So, on to item #2 on the agenda. He had to figure out exactly what had happened to his powers. The expression of pure, unadulterated rage he had let loose in front of Tess' house had reawakened something within him, but it had only restored the most basic, weakest abilities. Probably less than one percent of what he knew he was capable of doing. Still, his inability to control the anger disturbed him. While he actually hadn't lashed out or hit anything, the all consuming purity of it was worrisome.
Since it had reawakened his power, maybe the anger was also caused by his power in some way. In any case, he needed to know more. Since the 'Synth Labs had never been rebuilt after he and his siblings destroyed it, it stood to reason that the data on 'synths would now be stored in the main database of Soultech, which, of course, could only be accessed inside the Soultech building. It would be incredibly stupid of him to go there. On the other hand, they wouldn't be expecting anything that stupid. In any case, he needed to think this one out first.
A bored receptionist on the main floor of the Soultech building looked up without interest as an old man with a white beard hobbled up to the desk. "May I help you?" She asked in a monotone.
"Ye-*hack!* Yes." Lion growled out in what he hoped wasn't an over the top crotchety voice. "I saw that prototype everyone's after when I was out on my walk this mornin'. He was browsin' in the dumpster behind the Skybreak dealership in block 183."
The receptionist turned to look at two Soultech troops who had been talking amongst themselves about twenty feet away. "Did you guys catch that?"
"Loud and clear." One of them growled. Lion noticed that both of them were covered with bruises. He smiled a bit. "But General Habeeb's orders were to let him roam free."
'Habeeb?!' Lion's brow furrowed in puzzlement. What possible interest could the greatest Soultech soldier of this age have in him? And why in the world would Habeeb choose to help him? It didn't make any sense.
"But, he didn't say anything about not being able to take a look, did he?" The other asked.
"No, he didn't, at that." The first grinned deviously. "Let's go check it out." It was plain from their expressions that they intended to "check out" his vital organs. They were complete idiots if they thought they would be any kind of a match for him.
Then, he caught himself, and sighed. They had been complete idiots yesterday. Now, they were probably quite reasonable. Then, he snapped back to the present moment. He and the receptionist were the only ones in the lobby now. It was time to put his plan into action.
With the absence of the sheer raw power he had known all his life, he was quickly becoming more skilled at using small amounts of energy. And, while he appeared to turn around and head back toward the door, a small application of those new skills caused several of the security scanners in the lobby to short out, including the one above the entrance to the emergency stairwell. He stopped in his tracks as a call came in on the receptionist's station, but she didn't notice. "Hey, you've got four scanner blackouts in the lobby. What's up?"
"Huh? I don't know." She responded. "Nothing happened here that would cause them to short out..."
"Some idiot must be trying to hack the security system." Came the reply from the other end. "You inspect them manually, while I'll see what I can do from this end." The call then cut off.
"Oh, sure, inspect them manually." The receptionist grumbled. "What am I, a goddamned mechanic? I don't get paid enough to put up with this crap." As she began to peer at the scanner next to the stairwell, her head suddenly slammed into it, smashing the main lens into several pieces, and knocking her out.
"Then demand a raise or quit." Lion said, brushing his hands off. "Honestly, if you don't like something, change it." Then, he took off into the stairwell. "Like I'm about to do..." Most of the security personnel would now be trying to get a trace on a non-existant hack, while he rushed up the flights, heading for the 25th floor, where the main drives were stored.
The foolproof electronic lock clicked open at a small spark from his fingertip, and he rushed inside the dimly lit room where the seven million exobyte main drives were stored. There were only a few terminals in the currently uninhabited room, and Lion rushed over to one.
His finger was about a millimeter above the touchboard, when the monitor suddenly switched to a new screen. A voice that seemed to come from all directions at once filled the chamber. "Welcome, Lionello." Lion jumped straight out of the chair. "Do not be alarmed. I will allow no one else access to this place as long as you remain here."
"What are you?" His voice sounded calm, though his heart was still thumping in his ears.
"I am the 'Synth Drive." The voice responded. "And I have been instructed to tell you everything you wish to know." Lion glanced around warily, but there seemed to be no sign of a threat in the dark chamber. If anyone was hiding behind the large quantum computers, they could have easily ambushed him by now. Finally, he sat down again, and he absorbed information from the 'Synth Drive for a good while. In the end, despite the risk, he couldn't help laughing out loud.
Habeeb joined in the chuckle.
Lion was smiling broadly at the sheer cosmic joke of it all when he emerged back into the stairwell. What he had learned was so extraordinary that he wasn't as surprised as he should have been when he saw someone coming up the flight of stairs just below him. Then, he saw who it was, and his brief moment of levity was scattered to the four winds. "Tess..." He whispered, forgetting that he was still in disguise, and was giving himself away.
"Who?" She glanced up, and their eyes met. "Lion!"
"What are you doing here?" He whispered.
"I'm one of the few people with the manual override codes for every system in the building. This one was hacked and..." Her angry glare returned as she trailed off. "Though why I'm explaining myself to you is beyond me at the moment." She turned to reach for the communicator on her belt.
"Please don't." He said in a normal tone of voice. He placed his hand around her arm, and used as little force as possible to prevent her from grabbing the device.
"Don't touch me!" She jerked away from him.
"Okay." He said simply, and put his hands in his pockets. "I wish you would just let me explain a little here."
"What could you possibly say that would change anything?" She demanded.
"I love you." He responded quickly. Well, that had changed something. Her expression of pure anger changed to pure shock. "You may think I don't know nearly enough to say that yet, and maybe I don't, but I feel it. I've loved you from the first moment I saw you. And I'd hoped that I would never do anything to hurt you." He slowly sank down to the stairs. "I've already failed in that regard."
She slowly shook her head. "You're just a kid, and-"
"I'm much older than you." He finally smiled a bit as his turn to interrupt came around.
"And you're a criminal, wanted for murder." She finished dryly. "For the murder of someone I loved, or at least liked very much."
"What do you feel towards me?" He felt a bit queasy as the question he dreaded the answer to escaped his mouth.
"I honestly don't see any way anything can work out." She turned away from him. "I won't turn you in... and even now, I can't say that I hate you, but..."
Lion looked to the side as well, as a few tears began to form in his eyes. He felt defeated now. He wanted to mull things over, and maybe try to talk to her later down the line. However, he was also getting a sense that it was now or never. He had to turn things around right now, or he'd never be able to. "I wish..." He started slowly. "I wish there was some way you could see into my head... read my thoughts. Then you'd see..." He slowly turned back toward her. She raised an eyebrow. "Read my thoughts..." He repeated. He couldn't think of anything else to say, so he went ahead and tried it.
Tess wondered just what he was doing as he slowly put two fingers of each hand to his temples, and began concentrating. Before long, a soft yellow glow began to come from his head. Suddenly, a few fleeting glimpses raced through her head of people, 'synths, she didn't know. A feeling of family went with them. She suddenly realized just what he was doing, and her eyes widened. "Lion, wait! I don't think-" But then, it was too late. His eyes opened again, and he looked straight at her.
She was suddenly overwhelmed with a feeling of warmth and caring. A love, yes, it was definitely love, of her. Of all her faults and quirks, of all the things she was ashamed of, as well as everything she liked about herself. Accompanying that was a strong desire to protect her, even as he was uncertain what he needed to protect her from, or whether he could. And finally, a need. Not a greedy want or desire, but a true need. A feeling that he wouldn't be complete until she was a part of him.
It only lasted about three seconds before Lion cried out in pain and collapsed against the stairs. The glow around his head vanished. However, she had needed less than one second. She slowly walked over to him and helped him sit back up. As he groggily shook his head, she realized that he had just bared some of his most private thoughts, with no definite goal or ending in his mind. He had done it simply... for her.
The next morning, as Jaguarena slowly walked out to the main hangar bay of their building to get the Skyshroud Ranger and head off to her court appearance, she was stymied by the fact that the Skyshroud Ranger wasn't there. In the center of its usual docking place was a note, stating simply: "Dates and stuff. You understand."
"Love and hate are flip sides of the same coin." - Kanon, Wild ARMs 2
Chrono Trigger Fanfic