Halftime

By Aaron Ziegler
spanner@visi.com

Chapter 7: Perfect Timing

Another bleak day dawned over the ravaged earth. Nabiki sat up and rubbed her eyes. She was hungry, but that was nothing new. Four days had passed, and in spite of vigorous searching, she and Marle had been unable to find any food, or any animals to use for food. They had been able to find a source of drinkable water, fortunately, but if they didn't find food soon, they weren't going to last.

Nabiki noted that she and Marle were alone in the Epoch. She popped the cockpit, and leapt out. She found Lucca hard at work on the battered time machine. "Lucca, didn't you go to sleep last night?"

Lucca turned tired and shadowed eyes on her. "No. I've gotta get this fixed as fast as possible."

"You're wearing yourself out. Food or no food, we'll never get out of here if you die of overexertion. Besides, what if another monster had attacked? You're in no condition to fight alone."

Lucca looked longingly at the cockpit of the Epoch, yearning for a rest. But still she resisted. "Look," said Nabiki, "I'll continue your work for now. I should be able to fix some of the damage, though I don't know enough to do any of the detail work. You need to rest!"

"All right," said Lucca gratefully. She climbed up into the cockpit, past Marle who was climbing out.

Marle nodded approvingly. "It's about time that you got some sleep," she said. Marle hopped down to the ground and watched Nabiki work.

"More industrial espionage, Nabiki?" she asked innocently.

Nabiki threw her a dirty look, and wiped a smudge of grease off of her cheek. "You just don't let up, do you?" she demanded irritably.

"Nope!" said Marle with cheerful cruelty. "Well, I'm off to look for food again. See you later. Oh, and don't go and get horribly killed by any bloodthirsty mutant monsters or anything like that. That'd just be awful. I'd hate to clean up a mess like that."

"Your concern is touching," Nabiki answered drily. Marle laughed, and walked off.

Nabiki sighed. 'How many times am I going to have to say that I'm sorry?' she wondered. 'Probably until we get Crono back,' she answered herself. Thinking of Crono brought a surge of pity. 'Poor Crono,' she thought. 'It must be awful, just sitting there alone at the End of Time.'

Nabiki turned back to her work. The array of gears, wires, and electronics were baffling, but here and there she could see parts that were obviously bent out of shape, and wires that had been knocked loose. As she tackled those, more and more of the details that Lucca had told her returned to her mind.

"This bank of crystal diodes is connected to the central core housing by these three black wires," she remembered Lucca saying. With a glance, she saw that two of the three wires had been knocked loose. As she fixed them, she thought, 'Hey, this isn't going to be so bad after all.'

As soon as these words had crossed her mind, she heard Marle scream, "Nabiki! Wake Lucca! We've got trouble."

Nabiki looked to the sound of her voice, and her eyes widened. Marle was running from nearly a dozen assorted ugly patchwork monsters. Many of the monsters had long spikes on the ends of some limbs, and many seemed to have odd patches of tattered skin hanging off of them. Quickly, Nabiki scrambled up into the Epoch, and roused Lucca. "Quick, Lucca, we need some warm water!"

Lucca, still a bit groggy, stood up and surveyed the situation. She came to full attention at the sight of the oncoming creatures, and whipped out her watergun. "I just hope that they don't turn into something nastier," she muttered.

Nabiki looked at Lucca as if she had gone mad. "What could be worse than this?" she demanded. Lucca shrugged, and doused the creatures, who had just caught up with Marle at the Epoch.

The creatures did turn into something nastier. Each monster shrunk down and took the form of a man or woman. Nabiki saw that what she had taken for spikes and tattered skin was actually spears, swords, and rough clothing. They all looked at themselves in horror.

"What have you done?" asked one, cringing at the sight of pink flesh coating his five-fingered hands.

"We have been profaned!" screamed another.

One particularly large man, evidently the leader, roared, "Blasphemers! First you refuse the sacred gift of the Shape of Redemption, and then you seek to deny us that gift, as well?"

"What do you mean? What gift?" asked Marle, startled by this turn of events. "Who are you?"

"The gift of the Jusenkyo Rains!" the man answered. "Why do you deny your Shape, your one chance for salvation?"

"This is the only shape we have!" Marle answered.

The leader drew back and hissed, "Cursed ones! Untouched by the Rains of Redemption! I had thought the last of your kind had been destroyed. No matter! You shall not spread to us your dark disease! Destroy them!"

"Now wait a minute!" exclaimed Marle. But the people were beyond listening. One woman rushed her with a sword, forcing her to jump sideways to avoid her attack. Marle pulled out her crossbow and fired, skewering the swordswoman.

"Guess this squirtgun isn't gonna be much use," noted Lucca. She pulled out her Wondershot and took aim at one of the angry people. She pulled the trigger, and a faint beam of light struck the target, a woman with a spear. She glanced at the insignificant light burns inflicted by the gun and laughed. She raised her spear and prepared to throw it.

Lucca slapped her gun a few times as it slowly recharged, muttering, "Stupid variable damage." She aimed the gun at the woman again, and fired. This time, a blinding beam of light blasted forth and struck home, reducing the attacker to a pile of ashes. "Much better!"

Nabiki watched all of this with a sick feeling of helplessness. She could see that there were too many enemies, and that Lucca and Marle would be overwhelmed eventually. She wanted to help, but she didn't have a weapon, and couldn't use it if she did have one. She was a businesswoman, not a fighter! That was Akane's department!

Marle was in bad shape. She was bleeding from several wounds, and was beginning to tire. Taking a moment to shoot another oncoming fanatic, she quickly turned and scrambled up to the top of the Epoch to make her last stand.

Upon seeing Marle climb up, Nabiki suddenly felt a cold grip in her stomach. No one was watching the other side. She turned, and to her horror, saw that a man with a spear was climbing over the closed cockpit toward Lucca. The man reached the top, and lifted his spear, smiling a wild grin at his oblivious target. "Lucca!" screamed Nabiki, and lunged desperately towards her, as the spearman stabbed downwards with murderous intent. She collided with Lucca, throwing her to the side. Time seemed to slow down, as Nabiki twisted around to see the spear coming at her instead. She gasped as the weapon struck her chest and continued through. She screamed with pain.

Lucca jumped up from where Nabiki had pushed her and saw Nabiki neatly spitted on a spear, suspended above the ground by its holder. She was gritting her teeth and clenching the spear with whitened fingers, trying to prevent it from moving. The wielder of the spear gave a vicious laugh, and threw girl and spear off of the Epoch to the hard ground below. He reached for another spear from the large bag on his back.

"You monster!" screamed Lucca, eyes blazing. She held her hands high and yelled "FLARE!"

At first, nothing happened. Then, pinpoints of fire began to converge to a point in the air at the center of the battlefield. A glowing ball appeared, and then exploded violently. A huge, expanding ball of flame enveloped the entire area, converting every attacker into ash in an eyeblink. When the glow died away, the landscape, the Epoch, and the three time travelers remained untouched by the magical blaze. Fine soot marked the final resting place of each enemy.

Panting, Lucca jumped to the ground and fell to her knees beside Nabiki. Nabiki was lying curled up on her side in a pool of blood, still gripping the spear. "Nabiki?" she asked tentatively.

Nabiki turned a horribly pale face up to her. Her eyes were wide, and bright with pain. "Are you alright, Lucca?" she rasped. A trickle of blood dripped from the corner of her mouth and down her chin.

"Me? I'm fine! But you're not!" said Lucca.

"I don't need you to tell me that," said Nabiki, trying to grin. Then she clenched her teeth. "It hurts, Lucca. It hurts a lot. It's hard to breathe."

"It must have gone through your lung. I'll get Marle," said Lucca with a desperate look.

Lucca was starting to stand up when Marle leapt to the ground. She was grinning. "You really fried 'em, Lucca!" then she saw Nabiki and the grin faded. "Oh, my."

Nabiki turned her eyes on Marle. "Really am s'ry 'bout Crono," she wheezed. "Had t' say it one las' time..." She closed her eyes and mumbled, "Don' think m' insurance c'vers this..." With those words, Nabiki stopped breathing.

"Marle? She saved my life! Can you save her?..." asked Lucca, expectantly.

"She's dying, Lucca," Marle answered. "Cure's not gonna do the trick. Let's get that spear outta her, and I'll see what I can do."

Lucca nodded, and grabbed a small electric saw from her satchel. She scrambled over to Nabiki, and gingerly gripped the bloody spear head protruding from her back. She carefully cut through the wooden shaft at the base of the spear head. Marle quickly pulled the shaft out, along with a gout of blood. Nabiki, if she felt anything, gave no sign, but she retained her stubborn grip on the shaft.

Marle stood up and clasped her hands in front of her. "Life2," she chanted. A golden beam of light burst through the gloomy sky and bathed Nabiki in shimmering energy. She almost seemed to sparkle in the gentle glow. Abruptly, the light ceased, leaving Nabiki whole.

Nabiki gasped, and then began to breathe normally. She remained still for a few seconds, and then opened her eyes. "I feel great!" she exclaimed. Then, apprehensively, "Am I dead?"

Suddenly, she heard two thumps. She sat up and found that Marle and Lucca had fallen to the ground. "Marle? Lucca?" she asked.

Breathing shallowly, Lucca muttered, "We're tired, 'Beeky. Flare...Life2... Powerful spells. We were too weak to cast them, but we had to."

"No!" exclaimed Nabiki, standing up. She found that she was still holding the spear shaft, and dropped it with revulsion. "Now instead of just me dying, you both are dying! That's no bargain!"

"Worth it," answered Marle. "You really have changed. 'Sides, we're not dying. Jus' tired."

"Keep working on th' Epoch," said Lucca. "I'll finish when I wake up..." Lucca closed her eyes, and Marle followed suit. Soon, each were breathing deeply and evenly. Nabiki sighed, and half carried, half dragged the two sleeping girls to the Epoch. With a bit of effort, she managed to get them into the cockpit. Then she returned to work.

She worked more or less continuously for the rest of the day. She discovered, to her relief, that while she was still hungry, it was no longer a painful hunger. Marle's Life2 technique had done a very thorough job. With renewed vigor, she hammered bent plates back into shape, reconnected and sealed frayed wires, and tightened loose connections. The day passed, and she finally began to feel fatigued. As dusk fell, she closed the cockpit and settled in, noting that Marle and Lucca were still sleeping soundly. Nabiki drifted off to sleep.

Nabiki woke at dawn the next day, and noted that her hunger had more of an edge to it. Marle's influence was evidently wearing off. Marle and Lucca were still sleeping. Concerned, Nabiki checked to make sure that they were still breathing. Reassured, she climbed out to begin another day's work.

She worked until the sun was high in the dismal sky, occasionally checking up on the sleeping pair. Then, her pace began to slow, as she realized that the remaining work was becoming too technical for her. She and Lucca, over the past several days, had fixed most of the blatant damage, a large portion of it fixed by Nabiki herself through her renewed strength the day before. All that was left was detail work, like shattered banks of delicate diodes, tangled and torn bundles of complex wiring, and scattered circuit boards--all detail work that she had no idea how to face. Additionally, she was becoming worried about Lucca and Marle. They had been asleep for over twenty-four hours, and showed no sign of recovery. Nabiki had been unable to wake them or to get them to drink anything. She was beginning to fear that their condition was more serious than they had led her to believe. Certainly, they would be in trouble if they didn't drink something soon. While she couldn't remember how long a person could go without water, she did remember that it was not an awfully long time. She climbed up the Epoch again, intending to check on the two.

There was a strange man standing on top of the Epoch.

Nabiki quickly dropped to the ground, and grabbed Lucca's Wondershot from her satchel. She pointed the gun at the man and demanded, "Get away from there! Who are you?"

"Nice reflexes," the man noted. "Very well." He stepped off of the edge of the time machine, and floated gently to the ground. Nabiki was able to get a good look at the man. He had pale white skin and long, straight blue hair. He was wearing camouflage combat fatigues, and had several pairs of gold earrings in his pointed ears. His was also wearing white gloves. His eyes were fixing her with a cold stare. He gestured toward the somatic passengers and said, "Them I know. You I don't."

"Who are you?" Nabiki asked again, not liking this man one bit.

"You may call me Magus," he said.

"Name's Nabiki. Now tell me what you're doing here, or I'll have to blast you."

"I'm frightened," Magus said drily, "but very well. I had been waiting many long years for the events of yesterday. When I saw Lucca's Flare, I knew my deliverance was at hand. I have need of that machine." Magus gestured toward the Epoch.

"Well, tough luck," Nabiki answered. "You can't have it."

Magus laughed. "You wish to fight me? You're no survivor. I can tell by the look of you. In fact, I am surprised that it is Lucca and Marle that lie comatose rather than you."

"How do you know them?" Nabiki asked, shaken by how quickly the man had seen through her facade of bravado.

Magus waved his hand dismissively. "I once fought with them, and once against them. But it is of no concern. Now, are you going to put away that gun, or do I have to destroy you? I assure you, it's all the same to me." Magus began to tug on his gloves, pulling them tight. The gesture seemed both self-confident and ominous.

Feeling helpless, and totally out of her element, Nabiki dropped the gun. "Excellent," said Magus. "Now, if you'll excuse me..." he turned toward the Epoch again.

"You're still out of luck," said Nabiki. "The Epoch's not working."

Magus froze. He turned toward Nabiki with an unpleasant frown. "Not working," he repeated, as if tasting the words and finding them sour.

"Not working," Nabiki said again.

"Can you fix it?" Magus asked.

"No dice. Only Lucca knows enough."

"Then I'll have to revive her," Magus sighed. He flew up to the Epoch, and before Nabiki could react, he had scooped up the sleeping inventor. "So long, and die well, Nabiki. I see little other future for you here."

As he prepared to fly off, Nabiki shouted, "Wait!"

Magus stopped, irritated. "What is it now?"

"Do you honestly think Lucca will be willing to help you if you leave us here to die?" Nabiki demanded.

"She will help me, or she will die as well," Magus answered.

Nabiki smirked, feeling old territory around her. "You may be powerful, but you're obviously not very bright. If you try to convince her with threats, after killing two of her friends, then she'd fix the Epoch, alright. She'd fix it to make sure you joined us in the afterlife." Nabiki rubbed her hands together. "Let's cut a deal, hmmm?"

Magus scowled. "What kind of deal?" he grated.

"Well," Nabiki said sweetly, "you save all three of us, for starters."

"And what do I get for this foolish act of charity?"

"You save us, and I put in a good word for you with Lucca, and maybe she doesn't disintegrate you. I'll even try to convince her to let you use her time machine."

"All right," he snapped. "I'll save your miserable lives. Get up here!"

Nabiki quickly swept all the tools into Lucca's satchel. She climbed up onto the Epoch as Magus grabbed Marle none too gently with his free arm. Nabiki grasped Magus firmly around the neck, being careful to make her grip as uncomfortable as possible without actually strangling the man. "Ok, Magus baby, let's go," she crooned.

"You try my patience," snarled Magus. He leapt into the air and began to fly in a vaguely northern direction, obviously straining under the weight of his three passengers.

"Are we too much for you to handle?" Nabiki taunted. Magus gave no reply, but continued flying.

* * * * * *

Magus's flight speed was not much greater than an average jogging speed, but it sure beat running as far as Nabiki was concerned. Magus seemed to feel otherwise, as he touched down for frequent rest stops, always to the delight of Nabiki, who proceeded to harangue him with insults regarding his strength, speed, and intelligence. On one such stop, Magus interrupted her and said, "I really am coming to loathe you, you know." Nabiki merely grinned.

The flight lasted many more hours. Evidently, Magus had traveled a long way to find the Epoch. Magus landed again, this time in front of a nondescript hillside. He roughly shook free of Nabiki, and shoved his two sleeping passengers at her. He then turned toward the hillside and made a few complicated patterns in the air with his arms, ending by pointing straight at the hill. The side of the hill shimmered for a moment, and then faded, revealing a darkened cave. Then, an electric hum began and phosphorescent lights illuminated the cave, showing it to be a long tunnel, angled downward. Without a word, Magus grabbed Lucca and entered the cave, leaving Nabiki to struggle after him under the burden of Marle.

They walked steadily downwards for a long time. At least, it seemed like a long time to Nabiki, who was breathing heavily and sweating profusely. She wasn't used to this sort of physical exertion. And she was sure that Magus was laughing at her distress, though he gave no outward sign.

Eventually, the hallway leveled off. They walked past several rooms, but Nabiki was laboring too hard to pay any attention to them. Finally, they came to a room with several cots, evidently some sort of infirmary. Magus deposited Lucca on one, and to Nabiki's relief, gestured for her to do the same. Magus examined Lucca closely, and asked, "How long have they been this way?"

"For a day now. Do you know what's wrong with them?"

Magus ignored Nabiki's question. "How long since they've last eaten?"

"Five days."

Magus nodded. "So, in spite of her hunger, Lucca used Flare? You must have been in dire straits indeed."

"We were being overwhelmed, and I had been fatally stabbed-"

"Fatally stabbed?" Magus interrupted. "You look fine to me. Don't lie to me, girl."

"I'm not lying! Marle healed me."

"Ah, so that was the second surge I felt in the magical aether. Marle must have used Life2 to save you, in spite of her own condition. Typical foolish sentimentality. Well, I know how to cure them. I need stimulants. There should be some in the refrigerator over there." Magus pointed out a large cooler on the other side of the room. It had a large, red, medical cross on it.

Nabiki opened the refrigerator and removed a package of stimulants and several sterilized syringes. "So, what's the problem? Aren't they just asleep?"

"Don't be stupid, girl," Magus snapped, grabbing the medicines. "They are merely suffering from a magical deficiency."

"Magical deficiency?" Nabiki asked.

Magus sighed impatiently. "Every sentient creature possesses an amount of magical energy, a reservoir, if you will." Magus loaded a syringe, and jabbed it into Lucca's arm. "While most people don't consciously use this reservoir, it is still necessary to their health. When one is not healthy, the body uses it's magical reserves to help sustain itself. Those who can use this reservoir have to be careful not to drain it completely. If they do, they enter a sort of magical coma. Normally, the reservoir would replenish with a few hours of sleep, but if the body is ill, this process is halted. I would imagine that Lucca and Marle's foolish act of altruism, coupled with their hunger, put them into this state. This stimulant should bring them around long enough to get some food into them."

Magus turned and applied the same treatment to Marle. Soon, Lucca began to groan. Magus pointed into a dark corner, untouched by the phosphorescent lights of the room. "Bring me a Dark Fruit," he commanded.

Dark Fruit? wondered Nabiki. She walked over to the corner. It was unnaturally dark in the corner. When she gingerly reached in with her hand, it disappeared from her sight. Feeling around in the dark, her hand encountered soft leaves and branches. Finally, she felt a smooth, round object that could only be the fruit. She gently tugged on it, and the fruit pulled free of its invisible branch. She brought the fruit out into the light, and it was revealed to be a pear-shaped black fruit with purple splotches. It felt soft in her hand. She handed the Dark Fruit to Magus, who took it without a word.

By now Marle had started to stir, and Lucca was opening bleary eyes. She focused them on Magus. "Magus?" she asked weakly.

Magus shoved the fruit at her. "Eat," he said brusquely.

Lucca grasped the offering, and took a bite. "Mmmm," she sighed. She devoured the rest of the fruit quickly. Her eyes closed, and she slipped back into sleep.

Nabiki had caught on, and retrieved a second fruit. She was by Marle's side when she came to, and immediately handed her the fruit. "Eat this, Marle," she ordered. Marle looked confused, but did as she was told. Once the fruit was finished, she returned to her slumber.

Magus collected the cores and threw them into a wastebasket. "Each fruit provides a full day's nourishment. After a few hours of sleep, their magical reserves should be replenished." He noticed Nabiki eyeing the dark corner longingly. "Oh, go ahead and take one," he said disgustedly. "There are plenty."

Without further encouragement, Nabiki took a fruit for herself. She took a juicy bite, and found the Dark Fruit had a strange, bittersweet, but not unpleasant taste. Of course, after nearly a week without food, rotting meat would have probably been appetizing. "What is this, exactly?" she asked.

"When all of the vegetation began to die, I knew that I was going to have to come up with some means of survival," Magus said. "So I used my magic to create the Dark Fruit plant, a hybrid of blueberry and a species of cave lichen. Dark Fruit plants are totally independent of many of the vital soil nutrients that were all but lost when Lavos decimated this world. Unfortunately, light of any kind is a bane to it, so I have to spend a steady amount of magic to keep the plant in total darkness. But it is a trifling amount, and easily replenished. I have survived on Dark Fruit for many years now, while the scavengers outside eat each other out of existence. Now, if you will excuse me, I have important matters to attend to." Magus glided out of the room, leaving a bewildered Nabiki alone with the peacefully sleeping patients.

Nabiki sat down on an empty cot for a few moments, but quickly became bored. She decided to explore this place that Magus had taken them to. She stepped out of the infirmary into the hallway. She walked slowly down the hallway. She came to a room, but found it empty, save for a cot and an empty closet. A second glance also revealed an extremely dark corner, undoubtably housing another Dark Fruit plant. Overall, the room gave the impression of being an empty bedroom. Continuing down the hallway, she found several more empty bedrooms, all spotlessly clean. She also found a bathroom. She was surprised to find that the bathroom still had running water. Evidently, through magic, or some other power source, Magus had decided to keep these facilities in order. Gratefully, she made use of the functioning toilets. She would have loved a shower, but the showers, if there were any, were elsewhere in the building. Nabiki examined herself in a mirror and grimaced. As she had expected, she was very dirty, and her hair was a tangled mess. Her shirt had a large, ragged hole in it, and was badly stained with dried blood. Nabiki shuddered as she realized that that blood was her own. She tried unsuccessfully to push the memory of a wooden shaft protruding from her chest out of her mind.

Nabiki left the bathroom and continued to explore. She found several more empty bedrooms. Abruptly, the hallway twisted left. Glancing at the room at the corner, she found that this one was not empty. Nabiki supposed that it must be Magus's. Peeking carefully through the door, she determined that the occupant was nowhere to be seen. Never one to respect people's privacy, Nabiki let herself in.

Magus's room was nearly as sparse as the empty bedrooms were. There was a cot, neatly made, and a closet full of camouflage uniforms. In addition, the closet also contained what looked like a suit of medieval make, complete with cape. There were several pairs of the white gloves Nabiki remembered Magus wearing. But the most striking feature of the room was an easel, paints, and several canvases. There were many finished paintings, and all of them featured a beautiful girl with long, blue hair and sad, blue eyes. She didn't look to be much older than sixteen. She was portrayed in a variety of ways, here a profile, there a frontal view. In some she was laughing, or looking thoughtful, or sad. In the pictures showing more than just the head and shoulders, she was wearing a shimmering blue gown. A few of the paintings also featured a single word, 'Schala', which Nabiki took to be the name of the girl. All in all, Nabiki was impressed by the level of artistry shown. Then, she stopped short. The girl looked familiar to her somehow. Nabiki was sure that she recognized that face from somewhere. She thought for a moment, but drew a blank. Bemused, Nabiki left the room again.

Magus's room was the last of the bedrooms. Next to Magus's room, after the hallway turned left, was just what Nabiki had been hoping for: a shower room. She found it to be well stocked with soap and towels, and, like the bathroom, was working. Nabiki stripped, and proceeded to wash five days of grime away. After she had toweled off, she observed her clothing dolefully. Her jeans, though dirty and a little torn, were still in fairly good shape. The shirt, however, was going to need work. Nabiki scrubbed at the shirt for a while, and managed to get the bloodstains to fade slightly. She struggled into the damp shirt and once again viewed herself in the mirror. 'Much better,' she thought, 'but I really don't think gaping spear holes suit me.' Nabiki grasped each side of the hole in her shirt, and tore the shirt the rest of the way down. Then she tied the two dangling halves together in a knot just below her chest, leaving her stomach bare. 'Almost stylish,' she thought as she posed for the uncritical eye of the mirror. Then she smiled wryly. 'Just who am I trying to impress? Magus? Right.'

Feeling much refreshed, Nabiki left the shower room. The hallway, having just turned left, soon turned left again, running parallel to the bedroom hallway. Here, there were a variety of rooms. There was a kitchen, but nothing was working there except for a refrigerator. The refrigerator was stocked with Dark Fruit, some whole, some sliced, and jars of what Nabiki guessed must be Dark Fruit preserves.

Further down the hall was an arsenal. There were an array of Bowie knives, pistols, rifles, and semi-automatic weapons, all covered with dust. Oddly, there was also a rack stocked with several scythes, and many of these looked to be recently used. 'An odd choice of weapon,' Nabiki thought, 'yet somehow appropriate.' Nabiki decided to take a knife with her, along with a belt and sheath for it. Hopefully, she would never have to use it, but carrying it made her feel a little more comfortable. She didn't even consider taking any of the guns. They looked to be old and out of repair, and more likely to blow up than fire.

Most of the rest of the rooms along this hallway were empty storage closets. There was also a workshop, where Magus was evidently forging a new scythe. Pressing on, Nabiki found some sort of surveillance room, one wall covered with monitors showing various locations inside and outside of Magus's bunker. To her embarrassment, Nabiki noted that one monitor showed a clear view of the shower room. Silently, she hoped that Magus had not been watching when she had taken her shower. Scanning the monitors, she could not see Magus on any of them. Where is he? she wondered. She glanced at the monitor displaying the infirmary, and saw Lucca and Marle were stirring. She decided to save any further explorations until after she had brought her two companions up to date regarding the events of the day.

Nabiki retraced her steps until she arrived at the infirmary. She found Lucca sitting on the edge of her cot, holding her head and groaning. She looked blearily at Nabiki as she entered, and said, "Morning, Nabiki. I had the strangest dream. I dreamt that I saw an old ally of ours, Magus, except that he was wearing camouflage, and he gave me this weird fruit, and-" she suddenly got a good look at her environs, "-er, it wasn't a dream, was it?"

Nabiki shook her head. "Really? Magus?" questioned Marle, just waking. "So he's here, too?"

"He didn't try to hurt you, or anything?" inquired Lucca.

"Oh, of course not!" said Nabiki cheerfully. "He was a perfect gentleman!"

"Magus?" Lucca asked incredulously.

"Once I blackmailed him, that is," finished Nabiki.

"Blackmailed? How?" Marle asked.

"He wanted to use the Epoch. When he found out that it wasn't working, he planned to kidnap Lucca and force her to fix it, leaving Marle and I to die. I told him that if he saved us as well, Lucca would be more willing to help him."

"That sounds like Magus," nodded Lucca.

"He could have just asked," Marle said severely. "We would have been more than willing to lend a hand."

"I don't think that's really Magus's way," said Lucca. "He never asks for help."

"So where is he?" asked Marle.

"I'm not sure. He cured you and Lucca, and then left. I've been exploring his little base here, but all I've been able to find is empty bedrooms, a bathroom-"

"Bathroom?" Lucca and Marle suddenly chorused.

"I'll show you the way," grinned Nabiki.

Afterword:

I had to beat my Dark Id into submission with a stick halfway through this chapter. Why does it always pick on Nabiki, anyway? Oh, well.

The appearance and name (but not the effects) of Dark Fruit were borrowed from an episode of Sailor Moon.

Chrono Trigger Tip #7:

Magus has gotta be the coolest character in Chrono Trigger, and his weapon rocks! So, where can I find a really kick-butt scythe?

The best scythe in the game, the DoomSickle, is cleverly hidden in Ozzie's Hideout. After you've recovered the Epoch from Dalton, you can travel to 600 A.D. to find that Ozzie built a second fortress after Magus's original fortress was destroyed. About halfway through this fortress, you come to a room where Ozzie is operating a trap (specifically, a treasure chest with a chopping blade on a chain before it). The lower right portion of the screen here appears to be empty and inaccessible, but if you feel along the wall just below and to the right of where Ozzie was standing, you will find a niche. Inside will be several goodies, including a Magic Tab and Magus's ultimate Scythe.

Oh, that reminds me. Just how can I get to that chest without being chopped down to 1 hit point by that trap?

Simple. Just ignore the trap at first, and walk by. A Stupid Minion (tm) will trigger the trap for you. Ozzie, seeing his plan foiled, will run off, leaving the chest for the taking.

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