Author : Alla Hoffman

Derrick woke up to the sensation of his lungs running out of air. The pod was dark, but he could see a weak greenish light filtering through the glass. He pounded on the lid frantically; something must have gone wrong with the cryo system. Maybe the power had gone. It was startling how much it hurt, like needles pushing through his lungs. It seemed halfway to forever, but eventually there was a crack and someone’s fingers appeared, prising up the lid. Derrick tried to help, startled by how weak and dizzy he felt. He’d never defrosted this rough before. The air tasted delicious, the light hurt his eyes, and as he collapsed gasping over the edge he took a moment to enjoy it.

He was in a windowless metal room and for some reason his pod was dripping wet beneath his fingertips. It was crowded and someone was kneeling in front of him. “Can you hear me?”

Derrick nodded and tried to reply, but his lungs weren’t done sucking down air. As his eyes focused better, he saw a pale, serious face resolve above a military uniform. He didn’t recognize the insignia. He tried again. “Where am I?” He pushed himself up, felt his legs nearly buckle. “I wasn’t supposed to serve another tour. They told me they’d thaw me when it was over.”

“You’re onboard The Waker.” The officer was frowning. “We found you while scouting in zone B6.” Upon seeing Derrick’s blank look, he added, “Spain.”

Derrick looked at him for a moment, searching for the joke, and laughed even when he didn’t find one. “What are you talking about? What’s to scout?”

The men wallpapering the room exchanged glances.

“Not another one,” someone murmured.

The officer in front of him didn’t answer, instead asking, “Where are you from?”

He stepped out of the pod, holding onto the edge for support. “Doesn’t the accent give it away? Tennessee.” Silence. “America?” Another exchange of glances.

He searched their faces for recognition. “Did something happen? Is the war—” He cut himself off. Maybe he’d been captured. Or drafted again.

The officer sighed, and took a moment to reply. “Why don’t we continue this conversation in sickbay.”

Derrick nodded tightly. He needed some help walking; something must have gone wrong with cryo. Maybe they shelled the city. All the halls were enclosed—he realized he must be on a ship of some kind. It was big enough that he couldn’t feel its movement.

They wound down a series of corridors until they reached an infirmary. He didn’t recognize half the equipment, and the other half looked out of date.

“Please, take a seat.” The officer who had escorted him, probably the captain, stepped back and fell into parade rest as a medic came forward to take his pulse.

The medic raised an eyebrow at the sluggish beat of his heart and twisted to face the captain. “Sir, did we find him in the old city? The odds of finding more remnants were supposed to be slim.”

“Old city?” Derrick felt his throat tighten, and the captain winced.

“There…was an event. Quite some time ago. Sea level has risen since then.”

He realized he was shuddering. “Sea-level? How long has it been?”

The captain looked down, and Derrick was already getting sick of the way no one wanted to meet his eyes. “We don’t know when you were last awake. But no one has called this area Spain for at least two hundred years.”

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