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My training says that the chemicals should be entering my body now, turning me into a human Twinkie. Knowing and experiencing are two different things, and the cool tingle traveling up my spine from those life-preserving chemicals does not put my mind at ease. Far from it. Instead, I frantically wiggle my fingers and toes, making sure that something unexpected didn’t go wrong. One in 2,000 experience long-term effects from the cryo implantation. If The Dreamer has 1,000 passengers, then there’s a 50% chance that someone could be on this ship. That someone could be me.
They say they don’t inject Valium or other calming drugs into the body because its effects can be overpowering upon waking. I don’t care. Give me something so that my heart doesn’t leap out of my chest.
“Please try to relax Mr. Deng,” it’s a female voice, but not the female computer voice.
“Who is that?” I gasp.
“Patricia Jung. Medical officer. Your vitals are spiking.” Her voice isn’t as soothing as the computer. It is somehow more robotic, more trained. Probably military. There are a lot of military types on this vessel. Not me. I’m a humble MIT brat, with big ideas about getting my ass strapped to a rocket and sent on a life-altering expedition to who knows where. I know where. Warlock 4. At some point, scientists got cheeky with the names. The planet is supposed to be green with life, have 90% Earth gravity, oceans almost as big as ours, and a small red star.
I try to picture it all. Try to turn it into some semblance of a happy place.
“Mr. Deng,” Patricia’s voice came through again. “If you can’t calm down, we may have to bring in your alternate.”
“I’m working on it!” It was a shout that I instantly regretted.
Her voice comes back simply, “Okay.”
I think about my breathing. Think about the green world. It’s supposed to have oxygen even, but if it doesn’t or if the atmosphere is toxic in some way, it will be my job to set up the new life support systems. My job to help build the first colony. Imagining constructing a huge life support system. Building it to my design and spec, making it so that it’s expandable, reliable, and efficient. These thoughts soothe me.
“Thank you, Mr. Deng,” Patricia’s voice doesn’t sound too grateful.
“Initiating sleep procedure,” the soothing robotic lady says. “Please count backward from ten.”
That’s the last thing I want to do. I keep my eyes shut, I keep picturing the green world. I keep trying to remember my training. Remember my training. Remember my training.
“Ten,” I say trying to stay calm. Trying to follow orders. “Nine.” Counting backward is supposed to be calming. It’s also supposed to keep the mind clear. Keep the thoughts out so that you can wake alert and ready. “Eight.” I’m still picturing the green. “Seven” it’s a field of tall grass, and I am just checking filters in my EV suit. “Six.” I see eyes. Bright blue eyes, hiding among the grass. “Five.” I feel my pulse jump.