Chrono Continuum Chapter 85

Fighting the Puppeteer

By Cain

1999 A.D.

Lucca's breath was, much like her alternate's, coming in and out in ragged gasps. She was running out of time. She skidded to a halt as she finally reached the area she'd been looking for. The area where the cold metal hall suddenly connected to the cold stone tunnel. She stood there for a moment, relieved, but soon realized that she needed to keep moving. The clock was ticking, and she couldn't afford to wait, especially considering how many tunnels there were that the three Travelers could be in at this moment. There were miles of tunnels under the Red Omen, and they could be anywhere.

However, she was willing to bet that they were at, or at least near, the energy fields: that was as far from the Red Omen as you could get, and the only chance Adom had to stall for time until he could create an appropriate defense. Besides, the three Travelers would probably be drawn to the series of force fields anyway, given the natural curiosity that her husband felt, and was no doubt shared by her daughter and alternate.

She ran on, her cybernetic implants straining with the strained effort, her muscles cramping up. But she didn't stop. She couldn't afford to. As she ran, she continued counting.





Same Time Period

Janus closed his eyes in concentration. Establishing a tunnel through her crushed throat so that air could flow freely was no problem. He'd already done so, and added another spell to keep Lucca unconscious. Unfortunately, the problem was trying to get it so that Lucca wouldn't choke to death as soon as he released the air tunnel, which was something that Janus wasn't really sure how to do. He silently wished that Marle had been there, orthat Frog's power was still active, or even that the robot was here with his gadgets, but he knew wishing never solved anything, so he dismissed the thought.

His eyes were still closed, so he used his mind's eye, his magic, to view her damaged throat. The attack had also damaged what Janus realized must have been her vocal chords, but those were too delicate for him to affect with any degree of success. He'd just have to hope that she wasn't permanently muted. Assuming she survived.

Though he really didn't need to, his hand automatically moved toward her throat, an instinct that the human mind had which needed contact to reconcile effect. It really didn't really make the spell more effective, but it was reassuring to the caster and looked more believable to others, so most mages continued doing it, whether necessary or not. Janus was one of those.

As he concentrated, his power moved in around her damaged windpipe. Slowly, carefully, he used minor telekinesis in order to push the tube into its normal position and shape, without obstructing the air flow he'd created. Then, still using his mind to hold the tube in place, he began to reinforce the bonds between the cells in the damaged areas, encouraging them to hold in their normal place without his aid. It was an unusual experience, and it was clumsily done at first, but as he went along, he began to understand the intricacies of the art of healing. As he strengthened the bonds, he also stimulated the cells to divide, replacing dead cells which were assimilated into the blood stream.

It was difficult, but he was still making progress, however slow. Lucca would live, although it would still hurt like hell, because he didn't dare risk messing with her nervous system to relieve the pain, especially when he didn't understand what so many things were. So he concentrated, and ignored the sound of battle around him.


Same Time Period

Christina took a deep breath, the black sword in her hands. She glanced down, and noted that the name on the blade was simply Frog now. Her eyes narrowed in anger. An ally was trapped in that blade, and she couldn't do anything to help him, except use his prison to destroy the creature who had trapped him. Beside her stood Masa and Mune. They were odd-looking little creatures, but they seemed angry enough and able enough to fight. Plus, they had experience with battle, having been a sword, so she figured they were valuable to have along. Of course, it was possible they couldn't win no matter what they did.

Christina had fought demons and Hellbound, and although they could take a lot of punishment, and some of the demons' skin was so hard you needed magic just to break through it, they all died if you hit them just right, in just the right place. But what do you do when your enemy can just shrug off a fatal wound as if it were a poke with a needle? If that isn't enough to kill them, what is?

As if reading her thoughts (who knew, maybe it had) Gaston chuckled. "You can't beat me, you know," it confided in the three fighters. "You can't kill a dead woman."

"But... How can you be dead," Mune asked, curious despite his anger. "I mean, you're standing there, talking to us."

Gaston shook its head slightly. “You faced the Magus’ skeletal army years ago, yet you still know nothing of the undead. True, I'm using this body, but it's only a tool, a shell. Much like when you fought Janus' wife through that large machine. You could do all you wanted to the machine without hurting her. It's the same with me. This body means nothing to me, except that it can be used to subjugate and destroy. That is, after all, what I do best."

"But your body is still only physical," Masa replied. "We can destroy it, and in the process destroy you."

Gaston laughed. "Weren't you listening? I merely inhabit this flesh. If you kill this body, I'll simply find another. I don't even feel the pain when you attack this body, though no doubt Parsa still does, deep down inside. I'm the puppeteer, and this puppet will function for as long as I want it to."

Christina shook her head. "Whatever the case, you're not invincible. You're obviously very powerful against magic, but you're obviously also vulnerable to physical attack, to some extent. If we can cut off your head, I'd be willing to bet that you couldn't control the rest of your body. But I don't think you're going to let us try that if you can help it, are you?"

Gaston smiled. "Do I look stupid?"

Christina and the two brothers charged at once, and Gaston shook its head derisively as it defended itself. Christina swung her sword around, trying to behead the possessed woman on the first attack, but Gaston's hand came up so quickly it made the sword look like it was moving in slow motion, and slapped the blade upwards, so that it cleared the top of its head by several inches. Then Gaston fluidly sidestepped, dodging a charging Mune. Masa tried to jump up to hit it in the face, but Gaston's hand came up, grabbed the white robe, and threw the young-looking creature through the air, so that he landed with a grunt on the cold stone, only to get up a moment later. Gaston crossed its arms over its chest, and dared them to try anything else.

Christina used the momentum from her previous swing and, redirecting the sword's angle so that it was headed towards Gaston's chest. The demon, of course, saw the move coming, and simply stepped backwards out of the range of the swing. Christina swung again, high, and Gaston ducked. She swung downwards, and Gaston sidestepped, the blade almost clipping its shoulder. Christina swept low, trying to go for the demon's knees, but the demon instantly jumped in the air, doing a tight backwards midair somersault, landing lightly after the sword passed underneath.

Her breath ragged, Christina yelled as she swung at the neck. She saw dark thoughts move through the demon's eyes, and one arm moved up as if the Frog was moving through syrup in comparison. But instead of trying to deflect the blade like before, the arm came up and simply stayed between the sword and its target, slightly angled. The sword slammed into the arm, cutting through the flesh and muscle, steadily cutting towards the bone-

-and stopped, with a clang as it hit the bone at an angle designed to stop it from cutting through. Gaston didn't flinch as the blade lodged in its arm, nor did the arm waver. Gaston's smile was steady. "Impressive," Gaston noted. "But not nearly enough, little girl." And its hand shot out towards Christina's chest. Before Christina had a chance to flinch, the hand slammed into her, the palm open. The force of the blow threw her through the air, until the short flight was ended abruptly by the stone wall behind her, which she hit with a loud smack.

She hung there for a moment, as if stuck, but she quickly slid down until she hit the equally hard floor, her left leg twisting at an odd angle. But she didn't notice. She couldn't feel most of her extremities, and she couldn't seem to remember how to make her lungs work. She was surprised to feel something warm and thick soaking her hair, but she couldn't really remember if that was bad. She could see her two companions jump to attack the demon, but the sight was hard to make out. Darkness was invading her vision, and she could only hear the thump of bare feet on stone coupled with the sound of flesh striking flesh.

It seemed to her that she needed to get up, but she was so very tired, and she couldn't feel her legs anyway. She vaguely realized that she still had her sword in her hand, but she couldn't make it move anymore that she could stop her vision from going dark. The darkness enveloped her, and the sounds of battle faded away into the background. She felt herself fall to the side, but soon even that was gone.

"If I have to go down fighting... I can't think of anyone else I'd rather be with."
"Oh, Jack, you say the nicest things."
-Jack Random and Ruby Journey, Deathstalker Honor


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