PART 4 - CHAPTER 61

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PART FOUR
—THE TITAN DISCOVERY—

"Houston, we have a problem."
Quote by Jim Lovell, Apollo 13

Commander Phoenix Drake woke up in a glass box. The transparent shell vibrated around him, rattling his body to the core. He had no idea how he came to be inside the clear compartment, on his back, staring up at the darkness. It was mysterious and disturbing because while he was asleep his mind had been a blank slate. No dreams. Nothing. He had simply been unconscious.

Outside the box, red lights blinked on and off, revealing the white interior of a long rectangular room with a curved ceiling. Between the intermittent flashes of red—like the tail lights on a hover car in downtown New York—he made out brief details of the room. In the rounded ceiling, further down the length of the chamber was a hatchway. Beyond that there was an archway that led to another section. But of more interest, across the isle from his own compartment, three other clear case containers held their unconscious occupants in a consecutive single row.

Weird, he thought. Was he in a morgue? His thoughts swirled around in his head. He couldn't place a finger on his location. He wasn't dead. He knew that for sure. Then it came to him like a ghost on the wind, a thread of memory unraveling and revealing itself.

Phoenix winced. Shook his head. Now it was starting to make sense. He had been asleep in a cryogenic hibernation chamber. That was it. His mind started connecting the rest of the dots. He was inside a cryo unit. Short term memory loss was a side effect of coming out of hibernation. It didn't happen every time a person went under but it was always a possibility. In cryo sleep bodily functions were lowered to near undetectable levels. And when it came to thoughts and dreams, brain activity ceased for all intents and purposes, except to control breathing and blood flow from the heart. Physical activity almost came to a complete standstill. He knew all this to be true but for some reason his memory remained foggy and fragmented. He had to reassemble the puzzle, put it back together again in order to understand what was going on and where he was in general and why?

"Emergency! Evacuate immediately. Course irreversible," a computerized male voice blared over the intercom system. The warning repeated again, on a continual loop, startling Phoenix from the jumbled stupor of his thoughts.

The room shook violently.

What's going on? Is this an earthquake?

But wait. The voice said that their course was irreversible. That meant he was on a moving vessel of some kind.

Straps constrained Phoenix's body at the chest and waist. He wriggled his hands free and pressed his fingertips against the rattling glass a few inches above his face. His left hand raked across the clear lid that sealed him inside his box compartment or cryo chamber, whatever it was called. At the moment, the exact terminology escaped his mind, wafting on a breeze.

In the middle of everything going on around him, his right hand came into view. Its appearance confused him. His hand extended from the end of his sleeve—the cuff of a navy blue jumpsuit—his hand smooth and black, not like the rest of his body or his other hand for that matter. The appendage had no feeling or sensation attached to it, which concerned him even more. But on the wave of a thought, the strange limb came alive. Strangely, Phoenix flexed his fingers, staring in wonder. Then another memory rushed in and filled an empty space in his mind. He remembered that he lost his right arm to a great white shark. His right hand began to make sense. He now remembered the prosthetic given to him by Dr. Sarah Lawson and the Titan X program. So, he was awaking from cryogenic hibernation with a highly advanced replacement to his missing right arm.

A figure drifted to the floor beside him, dressed in a navy blue jumpsuit similar to his own. Wavy hair floated magically above the person's head.

Seeing the woman jarred free more fragments of his memory. The uniforms were gravity suits specially designed to wear inside the Titan X spacecraft, meant to be used in conjunction with the ship's artificial gravity. This conclusion meant he was onboard a ship in space and the gravity wasn't working. Spectacular, he thought.

The woman hunched over his cryo unit.

Somehow Phoenix knew her, but her name escaped him. Again, effects of cryo sleep. It would soon pass, he was sure of it. He would soon comprehend it all.

The woman tapped the glass shell of his cryo unit as her legs hovered, stretched behind her, suspended like she was a scuba diver underwater. But there was no water.

A square image appeared on the lid to Phoenix's sleep chamber. Labeled tabs on a computer screen. She pressed the display and the glass glided over his fingers, disappearing into a wall beside him.

The woman...Lawson...Dr. Lawson ripped the Velcro straps apart that secured Phoenix's waist. The middle of his body bowed upward, rising from the cushion of his compartment.

The red light caught glimpses of Dr. Lawson's face. Sarah. That was her name. Her clear complexion was fair and youthful.

The emergency lights blinked off and on leaving the room in darkness before illuminating her soft features once again. Burnt orange hair, like autumn leaves. Shadows again. Then sapphire blue eyes, penetrating and determined.

Sarah freed Phoenix's chest strap.

While he surveyed his surroundings, his legs, weightless, drifted in mid-air. The chest strap Sarah had loosed floated in the zero gravity and snagged together at the ends by accident, holding him in place above the cushioned bedding. His prosthetic hand clawed at the bonds, fruitlessly. Phoenix's left hand struggled, tearing at the Velcro, but not quite able to separate the stubborn meshing of the strap.

Sarah identified the problem and finished the job for Phoenix. He rose above the bedding like he was on a magic carpet.

"Commander Drake," Sarah said loud enough to be heard above the continuous looped playback of the emergency warning, "we have to wake up the others and abandon ship before it breaks apart in Titan's atmosphere."

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