Of the very few things I perceived when I was in cryogenic hibernation, one of them was a dream.
I was running. Running for all I was worth. Lucas wasn’t far behind. There were explosions and shouting all around us. I was wearing the same kind of suit that I was wearing in the dream I had of being underwater. The world around me was perceived through a visor that I saw through, and it was showing a very scary place. The hallways were dark, with a kind of amber glow filling them. Fire was around us, with people in the same kinds of suits that the two of them were wearing (albeit grimier and with different visors) desperately trying to put them out. What had happened here? There were so many thoughts going through my mind as I tried to make sense of why I was running down the corridor, holding tight to Lucas’ hand as we went. We had made a promise. Somehow, I remembered that. That we would stick together, no matter what.
We turned a corner just as a bulkhead seemed to erupt in front of them. The air was sucked out of the room, and us along with it. We were in space. Dark, cold, empty space. I looked down and saw the grimy-looking vessel in battle with another, more sleek and professional-looking vessel. There were other ships as well, on both sides. This fight was brutal! It was clear that the grimy-looking ships were brave, but outmatched. I had a feeling that they were pirate ships, and the other vessels were with the IDF. Lucas grabbed my shoulder, pointing to something in the distance. It was a shuttle! Something about it looked familiar. It was floating in space, apparently abandoned. I knew that that was where they had to go. But how had we ended up here? Too many questions, not enough answers. Then, the dream started to fade. The world was going to black.
The first thing I saw when I woke up was the light. There was very little of it. It reminded me of having a nightlight in my room back on Mars. That’s what the lighting was like. There was steam coming off my body, which was scary at first, before the chill kicked in and I was freezing. I wasn’t the only one. Others were waking up. More lights were coming on. It wasn’t blinding, but it was disorienting. The top of the pod I was in had lifted and the air was absolutely bone-chilling. My teeth started to chatter as I sat up. Mari was next to me, also sitting up. We looked at each other and both knew what the other was thinking – how can we get out of these suits? The suits we had wore into the pods were now coated in condensation. It was like having an ice-pack stuck to you. Mari motioned for me to follow her and we headed for the changing rooms. We grabbed our former clothes from their lockers. I also quickly grabbed the necklace Angie gave me. Holding it again, it made my heart flutter and feel good. Mari noticed how I was holding it and putting it on fast, but didn’t make a big deal out of it.
There were towels outside of the changing rooms, with attendants asking the various members how they felt. The responses they got were generally the same – grogginess, some nausea and being cold as hell. We got to the changing rooms first, eager to be in something warmer. We had changing rooms right next to one-another.
“So, Ellie, how did you sleep?”
I shrugged as she finished removing the suit and started drying herself off. “Okay. Had a weird dream.”
“Oh? What was it about?” There was something about this woman’s tone of voice and how she spoke to mr that felt so motherly.
“I don’t know. It was like, Lucas and I were on some kind of spacecraft. We were running, and everything was all fire and screaming and running. It looked like a battle. A hole suddenly blows open in front of us and the place decompresses. We are sucked out into space, and I see that it’s a fight between two different kinds of ships.”
There was a long pause. “Huh, that is a weird dream.”
“Yeah. I can’t really figure it out. So, what about you? How did you sleep?”
“Very well. Very well indeed. Though it has been a while since I’ve done that.”
“You’ve gone into cryo before?”
“Oh yes!” the woman said, sounding pleased with herself. “Granted, in those days, we didn’t have fancy suits to monitor our vitals. We would just strip down to our skivvies and get in. You can do that, you know. Those suits are just so they can say that everybody was safe. But there is no real danger. People get all worked up over those movies where the crew is sucked into the void of space and dies without ever knowing anything. Fear-mongering is what that is.”
I was intrigued. “So you’re saying that all that explosive decompression stuff isn’t true?”
“Something those videos don’t tell you is that for the crew of a ship to be vented into space suddenly, you have to have a serious hull rupture. I’m talking about the kind where you’re probably already dead from the explosion. Not to mention – there is a fail-safe programmed into the machines that if an emergency is declared, all crew is woken. I tell you what, you think this wake-up call was hard? Try waking up to an alarm, knowing that you have to run, get your gear and suit up fast. We learned not to care about gender too much when you’re in the service. In an emergency, we have to strip down and suit up in a couple minutes. That means everybody being in front of their lockers’, butt-ass naked and not caring what anyone else thinks. That is real fear.”
A chill ran up my spine as Mari told me this, and we finished getting dressed. A small part of me wondered if I would ever have to live through that.
Once we got dressed, the attendants told us to head to the cargo bay, where the CO of the ship would address the crew. I caught sight of Lucas and went running over. Mari was shouting after me, but I didn’t care. He was with some people from his department, but caught sight of me and ran as well. He gave us a hug when I got there. I ruffled his hair.
“You look like shit, dude. Just putting that out there.”
He gave her a rude hand gesture. “You don’t look like a princess yourself. So, how did you sleep?”
We kept talking as they found a seat. As usual, Mari was close by, true to her post. The commanding officer walked up to the podium.
“Good morning, everybody. As I’m sure you guessed, we’re at our target destination. Now, this ship is going to be docking at a facility on the surface. We will be disembarking there. This vessel is the one that we have arrived on, and it will be the one that we leave on as well. As per your contract, you are here for six months, starting at the point where you are on your first shift. We will not be leaving before the end of that time period, unless there is an emergency. In the event of a station-wide emergency, your directive is to return to this ship and await instructions.”
There were murmurs around the room. Some people sounded psyched. Other sounded nervous. Lucas and I, it was a bit of both. It was then that a display cued up behind the podium. It showed a massive facility. Two, in fact. The first was a rather flat and sprawled looking on that seemed to exist so that it could connect to another, more massive one.
“I present to you, Europa Station Atlantis. I’m assuming that most of you have seen this or something like this before. The station is very large, but don’t go getting yourself worried. Each of you is going to be fitted with a cybernetic optical implant and a couple of neural nodes. They will allowed you to access the station’s database and get real-time information or directions. The implants will also be used in your assigned tasks, but you’ll learn more about that later. For now, I am assuming that most, if not all of you have Bands. Those will be updated with the Station’s layout, so you will use those for now. We will be docking in 10 minutes. Have your duffel bags and be ready to head toward the elevators.”
Before we docked, I got to actually look out the window. It was every bit as amazing as I had hoped it would be. Jupiter looked gorgeous! I could see the cloud formations moving. The Great Red Spot, one of the hallmarks of the planet, was visible from where I was. It was a swirling mess of a color similar to that of blood! I was in awe. Lucas came up beside me, taking some pictures with his Band.
“This is the coolest thing ever!” he whispered.
“For real! It was all worth it just for this.”
The two also looked down at the facility they were landing at. The ice of Europa was off-color, like sand. It was strange. The lights of the expansive landing zone greeted them. Shuttles were already here, as was another large ship like their own. The shuttles were for emergency evacuation. I knew that. It was so alien, these lights on this icy moon, in front of a massive world. So strange.
The ship docked and we started getting out. The moment we left the ship I was in awe! This place was amazing! The inside of the Station was like a resort. A massive, scientific resort. Or rather, the starport of such a resort.
Lucas and I were kids in a candy shop. So much stuff! There was a kind of cafe for starship crews and officers. Confirming my suspicion that this Station was meant to be a kind of way-station for future starships. They were expanding to Jupiter. This was it. Much like the Orbital Station on Mars, there were shops for many things. Of course, this place was infinitely cleaner than that. We were motioned toward a series of elevators. Each one went to a different part of the Station below. Lucas was headed on a different one than me.
We hugged again.
“Don’t worry,” he said with a smile, “I’ll come see you first off-hours I get!”
“Damn right you will!”
We laughed and hugged again. I knew he wouldn’t be far.
Until next time, a quote,
“I laugh in the face of danger!” -Simba, The Lion King