Chapter 1: Roused
During training, they had told him that waking up from cryogenic sleep was painful but they had lied. It was unbearably torturous.
He opened his eyes and tried to breathe but couldn't. His panic sent him into a flailing fit as he gulped for air. The cold was all around him and it was penetrating. He wheezed and writhed. He was freezing and choking. So much pain. The hoses and wires connected to his body flopped as he struggled. He was floating? Even more pain wracked him as his blood circulation increased throughout his body. A cold icy glass window was the first thing he could see in the dim light. He was in a small personal chamber. It was too coffin-like. Claustrophobia didn't bother him but he still desperately wanted to get out. He couldn't feel the floor beneath his feet. Still couldn't breathe. He groped for his face and felt the mask. Pulled the mask off his face... better. He took in some deep hurting breaths. The pain was so intense. He was trembling violently.
Memories fluttered in his mind. He recalled some of the testing and his military training. He reached behind for the harness that held him suspended within the cryopod. He was shaking from the cold and the pain, his arms were numb. His cold fingers felt the clasp release and snapped it open sending himself falling a few inches. It might as well have been a ten foot fall because as his feet made contact with the floor, it hurt even worse than suspension had. His legs failed to support his weight and he dropped to his knees. His legs were on fire with the burning needles of returning blood circulation. He felt the nausea and took in more breaths, willing away the gags.
He couldn't remember his name or why he was there. Strangely, he could remember the training of how to open the cryopod and how to disconnect himself from the lifeline surgically implanted deep within his brachial artery. He knew that he was in deep space on a transport ship. He could not, however, recall what he was doing in cryogenic sleep, where he was going or what he was supposed to be doing when he got there.
Absentmindedly, he peeled some of the viscous membrane from his body. It was as tight as a second layer of skin. The peeling process was painless, the covering pulled away smoothly with only a slight adherence to his body hair.
Vivid memories of a lovely blond with whom he was involved flickered in and out of his thoughts but he didn't know who she was or when he had known her. He had a sinking feeling in his chest as though she had hurt him. Perhaps he had hurt her. Either way, there was a weighing sense of loss.
Only one ceiling light in the large room illuminated his surroundings. There were six other pods next to his. The name J. Cooper was printed on the glass of the pod nearest to his. Second Lieutenant J. Cooper of Flight Crew Detachment 5. Cooper's pod was empty. The other was 1st Lieutenant C. Payton of Flight Crew Detachment 5. Payton looked like a frozen fish in a freezer.
Jesus, what a way to travel.
The other three pods were empty. That didn't seem right to him.
The pain in his body was starting to subside.
During training he had been put through several simulated cryogenic procedures. The thin membrane that he had partially peeled off was designed to protect his surface skin from the intense cold. All of the leads and tubing kept him feed, hydrated and his vitals monitored during cryogenic hibernation.
He removed all of the stiff connections still trying to recall anything besides his training but nothing was coming to mind. It was as though his memories were sentient, purposely eluding him, hiding deep within the recesses of his mind, just out of the reach of recovery.
The name in bold letters on the pod he had emerged from was R. Bower. Corporal R. Bower of Flight Crew Detachment 5. "Bower?" he asked aloud. His voice was pathetically weak and hoarse. It hurt to swallow.
Well at least my name's not Corporal Butkiss or Lipshitz
There was a loud roaring and the entire ship shuddered violently. The reactor was offline and trying to reboot. Time between the quaking intervals would give him an idea of how much time he had before the ship when bye-bye in a giant nuclear blast.
How in the hell do I know all this? He wondered.
As the last of the violently tremors subsided, the lone fluorescent light blinked twice then went out, enveloping him in complete darkness. The room was as lost to him as his memories.
His mind clutched at flashes of his broken recollections. He got a basic idea of the room and even in the darkness, he managed to make his way to a storage bin. Inside he grabbed a few chem lights, which were around four times the size of civilian versions, snapped one and shook the green liquid until it glowed so that he could see again. It was surprisingly bright.
He knew from memory that his locker was in this room too. He found the locker that read "Bower" and opened it. No memories rushed forth when he saw the name labeled uniforms or his personal items. A small mirror was built on the inside panel of the locker door. There was a familiar photo stuck in the edge of it. The blond... that lovely face and wonderful smile. Again, he felt that strange hollow feeling in his stomach as he gazed at her.
Pocketing the photo, Bower studied himself. Unsurprisingly, no memories stirred in the soup of his mind. His sandy hair was overgrown, his beard shaggy and matted. His skin was mottled red and blotches of the cryogenic membrane still clung to him in patches. Bloodshot, tortured and exhausted eyes stared back at him. He looked homeless and he did not recognized the face staring back at him. What he was able to ascertain was he that he needed to shower, shave and trim his hair so that he was once again compliant with Military Regulations.
After he cleaned himself up, Bower made his way to the exit door of the locker room and found it locked. It should have lead him to the Security Center and beyond that the Bridge. Was he the only one awake? What if something went wrong? What if he couldn't get the reactor?
He clicked open the electric door control panel to make sure all the wiring was correct and it looked pristine. There was a lot of dust but the wires all had good contact. The power must be off. The reactor could be altering the power throughout the ship, subsequently shutting down areas of less priority but this area was where the ship was operated. It was top priority, so this and the surrounding doors should have power even in times of emergency.
Bower felt as though something in the room was watching him. It was a fleeting fear, but it was enough to cause him to fret. He walked the perimeter of the room and made sure he was alone. Where did that feeling come from?
Too many scary movies I guess.
He had a lot of questions and no answers. He paced for a bit vainly attempting to form some sort of plan. It was as though he had lost some of his brain cells in the cryopod.
Was that possible?
Shaking his head, he convinced himself that pondering about the effects of cryogenics on the brain was the last thing he needed to be worrying about at the moment. The military training kicked in. When in doubt, report to a superior. That was the SOP: Standard Operating Procedure. It was time to wake up Payton.