Now that Serge has his body back (after a curious minute long gestation period inside Home World’s Dragon Tear that leaves him reborn as his seventeen-year-old self), he’s finally able to enter the Sea of Eden.
The only problem is that returning to the entrance of the Sea of Eden shows that the way is permanently sealed, so even with a fresh new Serge body, we can’t get in this way. In a move that’s somewhat counter-intuitive, the party has to return to Home World’s Dead Sea and use one of the portals that has opened up there (there’s really nothing that I found on this playthrough that indicated this was how you were supposed to access the Sea of Eden; poor use of NPC chatter to point the player towards the next objective has been a recurring problem throughout this game, and it’s particularly frustrating so close to the end where we should be gaining momentum).
Once we find our way to the Sea of Eden, we see that there’s a giant wall of water preventing access to the center of the area, so the party visits the islands located at each tip of the triangle. This is a sequence that doesn’t really have any bearing on the story, but I think it’s a nice bit of thematic work. As we’ll discover shortly, the place that’s waiting in the center of the Sea is Chronopolis, a research facility from the future that was looking to discover how to manipulate time. The three parts of the external security system are labeled Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, the names of the three Fates in Greek mythology (fun fact: this is another aspect of the maiden/mother/crone trichotomy that keeps popping up in The Sandman). It’s an appropriate motif to use for the guardians of Chronopolis, and it calls back to the recurring idea that fighting against fate is a challenging prospect.
Inside Chronopolis, we get the motherload of explanations. This research facility was opened in 2300 A.D. to follow up on the work of Lucca Ashtear and Belthasar (Chrono Trigger‘s Lucca and the Guru of Reason, who invented the time machine Epoch), and in 2400 A.D. it was on the verge of a major discovery that would have allowed the researchers to manipulate time at will. Something went wrong with the experiment, and the entire facility was catapulted ten thousand years into the past. Now the El Nido archipelago didn’t originally exist when Chronopolis was built; the facility’s location, which was just empty sea, was chosen because of its unusual gravitational properties. With the Time Crash (what the records call the event that displaced Chronopolis), the facility’s supercomputer AI, FATE, decided to terraform the sea with artificial islands and send Chronopolis’s inhabitants out to live on them, sealing the facility off.
So far so good? Great.
Now, because Chronopolis suddenly existed ten thousand years before it was supposed to, FATE had to do something to prevent any time paradoxes that might cause Chronopolis to disappear from the future timeline. So when it sent the researchers out to the islands, it wiped their memories of the future and sent out Records of Fate (the game’s save points) which acted as oracles for the inhabitants that subtly manipulated their decisions to keep anyone from choosing to leave the archipelago and interfere with the larger world. This all worked out great for FATE until the incident where Wazuki and Miguel managed to slip past its defenses during a severe storm in their efforts to get Serge to someone who could heal him.
When FATE’s system rebooted following the power outage, a hidden logic circuit based on Prometheus’s AI (that’s Robo from Chrono Trigger) chose Serge as the new arbiter for interfacing with FATE’s primary power source the Frozen Flame (actually a splinter of Lavos’s body), effectively locking FATE out.
Now, because FATE had been manipulating El Nido’s entire population for millennia, and it was modeled on the Mother Brain AI (a megalomaniacal AI from Chrono Trigger‘s bad future who wants to destroy all humans and repopulate the world with robots), it didn’t take kindly to this interference. Lynx, who is here revealed to have been a biological avatar for FATE, was sent out to track down Serge. The first time he found Serge in 1010 A.D. he killed him, thinking this would reset the Frozen Flame. This was temporarily successful, but then Kid traveled back from 1020 A.D. and saved Serge, splitting the timeline. This created the paradox that caused the Sea of Eden to implode and become the Dead Sea in Home World, as the future for that timeline ceased to exist (apparently Home World is part of a timeline where Chrono and company failed to defeat Lavos, resulting in the bad future). Also, because apparently the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics is extremely limited in the Chrono universe, Serge retained arbiter status even in the timeline where he’s dead.
And that is how it came to pass that Serge got pulled through a wormhole into Another World where everyone was suddenly looking to capture him.
There’s a lot of really interesting stuff going on here with all the talk about alternate timelines and warped causality. The essential motto of Chrono Cross seems to be that time travel always screws things up, while Chrono Trigger hewed more closely to the idea that time travel could only have positive consequences (I chalk this up to the fact that Chrono Trigger was envisioned as a rip-roaring adventure, while Chrono Cross was written to be much more meditative; it’s part of the reason most of the game feels like it lacks a compelling reason for Serge to continue his journey, because there’s just a ton of philosophical navel gazing). Unfortunately, it gets packed in so tightly that it’s really easy to miss a lot of the finer points of what’s going on.
The more relevant points for people who just want to know what happens now are these: we get our final showdown with Lynx-as-Serge-as-FATE, Serge unlocks the Frozen Flame (which is kept in a capsule labeled “Project Kid”; no, I do not know what Kid has to do with this future project, because once we get her origins explained it becomes very clear that she is not from the future) and snaps Kid out of her brainwashing. Kid’s about to steal the Frozen Flame when Harle shows up and gives some interesting babble about Kid resisting her self destructive tendencies and not knowing what she’s doing (I’m not entirely sure what’s supposed to be going on there) before she steals the Frozen Flame. The Dragon Gods get a little bitey with one another and merge into the Dragon God, which was apparently split and sealed into six entities by FATE because it would brook no competition, and we finally get the reveal that Harle was working for the Dragons this whole time, as she flies off with the Flame to Sky Dragon Island, which promptly transforms into the floating fortress Terra Tower.
And we were all so hoping that things would get simpler once we defeated Lynx.