Until the End of Time Part 1, Chapter 1
Out of the Past
By Demon-Fighter Ash
Chrono Trigger: Until the End of Time
An original fan-fiction by Jeff Moore
based on characters created by Square
What was the start of all this?
When did the cogs of fate begin to turn?
Perhaps it is impossible to grasp that answer now,
from deep within the flow of time...
But, for a certainty, back then,
we loved so many, yet hated so much,
we hurt others and were hurt ourselves...
Yet even then, we ran like the wind,
whilst our laughter echoed
under cerulean skies...
--Chrono Cross's opening lines
August, 1004 AD
"Hel-loo," Lucca called out, adjusting her glasses and brushing back her shoulder-length brown hair as she nudged open the unlocked door and walked into the quaint unpainted cabin that Melchior had used as his home and workshop for the past decade, "anyone here?"
She looked around at the rows of swords draped along the walls and the countless books thrown carelessly about the tables and wooden chairs; if it were anyone else, she might have suspected a burglary or a battle that had left the room a mess. But this mess was reassuring--it just meant Melchior was distracted by some new project.
"Hey," she called out again, and finally she heard footsteps clambering up the stairs and the basement door opening. Melchior suddenly burst into the room, a plump little man with dark round eyeglasses, a thick bushy grey moustache and a silly-looking blue uniform topped by an orange sash and a pointed hat.
There was a time when she might have laughed at the outfit, but not anymore--she'd learned years ago that the uniform marked him as one of the three legendary Gurus of Zeal, and that it was the only thing left to remind the absent-minded scholar of the ancient magical kingdom that, thousands of years ago, he had called home.
"Took you long enough," she teased him, smiling broadly, "what were you doing down there anyway?"
"Lucca," he answered cheerfully, "you should take a look at it! I've been reading about some of the crystal elements they use down in El Nido, and I thought maybe the material could be fashioned like metal."
"Any luck," she asked eagerly, surprised and disappointed that she hadn't thought of that herself.
"I've succeeded in melting it down, but forging it...is a little more difficult. But with your help, I'm sure we'll figure it all out! Come on, you can take a look at what I've done so...far...um, who's the kid?"
Lucca laughed softly as she gently rocked the swaddled infant in her arms, knowing how easily Melchior could distract himself and a little surprised he'd noticed the baby this quickly.
"You wouldn't believe how many people have asked me that," she giggled, "I'm thinking of just naming her Kid, so when people ask I can just say 'you got it.'"
"Oh," Melchior's eyes lit up, "you have a kid! Congratulations, who's the father? It's that Fritz guy over in Truce, isn't it? I just knew you two were made for each other the moment I saw..."
"Fritz," Lucca cried out in bewilderment, "no! Besides, he married Elaine last year. She's not mine, at least not like that...I found her in the forest outside Guardia castle yesterday, in a basket."
"So somebody left her there," Melchior remarked sadly as he stepped closer and looked down at the baby's rose-red face and deep blue eyes, "and she's so cute too. Who would want to do that?"
"I don't think that's what happened," Lucca shook her head, "there was some sort of flash of light when she first appeared. It looked a bit like, well...like the blue flash when a gate opens."
"But Lavos was the source of the gates," Melchior pondered, "there shouldn't be any more."
"That's not all," Lucca continued, "could you hold her a moment? I have to get something."
Melchior nodded and took the blanket-wrapped baby in his arms, rocking her a little as he looked down at her single lock of blonde hair, then smiled as she looked up into his glasses and cooed softly. Lucca smiled as she watched them, then dug through her pockets, pulling out a round amulet made from a solid piece of blue crystal and lifting it up into the sunlight for Melchior to look at.
"Do you recognize this," she asked him.
"Of course," he answered, a little confused, "it's Schala's pendant. Did you borrow it from Marle?"
"No," Lucca shook her head, "Marle still has her pendant. I found this one with the baby."
Melchior's eyes widened and he grabbed the dangling pendant with one hand as he folded his other arm around the gurgling baby, flipping the gemstone over quickly and studying the back carefully.
"Melchior," Lucca asked, "did you ever make a second pendant?"
"No," he answered, his voice quivering, "the pendant's incredibly complex, it took me years just to make the one Schala had. The only thing even close to being like the pendant is the Masamune."
"Is it a copy? Another pendant that just looks like it?"
"No, it's real" he answered, "look on the back. The crest of Zeal's inscribed and around the edge, you can see my name in very faint letters. That's how I authenticated all my works."
Lucca nodded, remembering a similar seal on the Masamune, and looked at the flat gold-plated surface on the back of the amulet. She shuddered a bit at the crest of zeal, a stylized hieroglyph of the Mammon Machine, then looked around the edge of the pendant. She could just barely make out faint hairline marks in the metal, then felt the first real tremble of excitement as she spelled out the name: M..E...L...C...H...
"Then it is real," she said in a hushed whisper, "I just assumed it had to be another pendant you made..."
"Where did you say you found this," Melchior asked quickly.
"With her," Lucca pointed to the baby in his arms, "she was wearing it when she...appeared..."
"In a blue flash like a gate," Melchior whispered slowly and then looked down at the blonde-haired infant in his arms, bobbing her up and down gently, "Lucca, do you know what this means?"
"It means that," Lucca nodded, her heart quivering as she seriously considered the possibility for the first time since she'd found the little girl, "there's a really good chance that's Schala you're holding."
Melchior suddenly seemed to explode into emotion, hugging the baby tight, the dark lenses of his glasses wet with tears as he kissed both of her cheeks and hugged the infant again.
"You're alive," he cried out as he hugged her tight, "Schala, I thought I'd never see you again..."
Lucca blinked with confusion--she'd never expected Melchior to react like this. Then she smiled softly as she realized her mistake; she'd thought of him as the genius weapon-inventor from her own time, when he had really lived a whole different life in the Kingdom of Zeal . He had watched Schala grow up from an infant to a gentle and kind-hearted young woman--and the last thing he'd seen, before being dragged into the temporal vortex that brought him into this time, was Schala being consumed by the diabolical mammon machine, on the brink of death.
"You're alive," he sighed happily, and then looked up at Lucca, "except she's a little...young."
"Yeah," Lucca replied thoughtfully, "I've been trying to figure that out too. The only thing I can think of is that Schala was somehow pulled out of the past, out of a time when she was just a baby, and brought here."
"But how," Melchior thought aloud, "could she have come here if all the gates are closed. And if you three didn't go back and bring her here, who else could have?"
"I'm still working on that part," Lucca answered, rubbing the back of her neck with one hand, "the first thing we need to do is make sure that our...hypothesis is correct. That she's really Schala."
"There's only one person I know of," Melchior said thoughtfully, "who could tell you for certain."
"I know," Lucca nodded, "but I'll have to find some way to cross ten centuries just to find him...and finding him is probably going to be the easiest part."
* * *
"Are you sure this is really a good idea," Marle asked, leaning against the side of their old time-machine as Lucca unscrewed one of the panels and began reconnecting the wires and switching out the circuit-boards.
She and Lucca both sat outside Lucca's house, on the small grassy island that Lucca's family had owned for over five generations, a blanket spread beneath them as Marle watched Lucca fidget with the circuity. Lucca carefully studied the inner workings of the platinum-white aircraft perched on the lawn, her goggles scanning each of the circuits while tiny lasers printed a green digital readout over the transparent lenses for her to read. Sea gulls cawed overheard and sunlight reflected off the ocean and the gleaming metal ship.
"Absolutely not," Lucca answered in a muffled voice, holding the screwdriver between her teeth as she glanced up to Marle and then back down to the inner circuitry of the Epoch, spitting the small plastic tool onto the floor so she could speak, "it's probably the worst idea in our long and colorful history of bad ideas. But we owe it to him and besides, he's the only one who can really tell us if it's her."
"I know," Marle pouted, sitting down beside her friend and giving a single baffled look at the wiring, "but if Epoch runs into any trouble along the way...you said yourself that it's only going to have enough power for a single round trip, and that's only if everything works perfectly. What if it doesn't?"
"Don't worry, it'll work," Lucca said cheerfully, giving Marle a wink through her goggles as she replaced the panel and sealed up the hull, "trust me, there's no problem the Great Lucca can't figure out!"
"Alright," Marle answered, then giggled softly, "but if you end up stuck in my childhood, I'll be mad!"
"If that happened," Lucca laughed as she stood up and pushed a few buttons on the side of the sleek metal vehicle, the bubble-hood sliding up with a soft whine, "you wouldn't know to be mad. Besides, you could've used an older sister like me around to show you the ropes!"
"I'm serious," Marle frowned, "be careful back there. We don't know how he'll respond--if he's dangerous, just get back here. And you can count that as a direct order from the queen."
"Yes, your highness," Lucca snickered, pulling herself up into the Epoch and sitting down onto the leather seats as she checked the controls, "I would never disobey an order from Queen Nadia."
"Hush or I'll sic King Crono on you" Marle teased, hands on her hips, then she sighed a little, "I just wish Crono and I could go back with you..."
"It'll be boring," Lucca reassured her, "besides, you both have to attend the negotiations this afternoon. If we don't work out a treaty with Porre, we might as well just hop in here and not even come back."
"Oh thanks," Marle answered sarcastically, "now I'm going to be twice as nervous!"
"Don't worry," Lucca laughed, then pushed a button, the glass bubble dropping over the cockpit, "I'll take care of the past, you two will take care of the present, and together we'll save the future. It's what we're good at."
The engine began to hum to life for the first time in four years and Marle took a few steps back as Epoch's exhaust pipes began to glow. The time machine lifted into the air, hovering against the cloudless sea-blue sky for a moment before suddenly flashing and fading away in a burst of blue crackling light, wrenching through some unseen dimension and then vanishing, leaving Marle alone in front of Lucca's house.
She looked down at her pants and tank-top, remembering that she'd have change into her royal garb for the meeting later today. Lucca had tried to joke about the negotiation, but she was right--if they couldn't work out some sort of treaty with the military juggernaut that Porre had become, there might really be no future.
* * *
A tunnel of flashing golden light engulfed the craft and Lucca grabbed the control panel, her head slammed back against the seat by the sudden g-force. She'd forgotten to reconnect the inertial dampeners--oh well, it'd just be a rough ride, that's all. She strained to lift her head from the leather seat and rolled her eyes down to the counter as the years rolled backward, prying her fingers up against the pull of the inertia and struggling to type in the temporal coordinates for her arrival. She finished the program and then fell back against the seat, panting with exhaustion and staring weakly up at the flickering streams of light beyond the glass as the craft began to rock and shudder.
"Easy, Epoch...just a little bit further...we're almost there..."
The cockpit began to rattle and she closed her eyes tightly as she listened to a few of the bolts beginning to come loose. She rolled her eyes back to the counter and stared at it, silently praying for it to go faster.
5000 BC, 6000 BC, 7000 BC...
Epoch suddenly bounced and wrenched forward, throwing Lucca into the windshield, then tilted backward, knocking her into the chair. She shrieked as the whole craft rolled left and right, then sighed with relief as it began to steady again. She looked back down in confusion at the counter...
...7800 BC, 8000 BC, 9000 BC...
Epoch had hit something big around 7500 BC, something like a temporal speed bump, a disturbance so big it'd nearly knocked Epoch completely off-course...what could have had that sort of effect on time itself? She tried to think about it but then instantly forgot about it as Epoch finally began to slow, the flashing rings of light around the craft fading away to reveal a frozen landscape beyond the faint residual glow
Epoch cruised slowly through the air and Lucca lifted herself back upright, the gravity in the cockpit normal again as Epoch glided smoothly and silently above the ocean. She looked around at the stark gray clouds, the dark pounding waves below and the distant shadows of jagged ice-capped peaks, recognizing the bleak arctic landscape; she glanced back down to read the counter and smiled in triumph, then leaned back to catch her breath.
* * *
The cloaked figure glided above the ocean, leaving a wake of churning water behind him as he raced above the currents, scythe gripped in both hands, one elbow pointed forward to protect his face from the cold needle-sharp wind as the purple figure, clad in a flowing cloak and dull brass armor, flew across the limitless expanses of water, his face hardened into an almost-permanent expression of pain and grim determination.
A bright shining aircraft with pearl-white metal and golden wings suddenly dropped out of the dark clouds before him and he twisted away, levitating over the waters as he glared at it. He silently twisted around, turning his back on the floating ship and suddenly rushed away, flying over the cold grey waters and white surf without a word. The aircraft hummed for a second and then bolted forward, its shadow falling across the flying purple-cloaked figure as it passed him and the vehicle turned back around to face him. This time he simply hovered in place, bobbing up and down slightly, scythe tightly gripped in both hands before him.
"Lucca Ashtear," he snarled under his breath with disdain, floating over to the ship and setting lightly atop the hull, standing a few inches away from the edge of the cockpit and staring down at her. His long purple hair hung down his shoulders and his pale white face tightened into a glare, his red eyes glowing with contempt.
"You're a hard one to find," she responded, standing up from her seat to meet his glare, "it took almost a week to track you down."
"Why have you come back," he asked coldly, "our dealings are over."
"Don't count on that," she answered, "we've found something in the future that I think can help you."
"I've never needed your help," he snarled, "don't mistake my charity for weakness, Ashtear."
"Alright," she said slowly, "but you've sought our help before, and vice-versa. I know you've been looking for Schala, and I also know you haven't had much luck finding her."
"You know nothing," he hissed under his breath, "she's out here, lost somewhere among the glaciers and crags of this dying world, and I'll find her."
"She might not be here," Lucca said softly.
"NO," he suddenly screamed, enraged, "I clawed my way out of the abyss, she's NOT gone!"
"No, she's not gone," Lucca answered, "but you're not going to find her, not here."
"You think I'm too weak," he snarled, his voice rising, "I ruled empires before the birth of your family's name! I've led armies of mystics, I've survived the darkness of millennia! Can you say such things, child?!"
"It's not that," she shouted, "Magus, Schala's not here! She's in my time!"
Magus stared down at her for a moment, his stern pale face and glowing red eyes concealing a hidden tempest of thoughts and feelings as he tried to make sense of her words.
"What," he finally managed to ask, his voice a harsh whisper.
"Magus," she said softly, "I think we've found Schala. I wanted you to know."
"Where," he asked, his grip on the scythe tightening even more.
"She's in our time," Lucca said, "sorta, though it's been four years in our world since we last saw you, so it's 1004 AD now...or there, rather. Anyway, I think somebody sent her through a gate. We're not sure if..."
"Take me to her," Magus said suddenly, cutting her off.
"I was planning to," Lucca answered, annoyed by his interruption, "hey, isn't this the part where you thank me for repairing the Epoch and risking my life to come back here..."
"Take me to her," Magus growled, "and if you're lying, I swear will..."
"I am NOT lying," she cried out in exasperation, "why would I even want to lie about that? So I could come back and see your cheerful face one more time? Please!"
"Then show her to me," Magus said impatiently.
"Listen," she answered, "we dismantled the Epoch four years ago, we thought its work was finished. I had to build a whole new reactor just to get enough energy to make a single round-trip, and the trip back will probably melt the circuit-boards. If you go with me, we may never be able to bring you back home."
"This is not my home," Magus answered coldly, "my home sank beneath the waves years ago, and only this frozen waste remains. I won't miss it."
"Alright," she said with a nod, "I just wanted to make sure you understood the risk. Is there anything you need to take with you, or anyone you want to say goodbye..."
He glided into the cockpit, perching lightly into the back seat, and shook his head.
"No," he answered quickly, "now let's go."
"You might want to brace yourself," she warned him as she sat down and tapped a few buttons on the console, the glass bubble lowering over them as she reprogrammed the temporal coordinates, "the inertial..."
"Save your warnings for the weaklings who need them."
"Alright then," she shrugged with a barely-concealed snicker, then fired the engines.
* * *
Lucca jumped out of the Epoch as it landed in front of Melchior's house, the sloping grass-covered peak of Mystic Mountain casting long black shadows across the plains as the crimson sun sank behind the distant rooftops of Medina village. She glanced back and frowned as she listened the engine whining, circuitry born from a technology far beyond her comprehension popping and fizzling, never to be repaired again--she'd known this would happen, but her heart still sank at the thought that Epoch had truly made its last trip.
"Thank you, Epoch," she sighed as she listened to the hissing engines die into silence.
She heard a grunt and looked over to see Magus staggering toward the house, still clutching one side as he limped a little. He shot her a quick glare, then walked through the front door without a word.
Melchior rose from his chair, holding the baby as he walked to the door to meet them. He smiled to Magus and opened his mouth to speak, then yelped in surprise as the wizard pushed past him, knocking him away with one hand. Magus walked into the house and looked around at the main room as Lucca stepped through the door.
"Hey," Lucca called out, "at least pretend to be civilized! Thanks for watching her, Melchior."
"Where is she," Magus demanded, "where is Schala?"
"She's over here," Melchior called out cheerfully, standing at the staircase leading down into his basement workshop, and gestured with one hand toward the baby sleeping in his folded left arm. Magus simply stared at them both in disbelief, then glared over at Lucca, who'd walked across the room to join Melchior.
"Is this a joke," he sneered, lifting his palm up toward Lucca and Melchior, fingers spread as he prepared to cast a spell, "pray to your god for mercy, because I'll have none."
"Magus," Lucca said sharply, "it's not a joke. I found her wearing the pendant in Guardia Forest yesterday afternoon. She appeared in a kind of blue flash, like a gate. Marle still has her pendent and the only thing I can think of is that somebody brought Schala here, out of her..."
"Enough," Magus snapped, hand still raised, "you brought me here to show me a baby and a pendant?"
"Magus," Lucca shot back, "just try looking at her! We know you can sense people's auras, you did it with Crono when you were a kid! Just take a look at her and tell us what you see."
Magus glanced from Lucca back to the baby and stared silently at her, his gloved fingers dropping again as he focused on her, trying to see her aura, the ghosts of past, future and thought that surrounded every person.
"It's been too long," he said quietly after a moment, "I haven't wanted to know people's destinies for a long time now. I'll have to touch the child if you're to learn anything about it."
Melchior looked up from the baby to Magus, then glanced over to Lucca, who simply nodded. He took a step forward and lifted the infant up for the sorcerer to inspect. Magus scowled at the wide-eyed baby for a moment and then touched her cheek, holding his fingers against her face as he closed his eyes and focused.
"Kingdom of magic," he whispered to himself, reflecting the child's aura, "gurus, demon-machine...Janus."
His hand dropped from her face and his ruby eyes opened wide.
"Her memories," he said, staring down in wonder at the sleeping child, his usual sneering tone rising into a soft human voice for the first time Lucca had ever heard, "it's really her," he looked up, "how?"
"I'm not sure," Lucca answered softly, "my guess is that something happened that pulled her from her past, sometime just after she was born and...brought her here, now. Until now, I thought maybe you did it."
"No," Magus shook his head, "I still remember her, right up until...why would I still remember her?"
"That's one of the things I'm still trying to figure out," Lucca shrugged, "do you think it's really her?"
"I know it's her," Magus said with a cold glare, then he looked up from the child, glancing quickly about the room and suddenly darting out of the house. Lucca and Melchior gave each other baffled looks and followed him out the door into the twilight, the sun a faint sliver of light at the edge of the darkening sky.
Magus stood in the yard, his eyes fixed on the western horizon, staring past the fields and distant hills at something beyond the village. He finally spoke in a low voice that quivered with rage and panic.
"What's beyond that horizon?"
"Um," Lucca tried to answer, baffled, "Medina. It's a village of mystics..."
"Beyond that," he hissed angrily, still staring at the horizon, "tell me what's beyond that!"
"Some fields, a beach, the ocean," Lucca asked impatiently, "I don't know! No, wait...if you go far enough, I guess the El Nido archipelago. I suppose El Nido's out there. Why?"
"Tell me about El Nido," he demanded, still staring at the horizon, fists clenched.
"It's this group of tropical islands," she answered, "Porre discovered it about a century ago. It has natives, though Porre colonists rule it now. The weird part is that we're pretty sure the islands weren't there before we fought Lavos in 1999 AD. I still haven't figured out how that could have created them, though."
"The black wind howls," Magus whispered to himself and Lucca felt a twinge of fear herself, remembering the last time she'd heard him say those words.
"He's out there," he continued, his voice trembling with fear and rage, "I wasn't listening before but he's out there in the El Nido islands. He's laughing at me...at all of us..."
"Who," Lucca asked, her stomach twisting as she realized the answer herself.
* * *
Magus glided silently down the stairs, his feet just a few inches above the carpet, and glanced left and right across the unlit room, his crimson eyes piercing the darkness and seeing though it. He floated through the room and lifted the sleeping infant from her makeshift crib, then turned his head slowly back through the living room, looking for the front door. He searched the air for different kinds of light, quickly finding the room filled with infrared rays, and he focused his eyes, looking through the deep red glow and seeing the cold door against the warm wall.
He hoisted the baby under one folded arm and quickly opened the door, then sighed in disappointment as a warm human shape rose from the doorway and flipped a switch, flooding the room in bright yellow light.
"It's great that you want to spend time with her," Lucca said, pointing her plasma-pistol straight at Magus's breast-plating, "but it's way past her bedtime. Why don't you take her for a walk tomorrow?"
"Get out of my way, Ashtear," Magus said through clenched teeth, enraged but not daring to charge at her with a plasma weapon pointed at him, "you can't do anything for her. She doesn't belong here."
"And you could," she asked, one hand on her hip as she kept the gun steady, "where would you take her? You can't go back, you knew that before we came here. And where would you go here, in this time?"
"You should have brought her with you when you went back," Magus snarled, "this isn't her world."
"I thought about that," Lucca answered, gun still pointed at him, "but I wasn't about to risk her life when I wasn't even sure Epoch could make the trip. Anyway, you said it yourself--her world's gone, it's nothing but a frozen wasteland back there. Do you want to know what happened to her? Do you even care what happened?"
"Of course," he barked, "but I don't need you to find that out!"
"Yes, you do," she countered, "how would you find out? Would you go to the forest and ask some of the trees what happened? Would you keep bullying the pendant until it's told you everything?"
Magus simply snarled at her, his gleaming fangs bared, enraged by her sarcasm.
"Oh now that'll do it," she taunted, "I'm sure the pendant will start talking if you give it THAT look! I can study the problem and figure out what happened, but she has to stay here--besides, I'm not letting you run off with her so you two can wander the countryside like stray dogs. If you want to leave, fine, but she stays here."
The two stared at each other, Lucca holding the gun tightly, Magus clutching the baby in one arm, neither of them daring to move. After a long while, an expression of disgust crossed the wizard's face.
"What is that...smell?"
"She needs her diaper changed," Lucca answered, not daring to lower her gun.
"Then change it," he growled, walking toward the stairs and plopping the baby onto the couch in disgust.
Lucca lowered her gun and suddenly laughed.
"If you're planning on stealing a baby away in the middle of the night," she snickered, "don't you think you should at least learn how change a diaper?"
"I'm the king of the mystics," he answered with a glare over his shoulder, "there are servants for that."
"These aren't the Middle Ages," she said, hands on her hips, "and you DON'T have servants here. So come on, it's your turn to change her."
"What," he asked, whirling back around in shock.
"I've been changing her all day," Lucca replied, "so I figure it's your turn. Come on, you've changed men into frogs, how hard can changing a baby into a fresh diaper be?"
"So be it," he muttered after a moment, walking back to the sofa, "but the moment you learn what happened to her, we won't need you anymore--and I WILL take her for myself."
"I'd like to see you try," Lucca challenged, then walked into the hallway, disappearing into the bathroom for a moment. She came back out with a towel, a handful of cloth diapers and a bottle of talcum powder.
"Here you go," she said, dropping them on the carpet beside him as he reluctantly knelt beside the crying baby, "you'll need these. By the way, it's a good thing you always wear those gloves."
"Why," he asked as he unfastened her old diaper, then twisted his head away, holding his breath.
Part 1, Chapter 2