Author : Thomas Howe
The sleep pod hissed. He awoke full of dreams of empty fields and dark corridors.
He sat up, his feet hitting the cold floor. He walked naked to the console, checking the monitor.
“When am I?”
The computer clicked and whirred. One line of code appeared: SEPTEMBER 28, 2012.
He whispered a curse. “Too late. Just too late.”
He looked around the small windowless cabin. The external monitors were black. The pod and the computer filled the tiny space. His clothes still hung over the console, his long blade still propped against the wall. It felt like a short nap. It had actually been more than a century.
All the planning ended here. Piecing the craft together took him more than a year, and they tracked him down that morning, so he had to move up the launch. In a hurry.
He reached for the blade. The implants in his hands stuttered; solar energy hadn’t touched them for over a century, and they’d be out of juice soon. He used up most of it finishing the ship. He had planned to recharge before launch, but the drone ships changed that plan.
“Open the hatch,” he muttered.
The screen flashed: UNABLE TO COMPLY.
He went to an access panel on the wall, opened it. The processors looked fine.
“Run a diagnostic,” he said.
Click. Whirr. ALL SYSTEMS OK. FUEL LEVELS AT 84 PERCENT.
It was possible to relaunch, perhaps. He had planned a roundtrip, but the sleep pod screwed him over. He was out way too long.
“Open the hatch,” he tried again.
UNABLE TO COMPLY.
“Why won’t the hatch open?”
UNABLE TO COMPLY. UNABLE TO COMPLY. UNABLE—
He slammed his fist against the panel, electricity flying from his hand. The computer’s screen went black.
“Perfect,” he said. He punched some keys on the console. The screen relit, its cursor flashing.
“Reset navigation to original temporal destination. August first, nineteen-oh-two.”
“Is there enough fuel left to—“
ATTENTION! MORE POWER IS REQUIRED TO ENGAGE LAUNCH SEQUENCE! PLEASE REPLENISH FUEL STORES TO NINETY PERCENT MINIMUM!
“I was afraid of that,” he said. He accessed historical data and found the temporal line to the virus. It hadn’t mutated yet.
His original plan was to return to the virus’s inception around the turn of the twentieth-century, to eliminate it there. He started running the numbers of infected. It was fifty thousand, give or take. All carriers, but no symptoms. It still lay dormant.
Maybe he wasn’t too late after all.
“Can we synthesize an immunization?”
Click. Whirr. FORMULA FOR VACCINE IN DATABASE.
“Good. How do I get it to the population?”
UNABLE TO COMPLY.
He rolled his eyes and started looking around the cabin. The first step was to get out, recharge. Himself and the ship.
CURRENT LOCATION: BALTIC SEA. ELEVATION: 187 METERS BELOW SEA LEVEL.
“Shit.” He pressed more buttons. “Do we have enough fuel to surface?”
FUEL LEVELS AT 84 PERCENT. SAFE TRAVEL TO SURFACE IS WITHIN PARAMETERS.
“Do it,” he said, strapping himself into the console.
The ship, one giant engine, began to rumble. He watched the monitors. The monitors changed from black to dark blue to light blue. Bubbles rushed past. His ears began to pop. “Here we go,” he said.
The ship burst through the surface of the waves. The screen showed the churning waters of the sea.
“Now will you open the hatch?”
The hatch above him hissed, and sunlight poured into the tiny cabin.
He stood under the beams of light, blade in hand, recharging.
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