Jenna was immediately aware of two things. One was a sensation like waking up from a long night of binge drinking - a hangover’s hangover to be sure. The second was a distant calming voice. She couldn’t make out what was being said because it felt like her ears were full of phlegm. In fact, as her body parts started feeling more like body parts and less like aloof passengers on the same crappy low-fare cruise, she started noting an overall “phlegmishness” about well, all of her.
Gradually, she became aware that there was a sucking sound all around her. She wanted to speak – and more ask where the hell she was – and she realized she couldn’t yet.
The voice suddenly became clearer as her ears both popped, rather painfully, at the same time.
“… I repeat… do not panic,” the feminine voice said in a somber, slightly mechanical tone.
“The purging process is nearly complete. You should feel a full return of mobility in less than 45 seconds. Until then, please relax until the process is complete. We cannot be held accountable for self-inflicted injuries. Do not panic. I repeat. Do not panic.”
Something about self-inflicted injuries and not panicking created a momentary sense of cognitive dissonance in Jenna’s waking mind. However, her panic completely immobilized her as various flushing sounds and tugs at her arms, legs, and face flooded her senses.
A few minutes later, she felt cold and naked.
She blinked, and surprisingly, her eyes worked. She was in an odd thing – not really a bed, but certainly not anything similar enough for her lexicon to assign it any other name. She was naked, and if her pert nipples were any indicator, quite cold.
She looked around the room for clothes or a blanket. Instead, all she saw were arrays of dimly blinking lights and a soft spotlight over her person.
The same mechanical voice from earlier suddenly filled the room - louder, but still calm, “Greetings, Doctor McCord. In accordance with program safety protocols, the stasis pods have been kept active until ambient toxicity and radiological scans showed safe levels. It has been t-twelve hundred and seven years since insertion. All personal chronometers and personal effects have been adjusted accordingly.”
The words came too fast and too confusing for her addled mind. “Mc Who?” Jenna asked, trying to figure out if she was the target of the stream of verbiage.
“Doctor C-Cassandra McCord, primary virologist and m-mission specialist for pathogen research. Your bio file will display on monitor three so you can familiarize yourself with your-yourself and your mission objectives while your mind acclimates to the revival process. There is a small chance you will experience short-term memory loss until the stasis chemicals are totally purged from your body.”
The voice stuttered a few times and shifted pitch over the course of the last statement.
Jenna didn’t know any doctors (unless you counted a Jewish Gynecologist named Martie), much less a Cassandra, or even a McCord. She felt a sudden urge to grab for her camera, but it wasn’t there. Instead, she ignored the mechanical voice and renewed her search for clothes – machine or not, she felt naked in front of a stranger and was going to remedy that situation right away. She found her pants suit on a nearby bench and slipped into it with little fanfare. She felt a bit disconnected, however, and her muscles felt heavy with fatigue. The process took considerably longer than she expected, giving her a chance to scan the rest of the room.
It was roughly circular in shape, and about twenty feet across. There were “beds” at regular intervals covered by domes of clear material and a number of computer displays on elevated stalks. Before each was a strange looking chair. At first glance, none of these things really meant a lot to her. Fortunately, her scan of the room revealed her camera, which she was eager to retrieve. It felt wonderful resting on her shoulder, despite the weight of it. Jenna frowned, however, when she realized that it was dead. In fact, the rubberized grip crumbled as she shifted it to check out the problem.
Fiddling with the camera revealed no simple solution to her problem. When she opened the battery panel, she was discouraged to find that 1207 years of standby-power storage had turned her batteries into lumps of foul-smelling rust.
She would have cried if not for a familiar voice from one of the other beds.
“Do not panic,” the muffled voice chimed from within. She couldn’t make out anything from within the capsule but a person shaped blur underneath a pool of draining goo. The person inside, however, was not having anything to do with the commands. The goop tinged with blood and the person inside was clearly thrashing to get out.
Jenna attempted a rescue by hammering the clear covering with her camera. It felt like a blasphemy, but she was certain it had seen its last days as chronicler of truth. So she battered again and again with the heavy body of her camera. Unfortunately, the only thing of significance to break was the camera itself. It cracked along a seam and showered the ground with bits of plastic and ruined circuitry.
While Jenna scrambled to find something more useful, the bed’s dome retreated, revealing a very pissed off and very naked pop diva. “What the fawk is goin on hea!” she screeched in her Brooklyn-tinged accent, tugging at the severed plastic tube that was sticking out of her left nostril, and yanking a bloody needle out of her right arm.
“I neveh signed on for any of this freaky deeky booollshit,” she raged, more at her condition and confusion than anything else.
Jenna tried to explain, but instead, the computer voice interrupted them both.
“Greetings Professor Chan. As per your request, an oolong tea is waiting at your workstation. In accordance with program safety protocols, the stasis pods have been kept active until ambient toxicity and radiological scans showed safe levels. It has been twelve hundred and seven years since insertion. All personal chronometers and personal effects have been adjusted accordingly.”
Patrice “Pookie” Delgado was confounded by the off-putting rude computer voice lady. She was a pop-diva and reality television sensation – she wouldn’t be sass mouthed by some stranger.
She held up her palm dismissively. “You can take all of this…” she gestured in a motion towards the room and all of the things in it, “and your attitude… and place them on this,” she said, clutching her naked ass cheek.
She looked suddenly towards Jenna and snapped, “Are you getting this on camera, girl? I sure as hell am not gonna do this again!”
Jenna handed Pookie her jumper-slash-dress suit which lay on a nearby console and said, “Let’s try and figure out what is going on.”
The two of them scoured the room for a means to get out, but found nothing. Pookie had, in the meantime found her handbag and was distressed to discover her cell phone was dead. Her passion berry lip gloss smelled a little odd, but was otherwise as good as ever. She made sure to give her lips a good double coat because they felt so dry.
Aside from a few places where needles had torn her skin open, Pookie seemed no worse for her experience, and in fact, better than she had on most of her weekend binges.
Jenna was about to succumb to a sense of panic when she heard the now-familiar voice coming from within a nearby bed. This time, the process was a smooth one, and she got to see it from a more calm perspective. The bed thing was full of a viscous fluid that drained evenly out of the device as various mechanized needles and tubes were withdrawn from the body of Benjamin “BJ” Handlin (as he would say, legally changed from Handelstein), the producer of “Diva Days: Pookie D.” and the personal confidant of the titular character. Ben, as he was known by the crew, seemed at peace with the whole process of being reanimated. Both girls started to say something to him as he sidled out of the bed, but he dismissed their queries with an authoritative wave of his hand. He was still rubbing crap out of his eyes and fishing for goop in his ears when the automated systems stated their preset greeting.
“Greetings, Senator Bradley. In accordance with program safety protocols, the stasis pods have been kept active until ambient toxicity and radiological scans showed safe levels. It has been t-twelve hundred and seven years since insertion. All personal chronometers and personal effects have been adjusted accordingly.”
Ben broke the following silence with a somewhat knowing wry wink and said, “I’d hate to be that mook! It looks like he missed his accommodations.”
He looked at his companions as if expecting a laugh, and when he didn’t get one, Ben scanned the area for something to wear. He found his suit within a few moments and sighed as it turned to a powder at his touch. His underwear, socks, and over shirt had somehow survived where the suit had not. As he slipped into them he muttered, “Sometimes you pay for silk and you get poly. I guess I should be thankful.”
Dressed as best he could be, Ben looked at both girls and clapped his hands then rubbed them together as if he had a great idea.
“Either of you see a bagel around here? I am dying for a nosh!”
It was then that both Jenna and Pookie realized the urgency of their predicament. Pookie frantically looked for her carrying case while Jenna looked to Ben apologetically.
“I, well, that is…” Jenna stammered shuffling her feet, “I really don’t know where we are… and I can’t seem to find a way out.”
Pookie, having found the case she was looking for tapped the side of it multiple times, “Princess?”
“PR-IIIIIIN-CESS!” she moaned.
The pink case was full of tiny bones covered with a spray of short white fur. The Poochi (part poodle, part Chihuahua) was the last of its breed – and had been neglected a few too many centuries to respond in anything more than a disinterested rattle.
The next half hour was spent trying to calm down the more than rattled diva. Eventually, Ben was able to comfort her with “We can always get you another one…”
Apparently, the thought had never occurred to her, because within a minute, she was asking, “So… what are we going to eat?”
Finding food proved to be a serious problem, and not just because they were stuck inside a room that seemed to grow smaller by the minute. Ben had packed some plastic wrapped nuts and other snacks into a fanny pack. The fanny pack and the snacks within withered into mocking piles of dust at the lightest touch. Further search of the room provided more disappointment. Even Poochi’s bone’s were bereft of flesh.
Jenna was still trying to get one of the computers to open up the doors when the next bed started its revival process. This time, everyone clustered around to watch and listen. Much like the last time, everything went smoothly – revealing Curtis, the driver. None of them had ever asked his full name.
Curtis emerged from the bed, looked at his companions, and said, “I better be getting overtime for this, because the wife is going to be pissed.”
Before anyone could answer, the computer voice from before had identified him as Lord Herbert Wells before continuing on to the rest of the automated message.
“Well fuck me,” said Curtis sourly, “If my limo company is still around, I am gonna own that motherfucker. So much for a hot meal and a hot wife waiting for me when I get home… if I even have one after twelve centuries.”
Curtis’ words seem to have struck home to Ben and Jenna, but Pookie was tapping at computer displays nearby saying, “I wonder if this thing plays Angry Birds?”
The final pod started making unusual sounds and then reported a loud verbal message, “ERROR IN REVIVAL PROCESS – Emergency protocols initiated. Please remain clear of revival pod number five while system performs emergency process.”
The pod hissed and rumbled and everyone was quick to move away – even Curtis, who was still wrestling with his chauffer’s uniform.
When the noises finally subsided, the pod hatch opened and revealed a pile of pinkish sludge in a roughly humanoid shape. If not for the broad gold chain around its “neck” no one could have identified it at all.
Pookie choked up a little bit and said, “Treyvor! You bastard! Why?” as she reached into the smear of gore and removed the necklace which had oversized gold letters spelling out PLAYA.
She tossed it angrily to the ground.
“I told you to get rid of that when we started dating!”
The computer suddenly interrupted, “Mission members, Professor Jamison’s vital signs indicate that he has perished. Attempting to notify mission central.”
“Mission what?” asked Curtis, “What the hell is …”
The computer interrupted again, “Communications network error. Systems repair systems: offline. Egress systems: offline. Environmental systems: online. Initiating revised mission parameters.”
Several lights began to flicker and a loud metallic click came from a far wall.
“Manual egress required. You will find your field packs and supplies on level alpha three. Revival bay shifting to standby mode”
The lights went out and the computers suddenly went quiet. A door opened with a dim light beyond. From some unknown distance, the wind howled.
Curtis stomped his foot, emphasizing his statement with a metallic clang.
“I sure as hell am not getting paid enough for this job!”