No endless suffering this time, so sit back and enjoy
The blonde guardian was walking through the dark corridor that would take her to the laundry, her bedroom of choice in the stranger-turned-into-friend's home. She turned in very late at night, after spending some time outside, meditating about her life. It was her way of dealing with the tension and anxiety of the constant struggles against biomonsters, robots, and the government. The last events had hit very hard on the group, especially the leader. Not only he had not been able to recover from the loss of his beloved sister, but also, as the leader of the group, he took all the responsibility for the events that happened under his command. And, despite not participating actively on Palma's destruction, the sense of being powerless to prevent the death of millions of people was overwhelming.
Anna couldn't deny she was deeply affected by what had happened, but as her life has been an endless streak of tragedies, she recovered from the shock faster. There wasn’t anything she could do about what had happened. Grieving too much would not bring them back. Instead, the time spent in inactivity, and the paralysis caused by the feeling of hopelessness could cost them another planet and the death of millions more. However, she knew she could not do anything without the help of her companions, so she had to wait for them dealing with their own emotions before continuing their journey to save Algol.
She heard muffled sobs coming from one of the rooms. The door was partially open, but Anna didn't need to peek in to learn who was crying, it had to be Rolf. Her first instinct was to avoid the man, for her lack of social skills would probably do more harm than good. However, the way he was sobbing ringed to her ears like “Help me, because I’m crying.” Moreover, although the blonde guardian didn’t want to admit it, she had sympathized with the courageous young man, and, besides his now deceased sister, he was the group member she was closer to. Therefore, she decided to answer to his pleads and silently entered the room.
Rolf was sobbing, seated on his bed, with his head lain on his hands, and didn’t notice Anna’s entrance. She seated by his side in the bed and gently pushing his head towards her shoulder, stroking his hair. Rolf was somewhat startled, but did not react promptly because he knew who it was even without looking. The mysterious cold woman was once more by his side when he most needed someone. He really wanted to understand what happened inside her heart, for she was annoyingly distant from everybody most of the time. Yet, she knew how to be sweet and kind. Besides, her embrace was so comfortable the Rolf couldn’t help letting his head slip to her chest before opening his heart.
“Oh, Anna, it is so terrible! Why did it happen?” Rolf whispered trying to suppress his sobs.
Anna answered in a motherly tone, while caressing her friend’s head. “Unfortunately, it happened. And there is nothing we can do about that now, Rolf.”
Rolf’s words became aggressive. “But millions of people died! The whole Palma was destroyed! I can’t believe that! I can’t accept that!”
“I know, but…” The blonde woman tried to reason, but she was cut short by Rolf freeing himself
from her embrace forcefully, and staring into her eyes.
“They died because of us, Anna!” Rolf screamed. Although his tone was angry, it was bitterness and frustration, not hostility, and Anna knew that, so she didn’t hesitate in answering his accusation in a drily manner.
“You know it was not our fault.”
“We were in the satellite and we failed in preventing it from crashing into Palma. Of course it was our fault!” Rolf had his fists clenched, but he was angry with himself, angry for being powerless to stop the most tragic event in the whole Algolian history. He was looking down, with his hair in disarray, breathing heavily. “We killed them all…”
“No, we didn’t, Rolf.” Anna answered harshly. “We didn’t set the satellite in motion. We were victims of someone else’s plot. We were murdered with them. Had not Tyler helped us, we would be stardust now.”
“And that is what we deserved!” Rolf mumbled with sadness in his voice. He was about to break down in tears again.
“No, we did not. We were saving Motavia from an impending flood. You can’t blame yourself for that.” Anna rebutted Rolf’s argument, but she realized he was not paying attention to her. He had become introspective again, and he was on the verge of crying.
“Anna, you can’t understand. You will never understand.” Tears started falling from his eyes and he sought the arms of his friend.
Anna tried to show some empathy to her friend, but, at the same time, take him out of the lethargic state he had self-imposed, an encourage him to move on. “I understand, Rolf, I’ve been through that too. It was terrible, I felt like dying too, but we must carry on…”
“Carry on to what? There is nothing left…” Rolf’s sorrowful lament broke Anna’s heart. There was something about that man when he was feeling sad that immediately melt all the ice layers that covered her heart, acquired through all those years in events she wished to forget. He inspired an unusual admiration on her, something that made her blindly trust Rolf.
“Don’t say that, Rolf. The commander O’Conner entrusted us with another mission. There is no one better than you are for trying to save Algol…”
“No, Anna.” Rolf interrupted her friend once more. “I’m the worst person for this task. The commander should know better and choose anyone else for this task. I think I will walk to the central tower tomorrow and resign my position…”
“Please, Rolf, be reasonable.” Anna had been deeply affected by her friend’s pessimism. Maybe the thing that she admired most on Rolf was his sense of responsibility, his maturity. Although he was very young, he stood out in the crowd with his inner strength, his wisdom, and his perfect balance between reason and emotion. He had most of the personality traits Anna admired, without her obvious imperfections. Then, to see the man she looked after in a fragile position hurt her deeply. “We have met many people in our journey together and we have only seen apathetic people who know that the world is crumbling under their feet, but who will not move a finger to save their own butts or to fight for what is right. If it wasn’t for you, nobody would do anything.” She hesitated a bit before adding a bit of personal information. “And, if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here now.”
A moment of silence between the two friends ensued. Rolf had mixed feelings about the situation he was in. Although his grief was genuine, he felt an urge to exaggerate his suffering to the blonde guardian, because he had learned it was a way to take a sip of her gentle and kind nature, traits that disappeared as soon as he was feeling better. Anna was still a big mystery to him, and he was really worried about her cold and reclusive nature when they met for the first time. Her behavior was so suspicious that he was reluctant to accept the help of the woman that abhorred so much her past that she even refused to say her age. However, during the past few months, Rolf learned that Anna was trustworthy and determined to help. Whatever were the mysteries of her past, they didn’t affect her competence. Moreover, Nei had discovered her sweet and gentle facet, and nothing could please Rolf more than people being gentle to his late sister. And her gentleness was so good, her embrace so pleasurable, that Rolf was inclined to leave his professionalism behind and let himself be involved with her romantically. The only thing that prevented him from doing that was the fact that she had such an irregular personality.
It was not only Anna’s embrace, though, that left him in that depressed state. The destruction of Palma and the death of most of Algol inhabitants was a shock greater than his own sister’s death.
“It is no use, Anna. I’ve been cursed with the anti-Midas touch…”
“Don’t say that, Rolf, you have been doing great things all the time. “ The blonde woman resumed caressing her friend’s forehead.
“I’m cursed. Every time I try to fix something, things end worse than before. When we tried to save Teim from the scoundrels, we only managed to get Darum and Teim killed. When we tried to fix the biomonster problem, I lost my beloved Nei. Besides, hoping to solve the Climatrol problems, we only ended causing a big flood on Motavia. When we tried to release the waters, we ended up arrested and Palma was destroyed. Now, if we go to Dezoris, what will happen there? Another planet will be pulverized. I feel that if I keep pressing on, I will lead the whole Algol star system to its complete annihilation, eventually.”
“You are wrong, Rolf. If we don’t press on, then you can be assured Algol will meet its end. Knowing that is enough reason for us to embrace this gargantuan task. If we don’t try, we are cowardly surrendering to whoever is trying to destroy Algol.” Anna said so with a motherly tone. She didn’t know that, but she ended appealing more to her orphan friend speaking that way.
“But, Anna, can’t you see I’m powerless to change a thing? Look at my past, it has been failures after failures. I’ll never be able to save Algol.”
Although his overall behavior was the same, Anna noticed a subtle change on Rolf’s tone and realized he wanted a reason, something to hold on. Something to prove him his sacrifice was worthy. And the blonde guardian knew exactly the answer.
“You must make peace with your past, Rolf.”
“You must forgive your past to be able to move on.” Anna released Rolf from her embrace and helped him sitting straight because she wanted to have an eye-to-eye conversation with him. “If it didn’t work before, it doesn’t mean it will not work now.”
“But it is a good indication. Would you trust your money to a thief?” Rolf shook his head. “No, Anna, it is not that simple.”
“Come on, Rolf, everything you have done, was in your earnest.” Anna took Rolf’s hands into hers and stared deeply into his eyes. “Look, Rolf, I have much more shameful past than yours. I…” She hesitated, for talking about her past was the hardest thing for Anna. “I have been through things that hurt me so much just by remembering them, and I’ve done things that I do not even dare to tell anybody. However, before meeting you, I had abandoned all the hope and faith in my heart. I had surrendered to the fact that I would never change, therefore the best thing for the world would be my death. If I died, no one would cry about my absence, for I had no one in the world who cared for me. Instead, remaining alive only made me do things that caused pain and grief to the others. But, when I decided to look for you, as the last chance I’d give myself, and was accepted, I decided to make peace with my past. And that is how I’m here. My past still crushes my feelings, but I think I’m still able to do the things the right way, and my only motivation is to prove myself right. Do you think it was worthy to try?”
Rolf promptly answered. “Of course, Anna, you’ve been a great fighter and a great friend.” Then, he added, still depressed. “But how can I live with the blame of killing millions of people?”
“That is where you are wrong, my dear. You didn’t kill anyone. You are doing your best to save people’s lives. I admire you for being so determined to help the whole mankind, putting aside your own interests.” Anna paused for a moment. “If only this world was made only of Rolfs…”
The scene because deeply imprinted in Rolf’s mind. Anna’s blue eyes were shining bright in the poorly lit room, like two sapphires. For a moment, Rolf believed he had seen Anna smiling at him, with her eyes wet. They stayed in silence for some minutes, and it seemed that the time had stopped. Each one’s brains, though, were working vigorously, trying to process all the information generated in that brief encounter, relating to past experiences, and mixing with their emotions. For Anna, it was an easier process, for the hardships endured in her life had created a filter for emotions. She didn’t ignore them, but she had a tremendous capacity of separating the emotional and the rational parts of each impression, and it is what caused her to be impassive, and even cold whenever she needed it. For Rolf, it was a bit harder, but after a few minutes, he was able to process part of the impressions of that fatidic night.
“I think you are right, Anna. Thanks. I’m feeling much better now.”
“Great!” Anna stood up and gently caressed Rolf’s cheek, answering with a sweet tone, filled with sincere love. “I’m so glad you are feeling better now.” And then, with a more serious tone, she added. “Let’s get some rest now, because tomorrow we will have a full day. We must travel to Dezoris.”
“Yes, yes, you are right. Goodnight, Anna. And thanks again.”
The blonde guardian turned back. She was relieved that she was able to help her friend. There was no doubt that, despite not being very social, Anna needed human contact. When she exerted compassion and love, she was able to shun all her aggressive and cruel behavior, and though she has been a loner for most of her life, her best times were among people she loved. Therefore, it was exhilarating to help the person she was closer to. Moreover, helping Rolf was a way of helping herself.
As she was crossing the doorstop, Rolf suddenly interrupted her. “Anna…”
Her heart started pounding inside her chest. Anna was feeling anxious. She was somewhat afraid of what her friend would tell her because she guessed it would be something completely emotional, and she felt very uneasy in purely emotional situations.
“If only the world was made only of Annas, it would surely be a marvelous place to live in.”
Having guessed it right, she turned her head to face her friend and shook it negatively. “No, Rolf, you don’t know what you are saying.” She sighed. “Someday I think I’ll be able to tell you about my past. Then, you will retract what you had just said.”
Anna left the room, visibly touched by Rolf’s comment. Apparently, his feelings for her were growing in an unexpected direction, and it was what she feared most when she connected with him. Not that she didn’t like it, for, of all the men she had ever met, Rolf was probably the best. The idea of developing their relationship to the paramount of human affection was not a bad thing. In fact, it would fulfill her girly wishes. Wishes that her reason were not able to suppress, because, despite of the extreme charge of emotion and instinct involved, romantic love has its deep roots on rationality. And it would be a great way of leaving the past behind in a comely manner. But she feared not being good enough for Rolf. Although she had made peace with her past, she didn’t feel confident enough to say she was completely changed, and the fact that her mood was constantly swinging from cheerful, sweet and kind to cold, distant and indifferent was an indication that she had a long path ahead before she could say she was ready to unite with someone and become one with him.
Rolf, on his turn, had a lot to think about before closing his eyes. The mysterious woman had clarified his thoughts by presenting him a different view on what have happened, giving him the strength he needed to carry on. Although he still grieved the death of millions, including his sister, now he saw the past events under a different light. The past would always be part of him, but instead of letting the past overrule the present, destinating him to repeat the same mistakes over and over like a neverending burden, a curse to carry on until the last of his days, he was inclined to see his past as a reference, a lighthouse to guide his path through the turbulent waters of the present, showing him the sandbanks where his ship had crashed into before, steering him away of the deadly rocks and reefs in his path, illuminating the blessed path he had to sail in order to trail his blaze of glory. The past tragedies should not be instruments of sorrow to drag him down and making him feel powerless to change the present and the future the same way he was powerless to change the past, but as lessons to be learned the hard way. Especially, paying the tribute her sister deserved. Wherever Nei might be, she was surely happy to see him building up on the love she taught him to feel in order to make someone else happy.
And there was Anna. The more he knew about her, the more he loved her. Although he wasn’t inclined to say that, he was sure no matter what Anna had to tell him about her past, it would not make any difference. As much as Rolf was inclined to forgive his own past and carry on, he was ready to forgive Anna’s past and build something from where they were, growing together, to eternity, if she so wished. And he was certain that Nei was smiling at him. It was enough to fill his heart with hopes, leaving no doubts in his mind that he had to resume his journey to save Algol and bringing people a lasting peace, fulfilling Nei’s last wish.