Going home: Strongburgh, Part 1 of 4
"I have enough of dealing with advanced technology here, I'm trying to keep my life simple."
"You're right there, it doesn't come more simple than that. Now go." Milton hunched back over the radio.
Eric put the phone away. "If you're certain."
Milton growled and Eric hurried out.
When Eric had asked for some time off two weeks before, he'd said he had friends from out of town visiting. He hadn't wanted to tell him he was going to spend his time with the Children of the Wind. Instead of just giving him the time off, Milton had reworked how he paid Eric, switching from an hourly waged to a per item one.
He based it on long Natalie would have taken on average, and with this method, Eric could earn his week's pay in a couple of hours. He'd only come in three times in the two weeks he'd spent with Listens to the Wind. And now he'd probably have a few days before there was enough to make it worth coming in.
Instead of heading back to his room, he walked to Evermore Street and made a left. He passed small convenience stores, a pharmacy and a neighborhood grocery before reaching Connected Coffee, an Internet Cafe.
He was more comfortable using computers now, but not enough he wanted one in his room. He was worried about what having something this technologically advanced around him all the time would do to him.
And it wasn't like he did much with them. Catching up with the times was about it, or today, trying to see if anyone from his past was still around.
He bought a plain coffee and sat at the first available computer. The previous user had left it on and still on a search page, 'Eureka!' The last time he'd done a search it had been 'Gotcha.' He had no idea if one was better than the other, so he didn't bother changing it.
He started with his family. As he'd expected, his parents were dead. As were one of his brothers and his two sisters. Francis was still alive. He'd been three years his junior and he was in an assister living home now.
The picture by his name on the FindMe site had him looking happy, but his profile indicated he wasn't mobile anymore, that his hearing was almost completely gone and his eyesight also on the way out. While it seemed that in the sixty years he'd missed, no one had found a cure to getting old. They had made progress with postponing the onset of old age, If he'd seen this picture of his brother before being deployed, he would have guessed the man was in his sixties, not eighties.
Eric found he had many nephews and nieces, and most of them also had children. How would any of them react to finding out he was not only still alive, but around the same age as their children? Would they even believe he was their uncle? Did he want to meet them if it was going to be so problematic?
He did, but now at this time. He wasn't ready to confront them and have to explain what had happened to him.
After an hour looking at his relatives' lives, he looked for some of his childhood friends. The people who came up with the names he entered were either the wrong species, too young, or dead. The Swamp wasn't a neighborhood that was kind to the kids who stayed there.
He entered the names of the people he'd known in the army, and names after names came up dead. Most of them had died in Hismer, in an unexplained explosion.
Eric had to fight against throwing up. It was one thing to know his invention had killed soldiers on his side of the war, but to get the confirmation that he'd known some of them was almost too much. He went outside for some fresh air and distance himself from the information.
It took him ten minutes to settle his stomach and come back. A young wolf was standing behind the unoccupied chair, reading the screen, but moved on when he saw Eric come back.
He thought about closing the search engine, finishing what was left of his coffee and leaving, but he reminded himself that doing this another day wasn't going to change how he felt about what he'd caused. He might as well deal with this now and get it over with. It would hurt, but then so did cauterizing a wound, and it was something what was needed.
The list of his victims was long, and barely a handful of the men and women he'd known had managed to not be at the base when he'd destroyed it. Those had died of old age.
And he was down to the last name. The one he kept finding excuses not to look up, because he knew he wouldn't be able to handle knowing he'd killed her. He looked at the search bar for a long time and finally, his hands shaking, entered her name, Isabel Isaac.
His hand hesitated over the enter key. He remembered her the sound of her laughter. The bovine had had a deep and hearty laugh. She'd been funny and smart, a hefty woman of great spirit. He pulled his hand away.
He's almost convinced himself to hit enter when he noticed the 'advanced' options. He read through them, berating himself for procrastinating, but he found out he could exclude terms from the search. He put 'explosion' there. He didn't want to see anything that might confirm he'd killed her.
The first result was an entry for the Strongburgh Faculty. He clicked it and found himself looking into sparkling brown eyes he'd never through he'd see again. She was much older in the picture, around the same age as his still living brother, by the look of her.
He searched the page to find out when the picture had been taken, was this a memorial? No, it was a schedule, for this year.
Isabel was still alive, and she taught history.