By Brubek Coltrane
“Ratchet, what is it?” Petra said, wiping sleep from her tired eyes.
She was standing at the doorway to her bunk, the computer screens still on, and the sound of Mozart’s’ Symphony No.5 in G minor playing in the background, as there was often classical music playing from Petra’s bunk. She looked back into her room at the messy papers flung around with strange algorithms on them and the many computer screens flickering with odd charts and other knick-knacks.
“Don’t ask.” She said, seeing Ratchet about to ask all about it. “Just, computer stuff.”
She could see Ratchet wasn’t really believing what she was saying, but she found herself surprised when Ratchet didn’t press further.
“Trust me!” Ratchet said, almost jumping in excitement. “This is big!”
Petra rubbed her head; it was hard staying awake. Finally, she gave in, after Ratchet waited impatiently for a few moments.
“All right, all right.” She said. “This better be good.”
Ratchet bounded with excitement, and half-pulled her out of the doorway towards the stairs. Reluctantly, she followed, careful not to wake anyone up. She knew Ratchet was not the most rational, seeking out answers to things that didn’t have any. But this was different. But Petra didn’t get any gut feelings from Ratchet, any senses from something about the way Ratchet was bounding along told her that he might be on to something this time, she didn’t get gut feelings. The only thing that made her follow him, was that his hair was slightly frosted. Now that deserved some investigation, Petra thought.
That was one thing she could never understand. She knew every formula, every protein, every element and how they interacted. She could even understand how to revive someone from near-death. But one thing she just couldn’t grasp was how people feel. How people could just know something with no factual or structural evidence to support it? How people could tell someone was in distress just by looking into their eyes? She couldn’t.
Soon, Petra soon found herself standing in the cargo bay next to Ratchet. There was frost all over the ground, and half the cargo bay was white.
“Ratchet!” Petra said, slightly shivering already from the cold. “What experiment are you trying this time??”
“It’s not an experiment!” Ratchet replied, earnestly and excitedly. “Here, look!”
He pointed towards the crate that they had taken on from Hashan. The lid was taken off, and white gas was pouring out, like dry ice, the kind people used at parties for effects. Oh no. Petra thought. Now all our fingers will be around Hashan’s neck!
“Ratchet!” Petra scolded. “You opened it!”
“I know, I know!” Ratchet replied eagerly. “Look inside!”
Petra gave Ratchet a stare that said This better be worth it, and strode over to the crate. She peered over the edge of the crate, and saw a cylindrical object in it, which was the source of all the white gas. She placed her hand on it, then drew it back swiftly.
“Ahh…” She said, cradling it. “That’s bloody cold.”
Ratchet was almost exploding to the ceiling with anticipation. “And…” He said.
Petra looked back in. Apart from the cylindrical shape and nature of this thing, there was nothing out of the ordinary…Save for a collection of strange markings on the it’s side that, on further inspection, read in a strange language and had the numbers 1121456 C- but then was covered by the frost. C? Petra asked herself. What did that mean. The numbers certainly didn’t make sense, no pattern or anything like that. Eventually, she lost interest.
She turned back around to face Ratchet, who seemed almost surprised that she wasn’t impressed.
“Well?” He asked.
“Well,” Petra mocked. “Besides a very strange cylindrical device or something, and that weird stuff coming out of it, I’d say that you’ve doomed us all.”
Ratchet’s expression shifted almost immediately. “What? How?”
Petra started to process the situation. Clearly this was just one of Ratchet’s overreactions. Normally Petra would just tell Ratchet it was all superfluous, but this was serious now. Hashan specifically told them not to open the crate. And now there was no way they could even hope to put it all back together, with all the gas leaking over the floor of the cargo bay. Of which we have no idea what it even is. Petra added. It could be a poisonous bioweapon for all I know! Petra shook her head. She quite liked her fingers right where they were. She used them for typing things on her computers, writing down the things she typed onto her computer onto paper to remember. Well, goodbye fingers. Petra said to herself. Thanks Ratchet.
Petra pointed at the crate. “You opened the damned crate! Whatever’s in there spilled across the floor and it’s all leaking out everywhere.”
“What??” Ratchet yelled out. “She’s dead?”
“She?” Petra asked.
“Yes, she.” Ratchet answered. “There was a girl frozen in that cylinder! She must have been cryo-freezed or something.”
“Well, she,” Petra said, emphasizing the she “Isn’t there. It’s just a cylindrical case, which might just so happen to be some sort of dangerous chemical weapon.”
“What, let me see.” Ratchet said, running over.
He looked in, then looked back, wide-eyed and astonished. “She’s gone!”
Petra shook her head “Ratchet, this isn’t funny anymore, we’re going to have to get all this white gas back in there right now, otherwise-”
“I swear!” Ratchet yelled, now starting to get a little heated. “There was a girl there, plain as day, frozen in some sort of cryogenic device.”
“You do realize how ludicrous your story is getting.” Petra said. “Firstly, Cryogenics haven’t been used for centuries, and secondly, that device you claim to be a cryogenics chamber, looks nothing like one, and it’s venting all sorts of strange gas of who knows what!”
Ratchet looked at the frost-covered ground. Petra looked at him, almost angry, but not quite. Then she saw Ratchet’s gaze settle on something behind the pod, from a position only he could see from. She saw Ratchet look up, and smile.
“Look at this.” He said.
“What?” Petra asked, impatiently.
“Evidence.” Ratchet said.
Petra walked over and followed Ratchet’s gaze to whatever Ratchet was looking at. Then she paused. Then she froze. Footprints. Not just footprints. They were leading out from the crate, and they looked to be barefoot too. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing.
“Please tell me those are yours…” Petra started. “They aren’t, aren’t they…No, they’re not…”
“Told you so!” Ratchet mocked. “C’mon, we have to follow them!”
Still stunned by what was imprinted in the frost-covered floor of the cargo bay, she followed Ratchet out of the cargo bay, back to the stairs that led them out of it. She rubbed her eyes, and looked down at the ground one last time. They were still there. If what I’m seeing is real…Petra thought Then Ratchet is right! Immediately, a flurry of questions tried to break their way into Petra’s thoughts. But all of these thoughts were suppressed by the single task at hand: to see whose footprints these were.
Ratchet ascended the stairs, seemingly in a single bound, letting out all the excitement that had built up inside him. He was on the move, and Petra struggled to keep up with him. Ratchet dashed up the second set of stairs, and pressed the button to open the doors way too many times. As they opened, he squeezed through, then stopped. Petra caught up with him, and caught her breath.
She scanned the armory. There was no one there that she could see. Ratchet scurried around, lifting up this and that, looking for the girl. He couldn’t find anything. Petra noticed one of the rifles on the racks was missing.
“Where’d she go??!!” Ratchet said, shaking his hands up and down.
“She can’t have gone far.” Petra answered. “She’s here somewhere.”
Ratchet walked over to the ladder to the next deck, but tripped over a shell casing for the cannons, sending it bounding across the floor, creating a massive amount of noise. It clanked and crashed across the floor, before finally rolling into the wall, which halted it’s rampage with a clunk. Ratchet flinched.
“That’s not good…” Petra said.
They heard yelling from upstairs, Erik’s yelling, cursing. Then it stopped. For longer than both of them expected. Then he spoke.
“Who the hell are you??” Erik asked. “More importantly, what makes your artless, beatle-headed brain think it can just wake me from my slumber??”
“Um…” They heard a young woman’s voice say.
Silence. Then a clank on the floor, and the scurrying of feet. Ratchet and Petra dashed for the ladder. Ratchet was up in seconds, with Petra close behind. Ratchet popped his head up from the ladder-aches port, and rolled himself onto the corridor floor. Petra hauled herself up with both hands, and planted her feet firmly on the floor, and dashed after Ratchet. They passed by Erik’s bunk, and passed the still wide-eyed Erik. Petra noticed the missing armory rifle lying at his feet.
“We have a new crew member or something?” He asked.
Petra and Ratchet dashed past him. They past Illien’s bunk, and then turned a corner, facing more stairs. Petra caught a fleeting glimpse of a barefoot as it disappeared around the corner at the top.
“Wait!” Ratchet called out.
Petra followed Ratchet up yet another set of stairs. When they reached the top, they found themselves in a darkened room, which had all the lights turned off for the night. Ratchet fumbled for the light, and after a few awkward moments, found it. The room suddenly was flooded with light. Petra scanned the room with her eyes, then saw her, right in the middle of the room.
“There.” Petra whispered to Ratchet, pointing to her.
Ratchet turned his head and saw her. She was a young woman, looking to be a little older than Petra, stood. She was shivering slightly, and her eyes looked tired and filled with fear. She had dirty blonde hair that was tied back in a single tail down to her elbows. She wore a blue shirt with a collar and matching blue pants. An strange emblem was emblazoned onto her right shoulder. Petra looked down her arm, and saw she was holding a knife in her hand.
Ratchet started to walk towards her, and she went rigid, pointing the knife at him. Petra held Ratchet back by the shoulder.
“Wh-Who are you?” The young woman asked. “What…What is this place?”
“It’s a stingray-class transport ship, we’re in deep space right now.” Ratchet said, smiling.
“Way to lay it on light.” Petra whispered to Ratchet.
“What?” The woman replied. “What are you…What are you talking about?”
Ratchet started to walk towards her.
“Stop!” She said. “That’s close enough!”
Petra pulled Ratchet back. “Listen, we have no idea how long she’s been frozen for, it’s a marvel she even had the strength to get out of that thing.”
Petra and Ratchet both looked back at her. She hadn’t let her guard down an inch.
“What’s your name?” Ratchet asked.
“Better.” Petra whispered. “But so much for a good first impression.”
Ratchet frowned back at her.
“E-Emily.” The girl said suspiciously. “My name is Emily.”
Petra prodded him on. “you’re asking too much.”
“Hello Emily.” Ratchet said, as friendly as he could. “This is Petra, and I’m Ratchet.”
“Ratchet?” Emily asked. “What kind of a name is…”
Her eyes started to roll back into her head, and her arms and legs started shaking. She fell to the floor, hard. her entire body started to spasm.
“What’s happening?” Ratchet asked, confused and suddenly afraid.
Petra had seen this all too many times, and knew exactly what to do.
“Seizure.” She said calmly. “Get all this stuff out of the way.”
Ratchet scampered around and quickly moved the chairs, table, and plants out of the way. Petra turned him over and lay Emily on her side. Saliva that had been frothing at her mouth seeped out onto the floor.
“Hold her legs.” Petra said, to which Ratchet quickly did.
“Okay.” Petra said, trying to hold Emily’s flailing arms in place. “Administering one dose of Hydro-nepheline.”
She took out a syringe from her jacket pocket, and stabbed it into her neck. The flailing intensified for a brief moment, then abruptly ceased. Petra checked her breathing, then her pulse. She stepped back. Emily lay motionless on the floor, the only sign of life being her chest slowly rising and falling.
“Help me get her to the med-bay.” Petra said.
Ratchet didn’t hesitate.
* * *
Emily was still. Her eyes were closed. When she opened them, she was standing in a field. A long field that seemed to stretch out forever. It was filled with tall, golden grass. Overhead, a sky of blue, with giant white lazy clouds slowly drifting overhead. A slight breezed gently swayed the blades of grass back and forth.
I must be dead. She thought. I never pictured it’d be like this. She looked around, everywhere, the plains stretched on, unbroken. Except, for something in the distance. A small house. It looked exactly like the one Emily used to live in. It was alone in the plains. Nothing else but the endless fields and the great blue sky. What is this place? Emily thought to herself. Time seemed to be nonexistent here. She couldn’t tell if it was seconds going by, or years or decades, or even centuries. But that didn’t matter to Emily. She felt at peace. But something inside her pushed her on, to that house in the middle of absolutely nowhere. She didn’t now why, or for what purpose, but she was pressed towards it.
Walking slowly across the plains, she soon began to walk faster, then faster. And then she started running. The house did’t seem to get any closer though. She was sprinting now. She was pushing her legs as fast as they would carry her. But still, the house, her house, seemed as far away as it had been moments ago. Time was passing faster now. Emily could tell. Something’s wrong. She thought. Something just isn’t right about this.The clouds were moving faster across the sky, and faster still. She kept running.
She could see the house. Why do I want to go there? One side of her mind said. It’s a house in the middle of who-knows-where. The other side of her mind though, was all for it. It’s Your house, Emily, why not go there? It told her It’s the only thing that makes any sense in this place. This side Emily decided to trust, and followed.
The skies began to darken, and the once white fluffy clouds had turned grey, and the once-blue skies were now almost entirely covered by them. The wind started to pick up, and the grass began to whip around, and they gave a hiss that rang out like a hundred snakes. They lashed out at Emily’s legs as she kept running towards the house in the distance, that seemed so close, yet so far at the same time.
Emily looked up. The blue sky that once watched over the peaceful plains, was now a swirling grey mass of angry-looking billows that stared own at the fields of whipping grass with a malevolent intent. The wind was chilling her to the bone. Her thin windbreaker was pinned to her body, and provided no respite from the gusts. If I’m dead, than why am I feeling cold? Dead people can’t feel things, can they?
The wind picked up even more, now in a violent gale that almost made her lose her footing. Apparently they can! She said to herself. Wait, where are my shoes? Looking down, she saw that she had none, and was barefoot. She looked back up and saw the house. It seemed a little closer. Emily couldn’t see how she hadn’t gotten any closer after all this running.
The clap of thunder echoed across the plains, and the heavens burst. Rain came down in sheets. The torrent plastered her clothes to her, and Emily strained to see the house through the downpour. Shivering from the wind and rain, she pressed on, doing the only thing that made sense in this strange world of grass and sky.
The house seemed like a past left far behind, and Emily, desperate, reached out for it with a cold hand. She fell onto the grass, and the rain and wind spared no mercy. She was completely exposed. She reached out for the house, crawling still towards it. I have to…She thought…Have to get to it…
Her thoughts slowly slowed, and her hand rested on the ground. Her vision started to get great at the edges, and she felt the wind and rain stab at her. She took one last look at the house in the distance, through the rain. Goodbye. She said. Her face so wet that she couldn’t tell whether her eyes were teary or not. Goodbye… Her hand fell to the ground, the grass lashing out at it. Her tired head at last began to fall to, and dropped to the ground.
Right before it hit the ground though, all the winds and rain and lashing grass ceased. Emily couldn’t think straight or see so much as blurry objects. She was in some kind of coffin or something. She got out, instinctively. The next few moments passed in a haze. Footsteps. Two people following, a girl and a boy. Finding a weapon. Running up stairs of some strange mechanical room. Facing a giant. Turning and running. Leaving the weapon behind. More stairs. Then, trapped. Turning. facing the pursuers. Then…
Emily was awake. She hadn’t opened her eyes yet, but she knew this time, it was real. The dull drone of some sort of machine was ever-present in the background. There was also the noise of people speaking. Though they sounded distant. Emily listened.
“-Cryogenically frozen.” A girl’s voice said.
“What?” A young man’s voice said. “So what you’re telling me is that Hashan gave us a human popsicle to transport to who-knows where?”
“No,” The girl said “What I’m saying is-”
“Wait, guys!” A boy’s voice said. “I think she’s awake.”
Carefully, slowly, Emily opened her eyes. A bright white light was al she could see, and she quickly closed them again. She tried moving her arms and legs. They hurt. Alot. They ached as if she hadn’t gotten up in hundreds of years. So she lay there, still, and listened.
The silence was broken by the young boy’s voice again. A name surfaced in her mind, that connected itself to the voice. Ratchet. Strange name. Emily thought to herself. Who’d name their kid after a tool?
Ratchet spoke. “Seriously, Illy! I saw her eyes open for a second.”
“Sure.” The one he called ‘Illy’ said. “And I bet she jumped up and started running around and dancing too.”
“No, I’m serious.” Ratchet said. “Keep looking.”
Silence. And more silence.
Then a voice that sounded both sad, serious, and menacing spoke.
“What did you say her name was again?” the female voice said.
“Emily.” Ratchet answered. “Her name is Emily.”