You've Come A Long Way, Baby Chapter 16

By Imrahil

It all happened so slowly. The bright flash of gunfire, and the small greenish projectiles that seared through flesh and bone. The harsh, demented smiles of the men and women who relentlessly fired, and then fired again. Thick red blood pelting the ground in a never-ending torrent, and gently spattering against the dull gray metal of the walls. Finally, after an eternity of an unmerciful hail of gunfire, everything stopped. The room was silent as dust rose from the floors.

“And that takes care of that,” a stout blonde man said, holstering his weapon in a small compartment underneath the torso piece of his armor.

“These guys killed Rot? I don’t see how…” a short, black woman said, still pointing her weapon at one of the fallen intruders.

“Probably shot him in the back, or something,” a tall, dark man said. He wrinkled his nose as he surveyed the gory scene in front of him.

“Yeah, they had to have cut him down when he wasn’t ready, or something,” a green-haired woman said while twirling her pistol on her finger. She had been told that this mission would be difficult. She almost felt disappointed. She probably shouldn’t have allowed her unit to cut the intruders down like animals. Maybe one day she would take a chance, and perform her duty with finesse. Not today, though.

“Cut down? Sort of like you just did to us?” A dark ominous voice filled the weapons bay, echoing off the walls. The six police officers redrew their weapons and each took a defensive stance.

“We missed one?” the tall, dark man yelled.

He never got an answer. Every one of the officers’ weapons suddenly whined loudly, screaming a mechanical alarm.

“They’re overheating!” the short, black woman yelled. She threw her pistol across the room, and soon her comrades did the same. After a few seconds, six deadly flashes of bright green erupted on the other side of the room.

“How—?” a small black-haired man said in a nasal voice.

“There!” the stout blonde man yelled, pointing at the ceiling.

Between two of the beams in the ceiling, five dark forms were hidden, holding themselves in place. Without warning, the bloody scene on the ground shimmered and disappeared, and the five dark forms somersaulted to the ground in its place. Each one landed crouched on the ground, in a straight line facing the officers. They slowly rose at the same time until all were standing.

They were all garbed in strange black armor. Their solemn faces caused each of the experienced police officers to shiver slightly. The tallest, largest intruder, looking quite formidable as he stood in the center of the group, motioned at the police officers to come forward.

“Attack, formation alpha!” the green-haired woman yelled. “I want to see quick, brutal knockouts, people. Let’s have this wrapped up, fast. Go!”

The tall, dark police officer suddenly yelled with an animal-like scream and jumped towards Alex. The other officers quickly followed, each attacking a different intruder. The green-haired woman stayed back, trying to contact someone with her radio.

It was truly amazing to see each of the intruders fight, the green-haired woman recalled later in a report to her superiors. It seemed like each one could have easily handled themselves alone against the handful of highly skilled officers. After discovering that her radio was malfunctioning, she had turned towards the fight, only to see her best hand-to-hand fighter fall to the ground in a pool of his own blood. The tallest intruder had been standing over the body with his arm extended, frozen in the last stance he had executed against the officer. She had furrowed her brow when a purple-haired intruder executed a simple roundhouse kick on another officer, and then had easily knocked him out by coming around and pistol-whipping him in the temple. A blonde intruder simply punched another officer in the face, knocking her out. A pale-faced man only waved his hand, causing another one of her men to fall to the ground. She flinched as a sword that belonged to another intruder sliced through an officer’s armor and then abdomen, forcing him to the ground. The green-haired woman had been at a loss as the five intruders slowly walked toward her, each wearing the same incredibly solemn expression. The last thing she could recall was the intense feeling of drowsiness as she fell to the ground in sleep.

* * *

“That was brilliant, Mags,” Crono said as he bounced up and down on Alex’s bed.

“Do not flatter me, Crono,” Magus said very seriously.

Crono didn’t really know how to reply to the mage’s words, so he didn’t. He was just happy to be back in Hope Layer. Here, all his worries seemed to disappear. He loved the large hotel room, and the beautiful scenery right outside. Come to think of it, this place was kind of romantic. Crono looked over at the bathroom door, wondering what was taking Marle so long in there. He had been feeling more attracted to her than ever before, until she had become…super-Marle. “Weird,” he thought.

“Hey, did any of you guys see anything strange happen to Marle?” Lucca asked suddenly, as if reading the young red-haired warrior’s mind. Crono stopped bouncing, and Magus looked up from where he was leaning against the wall. “I mean, she was knocking the hell outta those robots.”

“Yes, very curious,” Magus said, deep in thought.

“What do you think is wrong with her, guys?” Crono asked.

“I don’t know, I thought you could tell us, loverboy,” Lucca said, slyly.

“She hasn’t talked to me, yet. She’s still in that damned bathroom,” Crono pointed at the door of the small washroom.

The door to the hotel room slid open, and Alex walked out with a large package of clothes. “Here’s the stuff you guys ordered. Is Marle still in there?”

“Yes,” Crono said, exasperated.

“Hmm, well, here guys.” Alex threw the package on the empty bed. Crono got up and took out a familiar black T-shirt and black slacks. Lucca walked over to the suitcase and whipped out a “Weezer” shirt, and smiled. She really loved that thing.

By the time Lucca had dressed, that is, after she had sent the men outside, she invited everyone back in, and Marle reappeared out of the bathroom. Strangely, enough, however, the princess was looking very happy. In fact, the first thing she did, was run over to Crono and wrap her arms around him in an embrace. The strangest part about it, of course, was the fact that she had taken off the black torso plate and shirt, and was wearing only underwear as her top. Considering that Marle was usually extremely hostile whenever she was getting dressed or undressed, this event was quite peculiar.

“How are you, Crono?” she said as she playfully kissed his bottom lip. Crono didn’t know what to do. He decided to accept the situation, and kissed back.

Lucca and Magus looked at each other, exchanging puzzled glances. They were still unconvinced that everything concerning Marle was back to normal. Lucca decided it was better not to say anything, but Magus thought just the opposite. He had a feeling he knew what had happened, but he needed confirmation. In private. He would just wait for the right opportunity. Magus smiled. Covert subtlety was the only way to handle touchy situations.

To the mage’s dismay, it seemed Alex thought a more blatant approach would be more useful.

The large policeman was unwrapping a small green rectangle that seemed to be some sort of food. He took a large bite, and in between chews, he unconcernedly spoke. “So, Marle, have you been working out a lot, lately?”

Magus flinched.

“No, I’ve been here on Earth, lately, why?” she answered as she played with Crono’s hair contentedly.

“Crono was telling me you were, like, punching through metal and stuff when those robots attacked. I couldn’t see ‘cause I was concentrating—” the police officer started.

“Yeah, what was up with that?” Lucca suddenly blurted out. “You hit those robots like they were made out of cardboard, or something!”

“Steroids, maybe?” Crono asked softly.

Marle quickly removed her hand from Crono’s hair. “Steroids!?”

“It is curious; you have always relied on ranged attacks, and now you have suddenly started fighting with your fists,” the dark wizard added.

“Look, I—” Marle began.

“Guys, I’m sure there’s a perfectly good explanation for this; just let Marle speak,” Crono said. “Right, Marle?”

Marle gave the red-haired boy a dirty look, and then addressed her other friends. “The truth is…I…I did touch one of those rifles.”

The room suddenly filled with cries of disapproval, but Marle managed to raise her voice over the din.

“…But it’s harmless. In fact, it makes me stronger, just like you saw.”

“It bit Lucca’s arm—” Crono yelled. He was now standing up.

“It attacked me—” Lucca clamored.

“You can’t trust something like that, it’s—” Alex said loudly while waving his arms in desperation, green crumbs flying everywhere.

“Incredibly dangerous,” Magus said loudly, although his voice didn’t seem as strained as the others’.

“Alright, alright!” Marle jumped up on her feet and harshly motioned for silence. Strangely enough, everyone quieted down.

“I can do what I want! I can choose what I want to do! You guys; you’re my friends, and you want what’s best for me. I know that. But I know what’s best for me, and if I feel like synthesizing with an alien flesh gun, I should be able to!” Marle was red with the passion of her speech.

Unexpectedly, a tiny chuckle erupted from Alex. It grew and grew, until the large police officer was laughing loudly.

Everyone in the room looked over at him like he was crazy.

Alex looked around, and stopped laughing. “C’mon, you did hear what she just said, right guys?” He started laughing again.

Marle looked angry for a moment, and then broke into a high, musical laugh, as well. “It did sound kinda funny, didn’t it?”

“This is no laughing matter! You have a parasite living inside you, Marle. We must remove it,” Magus said as his eyes flared and he tightened his old leather gloves that he was now wearing.

“Forget it, Mags, when she has her mind set on something, she’s not going to change it,” Crono said, grinning slightly and scratching his head.

“What are you trying to say?” Marle was suddenly angry again.

“Er, wait, I—” Crono started, blushing.

“What he was trying to say, was that if you want to keep that thing, you have the right to, and no one’s going to take it away,” Alex stepped in swiftly.

“Damn right,” Marle said with crossed arms.

“Oooookay,” Lucca said after a few awkward moments of silence. “What do we do next?”

“Eat! I’m starved!” Crono said as his face brightened up.

“No, we don’t really have time. Here, this’ll, er…fill you up,” Alex said as he pulled a few more packets of small green rectangles out of his pockets.

Marle caught hers with one hand and quickly spoke. “Of course we don’t have time; we’ve got to take the government citadel quickly, now that they know there’s a rebel force in their Layer.”

“Well, Marle, I’m not sure—” Lucca started.

“Sounds like a good plan, but we’ve got to watch out for the Elders’ rebels, too. They seem to be just as bad as the government, here,” Crono said.

“Hey! Listen! I’m not going to be continually interrupted like Marle was a few minutes ago!” Lucca said, now very frustrated. “I’m pretty sure that we’re going about this thing all wrong.”

“What do you suggest, Lucca?” Magus said softly.

“Well,” Lucca began as she swallowed a chunk of the green bar that she had just unwrapped, “I don’t even think we should attack anybody. I’m not sure whether our enemy is the government, or the rebels.”

“How could our enemy be the rebels?” Marle asked, a smile appearing at the corners of her mouth.

“You heard what Alex said; the government hasn’t mastered time travel. But the rebels have. Whoever attacked Magus had to have time travel access. And just look at what happened all during our visit to the rebels’ base. Their entire world was like a vision into Robo’s world. It felt so…similar. The rebels can’t be who we’re supposed to help!”

“You bring up very good points, Lucca, but we can’t be sure. It seems to me that the government and the rebels are both at fault here.” Magus stared at the unopened food package in his hand as he spoke.

“It’s not like we can ignore what we saw down there; and what they did to us! I can’t wait to get back at the Elders for leaving us stranded in that research facility!” Crono said, an eerie fire in his eyes.

“Look at it this way: we have an entire empire searching for us, and a very powerful group of rebels just waiting for the right moment to exterminate us. We’re pretty much sitting ducks in this room. But we’re not even sure whose side we’re on anymore, so there’s no point seeking refuge anywhere. And there’s no answer to our problem anywhere in sight. Guys; I don’t know where to go, or who to trust. What can we do?” Alex was speaking more seriously than usual. His friends were surprised how confused he looked.

“We’ve decided one thing, right? The rebels are bad,” Lucca said hopefully.

“Right!” Crono answered.

“Basically the only thing we had against the government here was that they had the resources of time travel somewhere, which they don’t, and that they are power-hungry. Well, so’re the rebels, and they have time travel. I think we were helping our enemy,” Lucca said solemnly.

“And if one of those rifles turned Marle into super-girl, think what thousands of them would do for the rebels. They could attack the Law Layer tonight!” Crono said with a worried expression on his face.

“I’m just not sure. I need some sort of confirmation; something to tell us we’re on the right path, now,” Magus said as he looked at each of the faces of his friends.

Almost immediately, the console between the two beds in the room flashed on, and the smooth face of an incredibly beautiful woman appeared on the screen. Alex gasped.

“Alex? Is that you?” the face said. She was looking right at the large police officer. “It’s so good to finally see you again!”

Alex wore an incredulous expression on his face. He couldn’t believe his eyes. “Claire—you haven’t changed at all!”

“Please, Alex, call me Noria. The Elders thought it would be best if—” she began.

“The Elders? What do you have to do with them?” Alex asked, suddenly furrowing his brow.

“They are my…our leaders. They will bring us into a new age of prosperity. And you’ve helped make that possible, Alex. Thanks to your efforts, we are now equipped to deal with Law Layer; we can finally reach our goal!” Noria’s eyes flared with ambitious pride.

“Noria, no, this isn’t right. Your leaders are not destined to help the world; they are destined to destroy it! The world under the ground; that is what the Elders will do with the Layers. They will scour the universe, searching for greater power until they have destroyed themselves. You can’t help them, Noria, you can’t. Look around you; you must know what I say is the truth!” Alex was getting quite emotional.

“Alex…I’ve been asked to put forth a question. Despite the differences that arose between you and the Elders, they wish to forgive you for your transgressions—” Noria started.

“Our transgressions? The Elder’s tried to kill us!” Marle yelled.

Noria ignored Marle’s outburst, and continued. “—and extend their hands towards you again, in peace. You are still the Chosen, and although your use is now exhausted, your help could still be used in the coming war. So what do you say, Alex? Will you come back? I want to see you again, Alex. I want to fight with you, again. Will you accept my…our request?”

Alex stood silent. Magus leaned over and saw the large policeman’s eyes watering. The mage had a good idea how much the woman meant to Alex, but he had no idea exactly how much. Now he was afraid the officer’s will was about to bend to the love he felt for this girl. Magus knew he had to step in.

The mage quickly said a few words and cast a ‘restore status’ spell on the confused police officer. He knew it wasn’t the best way to deal with the situation, but he didn’t want to hurt Alex. Strangely enough, the wizard felt sympathy for the officer. The emotions that Magus would usually scoff at had become very important to him. Magus watched as Alex straightened up and brushed off his black shirt.

“Noria, we cannot fight beside you; not after what we’ve seen,” Alex said authoritatively.

“Who said I was inviting all of you. I only want you to come, Chosen,” Noria said. Magus had to admit it; the girl was damned seductive.

Alex wavered, but quickly regained his composure again. “I’m sorry, I have to refuse.”

“You don’t seem to understand. Alex, they’re doing you a favor. If you don’t accept, they’ll kill you, I—please agree, please!”

Alex was silent.

“No, no. Alex, no.” Noria was speaking very quietly. Her face went suddenly dark. “Don’t do this.”

The screen flickered off.

“Wow, she really is pretty!” Lucca said, completely destroying the serious atmosphere in the hotel room.

“Yes, yes she is,” Alex said softly. “Why would she be part of…them?”

“I don’t know, Al, but we’ve got to decide what to do, next,” Crono said.

“What if the rebels are the ones we should help. Why else would she be part of them?” Alex’s face suddenly brightened up. “Yes, that’s it!”

Magus saw that his spell was slowly unraveling. He reinforced it once again. He was becoming more and more surprised at how much more powerful Alex’s love was than his own magic.

“No, no. Guys, don’t let me think like that. Crono’s right; we’ve got to make our next move. I say we move against the rebels before they get the chance to attack Law Layer.” Alex cracked his knuckles emphatically as he spoke.

“Sounds good. We can do it, I don’t care what kind of guns those freaky mutants have,” Lucca said with a smile.

“I only hope this is the correct path. It does seem to be the only one available at this time. Go with the better foe, I suppose,” Magus said solemnly.

“And now we don’t have to wear that crappy armor! Crono said as he put his heavy Moon Armor on over his black clothes.

The entire group suited up. Everyone but Alex, of course. Alex had brought a couple of heavy arm bracers up from the lobby, however, and he snapped them on.

“What are those for?” Marle asked after she had slipped her form-fitting prism dress on.

“Well, after all those robots attacked, I realized I was pretty badly-equipped to attack metallic beings. These things will make sure I don’t get hurt if we run into some more robots sometime.” Alex shadow-punched the air after speaking. Quiet ‘whooshes’ were audible, and almost immediately one incredibly loud ‘whoosh’ echoed throughout the room.

Alex stopped, and stared at his hands wide-eyed.

“There are three people in the hall; they are coming toward the door,” Magus said with his fingers glued to his temple. Almost at once the gray door exploded and fell on the expensive carpet of Alex’s hotel room.

Two small round spheres rolled into the room and stopped in front of the group of stunned friends.

Alex’s senses suddenly jumped in alarm. “Stun grenades! Back up, back up!” His efforts were in vain. A small circular blast of purple energy expanded from the spheres in a silent explosion, hitting every person in the room. Alex was the only one who hit the ground.

“Guess what guys? It’s gonna be just like old times.” Crono removed his katana and smiled with a wicked grin.

Two huge men appeared in the burnt-out doorway, each wearing the black reconnaissance gear of the rebel force. Their appendages were incredibly large and overdeveloped. The group watched as their arms quickly changed into enormous rifle barrels.

Magus wasn’t about to allow himself to be shot. He snapped his head towards Lucca, who was doing exactly what he had been about to ask her to do. She extended her hands towards her friends and enveloped them in each in a red sphere. She smiled at Magus.

“Thanks Lucca!” Crono yelled as he propelled himself toward the closest armored figure. Large green projectiles bounced off the red sphere around Crono as he began slicing the armored man to pieces.

Magus turned towards the other attacker, and felt a heavy arm come down on top of his head. Magus’ vision went red, and he cursed himself for being so stupid. The shield could only protect him from bullets, not punches. He heard the man above him scream, and felt blood spatter on his own back. He turned over to see Marle holding her arm extended towards where the large attacker had fallen. Smoke was curling up from her arm, which now looked incredibly like a high-tech rifle.

“I appreciate it,” Magus said as he stood up.

“No problem,” Marle said, very surprised. She had never heard the mage ever give a ‘thank you’.

Another armored figure had entered the door, and was currently engaging in a hand-to-hand battle with Lucca. This one had much heavier, gray armor on, not to mention a visor-like helmet.

Magus immediately felt strangely drawn to the new attacker.

He watched as the third and last armored figure avoided every blow Lucca aimed at it, and even blocked the well-aimed kick Marle had aimed at its head from behind. Despite Marle’s apparently amazing strength, the armored figure not only blocked her kick, but grabbed her ankle and threw her against the far wall, causing it to crumble.

Crono’s katana began dancing across the armored figure’s torso plate, but could only create a few almost unnoticeable scratches. Crono looked worried, and almost yelled when he was also thrown across the room, where he landed in a crumpled heap beside Marle.

Magus stood still as he watched Lucca cast a strange spell over her fists. He stared as his beloved began to punch and kick at the armored figure with a new fury in her being. Her fists glowed a dull red, and created long streaks of light as she incessantly jabbed at the figure’s torso. Magus couldn’t bring himself to do anything; he knew Lucca was fighting a losing battle, but something was telling him not to attack the last armored being.

It was only a matter of time until Lucca was knocked out. Her small form fell to the ground as she slumped into unconsciousness. The armored figure turned toward the still form of the mage. Magus wanted to attack the creature, but he couldn’t move. He couldn’t bring himself to hurt the person. Magus closed his eyes shut, and opened them again, hoping that the armored figure would disappear. Instead, he saw the barrel of a gun pointed at his head. Magus cursed himself for his weakness.

The dark wizard blinked. The armored figure—was gone! Magus looked around the room and saw Alex standing in front of the figure out in the hall. Apparently, the police officer was now very much awake, and he had forced the attacker into the hall with one brutal punch.

Alex was mad. He wasn’t sure what had happened while he was unconscious, but he was afraid—afraid that someone he cared for was really hurt. He felt it in his stomach; the feeling that something truly horrible had happened. It felt like the battle was occurring in slow motion as Alex steadily blocked the barrage of strong punches and kicks that were directed at him. Alex bared his teeth as he began to change from defensive to offensive tactics. He jabbed low at the figure’s stomach, and sparks flew as his bracers skidded against the figure’s armor. He heard the attacker grunt in pain, and he knew he had already won the fight.

Magus ran outside into the hall and saw what he had dreaded. Alex was repeatedly hitting the attacker without mercy, causing the figure to stagger backwards through the hall. The dark mage flinched at the loud cracks when Alex’s fists connected with his opponent’s armor. It was only a few moments until the figure fell to the ground, small chunks of hard gray armor missing from what used to be an impressive suit. Alex’s back was to the wizard as the police officer bent down over the fallen figure. Magus’ eyes widened.

“Alex, no! No!” Magus ran towards Alex as the officer raised his fist above the fallen warrior’s visor. “Don’t kill her!”

“Her?” Alex thought for a moment. Rage clouded his mind, however, and he quickly resumed his actions.

Magus’s words weren’t getting through to Alex. Magus jumped forward as Alex’s fist began to descend towards the face of the attacker. Magus’ momentum was just enough to knock the officer forward a bit, and his fist came down onto the floor, breaking the hard marble into a thousand tiny shards.

Alex turned around to the mage, furious. “What…did you do?”

“Lift the visor, Alex, do it, man!” Magus was just as enraged as the officer. Perhaps it was due to his inability to assist Lucca, or the fact that he was completely unaware as to why he was acting so strangely.

Alex turned back to the attacker he was sitting upon, and then towards the mage again. “What?” He was still quite angry.

“Do it!” Magus yelled.

Alex ripped the helmet from the head of his victim, and was speechless. By some cruel twist of fate, the attacker he had almost murdered was Noria.

He stared down into her bruised, unconscious face and closed his eyes. He quickly pushed Magus off of himself, and got up.

“It was not your fault, officer, you did not know…” Magus started.

“The…Elders…they try to trick me however they can…” Alex said softly as he walked back to the room.

Magus shook his head. At least the mage knew why he had been so reluctant to attack this person. The mage shivered. If he had killed Noria with a simple spell, Alex would never have forgiven him. In fact, Magus would probably have been forced to do battle with the officer, a battle where he would have been forced to kill his new ally. Magus grabbed the limp, but heavy body of Noria and dragged it into the room.

Much to his surprise, his friends had all risen, and were rubbing their heads. He gently dropped the body of Noria and ran over to Lucca. He quickly took her into an embrace, much to her surprise, and repeatedly kissed her neck and face.

“I am so sorry…I couldn’t attack her…it was Noria…I am so sorry…” the mage whispered in between affectionate kisses.

Lucca blushed. “It’s okay, I’m all right, really.”

Crono and Marle looked at each other as they watched this display. Marle winked at Crono as if to say, ‘I knew it’. Crono smiled back, and shrugged.

“Are the people in the lobby going to call the police?” Marle suddenly asked Alex, quite worriedly.

“There aren’t any people on this floor. And trust me, with the material they build these walls and floors out of, no one heard anything above or below us.”

“Where is everybody?” Marle quickly added.

“No one can afford this floor. It’s ridiculously expensive,” Alex said. He had his head in his hands as he sat on the edge of one of the beds. “I get a police discount.”

“What’s wrong with him?” Crono whispered to Marle. The princess shrugged.

“Do not blame yourself. It didn’t happen, did it?” Magus said to Alex. The mage was now facing towards the officer with his arm around Lucca.

“Magus, I came so close, I…” Alex looked into the dark eyes of the mage. “…Yes, you’re right, I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. We should revive her.”

Alex got up and removed the huge portions of crumbling armor that lay on Noria. He threw them each into the corner of his room, and then picked up her limp body and set it upon one of the double beds. Underneath her armor she wore a tight black shirt with a small insignia on the sleeve which read ‘Consul’.

Alex flinched as he looked at her bruised face. He lifted her shirt up a little to reveal the dark bruises on her sides, underneath her ribcage. “She’s bleeding, internally. I’ll have to go downstairs and see if there are any medical supplies in stock.”

“Don’t bother,” Marle extended her hand toward the form of Noria, and a familiar blue glow extended from her hand and enveloped the unconscious woman’s body. The bruises on her cheeks and face disappeared, along with the ones on her body. “I’m not sure if this is wise, but I assume you know what you’re doing, Alex.”

“I do.” The police officer bent down and grasped Noria’s hand, and kissed it gently. The girl’s eyes fluttered open. She looked around, and her eyes widened.

“Where am I? How is it that I am alive?” she asked softly.

“You were knocked unconscious. We healed you,” Alex said, his eyes full of love.

“No…no, this isn’t good. They think you’re gone. And they will send someone to make sure.” She sat up in the bed and stared at the shattered doorway.

“I don’t understand; the Elders couldn’t have believed for a second that three of you could defeat five of us,” Crono said loudly.

“Of course not; they knew Alex would kill all of you for them,” Noria said indifferently.

“What?” Marle asked with narrowed eyes.

“They sent us in…to die. They knew that one of you would kill me, and that Alex would then kill whoever killed me. Of course, the rest of you wouldn’t let him, and you would try to stop him. The Elders did it to tear your team apart.”

“Alex wouldn’t have killed any of us!” Lucca said loudly.

“Wouldn’t he? Have you ever seen him act like this?” Noria motioned at the police officer. His eyes stared vacantly at Noria. He had no idea what was being said. “Officers of the Law Layer are incapable of love; it’s just not in their genetic programming. Sure they can lust, even become mad with sexual desire, but never could they love. Love is the only thing that can compromise loyalty, so the government here made sure their new super soldiers would be without it. Fortunately, the nanites in their blood are very easy to dominate. The Elders devised a way to alter a police officer’s brain chemistry by using their nanites in order to force that officer to not only love another, but to love another in such a way that he would be unable to retain good judgement.”

“You mean; this is mind control?” Crono said as he pointed at Alex.

“Not really. It’s just, as long as I’m around, he’ll do anything I want, won’t you, dear?”

Alex nodded, and rubbed Noria’s soft hand against his cheek.

“Anyway, after Alex ‘rescued’ me a few months ago in the Darkscape, I have used the special pheromones given to me by the Elders. They force Alex to love me. The Elders thought it best for me to stay with Alex for a few weeks, and then to disappear altogether, leaving him disillusioned and impressionable. The Elders needed a fighting machine, what can I say? Alex wandered through his life afterwards, emotionless and depressed, looking for me, always hoping to find me. This left him in the perfect state to be cultivated into a rebel against the government he had always been so loyal to. Of course, now that you’ve helped us recover a batch of weapons that have helped all of us to become super soldiers, we don’t really need Alex’s help anymore. He’s useless, so to speak, and so are all of you.”

“I should have killed you when I had the chance,” Magus said, raising his arm towards Noria.

“I wouldn’t do that, tall, dark, and handsome. Alex over here is bound to kill every one of you if you tried that.” Noria grinned fiendishly.

“He wouldn’t be able to kill us all,” Crono said with his katana drawn.

“True, but I’m quite certain he’d get one or two of you. Are you willing to risk it?” Noria’s face was much less bright than before.

Magus gritted his teeth. “I am not sure I could kill Alex fast enough.”

“We’re not killing Alex!” Marle yelled. “We’ve gotta think of some other way out of this.”

“I hate to say it, but you just don’t have time. Alex, wouldn’t you like to come with me home? Hold on, I’ll just—” Noria said as she held her fingers by her temple.

Magus realized what was about to happen. Noria was going to teleport Alex out of the room. The mage quickly muttered a few syllables, and Noria’s expression froze.

“Noria, my love? What is wrong?” Alex looked very worried as he rubbed the girl’s cheek with the back of his hand.

“What did you do to her, Magus?” Lucca asked.

“She’s a bit confused, for the moment. It is time to re-alter Alex’s brain chemistry,” the dark mage said.

“You can do that?” Crono asked incredulously.

“I am quite certain I can. I’m familiar enough with his mind that I can erase his love for this woman, and block any further attempts on her part to seduce him,” Magus added.

“You’re amazing,” Lucca said under her breath.

Magus placed his hand on the side of Alex’s face and closed his eyes. Without warning, Alex screamed loudly, and reached to grab Magus’ hand. Crono pinned Alex down on the bed, holding his hands down. Alex continued to scream, until he finally head-butted Magus in the chin, causing the mage to stagger backward. Crono’s eyes widened as he felt Alex wrench free of his grip and elbow him hard in the face. Crono fell to the floor, holding his nose in pain.

Alex moved surprisingly fast, and performed a wide crescent kick, knocking Lucca and Marle to the floor. Alex let out an animalistic snarl and flew towards Magus, who was still standing. Magus barely had enough time to put up a large protective wall as he rubbed his bleeding chin. Alex crashed into it with such a force that it almost dissipated entirely. Magus stared at the angry police officer with wide eyes as he beat his fists against the invisible barrier. Magus was angry, and was tempted to really hurt Alex, but quickly refrained himself. He smiled. Perhaps Marle would do it for him.

The princess was getting tired of all these men hitting her and shooting her all the time in this world. And then Crono or Magus would have to come by and save her or something. She just wasn’t going to put up with it anymore. It was time to show everyone what she was really made of. Marle deftly tapped Alex on the shoulder.

The police officer turned around, furious, only to feel a thundering crack fill his ears. He flew backward, screaming in pain. The stunned officer gathered his wits and somersaulted off the wall he was flying towards. He landed directly in front of Marle. He put his fists in front of his face and advanced on the princess. To his surprise, he found a quick, powerful jab land in his stomach, knocking the air out of him. He was barely able to handle the incredibly fast thrusts that were flying toward his face and torso, and he started to back up as he tried his best to deflect and avoid Marle’s tireless assault.

Marle inwardly smiled. She was winning. She was beating the living crap out of Alex. She saw the rage in his eyes disappear, and slowly become replaced with fear and confusion. He was doing a great job blocking most of her punches, but every once in a while, she’d land one in his stomach or chin, causing Alex to become more off-balance, or more defensive. Alex had almost completely stopped attacking her, and was now basically blocking every one of her attacks. Marle decided to try something a little different.

Alex felt his face swelling. Marle was hitting him harder than he had ever been hit before. That symbiote living inside her truly gave her power. Alex felt her fist smash into his chin, and he staggered back. It seemed like a dream, and he watched Marle spin around. As she turned back to face Alex, her leg extended to kick him swiftly in the side of the face. Alex smiled. He remembered something he had forgotten in his rage. Strength does not necessarily mean that one’s opponent is more skilled than yourself. Alex’s hand, as if of its own accord, flew towards Marle’s exposed stomach. The kick flew over the officer’s head, and Marle flew backward as Alex’s fist drilled into her body.

The prism dress absorbed most of the blow, but Marle had been entirely unready for the attack, not to mention the ensuing punches that landed in her trunk. No! She couldn’t lose. She could see Magus warming up a spell from out of the corner of her eye. She knew Crono and Lucca were getting up. Marle was going to end this. She yelled out a few strange, but musical words, and the entire room suddenly turned blue. Alex stopped his attack, and looked about, wildly. Without warning, two huge ice boulders materialized above the police officer and landed upon him.

Quickly, the enormous ice stones disappeared to reveal his limp form. The room’s hue returned to normal, and it was suddenly as if nothing had ever occurred.

“That was awesome, Marle! I didn’t know you could fight like that!” Lucca said as she put her arm around her friend.

“Let me fix him, now,” Magus said as he walked over to Alex’s still form.

“I couldn’t beat him, Lucca. He was reading my moves the whole time,” Marle said, depressed.

“That’s not true! If you had beaten him in that fistfight, it would have been the symbiote’s victory, not yours. Instead, you used your own power,” Crono said as he stepped up beside her.

“That’s…unexpectedly wise of you to say, Crono!” Marle turned around and hugged him.

“Done!” Magus said as he rose. “When he wakes, he will be completely without that one…emotion, like he should have always been.”

“As long as he’s back to normal, I guess,” Lucca said. “What do we do with the witch queen, here?”

“Keep her; she may just come in handy,” Magus said with a sly smirk. “For now, let us heal our wounds, and prepare for tonight. We have some Elders to visit.”


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