“No! I’m not giving away everything I’ve built just because you-—you decided that it’s better for you!”
The unnamed man did not flinch. He would not react so obviously. But, had the good doctor looked at him, she might have seen him pause.
“Michelle,” he said softly. “Think about how many died in a few moments. All over, all at once. I can undo that.”
“And lose me every cure I’ve found!”
He let out a breath. “Michelle…I’m so sorry.”
“About wha—no!’ He reached for her and she jerked back, thinking he was going to do it, going to take everything she’d learned and shove her a year back because he, with his orthogonal morality, had decided it was better—-
Data flashed by, frozen diamonds slicing through every wall of denial she had tried to put up. She had helped some, yes. More than she had even known before. But that was a fraction (3/127ths) of everyone the disaster had killed. A fraction even of the survivors (don't look at the number). Transportation had broken down too much, and worsened every day, with each disparate tribe barely the size of a small town in the world as it had been.
“I am so sorry.” His voice betrayed no emotion. She believes him, even so.
“Why?” she cried. “Why ask me, if you know, and you already decided—-“
“I did not. Have not. Not everything.” He brushed her hair back, and Michelle realized he was trying to be kind.
“What,” she whispered, eyes on the ground.
“I can…I am capable of allowing you to retain your memories.”
Dr. Johnson’s eyes jerked to his. “Yes.”
“You would eventually go insane.”
“I don’t care; do you realize how many-—”
“Stop. Please,” he added, remembering how manners went. “You do care; you just don’t know it yet. You found each cure on your own; you could find them again. I could…help you, but not guarantee anything. You might not even be able to spread the cures.”
She twisted and began pacing. “But I wasn’t even going to be a doctor back then…I don’t know; I don’t know…” Her head jerked back to him. "That's not all."
“Dr. Johnson… Your children.”
She went utterly still. “Oh.”
Of course, she thought. The chances of me meeting him again are slim enough, but both are million-to-one chances even if I have the same egg. They’d be different by surroundings, even if genetically identical. I’d be erasing them, erasing everyone born, and erasing the versions of people here…
Though, honestly, I don’t know any who wouldn’t go back.
It was the easiest decision of her life, but the words stuck in her throat. It was the hardest decision of her life, but she made it anyway.
“Can I keep those memories, at least?” she forced out. “They wouldn’t change anything. No way of differentiating them from a fantasy of mine, not like the cures. Nothing.” She turned and looked at the nameless man. “Please?”
The look held for a moment. “Just that.”
“Just that,” she echoed.
There was a long stretch of silence. “If you will allow the rest to be as if none of this ever happened…then yes. I am allowed that.”
She sighed in relief. “Yes.” Difficult, but not truly different from raising them in a better environment—wait. What? “Allowed? There’s someone I could ask?”
“No. I am sorry.”
“Sorry because you misspoke, or sorry because you can’t get me to—-”
The nameless touched the doctor’s skin, and almost all was as it had been.She took out a piece of paper, and wrote everything she remembered of her children, and of raising them. Not enough to call attention, but…perhaps, just a few hints. Her children getting their shots, how right some things felt in her hands. Enough to bring her into the proper field, now with the proper tools.
“Risky,” the companion said.
“Worth every risk,” the nameless man replied.
“You are lucky you superior never found out,” his superior noted. "Make sure that I don't."