A Warrior's Redemptionby Artiles
Chapter 6MEMORY SIX: THE SPIRIT CARRIES ON
Varlus felt nothing. No emotion. His shoulder's pain was long forgotten. He was thinking of nothing.
"Krianna's dead. I killed her."
As he let go of the dead Captain's hand and placed it across her body, the former Commander felt void. Empty. Lifeless.
"I killed her."
He could hear Jack typing on the computers behind him. It didn't matter. She was dead... Krianna was dead... and so was he...
"She's dead. I died with her. I have no honor. I have killed my friend, with absolutely no reason."
"DAMN!" cursed Varlus, punching the metal floor furiously. "Why?! I didn't want this! Why you?!" It was too much to bear. Another innocent's blood was spilt by his hands.
He could then feel Jack's hand on his uninjured shoulder.
"Let it go, Varlus. You had no choice."
"Shut up, kid!" spat Varlus. He didn't understand a damn thing. What did that rookie know about him, or her? He had no right to speak... no right at all...
"Blaming yourself won't ease your pain" whispered Jack, apprehensively. Varlus had had too much of it: he got to his feet abruptly and seized the private's neck violently.
"You know nothing of this. You can't imagine... this woman... Krianna... she was my friend. She was my friend, dammit, and I killed her!" Pain, blinding pain, sadness...
"You had no choice, Varlus!" answered Jack, choking. "She would have killed you if left the chance! Stop blaming yourself for something that was unavoidable!"
Varlus said nothing.
"You wanna kill me too? Then go ahead! But listen: I may be a rookie alright, but I'm not heartless--"
"Are you trying to say I am, kid?!" said Varlus angrily. Jack shook his head slowly.
"I know you aren't heartless as well. But... remember what she said!" Jack struggled to get away from Varlus' grip, but the former Commander wouldn't budge. "She WANTED you to kill her, for God's sake!"
Varlus was silent. He released the rookie, who rubbed his neck to ease the pain. "She wanted me to do it" said Varlus slowly.
"That's right" nodded Jack. "I've heard everything you and she said before fighting. I may not know what went on between you two before, but I realized this: she had no life left in her. She was consumed by rage, blinded by her desire to avenge herself... and she knew she was wrong. She needed her life to be ended, but decided only you would be the one to do it. Because she loved you... Oh yes, she did. Surely you can realize that much." Jack faced Varlus, who was completely silent, still looking at Krianna's body. "Varlus... she was already dead on the inside. All she needed was to be killed physically, and only you were the perfect man to do it. The only worthy man to end her life... you."
Varlus was still speechless. He thought about what Jack had said... and found out he was right. Krianna had made her choice long before that fight. He thought of his Father, and what he'd have done in the same situation... and knew he'd have done the same thing. That battle hadn't been a physical battle, a mutual desire to murder each other... Krianna and him were just warriors fighting for different sides.
"We both fought with honor" said Varlus calmly. "This was no mere battle. It was an emotional battle. A battle of wills... Oh, Father" he pleaded, looking up, "Am I.... am I worthy of my life?"
Jack said nothing. Varlus continued, "All my life, I've fought for what I believed in. I may have made some mistakes... but, after all, I'm human. I'm not perfect. This path I chose... It's not an easy path. Was this what you meant that day, saying that honor may bring despair along as well?"
"Varlus" said Jack, "don't push it. I've seen you fight, I've heard what you say and how you think and feel, and I'm sure you're perhaps the greatest warrior there is. Because even though you can kill another, and battle ruthlessly, you still have a heart... you still have feelings. Unlike other warriors or soldiers, you haven't lost your humanity. You're not a killing machine... You are human."
Varlus looked at Jack, who was grinning. Even though he was a rookie when it came to fighting, he had to admit Jack was far more experienced in the pshychological front. Perhaps even more than he was. He smiled at him.
"One day, Jack, you'll become a great warrior. Greater than anybody else. It's gonna take time, sure... but you'll make it. If you truly wish to be one, of course."
They both shook hands, and the promise was sealed.
Jack had deactivated the security measures surrounding the docked ships, and had also found a secret cache of assault rifles on a cabinet. As Varlus loaded his AAR-10, he noticed a sparkling pendant in Krianna's, neck. He crouched, removed it gently from his friend's neck, and threw around his own.
"What's that?" asked Jack, loading his own rifle.
"A memento" answered Varlus, smiling. "I'm gonna need her help to carry on. Ready?" he asked.
Jack nodded. "Let's bust out of here."
Both men left the computer room. After giving a last glance at Krianna's body, Varlus shut the door... and his memories along with it.
"Ok, now all we have to do is get to those ships ASAP" said Varlus. A second later, he spotted a shadow in the corridor ahead, moving towards them. He threw himself behind a metal barrel, but it was too late. The sentry picked up his radio.
"He's here! Backup on the north side of the first floor, now!"
"Looks like we'll be a little delayed. Damn!" cursed Jack behind a cabinet.
"No time to lose now! Shoot!" ordered Varlus, jumping out of concealment and firing his rifle at the sentry, who dropped dead instantly. "Move it!" Varlus shouted, and they began to run down the corridor towards the exit. As they were reaching it, a squad of Shinra corporals came down the stairs. Varlus and Jack rolled behind some crates for coverage, and began to fight back the sentries. One by one, the Shinra guards fell to the ground, showering the walls with crimson blood.
After a few minutes, the last sentry was shot in the head by Jack, who was improving his aiming skills amazingly, and dropped dead. Realizing they had no time before the whole dock was swarmed, Varlus ran out of the warehouse and round the corner, where he sniped the two sentries on the courtyard, and made a break towards the ships, followed by Jack.
Varlus was nearing the docks when he heard it: the metallic sound of a tank coming their way.
"Jack! They've got a tank! Get in one of these ships and get it started! I'll distract it!"
"You're nuts! You plan to fight a tank on your own?!"
"Just move, dammit!" ordered Varlus, pushing Jack forward. The private entered the piers and began to clear the area from Shinra sentries. Varlus, on the other side, walked to the tank slowly. The tank's turret turned to him, but didn't fire. A sentry came out from the top, laughing his ass off.
"This is as far as you'll go, Jenneson! You can't best a tank in open combat!"
"We'll see" replied Varlus. "Come on, punk, make my day!" he taunted, as he ran straight headlong towards the tank. The massive beast pointed its massive cannon directly at him, but Varlus rolled to his right as the cannon fired. The shell hit some oil containers on the far side of the docks, and the whole place turned into an inferno instantly. Hot flames rained down from the sky towards the docks.
Varlus knew the tank's main weapon was totally useless in close range, so he ran in an irregular pattern towards the behemoth to avoid the machine gun's deadly barrage of bullets. As he closed in, the former Commander climbed up the tank's slugs and made his way towards the top lid. It opened, and Varlus shot enraged inside it, creating a distraction. A sentry jumped up the tank, but Varlus knocked him out of it with the rifle's butt. The sentry rolled towards one of the slugs, where he was carried to the front of the tank, and squashed. In a swift move, Varlus ran to the end of the cannon, took a grenade from his vest, pulled out the pin and shoved it down. With only seconds, Varlus jumped out from the tank, running like hell towards the ships while shooting every sentry in sight. Behind him, he heard (and felt) the tank's cannon blowing up in a massive explosion who nearly knocked him off balance.
Dashing swiftly but cautiously, Varlus made it to the left pier, where Jack was slaughtering sentries everywhere using the ship's main turret.
"Jack, get us outta here!" Varlus shouted, as he ran towards the ship. Jack got back inside and started up the engines, which agitated the waters around them. Varlus emptied his AAR-10 on the remaining sentries, then dived from the pier's end into the ship before its cargo bay door closed. The sentries discharged their weapons in rage towards the ship, but it was no good: the ship had bulletproof plating.
Panting heavily, Varlus dropped his rifle to the floor and laid on his back, regaining his breath. As he looked at himself, he noticed Krianna's pendant was shining beautifully on his neck.
"So..." he panted, "you did protect me after all. Thanks."
He held the pendant on his bloodstained fist as he closed his eyes and, exhausted, fell asleep.