Heya again, Chapter 7 up and ready. Some people may be wondering why updates come a day earlier each week instead of on a same weekly scheduled day. Well, being in the military and all we have things called"duty days"which more or less means we are confined to the ship for the whole day and stand watches with weapons and such. my duty day comes a day earlier each week and thus I try and update before my duty as a kind of pre-duty ritual thingy. Anyway, departing from the random tid-bit of information.
On to other news. I know people come to read this story, don't think I can't view the stats page, but no-one seems to want to leave a review. I'm not going to threaten to stop the story if they don't come, i'm not here to boost my ego after all, but I really do want to know what people think of what, and how, I write. If an artist paints a horrible picture and no one tells him, then he keeps painting horrible pictures. Only through criticism, constructive mind you, can someone see the faults that they might have and yet not realize. My rant is done. You will hear no more about this the rest of the story, this I promise.
Enjoy this chapter, hopefully! Now on with the show!
Chapter 7: The Watching Eyes
Brief glimpses of steel slicing through scales and flesh, of claws raking painfully across her back, and of tumbles, ducks, and dodges. Lana knew they were small bits and parts of a much greater battle, knew she’d been part of that battle, but found that the memories came like fragments of a dream; only the pain connected it with reality. Still though, the fact that they seemed like dreams didn’t alter her current situation. Now she was stuck with a dying frogman on her back as she trudged through the dank and sweaty forest.
The driving force behind her actions released its’ all encompassing grip on her, returning her free will, but only leaving her one option; to keep running. Who knew how far behind the snake woman was? Lana had no wanting to meet the quick and agile creature again, the large claw rake across her back still burned, and she did not want a matching injury down the front. It felt rather unfair that, whatever it was, it could just use her body and leave without taking any of the injuries with it.
I have to keep control, thought Lana to herself,next time I might not be so fortunate to get only a scratch.The reassuring presence felt so good though, as if it could do no wrong, but Lana begged to differ. Who knew what was controlling her, or even why? All she did know was she wanted it to stop. It was her life to control, not someone else’s.
Her mind was ripped back to the present and the bleeding knight who moaned occasionally, saying something about an evil warlock. Delusions and nightmares, Lana judged. No doubt he was reliving the fateful day that his life changed forever. Remembering the last words his best friend had said to him, crying anew at the pain that tore at his insides when Magus torched Cyrus’ body before the young swordsman.
Like all Observers at the Chronopolis she’d learned in great detail, bordering on anal retentiveness, the many events of history and the people that they dealt with. It took only a moment of thinking for Lana to gain her bearings and guess the approximate year she’d ended up in. Glenn and Cyrus’ encounter with Magus and Ozzie on the Denadoro Mountains was not an unknown event. A battle ensued, more a slaughter than a battle, and Cyrus died while Glenn was left to live on with his curse.Most definitely not a happy ending, thought Lana to herself; remembering the words Janus had earlier said.
Did he think he was the only one with a sob story to tell? Lana wasn’t naïve’ and knew that most times in life things didn’t have a happy ending. Janus treated her like she was a child though, treated everyone in that same manner, and Lana was once again rousing for an argument with the thick headed teacher. In hindsight she was again surprised at how much control the presence had over her. Not once since she’d copied his memories had the two argued.
Dusk was fast approaching, bringing with it the beginning stirrings of night creatures and other various things that lurked in the dark. Soon, Lana decided, they’d have to get to some shelter and set up a fire before the nighttime fully enveloped them and they’d stumble about blindly. Or worse, perhaps caught by the snake woman and all of Lana’s efforts would be for nothing.What effort, laughed Lana,it wasn’t my choice to come here in the first place.
A small sliver of reassurance crept into her mind, saying that in fact she was glad to have a chance to save the valiant frog knight. Lana attempted to push it down but it didn’t shrink or grow, instead remaining a small solid presence. It whispered sweet nothings into her mind, and Lana soon found herself being lead along again and liking it despite her attempts to fight.
Her actions again became a lucid dream; the trees seemed to be made of nothing more than illusions and light, and Lana could see through everything as if it was something she could bring in and out of focus. Eyes and mouths, belonging to the various denizens of the forest, floated about like bodiless phantoms. Smiling viciously as their eyes and teeth gleamed with hunger. Their white spectral features took on a pale blue glow and vanished like chaff blowing away in the wind.
Time and space seemed to mean nothing, at one moment she was walking through the forest and the next she was high above the sky, looking down at her own body from above. Yesterday was today and Lana was suddenly again at the campsite with Janus’ small child form brooding in the corner while Zeal floated in the background. Pictures, sounds, places, people, times; passing by and merging with one another to create impossible realities. Nothing made sense but it made even more sense since it didn’t.
A while later, a least before midnight she figured by the position of the moon when she finally regained her wits, Lana’s trance-like state ended at the entrance to a small cave, hidden by a mass of overgrown bushes. The feeling relented, returning to Lana her sharp awareness and stinging back pain, and she once again shivered to think that it was so easy to be controlled. Still there was no choice but take the cave or risk a night in the woods, woods where who knew what lived. The cave was the better choice, she resigned.
Hacking away the offending foliage that hid the haven from view, Lana cautiously advanced; katana in one hand and her other supporting Glenn. It was small, maybe large enough to be called a spacious alcove, but it would hold the both of them. Frog was shorter than Lana but then again she wasn’t exactly tall either; in truth her lithe and curvy form probably weighed less that the shorter but stockier frog. It was a miracle, and a result of constant physical training, that she had been able to carry Frog this far.
Inside was a bed of leaves, strangely already arranged and present, which served as Glenn’s sick bed while Lana went out to gather a small amount of wood for a fire. Before walking even ten steps she’d tripped over enough wood to build a campfire with and after arranging the sticks and twigs into a tee-pee formation, she tossed a spark stick into the kindling, the burning stick quickly caught the kindling aflame. Luckily the small cave protected the fire from stray wind blasts and so Lana relaxed against the cave-wall, comfortably cool to the touch, and waited for the fire to reach full blaze.
First she’d have to treat the history VIP’s wounds then perhaps if she still had enough energy, she find a way to treat her own. Things didn’t look good for the moaning frog, various deep cuts were all along his skin, almost as many piercing and large holes were there as well, caused by stakes, and one of his arms seemed bent in a most un-natural way. Luckily Observers were also trained in field dressings and first aid with almost as much attention to detail as they’d been taught history.
Lana went to work, using the small first aid kit she’d brought from her own pack. It wasn’t much but considering the advances of technology from when first aid kits had first been used, it was leaps and bounds ahead of its time. In less than an hour she’d cleaned the cuts and stake wounds and administered a form of spray on temporary skin on the cuts. Around the moist holes that leaked blood ever so slowly, she’d cleaned and disinfected, and also applied bandages with a self holding wrapping. Once it hardened the wrapping was somewhat flexible, but harder than thick, solid wood.
Then there was the arm, the worst of all the injuries, and Lana prayed that Glenn was too far under to feel the pain as she tried her best to reposition things back where they were suppose to go. Judging that the bone itself wasn’t broken too much, just the muscle torn very severely, a splint was applied and held in place with more of the hardening band-aid substance. Unfortunately it also appeared to be his sword arm and Lana wondered how much it would affect his performance in his future battles. Sighing tiredly she cleaned the area around him and placed her jacket over her helpless charge.
With Glenn done it was now her turn to receive some mends. That was until something finally registered in her mind; a pile of rocks in back nock of the cave. Rocks that seemed to be covering something; pushing away the small rocks that were piled around the back revealed a small stash of berries and jerked meat preserved in small jars.Of course, thought Lana,this was probably a place he could rest if he was unable to reach his house at night. Well at least something is going my way.
It wasn’t a great meal, or even a good one, but it was enough to throw a few pebbles in her stomach. Too tired to even care about the vicious claw wounds on her back, and with fresh food to digest, Lana fell asleep next to the fire as it dwindled down into embers. Extinguishing at last to leave them covered in darkness once again.
Geon raced through the dark woods, illuminated by the faint rays of the moon; arms dangling loosely and uselessly at her side. Her great strides took her several trees at a time, strong muscles pumping to push her light frame, and Geon’s speed was easier to compare in terms to horses than humans. Creatures of the night wisely stayed away from the perfect hunter, slightly less perfect now, but still much their better.
Slashes to the tendons had doomed her arms to waste until they’d a chance to regenerate, and several even more grievous wounds still bleed. A deep gut gash and brutal back cut were the worst of them; they weren’t fatal though, at least not for Geon. She was designed differently than humans and the brutal gash to her stomach wouldn’t slowly kill her; besides, it would heal in a day or two anyway. The arms were by and far more important, until they healed her combat ability was 60 of what it normally was: Unsatisfactory performance.
The perfect hunter was almost ashamed to admit that she’d meet her equal, if not her better. Blending hadn’t work, whenever she’d magically and naturally concealed herself, the swordswoman would somehow know she was there. Unnatural speed and agile feats had allowed Geon to score no more than one or two solid attacks. The purple haired warrior seemed to know exactly where Geon was going to attack, knew where to step and twist for evasions, and knew where to strike when the hunter’s defense was down. It was maddening to think she’d been bested and forced to run from battle.
Emotions didn’t cloud her thinking and Geon was already on the way to the next step in reclaiming the prey. This was not a mission for a lone wolf though, more of the pack needed to be called. It was time to go back to the place of her creation and enlist the aid that her master had once commanded. Since it was 595 A.D. Magus was still in command of great legions of mystics and was sure to help his perfect hunter. If not him then Ozzie would, of course, help to fulfill his future kin’s desire.
It was a long way though; through the forest, across the vast meadows, and through the secret tunnel with deadly traps and creatures. Still Geon was undeterred. She didn’t sleep, didn’t need to eat or drink, and required no rest for tired muscles. After all, did a creature made of, and persisting still on, magic need anything else?
Four figures waited silently around a lone candle lit table, its’ solid wood surface serving as a platform to hold the single candle in a glass jar. Neither said a word, they would no open discussions until the fifth member arrived, and a stuffy silence developed while they waited. Gaspar sat next to the fifth members empty wooden seat, wearing his old brown trench-coat with boulder hat, and eyed the rest of the group assembled for their latest meeting; the meeting of the Watching Eyes.
Directly across from his seat was Eva, wearing an unnoticeable plain light-brown dress and white undershirt with her long grey strands of hair pulled back into an intricate braid, and she smiled lightly as his gaze passed over her. To her right was Henry Vose, the head of security, and even apart from any official Chronopolis functions he wore black combat boots, cameo pants, and a solid brown t-shirt. A brief nod was exchanged to the old guru when Vose noticed his examining gaze. To Eva’s left was Jenkins Alloway, his bright red hair, that stuck out in all directions, directly opposing his neat and orderly business suit; he too nodded in understanding to Gaspar. All four knew that to be discovered would be the end of them.
At last the door to Gaspar’s bar opened once more, the small bell dinging as it normally would for an everyday customer, and their last member watched stiffly in from the shadows to bask in the candle light. A blue Nu stiffly approached, robotic and precise movements, to stand before the assembled four. Gaspar gave him a sour look and shook his head in disgust, “Take that silly disguise off.”
“Sorry about that.” apologized Spekkio as the blue Nu form melted away to be replaced by a normal human male; five foot five inches with short black hair and casual jeans and t-shirt. Spekkio also took his seat and Gaspar glanced at the five of them before continuing. “What news do you have to report?”
“You were right,” sadly said Spekkio “The old man’s lost his marbles. Everyday he seems to get worse, just sits and stares at those paintings of Zeal when he’s not working. Then he babbles to himself about his grand plan at restoring the lost kingdom.”
“I was afraid of that,” softly said Gaspar “Janus had told me that when they’d met Belthasar in the alternate timeline he’d become crazy and delusional from living alone all those years. Now I see it was from something else.” Gaspar rubbed his head in pain that threatened to become tears. Instead he would turn it into resolve.
“What can we do?” Jenkins asked once the impact of Spekkio’s statement hit home. “If he tries to save Zeal then our whole current timeline ceases to exist; zip, boom, buh-bye it’s gone.”
“We should tell the others,” commented Vose “I’d reckon they’d have a nit to pick with that too.”
“We can’t,” added in Eva “The station would degenerate into chaos. Once we start slinging stones we can’t stop others from doing the same. It would turn into a blame game; the council would disperse into shards and take their departments with them. Then…well who knows what.”
“Eva’s right,” acknowledged Gaspar “Any attempt to reveal this information and let the council deal with it would end up doing worse harm.”
“Then what do you we do?” Jenkins asked again and rubbed his hands nervously through his hair “I figured that we were meant to watch for stuff like this and stop it, we can’t just sit here and do nothing.”
“We could arrange an ambush.” said Vose “Take’em by surprise and end it nice and quick like.” Clearly Vose was the military mind of the group, unfortunately now wasn’t only a military situation. No one voiced any agreement so Vose just shrugged in resignation that, yes, perhaps his methods were a bit militant, “Whatever we end up doin will have to be real silent like, need to make sure they don’t know what we do. I agree with the lady and a split council would be a might worse of a headache than when they are together.”
“One moment, let us see what other information we’ve to discuss this meeting. Jenkins do you have any new news?” Gaspar asked the mole of the group. Eva and Vose could both be called moles as well but they rarely were inside the inner workings of the Chronopolis’ operations and archiving, and Jenkins had the unique ability to dig up what went on behind closed doors.
“I confirmed that Belthasar did send a group of ex-Observers to stop the time assassin. They covered up the Gate use in the computer logs but they forgot to delete the usage logs in the Gate itself. Last night the gate was tuned to the 595 A.D. time period for quite a while and the gate tracked their ID’s as they went through. I guess they simply figured turning off the ID function and access blockers would stop the computer from reading the chips anyway.” A roguish smile spread across Jenkins face, clearly enjoying boasting about his skill. He may be in the archiving department now, but he hadn’t always.
“What about you Eva, Vose?” Both shook their heads, no new information from either. Gaspar nodded in understanding and prepared to announce his own findings. “You all know of the time gates and the role they played in defeating Lavos?” The Watching Eyes all nodded and Gaspar continued “Lana, Janus’ student, was swallowed up by a time gate while they were training in the bio-dome. Janus believes that whatever is behind the Black Wind is also behind this. I’m not sure what to believe myself but he seems to think that this entity sent Lana back to rescue Glenn.”
“That’s quite a story old man,” said Spekkio aloud when Gaspar finished “I sense though you’ve got a little more.” Gaspar nodded and continued, well aware of how this might sound to the rest of the group.
“Belthasar and Janus went to growling over this and in the end Janus agreed to let Belthasar rescue Lana since he seemed so adamant about it. Unfortunately I think that Lana is even more danger now that we know of the unauthorized team. What do you think Belthasar ordered them to do if anyone from the station sees them?”
“Make sure to keep it a secret,” solemnly said Eva “And to treat everyone else as a threat against their mission. They’re going to kill Lana if she runs into them aren’t they?”
“I believe so.” answered Gaspar “If she is indeed where Janus thinks she is, and I no reason to doubt his reasoning as it has seldom failed in the past, then we also need to save her as well.”
“She’s just one student.” bluntly stated Vose, man-power figures and tactical numbers running through his head.
“Both myself and Janus feel her ability is worth studying if it has a way of interacting with whatever creates the gates,” coldly stated Gaspar before his face softened again. “She is also a fellow station member and we can’t abandon her just because it would take a little work.”
“Maybe we should just let Janus handle that problem,” said Spekkio as he twiddled his thumbs “He has a way of getting things done, his own unique destructive way, but hey, he goes with what he gots.”
“Indeed,” thought Gaspar “Maybe it is time to invite Janus to our little conspiracy.”
“Janus, are you there?” Gaspar called as he stood outside of the aforementioned warlock’s quarters. Janus’ had been unforthcoming in answering calls to his domain and message bots had come back empty handed. That didn’t mean he wasn’t home, concluded Gaspar, it just meant he didn’t want to talk to anyone.
“Your incessant queries for me are becoming annoying.” came a dark voice from behind the plastisteel door; a veiled promise of removal if he there was no good reason for disturbing Janus. Still the door opened a moment later to admit his annoyer and the guru/bartender cautiously entered.
The room smelt of liquor, alcohol and tears, and the room’s air purifier had its’ work cut out for it. Gaspar was then unsurprised to see the dreaded scourge of the dark ages slumped over a table, bottle in hand and several more on the floor, with his normally challenging gaze dulled over. Janus also reeked of the smell one obtains after going several long days without a bath and change of clothes and Gaspar shook his head in disgust.
“I see I’ve managed to interrupt your evening,” said the bartender with little pity behind his voice. “I thought perhaps you’d want to help save your students life but it seems you’d rather drown yourself in booze instead.” Janus twitched visibly at the implied insult.
“Belthasar said he’d take care of it,” scoffed Janus, moving his dulled over iris’s to rest on Gaspar. “Why would I care anyway? I am the great uncaring and emotionless scourge of students everywhere, isn’t that what they say? Fear the mighty ex-prince of Zeal, for his gaze is mighty and visage unmoving.” Janus loudly proclaimed to the world, and Gaspar, while lifting up his hands as if receiving commendations from an unseen crowd. Seconds later his form flopped back down on the table, clearly tired and worn. “What good would I be, I’ve already failed her twice. I can’t save anyone anymore,” Janus whispered softly after his previous proclamation had time to settle. Faint veins of regret laced his words and it was a thin veil to an even greater pain underneath.
“Janus I’m only going to say this once,” warned Gaspar as he took the seat across the inebriated warlock. “Schala is dead; there is nothing you can do to change that. No matter how many drinks you have, no matter how many times you deny it; it won’t change the facts. There is nothing anyone can do to change that.” The blunt facts slapped Janus across the face like a wet fish, somewhat sobering up the warlock as his wick of anger was ignited. Gaspar wasn’t done yet though
“You think you are the only person in history to lose a loved one? Wake up and smell the earthbounds! I’ve had it up to here with your pity party. You can either snap out of this to help us save Lana, someone who needs help here and now, or you can keep dreaming about someone that needed your help then; someone forever beyond your grasp.” Gaspar grabbed the half empty bottle from Janus’ hardening grip and took a swig himself. He didn’t seem to notice, or care, about the furious ex-prince sitting across the table. Minutes passed before Janus reeled in his anger enough to finally speak.
“Before I end you,” smoothly spoke Janus with deadly promise in his voice and all sense of alcohol gone from his actions “It seems you have something you’d like to explain to me.”
“Not too much,” started Gaspar “Just that Belthasar isn’t planning to save Lana, quite the opposite, and I think it is quite likely that she is going to be killed instead.” This seemed to dissipate Janus’ anger, the guru knew it was still there but now it was directed elsewhere. Gaspar had learned long ago the easiest way to get to Janus was through his hatred and anger. “Why would he do that?” Janus asked aloud though it seemed directed more to himself; Gaspar decided to answer anyway.
“He sent out a team compromised solely of ex-Observers to stop Frog’s killer. The council doesn’t know about it yet so he can’t risk having them discovered before they complete their mission and prove themselves. If Lana is where you say she is at, it’s no wonder Gaspar insisted as he did. If you went back as well it would only compound his problem.” Gaspar’s lengthy explanation sounded complete to Janus, but the aged Guru knew when to withhold information and now was such a time.
“I see,” was all Janus said. Gaspar knew that was all he was going to respond with and it was best to not pry in these situations. Whatever Janus was currently planning it was probably better that Gaspar knew nothing about it. Satisfied that the seed had been planted insides of the warlock’s thoughts, Gaspar rose to leave. Only to be stopped mid stride by Janus’ unexpected request/command.
“I will need your help for this.”