be alphabetized. By author."

"You're kidding me," Cid stared at the pile behind him, at least two hundred books, "I hope you're kidding me."

"C'mon Cid," Lucca pressed, "If not now, I'd have to do it again anyway. The time we would save by not doing it would be nothing compared to the time saved having to look at random books to find the one I'm looking for."

"Okay, okay," Cid rolled his eyes and stared at the books in his hands. Quickly, he changed his mind, "Forget it. Let's just do all of this later, okay? We'll take a break and get some fresh air for a while."

Lucca glared at him briefly for being so lazy, then softened a bit. She turned down to the books at her feet, thoughtful. Absentmindedly, she began to tap the book in her hand with her finger. Finally, she tossed it aside, "I guess it is too nice a day to be wasting. Okay, but not for too long."

xxxxx

"Do you think we'll ever need The Gatekeeper again?" Cid asked as they walked together along the cliffs above the ocean, just south of Lucca's home, "I mean when I get back."

"I sincerely hope not," Lucca replied, then shook her head, "But you can't tell. I just don't trust it to not be misused."

"By one of us, or just some curious trespasser?" Cid asked, smiling faintly.

Lucca thought over this one for a few seconds, "I'm not sure," she rolled her eyes, "I guess both. And I mean that, seriously."

Behind the evasive answer she gave, memories from past Gatekeeper mishaps bubbled up. She mentally swatted them away.

Cid stopped walking and sat at the cliff's edge, looking out at the ocean. Lucca ceased as well, and took a seat next to him. Together, they looked southward for several moments before Cid spoke again, "Crono said a while back, he said that things like Nikades and Lavos were occurring more and more often as time went along..."

"And we might need The Gatekeeper any time now when the next threat comes along?" Lucca finished his sentence. She leaned back on her arms, "I really think we've stopped everything now... I mean, what else is there?"

"If there's something else, it'll show up soon. According to Crono, that is," Cid replied, he absently scratched his nose, then sniffed.

"Allergies?" Lucca tilted her head at him.

"No, it's nothing," Cid waved his hand dismissively, "The wind, I think."

"It's still pretty warm," Lucca observed, "Are you sure?"

Cid nodded, "I don't think I have any allergies, anyway."

"Mm," Lucca let it go, slowly rocking on her arms.

It was now nearing dusk, and the sky was darkening. They had spent the whole day working on cleaning up the house. Cid could only imagine how long it would take to alphabetize the books. He was sure of one thing, though: he was tired. Very tired.

After several moments of thinking, another question came to mind, "What did you and Marle talk about while you visited? Instead of me, I mean."

"Oh, nothing," Lucca shrugged, "Small talk mostly. I don't remember."

"So basically you two just talked about me," Cid nodded knowingly, turning her answer around to tease her.

"Well, if you want to be bored by the details, we also talked about me getting a permit so we can start up this business of ours," Lucca ignored Cid's joke answer, "And then she had me crunch numbers to figure out the economic impact-"

Cid laughed, interrupting her, "I asked for that. Okay, what about Crono? Did you talk economics with him?"

"Well you know about the sign," Lucca began, "But after that we didn't talk much. He left a few hours after I arrived and didn't get back until the next day. He's been real busy with something of his, I guess."

"With the reconstruction?"

Lucca shook her head and her eyes became distant for a moment, "I don't know."

The talking stopped and the two simply watched for the last few minutes as the sun attempted to hide itself. As the world around them slowly darkened, the sound of the nightlife quietly erupted around them. Finally, when the sun had vanished, Cid slowly stood up, stretching.

"I'm getting tired; it's been a long day... Too long," he stretched again, then held out his hand to help her up, "How about you?"

Lucca looked out at the black ocean before her for a second longer, lost in thought. Then she smiled and accepted his hand. He hoisted her up, and together they walked back to the house.

xxxxx

Lucca awoke, her eyes slowly opening. She had been having a fairly dark dream that was not quite a nightmare. It was nothing new to her though, she had been having them since the Nikades saga. Though they had been dying down as of late. Lucca sat up in bed, leaning back against the headboard as she rubbed her eyes. Maybe she had been stressing too much, that might've brought the bad dreams back.

But she was worried about Cid going after Marshall's sword. She didn't admit it to him of course, but they both knew it was a dangerous trip if he wasn't careful. Not only that, she was still worried that Cid wasn't fully healed. Mentally more than physically, that is. Everything that had happened had piled up and taken a massive toll on him by the point it was all finished. She and Marle had both discussed it during her trip and neither were sure he was really of sound mind yet.

Lucca quietly tapped her head against the wooden headboard, trying to piece together what made Cid tick. He seemed so impulsive, ready to blame any hardship on himself. What kind of life must he have lived to become someone like this. He was better about it now certainly, but how much, how little of an effort was needed to bring him back into the despair. That was what scared Lucca the most, the fact that she couldn't control him. Well, not control in that sense, something more along the line of predict. Or understand. Sometimes she wondered if talking to him even helped, or if it just deepened his wounds. Was he just letting it all out or fueling himself and his emotions.

It wasn't so much as a self-hatred as it was distaste for the world. His mind wasn't clear, that was most definite. His choices often contradicted each other; one moment he would be strong, the next he would be blaming everything on himself and giving up on the world.

Lucca began to think of what Marshall had written for Cid. She had already read the front, where Marshall had told Cid not to blame himself. It had had little effect apparently, though Cid hid it well. He seemed to be getting better at hiding things, even from himself.

Marshall had been the only person she had seen who could bring out the best in Cid. Cid had seemed so positive and happy when Marshall was there. He had almost seemed like a father, now that Lucca thought about it. But even then, Marshall's influence died with him, and Cid just sank deeper and deeper.

Lucca didn't want to blame herself because it sounded self-centered, but she felt that her 'death' was what drove Cid over the edge. She had hoped that that was true, because she wasn't really dead and Cid shouldn't have anything to grieve about. But it wasn't. Now Marshall was gone, and Cid wasn't improving on the inside. Just flashing around smiles on the outside so that people wouldn't pity him.

And now he was going to take a trip down memory lane.

She heard the creaking of a bed in the other room, her parents' old room where Cid slept. Immediately, she stopped tapping her head against the headboard, wondering if she had maybe woke him up. But only silence returned. He was just rolling in his sleep, more than likely. A restless sleeper.

And that thought made her worry even more.

She slipped back down on the bed, wanting to go back to sleep. All this worrying would turn her into the same thing she feared Cid would become. And if that happened, nothing would stop Cid from completely falling. She took a deep breath as she closed her eyes and calmed her mind. Eventually, she was once more asleep, and her new dreams were just the kind she liked: the kind she didn't remember when she woke up.