Epilogue: Days to Come
January 22nd, 2200
Her funeral was attended by hundreds, runners and outsiders alike. It was held in the mountains to the west of Omega; one of the few places it could be done without interruption.
Her body had not been recovered, but it didn't matter if she was ash. They were not mourning a body without the life that they had loved so. They had gathered there to remember a woman who had touched their lives, a strong and brave human being who would serve as an inspiration for them all.
They all stood forward to speak. All present delivered their eulogies for Aaliyah Soldari. One by one, they recounted their experiences with her, told of the wars, revolutions, and resistances in which they had served with her. Some spoke of how she had saved their lives, others of the lives she had taken with them.
In this remote grove, high in the black mountains, a grand funeral was held for a unifier, a paragon of humanity.
Only one stood alone.
Dante did not join the crowd of mourners. Throughout all the ceremonies, all the eulogies, and all of the riotous wake, he sat on the very edge of a cliff overlooking the vale where they gathered.
For once in his life, he did not know what to do. A thousand thoughts whirled around his mind, each strange and unappealing to him in the slightest.
He considered throwing himself from the edge and joining her. He contemplated a hermit's life here, living with the memories of a life past, daily paying homage to the woman who had made him. He pondered living at the HQ to become a Guide to the initiates, so there would always be a memory of Aaliyah.
But above all others he pondered revenge.
He wanted to destroy them all, to obliterate the Corporation from the face of the earth, to bring justice crashing down on their heads.
But where would he start? There was no chance. And then he would look at his right arm; he would see the dark grey wolf embedded in his GIACA, and the full memories of that night would flood back.
Well fuck Malek and fuck his commands. I honor only my family.
Eventually the wake died down, settling to a few drowsy conversations as the rest of them slept under the cover of the trees. And Dante still sat there, thinking an endless loop of suicide, obscurity, revenge, Malek, suicide, obscurity, revenge, Malek.
Near the middle of the night he heard something walking towards him, slow and steady steps climbing the path to the cliff. He stood and looked dully towards the source of the footstep's vibrations; an old man, unbent by his years, walking towards him.
Dante waited until he got close, then opened his mouth to speak. The old man held up a thin hand, and spoke in a strong, slow voice.
"Are you the runner they call The Orphan? You were her protégé?"
Dante nodded. The man pursed his lips and dug around in his pockets. As he searched, Dante could hear him muttering quietly, almost silently.
"Dante, eh? Is that the best she could come up with? 'Resolute'?"
He pulled his hand out of his pocket and handed Dante an electronic tablet, white as snow, unmarked in any way. Dante looked from it to the old man, confused. The man's face was grim and sad.
"She told me to give this to you if she never had the chance to do it herself. She told me it's an audio and visual log. I have no idea what's on it, but if Aaliyah wanted you to have it the data must be important somehow."
Dante tapped the screen and an aqua-blue color filled it, swirling like water. The old man nodded and turned to leave. After about ten steps, he stopped and turned around. His voice was soft and carrying, carrying the barest hint of danger.
"I loved her like a sister. She would have outlived me by a century with that armor of hers, but I knew her for much of my life. She was a great person. I'm sorry for your loss, but don't you dare do dishonor to her name. Because there are five hundred and seventy-eight people here and a thousand elsewhere who would tear you apart if you did."
With that, he vanished into the brush.
Dante stood there for a long time, looking at the soft blue screen. Then he sat down and began tapping furiously, altering the flow of the digital water, forcing it to come to the center of the screen. He worked at it for a while, coalescing it into a blue sphere, leaving the rest of it black. When he had it perfectly formed, he let it rest and it slowly stilled, becoming more of a glassy cobalt marble. Eventually it came to a stop, smooth and flawless.
Dante threw the tablet as hard as he could towards a nearby tree.
As it fell to the ground, he saw it embedded in a strip of the tree's bark, walked over, and pulled it out.
It was not damaged in the slightest, but the marble had fractured into a glittering dust of fragments. He smiled wryly.
Well, that was overly complicated. Just like her to encrypt her files with an image-based interaction.
He tapped one of the piles of glass dust, and it drifted upwards, forming a pane of glass on the screen. Images began to play across it, video logs and pictures. They were records of her life; from videos of the fights she had been in to video diaries showing her day-to-day life. They ranged from October 23rd, 1998 to December 16th, 2180.
He watched the procession for hours.
It was nearly dawn before he had finally gotten through almost all of the information. Only one thing was left; an untagged file, labelled For Dante. He tapped it, and almost dropped the device as Aaliyah's face suddenly filled the screen.
She looked at him (no, she's dead, this is a recording!) smiled, and spoke.
"Dante. If you're looking at this, you've read or watched all of the files I kept on this, and I am dead."
She took a breath, composing herself, then continued, "This is my life, Dante. This is a record of everything I’m known for, every war, revolution, and struggle. The only thing missing... is you, my son. But you have those memories, you don't need me to supply them."
She paused again. Dante could see her jaw muscles working, and knew those excersises she was doing with her stomach muscles.
She was stopping herself from crying.
After about another minute she resumed.
"Dante, I love you like a mother. You are my greatest creation, and if I lived only to raise you, I'm completely fine with that. But now that I'm gone, you need to get on with your life. Do what you want, but don't fade before you can shine."
She drew closer. So did Dante.
"You're special, Dante. I know it. Go now, go into whatever future you pick for yourself. Always remember that I love you. And always remember nothing is impossible." A single tear escaped her eye. She smiled, and whispered the last word.
And the screen went black.
Dante stood, holding the tablet very tightly. The sun was nearly up, coloring the clouds a radiant orange, so like that day so many years ago. The runner stood there for what could have been a minute or an hour. Then he walked down the path, towards the low encampment of mourners. He keyed in the coordinates for his teleportation module as he walked; the Runner HQ. He knew what he had to do.
He would have his vengeance on the men who ruled the world, but he would do it for her. He would end the Corporation. But he couldn't do it alone. He needed soldiers, and people to lead them. And the other that Malek had spoken about.
And he would have to loosen himself from the runners.
Fine, you bastard. I'll bring the fire to their house. I will end them. But for her, and only for her, he thought as the pale light of the module deepened to a dark green color. Satisfied?
A second before departure, he thought he heard a voice.
"It's a start."