Just a simple jaunt through the city.
The Protectorate owns these streets, at least for now, but it’s clear their control isn’t what they’d want. The PA system is still shouting insults, and there’re looters and scavengers rummaging around in stores and breaking into abandoned cars. It’s disgusting how opportunistic these people are, but I guess this city and these stores are doomed anyway, so there’s no point getting mad. They don’t mess with me regardless, the big scary rifle slung over my shoulder makes sure of that.
There’s flashing lights in the distance, and I hear crashing over and over. It’s a peldak jeep, I soon realize. The bulky frame has no difficulty barreling through cars and knocking them out of the way. I run to the sidewalk, so I don’t get hit.
“-find shelter!” A peldak stands on the back with a megaphone. “Get to one of the designated safe zones until evacuation arrives! Either the shore, hospitals, the subway, or government buildings! If you can’t make it to a safe zone-“ his voice trails off as he turns a corner. They’re moving too fast, and the sound of smashing cars overpowers his voice at points.
It doesn’t matter to me, I can’t evacuate yet anyway. Family comes first!
…why do I feel so guilty all of a sudden?
Come to think of it, that hospital back there. That’s where Chalerm and Sopa were born, wasn’t it?
Yeah. Natcha was pregnant with Chalerm, and when she was finally ready to give birth… I was at work. We were just finishing a warship and, due to various coordination errors on my behalf, I had to stay so we could use the giant crane to move it into the water. The crane would be moved to another dock later that day, and we wouldn’t have access to it again for weeks. Completely my fault. Well, the moment the ship hit the water, I ran as fast as I could, sprinting through traffic all the way to the hospital. I almost got run over by three separate cars, and I have no idea how many times I tripped and fell on my face.
I got to the hospital exhausted and dehydrated, on the verge of heat stroke. The nurses wanted to admit me for treatment, but I brushed off their concerns and finally got to the room. Chalerm was already born, but I was able to hold my son for the first time. No number of apologies made up for my absence, and Natcha sulked for weeks afterward.
Never got the sense she was directly mad at me though, more so mad at the situation. Her explicit goal in school was to marry a renowned ship builder, and that was what it took to be a renowned ship builder. All the times I had to cancel our plans or dates, she knew what she was getting into and directly encouraged me! She always pushed me to do better, to stand out from my peers, to take extra assignments, or work overtime. Natcha could hardly complain when all that work left me too busy for our personal lives.
The next mistake wasn’t nearly as excusable on my behalf.
Shortly after Chalerm was born, Natcha was pregnant with Sopa. Natcha was a few months along, and I was offered the opportunity to go abroad and represent our guild with investors and clients. I jumped at the chance of course, and this turned out to be the right move from a ‘war effort’ perspective. I did a great job on the presentations, better than any other employee could have, and the influx of capital let us rapidly expand our ship making efforts. Years later, this let our guild almost singlehandedly rebuild the Protectorate’s 8th Fleet just in time for it to take part in the Defense of Ciratha. I wholeheartedly believe that my decision, in at least some small way, saved the Protectorate. I’ll always hold my head high with that knowledge.
…the problem was that the trip was 45 days long and crossed over exactly when Natcha was set to give birth.
Not great planning on my part.
I agreed without thinking, did all the paperwork, and forgot to tell Natcha for a few weeks. By the time I remembered to tell her, she freaked out, rightly so, and told me to cancel. It didn’t matter how much of a bonus I was getting, or what career opportunities would be opened, I couldn’t miss the birth of our daughter for so long. But it was too late to cancel… so I went.
She didn’t talk to me for quite a while after that blunder. Well, series of blunders. Agreeing to the trip in the first place, forgetting to tell her about it until after everything was settled, and not finding a way out.
Not long after that presentation, I was promoted to be in charge of the entire assembly yard. In this context, it’s no wonder why Natcha came to my work and screamed her head off at my boss until I was demoted.
Ah, more memories like that are flooding back. Not going to school plays, not helping with projects, coming home after dinner, being so tired that I went straight to bed. When was the last time I did anything with Chalerm or Sopa? I think I took them to the beach a little less than a year ago, but that was Natcha’s idea, and I only agreed because I was mandated by guild policy to use some vacation days.
I’m a terrible father, aren’t I? I didn’t even know that there was no school today. If I did, we wouldn’t be in this mess.
So, what, I’ll go galivanting through a warzone as if that makes up for years of neglect? I’ll probably end up getting myself killed. Then Natcha will stand over my grave and say “I was with them the whole time, stupid. I was on the same island, I found them and got out of the city. You could have made up for your neglect in time, but now your children are fatherless. Good job.”
Agh! My delusion of my wife berating me brought up a really good point! She’s too smart to be caught by the gurant. Even if they weren’t by her side, she’d of course run out to gather them before fleeing. What the hell am I even doing here?
Yet, even knowing this is all pointless, that I’m going to arrive home and find everything in perfect order, I can’t stop walking. When I think about my family, my brain says everything is fine. But my stomach is turned into a knot, my heart is killing me. I can’t get past the thought that something is really wrong.
That sayran, Hizan, said it was some mystical stuff. His mystic power is real, I’ve seen it lift ships into space and I saw firsthand how it ripped buildings apart. But how do I know he isn’t personifying a physical force of nature? I know gravity exists too, but if someone started saying that gravity was sending signals into my heart to warn me of the future, I’d look at them like they’re insane.
Whatever. There’s no point thinking about it further since I’m heading home no matter how much my rational mind is telling me not to. I’m coming up on the last corner before the bridge, there’s other things to focus on.