You've Come A Long Way, Baby Chapter 11

By Imrahil

After only a few minutes, Crono had fallen asleep on the large couch while the other three friends began to talk. Everyone but Magus and Crono had removed their armor, and the atmosphere in the room seemed very relaxed compared with the claustrophobic halls of the Law Center. Marle lay next to Crono with her bare legs stretched across his lap, and Magus and Lucca had each taken separate seats facing them. Magus was leaning forward with his head propped up by his hand; he was deep in thought. Lucca was leaning back in her chair with her long legs resting on the small table in front of her. Artificial sunlight flowed through the huge windows behind the couch, adding to the tranquility of the scene.

“So what do y’all think? Is this what you expected?” Lucca smiled at Magus and Marle.

“I thought Gaspar said this planet was evil; look at how beautiful everything is!” Marle glanced out the window at the green hills and the ivy-covered towers.

“You two forget about the bleak land that exists above us, and the harshness visited upon us by the police force. No healthy society treats people in the way we were treated.” Magus’ expression was blank as he spoke.

“So they have a few rough ways of handling criminals; probably helps keep the crime rate down, here. Wow, that sky is really blue!” Lucca grinned as she stared out the window.

“I know; it makes home look drab. I love it here. Amazing!” Marle watched a huge, gleaming freighter roar past a tower, reflecting the colors of the rainbow off its oval shape.

“It is all an illusion, though. There is no sun here. The true color of the sky up there is pitch black, not the blue you see now.” Magus leaned back in his chair slowly as he spoke.

“How can Alex afford this place? What did you see in his mind, Magus? Who is Claire?” Lucca asked, ignoring Magus’ practicality.

Magus paused a moment. “Alex would probably prefer it if I kept his secret, but I will tell you this: he keeps this expensive room, hoping that with each day he visits it, he will find who he is looking for.”

“Whatever, Magus,” Marle rolled her eyes. “That Alex sure is…impressive, don’tcha think, Lucca?” Marle sat up on the couch and bounced up and down, giggling as she spoke.

Lucca blushed and glanced over at Magus for a second. “Well, he sure looks strong, but he acts real depressed sometimes.”

“He is a tortured soul, but his combat skills could prove invaluable to our quest. He is a useful ally,” Magus stood up and began to walk towards the bathroom. “Excuse me while I make use of the facilities.”

Magus left the room, and Marle and Lucca scrunched up their noses. “Magus—using the bathroom?” Marle giggled.

Crono lazily sat up and blinked his eyes. “How long have I been asleep?”

“Oh, about five minutes.” Marle laughed and squealed as Crono poked her in the ribs. The two wrestled for a moment, until they both fell on the floor, laughing and trying to torment each other.

Lucca felt a little out of place, and stood up and walked over to a computer screen embedded into the wall by one of the double beds. Once she approached the screen, it flickered on and displayed a menu of databases located in the various Layers. To satisfy her curiosity, she asked the computer to show all the files involving Alex to appear on the screen.

“Over nine billion matches have been pre-calculated; perhaps the user wishes to include more items in her search? If ‘Alex’ is a specific person you wish to find, tell me a bit about this person.” She was taken aback at the complexity of the computer’s ability to interact with people, and she grinned widely. She told the computer to find a police officer named Alex who could ‘fight really well’.

“Four hundred thirty-two matches calculated. Could you provide more information?”

“Umm…He has brown hair, and…and he’s about six feet tall, I guess.

The computer screen displayed over twenty photos on the screen, and it was only a matter of time before Lucca found Alex’s face. “Tell me about Alexander…Raine, computer.”

“This officer has been decorated many times for outstanding duty; unfortunately, his inability to follow through on specific rules involving the execution of certain criminals has caused him to lose rank on several occasions. Alex Raine is one of the few police officers proficient in over forty martial art forms, and he is a weapons expert. Due to his recent outstanding apprehension of a criminal in the Darkscape, Alex Raine now holds the rank of First Lieutenant. Would the user like to see the media associated with the search results?”

“Sure,” Lucca said. Suddenly various videos appeared on the screen showing Alex beating the living hell out of different criminals. Lucca soon became bored with the gory videos and turned around to talk to her friends about what she had found. To her surprise, she saw Crono and Marle sitting on the couch, their hands rubbing up and down each other’s bodies, kissing passionately.

Lucca stiffened, staring straight ahead at the scene.

Magus was nowhere to be found in the room, and Lucca suddenly felt sick to her stomach. She bolted out of the hotel room and waited for the door to slide shut behind her. She leaned against the wall and sunk down to the floor, holding her knees.

She sat there for a very long time, actually. She wasn’t crying; it just felt like she had lost her best friend, or something. She had known how Marle and Crono felt about each other for a long time, but she had never seen them show their affections so…physically. She had known Crono ever since they were toddlers, and never before had Crono…kissed anyone. Was that what was bothering her? That Crono had never felt about Lucca in that way, despite the fact that they had known each other for so long?

“Forget it,” she told herself. “You’ve always been ‘just friends’, and that is the way it will always be.”

Suddenly the solemn face of Magus flashed through her mind. Now what the hell was going on between them? Lucca still didn’t know what their relationship was all about. She decided to take a walk outside to clear her head.

Lucca stood up and began to walk towards the lift they had come up to this floor on. Without warning, and gloved hand reached out of a side hall and pulled her in. Lucca let out a stifled scream, but was thwarted when the stranger’s other hand covered her mouth. The man pulled her closer to him and turned her around so she was facing him. It was Magus.

“Lucca.” He formed her name perfectly with his lips, and looked down into her eyes as he removed his hand from her mouth. His eyes looked strange, and Lucca felt frightened for a moment, until she realized what it was she saw. It was love.

She wrapped her arms around his neck, and tilted her head to one side and closed her eyes. “Janus, I love—”

Magus quickly leaned forward and kissed her intensely before she could finish.

* * *

Alex was upset. He had taken enough flak from that imbecile Morton. How that moron had become Division Magistrate baffled Alex, and he was about to land a complaint into the suggestion box so large that the entire Law Center would feel it.

He subconsciously knew that his fury would probably get him exiled, or worse, but at the moment, he didn’t really care. He had had enough.

The wooden door flew off its hinges with a thundering crash and splintered into a hundred pieces on the carpeted floor of the magistrate’s office.

“Alex, how nice of you to come by the office; saves me the trouble of calling you in myself. Sit down.” The magistrate grimly motioned at an uncomfortable-looking chair facing his desk.

“Mort, I—” Alex was red in the face, and could barely articulate at the volume he was speaking at.

“I don’t care about the door; really, I don’t. Sit down.” The magistrate looked very different. First of all, he wasn’t red in the face. Second, he was wearing mirrored shades and a strange black leather coat over a black shirt. He had his elbows on his desk and his hands clasped in front of his face, as if pondering something.

Alex’s fury quickly subsided into curiosity, and he slowly walked over to the chair and sat down. “Mr. Burke, I need to—”

“What do you think about the state of the world right now, Alex? The caste system between the Layers, I mean.”

“Sir, I…I need to speak to you about my duties, you see—”

“The true surface of our earth is littered with the dark remnants of the ancient world, and brutish abominations of the past dwell there, eternally banished from the upper Layers. Then there is the huge Trade Layer, almost four miles high, and partially covering the entire Darkscape below. The denizens there labor to supply the other Layers above it with raw materials and manufactured items. Of course, none of them have ever seen the gigantic computer-controlled virtual reality above them: Hope Layer. There, scholars, scientists, and philosophers live in paradise, with access to anything; anything they want. And over all, the Law Layer resides, perched far above the world, and with more power than the earth has ever seen in all its history. And none of these Layer’s denizens ever mix with each other. Ever. Except you, Alex. You’ve traveled to the Darkscape many times; in search of what, we have yet to find out. It’s also true that you’ve made many outside-of-work trips to the Hope Layer. Very curious, indeed, officer.”

Alex had never heard the magistrate talk so eloquently, or in such a cryptic manner. He was overwhelmed, to say the least, and was speechless.

The magistrate looked over Alex’s shoulder at the broken doorway. He pressed a button on a small gray panel on the desk, and a steel wall slowly rolled in place of the door from the inside of a wall. After the mechanical whirring of the new door had stopped, the magistrate continued.

“As you can probably tell, Morton isn’t acting like his usual self. This is because…well, I’m not Morton.” The magistrate stood up and smiled. His face began to stretch and pull in all directions until Morton’s face had been replaced by another’s. It was Poe, from the bar the night before.

“How…Poe? What’s going on?”

“It’s amazing how easy it is to manipulate those nanites in your bloodstream, Alex. They can alter your perception just enough, so that you see something completely different from what’s actually there.”

“What are you doing here? Where’s—”

“Morton is out. Fortunately, his absence leaves us time to speak. I’ve always believed you to be the ‘good cop’, Alex; completely loyal to your corrupt overlords. Even after those two times you disobeyed orders and let a criminal live, I believed your mind was still too clouded by loyalty to see the truth.”

“Truth, but Poe—?”

“We are all captives in our own world, Alex; bound to service by incompetence and corruption. Only the Highest are truly free, and they make it their priority to rob the rest of the earth of its liberty.”

“Wait, I chose to work for the Upper Wing; not the other way around.”

Poe shook his head and chuckled. “You know so little, even though the answers lie in your own bloodstream. Don't you ever wonder why the criminals you arrest never have the same advantages as you? You’ve never encountered a felon with regenerative nanites in his system, have you? That is because nanites can’t just be introduced in a healthy adult; they have to be cultivated in a person from the beginning; from the first moment of conception.”

“Poe, this is insane. I came here to talk to—”

“You were grown in the labs, Alex; not born. Your parents were involuntary recruits; they were forced to raise you so that you would become a police officer, just like every other police officer in the Law Center. A “perfect” synthetic sperm is manufactured, as well as a “perfect” synthetic egg, and—”

“Poe! What the hell are you saying? How can this be true?”

“Every man or woman’s destiny has been predetermined since before their birth, or cultivation. You have no freedom, and you are raised so that you will not want it. After genetic programming and psychological training, it is scientifically impossible for a person to defy the Administration, especially an officer of the law. Of course there is always the exception; that random mutation that Nature seems to use whenever She deems necessary. You, Alex, are an exception; at least, I believe so.”

Alex remained silent. Suddenly, Poe put his fingers to his temple, as if in pain, but his face remained expressionless. “Our glorious magistrate returns. We still have much to discuss, you and I, Alex. Be careful out there, and don’t wait up.”

Poe made a small bow, and turned around and walked through the magistrate’s wall as if it wasn’t there. Alex couldn’t believe his eyes. There was no evidence Poe had ever been in the room.

Alex suddenly heard the magistrate’s abrasive voice from behind the steel door.

“What the hell! Who’s been in my office!”

Alex shot up from the chair and looked from side to side. Leaving through the door was no longer an option. Alex reluctantly looked up at the large window behind the magistrate’s desk. “Damn,” he thought.

After a few moments, the magistrate managed to open the steel door by cutting a few wires in the walls and shorting out the electrical system. He burst into the room, finding his wooden door shattered on the ground, and nothing but an open window to give him a clue as to what had happened.


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