Disclaimer: I do not own Ghost in the Shell, but I do own my original characters.
Note: After nearly a year and a half, the story is finally coming to a close. I hope that you have all enjoyed it as much as I have. It has been a lot of fun and I hope to continue to read and write more Fanfiction in the future.
Note: Sorry that the last chapter took so long to complete, but I wanted it to be perfect. Hopefully, it builds to a climatic ending.
Note: I would like to thank all of the readers who have supported me from the beginning and throughout the entire story. Without enthusiastic readers, writing is not worthwhile. Again, I hope that you all enjoy this final chapter:)
Chapter 13: Resolution
Togusa came to the top of the stairs. The rain clouds lifted, allowing the fading moon to light the landing through the small window. His eyes adjusted to the blue light illuminating through the window,and he could make out a small form at the base of the landing. It was then that he recognized the girl, her eyes fresh with tears and her lips cracked and bleeding. Then he noticed the gun, the same gun she had used to kill her own father . . . Without warning, she pulled the trigger.
Togusa lingered in the doorway of the apartment entryway, paralyzed by the dreadful memories that resurfaced as he looked upon the room where he had lost his humanity. Although the room had been washed of all remnants of the desecration and horror of that night, Togusa could still feel the victim's inauspicious presence residing within the murky lobby. The red glow of the setting sun lighted the entranceway and dyed the white walls red, making the walls appear to drip with blood. The wail of ambulance sirens from the city streets outside brought Togusa back to that dreary, rainy evening. In his mind, he could see clearly the body of the victim sprawled upon the cold cement floor, encircled by a puddle of his own blood. The surprised expression that had been frozen on his face remained embedded in Togusa's memory. He would never forget the look of horror that had glossed his murky black pupils.
The blare of the sirens passed by, the memories fading away with them. The light of the sun faded as dusk fell upon the city and the red light faded from the walls. As the sun set, long shadows stretched into the doorway and spread across the cragged walls like knarred fingers scratching along the rough surface. This atmosphere heightened Togusa's sense of urgency, and withdrawing his revolver from its holster, he cautiously stepped into the familiar room and back into his last memories of humanity. Slowly, he crossed the room, avoiding the area where the victim's body had lain. Togusa's slow, heavy footsteps echoed in the empty building like the ricochet of bullets. He paused in the lobby and forced himself to look upon the place where the victim's body had once occupied.
Images from the memory dive flooded his mind as he examined the floor. Before his eyes, he could see the girl standing before her father, a small handgun clutched firmly in her small white hands. He could still remember the way her knuckles had turned transparent as her grip tightened until every vein in her hand could be seen through the thinly stretched skin. He remembered the look of fierce hatred blazing in her brown eyes and the tight clench of her teeth as her finger tightened around the trigger. Togusa could still feel her father's anguish as the memories of his final hours blurred before his eyes. Togusa's own body jolted slightly as the sound of gunshot echoed within his own memory. He could still see the man sprawled upon the cement as if the image were more than a memory. Just a few inches away, was the spot where Togusa had met his own end. Even though his body was an imitation and knew nothing of real physical pain, Togusa could still remember the way the bullet had burned as it entered his flesh.
Upstairs, the soft repetitive sound of footsteps brought Togusa back to the present reality. He listened a moment more and determined that someone was in the hall above. He recalled Katsuo's final words before he was taken away, "You could expect to find her returning to the crime scene. That place holds special memories for her."
Togusa glanced back down at the cement floor. 'Perhaps, she is visiting the place where her father breathed his last.' he thought as he slowly made his way to the stairs.
At the base of the stairs, Togusa hesitated once more. Slowly, he forced his eyes to climb the darkened stairway. It was not a very tall staircase, but Togusa shrank from its menacing nature, which made it appear taller. The sun had not yet set, but the window omitted little light onto the landing through the dark curtains. The entire staircase was encompassed in shadows, but Togusa's cyber eyes could pierce through the darkness. Togusa stood at the base of the stairway and listened for movement above. For a brief second, he thought he heard more movement upstairs and the sense of urgency returned.
'If the girl is here, she is hiding in one of those rooms.' Togusa rationalized as he peered into the darkness. Togusa took a deep breath and readied his firearm. With extreme caution, he brought one foot upon the bottom step. This action brought on a serge of memories as if he had crossed through a periphery where his memories lingered. Once he steadied his foot up on the step, he placed his shaking hand upon the railing. As his fingers touched the railing they seemed to react with the finger prints his natural body had left behind, connecting him with the residue of memory his finger prints had emitted onto the railing. He sensed a real, tangible response from his hand as it linked the physical with the mental. The physic imprints that he felt on this stairway were far more intense than the ones that he had experienced in the memory store. He closed his eyes tight, gripped the rail, and pulled himself completely onto the first step. The nostalgic feeling became overwhelming as he began his slow climb. With each step, suppressed memories flooded his mind and threatened to overwhelm him.
As he reached the top of the stairs his body halted on the landing as if anticipating the bullet. He could almost feel the bullet entering his body, tearing through muscle and bone. He could almost taste the blood filling his mouth and lungs. As he faced the shadows, he could almost see the girl, smoking gun in hand, before she fled into the darkness.
As his eyes adjusted to the light, he could make out the form of a child standing several feet before him. He strangled a startled cry as he came to face the very child who had stolen his humanity. He immediately recognized the girl, her face contorted with a mixture of rage, but mostly fear. Her eyes were wide, catching what little light seeped through the dark curtains. The light also caught the smooth surface of the gun as she produced it from the shadows. It rattled like a tremulous skeleton in her trembling hands. Gasping, Togusa froze in place, his own gun still positioned at eye level. In the light, he could see her pale face tense with fright. He remembered the look of abhorrence on her face the day she had shot him, the tears of rage that had streamed down her cheeks. The girl that stood before him now was not the same angry child.
Taking courage, Togusa approached the girl. He winced in preparation for the bullet, but she did not fire. Instead, she shrank back into the wall, a high-pitched sob rising from her chest as if her throat was too restricted to scream. Her eyes were wide with terror, and in them, Togusa could see a spark of recognition.
"So you remember who I am." Togusa mocked her without humor, stepping toward the girl. Even though she was a child, he did not let his guard down nor did he lower his weapon. That mistake had cost him his humanity. Togusa took aim at the girl as he took another step forward. "You must be surprised to see me."
"Go away." The girl whimpered in reply as she raised her own gun. Togusa stepped closer and the gun went off. The sound split the air and ricochet off the walls. The sound reverberated through Togusa's body and caused him to halt. The bullet whizzed passed his face, grazing his cheek. Togusa let out a strangled gasp and touched the cut with one finger. He examined the fluid on his fingertips and returned his attention to the girl. She was trembling violently, frightened by her own action. Her eyes were even wider than before and the gun rattled uncontrollably in her shaking hands. Togusa laughed hoarsely. "It will take more than that to kill me this time."
Trembling, the girl took several shaky steps back. Her face bore a look of pure horror as if she were in the presence of an unearthly ghost. She had created an even stronger opponent. He was no longer encased within the fragile vessel of human flesh but was now nearly invincible. Togusa slowly approached the shuddering child. Shrieking, she tore down the hall, fleeing from the monster that she had created. Togusa quickly pursued.
Togusa sprinted down the hall after the frightened child. As he made his way down the hall, he was only aware of the present. There were no more memories to further guide him or to make him falter. He hurried up another flight of stairs, which led him to the rooftop.
"Public security, don't move!" he shouted as he kicked open the escape door and stopped before the girl. She gave a strangled cry as she spun around from the ledge of the roof to face him. This action nearly caused her to fall from the ledge. Togusa took in the scene quickly. He saw the child teetering on the edge of the roof with the same gun pressed firmly against her own forehead and understood immediately what she intended to do. She was attempting to commit suicide just as Miki had done. Togusa understood how desperate the situation had become, but he resolved that he would not fail this child. "Stay right where you are!"
"Don't come closer!" she shrieked, her braid flying about as she shook her head in protest. Fresh tears sprung in her eyes, but the clean streaks on her dirty cheeks revealed that she had already been crying. "I'll jump!"
"Do you honestly think that death will free you from this nightmare, that it will bring your father back, that it will return me to the way I was!" Togusa shouted at her, causing her to cry harder. Her round face morphed in such a hideous way that only children can muster when in distress. Ever since his cyberization, Togusa had hated this girl, but Togusa's rage subsided when he saw the look in her eyes. It was the very same lost, despondent look that he had seen in Miki's eyes and even in his own.
"Do you honestly think that you're the only one going through this ordeal?" Togusa recalled Batou's stern words, finally taking his advice to heart. 'She is just as lost as I was.' Togusa realized with growing sympathy for the child. 'It wasn't even her choice. After all, it was Katsuo who made her a murderer, not her.'
Togusa's expression softened and he lowered his voice, but not his weapon. Even if she did not choose to be a killer, she still was. "You can't take back what happened by killing yourself."
"I don't care! I don't want to live without my daddy!" The girl sobbed, the gun sliding to her waist as she lost composure. As Togusa approached the window, her anger returned and she brought the gun back to her forehead. Her eyes gleamed with fierce determination. "Go away or I'll shoot!"
Togusa stepped forward, determined to stop her from taking her own life. Shrieking, the girl stepped back on the ledge and prepared to jump. She teetered dangerously on the edge and her finger tightened around the trigger. Togusa rushed forward and grabbed her arm just as she was about to fall and pulled her back from the ridge. His tight grip caused her to release the gun and it clattered loudly on the cement rooftop. Unarmed, the girl fought violently, her arms and legs flaring as she struggled against her captor. "Daddy!"
"Daddy isn't here." Togusa grunted as her fist met his chin. Her hits were strong, even for a child's prosthetic body. "You killed him, remember."
"He hurt me!" She screamed, writhing in his arms. The more she struggled the tighter his hold on her became. In her frustration, she pounded uselessly against his chest with her small fists. Still, he would not relinquish his hold on her. All she could do was cry and yell, "He deserved to die!"
"You don't mean that." Togusa took her shoulders in his hands and met her fierce gaze.
"Yes I do! He deserved to die and so do you!" She screamed, pushing away from him, but his grip held firm. Shrieking at the top of her lungs, she continued clobbering his chest and flaring her limbs. Finally, Togusa saw her resolve break and her anger spent. Exhausted, she fell against Togusa's chest and sobbed "Why, Daddy, why?"
'Even though she is a murderer, she is only a child.' Togusa thought, looking down at the girl hugging his waste. Only a few moments earlier, she had tried to kill him and now she was hugging him as if he were her own father. He was no longer holding her, but she made no sign of letting go. Her own childish fear and need to be comforted held her there. For a brief instant, Togusa saw his own daughter clutching him in the doorway of her bedroom, begging for him to protect her from the monsters under her bed. This girl was once no different than his own daughter.
"I'm sorry daddy, I'm sorry." She apologized to Togusa, lost in her own sorrow. "Please forgive me."
"It's alright sweetheart." Togusa wrapped his arms around her, returning her embrace. She pressed her head against him and he could feel her small hands pressed against his back, begging him not to let go. He felt his own heart being wrenched from within at the anguish this girl had gone through and the pain she had inflicted upon him and his family because of Katsuo's treatment. All along, he had blamed her for what had happened, but she too had been a victim herself. "It's alright, I forgive you."
Motoko had just arrived at the apartment when the gunfire went off. Quickly, she kicked open the door and ascended the stairs, indifferent of her own welfare. In her mind, the scene replayed itself over and over again. She remembered clearly, the image of Togusa's crumpled body lying at the base of the stairs, blood gushing from the bullet holes in his chest and stomach. She could feel her own panic resurface after all this time as she remembered watching him die. She could not forget that feeling of helplessness at losing her own team member. Even though the title of Major was only a pseudonym, she was still first in command of Section Nine and in charge of every member. Togusa had been in her charge that night, and she had failed to protect him. She would not fail again.
As she came to the top of the stairs she pushed those thoughts aside and focused on what she had to do now. She rushed down the hall toward the open door. She could see the evening light spilling through the open door. She came to the rooftop gun raised, but lowered it as she took in the scene. She sighed inwardly with relief. 'Once again, Togusa has handled things his own way.' She thought as Togusa took the girl by the hand and led her outside where the police were waiting to escort the lost child home.
The sun was nearly set when Togusa brought the girl outside. When she saw the police, her grip tightened around his hand and she drew herself closer to him. He gave her hand an encouraging squeeze but she still looked frightened. He could sense Motoko close behind them with her gun ready in case the girl panicked. Togusa lead her to the squad car and coaxed her inside. Even after she was securely fastened to the seat, she would not release Togusa's hand. She pulled him nearer, her eyes pleading. "Do you think my daddy knows I'm sorry?"
Togusa felt his throat tighten and he struggled to keep his voice under control. "Of course he does."
"Do you think he forgives me?" The girl asked near tears. "Do you think he hates me now?"
"A father can never hate his daughter." Togusa answered truthfully. "He has already forgiven you."
Appeased, she offered him a weak smile. Cautiously, she reached up with her free hand and lightly touched the graze on his cheek. "Do you forgive me?"
"Yes." Togusa answered after a short pause. "I forgive you."
'"Thank you." she released his hand as a female cop approached. She was slight in stature, but somehow, she reminded Togusa of the Major. She came beside Togusa, ready to take the child into custody. Togusa searched his mind for the right words to say to the girl, for some words of encouragement, but as the door slid shut the best words he could muster were "Good luck, kid."
As the car pulled away, Motoko came beside him. Without taking his eyes from the car, he asked her. "What will happen to the girl?"
"Like the other patients, she will have to undergo extensive therapy to try and separate her real memories from the false ones." Motoko answered plainly. "Unfortunately, there isn't a cure, and she will have those memories her entire life. Whether she decides to believe in them or not is up to her. Once she checks out of a correctional facility she'll probably be placed in the care of relatives or a foster family."
"Will she be alright?" Togusa asked her as the car pulled out of view.
"I don't know. There's a good chance that with the proper treatment she may be able to overcome the doctor's treatment." Motoko said. "If not, she could spend the rest of her life living a false one or have her memories rewritten altogether."
"I just wish I could have helped her more." Togusa divulged his thoughts to Motoko.
"You helped her the best way a father knows how." Motoko said wistfully. "You may have just saved that child's life . . . just as she saved yours."
"What?" Togusa appealed for an explanation.
"When I saw you in there with the girl it was the old Togusa I saw." Motoko said, her tone lighter. "By saving that girl, you restored your own sense of humanity."
"After my cyberization I had nearly given up on what was left of my humanity." Togusa smiled in agreement. "Saving her was the only way that I could be redeemed for failing everyone I cared about. I just thought if I could save her, in a way, I would be saving myself from becoming what I feared most."
"And what was that?" Motoko asked him leisurely as she met Togusa's warm gaze. For a brief moment, she forgot that he was a cyborg and thought that she was speaking with the old Togusa again.
"Something other than myself." Togusa answered, smiling at the absurdity of his own answer. "With only my internal memories to attest to my identity, it made it seem so fragile. It was my fear of losing my identity which lead me to nearly lose it altogether."
"Memories are only part of what makes an individual." Motoko reminded Togusa. "It is the person's ghost, their essence, which defines who we really are."
Togusa smiled inwardly as he withdrew Miki's drawing from his front pocket. He unfolded the drawing and turned the paper over to the front cover of the article that he had been reading about cyberization. "When we try to define our existence aren't we really trying to define the indefinable."
Sadness encompassed the prosthetic bodies of the two children riding the motionless green sports car. Togusa paused to absorb their overwhelming sense of nostalgia. Togusa stared into the bright claret eyes of the little girl. The sadness he saw in her eyes was almost too much to bare. Hesitantly, he stepped away from their depressing aura and searched for the crib where his daughter's doll slept, waiting for her owner to reclaim her. He allowed the nostalgic sensation to lead him to the baby doll crib where he found the doll propped comfortably against a pillow. Its lonely, glossy eyes seemed to brighten at his approach as if it knew that it was going home. Slowly, he took it into his hand. He felt a strong psychic imprint and a connection between the toy and his daughter. He breathed a sigh of relief. 'You are my daughter's doll. She is real.'
"Welcome back." Togusa recognized the old woman's whimsical voice as she came up behind him. He turned to face the woman and she smiled knowingly. "So that doll does belong to you?"
"I figured that the little girl must miss her doll." He said, looking down at the little porcelain girl in his hand. "I thought I'd return it to her."
"Then make sure she gets it back safely." The old woman played along, smiling knowingly as she turned to leave.
"Wait." Togusa beckoned her back. "Remember the story you told me about the little girl and her father. Tell me, how does it end?"
"Like most stories, I suppose." The old woman smiled. "Happily."
"Thank you." Togusa bowed his head respectfully as he turned to leave, and then paused. "One more thing. I left a family photograph in the crib last time I was here. Is it alright if I leave it here for safe keeping."
"Of course." The old woman smiled as she waved him farewell. "Your external memories are safe within the memory store."
Fireflies hovered about the graveyard like glowing spirits dancing about their graves. Several of the glowing insects rested on a small marble gravestone, illuminating the name of the patron who rested beneath the cold stone and dirt. Togusa knelt before the grave and read the highlighted name aloud. "Miki."
The hollow echo of his voice reverberated through the lonely children's cemetery. In the daylight, the cemetery appeared colorful and peaceful, but at night it appeared lonely and cold. Togusa took comfort in the soft glow of the moon and the fireflies that served as a source of light and comfort for the sleeping children.
Gifts and fresh flowers surrounded Miki's grave along with several photographs of Miki with her mother and father. Togusa gently took one photograph in his hand and studied the happy faces. He immediately recognized Miki's father. He shuddered as he recalled the images he had seen when he had dove into his memories. He only hoped that he had found some peace in the afterlife, or whatever lay ahead after death. He gently lowered the photograph back beside the grave and retrieved a leather-bound sketchpad from his jacket pocket and placed it beside the photograph. "So you won't run out of paper." Togusa smiled sadly, remembering how she had bothered him for paper so many times. In his memory, he saw the slow digression of a vibrant young girl into a despondent doll and his guilt consumed him. Closing his eyes against his last impression of Miki, Togusa tried to lighten his remorse in knowing that he had saved one of Katsuo's victims that day. "I'm sorry, Miki. If only I could have saved you."
It was passed midnight when Togusa pulled into his driveway. He studied his home through the tinted windshield, overwhelmed by its familiarity, which had, until recently, been under suspicion of being nothing more than a facade. He could not imagine that all of this could be nothing more than a fabrication. The thought rose from the depths of his mind but he blocked the thought. He would have to live with the fabricated memories along with his own. He stepped out of the car and gazed upon his home.
His wife had left the porch light on for him as if nothing was amiss. Quietly, Togusa unlocked the door and entered. The entire house was dark except for a bluish glow transmitted from the television. Togusa was not at all surprised to find his wife asleep on the couch still in her day cloths. She often stayed awake late into the night to make sure that Togusa came home safety. A wistful smile spread across his face as he watched his wife sleep. She looked so calm, but he knew that she was anxious. 'Sorry I put you through this, hun.' He thought as he reached down to stroke her face. The slight touch of his hand stirred her from her sleep and she greeted him with a relieved smile. "Togusa, thank goodness you're alright. Where have you been?"
"I'll explain in the morning." Togusa said, not entirely sure what he would tell her. "I'm sorry that I worried you."
"I'm just glad that you're alright." She sighed, stroking his face. She was always putting on a strong front in front of Togusa, but he knew that she was only holding on for his sake. Her brave exterior faltered for an instant as her fingers traced the bullet graze on his cheek. "You know I wouldn't mind if you quit your job."
"I know." Togusa said as she pulled her hand away. He was surprised by how attentive she was being. He wondered if his absence had helped her to realize that she would rather have a robot husband than no husband at all. "What are you watching? One of those twentieth century films?"
"Of course." She smiled, grateful to change the subject and act as if nothing had happened. "They really are the best."
"It's hard to watch a movie with the sound turned down so low." Togusa commented as he joined his wife on the couch, noting that the volume was only turned up a few bars. "How do you know what they're saying?"
"I've watched this one so many times I bet I have the words memorized." She smiled. "I turned the sound down because I didn't want to wake our daughter. She's asleep."
"Is she alright?" Togusa asked, staring at the silent actors on the television screen. A man and a woman as flawless as porcelain posed before the camera like two lifeless dolls. Togusa felt the weight of the doll grow heavier in his pocket.
"She's been very upset since you left." His wife told him truthfully, but without judgment. "She blamed herself for why you didn't come home."
"Poor kid." Togusa said, rising from the couch. "She's been through a lot."
"Don't wake her." His wife begged him sternly as he started up the stairs. "This is the best she has slept in the last four days."
"I won't wake her." Togusa reassured her as he ascended the steps to his daughter's room. "I just want to check on her."
Togusa quietly strolled down the hall and crept into her room, careful not to disturb her sleep. He carefully lowered himself onto the corner of her bed. The mattress sank beneath his weight, but his daughter continued to sleep deeply. Togusa smiled slightly as he watched his daughter sleep, her round face illuminated by the soft moonlight filtering through the cotton window curtains. Carefully, he placed his hand against her forehead and stroked the stray hairs from her face. In her sleep, his daughter accepted his touch, leaning into his palm like a cat being stroked. This time he did not hurt her with his inhuman touch. His body did not fail him this time as he caressed his daughter's cheek in the palm of his hand.
"Daddy." She whispered, her voice husky with sleep as she recognized his touch.
"It's okay, sweetheart." He smiled, petting her hair, his hand soothing her back to sleep. "Daddy's here."
He now understood the pain that she had went through. His cyberization had not only affected him but his family as well. He knew it would take some time for her to adapt to the changes and for the hurt and the fear to heal, but when she got over it, he would be there for her. With his free hand, he retrieved the doll from his jacket and placed it beside her. He pulled the sheet over the doll, tucking them both in. In the moonlight, the doll's face seemed to have taken on a more peaceful expression as if it was relieved to be home. "It's not your fault that I left. If it weren't for you, I would have never have found my way back."
At the sound of his voice his daughter stirred from her sleep once more and Togusa removed his hand from her head and watched her drift back to sleep. He did not want to wake her now. In the morning, she would find her father and her doll safely returned. Togusa watched her sleep, humming quietly as she turned about on the mattress. He marveled at how much she was starting to look like him. When she was younger, she looked so much like her mother, but now that she was older he could see pieces of himself mirrored in her face. She was the proof of his existence, a natural creation that only natural love could create. Technology could do many things. It could be used to restore or enhance life. It could even mirror creation, but it could not create life. As long as he had his daughter, his evidence of his humanity, he could maintain his identity. Through his daughter he could dare describe his existence and to define the indefinable.
Note: I hope you all enjoyed the conclusion. It took a long time to complete, but it was worth it. Even though this is the final chapter of this fiction, I am hoping to write a few one-shots in the future. Again, I would like to thank all of my readers for sticking with it and for all of your encouragement, interests, and critiques which have helped me to become a better writer.