After passing a siphon structure like the ones on Explorer and her sister ships, the group followed down a maintenance shaft, as the large tunnel seemed unsafe.

More damaged corridors opened up behind an access lock, and more torn off wall panels and dirt greeted them. “Be careful with that stuff.” Jason’s tablet gave off a warning signal over the radio. After a moment of continued scans, he felt sick to his stomach. “Why what is it?” Still not used to her radio distorted voice Jason didn’t recognise Daria immediately. “Contaminated human residue.” When the Ark1 dropped out of its warp, the inertia had killed all that weren’t in a cryogenic chamber.

“Mashed rich people?” Technician Allister, chewing on something, probably gum. “Just don’t touch it.” Sylvie commeted, pressing on. Their pod had the capacity for decontamination, but it was a hassle she wanted to avoid.

“Aren’t the people in the cryo chambers pueree too?” Allister asked, ignoring the tone of his commanding officer, compelling him to shut up without actually saying it. “Built in inertial dampeners.” His colleague replied shortly, hoping he’d be quiet now. “And they’re shielded, so there aren’t heavily radiated mutants either.” She added, sensing the next question.

Navigating through the corridors was made hard by the contaminated organic residue, doors led to rooms filled with more contaminated residue of crew members and debris.

“Is Explorer still reading this?” Second in command of the mission Jorge was concerned, at least his voice sounded concerned. “Loud and clear, thanks to Miss Fulton’s relay device.” Came the Admiral over the Radio. She and her command centre crew sat glued to their seats on Explorer.

Proudly Daria lifted her suitcase device, which had gotten emptier. One relay she had positioned in the tunnel, another she’ll dropp at the site of the cryogenic chambers.

 

Lights flashed, blinking they came to life. Utterly soundless in the vacuum of the broken walls of the Ark1, they revealed an elongated room, the walls curved outward, to provide more surface room. Every part of it, devoted to the hatch of a cryogenic chamber.

A central contol panel stood lonely in the center of the room, fixed to the ground. “Secure that.” Sylvie pointed at the control panel, immediately her copilot took off to do just that. “Aren’t there just frozen civilians here? Why does he need to secure it?”

“Allister!” Even his colleague felt fed up with him. “What? They’re acting as if some zombie might be popping up somewhere, we’re not in a bad SciFi movie, more like a long ass, boring space soap.”

With a sigh Emilia shook her head, unnoticed due to helmet and voice activated microphone.

Daria returned to the group after she had set up the communication relay beacon at the entrance.

Jason meanwhile scanned the chambers. “Reading a hundred and fifty chambers, thirty two of which are broken, inhabitants are dead. Non of them are contaminated.”

“I can confirm.” Jorge typed on the panel. “Batteries are in relative good state. If we cut power to the failed ones we might be able to light this place a bit better.”

A few moments after Sylvie gave him the command to do just that, the lights grew brighter. A noise in the com line to Explorer drew the attention of the six. The door to the hallway had snapped shut.

“Reading an atmosphere. Low pressure. Not safe for breathing yet, but it’s building.” Constantly taking reading Jason cursed the day he had taken on the assignment. But even more the lack of time he had to connect the tablet with his glasses, so he would have a HUD, and his hands would be free.

As well as his eyes.

“No reanimation process has started yet.” Jorge sounded concerned, as he clearly struggled with the control panel. “One chamber is however starting a thawing process.”

Rushing to the panel too Jason and Sylvie almost bumped into one another. “Abort it!” She urged staring at the panel, underneath his helmet Jorge too stared desperate at the display beneath his gloved fingers.

Noticing a lack of action from Jorge, Jason pushed him away, his fingers moved hastily over the buttons. “It can’t be aborted. But we can slow it down.” He looked around the large room. One of the chamber doors was now accompanied by a blinking orange light, instead of the smaller green one.

Detaching his tablet from the velcro patch on his hip he gave the device to Jorge. “Contamination?” Still somewhat helpless the copilot looked around on the tablet, uttering sounds of his helplessness.

Impatient Sylvie took the device from his hand. “Only a little. Why?”

“Safety reasons.” Jason grinned underneath his helmet. Unheard by them a sharp hissing noise filled the room, as the thin air the ship was building up was vented again. All the floating bits in the room moved slowly, but with increasing speed to a small port in the ground, where it disappeared.

After he had cleared the contamination from the room as good as he could, Jason closed the port and allowed the air pressure to rise again. Meanwhile Daria and the technicians had moved to the chamber in question. “He’s still asleep, but already moving.” Not replying, Jason kept monitoring the panel, he knew that the crewman was on the verge of waking up.

From the bottom of the panel he detached a medikit, pushing off to float to the chamber. “Keep me up to date on the air!” He barked into the radio.

“Why? What is your plan?”

“The chamber opens automatically as soon as it reads a safe environment, we then have to act quickly, or our patient dies.” Jason reached the chamber, Allister took the kit from him. “I’m a trained field-medic.”

“Good.” Glad not to have to help the man wake up all by himself, Jason turned to the hatch of the chamber. An increase in the frequency of the blinkingnb light alarmed him to the chamber soon opening.

“Atmosphere is breathable.” Sylvie alerted him, almost at the same time that the chamber opened. As the barge pushed outward Allister administered one of the prepared shots to the man’s IV.

A hiss deafened Jason’s ears as he opened his helmet. “Charles, what do you think you’re doing?” Sylvie barked at him. “Making his waking process a little less threatening.”

Fluttering his eyelids the man woke up, all of him shaking violently. “Relax. We’re from the Explorer.” Immediately Jason put his hand on the mans shoulder.

“Wh…why?”

“Your engines blew off because of unstable reactions in your antimatter drive.” Allister too had his helmet open. Shaking or nodding, the man seemed to understand. “Crew?” He stammered between his convulsions.

“Except for those in cryogenic sleep, no survivors.” Again there was no distinction to be made between shaking or nodding.

After some thirty minutes the technician, by the name of Gerry Dermoth had recuperated from his long cryogenic suspension. In that time Jason and Allister had slowly prepared him for the ugly truth that lurked outside the doors of the cryo room.

“It seems we have a problem with your plan to evacuate these chambers.” He was huddled into a fetal position, a heat blanket from the kit covered him. “They’re hardwired into the ship. Can’t be extracted like the ones on your vessels.”

Still no one had found the time to tell him that several decades had passed since the incident. “Will the Ark2 be here soon?”

Jason and Allister exchanged a glance. The rest of the team was examining the other chambers. “It was a long time, and the Ark2 had been refit to the same mode of transport as the Orion ships.” A sad expression moved across Gerry’s face, like a cloud that passed over a field. “Figures.” He sighed, pinching the base of his nose.

“Alright.” Slowly Sylvie lowered the tablet she still had from Jason. “Three people won’t survive the thawing process, their chambers obviously didn’t work properly.”

Gerry didn’t react to the dire news, but stared at the doors to the hallway outside. Another dark shadow moved over his expression. “Outside is hard vacuum?” Confirming Jason and Allister too looked at the door. “Why aren’t the inner doors engaging? This room was supposed to have an airlock in case of a catastrophic incident.” Only after being told that there ought to be inner doors for an airlock, did it become obvious that there were none.

“Emilia, check it out please.” Sylvie commanded her subordinate who was next to the supposed door.

Gerry slowly stretched. He would have appreciated some gravity, the weightlessness was nauseating, especially after being thawed.

“I had a weird dream in there.” Jason, again in possession of his tablet, checking readings of the surroundings, just nodded and asked what Gerry had dreamed about. “Some weird creature, thigh tall, and feathered, in a space suit. They poked me out of the chamber and examied me, without harming me. But since there aren’t any around, it was just a dream.” Had there been gravity Jason’s tablet would’ve fallen to the ground. Still smiling over his silly dream Gerry didn’t understand why everyone around him seemed to freeze. “Alright, grab your sidearms, get that door to work, I want the way back secured.” Sylvie closed her helmet, with a glare that spoke volumes she gazed at Jason and Gerry. “What’s happening?”

“No time, can you be returned to the chamber without engaging the cryogenic process?” For a moment Gerry pondered, then nodded. “In that case, prepare yourself.” Jason and Allister looked around. Was this the death sentence for the survivors of the Ark1?

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