Hand in hand, they walked back to the colonial security office, stopping only for a quick shopping run to get the food Jill promised to cook for him. It had been a very long time since he’d had any food not of his own concocting, or from a cafeteria or restaurant.
The walk from the psychiatrist’s office was uneventful, almost relaxing. Matt tried to keep his guard up, but he took one of his new pills as they left the office and between Jill’s calming effect and the sedative, he was too relaxed to be jumpy.
Matt walked up to the intake officer. “I’m off duty, but I’m here to see Officer Perry. Can you let him know I’m here?”
“He’s not in at the moment.” The officer responded. “You and he are friends, right?”
“Not very good friends, I just met him.”
“Well if you see him, tell him Chief is on the warpath. He doesn’t like his officers to disappear in the middle of his shift. He’s not even answering his com. Tell me the truth; he’s got a girl?”
“Honestly, I have no idea, but he was supposed to be here, he wanted a favor from me.”
“I don’t know what to tell you, Dales, no one has seen him in a couple of hours.”
An alarm started ringing, echoing throughout the station. “What’s up?”
“I haven’t got a clue.”
Matt headed down the hallway toward the main lounge to find out what was up. The faces of his fellow officers showed only stunned silence. They were all trained to recognize the alarm, but it had never gone off. The alert screen read “officer down.” No one had ever attacked an officer on Sirius.
Matt ran into the conference room. “Computer, report on Officer Down Alert.” The screen lit up with a split screen, the left half contained a map of the city, and the right half had the file of Officer Perry. Matt watched as the bio-readout went from “critical” to “deceased.”
Matt slumped into the chair. He liked Perry; he trusted Perry.
Vanderhaar stalked down the hall, his jaw tense and brows furrowed. “Okay, everyone to your stations. There will be an announcement shortly. Dales, why are you here?”
“Perry wanted to talk to me about something; I think it might have been about our mystery man in the park. I think he found out something and maybe it got him killed.”
“Let’s not go jumping to conclusions. We will find out what happened; then we will make an announcement.”
“Dales, did you see the psychiatrist?”
“I just came from there.”
“I want you to go home and rest. You look like you need it. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Dales!” the chief barked, “I will let you know, see you in the morning.”
Vanderhaar headed off down the hall, continuing to order the officers back to their post as Matt headed back to the lobby.
“What’s going on?” Jill came up behind him. “You just abandoned me in the lobby.”
“I’m sorry, Jill.”
“What’s that?” She pointed to the board behind him. Next to Perry’s image, a message appeared as a general announcement to the colony. “I’m sorry!”
“Let’s get out of here.” Matt panicked. It was him; he’d gotten to Perry. The vision of Vanderhaar holding Jill’s bloody chip filled his mind. He grabbed her hand and headed directly toward the door, intending to get Jill out of the station. He wasn’t sure what was going on, but he desperately needed time to think things over. Jill was silent until they were several yards away from the building.
“An officer was killed.”
“I’m so sorry. Did you know him?’
“Yeah. He was the one I was going there to meet.”
“I don’t get it.”
“I think he had some information for me.” Matt couldn’t believe that the killer had gotten to him before he could tell him about what he’d learned. Was it possible that the executive he’d been following was the killer?
“Are you in danger now?” she asked.
“I think I’ve been in danger since I got to this rock.”
Matt strode with determination, regarding their surroundings intently, until they reached her apartment. They walked up three flights of stairs. Matt was pleased to discover that she merited a good security system. It wasn’t as secure as his was, but it was good enough to stop all but the most tenacious and imaginative of intruders. Her apartment was a little small, still much larger than the one that belonged to Kossman.
The living room was tidy, with book and knickknack shelves lining the walls. The majority of the books bundled on the shelves were of the type you’d expect to find on a teacher’s bookshelf, children’s stories, history, and science with a healthy smattering of fiction and romance novels. The knick-knacks that separated the clusters were all, without exception, crude and handmade. Matt assumed they were gifts from her students. He hesitated at the doorway as he scanned to find another exit out. He didn’t like the thought of her not having a second escape route. No, that wasn’t entirely the truth. He didn’t like going into a room without having another way out.
“Sorry,’ Jill said as she set the grocery bag on the table.” I don’t have a balcony, but I do have a great view.”
“Good.” Matt was relieved they could not be watched, and one less method of entry meant one less to guard.
Jill went over and opened a large window overlooking the park. Matt could see the fire escape outside the window even from the door. Feeling relieved, he moved over to the window and progressed to inspect the locking apparatuses. It was constructed well, and the locks looked solid. He closed the curtains. “Keep this locked. Someone could climb this way.”
“Well the apartment has a good alarm system, so you guys at the station will be the first to know if someone tries.” She laughed. “Sit down and relax, while I fix us something.”
Matt found a comfortable chair that faced the front door. He adjusted his gun accordingly.
“So,” Jill’s voice greeted his ears. “Do you want to talk?”
Was that a loaded question? “A friend of mine died.” He wasn’t sure how much to tell her. Was it better to leave her in the dark? Or let her know exactly what was going on, or at least as much of it as he could without revealing colonial secrets. No, he started being completely honest, he would continue. If he held back information and it cost her life, he couldn’t live with himself.
“Matthew,” her voice was soft and sympathetic. “What happened?”
“I don’t know.” If the news hadn’t broken yet, it would soon. “I want to tell you something.”
“Okay.” She said as he felt her hand on his shoulder. He was surprised the abrupt, unforeseen touch didn’t send him into a terror.
“You have to promise me; you won’t tell anyone until the news breaks. I could be in big trouble if you do.”
“Lose your job?”
“Going-to-jail type of trouble.”
“Then, don’t tell me.” She said. “I’ll tell you. There is someone out there killing people, and for some reason, the impossible to beat colonial security system has failed and, now with your friend, there are three people dead.”
“More,” he said quietly.
“More,” she said and sat down. “Shit.”
“The officer who died, you knew him.”
“Was he the guy you were with at the restaurant?”
“Yeah, he was the one I was going to meet. He had some information for me about a smuggler. He might have been killed for that information.”
“Oh, God. Promise me you’ll be careful. A fantasia smuggler?”
“You’re a good guesser.”
“Yeah, I’m psychic.”
“Don’t let the Trust find you.”
“What?” she sounded surprised.
“It’s something Vanderhaar has been warning me about, every time I have a good hunch. He says that the Trust will disappear me.”
“Matt,” she looked into his eyes. “What do you know about the Trust?”
“A conspiracy fantasy, a myth. Those are just stories about a shadow government organization that kidnaps people with psychic ability and uses them for their own nefarious ends.” Matt started laughing. “Governmental or corporate boogie men.”
“Sometimes, when a child shows greater than normal insight in one of my classes, they are transferred out without reason. Once I tried to contact the parents to give them some artwork their child had done. I was told they returned to Earth.”
“It happens, Jill.” Matt tried to soothe her. “People do occasionally come to the realization that they made a mistake and go back.”
“Not on a maintenance worker’s pay, not when one of the parents came out of the first trip screaming,” Jill said. “I remember how hard it was for her, having a burnout for a mother. That little girl would rather have died than go back into the tubes for the trip home.”
“Children are not in charge of their lives. You know that, Jill.”
“I believe you, Matt. The Trust exists, I think it is corporate, I think they are connected, I think they are untouchable.”
“Jill, you’re a teacher. You know they’ve never proven ESP. Centuries of testing and not one verifiable case in human history.”
“What about you?” she said.
“Matt, don’t lie to me. You see the future.”
“I have dreams.”
“Some come true.”
“And sometimes I dream about harems, those haven’t.”
“I am serious.” Her face looked focused. “You were exposed.to the mind rip.”
“Yes,” he said. “I told you, I suppressed those memories they are somewhere in my subconscious.”
“But you experienced it. All the memories of the experience are in hiding in your head. Time and space expanded, contracted and nullified during the trip from Earth.” She took a deep breath. “At four times the speed of light, it takes two years to reach Sirius.”
“Yes.” Matt agreed. “So, what you’re saying is that I retained all the memories of the two-year trip.”
“No!” She said. “You forget the I factor.”
“The i factor. It’s mathematics, special relativity at four times the speed of light time and space are moving at the square route of negative fifteen.”
“You cannot have a negative square route. It violates math rules.”
“That doesn’t invalidate the answer.” she went into teacher mode. “If you multiply the square root of negative fifteen by itself, what would you get?”
“I didn’t come here for a math lesson.” Matt protested.
“It’s important. Damn it, Detective, there has never been anything more important. It’s the key to your problems,” she blurted.
“Okay,” he resigned himself.” Negative fifteen, I guess.”
“Space inverting itself by a factor of the square root of fifteen about three point nine while moving backward three-point-nine times faster than normal.”
“Well, it’s a good thing that didn’t happen.” Matt feigned relief.
“You are so dense. If you’re ever in a firefight block with your head.”
“Okay, then lay it out.”
“Three point nine.” She said slowly and deliberately. “Multiplied by two years. That is the i factor for the trip from Earth that most of us were exposed to.”
“Negative. Almost eight.” Matt offered helpfully.
“No, positive and negative at the same time. They nullify themselves out.”
“Then what’s the problem?” Matt was becoming exasperated.
“The problem my big, brave exposure victim is this. During the trip, your world expanded to seven point eight, something times normal and inverted by the same amount. You experienced the trip as almost eight years into the past, and the future, all in less than a microsecond and you suppressed nearly 16 years of memories every second of them. Your dreams are not psychic Matt; they suppressed memories of events that haven’t happened yet.” Jill slumped back and waited for Matt to take it all in.
“Hidden in this dense skull of mine are the memories of eight years that haven’t happened yet?”
“But if I remember them, then I end up a screamer and have to have them burned out of my head.”
“No, what I’m saying is that the sleep drug isn’t one hundred percent effective. Sometimes a few memories get through, people sometimes people have flashes of memories of the future. It’s not psychic ability, but a side effect of hyper light speed travel. Could you imagine how valuable these people could be to the wrong people, even if those people remembered just a little of the experience?”
“And if they had dozens of such people.” Matt’s mind drew him back to the vision of the people strapped into the chairs, each one chanting in unison. Matt didn’t want to believe it; it was too horrible to contemplate. He thought f Rishards’ theory. What if the killer was precisely as good at getting hunches as Matt was, and for the same reasons? “If such a thing were possible, how could we stop it?”
“It would have to be stopped. I’d have to put an end to it.”
“Start by not letting them get you. Start by taking the threat seriously.”
“Smoke,” Matt’s nose detected a hint of burning food. “I predict the ringing of a smoke alarm.”
“Damn!” she jumped up and ran to the kitchen as the sensor sent out its alarm.
“Yeah,” sadness filled her voice. “So much for impressing you with my cooking.”
“I’ll have to settle for a woman with brains.”
“I got some cheese and crackers.”
“I’m in.” Matt tried to sound cheerful. Jill’s ideas had hit close to home. If he continued his therapy session and unlocked his memories, he could very well end up his career as a screamer. He shivered at the thought.
He sat quietly for several minutes, ruminating over the prospects Jill presented. She re-entered the room with a tray with some crackers and slices of what he could only assume to be “cheese.” They nibbled in silence for several minutes before Jill broke the silence. “Yes,” she said.
“Someone will have to put an end to it. All of it.” She looked at him, sadness in her eyes, and Matt felt as though he might start to understand her. It had to stop. If the Trust existed, the shorting of the drug to passengers from Earth, the drug trade, all of had to be stopped. But how? He could see her strong façade start to crumble as he watched. It was as if long defended barricades were crashing around her. Then the tears came. “I know people… who… shorted. Damn it, if a person is resistant to the drug, they should be screened before the trip from Earth. They shouldn’t be allowed to come.”
She turned and cried into his shoulders. Whoever it was she lost, they must have been very close. “No,” He agreed. “They should test.”
“They know,” her tears came even faster. “The government, they know, and they allow them to come anyway. Why if not in hopes some can remember, that some like you can be used.”
Images flooded his mind, half-remembered dreams of expressionless faces strapped to chairs, vacant eyes staring at him singing.
“Go to sleep and go insane.”
Matt suppressed an involuntary shutter. His reverie ended abruptly as he felt Jill’s lips on his. He had no desire to pull away. Her tears ceased in a flood of passion.