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Perpetual Memory
Prompt: Silence

It was never silent on the stations.

It's not completely silent here, either. He can hear the crunch of his boots as he walks across the dry soil, the rustling of branches as they catch the wind, the quiet hum of the generator in the background. But they're soft noises, easily dismissed. They're small and insignificant when compared with the overwhelming silence of this world.

He'd hoped never to hear silence again. He never thought he'd come to crave it.

It's not silent inside his mind. The name repeats itself in time with his steps. Brayden Croix, Brayden Croix, Brayden Croix. He'd told others he doesn't remember too many of the details yet. It's a polite fiction; he remembers everything. He just isn't ready to face all of it yet. He wonders if he ever will be.

When Yale banishes the name from its march through his consciousness, other memories emerge in its stead. He'd had a wife, two children. His son was eight when he was arrested; his daughter, twelve. He'd left a wife without her husband, children without their father, a family without a breadwinner. All for the sake of his conscience.

He wonders what part of that conscience didn't think twice about tearing his own family asunder.

His children are lost to him, of course; thanks to the ten-year cold sleep between his conviction and assignment, and then the twenty-two-year cold sleep to reach G889, they're biologically older than he is now. The physical distance is secondary, though, and irrelevant; his family was gone long before he ever left the stations.

He understands, now, why he is still with Devon and Ulysses Adair. Their family, too, has been ripped apart. Devon was so young when her mother died. Uly doesn't even know who his father is. And now they, too, will never be able to return.

She's released him from servitude, but he stays. It's atonement for the all the destruction he wrought.

Memories of his wife, his children, his family, coil around themselves in his mind until he fears he might go mad from the sound of them. He came within a hair's breadth of doing just that when they returned, all at once, following the incident with the Morganite. Even now, sometimes he wishes he could stop remembering.

He's almost able to ignore the guilt that follows that thought.

His mind had been silent in the first years after his mind wash and retraining. There was little inside of it, aside of facts and information. His only true knowledge, at first, was that he was a distinct individual. His programmers hadn't given him any more than that. A mind wash was supposed to remove the personality that led to criminal tendencies, along with the memories of performing them.

He knows now that's why all of those programs — the Yales, the ZEDs — ultimately failed. Personalities can't be safely removed. Suppressed, yes. Adjusted, yes. But removed? No.

At the time, he'd hoped never to have to hear total silence again. It was deafening. Maddening. It led him to wholeheartedly throw himself into the role of Devon Adair's tutor just to fill that black, aching void. That had worked; indeed, it saved him from the fate suffered by many of his comrades. He'd survived.

But he wasn't unscathed. He'll never be the person he was. Thirty-two years of cold sleep and twenty-four years of servitude have created a wall that's far too strong to be torn down. He knows who he was now, but he also knows that person was irretrievably destroyed.

There are times he wishes he'd never gotten a glimpse of what lay in his past. Most of him knows he needed to have remembered, to have learned that the one thing he is not, and never was, is a criminal. It's a powerful thing, to know that about yourself. A necessary thing, for any creature with a conscience.

But it's not a comfortable thing, and the sound of his newfound knowledge is sometimes almost more than Yale can bear.