The iFactor Chapter 43

Chapter 43

It was the mind rip. All reality simultaneously expanded and inverted. Years of memories, past, and future assaulted his mind. His brain struggled to incorporate all the new data.

The fantasia drug had brought down his mental barriers and all the memories and experiences that he had so long fought to suppress burst like a sun going nova in his mind. The ultra-light dilation effect, traveling faster than light, imaginary space, imaginary time, it was his i factor. The factor at which time and space had collapsed, inverted sped up and reversed itself. The cork was off the bottle, and the genie flew out like an exploding volcano.

Apparitions flew at him fast and furious, images far distant and inside his own organs. He could see the effects of the drugs the psychiatrist had been giving him. He saw clearly the beginnings of a tumor in his brain caused by the doctor’s treatments, treatments that the doctor had intended not to cure him but to exacerbate his symptoms. He was sabotaged, he wasn’t weak or broken. The psychiatrist had been poisoning him. His thoughts turned to the alien device in his palm. He knew every circuit; he could sense its connection to the city surveillance system.

Matt lay under a pile of sheets in the corner. The lint from the thin fabric entered in and out of his lungs. If he focused, he could sense the progression of the drug through his bloodstream. He watched its advance from the instant the needle pierced his skin until his liver reduced the last of the compound into harmless molecules. He could sense everything that had happened to his body for the last eight years. It was, however, coming too fast, too heavily.

Matt tried to sort out the memories attacking his mind. Unlike the exposure during his trip, when all the data assailed him in less than a microsecond, he had had a year to assimilate it into his subconscious mind. Because of the mental re-awakening caused by the fantasia drug, he had hours to come to terms with the data. Still, the sheer immensity of it assailed his sanity. If he couldn’t incorporate the knowledge, it would destroy him. Enlightenment came slowly. He knew that he would indeed get through the ordeal. He suddenly understood so much more.

He remembered Dallas; all of it.

Global climate change had resulted in several decades of drought in America. Along with the destruction of the farms in the southern states caused by the ever-increasing power of tornados, hurricanes and floods had left most of America in a crisis. Wells and reservoirs had dried up, and the once fertile croplands fell prey to year after year of wildfires. Food and water imported from Mexico, Canada, and China had to be shipped into the larger metropolitan cities in the southwestern states. All was well for a time until the shortages started. Companies that contracted with the government to distribute the supplies learned that they could make much more money by guaranteeing delivery to some groups more than others. Starvation prevailed in large cities.

In Dallas, the companies started sending old, spoiled, or insufficient amounts to the poorer sections of Dallas and Fort Worth. The elderly and the very young started to die first. In an attempt to save the lives of their families, many of the poor resorted to raiding the wealthier neighborhoods for food and water. The governor responded by instituting martial law. It was an appalling time. The National Guard patrolled the streets shooting looters on site.

In the week before the riots, he and Ken were investigating several cases of hoarding; the killing off neighborhood pets for food and one case of cannibalism. The city, hell, the country was pulling itself apart. Emergency relief shipments from the governments of China and Brazil arrived, and the feeling was that the worse was over. By the time the relief reached the inner cities, it was all but depleted. The poor were dying. Matt drove through Texas, looking at children with swollen bellies and sticks for limbs.  Ambulances no longer answered calls, and the beat cops picked up the dead.

Matt answered a call that a break-in was in progress at an abandoned warehouse. His partner was running late. Matt jumped in his car to investigate. He arrived to discover a starving family, a man, his wife, and three kids trying to pry open a shed. The man had a crowbar and was trying to pry the container open. He had the lock nearly off when Matt arrived.

“Hands in the air! Put the crowbar down.” Matt remembered how his gun felt as he pulled it from his holster.

“I was promised food for my family,” the man said. “I did my job; they promised me food.”

“I won’t ask again.” Matt moved into a defensive position.

“Please mister.” his wife gathered her children around her legs. “They told him if he helped them load the food into the sheds, he would get me some. He worked hard, and they gave him nothing. They threatened him.”

“I just want what’s fair.” the man put the bar down. “I’m not a thief; I earned it.”

Shots rang out from behind him. Matt dropped to the ground and rolled to face the shooter. From the shadows, a couple of national guardsmen emerged with guns held ready. Behind them, his partner followed weapon drawn.

“Dammit Dales. You know better than to take off alone.”

“I don’t think they are dangerous.” Matt turned back to see the entire family dead on the ground, the children’s bodies bleeding underneath the body of the mother who tried to protect them. Matt turned to the guardsmen in horror. “Why?”

“Looters,” one of them said as he checked his rifle.

“You killed the children. You bastard. This will be reported.”

Matt felt the anger flow through him as fresh as it did on that day. He despised those who hurt children, people without conscious, who hid behind the shield of authority.

“Vanderhaar,” the other guardsman said. “Deal with your partner.”

“Look, Matt,” he lowered his gun and walked up to him. “This is awful. It’s horrible all over. There is a standing order against looters. That man got his family killed by bringing them along. We don’t need to make a big deal out of this, do we?”

“Hell yes, we do, those children were innocent.” Matt walked up to the family, looking for signs of life. There was none.

“What is he doing?’ The first guardsman asked.

“My job!” Matt snapped. “Stand down, or I’ll call for backup.”

“Oh, did he just….” the second guardsman drew back the bolt on his rifle.

Matt turned with his gun drawn. The guards had their rifles down. Therefore, he lowered his gun. “Back up, this is now a crime scene. Ken, call it in please.”

“I think I saw a child move.” Vanderhaar moved quickly to check the pulse of the youngest child. He had a gaping hole where the chest had been, but Matt looked anyway. His partner stood up, and Matt felt the gun butt on the back of his neck.

“We pay you to avoid these complications.” Matt heard the second guardsman complain. “I want this taken care of, permanently.”

“I’ll handle it.” Matt felt the blow to the back of his head. As he fell into unconsciousness, he heard his partner. “He won’t be able to report anything.”

Sensations of being moved and thrown roughly into his car, followed by the motion of a car and the sounds of sirens; Matt could remember the feeling of a needle entering his skin and the feel of the drug which he now recognized as fantasia enter his blood. “I’m sorry it came to this Matthew, I really am.” Vanderhaar’s voice broke through the painful haze. “You won’t remember any of it.”

Matt pulled himself back to consciousness as the drug was beginning to take effect. He was alone on the passenger side of his police car. The radio was calling all available units to gather for riot control. Officers in riot gear ran past his car. Matt opened the door and fell out of the car.  His body hurt, and it was hard to focus, colors and shapes were not obeying the agreed upon laws of physics. Matt felt for his sidearm; it was missing. He moved to the trunk, and after several seconds of playing keyhole whack-a-mole with a moving lock, he manages to get it open. He retrieved his shotgun and followed the line riot gear-clad men dancing toward the line. His mind remained focused. He went to find Vanderhaar.

He stumbled around behind the police shield wall. It was growing increasingly more difficult to maintain his concentration, but he found his partner in the wall of police officers.

“Please return to your homes.” A bullhorn sounded. Matt became aware of flying rocks, the smell of tear gas and angry, frustrated shouting from the populace that gathered in front of tenements opposite the police line. “Food is on the way.”

A loud gun crack echoed through the street, and people started to scatter. Matt put his hand on Vanderhaar’s shoulder and pulled him around to face him. The sunlight starburst off his bald head in a rainbow of music. “I—I have to report you.” Matt fought to retain control.

 “I can’t let you do this, Matt,” Vanderhaar said. The line of police raised their weapons to fire. People were running as the police started to fire into the crowds. Vanderhaar raised his pistol to Matt’s face. Matt grabbed his hand and struggled with him. A young girl of about seven years old broke free from the crowd crying for her mother, and the gun in his partner’s hand went off. The girl’s head exploded.

Matt stood in shock at the horrific loss of life. “Oh, my God, Dales. What did you do?” Matt turned back to face his partner when the pistol collided with his skull bringing darkness and fireworks. Matt awoke in handcuffs, remembering nothing of the incident. Ballistics confirmed that it was his gun that killed the girl. Witnesses reported that he attacked Vanderhaar and shot the girl. Months of psychological evaluations and hearings began. Matt lost his badge.

Matt tried to remember everything he could. He remembered reading, or that he will read the reports that Ken received when he arrived on Sirius. His treatments were working because his symptoms were mild caused by the weakening of his emotional defenses and traumatic event while under the influence of fantasia. Even though the memories before, and during the event were erased, the others would return. It was only time. He saw the paperwork dated the same day that authorized the job offer, and a message to a ship’s medic, ordering a partial dose for passenger Matt Dales.

He had a flash of memory, a dark room with a long row of faces appeared, and all said in unison. “Kenneth Vanderhaar arranged to have your sleep drug shorted.”

“Why?” he remembered asking the victims of the Trust.

“Your memories were a threat.” They intoned.

Memories of hundreds of questions and answer sessions beset him. It became impossible to focus on a specific session, they all blurred together, but he knew that in the days to come he would ask questions to lines of vacant faces and they’d tell him what he wanted to know. It was the Trust. A think tank of people like himself, except that they had to be kept in a state of perpetual semi-consciousness. Dozens of semi-aware dreamers, all remembering the future.

“He killed Officer Perry because Perry found out that he was behind the fantasia drug market.” The line said.

“The person in the park was Kenneth Vanderhaar.”

All the things that will happen, Matthew Dales remembered. Everything that he would learn from behind the large black desk where he would sit and listen to the memories of the exposure victims started to break through. The victims of his former partner and the ones in the colonial government who colluded with Vanderhaar, they would become his tools. Matt knew with absolute certainty that there was indeed a Trust, and it would soon be his.

Sixteen years of images and sensations struggled for a place in the forefront of his memory, jumbling and blurring, only coming into focus and connected to other memories. He tried to focus on specific events, but they faded into the mental hurricane. It would take time, but he knew that soon he’d know all of it, and much more.

Matt was laughing when the cleaning staff found him under the sheets.

“Wow, are you ever out of it.” A woman’s voice broke through his cascade of memories.

“Yes, for a very long time,” Matt smiled. “but now I’m back.”

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