Deep Time: Drawn from the Water, part 7

“He’s breathing,” Anders said. “Quick, Tully, give me an O2 read.”

Tully pointed her datapad at the pod. “Eighteen percent, but dropping rapidly.”

“Are we doing this?” Randall removed from his side pouch a portable life support system with an oxygen tank and mask.

“He’s alive, so yes,” Anders said. He shined his light on the control panel, brushed his gloves over some ancient buttons, and found a long rotary handle. He pulled it out and began turning it. Gas escaped from the seal of the stasis pod, rushing out in a hiss that sounded loud even in the EV suits. Anders put his fingers under the edge of the glass and tried to lift it up, but it wouldn’t fully disengage.

Tully grabbed his arm as he tried to operate the console, still drawing a miniscule amount of power. “Anders, look!”

Anders paused to see the man’s face through the partially lifted glass. It was a placid, serene face, but there were long strips of metal emerging from his head in several places where his neural and auditory implants entered his cranium. His eyes fluttered open, and he shook his head in confusion. His hands moved up to the implants, probing and re-probing.

“He’s confused,” Randall said. “I bet he’s trying to connect to his network and failing.”

“I might need to power this panel up to get the lid all the way off,” Anders said. He pulled in closer and pried open a panel of the pod. He removed another universal power supply and connected it to a transformer. Dim LEDs were replaced with brilliant fluorescent lights as the pod lit up. The man inside howled and covered his eyes. The lid released and flew up, held onto the pod by an ancient rusty hinge. The man inside tumbled forward, his arms flailing. His hoarse voice carried in the dark.

“Quick, grab him!” Randall said, reaching forward and seizing one of the stranger’s sleeves. The man recoiled and, without gravity or hold to restrict movement, both of them began to tumble. Randall’s helmet hit another pod with a dull thud. He grabbed a nearby rail and recovered.

“Randall! Do you have a sedative?” Tully said, pushing away from the drifting, flailing, screaming man.

“Yes! Let me find it,” Randall said as he opened one of his belt pouches. He drew out a stout syringe and pushed toward the man, holding the needle like a dagger.

“No!” Anders said, pulling himself beside Tully. “The oxygen level in here is low, he’ll lose consciousness shortly. Don’t risk injuring yourselves or tearing your suit.”

Randall nodded and waited for the man to stop, but as the moments ticked by he seemed to continue his raving. As they watched, the lights on either side of them began to flicker back to life. First one pod, then another, lit up with fluorescence, revealing here and there beyond drops of water parts of corpses and ruined clothing.

Tully screamed. Anders turned his head to see yet another person floating toward them, long hair flying about in a yellow storm. Randall let the hypodermic needle go and drew his weapon again. Before he could draw, sparks flew from bursting bulbs, and then the lights around them flickered a few times before dying again.

“Damn it!” Randall yelled, reaching again for his flashlight. “Damn it!”

Anders reached for his own flashlight and shot it out into the mist, searching for the extra person. Tully continued screaming. The flashlight beams crossed and flashed, confusing Anders’s sense of space. Tully thrashed and her headlamp swung wildly. Ander turned to see her kicking at a person just outside her reach. The person floated limply. Randall did not fire, but Anders could hear him breathing loudly through the radio.

“She’s dead,” Randall said. “It’s – it was – a woman.”

Anders pushed over and shined his light directly on the face-down body. The pale face of a woman, blue eyes half-open in an abyssal stare, greeted him. Tully stopped screaming and started to sob.

“She can’t have been dead long,” Anders said.

“Probably the low oxy. Where’s the other one? The man,” Randall said.

Ander swung his light around the outside of the corridor and settled it on the man they had pulled from the stasis pod. His eyes were half shut and he was breathing heavily, still trying to move his arms and legs. Anders pushed off of a console and floated toward the man.

“He’s losing consciousness. Get that oxy mask on him, and give him the sedative anyway.”

“Aye,” Randall said. The two of them worked on the still defiant man, greatly weakened by the atmosphere. Anders held the man’s arms as Randall hastily administered a sedative. As he withdrew the hypodermic needle, small drops of blood flew off in tiny spheres of black-red. Randall released the needle, sending it floating, and pushed the oxygen mask onto the man’s face. He affixed with an elastic band. The man’s brown eyes wandered for a moment, then closed.

“Christ almighty,” Anders said. “Let’s get this sod off. Tully.” He turned to look at his niece, who still stared at the floating body, her mouth agape. “Tully!”

Tully shook her head and helmet as if to snap out of sleep. “Sure thing.”

“I didn’t give you any orders.”

Tully ignored him and scanned the area again with her datapad. “I think he’s the only one.”

Anders nodded. “Let’s get out of here then.”

“Thank god,” Randall said.

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