Chrono Continuum Chapter 32
Reunion and Separation
"...Okay, okay, okay. I've got another one." Frog groaned openly, but Glenn didn't, still trying to decipher the one with the twelve-inch pianist. "All right, then, here goes. Okay, a Nun, a Knight, and a Tax Collector walk into a bar... tavern. The bartender looks them over and asks, 'What is this, some kind of joke?'" She looked back and forth between her companions expectantly. After a moment, Frog began to chuckle lightly. Glenn scratched his head.
"I doth not understand." Lucca sighed.
"That's the joke," she exclaimed, stopping. "It's funny because it sounds like a setup for a joke, which it is, and the punchline is ironically the recognition that it sounds like a setup for a joke. Get it?" Glenn's eyebrows drew together.
"No..." Lucca shook her head resignedly, and caught up with Frog, leaving Glenn to ponder this one. Frog abruptly stopped, holding out a hand for the others to do the same. He looked around sharply, drawing his sword, as Lucca stopped, dropped her pack, and drew her gun. Glenn did the same thing with his sword. Lucca focused her magic, widening her field of vision, and heightening her sense of movement in that range. She spotted it first. Refocusing, she looked directly at it. The far horizon was distorted in one area, which was growing. She gasped. Frog and Glenn looked to her. She dropped her gun.
"A time wave," she whispered. Glenn stepped forward.
"What?" She pointed off toward the wave, and her companions changed their gaze to follow her finger. They saw it at the same time. Glenn gasped. As Lucca lowered her arm, Frog sheathed his sword, and turned to Glenn.
"Fare thee well, Glenn. 'Twas good to meet thee." Glenn furrowed his brow in confusion. His eyes snapped open as he understood. He glanced at the wave to see it was growing larger.
"Fare thee well, Frog." Frog nodded in return. Glenn looked down at the back of Lucca's head. Placing his hand on her shoulder, he gently turned her around. She looked on the verge of tears, and Glenn had no doubt that he looked the same. He had not realized how soon he'd be separated from his friends. Placing a finger under her chin, he raised her face so that she was looking him in the eye. "Good bye, Lucca." She nodded. The wave would be here any moment.
"Good bye, Glenn." And to Glenn's surprise, she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him down to her. She kissed him, hard. His eyes were wide open in surprise, until he soon closed them and wrapped his arms around her as well. Neither of them noticed as he dropped the Masamune, or when it fell hard on Lucca's feet. Frog turned and watched the wave bearing down on them as the two had their first, and last, goodbye kiss. And as they pulled apart, arms still around eachother's necks, Lucca smiled. As did Glenn, although he looked a bit surprised. And the wave struck.
Geddicus awoke. He stood, woozily, and looked around. He had been sitting against a tree. He looked further at his surroundings, and saw Thanatos talking to two men... one man and a teen, as a robot climbed up the Epoch's wing. He mumbled, "No," and started to wobble forward. He soon heard the conversation of the three humans.
"Thanatos, what are you even doing here," the teen asked. Thanatos shrugged.
"I felt like helping out." A slightly monotone voice called out from the Epoch, "What have you done to the ship? The systems look completely rewired." Thanatos shrugged.
"Ask Geddicus when he wakes up." It just so happened that Gedd found his voice at about that moment.
"Thanatos," he called. His own voice sounded strange to him. The boy and the man, and Thanatos turned to him, and the robot stood up in the Epoch to see him. He continued the warning, "It's a robot! Why aren't you doing anything?" Thanatos looked up to the robot up in the Epoch, and back to Gedd, shrugging.
"Don't worry about it. He's fine." He began to walk to Gedd. "You're the one with the concussion." The pale man, no longer paying any attention, jumped onto the wing of the ship, and stepped in. The boy glanced up at him, and shook his head distastefully. The man sat in the back seat as if he was used to it, and let the robot continue doing as he had been doing. Strange, Geddicus thought as he continued walking forward, aren't all robots red? He finally reached Thanatos and the teen, and gestured up at the Epoch.
"Why are you letting a robot up there?" Thanatos placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.
"Relax, Gedd, old chum. He's one of the original owners." Gedd blinked confusedly. Thanatos pointed up to the Epoch. "Why don't you go show him what you've done?" Gedd considered a moment, then shrugged, and climbed up the wing. As he stood, he cried out, "No, don't do that!" He jumped down in the cockpit, and started giving instructions. Thanatos chuckled as he turned to Rakin. He stopped, and cleared his face of expression as he saw Rakin's questioning look.
"Thanatos," he began, "how did you get here?" Thanatos shrugged.
"Really. Watch, I'll show you." He turned to the side, and stared out. Very soon, Rakin saw a form moving toward them. He soon recognized it as Thanatos, walking backwards. The Thanatos in front of Rakin soon began to walk toward the back-walking one. As they got closer, Rakin saw a new form appear where the backward-walking Thanatos had appeared, only this form was walking about twice normal human speed. He soon recognized it as a third Thanatos. Rakin turned his attention to the first two, and watched as they ran into eachother. But they didn't. Their arms and legs seemed to pass through eachother, until they were standing in exactly the same space, in the exact same position. And then they vanished. No flash or anything, just *poof*. He looked to the third Thanatos to see him walking super-humanly fast toward Rakin. Rakin thought the man would run into him, but he stopped in the same position he had been in when Rakin had been talking to him. He turned to Rakin, suddenly at normal speed. "Well? You see?" Rakin raised an eyebrow.
"What in the world was that?" Thanatos gestured back to the area where the three of him had been.
"I walked backwards through time. And then I stopped, and started walking through time faster than you. It's really quite simple, if you think about it." Rakin's eyebrow didn't lower.
"It is?" Thanatos nodded.
"Yes. The version of me you saw walking backwards was me moving backwards through time. I stopped at the point that the backward version of me started. And the fast-walking version was me slowing down time, or speeding myself up, so that I would pass through time much faster. Should I explain further?" Rakin shook his head emphatically.
"No, no. I'll take your word for it. So... you can move through time at will?" Thanatos nodded. "What are you?" He shrugged nonchalantly. Rakin could see that he was not about to answer. He shrugged as well. He'd find out eventually.
"Watch out, down there," a voice called from above. Thanatos and Rakin stepped away from eachother, as Geddicus, then Robo, then Magus jumped down.
"Well," Rakin inquired. Robo turned to him.
"Geddicus has done something quite interesting with the Epoch." Rakin gestured for him to continue. Magus finished for him.
"He's made the Epoch into a robot." Rakin's stood up from his slouch and asked, "So, we can talk to it?" Geddicus nodded.
"And it can talk to you. It'll take orders, if you're a user." Rakin raised an eyebrow, indicating that he needed an explanation. Geddicus sighed. "It means that if it recognizes you, then you can tell it where to go. That way, you don't have to worry about that whole thumbprint thing. Just speak to it, or wait for it to scan your facial features, and it'll obey." Rakin looked up at the ship.
"So it can think?" Geddicus nodded.
"I originally thought to just make it an easy interface, but I figured that a thinking machine made right could do the trick. And in case it disobeys, you can use the command, 'Simon says' to override its free will." Rakin decided to let his choice of command phrase go fot the moment. Geddicus continued, "It's offline right now, but if you turn it on, you can have a conversation. Or just leave for another time." Magus grabbed his shoulder.
"You know what the Epoch does?" Gedd nodded nervously.
"Yes. I found out while examining it. But other than the artificial intelligence, I made no modifications." Magus released his shoulder, and Gedd rotated it in the socket. Robo stepped forward.
"Does it have the capacity for growth of programming?" Gedd nodded.
"Probably not as much as you, but some. She can learn. She'll even be able to recognize you from the other robots eventually." Robo blinked. Magus stepped forward.
"All right, now that everyone's done talking about this contraption, let's get down to business. When should we go first?" Rakin spoke up first.
"We need to go to when Lucca said Corea was." Magus rolled his eyes. Thanatos piped up, "63,999,998 BC?"
"Right," Rakin agreed. Magus broke in.
"We don't have time. We need to get either to Lucca and Frog, or to Crono and Gaspar. We'll worry about your sister later. Besides, this is probably too dangerous for her." Robo decided to speak up.
"Magus, I believe that's the first time you've said something for someone else's safety." Magus ignored him. Thanatos spoke up.
"I'll go for Corea. And Robo and Gedd can come with me." Rakin looked hopeful. Magus shrugged.
"I am looking forward to seeing Ayla again," inserted Robo. Gedd stepped forward.
"You're bringing me? Why me?" Thanatos turned to him.
"You may not have realized it yet, but this isn't your home. This is worse. I know. If you come with me, you can see what the past was like, before the Kingdom." Gedd put his hand to his chin in thought. Magus spoke up again.
"All right, that settles it. Thanatos, Robo, and Geddicus," Gedd nodded here, "will go to pre-history. And I say that Rakin goes to 1002 AD." Rakin turned to Magus.
"What about you?"
"I'll go to the Middle Ages to retrieve Frog and Lucca. And then we meet back at the Beginning of Time. Alright?" Everyone nodded. And they set off.
Thanatos turned to Robo and Geddicus, and raised an arm in their direction. There were two flashes, and two small balls appeared in thier places. The balls floated to Thanatos' outstretched hand, and he promptly pocketed them. Rakin gaped in surprise, but Thanatos assured him that it was just an easier way to get them there. Very soon, another Thanatos came walking towards them from the distance. As the new Thanatos stepped into the first, they disappeared.
Magus was next. He leaned his head back, eyes closed, and began to chant softly. A black hole appeared before him with a hum, and he walked in, flinging his cape out behind him.
Finally, Rakin climbed up into the Epoch. He sat down. Nothing happened. He glanced around. Nothing was happening.
"Epoch," he spoke, and a light blinked on, followed in succession by all the lights on the board. A voice came out of the twin speakers on the sides of the Epoch.
"Hello, User Rakin." It was no longer a monotone, vaguely female voice, but a voice that was an exact replica of Rita's.
"How did you know my name? And what happened to your voice?"
"User Robo gave me the names of my users, and their identifications. He also changed my voice to something that he thought you would appreciate." Rakin rolled his eyes.
"He was right. Anyway, Epoch, just refer to me as Rakin." A beep sounded from the speakers.
"Confirmed, big boy." Rakin's eyebrows shot up in surprise.
"What did you say?"
"Confirmed, big boy," it repeated. Rakin sighed.
"Was that kind of speech installed along with tone?"
"Mm hmm." Rakin sighed again.
"Epoch, please take me to the present." There was a moment of silence, until the voice sounded again.
"Would you specify the year of the 'present'?" Rakin told her, "1002 AD." Another beep sounded.
"Confirmed. Going to the year 2025 AD." The canopy shut.
"What? I said to go to 1002!" The ship began to lift off the ground.
"I know. But Thanatos told me to go to 2025 the first time I was told to do that." Rakin looked around as the ship began to fly forward, approaching warp speed. Rakin spied the knob formerly used to choose eras, and desperately tried to turn it. The only response was from the Epoch's speakers.
"Ooooooohhhh, yeah. Spin it some more, Rakin, baby," Epoch invited as she warped, and vanished. No one was around to notice.
Lucca opened her eyes. She was on the ground. Looking up at the sky, she saw nothing mostly clouds. Sunlight broke through in places, but not often. She sighed, sitting up. Frog was still standing alone, looking at where the wave had come from. She stood, dusting herself off. She saw that she was now wearing a tight pink miniskirt, and a black tank top. A gun holster was strapped to her side, but it wasn't her Wondershot. That was still on the ground. The gun in this holster looked as if it used bullets. She still had a tool belt, evidence that this Lucca was also an inventor. She blushed in surprise as she realized that underneath the skirt, she had nothing on. This alternate apparently had a better love life than her. That thought sobered her, bringing back her parting kiss with Glenn. It had been the best kiss she'd ever had. She sighed.
"Well, Frog, it was great while it lasted, wasn't it?" Frog nodded, without turning back to her."But, it's over now, and we'll never see him again. And I cared about him so..."
"I knoweth what you mean." Lucca gasped in surprise, and spun, almost hitting her nose against green cloth. She looked up into green eyes, with green hair above. She gasped again, and stepped back.
"Glenn?" He smiled, and she could hear Frog gasp behind her.
"Lucca, thou certainly hast a way with farewe-" he didn't finish, because she had tackled him. They rolled in the grass a few times, until they stopped with Glenn on top, hugging the entire time. She called out over Glenn's shoulder, "He's here, Frog! He's here!"
"So I notice." Lucca continued to smile, until Glenn gently pulled away from the hug, and helped her up. Excited, she moved to his side and placed an arm around his shoulders, smiling, asking him, "Glenn! How did it happen?" Glenn shrugged.
"Mayhap 'twas a result of our... contact." She smiled, walking with him over to Frog.
"Imagine that! Saved by a friendly kiss!" Glenn glanced to her.
"Friendly?" Lucca turned her face to him.
"Of course. What other kind of kiss would it be?" Glenn nodded, his smile seeming a bit forced to the observing Frog.
"Of course. What else would it be?"
Lucca pulled away, and examined him. "Well, your clothes look unchanged. That's odd." Glenn looked over himself and saw that she was right. But the Masamune was missing. He glanced around, and saw it where it had fallen at the site of their... their kiss. He gulped involuntarily. Frog noticed, and spoke up, "Lucca, on the subject of clothing, thine clothes look rather exposing. P'raps thou wouldst care to take one of mine extra pairs of pants?" He pulled out a pair. It was wid enough, but obviously too short for Lucca. After a moment of thought, he pulled out his Masamune, and passed the blade through the seams where the pant legs started. The blade sheared through them. He gave the (short) shorts to Lucca.
"Thanks," she replied. Glenn, snapped out of his momentary trance, reached into his pack and pulled out a short-sleeve shirt. "I wear'th these beneath mine tunic, but thou may'st have this one." She thanked him as well, and excused herself to change. She ran off over a nearby hill. When she was out of earshot, Frog stepped up beside Glenn.
"Fear thou not," he began, reaching up to pat Glenn's shoulder, "Understanding of women is something that few men have ever found." Glenn nodded, somewhat reassured by the friendly advice. He turned to Frog.
"Let us hope that we survive this long enough for me to gain some of that knowledge."
What we've got here is failure to communicate.
-Frank R. Pierson
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