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I wake up. I don’t remember falling asleep. I guess no one ever remembers falling asleep but I thought cryo would be more special. “Hello, Mr. Deng.” It’s the robot girl voice again, the actual computer one.
“Hello,” I say in return. The computer lady stays silent. That doesn’t seem right. My body feels weightless. I can’t remember if that’s a good thing. Remember your training. Remember your training. Remember your training. That is a good thing. The techs are to be awoken in orbit around Warlock 4. One year of in-orbit observations and planning, and then the whole ship will land.
The door slides open. There’s supposed to be a medical tech on standby. He or she should be right here ready to slip the cords out of my spine. Ready to sterilize. Instead, it’s dark. Am I dreaming? Any calm that I had slips away to some hidden corner of my mind. I imagine those bright blue eyes. See something like a wolf in the darkness. Like a wolf but with a mouth like a crocodile, frothing and snapping. Not a dream, a nightmare.
I can feel my pulse in my neck and see it in my vision. I can hear the blood rushing passed my eardrums. Or through my eardrum. Or however the hell blood is supposed to rush through the ears in silence. I could ask the medical tech, but they are not fucking here.
I lie paralyzed until a voice startles me half out of my skin. “You need to remain calm Mr. Deng.” It’s not the computer. It’s someone else. “I need your help Mr. Deng. But first, you need to get out of the cryo. I can’t come to you, and there’s no one to assist you. You’ll have to slip the wires out yourself.”
“I can’t.” I stammer. “I’m not supposed to. I could paralyze myself.”
“Fuck,” the other voice mutters. Clearly a male. Probably military. Likely even in charge. They took me straight to the pod when I arrived on The Dreamer. I don’t really know the names of anyone on the ship. Except for that robotic-sounding lady… What was her name? I can’t remember. Did I experience brain damage? My heart leaps up through my throat. I swear it does. I swear I can feel it push against my tongue. “Listen, Deng, you’re all I have right now. Slipping the wires out is easy. Grab each one, and yank down. Do it fast. Otherwise, you’ll experience a zing. It’s not painful, but it sure as hell ain’t a picnic either.”
“Can I just wait?” I’m still frozen. Still thinking about brain damage. Still staring at those two blue glowing eyes above me.
“No, you can’t. I need you in the bridge now!” His yell crackles in the intercom and shakes me from my fear. I reach to my back, find the first wire, and hesitate. I always hesitate. I hesitated when I sent my application to MIT, I hesitated when I volunteered for the space exchange program, and I hesitated when I took this mission. I grab the wire and yank down. I feel a quick jolt up my spine, like an electric shock, and a tingle of numbness stays behind. I work up my back, trying to get the others. Trying to give them the same treatment. Thinking the entire time about sterilization. About how I need alcohol back there. Thinking about being paralyzed.