+Signal Code 00111001101+
+Arc Centre 1+
"El...e...hello! Is there anyone there! Can you hear me? Base! Jesus Christ. Just listen. We have an emergency situation. Something's here. We've lost half the crew already. They're gone. Dead. We don't know what it is but...Did you hear that? Ling?...Oh...uck! It's...ARGGGH!"
There was a serenity to the depths of space. No sound. No wind. Nothing but emptiness for miles and miles in every direction. The twinkling stars and the ever present glow of the Sun the only accompaniment for someone traversing the reaches of space, although that familiar star was becoming gradually fainter and smaller in the U.N.S Pharaoh's rear view solar panel. The deep flight space shuttle had thundered its way through the void of space for close to one hundred and fifty days, reliably carrying its precious cargo towards their destination without any glitch or even solar troubles. They were completely on schedule. Within the space shuttle nothing stirred, a strange airless silence filled the whole ship, not even the constant rumble of the ships engines could be heard within the white washed corridors and tiny maintenance shafts. Computers ran everything. Running diagnostics every twenty three days to adjust for course corrections as well as maintain life support systems for the cargo.
It was a mechanical shell with a clockwork heart. And somewhere in a computer bank deep within the ship, a red light had just ignited. And began to blink.
Sucking in oxygen like she had just broken the surface of an impossibly deep ocean Abigail coughed and spluttered. The horrible oxygen rich slime she had been submerged in being expelled with great vigour from her lungs, firing out her throat in great mouthfuls of viscous matter. Blindly groping around her she found the lip of her plastic coffin and hurled her torso over the side. Coughing more mouthfuls of the vile substance onto the floor, trying to ignore its disgusting feeling on her tongue. 'That's it doc! Hack it all up!' A grouchy voice said as her body convulsed, ejecting out another great lungful of the slime onto the slowly expanding pile on the floor.
'There we go Doctor, all right,' said a gentler voice. Hands touched her naked body, the feeling of their skin through the slime sent chills through her spine. Abigail went to breathe but found her body retching instead. Hanging over the edge of her coffin she violently retched, her windpipe closing off as her body tried to vomit up an empty stomach. 'It's okay Doctor. Just breathe, come on, breathe for me.' Inhaling a great shuddering breath Abigail clung to the plastic edge of her pod. Inhaling another massive breath Abigail savoured the feeling of air in her lungs, it was life! Thick and rich and better with every breath. Her heartbeat slowly began settling down, no longer pounding against the inside of her chest like some angry beast trying to break free of its cage. 'There we go. Alright. It's all right.' said the gentle woman’s voice; she felt a hand gently rub across her back. Clearing away the viscous slime as well as easing the desire to wretch. Breathing steadily in and out she felt her body relax slightly, her grip on the edge of the stasis pod loosening, Abigail swore to herself she would never undervalue good old fashioned oxygen ever again. 'Good morning Doctor Carter.' said the Gentle Woman.
Opening her mouth to speak Abigail found her voice locked off. Her vocal chords refused to move. The back of her throat felt sore and stiff and her best attempt at speech was a jarring growl, the likes of which she wished would never leave her mouth again. 'Easy Doctor, you haven't used any of your muscles in over two hundred days. Everything is going to be a little difficult for a little while.' Lifting a clumsy hand to her face the slick feeling of slime touching slime met her fingertips, feeling around her eyes blindly a hand caught her wrist. 'No no no. Don't do that Doctor, you can't see because the Ox-Sol sealed your lids together to protect your eyes. We'll wash it off in a few minutes but let’s get you out of here first.'
'Do you need a hand Jenna?' asked a man's voice over the sound of a powerful suction pump, chugging down the slime of another pod across the room.
'No thank you Graham I think we can handle this.' said the Gentle Woman. It all came rushing back after that. Shuttle crew. Five of them. Jenna, Graham, Damien, Yvette and Captain Sila. Abigail remembered, she pictured their faces. Or tried too. It had been so long since the last time she'd seen any of them her mental images were probably nothing like what they actually looked like. Shaking her head she felt the oily strands of her hair whip across her face painfully, stinging against her round cheeks as the first onset of a migraine nestled itself between her eyes. 'Here we go Doctor,' after a series of small beeps coming from somewhere to the left of Abigail the rest of the disgusting slime was drained away, leaving her completely naked in a plastic pod. Hard shivers rocked her skin. She hadn't realised how warm that slime had been, now that it was gone she could feel colds annoying itch crawling over every naked inch of her. Just as her bottom lip began to quiver two blankets were wrapped around her. The first a harsh cloth that felt itchy but warm, the second, a heat blanket made of foil that crinkled and screeched every time she moved.
'How do you feel Mr Daniels?' asked a voice across the room.
'Like one hundred and eighty five pounds of boiled crap.' came the gruff reply. Abigail remembered him...Professor Alexander Daniels, thermogeologist, American. He must have been woken up first.
'Doctor Carter I've lowered the right wall of the stasis bed,' Abigail knew that. She had felt the vibrations of the mechanism that lowered the curved plastic wall. 'Can you swing your legs over the edge? Excellent, thank you.' said Jenna. Then Abigail heard her whisper, 'Cognitive function unimpaired, deep sleep recovery positive, auditory functions intact.' shivering in the darkness Abigail pulled the edges of the two blankets around herself tighter, she didn't care that she was naked, that was the very last thing on a very long line of thoughts. 'I'm just going to take your pulse Doctor,' said Jenna a moment before two fingers touched Abigail's neck right on the carotid artery. It stayed there for several long seconds before Jenna whispered again, 'Heart rate normal.' Abigail wanted so badly to tell Jenna that she could hear her whispering, but her voice was still set in iron and the amount of effort needed to speak was effort she couldn't afford to waste right now. 'Alright Doctor we need to get you up and showered,' Jenna took Abigail’s hands gently, 'Your legs are going to feel incredibly weak, so lean on me and I'll take you to the wash unit alright?'
Abigail nodded. 'Good. Now, one step at a time, nice and easy.' Jenna's kind almost fairy like voice said through the darkness. Inching her nude frame closer and closer to the edge of the coffin Abigail stretched out her leg, blindly searching for the floor beneath her. Her big toe touched cold tile. The slime making it skid slightly, taking a deep breath Abigail slid from the stasis pod and immediately dropped straight to her knees, legs buckling completely beneath her. 'That's alright Doctor, you just stay there. We'll get you a wheeler.'
Sitting in the half light of the holding room Abigail cracked her neck several times; her joints felt like sandpaper were stuck between them, and her head! Jesus her head throbbed. A thousand hornets were stinging her brain and pushing against her skull, waiting, willing for the bone to snap in half. 'Hey honey,' said Alex, sitting on the bed across from her with a similar pained look across his bullish face. 'You alright? You look like hell.'
Abigail laughed. 'Thanks, you too.' the doors of the medical bay swished open smoothly as another team member was ushered in, walking on unsteady legs like a newborn giraffe Doctor Gregory Isanov was their resident biologist. Brought to the nearest bed by Jenna he promptly began whispering several Russian expletives under his breath as he lay down. 'Ah, Doctor Carter. You're awake.' said Jenna, her pale face shining out from the dimness.
'Yeh, although I wish I was unconscious again.' she joked.
'Nonsense, we've been sleeping for a very long time. Your brain must be dying for some serious activity,' moving around Gregory's bed Jenna passed a small glance over the medical units that were taking readings of Abigail’s body. 'All seems well Doctor Carter, any dizziness? Loss of smell or taste?'
'No. But I've got an earthquake in my skull.'
Jenna smiled slightly. 'Perfectly normal. It's just your brain attempting to process the time you were in stasis. If you experience dizziness, loss of speech or any other senses hit this button.' she said pointing to a large red panic button on the wall beside her bed.
'Hey doc, why's it so dark in here? A bat couldn't find its own ass in here.' said Alex.
'Because Professor Daniels you and your companions optic nerves haven't registered light since you entered stasis, too much too soon could fry them and leave you with permanent loss of sight.'
'Brilliant answer doc, turn the lights lower will you?'
Jenna and Abigail smiled. 'When your colleagues have all awoken we will bring them in here and steadily increase the light Professor, coming out of stasis is a hard process but it will be over in a few days.'
'When are we set to arrive Jenna?' croaked Abigail, her voice still not fully used to being worked again.
'Captain Sila says we should touchdown on Martian soil in six days.' even in the half lit medical bay Abigail could see the smile growing across Alex's face. 'Try and relax Doctor. The red planet isn't going anywhere.'