Nightfall wrapped the assembly room in a soft, intimate chiaroscuro.
Sitting at one end of the table a man lit up a cigarette looking straight at his interlocutor:
- I know that it is such a hard decision to make when you’re supposed to feel happy but we have no other choice.
- I’ve already made so many sacrifices for the country’s sake but I’m afraid this one completely goes beyond my abilities Mr. President.
- Coming from you whose loyalty to the country has never failed for the sake of guaranteeing the predominance of national interest before any personal objection, this is quite an unexpected answer Minister Kokuboheki.
Voiceless Marcus remained silent, hands clasped over the confidential folder put in front of him. He sighed heavily eyes mid-closed to fight back his emotion and stared at the sea unfolding gracefully beyond the panel windows.
- The view is splendid tonight.
- I will write personally a letter to your wife, showing my compassion and wishing her the best to apology for the pain such a dilemma is imposing to your family.
Meanwhile speaking he handled over to Marcus a flask containing an eerie, clear liquid hanging at a thin golden chain. “You have to do it”, he whispered, looking compassionately at Marcus. Shattered the young man stared imploring at the President: “Please leave us more time to decide ourselves, I’m begging you ... even I’d be glad to bear the charge of Judge myself if necessary!”
The old politician studied him carefully, and sighed with weariness:
- Come to see me tomorrow after the council of ministers so that we can talk in private from man to man. I do my best to serve the national interest but in times of sorrow I cannot turn a deaf ear to the distress of a father caring for his family’s sake.
Marcus extended his hand, summoning all his power to strengten his healing abilities. A light blue aura illuminated his palm summoning a protective shield to heal my wounds:
- Hang on to life, I’m begging you honey!
I open my eyes widely, sheltered in his warm embrace. “You’ll be doing fine”, he whispered touching my forehead. “Tic, Tac! Tic, Tac!” The stream of power roaming deep within me activated the unbelievable, complex machinery of time again. It broke the seal and released an incredible amount of blue meth to irrigate my body. Through a cloud of blue mist I saw my father leaning on the wall to find support, physically exhausted. I realize with shock he is suddenly affected by age as though controlling time had stopped him from aging during his twenty years of absence.
One night that decided of everything, sealing the Lonesome’s fate.
Once again Sen Maa Kloud had given up on sleeping harrassed restlessly by his nightmares.
The basement was silent. Books drew ghostly figures on the walls, hanging on the shelves like old ripped clothing. Fortunately most of them, but not all, had been saved from destruction thanks to the Lonesome’s activism.
Light flickered on the walls, illuminating the corridor leading to the library. The door was left half opened revealing a man sitting in front of his laptop at the center of the room. One could assume he was writing, although he was focused on learning coding to hack the Register. It was a confidential document created by the Officials to record citizen’s identities. It decided whichever someone was granted the citizenship of Society or was registered in the regime’s blacklist.
Another error message showed up on the screen. Stood behind the door Sen Maa Kloud startled when he heard a cry that echoed astoundingly in the silence. Voiceless he did not know how to react at this instant. He remembered at once it was mostly his fault if the Traumatism had happened and clenched his fists angrily. If only he had more bravery to disobey the orders, the bomb would never have exploded and caused the Traumatism.
- It is your fault for pushing the ultimate button by accident Sen but I’m not a vengeful person. The past is now behind us so that we can only look forward to the future. Crying over yesterday’s happiness won’t bring my beloved Alys back.
- I shall help you find her in any way possible.
Sen Maa Kloud gritted his teeth, looking up to meet his comrade’s gaze:
- It’s a promise, Sempai.
Fritz dodged hastily the bullets aiming for his legs. He walked then started to run faster and faster, throwing his body forward to punch the Shovel of Death with all his might. His anger decupled his strength although knowing he stood no chance against a cyborg as powerful and dangerous as the Shovel of Death but he figured out he was not fighting to take revenge for himself against Hellmet. He was a man who always kept his promises.
For me whose shattered dream only remained as a distant past, he was ready to sacrifice his life to pay the price of his actions. He sought neither for forgiveness nor redemption because he knew already he was unforgivable.
His dedication to help the Lonesome by stealing sensitive information for us as best as he could was touching. Even though he did not appear at first to be such a reliable person. He was an independent activist acting on his own to protest against the Officials, serving his personal goals when joining our ranks ten years ago after the Evacuation ended.
However his loyalty was infallible to me since that night when he realized how much he betrayed mankind by carrying Hellmet’s plan without thinking twice. I’m not a man who cried easily so when I did, it would really mean I was feeling down. Feeling upset by the cruelty of fate that tore up my world to shreds of guiltiness; impossible to forget, impossible to forgive.
It was so sudden and yet her words sounded so regretful. A single message sent on a lonely night that felt the longest of my nights.
“I’m moving on tomorrow with the children to the south part of the country where they will grow up safely. Everything is already set so we’ll not see each other in a while. I apologize sincerely for leaving you so rashly but I had no other choice after yesterday’s presidential speech. I do hope someday we’ll meet again. You were my greatest friend who supported me all this time with your smile and your compassion when I was feeling down. Take care Hitori, please live happy with or without me. Speak soon, Ashley”.
Days spent remembering, weeks spent waiting and soon the government that spied on people’s correspondence cut down all the communications between the capital and the countryside without warning. I lived dead, swallowed by melancholy.
I got friends and family to support me in my despair but I could never forget Ashley’s smile radiant like a ray of sun in the darkness of my days. So I learned with time how to forget her to stop living forever in the past but deep inside I held tight grudges against Hellmet for stealing away from me the very happiness of my life.
I watched Fritz and Hellmet fighting.
Their struggle appeared as a clash of weapons colliding into a storm of light and iron.
I was not expecting we’d come to battle for defusing the bomb. It caused such a disaster, bringing despair and sorrow in people’s lives that I did not want history to repeat once again. I recalled this dark era of chaos too painfully.
But Fritz was not an experienced fighter, rather a smart strategist and genuine scientist.
His attacks were good but it was not enough to beat Hellmet’s brute strength. One hit mischeiviously stronger than all his previous attacks cut through an opening and paralyzed Fritz, throwing his weapon far from hand grasp.
I collapsed on knees when I saw his body slowly falling onward. He had sacrificed his life to protect mine. His body shimmered, while his time rewinding ability helped his wounds to heal faster. I bent down at his bedside lending to him a bit of my power by casting a defensive shield around his body.
- This can’t go on forever, I whispered looking up to gaze straight at Hellmet.
I stood back to my feet, staggering: “Innocent people will get killed if we continue fighting pointlessly”.
- Said the king after being made checkmate by the adversary side, Hellmet responded impassively.
He chuckled mischievously, arms crossed over the chest:
- Can you defeat me?
Behind his back the Shovel of Death moved mechanically like a puppet, regenerating his lost arm. His fingertips set target on my neck. Five arrows slashed the air but this time I was somehow prepared for it to happen. But none pierced my chest.
Astonished I froze in shock. Her hair fell back on her shoulders, swirling in the air like a flame. Her hand grabbed the arrows one by one, shattering them to a bunch of tiny lightning bolts.
- If you take one more step, you’ll have to pass over my dead body!
- Is that so?
This time she was the one targeted. A huge amount of brute strength came out the Shovel of Death’s armor at once, blowing up everything that got in the way. My willpower was decupled by my despair.. My body jolted, releasing all my remaining strength to stop the explosion from happening. Time froze, wrapping the world into a blue, shimmering protecting aura. Caught in the eye of the storm the assembly was silenced, stunned by the Judgment’s steadiness able to dispel the explosion. I stood in the mist and wrapped a shield around my comrades but I could no longer hang on, trapped in a fight of contradictory forces struggling to coexist.
When the mist dissipated, I fell powerless to my knees while time was rewinding.
I lost consciousness.
- Hitori, are you spacing out again?
“Huh?” I awoke with a start and looked up at my interlocutor, recognizing Ashley’s voice.
Wooden shelves filled with law books were hanging at the walls. Sunlight fell past the window. We were sitting together at a table on side covered of papers and books.
My eyes blinked when I recognized the school’s library. I realized with astonishment I had just come back twenty years ago to the time we were living together in collocation, spending most of our free time working at the library.
- Exams are coming near so you should keep on pace! She reproached me gently.
Second year is always the hardest; once you get the right work methods I’m sure you can succeed!
I sketched a pale smile, looking at her with concern. She really had a caring personality, always worrying for me before herself. It feels strange to come back in time, sitting at the same table where we usually met again after the end of classes to study at the library.
I pictured her silhouette leaning against the border of the window reading a law dictionary. Her eyes drifted from one page to another while her free hand was caressing gently her belly under her summer dress. She had once told me she was going to give birth for the second time by the end of May and regretted she was alone to bring up two children at a time. She used to love a man but actually they parted eight months ago consequently to his irresponsibility faced with the constraints of family life. Whatsoever they barely said hello to each other in the morning for a few years already, since he got the opportunity to work as researcher at the local power station. She was not talking a lot about him who made her suffer a lot because of his absence. He left home early in the morning and came back late at night, exhausted and very irritable so they barey shared time together in private. He left on mission to the shore time by time, often for six months straight without break and usually sent news to her once in a while. He focused on work to a disproportional extent so she started to wonder if he remembered to have a family that waited for him patiently at home. She no longer considered herself as Ashley Davis and used most of the time her maiden name Wonderland on official papers.
However she was an optimistic woman who always looked at things on the bright side so she did her best to stop living in the past and look forward to the future.
Reality was fading to a mix of colours and abstract shapes before my eyes.
When I intended to stand, my body refused to move, numbed by exhaustion.
- Hitori! Are you awake? Can you hear me?
I saw my sister’s worried face leaned over me and smiled:
- Almost alive.
Hellmet shot glance at me, arms crossed over the chest. The explosion had not managed to blow up but at least deactivate the Shovel of Death. He was spared from talking by Ashley:
- In ten years you’ll be tried for your deeds before justice. This case will not stay unforgotten.
She summoned the United Countries Committee’s time portal and looked away at the sun turning red, as nightfall was about to come:
- You’ve truly become a great man Hitori, but I knew you could do it from the start. Secretly I was hoping we’d meet again sooner because I missed the warmth of your presence by my side. Fate decided for us the contrary. If you ever wish to come back I’ll be glad to wecome you home.
“I’ll be gone for a while”, I whispered my eyes searching for Alys.
She has not awakened yet, still lying down inert in her brother’s arms.
Mikael’s embrace lightened when he saw me kneeling at her bedside.
Speechless I hugged Alys dearly. Time has come to say goodbye. I know I should erase her memories but I just can’t, looking at her sleeping peacefully as though everything was a dream from the beginning. “Stop crying”, I whisper tenderly to her ear, kissing her on the forehead moved to tears. Her eyebrows frown when her eyes try to open. She gazes at the world around dizzily and sees me. It revives the shine in her eyes. I wonder if she can recognize me. She closes her eyes. I stroke her hair gently letting my hand draw a complex symbol above her head. When she will awoke, she must forget everything about the circumstances of the battle as though I was forever dead however it won’t alleviate the pain of my disappearance. I leapt through time past storms and sunniy skies, cities in ruins and high skyscrapers. Around us the world collapsed and collided into a whirl of light, shadow and colors. Time came to admit she belonged to the living world “All that matters, fulfil your dreams and you’ll become yourself.” I say compassionately before I lighten my embrace watching the waves caressing her body lying down inert on the sand.
I sighed of relief when I saw her brother on knees at her bedside. He will be there to stand by her side and protect her when she will be feeling down. At last the world is saved. My mission on Earth is fully accomplished.