He wasn't in the habit of carrying out the bidding of people who held knives to his throat, but this was something of a unique situation. Whoever had accosted him in that alley knew, if nothing else, how to get his attention. The mere mention of Opal, his home, had tightened his stomach and stolen the blood from his face. The thought of settling the old scores was one that had never truly gone away, and now it was being dangled in front of him like a carrot on a stick. And besides, hadn't he been feeling the familiar boredom again, pushing at his concentration and his drive, sapping his energy and driving him more and more often to the bar instead of his bed? Perhaps, even if everything his assailant had said and implied was false, this was the right time for a change anyway. If nothing else, his patients would suffer if he continued as he was doing.
By the time he realised that he had already made the decision, his hand was sliding behind the television screen. His whole arm followed and he turned slightly to give himself a greater reach. As he did so, his eyes took in his small, bare apartment as if for the first time: the stained walls he had resolved to paint when he moved in eleven years ago; the couch which was held together for the most part by tape and wishful thinking; a glimpse of his bed through the door-less doorway, still bearing the bloodstains of the nameless girl he'd failed to save. Very little about the place spoke to him at all, and what did had nothing pleasant to say. His fingers finally took purchase upon the box, hidden in its dusty cavity in the wall. He pulled it free and, removing the card from inside, threw it in the bin.
He felt like a fugitive as he walked to the warehouse district, though there was no real need; nobody would suspect he was leaving for good, and even if they did it was hardly illegal. Sure, he should probably notify the hospital that he wouldn't be in to work for a while, and someone would no doubt be interested to know that his apartment would be vacant - but perhaps it would be better if he was just thought of as a random disappearance. It wasn't unusual for people to go missing, and he doubted that the police would waste too much time investigating it. Maybe what was worrying him was that someone somehow might witness the transition. But that was unlikely; for one thing it was still the middle of the night, and the warehouses were quiet as a graveyard at the best of times. The busy days of booming industry on Ulysses II were a distant memory, and most of the storage sheds were private rentals now. His hand tightened around the card.
Halfway there he was already feeling the change, and remembered the times it had happened in the past. These memories were useful, and he hung onto them while letting go of his memories of the last eleven years in Ithaka. Thoughts of losing himself in surgery after surgery would not help him in the coming months, so he let them fade. Less easy to let go was the girl, passed out from blood loss on his simple pallette bed. He tried to think of something from his previous lives to relate to that memory to make it easier to let go; in a flash the girl became older, the bed became a cell, and he remembered Gaia. It almost made him turn back and resume his life in forgetfulness, but the knifeman's words came back to him and he continued on with renewed resolve.
Piece by piece he left Tanus Lang, the reclusive but brilliant doctor, behind him and remembered what it was to be Tanus Banner the faithful son, the orphan and the militia pilot. He remembered what it was to be Tanus Endar, the apprentice mercenary and Gaia's lover. And he remembered what it was to leave the name Tanus behind entirely. By the time he had reached the immense rough metal door of the warehouse, he had done so again. The card granted him access and he stepped into the musty, dry darkness beyond. He reached up to the wall and flicked on the light, though he would have been able to do without, so strong were the memories of this place now. A metal footlocker lay next to the entrance, and he kicked it open; the contents were wrapped throroughly with plastic and seemed to be in good condition as he unpacked them.
He stripped to his underwear, and donned the black insulating suit, leaving the discarded clothes where they fell. They belonged to someone else. They belonged to Tanus Lang, who no longer existed as anything other than a memory in those who knew him. He turned his attention to the huge, sleek metallic form that dominated the warehouse; the curves he knew so well, and the lettering he had painted on with his own hand.
Two people would miss him, and one would never forget him. He didn't know her name.