Epilogue: The Healing Time
February 27th, 2075
8:42 P.M. Kriljarne Hospital, New Amsterdam
The nurse calmly removed the thermometer from Kalinka's mouth, eyeing the electronic readout for an instant before smiling. She quietly set the thermometer down on the table beside the patient and looked back into Kalinka's wide and asking eyes.
"Well?" Kalinka said slowly, using her best English, "Do I pass?"
The nurse nodded her head. "You're still a smidge above 'normal', but all the readouts show that you've made a full recovery."
Kalinka visibly relaxed, easing herself back into her pillow. "Does that mean I can go see my father now?"
The nurse's smile faded a bit. "I hope so." Kalinka blinked in confusion, but the nurse shook her head. "You'll be ready by tomorrow to finally leave and go back home…but for right now, just settle in and get some rest."
Kalinka pulled the covers up close to her, thankful that they had let her keep her collection of t-shirts and shorts instead of wearing the hospital gowns. Her own clothes were far warmer…with a shudder, she remembered all too well the feeling of cold.
She never wanted to be cold again. She shivered again and looked towards the window, which had been left open to let in the warmth of the day. Even now, the gossamer curtains waved back and forth slowly in the chill breeze, softly brushing up against her cheek. She noticed something else in the crankout window, though; a brief glimmer of a reflection of yellow, which waved for a moment and then seemed to vanish, suspecting her discovery.
The nurse followed Kalinka's gaze and mistook her shivering, shaking her head. "I'll close that window for you before I leave." She started to walk towards it before Kalinka could shake her head.
"Nyet…No." Kalinka corrected herself, going back to English. "Leave it open."
The nurse looked back curiously at her. "But aren't you cold?"
"Not really." Kalinka said, a suspicious smile rising to her features. "I'll be fine."
The nurse gave the window one last cursory glance, then shrugged her shoulders and headed for the door. "Remember, if you need something…"
"Just push the button." Kalinka smiled back, motioning her head to the red switch beside her shoulder. The nurse nodded back and walked out of the room, closing the door behind her and flipping the light off.
It took Kalinka a few moments to adjust her vision to the new darkness, but thankfully the light coming through the open window with the translucent curtains helped, and it wasn't long before she could see the outlines of her room again.
She shut her eyes, feeling her body begin to tell her to go to sleep, healed yet still exhausted from her ordeal. It had been about a week now since she'd been admitted, enough to take care of the virulent flu that had raged through her systems unabated. Her reserves were still depleted, a fact that her body reminded her of every day when she tried to overexert herself.
Kalinka couldn't sleep yet, though…not yet. She opened her eyes and looked towards the window, clearing her throat and switching back to Russian.
"Blues…you can come in if you'd like."
The wind blew a little harder for a moment, but she could see clearly enough the return of a fluttering length of yellow come back into view in the window.
"You knew I was out here?" Protoman asked quietly, still refusing to show himself. Kalinka smiled at that, nodding her head in a gesture he couldn't see.
"Please come in." She asked him again. Protoman sighed and finally stepped around fully and through the window, his large boots clanking firmly to the polished tile floor of her room.
He smiled at her a bit, his black hair looking ruffled from the outside breeze. Despite the fact he was dressed only in blue jeans, a red T-Shirt and a gray jacket, he seemed unfazed by the chill conditions outside. It could have been the yellow fabric that hung loosely around his neck…after all this time, Kalinka still couldn't decide if it was more scarf or bandana. More than likely, a little of both.
"How could you tell I was out there?" He asked shyly. "Geez, I didn't say anything."
"Yes…but I could still see you out there." Kalinka giggled. "That, and I could hear you…some nights before I'd really gone to sleep, I could hear you whistling outside my window."
Protoman laughed at that, rubbing the back of his head nervously. "Guilty as charged, I suppose."
Kalinka sat up in her bed, pushing her back against the headboard and drawing the covers up tighter around herself. "I…wanted to thank you."
Protoman didn't say anything, but smiled at her words.
"Not only for saving me from Wily…But for bringing me back. You took care of me for weeks…and I can never really repay you for that."
"Ahh, forget about it." He said easily. "Besides, you remember what I told you about the First Law…if I hadn't saved you, it would have meant I'd have died too."
"Only once we escaped Wily's Castle." Kalinka answered quietly. She looked up towards his glasses, sincerity on her face. "But before that…nobody asked you to find me, did they?"
Protoman fell silent again at that, and Kalinka smiled. "You get quiet whenever I say something true about you."
"You spend enough time with somebody, you can start to peg them down." He finally said. "Only other people who've been able to do that with me is my family." He casually strolled over and sat down next to Kalinka, letting his head drop back as he sighed.
"So did you get yourself fixed up when you got back home?"
"Yep. If there's one thing pops can do right, it's repairing wear and tear on robots like me and Rock." Protoman answered. "Only took me a day to get back to full rights once he finished with the recharge and chassis." He looked over. "I got out of my own bedrest a little quicker than you, I see."
"I'm human, Blues. I take a little longer to heal." She smiled at him again. "But did you hear? They're finally letting me go!"
"Yes, that would be cause for celebration." Protoman mused. "Still, didn't you like all that free ice cream?"
Kalinka glanced at him. "So they fed me…all this place is is another prison." She shook her head. "And I've had enough of those."
Protoman lifted his head up and clicked his tongue. "Yeah. I can honestly say I know how you feel. But don't worry, you'll get out of here soon enough, and then you can go back home."
Kalinka blinked a few times. "Blues?"
"The nurse…What did she mean when she said 'I hope so'? Isn't dad doing all right?"
"Your old man, Dr. C…" He began, pausing as he opened and shut his mouth, grasping for the right words. He finally sat up straight and rested his hands in his lap, looking back at her. "You know that Wily kidnapped you…to get at him, right?"
Kalinka nodded, then her eyes widened. "You mean…"
"Your dad…he did some things that a lot of people can't easily forgive." Protoman said slowly. "That's why he hasn't come in to see you while you've been here…the United Nations in particular has kept him occupied."
"But…why would he…he's not an evil man, he's not!" Kalinka protested.
"Yeah, I know that." Protoman replied, his voice consoling. "And Rock knows that and my dad knows that. He was only doing what Wily told him to…because if he didn't, then Wily would hurt you. Your dad loves you a lot…enough he'd play the scapegoat in Wily's ambitions."
"They're not gonna…" Kalinka began, unable to finish.
"Go to jail?" He finished, lifting an eyebrow. "Well, I think we've managed to avoid that axe. Your father disrupted businesses and nations, true…but he never had his robots hurt anybody. Not a single human was harmed or killed, and according to some of the testimony given, a few of your dad's Robot Masters were quite amiable. That speaks a lot to his credit, especially given the role model they had for comparison. Plus, it speaks a lot for him that he was being controlled by Wily. They already have one insane robotics genius out to fill the role of villain…I guess they weren't too keen on making another one."
"He's not getting off completely free…he's been charged with some community service, which basically means he'll be working with my dad, Dr. Light for about a year, and he'll never be completely free of the stigma of being a criminal…but he's a free man, Kalinka. Your dad gets to go back home, he gets to rebuild his life…and most importantly, he gets to have you back."
Kalinka visibly relaxed and leaned back against the headboard again, shutting her eyes. "Thank God."
"But he misses you." Protoman said. "I've listened in on a few conversations he and my family have had, and that's always his first question… 'How's Kalinka doing?' He loves you a lot…He was willing to fight the world just to save you."
"But he didn't save me." Kalinka interrupted. "You did."
Protoman smiled at that. "Yeah. And I'd do it again." He stood up and walked towards the window. "You have one heck of a view…you ever get up and look outside?"
Kalinka looked over at him and shook her head. "I'm not strong enough yet to stay on my feet that long. But what does it look like?"
"It's New Amsterdam." He said quietly. "Awfully big place…one of the biggest cities in Europe left, I could safely wager."
"Why's that?" Kalinka asked, intrigued.
Protoman sighed and shook his head. "It was…something that happened long before our time. The Wars of 2040 is their official name. Some people prefer to call it World War III, but it's the same thing. Nearly every country just finally threw up their hands in disgust and started shooting off everything they had. It took out a large chunk of humanity in the process…most of the Earth ended up being ruined."
He turned and looked back at her. "That's why robots were finally made practical, Kalinka. The world needed them." He turned back out and stared at the city lights, shining in the darkness. "It took a lot of rebuilding over the next two decades to undo what had been done…but they managed it. From what I recall, the group responsible for saving the planet was called the Second Rainbow. My dad was in that, as were a whole lot of other people who hold positions of power these days. The cities were what were salvaged first…most of them received such dramatic upgrades and fixes that they even had to change the name. Like this one…Old Amsterdam is about ten kilometers away, from what I remember. Ruins now. But New Amsterdam…alive and well."
"You sound a lot older than you did out in Siberia." Kalinka noted, a hint of worry in her voice.
"Somedays, I feel old." Protoman whispered. "At least for now…things will get somewhat back to normal. You get to go back home, your dad's out of trouble, and Wily's had his sorry carcass dumped out into the open. My brother gets some more relaxation time…not as much as he'd like…"
"You're forgetting to mention someone." Kalinka responded quickly.
"Who, Roll? Well, she can always take care of herself." Protoman mumbled.
"I meant you." Kalinka replied.
Protoman turned and looked back at her, a grim look on his face. "What about me?"
"You seem uneasy." Kalinka thought for a moment, putting a finger to her chin. "Restless…that's probably a better word for it."
He scoffed. "That's crazy."
"Is it?" Kalinka asked accusingly, her tone belying her youthful age. "You're not like anyone I've ever met…You don't have any easily understandable reason for what you do. You don't have any hidden reason for your actions. You don't have anything terrible that made you the way you are. You're just…just…"
"I'm just me." Protoman finished, walking back over to her and shrugging his shoulders. "That's all we really can be."
"Yes." Kalinka nodded. "But…you've been out there every night, for as long as you could be. Why?"
Protoman put a hand into his coat pocket, his bottom lip tightening up. "I was your guardian for a stretch of about two weeks…it's not an easy thing to forget or unlearn. My reasoning was that as long as you were here, and your dad was unable to get back to you, somebody had to make sure you'd be all right." He cocked his head to the side and looked at her. "Why would you ask me that? I get the feeling that somehow you already knew the answer."
"You'll always be there for me, won't you?" Kalinka mused shyly.
Protoman didn't say anything, but sat back down again. The girl, perturbed by his silence, sat up a little straighter. "Blues?"
Protoman chewed his lip again, slowly shaking his head. "Kalinka, I…I don't know about that." She blinked at him. "Everything that's happened…to you, to me, to my situation…it's changed things. I thought after the Third Robot Rebellion I'd finally found home again with my family…that I could live in Tokyo with them for the rest of my life. But then this happened, and…" He ran a hand through his hair. "You were right about me. You called me restless…and that is exactly what I'm feeling."
"You feel like a prisoner too…don't you?" Kalinka realized, her clear blue eyes glancing at him.
"Yeah." Protoman replied softly. "I guess you and I…we're more alike than we thought, eh? We're both like the nightingale from fairy tales."
"Eh?" Kalinka asked. "What nightingale?"
"It's an old story told from long ago." Protoman answered. "There was a king who loved the music of the nightingale so much that he captured it and put it in a cage in his castle…but when the bird was caged, it couldn't sing, and it eventually died of a broken heart."
"Wait, I remember that one." Kalinka caught on. "Didn't he have a mechanical nightingale built next?"
"Yes…but its music didn't make him happy." Protoman acknowledged. "What the king learned…was that the beauty of the nightingales' singing came from its freedom. It sang because it was free, and freedom was what made it happy. No construct could duplicate that feeling…so he was left with the conclusion that to hear the beautiful music…he had to let his songbirds roam about on their own."
"…the Mechanical bird…was like a robot, wasn't it?" Kalinka guessed, slowly connecting the dots in her head.
"Yeah. In a way…it was. A very simple one." Protoman mumbled, flexing his hand. Kalinka watched him carefully, realizing what he was doing a few seconds later.
He was comparing himself to the clockwork nightingale.
"…Blues, you're not like that mechanical bird." Kalinka finally said, shaking her head. He looked up at her, surprise in his expression. "I mean, I know that you're not human, but…" She shook her head for a moment, looking for a way to continue. "…To me, you still are. Your heart is human, and that's enough for anybody. You whistle beautifully…there's a good chance you sing just as well."
Protoman smiled at that. "Probably. I've never really tried…hummed a few times, but that's different." He reverted back to a more serious expression. "But…you get what I'm trying to say, don't you?"
"You and I…we're the same." Kalinka nodded slowly, lifting her hand up and over to him. "We both…just want to be free."
Gently, Protoman took her tiny and frail hand into his own. "That's exactly it."
"But where will you go?" Kalinka asked, her voice more somber.
"Honestly…I don't know." Protoman said. "I spent a lot of time wandering in Africa, so I think I'm done there." He looked towards the window. "But there's a lot of world left to see…Maybe I developed a sense of wanderlust after all."
"Never you mind." Protoman said with a smile. "Look up the word sometime…you'll eventually learn that one and others like it. But I don't know, Kalinka. I'll just start walking…and I'll go where the wind takes me."
"Without any plan? Without any direction?"
"Hey, it's wandering." Protoman said defensively. "It's not supposed to be a fully planned trip. That's the adventure in life, Kalinka…to face it as it comes at you, where the true test…is how well you can keep your bearings set when a hurricane finally hits."
Kalinka nodded, then yawned, unable to control her weariness any longer. "Blues?"
"Even if you do go away for a while…Will you still come and visit me?"
"If I say yes, will you go to sleep and let your body finish healing itself?" Protoman asked calmly.
"Mmmhmmm…" The girl mumbled.
"Well…yes. I'll stop by your dad's place and visit you on occasion. I could never forget you."
"You mean that?" Kalinka asked sleepily.
"Yeah." He replied, lightly brushing a hand through her hair, gently stroking her head with a comforting touch. "You'll always be a princess to me."
"You're still my knight in shining armor, too." Kalinka whispered back with a smile. She reached a hand up to his own head, her small fingers curling around the edge of his sunglasses. Instinctively, his own hand rose up to stop her from pulling them off, lightly grasping around her wrist. She looked at him again, her eyes pleading. "I've never seen your eyes. Just once…"
Blues thought about it for a few moments before finally relaxing his own grip and letting her timidly pull his eyewear away from him.
The room was as dark as it had ever been…but in what little light there was, Kalinka held his glasses in her hands, looking up into a set of brilliant deep blue eyes.
"Without your glasses…you look like your brother." She said with a soft smile.
"I never could understand the family resemblance myself." Protoman said gruffly. Kalinka giggled at that and opened his glasses back up, holding them close to her with the lenses staring at her face.
"I think your eyes are far more handsome than his. You can have your glasses back now."
He reached for them, but she pulled them back with a cluck of her tongue. "No, you have to let me put them on you."
"No I don't." Protoman argued, but moved his face down closer to hers anyway.
Ever so slowly, she set his sunglasses back over his eyes, making sure that the wings tucked back behind his ears…
Before he could pull away, she forced her entire body forth and quickly kissed his nose, falling backwards with a shy blush.
"Now I've properly thanked you." She said timidly.
Protoman brushed a hand against his nose, smiling nervously. "Well, I hope so."
Kalinka turned a brighter shade of red at that, and Blues chuckled a bit. "But you promised me…I said I'd come visit you, so now you have to get to bed."
"All right." She said, perhaps a little relieved to move past the embarrassing moment herself. She yawned again, proof enough that the excitement didn't outlive her weariness.
She pulled the covers of the bed over herself a little more, curling up on herself a bit to increase the warmth.
"Are you cold?" Protoman asked. "I could go get some more blankets…"
"No…" Kalinka assured him, shutting her eyes and dozing off to sleep. "When you're around…I'm never…cold…"
Protoman smiled a bit at that, then turned around and headed back towards the window. It had gone well, he thought; he'd gotten to say goodbye. Kalinka would make a complete recovery. And now, after everything was done…he himself could leave this place.
Leave this whole scheme of the world behind. Move on to something…something different, maybe something better. But always someplace else.
His family would understand, he decided. He'd left a note in Dr. Light's room, taped to his writing desk even to make it painfully obvious. He was simply going away for a while…He'd done enough sitting, he had explained in the letter. He had to find himself again, and he had to find his own meaning for living. But most importantly…as he had shared with Kalinka…
He had to be free.
He turned and glanced back towards the young girl, looking through the thick tint of his sunglasses and remembering all they had been through. He was a free spirit, he assured himself…
But something about her would always bring him back.
He had just begun to turn and finish his short stroll to the window when she rolled over and mumbled something. Blues might not have understood it, but in the sheer silence of the night, it was all too obvious.
"I love you." She whispered.
Protoman turned around, shaking his head. He opened his mouth to say something back, but quietly closed it, thinking better of his choice and simply slipping off into the night, convincing himself she had mumbled it in simple gratitude.
Any other explanation for it…
Quietly, he climbed up onto the windowsill, kneeling down on his haunches and peering over the edge to the ground 16 stories below. He turned around one last time, his quiet eyes watching the slow rise and fall of her torso as she finally hit sleep, oblivious to all the world.
Behind his glasses, he shut his eyes, as if in prayer. Then he turned around and jumped out…
Ten stories later, a flash of light briefly went by her window…
And a soft five note, four tone melody echoed in the wind as she faded into dreams.
Well, kiddies, it's time for another visit from Mr. Grumpy. And this time, he's REALLY grumpy; having my update access fragged over such a little thing irritates me a great deal, to put it in the nicest possible terms. I tried to explain it in my profile, but looking at my reviews can tell one quite obviously that at least one person didn't bother looking, so I'll say it here too. A really old piece of junk I had up here violated one of the fancy new rules without me knowing it. I got my update access blown up for three months because of that. I am not happy with the folks here for THAT. Knowing them, though, voicing my opinions truly and bluntly here would land me in REAL trouble, so let's just say I strongly disapprove of their policy and let it go at that. Yeah, I know, join the club.
As usual, I'll just get the legal shite out of the way. The original game, the Mega Man series as a whole, all original characters, etc. are copyright Capcom. However, this 'fic itself, as well as all un-capcom concepts and characters like Corbun, are mine legally. Take it from a lawyer's son; DON'T try to pass anything I came up with off as your own, or you will be VERY sorry. I've seen it happen, and it better not come to pass with this.
Now, for the thank-yous. To start, one BIG thank-you is obvious; Erico, for multiple reasons, only one of being that he's the bloke who got me into the writing game in the first place. I think I've done fairly well with that. Also, as I hope most of you have already noticed, he wrote the Epilogue for this 'fic. He asked to do it as a favor, but I think I'm the one who actually got the better end of that deal; came out a lot better than I could have done, most likely. Hey, the guy's got several years on me, whaddaya expect? If you're any kind of Mega Man fan and haven't read his own 'fics, I advise you do so ASAP. Trust me, it'll be good for you. Drink grape soda, that's good for you too. As long as you don't OD and get so sloshed you think you're from another country. That actually happened once.
Back on track. Another big shout out belongs to my brother and editor, who goes only by the name of Deathscythe. No, he's not a giant robot. If present observations mean anything, he has a future in kleptomania. But he still has the patience to read through my stuff and point out errors for me before I put it up, so thankee. More thanks to just some buddies; the Ethereal Ferret, Mister Chimpo, and Chibi Schala, just for no other reason than stickin' by me over the years. And last but not least, to the blokes at , just for being you. You keep me humble, at least, even if you're also largely responsible for my growing grapaholism.
Aaaand... well, that's about it, really. Not much more to say about this one, but it's done, and I had fun writing it. I'll be coming back to the world of Mega Man again later, but for now, I got something different in mind. It'll probably already be well underway by the time this goes up, so check it out if you're of a mind. An old-school RPG made by the same quality folks behind Mega Man… Breath Of Fire. Just don't make any dragon jokes. They're kinda touchy that way.
-Magus523, June 2004