"Listen to me John. Listen to me!"
Tel was yelling. I could hear the sirens in the background, funny how the sound was fading, when they ought to be getting closer. Christ, shot by a penny-ante hopped up . . .
"Listen to me! John! I know you're dying but pay attention! You are going to be waking in a dangerous place. Listen, damnit!"
It almost sounded like he was crying. Mentor, partner, friend . . . Tel never cried. Tel was a complete hard-ass. Best cop ever.
Tunnel vision. I could see him look frantically over his shoulder.
"Our bay has been breached, Paeon. You have to wake up fast. When the lid of the cryo unseals, you have seconds, seconds to get to the emergency pod. Take the corridor to the right, twenty feet, then it is on the left. The corridor is just past the foot of the cryo. Turn right. Walk twenty feet. Feel to the left. It'll probably be dark."
Dying is weird. So very very weird. Tel was making no sense whatsoever and I couldn't even tell him something traditionally sappy, like tell Cara I love her. The tunnel shrunk closed and disappeared.
The blackness was nice and peaceful, until the noise started. The flashing lights. The one bright light I focused on. Pain slashed suddenly through my body, I could feel my back arch. I sucked in air, and screamed. Tried to scream. It was more of a choked gasp, something was in my throat, down my throat, being pulled out of my throat. I tried to move, but it was all slow motion, my limbs balky and hard, stiff, that horrible dream state were you need to run and can barely force a step forward. But I could hear my heart. My pulse thundered in my ears. I sucked in another breath; even my lungs were stiff and resistant. I was cold. And the air quality stank. Well the air stank. Musty human odors, bedding overdue for a wash, dirty laundry in the corner. Bachelor smells from before I met Cara. And cold. With chemicals. A face mask over my face and mouth withdrew. I blinked and saw nothing but lights in the darkness. I tried to look around. ER? No, it wouldn't be dark. ICU, nighttime? Or had I been in a coma for years? Some long term facility . . . I tried to shake my head, wake all the way up.
I reached out, pawed for something, anything, freedom. Hit a solid sheet of glass or plastic or something, inches from my face. The lights were behind it. I clawed, frantic. Coffins don't have lights, coffins don't have lights . . . A lever. Oh thank god, a lever. I pulled it with panicked strength.
A ripping sound, like unsealing a can, popping a soda . . . an apt analogy as I was sucked out of my coffin and only my scrambling, spastic grip on the lever kept me from hitting the floor like the gelatin stuff I was covered with, or maybe whipping off down a dark corridor as all sounds faded and the last of my breath was sucked out . . .
Corridor. I shoved myself to the foot of the coffin and turned right. No lights down there. My chest heaved, I was gasping but there was no air. One step, two. Hurry! twenty feet was . . . another step, another. Hand out to the left wall. Another step, a seam, a handle.
I jerked it, was knocked off my feet as the door whipped sideways with a blast of air. I crawled through the door. Saw a blinking red light and lunged for it. Pressed. No sound, but a quiver I felt through my hand. A roar.
I awoke on the floor. Cold. Naked. A dried layer of purple . . . stuff. All over me.
I shoved back against the nearest wall. Bare metal wall, bare metal cube. Ten feet or so, each direction. I peeled off a dried purple smear. "What is this crap?"
"Vacuum dried cryo gel. Welcome back aboard the Atlantis, Lieutenant Paeon."