Chronicles of a Caped Crusader: Days Yet to Pass: Part Four
The Lynette landed inside the high walls surrounding the castle, walls that had not been there in Chloe's time. Chloe followed Buzz out, putting her mask back on as a matter of habit. The courtyards were orderly, but they were plain, the flowers gone and only the bushes remaining. The signs of Elise's hard work, maintained by a gardener when they were in Neopia Central, were gone.
She looked to Buzz, but he was impassive.
“Why are we here?” Chloe asked, her voice shaking. “If- if she's turned, I don't want to see her. There is nothing I can do to fix what's gone wrong with this world, and I don't want to be a part of it.”
“I'm not asking you to fix anything, Chloe. Despite whatever the Resistance might hope, there is nothing you can do. There was nothing Judge Hog could have done either. I'm asking you to reserve judgment until you learn the full story. No one can fix this world, but details can be changed. I'm changing the one thing that I can,” Buzz said as he walked up to an outer door.
He pressed a button on a panel by the door and an unfamiliar voice answered as the door slid open.
“Mom says she's busy on a call. She wants you to go wait for her in the sun room.”
“Acknowledged,” Buzz replied as he stepped inside.
“I don't recognize that voice, but she said 'mom'. Is she talking about Kristy?” Chloe asked as she followed him through the still familiar halls.
“Just wait,” Buzz said again.
His cryptic answers were getting on her already short nerves, but she shut her mouth and just followed him up to the sun room. The sun room was on the first floor, on the corner of the looking out. Walls obscured much of the view now, but it had once offered a lovely view of the forest where Illusen made her home.
Chloe stayed standing as Buzz seated himself, despite his warning her that their host could potentially be a while. She looked around the room, nothing was changed. Even the furniture was exactly the same as when she had left. Looking closely, she saw some signs of wear that had not been there last time she had seen it, which reinforced her belief that this wasn't some crazy fantasy. They would have made it different, making it obvious that things had changed, that this was the future.
She was looking at a painting of Illusen's Glade that Elise had painted when she heard a door open.
“Sorry for making you wait, Buzz. You know Iniquitous; the wretch never shuts up. I'd have changed out of this stupid costume first, but I figured that you must have something important since you're showing up out of the blue like this.”
Chloe felt her skin crawl as the familiar, beloved voice uttered those words in tired, frustrated tones. It took a great effort for Chloe to turn herself to look at the speaker. She turned, expecting to see the Kristy she knew, short, long blonde hair, dressed in light colors. What she saw was entirely unlike that.
A short, pale human woman stood there, but she had straight black hair and an eye patch over her right eye. She was dressed in something reminiscent of a military uniform, the tight, tailored coat and high, polished boots. However, she was wearing a skirt that split at the knees and flowed off behind her and dragged the floor in a train that was about two feet long. There was a single, fingerless glove on her right hand, but not on her left. The outfit was more like a ridiculous caricature of a villain than anything else.
“Kri- Kristy!” Chloe spluttered, unable to believe that the woman was her mother. If she hadn't heard her speak, she wouldn't have believed it.
The woman turned to look at her, noticing her for the first time. Her face contorted in fury. “How dare you come here dressed like that? Who do you think you are?”
The fury was all consuming, something she had never seen Kristy display, even in the worst of situations. She tore across the room, and Chloe realized that she was going to attack her. She recoiled, unable to even contemplate fighting with her mother, especially this broken looking phantom of the woman she had known.
“Kristy, stop, just let me explain!” Buzz cried, catching her midway through her charge.
Chloe recoiled further into the corner as she watched the furious woman fight against Buzz's grip. Despite the fact that he was no longer young, he was still the stronger of the two. She finally gave up, collapsing to the ground, weeping.
“Why would you be so cruel?” she sobbed out.
“Chloe, take off that mask,” Buzz instructed.
Chloe hurriedly reached up and pulled off both her mask and wig, dropping them to the floor and shaking her orange hair loose. Kristy was still sobbing into her hands, cradled in Buzz's arms.
“I promise you, it's not a trick. You know I wouldn't do that to you. Just look,” he said softly.
She lifted her face and looked up at Chloe, her face stained with tears. The anguish disappeared, replaced by confusion and, even more subtly, hope.
“Chloe? But, how? How could it- you're too young,”Kristy gasped out.
Despite still being confused and afraid, Chloe walked over and knelt down in front of her. “It's me.”
Kristy reached up and took her face in her hands, searching her face. “It is you. It is you! Oh, you've come back. Oh, Chloe!”
She enveloped her in a hug, holding her so tight it hurt. Chloe just wrapped her arms around her mother and felt all the doubts she'd had melting away. She didn't know how long she had knelt there, lost in the sense of security seeing her mother brought her, when they were interrupted by a voice.
“Mom? Mom, what's going on?”
Chloe looked up to see an Acara standing in the doorway. She was young, about Bluejay's age, the Bluejay she had known that morning. She stood there, twirling a blonde pigtail around her finger, biting her lip.
Kristy looked up and smiled at her. “Inna, It's Chloe. Somehow, she's come back. It's your sister.”
Chloe felt herself stiffen as Kristy said those words. The girl was baby Sireinna? Inna looked just as taken aback.
“Mom, that's not possible. Chloe's been dead for ten years,” the girl said. She turned to Buzz, “Uncle Buzz, is Mom okay?”
“Uncle Buzz?” Chloe asked, looking at him.
Buzz shrugged. “It's not my fault you didn't like me, Chloe. Inna always liked bad boys, the Meepits, Dr. Sloth's minions. Of course I'd wind up an uncle. No, Inna, she's not crazy. This is your sister.”
Inna looked at her for a minute and then turned and took off running, vanishing down the hall. Chloe felt tears stinging her eyes. Kristy noticed and kissed her forehead comfortingly.
“It's okay, honey. Inna doesn't really remember you; she was so small when… She'll come around,” Kristy said.
They had just got to their feet again when they heard running footsteps again, only this time there were more than just one set. Inna reappeared in the doorway, and behind her were a Christmas Zafara and a White Xweetok.
“Yanli? Molly?” Chloe gasped.
They were both older, but they looked the most like their younger selves of any of the siblings Chloe had encountered so far. Molly stood there as if paralyzed, just staring. Yanli, on the other hand, pushed past her sisters, screaming with joy and threw herself into Chloe's arms. Chloe hugged Yanli, glad that someone seemed to accept her back with no questions asked.
“I knew it! Molly didn't believe Inna, but I knew it. They finished my machine, didn't they?” Yanli cried.
“Wait, yours? They did say it was yours. I was so busy trying to wrap my head around everything else thrown at me that I didn't even have time for that to register. You designed that time machine thing, Yanli? You?” Chloe cried.
“I'm a super genius,” Yanli said with a toss of her hair, which was still as messy as ever. “Didn't know it back then, didn't care. Still don't, really. But, when we lost you, I started studying lots of stupid, boring stuff. Six million different theories on everything related to time and space, everything about that strange Wocky who showed up with a time machine Tyrannia all those years ago, time magic, junk like that. I started building the device, but I didn't get to finish it. I was captured by Iniquitous before I could, and then I never built another one because I no longer had the necessary component for it. I can't believe they figured out what it was about, let alone finished it!”
Chloe shook her head. “In spite of your newfound, or rather, realized genius, I'm glad to see you never change, Yanli.”
“I haven't changed,” Molly said in a timid voice.
She finally entered the room and stood in front of Chloe, still looking unsure. “I still look after Inna and keep Yanli on track. I play the violin, too. You were going to teach me, remember? I use the one that was yours. They said you'd like it if I used yours. Mama says I'm good at it.”
Chloe pulled Molly into a hug and assured her that she was glad Molly was using her violin. She looked over at Inna who was leaning against Kristy, holding her hand and looking nervous, the way she always had as a baby when someone she knew but hadn't seen in a long time came to visit.
“And, what about you, Inna? What do you do?” Chloe asked, hoping to break the ice.
“Well, I play with my toys and I read books. Sometimes, I answer the door for Mom, when she's busy. And, I push Veronica around the garden and help her when she needs help with things,” Inna said slowly, her sweet little voice still had the distant echo of the sweet baby Chloe had known.
“Veronica?” Chloe demanded, looking at Kristy.
Kristy nodded and smiled a weary smile. “Things have changed, Chloe. More than most people know.”
To be continued…