"And you're absolutely sure this is a mutant?"
"Yes, sir- the DNA samples and records confirm it. It's been in storage for so long it would be impossible for it to not be,"
"I'll want to see the records before I sign off on the purchase. You understand."
The receptionist nodded, smiling brightly as she skimmed her fingertips across the leftmost panel of her station. A faint hum and a soft beep, and a film popped out. She took it delicately and handed it over without any sign of impatience or frustration.
The film listed a set of boring stats that Helios frankly wasn't all that interested in: height, weight, hair and eye color. The important part was near the end. The certified species information and date of entry into storage.
Species: Human, hereditary subspecies mutant type 6c.
Date: 06 May EFC 864
The Earth Federation Calendar was thousands of years obsolete. For a pod to have survived at all this long was almost unheard-of. The rarity prompted a price tag that most would balk at. Add to that the fact that hereditary subspecies had all been bred out of the human population by the end of the First New Earth Empire, and only the richest could afford this pod. Most of them would call Helios crazy for pouring millions of credits into a purchase that could die as soon as it was awakened, but Helios was a risk-taker.
"I agree to the purchase," he said, handing back the film to be wiped and recycled. "I have a standing account to be charged."
"You're aware of the risks caused by the age of the product?" the receptionist asked. "Calculated chances of a successful awakening is at most 12% in optimal conditions."
"I am aware of the risks and am willing to accept them at no loss to the company," Helios confirmed, pressing his hand against the sign pad and waiting for the all-clear. "I'd like to be present for the procedure."
The receptionist nodded, tapping out a sequence code and gesturing toward what appeared to be a blank wall. A section lightened, becoming slightly opaque, and slid out of sight into the ceiling, revealing an empty hallway.
"Last door on the right side," she instructed. "You'll be required to undergo a medical and contamination check before you'll be allowed into the clean room."
Helios had heard this particular speech many times before. This was far from the first coldsleep pod off Old Earth he'd bought from this salvage firm- his past purchases had likely paid for the fancy new station all on their own. He half-listened to her instructions, nodding in the right spots, then stepped into the hall and waited for the hatch to close and seal behind him before walking to the indicated room and opening the door.
The room was small, by necessity. A space station could only contain so many square meters before it became troublesome. Still, it was well-appointed, with all the latest technology and the redundant systems that had to be used as a proxy to activate a pod this old. The center of the floor was dominated by a large metal ovoid, not quite large enough to fit a full-grown man. It was supported by a sturdy metal frame bolted to station frame itself.
"I was wondering when you'd show up," A'shiya said, not looking up from the screen she was watching intently. "I was beginning to think you'd chickened out."
A'shiya was a very attractive woman somewhere between six and ten decades old, with an ageless face and silver hair that contrasted nicely with her exotically dark skin. She'd been the supervising cryogenics doctor at hand for all of Helios's purchases, and the two had evolved a relaxed friendship.
"Don't bother with the med scan- I checked your travels, and you haven't gone anywhere dangerous. This kid is going to wake up to a world three thousand, two hundred and nineteen years removed from what he left behind, and the last thing he needs is to see you in a damned decon suit."
Helios smiled, pulling a stool up beside A'shiya. "It's male, then?"
She nodded, sliding her stool away long enough to check the small screen soldered to the pod's surface and wired to its exposed control panel. "Male and very undernourished. I have some liquids in the care package you can feed him for the first few weeks- no way in The Dark he'll be ready for solid foods soon. Now stop hovering- once I pop this thing, you need to get him out. I'm surprised the damned thing hasn't fallen to pieces while we're sitting here talking."
Helios obediently stood and stepped over to the pod. Unlike newer models, there was no viewport; he would have to wait until the pod was opened to see its occupant. Not as if it mattered- any physical imperfections could be easily fixed.
Something behind him beeped, and the seal on the pod released with a hiss and a jet of below-freezing air. The pod groaned, its corroded mechanisms struggling to open properly. Two of his previous purchases had been lost to similar malfunctions, the occupant being trapped in temperatures just slightly too high to maintain stasis and freezing to death before the pod could be opened. A'shiya, apparently not willing to suffer the same mistake three times, shoved a crowbar into the narrow opening and pushed down on it with all her weight, forcing the mechanism until it popped and the lid swung open with a tortured screech.
The body inside was naked and wet. His hair was matted to his cheeks and neck in tangled clumps, framing his delicate face like wet brown silk. His skin was flushed an angry red along his arms and neck, and he seemed to be having trouble breathing. Helios lost no time lifting him out of the pod and holding him close, and his reward was a gagging noise and a thick splatter of vomit down his side.
A'shiya didn't bother saying anything, just grabbed a cloth to clean the mess up and a bag to catch any further heaves.
Helios sank onto the stool, holding his prize carefully. The poor boy was trembling, from his shoulders to the tip of his thin brown-white tail. He had a pair of furred, tea cup-sized ears that swiveled and twitched nonstop, as if trying to hear everything at once. The boy coughed violently a few times and curled up against Helios's chest, panting lightly.
A'shiya handed Helios a blanket, shaking her head. "Odds are he doesn't speak any language you can find a translator for, and he definitely doesn't speak Standard," she told him. "His system can't handle decontamination protocols yet, and putting him back in storage is a surefire way to kill him. Don't take him planetside on any planet until I say it's safe."
Helios nodded, gently wrapping the boy in the blanket and smiling down at him. "I'll keep that in mind," he said. "I brought my cruiser- we can stay there until he's strong again."
"He might still die," A'shiya warned him, sighing. "Who knows what diseases he picked up before he was stored. And he might just kill himself once he understands how much time he's missed."
Helios nodded again, standing. "Thanks for the warning. Have the care package taken to my shuttle, A'shiya, and thank you. I can never repay you for all you've done for me."
"Get off my station before you gum up the airworks with your sentimentality,"
"I love you, too,"
Helios left the room with a smile, cradling his prize. He couldn't wait to find out the boy's name, and what his life had been like on Old Earth. Best of all, this boy belonged to him; he would never leave. Helios would never be abandoned again.
Not quite my usual writing- just an idea I had. At least I was able to write something, right?
Yay, a neko!
Oooh i Can't wait to see the rest. Instant love
This was very sweet. Would love to know more about both these characters.
This is a very interesting idea... I'd love to see where you take this, if you take it anywhere.