Chapter 01: Cold Start

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Cold.

The entire universe was cold. And dark.

He awoke encased in an icy cocoon of endless obsidian, his mind stripped of logic, reason, and memory. For a segment of time that could have been half of a second or an entire era, he was floating in pure nothingness. His mind was empty. Not even confusion took up residence. For that moment, there was absolutely nothing.

Then, as it was with the Big Bang so long ago, a seed of emotion popped into existence. Something from nothing. The seed grew exponentially. It was fear. Unfiltered, raw, blind terror. He tried to move, to surge up, but he couldn't. His body was a prison of numb flesh. His senses told him nothing. He couldn't feel, hear, smell, see, or taste. But the fear grew and grew, forcing him into action, any action.

The first thing that came to him, like a precious beacon of light, an anchor to latch onto, was his name.

Mark Collins.

Marcus Edward Collins.

It was a cold splash of water across the fiery torrents of his mindless terror. It calmed him for just a moment, enough for him to realize that he could actually feel something. There was something on his face, sealed over his mouth and nose. Knowledge floated to him: there was an oxygen mask helping him breathe.

Why the hell did he have an oxygen mask on him?

Mark tried to gather his thoughts, but it was like walking through quicksand. He tried moving again. This time, there was a response. He could move, there was nothing actually restraining him, it was just that his body was weak. Why? So many questions. Where the hell was he? He still couldn't see anything but he began to get an idea that he was inside of something. This awareness made him feel claustrophobic, made the terror that had begun to recede swell once more and he jerked his arms up. This time, it worked.

In the sense that he actually moved his arms.

All he got for this effort, unfortunately, was a dull, distant pain he slammed the back of his wrists up against some hard, unyielding surface. That only made things worse. He cried out, his own voice sounding hoarse and muffled and pitiful, and he started thrashing around. It felt like he was in a cold, metal coffin.

For a moment, he went away, lost completely in his panicked litany of mute pain and sharp anxiety. Eventually, he exhausted himself. He lay there in the perfect darkness, chest swelling and receding, and he jerked again as the atmosphere he was being fed became very cold. For a moment, blind panic forced him to pull the mask away from his face. Reason quickly made him put it back. The air was still air...it was just cold.

Mark tried once again to calm himself.

He was trapped. That much was obvious. But he could reason this out. Well, it didn't really matter whether or not he felt up to it, he had to. Or he would remained trapped. Maybe someone would come for him...why was he even here in the first place? Where was here? Mark closed his eyes. Visibly, there was no change, but the mere act of doing it helped him think, helped him focus. Okay, okay...he was inside of some metal thing, hooked up to oxygen, and it had suddenly become cold. That sparked a thought somewhere inside his brain.

Almost all stasis tanks had emergency protocols. If the oxygen you were on ran out, then the tank would open up vents along its exterior and start attempting to draw oxygen from the environment around you. Not an ideal scenario if there was no atmosphere around you or if it was compromised somehow, but it was better than suffocating for sure, which you would do if the vents didn't open and your oxygen had run out. So if it was cold outside of the tank, it would make sense that the air being vented in would be cold if this is what had happened. It didn't quite answer any questions, but it helped focus him.

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