By Aaron Ziegler
Chapter 10: Time Enough
"So, who's Schala?" asked Nabiki as Marle and Lucca emerged from the showers.
"Where'd you hear about her?" asked Marle.
"Magus...mentioned her," Nabiki hedged.
"Schala is, or was, Magus's step-sister," Marle explained. "She was a truly remarkable young woman who lived in 12,000 B.C. on our world. Schala was an extremely powerful magic user, much like Magus, but in nearly all other respects they were like night and day. When we first met them together, Magus, whom we knew then as Janus, was about eight years old, and his sister was sixteen. Janus was a taciturn, apathetic, antisocial little boy whose only friend was his cat. Schala, on the other hand, was energetic, thoughtful, and caring. The two of them loved each other deeply. I think she was the only person ever to truly care for Janus."
"Well, Magus sure seems to have a fixation on her at any rate," commented Nabiki. "So what happened to her?"
Marle's face saddened. "Not long after their father died, their mother, Queen Zeal, decided to try to power the kingdom using the immense magical energy radiated by Lavos. She was corrupted by Lavos's influence, and changed her plans. She decided to try to use the power of Lavos to obtain immortality, and she was going to use Schala's magic to harness that power. Schala knew that her mother was under Lavos's control and she resisted. But in the end, she loved her mother too much to disobey her."
"Now the story gets tricky," said Lucca. "According to Magus, on the day that the Queen's plans were to be fulfilled, he walked in on his mother and sister just in time to witness the summoning of Lavos. His mother, his sister, and Queen Zeal's three advisors, Melchior, the Guru of Life, Balthasar, the Guru of Reason, and Gaspar, the Guru of Time were also there. Once it arrived, Lavos created several time Gates, and sent Janus and the three Gurus to random points in the future. Lost and alone in the middle ages of our world, Janus swore revenge against Lavos for taking him from his sister. He amassed a huge army of monsters and waged war on the people of 600 A.D. He told the monsters that he was helping them to achieve a new age of monster rule, but in reality he was just using them to gather the necessary materials to summon Lavos himself. He intended to destroy Lavos personally."
"But we interfered," continued Marle. "Lavos was summoned before Magus was ready, and Lavos transported us all through time again. It sent us to the distant past, and Magus, ironically, it transported to a few months before Queen Zeal's plans came to fruition. He set himself up there as a prophet, and a rather accurate one, as he had seen it all before. He intended to be there when Queen Zeal tried to summon Lavos. When the three Gurus tried to stop him, he had Queen Zeal banish them all."
Nabiki was confused. "But I thought that they were there when Queen Zeal tried her experiment!"
"Yeah, but that was before all of this time-travel junk started," Lucca responded. Then she grinned, "Temporal paradoxes. Gotta love 'em!"
Marle pressed on. "This time when the Queen summoned Lavos, Crono, Lucca and I were there. We tried to fight the thing, but it was too powerful. We were nearly destroyed. Once we were out of commission, Magus revealed himself and challenged Lavos. But his considerable power was no match for Lavos at that time, and he was quickly defeated. Things looked pretty bleak, and Crono tried to buy us some time by attacking Lavos himself, even though he was nearly dead." Marle choked slightly on the next words, "Lavos vaporized him-"
"WHAT?" asked Nabiki.
"He got better," answered Lucca helpfully.
Marle glared at Lucca. "That's a bit of an oversimplification, I think, Lucca." Lucca merely shrugged. "Anyway, when Schala saw Crono get disintegrated trying to rescue us, she finally came to her senses. Though she was weakened by the effort she had put into helping her mother, she teleported us all to safety. We never saw her again."
Lucca decided to finish. "After losing Schala a second time, Magus decided to join our group to help us destroy Lavos. Once that was accomplished, he returned to his own time to search for Schala. He's convinced that she somehow survived, even though the planet was nearly decimated when Queen Zeal summoned Lavos. That was the last we saw of him until now."
Nabiki looked thoughtful. "It's hard to imagine a man like Magus actually caring for anyone."
Marle nodded, and said, "People are rarely as simple as they seem. There's a lot more to Magus than first meets the eye." Then, as an afterthought, she added, "He's still a creep, though."
"I still wouldn't mind knowing just what that creep was up to," said Nabiki. "I'd hate to think that he's abandoned us."
"I don't think so," smiled Lucca. "He needs me to fix the Epoch. If I had to guess, I'd say that Magus is probably bringing the Epoch here."
Nabiki stared at her. "Are you kidding? How? That thing must weigh a couple tons, and Magus had a hard time carrying the three of us here!"
"If Magus wants the Epoch here, he'll get it here," shrugged Lucca. "Magus is nothing if not resourceful. Now, why don't you show us around this little headquarters of his."
Nabiki gave the two a grand tour of Magus's bunker, at least as far as she had explored it herself. When they came to the surveillance room, Lucca stopped them and pointed out a nondescript shelf. "Hey, there's more than just monitors here. I think this is some kind of terminal for a computer!" Lucca flipped up a panel on the shelf revealing a keyboard and trackball. One monitor, previously dark, lit up with the word, "PASSWORD:"
Lucca frowned. "Hmm, looks like Magus has this system locked up tight. Well, it's an unfamiliar system, but I should be able to hack it-"
"Wait!" interrupted Marle. "I think that we can guess the password. We know Magus better than anyone, with the possible exception of his sister. What sort of password would he use?"
Lucca frowned, "I doubt it would be that simple. He probably just memorized a random string of characters, and is using that for a password. Still, it probably won't hurt to try a few things. How about 'Schala'?"
"I doubt it," said Nabiki. "If Magus is as obsessed with her as he seems to be, other people are bound to know about it. A password like that would be easy to guess."
Marle thought a moment. "How about 'Alfador', then?"
"Good thinking!" answered Lucca, typing in the word.
"'Alfador'?" asked Nabiki.
"His cat," answered Lucca, absently. The screen flashed, and a welcome message appeared. "Well, how about that," said Lucca. "Looks like Magus has a sentimental streak after all." Lucca's hands became a blur as she typed, her brilliant mind working to decipher the foreign command structure.
"Don't want to open his personal files," Lucca muttered as she worked. "Even Magus deserves his privacy, after all. Just want to find some clues as to what happened here."
"Like that visual record we found in Arris Dome?" queried Marle. "The one that showed us the Day of Lavos?"
Lucca didn't appear to be listening. "Aha!" she said, suddenly. "Found something. It's a video file labeled 'Lavos'. This could be just the thing. I'll punch it up."
A few more keystrokes, and the screen lit up. It showed a peaceful-looking area that was dotted with a number of shallow pools. Many of these pools had bamboo poles sticking out of them.
"Hey, that must be Jusenkyo!" exclaimed Nabiki. "It looks just like the place Ranma and his dad described!"
After a few moments, a plump fellow with slightly crossed eyes wearing Chinese garb stuck his face into view. He seemed confused, and poked at the camera a few times. Then, he grinned, and began to make faces.
Suddenly, the picture began to shake violently. The Chinese man stopped making faces, and turned, confused. With him out of the way, it could be seen that the landscape was buckling. The normally tranquil Jusenkyo pools were sloshing around. Then, a huge fissure appeared. At this point, the Chinese man began to run for his life, and left the camera's view. For a few more minutes, the camera recorded scenes of chaos, as more fissures appeared. Lava flowed freely, and huge boulders erupted into the air. Then, the screen filled with static, as the camera was evidently destroyed.
After a second or two, a new view appeared. This view was evidently from space, as the curved horizon of the blue planet was clearly visible. The planet looked serene and tranquil, save for an angry red dot that had appeared on a continent in the middle of the screen. The camera zoomed in, and the dot defined itself as a huge, molten crater. Something huge and spiny was pushing itself out of the crater. Once it was fully revealed, it looked like some kind of gargantuan hedgehog, with a head so tiny as to be invisible from this distance. From end to end, it couldn't have been less than twenty miles long. Then, thousands of bright streaks of light erupted from the creature's back, flying high into the air. Some turned immediately and fell back to the ground, while others arced around the planet to fall elsewhere. Wherever one of these bright missiles landed, a huge explosion occurred, blackening the surface and creating a crater.
The screen panned through scenes of destruction across the planet. In several places, some retaliation was made. Long, silver needles, apparently nuclear weapons of some kind, were launched at the creature. Most were destroyed by a second barrage of bright streaks, but one actually managed to find its target. Once the bright flash cleared, It could be seen that the thing was unscathed. After a few more minutes of devastation, there was no further retaliation. The planet was a dead, burnt-out husk.
The file came to an end, and Nabiki, Marle, and Lucca simply stared at the screen in horror for a few more minutes. After a moment, Lucca shuddered, and said, "Yup, that's about like it happened back home."
"I'll NEVER get used to that," gulped Marle.
"Nor should you," said Magus's voice from the doorway. "Lavos represents an evil far greater than anything I, or anyone else has contemplated. Now, if you don't mind, please log off of my computer." Lucca blushed guiltily, and did as Magus asked. "Excellent! Now, I am sure that Nabiki has explained my...needs?"
Lucca nodded. "You keep us alive, and we get you out of this hole."
"Yes, I'd say that describes the situation. Come with me." Magus walked out of the room, and up the hallway. The others had little choice but to follow. Magus led them through a nondescript doorway at the end of the hallway, revealing a mammoth garage of some type. A large variety of vehicles were housed there, including several cars, small airplanes, and even a few military tanks. There was also a large, flatbed truck, and sitting on that truck was the damaged Epoch. With the exception of the truck, all of the vehicles were coated by a thick layer of dust.
"If you had all of this, why didn't you just drive to meet us yesterday?" asked Nabiki.
"Because, you fool, these things don't run on Dark Fruit," sneered Magus condescendingly. "I don't have a great supply of fuel."
"Naturally, it had nothing to do with the fact that we would have noticed you coming," noted Nabiki sweetly. "It would have made swiping our time machine that much more difficult."
Magus didn't bother to answer. He stalked over to the truck and opened the door. He pulled out a large plastic bag, and emptied it onto the floor. A number of gears, wires, and other bits spread out on the ground. "These are all of the loose pieces I could find," he said. "If you need anything else, I'll see what I can find. Now, you'd best get to work."
Lucca sighed, and approached the mess. Then she stopped. "My tools!" she said, looking around. "Where are they?" With a start, Nabiki realized that she was still wearing Lucca's satchel. She handed over the tools with a sheepish grin. Lucca relaxed visibly. She climbed up onto the truck and peered into the hull of the Epoch. "Say, you did a lot of work while we were out," commented Lucca.
"Well, I wouldn't say I was idle," Nabiki responded modestly.
"Still, I see another day or two of work here," she began rummaging in her satchel. Lucca and Nabiki gradually became aware that Magus was staring at them with open contempt.
"What is it now?" asked Lucca, a little irritated.
"The weak always strive to be weaker," sighed Magus, just loud enough to be heard. Then, more audibly, "This whole time, you've had the ability to halve your work time, and you haven't even considered it."
"Do I have to spell it out? Use Marle's magic!"
At the sound of her name, Marle looked up from a dusty tank she had been studying. Lucca struck her forehead with the palm of her hand. "Of course! Marle, why don't you cast Haste on Nabiki and I!" As Marle prepared her spell, Lucca turned to Nabiki and said, "If you're gonna help me here, I'm gonna have to give you a crash-course in temporal dynamics." She glanced at Marle. "A very fast lesson."
"Haste," Marle intoned, gesturing at Nabiki. Nabiki found herself bathed in a soft red glow. She could almost make out a faint image of a clock face, or stopwatch hovering in the air around her. Then, the glow disappeared. She felt no different, but suddenly, everything was moving slowly. Marle was slothfully gesturing at a nearly immobile Lucca. Her mouth opened and she said 'Haste' again, but this time, it was low and drawn out, like a recording played at low speed. Nabiki watched as a red beam of light surrounded Lucca. An image of a clock fell from the sky and surrounded the inventor. When the light and image cleared, Lucca seemed to be back up to speed.
"Okay, Nabiki, lemme get out some tools, and we can get started." Lucca peered into her bag. Then she frowned. "Hmm, I don't remember putting this in here." Lucca pulled out an odd, reddish-brown object. Nabiki gasped slightly when she recognized it. It was the spearhead that Lucca had cut free of the spear Nabiki had had such a close encounter with.
'I must have swept it in with the tools by mistake,' thought Nabiki. She took the spearhead from Lucca. "I'll take it, for now," she said.
Lucca shrugged. She began to instruct Nabiki. "Now, the first thing that you have to know when fixing the Epoch is the importance of dreamstone...".
* * * * * *
Magus watched the two a few moments longer. He chuckled silently at their high-pitched, rapid voices and blurred movements. Then his face returned to its usual look of solemn disdain. 'Imbeciles,' he thought. 'It's amazing that they ever managed to destroy Lavos. Of course, they did have my help then, as now.'
Magus left the garage, and headed down the hallway. Time to do what he always did when finding a moment of spare time. Magus strode into his private room. He frowned slightly, detecting the residual aura of Nabiki's presence. 'No matter,' he thought. 'Really, I should have expected no less. But if she has harmed my paintings, she will live to regret it.'
A quick check revealed that the paintings had not been touched. Satisfied, Magus sat down and reached for his brush. A second of thought prompted him to stand again, and lock the door. It had been so long since he had had to worry about privacy. His paintings were something he liked to enjoy alone, and the past few years had provided plenty of solitude.
Magus sat again, and took brush and palette in hand. He gazed thoughtfully at the blank canvass before him. After a moment's thought, he chose a shade of deep blue, and applied it to the painting. As he had many times before, he reached into his mind, and brought Schala forth. Beautiful Schala, his beloved sister. She appeared before him, as real as his mind could make her. He gazed upon the contours of her face, the set of her hair, the sad, sad eyes, and gradually transformed vision into reality.
He was done. Magus lowered the palette and brush. His paintings always seemed to take no time at all, but Magus knew that many hours had passed. Magus tenderly viewed the picture of Schala before him. He never knew quite how Schala would look until he finished his work. In this picture, Schala was looking at him with unrestrained joy and open arms, tears filling her eyes. Magus recognized this scene. It was how he had always imagined Schala would look when he was reunited with her.
Magus gently traced Schala's cheek with his finger, careful not to touch the drying paint. Tears welled up unbidden in the sorcerer's eyes.
Then, in the moment of weakness he always allowed himself at these times, Janus quietly began to cry..
* * * * * *
Meanwhile, Marle was bored. Over the past several hours, she had examined nearly every vehicle in the garage worth viewing, and now she had nothing to do. She couldn't leave the garage; she had already had to reapply her Haste spell several times, and would doubtless need to do it again before the two frantic mechanics would be finished. Marle idly chomped on a Dark Fruit and stared at the Epoch.
There was a reason Marle was considered a tomboy. She became bored very easily. She wanted action, or at least a good deal less inaction. She thought back on the many ways she had avoided inaction in the past. Skipping out on her etiquette lessons to practice her archery, playing pranks on all of the stuffy guests her father invited to state dinners, sneaking out of the castle when her father forbade her to visit the Millennial Fair. That was how she had met Crono. Marle's heart lurched as she thought of him. 'Poor Crono, sitting alone at the End of Time. If I'm bored, I can imagine how awful it must be for him. He's spent a whole week with nothing to do but stare at the colors and wonder what's taking us so long.'
"Marle!" called two voices in unison. Marle sighed, and reHastened Lucca and Nabiki. Marle watched the two return to their speedy repairs, and then sat down again to try to think of some way to pass the time.
'Might as well practice my aim,' she thought. Marle set her Dark Fruit core on a heavy tank and unslung her trusty Valkyrie. She walked a good distance away, whirled, took aim, and fired. The quarrel sliced into the core and through it, burying itself deeply into the armor of the tank. 'A bit off center,' noted Marle. She adjusted the sights on her crossbow and fired again. This time the bolt struck the fruit dead center, and as before, it pierced it and the armor behind it. Satisfied that the weapon was adjusted properly, Marle began to fire at her target from various positions and angles throughout the garage.
After a few hours of this, Marle heard a dry, mocking voice say, "Is it really necessary for you to demolish my tanks while you wait?"
Marle wiped the sweat off of her forehead. "Huh?" she asked, turning. Magus was pointing at her target. She took another good look, and found that the vehicle she had chosen to support her core now looked more like Swiss cheese than an armoured vehicle. The perforated metal sagged in places, and as she watched, the turret of the tank collapsed into the chassis. "Er, sorry," she said sheepishly. "I guess I wasn't thinking."
"Hardly surprising," noted Magus drolly. Marle scowled, but before she could respond, Magus asked, "How are the repairs coming?"
Marle shrugged. "Beats me. The Epoch doesn't look any better than when they started. But the damage they've been working on has all been internal."
Magus said nothing, merely fixing a steady gaze on the working pair. Marle sighed. Magus never was much of a conversationalist. Deprived of her latest distraction, Marle settled down to wait in boredom.
Fortunately, she didn't have to wait long. The two mechanics gradually slowed down to regular speed, and staggered towards them. They looked very drained.
With typical lack of concern, Magus demanded, "So, is it finished?"
"Almost," said Lucca wearily. "But we're too tired to work any more today."
"Bah! I haven't the patience for this," snarled Magus.
"Well, you'd better learn it then!" Nabiki shot back. "Whatever you've been doing, we feel like we've been working for over a day now, without a break."
"Fine!" Magus replied in disgust. "Take your 'break'. You can use the spare bedrooms. But I'll expect you to finish tomorrow."
"Yeah, yeah," answered Lucca.
The next morning, true to their word, Lucca and Nabiki finished their work on the Epoch. The group of four had gathered in the garage, and this time, Magus had apparently decided to wear his traditional medieval garb. Now, however, the group faced a much more difficult decision than wardrobe.
"Now, Magus, as you know, the Epoch can't carry more than three at a time," Lucca spoke to Magus. "So, someone's gonna have to stay here for a little while until we can return for them."
"Of course, of course," said Magus, bored.
"I'm not finished! We have two priorities. We need to get Nabiki home, and we need to pick up Crono at the end of time."
"Do what you feel you have to," answered Magus. "But I'm going to be on that time machine when it leaves."
"I guess that doesn't leave us many options," said Marle sourly. "I'll have to stay here for now. Lucca has to stay with the machine just in case it breaks down again, Nabiki has to be there so she can be taken home, and Magus has to be there because the Oh-So Mighty Magus won't have it any other way."
Magus stared at her coldly. "I'm not sure I care for your tone. But yes, that about sums things up."
"Right," said Marle. "So, how do you operate the garage door?"
"The manual controls are over there," Magus pointed. "You can use them to close things up after we leave. But for now..." Magus gestured toward the door, and wove a pattern into the air with his hands. The huge garage door ponderously rose into the ceiling, revealing the dead world outside in all of its black and brown splendor.
"See you later!" said Lucca in farewell, as the three of them piled into the Epoch.
"Don't go and get horribly killed by any bloodthirsty mutant monsters or anything like that," grinned Nabiki. Marle grinned back.
The Epoch lifted into the air, and flew out of the garage. Nabiki looked back to see the garage door closing again, melding seamlessly into the rock face. She hoped Lucca would be able to find it again when she returned for Marle.
Lucca, directed by Magus, flew the Epoch back to where he had found them. Presumably, that would place them in Nerima when they traveled back to 1995. True enough, a flash of light later the trio was hovering above the town, only a few blocks from the Tendo Dojo. Soon, Nabiki could make out the familiar buildings of her home. A few seconds later, they touched down.
No sooner had the cockpit opened, then Nabiki dropped to the ground. Her father and sisters, Ranma and his father, and Frog had come outside to meet them, as had Ryoga, and an unfamiliar blue-haired girl. As soon as he saw her, Soun Tendo swept her into an embrace, and bawled. "I thought we had lost you, Nabiki!" he sobbed.
Nabiki, for once without a sarcastic remark, returned her father's embrace, and said, "I missed you, too, daddy."
Soon, everyone had gathered around to subject Nabiki to a blistering barrage of questions. Nabiki answered as many of them as she could (oddly, she didn't even think of charging for the answers), before the group was silenced by a new voice.
"Pathetic," said Magus. He was standing atop the Epoch, his cape billowing in the wind. Magus hovered down to the ground, and stood gazing at the motley assemblage with unrestrained contempt. "I'd hardly have thought one such as Nabiki could possibly have attained so many comrades," he addressed them. "Obviously, your taste in companions is rather poor."
This opening statement did little to endear Magus to the gathered group. Nabiki chuckled slightly and said, "Everybody, this charming fellow is Magus. Don't trust him any more than you trust me."
"We trust you?" Ryoga asked Nabiki, confused. Disgusted, Ranma pounded on Ryoga's head, earning a reproachful look.
"Greetings, Magus," said Frog coldly.
"Ah, if it isn't our dear little Glenn!" smirked Magus. "Has it been easy? Being green, I mean?"
Frog smiled slightly. "Ever th' barbed tongue, Janus. I see that time hath not changed thee."
Magus scowled at the use of his real name and was about to respond, when Lucca's voice called down from the Epoch. "I can see that Magus is gonna get along just fine here. See ya!"
Startled, Magus turned. "Wait! You can't leave me here!"
"Watch me!" grinned Lucca. "Don't worry, I'll be back."
Before Magus could react, the cockpit closed, and the Epoch rose into the air. Soon, it was out of sight, and Magus found himself alone with half a dozen people who had no real reason to like him.
"Hmph," he said, eyeing them. "What now?"
"Just who do you think you are?" demanded Ranma.
"No one to trifle with, boy," Magus answered.
"You were right about this Magus character," Ryoga muttered to Frog. "He's a real charmer."
Suddenly, Magus stiffened. "Jusenkyo!" he said, and looked at the assemblage. "Several of you are cursed, aren't you? No need to lie, the magic aura of Jusenkyo is clear as day to me."
Smiling prettily, Robo walked forward. "What, do you mean to say that you do not recognize me, Magus?" she asked.
Magus was caught off guard, and obviously didn't care for it one bit. He narrowed his eyes and stared at Robo. "Hmmm, the Drowned Girl spring by the look of it. So you can't be Ayla, and the other two girls are gone anyway. Frog's right here and Crono's lost...no, it can't be!" Magus began to chuckle, and then to laugh outright. "Robo?" he gasped out as he laughed. "Of all the-"
Wham! Robo's fist connected, and Magus dropped to the ground, out like a light. "Ooh, how I have wanted to do that," said Robo, smiling and rubbing her hand.
Frog looked surprised. "Thou hast shown no sign of enmity before!"
"In the four hundred years I was working with Fiona to help her restore her forest, I had time to observe firsthand the consequences of Magus's little war," Robo explained. "The arrogant little creep had no idea what kind of suffering he caused. I would have let him have it sooner, but Lavos took precedence. And it hardly seemed appropriate to attack him after we won. But now..." Robo cracked her knuckles thoughtfully.
Concerned, and apparently oblivious to the violence, Kasumi said, "Oh my, he's unconscious. We'd better get him inside." She glanced at Robo. "Pity you're a girl right now, or you could heal him."
"Pity," agreed Robo, wryly.
"So what happened to you?" Soun asked Nabiki anxiously.
"It's a long story," said Nabiki. They were all interested, Nabiki could tell. Should she charge admission? Naah, plenty of time for profit later. For now, she was just glad to be home.
Of all the characters in Chrono Trigger, I think that Magus's has the most depth. I'd like to think that it shows in my writing. Certainly I feel proud of what I've done with his character, but whether that pride is warranted or not is entirely in the eye of the beholder.
One thing that I'm a bit concerned about: Is my Kasumi too oblivious? I mean, I know she's practically the living incarnation of nonchalance, but have I taken it too far? Comments and criticism (about this, and anything else, for that matter) are always welcome.
Chrono Trigger Tip #10:
What? Working with Fiona to restore her forest? When does Robo do that?
It's easy to miss this optional part of Chrono Trigger. Doubtless, you've probably met Fiona and her husband in their house in the middle of the southern continent in 600 A.D., and heard them complain about how the forest is dying off. Anyway, after Crono snuffs it, a big sinkhole appears just outside of their house. If you fall into it, you'll fight a bunch of particularly nasty monsters (all of whom are very vulnerable to Water magic, so bring Marle, Frog, or at the very least, Magus) who are drying up the forest and changing it into a desert. Once they are all dead, take Robo to visit Fiona, and he will volunteer to help her to restore her forest. If you let him, he'll leave your team, and you can see him busily tilling the soil, planting seeds, and acting as a scarecrow, whenever you stop by. To recover him again, go to 1000 A.D., where you will find that the Great Desert on the southern continent has been replaced by a vibrant forest, and at the center of this forest, where Fiona's house used to be, is a cathedral dedicated to Fiona and Robo. Robo himself is enshrined there, and after a few hours of tinkering, Lucca restores him to full operating status.
Doesn't it just give you a big warm fuzzy to know that you've helped save the environment? If only it were that easy in reality...