Six strangers brought together by fate and forces beyond their understanding embark upon the greatest and final adventure of their lives. Haunted by ghosts of sins past, troubled by pains of present loss, they look to the stars for release. Perhaps they will find it. Who knows what lies ahead of them? Who knows what they will find as they travel into the black?
Chapter 9: Preparation
The ringing brought Saul out of a troubled sleep; the nightmares still hadn’t left after two years of counseling. He couldn’t remember the last time he had slept through the night without seeing her beautiful brown eyes.
Saul sighed and reached for the alarm. It wasn’t there. The ringing didn’t stop. Saul blinked, rubbed his eyes, and stared at the clock. It was five in the morning. The alarm was set for six. The alarm back home was set for six. He wasn’t at home.
Groaning, he slowly sat up and staggered to his feet, still feeling the effects of yesterday’s events. The ringing stopped, and was replaced by a monotone female voice over the loudspeakers.
“Breakfast is in ten minutes, launch is in two hours. Again, breakfast is in ten minutes, launch is in two hours. That is all”
Saul stumbled over to the small mirror on the wall. He needed a shave. He quickly cleaned up, put on an old pair of jeans and a shirt, and then walked to the cafeteria.
Everyone was already there, eating a hearty continental style breakfast. No, someone was missing. After a second, Saul notice Emmy was nowhere in sight. He smiled and thought she was probably doing her makeup or something. Teenage girls never change.
After he filled his plate with eggs, bacon, and toast, he sat down and listened to the conversations going on around him as he ate. KC and Johnson were talking about launch specifications, and after a while Saul quickly lost any idea as to what they/ were saying. D’Artagnan and Jaiden were sitting at the other end of the table, and Jaiden was asking him about his scars and knives. Apparently he had forgotten that D’Artagnan couldn’t talk. As Saul watched, D’Artagnan only smiled and ate his food.
Abruptly the door opened and in walked Emmy. She looked tired, upset, and nervous. Something in her eyes worried Saul, and he got up to talk to her.
“Hey, did you get some rest last night? Big day ahead of us.”
Emmy quickly straightened and put on a smile. She brushed her bangs as she answered him.
“Sleep is for mortals. But I make do.”
“I see, so what does that make you?”
“Whatever you want me to be honey”
With that Emmy walked away from Saul and began to put a little food on her plate. Rather than follow and pursue the conversation further, Saul returned to his meal. As he sat down, KC turned to talk to him.
“Don’t worry about her. She’s been flirting with any guy she sees, she doesn’t mean anything by it.”
“Aren’t I a bit old for her?”
“I think it’s a sort of coping mechanism for her.”
“So you’re a psychiatrist now?”
“I took some night classes.”
Saul stopped and looked at KC, took a good long look before responding.
“I’m sorry, I just keep getting the feeling I’ve seen you before.”
“Maybe you’ve read my book.”
“You wrote a book?”
“Back when I was in grad school. Astrophysics applied to extra-dimensional travel and stuff like that.”
“Not really my bedside reading material. I’m lucky to pick up a Tom Clancy and read it through.”
“I see. Well maybe-“
A man in a white lab coat walked in and motioned for everyone’s attention. He began to speak.
“I hope that you enjoyed your lunch. It’s going to be the last solid food you eat for a long time.”
He chuckled at his own joke and then continued.
“We have your own personal stasis suits ready for you in your quarters. We need you to pack what you are bringing and change into your suits as quickly as possible. We have only a limited time window for this launch to take place successfully. Instructions are included with the suit, and if you have any questions, we will be more than happy to assist you. That is all. Ideally we would like to meet back here approximately an hour from now, that would give us ample time to get everything ready. So, I leave you to your business. Thank you.”
The man in the lab coat walked out of the door, and the members of the crew started to follow him. Saul and KC were last going out, and as they parted, Saul thought he saw her eyes linger for longer than was really necessary. Yet he still couldn’t remember where he’d seen her before. Perhaps he would remember soon. For now, it was time to get ready. It was time for takeoff.
Chapter 10: Last Words
The suit was fitted for Saul’s body, but it still felt alien to him. He wished he could wear a regular suit or even just jeans and a t-shirt, but this was more important than his preference in clothing. After packing away what little he had brought with him, he joined his crewmates in the cafeteria for a final debriefing.
Saul couldn’t help but notice the way that KC’s suit hugged her body. He shook his head to clear any ideas out of his mind; Saul needed to concentrate on the matter at hand. Saul sat down and began to drum his fingers lightly on the table. It wasn’t long before the man in the lab coat entered the room and started to speak.
“Good to see you had no problems with the suits. They are individually fitted and designed for your body specifications and should provide modest protection with comfort. If you’ll follow me, it’s time to board the ship.”
Everyone picked up their bags and followed the man down the hall. He led them back to the cavernous room Saul had seen yesterday with the President and Jaiden. As they entered the hall, the man spoke quickly, covering the basics of the ship.
“The controls and computers are located at the front of the ship, the stasis cells and living quarters are located at the back of the ship. If you’ll follow me, I’ll take you to your individual stasis cells and get you situated.”
Saul noticed out of the corner of his eye that Jaiden’s hand was twitching and he turned to the teenager to try to comfort him.
“Don’t be nervous, I’m sure everything’s going to work out-“
“Who said I’m nervous? I’m not nervous old man. I live for this stuff. What are you talking about?”
“What, a guy can’t twitch? I need a cup of coffee, that’s all. God, who asked you?”
“Ok, never mind-“
Jaiden storm off towards the ship and Saul sighed. There was something going on with that boy, but he couldn’t figure out what.
The interior of the ship was far more spacious than Saul had imagined. It wasn’t huge, but there was ample headroom and corridors wide enough for two people. It was also shinier and generally much newer than he had expected. The ship was like nothing Saul had ever seen before.
The containment units for stasis were pretty much what Saul had expected from years of science fiction. They were large transparent pods with multiple wires inside and out. Saul hoped those wires were just for monitoring vitals. The man in the lab coat escorted each crewmember to their pod and explained the process.
“The suit you are wearing has several units attached to it where it will plug in to the various wires here. It would take too long to explain exactly how this works, so I’ll try my best in layman’s terms. We use a chemical to induce a state of coma, completely unresponsive as long as the chemical flow is steady. A needle in your arm will supply the basic nutrient your body needs to survive. Meanwhile a high-tech breather will provide oxygen and then in turn convert expelled carbon dioxide into oxygen. The ship itself has a similar system. Your body will be fully immersed in a thick liquid designed to protect you from turbulence or any unpredicted impacts.”
“So how long are we going to be floating in Jell-O?”
Saul almost laughed; Jaiden was getting to be predictable with his little outbursts. The man simply ignored the sarcasm and answered the question.
“Best as we can figure, you won’t need to be awake until you’ve at least exited our galaxy. There’s more than enough nutrients to keep your bodies in stasis longer, but it may not be safe for your general condition. The computer is set to wake you upon exiting the Milky Way. Given our technology, this will end up feeling to you like you just slept the night and woke up the next day. In reality, almost two earth years will pass.”
“This is some major league bullsh-“
Saul cut Jaiden off with the one question that was on everyone’s minds.
“Are we ever coming back?”
The man in the lab coat took off his glasses before answering.
“There are not enough resources to provide you with the fuel you would need to return.”
No one in the room spoke for a long time.
They all knew it was a suicide mission. They had known from the start there was no coming home. That was why they had all so readily accepted. None of them really had a home to return to. Still, something about hearing the words out loud gave them chills. It was quiet in the room.
Saul was the first to speak.
“Let’s do this.”
Chapter 11: Take Off
Saul lay in his pod and thought of her red lips by the light of a candle. He would never see her again. A lone tear rolled down his cheek and melted into side of the breather unit on his face.
A voice came loud through the pod’s communication system.
“Everything alright in there Mr. Sinclair?”
“Yes, thank you.”
“We’re going to start the chemical flow now. You should start to feel tired, and then fall asleep. It’s painless, I promise. After you are unconscious, we will pump the liquid into the container. When you wake up, you will be in space.”
“Starting chemical flow…now…five percent…ten percent…fifteen percent…”
Saul felt a haze settle over him. His muscles began to relax; he felt like he was drifting in the sea. The words of the technician began to fade away.
“Thirty percent…forty…fifty five…seventy…”
As Saul sank into the grateful, warm arms of unconsciousness, he thought he saw a feminine face staring back at him inside his container. Before Saul could react, his eyes closed, and everything went black.