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PostPosted: Wed Apr 4, '12, 1:58 am
The Silent Peace...

A few days passed and the only worry in Anna's mind was to come up with an idea on what to about her life. Although her first mission as a guardian had been successful, she was less than satisfied with what she had to endure, and the frustration led her to question her work, ways, and beliefs. She felt inclined to make a radical change, abandoning the military and law enforcer life in favor of some peaceful career. Remaining in the military life meant either keeping being a guardian, turning back to her unsatisfying hunter life, or probably be among those morons she had just met at the police department. Therefore, she didn't consider any of these options acceptable. Alternatively, she could opt to do nothing, as she was reaching the age of 18 and was eligible to receive government assistance, which was more than enough for a person to live a comfortable life those days. The last option, though, has never thrilled Anna, she could not even think about living without working. The main concern was that she had considered many alternatives, but none had attracted her interest.

In fact, there was one option that kept bugging her mind. For a while, Anna seriously considered assuming Lizzie's persona, trying to do what Lizzie would be doing if she were alive. Studying medicine, being a good housewife, living a tedious, ordinary, but happy life. The idea, though, was absurd and shameful. As much as she blamed herself for her best friend's death, pretending that she was her late friend made no sense. It would not give her life a new meaning. It would not bring Lizzie back. Lizzie was her best friend, but she has never wanted to be like Lizzie. In fact, their friendship thrived only on Lizzie's cheerfulness and submissiveness, as the now deceased girl had a completely different personality from Anna's. Trying to live what should have been Lizzie's life if she had not died was pathetic, and, after much thinking, Anna came to that conclusion and abandoned the idea.

All that soul-searching was something painful for Anna, and it was very difficult to discover something that really represented her own tastes, beliefs, and wishes. Most of the insights she had, she discarded, as she was not finding her true self, but trying to comply with what the society expected from her, or with her late parents' wishes. All in all, it seemed that she was cut for the jobs she had been working on for the past few years because she was really that emotionless automat, who had no feelings, wishes, and dreams. Yet, she suffered. It meant something was out of place, but she couldn't discover what.

Meanwhile, the only thing she had done was going back to the lakeshore to retrieve her belongings left inside the locker. The short trip was not a happy one, for it brought back the memories of her mission as a guardian. Besides all that had happened, Anna was feeling even more baffled by the complete lack of feedback after the mission was accomplished. It was as if she had been used as a tool and then thrown away. It was more than reason enough for her to quit that ill-fated occupation.

However, a datapad letter she received four days after arresting the crime lord interrupted her ponderings about life and the future. Anna guessed it had to be something about the guardians, but she was determined to ignore the letter. And, if someone looked after her, she would throw at his face everything about what the guardians really were, tell him to screw himself and never look for her again. If they would arrest her for desertion or not, she didn't care, as long as she could see herself free from that ridiculous guardian affair.

However, by reading the contents of the datapad, there was a sudden change in her spirits. The letter started acknowledging her efforts in bringing justice to a dangerous crime lord and praising her flawless performance. They went on praising her courage, intelligence and other skills. The praise was so exaggerated that Anna dismissed most of it as senseless flattery. Maybe they were apologizing for the treatment they had given her during her first mission. Maybe it was their way to try to lure the guardians into another trap, and then be quick to make amends, in order to make the guardians feel important. Anyway, Anna was no fool and the datapad was already fated to the wastebasket when she read the last sentence.

Anna re-read the same sentence many times before her mind could believe what her eyes had just seen. She had been invited to a meeting in their central headquarters. Despite her negative feelings towards the guardians, it was enough to spark Anna's curiosity, for it might represent that the guardians were not as amateurish. And, in the worst-case scenario, at least she would have an opportunity to personally tell them all they deserved to listen, and then resign her position with her morale up, after giving vent to all her frustration and anger towards the irresponsible people that put her life on jeopardy.

Then, while waiting for the day of the meeting, the nature of her self-questioning changed. What would she do if they told her they wanted her to perform in another mission as a guardian? After thinking a lot about leaving the military life for good, she only concluded that she had no other talents except being a vicious fighter. Besides, she had no other professional aspirations. Anna seemed to be destined to be a fighter. Her performance on her mission as a guardian only amounted to that, since, despite the lack of preparation and resources, she managed to find a way to accomplish the mission goals successfully. Therefore, when the day of the meeting arrived, she had already made up her mind. If they showed some professionalism and respect for her, she would probably resign to her fate and accept the job.

The meeting was not very remarkable, although it led her to take an important decision about her future. Anna arrived one hour earlier than the scheduled time, only to find out that the Guardian's HQ entrance had no bells and no one to answer her vigorous knocking on the steel door. She had to sit on the sidewalk and wait. Many times, she considered turning back and forfeiting any aspirations of developing her career as a guardian, but she didn't, for she knew well that it was her anxiety and usual pessimism conspiring against her. The blonde girl tried to calm down and distract her mind with other thoughts, but the only images that came to her mind were the same images that tortured her repeatedly. The time seemed to be slowing down gradually to a complete halt, and for a moment Anna felt as if she would spend the rest of her life waiting in front of the steel door, or maybe even the eternity.

Two minutes before the appointed hour, a click in the door put the guardian out of her imaginary eternal penitence of remembering and reliving the saddest moments of her life while waiting for a future that would never come. She turned her head and met a silver haired man in a black suit, inviting her to follow him inside the building. The girl silently acquiesced and followed him through dimly lit stairways and corridors to a small room. The frugal furniture failed to call the girl's attention, for the man she was following and another stranger in a black suit stole all her attention.

As the door was closed, she was invited to sit down in a comfortable chair. Both men introduced themselves as high-ranked Motavian secret service agents, then thanked her interest on helping the country, and proceeded to praise her efforts in capturing such an important criminal. The compliments made Anna feel at ease, though she couldn't prevent grinning at the suggestion that dragging a screaming man for five blocks was an outstanding performance, but either the agents were unaware of this particularity of her performance or they didn't care, as long as she managed to accomplish the main objective with no causalities or collateral damage.

As soon as they finished their compliment, Anna urged for asking many questions about the guardians, especially if they still wanted her to be part of the organization, and, if so, whether the missions would lack the proper preparation like the last one, or not. She was too shy to dare to ask those questions, though. Despite being competent, and somewhat lucky in her missions, Anna knew she was just a girl invading the realm of the elite agents of Motavia, so she shunned at the presence of men who probably had become senior officers before she was born. Fortunately, it didn't take long for them to start talking about her future in the organization.

They went on to explain the nature of a guardian's job, which was to arrest criminals that posed a threat to Motavian security. They usually carried their missions secretly, always aiming to arrest people labeled by either Motavian government or Palman central government as enemies of state, using the minimum force possible. Although they would not question the eventual killings during the missions, killing the main target was not considered a success, for Mother Brain had issued a decree that every enemy of state was worthy nothing if dead, as dead people couldn't help arresting other criminals and dismantling the opposing organizations completely.

They continued talking about their modus operandi, while Anna listened attentively to their words, in silence. They explained that the missions were only debriefed when the agent arrived on the site, verbally, to avoid leaking any important information. In the past, not only once one of the agents was a double agent, working for a group of enemies of state. They leaked the information to their partners, frustrating the whole operation and even causing the deaths of valuable guardians. That was why talking or personally handed letters made most of the communication between them.

Besides, the guardians had been disallowed to use their own equipment since a big blunder of one of the guardians. The man had the mission of arresting two terrorists that were blowing up computer systems in towns. He found the terrorists having lunch in a restaurant in a smaller town near Piata and broke into the restaurant discharging his machine guns on everybody, killing the two terrorists and thirty civilians. Anna cringed back at her seat after listening to that story. Someone without brains becomes very powerful and dangerous in possession of heavy weapons. It was enough to justify the fact that she was not given any weapon during her first mission. They went further and explained that it didn't mean she would not be provided with adequate equipment for each mission, resources, or direct help. As a full-fledged guardian, Anna would always be welcome at the guardian's headquarters, and they provided a vast array of resources for those willing to study, train, or research.

When they finished explaining all the particularities of her new job, she felt inclined to comment upon her disastrous mission, but the impression the two officers left about the job was so good that Anna finally convinced herself that being a guardian would not be a bad thing. It seemed to be an honorable job, and it was a great opportunity for the indecisive girl to fulfill her wishes by combining an occupation she had the talent to perform, and that looked professional enough to dissipate any sense of shame she had for being a mercenary hunter in the past. Then, she was given her Guardian credentials and a considerable sum of money, before being ordered to go back home and wait for further orders. Embarrassed, she thanked the officers and left, happy that the outcome of the meeting surpassed her most optimistic expectations.

Once again, at home, she waited for any message from the Guardian's HQ. A few days passed between her meeting at the headquarters and the message, though, so she had a lot of free time. While she was inspecting the pockets of the dress she was using during her first mission as a guardian, before sending it to the laundry, Anna found the card the man in strange garments had given her while she was waiting for the officer to share the information about the mission with her. She remembered the disastrous encounter and it should be enough for her to hope never meeting that man again. However, she was curious to learn more about that man who professed the same faith as hers. So, in one of the boring afternoons, her curiosity overcame her shyness, and she decided to take the risk of visiting the place appointed in the card.

The place was not very far from the inn she was residing, so she took a short walk during a pleasant sunny afternoon. Arriving at the address mentioned in the card, the blond guardian hesitated. For what she had read, her religion used to have very distinct temples, but the place she was in front of was just a small house, with nothing remarkable about it. Not even one symbol that indicated it was the House of the Lord. But her curiosity pushed her forward, so, not even noticing its intromission, she opened the door of the small house and entered.

Inside of the small house, there was a room with a few wooden benches, a small platform in the back, where rested a small table covered with white tablecloth and, painted on the back wall, symbols of her religion. There was a middle-aged woman on her knees over a wooden board in the back of one of the wooden benches. Some candles in candelabras hanging on the sidewalls dimly lighted the room. The eerie atmosphere of the room left a deep impression in the blonde hunter, who, for a few moments, felt paralyzed. She didn't know what to do or how to behave inside a temple, and she also feared that her sinful ways made her presence inside a holy house an offense. Although the temple didn't resemble the majestic buildings described in the books of history, Anna shunned inside the small room, as if the holy aura the temple seemed to bear rejected the darkness inside her heart.

Embarrassed, Anna tried to imitate the other woman, so she knelt over the wooden board of another bench and, clasping her hands together, muttered a silent prayer. Although Anna considered herself religious, being disconnected from people who professed the same faith as hers and from the regular church services made her feel as if she had never been truly religious. She started thinking of how mean and evil she had been, never trying to follow the teachings of her faith. It was not enough to know them; she had to live them. Therefore, she cried. She cried for never being a good daughter, never being a good woman. She wept in silence, begging for forgiveness, losing the notion of how much time have passed.

When she finally decided to go home, the other woman had already left, and there was no one inside the small temple but her. Visibly stricken, the blonde hunter walked slowly towards the exit, with her head down. It had been a painful experience, but somehow, she felt relieved, convinced that she should return there. Near the door, she noticed a metal board with small pieces of paper held by magnets. By reading them, Anna discovered at which days and hours the celebrations were held.

By taking a mental note about them, she left, feeling the inner peace she longed so much for. She was feeling closely attuned to the spiritual plan. Her soul had started a revolution inside herself, bringing contradictory feelings to her mind. From its depths, her soul was begging for a new beginning, a new chance to start it again, trying to do the things the right way, with no regrets, no blame, and no traumas. Forgiving her for what have happened in the past and setting elevated goals to the future, knowing that she was capable of doing the things the right way according to her beliefs. And, above all, knowing that it depended only on her. With her hopes restored after a long period of suppression, Anna left the temple decided to return.

Before she could return there, though, another mission was assigned to her. She was sent a datapad letter, ordering Anna to be present at a small plaza in the outskirts of Zema the following day. The blonde girl was feeling uncommonly anxious about her next mission, but it was just her own negative feelings built over the expectation that the mission could be as absurd and dangerous as the last one. For her relief, this time, the things worked out perfectly.

On the following day, Anna arrived at the plaza at the appointed time. It didn't take long until an officer presented her what would be her task. A man had stolen personal data from thousands of people from the Mother Brain systems and was using the personal information to blackmail random individuals whose records had left some opening that could be exploited. Most of the cases were about people who cheated their spouses, or performed unethical activities in their business, harming their partners. Mother Brain had extensive records of every person's interaction with any of the automated systems. With those records, that hacker could discover that a certain person had been to a motel with someone else other than his wife, or that one of the partners of a company was holding secret meetings with a customer, or even about people who skipped classes at the university or working days to do leisure activities.

The authorities were not particularly concerned about the blackmailing, since the criminal usually demanded low amounts of money from his victims. From what the investigation had learned, he seemed enjoy more causing panic in his victims than receiving the money. However, if any of the victims discovered that he discovered aspects of their privacy through records largely available on government database, it could cause a stir and people could rebel against the authorities about the violation of their privacy on such personal aspects. Therefore, she was assigned the mission not only to arrest the guy, which would have been easy, but also to discover where the man stored the records, so the proofs that sensitive information about some individuals had leaked from the Mother Brain could be erased.

This time, provided with substantial information about the case, Anna judged correctly that the crook was no professional criminal; therefore, it would be easy to fool him. She went to his house and pretended to be a university student who was fooling her parents by spending all the money they sent her in parties instead of paying the university installments, and she would do everything for him if he didn't tell her parents about that. The hacker had blackmailed so many people that he hadn't even kept a record of whom he was blackmailing, so he believed her. Stimulated by the prospects of taking advantage of a helpless girl, the man opened the hidden locker where he stored the portable computer with the records to show her that his threat was serious. Seconds later, Anna had him handcuffed and the illegal records in her possession. She acted so quickly that the man only began understanding what had happened to him when he was inside the police department, facing the county sheriff.

Satisfied with the outcome of her mission, Anna started enjoying her position as a guardian. The subsequent missions proved her that her new job required more brains than guts, and many times she was able to accomplish her mission without any use of violence. Even when a violent approach was needed, she learned how to ambush and overpower groups of bandits. Had she known those techniques before, she would have been able to try to do something to prevent the deaths of her loved ones. But the blonde guardian was trying to think less about what could have been and more about what could be. No matter how traumatizing had been her past, she had to move on.

Besides, to help her plans of becoming more positive about life, she had found support in the temple she started to visit regularly. A few days after the second mission, she visited the temple during one of the celebrations. The celebration was about to begin, so Anna shyly took a seat in the last row. It was supposed to be a remarkable experience for her, the first time she would participate in a cult. However, she was taken aback by the image in front of her eyes. The radiant green eyes were positively his. The man who had humiliated her in the lake was conducting the celebration, wearing ritual garments. The blonde hunter was feeling so uncomfortable that her first reaction was to abandon the temple. However, she resisted that urge of leaving, and tried to concentrate on his words, though her mind switched between the meaning of his words and her negative feelings towards him. As the celebration was finished, Anna was ready to leave, relieved that she had been able to stay despite of her feelings, but she was interrupted by the priest.

"Oh, if it is not the girl from the lakeshore! You did come!"

He greeted her warmly, but to Anna's ears, it sounded bad, as if his remark had been filled with sarcasm, with the purpose of humiliating her again. Anna reacted looking down, and staying in silence. As she didn't say anything, he placed his hand on her shoulder and squeezed it lightly, adding "I'm glad to see you here."

Anna blushed. His gentle voice now transpired sincerity, and, somehow, she was feeling comfortable. She didn't dare to stare at him, though, because she was feeling a blend of shame and anger.

He forced a laugh. "I was afraid I had scared you that day. Maybe I've not used the best approach."

Anna silently nodded. She was hurt, but willing to forgive him. After all, her religion was based on forgiving the other people's mistakes. And, examining her conscience, the priest had been right all the time; some of her actions were totally contrary to what her religion taught as right. As much as she could come up with excuses for her behavior, she knew that there was no excuse for always reacting violently, in a deliberate fashion. She wanted to change, but that would never happen as she refused to take the first step, and try. If the frustration of trying and failing hurt, refraining from doing anything was either lack of perspective or plain cowardice. That, Anna could not accept.

"Well, I hope to see you again soon." The brown-haired priest smiled. "If you feel like talking with someone, you can count on me."

Anna didn't answer, and the priest didn't wait for one. He was able to read in her countenance that she was willing to return. Instead of leaving, the blonde guardian remained for a while, praying, and then left. She was feeling an inner peace she had never felt since her parents were murdered.

During her next visits to the temple, Anna has gradually erased those bad impressions about the priest from her mind, and left her excessive shyness behind. After some visits, the priest was able to exchange a few words with her, always trying to be friendly. The man was experienced in dealing with people. As a priest, he was particularly interested in helping her. From what he had observed, Anna needed some sort of spiritual help. As much as she tried to hide her inner demons, and her natural beauty, grace and charm were obvious distractions; her eyes had an unnatural coldness that evidenced her tormented mind. He did his best to regain Anna's trust during their brief encounters, but it was not that difficult, as she was trying to view life under a better perspective. It didn't take long for her to allow him to become her confident, and on his authority and knowledge, he helped Anna in her mission of overcoming the demons of her past.

Her frequent visits to the temple and her continuous successes in the subsequent missions as a guardian were enough to soothe her pains and give her new meaning to her life. She was given her dignity back after a period of turbulence, which had led her to do some things she regretted doing. She could be the Anna she would always be, cold, collected, rational, but not cruel and psychopathic. She could make justice without murdering unnecessarily. She could start making emotional connections with other humans without the risk of seeing the tragedy unfold before her eyes once more. Like the priest, whose company was agreeable, but she was not so emotionally dependent on him as she had been on her parents and siblings, Sarah, and then Lizzie.

Anna finally was able to feel that her life had been steered to the right track again. She had a faint hope that one day she would be able to look back and see that, despite of her tragedies; her life had not been a complete waste. And maybe she would be able to smile again one day.
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