Until the End of Time Part 2, Chapter 5
Let Love Bleed
By Demon-Fighter Ash
March, 1010 AD
Thin blowing sheets of cold rain swept through the air and pounded against the rippling water as Janus made his way across the small bridge leading onto Lucca's island. He stared at the drops of icy water slamming into the planks as he walked, still thinking about Melchior. The old man shouldn't have been alone, he thought grimly to himself, they should have let him live with them. It wasn't that he shouldn't have died--it was his time and Janus had long since decided that death is merely the price one finally pays for living. But he knew that Melchior would have wanted to be with friends when he went. He'd owed the old man at least that much.
Amid the cold prickling scent of the frozen rain, Janus smelled something else--smoke. He suddenly looked up, the raindrops he'd been telekinetically deflecting hitting his face and rolling down his cheeks as he stared across the bridge in disbelief. He quickly shook himself back into awareness and swept across the ground, the tips of his boots scraping the mud as he flew quickly through the downpour toward the house.
A thin black skeleton of rafters and beams stood against the ash-gray clouds, the ground beneath the rain-pierced roof choked with soot, only a few ash-covered walls left standing to mark the old two-story Victorian house that had once stood in the center of the grassy isle. His heart shriveled at the sight of the ruined house, leaving an aching hollowness within his chest as he stared at the smoldering shell.
Something stirred a little within the ashes. A faint high-pitched sob rose and fell in the wind.
Janus suddenly swept through the open doorway and looked around the wet ash-covered remains of the living room, then turned toward the remains of the staircase, peering through a soft steady rain of ash mingling with the cold thin streaks of water. The middle third had collapsed into a black jagged pit surrounded by upturned broken planks. The stairs had collapsed. The children slept upstairs.
He levitated into the air and glided over the spike-lined hole, setting back down onto a scorched creaking platform dangling from one of the walls and looking around at what remained of the room. Parts of the wooden floor had collapsed, leaving crumbling soot-lined pits, but some of the floor still clung onto the walls, supporting charred wreckage that had once been furniture--and other remains that he'd seen far too often not to recognize.
"Is anyone in here," he called out, calmly and rationally, as if this were just another nightmare.
"Here," a young girl's voice weakly sobbed from the far corner of the room and he floated across the loose dangling planks, feet barely touching the other side of the floor, not daring to trust both their weight to it. He looked around at the floor and finally made out a coughing soot-covered shape: Leda, the youngest child, barely four.
"It's okay," he said blankly as he lifted her into his arms and glided back up into the air, above the sinking floorboards, "what happened, Leda? Have you seen anybody else?"
"Just Tevon," she coughed up soot-filled phlegm, "he's in his room. I heard him..."
"Alright," he answered, sinking down through one of the bigger holes and gliding back out into the rain to set her onto the grass, "wait here and I'll find Tevon and everybody else."
"Just Tevon," she answered as she started to cry.
He lifted back into the sky without a word and slipped through one of the smoothly-burnt holes in the wall, trying to make sense out of the burnt struts and girders, trying to remember where Tevon's room would be. He heard a soft choking sound and instantly swept toward the brittle flame-streaked walls, a faint glow of black energy rising from his flesh and dissolving the wooden boards into a dark mist as he passed through them. The coughing groans grew louder and he peered through the debris-choked hallway, finally seeing the huddled boy in a closet.
"Tevon, it's me," he lifted the boy up, the soot-faced child closing his eyes tighter, "it's Janus."
"There were monsters," he whispered as Janus lifted Leda in his left arm and flew back across the bridge to Truce, both of the children clinging to his shoulders tightly, "I saw them downstairs. I heard them shouting, so then I looked down the stairs and...I saw monsters..."
"What do you mean," Janus asked softly, but Tevon closed his eyes tighter and shook his head.
Janus settled lightly onto the hard earth of the village square and banged on a door with the side of his fist, pounding at the door until Fritz opened it, his half-closed eyes suddenly widening at the sight of the three.
"What happened," he asked, stunned, as Elaine looked over his shoulder from within the house, rubbing her eyes sleepily, then quickly waking up as she saw them.
"Oh my god," she choked in surprise, "what--"
"Did you see anything," Janus asked quickly, "did you hear anything?"
"I don't," Fritz shook his head, "I mean, no, I didn't. What happened?"
"They burned," he said, and he stopped as he felt a flash of rage swelling, glancing down to Tevon and Leda, "just wait here. I'm going to find Lucca and the others."
He flew away, racing back over the bridge in a blur of white and purple, and plunging back into the burned-out shell, calling out for the rest of the children, for Jacky and Sarah, for Leda, for Lucca and Kid. Nobody answered, nothing stirring or rustling in the wet ashes of the burnt-out shell, and Janus began to scream for Kid and Lucca to answer him, smashing through crumbling walls and kicking down the doors as he raced through the creaking house, no longer caring about the beams threatening to snap overhead.
"Kid! Lucca," he screamed, panicked and absurdly angry at them for not answering, "tell me where you are! Wake up and tell me! I SAID TELL ME..."
Something glittered within the pile of soot in one rain-drenched corner of what used to be the living room and he bent down to pick it up, his screams fading into choking gasps as he picked the small object up.
Lucca's glasses, frames and lenses half-melted, arms bent. Blood staining the shreds of carpet left on the floor, metal darts lying scattered among the ashes, the feel of magic in the air, dark magic, not like Lucca--nor even like real magic. It felt different and, after a moment, he realized it wasn't magic at all, but a crystal-element...
"No," he shook his head, refusing to believe it, "nonononono..."
Lucca couldn't see without her glasses, she couldn't even walk without them, she only took them off to go to sleep. Besides, she'd never leave any of the children behind...not even to save herself...not even...
Something else gleamed within the ashes along the blackened edge of a wall and he lifted it up in one hand. A scorched, cracked amulet made of amethyst and gold, the latch smashed...
"Lucca," he groaned, dropping to his knees, clutching the shattered amulet, "Schala..."
Janus had never known murder. He had known killing, of course--he'd killed countless times, striking down thieves, knights and beasts. But they weren't people, they were just enemies, adversaries who would have gladly killed him had he not struck the first blow. Crono and Marle had been killed by the faceless cowards of the Porre army, but it'd been during a battle, and he'd repaid their deaths with death, a bloody commerce as ancient as man. He'd known slaughters, massacres. But not deliberate murder, not like this...
"They're dead," he choked to himself, his fingernails piercing his palms as his fist tightened around the amulet, blood running down his wrist and knuckles as they dug into his flesh, striking bone, "they're all dead...Lucca..."
Tears slid silently down the sharp pale contours of his face, blending with the drops of rain running across his cheeks, and he stared up at the gray blanket of clouds beyond the collapsing roof, his glittering vermilion eyes reflecting the darkness of the sky. The air began to spark and crackle with energy as he clenched his blood-soaked fists tighter, a low trembling groan rising from his lips. Streaks of snaking flame circled around him as he shuddered and the air glowed as raw magical energy began to seep from his skin and clothes like writhing smoke; liquid streams of darkness twisted through the air, sparks of lightning coursing between the scorched rafters...
He suddenly screamed into the heavens, an animal shriek of pain and rage...and after a moment of ringing silence, the sky answered his cry, exploding into a seething chaos of energy and engulfing the island...
* * *
"Sir! A scout from Truce has arrived"
"Then send him in already," General Lensh said, not looking up from his desk. Porre had largely ended their military presence in the impoverished village of Truce, but they still kept a small military contingency at the Zenan Bridge, to monitor transactions with the mainland and to make sure no self-deluded villagers got the idea that Porre's occupation of the scorched wastelands that'd once been the lands of Guardia had ended.
Scouts regularly arrived every three days to report on the village, but today wasn't one of those days, and a thirty mile trip on foot or beast was a serious waste of resources. He glared at the panting sweat-covered scout as the man gave a weak salute and then frowned; the scout looked as though he'd ran the whole distance.
"What's your report?"
"Sir, I've come from the fourth division. Ashtear Island, south of Truce village...it's gone, sir."
"What," Lensh frowned in confusion and impatience, "how do you lose an island?"
"Come look for yourself sir," the young scout staggered across the room to the window, still panting, "the outpost reported what seemed to be a fire just before sunrise, and a little less than an hour later there was an explosion, type unknown. The island...the island's just not there anymore."
Lensh snatched his field-glasses from the corner of the desk and paced over to the window himself. Even without them, he could see a distant column of black smoke rising from the horizon, and a shocked gasp crossed his lips as he looked through the lenses. Heavy waves crashed and surged around a few broken rocks in the middle of the bay and the bridge that'd linked the small family-owned islet to Truce had collapsed, dangling from the low cliffs along the mainland. It seemed too short, and he quickly realized that most of the bridge had been burnt to ashes.
The bridge that had once led to Ashtear Island now pointed toward a churning whirlpool.
"How," he choked, slowly letting his field glasses drop from his hands as he stared at the rising plumes of dark smoke, "nothing we have could do that...what in the name of the goddess happened out there?"
* * *
"Halt," the soldier frowned at the figure stalking up the road toward Zenan Bridge and the reconnaissance outpost set up around the entrance, "who goes there?"
"Halt," he tried again, reaching for his gun "stay where you are!"
The rain-drenched figure stopped at the checkpoint, his long blue hair hanging limply around his shoulders, a dark purple shroud covering his white suit. The figure slowly turned his crimson gaze toward the young guard and uttered a single hissing word under his breath.
The drops of rain filling the grey air suddenly boiled into steam and a sphere of fire erupted from the figure to engulf the soldier and the wooden building behind him, the blaze lighting the dreary sky and pouring smoke into the clouds, the air silent except for the crackling flames. The cloaked man raised his hand and the flames suddenly vanished, leaving fourteen blackened skeletons heaped amid the burning wreckage of Zenan Bridge. He levitated into the air and swept across the rocky canyon, toward the distant gleaming towers of Porre...
* * *
Sleet-gray clouds rolled across the sky, above the cobblestone streets of Porre's town square, and the red-and-black flags of the Porre Republic fluttered against the cold morning wind. General Lensh scowled at the three confused groups of young men gathered below the steps of the capitol building, dressed in wrinkled hastily-donned uniforms, then he looked across the courtyard as a scout ran across the stone courtyard toward them. The civilians had all been ordered to stay in their houses--the streets belonged to them.
"Sir, we've spotted three more explosions to the north. New Dorino, Fort Denadoro and Fort Fiona have all been destroyed in the past hour, in that order. The destruction's moving southward."
"Straight toward Porre," the general answered grimly, "toward the heart of the republic."
A deafening blast shook the capital and a hot dry wind swept across the town square. Lensh turned to the north and watched a second man staggering forward, his arms and shoulders engulfed by flames.
"The gates," the soldier screamed, "it broke through...it's in the city..."
"It broke through the gates," the sentry whispered as the soldier fell to the ground, his screams dying away as the flames consumed his clothes and flesh, "denadorite walls, mounted automatic turrets, electronic self-locking mechanisms. If it broke through that, what can we do..."
"Stop it," Lensh suddenly barked, and he turned to the platoon of men, "this is the capitol of the Republic of Porre and we are the last three divisions of home defense! We stay here and fight, no matter what!"
A figure emerged from between the northern cluster of factories, a dark man with windswept blue hair and glowing red eyes, and a second later the whole industrial district exploded into a firestorm, choking black smoke rolling across the town square as the trudging shadowy figure emerged from the wall of fire unharmed, dark cape billowing around him in the blasting fiery wind, a tall scythe gripped tightly in his right hand.
"Open fire," Lensh growled, "take it down!"
The soldiers lifted and fired their rifles at the walking figure, the crack of gunfire filling the air, and Lensh shook his head in confusion as the streaking bullets looped around the solitary man, twisted away from him by invisible forces as he slowly paced toward them. One of the soldiers suddenly rushed forward to stab the cloaked figure with his bayonet, then gave a single choking cry as the figure twisted in a circle, ripping the young man's throat with the curved gleaming blade of his raised scythe. He ripped the blade free and the man spilled onto the ground.
"Charge," Lensh shouted as he rushed forward, "attack it hand-to-hand, it can't stop all of us!"
The low grey clouds overhead began to rumble and glow with hidden energy and suddenly countless bolts of lightning pierced the sky and swept through the plaza, grazing the stone roads and lashing through the soldiers, their screams fading into silence as the smell of scorched flesh and burning cotton filled the city. The electric arcs swept across the city and the distant towering hulk of a munitions factory suddenly exploded into a fireball, glowing cinders and ashes blowing across the plaza like a snowstorm as the dark figure strode forward, casually stepping over the charred bodies surrounding him as he neared the government buildings.
Lensh whirled back toward the second division as it began its charge and his mouth dropped open slightly at the sight of the terrified soldiers suddenly freezing in place, warm pink skin crystallizing into hard blue stone. A blast of wind toppled one of them and the corpse fell to the ground, the frozen flesh and cloth shattering like glass against the cobblestone.
Lensh glanced back to the third and final division, enraged by the slaughter of his troops.
"I've seen this before," he said to the men as the figure continued its slow walk toward them, "surround him and attack at once, he won't be able to focus his attack. Come on, move out--now!"
The large group of soldiers quickly ran around the sides of the square, each of them dropping to one knee and raising his rifle, all their guns pointed right at the center of the square and the lone cloaked figure in the middle of it. Lensh nodded and raised his hand, giving the signal to fire as he stared at the figure with hate.
His rage suddenly froze into terror as the man's own hate-filled gaze turned toward him.
The wizard raised his hand in the air, no longer needing to speak his spells, and silently willed the shadows and darkness of the overcast morning into life. The town square suddenly faded into night and the surrounding soldiers found themselves lost in a cold formless void--and then screams began to pierce the abyssal darkness.
Lensh looked around the empty square for his men, their screams seeming to come from nowhere, and then fading into silence. The last few remaining soldiers ran forward to attack, no longer worried about their duty to the Porre Republic, now driven into battle only by sheer self-preservation.
The ruby-eyed demon that legends had called Magus walked slowly in measured steps through the blood-drenched streets, blasting some of the soldiers through the air with a wave of his hand, occasionally swinging his scythe forward to slash one of them through the chest as he effortlessly walked forward. He barely even noticed the attacking soldiers; his glazed eyes stared into the past, into the life these insects had taken from him...
The taste of her lips the first time they'd kissed, under the twilight glow of the winter moon...
A Porre soldier ran beside him and swung his rifle toward the wizard. Magus's scythe whistled through the cold air and both pieces of the rifle fell to the ground, followed after a moment by the soldier.
Her curiosity, her love for the world around her, her desire to learn how it all worked...
A small group of soldiers fired their rifles at Magus and he lifted one palm toward them, the bullets glowing and melting into vapor as they flew through the air. He turned his eyes to meet the soldiers and they began to choke and cough as a curtain of darkness descended over them, covering and quickly suffocating them. He turned back toward the back of the square and the marble columns of the Porre government buildings.
Her head on his chest, her soft breath against his neck as she fell asleep in his arms...
General Lensh's assistant dashed forward and screamed as he drove his bayonet through the mage's cloak and deep into his chest. The wizard glared down and grabbed his hand tightly, stopping the blade. He tore it back out of his chest and swung his scythe down, the lieutenant's head bouncing across the ground.
The sound of her laughter...the way her hair smelled in the sun-drenched morning...
One of the younger soldiers turned around and Lensh screamed for him to stop as the young man bolted through the square, running toward the front gates of Porre. Magus looked backed over his shoulder and lifted his hand, a streak of blue lightning piercing the clouds and twisting through the air, blasting through the fleeing soldier, his body exploding into a red mist as the stones crackled and sparked with electricity.
Her blue eyes and dimpled cheeks...her slender body...her brilliant mind...her love..her...
The dark figure twisted sideways, his cape whipping through the air as he dodged a small burst of gunfire and, with a single fluid twist of his scythe's handle, knocked Lensh's pistol across the ground. Magus lifted his right arm and quickly threw his spread palm forward; Lensh suddenly flew upward into the air, hovering over the stone plaza for a second before slamming backward against the side of the capitol building. He looked up from the ground to see the wizard calmly walking up the wide marble steps, his right palm still raised, telekinetically pinning the general against the wall as he twirled the scythe in slow circles with his left hand.
Magus suddenly swung the blade of the scythe forward and Lensh screamed in pain, then looked up again as he realized that the blade had merely stabbed his shoulder-the wizard could have killed him. He looked up in terror at the snarling red-eyed creature that had just annihilated the entire Porre municipal guard, that now looked up at him with rage, lips curled back to reveal glistening white fangs. The sorcerer spoke for the first time since he had smashed the walls of Porre and devastated the city, his raspy voice seeming to freeze the air.
"You have one chance to answer me," he hissed, "WHO?"
"I don't know what you," Lensh stammered, "what do you want?"
"I want her back," he snarled, "I want all of them back!"
He tightened his grip on the scythe and mystical energy began to course down through the wooden pole and into the blade, filling the general's veins with a cold dark power. Lensh's muscles began to tremble as the icy liquid magic coursed through his limbs and his chest suddenly tightened as it filled his heart and lungs-he tried to scream and found his lungs choked with the dark energy, his voice reduced to a hoarse whisper.
"Wizard...wizard of Truce," the general whispered, "we thought you were a legend, a story the refugees told themselves...to feel better, like Robin Hood or..."
"Darkness is filling your veins," Magus said slowly as he wrenched the crackling energy-filled scythe away, "your blood is being devoured and poisoned by the spreading magic. You only have an hour until your body begins to decay, so unless you want an even more painful death than this one, you will tell me who ordered the attack on the orphanage, and the names of the men who did it."
"Orphanage," the general choked, and his eyes suddenly widened in realization, "Lynx..."
"What about him," Magus demanded, lifting the twitching man into the air and slamming him against one of the marble pillars, the general's limbs turning deathly white as the black poison spread through his veins.
"He was obsessed," Lensh gasped, "he ordered the arrest of Lucca Ashtear, he petitioned the council to attack the orphanage and capture her. The request was denied and he left..."
"And what about Porre," Magus said through clenched teeth, "you're saying you had no interest in her?"
"Of course we did," Lensh choked as the wizard pressed him against the column, fingers tightening around his throat while his arms and legs began to tingle from the blood-poison, "she was a war-criminal associated with the Guardia royalty. But she wasn't worth the military investment, we made a few attempts and gave up. Lynx wouldn't accept it, he kept on sending more and more troops. The council finally voted him down."
"So Lynx made the attack on his own. Where is he now?"
"I don't know, nobody knows! He disappeared after the vote, we think he's already left aboard a pirate ship going back to...maybe back to El Nido...?"
"Then it seems I have business in El Nido," the wizard snarled and dropped the general onto the ground, turning toward the shipping yards along the southern rim of the fortified city.
"Wait," Lensh shouted, then screamed as his heart seemed to ripple and twist at the touch of the bitter fluid spreading through his chest, "help me, please...I told you everything..."
"Which is why I haven't destroyed the capital building and the bureaucrats skulking within it. I'm going to take one of your boats and go to El Nido. I'm hoping you'll try to send ships to stop me."
"No," Lensh shook his head, wheezing loudly now, "you can have them..."
"You'll be dead within the hour," he said coldly, "when I leave, I assume your leaders will come rushing down to find out what I've said. Tell them that they've three days to evacuate all their cities, abandon their outposts and empty their fortresses. Tell them that they have however long it takes for me to find and kill Lynx to beach their ships and hide in the forests. Because when I return, the Republic of Porre won't even be a memory."
* * *
Lucca fumbled around the blurry silver landscape and Lynx pressed something into her hands.
"You'll need these. We've already made them to your prescription."
"Isn't that thoughtful," she remarked bitterly as she put the glasses on and blinked. She blinked again.
All around her stretched a vast city of steel and glass, computer terminals lining the walls and holographic images hovering in the air above her, fiber-optic wires and electronic pipelines reaching for miles in every direction, hovering security robots gliding about the complex. Lynx shoved her into a glass elevator, he and the harlequin stepping in behind her as the automatic doors slid shut.
The elevator began to hum and Lucca gasped as she looked down, the glass chamber descending through a shaft that seemed to stretch downward for miles. Lynx stood bored by the control panel while Harle glanced curiously around at the city, and Lucca marveled at how many decades must have been spent building something like this gleaming complex. She'd never seen technology like this anywhere in her life, except in the ruins...
They stepped out of the elevator onto a long metallic bridge leading across a huge bowl-shaped arena lined with laser-projectors and power-cables, a huge tower rising out of the middle of the chamber. As they led her across the walkway, Lynx shutting down the massive security robots with a singe gesture, it suddenly hit her.
"This is from the future we saved," she whispered in awe, "this whole city must have traveled back in time..."
"Yes," Lynx replied impatiently, "now undo the lock. It's over there."
He gestured with one arm toward a sealed metal door and a wall-mounted console at the end of the bridge, the only opening into the otherwise solid tower. He dismissively swept his hand away from it in a clear gesture of distaste and she walked over the silver floor, the chamber seeming to drop down below the sheer mirror-like surface of the floor. She began studying the console's design and keyboard, a chill running up her spine as she realized that the frozen flame must be within the tower, seperated from her only by the locked doorway.
She noticed a device with a hand-shaped mark across the surface built into the wall, and a small lens that looked into a laser-projector--fingerprint and retinal scans, she remembered from the ruined devices she'd seen in the domes of 2300 AD. She ignored them and pried open a thin panel to reveal a keyboard and black screen no bigger than a notebook.
It looked a lot like Robo's programming interface and she realized that it was the exact same model as the one she'd used to repair his damaged programming core, except mounted to a wall rather than within his torso panel. A horrible suspicion came to her and she pulled up the menu screen, glancing over her shoulder at Lynx and Harle before entering the password she had created long ago, the password to access Robo's program directly.
"Lucca," the green letters read against the black screen, "I did not warn you in time. I am sorry."
"It's not your fault," Lucca typed back, trying not to look back at the two monsters, knowing that'd would make them suspicious, "Robo, I've missed you so much."
"I missed you too Lucca," the computer silently printed across the screen.
"What is this place," she typed.
"It is the ruins of a city that came here from the future," the screen silently answered in green letters, "in the new future we created, Belthasar and I terraformed these islands and this complex as part of an experiment meant to control time, using the properties of the frozen flame. But we lost control of the flame and this entire archipelago was thrown ten thousands years into the past. The people of El Nido are the descendents of the original scientists who worked on the Chronopolis Experiment."
"So the islands really did change everything," she whispered, then typed, "what is the frozen flame?"
"It is a shadow of Lavos," the screen answered, "the energy signature of Lavos distorts space and time all around it. That energy has leaked into this world from all the parallel worlds where it was not destroyed."
"Lynx said the flame was asleep," she typed into the interface, "what did he mean?"
"Right now I have access to the locking-mechanisms Belthasar designed to counter Lavos's anti-entropic energy. I am suppressing the flame's effects. Lynx wants to shut down those mechanisms and release it."
"What would happen if he does that?"
"I am not sure, Lucca," Robo wrote through the terminal, "this center is now under the control of a sentient computer-system evolved from the Mother Brain. She is the one Porre and the people of El Nid now call the Goddess of Fate. Lynx seeks to release the flame so she can control it and use its time-altering properties to regain her control of history, to create a new future calculated to ensure her dominance."
"Would that work?"
"There are too many variables, I can't make an accurate calculation. Lynx's plan may succeed, but there are other possibilities. The dragons imprisoned by Fate might be released. It is also possible that a window may open into the parallel worlds of the flame and bring Lavos back into our world. And there are still worse possibilities."
"No," she whispered in horror.
"Unlock the flame now," Lynx growled behind her as Harle peered over the rim of the bridge at the limitless depths of electric cables stretching from the walkway into the concave chamber below, "we've waited too long already."
"It takes a few minutes for the upload to complete," she lied, glancing back over her shoulder at them, "just hold on a second!"
"Robo," she typed, turning back to the screen, "what should I do? What if I used magic?"
"Lucca, they will kill you if you try to stop them," Robo answered, "and trying to use the power of Lavos this close to the flame would be dangerous," the cursor paused for a moment before the screen cleared and a new sentence began, "I want you to disconnect me from all the locking-mechanisms and open the doors to the chamber containing the frozen flame."
"But you just said," she typed, then the cursor suddenly vanished as Robo began writing.
"We will find a way to defeat them later, but for now you must stay alive. Unlock the flame and later we will figure out a way to take it back from them. You have to stay alive Lucca, that's all that matters right now."
"But it's not," she whispered sadly before typing again, "Robo, I know you want to protect me, but I've got to stop them. There's too much at risk--if we unlock the flame we may never get the chance to fight back."
"Robo," she asked suddenly, "what would happen if I can't unlock the flame?"
"They can't undo the locks themselves since I have control over them. They can't attack me because my circuitry is hardwired into the defense-system. If they destroyed me, the Flame would be locked forever."
"Is there anyone else who could unlock the flame?"
"Yes, there was one," Robo answered, "but he is dead. You are Lynx's only hope and he'll do anything to make you unlock it. That's why you have to shut down the connecting mechanisms. I will not resist."
"Then that settles it."
"Lucca," Robo wrote as she began to exit the programs and shut down the console, "what are you doing?"
"What we've always done," she typed back before closing the interface, "saving the world. I'll miss you Robo, please be careful. History's in your hands now."
She closed down the interface and performed a final check on Robo's systems, making sure they were still running at optimal efficiency before patting the console tenderly and locking the interface again. She turned slowly back around to Lynx and Harle, then paced carefully to one of the power-cables running along the side of the bridge.
"What are you doing now," Lynx snarled.
"There's been a power interruption to the interface. I have to adjust the levels to compensate for it. Look, you brought me here to do a job, so let me do it already!"
"Fine," he muttered, "but I'm only giving you one more minute."
She nodded and looked down at the crackling metal wires, popping her knuckles and bracing herself.
"Hey Lynx," she called back, not looking at them, "there's one thing I want you to know."
"The future belongs to all living things," she continued, "not you and not any computer. Someday one of us humans is going to destroy you and bring things back to the way they're supposed to be."
"If the Great Lucca couldn't defeat me," he smirked, "what makes you think anyone else can?"
"Maybe I couldn't defeat you," she said in a low, clenched voice as she lifted her hands, "but I can make sure that you never, ever unlock the frozen flame."
"Lucca," Lynx suddenly said in a choked, panicked voice, realizing what she intended, "don't do..."
Lucca took a deep breath and grabbed the wires. Fire burned through her muscles and she screamed as her body convulsed against the powerful surge of electricity, her hands gripping the cables tightly as lightning crackled between her fingers and flooded her whole body. Pain engulfed her senses as a horrible black smoke began to drift upward from her blackening clothes, but she managed a faint final smile as she heard Harle and Lynx behind her.
"Monsieur, stop! You'll be killed if you try to grab her!"
"We'll never get the flame without her!"
"We'll find some other way, non?!"
"The Arbiter is dead, there IS no other way! Without her the flame is lost!"
Lynx's voice began to fade from her ears, along with the city, the smoke and the pain, all of it giving way to a final, absolute darkness, her last half-conscious thought echoing through the darkness before fading to silence.
"Janus, if you're still out there...please watch over Kid..."
Part 3, Chapter 1