Matt wanted to walk to the site, but Rishards insisted on taking the transit car. The compartment was packed when the detectives squeezed in. Matt’s chest felt tight, and his pulse raced. Anyone of the people in the car could be the killer. The world reeled around him. The door slid closed, so much like the lid of the sleep chamber on the ship that brought him. Breathe slowly, he repeated in his mind. Think of the beach, the sound of the water, the wind on wet legs. It wasn’t working. There was no air; the chamber was completely sealed. The drug was wearing off too soon. The overfull, car jerked forward. Images filled his mind of the ship, making the transfer to faster than light space. Matt knew the hyperdrug didn’t work as his mind exploded. Matt slumped into the corner of the car. Rishards followed him, her look of concern unmistakable. It was only through the giving full concentration to controlling the images exploding in his head that he was able to suppress the screams. He knew if he started, then he would be unable to stop. He didn’t want to end up like the others, taken him away to have his memories seared out of their minds.
The door opened at the next stop, Matt shouldered through the crowd and exited the train, struggling for breath with each step. He pushed through the group who were trying to board, continuing to move until he found an isolated section of the platform. Then he collapsed on the ground. Breathe, you’re not on the ship, it isn’t a sleeping tube. You can escape. It was in the past — or was it the future? He couldn’t tell anymore. Everything blurred. Breathe, remember the beach, and be there. The wind, the water, and the sound of the surf; he let those memories drown out all others.
The world returned to him in pieces. The first perception was the voice of Rishards. “Dales. Are you okay? Where are your pills?” He could feel strange hands probing his pockets and tried to fight off the intrusion. Rishards’ face appeared clearly. She was pushing something through his pursed lips. She was trying to help, let her. He allowed it into his mouth, collapsed once again as he tried to escape into his beach world.
“That didn’t look like fun.” She remarked several moments.
“No.” Matt was mortified. “You didn’t call the medics, did you?”
“Wanted to, but the chief warned me this could happen and that I was not to seek help that you’d get through it.” She studied him intently. “The incident in Dallas messed you up good.”
“Don’t be. I’m sure you didn’t ask for post-traumatic stress.” She wiped his forehead with her sleeve. “If you are alright, we can walk the rest of the way. I’ve meant to lose a few pounds. Being your partner, I think I’m gonna get a lot of walking in.”
“You still want to be my partner?”
“Dales, I’ve read your file. You were good. You had a perfect record up to the night of the riots. Look, no one knows how they’ll react in a situation like that. Besides, you have skill sets that are nearly impossible to learn here. As far as I’m concerned what happened back on Earth is between you and God.”
“Do you need more time?” Rishards asked.
“No, “Matt pulled his clothing straight. “Let’s get to it.”