Alright, folks, let's make this brief and short as possible. I'm sure many of you have been wondering why the hell it's taken me so long to come out with the next chapter of Tales of a Steamworld, as well as that of Second Chance. The reason is as simple as it is crushing. My computer died. I lost literally everything I had prepared, as well as many other considerably important documents I had meant to save on another flash drive for safekeeping. I've had to pick back up for scratch and put together the pieces once more, waiting over the course of two weeks for a new computer, then another week to try and get back into the swing of writing stories again. Fortunately, I'm back in the swing of it all again, so let's get right back to it, shall we? On to chapter six!
Disclaimer: I do not own Tales of Symphonia, as it is the rightful property of Namco and its associates.
2 Days later
The sound of metal ricochet echoed across the empty field of the soldiers' training grounds. The open sky and calm wind gave no heed to the gunfire below, as it was a commonplace event in this area. What were not so commonplace, however, were the cause of the ricochet, as well as the owner of the cause. The boy in question, blue-shirted and a pair of sword scabbards at his side was crouched over a shooting post and taking aim at the distant targets down range. If one were close enough, and perhaps not deaf from the thundering cracks of the gunblade he wielded, one could hear the boy muttering to himself as he estimated his next shot.
"Just a little to the left…to adjust for wind and distance…"he whispered as he closed one eye and aimed down the sight of the barrel. He clicked the trigger and the gunblade sounded, the recoil causing Lloyd to shift slightly as he'd grown used to the effect. He lowered his weapon and walked out to the target, heaving it over his shoulder for easier means of carry than by dragging it along. Looking in the target rings, Lloyd saw his aim was getting better, compared to the day before. He wasn't shooting bulls-eyes and doing trick shots, but he could at least aim and get off a plenty good mark.
"That's enough for today. I'm sure Genis must be getting bored by now, waiting for me to finish practicing. It's a good thing the people here gave me these practice rounds to use instead of Dirk's so I don't waste them." He spoke to himself as he disengaged the gunblade and returned the blades that made it up to their scabbards. The familiar weight returned, Lloyd paid his dues for using the range and set out to find his friend and partner in mischief. "Now if I were a bomb maker, where would I go…?" Lloyd looked left and right before wandering down one of the now familiar streets, his boots clacking against the granite and stone walkways.
He passed a few vendors before finally coming across one he thought his friend might be lurking about in. It had a large display to attract its particular customers, a sign showing a hand full of dynamite, the fuse lit and about to blow. Lloyd would not be surprised if at night, the display lit up with extra signs hidden in the sunlight that depicted explosions of various sizes. "Like a kid in a candy store…" Lloyd joked before walking through the door. The bell sounded as he entered, and Lloyd blinked as he watched several patrons suddenly duck at his entrance. When nothing happened, they all looked up and waved the boy in, smiles abroad everywhere.
"Welcome to the Firemen's Nightmare! How can I help you today?" one of the shop workers called from the counter. Lloyd approached him and nodded in greeting.
"I was looking for a friend of mine who might have wandered in here. Why did everyone duck when I walked in, by the way? I don't exactly look that threatening." Lloyd asked.
"Oh that? The bell I use for my door is the same warning bell I sell on my bomb timers. It's sort of a reflex for bomb specialists and the like to recognize it and react accordingly. I just do it for a good laugh, haha!" He chuckled, and Lloyd couldn't help the grin that came to his face as well. "Who's this friend you're looking for? Not too many come in here, so I should be able to tell you if he came in."
Lloyd cast a glance around the store and spied a tuft of white hair at the other end of the store, the head it was attached to leaning over the display. Deciding to have a bit of fun, Lloyd sighed dramatically and raised his voice. "Well, he's a few years younger than me, got white hair, and comes up to about here on the regular height scale." Lloyd made a motion at his hip, and the shopkeeper nodded. "Don't tell him that it's not the regular though, he really uses a smaller one meant for the little folk." The head of white hair suddenly twitched at the display. "Course, he is one of the little folk, so it's somewhat required, though he insists he'll be growing up plenty soon enough. I doubt it though. He's always such a shorty." Another twitch.
"In fact, sometimes back in school, we would call him Genis, the mini-"Lloyd ducked under a bomb casing that flew where his head had been moments before. The thrower emerged and promptly walked up to Lloyd and gave him a jab in his sides. "I remember someone making a promise to never speak of that again, unless he wanted his father to know what really happened to that brand new tool set he'd gotten for his birthday when it mysteriously appeared on his table broken into several pieces."
Lloyd held a hand where Genis had jabbed at him and smiled. "Why, Genis! There you are! I had no idea you were in here!" Another jab was his reply. "Ouch, what'd you do that for?"
The shopkeeper laughed at Lloyd's expense and said, "You two crack me up. Did you find all that you were looking for, Mister Sage?"
Genis nodded and held up the few spare parts he'd needed. "You sure do have quite a lot of stock here. Who did you say provided your material?"
"It comes from overseas, sir. We take material from several of the shipping companies that work alongside the navy and government here. One of the biggest contributors is the Lezerano Company. They've got irons and materials for miles to see! They don't come for a shabby gald either!" the shopkeeper detailed. Genis nodded and rang up his purchases, clearing out some room in his pouch for once. Stepping out, the pair of boys made their way down the street at a relaxed gait. It was a peaceful day again, and the cool air from the sea kept the temperature pleasant even with the sun shining down on their heads.
"So what did you have in mind to do with those new parts, Genis? Already coming up with new ways to terrify your sister with your experiments?" Lloyd asked, his hands settled behind his head as he walked.
"Oh, har har. I told you I was coming up with ideas for new bombs. I've already figured out two in the time we've been here, and even have the prototypes ready! Do you wanna see them?" Genis exclaimed. He shook his travel bag at his side and Lloyd could hear metal clanging about within.
"It might be better to save it for when we're out of town…we don't want to scare everyone away because you got caught up in trying to make a really good explosion!" Lloyd waved his hands to dissuade Genis.
"Bombs aren't used just for explosions, you know…" Genis deadpanned, drawing Lloyd's attention.
"Well, then what else? Every bomb I've seen has been used for blowing stuff up. Seems pretty straightforward to me." Genis sighed and shook his head. "And that's why I'm the one who makes the bombs while you just swing your swords everywhere." He said before looking ahead at their hotel coming into view.
"Bombs can be used for lots of different things than just blowing someone up. There's the smoke bomb I used back in Iselia, remember? You can use that as a cover to escape or to trick someone. There's also bombs that don't use flames but instead deploy other chemicals and combinations, like a sticky bomb or a shrapnel bomb. Really, there are tons of different ideas." Genis paused to see catch Lloyd staring at him with an eyebrow raised. "What? I have lots of time to think, I come up with some pretty good ideas."
"I can see that, Genis. I just hope I never give you reason to use those good ideas on me!" Lloyd commented, causing Genis to snicker.
"We'll have to wait and see, won't we?" He joked as they reached the hotel and stepped inside, where they found Colette and Raine lounging in the front lobby. The two had been chatting and turned to greet the pair as they approached. "How has your day been, sis? Get any work done?" Genis asked as he sat opposite her.
The elder Sage nodded. "So far, it's been good. I've managed to complete a few of the required presentations I need for my next license exam. Now it's just a matter of handing them over for evaluation. Outside of that, Colette has kept me company for the most part. She even managed to help me stop a thief from trying to take my and her Gald."
Lloyd and Genis turned to Colette at this, who smiled and blushed in embarrassment. "W-well, me and the Professor were out grabbing a bite to eat when this big guy bumped into us and snatched Raine's satchel. He turned and tried to take mine as well, but he surprised me so much, I got up and fell over. And when I fell over, I…well…I hit him in a very…unpleasant place." She finished, causing Lloyd and Genis to simultaneously cringe. "He fell over and dropped our things, and got carried away by the police who happened to be nearby. I felt bad though. I only wanted to have our money back…"she finished.
Lloyd couldn't help but to sweatdrop at Colette's explanation. "Only you would feel bad about stopping someone's attempt to mug you, Colette." He laughed.
Raine took that moment to interject. "By the way, Lloyd, Kate sent us a message while you were out. It would seem she's finally finished all the tests that she'd set out to complete on our little object."
Lloyd sat up, excited and his attention focused. "Does that mean she found something out?" he asked.
Raine shook her head to the negative. "I can't say for sure. She only said for us to come by to see her, so she can tell us in person. Outside of that, she doesn't mention anything else, so make what of that you will. We can go right now, if you and Genis don't need to rest."
Lloyd stood up and grinned. "Of course I'm ready to go. Aren't you, Genis?" he turned to his companion, who shook his head at Lloyd's enthusiasm. "It doesn't matter either way, Lloyd. When you get like this, we all have to go just to make sure you don't accidentally mess anything up. We've seen what happens when you get all excited. If it doesn't keep your attention or make you more interested in ten seconds, you forget all about it."
Lloyd stammered. "I-I don't do that! I just…refocus my attention! Yeah, that's it!" he sighed as he saw Raine and Colette laughing. "Oh…fine. Just come on. I want to see what Kate found!" he exclaimed, and the four headed back out the door. As they walked out, a figure emerged from behind the decorative shrubbery placed by the entrance, smirking at the news he'd been waiting two days to hear.
"Contact to base…I have news. The subjects are returning to the university. I believe the good scientists there have finished their poking and prodding. Next course of action?" he spoke into a receiver on his wrist.
A nasal voice answered him, the tone snide. "Leave them be for now. Return to base and leave the rest to me. I have a plan for them…" the com clicked off, and the spy rushed out the door, his task complete.
Hidden warehouse, Palmacosta
A pointed finger removed itself from a placed intercom, the device being taken away by a Desian lackey the moment the user was finished. "Well…that was enlightening. It seems our prey has finally laid their egg. Now it's time for us to swipe it from the nest." The man stood from his seat and walked around the small table where he was situated. A large map detailing the layout of Palmacosta was spread across the table, with key points circled or crossed out in red ink. "But how to get inside that little hovel without being noticed by the police…" He spared a glance at a nearby mirror pane, one of the many items stored in the warehouse.
The figure looking back blended in quite well with the darkened lighting of the enclosed warehouse, his pants, long sleeved shirt, and boots all black, the shirt and pants made from breathable cotton material. The boots were leather, and came up to a few inches below his knees. Overtop the black shirt, a grey button-up vest was worn, thin and bearing no outer pockets. His hands and the lower halves of his arms left uncovered by his shirt was protected by black leather gloves, the leather pulled tight against his limber form. Around his waist, a belt was looped around loosely, with a holster for a pistol at his side attached to the belt. His eyes drifted to his facial features, a taut and bony face looking back. His narrowed eyes looked through black rounded glasses, the metal bridge between the two lens crafted into the shape of a bat with its wings extended. The man was finished off by a small bowler hat atop his head, also black. (1)
"I stand out as much as Magnius inside a glass finery shop…" he admitted to himself. "Though at least I can admit to looking good. That brute, on the other hand…" he heard a crash as the warehouse door was opened and shut forcefully. "…has the tact and grace of an Egg Bear."
"Kvar!" a voice echoed across the facility, and Kvar cringed. "I've gathered up my men. What's this I hear about some plan you need me for?" Kvar turned to see the giant of a man stalk up the stairs, his steps echoing with every step he seemed to try to crush beneath his boot. For his part, Magnius looked more akin to a desert thug than a civilian. His pants were torn in several places, some tears patched over to maintain decency. He wore no shirt, sticking to only a vest to cover his upper body, exposing the scars and muscle beneath. His red dreadlocks bounced behind him as he thudded forward in brown, steel-toed boots.
"Ahh…Magnius. Perfect timing. My plan requires you and your men to use your…considerable talents to make a distraction. You see, there's something of interest to me in the Palmacosta University, something a certain contractor would like to have his hands on. Now, normally, I would just go and get it myself, but in this case, I will likely need a quick escape and a distraction for the police forces. That's where you come in." he explained.
Magnius nodded and smirked. "I see…sounds like fun. These little wretches have had too much peace for my tastes. It's time to stir things up again!" he stretched his arm and rolled it a couple times. "So, a distraction, huh? Where and when?"
"Preferably far from the University, big enough to draw attention, as much as possible. And I would guess within the next two hours is when I need it to occur. Make sure that you're able to get away. The last thing we need is for you to be caught or to give anything away." Magnius nodded.
"Don't worry! These vermin won't be able to lift a finger to stop me! I'd like to see them try!" He says, throwing a fist behind him and accidentally slamming it into a stack of crates. "Ow!" he cringed, pulling his hand back. "Who put that there?"
Kvar cringed and sighed. "Just…don't screw up, Magnius. This needs to go over smoothly to work. The last thing we need is our boss getting wind of another of your screw-ups. I can't cover for you if you make him angry."
Magnius shook his throbbing hand and nodded. "Right, don't mess up. Got it." He walked away and down the stairs, leaving Kvar to his own thoughts once more. A moment later though, he heard another loud 'thud' and a cry of pain from Magnius. "Oh, Martel, what I would give for competent co-workers…" he sighed to himself. "For all I know, this idea might be…"
"…impossible! It really is!" Kate exclaimed. She placed her clipboard on the desk and ran a hand through her hair. "I don't know how, but its right here in front of me!"
Lloyd and the group watched as Kate paced before them. "I administered every test, ran every diagnostic and brought in at least four different specialists to test this thing. None of us can debunk it! It defies all current science that we know!" She sat down in a nearby seat and sighed. "I don't know where you found this thing, Lloyd, but whatever it is, it is above and beyond the standard!"
Raine sympathized with her colleague and went to her side, placing a hand on her shoulder. "Why don't you tell us what you did find, Kate? Surely there are some definite things you did uncover?"
Kate nodded and stood back up, regaining her professionalism. "Right. The facts. If you will follow me?" the group walked with her to one corner of the laboratory, where a massive metal generator stood in place. "For starters, I wanted to test the claim of your little device here being capable of producing an infinite charge. The hunk of metal behind me," she rapped it with her knuckles, "is your run of the mill generator. This type is used for major facilities, like this university. It normally requires at least 3 separate sources for it to reach full capacity, and that's with the rest of the machinery on as well. Plug it in to this cube, however…" she activated the few switches Dirk had used before that allowed access to the machine before sliding it into the hub reserved for the power to be exported out. The generator kicked to life, and a loud hum filled the room. "…and it immediately reaches that same full capacity!" she yelled over the machine.
Lloyd nodded in understanding, and Kate disengaged the cube. The humming noise continued, even though Kate held the miniature battery away. "As you can see, even when it's been removed, the generator is still active!" she yelled, walking behind the generator and hitting the manual shutdown. It whirred down, and the rest of the group removed their hands from their ears. "Next, the materials used to construct this little trinket." Kate moved to an elongated table, where various metals, minerals, and other materials lay strewn out.
"Now, my first immediate thought was to check and see if any of the regular materials of Sylvarant were used. Of course, surprise surprise, none of them was even a close match. This half of the table," she waved her arm to the left, "is what made up the Sylvarant portion. So we tested the Tethe'allan minerals next. They are here." she indicated the latter half. "Save a very select few, there were no matches here either. The ones we could match were only matched with materials that are extremely rare and difficult to acquire, let alone use to create something. Incredible durability, intense energy displacement, and a damn strong resistance to wear via erosion or corrosion are recognized in each."
"So what would that mean, if it's made up of those things?" Colette questioned, curious to the point the researcher was getting to.
"Essentially, Miss Colette, this little device here is more protected from harm than a military bunker designed for war. And that's saying something. Whatever it is contained in here that's providing this infinite energy charge we saw before? It is not getting out save for maybe the apocalypse." Kate explained. "And yet, that's not the oddest of what I've found." She approached a third table, where three separate tools were situated. First in place was a simple burner, the ignition light visible and active. Second was a system of beakers and test tubes with water flowing through them in a continuous cycle. Finally, what appeared to be an electric current displacer was set up, with two metal rods in place as a bolt of electricity could be seen flowing up the rods every few seconds.
"What's all this set up for?" Genis asked, looking confused. "What did you intend to test?"
"An odd hunch I had, based off of a few readings from an old alchemist's research I thought may have helped me to figure this out. Now, hear me out." She stated as she saw Genis' incredulous look. "Alchemy may be disregarded somewhat by the scientific community, but only in the aspects of what were deemed 'mystical' or 'supernatural'. Much of our own sciences are based off the work done by our predecessors who practiced alchemy. Now, as for your question…" she cleared her throat. "…I wanted to test elemental responsiveness to this device. To see if there were any curious reactions that might occur from interaction with naturally occurring events, such as fire or water, and even electricity by a stretch. What I found was…truly remarkable. Watch."
Lloyd stepped closer and leaned in as Kate turned the cube and activated another of its switches. "While I was observing these instruments on this thing, I noticed that my candle that I'd been using for light had suddenly burned brighter. The wax that normally took hours of multiple usage to burn out was gone and out in a matter of two hours. Look here." She held the cube near the burning flame, and Lloyd's eyes widened as the flame seemed to spontaneously grow in size. Kate pulled back the cube, and the flame died down. "Wow…"Lloyd whispered.
"That's not all. Observe how the water changes in response to the cube." Kate moved the machine to in front of the liquid, and Lloyd watched as the flow of the water sped up, as if being encouraged by the cube's presence. "But how…how does that work? Is it some sort of effect of the cube? What did you do?" he questioned.
"I believe it's some sort of emitter function, placed here." She pointed to the switch in question. "Though I'm not quite sure how to employ it, it appears to affect the natural environment around it when active." She held it near the electricity test, and the group watched as the bolt of electricity that would emerge was suddenly much larger than before. Kate pulled the cube back and flicked the switch off, deactivating it. She set the cube down and sighed. "That's everything I could find on it. And to be frank, I still don't know what the hell this thing is. This should not exist, and yet, here it is! It defies all rational science!"
Lloyd looked over at the cube and ran his hand through his hair. 'Just what have I gotten myself into here…' he thought to himself. 'This thing is just getting more and more complicated. It's enough to almost make me want to smash the blasted thing…if it wouldn't break whatever I smashed it into.'
"What would you think then, Kate? Do we need to take this somewhere else to debunk it?" Raine asked. It was troubling to her that her friend wasn't able to help them solve this. "If it's beyond you, Kate, then I don't know who to turn to for help. The only people I can think of are over in Meltokio, and they're not likely to give us the time of day unless we willingly just hand over this thing."
Kate nodded. "And knowing how that route would go, that would be the last we'd ever see of this thing ever again. Not to mention we would all be swept under the rug to keep quiet about it." She looked to add more to it, when suddenly an alarm echoed through the room. "What? It can't be…that's the campus' security alarm!" she exclaimed as another scientist emerged from the stairwell and ran in. "What's going on?" she demanded.
"It's a security warning for the whole town. Someone's taken the whole Governor's office hostage! They have thugs and machines and everything! The police are trying to defuse the situation, but they can't do anything until they get the hostages out!" the scientist answered. "We've been ordered on lockdown to make sure none of the Desians try to get in here!"
Kate sighed and rubbed at her face with her hand. "Of all the times for this to happen…now we'll be stuck here till they release the lockdown!"
Lloyd turned to Genis and met his eyes, causing Genis to blink before he nodded at the unspoken message. "Is there a way to get out of here through the lockdown?" he asked, drawing everyone's attention to him. "We need to get outside."
"Lloyd, what are you talking about? What can you hope to do?" Raine questioned. "This isn't a time to go playing hero! We should stay here, where it's safe!"
Lloyd shook his head to the negative. "I'm sorry, Professor, but there are people out there who need my help. Innocent people. I can't just sit by and do nothing if I'm able to do something." He turned to the newcomer and asked again, "Can you show us a way out of here?"
The scientist nodded. "There's an emergency fire exit, in case we needed to escape. You can take that."
Lloyd nodded. "Good. Genis, you're coming with me. Raine, Colette, stay here with Kate and watch over the cube. We'll be back once we've taken care of whoever it is that's causing this trouble." Genis nodded and followed Lloyd as he and the spare scientist ran out the door, ignoring Raine's huffing protests.
"The nerve of that boy…" Raine sighed, shaking her head. "Alright, Colette if they're going to do that, then we're going to do something to help as well." She turned to Kate, who blinked in confusion. "I'm going to go ahead and make a guess that there's something more going on here than just someone taking hostages at the city hall. Out of the blue like that, with no warning? I don't fully buy it."
Colette looked to Raine in confusion. "What do you mean, Professor?" she asked.
"Colette, trust me on this. Kate, let's make sure this room is secure. I've got a bad feeling…" Raine answered.
Upstairs, Lloyd and Genis emerged from a small side door, held open by the scientist. "Be careful! Remember, you won't be able to get back in until the lockdown is lifted!" he said before he shut the door. Lloyd and Genis nodded to each other before racing off towards the main entrance. As they ran, they didn't spot the group of men waiting in the bushes nearby on the campus lawn, watching as Lloyd and Genis emerged from the doorway. "There's our entry, gentlemen…let's move and move quickly." Kvar ordered as they dashed out towards the university.
1. Kvar's outfit will be linked on my profile, alongside the other characters.
Ok, that's done and put out now. We have some progression, as well as some development of the cube, that mysterious little geometric thing. I wonder just what Lloyd and co. are going to do with it now? Especially with the likes of Kvar setting his sights on obtaining it. Will Lloyd and Genis be able to save the hostages at City hall? Will Kvar obtain the cube for his own misdeeds?
You'll have to read and review to find out! Catch you all next time! Hopefully a next time that's a lot sooner than this one was…