Chrono Continuum Chapter 76

Choosing Sides

By Cain

1999 AD

Marle groaned as she regained consciousness, her entire body aching. She didn't know how, but she was still alive, and... warm.

What? Warm? Where am I, she wondered, realizing her eyes were still closed. Slowly opening them, she soon realized that she was no longer out in the snow, now in a cave instead. An unusually warm blanket was wrapped around her.

With some effort, she managed to sit up, the blanket slipping off of her torso, revealing that she still had clothes on underneath. She glanced around, but couldn't see anything in the cave but a single oil lamp a few feet away.

"Where... am I," she asked, her voice cracking.

"In a cave, genius," a sarcastic voice answered from behind her.

Marle quickly turned, not an easy task with the blanket wrapped around her legs. There, illuminated in the dim light of the lamp, Drissom sat against the cave wall, his expression amused.

Marle blinked in confusion as she remembered Drissom coming to her in the snowstorm. "What... are you doing here? Why'd you bring me here?"

Drissom shook his head. "Can't I do one of my mortal enemies a favor without them being suspicious?"

Marle simply raised an eyebrow in answer, while secretly reaching for her crossbow.

"Don't bother," Drissom told her. "I took your weapon already. Besides, you should be thankful I wrapped you in that electrically heated blanket I found in the Generator."

Marle considered for a moment. "All right. I am grateful. But I still don't know why. Even you probably know that the island is falling apart. So why bring me here, unless..."

"I wanted a few last hours of fun," he finished her sentence for her. "Nope. Nothing of the sort. In fact, I have a feeling that you'll end up happy that I did rescue you."


Same Time

Robo turned to see a blue comet of energy streaking toward him, no doubt fired by Caerina. Aiming quickly but carefully, he fired his shoulder cannon. The green ball of energy slammed into the comet, resulting in a small explosion of mixed colors.

The victory was short-lived, however, as the tip of Wethreem's sword erupted from the robot's chest, exposing cut wires beneath the metal skin. Robo let out a cacophony of metallic noises, his vocal components all but ruined.

"I'm... sorry, robot," a voice behind him said, sympathetically.

Robo struggled to speak as he twitched, impaled on the sword. "You... are not... sorry... if you do nothing... about it..."

And with that, his systems shut down, his eyes gone dark. As Wethreem let the robot slip from his sword, he wondered if it could be reactivated, and if so, if its personality would still be there. He didn't react as Caerina flew up beside him.

"Well," she remarked, "That was easier than I thought it would be."

Wethreem nodded. "Should we go help Ledune out now?"

Caerina shook her head. "No, let's wait and see how he does without us."


Same Time

Ayla grunted with pain as Ledune uppercutted her in the gut, followed by a backhand to the face, which knocked her to her back, her jaw bleeding.

Unlike before, however, she instantly got up off the ground, without even resting a moment, because she knew Ledune wouldn't allow her that free moment. Tired and angry, Ayla didn't even use any specific attack. She simply tackled Ledune, bringing him down onto the hard metal of the bridge. Taking hold of Ledune's hair, she lifted his head and slammed it back down onto the bridge repeatedly, hoping to get a quick knockout.

However, she stopped when she heard a weird, loud noise from above. Glancing up, she saw Robo hanging from the winged man's sword, and then saw the rawboot drop down, crashing loudly into the bridge a few feet away.

Forgetting about Ledune for the moment, Ayla jumped to her feet and ran over to Robo. He was a mess. He hadn't been in this bad shape since the fight with Lavos. Small lightning was coming from his chest, and his eyes were dark. Ayla knew that he could be helped if she could get him to Lucca, but she'd have to defeat all three Hellbound by herself.

Slowly, she turned around, seeing Ledune standing but a few feet away. Ayla snarled, and even Ledune blinked in surprise at her ferocity. "No more nice Ayla."


Same Time

"So, are you going to tell me why I'm here or not," Marle asked impatiently.

Ledune smiled. "Because I need you. And this time it's for a legitimate reason. I need you to help me get off this island."

Marle smiled sadly. "You realize, don't you, that if I could get off the island, I wouldn't be here? I can't find my ship."

Ledune chuckled softly. "That's just it. I found it."

Marle's eyes widened in surprise. "You did? You found Epoch?"

Ledune nodded. "Yep. But it won't listen to me. Can't blame it, really. But it'll listen to you. So here's the deal. I take you to the ship, and you use it to get us out of here. Drop me off somewhere on the mainland, and we'll never see eachother again. Here, I'll give you back your crossbow as a gesture of good faith."

Marle accepted the weapon, considering the deal only a moment. "Deal."

They immediately set out into the snow, Drissom leading, Marle following close behind. Drissom gave no indication of how long it would be, and only gestured at hazards like thin-ice lakes, so Marle wouldn't fall in.

Eventually, bored with the monotony of the walk, Marle caught up with the Hellbound, trying to initiate a conversation.

"So," she asked, the blanket still wrapped around her shoulders, "what are you going to do once you get off the island?"

Drissom smiled, completely unperturbed by the cold. "Well, I plan to go to Trann Dome. You probably wouldn't know this, but prostitution is legalized there, and I've got cash to spare. Sounds like a great time to me."

Marle blinked. "Well, you've certainly got a one track mind."

Drissom shrugged. "What can I say? I'm probably not going to live forever, now that I've failed Parsa. If she doesn't find me and kill me, I'll just rot until I decide to kill myself. And what lies beyond that is less than desirable. So, I'm going to live my life to the fullest. And no one can stop me, because I'm a Hellbound."

Marle remained silent for a few moments before changing the subject. "Drissom, what's life like in the Kingdom?"

Drissom shook his head. "Boring, mainly. Everyone lives forever unless killed. The upside to that is that not many people feel compelled to reproduce. Janus was, as usual, the exception to the rule, and actually had children. But, for most people in the Kingdom, marriage and sex were just transitory, lasting only as long as you were having fun. If you wanted a woman, you could just walk up to her, and chances are she'd have her legs wrapped around your neck before you could say 'hello'."

Marle shook her head. "I can barely imagine life like that. How could you stand it?"

Drissom smiled. "We had... diversions. For instance, slaves were plentiful, and expendable. If you wanted sex, or something... darker, you could just take a slave. There was also the war. Most people in the Kingdom never got involved in the war, so they just watched through television, an invention introduced to the Kingdom by one of my fellow Hellbound.

"And of course many people enjoyed the dream machine."

"Dream machine," Marle asked, curious.

Drissom nodded. "Yeah. It monitored people's dreams and made them available to other people. The prototype was used on the Magus. After viewing his dreams, and realizing how truly absorbing they were, we started using it on all sorts of people. Of course we took out a few parts necessary for the Magus' model.

"Normal people's minds were pretty easy to break into, but the Magus was different. Just to cut through the wall to his mind, we needed to pump enough power into that machine to cut apart a normal person's mind."

"Did you have anything to do with Magus' torture?"

Drissom nodded again. "Uh huh. He was a tough one to break."

"So, you did 'break' him?"

"Oh yeah. No one survives what we put them through and emerges sane."

"Did you... 'break' my husband?"

Drissom smiled, a dreamy look coming across his eyes. "Yeah. Well, not just me. It took several of us a long time. He was almost as hard as Magus, but much more fun, because he was awake most of the time. Monitoring a comatose wizard isn't very exciting."

"Are they... alive?"

Drissom's eyebrow's drew together in thought. "You know, I'm not really sure. I last saw Magus a few centuries ago, Kingdom time. He could still be alive outside the Kingdom, in some era, but if he actually stayed in the Kingdom, being mortal, he'd be dead by now."

"And my husband?"

Drissom smiled darkly. "I don't quite remember how long ago I saw him, maybe a few years, but I remember what he was like when I saw him last. Last time I saw him, we were having a feast, one of many. As usual, Parsa was sitting at the head of the table, but this time, your husband was sitting next to her. He couldn't keep his hands off her, rubbing up against her, even eating out of her hand."

Marle's eyes stared off into the distance, expressionless. "And you were involved in this 'breaking'?"

Drissom nodded proudly. "Yep. Me and a few others, mostly Hellbound. And most of them are dead now, either killed by you heroes or by Magus the third time he broke out of his cell. The only ones left now are me, and Adom."

"I see," was all Marle said.


Same Time

Ayla stood her ground as Ledune charged at her sword overhead, prepared to slice her in half. However, when he was but a foot away, Ayla suddenly ducked and rammed her shoulder into the Hellbound's gut, lifting him up and flipping him behind her.

Ledune landed easily on his feet, and made a turning slash, easily ducked by Ayla. While in the ducking position, Ayla suddenly grabbed Ledune's ankles, pulling them out from under him. Then, before he hit the ground, she pulled upwards, bringing him overhead, then slamming him down onto the bridge, hard. Not stopping there, she lifted him again, and slammed him down on her opposite side. Then again. And again. And again. And again.

Finally, Ayla lifted him again, but this time began to swing him around. And around. And around. Soon, Ledune was but a blur to the watching Caerina and Wethreem.

Suddenly forming a plan, Ayla shifted the spin, making it a diagonal spin.

As he spun, Ledune stared down at the cave-woman. "I do believe you've won, woman."

Ayla smiled. "You got that right."

And, at the apex of the revolution, she released the Hellbound. With a howl, Ledune flew up into the air, barely missing Caerina and Wethreem, up, up, even through the electricity shield.

Ledune let out a scream as the lightning struck him, and held on, even as he started fall. The scream came to an abrupt end as Ledune was impaled upon the lightning rod. However, he continued to jerk around as the lightning coursed down the rod, through his body.

Wethreem shuddered as he watched Ledune's torture. "I think he's still alive, Caerina. What should we do?"

Caerina simply laughed. "What do you mean?"

"Well, we can't just let him fry, can we?"

Caerina shrugged. "Why not?"

"He's our ally. He's fighting for our cause."

"Cause? I'm not fighting for any cause. I'm doing this because I can, because I like the thrill of the kill."


"If you're fighting for any reason other than the kill, you're on the wrong side."

Wethreem blinked, before dropping out of the air, to stand next to Robo's disabled form. He stared down at the inert metal mass for a long time, before looking back up at Caerina. "You're right, Caerina. I am on the wrong side."


Same Time

"Well, we made it," Drissom announced, pointing to the snow-covered craft in front of them.

Marle nodded, expressionless. "You're right," she agreed. "Epoch, open up. Let us in."

Epoch complied, the canopy sliding open, allowing the two to jump in. Marle pressed a few buttons, with no reaction.

"Uh oh," she moaned.

"What's wrong," Drissom asked, worried.

"Nothing much. The power flow's messed up. Tell you what. You'll need to get out of the ship and stand in front, all right?"

Drissom sighed irritably, and jumped out. Then he made his way to the front. "Well, what now?"

"You see those two nozzles at the bottom of the ship? Look into the one on the right."

Drissom looked up at her. "Why? What should I see?"

"Uh, you should see a light. If not, just wait until you do," Marle told him. She waited until Drissom complied, and then told Epoch, "Epoch, fire right laser."


Same Time

Caerina blinked. "What? What do you mean?"

Wethreem shook his head. "I was wrong, Caerina, to ever fight with you and the Hellbound. But I plan to rectify that mistake. I've killed many innocents in my life. But no good people shall ever again die by my hand."

And with that, Wethreem flew up into the air frighteningly fast, and slashed with his sword. There was a splash of bright red blood as the blade sliced through Caerina's human neck, severing it from the robotic body. In a moment, the rocket turned off, and the head and body fell silently past the bridge, to the ground below.

Wethreem landed beside Ayla, weary and broken. "I'm sorry," he told her.

Ayla nodded, understanding. "How we get out?"

"I can use my magic to keep the lightning away as we escape."

"How we destroy Generator?"

Wethreem nodded, and turned to the giant machine. After a moment of concentration, he threw his arm forward, flinging forth several razor-sharp icicles that sliced into the machine, severing wires and pipes. In a moment, an explosion broke out from the machine, followed by another.


Same Time

Marle flew Epoch away from the deteriorating island, leaving behind the headless body of the late Drissom. As she flew, one phrase reverberated through her mind.

"The only ones left now are me, and Adom."

Marle's jaw tightened. "One down, one to go."


Same Time

As the exploding island began to fall to the earth, and the clouds began to dissipate, Wethreem flew off, away from his past, a cave-woman in one arm, a broken robot in the other. He was throwing away everything he had ever had.

But he was doing what was right. And that made all the difference.


"The past is dead. It was all just a dream..."
- Magus


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