Ice In The Veins

Hi! Weekly post story time has come around again. This week it’s a Sci-Fi story set in space involving a man who doesn’t like the idea of being put into a Cryo pod for the duration of their voyage. It’s on the shorter side (for me) at roughly 10,700 words. Hope to keep going with the shorter stories so I can get more of them written. Anyway, lets get into Ice In The Veins.

“What the hell is this?” Soren Jameson asks as he stands barely three steps into the six metre by four metre gray metal box of a room. His expression is one of anger and mistrust.

“What does it look like, Soren, they’re cryo pods?” Another member of the exploratory starships crew, a woman called Nadia, says in response. Her tone is equal parts sarcastic and condescending as she stands there, hands on hips, her head cocked to one side so her slightly above the shoulder dark red hair leans at an angle.

“Cryo pods. No one said anything about cryo pods.” Soren fires off with a snarl that sees the right side of his top lip curl.

“Is that a problem?” Eric says as he finishes getting into the cryo pod circulatory suit. The suit is an off-white colour and sits in complete contrast to the greys all around them.

The cryo pod room isn’t just an empty rectangular shaped box with five pods in. It also has a myriad of pipes and a holographic terminal connected to each of the pods to give readouts. Seeing as there are five pods and five of them it strikes Soren as redundant to have live diagnostic readouts if there is no one there to check them. That isn’t his issue with the pods but he’d be lying if he didn’t admit that it adds to his issues with the pods.

“Of course it’s a fucking problem!” Soren spits in reply as his amber coloured eyes flit from crew member to crew member.

“Why?” Janet, a particularly blunt woman with short dark curly hair says as she sits on the edge of one of the pods. It’s angled, allowing her a direct line of sight to Soren and the door, a standard single human width, behind him. Its wide open but the only view accessible through it is that of the near equally as bland spinal corridor that runs down the length of the Voyager Expedition ship named Frontier.

If you were to see the Frontier from the outside you would likely define it as ugly and not at all in-keeping with the year it has been constructed in. That year being twenty one eighty seven.

The superstructure of the Frontier is a long boxy shape with bulbous protrusions that in no way mesh with the otherwise straight lines of the starship. They are certainly a far cry from the sleek fighters that humanity has constructed for more than a millennia. But unlike those in-atmosphere ultra-manoeuvrable winged marvels, the Frontier has no need to function within an atmosphere. It will make one landing and no more. That is it’s designed and designated purpose. It’s a one and done type of craft, not a reusable, long-term candidate meant for long distance navigation of space.

“I have my reasons.” Soren rumbles as his eyes stay locked on Janet, who in response rolls her own dark brown eyes not at all impressed by the uninformative reply she’s been given by the six foot tall man. He has closely cropped dark brown hair as he stands before them dressed in the same mustard coloured overalls they were all provided with. Why that colour was chosen she hasn’t the faintest clue but for Soren especially it isn’t flattering. Maybe it’s because of his lack of tan, which in itself is unusual for a human in the twenty second century. Though, what little she knows of the man and his two hundred and ten pound weight it doesn’t surprise her. According to what slim details they were all provided about each other and their backgrounds, Soren had served as an engineer. He’s the perfect sort to help establish a colony with running water, sewers, electrical runs with station and substations to ensure that no facilities conflicts with anything else. In that way he’s a valuable, perhaps even essential, member of the crew. If only his demeanour and attitude didn’t make it difficult not to want to punch him in the face and then throw him out an airlock.

“That’s not a reason or an explanation.” Darius, a decidedly cocky guy with blond hair and green eyes, says as he stands there naked as the day he was born, posing as though he is some sort of model. The reality is he is not. His nose is flat, wide and crooked in a way that suggests he’s broken it dozens of times. On top of that his eyes are small, beady and way too far apart when considered with the rest of the proportions of his face. And that is all before you get to his overly thin and pale lips, or the clearly modified chin that is too perfect to be natural.

Soren thinks Darius should have had a full re-profile of his face and not just his chin, if he is that conscious about his looks. However, such things are incredibly costly and perhaps Darius couldn’t’ afford it. Though, it strikes Soren that Darius is arrogant enough to believe that he is gorgeous no matter what he might have been told throughout his thirty one years of life. Still, irrelevant of what the man thinks of himself he could at least cover up as no one, from what Soren can tell from the looks in the other’s eyes, want to see Darius naked.

“OK. I wasn’t told cryo pods were a part of this mission.” Soren states bluntly hoping to bring an end to the conversation.

“So how did you think we were going to get to Victor 23489-3B?” Nadia asks with her trademark venomous tone that Soren is already sick to the stomach of, even though they have only been on Frontier together for a little over three hours.

“Not in cryo pods.” Soren says without giving an answer.

His amber eyes flick to the woman who in response to his reply simply snorts silently as she screws up her face to show her displeasure.

“It’s a three year trip. Did you think we’d just waltz around the ship for all that time with only each other for company?” Nadia utters pointedly.

“Yeah I did to be fair. I thought it was three years of working on the details so when we get to this rock we’re headed to we have a plan.” Soren replies honestly. However, he makes sure to match Nadia’s condescending tone note for note so she understands that what she is doing is in no way difficult or clever. Anyone can do it and with little effort.

“Even if we wanted to we couldn’t.” Eric assures without giving actual detail. That annoys Soren, but the engineer has to admit that out of all the crew, Eric grates with him the least. He seems like a pretty normal guy. To himself, to the point, if not a little chaotic and apparently sometimes having a tendency to not fully elaborate. Soren can work with that however and Eric would no doubt get used to having to elaborate in the engineers’ presence. Still, Soren has to ask, “Why couldn’t we?”

“Hello, dummy…” Janet says making a gesture with her left hand that imitates her knocking on something but actually she is just moving her clenched fist back and forth in empty air.

“…we’re going through a nebula. We pass through that we’ll be irradiated within a few minutes of entering that giant mass of dust and gas. Not exactly conducive to survival or being able to set up a colony, don’t you think?” Janet finishes with a smug smile that sits wide across her face. To make matters worse she’s the medical professional among them. Soren refuses to call her a doctor. She isn’t one. That would have been another three years and it seems that she didn’t merit the time to achieve such a goal. So, in many ways, Janet is a medic. That’s not to downplay or belittle medics; they’re experienced and well trained for the role they carry out. However, Janet calling herself a doctor is like a security guard calling themselves a cop. They aren’t. It isn’t the same. It’ll never be the same. So for the woman to be as superior and arrogant as she is just doesn’t sit right with Soren.

“Starships have radiation shielding.” Soren fires back in reply.

“Not this one. At least not to handle what this vessel will pass through in the nebula.” Eric informs to the surprise of no one, except for Soren that is.

“Didn’t you read the brief?” Darius smirks annoyingly.

Soren would give anything to punch that face right now, but he resists the urge, with difficulty.

“Of course I read the fucking brief, Darius.” Soren booms loud enough that Darius actually takes a step back.

Soren takes note of that. Perhaps Darius isn’t going to be a problem after all. It could be that his bravado is purely on the surface and that he doesn’t like confrontation. That could be useful if true and depending on what happens down on the rock they’re headed for. Soren can never recall the name of the spinning rock they’re headed toward, but he knows that it is only one of hundreds that have been handpicked because of their viability to be fresh colonies for humanity. And they are sorely needed as without faster than light travel, humanity has been forced to rely on the systems it colonised and built jump rings for and to.

Jump rings are the only way humanity has been able to achieve near instantaneous travel across space. The problem is you have to have a ring at each end for the technology to be useful. But with many of the long established colonies now dangerously short on raw materials venturing out into unknown territory is the human races only avenue of forward progress if they wish to sustain the civilization they have spent millennia building. That’s not to say that everyone agrees with the use of humanities remaining precious resources to construct Voyager Expedition starships, like the Frontier, to be hurled out into the universe to establish fresh colonies. Many think it reckless and believe that instead mankind should devote itself to cracking faster than light travel, instead of relying on non-jump ring transit, which is near light travel. Unfortunately, there has been little to no progress on FTL in more than seven hundred years. For that reason alone it was determined by the United Governments to not be a suitable option for ensuring the survival of human civilization. Especially as in the last two decades five colonial wars have had to be fought and quelled via treaty to keep mankind from erupting into all out galactic war.

“Still doesn’t answer why there’s no radiation plating on Frontier.” Soren adds after a slow pan across the four faces of his fellow crew members.

“Adding the plating would have delayed Frontier’s launch two years. As a result it was deemed inefficient.” Eric explains now elaborating and giving context where he did not before.

“Fuck! They lied to me.” Soren mutters to himself before letting out a long deep sigh.

“Now that’s all sorted you going to get in the pod?” Darius queries with his trademark arrogance back to normal as his head is held high and with obviously mock confidence.

“No. I’m not getting in one of those things.” Soren grumbles as his tongue flicks over a tooth along his bottom jaw and off to the left. It’s a habit he’s had since he was a child and it has always been that tooth because that tooth is the first of his adult teeth to come through.

“Why not? What’s the problem? And don’t you dare say, because it’s a personal choice. That is not an answer. We need to know. We’re a crew. We work together.” Nadia drones with her more often than not monotone voice.

“We only just met. This is our first time together. I don’t owe you an explanation as to why I won’t get in one of those pods. That’s for friends and kin and you are neither.” Soren says in response, his eyes locked on Nadia.

“Is that your final answer?” Nadia then asks with a smug smile that Soren can’t fathom the reason for.

“Of course it’s my final answer. Why the hell would I change my mind?” Soren assures with a furrowed brow of confusion.

“Fine. So be it.” Nadia utters with a shrug that comes a couple seconds before she nods once. It’s the sort of nod that screams an order is being issued but why and to whom Soren hasn’t the foggiest.

At least he doesn’t until it is too late and he realises the medic, Janet, isn’t stood where she was before. At that moment he feels a presence behind and to the side of him. He goes to spin about to confront Janet and demand to know what she is doing, but instead he feels a prick on his neck and finds that as he spins about his vision goes into a severe blur.

His sight is so bad he can’t be sure he’ll stop in time to come face-to-face with the woman, so quickly brings himself to a halt. Sadly his vision doesn’t improve and instead leaves him with a view of a blob of colour. No discernible features are clear to him. Shortly after that he feels himself go dizzy, his eyes blink shut, but refuse to reopen and then he feels his balance falter.

Soren is already out before he starts to topple toward the deck plating beneath the crews’ feet. Darius and Eric step forward and just about manage to catch the now unconscious lump that is their engineer, Soren.

“He’s heavier than he looks.” Darius groans trying to fight to keep Soren vaguely upright. Eric is alongside him and has hold of the other side of Soren, though he says nothing he agrees entirely.

Both men are smaller than the one they are currently propping up.

“Get him in the pod.” Nadia orders without a hint of interest in the complaints and whines of Darius.

“Is that a good idea?” Eric queries concerned.

“And what’s the alternative?” Darius questions as he attempts to drag his half of Soren toward the cryo pod with little success, or help from Eric who has made no attempt to move in any way.

“I know but he seemed dead set against it. There must be a reason.” Eric replies with more confidence than any of his fellow crew members believed the man was capable of.

“He’s claustrophobic, I bet. I’ve seen it before. People get tetchy, irrational and even violent when confronted with being told to get in a cryo pod, but it’s the only way. Unless we want to consign him to an agonising death by radiation poisoning that is.” Janet says quickly running through information that seems plausible if not in any way able to be corroborated now that Soren is sedated.

Janet has to admit she is glad the drug worked as quickly as it did, especially after seeing the look on Soren’s face. It was bloody murder and she is convinced had he not succumbed at the moment he did she would be fighting to get him off her neck, which he’d likely he squeezing with his large muscular and heavily scarred hands.

“Cut the chatter. Get him loaded into the pod. Then we can all get some decent rest.” Nadia orders even though she isn’t technically in command. No one of them is. They are supposed to be a crew, a group, a democracy. Yet, so far Nadia seems to have elected herself leader with Janet as her backup because of her medical skills. Darius isn’t thrilled about that. He’s just as qualified as Nadia, who’s here to ensure they can grow enough food sustainably to not only establish themselves but allow for growth of the colony. That will only happen once some of the raw materials have been mined and returned to the existing human worlds. That is where Darius comes in. He’s an expert at mining. He made his fortune at nineteen by mining areas that all his competitors deemed unsustainable or stripped bare. He’d proved them wrong and never looked back since. Until even he started to struggle with extracting raw materials to meet his contracts, most of which were planetary state enterprises with ambitious growth plans for the future. After that he’d been brought in as an exclusive contractor, having sold his business just as the market started to fail. It wasn’t insider trading, at least not in the historical sense. Though, he was aware that if he was struggling then his competitors would have been on the verge of collapse and collapse they did, along with the entire sector, four months later. Even his own company failed and became worth a tiny fraction of the nine hundred billion dollars he’d got from its sale. That’s why he reacquired it. The assets alone were worth more than what he paid to became the sole owner of the company that made him, and now those same machines would be the basis of the new resource rush for humanity.

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