Author : Bill Lombardi

He had been awake for seventy-two hours – twenty-four spent in an acclamation unit. His legs hadn’t adjusted yet and he had trouble standing, so he sat at an unshielded viewport in the common area looking off into space, sipping from a nutrient pack. His stasis pod had failed. According to the AI, the overall damage it had sustained was ‘catastrophic’. Not just for the unit, he thought. Jon Merritt was an engineer and the damage was beyond his expertise. He was lucky he wasn’t dead. He stretched he legs, trying to work out the stiffness. It seemed to make them worse. Getting up slowly, he limped to the habitation module. The crew consisted of six: Daniel Hahira – captain, Adair Quinn – first officer, Billy Dillard – helm, Aria Lopez – navigation, Doc Mercer and himself. Six stasis modules – no backups. Jon leaned against the doorframe of the hibernation chamber. The indicators on five of the pods cycled periodically, flashing green. Their occupants faintly illuminated by the glow of the access panels above each one – except for his, the sixth – open and dark. He thought about waking Quinn, but he wasn’t ready to do that just yet.

A few days past and he felt better. His legs cramped less and he had beaten the AI at backgammon, two out of three games. It wasn’t until the seventh day while in his cabin rereading the last transmissions received from his family before the Arizona had passed out of communications range that it hit him. He couldn’t go on like this indefinitely. He decided that he would wake Quinn in twelve hours.

“What do you mean I don’t have clearance?”

“Only the captain and first officer can override stasis protocols.”

“Gary, this is an emergency. I can’t go back into hibernation. You know this. So, override and wake Quinn.”

“I can not, Jon. The protocols prohibit me from doing so.”

“And in the case of an emergency?”

“Standard procedure is to wake the engineer.”

Jon sighed. “I am awake and that’s the problem.”

“Do you need my assistance with anything else?”

He wanted to throttle the AI. “Yes. I want you to wake Quinn.” There was no response. He slammed his fist down on the console and getting up, went forward to the bridge. Slumping into the navigator’s chair he folded his arms and looked around at the silent command center. All systems were at minimal for the long trek across space. He thought about waking the first officer without the assistance of the AI, but there were too many things that could go wrong and he couldn’t compensate for them without help. Jon was looking at the Nav console when he noticed the lifeboat ejection system. He sat up straight. Of course, he thought. He would have to take one of the lifeboats offline in order to activate it and create a tether, but he could do it. Jon moved aft to the Evac compartment and went to work. After a while he was able to release LB-1 and prime it. The door popped open with a hiss. It would take about twenty-four hours for him to get prepped for stasis and then another three hours for the sleep cycle to complete. He just hoped that once he jettisoned, the magnetic lifeline would hold. If not it wouldn’t matter either way. He’d never wake up again. And that had to be better than spending seventy-five years alone with Gary.


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