"NO!" Sonya screamed. "Johnny!"
Johnny Cage's neck snapped with a horrifying crack, and Shao Kahn let him drop to the ground, completely lifeless. Shao Kahn stepped forward, crushing the trade-mark sunglasses under his foot. He smiled, and motioned his army forward.
"JOHNNY!" Sonya screamed again.
Sonya Blade woke up suddenly, gasping for breath, her voice hoarse. She's had the dream again, of Johnny's death. She sat up, rubbing her temples. The dream kept resurfacing, even after she'd thought she'd gotten over his senseless death. Apparently her mind did not agree with her.
As she swung her legs over the side of the bed and stood up hesitantly, she knew that it was the fact that Johnny's death was so senseless that kept bothering her. He hadn't died saving the world--he'd died only moments after saving it for the first time. He died trying to save Sonya.
She got a glass of water and a couple of sleeping pills. She hated talking drugs--she thought of them as cheating, after all, if you have to rely on a chemical to get through things--but she needed some dreamless deep sleep, and this was the only way she could get any.
"JOHNNY!" Sonya screamed. Shao Kahn merely grinned and glared at her.
"He died to save you." he intoned in a deep voice. Sonya glanced around. Everyone else was gone, she was alone with the Emperor and Johnny's lifeless body. Shao Kahn laughed. Johnny sat up to turn and look at Sonya, his head at an odd angle. Sonya stifled a scream, and tried to back up as Johnny pulled himself so, and dusted off his shades. He put them on, the twisted metal mirroring his neck.
"Sonya." he said in that smart-assed tone of his. "C'mere. It's been too long." He started to walk towards her. She didn't bother stifling anything this time but screamed whole-heartedly as the corpse came towards her--
"Snap out of it, Sonya!" Jax yelled, shaking her by the shoulders. She abruptly woke up, her piercing shriek half-dying as she found herself in her room.
She looked up at Jax wildly, her eyes darting around the room, her breath rapid, and the pounding of her heart in her head.
"Sonya," Jax said, "what the hell was that? When you didn't show up for your shift--you've never not shown up for your shift--"
Sonya noticed a movement in the corner. She suddenly could see Shao Kahn's grin, and she saw the glint off a pair of sunglasses...
She screamed again, and fainted dead away.
Liu Kang smacked her cheeks lightly to see if Sonya responded at all to anything, but she remained as she had been for the past three days. Her eyes flickered back and forth constantly, and occasionally she would let out the most gut-wrenching screams. Liu knew those screams. They were the grief-crazed yells of someone watching a friend die.
Jax was extremely worried, as one would expect. The healer monks of the Temple of Light where Jax had brought Sonya had no idea what to do. Even Kitana, with her ten thousand years of experience had no idea what to do. They were out of ideas.
"Couldn't we contact Rayden?" Liu asked Kitana. She shook her head.
"I do not think so. He is an Elder God now, and not able to interfere with mortals."
"Privileges of rank, huh?" Jax snorted. "There's got to be something we can do. We can't just sit here on our butts, while Sonya--Sonya--"
Kitana put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "We are doing everything we can."
Jax sat in his room, a sparsely furnished spare room at the temple, thinking. He wished he knew what was affecting Sonya like this. Liu had said he thought that Sonya was reliving watching Johnny Cage die, so Jax's next thought was what about this arrogant, self-centred actor could affect Sonya so much. She usually hated people like that.
He rubbed his face with his hands.
" You want to help your friend." said a voice suddenly. Jax looked up, but he couldn't see anyone. Then he noticed a movement in the shadows, and a tall man walked out. He looked like he was from asian decent, but Jax knew he wasn't from around here. He wore long black robes that seemed to shift different colours depending on the angle. Even his hair shifted, so that Jax could have sworn it was green, even though it seemed black. The man brushed the green-black hair out of his eye with a swipe of his hand. He carried a long, gray staff, that resembled a giant key. It had a large red crystal at the top that seemed to glow faintly in the darkened room.
"Who are you?" Jax said, backing away. He was up from his bed, but he inched towards his night table which held his gun.
"Do not bother going for your gun." the man said. His was slow, and calm, as if he was surprised by nothing. "I may be called Jikan Tai."
"Nice to meet you." Jax said sarcastically. "I'm--"
"Jax. I know." Jikan Tai said, interrupting. "There is no point trying to make a run for it. Liu is at the other end of the compound. Kitana is asleep. At any rate, none of them are at all powerful enough to defeat me, if it came down to a fight."
"Is that what it's going to come down to?" Jax replied, his fists up and ready. Jikan Tai looked at him disdainfully.
"The first aggressive move will be made by you." he said. "I came only to offer you a solution to your problem."
"My problem? What--" Jax's eyes widened. "You mean Sonya!"
"I could mean no other. I have a proposal to make, Jax, that you may find interesting."
"I'm all ears."
Jikan Tai took a moment to survey the room. He wrinkled his nose distastefully, then waved his staff. The backdrop faded and changed, without Jax even moving.
"What the hell--!" Jax exclaimed as he found himself standing in front of the temple, on the stone walkway.
"Please refrain from profanities." Jikan Tai said. "I have brought you here for a reason, Jax. I am the Guardian of Time. I have the ability to move backwards, forwards, even sideways among the time strings. I have come to offer you a solution. As a wise man once said, or perhaps will say, before the answer can make sense, you must know the question. In your case, you must know the problem before you can know the solution."
He waved his wand. People suddenly appeared. Jax recognised Sonya, Liu, Kitana and Rayden. He also saw someone else, a strange man, standing next to Sonya. Shao Kahn appeared, flanked by his army and generals. Even though Jax watched their mouths move, no sound came out. There was no sound at all. The moon shone down on his friends, and they all seemed faint, ghostly images of what Jax realised was Sonya's nightmare. Shao Kahn said something, then he grabbed a whip from one of his generals and used it to catch Sonya around the ankles. The whip pulled her along the ground to where Shao Kahn could reach her. The stranger yelled, and charged after her. Kahn let her go, and grabbed the man by the head. He was talking with Rayden about something, then the Thunder God was about to toast the Emperor's generals. Rayden faltered. Shao Kahn laughed and snapped the neck of his hostage. Sonya screamed soundlessly, and the images dissolved, leaving Jax and Jikan Tai alone on the moonlit walkway.
"That was the death of Johnny Cage." Jikan Tai explained. "Now, to the crux of the matter. Do you know the question yet?"
"Yeah. I think." Jax said. "And I know the solution--go back in time, stop this guy from getting his terminal neck crick and bam! Everybody's happy."
Jikan Tai said nothing, but merely stared out among the ruins that comprised the temple of the Order of Light. "Do you feel up to the challenge, Jax? It is very dangerous."
"I'd do anything for Sonya." Jax replied without hesitation.
"Even not know her?" Jikan Tai asked, but before the mortal could answer, Jikan Tai stopped and turned his back to Jax, looking to the temple door. Kitana appeared, leaning against the doorway.
"Guardian." she said. Jikan Tai dipped his head. Kitana bowed deeply, while Jax looked on in confusion.
"This one is not aware of the problems he faces. He could cause irreparable damage to the time line." Kitana said. "This mortal humbly requests that she join him."
"Hey, I don't need any help!" Jax protested. Neither of the other two paid any attention to him.
"I will let the mortal go." Jikan said. "But do not worry about Time. I am fully in control of the situation."
He raised his staff, the crystal glowing bright red. He waved it in a tight circle, and a small object flashed into existence and dropped to the ground. Jikan Tai stepped away from it, and Kitana came forward to bend down and pick it up. She backed away almost instantly, giving the Guardian a large amount of room. She seemed to Jax--not afraid--but warily respectful of the green-haired figure.
"I will leave you to figure out what you need to do." Jikan Tai said. He raised his staff again, energy swirling around him, his cape billowing. Slowly, it seemed to blend in with the moonlit sky background, and vanished.
Kitana turned to Jax. She held out the object. Jax took it gingerly, discovering it to be a small golden pocket watch, complete with chain and gilt roman numerals.
"Here, you do it." he said, handing it back to her. She nodded, and held the watch aloft.
"Timegate--open! Take us to the point where Johnny Cage died!"
There was a swirl of light, and Jax and Kitana found themselves on the stone walkway, but the stone walkway of nearly a year ago. The victors of the Mortal Kombat tournament were marching up the road to the temple, surrounded by celebrating monks. Kitana even recognised herself, linked arm in arm with Liu Kang.
"Shao Kahn will be here any moment." Kitana said, remembering the scene even as it unfolded in front of her. "We must be ready to stop him from attacking Johnny Cage."
They lay in wait, watching as the Emperor appeared. They held their combined breath as Shao Kahn pulled Sonya towards him. Johnny charged, and Kitana pushed Jax out in to the scene. The people seemed surprised to see him suddenly appear.
"Jax?" Sonya asked, confused. Jax however, didn't waste time by answering, and charged at Kahn. Kahn was startled by the upstart mortal attacking him, and dropped Johnny. Jax pushed him far out of the way of Kahn's reach, and prepared to take Kahn on himself, but Rayden stood next to him, glaring, gathering his thunder power together. Kahn growled, and retreated. Jax smiled, and glanced at the hidden Kitana, who nodded, and yelled: "Timegate, take us home to the future!"
The watch's hands spun around. Kitana stared at it, it hadn't done that before. Suddenly she was enveloped in a bright white light, and then she appeared at the temple, Jax a few steps away from her.
"What--?" Jax whirled around, completely confused. The Temple was nearly gone--only a few ruins poking above the dirt. The sky was dark purple, lightning flashing brilliantly, thunder roaring. "It's like Outworld--" Kitana breathed. "The two must have merged after all!"
"But we won!" Jax exclaimed. "Remember?"
They turned to see Jikan Tai standing a couple steps away. Kitana immediately bowed deeply again. Jikan Tai, as usual, said nothing.
"We did." Jax said confidently. Jikan Tai merely gestured with his staff to the world around them. Jax said nothing.
Kitana gasped, and looked up at Jax, startled by her revelation. "When we saved Johnny Cage--we must have started a chain of events that lead to our losing against the Emperor."
Jikan Tai smiled, and his cape swirled around, the mist starting to conceal him from view. When the mist dissipated, he was gone.
Kitana turned to face Jax. "We must go back to the point where we all fought the Emperor. There we will find out what went wrong."
Jax nodded. Kitana activated the watch. "Timegate! Take us to the Final Battle!"
The watch glowed, then the now-familiar bright light exploded around them, and they disappeared. They reappeared a few meters from their original position. Around them, a familiar scene unfolded.
Kitana was fighting with her mother, Sindel. Liu and Kahn were fighting on the roof top. Rayden lay dead. Sonya was trying to fight off three different attackers, and Johnny struggled with the Centaurian general. "Cage took my place." Jax noted. "They must not have seen the need to rescue me."
Kitana nodded. She was watching herself collapse on the ground, at the mercy of the evil twisted version of her mother. When Kahn was killed his spell over her was broken, and Sindel returned to her former state, before vanishing, finally at peace. Something, however, struck Kitana as odd.
"They are not fighting very well. What was it that turned the tide in our version?" she asked Jax.
Jax was staring at Johnny, who was not faring well against his opponent. "I don't remember--wait! It was when Sonya yelled for help...I had to help her."
"And you fought harder against the Centaur. That was it, then." Kitana realised. "Some how, Sonya felt she couldn't ask Johnny for help. So she didn't--" She faltered as the monster crushed Johnny under its front hooves. Almost simultaneously, Sonya was killed by her three attackers. Kitana herself perished at the hands of her mother, not spurred on by her friends. Liu screamed as he saw Kitana die, and was distracted enough for Shao Kahn to shove him off the roof. He fell to the stone below. Kitana gasped and looked away.
"So the whole thing points to Sonya." Jax said, holding on to Kitana's shoulder, as she was shaking. "We've got to go to our--oh no! Our present no longer exists! We'll have to kill Johnny ourselves again to, no wait--"
"You see why time-travel is not accessible to mortals," Jikan Tai appeared, in front of them. He chuckled, shaking his head, his bangs falling into his eyes. He brushed them away and looked directly at the two mortals.
"How can we even exist here?" Kitana asked, recovering from the shock of seeing her lover fall to his death, not to mention the death of her friends.
"My power is anchoring you outside the stream." Jikan Tai replied.
"Why are you letting us do this?" Jax said. "You should have known it was hopeless."
For once, Jikan Tai was something other than emotionless. "Nothing is ever hopeless." he said, a bit shocked. "There are always more ways around a problem."
"Enough with the cryptics, Obi-wan!" Jax yelled. "Why can't you just tell us what to do?"
"Because I am breaking enough rules as it is just letting you do this!" Jikan Tai snapped. "But I was asked to do this by someone who can not interfere at all. I will do what I am asked, namely let you change the course of history! But I can not do it for you!" He vanished in rage. Jax rolled his eyes, and was about to say something when suddenly there was the sound of crunching gravel as someone walked up behind the duo. Kitana and Jax turned to face Shao Kahn. He smiled, and waved forward Sindel and two others of his army, apparently to finish the mortals off.
"I don't know who you are." Shao Kahn said. "But rest assured, you will die."
Jikan Tai suddenly reappeared in front of the two time-displaced travellers. He held his staff in a defensive position.
Shao Kahn was taken back for a moment, but recovered. " I do not fear you, magician. You are mortal as well."
"Not quite." Jikan Tai replied. He held up the staff, the red crystal glowing vibrantly. "Time-stream memories flood!" He pointed the staff at Shao Kahn and his army, who all screamed simultaneously and fell to the ground, clutching their temples.
"I will take you back to the moment you left. I repair the damage to the time-line myself. From the moment I leave you, you have one final chance to do things properly. This time it will be final." Jikan Tai called over his shoulder. He raised the staff again. "Guardian Restoration Activation!"
Sonya screamed as Johnny was killed by Shao Kahn, who snapped his neck.
Sonya looked on in confusion as her partner Jax appeared out of nowhere to shove Johnny from harm's way. A strange feeling in the back of her brain told her that this was not the way it was supposed to be.
Sonya screamed as Johnny was killed by Shao Kahn. Some how, she expected Jax to leap out from somewhere and save Johnny--but he didn't.
Kitana and Jax looked around the moonlit courtyard of the Temple. It was exactly as they had left it.
"Now, we must find out how to change things." Kitana said.
"Why? It's useless. Things just must be destined, y'know? We save Johnny Cage, the world is destroyed. We don't save him, and the world is saved, but Sonya ends up a vegetable." Jax replied bitterly.
"You're saying the good of the many outweighs the good of the one." Kitana said.
"Yeah--but this isn't a star trek movie." Jax replied.
"I do not understand the reference. But as Guardian said, there are more ways around a problem."
"He also said that we wouldn't know what the answer is until we knew what the question was. Dammit." Jax sat down on the stone, thinking hard. "Sonya must be the answer."
"I agree." Kitana said, also sitting down. "Too bad she can not help us herself."
Something started to make sense in Jax's head. Gears began turning. Finally, he had realised the problem.
"The turning point in the campaign is when Sonya asks me for help, right?" he said, excitedly. Kitana nodded, not following him. "It took the death of Johnny Cage to make her realise that there was no shame in asking for help."
"Johnny Cage is a remarkably patronising individual." Kitana said suddenly.
"What?" Jax asked, confused.
"In the beginning of the tournament, he always leapt in to save her." Kitana continued. "They fought constantly about it. Towards the end, as they fought their fear, he must have thought that she had learned to ask for help. So when Shao Kahn attacked her, he expected her to call out, unless she could handle it--"
"And Sonya was expecting him to help her from experience, so she didn't try herself--" Jax blurted out.
"That hesitation gave Shao Kahn the advantage of time, as his power was growing by the second." Kitana pointed out.
"Johnny rushed in too late, and got himself killed, when if Sonya had merely asked for it sooner, he would have been more prepared." Jax realised it all. "That's it. Some how, if we can get Sonya to ask for help sooner, Johnny would still be alive! And she'll still be able to ask for help later on."
"It does get easier with practise." Kitana said dryly. Jax stared at her, slightly astonished.
"Did you just crack a joke?" he said with a smirk. She merely smiled wanly. She took out the watch.
"When would be the best time to tell Sonya?" she asked him.
"Hm." Jax thought for a moment. "She's never really alone, at all, is she? And we can't just pop in, and expect her to take us seriously."
"You can't, but I can." said a voice behind them. They turned, to see Sonya Blade herself standing in the doorway. She looked pale, and tired. "I can tell myself exactly what happens. She'll have to believe me--I wouldn't be there otherwise."
"That makes sense." Kitana said. Jax got up to steady Sonya, who seemed haggard and weak.
"The only thing is--" Sonya said suddenly, turning her head to look up to Jax, "--is that we won't be the same sort of friends we are now. We've grown closer because of everything we've been through. If I change the past, then our friendship will go back to what it was before the tournament."
"I can live with that, if it makes you happier." Jax said, giving her a hug. "Besides, there's plenty of time to become better friends in the future."
Sonya nodded, and let go of his embrace to stand next to Kitana, who got out the watch.
"Timegate--Take us to five minutes before Shao Kahn arrives!" Kitana yelled, looking straight at Jax. She knew, as he did, that he would never remember her, or anything that he had done to help Sonya. Jax nodded. He knew as well.
They vanished in a flash of light. Jax felt a lump rise in his throat. Jikan Tai appeared, smiling gently. He raised his staff, and the Jax of this time-line ceased to exist.
Sonya leaned against the stone wall of the temple, as the five victorious kombatants walked up the stone pathway. She knew from experience that there was a moment when she other self was separate from the others for a fraction of a second before Shao Kahn appeared. As her past persona neared her, she nodded to Kitana, and reached out and grabbed her past self.
"Quiet, and stop struggling." Sonya whispered to herself. Her past version's eyes widened in fear, but Sonya knew she didn't have enough time to try and calm her other self down. She had to get her revelation regarding help through the head of herself in a matter of moments.
Sonya Blade stumbled out from the side of the temple, looking extremely confused. Johnny Cage touched her elbow gently, to see if she'd tell him what the matter was, but she merely gasped and staggered away from him. At that moment, Shao Kahn appeared, and started into a long speech about taking over the world. His army appeared behind him. One of generals handed him a whip, and he quickly used it to grab Sonya around the ankles. As she slid towards him, she suddenly remembered the bizarre encounter she had just had with her double. Knowing now what had to happen, she struggled with the whip, yelling at the same time: "Johnny! help me!"
Johnny Cage leapt forward, aiming a punch straight for Kahn's chin. Kahn, surprised, dropped the handle of the whip, as he grabbed Johnny's fist in his own meaty grip. He twisted Johnny's arm down, and would have had him in an head lock if it wasn't for Sonya appearing out of nowhere, getting a kick into Kahn's side. He yelled in surprise and anger, and tried to lash out at her, thereby letting Johnny go. Johnny used his advantage as well, and Shao Kahn actually found himself being beaten by two mortals when Rayden himself entered into the fray with a well-aimed thunderbolt. Shao Kahn teleported away from them, swearing revenge, and watching as Rayden led the others into the Temple tunnels, away from Kahn's army.
Jikan Tai smiled to himself.
Sonya couldn't cope with having three attackers. She knew it. She resisted the urge to continue fighting alone, and instead called out to the person she knew could help her: Johnny Cage.
"JOHNNY!" she yelled. "HELP ME!"
Johnny, spurred on by the threat to Sonya, defeated the Centaur he was fighting with a quick succession of well-aimed kicks and punches. He ran to Sonya's defense, helping her to get 7the three off her back. Kitana, in the meantime, realised that if Sonya could overcome her handicap when it came to asking for help, then she, Kitana, could overcome the blind spot she had when dealing with her mother's twisted incarnation. Together, they defeated their own foes to watch as Liu Kang brought the reign of Shao Kahn to an end.
Kitana activated the watch as soon as Sonya was finished relating her story to herself. As it had once before, the clock face flashed, its hands whirling around the clock, resetting the time. Kitana had no time to ponder the anomaly before she and Sonya were deposited back where they had began.
The Temple was the same. They had managed to keep Kahn from destroying them, they were sure of that. But one thing worried Sonya until she noticed someone standing in the doorway of the temple.
"Hey." Johnny said, strolling out, his hands in his pockets. "You and Kitana having a little girl talk or something?"
"Johnny!" Sonya cried, biting her lip. She rushed forward, hugging him tightly. "It's so good to see you!"
"Yeah, I guess you would kinda miss me in the few hours between supper and now." Johnny remarked dryly. He looked up at Kitana, who was staring behind him. He and Sonya both turned to see a man dressed in shimmery, glossy black robes. The figure ran a hand through his hair, and raised the staff he was carrying over his head.
"Guardian--" Kitana called out. "What will happen to Sonya in this new time-line?"
"I will merge you with your other selves to avoid the paradox you are no doubt referring to." Jikan Tai said. "As I said before, I can handle my job fairly well, mortal."
"What?" asked Johnny, some what confused.
The vibrant red crystal mounted on the staff began to flash as Jikan Tai spoke aloud the words of his spell.
"Stream Integration," he called, his voice echoing in among the temple's walls.
There was a flash of light, and Johnny stumbled backwards. He blinked and rubbed his eyes. "What the hell was that?"
"What was what?" asked Sonya, looking at him strangely.
"That flash of light--oh, never mind. So are you going to tell me what you two were conspiring about out here?" Johnny asked. Sonya and Kitana looked at each other, confusion mirrored in the other's eyes.
"I do not conspire." Kitana said with a frown. "And I do not recall why I was out here."
"Neither do I." added Sonya. "It's the oddest feeling--like something I can almost remember--" she shook her head. "I guess it can't have been that important."
The trio headed back inside, the incident becoming more and more vague until it was forgotten altogether.
Jikan Tai watched the mortals head into the temple from his favourite viewpoint in the fifth dimension. He felt a presence beside him.
"I did as you asked, Lord Rayden." he said without turning verify the presence. He knew who it was.
"So I see." Rayden said. "Good job. Shame about Jax, but I suppose he might pop up again."
"He will." Jikan Tai confirmed. "One thing, Lord Rayden. You knew from the start that events in this time-line would turn you back from an Elder God and that your father would be resurrected. Why would you want that?"
"I would rather let my father have the post." Rayden commented. "Besides, it's better being a bit less powerful than being stuck behind a desk, anyway."
"I think you have been around mortals too long." Jikan Tai remarked dryly.
Rayden laughed. "I'll take that as a compliment."
"As you wish, Lord Rayden."