Until the End of Time Part 2, Chapter 4

Orphans of Fire

By Demon-Fighter Ash

March, 1010 AD

"It's almost finished," Lucca said as she screwed the top half of the golden egg over the small machine-filled capsule. Janus and Kid sat at the living-room table with her, looking at the egg-like machine and then the scattered notes and diagrams spread across the table beneath it, Kid dressed in her pajamas.

"Is that a timed egg," Kid asked, gripping the table with both hands as she looked at it.

"That's it," Lucca said proudly, "the electromagnetic containment field's in place. In theory, a microscopic black hole could be contained within the polarized shell by the magnetic field, and rotating the chrono trigger's field should also rotate the singularity within the black hole."

"Uh-huh," Kid asked doubtfully and turned toward Janus, "what does that mean?"

"Among other things," Janus said with a smile, "it means your bedtime was over an hour ago."

"But I want to help Lucca build the egg," she said anxiously.

"Don't worry," Lucca smiled, "you'll get to see it all tomorrow. Besides, you've already stayed up later than the rest of the children. If you stay up too late, you'll sleep through the experiment tomorrow morning."

"Okay," she answered and trudged up the stairs to her bedroom, Lucca rising from her seat and climbing upstairs with her to tuck her into bed. She came back down a few minutes to find Janus sitting at the table, studying the device and glancing over the papers at her notes.

"She asked a good question," he asked, looking up, "what does that mean?"

"Well," she sat down beside him, "a spinning black hole creates a ring-shaped core called a singularity, with a kind of tunnel within it that crosses time and space. If we can rotate the hole fast enough, then the ring will expand into a spatial fold, joining the space around the trigger with another space at another moment of time."

"So it could send anyone near it into a moment of the past or future," he answered, lifting the golden device in one hand and studying it, "just as Gasper's trigger allowed us to go back to a single frozen moment."

"Exactly," she nodded, "except this time-egg's been programmed with a different angular velocity, so it will connect our space-time to the End of Time and Gasper...and hopefully to Schala."

"Do you have any idea what we'll find over there," Janus asked.

"I don't know," she sighed, "but given what we heard, we should probably be prepared for anything."

"Is it ready now?"

"Not quite," she answered, "I still can't figure out how Gasper ever managed to create a microscopic black hole in the first place. Without that the trigger's useless, like a boat without an engine."

"Melchior might know that secret," Janus offered, "we should find him."

"Right," she nodded, "Janus, will you stay here with the children? I'll take the time-egg to him and try to figure out how to finish it. With any luck we'll be back tomorrow afternoon to use it."

"No," he answered slowly, rising from the chair to his feet, "it's too dangerous for you to travel alone with Lynx and the dragon searching for you. I'll make the trip and bring Melchior back here."

"But it's a half-day's journey," she protested, "it'd be quicker for me to go to him to help fix it."

"It's only a half day for boats," Janus said, "I can bring him back by sunrise. Besides, I'm not letting you leave Truce alone, and one of us has to stay here. Let me do this, Lucca."

"Alright," she whispered and rose from the table to hug him, her arms tight around him as she kissed his cheek and looked into her eyes, "but please be careful out there, Janus."

He nodded and kissed Lucca's forehead gently, then slipped her glasses off and began softly kissing her lips, her arms sliding tighter around him. She moaned softly into their kiss and clutched the back of his white jacket tightly as their crushed lips slipped and brushed each other. Janus pulled Lucca's slender body against him and they looked at each other after a moment, the warmth of their kiss lingering between them as they gazed into each other's eyes. Janus suddenly reached down into the collar of his shirt and pulled out a small amulet.

"When I was child in Zeal," he said softly, slipping the necklace from his neck and clutching it in his right hand between them, as he held Lucca with one arm, "Schala gave me this amulet. She said it would always protect me and keep me close to her. Throughout forty years it's done just that."

Lucca silently nodded and looked at the amulet, a beautiful tear-shaped charm carved from purple amethyst and linked to a thin golden chain. She remembered watching Schala giving young Janus the amulet, just before she went to the Ocean Palace. Throughout his life, Janus had never been without it.

"The amulet," he said, nearly whsipering, "is yours now."

"Janus," she said, her voice trembling, "I can't take this..."

"It's protected me," he interrupted her, sliding his fingers along her arm and curling her palm open to slip the amulet into her hand, "and now I want it to protect you. I want you to have it."

"Alright," she said, sliding the amulet around her own neck and looking up into his eyes, "but it's still your amulet...and I promise I'll never take it off, no matter what."

"Fair enough," he smiled, and kissed her forehead once more, then hovered into the air, sweeping through the front door into the night. Lucca lifted the amulet back up, her hand trembling slightly as she remembered Schala giving the amulet to Janus, telling him it would always keep them close together. He had never taken the amulet off after that day, through a lifetime in the middle ages, his search through the ruins of Zeal, over the past decade in the modern era: until tonight, when he had given it to her, to keep her as close to him as it had kept him to Schala.

"Janus," she whispered softly, her eyes gleaming, "I love you too."

* * *

Lucca stood at the front door, looking across the teenager's shoulder at the faint red glow over the eastern horizon, the hanging black clouds hinting a storm tomorrow afternoon. The young man waited as she looked back down at the handwritten letter. It'd taken her almost a week to decide what to write--how much did she risk giving away if Porre intercepted the letter or Luccia turned it over to the military? She didn't dare be too specific, lest Porre and its goddess find it and learn about Kid's importance, or about their own plans...

She'd been pleasantly surprised to discover that Luccia still remembered her, that despite all the changes in history, their lifelong friendship had somehow survived in this timeline. But she still wasn't totally sure if she could trust her friend, the young woman who, in this world, had joined the Porre government and built Grobyc.

But if anything happened to them, Luccia might be the only person who'd remain to tell Kid what it meant; her position in the Porre military would shield her from the forces aligning against them. Tomorrow morning she and Janus would use the time-egg to travel to a darkness beyond time, to confront a madness that defied comprehension and hopefully emerge from it with Schala. She still didn't know what would happen to Kid if they succeeded--would the rescue erase the child they'd raised, or would it fulfill her history somehow?

She had to leave a message behind for Kid if something went wrong out there or if Lynx, the feline monster that had come to Porre for her, actually captured her somehow. She hoped and prayed Kid would never have to read this letter, but she owed it to her to make sure that the letter was there, just in case. She unfolded the paper and read over it once more, ignoring the young man's impatient expression...

"My Dear Kid,

"How are you doing? I wonder how old you are as you read this letter? Perhaps you've matured into a beautiful woman, raising a happy family, by now? I was hoping to talk to you in person when you were old enough, but just in case something happens, I'm writing my feelings down on paper and leaving it with Luccia. Perhaps you already know, or perhaps you yourself are also now caught up in some historic crisis as a result of all this. But, anyway...

"A long time ago, we--my friends and I, that is--changed the future in order to save our planet from being devoured by Lavos, a monster from some unknown planet. We still feel proud of the role we played in saving our world, and in how we were so freely able to change the flow of time.

"But sometimes I think of the darker side of what we did...what has become of the future that was once supposed to have existed? Where did the "time" that now is no longer allowed to exist "go?" It is true that, thanks to our altering the flow of history, we were able to save so many lives and prevent so much sadness and suffering...

"But when you think of it, we also caused the deaths of so many that were meant to have come into existence in the time line we destroyed, and also caused new sadness and suffering further along in the new future we created. That is why I worry that someone might seek revenge on us for what we did. I have had a constant dread in my heart that someone in our new future will travel back in time, just like we did, and try and kill or capture my friends and me. So, even if something dreadful does befall me, Kid, know that what was meant to happen will happen, and that I was always prepared for the worst.

"Oh, but don't you dare think the Great Lucca is going to go down without a fight! (I've got a reputation to uphold!) Whatever lies waiting for us around the next corner better watch out, 'cause it's gonna find a pretty mean counter-attack coming its way!

"Kid...when I think of you, I remember someone I once met a long, long time ago in the distant past... Heh! But she was the complete opposite of the you in this time line...so quiet and gentle...someday I'll also tell you about her...when you are ready to know of your real name and heritage.

"I'm not the slightest bit worried about you, Kid! I know that, no matter what happens, he will always be there looking out for you! Or perhaps he has already found you and is there by your side as you read this? If so, hello Janus! Please take good care of my "little sister" for me!

"There is so much more I want to tell you, but I must leave it for another time. Don't worry! Everything is okay! We will overcome whatever woes may occur! That's for certain! Later, when you're all grown up, I'll come visit you and we'll talk over tea. I look forward to that day! Well, anyway Kid, until we meet again...

"Forever and ever your friend,

(No matter which time line it is!)

yours sincerely,

Lucca Ashtear

"P.S. Cut out the tomboy act! Believe me! You'll become a beautiful young lady one day, or my name isn't 'Lucca the Great!'"

She folded the paper again, wishing she could tell more but knowing that she couldn't risk writing about the goddess, the flame, or Zeal--writing about such things could endanger Kid if Porre found the letter. Kid would have to learn about those things for herself if anything ever happened to Lucca. She slipped the folded letter back into the envelope and gave it to the brown-haired young man at the door.

"Are you sure you'll be able to get this to her?"

"It'll be tricky," he answered, "Luccia lives in the Porre capital. But sneaking into the city shouldn't be too difficult since Porre's defenses were really only built to guard against direct assaults."

"If there's anything I can do," she offered, "money..."

"Definitely not," he replied, "I know you don't agree with our methods, but we're both committed to Truce and the restoration of Guardia, and that dream would never have been possible without you. This service couldn't begin to repay the debt that Truce and the Radical Dreamers owe you."

"Be careful, Seth. If it gets dangerous, forget about the letter and just get out of there."

"Without danger," he said as he pocketed the letter and disappeared into the night, "where's the fun?"

* * *

Cold dark water capped by white foam split open as the tuxedo-clad figure swept above the surface of the sea, the deep wake trailing behind him crashing inward as he flew across the heaving ocean toward the distant shape of Melchior's seaside house, the shadowy crag of Mystic Mountain looming behind it. He glided onto the beach, arms spread slightly as he landed, and he continued his pace as he strode across the fields toward the lonely house, glancing once at the glowing eastern sky with a frown before looking back at the front door.

He looked about the dark windswept fields, trying to see the heat of any of the teens who might be lying in wait for intruders. The fields and blowing grass were empty. One less inconvenience, at least.

"Melchior," Janus shouted as he pounded on the front door.

He sighed and looked in through the windows, the house shrouded in darkness. He banged on the front door once more, then held out his hand and, with a single whispered word, blew the door open.

He stepped into the house and looked around at the main room. Maps and schedules lay scattered over the table and a new folder filled with the latest Porre schedules sat unopened on the old guru's desk. Janus recognized most of the maps on the table; he had helped plan many of their attacks and had even delivered the opening shots of their battles, using his spells to blind and confuse the soldiers while the teens robbed the convoy vehicles.

A faint chill wind howled outside and Janus suddenly stiffened, turning around toward the small bed in the left corner of the main room, and the blanket-shrouded shape within. He paced across the oriental rugs and wooden floor, silently counting each step, and pulled back the covers from the old man's face, rolling him onto his back.

Melchior lay calmly in his bed, his eyes lightly closed and a faint smile on his face, but Janus felt the cold of the man's flesh against his fingertips. Janus took a step back from the bed and shook his head slowly, trying to see the guru's fading aura. The pall of death hung over the bed, but it was a calm aura, with no howling winds or black shadows. Melchior had passed away peacefully in his sleep, without waking. There had been no intruders--after a lifetime split between two worlds, old age had claimed the guru while he slept.

The enlightened ones all lived longer than the earthbound ones--Janus himself was nearing fifty, although he still looked like he was in his thirties, just as he had twenty years ago--but even they couldn't last much longer than the two centuries Melchior's eyes had seen...

Janus tore the covers off the old man and ripped open the collar of his sleepshirt, exposing the cold white flesh of the guru's unbeating chest. He pressed his left palm against Melchior's chest and closed his eyes.

A bolt of electric energy filled Janus's veins and swept down his arm, coursing through his fingers and spreading through Melchior's chest. Janus counted to himself, then focused, sending a second and third blast of electricity into the guru, the old man's heart clenching and relaxing with each jolt of lightning. The body arched up against the bed with each blast and finally collapsed again as Janus lifted his hand away.

It had been too long. Life had faded completely from the guru's aura and, no matter how many times Janus made his heart pulse with electricity, it would never beat on its own, nor would the he would ever wake up. A faint shudder run through him as he realized Melchior would never come visit the orphanage again--the guru had been like a grandfather to him as a child, and perhaps even more so over the past five years. He glanced about the room and noticed the blue and orange uniform of Zeal draped across the foot of the bed, the same uniform Melchior had worn every day since his life as a guru. Melchior had remained a faithful guru his whole life, loyal to the Kingdom of Zeal and its people even when such loyalty had demanded that he challenge the kingdom's corrupt queen.

"Guru of Life," Janus said softly, straining to remember the eulogies of the state funerals that he'd learned as a young prince, trying to give the guru the requiem that he would have received in Zeal, that he'd deserved to receive, "you've brought the warmth of life to the eternal kingdom of Zeal and have served the heirs of her throne well. You have transcended the bounds of space and time and so you shall live on forever in the hearts of those who now share in your enlightenment."

He drew the covers back over Melchior's body and rose up from the bed, walking slowly to the door and hesitating for a moment before stepping back into the night.

* * *

Lucca looked up from her notes as a loud steady knock filled the living room. She sighed and walked to the door, wondering if Seth had run into trouble or had come to give the letter back for some reason, then paused for a moment, suddenly suspicious of the short clipped rhythm of the knocks. She jogged silently back to her desk and pulled a key out of her pocket, unlocking the bottom drawer and pulling out the Zonker-3800, and slipped it into her belt as she made her way back to the front door and took a deep breath.

She opened the door and almost wrenched back in surprise, quickly regaining her composure. A tall man in a black gold-trimmed trenchcoat with the collar pulled up around his neck, topped by a tall black hat crossed with golden bands, stood in the doorway. She strained her eyes into the shadows and suddenly realized it wasn't a man at all--the beast stared calmly at her with bright yellow cat-eyes, whiskers twitching against a white-furred muzzle and golden fur covering the top half of his face as his pointed ears flickered against the sides of his hat.

A feline demi-human--Lynx. It had finally begun.

"Lucca Ashtear," the monstrous panther-beast asked in a clear intelligent voice, "I presume?"

"None other," she answered suspiciously, "but who are you?"

"My name is Lynx and that young woman behind you is my associate, Harle."

Lucca whirled around and jerked back at the sight of a slender young girl dressed like a harlequin standing in the middle of the living-room, wearing blue silk pants, a red vest and floppy red cloth horns atop her white painted face. She leaned against one of the back walls as though she'd been waiting for Lucca to notice her.

"Bonjour, mademoiselle Lucca," the girl announced in a cheerful french accent, "how do you do?"

Lucca shook her head in disbelief and stared at the pretty young girl's bright red clothes and friendly smile as the girl looked back at her from across the room. Robo had said that Lynx would be accompanied by another far more powerful and dangerous--how could he have possibly meant this harlequin? Perhaps Lynx had left that more powerful enemy behind, or maybe Robo had made a mistake. She prayed he'd made a mistake...

"You make a cute couple. But what can I help you with?"

Lynx snarled a little, apparently resenting being associated with the harlequin more than necessary, then continued in the same calm reasonable voice.

"As I'm sure you already know, I've come from Porre to meet you. Apparently there were some mistakes in the communications between the leaders of Porre and its soldiers, which led to their misguided attempts to arrest you. I came here personally to offer my apologies for that and for the trouble we've caused."

She tilted her head a little and tried to make out the feline's expression. He looked bizarre but over the years she'd gotten pretty used to dealing with bizarre-looking characters. Aside from the cat-like face and paws, he might have been a Porre general--he wore a kind of black uniform himself, though one she'd never seen before.

"It took them long enough to figure it out! Do you know how much trouble your soldiers have caused in Truce?! Every time they come running in after me they end up destroying another building!"

"I know, I've read the reports. I've approved an order to repair the damage done to the village during their attacks, starting tomorrow. I'm truly sorry, those attacks on Truce should never have happened."

"Well, that's a start."

Lucca shook her head softly and tried to figure out the black-clad feline demi-human and his surreal partner; this wasn't going anything like she'd imagined it would. She tilted her head back toward Harle as she spoke.

"And what's her story?"

"Je suis une amis de Monsieur Lynx," she answered with an amiable wave of her hand, "I am here to study hiz, er, diplomatical skillz, non?"

"Ms. Ashtear," Lynx interrupted, "we need your help. The Porre military has found something in the El Nido archipelago, something that we believe you might have an interest in."

Here it comes, she thought, taking a deep breath.

"What did you find?"

"A circuit-board buried deep in the heart of what seems to be a prehistoric computer. It's an incredible find and we're still trying to figure out exactly what it means. The circuit-board had your family's name on it, and what's more, it seems to be sentient. It used the computer's visual interface to speak with us."

"Everybody knows that artificial-sentience doesn't exist," she played along, "how's that possible?"

"The sentient said that it came from the future, from the year 2400 AD. It said it has been trapped within the larger computer for many years since it was thrown back in time. It also asked for you by name, to ask for your help in freeing it from the computer within which it's now contained. It said to tell you Robo needs you."

Tears filled Lucca's eyes and she quickly wiped them away. She wanted to believe him, she wanted Robo to be safe so badly, she wanted to go to El Nido and help free him from whatever kept him prisoner there. But she had to be sure, she had to test them, to make sure that Robo really had just made some kind of mistake.

"When did you find him?"

"Just a few days ago. I came by boat to Truce as soon as he told us your name."

"Did he ask about Crono and Marle?"

"Yes, he did. We told him that they were the casualties of a regrettable war and that they died noble deaths trying to protect their people. He was saddened, but relieved to know that you were still alive."

"Liar," she hissed under her breath, "how dare you speak Robo's name!"

She whipped her gun out of her belt and quickly took aim, relishing the look of shock on Lynx's face just as she pulled the trigger. A small round ball of light flew out of the barrel and he roared like a tiger as it struck his chest and ignited his fur. He fell to the ground as the flames spread over his paws and face and suddenly a writhing shadow rose out of his body, enveloping it like smoke and extinguishing the flames as he stood up.

"Robo already knew about Crono and Marle because I told him," she shouted, "and he warned me about you, Lynx! And your makeup-obsessed girlfriend over there!"

"How rude," Harle exclaimed behind her, "you should learn zome respect, you petite-chienne!"

Lynx shook his head to Harle and looked down upon Lucca. As he stepped through the doorway Lucca realized for the first time just how big Lynx really was.

"I'm glad you already know of us," he said calmly, "that makes this a great deal simpler. Prometheus and Belthasar were fools, Lucca, timidly second-guessing their own ambitions. If it hadn't been for their cowardice, we would have brought order to this war-torn planet long ago."

Belthasar, she wondered to herself, what does the Guru of Reason have to do with any of this? This wasn't the time or the person to ask, though, so she just ignored the name for now. Besides, Lynx seemed to think that she already knew everything about him. She had to hold onto that advantage.

"The only war I've seen is the one you caused yourself! And look at you two, a werecat and a freaky harlequin-girl! What kind of order would two monsters like you bring to this world?"

"You of all people should not know not to judge people by their appearances," Lynx said with a slight tilt of his head, obviously enjoying this, "but I don't have time for a philosophical debate. You will either accompany us to the El Nido archipelago to release the Prometheus Lock or," he said in a low, threatening voice as he raised his right claw into the air, "we will destroy this orphanage and all its squalling children."

"No," Lucca whispered as a fiery orb began to take shape around the palm of Lynx's hand, "why don't you make it a fair fight. We go outside and settle this ourselves. Unless of course," she taunted with a smirk, "you don't think you're strong enough to take down the Great Lucca all by yourself!"

"Interesting proposition," Lynx answered with a tilt of his head, "I'm tempted. Harle," he called out behind him, over his shoulder, "what do you think of her offer?"

The petite clown-girl suddenly stepped out of the shadows outside and glided through the front door, and Lucca glanced back in bewilderment to where the harlequin had just been standing behind her, only to find the main room empty. Obviously the clown wasn't as harmless or powerless as she seemed.

"Moi? I zink," she started in her lilting french accent, "zat human beings use honor as an excuze to hide zeir weaknesses. Wouldn't you agree Monsieur Lynx?"

"Exactly Harle," he said with a slow smile, "there's no strategic sense in not exploiting every advantage."

A crimson flood of light filled the room and Lucca twisted her head away with a cry as a towering, whirling column of flame rose from Lynx's hand to sweep through the ceiling and upward through the second floor, smashing through the roof. The light faded after a moment, leaving the smell of acrid smoke, the sound of crying children and a cleanly-burnt tunnel stretching from the ceiling up into the cloudy night, lit by rings of spreading fire around each of the gaping holes, flames writhing down the walls and across the floor of the old house.


"That," Lynx explained calmly, as though he were giving a lecture, "is one of the elements of fire. I'm sure you've seen such elements during the war. We've spent over 8,000 years harnessing their power and even your magic can't possibly stand up to them. If you value your remaining children's lives, surrender now."

Lucca hadn't heard a word Lynx had said, her ears crackling instead with the sound of flames devouring the oak walls and burning away the carpet, her eyes filled with the red gleam, the cat's mouth moving soundlessly as her blood began to seethe with a fire hotter than the elemental flames dancing around her.

"You monster," she snarled, "I won't let you lay a finger on these kids!"

Lynx simply smirked, his fangs baring beneath his muzzle, and lifted his claw again. She screamed as a red glow began to swirl about his paws again and she lifted her own hands toward him, her wrists pressed together and her fingers spread out to make a bowl shape as she closed her eyes tight.


A rolling stream of liquid fire whirled between her fingers and lashed out through the air, engulfing Lynx's paws in flame and shattering the small crystal he held between his hands. He staggered back against the wall with a roar and lifted his singed claws up to his face, studying the blackened rock in his hand before throwing it down.

She smiled as she realized that she'd smashed his precious so-called element, that whatever power he'd had over fire before, he'd lost it. She only wished she could use something stronger than basic fire-magic, but she didn't dare to cast any stronger fire-spell within the old dry-wood house, not with the kids still around. Beads of sweat ran down her face and she looked through the shimmering air at the feline monster; countering his fire element with her fire-magic had left the air heavy with free-floating heat. She wiped the sweat from her eyes and glared at him.

"So," Lynx whispered, his yellow eyes wide, "that is the power of Lavos. Harle," he called out in a mixture of pain and impatience, "I could use your help over here."

"Of course, Monsieur! Here I go!"

Lucca drew her gun again and pulled back the chamber to load another energy-charge. She took aim at the open doorway behind Lynx's shoulders, into the darkness where she'd heard Harle's voice, and waited for the clown to attack, taking slow deep breaths, using her shirt to block out the swirling clouds of smoke as she stared into the darkness, waiting for some shadow or hint of movement, her fingertip pressed to the trigger.

"Looking for moi?"

Lucca twisted back toward the living room a moment too late and she screamed in pain as a silver dart flew through the air and pierced her arm, a faint trickle of blood running down her wrist as the gun dropped from her hand and slammed onto the burning wooden floor. Lucca tore the dart loose from her arm and covered the wound with her left hand, then fell to her knees with a cry as another dart stabbed her right leg. She looked up, her eyes blurred with pain and smoke, at the slightly pouting clown above her as Harle took aim with a third dart.

"I am tres-sorry mademoiselle," Harle whispered, apparently not wanting Lynx to hear her, "I have noz'ing personal against you, but ze dragons must be awakened!"

"Dragons," Lucca groaned, "so Robo was right...you really are the dark-moon dragon..."

Harle tilted her head with a curious expression and looked at Lucca, confused.

"How could you know about zat," Harle asked as she lifted the dart, "ah well, it does not mat'ter..."

Something slammed through the air and hit Harle's face, then pounded against her porcelain-white cheek again and again. Lucca yanked the second dart from her leg and looked up to see Gato standing over Harle, his red boxing-glove covered with white powder. The young clown gave an indignant cry and crawled through the room as he gave pursuit, his metal wheels squeaking over the floor and both his fists outstretched. He chased her across the room and then turned back to Lucca, his boxing-glove fist folding back into his metal torso.

"Madam Lucca, you need medical attention. I will contact..."

A curved metal blade suddenly ripped through his steel torso-plate and tore through his circuitry, pulling backward and yanking wires and transistors out from the ragged hole in his metal frame. Gato's eyes lit up with alarm and he fell backward, his speakers crackling and limbs twitching as sparks flew from his torn-open circuits.


"Error...error...I have been damaged...motor-controls not responding...I am...sorry..."

"A primitive automaton," Lynx said as he shoved Gato's bulky metal body out of the way and brushed the wires off the blade of his scythe, "but amazingly advanced for this era. It's a testament to your skill, Lucca Ashtear, and a shame I had to destroy it. How much more destruction will you tolerate before you stop fighting? Will I have to burn down this whole orphanage? Come with us and there'll be no need for such senseless violence."

She shook her head, realizing that she had to get these two away from the orphanage, so that the children might have some chance of getting out of this unhurt. She reached to her chest for the amulet, for some measure of comfort, and felt her heart clench as she realized that it was gone--the latch must have torn during her fight with the harlequin. She sighed and sank onto her knees, knowing she'd never be able to fight without her gun anyway, not unless she could somehow get them away from the orphanage and the children, where she could use her full magic against these monsters without having to worry about anybody else.

"Fine, you win," her heart sinking, "I'll go with you and get you your stupid flame."

"A wise choice, Ms. Ashtear," Lynx muttered, then raised his voice, "Harle, come! We're leaving!"

"Une minute, s'il vous plais!"

Harle walked up to Lynx, brushing soot off her skintight cherry-red outfit, and smiled at Lucca.

"Tres bien! I am glad you decided to join us, mademoiselle!"

Lucca looked around despairingly at the pictures the children had drawn, Crono, Marle, Ayla, the whole gang burning away in the fire. She closed her eyes, listening to the children crying, her heart breaking as she heard Kid sobbing upstairs, knowing the only thing she could do to help was to get Lynx and Harle out of here, and pray that once these two monsters were gone the children would be able to escape the burning house.

Lynx swept one arm around her waist and picked her up as Harle stood beside him waiting. He suddenly grabbed her glasses in his other hand and yanked them off, throwing them to the floor.

"What," Lucca cried out, the world suddenly reduced to blobs of red and black, "what did you do that for?!"

"I don't want you trying anything you might regret on the way. When the time comes we'll give them back to you, and until then you won't need your sight."

Despite the swarming whirlpool of colors, Lucca suddenly noticed another shape further off, a blue animate form that, after a moment, she realized was a person. Apparently the other two noticed it as well.

"Who is zat?"

"Nobody important," Lynx snarled, "probably just a village boy. Let's go!"

Harle raised one hand toward the burning half-collapsed ceiling and with a cold sweep of black whirling air, the three vanished, leaving the burning orphanage empty except for the sound of crackling flames and crying children.


Part 2, Chapter 5

Crossover Fanfics