I opened my eyes to find bright light and blurry images all around me. The room had a sterility that hung heavily in the air. Something like being in a hospital. The last thing I remember was leaving my fathers funeral and returning to my fathers house to attend to my mothers grief. I was about to get into my hovercar and then everything went black.
The images around me started to come into focus. The first thing I saw was some kind of monitoring machine that was attached to sensors all around my body. I tried to move but my body felt as if it weighs a ton. After a while, my arms started to respond to my commands. I reached for what looked like a nurse's call button and pressed it with great difficulty. After a couple of minutes, two women came into the room. One was dressed in what appeared to be a doctors coat and the other was dressed in a nurses outfit of a style I had never seen before. The one that appeared to be the doctor was in her mid-forties. The nurse could not have been more than twenty. She had black hair down to about her shoulder with a slight wave. The doctor had brown hair with a few streaks of gray. Her eyes were tired as if she had pulled a double shift.
The doctor spoke, "Its about time you woke up, normally patients don't take this long to recover from cryogenic sleep".
"What are you talking about and where the hell am I?" I asked.
"You are in a cryogenic recovery center, you were sent here because the pod you were in was in bad shape due to its age. My name is Doctor Anna Felstrom and I will be your physician." she said.
"What was I doing in a cryo-pod and what day is it?" I asked.
Anna: "It's December 12th, 3968 and we are not sure why you were in that pod."
I was completely shocked. Over seventy-five years ago was the last thing I remembered. Another question hung over me was who put me in the pod and why. If someone wanted to get rid of me, why not just kill me. Why go through the trouble of sticking me in deep freeze in the first place when there was nothing wrong with me.
"We were hoping to find out from you, who you are?, The authorities have no data on your identity." Anna said.
At that point I thought I had better play dumb until I could sort things out. Being A.W.O.L for that amount of time could be very sticky at best and at the worst, I could be sucking vacuum. The safest thing to do was to play ignorance and fake amnesia.
"I'm afraid I can't be of any help to you there, its all a blank," I said.
"We'll have to work on your memory, we have a specialist on staff that might be able to help," she said.
"We will let you rest for now," she said as she left the room.
The next day the nurse came and announced that I had a visitor .I was a little curious as to who would know me after so many years. Just then a short little man, in his late forties entered the room. He was wearing a rather undistinguished suit and had a pasty skin tone that looked like he'd been spending the last ten years on an extended happy hour. His walk was labored with each step, as he wheezed heavily. He sat down with a great sigh of relief and introduced himself. His voice was high pitched with a whiny tone that rattled the nerves as he spoke.
"Good day sir, my name is Harold Carstien and I represent the company that is storing the ship your pod was found in. The authorities have tried to access the black box but could not. The registration is not on file so we can assume you are not from the local system. The local militia found your ship adrift on the outer rim of this system with damaged life support and guidance systems. We assume that there was some trouble with the ships system that forced you to go into the pod. Your ship is in need of repair but: The cost of repair of those systems would exceed the replacement due to the lack of available parts. The engines are in good shape and the hull is repairable. I am willing to offer to buy it from you for salvage and parts. If that is agreeable to you."
I had a ship! That was some relief to me. I continued to play along with the events that unfurled until there was time to sort this mess out. If I play my cards right, I might have some credits to operate on. I had better take a look at "my ship" before I make any hasty judgments. Besides, this guy had vulture written all over him and with what was happening to me, "TRUST NOBODY."
" I will have to look it over before I give you my decision, with my memory fuzzy, Im going to have to go through it to see if there is anything that will jog my memory." I said.
"When your ready to make a decision, please call me at the earliest convenience." he replied.
"Good day," he said as he labored out of the room.
Now I had to think. The ship had two black boxes, one for the ship and one for the crew logs. If they could not access the files, maybe whoever put me in the pod would have left a message there for me. The thought crossed my mind that I was taken out of the way for a reason. I started to think about how my father died. Sudden heart attack out of nowhere. I also thought about my stepmothers advice to go off and join the space Corp. after graduation. There were a lot of odd things that fit like square pegs in round holes. The day my father died he sent me a message to meet him on Algier 4 and to tell no one. After receiving the message, I was called into the CO's office where I was informed that my father had suffered a massive coronary and did not survive. Looking for answers now might be as effective as finding details about the Kennedy assassination in the late twentieth century but I had to try. I was starting to feel like myself again because I started try to figure out how to get somewhere or anywhere with the nurse. At that point I felt it would be wise to find a way to check out of this sterile hotel and solve a couple of puzzles.
The next few weeks of therapy dragged on like a tedious transit assignment waiting for orders. I tried to put the moves on a couple of the nurses, but all I got was the official brush-of. I decided to make use of my time by trying to catch up on the events of the last seventy-five years in the news archives. The Doctor agreed to have a monochrome terminal brought to my room so I could browse a little. I told her it might help me remember if I were to see a familiar headline or news event that was familiar. My first inquiries were into the company my father owned, Soloman Mining and Shipping. The shipping portion was my idea, mostly due to the fact that whenever we tried to get a load to the refineries, the load was either hijacked or we were overcharged. That venture worked out well and eventually turned into a very profitable freight service that started making a profit on its own just in outside business. The only company even remotely close to that name was a company called Soloman Galactica. I checked through the records off the major share holders in the financial sections and found no familiar names. Corporate headquarters was in New Rome. Pretty expensive real estate last I remember. I could find no other references, so that was the only clue I had at the moment.
The next thing I did was taking a little personal inventory of my personal belongings. The first thing I noticed was a cred-rod, a sort of electronic change purse. The card would hold in its bank a fixed amount of credits that would deplete as they were used. I checked the balance; it had plenty, a hundred thousand. The next thing I found was a data crystal, the type used by ship computers for activation. The third item, a data disk. It was standard type that was used over eighty years ago, because it would not fit in the terminals disk slot. My best shot was to try to find a way to read it on that ship. The clothing was that of a mercenary. It was a leather jacket with khaki shirt and pants and a pair of leather boots. I looked through the pockets of the jacket and found nothing. At this point, I figured it was time to leave before whatever trouble got there.
The doctor came in to give me my final check out. "I am curious to why you are leaving so soon, your memory has not fully recovered," Anna said.
"If you are worried about the bill, I think I got it covered. Besides it's costin' me creds to stay so I might as well check out while I still have some left." I replied.
"There is no bill if thats what you're worried about, it's just that we can't be sure of any possible side effects you may have from the thaw cycle," she said.
"I think I had better be leaving anyway because the vultures that are storing my ship are probably charging by the day and I don't feel like giving them any more that I have to," I said.
"If you must, but I advise strongly against it, " Anna added.
The checking was done and I was out of there. I stepped outside and was immediately bombarded by the mayhem of an urban metropolis. There was no sign of any plant life anywhere. The only thing that could be seen in any direction was skyscrapers of poor taste and lots of them. I thought I died and went to concrete hell. I hailed a hover cab and told him to take me to the terminal yard. The first thing that I wanted to get settled was the condition of my ship and to see what kind of ship it was. The ride lasted for an hour and I was beginning to get suspicious about the drivers route and the suddenly, out of the concrete jungle, there it was. The size of the yard was humbling. This place seemed almost as big as the city itself. There was a huge sign hovering over the entrance, "Taurus 8 docking facility". I checked into the yard masters office. The desk clerk was a young man in his mid twenties with a sharp chiseled face. He was wearing a uniform, gray with gold trim and impeccably tailored. The office was almost military clean, hell; even the ceiling was spotless.
Clerk: "Good day sir, how can I be of service to you?"
"I'm here to check over my ship, I was the vessel that was found adrift on the out rim."
Clerk: "Oh yes the hospital called and told me that you would probably arriving shortly. The ship is in bay 16fa. Due to the circumstances of your rescue, you only have to pay a recovery fee of 8000 credits. I have a few questions that need to be answered for the records if you could be so kind. We need to know the name and registry of the ship and who you are."
"Actually, I was hoping that looking over the ship and checking the black box would tell me the same thing. The extended time I was in the pod may have something to do with the blanks in my memory."
Clerk: "I see, I will get a transport pad for you."
"If ya like, I can pay my bill now. Can I pay with a cred-rod?"
Clerk: "That should be no problem, just insert it here and the transaction will be done on your approval."
He pointed to a hole in a terminal on the counter next to a keypad. The amount flashed up and then the keypad display prompted for approval, I entered yes and I was done.
I said good day stepped outside and a round disk was waiting for me hovering just a few centimeters off the ground with a seat a handrail. It was silver with a satin finish. The seat was polished smooth from use. I sat on it and it started to move with a soft high pitch whine. I was moving down rows upon rows of bays intermittently filled with ships of various types. Most of which I have never seen before but being out cold for seventy-five years, a lot of things change. The pod came to a stop in front of my bay. This was probably the only ship that I looked familiar. It was a heavy patrol scout that was very popular with mercenaries when I was a military pilot. The one thing that was different about this ship was that the engines did not look as they belonged on this ship. They were a little bit larger than I remember and the armor was of a different color than I have seen before, it had darkness to it I have never seen. Almost as if it absorbed all light and reflected nothing back. The shape of the craft was an elongated delta lifting body type with engine pods bulging from the tail. I opened the hatch and walked in, the air was stale as if walking into a tomb. There was a cold dank feeling about the whole thing that was probably due to the lengthy time being adrift in space.
I looked over the flight console. The controls looked pretty straightforward from what I last remembered. There were a few things that I have not seen before but never being in one of these before that should be the norm. I looked around for anything that could be a terminal that would read the disk. I found a display with a slot in it. I touched the screen and it came to life. I inserted the disk and it prompted me to put my palm on the display screen. A boot up sequence started. About two pages of hex code flashed by than a message appeared on the screen.
" If you can read this, I can assume you survived. I am a friend who took you out of harms way at a time when you would have been the next to be eliminated. The fact that you were next in line to inherit your fathers empire made you liability to certain parties concerned. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused but what was done had to be done. As far as anyone knows you were lost on the way back from emergency leave. The ship that you were found in has had a few modifications. The first is that the engines are gravity drives. They leave no trails to be followed. They were taken off a smuggler freighter.
The second is the armor is of a cloaking type, in your present situation, a low profile is to be advised. Your should be able to move about with minimal detection. By all means do not use your real name. There may be parties out there who may wish to complete the job of finishing you off. In the compartment under this terminal is the new identity card for you to use. Credits have been placed in an account under that name.
The most important thing is not to stay where you are for long. Company enforcers may investigate. The data crystal will activate the ships auto repair systems. Leave as soon as your ready and further instructions will follow."
I removed the attaching clips from the terminal and fished out the documents. The ID. card had my picture and the name that was on was Karl Breven. The ship documentation listed the name as Shadow. I returned to the clerks office, filled out the appropriate forms and was assigned a departure slot. I purchased a few things from the supply terminal in the office to be waiting for me at the ship. A personal palm terminal and a few supplies to get me by until I could get to the next system. Where I can start piecing the puzzle together. The door opened and Mr. Carstien waddled in.
" Have you considered my offer Mr.?"
"Breven. Yes I have, due to my current financial situation, I have decided to make the repairs to my ship and be on my way"
Carstien: "Are you sure the ship will be safe, considering the age and condition of the vessel. Anything can happen, if you take my meaning."
"A curious thing about ships of that age is they are not what they seem. I have a funny feeling that you don't have my best interest in mind, especially since the facility is not yours. The fact that you are most likely a ship broker makes me think that you have a lot to gain in the sale of this ship. If you got a deposit, I hope you can refund it. Ciao baby!"
Carstien fidgeted nervously like someone with his or her neck stretched out and ready to have it cut off. The sweat on his forehead was streaming down his forehead. His fear was so thick that he could not move. I know I struck a nerve. A big fat swollen one! All of the sudden, he grabbed his left arm with an expression of pure agony on his face. He collapsed on the floor with a final exhale. I guess no can be just as deadly as a pulse blaster. The clerk called emergency med. support.
"Tag'em and bag'em, he's already dead. I'm checkin' out, load me up and I'll go "
Clerk: "Do you know him?"
"No, he just some jerk who wanted to buy my ship."
Clerk: "There may be an inquiry."
"This maggot did it to himself. Too much fried food I guess."
I left the office and hopped the pad back to my ship. The repair driod found a little present for me, a charge .The type used to make an emergency entrance during rescues. It was set to go off twenty minutes after leaving the atmosphere. I deactivated it and put it safely away. A shuttle pod came by with my supplies. I scanned them to make sure there were no more little presents. I loaded up and started the graviton core. The plasma core was also fired up. I did the usual checks and went over the console to get used to my new digs. The ship had enough room for a crew of two to live comfortably. The only thing it lacked was a weapon. Shields were passable. The speed I was not sure of. Gravity drives were relatively new when I was in the Corp. They were showing up on smugglers ships, because of there lack of ion trails that were left by the more conventional drives. Only one ship was ever captured and that was because the pilot was taking a nap in an asteroid field.
I strapped myself in and called control for clearance. When it came, I was out of there. The controls seemed a bit touchy at first. Then as the inertial stabilizer kicked in, things smoothed out. The ship had the response of a ship a quarter of its size. I gained altitude at a rapid pace and started to heat the skin up a bit so I backed off the forward inertia till things cooled down. The gravity field in the ship must have been generated because I did not feel; the usual g-forced associated with lift off. I could like this. I looked over the city as I went higher. The whole planet was a city! There was no sign of green anywhere. Increasing my velocity as I cleared the upper atmosphere. As I cleared the planet, two small ships started to follow me.
They hailed me and asked for an ID. I gave it and then they accelerated. My scanner picked up their weapons powering up. I punched the drive and lost them in a flash. There is no substitute for speed I guess.
When I reached the outer rim I reduced speed and set the cloak. I activated the navigation terminal and looked for a quiet place to get a lead on what happened to me and to arm myself a little better. I picked a little station that might have what I was after. It was called Drydia. It was a decommissioned repair station that had everything including a bar. It was out of the way of everything and smack dab in the middle nowhere.
I set the coordinates and engaged the drive. The computer calculated a travel time of five days. The acceleration was swift. I went trans-warp in a matter of minutes. The internal gravity stabilizer neutralized all the effects of the acceleration. I switched on the data terminal and check for any more entries. The only thing I found was an E-mail address with a keyword. I guess Im going to have to wait till I hit the terminal for more answers. I went to my bunk and grabbed some sleep.
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