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A Long Way Home Chp 2

Chapter 2

Siris’ consciousness flickered, faded, then came back. For a long time he didn’t understand anything of what he saw or felt, it all just hit him like endless waves from an ocean of terrifying disorientation.

Slowly, as the synapsis began firing in his brain once again, he began to recognize aspects of his surroundings. An alarm crackled in his ears. The blaring tone sounded as if it came from a tired and dry throat, rasping out some kind of warning that Siris was too out-of-it to heed.

Dizziness and nausea hit him and he leaned forward as far as he could and vomited. There was nothing there, but his body went through the motions regardless, and his stomach heaved over and over, until, finally, the cramping eased and he leaned back against the pod’s cushioned head-rest.

It came back to him then. The Samsara and their thousand year journey into the unknown. Siris pushed on the pod’s glass door but nothing happened. He started to panic, mentally running through all of the mechanical mishaps that could have happened to the device that would ultimately leave him stuck in it until he died, but then reason reasserted itself.

He took a deep breath. There was no reason to panic. Even if the locking mechanism was seized a crew member would be along shortly to help him out. He took a few steadying breaths and thought it through.

It had been shut for almost a thousand years, maybe it just needed a little extra muscle. He put his hands against the glass, shifted his shoulders, and pushed with everything he had. It didn’t give, but Siris took a big breath and tried again. This time the door gave suddenly with a loud hiss of inrushing air as the gaskets crumbled and broke free of their millennium-long hold on the pod. The annoying alarm shut off.

Siris looked around in confusion. No one was there. No crew members rushed to and fro, helping the newly woken colonists adjust to the overwhelming circumstances. He looked at his father’s pod, but the window was clouded over with some type of film, as was all the rest that he could see down the corridor in both directions.

All at once a fear took hold of him.

What if he had been woken up early? His breathing began to come out too fast and hard, and he schooled his thoughts, recognizing the danger in letting panic take him again. As his breathing slowed, he searched for a more rational explanation. Maybe he was one of the crew that was to be woken pre-landing. But if that was the case, then he would have gotten extra training.

Gravity. He could feel it pulling on him. He didn’t float out of the pod when he pushed down on it, so they must have landed. It was such a constant in his life that he hadn’t thought of it before as a key indicator as to where they were.

“Hel…” He coughed and tried to moisten his throat, but his second attempt was only marginally better. “Hello?” He called, in a weak, croaking, whisper that wouldn’t have carried to his father’s pod, let alone to the ears of some preoccupied crewmember around the bend in the corridor, out of sight.

He was not surprised, but he was disappointed that a response did not come. Whatever was going on, he wouldn’t find the answers stuck here in this pod, he reasoned. With more effort than seemed customary, he lifted one leg up to the ledge that formed the base of all G-38 sleeping pods, approximately knee height.

Siris gripped the side of the pod and nearly fell. His right leg didn’t seem to care what messages his brain sent it and he had to use his free arm to lift it over the ledge. The move took more agility than his weakened body had and he stumbled, heavily, to the steel deck-plating in front of his pod.

He half expected a crew member then, coming to his aid. Maybe that pretty one that he had a hard time not staring at during orientation…and in the cafeteria…and at the safety training. But no one came. He lay there for several minutes, deciding whether it was worth it to get up or not. For some reason he was exhausted, and remembered that they were supposed to come along and give out recuperative medications that would help with the side effects of such a long hibernation, but it seemed that he was going to have to make due without them.

He pushed himself up to a sitting position, and then got his feet under him and carefully stood. It took an absurd amount of effort, but he was proud of his success and took a shuffling step forward, then another, toward his father’s pod. The pod was dark, as was every other except for his. The flickering light from his open pod was the only source of illumination, he realized. The running lights along the base of either wall were even dark, and Siris had to feel for the latch on the outside of his father’s pod.

According to the manual, the G-38 sleeping pod would automatically start to awaken its inhabitant if the pod was prematurely breached, but Siris hesitated. Dust caked the latch and his hand felt gritty. None of this really made sense, and as he yanked on the door he began to worry about what he’d find.

When he finally got the door’s seals to break, there was no rush of air, and the pod remained dark, but there was enough light from his to see his father, or what remained of him. Siris gasped and would have screamed had his parched throat allowed it. Instead he backed away on unsteady feet and fell to one knee. Rasping cries came from him, but the sound did not satisfy the animalistic need to mourn. He wanted to bellow, to throw things, and scream his hatred for…for whatever had taken his father from him. He was robbed of the opportunity to act out his tantrum by an uncooperative body. Tears wouldn’t even fall as he sat on the deck-plating, sobbing, or at least trying to.

The sight of his father was so terrible that flashes of it came to him unbidden as he cried. He looked like a mummy. One of those ancient kings, whose remains had lain buried beneath the sands of his homeland, until some adventurous entrepreneur dug it up and put it on display.

Siris didn’t know how long he had been there, sulkily weeping, in a state somewhere between sleep and wakefulness, but he finally stood back up and closed the coffin. He looked down the long row of dark pods and wondered just how many were like his dad.

If the rest of the ship was this dark, and there was no evidence that it wasn’t, he would need light, so he went back to his pod. He rummaged around the interior for a time but a flashlight and a jug of water would have been too easy. He sighed and pulled his multi-tool from his hip pocket.

He remembered how the lady in charge of his hibernation prep had scowled at him when she saw it, the way mothers do, and then relented to letting him keep it on him during the sleep. That lady hadn’t been a part of the expedition and was probably long dead, but he was glad she let him keep it.

He began pulling pieces from the pod until he had what he thought he needed piled on the floor. A handful of zinc washers, some copper wire that he had stripped and some spongy cushion that he thought he could make work for the membrane. He thought about what he could use for an electrolyte and then rubbed the tiny sponges across his sweaty forehead until they were saturated.

He was surprised that he was sweating so much given how dry his throat was, although it did seem a little better as was his dexterity. His fingers worked well enough to stack the elements of his crude battery in the proper order and attach the leads from a tiny LED light to each end. He smiled as the light shone out. It was tiny, but bright, and in the absence of all other light, it would be enough. He wrapped a piece of rubber gasket that wasn’t too cracked around it to hold it all together.

It was amazing that after all these years, approximately nine-hundred and eighty-four, he still found pleasure in making something work. Building, fixing, creating had been joys that he’d learned from his father at a young age and according to the CSM he had become a master at it.

He started walking. He had gone right, which was the fastest way to the helm. If there was someone in authority awake, they would be there.

Siris walked past hundreds of pods reserved for Yakkas, or workers, the term made popular after the company made the majority of humans rich, negating the need for most people to hold a job or be particularly adroit at anything. Yakkas would be the backbone of the colony, at least that’s what his dad believed, and Siris was inclined to agree. After all, how would a group of shareholders know how to do anything when all they’d done for the last fifteen years was sit back on their haunches and count their money.

From the looks of it, however, there would be no colony, at least if the darkened lights above the pods were any indication of the occupant’s status.

He had the thought that he might be the only person alive on the ship, and depending on where the ship was, on the planet. Siris had a shock of fear that somehow made itself felt through the layers of emotion he was already feeling. He hadn’t been a big fan of people. With the exception of his family, he didn’t really have anyone that he enjoyed being with more than, say… an engine, but the thought of never having anyone ever again was terrifying.

He made it to the helms giant doors without incident, regardless of the sense he had that something was watching him the entire walk.

He sighed when he saw that the door panel was dark. It didn’t bode well for the odds of there being other survivors, at least among the command staff. Siris wedged the pliers of his multi-tool between the two heavy doors and pried them apart enough to get a finger hold. Without the power enforcing the magnetic locks, the doors came apart, but they did so grudgingly, with the screech of metal and a cloud of dust.

Siris coughed and held up his weak light, trying to pierce the gloom. It was smaller than he would have anticipated for such a large ship, but he supposed that with almost everything being automated, there was little that the command staff would have to do. He thought that he saw something in the center of the room, and he covered his LED with his free hand.

A light blinked dully from a console below a large screen. He went to it and wiped the dust from it’s surface, careful not to press it. For all he knew this could be a self-destruct button. Every ship had to have one of those, right?

“Sleep Mode.” He pressed it and other lights on the console lit up, a few seconds later the screen flashed as data was passed to the display. Based on the options on the flickering screen, this was a ship’s inventory. Multiple options blinked red, and he clicked on the first one.

“Avionics” The command returned a series of negative tones and then flashed the words. ‘Offline’

He checked the next few. Things like atmospherics and air-cyclers, but they were all offline.

‘Power Generation/Supply’ was orange and he navigated to it. He read through the thread of technical jargon and determined that adequate power generation was not feasible and that the supply was dwindling fast.

He clicked on navigation and stared for several minutes as the screen was populated with a star chart. He didn’t know how to read it, but it did look as though they had landed on Ross 128 b. Finally some good news.

He clicked on the query tab and typed in a question.

“How long have we been in hibernation?” He had to read the response several times for it to make sense to his unbelieving mind.

‘The Samsara left Earth on August 26th, 2042. According to the Earth calendar it is now December 3rd, 4020.’

Siris did the math in his head. 1,978 years.

Before he could truly appreciate the gravity of his situation a sound echoed through the opened doors behind him.

Teeth, or claws scraping on something hard.

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