He awoke to complete darkness. A tightness behind his ribs seemed to be his only injury, as if his heart had been twisted within his chest cavity somehow. Trained not to panic, he assessed the pain levels and regulated his breathing until he felt confident enough to get his bearings.
Quite simply, there were none.
He lay naked on his side, on a cool smooth surface of some kind, probably metal. He was surrounded by an inscrutable darkness that did not dissipate when he blinked his eyes.
Varian's heart rate spiked at the thought of being struck blind but he knew losing control would not help him. He struggled to regain his faculties before he resorted to crying for himself.
He felt his face with his hands. Nothing seemed out of shape and there was no evident blood, but a sheen of heavy sweat covered his features as he ran his fingers along his cheeks in the dark. This was interesting because the air was cool wherever it was that he lay and was not conducive to sweating. He concluded the sweat was stale and served no purpose as a clue.
His eyes still searched to pierce the blackness all around him, but further blinking remained a useless folly. Instead he closed his eyes and listened. There was no rumbling of engines so he doubted he was on board a craft of some kind, no sound of movement or conversation but he doubted he was alone, and there was no sound of an oxygen purification system yet he breathed problem-free without a respirator.
Where was he?
A shudder of desperation passed through Varian as he cursed the futility of his senses to stimulate him with input of ANY sort. He wondered if he was locked away in some kind of sensory deprivation cell and, to test this theory, called out, "Hello?"
His voice was raspy but carried easily through the air around him, even echoing slightly, indicating he was in a large and sparsely furnished area. He was also not surprised to note there was no reply.
Gingerly, he pushed himself into a seated position and rotated his neck. There was a sharp POP! but otherwise all seemed to be in order. Varian summoned the playback from his Memory Recorder Implant in case he had overlooked something important in real-time, but it showed only what he had already clearly remembered: the omniscient, terrible light that consumed all it enveloped, the death of his squad, and the apparent destruction of an entire terraforming project on an uninhabited planet.
He sighed and closed his eyes. The darkness behind his eyelids did nothing to alleviate his imbalanced equilibrium, so he called out again, louder this time, "WHERE THE HELL AM I?!"