You've Come A Long Way, Baby Chapter 15

By Imrahil

“Don’t screw with me like that, jerk!”

“Relax, baby! You know nothing could hurt you with me around.”

“Nothing could hurt me with or without you here! I just can’t stand it when you sneak up on me like that!”

“Oh, jeez, c’mon, it’s just so boring around here. Nothing to do.”

“Did you get that cup of coffee, or not?”

“Yeah. Jeez, you’re sour today.”

“Shut up, jackass.”

The gaunt blonde man set the steaming gray container on the panel beside the cranky young woman. He sighed and sat down in the only other chair in the small, electronics-filled room. He rested his chin on his hand and stared inattentively at the dozens of tiny computer screens that were mounted in the giant console he was stationed at. There was absolutely no movement on any of the screens. Ever. He didn’t even have to look up to make sure. No one ever entered the research station, unless they were one of the four scientists that worked there.

In fact, he believed his job to be one of the most pointless, useless lines of work available for an elite member of the Law Layer police force. He had hated the past three months there, staring at the motionless images on his monitors. He thought the only reason he had maintained his sanity was due to the presence of his female companion. Unfortunately, every effort he had put forth to win over the extremely attractive brunette had dissolved quite rapidly, mostly due to her intense irritability. Lately, he had resorted to the most childish of tactics—pranks and practical jokes. These latest efforts weren’t having very grand results, either, though.

He leaned back in his chair, deep in thought over his predicament. Here he was, all alone with the most beautiful and well-proportioned woman on the planet, and he was powerless to take advantage of the situation. He almost chuckled as he thought about…other alternatives. He was much stronger than she was, he knew that. There wasn’t really anyone around, at all, except the scientists, but they were stationed on the fourth level, past the general security access area. The more he pondered his idea, the more it made more sense to him. He glanced over at his companion with lust in his eyes, and a tiny trickle of clear saliva ran down his quivering chin. His head throbbed as animalistic desire clouded his mind. He was so glad she had decided to forego the formality of wearing armor. He stared at her bare thigh, and let his eyes run up and down her form-fitting outfit. He couldn’t hold himself back.

The woman snapped her head towards the thin man as he put his hand firmly on her shoulder and turned her around in her chair to face him. He slapped his other hand on her other shoulder and stared into her surprised eyes. She tried to say something, but the wild look in the man’s eyes caused her voice to waver, and ultimately disappear. She suddenly became afraid that something terrible was about to happen.

Without warning, a loud and thankfully obtrusive beeping filled the atmosphere. The two police officers stared at each other for a moment, until the young woman quickly brushed the wild man’s hands away and turned toward her console.

“Stop fooling around, it looks like we have an intruder,” she said with an intense degree of nervousness in her voice as she ran her expert fingers over the numerous keypads on the console.

“…Right,” the blonde man said, wiping away the wetness on his chin, and taking his seat next to the attractive woman. He was nervous himself; he couldn’t believe how close he had come to seriously hurting his co-worker.

“Life forms detected in the ventilation shafts. Hmm, five. Can’t get a visual feed, though; there’s too much background radiation in there.” The woman quickly typed in several more commands, but silently cursed as she realized her efforts were going to ultimately be futile.

“Probably just some lab rats the techs lost control of. I can buzz Dr. Romero and see if that’s what’s going on,” the thin man said, a degree of professionalism returning to his voice. He hit a few keys, and the image of an elderly man with a short beard appeared on the largest screen in the room.

“Sir, this is security. Several life forms have been detected in the shafts on Level 2. We were just wondering if they were yours, or…” The young man shrugged.

The bearded scientist looked at the screen, irritated, and quickly washed off his hands. Finally, he spoke.

“Life forms? Why would you think they were one of ours? I’ll have you know that we use the safest, most professional methods of sanitation and sterilization in the Upper Layers! It is impossible that any one of our experimental organisms could escape. There are hundreds of computerized fail-safes against those kinds of things. Don’t you know that?”

The thin man hated the technicians. They thought they knew everything. If he had access to the research levels, he would kill every last one of them, in the most excruciating ways imaginable. He really would.

“I’m sorry sir, it just seemed to be the most plausible explanation for the intruder alert, I—”

“They’re on the move,” the young woman said loudly while typing commands into the console.

“Did she just say that the life forms are on the move?” the scientist asked, a troubled note in his voice. “It’s not a computer glitch, then. Which level are they headed to, may I ask?”

“The level closest to the life forms is the weapons bays,” the young woman said slowly as she hurriedly typed at the keyboards in front of her.

“Dear God,” the scientist said, “we are…under attack?”

“Of course not, sir. They’re most likely a few sparrows that were sucked into the shafts. We’ll update you once the issue has been resolved. Thanks for your help.” The thin man switched the monitor off with disgust.

“Sparrows?” the young woman asked.

“Who knows? Maybe he’ll believe me and won’t panic and do something…stupid,” the thin man said as he stood up.

“Where are you going?”

“I’ve got to go deal with the intruders,” he said as he reached into a small locker beside the computer system and took out a large rifle.

“I should come with you,” the woman said, finally stopping her incessant typing.

“No, no. Stay here and track their movements. Feed me their coordinates by radio.” The man left the room without another word.

* * *

The ventilation shafts weren’t very narrow like one might expect, actually. They were very large, in fact. The floor of the enormous tunnels was coated with a slippery film; most likely a cooling fluid of some sort. The dank, spherical walls stank of age, and filled the tunnels with a dry, musty stench. The quiet hum of machinery echoed eerily throughout the shafts, hinting at the presence of the colossal cooling fans that steadily spun at the heart of the ventilation shafts so many miles away.

The thin police officer sniffed the air, and resumed his cautious trek down the shafts. His heavy boots struck the wet floor with a constant splashing, a noise that echoed throughout the eerie tunnels. A high-pitched mechanical whine emanated from the large rifle he carried.

“How close am I?” the thin officer said softly.

His co-worker answered through the tiny earpiece that the man wore. Her voice was inaudible to any outside listener.

“Their signatures are only a few hundred yards ahead of your position. Look, the background interference is finally clearing up ‘cause I’ve shut down a few of the non-essential generators. I should be able to get a clear image of the intruders in a few moments, so bare with me.”

“Bare, with you? Yes, please,” the thin mad said with an unnatural smirk.

“Hmmm?” the woman’s voice inquired.

“Nothing, just talking to myself, sweetie.”

“Well, you may want to stay quiet. Here we go, residual images are finally coming in. Looks like five humanoids: two women, three men. They have some powerful-looking armor on, and they are unarmed.”


“Well, unless you count the sword that the red-haired one is carrying, I’d say they’re pretty unprepared for battle. Oh, wait, one of the women has a gun, another has a…crossbow? Hmm. Well, I’ll leave the rest to you. Bring their bodies to the cryo hall so we can make a decent report to the magistrate later.”

“Sure, whatever,” the blonde man said. He switched off his radio feed, quite unwisely. He had no intention of bringing the bodies to the cryo hall. He had been without a good fight for at least a year, and he was going to enjoy himself. He was glad he had brought explosive rounds for the rifle.

After only a few moments, the officer could hear the footsteps of the intruders only a few yards ahead of him. He smiled, and began to run silently towards his victims.

His white teeth flashed as he grimaced suddenly. He stopped and stood still for a moment. The footsteps had disappeared. He strained his ears to hear the intruders’ footsteps, again, but there was nothing. He almost cursed, but instead gasped, after seeing that his rifle seemed to be gone.

Where had it disappeared to? Had he dropped it? No, of course not. He stared into his empty, upturned palms. It was gone. Only a few seconds ago, he had been running with it, listening to its pleasant whine as he jogged along. The thin police officer suddenly felt very sick to his stomach.

As if completely ordinary – that is to say, the police officer was strangely not surprised by the occurrence – the group of intruders silently stepped out of the shadows in front of him. One with long, white hair had the policeman’s rifle in his hands. The tallest one – a large man with brown hair – stepped forward.

“May I ask why you are following us?” he asked without a hint of emotion or motive.

The thin man scrambled to switch on the earpiece he was wearing, but the large man motioned for him to stop. “You will find that your equipment is inoperable, anyway.”

“This is an off-limits institution. You presence here subjects you to the law, and this offense is punishable by death.”

“That’s completely untrue. Until we have proved ourselves hostile, you cannot kill us within letter of the law,” the large man said.

The thin man narrowed his eyes. “Your very presence here is an act of hostility.”

“It is truly a shame that you are without a weapon to back up your threats.” The ominous intruder that was holding the rifle smirked as he spoke.

The thin man grinned. Without warning, he drew a large pistol from behind him and fired three shots at the three male intruders. He somersaulted to the left, and smiled as he watched the red-haired man fall to the ground in an explosion of red. The largest one deftly moved out of the way and the white-haired one disappeared.

The officer fired three more shots, hitting the purple-haired woman in the shoulder before she was able to draw her weapon, and skimming the side of the blonde woman’s right arm. Both women hit the ground.

The heavy, black-garbed gauntlet of the largest intruder crashed into the side of the thin man’s head. How had that bitch moved so fast? The pistol flew from his hand as he felt a well placed blow crack his forearm in two. He absorbed punch after punch as he staggered further and further back. The officer smiled as he purposely fell backwards, kicking a large amount of the cooling fluid into his large adversary’s eyes. He heard the man yell in pain.

His arm felt much better, now, and he was able to remove a large blade from his boot and fling it straight into the chest of the large intruder. With a loud grunt, the man fell to the wet floor.

The thin police officer stood up, and brushed himself off. He grinned as he surveyed his work. Red blood slowly mixed with the bluish gleam of the fluid on the floor in a most delightful manner that pleased the policeman greatly. He picked up his large firearm, deciding that he would enjoy enacting some post-mortem humiliation upon his fallen foes.

Without warning, his vision went black. He felt his limbs burn with pain, seared by the fires of hell. He screamed and screamed. The pain only intensified, and permeated his entire being. He shuddered fiercely as he tried his best to withstand the incredible pain. He saw a face with his mind’s eye; one of intense anger. The face had black eyes that burned with fury, and they held a wrath that the thin officer never thought possible in a human being. He felt his form fall to the ground. The pain slowly faded away, and silence ensued.

* * *

“He’s lucky to be alive, for chrissakes. These suits don’t provide any protection.”

“It is fortunate that Marle had enough strength to revive him.”

Crono opened his eyes. He suddenly remembered the pain, and the blackness that had accompanied it, but now he felt fine. He was shaken, but okay. He realized that there were lips upon his own, and he kissed back, putting his hand in the small of Marle’s back. She pulled back for a moment, tears in her eyes, and then happily re-entered the kiss.

“Alright, you two, we have to finish this mission before we’re attacked again,” Lucca said. There was no trace of her wound, now, except for the small, burnt hole in her left shoulder plate.

“Yes, we should leave. Like I said before, we are very vulnerable in here. Of course, if Magus feels like incinerating every intruder we meet, I don’t think we’ll really have a problem.” The healthy-looking officer grinned at the mage’s frowning face. Alex had removed the large knife that had only a few moments earlier been protruding out of his chest. He had stopped bleeding, and his wound was slowly disappearing.

Every group member quickly got to their feet, and they hurriedly jogged through the long, dark tunnels. Magus ran next to Lucca, looking at her every few moments.

It wasn’t long before the group reached a large, metal grate. As instructed from the mission briefing, Alex used the heel of his boot to break through the grate, and everyone, one by one, jumped through the gaping hole, landing directly in the center of the weapons bay. Huge storage shelves lined the walls of the bays, each filled with an amazing arsenal. The dim lights barely illuminated the room, but even so, it was much brighter than the tunnels above. The friends took a moment to let their eyes adjust to their new surroundings.

“I…I’ve never seen anything like this!” Lucca had deviated from the side of her companions, and she was examining the weapons rack closest to her. “They look like…body parts!”

Her inference wasn’t far from the truth, actually. Before, the group had only been exposed to the cold, black steel of the police officers’ sidearms, and the organic nature of the weapons before them was very foreign to their eyes. Even Alex was surprised at the sight of the flesh-colored rifles. Upon closer inspection of the weapons, one could see long, blue veins snaking underneath the skin-like material that was stretched over what seemed to be a skeletal frame. Small hairs dotted the surface, and they seemed to tremble if the observer got too close.

There was complete silence in the huge weapons bay as the friends bent down and examined the abnormal rifles for themselves. Marle left her friends and walked further down the rack. As she paced down the aisle, she noticed that each weapon seemed to have its own…uniqueness. Some were hairier than others, for example. Not only that, but there were variations in size and shape, hair color, and ‘skin’ tone. Marle stopped walking and crouched down to get a closer look at a rifle on her right. She smiled. Marle removed her gauntlet and pushed up her sleeve. She reached down to touch it, and felt the short dark hair that grew along the rifle stock. It was almost like a large pet.

She suddenly pulled her hand back in fear. Had it been her imagination? Had the thing moved? She could’ve sworn she had seen the sides of the barrel expand and contract quickly, as if breathing heavily in response to her touch. Breathing? Marle stared at the gun. She felt her skin crawl as she watched the rifle’s sides move, contracting and expanding, at a steady pace. Marle quickly stood up and turned her head from side to side wildly. Every rifle was…was breathing!

She began to step backwards to where her friends were speaking quietly back down the aisle. As she cautiously returned to the group, she felt a warm sensation on her arm. Much to her dismay, she found that the rifle she had touched was slowly enveloping her arm, sliding upwards with a mouth-like hole that she hadn’t seen before.

She couldn’t scream. The sight of the pink creature slowly consuming her arm, and the soft, slurping noises emanating from its mouth were too much for her. She wasn’t scared, necessarily, as much as she was angry.

With a flash, the young girl twirled her crossbow out from behind her back and harshly pistol-whipped the large creature. It didn’t stop its slow advance up her arm. She bared her teeth and pulled her arm back for another blow, but suddenly paused.

A quiet, sad whine was coming from the rifle, now, as if it was begging Marle to stop. She looked down at it. She couldn’t believe that something without a face could look so unhappy. She put her raised arm down, and almost immediately the whining stopped. Now that she wasn’t so panicked, she noticed that the rifle was not actually hurting her. In fact, it felt pleasantly warm as it slid up her arm.

She waited a few moments, trying to figure out what to do, but the weapon stopped its advance without any warning. It clamped down quickly around her arm, causing Marle to gasp loudly, but almost immediately it released the pressure.

Marle held the arm up that was enveloped with the rifle. She noticed that its ‘skin’ color was slowly changing to match her own, and the tiny hairs growing on it were slowly turning a dull yellow. Her eyes went wide as she watched the blue veins of the rifle quickly slither into her arm. She lifted her black sleeve up even further, and saw the veins stop at her shoulders. She had no idea what was happening.

It was so big, she thought as she stared at it. She had a horrible feeling in her stomach that was telling her she had done something very wrong. She wished it were smaller; small enough to hide from her friends.

“Marle!” she heard Crono yell from further down the aisle. She winced. What would she say? She couldn’t take the thing off, and even if she could have, she didn’t know if she would want to.

As if responding to Marle’s anxiety, the large rifle began diminish in size, contorting itself into the shape of Marle’s arm. Almost immediately, Marle’s hand reappeared, and there was no trace that the gun had even been there in the first place. Marle thought that she had accidentally killed the creature, or something, and became very worried as she felt her now normal arm with her other hand. Without warning, the gun expanded out of her arm once again, resuming its familiar shape. A quiet, content hum emanated from the creature.

She smiled, but quickly frowned as she heard the hurried footsteps of her comrades approaching. She willed the gun to disappear again, and it reformed into the shape of her arm once more. She turned around and walked toward her friends, who were sprinting towards her.

“Marle! Marle, are you okay? Why did you leave us like that?” Crono put his hands on her shoulders, looking genuinely worried.

“I just wanted to look at the rifles for myself, that’s all. Why?” Marle said, rubbing her bare arm.

“Did you touch one? Did you touch one of them?” Alex said violently, with a worried note in his commanding voice.

Marle quickly replaced the glove on her hand, and rolled her black sleeve down. “No, no. I was going to, until you called. Why?”

“I took off my glove to touch one, and…and it grabbed onto me with a mouth. Marle, I think these things are…alive!” Lucca looked quite shaken.

“What did you do?” Marle said, trying to sound surprised.

“I destroyed it,” Magus said as he arrogantly rubbed his knuckles on his chest.

Marle suddenly felt an overwhelming feeling of anger grow in her chest. She felt her cheeks burn with rage. Her arm quaked slightly, and she could feel the rifle contorting out of shape. She quelled her fit of anger, however, and the rifle remained in the shape of her arm.

“It’s a good thing you were able to get rid of it, Magus, and it’s a good thing you didn’t touch one, Marle. Jeez, if you had touched one, and we hadn’t been over here…” Crono grabbed Marle in an awkward embrace. Strangely enough, Marle didn’t return the act of affection, despite the fact that this was one of the few times Crono was publicly displaying his feelings.

“Okay, there’ll be plenty of time for that later. Right now, we have a job to do,” Marle said authoritatively as she pushed Crono away. Crono looked baffled as he stared at the back of Marle as she walked back to where the broken grate lay.

Alex took the awkward moment to take control of the situation. “She’s right. We’ve wasted enough time. We have to get these things transported out of here before more officers are sent to flush us out.”

The group quickly followed Marle to the front of the room. Magus, looking very suspicious, eyed an empty space on the weapons rack. He rubbed his chin thoughtfully as he caught up with the rest of the group.

“Okay, the Elders say I can transport this crap to ‘em, so I will. Guys, watch my back, I’m gonna try and do this…” Alex sat down and closed his eyes. “I think this is how to do it…”

The group waited in silence as Alex sat completely still on the ground. A few minutes passed, and the group started to become very impatient.

“Why don’t you just transport this stuff to the rebels, Magus?” Lucca said, irritated.

The mage chuckled softly. “I wouldn’t even know where to send it. I’m not very sure I could even transport materials in places miles away, Lucca.”

“Oh,” Lucca said.

Suddenly, Alex yelled in frustration. Everyone looked at him, wide-eyed.

“I can’t do it! This is impossible!” The police officer hit the ground with his gloved fist, causing bits of concrete to flake off.

“Sure you can. Just concentrate harder, Alex,” Crono said.

“I don’t even know where to begin!” Alex yelled angrily.

“Jeez, calm down, man. Just imagine the stuff disappearing, okay?” Crono backed away from the sitting form of Alex.

Alex crossed his arms and closed his eyes once again. Almost immediately, the loud screech of an automated alarm went off. Large panels in the sides of the weapons bay slid open, and huge, spherical robots swarmed out towards the group.

Marle heard Alex yell, “Take ‘em, I’ve almost got it!”, and she smiled. She usually felt a little shaky when confronted by an unknown enemy, but she felt…stronger, somehow. She saw her three friends beside her backing up and taking defensive positions in front of Alex as they prepared for the onslaught, and she made a decision.

Lucca stared wide-eyed as she watched Marle jump at least ten feet in the air, aiming a kick straight into the heart of a metal beast in front of the almost two dozen others. The most surprising part, though, was the fact that Marle’s foot cleaved directly through the robot, causing the flying metal creature to fall apart and crash to the ground in a dizzying explosion of electric color.

Marle landed gracefully only a few feet away, and resumed beating the crap out of the robots that were now swarming around her, most of which were wielding powerful electric tasers. Crono was stunned as he watched Marle’s long legs form crescent-shaped blurs of motion as her heavy boots crashed through each metal warrior. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Lucca and Magus run towards the fray. Crono shook his head, awakened from his trance, and he followed his friends into battle.

Crono was not doing very well, however. Every time he managed to disable one of the powerful robots, he caught a glimpse of Marle destroying two or three with her brutal hand-to-hand attacks. He looked around and saw Lucca and Magus having as much trouble as he with the metal robots, and he shook his head in disbelief. What really puzzled Crono, though, was the strange expression Marle had on her face. She was smiling.

Crono felt an electric discharge run through his body as a robot hit him in the back. Crono whirled around and began cutting small chunks of metal off the creature, desperately trying to disable it. Crono decided to thrust his katana deep into the circuitry of the robot, hoping to hit some essential piece of hardware. Unfortunately, the robot anticipated Crono’s offensive tactic, and retaliated by avoiding the harsh thrust, and then hitting Crono over the head with its large taser. Crono’s vision went black, even though he was still conscious, and he staggered forward. Another electrical blow landed on his temple, and his vision returned, although it was marred with a kaleidoscope of bright, spinning colors. He watched, intoxicated, as Marle crashed through the torso of the spherical robot with her black gauntlet. The dangerous piece of machinery hit the ground with an obtrusive crash.

Crono shook his head, helping his vision to become somewhat clearer. He saw broken pieces of metal scattered around them, and a confident Marle standing cross-armed atop a large pile of debris. Magus was busy casting a weak healing spell on Lucca, and Alex was standing above Crono, offering his hand.

“You okay?” the large police officer asked.

“Yeah, I guess. Thanks.” Crono grasped Alex’s hand and pulled himself up. “Just got the wind knocked out of me.”

“Well, check it out! I did it!” Alex pointed to the dozens of empty racks in the room.

“Wow. See, told you, all it took was concentration,” Crono said. “Hey, does Marle seem a little weird, to you?”

“What do you mean? She seems fine,” Alex said, confused.

“I mean, she was punching right through those robots, like they were made of paper or something. Trust me, they weren’t,” Crono whispered softly.

“She’s never shown any abnormal strength before?” Alex looked over at the young blonde girl as she confidently surveyed the destruction wrought before her.

“No, never, I think—” Crono started. He was interrupted by the grating sound of a door. Everyone in the group looked towards a large crack in the wall that was slowly getting larger and larger. It seemed an enormous door was opening right beside them.

“Alex…let’s get the hell out of here!” Lucca yelled as she ran towards the police officer and Crono. Magus and Marle followed close behind.

“Yeah, it’s so easy, wait a sec…” Alex closed his eyes for a few seconds, and opened them. “It’s…it’s not working! I can’t do it!”

“Dammit Alex, just concentrate, like before!” Crono said loudly. Crono could see the familiar blue of almost a dozen police officers’ boots slowly appearing as the door rose up.

“You don’t understand! I am! It’s like…the power is gone!” Alex said as he hit the side of his head.

“Alex! Just do it!” Crono yelled.

“Wait,” Magus said as he rose a hand towards Alex. “The small piece of metal in his brain—it is gone. I felt it before, but it is as if…it has disintegrated.”

“Impossible, but—why?” Lucca said.

“The Elders—we’ve served their purpose. They don’t need us anymore; they have what they need to win their war,” Magus said sadly.

“No! I refuse to die like this!” Alex yelled.

It was too late. The door had risen enough to reveal a small contingent of well-armed police men and women. They immediately opened fire.


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