Friday, July 27, 2012

Awaken the Serpents of Eden - Chapter One







All I could feel in my first flickering of renewed consciousness was a sense of warmth and comfort while floating formless in utter darkness. Neither space nor time held any meaning and if there had been anyone around to ask me whether I wanted to rejoin the land of the living or continue my womb-like existence I would have most definitely chose the latter. Some very small part of my mind dimly remembered my deep stasis sleep training and that what I was feeling was just the nanny computer running a series of tests to find out if I still had a viable brain and body. It bothered me little to know that if either failed the computer would chemically force me back into stasis then turn off the support systems. When I began to feel my new awareness begin to evaporate, I figured the jig was up and that I would permanently slip back into oblivion.

It could have been hours, days, or months later but much to my surprise consciousness did return and when it did, so did sensation to my body. I felt very weak and only able to move my head, mild claustrophobia began to set in but I took deep breaths to control it and prayed the support systems were still operational. Somehow, the situation reminded me of the insects I saw as a kid stuck to the flypaper hanging in my great-grandmother’s house.

Thankfully, a small, weak light sputtered on behind my head illuminating the interior of my stasis cylinder allowing me to see that the preservative gel that had cocooned me for an unknown, but probably very long length of time. With my cylinder tilted at a forty-five degree angle I could see the gel had drained to a level just below my neck.

That at least answered the question as to why I felt so restrained. With the light, I now saw the feeder tube hanging down from the top of the cylinder and knew that if I wanted to get out of what was now a death trap I had to get a hold of it. I immediately lifted my head straining to get as close as possible, grabbed the end with my teeth, and began to suck on the high-energy concoction that in theory would flush my system of the chemicals that kept me in stasis and restore my cells to proper function.

Stuck in my cylinder in the middle of the recovery process I had no real ability to tell how much time was going by, probably a design oversight, but at some point I started to realize that this was not a general wake up for the twenty-two hundred other individuals in my group who were also in stasis sleep. If standard operating procedures were in effect, someone on the medical team would have long since made contact through the intercom. There were several possibilities associated with the silence but I would not learn anything until I was outside.  With the only activity available to me consisting of sucking on a device shaped uncomfortably like a dildo and drinking the thick slush it provided, I had a lot of time to review my predicament.

***

“You want to join those rich peaceniks going to Mars?” The good senator for South Carolina laughed aloud from across his very expensive and ornate redwood desk. “Son, that bunch of science eggheads and trust fund brats won’t have much use for an Army Green Beret on that airless dust ball of a planet.”

Despite the fact that the senator from my home state had long since told me to relax I still sat at attention in the chair across from him. “Well Senator Moore,” I said attempting to frame my response respectfully, “the Pax Consortium has an open call for five-hundred non-technical settlers. I hold an engineering degree from Duke University and more importantly, I am a fully qualified Special Forces medic. I’m completely on par with any physician assistant, hell sir, I can do basic surgery. I’m sure they could find some use for me.”

Senator Moore took several deep breaths and leaned back in his equally expensive chair examining me as if I was some sort of minor bug that had chose that moment to buzz around his head. It was clear I was irritating the man, which bothered me in a way since he was the first intelligent senator from my home state in nearly a hundred years. While he collected his thoughts I looked over his “I Love Me wall” which spanned all four walls of his inner office.

The guy not only took part in the Occupy Revolution back in 2028 but was a veteran of the North American War of 2042 and the Siberian Intervention of 2049. The last earning him a Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery surviving behind Chinese lines for two weeks before discovering a mobile Chinese tactical missile, killing the crew, then using the missile to destroy the headquarters of the Tenth corps of the Chinese Army. That one missile killed off the Chinese command structure creating enough chaos to allow beleaguered Russian and American troops to regroup. 

Before the Chinese High Command in Beijing knew it, five of their front line divisions were routed. Throw in four Chinese mega-carriers destroyed in the Battle of the Aleutians about the same time along with the majority of the Mongolian Army deciding to mutiny and China had no choice but to sue for peace. To this day, Senator Moore was considered a war criminal in Greater China, to annoy a man of his accomplishments and political power was not a good idea. Just when I was beginning to think I might need to leave the senator leaned forward and made me an offer I could not refuse.

“Listen Captain Logan,” he began, “you are a hero to the entire nation for saving those people at the Atlanta maglev train station from the neo-Confederate and neo-Canadian terrorists but this is 2078 and no one, not even me, has the pull to get those Pax freaks to accept a soldier on their crew manifest. As you well know, the Pax Consortium is an umbrella group made up of private and self-funded organizations from a hundred different nations that want to establish a permanent human colony on Mars. If you sort through the eggheads, idealists, adventurers and other nutcases everything boils down to the fact they believe terrestrial-based humanity is about to commit suicide.”

While my army physiological profile stated I had a strong desired to be on an open frontier like the American west of the ninetieth–century, hence the official reason for me wanting to be a member of the Pax mission. Truth be told, I also felt the multi-polar world of the late twenty-first century with its complicated geopolitical alliances and confederations was a bomb just waiting for a half a reason to explode. Back in the twentieth century when the world had a lot fewer people and more resources the politicians, always a near moronic bunch, could find ways to keep the nuclear genie in its bottle. But with the   heavily armed rogue nations of 2078 like fascist South Africa, the Corporate Republic of Korea , and Imperial Peru stirring up trouble amongst the major powers, who themselves were an unstable lot, a nuclear war seemed inevitable.

“Captain,” Senator Moore said, “there is no guarantee the Pax mission will ever get off the ground, in fact I know there are certain factions that will do everything possible to stop them before their first unmanned cargo rocket blasts off. Now what I can offer you is the American government’s version of the Pax mission and it has the benefit of not having to leave the planet. Its called Operation Rip Van Winkle…”
After he explained the top-secret program, I accepted on the spot. At the time, it seemed like a good idea.

***

After I sucked down the last of the recovery slush, a chemical was released at the bottom of my stasis cylinder turning the thick preservative gel into a watery substance that began to drain quickly. My mild case of claustrophobia quickly grew while I impatiently waited for the interior indicator light to turn green and for the top half of the cylinder to open up like a casket, which was what it was beginning to feel like. After several minutes, a sense of dread swept over me when the light finally turned green but I did not hear the sound of the locks popping.

During training, the instructors from both the Department of Defense and NASA informed us that the stasis cylinder assembly was rated for three-thousand years of life support operation. Somehow, visions formed in my head of my entire group successfully making it through the centuries because of the dependable stasis systems only to perish because some simple locking mechanism jammed. I was just about to give over to utter panic when my right hand brushed up against a handle. A quick check with my left hand found another just like it, it was then I breathed a deep sigh of relief while feeling rather stupid. I now remembered the government contractor had included an emergency release system, one incased in the preservative gel and after an easy turn of both handles, I was rewarded with the top half of the cylinder suddenly sliding down and dropping to the floor with a loud clang.

Despite the assurances of everyone supervising the project, I did not immediately feel like I could step out my stasis chamber and go for a ten-mile run. Simply moving my arms and hands to pull off the sensor wires attached to my body was a major endeavor.  Giving myself a few minutes to gather my strength, I looked around the huge chamber housing half of my group. Above me, the huge light emitting panels, activated because the computer had pulled me from stasis, were struggling to come up to proper illumination. In the twilight of the chamber, I was able to see the indicator lights on stasis cylinders near me. A little over half showed a green light indicating a working system, the others without any lights meant that the occupants were dead.

With so many possibilities about the fate of my cohorts and me running around my head, I forced myself to step out of the cylinder and fight my way over to the nearest control desk. I literally dropped into the plastic seat in front of it exhausted but was able to activate the monitoring systems.  

The central idea of the Rip Van Winkle project was to have six redoubts positioned in wilderness areas of the country that each could house twenty-two hundred healthy males and females in stasis along with everything needed to reconstruct human civilization. The crew of each redoubt would serve a fifty-year term in suspended animation then  be released back into the world if they wanted. My initial hope as I waited for the monitoring systems to boot up was that somehow the government had forgotten about us and once all the survivors were awaken we would emerge into a new world of peace and plenty.

Eventually all monitoring systems became active and the very first thing I did was get a time fix. My group spent four years in training before going into stasis in 2082. My redoubt received automated information updates for seven more years after that before everything went dead over the course of two weeks. I stepped back on the data about a month and watched the video feeds as the human race committed suicide.

After the nukes started flying modern global communications quickly collapsed leaving only old-fashioned ham radio operators living in very remote areas. One by one, these isolated and scared individuals went silent themselves leaving only static that to me sounded like death laughing. When I finally got around to calculating the current date I was surprised to find out we had been in stasis for twenty-seven hundred years. Long enough to be certain that since outside survivors or members of the other redoubts had not dug us out; we were probably the last humans on earth.

9 comments:

Akelamalu said...

Science Fiction but I could really see this happening! Fantastic writing, as always, Beach. :)

Mike Williams said...

A very nice start, I'm looking forward to reading more.

Beach Bum said...

Akelamalu: Was reading "Evolution" by the awesome British sci-fi author Stephen Baxter and in that book he had a chapter dealing with 21st century humans waking up one thousand years in the future after WW3. Although I love Mr. Baxter's book I was not happy with that chapter, this is a vain attempt to write what I think would happen. Everything has about the story has been changed, only the basic premise of suspended animation is the same.

Mike: Wanted to have Captain Logan make it outside the Redoubt in this chapter but could not make it work without going into the 5000 word area.

Marja said...

A fascibnating read. Would love to have a peek in the future but definitely not 2700 years ahead.
A hundred would do. The name rip van winkle sounded Dutch and I looked it up. Yes he seems to have been a creature from dutch descendence in a story of him waking up in the future.
You did a great job with this. Thanks

Pixel Peeper said...

Very fascinating... the phrase only static that to me sounded like death laughing gave me the goosebumps.

So...you are working on Chapter Two?

Beach Bum said...

Marja: Yeah, the story of Rip Van Winkle was a favorite of mine as a child. On a side note, it was widely told when I was growing up but my daughter read a little of this story and asked me who Rip was, apparently she had never heard of the character.

Believe it or not in the greater cosmic scheme of things I actually have a happy ending planned for this story.

Pixel: While I am fairly happy with the results this story segment went wrong several ways. Originally, it was just going to be a short story of about 3000 words but to satisfy my need to explain everything about what was happening I soon realized it would have to be much longer.

Throw in a very bad week and as last Friday approached I was way behind schedule and had lost some of the story line. So, I cut it short leaving the main character inside the redoubt. Now I do have a new direction to take the story that could actually make it novel length. But no, the second chapter isn't written but I should start it Monday morning.

Mr. Charleston said...

I'm in a short-attention-span phase at the moment BB, but like what I've read and will continue to tag along perhaps without inane comment like this one.

Randal Graves said...

You best be working on part two but happy endings? You big sap.

Life As I Know It Now said...

Hi BB :) You sure do know how to spin a yarn. Good stuff!