Chrono Continuum Chapter 89
They walked. All of them. All in all, it was a rather impressive group, in power and experience if not in numbers.
Gaspar, the Guru of Time, who had watched the entire history of his home planet, from beginning to end, and had been forced to play a part in the seemingly endless saga that was Time. Melchior, the Guru of Life, the warrior and blacksmith, who couldn't stand by and watch history change around him. Geddicus, the grey-haired mechanic, in his simple jumpsuit, fighting to stop his bleak future from taking place. Glenn, the knight, bound by honor and personal vendetta to destroy the Kingdom. Masa and Mune, stripped of their immortality, afraid but brave in spite of it, willing to throw their newly fragile lives into their cause. Wethreem, the creation of the Kingdom, who chose morals over loyalty. Christina, the thief who had discovered her past when she met a remarkable young man, and was determined to repay him in full. Lucca, the genius who had devoted her life to machines and theories, but understood that human life was far more important. Robo, the humanitarian machine, created to destroy, but altruistic and brave in spirit. Ayla, the prehistoric chief, devoted to her friends and to the battle, unable to comprehend surrender. And Marle, grief-stricken wife, mother, and Queen, beyond grief or revenge, but unwilling to give up for a moment.
They were all, of course, acutely aware of the gaps in their party. Janus, the powerful wizard who was so gentle in person, newly given freedom and unsure what to do with it. His wife, Lucca, forced to betray her husband, and unwilling to see him come to harm now that she was free. Dalton, the villain who came back from the dead a changed man, and returned to death in order to save a former enemy. Corea, a girl hardened by necessity and battle into something she would never have previously recognized. Frog, the tortured knight who died with forgiveness on his lips, and stayed in the living world only to be imprisoned in his own blade. Magus, the cold wizard who had once threatened all of humanity, but had now been lost in its defense. Crono, the great hero, a king who had seen too many of his soldiers die and had gone down fighting. And Rakin, the young prince thrust into a world he had never expected with a power he hadn't understood, only to be lost even as he was rising to the occasion.
Everyone was here for a different reason, but it was all part of the same thing. They didn't want anybody to have to go through the battle again, to fight and die against unbeatable odds. The missing warriors, and the serious expressions on everyone's faces, were mute testament to the pain and loss of battle. If anyone could be said to be heroes, it would be these. But none of them believed that. They all saw themselves as people who were trying their damnedest, and nothing more. Besides, they had all seen true bravery on the faces of the lost, those who fought against impossible numbers, or the faceless soldiers who fought with swords and guns against magic, or even their own team members who had fallen in their defense. It was for them that they fought.
None of them harbored any illusions. Illusions were a luxury, having no place in the minds of warriors, especially at this late a date. They knew that some of their most powerful members had died already, and more of them might yet. But they were willing to risk it. They all knew. It was worth it.
Same Time Period
Finally, Valiod thought. I've done it.
He was standing before the energy sphere, watching it as the energy flowed, like ripples. What was it he felt... Pride? For so much of his life, so many of his emotions had been incomplete, because he couldn't relate to the pitiful humans around him. Even though he controlled their bodies, he had never truly understood them. Love was something foreign. After all, who could love something as worthless as a human? And his experience with pride was also limited, because he'd always regarded his servants in the light that if they didn't succeed, they weren't worth his time. If they did succeed, good, that was what he expected. Beyond that, he didn't feel much about their accomplishments.
Some emotions were easier. Hate. Anger. Lust, although he realized that was more physical than the others. Disgust. He'd felt this his whole life, because he'd always known his Lavoid blood was heavily mixed with inferior human seed. But now he had a chance to make something powerful of his blood-line again, and he had no intention of letting the Travelers even get close to stopping him. His children would rule the universe, and he would be at their side.
He placed his hand against the energy field and closed his eyes.
Same Time Period
They stopped, and looked outward from the edge of the crater. It was large, with a diameter of about two miles according to Robo. In its exact center was a large blue sphere, and they all knew that their destination was close.
The sphere was exceedingly large. Large enough to hold a Lavoid, Robo had said. Christina shook her head in disbelief. No single creature could have been that big. Even if it had been, how could the original seven Travelers have beaten such a thing? They'd never volunteered more information than necessary, apparently still bothered by the memory.
Suddenly, there was silence. Not just the silence of people not talking, but absolute silence. The wind stopped blowing as if it had been a fan that was suddenly turned off. Birds outside the blast radius, rebuilding their nests blown apart by the force of the explosion, suddenly stopped moving, stopped singing. Insects stopped buzzing back and forth through the sunlight. No living thing moved for miles, all caught up in the expectant hush. The Travelers found themselves holding their breath, unwilling to break the silence. They knew that something big was about to happen, and looked toward the energy sphere.
They weren't disappointed. The sphere suddenly exploded with light, every color ever seen by human eyes, obscuring everything, making the sun seem dark in comparison. Finally, the light cleared, but the silence didn't dissipate. They all stared at what was left where the shield had been a moment ago. Finally, Lucca shook her head in disbelief. "What the hell..."
It was huge. It would have dwarfed anything but a full palace, or the Red Omen. There was a central point at ground level, around which row after row of spikes protruded, making it look like nothing so much as a giant pincushion. But something about it disturbed all present on a deep level, whether they knew what it was or not, like a two-year old seeing a dead animal for the first time. The child doesn't know what it is, but for once the natural curiosity is suspended in the face of something they instinctively know to avoid. But some of them did indeed know what it was. Gaspar's face lost all color. "Lavos..." he whispered.
Christina couldn't suppress her sudden shudder. "That's... Lavos? I thought it was dead."
Marle was shaking her head, as if dazed. "It is. At least it should still be. We killed it."
"I am reading life from inside the shell," Robo announced, "but it's not quite like Lavos. However, power readings are too erratic to read with any certainty."
"Then it's not Lavos," Lucca announced. She paused to clear her throat, but it didn't change her voice as she continued, "Lavos had a very singular energy signature, and the energy readings were consistent, if off the scale of our equipment."
"Then it's clear what we must do." Gedd drew in a deep breath. "The spawn must be in that shell."
Ayla nodded. "Then we go in, yes?"
Without another word, they descended.
Same Time Period
They stopped again, right in front of the huge shell. It made even the most experienced of them feel like ants about to attack a mountain, but none of them even thought of turning around. It sat flatly on the hard ground, as if daring them to try to move it. The central point was a dark hole, but it was twenty feet up in the air, too high for any of them to reach.
"Damn," Lucca commented. "We could reach the hole last time. It must have been partially submerged in the earth last time. We're going to have to climb up one by one. Trust me when I say we have very little chance of breaking a hole through on our own, especially without Epoch."
They were about to start forward, but they stopped at a sudden sound. Laughter. It was quiet, barely there, but to the highly trained senses of the Travelers, it was an obvious prelude to danger. Wordlessly, they all drew their various weapons. There was an unfamiliar sound as Gedd summoned his armor, but mostly there was the sound of steel sliding against leather,or projectile weapons being prepared. They all looked up at the hole above them, knowing that the shell was too wide to be snuck around without being seen. Whatever came, came from there.
There was no more sound. They all waited tensely, and none of them flinched when a form seemed to materialize from the darkness of the hole. It was wearing a black cloak that effectively obscured all features, with the exception that they could tell it was a man. Next to it, but not behind it, appeared two more figures, also clad in black cloaks, one a man and one a woman, shorter than the two men.
Their footsteps made no sound as they walked towards the edge of the hole. However, they didn't stop, or even hesitate, once they reached the edge, instead dropping without fear. As they fell, their cloaks flapped about them, but only enough to reveal flashes of different clothing. Purple, black, and blue, one color for each of them. They landed wordlessly, effortlessly, their legs bending at just the right time to absorb the impact of the fall with nearly inhuman strength, and they didn't even stumble as they hit the cold stone. Once firmly on the ground, they stood straight and simply stared at the Travelers. They made no moves, threatening or not.
The Travelers didn't take their eyes off the three figures as a voice sounded from the hole above. They didn't look. They knew they wouldn't have seen the speaker anyway. The voice was quiet, but strong and mocking. "Welcome. Fitting, isn't it, to have the final battle between us here, in the shell of my father? I do enjoy irony."
"Valiod," Glenn whispered, incredulous. "Thou art alive..."
A quiet chuckle. "Sorry to disappoint you, little knight. But I'm not very easy to kill. Even by a conniving queen wannabe. Even by you."
"Come out here," Wethreem ordered. "Face us, and defend yourself."
"Sorry, lab rat," Valiod whispered back. "I'm rather busy. My children are going to wake up soon, and I wouldn't miss that for the world. Or the Universe, for that matter. No, you're not important enough. I don't need to deal with you personally. That's what I have servants for."
"Come on," Christina challenged. "We've defeated all of your Hellbound, not to mention your demons, and Gaston. We've gotten through the Red Omen. Parsa's dead. You really think a couple of bodyguards are going to stop us for long?"
Valiod laughed, as if she'd said something genuinely humorous. "No. I don't expect a couple of bodyguards to hold you off. Besides, if I'd thought that, I would have called for serious numbers from the Kingdom. No, simple bodyguards would be no match for any of you, especially considering your numbers. But I doubt you can defeat these three. Would you like to see whom you're fighting, little girl?"
"These three can't scare us," Christina responded.
In response, all three forms removed the hoods of their cloaks. Their eyes stared unflinchingly at the Travelers, and the Travelers stared back. There was a sudden report as Marle's crossbow dropped to the stone at her feet. Her eyes were teary. "No..."
The three figures stared forth, unflinching. The woman-no, a girl, about fifteen-kept her gloved hands near her belt, where two thick rods were fastened. Her blue eyes were devoid of expression, and the spikes of her brown hair were matted and flat. To her side, the red-eyed man slowly took out a rod which extended into a scythe as his blue hair flowed in the breeze. To his other side, the second man drew his sword, which flashed and glinted dozens of colors in the sunlight. His armor was black, and spiked like his red hair. His face was scarred, though it had survived hundreds of battles unscathed. His green eyes showed no recognition of any of the Travelers. But they showed plenty of recognition for him, and the two who stood beside him.
From inside the shell of his dead father, Valiod laughed.
-Luke Skywalker, The Empire Strikes Back
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