Until the End of Time Part 2, Chapter 3
The Vengeance of the Future
By Demon-Fighter Ash
March, 1010 AD
Kid sat asleep in the cushioned living-room chair, electrodes taped to her forehead, Janus sitting beside her while Lucca adjusted the dials on the computer and checked the screen, the small spikes of her breath-rate, heartbeat and brain-wave activity slowly and steadily rolling across the screen. The rest of the children were still at school or over at a friend's house--Lucca had spent weeks arranging to be alone with Kid and Janus tonight.
"Do you think she's ready for this," Janus asked, looking down at his sleeping sister with concern.
"She has a full vocabulary," Lucca answered, "and the device should only stimulate her memory, her mind shouldn't be affected at all. But I know what you mean...at the first sign of trouble, we pull the plug. If this works, we'll be able to ask her about her life. My theory is that she has both sets of memories, just as you remember both the prophet and the original timeline, and that she simply forgot her previous life as she grew up since she couldn't make sense out of it. If that's true, she'll be able to remember what changed, what brought her here."
"Let's do it," Janus finally nodded, and the two of them sat down on two kitchen tables opposite Kid. Lucca tapped a few buttons, starting the program, and Kid's eyes instantly opened.
"Kid," Lucca asked as she adjusted the dials on the device and checked the readout of the young girl's vital signs once more,, then nodded with satisfaction, "can you hear me?"
"Yes," the entranced girl answered in a dull muted voice.
"Do you know who I am?"
"Yes, you're my big sister Lucca."
"Yes," Lucca answered with a smile, adjusting her glasses as she sat down and focused on Kid, "you are safe, Kid, nothing bad can happen to you. Do you understand?"
"Yes, I'm safe. Lucca's with me"
"Right now you're just asleep and having a dream. There's nothing to be afraid of."
"Now, I want you to think back, Kid. I want you to remember the first time you saw me. The very first time, as far back as you can go. Can you remember that? Can you describe it?"
"Yes," the little girl answered with the slightest lisp, "I remember you were standing below great big trees, lots of trees, and you were big. I was in a small place that smelled like straw."
"Amazing," Lucca whispered to Janus, who had shifted forward to the edge of his seat, watching his sister with obsessive fascination, "that must be the forest when I found her. I didn't think she'd be able to go back that far so quickly."
"Yes," he whispered back, "but she'll have to go much further than that to answer our questions."
"I know," she whispered, before checking the brain-wave readings and speaking again in a normal tone of voice, "Now, I want you to try to remember the place before the straw and trees. I want you to think back to where you were before you came to the forest. Can you remember that?"
"I don't want to," the little girl answered, her voice rising into a small squeak of something almost resembling panic, "it's scary over there and she's mean sometimes. I don't want to go back there."
Lucca looked slowly at Janus and tilted her head questioningly. He glanced back and shook his head, also confused by her words. Lucca took a final look at the screen and sighed before continuing.
"It's alright, we'll be here with you. I need you to think about where you were before the forest, okay? It's okay, you'll be safe with us. Can you remember where you were before the forest?"
"No," Kid answered reluctantly, "but she can."
Lucca looked over at Janus's baffled expression, and he nodded to her. Lucca nodded back.
"Then we need to speak with her, Kid. Can you talk to the girl who's over there, before the forest? Will you tell her we need to talk to her? I promise you'll be safe."
Kid trembled and squirmed in her chair fearfully then answered them.
"I'll tell her," Kid said nervously, then suddenly went limp in her chair, her eyes opening after a moment.
"Kid," Lucca asked apprehensively, "can you hear me?"
"No, she can't" a woman's voice answered and Lucca shivered at the sight of the little blonde-haired toddler talking to her in a grown voice, a voice she recognized. Janus spoke for the first time, his voice trembling.
"Schala," he asked, "is that really you?"
Whatever presence had been awakened within Kid didn't seem to hear him.
"It's cold and dark here. I can't get it out of my mind," she said in a soft low voice that belied the emotion of her words, "it makes me think thoughts I don't want to think about and it makes me do things I don't want to do," she said, almost as though she were singing a jump-rope song, before sobbing "I can't hold out much longer."
"Schala, where are you," Janus asked, tensed and worried, "what's going on?"
Lucca leaned over to him and whispered, "Kid's just remembering another timeline. Don't worry, she's right here in front of us. These are just her memories," she said reassuringly, before thinking to herself, "at least I hope so."
"Janus," the girl suddenly said with a smile that at once seemed tender and dreadful, looking straight at him, "you're here. I love you so much," she said gently in the same soothing tone that she had comforted him with as a child in Zeal, "that is why I sometimes desire to smash you to pieces."
Lucca glanced away, the shock and pain in Janus's face too horrible to take in.
"Lucca," he whispered plaintively, his voice shaking, "what's wrong with her?"
"I don't know," she whispered back.
"Don't you see, little brother," she asked in a cold empty voice, holding her palms out before her, "the past is dead. In the end there is only the void, and all we can do is prepare for the abyss."
"No," he whispered, shaking his head, horrified by the familiarity of her words.
"Melchior," the girl calmly replied, "is no more foolish than the rest of you for clinging to hope."
"Janus," Lucca whispered as she looked down from the staring girl to the computer screen, "look at these readouts. These aren't memory engrams, there are active thought-processes occurring here."
"What does that mean," he whispered back as the blank-eyed girl looked back and forth between them, then he looked down at the monitor. Where small wiggly lines had followed the center of the screen before there now ran huge mountains and valleys, the waves stretching from the top to the bottom of the screen.
"I don't know," Lucca answered, studying the screen and then looking back up at the girl, "but her brain's showing signs of actual thought. It almost looks like she's conscious."
"But you said that'd be impossible," he whispered harshly, "these are only supposed to be memories!"
"It IS impossible," she whispered back, "her frontal lobes are completely inactive. These signals are coming from her memory-center, but they're not capable of this by themselves. It's like they're linked to somewhere else..."
"I want to help him," the girl continued to herself in a childish voice and they turned back to her, "because he's so close and he's crying. He reminds me of Janus and I want to help him, that's why I sent you."
"Schala," Janus answered softly, trying to reach through to her, "I'm right here."
"I called him to us and I helped him, I made him better. But it made me do something else to him, something terrible. He doesn't know about it yet," she fell into that same childlike sing-song voice, "but he wii--iill."
"Who did you help," Lucca asked, trying to keep her voice steady, "what did it make you do?"
"It's a secret, but she knows about it too," the girl whispered, staring at the living-room wall behind them, "that's why she wants to kill him."
"Schala," Janus suddenly shouted, jumping up from his seat, "just tell us where you are!"
"Janus, don't," Lucca said in a frightened whisper, grabbing his hand tight, keeping him from running over to the calmly watching girl, "I don't think this is Schala. Not completely."
"The ochre lands have withered and dried," the young girl said, her lilting voice deepening a little as she tilted her head questioningly at them, "don't you understand? This planet would be peaceful if there were no humans around."
"We've heard this before," Lucca said in a hushed, awe-struck whisper.
"And yet you still want to fight," the toddler asked, "why?"
"We should wake her," Janus whispered to Lucca, "we've learned all we can."
"Our species will replace you," she continued, glancing back and forth between the two of them, "so stop your foolish struggles and succumb to the sleep of eternity."
"Oh no," Lucca suddenly groaned as she looked at the screen, then began to type frantically at the keyboard, "the thought-patterns are spreading, they're rewriting her synaptic patterns!"
"English, Lucca," Janus demanded.
"It means we're losing Kid," she shouted as she typed faster, "I'm trying to shut down the connection between her long-term memory and her cerebral cortex, that seems to be the link. Janus, whatever's speaking to us is invading Kid's personality, it's spreading through her whole brain!"
"Dark power, wild energy," the young girl suddenly started screaming, "no...stop it!"
"Lucca, wake her up, NOW," Janus shouted as she screamed and howled in pain, her hands pressed tight against her head as she rocked back and forth against the chair. Lucca pounded at the keyboard, her fingers almost a blur as she raced against the spreading energy, trying to bring the young girl's brain waves back to normal as her panicked screams grew shrill, loud...and inhuman.
Janus suddenly wrenched back toward his sister, his crimson eyes wide in horror at the sound of her cry as Lucca jerked up from the computer in shock, then twisted her head back down, her fingertips racing frantically against the keyboard as she fought to break the link.
Kid suddenly snapped upright, the curious gleam in her eyes unmistakably hers, and she squirmed a little as Lucca dropped the keyboard and ran over, lifting her into her arms in a tight hug. Janus sighed deeply as he saw Kid's innocent, slightly confused expression and then rose from his chair without a word, lost in some inner tempest, the door slamming shut behind him as he stepped out into the twilight darkness beyond.
"Um, Lucca," Kid protested, wriggling out of Lucca's arms, "you're squeezing me too hard. I just took a nap like you said I would. What's the big deal, and where did Janus go?"
Lucca turned her head to wipe the tears from beneath her glasses and then smiled.
"You're right, Kid. The experiment worked perfectly, thanks to you. You were a great subject."
"Of course I was," Kid said with a grin, "I'm the Great Lucca's sister!"
"Yeah," Lucca sighed, and smiled again, "Kid, I want you to wait here for a minute. I'm going to find Janus and then we'll all go out to Truce Inn for dinner, okay?"
"Alright!," Kid shouted, always excited when they took her out, "I'll go get dressed!"
"No, wait, Kid, I'll dress you," Lucca gave up as Kid ran upstairs. Kid really didn't have a firm grasp of how clothes worked, often putting on shirts backwards and shoes on the wrong feet, but she always insisted on trying to put on her own clothes before reluctantly asking for help. Kid always wanted to do things for herself, she thought with a smile, just like Lucca herself had when she was Kid's age. She then turned to look outside for Janus.
* * *
"What do you think?"
Janus stood outside the house looking at the sunset, his white suit sweeping against the wind and his fists clenched with an anger Lucca hadn't seen in many years.
"I think," he said slowly, "that Schala's still out there, and she still needs my help."
"Janus, Schala's inside getting dressed so we can go out to Truce tonight. Whatever happened to her, it's over now. She's safe, those had to have been memories from another timeline...like your memories..."
Janus shook his head and looked back over his shoulder, his features profiled in shadow by the dying rays of the setting sun, his eyes alight with unspoken pain, and as darkness stretched over the sky, she realized why both the Mystics and the knights of Guardia had feared him so much, why they had called him Magus.
"It's not over," he answered, his head just barely turned over his shoulder, "you heard her quote my words from that night four years ago. Kid was already with us then, so Schala must have been somewhere else, somewhere where she could have heard that conversation, before she ever arrived in the forest."
Lucca closed her eyes and tried to visualize the tangled lifeline Kid must have led.
"So you think," she answered slowly, deliberately thinking out each word, "that Kid came to the forest, to 1004 AD, from the future, that she didn't come here straight from the time-crash of Zeal."
"She knew too much," Janus answered grimly, "you heard her quoting the Mother Brain computer. Those words should never have been spoken, Lucca, not after we destroyed Lavos."
"No, you're right," she shook her head, "it's almost like there were two voices. Schala and...something else that spoke by quoting other people, by using history's words as its own voice."
"And they were becoming one," Janus said, staring into the darkening sky, "she knew about things in the present and past. I don't think she was transported to the future, I think wherever she is, she was over there four years ago, she's over there now, and she'll still be over there in 2300 AD when Mother Brain exists."
"A place where she can see all of history at once," Lucca replied thoughtfully, "where she doesn't age..."
"The End of Time," she suddenly shouted, realizing the truth.
"Exactly," he answered, "and the only way to get there is lying in pieces at the bottom of the ocean."
Lucca's heart sank as she remembered that she'd sunk the Epoch. Keeping it after its engine had burnt out probably wouldn't have done much good, and she hadn't dared to risk Porre seizing the vessel, but still...
"Melchior can help! If anybody knows temporal physics, he does! Besides, with my brain it'll be a cinch to find some other way to travel through time and get her! That is, if somebody else hasn't already rescued her..."
"What," Magus demanded irritably.
"Well, if Kid's here now," Lucca answered thoughtfully, trying to mentally untangle the web of timelines that must comprise Schala's life, "that might mean somebody's already freed her from the End of Time."
"Or it might mean that we're supposed to free her in the future," he countered, "we have to find her, fast."
Lucca simply nodded, knowing that this was far too important to Janus to argue over grandfather paradoxes and time-travel theories--and she agreed that if Schala was somehow still out there, they had to save her, as quickly as possible. Only one thing Schala said had made any sense: she said she couldn't hold out much longer. Everything else had been the ramblings of a violent lunatic.
And though Janus hadn't mentioned it, probably didn't even dare to think about it, she knew that he'd recognized the scream Kid had given just before they'd awakened her, a sound that had haunted Lucca's darkest nightmares for ten years and Janus's dreams for far longer, a sound she'd prayed the world would never hear again...
For just a moment, Kid had shrieked in the same monstrous tone as Lavos.
Part 2, Chapter 4