If you go back far enough, Matsuka's memories run together like old-fashioned ink in a blur of the childhood that was erased when he became an adult; but if you stop just before that, there is fear. His first clear memory after his adult examination is being on a ship transporting him and a number of others to an education station and knowing that he was scared. He didn't know exactly why, but he sensed that something was wrong. That he was different from those around him. They weren't scared-he could tell that. They were simply waiting for what came next. Jonah Matsuka could no longer simply wait for what came next, now that he could sense the minds around him. Instead, he feared it, and he hid inside his own mind as best as he could.
By the time the fear subsided a little, they were on the education station, watching and listening to the orientation film. Matsuka reached out, not with his hands but with his mind. He wasn't supposed to be able to do this. But he did it anyway, because it felt natural now. He touched the minds around him. There was no response. So he looked.
The same sight greeted him from every mind: the gleaming blue ball of Terra suspended in space. He tried to go deeper, but there was nothing underneath it. Their childhood memories were a forgotten cloud from which only occasional wisps of thought slipped, and in place of all that would have distinguished them from each other was that shining blue image the Mother Computer had just given them. He turned from mind to mind. Terra, Terra, Terra. A place they had never known and never would know, consuming their identities.
Matsuka clutched at his shoulders and shivered into that emptiness. Fortunately, those around him were too absorbed in the images they were being shown to take notice of one terrified interloper in their midst.
Every night, for a little while, Matsuka lay awake in his bed. "I can't be like that," he said. "I don't want to be different, but I can't be like that."
The others were satisfied to have that same meaningless image of Terra at the bottom of their hearts. Jonah Matsuka wanted something different to fill his, but he did not have the strength to make it himself.
"Are you going to study for the full four years, Matsuka?" asked a classmate.
"Why bother?" said another, pointing at the test scores. "He won't get a good position anyway."
Matsuka knew about the test scores. During every exam, he checked the minds of the brightest and most confident students to see what the right answers were, then he chose mostly the wrong ones. "It's all right," he said. "Two years will be enough."
"You'll end up in the middle of nowhere as someone's lackey," said the first classmate, without any indication that he really cared.
"I know," Matsuka said. "It won't be so bad..." It wouldn't, would it? He had thought, at first, of staying on for the four years, and trying to find isomething/i to put in his heart where Terra was in everyone else's. But he was too weak and too afraid. It would be enough to simply evade the system for as long as he could, then die quietly when it finally found and eliminated him. At least he would never have to be as empty as the others.
The second student shrugged. "It's your choice."
"Not really," Matsuka whispered, but they ignored him. Most people did. He was grateful for it. Their empty attention would only have frightened him more.
Matsuka woke up the day Keith Anyan was scheduled to arrive at Soleid, and he felt ill with fear. He nestled in the corner of his quarters and shivered. Something was coming. He could feel it.
He knew then that whatever was coming, it was much stronger than he was.
The electric gun left few burns visible on his body, and once Matsuka had treated them, they vanished even more quickly. He was surprised to find that his hands did not shake. He expected them to, after being alone in the presence of Keith Anyan, after being at the mercy of Keith's gun and Keith's hands. He was still afraid, but he also felt a little exhilarated.
He had touched that mind for an instant, and it had been different than others. Where every other mind he had ever touched had only the glow of Terra hovering above muddled childhood memories, Keith's had a strength and determination of his own. That was enough to make up for the pain.
Matsuka looked over at the table where he had left Keith's coffee, and he saw that the cup was gone. Keith had taken it. Despite himself, he smiled. The lingering pain made that shameful; how could he smile about a man who had just shot him twice? How could he smile when he'd just been uncovered and expose and had survived only because one man had made the choice to spare him? But he knew the answer to that. He could smile because he had been useful to Keith.
"Why?" he asked himself, as he looked down at his hands. "Why does he matter?"
Matsuka did not have part of an answer until later, when he raced to rescue Keith from Silvester 7 with no one else helping him. Then he knew: Keith was different, like Matsuka, and he was alone, like Matsuka.
It didn't bother him that Keith was different, but maybe it bothered him that Keith was alone. Maybe he could try to fix that.
After the rebellion had been suppressed, Keith ordered Serge to retrieve the troops. That left him and Matsuka alone in the house where they had apprehended the leaders and taken them away-supposedly for questioning but actually, Matsuka knew, to have their minds systematically torn apart.
"Does it encourage you?" Keith asked.
Matsuka looked at him. "Does what encourage me?"
"Knowing that in this house, people plotted to overthrow the SD system," Keith said. "Right here where we're standing now."
"Not really," Matsuka said. "Since they never had a chance." He had felt their minds, and he knew they were like all the others. When they had fought against the system, they had been thinking of Terra just like it had told them to.
Keith's mouth curved up in something that was too cruel and cold to be a smile. "You would think that." He turned to go. "Have coffee ready for me when we return to the ship, Matsuka."
Alone with Keith in the empty house, Matsuka understood something: where before his heart had been empty and afraid, now his heart was full of Keith and afraid. It was better this way.
The others had Terra, Matsuka thought. It was a meaningless symbol of the system that controlled them. But he had Keith, and that was better, even when what made his heart pound was fear and not love.
He made coffee with practiced hands, and he hoped those hands could be enough to save someone. That was all he wanted.
Keith. I've caught you now.
Matsuka's thoughts are fading like stars, but he knows one thing: he has Keith's hand in his, and for the first time, Keith is not pulling away.
There is too much he wants to express to Keith and too little time before it is over. He has to trust that it will be enough. He does, because he trusts Keith, now, now with the warmth of his hand as a last sensation, more than ever. If his words don't make it through now, they will eventually. Keith is strong, and he will figure them out for himself.
We were never meant to fill our hearts with Terra. We were meant to fill them with each other.
And now he is in Keith's heart, and they are both whole.