Sirvanna didn’t want to get out of bed. Not because she was tired nor even because she was the most comfortable she’d been in a very long time, but because she had a very unpleasant duty to perform. Still, she mused, it wouldn’t become less unpleasant if she procrastinated any further. She opened her eyes.
“Getting up?” Ines asked.
“Yeah,” Sirvanna said, she untangled herself from Ines’s arms.
“Do you want me to go with you?” Ines asked.
“No,” Sirvanna said. She hurriedly dressed and grabbed the miniature computer. “You stay and rest. I’ll take care of this on my own.” She leaned down and kissed Ines before moving on her way.
She went straight to the conference room.
Sirvanna opened the door and hustled inside.
Are you in that big of a hurry to hear the rotation?
“I didn’t come about that,” Sirvanna said.
You have a plan to deal with the enemies surrounding us?
“Not that either,” Sirvanna said.
Naoko looked her over. Then what?
“I… I have something that everyone needs to hear,” Sirvanna said, holding the computer out.
“Tha…” Naoko stopped herself. I know that computer. Naoko continued. I think you had better explain.
“Ummm,” Trojan said. “I was kind of doing… Never mind.”
“Did you call everyone here?” Florence asked.
Trust me, it’s important.
“Zhao can’t see properly,” Zhao complained. “Everyone else is too tall.”
Jenny picked her up and put her on her shoulders. “Better?”
“Much,” Zhao said.
“I’m having trouble seeing too,” Yuni said.
“You’re taller than me,” Alena said. “and I can see.”
Yuni stared at her with a shy smile and puppy eyes.
“Okay,” Alena said. “Climb up.”
Alexa floated overhead alongside Anya and a few others.
“You’re in my airspace,” Alexa said.
“Tough,” Anya stated.
All of you shut up! The murmur swiftly died down. That’s better. As you all know, it’s been a long time since Michael went undercover. A long time since he was supposed to contact us and we’ve heard nothing. As such, it is my sad duty to play his last will and testament for all of you. Naoko started the document. A three dimensional image of Michael appeared in the centre of the room.
“Friends,” it said, in his voice. “If you’re watching this it means I failed. Please, forgive me my weakness. All I can ask now is that you don’t let it all be in vain. All the sacrifices we’ve made, the suffering we’ve endured, I implore you all, don’t let it be for nothing. Even though I can’t be by your sides anymore, you’ll have to push onward and gain victory. There’s not much else to say to all of you collectively, except that it was an honour to get to know all of you and serve with you, even if it was only for a short time. I’ve left individual messages for each and every one of you. Once this message ends they’ll upload to your private systems. Please, take some time and listen to them. I apologise for my selfishness. Farewell, my friends.”
Katelyn headed to her room and checked her computer. There it was with the simple label “Final message for Katelyn.”
“Don’t know what I was expecting,” she muttered. She hit play and watched a little image of Michael appear. “He looks much shorter than I remember him.”
“Katelyn,” he said “Undoubtedly you’ve made some kind of quip or snide remark already. I know that there are some who give you a hard time about not taking things seriously, but that sense of humour is a great strength. With it, you uplift those around you and keep your own spirits high. My final word of advice to you is to always maintain that attitude. Always find something humourous within any given situation. However, I caution you not to use it as a crutch or a shield. Don’t be afraid to feel the wondrous gamut of emotions. Don’t be afraid to let others get close. Make the most of your time and please, help everyone keep their spirits high during this trying time.”
“Alexa, I regret that we didn’t get to spend more time together. You have an uncanny way of figuring out what other people are thinking, how they feel. That level of empathy has allowed you to see your friends through so much and will undoubtedly continue to aid you during difficult times. Still, it has to be hard on you too. I can imagine that there are times when you’d rather not know, but stay strong. Your friends depend on you and I know that you won’t disappoint them. And do try to get along with Anya if you please.”
“Okay, I’m hitting play,” Rose said.
Blair nodded. Her face was buried in her pillow.
“You should at least watch,” Rose said.
“I…” Blair choked on her words and just shook her head.
“Alright,” Rose said. “I’m right here if you need me.”
“Blair,” Michael’s voice was gentle. “I’m sorry I couldn’t stay with you. The realisation is probably very painful for you right now. Cry while you can, my dear child, for as long as you need to. There’s no shame in feeling sad. I know it doesn’t seem like it right now, but you’re going to be okay. You have friends who love you and will do everything that they can to help you. You have a strong body and a brave heart. Keep going forward, Blair. Learn to use your strength to protect those you care about, to defeat injustice. I know that you’ll make me proud, just as you always have. Brave heart, Blair.”
Blair howled, the tears falling quickly. Rose gently grabbed her and hugged her.
“Jenny. You’re one of the most steadfast people I’ve ever known. Your strength, both of limb and of heart, is far greater than even you realise. Thank you, for all the hard work you’ve always put in. It’s people like you who always gave me hope for the future. I know that you’ll continue to accomplish great things, pull victory from the very brink of defeat because you never surrender. No matter how difficult or painful things become, you keep going. I’ve always admired that quality in you. Please, stay alive and take care of Zhao. She’s going to need you.”
“Are you ready?” Yuni asked.
“Do you want to watch yours first?” Alena asked.
“Let’s watch yours,” Yuni said.
“Alena, you’re probably just watching this because you feel like you have to so I’ll make it quick. You’re the most logical thinker I’ve ever met, aside from myself, of course. That’s a great asset, continue to use it wisely. Still, you shouldn’t be overly reliant on logic. As counter-intuitive as this may sound, there are times when logic is insufficient. There are times when intuition and emotion are more helpful. Please, continue to develop those competencies with the help of your comrades and lovely girlfriend.”
“I don’t get it,” Yuni said. “What was he saying?”
“Something I needed to hear,” Alena answered. “Let’s play yours.”
“Hi,” Yuni said.
“It’s good to see you doing well.”
“Thank you,” Yuni said.
“You’re welcome. I won’t lie, you were one of the most difficult people to leave a message for. You’re so kind, so innocent and yet so uncomplicated. I’m still not entirely sure whether that’s a strength or a weakness although I suspect it’s a bit of both. Somehow, you’ve retained all of that in spite of experiencing the horrors of war first hand. Yuni, you’re a dreamer. You want everything to happen ideally and strive to make just that happen. You don’t consider whether or not it’s the best strategy nor the plausibility. To you I say, chase the dream. Chase it as far as you can and you’ll surely make the world better for your efforts. After all, every improvement, every step forward our species has taken, it all started with one person dreaming of a better world and taking those first steps. You’re a dreamer, and that’s just what we all need you to be.”
“Trojan,you were one of my most loyal companions and I thank you for that. I know that you always felt inadequate, but the truth is that you were one of the people I relied on the most. You may not be good in a fight, neither was I. We’re a different kind of soldier, you and I. We’re soldiers of the mind.Soldiers who find our enemies weak points and plan ways to take advantage of them while guarding our own secrets. Right now the team needs you more than ever. I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to take care of that element for both of us now. I realise that this is a difficult period for you, you’re probably wondering how to cope and what you should do. My advice to you is this, make friends. I know, I keep telling you that, but it really is important. You’ll need someone to talk to, someone to help you make it through and I can’t do it anymore. Please, live and continue moving forward. Always remember that I trust in you.”
Ryu opened his suitcase and started packing. He didn’t need much, only a few things to get hi by. While he worked he hit the play button on his message.
“Here we are. I doubt you ever thought it would end like this. Ryu, your feelings were greatly appreciated. I’m sorry that I couldn’t reciprocate. Anyone would be fortunate to have someone like you by their side. Your loyalty, and determination exceeded even your gift. I know that right now you’re seriously considering leaving, a testament to how strong your feelings were. I won’t order you to stay, but I will ask you to.” The image of Michael got down on all fours in a gesture of supplication. Ryu dropped the clothes he was holding and stared, mouth agape. “Please, keep fighting. I know it’s a lot to ask, but your strength can help make my dreams a reality. Please, let them rely on you a little longer.”
“Ines, I often wonder what it would be like to have a gift like yours. You think, react, and just generally move so much faster than anyone else. I wonder, are the rest of us moving in slow motion to you? I suppose that isn’t important. What is important is that you listen carefully. Undoubtedly you’ve realised by now that my gift is under enemy control. Most of the others won’t be thinking of that, but you recover from these things rather quickly, don’t you? I hate to ask you this, but please, kill my body. I know you won’t have the chance right away, but as soon as it comes up don’t hesitate. Just act. You probably spent a little time wondering why not Naoko or Ryu, but I suspect you quickly ascertained the reason. You’re the only one I can rely on for this.”
“I was about to watch the video,” Sirvanna said. “But that could wait.”
“No,” Ines said. “Watch it. I already saw mine. Do you want me to leave you alone?”
“I’d rather cuddle up to you while I watch it,” Sirvanna said.
“Done,” Ines agreed.
“Sirvanna, right now you’re probably worrying less about me and more about how to assist those remaining. Truthfully, that’s the best way to think about it. I’ll trust you to keep everyone together and to keep them on track. You are, after all, a natural leader. You’re charismatic, cunning and forward thinking. Please, help Naoko keep everything under control while it all stabilises. I know that you can manage it.”
“Naoko, I almost didn’t leave you a message. We’ve spent so much time as comrades, as friends, that I know that you can predict exactly what I have to say. Still, I suppose that it’s best not to leave anything unsaid. Naoko, you’re my second oldest and one of my greatest friends. You me and Zhao have been through some really good and some terrible times together. We always knew that it could come to this and now… now it’s all up to you. Try not to be too hard on Zhao, Trojan or anyone else. And put your pride aside and accept the help they have to offer. It’s going to be difficult, moving on and taking the lead, but I can think of no one better qualified.”
“Zhao, it’s odd how things work out. When we first met I suspected that I’d get you on your feet and we’d part ways. When I told the Japanese authorities that you were my older sister, I never expected it to become such a reality. Nevertheless, as time passed, we grew closer and, eventually, you really did become like an older sister to me. I know that most people fixate on your childlike qualities, but I’ve never viewed you as a child. I’ve seen your determination, your wisdom, your shining intellect and your courage. You’re more of an adult than most ever become. You’re everything that I would have asked for in an older sister and one of the few people I viewed as an intellectual equal. Please, forgive your unworthy brother for his failure and continue doing your best to make the dream, the pact that the three of us made, a reality. I know that you can do it, because you’re Zhao and Zhao doesn’t give up nor will she ever. She perseveres in the face of adversity and her machines are better than anyone else’s. Fight, Zhao. Do your best, Zhao. My beloved sister, Zhao.”
Zhao nodded at the hologram. She wiped her eyes on her sleeve. “Zhao will… Little Brother.”