Disclaimer: I do not own Animorphs

Dedicated to Rachel Scott, a real life martyr

My new silver Jaguar purrs up the slope that leads to Rachel's memorial. I slow to a stop before the silver gates that lock people out at night. To this day, more than a year after Rachel's untimely death, thousands of mourners crowd the memorial to honor and remember a hero they never personally knew. By the bright light of day people come from all over the entire world to this place to revere and gape. But nighttime is my time to come.

The two security guards standing at the gateway entrance recognize me immediately. Every guard on staff does; After all, I visit every single night. Silently one side of the double gated entrance swings open. I put the Jag in gear and roll through, nodding my thanks to the guards. They snapped me respectful salutes. I'm pretty sure that I'm the only that they let in after hours. They would probably let Marco or Cassie in, but when ever they take the time to visit, they come during normal hours. How could they not let me in, after all? I saved the world. I saved humanity. I saved free will for the galaxy. I couldn't save my beautiful cousin though. I killed her.

I can only see the peak of the memorial jutting beyond the hilltop before I cruise over the top, and the stunning memorial appears like a beacon before me.

During the daytime the span of the Pacific Ocean's reflection illuminates the white marble of the monument. Now only the faint glow of the moon makes the whiteness glitter softly against the pitch of night.

I park in my regular spot in the parking lot under the protective foliage of an elm. My short walk to the monument is a familiar routine. I slow my steps reverently as I step onto the marble stones of the open plaza. I go and sit down on one of the sixteen marble benches placed strategically around the courtyard. One bench for every year of her life. I lean back against the cold marble. This is my time for reflection, reminiscence, and regret.

I survey the familiar scene around me. I know every quote, every picture, every tree, bush, color, and cranny of this memorial that wouldn't even exist if it hadn't been for my decisions.

Delicate, white Crepe Myrtles artistically line the edge of the plaza; white to represent the innocence of youth. She was not innocent. Far from it, I think bitterly. Three years of secrets, killing, and fighting constant battles could strip any innocence from even the most idealistic person; as it had done to us all. Especially Rachel. The war had hardened her most of all. I should have corrected the Japanese, German, English and American architect specialists who had planted white bushes.

My gaze shifts from the white Crepe Myrtles to the statue in the center of the plaza. It is a beauty. Expert stone cutters had delicately cut fine details of the grizzly's face and body. The stone had been stained to match the exact color of an American Grizzly bear's coat. It was standing on its hind feet with front claws flexed out as if in battle. I know the designers created it that way to symbolize that Rachel had died in battle, but it will always remind me of the very essence that had been Rachel in her final three years. Always ready to fight, ready to defend and attack the enemy. My final image of her will not be the scared, helpless human that I had sent to the Blade Ship to be killed. Who was taken down with a single swipe of a Yeerk's polar bear morph. No, I will always remember that angry, powerful bear that wasn't afraid of anything openly. She was a martyr by the very definition of the word. She sacrificed everything, including her life, on behalf of a worthy cause.

The sound of gently rushing water reached my ear, and my head turned once again to stare at the monument itself. Three white marble walls converged to face the plaza. Even though I couldn't see from where I was, I knew that black and white treated photos of my strikingly beautiful cousin were mantled on the two side walls. People would forever see those photos and see a tall, athletic blond who was drop-dead gorgeous. The irony was not lost on me.

Encased between the three walls is a picturesque fountain that is always bubbling away. The water from the fountain gurgles into a shallow reflecting pool that is half in the monument and half in the plaza. On either side of the pool are the walkways that people use to get from the plaza to the monument and back.

My survey complete, I recline tiredly against my bench. My hand brushes against the quote of some famous general or philosopher engraved onto the backrest.

I don't talk to her. I don't do anything really. I do occasionally search half-heartedly in the sky for a particular red-tailed hawk, but I know he won't be there. He hates me. I'm with him, I hate me too. I hate myself for not being able to come up with a better plan. Despite always saving all the members of my team through cunning in the past, my intellect could not save a special person to me in the end. People tell me, (and I know) that I was trapped, my options were limited, and I did what had to be done. Try telling that to the dead. She followed my orders because I manipulated her sense of duty. She knew what was going to happen. The spirit Rachel's non-existent future surrounds me all the time. It haunts me. The life she will never have.

For the past year I have always wondered, did the great leaders, generals and kings of the past grieve for the people lost on their account as much as I grieve for Rachel. Did Napoleon ever sleep soundly with deaths on his hands? Did King Arthur ever lose loved ones to a war on his behalf? Did Alexander hang out at the graves of fallen soldier's to think "what if" scenarios? Did Washington ever have crushing regrets about his actions? They were all hailed worldwide as conquerors, as I am, but what haunted their dreams at night?

Even if they did hold as much sorrow and heartache as I do, they were men who chose to take command. They were not scared little thirteen-year-old boys who had life threatening decisions suddenly thrust upon them. Which is why no one will ever truly understand me.

I look at my watch. I have been here for hours. My eyes turn once again to the bear statue that is the center of the shrine. A golden plaque is welded onto the base of the statue. My eyes burn with unshed tears of regret and love as I stare longingly at the words permanently etched there.

Rachel Marie Berenson

1985 – 2001

Sister and Daughter of Few, Friend of Many, Hero of All