Gasping. Confusion. Panic. Choking. Vertigo. Collapse.
Tabitha Reeves hit the metal grate on her hands and knees. She vaguely felt the blood leaking through the skin on her knees as she coughed over and over. It felt like dry heaves, but she spit a little liquid with each cough. It looked a little like blue mucus, she thought. What the hell is going on?
Strong hands grabbed her shoulders and flipped her over to her back. Everything was blurry, but she made out a huge man holding her down. She was suddenly acutely aware of the fact she wore no clothing.
Panic and bile rose to her throat as the man set his knee across her legs and pinned her shoulders to the floor. Another set of hands shoved some sort of tube in her mouth and down her throat. Another tube went into her nose and she felt it hit her throat as well.
A second later there was suction in her lungs and her gut; the blue mucus started to flow through the tubes. Her body started to relax, and as it did she felt the man move off of her. She tried to sit up but couldn’t. She felt another bruise form on her elbow. So she laid there, waiting for her strength, sight, or breath to return.
As the tubes worked, someone handed her a towel. She wiped as much of her face as she could, noting that her body was covered with a thin layer of something very like the slime being drawn from her body. As she toweled off and her mind relaxed she was able to remember how she’d gotten here.
She’d been in stasis – that explained the slime, it provided her body with oxygen and nutrients and even simulated the benefits of exercise for her muscles and bones while holding her aging at bay. The ship was bound for Chigon IV. Even propelled by the dark matter drive at faster-than-light speeds it was a trip that would take decades.
She hadn’t imagined waking up would be this unpleasant. She’d read the documents they’d given her about the stasis and waking from it. Disorientation and minor sickness were the only side effects she remembered. And she thought they used beds and restraints to avoid some of the trauma.
She finished toweling off and she was handed another towel — no, a blanket. She laid it over her body and looked up and around to try to get some bearings, but everything was still blurry.
The big man grabbed her arm and she felt a sharp pinch. She tried to pull away but he held her tight while injecting her with… something.
She started coughing again. The last of the blue fluid had left her body, and the tubes were clear now. But she couldn’t get her body to breathe on its own.
The second figure came to her rescue, sitting her up, quickly pulling the tubes from her face, and slapping her back till she had one final, wet cough and drew her first, ragged breath.
“Thanks. I…” She couldn’t hear herself – she couldn’t hear anything. She felt panic rise for the third time when the figure who had just helped her made calming gestures. A hand held forward, fingers slightly splayed, telling her to wait a moment.
She started to make out more details. The second figure was a woman. Above average but not too tall. Jet black hair, dusky skin and blue eyes indicated a mixed genetic heritage. She wore a tight uniform of gray-blue, identifying her as crew on the ship. She sat on the floor, holding the used towel and smiling kindly at Tabitha, which showed her white teeth.
The big figure was indeed a man. Genetically designed, it appeared. He had the purple eyes that indicated such. That explained his size: he was squatting but Tabitha could tell he was at least seven feet tall, and at least half that shoulder to shoulder. Every bit of his body was muscled, and he wore a uniform similar to the woman’s. It didn’t hide much on either of them.
Tabitha drew the blanket tighter around her, suddenly embarrassed at her nakedness.
The man said something, but Tabitha still couldn’t hear. The woman responded, and it went back and forth for a few moments.
After a few moments Tabitha was able to make out the names sewn on the left breast of her companions’ uniforms. The woman’s read “Genzi.” The man was “Schwartz.” Last names, clearly.
“… long will it take.”
Tabitha jumped as her hearing suddenly returned.
Genzi laughed softly. “Apparently that long. Can you hear me, honey?”
Schwartz grunted. “Finally. We don’t have time.”
“Come on, we need you.” Genzi stood and held out a hand.
She was still confused, but she took the proffered hand and rose to her feet, stumbling slightly.
Genzi led her through a door, Schwartz following the two women.
“Get dressed,” Schwartz growled. He held out a uniform similar to the ones they wore.
Tabitha took it gingerly, hesitating.
Genzi spoke up again. “Schwa, dear. Give her a moment of privacy.” Schwartz grunted again but stepped back through the door and slid it closed. “You want me to leave too, honey?”
Tabitha wasn’t sure, but she needed answers, so she shook her head and started to dress. She noted that the name on the uniform said “Kronopolos.” It wasn’t made for her. She hoped it would still fit. “What’s going on?” she asked. “I wasn’t supposed to be revived until we got to Chigon.”
Genzi grimaced. “I’m afraid you’re not going to like the answer.”