And so we have (finally) reached the end! I would like to thank, once again, all of my dear reviewers (anonymous or not, of course) and readers! Thank you so much for taking your time to provide me with some very valuable feedback and comments!
Without further ado, I present to you the last chapter of this fiction!
The drone of the engine woke him up.
Luke blinked around him and found himself several feet above sea level.
"Eh!" he yelped and turned his eyes on the pilot's seat. Emmy's long and wavy hair swished this way and that in the wind.
"Hm?" he could make out over the noise. Emmy turned her head as much as she could without neglecting her piloting. "Oh! You finally woke up, second assistant!"
Not bothering to correct Emmy's flawed statement (second assistant? More like Layton's number one apprentice!), Luke tried to remember how on Earth did he end up on an air plane that he never remembered getting on. He thought and mused, but was distracted by Emmy talking to him.
"Hello? Are you still awake?"
"Yes! How are you feeling Luke?"
Luke cocked his head. How WAS he feeling...? Fuzzy. Yes: that was the best word to describe it.
"I feel fuzzy."
"Of course you do," the pilot's smile could be heard in her voice. "You just bumped your head. You might have a tiny concussion. Good thing you are awake, though! That means that you are recovering nicely."
"I bumped my head?"
"Yes! You just hit your head while jumping out of an exploding giant robot!"
A giant robot...That's right! Descole's giant robot! Then that meant that...
"Are we going to shoot down Descole's giant robot?"
"'Shoot Descole's giant robot down'?"
"Yes! Like..." the word escaped him "Boom!"
"No Luke, Descole's robot already went 'boom'! I'm taking you to the hospital."
"But you just made it go 'boom', right? With the air plane?"
"No." Emmy insisted "Descole's machine exploded on its own."
"Then why are we flying?"
"Because," the exasperation in Emmy's voice escalating "I am taking you to the hospital."
"Because you just got hit on the head while jumping out of Descole's exploding machine!"
It came back to him: the Detragan, Janice-or Melina as the case was, Mr Whistler, the three songs, Ambrosia, the professor...
"Oh! The professor a-and Melina-!"
"So, you remember now?" Emmy smiled at him and turned her head back to the controls. "Don't worry, they are fine. Only some scratches, but nothing serious."
Was there anything else he could say? Hopefully not. His head buzzed and his eyes were heavy... Maybe if he closed them for a little while... it was not like he could fall asleep with the sea, the wind and the motor massacring his eardrums.
Three frigid raindrops fell on his face. It was enough to get him wide-awake.
"...Emmy" Luke spoke slowly, a bit uncertain of whether he had imagined or not the raindrops. "W-why are ...?"
"Oh don't worry," the professor's assistant gave him a thumbs up. "Just a little drizzle. Might turn into a storm, but nothing really bad."
He decided to trust Emmy's judgement, mostly because he had no choice in the matter. He supposed that Emmy knew more than he did about flying seaplanes in storms. However, he didn't like the thought of getting wet. He was hungry, tired, his head hurt and now he was going to get wet. It was not a pleasing situation. It was not a pleasing situation at all.
The wind rocked the little seaplane. Luke clutched the side of the aircraft's with his numb hands. He closed his eyes and took deep breaths.
He felt the metal carcass shake once more. Emmy's disgruntled voice could be barely heard above the fierce winds. He couldn't understand her exact words. He didn't had to try. The reason behind Emmy's distress was apparent.
"Emmy!" he yelled with what little force he could muster "What are we going to do?"
Emmy's answer was distorted by the downpour.
Luke then prayed. Not in the conventional manner. (He was never really taught to whom or what to pray to) It was more like a cry of help that he cast away like a message in a bottle in hopes of someone listening to him. It was hopeless, yet trying never hurt.
The cold rain bit his face and left it numb. He didn't dare to open his eyes, in fear of what he might see.
The struggling yellow seaplane finally gave out and fell.
Luke heard his own voice on the back of his head, uttering in the exact same tone the last words he told his parents before leaving and never coming back.
"Don't worry! I'm going with the professor! Everything will be all right!"
No, everything didn't go all right.
The professor was not here. And even if he was, there was surely nothing that could be done.
Luke didn't yell when he opened his eyes. He didn't yell when he saw the ocean's uneven surface claw at the seaplane that was headed straight towards it. He didn't yell because, the closer the seaplane got to the water, the more dream-like the vision became.
He was gone before the inevitable impact was made.
The skies were their usual shade of grey. Clouds hung over the city of London, giving testimony to the ever-present threat of rain falling upon the city. However, that day the threat was perfectly justified, for some droplets fell from the sky and landed upon the Earth. As the day went on, the droplets became more and more, turning the light drizzle into a sort of monsoon-like storm.
It was hard to hear over the thunder and the rain what the doctors told the five-man group. However, it didn't take much to understand that that the doctors informed them that they had completely taken the child off the medications and that it was very likely that he would wake up soon. That day, they were all allowed inside the room at the same time. A very convenient thing indeed.
So they all waited in Luke's room. To the child's right were the professor and Emmy. Towards his left were his mother and father. Janice stood by the pale boy's feet. Behind him, a strange series of contraptions whirred and beeped.
While they patiently endured doubt and fear in hopes for some sort of miracle to occur, the doctors and nurses kept a close eye on the machines. They reassured the five visitors that Luke was bound to wake up any time soon: that it would be any time now. However, everyone in the room knew that the day before the same doctors had admitted that they had no idea of what to do.
The rain grew stronger. It fell with such noise that not even the dead would be able to sleep through it.
Perhaps that was why the boy's eyes opened and he looked around in confusion.
He didn't have time to notice how stiff the bed was, nor how it was so cold to be wearing only a light hospital gown. He barely had time to realize where he was when he was assaulted by five different voices. Each one speaking right after the other.
"He woke up!"
"Oh thank goodness!"
"Do you think he's ok?"
"Should we call the doctor?"
"Calm down, you'll confuse him!"
The last voice was right. All five voices and faces at the same time gave him a headache. But then again...he began to distinguish who they were. The professor...his parents...Emmy and even Janice! It all gained such an amazing colour, such clear detail that he had never felt so happy before and-!
He was alive.
How strange it was to think those words! He was alive, wonderfully so!
A new face appeared. Before Luke could make out the face, he shone a little light on his eye.
"Can you tell me what's your name?"
What a funny question.
For some reason, Luke's parents smiled at each other. Emmy let out a long sigh. The professor tipped his hat and Janice looked at her hands.
"Luke what?" the man- that Luke noticed was a doctor- insisted.
"Luke Triton, of course!" the child scoffed
The doctor nodded. He wrote something on a clipboard and turned to a nurse by the door.
"Miss Haze, will you please give me the charts from the past 24 hours and a control chart?"
The nurse handed him a fat manilla folder.
Luke stared in fascination at the doctor's white coat. It was one of the few things in the room that was uniformly coloured: everything else had different shades of the same colour. But not that coat. It was a beautiful, pristine white: like snow, salt or Ambrosia's ruins.
"My boy," the professor distracted him "how are you feeling?"
Luke turned at him and cocked his head. After two seconds, he answered: "I feel happy. Can't you tell?" As if to make it more apparent, the sides of his mouth curved upwards.
"What's the last thing you remember?" Emmy asked with a toothy grin. "Come on second assistant, we all want to know!"
Luke's reaction was immediate.
"I am not the professor's assistant! I am his apprentice!"
Janice giggled daintily.
The self-proclaimed apprentice smiled widely at Janice. He then closed his eyes to recall what he could.
"Hm...I am not sure. I think that I had a dream...but it was so real! I have no idea what to think!"
Everyone, including the nurse and the doctor, paid close attention to what the boy had to say next.
"I remember waking up in an airplane." Luke's eyes looked off to the distance. "Emmy was there. She told me that she was taking me to the hospital..."
The professor nodded and held his chin, deep in thought. The loud rain finally calmed down to an almost undistinguishable pitter-patter.
"We talked for a while and then we got into a storm," Luke continued " the airplane started to fall towards the sea and..."
Luke stopped. His eyebrows were scrunched together in concentration.
"You woke up here?" asked the child's father.
"No..." Luke imitated the professor's pose. Hand on his chin, his eyes kept firmly on the indiscernible distance. "I woke up in a place... with grass."
"Grass?" Mrs Triton took his small hand and tucked his hair behind his ear. "Go on..."
"It was very soft grass..." Luke finally moved his gaze to his mother's eyes. "I was on top of a hill. The hill was..."
He blinked and rubbed his eyes. Once he finished, he turned to look at Emmy.
"The hill was overlooking the sea. And there was a really nice breeze. And suddenly I heard something very funny."
Emmy nodded eagerly at Luke, coaxing him to go on.
"I think it was music...?" Luke closed his eyes once again and hummed to himself a tuneless melody. "Yes: it was definitely music. But it was so strange because it was like-"
"And then you woke up here?" Mr Triton asked again.
"No," Luke glared at him, very annoyed "I followed the music and saw that it came from a white pipe. The white pipe lead to a city. I went the city, talked to some people and then I woke up here!"
The professor gasped. "What did you just say?"
"Um..." Luke shrunk back when he felt the adults gawk at him
"Tell us more about this dream you had." Luke's father insisted.
"Dad..." Luke rubbed his eyes and scowled "I already told you everything!"
"You barely told us anything!" Emmy insisted "Come on, Luke! We all want to know!"
Luke turned away from Emmy and, with a small frown, said: "The people from the city were playing music and I asked them where I was."
"What did they say?" His mother asked kindly.
Luke bit his lip and moved his eyes to his hands. He remained quiet.
The first person who noticed that he was crying was Janice.
The red-head stepped closer to him "Luke? What's wrong?"
"..." Luke's shoulder's shook slightly. He quietly began to sob.
"Son..." Mr Triton began, but couldn't bring himself to finish whatever he was going to say.
"Oh Luke! It's all right!" Mrs Triton hugged him. Luke returned the hug. His sobs louder and louder.
"..." The doctor took a pen and began to take notes. The nurse stared at the scene.
The professor placed his hand on the child's head. "Luke, my b-"
"I don't know!" Luke yelled suddenly. He then continued with his wailing and snivelling.
"What is it that you don't know?" the professor asked.
Luke held on to his mother and kept on crying.
"For the love of-" Emmy sighed and leaned on the wall the furthest away from the crying child.
Janice stood a bit to the side, unsure whether to step closer and try to console the boy or not.
None of the people in the room, not even Luke, knew for how long he had been crying and sobbing before he finally calmed down. What they all knew, however, was that after he stopped crying they were all feeling extremely exhausted.
Luke's stomach growled.
"Sorry..." Luke mumbled."...I'm hungry."
"Ah, yes you are." the doctor suddenly spoke up. "You haven't technically eaten anything for a day. All nutrients were given to you with an IV drip."
"So...can I eat now?" Luke rubbed his red eyes and hiccuped.
"Yes, yes! Just let me..." the doctor left the hospital room with the nurse on tow.
"Are you feeling better now, my boy?" the professor ruffled Luke's hair.
He nodded and broke the hug with his mother. He then rubbed his eyes once more.
"I think..." Mr Triton tentatively spoke "that we should also eat something while we keep Luke company. We haven't had anything since this morning and it has been a long day for all of us."
"I completely agree!" the man's wife looked up at him, then addressed her son "Would you like that? Or do you want to eat alone?"
"I don't mind..." Luke glanced at her with a certain look on his eyes that said that he wanted everyone to stay.
"Then it's decided!" Mrs Triton sat up and walked over to the door "Come on, Clark, we have to go home and tell Doland to make us some sandwiches or something..."
"Yes, dear..." Mr Triton sighed and followed her. He suddenly stopped short and turned around to look at the professor. "Layton, you and I still have that little discussion to attend to. Tomorrow at five -with some biscuits and tea- sounds like a good time?"
"It's a wonderful time, Clark."
Clark nodded briskly and turned to leave.
"'Discussion'? Luke turned to the professor "What does that mean?"
"Oh nothing my boy: just a little academic disagreement Clark and I had. But never mind that. My boy, I have a puzzle for you. A riddle, actually. Let me tell it to you again..."
Luke stared at the professor with his eyes reflecting his hunger for a challenge.
"I begin in song, but not in melody. I end in beautiful, but not in gorgeous. I have been called the essence. What am I?"
Luke cocked his head in confusion. Yet, for some reason, the professor was certain that the confusion in his eyes did not stem from getting the answer of the riddle. It was almost as if the child was remembering something long gone and forgotten.
But whatever said thing was (if there was such a thing in the first place), Luke did not say.
"You know..." Emmy took out her camera and toggled with it aimlessly "I think giving him a riddle right after he woke up from an artificial sleep is not very nice. Let him be for once professor: can't you tell that he's disoriented?"
Emmy's voice seemed to distract Luke from his deep recollection.
"...nah" Luke mumbled something so quietly that the gentle sound of raindrops covered up what he said.
"What did you say?" Janice tucked her hair behind her ear.
"No, nothing." Luke shook his head.
The doctors had made Luke take several tests and answer some questions to be absolutely certain that the little patient was in good health.
Luke had been quiet all the time. He only responded with the most basic replies. His father had to insist three times that Luke was just a shy kid before the doctors finally let him leave the hospital. Of course, Luke would have to go get checked every two weeks or whenever an emergency occurred. They didn't specify for how long he would have to come "every two weeks".
It had been a long day. A long, exhausting, extenuating day. Getting strength from where there was almost none left, everyone decided to go their own ways back home. The Tritons had to take a bus, for their handsome black auto mobile was in need of repair. Emmy left for her dwelling on her yellow moped. The professor offered Janice a ride back home on the 'Laytonmobile', but the red-head insisted on walking home.
She had opened her umbrella to walk through the streets when something strange happened.
It stopped raining.
Janice closed her umbrella and looked up at the sky. The only thing left was the humid smell of rain lingering on the afternoon air. It was a delicious, clean and fresh smell.
The sky was still overcast, but it didn't bother her as Janice Quatlane walked alone to her home.
"So, let us revise the facts. Members of the jury: I would like to present my argument first." Clark Triton paced around the living room with a sugar coated biscuit on his hand and some crumbs on his beard.
"So...should we let him?" Brenda turned to look at the opera singer and the assistant.
The assistant nodded. The singer shook her head.
"Well, it seems that majority states that you start, professor."
"Wh-what?" the man bit unto his cracker "Brenda, darling-"
"I am sorry," Mrs Triton declared decisively "But I believe that the professor should start the debate. He knows more about the specifics."
"If that is the case then..." Layton set his cup of tea on the table. "I'll begin by calling my witness to the stand. Janice, if you may...?"
Janice stood up.
"Would you please tell everyone present about how it felt to be wired to Mr Whistler machine?"
"Well..."Janice giggled "uncomfortable. You have a giant helmet on your head, your head feels fuzzy and tired."
"This was before the experiment took place, am I right?"
"Yes. Once Whistler pulled down the lever, it was a bit like watching images flash before your eyes and a mixture of sounds on your ear."
"When did you realize that these memories were of Melina?"
"Well, Mr Whislter first told me to think about times that I was with Melina, so at first I didn't notice because I saw myself on the memories. However, when I began to see and feel things about her father I knew that something was wrong."
"How exactly did you allow Melina to take over your mind?"
"Ah...that's a bit harder to understand... You see, when I realized that those memories were not mine the machine seemed to have stopped trying to force them unto me. And then, I had this..thought."
"What thought, Janice?"
"I thought: 'What would happen if I let Melina's memories in?'...Oh I know this is silly but..."
"It is perfectly understandable, dear. Please, go on."
"Well, after that, the memories seemed to come back to me. Very slowly too. So, I had another strange thought: 'I want Melina to return.' I focused on that one thought and didn't let it go as I remembered more and more about Melina's life. Well...until the end of the transfer, I suppose..."
"Thank you Janice." The professor sat up and paced around the room "Now, we never got to see Descole's plans for the Detragan: so we cannot be sure of how it functioned. However, if my hypothesis is correct, the transfer of memory alone is not enough to make a person somebody. Janice's determination could have been part of what made that formula work. The other young ladies that Whister tried time and time again to use as hosts for his daughters did not have quite the desire that Janice did to let Melina come back to life. I'd say that they counteracted Melina's memories with as much desire as Janice accepted them. Nina was the one that came the closest, other than Janice, because as a child she did not quite posses the determination the older girls had."
Clark took another biscuit and bit on it, waiting patiently for his adversary to finish.
"However, Luke's case goes completely against this theory. Firstly: he knew that the memories implanted unto him were not his and he vehemently rejected them, like the other girls. Secondly: right after the transfer was completed, Luke acted and behaved like his usual self. This leads me to think that solely believing on a memory transfer and will to accept these memories is a red-herring. There must have been something else that, although not very easily proven, is the only thing that makes sense."
"Go on Hershel," Clark prompted "I have my counter argument ready, just finish yours for once!"
"I believe, that Melina's own being had to completely agree with the idea of taking residence on a host body. In other words; she rejected taking the bodies-and by definition the lives- of other people just to live on herself. She was extremely insistent on that. Let us suppose that Melina's memories can only remain stable if Melina's herself remains on the body that hosts the memories. Even if Nina had technically taken all of her memories, Melina was inhabiting Janice's body and refused to take on Nina's. Not having Melina's being on her body to stabilize the memories, Nina's brain began to push Melina's memories out. This could have also happened with the other girls. So that leaves the window of possibility open to explaining why Luke could also successfully take on Melina's personality and mannerisms: it was not Luke who was acting, it was actually Melina."
"All of that is fairly interesting, Hershel. I commend you for your efforts." The man stroke his beard and nodded, as if agreeing with himself. "I'd say that this whole 'memories' thing is just that: memories. For instance, I could remember taking out the rubbish, yet for some reason, the rubbish is still inside the house. How much can you trust what you remember? And yet, we trust our memory every single day."
"It's true..." the professor sat down and nursed his cup of tea.
"You forget something of extreme importance when addressing the time Janice was Melina or something like that. You see: Janice is -for simplicity's sake- an actress. Her job is to set her own personality aside and be another character. Could it be, then, that she was more able to act out being Melina because she had the experience? The other girls, no matter much they tried, could have not impresonated Melina because they refused to allow the transfer to be completed and because they didn't think that they were Melina, but themselves. Nina came close to this because she is a child, and children are very able to play pretend."
"The what about Luke? He is not very good at acting, I'm afraid."
"Simple: Luke had this so-called transfer made, right? He acted his usual self afterwards. That leads me to think that Melina's memories were configured to be processed by a female brain. Since Luke is a boy, all those memories went straight to the subconscious: the junk drawer of the conscious mind. Now, Luke had slipped into a coma, remember? If I have to guess when, then it must be during that 'joy flight' with Miss Emmy. Anyway: with his conscious mind all fuddled up, it was only natural for his brain to try to bring out whatever semblance it could of organized thought it had."
"..." Layton sipped his tea.
"Being in a comma is, essentially, being asleep. Isn't it normal for the subconscious to act up when one is asleep? For practical purposes, I say that this whole episode of Luke and Melina could be seen as a long-lasting sleepwalking."
"It does make sense..." Emmy muttered to herself. "I don't know much about these subjects, but it sounds quite solid..."
"Professor," Mrs Triton turned to the top-hatted firgure "do you have a counter argument?"
"Well, it might seem to add up, but you are forgetting about what happened yesterday..."
"What is everyone doing here?" Luke's messy bed-head poked to look at the scene in the living room.
His mother, Janice and Emmy were seated on the long couch. The professor was on a seat facing them towards their left, whereas his father was on a set towards their right. From the looks of it, he had eaten all of those sugar coated biscuits that Luke loved to munch on at tea time.
"There is my little bear!" Clark shook some cookie crumbs off his beard. "How has this hibernation been?"
"I'm hungry." Luke replied pitifully.
"There is some salmon on the river for you to catch." Mr Triton straightened out his tie "By 'catch' I mean 'get', by 'river' I mean 'oven' and by 'salmon' I mean 'salmon'. Now go get it and come over here. You dad's winning a debate here. You can be a witness. Or a member of the jury: are there still any vacancies?"
"I say we call a pause," Mrs Triton sat up "so that we can all stretch our legs, gather our thoughts and Luke can eat."
"I like that idea!" Luke walked over to his mother like a duckling.
"Yes, I could use some fresh air myself," mumbled Janice as she walked out to the backyard. Emmy followed suit.
Mrs Triton had walked a few steps and Luke was about to follow her when the professor stopped him.
"My boy, I gave you a little riddle to think about back at the hospital. Here, let me tell it to you again so that you can think it through, ok?" without waiting for Luke's response, he began to recite the riddle for the third time. "I begin in so-"
"Ah!" Luke grinned widely "I know the answer! It's 'soul' right?"
Layton was taken aback by Luke's swift answer. He was so stunned that the young boy had stepped into the kitchen and was claiming his breakfast/dinner with gusto when the professor realized what the boy had just said. Layton couldn't help but grin and grip his hat that instant.
"Yes, my boy," He muttered to himself "you are absolutely right."