CHAPTER 40

514 73 7
                                                  

With Nova changed into a gravity jumpsuit—a specially designed suit created to wear inside the fuselage of a spaceship—Sarah acted quickly. In the back room of the lab again, she hurried Nova over to a cryogenic hibernation chamber. The lieutenant commander became disturbed when she saw the unconscious occupants of the other chambers, but Sarah didn't give her time to think. She coaxed Nova into lying on her back and reassured her that she would understand everything soon. With Nova partially confused and still weak from the reanimation process, the task of getting her into proper position was simple enough.

After securing a strap over Nova's legs and another across her chest, Sarah tapped a selection on her eBoard tablet and the glass lid closed on the sleep chamber.

"What are you doing?" Nova said. "Why are you putting me back inside one of these things?"

"This is different," Sarah replied. "I don't have time to explain. You just have to trust me, I'm a doctor."

Nova replied only with a wrinkled brow and a slight grimace, seemingly accepting Sarah's reassurance.

After what Sarah learned from the process with Wolf, she had already made the proper alterations to the refrigeration units on each chamber. Now, she could manually lower the temperatures inside the units to twenty-eight degrees Fahrenheit by adjusting the controls on her tablet. She activated the coolant and watched as cold air rushed into the encasement, producing a crystallized fog on the glass. It turned out it didn't matter which came first, the frigid air or the serum. All that mattered was that the two were introduced together, consecutively.

Nova shivered. "That's co-co-cold."

Sarah smiled nervously as she released the serum in gas form.

Nova coughed and pressed her hands to the glass lid. "What is this? What are you doing to me?"

"Just breathe. That's all you have to do."

Seconds later, Sarah followed the serum with the anesthesia, it too in gas form. Prior to Nova's reanimation, the other members of the astronaut crew had been treated somewhat differently. Initially, they had been rendered unconscious by the gas issuing from the vents in the ceiling. With the help of several of Admiral Jax's military police assigned to the base, their clothes had been changed into the specially designed gravity jumpsuits, then they were lifted with care, set in their respective cryo units and secured with the straps over their legs and chest. Since they needed to be awake for the serum to be administered appropriately, Sarah allowed the anesthesia to wear off...almost. With groggy eyes opening up inside the sleep chambers, she released the serum gas, lowered the temperature to an arctic chill, and then knocked them out again.

It had been a challenge to get to this point, but Sarah had accomplished the unthinkable with the serum. As far as she was concerned, the assembly of the crew was just another step along the way.

The readouts on her eBoard tablet showed the vital signs of each crew member: Phoenix Drake, Nova Kailani, Callisto Tenzing, Ariel Fairhaven, and Luna Skye. All vitals of each subject had been stabilized at the project's recommended levels. She monitored each individual closely for signs of unusual side effects. Everything seemed to be going as planned. As a final measure, the unconscious crew of the Titan X spacecraft were given the correct combination of drugs intravenously to regulate their bodily functions during the extended sleep. A robotic injection arm inserted a needle into the neck of each crew member and delivered the proper dosage of the drugs. No one wanted to use the bathroom on themselves in the opening days of space travel, and then wake up years later with dried urine or excrement stuck to their under garments.

Each cryogenic hibernation chamber extended out into the open space of the room. Sarah observed their sleeping bodies, navy blue jumpsuits with long sleeves, hands resting comfortably on their stomachs. Their hearts beat at barely detectable rates, their breathing so light, it was imperceptible to the human eye to see the rise and fall of their chests. Body temperatures hovered at eighty-eight point six degrees Fahrenheit. That was the newest turn of events. The latest in hibernation technology didn't require nearly freezing someone in stasis. Although extreme cold activated the serum and triggered the anti-aging properties, it turned out that their bodies didn't have to remain in subfreezing temperatures for the duration of hibernation. Keeping their body temps ten degrees below the normal ninety-eight point six was sufficient.

Prior to hibernation, each subject received the proper brain downloads for everything they needed to know in regards to their mission. Of course, certain aspects had been classified and would not be revealed until deemed pertinent. Additional downloads would be available once they reached their destination: Arcturus for the first phase of the mission, and then eventually Saturn's moon, Titan.

Five of the six chambers were filled, only Sarah's remained empty. She stared at the curved glass lid, half open, waiting for her to take her place.

"Are you ready, Dr. Lawson?" Admiral Jax asked from behind. "As soon as you are in hibernation, the chambers will be loaded onto the Titan X spacecraft, secured and then the ship will be prepped for launch."

Sarah moved to the edge of her cryo chamber. "Hibernating for the journey." She exhaled a deep breath. "It's been a while since I've been under."

"But when you get to Arcturus, it'll be like you just woke up from a nap."

Sarah sat on the cushioned bedding of her chamber. "I've already lived a lifetime, saw people I loved grow old and die."

"But Jake is still out there."

"If I can reach him in time." Sarah got in her unit and stretched out on her back. She waited for the lid to close, the gases to take effect. "Where's Wolf?"

The admiral hesitated before answering. His eyes narrowed. "He's on assignment elsewhere."

"How's he doing? I haven't seen him much since he was cured."

"He's fine. Although...he doesn't like the idea of not tagging along on your trip."

Sarah tore her eyes from the admiral. Looked straight up at the ceiling. "He'd only get in the way. He's too territorial. Might try to mark his territory on Titan." She smiled nervously.

"They don't call him, Wolf, for nothing. But your right, he's an alpha, he'd try to run the show."

Sarah's smile transformed into a flat, harsh stare.

"You'll get your orders when you arrive via brain download. No need to complicate things now."

"There's always more."

"Did you think that I'd go through all this trouble just to save Jake?"

"I perfected the serum for you."

"That's right. You did, but there's more to this than a rescue mission, or even just a trip to the far reaches of space. A lot more."

Sarah nodded in recognition. Something much greater was at stake, and the admiral wasn't going to reveal it until the right time.

"We'll monitor the ship the entire way. If anything goes wrong, we'll be able to fix it remotely. Don't worry." Admiral Jax pressed a button and the lid closed. "Good night, Dr. Lawson. Happy travels."

With no need to go through the process of administering the serum, the hibernation gases flooded the compartment and Sarah slipped into a deep dreamless sleep.

For two and a half years.

Titan XWhere stories live. Discover now