Well, I was convinced into picking up the slack on the Wonder Chef/Caleb series of fics for ToS, which means I'm juggling a lot more fics than I'm comfortable with, but at least these ones were completed long ago. So they were never posted anywhere. Go fig. Caleb's story is companion to Adam: Cast from Paradise, as the events in both occur at about the same time, running parallel until they reach the Wonder War event. Now, because things from Caleb's future is a little different from the series I've written so far here in his past, we can just blame ToS2 for that, since its timeline crashed with the one I had for my fics and so I had to speed up the events in the history Caleb has in his modern form. Did that make any sense? Oh well. I'll try to keep both of these updated at the same time.
Caleb awoke slowly and felt confused for a few brief moments. No one had given him the emergency awakening code, so something else must have roused him from a state of suspended animation. Why was he in it to begin with? He remembered escaping Vinheim with the password and rings, and that mad Tsaneir angel calling him a lord or something, then...
He sat up with a gasp and groaned softly, doubling over as a surge of mana flowed through him in response to the sudden motion, hands immediately going up to press against the center of his chest. Huron stood by him, watching the doll emotionlessly.
"I would advise against moving so suddenly for a short time. Your body is adjusting to the enhanced Tri-Crystal System." the angel told him. Caleb nodded slowly and straightened, blinking in surprise at his new clothes. For a moment, he thought his familiar old suit had been repaired, but there was a strange lightness to the fabric and a shimmer that ran along it under the light of the laboratory. "I believe your clothes will be to your liking. We managed to change the coloration of a type of mythril mesh to match your old clothing, then wove magitechnological fibers into it that connect to your internal Over-Limit System."
"My what system?" Caleb asked in confusion, pulling one hand away to flex his fingers experimentally, then rubbing at his eyes. His vision seemed erratic for some reason; he set a diagnostic program to run and find out what was wrong with it.
"We built and programmed the Over-Limit System into your body, but during installation, the code somehow mutated and split into three Modes. We know that one of those Over Limit Modes responds to the damage you incur during battles; the other two remain a mystery." Huron explained, "The systems were named during a scan of your processes; Avenger, Savior and Chosen. Chosen Mode is your personal Over Limit Mode. When you've attained damage of seventy percent or more severity level, the Chosen Mode activates, increasing your speed and defensive abilities for a period of five minutes, but greatly reducing your magical and physical power to reroute the mana for that boost."
"Okay, so what do the other Modes do?" Caleb questioned in suspicion, "And who named them?" The diagnostic came back and reported that his visual system needed to reboot to finish configuration. He mentally confirmed it and resigned himself to temporary blindness while he tried to figure out why he wound up with three Modes instead of one.
"That is unknown. The systems named themselves when they were created. Avenger and Savior Modes are currently dormant, the Chosen Mode is the only online Over Limit Mode you have right now." Huron told him and fluttered towards the computers, "We tried to access their programming and managed only to get this piece of data. 'An avenging angel to smite those who steal a precious treasure; a holy savior of the seraphim rank to protect the lives of the faithful.' Perhaps the 'precious treasure' and the 'lives of the faithful' are the catalysts to activating to other Limit Modes."
"I don't like this. I only wanted one Over Limit, not three!" Caleb protested, "Can you take them out of me?" The angel replied with a blunt 'No.' and the doll's jaw dropped. "Why not?" he practically whined. As immature as it was, Caleb just couldn't help himself. This was something that was installed into his body and brain; he had a right to complain about something that could affect him in a negative manner!
"We tried already. When the systems appeared of their own accord, we tried to delete the programming, but they were too finely ingrained into your native systems." Huron answered, "To remove them would be to destroy your artificial intelligence core system." Caleb groaned and flopped back on the table. "I believe I told you your clothes are connected to the Over-Limit System. Depending upon the Mode you take, the fabric will adjust its properties to best suit the limit Mode. It will revert when the Mode ends."
"And it's mythril, so it won't get damaged so easily, huh? Thank you very much, Sir Huron." the doll remarked and sat back up, jumping down from the table and blinking as the visual system finished rebooting, bringing his surroundings back with a much sharper focus. "Ah! I can see more clearly than before!" he exclaimed in understanding. An upgrade, that was it!
"Yes, well, we made a few improvements here and there in your design while you were unconscious." Huron added dismissively, "You may want to rejoin your two companions. They seem to be having trouble with Mithos' password." Caleb thanked him again and left the building. Huron turned back to the screen with a frown. "Avenger, Savior, Chosen; these are names Mithos would have selected for such systems..." he murmured.
Caleb jogged over to Raine and Pepper as they studied the pages of the tattered old book between them. He peered at it with them before making them jump with a sudden greeting.
"Don't do that!" Raine scolded and smacked Caleb's head, then yelped as her hand throbbed from hitting metal. Pepper grinned shamelessly at her and clacked at her friend's return.
"Sorry for making you guys wait so long. I've been getting a ton of upgrades and enhancements. So what's the trouble?" the doll remarked sheepishly, rubbing his head. Pepper nudged at the book with her snout.
"This thing. Mithos wrote a clue to his password, but we can't figure it out. 'Speak her name and she will live forever.' Any ideas?" the mana beast returned. Raine shook her injured hand and pouted.
"The woman in the clue must be Martel. Mithos was obsessed with Martel. But I've entered every combination of Martel and different words for 'forever' into that computer and it keeps spitting back a denial!" she grumbled as Caleb picked up the book and studied it himself, a strange look on his face.
"He... wasn't talking about... Martel..." he murmured. Raine looked up at him in confusion. Pepper stood on all four paws, tilting her head in concern.
"Caleb? Are you all right?" she asked.
"If Mithos wasn't referring to Martel in that passage, then who is it?" Raine asked, standing up as well. Caleb read the words to himself silently, then closed the book and gazed skyward in thought.
"Speak her name and she will live forever. This isn't Martel. Martel would live forever in the body of a Chosen, had things gone according to plan." he reasoned softly, "This is about a woman who had no body, no consciousness, nothing but her name to continue her existence." He turned and walked to the computers, followed by Pepper and Raine as they looked at each other in growing concern.
"Caleb, how would you know that? Mithos was obsessed with Martel. There was no one else in his life that had as much influence as she did." Raine pointed out.
"You've been acting strangely ever since you got the idea to come here. As soon as you got the plan to come to Derris-Kharlan, you've been gung-ho on finishing the archival of the Summon Spirit Seals to get here." Pepper growled, "Something must be affecting you, and it's something here! What did those angels do to you?" Caleb held up a hand for silence.
"It's not from the angels or this place. These are just... reminders. Whatever is affecting me is inside me. I think my soul is connected to this place somehow." he replied softly and placed his fingers on the keys, closing his eyes. "Speak her name and she will live forever. The password is..." He began typing, never opening his eyes until he hit the entry key, "Eternal Kartha." Pepper blinked and tilted her head in further confusion.
"I don't understand this. How would Mithos know of Kartha?" she asked. Caleb watched the file accept the password and shrugged.
"Well, Kartha's a half-elf, right? So maybe the story of her involvement in the sealing of the Famine Lord was passed down among half-elves the way the legend of Eru's involvement was passed down among the Wonder Cooks." he suggested thoughtfully, "Kartha's story for the half-elves may have been exaggerated to make her seem like a grander, more awe-inspiring person than she may have actually been. Eternal Kartha sounds like the kind of title half-elves would bestow on her, and Mithos might have used it as a password because it would confuse everyone." He grinned back at Pepper and Raine, but the smile seemed too bright, "Think about it. You guys thought it was Martel because Raine knows from personal experience that she's the only one he publicly made a big fuss over. Same with Kratos and Yuan. They wouldn't think to look for a legendary woman when the current obsession is about his sister, whom he made into a legend as well."
"And what brought this leap to the conclusion that Mithos was thinking of Kartha and not Martel?" Raine asked suspiciously, arms folding over her chest as she pinned a steady gaze on the doll. Caleb looked worried, gazing down at the floor.
"I don't know. It felt right, I guess." he mumbled evasively and snapped out of his thoughts when the file beeped, "Oh, it's open!" They crowded the screen, reading the file quickly.
"Wait a minute. This can't be right." Raine finally murmured after a silence fell over the group. Caleb's eyes went wide and he stepped back in horror. "Who's Adam Voraci?"
"Oh Goddess! Wren!" the doll blurted, feeling sick as Pepper whimpered and shuffled back from the computer. "Wren's the Final Chosen!"
"The Wonder Chef?" Raine questioned, reading on and shaking her head, "This doesn't make sense. Why would Mithos want the Wonder Chef to be his Chosen?" Her face tightened as she shot another look at the file. "That sneak! He lied to us! He's been here before after all!" she declared in irritation.
"That's why he didn't want to come to Derris-Kharlan with me!" Caleb realized, threading his hands through his hair as things began making sense, "He knew that if he came, the Angels of Vinheim would capture him and turn him into a vessel. But if he escaped from Derris-Kharlan to Symphonia, then it proves the Wonder Fork has the ability to teleport the distance from the comet to our world!" He let his hands drop as a sort of numbness and the unsettling feeling of betrayal seeped into him, hurt and confusion on his face. "Wren... lied to me...?"
"The Wonder Chef is Subject A-481?" Pepper whimpered and sat down, "But, how?" Caleb shook his head, moving backwards away from the group in staggering steps with the same lost expression on his face. Nothing else was registering in his mind, everything was focusing on the revelation before him which only made the hurt sharper and more intense.
"It's not true... It's not true! Huron said the third Chosen escaped with the Cruxis Crystal attached, but I've examined Wren's body a number of times during his illnesses and injuries." he protested weakly, shaking his head and completely unaware of the tears now running down his cheeks, "He doesn't have a Cruxis Crystal on him. I would have seen it if he did." Raine studied the file carefully, frowning.
"It could have been removed after he escaped. Did you see any slight scarring anywhere on him?" she asked as she read on. Caleb sank to the floor as his legs decided to fail to support him, shoulders sagging even as he scanned through his memory.
"He has several old scars in random places, as well as a couple of thin markings below his neck." he recalled in a dead tone, causing Raine to turn around at look at him worriedly. Pepper whined, padding forward with her ears back as she nuzzled at his hand. He pet her snout absently before lifting his eyes to the half-elf, his gaze distant. "I thought those were just scratches from the chain he wears around his neck... I didn't think anything of it." he murmured and then squeezed his eyes shut, finally letting out a sob as he covered his face in his hands, "How could I have been so blind? Oh Goddess, what did Mithos do to him? Wren!"
"Calm down. I'm finding out." Raine told him and looked towards the mana beast in concern, "Pepper, can you help him? I would as well, but I need to learn what I can about this." Pepper nodded and scooted closer to her guardian, nuzzling his arm. Raine gave the weeping doll a pitying look, then turned back to study the open file on the screen. "Let's see. 'Subject A-481. Human name: Adam Voraci. Mana signature test results: ninety-three percent match to Lord Yggdrasill. Magical potential is high. Blood test results: half-elf. Genetic test results: human. This subject has proven to be as equal a threat as Lloyd Irving, but a potentially greater asset to my ideals. Lloyd is becoming more dangerous with each passing day. In light of this, I will create a third Chosen from this being and keep him hidden. Should the impossibility of my defeat at the hands of the inferior beings occur, my consciousness shall be transferred to this Final Chosen. The combined strengths of my angelic power and his innate magical skill should prove more than a match for Lloyd and his companions.'"
"He was going to keep Wren prisoner up here." Caleb whispered tearfully, pulling his hands down to look up at Raine in horror, "Why? Why did Mithos choose Wren for this?"
"Let me finish... Ah, it says here that Mithos discovered the Wonder Chef was betraying him at the same time he found Kratos had betrayed him." she went on, fingers running over the words as she digested the information as quickly as she could, "He used the Eternal Sword to kidnap the Wonder Chef shortly after an assassination attempt failed in Meltokio. When he had the chef tested for use in the Angelus Project, he discovered the similarities and his native magical power and chose instead to use him in his contingency plan." Raine summarized and stood back, frowning as she folded her arms over her chest again. "That explains why we never saw him after leaving Meltokio for the Tower of Salvation. The assassination attempt was probably that Dark Chef cornering him near the castle. It failed because Regal interfered."
"That's why he couldn't teach you the other three recipes." Caleb agreed, his shoulders slumping again as he bowed his head, "He was trapped on Derris-Kharlan. His father must have sent Wonder Cooks in his place to finish what his son started."
"We got those recipes after the Tower of Salvation in Tethe'alla fell and we rescued Zelos." Raine muttered, turning away from the machine and joining the doll and mana beast, "More than enough time for him to have returned. Remember, Huron said the Third Chosen escaped when Mithos was defeated during the first attack on the Tower, when we rescued Colette after Zelos pretended to betray us. I think he was recovering from the experience of being the Chosen of Mithos, or from the removal of the Cruxis Crystal. When we saw him again, he stayed only in Altamira's cafeteria to give us new titles." She frowned as she thought back to that day, kneeling down by Caleb. "His cheerfulness seemed forced and he looked paler than usual. He may have taken ill from the removal of the Cruxis Crystal. Someone had to have contacted a dwarf to do it; anyone else may have ruined it and the Wonder Chef would have wound up turning into a monster, like Clara and Rodyle."
She paused then, reaching out to place a hand on the doll's shoulder gently. Her expression softened at seeing him looking so pained by what he'd learned. "It's all right to feel hurt about this, Caleb. There's nothing wrong with that." she told him carefully, "But don't feel as though he did this purposely to hurt you. I'm not saying I know why he lied or hid this from you, but he seems to be a good person, and you are a good friend to have. It's likely that he had the best of intentions when he chose to hide this part of his past, more so when you decided to come here. If anything happened, he wouldn't want you to feel responsible, I believe."
Caleb looked up at her mutely, as though unaffected by her words, then reached into his pack and pulled free the slip of paper Wren had given him before he left for Derris-Kharlan. He could still remember the blonde telling him to use it if he ever got into serious trouble. Now he could understand all the belligerence that came from him whenever Caleb pried into his past. He'd been touching on wounds that hadn't healed, without ever knowing. Wren's constant refusals to follow him to Derris-Kharlan, his lying about the Wonder Fork's ability to teleport to the comet, his near-violent fits of anger when questioned about his lack of appearances during parts of the Reunification Journey or told that Mithos controlled the Wonder Chefs as tightly as the Chosen; it all made sense now.
"That's why he thinks of himself as valueless unless he was Wonder Chef, and why he puts that title equal to Chosen. It's because he is a Chosen, and he experienced firsthand the similarities between the two titles." he finally murmured, gazing down at the folded paper in his hand. Raine gave him a puzzled look, then stood and gestured towards the machine.
"The Cruxis Crystal and its mount are pictured in the file, Caleb. Do you want to see it?" she asked softly. The doll swallowed hard, but nodded and stood as well. They walked back to the computer together and gazed at the screen. "For what it can do and what it represents, it certainly is rather beautiful." Raine commented thoughtfully, "Leave it to Mithos to have his new Cruxis Crystal's mount crafted by a master artisan." The Cruxis Crystal on the screen was the same color and shape as Mithos' own, the mount styled to resemble golden wings spread from the shining red stone. The runes carved to help the stone transform its host into a vessel were carefully cut into the mount as the lines that made the feathers, that defined the central stone, that shaped the mount to look like a winged figure, an angel.
"I wanted to protect Wren from the evils of the world." Caleb mumbled sadly and shook his head slightly, "But I was too late to protect him from the greatest evil this world had to offer." He held up the note again, offering it to his companion. "Raine, remember when he gave this to me? It's written in elven language. I can't read it, so can you?" The half-elf took the paper and opened it, studying the letters on the sheet. "He said to use it if I ever got in trouble."
"It's a letter." Raine said after a moment, "A letter of submission. 'To whomever holds my friend's life in his hand, I know what it is you angels seek. Grant immunity to my friends and I will surrender to your will. I am the Chosen of Mithos, the key to his contingency plan. I beg of you, bring no harm to them and I will offer myself to Mithos for his resurrection.' It's signed, Adam Voraci." She shook her head, a disappointed frown on her face. "His intent was good, but this is still cowardly. Is he so desperate to destroy himself that the Wonder Chef would actually seek out Mithos' soul to endanger this world again?"
"That idiot." Caleb whispered angrily, eyes narrowing as he welcomed this distraction from the numbness and the hurt and feeling of betrayal, "I told him I would protect him, and he gives me this order for his own destruction? Wren! How could you? When have I ever let you down? When have I failed to fulfill my promises to you? Can't you even keep the promise to live your life for me?" He tightened one hand into a fist, glaring at the note. "If I had used it, I would be responsible for sending him to his death; how could he think I'd be able to live with myself with that knowledge?"
"What do we do now?" Pepper murmured, joining them at the console, "We can't give this to the Angels of Vinheim! They'll take away the Wonder Chef! I won't get delicious meals anymore!" She thought a bit more, as if realizing that there were other people to think of as well. "Oh, yeah, and the world will starve to death, too. But isn't my stomach more important right now?" she whined.
"We'll have to destroy this data. The Angels of Vinheim can't learn about Wren." Caleb hissed, reaching out to slam his hand down on the special pad designed for automated dolls, "I had a feeling that I needed to come here as soon as possible, and this must be why. I have to stop this plan from stealing Wren's life away. I'm not letting Cruxis destroy another innocent person!" He glared at the display as he began opening the commands to copy and erase the data, but paused when he took another look at the mount. "Wait a second. Those runes... they look wrong." he murmured, moving his hand up to trace over the delicate writing. Raine gave him a confused expression and he nodded slightly. "Dwarven technology... these runes... they're not like the ones on the mount Colette wears..." he amended and peered at them more closely, "If I could translate this... maybe the file has the inscription saved..."
Angels flew by before he could explore his thoughts further, swarming with spears and bows in hand as they chattered in what seemed like a panic. Caleb turned to watch them in concern, then looked over at Huron flying towards them from the laboratory. Raine closed the file quickly and turned to cover the screen as Pepper flicked her ears in annoyance and growled.
"Caleb, I'm sensing something coming this way, an angry being with a desire to take you from us. Her mind is clouded with rage for your body, but awe for the soul you possess." the mana beast muttered and stepped towards the west side of Welgaia. Caleb swallowed as Raine lifted her rod in preparation for battle. Huron landed beside them, a spear in one hand.
"Tsaneir was not patient. There are reports that she is passing through the catacombs with an army of machines to capture you, Caleb." the angel reported and looked at the doll. The redhead swallowed again, looking nervous and evasive as he bowed his head to hide himself. "Is there a reason why Tsaneir is so desperate to gain both the file on the Third Chosen and you?"
"I'm not sure. She called me a lord, then said my body was unfit for my soul." the doll mumbled with a half-hearted shrug, "Maybe she's just crazy, like Mithos was."
"She's coming closer. Caleb, she wants to take you away. Take you away and keep you in Vinheim until she finds the Final Chosen." Pepper growled, fur rising as her wings half-opened. Caleb blinked in confusion and hurried ahead to walk by her, soon joined by Raine and Huron as they made their way to the catacombs' entrance to get a stronger focus.
"Pepper, can you read more from her? What is she planning to do with me? How will she escape Derris-Kharlan to try finding Wren?" the doll requested. Pepper seemed to glow faintly, no longer needing to go into her trance to read minds after spending time enhancing her skills.
"This being... wishes to combine your soul with the Chosen's body. She thinks... no, she believes that Mithos' soul is inside you." she murmured, concentrating on the impending army, "She wants to attack here and get the data at last. She fears harming you now, and is angry that she nearly destroyed you in the catacombs earlier. Tsaneir will do everything she can to disable you for capture, without harming you so badly the soul abandons you and is lost to her forever. She knows of a way to Symphonia. A way that Lloyd overlooked; it gets past the magic wall, and it's here. Somewhere." Pepper shook her head and the aura faded. "That's all I can get for now. She's really, really ticked off." she finished, eyebrow raised, "Kind of makes me wonder what the heck you did to her in Vinheim."
"Is it possible, Caleb?" Raine asked, a strange tone in her voice as she looked at him as though he were some new and foreign thing, "Is it possible that you have Mithos' soul in your body?" The doll shook his head, eyes wide and growing fearful.
"No! I can't have his consciousness! It disappeared when it merged with the Great Seed, didn't it?" he exclaimed in protest and cried out, hands flying up to cover his head protectively when the alley with the catacomb gateway exploded, dozens of machines and warrior angels flooding through to collide with the waiting mass of scholarly angels. The redhead uncovered his head and gaped at the battle that broke out. Huron looked up and held his spear ready, taking on an aggressive stance.
"Tsaneir!" he declared and the group of friends looked up with him in shock. The angelic lord hovered over them, twin sets of black wings flapping as she leveled her sword at them. Raine held her rod defensively, waiting to see what was going to happen.
"Ah, Huron, so this is what you've been up to all this time. You've been hiding Lord Yggdrasill from his faithful followers!" the silver-haired angel accused angrily, "You've been filling his mind with lies so that he cannot see the truth! I'll be taking the Lord Yggdrasill back now; back to Vinheim and the world he envisioned for us, the superior beings!"
"I'm not Mithos, dammit!" Caleb snapped, shaking his fists furiously, "Back off!"
"You heard him! Beat it!" Pepper declared and took a deep breath, blowing it out in the form of a huge beam of light, the Breath of Light attack. Tsaneir flew aside from it and dove after the group, a war cry erupting from her mouth. Pepper halted her attack and scattered with the group, using her psychic power to block the debris from the angel's collision with the ground. "Caleb! Stay with us! We'll keep you safe!"
"I'll help! Field Barrier!" Raine declared, casting the spell that coated the group with defensive magic that reduced the damage from physical weapons. Huron glanced at the blue aura surrounding him before flying after Tsaneir, swinging the spear to block the incoming sword strikes.
"Professor Sage! Mana beast! Take Caleb out of here! Destroy the data file and escape while you can!" he called back as the war raged around them. Caleb shook his head furiously.
"No! Sir Huron, it's my fault these guys are here! I'm going to stay and help you fight!" he yelled as he called up the mana circle, "Bloody Lance!" Raine grabbed his arm while the magical swords slammed the ground, Tsaneir evading the blades agilely as she pressed her attack against Huron.
"Let's go, Caleb! He's putting himself between us and that mad angel! We can't let her get to you!" she told him and pulled him towards the center of the holy city. "We have to destroy that file and escape! These angels are fighting to protect Symphonia even though they say they're only protecting themselves! Don't let them die for nothing!" Pepper fired her Mana Light spell into the crowd of Perfect Murders, slamming several with the barrage of light bursts that sent them careening into walls and each other. She turned and knelt by the two scholars.
"Raine's right! You're our way out of here with that Pin! If Tsaneir gets her hands on you and the Eternal Sword Pin, she can do a lot of damage to our world! Especially if she finds the Third Chosen!" she added quickly, "Climb on! I'll fly us back to the computers!" Huron shoved Tsaneir aside and flew back defensively, panting as his robes hung in near ruins on his body, stained dark from multiple wounds.
"Escape! Now! If you truly hold Mithos' soul in your body, Tsaneir will not stop searching this world and Symphonia until she has you in her grasp! For the sake of keeping the contingency plan from activating, you must leave this place and never return!" the angel yelled down at them, "Now go!" Caleb and Raine climbed onto the mana beast's back and Pepper took to the sky, narrowly avoiding the barrage of missiles that were fired after her. Tsaneir hissed and shot after them, halting as Huron flew to block her path, swinging the spear again.
"You will not live to regret your interference, Huron." the angelic lord snarled, tightening her grip on the sword, "I will have that doll!" Huron glared back at her, holding the spear ready.
"I only regret underestimating your cruel tenacity." he growled in return and the two angels charged each other.