Excerpt of Journey To Diir

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 © 2007 Lynn Sterling. All Rights Reserved.



Andrea was lying in a hospital bed. Stephen and the doctor had told her she was dying. She was prepared for this. Why then was she still here?

Breathing felt strange, like that weird feeling before you faint.

And there was the oddest smell.

She focused on a handsome man's face with soft golden-brown eyes and dark, closely cropped, hair and tried to ask where Stephen was.

Nothing came out but a harsh croak.

“Try not to speak for a minute. Sip this and your throat will improve. I’m Lt. Nick Ferraro. I’ve been your doctor for the last two weeks.”

Andrea felt the sweet taste of a strange juice calm her throat.

“Where is Stephen?” When she encountered a puzzled look she continued, “My husband, Stephen Stone.”

She saw a dawning comprehension and then a flash of something, pity maybe. It was then that she realized that Dr. Ferraro wasn’t wearing anything resembling doctor’s attire. It was more of a soft dressy form-fitting coverall. He had said Lieutenant. That’s odd. She glanced around and didn’t see anything familiar and sat up slowly. The Lt. placed his hand behind her back as she felt a little vertigo.

“How are you feeling?”

“A little dizzy but better than an elephant on my chest. You never answered my question, where’s Stephen?”

Cole cleared his throat. It was then that she became aware of another man, tall and blond, leaning against another table in the room. He had that casual confidence of a man comfortable in his own skin. There was no doubt that this man was in charge.

“Ms. Stone, do you remember signing a request to be cryogenetically preserved?”

She looked up into ice blue eyes as she thought back. Details seemed to be fuzzy and out of order. The form? “Oh, yes. Stephen and I both signed them. I told him it was God’s way of telling you that you had too much money. Why?”

Cole paused. He wasn’t a psychologist but he hoped that she was strong enough to take in the information that he had to impart. He looked down on a lovely face with clear blue eyes and creamy white skin.

“Ms. Stone, Andrea, you in fact did die of heart failure in 2014. You were cryogenetically frozen and placed in an orbital station. We don’t know how, but that station was somehow pushed out of orbit. You are currently on board the asteroid mining vessel Camelot. We discovered you during standard ore reclamation and Nick has corrected your heart problem as well as a few others that were caused over time.”

Her face had gone very still, her eyes round. CryoTime had actually worked. No one said anything for a moment and then she asked in a voice almost too soft to hear, “How long?”

He glanced up at Nick. Nick nodded to go on. “The year is 2655. You have been cryogenetically stored in space for six hundred forty-one years.”

Andrea heard the words and smiled. This is some kind of hallucination or dream. None of this is real.

She closed her eyes and shook her head as if to clear it. Yet the air tasted strange and as her eyes swept the room, she saw nothing familiar. Nothing. Not one item that she recognized or could even identify its purpose. The equipment surrounding her looked like something out of one of the movies that she had worked on two years ago, except even that had looked familiar to her. Slowly it started to become real.

Maybe. “I’m not quite sure that I believe you. This is pretty ‘out there’.”

Cole gave her a quizzical look. “Out there?”

“Strange. Hard to believe. From outer space,” she explained.

Cole frowned and nodded as he noticed a bare, trim leg as it hung from the table.

“I’m sure that this is very hard for you to believe. No one has been recovered after being suspended for more than two hundred years; especially the ones built that long ago. We are not exactly sure why your pod was the only one that continued to function. The facts are correct and you will have some time to interact with our computer control unit, ‘Mordred’ and verify everything for yourself. You have already met Nick, and I’m Captain Cole Stuart.” He nodded to her formally.

Suddenly the mundane act of introductions drove it home. She was six hundred years too late to see anyone that she had known and loved. Stephen. Her parents. Her friends.

The pain of it seized her throat and she felt something lodged there. Her vision swam, then blurred and knew that she was going to be sick. She had been prepared to die. There had been time to say her good-byes. But this was like everyone in her life dying at once, leaving her to grieve instead.

First a whimper escaped her throat and as it started to grow the world went black.

Nick watched her face as the reality reached her brain and had been ready for her reaction.

Mordred, release the sedative now.

Affirmative. Releasing now.

Just as the scream ripped from her throat, he saw that the sedative took hold and she relaxed.

“If there was a better way to do that, I don’t know what it was. I’m not trained to deal with this kind of issue,” Cole said. “She reacted more strongly than I expected. If she is going to be this emotional, we may have to sleep her all the way home. Maybe Mordred should research practical therapy.”

Nick was checking vitals on the view screen. “She’ll be out for a couple of cycles. I’ll be here when she comes out of it. Let’s see how she handles it given a little time.”

Mordred, please see if there are any records on file for any kind of mental or emotional therapy involving this kind of sleep period.

Yes. Therapy suggestions are on file. I can incorporate them into training modules, although they suggest verbal communication with other humans is imperative.

Cole gave a curt nod and left her in Nick’s care as he fled to the bridge, where he felt comfortable and all was right with the universe.

***

Andrea felt herself come back to consciousness slowly.

When she opened her eyes, Nick was looking down. “Let’s go slowly, Andrea. I know that this is hard for you, but I am here to help you through it.”

She sat up again in a panic, wanting to know that she wasn’t sleeping:  dreaming. “This is a nightmare. Please tell me that this is a nightmare.”

“I’m sorry, Andrea. I know that this is harder than I can envision, but it will be all right. You are alive again and you have to see that it’s better than the alternative.”

“But I was prepared for death. The doctors and Stephen had been with me and then, my biggest concern was how Stephen would cope.” Tears slid down from the corners of her eyes and she gave him a rueful smile. “What I was not prepared for, is this.”

She sat up slowly and flipped her wrist around the med bay. “This seems impossible.”

When Nick nodded she went on, “I don’t know how I am going to fit in here. I don’t even know where to start. Before I can go forward, I need to know about how Stephen is, correction was after I died.” She paused, the tears still coming. “I need to know about the world I left and what has happened since.”

She paused and her body sank a little in on itself. “I need to see how I can live in this world.”

Andrea shook her head and amended as she met Nick’s eyes. “This time.”


CONTINUED



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