Lost in a Sea of Stars–The Long Sleep
The underlying mechanisms that complete the hibernation chamber have been long tested and proven safe. This is critically important because it is probably the only thing that keeps me from declining the venture entirely. There is something haunting and distasteful about relinquishing your control and letting a machine maintain your life for any period of time.
To date there have only been 57 deaths involving Hibernation chambers failing, that’s rather remarkable given that there has probably been a billion people put into stasis of one kind or another since it was first invented. I make note only because this will actually be one of the longest hibernation periods I’ve ever been in, while initially the prospect of death in my sleep was appealing, the idea that we could survive this ordeal has me thinking that I’m a bit worried.
I admit my understanding of the system pales in comparison to Ghein, she has multiple doctorates covering Biology, Chemistry, and Medicine. I’m jealous, to be sure, because every time I find myself coughing I presume the worst and she calms me. Neurosis, my mother always said that it would catch up to me, it’s a trait that has been long running in the males of my family. The old story goes that crazy skips a generation, I assure you that is not the case with the Shiki family.
I hope that these notes don’t become my last, I’d rather they end up in a collection somewhere about our success, overcoming a deeply troubling set of circumstances. Although before then I think I should probably take some writing classes, writing dissertations and lab reports has not aided me in this creative pursuit.
“You going to eat anything?” Claire asks, her voice snapping me from my concentration.
“No, my stomach never settles in stasis.”
“More for me.” She smiles weakly, I can tell she’s still not pleased with the situation. I can’t blame her, this is unfair to be sure. Our vessel was on a route to investigate some very unusual space debris that has been floating aimlessly through the void. Signals have been radiating from it that suggest that it harbors some kind of radio system, dated certainly, but it was incredibly consequential.
The history of our collective peoples started millennia ago, various species of human, meta-human, and sentience of other varieties banded together after some great planetary events. They decided that their survival relied crucially upon their ability to unite against their common enemy, the universe itself. Death was coming for all of us, and they realized then that it was their worldly challenge to meet it and defeat it.
The advances of science following this international and interspecies proclamation were astounding, though the numbers are hard to accurately collect (each side exaggerating their investment) it is the largest endeavor to have ever been undertaken, once you account for inflation.
The most astounding of these adventures was in the Scicaghe project, the races of the home planet (whose name embarrassingly has been lost to the pages of history, though there are a dozen that are suggested now) realized that to solidify their survival for all eternity they would need to spread out among the stars. It was noble, certainly, and they managed as far as launching the satellites themselves. Unmanned spacecraft that rocketed off in every direction at speeds that would easily be fatal for any living thing of meaningful size. Each vessel carried with it thousands of “seeds”, pods that were maintained by a series of containment systems and inertia dampening protective cores.
I would be lying if I said I full understood it. As these vessels reached new planets they would fire off a single seed for each planet they passed. It would then begin an extremely accelerated terraforming process that takes into account the atomic makeup of the planet, its stellar neighbors, natural atmosphere (if any exists), and millions of other variables. With these it creates a quickly self sustaining organic environment.
The irony of this project was that nobody knows how well it worked. The only planets that were ever tested post fertilization were within the same local group as the home galaxy. Even then, our species have only populated a small handful of these planets. The rest of our species has taken to “iron giants”, an extreme misnomer, massive space ships that travel slowly through space. My father used to call them “mobile stations” which is far less poetic but certainly more accurate.
This sleep is going to give us the opportunity to check out a fringe planet, space travel for most these days is extremely slow and within short distances. Nobody wants to leave their family and come back to find them dead. That’s the unforgiving burden of high speed travel systems, some say we are on the verge of warp travel, but then some people are idiots.
“Are you ok?” Claire places her hand over my notes, my hand fidgets for a moment as my brain computes the situation.
“Hmmm? Yes, I’m just-nervous.” I smile.
“Did you hear anything I said?”
“I-well apparently, no.” I frown, I’m not a fan of disappointing others, it nags my mind like a hangnail.
“Well I was just thinking about the star map we saw, did you notice that we were nowhere near our original destination path?” She leans back, her back pops as she stretches.
“No, I must admit it didn’t dawn on me.”
“I don’t think it was a coincidence that they caught us like that. Do you think that space debris was a decoy? Maybe they use it to gather the attention of ships and then they hack their flight plans? None of us were at the helm at the time, its quite possible that they got into our system and routed us far off course right into their hands.”
It hadn’t really occurred to me, I found the incident peculiar for sure, extremely unlikely. I’ll bring it up once we hit landfall, it may help us locate them. 5 years, that’s going to put a serious dent in the trail-but sacrifices must be made.
“I’ve never heard of such a thing, but now that you mention it it does seem remarkably clever.” I paused. “Then again, presuming they leave people to survive in escape pods I’m sure not many have survived to tell the tale.”
The room grows cold and silent, I imagine her hopes are the same as mine, to live.
“Really, are you eating Claire?” Thane stood obelisk-like in the doorway. “Don’t you get ill?”
Claire cocked a brow. “Excuse me? You ate a stick of meat earlier.”
Thane shrugged. “Well yeah, I’m going to throw up after we awake for sure. It’s going to be a hell of a mess. But it was damn good. Make bad decisions today and deal with them tomorrow, that’s my motto. I don’t like my future self and I need to routinely remind him that his past self is running the shots.”
“That’s not really how it-“ I tap my fingers on the table quickly. “Never mind, good luck with that.”
From across the hall Ghein shouted to us. “I’ve got the system prepped!”
The hibernation pods were aglow, data streamed across their glass surfaces. Odd in a time of almost complete automation these systems still needed to be prepped manually. If I make it out of this I should see if those deaths were caused by automatic calibration, be a fun factoid to bring up to the kids.
Also note, need to have kids.
“It’s going to be a little bit tricky, these hibernation systems aren’t exactly tested for extremely long rest cycles. ” She smiled. “On the bright side, we’ll all likely have pretty wild stories to tell on the other side. The sluice we rest in has some pretty potent psychedelic effects.”
Dim grinned. “So we are going to get stoned?”
Ghein nodded. “You’ll probably be so high off your ass at the end that you won’t know which end is up for a bit. Luckily the lethargy from the waking process should give us all time to recuperate before we could endanger one another.”
“Spiders.” Thane mumbled.
“Sorry?” I replied.
“Last time I was high that’s what I saw.”
I laughed. “You’ve been high before? So you were covered in spiders? I’ve heard that’s common.”
“Not quite, I was captured by a 20 foot tall arachnid, it chipped away at my flesh and laid eggs inside of me. I remember screaming and waking up in prison, it turns out that you are not allowed to run around screaming.”
“I’ve done that plenty of times.” Dim said. “They don’t arrest you for that.”
“Naked?” Thane replied.
“Oh, uh, no.”
I clapped my hands together. “Alright! Well I’m probably going to have horrifying dreams for the next 5 years. So who is going first?”
The room went silent, it felt an awful lot like everyone was looking at me.
“Oh come on!” I nearly dropped my glass pad. “Why do I need to go first?”
“Ugliest goes first, you know that.” Dim laughs.
“I hope I wake up first.” I reply. “Cause I’m going to slap the shit out of you while you sleep.”
He backs up a step. I hope I dream about that, instead of, well, spiders.
The pods are larger than the highest predicted size for a space fairing metahuman, once you enter them the walls conform to your body to create a fairly level base beneath you. It’s quite nice, feels a bit like a friendly full body hug on your backside. Anything to help offset the awkward feeling of being stark naked in front of your colleagues. The least pleasant part is the entry of two needles into either vein on your arms, these begin to cycle your blood with a solution that is effectively organic antifreeze. It has the added benefit of clearing arteries of clogging, repairs arterial damage, and actually strengthens the heart. For folks who wish for very long periods of time these can be a preferred option to conventional rest, albeit you will end up with some mighty sore arms by the end of the endeavor. Nightly dialysis is not exactly my idea of a party.
The glass front of the chamber closes and I hear that familiar sealing sound, I’ve always felt these beds sound a bit incredulous when they lock you up. I can feel the solution moving into my veins, I look down to see a sea blue concoction entering through one tube and the familiar red of my own blood leaving out the other. Almost instantly it numbs my body and I-
I start, to feel empty sation. My brain loose, and the world sparkles. Cool fluid begins to flood the ta-
Art by: Makubi