The memories are gone/ The aftershocks live on/ But with nothing to remember/ Is there nothing left to grieve? – Lines from the Tony and Pulitzer prize winning musical Next to Normal.
"Bogg, I don't think I can do this anymore."
"Okay," Bogg said slowly. "If you don't think you can handle being a Voyager right now you have two options." Bogg's voice was firm but compassionate. He waited to be sure he had Jeff's full attention before continuing. "I can bring you some place, some time zone, that's safe and leave you until you're older and ready for the academy. Or, you could change your mind. You could decide you don't want to be a Voyager."
"What would happen then?" Jeff asked, puzzled by the finality in Bogg's tone.
The answer was blunt. "Your memory would get wiped," Bogg said. Jeff was stunned. "You were eleven when you left 1982, so they'd probably arrange it to look like you were kidnapped or something to explain why you've been gone so long. Maybe stage some kind of accident to account for the gap in your memory. Then they would find your Aunt Elizabeth and send you back to her."
The faint clicking sound of heeled shoes on marble floors echoing in the hall alerted Phineas Bogg that Susan was returning to her office. He stood and expelled the breath he was only now aware he had been holding. "Is it done?" he asked as she pushed the door open. His voice was raw with emotion. Susan nodded and bowed her head, her long blonde hair shielding most of her face but not managing to hide the tears in her eyes. Bogg tightened his jaw. "Can I see him?" he asked through clenched teeth.
"He's already gone," Susan whispered, sorrow in her voice. She crossed the room and wrapped her arms around her fellow Voyager. "Phineas, I can't... I'm so sorry." Her shoulders started to shake, and Bogg could feel the tears falling from her eyes onto his shirt. Mechanically, he put his arms around her and patted her shoulder. "I can't believe he chose this," she sobbed.
"I know," he said bleakly. It felt like someone had disconnected the world from reality and then put it back together with all the pieces slightly askew. "He's already gone." Strange how those three small words changed everything. As Bogg tried to comfort Susan, his eyes fell on the new, updated guidebook sitting on Susan's desk among her papers, his name embossed on the cover. He hadn't yet touched it, hoping beyond hope that if he didn't – if he just left it be – Jeff would change his mind. Claiming the guidebook meant accepting Jeffrey wouldn't be traveling with him anymore, that his kid wasn't coming back.
Bogg disengaged himself from Susan's arms and took a shaky breath. "Susan," he said, his voice breaking. "I think I need a few minutes alone. Do you mind?"
"Of course," she replied, understanding filling her voice. She hastily wiped her eyes. "Councilor Garth wanted to be informed once the procedure was done." She moved to the door, graceful even in her grief. She turned back to him, eyes red-rimmed. "Phineas, he wants to talk with you. He asked me to tell you not to leave."
Bogg nodded automatically, his eyes distant, not really listening. Headquarters was too quiet. He needed to get away from the offices and classrooms as soon as possible, to go to a place that didn't echo with his thoughts. He needed to be doing something active. He needed to get back to work. He didn't hear the door click shut or Susan's footsteps as she walked back down the hall. He put out one hand towards the black book on the desk, flinching as his fingers closed on the cover. Once it was in his grip, he tucked securely it under one arm and grabbed his omni. He then set the device to automatic and activated it. When Garth opened the door seconds later, Bogg, too, was already gone.