Boy In The Bubble

Cold metal against his naked back; cold air against his skin. Warm, I'm supposed to be warm. They said I'd be warm when brought me out of it. He tried to talk and choked on phlegm; he turned his head to the side and retched and spat, clearing his throat; he lay still for a moment, concentrating on normal breathing. The gravity was stronger than normal. It isn't supposed to feel like this.

"Take your time. Don't overdo it." An unfamiliar voice, a woman. "Can you open your eyes?"

He expected a bright light shining down on him, but instead he was greeted by a dim, warm red light. Instead of the ship's medical bay, he found himself in a strange compartment with rounded edges and a large window through which he saw only darkness. Instead of the Doctor…

She was pretty, young, wore no makeup, and her blond hair hung straight. He asked, "Who are you? I don't recognize you."

"We've never met."

"I know everyone aboard."

"You're not aboard the ship anymore."

He pushed himself up into a sitting position. "Where am I? Where's my uniform?"

She came closer, handed him a bundle of clothing. "This should fit. I don't know if it's yours or someone else's."

It was a maintenance jumper, with a patch on the breast pocket that said 'Haraldsson'. It felt odd, made from the wrong material, but it was only one size too big. "It'll do." He swung his legs around to hang over the edge of the table and fed his legs into the jumper. The woman watched him, unmoving, with a clinical detachment that reminded him of… what? He wasn't sure.

"You're not from the ship, then who are you? And where am I? Where is this?"

"It's probably best you take things slowly—"

"I'd appreciate an answer." He pushed himself off the table, onto his feet, and immediately felt dizzy. "I—" Her arms were around him; she was strong, stronger than normal, and her skin felt wrong. "What…"

"I'm artificial. They—" she nodded towards the dark window "—can't speak your language, their mouths are the wrong shape. They needed to be able to talk to you. But it's not time for that yet. You need to recover your strength."

"What happened?"

"Your navigation computer malfunctioned after launch. The colony ship missed turnover and continued past its target system at point eight seven five c. They intercepted it some time later." She moved him back so that he was leaning against the table. "All the stasis pods had failed in the interim except yours."

"How long ago? How long has it been?"

"Forty-three thousand, nine hundred and sixty-one years in transit, not accounting for time dilation effects. Another three while they studied you in stasis and built me to interact with you."

His head swam; he felt oncoming nausea.

"They're prepared to make you very comfortable here. There are plans to adjust the gravity so—"

"They should have just pulled the plug."