Until the End of Time Part 2, Chapter 2
The Goddess of Fate
By Demon-Fighter Ash
February, 1010 AD
Lucca descended the wooden stairs into her basement laboratory and glanced around the long narrow room as she opened the door. Shelves lined the sunlit room, holding half-finished devices and machines, and three long wooden tables sat in the middle of the room, each one crowded with wires and generators to power the experiments she still performed down here. The telepod set that she'd invented for the millennial fair still sat in the far corner of the room, half-dismantled as she'd studied each one, trying to figure out how to improve the technology.
She suddenly noticed Kid cheerfully skipping between the tables, the blue pendant bouncing against her dress as she dodged the small green robot dancing and leaping after her.
"Kid," Lucca said, smiling in spite of herself, "you know you're not supposed to be down here!"
"I know," she pouted and stopped to face Lucca, "but it's boring outside and I wanted to play with Fido, and since he stays down here..."
Fido, the little green mechanical robot that Lucca had made years ago as a reminder of Robo, skidded to a halt and twirled around on one spindly leg, then automatically bowed at the sight of Lucca.
"Aren't Janus and Gato playing with you outside?"
"Yeah," the little girl answered forlornly, "he's showing us how to fight Gato with that stick, but he won't let me try to beat Gato. He says its too dangerous, but he lets Leda and she's younger than me!"
Lucca chuckled a little at the reference to Janus's quarterstaff--the orphans had never seen him fighting with his scythe since, at Lucca's insistence, he'd put it away in favor of the non-lethal staff years ago.
"I know it doesn't seem fair," she answered gently, kneeling down to look at Kid's face and wide blue eyes, "but I know for a fact he lets you train with him, and he doesn't let any of the other children do that."
"I guess," Kid scuffed her feet against the floor and looked down, "but he always lets me win, it's boring! Maybe he just doesn't like me as much as the rest of them..."
"No," Lucca answered, her heart aching at Kid's words, "it's just the opposite. He worries about you a lot, Kid, that's why he doesn't want you to play with Gato yet...he's afraid you'll get hurt."
"But even Leda can do it!"
"I know," she sighed and smiled, "tell you what--if you'll help me down here, I'll let you play with Gato, and we'll talk to Janus to see if we can get him to let you play with the older kids. Okay?"
"Okay," Kid answered happily, always thrilled to help her big sister with grown-up work, "hey Fido, we're going to help Lucca do experiments, come on!"
The little green robot swiveled toward Kid and bobbed happily after her as she skipped back around the laboratory, and Lucca smiled as she turned toward her latest project. She lifted the metal gun in one hand, the whole gun made from curved gleaming steel, the barrel tapering into small metal rings and a faint blue glow pulsing within the thin transluscent surface of the futuristic weapon.
"What does that do," Kid asked, peering over the top of the table with both hands.
"It's an ice gun," Lucca answered, "if there's ever a fire, you can point this at it, pull the trigger, and it'll put out the fire with an ice-beam. But it's very dangerous--you'll have to wait until you're older to play with it."
"Aww," she frowned, "I'm too young for everything!"
"You're not too young for Fido," Lucca answered, "and you'd better go get him."
"Fido," Kid cried out in mock-exasperation as she saw the robot trying to walk into a corner, hitting the wall, shaking its head and then trying to walk into the wall again, "come back over here!"
Kid ran across the room to pull Fido back and Lucca smiled at the sight of the cheerful little girl, so different from the gentle young woman she'd known in Zeal--and yet so many little things reminded her of Schala, such as the dimples when she smiled, her shining blue eyes, her apple-red cheeks. She often wondered her Janus felt, watching his sister growing up just as she had once watched him grow up.
The ice-gun dropped from her hands and Lucca looked up in confusion, suddenly finding herself across the laboratory, standing on the opposite of the table that she'd just been working on. Lucca blinked, then appeared back at the table, the half-finished ice-gun lying on the shelf before of her...then suddenly disappeared again, now finding herself standing beside Kid in the back of the room. She glanced around, then looked down at Kid as the young girl playfully tapped the buttons on one of her inventions.
"Kid," she said quickly, before she vanished again, "stop pushing that button!"
"What's wrong," the little girl asked.
Lucca looked down at the device that Kid had been playing with, a spade-shaped metal box about the size of a violin case, with a red crystal orb embedded in the middle, a round metal crank on top and small buttons below the now-glowing orb, then looked back up in surprise at Kid.
"How did you get this to work," she asked.
"I dunno," Kid answered with a shrug, "I just took all the wires in the back and put the colors together. Red looked good with blue, and green went with yellow, and then black and white."
"That means," Lucca muttered to herself as she lifted the box and studied the back intently, "that the power source has been rerouted directly to the infrared laser, which now loops to the conversion orb instead of the memory cartridge like it used to. That could work...that could actually work!"
"Did I fix it," Kid asked, "what does it do?"
"It's a teleporter," Lucca answered, "remember how I told you the telepods can turn people into energy and take them to different places in the blink of an eye? Well, this kinda does the same thing, except that you don't have to stand on a telepod. You just program who you want to bring to you, and then you push a button and the device sends out a beam that finds them, turns them into energy and drops them right in front of the machine."
"So I can bring anyone I want right here," Kid asked excitedly.
"You have to program it first," Lucca smiled, "and right now I'm the only one the machine knows."
"But you can program it to know more people, right?"
"Yes," Lucca nodded, "and you'll be able to program it too. You might turn out to be a better inventor than me, Kid! After all, you're the one who figured out how to make the teleporter work."
"Come on," Kid scoffed, "nobody's better than the Great Lucca!"
"Not yet," Lucca winked, "but you could be anything you want...even the Great Kid!"
A computer terminal in the left corner of the lab, near the telepods, began beeping and Lucca glanced over at it curiously, then back to Kid's innocent, baffled expression.
"Did you fix anything else?"
"No, just the wires on that box."
Lucca walked over to the terminal and typed the password into the keyboard, the blank screen suddenly alit with rolling numbers and letters as she carefully studied the display.
"It's a transmission," she said softly, "the dish-antenna on the roof's picking up a signal..."
"What does that do," Kid asked curiously, looking up at the screen.
"It picks up radio waves from the air," Lucca answered, staring at the screen, "I built it to search for life on other planets, but since then we've used it mostly to listen to Porre...but this isn't Porre..."
"Who is it?"
Lucca suddenly gave a sharp gasp and turned toward Kid, her eyes wide with surprise.
"Kid, I want you to find Janus right now. It's important."
"I'm here," Janus called out from the basement door, "Kid, we've been looking for you. You shouldn't sneak away like that, it could be dangerous."
"Janus," Lucca said, not turning around, "come look at this screen."
He gave her a puzzled look and walked around the wire-strewn benches and tables, then looked at the black monitor over Lucca's shoulder, trying to read the string of numbers rolling up the screen.
"They're numbers," he said tersely after a few moments.
"No, no," Lucca shook her head, "they're a computer code transmitted over an amplitude-modulated radio broadcast from some unknown source. It's a holographic program, but I think I can modify the telepods to receive a holographic transmission and play it. The program's vast, it'll take several hours just to receive the file and process it on the computers here. But that's not the important thing, the important thing's the language..."
"They're numbers," he said again, still shaking his head.
"Janus, it's Robo's code!"
"What," he asked, tilting his head and glancing between Lucca, Kid and the screen.
"The code, the identification markers...I don't know how, but the transmission's coming from Robo!"
* * *
Lucca tightened the connections to the old telepod and peered down into the inner circuitry beneath the base of the machine, the innards of the teleporting platform gutted and replaced by holographic lasers, lenses and a computer system infinitely more primitive than the transmission it had to process. Janus stood a few feet away from her and shook his head in disbelief at the blinking lights and sprawling wires of the lab, still lost by the workings of modern technology. She glanced over at a computer screen lying on the floor beside the converted telepod, plastic wires connecting it to both the dish-antenna on the roof and the telepod itself, staring intently as the screen counted the seconds until the transmission ended, until the message started...
"What do you think will happen," Janus asked, staring at the round crystal platform and the circle of loose wires stretching out from its metal base to the computers and wall-outlets around them..
"I don't really know," she shrugged, "but it's definitely a holographic transmission so..."
"Transmission complete," the screen flashed in bright green, "file-conversion in progress..."
Lucca turned quickly toward a keyboard propped against the base of the telepod and began typing, fingers racing over the keys as she activated the holographic projectors and linked them to the receiving dish. She finished the program and stepped back as the monitor began to flash red again.
"File conversion in 0:03...0:02...0:01...program R-66Y has been initiated."
The tiny crystal diodes in the base of the telepod began to flash and twinkle as five thin beams of light shot up through the booth in a ring, the lasers spinning faster and faster until the whole booth glowed with a thin wall of light. The shell of white light around the telepod began to fade and a ghostly translucent figure appeared atop the glowing platform. The short cylindrical figure seemed to look at the lab with green crystal eyes, its plate-like head swiveling left and right, leather flaps hanging across the torso of its otherwise-golden body.
"Robo," Lucca cried out in joy.
"Greetings Lucca," the transparent image of her robotic friend chirped, "it's been far too long."
"A ghost in the machine," Janus asked, puzzled, as he stood beside the device and waved his hand through the image, Robo's shape flickering a little as his fingers passed between the lasers.
"Magus," Robo answered, swiveling to look at him, "an unexpected pleasure. No, this shape is just a kind of message I'm sending. I'm quite alive, although I'm actually somewhere else right now."
"I understand," he nodded slowly, "but I go by Janus now."
"How long has it been for you," Lucca asked, "it's been ten years on this side."
"I'm actually in this era as well," Robo answered as he turned back toward her, "but for me, it has been more than 8,000 years since we last saw each other."
"How," Lucca gasped, "that would mean you came from 10,300 AD!"
"No," Robo answered with a digitized chuckle, "I haven't gone quite that far into the future. The sequence of events that took me through 8,000 years is more complex than that."
"What brought you back here," Janus asked.
"That's a long story," Robo said, "and there isn't time for me to explain it all--this transmission could be detected and interrupted at any moment. Are Crono and Marle here as well?"
"They're gone, Robo," Lucca answered sadly, "they died during the war with Porre. Porre's not like it used to be, they destroyed Guardia. They're taking over the world, piece by piece..."
"I am sorry," Robo beeped forlornly, "I knew that history had already been affected but I never imagined it would lead to anything this extensive, or this terrible..."
"So history really has been changed," Janus said tensely, "what changed it?"
"An enemy that we created ourselves during our adventures ten years ago," Robo answered, "one that is now fighting a temporal war for control of the future. Crono and Marle were casualties of that war, and the war with Porre was just one battle in the larger conflict."
"What kind of enemy," Lucca asked, quietly, "is it in Porre?"
"No," Robo's image said, "but it is using Porre, changing their history to make them into its own army."
"But how did we make it," Lucca shook her head, "all we did was save the future from Lavos!"
"Yes," Robo answered, "but that event had repercussions stretching through centuries of history. There is little time to explain it all and there is something else I need to tell you before my transmission is caught."
"You're being watched somehow," Janus answered, beginning to understand, "you're a prisoner..."
"Yes," Robo answered with a short string of chirping beeps, "which is why I don't have much time."
"Then we'll rescue you," Lucca said quickly, her expression drawn tight, "just tell us where you are!"
"I can't do that, Lucca."
"Then just tell us how we can find you," Janus answered, "we'll take care of the rest."
"You don't understand," Robo beeped sternly, "you mustn't attempt to rescue me, or the same energy that brought me here would be unleashed again and history itself might come to an end. Right now I am the only thing that stands between the power of the frozen flame and the enemy. If she unlocked it, she might claim this timeline as her own empire, or she might inadvertently annihilate it."
"The frozen flame," Lucca whispered to herself, stunned, "when you say she, who do you mean?"
"I mean our enemy," Robo answered, "the goddess of fate."
"Porre worships the goddess of fate," Janus replied softly, "every battle is fought in her name."
"Then we'll defeat her," Lucca answered, nearly shouting, "we beat Lavos and we can beat some goddess!"
"I know you want to help me Lucca," Robo beeped softly, "but this isn't the way. It's possible that you two could defeat the goddess. But her destruction would cause the frozen flame to fall into the hands of an enemy even more powerful and destructive than her, one that would use it to annihilate the human race."
"Then we'll beat THAT enemy," Lucca cried out, "we have to save you, Robo!"
"You might not be able to defeat that one," Robo said, "just as we fought with the power of the planet itself when we defeated Lavos, so that new enemy would fight with the power of the planet against us. Even if we were to destroy it, the flame itself would then be released and the devourer of time might be summoned."
"I don't understand," Lucca despaired, "isn't there any way to pull you out this web?"
"The war has created a delicate balance across the span of time," he answered, "disturbing a single part of that balance could destroy it, and the loss of that balance could lead to the death of our world."
"Our world is already dying," Janus said bitterly, "it might be a slow death, but every year Porre conquers another country and establishes a new set of colonies. Their goddess is winning."
"For now, this is the only way," Robo beeped softly, "but listen to me. I've contacted you to warn you of two powerful enemies that are coming for you, that will try to convince you to release me, to separate me from the frozen flame. Don't let them fool you--both of them want to use it to destroy our past."
"Who are they," Lucca asked.
"I believe one of them may already be known to you. He has assumed the form of a feline demi-human and may have recently gained political power in the councils of Porre."
"Lynx," Lucca answered with a firm nod, "yeah, we know about him."
"He's the embodiment of the goddess," Robo chirped, "and he will use any means to gain the power of the frozen flame. But he is neither the most dangerous nor the most powerful of the two."
"Tell us about the other one," Janus asked grimly.
"Thousands of years ago the goddess fought a war against a powerful entity called the Dragon. The entity was split into six elemental forms and imprisoned, but the seventh and most powerful of them has been unleashed. Lynx has entered into an alliance with this seventh dragon...the Dragon of the Dark Moon."
"What does it want," Lucca asked.
"The same thing as Lynx, to unlock and obtain the frozen flame. Their ultimate designs for the future are different, which is why the war was fought. They have forged a temporary alliance for the purpose of regaining the frozen flame, but that alliance will end once they've succeeded."
"But what do they want with us," Lucca asked, "we don't have the flame."
"The goddess has it," Robo answered, "but I have control of it and have sealed its power. With the flame sealed, the goddess is trapped in this time period. You are the only one in this era who knows about my technology, who would know how to separate me from the flame."
"And so they'd need me to disconnect you," Lucca answered glumly, "so they can go back to fighting their temporal war and taking over the future."
"Yes," Robo beeped in agreement, "they will come for you, Lucca, and you must be ready for them. Lynx is a dangerous and powerful opponent, the dragon even more so."
"We'll be ready," Lucca said, "and once we've finished them off we'll rescue you, Robo..."
The hologram suddenly began to twist and shudder, Robo's image breaking apart into millions of pixels and then reforming back into his shape. His upper mantle lifted up from his body in alarm, then sank as he spoke.
"A diagnostic scan has been initiated," he chirped quickly, "I must disconnect to prevent this transmission from being discovered. Be careful, both of you..."
"Robo," Lucca shouted, "wait!"
The ghostly image dissolved into pixels again and the lasers suddenly faded, the white glow of the telepod dying away to leave Lucca and Janus alone in the cluttered basement laboratory. Lucca suddenly ran to the monitor and began typing frantically on her keyboard, scanning through pages of digital code.
"What are you doing," Janus asked cautiously.
"I'm bringing him back online," she said quickly, barely listening to him as she continued to reprogram the dish antenna outside, trying to bring her friend back.
"Lucca," Janus knelt behind her as she pounded at the keyboard in frustration, touching her arms gently as she kept typing, staring at the monitor, "that wouldn't help."
"How stupid could I be," she suddenly threw the keyboard against the wall, "I should have made a stronger transmitter, installed a third backup hard-drive, accounted for holographic transmissions..."
"Lucca," he said quietly, "Robo told us that he only had a few moments. He doesn't know fear, he'd only worry about the transmission being discovered if it was truly dangerous--and trying to reconnect could make things worse. He's still alive out there, he simply had to cut the transmission short. He's still okay."
"He is NOT okay," she shouted as she turned around and banged her fist against his chest, then sank into tears as he caught her and lifted her up into his arms, "the goddess is taking everything from us! I used to take ferry rides to Porre as a kid and when we came back, it was a shipyard! She took Porre, she took Guardia, she took Crono and Marle...and now she's got Robo trapped over there and we're supposed to just sit here and do nothing about it while she ruins the whole world!"
"We are not doing nothing," he said sharply, his arm around her waist as he tilted her chin up to look into his red irises and dark pupils, "you've cared for six children who might be homeless without you, you helped rebuild the village, you've fought off Porre troops every time they've tried to raid the village, and done so without killing a single soldier. Without you Porre would have long since razed this land and set up their own colonies."
"But it's not enough," she shook her head, her blue eyes glittering with tears, "the world's falling apart and all I've done is hold onto the little patch around us. You said it yourself--the world is dying."
"You've done what you needed to," he answered slowly, "when the time comes we'll take care of Lynx and this Dragon of the Dark Moon, and then we'll find and rescue Robo. We'll take this world back from them."
"Alright," she gave a small smile through her tears as she hugged him and looked up into his face, "but we don't have to worry about finding Robo. The computer traced the source of the transmission."
"Where did it come from?"
"Where else," Lucca sighed and closed her eyes, hugging him tighter and leaning against him, "the same place everything else started...El Nido."
* * *
Melchior leaned over the wooden table in his living room, studying the convoy schedules as a small group of teens sat with him. Kyra, a blonde-haired athletic young woman, glanced over his shoulder as she walked back toward the table from the crackling fireplace and Seth, a lanky older teenager with shaggy brown hair, looked out the window toward the twin moons that filled the otherwise-black sky before turning around toward the group again.
"What do you think," she asked Melchior as she sat down and looked over the schedule.
"It's dangerous," he said thoughtfully, looking up from the paper at the teenagers gathered around the table, "that's a valuable shipment and Porre knows it. They'll have armed guards escorting the transport. Three, maybe four riflemen...and that's if we're lucky."
"That's exactly why we should go after it," Seth answered as he paced back toward the group, "that money could go a long way toward restoring Truce...or building even more gunships for the Porre fleet."
"He's got a point," one of the other teens nodded.
A sharp scream cut off their conversation and all of them jumped up from the table. A second shriek filled the room, the cries coming from behind the front door, and they all looked back to Melchior.
"Get ready," he whispered, "it could be Porre's military police..."
The front door of Melchior's house slammed open and a blast of burning wind swept across the room, ruby eyes glaring from the darkness at the group of teenagers gathered around the table with Melchior. The old man rose to his feet, reaching to the back wall and snatching one the hanging swords in one hand. The small group of young men and women drew their daggers as the intruder emerged from the darkness.
"Stop right now," Melchior shouted, then stopped, his eyes widening, "Janus?!?"
"I apologize for the theatrics," Janus said tersely, "but your lookouts tried to ambush me on the way in."
"You know him," Seth asked Melchior.
"It's alright," Melchior answered, lowering his sword slightly as the white-clad figure stepped into the glow of the fireplace and looked curiously around at the group, "at least, I think it is...Janus, what in the world are you doing here?"
"I came to offer my assistance," the wizard answered.
"What," Melchior shook his head in disbelief, "you're saying you...want to join the Dreamers?"
"I'll help defend the dreamers during their missions," he nodded, "and use my magic to distract the soldiers and take out their gunmen while you make your raids," he looked to Melchior, "you know what I can offer."
"That I do," Melchior nodded slowly. Throughout the magical empire of Zeal, nobody had ever wielded as much magic as the young prince Janus--and Janus had since spent more than forty years developing that power.
"But you have other responsibilities," Melchior shook his head, "the orphanage and guarding Truce..."
"I haven't forsaken those duties," Janus replied firmly, "and I won't be able to join you in all your attacks or skirmishes. But the robberies I can help you stage against Porre will be legendary."
"Really," Seth asked skeptically, annoyed by the outsider's smug arrogance, "and what would you have us rob that we couldn't steal anyway?"
"Simple," Janus answered, glancing toward the teenager, "the frozen flame."
"The what," Kyra asked in surprise, "the treasure that grants wishes?!"
"Janus," Melchior said sternly, "we don't know anything about the flame..."
"Or even where it is," Kyra said, "we could spend forever searching the world for it..."
"We'll retrieve it for Lucca to study," Janus nodded to Melchior, "though she mustn't know about this plan. She hasn't fully accepted the Dreamers or your methods."
"But we still don't know where it is," Seth cried out in exasperation, "it could be anywhere..."
"This should narrow the search," Janus answered and he tossed a piece of paper onto the table. The group of young thieves leaned over the table to look at the sheet of paper as Melchior glanced down at it, then gave Janus a questioning look, the room filled with the teens' whispers and excited conversation.
Janus silently nodded to the guru and they both looked back down at the map of El Nido and the smaller reef-circled sea marked within it...the Sea of Eden.
Part 2, Chapter 3