"One. Two. Three!"
Push the shell, climb the shell.
Step 1. Kill Lavos Spawn.
Step 2. Push Spawn shell to cliff.
Step 3. Align shell with lowest point of cliff side.
Step 4. Climb shell.
Step 5. Continue to Summit.
Warning: Shell Spikes are extremely sharp! Negligent use can result in: impaling, eye loss, and/or death. Exercise extreme caution!
Step one is complete, so we find ourselves pushing the corpse of an overgrown porcupine so we can continue up this stinkin mountain. It's slippery, I'm tired, and the corpse is covered in giant, razor-sharp quills, not to mention it smells horribly, as corpses tend to do. Damn, it's heavy.
This is almost as fun as actually fighting the damn thing. Joy.
At least the spawn are relatively small. I'd hate to push something even a quarter the size of big daddy Lavos. Finally, the thing begins to give way. The ankle deep snow gives way as well, and with a final groan we slide the shell to the cliff. It hits with a definitive thud, which passes through our bodies. I can't even revel in the moment; an especially icy blast of wind hits me, almost as though the mountain itself wants to spite me.
It doesn't matter. Our progress up this rock is like the march of science: slow at times, dogged by obstacles, but constant and unstoppable. Nothing can keep science at bay. At least that's how I always imagined things. The 10th Century has been one of progress, hope, achievement, and when I was young and stupid I thought it would always be that way. I've only been old and wise for three weeks. The day Crono died.
I look up to where we have to push the shell. It's a pass in the cliff side. Well, technically, it's too small to be a real pass, but it's the same set of topographic features. Crono taught me how to read maps like that. The same Crono I saw die, the one I couldn't save…
Damnit Lucca! Don't think like that! Just get to the top and we'll have him back!
I truly want to believe that. I keep saying it, to everyone. There's no official hierarchy within our group, but make no mistake; Crono was our leader, and I was his XO. When everyone was going to pieces after the Ocean Palace disaster, I was the one who had to keep it together. I had to be strong, I still have to be strong, but inside I'm dying. I'm so tired, not just physically, but mentally, but I WILL see this to the end. Desperation, pure desperation, has driven me here.
"Okay, round back boys!" I sound much more enthusiastic than I feel. Luckily, the back of the spawn is largely free of spines, at least ones pointing towards us. Glenn and Robo trudge towards their destination; I clean the snow off my glasses and follow behind. This would be difficult even if we weren't tired from fighting. It's so damnably cold, with heavy snows and great gusts of wind. I really can't complain about the wind though; if it wasn't blowing, the snow could easily be two or three feet deep. Then I would have had to use my fire magic to clear a path all the way up the mountain. Thank God for small favors. We line up, this time shoulder to shoulder.
"One. Two. Three!"
Push the shell, climb the shell. It sounds so much easier than it is.
I've been reexamining a lot of my cherished assumptions lately. My two friends here, I would have found them strange a few months ago. Glenn's a talking frog and Robo's, well, a robot. I can't believe I let Marle rename him. R-66Y was cool, practical and the name, or at least, serial number he came with. They appear quite exotic, but I trust them with my life. We've been through so much together. Glenn's been able to cure my Batrachophobia/Bufonophobia by just being there (that's fear of frogs and toads respectively. Biologists do make a distinction, but I'm more inclined towards physics myself, so I don't.)
Robo's actually taught me something else, something more important. He's shown me that a machine can be more than the sum of its parts. I used to believe machines were not capable of good or evil, period. And I was most adamant on that point. Robo and his R-series "brothers" quickly showed me otherwise. They were as evil, vindictive and cruel as any mystic I've ever fought. Robo, on the other hand, is kind and compassionate and genuinely curious about the world. I'd go so far as to say they all have souls.
You know, I was never big on religion. It's not, that I didn't believe in what I was taught necessarily; just I thought that it was irrelevant for all practical purposes. I didn't believe in ghosts; now I've fought and talked with them. Like many, I thought that the accounts of the mystics raising undead legions to their side in the Mystic War were hyperbole. They're not. I thought the fall of Zeal was just a moral fable by Cupo; I lived through it. I didn't believe in magic; now I use it so much it doesn't disconcert me in the slightest. It should though. I don't understand magic, I suppose that why it's magic. I generally don't like it when I can't understand things. It means I'm not in control. It means, in some small way, I'm helpless.
I am Lucca, witness to tragedy. I was, driven to science, at eight years old. One of my father's inventions, I can't even remember what it was supposed to do; it started on its own. It caught my mother's skirt; dragged her along towards those great, crushing, gears that still haunt my dreams. I didn't know how to stop it; I was paralyzed with terror as the machine…tore my mother's legs into pieces! Just thinking about it, I can hear her screams, see and smell the blood. It was everywhere! Mom survived, that in itself is a miracle. I swore then I would never, ever, be helpless like that again.
I suppose that scarred little eight-year-old girl was what drove me to decide that I'd help Marle kill Lavos. I saw, that thing, destroy the world. Through the static of that old archive tape, I saw the cities flattened, the forests burn, the people die. Again, I was a witness to tragedy. I couldn't bear to stand by and see it all be destroyed. So I, Lucca, swore I'd destroy something all the nations a thousand years in the future could not. Now I really regret letting emotion get the better of me.
Even though he agreed with us, I could tell by his eyes that Crono thought we were nuts. Oh, its not like he was…no wait, is, a coward by any means. We've fought some frightening creatures over the last few months, and he's never backed down. Besides, no one in their right mind would keep such a catastrophe secret if there was even a small chance it could be averted. He probably wanted to do something more practical. I'm not good at practical, but it would probably have run along the line of the following: we wait until things cool down back home, then bring the king proof of Lavos' threat to the kingdom. That way, Guardia would have a thousand years to study, research, and plan ways to kill the space porcupine. But, I never asked, and he never told.
And then the last tragedy. In retrospect, I should have been able to avert it. I should have had us question Melchior the second we could. Melchior's name was on the Masamune, he even helped us reforge it. Schala begged us to rescue a Guru named Melchior from the Mountain of Woe. It's so obvious that if we had only talked with him, he could have told us what was going to happen. Part of me is angry that he didn't tell us we were his rescuers when we brought him the sword, but the larger, thinking, part knows that, according to Magus, what happened to us three weeks ago was 20 years ago to him. There's no way he'd be sure we were the same kids.
Regardless, the resulting fiasco cost Crono his life. Again, I saw something horrible happen. I saw my best friend blown to atoms, literally. I couldn't stop him; he died while trying to save us. That look he gave me was heart breaking. Even if we get him back…
Damnit, why do I feel so sad at the prospect of getting Crono back?
Stupid emotions; machines are never so hard to understand.
Perhaps, I'd better go back to the beginning; generally it's a good place to start. Crono and I, well, I can't remember NOT knowing him. We've always been best friends. And ever since I've known him, he's had it in that thick head of his that he's going to be a hero. But heroes die…
"Madam Lucca!" Robo's mechanical voice snaps me back into reality. Note to self: find generous way to reward Robo for killing that train of thought.
"You may stop pushing now. We have placed the shell at the appropriate juncture."
"Oh." We almost pushed it over too far. Silly me. "Um, good. I'll go first if you two don't mind." I look at them. They look at me. They look at me strangely. Another cold gust hits us. I hate this stinkin mountain.
Glenn speaks. "Lucca, usually I would insist upon ladies first. However, given our environ, methinks it best that the metal one goes fist, to scout ahead. He can best find the way to climb the shell with minimal injury unto himself."
"I agree, Lucca. Is this acceptable to you?"
I put my hand to my chin and pucker my lips to one side and consider. Glenn has a point, and it's a good plan. "Go ahead."
Robo walks in front of the shell, out of sight. Then, out of nowhere, Glenn grabs my arm and stares his amphibious eyes into mine. "My lady, I know that the lad means much to you. Nonetheless, thou must keepth a clear head here. Let us not stumble in the race when the finish line lies before us. Remember why we chose not to bring the lady Marle." He lets go and joins Robo out of sight. I deserved that.
I remember leaving Marle at the castle in the Middle Ages. She wanted to go, she begged us to let her come. We decided against it. After the Ocean Palace disaster, it was just her, and me, alone in the Dark Ages. The oceans flooded, blocking access to the gate. She was all but hysterical. She kept on insisting that Crono was alive, and we had to find him. He didn't disintegrate into atoms, he just, vanished and he was probably looking for us. To her credit, she held it together when we were taken aboard the Blackbird. But she wouldn't let us leave until we looked for Crono.
From the people in the commons of the last village, we heard of a stranger up at the North Cape. I couldn't believe it, and for a while, I was hopeful too. We found Magus instead, but he led us on the right track, to Gaspar and the Chrono Trigger. But from the way Marle carried on, we could see she was emotionally shot. She needed rest. Besides, I honestly think if this doesn't work, and she were with us, she'd fling herself off the mountain. I can't handle another senseless death on my conscience.
She loves Crono. She hasn't said as much, but let's just say subtlety is not one of her strong points. It's not hard to see why. Sure, he can be blockhead, a bit lazy and he can really embarrass himself when he doesn't watch his tongue, but he's a hunk, he's far from stupid, he's got a good heart, and he knows how to treat a woman. It seems like she's winning him over too. Sure, she can be quite vapid, but she grows on you. She's charismatic that way. She's also extraordinarily beautiful. I'm happy for them, I really am. I wish them only the best, I really do.
But, it saddens me so. Crono's going to drift away from me, from what we had. He's finally a hero, something I never wanted him to be. Heroes die. I was acting like a brat, all those years ago, when I'd sabotage "Knights and Dragons," but what I really wanted was to convince him that it was no fun being a hero. Yet there were other times, when I would let the game go naturally, playing the distressed damsel, and then Crono would come and save me. I liked the idea of him coming for me, of being together, come what may. This didn't help my point, but I don't think Crono would have been dissuaded anyway.
When we were about nine, the bottom fell out of my social life. Crono was the only friend I had left. So it became distressing for me that my one friend had a goal in life that was tantamount to a death wish. So one day, I confronted him. I'll never forget it. We were at his house and he was practicing with that wooden sword of his. I was sitting on a stump, and I was looking at him, he was busy practicing his technique as I spoke to his back.
I asked him, "So, Crono, you really want to be a hero, huh?"
"You know, being a hero is tough. You could get hurt or even die."
"Nah, that won't happen to me. Besides, what else could I do, hang around here with icky girls while everyone else gets the glory?"
I was vaguely offended, and I reminded him, "Well, I AM a girl you know."
He stopped and looked me right in the eye and smiled. His response: "Nah, you're special."
He meant it as a compliment. But as we grew and the terminology transformed itself from "icky girls" to "hot chicks" I was left as "special."
I remember, from time to time, that people would ask my parents what they thought the grandkids would look like. It was painfully obvious whom they thought the father would be. Whenever I heard such things, I'd turn beet red from embarrassment, but I often wondered myself.
It didn't happen that way though. We stayed friends, nothing more. The bottom of my social life only came back once we began time traveling. Crono, on the other hand, seemed to do quite well for himself. He had plenty of female companionship. These relationships never amounted to anything, only lasting for a month or two, but he had them. Every time I saw him with another girl, I'd feel pangs of jealousy. Then I'd remind myself; we weren't involved or anything. He could do whatever he pleased, and I was just envious that he had a love life and I didn't.
Silly inventor, Crono's for someone else.
Crono's just my friend and that's cool.
You just keep telling yourself that. Maybe you'll believe it someday.
I've got a perfectly sound relationship with him, so why muck it up with romantic intent? We're so close, it's like he's the brother I never had. He's been many things to me: friend, defender, lab assistant, drinking buddy, human guinea pig. So what if he's not meant to be with me? Why am I unhappy with that?
It's simple: because I am.
Perhaps it's better this way. I don't NEED Crono, and he doesn't NEED me either. This isn't like "Julius and Rosa" where if I can't have him, I'll stab myself. I WANT him. I WANT to be with him. I WANT him to feel the same way.
He's not interested in me. If he were, he would have told me, right? That's what happens in Guardia: Boy likes girl, boy tells girl, girl judges.
Why would he want me? I'm the shy, plain, inventor's daughter. I'm a nerd. Nerd: n. an unstylish, unattractive, or socially inept person; especially: one slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits. That's straight out of the dictionary. I'm the quintessential nerd; unstylish, unattractive, completely socially inept AND slavishly devoted to intellectual pursuits.
"Lucca. Lucca! Come quickly lest we leave you behind!"
Oh shit, Lucca, this is not the time to get all introspective. I run back to the side where Glenn gives me a death glare from on high. Thanks to Robo's efforts, the shell is actually fairly easy to climb, with the remaining spines well spaced. Luckily for all of us, the spines are only sharp at the point. Once up, I can see the final leg of our trip. It looks like smooth sailing. In the snow, I notice the "Clone" of Crono. I'd forgotten about it entirely. It's actually a life-sized doll, but that's another matter. Better do a check. Okay, Glenn's got the pendant around his neck and so I check the pouch…good, I can feel the Trigger.
How this egg is going to bring Crono back, I haven't a clue. Gaspar's words seem ominous now:
"Let us call that the Chrono Trigger. It is pure potential. By unleashing a specific course of events, it can have a powerful effect on time. Like any egg, it represents a possibility… it may or may not…hatch. But the Chrono Trigger gives you the potential to get your friend back…The egg will have an effect equal to the effort you put into your search. No more, no less. Don't forget that. As long as you keep Crono in your heart, the day you are dreaming of will arrive…"
Did we put enough effort into our search? Does he mean enough to us? Oh God, I hope so. I start walking towards the summit; Glenn and Robo follow, Robo holding the clone. Dread and fatigue make it seem like we're walking towards our own executions.
Death Peak is truly an evil place, where even laws of nature are desecrated. Mountains are supposed to become windier as altitude increases, yet here I stand at the summit and there is no wind whatsoever, though I can see it blows fiercely at the base. It's still cold, but thankfully, it's not snowing and I can see the sun, a rare privilege in this era to be sure. There's a tree, a single lifeless tree here. How it grew, I can't say. It doesn't matter. I nod to the others. It's time.
I walk towards the edge, running my fingers across the Trigger, still safe in it's pouch. I hope I can remember the words. Out of nervous habit, I readjust my glasses. I take out the Trigger, cradle it in my hands and stare at it intently. Here goes:
It begins softly and becomes louder, "You who fear the night and fight the coming of darkness...Give us strength!"
Glenn comes towards me, grabs the pendant with both hands, as though to channel his energy into it before letting out, "Crono!"
Blue light comes from the pendant and connects with the egg. Once, twice, three times. Then the egg rises out of my hands. I look up dumbstruck as the egg, our hope, shatters. I can't believe my eyes; it's the sound that brings back thought.
"It, it shattered!" is all I can whisper as I fall roughly to my knees. Then my second wind comes. I scream to the ground, "No! It can't be! What use was it to come so far?"
Glenn solemnly comes to me. He puts his hand on my shoulder. "Despair not… Fate be not malleable." His words give me no comfort.
For the second time in my life, science has destroyed someone I love. This time, it was MY invention. My greatest invention: the Super Dimension Warp, the Telepod. If I'd never built the damn thing, we'd all still be in Truce celebrating the first thousand years of Guardian existence. I wanted to be a scientist, an inventor, like my father, and that machine was my greatest triumph. If I knew then what I know now, I'd have smashed it into a million pieces and dumped them all in the sea!! I want my friend back!!
I jump away, going to the very edge. This time I scream into the heavens with all my strength.
"Crono! Say something! Don't ignore us!"
Someone heard my plea. The sun begins to eclipse and I can only mouth, "O dear…" as the world goes black.
Right before Lavos's blast hits me, I have one last vision, a daydream. The Millennial Fair is closing for the day. The sun is setting just left of Guardia Castle, leaving everything in the pink and purple twilight. Lucca and I are in the Telepod pavilion, silently and gently kissing one another. I've told her, and she feels the same way. It's the start of something simple. Marriage, house, kids. At this moment, it's all I want. Maybe I could have had it, in another life. As it is, it's just another one of those dreams, dreams dashed on the shores of time.
Suddenly my whole world becomes vertigo. My right side hits something and suddenly, I'm falling and hit my ass. I fall backwards, but something keeps me upright. I think it's a tree. It's cold and the ground is covered in snow. It's damnably cold. Am I dead? Is this the afterlife? I'm alone for a few seconds before three figures materialize out of nowhere. Even before she becomes recognizable, I can make out Lucca's outline. No, no…I failed. She's dead! I couldn't save her! Oh God…
Wait, the others…they're Glenn and Robo! They weren't with us. That means…I'm alive! They're alive! We're all alive! And my life is demonstrated by the burning in my lungs. I gasp for air.
Crono, how can you forget to breathe?
I'm just special that way.
Lucca looks at me with an expression that's at once joyful and fearful. "Crono, It's about time!!"
"How art thou feeling, Crono?" Glenn chirps in, but I'm looking at the woman.
Then Lucca's face changes. The fear and joy disappear and are replaced by anger and relief. I know that face all too well from my mother. She's going to yell at me. For once, I don't care.
"Y, you dummy!" She gasps like she's about to cry. "You wouldn't believe what we had to go through for you!" Her voice cracks, the anger is weak. Then she does something I wouldn't have suspected: she walks over and hugs me. Not just any hug; mind you, but a bear hug. I'd like that but my ribs are bruised and it hurts something awful. But I only wince.
She speaks again, trying to maintain her composure; it fails. "You mess up again...and we won't save you!" The anger is gone, and Lucca's voice comes out a whispered wail. She grabs on to me like I might disappear if she lets go. Ow.
Glenn and Robo move away out of respect and we're left alone by the tree I'm apparently resting on. Unable to continue on that line of thought, Lucca changes the subject. "While you were gone we had a terrible time…" The rest is a blur. This is the second time she's saved my life. Another chance to do things right. Again cowardice moves me; now I'm afraid not to tell her, consequences be damned. Pride be damned; if she wants to pursue science to the edges of the earth, I'll follow.
"Hey! You listening Crono? You can be so irritating sometimes!" Lucca snaps me back to reality.
"Yes, I'm listening." With that, I smile at her. Regardless of how she responds, this weight will be lifted today. My right arm goes around her neck; my left hand gently caresses her cheek. I bring my lips to hers, giving her the most gentle kiss I can. She's rigid, then she melts, kissing me back. What began as a love kiss becomes passionate. It feels so good…
…and so right. This can't be real! This can't possibly be real! I take control of myself. I break the kiss and look at him. Poor boy must be delusional.
"Crono, I'm sorry, but I'm not Marle."
"I know." It feels like someone's poured ice water into my stomach. Before I can respond, Crono speaks to me.
"Lucca…I love you. I have since…I don't when, but I do. I've been too afraid of what you might say to tell you, but now, I need you to know. I don't know if you feel the same way, but I'm yours if you'll have me."
If this is a dream, never wake me up. I can't help chuckling slightly. "C,Crono, I love you too. Of course I'll have you, you blockhead!" I'm confused though "But, what about Marle? I, I thought you and her…"
He looks down, and then back at me. "She's infatuated. It will pass. Besides, she's infatuated with a hero, and there's only little old me." He gives me a self-deprecating smile. "I'm no hero." It comes out in a tone of defeat.
"Crono, you are a hero. You've fought for the people of Guardia in the past, in the present, even this wasteland future." He starts to say something but I shush him. He needs to hear this. "And even if you weren't, I wouldn't care. I never wanted a hero, just my friend by my side."
Now I can't help getting emotional. I collapse onto Crono, my head on his shoulder, and my arms around his neck. "Crono, I've wanted you to say something like that to me for a long time. What took you so long?"
"I told you, I was afraid of what you'd say. I want to get married someday, have kids, the normal stuff, and I was afraid you didn't want those things. But I don't care anymore. I just want be with you."
In serpentine fashion, my body comes off his and I look at him. Genuine perplextion is what I feel. "And who says I don't want those things? I do. If this is about the whole science thing, you got me figured wrong. I love science, but I can't hold it, or have it hold me. It can't love me back. Only a human being can do that. You should know that more than anyone." I've really got to work on my image if my best friend is that wrong about me.
"Now come on, we've got to get you some warm clothes before you freeze to death." I grab his arm and force him up. Then I remember. Stupid Lucca! You didn't to bring extra clothes! This is why your inventions keep blowing up; you forget the little things. Oh well, improvise.
"Hehe, heh, on second thought, hold on to me." I channel some of my magical energy to Crono. It's not enough to burn him, just warm him a bit.
"Oh, that's nice. Where'd you pick up that trick?" he asks me.
"On the way up. Oh, and wait till you see my Flare technique…"
"…it'll kick the pants off you little Luminaire spell."
"Let's not push it." I solidly remind her. After all, my Luminaire is the supreme magical attack. "By the way, are we still going after Lavos now?"
She smirks, "Ah ha! You weren't listening to me at all!" Then her expression goes blank. "We don't have much of choice. Gaspar, the old man at the End of Time, he says we're the only ones who can stand against Lavos now."
My excitement is palpable. "Oh, joy. Well, once more into the breach my friends…" I'm resigned to my fate.
She chimes in, "And never was there such a motley crew. A cavewoman, a robot, a princess, a brooding sorcerer who happens to be a price, a frog-man who's also a cursed knight, a mad scientist and…a hero to lead them all." She points at me. I did hear her say something about Magus joining us, that's a red flag. I'll have to find out where he's a prince.
"Oh Lucca, you're not a mad scientist, you're just…" how do I phrase this, "…overly joyful when your inventions work. That and you have cackling down to a tee."
I laugh; she tries not to and fails. "Oh Crono, you're terrible."
"You know it." I kiss her again.
I'm glad to be alive. And now I truly have something worth fighting for. I can't believe I have her. Lucca: my friend, my lover, my Guardian Angel.
Now all I have to do is kill the damn porcupine. And when I do, I'm going to go home and pound Lucca like a cheap nail. Heh, heh. Oh God, did I just say that? Oh, no I did! I can taste the boot leather! Yum.