Chronicles of a Caped Crusader: Days Yet to Pass: Part Nine
Chloe stood in the room, now abandoned by everyone, each having things they needed to do, and stared out the window. She had nothing for the time being, no purpose or even interests left to pick up. She was utterly adrift in this new world.
Chloe turned to look and saw Molly standing in the doorway.
“In the confusion and chaos of your unexpected arrival, we forgot that there is someone else you probably want to go see,” Molly said, her smile was a little sad.
Chloe didn't ask who it was; she just followed Molly out. She wasn't sure who Molly was talking about, but it was easier to see than to ask questions. She was surprised when she brought her to her bedroom, or at least the room that had been her bedroom in her time. She was reluctant to open the door.
“It's pretty much the same in there, the same as you left it before… It might be a little different, because you're further in the past from that, but not that different,” Molly told her.
Chloe gripped the handle and pushed the door open. True to Molly's word, the room was virtually unchanged. Some trinkets and books were new, but that was it. Her eyes immediately landed on who Molly had brought her to see. A pink warf slept on her bed, her fur almost entirely white from age.
Chloe glanced at Molly, unable to believe what she was seeing. Molly smiled at her. “It's May. She's long lived past the average for her species. She's pretty remarkable. Honestly, I don't think she ever understood that you were gone. She's been waiting for you to come home this whole time. I guess she knew something we didn't. Your old clothes are in the drawers. We sealed them to prevent petpetpets from eating them, so they should still be wearable if you wanted to change out of that Morphica costume.”
Chloe nodded, going into the bedroom and closing the door quietly. She opened a dresser and found everything as Molly had said. She quietly opened the packages and took out the clothes, deciding to change before she woke May. She didn't know if the warf would care about her strange suit of body armor or not, but she decided she'd rather greet her old friend as Chloe, not a mix of Chloe and Morphica.
Once she was changed, she hung the suit up in the wardrobe. She wanted it there in case she needed it again, although that seemed unlikely. She then walked over to the bed and sat down on the edge and watched the petpet slumber, unsure of how to wake her. She was so old; she was afraid she might scare her if she did it too quickly.
Her dilemma was ended by May herself. Noticing the shift in the blankets from Chloe sitting on the bed, she awoke. She opened her watery brown eyes and yawned deeply. Her eyes rested on Chloe, unseeing with sleep. Suddenly, her nose began wiggling as she sniffed, and she blinked twice, her eyes clearing. Her tongue lolled in a happy grin and she began to whimper and cry. Chloe reached over and picked her up, pulling her into a gentle hug.
“I'm home, May. I'm so sorry I left you for so long; I'm so sorry.”
May began licking her face as enthusiastically as she could at her age, still whimpering. Chloe stroked her soft head, repeating that she was home. For the first time since the nightmare future had been thrust on her, she felt like she was home.***
A full day passed from Kristy's departure before her return. Chloe was surprised she returned so quickly, and also sorry to know that the Citadel hadn't been able to put up much of a fight. As much as she wanted the nightmare to be over, she was saddened by the knowledge of how hopeless the Resistance's fight really was. Sure, Kristy had inside knowledge, and had probably caught them by surprise, but if Iniquitous' forces took them down in fewer than twelve hours, there had never been a hope in the first place.
She had the machine with her, and Elise and Bluejay. Chloe hadn't expected her to be able to capture them while focusing on getting the machine, but she had managed it all. The machine was immediately placed in Yanli's lab, and her siblings were locked in their old rooms.
“I take it that went well?” Chloe asked, standing next to her mother outside the door to Yanli's lab. Yanli had wheeled Veronica in and kicked them out so they could work on the machine without distractions.
“You have a decidedly bad way of phrasing things, dear,” Kristy replied, pulling off her gloves and wig.
“Yeah, you're right. Sorry.”
“We got what we wanted. Your siblings were unharmed, and the machine seems to have been virtually untampered with. As for the rest, I guess the Darigani Resistance are going to have to learn to get along with the Lost Desert or Space Station for a few days. After that, it won't matter. Of course, in the mean time, I think I owe Buzz money. He always said that the Citadel falling out of the sky would be my fault somehow,” Kristy said with a chuckle that was filled with self-loathing.
“Do you suppose I should go see them?” Chloe asked, referring to her siblings.
“You can if you want to. Maybe the knowledge that everyone is alive and well after all will make the next week easier for them. Beware of your brother, though. Bluejay can run his mouth in a way I never thought possible. I should probably avoid them during this week, or however long it takes Yanli and Veronica to rework the machine. I'm not their favorite mother any longer,” Kristy said, shaking her head. “I know Molly has already been to see them. Inna is taking her time. It's been a long time, and you know how timid she is.”
“We're getting along better,” Chloe said. “She does have a few memories of me after all. We were filling in the blanks yesterday.”
Kristy smiled. “That's good. How's May? I'm guessing you've seen her by now.”
“So happy to see me. She sleeps a lot, but she does it tucked up tight against me,” Chloe told her.
“That's sweet; she's waited a long time for you. Well, I'm going to go change out of this, and you can go see your sister and brother if you want. Help me remember to force food on them. Yanli forgets to eat when she's got a project, and I don't want Veronica pushing herself too hard. She's too delicate to skip meals or sleep,” Kristy called back as she began to walk away.
Chloe walked slowly to Elise's room, trying to phrase how to start in her head. Chloe had been close with all her sisters, but her bond with Elise was special. She had been Elise's first sibling, and had come to them as a baby. Elise had been there, guiding her through growing up the way older siblings did. Though Anita was older than both of them, she hadn't come into their lives until much later, so Elise had been her role model for her early childhood. She didn't know how to bridge the gap that ten years and her own death would have opened.
She came to the door and knocked on it.
“Oh, that's polite of you to knock. You do realize that I'm a prisoner? You hardly need to be so polite given the situation. I'm still not going to tell you anything,” Elise snapped from the other side of the door.
“Elise, may I come in?” Chloe called.
There was a long moment of silence from the other side. “Who is that?”
“You wouldn't believe me if I told you. May I come in so you can see for yourself?”
There was another pause. “Chloe, is that you?”
Chloe unlocked the door and stepped through. Elise was sitting in the corner, in a plush chair that was far more worn than she remembered it being. The Cybunny had changed out of her uniform and was wearing a bright blue dress, just like old times. She no longer seemed comfortable in it, so Chloe assumed she didn't have many other options in her wardrobe currently. Her leg was bandaged, but aside from that, she looked well.
Elise's eyes began to mist over and she ran her hand through her purple hair. “It is you. How is this… You're no older, you're not old enough. Oh my… you were Morphica, weren't you? We brought you here?”
“How did you wind up here? Did Buzz do this? He brought you to be prisoner here? That monster. How could he do this? He knows what she's done!” Elise's tears began to flow freely.
“No, no, Elise, you don't understand. He's done nothing wrong. He's only been a good friend. Elise, Yanli, Molly, and Inna are here. I've seen them; they are fine,” Chloe said, trying to reassure her sister. It panicked her to see Elise crying like that. She had never seen Elise lose control of herself like that.
Elise looked at her, seeming torn between hope and disbelief.
“I know you've seen Molly, and I don't know what she told you, but I can ask Inna to come see you. Yanli's busy right now, and I probably shouldn't disturb her,” Chloe offered. “But, that was Molly, and the others are here and they perfectly well.”
“Do you know what happened to Bluejay? We were on separate transports. I haven't seem him since before the attack. Did he make it out safely?” Elise said, shaking her head.
“I haven't seen him, but Kristy brought him back with her, too. He's unhurt. Kristy would never hurt you, or let you be hurt. She sold her loyalty to Iniquitous to protect all of you. She did what she had to; you might have done the same if you had been in the same situation,” Chloe said, speaking so fast her words almost ran together.
Elise looked away, the tears dried and the look in her eyes dark. “Don't say things like that. Do you know what she did yesterday? The Darigan Citadel is just another broken, lost city sitting on the sea floor because of her. She was brutal. I've never seen such an assault. There was no mercy in the way she cut the generators. Don't defend her; what she did was indefensible.”
Chloe sat down in a chair on the other side of the room from her sister and waited silently. Even knowing that Kristy had been fighting to get the machine as soon as possible and undo the world they were living in, she couldn't find the words to explain. Would Elise even understand if she tried?
“So, how do you like this world, Chloe? Do you believe it's real yet?” Elise said.
“It won't be. We're going to fix this,” Chloe said simply.
Elise's nose twitched derisively. “Don't be naive. I may have hoped Morphica could help us, but everyone knew you couldn't save us. We weren't even confident that Judge Hog could have saved us. Especially now that Buzz has betrayed us, and the Citadel has fallen, no one can fix this.”
“Buzz didn't betray you. Kristy knew where the Citadel was all along. Buzz said nothing that contributed to the fall,” Chloe said forcefully.
“Why are you defending him? You disliked him so much in our younger days. The way you used to talk about him and the way he treated Kristy. What brainwashing has gone on here?” Elise asked, her tone as hard as her eyes.
“Not long before you pulled me out of the past, I saw a side of Buzz I didn't know existed. I had begun to adapt my impressions even back then. He's changed; he's kind to our mom; he's good to our sisters, he's--”
“Just stop,” Elise cut in, waving a hand to get her to stop speaking. “Just, please, Chloe. You talk so much. I just want a minute to look at you and believe that you're real. I don't want to talk about Buzz, or our family, or anything. Just five minutes, all right?”
Chloe nodded. She pulled her legs up into the chair and wrapped her tail around them. Elise only looked at her for a few seconds before her eyes dropped to the floor. Every minute or so, she would look back up at her before looking away again. Far longer than five minutes passed, but Chloe gave her the silence to think that she so obviously needed.
“Give Bluejay a few days before you go see him,” Elise said at last. “He's become so bitter. I don't think he would handle it very well until he's had a few days to unwind from the battle. He'll be very mad that your secret was kept from us by Buzz, since it's clear now that he knew who you were.”
“All right. You always gave good advice, so I'll do as you suggest,” Chloe agreed.
“What was the world like when you left?” Elise asked. “It's been such a long time that I don't really remember the way the world was before. I worry sometimes I've romanticized my memories of it. I want a clear, un-rose-tinted picture of it.”
“It was late spring. It had rained a lot in the days before, and the lawn in Neopia Central was coated in dandelions. Molly was picking them. It was warm and a little humid. Everything was fully in bloom; all the trees were green again. Everything was normal. I don't know how to describe that to you, how to mix the good and the bad evenly to paint the fullest picture. Orion was eating grass; Molly was working hard to stop him from doing that while she was picking them. You hadn't even gotten up yet when I left the house that day. You had a job playing the piano at a fancy restaurant; you played so well all the time.”
“I miss my piano,” Elise admitted. “I missed you and your violin and how we used to play together. I missed May. I knew Kristy had taken her when she departed; May vanished at the same time as she did. I missed caring for her for you.”
“May's still around. I've had her with me since I got here,” Chloe told her.
“I really missed you, Chloe. I understand how you felt when you got here now. It's so hard to believe that you're real, that I'm not imagining you being here because I'm so lonely and sad. I used to dream about you, a dream where it was normal for you to be alive, and when I woke up, you would be alive for a few moments, and then when reality set in I had to lose you again.” The tears appeared again, quivering on her lashes.
“We're going to fix this, Elise,” Chloe said again.
“And that's why I know you're real, because you never could give up, no matter what. I'm so glad you're home.”
To be continued…