End of Time
Swirling mists hazy as a morning fog flowed around the old man. He appeared to have fallen into slumber as he had long ago mastered the art of sleeping while afoot. Or perhaps he didn't really have a physical form at all on this strange plane of existence outside of time.
He had just arrived.
And he had existed there for time beyond counting.
The spiraling dreamy haze coalesced almost as if it had a physical form – a manifestation of possibility. His perception interpreted it that way, but he also was no stranger to the features that he had willed into existence to offer him comfort in his seemingly endless isolation. The soft glow of an old street lamp and the babbling of a fountain brought him peace though he had long ago recognized the landscape as illusion. An illusion he himself had created to protect his fragile mind.
But the mists of time he could not dismiss. So many assumed that time was a line – hard and brittle, forever cast in stone. But the reality that stood before him was a dynamic writhing mass of currents and eddies, of possibilities and certainty. All of time was happening at once.
And something had changed, or perhaps manifested was a better word. But the event, if you could call it that when time did not exist, brought a smile to his lips. No time had passed - it couldn't in this realm. But it felt like hope of an entire planet had been reborn – he could feel its warmth in his soul like feeling the sunlight on your skin after decades of surviving storming endless blizzards.
"What did you do?" his strange occasional companion inquired with idle curiosity.
"I did nothing," was the calm reply. "I serve as a witness only."
"But it's happening as you predicted."
"It would appear so."
It was now only a matter of time.
Sensors detected a significant increase in seismic activity. This reading was unexpected as the android was not currently located in a region where such geological phenomena was commonplace. Protocol dictated that he run a self diagnostic.
All systems were performing within established parameters.
The intensity of the reading increased and now the tremors of the building could be verified visually as lab equipment and tools fell from tables and shelves. And the human techs were screaming in fright and uncertainty. The android suspected they were not trained in these emergency protocols.
"Please remain calm," his synthetic voice cut through the air. "Protocol states that you should place your body under a table or desk and hold on to the legs."
He was satisfied to note that the two techs were quick to comply with his directions. And their timing could not have been any further delayed, as the shaking had increased in intensity again to a 6.4 on the Bangor Scale.
The lights extinguished and his network communications disconnected. The android began running rapid calculations onto what calamitous event could lead to such a disruption when the nearest fault line was hundreds of kilometras away.
Perhaps an asteroid's impact?
The room rotated at a twelve degree angle, cabinets flew open and supplies crashed to the floor as overhanging light fixtures fell to the ground.
The shaking intensified again, his sensors now read an 8.1 on the Bangor Scale. Beam support structures had started to buckle.
Chances of his human companions surviving: zero percent.
Probability that he would survive and be able to meet his directive: one point three percent.
The barely twelve year old girl heard the heavy door of her bedroom swing slowly open, but she kept her blond head buried in the text before her.
"Another of your tutors delivered a letter of resignation," her father's voice broke the silence.
"Good riddance," she proclaimed dismissively, her eyes never leaving the page before her. Nothing irritated her father more than not giving him her full attention.
"Apparently, you were using your assigned readings as target practice?"
"I may be guilty of that transgression," she admitted as she turned a page.
"Is it too much to ask that you behave like a princess?" he asked with a resigned sigh.
This time she did turn around. In fact, she lept to her feet and glared at the man she called father and king.
"I am behaving like a princess!" she screamed shoving the diary of one of her ancestors into his face. "The question is father, do you want a well behaved obedient and thoughtless heir, or do you want a strong independent woman capable of ruling a nation?"
"Is it too much to ask for a combination of both?" he countered sternly not at all phased by her outburst.
The amphibian knelt in the snow, fighting the natural shivers the ice cold ground sent coursing through his cold blooded veins. He cowered behind the thick brush watching as her majesty's carriage approached.
He brought his webbed finger to his mouth and released a piercing whistle. The carriage came to a stop, and her guards, some on mounts, and others on foot, circled protectively around the carriage, their weapons out and their stances on high alert. They clearly did not yet detect the threat.
"What are you doing?" the venomous snake the size of a man at his right hissed in accusation.
He answered the question with a violent thrust of his broadsword through the creature's skull.
The others in the band turned on him, but he still had the advantage spread out as they were throughout the wilderness. He did not wait until they all were within reach. Instead, he dove forward hitting the first beast in front with the hilt of his blade, then using the momentum of the impact to shove the blade backward into a second creature's mouth at his rear.
He jumped to the side dodging a clumsy strike from the third as he stabbed the fourth with a hard uppercut.
After that, the rest were easy to pick off as the knights of Guardia had joined him in his hunt. They made short work of the remaining Mystic bandits. Once all had been dealt with the amphibian trudged back through the snow to each of the fallen – searching for survivors playing possum. There were only two.
Held the edge of his blade to the first creature's neck and hesitated.
"Why did you betray us?" his once companion demanded of him.
The frog knight said nothing as he slit the monster's throat and moved to the second wounded creature.
"The Day of Reckoning is at hand. When Lavos arrives all of humanity will perish. You have bought her mere years."
The knight dispatched the last creature without hesitation.
Then he turned to the gilded carriage waylaid in the snow, opened the door to look upon swirling frightened cornflower blue eyes. The eyes of his love. The eyes of his queen.
He had no words for her either. He simply dropped his sword at her feet and fell to his knees in the snow to show respect, praying that she would see past his monstrous features and recognize him as a friend.
"Javed please," the woman begged crushing his hand within her own. "Please don't leave me here alone."
"Amare," he whispered brushing her brilliant blue hair away from her eyes that burned with unshead tears. "My Queen, I am sorry, but I do not think I have been given a choice. I had so hoped that I would last long enough to share the skies with you."
She tried to hush him, but the stubborn fool never listened to her.
"Serve our people and daughter well my love."
His eyes fell closed. She watched as his chest continued to rise and fall praying that he would open his eyes and speak to her just one more time.
Hours passed and she had not moved. Her servants had tried to get her to eat. And when she refused, her delightful daughter came in begging her to take a break – that she would watch over her father, the queen would not be moved.
Until his chest did not rise again. And in that moment, she couldn't cry – she had possession of no more tears. Cold anger pumped through her veins like an icy fire. She channeled it to her finger tips lighting his body that lay upon their shared bed afire. She would never sleep beside him so she would never again sleep.
She would continue their research. Surely if magic could raise a continent above the clouds of neverending winter, it could stave off death indefinitely.
And when she succeeded, no one would ever have to die again.
"It's been years Madame. To what to I owe the pleasure?" the councilor said as he put the fountain pen down, turned, and folded his hands together to give the woman draped in black his undivided attention. One gave the The Widow respect or one suffered the consequences.
"I have a lead."
He arched an eyebrow in surprise. "I was under the impression that the trail had gone cold."
"You lacked the proper motivation and stopped looking," she corrected.
He fumbled nervously, trying to determine if she was making an observation or if she was passing judgement. He knew from both reputation and experience that he did not want to anger this woman.
"Here's what I have," she handed him an envelope.
"I will tell you what I find. How can I contact you?"
"The old system is still in place."
He nodded, turned away for a moment to file the document. He turned back only to find she was gone.
The cavewoman pounded her fist into the stonework in frustration, peering at a trap laying out in the open, in an outright mockery of the apes it sought to imprison. And Wulfgar had fallen for it.
She peered upward at his colossal figure struggling angrily in the nets suspended above the jungle foliage. She rolled across the ground laughing hysterically.
"Ayla!" he called. "Help!"
"Wulfgar strong! Help himself!" she barked back unsympathetically and strolled away delighted in her good fortune.
Wulfgar was strong. She would not deny it.
Wulfgar was also an idiot. He would rather see the tribe suffer and die, than admit to his own mistakes. If they continued to follow him, they would not live through the raids. She knew better.
Wulfgar would stay trapped.
She would lead the tribe.
The mage had ordered his network of spies to comb through libraries both near and far looking for esoteric texts. They had finally brought him a treasure trove of knowledge with a single volume.
He carefully turned the brittle pages scanning the archaic symbols rapidly understanding them innately as no one else in this era could. This was the last piece that had eluded him for years. He finally had enough to complete his summoning.
The destruction of Lavos was at hand.
The fiery haired teenager lay across his best friend's bed, which was the only safe place in the room cluttered with discarded gadgets, tools, workbooks, and laundry across the floor. He occupied himself with lazily tossing her screwdriver up into the air and catching it over and over while she had her back to him, her full attention on some project.
She whirled to him with two bulbous objects with flat blue pads in either hand connected to one another with a bundle of multi colored wires. The flat blue part of the device pulsed rhythmically with one another as if they were giving off some kind of light show.
"Cool! So what's this thing supposed to do?" he asked.
She scowled at him and his choice of words.
"What?" he asked defensively. "Your inventions almost always end up being completely different than what you intend!"
"That is not true!" she countered hotly.
"There was your cloud machine that made no clouds, but kept things really cold."
"The refrigerator has been extremely useful!"
"The singing robot that couldn't stay on key to save its life."
"The Guardian military has found all kinds of useful applications to Gato's techonology."
"Crono Triggara! I swear I…"
He held his hands up in surrender. "Lucca! I know that your inventions are valuable. I just was commenting on the fact that they never do what you originally set out to do!"
"Well, maybe I want to break that pattern."
"What are you trying to build?"
"A teleportation device."
"Wow! How would that even work?"
"Well," Lucca began holding out the half of the device in her left hand. "It starts with a scanner. Place and object here," she said gesturing animatedly with the object. He obediently offered her the screwdriver. And immediately, the other pod seemed to produce a replica of the screwdriver.
"How?" he asked, passing his hand through the image. It wasn't really there he realized – some kind of hologram.
"This side is scanning the object – its molecular composition, mass, and charge," she began bringing her hands together and her eyes dancing with excitement. Crono settled himself in for a long explanation. He would listen to every word, though he already knew he'd probably only understand half of it.
The Millennial Fair - Circa 1000 A.D.
Crono heard the bell ringing. Leene's Bell marked the hour every hour once the sun had risen for over three hundred years. He heard it in the same way one might hear his own heartbeat – dimly aware of it, but the sound did not truly register. And hearing the morning wake up call did not mean he was awake. Not really. Especially when it was so cold outside. He preferred the blissful warmth of being wrapped up in the cotton cloud that was his heavy winter quilt.
"Crono!" his mother called from the stairwell, bouncing from the four wooden walls of his room into his restful haven.
He pretended not to hear her. He remained motionless under his shield against the cold, even as her warm presence loomed above his form.
"And here I thought you actually wanted to go to the fair," she said with wry amusement.
He bolted out of bed, the morning chill of winter forgotten. He glanced out the window and immediately winced. The sun already stood well above the horizon. Lucca was going to kill him.
He tore through a pile of scattered clothes that lay strewn across the floor for something to wear. He seized upon a blue tunic and some khaki pants that had barely survived various training accidents as evidenced by a few threadbare patches and an actual hole or two. He donned them anyway as they were still incredibly comfortable and allowed for ease of movement.
"Can't you at least wear something clean?" his mother cried disdainfully.
"They are clean!" he insisted.
"Then why were they on the floor?" she asked.
When Crono failed to respond, his mother sighed before making her exit downstairs. Crono stomped into his boots as he fastened his belt around his waist. And finally, he tied a white bandanna around his forehead to keep his unruly bright red hair from falling into his face.
He took the stairs three at a time and made it halfway out the door before his mother's voice stopped him in his tracks.
"Hold it young man! Where do you think you're going?"
"To the fair!"
"Not until you've had a decent meal," she said, calmly nodding towards the food awaiting him at the table.
"But I promised Lucca that I would help…" he tried to explain.
"You're already late, a few more moments won't kill you."
"I'll eat at the fair," he objected, but he was already making his way to the table.
"Of that, I have no doubt. I have less faith in what you will be eating."
He didn't sit down. Instead, he stood by the table and bit into the pastry that consisted of a buttery flakey crust filled with ribbons of apple cinnamon and cheese. It was absolute perfection, but it was completely wasted on Crono who wolfed the whole thing down in a few seconds.
Just before he turned to leave his mother handed him a pouch. He knew instantly that it was his allowance, but it seemed heavy. He dumped the coins into his hand and quickly counted them. It was four times the normal amount.
"Mom, this is too much!" he objected.
"I have taken on a few odd jobs lately and had some extra money stashed away," she said, waving away the special treatment, "Have fun at the fair."
"Thank you," he said sincerely. He made it all the way to the door before he stopped in his tracks. He walked back to his mother kissed her swiftly on the cheek, "I love you, mom." Her smile broadened and she shooed him out the door.
Once outside, Crono made it down their street and to the main road. And stopped dead in his tracks. The street was flooded with wall to wall bodies and rumbling carts. Little puffs of white steam from his breath disturbed his view.
Lucca might never get the chance to kill him.
The seventeen year old princess stood stiff – her back pressed against the stone column structure that served a support beam for the extravagant passageway, counting on the shadow of the suit of armor to keep her hidden from the gossiping maids. She cursed their presence and their slow pace. The palace staff was operating on skeleton crew this week to give everyone at least two days to partake in the festivities. The following week, they would all need to return in order to put on the palace's festivities for the noble men and women of the court.
If she was caught in this part of the palace at all this hour she would be escorted back to her lessons on etiquette. She wouldn't mind the instruction if it centered around something more interesting – like history, diplomacy, and culture. But the current etiquette curriculum limited itself to the proper type of curtsy depending on the rank of the visiting dignitary and how to set the table for a state event as if she would ever be the one actually setting the table. She would definitely assign that task to the etiquette instructor herself!
"And then Marco just walked in on us!" the closer maid shared, sending her companion into a fit of giggles.
"And how did he react?" the other girl asked eagerly.
The blond teenager held her breath as they passed her hiding place.
"He didn't really. He just stopped, stared, and turned tail."
"That poor man!"
The giggles faded down the hallway, and the princess slowly crept out and continued her journey. She just had to make it past the guards stationed at the side entrance, and she would be free for at least the afternoon.
She slipped into the last alcove and waited, praying that Natalie would come through for her. She hadn't told her lady in waiting the purpose of the diversion, but her companion was no idiot. Natalie had just long ago learned if she didn't ask, she could honestly say she had no idea where her highness had disappeared to when others came looking for the "missing" princess.
Nadia sighed. If they just allowed her to actually step foot outside the castle without bodyguards and royal escorts, or if they allowed her to participate in the hunting events, she might not find cause to "vanish" quite as often.
The shattering of a clay pot broke the normal bustle of activity. Someone screamed, and everyone in the immediate area fell into a startled silence. But not the blond princess. She stayed in her hiding spot until the guards in question took off to check out the disturbance.
She then made her escape. She very much wanted to check out the celebrations. And she didn't want to do it as a princess, but as an ordinary teenaged girl.
It hadn't taken as long as Crono had feared to make it to the square. Being on foot meant he could weave through the carts and wandering pedestrians. He could also jump off the road altogether and move through the grass or jump across the tops of fence posts when the wall of people became too dense. His active pace also encouraged blood to flow, protecting him from winter's bite.
The fairgrounds at the north of the city's limits usually were an open empty space. Lucca and he spent a lot of time testing out various devices and inventions where there was unlikely to be any unfortunate unlucky victims. Today though, the fair was an assault on the senses. In between a dusty yellow walkway, every inch of land was covered in cluttered booths, stands, colorful tents, and games and competitions. The scent of barbecues and popcorn teased his nose and the chatter of movement and activity meant he would have to shout to a companion to be heard. There were fabrics, jewelry, and tools for sale and music clashing from one corner to another.
He wanted to see it all, but there would be time for that later. Right now, he had to find Lucca before she throttled him into the next century. He tried to remain focused on making his way to her location. He knew she would grant him a break later and he would have time to explore the whole fair ground. But the races were especially tempting. He had been a fan of Catalack Jack since the wildcat had earned an unexpected victory in the last foot tournament.
But it was the katanas on display that did him in. He had never seen such a finely crafted weapon. Really Master Chiva rarely let him look at live steel at all, let alone practice with it. His time training always spent with the bokken. He slipped the weapon from its saya, felt its balance and allowed himself to move through a few standard forms in the open air behind the table.
"Oooh! Look mama! That man is dancing!"
Crono smirked at the excited observation and couldn't resist showing off just a bit. He moved through the basic forms again only faster. A circle of patrons formed around his practice as he continued to pick up the pace.
The shopkeeper moved in front of him, a staff supporting his slow gait. He was an old man in orange and blue robes with a pair of shades hiding his eyes. He cleared his throat interrupting his drills.
Crono immediately sheathed the blade and placed it on the ground below the owner and bowed low.
"You have been trained in the art of the blade," the old man commented. "That is uncommon for one so young during these peaceful times."
"Yes sir, I have been tutored by the Master Chiva. He has me working on forms in the morning for hours, and then on the mind in the afternoon. Besides swordwork, lessons included math, logic, meditation, philosophy, history, art, and literature."
"A well rounded education of the arts. The training you describe is no longer commonplace. Why did you decide to study under the old traditions?"
The red-head shrugged. "I don't remember making a choice. I started training at the age of six shortly after my father died. It was important to my mother that I learned to defend myself. She had a friend of a friend who learned under the old ways and agreed to take me on as a student."
"What is your name lad?"
"Nice to meet you Crono," the old man lifted his shades to reveal his dark brown pupils. "I am Melchior," he introduced before turning to a trunk in the back of his tent. He pulled out another blade and held it out in offering. "I think your style would be better suited to this piece."
Crono took the blade, surprised at its lightness. The cord wrap across the pommel was made from dyed thin leather strands, each a distinct color weaving together like a darkened rainbow. The blade itself was impossibly thin, sharper than a razor. He bowed respectfully again, took a step back, and moved through the forms again.
This time he did not even notice the crowd, now twice the size as before, too amazed at the feeling of such a well-balanced weapon in his arms. He marveled at the way it sliced through the air and yet felt lighter than the bokken itself. He concluded with the traditional sheathing, and once again offered it back to the shopkeeper with a respectful bow.
"Thank you sir, for the privilege. This is a beautiful piece."
"You should keep it," the old man said with a smile.
Crono blinked for a moment, at a loss for words at the suggestion.
"How much does it cost?" he finally asked.
"More than you can afford I presume. Keep it anyway," Melchior said, walking back to his work bench with the support of the staff.
"True mastership went into this blade and I would prefer to pay you for your service and expertise," Crono insisted once again attempting to return the blade.
"Four hundred," the old man countered.
Crono glanced down at the katana again, taking in its beauty. He felt tempted, but he knew that paying him so little was beyond insulting to this piece.
"She's worth so much more than that," he objected.
"She deserves a master that appreciates her, which you clearly do."
And Crono understood. "You made this piece?" he asked.
"I dabble in blacksmithing on occasion, yes," the shopkeeper admitted. "Though I wish the world had no reason for such inventions. But since it does, I prefer to see my work in the hands of those that respect the blade."
"Thank you," Crono said sincerely as he offered the requested amount. "Do you have a shop around here that I can visit?"
"I live outside of Medina."
Crono winced. The blacksmith lived an entire continent away. "That's a fair distance. But I may have to force myself to make the trip at some point if you consistently craft pieces as fine as this one."
He bowed again and looped the blade safely confined within its says, onto his belt, wondering at the old man's generosity. But as he stepped away with his new prize in hand, the crowd he had attracted were already vying for the blacksmith's attention. Perhaps the old man knew exactly what he was doing. He grinned. No doubt he would make three or four sales from Crono's physical display of skill. He spared one last glance at the hut, promising himself he would return later in the week to offer some more free advertising.
He turned into the crowd only to bodyslam straight into an oncoming pedestrian. He fell to the ground hard, fighting for the air that had evacuated his lungs on impact. Leene's bell was tolling the hour again. He took a deep breath and sat up slowly, looking immediately for his assailant and victim. A girl dressed in a pale sea green jumpsuit lay in a puddle on the ground, unmoving.
He darted to her side. "Are you okay?" he asked.
Her crystal blue eyes blinked open at him, and then her lips spread slowly into a brilliant smile.
"Nice to meet you," she greeted softly.
He laughed. "Nice to meet you too. I'm Crono."
She sat up slowly, clutching a hand to her blond head. "I'm…" she paused, swaying slightly in place.
"Are you okay?" he asked again, holding out a hand to steady her.
"Yeah…" she looked up at him and smiled again. "I'm Marle." And then her open friendly smile disintegrated into panic. "Oh no! I can not have lost it!" she exclaimed, her sky blue eyes darting across the ground frantically, even as she pulled as her hands wrapped around her own collar bone and throat.
"What are we looking for?" he asks her, following her example in studying the ground.
"It's a pendant – a deep blue smooth gemstone," her tone distracted and nervous. "My father is going to roast me alive!"
The pathway was clear of debris. Off to the side of the graveled path there were wrappers and brown paper packaging that had been discarded. His eyes darted to the corners and shadows, under tables and bushes, until they seized upon the glittering object. It had fallen halfway under a table of a nearby stall, probably been kicked further from their collision by a random passerby.
He retrieved the pendant and offered it dramatically back to his blond assailant who had been searching on the opposite side of the path. Her eyes flashed from the object back up to his eyes, and her whole form loosened in relief as she gratefully took the heirloom back.
"Thank the powers that be!" she exclaimed.
He watched her long fingers deftly fasten the necklace back around her bare throat. Her cheeks were slightly pink, no doubt from the cold, and her lips spread in a genuine smile as her sparkling green eyes turned back to him. That was when he noticed the red dripping from her eyebrow.
"You're hurt!" he said, reaching for her face.
"It's nothing," she insisted. "Just a cut."
"It's a head wound. You should have it checked out."
"And miss the Millennial Fair?" she cried indignantly, gesturing to the displays around them.
"Come on," he insisted, pulling her hand. "We don't even have to leave."
He brought her to a healing tent – it was an tan-brown enclosure decorated in green streamers near the east end of the fairgrounds. He only knew of it because he and Lucca had made use of it too many times to count during previous events. There was a bit of a wait, but Marle was sitting up on a portable cot with a lollipop in her mouth as the medic took a look at her head.
"A mild abrasion. No evidence of concussion," the healer reported.
"See!" his new friend spoke around the lollipop. "Told you I was fine."
"I'm sorry I was worried," he shot back defensively. He knew from experience that head wounds were not something to gamble with.
"At least I got some candy out of it," she said, jumping down from the cot. "Where to next?" she asked as they exited the tent back into the winter sun.
"Actually, I'm really late to meet a friend. Will you be okay on your own?"
Her shoulders slumped and her eyes cast down at her hands, but only for a second. She immediately shot him another bright smile and extended her hand.
"It was very nice to meet you Crono," she said sincerely.
He took her hand, but didn't let it go.
"You could come with me if you like?" he invited on a whim.
"I don't want to intrude," she said, flipping the pendant that rested on her collarbone, mindlessly again and again.
"Are you kidding! My friend is running an exhibit and the bigger the crowd, the happier she'll be.
Her smile flooded her face with genuine delight once again.
"Then I would be delighted to accompany you! Thank you."
They weaved through the river of pedestrians passing an old man eating his lunch, a small girl chasing a kitten, and a band called "Prehistoria" played lively tunes as they made their way past. Lucca's exhibit was at the northernmost corner of the fairgrounds, but when they arrived they both stopped in their tracks at the crowd of people lined up to enter the inventor's corner of the fairgrounds.
"I don't know if your friend needs extra bodies," Marle commented dryly, as they joined the line.
He laughed. "Yeah, even when her inventions don't work quite right, Lucca promises to show you a spectacle. People love to see the show. I wish they could recognize the incredible value that she offers."
"You admire this Lucca?"
"She was my first friend when we first moved here. And has probably been my best friend ever since."
"Where are you from?"
"That's half a world away! How is it possible you don't even have an accent?"
He was taken aback by the question. No one tended to comment on his lack of accent. But thinking about it, that was probably because they assumed he was native to Truce. "When we got here, I was only six. And now that I think about it, my mom was insistent we learn the proper dialect of the land. She was probably worried that I would be singled out or bullied or something."
"That's too bad," Marle commented, putting the shrinking lollipop back in her mouth. "I would have appreciated an accent."
"What about you? Where are you from?" he asked her.
"I'm actually from this region! I've been here my whole life."
"How come I've never met you?"
"You think you know everyone that lives in Truce?"
"Maybe not well, but yeah," he said confidently. Certainly, everyone knew who he was – with all the trouble he and Lucca managed to get into.
"My father works up at the palace. We have some quarters there, and we're not often able to come into town. But there was no way I was going to miss the fair!"
The crowd was suddenly moving forward and they were herded into the mini square with the next group. Lucca was facing her newest invention, her purple hair was peeking out of her helmet. She turned around to face her new audience, readjusted her glasses, and straightened her brown tunic. Crono grinned, watching her prepare herself for a long explanation.
"This is the Telepod," she began as the crowd settled into place, gesturing towards two circle platforms on either side of the square. Coiled wires and strands exited the base of the blue platform like a bundle of coiled snakes connected to the boxy machinery and computer console. There was a monitor and control panel connected to each station. In no way were the two terminals connected together.
"The device creates a Super Dimensional Warp Field and anything on the left pod is transported into a inter-dimensional space and then brought back into our space-time dimension on the right pod. This works because inter-dimensional space exists everywhere and can be lined up with any point in our reality. So the subject is not moving really fast so much as being instantly teleported from one point to another."
"Inter-dimensional space is not really a plane overlapping ours where there is a coinciding point for every point in ours, but rather it is a single point that connects to all points in our own reality as well as all other dimensions. So theoretically we could, once in inter-dimensional space, go anywhere, even to dimensions outside our own. The device, if synchronized correctly, should work just as well over significant distances."
"Did you understand any of that?" Marle whispered into his ear.
"I stopped trying to understand Lucca long ago. I've learned it's not so important why it works. Just need to know what it does."
"What does it do? I missed that part."
"You stand over there," he pointed to the left pod. "You disappear. Then reappear over there," he pointed to the right pod. "She's been working on this for just over a year," pride oozing from his voice.
"I see," she said noncommittally.
"Let me demonstrate. Any volunteers?"
Silent stillness reigned. Several audience members in the front row even took a step backward. Crono smiled to his blond companion, and then began weaving his was forward, all the while holding her hand to guide her in his wake.
"I assure you it has been tested and is safe. The possibilities of being transported elsewhere or getting caught between realities are extremely remote."
"I don't know…" someone murmured loudly, "Lucca's inventions never do quite what they are supposed to."
"I'll do it." The red-haired swordsman announced when he had finally made it out of the crowd.
"Crono! So nice to see you… finally," she said with false brightness, but he knew she'd give him hell later rather than during her presentation.
"Better late than never right?" he responded cheekily. Her blue eyes narrowed through her brown framed lenses.
"Go stand over there," she ordered stiffly as she pointed to the left pod. Crono complied whirling around and smiled at Marle when they made eye contact. He then turned to Lucca, but her attention was glued to the panel next to his pod, as she keyed in various inputs.
"You know those other possibilities you were talking about? Just how remote are they?" he asked nervously.
She smiled at his discomfort, still not looking up from the console. "Hardly worth mentioning my friend," she said as she keyed in something else.
"And yet, you mentioned them," he shot back.
If anything, her grin widened. "Good-bye Crono," she said, finally looking up at his face as she pushed a final button.
He felt the machine power up with thrumming vibration, the pad beneath his feet lit up blinding him as he looked down, and then the blue light seemed to swallow his surroundings. The square filled with strangers and equipment vanished from his senses to be replaced with an endless field of hazy blue electric arcs and rolling mists. He felt weightless and the only sound he could hear was his own heartbeat pounding through his head.
Then he was falling, his form suddenly pulled down like lead. He couldn't pinpoint where sounds were coming from and his vision spun with double images - almost like for a second he was in two places at once. He shook his head and the sensation vanished, and he opened his eyes to find himself on the opposite side of the square.
The whole crowd had frozen so still that Crono wondered if time had stopped. But then the silence broken with an uproar of enthusiastic screaming and applause.
"Welcome back Crono. How do you feel?" Taban, Lucca's father, asked.
He stepped down from the dais. "I feel fine. It was disorienting for a second, but I feel completely normal now."
The older man offered him a pleased smile. "Glad to hear it. A few of the volunteers reported feeling a bit nauseous afterwards."
He returned to his spot in the crowd next to Marle.
"Crono, that was amazing!" she gushed as he came back to her side. "I want to try!" she said ecstatically jumping up to the left platform herself in childlike glee, Crono slipping to Lucca's side as she did so.
"So, this is why you were so late, even for you. How did you manage to pick up such a cutie?" his friend whispered teasingly into his ear.
"It's not like that at all," he said quietly.
"Uh huh." Her tone suggested she did not even remotely believe him.
He glanced at Marle – her face bright and her eyes twinkling with over flowing excitement, and found himself grinning.
"You might be right," he admitted.
"Behold ladies and gentlemen, as this vision of loveliness steps aboard the telepod," Taban announced.
"Throw the switch Lucca," Marle directed. Lucca was already keying all kinds of things into her pad. Her hands moved amazingly fast. She pushed the button. The whirl of power buzzed through the air for a second and then choked. The light on the pad began to flicker.
"That's odd. It should have plenty…Hey dad, I need more power!"
"Roger that." Taban called back. The pad brightened and thrummed again just the way it had, and for that split second it had seemed like everything was working fine.
But then blue lightning arced up from the platform, leaping into her now glowing ocean blue pendant. Marle screamed.
"Shut it off!" Lucca yelled over the noise.
Crono tried to leap onto the pad to pull Marle from the electrical storm, but he couldn't move forward. Like the air had turned thick and viscous. His hair stood on end, and a bolt struck him throwing him back.
Sparks and electric arcs shot out in every direction. The panel exploded and Lucca screamed, collapsing the ground. Taban ran to her side. The crowd broke – half running from the square, others falling to the ground to cover themselves.
Crono's attention remained on the blond on the platform – her smile had vanished, her emerald green eyes wide with terror.
"Marle, it's your pendant!" he yelled, but she was way ahead of him. She had already taken it off and dropped it to the floor, but the reactive electrical storm had yet to cease.
"Taban, is there any way you can turn it off?" But his control panel had exploded too.
The air around Marle seemed to blur and darken into a crackling ball of dark blue and purple energy that multiplied in size like a growing sun. The very air above the platform seemed to fold in on itself as if dimensions were added to the normal three axes of regular space. And then it snapped back to normal like a rubber band, only Marle was gone.
And then it was horribly silent.
Lucca was the first to move. She slowly sat up clutching her head.
"Are you alright?" Taban asked.
"I think so. What happened?" She turned towards her invention. Marle's pendant lay alone on the blue pedestal. "She's gone isn't she?" She stood up. But Taban and Crono were both ready to catch her should she be slightly unstable.
"…something always goes wrong…"
"I told you it'd be exciting!"
"How can you say that? Someone is…gone!"
Crono gave Taban a look and nodded towards all the people who were gaping at the aftermath.
"Okay folks, there's nothing left to see here," he waved the people out. "The authorities will take it from here," They slowly wandered out. They looked as confused and bewildered as Crono felt.
"No doubt they will want to arrest me," Lucca noted distantly.
"Lucca!" he snapped as he grabbed her shoulders and shook her. "What are you talking about?"
"I knew something was wrong. I should have shut it down then. But no, I thought nothing could go wrong and that I had everything under control and that I could compensate for the malfunction. I should have known better!" she was screaming at him now. "I was messing with space-time. A mistake is not exactly forgivable. She's dead because of me!"
He shook her again. "Snap out of it! I know this is hard for you, but right now you are the only one who knows how this thing works. I need you to think. Are you sure that she's dead?"
"Crono, if she didn't show up at the target location nor reappeared at the starting point there's no way of telling where she is. She could be anywhere and let me tell you it is infinitely more likely that she is someplace where no one could survive. She could be in the core of a planet - not even necessarily this one, or in a star or space, or even transported into the middle of the sky where she could plummet to her death. Or even in the empty space between dimensions. Hell! She could be in another dimension. There is so much more of all those potential dangers than there is safe land she can stand on."
"But she could be alive?"
"I suppose so… Crono? Who was she? She looked familiar."
"Lucca, if she is, we have to get to her. You have to figure out what went wrong."
"It wasn't the telepod," Taban interjected. "We tested it dozens of times accounting for every variable we could think of including power spikes."
"It was the telepod," Lucca disagreed. "Clearly there was something we didn't test for. The warp field seemed to be affected by her pendant. But how could a piece of jewelry cause a disturbance in the very fabric of space-time? It doesn't make sense!"
Crono retrieved the necklace and handed it to the inventor. "Perhaps it's made out of something unique?"
"Like what?" she asked, holding the gem up to the sunlight. "I will have to run some chemical tests on it to define some of its properties before I can truly tell you what might have happened."
"How long would that take?"
"A week or two at best," Taban replied.
"We don't have that kind of time," Crono objected. "Lucca, we know the pendant telepod combination caused it. We saw it happen. Let me take the pendant and you can send me to wherever it sent Marle. She might need help. Then you can run whatever tests on it that you need to."
"Crono, I can't duplicate the exact conditions. I can't guarantee that you'll go to the same place she did."
"We have to try," he insisted.
He was startled to see her eyes filling with tears.
"Lucca?" he asked.
"This could kill you," she told him, her blue eyes swimming with barely suppressed emotion.
He seized her in a hug. "I'm not going to die."
"You can't know that," she whispered, holding him tight.
"It's his choice. Let him go," Taban said softly. Lucca nodded and turned her attention back to her console.
Crono charged back onto the platform, picked up the pendant, and nodded toward his best friend, but she wouldn't look up. "I'm ready when you are."
She still didn't look at him. He suspected she was crying.
"It's going to be okay," he told her.
"Damnit Crono!" she objected, now wiping away blatant tears. "You're not helping!"
He grinned in spite of the situation.
"Here we go," she had pushed the button, and once again the platform beneath his feet thrummed with life, the lights flickered underneath him, and he took a deep breath trying to prepare himself for whatever was coming.
"I need more power."
"I need more!"
The electric storm surged all around him, arcing up to the pendant that burned in his chest. The air thickened and it was difficult to draw breath. He made himself drop the pendant – leaving it behind for Lucca to study.
"I'll follow you after I know what went wrong," she called.
He wanted to respond, but his tongue couldn't form the words. He felt heavy, as if his limbs were suddenly made of lead. It was all he could do to remain standing. There was a dark circle spiraling around him, and Lucca and Taban were torn from his sight.
"Good luck Crono!"
The square was gone. Blinking stars across the blackness of space flashed across his vision like the entire universe opened itself up to him. Waves of blue, violet, and green energy fields flowed past him like he was caught in a wind current. But there was no sound, once again only his own beating heart throbbed endlessly through his head. He could not have said how long he was floating through this impossible space. It seemed an eternity – so long that he was certain Lucca had been right all along, that he would be stuck between dimensions for what was left of his life.
Before he could ponder his end further, he was pitched forward, the energy storm around him dissolved, and he struck the ground – hard. Air left his lungs and blackness overtook his vision.
A/N: (April 2018)
I started this monster more than ten years ago. It was my first fic ever! It's a novelization of the whole game where I was trying to add depth and realism. Clearly, I was biting off way more than I realized! Still learning to chew I guess.
Over the last decade my writing has improved a LOT and my style has definitely changed, so I felt these first few chapters needed to be rewritten. I have now done that for this first chapter. Chapters 2-4 (maybe 5 too) deserve similar treatment in my opinion.
The stories is pretty loyal to canon in concept, if not always in execution. It definitely diverges more from the original the further it goes (as I got more confident as a writer). This starts to happen in chapter 6. Since you likely know the plot if you're reading this, you could probably skip to there, if the first few chapters feel… well, immature in writing quality and execution.
Please be warned, my updates are few and far between. But I have yet to stop working on this one! I love it too much!
Hope you enjoy!
Reviews are love! (Especially in a fandom like this one that is sadly not very active anymore).