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New beginnings

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Sara Ryder’s personal log. Entry 1. Location: Heleus Cluster, Andromeda galaxy. Destination: Habitat 7.

Cryosleep is not a pleasant process, especially when you wake up. Every bone and every muscle in your body are aching; your vision is blurry, and your head spins so much it makes you extremely nauseous. Believe me; you do not want to experience this more than once in your life.

I keeled over, grabbed the nearest garbage bin, and promptly emptied what little fluid I had left in my stomach. It didn’t last very long; my stomach was pretty empty; one of the benefits of having slept for six hundred years, I guess.

“Sara Ryder?” a man called out to me. I carefully cleaned my mouth with the cloth he gave me and nodded.

“Yeah, it’s me,” I said in a rough voice.

“Here, you should drink some water, it’ll help you feel a little better,” the man said, handing me a small water bottle.

The cool liquid going down my throat felt marvelous, and I had to force myself not to moan as I finished the bottle in almost a single gulp. Never in my life had I thought water would make me feel so happy before now.

“I see you’re one of the two recon specialists assigned to the Pathfinder team,” the nurse said, reading my personal and professional files on his datapad. “You must be pretty anxious to go out on the field and explore what no one else has. Must be quite thrilling to know you’re the first one to set foot on an alien world.”

I nodded again. “It is. I can’t wait to go out there; I’ve slept enough for a lifetime!”

“I’m sure,” he said, laughing. “But I have a few tests to run before I can let you go. I promise it won’t take long.”

 


 

The tests ended up taking longer than I expected; the nurse sticking needles in me as he stole my blood. It was hell! I know I’m overreacting, but I hate needles. The guy basically had to strap me on the table before he could even attempt stabbing me in the arm with it. He didn’t even give me a lollypop, what kind of nurse is he? If we were back on Earth, I’d give him a two-star rating.

I looked around as I sat on a not so comfortable bed in the cryo bay; the big screen was already displaying images of the planets and moons in our sector. The Hyperion being Humanity’s ark, the ship was populated of humans only, apart from Lexi T’Perro, our asari doctor. From the corner of my eye, I saw a couple gazing at the widescreen with their hands clasp together. They seemed so happy, and as I watched, a part of me couldn’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy. Yes, my dad and brother had made the trip with me to Andromeda, but I couldn’t help but feel sad about not bringing any girlfriends with me.

I was about to take another sip of my coffee when Lexi appeared from behind me, datapad in hand and a serious but not unpleasant look on her face. She looked ravishing in her tight, red, and white outfit; I always had a thing for asari. I’ve never actually dated one before, but I always found them to my tastes.

“Sara Ryder, let’s get you checked up,” she said with a lovely English accent.

The good doctor pressed a few buttons on her omni-tool, and a light suddenly appeared in front of my eyes.

“Look here for me,” she said, lifting her left index finger. I followed it as she wiggled it around; her flashlight coming closer to my face. If she was trying to blind me, she was doing a pretty good job. Lexi finally closed her light and brought her fingers to my neck, gently squeezing it. Her touch was warm and pleasant on my cold, sensitive skin.

“Anyone ever told you you have soft hands?” I asked, breaking the awkward silence between us.

“No, they’re usually complaining about how they’re tired of me constantly pocking them with needles and shoving thermometers down their throats.” I winced at the mention of needles. “Don’t worry, I’m not gonna poke you with anything today,” Lexi laughed.

“That’s a relief,” I said. It really was a relief; I already gave my blood to that crazy nurse back there, I wasn’t about to give Lexi anymore of my precious red liquid thank you very much!

Lexi finally removed her hands from my neck, pulled back, and wrote a few notes on her omni-tool as she strode toward a console to my right.

“Word came down that the Pathfinder wants you all mission ready within the hour,” Lexi told me.

I casually noded as I pondered why dad wanted the entire Pathfinder team ready for action. I took my coffee mug and hummed happily as the warm liquid slowly made its way down my throat.

“Do you know why?” I asked, putting down the mug.

Lexi shook her head. “He didn’t say. All I know is that he wants all of you ready for action.”

“I shouldn’t keep him waiting then,” I said, getting on my feet.

“Before you go,” Lexi said, motioning me to sit back down. “I have to test your SAM implant. As you already know, SAM can see what you see, in theory. But we won’t know for sure until we get you out on the field.”

“Hello, Sara, are you feeling well?” came a funny, disembodied voice from the nearest speaker. Of course, I had heard SAM talking before, but I always thought he sounded funny, something that I refrained myself from telling him out of fear. AIs had a bad rep back in the Milky Way, so no one could blame me for being a little paranoid. The fact that dad was the one who created him was slightly reassuring, but I still refused to trust him fully.

“I am doing alright SAM,” I answered, taking another gulp of coffee. “I still need a moment to get my bearings.” I turned toward Lexi. “Why do we have to test my implant?”

“It’s just a routine check,” Lexi answered. “After being in stasis for so long, we need to make sure your connection with SAM is still live. It will only take a moment.”

“As the team’s primary computer, your well being is my primary concern,” SAM said while Lexi entered a series of commands into the computer.

“Okay, everything checks out,” Lexi finally said, after a long awkward minute of silence. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m great,” I answered. “I’m ready to leave this place and get to work.”

I got up when the asari gave me the okay signal and quickly scanned the room for signs of my brother. I wasn’t surprised to find that he was still in cryosleep, that lazy bastard was never one for early mornings. Was it even morning here?

“I’m sure you are,” Lexi said, snapping me out of my reverie. “Although you may want to hang around while we revive your brother, it always helps to see a familiar face.”

I nodded and started to make my way toward the pod that she was pointing to when the floor suddenly became the ceiling. A loud, deafening screeching sound filled the room, the lights flickering as I painfully hit a nearby wall. My vision blurred at the edges, shadows dancing in front of my eyes, the taste of blood filling my mouth.

“What’s happening?” Lexi shouted at me as everyone started floating around the cryo bay room.

I reached for the nearest bed frame to keep myself from drifting further up from the ground. Someone would eventually come down here to reactivate the gravity system, and I had no intentions of being high above ground level when that happened.

“I don’t know!” I shouted back. “Just hold on to something.”

I watched as Lexi clumsily floated in my direction, her hands clawing the air in a vail attempt at grabbing the bed frame. Cursing under my breath, I caught her with my free hand just in time to keep her from hitting the same wall I crashed into only moments ago.

“This is Cora, I’m at the cryo bay,” shouted a familiar voice through the coms. “Brace for a reset.”

A few seconds later, an even more familiar face appeared in the door frame, a calm look on her face. Cora reached the door panel and quickly hit the emergency button, sending me crashing to the floor once again, as the gravity came back. A quick look around told me I wasn’t the only one who had been pretty banged up during the incident.

“Are you okay, Sara?” Lexi asked, helping me up on my feet.

“I’m fine, just a little disoriented. You should worry more about the others; this guy doesn’t look good at all,” I said, pointing at a tall man lying on his back, his hands clenched on his sides.

“Hey Ryder, it feels like centuries since we last spoke,” Cora said casually. 

“Yeah, doesn’t that make you feel old?”

Harper let out a small laugh and shook her head. “You Ryders and your terrible sense of humor. You’re more like your dad than you realize.”

Now it was my turn to let out a small laugh. Dad was not the joking type, not anymore. There was a time where he was more lighthearted, but that was before mom died. I shook my head, now was not the time to think about the past.

“Come on, the old man wants to see us,” Harper said.

“Wait!” someone shouted from behind us. “There’s a problem with Scott Ryder’s cryo pod!”

Panicked, I whirled around and ran to my tween brother’s pod. Dr. Harry Carlyle—the only doctor I ever liked from back home—stood next to the pod, running scans with his omni-tool. He looked worried and tired, and that was not a good sign. In all the years I’ve known him, Harry had never looked worried before. I felt my heart pound in my chest as I opened my mouth to speak.

“Is my brother okay?” I asked hastily, my voice dripping with worry.

“He’s fine,” Harry said. “His vitals are strong, but the revival procedure was interrupted.”

“My connection to Scott’s implant was suspended; however, his pulse, respiration, and brain activity are all normal,” said SAM.

 “To be on the safe side, we’ll need to keep him in a low-level comma for a while and let his body regain consciousness naturally,” Lexi said. She put a gentle hand on my shoulder and squeezed it. “Don’t worry; it just means the process will take a bit longer. He’s going to be fine.”

I nodded, feeling slightly reassured. Aside from dad, Scott was the only other relative I had left, and I couldn’t bear to lose him.

“Glad to hear it,” I said, my voice still a little shaky. “Keep me updated if anything changes okay?”

Both Harry and Lexi nodded in acknowledgment as I followed Cora out of the cryo bay. Dad had a mission for us, and I needed the distraction after all this.

 


 

 

During our trip to the bridge, Cora briefed me on what she and dad knew of what happened. The ark Hyperion — the flying coffin we were currently calling home — had been hit by some space energy cloud, disrupting all sensors and other vital functions of the ship. Luckily for us, the life support and navigation systems hadn’t been damaged.

“Don’t worry Sara, you’re brother will make it,” Cora said, as we approached the heavy door leading to the bridge. “You Ryders are a stubborn bunch.”

The bridge was buzzing; engineers and bridge officers ran all around us as Cora, and I made our way to the viewport where the captain and my dad were standing. They seemed to be arguing about something, but with all the chaos around me, I only heard the end of their argument.

“Alec, you may be Pathfinder, but I’m still the captain, and this is still my ship,” Dunn said.

“I understand Captain, but we need to follow protocol,” retorted dad. “In the absence of communication with the Nexus or the other arks,  we proceed to our appointed Golden World.”

Captain Dunn pointed at the alien planet looming outside the ark’s viewport.

“If our so-called Golden World is even out there. Nobody said anything about running into an energy cloud, and that’s just a wild guess what hit,” she said, pointing at the strange clouds floating outside the ship.

Alec fell silent for a moment, looking intently through the viewport at the dark energy clouds twisting around the Hyperion’s prow. I hadn’t seen dad looking this intense since he left the N7 program.

“Alec, I need to assess the damage, stop the bleeding,” Dunn continued. “We have twenty thousand people asleep on this ship; let’s give them a chance to wake up.”

After a long moment, my dad finally waved at Cora and me to join them. His quickly glanced behind me, looking for someone else—looking for Scott. My heart sank a little at the thought of my brother.

“Sir,” Cora said as she arrived at my father’s side. “Is that our Golden World out there?”

I starred at the planet for a long moment. Habitat 7 we called it, but right now, it didn’t look remotely livable.

“That’s our new Earth if we’re lucky,” dad answered, moving over to the holographic table. He pressed a button, and a blue holo projection of Habitat 7 appeared in the air. “All of our long-range scans told us it was in the green zone. That it was perfect for human settlement.”

“It doesn’t even look the same,” Cora shook her head, trying to keep her composure.

“She’s right, it looks pretty dicey from here,” I said. “Are we sure about those scans?”

“It’s been six hundred years Sara, a lot can change,” he answered in a somewhat condescending tone.

I bit my tongue, stopping myself from saying something that would probably make him angrier than he already was. Even at twenty-two, he was still talking to me like I was a kid.

“The energy cloud outside is interfering with my sensors; planetary conditions are unknown,” SAM chimed in.

Dad turned to look at all of us, a determined look in his eyes.

“We’re marooned; twenty thousand people adrift ar sea,” he said, his gaze fixed firmly on Dunn. “We need to make sure Habitat 7 is our safe harbor before the Hyperion’s power runs out for good.”

Dunn closed her eyes, letting out a long sigh.

“Fine, you can go. But make it quick.”

“Harper, contact our pilots, tell them to prep two shuttles for liftoff,” dad ordered as he headed out from the bridge.

“He’s a stubborn one isn’t he,” Dunn said after the others had left.

“Stubborn runs in the family,” I laughed. “Guess I rubbed off on him.”

“I hope he knows what he’s doing; it’s not like the cavalry is coming to save the day.” Dunn gave me a small smile and left the observation deck.

I starred at the tentacle-looking clouds outside the viewport one last time before heading out to the crew quarters, my heart racing with excitement.