Aretherra Volume One | Tryn Awakes

Sitting in geostationary orbit, 37,000 km over Aretherra, is the great space station of ZonoZ. Actually, it is more of a space colony, composed of a vast network of spherical modules, interconnected via a web of space-bridges and airlocks. If you could see Zonoz from orbit, it would look like a mad scientist created a complex model of a molecule and hung it in the sky. Few on the ground know that Zonoz exists, as it can not easily be seen from the planet’s surface.

The network of orbs, or space modules, act together as a whole to form a single large ship. This generation ship, tasked with seeking new life and power, was once capable of traveling vast distances across the stars. To make this possible and sustain the lives of many families of explorers, the network of spheres have different functions and uses, similar to various rooms of a single family dwelling. There’s a space port for smaller space craft and ships, bunkers, armories, dining halls, training facilities, hibernation and stasis, reactors and power, vegetation, livestock, medical and more. It is within the medical pod, or med pod, that we must now draw our immediate attention.

On the outer ring of ZonoZ, in a quiet med pod, a princess has slumbered for many cycles. While she is not locked away in a tower, she has been held in stasis, frozen in time and held in place against her will. Her name is Tryn and soon she will awaken.

Only Tryn, locked in her stasis chamber, is in the med pod. All systems have been nominal for many cycles. Error. Error. Fire Control. Safety Protocols disengaged.

A massive explosion.

Tryn’s stasis chamber gets caught in the debris and then floats slowly away from ZonoZ.

*****

Where am I?
When is this?
Who? Wait, no, I think I know that one. Or do I?

There’s no answer. I am alone. These images that I see behind the lids of my eyes, what are they? So quickly, they appear and then fade away. Are they memories, my memories? I wish they would stop, but nothing else besides that night comes to mind. A cascading series of images sounds and smells from that night wash over me. Above all, I am affected by what I cannot explain. So many feelings and emotions give these memories weight. The searing pain of anguish, fear, excitement, even happiness; all of these can not be a dream. What happened that night?

I’m not sure of anything. If I am still dreaming, what could this mean? If those are memories, they feel wrong, as if I remember someone else’s life, through that person’s eyes. I know that night is over, and I know that I am not dreaming any longer. But where am I now?

I open my eyes for the first time and see a field of stars laid out before me. I then realize that I am not looking up to the night sky, I am looking through a transparent membrane at the expanse of space!

How did I get here!

I can not move my arms and legs, but I can move my head in different directions. I am not standing, and yet, my feet are not touching the floor. I realize that I am floating in a clear gel substance within a self-contained cryogenic chamber. I feel dizzy, there is no up or down, no horizon to lock my focus. I’m spiraling and floating away from the only other object near me. As I come back around, I get a better look at the space colony in orbit above the green and blue planet below.

I could see the damage and plume of gas and air escaping from what must have been an explosion in one of the nearest spheres of the colony. My stasis chamber must have been housed in that destroyed section of the colony.

The explosion devoured everything within its radius. Every object in that pod was catapulted at the outer walls and instantly crushed on impact. The damage to that pod and the two adjacent was massive and it’s a miracle I’m still alive.

With my eyes now adjusted, I look out in astonishment at the millions of stars scattered across the sterile blackness of space. I can see fragments of debris from the explosion, floating away from me in every direction, now very small and distant, they will continue for a long time. While chunks of metal, glass, and other synthetic materials keep soaring into deep space, the debris that bounced off the nearest round structures was closer, soaring slower than their counterparts, having lost a degree of inertia when they changed direction upon impact. These round structures have to be the rest of the colony.

To my astonishment, I look down to see debris hurtling toward a bright, massive planet below. As the debris burns up in the atmosphere, I keep smiling and shaking my head because I am in space and orbiting a planet. I admired the majesty of the world for as long as I could before my attention was drawn back to the situation. Was I going to die in the midst of this breathtaking spectacle? Or was I going to save myself and get to safety before one of these things killed me?

Loud pops and bangs snapped me to attention immediately, and then I felt a significant shift in the air that surrounded me. I looked up to where the loudest sound kept up and noticed little bubbles gathered at the top of what appeared to be the crown of a transparent balloon. This is strange, how could…and then the entire top of my chamber unclasped from the middle part where I was suspended. Shrapnel from the explosion had cracked the outer layer of my stasis vessel. Logic forced me to look down, past my feet, and the transparent surface several inches below them, and I saw the bottom of the chamber float away. They faded into the darkness, each floating away in direction, and I watched helpless and unable to do anything about it.

My protective layer of metal and glass had been stripped away, I was now suspended in a fragile bubble. A thin membrane that seemed to be shrinking by the moment in the cold vacuum of space. As the sheer audacity of my situation sunk in, I was in space, I survived a massive explosion. Since then, I have not died from the vacuum of space itself. Somehow, this bubble-shaped energy field that surrounded and covered my entire body protected me from the explosion and is now allowing me to live, for the time being.

I look around and realize what I have suspected for a while. I am suspended in some breathable liquid. No wonder I couldn’t speak earlier. I do not have long, as I’m sure I can not breathe this liquid forever. If the bubble pops and the fluid dissipates into a million drops, I would freeze and suffocate. I must find a way to get myself to one of the nearby structures connected to the rest of the colony.

How am I going to accomplish this? The nearest structure seems so far away. However, distances in space can be deceiving. I am not sure what awaits me, should I make it to the outer hatch door, get it open, somehow get out of my bubble, all without losing my breathable gel.

My mind spins around and around, as thoughts and concerns turn to stupid ideas and worry. I take one deep breath, which I guess is a force of habit and hold it as long as I can. While I technically could not hyperventilate, my mind could produce similar effects on my body, which could affect my ability to breath long before I come up with a way out of this mess.

As I took one last look at the planet, I smiled and quietly thought, “Beautiful.” I hoped that this would not be my last time to laugh and appreciate something so amazing. There it is, the planet, an entire world just below my feet. From my perspective, Vivid hues of the blue oceans, streaked and dotted with brilliant white cloud formations, are separated by a vast array of tonal greens, browns, purples, greys, and oranges, all forming the various landmasses.

I gazed at this glorious world a while longer and then forced myself to look away. It is time to act. It is time to save myself. Caught in this moment were between life and death, my choice l is made. I am going to live!

I raise my arm as far as I can and reach toward the nearest spherical pod of the colony. Slowly I float toward it, straight ahead, I begin to make out more details of the hatch door. The door was octagonal in shape and appears to be made of some light-colored alloy. My ability to perceive proper dimensions and perspectives has been warped and skewed by the layer of gel.

I’m looking through two layers of a forceful containment or energy field, after all, liquid and energy. Everything I see is skewed and distorted, even so, the pod I’m heading towards appears to be larger than the others in the colony. I have no idea how I am doing this, or even if I am doing this, but it’s happening. I am moving steadily toward that hatch, toward that pod, and I should be there soon. I feel a strange sensation in my arms and palms. They feel both numb and alive with frantic energy. None of this makes any sense to me, but I think the thought and the energetic numbness increase while I begin to move faster toward my goal. Maybe I am doing this! But how? Why?

Seconds later, I’m outside the door. I study the outer surface and see a latch in the middle right of the hatch surface. This door is very similar to the one that the two men were viewing me from earlier. I notice that the door latch has an arrow facing down in a clockwise circle. This must be the direction the lock needs to move to open the door.

At first, I reach up in a futile attempt to push my hand through the energy field, but this does not work, I am still confined to my bubble. With little thought, as if I am supposed to do this, I flick my wrist in a semi-circular motion with my right hand, in the same direction as the arrow on the door. The latch moved and obeyed my hand’s movement, opening the door.

As the hatch opened, no gust of escaping air blew me deeper into space, but instead, I gradually move myself and my bubble into the structure. I spin around, and with another gesture, the door closes in the direction I move my arm. I flick my wrist and hand again, and the door is latched and secured.

As the pod repressurized, I wonder how do I get out of this bubble? What could still be providing enough power to the energy field to sustain its integrity? As soon as I asked, the bubble began eroding! Simultaneously, holes formed everywhere in the outer membrane of my containment field, a random and ever-growing patchwork of decay. Liquid spilled out from the gaps as they formed, lowering the fluid level along the way. Finally, all of the small holes grow into each other, and the bubble had disappeared completely, causing a big splash onto the floor.

All I could do was watch, and I ready myself for the inevitable. The bubble burst instantly, seemingly dissipating all remaining moisture into thin air of the room. Unready for the imminent fall from my state of suspension, no sooner had the moisture evaporated, I drop to my hands and knees on the floor and try desperately to grab onto anything that may be within reach.

I’m burning from the inside out, my chest feels constricted and ready to explode at the same time. My body screams for air. If I’m unable to comply, I will surely die here. Now that I’ve been detached and permanently ejected from my liquid state inside the energy field. Two possibilities await me, ending in either life or death. I don’t want to drown in the liquid still in my lungs, the last remaining liquid from the chamber.

Having just survived a massive explosion and my involuntary spacewalk, where I barely made it through the hatch and into this room, drowning now, would be ridiculous. I pound my chest while writhing on the floor, coughing, wheezing, and shaking uncontrollably while trying to eject this liquid from my body. Seconds that feel like decades elapse, and then I begin gasping, and the liquid comes out of my mouth and nose. Finally, my lungs fill with air. I can breathe once more.

I feel exhausted and much fatigued, but ecstatic to be breathing again. Knowing that I am out of danger from drowning, freezing, suffocating, or being burned alive in a brilliant flash of fire and energy, I take a celebratory sigh by breathing in very deep and then slowly exhaling the air of this dark room. Laughing to myself as I look up at an extraordinary ceiling, I tell myself, “that was surprisingly easy.”

“Okay, now what?”

“And where am I?”

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