by Sacha Valero
Steven blinked. His vision was blurred as if looking through a thick yellowish fog and his head felt like it was being crushed between the massive talons of a Murlanian. Sitting up, he swung his legs over the edge of the stasis pod and could see the other pods were still closed. What the hell?
“Computer, why did you wake me?”
He leaned forward, waiting for the expected nausea, and then vomited in the sink that was attached to the pod. Cryo-Stasis lowers one’s body temperature, so shivering when coming out was natural. It wasn’t natural to see your breath. Naked, he hopped to the deck and reached under the pod for his uniform, which fell away from his fingers in tatters. What the…
“Computer, why is it so cold in here?”
Looking around the stasis bay, it dawned on Steven the yellow fog he was looking through was the emergency lighting. His eyes flew from one pod to the next, and then he spun to look at the one behind him. Six pods, one set of vitals displayed. He peered into the pod and what should have been the captain was nothing but bones.
He checked the four remaining pods, finding bones in three of them. The last pod belonged to Kate, an engineer, and her vitals were stable. I’m gonna need her.
After beginning the revival process he used an environmental system interface to raise the temperature on board then went to his quarters to find something to wear. The dull yellow light flooded the corridor and his footfalls echoed off the walls.
“Computer, open the door to my quarters.”
Receiving no response, Steven pressed his palm against the bio-reader and the door slid quietly into its pocket. He crossed the room to the wardrobe, which gave an audible hiss of escaping air as it opened. He pulled the first hanger and examined the garment. Like new.
Pulling the coverall’s on, Steven righted the picture of his family, and then tried to boot the computer. No good. He pulled a second set of coverall’s from the wardrobe then headed back to the stasis bay stopping just outside waiting for her to finish retching.
“Sorry. Here, put this on,” he said, tossing her the clothes.
“Steven? What the hell is going on? Why is it so cold?” she asked, hurriedly dressing.
“I don’t know, but I’ve turned the heat up and we’ve been in stasis too long.”
“What? How long?”
“I don’t know, but long enough for the rest of the crew to decompose,” Steven said, waving his hand over the other pods.
Her hands flew to her mouth in shock, as she surveyed the other pods.
“Oh, God, what’s happened?”
“I don’t know. I’ve only been out maybe fifteen minutes. I saw they were dead and you weren’t, so I revived you. The computer seems completely unresponsive.”
“How long does that take? Decomposition?”
Steven shrugged. “I don’t know. I’m just logistics, but I’m pretty sure it’d take more than four years on board. Look, the computer isn’t responding to voice commands and the computer in my quarters doesn’t have power.”
“Okay, right,” she said gathering her senses. “I need to get to the bridge. I can check everything from there.”
The bridge was up one deck and separated from the stasis bay by four airlocks. None of which opened automatically as they should, even under emergency power. Kate had to manually bypass them with some tools she retrieved from her quarters. By the time they were in the temperature was comfortable and Kate took to the engineering station bringing up the virtual screen. Her fingers flew across its face a few moments.
“Computer are you online?” she asked.
“Why were you offline?”
“I shut down all non-essential systems and put myself offline to preserve power.”
“Why?” Steven asked.
“The ship was hit by micro asteroids damaging a number of systems including navigation and stasis control.”
“Explain the damage to stasis control. Is that why the others are dead?” Kate demanded.
“The gas lines for the other pod were damaged, rendering circulation impossible. The others would have died in their sleep.”
“If you put yourself offline then why did I wake up?” Steven asked.
“Before putting myself offline I entered a line of code that would wake either of you if something should happen to your pods.”
“What sort of damage did navigation take?” Kate asked.
“Original destination not reachable.”
“What the hell do you mean ‘not reachable’,” they asked in unison.
“Course was altered. I was unable to re-adjust.”
“Wait just a moment,” Kate said, the severity of their situation punching her in the gut. “How long were we in stasis before the asteroids damaged the ship?”
“Four-hundred twelve days, sixteen hours, twenty-three minutes.”
“How long since then?” Steven asked.
“If my calculations are correct, more than two-thousand years.”
“You mean we’ve been flying through space for more than two-thousand years!?” Steven bellowed.
“We are not in space. The ship has landed on a planet.”
“Computer, lower the bridge shielding,” Kate said.
Sitting on the spine of the ship the bridge had a window that gave a one-hundred eighty degree view. Half the window was locked in ice the remaining view, bathed in sunlight, showed ice and snow for as far as they could see.
Sacha Valero: Born and raised in Southern California and work as a Technical Writer. I started writing a little more than a year ago and draw inspiration from the works of Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Michael Hicks, but mostly from some very special people I keep close in my heart.
In the coastal setting where I live I enjoy a fairly active lifestyle, though not as active as some may think. (You know who you are.) I do try to stay healthy, but admit I’m a sucker for barbecue. I have a German Shepherd that takes me for a run daily as well as a not-so-bright cat of dubious background.
I write a series of novelettes titled Resurgence and am currently working on the first novel based on the same series.