The next morning, drained from insufficient sleep, Matt dressed and stumbled from the apartment. The chief ordered him to be on time, and Ken was the last person on the planet that he wanted to upset. Matt disliked the feeling of emotional detachment the medication caused; still, he took a double dose. After the incident at the port, he needed to keep his wits about him.
Matt had a premonition that it was going to be an important day for him.
As he was running a little behind schedule, all he had time for was a nutrition bar, so he nibbled as he made his way to the transport station. He wasn’t very fond of the bars, but at least they were complete with all the nutrition and vitamins required for his age and activity level and half the taste of unbuttered toast.
It was a shift change, and the walkways were bustling with people as intent as he on getting to their assigned workplaces on time or leaving it and trying to away from it. One of the benefits of being a colonial security officer was that even in a crowd, people made way for you. He looked ahead to see a few unfortunates who bumped and jostled around as they rushed to their destination. He wasn’t sure how long he could have withstood such handling before the pharmaceutical shield working his way through his blood gave out.
The ambient noise of a mobilized human workforce only increased as he approached the stop. The train slid up to the stop, and the people piled on to the car, pulling him into the conveyance with them. The car was crowded, so he squeezed himself into a corner near a window. There was no place to sit, so he held on to a bar secured to the ceiling for support.
He could feel the medication start to take effect. Behind the chattering and groaning, he could hear people shouting, screaming for food, for water, some relief. He shut his eyes tight. The crowd, human clamors, and scents brought with it horrible memories, but his emotional reaction to them remained numb. It was just a bad memory, all in his mind and light years away. He shut his eyes tight as evoked phantasms came unbid.
“You are ordered to disperse.” The echo of the bullhorn reverberated off the housing units down the Dallas streets. They should have heard it. They should have listened.
Matt was torn. He desperately wanted to recall the events that had devastated his career. Nevertheless, if he gave into them, could he rely on the new medication to help him keep his emotional state controlled? If he fought them back down into his subconscious, would they ever return?
“This is the police. Disperse now!” The augmented voice repeated. Matt heard the thuds of the gas grenades the riot officers fired into the crowd.
Then a new face appeared, a woman with brown curly hair, her beauty marred by bruises on her face. He knew her, but he couldn’t remember meeting. The bruises on her face angered him. It was personal, but he couldn’t explain why.
“Don’t lose it; you are close.” Matt turned and faced the window. “Not now. It’s in your mind.”
Slowly the phantom sounds or the tragic past receded, leaving only the sounds of the crowd and the train. He almost had it, the memories came close to surfacing, but they slipped away. Even with the pharmaceutical help, he was drained, and his nerves were raw.
“Are you alright?” One of the commuters draws near him. “Is there anything I can do?” A man’s voice rose just above the fading sound of the rioting populace.
“I’m fine thanks. Had a rough night.”
“Sure, if you need to sit. I can clear some room for you,” the Samaritan continued.
“No, I’m good. I’ll be off in a couple of stops. Thanks for your concern.”
“Okay. If you’re sure.” the man melted back into the crowd. “You might want to stop at a med center. You look a bit trashed.”
“I probably will later.” he waved the man off.
When at last the train reached his stop, he didn’t waste a second getting off and away from the crowds. He walked quickly and with determination toward the security station. Pull yourself together; he told himself as he walked the final block.
Matt strode into the station and headed to the nearest washroom without making eye contact. To his relief, the room was vacant. Before heading in, he wanted to make sure he was presentable. The water was cool and felt good on his face. The mirror echoed the man on the train. He had looked better. Using his hands to cup water, he took a few deep drinks, and then splashed his face and hair, adjusting himself until he looked more presentable.
The structure was large, but not congested; there were less than fifty officers on the whole of Sirius Primary. The colony probably didn’t even need that many. As the commercials stimulated earth-side, there was no crime in the outworld colonies, except when there was. Humans were human, and when they broke the law, the small group had the duty to investigate and apprehend, quickly and quietly. The peace of mind of the citizens rested on the belief that crime was always exposed and corrected rapidly. There just were no criminals running free to harass the good law abiding citizenry.
At the end of the hall, several officers were boarding the elevator. Matt ran to catch it, just as the door started to close. Before the door closed, an urge took hold, and he blocked it with his foot. It needed to stay open just a little longer. He often wasn’t sure why his hunches were seldom wrong. To obscure his intentions. However, he bent down to adjust his boots.
“Damn it, Dales; we’re gonna be late. You can freshen up when we reach the office.” An officer behind him said. The door at the end of the hall opened, and a woman came out and started running for the elevator. She was a secretary, her name was Barbara, and she was a burnout. She had been shorted her dose of the hyper drug. When the starship broke through the light speed barrier, she experienced the mind rip.
It was an accident; the technician that injected her misread the dosage. Barbara left Earth mentally intact with a future, she reached the colony screaming, and her mind unable to comprehend or accept what she saw. To save her life, the surgeon burned out the parts of her brain responsible for short-term memory. She was one of the lucky ones; she could still recall some of her past.
Matt moved his leg to let the woman in. “Good morning, Barb. How did the gown fitting go?”
“Fine, Robert’s going to love it.” Every morning she awoke, thinking she was on earth. Matt thought it was compassionate to permit her to believe that she was still getting married in a week. “The veil is to die for. You don’t want to hear about that, it’s girl stuff.”
“I’m sure you’ll be a beautiful bride.” Matt continued over the barely suppressed snickers of his fellow officers.
“You are so nice. Are you a friend of Robert’s?” She smiled brightly. Matt’s heart sank a bit when he thought of how she usually found out the truth by shift end.
“No, I just heard people talking.”
“Why do you encourage her, Dales?” One of the officers whispered. “You know it’ll be the same tomorrow.”
“Robert should be back from his interview tomorrow. I hope he’s not late. We have to make a decision on the guest list. I’ll have him add you.”
“I would be honored.” There but for the grace of God, Matt thought darkly. The man’s interview had gone well, he was hired, and her dream wedding was to happen under another sun. It was, however, not to be. Unfortunately, when her fiancée learned what happened to her, he left her before she was out of surgery. “The elevator door opened, and they walked out.
“Have a good day inspector.” She strolled into the office, took, and sat behind the records desk.
“See Dales; she doesn’t even know your name.” The officer badgered as they walked past.
“Leave it,” Matt said.
The officers walked into the lounge at the back of the office. Several others were scattered about, mostly engaged in the ordinary activities of the morning shift. Matt walked to the coffee maker and poured a cup. It was dark, and he could easily smell it without bending his elbow. It took three creams and a sugar packet, stirred heavily to make it palatable. A sip of the hot beverage confirmed his expectations; it was a truly horrible cup of coffee. He sat at a table and sipped anyway.
“Dales!” The chief opened his door and called out.
“Right here, Chief.”
“Come inside please.” he motioned to his office. Matt left the cup on the table. The captain closed the door behind him. “Look, Matt; I think you should increase your sessions with the psychiatrist.”
“No one said PTSD was an easy thing to deal with, after yesterday. I want you to get yourself reevaluated. Maybe some new drugs would help.” The chief looked at him intently.
“It won’t happen again,” Matt promised.
“IT CAN’T HAPPEN AGAIN.”
“Good. I don’t want to lose you, which brings me to the next subject. About your hunches.”
“Yes,” Matt was uncomfortable discussing the topic, even with his old partner.
“I know how hard you’ve worked at becoming a detective, I know the importance of good instincts, but I’ve heard some talk. Some of the officers are saying that hunches are not normal, too accurate. They think you might be psychic.”
“You and I both know there is no such thing as a psychic, chief.” Matt wanted to laugh. The conversation, however, was a little too close to home. To be honest, he didn’t know how to explain his dream. “Psychic phenomena were controverted over thirty years ago.”
“That’s what they say. And there are those who still believe in it.”
“There are those who still believe in angels.”
“Even so, I want you to keep your insights between us. Understood? No one else. It could be dangerous if the wrong element starts to think of you as gifted in that way.”
“You can’t possibly mean the Trust? Come on Ken, that’s black helicopter shit.”
“On Earth it is. This isn’t Earth. You must be more vigilant, Matt. I’ve seen more than my share of disappearances. Someone shows an exceptionally accurate flash of insight. Then without warning, they’re gone, reassigned off-world never to be heard of again.”
“Everyone on this rock is given one of these,” Matt held up his hand. “The city mainframe knows where we are at all times, doesn’t it? You could just check. It’s impossible just to disappear.”
“Paper trails can be falsified. People get transferred to some secret corporate espionage group.”
“Would that come with a pay raise?” Matt laughed.
“Listen, Matt; I tell you this as a friend. Computer and files can be erased if someone is high enough in the governor’s office or the cooperate hierarchy.”
“I’ll be careful,” Matt vowed.
“See that you do. I wouldn’t want to lose my newest detective.”
“You are being promoted, back to Detective.”
“After the drug bust in the docking bay, you’ve proven to the governor that you still have the skills.” he rose and put out his hand. “Congratulations, Detective Dales.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Say nothing and go change to your new uniform. It’s in your locker. Your new pay grade has been programmed into your file as of this morning.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Now go and report to your new partner. I’m assigning you to Detective Zimmerman. She’s a hardass, but she knows the system. Pay attention and learn quickly. It’s not like it is Earth-side. In some ways, it’ll be easier, and in others, well you may need to adjust a bit. I need you up to speed as soon as possible. Don’t let me down.”
“No, sir, I won’t.” Matt turned to walk out. “No one else would have given me a second chance. Thank you, Ken.”
“Get out. I mean it about the shrink. I want a note tomorrow.”
“Yeah, sure.” Matt stumbled back into the lounge; his mind was spinning. He made it back; he was once again a detective.
“Looks like you took a reaming but good there Dales.” Officer Kramer pestered. “Have a seat over here.”
“No time, I have to go to my locker.”
“Damn, he fired you?” Kramer yelled.
“No, I was, well, kinda promoted.”
“You gotta be kidding.”
“No, I’m a detective again. I start in the investigations unit today.” he smiled “Catch you later.”
Matt walked out and down the hallway that led to the locker rooms. He stood in front of his locker and read the sign that only yesterday said Cargo Inspector. It now read Detective. Anticipation skulked through his mind as he waved his palm in front of the sensor. The click made by the lock as it clicked and the locker opened resounded in his thoughts.
A new uniform hung inside. He felt the material, looked over the insignia. Detective. It felt like a dream; only his dreams hadn’t been that hopeful in a very long time. Matt had been certain that after Dallas, he’d never again be permitted a position of responsibility. The chief was taking one hell of a chance on him. However, if the chief had confidence in him, then perhaps he could once again become the man he used to be.
The new uniform was a perfect fit, which is to say that it was just baggy enough to allow him freedom of motion without looking too untidy. He strapped on his belt, adjusted his cap, and then assessed himself in the mirror. The man that looked back bore little resemblance to the wretch who’d lost control in Dallas.
Perhaps his incapacity to remember was a blessing. The bits and pieces that came to him were bad enough. In those moments when he was brutally honest with himself, he had to wonder if he really wanted to remember. As long as his memories remained lost, then he could deny if only to himself that he was a killer.