"You haven't touched your pizza," Linuial pointed out.
Jon Smith looked down at his plate. "Oh....yeah." He picked up a piece, took a bite, chewed reflexively. His hand dropped to the table, still gripping the rest of the piece, his gaze fixed elsewhere.
Linuial smiled. "What is it, Jon? You've been a thousand miles away for days. This is supposed to be celebratory dinner....another Starfire success. You've hardly been with us, even during missions. That's not like you."
He looked down at his hand, plopped the bitten-off pizza on his plate, slid the plate across the tabletop. "Not hungry, I guess."
"Jon...." She drew the monosyllable out, an admonishing tone coloring her voice even as she smiled fondly. "This is me you're talking to. Empath, remember?"
The scrapper turned his head, but the rest of the group didn't seem to notice the private conversation going on. Blood Nut was in the middle of his fourth toast, thoroughly relishing his current position at the center of attention.
Jon raised his glass with the rest, sipped, then stood.
"Leaving us, Jon?" Anya glanced up.
"Just grabbing some air. Be right back."
As he walked toward the door, Linuial stood, nodded to the others, and followed him.
He stood and waited for her to catch up to him; they began pacing side-by-side, following the loop around Talos Island.
"I know who I am, now," he began without preamble, "but I still don't know what happened to me." He stopped, turned to face the elven woman directly. He held up a metal hand in mute demonstration, dropped it. "Someone did this to me, Lin. Vazh killed my brother, but they didn't do this." He turned and started walking again. "But it's more than what they did to me, physically." He stopped abruptly, turned to gaze out over the bay.
"It's my family, Lin. That's what's killing me." His face contorted in pain.
"Look, I get that they are all dead. There's no conspiracy, they all died of different things. Zebediah died of old age. He wasn't *that* old, but he'd lived a good life, if a hard one. My mother died of cancer. Okay, that happens. My father died in an accident. That happens, too. Sam was killed by Vazh....I hate it, and I now understand why I've always hated zombies so much. But that's one of the realities of living in Paragon City....Vazh kill people all the time, and we can only hope to keep them under some sort of control, there doesn't seem to be any getting rid of them."
"And....?" Linuial watched him carefully, searching what she could see of his face as he stared out over the water. She reached up and gently rested a hand on the top of his shoulder, where she knew he could actually feel the reassuring contact.
"More 'but', rather than 'and'," he replied soberly.
"Lin, I'm the survivor. Maybe the only survivor. I don't know if Jonathan Norman is still alive, and I may never find out, so I have to assume that he isn't until I hear otherwise. I may be the last of my family.
"Lin, I can't remember them." He turned to her, a stricken look on his face. She let her hand fall as he turned. "I remember Sammie's laugh and my mother's voice, and that's all. I can't remember anything else. None of their faces. None of my feelings. My parents must have taken me back to Zeb's farm to visit, after they left. Maybe I met my uncle at some point. At the least, I must have heard stories about him.
"But it's all gone, Lin. Every bit of it. Every scrap. I have no mementos, no keepsakes, nothing but official records, a photo, and 2 slivers of memory. I can't *feel* them. There's no emotion. Nothing but a great empty hole where my past should be.
"There's nothing else left, I've tried everything I can think of to salvage what I can. I even talked to Myers about hypnosis. He said hypnosis isn't reliable, it can create false memories as easily as dredge up true ones, and the problem is that no one can tell the difference afterward. I can't even look forward to one day regaining my past any more. Even that vain hope is gone.
"Lin, those people, my family, they deserve to be remembered. Whoever did this to me, when they took away my memory, that was worse than taking away my arms and legs. Infinitely worse. They took a piece of my soul, Lin, my feelings for those people, my heart. And I can't get it back.
"I hate them, Lin. The people who did this to me. And I don't care about my machinery breaking down any more.
"I want revenge."
Copyright terraforming.com, November 26, 2012