Authors: Nicole Stark
Table of Contents
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Copyright © 2015 by Nicole Burton. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. Printed in the United States of America.
Library of Congress Number 2015912176
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For God, my savior, and Mom, who has supported me in all my endeavors and never stopped believing in me.
A loud siren woke Avalon up.
Avalon shivered and convulsed as a mysterious liquid flowed passed her arms, passed her legs, and cold air assaulted her nostrils.
She struggled against something holding her back. She tried to open and shut her mouth, but could do neither as something was stuck in her throat.
Someone spoke in the darkness.
“I am here,” the soothing voice said. “Don’t worry. You are going to be alright.”
Who the heck are you? How dare you tell me everything is going to be alright. It most definitely is not going to be alright. Something is holding me down against my will, my mouth is closed shut and I can’t see!
Avalon’s thoughts fell to her father and her stomach tightened.
Where is Dad?
Something is wrong.
Avalon continued to thrash against the restraints.
“Don’t worry, you aren’t blind. It happens to everyone when they wake up from cryosleep,” the voice said. “You will be able to see better in an hour as the ointment wears off your eyes.”
Someone uncuffed her wrists and ankles and removed various IV lines. Avalon curled and uncurled her hands, stretching them out for the first time in decades. As the horrible trach tube was removed, she gagged.
I should flee right now. But no, I don’t know where I am. Where would I go? I need to play it calm.
After opening her eyes over and over again, the obscured view began to focus. When the person attached to the voice blocked her line of sight she followed the movements with her head.
What is that smell!
Smells of alcohol, sanitizer, air freshener, and the pungent odor of human sickness slapped her in the face causing her nose to curl upwards.
The voice laughed.
Glad someone thinks this is funny. They won’t for long though. Not once my eyesight returns
After a few moments, Avalon attempted to sit up.
Something cold and metallic latched onto Avalon’s left wrist, causing her to twitch for a minute with alarm.
What is that?
“Don’t worry. This is a smartwatch monitor for your vitals. I suggest you calm down as your pulse rate is very high.”
The voice wrapped a warm blanket around her and assisted her in rising from her cryochamber to sitting down in a chair. Clutching her throat, Avalon gestured for water and listened to the sound of padded footsteps leaving the room. A minute later, she sipped water from a cup.
After taking a few slow sips, Avalon downed the rest in one gulp and said with a hoarse voice, “Thank you.” The voice nodded and brought her some more water before she asked for it. After finishing the second cup, Avalon asked, “Who are you and where am I?”
“The name is Ilium,” he said. His voice had a nice tenor to it, not too loud or too soft. “I am a physician.”
You look way too young to be a physician. You’re twenty-two years old max.
“I know you have a lot of questions. Most people do after waking. However, I need you to remain calm,” he requested.
That’s easy for you to say. You weren’t tied down, with a random stranger in front of you.
“Do you remember anything about the past?” Ilium asked.
Avalon racked her brain for memories. She had a hard time remembering her own name, much less the mumbo jumbo Ilium wanted. However, the more she racked her brain, turning over various distorted images, the more the images took proper shape as they resurfaced bit by bit from the deep recesses of her foggy cognizance.
She remembered someone standing over her, placing some kind of mask over her face. Images of long nights staring through a telescope with her father emerged, tracking something. More images flooded her mind, like skiing down a pearly white slope in the Andes, barbecuing and fireworks on the fourth of July, swimming in the neighbor’s pond, and crisp orange leaves falling to the ground.
Yet, uncertainty chased her about how she came to be here. She remembered the sound of someone calling out a long laundry list of names, someone her brain recognized but whose name she could not recall.
That man. The one always standing on a podium or surrounded by flags. He is very important. Who is he?
Avalon shuddered as her pulse raced again. Her father would never let her enter a place like this alone. “I don’t remember anything about this place. Where am I?”
“You are in Humanity’s One Plan for Escape, otherwise known as HOPE habitat. The HOPE habitat is designed to protect you and about five thousand others from an extinction level asteroid.”
She pivoted her head towards Ilium as fresh tears formed in her eyes.
He detected the asteroid one of those times he looked through her telescopes. He later alerted the President and media outlets to the asteroid’s collision course with Earth. Her heart ached for her father. Her mother died shortly after giving birth. Diagnosed with a heart problem which required powerful medicines—medicines that would have aborted the fetus growing inside of her, Avalon’s mother, Margery, chose to ignore her doctor’s advice and do nothing to harm her chances of bearing a child after being told of her infertility since her teenage years.
As Avalon grew up, she often wondered what life would have been like for her father if her mother had lived, and she had never been born. She usually had these feelings when she caught him staring off into a distant place or caressing her mother’s photo on the fireplace mantle. Most men of his stature and rapport would have hired a nanny to help out, but her father always believed in separation of work and home. Despite his ever increasing workloads, he prepared home cooked meals every other day. Her father made huge sacrifices throughout his life to support her, and he never remarried.
“I know it is a lot to take in. Take your time,” Ilium said.
“Where is Dad?” she asked.
Ilium’s face looked confused, as though she said something wrong.
“He was denied entry. Remember?”
Avalon continued to rack her brain for memories. But most of her memories consisted of events far precluding anything to do with this place.
“Denied? What do you mean?”
Ilium’s pained expression answered for him.
“Only those between the ages of eighteen to twenty five were allowed entry, barring the President and the head scientist Viggo.”
Avalon’s lower lip trembled. Tears formed in her eyes.
“You mean to tell me that my father left me in here
“Not alone. Like I said, five thousand others are present.”
Avalon shook her head from side to side. She took the biodegradable cup and squished it in between her hands. It didn’t satisfy her anger. She wanted to squish something else. Perhaps, the President’s skull.
“I don’t believe you. You’re not even a physician! You’re too young!” Avalon blurted out.
“Excuse me?” Ilium asked.
“You’re too young to be a doctor. Where is the doctor? Forget that, where is the President!”
Ilium’s face turned red at Avalon’s bluntness. “If I hadn’t heard that same exact question more than a thousand times, I would be upset. But I am the doctor, Ms. Adams. I am young, yes, because I skipped high school.”
“I don’t care what age you are anymore,” she said. “Where is the President?”
“Don’t worry. You will get to see the President today. But not in this state.”
Ilium reached into a dresser and retrieved some brown scrubs, socks, and black combat boots. “These are for you,” he said placing them in her lap. “I am going to leave the room for a minute, so you can get dressed in private.”
Avalon listened to the soft echo of footsteps as he left the room. Her eyes were still a bit fuzzy, but she detected a few more colors and the general outline of a shirt from the clear hole in the center and at the two sides. She placed the shirt over her head first, and slid her leotard off underneath it. After feeling around for the tag, which she placed on the back end of her rear, she slid her pants on. The socks were a much simpler affair. Last, she stuck her foot in each shoe to discern left from right and placed the correct shoe on the correct foot.
“I’m done now,” she eked out.
After returning to the room, Ilium said, “Great. You are coming around quickly.”
Not quickly enough.
Avalon took a deep breath. “The alarms. Why were they going off when I woke up?”
“We think something is wrong with the wiring in the building. We are trying to fix it, and our patchwork lasts for a couple of days, but the cryochambers have been prematurely opening on occasion.”
Avalon chewed on what he said for a moment before asking her next question.
“Cryochambers.” Avalon looked back at the pod from which she emerged. “How long have I been in that thing?”
“One hundred years.”
Avalon took a deep breath. All she had ever known, all of her friends and family, were long dead. She truly entered this habitat alone.
Avalon felt like her sanity was slipping, slipping from her fingers which every word Ilium spoke. Avalon cried silently in anguish over her whole world collapsing.
Ilium walked over to her and placed a hand on her shoulder.
Avalon knocked it off.
“Don’t try to comfort me. I need to process this alone.”
Ilium backed away. He didn’t look angry at her brush off, but concerned.
After a few minutes, she wanted to know more about the habitat. Between sniffles she asked, “How many others are awake?”
“At present, around one thousand and forty eight members awake.”
Of course, that number didn’t mean anything. She was pretty certain she didn’t know anyone here. So she was still alone, even if there were other warm bodies physically inhabiting the space.
Ilium continued, “The President and the Council believes it is best to acclimate people to the habitat via smaller groups, without having to deal with everyone all at once.” In his calm voice he added, “Every three months we wake up twelve hundred and fifty people. By the end of the year, all five thousand members will be awake.”
Avalon swiveled her head to study the room in greater detail. Column after column and row after row of cryochambers filled the room.
Avalon wiped the tears from the corners of her eyes and returned her gaze to Ilium. “The Council? Who all comprises the Council?”
“The Council consists of six cryogenic members chosen to be awakened first. They all awoke ten years prior to us, so they are between 28-35 years old now.”
“What? Why six members? And why were they awakened early?”
“Each member represents one of the six main occupations in the habitat. Agriculture, Medical, Engineering, Energy, Entertainment, and Terraforming. They were awakened earlier in order to lay the groundwork for the rest of us to complete the mission.”
Avalon’s stomach growled. She moved her hand towards it, in a desperate effort to quiet the rumblings.
“You need real food now that you are awake, so I am going to leave you briefly to bring you some soup,” Ilium said.
After five minutes, he returned with a bowl of chicken noodle soup. He sat it on a table next to her. The smell wafted to her nose, making her stomach growl even more. Avalon grabbed the bowl and sipped on it.
Canned. Yuck! But what can I expect in this rat motel.
Avalon sat in silence for the next few minutes as her vision progressed from seeing shapes and outlines to seeing Ilium’s facial structures. Ilium’s wavy black hair was in stark contrast to his ivory skin.
Avalon took another sip of soup, when a little bit wasted on her scrubs.
I am already messing up. It’s so dark in here!
“Is it me or are the lights dim?” Avalon asked.
“No, it is not you. We rely on solar power, and we also conserve energy which means keeping the lights dim.”
“Can I have a napkin?” Avalon asked.
Ilium tore off a paper towel from a dispenser and Avalon dotted her shirt with it.
Everything in the spacious room with cement grey floors was glossy and shiny. Her gaze turned back towards Ilium, and lingered a moment longer than it should have. Heat rose up within her, and she looked away.
He said I woke up early.
“When was I supposed to wake up?” Avalon asked.
“You were supposed to be a part of the crew set to wake up at the sixth month mark,” Ilium said.
The six month mark. I wonder why so late.
“Do you feel like standing up?” Ilium asked.
Avalon placed her bowl of soup on the table beside her and slowly rose to her feet. As she took one step after another, her left foot slipped. Ilium grabbed her by the arm and caught her before she fell.
“Easy now,” Ilium said while taking in her face and those lips shaped like a cupids bow.
“Why don’t you sit here for a minute,” Ilium said as he eased her back down into the chair.
“Thanks,” Avalon said.
Funny what one hundred years of cryosleep could do to a girl.