A/N: Chapter 19 of Howling Star II: The Search for a Storm. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters except my own OC. FFXIII-2 belongs to Square Enix.
Special thanks to the reviewers and to the readers who Fav/Alert this story, I really appreciate it.
Chapter 19: Augusta Tower (II) – 200 AF
It's one thing for someone to be jumping through the time stream like us but it's another thing if it was used to lure us into a trap. Even as I took on my wolf form, lips pulled over my fangs and ears laid back against my head, the image of Alyssa's clone smirking at us made my blood boil. Something about her just rubbed my fur the wrong way but I couldn't focus on that. I was after all in the middle of a fight.
"Target the Orion first! It's one hell of a tank!" Noel said, pointing to the bi-pedal creature in the middle with one of his swords. It looked like a machine with two claw appendages. "I have a feeling that it's probably weak to fire so hit it as hard as you can!"
"Firaga!" Serah quickly cast the spell thanks to her Ravager role, shooting fire from her palms. "Get a taste of my flames!"
Flaming Star! Coating my fur in fire I charged at the Orion, slamming my body into it before following it up with two slashes of my claws. The monster stumbled back from the onslaught of my attacks, shaking its head back and forth for a minute.
"There you go! That's the way!" Noel said before watching the monster jump on my back, latching onto my fur. I yelped in pain as the claws dug into my skin. "Whoops I spoke too soon!"
"Noel! Watch out!" Serah exclaimed as the Zwerg Metrodroid swooped in, followed by a Vespid Soldier. Releasing a curse, the Hunter somersaulted back before crossing his swords in an 'X' shape in front of his body to deflect the Vespid.
"Wow, these things are...really persistent aren't they!" He laughed, brushing off the attacks with a grunt. "Let's go Serah! Star can handle herself with that Orion!"
"You're right." She nodded her head before conjuring a spell in the palm of her hands. "And we have a medic on standby so let's finish this up as soon as possible."
"Meow~" Cait Sith purred as he sent healing spells towards us whenever we received damage. Soon to say it was not that tough of a battle. Sure the only one that posed a challenge was definitely the Orion but after one more Flaming Star destroyed it completely. The opponents' bodies all fell away into tiny fragments much to our surprise and disappeared into thin air.
"I must applaud you for getting rid of those monsters. What a strong bunch of fighters."
"What the hell was that?!" Noel snapped when the clone of Alyssa reappeared before us, angrily questioning her before I could even open my mouth. "Why are there monsters appearing here?!"
"This was an effect of the paradox." Alyssa replied calmly, unfazed by our angry expressions...well Noel was obviously angry but Serah's was a bit more concerned. I kept mine as neutral as possible but she could probably guess that I was irritated. "You just witnessed an event that took place on this spot 187 years ago."
"Wait a minute." Serah stepped forward abruptly, her eyes widened in shock. "So, you're saying the real Hope and Alyssa were murdered?
"Yes. After the tower was completed." Alyssa's clone nodded her head with certainty before explaining herself. "During the Proto fal'Cie development project, the artificial intelligence and humans came into conflict."
"They were killed off by the artificial intelligence?" I said, changing back into my human form and crossed my arms over my chest. "Was it because they were in the way!? That's nonsense!"
"I'm afraid so." Alyssa said before she disappeared once more and we were greeted with another Orion; it was flanked by two Zwerg Metrodroids on its left and two Vespid Soldiers on the right. The number of opponents means nothing to me since it was extra practice. This time Noel and Serah teamed up to take down Orion and I decided to maw down the Zwerg Metrodroids. The Vespid Soldiers attempted to gang up on me but I knocked them back by swinging a Zwerg around with my mouth. Tossing the opponent to the ground I proceeded to rip it apart with my claws.
"I really REALLY hope that was the last batch...of those monsters." I breathed, hunching over with my hands on my knees in hopes of catching my breath. This fight didn't take as long as the first because we were well prepared for the second wave. "I'm kinda running on steam here...Phew!"
"Hope and the others were killed in this tower." Serah said with a sad expression, nibbling on her bottom lip for a minute. "They were killed. After they were dead, the AI took over the Academy! "
"The broken fal'Cie was perhaps created by a broken artificial intelligence." Noel continued as he thought about it some more. "Humans were betrayed and ultimately they were wiped out."
"The duplicates end up as mechanical puppets that were built to hide what happened, basically sweeping it under the rug so to speak." I finished up and turned around to look at the other two. "That's sounds about righ-Oh great...that thing's back." Little monsters popped up from the air, their little antennas wiggling about as they prepared to attack. However they weren't alone as a much bigger monster appeared behind them. Whenever there are little monsters we most certainly can assume there would be a larger target.
"Looks like we aren't done yet." Noel growled, watching as the Orion towered over us as well. This time, it looked different than the other two we fought before. At its side were four little Zwerg Metrodroids that seemed to have lost their flying capabilities. "Let's dance!" We followed his lead and fell upon our enemies immediately, attacking with all sorts of spells or close combat tactics.
I won't lie, this set of enemies were a little challenging than the last group we fought. Explosions, Noel shouting instructions and other noises rang in my ears but it didn't detour me from doing my best to support my allies. With Mog held tightly in Serah's hands I watched as she fired shots after shots into her enemies, watched them howl with pain when they were pierced before disappearing out of sight.
"Now you three have seen it all." Alyssa's clone spoke once we had cleaned up, a soft smile on her face. "You've seen the forbidden history. People who know too much have to be buried." As she disintegrated into data the elevator stopped moving, arriving at our destination.
"Hm. Looks like they closed the door on us." Noel pointed out, prompting me to release a loud groan of annoyance. "Well, now we've seen the forbidden history. Does that mean we're stuck here for good?"
Two hundred years ago, you learned the forbidden history, and were entombed in that tower as a consequence. But now you stand before me, alive and well once again. What can that be, if not a paradox?
"Do you remember what Caius said?" Serah asked as she replayed the man's words through her mind. "In his memory, the next thing that happens is...we die."
"That's why he acted the way he did." Noel added with certainty. "As far as he was concerned, we were supposed to be dead. He saw us two hundred years later, assumed it was a paradox and tried to get rid of us."
"We sure showed him." I commented with a huff, crossing my arms over my chest. "I mean, we're still here aren't we. If we continue and survive this tower instead of dying like the way he'd want us to, then it's an automatic change in history."
"We can save the future." Serah stated with a hopeful tone, looking at us with determination in her eyes. Looking at her I am reminded once again why she's Lightning's sister, the resemblance is quite clear. "There's still a chance we can do the right thing."
"Agreed. Alyssa and Hope's fate are in our hands." said Noel as he shouldered his weapons. "It's not over yet. Not by a long shot."
The fights we fought took some effort out of us but we continued to march on in hopes of finding out what this tower is hiding. Noel noted that the elevator malfunction as well as seeing Alyssa's clone were more than just meets the eye. He stated that we've already been sucked into the paradox so our goal is to solve the cause.
"It might just be the system." I said as we ran past a couple of monsters, too much in a hurry to deal with them but also trying to conserve as much energy as we could. "We'll get to the bottom of this for sure!"
"All we can do is try to fix it the best we can." Star spoke up as she ran along side us, her hair flying out behind her. "We just can't get our own wires caught in the process. The resulting consequence is something I have no idea of knowing."
"I rather not think about it like that." I laughed as I rushed to a nearby keyboard, typing away and hitting the 'Enter' button to get rid of a barrier. "Gotta be optimistic about this." Throughout our processes we've obtained a couple of items and I had to fling Mog in order to obtain the much further objects from our reach. There were times where we couldn't escape the spawning monsters so we were forced to fight. Luckily for us they weren't as heavy hitters as the monsters before so basically it was just clean up work.
"I found a key!" Star spoke up as she retrieved an Access Key 52. She had been digging around before coming across a locked file in the system and just typed away a variety of code combinations until one unlocked it.
"There we go! Nice find!" Noel nodded his head with excitement. "Now we're getting somewhere."
"You think we fixed the elevator?" I asked.
"There's only one way to find out." The man smiled as we ran back to the elevator. "Although something interesting crossed my mind. The old Cocoon fell from the sky because the fal'Cie who powered it was gone."
Is he referring to Vanille and Fang? Star thought to herself but held her tongue.
"Then the Proto fal'Cie was created in its place to make Cocoon float again. At least, that's how Hope planned for things to go, right?" Even Noel was questioning how things worked given how little we were given.
"No you're right, but the artificial intelligence needed to build the Proto fal'Cie rebelled against the humans." I nodded my head to him. "That's when everything went wrong."
"Let's get going to check out that elevator switch." Star spoke as the containment box continued to rotate till the opening was pointing towards our destination. "I'm sure that the key I found would do something good for us and get this paradox fixed." We dashed out and made our way to the elevator. I retrieved the key from Star and immediately stuck it into the switch. There was a small groan as the elevator shuddered and slowly moved up to an upper level.
"This is great. The artificial intelligence that killed Hope and his team now seems hell-bent on killing us." Noel spoke up. "This just gets harder and harder to solve the deeper we go."
"So you don't think the Proto fal'Cie and the other AI are being controlled by Caius?" I asked, leaving the question open ended in case Noel didn't have a solid answer. But he did.
"No, I don't." He replied with certainly and gazed out, his eyes not really focusing on anything but he seemed to be lost in thought. "Someone else is pulling the strings." That game me an 'a-ha' moment and I let out a small gasp of excitement.
"This...this is just like a murder mystery! Let's start the investigation. First off, we question the lead witness and search the scene for clues!"
"You're really making light of this situation huh Serah." Star stated, chuckling at how childish I was. I ignored her, lost in my own world and started rattling off scenarios.
"Kupo...even I don't even know." Mog said, shaking his head from side to side. "I got lost."
"Then we narrow down the suspects and dismantle their perfect alibis!"
"While I appreciate your enthusiasm, but I think we're getting off track." Noel spoke up, putting a halt to my word vomit.
"We might be getting off track but that doesn't change the fact that we are indeed investigating." I shot back, sticking my tongue out and dashed off. "C'mon, we're almost to the top floor! We just need to find another access key!"