Stanley heard the soft whizz of the cryogenic chamber’s airlock release. His eyes remained closed and there was silence for a second, two seconds, three… It was terrifying. Being completely conscious but unable to move with no recollection of his location or circumstances filled him with the most morbid terror he had ever experienced. One might have called it petrifying if he was not already glued to the cold seat of his capsule’s chair, not by any external forces but by those of his own mind. An alarm sounded and Stanley opened his eyes to the flashing of a red light. Release.
Stanley could move his body. He wiggled his toes and extended his fingers tentatively. He moved his eyes about as far as they could go in either direction to get his bearings without revealing himself to whatever might be watching with too much movement. He could see a wide room with a number of cryogenic capsules like his own, all filled with men about his own age. That was an unnerving coincidence. A presence fluttered in his mind and he thought he could hear a voice or voices. He couldn’t figure out whether it was one entity making itself know or many. Shutting his eyes and grinding his teeth in frustration, he fought against the noise from within until it was drowned out by the alarm which continued to sound and the red light above the door which continued to flash. Stanley sat frozen in place. He could see that the seal on the glass lid which covered his capsule had been released and all he needed to do was give it a small push outward to escape. But escape from where? “Ay, there’s the rub,” he thought in the words of Hamlet, and where to escape too? How did I even get here?
Stanley thought long and hard. He could remember his name, Stanley Tucker, where he got his Ph.D. in neurology and genetics, where he taught genetics at university, how long he had been married and even the name of his dog when he was seven. All of those things were well in the past now. He tried to think of something that he knew had happened within the last two, three or, four years. He couldn’t remember anything. He tried to jog his recent memory. The only thing which came into his mind did so vaguely.
It was a summer night in his backyard. His wife was out with the kids and he had the house all to himself but chose instead to spend the evening out here with the stars and the croaking of frogs in the night. He remembered that, but no more. It was in his mind as clear as the words in a book but it seemed distant, like a memory from childhood that stood out, but he knew it wasn’t a childhood memory. He was a man when it happened. But what had happened? He didn’t know. There was no cutoff point in the memory. It was just a moment completely free from the rest of timeline.
The alarm stopped but the red light continued to flash. The door underneath it slid open and two serious looking little men in spectacles with an odd glow about them walked in. The first spoke in an unnatural tone,
“Which capsule is it?”
Stanley snapped his eyes shut and attempted to lie still.
“Capsule A-3,” replied the other. “That’ll be this way doctor. Follow me.”
Their footsteps approached Stanley. He clenched his fists then unclenched them, trying to appear peacefully asleep.
“Hmm, that’s odd. The capsule’s already open. The airlock is broken and I’m not reading any vitals with the A.C.,” said the first one.
“Are you sure you’re using that thing right, technician?”
“Sure as I am that anybody else knows what they’re doing here. Somebody must have fouled up his connection to the A.C. Nope; he’s either dead or wide awake.”
“Maybe,” said the doctor. He began tapping his fingers on the glass as if playing piano. “Hello, Mr. Capsule A-3. Are you awake? Hello!”
Stanley leapt forward against the glass with all the strength left in his underused body and the frenzy of a cornered raccoon. The glass swung open into the technicians head but didn’t seem to have any effect. He thrust his arm out towards the doctor but contacted only air and sprinted towards the door. There was a noticeable spring in his step. In fact, Stanley noticed, it was more than a spring. Despite the fact that his muscles felt atrophied he could still move swiftly with little resistance.
The presence resurged in his mind for a moment. It was frightened this time and divided. Stanley could make out a few distinct voices in the crowd. They seemed confused, as if they had lost their way and were trying to get their bearings. He made it out into a long windowless hallway just before the door flung itself shut with a pneumatic “Fwoosh!”
The alarm sounded again, louder than before. Red lights on either end of the hallway flashed twice as brightly as in the room. He sprinted towards one end of the hallway and felt his feet almost leave the ground. Slowing his pace so he wouldn’t trip, Stanley saw doors on the sides of the hallway. Some were open while others were closed and he could see rooms full of capsules just like the one he had emerged from. One of these rooms was stocked entirely with younger men, probably in their twenties and another with younger women. Many of the rooms were full of only open, empty capsules, waiting like Venus fly-traps for their prey.
The flashing red light drew nearer and the noise within his quieted. As he reached the end of the hallway he began to think more clearly. There was nowhere to go, no door beneath the light only a solid metallic wall. He glanced behind him, anxious and out of breath, and saw men in dark clothes gaining on him. There was nowhere to run. He smashed his fist in frustration against the wall. Franticly, Stanley began deducting which one would be the easiest to overpower (they were identical) but didn’t have time to finish the thought. A security man triggered a laser from somewhere inside his sleeve and aimed it at Stanley’s temple. He fell to the ground with a muffled “thud” against the metallic floor, unconscious once again.
* * *
“Mr. Capsule A-3. It is time to wake up. Yes, Mr. Capsule A-3, wake up!”
Stanley once again opened his eyes but dared not move a muscle. He worried he was back in his cryogenic chamber but he hadn’t been moved from the spot where he had fallen.
“We know you are awake, Mr. Capsule A-3. We know you are not interfaced with your peers in the Aggregate Consciousness. I am mission director Young, do you remember me?”
Stanley looked at the white-haired old man whose jolly demeanor did not seem to imply a profession of kidnapping.
“How did I get here, and where is here?” he asked. His voice broke. A long time had passed since its last use.
“You truly don’t remember? Your brainwaves have somehow severed your link to the A.C. This is indeed a problem.”
Stanley demanded with the strength of his voice resurging, “Where are we?”
“It is of little consequence where ‘we’–our physical selves–reside. It is not nearly as important where,” he reached out and tapped Stanley’s forehead, “this resides. All that knowledge and insight into the field of genetics, all that understanding of the genome and, most importantly, the creativity to control it makes all this possible.”
“You want… to take my brain?”
“Good heavens no!” laughed the director, “You signed on voluntarily. But I guess your disconnection with the A.C. must have adversely affected your memory. Curious.”
“Why would I voluntarily hand over my brain? I like it where it is!”
“No, no. You have it all wrong. No one ever took your brain out of you. We simply interfaced it with other great minds. Mathematics, natural sciences, arts, even philosophy; they’re all represented. One might say it is a perfect sample of mankind. It will make sense soon enough. All we have to do is plug you back in,” said the director, smiling. He apparently found this conversation quite amusing.
“Wait, I don’t want to be plugged back in to anything!”
The director’s smile fled and his face took on a more solemn expression as he said, “Your country would like you to know that we are dealing with an issue much larger than you here. We are trying to communicate with an entity much more complex than us and we cannot do anything without you in the Aggregate Consciousness to balance the genomes from within. You do not have a choice.”
* * *
Stanley climbed into his cryogenic chamber and closed the airlock with the security men watching.
“I want you to know you are doing the right thing. You’re taking humanity to a place it has never been before,” said Director Young.
“Goodnight,” said Stanley.
“Think of it more as: good morning.”
The capsule activated and Stanley fell into a deep sleep. The director and the other holograms deactivated and disappeared. Their work was done. Their mimicry of the various types of specimen gave them the ability to seem almost real and the charade had been carried out beautifully. The alien ship continued on its way home with a sample of foreign intelligence ready for scrutiny.
Bio: James Rick is a seventeen year old student in Beavercreek Ohio. He plays volleyball, has a wonderful family and will be attending college next fall. He writes science fiction, has posted several stories to FanFiction.net, and is a frequent visitor of Sci-Fi short story sites like the WiFiles.