We Have Arrived by Matthew Roen Her first conscious experience was of disembowelment - in reverse.

As her eyes slid back into their orbits, she could just barely make out a glistening metal shunt embedded in her abdomen, rapidly disgorging soft and squishy organs back into her torso. Groggy, and still quite sore from the cryo, the sick lurching of her kidneys and heart reattaching themselves to the unfreezing muscle walls had a most unpleasant effect, and when her esophagus rammed itself into her stomach and took root once more, the slurry of vitamins and weakened acids pumped themselves up and out, to spray amber cold into the cool cathode blue luminescence of the suspension gel. Her intestines were being piped in now, filling out the gaping/shrunken belly region with their mile-long coiling. And as the lower bulb of the whole system whipped inside and affixed itself to the colon, the silvery shunt detached, and was hoisted away by silent pistons, into the darkness of the bay. We're here. She thought, but that was all. Even the simplest of ideas produced soreness and discomfort, yet to be sure, this thought was vestigial. Old. Her mind had clung to it through the hoses and tubes, during the months in storage vats, the years on ice, and back down through the hoses to her body. We have arrived. Of this, she was certain. The gel quivered, and in an outward rushing movement, was cycloned away, siphoning out through apertures in the sides of the pod, and as the omnipresent fluid vanished, she found that she could look out through her chrome sarcophagus’ lid, into the lab, and at the shadowy figure that stood just outside, watching her. She gasped, and doubled over with the pain of it, intra-tracheal rebreathers retracting and withdrawing to spool up to the ceiling. As they slipped out of her nose and throat, a tiny amount of blood swept out with them, landing on the floor and the glistening sensor diodes that composed it. The pod's blue light suddenly turned red, and a throbbing muffled trill sounded somewhere in the lab. The shadow was waving its arms, looking frantically from side to side, and mashing a nearby keypad. The sound of the trill reverberated through her skull, but clapping her hands to her ears only exacerbated the problem. The diodes beneath her feet quivered gently, then rolled away, exposing a greasy plastic chute into which she fell. She skated down this for a full minute, before being launched into a sloping channel, and suckered to a table along the side. An automated retinal scan activated, blinking green and gray lights at her, before triggering the gentle armature to which she'd been adhered to move and flex like a post-work-out Olympian. Her arms were bent, her legs stretched, neck massaged and rolled to remind her muscles of the weight they had once carried. The strain was too much, and in another moment, she blacked out. --When she came to, she was laying on the floor. Above her, a small LCD protuberance was gently blinking the time (00:00) and the title “Cryo – Slot 36.” In the muted red light, the lab gleamed with a subdued lustre, as though everything inside of it were fashioned of polished porcelain. The floor was spongy, like a gardening or kneeling mat, and supported her gently as she lay there, taking stock of her body. Her eyes were clenched shut, unsure of what, or who, she was, but certain that this was no longer cryo – a sharp, cold jolt after that bizarre awakening – though, what had been before that? The red light pulsed gently against her eyelids. Like an alarm clock's reset state. Her hair was lank, and brown, covering her jump-suited arms as she tucked her legs into a fetal position. The sleeper-suit was a uniform deep-purple color, with accents of chrome in the creases and

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bendable areas. Her face, as she gently caressed it, was … memorable... the cheek-bones were prominent, her chin stout and stern. Her raw and sore eyes were still (probably?) the same hazel-brown they'd always been. Her skin, freckled and soft. Her hands dextrous and strong. She was panting, light and fast, on the verge of hyperventilating, calm yourself down she thought, and paused, before taking a single deep breath. Her body did not spasm in pain, her lungs did not reject the solid, non-liquid processed air. She breathed again. And opened her eyes once more. Around the room, a dozen pods were arrayed as a circular perimeter, each set beside an individual control panel; and all, save one, empty and still. “Slot 36” by which she lay, was undergoing some manner of auto-rinse cycle, according to the panel beside it. She uncoiled from her fetal position to get a better look at the interior of the pod: and there was something in that action that gave her great comfort. She delighted in marveling at the whole system; elegant in its operation, pristine in its efficiency. Something about all the nozzles and pipes, tubes and fluid pumps. There was a small clasp and twist handle near the door's base that she unlatched, and pulled the ceramo-sarcophagi lid open. The little mechanisms fidgeted for a moment, before readjusting and sliding to adjust for the door's motion. Tiny metal tines that held wipe-rags swiveled to continue dabbing the water droplets that squeegee arms continued collecting under their rubber traces. She took the greatest comfort, however, in examining the floor’s drain apparatus. A system of hundreds of spongy nylon hoses writhed like a living shower mat, undulating to and fro, while passing a small bar of soap back and forth across the floor's surface, and tithering in the foam it left behind. When she picked up the soap, a little slot by the base of the chamber slid open, ejecting another brick onto the roiling mass of plastic nibs that reacted appropriately, and halted its greased slide right where the last had left off. When she set her block of soap back down on the mat, the tendrils that had already been soaped, started batting it playfully back and forth - until a pair of sponged tines arced down gracefully to take the extra soap back, and drop it in a pail of water that they were constantly returning to, to refresh their sponges. Seeing it from the outside, she recognized her tomb. Where her empty, dead body had been kept for the duration of their interstellar voyage. Though, suddenly so alive, so animate, so thrilled with activity, it was a strange sight in this quiet cryo lab. “Cryo” had one obvious swinging/pass-through door, tucked just behind a layer of thick plastic curtains. It was from this ajar aperture, that a warm, almost fetid draft emerged, spilling into the emergency-red illumination of the room. With a quake, the empty pod's control panel started flashing a red, weak “Emergency” light, suggesting that something might be amiss within, though no other information was currently displayed. She hauled herself up to the terminal, and cautiously extended her right hand to brush her fingertips across the screen. The red “Emergency” receded, and a sequence of options flickered into being. “Subject B9-812” “Status” “Select Another” and “Abort.” She tapped “Subject B9-812”. >>>SUBJECT B9-812 “Lisette Hélène Trudeau. Slot 36. Plumber.” was all that displayed. She eyed her pod. She waved this away, and tapped “Status” >>>ACTIVE registered briefly on the screen before strings of complex medical information began to pour across the read-out. Dimensions, storage locations, dates, index numbers, until finally a string beside the entry >>>ADMINISTRATIVE OVERRIDE < END SUBJECT CRYO

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and a date that was … no, that can't be right. She tapped back to the main screen, and selected “Select Another” >>>ADMINISTRATIVE OVERRIDE < LOGIN CREDENTIALS INVALID She returned to the main screen, and hit “Abort”. Instantly, the spraying water jets, and autosponges inside the empty pod froze, and the terminal winked out and rebooted. The door, like a whisper, swung shut, before sealing with a gasketed rubber suction sound. The arms and tines inside suddenly flailed violently, sponges dropping out of sharp little claw-like hands, and whirling around the inside of the casement like a tortuous blender. The spinning mayhem increased in speed suddenly, beforethe cryo lab lost all power. Lisette, (for that, she decided, would probably have been her name. It sounded right, anyway.) wasn't altogether rattled by this, still working to pull herself out of the lethargy that the cryonics drugs had induced. She was, however, perturbed by the distant clatter and footfalls of someone tripping beyond one of the partitions behind her, perhaps in a similarly sized room the next bay over. “Shit, someone find the lights. She must've been redirected to the Slot lab.” Sitting in the darkness, Lisette opened her mouth to say something, perhaps to ask for help, but was cut off by two things: One, was a severe and lacerating stab of pain in her throat, somewhere in the vicinity of the epiglottis. It felt like a sharpened wooden flute was ramming against her trachea, ripping at its integrity, and forcing unpleasantly cold gusts of air through regions of her interior where air oughtn't be. The pain was so overwhelming, that she (again) blacked out momentarily, before Two, was the memory of a large golden retriever bounding across a grassy field, its tongue lolling in the breeze. She saw it bounding up to her, jumping into the air as though to perform some kind of canine embrace, but its jaw flashed out at her neck, producing an instant of blinding, ripping pain before She returned to herself, collapsed again on the floor of the lab. A dizzy headache slowly clearing. Another voice sounded in the other room, chiming in, “I still say we should pop her cherry before the boss gets a hold of her.” Lisette sat straight up, and possessed by a sheer terror, grope/crawled herself towards the promise of the pass-through door, and silently scooted through it. In the circulating warmth, her eyes slowly adjusted to the non-light around her - until they spied the distant glow of another terminal across the expansive room she had just entered. This screen glowed green, and a whirling insignia seemed to be playing on loop upon it. Lisette pressed her back against the wall to the right of the door, and began to deliberately inch herself along it, feeling for obstacles as she did. The sound of hissing doors behind her signaled the arrival of the two men in the cryo room, when at the same moment, she accidently discovered a soft, spongy material which she grasped in both hands, and attempted to haul over herself for cover. Unfortunately, the … whatever it was … did not come in one piece, and left a sticky residue on her hands. She opted instead for silence, and listened to the men scuffling around in the cryo room behind her, while she braced herself to spring. “You can't even handle one fucking sleeper?” the first voice said, “Calm down, I've done this as many times as you. It's just 'cause we're scraping the bottom of the barrel that we're getting all these physical rejects, and the automated systems are trying to cure what they can.” the second voice replied. They were scuffling around the pods, and with a gentle whooshing, Lisette heard the cleaning appliances reactivate in her vacant slot.

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A single, perfectly formed thought materialized in her head. Lisette stood up, and took three striding steps back to the doorway - her jump-suited feet literally silent on the floor. The two men, just barely distinguishable in the winking red glow, were coated in what looked like plastic chitin, their backs to the door, and to Lisette. Her slot stood open, arresting the attention of one man. The other, punching at the keypad, was cursing quietly under his breath. Lisette took three more steps, and kicked the transfixed one right in the kidney. Not only did he suddenly crumple, but he pitched forward onto the soap-laden floor of her tomb. In the next moment, Lisette ducked, and swept her leg beneath the feet of the other one, toppling him backwards, into her coiled, heaving arms. He flopped onto the struggling body of his comrade, and with a final motion, Lisette tapped the panel’s screen, and quickly selected “Abort” again. She dashed away as the lid suckered shut, and didn’t dare to look back until the lab’s power cut out again: after the yell, the spinning, and the screams had died out. Slot 36 was silent once more, and as the red lights reengaged, so too did the squeaky squeegees resume their task. Lisette grimaced, and left the lab, making for the glowing green terminal in the warm shadow room. A spinning galaxy whirled behind the flat, black LCD impression of a hand - and, laying her palm upon it, Lisette sighed, and was keenly aware of the soreness in her limbs and throat.

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