Asleep Beneath The Stars
Jo tapped the cryo-suspension tank’s control panel and its semi-transparent lid slid up into place with a soft click. Grant was already asleep, looking peacefully at rest. It was more peaceful than he had appeared in days. Jo glanced to the cryo tank next to Grant’s, where Malcolm lay asleep, his tank’s lid already frosted over.
She smiled slightly and whispered, “See you in seventy years or so.” Then she turned away.
She stood alone in the cryo chamber for a moment, looking at the long line of tanks that normally would house Agrippa’s entire crew for the periods of her journey when they were not asleep. Dozens of tanks, crammed closely together to save on space. And only two in use. Three, momentarily.
The pain of her guilt for what she had done to Bunker Hill’s crew still hung on Jo like a heavy cloak, but she had herself back under control. It took a while, and she had remained on the bridge alone until the worst of it passed. In that time, she adjusted the engine settings to achieve the normal 1 Earth-Normal g acceleration and verified their course to the aliens’ home system was laid in correctly, then she went below to rejoin Malcolm and Grant.
They ate a small victory feast. Although victory was probably not the right word for it, considering how much they had paid to get where they were, and the fact that even now there was a good chance their mission would still end in failure. But there was cause for celebration nonetheless, so they managed.
The following hours contained a myriad of tasks to prepare the ship for their long slumber, from programing the vegetation feeding cycles in hydroponics to securing power and supplies to the cryo-suspension tanks they were not going to use – and there were a lot of them, over five thousand total. The preparations were tiring, but no one complained. They would soon get more than enough sleep to compensate for it.
Jo stepped over to the display screen on the wall near the cryo chamber’s door and, one last time, called up the navigation system. The course looked good. Programmed wakeup contingencies were all proper, as was the final arrival wakeup point. Consumable stores were more than sufficient for the trip, and there was no sign of any further pursuit on the sensors. They were, it seemed, in the clear. There was nothing else for her to do but go to sleep.
And yet she was strangely reluctant. Something felt undone, somehow. But rack her mind though she did, Jo could not think of what.
It’s just nerves. Leftover stress from the last few weeks.
And that was very likely true. She had never been all that good at winding down, and she had been strung out on stress for as long as she could remember lately, it seemed. It was time to put all that aside. Time for rest before the real challenge – meeting the aliens. Explaining, somehow, what had happened.
Yeah, that’s the perfect way to stop being stressed out, thinking about that.
Jo shook her head and snorted at herself. Enough delaying.
She slid off her fatigues and undershirt, all the way to her bra and panties. Then she slipped into her cryo tank and pulled the thermal blanket up over her body. This was the part she hated, but she always insisted on being the last one in – it seemed fitting, as Captain. So she had long ago taught herself how to insert her own IV and hook up her own EKG and EEG probes. Finally, she strapped the breathing mask over her face and tapped the control pad – there was one built into the interior of every tank as well as an exterior one, just for this reason. Gas began flowing into her breathing mask and she felt a cool fluid enter her veins from the IV.
Immediately she began to feel drowsy. As always – and she had never been able to stop herself from doing this – she fought the feeling, trying to remain conscious and alert. But the drugs won out, as they always did. The last thing she saw before drifting off was the tank’s lid sliding shut.
* * * * *
If you like it, please leave a review on Goodreads, Amazon, and anywhere else you can think to. Every review helps, even the bad ones, believe it or not. Thanks!